In the tenth year of the Great
Depression, Colonel Jacob Ruppert,
was one of the few who prospered big
time while the economy of the nation
Part of that prospering came from
his business acumen - -the good
sense to buy New York City property
at depression prices like the former
Bank of United States Building, at
Fifth and Forty-fourth in 1931, the
Commerce Building, at Third and
Forty-fourth, in 1932, a competing
brewery in an area bounded by Second
and Third Avenues, and Ninety-second
and Ninety-fourth Streets, just east
of his own.
By 1935, all his property holdings
had more than doubled in value. As
the decade of the 30s neared its end
, his real estate holdings were
valued at $30 million, his total
estate at double that amount.
He still had the world by a string.
Then the string snapped.
Strangely and sadly, the normally
vigorous Colonel attended just two
games at Yankee Stadium during the
1938 season. He followed his beloved
Yankees from a sickbed, listening to
games on the radio for the first
time. So impressed was he by the
medium’s fit with baseball that he
arranged for all Bronx Bomber home
games to be broadcast on radio. That
was his final official act.
On Friday morning January 13, 1939,
the master builder of the New York
Yankees empire passed away at his
home from complication from
phlebitis. He was 71 years old.
Aside from close relatives and
medical attendants, the last person
to see Ruppert alive was Babe Ruth.
At 7 P.M. on January 12th, the
Colonel was in an oxygen tent where
he had been for several hours. After
removal from the tent the first
thing he said, according to his
nurse, was: "I want to see the
The dying man opened his eyes,
reached out his hand to the “Big
Bam.” He murmured only one word,
Ruth said: "It was the only time in
his life he ever called me Babe to
On Monday January 16, 1939, the
procession that resembled a state
funeral started out from the Ruppert
apartment on 93rd Street in
Manhattan. More than 4,000 jammed
inside the historic St. Patrick’s
Cathedral including brewers, public
dignitaries, the bosses of the
Tammany and Bronx Democratic
machines, more than 500 Ruppert
employees, fans and family.
Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Yankee
manager Joe McCarthy, general
manager Ed Barrow, farm system
director George Weiss, members of
the 1939 team including Tommy
Henrich and Johnny Murphy, chief
scout Paul Krichell, Boston Red Sox
manager Joe Cronin and Chicago White
Sox manager Jimmie Dykes, star
players like Honus Wagner and Eddie
Collins all were in attendance.
More than 10,000 people were outside
the Cathedral. The service ran for
about an hour. The family was
represented by one brother, two
sisters, two nephews, and four
nieces. They sat in the front left
pew. Dignitaries Mayor Fiorello H.
LaGuardia, United States Senator
Robert E Wagner, former New York
State governor Al Smith sat in the
front right pew.
Honorary pallbearers included
Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw
Mountain Landis, Yankee manager Joe
McCarthy, Ed Barrow, Babe Ruth, Lou
Gehrig, Yankee farm system director
George M. Weiss, Senator Robert F.
Wagner, Al Smith, President of the
American League William Harridge,
and congressman "Honey Fitz"
Fitzgerald, former mayor of Boston.
After the ceremony a fifty car
cortege headed to Kensico Cemetery
in Westchester County where Colonel
Jacob Ruppert’s burial was in the
A vast fortune was basically left to
Twenty million dollars was for two
And one third of the estate was left
to a former chorus girl Helen
Winthrop Weyant, 37. Her name had
never appeared in the press before.
She lived on 55th Street in
Manhattan with her mother. She was
described in newspapers as a “ward,”
as “formerly a chorus girl,” and by
The Sporting News as "a former
Claiming she had met the Colonel
about 14 years before his death,
Weyant told reporters that that
she had “no idea why he left her
so much money."
The New York Yankees would play
on through the decades under new
ownerships. And it would not be
until 2013 that Colonel Jacob
Ruppert, the man who created the
Yankee Empire, would finally and
deservedly be admitted to the
National Baseball Hall of Fame
in Cooperstown, New York.