A brief history of the Yankees-Cubs MLB bond

Babe Ruth allegedly called his shot during the 1932 series between the Yankees and Cubs.|Art or Photo Credit: AP

For more than a century, the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs have been two of Major League Baseball’s most iconic clubs, and this past weekend would have marked the Cubs’ first visit to the Bronx since 2014 before the regular season was upended by the COVID-19 virus.

While the Yankees are most famous for racking up an eye-popping 27 World Series championships to the Cubs’ three (which included an agonizing 108-year title drought from 1908 to 2016), both teams have legions of loyal fans across the country who have witnessed a number of unforgettable moments over the years.

1932 World Series

The Yankees and Cubs first clashed on the World Series stage in 1932, when future Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Kiki Cuyler and Billy Herman battled it out for that season’s title. In fact, the 1932 World Series still holds the record for the most combined Hall of Famers to participate with 13.

Although there was no shortage of star-power duking it out that postseason, the Yankees handily dispatched the Cubs over a four-game sweep, with a combined scoring margin of 37-19 in favor of New York. It would mark the 10th and final World Series appearance for the legendary Ruth, who made nationwide headlines in Game 3 when he enthralled fans and reporters by (allegedly) “calling his shot” before hitting a mammoth home run ...

The Babe Calls his Shot

What may or may not have happened in the fifth inning of Game 3 continues to stir debate to this day, but as the tale goes, Ruth, batting third, stepped up to the plate with the Yankees and Cubs tied at four runs apiece. The two clubs had jawed at one another from their respective dugouts, and Ruth was not one to shy away from any sort of banter from his opponents. After taking two strikes from Cubs right-hander Charlie Root, Ruth gestured with his bat toward center field, or perhaps the mound, or maybe the Cubs bench before uncorking a towering home run that traveled between 440 and 490 feet by some estimations.

Future United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in attendance for the game that day and delighted in watching Ruth have some fun at the Cubs’ expense on his way around the bases. Root threw one more pitch after the famous at-bat versus Ruth, which Gehrig, batting clean-up, promptly crushed for another home run to follow up his Hall of Fame teammate.

While fans may never know exactly what was said between Ruth and the Cubs on the field that day, members of press took the called-shot concept and ran with it, further adding to the mythos of The Sultan of Swat.

1938 World Series

Just a few years later, both teams met again in the Fall Classic, however this time leading the Yankees was a sensational rising star named Joe DiMaggio. Ruth had hung up his cleats for good following the 1935 season and Gehrig would be making his final career World Series appearance in 1938 before his untimely exit due to ALS the following year.

The Yankees once again muscled their way to victory in just four games to win their seventh franchise championship in 1938, and the third of four consecutive titles. Following the second game of the 1932 Series, the Yankees would not make a return trip to Wrigley Field until after the turn of the century in 2003.

Derek Jeter’s First and Only Grand Slam

Fast-forwarding up to 2005, the Yankees and Cubs met once again for a three-game set in the Bronx from June 17-19, and this time it was Derek Jeter’s turn to make waves with a home run of his own. In the middle game of the series against Cubs reliever Joe Borowski, The Captain took a healthy hack and powered a ball over the left-center field wall for a grand slam. It was the first slam of Jeter’s career, taking place in the midst of his 11th MLB season after 155 previous plate appearances with the bases loaded.

“I thought I’d never hit one,” Jeter told the media after his milestone round-tripper, the 157th of 260 career blasts No. 2 would collect over his 20-year Hall of Fame career. He even added on a second home run that day for good measure in the eighth.

Derek Jeter's first (and only) career grand slam came on this day in 2005.

Posted by YES Network on Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Trades of 2015-16

A decade after Jeter’s standout slam took place, the Cubs and Yankees were once again intertwined with the teams’ baseball fates taking shape via a pair of major trades. In December 2015 during MLB’s annual winter meetings, the Cubs agreed to send Starlin Castro to the Bronx in a three-player deal that returned reliever Adam Warren and a player to be named later (veteran infielder Brendan Ryan).

Warren struggled in his time with the Cubs and Ryan never made an appearance for the team before he was released later that December, but Castro was a solid veteran infielder during his tenure in pinstripes, slashing .283/.317/.442 with 37 homers and 133 RBI in parts of two seasons (including an All-Star selection in 2017).

But the trade that really made waves between both teams happened just before the 2016 trade deadline, when the Yankees shipped closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs in exchange for future shortstop Gleyber Torres, the aforementioned reliever Warren and two other prospects, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford. As most sports fans are well aware, the Cubs ended their historic 108-year championship drought that October thanks in part to Chapman’s presence at the back end of the team's bullpen, and the Yankees netted themselves a future franchise cornerstone in Torres.

What’s more, Chapman later re-signed back with the Yankees following the Cubs’ title run, further tilting the outcome of the transaction in favor of Brian Cashman’s Bombers. But ask any Cubs fan and they’d likely make the same trade 10 times out of 10 in exchange for that long-awaited taste of World Series glory.

While baseball fans will have to wait to see the Yankees and Cubs meet head-to-head for a regular season series until sometime in the future, there’s no shortage of history to look back on between these two storied franchises. Who knows, maybe another World Series matchup could be on the horizon someday.

Until then, MLB the Show can at least provide an answer to the question of which team would come away with the series victory in 2020. Watch the video below to see which team came out on top.