A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 05, 2004
Yankees (American League baseball team)
The "Yankees" nickname officially turned 100 in April 2004. I researched this, lectured on it before the Society for American Baseball Research, am cited on it in Paul Dickson's Baseball Dictionary, and was mentioned in the New York Post on April 4, 2004.

Although I work in the Bronx and George Steinbrenner seemingly cares about the "Yankee tradition," no one in that organization has written back to give me so much as a kind word for my work. I don't know why this happens; why is simple kindness so hard?

The team owner (in 1903) had called them the "Highlanders" because the team played on the high land in Manhattan. Supposedly, the "Highlanders" name was too long to fit into headlines, and newspapers began calling the team the "Yankees." But which newspapers, and when? Before I started my work, the newspapers New York Press and Globe were mentioned, without citations or dates.

I checked every newspaper in New York. Some called the team "Invaders," because they invaded the turf of the New York Giants. Other newspapers used "Porchclimbers," "Kilties," and "Hilltoppers." The Press and Globe were actually late to use Yankees.

"Yankees" had been suggested as early as May 1903:

Chronicling America
7 May 1903, The Sun (New York, NY), pg. 8, col. 7:
Name for the American New Yorks.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE SUN -- Sir: If the new baseball team is to have a name that is in keeping with the "Giants," does it not seem reasonable that if they are the "New York Americans" they might be called the "Yankees" or "Yanks"?

The New York Evening Journal was owned by William Randolph Hearst. Baseball games were all played during the day, and the Evening Journal was the first to report the scores. In 1903, it had called the team the "Invaders." In March 1904, it had used "Highlanders."

The April 7, 1904 issue of the New York Evening Journal is the gem. The top of the page announces: "SPORTS Written by Experts and Edited for the EVENING JOURNAL BY HARRY BEECHER." Harry Beecher was the grandson of the Brooklyn preacher Henry Ward Beecher and the grand-nephew of author Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom's Cabin).

A left-hand column headline is "RUSSIAN LION DODGES YANKEE." Another headline is "HIGHLANDERS CANCEL GAMES." A photo caption is "CONROY, OF THE AMERICANS." The team is also called "GOTHAM NINES" and "the New York American League team.

In the far-right hand column is this:


RICHMOND, Va., April 7.—The Highlanders and Montreals play here again this afternoon.

"Yankees" would be used from then on. The April 14, 1904 large Evening Journal front-page headline declared: "YANKEES BEAT BOSTON."

This was not the first team to use "Yankees." The Long Branch (N.J.) Record, May 15, 1903, page one, column two headline is: "YANKEES LOSE FIRST BASE BALL GAME." A March 27, 1903 story about that city's Yankee Athletic Club is headlined "Yankee Base Ball Club."

But the New York "Yankees" are the responsibility of the legendary newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst.

Other early nicknames of the New York Yankees include "Highlanders," "Hilltoppers," "Invaders" and "Porchclimbers."
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • Monday, July 05, 2004 • Permalink