1927, Murderers and Poisons
(Note this article revisits an earlier post, which looked only
at the American League season.
I will highlight in blue text what remains from the original)
In the 1927 real world, that being the world outside of baseball, there were several significant historical events of note. Some of those events include:
- The first ever game played by the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team
- The first armored car robbery is perpetrated near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Charles “Lucky” Lindbergh completes the first nonstop transatlantic flight
- The carving on Mount Rushmore begins
But on to the diamond we go...
As baseball continued to distance itself from the 'dead-ball era', the offensive numbers also continued to grow exponentially. Really, from the 1921 season through to the war, the hitters far outpaced the pitchers. And the 1927 season bears that out as well, but more on that a bit later.
As with every season, there was plenty of change afoot, none more so than in Philadelphia. The Athletics were an eclectic mix of talent, youngsters like Al Simmons and Mickey Cochrane teamed with two very impressive forty year-olds, in Eddie Collins and Ty Cobb.
Cobb, who was forced to 'retire' from the Detroit organization over gambling allegations involving himself, Tris Speaker and Joe Wood, found employment with Connie Mack's ball club.
When the 1927 season was said and done, Cobb wound up with the highest season batting average for a forty year old (.357) and Eddie Collins tallied the fourth highest average (.338). Cobb became the first to homer before his twentieth birthday, and after his fortieth. It would be more than fifty years before that was done again. (Rusty Staub was the next to do it, and Alex Rodriguez is the only other to complete that feat)
The Georgia Peach also became the founding member of the exclusive four thousand hit club, gaining entry on July 18th, against his former Detroit teammates.
A's pitcher lefty Grove won twenty games, his first of seven consecutive twenty win seasons. The powerful A's would finish in second place, nineteen games behind what has been described as the greatest ball club in history, the Yankees.
But more on them in a moment.
Across town from the Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies slugger Cy Williams, aged thirty-nine, became to oldest player to win a home run title. He still holds that record.
In Cincinnati, pitcher Red Lucas established a National League record for hits by a pitcher with 47.
In Chicago, White Sox pitcher Ted Lyons became the third American league pitcher to lead the league in wins while on a losing team.
The Cubs became the first National League team to reach the one million mark in attendance. On May 30th, Cubs shortstop Jimmy Cooney grabbed a line drive off the bat of Pittsburgh's Paul Waner and turned it into an unassisted triple play, the rarest of all defensive gems.
The next day, Detroit Tiger first baseman Johnny Neun snagged a liner off the bat of Indian hitter Homer Summa, and turned that into an unassisted triple play. It remains the only instance of unassisted triple plays happening on consecutive days, and Neun is only the second first-baseman to pull off this feat. (George Burns did it in 1923)
Neun, who only played in seventy-nine games that year, also has the distinction of stealing home during both games of a doubleheader.
Tiger shortstop Jackie Tavener stole second, third and home in the same inning in a game, which was common during this era. He would do it again the following season, and then there wouldn't be another American Leaguer to accomplish the feat until 1941.
Yankees outfielder Bob Meusel would become the second Yankee to accomplish the same feat.
And speaking of consecutive day feats, On June 11th, the Brooklyn Robins would defeat the Pirates by a score of 11-10. The next day, the Robins would beat the Pirates by that same score, 11-10. that remains the only time that unusual final score was duplicated on consecutive days.
Now, on to the poison. Or poisons as the case may be. Namely Big Poison and Little Poison. The Waner brothers in Pittsburgh, in their first season playing together. Little brother Lloyd (Little Poison) joining older brother Paul (Big Poison) in the outfield for the Pirates.
Between 1927 and 1929, the Waner brothers would be responsible for an incredible26.9% of the Pirates base hits.
Twenty-one year old Lloyd set the National League record with 198 singles. He was the first rookie player in the NL to reach 200 hits, the first of three straight 200-hit seasons) and holds the second highest batting average by a National League rookie.
Big brother Paul holds a freak statistical distinction. He is one of four players whose career batting average is identical to his career World Series batting average. He played in just one Series, but amassed a .333 average, the same number as he accomplished in his Hall of Fame, three-thousand hit, twenty year career.
(In case you were wondering, the other three are Duffy Lewis, Phil Linz and Danny Murphy)
But the story of the 1927 baseball season starts and ends in the Bronx.
The Bronx Bombers, playing in 'The House That Ruth Built' are one of the most legendary teams in baseball history. Led by Babe Ruth, and his then record setting sixty home runs. Babe hit more home runs that year than any other team did.
George Herman Ruth was THE GUY. His exploits on and off the field were legendary. He transcended the game, and was entrenched in the culture of America like no other before or since. There have been so many pieces written about The Babe, and his saving the game of baseball, bringing a new approach to offensive, hypnotizing the fans with his prodigious home runs.
