New York Highlanders join American League - HISTORY
Year
1903

New York Highlanders join American League

On March 12, 1903, the New York Highlanders are given the go-ahead by team owners to join baseball’s American League. The Highlanders had recently moved from Baltimore, where they were called the Orioles and had a winning tradition dating back to the 1890s. Called the “Yankees” by fans, the team officially changed its name to the New York Yankees in 1913, and went on to become the most dominant franchise in American sports.

It wasn’t until 1921, however, that the Yankees won their first American League pennant, behind the prodigious power of right fielder Babe Ruth, who the Yankees had purchased from the Boston franchise, much to the disappointment of Boston fans, in 1920. The team went on to dominate the American League throughout the 1920s, and in 1927, with the “Murderer’s Row” lineup of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazerri and Bob Meusel, the Yankees won 110 games and swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series, 4 games to 0. This 1927 team is still considered the standard by which other teams are measured.

During Ruth’s 14-year tenure (1920-1934), the Bronx Bombers won four World Series and lost two. The other major star of Ruth’s era was first baseman Lou Gehrig, whose time with the team spanned two generations of Yankee dominance, first under Ruth and later with star center fielder Joe DiMaggio (1936-1951). With DiMaggio, known as the “Yankee Clipper,” in center field, New York won nine titles and 10 American League pennants, including four World Series in a row between 1936 and 1939. Gehrig’s 2,130 consecutive game streak held for 44 years. He was finally forced to retire in 1939, when he contracted amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which has since come to be known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.”

The 1950s featured a balanced team led by “the Ol’ Perfesser,” manager Casey Stengel. Under Stengel, the talent-packed Yankees won the World Series each year from 1949 to 1953. By this time, Yankee dominance had begun to inspire resentment among fans of less fortunate teams. In 1955, this antipathy inspired the musical “Damn Yankees,” in which a Washington Senators fan sells his soul to the devil so he can slug the Senators to victory over the Yankees and win the pennant. Though the Yankees lost the 1960 World Series, which prompted the firing of Stengel, players continued to turn in all-star performances. In 1961, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in a single season with 61 of his own, after a year-long race with friend Mickey Mantle, who ended his season early because of injuries with 54 homers.

In 1977, “Mr. October” Reggie Jackson hit three home runs on three swings in Game 6 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers to give the Yankees their first World Series since 1962. They repeated in 1978, again beating the Dodgers behind Jackson and pitchers Catfish Hunter and Ron Guidry. By then, the team was owned by George Steinbrenner, whose meddlesome ways, doomed free-agent signings and rivalry with on-again, off-again manager Billy Martin led to a 17-season drought between World Series titles from 1979 to 1996. In 1996, Steinbrenner hired manager Joe Torre and his steady hand, along with the leadership of shortstop and future captain Derek Jeter, guided the Yankees to four World Series championships and six American League pennants between 1996 and 2003, with three World Series wins in a row from 1998 to 2000.

Through the 2010 season, the Yankees had won a record 27 World Series and 40 American League pennants. The record for second-most championships belonged to the St. Louis Cardinals, who had 10.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Reno sworn in as attorney general

Following her confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Janet Reno is sworn in as the first female attorney general of the United States.Born in Miami in 1938, she studied at Harvard Law School and in 1971 was named staff director of the Judiciary Committee of the FloridaHouse of ...read more

The Blizzard of 1888

The most severe winter storm ever to hit the New York City region reaches blizzard proportions, costing hundreds of lives and millions of dollars in property damage. Although the storm also struck New England, New York was the hardest hit, with the 36-hour blizzard dumping some ...read more

Germany annexes Austria

On March 12, 1938, German troops march into Austria to annex the German-speaking nation for the Third Reich.In early 1938, Austrian Nazis conspired for the second time in four years to seize the Austrian government by force and unite their nation with Nazi Germany. Austrian ...read more

Gandhi leads civil disobedience

On March 12, 1930, Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi begins a defiant march to the sea in protest of the British monopoly on salt, his boldest act of civil disobedience yet against British rule in India.Britain’s Salt Acts prohibited Indians from collecting or selling ...read more

FDR gives first fireside chat

On this day in 1933, eight days after his inauguration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gives his first national radio address or “fireside chat,” broadcast directly from the White House.Roosevelt began that first address simply: “I want to talk for a few minutes with the people ...read more

Australians withdraw from South Vietnam

The last remnants of the First Australian Task Force withdraw from Vietnam. The Australian government had first sent troops to Vietnam in 1964 with a small aviation detachment and an engineer civic action team. In May 1965, the Australians increased their commitment with the ...read more

FDR broadcasts first fireside chat

On this day in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt holds the first of his radio-broadcast fireside chats. FDR used the informal radio addresses to explain his policies to the American public. In an era before television, cell phones and iPods, FDR used the most immediate and ...read more

Chinese laborers excluded from U.S.

Agreeing to cooperate with a policy unilaterally adopted by Congress six years earlier, China approves a treaty forbidding Chinese laborers to enter the United States for 20 years.In the 1850s, large numbers of Chinese immigrated to the American West. Most came from the Pearl ...read more

The Dixie Chicks backlash begins

In response to the critical comments made about him by Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush offered this response: “The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind. They can say what they want to say.” Of the ...read more

Jack Kerouac is born

Jack Kerouac is born in Lowell, Massachusetts. Kerouac was the son of French-Canadian parents and learned English as a second language. In high school, Kerouac was a star football player and won a scholarship to Columbia University.In World War II, he served in the Navy but was ...read more

Truman Doctrine is announced

In a dramatic speech to a joint session of Congress, President Harry S. Truman asks for U.S. assistance for Greece and Turkey to forestall communist domination of the two nations. Historians have often cited Truman’s address, which came to be known as the Truman Doctrine, as the ...read more

Red River Campaign begins

On this day in 1864, one of the biggest military fiascos of the Civil War begins as a combined Union force of infantry and riverboatsstarts moving up the Red River in Louisiana. The month-long campaign was poorly managed and achieved none of the objectives set forth by Union ...read more

Italian auto titan Gianni Agnelli born

On this day in 1921, Giovanni “Gianni” Agnelli, the glamorous, powerful Italian business tycoon who turned Fiat, his family’s car company, into an international conglomerate, is born in Turin, Italy. Agnelli was named for his grandfather, who founded Fabbrica Italiana Automobili ...read more