Murmurs of Murderers’ Row


The 1927 New York Yankees, The Stuff that Baseball Dreams Are Made Of.


Little is left to say about them. They roared through the new power-driven baseball world of the Roaring Twenties, winning 110 games during the 1927 American League season and then rolling over the Pittsburgh Pirates of Pie Traynor and the Waner Boys in a four-game sweep. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig battled each other all season for the pure Yankee privilege of breaking Babe’s pure Yankee record of 59 home runs in a single season. Gehrig finally ran out of gas, but the Bambino poured it on in September to finish with 60. The slumping Gehrig had only 47, but both totals were far more than any other hitter in the big leagues could muster in 1927.

The 1927 New York Yankees were the hammer that established and reaffirmed this one baseball franchise in The Bronx as the kingpins of the game. Nobody did it better. And no other club, from there to the part of kingdom come we now know as 2011 would do it more often. When we  think of World Series, most of us think of it as “New York Yankees versus who?” When we think of World Series winner, most of us simply mind slip into the next forward gear, “New York Yankees over whomever!”

And the deal is simple. You don’t even have to like the Yankees to think this way. You just have to be around the game long enough on a year in, year out, day in, day out basis. If that doesn’t condition you into thinking that the Yankees always have the best chance of winning over any of the other clubs, you are either lying about your closeness to the game, or else, you are completely steeped in a state of denial that is only fully available to fans of the Boston Red Sox.

Back to home runs for a minute. In 1927, Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs were more than all but three clubs in the major leagues hit as a team – and all three of those clubs were National League teams. The New York Giants hit 109; the St. Louis Cardinals hit 84; and the Chicago Cubs hit 74. Of the 439 homers struck by all American League hitters in 1927, Ruth (60) and Gehrig (47) of the Yankees had 107. That’s a healthy 24% plus a few percentage points more of the league total.

And the ’27 Yankees were not just Ruth and Gehrig. Look at this typical starting lineup for the club that came to be known as Murderer’s Row:

(1) Earl Combs, cf BL/TL (.356 BA; led AL in hits with 231 and triples with 23.)

(2) Mark Koenig, ss BR/TR (.285 BA, 150 hits, 19 doubles)

(3) Babe Ruth, ef BL/TL (.356 BA. led AL with 60 HR; 158 Runs; 137 Walks; .486 OBP; and .772 SLG.)

(4) Lou Gehrig, 1b BL/TL (.373 BA, led Al with 52 doubles; 175 RBI; and 447 total bases.)

(5) Bob Meusel, lf BR/TL (.337 BA, had .393 OBP and 103 RBI)

(6) Tony Lazzeri, 2b BR/TR (.309 BA; had 18 HR and 102 RBI.)

(7) Joe Dugan, 3b BR/TR (..269 BA)

(8) Pat Collins, c BR/TR (.275 BA; .407 OBP)

The pitching staff featured Hall of Famers Herb Pennock (19-8, 3.00) and Waite Hoyt (22-7, 2.63), plus the great Urban Shocker (18-6, 2.84), Wilcy Moore (19-7, 2.28), and a few other terrific arms that any club today would kill to possess.

I don’t really expect the 2011 Yankees to walk over anybody or even reach the World Series. On the other hand, if they got there, as per forever, it would be soon lost among the least surprising outcomes in baseball history. In the Hall of Great Expectations, the New York Yankees carry the biggest load in all of sports, not just baseball. Some of their fans will not even allow them the liberty of an occasional off-day, let alone a multiple game slump or complete off-year.

Blame the ’27 Yankees. That’s pretty much where the Yankee search for perfection got front-loaded. And that idea wasn’t hurt any by the Yankee clubs of Marse Joe McCarthy in the late 30s and early 40s or the Casey Stengel boys of 1949 and the 1950s. All the Yankees needed from there to totally seal their ridiculous aspirations was to be purchased someday by an owner who thought the team could literally win every game.

I think that one happened too.

For me, the 27 Yankees and their gaudy 110-44 record were an accomplishment of great astonishment to my childhood years of early study about the history of the game. Ruth and Gehrig became, and will always be, my  two biggest heroes from baseball history as one result.  This time of the year, they are a reminder that the baseball season is upon us again. Time for those enjoyable pauses from everyday life that only take place at the ballpark.

Thank God for baseball. And thanks too, God, for the ’27 Yankees.





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2 Responses to “Murmurs of Murderers’ Row”

  1. Anthony Cavender Says:

    I believe 1927 was the year that Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker played the outfield together for the A’s.

  2. Mark Wernick Says:

    Great timing Bill. Just yesterday I came across a book in my closet that follows the ’27 Yankees via photocopies of newspaper sports pages, and I looked at it more closely than I recall doing previously. On September 5th, 1927, I believe that Ruth and Gehrig were tied at 45 homers apiece and they were as much the grand spectacle of the 1927 season as Mantle and Maris were in ’61. There were plenty of references to their pursuit of Ruth’s record of 59 in one season. It’s doubtful many people on September 5th would have thought Gehrig would hit only two more homers for the rest of the season, while Ruth would hit 15 more. On the other hand, it’s frequently noted that Ruth hit more homers that year than any other TEAM hit as an aggregate, which makes the Gehrig-Ruth tandem’s production that season all the more remarkable. This year, I find myself wondering if the incredible rotation of the Phillies will lead to a record-breaking season with more wins than the 116 racked up by the 1906 Cubs and 2001 Mariners.


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