Many baseball novices and experts alike, if asked to name the most important player in baseball history, would very quickly say Babe Ruth. The greatest player in history is pretty clearly Babe Ruth. The greatest franchise in history is the Yankees. And the greatest stadium the game has seen might just be the House that Ruth Built. Ruth, of course, is already in the Hall of Miller and Eric. Today he is joined by perhaps the greatest owner ever, the man who brought Ruth to New York, the owner of the Yankees from 1915 until 1939, Jacob Ruppert.
Through 1915, the Yankees were a bit like we think of the Cleveland Indians today. They had never won a pennant, and they had only finished within 14.5 games of the top spot twice. From 1916-1919, under Ruppert’s leadership, they reached that level three times. And then in 1920, they acquired Babe Ruth. There’s little merit to sharing the entire story here. Just be clear that New York’s AL entry went to the World Series eleven times in the in the next nineteen seasons, winning eight of them.
But it wasn’t just the acquisition of Ruth that made the Yankees great and Ruppert a HoMEr. He also went against his partner and hired Miller Huggins to manage the Bronx Bombers. And he went against AL President and bought Carl Mays from the Red Sox. While Mays was an excellent Yankee for a few years, the acquisition’s importance is that it led to the disbanding of baseball’s governing body, the National Commission. Thus, this move led to the creation of the Commissioner of Baseball.
To say that without Ruppert we wouldn’t have Babe Ruth is a stretch. But to say without him, we wouldn’t have had Yankee Stadium isn’t so much. And to say without him the Yankees wouldn’t be the Yankees makes sense too. After all, he’s the one who brought in Hall of Famer Ed Barrow. And his Hall plaque tells us he also acquired 19 other future Hall of Famers for the Yankees.
You may not love the Yankees, but it’s almost impossible to think about the game without comparing your team to theirs. And that’s almost certainly something you wouldn’t have to do if it weren’t for Jacob Ruppert. So blame him.
Inductee number twelve comes next week.