Retrosheet


A Retro-Review of the 1920s

By Tom Ruane

This article is a continuation of the Retro-Review articles. As with the other pieces, this is not intended to be a proper history of the decade. Instead, each review contain a summary of the year's pennant races and postseason as well as 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.

In addition, from time to time I will be focusing on a few of the 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.

Many of the footnotes in the text below simply list a source for a quote or fact, but the cases where they contain additional information (and might be worth clicking on even if the sources don't interest you) are marked with a "+" following the superscript.

Of course, like the earlier articles, this one would not have been possible without the work of dozens of Retrosheet volunteers who worked on digitizing the major league box scores for the 1910s.

Similar articles on the 1900s, 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

A note on the scope of the data presented in these articles:

As of this writing, the data used in these articles does not include any of the Negro Leagues that are now considered by MLB to be part of the "Major Leagues" as of December 2020. These leagues are the Negro National League from 1920 to 1931 and 1933 to 1948, the Eastern Colored League from 1923 to 1928, the 1929 American Negro League, the 1932 East-West League, the 1932 Negro Southern League, and the Negro American League from 1937 to 1948.

This omission is not in any way a reflection upon the major league status of those leagues (or for that matter any additional leagues that may come under the Major League umbrella in future years), only that I did not have access to data associated with these leagues while I was researching and writing these articles. In light of this, any data presented in this article, as well as my use of the term "major leagues," should be viewed in light of this omission.

What's New

2021-9-12:

New NL pennant race and World Series description.
Two batters hitting for the cycle in the same day.

2021-9-27:

Ruth and Pratt collect all seven of the Yankees' hits in a game.

1920

The Deadball Era ended with one of the most significant transactions in baseball history 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 vetoed 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, in other words, 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 unprecedented 13 home runs in 17 games. On July 19th, he would break his previous record, hitting his 30th and 31st homers 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 in the final game 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 122.4+ 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."5

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."6

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 abandoned7. 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 Detroit 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 pitcher8. 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,9+ 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. 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, it was reported that Bill Maharg, a "former boxer and well known sporting figure of this city"10 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, although there was the possibility that a White Sox pennant would have resulted in the series being cancelled.11+

After sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in a Labor Day double-header to close out their home-stand on September 6th, the defending champion Cincinnati Reds were in first place by a game and a half over the surprising Brooklyn Robins, a team that had spent the three years since their last pennant in the second division, and a two and a half game lead over the New York Giants, who had rebounded after a slow start (they had a losing record as late as July 25th) to reclaim their accustomed position as a pennant contender.

After the games that day, the Reds took off on a five city road trip, and the first two stops were against the Braves and Phillies, the two worst teams in the league, where they proceeded to lose five of the seven games, including a horrific 21-10 loss that included nine Cincinnati errors. They left Philadelphia and headed north to play the Robins and the Giants, where five more losses effectively ended their pennant hopes, leaving them closer to sixth place than first. In all, that road trip was the start of a 4-15 stretch, one that finished with the Reds scoring a total of only two runs in six games (all losses) with the Pirates and Cubs.

At the same time, the Robins, led by manager Wilbert Robinson, were at least as hot as the Reds were cold. Their single loss to Cincinnati on September 18th was one of only two blemishes during a 16-2 streak that gave them a commanding five-game lead in the pennant race. They clinched their second pennant in five years in an anti-climatic fashion: hearing about the Giants loss to the Braves while the team sat idle during three scheduled off days to close out September.

For the second straight year, the World Series was a best of nine affair. Wilbert Robinson bypassed staff ace Burleigh Grimes in the World Series opener, selecting Rube Marquard instead. It was a curious choice,12+ and one that didn't work out, as Stan Coveleski out-pitched Marquard, the Indians winning 3-1. The Indians took the lead for good when George Burns led off the second with a wind-blown pop-up that fell on the right side of the infield. Burns took off for second when he noticed it was uncovered, but first-baseman Ed Konetchky was less observant and threw past the runner and into the far reaches of the outfield, allowing Burns to complete his trip around the bases. The Robins bounced back to take the next two games when Burleigh Grimes defeated 31-game winner Jim Bagby 3-0 and Brooklyn knocked out Ray Caldwell with two first-inning runs while Sherry Smith was allowing only three hits to take a 2-1 decision.

With the first three games in Brooklyn out of the way, the two teams traveled to Cleveland for the next four, with the Robins in the lead two games to one and Robinson promising their fans that "when we get to Cleveland we're going to finish the job."13 Well, the job was certainly finished in Cleveland, but not the way he hoped, as the Robins would score only two more runs in the final four games. Coveleski held Brooklyn to five hits while the Indians battered Leon Cadore and Al Mamaux for four runs on their way to a 5-1 victory in game four. The next day saw Cleveland win the most well-known and one-sided game of the series. In order, the fans at the game that day saw the first World Series: grand-slam (Elmer Smith), home run hit by a pitcher (Bagby), and unassisted triple play (Bill Wambsganss). The first two gave the Indians a 7-0 lead while the last one helped ensure that the Robin's would score no more than one run despite reaching Bagby for thirteen hits.

Dusty Mails pitched the best game of the series the next day, a three-hit shutout to beat hard-luck loser Sherry Smith, 1-0. Mails had a brief trial with the Robins in 1915 and 1916, but didn't make his first appearance for Cleveland (or win his first major league game) until that September. Before the month was out, however, he had won seven games in the thick of a pennant race, including two shutouts, and had pitched well in relief in game two, earning himself a World Series start. Coveleski followed that shutout with one of his own in game seven, allowing only five singles to close out the series 3-0. The eight runs scored by Brooklyn was the fewest runs scored in a seven-game World Series (the next lowest was the 13 runs scored by the 1985 Cardinals).

Given the general public outrage over crooked ballplayers that October, Rube Marquard probably picked the wrong time to get arrested for scalping tickets. He was caught trying to sell eight box seats to undercover detectives for $400 before game four.14 Despite getting off with only a token fine of $1 (plus court costs), the reaction to his side hustle caused Brooklyn president Charlie Ebbets to trade his pitcher to Cincinnati for Dutch Ruether, another left-handed pitcher with a reputation for causing trouble, on December 15th.

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 (Pick went hitless and saw his batting average drop from .324 to .250), 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 of 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 score15+ of the decade and would be the only 9-inning no-hitter of his illustrious career. Despite his gem that day, Johnson suffered through a poor season. His game that day evened his record at 8-8, and he only made two more starts (both losses) before he was shut down in mid-July due to a sore arm and leg injury.

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 review of 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. On the same day the Giants' George Burns also hit for the cycle, his fifth hit (and second double) coming in the tenth inning, moving the eventual game-winning run to third in the bottom of the tenth. It was the first time in major league history that two players hit for the cycle on the same day and it has happened once since, on September 1, 2008 when Adrian Beltre and Stephen Drew did it. While Drew hit his tenth triple of the season that day, it was the only triple for Beltre in a 320-game span from 2007 to 2010. Despite hitting only ten triples from 2008 to 2015, Beltre would hit for the cycle twice more in those years, making him the only player since Babe Herman with three.

Back to the year under review, 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 game in his starts, which was one reason why he was able to win a combined 53 games in those seasons.

In the second game of their double-header on September 24th, Babe Ruth led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a double and scored the winning run on Del Pratt's single in the Yankees' 2-1 victory over Jim Shaw and the Washington Senators. Ruth and Pratt combined for all seven of the Yankees hits in the game, the first time since at least 1901 that a team had seven or more hits with only two batters contributing. It has happened twice since, by the Senators in 1963, Ken Retzer (4) and Don Blasingame (3), and the Braves in 1986, Terry Harper (4) and Dale Murphy (3).

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 1901. 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.

What's New

2021-9-27:

Updated regular season and World Series description.
Brothers facing each other in the World Series.
Pitchers appearing in a World Series with little regular season experience.
Dickey Kerr Day.
Leo Townsend's farewell.

1921

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 by the end of the year, Ruth had put together the two most dominant seasons in baseball history and changed the game of baseball forever. He had also helped bring the New York Yankees their first pennant.

But first, Ruth's team had to fight off a challenge from the World Champion Cleveland Indians, led by player-manager Tris Speaker who hit .362 while leading the league with 52 doubles. Both teams averaged more than six runs a game (6.2 for the Yankees and 6.0 for the Indians), the first AL teams to do this and first team in any league since the adoption of the foul strike rule.16+ In addition to Ruth, the Yankees' Bob Meusel was tied for second in the AL with 24 home runs and knocked in 138 runs, and while the Indians hit less than a third as many homers as New York, they had no weak spots anywhere in their lineup or on their bench, with their five most frequent substitutes all hitting between .330 and .366. Their pitching staffs, led by Carl Mays in New York and World Series hero Stan Coveleski in Cleveland were even more well matched, with the Indians allowing 4.62 runs a game to the Yankees' 4.63.

The result was a closely fought pennant race all summer. From July 15th to September 28th, no more than two games separated them for all but two days (July 30th and August 21st). When the Indians came into New York for a four-game series in late September, they were 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 against 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. A sweep of a three-game series with the last-place Athletics finally settled the issue on the next to the last day of the season, although the final four and a half game margin gave the appearance of an easier road to the World Series.

For most of the season, it looked as though the Pirates would win their first NL title since 1909. After defeating the Boston Braves on August 22nd, they had a seven and a half game lead over the New York Giants. They had such a comfortable cushion that a headline in The Sporting News at the time read "Pirates Can Jog To Finish Line."17 Unfortunately, they forgot to take their bats along with them when they headed into New York two days later and were swept by the Giants, managing to score only six runs in the five games, including two complete-game losses each to Phil Douglas and Art Nehf.

The Giants took over first place for good during a September winning streak that had reached eight games by the time they arrived in Pittsburgh for a three-game series, the last meeting between the two teams that year. A sweep by the Pirates would have landed them back in first place, but Giants' manager John McGraw wasn't taking any chances. Fearing a plot on the part of the locals to drug his players, both in and around the hotel as well as in their dugout, he ensured that his players were kept in seclusion at the hotel for the duration of the series and arranged to have their own sealed bottles of water brought in from the outside and placed under strict team supervision into their dugout.18

It should go without saying that the Pirates resented the insinuation that anyone associated with their team would attempt to dope their guests, but with these precautions ensuring a drug-free team in at least one of the dugouts, the Giants' Fred Toney threw a two-hit shutout in the opener, and Art Nehf beat their hosts the next day (his seventh straight complete game victory over Pittsburgh that year). The Pirates did manage to salvage the finale, Babe Adams winning a 2-1 pitcher's duel with Phil Douglas on September 19th, but by taking two out of three games, the Giants left town with a three and a half game lead, and according to The Sporting News at the time: "The Pirates are not yet mathematically out of the race, but their chances are exceedingly slim, and their followers are not hopeful."19 The end came for the Pirates when they were swept by the Cardinals in a double-header while New York was enjoying the third of four consecutive open dates to close out the month of September.

The Giants were probably wondering how the Pirates managed to finish only four games behind them, given New York's 16-6 record in their head-to-head contests (they also went 16-6 against the last-place Phillies). In the end, Pittsburgh was done in by a team-wide batting slump over the last six weeks of the season, one that saw them go from scoring 5.1 runs a game up through August 22nd to a league-worst 2.7 runs a game afterwards. Every regular hit worse down the stretch, none more so than Carson Bigbee, who saw his batting average and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) go from .341/.842 to .257/.607, and Rabbit Maranville whose averages went from .316/.783 to .224/.548.

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 them get Fresco Thompson, while Walker played well in 1922 before being swapped for George Harper, who eventually also turned into Fresco Thompson. But it paid off handsomely in the short term 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, an import from Philadelphia the year before, who might have been the best shortstop in all of baseball.

For the third straight year, and for the fourth and last time, the World Series would be a best of nine affair. And for the first time, it would take place entirely in New York.20+ Going to the World Series was nothing new for the Giants, McGraw having taken five previous teams, but this was the first pennant for the Yankees. Chicago had been the only city to monopolize a World Series up to then, when the Cubs and White Sox met in 1906, but both Boston and Philadelphia could have done it in 1914 and 1915 had either cities' teams swapped their pennant-winning years.

This was also the first World Series played entirely in one ballpark, as both teams called the Polo Grounds home. As a result, the teams alternated being home and away. In the first game, Ruth's RBI single in the first would be all Carl Mays would need in a 3-0 shutout victory, but Mike McNally added the first of two insurance runs with a steal of home in the fifth. Waite Hoyt followed that by pitching a shutout of his own the next day by the same 3-0 score, the Yankees three runs scoring on a double-play, a ground out and their second steal of home, this time by Bob Meusel.

The Giants bats came alive in game three. After Babe Ruth's two-RBI single was part of a four-run rally that knocked out Fred Toney in the top of the third, the Giants tied the game in the bottom half, with Bob Shawkey departing after walking three straight, the last two with the bases loaded. With the game in the hands of the bullpen, the teams were scoreless until the bottom of the seventh, when the Giants broke the tie in a big way, scoring a World Series record eight runs off of three Yankee pitchers, a record that would be broken in 1929 and again in 1968. After Ross Youngs hit a bases loaded triple to put the Giant ahead 12-4, Miller Huggins called on Tom Rogers to finish the game. Rogers, who pitched only briefly (and ineffectively) for the team that year, was one of the more unlikely pitchers to have appeared in a World Series game, but we'll have more on that later. While the Yankees relievers were giving up nine runs, the Giants' Jesse Barnes allowed only four hits and a single run over his seven innings of work to pick up the win.

Game four, delayed a day by rain, was a rematch of the opening game starters and it looked headed for a similar outcome as Mays took a 1-0 lead into the top of the eighth. But a leadoff triple by Irish Meusel started a three-run rally capped by George Burns' two-run double. They added another run in the ninth, and Phil Douglas, despite giving up Babe Ruth's first career World Series homer in the bottom half, held on for the 4-2 win, and the series was tied at two apiece. The next game was also a rematch, with Waite Hoyt again defeating Art Nehf, with only an unearned run in the first preventing Hoyt from pitching a second straight 3-0 shutout.

Babe Ruth started the game-winning rally in the fourth with a bunt single, but he was hurting. In retrospect, perhaps the most significant play of the series had come three days earlier, following Ruth's two-run single when the slugger, who had stolen two bases the day before, attempted to steal another and cut open his elbow being thrown out. The elbow got worse as the series progressed and by time the fifth game ended, to hear the New York Times tell it, he belonged in a hospital, not on a ballfield: "The incision in his left elbow was still open, with a tube there to drain out the infection. A bandage was wrapped tightly around his left wrist which had been badly battered by many slides to the bases. Both legs were encased in bandages up to the hips, and a 'charley horse' in one made the big slugger limp perceptibly."21 Ruth would finish out the game, but except for one unsuccessful pinch-hit appearance, would miss the rest of the series.

For the second time in the series both teams couldn't start their top two pitchers, and much like the previous occasion, the sixth game was in the hands of the relievers early, with Fred Toney failing to make it through the first, and Huggins' choice, Harry Harper, who had missed most of the season with a fractured thumb, getting knocked out in the second. In a repeat performance, Jesse Barnes out-pitched the Yankee relievers and won, this time striking out ten. And this wasn't a loss that could be blamed on Ruth's absence: his replacement, Chick Fewster, did a reasonable impression of the Babe, drawing a walk and scoring in the first before hitting a two-run homer (only the third of his career) to wrap up their scoring in the second.

With the series tied at three, the next two games featured the third installment of the Mays/Douglas and Nehf/Hoyt show, the result being two low-scoring games with the winning run in each caused by a Yankee error. With the score tied at one in game seven, Aaron Ward's two-out error and Frank Synder's double scored the deciding run, while the only run in the eighth and deciding game came in the top of the first when Roger Peckinpaugh let a two-out grounder go through him while Dave Bancroft scored from second.

