Although the 1927 season is remembered best for producing arguably the greatest team in baseball history, it opened with an unpleasant reminder of the sport’s corrupt past. Former pitcher Dutch Leonard accused Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker of fixing a 1919 game between Detroit and Cleveland. In spite of two incriminating letters produced by Leonard, commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis “permitted Cobb and Speaker to resign” from their respective clubs without any further prosecution, and without rendering any type of official decision as to their guilt or innocence. Both men subsequently resigned from their posts as player/managers for their respective teams, with both of them signing with new clubs for 1927 – Cobb with Philadelphia and Speaker with Washington.
The mini-scandal resulted in the forced resignation of Ban Johnson from the American League presidency after 27 years of service. Commissioner Landis forced Johnson’s hand when he became angry over the latter’s public proclamation that Landis’s decision had sullied the reputations of the two baseball legends without providing conclusive evidence.
In spite of these rather sordid off-field developments, the 1927 baseball season belonged to the New York Yankees, who led the American League every day of the year en route to finishing the campaign with a record of 110-44, 19 games ahead of the second-place Philadelphia Athletics. Considered by many baseball historians to be the greatest team ever, the Yankees so overwhelmed their opposition that they posted a run-differential of almost 400 runs over the course of the season. In addition to breaking their own league record by scoring 975 runs, they permitted the opposition to score a total of only 599 times, compiling in the process a team ERA of 3.20. The Chicago White Sox finished second in the circuit with a mark of 3.91.
Waite Hoyt anchored New York’s pitching staff, tying for the league lead with 22 victories, while also placing among the leaders with a 2.63 ERA, 23 complete games, and 256 innings pitched. Herb Pennock finished 19-8, with a 3.00 ERA and 18 complete games. Urban Shocker won 18 games and finished third in the league with a 2.84 earned run average. Meanwhile, reliever Wilcy Moore had easily his finest season, winning 19 games and leading the league with 13 saves and a 2.28 earned run average.
Still, it was the Yankees’ powerful offense that enabled them to reach legendary status. Nicknamed Murderers’ Row for the manner in which it devastated opposing pitchers, New York’s lineup compiled a league-leading .307 batting average, .383 on-base percentage, and .489 slugging percentage (still the major league record). New York’s 158 home runs as a team nearly tripled the output of the league runner-up in that category (Philadelphia finished second with 56 homers). Yankee players finished first, second, and third in the circuit in home runs, runs scored, and total bases. They also claimed the top two spots in runs batted in, hits, triples, walks, and slugging percentage. Bob Meusel batted .337, knocked in 103 runs, amassed 47 doubles, and finished second in the league with 24 stolen bases. Earle Combs batted .356, placed third in the league with 137 runs scored, and topped the circuit with 231 hits and 23 triples. Tony Lazzeri finished third in the league with 18 home runs, drove in 102 runs, batted .309, and stole 22 bases.
Yet, the Yankees would not have acquired their famous moniker had it not been for the combination of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The two men finished first and second in the league in six different offensive categories, with one or the other topping the circuit in eight out of the 12 major offensive departments. Between them, they accounted for almost 25 percent of the league’s 439 home runs. Aside from establishing a new single-season home run record by hitting 60 homers, Ruth knocked in 164 runs, scored a league-leading 158 times, batted .356, accumulated 417 total bases, and topped the circuit with 138 walks, a .487 on-base percentage, and a .772 slugging percentage. Meanwhile, Gehrig finished second in the league with 47 homers, 149 runs scored, a .373 batting average, 218 hits, 18 triples, 109 walks, and a .765 slugging percentage. He also topped the circuit with 175 runs batted in, 52 doubles, and 447 total bases, en route to earning A.L. MVP honors.
The Yankees continued their dominance in the World Series, disposing of the overmatched Pittsburgh Pirates in four straight games. New York outscored Pittsburgh by a combined margin of 23-10 during the Fall Classic, with Ruth hitting the only two home runs in the Series. He also knocked in seven runs and batted .400.
Although the Yankees dominated the American League in 1927, several players from other teams distinguished themselves over the course of the regular season as well. Let’s take a look at some of the circuit’s other top performers, as well as some of the more notable events that transpired around the league:
• September 3 – Philadelphia’s Lefty Grove shut out the Yankees for the only time all season.
• September 29 – During a 15-4 Yankee victory against the Washington Senators, Babe Ruth hit two home runs to tie his own single-season mark of 59 set in 1921.
• September 30 - Babe Ruth hit his 60th home run of the season off Washington Senators pitcher Tom Zachary, to give the Yankees a 4–2 victory. Ruth's 60 home runs stood as the single-season mark for the next 34 years.
• October 2 - Harry Heilmann collected seven hits in nine at-bats during a double header on the final day of the season to miss a .400 batting average for the year by .002. However, with a mark of .398, he captured the last of his four batting titles.
• The total of 107 home runs amassed by Ruth and Gehrig stood as the single-season record for two teammates until 1961.
• By hitting 60 home runs, Ruth hit more homers than every other team in the American League except his own.
• Wilcy Moore’s 13 wins in relief established a new record for relievers.
• Lou Gehrig's 175 runs batted in established a new major league record (since broken).
• Lou Gehrig’s .765 slugging average and 447 total bases established all-time records for major league first basemen.
• The Yankees became the first team in Major League Baseball history to hit 100 triples and 100 homers in a season.
• Ty Cobb collected his 4,000th hit on July 19, off Detroit's Sam Gibson.
• Walter Johnson retired at the end of the year with a major league record 3,506 career strikeouts (since broken).
• Johnson's 110 career shutouts remain the major league record.
• The Yankees defeated the St. Louis Browns an American League record 21 times over the course of the season.
• On May 31, Tigers first baseman Johnny Neun recorded an unassisted triple play.
• Chicago's Ted Lyons tied New York's Waite Hoyt for the American League lead in wins, with 22.
• Fired as White Sox player/manager, Eddie Collins signed with the A's, who had a record seven future Hall of Famers on their active roster in 1927 (Collins, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane, Ty Cobb, Lefty Grove, and Tris Speaker).
• The A's struck out a total of only 326 times as a team, an all-time American League low for a single season.
• Ty Cobb collected five hits in a game for a career record 13th time.
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- 1927 World Series, American League, Babe Ruth, Ban Johnson, Bob Meusel, Dutch Leonard, Earle Combs, Eddie Collins, Goose Goslin, Harry Heilmann, Herb Pennock, Johnny Neun, Kenesaw Landis, Lefty Grove, Lou Gehrig, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Ted Lyons, Tom Zachary, Tony Lazzeri, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Urban Shocker, Waite Hoyt, Walter Johnson, Wilcy Moore