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These Japanese Imports Chauffeured Pitchers to the Mound at Yankee Stadium

We understand if a portion of our audience couldn't give a rat's behind about baseball in any capacity. But you have to admit, classic bullpen cars decked out in team-appropriate pinstripes were some of the coolest rides around if you're into that kind of thing.
Yankees Bullpen 6 photos
Yankees Bullpen CarYankees Bullpen CarYankees Bullpen CarYankees Bullpen CarYankees Bullpen Car
To give a bit more context, the concept of a motor vehicle escorting professional baseball pitchers from their warmup sessions in the bullpen to their starting of relief appearances is nothing new. It's a tradition that dates back to at least the 1950 Major League Baseball season.

The make and model of the very first bullpen car are up for debate. The only description from the Cleveland Indians (recently renamed to the Guardians) the home team for the affair only referred to it as "a little red auto." Whatever that means.

Other teams like the Los Angeles Angels and the newly formed New York Mets also dabbled in golf carts to transport pitchers to the mound. They featured oversides batting helmet room arrangements that make them collector's items in their own right. But for those of you who among us who couldn't care less about baseball, the New York Yankees are a different caliber of a professional ballclub.

Yankees Bullpen Car
The Bronx Bombers didn't rack up 27 world championships by conserving money or spending sparingly. They've put some of the greatest names in pro baseball history in white uniforms with black pinstripes by paying gargantuan amounts of money in salary and stadium amenities.

That's why starting in the 1970s and early 1980s, the Yankees weren't using golf carts to ferry their relief pitchers out to the mound. They were running them out there in regular automobiles, modified with Yankees' pinstriping and logos.

The cars in question were both imports, if you can believe it or not. We suppose 1970s American exceptionalism can't beat Japanese reliability. The first Yankees bullpen car was a 1970s Datsun 1200. A compact economy sedan also called the Sunny in foreign markets.

Legend has it that the car wouldn't start one morning before a 1970s Yankees home game. Team staff found that rodents and insects had been chewing the internal electrical wires to the point the ignition system just went "nope" and quit working altogether.

Yankees Bullpen Car
By the 1979 season, the new Yankees bullpen car of choice became a Toyota Celica Liftback. Promptly decked out in all the familiar Yankees regalia while legends of the game like Catfish Hunter, Ron Guidry, and Tommy John sat shotgun behind the wheel of what was at the time, one of the sweetest imports around.

Sadly, the Yankee Celica began its bullpen shuttle service the year after the team won its 22nd World Series title, kicking off a championship drought that wouldn't end until 1996, at the hands of superstar shortstop Derek Jeter and company. That said, the greatest professional sports franchise in North America never won it all with the Celica bullpen car in service.

Legend has it the Yanks tried to use a very limited number of Chrysler Lebaron and Dodge Omni hatchbacks as Bullpen cars in a few spring training games in the early to mid-80s. We can only assume team owner George Steinbrenner must have realized bullpen cars are only a good idea when they don't puke up their transmission every other home game. The idea was scrapped shortly thereafter.

But just imagine the spectacle of 50,000 strong at the original Yankee serenading any one of these long-forgotten cars as they tootled across the baseball diamond. Surely, it would have made for a one-of-a-kind moment in automotive and baseball history. Check back for more classic and quirky car profiles and so much more right here on autoevolution.

 
 
 
 
 

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