Posts Tagged ‘Lou Gehrig’

A Crushing: Final Blow

October 30, 2017

Down three games, the 1932 Chicago Cubs would need four consecutive wins to pull out the World Series victory. They started well in game four.

Game 4

Wilcy Moore

In game four Chicago sent Guy Bush to the mound. He didn’t make it out of the first inning. two singles, a hit by pitch and the bases were loaded for Lou Gehrig. A long fly plated the first New York run. Another walk sent Bush to the showers and brought in Lon Warneke who got the two outs to finish the inning.

The Yanks responded with Johnny Allen on the mound. He did even worse than Bush. With two outs he gave up a three run home run to Frank Demaree. A single and an error brought up Billy Jurges who singled to bring in a fourth Cubs run. That was all for Allen. His replacement was veteran pitcher Wilcy Moore. Moore was a member of the 1927 and 1928 World Series teams and had won a game in the ’27 Series. He got the final out to end the inning. At the end of one, the score stood Chicago-4 and New York-1.

The Yankees crept closer in the third with a Gehrig double and a Tony Lazzeri home run. In the sixth they took the lead. A walk and a double brought up Gehrig with two outs. He singled to put New York ahead 5-4. The lead lasted for one out. In the bottom of the sixth a Charlie Grimm single and two errors gave the Cubs a run and tied up the score.

The tie also lasted for one out. In the top of the seventh, New York scored four runs on a double, an intentional walk, and three back-to-back-to-back singles. Joe Sewell’s single, the middle of the three hits, drove in two runs with Earle Combs and Babe Ruth supplying the other key hits. They added four more in the ninth on home runs by Combs and Lazzeri plus an RBI double by Ben Chapman.

Down 13-5, the Cubs tried to rally in the ninth. A Billy Herman single and two defensive indifference calls put Herman on third for a Woody English grounder that got both the first out and a run. A strikeout and a fly to right ended the threat, the inning, the game, and the series. New York won by a final score of 13-6.

After the Cubs took a 4-1 lead, Wilcy Moore had done a great job holding the fort through the sixth, giving up only one earned run. Then Yankees bats took over, put the game away, and let reliever Herb Pennock finish the game by giving up only one inconsequential run.

The 1932 World Series certainly wasn’t a tight, great Series. New York swept Chicago in convincing fashion. The Yanks outhit the Cubs .313 to .253, getting 37 runs to Chicago’s 19. Babe Ruth had two homers, including the famous “called shot” of game 3, to go with six RBIs, four walks, and six runs scored. Lou Gehrig was even better. He hit a Series leading .529 with three home runs, eight RBIs, and nine runs scored. For Chicago, only Riggs Stephenson was close in average (.444) and tied Frank Demaree with four RBIs. Billy Herman scored five runs.

The Cubs staff had an ERA of 9.26 and walked 23 men (with 26 strikeouts). New York, in contrast, posted an ERA of 3.00 with only 11 walks to go with 24 strikeouts. Charlie Root, Bush, and Jakie May all posted ERA’s north of 10.

So on the surface the 1932 looks like a thorough thrashing by New York. And of course it is. But let me point out that, in defense of the Cubs, Chicago actually led in two of the games, and was tied in the fifth inning or later in the other two. It’s not like the Cubs simply rolled over in the Series. They were quite competitive in each game, but only for a while. The pitching simply couldn’t hold the Yankees in check over nine innings and the Yanks could hold them down long enough for the New York bats to respond.

Ultimately none of that mattered. It is still remembered as Babe Ruth’s last World Series. More than that, it is remembered for Ruth’s most famous and most controversial home run. Somehow, because it’s the Babe, that makes sense.

 

 

 

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A Crushing: The Called Shot

October 26, 2017

Game three of the 1932 World Series became, over the years, one of the most famous of all World Series games. It is still talked about in a way that most games aren’t. In the center of it all was Babe Ruth.

Game 3

Charlie Root

Game three was played 1 October in Chicago. The Cubs sent long time hurler Charlie Root to the mound. He was ineffective and, as usual for this Series, runs crossed the plate in the first inning. An error by shortstop Billy Jurges put Earle Combs on base. A walk to Joe Sewell, brought up Babe Ruth, who promptly homered to put New York up 3-0.

Root was able to staunch further damage and Chicago was able to get a run back off Yanks pitcher, veteran George Pipgras. A walk to Billy Herman and a Kiki Cuyler double made the score 3-1.

Both teams scored in the third inning. New York got one run on a Lou Gehrig home run to make it 4-1. A Cuyler home run followed by a Riggs Stephenson single and a Charlie Grimm double cut the score to 4-3. Then they added one more in the fourth on a Jurges double and a Tony Lazzeri error that let Jurges score. That made it 4-4 going into the fifth.

Ruth at bat

The inning began with a Sewell ground out. That brought up Ruth. He and the Cubs had been at odds for the entire Series. It seems that he liked Mark Koenig, who’d been a former teammate on the “Murderer’s Row” Yanks of the 1920s. Koenig now played for Chicago and because he hadn’t been there the entire season was voted less than a full share of the World Series take. Ruth, and most everyone else, thought Koenig had been instrumental in the Cubs pennant drive and felt he wasn’t given a fair shake. So he and the Cubs were at each others throats during the Series. So with the score tied he faced off against Root.