Given the low scores and narrow margin of victories in each game, Yankee fans could certainly wonder what kind of impact a healthy Ruth would have made. As it was, Hoyt would match Christy Mathewson's record of pitching 27 innings in a series without allowing an earned run, despite losing the deciding game. The Giants won because their two best pitchers were able to battle to a draw against the Yankees aces, splitting the six games, while the Giants won both contests that went to their bullpens. They won, in other words, because they had Jesse Barnes and the Yankees didn't. Barnes set World Series records that still stand for both the most innings (16.2) and strikeouts (18) for a reliever and his two wins in relief have been matched eight times, the first by Hugh Casey in 1947, and most recently by Tony Watson in 2017 (both of those coming in losing causes).

In 1920, two brothers played against each other in a World Series for the first time: Cleveland's first-baseman Doc Johnston and his younger brother, Brooklyn third-baseman Jimmy Johnston. We didn't have long to wait for this to happen again when the Giants' left fielder Irish Meusel took the field against Yankee right fielder Bob Meusel in three straight World Series from 1921 to 1923. Here's how the two of them did:

         G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO HBP  SH  SB  CS   AVG   OBP   SLG
Irish   19  74  10  22   3   2   4  16   2   6   0   0   1   2  .297  .316  .554
Bob     19  76   6  19   4   2   0  13   3  11   0   0   2   2  .250  .278  .355

There would be only one more brother-brother World Series match-up after that, Ken and Clete Boyer in 1964,22+ although the New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera did face his cousin Ruben Rivera of the San Diego Padres in the 1998 World Series.

I mentioned above that Tom Rogers, was an unlikely choice to pitch for the Yankees in the World Series, even in a mop-up role. At the time, the 11 innings he'd pitched in the regular season were the fewest for a World Series pitcher. Here is a chronology of that record:

IP   Year Team   Pitcher
43   1903 PIT N  Gus Thompson     
37.1 1916 BRO N  Nap Rucker       
22   1919 CHI A  Roy Wilkinson    
11   1921 NY  A  Tom Rogers      
10.1 1942 NY  A  Jim Turner      
 5.1 1945 DET A  Virgil Trucks    
 4   1951 NY  N  Alex Konikowski  
 2   1967 BOS N  Ken Brett        
 -   2020 TB  A  Shane McClanahan 

Jim Turner only pitched 7 of his innings in 1942 for New York. Trucks didn't join the team until only a few days were left in the season, starting the pennant-clinching game for Detroit, and was allowed to appear in the World Series due to an exemption that made returning servicemen eligible. Since pretty much any player in a team's organization is now eligible to be on the postseason roster, there have been a lot of players with little (or in the case of Shane McClanahan, no) regular season playing time pitching in the World Series. Of the 29 players from 1903-2020 who have pitched in the Fall Classic with less than 20 regular season innings under their belt, 18 have come after 2000.

As he did in 1920, Ruth feasted on home cooking in 1921, 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: 26 games that ran from the tail end of July through most of August. He would walk 29 times in those games, the most walks in any hitting streak since at least 1901. He also set a far less obscure record when he became the first player (again, since at least 1901) to homer in five consecutive games that June, including back-to-back games with two home runs, the first player to do that since Nap Lajoie in 1901.

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 his average stood at .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 have rounded 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 1901. 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 since 1920 were 19 by Curt Walker in 1926 and 18 by Paul Waner in 1928.23+ 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 begun 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 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 since at least 1901 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 his best 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.

September 29th was "Dickey Kerr Day" at Comiskey Park and the White Sox pitcher celebrated by pushing the Cleveland Indians one step closer to elimination with a six-hit shutout. Kerr's win that day improved his record to 19-17 for the seventh place White Sox. A salary dispute the next spring led Kerr to sign a contract with a local semi-pro team, earning him a lengthy stay on the ineligible list. The 28-year-old pitcher would be out of the majors until his reinstatement in August 1925.24+ He would pitch poorly in his comeback, losing his only decision, and would be released following the season, making that 1921 shutout the last victory of his major league career.

The last-place Athletics 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 Philadelphia A's 24-inning tie with the Detroit 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 line.

It went largely unnoticed at the time, but the Boston Braves Leo Townsend pitched his final major league game on May 27th. He was knocked out by the Giants in the second inning of a 9-8 loss, ending a career that lasted only 25 2/3 innings. Officially, he finished with the record for the most career innings pitched without striking out a single batter, but as Darren Gibson points out in his SABR biography of Townsend, he actually did strike out a batter: Burt Shotton, on September 16, 1920. So the actual record holder, assuming there are no errors in his data, is Welcome Gaston, who pitched 19 strike-out-free innings for the 1898 and 1899 Brooklyn Bridegrooms. And yes, Welcome was really his first name (his middle name was Thornburg).

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.

What's New

2021-9-27:

Updated AL pennant race description.
Run Scored by league from 1918-1932.
New World Series description.
Updated section on pennant winners with below-average hitters at top of their batting order.
Updated note on streaks where every hitter on a team gets at least one hit.
Hub Pruett's early success against Babe Ruth.
Bill Doak's missed no-hitters and the creation of the pocket.
Updated note on consecutive relief wins, losses and decisions.
Added first time each city's team was in last-place to first-place chart

1922

After losing his .400 batting average on the last day of the previous season, Rogers 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 one, leaving after getting a first-inning hit off of 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 as well as his own in July 1912 for the most hits in a month since at least 1901. In addition to having 67 hits in a month, both Speaker and the July 1922 version of Cobb also 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 batting. 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 Commissioner Judge Landis for violating a nine-month-old ruling prohibiting World Series participants (and no other major league players) from barnstorming once the series was over. It was a hastily drawn and poorly considered rule designed to somehow restore public confidence in the honesty of the game, but all it did was penalize players for winning their league's pennant. Landis made no attempt to defend the rule, but stupid or not, it was his job to enforce it, something he did with relish, fining Ruth, Meusel and pitcher Bill Piercy (who had joined his two more famous teammates in a handful of exhibitions that October) their World Series shares and keeping them off the field until May 20th. The rule would be removed in July.25+

New York had started well, even without Ruth and Meusel, winning 22 of their first 33 games, good enough for a two-game lead over the Browns. In their first game back, their two prodigal sluggers 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. Despite taking the remaining two games of that series in extra-innings, the Yankees struggled through the next two months, losing 12 of 14 at one point, and after getting shutout by Shocker on July 25th, trailed St. Louis by two and a half games, having played .500 ball (31-31) over the nine weeks since their return.

But the Yanks bounced back to win the next three games in St. Louis, re-taking first place by a half game, and things looked bad for the Browns when Sisler and their catcher Hank Severeid were injured the next day against the Red Sox. But they refused to go away. Sisler came back after a week and resumed his torrid hitting, and it must have been contagious because over the 47-game span between the Yankees leaving town near the end of July and returning in mid-September, the Browns averaged 6.4 runs a game and hit .331 as a team. Sisler led with a .472 average (and a 1.141 OPS), but two other hitters: Ken Williams (.364/1.115) and Baby Doll Jacobson (.366/1.005) also hit over .360 with an OPS over 1.000. Despite all that hitting, and a 32-15 record, the Browns still trailed the Yankees by a half game. While they were away, New York had gone 30-13, with Ruth hitting 34 extra-base hits, good for an .813 slugging percentage, while Wally Pipp was hitting over .400, and Bullet Joe Bush and Bob Shawkey were combining to go 18-5 with a 2.88 ERA

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 in his right arm while reaching for a wide throw, and at first it was feared he would miss the rest of the season.26 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 snapped his streak while taking 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. 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 became 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.

Over the previous four years, the level of offense in each league had been changing, and by 1922 both leagues were scoring 34% more runs per game than they had in 1918. To take just one example to demonstrate what this difference meant, every regular on the 1922 New York Giants except Heinie Groh batted .321 or higher, and yet the team finished third in the league in runs scored. Here are the runs scored per game for each league from 1918-1931:

    1918  1919  1920  1921  1922  1923  1924  1925  1926  1927  1928  1929  1930  1931
AL  3.64  4.10  4.76  5.11  4.74  4.78  4.97  5.19  4.73  4.92  4.77  5.01  5.41  5.14
NL  3.62  3.65  3.97  4.59  5.00  4.85  4.54  5.06  4.54  4.58  4.70  5.36  5.68  4.48

For the second straight season, the entire World Series took place at New York's Polo Grounds. Bullet Joe Bush, who came over from the Red Sox the previous December in an seven-player deal that involved a pile of money ($100,000) heading up to Boston, went 26-7 in his first season in New York and was given the ball for the Yankees in the first game. He had a 2-0 lead before giving up three straight singles to load the bases with one gone in the bottom of the seventh. He was bailed out when pinch-hitter Earl Smith grounded into an double-play to end the threat, but his luck ran out in the eighth when the first three hitters singled to load the bases again. These days, the fact that he'd given up hits to six of his last seven batters would be seen as a sign that perhaps his effectiveness had begun to ebb, but Miller Huggins let him pitch to one more, Irish Meusel, the Giants' clean-up hitter, and his single drove in two runs to tie the game. Waite Hoyt was summoned from the bullpen at this point and retired the side, but not before a sacrifice fly off the bat of Ross Youngs had driven in the go-ahead run.

It was the Yankees turn to come from behind the next day, whittling away at an early three-run Giant lead, courtesy of Irish Meusel's three-run home run off of Shawkey in the top of the first. The Yankees answered with runs of their own in the first, fourth and eighth, the last coming on doubles by Babe Ruth and Irish's brother Bob. It was 4:45 in the afternoon when the tenth inning ended and the players got ready to play the eleventh, but umpire George Hildebrand had seen (or had trouble seeing) enough and called the game on account of darkness. This caused a near-riot in the park, with many fans convinced the game was called simply to add an extra game (and game receipts) to the series. Commissioner Landis was in attendance and became the target of much of the fan's displeasure, causing him to announce later that evening that all proceeds from the game would be donated to a war charity to ensure that neither the teams nor the players would benefit from the tie.27

The Giants took a 2-0 lead in the series the next day when surprise starter Jack Scott, a pitcher who had been released by the Cincinnati Reds in May and didn't pitch his first game for the Giant until August, blanked the Yankees on four hits. He was faced by Waite Hoyt, who gave up the first earned run in his World Series career (after 34 innings) when Frankie Frisch hit a two-out single in the bottom of the seventh to extend the Giants' lead to 3-0 (the two third-inning runs were unearned). The hole got deeper for the Yankees in game four when Hugh McQuillan, another mid-season pickup by McGraw, held on for a 4-3 win when two base-running blunders in the bottom of the ninth helped kill a Yankee rally.

The end came the next day, when Bush once again lost a lead in the bottom of the eighth. This time, there were two outs and men on second and third when Huggins ordered Bush to intentionally walk Ross Youngs to pitch to George Kelly with the bases loaded. It wasn't necessarily a bad percentage move, but it didn't work when Kelly and Lee King followed with singles to give the Giants the lead, and after the Yankees went quietly in the top of the ninth, the series. Despite the closeness of the games, the World Series was a humiliating defeat for the Yankees, and in the immediate aftermath, it became clear that big changes were in order. Manager Huggins, Bob Meusel, Aaron Ward, Carl Mays, Whitey Witt and even Babe Ruth were all rumored to be on the chopping block. Even if Babe Ruth wasn't dispatched to another team, one reporter said that he "will be severely disciplined, not only for his feeble showing in the world's series but also for the various offenses which were charged against him during the playing season."28

Ruth did have a miserable series, collecting only two hits in the five games, but the extent to which reporters over-reacted to his performance seems laughable today. Simply put: it was time to unload the Babe for whatever the Yankees could get for the disgraced slugger. According to The Sporting News' Joe Vila (always the voice of reason and restraint): "The Exploded Phenomenon {Ruth's failures in the series] didn't surprise the smart fans, who long ago realized that he couldn't hit brainy pitching and that his wide reputation as a slugger had been built up at the expense of inferior boxmen in the American League. Ruth, therefore, no longer is a wonder. The baseball public is onto his real worth as a batsman and in future, let us hope, he will attract just ordinary attention."29

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 wondering how many other good teams had their two worst hitters leading off.30+ Here are the pennant-winning teams to do this (along with the players most responsible) since 1901:

1912  BOS A  Harry Hooper and Steve Yerkes *
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 *
1995  CLE A  Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel *
1997  FLA N  Luis Castillo and Edgar Renteria *

* - their first two hitters also had the lowest on-base percentages.

Since on-base percentage is arguably more important than OPS at the top of a lineup, I indicated where the teams above also led-off with the lowest on-base percentages. Here are the pennant-winning teams not appearing on the chart above that had the lowest on-base percentages at the top of their orders:

1941  NY  A  Johnny Sturm and Red Rolfe
1954  NY  N  Whitey Lockman and Al Dark

In addition to Sportsman Park, another place favored by hitters in 1922 was the Baker Bowl. Playing his home games there in 1922, Cliff Lee had one of most extreme home field advantages since at least 1901 and the first where his OPS at home was 500 points higher than on the road.

        G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO HBP  SH  SB  CS   AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS
Home   68 250  47  97  20   2  17  68  20  23   1   5   2   2  .388  .434  .688  1.123
Away   54 172  18  39   9   4   0  11  13  20   0   3   0   1  .227  .280  .326   .606

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 .606 road OPS would have been dead last among 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 a game, and the first player in any league to do it 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 duplicated Williams' feat 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 (broken in 1952) for the 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.31 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 equaled 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, since then there has been only two instances 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 the 2014 Detroit Tigers from May 2nd to May 4th, And even those comes with an asterisk, since during each of those streaks there were late-inning defensive replacements 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 1901. And no, it's not a coincidence that all five games were played in Philadelphia's Baker Bowl.

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. Since at least 1901, no other pitcher has had that many decisions in a year against a single team. Sad Sam Jones had ten decisions (5-5) that year against the Senators, and no pitcher has had more than nine decisions since. Jones and Shocker also hold the two top spots for most innings pitched against a single team since the end of 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 again until Chief Hogsett turned the trick against the 1937 Indians.

Few took notice the first time St Louis rookie left-hander Hub Pruett faced Babe Ruth, striking out and walking the Yankee during a relief outing on May 22nd. That changed during their next meeting, when Pruett fanned the Babe three times while pitching his first major-league complete game, a six-hit 7-1 victory on June 12th. Pruett wasn't as sharp in his next start against New York, walking seven and hitting another before leaving with two out in the sixth, but he still looked great to the Yankee slugger, who went hitless in four at-bats against the rookie, striking out another three times.32+

He made one more start that season against the Yankees, pitching his best game of the season. He allowed only five hits, but it looked like his magic against the Babe was starting to wane. After a walk and a strike out, Ruth got his first hit against Pruett, a single, and followed that with a homer for the only run in St. Louis' 5-1 win. If Pruett is remembered for anything today, it is for his early success against Ruth. But after fanning him in nine of their first ten at-bats, the Browns' lefty became just another pitcher to the Babe. The complete record of their match-up:33+

 AB   H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO HBP  SH   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
 25   7   0   0   2   7  14   0   1  .280  .438  .520  .958

The Cardinals Bill Doak pitched a one-hit shutout against the Phillies on July 13th and had only himself to blame for the solitary hit. Or as a St. Louis newspaper put it: "Were it not for his own negligence in failing to cover first when [first baseman] Fournier went after Curt Walker's bouncer in the seventh, the veteran right-hander of the spitball this morning would find his respected moniker commanding a niche in baseball's hall of fame."34+ If this seemed familiar to the people of St. Louis and Philadelphia, it was because less than two years earlier, on August 10, 1920, Doak had another no-hit bid against the Phillies spoiled by a similar lapse, or as the sub-heading read in that same newspaper the next day: "Bill's Failure to Cover First Base Deprives Him of No-Hit, No-Run Game. Hornsby Stops Drive in Seventh Inning, but No One Covers Bag to Receive Throw."35

Bill Doak would never get that no-hitter, but what's ironic about these two prominent fielding lapses is that his most significant contribution to the game of baseball was his design in 1919, along with the Rawlings Sporting Goods Company, of a new fielding glove, one that featured webbing between the thumb and index finger. Yes, Bill Doak invented the pocket. The "Bill Doak Glove" quickly became the most popular one on the market and has been the basis for nearly all fielding gloves since. This innovation caused his essay in "Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia" to begin: "Spittin' Bill Doak may have been responsible for causing more batters to be retired than any other pitcher in the history of baseball."36

Of course, even the best baseball glove is little use if you're still on the pitcher's mound when the fielder turns to toss you the ball,

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 the end of the Deadball Era. Other pitchers who have done this after Rommel 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. Both Cy Young (in 1904 and 1905) and Walter Johnson (in 1913) won six relief appearances in a row between 1901 and 1919. By the way, the only pitcher since at least 1901 to lose five consecutive relief appearances was Tom Zachary in 1926 and 1927 (with both the Browns and the Senators). And finally, Walter Johnson in 1917 and 1918 got decisions in ten consecutive relief outings (going 8-2), the most since at least 1901.

