Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2003-06-11 13:21
by Alex Belth


Here is an curious yet informative article that I obtained by a writer named Howard W. Rosenberg regarding the history of Yankee captains. Rosenberg has an odd penchant for referring to himself in the third person, but the article is interesting all the same.

The "Uncorked 11:" Yankees Bungle their Past; Snub, Among Others, Hall of Famers Clark Griffith and Frank Chance in Detailing Just 11 Captains Including Derek Jeter; Lou Gehrig Takes a Hit Too

Don Mattingly was definitely not the tenth captain of the New York Yankees, a decade of media reporting on Yankee baseball notwithstanding, and the newly named Derek Jeter is therefore not the 11th. The grand total of Yankee captains to date seems like 15, says Howard W. Rosenberg, biographer of Cap Anson, the 19th-century Hall of Famer and longtime captain-manager whose nickname derived from the word "captain."

When Jeter was named captain on June 3, the Yankees issued a news release that could be read on the Yankees' Web site on (and was still there as of June 9). The precise ring exuded by the release may help explain why media outlets did not bother attributing the data to the Yankees. The Yankees supplied full start and end dates (month, day and year) for many of the captaincies, starting with Babe Ruth's in 1922.

Yet the Yankees bungled Lou Gehrig's start date as April 21, 1935, and apparently have been doing so since at least 1991 (when the error appeared that way in the New York Times). That date should be April 12, 1935, as validated by the Times of April 13, 1935. Rosenberg surmises that today, while hardly anyone is sentimental that the Yankees overlooked perhaps four of their captains (whose names are not of the likes of DiMaggio or Mantle), an error on Gehrig's milestone will be deemed a sacrilege.

A back-to-back view of the Yankees' "uncorked 11" and Rosenberg's "gang of 15" captains chronologies appears at the bottom of this analysis.

Rosenberg does appreciate that the Yankees addressed an historical subject that hardly any baseball media (let alone fans) know anything about. He would welcome the opportunity to tell Yankee officials and players all about captains, captain-managers and bench managers in the old days (or if they want, they can read his July 2003 release: Cap Anson 1: When Captaining a Team Meant Something: Leadership in Baseball's Early Years). Rosenberg adds, "As penance, I invite those hoodwinked New York and national media not overly tied to ratings points or perceived focus-group sensibilities to serve up a few features that relate the first decades of U.S. team sport to today. As captain-manager of Chicago for 19 years, 3,000-hitsman Anson won several pennants, and his relations with famous Hall of Fame club presidents William Hulbert and Albert Spalding would make for an insightful comparison to George Steinbrenner-Joe Torre-Derek Jeter relations on the Yankees today."

Rosenberg continues: "Anson was great friends with the Yankees' first captain, Clark Griffith, who had been his star pitcher in Chicago in the 1890s. Also relevant to New York, Anson had the stomach to withstand criticism (especially about his advanced age; he was playing at age 45). He was the first professional ball player to have star billing in a vaudeville play (playwright Charles Hoyt's 1895 `A Runaway Colt'), and it had a run in New York City. By the way, it was out of the storied Chicago tradition of funny coverage (with Anson a major target) that baseball humorist Ring Lardner blossomed in the early 20th century. In the mid-1910s, Lardner wrote vaudeville material for Anson."

Jeter's elevation as captain will appear in the Anson 1 foreword, which is written by Clark C. Griffith, great-nephew of the Yankees' first captain and Hall of Famer Clark Griffith. The foreword writer is a former chairman of Major League Properties, former part-owner of the Minnesota Twins and current chairman of the sports law forum of the American Bar Association Section on Entertainment and Sports Law.

With the help of online databases, plus hands-on knowledge of the captain's historic role in baseball, Rosenberg has dissected the Yankees' June 3 press release. He estimates at 14 the number of Yankees captains prior to Jeter who served at least a month (a captain being a player on the active roster, and he did not necessarily have to play much). Rosenberg's "gang of 15" list, which assumes that Jeter will last at least a month, additionally contains Hall of Famer Griffith (1903 to 1905), Kid Elberfeld (1906 to 1909), Hall of Famer Frank Chance (1913) and a mystery sleeper: Roy Hartzell, on the team from 1911 to 1916. On Dec. 27, 1916, the New York Times stated that the following person had signed a minor league contract: "Roy Hartzell, former Captain of the New York Americans." Rosenberg could not tell, from a basic search, when Hartzell may have been captain. Perhaps to reward readers who find missing captains, the New York Daily News, which printed splendid pictures of the "uncorked 11," can offer a meal or rap session with noted columnist Mike Lupica.

