Franchise History



Origins in Baltimore (1901–1902)

At the end of 1900, Ban Johnson, president of the Western League, a minor league, reorganized the league. He added teams in three Eastern cities, forming the American League (AL) in an attempt to challenge the National League (NL) for supremacy. Plans to put a team in New York City were blocked by the NL's New York Giants, who had enough political power in New York City to prevent the AL from establishing a team. Instead, a team was put in Baltimore, Maryland, a city which the NL abandoned when it contracted from 12 to 8 teams in 1900.

Nicknamed the Orioles, the team began playing in 1901, and were managed and owned in part by John McGraw. During the 1902 season, McGraw feuded with Johnson, and secretly jumped to the Giants. In the middle of the season, the Giants, aided and abetted by McGraw, gained controlling interest of the Orioles and began raiding it for players, until the AL stepped in and took control of the team. In January 1903, a "peace conference" was held between the two leagues to settle disputes and try to coexist. At the conference, Johnson requested that an AL team be put in New York, to play alongside the NL's Giants. It was put to a vote, and 15 of the 16 Major League owners agreed on it, with only John T. Brush of the Giants opposing. The Orioles' new owners, Frank J. Farrell and William S. Devery, found a ballpark location not blocked by the Giants, and Baltimore's team moved to New York.

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Move to New York: the Highlanders years (1903–1912)

The team's new ballpark, Hilltop Park (formally known as "American League Park"), was constructed in northern Manhattan at one of the island's highest points between 165th and 168th Streets, just a few blocks away from the much larger Polo Grounds. The team came to be known as the New York Highlanders for two reasons: it was a reference to the team's elevated location and to the noted British military unit The Gordon Highlanders, which coincided with the team's president, Joseph Gordon. As was common with all members of the American League, the team was called the New York Americans. New York Press Sports Editor Jim Price coined the unofficial nickname Yankees (or "Yanks") for the club as early as 1904, because it was easier to fit in headlines.

The most success the Highlanders achieved was finishing second in 1904, 1906 and 1910, 1904 being the closest they would come to winning the AL pennant. That year, they would lose the deciding game on the last day of the season to the Boston Americans, who would later become the Boston Red Sox. This had much historical significance, as the Highlanders' role in the pennant race caused the Giants to announce that they would not play in the World Series against the AL pennant winner. The World Series would not be skipped again for another 90 years, when a strike truncated the entire 1994 season. It would be the last time Boston would beat New York in a pennant-deciding game for a full century (2004). 1904 was the year that pitcher Jack Chesbro set the single-season wins record at 41, which still stands. (Under current playing practices, this is most likely an unbreakable record).

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New owners, a new home, and a new name: Years at the Polo Grounds (1913–1922)

The Polo Grounds burned down in 1911 and the Highlanders allowed the Giants to play in Hilltop Park during reconstruction. Relations between the two teams warmed, and the Highlanders would move into the newly rebuilt Polo Grounds in 1913. Now playing on the Harlem River, a far cry from their high-altitude home, the name "Highlanders" no longer applied, and fell into disuse among the press. The media had already widely adopted the "Yankees" nickname coined by the New York Press, and in 1913 the team became officially known as the New York Yankees.

By the mid 1910s, owners Farrell and Devery had become estranged and were both in dire need of money. At the start of 1915, they sold the team to Colonel Jacob Ruppert and Captain Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston for $1.25 million.[8] Ruppert inherited a brewery fortune, providing the Yankees with an owner who possessed deep pockets and a willingness to dig into them to produce a winning team. This would lead the team to more success and prestige than Ruppert could ever have envisioned.

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Sluggers and the Stadium: Ruth, Gehrig, and Murderer's Row (1923–1935)

In the years around 1920, the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Chicago White Sox had a dιtente. The trades between them, which antagonized Ban Johnson, garnered them the nickname the "Insurrectos". This dιtente paid off well for the Yankees as they increased their payroll. Most new players who would later contribute to the team's success came from the Red Sox, whose owner, Harry Frazee, was trading them players for large sums of money. Pitcher-turned-outfielder Babe Ruth was the most talented of all the acquisitions from Boston, and the outcome of the trade would haunt the Red Sox for the next 86 years, a span in which the team did not win a single World Series championship. The Red Sox often found themselves eliminated from the playoff hunt as a result of the Yankees' success. This phenomenon eventually became known as the Curse of the Bambino as the failure of the Red Sox and the success of the Yankees seemed almost supernatural, and seemed to stem from that one trade. However, it would not be until 1990 when Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe wrote a book with the same title that the curse was publicized.

