Classic Yankees: Jacob Ruppert

After the “Boss” George Steinbrenner died, there was talk about putting him into the Hall of Fame. Well, this year’s Veterans Committee convened, and the Boss wasn’t close to getting in. Whether he will in the future remains to be seen, but a lot of prevailing thought was that it was too soon—only a few months after his death—to accurately judge him.

But what struck me was this. For all the talk about possibly putting George into the Hall, there should have been more talk about someone who isn’t in. Say all you want about whether the “Boss” should be in or not, but how in the blue blazes is it that Jacob Ruppert isn’t in the Hall yet? Shouldn’t he go in before the Boss?

After all, Jacob Ruppert turned the Highlanders into the Yankees. Sure, they had the nickname for a short time before Ruppert bought the team with Huston. But not only did Ruppert turn the Highlanders into the Yankees, he turned them into the Yankees; meaning into the most recognized name in all of sports. He took a team that was a second banana in New York, playing in the same park as the top banana, John McGraw’s NY Giants, and made the Yankees the top dog in NY and all of baseball.

He built the original Yankee Stadium. He brought the Babe and others to NY. As owner, he took a second banana to such heights that upon his death his team was so good that the cry throughout baseball was “Break up the Yankees!”

As owner, Ruppert saw ten pennant-winners. Seven of those teams won the World Series. When Ruppert died in January of 1939, his Yankees were the first three-time WS champs. They would win again in the fall of 1939.

Jake Ruppert got his nickname of Colonel by being a colonel in the National Guard. From 1899-1907 Ruppert served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a (D) from NY. When first elected Congressman, Ruppert was just 31.

Ruppert inherited the brewing company (Knickerbocker Beer) from his father and became President in 1915.  He also was president of Astoria Silk Works. He was born into wealth; heir to millions. He was the son and grandson of beer tycoons who founded the Ruppert breweries, and was an aristocrat all the way. His fortune was estimated at $50 million.

The same year he became President of the brewing company, Ruppert and Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston bought the Yankees. Ruppert bought out Huston in 1922.

Upon Ruppert’s death, his estate owned the team until selling it to Del Webb/Dan Topping/Larry MacPhail in 1945.

Ruppert died at the age of 71 in January of 1939. He’s laid to rest in a mausoleum in Kensico cemetery in Valhalla, NY. It is the same cemetery in which Lou Gehrig’s ashes are buried, along with the remains of Ruppert’s long time business executive (now called G.M.) Ed Barrow. Ironically, Harry Frazee, the Red Sox owner who sold Babe Ruth to Ruppert, is also buried there, as is Robert Merrill, the opera star who often used his operatic baritone to belt out the National Anthem at Yankee Stadium.

In one way, Ruppert was like the everyday fan. One of his famous quotes was that  “Every day I want to win ten to nothing,” Ruppert said. “Close games make me nervous.” He also stated that a perfect day at the park was any time the Yanks scored eleven runs in the first inning and gradually pulled away. In that way, maybe he was like the Boss?

But the man who first built baseball’s greatest empire isn’t in the Hall of Fame. It seems absurd. He built the cathedral of baseball, the original Yankee Stadium. He brought the Babe to NY. He made the Yankees the Yankees. He was the first owner to win three consecutive World Series. Pirates’ owner Barney Dreyfuss is in the Hall. So is Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. Walter O’Malley, he who is still considered dirt in Brooklyn, is in. Lee MacPhail, who was president of the AL but who was GM during the Yanks downtime CBS years, is in, as is his father. Colorful Bill Veeck is in. Ed Barrow, who worked for Ruppert, is in, as is George Weiss.

But not the man who built the original Stadium. Who built up the Yankees from a second-class team.

Maybe one day Steinbrenner will get in. But on that day, Jacob Ruppert should also be inducted… if he doesn’t already beat George to it.

It’s time for a travesty to be righted.

Put Ruppert in the Hall where he belongs.

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One Response to Classic Yankees: Jacob Ruppert

  1. Mike Sommer says:

    Followup: On December 3, 2012, Jacob Ruppert was finally voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans' Committee.