The Daily News was the only major newspaper printing the names of the "uncorked 11" that Rosenberg has seen; the others are Newsday, the New York Post, the Bergen County [N.J.] Record, the Hartford Courant, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and several papers associated with the Scripps Howard News Service. Not readily apparent is whether any of the above noted the Yankees as the source of the information; the Daily News spread (pretty enough to post on a wall) apparently did not attribute the data.

ESPN, before one of Jeter's three strikeouts during last night's Yankees-Cubs game, posted the "uncorked 11" on the screen.

In handling the "uncorked 11," the New York Times, under fire in recent weeks, deserves just a mild censure: it was one of the few New York-area papers with big sports sections not to print it, limiting its error to calling Jeter the 11th captain.

Rosenberg has seen mentions of Jeter as the 11th captain in dozens of newspapers online and several major wire services extending as far as abroad to the Voice of America. In no case has he seen an attribution to the Yankees as the source for Jeter as the 11th captain.

Unlike most subjects that gain wide airing in today's sports media, captains may seem obscure and lend themselves to large historical blunders. While the Yankees' list seems to reflect a reasonable mastery of the subject since the 1920s (having a captain evolved into a matter of taste), it snubs early decades of that century when having a captain was a necessity (as the rule books singled out a captain who was an active player, and not the manager, as the one with the right to argue with the umpire).

That changed around 1930 (when the rules for some time singled out the captain or the manager as being able to argue). The decline in the captain's importance can be seen after 1925 in the "uncorked 11" and "gang of 15" dueling chronologies at the bottom of this note, when there is a gap between Yankee captains until Lou Gehrig in 1935.

Today, the rules let the manager hand off to a coach or player the role of top arguer in each game; a hypothetical question, incidentally, is what would happen if a manager who was not in uniform tried to come on the field and act as designated arguer. The rules today state that to be on the field, coaches must be in uniform. They do not address whether a bench manager must be as well to come on the field and argue with the umpire.

In researching Anson 1, Rosenberg posed that question to Tom Lepperd, director of umpire administration of Major League Baseball (and the following is taken from Anson 1). When given the hypothetical of a manager not in uniform coming out on the field and arguing, Lepperd replied that such a practice "is archaic in that all modern-day professional leagues implicitly require the manager to be in uniform."

Starting with 1903, the first season of the New York AL club, here is a chronological look at years of Yankee captains Rosenberg found to expand the "uncorked 11" to a "gang of 15:"

A. Clark Griffith (1903 to 1905)

According to New York Times contemporaneous reporting (which the Times in effect has undercut over two decades by accepting modern-day chronologies presumably always supplied by the Yankees), Griffith was the first captain (when the club had prior nicknames, especially the Highlanders):

1. The New York Times of Dec. 10, 1902, states, "Clark Griffith will be the Manager-Captain of the New York American League team. . ."

2. On the eve of opening day of the club's first season, on April 20, 1903, when New York was in Washington, the Washington Evening Star stated, "The New York aggregation is made up of several stars, among whom are Keeler, Fultz and Pitchers Tannehill, Chesbro and Griffith, the latter acting as captain-manager."

Griffith's reign as captain continued into 1904, and probably into 1905. The New York Times of Oct. 16, 1904, reviewed the season of the New York NL and AL clubs and ran individual pictures of everyone, including larger elegant ones of John McGraw of the Giants and Griffith of the AL club, with the caption "Manager and Captain" under each.

B. Kid Elberfeld (1906 to 1909)

Proof that Elberfeld was a Yankees captain can be found in the Times of May 15, 1906, which called him manager "Griffith's first assistant in directing the team on the field." If that sounds like a reference to Elberfeld as captain, it probably is, as on August 19, 1906, the Times referred to him as "Elberfeld, Captain of the Greater New Yorks."

On Oct. 10, 1907, the Washington Post said that if Washington acquired Elberfeld from New York, he would undoubtedly be named captain. Elberfeld played with the Yankees through 1909, and he likely remained captain throughout.

C. Hal Chase (1910 to 1911, in addition to 1912)

On April 3, 1910, the Times said, ``With Hal Chase as Captain, and with more confidence than has been exhibited in several seasons, the New York Americans show more promise than last season." Times coverage in 1911 also points to Chase as captain (on Feb. 18 and April 29).