Ruth's multitude of home runs proved so popular that the Yankees began drawing more people than their landlords, the Giants.[11] In 1921, when the Yankees made their first World Series appearance against the Giants, the Yankees were told to move out of the Polo Grounds after the 1922 season. Giants manager John McGraw was said to have commented that the Yankees should "move to some out-of-the-way place, like Queens", but they instead broke ground for a new ballpark in the Bronx, right across the Harlem River from the Polo Grounds. In 1922, the Yankees returned to the World Series again, and were dealt a second defeat at the hands of the Giants. Important newcomers in this period were manager Miller Huggins and general manager Ed Barrow. The hiring of Huggins by Ruppert would cause a break between the owners that eventually led to Ruppert buying Huston out in 1923.

In 1923, the Yankees moved to their new home, Yankee Stadium. It was the first triple-deck venue in baseball and seated an astounding 58,000 people. In the first game at Yankee Stadium, Babe Ruth hit a home run, which was fitting as his home runs and drawing power paid for the stadium, giving it its nickname of "The House That Ruth Built".[6] At the end of the year, the Yankees faced the Giants for the third straight year in the World Series, and finally triumphed for their first championship. Prior to that point, the Giants had been the city's icon and dominant team. From 1923 onward, the Yankees would assume that role, and the Giants would eventually leave the city for San Francisco.

In the 1927 season, the Yankees featured a lineup that became known as "Murderers' Row", and some consider this team to be the best in the history of baseball (though similar claims have been made for other Yankee squads, notably those of 1939, 1961 and 1998). The Yankees won a then-AL record 110 games with only 44 losses, and swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1927 World Series. Ruth's home run total of 60 in 1927 set a single-season home run record that would stand for 34 years. Meanwhile, first baseman Lou Gehrig had his first big season, batting .373 with 47 home runs and 175 RBIs, beating Ruth's single-season RBI mark (171 in 1921). In the next three years, the Philadelphia Athletics would take the AL pennant each season and win two world championships.

In 1931, Joe McCarthy came in as manager, and brought the Yankees back to the top of the AL. They swept the Chicago Cubs in the 1932 World Series, and brought the team's streak of consecutive World Series game wins to 12. This series was made famous by Babe Ruth's "Called Shot" in game three of the series at Wrigley Field, a fitting "swan song" to his illustrious World Series career. Ruth would leave the Yankees to join the NL's Boston Braves after 1934, and would never see the World Series again.

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Joltin' Joe DiMaggio (1936–1951)

With Ruth retired, Gehrig finally had a chance to take center stage, but it was only one year before a new star appeared: Joe DiMaggio. The team would win an unprecedented four straight World Series titles from 1936 to 1939. For most of 1939, however, they had to do it without Gehrig, who was forced to retire because of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), now nicknamed "Lou Gehrig's Disease" in his honor. The Yankees declared July 4, 1939 to be "Lou Gehrig Day", on which they retired his number 4 (the first retired number in baseball). Gehrig made a famous speech in which he declared himself to be "the luckiest man on the face of the earth." He died two years later.

Often described as the last year of the "Golden Era" before World War II and other realities intervened, 1941 was a thrilling year as America watched two major events unfold: Ted Williams of the Red Sox hunting for the elusive .400 batting average and Joe DiMaggio getting hits in consecutive ballgames. By the end of his hitting streak, DiMaggio hit in 56 consecutive games, the current major league record.

Two months and one day after the Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1941 World Series, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and many of their best players, including DiMaggio himself, went off to serve in the military. The Yankees still managed to pull out a win against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1943 World Series.

In 1945 construction magnate Del Webb and partners Dan Topping and Larry MacPhail purchased the team from the Ruppert estate for $2.8 million; MacPhail was bought out in 1947.

After a few slumping seasons, McCarthy was fired early in 1946. A few interim managers later, Bucky Harris took the job, righting the ship and taking the Yankees to a hard fought series victory against the Dodgers.