I mentioned earlier that both St. Louis teams were in first place on July 22nd. Here are the first times that cities with teams in each league had both of them in first or last place after the end of May:

                  First Place       Last Place
City                 Date              Date
Boston            1916- 9- 4        1906- 6- 1
Chicago           1906- 8-12        1943- 6-20
New York          1904- 8- 5        1967- 8- 5
New York (BRO)    1916- 6-28        1905- 6- 2
Philadelphia      1911- 7- 4        1919- 6-28
St. Louis         1922- 7-22        1913- 9-17

While both the Cubs and White Sox were in first place on August 12, 1906, the two Boston teams were in the cellar, and the first time both the Athletics and Phillies were in last place, on June 28, 1919, the Giants and Yankees were in first.

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.

What's New

2021-10-12:

Red Sox send the Yankees Pennock and Pipgras.
Yankee Stadium leads to a million dollar World Series.
Joe Sewell strikes out twice in a game.
George Kelly homers in three consecutive innings.
Sad Sam Jones pitches a no-strikeout no-hitter.
Yankees and Giants allow very few unearned runs.
Updated note on Carl Mays' dominance of teams from Philadelphia.
Walter Johnson's elusive 3,000th strikeout.

1923

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 in the first two months of 1923 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, pulling a tendon in his leg) and would be out for a month.37

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. No other team was able to come within ten games of the Yankees the rest of the way and they clinched the pennant on September 20th, with more than two weeks left in the season.

Despite their reputation, and the presence of Babe Ruth, the Yankees had only the second best offense in the league, trailing the Cleveland Indians, led by player-manager Tris Speaker, by 65 runs scored. What set the Yankees apart from the rest of the league was their pitching staff, one that allowed nearly 100 fewer runs than the next stingiest, the St. Louis Browns. By now, you would have thought that the last-place Red Sox had run out of gifts to give their brethren to the south, but that January they had sent two pitchers to the Yankees for a package that included four marginal players and a non-marginal amount of cash. One of the pitchers, Herb Pennock, would immediately join a starting rotation where all by one (Bob Shawkey, who came from the Athletics during their fire-sale in 1915) had a Boston pedigree. George Pipgras, the other pitcher shed by the Red Sox that January, would take longer to make an impact, but he would help lead the team to a pennant in 1928.

The Giants' road to their third straight postseason meeting with the Yankees 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. He 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 runs. 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. Bullet Joe Bush took the loss in relief, his World Series record fifth straight since beating the Giants as a twenty-year-old rookie in 1913. 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 two home runs by Ruth, they reconvened at the House That He 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. The last three games were won by Shawkey, Pennock and Bush, who all appeared for the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1914 World Series. 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.

With the World Series debut of Yankee Stadium, attendance records were set in each of the three games there. In the opener on Wednesday, the crowd of 55,307 broke the previous mark of 42,620 set in 1916 at Braves Field. That record stood until Friday, when 62,430 showed up for game three, and it's probably no surprise that Sunday's crowd was the largest of the three, with 62,817 fans jammed into the park. Even the crowd of 46,302 for Saturday's game at the cosier Polo Grounds would have broken the 1916 record. The result was the first million-dollar gate in World Series history, and a record winner's share of $6,530.

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 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 collected 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 in a season since at least 1901. The longest streak since is eleven games, which has been done five times, the last by rookie infielder Lourdes Gurriel in July 2018.38+

One month into his third full season, Joe Sewell struck out more than once in a game for the first time on May 13th. It was the only time Senators' left-hander Cy Warmoth would face Sewell in his career, and in addition to the two strikeouts, the Indians' shortstop walked twice in four plate appearances. Sewell would strike out more than once in a game for the second (and last) time in 1930, when he fanned his first two times up against Pat Caraway of the White Sox on May 26th. He would not strike out again the rest of the year.

George Kelly homered three times off of Vic Aldridge on September 17th. It was the fourth three-homer game in the last two years, but the first time in major league history that a player had gone deep in three consecutive innings, with Kelly hitting a home run in the third, fourth and fifth innings. It would happen four more times in the 1900s:

   Date        Hitter               Pitcher(s)
 7- 2-1930(2)  Carl Reynolds        Red Ruffing (1st and 2nd)  Ken Holloway (3rd)
 7-18-1948(1)  Pat Seerey           Carl Scheib (4th and 5th)  Bob Savage (6th)
 7-30-1978     Larry Parrish        Tommy Boggs (3rd)  Craig Skok (4th and 5th)
 6-25-1995     Andres Galarraga     Scott Sanders (6th)  Willie Blair (7th)  Fernando Valenzuela (8th)

Pat Seerey added a fourth homer in the top of the eleventh inning in the White Sox' 12-11 win over the Athletics.

It has become almost commonplace this millenium, happening eight times since 2001, nine if you count Nomar Garciaparra's 2002 game, when he hit three home runs in two consecutive innings, two in Boston's ten-run third inning and one more in their six-run fourth.

The Giants won a June 1st game in 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 combined to knock in 13 runs. 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 year.

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 statistical 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 since at least 1901.

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 as if 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. 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 I 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. Only one other pitcher since 1901 has as many as six, the Browns' Carl Weilman in 1914, and no one has had more than four since, the last two being Phil Niekro in 1967 and Wilbur Wood in 1973

There were two no-hitters in 1923 and 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 Ehmke recorded against their team in the bottom of the ninth inning. Ehmke'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.39

Jones' no-strikeout no-hitter was one of only four since at least 1901, following Pete Dowling in 1901 and Earl Hamilton in 1912, and preceding the one by Ken Holtzman in 1969. Since 1901, there hasn't been a no-hitter with no walks or strikeouts, but Jones comes the closest with only one walk (to Chick Galloway with one gone in the first). No team during that time has been no-hit with no walks and a single strikeout.

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.

One of the things that struck me about both pennant winners was how few unearned runs they allowed, the Yankees giving up 66 and the Giants 82, while the other teams in the AL and NL allowed an average of 134 and 142 unearned runs respectively. And the low percentage of unearned runs was not due to local scorers being generous to their fielders: 11.6% of the Yankees runs allowed were unearned at home compared to 9.6% on the road, while for the Giants, their home/road percentages were 13.0 and 11.4. But was this an unusually low percentage of unearned runs? Here are the team with the lowest unearned run percentage (compared to the rest of the league) from 1914 to 1960:

Year Team     R  UER    %     LG%   %/LG% RANK   
1932 PHI A  751   65   8.66  15.62   55.4    4
1923 NY  A  622   66  10.61  17.85   59.4    1
1955 CHI A  557   41   7.36  12.10   60.8    1
1955 STL N  757   59   7.79  12.26   63.6    7
1948 STL N  646   52   8.05  12.59   63.9    2
1923 NY  N  679   82  12.08  18.68   64.7    2
1952 CIN N  659   51   7.74  11.89   65.1    7
1927 PHI N  903   96  10.63  16.28   65.3    8
1958 WAS A  747   54   7.23  11.06   65.4    8
1936 CHI N  606   63  10.40  15.87   65.5    1

1999 NY  N  711   20   2.81   8.90   31.6    2

So 10.61% of runs scored against the Yankees in 1923 were unearned, compared to the rest of the league's 17.85%. I was wondering if good pitching staffs tended to give up fewer unearned runs than poor ones, so I added each team's ranking in runs allowed to the table, and based upon this very small sample size, the answer seems to be no. Oh, and I also added the all-time leader with the lowest relative unearned run percentage, the 1999 Mets.40+

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. Mays wrapped up his work against the Athletics with a 35-3 lifetime mark, and while he missed pitching against Connie Mack's squad over the last six years of his career, he continued to enjoy pitching against teams from Philadelphia, winning all 13 of his decisions against the Phillies for a combined career mark of 48-3 against the two teams.

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.

At some point during the 1923 season Walter Johnson struck out the 3,000th batter of his major league career. At the time, it was thought to have occurred in his 3-1 win on July 22nd when he fanned Steve O'Neill of the Indians to end the second inning,41 but it probably won't surprise you that no one really believes that anymore. According to contemporary newspaper accounts, Johnson had started the season with 2,932 strikeouts and if this were true,42 O'Neill would probably have been the milestone victim, since we agree that he represented Walter's 68th strikeout of the year.

The problem is that the number of his strikeouts entering that year has been changing ever since. When Macmillan published their first Baseball Encyclopedia in 1969, they credited him with 2,930 strikeouts at the start of 1923,43 Pete Palmer's data (which is shown on our player pages) has him at 2,940, while our current research suggests an even higher number at the beginning of 1923: 2,953. The specifics on our differences with Pete's data is laid out on Johnson' discrepancy page, but here is a year-by-year summary of the years where the three sources (Macmillan, Pete Palmer and Retrosheet) disagree:

          07  08  09  10  11  12  14  16  18  21 07-22  23  24   TOT
Mac-69    68 160 164 313 207 296 225 228 162 143  2930 130 158  3499
Palmer    71 160 164 313 207 303 225 228 162 143  2940 130 158  3509 
Retro     71 162 166 314 209 305 226 229 163 144  2953 134 159  3527

Note that in addition to the differences from 1907 to 1921, Retrosheet also thinks that Johnson had four more strikeouts than the two other sources in 1923. On May 2nd, Johnson pitched a three-hit shutout against New York. Officially, the Yankees' hitters facing Johnson that day had four walks and four strikeouts, but none were marked on Johnson's official pitching sheet. So taking all of that into consideration, if the current Retrosheet totals are correct, the 3,000th strikeout came in the tenth inning of the Senators' June 18th game with the Indians when he fanned opposing pitcher Stan Coveleski. If Pete's data is correct (including his omission of any strikeouts on May 2nd), the milestone came when he struck out his fourth batter (Larry Woodall, Harry Heilmann or Bert Cole) in Detroit on July 14th. But I suspect the sands are not done shifting with regards to Johnson's career totals and I would be surprised if Coveleski holds on to this distinction for long.

A simpler discrepancy during 1923 involved Braves' pitcher Frank Miller. In the second game of the July 10th double-header with the Cards', Miller pitched the ninth-inning of a 6-3 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 1901. Not coincidentally, the pitcher with the greatest differential between his innings pitched on the road and at home since 1901 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.44+

What's New

2021-10-12:

New introduction.
Jimmy O'Connell and the attempted bribe.
Added note on the overachieving Brooklyn Robins.
Giants' pitchers hit half of their World Series home runs.
George Sisler's comeback.
Pitchers shun the walk and strikeout.
Brother-Brother starting pitchers.

1924

When the Yankees and Giants first faced off in the 1921 World Series, there was an article in The Sporting News about the lack of interest in the outcome among the fans in St. Louis. "Never has there been a World's Series, perhaps, that has attracted as little general interest in St. Louis as has this 'all New York' affair."45 Well, imagine how they felt by the start of 1924, following three straight "all New York" affairs and little evidence of a let-up in sight. One thing they had going for them was this:

1880-1882 CHI N    1883 - 2nd
1885-1887 STL a    1888 - 1st
1891-1893 BOS N    1894 - 3rd
1894-1896 BAL N    1897 - 2nd
1901-1903 PIT N    1904 - 4th
1906-1908 CHI N    1909 - 2nd
1907-1909 DET A    1910 - 3rd
1911-1913 NY  N    1914 - 2nd

No NL or AL team had ever successfully defended their third consecutive pennant. Only the 1888 St. Louis Browns of the American Association had won four straight, And although we're talking about very small sample sizes here (six NL teams and the 1907-1909 Tigers in the AL), it did seem as if the odds were good that the fans outside of the New York area would have someone to root for come October. And in one of the feel-good stories of the year (at least outside of the Bronx), the Yankees string of three straight AL pennants was broken 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 a 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). After finishing his six-game rookie season with a .556 batting average (5-9 with three doubles), he would be sold to Memphis of the Southern Association that December and would never make it back to the major leagues.46+

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.47 And they weren't the only ones. According to Ty Cobb, the highlight of his season was his team's three game sweep over New York in a crucial September series. "We told the Washington club we were pulling for them," he said.48

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 July 30th of that year.49 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 percentage 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, giving them a game and a half lead over Brooklyn heading into the last weekend of the year.

New York's lead seemed safe, especially considering that their opponent for the final series was the seventh-place Philadelphia Phillies, but it doesn't look like it was safe enough for some people, because before the first game of the series, outfielder Jimmy O'Connell, at the alleged suggestion of Giants' coach Cozy Dolan, approached Philadelphia shortstop Heinie Sand and offered him a $500 bribe if Sand "would not bear down against us in a pinch" during the games. What happened next is covered at some length in Lowell Blaisdell's 1982 article, "Mystery and Tragedy: The O'Connell-Dolan Scandal" (available online here), but the short version is that Sand refused the bribe, told his manager about it, and three days later, when Commissioner Landis interviewed both O'Connell and Dolan, O'Connell confessed to the bribe while Dolan claimed he couldn't remember whether or not they'd had a conversation three days earlier about a bribe attempt. O'Connell's confession and Dolan's evasive answers were enough to get them both banned from the World Series and placed on the permanently ineligible list.50+

Even without the fix, the Giants easily defeated the Phillies that day, and their win, coupled with Brooklyn's loss to the last-place Braves ensured a NL-record fourth straight pennant and a date with the Senators in the World Series. On paper at least, the Giants were a far better team than the Robins in 1924. Led by Frankie Frisch, Ross Youngs and George Kelly on offense, New York scored 140 more runs than Brooklyn while their pitchers allowed 38 fewer. In an earlier review, I mentioned Bill James' method for predicting a team's winning percentage based upon their runs scored and allowed. Well, based solely on these, here's what the NL's first division would have looked like:

Team     W   L   GB
NY  N   96  57    -
PIT N   91  62    5
CIN N   84  69   12
BRO N   81  73   15.5

The Robins over-achieved because they had the best record in the league in games decided by four runs or less (74-44) while only winning half of the others (18-18). The Giants, on the other hand, went 62-50 in the relatively close games, while dominating in the rest (31-10). As it was, Brooklyn came close to continuing their streak of winning pennants during presidential election years, having won in 1916 and 1920.

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 the 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."51 The first time is always special.

Other hitting stars in the series included Goose Goslin, who hit three home runs for the Senators, Freddie Lindstrom, a Giants rookie who had played sparingly that season until Heinie Groh was injured on September 19th, and Bill Terry, a second-year back-up first baseman and pinch-hitter, who batted .429 with a homer and a triple. 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.

The Giants hit four home runs in the series and two of those were hit by their pitchers. Rosy Ryan's homer in game three was the first of his career, while Jack Bentley's shot two days later was his second.

