By Tom Ruane
This article grew out of a previous article entitled "A Retro-tour of the Early 1920s." After writing that one, I thought it might be fun to expand on the yearly reviews included there, extending them through the end of the decade. This is not intended to be a proper history of the decade. I won't be giving detailed narratives of each pennant race or World Series, and there are several big stories of the decade (the growth of farm systems, for example) that won't be mentioned at all. Instead, each review is a collection of things that interested me while I was helping to proof the box scores for that year and generate the html files for our web-site. So while you might not find a blow by blow description of the deciding game of the 1925 World Series, you will hear about players like Maurice Archdeacon and Carey Selph, as well as the hottest and coldest batting streaks and the best and worst pitching performances of the decade.
In addition, from time to time I will be focusing on a few of the thousands of statistical discrepancies from these years. These are cases where the data being displayed on Retrosheet's web-site differs from either the current official statistics or what was considered official at the time. In many cases, it is unclear which version is correct, but in many others the official view is pretty obviously wrong and at some point ought to be corrected.
Of course, like the earlier article, this one would not have been possible without the work of dozens of Retrosheet volunteers, who completed digitizing the major league boxscores for the 1920s, all 12,323 of them.
Similar articles on the 1910s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s are also available on our web-site.
Yearly links: 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929
2014-3-23: Ted Wingfield pitches to contact.
2014-2-2: Alexander's 1920 Home/Road Splits.
2012-12-9: Rommel's Comeback.
2012-7-4: Dutch Leonard.
2011-12-1: Shovel Hodge.
2011-11-17: More on the 1921 Giants. Elmer Smith's 1921 hot streak. Al Nixon - a brief mention. More on the 1922 NL Pennant Race. The 1922 Pirates' Hitting Binge. The 1923 Pennant Races. Dolf Luque's Lost Shutouts. The 1924 World Series. The 1925 NL Pennant Race. The 1926 Pennant Race. More on the 1927 NL Pennant Race. The 1927 World Series. Red Ruffing's Long Day. The 1928 World Series. Cleveland's 1928 Hitting Spree.
2011-11-11: Eddie Rommel leads the Athletics out of the basement.
2011-9-28: The Legend of Lefty Atkinson.
2011-8-27: Mandy Brooks explodes upon the scene.
2011-7-13: Slugfests that start out as pitchers duels.
2011-4-21: Ken Williams - a player finally hits more than two homers in a game.
2010-11-29: Rogers Hornsby's July 1923 hitting binge. Heinie Manush's debut. Firpo Marberry and the evolution of a relief record. Harry Heilmann versus the 1927 Senators.
The 1920s started with one of the most significant transactions in the history of baseball when Harry Frazee, the owner of the Boston Red Sox, sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Entering 1919, the Red Sox were coming off their fourth World Series win in the previous seven years. They were a young team (of their position players, only Harry Hooper was over 30 and their pitchers were almost all in their mid-twenties) and there was no reason to expect this run of dominance to end anytime soon. And it didn't. Unfortunately for Boston fans, while they continued their dynasty during the 1920s, they did so while wearing the uniforms of the New York Yankees.
The shift of talent from Boston to New York had started the previous July, when Carl Mays was traded to the New York Yankees for two pitchers and a pile of cash. Mays had left the team after getting routed in the July 13th game at Chicago. He was upset about getting hit in the head by a ball thrown by his catcher, who was attempting to throw out a base stealer, and was also not happy with the support his teammates were giving him. After winning more than 20 games in each of his two previous seasons, the loss in Chicago had dropped his mark to 5-11, including five shutout losses. At one point, his team had failed to score for him in 39 consecutive innings. He made it clear that he wanted out of Boston, and once he left the team it was simply a matter of which team would bid the most for his services. The trade was originally veteod by league president Ban Johnson, who didn't like the idea of players dictating their own terms, and this sparked a battle between Jacob Ruppert of the Yankees and Johnson that ultimately reached the New York Supreme Court and ended with a victory for the Yankees and a costly loss for the league president.
After the 1920 season, there was an 8-player trade that brought Waite Hoyt, and Wally Schang to New York. This was followed by a 7-player deal a year later that added Everett Scott, Bullet Joe Bush and Sad Sam Jones to the fold, a mid-season move during 1922 for Joe Dugan, and finally, a trade six months later that made a Yankee out of Herb Pennock. When the Yankees won their first World Series in 1923 half of their regular position players and all but one of their pitchers had come from Boston.
But of course, no one at the time knew that Ruth's sale would become part of a general exodus. All they knew was that the game's biggest star had been sold. His record-setting 29 home runs in 1919 had helped set attendance records throughout the league, but he was demanding that the three year contract he had signed prior to 1919 be torn up and that his salary be doubled for the upcoming year. Paul Shannon, a Boston sportswriter offered a strange rationale for unloading Ruth:
"Ruth, despite his genial disposition and his popularity with the club, created dissatisfaction among the other members of the club, who couldn't see any use in working their heads off to win when their work was passed by unnoticed by the ball fans because these fans were only interested in Ruth's efforts to smash the home run record. The veterans of the club... have reached the conclusion that the public is no longer interested in their work and that this fact is making them indifferent to the success of the club."1
So the Red Sox didn't finish sixth despite Ruth's outstanding season, but because of it.
Once the deal was announced, there was a lot of speculation on what the future would hold for Ruth in New York. Frazee, for his part, called it a gamble for the Yankees, and Boston sportswriter James C. O'Leary wrote:
"Considering what the club received for its rights in him, the risk of carrying such a valuable player, and all the other circumstances, it is hard to see how Frazee could have turned down New York's offer for the star, and it looks as if he had made a good bargain."
"If 'Babe' should hold up for a couple of years, the Yankees will undoubtedly get their money back and much more, but if, for instance, he should be injured while at the training camp next Spring, he would prove a costly buy for them. His weak knee makes him susceptible to injury and no insurance2 can be bought against a ball player being hurt on the field."3
Much has been written about the impact that his first campaign with the Yankees had on the game, but Ruth started slowly that year. He hit only .226/.250/.258 in April and was hitting .210, with only 2 home runs on the morning of May 11th. That day, he would enjoy the first of 48 two-homer games he would have during the decade on his way to hitting an unprecendented 13 home runs in 17 games. On July 19th, he would break his previous record, hitting his 30th and 31st home runs in a loss to the White Sox. At the start of the season, the record for most home runs by an American League TEAM had been 48, set by the 1903 Boston Americans. Ruth would eclipse that mark all by himself on September 13th, and he would hit his 54th and last home run on the final day of the season. The Polo Grounds were good to Ruth that season. He hit .390 and slugged .990 there, overshadowing another historic batting performance that season as well as perhaps an even bigger home field advantage.
George Sisler had been a star before 1920, hitting around .350 in each of the three previous seasons. In 1920, however, he raised his game to a new level, batting over .400 and setting a new single season record for hits. Hitting .400 wasn't quite the story it would be today; it had been done three times in the previous decade (by Ty Cobb twice and once by Joe Jackson) and in light of Ruth's devastation of the home run record on the other side of the major league baseball world, it did not attract anywhere near the media frenzy that would accompany a season like that today. Sisler reached the .400 mark for the first time on June 14th and for the last two and a half months of the season his average was always within 10 points of .400. Sisler enjoyed his home park, Sportsman's Park, even more than Ruth enjoyed his. In his home games that season, Sisler hit .473, with 150 hits in 78 games. Not only did Ruth steal most of the attention from Sisler in 1920, but he also stood between Sisler and a triple-crown in 1920, as the St. Louis first baseman finished second in the AL in home runs with 19 and tied for second in RBIs with 122. 19 homers doesn't sound like much today, but at the time it was the third highest single-season total in AL history, behind only Ruth's 1919 and 1920 marks.
At the start of play on August 16th, three teams were within a half-game of first place in the American League. Two of those teams, the Indians and the Yankees were playing each other that day when Ray Chapman led off the fifth inning against Carl Mays. According to the story in the next days' New York Times:
"[Chapman] was leaning over in a crouching position when Mays let one of his underhanded shoots loose. The ball hit Chapman on the left side of the head. The crack of the ball could be heard all over the stand and spectators gasped as they turned their heads away. The injured player dropped unconscious and a doctor was summoned to his aid. The player was partially revived after a time and attempted to walk to the club house with the aid of two of his clubmates. But his legs doubled up under him again and he was carried to the club house and afterwards taken to St. Lawrence Hospital at 457 West 163rd Street."4
He died early the next morning following an operation. The game that day between the two teams was postponed and flags were flown at half-mast at all the other major league parks. Reaction to the death was mixed. Detroit and Boston players wanted Mays barred from baseball while Tris Speaker and many throughout baseball thought it was simply a tragic accident. In addition, there was speculation on what the long-term effects would be on both the Indians and Mays:
"The fatality is expected to have a depressing effect on the Cleveland and New York players. It is feared that it may impair Mays's effectiveness as a pitcher, although he said it would do him no good to brood over something which seemed unavoidable. The Cleveland players are so badly affected by the loss of one of their star players that their chances of winning this year's pennant have received a severe setback. Manager Speaker has no seasoned player to put in the vacant position, and grief among the players over Chapman's death is sure to affect their playing for some time to come."5
Some of the Cleveland players made a brief attempt to organize a league-wide players' boycott of Mays, hoping by such a concerted action to force the pitcher out of league, but that failed to find widespread support with the other teams and was soon abandoned6. Harry Lunte was the first player to replace Chapman at short, but when he didn't hit the Indians purchased Joe Sewell from New Orleans of the Southern Association. His excellent play over the last three weeks of the season would be the beginning of a Hall of Fame career and helped his team defeat both the Yankees and White Sox in a tense three-team pennant race. The Indians clinched the pennant on the second-to-last day of the season, when Jim Bagby won his 31st game of the season, defeating the Tigers 10-1.
Fears that Chapman's death would hurt Mays were also unfounded. His first game after the beaning was against the Tigers and Mays shut them out, helped by Del Pratt's huge day at the plate. The victory was especially important to Mays because Detriot players had initially been reported as favoring his banishment from baseball and because Ty Cobb had said that "drastic action" should be taken against the pitcher7. Mays would finish the season strong, going 8-2 with four shutouts after the fatal beaning. He would not pitch well again in Cleveland after that game, however, going only 1-3 with a 7.64 there over the rest of his career.
Rumors that something had been not quite right with the 1919 World Series had been floating around since the Reds won the deciding game in early October. Such talk had died down once the 1920 season began, however, and remained quiet until news broke that there had been an attempt to fix a game between the Cubs and the Phillies on August 31st. Claude Hendrix, who had been scheduled to start that game, was removed at the last minute and Pete Alexander started in his place on only two days rest. Claude Hendrix denied any involvement with the fix, but he would never appear in another major league game. Shortly after the story about the fix broke, a Grand Jury investigation was ordered to look into it. By the time the jury convened on September 22nd, the investigation had been expanded to include the 1919 World Series as well. The White Sox, one and a half games out of first at the time, were heading to Cleveland for a critical three game series. In the deciding game of the series, Shoeless Joe Jackson would lead his team to victory by hitting two doubles and a home run, bringing Chicago to within a half game of first place. They would turn out to be the last extra base hits of his major league career.
On September 27th, the story broke that Bill Maharg, a "former boxer and well known sporting figure of this city"8 had confessed to being involved in a conspiracy that resulted in eight members of the 1919 White Sox throwing the World Series in return for $100,000. According to the report, the games that had been fixed were the first, second and last last games of the series. Over the years, there has been a lot of debate about Maharg's confession and what exactly transpired at the Grand Jury investigation (which was closed to the public), but what is known is that White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey suspended the eight players named in the allegations following the game that day and that none of those players would ever appear in a major league game again. The banned players were Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Buck Weaver, Happy Felsch, Lefty Williams, Swede Risberg, Chick Gandil and Fred McMullin. At the time of the suspension, they were still only a half game behind the first-place Cleveland Indians and I've always wondered what would have happened had the short-handed White Sox won the pennant that season. It certainly would have made for one of the weirdest and perhaps most one-sided World Series.
On May Day, the Robins and Braves played the longest game (by innings) in major league history. It was tied at one at the end of the sixth inning before both Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger matched zeroes over the last 20 innings. Darkness finally ended the game after the teams had played for nearly four hours. Had it been played at the end of June, when Boston gets an extra 40 minutes of sunlight, the game could have gone 30 innings or more. As it was, both of the pitchers set a record for most innings pitched in a game. Charlie Pick and Tony Boeckel tied a record with 11 at-bats in the game (Charlie Pick went hitless and saw his batting average drop from .324 to .250 during the game), and Walter Holke set a mark with 42 putouts.
The next day was Sunday and, in a scheduling quirk, the Braves had an off-day while the Robins headed back to Brooklyn where they played a 13-inning game against the Phillies. The Robins returned to Boston for another game on Monday and, for the first 18 innings, that game was almost a replay of Saturday's. Once again, the Robins scored a run in the top of the fifth and once again, the Braves tied the game with a run in the bottom of the sixth. And then the scoreless innings began. This time the pitchers were Sherry Smith and Dana Fillingim. In the bottom on the 19th inning, the Braves finally pushed across a run and won the game 2-1. When it was done, the Robins had played 58 innings in three days and had only two losses to show for their work. For Sherry Smith, his 2-1 extra-inning loss in Boston probably was uncomfortably reminiscent of his 2-1 extra-inning World Series loss to the Red Sox three and a half years earlier.
Both of these Robin-Braves marathons were played without the use of relief pitchers. During the 1920s, pitchers threw 16 or more innings in a game 21 times. 11 of those came during 1920 alone. The last major league pitcher to do this was Gaylord Perry, who threw exactly 16 innings in 1967.
The top pitching performance of the year belonged to Walter Johnson, who had a pitching line that looked an awful lot like a perfect game on July 1st but wasn't. Bucky Harris spoiled the no hit, no walk, no hits baseman performance with a seventh-inning error. At 97, it was the second highest 9-inning game score9 of the decade and would be the only 9-inning no-hitter of Johnson's illustrious career.
Pete Alexander was baseball's best pitcher in 1920, leading his league in complete games, innings pitched, wins and strikeouts, on his way to posting the lowest ERA of the decade. He especially enjoyed pitching at home. In my article on 1914, I mentioned his home and road splits that season. Well, in 1920 it was even more extreme, although his good work at home took place at Cubs Park (it wouldn't be called Wrigley Field until 1927) instead of at the Baker Bowl. His home and road splits that year:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Home 23 21 18 4 202.2 174 38 25 32 98 18 4 1.11 Away 23 19 15 3 160.2 161 58 52 37 75 9 10 2.91
Shovel Hodge made an impressive debut for the White Sox when he shut down the Tigers' in the second game of a double-header on September 6th, holding them without a hit until one was out in the top of the eighth inning. Sammy Hale broke up the no-hitter with a pinch-single before a walk, another single and two errors by Swede Risberg resulted in four unearned runs. After a home run by Shoeless Joe Jackson tied the game, Hodge returned to his no-hit ways for two more innings before a double by Eddie Collins gave the rookie his first win in the bottom of the tenth. It was as good as it got for the right-hander, a big win in the middle of a pennant race. He would pitch two more years for the White Sox, but never as well as he did that day.
Bobby Veach had quite a game on September 17th, getting six hits while hitting for the cycle, something that wouldn't be done again for nearly 75 years.
No team during the 1920s could match the 10 doubles the Indians hit on May 29th. Despite the pile of doubles, the Indians got only two other hits in the game, both singles, losing 8-7 to the visiting White Sox.
The Yankees scored an AL-record 14 runs in an inning on July 6th in their 17-0 win over the Senators. Carl Mays was the beneficiary of the scoring outburst. After being the victim of non-support with the 1919 Red Sox, he was being treated better by his batsmen in New York. In 1920 and 1921, the Yankees scored an average of more than seven runs a games in his starts, which was one reason why he was able to win a combined 53 games in those seasons.
The Indians probably only had their base-runners to blame for their 2-1 loss to the Senators on July 10th. They collected 11 hits in the game but six of those runners were caught stealing. They did not manage to steal a single base and that 0-6 performance was the worst of the decade.
And just in case 1920 didn't have enough to offer, it also featured the last triple-header. The first game had started at noon, but that still left the teams with only an hour to complete the last game. They ran out of time with the home Pirates ahead 6-0 at the end of the sixth inning. The last game marked the ninth time these two teams had faced each other in a week and a half.
One of the biggest statistical discrepancies of the year involved Bob Clark, a little-known pitcher on the World Champion Indians who won his only major league game by shutting out the Browns the day before Ray Chapman died. Clark is credited with allowing 59 hits in 42 innings in 1920, but we have him allowing only 43 hits. The biggest reason for this has to do with the game on August 1st. Here is the official view of the game and what we have:
IP AB H R Official 5 17 17 4 Retrosheet 5 17 4 3
We'll see mistakes like this again, but it's pretty clear that the at-bat data was incorrectly copied into the hit column as well and that the correct hit data ended up in the runs column. I suppose it's not that big a deal outside of the Clark family.
Finally, an example of a starting pitcher who gave up three runs in the top of the first inning, was removed for a pinch-hitter in the bottom half, and received credit for the win. It all happened on May 18th and the winning pitcher was Al Schacht, who would become much famous later on as "The Clown Prince of Baseball." Jim Shaw would pick up a retroactive eight-inning "save", allowing sixteen hits and five runs as the Senators thumped the Browns 17-8. Two starts later, Schacht would again pick up a win without lasting until the fifth inning.
Of course, the five-inning requirement was years away from being in effect and two other starting pitchers got wins of less than two innings that year: Harry Courtney, who was knocked out in the top of the second inning on May 3rd, and Duster Mails, who was removed after a single inning on September 1st, resulting in the year's second retroactive eight-inning save, this time for Guy Morton. It looks like an unofficial two-inning minimum went into effect after 1920, but there were starters credited with two-inning wins as late as 1948, when Dutch Leonard and Nels Potter turned the trick. For Leonard, it was the second two-inning victory of his career, having also done it in 1942.
