Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Yankees vs. Red Sox, The Defining Moments: Part I, 1903-1938

In commemoration of the start of another Yankees-Red Sox series tonight, I reprint and update a series of posts that I first wrote in April 2010.

May 7, 1903, Huntington Avenue Grounds, Boston. For the 1st time, the New York and Boston franchises of the American League play each other. The result is a 6-2 win for the Boston Americans (a.k.a. the Boston Pilgrims, the Boston Puritans, or, for their owner, Charles Somers, the Boston Somersets) over the New York Highlanders (a.k.a. the New York Hilltoppers, the New York Americans, or, for manager-pitcher Clark Griffith, the New York Griffins).

The New York team's name was awfully long, and tough to fit into a newspaper headline. But George M. Cohan's musical Little Johnny Jones would debut on Broadway in 1904, and its signature song (along with "Give My Regards to Broadway"), "Yankee Doodle Dandy," would become the Theodore Roosevelt era's equivalent of a Number 1 hit.

Since the Highlanders were in the American League, it was an easy jump from "Americans" to "Yankees," which could fit in a headline -- and, to the papers' delight, could be further shortened to "Yanks."

In 1907, the Boston team would adopt the name formerly used by the city's National League team, the Red Stockings, but shorten it to Red Sox. This was also done in Chicago: The NL team we know as the Cubs started out as the White Stockings, and the AL team became the White Sox.
Huntington Avenue Grounds, during the 1903 World Series

May 8, 1903, Huntington Avenue Grounds. The Highlanders win the 2nd game between them, 6-1.

June 1, 1903, Hilltop Park, Manhattan. For the 1st time, they play each other in New York. Boston also wins this one, 8-2, and will sweep a 3-game series. The Highlanders will finish 4th, while the Sox-to-be will win the Pennant, and then win the 1st-ever World Series by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Hilltop Park

October 10, 1904, Hilltop Park. The 1st great race between the franchises ends in a doubleheader. The Highlanders of Clark Griffith, Jack Chesbro and Willie Keeler need to sweep to win the AL Pennant against the defending World Champions, led by 3rd baseman-manager Jimmy Collins and pitcher Cy Young.

Chesbro won 41 games for the Highlanders that season, likely to forever remain a record from the 60 feet, 6 inches pitching distance. But he's more remembered for the first game of this twinbill, which he lost, when his wild pitch allowed the winning run to score in the 9th. Red Sox 3, Yankees 2.
Before the Red Sox, Cy Young pitched for
a National League team named the Cleveland Spiders.

The NL Champion New York Giants, already terrified of the prospect of losing New York to the Highlanders, had announced that they would not play the AL Champs. This is the only time the World Series has ever been forfeited, although the Red Sox are not allowed to officially call themselves "1904 World Champions." (Which would give them 9 World Championships, not 8 -- 3 of which, of course, are illegitimate.)

April 20, 1912, Fenway Park, Boston. The Back Bay ballyard officially opens. Mayor John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, grandfather of 3 U.S. Senators, one of whom went on to become President, throws out the ceremonial first ball. The game goes 11 innings, and the home team wins. Red Sox 7, Yankees 6.
The Yanks go on to lose 102 games and finish last, something they've done only twice since. The Red Sox go on to win the World Series.

June 24, 1914, Polo Grounds, New York. Roy Hartzell is not remembered as a Yankee hero today, but the 3rd baseman and outfielder batted .296 with 91 RBIs in 1911. On this date, he did something only done twice before by any player in a Yankee uniform: He hit what would now be called a walkoff home run. He hit it off Red Sox starter Hugh Bedient, giving the Yankees a 3-2 victory.

Previously, Willie Keeler had done it against the Washington Senators in 1905, and Frank LaPorte against the Philadelphia Athletics in 1906.

After 10 seasons at Hilltop Park, which included a brief loan to the New York Giants while the Polo Grounds was rebuilt after a 1911 fire, the Giants returned the favor, and offered the Yankees a 10-year lease at the much-larger new Polo Grounds.
The Polo Grounds, as it looked during the Yankees' tenure, 1913-22

I was able to find a list of all Yankee walkoff home runs, now updated through Mark Teixeira's valedictory against the Sox on September 28, 2016. but not a corresponding list for the Red Sox. You would think that someone, somewhere, would have, at the very least, compiled a list of Sox walkoff homers just against the Yankees. If there is such a list somewhere, let me know in the Comments section.

May 6, 1915, Polo Grounds. The Yankees beat the Red Sox in 13 innings, 4-3. The losing pitcher was a rookie from Baltimore. But that rookie did hit his 1st major league home run in this game, having previously had 8 at-bats this season and 10 the year before. The Yankee who gave it up was named Jack Warhop. The Boston rookie? Their pitcher that day: George Herman "Babe" Ruth.
Yeah, that Babe Ruth.

