Saturday, April 21, 2012

1922 World Series: A Roommate Squabble

The Teams:
National League: New York Giants (93-61) - Seventh World Series (won in 1905, 1921)
American League: New York Yankees (94-60) - Second World Series

What Happened:
The Yankees and Giants were more than just neighbors in New York in the early part of the 20th Century. They were roommates, sharing the Polo Grounds beginning in 1913 after the Yankees' previous home, Hilltop Park, was deemed insufficient after only 11 years. At first, the Giants were happy to have the Yankees as tenants, thrilled to have a lesser team paying rent on their stadium while they were on the road.

But that relationship started to sour in Babe Ruth joined the Yankees. The home runs he hit started to draw big crowds to Yankee games at the Polo Grounds. Giants manager John McGraw bristled; he hated the popularity of the home run, preferring the strategic aspect of baseball, and he hated that the Yankees were becoming more popular than the Giants.

The rivalry came to a head when the Yankees and the Giants met in the 1921 World Series. Though the Giants got the last laugh by beating the Yankees, McGraw didn't like that the Giants had to wear their road gray jerseys in their own ballpark. Soon after that series ended, the Giants served the Yankees with an eviction notice.

With the Yankees new cathedral of a ballpark being built across the river, the two teams met again in the 1922 World Series in their last set of games as roommates. McGraw was determined to prove that strategic small ball was better than the home run ball, and, with plenty of help from his pitchers, did just that. The Giants got 50 hits in the 1922 World Series, with 46 of them going for singles. The Giants bunched those hits together well enough to win in a sweep.

It wasn't quite a four-game sweep, as Game 2 ended in a tie, with the umpires calling the game after 10 innings despite there being at least 40 minutes of sunlight left. That hiccup aside, the series feature five well-played games. The Giants won Game 1 when four straight 8th inning singles erased a 2-0 Yankee lead; took Game 3 on a four-hit shutout by Jack Scott; gunned down two Yankee baserunners in the ninth inning of a Game 4 win; then got an 8th-inning, bases-loaded single from High Pockets Kelly to win the clincher 5-3.

Overall, the Giants' small ball strategy worked brilliantly. Despite virtually no extra-base power, they batted .309 for the series while holding the Yankees to a team average of .203. Meanwhile, their pitchers held Ruth to just two hits for the series, with no home runs, causing people to question Ruth's clutch abilities for the first time in his career.

The Giants' joy didn't last long. The next year, playing in their spacious new Yankee Stadium, the Yankees beat the Giants in the World Series, then beat them the next three times they met in the series over the next three decades. McGraw may have won the battle in 1922, but the Yankees ultimately got the last laugh.

Defining Game
Game 4 featured the best back-and-forth action of the series, beginning when the Yankees scored two runs in the bottom of the first - it could have been more, but Wally Pipp was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. The Giants countered, opening the fifth with four straight singles and eventually scoring four runs in the frame. Aaron Ward's home run - his second of the series - cut the Yankee deficit to 4-3 in the 7th. That was the score as Pipp led off the bottom of the ninth with a double. Then Bob Meusel - the brother of Giants star Irish Meusel - grounded to third. Instead of holding at second, Pipp got caught in a rundown, getting tagged out for the first out of the inning. The next batter was catcher Wally Schang, who singled to center with Meusel going to third. However, Schang was cut down at second when the throw from center was cut off. After two outs on the bases, Ward was the final out, flying out to left and ended the Yankees last home game in the Polo Grounds.

Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch batted .471 for the series, drove in two of the three runs in Game 3,  and was in the center of game-winning Giant rallies in games 1 and 5.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

N.Y. Yankees 2 3033
N.Y. Giants 3 33 4 5

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

70. 1922 - New York (N) def. New York (A) 4-0, 1 tie
71. 1970 - Baltimore (A) def. Cincinnati (N) 4-1
72. 1931 - St. Louis (N) def. Philadelphia (A) 4-3
73. 1967 - St. Louis (N) def. Boston (A) 4-3
74. 1968 - Detroit (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-3
75. 1920 - Cleveland (A) def. Brooklyn (N) 5-2
76. 1945 - Detroit (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-3
77. 1940 - Cincinnati (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-3
78. 2009 - New York (A) def. Philadelphia (N) 4-2
79. 1984 - Detroit (A) def. San Diego (N) 4-1
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

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