When he was running for New York City mayor in 1903, former New York City police chief Bill Devery teamed with fellow New York City native Frank Farrell to launch a baseball team that they would subsequently call the New York Yankees.
Devery and Farrell were known to have made fortunes through graft. Devery regularly accepted bribes from businesses, including brothels and gambling dens, in exchange for police protection. In 1900, The New York Times reported that the vice protection syndicate run by Farrell and Devery was receiving more than 3 million dollars a year in protection payoffs.
Devery’s reputation as a corrupt official was enough for his 1902 election, to head of the city’s Ninth District as a Democrat, to be overturned by party leadership. He was replaced in the position and ran for mayor as an independent.
Farrell took the opportunity of his friend’s political decline to orchestrate the replacement of a Baltimore baseball club with New York’s first, and still only, American League team. The club, originally known as the Highlanders, first played its home games at Upper Manhattan’s Hilltop Park, with construction of the venue bankrolled by Devery and Farrell.
The Yankees would become MLB’s most celebrated franchise. Last month, the Yankees made their record 56th post-season appearance — 22 more than the second-place (Brooklyn and Los Angeles) Dodgers.
After he received only 0.5 percent of the votes in the mayor’s race, Devery didn’t forget his government past.
For the Yankees, he is credited with appropriating a design from a Tiffany-designed police medallion that was created during his time as police chief. The design — the interlocking N-Y insignia — became iconic, not only worn by the Yankees but seen regularly on baseball caps worldwide.
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