Wednesday, February 8, 2012

1927 World Series: Murderer's Row

The Teams
American League: New York Yankees (110-44) - Fifth World Series (won in 1923)
National League: Pittsburgh Pirates (94-60) - Fourth World Series (won in 1909, 1925)

What Happened
The story is told so often that you start to wonder if it's apocryphal. During batting practice before Game 1 of the 1927 World Series, the Yankees kept hitting blast after blast deep into the Forbes Field seats. The bombs didn't let up. Supposedly, the Pirates were so intimidated by the site of Ruth, Gehrig, and Co. making their giant ballpark look small that the series was over before it began. Or so the legend goes.

It's a convenient story to tell after the fact. After all, these were the Yankees, Murderer's Row, the greatest Yankee team of all time. Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, more than any other team in the league. Lou Gehrig hit 47 homers, with 175 runs batted in. Tony Lazzeri was third in the league with 18 home runs. A Yankee lead the league in every offensive category except batting average. They annihilated the American League so thoroughly that the pennant race was over in July. The World Series was supposed to be nothing more than a coronation, the crowning of the greatest baseball team ever assembled.

It wasn't quite that simple, though. The Pirates had won the World Series in 1925, beating the legendary Walter Johnson in Game 7. They had five future Hall of Famers in their lineup, a lineup that, aside from the home runs, was just as dangerous as New York's.

And the Pirates gave the Yankees a good fight. Many people forget that in the glare of the Yankees' 110-win regular season and in the fact the series ended up as a New York sweep. But the Yankees needed to hold off an eighth-inning Pittsburgh rally to win Game 1, didn't put away Game 2 until a three-run eighth of their own, and won the series on a walk-off wild pitch in Game 4. So yah, it was a sweep, the only fitting result for a team that good. But the Pirates gave the Yankees as good a fight as any team could have been expected to.

Defining Game
Game 4. When Ruth hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead, it's possible the Yankee fans started celebrating their impending World Championship (I don't know. I wasn't there. It was 1927 - my grandpa was born in 1927). The Yankees might have gotten ahead of themselves, too, thinking about the champagne shower ahead of them, just 12 outs away. You have to get those outs, though, and the Yankees made things interesting with two eighth-inning errors that let the Pirates tie the game.

Then came the bottom of the ninth. The first two Yankees got on base, bringing up Ruth. What a perfect way to cap off the great season, the great Ruth getting the World Series-winning hit ... but a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. Ruth was, of course, walked from there. Gehrig then had his chance, but he struck out. So did Bob Meusel. What was happening here? Why couldn't the greatest team ever finish the job? Up came Lazzeri, and he didn't get the series-winning hit, either; however, he was smart enough to lay off the pitch in the dirt that bounced to the backstop, allowing the series-ending run to come home.

Unofficially, Ruth. He hit the only two home runs of the series, batted .400, and even stole a base. Plus, he supposedly intimidated the Pirates beyond repair with his batting-practice home runs before Game 1. And when it was all over, he probably threw a hell of a party.

(Home team in Bold)

New York 5 6 8 4
Pittsburgh 4 2 1 3

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

92. 1927 - New York (A) def. Pittsburgh (N) 4-0
93. 2004 - Boston (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-0
94. 1932 - New York (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-0
95. 1908 - Chicago (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-1
96. 1999 - New York (A) def. Atlanta (N) 4-0
97. 1963 - Los Angeles (N) def. New York (A) 4-0
98. 2010 - San Francisco (N) def. Texas (A) 4-1
99. 1937 - New York (A) def. New York (N) 4-1
Numbers 100-107

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