The Yankees had a far more difficult time capturing the American League pennant in 1928 than they did the previous season, finishing just 2 ½ games ahead of the hard-charging Philadelphia Athletics, with a record of 101-53. In fact, after the resurgent A’s put together a 25-8 stretch in July, it took a mid-September sweep of Connie Mack’s crew for the Yankees to finally separate themselves from their closest competitors. The two teams met for a September 9 doubleheader showdown at Yankee Stadium that a record crowd of 85,264 fans attended. The Yankees took both ends of the twin bill, winning by scores of 3-0 and 7-3. They subsequently clinched the American League flag less than two weeks later. Philadelphia finished a close second, with a record of 98-55.
The runner-up A’s were an extremely talented bunch that featured future Hall of Famers Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane, and Lefty Grove. In just his first full season, Foxx drove in 79 runs, scored 85 others, and batted .327. Simmons knocked in 107 runs and batted .351. Cochrane captured league MVP honors for the first of two times even though he finished the campaign with relatively modest numbers. The A’s catcher hit only 10 home runs, knocked in just 57 runs, batted .293, and scored 92 runs. Meanwhile, Grove posted a record of 24-8, to tie for the league lead in victories. He also topped the circuit with 183 strikeouts, while placing among the leaders with a 2.58 ERA, 261 innings pitched, and 24 complete games. Yet, the A’s were still one year away from establishing a mini-dynasty in the junior circuit that brought them the next three A.L. pennants.
In the meantime, the Yankees remained baseball’s strongest team, scoring a league-leading 894 runs, while finishing second only to the A’s with 685 runs allowed. Waite Hoyt had another big year on the mound for New York, finishing the campaign with a record of 23-7, a 3.36 ERA, and 19 complete games. Herb Pennock posted a mark of 17-6, threw 18 complete games, and placed among the league leaders with a 2.56 ERA. George Pipgras evolved into a top-flight starter, tying Philadelphia’s Lefty Grove for the league lead with 24 victories, while also compiling a 3.38 ERA and tossing 22 complete games.
Still, the Yankees’ greatest strength remained their powerful lineup. Shortstop Mark Koenig had his finest season in pinstripes, batting .319 and scoring 89 runs. Second baseman Tony Lazzeri batted .332 and knocked in 82 runs, despite missing 38 games due to injury. Bob Meusel batted .297 and drove in 113 runs. Leadoff hitter Earle Combs had another very good year, batting .310, leading the league with 21 triples, and placing among the leaders with 118 runs scored and 194 hits.
Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig once again formed the backbone of the team, establishing themselves as the league’s two most dominant players. Ruth topped the circuit with 54 home runs, 142 runs batted in, 163 runs scored, 380 total bases, 135 walks, and a .709 slugging percentage, while batting .323 and finishing second in the league with a .461 on-base percentage. Gehrig tied his teammate for the league-lead in RBIs, while topping the circuit with 47 doubles and a .467 on-base percentage. He also finished second in home runs (27), runs scored (139), hits (210), and slugging percentage (.648), while placing third in batting average (.374) and total bases (364).
Led by Ruth and Gehrig, the Yankees entered the 1928 World Series seeking to exact revenge on a St. Louis Cardinals team that upset them in the 1926 Fall Classic. They did so in convincing fashion, sweeping St. Louis in four straight games. In the process, the Yankees outscored the Cardinals by a combined margin to 27-10, hitting nine home runs to the Cardinals’ one. Ruth duplicated his World Series feat from two years earlier by hitting three home runs in the Series finale, a 7-3 Yankee victory. Ruth knocked in four runs, scored nine others, and batted .625 in the four games. Gehrig was an even greater thorn in the side of the Cardinals, batting .545, hitting four homers, driving in nine runs, and scoring another five in the Series.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• Manush topped the American League with 241 hits and 47 doubles. He also placed among the leaders with 108 runs batted in, 20 triples, 367 total bases, and a .575 slugging percentage, en route to earning a close second-place finish in the league MVP voting.
• Ty Cobb announced his retirement. He left the game holding numerous records, including most career hits (4,190), stolen bases (892), and runs batted in (1,933). Although most of Cobb’s records have since been broken, he remains the all-time record-holder for the highest career batting average (.367).
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- 1928 World Series, Al Simmons, American League, Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Connie Mack, Earle Combs, George Pipgras, Goose Goslin, Heinie Manush, Herb Pennock, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Lou Gehrig, Mark Koenig, Mickey Cochrane, New York Yankees, Pete Alexander, Philadelphia Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals, Tony Lazzeri, Ty Cobb, Waite Hoyt