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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Y is for Yankees

The New York Yankees won their 27th World Series in 2009. Twenty-seven, which, coincidentally, is the number of outs each team gets in a standard nine-inning baseball game.

It's interesting to me how people become fans of sports teams. Sometimes it's based on geography, but it can also be a matter of particular players. My father-in-law still roots for the Minnesota Twins because he liked a player named Harmon Killebrew back in the 1960s. My father was a Los Angeles Dodgers fan because the Brooklyn Dodgers, before they moved to the West Coast, had signed Jackie Robinson in 1947.

For me, in baseball, it was both players AND geography.

Mickey Mantle, 1958

I remember well the 1962 World Series, whereas I have absolutely no recollection of the previous Fall Classics. It was the New York Yankees versus the San Francisco Giants, my favorite teams. Why I preferred the Yankees was easy; the minor league team in my hometown of Binghamton, NY had been a farm team (minor league affiliate) of the team from the Bronx. Then there was that New York State pride. The Giants USED to be a New York team and had my favorite player, Willie Mays. The Yankees, lead by Mickey Mantle, would win that Series, 4 games to 3, but would lose in 1963 and 1964, and then not even get back into the Series for over a decade.

But let's start at the beginning. The team now known as the New York Yankees was an original team in the fledgling American League in 1901 - as the Baltimore Orioles. They became the New York Highlanders in 1903 and never got to the World Series.

Babe Ruth, 1920

The team's fortunes were about to change when they acquired outfielder George Herman "Babe" Ruth from the Boston Red Sox after the 1919 season. Ruth lead the league in home runs with 11 in 1918, and an incredible 29 in 1919. But in his first two years with the Yankees, he hit 54 and 59 homers, respectively, eventually reaching 60 in 1927. Ruth's presence also made the team first in attendance from 1920 on. And in 1923, in the Yankees' first season in Yankee Stadium - they had been playing in the Polo Grounds - they won their first World Series against the crosstown Giants, 4 games to 2.

By the time they won their 2nd and 3rd titles in 1927 and 1928, they had a "Murderer's Row" of sluggers that included first basemen Lou Gehrig. He's known mostly for his Iron Man streak of over 2000 games played in a row, and the disease, ALS, which eventually claimed his life.

Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio watching batting practice, April 1939

I think Yankee hatred started when the team, led by outfielder Joe DiMaggio, got to seven World Series between 1936 and 1943, winning six of them. Worse, the Yankees, now featuring catcher/outfielder Yogi Berra, won in 1947, and every year between 1949 and 1953. The team, which by then also starred Mickey Mantle got into every Series from 1955 to 1958, winning two.

Reggie Jackson

After they were swept by the Reds in 1976, the Yankees won back-to-back titles in 1977 and 1978. This was the Bronx Zoo group that featured the self-described "straw that stirs the drink", Reggie Jackson.

Derek Jeter, 1998

But after a World Series loss in 1982, another drought ensued until 1996, when some young players, led by Derek Jeter, won the title in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000. But they lost the Series in 2001 and 2003, and didn't even get into the playoffs in 2008.

So yes, I was rooting for the hated Yankees, in their controversial new stadium, in 2009. I mean the archrival Boston Red Sox had won more World Series rings in the 21st Century (two) than the Yankees had before 2009 (zero).

So congrats to the Yankees; doesn't mean I'll root for them in 2010. One oughtn't to be greedy about these things.



anthonynorth said...

An interesting post. The national game here is Football. The fan bases are usually classed as tribal, which once I could understand, but seeing that few local players play for their teams any more, the reason has gone.

Sylvia K said...

Interesting post, Roger, I always learn something I wasn't aware of here and today was no exception. Have a great week!


Carol said...

I really enjoyed this post, Roger, and I do enjoy baseball. I am familiar with most of this history probably because I am from New England. But I didn't know the Yankees were the Orioles or the Highlanders. I love seeing all these old photos. Interesting post. Go Sox...

Rinkly Rimes said...

I wonder why an Australian should have heard of Babe Ruth! But I have! Now I've seen his picture I see he wasn't famous for his winning smile!

photowannabe said...

Though Baseball isn't really a favorite of mine, I enjoyed all the info. about these great sports legends.

Hood Photo Blog said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog to comment. Happy New Year!

Spiderdama said...

Great Y! One of spiderkids have a caps like that with NY:-)
Wish you a nice evening!

Manang Kim said...

Great Y post...I knew of Yankees name when I was in the Philippines because of there caps and uniforms ^_^


Leslie: said...

What a fascinating post! Always remembered Mickey Mantle and, like most people, heard of the great Babe Ruth. Wonderful choice for our Y day! :D

Reader Wil said...

That's quite new for me, because I know little about sport. I never watch football( you call it soccer) but I don't like it. I watch skating and skiing, though we have no skiers on our country.
Thanks for your visit. I only heard " Yesterday When I was Young" sung by Charles Aznavour, but then he was very popular in my country. It would be interesting to see who was the first to sing it. Happy New Year to you and your family.

Rose said...

As a long time baseball fan, this was very fascinating, Roger! With all the famous players on the Yankee rosters over the years, it's no wonder they have been an iconic team. Did you get to visit Yankee Stadium before they tore it down?

I think hatred of the Yankees stems from simple jealousy. As a life-long Cubs fan, I don't hate the Yankees...but I sure would like to see my team in the World Series some time:)

Tumblewords: said...

Good Y choice. I'm not a strong baseball fan but used to watch with my grandmother who was an avid fan. She knew all the stats, the players and probably their kids' names as well. Nice post!

Joy said...

Isn't it interesting that Babe Ruth and Yogi Berra are names that are known the world over, even in countries that don't really do basebase. They show US baseball over here but even though it is not live it is broadcast at strange times like 2 in the morning.

Life with Kaishon said...

My brother loves the Yankees and he hates the Phillies. I sort of like them since I work in the city and am surrounded by fantatical fans every day : ) Great pictures!

Janie said...

I know nothing about baseball, but even I recognized most of the Yankee players you mentioned. They must have had a lot of powerhouse years.
Nice Y! And far more original, it turns out, than yurt, which was inordinately popular this go round!

Hildred and Charles said...

A sporty type of post, and very interesting.

Dina said...

I never got into spectator sports, but your post is interesting.
And I do like to play baseball.
Yankee is mostly what I was called when living in Arkansas. LOL

magiceye said...

glad you enjoyed it!

jabblog said...

Baseball is completely closed to me (I don't think rounders comes anywhere near it!) but I love the names of the teams and the players - Red Sox, Babe Ruth - fabulous!

RuneE said...

Interesting - in our country we don't even know what baseball is.

jay said...

I'm not a fan of baseball - give me football any day! And I don't mean soccer, I mean NFL.

I don't understand baseball, and it's too slow for me. But I have, of course, heard the names Babe Ruth. Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig. Such monumental figures are known well outside both their country and their milieu.

Sistertex said...

A really great and informative 'Y' post. Your posts are always interesting and filled with information I enjoy. Great post!

Stan Ski said...

Man City had a goalie called Joe Corrigan. Fans used to chant "Joe, Joe Co-rri-gan" - I guess he was so good they named him twice as well...!

Dragonstar said...

I'm not really interested in sport of any kind, but like Jay even I have heard those names - and it's good to have faces to match them with now.

Roger Owen Green said...

RR- Babe Ruth was famous, far beyond his fan base for the sport. think Muhammad Ali or Tiger Woods (before his fall). (See Joy's comment.)

Rose - only went to Yankee Stadium a couple times, the last when I lived in NYC briefly in 1977.