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 road 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 comeback story of the year centered around the return of George Sisler, who after he narrowly missed leading the St. Louis Browns to a pennant in 1922, was out all of 1923 with a variety of ailments (a severe cold, influenza, sinus infection, tonsillitis) which led to a "slight muscular eye disturbance" culminating in "an impairment of his sight."52 In the spring of 1923, while his teammates were waiting in vain for him to report for spring training, Ken Williams commented that "If Sisler can't play we're ruined. We can fill other gaps that exist, but there's no other Sisler"53 As the season dragged on and Ken Williams' assessment was proving to be true, even the good news (like "Sisler is now able to read with but slight difficulty....") made you wonder if he would ever be able to return to the ballfield.54

But Sisler was named manager of the Browns that October and made it clear that he intended to be a player-manager. In February, he considered pitching if his eyes didn't improve enough for him to play first, but as spring training wore on, it became clear that he felt he was ready to return to the lineup.55 He was hitting close to .400 in early May, but even with his batting average struggling to top .300, his team was still only four games out as late as August 16th. The season ended on sour note, however, with nine losses in their last ten games, and despite numbers that might look superficially good today (194 hits, a .305 batting average), he hit worse than an average AL first-baseman that year (a .761 OPS compared to an average of .820), and his team finished with the same record as they had without him in 1923. He would play for seven more seasons after his return, but would never be much better than an average player again.56+

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 a 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 since at least 1901 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.

George Kelly hit 21 home runs in 1924, which doesn't seem like a lot today, but he led the pennant-winning Giants by 10 and it 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 by Ty Cobb. 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 streak, 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.

Pitchers pitched to contact during the 1920s. Here are the walks and strikeout rates for each decade since the 1900s:

     1870s  1880s  1890s  1900s  1910s  1920s  1930s  1940s  1950s  1960s  1970s  1980s  1990s  2000s  2010s
BB    0.75   2.22   3.42   2.54   2.95   3.04   3.28   3.57   3.59   3.14   3.31   3.24   3.45   3.38   3.12
SO    1.47   3.80   2.74   3.56   3.73   2.84   3.36   3.57   4.43   5.73   5.16   5.39   6.19   6.62   7.87
TOT   2.22   6.01   6.17   6.10   6.68   5.88   6.64   7.14   8.02   8.88   8.47   8.62   9.65  10.00  11.00

So while the walk rate was about the same as it was during the 1910s and a little higher than the decade before that, the strikeout rate was the lowest since the 1870s. I bring this up now, because there were more instances of a team not walking or striking out in a game during the 1920s (196) than during any other decade. To put that into perspective, it has happened fewer times since 1950 (145) than during the 1920s alone, and it has happened only once since 2010 (the A's in 2014). So it really shouldn't have surprised me when I looked for games where both teams had no walks or strikeouts, and this is what I found:

    Date           Teams                 Pitchers
1922- 6-30     BRO N - BSN N  Leon Cadore      Dana Fillingim
1924- 8-28(1)  CHI A   CLE A  Sloppy Thurston  Sherry Smith

It got to be commonplace once the Niekros, Perrys and Madduxes came along, but it was news when brothers Jesse and Virgil Barnes started against each other on June 26th. They were the first siblings to face each other in major league history or as the New York Times put it the next day: "The Barnes boys, Jess and Virgil, started the battle, and a couple of totally unrelated pitchers finished it."57 Although Virgil's Giants won the game 8-1, he didn't make it out of the top of the first inning, before his older brother had even taken the mound. They were at it again three days later, and this time they were both around until the end of the seventh, with Jesse's Braves coming out on top, 4-1. They would face each other a total of five times, second most behind the nine meetings between Phil and Joe Niekro with Jesse going 3-2 and Virgil 1-3 (he got a no-decision for that first game). A complete list of brother matchups is in the footnotes.58+

And finally, One of the biggest statistical discrepancies of the year involved Bobby Veach and Joe Harris in Boston's June 3rd game at 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 in a run at all. But the game story that ran the next day in the Boston Globe,59 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.

What's New

2021-10-12:

Updated World Series description.
Sam Rice's catch revisited.
Updated Mandy Brooks description.

1925

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 Charlie Grimm, Rabbit Maranville and twenty-game winner Wilbur Cooper (who had won 161 games over the previous eight seasons) to Chicago 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...."60

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'd already won the last pennant of his career.

Walter Johnson hadn't pitched well in either of his World Series starts the year before, allowing ten runs in his two losses, but he looked like the Johnson of old this time around, striking out ten while allowing only five hits in taking the opener 4-1, and pitching a six-hit shutout, despite suffering a painful leg injury in the fourth inning, to give the Senators a 3-1 lead in game four. The teams had split the two games in between, with the Pirates taking the first 3-2, the winning runs scoring on Roger Peckinpaugh's error and a Kiki Cuyler home run in the bottom of the eighth, and the Senators winning a thrilling and controversial game the next day.

With the Pirates down a run with two outs and the bases empty in the top of the eighth, Earl Smith hit a long fly ball to deep right-center. Sam Rice ran back to the fence and appeared to make a sensational catch before falling into the stands and out of the view of umpire Cy Rigler. Rice emerged several seconds later (some say it was as long as a minute), holding the ball and Smith was called out, ending the inning. Pittsburgh manager Bill McKechnie immediately protested the call, but commissioner Judge Landis was on hand and just as quickly disallowed it, stating that an umpire's decision on facts can not be overruled.61 In the top of the ninth, Pittsburgh loaded the bases with one out before Firpo Marberry, in his second inning of relief, got Clyde Barnhart to pop up to the catcher and Pie Traynor to fly to center to end the threat.

With Pittsburgh down 3-1 in the series, a headline in the Washington Post declared "Champs Take Fourth Game, Seemingly Clinching Series," while the Pittsburgh Press' had a heading over the box score that read "Looks Like It's Over."62 But the Pirates fought back, 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, still suffering the effects of his injury in game four, was undone by the rain, sloppy grounds, and by two critical errors by Roger Peckinpaugh, his seventh and eighth of the series, one of them leading to the go-ahead runs. But even ignoring his shortstop's errors, Johnson was in trouble the entire game, and player-manager Bucky Harris received some criticism for sticking with his ace after the Senators had taken a 7-6 lead in the top of the eighth. By that point, Johnson had already surrendered 12 hits to go with the six runs, and Harris had a rested (and healthy) Firpo Marberry, their relief specialist who had led the majors with 55 games pitched, waiting in the bullpen. But the manager stuck with his starter and the result was an ugly rain-drenched two-out three-run rally that brought the Pirates their first title since 1909.

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.

Roger Peckinpaugh was selected as the league's MVP near the end of the regular season, and it would be an understatement to say that he had a rough World Series. His eight errors set a record that still stands, breaking the previous mark of six, originally set by Honus Wagner in 1903, and he could have been given another in the third inning of game six when, after Eddie Moore had opened the inning with a walk, Peckinpaugh fielded Max Carey's grounder near second base and missed getting either Moore at second or Carey at first, the official scorer ruling Carey safe on a fielder's choice.63 Both runners would come around to score, knotting the game at two and setting the stage for Moore's eventual game-winning home run.

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 unprecedented success with this approach, abandoned it to return to a more "scientific" style of hitting.64 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."65

Huggins took 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 career66, 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 since at least 1901 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), Sportsman'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 that 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 the 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 than he is today), but this got me to wondering about players who hit a lot of home runs in a month with no previous homers that year. The list for each month:

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, but including only players who had played regularly that year prior to their big 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

* - no career home runs prior to the month.

I mentioned that Brooks failed to continue hitting at that pace. As a matter of fact, he followed that June with a horrible July (a .198 batting average and a .557 OPS), and would be dropped from the starting lineup after August. The .723 OPS difference between those two months was the largest between any player's best and worst months in a year since at least 1901, the second largest being a .673 gap between Harry Heilmann's May (1.248) and June (.575) in 1924, and Brooks' would be topped next by Harry Danning's May (1.223) and September (.498) 1940, and Bobby Doerr's June (1.205) and September (.474) 1946. These extremes of hot and cold months have become almost commonplace recently, with all but 2 of the 17 largest differences coming since 1993.67+

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.68+ Despite missing almost the entire month of July with the flu and tonsillitis, 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.69+ Both Grove and Pennock would finish the season with losing records, but the two of them would pitch 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 1903 (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 pitch well in the first stretch, giving 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 the 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 came 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."70 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."71 A few weeks later, Leonard reportedly said that he blamed his problems on the extra strain required to throw a curve with the lively baseball.72 At any rate, he was through as a major league pitcher.

But he wasn't 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.73 Neither would ever manage another major league team, however.

Before wrapping this up, I'd like to briefly return to Sam Rice's catch (or no catch) in the third game of the World Series. At the time, Rice said that he hit his Adam's apple against the head of a spectator when he tumbled into the stands, causing the delay between the time he caught the ball and his reappearance. Some Pirate fans sitting in the bleachers said he failed to catch the ball and that it was picked up by a fan and handed to him. As time went on, Rice got more coy about whether or not he actually caught the ball. According to Rice, Landis called him the next morning and asked him if he caught the ball and Rice replied only that "the umpire said I did," to which the commissioner replied, "Sam, let's leave it that way." He eventually sent a letter to Paul Kerr, the Hall of Fame president, detailing the facts behind the catch, along with instructions that it not be opened until after his death, which when opened ten years later said that "At no time did I lose possession of the ball."74

Which, when you think about it, is pretty great.

What's New

2021-10-30:

Updated AL pennant race description.
Added note on every NL team winning at least one pennant from 1914 to 1926.
Added list of all players with nine hits in a double-header.
Added note on the highest averages in a park.
Updated chart on high-scoring games following a scoreless start.
Updated note on pitchers with more hits than hits allowed.
Added note on Carl Mays' last win against the Giants.
Added note on the longest opening-day games.
All six Philly pitchers give up at least two runs.
Added note on Manush-Ruth batting race.

1926

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,75 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 center fielder 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 someone out there to play centerfield. Max is having a hard time out of it." McKecknie replied, "I haven't got anybody," before Clarke replied, "Put somebody out there, even if it's a pitcher."76 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's hard to imagine 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 George Kelly to second, and insert Bill Terry into the lineup.77 Frisch didn't want to play third and, according to The Sporting News, "made a awful mess of things at the hot corner."78 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 of his teammates" and told his player that he would be moving back to third base permanently.79 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 Rogers Hornsby.

In the midst 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 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."80 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."81 Three weeks later, they noted that Youngs, "recuperating from a late illness," had visited the Polo Grounds.82

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."83 In early February, there was a note that he'd signed his contract for 1927 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."84 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."85

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.86 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.

After their win on August 6th, the Yankees were eleven games ahead of the second-place Cleveland Indians and on pace to win over 100 games. But they started an extended slump the next day and by the time they staggered into St. Louis for their final series of the year, had gone 19-25 since that day in early August and their lead over the Indians had shriveled to only two games. Their offense, which had been the best in the majors, went from scoring 6.0 runs a game to 4.2. Pretty much everyone on the team except Babe Ruth was to blame, none more so than Bob Meusel, who had been on his way to the best season of his career (with a .365 batting average and a .963 OPS) before breaking his foot on June 25th. When he returned on August 11th, he struggled at the plate the rest of the year, batting only .229.

The first game of that final series was rained out on September 24th while Cleveland's ace, George Uhle, was losing to Eddie Rommel and the Philadelphia Athletics 3-1, allowing the Yankees to clinch the pennant with a double-header sweep of the Browns on September 25th. For one day at least, their bats came alive, winning the twin-bill 10-2 and 10-4. Ruth as usual led the attack with a single, double and three home runs, scoring five and driving in eight runs. With the race decided, New York dropped the final two games and 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. The end for Cincinnati came on September 24th when they dropped their sixth straight game in the opener of their double-header with the Phillies 9-2 while St. Louis was beating the Giants 6-4.

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). 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 (he was operated on in late June for the "removal of carbuncle infection in the tissue of the thighs")87 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 (and he played that season carbuncle-free). 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, Alexander's most famous contribution that year would come in the World Series.

The Cardinals' title meant that each team in the league had won at least one pennant since 1914. No other league has had every team finish first in such a short span, with the next two shortest being one of 18 years in the NL from the Cubs in 1945 to the Reds in 1961, and a 19-year span from the Indians in 1954 to the Athletics in 1972.88+ This was also the first year that no team in either league had a winning percentage of at least .600, something that wouldn't happen again until 1958 and 1982.

Pete Alexander hadn't won in nearly a month when he took the hill for the Cardinals at Yankee Stadium in the second game of the World Series, hoping to even things following his team's 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 and a homer by Jesse Haines in game three was answered the next day by a trio of homers from Ruth. The Yankees took a 3-2 series lead with an extra-inning win decided in the tenth when they built a run with a leadoff walk, a wild pitch and two sacrifices. 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 out in the bottom of the seventh with his team up by a run, Hornsby called on his (perhaps hung-over) 39-year-old pitcher to face rookie second-baseman Tony Lazzeri.89+ 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.

There was a close batting race in the American League in 1926, with Heinie Manush and Ruth battling down to the wire and the lead changing four times in the last week:

           Manush           Ruth
 Date    AB   H  AVG     AB   H  AVG
 9-20   480 179 .3729   480 177 .3688
 9-21   484 179 .3698   483 179 .3706
 9-22   489 182 .3722   487 179 .3676
 9-25                   494 184 .3725
 9-26   498 188 .3775   495 184 .3717

The statistics in the newspapers often told a different story. The morning of September 26th, The Detroit Free Press, to take one example, had Ruth trailing Manush by seven points when Ruth was actually in the lead by the narrowest of margins (.00028). One problem is that the statistics didn't include Ruth's five hits in seven at-bats (including three home runs) in the double-header the day before, but they also showed Manush with one fewer at-bat and one more hit. As it was, Ruth played only one inning in the double-header that closed out the season while Manush collected six hits to take the batting crown. I wonder if the Babe would've played more had he known that he started the day with the highest average in the league.90

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. It has been done five times since, but not since 1961:

Player                Date
Ray Morehart       1926- 8-31
Freddie Lindstrom  1928- 6-25
Bill Terry         1929- 6-18
George Case        1940- 7- 4
Pete Runnels       1960- 8-30
Lee Thomas         1961- 9- 5

Both Bill Terry's Giants and Lee Thomas' Angels were swept in their double-headers. Thomas' two games couldn't have been more different: in the first, he failed to score or knock in a run, while his four hits in the nightcap included three home runs, good for eight RBIs in their 13-12 loss.

White Sox first-baseman Earl Sheely also set a mark (since tied) by hitting seven extra-base hits (six doubles and a homer) in two consecutive games in May. Both of those games were in Fenway Park where Sheely hit .615 (24 for 39) in 1926. That wasn't the highest batting average in a park during the 1920s (25 or more at-bats minimum). Rogers Hornsby's 22-34 (.647) performance at Braves Field in 1923 was not only the highest during the 1920s, it would be highest since at least 1901 until Joe Torre went 23-35 (.657) at Wrigley Field and Roy White went 17-25 (.680) at Kansas City's Municipal Stadium in 1970.

On May 28th, Hughie Critz walked in all five at-bats in a game against the Cards. This was the 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 1901, 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 since 1901 after a variety of scoreless innings, from the Braves battering the Marlins 29-9 after a scoreless first in 2020 to the Astros edging the Mets with a single run in the bottom of the twenty-fourth in 1968.

 Inns   R  Date         Teams and Scores             Inns   R  Date         Teams and Scores
    1  38  2020- 9- 9   MIA N (9) at ATL N (29)        14   7  1995- 5- 2   LA  N (3) at SF  N (4)
  2-3  31  1926- 7-10   CHI A (14) at PHI A (17)    14-16   7  1920- 7-16   NY  N (7) at PIT N (0)
    4  27  1993- 5- 4   COL N (14) at CHI N (13)    17-18   3  2010- 4-17   NY  N (2) at STL N (1)
    5  19  1929- 8-18   CIN N (9) at BOS N (10)     19-20   2  1918- 8- 1   PIT N (2) at BOS N (0)
    6  18  1943- 6-19   CLE A (10) at CHI A (8)        21   1  1989- 8-23   LA  N (1) at MON N (0)
    7  14  2011- 6-24   WAS N (9) at CHI N (5)      21-23   1  1968- 4-15   NY  N (0) at HOU N (1)
 8-13  12  2013- 6- 5   CHI A (7) at SEA A (5)    

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, 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, twenty 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. The last pitcher to do this was Jake Arrieta in 2015 and 2016. 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. If we extend this back to 1901, two more pitchers join Spahn with four: Walter Johnson (in 1912, twice in 1917 and 1924), and Ed Walsh (in 1906, 1907, 1910 and 1911).91+

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 only two batters in the three games, which was not unusual for Mays. who averaged less than two strikeouts per nine innings that year. That was not the lowest of the decade, however. Among pitchers throwing at least 150 innings, 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 last of Carl Mays' three five-hit shutouts came against the Giants, and was his first win against them since the 1921 World Series. It would also be his last. We mentioned in an earlier review that Mays went a combined 48-3 against teams from Philadelphia. The Giants were the flip-side of this, with Mays going a combined 2-13 against them (1-10 in the regular season and 1-3 in the World Series). Both of his wins were five-hit shutouts.

