Giddy Up! The 21 Greatest Moments in New York Yankees History
You love them or you hate them. You cheer them or you boo them, but no matter how you feel about the New York Yankees, there's no denying they're one of the greatest franchises in the history of professional sports.
Every great franchise has their defining and memorable moments, but the Yankees have created some of the greatest moments in Major League baseball history.
From Charlie Hayes' 1996 World Series championship clinching catch to the Yankees' 1998 season in which they won a record 125 games, from the "Subway Series" to the 2008 MLB All-star game at Yankee Stadium, some of the greatest moments Yankee fans have been fortunate enough to witness have occurred at the Stadium.
From moments like Dwight "Doc" Gooden's no-hitter to Tino Martinez's grand slam in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series, not every moment could make the list, otherwise, we'd be here for days, and none of us have time for that.
I have narrowed the list, and in honor of my favorite television show of all-time Seinfeld, and Paul O'Neil's legendary cameo role, I have selected (in my opinion) the 21 greatest moments in New York Yankees history.
Some Yankee fans might disagree with me, and that's okay. But if you're a Red Sox fan, I don't want to hear about it because with your Boston accent, I probably won't be able to understand you anyway.
Money Well Spent
In 1919, Babe Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees.
Yankee owners Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston paid $100,000 for Ruth, doubling the amount ever spent on a ballplayer.
Although Ruth would leave his mark in Boston, finishing his final season with the Red Sox hitting.322 with 29 homers and 114 RBI, Ruth did not waste any time becoming a Yankee great.
In his first season as a Yankee, Ruth’s numbers were extraordinary: a .376 average, 54 home runs, 137 RBI and a slugging percentage of .847. Three years later, the Yankees won the 1923 World Series championship, and would add three more World Series titles, and seven AL pennants during Ruth's tenure with the team.
Ruth was the heart and soul of the Yankees' lineup, and became a curse to Red-Sox nation.
"The Curse of the Bambino" was the reason for Red Sox failures, and their inability to win the World Series in the 86-year period from 1918 until 2004.
While Red Sox fans were heartbroken for all those years, Yankee fans watched in enjoyment because for 86 years, the Yankees got the better of the Sox.
When arguably the greatest baseball player of all-time became of a member of the Bronx Bombers, the acquisition of Ruth was just another victory for the Yankees, and a major defeat for the Red Sox.
The House That Ruth Built Officially Opens
The landscape of the Bronx forever changed on April 18, 1923.
Yankee Stadium was opening, and Babe Ruth had no idea he was going to rename it.
On that day, Ruth electrified the Yankee Stadium crowd of 60,000 when he hit a three-run home run into the right-field stands against his former team the Boston Red Sox, en route to a 4-1 opening day victory.
The Yankees would go onto capture their first of 26 World Series championships (at the old Yankee Stadium) during the Stadiums' inaugural season.
What a home Yankee Stadium turned out to be.
Babe Ruth Hits No. 60
Babe Ruth, known as the Home Run King and the Sultan of Swat, went toe-to-toe with teammate Lou Gehrig during the 1927 season, trying to shatter Ruth’s 1921 record, where hit belted 59 home runs.
Ruth and Gehrig reached September with 45 home runs each, but unexpectedly, Gehrig slowed down, and wasn't able to compete with Ruth down the stretch.
The stage was now set for Ruth.
Coming down to the final three games, Ruth needed three home runs for the magical No. 60, and during the second to last game of the season, on September 30, 1927, Ruth hit it.
Gehrig would finish the season with 47 home runs, and to many, Ruth accomplished an almost impossible feat by hitting 60 home runs in one season.
A record that would last for 34 years.
Lou Gehrig's Speech
The man accepted his fate, and knew he was dying.
In a moment that will forever stand as one of the greatest sports moments of all-time, on July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig stood in front of 60,000 people with tears rolling strolling down his face, and expressed that he was "the luckiest man in the world" for having the opportunity to wear the Pinstripes, and to play the game he always loved.
Gehrig, nicknamed the "Iron Horse" played in an incredible 2,130 consecutive games between 1925-1939. Gehrig may never get the full credit he deserved, because he played in the shadows of Babe Ruth.
But he was certainly one of the greats, that is for sure.
If we could all be as "lucky" as Gehrig, what a life it would be.
The Hits Kept Coming, and Coming, and Coming
This wasn't a special moment that happened during the course of any game, but what began on May 15 and didn't end until July 17 in Cleveland during the 1941 season was simply remarkable.
