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The M&M Boys (1960-1964)

During the ownership of Arnold Johnson, the Kansas City Athletics traded many young players to the Yankees for cash and aging veterans (much the same way the Red Sox had done under Frazee). When he'd bought the then Philadelphia Athletics from the family of Connie Mack in 1954, he was already the owner of Yankee Stadium, but the American League owners forced him to sell the Stadium as a condition for the purhcase. He was also a longtime business associate of then-Yankees owners Del Webb and Dan Topping.

This significantly improved the Yankees' future prospects. In December 1959, a young player named Roger Maris was acquired through one such trade, and he would go on to do great things in New York.

Many fans, and even other teams, frequently accused the A's of being operated as a farm team for the Yankees. However, in December 1960, Chicago insurance executive Charles O. Finley purchased the A's from the estate of Johnson, who had died that March. Once he did so, he immediately terminated the team's "special relationship" with the Yankees, cutting off their easy supply of promising players. This development may have marked the beginning of the end for this Yankee dynasty.

In 1960, Maris led the league in slugging percentage, RBIs, and extra base hits. He finished second in home runs (one behind Mantle), and total bases, and he won a Gold Glove and American League MVP award. All of this, however, was a prelude to the year that would follow.

The year 1961 was one of the move memorable years in Yankee history. Throughout the summer, Mantle and Maris hit home runs at record pace as both chased Babe Ruth's single-season home run record of 60, and the media and the fans began referring to the duo as the "M&M Boys". Ultimately, a severe hip infection forced Mantle to leave the lineup and bow out of the race in mid-September with 54 home runs.

On October 1, the final day of the season, Maris sent a pitch from Boston's Tracy Stallard into the right field stands of Yankee Stadium, breaking the record with 61. However, Commissioner Ford Frick decreed that two seperate records be kept, as Ruth's record-setting season was 154 games, and Maris hit 61 in 162 games. It would be 30 years before an eight-member Committee for Historical Accuracy appointed by Major League Baseball did away with the dual records, giving Maris sole possession of the single-season home run record until it was broken by Mark McGwire on September 8, 1998. Maris still holds the American LEague record.

The Yankees won the pennant with a 109-53 record and went on to defeat the Cincinnati Reds in five games to win the 1961 World Series. The 109 regular season wins posted by the '61 club remains the third highest single-season total in franchise history, behind only the 1998 team's 114 regular season wins and 1927 team's 110 wins. The 1961 Yankees also clubbed a then-major league record for most home runs by a team with 240, a total not surpassed until the 1996 Baltimore Orioles hit 257 with the aid of the designated hitter. Maris won his second consecutive MVP Award while Whitey Ford captured the Cy Young.

Because of the excellence of Maris, Mantle, and World Series-MVP Ford, a fine pitching staff, stellar team defense, the team's strong depth and power, and its overall dominance, the 1961 Yankees are universally considered to be one of the greatest teams in the history of baseball, compared often to their pinstriped-brethren, the 1927 Yankees, the 1939 Yankees, and the 1998 Yankees.
New Ownership and a Steep Decline (1964-1971)

After the 1964 season, CBS purchased 80 percent of the Yankees from Topping and Webb for $11.2 million. Jokesters at the time wondered if Walter Cronkite would become the manager, perhaps with Yogi Berra doing the newscasts. Topping and Webb had owned the Yankees for 20 years, missing the World Series only five times, and going 10-5 in the World Series.

By contrast, the CBS-owned teams never went to the World Series, and in the first year of the new ownership - 1965 - the Yankees finished in the second division for the first time in 40 years; the introduction of the major league amateur draft in 1965 also meant that the Yankees could no longer sign any player they wanted. Webb sold his 10 percent of the Yankees that year.

In 1966 the team finished last in the AL for the first time since 1912. Johnny Keane, the winning Cards manager in 1964 who joined the Yankees to manage in '65, was fired during the season, and GM Ralph Houk did double duty as field manager until the end of the year. Topping, who had stayed on as 10-percent owner and team president, quit at the end of the season and sold his share to CBS, who then appointed Michael Burke as president.

The Yankees were next-to-last the following year, 1967, during which former farm director Lee MacPhail returned to the organization as GM, replacing Houk. After that the team's fortunes improved somewhat, but they would not become serious contenders again until 1974.

