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Having been evicted from the Polo Grounds by Giants manager John McGraw, who grew increasingly envious of the Yankees’ growing fan base following the arrival of Babe Ruth in 1920, the Yankees moved just across the Harlem River, into brand new Yankee Stadium in 1923.  Hoping to capture their third consecutive American League pennant, the Yankees christened the huge ballpark in the Bronx otherwise referred to as The House That Ruth Built in front of 74,200 fans on April 18.  After reportedly uttering the words “Some ball yard” when he took the field for the first time, Ruth appropriately hit the first home run ever struck in Yankee Stadium during a 4-1 New York victory over Boston.

The defeat the Yankees handed the Red Sox on Opening Day followed another setback they administered to them during the off-season.  On January 30, 1923, New York traded three journeymen players and $50,000 to Boston for 29-year-old left-handed pitcher Herb Pennock.  After first coming up with the Philadelphia Athletics, Pennock spent the previous four years starting for the Red Sox, posting 16 victories for them on two separate occasions.  Although he finished just 10-17 for Boston in 1922, the Yankees believed a change in scenery might greatly improve his performance.

As it turned out, Pennock thrived in the Bronx, compiling a record of 19-6 in his first year in pinstripes, along with a 3.13 ERA and 21 complete games.  In fact, the entire Yankee pitching staff performed extremely well, allowing the opposition only 622 runs – easily the lowest total surrendered by any staff in the league.  Bob Shawkey won 16 games, Waite Hoyt posted 17 victories and a team-leading 3.02 ERA, Joe Bush won 19 games and threw 22 complete games, and Sam Jones finished 21-8 with 18 complete games.  The combination of New York’s outstanding pitching and solid hitting enabled the team to run away with the American League pennant.  The Yankees finished 16 games ahead of the second-place Detroit Tigers, with a record of 98-54.  They also succeeded in surpassing the one-million mark in home attendance for the fourth consecutive year, drawing 1,007,066 fans to Yankee Stadium in the ballpark’s inaugural season.

As effectively as Yankee hurlers pitched in 1923, the strength of the team’s lineup should not be overlooked.  Leadoff hitter Whitey Witt batted .314 and scored 113 runs.  Leftfielder Bob Meusel batted .313 and knocked in 91 runs.  Third baseman Joe Dugan, acquired from the Red Sox midway through the previous campaign, batted .283 and scored 111 runs.  First baseman Wally Pipp batted .304 and finished second on the team with 108 runs batted in.  Babe Ruth led the team in virtually every major offensive category, finishing first in the American League with 41 home runs, 131 runs batted in, 151 runs scored, 399 total bases, 170 walks, a .545 on-base percentage, and a .764 slugging percentage.  He also placed second in the league with a .393 batting average, while finishing among the leaders with 205 hits and 45 doubles.  Only the .403 batting average compiled by Detroit outfielder Harry Heilmann prevented Ruth from winning the Triple Crown.  Meanwhile, another player of note made his major league debut with the Yankees in 1923.  Lou Gehrig appeared in 13 games with the club, coming up with 11 hits in 26 official at-bats, for a batting average of .423.  The 20-year-old first baseman hit his first home run and knocked in the first nine runs of his career.    

Having lost the two previous World Series to the Giants, the Yankees entered the Fall Classic seeking to gain a measure of revenge.  Things didn’t look too promising at first after they lost Game One on an inside-the-park home run by Giants’ outfielder Casey Stengel.  However, the Yankees won four of the next five contests, outscoring the Giants by a combined score of 26-12, to capture their first world championship.  After performing so poorly in the previous year’s Fall Classic, Babe Ruth acquitted himself far better in the 1923 Series, batting .368, hitting three home runs, walking eight times, and scoring eight runs.

By Bob_Cohen
 

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Tagged:
Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Bob Shawkey, Casey Stengel, Harry Heilmann, Herb Pennock, Joe Bush, Joe Dugan, John McGraw, Lou Gehrig, New York Giants, New York Yankees, Polo Grounds, Sam Jones, Waite Hoyt, Wally Pipp, Whitey Witt, Yankee Stadium

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