The most unbreakable record in sports history began with a 1-for-4 day at Yankee Stadium, and continued over the next 55 games, as Joe DiMaggio set the all-time consecutive game hitting streak record.
DiMaggio would go onto win the AL MVP that year over Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox, who hit .406, and to date, DiMaggio's record hasn't come close to being shattered.
During the 2005-2006 season, Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins extended his hitting streak to 38 games, as Rollins became the only active player to come within 17 games of tying the record.
DiMaggio's a record will never be broken. Please, trust me on this one.
The Triple Crown
In 1956 at the age of 24, Mickey Mantle had one of the greatest seasons of any baseball player in Major League Baseball history, by winning the Triple Crown.
Mantle led the majors with a .353 batting average, 52 home runs, and 130 RBI and was the most powerful switch hitter in baseball.
The Triple Crown year was Mantle's greatest season, but was just another accomplishment for a player who won three Most Valuable Player awards, led the Yankees to 12 World Series in his 14 seasons, and was a 16 time All-Star.
Let's just imagine if Mantle's was healthy.
How great could he have been?
1961: Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris
Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, known as the M&M Boys, took the baseball world by storm during the summer of 1961.
The 61' New York Yankees were one of the most successful teams in baseball history. They won the AL title by eight games over the Detroit Tigers. Whitey Ford led the league with 25 wins, and Luis Arroyo led the league with 29 saves, and were also World Series champions.
But 1961 will always be remembered for Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris's chase for home run glory, and for of the greatest baseball seasons of all-time.
After the opening month, Mantle had 14 home runs and Maris had 12, but neither would slow down. By June, Maris took the lead with 40 home runs and Mantle had posted 39. On September 1, Maris had 51 home runs and Mantle had 48.
As Maris was approaching Babe Ruth's record of 60 homeruns, Baseball's commissioner Ford Frick ruled that Ruth's record would not fall unless it was broken in the first 154 games of the season. If the record were broken in the final eight games, Frick said, it would appear in the record book with an asterisk.
Mantle's shot at the home run record ended when he suffered some nagging injuries causing him to miss many games during September, as Mantle ended his season with 54 home runs.
However, Maris was able to hit his 59th home run in the 154th game, but failed to connect on his 60th home run of the season. But on September 26, Maris hit his 60th home run, and in the final game, Maris hit No. 61.
On that day, when Ruth's record was broken, Yankee Stadium wasn't even sold out, but whoever was there witnessed history.
Maris died in 1985, six years before Major League Baseball officially recognized Maris' 61 home runs as the new home run record.
Baseball finally made Maris' record official, but everyone else knew Maris was already the home run king of baseball.
The Wait Is Finally Over
When Chris Chambliss' 1976 ALCS series clinching home run sailed over the right center field wall, the New York Yankees won their first pennant in 12 years, and were once again, on top of the American League.
The Yankees captured their first AL East division crown since 1962, and in the same year, were heading back to the World Series.
Although the Yankees would fall to the "Big Red Machine" Cincinnati Reds in the World Series, Yankee fans finally had something to get excited about and it wasn’t just a renovated Yankee Stadium.
The following year, the Yankees would win the World Series championship, following a second straight pennant.
Chambliss had no idea that when his homerun left the yard, this was the start of three consecutive World Series appearance for the Bronx Bombers, resulting in two World Series championships.
During the 1977 ALCS against the Kansas City Royals, Jackson struggled at the plate, hitting just .125 with one run batted in, and zero home runs, but on October 18, 1977, Reggie Jackson earned the nickname Mr. October.
As the Yankees led 3-2 heading into Game 6 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, Jackson's bat came to life, as Jackson hit three home runs in a World Series game.
Jackson became the second player in baseball history (Babe Ruth in 1928) to accomplish this incredible feat, but more importantly, Jackson helped the Yankees win their first World Series title since 1962.
Louisiana Lightning Strikes Again
Ron Guidry might not be the greatest pitcher in New York Yankees history, but he certainly had one of the most dominating pitching performances of all-time.
Yankee Stadium, the site of three perfect games, was Guidry's House on June 17, 1978.
Guidry struck out a team record 18 batters, including nine straight at one point during the game. He allowed four hits on the way to a 4-0 victory over the California Angels.
The same year, Guidry won the Cy Young Award with a 25-3 record and 1.74 ERA, and finished the year in style by pitching a complete game against the Dodgers in Game 3 of the World Series for a 5-1 victory.
The Yankees won the Series in six games, but to date, there have not been many performances better than Guidry's.
162 games weren't enough to determine the 1978 American League East crown.
