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Murderers’ Row - The 1927 New York Yankees

May 12th 2006

Murderers’ Row - The 1927 New York Yankees

Gehrig and Ruth

Widely known for "5-o'clock lightning", the 1927 New York Yankees boasted awesome offensive power. Intimidating all of baseball with the bats of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, this team was unstoppable. Many of their opponents built up hope slowly in the early stages of a contest, only to be "struck" with an unceasing barrage some time around 5-o’clock.

Baseball games routinely started at 3:30 pm back in the 1920s and generally ended somewhere around 6:00 pm. The '27 Yanks usually delivered a crippling offensive blow to their opponents in the late innings, thus the phrase "5-o'clock lightning." Of course, they had no lights for playing at night, all games were day games. Major League Baseball was settling into its widely held superstitions and routine, repetitiveness and all of the mythical and obsession-based ceremonial acts that still exist to this day.

The 3:30 start time was one of those mystified traditions that players did not like to break from. Many considered it bad luck if a game was to start at any other time, or to start early or late if scheduled for 3:30 pm.

 

"Murderers’ Row" was actually a nickname for the New York Yankees first used in 1919 before Babe Ruth was imported from the Boston Red Sox. A sports reporter had used it as he was describing the spring training projected line-up. It was actually hype more than anything else, although the 1919 line-up was very good, even without Ruth. The Babe arrived and the term was used loosely here and there, but never really took root until it was widely used in the 1927 season.

Babe Ruth hit his high mark of 60 homeruns in ‘27 and the New York Yankees won 110 games, losing only 44 times. They also swept the World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates and then repeated the feat again in 1928.  Babe Ruth hit 161 homers from the 1926 season through the 1928 season. The Babe also hit for a high average during this period, with a three-year batting average of .350. During this stretch, he collected 452 RBIs as well. His single season home run mark of 60 would stand for 34 years.

 

Lou Gehrig, believe it or not, was voted the American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1927. He hit .373 that year, better than Ruth’s’ .356. He also added 47 homeruns and 175 RBIs. The combination of Ruth and Gehrig struck fear into all of the Major League players that were playing the game in the "Murderers’

Row" era. These two players, however, weren’t all the ‘27 Yankees had. It seemed they had all the best players of the time, and not just offensive players but solid defensive players as well. However, the most astonishing numbers from this alleged "greatest team ever" came from the offense; the lead off hitter and centerfielder, Earle Combs, had an on-base percentage of .414, hit .356 and had 62 walks and 231 hits.

 

Tony Lazzeri played second base and hit 18 homers that year, finishing third in the American League home run race. Ruth and Gehrig, of course, were I-2. Bob Meusel played the outfield (left or right) and batted .337 with 103 runs batted in. He also piled up 24 stolen bases. Lazzeri had 22 swipes. Other notable offensive minded "Murderers¡¯ Row" members were Johnny Grabowski, Joe Dugan, Pat Collins and Mark Koenig. As a team, the ¡¯27 Yankees¡¯ batting average was a staggering .307. They out-scored their opponents by 376 runs and broke a lot of defensive-minded hearts by scoring 975 runs that year.

"Murderers¡¯ Row" also boasted some of the best pitching in the Major Leagues in 1927; Dutch Ruether, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock and Wilcy Moore, an early relief prot¨¦g¨¦. Hoyt, Shocker and Moore were the top three pitchers in the league, based on wins and earned run average (ERA). These three amassed a combined total in wins of 59. Defensively, the very same players that drew massive crowds with their legendary "5-o¡¯clock lightning" were making a statement with their gloves as well.

Fielding the ball was not as big of an attention-getter as their explosive offense, but they did it well enough to hold their opponents to 599 total runs scored.

These trends were not just evident in the 1927 Yankees, but all through the middle of the decade. The Yankees’ success continued, and the term "Murderers’ Row" stuck. It was carried all the way to the 1936-39 Yankees, who won 4 World Series in a row. Professional Baseball officially "crowned" the 1927 Yankees as the best overall team of all-time in 1969, during the Centennial celebration of Major League Baseball.

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F R Penn
This article was written by FR Penn sponsored by http://www.stubhub.com. If you’re looking for baseball tickets to see your favorite team live in action, look no further than Stubhub.com where fans buy and sell the hottest sports tickets. Reproductions of this article are encouraged but must include a link back to http://www.stubhub.com

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