And it’s here that legend takes over from fact. Root threw a strike, which Ruth took. Then a second strike, which the Babe also took. Then Ruth gestured with his hand, pointing to center field. Root threw another pitch and Babe Ruth, being the Babe, smashed the ball deep over the wall in center field for a 5-4 lead. He’d “called his shot” and put the Yanks ahead to stay. To top it off, it would be his last World Series homer.

Great story, right? There’s even a picture showing it (see just above). Well, maybe. But all the picture shows is Ruth gesturing. It’s too blurry to tell it he’s pointing or simply lifting his arm. Is he pointing to center field? Is he pointing at Root? Is he pointing at the Chicago dugout? Is he giving the middle finger salute to the Cubs? Frankly, I don’t know and neither does anyone else. Knowing what I know about Ruth I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the middle finger. Charlie Root went to his grave swearing Ruth never called the shot. Joe Sewell swore Ruth did. The Babe never said. Whatever actually happened, here’s an artist’s rendition of the moment.

Ruth calling his shot (the catcher is Gabby Hartnett)

With the Yankees now ahead, Root had to deal with Lou Gehrig. The “Iron Horse” proceeded to send another homer into the stands, this one in right field. It was all for Root. In came Pat Malone, who managed to get out of the inning without more New Yorkers crossing the plate. Both teams managed one more run in the ninth. An error and a double gave the Yankees seven runs and a Gabby Hartnett home run gave the Cubs a final tally of five.

In all the press about Ruth’s homer, a number of good performances were overshadowed. Gehrig’s follow-up home run had finished the shell-shocked Cubs and Hartnett’s home run, along with Cuyler’s, were totally lost. Pipgras had pitched well for eight innings (Herb Pennock pitched the ninth and picked up a save). And Root was forever tagged as the man who gave up Ruth’s called shot. Worse, from a Chicago point of view, the Cubs were down three games to none with game four scheduled for the next day.

 

 

 

A Crushing: In the Bronx

October 24, 2017

The 1932 World Series began with two games in the Bronx. Yankee Stadium was hosting its first World Series since 1928 with the Yanks being heavy favorites.

Game 1

Lou Gehrig

The first game was played 28 September with New York sending Hall of Famer Red Ruffing to the mound. He started slowly. Consecutive singles and an error by Babe Ruth scored Cubs lead off hitter Billy Herman. After an out, Riggs Stephenson singled to center scoring Woody English, whose single had scored Herman. Then Ruffing settled down getting seven men in a row before a single and stolen base put a runner on second. A fly ended the threat.

Meanwhile, Chicago starter Guy Bush was holding New York in check. In the fourth, the Cubs put two men on base, but failed to score. The Yanks’ Earle Combs led off the bottom of the fourth with a walk, then took second on a ground out. Ruth followed with a single to score Combs. That brought up Lou Gehrig who slugged a two run homer to put the Yankees ahead.

In the sixth, The Bombers tacked on five more runs. Three walks loaded the bases. They were followed, after an out, by a Bill Dickey single that scored two. After another out, a couple of hits, and a run, the bases were reloaded for Combs. He singled to drive in two more and make the score 8-2.

The Cubs got two back in the seventh. The Yanks promptly responded with three of their own to up the score to 11-4. Not to be outdone, Chicago got two more on a double by Gabby Hartnett, a Mark Koenig triple, and a run scoring ground out in the top of the eighth. Again, the Yankees responded with a Combs double and a Joe Sewell single to provide the final score of 12-6.

It was a blowout, but it’s important to note a couple of things. First, the Cubs actually led 2-0 in the third inning. Second, the Yankees were able to respond to the Cubs after the third with runs each time the Cubs scored. They did it with walks, singles, doubles primarily. Gehrig hit the only home run. By the end of game one, everyone knew they Yankees could score runs in bunches and without the benefit of the long ball.

Game 2

Bill Dickey

September 29th saw game two of the Series. New York sent Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Gomez to the mound. He faced off against Lon Warneke. Again, the Cubs broke on top with leadoff hitter Billy Herman doubling, then coming home following an error and a long fly by Riggs Stephenson to make the score 1-0. And again the Yankees answered in the bottom of the first with successive walks to Earle Combs and Joe Sewell followed by Lou Gehrig and Bill Dickey singles to make the score 2-1.

It remained that way until the third when Stephenson singled and Frank Demaree brought him home with a single. And as with the first inning, the Yankees broke the 2-2 tie in the bottom of the inning. A walk to Babe Ruth and a Gehrig single put two men on. An out and an intentional walk later Ben Chapman singled to plate both runners and put New York back ahead 4-2.

New York added another run on a Gehrig single a force at first that sent Gehrig to second and a Dickey single. That made the score 5-2 and Gomez coasted the rest of the game, giving up only two singles. In game one the Cubs broke on top, but couldn’t match the New York assault. The same thing happened again in game two. When Chicago scored a run, the Yankees scored two. If that continued it would be a short series.

