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The Greatest Team:  1927 Yankees 110-44 (.714)

 

"By game time the vast structure was packed solid," A New York World account related. "April 12, 1927, Opening Day at Yankee Stadium.  Rows of men were standing in back of the seats and along the runways. Such a crowd had never seen a baseball game or any other kind of game in New York."  

 
Tiny Miller Huggins and tall Connie Mack posed for photographs. The Seventh Regiment Band played for the throng of 72,000, part of the 1,164,015 who come out that season of 1927 to see the Yankees. 


The Athletics and the Yankees marched in columns of four to the outfield.  The National Anthem was played.  New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker presented Babe Ruth with a three-foot high silver loving cup.


This was the Yankee Opening Day lineup: 

  • Earle Combs cf

  • Mark Koenig ss 

  • Babe Ruth rf

  • Lou Gehrig 1b

  • Bob Meusel lf 

  • Tony Lazzeri 2b

  • Joe Dugan 3b

  • Johnny Grabowski c 

  • Waite Hoyt p


The Yankees win that day, 8-3 and placed them in first place where they would remain throughout the season without a single change in their roster, that included seven new players for 1927.


Switch hitting Mark Koenig went 5-5 in the second game of the series, a romp over the As.  The third game was tied at 9-9 in the tenth inning, then called because of darkness. The Yankees won the fourth game, 6-3. Philadelphia, a team that would bat .303 and win 9l games, was just thrilled to leave town.    

By May's end, the Yankees had won 23 of 33 games.  By June 24, they had a 44-l7 record. About the only thing the '27 team couldn't do well was steal bases they finished tied for 5th in the league with only a 58.4% success rate.


Heading into a Fourth of July doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, the Senators had won ten straight and D.C. was buzzing with talk that the Senators were making their push. The Yankees were disdainful of such banter.


In Game One, the Yankees clubbed Washington, l2-l. The nightcap was a 2l-l slaughter. Whacking competition was a trademark of the 1927 Yankees. Special victims were the St Louis Browns, losers of 2l in a row to the New Yorkers.  Ruth at 6'2" and Meusel at 6'3" were the tallest players and only two of the pitchers on that club were taller than 6 feet. But to the fans and players on other teams, it seemed that the 1927 Yankees were a collection of over-sized giants.


"It was murder," Babe Ruth bragged justifiably. "We never even worried five or six runs behind. Wham! Wham! Wham! And wham! No matter who was pitching."
   

"When we were challenged," Waite Hoyt said, "when we had to win, we stuck together and played with a fury and determination that could only come from team spirit. We had a pride in our performance that was very real. It took on the form of snobbery. And I do believe we left a heritage that became a Yankee tradition"
   

Ritual and superstition were a major element in the makeup of the '27 Yankees.  Babe Ruth would warm up only with catcher Fred Hofman. After hitting a home run, the Babe would notch his bat.  But when he hit his 2lst home run, the new notch split his bat. That ritual stopped then. Waite Hoyt warmed up only with his starting catcher. Joe Dugan always scratched out a mark at third base.  Wilcy Moore threw his first warm up pitch only to Eddie Bennett, Yankee bat boy and good luck charm.  Manager Miller Huggins had messages delivered to the
bullpen only by Mike Gazella.


The five o'clock blowing of a factory whistle close by Yankee Stadium signaled the end of the work day The Yankees were fond of the sound of the whistle, it underlined how they beat teams they called it "Five O'clock Lightning."
   

Earle Combs and Mark Koenig served as table setters, batting one-two. Combs batted .356 and led the league in hits, singles and triples. Locked into the third space in the powerful batting order was Babe Ruth. He hit .356 with l64 RBIs and a league best .772 slugging percentage. Scoring the most runs, drawing the most walks, recording the most total bases, compiling the highest on base percentage, Ruth out-homered by himself all major league teams except for the Giants, Cubs and Cardinals.


The cleanup hitter was Lou Gehrig. He batted .373 (third in the American League, drove in a league best l75 runs and smashed 47 home runs. His RBI and doubles total were tops in the American League and his slugging percentage of .765 was second only to Ruth. The Yankees were 33-7 (.825) when Gehrig homered.  Almost 25% of all the American League home runs in l927 were hit by Gehrig and
Ruth.


