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History Highlights for December 31

It was largely through the efforts of AL founder Ban Johnson that ownership of the Yankee franchise changed hands on December 31, 1914. Colonel Jacob Ruppert and Cap Huston paid Bill Devery and Frank Farrell $460,000 for it, and then built a winner. After the misstep of hiring Bill Donovan to manage the club (fifth-, fourth-, and sixth-place finishes in 1915-1917), Miller Huggins arrived behind the bench in 1918 and Babe Ruth on the bench two seasons later. The Yankees became the winning organization that inspires such deep feeling in fans of all stripes to this day.

Eventual Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter signed a five-year free agent contract to pitch for the Yankees on December 31, 1974.

Roberto Clemente lost his life on a mercy mission to earthquake-struck Puerto Rico on December 31, 1972.

Righthander Bob Shawkey, who started and won the first game in Yankee Stadium in 1923, and managed the 1930 Yankees to a third-place finish, died on December 31, 1980. After starting out with the 1913 A’s, Shawkey was purchased in June 1915, and pitched 415 games in New York from then until he retired as a player in 1927. He went 168-131-31 in New York and 196-150-28 overall.

Lefty Tommy Byrne not only made his major league debut in the Bronx from 1943-1951, he sandwiched his years pitching for the Browns, the White Sox, and the Senators in between New York stints, finishing his career with the Bombers from 1954-1957. Born on December 31, 1919, Tommy posted a 72-40 mark with the Yankees, and added 12 saves.

Read more history for December 31 on TakeHimDowntown.com

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