History of the New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are a professional baseball team based in The Bronx, New York. They compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the American League's East Division. One of the American League's eight charter franchises, the club was founded in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1901 as the Baltimore Orioles and moved to New York City in 1903 as the New York Highlanders before becoming the Yankees in 1913. From 1923 to 2008, the Yankees' home ballpark was Yankee Stadium; in 2009, they moved into a new ballpark, also called Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees have won 27 World Series championships and 40 American League pennants, both MLB records. Forty-three Yankees players and eleven Yankees managers have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra. The Yankees have garnered widespread popularity and a dedicated fanbase. In pursuit of winning championships, the franchise has utilized a large payroll to recruit talent, particularly under former owner George Steinbrenner. The Yankees' rivalry with the Boston Red Sox is regarded as one of the most famous in North American professional sports. To support the Yankees and expand their media coverage, the dedicated television channel YES Network was launched in 2002. Since acquiring Babe Ruth in 1920, the Yankees have appeared in the World Series in every decade since the 1920s.
- 1 1901–02: Origins in Baltimore
- 2 1903–12: First decade in New York
- 3 1913–64: Dynasty years
- 4 (1965–1972) New ownership and a steep decline during the CBS era
- 5 (1973–2007) Return to glory under George Steinbrenner
- 6 (2009–present) A new stadium and another championship
- 7 References
- 8 Bibliography
1901–02: Origins in Baltimore
At the end of the 1900 baseball season, Western League president Ban Johnson moved to position the circuit as a new major league that would compete with the established National League (NL). The league was reorganized and renamed the American League (AL), and eight cities fielded teams in the 1901 season. In addition to placing three teams in cities with NL clubs, the AL had another three in former NL team locations, including Baltimore; the Orioles were one of four sides shut down by the NL after the 1899 season. The new Orioles' first manager was John McGraw, who had held the same role for the previous Baltimore team in its final season; McGraw also held an ownership stake in the team.
In their first season, the Orioles had a 68–65 win–loss record and finished in fifth place in the AL. During the season, there were numerous disputes between Johnson and McGraw over disciplinary issues, which continued into the following year. Rumors began to spread that Johnson was interested in relocating the team to New York City, in an attempt to heighten the AL's competition with the NL. McGraw left the Orioles and joined the New York Giants as their manager; he gave the Giants' ownership his interest in the Orioles in the process. Several of the team's players—including Roger Bresnahan and Joe McGinnity—joined the Giants after McGraw's departure, and the Giants gained a majority of the Orioles' stock. Johnson took control of the team from the Giants; after the Orioles forfeited a game because they lacked enough active players, he ordered that the team be "restocked with players essentially given away by the other teams in order to play out the schedule", according to author Marty Appel. The Orioles had the worst record in the AL, as well as the weakest attendance figures.
The AL and NL signed an agreement after the 1902 season that ended the leagues' battles for players, which had led to increasing salaries. Johnson sought the right to locate an AL team in New York City, which was granted as part of the leagues' peace agreement. His intention was for the team to play in Manhattan, but the idea was opposed by Giants owner John T. Brush and former owner Andrew Freedman, who were connected to the city's Tammany Hall political organization. They blocked several potential stadium locations, before a pair of Tammany Hall politicians, Frank J. Farrell and William Stephen Devery, purchased the New York franchise in the AL. The pair paid $18,000 for the team, which was worth $440,000 as of 2011. The team took the Orioles' place; it is unclear if the New York club was an expansion team or if the Baltimore team was relocated.
1903–12: First decade in New York
The ballpark for the New York team was constructed between 165th and 168th Streets, on Broadway in Manhattan. Formally known as American League Park, it has been nicknamed Hilltop Park due to its high elevation. The team itself did not have a set nickname; it was often called the New York Americans in reference to the AL. Another common nickname for the club was the Highlanders, which referred to the Gordon Highlanders military unit in Britain and Joe Gordon, the team's president. For their roster, New York made numerous additions, including outfielder Willie Keeler and pitcher Jack Chesbro. The team's first manager in New York City was Clark Griffith, who was hired from the Chicago White Sox; he was a player for the club as well. On April 22, 1903, New York began their season with a 3–1 loss to the Washington Senators; eight days later, the team won its first game in Hilltop Park, defeating the Senators 6–2. New York quickly fell out of contention for the AL pennant (league championship), falling to seventh place in the league after playing games away from Hilltop Park for a 24-day period. With a final record of 72–62 after wins in 19 of 29 games played in September, New York posted a fourth-place finish in 1903.
Chesbro won 41 games in the 1904 season; this is the highest single-season total since 1901 and an AL record. New York contended for the AL pennant with the Boston Americans (later nicknamed the Red Sox); Johnson aided New York by helping the team acquire multiple players in trades, including Boston's Patsy Dougherty. The teams faced each other in a season-ending five-game series that decided the pennant winner, and was played from October 7–10. Boston won two of the first three games, which meant that New York needed to win the two contests scheduled on October 10 to win the AL title. With the score of the first game tied 2–2 in the ninth inning, Chesbro threw a wild pitch that allowed a runner on third base to score, giving Boston a 3–2 lead that it held until the end of the game. This victory clinched the AL pennant for Boston.
New York's performance declined in 1905, as the club dealt with ineffective pitching. After losing 18 of 25 games in May, they ended the season sixth in the AL standings. In the 1906 season, New York again contended for the AL championship; a 14-game winning streak in August and September moved them into first place, and with 13 games left to play they held a one-game lead over the White Sox. However, they failed to hold their lead and finished three games behind the White Sox in second place. Sportswriter Joe Vila blamed New York's late-season decline on Griffith, writing that the manager overused Chesbro and allowed factions to form among the players. Author Glenn Stout wrote that New York was "not yet a team but a collection of individuals, mercenaries out for themselves."
According to Appel, "What would follow would be a string of mediocre to bad seasons and not a very good attraction for baseball-crazed New York fans." New York recorded a fifth-place finish in the AL in 1907, with a 70–78 record that was 21 games worse than that of the league champion Detroit Tigers. Despite Vila's preseason prediction that the 1908 New York team would win the AL championship, they finished last in the league with a 51–103 record. Griffith resigned as New York's manager due to interference from Farrell over his use of pitchers. He was replaced by Kid Elberfeld, who was fired after the season. George Stallings took over managerial duties for the 1909 campaign, in which New York had a 74–77 record and wound up fifth in the AL.
New York had a second-place finish in 1910, but did not seriously contend for the pennant. Stallings and first baseman Hal Chase, the team captain, clashed towards the end of the season; Stallings believed that Chase was guilty of "lying down" on defensive plays, but faced opposition from Johnson, who wanted him to resign as manager. Stallings left the position, and Chase managed in New York's last 14 regular season games. The team played a seven-game postseason exhibition series against the Giants, losing four, winning two, and tying one. The following season, New York had a record of 76–76 and a sixth-place finish in the AL standings. Early in the season, New York allowed the Giants to play in Hilltop Park after the Giants' stadium, the Polo Grounds, burned down; the arrangement lasted until June 28, when the rebuilt Polo Grounds opened. Chase resigned as New York's manager before the 1912 season; Harry Wolverton accepted the position. In that season, New York had a last-place finish in the league, with a record of 50–102; their winning percentage of .329 was the lowest-ever for the club.