The season's top pitching duel was Walter Johnson's 15-inning 1-0 victory over Eddie Rommel and the Athletics 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. It was the longest opening day game in major league history, breaking the mark of fourteen innings, last set in 1923 by the Phillies and Robins. It would be tied in 1960 by the Indians and Tigers before being broken by the sixteen inning opener played by the Blue Jays and Indians in 2012

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.

In the "misery loves company" category, during the first game of their September 16th double-header with the Cardinals, the Phillies employed six pitchers and each allowed at least two runs in the 23-3 loss. Three of them: Mike Kelly (appearing in the last of his four major league games), Ed Baecht and Ray Pierce, all failed to retire a batter in a twelve-run third-inning, and the best performance of the six was turned in by Lefty Taber, who allowed five hits and two runs over the final three innings. This would happen next on April 23, 1954 when the Kansas City Athletics, in only their ninth game since relocating from Philadelphia, had all six of their pitchers hit hard in their 29-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox. But the Toronto Blue Jays did both of these teams one better when all six of their pitchers on August, 28, 1992 gave up at least three runs in a 22-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

And finally, one of the most well-known stories of the Robins during the Wilbert Robinson era involved a game in which three Brooklyn runners ended up on third-base. 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, 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."92 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.

What's New

2021-10-30:

Waner Brothers and the Cuyler Case.
Hornsby-Frisch trade.
Great American Home Run Derby.
Player-Managers get purged.
Johnny Neun runs wild.
More on Walter Johnson exit.

1927

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 weren't 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 four games 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 21-1 in the holiday double-header. It was the largest margin of victory in a twin-bill 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 victories over the sixth-place Athletics on June 28, 1939. Their sweep over the Senators was witnessed by a record crowd estimated at more than 74,000.93

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.

They scored the most and allowed the fewest runs in the AL and it wasn't close. They scored more runs per game than any team since 1897 and allowed 109 fewer runs than the next stingiest team in the league. Between Ruth, Gehrig and Earle Combs, they led the AL in every offensive category except batting average and stolen bases. Their pitchers had the two lowest ERAs. A sportswriter argued that Gehrig wasn't particularly valuable because the Yankees could have easily won the pennant without him, but he could just as easily made that case about Ruth as well.94

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 in 1926, 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.95+

The Pirates won their second pennant in three years behind first-year manager Donie Bush, and were led by two new faces since their last trip to the World Series: the Waner brothers. Paul, in his sophomore season, and his younger brother Lloyd, a rookie, combined for 460 hits, with Paul once again leading the NL in triples and batting average (while also topping the circuit in hits and RBIs), and Lloyd scoring the most runs in the league. Pie Traynor was once again the star of the infield while Ray Kremer, who took his second straight ERA crown, led the way on the mound.

One player mostly missing from the team down the stretch was outfielder Kiki Cuyler, one of the team's best hitters and a hero of their 1925 World Series win. He was benched by Bush after failing to slide into second on a force play on August 6th and would start only one more game the rest of the season, despite being healthy and the team in a close pennant race. His absence from the lineup (or the "Cuyler Case" as it was called) attracted almost as much attention from fans and sportswriters as the club's progress on the field. He would miss the World Series and be traded to the Cubs during the off-season.

On December 20, 1926, the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals sent Rogers Hornsby, their player-manager and star second-baseman, to the New York Giants for their star second-baseman Frankie Frisch and journeyman pitcher Jimmy Ring. The reason Cardinals' owner Sam Breadon gave for the move was Hornsby's failure to accept a one-year contract for $50,000, but it sounds like Breadon and general manager Branch Rickey were simply tired of having to deal with their difficult star.

The announcement caused an uproar in St. Louis. The St. Louis Chamber of Commerce and the Mayor tried to prevent the trade; Mark C. Steinberg, a member of the Cardinals board of directors said that the "trade is an insult to the fans of St. Louis and to the members of the board of directors, who were not consulted before the deal. A blow has been dealt to the fans in St. Louis that will be difficult to overcome."96 But my favorite take on the trade looked at the insult done, not to the fans or the board of directors, but to Hornsby's wife and child. The headline read: "Mrs. Hornsby to Be Torn From Her Girlhood Home By Action of Breadon in Banishing Rog," along with the sub-heading: "Baby Billy Hornsby Looks in Wide-Eyed Wonder From His Crib in Home That Cardinal Chief Must Give Up Here."97

In the short-term, the deal seemed to benefit both teams, with the Cardinals and Giants battling the Pirates until the final few days for the pennant. The fight for second-place wasn't decided until St. Louis' victory over the Cubs 6-4 on the final day. Frisch, glad to be away from John McGraw, had perhaps his best season, batting .337 with a league leading 48 stolen bases, while setting a major league record by handling 641 assists at second base. With Jesse Haines' 24-10 mark as well as the last twenty-season of Pete Alexander's career, the Cardinals improved from 89 to 92 wins, despite failing to defend their crown.

No longer a manager, a healthy Hornsby led the league in on-base and slugging percentage during his year in New York. Any time a pennant race is that close (and the top three teams were separated by only two games) there are usually any number of things you can point to as a reason for a team's failure to win. In the Giants case, I figured it was star shortstop Travis Jackson's burst appendix in early April that caused him to miss the first month of the season, but then I noticed that the player who took over short in his absence, Doc Farrell was leading the league with a .408 batting average on the day Jackson reclaimed his position, so maybe that wasn't one of those reasons after all.

Frisch would be in St. Louis for the next twelve years and would even duplicate Hornsby's feat of playing second base and managing the Cards to a World Series championship (as part of the colorful Gashouse Gang in 1934). Hornsby would wear out his welcome in New York and get traded to the Boston Braves for Shanty Hogan and Jimmy Welsh after the season, continuing a journey that would see him play on four different teams in as many years.

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 were talked about most of the season, and for most of 1927, they didn't look good. He hit his 43rd home run on the last day of August, leaving him 17 shy of the record. Entering September, the mark for the 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'd 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.98+ 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 in 1927 he topped that total before the end of June. For much of the season, the newspapers followed what the New York Times called "The Great American Home Run Derby"99 between Gehrig and Ruth. The two were tied as late as September 5th, before the Babe put some distance between them by homering five times in three games, tying a major league record,100+ while Lou would go 19 games between homers. In the end, Gehrig had to settle for leading the league in doubles and RBIs, while finishing second in runs, hits, triples, home runs, walks, slugging percentage and OPS. Oh, he was also second in the league in strikeouts (to Ruth, with Tony Lazzeri and Bob Meusel rounding out the top four).

In a world without Babe Ruth, Gehrig would have eclipsed Ken Williams' 1922 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 Athletics. (Of course, you could argue that Gehrig, Hornsby and Williams would have been very different hitters 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.

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."101

I bet that with a little digging, I could find a similar editorial from every decade in major league baseball history.

The off-season between 1926 and 1927 was not kind to player-managers. I already mentioned Rogers Hornsby's departure from the Cards, and in an earlier review I covered Dutch Leonard's accusation against Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker that probably cost the two Hall of Famers their managerial jobs. But that off-season also saw the departure of Eddie Collins from the White Sox and George Sisler from the Browns. At the end of 1926, there had been seven player-managers, and by the beginning of 1927 only two remained: the Senators' Bucky Harris and the Braves' Dave Bancroft. And when you add in the three non-playing managers (Lee Fohl, Bill Mckechnie and Art Fletcher), who were fired, half of all the major league managers were let go that off-season. And while this was the lowest survival rate for managers since 1900, there were several other years (1901, 1909, 1911, 1920 and 1929) that came close (seven managers didn't return) as well as three years (1935, 1944 and 1990) when all survived the off-season.

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 1901. Nap Lajoie came the closest before him, hitting .536 against the Orioles in 1901, and rookie Mark Grace came the closest since. with a .568 average against the Pirates in 1988.

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.102 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.103

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 would be only one other unassisted triple play in the major leagues in the next 65 years, Ron Hansen's triple-killing 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  2010s  2020s
   1      0      6*     0      0      0      1      0      0      2      5      0      0

* - includes one in the World Series

Johnny Neun also made news that summer when he stole five bases in a game on July 9th. It was the first time anyone had stolen five or more bases since Vin Campbell in 1914 and it wouldn't be done again until Amos Otis in 1971. It was the second game of a double-header (the Yankees had won the first 19-7) and was called due to darkness after the seventh. I mentioned in my review of 1919 how different the unwritten rules of baseball were back then, but Neun stole his last two bases of the game in the bottom of the seventh with the Tigers already ahead 14-4 and the umpires getting ready to call the game. I suspect that had the game been played in the Bronx instead of Detroit, his last two stolen bases would have been scored as defensive indifference. The next day, Detroit continued running wild on the Yankees when Jackie Tavener stole second, third and home in the fourth inning.

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 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 his team scoring 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 was knocked out with one out in the top of the first inning.

Red Ruffing didn't pitch as long as Bob Smith 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."104

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 to go even seven straight starts without a strikeout since 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. Johnson took the mound for the last time on September 22nd, getting knocked out in the top of the fourth after four straight hits had put the St. Louis Browns up 6-1, the only Senators' run scoring on Johnson's home run leading off the bottom of the third.

But while he was through pitching, Johnson would make one more appearance for the Senators. After Ruth's 60th home run off Tom Zachary in the bottom of the eighth had given New York a 4-2 lead on September 30th, Johnson pinch-hit for Zachary in the top of the ninth with two out and no one and ended the game with a fly ball to Ruth in right. Pinch-hitting was nothing new for Johnson. He did it at least 132 times in his career, and over the last 12 games of his career, he was called upon more often to pinch-hit (7) than pitch (5).105+

What's New

2021-10-30:

Updated regular season and World Series description.
Rogers Hornsby - the best hitter on the worst hitting team.
Pete Scott's unlikely home run barrage.
Goose Goslin wins a close batting race.

1928

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 didn't 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 Athletics 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 gave 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. New York clinched the pennant on September 28th with a 11-6 victory over the Tigers, a game that featured George Pipgras' 24th win of the season.

Still, the A's had played extremely well over the last two and a half months of the season. I suspect they were helped down the stretch by having Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker on the bench instead of in the outfield (although having Lefty Grove and Eddie Rommel going a combined 21-6 with a 1.92 ERA probably also had something to do with it.) Whatever the reasons, here are 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.

Babe Ruth once again 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 1901.

Lou Gehrig hit twenty fewer home runs than the year before but still finished second in the league with 27. The trio of Ruth, Gehrig and Earle Combs once again dominated the AL leader-board, finishing first or second in every major offensive category except batting average (where Gehrig finished third) and stolen bases (where the team was next to last). Gehrig would not hit fewer than 29 homers again until 1939.

Over in the NL, the Cardinals took over first place in mid-June and held it until the Giants 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 seventh-place Boston Braves at home, dropping them into third place.

The Braves made it up to the Giants when the two teams met in Boston for four double-headers in five days starting on September 10th. The Braves always seemed to play a lot of twin-bills, but this batch was a disaster for the locals, who lost all eight games. Two days earlier, they had completed a similar stretch of four double-headers in five days (and a week after New York left town, they would do it again).106+ In the Giants final sweep on September 14th, the Braves started Bob Smith in both games (he had failed to retire a batter in the first). Since then, only two pitchers have started and lost both ends of a double-header: Jack Russell, in 1929 and Wilbur Wood in 1973. Wood also didn't retire a batter in the first game either, while Russell left his first game after an inning.

The Giants entered Boston a third-place team and left it only a game out of first. They won three of their next four, but the Cardinals had gone into Philadelphia to play the Phillies, the only team in the league worse than the Braves, and swept them as well. So when New York took two out of three from the Cards in their final meeting of the year on September 20th and September 21st they were still a game back. St. Louis won six of their next seven games (including two fifteen-inning road victories), while the Giants were dropping three of four to the Cubs, the Cards finally clinching the pennant on the next to last day of the season, beating the Braves 3-1 behind Bill Sherdel's 21st win.

St. Louis was led at the plate by Jim Bottomley, who was the best hitter in the league not named Hornsby, and Chick Hafey, who wasn't far behind, and on the mound by Sherdel, Jesse Haines and Pete Alexander, who turned 41 before the start of the season. Haines was the staff leader down the stretch, allowing only eleven earned runs in his last nine starts, all complete game victories. Bill McKechnie was in first year at the helm of the Cards, the second straight year that a newcomer had taken a team to the World Series (after Donie Bush, who had succeeded McKechnie at Pittsburgh in 1927). Bill was the second manager to take two different teams to the World Series, following Pat Moran, who took the Phillies in 1915 and the Reds in 1919. Moran was only 48 when he died in the spring of 1924, but in the nine years he managed, his teams won two pennants and finished second four times.

For the Giants, Mel Ott, Fred Lindstrom, Shanty Hogan and Travis Jackson all had fine seasons and only Jackson would turn 25 before the end of the year. They also had two twenty-game winners in Larry Benton (25-9) and Freddie Fitzsimmons (20-9). The team scored exactly as many runs as the champions (807) and allowed only 17 more. As well-matched as those two teams were, either one could have taken the flag, but Giants fans had to wonder what might have happened if manager John McGraw had made two fewer deals the previous off-season.

The first was McGraw's January 10th trade that sent Rogers Hornsby to the Braves for Shanty Hogan and Jimmy Welsh. Shanty Hogan gave the Giants five good years behind the plate and Welsh had one okay year in center, but Hornsby was far and away the best hitter in the NL that year and the next (and when he could stay in the lineup, 1931 as well). Yes, teams did play "hot potato" with Hornsby during these years, but the difference between having him or Andy Cohen at second was the difference between clinching the pennant a week early and finishing a close second. But it gets worse.

A little more than a month later, the Giants and Pirates swapped 34-year-old right-handed pitchers, with New York getting Vic Aldridge, coming off a 15-10 season with a 4.25 ERA, in exchange for Burleigh Grimes, who went 19-8 with a 3.54 ERA. Like Hornsby, Grimes had come to the Giants prior to 1927 only to be sent on his way after one very successful season. Grimes was considered the better pitcher of the two, but he also had a hot temper and was difficult to get along with, and it seems from a distance that one of the objectives of both of these trades was to make things easier for McGraw.107+

Whatever the reason, this deal couldn't have turned out worse for New York. Aldridge held out that spring and was suspended for the first month of the season. Once he arrived, he didn't pitch particularly well and was farmed out in September after going 4-7 with a 4.83 ERA. Grimes, on the other hand, tied Larry Benton for the league lead in wins with 25 and complete games with 28, led the league in innings pitched, and was arguably one of the two or three most valuable pitchers in the NL.

For the second time in three years, the Yankees faced the Cardinals in the World Series, and despite their success since the last meeting, were underdogs at the start. Had both teams been at full strength, this may have been different, but the Yankees had a number of players out with injuries or playing hurt, including Herb Pennock, Earle Combs, Joe Dugan, Tony Lazzeri and Babe Ruth. And if that wasn't enough, Lou Gehrig fielded a bad hop grounder with his face in the last game of the season and was knocked unconscious.108

But despite these worries, the Yankees dismantled the Cards with almost shocking ease. Waite Hoyt allowed only three hits in their 4-1 win in game one, while Ruth and Gehrig combined for five hits (including three doubles) and Bob Meusel hit a two-run homer in what would turn out to be the closest game of the series. The next day, the Yankees got a measure of revenge when Gehrig hit a three-run homer with one out in the bottom of the first off of Pete Alexander, the hero of the 1926 series, on their way to knocking him out in the third inning of a 9-3 Yankee win.