Both the Yankees and Red Sox finished the 1978 regular season with identical 99–63 records, requiring an additional one game playoff that was played between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston on October 2, 1978.
The Red Sox were the home team, which was decided by a coin toss, but this playoff game is famous for one swing of the bat.
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the seventh inning, the Yankees had been held to two hits through six innings. Then Bucky Dent stepped to the plate, solidifying his reputation among Yankee fans forever.
Dent's home run ball was able to clear the Green Monster wall in left field, giving the Yankees a 3–2 lead. Dent was the unlikely hero, as it was just his fifth home run of the 1978 season.
Off the bat of Dent the Yankees advanced to the playoffs, en route to winning the 1978 World Series championship.
A Farewell to the Captain
On August 2, 1979, Yankees captain Thurman Munson was killed when he crashed his small, private plane in Ohio.
The following Monday on August 6, the Yankees attended Munson's funeral in Ohio, but returned to New York for an emotional game against the Baltimore Orioles.
The late Bobby Murcer and Munson were great friends, so Manager Billy Martin allowed Murcer the chance to take the game off, but Murcer insisted on playing.
Munson must've been watching from the heavens above.
With the Yankees trailing 4-0, Murcer hit three-run homer in the seventh and a two-run game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Yankees a 5-4 victory.
Munson was the only Yankee to win both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player award, and even at the age of 32, with his life cut short, the "Captain" of the Yankees will always be a Yankee legend.
They're All Connected
First Don Larsen tossed the only perfect game in World Series history, while pitching for the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers on October 8, 1956.
His perfect game remains the only no-hitter of any type ever pitched in the postseason, and one of the most iconic images in American sports was captured, when catcher Yogi Berra was seen leaping into Larsen's arm's after the 27th out was recorded.
Then there was David Wells, who on May 17, 1998, became the 15th pitcher in major league history to pitch a perfect game when he blanked the Minnesota Twins, 4–0.
Wells attended Point Loma High School, the same high school as Don Larsen.
And finally, on Yogi Berra Day, Don Larsen took the mound and the crowd at Yankee Stadium watched, as Berra and Larsen re-created the final moment of Larsen's perfect game from the 1956 World Series.
Eighty-eight pitches and 27 outs later, David Cone pitched a perfect game against the Montreal Expos; the third perfect game in Yankees history.
There are not many perfect things in this world, but Larsen, Wells, and Cone proved otherwise.
The Jeffrey Maier Incident
He wasn't in pinstripes, nor was he in the New York Yankees dugout, but 12-year old Jeffery Maier, made arguably the greatest play of the 1996 American League Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles.
With the Yankees trailing 4–3 in the bottom of the eighth, rookie Derek Jeter hit a fly ball to deep right field off Orioles reliever Armando Benitez. What appeared to be a routine fly ball off Jeter's bat, turned into one of the most controversial plays in ALCS history.
Sitting in the right field stands, Maier reached over the right field wall, grabbing Jeter's fly-ball away from Baltimore right fielder Tony Tarasco. Immediately, Rich Garcia, the umpire in right field, ruled it a home run even though Maier clearly reached over the wall.
Maier should've been called for fan interference, but the controversial Jeter home-run tied the game for the Bombers.
Leading to the Yankees winning the game in the 11th inning on a Bernie Williams home run.
Trailing 2-0 in a best-of-five series against the Oakland Athletics in the 2001 American League Division Series, the New York Yankees were facing a must-win situation.
Who else besides Derek Jeter would make one of the greatest defensive plays in the history of the sport saving the Yankees season.
The Yankees had a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, and with two outs Oakland Athletics' Terrence Long came to bat. With Jeremy Giambi on first base, Long hit a line drive double into the right field corner, and as Giambi was rounding third base, right fielder Shane Spencer's throw missed both cut-off men.
Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch grabbed the ball and threw it back to the infield, but as expected, his throw was way offline and the ball was heading towards the Yankee dugout.
But Derek Jeter ran all the way from the shortstop position, cutting the ball off, and makes a spectacular back-hand flip to Yankees' catcher Jorge Posada who put the tag on Giambi for the final out of the inning.
The Yankees held on to win the game, and eventually, became the first team in MLB history to win the ALDS after dropping the first two games at home.
With the attacks of September 11th in the backburner, American turned to professional sports as a safe haven. New Yorkers turned to the Yankees, and Yankee fans turned to Derek Jeter to lift their spirits.
Jeter obliged when New Yorkers needed him the most.
