The famous New York Ball Club with 27 World Series championships began their baseball life as the “Highlanders,” because of where they played their home games: Hilltop Park.
According to theoleballgame.com, they played there until moving into the Polo Grounds in 1912 down by the Harlem River. Because they were not playing in a “highland” anymore, they adopted a new name, the “Yankees.” That is what newspapers had been referring to them as for years anyways, as an nickname for “Americans,” which every American League team was called fondly at the time.
So in 1913, who were the first Yankees
Taking a look, they were not a very inspiring bunch.
While playing under Hall of Famer player/manager Frank Chance (the HoF recognition comes from his successful times with Chicago), the Yankees finished 7th in the AL East with a record of 57-94.
As a manager, Frank Chance had 33 plate appearances, five hits, and a stolen base.
During their seventh-place season, the Yankees had to endure a long fourteen-game winless streak. It is not a losing streak because they actually tied the Boston Red Sox 3-3.
During the winless streak, they lost to Connie Mack’s pennant-winning Philadelphia Athletics 12-2. The two Yankee pitchers that day, George Clark and Ed Klepfer, combined to allow 17 hits with just one walk and two strikeouts. Clark got the loss after allowing four runs in the first 1.2 innings. With the game already out of hand, Frank Chance allowed Klepfer to suffer through the remaining 6.1 innings.
Their everyday lineup did not feature any future Hall of Famers, but the shortstop, Roger Peckingpaugh, went on to win an MVP ward in 1925 with the Senators. That season, he had an OPS+ of 91, four homers, four triples, and batted .294.
In 1913, Peckingpaugh batted .268. However, he was remembered more for his defense. According to sabr.org, Peckingpaugh “was one of the finest defensive shortstops and on-field leaders of the Deadball Era.” He received physical comparisons to Honus Wagner.
Like future Yankee shortstops, he was named captain, but unlike Jeter, he was named manager in 1914 and still is the youngest manager ever at age 23. One would believe THAT is the hardest record in baseball to break.
Another notable player on the team is Roy Hartzell, whose lineage of teammates can be traced all the way to Brett Gardner.
None of the Yankee pitchers had a winning percentage over .500, but Ray Fisher and Russ Ford both pitched over 230 innings.
Clearly, the first Yankee team was not a group of winners. However, according to sabr.org, Peckingpaugh thought fondly of those Yankee teams. He is quoted saying:
“Lots of joy and lots of losing. Nobody thought we could win and most of the time we didn’t. But it didn’t seem to bother the boys too much. They would start singing songs in the infield right in the middle of the game.”
The first Yankee team was nothing spectacular, but they laid the groundwork for the best sports franchise ever.
Featured Image: Baseball Reference