Baseball has a unique tie to history. Even the casual fan is aware of the stories, the records, and the controversies. Some of us even visit the same ballparks where our favorite legendary tales actually took place and we get there early to have a beer in the same bars that our grandparents did. That’s what sets baseball apart. You can trace American history back through the players, the teams, and the seasons of the game.
It’s this connection that draws us to baseball memorabilia. Nostalgia transforms foul balls into plaques, baseball cards into retirement funds, and basements across the nation into museums. However, the real prizes in the memorabilia community are reserved for the types of people who own horses.
Just last week, somebody decided that instead of an Audi, they wanted the jersey Aaron Judge wore when he hit his first career grand slam.
And coming later this month, someone is going to buy Babe Ruth’s original contract from when the Red Sox sold him to the Yankees in 1919 for roughly the price of a house on the beach. The auction closes on June 30th and the current bid sits at $285K.
Though owning baseball history can become a daunting pay-to-play scenario, the silver lining is that you don’t need to have buckets of money to experience it. For Yankee fans, it’s just the cost of a few subway rides. The Yankees are the most storied franchise in history and the city has a lot of stories to tell. So if you live in or are visiting NYC, you can easily stop by the old haunts where some of the biggest names and stories in baseball history came to be.
Let’s take a tour.
The Ansonia Hotel
Upper West Side: 2109 Broadway, between West 73rd and West 74th Streets
First on our list is the Ansonia Hotel—a beautiful residential building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side that boasts some of the richest history of any building you’ll find. Built in 1899, it was the first air-conditioned hotel in the city and the luxury rooms drew famous visitors, including many ballplayers. Most notably, the Ansonia was Babe Ruth’s first home in New York after he was sold to the Yankees.
Babe was known to treat the entire Ansonia like it was his extended apartment; playing the sax down the hallways, throwing nightly parties or card games in his suite, and even taking the elevator to the basement barbershop in his scarlet silk robe to get his morning shave. Though he surely kept his neighbors up at night, the most infamous event in the hotel had nothing to do with the Babe at all.
In 1919, a group of White Sox players went to the Ansonia apartment of first baseman, Chick Gandil, to meet with legendary mobster, Arnold Rothstein. That’s where they schemed to throw the World Series. That’s right, you can actually still visit the hotel where Babe Ruth lived and the Chicago Black Sox plotted the biggest controversy in baseball history.
Garment District: 72 W 36th Street
This might be one of the coolest places on the planet. Keens Steakhouse is not just famous for its mutton chops. Since it’s debut in 1885, Keens has hosted some of the world’s greatest athletes, entertainers, thinkers, politicians, and military minds in its Pipe Club—one of the largest in the world, with over 90,000 members. These members could leave their pipes at the restaurant for safe keeping and come back to grab them whenever they needed a good smoke.
Along with some notables like Albert Einstein, Teddy Roosevelt, General Douglas MacArthur, and “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Keens was also a favorite spot of, you guessed it, the Great Bambino. To this day, his pipe sits along with the others in the front parlor of the restaurant, behind a glass.
If you’re looking for a good meal, go dine like the Babe did, with a huge T-bone steak and cap it off with a long draw from a wooden pipe at Keens.
Central Park: 50 Central Park S
The Ritz-Carlton is a luxury hotel looking out at Manhattan’s Central Park. Built in 1930, it was originally known as Hotel St. Moritz until it was remodeled in 2002. The St. Moritz was home to Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin, who tended to spend more time at their favorite bar, Harry’s, just around the corner. The Mick spent so much time at Harry’s, he started calling it “Mickey’s Place.” Then in 1988, he bought it, and it really was. He turned the bar into the ill-fated Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant, which closed its doors after 25 years in 2012.
Though the original Harry’s no longer stands, you can still take a trip to the Ritz-Carlton to catch a glimpse of the luxury Mickey Mantle surrounded himself with as a star out on the town in New York City.
John T. Brush Stairway
Harlem: Edgecombe Avenue and 158th Street
This 80-step staircase connecting Edgecombe Avenue to Harlem River Drive used to be the same steps that carried fans from Coogan’s Bluff down to the Polo Grounds to watch the New York (baseball) Giants. Opened in 1913, the Polo Grounds was the home of the Giants but also housed the Yankees from 1913-1922 before they moved into the newly built, original Yankee Stadium. Due to the stadium’s horseshoe shape, it had unusual dimensions for a baseball field. Right field was a chip shot at 258 feet away, while center was a miracle even on Judge’s best day at 483 feet.
The stairs were dedicated to the Giants owner from 1890-1912, John T. Brush, and represent the last piece of one of baseball’s most historic sites.
So, when the Yanks have an off-day this summer and you’re looking for a cheap, fun way to kill some time, take a tour of Yankee history and ground yourself in baseball’s rich roots.