1927 Yankees: The Legends Are True

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The 1927 New York Yankee team was destined for greatness. Why? Most of it was payback for the 1926 season. In 1925, after winning three pennants and two World Series from 1921-1923, the Yankees had a miserable 1925, with Babe Ruth feuding with manager Miller Huggins and American League President Ban Johnson before finally being benched by the Yankee skipper. The Bronx Bombers rebounded the next year by winning the pennant before losing a seven-game matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Yanks should have won that one. However, in the ninth inning of Game Seven with St. Louis ahead 3-2, Ruth, on first with a walk, tried stealing second. He was thrown out and the Series came to a sudden ending.

Spring training 1927 couldn’t happen fast enough. The regular season was a romp with the Yankees sporting a 110 and 44 record. Ruth and his fellow slugger, Lou Gehrig, had the best years of their legendary careers. Ruth hit .356 with 60 home runs and 164 runs batted in. Hitting in the cleanup spot, Gehrig had 47 home runs, driving in an incredible 175 runs and batting .373 (you are reading this right). And that was just for starters. That great team included Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri at second base, Joe Dugan at third base and Mark Koenig at shortstop. The outfield had two Hall of Famers: The Bambino in right field and the unjustly-forgotten Earle Combs in centerfield. The mighty Bob Meusel manned the cavernous left field real estate and Pat Collins was behind the plate. In the lead off position, Combs batted .356, while Meusel hit .337, with 103 runs batted in. Lazzeri had 102 ribbies, giving the Bombers four players with another 100 runs batted in.

On the mound, the Yankees were led by the righty-lefty combination of Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock. That year, Hoyt won 22 games, while Pennock won 19. The Yankees went on to defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series, 4-0. Legend had it that before Game One, the Yankees put on such a powerful hitting display in batting practice that the Pirate squad was demoralized for good.

But it was The Babe’s team and for that matter, his game. As a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Ruth showed great promise as a power hitter. As Ty Cobb observed, Ruth, while winning games on the mound for the Sox, was able to experiment at the plate. In Cobb’s day, batting average was everything. Players used thick handles to punch out line drive hits and lay down bunts. Ruth used a 47-oz. bat, but he experimented in using an upper-cut swing, so as to get the ball in the air (and out of the ballpark) more often. In 1919, Harry Frazee, the Sox’s owner, had a flop on Broadway with the musical, No, No Nanette. To compensate, Frazee sold The Babe to the Yankees. The rest is sports history. Ruth now moved to right field and began pounding home runs at a ridiculous rate, including an unheard number of 59 in 1921. The Yankees were then tenants of the New York Giants, playing home games at the Polo Grounds. John McGraw, the legendary Giants skipper, was frustrated that the Yanks were outpacing the Giants at the box office. So the Bombers moved across the Harlem River to Yankee Stadium.

Ruth’s flair for the dramatic was impeccable. When Yankee Stadium opened the new stadium on April 18, 1923, he hit the home run to win the game. Ten years later, at the first-ever All Star Game, played in Chicago, Ruth again won the game with a home run. On the last day of the 1927 season, Ruth had 59 home runs. So what did the Sultan of Swat do? Easy. He slammed a home run off Tom Zachary to put him at number 60 for the year. “O Babe! O Socko!” the New York Times rejoiced. That was the power of Babe Ruth. He could even get the Gray Old Lady to plant not one, but two exclamation points in a single headline.

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Joe Scotchie is the editor of both The Roslyn News and New Hyde Park Illustrated News. In 2009, he won a New York State Press Association award for a sports feature. Joseph Scotchie’s past publications include biographies of Thomas Wolfe and Richard Weaver and a comprehensive history of the city of Asheville, North Carolina.

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