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MLB: NY Yankees Celebrate 100th Anniversary - 2003-10-08

Baseball is often called America's pastime, and the most successful team in the history of the sport is the New York Yankees. This year, the team is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Over the course of 100 years, high action and dramatic performances have drawn countless sports fans to the New York Yankees. The reason is simple.

"They win, and there's joy in winning," said Bob Sheppard.

Bob Sheppard has announced the name of each and every Yankee batter for the past 53 years. He loves his job, and feels sorry for the announcer of the other Major League baseball team in New York, the Mets.

"I dread the thought of becoming, as somebody must have become, the public address announcer of the New York Mets," he said. "That must be a sad experience in many ways to go home night after night defeated. I usually go home as a winner."

Mr. Sheppard is a legend in his own right, a familiar voice to tens of thousands of Yankee fans, who hear his grandfatherly tones at every home game. He has announced the names of some of the greatest players in baseball history: Joe DiMaggio; Mickey Mantle; Roger Maris; Reggie Jackson.

Mr. Sheppard began his career around the same time as Mantle, the muscular slugger who pounded the longest home run ever in the game, and helped the Yankees win seven World Series.

"[He] hit a fair ball once that almost cleared the roof in right field," said Bob Sheppard. "Nobody's ever hit a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium. But Mickey really tagged one that was still climbing when it hit the top of the façade, and bounced back into the stadium itself. What a clout. Unbelievable."

The Yankees were a losing Baltimore team before moving to New York in 1903.

In the 1920s, one player catapulted the team into the national spotlight - Babe Ruth. He hit 714 home runs in his 21-year career, including 60 home runs in 1927, a record that stood for more than 30 years.

Mr. Sheppard remembers "The Bambino," as he was called, from one of the first times he stepped into Yankee Stadium.

"I was a young boy, and I was out in the bleachers in right field," he said. "And among the great Yankees at the time was, of course, Babe Ruth. Like every red-blooded American boy, he was my hero at the moment."

"No one had ever seen anything like Babe Ruth," said Michael Seidel.

Author Michael Seidel has written two books about the New York Yankees.

"When he was hitting his home runs in the 1920s, the early 1920s, most teams' collective home-run totals were not equal to Babe Ruth's single home run season totals," he said. "He was a phenomenon, an absolute phenomenon."

Babe Ruth spent 15 seasons with the Yankees, and drew a huge following of fans that would extend for generations to come.

Mr. Seidel says being a baseball fan is a devotion that knows no parallel.

"When you go out to the ballpark and see a team play, that team is often yours for life," said Michael Seidel. "It's visceral. It's not rational. It's somewhere deep in your psyche."

Modern fans have new Yankee favorites. Fran Giallerenzi has no hesitation naming hers - the shortstop, Derek Jeter.

For locals, the fun of being a Yankee fan involves attending a game at Yankee Stadium, and buying traditional ballpark snacks - popcorn, peanuts, and of course …hot dogs!

And what could be better than seeing your team win baseball's annual championship, the World Series, more times than any other team?

"There's no team over the course of a century that can mount 26 World Championships next to their name," said author Seidel. "It's an incredibly sustained record of victory and a consistent record of victory. That's why the New York Yankees are the New York Yankees. Their name is synonymous with victory."

The Yankees, also the team with the highest payroll in all of sports, have just finished another winning season. They are once again competing for a spot in the World Series (October 18). But win or lose, the legendary Yankees will remain a quintessential symbol of New York.