In their early years, New York dealt with multiple issues that hindered their play on the field. After their first couple of seasons in New York City, the club infrequently invested in new players. The ownership group of Farrell and Devery spent their money on personal pursuits such as gambling, leaving them with little to put into the team. The team's leading player, Chase, consorted frequently with gamblers and has been called "the most crooked player to ever play the game" by author Jim Reisler due to reports that he took part in game fixing. New York also had difficulty drawing fans to Hilltop Park. Appel wrote of the stadium that "maybe the best thing you could say about the ballpark was that it never burned down." By the end of the 1912 season, New York was searching for a site to build a new stadium on.
1913–64: Dynasty years
1913–20: New ownership and acquisition of Babe Ruth
New York's relations with the Giants warmed after 1911, and both teams played their home games at the Polo Grounds starting in 1913. Before the 1913 season, the team gave itself an official nickname as the Yankees. The name had been used frequently since 1904 in publications such as the New York Evening Journal. With a new manager, Frank Chance, the Yankees had a 57–94 record and were one win from finishing at the bottom of the AL. Chance did not survive as manager through the 1914 season; shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh became a player-manager for the Yankees' last 20 games, and the club finished sixth in the AL. After the season, Yankees owners Farrell and Devery sold the team to brewery magnate Jacob Ruppert and former United States Army engineer Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston. The sale was completed on January 11, 1915, as the pair paid a combined $460,000 for the Yankees. Ruppert called the team "an orphan ball club, without a home of its own, without players of outstanding ability, without prestige." The new ownership group intended to spend heavily to improve the club's talent level and made a major purchase in 1915, buying pitcher Bob Shawkey from the Philadelphia Athletics. Regardless, the Yankees' 69 wins were only enough for fifth in the league standings. That season, the Yankees began wearing white uniforms with pinstripes and an interlocking "NY" logo during games at the Polo Grounds, which remains their "home" uniforms. The team had gone through many uniforms in its seasons in New York, and in 1913 had introduced the present-day gray uniforms worn during "road" games.
Before the 1916 season, the Yankees made another significant roster addition in acquiring third baseman Frank Baker from the Athletics. Nicknamed "Home Run" Baker, he had been the AL home run leader each year from 1911 to 1914, before not playing in 1915 due to a disagreement with the Athletics over his contract. The Yankees improved to 80 wins and contended for the AL pennant for most of the season, before suffering a run of injuries to key players, including Baker. In the 1917 season, New York finished sixth in the AL; Bill Donovan, the club's manager since 1915, was fired in the offseason. Ruppert replaced him with Miller Huggins, completing the hire while Huston was overseas fighting in World War I. The 1918 campaign was cut short by the war. The Yankees contended for first place into the summer of 1918 along with the Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, but lost numerous players to military service. At the end of the season, New York was fourth in the AL with a 60–63 record. After the season, the Yankees acquired three players—including outfielder Duffy Lewis and pitcher Ernie Shore—in a trade the Red Sox, who were coming off a victory in the 1918 World Series. In 1919, the club made another trade with Boston, acquiring elite pitcher Carl Mays for two players and $40,000. The deal led to a dispute between the teams and Ban Johnson, who attempted to block the transaction. Johnson suspended Mays, who had pulled himself from his last game as a Red Sox player, but the suspension was overturned by the New York Supreme Court. The issue led to the formation of factions in the AL. Johnson had the support of five of the eight teams, who were collectively referred to in the media as "the Loyal Five". The Yankees joined the Red Sox and White Sox in opposing the group; they were nicknamed "the Insurrectos". Mays pitched to a 9–3 record as a Yankee, and the team improved to 80–59 for the season; the mark was good for third in the AL.
That season was the first in which the Yankees played games at the Polo Grounds on Sundays; until 1919, blue laws had banned Sunday baseball games in the state of New York. The Yankees' attendance more than doubled in 1919, rising to about 619,000 as people who worked during the rest of the week were able to attend games. The Giants soon moved to force the Yankees out of the Polo Grounds, in an effort to secure more Sunday home games. On December 26, 1919, the Yankees made an agreement with the Red Sox to purchase outfielder Babe Ruth for $25,000 cash and $75,000 of notes. The deal, which was announced on January 5, 1920, was called "the most famous transaction in sports" by Stout. The Red Sox' owner, theater impresario Harry Frazee, had bought the team on credit and needed to pay off his loans and purchase Fenway Park from the Fenway Realty Trust. If Frazee could not own Fenway Park, Johnson may have pushed for a replacement AL franchise in Boston. The Red Sox also dealt with substantial legal expenses from the AL's split. After tying for the MLB home run lead in 1918 with the Philadelphia Athletics' Tilly Walker (with 11), Ruth broke the single-season record with 29 home runs in 1919. At the same time, he sought a new contract that would double his $10,000 yearly salary. After the trade, the Red Sox did not win another championship until 2004; an alleged jinx against the team, which was known as the Curse of the Bambino (after a nickname for Ruth), was first brought up when they lost the 1986 World Series and became widely discussed after Dan Shaughnessy authored a book with the title.
As a Yankee, Ruth hit 659 home runs and scored 1,959 runs; both marks are team records as of 2013. He is second in club history with 1,978 runs batted in and accumulated 2,518 hits as a Yankee, third on the team's all-time list. The addition of Ruth helped the Yankees increase their attendance to 1,289,422 for the 1920 season; it was the first time that any MLB team drew more than one million fans in a year. On the field, he hit 54 home runs for a new record; his total was higher than that of all other MLB teams but the Philadelphia Phillies. New York had 95 wins, the most in team history to that point; despite this, the team fell three wins short of the AL championship and finished in third. After the season, the Yankees made another key addition by hiring general manager Ed Barrow from the Red Sox. Barrow made numerous trades with his former club, including one immediately after his departure from Boston that brought catcher Wally Schang and pitcher Waite Hoyt to New York.
1921–28: First World Series win and Murderers' Row
Ruth surpassed his own record again in 1921 by hitting 59 home runs. He also led MLB in on-base percentage with a .512 mark for the season. The Yankees won the AL pennant for the first time, winning 98 games in the regular season; the total gave them the league championship by a 4 1/2-game margin over the Cleveland Indians. In the best-of-nine 1921 World Series, they faced the Giants and won the first two games, but their opponents claimed the Series title when they won four of the next five games. Ruth suffered an arm infection, which limited his playing time in the later part of the Series. Barrow made another trade with the Red Sox in the offseason, acquiring shortstop Everett Scott. The Yankees repeated as AL champions in the 1922 season with 94 wins. The St. Louis Browns were the closest pursuers, finishing one game behind New York. In the World Series, the Yankees again faced the Giants in an all-New York matchup; the Series changed to a best-of-seven format that year. The Giants defeated the Yankees in five games, and the Yankees did not post a win in the Series; the third game ended in a tie when it was suspended due to darkness.