The next three games were scheduled for Chicago. Any two New York wins would finish the World Series. Game three would produce one of the most famous and controversial moments in Series history.

 

 

 

A Crushing: the Bombers

October 18, 2017

With the upcoming World Series, it seemed time to look at another long ago Series. There have been very few World Series’ more one-sided and crushing than 1932. The New York Yankees dismantled the Chicago Cubs in four games. Still it was a Series worth looking at for a lot of reasons, not just one home run that became famous.

Marse Joe

The Yankees were led by manager Joe McCarthy. He’d managed the Cubs in 1929 when they played Philadelphia in the World Series. They lost four games to one, including having given up a 10 run inning in game four. He knew about crushing losses. His team, however, was known as the Bronx Bombers for a reason. Generally, they crushed the opposition. In 1932 the Yanks led the American League in runs scored, walks, on base percentage, OPS, and were second in just about everything else except hits and stolen bases, where they were third. For a team known for its hitting, the pitching staff was surprisingly good. It finished first in ERA, shutouts, and strikeouts; second both hits and runs allowed; and fourth in walks.

When your infield features three future Hall of Famers, you tend to lead the league in a lot of categories. Lou Gehrig, in his prime, held down first. He hit .349 with 34 home runs, a team leading 151 RBIs (of course Gehrig led in RBIs, he was an RBI machine), had an OPS of 1.072 (OPS+ of 181), had a team leading 370 total bases to go with a team high 42 doubles. His WAR was 7.9 Fellow Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri was at second. He’d come a long way from the 1926 strikeout that was pivotal in the Yankees Series loss. He hit an even .300 with 15 home runs, a .905 OPS (OPS+ 138) and put up 5.2 WAR. Joe Sewell was both the third baseman and the third Hall of Famer in the infield. He hit .272, had an OPS+ of 96, and in 503 at bats had 56 walks and three strikeouts. His WAR was 2.6. The non-Hall of Famer was shortstop Frankie Crossetti. He hit .241 (the only starter to hit under .270) with neither power nor speed. His WAR was at 1.2. Lyn Lary, Jack Saltzgaver, and Doc Farrell provided the infield relief. Lary was the only one to hit above the Mendoza line or to have a home run. His nine stolen bases were third on the team.

The New York outfield began with two more Hall of Fame players: Earle Combs and Babe Ruth. Combs was toward the end of his career and had moved out of his normal center field position. He hit .321 with an OPS+ of 127 to go with 143 runs scored and 4.7 WAR. Ben Chapman played both left and right (depending on the park). Chapman, who became the lightning rod for opposition to Jackie Robinson, might have been an odious human being, but he was a pretty good ball player. He hit .299 for the season, had 41 doubles, 15 triples, and led the team with 38 stolen bases (more than triple the 11 steals for Lazzeri in second place). All that got him 4.3 WAR. Then there was Ruth . He hit .341, second on the team to Gehrig, had 137 RBIs (again, second to Gehrig), 41 home runs, a .661 slugging percentage, an OPS of 1.150 (OPS+ 201), and a team leading 8.3 WAR (it was his last WAR above 7). Myril Hoag and Sammy Byrd did the backing up for the starters. Hoag hit .370 in 46 games and Byrd hit .297 with eight home runs.

Bill Dickey was the backstop. He hit 310., had 15 home runs, drove in 84, had an OPS of .843 with an OPS+ of 121. It garnered him 3.0 WAR. He caught 108 games with backup Arndt Jorgens catching 56. He hit .219 with two home runs and -0.2 WAR.

Five men started more than 20 games on the mound. Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez were the twin aces. Gomez had 24 wins to Ruffing’s 18. Both had seven losses. Ruffing’s ERA was barely above three while Gomez came in at just over four. Gomez gave up one more hit than he had innings pitched with Ruffing having more innings pitched than hits. Both struck out over 175, but both also walked more than 100 batters (WHIP of 1.398 for Gomez and 1.290 for Ruffing). Gomez showed 3.4 WAR, Ruffing had 6.5. Johnny Allen’s ERA was 3.70 in 21 starts with a 1.240 WHIP and 3,4 WAR. Holdovers from the Murderer’s Row Yankees of the 1920s, Herb Pennock and George Pipgras were the other 20 game starters. Pipgras was 16-9 with an ERA of 4.19 and 1.4 WAR while Pennock was 9-5 with 0.1 WAR and a 4.60 ERA. The main men out of the bullpen were Jumbo Brown, old-timer Wilcy Moore, and lefty Ed Wells. For what it’s worth, Gordon Rhodes got into 10 games, went 1-2, and became the only man on the staff with a losing record.

It was three years since the Yankees last won a World Series (1928). The team was considerably revamped, but maintained a core that had won consecutive championships in 1927 and 1928. In 1932 they were heavily favored.

