Thorn: The house that McGraw built

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on February 29, 2012:

Call the roll of Yankee greats, past and present, and one names so many of baseball’s all-time heroes—Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, and more—that it is easy to think that they alone made the Yankees. Likewise, the unparalleled Yankee record and the pride that goes with it might lead one to believe that the club had always been successful, that its tradition truly begins with that first flag in 1920. But the path of history is not that simple, of course, and it stretches back toward a hazy and inglorious beginning—in Baltimore of all places.

Why, in an article about the early history of the New York Yankees, would we write of John McGraw and his boisterous Baltimore Orioles? Because the past matters in baseball as in no other sport, and because a special interest attaches to how the Yankees’ birth and antecedents molded their spirit and shaped their destiny. Before they came to be known as the Yankees, as astute fans know, the New York franchise in the American League was known as the Highlanders, who debuted at Hilltop Park in northern Manhattan in April 1903, twenty years before The House That Ruth Built. Few, however, know that the Yankees’ Book of Genesis begins at an even earlier page, and that the Bronx Bombers were begat from the odd couple of Ban Johnson and John McGraw.

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Originally published: February 29, 2012. Last Updated: February 29, 2012.