The progress made under manager Bill Donovan the previous season proved to be short-lived in 1917, as the Yankees limped home in sixth place, with a record of 71-82.  New York’s poor performance ended up costing Donovan his job, since team owner Jacob Ruppert replaced him at season’s end with Miller Huggins, who went on to lead the Yankees to six pennants and three world championships.

The team’s regression could be traced to a number of factors, not the least of which was an underwhelming offense that scored only 524 runs – the second lowest total in the American League.  Wally Pipp had a decent year, topping the circuit in home runs for the second straight time with a total of nine four-baggers.  The first baseman also knocked in 70 runs and led the team with 82 runs scored, despite batting only .244.  However, Pipp received very little help from the rest of the line-up, with Frank Baker presenting the team’s only other threat on offense.  Baker hit six homers and led the club with 71 runs batted in, a .282 batting average, and a .345 on-base percentage.  None of the other regulars drove in more than 44 runs, scored more than 63 times, or batted any higher than .261.

The pitching staff fared somewhat better, allowing the opposition a total of 558 runs, while posting a team ERA of 2.66 – the fifth best in the league.  But no one stepped to the forefront to assume the role of staff ace.  Bob Shawkey, who adopted that role the previous season, pitched fairly well, compiling a 2.44 ERA and 16 complete games.  However, he posted a record of just 13-15.  Ray Caldwell led the staff with 21 complete games, while posting a very respectable 2.86 ERA.  But he finished the year with a mark of 13-16.  Nick Cullop, so effective one year earlier, finished just 5-9 with a 3.32 ERA.  New York’s two most effective pitchers were actually Ray Fisher and Urban Shocker, who worked mostly as spot-starters and long relievers.  Fisher went 8-9, with a 2.19 ERA and 12 complete games, while Shocker posted a record of 8-5, along with a 2.61 ERA and seven complete games.    

New York’s poor performance not only stunted the development of the team, but it also provided a major setback at the box office.  After drawing 469,211 fans to the Polo Grounds the previous year, the Yankees attracted only 330,294 paying customers in 1917.

By Bob_Cohen
Bill Donovan, Bob Shawkey, Frank Baker, Jacob Ruppert, Miller Huggins, New York Yankees, Nick Cullop, Polo Grounds, Ray Caldwell, Ray Fisher, Urban Shocker, Wally Pipp


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