6/26/08 - the new york yankees

In today's encore excerpt - in 1914, the New York Yankees are the second-rate New York baseball franchise, especially when compared to the world champion New York (now San Francisco) Giants. Then they are acquired by 'the two Colonels' who move to acquire Babe Ruth, the rising superstar of the Boston Red Sox, a move that is central to transforming the Yankees into the greatest franchise in baseball history:

"Col. Jake Ruppert, age 53, was a member of the New York aristocracy, born into wealth ... a lifelong millionaire bachelor who always explained his marital state with the saying 'he travels fastest who travels alone.' ... Col. [Tillinghast L'Hommedieu] Huston, 54, whose name sounded far more regal, actually came from Cincinnati, the civil engineer son of a civil engineer. A captain in the Spanish-American War, he stayed in Cuba for ten years after the war ended, and made a lot of money in a project to dredge and improve the harbors in Havana and other port cities.

"The two men were thrown together in an arranged marriage. Each much rather would have bought the New York Giants, the glamour team of the city, the team of John McGraw and Christy Matthewson and championships. ... When the Yankees, the very poor relations of New York sport, came up for sale at the end of the 1914 season, a friend in Cincinnati, Bill Fleischmann, casually suggested to Ruppert that he join with Huston to buy the team. ... On December 31, 1914, at the Hotel Walcott, they bought the Yankees for $450,000. Ruppert brought a certified check and an attorney to handle his half of the transaction. Huston came alone and reached into his pocket for a large roll of money and counted out 225 thousand-dollar bills. 'For $450,000', Ruppert said ... 'we got an orphan ball club without a home of its own, without players of outstanding ability, without prestige. ...

"By December 1919 ... the team had shown some progress ... [and] the Colonels asked manager Miller Huggins what he needed to contend for a championship in 1920. Huggins replied 'Get me Babe Ruth.' ... [In selling Ruth to the Yankees, financially-distressed Red Sox owner Harry Frazee said], 'While Ruth, without question is the greatest hitter the game has ever seen, he is likewise one of the most selfish and inconsiderate men that ever wore a uniform."


Leigh Montville


The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth


Broadway Books


Copyright 2006 by Leigh Montville


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