Monday, May 21, 2012

1936 World Series: DiMaggio and the Yankees

The Teams
American League: New York Yankees (102-51) - Eighth World Series (won in 1923, 1927, 1928, 1932)
National League: New York Giants (92-62) - 11th World Series (won in 1905, 1921, 1922, 1933)

What Happened
For the eighth time in 15 years, the New York Yankees were the American League champions in 1936. For the first time ever, though, they were going to play in a World Series without Babe Ruth, who had retired the previous season. But they still had Lou Gehrig, and they still had the best pitching staff in baseball, and they also had a new weapon in 1936: a rookie center fielder named Joe DiMaggio.

DiMaggio stepped right into the Yankees lineup, occupying the No. 3 spot that Ruth had made his own for a decade and succeeding instantly, putting together one of the best rookie seasons in baseball history. Adding him to an already lethal Yankee lineup almost seemed unfair, and it seemed to ensure the Yankees would be a dynasty over the rest of the 1930s.

Hoping to delay the Yankee ascension by at least a year were their cross-Harlem River rivals. The Giants didn't have much on their team, especially when compared to the great Yankees, but they did have Carl Hubbell, who may have been the best pitcher alive in 1936. Hubbell was all the Giants needed in Game 1, though, as the Yankees could only manage a third-inning home run in a 6-1 loss.

All that loss did was make the Yankees angry, and the Giants didn't like the Yankees when they were angry. A seven-run third put Game 2 away early; a six-run ninth turned it into a laugher. The final out of the Yankees 18-4 victory was a drive to the deepest part of the Polo Grounds, where DiMaggio ran the ball down and, without slowing down, ran up the steps into the clubhouse.

After that debacle, the Giants held the Yankees to only four hits in Game 3. One was a home run by Gehrig, and another was an eighth-inning single by Frankie Crosetti that gave the Yankees the win. Game 4 was Hubbell's turn again, and the Yankees weren't impressed the second time around, taking a 4-0 lead after three innings on their way to a 5-2 win. The Yankees blew a chance to win the series at home, losing Game 5 in 10 innings, but the Polo Grounds were just across the river, so it might as well have been a home game for the Yankees. Their 13-5 win in Game 6 not only clinched the series, but also sent notice to the rest of baseball that a new dynasty was born. 

Defining Game
Game 6 looks like a blowout if you see just the score, but it served as an appropriate symbol for the series. The Yankees took an early 5-2 lead and then, perhaps bored, let the Giants get slowly back into the game. The Giants eventually cut the lead to 1; when the Yankees scored one in the 8th, the Giants answered right back in the bottom of the inning. Finally, the Yankee juggernaut woke up, yawned, stretched a bit, and crushed the Giants, closing out the series with a debilitating seven-run ninth inning.
Jake Powell joined the Yankees in midseason to bolster the bottom of their lineup, and he ended up being the biggest star in a World Series full of them. His .455 average, 10 hits, and 8 runs were all series highs. He hit a home run off Hubbell in Game 1, then tied Game 6 with a double before delivering the series-clinching hit, a bases-loaded single that broke up the Yankees' seven-run ninth in the deciding game.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

N.Y. Yankees 1182 5413
N.Y. Giants 641 25 (10)5

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

60. 1936 - New York (A) def. New York (N) 4-2
61. 1909 - Pittsburgh (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-3
62. 2005 - Chicago (A) def. Houston (N) 4-0
63. 1950 - New York (A) def. Philadelphia (N) 4-0
64. 1906 - Chicago (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-2
65. 1981 - Los Angeles (N) def. New York (A) 4-2
66. 1943 - New York (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-1
67. 1954 - New York (N) def. Cleveland (A) 4-0
68. 1978 - New York (A) def. Los Angeles (N) 4-2
69. 2006 - St. Louis (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-1
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

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