Chasing Pennants in Boston (1935)

Part 9 of our series on Important Moments in Team Building.  See introduction, and up-to-date list.

 

photo_thomas_yawkeyUpon his introduction to the Boston press corps in February 1933, Thomas Yawkey, the new owner of the downtrodden Boston Red Sox, cautioned that the path ahead would not be an easy one. “I don’t think the Red Sox can be built up overnight,” he said. “It would be the height of folly to dump a lot of money into the thing all at once.” Yawkey had been born rich, and inherited a fortune when he reached age 30. The only thing he really wanted was a baseball team, and the hapless Red Sox, who had finished 43-111 in 1932 and drawn less 182,000 fans to a dilapidated Fenway Park, had been available.

In 1932 most people in America were either poor or hanging on to their money for dear life, but Yawkey was one of the richest men in America and, as he saw it, had nothing else to spend money on.

In the years before free agency a rich owner was only useful insofar as he found owners who wanted to sell star players. In the years during and after the Federal League battles and the industry hardships caused by World War I a few big names had changed hands (Eddie Collins, Tris Speaker, Frank Baker, Joe Jackson, and Pete Alexander, among others), and of course Harry Frazee had sold many stars to the Yankees in the early 1920s. But major league sales had gone extinct for several years during the 1920s as most teams were making money, and the owners weren’t pressed for cash. The big-dollar purchases in the late 1920s were all from the independent minor leagues. By the time Yawkey entered the scene in the depths of the Depression no players were selling at high prices. He quickly changed things.

Over the next few years, Yawkey (under the advisement of general manager Eddie Collins) dumped a lot of money into the thing all at once, purchasing the following players (with lesser players usually going in one direction or the other):

  • May 1933. Rick Ferrell (catcher) and Lloyd Brown (pitcher) from the St. Louis Browns for $25,000
  • May 1933. Billy Werber (third base) and George Pipgras (pitcher) from New York Yankees for $100,000
  • December 1933. Lefty Grove (pitcher), Max Bishop (pitcher) and Rube Walberg (pitcher) from Philadelphia Athletics for $125,000
  • May 1934. Lyn Lary (shortstop) from the New York Yankees for $20,000
  • May 1934. Wes Ferrell (pitcher) from Cleveland Indians for $25,000
  • October 1934. Joe Cronin (shortstop-manager) from Washington Senators for $225,000
  • December 1935. Jimmie Foxx (first base) and Johnny Marcum (pitcher) from Philadelphia Athletics for $150,000
  • January 1936. Doc Cramer (outfielder) and Eric McNair (infield) from Philadelphia Athletics for $175,000
James-Emory-Jimmie-Foxx-October-22-1907-July-21-1967-celebrities-who-died-young-37012867-577-750
Jimmie Foxx

Three years down and Yawkey had spent $850,000 on these players, and there are several lesser transactions that aren’t included on this list. Understand that the Red Sox started at the very bottom of the league, and they had literally no farm system. In this era there was no way to get better outside of buying players – traditionally from the high minors. Farm systems had just become practical when Yawkey took over, and he eventually got around to that too. But for now, he was buying.

So how did he do?

Let’s look at the Red Sox records, year to year:

  • 1932: 43-111, eighth (last) place
  • 1933: 63-86, seventh place
  • 1934: 76-76, fourth place
  • 1935: 75-78, fourth place
  • 1936: 74-80, sixth place
  • 1937: 80-72, fifth place
  • 1938: 88-61, second place
  • 1939: 89-62, second place

Other than the brief slip in 1936, the team got better every year.   The narrative took hold that Yawkey had “failed”, because he tried to buy a pennant and did not. True, but the Red Sox did overtake every team except the Yankees who, in the late 1930s, were arguably the greatest team of all time.

If Yawkey and Collins made mistakes they were of the sort that baseball owners continued to make in the era of free agency. Namely, that while the star players are worth the expense (Grove, Foxx, Cronin, and the Ferrells continued to perform at their previous high levels), they could have saved themselves a lot of money by turning away from the ordinary players and those past their prime.

A comparison to the Yankees reveals the real lesson. While the Yankees did not land Lefty Grove and Jimmy Foxx, they did build a productive farm system as soon as it was practical and continued investing in young talent. In the late 1930s, while the Red Sox were trying to close the gap, the Yankees introduced the likes of Joe DiMaggio (a high minors purchase), Tommy Henrich, Charlie Keller, and Joe Gordon.

