The 1927 New York Yankees are generally considered the greatest baseball team of all time.
The ‘27 Yankees went 110-44. Their record in the first half of the season was 56-24. In the second half, they went 54-20. The Bronx Bombers spent the entire season in first place. After winning the American League pennant by 19 games, they swept the Pittsburg Pirates in the World Series. The ’27 Yanks batted .307, slugged .489 and outscored opponents by a record 376 runs. New York was shut out only once during the entire 154-game season, and their longest losing streak was four games. After beating the Washington Senators 21-1 in July, Senator’s first baseman Joe Judge said, “Those fellows not only beat you but they tear your heart out. I wish the season was over.”
The Yankees featured a lineup known as Murderer’s Row. It was composed of the first six hitters in the batting order: Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Tony Lazzeri, and is arguably the finest offense ever to grace a diamond. Ruth is the greatest and most important player in baseball history. Gehrig won a Triple Crown, was a two-time MVP and was the leading vote-getter on the MLB All-Century Team. With apologies to Wilt and West, Gretzky and Messier, and MJ and Pippen, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig are the most talented tandem in any sport – at any time. Both are first-ballot Hall of Famers, where they were later joined by Combs, Lazzeri and pitchers Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock.
Leadoff hitter Earle Combs had the best season of his 12-year career in 1927. The Kentucky Colonel hit .356 and led the league in triples, one of three seasons in which the speedy center field accomplished that feat. Mark Koenig, a switch-hitting shortstop, batted second. During the 1927 season, Koenig hit .285, collected 150 hits and scored 99 runs. In the World Series, he batted .500 and was perfect in all 24 of his defensive chances.
Bob Meusel, who led the AL in home runs, extra-base hits and RBI in 1925, batted fifth. The strong-armed left fielder, dubbed Long Bob, batted .337 with 103 RBI. Second baseman Tony Lazzeri, whom Koenig considered the team’s MVP, hit .309, stole 22 bases and drove in 102 runs.
In 1927, the Yanks led the majors in defensive efficiency and fewest runs allowed per game. They featured five pitchers with an ERA of 3.00 or better. New York’s pitching staff ranked first in the league in wins, ERA [3.20] and shutouts while allowing the fewest hits, walks and runs allowed. The ace of the Yankees staff was Waite Hoyt, who went 22-7 with a 2.63 ERA. Right-hander Wilcy Moore won 16 games as a reliever.
Playing their fifth season in Yankee Stadium – the Cathedral of Baseball – the Pinstripers drew 1,164,108 fans, the best in baseball. They hit a then major-league-record 158 home runs, scoring 975 runs while allowing only 599. Only two teams in history have won more games playing a 154-game schedule: the 1906 Chicago Cubs and the 1954 Cleveland Indians. Neither won the title, however. The Cubs lost the 1906 World Series to the cross-town White Sox in six games, while the Tribe was swept by Willie Mays and the New York Giants in 1954.
General Manager Ed Burrow built a Yankee team that appeared in six World Series between 1921 and 1928, winning three. Six players from the ’27 squad, plus manager Miller Huggins, Burrow and Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, landed in the Baseball Hall of Fame. After losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1926 Series, the New Yorkers entered the following season on a mission.
The 32-year-old Ruth was not only the most famous player in baseball, he was America’s biggest sporting star. The Bambino earned a salary of $70,000 in 1927. The next highest-paid Yankee was Herb Pennock. The 33-year-old right-hander, who went 19-8 that season, made $17,500. Playing in only his third big league season, Gehrig was paid $8,000 in 1927.
Ruth posted three of the top four offensive seasons in baseball history, as measured by Wins Above Replacement [WAR]. In 1927, he broke his own home run mark of 59, set six years earlier. Babe finished the ’27 season strong, belting 17 homers in September, including his record-setting 60th in the Yankees next-to-last game. The record stood for 34 years until it was broken by Roger Maris in 1961. Ruth swatted 60 home runs playing a 154-game schedule, while Maris played 162. In addition to hitting 60 home runs in 1927, Ruth batted .356, slugged .772, collected 417 total bases and drove in 165 runs.
Despite Ruth’s prodigious statistics, Gehrig was named MVP of the American League in 1927. The Iron Horse led the league in doubles, RBI, and total bases, while walloping 47 homers and batting .373. Gehrig hit behind Ruth in the Yankees lineup. Batting cleanup, he followed the greatest base-clearer in baseball history, yet still managed to drive in 173 runs. Ruth amassed a 12.4 WAR in 1927, fourth-best of all time. Gehrig’s WAR of 11.8 is the eighth-highest WAR ever recorded.
The Yankees were the first team in history to sweep back-to-back World Series. After dispatching the Pirates in 1927, they clipped the St. Louis Cardinals in ’28. New York is the only franchise to sweep consecutive Fall Classics. The Yankee teams of 1938-39 and 1998-99 matched the feat.
Born in San Francisco on this date in 1902, Tony Lazzeri was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 1991. Although he never hit more than 18 home runs in any of his 14 big league seasons, Lazzeri set MLB records with six homers in a three-game span and once hit two Grand Slams in the same game.