April 30 — important day in Yankees history
Tuesday is April 30, which is one of the most significant calendar days in Yankees history. The franchise was introduced to New York City on that date 110 years ago, and one of its iconic figures began and ended his career on the same date 16 years apart.
The old Baltimore Orioles club that moved to New York City in 1903 at the start of the third season of the American League became known as the Highlanders because their playing field at the time was located in the highlands area on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that is now the central location of New York-Presbyterian Hospital at West 168th Street.
The Highlanders played their first home game at Hilltop Park April 30, 1903 and defeated the Washington Senators, 6-2. It was the Highlanders’ eighth game of the season and evened their record at 4-4 after opening the season by splitting a four-game series at Washington, D.C., and losing two of three games to the Athletics in Philadelphia.
Managed by future Hall of Famer Clark Griffith and featuring another future Hall of Famer, outfielder Willie Keeler, the team that would become known as the Yankees 10 years later finished with a 72-62 record and fourth of eight teams in the AL.
Moving forward 20 years, the Yankees signed a 19-year-old Columbia University pitcher and outfielder from Manhattan named Henry Louis Gehrig to a professional contract. Lou Gehrig’s reputation as a power hitter was established in the Ivy League, and before the 1923 season was over he made his first appearance in the major leagues. Gehrig got into 13 games that year for the Yanks and batted .423 with four doubles, one triple, one home run and nine RBI in 26 at-bats.
Gehrig spent most of the 1924 season in the minor leagues as well before coming up for good in 1925 and replaced Wally Pipp at first base every day for the next decade and a half. Sixteen years to the day he signed his first pro contract, Gehrig played in his last major-league game, a 3-2 loss to the Senators at Yankee Stadium in which he had 0-for-4. It was Gehrig’s 2,130th consecutive game, a record that stood until Cal Ripken Jr. broke it in September, 1995.
Gehrig was already suffering from the symptoms of arterial lateral sclerosis (ALS), the disease that forced him to out of the next game. May 1 was an open date for the Yankees. Gehrig was in manager Joe McCarthy’s starting batting order for May 2 at Detroit, but the “Iron Horse” took himself out of the lineup and never played again. Gehrig was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939 and died in 1941.