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As a lifelong baseball fan and amateur historian, I have always been fascinated with the legacy of America's National pastime. Nothing pleases me more than digging through my library of baseball books or surfing the 'net and learning about teams and individuals who played this wonderful sport decades before my parents were even born. Part of me longs for the days when it truly was a game and although I have many fond, first-hand memories of baseball, I feel cheated at times, for never experiencing it as it was meant to be. Maybe that's why I have such a fascination with the history of the game and players who haven't walked the earth during my lifetime. I also love debating baseball with fellow fans and one issue that constantly comes up is the challenge over who was the greatest team of all-time. Some say it was the 1906 Chicago Cubs who won 116 games. Others say the 1929 Philadelphia A's who showcased one of the best pitching staffs ever to share a mound. Maybe the 1975 Cincinnati Reds featuring "The Big Red Machine", or even the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates, who won the National League crown by 27 1/2 games, the widest margin of victory in league history. The 1912 Boston Red Sox, the 1942 St. Louis Cardinals, the 1939, 1961 and 1998 New York Yankees, the 1970 Baltimore Orioles, the 1986 New York Mets, the 1995 Cleveland Indians and many others have all been considered worthy of this honor. All have been heavily defended (most by their hometown fans) as the greatest teams in the history of baseball.
In my quest for the answers, I've done a lot of research on this subject and in my own opinion the greatest baseball team of all-time has to be without a doubt, the 1927 New York Yankees. The stats below speak volumes, but these numbers only begin to tell the story of this amazing team and the foundation they provided for building one of baseball's most storied franchises.
With an all-star lineup known as Murderer's Row, New York outscored its opponents by nearly 400 runs and hit .307 as a team. Babe Ruth, perhaps the greatest ever, set the original single season mark with 60 homeruns which was more than any other American League team had combined. The Sultan of Swat also had plenty of help from his fellow sluggers in pinstripes. Outfield counterparts, Earle Combs in center and Bob Meusel in left, hit .356 and .337 respectively. Lou Gehrig had his first big season, batting .373 with 47 homers and a league leading 175 RBIs. Second year man Tony Lazzeri ranked third in the loop with 18 homers. The pitching staff boasted four men who won 18 or more wins, led by Waite Hoyt at 22-7. Herb Pennock and Wilcy Moore gained 19 victories apiece while Urban Shocker added 18. This lethal trio complemented the dominant offense by claiming the league's three best ERAs. Moore, who pitched primarily in relief, led the way with a 2.28 mark. With a 110-44 record, the Bronx Bombers ran away with the American League pennant, winning by a staggering 19 games. For an encore, they swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series and went on to win another championship the following year.
What made this group so exceptional was the sheer quantity of individual record setting performances and accomplishments that combined to form a group so far ahead of it's competition, it was almost unfair to any team not wearing the NY on their caps. The Yankees led the American League in nearly every offensive category. They set major league records with 975 runs scored, 158 home runs, 908 runs batted in, and a .489 slugging average.
Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig combined to form the most devastating 1-2 batting combo in history. They finished one-two, respectively (Ruth-Gehrig), in the league in home runs, runs scored, batting, strikeouts and walks. They also finished one-two, respectively (Gehrig-Ruth), in the league in runs batted in, total bases and extra base hits. The 32 year old Ruth batted .356, set a major league record with 60 HRs, topping by one the mark he had set six years earlier, had 164 RBIs, and scored a league leading 158 runs. Gehrig, only 24 and in his third season as the regular first baseman, batted .373, hit 47 HRs, and set a major league record with 175 RBIs, breaking Ruth's mark of 171.
The best lead off hitter in baseball, Earle Combs, batted .356 and led the league with 231 hits and 23 triples. Bob Meusel batted .337 with eight HRs and 103 RBIs, and finished second with 24 SBs. Tony Lazzeri batted .309, finished third in the league with 18 HRs, had 102 RBIs, and tied for third with 22 SBs. The switch hitting Mark Koenig batted .285 and scored 99 runs from the number two spot in the order. Joe Dugan, one of the best fielding third basemen in baseball, finished strong despite his .269 average. And the average, but underrated, catching trio of Pat Collins, John Grabowski and Benny Bengough combined to hit .271 with 7 HRs and 71 RBIs.
This lethal rotation at the plate became known as Murderer's Row and this group, usually called the Bronx Bombers, earned their new nickname after killing pitchers statistical earnings throughout the league. Yankee pitchers, grateful to be in pinstripes, also dominated the league, posting a leading 3.20 ERA and 11 shutouts. Waite Hoyt, the ace of the staff, turned in his best campaign yet, posting a 22-7 record and leading the league in winning percentage, tying for the league lead in wins, and finishing second with a 2.64 ERA. Thirty year old rookie Wilcy Moore burst into the majors as the best relief pitcher in baseball, posting a 19-7 record and leading the league with a 2.28 ERA, while tying for the league lead with 13 saves. Herb Pennock, one of the best southpaws in the game, finished 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA. Urban Shocker, one of the few pitchers still legally allowed to throw a spitball, finished 18-6 and was third in the league with a 2.84 ERA. Dutch Ruether, in his final season in the major leagues, and the hard throwing George Pipgras, after being eased into the starting rotation in mid season, combined for a 23-9 record, with a 3.73 ERA.
The Yankees grand finale for the '27 season, the World Series, was the quickest ever played and lasted only 74 hours and 15 minutes. They became the first American League team to sweep a World Series, and it was only the 2nd four game sweep in World Series history (Braves over Athletics in 1914). The Yankee pitchers had a combined ERA of only 2.00. Making only three errors, they had a .981 FA. The Yankees trailed a total of only two innings during the entire series out scoring the Pirates 23-10. Pittsburgh, only once, managed to score more than one run in an inning (during Game 4). What made this feat even more spectacular was the fact that the Yankees used only four pitchers, and a total of 15 different players during the entire Series.
The Yankees 1-4 hitters (Combs, Koenig, Ruth and Gehrig) combined to hit .387 with 2 HRs, 16 RBIs and 17 RS, while the rest of the hitters batted just .189 with only 3 RBIs and 6 RS. Together, Ruth and Gehrig batted .357 and had a slugging average of .786. With homers in both Games 3 and 4, Ruth became the fifth player in Series history to hit a HR in back to back games. They were only his second and third homeruns at Yankee Stadium and there would be many more to come. Koenig led all batters by hitting .500 (9 for 18), and was the only Yankee to hit safely in each game.
The 1927 Yankees represented TEAM in every sense of the word. The company they shared in the dugout made these great players even greater. In today's game, it would be virtually impossible to put together such an elite group of talent (at the same time) in a single clubhouse and their accomplishments together will never be duplicated. Players today seem more concerned with individual achievements and if more players played for the team instead of for the player, they would compliment each other's strengths, compensate for each other's weaknesses and push each other to be even more successful. In other words, they could all take a lesson from the 1927 Yankees, the greatest team of all-time.
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