By 1923, the teams no longer shared the Polo Grounds, as the Giants had attempted to evict the Yankees in 1920. Although the attempt was unsuccessful, it pushed the Yankees into seeking their own stadium. In 1921, the team bought a plot of land in the Bronx, and the construction crew finished the new ballpark before the start of play in 1923. Yankee Stadium, a triple-deck facility, was originally designed to hold more than 55,000 spectators; it was later able to hold over 70,000. At Yankee Stadium's inaugural game on April 18, 1923, Ruth hit the first home run in the stadium, which had been called "the House That Ruth Built" by sportswriter Fred Lieb because of the player's impact on attendance. Ruth shared the MLB lead with Cy Williams by hitting 41 home runs for the 1923 season, and had a career-best .393 batting average. The Yankees finished first in the AL for the third consecutive year, and faced the Giants again in the 1923 World Series. Giants outfielder Casey Stengel hit game-winning home runs in two of the first three games of the World Series, but Ruth's three Series home runs helped the Yankees win in six games for their first MLB title.
The Yankees did not return to the World Series in either of the following two seasons. In 1924, the team finished second in the AL, two games behind the Washington Senators. A steep decline in the Yankees' performance took place in 1925, as Ruth missed the first 40 games of the season with an illness and several key players showed signs of age. New York fell to seventh in the league with a 69–85 record. First basemen Lou Gehrig debuted that season, earning a starting position and beginning a consecutive games played streak that spanned almost 15 years. The Yankees made more talent upgrades before the 1926 season, which included the signing of infielder Tony Lazzeri, who spent over a decade with the club. New York's performance surpassed preseason expectations, and a 16-game winning streak in May gave the team a substantial lead in the AL standings. With a three-game final margin over the Cleveland Indians, the Yankees won the pennant and earned a spot in the 1926 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. After the Yankees took a 3–2 series lead, the Cardinals won the final two games in Yankee Stadium to claim the Series title. Ruth hit three home runs in the fourth game of the series, but made the final out of the Series on a failed stolen base attempt.
The Yankees' lineup in the 1927 season, which featured Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig, and Earle Combs, was known as Murderers' Row for its proficiency. The team led the AL standings throughout the year and claimed another pennant. It has been cited as among the greatest teams in baseball history. Ruth's total of 60 home runs set a single-season home run record that stood for 34 years. Gehrig added 47 home runs and led MLB with 175 RBI. The Yankees completed the season by sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1927 World Series. To begin the 1928 season, the Yankees went on a 34–8 run and took a sizable lead in the league standings. The Athletics gave the team competition for the pennant towards the end of the season, but New York won the AL title again and faced the Cardinals in the 1928 World Series, sweeping them in four games. Coming off a 54-home run regular season, Ruth had 3 home runs and a .625 batting average in the Series, while Gehrig batted .545 with four home runs.
1929–35: Hiring of Joe McCarthy and Ruth's called shot
The Yankees failed to win a fourth straight AL championship in 1929, and suffered the death of their manager, Huggins, on September 25. After Art Fletcher managed for the rest of the year, Bob Shawkey took the position for the 1930 season, in which the Yankees had a third-place league finish. The Yankees fired Fletcher and hired Joe McCarthy; in his first season as manager, the team won 94 games but finished second behind the Athletics in the AL. The players fielded by McCarthy included catcher Bill Dickey, who had first competed for the Yankees in 1928, and pitchers Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez.
In 1932, McCarthy's Yankees returned to the top of the AL. New York won 107 games, beating out the Athletics for the pennant. The Yankees met the Chicago Cubs in the 1932 World Series, sweeping them four games to none to win the championship. Gehrig had three home runs, eight RBI, and a .529 batting average for the Series, while Ruth contributed a pair of home runs in the third game, which took place at Chicago's Wrigley Field. The second of Ruth's home runs was his "called shot"; after pointing towards the center field stands, according to some post-game press reports, Ruth homered to break a 4–4 tie in the fifth inning. Author Eric Enders called the home run "the most talked-about hit in baseball history", although multiple Cubs players later denied the pointing and accounts of the incident vary greatly.
From 1933 to 1935, the Yankees posted three consecutive second-place finishes in the AL. In the first two years, they ended up seven games behind the league leader, and in 1935 finished within three games of the AL lead. Ruth's batting production declined from previous seasons in 1933 and 1934, his final seasons with the team. The Yankees released Ruth from his contract before the 1935 season, and Gehrig took a leadership role for the club; he was named New York's captain. New York was beginning to see results from an initiative to buy minor league teams in an effort to reduce the cost of obtaining players; after buying their first minor league club in 1929, the Yankees had a 15-team system by 1937. Players with experience from the minor league teams began joining the Yankees in the mid-1930s, and into the early 1960s this remained the team's primary player acquisition method.
1936–43: Four consecutive World Series titles
The 1936 season marked the first for Joe DiMaggio in New York. The young center fielder from San Francisco was signed in 1934 from the Pacific Coast League's San Francisco Seals, and made his debut with the Yankees after spending 1935 with the Seals. DiMaggio had a .323 batting average, 29 home runs, and 125 RBI in his rookie season. Gehrig won the AL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award for his season, in which he hit a career-high 49 home runs, with a .354 batting average and 152 RBI. Behind these performances, the Yankees had a 102-win season and won the AL pennant, before defeating the Giants in the 1936 World Series, four games to two. The Yankees repeated as World Series champions in the 1937 season; after another 102-win regular season and AL championship, the club defeated the Giants four games to one in the Series. The 1938 Yankees had 48 victories in 61 games during one summer stretch, and won the team's third straight AL championship despite a drop in batting performance by Gehrig. The Cubs met the Yankees in the 1938 World Series, but were swept in four games by New York. Ruppert died early in 1939; before his death, he sold Barrow shares of team stock, and Barrow took over as the Yankees' president.
The 1939 Yankees lost the services of Gehrig early in the season; after starting the year poorly, he benched himself to end his consecutive games played streak at 2,130 and was later diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which forced him to retire. Despite the loss of Gehrig, New York fielded a team that posted 106 victories in 1939, 17 more than the second-place side in the AL. DiMaggio was named MVP of the league; he led the AL in batting average (.381) and was second in RBI (126). Ruffing led the Yankees' pitchers with 20 wins. In the 1939 World Series, the Yankees swept the Cincinnati Reds in four games for the club's fourth consecutive Series championship. Calls to "Break up the Yankees!" had become prominent by 1938, and after the 1939 season the AL temporarily barred most transactions between the last pennant winner and other league teams in an attempt to prevent the Yankees from improving their roster. The Yankees' run of championships ended in 1940; the team had 18 more losses than in the previous season. In a three-way AL pennant race that also featured the Indians and Detroit Tigers, the Yankees ended up two games behind the Tigers for first place in the standings.
DiMaggio recorded base hits in 56 consective games for the Yankees during the 1941 season, breaking the MLB record of 44 games that had been set by Keeler in 1897. His hitting streak lasted from May 15 to July 17, when he failed to record a hit during a game against the Indians at Cleveland Stadium. After winning the AL pennant, the Yankees met the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1941 World Series, prevailing in five games. In Game 4, the Yankees trailed 4–3 in the ninth inning and were one out from losing before a four-run rally that prevented the Dodgers from evening the Series at two games each; New York clinched the championship with a Game 5 win. Then, two months and one day after the final game of the Yanks' four-games-to-one win, the Pearl Harbor attacks occurred, and many of the best ballplayers went off to World War II. The war-thinned ranks of the major leagues found the Yanks in the post-season again, as the team traded World Series wins with the St. Louis Cardinals during 1942 and 1943.
