Posts Tagged ‘Johnny Murphy’

The Old and the New: the ’42 Yankees

March 7, 2016
Marse Joe

Marse Joe

The 1942 baseball season was the first played while the US was involved in the Second World War. It changed a lot of things. One thing it didn’t change was the New York Yankees stranglehold on the American League. For the sixth time in seven years, New York won the AL pennant. Joe McCarthy’s gang won the league championship by nine games and were primed to win their ninth World Series since 1927.

Yankee hitters finished first in runs and home runs and second in almost everything else, finishing third in stolen bases and triples and fourth in doubles. The pitching was even better. New York hurlers led the AL in every major category except strikeouts (they were second) and in home runs. All that got them 103 wins and earned second baseman Joe Gordon an MVP award.

It wasn’t one of the more famous Yankee staffs, but New York pitchers were excellent. Ernie Bonham, Spud Chandler, Hank Borowy, Atley Donald, and Marv Breuer all started at least 19 games. Hall of Famer Red Ruffing had a 3.21 ERA which was last among the starters. His .667 winning percentage (14-7) was next-to-last. Johnny Murphy and Johnny Lindell did most of the damage out of the bullpen, while former ace Lefty Gomez was restricted to 13 games.

At 35, Bill Dickey was still a premier catcher. He hit .295 for the season with an OPS of .732 (POS+ of 108) and 1.6 WAR. His power was gone (two homers)but neither Buddy Rosar or Rollie Hemsley, his backups, had more.

The infield was formidable up the middle and weaker at the edges. Hall of Famers Joe Gordon and Phil Rizzuto played either side of the keystone bag. Gordon, as mentioned above, won the MVP hitting .322 with a .900 OPS and a 154 OPS+. His WAR was a team high 8.2. He contributed 103 RBIs, 88 runs, and 18 home runs (all third on the team). Shortstop Rizzuto added a .284 average, a .718 OPS, a 103 OPS+, and 5.7 WAR. He had 157 hits, 68 RBIs, and flashed good leather. Buddy Hassett held down first. He wasn’t Lou Gehrig, managing only a .284 average, 0.4 WAR, and a below average OPS+ of 95. Frankie Crosetti and Red Rolfe shared time at third. Neither hit.250 (Crosetti’s .242 easily outpacing Rolfe’s .219). Rolfe’s eight home runs doubled Crosetti’s four and between them they had 48 RBIs. Jerry Priddy and Ed Levy provided most of the bench work (infielders with more than 40 at bats).  Levy hit a buck-22, but Priddy hit .280 with a couple of home runs.

The 1942 team provided one of the best Yankee outfields. There was no Ruth or Mantle, but across the field from left to right the three main players might have given New York the best trio of outfielders it produced at one time. Joe DiMaggio was in center. His 6.1 WAR was third on the team. He hit .305 with 21 home runs (good for second on the team) while leading the team with 114 RBIs and 186 hits. Charlie Keller played left. He hit .292, led the team with 26 homers and a .930 OPS (163 OPS+) and posted 6.7 WAR (good for second on the team). Tommy Henrich hit .267 with 13 home runs, 129 hits, a team leading 30 doubles, an OPS+ of 121, and 2.7 WAR. Roy Cullenbine and George Selkirk were the other outfielders. Cullenbine hit .364 and led the team with an OPS+ of 188 (1.4 WAR) and had the only two home runs by the backup outfielders. Selkirk hit .192.

The Yanks were defending champions. They were seasoned, formidable, and ready to repeat. Standing in their way was the upstart team from St. Louis.

Clean Living and Johnny Murphy

December 30, 2010

Johnny Murphy

Lefty Gomez has always been one of my favorites. He was a good enough pitcher, but he was even better with a quip. The story goes that after a particularly good outing on the mound, a reporter asked him to what did he attribute his success. Without missing a beat, he replied “Clean living and Johnny Murphy.”

Murphy was born in 1908 in New York City, went to Fordham University. While at Fordham he set the team ERA mark, a record that lasted until 1986. Toward the end of the 1929 Fordham season, Murphy signed a contract with the New York Yankees. He remained a minor leaguer until 1932, when he made the big league team as a bullpen man. He went back to the minors (although his brief appearance in 1932 got him a World Series share) and finally made it back to the Yankees to stay in 1934. He split time that season between the bullpen and starting. He started 20, relieved 20, and went 14-10 with an ERA of 3.12. After the ’34 season, Murphy went to the bullpen and became the Yankees regular closer (although they didn’t call it that back in 1934). Although the stat hadn’t been invented yet, Murphy led the Major Leagues in saves in 1938, 1939, 1941, and led the American League in 1942 (Hugh Casey of Brooklyn in the National League had more). In the Yankees championship years of 1936-39 Murphy appeared in all four World Series’ picking up a save in each of the first three and a win in game 4 of 1939, the final game of the sweep over Cincinnati. In 1941, he was the winning  pitcher in game 4, the game famous for Mickey Owen’s dropped third strike that should have ended the game. He did not participate in the 1942 Series, but picked up one final save in the 1943 Series. He lost 1944 and 1945 to World War II. He didn’t join the military, but rather worked at Oak Ridge on the Manhattan Project. I have been unable to find out exactly what he did, so would appreciate anything someone can give me to enlighten me on this point. He was back with the Yanks in 1946, didn’t do badly, but didn’t do well either and ended up in Boston with the Red Sox for one final season. Again he didn’t do badly, but at age 38 he was through.

Boston hired him as a scout, then named in vice president and director of minor league operations. He held the latter job until the end of the 1960 season. In 1961 he took a job as scouting supervisor for the Mets and the next year became defacto personnel director (his official title as “Administrative Assistant”). In 1967 he negotiated the deal that brought Gil Hodges to the Mets as their manager and in December 1967 Murphy took over as general manager. He held the job during the 1969 “Miracle Mets” run, then was felled by a heart attack on 30 December 1969 (41 years ago today). He died in January 1970 and is buried in the Bronx. The Mets rookie award is named for Murphy and in 1983 he joined the team Hall of Fame.

Murphy isn’t the first great relief specialist (Firpo Marberry is), but he’s one of the best. For his career he went 93-53 with 107 saves, one of the top three save totals prior to 1960. He walked 444 men, struck out 378, had an ERA of 3.50, and gave up 985 hits in 1045 innings pitched. His ERA+ is 118 with a WHIP of 1.367. In World Series play he was 2-0 with four saves and an ERA of 1.10 a WHIP of 0.918 with four walks and eight strikeouts. He pitched in five World Series’ and the Yankees won every one of them. The lone Yanks loss of the era, 1942, is the single series Murphy sat out.

Lefty Gomez’s comment about clean living is a testament to Murphy’s value to the Yankees dynasty of the late 1930s-early 1940s. He went further than just a great reliever, when he went to the Mets front office. As scout, personnel director, and general manager, he is one of the major forces in bringing the Mets to their 1969 victory. As such, he’s one of a very few men who’ve made both a major contribution to one team as a player and another as a front office man.

Will not be posting any more this year. Enjoy your holiday, have a good time, don’t drink and drive (PLEASE!!!), and have a wonderful 2011. Will be back to posting next year.