The sixteen hits allowed by Jim Shaw on May 18th was the most by a pitcher receiving a retroactive (or real) save since at least 1918. Bill Zuber gave up twelve hits in a retroactive save while pitching seven innings in relief of Dutch Leonard in that 1942 game. And in 1973, Dave Goltz received credit for an actual save when he gave up thirteen hits and eight runs while turning a 9-1 lead into a 13-9 win. After 1920, there was only one other eight-inning save and it was credited after the fact to Dick Hall who allowed only two hits (and no walks or runs) in a 8-5 win on June 18, 1961.
For Babe Ruth, 1921 was a lot like 1920, only without the slow start. He had five hits on opening day and never stopped hitting all season long. His worst month was May when he hit 10 homers and had a slugging percentage over .700. Once again, he broke a one year-old home run record and once again, he feasted on home cooking, this time hitting over .400 with 32 home runs at the Polo Grounds. His 94 runs scored at home would not be topped until Ellis Burks scored 96 runs at Coors Field in 1996. If you put Ruth's home records in 1920 and 1921 together to create a single "season", you'd have the following line:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SB CS AVG OBP SLG 144 459 171 184 45 13 61 152 143 72 2 7 18 15 .401 .545 .954
Of course, even his away stats from those two years were great:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SB CS AVG OBP SLG 150 539 164 192 35 12 52 155 151 90 5 3 13 12 .356 .500 .755
Ruth had the longest hitting streak in the majors that year, a streak that ran from the tail end of July through most of August. He would walk 29 times in that streak, the most walks in any hitting streak during the seasons covered by Retrosheet's data. By the end of the regular season, Ruth had put together the two most dominant seasons in baseball history and had changed the game of baseball forever. He had also brought the New York Yankees their first pennant.
But first, Ruth's team had to fight of a challenge from the World Champion Cleveland Indians, who came into New York for a four-game series in late September only a few percentage points behind their hosts. The teams split the first two games, New York winning the first behind Waite Hoyt's six-hitter and Ruth's three doubles, and George Uhle leading the Indians to an easy victory in the next. Not only did Uhle throw a four-hit shutout agains the Yankees, but he scored three of Cleveland's runs and drove in another, with three walks and a sacrifice in his four plate appearances. A 21-7 New York rout the next day set up the crucial final game on September 26th. Ruth was at his best that day, hitting two home runs (his 57th and 58th of the season) and a double that drove in five runs. The Yankees still needed to call on Waite Hoyt, who pitched seven innings in relief on two days rest, and Carl Mays, who had pitched the day before, to secure the hard-fought 8-7 win.
The World Series was an all New York affair for the first time in major league history as the Giants captured the NL pennant.10 For most of the season, it looked as though the Pirates would win their first title since 1909, but then they managed to score only six runs in a five-game sweep at the hands of the Giants in late August, including two complete-game losses each to Phil Douglas and Art Nehf, and in less than two weeks had lost a seven and a half game lead. The Pirates continued to slump down the stretch and ended the season closer to third place than first. In the end, they were done in by an anemic offense that averaged less than three runs a game over the last six weeks of the season.
The Giants were helped by a July trade with the Phillies that netted them Irish Meusel for Curt Walker, Butch Henline and, as usual when the Phillies made a trade during these years, a pile of money. In the long term, it might have actually been a good trade for Philadelphia, since Henline had some fine years and eventually helped get them Fresco Thompson, while Walker played well in 1922 before being swapped for George Harper, who eventually also turned into Fresco Thompson. But in the short term, it paid off for New York, as Meusel solidified the outfield, becoming the first player to collect at least 200 hits in a season while playing for more than one team. (The second was Moose Solters in 1935.) Meusel actually slumped his first four weeks with the Giants before catching fire down the stretch. Here are his stats both before the start of the crucial five-game series with the Pirates and after:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SB CS AVG OBP SLG Before 8-24 30 117 12 27 2 2 0 6 9 6 2 1 3 2 .231 .295 .282 After 32 126 25 53 10 4 2 30 6 6 0 3 2 7 .421 .447 .611
The Giants were also helped by another July trade with the Phillies when they picked up Johnny Rawlings and Casey Stengel for Goldie Rapp and some fringe players. Rawlings wasn't much of a hitter down the stretch, but he was an improvement over Rapp, and Stengel, while he rode the bench for the team in 1921, was a fine platoon outfielder the next two years. But perhaps the Giant's best player that year was Dave Bancroft, another import from Philadelphia, who might have been the best shortstop in all of baseball.
In the first game of the World Series, Ruth's RBI single in the first would be all Carl Mays would need in a 3-0 shutout victory. Waite Hoyt would follow up by pitching a shutout of his own in the next game. Hoyt would match Christy Mathewson's record of pitching 27 innings in a series without allowing an earned run. Only one of Hoyt's games would be a shutout, however, and the unearned run in the last game would result in a 1-0 loss and give the championship to the Giants. The Yankees offense would be hurt by an arm injury to Ruth which limited him to a single pinch-hit performance over the last three games, all Yankee losses.
No one hit .400 in 1921, but both Rogers Hornsby and Harry Heilmann came awfully close. Heilmann was hitting over .500 as late as May 13th and at the end of July was still hitting .430. He slumped slightly in August but was still hitting .401 with three games left in the season. He went 1-13 in those games to finish below the mark. And Hornsby came even closer. With two games left in the season, he was hitting .401. Even after going 0-4, his average stood at .3997, which would round up to a .400 average. In a scene similar to the last day of Ted Williams' 1941 season, Hornsby put his average on the line in the final game. The Pirates' Wilbur Cooper gave up 11 hits to the Cards that day, but none of them to Hornsby, whose average dropped to .397.
Hornsby missed out on joining the .400 club despite hitting .419 that year on the road. In general, Sportsman's Park, his home field, was a good place for hitters and since 1920, Hornsby would hit .392 there, the highest batting average for any batter at the park and his second favorite place to hit, behind only that notorious bandbox, the Baker Bowl. But Hornsby was only the second best batter on the road in 1921. The Braves' Walton Cruise had his best season in 1921, although the fans in Boston probably didn't know it. Here are his home and road splits that year:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SB CS AVG OBP SLG Home 52 165 17 44 6 1 1 20 20 0i 12 0 5 4 4 .267 .346 .333 Away 56 179 30 75 10 6 7 36 28 0i 12 2 3 7 4 .419 .500 .659
Tris Speaker had perhaps the weirdest home-road split of the year, when he hit 42 doubles at home that year and only 10 on the road. No one has hit as many as 42 doubles at home since at least 1918. The most doubles hit on the road during the same period? 36 by Lou Gehrig in 1927. On a related subject, the most triples hit at home were 19 by Curt Walker in 1926 and 18 by Paul Waner in 1928. Both hit only a single triple on the road.
Elmer Smith had one of the hottest streaks of the year starting on September 3rd, going 12-16 over six games, including a record seven consecutive extra-base hits (three doubles and four home runs). His mark would be tied by Earl Sheely during two games in 1926. And teammates Bill Wambsganss and Charlie Jamieson combined to score all but one of the Indians ten runs in their September 10th win over the Browns.
Goldie Rapp set a rookie record when he hit safely in twenty-three consecutive games for the Phillies. Although it was his first season in the bigs, he set his record while playing for his second major league team. He had began the year as the Giants' regular third-baseman, but didn't hit and on July 1st was swapped to the Phillies in the five-player trade that brought Casey Stengel to New York. Rapp's started the streak in his first game with his new team and hit .381 during his record run. Once it was stopped on July 31st, Rapp reverted to the form that had lost him his job with the Giants and hit poorly the rest of the way, with only one extra base hit (a double) and a batting average under .200 over the rest of the season.
George Uhle became the first pitcher to drive in six or more runs in a game on April 28th. in the Indians' 18-5 victory over the Tigers. Two years later, he would come close to duplicating this feat, driving in five runs in a game against the A's.
There weren't any no-hitters in 1921, but Phil Douglas would pitch two of the four one-hitters that season. At the other end of the spectrum, Douglas also tied for the most hits allowed in a game that year, allowing twenty in a loss at Philadelphia on October 1st. Earlier that year, he had given up 19 hits there as well. It is probably an understatement to say he didn't pitch well in the Baker Bowl that year, giving up 59 hits in 29.1 innings. Despite that, he still managed to complete three of his four starts there.
After splitting his first four decisions against the Phillies, Reds' pitcher Pete Donohue beat them in ten innings on September 22nd. He would not lose again to them until August 19, 1925, winning 20 straight games. He started 22 times during the streak (with no relief appearances), completing all 20 of his wins, including five shutouts, and compiling a 2.59 ERA in 187.2 innings. For his career, Donohue would go 32-8 against the Phillies and 102-110 against everyone else.
The last-place A's held what appeared to be a pitching tryout in the first game of their September 15th double-header with the Indians. Pitchers Arlas Taylor, Bill Bishop and Ray Miner all made their major league debuts for Philadelphia, before manager Connie Mack turned to Lefty Wolf, a relative veteran with five previous relief experiences, to close out the game. The result was sixteen walks and a 17-3 loss. The four pitchers used that day would appear in only three more games in their combined major league careers (one by Bishop and two by Wolf).
In the longest game of the year, the Browns topped the Senators 8-6 in 19 innings on August 9th. The Browns were led by George Sisler's six hits (he would also have two five-hit games later that month) and the Senators were paced by three triples off the bat of Joe Judge. Dixie Davis went the distance for the Browns, holding the Senators hitless over the last nine innings of the game. Both Washington pitchers, starter George Mogridge and loser Jose Acosta pitched more than nine innings in the game. This has been done only once since, when Russ Christopher pitched thirteen and Joe Berry eleven innings in the Philadephia A's 24-inning tie with the Detriot Tigers on July 21, 1945. For both Christopher and Berry, it would be the longest outings of their careers.
Red Sox pitcher Herb Pennock is listed as getting 18 hits in 85 at-bats in 1921 for a .212 batting average. We think he actually hit .267 that year, a difference caused by two mistakes in the official dailies. Both appear to be simple addition errors. His batting dailies that year took up two sheets. On the first sheet, there are 18 hits listed in the dailies, but the total line at the bottom of the page only credits him with 16. The at-bats on the first page are correctly entered as 67, but when these are added to the at-bats listed on the second sheet, they got 85 instead of 75 at-bats. If you fix both of these errors, Pennock ends up with 20 hits in 75 at-bats, a big improvement over his official record.
And before leaving 1921, I should at least mention Al Nixon's performance in the outfield in the first game of the Braves double-header with the Pirates on September 12th. In that fifteen-inning contest, Nixon played all three outfield positions and was credited with three putouts at each. Unfortunately for both him and his team, he also went hitless in eleven at-bats over the two games, including four strikeouts.
After losing his .400 batting average on the last day of the previous season, Hornsby entered the final game of 1922 with almost exactly the same average (.39968 compared to .39965). Again, he played the game, but this time picked up three hits and topped .400 for the first time. Ty Cobb also reached the .400 mark in dramatic fashion. With 10 days to go in the season Cobb was hitting .392. A hot streak (9-13) over his next four games put him at exactly .400 going into the last game of the year. He also played in that game, leaving after getting a first inning hit off George Uhle. Cobb was helped by a record-tying four five-hit games, three of them within a week and a half in July. During that month, Cobb collected 67 hits. It tied Tris Speaker's performance in July 1923 for the most hits in a month since at least 1918. In addition to each having 67 hits, they also both had 137 at-bats (for a .489 batting average) and 18 doubles (which was tied for the most doubles hit during a month in the 1920s).
Despite his fast finish, Ty Cobb didn't come close to leading the AL that year in hitting. That honor went to George Sisler, who would be hitting well over .400 even before he started his 41 game hitting streak in late July. But if you look at his splits that year, you'll see that we disagree with his official number of at-bats, hits and batting average. We have him getting 587 at-bats and 244 hits for a .416 average and he is normally shown with 586 at-bats, 246 hits and a .420 average. The difference lies in two games in which we credit Sisler with one less hit than the official records: June 8th and July 23rd, and one game in which we charge Sisler with one more at-bat: July 11th. Unlike the previous discrepancies we've mentioned, these three are less clear-cut and it's possible that future research might vindicate the currently accepted totals in one or more of these games.
But Sisler had more important things to worry about that year than his batting average as he led the greatest St. Louis Browns team in history in a season-long pennant race with the defending American League champion Yankees. New York had started 1922 with their two biggest sluggers, Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel, out of action, suspended by Judge Landis for barnstorming after the previous year's World Series. They would not be reinstated until May 20th, when they went a combined 0-8 in New York's 8-2 loss to Urban Shocker and the Browns. The Yankees had taken a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning before an error by pitcher Sad Sam Jones on a controversial call on what would have been the game's final out led to seven unearned runs and the defeat. New York had started well, even without Ruth and Meusel, winning 22 of their first 33 games, but they could not shake the Browns all year and when they headed into St. Louis for a showdown three-game series in mid-September, they held only a half-game lead.
Sisler was hurting heading into the games with New York. Five days earlier, he had hit in his 39th consecutive game, drawing within one of Ty Cobb's American League record. But he had also sprained a ligament his right arm while reaching for a wide throw, and at first it was feared he would miss the rest of the season.11 He returned in time for the big series with the Yankees and while the teams were splitting the first two games, Sisler tied and then broke Cobb's record, before Bullet Joe Bush and the Yankees both snapped his streak and took the rubber game of the series. Sisler could make only a pinch-hitting appearance while the Browns were losing another series, this time to the Senators, giving New York a commanding three and a half game lead with only six games left in the season. He would return to the regular lineup to lead the Browns to five wins in those remaining games, but it would not be enough to catch New York.
We discussed earlier how much Sisler enjoyed hitting in Sportsman Park. His teammate Ken Williams carried this to extremes. In 1922, Williams would lead the American League in home runs with 39. He would hit over 80% of them (32) at home. From 1920 until he left St. Louis after the 1927 season, Williams would hit 132 home runs at home and only 47 on the road. On one homestand in late July and early August, he would become the first player to homer in six consecutive games.
Over in the National League, Branch Rickey's Cardinals helped make history on July 22nd, when for the first time in history (not counting the early days of each season), St. Louis teams were on top of both the National and the American League standings at the end of the day. The Cards had just finished a 17-3 run to edge past the Giants and were led in their charge by Hornsby at the plate and Bill Sherdel and Jeff Pfeffer on the mound. Three days later, St. Louis headed into New York for a big five-game series only a percentage point behind the Giants. It was a high-scoring affair, but unfortunately for the Cardinals, it was higher scoring for the Giants, who averaged nearly ten runs a game in taking the first four contests. Jesse Haines was able to salvage the finale, taking a 4-0 lead into the ninth inning before weathering a three-run storm by retiring Johnny Rawlings to end the game with the tying run on first.
It was all downhill from there for the Cards, and by the time the Giants came into St. Louis and swept a three-game series toward the end of August, New York had a seven-game lead (over the Cubs) and the pennant race was all but over. St. Louis, who posted a losing record after that heady day in July, eventually settled for a third place tie.
By the way, here are the first times that the teams from some other cities were on top in both leagues at the end of the day:
City Date Date Chicago 1903- 5-18 1906- 8-12 New York 1904- 8- 5 (Giants) Philadelphia 1910- 5- 5 1911- 7- 4 New York 1916- 6-28 (Dodgers) Boston 1916- 9- 4
In cases where the first date was early in the season, I have also listed the first time after the beginning of June. July 4, 1911 was the only day in history in which both Philadelphia teams were in first place after the end of June.
The Giants had one of the best offenses that year, despite McGraw's decision to put the team's two worst-hitting regulars (in terms of on-base plus slugging-percentage) at the top of his lineup. One of them made sense: Dave Bancroft batted lead-off and was perhaps their best player. Given his good on-base percentage (third best on the team), he was probably not a bad choice to hit first. But there was no good reason to give Johnny Rawlings so many at-bats in the number two slot, although Heinie Groh hit even worse once he was dropped from third to second place in the order. That got me to wondering how many other good teams had their two worst hitters leading off. Here are the pennant-winning teams to do this (along with the players most responsible) since 1918:
1922 NY N Dave Bancroft and Johnny Rawlings 1930 STL N Taylor Douthit and Sparky Adams 1943 NY A Frankie Crosetti and Bud Metheny 1951 NY N Eddie Stanky and Al Dark 1955 BRO N Jim Gilliam and Pee Wee Reese 1961 NY A Bobby Richardson and Tony Kubek 1963 NY A Tony Kubek and Bobby Richardson 1997 FLA N Luis Castillo and Edgar Renteria
In addition to Sportsman Park, another park favored by hitters in 1922 was the Baker Bowl. Playing his home games there in 1922, Cliff Lee had the most extreme home field advantage in at least the last 90 years:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SB CS AVG OBP SLG Home 68 250 47 97 20 2 17 68 20 23 1 5 2 2 .388 .434 .688 Away 54 172 18 39 9 4 0 11 13 20 0 3 0 1 .227 .280 .326
To put this in perspective, his home OPS of 1.123 would have been the second best in the NL that season (behind only Hornsby), while his .601 road OPS would have been dead last amoung NL regulars (behind teammate Goldie Rapp's .616 mark).
On April 22nd, Ken Williams hit three home runs in a game. This may not sound like that much today, but he became the first player in AL history to hit more than two homers in game, and the first player in any league to do this since Jake Beckley on September 26, 1897, the longest gap between three (or more) homer games in history. The next gap would be a short one, as Butch Henline hit three less than five months later, the last one tying the game in the bottom of the ninth inning before Cliff Lee hit another to end it. Williams' big game was the start of a then-record nine home runs in seven games for the Brown's slugger. And, yes, all seven games were played at Sportsman's Park. Willie Mays would tie this record in May, 1958, and Frank Howard would break it ten years later.
There were two wacky games from this year that I wanted to mention. In one, two players on the Pirates each had six hits during an eighteen-inning loss to the Giants. One of them, Max Carey had three walks and three stolen bases to go with his six hits. The other was a game in which the home Cubs scored ten runs or more in two separate innings, had a 25-6 lead after four, and barely held on to win 26-23. Their fourteen runs in the fourth inning set an NL modern record for most runs scored in an inning. The game took three hours and a minute to play. At the time, that seemed like an eternity, but it was one minute shorter than the Boston Red Sox's 1-0 win over the Tigers on May 18, 2011, to take just one example (of many).