 

Stability

September 4, 2017

Johnny Bench, Reds

Over at one of my favorite blogs, The Hall of Miller and Eric, they are running a “Mount Rushmore” of each team. As you might expect that means they are picking four players to represent the best of each franchise. But there is a kicker there. The player must have played his entire career with the same team. That means no Warren Spahn at the Braves, no Duke Snider with the Dodgers, no Yogi Berra with the Yanks (he had nine at bats with the Mets).

Now all that, especially the loss of Snider and Dazzy Vance with the Dodgers, got me to looking for players who spent their entire career with one team. Now it had to be significant time with the team, after all Moonlight Graham spent his entire Major League career with one team. I figured it would be loaded with old-time players, players who were faced with the reserve clause. Surprisingly, there were a lot of modern guys on the list. Here’s a list, in no particular order, of just a few of the players who never changed teams.

First base: Lou Gehrig, Jeff Bagwell, Willie Stargell

Second Base: Charlie Gehringer, Jackie Robinson (he was traded but never played for a second team, opting to retire instead), Craig Biggio

Shortstop: Cal Ripken, Luke Appling, PeeWee Reese, Phil Rizzuto

Third Base: Brooks Robinson, Chipper Jones, George Brett, Mike Schmidt

Outfield: Mel Ott, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Al Kaline, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski

Catcher: Johnny Bench, Roy Campanella

Left-Handed Pitchers: Whitey Ford, Carl Hubbell, Sandy Koufax

Right-Handed Pitchers: Walter Johnson, Bob Gibson, Bob Feller, Don Drysdale, Mariano Rivera

Not a bad lot, right?

One quick note. Honus Wagner came up with the Louisville Colonels and ended up with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s not quite the same as being traded or leaving via free agency. Barney Dreyfuss owned both teams and when the National League contracted he moved all his good players to Pittsburgh and let Louisville go. I’m not sure how to deal with that, so I left him off. You might differ.

Beginning a Dynasty: the 1923 Yankees

June 13, 2016
Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium

Most fans know the Yankees have over the years produced the greatest dynasty in Major League Baseball. Ask most of them when it began and they’ll probably give you 1927. The ’27 Yankees are legendary and were a truly great team. But the dynasty actually started in the early 1920s. Between 1921 and 1923 inclusive, the Yankees took on the crosstown rival Giants in the first three “Subway Series.” This is a look at the third of those.

Manager Miller Huggins had a team that went 98-54 winning the pennant by 16 games (over Detroit). They finished first in slugging and home runs, second in triples and OPS, and were third in four categories: runs, hits, average, and OBP. They also lead the American League in total bases. Despite being known as a hitting team, the pitching was equally good. New York led the AL in ERA, hits, runs, and strikeouts. They were third in both shutouts and walks.

The underrated staff consisted of five men who started double figure games. The one lefty was Hall of Famer Herb Pennock. He went 19-6 with an ERA of 3.13, with a 1.271 WHIP and 5.9 WAR. The WAR was first among pitchers and second on the team. Waite Hoyt was 23 and also a Hall of Famer. He went 17-9 with a 3.02 ERA, more walks than strikeouts, and 4.0 WAR. The “ace” was Bullet Joe Bush who won 19 games in a team leading 30 starts. He led the team with 125 strikeouts and produced 5.5 WAR. Bob Shawkey and Sam Jones rounded out the starters. Between them they won 37 games with Jones leading the team with 21. His ERA was 3.63 and he had walked one more than he struck out. The bullpen’s leading man was Carl Mays, three years removed from the pitch that killed. His ERA was a monstrous 6.20 but he was the only other man to appear in more than eight games.

Wally Schang, Fred Hofmann, and Benny Bengough did the catching. Schang was the main starter. He hit .276 with no power. He was almost dead on the league average in throwing out base runners. Hofmann was the main backup. He hit better than Schang, but wasn’t considered as good on defense or in handling pitchers. Bengough, who’d become part of the Murderers Row Yankees of the later 1920’s was in only 19 games.

The infield was good, but not great. From first around to third the normal starters were Wally Pipp, Aaron Ward, Everett Scott, and Jumpin’ Joe Dugan (Dugan would still be around for the late 1920s). Pipp hit over .300, Scott less than .250. Ward had 10 home runs, good for second on the team, and Pipp was second on the team with 109 RBIs. Ward’s 4.4 WAR was second on the team among hitters. Mike McNally was the only backup infielder who got into 30 or more games. He hit .211 with no power. There was a 20 year old first baseman named Lou Gehrig who got into 13 games, hit .423 with a homer and eight RBIs. He’d later replace Pipp.

The outfield had two good players and it had Babe Ruth. Bob Meusel and Whitey Witt were the good players. Between the they had 15 home runs, while Meusel’s 91 RBIs were third on the team. His 15 stolen bases were second on the team (and you’ll never guess who was first). He had what was considered the finest throwing arm in either league and tended to play the long field (in Yankee Stadium that was left field) while Ruth took the short corner outfield spot (in Yankee Stadium that put him in right). Witt was the center fielder. His WAR was 3.1, Meusel’s was 1.7. Behind them stood Harvey Hendrick and Elmer Smith.