What was true in the 1930s is still true today. Building a team of star players without a core of young talent to put around it is prohibitively expensive, even for someone like Tom Yawkey.

 

 

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The Farm System Goes Legit (1932)

Part 8 of our series on Important Moments in Team Building.  See introduction, and up-to-date list.

 

images (3)While Branch Rickey pioneered a rudimentary farm system for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1920s, other teams remained skeptical that such a scheme was worth its huge cost. Was it really more productive and cost effective than buying fully-seasoned players from independent minor league clubs? One of the fundamental concerns for the naysayers was that these proto-farm systems never really got around the 40 man roster problem—at least legally. The 1921 major league agreement set the major league player control limit at 40 (an increase from 35), and limited teams to 25 active players during the bulk of the season—the limits still in effect today. With one major difference: If a franchise had a working agreement with a minor league team or owned it outright such that it asserted control over those players, they all counted against the 40 man roster, leaving no room for anyone else. In effect, a big league club couldn’t even control one farm team’s worth of players.

During the 1920s the independent minor leagues were relatively profitable and liked the existing structure. Their fans cared about the pennant races, and the owners could make extra money selling their stars to the majors. But like Rickey, many big-league team owners began to chafe and the uncertainty and cost of having to buy players from the minors and being limited to a reserve list of only 15 players beyond their 25-man roster. Today of course teams still have a 40 man roster yet also control all the rest of the players in their minor league system.

To get around this limitation the major leagues resorted to all sorts of subterfuges with friendly minor league owners. The most common dodge involved sending a player to a minor league team, technically surrendering control to that minor league team, but with a handshake agreement that you could buy him back when you wanted him. Another tactic—a favorite of Branch Rickey’s–was to have an option on any one player on a team; that is, not identify a specific player and try to have that count as just optioned roster spot. Though technically not legitimate, it was common practice and often not challenged.

With the advent of the Great Depression, the minor league owners were struggling to stay afloat and willing to surrender some of their independence for a cash infusion from major league owners. This led to a far-reaching discussion at the 1931 winter meetings, where the major leaguer owners debated liberating the roster rules while providing financial support to minor league franchises.

images (4)Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert bluntly asked Commissioner Landis, who was in charge of enforcing the player control rules: “I would like to ask a question: in the event of a club lending a man, or giving a club at least $3,000, and he gives you an option on his ballclub, or an option on one or two players, are those players counted in the player list?” “Yes, sir,” answered Landis. In other words, Landis was confirming that any player on a minor league team—even one that a club controlled or invested in—would occupy a roster spot if the major league team had his option.

Rickey offered his secret for getting around the issue: “I have for several years of taking an option on the club of one man, say $3,000; I have the option on this club to take one man at a certain time, for $3,000. I don’t believe there has ever been a time that any man who has taken an option on a club in those circumstances have ever lost the second man to anybody else, if he wanted the second man. I have never known of it in my experience.” This workaround was not approved by Landis, but apparently the Commissioner did not recognize the extent of some of these tactics and often failed to crackdown on these gentleman’s agreements (Landis had very little staff for investigating the many under-the-table deals).

Unlike Rickey, Ruppert accepted Landis’s answer: “Two years ago at Chattanooga, when the Nebraska State League wanted different clubs financed, at that time you remember we were going to finance a club, I believe they had eleven players on that club; and we were then to select from that club one, or as many players as we saw fit. And at that time, Judge, you ruled those eleven men on that club would count in our player limit.” After some additional discussion it became clear that many owners did not actually understand all the roster and option rules.

The result of all of this talk was that the owners voted that to allow teams to invest in teams in Class B, C, or D leagues, and that those players would not count against the 40 man roster. Under this new rule, a major league team could own a minor league team, have full rights to all its players, and none would count against the major league limits until the major league team actually designated a player for call-up. This rule was eventually implemented for the higher classification minor leagues as well.

It was this rule that really freed up major league teams to create more expansive farm systems in the years ahead. The top teams over the next several years would be those, like the Yankees, that aggressively gobbled up minor league teams or created working relationships to build top-notch farm systems. While there were only 18 MLB-owned or affiliated minor league teams in 1928, a decade later the number was approaching 200, over 10 per big league club.

