Sunday, June 28, 2015

Lou Gehrig: The Pride of the Yankees

Name: Heinrich Ludwig Gehrig, anglicized to Henry Louis Gehrig
Date of Birth: June 19, 1903
Place of Birth: New York, New York (Manhattan)
Grew Up In: Same
Nationality: German
Position: 1st base
Batted: Left
Threw: Left
Nickname(s): Lou, Larrupin' Lou, the Iron Horse, the Iron Man, Biscuit Pants, Tanglefoots

Family: The son of immigrants, he was the only one of their four children to survive infancy. He married Eleanor Twitchell. They had no children.

Before He Was a Yankee: Went to New York City's High School of Commerce and Columbia University. 

Acquired By Yankees: April 30, 1923, after Yankee scout Paul Krichell had seen him play 1st base and pitch for Columbia. A book that I read as a boy said Krichell had discovered him playing for Columbia against Rutgers in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and called up general manager Ed Barrow, and said, "I think I saw another Ruth today." More likely, Krichell had already seen Gehrig play a number of times, including the one in which he hit a home run out of Columbia's South Field and broke a campus building's window (dramatized in the film The Pride of the Yankees), and was convinced game by game. Maybe it was the game away to Rutgers that made him decide he had seen "another Ruth," but he hadn't seen him only on that day.

He made his Yankee debut on June 15, 1923. The Yankees beat the St. Louis Browns 10-0 at the newly-opened original Yankee Stadium. Herb Pennock pitched a shutout. Gehrig replaced Wally Pipp at 1st base late in the game, and didn't come to bat.

He bounced up and down between the Yankees and the minor leagues until June 1, 1925, when he pinch-hit for Pee Wee Wanninger. The next day, manager Miller Huggins put him at 1st to replace Pipp, who wasn't hitting. (The story about Pipp asking out of the lineup due to a headache is bogus. He did, however, get beaned in batting practice later in the season, so he did have a head injury. But not on June 2.)

Uniform Number(s) as a Yankee: 4. He was assigned the number due to his position in the batting order when the Yankees began wearing numbers in 1929, and he remains the only Yankee ever to wear that number.

The Yankees were assigned numbers based on their place in the batting order, and the 1st Yankees to wear them were as follows: 1, Earle Combs, center field; 2, Mark Koenig, shortstop; 3, Babe Ruth, right field; 4, Lou Gehrig, 1st base; 5, Bob Meusel, left field; 6, Tony Lazzeri, 2nd base; 7, Leo Durocher, 3rd base (yes, that Leo Durocher); 8, Johnny Grabowski, catcher. The backup catchers were Benny Bengough, who got 9, and Bill Dickey, who got 10, later switching to 8. Numbers were then assigned due to seniority, including the leading pitchers: 11, Herb Pennock; 12, Waite Hoyt; 14, George Pipgras. These policies (batting order, then seniority) soon went by the wayside. The Yankees didn't issue the traditionally unlucky Number 13 until 1937, to pitcher Spud Chandler, who wore 21 for most of his career.

Yankee Achievements Include: A .340 lifetime batting average -- a figure that Cal Ripken Jr. reached in only one season. 493 home runs, and 1,995 runs batted in -- meaning his illness just deprived him of 500 homers and 2,000 RBIs. A career OPS+ of 179, fourth all-time behind Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds*. 

Set American League record for RBIs in a season: 173 in 1927, tied it in 1930, and raised to 185 in 1931. His 47 home runs in 1927 were then a record for anyone other than Ruth. In 1932, he became the first AL player to hit four home runs in a game, and he remains the only Yankee ever to do it. In 1934, he became the first Yankee to win the Triple Crown (leading his league in batting average, homers and RBIs); Mickey Mantle is the only other Yankee ever to do it. He was named AL Most Valuable Player in 1936. He appeared in the first six All-Star Games. His 2,721 hits were the most by a Yankee until surpassed by Derek Jeter.

And, in his most frequently cited feat, despite a number of injuries (including at least two beanings, broken fingers and lumbago), he played in 2,130 consecutive games, until he got sick and took himself out of the lineup. His last game was on April 30, 1939, at home against the Washington Senators, going 0-for-4 in a 3-2 Yankee loss.

The only color photo of him I could find.
All others are colorized, paintings, or faked.

Highest Salary: $36,000, which he received for the 1939 season even though he couldn't play beyond April. That's about $618,000 today.

