100 Things Yankees Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die

100 Things Yankees Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die

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by David Fischer

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Being a Yankees fan is about more than watching the team win multiple World Series, and this book helps fans get the most out of it. Taking 110 years of Yankees history, the book distills it to the absolute best and most compelling moments, identifying the personalities, events, and facts every Yankees fan should know without hesitation. Numbers with huge import,


Being a Yankees fan is about more than watching the team win multiple World Series, and this book helps fans get the most out of it. Taking 110 years of Yankees history, the book distills it to the absolute best and most compelling moments, identifying the personalities, events, and facts every Yankees fan should know without hesitation. Numbers with huge import, such as 3, 7, and 56; nicknames such as Babe, Iron Man, and Yankee Clipper; plus memorable moments, singular achievements, and signature calls all highlight the list. Experiences are another important part of the fabric of being a fan, so the book also includes things Yankees fans should actually see and do before they join Mickey Mantle and others at the Pearly Gates. From taking in a brew at the best Yankees bars across the country to visiting the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore and enjoying the highlights of the new Yankee Stadium, this book contains numerous tips and suggestions for enjoying all aspects of being a Yankees fan.

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"[An] eye-opener...nice gift for a Yankees fan."  —The Leader

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Triumph Books
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100 Things...Fans Should Know Series
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100 Things Yankees Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die

By David Fischer

Triumph Books

Copyright © 2012 David Fischer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61749-622-6


Ruth's 714 Home Runs

Babe Ruth was baseball's first great home run hitter. He hit his first as a member of the Boston Red Sox on May 6, 1915, off New York Yankees pitcher Jack Warhop. Five years later, in 1920, he was sold to the Yankees, where he became an outfielder and gained fame as "The Bambino" for his power hitting. He will always be known as the man who made the home run famous.

In the early 1900s baseball was dominated by pitching and speedy base runners. Frank "Home Run" Baker earned his nickname by leading the American League with 11, 10, 12, and 9 homers in the years from 1911 to 1914. When Ruth hit 29 in 1919, he stunned the baseball world. The next-highest home run total that year was 12. The following year the player they would call "The Sultan of Swat" smashed 54 home runs in a year in which nobody else hit more than 19. Ruth knocked more balls out of the park than any other team in the league. The next year the Babe did even better, belting a mind-boggling 59 homers to break his own single-season home run record for the third year in a row. During the 1921 season, in just his seventh major league season, Ruth had become the top home run hitter in the history of baseball.

Ruth — already the first batter to slug 30, 40, and 50 home runs in a season — became the first man ever to hit 60 home runs in a season in 1927. He also had a .356 batting average with 164 RBIs, even though he was walked intentionally game after game. Ruth hit his record-breaking 60th home run off Tom Zachary of the Washington Senators at Yankee Stadium on September 30, the next-to-last day of the 1927 season. The ball rocketed into the right-field bleachers, now called Ruthville. When he went to his position in right field in the top of the ninth inning, fans waved handkerchiefs and the Babe responded with military salutes. In the clubhouse after the game, Ruth boasted, "Sixty, count 'em, sixty. Let's see someone match that." Nobody took the invitation for 34 years.

Ruth was also the first hitter to reach 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, and 700 career homers. (Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds have since also passed the 700 mark.) He hit home run No. 500 on August 11, 1929, and No. 600 just two years and 10 days later. In July of 1934, Ruth hit home run No. 700. Asked if he followed any superstitions after hitting a home run, the Babe replied, "Just one. I make certain to touch all four bases." In all, Babe led the American League in home runs 12 times, including six consecutive seasons from 1926 through 1931, when he averaged more than 50 home runs per year.

Spurred on by his fantastic long balls, fans flocked to ballparks to watch the Babe in action. Yankee Stadium was built to hold the large crowds that came to see him. Fittingly, Ruth hit the first home run there, in 1923. He won his first and only Most Valuable Player award that season and led the Yankees to the first of their record 27 world championships.