Branch Rickey’s Farm (1925)

Part 7 of our series on Important Moments in Team Building.  See introduction, and up-to-date list.

 

RickeyBranchIn the early 1920s, Branch Rickey was running (as both field manager and general manager) the impoverished St. Louis Cardinals, and he was getting sick of watching his more well-healed competition spend large sums to buy minor league players. A wave of high-dollar purchases began once the owners realized that post-war surge in attendance and revenue was not transitory and the major league-minor league draft rules became much more skewed in favor of the minors. In one of the first big-buck purchases the Giants paid San Francisco $75,000 for outfielder Jimmy O’Connell, and pretty soon the average big league club was spending $50,000 a year for minor league talent.

Rickey had baseball friends all over the country – college coaches, high school coaches, scouts – and he regularly received tips on where the bright young prospects were. But the Cardinals could control only 40 players – 15 for the big league team, and another 15 (maximum) that could be conditionally optioned and reacquired later. With few exceptions, if the 18-year-old was not ready for the major leagues he signed with an independent minor league team.

Major league teams in this era acquired players by either buying or drafting them from the minor leagues. The draft rules changed many times over the years, and select minor leagues occasionally were allowed to opt out but payments to minor league teams were always a significant expense.

Breadon Sam 4352-76_HS_NBL
Sam Breadon

Rickey’s solution to the high cost of finding players was for the Cardinals to own, or at least control, their own minor league clubs. Sam Breadon took control of the Cardinals in 1920, and Breadon’s deserves credit for agreeing to and funding Rickey’s idea. By the mid-1920s, the Cardinals owned a controlling interest in clubs in Ft. Smith (Arkansas), Houston, and Syracuse. More clubs followed.

An interesting historical question is why Judge Landis, who was named Commissioner in 1921 and became a staunch foe of farm systems, did not work harder to ban ownership interests in these early years. The most likely explanation is that most respected people around the game thought it was a silly idea that would fail of its own accord. Pittsburgh’s Barney Dreyfus and Detroit’s Frank Navin, close confidants of Landis, told the Commissioner it would be financially destructive. John McGraw, the Giants’ respected manager, told owner Charles Stoneham not to waste his money on a farm system. So Landis probably decided to save his political capital on another fight.

images (2)Now that the Cardinals were not signing ready-made players, but high school boys several years away from the majors, Rickey he needed a cohesive philosophy of scouting, instruction, and coaching. Every part of the game—bunting, sliding, run-down plays, and so on—Rickey wanted to be taught consistently throughout the organization. And Rickey wanted the scouting and player-development parts of the system to work hand in hand. As Kevin Kerrane wrote in his classic book on scouting, Dollar Sign on the Muscle, “Rickey applied scouting insights to teaching, and vice versa.” Rickey became a legendary talent evaluator, able to make decisions quickly on players, and all of this became suddenly critical once he had a minor league organization to run.

Rickey’s proto-farm system proved highly successful. He turned one of baseball’s most hapless franchises into one of the best run and one that was consistently competitive. By the end of the decade some of the fruit of his approach was beginning to ripen into major league caliber talent. The team still acquired some of its players the old-fashioned way, but the young ballplayers coming through its system provided a key source of supplemental talent.

Throughout the 1920s, Rickey and the Cardinals still stood alone. As late as 1931, there were still only a handful of minor league teams controlled by a major league team. As long as teams could only control a 40-man roster, there was a limit to how much teams were willing to invest in minor league teams. Before the farm systems could truly take hold, the rules needed to be relaxed. Two clubs in particular led the fight for this – the Cardinals and the Yankees – not coincidentally, the best run and most successful teams in the major leagues.

The Anti-Trust Exemption (1922)

Part 6 of our series on Important Moments in Team Building.  See introduction, and up-to-date list.

 

In December 1915 the Federal League’s still solvent owners reached an agreement with the Major League owners to fold their competing league. In return, the Major League owners agreed to pay roughly $700,000, with FL’s owners receiving widely varying payouts. One problem with the deal came when the owners of Baltimore’s FL franchise, a large collection of Baltimore business and professional men, did not want to fold their club and disband the league—they wanted major league baseball in Baltimore.

