The Yankees you didn’t know: When football shared the diamond with baseball

The Yankees logo in an NFL game

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Before home runs ruled the stands, what other sport graced the iconic Yankee Stadium turf? Step back to the late 1940s and discover the stadium’s surprising football legacy, from the Pinstripe Bowl to epic college matchups.

Touchdowns in pinstripes

As the Kansas City Chiefs prepare to take on the San Francisco 49ers, it’s worth diving into the rich football history of Yankee Stadium. Before the Meadowlands became home to the New York Giants, the iconic stadium hosted their games, including the legendary 1958 NFL Championship Game dubbed “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”

However, the football legacy of Yankee Stadium goes beyond the Giants. In the 1940s, another football team, with ties to the baseball Yankees, graced its field. The trio of Larry MacPhail, Del Webb, and Dan Topping, who acquired the baseball Yankees in 1945, sought to expand the team’s success beyond the diamond.

Topping, previously associated with the Brooklyn Dodgers football team, envisioned moving them to Yankee Stadium. However, the New York Giants thwarted the plan due to territorial disputes.

Undeterred, Topping pivoted, seizing the opportunity to join the All-American Football Conference (AAFC) in 1946. He renamed the Dodgers as the New York Yankees. Led by Hall of Famer Ray Flaherty, the Yankees achieved success but fell short in championship bouts against the Cleveland Browns.

Despite initial victories, the AAFC Yankees encountered hurdles. The league’s merger with the NFL ultimately led to the team’s disbandment, marking the end of Topping’s dual ownership of baseball and football teams named the Yankees.

Nevertheless, the legacy of the AAFC Yankees lives on, notably for jumpstarting the career of future Cowboys icon Tom Landry. Reflecting on their storied past, one can’t help but ponder the alternate trajectory had they clinched victory against the Browns. Today, mentioning the “New York Yankees” might prompt inquiries about which sport they once dominated.

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