How the Orioles became the Yankees

Ever wondered how the New York Yankees came into exsitence?

Believe it or not, but the club that would become the New York Yankees has it’s origin in Baltimore.

In 1900 the National League contracted from twelve teams to eight. Together with the Washington Senators, Louisville Colonels, St. Louis Perfectos, the Baltimore Orioles were dissolved. At that time a minor league called the Western League started to reorganize and named itself the American League. This league declared that it was a major league next to the Senior Circuit. The league was allowed to place a team in Chicago (the White Sox). It also placed a team in Cleveland (the Spiders) and in Baltimore. After the 1900 season, The league started to raid NL rosters and replaced the cities Buffalo, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Minneapolis by Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington for the 1901 season.

In 1902, John McGraw, who managed and partially owned the Orioles got into a feud with American League president Ban Johnson. McGraw jumped ships to the New York Giants who started to raid the roster of the O’s after gaining control of the club. When the American League started to realize what was going on, the league took control of the team.

Hilltop Park

A conference between the two leagues was held in 1903. Ban Johnson asked permission to place a team in New York, next to the NL’s Giants. Except for the owner of the Giants, the other owners of the National League agreed. The new owners of the Orioles, Frank J. Farrell (he had earned his money in the gambling businiess) and William S. Devery (who had a career in the NYPD), moved the team to New York after they had found a place for a ballpark that the Giants did not oppose to.
They erected a wooden ballpark, named Hilltop Park. It was named that way because it was constructed in northern Manhattan at one of the island’s highest points between 165th and 168th Streets, just a few blocks away from the much larger Polo Grounds. The team came to be known as the New York Highlanders because of the elevated location of their ballpark. Like the other American League franchises, the team would be officially know as New York Americans. But an editor of the New York Sport Press, used the name Yankees or Yanks, so it would be an easier fit into the headlines.

Hilltop Park in 1910

In 1915 the club was sold to Colonel Jacob Ruppert and Captain Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston. There are several amounts mentioned on the internet: $300,000, $400,000 and $1.2 million. Ruppert gained the majority of the shares in 1923 when he bought the shares of his partner for $1.5 million.

Yankee Stadium (front) and the Polo Grounds at the other side of the Harlem River

When the home of the New York Giants, the Polo Grounds burned down to the ground in 1911, the Highlanders allowed the Giants to play their homegames in Hilltop Park. This was the start of a better relationship between the two clubs. When the construction of the new Polo Grounds was finished in 1913, both clubs moved to the new ballpark in Manhattan. From this moment on the name Highlanders was not appropriate anymore, so they officially changed their name into Yankees. The Yankees would stay at the Polo Grounds as tennants to the Giants until 1923. After the Yankees acquired Babe Ruth from the Red Sox, they drew much bigger crowds than the Giants. Influential manager John McGraw didn’t like it at all that theYankees drew more fans than his club and in 1922 the Giants told that the Yankees should start looking for another home. Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert found a piece of land right accross the Harlem River in the Bronx, where Yankee Stadium would be built in only nine months.

One Reply to “How the Orioles became the Yankees”

  1. Excellent story except for one thing. The St. Louis Perfectos were not dissolved. They still exist today as the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the Cleveland Spiders that were dissolved after they finished the 1899 Season with a record of 20-134 – the worst-ever regular season record in MLB history! The Cleveland AL franchise was originally called the Blues (or sometimes the Lake Shores because Cleveland is located on the shore of Lake Erie), then they became known as the Naps (after their star player Napoleon Lajoie) and, finally the Indians.


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