After 1943, the team went into a bit of a slump, and McCarthy was let go early in the 1946 season. After a couple of interim managers came and went, Bucky Harris was brought in, and the Yankees righted the ship again, winning the 1947 pennant and a hard-fought battle against the Dodgers in a Series that took the Yankees seven games to win and was a wikt:harbringer for much of the next decade.
Despite finishing only three games behind the pennant-winning Cleveland Indians in 1948, Harris was released and the Yankees brought in Casey Stengel to manage. Casey had a reputation for being somewhat of a clown and for managing bad teams, such as the mid-1930s Boston Braves. Understandably, this selection was met with skepticism. His tenure, however, would prove to be the most successful in Yankees history up to that point. The 1949 Yankees team was seen as "underdogs" who came from behind to catch and surprise the powerful Red Sox on the last two days of the season, a face off that fueled the beginning of the modern Yankees – Red Sox rivalry. The post-season proved to be a bit easier, as the Yankees knocked off the Dodgers four games to one.
By this time, the great DiMaggio's career was winding down. It has often been reported that he wanted to retire before he became an "ordinary" player. His retirement was also hastened by bone spurs in his heel. 1951 was the curtain call of the "Yankee Clipper." However, it also marked the arrival of the "Oklahoma Kid", Mickey Mantle, who was one of several new stars that would fill the gap.
Bettering the clubs of the McCarthy era, the Yankees won the World Series five consecutive times under Stengel (1949–1953), which continues to be the major league record. Led by players like center fielder Mickey Mantle, pitcher Whitey Ford, and catcher Yogi Berra, Stengel's teams won 10 pennants and seven World Series titles in his twelve seasons as Yankee manager. Casey Stengel was also a master at publicity for the team and for himself, even landing a cover story in Time magazine in 1955. The 1950s was also a decade of significant individual achievement for Yankee players. In 1956, Mantle won the major league triple crown, leading both leagues in batting average (.353), home runs (52), and RBIs (130). A Yankee claimed ownership of the American League MVP six times in the decade (1950 Rizzuto, 1951 Berra, 1954 Berra, 1955 Berra, 1956 Mantle, 1957 Mantle). Pitcher Bob Turley won the Cy Young Award in 1958, the award's third year of existence.
The team won over 100 games in 1954, but the Indians took the pennant with an AL record 111 wins. In 1955, the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the World Series, after five Series losses to the Yankees in '41, '47, '49, '52 and '53. But the Yankees came back strong the next year. On October 8, in Game Five of the 1956 World Series against the Dodgers, pitcher Don Larsen threw the only perfect game in World Series history. The Yankees went on to win yet another World Series that season, and Larsen earned World Series MVP honors.
The Yankees lost the 1957 World Series to the Milwaukee Braves. Following the Series, the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers left New York City for California, leaving the Yankees as New York's only team. In the 1958 World Series, the Yankees got their revenge against the Braves, and became the second team to win the Series after being down three games to one. For the decade, the Yankees won six World Series championships ('50, 51, '52, '53, '56, '58) and eight American League pennants (those six plus '55 and '57). Led by Mantle, Ford, Berra, Elston Howard (the Yankees' first African-American player), and the newly acquired Roger Maris, the Yankees burst into the new decade seeking to replicate the remarkable success of the 1950s.
During the ownership of Arnold Johnson, the Kansas City Athletics traded many young players to the Yankees for cash and aging veterans (much the same way the Red Sox had done under Frazee). When he'd bought the then Philadelphia Athletics from the family of Connie Mack in 1954, he was already the owner of Yankee Stadium, but the American League owners forced him to sell the Stadium as a condition for the purchase. He was also a longtime business associate of then-Yankees owners Del Webb and Dan Topping. Trades between the A's and Yankees were so heavily weighted in the Yankees' favor that many fans, reporters and even other teams frequently accused the A's of being little more than a Yankee farm team at the major league level. Ironically, the Yankees' top farm team had been based in Kansas City from 1936 until they made way for the A's.
The Johnson/Webb/Topping relationship significantly improved the Yankees' future prospects. In December 1959, a young outfielder named Roger Maris was acquired in one such trade, and in 1960, Maris led the league in slugging percentage, RBIs, and extra base hits, finished second in home runs (one behind Mantle), and total bases, and won a Gold Glove and the American League MVP award.
The year 1961 would prove to be one of the most memorable in Yankee history. Throughout the summer, Mantle and Maris hit home runs at record pace as both chased Babe Ruth's single-season home run record of 60, and the media and the fans began referring to the duo as the "M&M Boys". Ultimately, a severe hip infection forced Mantle to leave the lineup and bow out of the race in mid-September with 54 home runs. Maris would continue the race though, and on October 1, the final day of the season, he sent a pitch from Boston's Tracy Stallard into the right field stands of Yankee Stadium, breaking the record with 61. However, Commissioner Ford Frick decreed that two separate records be kept, as Ruth's record-setting season was 154 games, and Maris hit 61 in 162 games. It would be 30 years before an eight-member Committee for Historical Accuracy appointed by Major League Baseball did away with the dual records, giving Maris sole possession of the single-season home run record until it was broken by Mark McGwire in 1998. Maris still holds the American League record.
The Yankees won the pennant with a 109–53 record and went on to defeat the Cincinnati Reds in five games to win the 1961 World Series. The 109 regular season wins posted by the '61 club remains the third highest single-season total in franchise history, behind only the 1998 team's 114 regular season wins and 1927 team's 110 wins. The 1961 Yankees also clubbed a then-major league record for most home runs by a team with 240, a total not surpassed until the 1996 Baltimore Orioles hit 257 with the aid of the designated hitter. Maris won his second consecutive MVP Award while Whitey Ford captured the Cy Young Award. Because of the excellence of Maris, Mantle, and World Series-MVP Ford, a fine pitching staff, stellar team defense, the team's strong depth and power, and its overall dominance, the 1961 Yankees are universally considered to be one of the greatest teams in the history of baseball, compared often to their pinstriped-brethren, the 1927 Yankees, the 1939 Yankees, and the 1998 Yankees.
In 1962, the sports landscape in New York changed dramatically. A new expansion team was added to the National League, and it was put in New York to fill the hole left when the Giants and Dodgers moved to California. The new team was the New York Mets, and they moved into the Polo Grounds, which would be their home until 1964, when they'd move to the current home, Shea Stadium, 10 miles to the southeast of Yankee Stadium in Flushing, Queens. That year the Mets would lose a record 120 games while the Yankees would win the 1962 World Series, their tenth in the past sixteen years, defeating the San Francisco Giants in seven games.
The Yankees would again reach the Fall Classic in 1963, but they were swept in four games by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Behind World Series-MVP Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Johnny Podres (who shut out the Yankees in 1955), the Dodgers' starting pitchers threw four complete games and combined to give up just four runs all Series. This was the first time the Yankees were swept in a World Series. In addition, this was the first World Series that a losing team trailed throughout.
Feeling burnt out after the season, Houk left the manager's chair to become the team's general manager and Berra, who himself had just retired from playing, was named the new manager of the Yankees.
The aging Yankees returned for a fifth straight World Series in 1964 – their fourteenth World Series appearance in the past sixteen years – to face the St. Louis Cardinals in a series immortalized by David Halberstam's book, October 1964. Despite a valiant performance by Mantle, including a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth of Game Three off of Cardinals' reliever Barney Schultz, the Yankees fell to the Cardinals in seven games, and Berra was fired. It was to be the Yankees' last last postseason appearance of any sort for 13 years.