Despite finishing only three games behind the first place Cleveland Indians in 1948, Harris was released in favor of Casey Stengel, who had a reputation of being a clown and managing bad teams. His tenure as Yankee field manager, however, was marked with success. The "underdog" Yankees came from behind to catch and surprise the then-powerful Red Sox on the last two days of the 1949 season, a face off that fueled the beginning of the modern Yankees–Red Sox rivalry. By this time, however, DiMaggio's career was winding down, and the "Yankee Clipper" retired after the 1951 season. This year marked the arrival of the "Oklahoma Kid", Mickey Mantle, who was one of several new stars that would fill the gap.

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Stengel's squad in the 1950s (1951–1959)

Bettering the clubs managed by Joe McCarthy, the Yankees won the World Series five consecutive times from 1949–1953 under Stengel, which continues to be the major league record. Led by players like center fielder Mickey Mantle, pitcher Whitey Ford, and catcher Yogi Berra, Stengel's teams won ten pennants and seven World Series titles in his twelve seasons as the Yankees manager. Stengel was a master at publicity for the team and for himself, even landing a cover story in Time magazine in 1955. The 1950 was the only one of those five championships not to be won against either the New York Giants or Brooklyn Dodgers; it was won against the Whiz Kids of the Philadelphia Phillies.

In 1954, the Yankees won over 100 games, but the Indians took the pennant with an AL record 111 wins. In 1955, the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the World Series, after five previous Series losses to them, but the Yankees came back strong the next year. On October 8, 1956, in Game Five of the 1956 World Series against the Dodgers, pitcher Don Larsen threw the only perfect game in World Series history,[16] which remains the only perfect game in postseason play and was the only no-hitter of any kind to be pitched in postseason play until Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter on October 6, 2010.[17]

The Yankees lost the 1957 World Series to the Milwaukee Braves. Following the Series, the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers left for California, leaving the Yankees as New York's only baseball team. In the 1958 World Series, the Yankees got their revenge against the Braves, and became the second team to win the Series after being down three games to one. For the decade, the Yankees won six World Series championships ('50, 51, '52, '53, '56, '58) and eight American League pennants (those six plus '55 and '57). Led by Mantle, Ford, Berra, Elston Howard (the Yankees' first African-American player), and the newly acquired Roger Maris, the Yankees entered the 1960s seeking to replicate their success of the 1950s.

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The M&M Boys: Mantle and Maris (1960–1964)

Arnold Johnson, owner of the Kansas City Athletics, was a longtime business associate of then-Yankees co-owners Del Webb and Dan Topping. Because of this "special relationship" with the Yankees, he traded them young players for cash and aging veterans. Invariably, these trades ended up being heavily tilted in the Yankees' favor, leading to accusations that the Athletics were little more than a Yankee farm team at the major league level. Kansas City had been home to the Yankees' top farm team for almost 20 years before the Athletics moved there from Philadelphia in 1954.

In 1960, Charles O. Finley purchased the Athletics, and put a cease to the trades. However, before this, the Yankees strengthened their supply of future prospects, which included a young outfielder named Roger Maris. In 1960, Maris led the league in slugging percentage, RBIs, and extra base hits. He finished second in home runs (one behind Mantle) and total bases, and won a Gold Glove, which gathered him enough votes for the American League MVP award.

The year of 1961 would prove to be one of the most memorable in Yankee history. Throughout the summer, Mantle and Maris hit home runs at a fast pace, and became known as the "M&M Boys".[6] Ultimately, a severe hip infection forced Mantle to leave the lineup and drop out of the race. Maris continued though, and on October 1, the last day of the season, he hit home run number 61, surpassing Babe Ruth's single season home run record of 60. However, MLB Commissioner Ford Frick (who, as it was discovered later, had ghostwritten for Babe Ruth during his career) decreed that since Maris had played in a 162-game season and Ruth had only played in one with 154, two separate records would be kept. It would be 30 years before the dual record would be done away with, and Maris would hold the record alone until Mark McGwire broke it in 1998. Maris still holds the American League record.

The Yankees won the pennant with a 109–53 record and went on to defeat the Cincinnati Reds in the 1961 World Series. The team finished the year with a then record 240 home runs. In 1962, the sports scene in New York changed when the National League expanded to include a new team, the New York Mets in nearby Flushing, Queens. The Mets lost a record 120 games while the Yankees would win the 1962 World Series, their tenth in the past sixteen years, defeating the San Francisco Giants in seven games.

The Yankees reached the 1963 World Series, but were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After the season, Yogi Berra, who had just retired from playing, took over managerial duties. The aging Yankees returned the next year for a fifth straight World Series, but were beaten in seven games by the St. Louis Cardinals. It would be the Yankees last World Series appearance until 1976.

