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This Day in Yankees History: Spring training shuts down due to pandemic

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The baseball world came to a halt on this day just one year ago.

Major League Baseball Suspends Spring Training Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome to This Day in Yankees History. Now that spring training is officially open, it’s time to get amped for the upcoming season. 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 (March 12th):

118 Years Ago

As part of the ongoing American League-National League peace talks, the AL’s Baltimore Orioles franchise were given approval to relocate to New York by a vote of 15-1. New York City natives Bill Devery and Frank Farrell purchased the Baltimore club when it became bankrupt after the 1902 season with the intention of resuming operations in Manhattan.

The lone dissenting voice belonged to the New York Giants, who were less than thrilled with the idea that a new team might enter their territory. However, they were overruled, and the AL came to New York City, with the franchise eventually being named the “Highlanders.” Years after that, the name changed to the “Yankees,” and the rest is history.

The feud with the Giants wasn’t over yet, though. They refused to play the 1904 World Series as it appeared they would have to face the Highlanders and acknowledge their existence. The Highlanders ended up blowing the AL pennant on the final day of the season, but the Giants still did not take part.

13 Years Ago

A rare spring training brawl erupted in a game between the Yankees and Rays.

Four days earlier, things had gotten testy when the Rays’ Elliot Johnson barreled Francisco Cervelli over on a play at the plate, leading to the catcher breaking his wrist and missing most of the season. In the leadup to the next meeting, Shelley Duncan mentioned that the Yankees would be willing to match the Rays’ “intensity on the base paths,” if that was how Tampa Bay was going to play.

In the second inning, after Yankees’ pitcher Heath Phillips had already been ejected for hitting Evan Longoria with a pitch, Duncan slid into second with his spikes up, causing both benches to clear.

One Year Ago

Our “This Day in Yankees History” series was conceived in the aftermath of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the early stages of the season. Well folks, happy anniversary.

On this day last year, following the suspension of the NBA season on March 11th and the sports world basically coming to a halt, the remainder of spring training was cancelled along with the first two weeks of the regular season. Those two weeks turned into several months and the season did not get going until late July. It’s a sobering anniversary of what has been a very sobering year.

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Happy 59th Birthday to Darryl Strawberry!

After becoming a star for the Mets in the 80s, helping them to their ‘86 World Series crown, Strawberry’s career began to go downhill in the early 90s. He was derailed by injuries and substance abuse problems, which saw him suspended in 1995. He began that season playing in an independent league, but the Yankees signed him when he became eligible.

Strawberry would spend the rest of his career with the Yankees, winning three more rings. In 1999, he was diagnosed with colon cancer, but made it back by the end of the season to help the Yankees sweep the Braves. However, his most notable playoff contribution came in the 1996 ALCS, where he hit .417/.500/1.167 in 14 plate appearances against the Orioles.

His substance abuse problems resurfaced ahead of the 2000 season, and he would be suspended for the entire year, which essentially forced him into retirement. These days, he appears to be doing well, and has attended several Old-Timers Days over the years.

Other Yankees with birthdays today include Ray Barker, Johnny Callison, Craig Dingman, Félix Escalona, Ruppert Jones, Jacob Lindgren, Jack Little, Raúl Mondesi, and Jim Wynn.

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We thank ESPN, SABR.org, Baseball Reference, and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.