Something you should know about him, if you don’t already: Lou Gehrig almost played Tarzan. The jungle lord has been played by swimmers, including Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe, and on a 1960s TV series by Ron Ely. Certainly, a baseball player with a good physique would be worth the effort, and before his disease began to waste him away, Lou was as solid a man as had ever played any sport.

Gehrig hired Ruth's agent, Christy Walsh, to look for opportunities for him. Walsh knew that Metro-Goldwyn Mayer's film rights to Tarzan had run out, and so Weissmuller wouldn't be playing him anymore. So he had Lou take some pictures "in costume." Producer Sol Lesser now had the rights, and decided that Lou didn't look right. He did, however, cast Lou in a Western movie, Rawhide. (No connection to the 1950s TV series of the same name, which gave Clint Eastwood his big break.)

Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs was still alive, and saw the photos, and said, "I want to congratulate you on being a swell first baseman." Translation: "You, as Tarzan? Oh, hell, no!"

Yes, the pictures survive. Here's one.

Left Yankees: In 1938, he had the kind of season that would have been great by nearly any other player's standards, but was a decline for him. He found himself getting tired more easily. At spring training in 1939, he was considerably slowed, and he told manager Joe McCarthy to take him out of the lineup for the May 2 game in Detroit. Unable to figure out what was wrong with him, he went to the already-famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which breaks down the central nervous system, leading to advancing paralysis.

Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day was held between games of a 4th of July doubleheader. The Washington Senators won the first game, 3-2, and the Yankees won the nightcap, 11-1. During the ceremony, his Number 4 was retired.

At first, too moved to speak, Gehrig slowly walked to the microphone, and gave a speech whose brevity and profundity have given it comparisons to Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, opening, "For the past two weeks, you've been hearing about a bad break. Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth." A crowd of 61,808 fans roared through their tears, although it has been suggested that it was not yet widely known that he was dying, only that he couldn't play anymore.

After He Was a Yankee: Late in 1939, he accepted an offer from Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, a Bronx native and a big Yankee Fan, to serve on the New York City Parole Commission. He held the job from January 1940 until May 1941, when he was no longer even able to attend meetings in a wheelchair.

Died: June 2, 1941, at home in the Riverdale section of The Bronx, at age 37 (just short of 38). Considering how soon he died after being diagnosed, and how long some people have lived with the disease -- physicist Stephen Hawking has now lived over 50 years since his diagnosis -- some people have suggested that Lou was misdiagnosed, and that he was actually stricken with something else.

He is buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York, adjacent to the cemetery where Ruth is buried. Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert and general manager Ed Barrow are also buried at Kensico.

Eleanor never remarried. She raised money and awareness for ALS/Lou Gehrig's disease, and was introduced at every Yankee Old-Timers Day for the rest of her life. She died in 1984.

Monument Dedicated: It was meant to be dedicated on July 4, 1941, between games of a holiday doubleheader, as was done for his Day. The plaque even says, "JULY THE FOURTH 1941." But it rained, and the dedication was pushed back to the following Sunday, July 6, 1941.

The plaque on the Monument is brief in comparison to most later Yankee honors: "A man, a gentleman and a great ball player whose amazing record of 2130 consecutive games should stand for all time." Aside from the unplanned incorrectness of the date and the writing of "ball player" as two words instead of one, they couldn't assume that the streak record would never fall, so they had to say, "should stand for all time," instead of "will stand for all time." Ripken surpassed him on September 6, 1995. He raised it to 2,632 consecutive games, ending it in the Orioles' last home game of the 1998 season, against the Yankees, both of which were very appropriate. (His last major league game, in 2001, was also against the Yankees.)

Baseball Hall of Fame: Elected by a special vote of the Baseball Writers Association of America on December 7, 1939, because it was thought that he might not live to see the end of the waiting period. He was 36. To this day, only one other player has been elected younger, that being Sandy Koufax, younger by a few months.

Other Honors: East 161st Street between River Avenue and the Grand Concourse was renamed Lou Gehrig Plaza. In 1989, the U.S. Postal Service launched a Gehrig stamp.

In 1969, to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of professional baseball, a poll named him the greatest 1st baseman ever. In 1999, The Sporting News named him Number 6 on their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players -- trailing only Ruth, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Hank Aaron. That same year, fan balloting named him the starting first baseman on the All-Century Team -- and he ended up getting more votes for it than any other player, including Ruth.