Lou Gehrig hit two home runs when the series resumed in St. Louis two days later, with the go-ahead runs scoring in the top of the sixth on two errors by Cardinals' catcher Jimmie Wilson and a steal of home by Bob Meusel (part of a double-steal with Tony Lazzeri and Bob's second steal of home in a World Series game). Babe Ruth put the finishing touches on the sweep with three home runs in game four, including one that was part of back-to-back shots in the seventh inning (with Gehrig) that wiped out one of the few Cardinal leads of the series and led to their second straight 7-3 win. This time, New York needed only three pitchers in the four games, and once again, they permitted a total of only ten runs. But despite the fine mound work, this 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

In his eleven games against the Cardinals in the 1926 and 1928 World Series, Ruth hit seven home runs, including two three-homer games.

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 or more extra-base hits in a game on three different occasions, having previously turned the trick in 1925 and 1926. Both Ty Cobb (1921, 1922 and 1925) and Babe Ruth (1918, 1922 and 1927) previously did it in the AL, with considerably longer careers.

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 1901, 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 the day after New York clinched the pennant, and again in 2005.

I mentioned earlier that Rogers Hornsby was the best hitter in the National League in 1928. He spent the year playing for the Boston Braves, the worst hitting team in the league, a good reason why he didn't score or knock in a hundred runs or more. But how often has the best hitter in the league been on the team scoring the fewest runs? Well, if you define the best hitter as the one with the highest OPS, the answer is one: this is the only example in major league history. Now if you want to go old-school and only consider batting average when determining the league's best hitter, there are two more examples: Ichiro Suzuki with the 2004 Mariners and Freddy Sanchez with the 2006 Pirates

Two unlikely candidates set or tied home run records in 1928. The first was the Red Sox' Bill Regan, who had only 18 career homers in a six-year career, but in the June 16th game with the White Sox. went deep twice in the top of the fourth inning, as the Red Sox turned a 3-0 deficit into a 8-3 lead. He was only the second American League hitter to homer twice in one inning, the first being Ken Williams in 1922.

The second was the Pirates' Pete Scott who hadn't homered in his previous 87 games dating back to 1926 before heading into Boston for a three-game series against the Braves and hitting five there to tie the major league mark last done by Ruth in 1927. His streak (and nearly his wrist) was broken when he was hit by a throw from Pie Traynor while playing first base and had to leave the second game of the June 9th double-header. To add insult to injury, Scott was charged with an error on the play.109

In an earlier footnote, I mentioned that this became more commonplace in the 1920s and 1930s and would be tied eight more times before Tony Lazzeri raised the mark to six in 1936. Well, here are those eight players and see if you can spot the one doesn't quite belong: Chuck Klein (1929 and 1930), Babe Ruth (1930), Bill Terry (1932), Al Simmons (1932), Pete Scott (1928), Jimmie Foxx (1933) and Bob Johnson (1934). The five home runs Pete Scott hit in that series would be the last of his major league career, which ended after the 1928 season.

During the 1920s, people cared more about batting averages than they do today, and in particular, they cared about who had the highest average in each league. Maybe not as much as they did in 1910, when the prize of a Chalmers automobile caused all sorts of shenanigans, but more than they do today. And toward the end of the 1928 season, there was a close race for the batting crown between Goose Goslin, Heinie Manush and Lou Gehrig. One problem with writing about the race today is that at the time, the daily averages printed in the newspapers were often off several points from the official totals. So for example, after the last day of the season, The New York Times wrote: "Hornsby, Manush Top Hitters As Major Leagues End Season" over a chart showing Manush hitting .382 (241-631) and Goslin in second at .379 (173-456), while the Washington trumpeted that "Goslin Wins League Batting Title From Manush," showing the same statistics for Goslin while having 7 more at-bats for Manush, dropping him down to .378.110

It turned out that the Washington Post was correct and Goose Goslin did win the race. Using official figures, here's how the three stood on September 21st, and the 26th, when the Senators went to St. Louis for the final four games of the year so Goslin and Manush could decide the contest mano a mano (or ganso a mano):

           Goslin          Manush          Gehrig
 Date    AB   H  AVG     AB   H  AVG     AB   H  AVG
 9-21   423 157 .3712   606 224 .3696   531 196 .3691
 9-26   441 166 .3764   624 233 .3734   547 202 .3693
 9-27   445 167 .3753   628 235 .3742   552 204 .3696
 9-28   448 169 .3772   632 238 .3766   556 206 .3705
 9-29   451 171 .3792   634 239 .3770   559 208 .3721
 9-30   456 173 .3794   638 241 .3777   562 210 .3737

So Goslin was able to hold off Manush over the last nine days by hitting .485 (16-33) while Manush narrowed the gap with a .531 average (17/32), and Gehrig faded out of contention by hitting only .452 (14-31). By the way, this was the second photo finish in a batting race involving Manush in three years (the first is discussed here).

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.111 He was also a great boxer, tobacco-chewer, basketball player, and so on. The next spring, in a move which seems as bizarre today 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'd gotten into a fight with the manager and 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 after that, 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. I mentioned earlier 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 1912. 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.

The Athletics had a perfect record (8-0) in extra-innings. Since 1901, 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. Not counting 2020, only one other team went undefeated in extra-inning games, the 1995 Indians, but in their thirteen wins, they allowed three runs (while scoring eighteen).

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.112 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 on the Yankees (Earle Combs, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Waite Hoyt). Well, that got me 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, set three times: June 10, 1924, in a game between the Giants and Pirates, the next day between the same teams, and September 13, 1927, in a game between the Giants and Cards. If I had to predict which teams would have been involved in the games featuring the most future Hall of Famers in each league, the 1928 Yankees-Athletics and the 1927 Cards-Giants would have been close to the top of my 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 Famers 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.113 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.

What's New

2021-10-30:

Updated regular season and World Series description.
Scoring is up and so are players with 200+ hits.
Teams scoring and allowing the most runs.
Double-headers with 70 or more combined hits.
Multiple tie games on the same day.
Deadly stampede in Yankee Stadium.

1929

In a way, the Cardinals might have lost the 1929 pennant the previous November, when owner Sam Breadon over-reacted to his team's one-sided loss in the World Series by replacing manager Bill McKechnie with Billy Southworth. Having fired Rogers Hornsby after winning the World Series in 1926, and Bob O'Farrell after finishing second in 1927, McKechnie couldn't have been surprised if he'd been replaced after his team's humiliating defeat against the Yankees in 1928. With the managers of their two top farm clubs also winning pennants (in addition to Southworth, whose Rochester Red Wings took the International League crown, Frank Synder's Houston Buffaloes finished first in the Texas League), there was no shortage of candidates to take his place.

The main complaints against McKechnie were that he was too nice to his players and a terrible third-base coach. He was unpopular with the fans who, along with several of the players, felt the team had won the pennant in spite of him. The St. Louis Post Dispatch conducted a poll in November to see who the fans wanted to head the team and Southworth got nearly three times as many votes as McKechnie, and who was Breadon to argue? "Breadon congratulated Southworth on his landslide victory in the Post-Dispatch straw vote and told him that he as owner of the Cardinals was pleased to cast the deciding ballot and to offer Billy the job of manager of the Cardinals."114+

Rather than being fired, McKechnie was sent down to replace Southworth at the helm of the Red Wings, ready to step in if the new Cardinals manager should falter. That didn't look likely through the middle of June, with the Cardinals holding a slim game and a half lead over the Cubs and Pirates. But from June 16th to July 15th, the Cards would go 6-23-1, including twelve straight losses to the Cubs and Pirates, dropping them out of the race. The Cardinals would not have as bad a record in a thirty-game span again until their 1988 team would go 6-24 from June 10th to July 15th.

The problem was pitching. The team had allowed 4.56 runs a game before that and would allow 4.59 runs a game after (a rate that would have led the league), but they gave up an average of 7.97 runs during their skid. They were without Pete Alexander for all but an inning of those games, and Bill Sherdel and Jesse Haines, twenty-game winners the year before, went a combined 3-9, allowing 97 runs in 85 1/3 innings. A week later, Southworth and McKechnie swapped jobs again. Breadon admitted he had made a mistake by firing McKechnie earlier: "I realize now that he is a great manager. I simply took the World Series too much to heart, I guess." And he wasn't just bringing him back for this season: "Just what I think of McKechnie can be seen when I say that he can have the position again in 1930 if he cares to have it."115+

Even without the managerial instability, the Cards would've had their hands full trying to repeat because the Cubs, led by manager Joe McCarthy, had picked up Rogers Hornsby the previous fall in return for $200,000 and five players, and with him at second base and an outfield of Hack Wilson, Riggs Stephenson and Kiki Cuyler, all obtained from other organizations, the team scored the most runs in the major leagues since 1897. And with the second-best pitching staff in the league, the Cubs won 98 games, and for the first time in over ten years, Chicago fans had something other to look forward to in October than their City Series with the White Sox.

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 their 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.

The Yankees started to realize they weren't going to win a fourth straight pennant early on, when the Athletics went on a 25-3 streak from May 17th to June 15th, turning a half-game deficit for New York into a nine game hole. The teams had two of the best offenses in the league, but the Yankees couldn't match Philadelphia's pitching, with off-years from Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock, who failed to return to his previous form after suffering arm trouble the last two months of 1928, finishing with his first losing season since coming over from Boston six years earlier.

During their 25-3 run, the Athletics' Lefty Grove, Rube Walberg and George Earnshaw went a combined 16-0, while the middle of their batting order (Mickey Cochrane, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Bing Miller) combined to hit .409 with a 1.111 OPS. Foxx would still be hitting over .400 as late as July 9th, on the way to his first of twelve straight years with 30 or more home runs and 100 or more RBIs. Despite appearing in his fifth year with Philadelphia, Foxx was still only 21 years old at the end of the season.

The Cubs and Athletics combined to make it a bad year for pennant races. For the first and only time from 1901 to the start of divisional play, both league leaders were ten or more games ahead to stay by September 1st (actually, the two league leaders were both at least ten games ahead for good as early as August 21st). The only other time this came close to happening was in 1910, when the two eventual pennant winners had a ten-game lead at the beginning of September, but for three days in early October, the Giants were able to get within nine and a half games of the lead. Like 1910, both of the teams running away from the pack were the Athletics and Cubs.

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 in Chicago. I guess he figured that Ehmke was rested, having last appeared in a game nearly a month earlier. The Cubs were a predominantly 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 pitchers 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, we're talking about a very small sample size, but Grove and Walberg held opposing batters to a .143 batting average (six singles in 42 at-bats).116+

Even if he didn't want to start a lefty, Mack had several options other than Ehmke on his staff, but perhaps he wanted to capitalize on the element of surprise. Prior to his start in game one, Ehmke had pitched only 54 1/3 innings during the regular season, but that included both two-hit and four-hit complete-game victories. Still, I can't imagine even Connie thought his gamble would pay off as well as it did, as Ehmke fanned a World Series record thirteen batters in a 3-1 victory. It was only the second time in his career he'd 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 win on May 1, 1923.

While most everyone but Connie Mack was surprised by his choice to start the series opener, James C. Isamunger of The Sporting News was probably less surprised than most. His column in the September 19th issue of the paper read: "Howard Ehmke Looms As Series Dark-Horse For Mack's Champs."117

The Athletics knocked out Pat Malone in the fourth inning the next day on their way to a 9-3 win. Grove relieved Earnshaw in the bottom of the fifth with two on and two out and Philadelphia up 6-3, striking out pinch-hitter Gabby Hartnett to end the threat and allowing only three singles the rest of the way. Under today's scoring rules he would have been given the win, but he got something that hadn't been invented yet (a save) instead. After a travel day, Mack sprung another surprise by sending Earnshaw out to start his second game in a row, but a Jimmy Dykes error and back-to-back run scoring singles by Hornsby and Cuyler gave Guy Bush all the help he would need in a 3-1 win.

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 walked 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 series finale brought even more late inning misery for Chicago. 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. For the second day in a row, Malone had given up the late-inning game-winning hit.

Howard Ehmke started that game for the Athletics and was no puzzle to the Cubs the second time around. He failed to strike out a batter before Walberg relieved him in the fourth inning with two outs, two on and two runs in. Like Grove in the second game, Walberg struck out the batter to end the threat and pitched brilliantly the rest of the way. After his two starts in the series, Ehmke would make only one more start in his major league career. For the series, the Cubs would fan fifty times (in 173 at-bats), a record for a five-game World Series that stood until 2018.

The New York Giants finished a distant third in 1929, but based solely upon their runs scored and allowed, they should have been a lot closer. In an earlier review, I mentioned Bill James' method for predicting a team's winning percentage based upon their runs scored and allowed. Well, based solely on these, here's what the NL's first division would have looked like:

Team     W   L   GB
CHI N   94  58    -
NY  N   92  59    1.5
PIT N   87  66    7.5
BRO N   78  74   16

The biggest reason for the difference is New York's league worst 15-28 record in one-run games.

Scoring was up in 1929, with the two leagues having the highest combined runs scored per game (5.19) since the NL averaged 5.91 in 1897 (before the foul strike rule). And it would go even higher in 1930. I mentioned earlier that the Cubs this year scored the most runs of any team since 1897. That record would be broken by 3 teams in 1930 (including the Cubs). So these shifting run environments need to be kept in mind when evaluating the statistics from year to year. For example, four players in the major leagues had 200 or more hits in 1926; in 1929 and 1930, there were 19 and then 20.

And since we're on the subject of players with 200 or more hits, the 1929 Phillies were the first team with four players who did this, including Lefty O'Doul with an NL-record 254 (which would be tied the next year by Bill Terry). The 1937 Tigers are the only team to do this since, and the last team with three players in the 200-hit club is the 1991 Texas Rangers (and see the next chart for more on them).

Detroit scored and allowed the most runs in the AL. This was only the second time a team had led its league in both categories (the first was the 1885 Athletics of Philadelphia), and it has been done sixteen times since. Many of these were caused by teams playing in parks that are extremely hitter-friendly. For example, the Colorado Rockies in 1995-1997, 2001 and 2014-2015. Here is a list of the teams that did this with relatively neutral ballparks:

Year Team    RS   RA    PF   Year Team    RS   RA    PF
1885 PHI a  764  691  1.13   1970 SF  N  831  826  0.93
1929 DET A  926  928  1.02   1986 CLE A  831  841  1.13
1940 PIT N  809  785  0.95   1991 TEX A  829  814  0.96
1959 CIN N  764  738  1.11   2008 TEX A  901  967  1.14

So for example, that 1885 team's home games saw 13% more runs scored than their away games, while the 1940 Pirates had 5% fewer.

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 such a young 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.118 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 home run in a 11-7 victory over the Browns. This time, the ball costs Babe $10 and a new ball.119. 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 had 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 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 third 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 strike out 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 Tribune120 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 the 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. 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 (since at least 1901, he's the only starting pitcher to do it).121+ The 73 combined hits in the double-header is also a record. Since 1901, there have been six twin-bills where the teams combined for 70 or more hits and all of them took place between 1922 and 1932 and were played in the Phillies' Baker Bowl.

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. Five weeks earlier, Boston was on the receiving end of a 24-6 thrashing at the hands of the Athletics, the first game in major league history in which all four of a team's pitchers gave up five runs or more. It would happen only twice more, later that month (on May 18th, when all four pitchers gave up exactly five runs each), and in 2007, when the four Orioles pitchers gave up six, seven, eight and nine runs in their 30-3 loss to the Rangers.

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. The team record of 37 was set by the 1908 Highlanders from September 3rd to the 7th.

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."122

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 a victory in 1902 and when this was corrected he moved back into a tie with Alexander for the record.

