I will protest, however, on behalf of historical accuracy, the continual references right now to how the opponents in both today’s game and the first ever at Fenway exactly a century ago were the New York “Highlanders.” This is one of those misunderstandings of history that never seems to get straightened out. Yes, the New York American League team was colloquially known as “The Highlanders” when it was moved from Baltimore in 1903. And yes, the name “Yankees” wasn’t formally adopted until 1913.
That does not mean the 1912 New York team wasn’t known as the Yankees. In fact the name was in common use no later than 1907. Evidence?
That is a postcard advertising the following Sunday’s edition of The New York American newspaper, which was to include a full-sized version of the 1907 Yankees team picture. This was just after 1907′s opening day, five years before the christening in The Fens.
They were the Yankees. Not the Highlanders. Stop saying it.
Update: Yes, I understand that the Yankees’ official history identifies the pre-1913 teams as the Highlanders and doesn’t assign the “Yankee” name to the teams until after the 1912 season. But this isn’t about a simplified record for people who don’t really care about historical accuracy (another example: the Dodgers claim their franchise began in 1890, when in fact the 1890 team was the same one that represented the old American Association in the 1889 World Series). This is about what the fans at brand new Fenway Park, a hundred years ago today, would’ve called the visiting team from New York.
Second Update: As those who never question “history” continued to push back on this idea that because the team didn’t officially call itself the Yankees until 1913 it wasn’t the Yankees in 1912, I decided to go back to where I first heard the story of the slow evolution from “Gordon’s Highlanders” (the name of a famed British army regiment of the time, which stuck because the first team president was named Joseph Gordon, and because their ballpark was at one of the highest spots in New York) to the Yanks. Frank Graham wrote his first version of The New York Yankees in 1943, when a lot of people who had seen the full 40-year history of the franchise were still alive – Graham, who became a sportswriter in 1915, included. I read the copy my father had had since childhood, either in 1967 or 1968.
The relevant passage is on Page 16:
“With 1913 coming up, there was an almost complete new deal. Jim Price, Sports Editor of the New York Press, had been calling the team the Yankees because he found the name Highlanders too long to fit his headlines; and by 1913 the new name had been generally adopted.”
So the Yankees were the last people to call themselves the Yankees and as Graham wrote nearly 70 years ago, the nickname had been generally adopted before the club went through the formality – in 1913.
Some of the less in-the-know fans at Fenway at its christening might have referred to the visitors as “The Highlanders.” The vast majority would’ve said “Yankees” – as the New York Times had after the 1912 opener in New York: “The Yankees presented a natty appearance in their new uniforms of white with black pin stripes.”
More evidence? In the biographies on the back (as shown in the lower left hand corner), there are occasional references to “Highlanders.” But the 1911 baseball cards refer to them – unofficial or not – as the Yankees:
Here’s how the Boston Globe of April 21, 1912 described the game:
Boston’s beautiful new ball park in the Fenway was yesterday opened before a crowd of 24,000 spectators.
There was no time wasted in childish parades. Mayor Fitzgerald dignified the occasion by tossing out the new ball and the Speed Boys and Highlanders were soon at it, starting the game at 1:10 and closing the entertainment at 4:20, when Tristram Speaker, the Texas sharpshooter, with two down in the 11th inning and Steve Yerkes, on third, smashed the ball too fast for the shortstop to handle and the winning run came over the plate, making the score 7 to 6, and the immense crowd leaving for home for a cold supper, but wreathed in smiles to see the Speed Boys come from behind and by dint of staying prowess land the victory.
The day was ideal. The bright sun brought out the bright colors of the flags and bunting that decorated the big grandstand, and gave the new uniforms of the players a natty look. Before the game started, the crowd broke into the outfield and remained behind the ropes, forcing the teams to make ground rules, all hits going for two bases.
This ruling was a big disadvantage to the home team, for the Highland laddies never hit for more than a single, while three of Boston’s hits went into the crowd, whereas with a clear field they would have gone for three-base drives and possibly home runs, and would have landed the home team a winner before the ninth inning.
While the grounds were in fair condition, there were spots where the earth was soft and lumpy, and this caused fumbling that would never have occurred on a dry field. . . .
The game was full of interest, the crowd holding its seats to the end, figuring that the Red Sox would eventually nose out the Broadway swells. . . .
The Boston Braves were represented by “Duke” Farrell, “Cy” Young and C. James Connolly.
The park was crowded with veteran ball players and fans, and everyone praised the new park, which is a model in every way.
The new ballpark for the relocated team was constructed at 165th Street and Broadway in Manhattan, one of the highest points on the island. Formally known as "American League Park", it was nicknamed "Hilltop Park" or "The Hilltop", and was significantly smaller than the Polo Grounds, the Giants' home just a few blocks away.
Publisher William Randolph Hearst's New York Evening Journal referred to the new club as the "Invaders" in 1903, but switched in the spring of 1904 to the name that would stick for several years: the New York Highlanders. The name was a reference to the team's location and also to the noted British military unit The Gordon Highlanders, which fit as the team's president from 1903 to 1906 was Joseph Gordon. Like other AL teams, such as the team in Boston, they were also referred to as the "Americans". By 1904, the team was also being called the "Yankees" or "Yanks", a synonym for "Americans" which was also easier to type and fit in headlines. On April 7, 1904, a spring training story from carried the headline "Yankees Will Start Home From South To-Day." The New York Evening Journalscreamed: "YANKEES BEAT BOSTON" However, initially "Highlanders" was the most common unofficial nickname of the new team.
This is an excellent point and very true. Modern baseball fans can't understand that teams didn't have official names back then. They were more commonly identified by the city that they played for. Fans and the press had nicknames for the teams, but there were usually a few in use and none of them were official.
The Yankees were known in 1903 officially as the NY Americans (because they were the AL's NY team), the Invaders, the Highlanders, and the Hilltoppers. In 1904, the name Yankees was added to the list of nicknames.
Eventually, teams did begin to adopt official names. The first official name that the NY AL team adopted was in 1913, when they offically became the Yankees. Before that, different papers called the team by different names. Read a different paper and you will find the team called a different name (and it was like this with all the old baseball clubs).