by Paul O'Neill
When I was traded to the New York Yankees by the Reds in 1992, I was
devastated. I had grown up in Cincinnati and was signed by the Reds
right out of high school. The city and the team were places I was
comfortable with. New York City and the Yankees were foreign to me.
But my father said: "Being a Yankee will turn out to be the best thing
that ever happened to you." He turned out to be right.
Yet, at the start I didn't think so. The Yankees back then were a
struggling, subpar team, and the Bronx was a place I had heard
negative things about. In fact, early on my car was stolen-twice. But
I stuck with the Yankees, the Bronx, the fans, and learned pretty
quickly that there was something very special about all of them.
I went on to make nine consecutive Opening Day starts for the Yankees
and was fortunate enough to hit .300 or better in each of my first six
seasons with the team, to win a batting title, and to play on four
Yankee world-championship teams. It was extraordinary to be in that
supercharged environment, to play under pressure day after day, season
But even more significant was my realization that I was becoming part
of the history of the most famous, celebrated, and glamorous sports
I had the honor of playing right field-the same position that had been
held down by such greats as Babe Ruth, Tommy Henrich, Hank Bauer,
Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson, and Dave Winfield.
I'll always remember running out onto the field with my teammates at
Yankee Stadium at the start of a game. I'll always remember listening
to Frank Sinatra sing at the end of a game: "If I can make it there,
I'll make it anywhere."
I'll always remember the fans calling out my name, "O'Neill, O'Neill,
O'Neill," chanting, "Paul-ie, Paul-ie, Paul-ie." My time as a New York
Yankee was nine years and one day, and it came to an end after the
2001 season. I am just one of about twelve hundred players who have
performed in pinstripes, and I feel a connection in one way or another
with all of them. I hit the jackpot being a member of the New York
That is what Harvey Frommer's A Yankee Century is about-the
connections, the Yankee tradition, the culture passed down through the
This definitive book captures the sweep and the scope of the team from
the Bronx. It is about super talents, guys who willed themselves to
succeed. It is about the high moments in franchise history and also
about the disappointments. It is about the magic, the aura. It is all
about celebrating one hundred years of Yankee baseball.
If you love baseball, if you love the New York Yankees-you will love
* * * * * * *
Team of the Century
The beginning for the franchise was muted.
In their first two decades the New York Yankees won no pennants and
managed just two second-place finishes. But then over the next
forty-four years the team dominated the American League, winning
nearly two of every three pennants and twenty World Series.
After that came another pennant drought of a dozen years, followed by
years of plenty. Between 1976 and 1980, the Yankees won four division
titles, three pennants, and two more world championships. For the next
fourteen years, once again there were no pennants. And then came the
world championships in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000.
From an inauspicious start back in 1903, once the New York Yankees got
going, the world of baseball was never the same. The team from the
Bronx has won more regular season games than any other franchise in
the history of baseball, thirty-eight American League championships in
an eighty-year period, and just about one World Series for every three
played, twenty-six in all. The Yankees have been in more World Series
and won more world championships and league championships than any
other team in history.
They own bragging rights to the top five players of all time in World
Series runs scored, RBIs, and total bases; the top three players of
all time in World Series home runs, slugging percentages, and
pitching; the most players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in
No matter what prism Yankee baseball history is viewed through, the
image is supreme. The owners have been ambitious and aggressive, the
managers prepared and innovative, the players talented and driven, and
the regal home field commands respect.
The Yankees have actually played on four different home fields:
Hilltop Park (1903-1912), the Polo Grounds (1913-1922), Yankee Stadium
(1923 to the present); there were also a couple of odd seasons spent
at Shea Stadium (1974-1975) while the old Yankee Stadium underwent a
But the big ballpark, the House that Ruth Built, powerful, historic,
helped create and maintain the Yankee tradition right from the start.
Through the years players from other teams have come into Yankee
Stadium before a game, gawking, awed, and intrigued by the fabled
monuments and plaques.
Different owners have put their stamp on the franchise, but Colonel
Jacob Ruppert and George Steinbrenner have had the greatest impact.
The aristocratic and arrogant Ruppert held sway over Yankee fortunes
from 1915 to 1939, a time of mostly great glory for the Bronx Bombers.
One of the richest individuals in America in his time, Ruppert spent a
good deal of his treasure on the Yankees. It was Ruppert who was
responsible for Yankee Stadium and for the building blocks of the
Yankee mystique. He truly earned his nickname, Master Builder in
George Michael Steinbrenner III-who has owned the Yankees longer than
any other owner-has been on the Yankee scene since 1973, a scene
marked by turbulent issues, through stormy and down times to dramatic
and thrilling successes. The man they call the Boss has been as
devoted and driven about all things Yankee as anyone ever associated
with the team. A big spender and poor loser like Ruppert, Steinbrenner
remains totally immersed in the affairs of his team. From the first
manager, Clark Griffith (1903-1908), through Joe Torre (1996 to the
present), there have been a total of forty-two Yankee pilots. They
have ranged from indolent to driven, from brilliant to slow-witted,
from cautious to carefree. A few, like Billy Martin, Yogi Berra, and
Lou Piniella, have served multiple managing terms.