Baltimore’s shareholders were angry with the other Federal League owners for agreeing to settle, and particularly angry with major league baseball’s owners for all the underhanded tactics used against the Federals in the battle for players. Rather than take the $50,000 they were offered as part of the settlement, Baltimore elected to file suit against their fellow FL owners and major league baseball.

PepperGeorgeWhartonAfter one misstep in court and some behind scenes negotiations that led nowhere, in September 1916 Baltimore filed suit charging major league baseball with numerous antitrust violations. Baltimore’s attorneys highlighted the myriad ways that Organized Baseball had interfered with the Federal League, noting in particular the reserve clause and the blacklist. Organized Baseball’s lead attorney George Wharton Pepper, later a US Senator from Pennsylvania, sloughed off his clients’ unseemly behavior and reliance on the reserve clause. Instead he argued that baseball was not subject to being regulated under Congress’s antitrust legislation because it was not actually commerce, and even if it was, it wasn’t interstate commerce.

Baltimore prevailed at the initial trial in 1919. The jury awarded the group $80,000 in damages; under the Sherman Antitrust Act provisions the award was trebled to $240,000 and Baltimore was also awarded legal costs of $24,000. In total, the Baltimore shareholders received a verdict for $264,000. In the months after the jury award, a compromise settlement seemed likely as both sides had strong reasons to consider one. At this point a monetary payment was the best Baltimore could hope for; a major league franchise for their city was simply not on the table. For Organized Baseball, a settlement offered the opportunity to pay a sum they could afford, admit no wrongdoing, and continue business as usual.

Nevertheless, no settlement was forthcoming and the case was eventually appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Organized Baseball won a complete victory. In a unanimous opinion written by Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and released on May 29, 1922, the Court ruled that the personal effort of baseball players was not trade or commerce, and, furthermore, that as baseball wasn’t fundamentally interstate in nature, it was not interstate commerce. Thus, Organized Baseball could not be in violation of the antitrust laws because it did not meet two conditions necessary to be subject to them.

HolmerOWJr
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

This opinion was not as strange at the time as it seems today. The definition of interstate commerce used at the time was much more restrictive than how it has evolved. In addition, the court was much more concerned about the line between federal and state authority.

So what did this decision mean for team building? We can get some insight into what a counterfactual might have looked like by examining other professional sports. Other sports leagues behaved as if they had an antitrust exemption as well until 1957, when the Supreme Court oddly ruled that the antitrust exemption was an anomaly given to only baseball, and the other major sports were in fact subject to antitrust laws.

Unfortunately for football, hockey and basketball players, making sports leagues subject to antitrust laws did not lead to more evenhanded player control rules. The leagues instituted other expedients to limit the impact of the Court’s ruling on player freedom. For example, the National Football League introduced the “Rozelle Rule,” named after Commissioner Pete Rozelle, which gave him the power to decide on compensation to a team losing a free agent from the team signing one. The fear of losing one’s top players or draft picks as compensation was a strong deterrent against signing players at the expiration of their contract. Not until the 1970s and 1980s did the other sports begin to have true free agency.

The players in these other sports benefited indirectly, however, from the emergence of rival leagues. The antitrust laws tempered many of the more blatant actions–such as the blacklist and inducing players to break contracts–used by Organized Baseball against the Federals. These laws clearly made a difference. Successful rival leagues emerged in all three other major professional sports. The existence of these rival leagues benefited the players as the competition for their services helped drive up salaries. Roster building took on its own challenges as owners and GMs addressed both possible defections from their own squad and the potential new source of talent by going after players in the competing league. With its antitrust exemption baseball was effectively immune from this competition. After the demise of the Federal League, no competing major league ever again took the field.

For more on the Federal League settlement see this book.

 

Howie Roseman Proves a Skillful Team Builder

Saturday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune had a great article on Eagles GM Howie Roseman’s building of that team.  Owner Jeffrey Lurie encouraged the team to be aggressive both off and on the field—as highlighted by the fourth down call at the one-yard line at the end of the first half—and both Roseman and coach Doug Pederson took his directive to heart.

Roseman used all avenues to find players—one of the trademarks of great GMs.  He traded five picks to move up to number two overall to draft QB Carson Wentz.  When Wentz was ready to start, the Eagles traded starting QB Sam Bradford for a first and fourth round draft pick, also freeing up cap space which they used to sign free agent WR Alshon Jeffrey.  CB Ronald Darby and DT Timmy Jernigan came via trade, as did Jay Ajayi during the season for a fourth round pick.  Overall, eight of the Eagles starters were acquired in 2017.  The team also has its own Moneyball-market inefficiency philosophy: high draft picks that didn’t pan out with their original team.  Philly’s roster has 20 players who had been either first or second round picks.