Depictions: In 1942, the film The Pride of the Yankees was released. Gary Cooper played Lou. Although he was one of America's finest actors and looked a bit like him, he didn't sound like him (he didn't have the Noo Yawk accent), and had never played baseball before. He looked so bad swinging a bat lefthanded that they put a reverse Yankee uniform on him, filmed him batting righthanded, switched the film around so it would look right, and then cut to actual game action (as would be done decades later for The Bronx Is Burning). The film ends with the speech, and while most of the points made in the real speech are there, the text is somewhat rewritten. The key line is moved from near the beginning to the end.

Teresa Wright played Eleanor. Yankees Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig and Bill Dickey -- Gehrig's best friend, and the closest thing the team had to a captain after his retirement -- played themselves. Ironically, Douglas Croft, who played Lou as a boy (and appeared in the 1943 Batman serials, the first actor to play Robin), would also die at age 37, in 1963.

Oddly, Lou did not appear as a character in the 1948 film The Babe Ruth Story. In the 1991 TV-movie Babe Ruth -- the least lame film made about Ruth, which isn't saying much -- he was played by Neal McDonough; in the 1992 theatrical release The Babe, he was played by Michael McGrady.

In 1956, the early TV anthology series Climax! -- also the first forum to feature a live-action James Bond, starring Barry Nelson in a 1955 version of Casino Royale -- featured "The Lou Gehrig Story," starring Wendell Corey as the Iron Horse.

In 1978, Eleanor's memoir My Luke and I was made into a TV-movie, A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story. Lou was played by Edward Herrmann, and Eleanor by Blythe Danner (Gwyneth Paltrow's mother). Unlike The Pride of the Yankees, which showed Lou's mother Christina as supportive of her son's dream though preferring he'd become "an engineer like your Uncle Otto," this one showed that she was a nasty woman who didn't like Eleanor at all. But it also showed that Eleanor was her match. David Ogden Stiers, then playing Charles Emerson Winchester III on M*A*S*H, and like Herrmann later a renowned documentary narrator, also played a doctor in this one, Charles Mayo. Unlike the Cooper film, this one shows Herrmann, as Gehrig, struggling for breath and dying.

Quote of Note: "I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for. Thank you."

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Jacob Ruppert: The Man Who Made the Yankees

Name: Jacob Ruppert Jr. (no middle name)
Date of Birth: August 5, 1867
Place of Birth: New York, New York (Manhattan) 
Grew Up In: Same
Nationality: German, spoke fluent English but with a German accent all his life
Position: Team Owner
Batted: Not applicable
Threw: Not applicable
Nickname(s): Jake, The Colonel

Family: Father Jacob Sr. founded the Ruppert brewery, and lived long enough to see his son buy the Yankees. Mother Anna lived long enough to see them with their 1st World Series. Never married. No known children.

Before He Was a Yankee: Graduated from Columbia University, as would Lou Gehrig. Served in the New York National Guard, although his eventual promotion to the rank of Colonel, while official (contrary to some sources), may have been because he was a friend of then-Governor David B. Hill. Due to his connections to Hill and his successor, Roswell P. Flower, was elected to Congress in 1898, as a Democrat defeating an incumbent Republican. Served 4 terms before deciding not to run for re-election in 1906.

Worked as an executive in his father's brewery, eventually taking charge and making it more profitable than his father ever did -- setting a template that shipbuilding executive George Steinbrenner may not have been aware of. Was President of the United States Brewers Association for 3 years. Also heavily invested in Florida real estate, as would his future manager, Miller Huggins. It was through Ruppert's holdings that St. Petersburg became the Yankees' longtime spring training home.

He was always a baseball fan. On several occasions, he offered to buy the New York Giants, but was always turned down. It wasn't personal: The Brush/Stoneham family simply wasn't interested in selling, at any price. In 1912, he was offered the chance to buy the Chicago Cubs, but decided Chicago was too far away. 

Acquired Yankees: Bought the Yankees as an equal owner with Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston in 1915. The price was $480,000 -- in 2015 money, about $11.2 million.

This appears to have been the photograph
upon which his Plaque was modeled.

"Til" Huston (and that's pronounced HEW-stin like the Texas city, not HUSS-tin) was an Army engineer, having risen to the rank of Captain in the Spanish-American War of 1898, and was nicknamed "Cap" for the rest of his life, even after he was promoted to Colonel in World War I -- a much more legitimate rank than Rupperts. From 1918 to 1923, they were known as "The Colonels."