There were two games in the National League on May 1st. No winners or losers, just two 4-4 ties. Both games were 4-2 heading into the ninth and were called after the 13th inning. Having two ties like this was unusual but not terribly so: it has happened 26 times in the NL (eight since 1901), and eight times in the American League. Prior to 1929, it had last happened on August 31, 1917, and it would happen next on August 8, 1937. There was even one day with three ties in the NL (April 26, 1897), but this was the second and last time in history that all two or more of a league's games would end without a winner or loser. The first: June 6, 1887, and the next closest since 1901 was when two of the three American League games on May 5, 1906 ended in ties.

The first game of a scheduled double-header was stopped (and the second game cancelled) when a thunderstorm hit Yankee Stadium on May 19th. There were about 9,000 fans in the open bleachers when the rain began. A lightning bolt caused a panic and in the resulting stampede two people were killed and thirty injured as they rushed to the exit gates.123

Miller Huggins managed his final game on Thursday, September 19th. With the weather cold and their opponent the seventh-place White Sox, only 1,000 fans attended, the smallest crowd to witness a game at Yankee Stadium in more than three years. Huggins, who had been in poor health for much of the year, entered St. Vincent's Hospital the next day with a temperature of 104 for "a slight operation." He died five days later of blood poisoning caused by an infection beneath his left eye and was buried on September 27.124

Acknowledgements

A host of people worked on making these boxscores available to baseball researchers. They include: Dave Lamoureaux, David Vincent, Bob Allen, Javier Anderson, Greg Antolick, Mark Armour, Chris Bates, Bob Boehme, Steve Bond, Jeff Bower, Tom Bradley, Rob Carron, Jim Clausing, Wade Coble, Clem Comly, Dennis Dagenhardt, Tom Davis, Richard Deegan, Larry Defillipo, Chris Dial, Jeff Eby, Mike Elliot, Steve Elsberry, Ken Fisher, Michael Fornabaio, David Foss, Jim Fraasch, Terry Frala, Jonathan Frankel, Gary Frownfelter, Mike Grahek, Aaron Greenberg, Brian Grinnell, Ed Hartig, Kathy Hartley, Chuck Hildebrandt, David Hoehns, Patrick Hourigan, Hugh Humphries, Howard Johnson, Ryan Jones, John Kalous, Christopher Kamka, David Kocher, Herm Krabbenhoft, Sean Lahman, Gary Lauher, Andre Leclerc, Walter LeConte, Dan Lee, John Lee, Bob LeMoine, Joel Luckhaupt, Trent McCotter, Bill McMahon, Sheldon Miller, Joe Murphy, Jack Myers, Dave Newman, Bill Nowlin, Paul Olubas, Charlie O'Reilly, Eric Orns, Ian Orr, Claude Paradis, Gary Pearce, Rob Pettapiece, Jonathan Pollak, J.G. Preston, Brad Ramirez, Denis Repp, Mike Round, Mark Ruckhaus, Ken Ruppert, Charles Saeger, Carl Schweisthal, Tasha Shaindlin, Stu Shea, Terry Small, Sean Smith, Matt Souders, Tom Stillman, Bob Strab, Tom Thress, Bob Timmermann, Dixie Tourangeau, Steve Vetere, Ron Wargo, Ed Washuta, Ron Weaver, Paul Wendt, Neil Williams, Mark Williamson, Rob Wood, Andrew Zager, Don Zminda and Pete Palmer.

Notes

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 he was 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.

4Actually, this is probably not true. Official RBI statistics are unreliable during the 1920s, especially with teams from St. Louis. It was a new statistic in 1920 and it took a while for some official scorers to understand what it was supposed to measure. So while officially both Sisler and Jacobson had 122 RBIs that year, we currently think that the correct values are 126 for Jacobson and 124 for Sisler.

5"Chapman Suffers Skull Fracture", New York Times. August 17, 1920. Page 14.

6"Ray Chapman Dies; Mays Exonerated", New York Times. August 18, 1920. Page 12.

7"Talk of Baseball Strike Dies Away", New York Times. August 28, 1920. Page 12.

8"New York Solemn Renewing Series", New York Times. August 19, 1920. Page 9.

9Here's what the editor of the Reach Guide had to say at the beginning of 1920 about the previous World Series:

"This surprising result [the Reds winning] led to many rumors of a lack of honesty in the series, some of the White Sox players being accused, by innuendo, of having sold out the series in the interest of gamblers. These nasty insinuations were found to be groundless after the most exhaustive investigation by the interested clubs, supplemented by an offer by President Comiskey of $10,000 for any evidence of crookedness. Despite this nothing whatever developed, and so with this signal failure to unearth a scintilla of evidence, and with the decisive factors in Cincinnati's victory plain to all, the fair name of base ball was once more re-established and the game still remains the most honest professional game on earth."

"The Reach Official American League Base Ball Guide for 1920," Francis C. Richter, editor (Philadelphia, A. J. Reach & Company, 1920), Page 12.

10"Confesses Sox Ball Plot", Chicago Daily Tribune. September 28, 1920. Page 1.

11With the American League pennant still in doubt on September 28th, Brooklyn president Charlie Ebbets said: "On the whole I am inclined to think that if the Chicago White Sox win the American League pennant the Brooklyn Club will not care to play them for the world's championship."

"8 Chicago Players Indicted; Ebbets May Refuse To Play World Series If Sox Win", Brooklyn Daily Eagle. September 28, 1920. Page 1.

12While Marquard had pitched well in his previous start, defeating the Giants 4-2 on September 26th, he had gone 1-1 in his six previous starts with a 5.50 ERA, and was arguably the team's worst starting pitcher. Yes, he did throw left-handed, and Cleveland did have a lot of lefty batters, but even if you wanted to go with a southpaw (and there was no evidence that the Indians had trouble with them in 1920) lefty Sherry Smith was one of the team's best pitchers down the stretch (including back-to-back shutouts in September) and would have been a much better choice (as he would demonstrate during the series).

13"'Gonna Finish Job In Cleveland,' Says Uncle Robbie", Brooklyn Daily Eagle. October 8, 1920. Page 3.

14"Arrest Marquard For Speculating", The New York Times. October 10, 1920. Page 1.

15Game 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.

16Before the foul strike was adopted by the NL in 1901 and the AL two years later, foul balls were not counted as strikes except in the case of two-strike foul bunts.

17Ralph S. Davis, "Pirates Can Jog To Finish Line." The Sporting News. August 25, 1921. Page 3.

18"McGraw Takes No Chances On Players Being Tampered With." The Pittsburgh Press. September 17, 1921. Page 10.

19Ralph S. Davis, "Dark Hints Against Some Of The Pirates." The Sporting News. September 22, 1921. Page 1.

20The New York Giants met the Brooklyn Bridegrooms in the 1889 Temple Cup, but Brooklyn was not part of New York City at the time.

21"Ruth Near Collapse After His Bunt Wins For Yankees, 3 To 1." The New York Times. October 11 13, 1921. Page 1.

22My thanks to Rich Klein for pointing out my omission of the Boyers in an earlier iteration of this article.

23Since 1901, the mark is held by Chief WIlson, during his 1912 season, when he hit 24 of his record 36 triples at home.

24"Kerr Casts Lot With Semi-Pros; Gets Big Figure." The Chicago Tribune. April 17, 1922. Page 19. And "'Wee Dick' Kerr, Hero of 1919 World Series, Back with Sox." The Chicago Tribune. August 5, 1925. Page 25.

I wonder how well Dickey Kerr would have done had he signed with the White Sox before the 1922 season. Yes, he had gone 19-17 with a poor team, but he had done that while leading the AL in hits, runs and earned runs allowed. His ERAs in his first three major league seasons had gone from 2.88 to 3.37 to 4.72, and even taking into account the increase in offense during those years, he was increasingly ineffective.

25It wasn't as simple as that. While World Series participants could take part in exhibition games, they could only do so until October 31st, and no more than three of them could appear in any one game. In addition, the players had to get the consent of both the club owners and Landis.

26"Sisler May Be Out For Rest of Year." The New York Times. September 13, 1922. Page 28.

27"Fans In Uproar As Tie Game Is Called; Receipts To Charity." The New York Times. October 6, 1922. Pages 1 and 18.

28"Huggins May Stay As Yanks' Manager." The New York Times. October 10, 1922. Page 17.

29Joe Vila, "Howl Of Wolves Stilled By Action Of The Colonels." The Sporting News. October 19, 1922. Page 1.

30In determining the "two worst" lineup spots, I am ignoring the ninth slot, even when examining teams burdened with the designated hitter rule.

31"Cubs Grab Two Games from Lowly Braves, 6-5 and 8-2", Frank Schreiber. Chicago Sunday Tribune. June 9, 1922. Page 1.

32With the bases loaded and one out in the sixth, Browns' manager Lee Fohl left his struggling pitcher in to face Ruth, and Pruett ended his day by striking out the Babe for the third straight time.

33On our website, we show an incomplete matchup with one less walk and strikeout. That's because we are currently missing play-by-play data for the game on July 8, 1923. But from the story in a St. Louis paper, we know that Ruth walked and struck out that day against Pruett.

Martin J. Haley, "Yankees Win From Browns, 6 to 4." St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat. July 9, 1923. Page 14.

34John J. Sheridan, "Superb Pitching by Doak Lands Cards Victors Over Phils, 1-0." St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat. July 14, 1922. Page 10.

That game was a rare bright spot in an otherwise dreadful stretch for Doak that year. His season reached a high-point with his four-hit win on June 8th, improving his record to 8-2 with an better than average 3.51 ERA, but apart from his near no-hitter, almost nothing went right for him after that, and by the beginning of September, he'd lost his spot in the starting rotation. His record both up to and after June 8th:

                 G  GS  CG SHO  IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO   W   L   ERA
To June 8th     12  12   6   1  77    77  37  30  22  31   8   2  3.51
After           25  17   2   1 103.1 144  88  76  47  42   3  11  6.62

35"Doak Allows but One Scratch Hit and Cardinals Beat Phillies, 5 to 1." St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat. August 11, 1920. Page 9.

36David Pietrusza, Matthew Silverman, Michael Gershman, editors, "Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia." (Kingston, New York: Total Sports Illustrated, 2000), Pages 292-293.

37"A's Learn There Are Bumps In Road For Best of Teams," James C. Isaminger. The Sporting News. June 28, 1923. Page 1.

38The other four are: Sam Rice in May-June 1925, Paul Waner in June 1927, Billy Herman in September 1935, and Tony Perez in August 1973. Tony Perez had exactly two hits in each game. The only other player with exactly two hits in even nine straight games since 1901 was Wattie Holm in July-August 1927. And (just because we have the technology to figure these kinds of things out) the record since at least 1901 for longest streak with a single hit in each game is sixteen by Ted Sizemore in June 1975.

39"Ehmke Blanks Macks Without a Safe Drive." Boston Daily Globe. September 8, 1923. Page 8.

40Here is the flip side: the teams that allowed the highest percentage of unearned compared to the rest of the league:

Year Team     R  UER    %     LG%   %/LG% RANK   
1921 PHI N  919  248  26.99  16.36  164.9    8
1943 PIT N  598  121  20.23  13.24  152.8    3
1928 BRO N  639  135  21.13  14.31  147.6    2
1958 NY  A  577   84  14.56  10.00  145.6    1
1957 CLE A  722  100  13.85   9.54  145.2    7
1917 CIN N  611  192  31.42  22.02  142.7    8
1946 CHI A  595  116  19.50  13.85  140.8    4
1945 BRO N  720  147  20.42  14.54  140.4    6
1920 PHI A  832  230  27.64  19.77  139.9    7
1937 BRO N  772  147  19.04  13.76  138.3    7

41John B. Keller, "Nationals' Infield a Makeshift Affair." The Evening Star (Washington D. C.) July 23, 1923. Page 25.

42"Johnson Passes 3,000 Mark In Strike-Outs." Times Union (Brooklyn). July 24, 1923. Page 14.

43The Baseball Encyclopedia. The Macmillan Company. Toronto, Canada. 1969. Page 1921.

44While Tierney holds the mark (since 1901) for most road games, Buck Herzog in 1916 played the most home games in a season (98). Similarly, while Glazner's 83 1/3 more innings pitched on the road than at home is the most since at least 1901, Jack Powell had an even more extreme home/road difference, but in the opposite direction, when he pitched 123 1/3 more innings at home (181 2/3) than on the road (58 1/3) in 1909.

45"Too Much New York Says St. Louis Fans." The Sporting News. October 13, 1921. Page 1.

46Wade Lefler helped derail his major league career by loudly complaining that he wasn't given a large enough World Series share. Since he was not with the team until September, he wasn't eligible to play in the series, but he argued that his big hits near the end of the season were worth more than the $1,150 dollars he was given by the players. It was felt that his protest was a factor in his being sent to the minor leagues that winter.

Charles J. Foreman, "The Tale of a Squawk That Boomeranged." The Sporting News. January 22, 1925. Page 6.

47"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.

48"'Got Big Kick in Kicking Yanks Out of Race,' Chuckles Cobb." The New York Times. October 1, 1924. Page 15.

49"Barney Hurls Fine Game in Blanking Jungaleers, 1 To 0," Frank H. Young. The Washington Post. July 31, 1923. Page 13.

50The complete transcript of Landis' interviews with members of the Giants was in the January 11, 1925 issue of The New York Times, pages S1 to S3. Blaisdell's article was in the 1982 edition of SABR's Baseball Research Journal.

O'Connell also implicated three of his teammates in the attempted bribe: Frankie Frisch, Ross Youngs and George Kelly, but they vehemently denied everything and were not punished. Dolan later asserted that when he said he had no recollection of discussing an attempt to fix a game three days earlier, that was just his way of saying that such a conversation had most certainly never happened, a defense that Landis was not buying.

51"Crazed By Thrills, Mad Mob Engulfs Heroes After Game," Francis P. Daily. The Washington Post. October 11, 1924. Page 2.

52"Sisler's Departure South Indefinitely Postponed." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. March 27, 1923. Page 24. And "George Sisler Soon To Undergo Sinus Operation." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April 10, 1923. Page 1.

53"Browns Sing Mobile Blues Over Delay in the Arrival of Sisler." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. March 10, 1923. Page 6.

54"Sisler Plays 'Catch' and Drives Auto 120 Miles on Outing Trip; In Game by August, Is Forecast." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. June 13, 1923. Page 22.

55"May Pitch if He Can't Play First." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. February 10, 1924. Pages 9-10.

56Even in his best season after his return in 1925, despite his .345 batting average, his .371 on-base percentage (courtesy of only 27 walks) was almost exactly the league average for a first-baseman and his .479 slugging percentage wasn't much better than average (.456).

57"Giants Victors, 8-1, Over The Braves." The New York Times. June 27, 1924. Page 23.

58Here is a complete list of brother-brother matchups:

Brothers:                     #      First          Last
Jesse and Virgil Barnes       5    1924- 6-26    1926- 9-11(2)
Joe and Phil Niekro           9    1967- 7- 4(1) 1982- 9-13
Gaylord and Jim Perry         1    1973- 7- 3
Pat and Tom Underwood         1    1979- 5-31
Greg and Mike Maddux          2    1986- 9-29    1988- 7-31
Pedro and Ramon Martinez      1    1996- 8-29
Alan and Andy Benes           1    2002- 9- 6
Jeff and Jered Weaver         1    2009- 6-20

Cousins:
Cliff and Rube Melton         1    1944- 4-30(1)

And here are the stats in those games for brothers with more than a single matchup:

Brothers        G  CG SHO  IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO   W   L   ERA
Jesse Barnes    5   3   1  34.2  38  17  17   6  11   3   2  4.41
Virgil Barnes   5   1   0  26.1  40  17  14   6   8   1   3  4.78

Joe Niekro      9   2   1  54.2  64  30  25  12  23   5   4  4.11
Phil Niekro     9   4   0  68.2  66  32  25  21  38   4   5  3.23

Greg Maddux     2   0   0  13.2  20   9   9   1  13   1   1  5.93
Mike Maddux     2   0   0  10.0  12   6   5   2   5   1   1  4.50

59"Red Sox Win Hectic Clash With Browns," Ford Sawyer. Boston Daily Globe. June 4, 1924. Page 12.

