Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. The New Year is upon us, and the winter hot stove continues to percolate. 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 (February 5th):
86 Years Ago
The big Yankee story today is the release of the franchise’s great mythological figure, as Babe Ruth was released by the club that he made famous, and made him just as famous. Ruth had just finished his age-39 season with a “merely mortal” — in his own words! — .935 OPS, his lowest mark since 1925. Ruth also ended up playing in just 125 games as his years of hard living finally caught up to his body.
He spent the winter on a barnstorming tour including a dabble in cricket, though never seriously pursued the sport after learning the best batsmen made only about $35 a week, a far cry from the $640 he made in the twilight of a baseball career. Ruth returned to the United States to learn he had been cut from the Yankees’ roster, although the club retained his rights and dealt him to the Boston Braves as a ticket draw.
Ruth played one final season in Boston before retiring at the end of 1935. His final season OPS was .789, still about 20 percent better than league average.
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From one home run king to another, today would have been Henry Aaron’s 87th birthday. Of course we lost Aaron just a couple of weeks ago, but it’s important to remember his legacy and protect it from the whitewashing we began seeing in the hours after his death.
In Yankees land, it’s also been 130 years since Roger Peckinpaugh was born. A shortstop who has been forgotten by most baseball fans, he reached his greatest prominence with Walter Johnson’s 1924 World Series champion Senators. He also won the 1925 AL MVP in another year where the Senators won the pennant.
However, Peckinpaugh spent the bulk of his career in New York after being acquired by the Yankees from Cleveland in May of 1913. He actually owns the distinction of being the youngest manager in team history, as he took over the club in mid-September 1914 when skipper Frank Chance resigned. It was a surprising choice since Peckinpaugh was only 23, though Chance had named him team captain at the start of the season. The Yankees went 10-10 under Peckinpaugh’s watch before new owner Jacob Ruppert hired an experienced manager for 1915.
Peckinpaugh was only a 93 OPS+ hitter during his nine-year stint in New York from 1913-21, but his steady defense at shortstop helped him produce 32 WAR. He also got to see the team rise from mediocrity to AL champions at last in 1921 (thanks in no small part to Ruth). Peckinpaugh had moved on to the Senators by the time the Yankees finally won it all in ‘23, but given his success in Washington, it all worked out quite nicely.
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We thank Baseball-Reference, SABR, and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.