(1965–1972) New ownership and a steep decline during the CBS era
After the 1964 season, CBS purchased 80 percent of the Yankees from Topping and Webb for $11.2 million. However, Topping and Webb stayed on as president and vice president, respectively. Jokesters at the time wondered if Walter Cronkite would become manager, perhaps with Yogi Berra doing the newscasts.
The Yankees finished in the Second division for the first time in 40 years. Worse yet, the introduction of the major league amateur draft in 1965 also meant that the Yankees could no longer sign any player they wanted. Webb sold his 10 percent stake to CBS before the year was out.
Johnny Keane, the winning Cardinals manager who joined the Yankees to manage in '65, was fired during the season, and GM Ralph Houk had to do double duty as field manager until the end of the year. Topping sold his 10 percent stake to CBS at the end of the season. CBS executive Mike Burke took over as president.
The Yankees were next-to-last in the 1967 season, during which former farm director Lee MacPhail returned to the organization as GM. The team's fortunes improved somewhat, but they would not become serious contenders again until 1974. Various reasons have been given for the decline, but the single biggest one was the Yankees' inability to replace their aging superstars with new ones, as they had done consistently in the previous five decades. As mentioned above, the draft meant that the Yankees could no longer simply outbid the other teams for the best young players. Also, Topping and Webb decided as little as possible in order to make the team more attractive to buyers when they put it on the market in 1961. Their "special relationship" with the Athletics may have been a way to mask this problem. By the mid-1960s, the Yankees had little to offer in terms of trades, while Charlie Finley had taken the A's in a new direction. A more controversial theory is that the Yankees paid the price for bringing black players into the organization later than most other teams.
Also during this period the Yankees lost two of their signature broadcasters. The team fired legendary "Voice of the Yankees" Mel Allen after the 1964 season. Years later, Allen said that he was fired as a cost-cutting move by the team's longtime broadcast sponsor, Ballantine Beer. Two years later, Red Barber, a former Dodgers voice who joined the Yankees broadcast team in 1954, was also let go. Some blame Barber's firing on his on-air mention of a paltry showing of 413 fans (Yankee Stadium held 67,000 at the time) during a September 1966 home game against the White Sox. Sports biographer David J. Halberstam (different from the author of October 1964) also noted Barber's less-than-happy relationship with Joe Garagiola and even Phil Rizzuto, ex-major leaguers with whom he shared the booth.
Topping and Webb had owned the Yankees for 20 years, missing the World Series only five times and going 10–5 in the ones they participated in. By contrast, the CBS-owned teams never went to the World Series, nor made the league playoffs when they were instituted in 1969.
(1973–2007) Return to glory under George Steinbrenner
The Bronx Zoo
A group of investors, led by Cleveland-based shipbuilder George Steinbrenner, purchased the club from CBS on January 3, 1973 for $8.7 million. Mike Burke stayed on as president until he quit in April. Within a year, Steinbrenner bought out most of his other partners and became the team's principal owner. Burke continued to hold a minority share into the 1980s, but Steinbrenner controlled the team; as fellow minority owner John McMullen stated, "There is nothing in life quite so limited as being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner."
One of Steinbrenner's major goals was to repair the Stadium, which had greatly deteriorated (along with the surrounding area) by the late 1960s. CBS had suggested renovations as early as 1971. However, this would have required the Yankees to share Shea Stadium with the Mets, and the Mets were not willing to go along at first. There were even plans to move the team to a new stadium in the Meadowlands, in nearby New Jersey. In mid-1972, Mayor John Lindsay stepped in, and announced the city would buy Yankee Stadium for $24 million (ten times the amount it took to build) and lease it back to the Yankees. Since the city owned Shea Stadium as well, the Mets were forced to open their home up to the Yankees. The renovations were then carried out, a two-year process that modernized the look of the stadium, and reconfigured some seating. The left field wall, which was approximately 60 feet farther than the right field wall, was brought in, and the bullpens were moved to behind this wall. The monuments, plaques, and flagpole that were once in the deepest point of center field were moved behind the fences in a new area between the bullpens named Monument Park.
After the 1974 season, Steinbrenner made a move that started the modern era of free agency, signing star pitcher Jim "Catfish" Hunter away from Oakland. Midway through the 1975 season, the Boss made another move, hiring former second baseman Billy Martin as manager. With Martin as the helm, the Yankees reached the 1976 ALCS, their first postseason appearance since the 1964 World Series, where they won on a Chris Chambliss home run. In the 1976 World Series, the Yankees were swept by the Cincinnati Reds, the famed Big Red Machine.
Steinbrenner continued his buying of high-priced free agents, by signing star outfielder Reggie Jackson, who had been traded from the Athletics to the Baltimore Orioles at the beginning of the season, for a then record $600,000 per year. Steinbrenner, Martin and Jackson would repeatedly feud throughout Jackson's five-year contract. Nevertheless, in Game Six of the 1977 World Series, Jackson proved his worth by hitting three home runs — on the first pitch — against three different Dodger pitchers to wrap up the Yankees' first world title in 15 years, earning himself the nickname "Mr. October."
Throughout the late 1970s, the race for the American League East often came to a close competition between the Yankees and the Red Sox. For fans of both clubs, every game between the two became important and added to a rivalry that was already bitter and ruthless, with brawls frequently erupting between both players and fans from the two clubs.
The Yankees–Red Sox rivalry came to a head in the 1978 season. On July 14, 1978, the Yankees were 14 1⁄2 games behind the Red Sox. The Yankees then went on a tear while the Red Sox went into a slump, and by the time the two teams met for a pivotal four-game series at Fenway in early September, the Yankees were only four games out. In what would become known as the "Boston Massacre", the Yankees swept the Red Sox, winning the games 15–3, 13–2, 7–0 and 7–4. The third game was a shutout by Ron Guidry, who would lead the majors with nine shutouts, 25 wins (against only three losses) and a 1.74 ERA. Guidry also finished with 248 strikeouts, but Nolan Ryan's 260 strikeouts deprived Guidry of the pitching Triple Crown.
On the last day of the season, the two clubs finished the regular season in a tie for first place in the AL East. A one-game playoff (the 163rd game of the regular season) between the two teams was held to decide who would go on to the pennant race, with the game being held at Boston's Fenway Park. With Guidry matched up against former Yankee Mike Torrez, the Red Sox took an early 2–0 lead. In the seventh inning, the Yankees drove a stake through the hearts of their rivals' fans when Bucky Dent drove a three-run home run over the "Green Monster", putting the Yankees up 3–2. Reggie Jackson's solo home run in the following inning would seal the eventual 5–4 win that gave the Yankees their 100th win of the season and their third straight AL East title; it also gave Guidry his 25th win. (The outcome of this game, for Red Sox fans, was one of several emotional moments in their team's history that had their fans wondering if the Red Sox were under some kind of Yankee curse.) However, Red Sox fans got a sense of payback for Dent's home run in 1990 when he was fired as manager of the Yankees before a game at Fenway Park.
