The Colonel and Hug: The Partnership That Transformed the New York Yankees

The Colonel and Hug: The Partnership That Transformed the New York Yankees

The Colonel and Hug: The Partnership That Transformed the New York Yankees

The Colonel and Hug: The Partnership That Transformed the New York Yankees


From the team's inception in 1903, the New York Yankees were a floundering group that played as second-class citizens to the New York Giants. With four winning seasons to date, the team was purchased in 1915 by Jacob Ruppert and his partner, Cap "Til" Huston. Three years later, when Ruppert hired Miller Huggins as manager, the unlikely partnership of the two figures began, one that set into motion the Yankees' run as the dominant baseball franchise of the 1920s and the rest of the twentieth century, capturing six American League pennants with Huggins at the helm and four more during Ruppert's lifetime.
The Yankees' success was driven by Ruppert's executive style and enduring financial commitment, combined with Huggins's philosophy of continual improvement and personnel development. While Ruppert and Huggins had more than a little help from one of baseball's greats, Babe Ruth, their close relationship has been overlooked in the Yankees' rise to dominance. Though both were small of stature, the two men nonetheless became giants of the game with unassailable mutual trust and loyalty. The Colonel and Hug tells the story of how these two men transformed the Yankees. It also tells the larger story about baseball primarily in the tumultuous period from 1918 to 1929--with the end of the Deadball Era and the rise of the Lively Ball Era, a gambling scandal, and the collapse of baseball's governing structure--and the significant role the Yankees played in it all. While the hitting of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig won many games for New York, Ruppert and Huggins institutionalized winning for the Yankees.


Marty Appel

Shortly after George Steinbrenner’s death in 2010 questions arose about his worthiness for inclusion in the Baseball Hall of Fame. As one who worked for him for many years, I found myself on the receiving end of that question many times. and I would answer, “Mr. Steinbrenner often said that owning the New York Yankees was like owning the Mona Lisa. If that was true, then Jacob Ruppert was Leonardo da Vinci—the man who painted it. So before we debate Mr. Steinbrenner, let’s take care of the unfinished business of getting Jake Ruppert elected first.”

Ruppert did at last find enshrinement in 2013, and George Steinbrenner’s name was back on the ballot for 2014. All was in order, although he fell well short of election.

You could not work for the Yankees without thinking about the history of the franchise on a daily basis. Babe Ruth was everywhere. Young fans today don’t care as much about baseball history as previous generations did, but there is no escaping Ruth. and ninety years ago, there was no escaping Ruth if you were Jacob Ruppert or Miller Huggins. Ruth was oversized in every way—the easiest to pick out of a team photo, and the one most likely to be in the newsreels at your movie theater. But the dynamics of Ruth and Ruppert, Ruth and Huggins, Huggins and Ruppert (over matters concerning Babe) require a book like this to sort it all out.

Poor Hug. When he died in 1929, largely because penicillin hadn’t yet been invented, Ruth mourned him as “my friend; a great guy.” This would have likely made Huggins laugh. Babe seemed to exist to make Miller’s life miserable. His propensity for circumventing the rules was forever a bane to Huggins, who tried so hard to impose discipline on the Yankees. It was what managers did! But it just could not be accomplished with Babe laughing at the rules and getting into mischief like your worst junior high school detention-ridden malcontent. There would be few enforce-

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