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Yankees' Dynasty

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Yankees' Stadium opens in 1923
By Nick Acocella
Special to

Signature Game
April 18, 1923 -- Costing $2.5 million, the new ballpark in the Bronx opened to an overflow crowd announced as 74,200. The New York Times reported that another 25,000 were turned away and the gates were closed half an hour before the start of the game. New York Governor Al Smith threw out the first ball. Officially, it was called Yankee Stadium. Unofficially, it's "The House That Ruth Built," nicknamed by sportswriter Fred Lieb.

Appropriately enough, it was the Babe who baptized the stadium with its first home run. His three-run shot in the third inning led the Yankees to a 4-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

Before the game, Ruth was quoted as saying, "I'd give a year of my life if I can hit a home run in this first game in this new park."

Two men were arrested for scalping. One offered to sell his $1.10 grandstand ticket for $1.25 and another wanted $1.50 for his ticket. Neither man was able to post $500 bail and both spent the night in jail.

Odds 'N' Ends

  • The team's first game was a 3-1 loss at Washington on April 22, 1903.

  • Its first owners were Frank Farrell, a proprietor of gambling establishments, and Bill Devery, a former New York City police chief with an unsavory reputation.

  • The franchise was originally known as the Highlanders as much for its ballpark, Hilltop Park, as for the fact that its first president was Joseph Gordon (although he had nothing to do with the elite British military unit called Gordon's Highlanders).

  • In 1904 righthander Jack Chesbro established a 20th-century record by winning 41 games.

  • Chesbro, however, lost the next-to-last game of the season on a wild pitch that handed Boston the pennant.

  • The team's most colorful player from 1905 to 1912 was Hal Chase, a fancy-fielding first baseman who later became infamous when he was accused of throwing games. He was the team's first captain (1912).

  • The team moved to the Polo Grounds in 1913 as tenants of the Giants.

  • The name Yankees had been used as early as 1905 but did not supplant Highlanders until the move out of Hilltop Park and into the Polo Grounds.

  • Carl Mays fatally beaned Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman in 1920.

  • Ruth dominated the game as nobody before or since. His power feats convinced the American League to adopt a livelier ball, changing the game forever.

  • After the 1921 World Series, Ruth led a barnstorming trip against Commissioner Kenesaw Landis' decree. He was suspended for the first 31 games of the 1922 season.

  • The Yankees were the first team to reach a home attendance of more than one million fans (1921) and the first to attract more than two million (1946).

  • The acquisition of third baseman Joe Dugan from the Red Sox in July 1922 led to the creation of the waiver rule.

  • Between August 1931 and August 1932 the Yankees played a record 308 consecutive games without being shut out.

  • Despite scoring a 20th-century record 1,067 runs in 1931, the Yankees finished second, 13½ games behind the Philadelphia Athletics.

  • The 1936 team had a major league record 995 runs batted in (including 100-plus totals by a record five players) and won the pennant by an AL record 19½ games.

  • Col. Jacob Ruppert owned the Yankees from 1915 until his death in 1939. His heirs included two nieces and Helen Winthrop Weyant, a chorus girl whose name had never surfaced in the press before the owner's death.

  • The retirement of Lou Gehrig's No. 4 in 1939 marked the first time a team retired a player's number.

  • The Yankees clinched the 1941 pennant on September 4, the earliest date in history.

  • The Yankees, often criticized for racist policies, finally broke the color line in 1955 when they brought up catcher Elston Howard.

  • Yogi Berra was fired as manager a day after the 1964 World Series. He was replaced by Johnny Keane, whose Cardinals beat the Yankees in the Series. The team's owners, Dan Topping and Del Webb, had decided to fire Berra earlier in the season.

  • A division title and 103 wins in 1980 weren't enough to save manager Dick Howser's job. He was fired by George Steinbrenner after the season.

  • Nor did a first-place finish in the first half of the 1981 split season do Gene Michael much good, since Bob Lemon was back at the helm for the World Series, a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

  • The chaos of the first decade under Steinbrenner may be best exemplified by the facts that the club had three different batting coaches and five pitching coaches in 1982 alone.

  • The chaos of the first decade under Steinbrenner may be best exemplified by the facts that the club had three different batting coaches and five pitching coaches in 1982 alone.

  • Steinbrenner was fined $50,000 for accusing a National League umpire of being under orders to call close plays for his league's teams during spring training games in 1982.

  • Steinbrenner was fined $5,000 by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in 1983 for calling White Sox owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn "the Abbott and Costello of baseball."

  • The legal proceedings after the 1983 Pine Tar Incident, in which the Yankees protested George Brett's game-winning homer should not have been allowed, resulted in a $150,000 fine for Steinbrenner and payment of $50,000 in Kuhn's court costs.

  • In 1998, the Yankees won a total of 125 games: 114 in the regular season, three in the Division Series, and four each in the ALCS and the World Series.

  • The Yankees have never lost a pennant or division race in which they led by at least six games.

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