There's no doubt that New York Yankees are the most successful American professional baseball team. And for a good reason—they have won 40 American League pennants and 27 World Series titles—winning five in a row from 1949 to 1953!
The Yankees have also produced some of the greatest MLB players of all time. Many current and former players are household names, and some are even Baseball Hall of Fame inductees.
Continue reading to discover 10 intriguing facts about this iconic team.
1. Last Holdout on Jersey Names
No MLB team had any player names on their uniforms in its first 85 years of existence. The Chicago White Sox was the first baseball team to add player names to their jerseys in 1960, following a trend NFL teams had started.
Eventually, other teams embraced this new culture and it became a way of identifying the players on the field more easily.
Despite being the first team to add numbers on their uniform back in 1929, the Yankees were the holdouts when it came to player names.
The club believes that putting the names on the jerseys places unnecessary attention on individuals rather than the team as a whole.
More than that, their players are so famous and recognizable worldwide that they consider names on the uniforms superfluous!
The Curse of the Bambino
Before gaining his icon status with the New York Yankees, Babe Ruth, nicknamed "Bambino," started his budding career with the Boston Red Sox.
Before 1920, the Boston Red Sox had been one of the most successful professional baseball franchises, winning the first World Series in 1903 and amassing five World Series titles.
But this all changed after 1920 when Red Sox owner Harry Frazee decided to sell Ruth to the New York Yankees.
For the next 86 years, the Red Sox did not win a single Series title!
To make it worse, the Yankees, who had never appeared in a World Series before Ruth's arrival, went on to become the most successful MLB team in history.
While the Red Sox failed to lift a single trophy in 86 years, the Yankees won 26 Series titles!
This gave rise to the "Curse of the Bambino." The lore insinuated that the vengeful Ruth had cast a spell over the club after his departure.
The Red Sox fans tried all kinds of things to lift the "curse." From placing a Boston cap atop Mt. Everest to hiring professional exorcists, the list of "curse reversal" efforts piled on over the decades.
To the joy of Red Sox fans, the "curse" was eventually lifted when their team celebrated their first championship victory in 2004.
No Beards Are Allowed
When George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in 1973, he quickly enforced a player dress/appearance code.
During his first visit, the Yankees were standing for the National Anthem, and upon seeing some of the players, he complained that their hair was too long for his standards.
He quickly sent a message to the manager, Ralph Houk, demanding that the players trim their hair immediately.
The rule was that "no male player, coach, or executive may wear any facial hair except for a mustache. A player's hair is not allowed to go below the collar."
Players like Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson, Roy White, and Goose Gossage were all ordered to shave their facial hair.
However, not all the players appreciated these rules and some even openly revolted.
For example, in 1991, Don Mattingly was benched by the Yankee management when he refused to get a haircut.
Only 5 Elimination Games
There are very few sports teams that can match the historical significance and notoriety of the Yankees and the Red Sox rivalry.
Surprisingly enough, the two teams have rarely faced off against one another in winner-take-all postseason contests.
For the longest time, the two teams played in the same division and only one team per division could reach the postseason. Luckily, this changed in 1995 with the introduction of the wild-card and division series.
In over 115 years of history as rivals, the two teams have faced each other in elimination games only five times.
- 1949 - Yankees 5, Red Sox 3. The one-game playoff took place in the Yankee Stadium. The Yankees went on to win the playoff and the World Series.
- 1978 - Yankees 5, Red Sox 4. While both teams navigated the regular season with 99 wins. The Yankees prevailed and soon after won their 22nd World Series.
- 2003 - Yankees 6, Red Sox 5. The two baseball franchises faced off in the American League Championship Series.
- 2004 - Red Sox 10, Yankees 3. The year the "curse of Bambino" was broken. The Red Sox won their first do-or-die game against the Yankees
- 2021 - Red Sox 6, Yankees 2. The most recent elimination game. The Red Sox had the final say.
George Steinbrenner Wasn't Easy to Work For
When he took over the New York Yankees in 1973, George said: "I won't be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all."
This couldn't have been further from the truth! One day he walked into the Yankee offices and saw freshly cut flowers on every desk.
Steinbrenner quickly asked, "What the hell is this? Is it Flowers Day? Is it Secretary's Day?' Somebody replied, 'Isn't that wonderful? Mr. Burke (Former Yankee president) does this every day for us."
The flowers didn't sit well with Steinbrenner and this triggered him to go back on his promise.
Over the years, George became famous for meddling in his employee's business and micro-managing everything.
He hired and fired managers at will (20 times during his first two decades as an owner)! For example, he hired Yogi Berra to be the Yankee manager at the end of the 1984 season.
