A colonel in the seventh regiment of the National Guard, Ruppert was a member of the New York social register and a lifelong bachelor. He went to work in the family brewery at 19 and was elected to four terms in Congress beginning in 1898. He became president of the brewery in 1915. At the suggestion of John McGraw, Ruppert and Tillinghast Huston, an engineer who had made a fortune in Cuba, bought the Yankees in 1914 for $450,000. When Ruppert hired Miller Huggins as manager in 1917 against Huston’s wishes (Huston was in Europe), a rift developed between the partners.
The hiring of Huggins, the acquisition of Babe Ruth in 1919, and the selection of Ed Barrow as general manager in 1920 were the most important moves in turning the Yankees into a powerhouse. Ruppert let Huggins and Barrow handle the day-to-day affairs of the club, although he designed the Yankees’ famous pinstripe uniform (in hopes it would make the bulky Ruth look slimmer). Yankee Stadium was opened in 1923 at a cost of $2.5 million. Shortly thereafter, Ruppert bought out Huston for $1.2 million.
With the Yankees dominating the AL in the late 1930s, Ruppert answered proposals that the team should be broken up: “I found out a long time ago there is no charity in baseball. Every club owner must make his own fight for existence. I went into baseball purely for the fun of it. I had no idea I would spend so much money … the only return I ever sought was to make ends meet.”