The Trade Deadline (1922)

Part 5 of our series on Important Moments in Team Building.  See introduction, and up-to-date list.

 

DuganJoe
Joe Dugan

On July 23, 1922 the New York Yankees sent Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee $50,000 plus three reserves and a pitcher to be named later for third baseman Joe Dugan and outfielder Elmer Smith. For the Yankees, the key player was Dugan, a highly regarded 25-year-old. For the Red Sox, the key was the money. Since the sales to New York of Carl Mays in 1919 and Babe Ruth after that, Frazee had been cashing in his players, mostly to those same Yankees. Dugan was one of the last of his prized players.

While not prohibited—the trade deadline at the time was August 1–these late July transactions by contenders were generally frowned upon. On the day of the deal the Yankees were in second place in the American League, 1.5 games behind the St. Louis Browns. Not surprisingly, the Browns organization and its fans went berserk. Though Dugan was pretty much an average player in New York, the Yankees overcame this small deficit over the last two months of the season to edge St. Louis by a single game.

The previous season the National League had witnessed a similar episode with a more significant player. On July 25, 1921 the Giants purchased star left fielder Emil “Irish” Meusel from Philadelphia Phillies’ owner William Baker. The Giants were running second, four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, and New York manager John McGraw wanted a third capable outfielder to go along with Ross Youngs and George Burns. To land Meusel, McGraw surrendered two players and $30,000, though the cash was not reported until several weeks later; it was originally described as a straight trade. Baker had been gutting his ballclub; at the time of the Giants deal they stood 25-62, and Meusel was one of the few good players left from what had been a fine team during the war.

MeuselIrish
Irish Meusel

To shield himself from the ire of his fellow magnates and his team’s fans, Baker charged Meusel with “indifferent” playing and claimed he had suspended Meusel several days before the trade. Suitably riled, Commissioner Landis investigated and determined that Meusel had not been suspended or even accused of malingering by his manager; Baker had simply fabricated the story. Nevertheless, Landis allowed the deal to stand.

The Meusel deal became especially galling for Pittsburgh when the Giants swept them in a crucial five game series at the end of August, with Meusel acting as the catalyst, hitting .500/.556/.938 for the series. By the end of the season the Giants had taken over first place, capturing the pennant by four games over the Pirates.

When the other free spending New York club made its similar pennant-changing deal a year later, the non-selling owners had seen enough. It wasn’t so much the trades themselves, but the perception of buying the pennant by the New York teams. The Giants had long been the biggest spending team and best in the National League, and once Jacob Ruppert and Til Huston bought the Yankees they were assuming the same role in the AL. In 1922, the two New York clubs met in the World Series for the second straight season, and would again the next year as well.

To confine most of the dealing to the offseason, at the joint major league baseball meeting on December 14, 1922, the owners voted to institute a June 15 non-waiver trading deadline. (Intra-league trades only – inter-league deals remained prohibited until 1959.) Any player moved after that date would have to clear waivers. Further testifying to the resentment of the owners and Commissioner Landis, they even considered a provision that would have prohibited the previous year’s pennant winners from making any in-season deals with other major league teams.

Sixty-four years later – in 1986 — the owners moved the trading deadline back to July 31, as much of the original impetus for the earlier deadline no longer applied. This six-week difference in the middle of the season has proved to be meaningful. For the vast majority of teams, it is almost impossible to decide whether to be a buyer or seller by June 15. Too much baseball remains to be played. Today teams can get a pretty good handle on their squads before deciding which way to move, and the later trade deadline has generated heightened publicity as teams concoct their often blockbuster deadline deals.

 

The Sale of Babe Ruth (1920)

Part 4 of our series on Important Moments in Team Building.  See introduction, and up-to-date list.

