The Yankees once considered making their home on 42nd Street in bustling Midtown, according to a remarkable 1915 letter penned by team co-owner Colonel Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston.
A New York auction house just got its mitts on the historical gem — in which Huston, hat-in-hand, begs American League brass to help keep the then-financially struggling franchise afloat.
Huston, on behalf of his business partner, Col. Jacob Ruppert, asked AL President Ban Johnson for a meeting to hash over their plans to build a new stadium on 42nd Street.
Well that’s kind of awesome to consider. I guess the important thing to remember is that it’s not just plopping Yankee Stadium and the 2011 Yankees down on our current conception of 42nd St. Obviously the histories of both Yankee Stadium and Midtown Manhattan since 1915 would have been altered had the team moved.
The letter doesn’t say where on 42nd St. the stadium would have gone. The Wikipedia tells me that in 1915 there were elevated trains crossing 42nd on Second, Third, Sixth and Ninth Avenues. The main branch of the New York Public Library was already at 42nd and 5th. The current incarnation of Grand Central Station went up on 42nd St. in 1913.
I’m out of my element here, but presumably the best place to put a baseball stadium on 42nd St. in 1915 would have been on either where all those new high-rises and old warehousey buildings are on the extreme west side or where the U.N. building is on the extreme east side. Historians?
And I suppose we could extrapolate from there: If the Yankees moved to the west side of Manhattan and still managed to secure Babe Ruth and become a massively successful baseball franchise, maybe Times Square extends all the way west now? I don’t know what that means for the 1980s pre-Disney incarnation of Times Square, when it was all peep shows and street preachers. But then the Yankees weren’t exactly these Yankees in the 1980s either.
If the Yankees moved to the east side, is there a Second Ave. subway line by now? Probably. Actually, you’ve got figure the entire infrastructure of the city would be altered pretty significantly by a baseball stadium placed there in 1915. But then I’m also not an urban planner.
Since we’re talking Yankees owners and New Yorker history, a little bit on a subject in which I am an expert: Me.
My new place is not far from a very small park named for Ruppert, a German whose family owned a brewery on the location. My great-great grandfather Adolph Von Berg — also, believe it or not, a German — worked as a brewmeister at Ruppert Brewery until prohibition.
Adolph, who dropped the “Von” from his last name at some point and forever impacted my middle-school seating assignments, had a son named Eric who contracted scarlet fever and lost his hearing before he learned to speak. Eric learned American Sign Language and Adolph spoke only German, so the father and son only communicated through gestures.
Eric and his wife, who was deaf from having been kicked by a horse in childhood, bestowed upon their third son the unfortunate name “Winfred Millard” — the joke in my family was that they never heard how bad it sounded (though “Win” made for a pretty sweet nickname). Winfred, my grandfather, entered school with very little language and failed kindergarten multiple times. But he grew up to be an engineer and inventor and earned 60-something patents. Plus he was a pretty hilarious dude.