Yankee hopes of returning to the World Series in 1925 received a severe blow during spring training when Babe Ruth developed what came to be known as “the bellyache heard ‘round the world.” One writer wrote that the terrible stomach pains the slugger experienced were brought on by binging on hot dogs and soda pop before a game. Others speculated that venereal disease and alcohol poisoning (caused by tainted liquor – a major health problem during the Prohibition) caused his illness. The exact nature of Ruth’s ailment has never been confirmed and remains a mystery to this day. It was serious enough, though, to cause Ruth to have surgery that limited him to only 98 games over the course of the 1925 campaign (although, in truth, he also missed some time serving out suspensions for acting inappropriately towards umpires).
Without their best player, the Yankees suffered through a miserable 1925 season that saw them finish seventh in the eight-team American League, with a record of only 69-85. After outscoring their opponents by some 130 runs the previous year, the Yankees found themselves surrendering almost 70 more runs to their foes than they themselves tallied. The team also suffered at the gate, drawing only 697,267 paying customers to Yankee Stadium – the first time since Ruth’s arrival in 1920 they failed to reach the one-million mark in attendance.
Ruth’s absence certainly played a huge role in New York’s poor performance. But there were other factors that contributed to the lack of success the team experienced over the course of the season, not the least of which was an aging pitching staff. After winning 16 games the previous year, 34-year-old Bob Shawkey finished just 6-14, with a 4.11 ERA. Thirty-two-year-old Sam Jones lost 21 games, while posting an ERA of 4.63. Although he pitched well, 31-year-old Herb Pennock lost more games than he won for the first time as a Yankee. Even Waite Hoyt, who, at only 25 years of age, was easily the youngest member of the team’s starting rotation, failed to perform up to expectations, finishing the year with a record of 11-14, along with a 4.00 ERA.
The offense similarly struggled, with Bob Meusel being the only returning member of the starting lineup to post numbers worthy of him. Meusel batted .290, scored 101 runs, and led the American League with 33 home runs and 138 runs batted in. Compiling a total of only 359 official at-bats following his return to the team, Babe Ruth batted just .290, hit only 25 homers, and knocked in just 66 runs. Meanwhile, Everett Scott’s consecutive games played streak ended at 1,307 after the team replaced him at shortstop with 22-year-old Pee-Wee Wanninger, who went on to bat just .236 and drive in only 22 runs, in more than 400 official at-bats.
Still, the season was not a total loss. After beginning his streak of 2,130 consecutive games played by pinch-hitting for Wanninger on June 2, Lou Gehrig subsequently replaced Wally Pipp as the team’s starting first baseman. Playing in the final 126 games of the campaign, the 22-year-old Gehrig batted .295, hit 20 home runs, and knocked in 68 runs. Even more impressive was rookie centerfielder Earle Combs, who wrested the starting centerfield job from Whitey Witt. Appearing in all but four of New York’s games, Combs led the team with a .342 batting average, a .411 on-base percentage, 117 runs scored, 203 hits, 13 triples, and 36 doubles.
Also worthy of note is the fact that two shortstops that eventually made names for themselves at the big-league level made their major league debuts with the Yankees in 1925. Mark Koenig, who served as the starting shortstop on the 1927 Murderer’s Row squad, appeared in 28 games, compiling a .209 batting average in 110 official at-bats. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Leo Durocher played in his first game on October 2, failing to get a hit in his lone plate appearance.By Bob_Cohen
- Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Bob Shawkey, Earle Combs, Everett Scott, Herb Pennock, Leo Durocher, Lou Gehrig, Mark Koenig, New York Yankees, Pee-Wee Wanninger, Sam Jones, Waite Hoyt, Whitey Witt, Yankee Stadium