 

Jacob Ruppert
Jacob Ruppert

When American League president Ban Johnson orchestrated the creation of an AL franchise in New York in 1903, it was with the hope that it would become one of the flagship teams in the league. This did not happen right away, as the team mostly struggled both on the field (no pennants for its first dozen years) and off (a pair of unsavory owners). The tipping point in the story, arguably the most important event in Yankee history, was the purchase of the club in 1915 by Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast Huston. Within a few short years, the AL had its strong team, one that would compete both in New York (where the Giants had long dominated the city’s interest) and in all of baseball. Ruppert, whose family owned one of the country’s biggest breweries, was one of the first truly rich men active in the game, and dedicated the remainder of his life to the greatness of his team.

In 1915, a willingness to spend money to build a great team could only take you so far. Teams primarily acquired fully-seasoned players from the minor leagues and hoped that a couple would turn into stars. For the first few years of Ruppert’s tenure he relied on his field managers to advise on potential deals (there were no general managers yet), and the Yankees were active whenever talent became available. When they purchased the team during the Federal League war, the AL promised the new Yankee owners that some major leaguers would be made available from existing teams. The other AL owners proved not quite as openhanded, and the Yankees could only purchase Wally Pipp from the Tigers and Bob Shawkey from the Athletics. They landed a few others from the Federal League when that league disbanded. Ruppert’s first big purchase came a year later: Frank Baker from the Athletics for $37,500 when Connie Mack was completing the selloff of his stars. The talent had improved, but players like Baker were not available very often.

FrazeeHarry
Harry Frazee

Fortunately for the Yankees, Ruppert soon had another willing seller. The Boston Red Sox won four pennants in the 1910s, but their owner Harry Frazee was feeling a financial squeeze from his purchase of the team and Fenway Park, and a variety of theatrical interests. With several financial issues coming to head in 1919 and 1920, Frazee found himself severely cash-strapped. Frazee was a New Yorker and a social friend of Til Huston, and Ruppert had plenty of money. Frazee’s most sellable assets were his ballplayers.

By 1919 Red Sox star Babe Ruth was one of the best pitchers in the game and also one of the best hitters. After winning 65 games with a 2.02 ERA in his first three seasons, Ruth gradually transitioned to the outfield in 1918 (winning 13 games while leading the league in homers) and 1919 (winning 9 games and setting an all-time record of 29 homers). Along with Washington pitcher Walter Johnson, Ruth was one of the two best players in baseball.

With his financial squeeze mounting, on January 5, 1920, Frazee announced the sale of Ruth to Yankees. Frazee received a record sum of $100,000: $25,000 up front and three promissory notes of $25,000 each at a 6 percent interest rate, due in November 1920, 1921, and 1922. In addition, Ruppert lent Frazee another $300,000 to be secured by a first mortgage on Fenway Park. Without Ruth, the Red Sox – winners of four of the previous eight World Series – would not finish over .500 until 1934 and would not win the Series until 2004.

Frazee was not done, not by a long shot. Over approximately six years, Ruppert sent about $450,000 to the Frazee (plus the loan), and received an extraordinary haul of players. Besides Ruth, the Yankees also acquired Joe Dugan, Everett Scott, Carl Mays, Joe Bush, Waite Hoyt, Sam Jones, Wally Schang, and Herb Pennock, among others. When the Yankees won their first World Series in 1923, former Red Sox made up four-fifths of their starting rotation and four of their starting eight position players.

For more on the Harry Frazee’s sales, read this article.

It was probably inevitable that the Yankees would become the game’s greatest team. Jacob Ruppert was a rich owner devoted to spending his money to build a winner, and unlike many other owners he did not take cash distributions from his team, but reinvested in his ballclub. Just as important, he was a brilliant judge and manager of men. He built an extraordinary front office that became the model of all front offices to come. He hired Ed Barrow as general manager and two great managers (Miller Huggins, and then Joe McCarthy), all of whom he supported completely. He built the game’s greatest ballpark – Yankee Stadium – and soon drew the biggest crowds. But the suddenness of the rise was due mainly to the largesse of the Red Sox and Harry Frazee. The Red Sox had been the dominant team in the league for its first two decades, and Frazee essentially transferred all of the club’s talent to New York.

After two World Series losses, the Yankees championship in 1923 marked them as the marquee team in baseball. In the ensuing century they have usually been very well capitalized and very well run, and have largely retained their status as the best franchise in the game. For most successful teams in the past century, keeping up with or overtaking the Yankees has often been one of their most challenging obstacles.

New York Yankees great Babe Ruth