Various reasons have been given for the decline, but the single biggest one was the Yankees' inability to replace their aging superstars with new ones, as they had done consistently in the previous five decades. The Yankees' "special relationship" with the Athletics may have been a way to mask this problem. By the mid-1960s, the Yankees had little to offer in the way of trades, and Charles Finley had taken the Athletics in a new direction. Some have suggested the Yankees paid the price for bringing black players into the organization later than other teams, though this theory is controversial.

Also during the 1960s, the Yankees lost two of its signature broadcasters. The team fired Mel Allen after the 1964 season, for reasons the club has not explained to this day. Two years later, Red Barber -- the former Dodgers voice who joined the Yankees on-air team in 1954 -- was also let go. Some blamed Barber's firing on his on-air mention of a paltry 413-fan attendance at a September 1966 home game against the White Sox. But sports biographer David J. Halberstam (not the October 1964 author) also noted Barber's less-than-happy relationship with Joe Garagiola and even Phil Rizzuto, ex-major leaguers with whom he shared the booth.
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1936 - 1971 (Part 2 of 4)
In 1962, the Yankees once again had an intra-city rival as the National League's new expansion team, the New York Mets, came into existence. That year the Mets would lose a record 120 games while the Yankees would win the 1962 World Series, their tenth in the past sixteen years, defeating the San Francisco Giants in seven games.

The Yankees would again reach the Fall Classic in 1963, but they were swept in four games by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Behind World Series-MVP Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Johnny Podres, the Dodgers' starting pitchers threw four complete games and combined to give up just four runs all Series. This was the first time the Yankees were swept in a World Series.

Feeling burnt out after the season, Houk left the manager's chair to become the team's general manager and Berra, who himself had just retired from playing, was named the new manager of the Yankees.

The aging Yankees returned for a fifth straight World Series in 1964 -- their fourteenth World Series appearance in the past sixteen years -- to face the St. Louis Cardinals in a Series immortalized by David Halberstam's book, October 1964. Despite a valiant performance by Mantle, including a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth of Game Three off of Cardinals' reliever Barney Schultz, the Yankees fell to the Cardinals in seven games, and Berra was fired. It was to be the last World Series appearance by the Yankees for 12 years.
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The DiMaggio era (1936-1951)

The Yankees' run during the 1930s could also be called the "McCarthy era", as manager Joe McCarthy (no relation to the Senator of the same name) would guide the team to new heights. With Ruth leaving in 1934, Gehrig could finally come out of his shadow. However, there was no Gehrig era. After one season as the main force of the Yankees, a new titan appeared, Joe DiMaggio. The young center fielder from San Francisco had an immediate impact, batting .323, hitting 29 homers, and driving in 125 runs in his rookie season of 1936.

The team reeled off an unprecedented four consecutive World Series wins in the years from 1936 to 1939 behind the bats of DiMaggio, Gehrig, and Frank Crosetti. They were aided by the pitching staff, led by Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez, and the whole team was anchored by catcher Bill Dickey. For most of 1939 they had to do it without Gehrig, ALS forcing his retirement and saddening the baseball world.

During this stretch, the Detroit Tigers were the Yankees' main competition. When the series finally came, however, they had little trouble. During Game 2 of the 1936 Series, they pounded the Giants 18-4, setting the record for most runs scored in a World Series game, a record which still stands today. They took the Giants 4-2 in the series, and beat them again 4-1 the next year. They swept the Chicago Cubs in 1938 and the Cincinnati Reds in 1939.

After an off season came the Summer of 1941, a much celebrated year that is often described as the last year of the "Golden Era" before World War II and other realities intervened. Ted Williams of the Red Sox was in the hunt for the elusive .400 batting average, which he achieved on the last day of the season. Meanwhile, DiMaggio, who had once gotten a hit in 61 straight games with the San Francisco Seals, began a hitting streak on May 15 which stretched to an astonishing 56 games.

The last game of the streak came on July 16 at Cleveland's League Park. The streak was finally snapped in a game at Cleveland Stadium the next night before a huge crowd at the lakefront. A crucial factor in ending the streak was the fielding of Cleveland third baseman Ken Keltner, who stopped two balls that DiMaggio hit hard to the left.