Then there was the Babe. He hit .393, led the team in stolen bases with 17 (told you that you’d never guess), had 41 home runs, 130 RBIs, 45 doubles, 205 hits, 399 total bases, and 170 walks. All but the doubles and average led the league (the doubles were third, the average was second). All that got him the 1923 League Award, the 1920s version of the modern MVP. His OPS+ was 239, second highest of his career, his WAR was a career high 14.1.

The Yanks were two-time defending AL champions and two-time losers in the World Series. In 1923 they would try to remedy the latter. In their way stood their two-time conquerors, the Giants.

 

Negro League Lessons, Seven Years On

February 25, 2016
The 1929 St. Louis Stars

The 1929 St. Louis Stars

Seven years ago (is it really that long?) I started taking part of February to look at Negro League history. A year or so later I made it a month-long project. I had a couple of goals in doing this. One was to learn what I could about the black players, teams, owners, and all those other things that make a baseball team work. The second was to chronicle that information so that others could learn something also. Of course I’ve had to correct some of the things I initially put down because new information became available, or I found a source I’d overlooked, or I was just plain wrong (which happened occasionally). Seven years down the road it seems like a good time to take stock of the project.

The first thing I learned was just exactly how much mythology surrounds the Negro Leagues. Of course that sort of thing occurs with Major League Baseball, the origins of the sport, and various other aspects  of the game. It seems baseball nurses mythology more than any other sport and revels in those myths. Negro League Baseball is no different. The early players take on heroic proportions. Babe Ruth is a giant among men who can slay all sorts of ogres with one swing of his mighty sword (or bat). It seems Josh Gibson is the same way. Lou Gehrig is the doomed youth who heroically faces his end. So does Dobie Moore. There’s trickster Dizzy Dean and there is trickster Satchel Paige. If you listen to the myths, Homer himself would be proud of some of them.

The reality is even more fascinating, because you end up with a particularly interesting set of men, men much like the white players that were gracing the Majors. Some were scoundrels, some were men of great compassion and of high character. Some you wouldn’t want your family or your friends to be around while others were “the salt of the earth.” All that’s equally true of white players. As a whole they are complicated men who are generally defined by their ability to play ball (something I usually stick to here) but most are much deeper, although there aren’t many profound thinkers in the lot (which is true of people in mass).

It was tough being a Major Leaguer in the era of the Negro Leagues. It was tougher being a Negro Leaguer. The pay was wretched. In the 1924 World Series, the winning Senators received a $5959.64. The Monarchs, winners of the Negro World Series of the same year, received a winner share of $307.96. The transportation was sometimes very basic, including old buses and occasionally individual automobiles. The hotels were of poor quality, assuming they could find a hotel that would take them. By compensation there were individual families in the frequented towns who would take them in. Most of them enjoyed the same off-season drudgeries and joys as their white counterparts. The fields were sometimes in terrible shape, sometimes they were Major League fields rented for an individual game or for a season.

As with the white players the Negro Leaguers could be the toast of the town, although it was the segregated “colored towns” of the era. They provided one of the few community wide black venues for entertainment in many towns and in some cities. It seems, and this is strictly an anecdotal observation, that they were even more important to the black communities than the Major League teams were to the white communities.

The owners were much like the white owners. Players were chattel or they were employees. Some were treated well by their teams, some not so much. The owners frequently came from what the “better element” of the white community would call “the shady side of life.” There were gamblers, pool hall owners, barmen, numbers touts, even a woman (Effa Manley). They also stole players under contract to other teams at an alarming rate. They are as a group, in some ways, more interesting than their white counterparts, most of which were moguls who found baseball much more of a side interest. Some of my favorite articles to research are the ones on team owners and executives because they are such interesting individuals.

One thing that is certainly evident is that they could play ball really, really well. They were certainly the equal of the white players of the era. They were not, despite the growing mythology of the Negro Leagues, better. Short rosters made some of them more versatile than their white counterparts, but not better. The best were on a par with the Gehrigs and Deans and Applings of the day and the worst were no worse than the hangers on who had, at best, a cup of coffee in the big leagues. In an evident attempt to establish their greatness a certain bit of nostalgic mythology has made them better than the white players. In the stark reality of short seasons and second-hand fields and poor equipment they did well. It is a testament to their playing ability that they can be considered on par with the Major Leagues. There is no necessity to compensate for the bad hand they were dealt merely because of the color of their skin by trying to assert they were better than they were.

They weren’t all Americans. I knew that, of course, but I did not know the extent of the Latin players involved or of American black player involvement in the Latin countries. And it’s here that race is at its worst. A Latin player who didn’t look “black” (and God alone knows how many ways different scouts, managers, and owner defined that word) could make the Major Leagues. A Latin player who did look “black” couldn’t. So Dolf Luque could play in a World Series and Martin DeHigo couldn’t. For Americans of mixed race it didn’t matter how “white” a player looked, he was “black” and that was that and that mentality sent players like Roy Campanella to the Baltimore Elite Giants rather than the New York Giants (and ultimately the Dodgers).

