The Yankees roll on, top of the heap, more stars, more world championships, more hype and hoopla. They are New York. They are big time baseball.
Lest we forget, the roots go all the way back to the son and grandson of Bavarian beer tycoons who founded the Ruppert Breweries. Heir to the family millions, young Jacob Ruppert was born on August 5, 1867. He lived with his family in a commodious and luxurious Manhattan Fifth Avenue apartment. He attended the prestigious Columbia Grammar School. Although he was accepted to the School of Mines of Columbia University, his father insisted he become part of the brewery business.
By the turn of the century, the Rupperts in a time before income tax, were reaping huge profits and had become fabulously wealthy. The Ruppert Brewery, one of the most modern beer producing plants in the world, was a complex of thirty-five fortress-like red brick buildings located from East 90th to East 94th Street between Second and Third Avenues in the Yorkville section of Manhattan’s upper East side.
The brewery chimneys spewed smoke carrying the sulfurous smell of malt from the boiling vats into the air. On windy days the smell was especially foul and noxious. Maids in the area even in the summertime, closed windows, pulled down drapes, did what they could to keep the stench out of their employer’s dwellings.
At 19, Jacob Ruppert began work at the brewery – washing barrels. Four years later he was general manager. At 29, he was president of the Jacob Ruppert Brewing Company succeeding his father who had retired. Under the young Ruppert’s direction, the brewery increased its 1893 output of 350,000 barrels to 1,300,000 barrels just prior to prohibition. In his tenure Ruppert would create and head a gigantic and modern plant for 62 years – home to the finest brewery in the world. At one point, valued at over $30 million, the Ruppert brand (“Make Mine Ruppert”) employed more than a thousand workers and was an integral component of the entire New York economy.
A vast fortune and Tammany Hall connections eased Ruppert into a congressional seat. He was elected as a Democrat in a normally Republican district. The ambitious Ruppert served as a four-time member of the House of Representatives from 1899 to 1907 representing the “Silk Stocking” district of Manhattan.
After the death of his father in 1915, Ruppert continued to live with his mother in the family’s red brick Victorian house at 1115 Fifth Avenue on “Millionaire’s Row” along Central Park. When his mother died in 1924, Ruppert stayed on in the family mansion for another year. He then sold to a developer and moved across the street into a 12-room apartment in a 15-story luxury building at 1120 Fifth Avenue. His apartment faced Fifth Avenue and looked out onto the Central Park Reservoir directly across the street. Five full-time servants catered to every whim of the Teutonic, punctilious millionaire. Throughout his life, Ruppert lived within easy walking distance of his brewery.
He was appointed an honorary Colonel in the New York State 7th National Guard Regiment, and it pleased him very much when people used “Colonel” in addressing him.
A heavily invested real estate toomler as well as the head of the most powerful brewery in the world, “Colonel” Ruppert’s wealth kept increasing making him one of the world’s richest men with an estimated fortune of nearly $50 million.
Called “Congressman” by some, “Colonel” by most, “Jake,” by his closest friends, Ruppert had the world on a string. A confirmed bachelor, he always had one beautiful woman, sometimes two, on his arm. But his true love had always been baseball. He was always a rabid fan.
Back in 1880 when he was just 13, Jacob Ruppert owned, managed, captained and played second base for a local Manhattan baseball club. The snobbish, some would say cruel, rich boy, insisted that his players clean the cages of his private menagerie before he would bring his bat and ball down to the vacant lot where the team played. Making it perfectly clear to all that he could not abide losing, Ruppert also made it very uncomfortable for any of his players who struck out – he fired them. The highly privileged youngster was a passionate rooter for the New York Giants. As a teenager he tried out but could not make the club. No matter, he would accomplish much more in baseball than that.
North of the city at his large estate in Garrison, New York, Ruppert kept St. Bernards and Boston terriers. He owned a dozen varieties of doves, two dozen varieties of monkeys. He had a collection of Percherons, the large horses that had pulled the big beer trucks. He was a collector of trotting horses and thoroughbred race horses, yachts, Chinese porcelains, and jades. His country place was a repository of one of the largest personal art galleries and libraries in the United States.
His office was devoid of curtains. Close by his desk were marble pedestals, a goldfish aquarium, and two bronzes of American Indian collectibles.
Ruppert’s shoes were…