The Yankees arrived in spring training in 1926 hoping to reestablish themselves as contenders in the American League following their embarrassing performance from one year earlier. Also looking to bounce back after experiencing what amounted to a lost season in 1925 was Babe Ruth, who rededicated himself to his profession during the off-season. Admonished by none other than the President of the United States, who told Ruth that he was letting down the youth of America, the Babe worked harder than ever before to get himself into top condition prior to the start of the season.
The sense of purpose the Yankees carried with them into the 1926 campaign paid huge dividends, with the team capturing the American League pennant by finishing three games ahead of the second-place Indians, with a record of 91-63. New York boasted the league’s top offense, scoring a total of 847 runs – 45 more than any other team in the circuit. After being outscored by their opponents by some 70 runs the previous year, the Yankees crossed the plate 134 more times than their foes in 1926. Their improved play enabled the Yankees to draw more than one million fans to the ballpark for the sixth time in seven seasons.
Although the Yankees failed to address the issue of their aging pitching staff, their starters performed significantly better than they did the previous year. Waite Hoyt finished 16-12 with a 3.85 ERA. Veteran right-hander Urban Shocker, acquired from the St. Louis Browns one year earlier, compiled a record of 19-11, along with a 3.38 ERA and 18 complete games. Herb Pennock served as the staff ace, finishing the year with a record of 23-11, a 3.62 ERA, and a team-leading 19 complete games and 266 innings pitched.
Meanwhile, New York featured a new double play combination in the middle of the infield. Mark Koenig took over as the team’s starting shortstop, while Tony Lazzeri replaced Aaron Ward as the starter at second base. The 21-year-old Koenig had a solid year at the bat, hitting .271, driving in 62 runs, and scoring 93 others. The 22-year-old Lazzeri established himself as one of the league’s top sluggers in his rookie campaign, finishing third in the junior circuit with 18 home runs and placing second in runs batted in with 114, while also stealing a team-leading 16 bases and batting .275. Although injuries limited Bob Meusel to only 108 games, he knocked in 81 runs and batted .315. Earle Combs followed up his brilliant rookie performance with another solid year, batting .299 and scoring 113 runs. Lou Gehrig joined Babe Ruth in the middle of the batting order to give the Yankees the American League’s most formidable one-two punch, hitting 16 home runs, driving in 112 runs, scoring 135 others, batting .313, compiling an on-base percentage of .420, accumulating 47 doubles, and topping the circuit with 20 triples in his first full season. Returning to the Yankees fully healthy, Ruth reestablished himself as the American League’s top player, leading the league with 47 home runs, 146 runs batted in, 139 runs scored, 144 walks, a .516 on-base percentage, and a .737 slugging percentage, while also finishing second in batting average, with a mark of .372.
Ruth’s extraordinary performance led New York into the World Series for the fourth time in six years. The Yankees entered the Fall Classic as a heavy favorite over the St. Louis Cardinals, and they appeared to be well on their way to capturing their second world championship after they took a 3-2 lead in the Series, with the final two contests scheduled to be played at Yankee Stadium. Particularly impressive was New York’s Game Four victory – a 10-5 thrashing of the Cardinals during which Ruth hit three home runs. However, St. Louis finally prevailed in seven games behind the heroic pitching of 39-year-old Grover Cleveland Alexander. After throwing a complete-game victory against the Yankees in Game Six, Alexander returned the following day to squelch a two-out bases loaded rally in the bottom of the seventh inning by striking out Tony Lazzeri. He then shut down the Yankees over the final two frames to give the Cardinals their first world championship. The final out was recorded when Ruth inexplicably attempted to steal second base, with two men out and Lou Gehrig standing in the batter’s box.By Bob_Cohen
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- 1926 World Series, Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Earle Combs, Herb Pennock, Lou Gehrig, Mark Koenig, New York Yankees, Pete Alexander, St. Louis Cardinals, Tony Lazzeri, Urban Shocker, Waite Hoyt, Yankee Stadium