They were truly the Odd Couple of baseball: Ruppert was a man of inherited wealth, came by his rank dubiously, was emotionally reserved, made sure he was always impeccably dressed, and would speak to the press, albeit in Jeteresque platitudes; Huston was a self-made man, earned his rank, wore his heart on his sleeve, was a sloppy dresser, and didn't talk to the press.

The Ruppert-Huston regime's first game as Yankee owners was on April 14, 1915, at Griffith Stadium in Washington, with President Woodrow Wilson throwing out the first ball. Walter Johnson pitched a shutout, and Jack Warhop couldn't stop the Washington Senators, who won 7-0.

After feuding for most of the time since Huston came home from WWI, particularly over the hiring and then managing of Miller Huggins (Huston wanted someone else), Ruppert bought Huston out in 1922, for $1.5 million -- meaning that, in just 7 years, the value of the team had gone from less than half a million dollars to three million. The last function he attended as an official Yankees part-owner was the Stadium opener in 1923, since his engineering skill had much to do with the actual building, although it was Ruppert's moolah that funded it. When he died in 1938, no current member of the team had ever even met him.

Til Huston at the Yankee Stadium opener,
April 18, 1923.

Uniform Number(s) as a Yankee: None.

Yankee Achievements Include: Built the first Yankee Dynasty. Built the first Yankee Stadium. Made baseball a bigger business than ever. Won American League Pennants in 1921, 1922, 1923, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938. That's 10. His moves ultimately would add Pennants in 1939, 1941, 1942, 1943 and 1947, before a new regime's moves could be credited. Won World Series in 1923, 1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1937 and 1938. That's 7. Since all were won after he bought Huston out in 1922, this made him the most successful sole owner in baseball history -- until matched by George Steinbrenner in 2009.

Something you should know about him, if you don’t already: The story about him designing the Yankee uniforms with Pinstripes to make Babe Ruth look thinner is bogus. The Yankees first put pinstripes on their uniforms in 1912, before Ruppert bought the team, and before Ruth ever played pro ball. Besides, for most of the first half of his career, Ruth was actually in pretty good shape, so the "slimming pinstripes" were unnecessary.

Left Yankees: By dying. His last game as Yankee owner was on October 9, 1938, at Yankee Stadium, Game 4 of the World Series, the Yankees beating the Chicago Cubs 8-3 and completing a sweep.

After He Was a Yankee: Not applicable.

Died: January 13, 1939, at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, from the effects of phlebitis, at age 71. Buried in Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, Westchester County, New York -- the same cemetery as Lou Gehrig, and adjacent to the cemetery where Ruth is buried. When he died, his estate was worth about $6.4 million, despite having gone through the entire 14 years of Prohibition as a brewer -- about $110 million in today's money.

His estate, controlled by his brother George, now controlled the team, but George didn't want anything to do with it. He let team president and general manager Ed Barrow make all decisions, until George sold the team to the triumverate of Dan Topping, Del Webb and Larry MacPhail in 1945. The brewery, a victim of the phenomenal post-World War II growth of Budweiser, sold its assets to Rheingold, and went out of business in 1965. Ruppert Towers, a housing project, is now on the site.

Plaque Dedicated: April 19, 1940, an Opening Day. It refers to "this imposing edifice," meaning the original Yankee Stadium. The Colonel, of course, had nothing to do with the new one.

Baseball Hall of Fame: Elected by the Pre-Integration Era Committee in 2012, decades after he should have been, as the most influential team owner of the 20th Century.

Other Honors: The street on the 3rd base side of the old Stadium, separating it from the players', officials' and media's parking, and connecting 157th and 161st Streets, was named Ruppert Place. It was eliminated and replaced with a walkway in the building of the new Stadium. The site of the Ruppert Brewery, at 90th Street and 3rd Avenue, is now occupied by the Ruppert Yorkville Towers. The old Newark Bears ballpark was named Ruppert Stadium, and the new Bears (now on hiatus -- hopefully not fully defunct) named their mascot Ruppert. Kansas City's Municipal Stadium was also, for a time, named Ruppert Stadium.

Depictions: Played by Matt Briggs in the 1948 theatrical release The Babe Ruth Story, Donald Moffatt in the 1991 TV-movie Babe Ruth, and Bernard Kates in the 1992 theatrical release The Babe. He does not appear as a character in either of the movies about Lou Gehrig.