Damon Runyon, the great sportswriter whose writings on New York City street life would one day form the basis for the musical Guys and Dolls, wrote this at the time: "Fanning this Ruth is not as easy as the name and the occupation might indicate. In the third inning, Ruth knocked the slant out of one of Jack Warhop's underhanded subterfuges, and put the baseball in the right field stands for a home run. Ruth was discovered by Jack Dunn in a Baltimore school a year ago where he had not attained his left-handed majority, and was adopted and adapted by Jack for use of the Orioles. He is now quite a demon pitcher and demon hitter when he connects."

November 2, 1916, Fenway Park. Joseph Lannin sells the Red Sox to Harry Frazee, who would own the Red Sox until 1923. He liked baseball, but he loved musical theater, and he owned the Longacre Theater in New York. His office was in the same 42nd Street building as the Yankees' offices. (Most teams did not have their offices in their ballparks until decades later.) This would be very significant over the next few years.
Harry Frazee

April 11, 1917, Polo Grounds. The Yankees and Red Sox open the season played 100 years ago against each other. Dick Hoblitzell hits a home run, Babe Ruth goes this distance while going 1-for-4, and the Red Sox win 10-3.

April 24, 1917, Fenway Park. A sloppy game sees 3 errors by the Yankees, 4 by the Red Sox, 1 of those making the difference in the top of the 9th inning, as the Yankees win 2-1. The Sox run scores on an error, not a hit, because George Mogridge becomes the 1st Yankee pitcher to throw a no-hitter -- as a lefthander at Fenway Park, no less.

July 30, 1919, Times Square, New York. Frazee trades pitcher Carl Mays to the Yankees for Bob Russell, Allen McGraw (neither of whom ever did much for either club) and $40,000. There was a hell of a to-do about this, as Mays had jumped the Sox and was suspended, and, at the time, the rules said you couldn't trade a suspended player.

This trade pretty much split the American League: Frazee, Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert, and Chicago White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey were on one side; on the other were AL founder and President Ban Johnson and the owners of the other 5 clubs. They were the brothers John and Ben Shibe and Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics, former Yankee manager Clark Griffith of the Washington Senators, Frank Navin and Walter Briggs of the Detroit Tigers, Phil Ball of the St. Louis Browns, and Sunny Jim Dunn of the Cleveland Indians.

The National Commission, which oversaw baseball in those days, ruled in favor of Frazee and Ruppert, and Mays became the 1st major player to go from Frazee's Sox to Ruppert's Yanks. There would be more.
Carl Mays

On August 16, 1920, the Yankees played the Cleveland Indians at the Polo Grounds. Mays hit Indian shortstop Ray Chapman in the head with a pitch. It bounced back to him, and he threw to 1st base, acting as though he thought Chapman had actually hit the ball. But Chapman was taken to a hospital, and died the next day.

Chapman was already widely disliked, including by his teammates, first in Boston (a big reason why he was traded), then in New York. The community of baseball wanted to believe that he had hit Chapman on purpose. He lived another 51 years, insisting that he hadn't. Nevertheless, Chapman remains the only player who can be definitively said to have died as a result of playing in a Major League Baseball game, and, with statistics saying Mays should probably be in the Hall of Fame, it is probably the only reason he isn't.

December 26, 1919, Times Square. As a result of the Mays contretemps, Frazee, Ruppert, and Comiskey could pretty much now only make deals with each other, as the other 5 AL owners wanted nothing to do with them.

Due to circumstances that Frazee should have been able to control, but didn't, he had to get rid of Babe Ruth, who, in 1918 and '19, had gone from being baseball's best lefthanded pitcher to being the biggest power hitter in the game.

So he sold the Babe to the Yankees, mainly because Ruppert was willing to pay $125,000 for Ruth's contract; while the other possibility, the White Sox, were run by Comiskey, a notorious cheapstake. (His parsimony led to a problem with that year's World Series, as you may be aware.)
The rest is history... and myth.

So if you're a Red Sox fan, don't blame Frazee for what happened: He didn't have much choice, unless he wanted the press and the public to think Ruth was running the team. From 1918 to the present... Yankees 27, Red Sox 0. Without cheating, anyway.
Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert,
manager Miller Huggins, and slugger Babe Ruth

December 15, 1920, Times Square. Another big trade that helped the Yanks and hurt the Sox. Ruppert sent 4 players, including the decent Del Pratt and Muddy Ruel, to Boston, and perhaps gave up too soon on both of them. But in return, he got 4 players. Harry Harper and Mike McNally didn't matter much. The other 2 players did. One was Wally Schang. Had there been an All-Star Game at the time, Schang would have been the AL catcher just about every season from 1914 (with the A's) until 1924.

The other was pitcher Waite Hoyt. Only 21 at the time of the trade ,and a native New Yorker (a graduate of Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn), Hoyt hadn't done much for the Sox, who gave up him way too soon. He became a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Yankees. Later, he became a beloved broadcaster for the Cincinnati Reds, often telling stories about his days with Ruth and his other Yankee teammates.
Waite Hoyt

This trade wouldn't have been nearly so bad for the Sox if they'd kept Ruel. But in 1923, in one of his last deals, Frazee traded him to Griffith's Senators, and he was the catcher on the Senators' 1st 2 Pennants, 1924 and '25. Pratt at least gave the Sox .300 averages and 188 RBIs in his 1st 2 seasons with them, so it wasn't a total loss. But this was a bonehead trade for Boston.

