One day was opening day, the next was National Beer Day. It gave us two good excuses to talk about beer and baseball.
What especially caught our fancy was a section about the history of beer in New York baseball history.
We had always known the Colonel Jacob Rupert owned the Yankees. Rupert made his money as a brewer of the Knickerbocker Brewing Company.
Fast forward a few decades and the “Voice of the Yankees”, Mel Allen spoke during broadcasts of a Ballentine Blast.
As mentioned above, Jacob Rupert did pretty well for himself in the beer business and decided to buy himself a baseball team. When he bought the Yankees in 1915, they were not a very good team so the price was right. Rupert invested a good amount of his beer profits into the team and the rest, as they say, is history. Ruth, Gehrig, Yankee Stadium and the Yank’s first dynasties.
Despite Prohibition (that all but killed off Knickerbocker beer), Rupert prospered. His name appeared on two minor league parks of Yankees farm teams. The longtime (1926-1949) home of the Newark Bears was known as Rupert Field from 1934, and the ballpark in Kansas City (later known as Municipal Stadium, the home of the major league A’s and Royals) was known as Rupert Stadium from 1937-1943.
It was a year after Rupert’s death in 1939 that Knickerbocker migrated across the Harlem River to the Polo Grounds to become the beer of the New York Giants. It was at that time that Ballantine (brewed in Newark) became associated with the Yankees. Announcer Mel Allen referred to Yankee home runs as “Ballantine blasts.” A good thing Jacob Rupert wasn’t around to hear that.
Interestingly, later Knickerbocker was taken over by Rheingold, which later became “The Official Beer of the New York Mets”.
Meanwhile, in the borough of Brooklyn, Schaefer established a relationship with the Dodgers. Among other advertising media, the Schaefer beer sign on the Ebbets Field scoreboard was not only a landmark but a boon to fans keeping score, as an “H” or “E” would light up to indicate whether a questionable play was a hit or an error.
Today, in the world of micro-brews, it is Clydesdale images that are to be found in most Major League ballparks (Miller time in Milwaukee’s Miller Park is an exception.
But the connection between beer and the National Pastime persists.