Babe Ruth changed the very way the game was played. He ushered out the age of the singles hitters and turned baseball into a power hitting game. Ruth's on-field record speaks for itself: 714 career home runs, a .342 batting average, 2,062 bases on balls, and the MLB-record 72 games in which he hit two or more home runs. His hitting ability was so awesome, it is sometimes forgotten that he began his career in 1914 as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. He was so talented that had he remained a pitcher for his entire career, he probably would be celebrated today for his skill on the mound. He pitched for the Red Sox from 1914 to 1919, posting an 89–46 record. He threw 29 consecutive scoreless innings in the 1916 and 1918 World Series.

The Babe retired in 1935, and the following year, he was one of the first players elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb.

Going, Going, Gone!

To understand just how unique Ruth's home run production was during his greatest seasons, consider this: in 1920 and again in 1927, Ruth single-handedly hit more homers than any team in the league (54 in 1920, 60 in 1927). That represented more than 15 percent of all the homers hit in the league those seasons. The league-leading home run hitters today, hitting 40 to 50 homers, represent about 2 percent of all the homers hit in their leagues.

Although Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds eventually broke Ruth's career home run record, Bonds needed nearly 1,500 more at-bats and Aaron needed nearly 4,000 more at-bats. Ruth belted his 714 home runs in only 8,399 at-bats. If Ruth had maintained his home run pace (one every 11.8 at-bats) and come to the plate as many times as Aaron did, he would have hit more than 1,000 homers.


Jeter's 3,000 Hits

With one out in the third inning, Derek Jeter came to bat in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, July 9, 2011. Not a single person visited the concession stand or the bathroom. Every spectator was in the ballpark, off their seat, standing on toes, or craning necks for what they hoped would be the best view of history.

Jeter had come into the game needing two hits for 3,000 in his charmed career, which would make him the 28th major league player, and the first as a Yankee, to record 3,000 hits. Flame-throwing left-handed pitcher David Price was on the mound for Tampa. In his first at-bat Jeter worked the count to 3-2 and Price threw a 95-mph fastball that Jeter smacked to left field for hit No. 2,999. The fans roared their approval. They wanted to witness history.

Two innings later, Jeter connected on a full-count curveball, swinging his shiny black bat and sending the ball into the left-field bleachers to reach the 3,000-hit mark in the most thrilling way possible — by hitting a home run. It was magical that on his second hit of the day, in his second at-bat, Jeter — No. 2 — reached his historic milestone at 2:00 pm. He is just the second player to do so with a home run, joining Wade Boggs, and it was Jeter's first homer at Yankee Stadium in nearly a year.

His teammates jumped joyously over the dugout railing and poured onto the field. Even the relievers ran in from the bullpen. All of them were waiting to celebrate at home plate as their captain rounded the bases. Raising a fist quickly in the air, Jeter ran head down, suppressing the urge to smile. Jorge Posada was the first to greet Jeter at home plate. Posada was Jeter's best friend on the Yankees, a teammate since they played Class A ball in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1992. The two friends met in an overpowering embrace.

"I told him I was proud of him," said Posada.

Mariano Rivera, the third remaining Yankee from the dynasty teams of the 1990s, was right behind Posada, as was a receiving line of welcoming teammates. The applause and acclaim from the Yankee Stadium crowd of 48,103 lasted about four minutes. Jeter responded to the rousing ovation with a pair of curtain calls, turning to each corner of the stadium to accept the congratulations. Then Jeter tipped his batting helmet to his family in a private box high above the first-base line with his right hand.

"If I would have tried to have written it and given it to someone, I wouldn't have even bought it," said Jeter. "It's just one of those special days."

But Jeter was far from done. He doubled in the fifth inning, singled in the sixth, and drove in the go-ahead run with another single in the eighth, matching a career high by going 5-for-5 as the Yankees beat the Rays 5–4.