Ray Grimes would never knock in 100 runs in a season in his short career, but he set a RBI record that still stands in 1922 when he knocked in at least one run in seventeen consecutive games from June 27th to July 23rd. In the middle of the streak, Grimes was sidelined for nine games with a wrenched back.12 And because of his suspension, Bob Meusel had only 84 RBIs in 1922, but he had three games with six RBIs each in a three week period in July. By comparison, Rogers Hornsby had only one game with six or more RBIs in the entire decade. Bob's brother, Irish almost equalled his performance, with two six-RBI games, including one in that same three-week period.
The Pirate batters all got hot at the same time that summer. Starting on August 5th, every hitter on the team got at least one hit in five consecutive games. This included twenty-two hits on August 7th, with the three Pirate pitchers combining for five (including a double, homer and four RBIs), forty-six in the next day's double-header, including five by Reb Russell and four by Cotton Tierney in the first game, and four each by Tierney and Rabbit Maranville in the second, and ending with sixteen more on August 10th, with Carson Bigbee leading the way with five. The streak ended on August 11th when Tierney was blanked in three at-bats. Everyone else in the lineup had at least one hit. Reb Russell kept on hitting until he had hit safely in twenty consecutive games, while the day after being shut down, Tierney began his own twenty-one game streak.
To give you some idea of how unlikely this was, there has been only one instance since where a team has had all of their players get a hit in even three consecutive games, the 2007 Minnesota Twins from April 19th to April 21st. And even that one comes with an asterisk, since Jason Bartlett appeared in the last game as a late-inning replacement who never came to bat. The Pirates ended their five-game run with exactly 100 hits, the most by any team over five games since at least 1918.
The single game pitching honors of 1922 went to the White Sox's Charlie Robertson for his perfect game on April 30th. He had pitched only 19 innings in the major leagues prior to that game, having picked up his first career victory in his previous start, but he had no problems that afternoon with a lineup featuring Ty Cobb, Harry Heilmann and Bobby Veach. It was the first perfect game in major league baseball since Addie Joss did it on October 2, 1908 and there would not be another one in the regular season until Jim Bunning's gem over 42 years later. The 14-15 mark Roberson had in 1922 was the closest he would come to a winning season in the major leagues and he would finish his career with a record of 49 wins and 80 losses.
Urban Shocker was one of the AL's top pitchers in 1922, but his inability to beat the Yankees consistently that year cost the Browns dearly. And he certainly had his chances. Shocker started ten times against New York that year, pitched twice more in relief and finished with a 4-7 record. During the Retrosheet era, no other pitcher has had that many decisions in a year against a single team. The closest is the ten decisions Sad Sam Jones split the same year against the Senators, and Jones and Shocker also hold the two top spots for most innings pitched against a single team since the deadball era (88 2/3 innings pitched for Jones against Washington and 81 2/3 for Shocker against the Yanks). In addition, no pitcher would lose seven games against one team until Chief Hogsett turned the trick against the 1937 Indians.
After seven straight years in the cellar, things were starting to look up for the Philadelphia Athletics. At the end of the season, they found themselves in seventh-place, ahead of the Boston Red Sox, who were beginning an even lengthier stay in the depths of the second division. From 1922 until 1930, Boston would escape the basement only once, in 1924, when they squeaked ahead of the White Sox by a half game.
The Athletics' best player was Eddie Rommel, who led the league in wins. From June 27th to August 16th, he won five straight relief appearances, the longest streak in the major leagues since at least 1918. Other pitchers who have done this include Hal McKain from 1930 to 1931, Turk Lown in 1956, Jeff Brantley in 1989 (the first five wins of his career), and Mitch Williams in 1991. McKain had a career record of 15-8 in relief but only a 3-15 mark as a starter. By the way, the only pitcher since 1918 to lose five consecutive relief appearances was Tom Zachary in 1926 and 1927 (with both the Browns and the Senators).
An interesting statistical discrepancy in 1922 involved pitcher Clyde Barfoot. In a September 5th game against the Pirates, Barfoot pitched the last two innings. The Pirates scored eight runs in those two innings. Here are Barfoot's official stats for that game as well as our version:
IP H R ER SH BB HBP Official 2 11 11 8 8 1 3 Retrosheet 2 11 8 8 1 3 0
Clearly, the person recording the stats copied the data from the official scorers report into the wrong columns for this game. I haven't found a record book that cares about these kinds of things, but the eight sacrifice hits erroneously credited to Barfoot in the game would have tied the record for the most sacrifice hits allowed in one game. The pitcher he would have tied? Babe Ruth, who gave up eight sacrifice hits in his loss to the Yankees on May 4, 1918.
Yankee Stadium opened in 1923 and if Babe Ruth missed leaving the Polo Grounds, where he had slugged .847 as a Yankee, he didn't show it. Ruth homered in the first game at the new stadium. For the season, Ruth would hit .411 there, walking 92 times at home on route to a major league record of 170. Pitching around him didn't seem to be working, however, as the Yankees ran out to a 29-10 record by the end of May. While Ruth was already leading the league in walks by a wide margin (48-29), he was also ahead in runs scored and homers, and tied for the lead in RBIs with teammate Bob Meusel, while another teammate, Wally Pipp, was only one behind.
The Yankees had their worst stretch of the season in the first half of June, winning only three of twelve games, and after the end of the day on June 14th, their lead had been shaved to a mere two games. The team in second place was somewhat of a surprise: the Philadelphia Athletics. They had emerged from the basement the previous year and were led near the top in the early going this year by Rollie Naylor, who had taken eight of his first nine decisions and was second in the league with a 2.20 ERA. But before he could make his next start, Naylor was injured while shagging flies in the outfield (he got entangled in the ropes strung out there in anticipation of a big weekend crowd and pulled a tendon in his leg) and would be out for a month.13
By the time the Athletics limped into the Stadium for a four-game series at the end of June, Connie Mack was also missing the services of Joe Hauser, Bing Miller and Sammy Hale, and when the Yankees' Sad Sam Jones finished shutting them out on July 1st to complete New York's sweep, Philadelphia was nine games out and closer to last place than first. The pennant race was all but over.
The Giants' road to their third straight post-season meeting with Yanks was only a little more suspenseful. When they travelled to Cincinnati for a four-game series in early August, they held a three-game lead over the Reds, who were starting their ace, Dolf Luque. Luque entered the game with a 17-3 record and a 1.66 ERA. In addition to wins and ERA, he also was also leading the league in shutouts and strikeouts. It would end up being one of the greatest seasons of the decade, but Luque got clobbered that day. Behind Travis Jackson's four hits and eight RBIs, the Giants buried Luque and reliever Bill Harris under twenty hits and fourteen runs.
Hugh McQuillan was the entire show for the Giants in the next game, pitching a shutout and driving in the only runs. John McGraw made an odd choice to start the opener of the next day's double-header: Virgil Barnes. Barnes was making his first start of the year and, despite pitching in his fourth major league season, entered the game with only one career win and a 1923 ERA of 7.62 (although in only thirteen innings). But Barnes and reliever Claude Jonnard held the Reds to two runs, while Frisch's four singles were part of a twelve-hit attack that netted New York four. When the Giants came from behind to complete the sweep, Cincinnati had dropped to third place and New York's lead was a comfortable six and a half games.
The Reds didn't completely fade away, but despite taking four of five from the Giants at the Polo Grounds later that month, could never get closer than three games again. When the Giants beat the Braves in the bottom of the tenth inning on September 30th, they became the first major league team to win three consecutive pennants since the Yankees had clinched their third straight ten days earlier. Unlike the two previous World Series, however, this one would not be played entirely in one park.
The series opened at Yankee Stadium and Casey Stengel liked the place immediately, hitting a ninth-inning inside-the-park home run to provide the Giants with their margin of victory. Because the two parks were only a short distance apart, they played without the benefit of travel days and took turns hosting. So after the Yankee's evened the series behind three circuit clouts, including two by Ruth, they reconvened at the House That He Had Built the next day. Yankee starter Sad Sam Jones only allowed four hits, but one of them was another Stengel homer, and Art Nehf shut down the Babe and company to make it stand up.
At this point, Casey Stengel was clearly the hero of the series, having delivered the kind of dramatics in the Fall Classic that could get a guy a new nickname (although "Home Run" was already taken), and the Giants looked to be on their way to becoming the first team to win three straight titles. But the Yankees erupted for seven early runs on their way to easy victories in each of the next two games, before rallying for five runs in the eighth inning for a come-from-behind win that wrapped up the now-Bronx Bombers' first World Series title. For Ruth, it would be the start of five consecutive great World Series performances. He had hit .182 with a single homer in his first five series; in his last five, he would hit .400 with 14 home runs in 25 games.
Harry Heilmann would hit over .390 four times in the 1920s (every odd year of the decade except for 1929), but only topped .400 once, in 1923. He was hitting .398 entering the game on October 2nd when hits in his first two at-bats pushed his average up to .401. He left the game for a pinch-hitter at that point, and he wasn't going to take any chances the rest of the way either, making only two pinch-hitting appearances in the final five games, collecting one hit and finishing with a .403 batting average.
The Indians had the top offensive performance of the year when they scored 27 runs against the Red Sox in the first game of a double-header on July 7th. Lefty O'Doul pitched the middle three innings for the Sox that afternoon. At the start of the sixth inning, his team was already down 11-2 and in a classic version of "take one for the team," Lefty was left in to take a pounding as the Indians scored 13 unearned runs before he could finally retire the side. By the end of the decade, Lefty would be a star slugger in the other league and in 1929, he would hit over .400 in every month but one (a .298 mark in June) and finish with a .398 batting average. Like most Phillies hitters, O'Doul benefited from his home park and his 144 hits there that season would trail only Sisler's 1920 mark during the decade.
Charlie Grimm started quickly in 1923, hitting safely in his first 25 games. Including the games from the previous year, he had hit in 30 consecutive games before finally getting stopped on May 17th. Grimm hit .412 during his streak, but was not even leading the league in batting average at its end. That honor went to Zack Wheat who had even a hotter start and was hitting over .400 until late June. An injured ankle would cost Wheat most of July and August, however, and he would end up hitting .375 in only 98 games.
Another hot hitter in the National League in the early going was the Phillies' Cy Williams who set a league record by hitting 15 home runs during May. His slugging didn't translate into victories for Philadelphia as the team won only seven of the 30 games played that month and only two of the twelve games in which he homered. One of the games they did win was a wild 20-14 victory over the Cards that featured three Phillies hitters combining for six home runs and 19 RBIs. Both Williams (3 home runs) and Johnny Mokan (2 home runs) drove in seven runs apiece and Frank Parkinson chipped in a homer and five RBIs. In the game, the two teams combined for 79 total bases, a major league record that would stand until the Reds and Rockies Rockies collected for 81 total bases in a game at Coors Field on May 19, 1999.
Rogers Hornsby went on a tear in July, with 61 hits and 24 extra-base hits, good for a .488 batting average and .824 slugging percentage. Included in his hitting spree were thirteen straight games with two or more hits, the longest streak since at least 1918.
The Giants won a game at Philadelphia in which they scored in all nine innings, the first time this was done in the 20th century. They also tied a record by having three players (Heinie Groh, Ross Youngs and Jimmy O'Connell) collect five or more hits in the game. Youngs and O'Connell also both had seven RBIs. O'Connell, who had three doubles and a homer in the game, would hit only .209 with six extra-base hits the rest of the season.
Future Hall of Fame outfielder Heinie Manush debuted in 1923, hitting .334 in a platoon role for the Tigers. Despite not playing full-time, he did manage to lead the league in one statistic category: getting hit by a pitch. He had the Red Sox to thank for this distinction, as they hit him a dozen times all by themselves. I'm not sure if there was bad blood between the rookie and Boston pitchers, but this is the most a player has been hit by a single pitching staff during the Retrosheet Era.
One rookie who made an immediate if not a lasting impression that season was Maurice Archdeacon. He didn't play his first game until September 17th but still managed to finish the year with 35 hits and a .402 batting average. By the end of the following July, he would have a .390 batting average in his young career to go with a .462 on-base percentage. In less than a year, he had amassed four five-hit games. By contrast, Rogers Hornsby had 2085 hits during the decade but only a single five-hit game. As July turned to August 1924, however, it seems that the American League pitchers suddenly figured out how to pitch to Maurice. Over the rest of his short career, he would collect only 20 more hits in 107 at-bats.
Jimmy Johnston had one of the hottest hitting streaks of the decade when he collected 23 hits in six games from June 25th to June 30th, including ten extra-base hits. At the end of the streak, he was fourth in the league with a .366 batting average. He would finish the season with 203 hits in 625 at-bats, almost exactly reprising his 1921 performance, when he had the same number of hits in one less at-bat.
When Tris Speaker hit his 57th double on October 4th, he broke the single-season mark established by Ed Delahanty in 1899. At least that's how it was reported at the time. Delahanty is now credited with 55 doubles instead of 56, so Tris actually broke the record a day earlier instead. He would finish the season with a total of 59 doubles and so, for a few years at least, the single-season marks for both doubles and home runs would be the same. George Burns, a teammate of Speaker's, would destroy this symmetry three years later. When Burns hit his record-tying 59th double on August 28, 1926, 70 or 75 doubles did not seem out of the question for him. He had hit at least 12 doubles in each of the four previous months, but would only hit five more the rest of the season, leaving the door open for Earl Webb to raise the mark to 67 five years later. The baseball world would not be in balance again until September 26, 1998, when Mark McGwire hit his 67th home run in the fourth-inning of a game against the Montreal Expos. Three innings later, McGwire would hit his 68th home run, so the balance was short-lived.
But we digress. I mentioned above that Dolf Luque had a great season in 1923. He finished with a 27-8 record and a 1.93 ERA, the second lowest of the decade (behind only Pete Alexander's 1.91 mark in 1920). He led the league in shutouts with six, but he also pitched another seven complete games in which the only runs he allowed were unearned. He is the only pitcher since 1918 with more than four such games in a season. The last two with four were Phil Niekro in 1967 and Wilbur Wood in 1973
There were two no-hitters in 1923, both took place in Shibe Park during the first week of September. Sad Sam Jones pitched one in which he failed to record a single strikeout. Howard Ehmke came within a questionable scoring decision of pitching consecutive no-hitters when he followed his no-hitter on September 7th with a one-hitter four days later. Most of the crowd thought that the first inning infield hit had been scored an error (the ball had bounced off the third-baseman's chest after all) and, in a display of non-partisanship that would not be seen again until SABR members witnessed Jose Jimenez of the visiting St. Louis Cardinals no-hit the home Arizona Diamondbacks and Randy Johnson over 75 years later, Yankee fans cheered each of the outs Ehkme recorded against their team in the bottom of the ninth inning. Ehkme's first no-hitter probably deserves an asterisk, since it came about only because Slim Harriss' sixth inning double was transformed into an out when it was ruled that the Athletics' pitcher had failed to touch first base on his way to second.14
The Yankees gained a measure of revenge on both the Red Sox and Ehmke a few weeks later when the Fenway Park faithful witnessed five-hit games by Babe Ruth and Wally Schang, as well as the first big game of Lou Gehrig's career in a 24-4 drubbing on September 28th. Ehmke won 20 games that year for the only time in his career, but he would finish his season by getting pinch-hit in the bottom of the sixth inning after allowing 11 runs in the top half. The Yankees set an AL record for most hits in a 9-inning game with 30 and got at least two hits out of every position in the lineup.
On October 4th, Carl Mays played his last major league game in the American League and lost to the A's for the first time since July 4, 1918. breaking a string of 24 straight wins against them. It was his first appearance on the mound in over a month and his first start since a complete game victory on July 24th, also against the A's.
Pete Alexander started the season with 51 2/3 consecutive innings without a walk. After having the streak broken by issuing three walks in a game against the Phillies, he proceeded to throw another 30 innings before issuing another. He would pitch in tough luck early, throwing four complete game losses in his first nine decisions, before a 14-4 run would help him join the 20-victory club for the eighth time in his career.
Our featured discrepancy of the year involved the Braves' pitcher Frank Miller. In the second game of the July 10th double-header with the Cards', Miller pitched the ninth-inning of a 6-2 loss. Despite that, Miller was credited with the following pitching line:
IP BFP H R ER SH BB HBP SO 9 37 10 3 2 1 2 0 0
Which is exactly the same line credited to Cards' starter Johnny Stuart.
One thing of no particular significance and then we'll move on. In 1923, Cotton Tierney played in 150 games for the Pirates and the Phillies. Due to the long road trips and home stands favored by the schedulers of the era, he ended up playing 92 road games and only 58 home games that season. I'm not sure if that's a record for the most road games in a season, but it is a record since at least 1918. Not coincidentally, the pitcher with the greatest differential between his innings pitched on the road and at home over the last 90 years was Whitey Glazner, who was traded to the Phillies along with Tierney and that season pitched 137 1/3 innings on the road and only 54 at home. In Glazner's case, this was probably a good thing, since he allowed more than a run an inning in his two home parks in 1923, while having a 3.41 ERA on the road.
The Yankees string of three straight AL pennants was broken in 1924 by an unlikely team, the Washington Senators, who had posted a losing record both of the previous two seasons and had never won a pennant before. They were led by 36 year-old Walter Johnson who topped the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA to capture the pitching triple-crown, and 24 year-old Goose Goslin, whose 129 RBIs denied Babe Ruth the batting triple-crown. In the early going, however, an even more surprising team challenged the Yankees for the top spot in the league: the Boston Red Sox. They were in the fourth year of a dismal eleven-year run that would see them finish in the basement nine times, but when they defeated the Indians 8-3 on June 13th, they found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being tied for first place. Their hitting and pitching were both the second-best in the league. Unfortunately for Boston fans, they would return to form after that day. When they lost to Detroit 13-7 less than two months later, they were completing a 17-43 stretch that had landed them back in the cellar. Pitchers Jack Quinn and Howard Ehmke had led their team's charge to the front, but couldn't keep up the fast pace. Here is their combined record during those two periods:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Up to 6-13 34 24 19 4 224 186 72 54 56 80 14 10 2.17 6-14 to 8-10 32 21 9 0 160.1 210 108 92 47 53 7 12 5.16
But as the Red Sox were fading into the second division, the Senators were heading in the other direction. When they completed a four-game sweep of Boston in early July, it marked their 17th win in 19 games and left them in first place by three full games over New York. In the last ten games of the streak, the Senators pitchers allowed only eight runs. How good was this? Here are the teams allowing less than ten runs over a ten-game period since the end of the deadball era (with overlapping streaks removed):
Team Start Date IP H R ER BB SO ERA WAS A 6-26-1924 92 61 8 8 22 24 0.78 CHI A 5-29-1966 90.0 46 9 8 15 51 0.80 CLE A 5- 1-1968 89.1 46 9 7 28 96 0.71 BAL A 8-29-1974 90.0 53 9 9 19 43 0.90 NY N 9- 2-1920 89.0 70 10 7 16 29 0.71 CHI A 7- 4-1954 88.0 50 10 9 34 39 0.92 DET A 7-13-1986 93.0 53 10 9 30 75 0.87 KC A 8- 4-1991 96.0 61 10 10 15 64 0.94
The performance by the 1968 Indians featured three consecutive shutouts by Luis Tiant (who pitched another in his last start before the streak began). And the Orioles' run included a 54 2/3 inning scoreless streak.