After beating the Kansas City Royals for the third consecutive year in the ALCS, the Yankees faced the Dodgers again in the 1978 World Series. They lost the first two games on the road, but then came home to win all three games at Yankee Stadium before wrapping up their 22nd World Championship in Game 6 in Los Angeles.
On August 2, 1979, Yankees catcher and team captain Thurman Munson was killed in a plane crash. Four days later, the entire team flew to Canton, Ohio for his funeral, only to return to New York later that day to play the Baltimore Orioles. In a game that was televised nationally, the emotional contest was highlighted by Bobby Murcer driving in all five of the team's runs in a dramatic 5-4 victory. Munson's uniform number (15) was retired, and his locker was not used after his death.
The post-Munson Yankees began with a bang as the Yankees won 103 games in 1980. Reggie Jackson hit .300 and 41 home runs. He finished 2nd to George Brett in the MVP voting. However, Brett's Royals would sweep the Yankees in ALCS.
The strike-shortened 1981 season had the Yankees finish first in the first half of the season. They would defeat the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1981 ALDS in five games. Then they would sweep Billy Martin and the Oakland A's in the 1981 ALCS. The run would end on a sour note as the Dodgers defeated the Yankees in the 1981 World Series in six games.
(1982–95) Struggles and no postseasons
Following the team's loss to the Dodgers in the 1981 World Series, the Yankees would go into their longest absence from the playoffs since 1921. From 1989 to 1992 they had a losing record, having spent large amounts of money on free-agent players and draft picks that did not perform up to expectations.
During the 1980s, the Yankees, led by their All-Star first baseman Don Mattingly, had the most total wins of any major league team, but failed to win a World Series (the first such decade since the 1910s). The Yankees consistently had powerful offensive teams — besides Mattingly, its rosters included, at one time or another, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Mike Pagliarulo, Steve Sax and Jesse Barfield – but their starting pitching rarely matched the team's performance at the plate.
After posting a 22–6 record in 1985, arm problems caught up with Ron Guidry, and his career went into a steep decline in the next three years. Dennis Rasmussen, who won 18 games the following year, never matched his 1986 performance. Rick Rhoden, acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1987, won 16 games that year but only went 14–14 in 1988.
The Yankees came close to winning the AL East in 1985 and 1986, finishing second behind the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox, respectively, but fell to fourth place in 1987 and fifth in 1988, despite having mid-season leads in the AL East standings in both seasons. 1988 would be the last season the Yankees had a winning record until 1993.
By the end of the decade, the Yankees' offense was also on the decline. Henderson and Pagliarulo had departed by the middle of 1989, while back problems caught up with both Winfield (causing him to miss the entire '89 season) and Mattingly (he missed virtually the entire second half of 1990). Winfield's tenure with the team ended when he was dealt to the California Angels in May 1990. That year, the Yankees had the second worst record in Major League Baseball, and their first last-place finish since 1966. The Bombers would finish at or near the bottom of the division until 1993. On July 1, 1990, pitcher Andy Hawkins became the first Yankee ever to lose a no-hitter, when the third baseman (Mike Blowers) committed an error, followed by two walks and an error by the left fielder (Jim Leyritz) with the bases loaded, scoring all three runners and the batter. The 4–0 loss to the Chicago White Sox was the largest margin of any no-hitter loss in the 20th century. Ironically, the Yankees (and Hawkins) were again no-hit for six innings in a rain-shortened game with the White Sox eleven days later.
The poor showing in the 1980s and early 1990s would start to change when management was able to implement a coherent acquisition/development program without interference from Steinbrenner, who had been suspended from day-to-day team operations by then-Commissioner Fay Vincent for hiring Howard Spira to uncover damaging information on former Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield. Under general manager Gene Michael and manager Buck Showalter, the club shifted its emphasis from buying talent to developing talent through its farm system–and then holding onto it. The first significant sign of success came in 1994, when the Yankees had the best record in the AL before the season was cut short by the players' strike, which ended Mattingly's best chance for a World Series appearance. The strike shook the fans and New York City to its core and has been considered one of the worst moments in New York City sports history. Because the Yankees were last in a postseason in a season cut short by a strike, the news media constantly reminded the Yankees about the parallels between the two Yankee teams (1981 and 1994), which included both Yankee teams having division leads taken away by strike. Throughout October, they continued to bombard the Yankees, talking about what might have been if there had not been a strike, making references to the days games in the post-season would have been played.
A year later, the team reached the playoffs as the wild card and were eliminated only after a memorable 1995 American League Division Series series against the Seattle Mariners where the Yankees won the first two games at home and dropped the next three in Seattle. Mattingly had the unfortunate distinction of beginning his career (1982) and ending his career (1995) in years bracketed by Yankee World Series appearances (1981 and 1996).
Shaking it up once again, Steinbrenner replaced Showalter and his staff with manager Joe Torre, who brought with him Don Zimmer as bench coach and former Yankees pitching star Mel Stottlemyre as pitching coach. Torre's managerial tenure was by far the longest under George Steinbrenner's ownership. One of Showalter's coaches, popular former Yankee second baseman Willie Randolph, was retained by Torre as a third base coach. Initially derided as a retread choice ("Clueless Joe" ran the headline on the New York Post), Torre's smooth manner proved to be what the team needed. The signing of Torre and the events of the 1996 season for the Yankees were also seen as the first steps in the rivalry between their cross-town rivals, the New York Mets, and the Atlanta Braves intensifying, as Torre played for and managed both teams.
Going 8–0 on the road in the three playoff series that year, the Yankees won the 1996 World Series, defeating the Atlanta Braves in six games (after losing the first two games at home by a combined score of 16–1), and ending their 18-year championship drought, which could have ended in 1994, if there had not been a strike. Homegrown shortstop Derek Jeter was named Rookie of the Year, an auspicious start to his association with the Yankees.
After their first World Series win since 1978, the Yankees signed lefties David Wells and Mike Stanton to improve the pitching staff. They also allowed closing reliever (and Series MVP) John Wetteland to leave as a free agent, and named setup man Mariano Rivera as the team's new closer.
Bob Watson was replaced by Brian Cashman, a former Yankee intern, after the 1997 season. Cashman made many key acquisitions to improve the team, through the acquisitions of third baseman Scott Brosius, second baseman and leadoff man Chuck Knoblauch, outfielder Darryl Strawberry and starting pitcher Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.
On May 17, 1998, David Wells, who would later claim to have been hungover that day, pitched a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins. A year later, on July 18, 1999, which was "Yogi Berra Day" at the stadium, David Cone pitched a perfect game against the Montréal Expos. In a coincidence, Don Larsen, who pitched the perfect game in the 1956 World Series, was in attendance and had thrown out the ceremonial first pitch to Berra, his catcher for that game. Larsen and Wells both attended Point Loma High School in San Diego, California.
The 1998 Yankees are acknowledged by some to be one of the greatest teams in baseball history, having compiled a then-AL record of 114 regular-season wins against 48 losses en route to a Series sweep of the San Diego Padres. The '98 Yankees went 11–2 during the playoffs and finished with a combined record of 125–50. Their 125 wins is a major league record, though their AL regular season record was surpassed by the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who went 116–46 before losing to the Yankees in the ALCS.
This was the only Yankees World Series championship during their 1990s dynasty that wasn't won against either the New York Mets or the Atlanta Braves. All their other championships during that time (1996, 1999, and 2000) came against either team (1996 and 1999 against Atlanta, 2000 against the Mets).
