Jacob Ruppert’s plaque hangs in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium, but not in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
There are 31 pioneer/executives in the Baseball Hall of Fame — and Jacob Ruppert Jr. is not one of them.
Walter O’Malley, Tom Yawkey, Barney Dreyfuss, Charlie Comiskey and Larry and Lee McPhail are in. So is Clark Griffith and Bill Veeck (as in Wreck). But no Ruppert, by George, even though he was “The Boss” long before Mr. Steinbrenner.
The man who put the Yankees on the map and helped them grow into America’s most famous franchise and sports brand, the guy who signed three of the greatest players ever and won seven World Series is on the outside looking in when it comes to Cooperstown.
Two of the managers who worked under Ruppert — Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy — are in the Hall, So is his long-time general manager with the Yankees, Ed Barrow.
Yet the owner who built “The House that Ruth Built” is not in the Hall of Fame.
Congressman, Colonel and Brewmaster
Jacob Ruppert had already make fame as a United States congressman from New York, a colonel in the National Guard, and a brewery owner when he and Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston acquired the Yankees in 1915. The Yankees, who were born as the Highlanders in 1903 and played their games in upper Manhattan, had been pretty much the laughingstock of the American League under the team’s first owners, Frank Farrell and William S. Devery.
The Yankees had zero American League pennants, just two second place finishes, and only five seasons over .500 from their founding until Ruppert and Huston took over. The Yankees hit rock bottom in 1912 with a last place finish and a .329 winning percentage, worst in team history. They finished seventh in 1913 and sixth in 1914.
Under the stewardship of Ruppert and Huston, the Yankees made steady progress starting in the 1915 season. Then in 1920 they made the move that is still talked about today, nearly 90 years later, when they purchased the contract of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox for $100,000.
Ruth captivated fans with his batting exploits, and soon New York became the center of the baseball universe. The Yankees won their first AL pennant in 1921 and another in 1922. That year, Ruppert bought out Huston, and became the sole owner of the Yankees.
New Stadium, World Championship
The team was just warming up. In 1923, they moved out of the Polo Grounds (where they were tenants to the New York Giants) and christened a brand new ballpark across the Harlem River in the Bronx. It didn’t take long for Yankee Stadium to become the equivalent of the Roman Coliseum. And later that year they won their first World Series, defeating the in six games.
Under Ruppert’s watch, the Yankees would win another pennant in 1926 and six more World Series — 1927, 28, 32, 36, 37 and 38 — before Ruppert passed away in the winter of 1939.
The Yankees dominated baseball throughout a good portion of the 1920s and 1930s, including the Murderers’ Row team of 1927 that many consider the greatest team ever.
In addition to Ruth, Ruppert signed immortal first baseman Lou Gehrig to a Yankee contact in 1923, and the legendary Joe DiMaggio 11 years later.
A total of 13 Hall of Famers spent considerable time in the pinstripes during the Ruppert regime: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggo, Home Run Baker, Earl Combs, Bill Dickey, Leo Durocher, Lefty Gomez, Waite Hoyt, Tony Lazzeri, Herb Pennock, Red Ruffing and Joe Sewell.