"The thing that means the most to me is that I've been able to get all these hits in a Yankee uniform," said Jeter. "No one's been able to do that before, which is hard to believe. I've grown up with these fans. They've seen me since I've been 20 years old."

Jeter recorded 2,914 hits from 1996 to 2010, the most in baseball in that span. He has amassed more hits as a Yankee than Gehrig, Ruth, DiMaggio, and Mantle. As were Gehrig's before him, Jeter's name and reputation are similarly exalted in today's game, and the kid from Kalamazoo who loves his parents and respects the game seems in no hurry to stop playing as long as he has fun doing so.

Assuming he remains healthy and maintains the desire to play, he could realistically make a full-on assault at 4,000 hits. And who knows, he may even challenge Pete Rose for the all-time hits record of 4,256. Jeter, at age 37, has more hits than Rose did at the same age. Rose, however, played until age 45. That goal, if Jeter decides to pursue it, remains far off. For now, to be sure, averaging 194 hits a year over his 15 major league seasons is reason enough to smile. "It's unbelievable what he does," said manager Joe Girardi. "He's so consistent. He gets 200 hits a year, every year. They're normal Derek Jeter years, but all those normal years add up to greatness."


DiMaggio's 56-Game Hit Streak

Of all the legendary Yankees batting records that once seemed unconquerable — Babe Ruth's 714 career home runs and Roger Maris' 61 home runs in a season — only Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak in 1941 has stood the test of time. "Joltin' Joe" hit safely in 56 games in a row. The closest anybody has come to matching DiMaggio's feat is a 44-game hitting streak by Pete Rose in 1978.

DiMaggio began the incredible streak with a single against the Chicago White Sox on May 15, 1941. A DiMaggio base hit was no surprise. Having won batting titles in 1939 and 1940, baseball fans were used to seeing him hit safely. DiMaggio got a hit in the next game, and in the next, and in the game after that. Pretty soon he had strung together a lengthy hitting streak. Over the next two months, he would get at least one base hit in every game in which he played.

Newspapermen covering the Yankees flocked to the center fielder's locker after he set the club record of 29 games in a row on June 16. DiMaggio said he became conscious of the streak when it stretched to 25 straight games on June 10. Amid the hubbub, the unflappable DiMaggio never changed expression, perhaps because of his impressive 61-game hitting streak as an 18-year-old playing for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League (a rung beneath the major leagues) in 1933.

"The Yankee Clipper" broke Rogers Hornsby's National League mark of 33 straight games on June 21. The next record to fall was George Sisler's single-season mark of 41 consecutive games with a hit, which DiMaggio passed on June 29 against the Washington Senators. Official scorers admitted to feeling the pressure (they didn't want to end or prolong the streak on a questionable play). The final standing mark was shattered on July 2 when DiMaggio passed Willie Keeler's major league record of 44 games, set in 1897.

DiMaggio's streak reached 50 games on July 11, as he pounded out four hits against the St. Louis Browns. On July 16, he got three hits off two Cleveland pitchers, Al Milnar and Joe Krakauskas, marking game No. 56. The sensational streak finally ended on July 17, 1941, before 67,463 people in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. Indians left-hander Al Smith retired DiMaggio on two hard smashes to third baseman Ken Keltner, who made two outstanding plays to rob potential hits. DiMaggio walked in his third plate appearance. Coming up for the last time against a knuckleballer, Jim Bagby, with two out and a man on first, DiMaggio needed a hit to keep the streak going. DiMaggio rapped a Babgy pitch at shortstop Lou Boudreau who threw to start a double play. The streak had ended at 56 games. During that time, DiMaggio had 91 hits and batted .408 with 15 home runs and 55 runs batted in — not a bad season for some players.

An undeterred DiMaggio remained hot. He hit safely in the next 16 games, making his streak 72 out of 73 games. He won the Most Valuable Player award that year, beating out Ted Williams in a season in which Williams batted over .400. For the season, DiMaggio batted .357 with 30 homers and a league-leading 125 runs batted in.

