What would become the most recognizable insignia in sports the interlocking "NY" made its first appearance on the uniforms of the New York Highlanders in 1909. The design was actually created in 1877 by Louis B. Tiffany for a medal to be given by the New York City Police Department to Officer John McDowell, the first NYC policeman shot in the line of duty. Perhaps because one of the club's owners, Bill Devery, was a former NYC police chief, the design was adopted by the Highlanders. It first appeared on both the cap and on the jersey's left sleeve, replacing the separated "N" and "Y" which had appeared on the left and right breast each season since 1903 with the exception of 1905. For that season only, the "N" and "Y" were merged side by side into a monogram on the left breast actually a forerunner of the now legendary emblem.
In 1912, their final season at Hilltop Park, the Yankees as they were now commonly known made a fashionable debut at their home opener on April 11. Their traditional white uniforms were now trimmed with black pinstripes, creating a look that would become the most famous uniform design in sports history. The Yankees, however, were not the first team with pinstripes and would actually abandon the look for the next two seasons. By 1915, though, the pinstripes were back for good and, with the exception of the cap, the uniform would remain relatively unchanged.
The Yankees utilized numerous cap designs including pinstripes from 1903 until 1922 when they finally settled on a solid navy cap with the interlocking "NY" insignia. Only one more element would now be needed to achieve a look that remains in place today. In 1917, the Yankees removed the "NY" monogram from the jersey and went with a plain, pinstripes-only look. The "NY" remained off the uniform except for the cap for the next 20 years until it was reinstated in 1936. The legendary Babe Ruth, therefore, actually played his entire Yankee career without ever wearing the club's now-legendary insignia on his jersey. With the exception of minor alterations including bolder pinstripes in the forties the Yankee uniform has remained unchanged for more than 60 years and has, of course, grown into another of the team's great traditions.
Permanent Uniform Numbers
In 1929, the New York Yankees became the first team to make numbers a permanent part of the uniform. Other teams quickly adopted the idea and, by 1932, uniform numbers became standard for all teams. The initial distribution of numbers on the Yankees was made according to the player's position in the batting order. Therefore, in 1929, leadoff hitter Earle Combs wore #1, Mark Koenig #2, Babe Ruth #3, Lou Gehrig #4, Bob Meusel #5, Tony Lazzeri #6, Leo Durocher #7, Johnny Grabowski #8, Benny Bengough #9, Bill Dickey #10 (Grabowski, Bengough and Dickey shared the catching duties).
Why the Yankees?
When the American League moved the Baltimore Orioles to New York for the 1903 season, the club made its home at 168th Street and Broadway, one of the highest spots in Manhattan. The team would, therefore, be known as the "Highlanders" and their field "Hilltop Park." As early as 1905, however, the name "Yankees" began popping up in newspapers whose editors undoubtedly were searching for a shorter name for their headlines. By the time the franchise moved from decaying Hilltop Park to the Polo Grounds in 1913, it officially changed its name to the by then commonly-used "New York Yankees."