Play Ball! Columbia Football and the New York Yankees

With the New York Yankees about to begin another playoff run, we just had to take this opportunity to highlight some interesting intersections between Columbia Football and the Yankees.

Lou Gehrig playing football for Columbia, 1921-1922

In the current Columbia Football exhibition, “Roar, Lion, Roar,” we highlight former Columbia Lion Lou Gehrig (CC 1925). Gehrig played freshmen football in the fall of 1921 and joined the varsity squad in fall of 1922. After playing baseball in the spring of 1923, Gehrig signed with the New York Yankees in the summer of 1923.

But that is not the only Columbia football-New York Yankees connection. During our research for the exhibition, we noticed that in the 1940s, the cover artwork on the football programs seemed not-Columbia specific. For example, the football player on this 1942 cover is wearing a red and green uniform and the photographs in the “V” shape include a stadium (not Baker Field) and marching band (!).

Maine vs. Columbia Football Game Cover, 1942

In fact, in 1943, we found the same cover image for a Columbia home game (against Princeton) as for a Cornell home game (against Columbia): both institutions licensed and featured the same artwork just a few weeks apart. The work was done by sports artist (and New York Sports Museum & Hall of Famer) Henry Alonzo Keller, or as he signed his name, Lon Keller. Keller’s work was featured in professional, college and high school program covers for football, basketball and baseball. But his best known work is the New York Yankees top-hat-on-the-bat logo, which first appeared in 1926.  Keller’s work appeared in Columbia football program and in Yankees programs during the 1940s and 1950s.

You can find the Columbia football programs in the University Archives’ Historical Subject Files and you can also view a gallery of Lon Keller’s work online at

-Columbia University Archives Staff