June 29, 1921, Polo Grounds. Roger Peckinpaugh -- a decent infielder but not known as much of a hitter -- homers in the bottom of the 10th, to give the Yankees a 5-3 win. The winning pitcher for New York: A former Red Sock named Carl Mays. The losing pitcher for Boston: A future Yankee named Bullet Joe Bush.

April 18, 1923, Yankee Stadium, Bronx. The 1st game in the big ballpark, and, depending on whose figures you believe, there were anywhere from 58,000 to 74,218 on hand, with enough people kept outside to push it to 100,000 had there been enough seats. Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York threw out the ceremonial first ball, and John Philip Sousa conducted the U.S. Marine Band in playing "The Star-Spangled Banner." (In those days, it was played only on special occasions. Not until 1931 did the song become the National Anthem, and not until World War II was it played before every game.)
Babe Ruth said, "Some ball yard," and, "I'd give a year of my life to hit the first home run here." He only lived to be 53, but he did hit the 1st homer in the house. Bob Shawkey outdueled Howard Ehmke. Yankees 4, Red Sox 1.

Shawkey was brought back to throw out the first ball when The Stadium reopened after its 1973-76 renovation. Look up the 1929 World Series to find a nice story about Ehmke.

The Yanks go on to beat the Giants, to win their 1st World Series. Of their 25 players, 11 had been members of the Sox' last World Championship in 1918, including starting pitchers Waite Hoyt, Bullet Joe Bush and Sad Sam Jones. It was trading away the pitching, much more than selling Ruth, that should have earned Frazee the ire of Boston fans.

August 2, 1923, Fenway Park. On the same day that President Warren G. Harding dies, Frazee sells the Red Sox to Bob Quinn. Frazee's musical No, No, Nanette would open on Broadway 2 years later, and the Ruth sale had nothing to do with it -- although it may have helped finance a nonmusical play upon which it was based.

Frazee died in 1929 from nephritis, or Bright's disease, a kidney disorder that was fatal within 5 years of diagnosis then, but is treatable today. Nonetheless, he remains the most hated man ever associated with Boston sports. And not fairly.

May 6, 1930, Fenway Park. Can't blame this one on Frazee, a year dead and 7 years gone from team management: The Sox trade pitcher Charles "Red" Ruffing to the Yankees for Cedric Durst and $50,000. Ruffing was 39-96 for some bad Boston teams; he would go 231-124 for the Yankees, that win total topped in a Yankee uniform, so far, only by Whitey Ford with 236. (Andy Pettitte got close, with 219.)
Vernon "Lefty" Gomez and Charles "Red" Ruffing,
the Yankees' lefthanded and righthanded aces from 1930 to 1942

How good was Durst? He batted .245 for the Sox the rest of the season, and he never appeared in the majors again. This wasn't about Durst: This was about the cash, as the Great Depression was underway, and the Sox did not have a rich owner. That would change within 3 years.

February 25, 1933, Fenway Park. Quinn sells the Sox to Tom Yawkey, the son of a former part-owner of the Detroit Tigers, who had recently turned 30, allowing him to inherit a lumber mill fortune that, proportionately speaking, made him richer then than George Steinbrenner would ever be.

Told by Tiger legend Ty Cobb -- William and Tom Yawkey were 2 of Cobb's few real friends -- that the Tigers were not for sale, but that the Red Sox might be, Yawkey jumped. For the next 43 years, he would do exactly what Steinbrenner would be criticized for: Trying to buy a championship. He failed. The Sox would win 3 Pennants while he was alive and running them, and a 4th while his widow owned them, but would lose the World Series in the deciding Game 7 all 4 times.

April 14, 1933, Yankee Stadium. Ruffing, a very good hitter for a pitcher, hits a walkoff home run, a grand slam, and the Yankees win, 6-2. This is the 1st walkoff homer hit by a Yankee pitcher.

August 12, 1934, Fenway Park. A doubleheader is split, with the Red Sox winning the opener 6-4, and the Yankees taking the nightcap 7-1. Babe Ruth goes 2-for-6 with 2 walks over the 2 games.

When Ruth is replaced in left field by Sammy Byrd -- who replaced the Babe so many times in the early 1930s, he was known as Babe Ruth's Legs -- the 46,766 fans who crammed into Fenway give him a standing ovation, suspecting -- correctly, as it turned out -- that this would be his last visit as an active player. Boston fans never held it against the Babe that he was sold, and he always appreciated them in return.

September 8, 1937, Yankee Stadium. Lou Gehrig hits a 3-run homer in the bottom of the 9th, and the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 9-6. It is the 3rd and last walkoff home run of Gehrig's career. Babe Ruth had 11, and Joe DiMaggio 4, but neither ever did it against the Sox.

Part II follows.

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