Posts Tagged ‘Whitey Witt’

Beginning a Dynasty: “Jumpin’ Joe” and the Babe again

June 27, 2016

With the 1923 World Series tied at two games each the season came down to a best two of three series with the Yankees hold home field advantage. The winner of game five would need to win just one more to claim the championship while the loser would have to win two in a row, something that hadn’t happened yet in this World Series.

"Jumpin'" Joe Dugan

“Jumpin'” Joe Dugan

Game 5

For game 5 the Yankee bats stayed alive. Although there was no six run inning, the Yanks again put up eight runs and took a three games to two lead in the 1923 World Series.

Gaints starter Jake Bentley didn’t get out of the first inning without being clobbered. With one out Joe Dugan singled and Babe Ruth walked. A Bob Meusel triple scored both runners. A Wally Pipp sacrifice fly brought home Meusel to make the score 3-0.

The Giants got one back in the top of the second on an Irish Meusel triple and a Casey Stengel (there he is again) grounder. That was all they got and unfortunately that meant the Yankees got to bat again. With one out pitcher Bullet Joe Bush singled and went to second when Bentley walked Whitey Witt. That brought up Joe Dugan, who’d singled the previous inning. The lashed a ball into the right center gap and raced all the way around with another inside-the-park home run that scored both Bush and Witt. An error put Ruth on and sent Bentley to the showers. The Yankees tacked on another run when a single and a fielder’s choice scored Ruth to make it 7-1. In the fourth Dugan, Ruth, and Bob Meusel all singled to plate Dugan with the eighth Yankee run.

Bullet Joe Bush coasted for most of the game. After giving up the one run in the second he shut the Giants down. For the game he gave up three hits and two walks while striking out three. But the big hero was Dugan who scored three runs and had three RBIs on four hits.

At this point the Yankees led the World Series three games to two. A victory in either of the remaining games would give them their first ever championship. The Giants were faced with winning two games in a row.

 

Babe Ruth doing his thing

Babe Ruth doing his thing

Game 6

Facing elimination in game 6, the Giants sent game 3 winner Art Nehf to the mound. He faced Herb Pennock who’d already tallied a win and a save. With lefty Pennock pitching, Casey Stengel again started the game on the bench.

The Yanks jumped out to a one run lead when Babe Ruth smashed a home run with two outs in the top of the first. The Giants countered in the bottom of the inning with three consecutive singles, the last by Ross Youngs that scored Heinie Groh to tie the game.

That was it for two and a half innings. Nehf gave up one walk and Pennock completely shut down the Giants. In the bottom of the fourth Frankie Frisch bunted his way onto first, then moved up on a groundout and came home on a Billy Cunningham (Stengel’s replacement) single. In the fifth, they tacked on another run with a Frank Snyder home run and in the sixth a Frisch triple and an Irish Meusel single gave the Giants a 4-1 lead.

Nehf got through the seventh and started the eighth with a three run lead. He got the first out then back-to-back singles and a walk loaded the bases. Then he walked pinch hitter Bullet Joe Bush (an opposing pitcher who pinch hit) to force in a run and make the score 4-2. That brought Rosy Ryan in to get the final five outs. He promptly walked Joe Dugan to make the score 4-3. He got Ruth on a strikeout which brought up Bob Meusel. A long single scored two and Dugan came around to score when Cunningham threw the ball away trying to get Dugan at third. With the Yanks now ahead 6-4 on a five run inning, Wally Pipp grounded to second to end the inning.

Pennock got a ground out, gave up a single, then got another ground out for the first two outs of the bottom of the eighth. Manager John McGraw sent up Stengel to pinch hit. For a change he didn’t come through, fouling out to Dugan to end the inning.

The Yanks went in order in the ninth, giving the Giants one more chance to tie the game. A Popfly and a ground out gave the Yankees two outs. A roller to second, a flip to first and the Yanks were world champs for the first time.