The summer of 1941 belonged to Joe DiMaggio, even though baseball was merely a footnote to world events. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had warned the nation of Hitler's plan to extend his Nazi domination to the western hemisphere. To receive the latest news, people flocked to radios and newspaper stands. Soon the entire nation was also checking DiMaggio's performance in the morning papers and getting radio bulletins on every at-bat. DiMaggio was more than a baseball idol. He was a national celebrity. The song called "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio," lyrics by Alan Courtney and performed by Les Brown and His Orchestra, with Betty Bonney on vocals, hit No. 12 on the pop charts in 1941.

Led by DiMaggio, the Yankees won the World Series in 1941. In all, he played on nine World Series champions. He won three MVP awards (1939, 1941, and 1947), and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955. DiMaggio was especially a hero in the Italian American community and he remained a beloved national celebrity until his death in 1999 at the age of 84.

Listen to Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson"

At his peak, Joe DiMaggio was often saluted in the popular culture. In addition to being serenaded in song as "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio" by Les Brown, he was immortalized in print by Ernest Hemingway in The Old Man and the Sea when the main character Santiago says, "I would like to take the great DiMaggio fishing; maybe he was as poor as we are and would understand."

DiMaggio was also mentioned in films and Broadway shows; the sailors in South Pacific sing that Bloody Mary's skin is "tender as DiMaggio's glove." Years later, he was remembered in song by Paul Simon, who wondered: "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you. What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson? Joltin' Joe has left and gone away."

The song "Mrs. Robinson," written by Paul Simon and performed by Simon and Garfunkel, won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1969. The reference to DiMaggio is "one of the most well-known lines that I've ever written," said Simon, who grew up a fan of Mickey Mantle. When asked why Mantle isn't mentioned in the song instead of DiMaggio, Simon explained that the number of syllables in DiMaggio's name fit the beat.

For his part, DiMaggio, sensitive to any derogatory public comment that could affect his legacy, was puzzled by Simon's lyric, saying he hadn't gone anywhere, and sought an answer to the meaning of the song when he and Simon were dining at the same New York restaurant. Only when Simon explained his motives to express a feeling that true heroes are a thing of the past, and that the line was meant as a sincere tribute to DiMaggio's grace and dignity, was DiMaggio mollified.

When DiMaggio died in 1999, Simon performed "Mrs. Robinson" at Yankee Stadium in DiMaggio's honor.


Maris' 61 Homers in '61

In 1961, Roger Maris began a march on Babe Ruth's season record of 60 home runs, the most famous record in baseball. Maris had a compact, left-handed swing that was perfect for the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium. As it became apparent that the 27-year-old Maris would challenge Ruth's record, baseball commissioner Ford C. Frick announced that since Ruth's record was set in a 154-game season — and the Yankees in the expansion era of 1961 were playing 162 games — Maris would not be recognized as the one-season home run champion if he hit his 61st homer after the 154-game mark. A home-run record accomplished after the team's 155th game, according to Frick's infamous ruling, would receive second billing to Ruth.

As Maris reached 50 home runs, it looked as though Ruth's record might be broken within the 154-game period. By game 130, Maris had 51 homers. At that same point, Ruth had belted out 49. With 57 homers, Maris was one ahead of Ruth's pace for 150 games. In game 152, he hit his 58th homer. Maris conceded the odds were against him, and the pressure of making a run at one of baseball's most cherished records was so intense that it made his hair fall out in clumps.


Excerpted from 100 Things Yankees Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by David Fischer. Copyright © 2012 David Fischer. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

David Fischer is the author of more than a dozen books on baseball, including The Story of the New York Yankees, The Ultimate Yankees Record Book, and A Yankee Stadium Scrapbook, as well as biographies of Babe Ruth and Alex Rodriguez. A longtime magazine writer, he is also a senior consultant for the Guinness Book of World Records. He lives in River Vale, New Jersey.

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