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New ownership and a steep decline (1964–1972)

After the 1964 season, CBS purchased 80% of the Yankees from Topping and Webb for $11.2 million.[18] With the new ownership, the team began to decline. In fact, the Yankees finished in the second division for the first time in 40 years in 1965. This was worsened by the introduction of the major league amateur draft that year, which meant that the Yankees could no longer sign any player they wanted. Webb sold his 10 percent stake to CBS before the year was over.

In 1966, the Yankees finished last in the AL for the first time since 1912. After they finished next-to-last in the 1967 season, the team's fortunes improved somewhat, but they would not become serious contenders again until 1974. Various reasons have been given for the decline, but the single biggest one was the Yankees' inability to replace their aging superstars with new ones, as they had consistently done in the previous five decades. Topping and Webb had owned the Yankees for 20 years, missing the World Series only five times and going 10–5 in the ones they did get to. By contrast, the CBS-owned teams never went to the World Series.

At the start of this period, the Yankees lost their signature broadcaster dating back to the early 1940s. All-time "Voice of the Yankees" Mel Allen was fired after the 1964 season, supposedly due to cost-cutting measures by long time broadcast sponsor Ballantine Beer.[19]

During Baseball’s Centennial Season in 1969, the greatest players at each position for every team were named during a voting. The All-Time Yankees:

Catcher – Bill Dickey, Left-handed pitcher – Whitey Ford, Right-handed pitcher – Red Ruffing, Relief pitcher – Johnny Murphy

First base – Lou Gehrig, Second base – Tony Lazzeri, Shortstop – Phil Rizzuto, Third base – Red Rolfe

Center field – Joe DiMaggio (also named baseball's “Greatest Living Player”), Right field – Babe Ruth, Left field – Mickey Mantle

Manager – Casey Stengel

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Steinbrenner, Martin, Jackson, and Munson: the Bronx Zoo (1973–1981)

A group of investors, led by Cleveland-based shipbuilder George Steinbrenner (1930–2010), purchased the club from CBS on January 3, 1973 for $8.7 million.[20] Mike Burke stayed on as president until he quit in April. Within a year, Steinbrenner bought out most of his other partners and became the team's principal owner, although Burke continued to hold a minority share into the 1980s.

One of Steinbrenner's major goals was to repair the Stadium, which had greatly deteriorated by the late 1960s. CBS initially suggested renovations, but the team would have needed to play elsewhere, and the Mets refused to open their home, Shea Stadium, to the Yankees. A new stadium in the Meadowlands, across the Hudson River in New Jersey, was suggested (and was eventually built, as Giants Stadium, specifically for football). Finally, in mid-1972, Mayor John Lindsay stepped in. The city bought the Stadium and began an extensive two-year renovation period. Since the city owned Shea, the Mets had to allow the Yankees to play two seasons there. The renovations modernized the look of the stadium and reconfigured some of the seating.

After the 1974 season, Steinbrenner made a move that started the modern era of free agency, signing star pitcher James Augustus "Catfish" Hunter away from Oakland. Midway through the 1975 season, Steinbrenner made another move, hiring former second baseman Billy Martin as manager. With Martin at the helm, the Yankees reached the 1976 World Series, but were swept by the Cincinnati Reds and their famed "Big Red Machine."

After the 1976 campaign, Steinbrenner added star Oakland outfielder Reggie Jackson to his roster. During spring training of 1977, Jackson alienated his teammates with controversial remarks about the Yankees captain, catcher Thurman Munson. He had bad blood with manager Billy Martin, who had managed the Detroit Tigers when Jackson's Athletics defeated them in the 1972 playoffs. Jackson, Martin, and Steinbrenner repeatedly feuded with each other throughout the life of Jackson's five-year contract. Martin would be hired and fired by Steinbrenner five times over the next 13 years. This conflict, combined with the extremely rowdy Yankees fans of the late 1970s and the bad conditions of the Bronx, led to the Yankee organization and stadium being referred to as the "Bronx Zoo."[21] Despite the turmoil, Jackson starred in the 1977 World Series, when he hit three home runs in the same game, and overall, four home runs on four consecutive pitches from four different pitchers. Jackson's great performance in the postseason earned him the Series MVP Award, and the nickname "Mr. October."[22]

Throughout the late 1970s, the race for the pennant was often a close competition between the Yankees and the Red Sox. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the Yankees had been dominant while the Red Sox were largely a non-factor. However, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Yankees were mired in second place and the Red Sox led the league. In the late 1970s the two teams were contending simultaneously and locked in a close fight.