As a team, the Yankees hit .293 with five home runs (three by Ruth), four triples, and eight doubles. Dugan hit .280 but drove in five and scored five. Ruth had the three RBIs from his home runs, but scored eight runs. Bob Meusel had two triples and eight RBIs. The pitching came through with an ERA of 2.83 with 18 strikeouts and only 12 walks and 17 runs (all earned). Pennock had two wins (and a save) with Bush and Bob Shawkey picking up the other two wins.

The Giants hit .234 with five home runs (Stengel getting two of them). He hit .417 with the two homers, five hits, four RBIs and three runs while walking four times without a strikeout. One paper summed up the Series with a headline that said “Yankees 4, Stengel 2.” The pitching disappointed. The team ERA was 4,75 with 28 earned runs given up (of 30 total runs) and 20 walks to go with 22 strikeouts. Nehf and Rosy Ryan got the two wins.

Historically it was an important World Series. The Giants were toward the end of a great run by John McGraw. He managed one more pennant in 1924 (and lost the Series to Washington and Walter Johnson) then the team slid off and he never again finished first. For the Yankees it was the beginning of the greatest dynasty in baseball. It was the first of 27 championships.

 

 

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Beginning a Dynasty: The “Ole Perfessor” Redux, and “Long Bob”

June 23, 2016

With the World Series tied a game each in 1923, the Series returned to Yankee Stadium for game three. The Yanks were, with up to five games remaining, assured of at least two more home games and possibly three. This time a nemesis from earlier in the Series would strike again, and a prelude to the “Bronx Bombers” of a few years later would show up.

Casey Stengel with the Giants

Casey Stengel with the Giants

Game 3

On 12 October the two teams squared off for game 3 of the 1923 World Series in Yankee Stadium. The Giants sent Art Nehf to the mound. The Yankees countered with Sam Jones. John McGraw, Giants manager, made one change to his lineup. Game 2 saw left Herb Pennock on the mound for the Yankees, so part-time center fielder Casey Stengel had not gotten the start (he did pinch hit). With righty Jones on the mound Stengel was back in the lineup.

The two teams battled inning after inning without denting the scoreboard. Through six innings Nehf gave up two singles and two walks to go with three strikeouts. Only in the fourth had a man gotten to third. Jones was as good. Through six innings he’d given up only two hits while handing out a walk and two strikeouts. It was a true pitchers duel.

In the top of the seventh Irish Meusel led off with a liner to left caught by his brother Bob for out one. That brought up Stengel. He sent a fly to deep right field that cleared the fences for a more traditional home run than his inside-the-park homer of game one. It put the Giants ahead 1-0.

Nehf now needed nine outs to put the Giants up two games to one. He gave up a walk and a single but got out of the  bottom of the seventh without a run being scored. In the bottom of the eighth he gave up a leadoff single, but consecutive strikeouts made two outs and a grounder back to the mound led to the third out. With one inning to play, Stengel’s home run was holding up. In the bottom of the ninth a grounder to third, a strikeout, and another grounder to third ended the game and put the Giants up two games to one.

Nehf was a hero, so was Stengel. Nehf pitched a complete game shutout with only three walks and six hits. Stengel’s homer was the difference. The Giants had two wins, both courtesy of the “Ole Perfessor.”

"Long Bob" Meusel (right) in 1927 with Babe Ruth (center) and Earle Combs (left)

“Long Bob” Meusel (right) in 1927 with Babe Ruth (center) and Earle Combs (left)

Game 4

The game of 13 October 1923 saw the Yankee bats truly explode for the first time. In the second inning they teed off on Giants starter Jack Scott for six runs. Wally Pipp led off the second with a single. Aaron Ward followed with another. An easy by Wally Schang rolled back to the mound should have gotten at least one out, but Scott threw it away to load the bases. Everett Scott proceeded to single scoring both Pipp and Ward. At that point Scott was relieved by Rosy Ryan. He induced a fly by Yanks pitcher Bob Shawkey which brought both the first out and the third run when Schang crossed the plate. A double by Whitey Witt scored Scott to make the score 4-0. Joe Dugan hit one to third, which was snagged by Heinie Groh. Witt, for reasons known only to him, broke for third, but was tagged out by Groh for the second out. A walk to Babe Ruth put two men on. That brought up Bob Meusel who tripled home both Dugan and Ruth. That was all for Ryan. Hugh McQuillan took over the pitching duties and managed to get designated rally killer Pipp to fly out to center field. The wreckage left the Giants down 6-0.

