This Day in Baseball History: March 12th, 1903

Well, at least the uniforms haven’t changed.

On March 3, 1903:

The American League approves the New York Highlander franchise as a new member.

In 1900, Ban Johnson formed the American League, and understanding the potential power and economics of New York, he was determined to keep a team there. The New York Giants, however, were equally determined to keep any other teams out, especially an American League team, but they were more connected and prevented Johnson from adding another New York team. Johnson decided to put a team in Baltimore, instead.

The Baltimore Orioles began play in 1901 under the direction and ownership of John McGraw. As a reflection of the disputes and betrayals between the AL and NL, McGraw and Johnson began to feud, causing McGraw to secretly become the manager of the New York Giants. McGraw, then, worked with the Giants to buy a controlling interest in the Orioles. The two leagues understood the complications and the implications this split between the two leagues was having, and this controversy was just one of them.

Therefore, in January of 1903, a conference was held to end the disputes between the two leagues. As part of the agreement, the AL was allowed to have a new team in New York and the Oriole franchise had to be sold. Frank Ferrell and Bill Devery bought the team and moved them to New York. As for the vote, the only dissenter were the Giants, not surprisingly. The owners quickly found a lot just a few blocks away from the Polo Grounds and built Hilltop Park, which was located at the highest point in Manhattan. As a result of its location, the team was nicknamed the Highlanders. The Highlanders didn’t have too much success over their first 10 seasons. The highest they finished was second in 1904, 1906, and 1910.

In 1911, things began to change in New York. The third of the four Polo Grounds burned down, and the two teams had to share Hilltop Park. When the new and final Polo Grounds was rebuilt, both teams moved there, and the Highlanders leased the stadium as their lease with Hilltop Park expired. Far away from the high place they had been, the nickname “Highlanders” was no longer appropriate. As a reference to a name given to Americans and the fact that the Highlanders were in the American League, the team changed its name to the New York Yankees.

At that point, baseball was ruined because the Steinbrenners bought everyone and ruined the whole competitive balance thing.


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