On July 14, 1978, the Yankees were 14½ games behind the Red Sox. The Yankees went on a long winning streak, and by the time they met Boston for a pivotal four-game series at Fenway Park in early September, they were only four games behind the Red Sox. The Yankees swept the Red Sox in what became known as the "Boston Massacre", winning the games 15–3, 13–2, 7–0, and 7–4. The third game was a shutout pitched by "Louisiana Lightning" Ron Guidry, who would lead the majors with nine shutouts, a 25–3 record, and a 1.74 ERA. Guidry finished with 248 strikeouts, but Nolan Ryan's 260 strikeouts with the California Angels deprived Guidry of the pitching Triple Crown.

On the last day of the season, the two clubs finished in a tie for first place in the AL East, and a one-game playoff (the 163rd game of the regular season) was held at Fenway Park. With Guidry pitching against former Yankee Mike Torrez, the Red Sox took an early 2–0 lead. In the seventh inning, light-hitting Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent drove a three-run home run over the "Green Monster" (Fenway Park's famed left field wall), putting the Yankees up 3–2. Reggie Jackson's solo home run in the following inning sealed the eventual 5–4 win that gave the Yankees their one hundredth win of the season and their third straight AL East title and Guidry earned his 25th win of the season.

After beating the Kansas City Royals for the third consecutive year in the ALCS, the Yankees faced the Dodgers again in the World Series. They lost the first two games in LA, but won all three games at Yankee Stadium and won Game 6 in Los Angeles, winning their 22nd World Championship.

Changes occurred during the 1979 season. Former Cy Young Award-winning closer Sparky Lyle was traded to the Texas Rangers for several players, including Dave Righetti. Tommy John was acquired from the Dodgers and Luis Tiant from the hated Red Sox to bolster the pitching staff. During the season, Bob Lemon was replaced by Billy Martin.

The 1970s ended on a tragic note for the Yankees. On August 2, 1979, Thurman Munson died after crashing his private plane while practicing "Touch and Go" landings. Four days later, the entire team flew out to Canton, Ohio for the funeral, despite having a game later that day against the Orioles. Martin adamantly stated that the funeral was more important, and that he did not care if they made it back in time. Bobby Murcer, a close friend of Munson's, was chosen to give the eulogy at his funeral. In a nationally televised and emotional game, Murcer used Munson's bat (which he gave to his fallen friend's wife after the game), and drove in all five of the team's runs in a dramatic 5–4 walk-off victory. Before the game, Munson's locker sat empty except for his catching gear, a sad reminder for his teammates. His locker, labeled with his number 15, has remained empty in the Yankee clubhouse as a memorial. When the Yankees moved across the street, Munson's locker was torn out and installed in the new Stadium's museum. The number 15 has been retired by the team.

The 1980 season brought more changes to the Yankees. Billy Martin was fired once again and Dick Howser took his place. Chris Chambliss was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for catcher Rick Cerone. Thanks to Howser's no-nonsense attitude, Reggie Jackson hit .300 for the only time in his career with 41 homers, and finished 2nd in the MVP voting to Kansas City's George Brett. The Yankees won 103 games and the AL East by three games over the 100-win Baltimore Orioles, but were swept by the Royals in the 1980 ALCS.

After the season ended, the Yankees signed Dave Winfield to a ten-year contract. The Yankees fired Howser and replaced him with Gene Michael. Under Michael, the Yankees led the AL East before a strike hit in June of 1981. In the second half of the season, the Yankees struggled under Bob Lemon, who replaced Michael. Thanks to the split-season playoff format, the Yankees faced the second-half winner Milwaukee Brewers in the special 1981 American League Division Series. After narrowly defeating Milwaukee in five games, they breezed through Billy Martin and the Oakland Athletics in a three-game ALCS. In the World Series, the Yankees got off to a hot start by winning the first two games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. But the Dodgers fought back and stunned the Yankees by winning the next four games to clinch their first World Series title since 1965.