It’s interesting that most of the Negro League teams were housed in the North rather than the South, which had more Black Americans. As a former college instructor (Geez, that was a long time ago) I knew that intuitively, but it still jarred a bit. Jim Crow wasn’t restricted to the South, but the rules were looser enough to make it at least a little easier for a black team to function in the North. And of course the cities were larger, which made the crowds larger and the possibility of profit greater.

All that’s some of what I’ve learned over seven years of wandering through the world of Negro League baseball. It’s a strange and fascinating place to wander. I intend to keep it up as long as I can find something new to say.

Beat Down: games 3 and 4

January 21, 2016

With Pittsburgh down two games to none, the World Series moved to New York. With three games in a row in the Bronx, the Pirates needed to win two of them to send the Series back to Forbes Field. The Yankees could afford to lose one and still win the Series at home.

Herb Pennock

Herb Pennock

Game 3, 7 October 1927

Game three saw New York start Hall of Fame lefty Herb Pennock against Pittsburgh’s Lee Meadows. The Yankees got two runs in the bottom of the first when Earle Combs led off with a single, followed by another single by Mark Koenig. A Babe Ruth pop to short give the Pirates their first out, but then Lou Gehrig tripled into the left field-center field gap scoring both Combs and Koenig. Attempting to stretch the triple into an inside-the-park home run, Gehrig was gunned down at home. Bob Meusel then struck out to end the inning.

It was all the help Pennock needed. He was masterful against the Pirates. For seven innings no Pittsburgh player reached first. He gave up no hits and no walks, while striking out one (catcher Johnny Gooch in the third). Meanwhile the Yankees maintained their 2-0 lead. Although Meadows pitched well after the first inning, he lost it in the bottom of the seventh. After a Tony Lazzeri single, Joe Dugan beat out a bunt to reach first safely. then a ground out sent both runners up a base and brought up Pennock. He lashed one to second that scored Lazzeri. Combs followed with a single that scored Dugan, then a Koenig double brought home Pennock. Finally Babe Ruth ended the scoring with a three run shot over the wall in right field.

The hit and exertion on the bases must have gotten to Pennock. After having let no one on base for seven innings he got one out in the eighth. Then Pittsburgh third sacker Pie Traynor singled. With the Pennock spell broken, Clyde Barnhart doubled to score Traynor. Consecutive ground outs stranded Barnhart at second. In the bottom of the ninth with one out, Lloyd Waner singled and ended up on second due to defensive indifference while Pennock coaxed two final flies to end the game 8-1 in favor of New York.

Although both Ruth (a homer) and Gehrig (a triple) flashed power, again the Yanks scored with singles, sacrifices, and bunts to go with the power. But the big story was Pennock. For seven innings he was perfect. He ended up taking the win without giving up a walk and allowing only three hits. Now New York needed only one win in four chances to bring home its second World Series title.

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth

Game 4, 8 October 1927

Needing to win game four in order to keep alive, the Pirates sent Carmen Hill to the mound. The Yankees countered with Wilcy Moore, who, although he’d started a handful of games during the year, was generally a reliever. At first in looked like a mistake. Lloyd Waner opened the game with a single and ended up on second after two grounders produced the first two Pittsburgh outs. But a Glenn Wright single scored Waner to give the Pirates only their second lead in the Series. It lasted exactly three batters. Consecutive singles to Earle Combs and Mark Koenig were followed by a Babe Ruth single that tied the score when Combs came home. Hill then settled down and struck out the next three batters to get out of the inning.

And that would be it until the bottom of the fifth. With Combs on, Ruth smacked his second home run of the Series to put New York up 3-1. It would hold up until the seventh when an error put a Pittsburgh runner on first. Another error and a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with Clyde Barnhart coming up. He singled to score one run, then Paul Waner hit a long sacrifice to center to tie the game at 3-3.

It stayed that way into the ninth. Two groundouts and a fly got Moore through the top of the inning. With Johnny Miljus now pitching the Pirates were three outs from taking the game to extra innings. Miljus led off the inning by walking Combs. A single sent him to second and a wild pitch sent him to third. An intentional walk to Ruth loaded the bases for Lou Gehrig who promptly stuck out. Bob Meusel followed with another strikeout, which brought up Tony Lazzeri with two outs and the bases loaded. He got no chance to tie the score. Miljus uncorked a second wild pitch and Combs dashed home with the game and Series winning run.

The Yankees were World’s Champs in a sweep. Ruth had two home runs, Gehrig two triples. Combs scored six runs and both he and Koenig had five hits. Ruth had seven RBIs. As a team New York hit .279 and slugged .397. they scored 23 runs (20 of them earned) on 38 hits, six of them doubles (but 28 of them singles). For the Pirates they hit .223 (slugged .285) with 29 hits 22 of them singles. There were six doubles, but no player had more than one and Lloyd Waner produced the only triple. He also led the team with six hits and five runs scored. He tied with Ruth for the Series lead with a .400 average.

Yankees pitching was good enough to win. Only four men pitched, all of them starting one game. Moore got both a win and a save while Pennock pitched the most impressive game. As a team they posted a 2.00 ERA, gave up 38 hits, 10 runs (eight earned), struck out seven, and walked only four. The Pirates used seven men and gave up 38 hits, 23 runs (20 earned), produced an ERA of 5.19, and 25 strikeouts while walking 13.

