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This Day in Yankees History: The Yankees become the Yankees

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New York ditches its Highlander moniker; Billy Martin’s shrewd protest ensures a controversial win; the 1998 Yankees have a dizzying victory in their home opener

1924 Baseball Action Schang Out in Washington
The New York Yankees play the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium in 1924. In 1913, New York played its first game under the name Yankees in the Washington, D.C. ballpark.

Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. With the start of the 2020 season delayed for the foreseeable future, the Pinstripe Alley team decided to revive the program in a slightly different format. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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This Day in Yankees History (April 10)

107 years ago

When were the Yankees not the Yankees? That sounds like a deep, metaphysical question but the answer, of course, is simple: when they were the New York Highlanders, from the club’s inception in 1903 through 1912. They only officially became known as the Yankees in the 1913 season and on April 10 of that year, they reintroduced themselves to the baseball world against the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium.

Unfortunately, they weren’t very good (they were still a decade away from their first World Series title) and fell to the legendary Walter Johnson 2-1 in this Opening Day matchup in the nation’s capital. They’d go on to finish in seventh place that year with a 57-94 record.

The Yanks were skippered by player/manager Frank Chance, formerly a member of the Chicago Cubs’ famed “Tinker to Evers To Chance” infield who’d be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1946. He only managed the Yankees for two seasons, 1913-1914, and rarely inserted himself in the lineup. He didn’t feature against Johnson.

Johnson was the only bona fide icon playing in the game, though Chick Gandil manned first base for the Senators. Gandil infamously went on to become the ringleader of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Hal Chase, playing second for the Yankees in this game, would also be marred by allegations of bribery and corruption and was effectively blackballed from baseball after 1919, according to his SABR biography.

44 Years Ago

The ninth inning of this April 10, 1976 matchup between the Yankees and the Milwaukee Brewers would’ve been a meme factory if it happened today. Trailing 6-4 in the top half of the frame, the Yankees rallied for five runs, highlighted by a two-run double by Chris Chambliss, followed immediately by an RBI triple by Lou Piniella.

Exciting enough, but not exactly historic. In the bottom of the ninth, the Brewers loaded the bases and outfielder Don Money launched a ball into the left field bleachers off reliever Dave Pagan. It looked like a walk-off grand slam. Except it wasn’t. The Yankees’ firebrand manager Billy Martin came out to argue that first base umpire Jim McKean had called timeout just before the pitch was delivered. McKean denied it at first, but eventually admitted he had, in fact, signaled for time, wiping out Money’s homer. The Yankees would hold on for a dramatic and controversial 9-7 win.

22 Years Ago

The 1998 Yankees would, of course, win a franchise record 114 games en route to a World Series title, cementing their legacy as one of the greatest teams ever. The start to the season was slightly rocky, however, with Joe Torre’s team stumbling to a 1-4 record out of the gate.

Things began to get on track with a dizzying 17-13 victory in the home opener against the Oakland Athletics, which pulled them back to .500. They’d really never look back, but what a dramatic way to get there. After starter David Cone surrendered five runs in the top of the second, the Yankees hit back with 12 unanswered runs, including five each in the third and fourth innings. Oakland then bludgeoned Yankees pitchers for eight runs in the fifth to take a 13-12 lead before the Yanks responded once again with four runs in the bottom half of the inning.

The 30 combined runs scored represent the most ever for a Yankees home opener, though they fell short of the team record of 19 runs in a home opener, set in 1955 against the Washington Senators.

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Today is the 74th birthday of former general manager Bob Watson, who was at the helm of the Yankees’ 1996 World Series-winning team. He also had a 19-year major league career, which included two-plus years in pinstripes (1980-82). Two years ago, Watson revealed he’d been struggling with kidney disease and had turned down transplant offers from his two kids, telling the Daily News: “I told them both the same thing: ‘I’ve had a good life and I don’t want to take a kidney from young people who really need them and still have their whole lives ahead of them.’ That would be very selfish on my part.”

We hope he’s doing well.

Also born on this date are former players Chris Dickerson (a Yankee from 2011-12), Alberto Reyes (2003), Mike Humphreys (1991-93), Ken Griffey (1982-86), and Bob McGraw (1917-19, 1920).

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We thank Baseball-Reference and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.