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Struggles: The Mattingly Years (1982–1995)

Following the team's loss to the Dodgers in the 1981 World Series, the Yankees had their longest absence from the playoffs since 1921. The Yankees of the 1980s were led by All-Star first baseman Don Mattingly. In spite of accumulating the most total wins of any major league team, they failed to win a World Series (the first such team since the 1910s) and had only 1 playoff appearance.[23] They consistently had a powerful offense; Mattingly at various times was teammate to Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Mike Pagliarulo, Steve Sax, and Jesse Barfield, but lacked sufficient starting pitching. After posting a 22–6 record in 1985, arm problems caught up with Ron Guidry, and his performance declined over the next three years.

The team came close to winning the AL East in 1985 and 1986, finishing second to the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox (who lost in the World Series that year to the Yankees' cross-town rivals, the New York Mets) respectively, but fell to fourth place in 1987 and fifth in 1988, despite having mid-season leads in the AL East standings both years. Despite their lack of championships and playoff appearances the Yankees posted the highest winning percentage of all MLB teams during the 1980s.

By the end of the decade, the Yankees' offense was on the decline. Henderson and Pagliarulo had departed by the middle of 1989, while back problems hampered both Winfield (who missed the entire '89 season) and Mattingly (who missed almost the entire second half of 1990). Winfield's tenure with the team ended when he was dealt to the Angels. From 1989 to 1992, the team had a losing record, spending significant money on free-agents and draft picks who did not live up to expectations. In 1990, the Yankees had the worst record in the American League, and their first last-place finish since 1966.

On July 1, 1990, pitcher Andy Hawkins became the first Yankee ever to lose despite throwing a no-hitter. Third baseman Mike Blowers committed an error, followed by two walks and an error by the left fielder Jim Leyritz with the bases loaded, scoring all three runners and the batter. The 4–0 loss to the Chicago White Sox was the largest margin of any no-hitter loss in the 20th century. Ironically, the Yankees (and Hawkins) were no-hit for six innings in a rain-shortened game against the White Sox eleven days later.

During the 1990 season, Yankee fans started to chant "1918!" to taunt the Red Sox, reminding them of the last time they won a World Series one weekend the Red Sox were there in 1990.[24] Each time the Red Sox were at Yankee Stadium afterward, demeaning chants of "1918!" echoed through the stadium.[25] Yankee fans also taunted the Red Sox with signs saying "CURSE OF THE BAMBINO," pictures of Babe Ruth, and wearing "1918!" T-shirts each time they were at the Stadium.[25]

The poor showings in the 1980s and 1990s would soon change. Steinbrenner hired Howard Spira to uncover damaging information on Winfield and was subsequently suspended from day-to-day team operations by Commissioner Fay Vincent when the plot was revealed. This turn of events allowed management to implement a coherent acquisition/development program without owner interference. General Manager Gene Michael, along with manager Buck Showalter, shifted the club's emphasis from high-priced acquisitions to developing talent through the farm system. This new philosophy developed key players such as outfielder Bernie Williams, shortstop Derek Jeter, catcher Jorge Posada, and pitchers Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera. The first significant success came in 1994, when the Yankees had the best record in the AL, but the strike ended the season and Mattingly's best chance for a World Series title and is remembered among the 10 worst moments in New York City sports history.[26][27] Because the Yankees were last in a postseason in a season cut short by a strike, the news media constantly reminded the Yankees about the parallels between the two Yankee teams (1981 and 1994), which included both Yankee teams having division leads taken away by strike.[28] Throughout October, the media continued to speculate about what might have been if there had not been a strike, making references to the days games in the post-season would have been played.[29]

A year later, the team qualified for the playoffs in the new wild card slot in the strike shortened 1995 season. In the memorable 1995 American League Division Series against the Seattle Mariners, the Yankees won the first two games at home and dropped the next three in Seattle. Mattingly, suffering greatly from his back injury, retired after the 1995 season. He had the unfortunate distinction of beginning and ending his career on years bookended by Yankee World Series appearances (1981 and 1996).

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New Dynasty (1996–2007)

The Yankees have maintained a core of productive players in their winning seasons since 1997, including Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter.

Torre had a mediocre run as a manager in the National League,[30] and the choice was initially derided ("Clueless Joe" was a headline in the New York Daily News).[31] However, his calm demeanor proved to be a good fit, and his tenure was the longest under George Steinbrenner's ownership.