During Game 4 of the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Yankees trailed 3-1 going into the ninth inning against Arizona closer Byung-Hyun Kim.
With one out in the inning, Paul O'Neil singled, followed by a Bernie Williams strike out, bringing Tino Martinez to the plate with two outs and the Yankees in danger of falling behind 3-1 in the World Series. But Martinez would send Yankee Stadium into a frenzy as he hit a two-run game tying home run into right center, setting the stage for Derek Jeter.
Then, as the clock struck midnight, and we turned the calendar to page to November. With two outs in the 10th, Jeter came up to the plate for the first November at-bat in baseball, resulting in a Jeter home run to right to win the game for the Yankees.
When the city of New York was looking for something to cheer about, they found their special moment, and we all have Jeter to thank for that.
First There Was Dent, Then There Was Boone
Five outs away from an American League pennant, Boston manager Grady Little left starter Pedro Martinez in too little, too long.
With the heart of the Yankees' order coming to bat, the Yankees got four straight hits off of Martinez, tying the game at five.
After that, Yankees closer Marino Rivera pitched three scoreless innings and Yankees bullpen was nearly out of fresh arms, but Aaron Boone allowed the Yankees to not have to worry about that.
Leading off the bottom of the 11th inning, Aaron Boone hit the first pitch he saw off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield into the left-field seats, giving the Yankees their 39th AL pennant, sending them to the 2003 World Series.
MO and Jeter, Welcome to New York
A 20-year old from Kalamazoo, Michigan, made his major league debut on May 29, 1995.
Although Derek Jeter would go 0-5 against the Seattle Mariners, this was the beginning of an all-time legendary career.
A career that already includes being an American League Rookie of the Year award, five World Series championships, and being the only player to win both the All-Star game MVP award and World Series MVP award in the same season (2000), Jeter is far from finished.
Jeter's also a 10-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove award winner, four-time Silver Slugger award winner, and one of the greatest postseason players in postseason history.
The greatest closer of all-time would make his Major League debut against the California Angels on May 23, 1995 as a starting pitcher, but pitched poorly in a 10–0 loss. However, Mariano Rivera experienced success in the 1995 American League Division Series, in which he pitched 51⁄3 scoreless innings of relief, and the following season, Rivera became a full-time relief pitcher.
The rest is history.
Another memorable moment of Derek Jeter's career took place on July 1, 2004, during a game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.
As this game would head into extra innings, another one of Jeter's defining moments would come during the top of the 12th inning with two outs, and runners on second to third.
Boston's Trot Nixon hit a ball towards shallow left, and if the ball dropped in fair territory, the Red Sox would regain the lead. So as Jeter raced for the ball, he realized that he would have to dive for it, but the ball was coming down in front of the stands. That didn't make a difference for Jeter.
The game was on the line, so Jeter dove fearlessly into the stands, making one of the greatest catches of all-time.
Ending up bruised and bloody, a dazed Jeter rose to his feet, with a cloth by his mouth to stop the bleeding, and was helped off the field.
The Yankees would go onto win the 13 inning affair on a ground rule double, when backup catcher John Flaherty drove on in Miguel Cairo for the game-winning run.
That night, it was a great feeling beating the Red Sox, but it was even more amazing to watch Jeter do whatever is needed to win the game.
Something Yankee fans have grown accustomed to seeing.
The Passing of the Torch
Two all-time Yankee greats, Derek Jeter and Lou Gehrig will forever be connected.
From September 6, 1937, until September 11, 2009, Gehrig was the all-time Yankee hits leader, a record previously held by Babe Ruth.
But on a cold-rainy night at the Stadium, Jeter became the all-time hits leader as a member of the Yankees (2,722), passing Gehrig and his record that stood more than seven decades.
Jeter got his first hit on May 30, 1995, at Seattle and 14 season later, he has become the hit king of the Yankees.
A New Home
After a season long countdown from 81 to zero being displayed on a board in right-center field, since the New York Yankees failed to qualify for postseason play, the final game at the 85-year old Yankee Stadium was played on September 21, 2008, with the Yankees defeating the Baltimore Orioles, 7-3.
54,610 were in attendance to say goodbye to the "House That Ruth Built", as Jeter told the sold-out crowd, “We are relying on you to take the memories from this stadium, add them to the new memories to come at the new Yankee Stadium, and continue to pass them on from generation to generation."
Although the first regular season game at the new Yankee Stadium resulted in a 10-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians, the first season at the new Stadium ended with a World Series championship.
The Stadiums have changed, but the address of E 161st Street & River Avenue will always be the "Yankee Stadium."