It was a complete victory for the Yankees, but take a look at how many of the runs were scored in what you and I might consider a non-Murderer’s Row way. It speaks well of the 1927 Yankees that they did not have to rely on power to win. They could win with Deadball tactics as well as power. That’s what I really wanted to show with this series of posts.

 

 

 

Beat Down: games 1 and 2

January 19, 2016

For most people the 1927 Yankees conjure up images of a power laden lineup that simply drove the ball over the fence or deep in the gaps and crushed the opposition with raw force. Keep that image in mind when you read through this account of the first two games of the 1927 World Series. Pay particular attention to the way New York takes advantage of various methods of putting runs on the board. I find it a valuable look at the team. It makes them, to me, an even better team because of the myriad ways they scored without using the home run.

Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig

Game 1, 5 October 1927

The World Series opened in Pittsburgh with Ray Kremer on the mound for the Pirates. He failed to get out of the first inning without giving up a run. With two outs, Babe Ruth singled and came home on a Lou Gehrig triple. Bob Meusel’s fly ended the inning. Yankees ace Waite Hoyt, starting for New York, didn’t have any better luck. He began the game by plunking Pirates leadoff man Lloyd Waner. With one out, Paul Waner, Lloyd’s older brother, doubled sending Lloyd to third. A sacrifice fly by Glenn Wright tied the game.

It stayed that way until a Yankees third inning explosion. With one out in the top of the third, Mark Koenig reached first on a Pirates error. Ruth singled, sending Koenig to third. A walk to Gehrig loaded the bases. Another walk to Meusel scored Koenig. A Tony Lazzeri roller forced Meusel at second while Ruth scored and Gehrig went to third. A throw to the catcher trying to nip Ruth got by Earl Smith allowing Gehrig to race home with the third run of the inning. New York scored three runs with only Ruth’s single leaving the infield. Pittsburgh got one back in the bottom of the third when pitcher Kremer doubled, went to third on a Meusel error and scored on Paul Waner’s single.

In the fifth, the teams again exchanged runs with New York getting one run on a Koenig double, a Ruth grounder that sent Koenig to third, and a Gehrig sacrifice fly. The Pirates got the run right back on a Lloyd Waner double and a Clyde Barnhart single. Pittsburgh picked up one more run in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, Wright and Pie Traynor hit back-to-back singles that sent Hoyt to the showers. Reliever Wilcy Moore induced a grounder for the second out, but Wright went to third on the play. A Joe Harris single plated Wright to make the score 5-4. A grounder, liner, and another grounder in the bottom of the ninth finished the game with the 5-4 score holding.

Mark Koenig

Mark Koenig

Game 2, 6 October 1927

For game two, the Pirates sent Vic Aldridge to the mound. Unlike Kramer the day before, he managed to get through the first inning without giving up a run. On the other hand, Yankees starter George Pipgras gave up a run early. Lloyd Waner led off the Pittsburgh half of the first with a triple and scored on a sacrifice by Clyde Barnhart. It was Pittsburgh’s first lead of the Series. It lasted until the third inning when New York, duplicating the previous day, again exploded for three runs. Earle Combs singled and came home on a Mark Koenig single. With Koenig trying for second, center fielder Lloyd Waner threw the ball away allowing Koenig to scamper all the way to third. A Babe Ruth sacrifice fly brought home Koenig with the go ahead run. Lou Gehrig then singled and went to third on a Bob Meusel single, and scored on another sacrifice fly, this one by Tony Lazzeri.

That concluded the scoring through the seventh inning with no player advancing beyond second base. In the top of the eighth consecutive singles by Meusel and Lazzeri put runners on first and third. At that point Aldridge let loose a wild pitch that scored Meusel and sent Lazzeri to second. A fielder’s choice erased Lazzeri (and put Joe Dugan on), then back-to-back walks to catcher Ben Bengough and pitcher Pipgras loaded the bases. Out went Aldridge and in came reliever Mike Cvengros. He proceeded to throw gasoline on the fire by plunking Earle Combs to score Dugan and reload the bases. A Koenig single then scored Bengough to conclude the Yankees scoring.

Pittsburgh fought back in the bottom of the eighth. With one out Lloyd Waner singled, then went to third on a Barnhart single, and scored on a Paul Waner sacrifice fly. But a Glenn Wright grounder ended the Pirates threat. When Pipgras shut them down three in a row in the ninth, the Yanks had a 6-2 win and a 2-0 lead in the World Series. The Series would resume the next day in New York.

 

 

 

Beat Down: the 1927 Yankees

January 12, 2016
"Jumpin'" Joe Dugan

“Jumpin'” Joe Dugan

For a lot of people for a long time, the 1927 New York Yankees are the gold standard of Major League teams. They won 109 games, road roughshod over the American League, Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, and they swept the World Series. It’s that World Series that I want to look at over the next several posts. There’s a quite a bit of misinformation about it and I want to dwell on the Series in some detail. First, we need to look at both teams on the eve of the Series; winners first.

