The home run revolution rolled on in both leagues during the 1921 baseball season, as homer production in the majors increased by roughly 50 percent over that of the previous season. The New York Yankees led the way, establishing a new major league record by hitting 134 home runs as a team, while also setting a new A.L. mark by scoring 948 runs over the course of the regular season. The Yankees’ powerful offense enabled them to capture their first American League pennant by finishing the year with a record of 98-55, 4 ½ games ahead of the second-place Cleveland Indians.
Although the Yankees scored more runs than any other team in the junior circuit, the impressive offensive numbers they posted could be attributed largely to one man. In his second year in New York, Babe Ruth had arguably the greatest offensive season of any player in baseball history. Ruth established new single-season marks by hitting 59 home runs, driving in 171 runs, scoring 177 others, and accumulating 457 total bases. He also batted .378, collected 16 triples, 44 doubles, and 204 hits, and led the league with 145 walks, a .512 on-base percentage, and a slugging percentage of .846. Ruth’s 177 runs scored and 457 total bases remain all-time single-season records.
While Ruth was clearly the driving force behind New York’s first league championship, he had a considerable amount of help from his teammates. Second-year outfielder Bob Meusel scored 104 runs, batted .318, and placed among the league leaders with 24 home runs, 135 runs batted in, and 16 triples. Carl Mays anchored a pitching staff that led the A.L. with a team ERA of 3.79. Mays threw 30 complete games, compiled a 3.05 ERA, and topped the circuit with 27 wins and 337 innings pitched. Waite Hoyt won 19 games in his first year in pinstripes, posted an ERA of 3.09, and tossed 21 complete games. Bob Shawkey chipped in with 18 victories and 18 complete games.
The Yankees subsequently made their first World Series appearance against the Giants, in a best-of-nine Series played entirely within the confines of New York’s Polo Grounds. After winning the first two games of the first-ever “Subway Series” by identical 3-0 scores, the Yankees went on to lose five of the next six contests, falling to the Giants in eight games. An injured Babe Ruth found himself unable to take the field in either of the final two contests.
Although New York featured the league’s most potent offense, the second-place Cleveland Indians weren’t very far behind. The Indians scored only 23 fewer runs than the Yankees, while also allowing their opposition to cross the plate just four more times. Tris Speaker led the Cleveland attack, batting .362 and topping the junior circuit with 52 doubles. Teammate Larry Gardner drove in 120 runs and scored 101 others. Meanwhile, Stan Coveleski won 23 games for the Tribe and completed 28 of his 40 starts.
The third-place St. Louis Browns and the sixth-place Detroit Tigers also had two of the league’s top offenses. George Sisler had another tremendous year for St. Louis, compiling a .371 batting average, 125 runs scored, and a league-leading 35 stolen bases. Teammate Ken Williams hit 24 home runs, knocked in 117 runs, scored 115 others, and batted .347, while fellow Brownie Jack Tobin batted .352, led the league with 18 triples, scored 132 runs, and collected 236 hits. Detroit’s attack featured the tremendous outfield trio of Harry Heilmann, Ty Cobb, and Bobby Veach. Heilmann finished second in the league with 139 runs batted in, and he topped the circuit with a .394 batting average and 237 hits. Cobb finished second to Heilmann in the batting race with a mark of .389, and he also placed among the league leaders with 124 runs scored and a .596 slugging percentage. Veach batted .338, knocked in 128 runs, scored 110 others, and collected 207 hits.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• July 12 - Babe Ruth hit his 33rd and 34th home runs of the season, giving him 137 for his career. That total placed him one ahead of 19th century slugger Roger Connor on the all-time list, making him baseball’s all-time home run king. Ruth held that title for the next 53 years.
• August 9 - The St. Louis Browns defeated the Washington Senators 8-6 in 19 innings. Dixie Davis pitched all 19 innings for St. Louis.
• August 19 - Ty Cobb became the fourth player in history to amass 3,000 career hits.
• October 5 - The New York Yankees defeated the New York Giants 3-0 in the first World Series game in franchise history. The contest was the first to be broadcast on radio. Announcer Thomas Cowan recreated the game over Westinghouse-owned WJZ in Newark, listening to phoned-in reports from the stadium.
• Yankee pitcher Waite Hoyt won two games and compiled a perfect 0.00 ERA in his three World Series starts but lost the Series finale by a score of 1-0.
• The A's finished last in the American League for an all-time record seventh straight year.
- 1921 World Series, American League, Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Bob Shawkey, Bobby Veach, Carl Mays, Dixie Davis, George Sisler, Harry Heilmann, Jack Tobin, Ken Williams, Larry Gardner, New York Giants, New York Yankees, Stan Coveleski, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Waite Hoyt