The self-effacing Miller Huggins (1918-1929) was the franchise's first
great Yankee manager. Just five feet four inches and 140 pounds, the
man they called Hug was an unlikely Yankee. The eighth manager in the
sixteen-year history of the franchise, Huggins initially was dwarfed
by Babe Ruth and other Yankees in reputation and physical stature. But
his tenacity and brilliance overcame his size and image handicaps. The
first monument ever at Yankee Stadium was dedicated to the odd little
man, "the greatest manager who ever lived," in Pitcher Waite Hoyt's
phrase-who moved the Yankees from mediocrity to greatness.
Joe McCarthy came to the Yankees from the Cubs in 1931 and stayed on
the scene as manager until 1946. A minor-leaguer for fifteen seasons,
"Marse Joe" never played in the major leagues, yet he is the
winningest manager of all time. Dedication to craft was one of
McCarthy's most outstanding traits, and he passed this on so that it
has become part of Yankee culture. The square-jawed pilot spent
sixteen years in pinstripes, a time in which his teams won 1,460 games
and recorded a superb .627 winning percentage. His 1936-1939 teams won
four consecutive world championships. Outlandish, unorthodox, a true
baseball lifer, Charles Dillon Stengel was on the scene as manager
from 1949 to 1960, a time of legendary accomplishments for the New
York Yankees. Out of Kansas City, Missouri, Casey was a master of the
pun, the one-liner; he scrambled verbs and adverbs and mangled other
parts of speech. But oh, could he manage a ball club. His Yankees won
ten pennants and seven World Series, including a record five straight
world championships, 1949 through 1953. Only once in his dozen seasons
as Yankee manager did a Stengel team win fewer than ninety games.
Casey's Yankee career managing record was 1,149-696, a winning
percentage of .623.
Pugnacious, disagreeable, driven, Billy Martin had five stints
managing the Yankees: 1975-1978, 1979, 1983, 1985, and 1988. Number
One's comings and goings were grist for New York City newspaper gossip
and a source of endless fascination for fans. His record as a Yankee
manager was 556 wins, 385 losses. His teams won two American League
titles and one world championship. He died too soon at age sixty-one
in a tragic automobile accident.
Joe Torre came to the New York Yankees in 1996. His previous record as
a manager was undistinguished. He began the 1996 season with more than
a thousand career losses, never having finished higher than fourth.
But with the Yankees he turned himself and the franchise around. A
communicator, a calm presence, a skilled handler of players (and
owners), Joseph Paul Torre promptly showed the stuff that may qualify
him as one of the top Yankee managers ever. The first manager in
franchise history to be born in the New York City area, the sixth
manager to reach the 500-victory plateau (582 wins through 2001),
Torre's glittering record includes four World Series titles and five
American League championships in just six Yankee seasons.
Owners and managers notwithstanding, it is the players who have truly
given the Yankees their magic, their aura, their identity. More than
twelve hundred have worn pinstripes.
There have been Babe Ruth's Yankees, Joe DiMaggio's Yankees, Mickey
Mantle's Yankees, Reggie Jackson's Yankees, Derek Jeter's Yankees.
There have been players with unique talents and standout personas
whose images linger down the decades:
The tiny Wee Willie Keeler, hitting 'em where they ain't.
The sturdy Yogi Berra rushing to leap into Don Larsen's arms after the
The determined Ryne Duren, wearing the coke-bottle eyeglasses,
throwing the fastball to the backstop.
The solid Lou Gehrig playing on and on through the hurt and the pain.
The adroit Phil Rizzuto deftly bunting the ball.
The zoned-in Eddie Lopat tossing the junk balls.
The multitalented Mick busting it down the first-base line, head down
after bashing one of his monster home runs.
The peripatetic Thurman Munson in the dirty uniform, blocking home
The composed and collected Mariano Rivera, always ready for the
Yankee fans have thrilled to the quiet class and dignity of Joe
DiMaggio, Earle Combs, Elston Howard, Don Mattingly,
Willie Randolph, Lou Gehrig, Roy White, Bobby Murcer, Mariano Rivera,
Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams.
They have tuned in to and sometimes been turned off by feisty, fiery,
moody ones like Bob Meusel, Joe Page, Roger Maris, Thurman Munson,
Billy Martin, Paul O'Neill.
They have admired the gifted ones like Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford,
Dave Winfield, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, Red Ruffing, Joe Gordon, Graig
Nettles, Herb Pennock, Ron Guidry.
They have been entertained and also annoyed by characters like Lefty
Gomez, Mickey Rivers, Phil Linz, Sparky Lyle, Reggie Jackson, Goose
Gossage, Joe Pepitone.
They have felt a special affection for the tough and dependable ones
like Bill Skowron, Chris Chambliss, Hank Bauer, Tommy Henrich, Ralph
Houk, Allie Reynolds, Bill Dickey, Tony Lazzeri.
And they have marveled at the Babe, bigger and better than them all,
swinging from the heels, connecting with the crowd, lit up by power
and personality. So come, let us celebrate one hundred years of New
York Yankees baseball.
ófrom A Yankee Century by Harvey Frommer, Copyright ?2002, The
Berkley Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by