Yankees fans between 10 and 110 years old are one defeat away from experiencing something for the first time: Living through an entire decade without seeing their team win an American League pennant.
But if that seems like a bleak prospect from a 2010s perspective, know this: It could be much worse. Much, much, much worse.
This decade might not include a World Series appearance for the first time since the 1910s, but the Yankees have made the playoffs seven times, won at least 90 games six times and never had a losing season.
They never have drawn less than 3 million people to Yankee Stadium.
The Highlanders/Yankees of the 1910s would have signed up for any of that in a second. They had only three winning seasons and on six occasions finished more than 25 games out of first place.
Eight times they drew fewer than 400,000 fans for an entire season at Hilltop Park and later the Polo Grounds.
When Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast Huston purchased the team in 1915 – a pivotal moment in franchise history – Ruppert said: “For $450,000, we got an orphan ballclub,” one “without a home of its own, without players of outstanding ability, without prestige.”
The low point was the 1912 season, their last at Hilltop Park in Manhattan before they joined the Giants as tenants at the Polo Grounds, and the last before they officially adopted the “Yankees” nickname.
They finished 50-102 but likely would have preferred 49-103, given the indignity of the season finale on Oct. 5.
According to The New York Times’ account the next day, the Highlanders were on their way to losing 19 of their last 20 games, trailing the Senators, 6-5, after seven innings.
That was when Washington manager Clark Griffith – who had managed the Highlanders from 1903 to 1908 – got word that Boston had beaten Philadelphia, clinching second place for the Senators.
He promptly turned the game into a farce, handing the home team three runs in the eighth inning and eventually an 8-6 victory.
Griffith, who was 42 and had not pitched in the majors since 1909, came in to face one batter, Hal Chase, and allowed a home run. Coach Nick Altrock, who also had not pitched since 1909, also got a turn on the mound that day.
“No such travesty on the National game has ever before been staged on the Hilltop,” the disgusted Times reporter wrote, “and it is doubtful if any other major league grounds has seen its equal.”
The headline read, “Senators Force Yankees to Win.” (“Yankees” often was used informally before 1913.)
Kind of makes another helpless Gary Sanchez strikeout seen less bad in comparison, doesn’t it?
Chase, the team’s biggest star then , was known for his excellent glovework at first base and his excellent relationships with gambling interests on whose behalf he allegedly influenced game results.
The franchise’s first New York owners, Frank Farrell and Bill Devery, who moved the franchise from Baltimore in 1903, were a well-known gambler and a New York police official dogged by charges of corruption and bribery, respectively.
Ruppert started to establish order in 1915, bringing in better players, hiring Miller Huggins as manager and, most famously, acquiring a certain Boston slugger named Babe Ruth on Dec. 26, 1919.
Five days later, the decade was over, and there has not been one since in which the Yankees did not qualify for a World Series. Yet.