Back to the matter at hand, the Senators and Yankees battled down to the final weekend. When Washington dropped at 2-1 decision to the Red Sox on Friday, their lead was cut to a single game with three remaining. A dramatic come-from-behind victory on Saturday, coupled with New York's 4-3 loss to Eddie Rommel and the A's, clinched a tie. A bases-clearing pinch-double by Wade Lefler was the big blow for the Senators. Lefler had recently joined the team after leading the Eastern League in batting average (beating out Hartford's Lou Gehrig by a single point) and the double was his third major league hit (in only his fifth at-bat).
Neither team was scheduled on Sunday and so Washington had to wait until Monday to clinch the pennant. Which they did when Firpo Marberry pitched six scoreless innings in relief to lead the Senators to a 4-2 victory over Boston. By the way, the fans at Fenway Park cheered the visitors throughout the season-ending series, obviously preferring any other champion to the Yankees.15 And they weren't the only ones. According to Ty Cobb, the highlight of his season was his team's three game sweep over the New York in a crucial September series. "We told the Washington club we were pulling for them," he said.16
Walter Johnson's best game of 1924 was a fourteen-strikeout one-hitter on May 23rd. His game score of 98 was the highest of the decade. If you'll recall, he also had the second highest game score of the decade four years earlier. It was the 100th shutout of his career, although no one at the time realized it. For years, he had been credited with an additional three shutouts and the date of his 100th shutout is usually still given as May 2, 1923, although at the time it was thought to have occurred on of that year.17 The fourteen-strikeout game would be the last time Johnson would strike out ten or more batters in a regular season game. He would do it twice more in the World Series, however, hitting double-digits in strikeouts in the Series openers in both 1924 and 1925. Later on in the year, he also pitched a rain-shortened no-hitter.
Despite all his accomplishments in 1924, Johnson was not the best pitcher in baseball that year. That honor went to Dazzy Vance, who would enjoy the greatest season of his Hall of Fame career. He led the major leagues with 28 wins, a 2.16 ERA and 262 strikeouts. His win total would be the highest in the National League during the 1920s, and the strikeout total wouldn't be topped in the senior circuit until Sandy Koufax struck out 269 batters in 1961. Vance took a long time putting it all together (1924 was only his third full season and he turned 33 before opening day), but he would lead the National League in strikeouts from 1922 to 1928. In 1924, pitchers struck out nine more hitters in a game 20 times; Dazzy Vance accounted for 15 of them. He struck out 15 or more batters in a game during the 1920s 5 times; no else struck out more than 14. Vance enjoyed pitching at Ebbets Field. His ERA was over a run better there (2.71 to 3.73) and he struck out more than two more batters per nine innings (7.3 to 5.2).
Included in Vance's accomplishments that year was a fifteen game winning streak that started in July and didn't end until an extra-inning loss on September 20th. Three starts earlier, Vance's 25th win of the season had given the Robins a split of a critical two-game series at the Polo Grounds, leaving Brooklyn, a team that had played only .500 ball since their pennant-winning season four years earlier, only a half game off the lead. And Bill Doak's win on the 22nd left them only a percent point behind the Giants with four games left to play. Even the third-place Pirates, a game and a half back and coming into town to play the Giants in a big three-game series, had hopes of jumping over both of the top teams and grabbing the title for themselves.
The Giants were coming off a series loss to the Cubs that featured the 300th win of Pete Alexander's career, and were forced to start rookie Freddie Lindstrom and second-year reserve Jimmy O'Connell in place of the injured Frankie Frisch and Heinie Groh. O'Connell hit his first homer of the season in the fourth inning to provide Hugh McQuillan all the runs he would need that day as the Giants went on to sweep the series and secure a record fourth straight World Series appearance.
The World Series came of age that year, and the Giants and Senators marked the twenty-first meeting of their league's pennant winners by putting on a great show. Despite the similarity of their records, the Senators were cast as underdogs, a team looking for their first title matched up against a dynasty looking for yet another. They began with a twelve-inning 4-3 Giants' victory that featured the debut by Walter Johnson in the Fall Classic. It was an exciting affair, whose highlights included Roger Peckinpaugh's game-tying double in the bottom of the ninth, and Sam Rice getting thrown out trying to stretch his single in the bottom of the final inning. The second contest was also a thriller, with the Giants battling back to tie the game on Hack Wilson's single in the top of ninth, only to lose it in the home half on another run-scoring double by Peckinpaugh.
One curious aspect of the second game was the official scorer's choice of winning pitcher. By the rules of the time (and today), Firpo Marberry, who came in to put down the Giants' threat in the top of the ninth, should have won the game. But the scorer felt that Tom Zachary had worked harder that day and so deserved the win. It was closest Marberry would come to a World Series victory.
The teams continued alternating wins until the Senators tied the series at three apiece when Peckinpaugh made a fine play to help snuff out a rally in the top of the ninth and preserve Zachary's second win. It was only the third World Series, after those in 1909 and 1912, that would go the distance. Player-manager Bucky Harris was one of the heroes in the decisive game. His fourth-inning homer gave them a brief lead, and after some sloppy fielding helped New York go up by two, his single tied the contest in the bottom of the eighth. That hit sent Washington into extra-innings with Walter Johnson on the mound. The stage was set for a story-book ending. Johnson did his part, holding the Giants scoreless through the three extra frames. The resolution might have appealed to purists more if two errors by the Giants hadn't set the stage for Earl McNeely's game-winning double in the bottom of the twelfth, but Senators' fans weren't complaining. In a classic case of journalistic restraint, the Washington Post the next day reported that McNeely "bludgeoned his way to everlasting fame with a hit that was heard 'round the world and started the greatest public demonstration ever enacted in the Nation's Capital or anywhere else."18 The first time is always special.
Other hitting stars in the series included Goose Goslin, who hit three home runs for the Senators, and Freddie Lindstrom, a Giants rookie who had played sparingly that season until Heinie Groh was injured on September 19th. Lindstrom, who wouldn't turn nineteen for over a month, collected ten hits in the seven games, or exactly half of his career total entering the series. Here are the players with the fewest career regular season hits with two or more hits in a World Series:
# Career Year Player 2 0 1997 Chad Ogea 3 8 1972 Gonzalo Marquez 4-7 10 1978 Brian Doyle 8-10 20 1924 Freddie Lindstrom 11-12 128 1931 Pepper Martin 13 476 1986 Marty Barrett
Lindstrom was the youngest player to get a hit in a series. The others to do this before the age of twenty (from youngest to oldest): Willie Crawford in 1965, Phil Cavarretta in 1935, Andruw Jones in 1996, and Mickey Mantle in 1951.
Rogers Hornsby and Babe Ruth would take the hitting honors that season, as both would lead their leagues in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. As usual, Hornsby was helped by his home park, where he hit .469 and slugged .790, but his most extreme home field advantage would come in 1925, when he would hit .478 and slug .902 at home. Earlier, we combined the two home and roads records from Babe Ruth's 1920 and 1921 seasons. Let's do the same now for Hornsby's 1924 and 1925 seasons. First his home "season":
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SB CS AVG OBP SLG 146 535 148 253 50 15 39 137 94 34 2 14 8 9 .473 .553 .841
And now, the sum of his two road records:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SB CS AVG OBP SLG 135 505 106 177 34 9 25 100 80 46 2 15 2 6 .350 .441 .602
The outstanding single game batting performance that season was the one turned in by Jim Bottomley on September 16th, when he went 6-6 with a double and two home runs, accounting for 12 RBIs. The manager for the other team that day was Wilbert Robinson, who was believed at the time to hold the previous record of 11 RBIs in game, set in 1892 when he was a catcher for the Baltimore Orioles.
Baby Doll Jacobson hit for the cycle on April 19th but the Browns scored only three runs and lost to the White Sox. The only team during the Retrosheet era to score fewer runs when one of their players hit for the cycle was the Washington Senators, who lost to the Boston Red Sox 3-2 in 1964 despite Jim King's cycle.
High Pockets Kelly hit 21 home runs in 1924, which doesn't seem like a lot today, but led the pennant-winning Giants by 10 and was the fourth highest total in the league. This included a three-homer game in which he drove in all eight of his team's runs, and another stretch where he hit seven home runs in six consecutive games. This last outburst occurred in July and were the only home runs he hit between June 17th and August 21st.
George Burns had two games in the season with four extra-base hits, the first American League player to do this. Both George Gore (in the NL) and Henry Larkin's (in the American Association) had previously done this in 1885. Joe Hauser set a short-lived AL record for most total bases in a game, when he hit three homers and a double on August 2nd. It would be broken less than a month into the next season. And Wilbur Cooper set a post-1920 mark for pitchers that still stands when he hit in sixteen straight games from June 23rd to September 3rd. Although he had a .389 batting average at the end of his steak, he did not pinch-hit once that year.
Rookie pitcher Hi Bell became an unlikely star on July 19th when he pitched complete game victories in both ends of a double-header, allowing a total of only six hits in the two games. Bell started the day with a record of 1-4 and a 4.95 ERA. After the twin-bill, he would go 0-4 with a 7.08 ERA, making him perhaps the least likely pitcher ever to win a twin-bill. This would not be done again in the National League. The last pitcher to do this prior to Bell had been Johnny Stuart in 1923 and he was also lightly used prior to his iron-man outing, entering the July 10th double-header, with a 2-0 record and 44 1/3 innings pitched. For Bell, the double victories were the second and third of his major league career; for Stuart, they were his third and fourth. In September, a front-line pitcher also turned the trick when Urban Shocker won his 14th and 15th games of the year in a double-header on September 6th. Despite his performance that day, Shocker would fail to win at least 20 games in a season for the first time since 1919.
One of the biggest statistical discrepancies of the year involved Bobby Veach, Joe Harris and Boston's June 3rd game in St. Louis. Officially, Veach knocked in six runs that day with a double and two singles, while Harris' home run and three singles did not drive home a run at all. But the game story that ran the next day in the Boston Globe19, makes it clear that it was the other way around. So Veach had 93 (and not 99) RBIs in 1924 and Harris should be credited with 83 instead of 77.
The Senators repeated as AL champions in 1925, but this time they didn't have to worry about the Yankees, who suffered through a terrible year, including Babe Ruth's illness and suspension as well as off years from Sad Sam Jones and Bob Shawkey, and tumbled all the way to seventh place. Washington's competition for most of the year came from a team that hadn't had a winning record in over ten years, the Philadelphia A's. Entering their August 15th double-header with the Red Sox, the A's held a two game lead over the Senators and after their victory in the first game, had a 72-36 record. But the second game was the beginning of a total collapse that would see the A's win only two of their next nineteen games, including twelve in a row, and whatever pennant hopes that had entertained were gone by Labor Day.
I went looking for other similar collapses, teams with at least sixty wins and a greater than a .600 winning percentage that lost at least fifteen of their next twenty games. I found two prior examples. The 1896 Cincinnati Reds were in first place (by a half game) with a 69-30 record after their victory on August 19th. The next day they lost. And the next day. And the one after that. By the time they won again, on September 2nd, they were six and a half games behind the Baltimore Orioles. And their loss on September 12th completed a 3-17 stretch that had dropped them into third place. The second example? The 1897 Reds, who after peaking at 62-34 on August 24th, lost 19 of their next 24 games. By 1898, Reds fans with any long-term memory were probably expecting a late season collapse, and although it wasn't severe enough to make our list, the Reds didn't disappoint, losing eight of nine games from September 10th to September 19th, ending their pennant hopes.
So no team had fallen apart like the 1925 A's in nearly three decades. Baseball fans would not have to wait as long for the next one. As a matter of fact, two different teams (one in each league) would suffer such a collapse in only two years. One would cost a team the pennant and the other wouldn't.
After the 1924 season, the Pirates made a huge trade with the Cubs, sending them Charlie Grimm, Rabbit Maranville and twenty-game winner Wilbur Cooper (who had won 161 games over the previous eight seasons) in exchange for Vic Aldridge, George Grantham and Al Niehaus. At the end of the next season, this trade was seen by some as the key to Pittsburgh's success in 1925, not so much because of the players they received, but in the "ridding the team of deleterious disorganizing influences by trading three insubordinate players." They also added Fred Clarke, who had managed the team to their only previous World Series win, as a bench coach and "he held the team up in crises by criticism of its course...."20
In all likelihood, the real reason the Pirates were at or near the top of the NL that year had more to do with the fine play of Pie Traynor, Kiki Cuyler, Max Carey and Lee Meadows than the criticisms of a cranky ex-manager. Whatever the reasons, the Pirates held a two game lead over the Giants before going on a 16-3 run between August 20th and September 6th, including four victories in five games against the Giants at the Polo Grounds, back-to-back shutouts from Meadows and Vic Aldridge in Boston, and five straight games in which they scored ten or more runs in Philadelphia's Baker Bowl. By the time it was over, their lead had swelled to eight and a half games.
New York was hurt by the decline of Ross Youngs, who started to show the effects of the health problems that would end his life two years later, as well as poor seasons from Hack Wilson and Hugh McQuillan. Despite the off-year, the Giants still had promising young players like Wilson, Freddie Lindstrom and Bill Terry, and I'm sure John McGraw didn't suspect that he already won the last pennant of his career.
The World Series once again went the limit, although it looked like the Senators might wrap it up early after Walter Johnson's second complete-game victory had given his team a 3-1 lead. The Pirates fought back, however, beating Stan Coveleski, the hero of the 1920 series, for the second time, and forcing a seventh game by taking a close-fought 3-2 decision, behind the pitching of Ray Kraemer and a go-ahead home run off the bat of Eddie Moore. Had it not been for the awful weather, the deciding game would have been a classic. Both Vic Aldridge and Johnson were looking for their third victory of the series, but neither would get it. Aldridge was driven from the game with one out in the first inning, while Johnson was undone by the rain and sloppy grounds, as well as two critical errors by Roger Peckinpaugh, his seventh and eighth of the series, one of them leading to the go-ahead runs.
Max Carey and Pie Traynor were the hitting stars for the Pirates, combining for twenty hits, seven of them for extra bases, while Aldridge and Kraemer split the team's four wins. Joe Harris and Goose Goslin both hit three home runs for the Senators. Along with his three from the previous year, Goslin now held the record for the most in World Series competition, a mark that would fall in less than a year.
Like Charlie Grimm two years earlier, George Sisler started 1925 with a long hitting streak. It reached 34 games before he was stopped on May 20th by the Athletics' Slim Harriss and Lefty Grove. Also like Charlie Grimm, Sisler would not be leading the league in batting average at the streak's end. Earl Combs, starting his first full season for the Yankees, was showing that his .400 average the previous season (in only 35 at-bats) was not a fluke. He had two or more hits in 19 of his first 30 games and was one of two AL players ahead of Sisler that day.
The other was a familiar name: Ty Cobb, who two weeks earlier had put on the greatest two-game power display in history. In the first game, against the Browns on May 5th, Cobb collected six hits, including a double and three home runs, tying the AL record for most home runs in a game and setting a league mark with 16 total bases (breaking George Burns' recent record). Cobb had another big game the next day, hitting two more homers and a single, driving in six runs. This set a modern record for the most home runs and total bases in two consecutive games, and raised his slugging average over 1.000. Cobb would hit only seven more home runs that year but would still tie his career high with those 12 homers. One of the things we used to read about Cobb is that he decided to alter his hitting style prior to those games to intentionally try to hit homers and that, after having had such unprecendented success with this approach, abandoned it to return to a more "scientific" style of hitting.21 Of course this is crazy. It's almost impossible to believe that any player would have changed a strategy that had immediately produced the greatest two-day hitting binge in major league history.
The same day that Cobb was showing the Browns just how many home runs he could hit if he really wanted to, Everett Scott was playing in his major league record 1307th consecutive game as the Yankees beat the A's, ending a five game losing streak. With the team a game and a half out of last place, manager Miller Huggins decided it was time to shake things up and benched Scott, who was hitting only .208 and still looking for his first extra-base hit of the year. So the next day, the starting shortstop was Pee-Wee Wanninger, marking the first time since June 20, 1916, that Scott had missed a game. He was unhappy about the benching, figuring that the two hits he got on May 5th should have been sufficient to keep his job. Or as he put it: "If this had come while the team was losing I wouldn't have cared. It seems funny that it should happen the day after we win a game and I make two hits."22 Huggins look a longer view and figured that the Yankees 4-11 record prior to that victory was more indicative of how things were going than an isolated victory and gave Scott permission to head to his home in Fort Wayne for a few days rather than accompany the team to St. Louis. Scott would not start another game for the Yankees and would be waived to the Senators in June. Less than a month later, Lou Gehrig would pinch-hit for that same Pee-Wee Wanninger, starting his own, more famous, streak.
At the beginning of 1925, only four players had 3000 or more hits in the major leagues: Cap Anson, Honus Wagner, Nap Lajoie and Ty Cobb. Tris Speaker would join that club on May 17th and Eddie Collins would follow suit on June 3rd. At the time, it was generally felt that Sam Crawford had also collected 3000 hits in his career23, but he is now only credited with 2961.
