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Yankees will honor Rivera — Ruth wasn’t so lucky
In the often cruel culture of baseball, many of the most famous Yankees departed unhappily, if not sadly.
The New York Times
Mariano Rivera is a rare New York Yankees icon. As he approaches retirement, his career and character will be celebrated Sunday at Yankee Stadium with fans cheering and bands playing. But in the often cruel culture of baseball, in the past, many of the most famous Yankees departed unhappily, if not sadly.
Beginning with the most famous Yankee of all, Babe Ruth.
At his best, the Babe was the Yankees. He put the words home run into baseball’s vocabulary, notably a record 60 homers in 1927. When asked if his salary ($80,000) should be more than President Herbert Hoover’s ($75,000), he said: “Why not? I had a better year than he did.” In his 15 seasons, his Yankees teams won seven American League pennants and four World Series.
As the Babe’s career wound down, he wanted to be the Yankees’ manager, but the owner, Jacob Ruppert, insisted on retaining Joe McCarthy. When the Boston Braves’ owner, Judge Emil Fuchs, offered to make the Babe a vice president and assistant manager with a $25,000 salary and a share of the profits to mostly pinch-hit in the 1935 season, the Yankees could not agree fast enough.
The only thanks the Babe got from the Yankees was thanks for the memories. And not long after hitting three home runs for the Braves in a game at Pittsburgh, he decided to retire, saying Fuchs had double-crossed him.
The Yankees honored him in 1947, when he returned to the Stadium for Babe Ruth Day. In 1948, on the 25th anniversary of the House That Ruth Built, he was there when his No. 3 uniform was retired. Two months later, he died.
“The termites got me,” he told a teammate. Cancer. The Yankees mourned. His body lay for viewing at the entrance to Yankee Stadium for two days before his funeral Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
But when the Babe departed to the Braves, the Yankees’ front office was glad to see him go.
Joe DiMaggio had a hollow last hurrah. His two-run homer in Game 4 of the 1951 World Series helped propel the Yankees to a six-game victory over the Giants after his so-so season: .263 average, 12 homers, 71 runs batted in. Offered another $100,000 contract, he retired, saying: “I can’t play anymore. It’s not the money, it’s me. I don’t want to play baseball like this.”
In 1961, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle combined for 115 home runs — a record 61 for Maris, 54 for Mantle. But when Maris hit only 13 homers in 1966, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. Mantle, who hit 536 homers, walked away from his $100,000 contract in 1969. “I can’t hit anymore,” he said.