60"The Reach Official American League Base Ball Guide for 1926," Francis C. Richter, editor (Philadelphia, A. J. Reach & Company, 1926), Page 13.

61N. W. Baxter, "Nats' Speed And Strategy Win, 4 To 3; Pirates Drop Plan To Protest Game." The Washington Post. October 11, 1925. Pages 1 and 4.

62"Champs Take Fourth Game, Seemingly Clinching Series." The Washington Post. October 12, 1925. Page 5. And "Looks Like It's Over." The Pittsburgh Press. October 12, 1925. Page 24.

63Ralph S. Davis, "Peckinpaugh Has Big Lead In Race For Title Of Series Goat." The Pittsburgh Press. October 14, 1925. Page 24.

64For 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.

65"Shortstop Everett Scott is Benched; Consecutive Game Record Ends at 1,307," The New York Times. May 7, 1925. Page 13.

66"Speaker in 3000-Hit Class, Making Sixth Player to Reach It," The Boston Globe. May 18, 1925. Page A10.

67Here are the top twelve gaps between a players best and worst month in season (75 plate appearances minimum in each month):

  Gap  Player           Good          Bad           Year
 .843  Brandon Moss     June (1.199)  Sept (.356)   2016
 .822  Kole Calhoun     July (1.136)  May (.314)    2018
 .817  Kirk Gibson      April (1.181) June (.364)   1993
 .814  Rafael Palmeiro  July (1.336)  April (.522)  1993
 .807  Richard Hidalgo  Sept (1.504)  Aug (.697)    2000
 .805  Adam LaRoche     July (1.277)  April (.472)  2008
 .803  Jim Gentile      July (1.453)  Sept (.649)   1961
 .802  Ron Cey          April (1.433) Aug (.631)    1977
 .790  Jeff King        June (1.209)  July (.419)   1997
 .786  Alex Rodriguez   May (1.411)   Sept (.626)   1999
 .786  Gerardo Parra    July (1.212)  Sept (.427)   2015
 .782  Kole Calhoun     July (1.136)  April (.354)  2018

It's kind of amazing that Anaheim stuck with Calhoun through a truly horrific start to 2018, especially considering that right-fielders are usually supposed to hit. After his great July and a decent August, Calhoun closed out 2018 with a terrible September. And at the tail end of Parra's hot month, the Milwaukee Brewers sent him to the Baltimore Orioles for right-handed pitcher Zach Davies. The Orioles got two months of Parra, one of them that awful September, before he became a free agent and signed with the Colorado Rockies.

68Johnson and Bentley faced each other in game five of the 1925 World Series, and the two combined for three hits in six at-bats, including Bentley's home run. Johnson also batted once against Bentley in the deciding game, reaching first on Travis Jackson's error before rookie Earl McNeely gave the Senators their first championship with a run-scoring double in the bottom of the twelfth.

69Walter Johnson did strike out ten batters during the World Series that fall, but while he was an AL pitcher, this was not a league game.

70"Loss of Leonard Staggers Detroit," Sam Greene. The Sporting News. August 6, 1925. Page 3.

71"Ty Cobb," Charles C. Alexander. (New York, Oxford University Press, 1984) Page 187.

72"Cobb Tries Bench, But Can't Stand It," Sam Greene. The Sporting News. August 13, 1925. Page 2.

73"Judge Landis and 25 Years of Baseball," J. G. Taylor Spink. (St. Louis, The Sporting News Publishing Company, 1974). Pages 135-141.

74Ralph S. Davis, "Fans Say Rice Did Not Get Smith's Fly." The Pittsburgh Press. October 11, 1925. Page 4. And Francis Stann, "Rice Still Silent on 'Catch' in '25 Series." The Sporting News. October 17, 1964. Page 13. And Shirley Povich, "Sam Rice's Secret Is Out--He Made the Catch in '25." The Washington Post. November 5, 1974. Pages D1 and D5.

75"Carey Still Hears From Injured Ribs," Ralph S. Davis. The Sporting News. March 11, 1926. Page 1.

76"Guillotine Quickly Puts Down Pirate Anti-Clarke Rebellion," Ralph S. Davis. The Sporting News. August 19, 1926. Page 1.

77"Frisch's Home Run Upsets the Cubs, 2-0," Ik Shuman. The New York Times. August 11, 1926. Page 16.

78"Yankees Can Cinch Flag On Home Stay," Joe Vila. The Sporting News. August 19, 1926. Page 1.

79John McGraw, Charles Alexander. 1988. Page 273. And "Frisch Quit Giants, Angered By McGraw," The New York Times. August 22, 1926. Section 9. Pages 1-2.

80"Reds Beat Giants; Win Tenth In Row," The New York Times. August 25, 1926. Page 15.

81"Giants Will Face Braves Here Today," The New York Times. September 2, 1926. Page 16.

82"Giants Beat Cubs With Rally in 6th," The New York Times. September 22, 1926. Page 22.

83"Ross Young Improves Slowly," The New York Times. January 17, 1927. Page 15.

84"Giants Purchase Veteran Sicking," The New York Times. February 2, 1927. Page 19. And "Diamond is Turned into Cinder Track," The New York Times. March 3, 1927. Page 18.

85"Young Again Ill; Out For Season," The New York Times. March 4, 1927. Page 17.

86"Operate on Ross Young," The New York Times. March 5, 1927. Page S3.

87"Hornsby In Hospital; To Be Out Ten Days." The Sporting News. July 1, 1926 Page 1.

88For the years involving divisional play, I went with the team with the league's best record. So while the 1972 Oakland Athletics did go on to appear in the World Series, I would have included them even if they hadn't. I didn't check, but it's possible that some relatively mediocre teams might have completed shorter spans by reaching the series since 1969.

89Pete Alexander and Tony Lazzeri had something else in common in addition to one of the most famous at-bats in World Series history: they both suffered from epilepsy. Other major league players include Hal Lanier, Buddy Bell, Greg Walker and Jeremy Jeffress.

90"Manush in Line to Displace Heilmann as Junior Loop Batting Champion." The Detroit Free Press. September 26, 1926. Page 17.

91If you don't require the pitcher to finish (or even start) the game, the all-time leader in games where a pitcher had more hits than hits allowed is Walter Johnson with eleven (the four already mentioned plus two other starts (in 1913 and 1915) as well as these relief appearances:

   Game       IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC   AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI
1912- 6- 6     4    1  1     3  1  W     2  2  2  0  0  1  2
1912- 8- 5     2.1  0  0  0  1  2  W     1  0  1  0  0  0  0
1913- 7-18     4    0  0  0  0  3  W     2  0  1  0  0  0  1
1915- 7- 3(1)  1    0  0  0  0  2  SV    1  0  1  0  0  0  0
1921- 6-22     3    0  0  0  1  2  W     2  0  1  0  0  0  0

The pitcher in second-place was a surprise: Moe Drabowski, who had eight of these games, all but the first in relief. Here they are:

   Game       IP    H  R ER BB SO DEC   AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI
1963- 8-20(1)  9    1  0  0  2  2  W     4  1  2  2  0  0  0
1966- 4-`9     1.2  0  0  0  1  2  SV    1  1  1  0  0  0  1
1966- 7-20     4    0  0  0  0  8  SV    1  0  1  0  0  0  1
1967- 5-17     2.1  0  0  0  0  3  SV    1  0  1  0  0  0  0
1968- 6-11     2.2  0  0  0  0  2  SV    1  1  1  0  0  0  0
1968- 7-15     2    0  0  0  0  2  SV    1  0  1  0  0  0  0
1970- 4-16     2.1  0  0  0  1  4  SV    1  0  1  0  0  0  0
1971- 9-21     3    0  0  0  0  2  W     1  0  1  0  0  0  0

92"Robins in Form, Win Two in Day," Richards Vidmer. The New York Times. August 16, 1926. Page 11.

93"Record Crowd See Yanks Trample Senators Twice," The New York Times. July 5, 1927. Page 24.

94James R. Harrison, "Does Paul Waner Top Gehrig in Value to His Team? a Fan Asks." The New York Times. September 8, 1927. Page 30.

95At 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.

96"St. Louis Aroused Over Hornsby Deal." The New York Times. December 22, 1926. Page 17. And "Hornsby Trade Insult To Fans, Says Steinberg." The St. Louis Star. December 21, 1926. Page 2.

97"Mrs. Hornsby to Be Torn From Her Girlhood Home By Action of Breadon in Banishing Rog." The St. Louis Star. December 21, 1926. Page 1.

98Actually, 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.

99John Drebinger, "Ruth Hits 48th, 49th As Yanks Sweep On." The New York Times. September 8, 1927. Page 30.

100Here were the players he tied:

1882 CLE A  Mike Muldoon     August 17-19
1885 CHI N  King Kelly       September 23-25
1921 NY  A  Babe Ruth        June 12-14
1922 STL A  Ken Williams     April 22-24
1925 DET A  Ty Cobb          May 4-6 or 5-7

Mike Muldoon hit only one other home run that season and the five homers in those three games represent half of his career total. And since Ty Cobb actually hit his five in back-to-back games, his three-game streak can include either the game before or after those two. This record was tied on eight other occasions after 1927 before Tony Lazzeri broke it in 1936.

101"The Golden Age of Baseball - And Those Who Were Born Too Soon," Jim Nasium. The Sporting News. November 4, 1927. Page 3.

102"Phils Move Games to Athletics' Park." The Sporting News. May 19, 1927. Page 1.

103"Killed at a Ball Game." Boston Daily Globe. August 9, 1903. Page 1.

104"Bob Quinn Has Good Reason For the 'If'." The Sporting News. September 15, 1927. Page 3.

105During the years Johnson played it was common to only keep track of pinch-hitters who did not remain in the game. So if Johnson had pinch-hit for the pitcher and stayed in the game to pitch, he would simply be marked on his batting sheet as having pitched. So in general, it is a good idea to treat any pinch-hitting data from this era with a sizable grain of salt.

106I mentioned that the Boston Braves always seemed to play a lot of double-headers. For example, in 1928, from August 31st to September 24th, they played fifteen DHs and only three single games, including nine straight in a span of twelve days. 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

107John McGraw, for his part, gave this reason for the Grimes-Aldridge swap: "The main reason for that deal was because of Grimes's late start last season. He is older than Aldridge and I didn't think he would get started any sooner this Spring. I had to have a pitcher who could start winning games in April and May so I made the trade."

First of all, Grimes was a little more than two months older than Aldridge, and I'm not sure why it matters when a pitcher wins his games. At any rate, despite his typically slow start that year, Grimes still had more wins at the end of May (5) than Aldridge, who didn't win his first game until May 25th, had all year.

McGraw was also criticized for the May 10th trade that sent George Harper to the Cardinals for Bob O'Farrell. And while Harper did hit a ton in St. Louis (17 homers in 272 at-bats along with a .955 OPS), the trade was designed to make room for Mel Ott, which helped the team in both the short and long-term. And even though O'Farrell didn't hit much while backing up Hogan behind the plate in 1928, he was a pretty valuable part-time player for the next couple of years. What made this trade stick out as a poor move for Giants fans was the three home runs Harper hit in the first game of the September 20th double-header, preventing a Giants' sweep and a much different pennant race over the last week of the season.

Richard Vidmer, "McGraw Airs Deals On Reaching Camp." The New York Times. February 20, 1928. Page 17. And John Kieran, "Sports of the Times." The New York Times. February 12, 1928. Page 154.

108"Cardinals Now the Favorites In World Series art 7 to 10." The New York Times. October 1, 1928. Page 18.

109Lou Wallen, "Pirates Take Double-Header From Braves, 6-2, 6-3." The Pittsburgh Press. June 10, 1928. Page 43.

110"Hornsby, Manush Top Hitters As Major Leagues End Season." The New York Times. October 1, 1928. Page 18. And "Goslin Wins League Batting Title From Manush." The Washington Post. October 1, 1928. Page 11.

111"College Grid May Hide Shires; Under What Name?" Edward Burns. Chicago Daily Tribune. November 3, 1928. Page 26.

112Joseph J. Dittmar, "Baseball's Benchmark Boxscores" (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1990), Pages 43-47.

113"A's Seven Hall of Famers Blanked by Rookie in '28," L. Robert Davids. The Sporting News. February 4, 1953. Page 8.

114J. Roy Stockton, "Is Managing Cards a One-Year Job, or Will McKechnie Be Back?" The St. Louis Post Dispatch. October 14, 1928. Page 3S. And J. Roy Stockton, "Billy Southworth Chosen To Manage the Cardinals." The St. Louis Post Dispatch. November 21, 1928. Pages 1-2.

One curious thing about Southworth's promotion is that, like the 1928 Cards, his Red Wings had also suffered a one-sided postseason defeat, going 1-5-1 in that fall's Little World Series.

"Hoosier Victory Gives Edge To Association." The Sporting News. October 11, 1928. Page 7.

115"Southworth Out, McKechnie Back as Cards' Pilot." The St. Louis Star. July 23, 1929. Pages 1-2. And Herman Wecke, "McKechnie Recalled by Breadon To Take Over Managing Cardinals." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. July 23, 1929. Pages 13-14.

And spoiler alert: McKecknie didn't want to return in 1930, taking a job managing the Braves instead. And the fact that he would rather manage the perennial cash-strapped second-division Braves instead of the Cardinals gives you an indication of just how much he didn't like working for Breadon.

116Connie Mack's reluctance to start Lefty Grove in the World Series might have been due to his pitcher's poor second-half. Here's how he did up to and after his five-hit shutout of the Browns on July 12th:

                G  GS  CG SHO  IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO   W   L   ERA
Up to 7-12     21  20   9   2 157   134  45  33  40 111  15   2  1.89
After          21  17   6   0 118   144  59  53  41  59   5   4  4.04

And Mack also might have been worried by Grove's performance in five post-season series with the Baltimore Orioles in the Little World Series from 1920 to 1924:

                G  GS  CG SHO  IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO   W   L    RA
1920            1   0   0   0   4     3   4       2   2   0   0  9.00
1921            3   2   1   0  13.2  13  11      15  10   0   3  7.24
1922            2   2   0   0  13    13   5      11  16   0   1  3.46
1923            5   5   1   0  25    24  17      17  18   1   2  6.12
1924            4   4   2   0  28    26  13      17  27   2   2  4.18
Total          15  13   4   0  83.2  79  50      62  73   3   8  5.38

117James C. Isamunger, "Howard Ehmke Looms As Series Dark-Horse For Mack's Champs." The Sporting News. September 19, 1929. Page 1.

118"Ruth Hits His 500th Major League Homer, but Yanks Lose", William E. Brandt. The New York Times. August 12, 1929. Page 19.

119"Ruth Gives $10 For Ball". The New York Times. August 22, 1931. Page 11.

120"It Takes Eleven Innings Again, But Sox Win, 4-2", Irving Vaughan. Chicago Daily Tribune. July 16, 1932. Pages 11, 13.

121Although Frankhouse is the only starting pitcher with seven at-bats in a nine-inning game, he is not the only one with seven plate-appearances. The other two are Mort Cooper, with six at-bats and a walk on June 10, 1944, and Chuck Stobbs, who walked four times to go with three at-bats on June 8, 1950.

122"Chance in Outfield Coming For Ruffing", Burt Whitman. The Sporting News. June 6, 1929. Page 3.

123Martin Sommers, "2 Die, 30 Hurt In Fan Panic As Rain Hits Yank Stadium." Daily News. May 20, 1929. Pages 2 and 4.

124William E. Brandt, "Yankees Shut Out By McKain, 7 To 0." The New York Times. September 20, 1929. Page 29. And William E. Brandt, "Cold Weather Stops Yankees-White Sox." The New York Times. September 21, 1929. Page 15. And "Miller Huggins Dies; Many Pay Tribute." The New York Times. September 25, 1929. Pages 1 and 22.