The NYPD Origins Of The New York Yankees Logo

The New York Yankees have one of the most recognized logos on the entire planet, not just in the world of sports. It doesn't matter where you are on the globe, people are familiar with it, even if they don't know first base from third. The interlocked N and Y is the kind of instantly recognizable symbol that massive corporations would rightfully envy. It's achieved a level of notoriety not often seen, in which the logo has sort of transcended the ball club that wears it on the field, and has become a de facto symbol for New York City as a whole.

What may be surprising is that the logo that was eventually used by the Yankees predates the team by decades. However, it still has a tie to the City of New York, specifically to the New York Police Department, and was first crafted by one of the most famous jewelry companies in the entire world (via The New York Times).

The first version of the logo was used for an NYPD medal

According to the New York Post, John McDowell was a police officer patrolling Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen on a dark, early morning in January 1877. While keeping an eye on the neighborhood, he stumbled upon several men burglarizing a liquor store. While McDowell was able to arrest one of the burglars — a man named George Flint — the officer didn't come away unscathed. One of Flint's accomplices had fired at McDowell and hit him in the ear, but the officer managed to survive and eventually recovered.

His heroics earned him an award, the NYPD Medal of Valor, but it was a new award, and as such, the actual medal needed to be designed and manufactured. According to 6sqft, Louis Tiffany, of famed jewelry company Tiffany & Co., crafted the medal. The award features a bar with the word "Valor," then the interlocking logo now used by the Yankees as part of the design. The logo connects to a silver shield with the image of a woman placing a wreath on a police officer's head.

The Yankees adopted the logo in 1909

The team we now know as the New York Yankees didn't even start its life in New York. It began as an early incarnation of the Baltimore Orioles in 1901. Just two years later, the team relocated to New York City, but took the name Highlanders, as a nod to being based in Hilltop Park, which is one of the highest points on the island of Manhattan (via Britannica). According to Fine Print Art, for their first several seasons in New York, the Highlanders used a series of N and Y combinations, but none of them really managed to catch on.

In 1909, one of the team's part-owners, former NYPD police chief William "Big Bill" Devery, decided to give the logo design another shot, but this time he decided to use the interlocked N and Y logo seen in the Medal of Valor. It caught on, and when the club moved to the famed Polo Grounds in 1913, the press started calling them "Yankees." It seems the journalists were sick of using Highlanders because it was too long.

According to The New York Times, the Medal of Valor is still given out by the NYPD. It was redesigned in 1939, however, and no longer features the logo now synonymous the Yankees.