But the Babe had help. First-baseman “Larrupin' Lou” Gehrig hit 47 homers, which was second to Ruth, and bested only by Detroit, Philadelphia and St. Louis. In fact, Ruth and Gehrig combined for 107 homers, while the Senators, Indians, White Sox and Red Sox combined for just 119.
The legendary Yankee lineup featured future Hall of Famers Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Earle Combs, and Waite Hoyt. They won 110 games, winning the pennant by 19 games over the Philadelphia Athletics.
- Were the first team to be in first place for the entirety of the season.
- Outscored the league average by more than 200 runs.
- Had three players who scored more than 130 runs (Ruth, Gehrig and Earle Combs).
- Had the top three home run hitters in 1927 (Ruth, Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri)
Babe Ruth established a new home run record, one of the most revered numbers in baseball, with sixty. Later broken by Roger Maris, who may be forgotten, but Maris to this day holds the American League record for homers in a season.
He also reached the 50 home run/.350 average plateau for the third time. On September 4th, Babe established the four hundred home run club, just as he did the two hundred and three hundred previously. Ruth and Gehrig remain the only teammates to tally four hundred total bases in the same season.
Speaking of Gehrig, he became the first player, who was not named Ruth, to total 40 homes and 200 hits in a season. Ruth accomplished that three times, Gehrig did it five times. Only Alex Rodriguez has accomplished it more than once.
Gehrig also established a still standing record for total bases for a first-baseman.
The Yankees swept into the Series, and by a many accounts, won the Series with their first batting practice before the first game. The Pirate players stood in the dugout ans watched in awe as the Murderer's Row lineup blasted the balls all over Forbes Field, which was a noted hitters ballpark.
The Pirates struggled all Series, managing just the runs in the four games, as the Yankees swept the Series. The Yankees became the first American League team to sweep a World Series.
Getting back to my earlier point, in looking at the statistics, using a mean average as a starting point, the offensive performance across both leagues was 19% better than the pitching. And then from there, the American league offense was then 7.3% better than the National League. The National League pitchers held a 4.75% statistical advantage over their American League counterparts.
For our sake, we'll take a look at the National League pitching first. Our initial ranking brings us this top ten list:
- PitcherTeamW-LERAPete AlexanderCardinals21-102.52Jesse HainesCardinals24-102.72Ray KremerPirates19-82.47Dazzy VanceBrooklyn16-152.70Carmen HillPirates22-113.24Red LucasReds18-113.38Dolph LuqueReds13-123.20Hal CarlsonPhillies/Reds16-133.70Bill SherdelCardinals17-123.53Charlie RootCubs26-153.76
Then comparing the pitcher to their team's performances, we get this top ten list:
- Dutch UlrichPhillies8-113.17Dazzy VanceAbovePete AlexanderAboveJesse HainesAboveRay KremerAboveKent GreenfieldGiants/Braves13-164.37Alex FergusonPhillies8-164.84Red LucasAboveHal CarlsonAboveCarmen HillAbove
So our overall ranking brings us this list of top National League hurlers:
Pete Alexander, tied for 20th in MVP
Jesse Haines, 8th in MVP
Ray Kremer, 9th in MVP
Dazzy Vance, no votes
Dutch Ulrich, tied for 23rd in MVP
Carmen Hill, tied for 23rd in MVP
Red Lucas, 11th in MVP
Dolph Luque, no votes
Hal Carlson, no votes
Charlie Root, tied for 4th in MVP
Now over to the American League pitchers. The top initial rankings were:
- Waite HoytYankees22-72.63Wilcy MooreYankees19-72.28Ted LyonsWhite Sox22-142.84Urban ShockerYankees18-62.84Herb PennockYankees19-83.00Tommy ThomasWhite Sox19-162.98Bump HadleySenators14-62.85Lefty GroveA's20-133.19Jack QuinnA's15-103.26Dutch RuetherYankees13-63.38
Now compared to team average performance, our pitching leaders in that regard were:
- Ted LyonsAboveTommy ThomasAboveSlim HarrissRed Sox14-214.18Lefty StewartBrowns8-114.28Jake MillerIndians10-083.21Bump HadleyAboveWillis HudlinIndians18-124.01Waite HoytAboveLefty GroveAboveMilt GastonBrowns13-175.00Hod LisenbeeSenators18-93.57
That brings our top American League pitching performances to this result:
Ted Lyons, 3rd in MVP
Hod Lisenbee, 15th in MVP
The overall top pitching team performances, across both leagues, were:
Now, we'll move to the National League batters., saving the best for last. Six Hall of Famers grace this initial list of top performers, with the Runs Created per Game added:
- PlayerTeamHRRBIAVGRCGSBRogers HornsbyGiants26125.3611.509Paul WanerPirates9131.3801.525Hack WilsonCubs30129.3181.4913Bill TerryGiants20121.3261.351Jim BottomleyCardinals19124.3031.328Pie TraynorPirates5106.3421.3011Riggs StephensonCubs782.3441.168Frank FrischCardinals1078.3371.1848Travis JacksonGiants1498.3181.198Cy WilliamsPhillies3098.2741.180
Comparing to team averages, we get this top ten list:
- Hack WilsonAboveBabe HermanBrooklyn1473.2720.954Rogers HornsbyAbovePaul WanerAboveCy WilliamsAboveJim BottomleyAboveMax CareyBrooklyn154.2660.8532Bill TerryAboveHarvey HendrickBrooklyn450.3100.7929Riggs StephensonAboveChick HafeyCardinals1863.3291.0412
So that brings our final National League top overall offensive performers to this list:
Rogers Hornsby, 3rd in MVP
Hack Wilson, 12th in MVP
Paul Waner, NL MVP
Jim Bottomley, tied for 13th in MVP
Bill Terry, tied for 13th in MVP
Pie Traynor, 7th in MVP
Cy Williams, tied for 13th in MVP
Riggs Stephenson, tied for 20th in MVP
Frank Frisch, 2nd in MVP
Chick Hafey, 26th in MVP
Now, to the very impressive American league offensive lists. First off, in looking at the basic baseball stats, Ruth and Gehrig have the most impressive numbers, and this ranking reflects that...
- Lou GehrigYankees47173.3731.7710Babe RuthYankees60165.3561.747Al SimmonsA's15108.3921.6910Harry HeilmanTigers14120.3981.5011Ty CobbA's593.3571.4422Fats FothergillTigers9114.3591.389Mickey CochraneA's1280.3381.179Goose GoslinSenators13120.3341.3721Earle CombsYankees664.3571.2815Bob MeuselYankees8103.3371.2624
Four of that top ten played for the Yankees that year, and eight are enshrined in Cooperstown.
Comparing how the players did against their own team's average, remembering that the Yankees had the obscenely high team number, as well as four players on the top ten list, we get this list:
- Al SimmonsAboveLou GehrigAboveBabe RuthAboveHarry HeilmanAboveGoose GoslinAboveIra FlagsteadRed Sox469.2850.9812Ty CobbAboveJoe SewellIndians192.3161.143George BurnsIndians378.3191.1413Alex MetzlerWhite Sox361.3191.081
Simmons, was twenty-five year old, four year major league veteran who played a majority of his career with Philadelphia. Often overshadowed by the exploits of Ruth and Gehrig, he had a pretty substantial career, finishing with a lifetime .334 batting average. And the 1927 season is proof of that overshadowing.
“Bucketfoot Al” was Born Aloisius Szymanski, and had a pretty substantial career in his own right. Simmons played for twenty years, finishing with a career slash line of 307/1828/.334. He held the American league record for career hits (2,927) until Al Kaline bested that in 1974.
In a totally obscure fact, Simmons holds the record for the most hits made by someone born in the state of Wisconsin. And was the first player in the twentieth century to make six hundred hits over his first three big league seasons. He and Chuck Klein were the second and third players to reach 200 hits in five straight seasons. (They both began their streak in 1929)
Sorry for another digression, but a little clarification is needed here. According to 'baseball-reference.com', which cites Bill Deane's Award Voting, there was a league MVP Award just called "The League Award" given during this era. But there are some issues that arose. Firstly, a player could only win one MVP award during his career, so Babe Ruth having won the award in 1923, was ineligible for the award. Secondly player managers were also ineligible. That award was given yearly from 1922-1928 in the American League, and 1924-1929 in the National League.
These League Awards were forerunners of today's MVP Awards, but the voting appears to be similar, and the voting results are available on the internet.
The top offensive AL rankings at the conclusion of our research are:
Lou Gehrig, AL MVP
Babe Ruth, no votes, ineligible
Al Simmons, tied for 4th in MVP
Harry Heilman, 2nd in MVP
Ty Cobb, no votes, ineligible
Goose Goslin, 6th in MVP
Fats Fothergill, no votes
Mickey Cochrane, tied for 4th in MVP
Earle Combs, no votes
Bob Meusel, no votes
So, with all of the hoopla around the Babe and his historic home run totals, statistically speaking, he wasn't even the best player on his own team. That distinction belonged to Columbia Lou, Mr. Gehrig.
With hindsight, and poetic license, I will put forthwith my hypothetical post season award winners:
National League Player of the Year:
National League Pitcher of the Year:
Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander
American League Player of the Year:
American League Pitcher of the Year:
Thanks for reading...