added 6/14/2008 by Gene Elston
This is the story of four New York Yankee managers who skippered 51 of the club's 105 seasons - 1903 through 2007 - along with 26 others. During that period, the Yankees' won-lost record was 9,265-7009, a winning percentage of .570. However, this story is centered mostly on the four. Together they finished those 51 seasons with 4,828 wins and 3,064 losses, a winning percentage of .611 - .0824 better than the other 26 Yankee managers (.529).
The American League was born in 1901 and became a major league long after the National League in 1876. After its first two seasons, the circuit finally got what it needed the most - a franchise in New York City. The National had the Giants and the new league desperately needed a team in the nation's biggest city. Ban Johnson had organized the American League and became the president in 1901 and finally met that goal with the announcement on January 9, 1903 the purchase of the leagues Baltimore franchise for $18,000 and called them the New York Highlanders.
The first owners of the club were Bill Devery and Frank Farrell. Devery was a former police chief and Farrell was a gambler with deep ties to Tammany Hall - neither of whom today would qualify or even come close to owning a major league franchise. The two shady characters, to the amazement of many, lasted much longer than one would expect considering their financial losses and the poor showing of the club - only four seasons in the first division including three last place finishes summed up the new team in their 14 years of ownership.
The franchise they purchased had finished fifth in 1901 and last in the American League in 1902 - 34 games out of first. In the process of the transition to Gotham a few of the best players, including the manager, never made it to New York in the American League. The manager of the Orioles, John McGraw, flipped to the Giants in 1903 starting his long career as skipper with the National League club. Pitcher Joe McGinnity and catcher Roger Bresnahan joined McGraw, while outfielder Cy Seymour had already switched to Cincinnati. However, the new New York franchise would add shortstop Kid Elberfeld from Detroit, Willie Keeler, a constant .300 hitter from Brooklyn, and pitcher Jack Chesbro, from Pittsburgh, who would win 62 games over his first two seasons with the new New York franchise.
After eleven seasons of mainly empty seats at Hilltop Park, the end came for the combo of Farrell and Devery in 1915 when the team they had purchased in 1903 for $18,000 was sold for $460,000. During that period, the team's first nickname "Highlanders" was also referred to as whatever popped into the minds of the fans or the press elected to call them - "Hilltoppers", "Americans" or "Greater New Yorks". The name "Yankees" was mentioned on and off in the newspapers, as well as "Yanks". Around 1908, they had settled officially on "Yankees".
New York's first manager was Clark Griffith, but he became tired of the constant second-guessing of the two owners and late in the 1908 season resigned. Shortstop Kid Elberfeld was the interim pick to fill out the year. George Stallings took over in 1909 and, like Griffith, Stallings resigned late in 1910. He also left due to the day-in and day-out interference from the front office. Hal Chase, who bolted the team after failing to get the managers job following the resignation of Griffith, was persuaded to rejoin the Yanks and replaced Stallings for the remainder of the 1910 season and continued through the 1911 season. Chase was one of the best defensive first baseman in the game and he had great fan appeal but just did not have the right approach in running a team.
Chase was replaced in 1912 with an unknown from the minor leagues, Harry Wolverton, but he finished in last place in his only season and lost his job to former Chicago Cubs great Frank Chance. This turned out to be another disaster. Chase revolted against the new skipper and was traded to the White Sox. Chance also was not getting along with the owners. So, in the middle of the 1914 season, the young 23-year-old Yankee shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh filled in for the rest of the year. In 1915, new ownership took over and this managerial circus would conclude with a newcomer infielder arriving on the scene from Detroit as player-manager. He was Bill Donovan who would last three seasons through 1917. To sum it up, 1903 through 1914 saw 14 managers paraded through the new franchise with little to show in the winning department.
The new owners were Jacob Ruppert, a brewery baron, and Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston, a civil engineer who made his millions in public works but took off for France in 1917 to join the Army Engineers - leaving Ruppert alone to run the team. Ruppert set the team in the right direction. He went to league president Ban Johnson for advice on a managerial replacement. Johnson didn't hesitate to name Miller Huggins, the little fellow who was leading the St.Louis Cardinals. Huston was of the mind to hire Wilbert Robinson away from the Brooklyn Dodgers however Johnson's suggestion and Ruppert's follow-through helped the Yankees to be, well, the Yankees we think of today.