Despite their hot starts, neither Ty Cobb, George Sisler or Earle Combs led the AL in batting average in 1925. That honor went to Harry Heilmann, who posted the highest road batting average of the Retrosheet Era when he batted .456 away from home that year. His home and away splits:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SB CS AVG OBP SLG Home 74 279 44 91 16 7 6 59 33 11 0 13 4 2 .326 .397 .498 Away 76 294 53 134 24 4 7 74 34 14 1 10 2 4 .456 .514 .636
He hit over .500 in three different parks that year: Comiskey Park (.600), Sportman's Park (.533) and Fenway Park (.513).
George Sisler set a novelty record on July 11th, when he tripled with the bases loaded in the fourth inning and then homered with the bases loaded in the fifth. This was the first time a batter had knocked in as many as seven runs in two consecutive innings. It would be tied next by Tony Piet on July 28, 1932 and then broken by Jim Gentile when he hit grand slams in the first and second inning on May 9, 1961.
Milt Stock had a record-setting hot streak from June 30th to July 3rd, rapping out four hits in four consecutive games. He would slump over the last two months of the season, but would still finish the campaign with 202 hits and a .328 batting average. A holdout the following spring, Stock would lose both his starting job and his spot on the roster within a month of signing and see his major league career end at the age of 32. Kiki Cuyler almost duplicated Stock's feat when he went 4-4 in back-to-back games toward then end of the season. He collected his ninth and tenth consecutive hits the next day before being held hitless in his last two at-bats. He finished his hot hitting on September 22nd with another quartet of hits, including two homers, for a 14-16 mark over the four games.
In 1921, Chicken Hawks was given a trial with the New York Yankees. He started quickly, getting 10 hits in his first 21 at-bats, before cooling off and seeing little action over the second half of the season. Four years later, he was back in the major leagues, this time with the Phillies and again he started quickly, hitting in 28 of his first 29 games after replacing Walter Holke at first-base in the starting lineup. He continued to hit after the streak ended and after getting four hits in the second game of the June 23rd double-header, Hawks trailed only Rogers Hornsby in the batting race. Once again, Hawks did not hit in the second half of the season and would not return to the major leagues.
Mandy Brooks didn't join the Cubs that year until the end of May, but in a little more than three weeks had hit nine home runs, good for third-best in the league. Three singles in Chicago's shutout loss on June 27th raised his batting average to .398 and his slugging percentage to .825. Obviously, he couldn't keep it up (or else Brooks would be quite a bit more famous), but this got me to wondering about players who hit a lot of home runs in a month with no previous ones to their credit. The list:
Mon Year Player PrevABs AB HR TOT June 1925 Mandy Brooks 9 103 9 14 1935 Moose Solters 100 125 9 18 July 1963 Don Mincher 18 78 10 17 2009 Garrett Jones 0 100 10 21 Aug 1931 Vince Barton 42 125 10 13 Sept 1996 Phil Nevin 46 74 8 8
Almost all of these players were recent arrivals prior to their outbursts. Here's the same list, including only players with 3.1 plate appearances per game at the beginning of the month:
Mon Year Player PrevABs AB HR TOT June 1960 Don Buddin 131 82 6 6 July 1947 Tommy Holmes 234 128 8 9 Aug 1918 Irish Meusel 342 123 4 4 Sept Several tied with three
Catcher Ray Schalk would steal three bases in a game on September 3rd in a 3-1 victory over the Browns. Despite the stolen bases, he would fail to score a run. This would be the second time during the decade that he would steal three bases. In the previous game, on September 10, 1920, he would also not score.
The Giants matched the Yankees' mark of two years earlier when they got 30 hits in a game on September 2nd. Playing at the hitter-friendly Baker Bowl, every starter got at least two hits (four of them got four hits) and Irish Meusel drove in nine runs. And on May 30th, the Pirates set a modern major league record when they hit eight triples in an extra-inning game.
The Indians could probably be forgiven for thinking that they had the A's beat on June 15th. After all, their run in the top of the seventh inning had given them a 15-3 lead and rookie Jake Miller seemed headed for his third straight victory. But everything went wrong for Miller and three Indian relievers in a thirteen-run bottom of the eighth inning. The final blow was a three-run home run by Al Simmons off of George Uhle that erased the last of the Indians' lead and then some. When it was over, the A's had become only the second team in major league history to overcome a twelve run deficit and win a game.
Walter Johnson had never even hit .300 prior to 1925, but he hit .433 in 1925. In games that he pitched, Johnson hit .440, breaking the previous record of .406 set in 1923 by Jack Bentley. Despite missing almost the entire month of July with the flu and tonsilitis, Johnson would win twenty games for the twelfth and last time for the pennant-winning Senators.
Another pitcher who could hit was Pete Alexander, who had a double, triple and home run on June 20th. Despite his hitting, the Cubs would score only two runs and lose the game. His nine total bases were the most for a pitcher in a game during the 1920s, matched only by Bill Sherdel on August 4, 1926.
The pitching matchup of the year was Herb Pennock's 15-inning 1-0 win over rookie Lefty Grove and the A's. Pennock allowed only four baserunners in the game and pitched to only two batters over the minimum. It was the first double-digit strikeout game of Grove's career. It was also the only one in the entire league that year and Grove's 116 strikeouts would mark the second lowest league-leading total in AL history. Both Grove and Pennock would finish the season with losing records, but the two of them would pitched a combined 25 more seasons with only one more losing season, Pennock's 9-11 record in 1929.
Dazzy Vance was once again the major's most dominant pitcher, throwing a no-hitter, one-hitter and two-hitter to go along with a 17-strikeout extra-inning game. His one-hitter and no-hitter came in consecutive starts and tied Howard Ehmke's mark of allowing only a single hit in two consecutive games. In the one-hitter, only a single by Chicken Hawks in the second inning stood between Vance and a perfect game. Hawks was subsequently thrown out stealing so Vance faced the minimum 27 batters in the game. The Phillies were the victims in both games and Vance would finish the season with six complete game wins in six starts against them.
Ironically, Ehmke had a ten-start stretch in 1925 where he averaged over twelve hits allowed per game, only the second time that has happened since 1914 (the other was by Jeff Pfeffer in 1919). Ehmke went the distance in nine of those games, and the streak featured three in which he allowed ten or more runs.
Nelson Greene won the year's "Take One For the Team" award by giving up the last 18 hits and 15 runs in a 21-5 drubbing at the hands of the Pirates. Max Carey hit for the cycle in the game and two other Pirates came close: Kiki Cuyler had a single, triple and two home runs, while Glenn Wright was only a single shy of a cycle.
Firpo Marberry set a record of sorts by relieving in seven consecutive games. He did it twice, from July 23rd to July 30th and from August 16th through August 23rd. He didn't put well in the first stretch, given up more than a run an inning, but in the second, he gave up only six hits and no earned runs in eleven innings. Over the rest of regular season, however, he appeared in only five more games, giving up seven runs in 5 1/3 innings before rebounding to pitch well in the World Series.
Here is the evolution of the record for consecutive relief appearances, along with each pitcher's record during their record-setting (or tying) run:
# Name First Last IP H R ER BB SO SV W L ERA 7 Firpo Marberry 1925- 7-23 1925- 7-30 10.2 16 12 9 7 4 2 0 1 7.59 7 Firpo Marberry 1925- 8-16 1925- 8-23 11 6 1 0 6 5 4 1 0 0.00 7 Andy Karl 1945- 6-15 1945- 6-21 15.1 21 9 6 3 5 1 1 2 3.52 8 Hoyt Wilhelm 1953- 4-21 1953- 4-29 14.1 8 3 0 10 7 1 1 1 0.00 8 Ben Flowers 1953- 7-25 1953- 8- 1 12.2 15 7 6 2 6 2 0 0 4.26 9 Roy Face 1956- 9- 3(2) 1956- 9-13 14.2 14 3 3 2 9 1 3 1 1.84 9 Barney Schultz 1962- 5- 4 1962- 5-15 15.1 9 3 3 3 9 0 3 0 1.76 9 Tom Dukes 1968- 7- 3 1968- 7-12 8.2 16 11 11 5 5 2 0 1 11.42 9 Dave Tomlin 1974- 6- 8 1974- 6-17 7 8 3 3 4 3 1 1 0 3.86 13 Mike Marshall 1974- 6-18 1974- 7- 3(1) 26.2 23 6 5 3 16 2 6 0 1.69 13 Dale Mohorcic 1986- 8- 6 1986- 8-20 14 17 6 6 2 6 2 0 1 3.86
After hitting a solo homer in the top of the seventh inning, relief pitcher Jess Doyle tied the second game of the Tigers-Yankees September 28th double-header with a two-run shot in the top of the ninth, his first and last major league home runs. In the bottom of the inning, he surrendered the winning run and so was rewarded for his batting heroics with a loss, the last decision of his career. Both of Doyle's homers come off of Ben Shields, who won the game and, in 1931, left the majors with an undefeated record. Unfortunately, his four wins without a loss were also accompanied by an 8.27 ERA. Doyle is one of four relief pitchers to hit two homers in a game since 1920. The others are Jack Knight in 1926, Babe Birrer in 1955 and Dixie Howell in 1957. Only Howell would hit a home run either before or after their big game.
Dutch Leonard had been pitching well before his start against the Athletics on July 14th. He had won five straight complete games, the last two five-hitters, and had a team-leading ten wins. But he had little that day and was hit freely from the start. Detroit manager Ty Cobb left him in the game, however, and by its end Leonard had allowed a career-high twelve runs and twenty hits. Cobb and Leonard didn't like each other and some thought that Cobb might have left in his star pitcher to humiliate him.
Whatever his manager's reasons, Leonard made only one more start (he didn't pitch well but was on the winning end of a 18-12 decision) before his arm went "dead."24 I'm not sure if anyone thought that his long outing had anything to do with his subsequent arm trouble, although Connie Mack was reported to have claimed during that game that Cobb was "killing that boy."25 A few weeks later, Leonard reportedly said that he blamed his problems on the extra strain required to throw a curve with the lively baseball26). At any rate, he was through as a major league pitcher.
But he was not through causing trouble. At the end of 1926, he accused Cobb, Tris Speaker and Smoky Joe Wood of being involved in fixing a game between the Tigers and Indians on September 25, 1919. The Tigers had been in a fight with the Yankees for third-place when Speaker allegedly agreed to have his team, which had already locked up the second spot, throw the game. (Speaker hit two triples and a single in the losing effort.) Leonard produced letters from Wood and Cobb that seemed to indicate that they had been involved with Leonard in placing bets on the outcome, but when the pitcher, who by now was living in California, refused to come east to face the players he had accused, both Cobb and Speaker were cleared of the charges by commissioner Landis.27 Neither would ever manage another major league team, however.
At the age of 35, Max Carey had enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 1925, setting career highs in batting average, on-base and slugging percentage while helping the Pirates capture the NL pennant. The highlight was his performance in the deciding game of the World Series, as Carey hit three doubles and a single, scored three runs and knocked in two others during his team's 9-7 rain-soaked victory over Walter Johnson and the Senators. It would be a very different story for him in 1926.
A lingering rib injury suffered in the third inning of the third game of the World Series caused him trouble during the off-season, eventually sending him to the hospital with pleurisy. He was hospitalized again in St. Louis with the flu while on his way to training camp in March,28 eventually missing the first five games of the regular season. Once he entered the lineup, he didn't hit. By the end of July, he had the lowest batting average among all National League regulars and only the Cards' Tommy Thevenow had a lower slugging percentage. Considering that Thevenow was a shortstop, traditionally a weak-hitting position, it could be argued that the Pirate centerfielder was the worst regular in baseball.
Despite Carey's performance, the Pirates were still in first place when they played the Braves in a double-header on August 4th. After losing the first game 14-0, a game which featured two errors and no hits by Carey, bench coach Fred Clarke told manager Bill McKechnie: "Better get some one out there to play centerfield. Max is having a hard time out of it." McKecknie replied, "I haven't got anybody." And Clarke countered, "Put somebody out there, even if it's a pitcher."29 Players on the bench overheard the exchange and reported it to Carey, who was not pleased.
By the time the team got to Brooklyn, Carey and a few other veterans had decided to have a players meeting where they would vote on whether or not Clarke should be allowed to continue sitting on the bench during games. Only six of the players voted to banish Clarke. Once word got out about the meeting, the bench coach insisted that action be taken against the ring-leaders of the failed revolt and on August 13th, Carey was waived to the Robins and Babe Adams and Carson Bigbee were released. It was hard to imagine that the team missed the on-field contributions of these players, but the Pirates, who were in first place by two games when the insurrection was put down, faded badly over the last month and a half, going 23-24 and ending with a disappointing third-place finish that cost Bill McKecknie his job.
On August 10th, as the first-place Pirates were getting ready to unravel, the Giants were laying the groundwork for their own rebellion. Regular third-baseman Freddie Lindstrom was in Chicago to attend the funeral of his father, so John McGraw decided to move Frankie Frisch to third, first-baseman High Pockets Kelly to second, and insert Bill Terry into the lineup.30 Frisch didn't want to play third and, according to The Sporting News, "made a awful mess of things at the hot corner."31 The experiment was called off after three games, but a week later Frisch missed a sign in a loss in St. Louis and after the game McGraw "berated Frisch unmercifully in front on his teammates" 32 and told his player that he would be moving back to third base permanently.33 Instead, Frisch got on a train and headed back to New York.
McGraw suspended Frisch, a suspension that would last until September 3rd. He returned to the lineup on September 7th and would play regularly the rest of the year, including four more games at third base, but his days in New York were numbered. In the off-season, he would be sent to the Cards in a blockbuster trade for World Series hero Rogers Hornsby.
In the middle of all this turmoil, there were important changes afoot for the Giants. In the first game after Frisch's disappearance, 17 year-old Mel Ott made his first start in a major league game. And on August 10th, Ross Youngs went hitless in three at-bats in the 2-0 win over the Cubs. Still hitting over .300 despite an illness that had dogged him most of the summer, Youngs checked into a hospital after the game and would never play again.
One of the things that seems odd to me was the coverage of his illness in the papers. The New York Times made no mention of Youngs absence until he had been out of the lineup for two weeks. It then noted simply that "Ross Young, ill with a cold, is still in New York and will not join the team until its return home."34 The day they were due to return, the Times issued an update: "Young, who has been at the Murray Hill Sanitarium, was well enough to be up yesterday, but his physicians said he would not likely be able to play this week, although he may be allowed to come to the Polo Grounds. Young also has had a severe cold."35 Three weeks later, they noted that Youngs, "recuperating from a late illness," had visited the Polo Grounds.36 In January, there was an article from San Antonio that mentioned that he "is in a local hospital suffering from influenza" and "was reported slightly improved today. Progress, however, was reported very slow, and it was not known when he would leave the hospital."37 In early February, there is a note that he had signed his contract for 192738 and a month later, at the start of spring training, mention that "Ross Young, the Giants' regular right fielder, is expected here within a few days."39 This optimism was dashed the next day with the following note:
"Plans to remove Ross Young, New York Giant outfielder, from his home here today to a hospital for a blood transfusion were abandoned this afternoon when physicians decided it was unnecessary because of the improvement shown in his condition. Young was removed to his home from a hospital recently after spending several weeks in the institution and his condition was reported by physicians to be mending steadily. There is no hope he will be able to play baseball this season."40
Two days later, it was reported that he was given a blood transfusion and that he had lost more than fifty pounds since he stopped playing the year before.41 It seems incredible that in the space of two days, Youngs could have gone from "expected in a few days" to "weighs 110 pounds and will not play again." On October 22, 1927, Ross Youngs would die in San Antonio from Bright's Disease.
The New York Yankees quickly showed the rest of the American League that their poor showing in 1925 was a fluke when they put together a club-record sixteen-game winning streak in May. Babe Ruth left no doubt that he was back right from the start, with a five-hit, six-RBI game a week into the season, and at the end of that winning streak, he had sixteen home runs, ten more than any other player in the league. But he wasn't the only Yankee off to a hot start. Bob Meusel had 60 hits and a .395 batting average, Lou Gehrig had already hit nine triples, Joe Dugan hit .414 before he was injured, and Herb Pennock, Urban Shocker and Waite Hoyt were a combined 22-3.
They slumped in the second half of the season, posting a losing record over the last two months, but fortunately for them, no one else got particularly hot and they were able to clinch the pennant with a double-header sweep of the Browns on September 25th. Their .591 winning percentage would be the lowest for a Yankees pennant winner until 1996, unless you count their 1981 season (and I don't).
In the Senior Circuit, the Cardinals went 25-6 from August 4th to September 2nd, giving them a narrow lead over the Reds (and the fading Pirates). But the Reds countered with a streak of their own, and after Carl Mays beat the Robins on September 14th, they were in first place by a half-game. Games with second-division clubs ended up deciding the race. The Cards went into Philadelphia and beat the Phillies five straight times, by scores of 9-2, 23-3, 10-2, 10-1 and 7-3, while the Reds lost two of three to the second-division Giants and then got swept in Boston by the Braves.
In his first (and as it turned out, only) full season as player-manager of the Cardinals, Rogers Hornsby had led his team to their first National League pennant (the franchise had won four consecutive flags in the American Association from 1885 to 1888). This meant that each team in the league had won at least one pennant since 1914. He did it despite a disappointing performance from his best player: second baseman Rogers Hornsby, who had arguably the worst season of his career. Minor injuries and the stress of managing were two reasons offered for his decline, but here are his stats both before and after taking the helm of the team in 1925:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SB CS AVG OBP SLG Before 5-31 35 133 32 49 9 1 12 38 17 6 1 6 0 0 .368 .444 .722 5-31 to End 103 371 101 154 32 9 27 105 66 33 1 10 5 3 .415 .505 .768
So the stress didn't seem to hurt him the previous year, but of course he hadn't been running the team since spring training. The Cards were helped by two imports from the Cubs: catcher (and league MVP) Bob O'Farrell, who came over the previous May, and veteran pitcher Pete Alexander, who was claimed on waivers on June 22nd. Although he won nine games in his first ten weeks for St. Louis, his big contribution that year came in the World Series.