Quote of Note: "My idea of a perfect day? It's when the Yankees score eight runs in the first inning, and then slowly pull away."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Miller Huggins: Hall-of-Famer, Monument Parker

Name: Miller James Huggins
Date of Birth: March 27, 1879
Place of Birth: Cincinnati, Ohio
Grew Up In: Same
Nationality: Irish
Position: Manager
Batted: Switch-hitter
Threw: Righthanded
Nickname(s): Hug, the Mighty Mite, the Mite Manager, the Rabbit, Mr. Everywhere

Family: Never married, no known children.

Before He Was a Yankee: Captain of the baseball team at the University of Cincinnati, where he also attended law school. One of his professors told him, "You can become a pleader or a player, not both. Try baseball: You seem to like it better." That professor was a Cincinnati native named William Howard Taft, who went on to game the only man to be both President of the United States and a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (in his case, Chief Justice).

Passed the bar exam, but never practiced law. Played 2nd base for his hometown Cincinnati Reds from 1904 to 1909. Played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1910 to 1916. Was player-manager from 1913 to 1916, and manager only in 1917.

Was considered an excellent fielder, able to cover lots of ground quickly despite his small stature, hence "the Rabbit" and "Mr. Everywhere." Was a decent, sometimes good, hitter: Batted .304 in 1912, led the National League in games played in 1907, plate appearances in 1910, walks 4 times, and on-base percentage in 1913 with .432. Career OPS+ was 107, meaning he was 7 percent better at producing runs than the average player of his time. But Cardinal general manager Branch Rickey chose not to retain him as manager for the 1918 season.

Acquired By Yankees: Hired by co-owner Jacob Ruppert for the 1918 season. The other co-owner, Til Huston, was in Europe with the U.S. Army, and didn't want Huggins -- he wanted to hire Wilbert Robinson, a friend, away from the Brooklyn Dodgers. Huggins had been recommended to Ruppert by American League President Ban Johnson. Ruppert was skeptical at first, but met Huggins and was thoroughly impressed with him. Huggins had to be talked into taking the job by J.G. Taylor Spink, publisher of The Sporting News. (It was published in St. Louis, and Huggins had met him there.)

His first game as Yankee manager was on April 15, 1918, at Griffith Stadium in Washington, with President Woodrow Wilson throwing out the ceremonial first ball, and the Yankees beat the Washington Senators 6-3. 

Uniform Number(s) as a Yankee: None. Last managed in 1929, the 1st season in which the Yankees wore numbers, but did not wear one himself.

Yankee Achievements Include: Got the Yankees into a Pennant race in 1920, their 1st in 10 years. Got them their 1st Pennant in 1921 and their 1st World Series win in 1923. Won 6 AL Pennants: 1921, 1922, 1923, 1926, 1927 and 1928. Won 3 World Series: 1923, 1927 and 1928.

Something you should know about him, if you don’t already: The story that Babe Ruth dangled him off the back of a moving train is baloney. It never happened. Indeed, Ruth fully respected him, saying, "He was the only man who knew how to keep me in line."

Everyone in baseball respected him, even men who towered over his 5-foot-5-inch, 140-pound frame. Even rival manager John McGraw of the New York Giants (not a whole lot taller) admired Huggins, perhaps seeing a kindred spirit: A fellow Irish Catholic who had made it big in baseball and in big bad New York, a short infielder (although McGraw got fat in his managing years) who used great intelligence to become a great manager (although Huggins wasn't the type to bait umpires, intimidate his players, or spew profanities).

Left Yankees: It wasn't his choice, although Huston wanted to fire him, but Ruppert finally had enough, and bought Huston out in 1922. Huggins left the Yankees in the worst way. In the club's 113-season history, he is their only manager to die in office. His last game before checking into the hospital was on September 19, 1929, a 7-0 loss the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium.

After He Was a Yankee: Not applicable. 

Died: September 25, 1929, at Saint Vincent's Catholic Medical Center in New York. He had left the team 5 days earlier, admitted with a case of erysipelas, a skin rash caused by a strep infection. By the 1940s, it could be treated by antibiotics, and is rarely fatal now. But in 1929, there was little chance to save him. He was only 50, but always seemed to look much older than he was. A unique honor was granted to his memory: All of the AL's games the next day were postponed. He was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.

Monument Dedicated: May 30, 1932 (Memorial Day).

Baseball Hall of Fame: Elected by the Committee On Veterans in 1964.