Bob Meusel batted fifth in the order. A .337 batter in l927, he had 103 RBIs. Tony Lazzeri was in the second of what would be a dozen solid seasons as a Yankee second baseman. The quiet athlete finished third behind Ruth and Gehrig in home runs, notched a .309 average and l02 RBIs. 


      The 30-year-old "Jumping Joe" Dugan, a confidante of Babe Ruth, was peerless at third base He did have a complaint:  "It's always the same. Combs walks. Koenig singles. Ruth hits one out of the park. Gehrig doubles.  Lazzeri triples.  Then Dugan goes down on the dirt on his can."


Catching duties were shared by journeymen Johnny Grabowski and Pat Collins. Other on the roster included Walter Beall, third string catcher Benny Bengough, outfielder Cedric Durst, Mike Gazella who filled in for Joe Dugan in 54 games and batted .278, Joe Giard, Ray Morehart who took over second base when Lazzeri was moved to short in place of Koenig, Ben Paschal, Myles Thomas and Julie Wera.


"The secret of success as a pitcher lies in getting a job with the New York Yankees, "was Waite Hoyt's famous quip. It was more a truism than a quip.  The ace of the '27 team, Hoyt paced the league in wins, winning percentage and ERA. The Yankees had other winning arms, too.  


    Wilcy Moore's side arm sinker ball helped him post a (l97) record, l33 in relief, the lowest E.R.A and the most shutouts in the league.   Urban Shocker, suffered all through that '27 season from a heart condition kept secret from his fellow Yankees, won l8 of 24 decisions.  Walter Henry "Dutch" Reuther, (13-6) was replaced in mid-season by the hard-throwing rookie George Pipgras (l03 .769).  Half a dozen pitchers won at least ten games. The '27 Yankees had the three lowest earned-run averages in the league, with Moore (2.28), Hoyt (2.63),
and Shocker (2.84), and four of the top seven;


Miller Huggins managed the collection of different personalities   Mark Koenig said of him: "He was a good manager, although he was a nervous little guy who moved his feet a lot in the dugout. But he didn't have to be much of a strategist with that club. Lots of times, we'd be down five, six runs, and then have a big inning to win the game."


By the end of July, a month the Yankees posted a 247 record, the lead was l5 games, Yankee winning percentage was a gaudy .730.

By August 3l, the lead over the second place Athletics was l7 games. On September 13, the Yankees swept a doubleheader from Cleveland and clinched the pennant. 


On September 29, at Yankee Stadium Ruth homered off two different Washington pitchers in a l54 Yankee cakewalk, tying his record of 59.


Finishing with a 11044 record, winning the pennant by l9 games, the Yankees pounded l58 home runs, batted .307 as a team, recorded the all-time best slugging percentage of .489, averaged 6.5 runs a game, scored 975 runs, outscored opponents by almost 400 runs.


Leading the league in every individual offensive category except for batting average, the Bronx Bombers had five regulars who batted .300 or better. Four of the eight American Leaguers who drove in l00 or more runs were Yankees.  The pitching staff led the league in shutouts and its ERA was almost a run below the league average.  The four best winning percentages in the league belonged to Yankee pitchers. 


The '27 Yankees were so free of injury that six of the eight position players logged more than 500 at bats. That durability was a tremendous bonus for the team and masked the only weakness of the Bronx Bombers a thin bench.   Babe Ruth said of the World Series with the Pirates: "We won before it even got started. The first two games were scheduled for Forbes Field. Naturally we showed up a day early and worked out in the strange park-and we won the Series during that workout...


"We really put on a show. Lou and I banged ball after ball into the right field stands, and I finally knocked one out of the park in right center. Bob Meusel and Tony Lazzeri kept hammering balls into the left field seats."


A four game sweep of the Bucs gave the Yankees the honor of being the first American League team to sweep a World Series. "It all meshed for us," Mark Koenig said," the personalities, the manager, the luck, everything that l927 season."


Half a dozen Yankees from that fabled team became Hall of Famers: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Herb Pennock, Miller Huggins, Waite Hoyt, Earle Combs and Tony Lazzeri.

 

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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