Top 10 New York Yankees Traditions

Phil Watson@FurtherReviewCorrespondent INovember 22, 2012

Top 10 New York Yankees Traditions

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    Over the years, Thanksgiving has become associated with traditions aplenty. From carving up a turkey to watching football with the family, the holiday has taken on many rituals.

    The traditional tale dates back to Plymouth Rock in 1621, according to MSNBC.com, with a meal to celebrate the Pilgrims’ gratitude to the Native Americans for teaching them to farm.

    But there are conflicting stories about the tradition:

    Residents of San Elizario, Texas, claim the first Thanksgiving feast was celebrated in 1598 by Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate...

    Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendes de Aviles is said to have celebrated the first Thanksgiving feast with 500 soldiers and hundreds of the local Timucuan Indians in 1565 in St. Augustine, Fla.

    While the origins of Thanksgiving may be in some doubt, the traditions of the New York Yankees are much less speculative and easier to quantify.

    With Thanksgiving as a backdrop, here are the top 10 New York Yankee traditions.

10. “New York, New York”

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    Frank Sinatra was the late George Steinbrenner's favorite singer, and when “The Boss” had an opportunity to add Ol’ Blue Eyes to the Yankee Stadium experience, he did.

    According to ESPN.com, the Yankees began to play “New York, New York” in 1980 following home games.

    Although the song is most well-known as a Sinatra tune, however, his version—originally recorded in 1979, according to SongFacts.com—was actually a cover of an earlier version.

    Liza Minnelli first recorded the tune in 1977 for the Martin Scorsese movie of the same name.

    Originally, the Yankees played Sinatra’s version after victories and Minnelli’s original recording after losses. Minnelli demanded a change, and the team responded by dropping her version altogether.

9. Center Fielders

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    The Yankees boast some of the greatest players in baseball history and have had three players each spend more than a decade patrolling center field.

    Joe DiMaggio had the job for 12.5 seasons. He made 54 starts in center field as a rookie in 1936 and then made at least 113 starts almost every year for the remainder of his playing career. The exception was in 1949, when injuries limited DiMaggio to just 76 games.

    DiMaggio did miss three full seasons, though—1943-45—because of World War II.

    Mickey Mantle was the next longtime center fielder in pinstripes. He took over the job in 1952, after DiMaggio retired, and spent 15 years as the regular center fielder. In 1967, Mantle moved to first base and played the final two seasons of his career there.

    The last of the three is Bernie Williams, who emerged as the regular center fielder in 1993 after playing there part-time in 1991-1992. Williams held the job through the 2005 season and spent his final year in New York splitting time between right field, center field and designated hitter.

    As the Boston Red Sox are known for the long line of great left fielders—which began with Ted Williams in 1939, continued with Carl Yastrzemski in 1961 and ended with Jim Rice in the 1980s—the Yankees are known for their center fielders.

8. The Plain Gray Road Uniforms

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    The Yankees first put the block “New York” on the front of their road uniforms in 1916, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Dressed to the Nines website. It was replaced by the team name from 1927-30.

    But in 1931, “New York” was back on the road grays, and it has remained there ever since.

    The only change came in 1973, when the letters and the uniform number on the back of the jersey were trimmed in white.

7. The Logo

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    The iconic “bat in the hat” logo was introduced in 1947 and has been the Yankees' primary logo ever since.

    The artwork was originally credited to Henry Alonzo Keller, a sports illustrator who lived in Bronxville and worked in New York designing programs for the Yankees and other teams and sporting events.

    However, the New York Times reported in 2009 that the logo could have other origins.

    According to the family of Sam Friedman, who was an artist who worked at the famous “21” club in the 1940s and ’50s, it was their ancestor who sketched the logo onto a bar napkin for Dan Topping.

    Topping was a co-owner of the Yankees in the 1940s and a regular “21” patron.

