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This Day in Yankees History: The Highlanders come to town

The Mick also won the first televised dinger derby, and a trio of part-time Yanks/MLB lifers are born.

Mays And Mantle At All Star-Game

Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. The New Year is upon us, and the winter hot stove continues to percolate. That being said, there has not been much movement on the Yankees’ front as of yet, so in the meantime let’s dig into the history books. 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 (January 9)

118 Years Ago

The Proto-Yankees are born after baseball’s Baltimore franchise is sold and brought to New York. Frank Ferrell and Bill Devery purchased the defunct Baltimore Orioles, which share no organizational lineage with the current AL East club, for a solid chunk of change ($18K, or over half a million in 2021 USD). The duo moved the team to Hilltop Park in Upper Manhattan, just a stone’s throw from Yankee Stadium’s current location in the Bronx.

Though newspapers colloquially referred to the team as the “Yankees,” the team officially went by the “Highlanders” until the official swap to “Yankees” was made in 1913. During their ten years in existence, the Highlanders won 734 games to 759 losses for a .492 winning percentage. In the 107 subsequent seasons, the New York Yankees have won more than 2500 games than they’ve lost, for a .577 winning percentage, including, of course, 27 World Series wins to the Highlanders’ zero.

61 Years Ago

In the first episode of “Home Run Derby” ever aired, a television program that predated the identically named All-Star event by 28 years, Mickey Mantle defeated Willie Mays, 9-8. The program was an outrageously star-studded show, including nine Hall of Famers and virtually every great power hitter of the era. Anything other than a homer, including called strikes, was considered an out. The batters traded off every three outs until they’d completed nine “innings.” The winner was awarded $2000, while the loser earned $1000, and they could earn $500 for any three-homer streak, plus another $500 for each consecutive dinger beyond three.

Mantle won four of his five appearances on the show while slugging 44 total homers, the most of any contestant. Hank Aaron, however, topped Mantle in total wins, winning six of his seven contests while slugging ten fewer homers. All of the show’s 26 episodes were filmed during 1960 at Los Angeles’s Wrigley Field, before both the show’s announcer, Mark Scott, and its director, Benjamin Stoloff, passed away, and the network opted to cancel the show in lieu of acquiring replacements.

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A bevy of Yanks, though few of note, celebrate birthdays today, including Stan Javier (57), Otis Nixon (62), and Ralph Terry (85). While Javier began his successful 17-year career as a big-league journeyman with the Yanks, his time in New York lasted just seven plate appearances across seven games, before being sent back down to the minors. He was eventually included in the Yankees’ deal with the Oakland A’s for Rickey Henderson, where two years later, he replaced Rickey in the Oakland Coliseum outfield.

Nixon also started his seventeen-year career as a major league outfielder with the Yanks in his early twenties, receiving just 15 at bats across 13 games before being shipped off to Cleveland. He was never great, but the Yankees’ former third overall pick in the 1979 amateur draft was good enough to play until he was 40.

Even Terry, a right-handed starting pitcher, one-time All-Star, and two-time World Series winner, came up quickly with New York, before they sent him to Kansas City after just 10 appearances on the bump across the 1956 and ’57 seasons. Unlike the others, however, Terry returned to the Bronx a couple years later, peaking in pinstripes while contributing to the 1961 and ’62 World Series, so much so that he won the latter contest’s Willie Mays MVP Award.

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