Despite assuring Berra that he would stay in the job for the 1985 season, he quickly fired him after he got the season off to a 6-10 start. This caused a rift between Berra and Steinbrenner that lasted for 15 years.
Babe Ruth Thought He Could Get Away with Missing Curfew
Ruth was the man who changed the course of Yankees history. Still, the team's management sometimes didn't care for the off-field headaches that came along with his exemplary on-field performance.
Ruth was known to party late and often missed curfew. Despite this, he still managed to post recording-breaking on-base plus slugging percentages. So in his book, all was well.
Not everyone saw things in the same light. Miller Huggins got fed up one day after Ruth missed curfew and told him he wouldn't play that day. He also imposed a $5,000 fine on him (about $78,374 today).
Ruth didn't appreciate this. In fact, the legend and manager almost got into a physical altercation. Soon afterward, Ruth declared that if Huggins remained in the team the following year, he would leave.
Still, the owner Ruppert backed his manager. Despite Ruth's celebrity status and stardom, Ruppert still held all the power. Ruth finally succumbed and apologized to Huggins in front of his teammates.
The Bleacher Creatures
Because of the highly competitive nature of professional baseball, fans tend to become extremely wrapped up in their favorite team.
When you mention extreme fan devotion, a group of Yankees fans comes to mind —the Bleacher Creatures.
Using chants, songs, cheers, and jeers to make their presence known, they are by far the loudest and rowdiest members of the Yankees' fanbase.
They currently sit in the right field at section 203 at Yankee Stadium, but at the old Yankee Stadium, the Bleacher Creatures occupied section 39.
The Bleacher Creatures are most famous for their "roll call', whereby they chant every Yankee player's name until the player acknowledges them, usually with a wave.
The roll call begins with the outfielders and moves to the infielders but never includes the Yankee pitcher or catcher.
The Bleacher Creatures are also infamous for heckling the right fielder for the opposing team throughout the entire game. When visiting Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox and New York Mets right fielders usually get the worst treatment out of any MLB team.
The exact date of the first "roll call" is not certain, but a 1998 Washington Post article cited its debut as May 16, 1998.
Movies Shot at the Yankees Stadium
The 2003 movie: Anger Management, starring Adam Sandler, has a couple of scenes shot in the old Yankee stadium. In fact, the movie crew spent four days in the Yankees stadium, shooting the scenes.
However, the producers needed several thousands of extras to fill such a big stadium and make the shoot look as authentic as possible.
They had to get creative to keep the movie within budget. So they hired a third-party company to seek out ordinary American folk to be a part of the film for free.
The production then got a few professional extras to place in the sections directly in front of the camera while filling the outlying area with the free extras.
This is not the only movie that included the Yankeed stadium as a filming location. Others include For Love of the Game (1999) and The Adjustment Bureau (2011).
A Whole Decade Without A World Series Title
In 2009, the New York Yankees won World Series No. 27, a 4-2 series win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
This was Joe Girardi's first season as manager, but unfortunately for him and the Yankees, he never quite sustained the success of that first year.
Twelve years later, they are yet to win another series title. This is the second-longest length of time the Yankees have gone without winning a World Series. The last more than a decade-long trophy drought was in 1905-1921!
On the other hand, the Red Sox seems to have the "Curse of Bambino" totally behind them as they won the World Series twice in the last decade (2013,2018).
One of the Most Spendthrift MLB Team
The Yankees spending big on players is nothing new. In eight of the past 10 years, the Franchise has been a top-two spender in player salaries and other fees.
As they get ready for the 2022 season, there’s a high possibility they will remain a top 2 on the league’s highest spenders list.
According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the Yankees currently have an estimated total salary budget of $215 million for the 2022 season— a $135 million base payroll plus $80 million in arbitration salaries.
This figure is set to surpass the 2021 luxury tax threshold of $210 million.
Technically called the 'Competitive Balance Tax,' this is a heavy tax penalty imposed on teams with high payrolls. It acts as a deterrence for them to keep their payrolls below that level.
Teams whose payrolls exceed this limit are taxed on each dollar above the threshold, with the tax rate increasing based on the number of consecutive years a club has exceeded the threshold.
Only the Red Sox, Dodgers and Yankees have exceeded the luxury tax threshold more than once.
The LA Dodgers have exceeded it four times, the Boston six times and the Yankees fourteen times (every year since the luxury tax came into enforcement).
This means that the Yankees who have the largest payroll will also pay the steepest luxury tax.
The problem is that they have been receiving relatively little in return (not a single title trophy in the same period). Hopefully, this changes in 2022 and the New York Yankees can regain their glory.