Exactly what possessed Johnson to suggest Huggins was difficult to understand on the surface. Huggins managed the Redbirds from 1913 to 1917 and in those five seasons finished third twice, but in the other three years wound up in sixth, seventh and last place - a winning percentage of only .455. At first Ruppert was not overly excited at Johnson's suggestion, he had met once earlier with the dwarfish fellow and was taken aback somewhat by his appearance and his manner. The new owner changed his mind after the first formal meeting and was impressed by Huggins straight-forward speech and his knowledge of the game. Upon hearing of Huggins' hiring, Ruppert's partner exploded and that decision would ultimately end their partnership. In 1922, Huston sold his investment to Ruppert for $1,500,000.
In Huggins' first year at the helm in 1918, during the war-shortened season, his club struggled somewhat due to the demands of the armed forces, but still finished fourth with a record of 60-63 (.488). There would be only one other year Huggins' teams would not have a winning record in his 12 years at the helm. He would finish third in 1919. The 1920 season would be the beginning of the team's triumphant rise to baseball dominance. The year was triggered by two dates: one on January 5th when Babe Ruth was purchased from the Red Sox and the other on October 28th when Ed Barrow was named business manager and later was elevated to president, leading the Yankees for the next 26 years. Barrow retired in 1945, overseeing the franchise to 14 pennants and 10 World Series.
The combination of Barrow and Huggins won their first pennant in 1921, repeated in 1922, and in 1923 won the World Series in the first year in their new home - Yankee Stadium, the ball park that writer Fred Lieb tagged as "The House That Ruth Built." Huggins' difficulties in running the team while they were off the field began following the Yankees' first pennant and continued somewhat throughout his 12-year tenure. He had problems riding herd on a bunch of prima donnas following their first pennant. It was a boisterous, cocky crew that kept a team detective busy tracking their late-night escapades. Most if it centered on Ruth.
Following the horrific 1925 season, the Yankees bounced back with a pennant in 1926 losing to St.Louis in the World Series, and in 1927 with "Murderer’s Row", led the team back with a four-game sweep over the Pirates. In those two seasons, Huggins had 110 and 101 wins. 1929 ended the first period of Yankee domination. The club had simply run out of gas after the three winning years of 1926-28. It also was the beginning of the end for manager Huggins who had fretted and worried his club would not win again. On September 20, after a losing game, he was taken to the hospital with a face tumor and he died five days later.
Huggins was gone after 12 years, winning six pennants and three Worlds Championships - a won-lost record of 1,067-719 - a winning percentage of .597.
Pitcher Bob Shawkey, who had retired from the mound to take a coaching job with the Yankees, replaced Huggins for the remainder of 1929 and stayed on through the 1930 season. Ruppert and president Barrow sought another manager like Huggins. First they contacted Donie Bush who had just left Pittsburgh, but he had signed with the White Sox hours earlier. The Yanks then offered the job to Eddie Collins, who had never managed, and he declined the opportunity.
Barrow then hit the jackpot upon hearing that Joe McCarthy was looking for a change after leaving the Chicago Cubs following five excellent seasons and quickly signed him to a Yankees contract. This would be the culmination of a story that began during the winter of 1915-1916. Barrow was president of the International League at that time and had an eye on player Joe McCarthy, an infielder with Buffalo. Barrow had watched the youngster's progress and recommended him to the Yankees. As it turned out, McCarthy had only average playing talents and had turned to managing in the minors in the Big State and International Leagues. During this period, he proved to have a keen mind and the ability to handle players. The Cubs spotted his skills and hired him as their manager in 1926. In McCarthy's five years with Chicago, the Bruins finished fourth twice, third, won the pennant in 1929, lost in the World Series to the A's, and finished in second place in 1930. In those five seasons with the Cubs, McCarthy's record was 442-321, a winning percentage of .579. McCarthy had taken over a team that finished last in 1926 and took them to a pennant in four seasons.
With that record, you may wonder why he was available to the Yankees? The answer is a most interesting story. In his first year with the Cubs, he demonstrated his leadership by kicking Grover Cleveland Alexander off the team for disregarding club rules while on a road trip. Following the dismissal, McCarthy received this telegram from owner William Wrigley, "Congratulations, I’ve been looking for a manager with enough nerve to do that." However, following the Cubs' loss to the Athletics in the 1929 series, which Wrigley considered an embarrassment, McCarthy finished second in 1930 with an 86-64 record and was fired by Wrigley.