1996 saw the rise of three Yankees who would form the core of the team for years to come: rookie shortshop Derek Jeter, second-year starting pitcher Andy Pettitte, and second-year pitcher Mariano Rivera, who served as setup man in 1996 before becoming closer in 1997. Aided by these young players, the Yankees won their first AL East title in 15 years in 1996. They defeated the Texas Rangers in the ALDS, and in the ALCS beat the Baltimore Orioles in five games, which included a notable fan interference by young Jeffrey Maier that was called as a home run for the Yankees. In the World Series the team rebounded from an 0–2 series deficit and defeated the defending champion Atlanta Braves, ending an 18-year championship drought. Jeter was named Rookie of the Year. In 1997, the Yankees lost the 1997 ALDS to the Cleveland Indians in five games. GM Bob Watson stepped down and was replaced by assistant GM Brian Cashman.

The 1998 Yankees are widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest teams in baseball history, compiling a then-AL record 114 regular season wins against just 48 losses and then sweeping the San Diego Padres in the 1998 World Series. Their 125 combined regular and postseason wins is an MLB single season record. However, this was the only Yankees World Series championship during this dynasty that wasn't won against either the New York Mets or the Atlanta Braves.[32]

On May 17, 1998, David Wells pitched a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium. On July 18, 1999, which was "Yogi Berra Day" at the Stadium, David Cone pitched a perfect game against the Montreal Expos. The ALCS was the Yankees' first meeting with the Red Sox in a post-season series. The Yankees would go on to win the 1999 World Series giving the 1998–1999 Yankees a 22–3 record (including four series sweeps) in six consecutive post-season series.

In 2000, the Yankees faced the New York Mets in the first Subway Series World Series since 1956. The Yankees won the series in 5 games, but a loss in Game 3 snapped their streak of World Series wins at 14, surpassing the club's previous record of 12 (in 1927, 1928, and 1932). The Yankees are the last major league team to repeat as World Series champions and after the 2000 season they joined the Yankee teams of 1936–1939 and 1949–1953, as well as the 1972–1974 Oakland Athletics as the only teams to win at least three consecutive World Series.

The Yankees dynasty of the 1990s was also part the Braves–Mets rivalry. As noted above, three of their four World Series wins happened against either team (Braves in 1996 and 1999, Mets in 2000).[32] Joe Torre added further fuel to the dynasty being part of the rivalry, having played for and managed both teams and he becoming manager of the Yankees and the events of the 1996 season were seen as factors in that rivalry intensifying.[32]

In aftermath of the September 11 attacks, that year, Yankees defeated the Oakland A's in the ALDS, and the Seattle Mariners in the ALCS. By winning the pennant for a fourth straight year, the 1998–2001 Yankees joined the 1921–1924 New York Giants, and the Yankee teams of '36–'39, '49–'53, '55–'58 and '60–'64 as the only teams to win at least four straight pennants. The Yankees won eleven consecutive postseason series in this four-year period. In the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Yankees lost the series when closer Mariano Rivera uncharacteristically blew a save in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7; it was the second time in five years that a team lost the World Series after taking a lead into the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 (following the Cleveland Indians in 1997) and the first time since 1991 that the home team won all seven games of a World Series. The Yankees were also the first American League team to lose a World Series in which the home team won all seven games.[33][34] Also, despite a very poor series overall, batting under .200, Derek Jeter got the nickname, "Mr. November," echoing comparisons Reggie Jackson's "Mr. October," for his walk-off home run in Game 4, though it began October 31, as the game ended in the first minutes of November 1. In addition, the Yankees' home field in the aftermath of the attacks served as hosts of a memorial service titled "Prayer for America."

A vastly revamped Yankees team finished the 2002 season with an AL best record of 103–58. The season was highlighted by Alfonso Soriano becoming the first second baseman ever to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season. In the ALDS the Yankees lost to the eventual champion Anaheim Angels in four games.

In 2003, the Yankees again had the best league record (101–61), highlighted by Roger Clemens' 300th win and 4000th strikeout. In the ALCS, they defeated the Boston Red Sox in a dramatic seven game series, which featured a bench-clearing incident in Game 3 and a series-ending walk-off home run by Aaron Boone in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 7. In the World Series the Yankees lost in 6 games to the Florida Marlins, losing a World Series at home for the first time since 1981.

In 2004, the Yankees acquired Alex Rodriguez, who moved to third base from his usual shortstop position to accommodate Derek Jeter. In the ALCS, the Yankees met the Boston Red Sox again, and became the first team in professional baseball history, and only the third team in North American pro sports history, to lose a best-of-seven series after taking a 3–0 series lead.

