The setting for the Baseball Hall of Fame will be an odd one this year. In fact, it will be quite sad.
There were names such as: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza on the Hall of Fame ballot, yet none of them received the ample amount of 75 percent of the votes to enter Cooperstown. With the steroid-era cloud hanging over Cooperstown, for the first time since 1965, there will be no living players inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday.
While the stage will certainly feel and look different at Sunday’s induction, one man’s long overdue induction will take place.
Jacob Ruppert died in 1939, shortly before the Hall of Fame opened. Despite turning the New York Yankees into the winningest baseball team in history, and buying the greatest player to pick up a bat, Ruppert has been shunned by voters.
Ruppert, born in New York City, essentially created the Bronx Bombers. He owned the Yankees from 1915 until his death.
In his time as the Yankees’ owner, he won 10 American League pennants and seven World Series championships. The Yankees won their eighth World Series nine months after he died.
His biggest accomplishment of all, may be the purchasing of Babe Ruth.
After the 1919 season, Ruppert bought Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox and changed the history of both franchises. The Red Sox went on to be “cursed” until they won the World Series in 2004, while the Yankees won more World Series championships than any other team. Ruppert famously referred to Ruth as “Root” and was seen as a second father to the Babe.
Ruppert took full control of the Yankees in 1923 after buying out co-owner Tillinghast L. Huston. He then moved the team from the then New York Giants’ home of the Polo Grounds to Yankee Stadium.
Yankee Stadium opened on April 18, 1923, and Ruth was already making waves with the stadium before it opened.
Ruth believed he would never hit 60 home runs at the spacious Yankee Stadium after hitting 59 in the Polo Grounds in 1921. Well, Mr. Ruth exceeded his own expectations and hit 60 in 1927, before he went on to win the World Series that year.
Before Yankee Stadium became the House That Ruth Built, it already almost was. People wanted to name the new stadium, Ruth Stadium, but Ruppert was a team man and insisted on the name as Yankee Stadium.
After the 1934 season, in which Ruth only hit 22 home runs, Ruppert stayed loyal to both his manager Joe McCarthy and Ruth.
Ruth told Ruppert he would not sign a player-only contract, but wanted to be the team’s player-manager. Ruppert would not budge and stuck with McCarthy, while helping aid Ruth to his goal as a player-manager.
The Boston Braves signed Ruth, but after 28 games where he hit .181 with only six home runs, he retired as a player and never managed.
After only referring to the Babe as Root, a change was made in some of the last moments of Ruppert’s life. Ruth visited him in the hospital shortly before his death, and Ruppert looked at Ruth and softly said, “Babe, Babe.”
Ruppert turned a joke of a franchise into the greatest team in baseball history. He bought the Yankees for $500,000 and they now have 27 World Series championships. There have been multiple plaques of Yankees players put into Cooperstown that would have never been there without Ruppert.
The veterans committee finally voted Ruppert into the the Hall of Fame last December. His great-grandniece who never met him, will speak for Ruppert on Sunday, and the former brewer, colonel and first great Yankees owner, will finally join Root and the many other plaques that are in Cooperstown thanks to his brilliance.