    “Topping said, ‘I love it—that’s exactly what I’ve been looking for, that’s my new logo,” said Jack Friedman, who claims his great-uncle created the logo. “It was all done on a napkin at the bar at the ‘21’ club.”

    Regardless of its origin, the Yankee logo is the oldest still in use in the major leagues.

6. The Interlocked “NY” on the Chest and Cap

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    The interlocked “NY” on the front of the New York Yankees’ home uniforms has long been a tradition in the Bronx.

    The monogram was taken off the jersey, however, in 1917, according to the Yankees’ official website.

    It didn’t return until 1936.

    That means the most famous Yankee of them all, Babe Ruth, never actually wore the now-legendary insignia on his jersey. Ruth was a Yankee from 1920-34.

    The insignia on a solid navy cap has been in place since 1923.

    Other than minor alterations, the uniform has gone unchanged for more than almost 80 years and has become one of the franchise’s long-standing traditions.

5. No Names on the Back

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    The Chicago White Sox were the first team in the major leagues to add players’ names to the backs of the jerseys in 1960, according to Baseball-Almanac.com. Since then, almost every team in baseball has adopted the practice, with one notable exception.

    The New York Yankees are that holdout.

    Interestingly enough, the Yankees pioneered the regular use of numbers on the back of the uniform, adding them in 1929. By 1932, every team in baseball had adopted the custom.

    At least the Yankees have never had to wrestle with any identity crises. Although former U.S. Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks became famous for the line, it was the late Joe Paterno, longtime football coach at Penn State, who once uttered, “The name on the front of the jersey is what really matters, not the name on the back.”

4. Monument Park

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    Monument Park has been a tradition in two versions of Yankee Stadium for 80 years.

    The first monument was erected in 1932. The monument in deep center field honored former New York Yankees manager Miller Huggins, who died late in the 1929 season (according to BallparksofBaseball.com).

    Huggins won six pennants and three World Series titles in his 12 seasons at the helm of the Yankees from 1918-29. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 1964.

    There are a total of seven monuments currently in Monument Park to go with 27 plaques honoring various baseball-related people, according to YankeeNumbers.com.

    There is also one non-baseball monument: a remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

    According to the Yankees’ website, Monument Park was actually in play until 1973, when Yankee Stadium was closed for renovations. When the stadium reopened in 1976, the monuments were in an enclosed area behind the center field wall. The monuments and plaques were moved to the new Yankee Stadium for the 2009 season.

3. Championships

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    The New York Yankees won their first World Series title in 1923. Since the first one, the franchise has gone on to claim a total of 27 championships—more than any other team in North American professional sports.

    The run of success that began in the 1920s has continued throughout the years, with the Yankees winning at least one World Series title in every decade since.

    The club’s most recent title came in 2009, leaving the 1900s, 1910s, 1980s and 2010s (so far) as the only decades in franchise history devoid of a championship.

2. Old-Timers’ Day

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    Last season marked the 66th annual Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are one of the few organizations in professional sports to hold such an event on an annual basis, according to UltimateYankees.com.

    The first Old Timers’ Day was held in 1939, but it was more well-known as “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day,” held on July 4, 1939, to honor Gehrig.

    It became an annual event in 1947—at first to honor Babe Ruth, but later merely to honor the contributions of many past Yankee players.

1. The Pinstripes

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    A popular legend has it that the New York Yankees adopted pinstripes on the uniforms to try to create a slimmer look for Babe Ruth.

    But the story is just that: legend. The Yankees first introduced pinstripes in 1912 (per the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Dressed to the Nines website).

    Truth be told, they weren’t even the Yankees at the time. The team moved to New York from Baltimore in 1903 and was known as the Highlanders until 1913.

    The pinstripes were discarded for the 1913-1914 seasons, but returned in 1915. And they’ve been there since.

    As for the Babe Ruth thing? It makes for a nice story, but Ruth made his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox in 1914 and didn’t go to the Yankees until 1920. That means the pinstripes had already been a permanent part of Yankee lore for five full seasons before Ruth ever put them on.