Alexander hadn't won in nearly a month when he took the hill for the Cardinals at Yankee Stadium in the second game, hoping to even the series following a tough loss to Herb Pennock in the opener. He responded with a four-hitter, getting the win when Billy Southworth, another mid-season acquisition, hit a tie-breaking three-run home run in the seventh inning. A shutout by Jesse Haines was answered by a trio of homers from Ruth in game four, before the next contest was decided in the tenth-inning when the Yankees built a run around a wild pitch by Bill Sherdel. Back in New York, Hornsby sent Alexander back out to tie the series and he delivered once again, holding the Yanks to two runs while the Cards routed Bob Shawkey.
For the third straight year, the series went the distance, ending with one of the most famous games in its history. After helping to knot the series at three apiece, Alexander spent the evening celebrating his victory, confident that his work for the year was done. But when Haines loaded the bases with two men out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Hornsby called for his hung-over 39-year-old pitcher to face rookie second-baseman Tony Lazzeri. Despite his 114 RBIs and sixty extra-base hits that year, Lazzeri had also led the majors in strikeouts, and when he fanned against Alexander to end the inning, it was his 100th of the year. There were still two innings to play, but the only Yankee to reach base again was Babe Ruth, who walked with two outs in the bottom of the ninth only to end the game when he was thrown out attempting to steal second. Both his four home runs and eleven walks set new World Series records (both since broken), and matched the total of the entire Cardinals' team.
Cardinals shortstop Tommy Thevenow, one of the weakest hitters in baseball, went on a home run tear down the stretch. It started in that series with the Phillies, when he hit the first homer of his major league career in their 10-1 win. The rampage continued five days later, with a homer during a 15-7 romp over the Robins. Four days after that, the season came to a close, but Thevenow wasn't through slugging. In the second game of the World Series, he collected a homer and two singles on his way to becoming the surprise hitting star of the series. In his career, he would play 1237 regular season and World Series games and would hit all three of his home runs within that eleven-game span. All of these were of the inside the park variety, so Thevenow never did get to take a leisurely stroll around the bases.
Ray Morehart never had more than 200 at-bats in a season during his three-year career as a light-hitting middle-infielder, but on the last day of August he became the first player in the 20th century to collect nine hits in a double-header. White Sox first-baseman Earl Sheely also set a mark by hitting seven extra-base hits in two consecutive games in May. Both of those games were in Fenway Park where Sheely hit .615 (24 for 39) in 1926.
On May 28th, Hughie Critz walked in all five at-bats in a game against the Cards. This was highest total of the year and the fourth time during the 1920s that a player had walked that many times in a game (it was done the previous year by Ira Flagstead, who also scored five runs in the game). What makes this surprising is that Critz was not a player who usually walked a lot. In his other 1477 major league games, he would walk only 284 times (or an average of less than 30 a season) and in no other game would he walk more than twice.
The Robins set a record on September 9th when they collected five pinch-hits. Record books show the total as six, but that includes the second hit Dick Cox had during their nine-run ninth inning, when he was batting for himself.
On July 10th, Ted Blankenship held the Athletics scoreless for three innings before giving up six runs in the bottom of the fourth. Lefty Grove didn't allow the White Sox to score until the fifth inning, but after giving up four runs in that frame, he was gone too. By the time the two teams were done battering a parade of relief pitchers, the A's had won the slugfest 17-14. Since 1918, this is the most runs in a game that was scoreless after both two and three innings. Here is the list of the highest scoring games during the Retrosheet Era after a variety of scoreless innings, from the Giants battering the Pirates 20-15 after a scoreless first in 1929 to the Astros edging the Mets with a single run in the bottom of the twenty-fourth inning in 1968.
Innings Runs Date Teams and Scores 1 35 1929- 6-15 NY N (20) at PIT N (15) 1.5 33 1950- 6- 8 STL A (4) at BOS A (29) 1.5 33 2000- 5- 5 OAK A (16) at TEX A (17) 3.5 31 1926- 7-10 CHI A (14) at PHI A (17) 4 27 1993- 5- 4 COL N (14) at CHI N (13) 4.5 25 1991- 4-21 CHI N (12) at PIT N (13) 5.5 19 1929- 8-18 CIN N (9) at BOS N (10) 6 18 1943- 6-19 CLE A (10) at CHI A (8) 6.5 15 1932- 9- 7 CHI N (4) at BOS N (11) 7 11 1997- 6-15 CLE A (9) at STL N (2) 7 11 1998- 5-29 STL N (8) at SD N (3) 12 10 1919- 5-15 CIN N (10) at BRO N (0) 16 7 1920- 7-16 NY N (7) at PIT N (0) 18 3 2010- 4-17 NY N (2) at STL N (1) 20 2 1918- 8- 1 PIT N (2) at BOS N (0) 23.5 1 1968- 4-15 NY N (0) at HOU N (1)
And while it has little to do with 1926, here is the flipside, the highest scoring games that ended with the longest scoreless streak:
Innings Runs Date Teams and Scores 20 2 1920- 5- 1 BRO N (1) at BOS N (1) 15.5 4 1939- 6-27 BRO N (2) at BOS N (2) 12.5 16 1918- 6-13 STL N (8) at PHI N (8) 10.5 18 1939- 5-17 BRO N (9) at CHI N (9) 5 19 1988- 7-23 BAL A (11) at MIN A (8) 4.5 27 1931- 7-26 CHI A (5) at NY A (22) 4 28 1949- 5- 3 BOS A (14) at DET A (14) 3 29 1933- 7- 1 PHI A (14) at STL A (15) 2.5 36 1999- 5-19 CIN N (24) at COL N (12)
The top pitching performance of the year belonged to Ted Lyons, who had a 41 inning scoreless streak which included a ten-inning three-hit shutout followed by a no-hitter. He collected a hit in his no-hitter, marking the second time in his career that he had more hits than he allowed in a complete game (he had three hits during his one-hitter the previous year). The only other starting pitcher during the 1920s to do this more than once was Howard Ehmke, who had two and then three hits when he almost pitched back-to-back no-hitters in 1923. Lyons accomplished this feat for a third-time when he collected three hits while pitching a two-hitter against the Indians on April 23, 1933. Since the end of the deadball era, nineteen starting pitchers have outhit their opponents while pitching a complete game at least twice, including some unlikely candidates like Don Black, Murry Dickson and Sid Fernandez. Other than Ted Lyons, only one pitcher did this more than twice: Warren Spahn, the first time in 1951, again in 1960, and two more times in 1961. The last three all came after his 39th birthday.
Ed Wells was an unlikely candidate to have a long scoreless streak when he pitched three consecutive shutouts in June. After all, he had posted a 6.23 ERA the previous year and had made only two ineffective starts prior to his hot streak. In June, he pitched four shutouts among his six complete games. At the end of the month, he was leading the majors in shutouts and trailed only Lefty Grove in ERA. Wells would fade badly, however, winning only one of his last eleven starts while allowing 46 runs in 38 innings. A slow start the next season would earn him a trip back to the minors, but he would resurface later with the Yankees and enjoy some success during his years there, including both one-hit and two-hit shutout victories in 1929.
Carl Mays turned in the year's third longest scoreless streak when he pitched three consecutive five-hit shutouts in late July and early August. He struck out a grand total of two batters in the three games, which was not unusual for Mays. who averaged less than two strikeouts per nine innings that year. He was not the least striking out pitcher of the decade, however. Among pitchers throwing at least 200 innings in a season, the two lowest rates of the decade belonged to rookie Ernie Wingard in 1924 (22 strikeouts in 218 innings) and Ted Wingfield in 1925 (30 strikeouts in 254 1/3 innings). Wingfield never struck out more than three batters in a single game during his major league career.
The season's top pitching dual was Walter Johnson's 15-inning 1-0 victory over Eddie Rommel and the Philadelphia A's on opening day. Johnson would pitch only two more shutouts in his career, the last coming in his first start of 1927, his final season.
Dutch Levson became the last pitcher to throw two complete-game victories in one day when he beat the Red Sox twice on August 18th. He had lost his four previous starts entering the day but allowed only four hits in each game, winning 6-1 and 4-1. He did not strike out a batter in either game. The Indians tied the record for the fewest players to appear in a double-header, when they used the same lineup in each game with no substitutions.
Reliever Joe Pate set a record of sorts by going 9-0 in his first major league season. All of his wins came in relief as both of his starts (lasting only a combined 3 1/3 innings) ended in no-decisions. He did not win another game after that season and ended his career by giving up two hits and two walks in 1/3 of an inning as the Tigers rallied for seven runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the A's on July 19, 1927.
And finally, one of the most well-known stories of the Robins during the end of the Wilbert Robinson era involved a game in which three Brooklyn runners ended up on third-base. Well, it occurred during the first game of their August 15th double-header with the Braves. In the bottom of the seventh-inning with the score tied and the bases loaded, Babe Herman drove what he thought would be a triple off the right field wall. Unfortunately, Chick Fewster and Dazzy Vance, the runners on first and second, also decided that they could go no further than third base. What followed was your usual 9-4-2-5-4 double-play and a place in baseball history. In the New York Times story the next day, Richards Vidmer wrote: "If it had been a more critical situation the Babe would wake up this morning and find himself famous."42 As it turns out, Babe found himself famous anyway. One strange thing is that the Dodgers swept that double-header, and Babe's famous play was the game-winning hit. In addition, the Robins stole six bases in that game, not exactly an example of base-running ineptitude. The catcher for the Braves that day was Oscar Siemer and he would start only one more game behind the plate before heading back to the minors for good.
After their dramatic loss in the previous World Series, the New York Yankees were not to be denied in 1927. They won their first six decisions of the year and were not out of first-place the entire season. Despite their fast start, the Yankees were only one-game ahead of the White Sox when Chicago arrived in New York for a series on June 7th. The Yankees won the first three games of the series, the second a wild 12-11 extra-inning affair featuring a five-run rally to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth highlighted by Tony Lazzeri's third home run of the game. By the time Lou Gehrig duplicated Lazzeri's feat with three home runs in a game against the Red Sox two weeks later, the Yankees had a ten game lead. If there was any doubt that the pennant race was over, it was dispelled on July 4th, when New York thrashed the second-place Senators 12-1 and 22-1 in the holiday double-header. It was the largest margin of victory in a double-header since the Boston Beaneaters had humiliated the Cincinnati Reds 18-3 and 25-8 on August 21, 1894 and would be matched only by the Yankees' 23-2 and 10-0 defeats of the sixth-place A's on June 28, 1939. Their sweep over the Senators was witnessed by a record crowd estimated at more than 74000.43
The Yankees finished strong, winning 28 of their last 35 games. One of their rare losses during this streak was to the Browns on September 11th and came after New York had defeated them in their first 21 meetings that year. So rather than setting the record for the best single-season record against one team, the Yankees had to settle for matching the 1909 Cubs' mark against the Braves (a Braves team, by the way, that also went 1-20 against the Pirates). On September 24th, the Yanks defeated the Tigers 6-0 for their 106th victory, breaking the American League record for most wins in a season previously held by the 1912 Red Sox. Despite their 110 victories and a World Series sweep of the Pirates, not everyone was convinced of New York's greatness. As Jim Nasium wrote in The Sporting News that fall:
"The Yankees are now being hailed as one of the great ball clubs of all time, mainly because they far outclassed the measure of merit displayed by the other teams in both big leagues. But now pause long enough to look over the rest of the field and analyze what it was they outclassed - 15 of the poorest ball teams that the two big leagues have ever displayed in any single season."
The reason for the decline? The scandalous salaries being paid to players of 1927:
"Yet, there is little doubt but that this big money that is being paid to the players has had its effect on the playing end of the game. In those other years every player in the game was in there because he loved the game and liked to play baseball and would rather win a ball game than do anything else in the world, as there was nothing else in those days to attract him to being a ball player. Today, boys are attracted into the game by the money they can make by playing it, and the mere playing of the game or the winning of games is of secondary importance."44
I bet that with a little digging, I could find a similar editorial from every decade in major league baseball history.
On August 16th, Charlie Root pitched a shutout against the Robins for his major league leading 22nd win, giving the Cubs a six game lead. It was all downhill from there, however, and over the next month, they would go 9-22 and drop all the way down to fourth-place. Chicago played poorly during that period, but they were also unlucky, losing ten of eleven one-run games. While they were in free-fall, the Pirates won eleven straight as part of a 19-3 streak that gave them a seemingly safe four and a half game lead with fourteen to play.
But the Giants, back in contention after a disappointing performance the year before, took four of five from the Reds before coming into Forbes Field and defeating the Pirates in the last three games of a four-game series. Freddie Fitzsimmons won two of them, pitching a complete game victory on September 22nd before coming on in relief to win two days later. Their other game was won by Norman Plitt, a journeyman pitcher picked up on waivers from the Dodgers only a week earlier. His win that day was the third and last of his major league career.
The Pirates ended that series (and their last homestand of the year) with only a game and a half lead over the Giants (and a two game lead over the Cards). Fortunately for them, they headed to Chicago, where they put an exclamation point on the Cubs' collapse by sweeping the four-game series, three of them one-run wins. Pittsburgh finally clinched the title on October 1st, when they used seventeen hits to subdue the Reds 9-6. On the mound for the victory was Johnny Miljus, who had returned to the majors after nearly a six-year absence that July and posted a 1.90 ERA down the stretch, including two shutouts during the last month.
At the same time the Cubs were collapsing in the NL, the Senators were doing the same in the American League. After hitting their high-water mark with a 65-43 record on August 11th, Washington won only four of their next twenty-five games. Unlike the Cubs, their slump only cost them a shot at second-place money, since they were far behind the Yankees even before they started losing.
The biggest story in baseball toward the end of the season was Babe Ruth's assault on his six-year old home run record. As in most of his big years in New York, Ruth's chances of breaking his home run record was talked about most of the season, and for most of 1927, his chances didn't look good. As late as August 26th, Ruth wasn't even the sole leader of his own team and, despite hitting his 43rd home run on the last day of August, a record-breaking 60th home run looked nearly impossible. Entering that month, the record for most homers in a month had been set four years earlier, when Cy Williams hit 15 in May 1923 (see above). And Ruth's monthly high was the 14 he had hit in July 1924. So in order to set the season record, Ruth would need to break the record for most home runs in a month by at least two.45 Which is exactly what he did, hitting his 60th on September 30th.
Lou Gehrig had established himself as a power-hitter in 1925, when his 20 home runs ranked fifth in the American League, but two years later he topped that total before the end of June on his way to hitting 47. In a world without Babe Ruth, he would have eclipsed Ken Williams' five-year old AL record when he hit his 41st on August 29th and broken Rogers Hornsby's major league mark (also set in 1922) three days later by clubbing two homers against the A's. (Of course, you could argue that Gehrig, Hornsby and Williams would not have hit all those homers if Ruth hadn't shown the way with his huge 1920 and 1921 seasons.)
Both of the pennant winners got fine pitching performances from unexpected sources. For the Yankees, rookie right-hander Wilcy Moore turned thirty in May. He pitched primarily in relief, winning nineteen games and leading the league with a 2.28 ERA. Pittsburgh had their own late-bloomer in Carmen Hill, a 31-year-old pitcher who, while he had appeared in part of six previous big league seasons, spread over a dozen years, had never appeared in more than eight games in any of them, and entered the season with a 9-8 career mark. Given a chance to pitch regularly, Hill overcame a slow start to lead the team with twenty-two wins, including fifteen of sixteen from May 21st to July 24th.
Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig might have led the Yankees into the World Series that year, but their pitching was equally responsible for dispatching the Pirates in four games. It was the first time an American League team had swept a World Series. Only four of their pitchers saw action in the games and only one of them failed to complete their start. Pittsburgh came close to winning the first game, with men on first and third in the bottom of the eighth before Wilcy Moore retired Earl Smith to end the inning and preserve New York's one-run lead.
Game three was the easiest Yankees victory, with Herb Pennock carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning and Ruth hitting a three-run homer, the team's first round-tripper of the series. For Pennock, his eventual three-hit victory would be his fifth straight World Series win. Another shot off the bat of Ruth gave them a two-run lead the next day before Pittsburgh battled back with the help of two errors to tie the game in the seventh. Johnny Miljus loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth before striking out both Gehrig and Bob Meusel. On the verge of getting out of the jam and sending the game into extra-innings, Miljus threw a wild pitch (I suppose today they would call it a "walk-off wild pitch") and the series was over. Tony Lazzeri was hitting at the time and it wouldn't surprise me if he felt let down by the way it had all ended.
Paul Waner set a major league record when he had an extra-base hit in fourteen consecutive games from June 3rd to June 19th. Chipper Jones would tie the record in June and July of 2006. For Waner, it was part of a 23-game hitting streak, the first one of twenty games or longer in his career. He would have five others before he was done.
Harry Heilmann enjoyed hitting against the Washington Senators in 1927. His .569 batting average against them that year is the highest against a single team (minimum 25 hits) since at least 1918.
The May 14th game between the Phillies and the Cards was stopped with one out in the top of the seventh when a section of the grandstands at the Baker Bowl collapsed, killing one fan, injuring several others and sending thousands of panic-stricken fans onto the playing field. The Baker Bowl was the only old-style wooden park still being used in the major leagues.46 While it was being repaired, the Phillies' home games were transferred to Shibe Park. This was the second fatal collapse at Baker Bowl. On August 8, 1903, the second game of the Phillies-Beaneaters double-header was stopped with two outs and the score tied at five in the top of the fourth-inning when a raised walkway collapsed and fell twenty-five feet to the sidewalk below. Several people were killed and hundreds were injured.47
In the first game of the Memorial Day double-header, between the Cubs and the Pirates, Jimmy Cooney turned an unassisted triple play. It was only the fifth regular season unassisted triple play in major league history (sixth if you count the disputed 1878 one by Paul Hines), but it was the fourth of the decade (fifth if you include Bill Wambsganss' play in the 1920 World Series). The next day, Johnny Neun made it two in two days when he retired three Cleveland Indians without any help in the Tigers 1-0 win. There will be only one other unassisted triple play in the major leagues in the next 65 years, Ron Hansen's play against the Indians in the Senators' 10-1 loss on July 30, 1968. Here are the unassisted triple plays by decade since 1900:
1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 1 0 6* 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 5
* - includes one in the World Series
The "Flash in the Pan" award in 1927 went to Ty Tyson, who had five hits in the Giants 15-7 opening day victory, at least two hits in each of his first six games and was hitting .543 when his hitting streak went to eight games on April 20th. He probably suspected that this hot streak wouldn't last and it didn't. Tyson went 0-33 in seven consecutive games in early May and lost his left field job in June. After those first eight games, he batted only .185 in 124 at-bats with four extra-base hits.
