The Yankees won their third consecutive American League pennant in 1938, finishing the regular season with a record of 99-53, 9 ½ games ahead of the second-place Boston Red Sox. The Cleveland Indians finished third in the league, 13 games back, and the Detroit Tigers came in fourth, 16 games off the pace.
Although they finished well behind New York in the standings, the Red Sox and Tigers featured the league’s top two players. Jimmie Foxx had a phenomenal year for Boston, finishing second in the league with 50 home runs and 139 runs scored, and topping the circuit with 175 runs batted in, a .349 batting average, 398 total bases, a .462 on-base percentage, and a .704 slugging percentage. The members of the BBWAA named Foxx A.L. MVP at season’s end, making him the first player in either league to win the award three times.
Detroit slugger Hank Greenberg rivaled Foxx as the American League’s dominant hitter throughout the campaign. In addition to leading the league with 58 home runs and 144 runs scored, Greenberg batted .315 and finished second to Foxx with 146 runs batted in.
Yet, the Yankees’ outstanding team balance made them the league’s most formidable ball club for the third straight year. New York finished first in the junior circuit in runs scored (966) and fewest runs allowed (710) for the third consecutive time.
New York’s deep starting staff included Red Ruffing, who led all A.L. hurlers with 21 victories and placed second in the league with a 3.31 ERA and 22 complete games. Lefty Gomez won 18 games and finished third in the league with a 3.35 ERA and 20 complete games. Monte Pearson posted 16 victories, while Spud Chandler contributed another 14 wins.
On offense, Red Rolfe batted .311 and placed near the top of the league rankings with 132 runs scored. Bill Dickey earned a second-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting by hitting 27 home runs, driving in 115 runs, and batting .313. Joe DiMaggio finished four places behind Dickey in the balloting, ending the campaign among the league leaders with 32 home runs, 140 runs batted in, 129 runs scored, and a .324 batting average. In the early stages of a disease that eventually took his life, Lou Gehrig failed to bat over .300 for the first time since his rookie campaign of 1925. Nevertheless, the 35-year-old Yankee captain managed to post a mark of .295, hit 29 home runs, knock in 114 runs, and score 115 others.
The Yankees subsequently faced the Chicago Cubs in the World Series seeking to capture their third straight world championship. They made short work of the Cubs, sweeping them in four games and outscoring their overmatched opponents by a combined margin of 22-9. Red Ruffing starred for New York, throwing two complete games in winning Games One and Four.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• August 27 – In the second game of a doubleheader, New York’s Monte Pearson pitched a no-hitter in recording a 13-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
• Bob Feller established a new modern record (since broken) by striking out 18 batters in a game.
• Feller led the major leagues with 240 strikeouts.
• Feller also surrendered a 20th-century record 208 walks.
• Boston’s Pinky Higgins collected a major league record 12 hits in 12 consecutive at-bats.
• The Giants, Dodgers, and Yankees allowed their home games to be broadcast on a regular basis.
• Monty Stratton, a 15-game winner with the White Sox, lost his leg after the season in a hunting accident.
• George McQuinn of the Browns compiled a 34-game hitting streak.
• Cleveland outfielder Jeff Heath hit 21 home runs, knocked in 112 runs, scored 104 others, batted .343 and led the league with 18 triples.
• Boston shortstop Joe Cronin topped the circuit with 51 doubles.
• Boston’s Lefty Grove won the eighth of his record nine ERA titles with a mark of 3.08.
- 1938 World Series, American League, Bill Dickey, Bob Feller, Charlie Gehringer, Chicago Cubs, George McQuinn, Hank Greenberg, Jeff Heath, Jimmie Foxx, Joe Cronin, Joe DiMaggio, Lefty Gomez, Lefty Grove, Lou Gehrig, Monte Pearson, Monty Stratton, New York Yankees, Pinky Higgins, Red Rolfe, Red Ruffing, Spud Chandler