Daily Archives: March 2, 2013

The Ol’ College Try: The Yanks’ History vs. Amateurs

Ruth & Gehrig at West Point in 1927 (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Ruth & Gehrig at West Point in 1927 (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

On March 30th the Yankees will travel to West Point for a final exhibition game before their season opener with Boston on April 1st, reigniting a familiar matchup that has occurred nearly two dozen times over the years.  The first meeting between the two fabled institutions occurred on May 26, 1927 when the Murderers’ Row Yankees of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Earle Combs beat the cadets 2-0.  Ruth’s Yankees returned to the academy six times over the next seven years. In 1934, during his final game at Doubleday Field, the Sultan hit a colossal 500-foot blast over the right field wall, still regarded as the longest ball ever hit at West Point.

The closest the Pointers came to besting the professionals was in the 1966 tilt when the Yanks eked out a 1-0 victory thanks to a first inning RBI groundout by an aging Mickey Mantle. Between 1927 and 1976 the Yankees played the cadets twenty-one times, winning each contest:

  1. 5/26/1927 | 2-0
  2. 5/3/1928 | 20-9
  3. 5/23/1930 | 20-2
  4. 4/17/1931 | 15-1
  5. 5/31/1932 | 9-3
  6. 4/10/1933 | 9-0
  7. 6/11/1934 | 7-0
  8. 4/22/1935 | 5-1
  9. 6/1/1936 | 6-2
  10. 4/19/1937 | 19-4
  11. 5/8/1944 | 14-0
  12. 4/14/1961 | 14-0
  13. 5/7/1962 | 8-4
  14. 4/22/1963 | 15-2
  15. 4/27/1964 | 8-2
  16. 4/29/1966 | 1-0
  17. 5/9/1968 | 9-0
  18. 5/22/1969 | 4-0
  19. 4/27/1972 | 10-1
  20. 4/23/1974 | 7-0
  21. 4/19/1976 | 2-0

Over the years the Yanks have played a number of amateur squads, including last season’s victory over the University of South Florida. Perhaps the most legendary matchup between the Yanks and an NCAA club occurred on March 26, 1951 when the Bombers faced the University of Southern California during a pre-season, west coast barnstorming tour. During the contest a young, relatively unknown ballplayer from Commerce, Oklahoma began his 17-year foray on pitching with two blasts that remain an indelible part of Trojan lore.

In the first inning the fresh-faced, 19-year-old outfielder strode to the plate and cracked a right-handed moonshot that left the stadium via left field, soared over a street and hit a house. In the 6th the rookie dug in against the Trojans’ Tom Lovich. On the fateful pitch the catcher, John Burkhead, thinking it was a wild pitch, dove to his left but found nothing but dirt. The batter, stepping out of the box and across the plate, had sent the ball hurtling toward right-center field. When the projectile finally came to rest it had cleared Bovard Field, entered the football team’s practice field, and rolled into the huddle. After the game a relief pitcher named Ed Hookstratten walked off the shot and placed its distance between 600 and 650 feet. The 3,000 in attendance were stunned by the raw power of the lithe teenager and wouldn’t soon forget his name.

Before the game’s end, Mickey Mantle added a bases-clearing triple to the deepest part of center field in the 7th and showcased his blinding speed in the 9th, beating out a routine grounder to shortstop. His final line:

5 AB | 4 H | 2 HR | 1 3B | 1 1B | 7 RBI

Rod Dedeaux simply christened it, “The greatest show in history.” The next morning’s Los Angeles Times led with the headline, “One for the Mantle, Yanks Dismantle Troy.” Though it came against a college team, Mantle’s display was so dazzling that it may have been what finally convinced the Yankee brass to place him on the big league roster. When the Mick arrived for spring training, manager Casey Stengel was looking to groom him for another year to become Joe DiMaggio‘s successor in center field. Mantle was not expected to make the squad, but after putting together a string of solid play during their west coast swing, punctuated by his offensive explosion in Los Angeles, it was clear that the kid was ready for a crack at the big time. Mantle made the roster for the 1951 season and hit 13 home runs while manning right field. The rest, as they say, is history.

On March 30th the Yankees will add another chapter to their longstanding tradition of competing against amateurs. Who knows? We may just see some fireworks.

Spring Training 3/2/13 Lineup

Brett Gardner CF
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Kevin Youkilis 3B
Travis Hafner DH
Matt Diaz LF
Jayson Nix SS
Chris Stewart C

RHP Ivan Nova

Start Time: 1:05 p.m.
T.V: YES Network