Lefty Atkinson made his major league debut on August 5th, in the Senators' 17-8 win over the Browns. He entered the game as a pinch-runner for pinch-hitter Bennie Tate in the fourth inning, eventually making his way to the plate with one out, runners on first and third, and ten runs already in. Atkinson grounded into a double-play. It turned out to be his only major league appearance. In more superstitious times he might have been considered something of a lucky charm, at least until he appeared in an inning that didn't result in ten or more runs.
Despite being only 29 years-old, Eddie Rommel sure looked washed up for most of 1927. But he managed to resurrect his career during the last two months of the season. Here is his record before and after the beginning of August:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA April-July 20 8 1 0 71.1 103 67 55 38 16 3 3 6.94 August-End 10 9 7 2 75.1 61 16 16 10 17 8 0 1.91
He went from allowing two base runners an inning to less than one. Rommel followed up his hot finish by going 25-7 over the next two seasons.
The ironman pitching performance of the year was turned in by Bob Smith on May 17th when he pitched a 22-inning complete game loss against the Cubs. Bob Osborn pitched 14 scoreless innings in relief to get the win. Osborn would have a 1.20 ERA in relief that year, but a 5.33 ERA as a starter. In the previous game of the series on May 14th, both Guy Bush and Charlie Robertson pitched another marathon. The game was tied at two until Robertson was knocked out in the top of the eighteenth. In the two-game series, the Braves played forty innings and had only two losses to show for their trouble. After his long outing, Robertson was given two weeks off and in his next start, he was knocked out with one out in the top of the first inning.
Red Ruffing didn't pitch as long as Bob Smith did in Boston's wild eighteen-inning 12-11 win over the Yankees in the first of two on September 5th, but he probably threw as many pitches. Ruffing walked a career-high eleven and struck out a season-high twelve before leaving with the score tied at eight apiece following fifteen innings of work. He wouldn't pitch again that season, causing The Sporting News to question his toughness, writing that he might be "a brittle or a temperamental, or, possibly, just an unwilling, athlete." Or perhaps his arm went dead after throwing 200 or more pitches that day. On the other hand, in the same article, the writer might have had access to a crystal ball when he wrote:
"There is a type of pitcher who never does get going for a cellar team, but requires the atmosphere and the pep of a contending team on which to show his wares. Possibly, Charles Ruffing, big right-hander, belongs in that class."48
After losing his first home decision of 1926, Ray Kremer would not lose another game at Forbes Field until 1928. His 23 straight wins at one park is a record since 1920. Here are his home and road splits for 1926 and 1927:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Home 37 27 19 4 230.2 229 72 61 41 65 23 1 2.38 Away 35 27 17 2 226.2 197 80 68 63 73 16 13 2.70
Apart from the won-lost records, these lines aren't that much different.
Russ Miller lost his major league debut before winning his final start of the season, defeating the Braves 7-1 on September 29th. It would turn out to be his only major league win as he would finish 1928 with 12 consecutive losses, setting a record for the most losses in a season without a win.
I mentioned earlier that Ted Wingfield never struck out more than three batters in a game during his career. Well, he took pitching to contact to the extreme in 1927, failing to strike out a single batter in any of his eight starts. His only strikeout victim the entire season, reserve infielder Chick Galloway of the A's, came in relief on August 10th. The only other pitcher since to go even seven straight starts without a strikeout was Lee Sweetland, who turned the trick in 1928. The longest streak since then? Six, by Glenn Abbott in 1983 and 1984.
And finally, Walter Johnson won his final major league game on July 28th. He defeated rookie Charlie Barnabe, who was looking for his first major league victory but picked up his fifth loss instead. Barnabe would make only two more starts in his career and would never win that first game.
Tris Speaker turned 40 years-old before the 1928 season began but he had one last hot streak left in him. On May 15th, he hit three doubles and scored three runs but did not drive in a run. Tris had two hits the next day (including another double) and drove in two runs. That started a streak in which he would have at least one RBI in fourteen consecutive games, an American League record that still stands. It didn't stand at the time, however, because of two errors in the official records. The first one concerned the game on May 26th. Speaker hit a two-run home run in that game but was not officially given credit for an RBI. The next one dealt with the games of the May 30th double-header. At the time, the official dailies did not contain an indication to mark which game of a double-header each statistical line was associated with, the assumption being that they were listed in order. In this case, however, the second game of the double-header (the game that broke the consecutive RBI streak) was listed first. As a result, even if the first mistake was corrected, the streak would appear to be one game shorter than it actually was. Both of these errors were discovered by baseball researcher Trent McCotter in 2007 and Speaker is now credited as holding this record.
At the end of the streak, Speaker was fourth in the league in RBIs, but the A's were a disappointing seven games behind the Yankees, who had started the year on a 39-8 tear, apparently ending the pennant-race before it began. Speaker was ailing in early June and was replaced in the lineup by Bing Miller on June 8th. He would make only one more start in his career and collect only two more RBIs.
When the Yankees swept the Indians in a double-header on July 16th, it game them a twelve and a half game lead over the second-place A's. But in a way, the A's dynasty started the next day, when they began an eight-game winning streak and immediately followed it with ten straight wins. On September 7th, the A's swept the Red Sox. in a double-header while the Yankees were losing two to the Senators at Yankee Stadium. The A's were led by Lefty Grove's fourteenth consecutive win, a four-hit eleven-strikeout shutout in the opener, and seven scoreless innings of relief by Eddie Rommel in the second. After sweeping the Red Sox the next day as well, the now first-place A's came into New York for a big four-game series. The Yankees responded by winning three in a row behind a George Pipgras shutout in the first game, Bob Meusel's grand-slam in the second, and Ruth's dramatic game-winning two-run homer off of Grove, who lost his first game since June, in the third. The A's came back to take the series finale, but the Yankees had retaken a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way.
Still, the A's had played extremely well over the last two and a half months of the season. Here were the AL standings from July 17th through the end of the season:
Philadelphia Athletics 69 49 20 0 .710 - 379 242 New York Yankees 69 39 30 0 .565 10.0 380 324 Washington Senators 69 39 30 0 .565 10.0 319 278 St. Louis Browns 67 36 31 0 .537 12.0 349 331
Which was a harbinger of things to come in 1929.
Part of their resurgence was their perfect record (8-0) in extra-innings. Since 1918, they are one of only two teams to hold their opponents scoreless past the ninth inning for an entire season. The other was the 1948 Reds. One other team went undefeated in extra-inning games, the 1995 Indians, but in their thirteen wins, they allowed three runs (while scoring eighteen).
Babe Ruth once against staged an assault on his home run record in 1928, entering September with 47 home runs. In all, he would hit 40 or more home runs before September 1st seven times in his career (he would hit 44 by the end of August in 1930) but he would fade down the stretch in 1928, hitting only three home runs in the first 23 games of the month. He would hit four in his last five games to raise his final total to 54, but still managed to hit only .250 during September. He did, however, set a record of sorts by scoring 87 runs that year in his road games, the highest total since at least 1918.
Over in the NL, the Cardinals spent most of the season in first place. The Giants took over the lead briefly when they went into St. Louis in August and won three straight games, all by a 3-2 score. Larry Benton saved the first game of the series and then came back to pitch a complete game victory in the third, running his record to 20-4. New York almost immediately went into a tailspin, however, losing ten of eleven games, including three straight losses to the Braves at home. They took two out of three from the Cards in a big series on September 20th and September 21st to draw back within a game of first, but St. Louis won six of their next seven games (including two fifteen-inning road victories), to finally clinch the pennant. Jesse Haines helped the Cards maintain their lead by allowing only eleven earned runs in his last eight starts, all complete game victories.
For the second straight year, the Yankees swept their National League opponent in the Fall Classic, and this was an even more one-sided contest than the previous one. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig combined to hit seven homers, including three by Ruth in the last game. His second that day was followed by one of Gehrig's, back-to-back blasts that wiped out one of the few Cardinal leads of the series and led to their second straight 7-3 win. This time, they only needed three pitchers in the four games, who once again permitted a total of only ten runs. But despite the fine mound work, it was Gehrig and Ruth's show. Here is their combined line:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB AVG OBP SLG OPS 4 27 14 16 4 0 7 13 7 .593 .676 1.519 2.195
Les Bell had three home runs and a triple in a 20-12 loss on June 2nd. Bell played more than 100 games in a season only five times, but in this game he became the first National Leaguer to collect four of more extra-base hits in a game on three different occasions, having previously turned the trick in 1925 and 1926.
On July 29th, the Indians trounced the Yankees 24-6. Babe Ruth had a perfect day at the plate, with three singles, a double and a walk, to help his team draw within eighteen runs of Cleveland, who were led by Johnny Hodapp and Luke Sewell with five hits each, and Carl Lind with four. The only starter with less than two hits was Joe Shaute, the Indians' pitcher, and he knocked in three runs with a single and a walk. It was a stress-free day for Shaute, whose teammates gave him eight runs in the first inning, knocking out Yankee starter George Pipgras, and then nine more in the second, knocking out both Wilcy Moore and Myles Thomas. Since at least 1918, this is the most hits allowed by Yankee pitchers in a game. It has happened twice since, once exactly two months later, when the Tigers out-hit them 19-10, and again in 2005.
The Red Sox' Bill Regan was an unlikely candidate to set a home run record entering the June 16th game with the White Sox. It is true that he had homered the day before, but that had been only his second of the season and the eighth of his three-year career. But he would hit two home runs in the top of the fourth inning that day, as the Red Sox turned a 3-0 deficit into a 8-3 lead. He became only the second American League hitter to do this, the first being Ken Williams during 1922.
After hitting .398 the previous year, Harry Heilmann got off to a poor start in 1928, hitting under .250 in April. After going hitless in the second game of the September 3rd double-header, he was hitting only .296. In a classic salary drive, however, he would finish the year on a tear, hitting in 21 straight games with a .531 batting average.
With players like Speaker, Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson departing the scene, the American League still had star athletes to spare, especially after the arrival of Art Shires on August 20th. Shires became the first player in American League history to get four hits in his major league debut and, in case you were wondering just how good he was, all you had to do was ask him. Nicknamed (by himself) "Art the Great" and "What-A-Man," he made it clear from the start that he was a person to be reckoned with and, for a brief time, rivaled Babe Ruth as the most talked and written about player in the league.
He was a true original, with an outlandish story for every sportswriter. In addition to being a great baseball player, he was also great at football, having played under assumed names at four colleges and universities in three years. At one school, the coach changed his name and number on his uniform after each touchdown.49 He was also a great boxer, tobacco-chewer, basketball player, and so on. The next spring, in a move which today seems as bizarre as it probably did back then, manager Lena Blackburne decided to make him captain of the team. It's hard to imagine what impressed Blackburne more: Shire's six-weeks of major league experience, his compulsive bragging, or all the tall tales he told. Not too surprisingly, his tenure as captain of the White Sox was nasty, brutish and short. Within a few weeks, he had gotten into a fight with the manager and had been removed as captain. It was the first of many fights that season with his manager.
The circus would move to Washington in 1930, Milwaukee of the American Association in 1931 (where he led the league in hitting) and finally, to the Boston Braves in 1932. The show might have lasted longer had he not suffered a leg injury in an April game, but by the end of that year he was done as a major league baseball player. For several years, whenever a young player arrived who was particularly full of himself, it was wondered if he would become the "next Art Shires."
In his first start of 1928, Pete Alexander pitched his National League record 90th (and last) shutout of his career. Another shutout record was set on July 10th when the Indians managed to get 14 hits and still be shutout by Milt Gaston and the Senators.
Ed Baecht made one start each year for the Phillies from 1926 to 1928. In his 1928 start, he would give up 20 hits (the most allowed by any pitcher that year) but almost complete the 9-3 loss to the Giants. Another pitcher left in a game to take a beating was rookie Vic Sorrell, who after battling Waite Hoyt to a 1-1 tie through eleven innings on July 26th, lost his effectiveness in the top of the twelfth but was not given any relief as the Yankees scored eleven runs against the tired pitcher. Included in the hit barrage was a triple by Bob Meusel, who had previously hit a single, homer and double in the game, and became the first American Leaguer to hit for the cycle three times.
Carl Hubbell got clobbered in his major league debut and was sent to the bullpen. Once there, he pitched well in a 15-inning Giants' loss and was given another start. He pitched a shutout in that one and was on his way to a Hall of Fame career, winning seven games in September alone, including three in the last eleven days against the first-place Cardinals.
In Les Bell's big game on June 2nd, Pete Donohue gave up eleven runs in less than seven innings and still got the win. Earlier, I mentioned that Walter Johnson had the two starts with the highest game scores of the decade (98 and 97). Well, Pete Donohue's game score in this game was a one, the lowest game score for a winning starting pitcher since 1920. It wasn't much worse than the game score of two posted by Lee Pfund on May, 30, 1945. That game would be the third and last win of Pfund's career.
Joseph J. Ditmar wrote an interesting book in 1990 entitled "Baseball's Benchmark Boxscores." In it, he described a game played on May 24th between the Yankees and the A's that featured eleven future Hall of Famers.50 They included seven players on the A's (Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Mickey Cochrane, Al Simmons, Eddie Collins, Lefty Grove and Jimmie Foxx) and four player on the Yankees (Earle Combs, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Waite Hoyt). Well, that got to me to wondering if this was still the record for the most Hall of Famers to appear in the same game. And it is, except since the book was written, two more players on the Yankees that day (Leo Durocher and Tony Lazzeri) have been named to the Hall. The winning pitcher that day was New York's Al Sheady, whose victory that day gave him a 6-1 record, leaving him only one win behind the league leaders. That was as good as it got for Sheady, who would win only two more games in his major league career.
By the way, the current record for the most Hall of Famers to appear in the same National League game is twelve and was set on September 13, 1927, in a game between the Giants and Cards. If you had to predict which teams would have been involved in the games featuring the most future Hall of Famers in each league, the 1928 Yanks-A's and the 1927 Cards-Giants would have been close to the top of the list. Both games involved two of the top teams from an era that is perhaps over-represented in the Hall. And after his retirement, Frankie Frisch spent several years on the Hall of Fame veterans committee where he lobbied for the selection of several of his ex-teammates. Since he was traded at the end of 1926, a game between his new and old team during 1927 would have been filled with these players. Of the twelve Hall of Fame in this game, however, Frisch helped select only two, Jesse Haines and Chick Hafey. Another player in that game, Jim Bottomley entered the Hall of Fame the year after Frisch died.
While we're on the subject, in 1953 (after Joe DiMaggio was passed over for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility) baseball researcher and SABR founder Bob Davids wrote an article on a game in which seven future Hall of Famers on the Philadelphia A's were shutout by Hank Johnson of the Yankees.51 At the time, it was one of only two games to feature seven Hall of Famers on one of the teams. The other, by the way, occurred less than a month earlier. Once again, it involved the same teams, the same seven players, and once again, the A's lost. It was the game featured in Joseph Ditmar's book.
Of course, a lot more players have been added to the Hall since 1953 (including Joe DiMaggio two years later). So what games now hold the record? The record is the nine New York Yankee Hall of Famers that appeared together on the field twice in 1931. In both games, the star-studded Yankees were beaten. In the second game, they were leading 12-3 heading into the top of the eighth inning when the White Sox exploded for eleven runs. Hall of Famer Herb Pennock was one the mound for the start of the onslaught and fellow future Famers Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez both got knocked around as well before Jim Weaver (not in the Hall) finally retired the side. In the inning, the White Sox tied the AL record with twelve hits. It had been done previously by the Athletics in 1902 and the record would be broken by the Red Sox in 1953.
One final oddity and then we'll move on. The Boston Braves liked to play double-headers, and down the stretch that year, they carried this affection to extremes. From August 31st to September 24th, they played fifteen DHs and only three single games. This included nine straight DHs in a span of twelve days. At one point, they were swept in five straight DHs in the span of a week. How much did the Braves like double-headers? Here are the leaders in double-headers played in the majors during the 1920s:
Year # National League # American League 1920 30 - Boston Braves 25 - Washington Senators 1921 24 - Boston Braves 27 - Boston Red Sox 1922 26 - Boston Braves 21 - Philadelphia Athletics 1923 23 - Boston Braves 23 - Boston Red Sox 1924 30 - Boston Braves 27 - Philadelphia Athletics 1925 27 - Boston Braves 19 - Cleveland Indians 1926 30 - Boston Braves 25 - Boston Red Sox/Philadelphia Athletics 1927 35 - Boston Braves 26 - Boston Red Sox 1928 32 - Boston Braves 29 - Boston Red Sox 1929 31 - Boston Braves 25 - New York Yankees
It was a year without pennant races. For the first time since 1910, both league leaders entered September ten or more games ahead of their nearest rival and could spend the last month of the season getting their teams ready for the post-season. And for the first time in over ten years, the Chicago Cubs had something other to look forward to in October than their City Series with the White Sox. Manager Joe McCarthy's team was led in the field by Rogers Hornsby, Hack Wilson, Riggs Stephenson and Kiki Cuyler, all obtained from other organizations. For Hornsby, it was his fourth team in as many years, as he had come from the Braves the previous fall in return for $200,000 and five players.
For Connie Mack and his Philadelphia Athletics, it had been an even longer journey back to the Fall Classic. In contrast to the Cubs, most of the talent had come directly to the team from the minors, many of them arriving in one two-year period. 1924 saw the major league debuts of Max Bishop and Al Simmons, while in 1925, A's fans were introduced to Mickey Cochrane, Lefty Grove and Jimmie Foxx.
