Yankees Return to West Point

April 14, 2013 – Last year, I wrote a feature about the Yankees history at West Point, and that story was published in the June 2012 Issue of Yankees Magazine. It detailed the 21 exhibition games that the Yankees played against the Army Black Knights at the United States Military Academy between 1927 and 1976.

Besides chronicling the game action, I also wrote about everything from the tours of the campus that various Yankees teams went on to the reactions of the cadets who got to take the field against some of baseball’s all-time great clubs.

As I conducted research for that story, I quickly realized that quite a few special moments took place on the days the Yankees were in West Point between 1927 and 1976.

Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played against the cadets. Mickey Mantle laced up his spikes at West Point. Yogi Berra took the field on the grounds of the most prestigious military institution in the world and Whitey Ford pitched there.

When I completed that feature, I didn’t think I would ever be writing another story about the Yankees playing a game in West Point because the organization hadn’t played there since 1976 and there was no word of them returning any time soon.

But that all changed earlier this year when Army officials approached the Yankees about renewing the tradition.

Those discussions led to the Yankees’ return to West Point. On March 30, the team traveled by bus from Yankee Stadium to West Point — which is about 50 miles north of New York City — for the 22nd all-time match-up against the cadets.

I can’t speak to what it was like to tour the campus with Ruth, Gehrig or Mantle and I wasn’t around to see them play at West Point’s tiny ballpark. But, a few weeks ago, I visited the United States Military Academy with a group of future Hall of Famers and Yankees icons that included Mariano Rivera, Robinson Cano, Ichiro Suzuki, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte (pictured below with Kevin Youkilis).

Upon our arrival at West Point, we were given a tour that brought us onto the football field at Michie Stadium, and to Cadet Chapel and Trophy Point. After the tour, the team ate lunch with hundreds of cadets in the Mess Hall. Following that special meal, the Yankees were driven to tiny Johnson Stadium at Doubleday Field, where they prepared for the game.

In front of a few thousand fans — many of whom were sitting in bleachers that were put in place just for the day — Rivera tossed a ceremonial first pitch. After the pre-game ceremony, the Yankees defeated Army, improving their record against the cadets to 22-0.

My latest feature story on the Yankees tradition of playing at West Point is all about the 2013 visit. It will appear in the May Issue of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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