The New York Yankees began defense of their first American League pennant without their best player in 1922. Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis suspended Babe Ruth for the first six weeks of the season after Ruth ignored a rule in place at the time prohibiting World Series participants from playing in exhibition games during the off-season by taking part in a barnstorming tour following the Yankee loss to the Giants in the 1921 Fall Classic. Making his first appearance of the 1922 campaign on May 2, Ruth nevertheless ended up leading New York with 35 home runs, 99 runs batted in, a .434 on-base percentage, and a .672 slugging percentage, while placing second on the team with a .315 batting average.
In spite of the subpar numbers posted by Ruth during the regular season, the Yankees repeated as American League champions, barely edging out the second-place St. Louis Browns by one game, with a record of 94-60. However, the loss of Ruth for a significant part of the season hurt New York’s offense considerably. After establishing a new A.L. record by scoring 948 runs the previous year, the Yankees tallied a total of only 758 runs in 1922 – the fourth most in the junior circuit. That total placed them more than 100 runs behind the league-leading St. Louis Browns, who topped the circuit with 867 runs scored. First baseman Wally Pipp was New York’s most reliable hitter, leading the team with a .329 batting average and 190 hits, while also driving in 90 runs and scoring 96 others.
The Yankees ended up capturing their second consecutive league championship largely on the strength of their outstanding pitching. They surrendered a league-low 618 runs to their opposition, compiling in the process a team ERA of 3.39. The newly-acquired Joe Bush anchored the pitching staff, finishing the year with a record of 26-7, a 3.31 ERA, and 20 complete games. Bob Shawkey posted 20 victories and led the team with a 2.91 ERA, 22 complete games, and 300 innings pitched. Waite Hoyt added another 19 wins.
However, the season ended in utter disappointment for the Yankees for the second straight time when the Giants again defeated them in the World Series, this time by a 4-0 count (the Yankees managed a tie in Game Two). The Giants outscored the Yankees 18-11 during the Fall Classic, with Ruth making virtually no impact. With Giants manager John McGraw instructing his pitchers to throw nothing but curveballs to Ruth, the Yankee slugger failed to make the necessary adjustments. He managed just two singles in 17 times at-bat, for a batting average of only .118.
Although the Yankees finished one game ahead of St. Louis in the A.L. pennant race, it could be argued that the Browns were a better team. They certainly had more offensive weapons than New York. Baby Doll Jacobson batted .317, drove in 102 runs, and collected 16 triples. Second baseman Marty McManus batted .312 and knocked in 109 runs. Jack Tobin batted .331 and placed among the league leaders with 122 runs scored and 207 hits. Fellow outfielder Ken Williams temporarily replaced Babe Ruth as the league’s top slugger. In addition to batting .332, stealing 37 bases, and scoring 128 runs, Williams led the American League with 39 home runs, 155 runs batted in, and 367 total bases. Meanwhile, first baseman George Sisler topped the circuit in five different offensive categories. Sisler won the batting title with a mark of .420, and he also led the league with 134 runs scored, 246 hits, 18 triples, and 51 stolen bases. Sisler’s exceptional performance earned him recognition as the American League’s first winner of the modern MVP Award.
Still, the Browns did not have a monopoly on outstanding batsmen in the junior circuit. Tris Speaker posted a batting average of .378 for Cleveland and led the league with 48 doubles and a .474 on-base percentage. Detroit’s Ty Cobb finished second in the league with 211 hits and a .401 batting average, and he also placed among the leaders in doubles, triples, total bases, and on-base percentage.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• April 30 – In just his fourth career start, Chicago White Sox pitcher Charlie Robertson threw the fifth perfect game in major league history, shutting out the Tigers 2-0 at Navin Field in Detroit.
• Despite pitching for the seventh-place A’s, Eddie Rommel led the American League with 27 wins.
• George Sisler established a new American League record by hitting successfully in 41 straight games.
• Chicago White Sox hurler Red Faber led all A.L. pitchers with a 2.81 ERA.
• By winning 22 games while compiling a 4.08 ERA for Cleveland, George Uhle became the first pitcher since 1897 to reach 20 wins while posting an ERA over 4.00.
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- 1922 World Series, American League, Babe Ruth, Baby Doll Jacobson, Bob Shawkey, Charlie Robertson, Eddie Rommel, George Sisler, George Uhle, Jack Tobin, Joe Bush, John McGraw, Ken Williams, Kenesaw Landis, Marty McManus, New York Giants, New York Yankees, Red Faber, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Waite Hoyt, Wally Pipp