With starters Lefty Grove, George Earnshaw and Rube Walberg combining for 62 wins during the regular season, Mack made the peculiar choice of starting Howard Ehmke in the World Series opener. I guess he figured that Ehmke was rested, having last appeared in a game nearly a month earlier. The Cubs were a predominately right-handed hitting team, which caused Mack to avoid starting either of his left-handed aces. He probably over-reacted. Here are how his righty and lefty pitches did in the series:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Righties 6 5 2 0 32.1 37 16 12 12 32 3 1 3.34 Lefties 4 0 0 0 12.2 6 1 0 1 18 1 0 0.00
Of course, even if he didn't want to start a lefty, Mack had several options other than Ehmke on his staff. So perhaps he wanted to capitalize on the element of surprise. Prior to that start, Ehmke had pitched only 54 1/3 innings during the regular season, but that included both two-hit and four-hit complete-game victories. His thirteen strikeouts in that World Series start would mark only the second time in his career that he had fanned ten or more batters in a game, the first coming over seven years earlier, when he struck out ten Athletics in a 5-4 victory on May 1, 1923. After starting twice in the series, Ehmke would make only one more start in his major league career. The Cubs would strike out thirteen times in the next game as well before striking out ten times in the third game. For the series, the Cubs would fan fifty times (in 173 at-bats), a record for a five-game World Series that still stands.
The Cubs seemed poised to tie the Series at two apiece when they carried an 8-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning of game four. The A's, however, took advantage of Hack Wilson's problems with the sun in centerfield to score ten runs. With a run in and a man on first, Bing Miller hit an easy fly to center that Wilson lost in the sun. After three singles had made the score 8-4, Mule Haas hit a one-out fly to center that Wilson again lost it in the sun, this time resulting in an inside-the-park home run and bringing the A's to within a run. The rally continued. Al Simmons, Jimmie Foxx and Jimmy Dykes all collected their second hits of the inning, with Dykes hitting a two-run double off of Pat Malone, the fourth pitcher of the inning, to bring home the last two runs and provide the eventual margin of victory. It was the most runs scored in a World Series inning, breaking the mark set by the 1921 Giants. By the way, Art Nehf, the pitcher who came into the game to give up Haas' homer (and then walk Mickey Cochrane to put the tying run on base) was making his last major league appearance. Earlier in the decade he had pitched two World Series shutouts, including one in the deciding game of the 1921 Series.
The next game brought more late inning misery for Chicago, when Pat Malone took a two-hit shutout into the bottom of the ninth inning only to let the 2-0 lead and the game slip away when, after a leadoff strikeout, Max Bishop singled and Mule Haas hit his second homer in two days to tie the score. After Simmons doubled, Foxx was intentionally walked in front of Bing Miller's game (and series) ending double. This was the second straight time that Malone had given up a late-inning game-winning hit.
Mel Ott had a breakout season in 1929, hitting 42 home runs, driving in 151 runs and walking 113 times. Not bad for a 20-year-old. No one knew it at the time, but in many ways Ott had peaked that season. He would never score or knock in as many runs again, nor hit as many doubles or home runs as he did that year. Since most players see a power increase as they approach and pass their mid-twenties, it's unusual for power-hitters to hit their seasonal highs at so young an age. Here are the players with at least 100 career home runs who had their best HR season at the youngest age (as of July 1st):
Player Total Peak Year Age(YR.DDD) Mel Ott 511 42 1929 20.121 Ed Kranepool 118 16 1966 21.236 Eddie Mathews 512 47 1953 21.261 Ruben Sierra 306 30 1987 21.268 Bill Mazeroski 138 19 1958 21.300 Whitey Lockman 114 18 1948 21.341 Chris Speier 112 15 1972 22.004 Willie Davis 182 21 1962 22.078 Ron Hansen 106 22 1960 22.088 Pete Incaviglia 206 30 1986 22.091
And the oldest players to hit their peak HR total:
Player Total Peak Year Age(YR.DDD) Craig Biggio 291 26 2005 39.199 Steve Finley 304 36 2004 39.111 Ron Fairly 215 19 1977 38.354 Rico Carty 204 31 1978 38.304 Ty Cobb 117 12 1925 38.195 Moises Alou 332 39 2004 37.363 Carlton Fisk 376 37 1985 37.187 Edgar Martinez 309 37 2000 37.180 Chili Davis 350 30 1997 37.165 Hank Aaron 755 47 1971 37.149
The difference between 1929 and the other years of Mel Ott's career was his performance on the road. He hit 20 home runs in the Polo Grounds that year, which he equaled or bettered in each of his next three seasons. But his 22 homers on the road would be a career high and on only two other occasions would he hit more home runs on the road than at home. Mel Ott's 323 home runs in the Polo Grounds is the most by any player in any single park in major league history and he also hit 135 more home runs at home than on the road, another record.
Babe Ruth hit the 500th home run of his major league career on August 11th at Cleveland's League Park. According to the New York Times, the historic ball was grabbed by a passerby walking past the ballpark on his way to catch a bus. He ended up trading the ball to the Babe for $20 and a pair of autographed balls.52 At the time, Cy Williams was second on the all-time list with 249 home runs, or almost exactly half as many as Ruth. A little more than two years later, Babe hit his 600th homer in a 11-7 victory over the Browns. This time, the ball costs Babe $10 and a new ball.53. Considering that Ruth was also the first major league hitter to hit 200, 300 and 400 home runs, it's curious that the first milestone homer to really attract any attention was his 500th. All of these home runs (as well as his 700th in 1934) would be hit on the road.
The Yankees played the opening game of the season with numbers on the back of their uniform shirts. The numbers were determined by their lineup position in the game. So if you've ever wondered why Johnny Grabowski wore number eight....
Jim Bottomley hit seven home runs and 21 RBIs in a stretch of five consecutive games from July 5th to July 9th. At the end of the streak, he would have 22 homers and 94 RBIs in 77 games and seemed on a pace to break Rogers Hornsby's NL RBI record of 152 set in 1922. Even Lou Gehrig's two year old major league record of 175 seemed within reach. Instead, he would hit only .200 the rest of July, with no home runs and seven RBIs in 22 games. Hack Wilson would end up setting the NL RBI record, knocking in 159 runs while teammate (and former record-holder) Hornsby finished with 149. Bottomley's seven home runs in five games tied the record set by Babe Ruth in June 1921 and the 21 RBIs beat the previous high of 17 set by the Pirates' Glenn Wright in early August 1928 and tied by teammate Pie Traynor a little more than two weeks later.
On May 17th, Joe Sewell struck out for the second time that year. He wouldn't strike out again until September 20th, a span of over four months and a total of 115 consecutive games without a strikeout. For some reason, this record was not recognized until 1976. Prior to that, the recognized record holders were first Carey Selph, who in 1932 did not officially strikeout over the last 89 games of his short career, and then Nellie Fox, who had a 98 game streak in 1958. By the way, there were probably two reasons why Carey Selph never held that record. Even if Joe Sewell hadn't had his streak, it looks like Selph actually struck out once during those last 89 games. On July 15, 1932, or 45 games into the streak, the official team dailies for the Chicago White Sox credit their hitters with four strikeouts but the players who appeared in the game are only charged with three. One of the players in the game without an official strikeout that day was Selph, who was mentioned in the game story of the Chicago Daily Tribune54 as having fanned as a pinch-hitter.
On July 6th, the Cardinals beat the Phillies 28-6, in a game highlighted by two ten-run innings. The first two Phillies' pitchers failed to retire a batter and last two, Luther Roy and June Greene (making his last major league appearance), split the remaining nine innings, giving up nine and ten runs respectively. Greene would give up 32 runs in only 13 2/3 innings that season and two of other Phillies pitchers that day, Roy and Elmer Miller (making his next to last major league appearance), would also allow more runs than innings pitched that year. It still is the modern record for most runs scored in a game by a National League team (the most since 1897) and took place in that hitting haven, the Baker Bowl. Pitching for the Cards that game was Fred Frankhouse, who had four hits that day in seven at-bats. It's almost never a good sign when the opposing pitcher gets seven at-bats in a nine-inning game.
It paled in comparison to that game, but when the Red Sox beat the White Sox on June 5th, they got nine straight hits (good for eight runs) with two out in the bottom of the eighth. Dan Dugan was on the mound for all but the last hit and saw his ERA climb from 3.58 to 6.10.
At the other end of the spectrum, the normally potent Yankee offense was held scoreless in 32 consecutive innings in late August, including three straight shutouts at the hands of the Browns. It was the longest team scoreless streak since the Cubs failed to score in 38 consecutive innings in September 1923.
It is perhaps an understatement to say that Red Ruffing had a difficult start in 1929. After losing to the White Sox 6-3 on August 11th, his record stood at 3-21. At the time, no one else in the American League had more than 14 losses. Combine that with his 4-16 finish in 1928 and it's little wonder that the Red Sox were reportedly considering making him an outfielder that spring, especially after he got four hits, including three doubles, in a 8-3 loss to the Yankees. According to The Sporting News:
"As we see it, Ruffing is nothing but a snare and a delusion and a bitter disappointment as a righthanded pitcher. He would add to the strength of the team by not going into the box at all. There is nothing mysterious about this, as Charley loses all his games. He ought to be able to do something in the outfield."55
He finished the year strong, winning six of his last seven decisions, but when he started 1930 with three straight losses, the Sox traded him to the Yankees. His overall record at the time of the trade was 39-96, but he started fast after the move, winning his first six decisions. He would go 231-124 with the Yankees, including four straight seasons of twenty or more victories from 1936 to 1939, and would be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1967.
The ironman duel of the year took place on May 24th when Ted Lyons went the distance and George Uhle pitched the first twenty innings of the Tigers 21-inning victory over the White Sox. Uhle ran his record to 8-0 in the game and he would pitch a complete game victory in his next start as well. He would follow that up with a well-pitched extra-inning loss, but then it appeared as if the heavy workload finally caught up with him. At the end of the day on June 3rd, Uhle was leading the AL in wins, innings pitched and was second in the league with a 1.73 ERA. Between then and the end of August, he would go 3-10 with a 6.63 ERA before finishing the year with three straight wins in September.
Pete Alexander won his 373rd and last game by completing the Cards 11-9 extra-inning win over the Phillies on August 10th. At the time, it was reported that this topped Christy Mathewson's career total. After one more appearance with the Cards, Alexander was suspended for the rest of the season for breaking training. He would be traded to the Phillies during the off-season where he would briefly be part of the worst pitching staff in modern baseball history. In 1940, it was discovered that Mathewson had been shorted one victory in 1902 and when this was corrected he moved back into a tie with Alexander for the record.
Miller Huggins managed his final game on September 19th and then entered St. Vincent's Hospital with blood poisoning brought on by an infection beneath his left eye. He died five days later. The New York Times article reporting his death also mentioned that all American League games scheduled for the next day would be postponed out of respect for his memory.56 But the games went on as scheduled and the Yankees beat the Senators 10-3.
A host of people worked on making the 1920 boxscores available to baseball researchers. Those who digitized the batting dailies include Dave Lamoureaux, Jack Myers, Tom Bradley, Bob Allen, Hugh Humphries, Bill McMahon, Bob Boehme and David Hoehns. The pitching dailies were digitized by Wade Coble, Walter LeConte and Bill McMahon. Rob Carron was responsible for digitizing the team dailies.
In addition to digitizing the various dailies, several people worked on entering each game's lineup information. They include: Dave Lamoureaux, Tom Bradley, Bob Timmermann, Denis Repp, Stu Shea, Terry Small, Chris Dial, Gary Frownfelter, John Kalous, Joe Murphy, Mark Williamson, Steve Vetere, Jeff Eby, Tom Davis, Jim Fraasch, Brad Ramirez and Trent McCotter
Pete Palmer helped in a variety of ways, including providing missing caught stealing data for the 1927 AL, and Pete and Trent McCotter helped resolve some statistical discrepancies. David Vincent provided the home runs allowed data for the pitchers.
1"Boston Red Sox May Trade 'Babe' Ruth if Home Run King Holds Out For Salary Increase", The Hartford Courant. December 22, 1919. Page 10.
2Actually, it looks like they were wrong about this part. See "Yankees' Owners to Take Out $150,000 Policy on Babe Ruth", New York Times. February 17 1920. Page 10.
3"Red Sox Sell Ruth For $100,000 Cash", Boston Daily Globe. January 6 1920. Page 1.
4"Chapman Suffers Skull Fracture", New York Times. August 17, 1920. Page 14.
5"Ray Chapman Dies; Mays Exonerated", New York Times. August 18, 1920. Page 12.
6"Talk of Baseball Strike Dies Away", New York Times. August 28, 1920. Page 12.
7"New York Solemn Renewing Series", New York Times. August 19, 1920. Page 9.
8"Confesses Sox Ball Plot", Chicago Daily Tribune. September 28, 1920. Page 1.
9Game scores were a method devised by Bill James in the 1980s to evaluate a start by a pitcher. You start with 50 points and add one point for each hitter the pitcher retires, two points for each inning completed after the fourth inning, and one point for each strikeout. You then subtract one point for a walk, two points for hit, four points for an earned run and two points for an unearned run.
10The New York Giants met the Brooklyn Bridegrooms in the 1889 Temple Cup, but Brooklyn was not part of New York City at the time.
11"Sisler May Be Out For Rest of Year." The New York Times. September 13, 1922. Page 28.
12"Cubs Grab Two Games from Lowly Braves, 6-5 and 8-2", Frank Schreiber. Chicago Sunday Tribune. June 9, 1922. Page 1.
13"A's Learn There Are Bumps In Road For Best of Teams," James C. Isaminger. The Sporting News. June 28, 1923. Page 1.
14"Ehmke Blanks Macks Without a Safe Drive." Boston Daily Globe. Septenber 8, 1923. Page 8.
15"Surely the World is Upside Down When Home Crowd Roots For Visitor And Near Tailenders Swat Leaders", James C. O'Leary. Boston Daily Globe. September 27, 1924. Page 1.
16"'Got Big Kick in Kicking Yanks Out of Race,' Chuckles Cobb." The New York Times. October 1, 1924. Page 15.
17"Barney Hurls Fine Game in Blanking Jungaleers, 1 To 0," Frank H. Young. The Washington Post. July 31, 1923. Page 13.
18"Crazed By Thrills, Mad Mob Engulfs Heroes After Game," Francis P. Daily. The Washington Post. October 11, 1924. Page 2.
19"Red Sox Win Hectic Clash With Browns," Ford Sawyer. Boston Daily Globe. June 4, 1924. Page 12.
20"The Reach Official American League Base Ball Guide for 1926," Francis C. Richter, editor (Philadelphia, A. J. Reach & Company, 1926), Page 13.
21For an example of this, see "Cold, Calculating Competitor... No One's Even Close to Ty Cobb", Bob Broeg. The Sporting News. March 8, 1969. Pages 24-25.
22"Shortstop Everett Scott is Benches; Consecutive Game Record Ends at 1,307," The New York Times. May 7, 1925. Page 13.
23"Speaker in 3000-Hit Class, Making Sixth Player to Reach It," The Boston Globe. May 18, 1925. Page A10.
24"Loss of Leonard Staggers Detroit," Sam Greene. The Sporting News. August 6, 1925. Page 3.
25"Ty Cobb," Charles C. Alexander. (New York, Oxford University Press, 1984) Page 187.
26"Cobb Tries Bench, But Can't Stand It," Sam Greene. The Sporting News. August 13, 1925. Page 2.
27"Judge Landis and 25 Years of Baseball," J. G. Taylor Spink. (St. Louis, The Sporting News Publishing Company, 1974). Pages 135-141.
28"Carey Still Hears From Injured Ribs," Ralph S. Davis. The Sporting News. March 11, 1926. Page 1.
29"Guillotine Quickly Puts Down Pirate Anti-Clarke Rebellion," Ralph S. Davis. The Sporting News. August 19, 1926. Page 1.
30"Frisch's Home Run Upsets the Cubs, 2-0," Ik Shuman. The New York Times. August 11, 1926. Page 16.
31"Yankees Can Cinch Flag On Home Stay," Joe Vila. The Sporting News. August 19, 1926. Page 1.
32John McGraw, Charles Alexander. 1988. Page 273.
33"Frisch Quit Giants, Angered By McGraw," The New York Times. August 22, 1926. Section 9. Pages 1-2.
34"Reds Beat Giants; Win Tenth In Row," The New York Times. August 25, 1926. Page 15.
35"Giants Will Face Braves Here Today," The New York Times. September 2, 1926. Page 16.
36"Giants Beat Cubs With Rally in 6th," The New York Times. September 22, 1926. Page 22.
37"Ross Young Improves Slowly," The New York Times. January 17, 1927. Page 15.
38"Giants Purchase Veteran Sicking," The New York Times. February 2, 1927. Page 19.
39"Diamond is Turned into Cinder Track," The New York Times. March 3, 1927. Page 18.
40"Young Again Ill; Out For Season," The New York Times. March 4, 1927. Page 17.
41"Operate on Ross Young," The New York Times. March 5, 1927. Page S3.
42"Robins in Form, Win Two in Day," Richards Vidmer. The New York Times. August 16, 1926. Page 11.
43"Record Crowd See Yanks Trample Senators Twice," The New York Times. July 5, 1927. Page 24.
44"The Golden Age of Baseball - And Those Who Were Born Too Soon," Jim Nasium. The Sporting News. November 4, 1927. Page 3.
45Actually, Ruth also had one game in October in which to break the record, but this still meant that he had to hit 17 home runs in his final 28 games to break the record.
46"Phils Move Games to Athletics' Park." The Sporting News. May 19, 1927. Page 1.
47"Killed at a Ball Game." Boston Daily Globe. August 9, 1903. Page 1.
48"Bob Quinn Has Good Reason For the 'If'." The Sporting News. September 15, 1927. Page 3.
49"College Grid May Hide Shires; Under What Name?" Edward Burns. Chicago Daily Tribube. November 3, 1928. Page 26.
50Joseph J. Dittmar, "Baseball's Benchmark Boxscores" (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1990), Pages 43-47.
51"A's Seven Hall of Famers Blanked by Rookie in '28," L. Robert Davids. The Sporting News. February 4, 1953. Page 8.
52"Ruth Hits His 500th Major League Homer, but Yanks Lose", William E. Brandt. The New York Times. August 12, 1929. Page 19.
53"Ruth Gives $10 For Ball". The New York Times. August 22, 1931. Page 11.
54"It Takes Eleven Innings Again, But Sox Win, 4-2", Irving Vaughan. Chicago Daily Tribune. July 16, 1932. Pages 11, 13.
55"Chance in Outfield Coming For Ruffing", Burt Whitman. The Sporting News. June 6, 1929. Page 3.
56"Miller Huggins Dies; Many Pay Tribute". The New York Times. September 26, 1929. Pages 1 and 22.