After the 1998 season, fan favorite David Wells was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Roger Clemens, who had just completed two consecutive Cy Young Award and pitching triple crown seasons. After winning the Eastern division and defeating the Texas Rangers for the third time in the 1999 American League Division Series, the Yankees met their longtime rivals, the Boston Red Sox, in the next playoff round. Clemens, a former Red Sox pitcher, started the third game of the ALCS against the Sox, who blasted him 13–1 in what had been a highly anticipated pitching match-up between Clemens and Pedro Martínez, the winner of the Cy Young Award and the pitching triple crown that season. However, it was the only game the Red Sox won, as the Yankees won the ALCS four games to one, and then went on to sweep the Atlanta Braves in the 1999 World Series, with Clemens winning the clincher in Game Four in the Bronx. That gave the 1998–99 Yankees a 22–3 record (including four series sweeps) in six consecutive postseason series. That World Series win marked the last time that the Yankees would win a World Series at the original Yankee Stadium before it closed in 2008, as their 2000 win against their cross-town rivals happened at Shea Stadium (the only time that a visiting team would ever win a World Series there).
In 2000, the Yankees played against the crosstown New York Mets for the first Subway Series World Series since 1956. To get there, they defeated the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS and then the Seattle Mariners in the ALCS. By winning the first two games of the Series, the Yankees won a total of fourteen straight World Series games from 1996 to 2000, breaking their own record of twelve (in 1927, 1928 and 1932). When the Mets scored a run against Mariano Rivera, they snapped his string of postseason consecutive scoreless innings at 34⅓. Prior to Rivera's streak, the record had been held by Whitey Ford, who had broken Babe Ruth's scoreless World Series pitching streak. The win ran the Yankees' postseason series winning streak to nine and gave them a 33–8 record during that run. The Yankees are the most recent major league team to repeat as World Series champions and after the 2000 season they joined the Yankee teams of 1936–1939 and 1949–1953, as well as the 1972–74 Oakland Athletics, as the only teams to win at least three consecutive World Series.
The Yankees thanked the St. Louis Cardinals for this World Series. Their sweep of the Atlanta Braves made the Mets run to their first World Series appearance since winning the title in 1986 much easier. The Braves had eliminated the Mets from playoff contention on the final day of the 1998 season and in the 1999 National League Championship Series.
In the emotional times of October 2001, following the September 11 attack on New York's World Trade Center, the Yankees defeated the Oakland A's three games to two in the ALDS behind Derek Jeter's "Flip Play" in Game 3, and then the Seattle Mariners, who had won 116 games, four games to one in the ALCS. By winning the pennant for a fourth straight year, the 1998–2001 Yankees joined the 1921–1924 New York Giants, and the Yankee teams of 1936–1939, 1949–1953, 1955–1958 and 1960–1964 as the only dynasties to earn at least four straight pennants. The Yankees had now won eleven consecutive postseason series over a four-year period.
However, the World Series starters for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling (later named the World Series co-MVPs), kept them in check, starting Games One, Two, Four, Six and Seven; the Diamondbacks won all four games at home, including Game Seven, where Yankee star closer Mariano Rivera uncharacteristically lost the lead—and the Series—in the bottom of the ninth inning; this marked the second time in five years that a team lost the World Series after taking a lead into the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 (following the Cleveland Indians in 1997) and the first time since 1991 that the home team won all seven games of a World Series. The Yankees were also the first American League team to lose a World Series in which the home team won all seven games.
Despite the loss in the series, Derek Jeter provided one bright spot. Despite a very poor series overall, batting under .200, he got the nickname "Mr. November" for his walk-off home run in Game 4, though it began October 31, as the game ended in the first minutes of November 1. In calling the home run, Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay said "See ya! See ya! See ya! A home run for Derek Jeter! He is Mr. November! Oh what a home run by Derek Jeter!" He said this after noticing a sign that read, "Mr. November".
Also, during the times following the attacks, Yankee Stadium played host to a memorial service, just before the Yankees played their first home game following the attacks. The service was titled "Prayer for America".
Soon after, the Yankees played "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch of every home game.
After the 2001 season, fan favorites Paul O'Neill and Scott Brosius retired. Tino Martinez and Chuck Knoblauch left for free agency. The Yankees had a lot of reconstructing to do; they needed to rebuild the offense that was shut down by the Johnson-Schilling duo in the 2001 World Series. They did it by signing slugger Jason Giambi and outfielder Rondell White, as well as trading David Justice to the Mets for third baseman Robin Ventura. The team also brought back fan favorite David Wells to bolster the pitching staff. The Yankees finished the 2002 season with an AL best record of 103–58, winning the division by 10.5 games over the Red Sox. The season was highlighted by Alfonso Soriano becoming the first second baseman ever to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season, as well as Giambi's 41 home runs. In the ALDS, the Yankees lost to the eventual World Series champion Anaheim Angels in four games.
In 2003, Derek Jeter was named captain of the Yankees, a title that was vacant since Mattingly's departure after 1995. The Yankees once again had the best league record (101–61), defeated the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS, and then defeated their longtime rival Red Sox in a tough seven-game ALCS, which featured a bench-clearing brawl in Game Three and a Series-ending walk-off home run by Aaron Boone in the bottom of the 11th inning of the final game. The Yankees were then defeated by the Florida Marlins—a team with a payroll a quarter of the size of the Yankees'—in the World Series, four games to two. This was the first time since 1981 that visiting teams won a World Series at Yankee Stadium, though this was the last World Series to ever be played at the original Yankee Stadium.
After the 2003 season, the Yankees hoped to add more power to a lineup which was shut down in the previous year's Series. They gained two sluggers, signing free agent Gary Sheffield, and trading second-baseman Alfonso Soriano to the Texas Rangers for shortstop Alex Rodriguez. With Jeter as the Yankees All-Star shortstop, Rodriguez, who had played the position his entire career, agreed to move to third base. Throughout 2004, however, the Yankees' weakness was their starting pitching. Despite this, they managed to win over 100 games with their powerful lineup, the third straight year they had done so, and reach the playoffs. In the ALDS, the Yankees once again met and defeated the Twins three games to one.
In the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, the Yankees became the first team in professional baseball history, and only the third team in North American pro sports history (it happened in the NHL twice and once afterwards), to lose a best-of-seven series after taking a 3–0 series lead.
The Yankees thought they needed to improve their pitching, which faltered in their loss to the Red Sox, and they signed free-agent pitchers Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright and acquired dominant lefty Randy Johnson from Arizona. However, none of the three performed up to expectations; Pavano pitched in only 17 games in 2005, missed the entire 2006 season and pitched only 2 games on the 2007 season due to a variety of injuries, Wright was traded after starting only 40 games over two seasons, and Johnson suffered from back problems which resulted in surgery in October 2006.
The 2005 season started slowly for the Yankees, and they spent most of the season chasing the Boston Red Sox for the division title. The Yankees, however, won the division, clinching it in the second-to-last game of the season against the Red Sox. Alex Rodriguez won the American League Most Valuable Player award, becoming the first Yankee to win the award since Don Mattingly in 1985. Giambi was named Comeback Player of the Year, as voted by fans, and second baseman Robinson Canó was runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting. Another highlight of the season was the record-setting pitching by journeyman Aaron Small, who became just the fourth pitcher in history to win at least ten games without a loss.
