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This Day in Yankees History: The Yankees play in Cuba

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Babe Ruth becomes the highest-paid player; The Yankees and Dodgers play a game in Cuba; Joe DiMaggio passes away

Jackie Robinson Sliding Into Second Base

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. We hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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91 Years Ago

Babe Ruth became the highest-paid player in big league history on this day in 1930, earning $80,000 per year on a two-year, $160,000 contract that came during during the lows of the Great Depression. Yankees general manager Ed Barrow reportedly said that “no one will ever be paid more” than Ruth’s new figure, which of course became untrue. Ruth also made more than the President of the United States, Herbert Hoover, on his new deal. When asked about that tidbit, Ruth famously responded that he had a better year than Hoover did. Given that Ruth was coming off a 46-home run, 154 RBI season in which he hit .345 while Hoover was overseeing the nation’s worst economic crisis, it’s hard to argue with Ruth’s claim.

74 Years Ago

The Yankees and Dodgers played a spring training game in Havana, Cuba on this day in 1947. It wasn’t an impressive performance for the Bombers, who lost 1-0 in extra innings and mustered just one hit (Snuffy Stirnweiss’s tenth-inning single). The game was played in front of more than 5,000 fans at the new Gran Estadio de La Habana, and ended up being a World Series preview. The Yankees lost the exhibition game overseas, but won the big one, beating the Dodgers in seven games in the World Series later that same year.

22 Years Ago

Joe DiMaggio, “The Yankee Clipper,” died from lung cancer at age 84 on this day in 1999. DiMaggio was a lifelong Yankee who won nine World Series, three MVPs, two batting crowns, and authored the legendary 56-game hitting streak in 1941. Regarded as “The Greatest Living Ballplayer” after he retired, the baseball world mourned his loss. The Yankees wore patches on their jerseys to honor DiMaggio’s legacy, and won their 25th World Series later that year.

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Today’s Yankees birthdays include the late Jim Bouton, who was a Yankee from 1962-1968 and famously chronicled his big league experiences in the 1970 book Ball Four while still an active player. The contents of Bouton’s book included many salacious details and allegations of cheating around the sport. The book’s contents hurt Bouton’s reputation in the game, and he was more-or-less blackballed from the game after its publication, toiling in the minors and retiring, but he eventually launched a brief five-game MLB comeback in 1978 at age-39.

1954 AL Rookie of the Year and 1957 All-Star Bob Grim also shares a birthday today, as does reliever Lance McCullers Sr., who pitched for the Yankees from 1989-1990. His son, Lance McCullers Jr., infamously fooled the Yankees in the 2017 ALCS for the Houston Astros with an array of breaking pitches.

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