The Yanks added a single run in the third when Witt doubled to score Ward. Then in the fourth Ruth walked and came home on a Ward single. That made the score 8-0 and the Yankees coasted from there.

The Giants finally managed to score three runs in the bottom of the eighth. Three consecutive singles, one by Casey Stengel, again in the middle of a Giants scoring chance, led to a run, then two groundouts each scored a single run. There was still a chance for the Giants going into the ninth when Ross Youngs led off with an inside-the-park home run to cut the score to 8-4. But Herb Pennock, in relief of Shawkey got a groundout, a strikeout, and a fly to center to finish the game.

The Series was now tied at two games each with the Yankees getting two games at home.

 

Beginning a Dynasty: The “Ole Perfessor” and the Babe

June 21, 2016

With both the Yankees and the Giants sharing the same hometown, the World Series was played on consecutive days in October 1923. The teams alternated parks with Yankee Stadium getting game one and the Polo Grounds holding game two. Two future Hall of Famers would step front and center in the first two games.

Casey Stengel with the Giants

Casey Stengel with the Giants

Game 1

For game one on 10 October, the Yankees started Waite Hoyt on the mound. The Giants responded with Mule Watson. Bush was on the mark early in the game, but not Watson. He walked Joe Dugan with one out. Babe Ruth grounded to short, but the relay was late and he was safe at first with Dugan recording the second out of the inning at second. A Bob Meusel double sent Ruth all the way around for the game’s first run. In the next inning consecutive singles, two outs, and another single brought home both Wally Schang and Aaron Ward to put the Yankees up 3-0. That did it for Watson. He was scheduled to bat in the third and was pulled for a pinch hitter. Rosy Ryan relieved him.

But before Ryan could take the mound, the Giants erupted for four runs in the top of the third to take the lead. A single, a walk, another single brought up Dave Bancroft. A force at second scored one run and gave the Giants one out. After Bancroft stole second, Heinie Groh tripled to score two and send manager Miller Huggins to the mound to get Hoyt. Bullet Joe Bush took over and gave up a single to plate Groh making the score 4-3.

And there it stayed until the seventh inning stretch. Ryan pitched well, but in the bottom of the seventh he gave up a single to Bush, who was a very good hitting pitcher. An out by Whitey Witt brought up Dugan. He tripled driving in Bush to tie the game. Ruth then drove a sharp grounder to first. Dugan broke for home but was out at the plate. A Meusel fly ended the threat.

The Giants got a man on in the top of the eighth and the Yanks got two on, but no one scored. That brought the game to the top of the ninth. Two quick outs brought up center fielder Casey Stengel (who’d later manage the Yankees). He drove a ball to deep left center, the deepest part of the ballpark. Racing around the bases, he lost a shoe, but continued running. He beat the throw home and scored an inside-the-park home run to give the Giants a lead. One wit, likening Stengel to the race horse Man O’ War noted he’d thrown a shoe but still finished first by a head. Now in front, Ryan proceeded to set the Yankees down in order in the bottom of the ninth to close out the win for the Giants 5-4.

Stengel got most of the press, but Ryan had done well in very long relief. Groh had two RBIs and Bancroft contributed a key stolen base. Game two was the next day.

The Babe

The Babe

Game 2

The Giants hosted game two 11 October 1923 in the Polo Grounds. They had Hugh McQuillen pitching while the Yankees sent southpaw Herb Pennock out to tie up the Series.

Neither pitcher got through six outs before giving up a run. With one out in the top of the second Arron Ward slugged a homer for the Yankees. Giants left fielder Emil “Irish” Meusel matched the home run with one of his own in the bottom of the second to tie up the game 1-1.

Two innings later, Babe Ruth led off the top of the fourth with a home run to right. Later in the inning singles by Wally Pipp, Wally Schang, and Everett Scott scored Pipp to put the Yanks up 3-1. In the top of the fifth, Ruth added his second homer of the game when he drove a ball down the right field line to make the score 4-1.