Hall of Fame manager Miller Huggins had a juggernaut in 1927. His Yanks led the AL in batting, OBP, slugging, OPS, total bases, hits, runs, triples, home runs, walks, and fan. They were second in doubles. The pitching wasn’t quite as good, but they still managed to finish first in hits given up, runs, walks, and ERA. They managed to finish second in complete games, home runs allowed, and were third in strikeouts. With all that, Huggins’ chief job was to make sure the team got to the stadium on time.

The infield was better on the right side than on the left. Lou Gehrig held down first. His triple slash line read .373/.474/.765/1.240 with an OPS+ of 220 and 11.8 WAR (BBREF version). He had 447 total bases (read that number closely), 52 doubles, 18 triples, 47 home runs, 173 RBIs, 218 hits, and scored 149 runs. All that got him the 1927 League Award (an early version of the current MVP). Some argued that Ruth had a better year but whether he did or didn’t, the rules didn’t allow a player to win two League Awards (that was a carryover from the old Chalmers Award where the winner got a car and no one wanted to give Ty Cobb a half-dozen cars). Ruth won the award in 1923. Tony Lazzeri, who struck out in the most famous moment of the previous World Series, played second. He wasn’t Gehrig, but he was pretty good. His triple slash line read .309/.383/.482/.866. He hit 29 doubles and 18 home runs to go with 102 RBIs and 92 runs scored for 6.3 WAR. Both men would make the Hall of Fame. The left side of the infield consisted of Mark Koenig at short and Joe Dugan at third. Koenig hit .285 with 11 triples and 69 walks, good for third on the team (behind Ruth and Gehrig). Dugan hit all of .269 with only two home runs, but was considered one of the better third sackers of his day. Mike Gazella, Ray Morehart, and Julie Wera were the backups. Both Wera and Morehart had a home run, while Gazella led the group with a .278 average. Morehart’s 20 RBIs led the three.

The outfield consisted of two Hall of Famers and another guy. The other guy was Bob Meusel. He was on the downside of his career at age 30 but still darned good. His triple slash line was .337/.393/.510/.902 with an OPS+ of 135 (4.2 WAR). He’d won a home run title a few years earlier, but had only eight in 1927. He did contribute 75 runs and 103 RBIs to the team. He also had what was universally agreed was the best outfield arm in either league. Earle Combs held down center field. His triple slash line was .356/.414/.511/.925 with an OPS+ of 141 (6.8 WAR). He led off and played center well. He scored 137 runs (third behind Ruth and Gehrig), had 36 doubles, 23 triples, 311 total bases (again behind only Ruth and Gehrig), and contributed 64 RBIs. And of course there was the Babe. This was his 60 home run year, but his other numbers were equally good. His triple slash line read .356/.486/.772/1.258 with an OPS+ of 225 (12.4 WAR), 417 total bases, 165 RBIs, 158 runs scored, 192 hits, and 29 doubles. Those three were backed up by Ben Paschal and Cedric Durst. Paschal hit .317 with two homers and saw a lot of time in the Series. Durst contributed 25 RBIs.

New York used three catchers during the season. Pat Collins did most of the work with 92 games played (89 behind the plate). He hit .275 with seven home runs, but in 311 plate appearances, he walked 54 times, good for fifth on the team. John Grabowski was his main backup. he managed .277 with 25 RBIs and 29 runs, while secondary backup Ben Bengough hit .247 in 31 games.

Five men started 20 or more games; two of them made the Hall of Fame. Lefty Herb Pennock was 19-8 with and even 3.00 ERA (3.1 WAR) and a 1.302 WHIP (he gave up more hits than he had innings pitched). Waite Hoyt was the ace. He went 22-7 with an ERA of 2.63 (5.8 WAR) and a 1.155 WHIP. His 86 strikeouts led the team. Underappreciated Urban Shocker was 18-6 with a 2.84 ERA (3.1 WAR) and 1.240 WHIP. He managed to both give up more hits than he had innings pitched and also walk more men than he struck out. Dutch Reuther did the same thing while going 13-6 with an ERA of 3.38. His WHIP ballooned to 1.380 with only 0.6 WAR. George Pipgras was the other starter. He was 10-3 with an ERA north of four, but managed to pitch more innings than he gave up hits and to also strikeout more batters than he walked. His WHIP was 1.353 with a 0.2 WAR. Wilcy Moore pitched in 50 games, but only started 12. That got him a 19-7 record with 13 saves (not yet a stat in 1927) and a 2.28 ERA (4.7 WAR). His 75 strikeouts were good for third on the team. Myles Thomas pitched in 21 games, starting nine, while Bob Shawkey earned the distinction of having, at 2-3, the only losing record on the team. He compensated by having a 2.89 ERA and striking out 23 in 43 innings and picking up four saves.

There are people who consider the ’27 Yankees as the greatest of all baseball teams. Maybe so, maybe not. Whatever you think you have to admit they were formidable. They were also, in 1927, overwhelming favorites to win the World Series.