In 2005 Alex Rodriguez won the American League MVP award, becoming the first Yankee to win the award since Don Mattingly in 1985. The Yankees again won the AL East by virtue of a tiebreaker but lost the ALDS in five games to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The 2006 season was highlighted by a 5 game series sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park (sometimes referred to as the "Second Boston Massacre"), outscoring the Red Sox 49–26.[35]

Despite winning the AL East for the ninth consecutive year, the Yankees lost again in the ALDS, this time to the Detroit Tigers. After the ALDS was over, tragedy struck when pitcher Cory Lidle died when his plane crashed into a highrise apartment building in Manhattan. Along with Thurman Munson, Lidle was the second active Yankee to be killed in a private plane crash.

On June 18, 2007 the Yankees broke new ground by signing the first two professional baseball players from the People's Republic of China to the MLB,[36] and became the first team in MLB history to sign an advertising deal with a Chinese company.[37] The Yankees' streak of nine straight AL East division titles ended in 2007, but they still reached the playoffs with the AL Wild Card. For the third year in a row, the team lost in the first round of the playoffs, as the Cleveland Indians defeated the Yankees in the 2007 ALDS. After the series, Joe Torre declined a reduced-length and compensation contract offer from the Yankees and returned to the National League as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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The Core Four (2008–present)

After Torre's departure the Yankees signed former catcher Joe Girardi to a three-year contract to manage the club.[38]

The 2008 season was the last season played at historic Yankee Stadium. To celebrate the final year and history of Yankee Stadium, the 2008 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played there on July 15, 2008.[39] The final regular-season game at Yankee Stadium was played on September 21, 2008 against Baltimore, the city from which both the Yankees and their great star Babe Ruth originated.[40] The Yankees won Yankee Stadium's final game 7–3. Jose Molina's home run, a two-run shot hit to left-center field with one out in the bottom of the 4th inning, turned out to be the final home run in stadium history. After the game, Derek Jeter addressed the crowd, thanking them for their support over the years, and urging them to "take the memories of this field, add them to the new memories that will come at the new Yankee Stadium and continue to pass them on from generation to generation."[41] The Yankees players then circled the field and saluted the fans, to the sound of "New York, New York". Despite multiple midseason roster moves, the team was hampered by injuries and missed the playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons. During the off-season, the Yankees retooled their roster with several star free agent acquisitions, a strategy different from the previous season's, where the team banked on young pitching prospects.

At the beginning of the 2009 season, the Yankees opened the new Yankee Stadium, which quickly acquired a reputation as a "home run-friendly" ballpark. The Yankees set a major league record by playing error-free ball for 18 consecutive games from May 14 to June 1, 2009.[42]

After the All-Star Break, the Yankees went on to have a 52–22 record, finishing first in the AL East. In the ALDS they defeated the Twins in a sweep before moving on to the ALCS where the Yankees defeated Angels in six games. Previously the Angels had eliminated them from the playoffs twice in the previous seven years. They defeated the defending champions, the Philadelphia Phillies, in Game 6 of the World Series 7–3, to take the series 4–2, their 27th World Series title.[43]

The 2010 season featured the rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox being revived to start and end the season. The Yankees and the Red Sox started and finished the season against each other at Fenway Park.[44][45] This was the first time since 1950 this had happened.[46] In June, Joe Torre's Dodgers played games against the Yankees for the first time since he became manager of the Dodgers, with the Yankees taking two out of three games in the series.[47] During the 2010 All-Star break, two longtime Yankee icons died: On July 11, former PA announcer Bob Sheppard and two days later principal owner George Steinbrenner. Eight days later, another longtime Yankee icon, former player and manager Ralph Houk, died.

The Yankees won the American League Wild Card. They swept the Minnesota Twins in the 2010 American League Division Series, but lost to the Texas Rangers in the 2010 American League Championship Series 4 games to 2.

In a 22–9 win over the Athletics at home on August 25, 2011, the Yankees became the first team in Major League history to hit three grand slams in a single game. They were hit by Robinson Cano, Russell Martin, and Curtis Granderson. The Yankees, due to in part of a dramatic September collapse by the Red Sox, won the AL East title for the second time in three seasons, finishing with 97 wins and took home field throughout the AL postseason. However, they were defeated by the Tigers in five games in the 2011 American League Division Series.