The Giants mounted a comeback in the sixth. Heinie Groh and Frankie Frisch both singled. A Ross Youngs single plated Groh, but a force at second and a double play shut down the Giants rally leaving the score 4-2.

And it stayed that way. Pennock allowed three more hits the rest of the way, but no Giant advanced beyond second base. The Yankees win tied up the Series at one game apiece. The next day the Series would return to Yankee Stadium as a best of five series.

 

 

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.

 

Legacy

March 16, 2011

Yankee Stadium 1930s configuration

There are some positions that are just simply the glamour spots for a team. For the Giants, as evidenced by their latest championship and their long history of great pitchers, it’s the mound. For the Red Sox it’s left field.  Both teams have produced an inordinate number of high quality players at the position. For the Yankees, that position is, with apologies to catchers and second base, center field.

The Yankees were formed in Baltimore in 1901 and shifted to New York in 1903. The “Yankees” team moniker came during the teens. They were a team that was sporadically competitive prior to 1920 and the arrival of Babe Ruth. Afterwards they were the dominant franchise. Whether the team was winning or losing, they have usually had a fine center fielder since. the key word there is “usually.”

Way back in 1921 when it all began, the center fielder was the immortal Elmer Miller (that’s OK, I never heard of him either). Whitey Witt came in ’22. Not a bad player but certainly not the reason they were winning (That Ruth kid had something to do with it). He stayed through 1925, hit .287 with no power and not much speed. He gave way to Earle Combs, who was a revelation in center. Combs could hit (.325), had doubles power (309), and speed. He didn’t steal a lot of bases (with Ruth and Gehrig hitting behind you, would you?), but the papers of the time indicate he was adept at going from first to third on a good single and coming home from second on a clean base hit to the outfield. And of course he was on base quite a bit (OBP of .397, which ain’t bad, but not all that great either. He never finished higher than 5th in OBP.) for Ruth and Gehrig to drive home. He stayed through 1935 and eventually made the Hall of Fame. His successor was Joe DiMaggio who  stayed in center through 1951 and was replaced by Mickey Mantle in 1952. Mantle remained a fixture in New York through 1968.

Now I don’t mean to imply that Combs, DiMaggio, and Mantle played every game in center between 1925 and 1968. Obviously they missed games, and DiMaggio lost three years to World War II. Additionally, Mantle moved to first base in the last two years. But as a rule for the entire period a Hall of Famer stood in center field for New York. That’s not a unique event. Take a look at Boston left fielders from Ted Williams through Jim Rice, but the Yankees center fielders played on winners year after year.

Bobby Murcer replaced Mantle (after running Joe Pepitone and Bill Robinson out there for a couple of years). He’s generally overlooked as a Yankees center fielder, but he was pretty good. He wasn’t DiMaggio or Mantle, but he may have been Combs. There have been a lot of really terrific underrated players in baseball history. Murcer is in the list and, in my opinion, toward the top. He lasted through 1974 then came back in 1979 (although not as the regular center fielder). He was also the last of the power hitters who spent significant time out in center.

The rest of the 1970s and 1980s saw New York send a lot of men to center. They won two World Series titles with Mickey Rivers out there. But as a rule guys like Jerry Mumphrey and Ruppert Jones weren’t anything to write home about. They did try Rickey Henderson in center in the mid to late 1980s. As a center fielder Rickey Henderson made left fielder Rickey Henderson look like Roberto Clemente (Henderson led the league in errors in 1985.). But at least he could track down the ball. All the searching for a quality center fielder changed when Bernie Williams showed up. He gave New York a fine center fielder. He could hit, run, play the field. He won a  batting title and hit clean up on four World Series winners. Is he a Hall of Famer? We’ll find out in a couple of years.

I know that’s not a  comprehensive list of Yankees center fielders, not even since 1921, but what I wanted to show was a long and sustained period of quality play at one position. And the Yankees center fielders certainly, despite some hiccups, did that.