Modern baseball historians regard it as unlikely that anyone will ever hit .400 again, barring a change to the way the game is played, and that it will be extremely difficult to approach DiMaggio's 56-game streak, which is far beyond second place (44) and a modern day phenomenon.

The Yankees made short work of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1941 Series. Then, two months and one day after the final game of the Yanks' four-games-to-one win, the Pearl Harbor attacks occurred, and many of the best ballplayers went off to World War II. The war-thinned ranks of the major leagues nonetheless found the Yanks in the post-season again, as the team traded World Series wins with the St. Louis Cardinals during 1942 and 1943.

After 1943, the team went into a bit of a slump, and McCarth was let go early in the 1946 season. After a couple of interim managers came and went, Bucky Harris was brought in, and the Yankees righted the ship againm winning the 1947 pennant and a hard-fought battle against the Dodgers in a Series that took the Yankees seven games to win, and was a harbinger of things to come for much of the next decade.

Despite finishing only three games behind the pennant-winning Cleveland Indians in 1948, Harris was released and the Yankees brought in Casey Stengel to manage. Casey had a reputation for being somewhat of a clown and had a reputation for managing bad teams, such as the mid-1930's Boston Braves. Understandably so, this selection was met with skepticism. His tenure, however, would prove to be the most successful in Yankees history up to that point. The 1949 Yankees team was seen as "underdogs" who came from behind to catch and surprise the powerful Red Sox on the last two days of the season, a faceoff that fueled the beginning of the modern Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. The post-season proved to be a bit easier, as the Yankees knocked off the Dodgers four games to one.

By this time, the great DiMaggio's career was winding down. It has often been reported that he wanted to retire before he became an "ordinary" player. His retirement was also hastened by bone spurs in his heel. 1951 was the curtain call of the "Yankee Clipper". However, it also marked the arrival of the "Oklahoma Kid", Mickey Mantle, who was one of several new stars that would fill the gap.
Stengel's Squad in the 50s (1951-1959)

Bettering the clubs of the McCarthy era, the team won the world series five consecutive times (1949-1953) under Stengel, which continues to be the major league record. Led by players like center fielder Mickey Mantle, pitcher Whitey Ford, and catcher Yogi Berra, Stengel's teams won 10 pennants and seven World Series titles in his twelve seasons as Yankee manager. Casey Stengel was also a master at publicity for the team and for himself, even landing a cover story in Time magazine in 1955.

The 1950s was also a decade of significant individual achievement for Yankee players. For example, in 1956 Mantle won the major league triple crown, leading both leagues in batting average (.353), home runs (52), and RBIs (130).

They won over 100 games in 1954, but the Indians took the pennant with an AL record 111 wins. In 1955, the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the World Series, after five Series losses to the Yankees in '41, '47, '49, '52 and '53. But the Yankees came back strong the next year. On October 8, 1956, in Game Five of the 1956 World Series against the Dodgers, pitcher Don Larsen threw the only perfect game in World Series history. Not only was it the only perfect game to be pitched in World Series play, it also remains the only no-hitter of any kind to be pitched in postseason play. The Yankees went on to win yet another World Series that season, and Larsen earned World Series MVP honors.

Yankee players also dominated the American League MVP award, with a Yankee claiming ownership six times in the decade (1950 Rizzuto, 1951 Berra, 1954 Berra, 1955 Berra, 1956 Mantle, 1957 Mantle). Pitcher Bob Turley also won the Cy Young Award in 1958, the award's third year of existence.

The Yankees lost the 1957 World Series to the Milwaukee Braves. Following the Series, the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers left New York City for California, leaving the Yankees as New York's only team. In the 1958 World Series, the Yankees got their revenge against the Braves, and became the second team to win the Series after being down three games to one.

For the decade, the Yankees won six World Series championships ('50, 51, '52, '53, '56, '58) and eight American League pennants (those six plus '55 and '57). Led by Mantle, Ford, Berra, Elston Howard (the Yankees' first African-American player), and the newly acquired Roger Maris, the Yankees burst into the new decade seeking to replicate the remarkable success of the 1950s.
Continue to Part 3 >>
History > 1936 - 1971
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