D. Frank Chance (1913)

After casting Chase as captain in 1912 only, the "uncorked 11" list jumps to Roger Peckinpaugh, for 1914-21. For 1913, Rosenberg opines that Chance was circumstantially the Yankee captain (news reports show Chance in uniform on the coaching lines into late in the season, playing in a few games. They also show him arguing with the umpire over captain-like issues including the legality of the pitcher's motion).

The "uncorked 11" contains a large gap from 1926 to 1935 and in case you are now understandably suspicious, the Times and the Associated Press, contemporaneously, validated at least some of the gap. In their 1935 coverage, both news outlets pointed wrongly to Babe Ruth as the last captain before 1935 (Ruth was captain briefly in 1922, while Everett Scott was captain from 1922 to 1925). However, Scott does appear among the "uncorked 11," so the Yankees can be praised for helping reporters improve on coverage from 68 years ago. The Times of April 13, 1935, does allude to Scott's tenure in stating, "Not for ten years has the Yankee club had a captain;" however, it then gives an explanation that makes it sound like Ruth was captain until 1925. In reality, any suppressing of the title by the Yankees was done not after Ruth's tenure (which was in 1922) but after Scott's (which according to the Yankees ended with 1925).

It is unfair to single out the Times for erroneous claims because it is one of the few newspapers available for full-text searching on a computer. With that in mind, the oldest report Rosenberg found in the Times of a long, bogus chain of Yankee captains was on Jan. 31, 1982. A Times column stated, "In their history, the Yankees have had only six captains (dash symbol appears here) Roger Peckinpaugh, Babe Ruth (for six days in 1922 before he was defrocked by American League President Ban Johnson and suspended after a fight with a fan) [sic, meaning that's what's in the 1982 report], Everett Scott, Lou Gehrig, Thurman Munson and now Graig Nettles."

That 1982 list is interesting (as far as figuring out the chain of custody of erroneous lineage) because Peckinpaugh was a captain only in seasons when Yankees was the official nickname. It became the nickname in 1913, and Peckinpaugh was captain from 1914 to 1921. Perhaps the original list was compiled with an eye toward years in which Yankees was the official nickname; however, even by that score, the Yankees had to have had a captain in 1913 (even if the title was not bandied about explicitly), and he is most likely the strong-willed Frank Chance (of Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance poetic fame) known in 1913 as "P. L." or the Peerless Leader; Hal Chase, the 1910-12 captain, was traded in June 1913. In 1986, a Times article noting the then-naming of co-captains Ron Guidry and Willie Randolph similarly named Peckinpaugh as the first Yankee captain.

It may seem amazing that for two decades, uncorrected lists have been published about the names of Yankee captains, given the club's treasured history (and seemingly plentiful male fans of an advanced age in the highly intelligent New York area). Maybe it was earlier manifestations of the Jayson Blair phenomenon, where members of the public often did not complain because they had no expectation that corrections would be made.

For reference, here is the Yankees' "uncorked 11":

Hal Chase 1912

Roger Peckinpaugh 1914-1921

Babe Ruth 5/20/22-5/25/22

Everett Scott 1922-1925

Lou Gehrig 4/21/35-6/2/41

Thurman Munson 4/17/76-8/2/79

Graig Nettles 1/29/82-3/30/84

Ron Guidry 3/4/86-7/12/89

Willie Randolph 3/4/86-7/12/89

Don Mattingly 2/28/91-1995

Derek Jeter 6/3/03-

Here is the "gang of 15" based on additional research by Cap Anson biographer Howard W. Rosenberg:

Clark Griffith 1903-05 (first addition)

Kid Elberfeld 1906-09 (second addition)

Hal Chase 1910-12 (two years added)

(Roy Hartzell, somewhere within 1911-16) (third addition)

Frank Chance 1913 (fourth addition)

Roger Peckinpaugh 1914-1921

Babe Ruth 5/20/22-5/25/22

Everett Scott 5/30/22 or later-1925 (the 5/30 date being taken from a Times article that day noting that manager Miller Huggins was expected to name Scott in the future)

Lou Gehrig 4/12/35-6/2/41 (note the correction to Gehrig's date of naming)

Thurman Munson 4/17/76-8/2/79

Graig Nettles 1/29/82-3/30/84

Ron Guidry 3/4/86-7/12/89

Willie Randolph 3/4/86-7/12/89

Don Mattingly 2/28/91-1995

Derek Jeter 6/3/03-

Howard Rosenberg has written a book on Cap Anson that is due to be released later this year. For more information, and to contact Howard, go to

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