The Angels defeated the Yankees in five games in the first round of the postseason, marking the second time in four years that the Angels beat the Yankees in the first round. Alex Rodriguez, the American League's 2005 MVP, had a poor series, hitting .133 with no home runs and no RBIs.
In the 2005–06 offseason, general manager Brian Cashman was given more control of the direction of the Yankees, and in December 2005, the Yankees signed center fielder Johnny Damon from the archrival Red Sox. The Yankees also signed Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Myers, Octavio Dotel and Ron Villone to improve their bullpen, which had been a weak point during the 2005 season.
On August 16, 2006, the Yankees officially broke ground on the new Yankee Stadium, which opened next to the current Yankee Stadium in 2009.
Despite losing starting outfielders Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield to injuries early in the season, the Yankees finished the first half of the 2006 season with 50 wins and 36 losses, three games behind the Red Sox. But they caught up to the Red Sox, and on August 18, the Yankees entered Fenway Park with a 1.5 game lead for a five game series. The series opened up with a doubleheader that the Yankees swept 12–4 and 14–11, echoing the Boston Massacre of 1978, and prompting the Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy to dub the doubleheader sweep the "Son of Massacre". The Yankees went on to sweep all five games (calling the series the "Second Boston Massacre"). They outscored the Red Sox by a combined score of 49–26, and left them 6.5 games out of first place. The Red Sox would eventually end the season in third place in the AL East behind the Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays, making it the first time since 1998 that the Red Sox did not finish in second place behind the Yanks.
The division win was the ninth consecutive AL East title for the Yankees. When the New York Mets won their division for the first time since 1988 (snapping the Atlanta Braves' eleven-year stranglehold on the NL East), it marked the first time that both New York teams won their respective divisions in the same year. Their 97–65 record tied the Mets for the best record of the year, giving New Yorkers hopes for another Subway Series. However, they both lost to teams that went to the World Series; the Yankees to the Detroit Tigers in four games in the ALDS, the Mets in the NLCS to the eventual champion St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
On October 11, 2006, days after the ALDS was over, tragedy struck when pitcher Cory Lidle died in a plane crash. It has yet to be determined if Lidle or his co-pilot, Tyler Stanger, who was also killed, was piloting the plane which crashed into a highrise apartment building on East 72nd Street on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Lidle was the second active Yankee to be killed in a crash of his own private plane, following Thurman Munson's death in 1979.
Changes during the 2006–07 off-season included the trading of Gary Sheffield and Jaret Wright, and the signings of Japanese pitcher Kei Igawa and former Yankee Andy Pettitte, who left the Yankees after 2003. The Yankees also re-signed pitcher Mike Mussina to a two-year deal.
The start of the 2007 season proved to be very tumultuous for the Bombers. The Yankees fell well below .500 and in last place, 14.5 games behind their arch-rival Boston Red Sox. Ace starter Chien-Ming Wang was injured to start the season and the team saw extended stints on the disabled list for Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano and Jason Giambi. Centerfielder Johnny Damon was also playing hurt. The team saw a record number of rookie pitchers starting for the injury plagued Yankees that included Tyler Clippard, Darrell Rasner, Matt DeSalvo, Chase Wright, Jeff Karstens and highly touted prospect Phil Hughes. The rotation would later get a lift from Roger Clemens, who had decided to come out of retirement and rejoin the team he won his only World Series championships with. It saw the breakout years of homegrown talents of Melky Cabrera, Andy Phillips and Shelley Duncan. Prized prospect Joba Chamberlain was also brought up after the All Star break. Despite the team's slow start, the Yankees managed to win the AL Wild Card, only to lose in the ALDS to the Cleveland Indians, making it the third consecutive year the Yankees lost in the first round of the playoffs.
The 2008 season was best known for being the final season at the Old Yankee Stadium. That year, the Yankees hosted the All-Star game in which the American League won in extra innings. The Yankees had some trouble due to the struggles of Chien-Ming Wang and Phil Hughes, as well as the conversion of Joba Chamberlain into a starter. However, the Yankees did get some help from the bats thanks to Jason Giambi's Comeback Player of the Year season. On September 21, 2008, the Yankees hosted their final game at the old Yankee Stadium by defeating the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees finished in third place with an 89–73 record, missing the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
(2009–present) A new stadium and another championship
The hype of the 2009 season began when the Yankees acquired first baseman Mark Teixeira and pitchers CC Sabathia and A. J. Burnett. However, things would go sour as Alex Rodriguez admitted to using steroids and got injured. On April 16, 2009, the Yankees opened up the New Yankee Stadium. However, they lost two of the first four games to the Cleveland Indians, including one where the Indians scored 14 runs in the second inning for a 22–4 victory. Alex Rodriguez returned from the disabled list and helped lead them to a 90-44 record the rest of the way. Jeter became the all-time hits leader as a member of the Yankees (2,722), passing Gehrig on September 11, 2009. The hit was a single off Baltimore Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman in the third inning.
The Yankees won the division, in dramatic fashion, with 15 walk-off hits in the regular season, and two more in the postseason. They won the World Series, defeating the Phillies in a six game matchup. After this, the Yankees ended all frustration they went through since 2001.
The 2010 season featured the rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox being revived to start and end the season. The Yankees and the Red Sox will start and finish the season against each other at Fenway Park. This was the first time since 1950 this has happened. It also featured Joe Torre playing games against the Yankees for the first time since becoming manager of the Dodgers. During the month of July, the Yankees did had unfortunate news. During the All-Star break, two longtime Yankee icons died. On July 11, former PA announcer Bob Sheppard and two days later principal owner George Steinbrenner. Eight days later, another longtime Yankee icon, former player and manager Ralph Houk died. The Yankees still went on to play in the 2010 American League Championship Series, and defend their title against the Texas Rangers. The Yankees lost in 6 games.
In 2011, multiple Yankees players set individual marks. Jeter reached 3,000 career hits; he was the first player to do so while playing for the club. Later in the season, Rivera posted the 602nd save of his career, breaking the all-time record that had been held by Trevor Hoffman. The Yankees won the AL East, but lost in the ALDS to the Tigers. The Yankees again earned a division title in 2012 with a 95–67 record. In the ALDS, the Yankees defeated the Orioles in five games to advance to the ALCS against the Tigers. New York fell short of another World Series appearance, losing to Detroit in a four-game sweep.
Derek Jeter's leg injury in the 2012 ALCS was a harbinger of the season to come. The team was predicted by several sports magazines to finish 3rd in the conference in 2013 following injuries to Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson. Jeter didn't start until right before the all-star break and more leg injuries led to him only playing 17 games on the season. Rodriguez was named in a PED scandal before coming back and was in danger of being suspended for life. However, the team, despite starting 0-2 at home for the first time in 20 years, got off to a modest 30-18 start despite the injuries and scandals, being in first place on May 26th and hanging around the Wild Card spots for most of the season, but a late season 3-8 stretch put the Yanks in danger. On September 26th, 2013, the team lost 8-3 to the Tampa Bay Rays. Following Cleveland's 7-2 victory over the White Sox, they were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for just the 2nd time in 19 years, and for the first time since 2008.
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