Other Honors: The Yankees opened a spring training facility at St. Petersburg, Florida in 1925, named Crescent Lake Park. In 1930, they renamed it Miller Huggins Field. When they left, moving across the State to Fort Lauderdale (and back across to Tampa in 1996), and the Mets took it over in 1962, they renamed it Huggins-Stengel Field, adding Casey Stengel's name. They remained there until 1987, moving across the State to Port St. Lucie. The field is still there, but no professional team uses it now, and the stands are long-gone.

Depictions: Played by: Ernie Adams in The Pride of the Yankees, Fred Lightner in The Babe Ruth Story, Bruce Weitz in the 1991 NBC-TV film Babe Ruth, and Joe Ragno in the 1992 theatrical release The Babe. 

Quote of Note: "Luck? I never believed in it. A good team makes its own breaks."

Welcome to Monument Blog

Welcome to Monument Blog. This is Uncle Mike of Uncle Mike's Musings.

This isn't a traditional blog that will be updated as often as I can. Rather, it's a salute to the people honored in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.

It will include pictures of these people, pictures of their Plaques or Monuments, and information about them that I think is noteworthy, but not necessarily included on their Plaques or Monuments.


First, a brief history. The Yankees were not the first team to put things honoring past figures from their team on the field:

* The New York Giants put a monument in deep center field of the Polo Grounds, memorializing Eddie Grant, a 3rd baseman who was the 1st Major League Baseball player killed in World War I. They put it there on Memorial Day, May 29, 1921, and it remained there until the Giants left after the 1957 season. Supposedly, in fear that it would be stolen by fans, the plaque was removed from its marble slab before the game. When the Mets debuted at the Polo Grounds in 1962, the slab was still there, but the plaque was not.

No one knows for sure where the plaque is today. The Giants never found it among their possessions when they arrived in San Francisco. Someone in New Jersey claimed to have found it in 1997, but it was proven to be a fake.

Someone decided that the San Francisco Giants were under "The Curse of Captain Eddie," saying they would never win a World Series in San Francisco until they replaced the plaque, even though Grant never played for the West Coast edition of the team. In 2006, the Giants made a replica of the monument, and placed it on the concourse at AT&T Park. Since then, the Giants have won 3 World Series, ending the Curse (assuming it existed).

* Not long after the Grant monument was dedicated, the Cleveland Indians dedicated a plaque to Ray Chapman, their shortstop who was killed in 1920, the only MLB player who can definitively be proven to have died as the result of an on-field incident.

Oddly, it was at the Polo Grounds, against the Yankees, who shared it with the Giants from 1913 to 1922. Yankee pitcher Carl Mays had a submarine delivery (think Kent Tekulve or Dan Quisenberry), and he was a rotten guy, so people wanted to believe he hit Chapman on purpose. He spent the last 51 years of his life insisting that he hadn't, a statement backed up by the fact that the ball hit Chapman's head and rebounded back to him, leading him to throw the ball to 1st base, thinking Chapman had hit it -- every eyewitness account, including the newspaper reporters', confirms this. Some witnesses even said Chapman leaned into the pitch to the point where his head was over the plate, although more said that he simply froze, and didn't see the ball as it was late on a gray day (August 16, 1920).

The Indians put the plaque up on the field at League Park, and later moved it to Cleveland Municipal Stadium. For some reason now forgotten, it was taken down, and forgotten, until someone asked around about it, and no one could find it. Until they moved to Jacobs (now Progressive) Field in 1994, when a crate was found, and no one knew what was in it, but they figured it must be important, so they moved it to the new park -- and didn't open it!

Until 2007, when someone got curious, and there it was, heavily oxidized so that the text was illegible. It was cleaned up, and, that season, the Indians established their own version of "Monument Park" in center field, naming it Heritage Park. The Chapman plaque is its centerpiece.

(In 1909, Philadelphia Athletics catcher Doc Powers died from an injury sustained in a game, but it appears that he had actually aggravated an existing injury, so Chapman is usually counted as the only on-field fatality. As far as I know, the A's never dedicated anything to his memory.)

* The Pittsburgh Pirates installed a monument in deep center field at Forbes Field in 1932. It was named the Dreyfuss Monument. Team owner Barney Dreyfuss was grooming his son Samuel to be the next owner, but he died in 1931, just 35 years old. (Pneumonia -- no antibiotics in those days.) Heartbroken, Barney died a year later. His widow, Florence, inherited the team, and convinced William Benswanger, who married daughter Florence Dreyfuss, to take control of the team. He installed the monment, inscribing the names of both his father-in-law and his brother-in-law. It was moved to Three Rivers Stadium in 1970 and PNC Park in 2001.

