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This Day in Yankees History: The Highlanders play their first ever game

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The franchise that would become the Yankees began play on this day in 1903.

Colorado Rockies v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

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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117 Years Ago

On this Day in 1903, the Yankees made their debut in the major leagues.

The American League had played without a team in New York for its first two years, with the New York Giants blocking any possible move. A peace agreement after the 1902 season allowed the AL to place a team in the city, and the Baltimore Orioles would soon move to New York and become the Highlanders, beginning play in the 1903 season.

In their first game, Jack Chesbro, who would become the star of those pre-Yankees name change teams, would be the starting pitcher as the team would fall 3-1 to the Washington Senators. The Highlanders finished their inaugural season with a fourth place finish, but a winning record.

61 Years Ago

Whitey Ford ties the then franchise record for strikeouts in a game against the Senators. His 15 Ks tied the record set by Bob Shawkey in a game in 1919. However, there is a slight asterisk as Ford’s came in 14 innings, as opposed to Shawkey, who did it in a regulation nine. The Yankees would win the game after a Bill Skowron home run in the top of the 14th, before Ford finished things off. As for the record, Ford and Shawkey held it until Ron Guidry’s 18 strikeout game in 1978, a record which still stands today.

10 Years Ago

Alex Rodriguez steps on third and kicks off a 5-4-3 triple play, the first turned by the Yankees in 42 years. Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Nick Johnson combined to pull off the feat for the first time since Dooley Womack, Bobby Cox, and Mickey Mantle completed a 1-5-3 version back in 1968. The Yankees lost the game to the Athletics 4-2, however. In recent years, the Yankees have pulled off two further triple plays.

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Today is the 59th birthday of former Yankees’ pitcher Jimmy Key. After an impressive nine-year career with the Blue Jays, Key signed a four-year contract with the Yankees ahead of the 1993 season. He would make two All-Star appearances while in New York, and played a big part in the early/mid-90s teams that were in the process of ramping up towards the 1996 World Series win. In said World Series, Key arguably had his biggest moment in pinstripes. In game six, he allowed one run in 5.1 innings, out-dueling Greg Maddux in the team’s championship clinching win. That would be his final game as a Yankee, as he would sign with the Orioles the following offseason.

Other Yankee birthdays include Stefan Weaver, Bob Schmidt, and Neal Ball.

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