Many baseball fans are aware of the fabled New York Yankees’ history. When you mention the New York Highlanders most are able to identify them as the predecessor and original franchise name of the Yankees. But, if one looks more closely at the beginnings of the Major Leagues (when the American League and the National League finally recognized each other and gave birth to the World Series) then you will find some very interesting activity that led to the Highlanders’ origins. In it’s inaugural season (1901), the American League, founded by Ban Johnson (President) resuscitated three teams that had been axed from the National League following the 1899 season. One of those teams was the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles were a dominant National League club in the 1890’s. Led by hall of famers Wee Willie Keeler, Hugh Jennings and Jon McGraw, they won three National League pennants in a row (1894-96). Much of their personality came from scrappy hall of fame manager, Ned Hanlon, who is often credited with creating "inside baseball"– a strategy based on hustle, speed and fundamentals. This Orioles team was one of the dirtiest teams ever. A player sharpening his steel cleats before the game was very common. They defined their manager’s style with constant stealing, hidden ball tricks and hit and run plays. They coined the term "Baltimore Chop" after their manager’s strategy to have his players deliberately hit the ball hard into the ground so as to create a high bounce. After a year playing as a minor league club, The Orioles joined the upstart American League in 1901 with player/manager Jon McGraw at the helm. Ban Johnson encouraged his new eight team league to lure players from National League rosters. Over 70 National League players defected.
In 1903, after the Junior Circuit completed its second season, Ban Johnson came to an agreement with the Senior Circuit to merge into one league, but only after Johnson received assurances that he could move a team to New York to compete in a big market. The team Johnson chose to move was the Orioles. In the same year that the first World Series was played, the Highlanders were born. The core players of the old Orioles left with Jon McGraw after Ban Johnson fired him at the end of the 1902 season. Hanlon’s scrappy and winning style left with them. As a result, the Highlanders were never very good until they officially became the Yankees in 1911. As for the first World Series – Cy Young (33-10) won twice and the Boston club, who in 1903 didn’t have an official nickname, beat the National League champion Pittsburgh Pirates in a nine game series (5-3).
Legendary Yankee Manager Miller Huggins played for
Ned Hanlon’s Cincinnati Reds in 1906.
Carl The Cabbie