Sunday, July 1, 2012

1923 World Series: The Yankees Begin

The Teams
American League: New York Yankees (98-54) - Third World Series
National League: New York Giants (95-58) - Eighth World Series (won in 1905, 1921, 1922)

What Happened
As hard as it seems to believe right now, there was once a time when the New York Yankees had never won a World Series. For the first 20 years of the World Series, the Yankees failed to break through, including series losses in 1921 and 1922.

But 1923 was a different year. Instead of sharing a ballpark with the Giants, the Yankees had a beautiful new park of their own. Babe Ruth was in the prime of his career, batting .393 in his first year playing in the park designed just for him. For the first time, the Yankees were seen as favorites in the World Series against the Giants.

But it was the two-time defending champion Giants who started strong. Future Yankee manager Casey Stengel ruined the first two World Series games played in Yankee Stadium by hitting the game-winning home run in the late innings of both Games 1 and 3. In between, Ruth hit two home runs in Game 2 back at his own stomping grounds in the Polo Grounds.

Down 2 games to 1 entering Game 4, and the Yankees bats exploded. A six-run second inning put that game away early, and they were up 7-1 after two innings of Game 5. Game 6 started with a bang, too, as Ruth hit a home run in the top of the first, but Giants pitcher Art Nehf shut them down from there and the Giants had a 4-1 lead entering the eighth. Then, though, Nehf tired, and had already walked in a run when he was finally replaced. Reliever Rosy Ryan did little better, walking the first batter he faced to force in another run and giving up three more on a Bob Meusel single that was followed by an error. Now leading 6-4, the Yankees shut down the Giants over the final two innings to win the game and wrap up their first championship. As we well know, that was only the beginning.

Defining Game
Game 1 was the first World Series game ever played at Yankee Stadium, and it started out well for the Yankees. A first-inning double by Bob Meusel scored Ruth for the game's first run, and Whitey Witt drove in two with a second-inning single. The Giants took the lead with 4 in the third. Both starting pitchers were out of the game at that point, and the game settled down until the seventh. Then, Joe Dugan's triple tied the game for the Yankees, with Ruth coming up. To that point, the Giants had been playing a heavy shift on Ruth, and he responded by slicing the ball toward left field in every at bat. This time, though, he tried to rip one down the right field line. Giants first baseman George Kelly snared it and fired home in time to get Dugan. One batter later, the Yankees' threat was over. Then, with two out in the top of the ninth, Stengel did his damage. The ball he hit to left center wasn't hit particularly hard, but it was placed perfectly placed, allowing Stengel to fly around the bases for a game-winning inside-the-park home run.

They tried an infield shift against him. They tried walking him. Nothing the Giants did could slow down the great Ruth. Though several Yankees had great offensive series, their big outfielder was the star of the show. Three home runs, a double and a triple, 8 runs scored, 8 walks - Ruth completely dominated as the Yankees won the World Series. A trend was beginning.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

N.Y. Giants 521414
N.Y. Yankees 4408 86

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

48. 1923 - New York (A) def. New York (N) 4-2
49. 1944 - St. Louis (N) def. St. Louis (A) 4-2
Numbers 50-59
Numbers 60-69
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

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