* Since the Yankees established Monument Park, most teams have created team halls of fame, and some have some sort of display somewhere in the stadium. Notably, in 2010, the 2nd season of Citi Field, the Mets put a New York Mets Hall of Fame in a room to the 1st base side of the home plate rotunda (itself a museum honoring Jackie Robinson).

In 1978, the Philadelphia Phillies established the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame, every year honoring a Phillies great and an A's great, hanging them on a wall on the lower level concourse at Veterans Stadium, until 2003, when they moved out and headed into Citizens Bank Park. The A's plaques have been moved twice, and are now at Spike's Trophies store in Northeast Philly, while the Phils add a new legend from their own team every year to the Wall in center field's Ashburn Alley.


The Yankees placed a Monument to Miller Huggins, who had died in office as Yankee manager in 1929, in front of the flagpole, in play in deep center field at the original Yankee Stadium, in 1932. When Lou Gehrig died in 1941, and when Babe Ruth died in 1948, Monuments to them were placed flanking Huggins' Monument.

Film exists of Bobby Murcer chasing a long fly ball into deepest center field, and squeezing between the Huggins and Ruth Monuments to go get it. Legend also tells of Mickey Mantle, unable to chase down a long fly, running for it, all the way to the Monuments, and manager Casey Stengel yelling, "Huggins, Gehrig, Ruth, somebody, throw that ball back here!

Plaques were placed on the center field wall in memory of team owner Jacob Ruppert and general manager Ed Barrow. Later, a Plaque was added to commemorate the Mass delivered at The Stadium by Pope Paul VI, and Plaques were added for living ex-Yankees for the 1st time for Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.

This photo shows Mantle standing next to the Monuments. The Barrow Plaque is up, but I don't see the Plaque for the Papal Mass, so it's got to be between 1954 and 1965.

At the time, the Yankees permitted fans to leave the game by walking out onto the outfield grass (not the infield), and walk out to see the Monuments and Plaques, before leaving the Stadium via a gate in right-center field.

When Yankee Stadium was renovated in 1973, '74, '75 and '76, Monument Park was created. But it was set out of play, where fans couldn't see it. In 1985, the left and center field fences were brought in, making it accessible to fans. The fence was brought in further in 1988, creating the outfield distances that would remain for the rest of The Stadium's use, and have been kept at the new Stadium.

When the new Stadium was built in time for the 2009 season, a new Monument Park was created, and the established Monuments and Plaques were moved across 161st Street.

The new Monument Park has a lot more space than the old one, but it's almost hidden, to the point where someone gave it the nickname "Monument Cave."

Currently enshrined in the park, as of this past Saturday, June 20, 2015, are:

* 24 men inducted primarily as players. Some, but not all, with their uniform numbers retired.
* 1 player (Mariano Rivera) with his uniform number retired, but not yet with a Plaque.
* 5 men inducted primarily as managers, 1 of whom also played for the Yankees.
* 2 men inducted as owners.
* 1 man inducted as a general manager.
* 1 man inducted as a broadcaster, although some of the players have also broadcast for the Yankees.
* 1 man inducted as a public-address announcer.
* 3 Plaques in honor of visits by Popes who delivered Mass at the old Stadium.
* A Plaque in honor of Nelson Mandela's 1990 civil rights rally.
* A Plaque in honor of Jackie Robinson's reintegration of the game.
* A Plaque in honor of the victims and rescue workers of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
* And a Plaque explaining the origin of the Yankee "Interlocking NY" logo.

That's 42 separate notations. Some teams have more in their team halls of fame, although the Yankees have far and away the most retired numbers.

In my next entry, I'll begin listing the honorees, in the chronological order of their honoring -- not necessarily in the chronological order of their service with to the Yankees. In other words, Miller Huggins (became manager in 1918, Monument dedicated in 1932) comes before Jacob Ruppert (became owner in 1915, Plaque dedicated in 1940).

When I've exhausted the list, I'll post Baseball Hall of Fame plaques of men with connections to the Yankees, but not in Monument Park, and explain whether I think they should be added.

When that runs out, I'll tell of others whom I think should be be honored, or could be, but aren't yet.