The Yankees entered the 1930 campaign hoping to reestablish themselves as the American League’s dominant team, after surrendering that title to the Philadelphia Athletics the previous season. New York’s aspirations appeared to be somewhat unrealistic, though, since the A’s were an extremely talented team that seemed likely to remain a force in the junior circuit in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the Yankees had no one on their pitching staff capable of matching up against any of Philadelphia’s top three starters, Lefty Grove, George Earnshaw, and Rube Walberg. Both Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock had regressed considerably the previous year, leaving New York without a true staff ace. Adding to the Yankees’ woes was the fact that they needed to find a replacement for their longtime manager Miller Huggins, who died suddenly from blood poisoning late in 1929.
To fill the void left by Huggins’ passing, the Yankees hired former staff ace Bob Shawkey, who had pitched for the team from 1915 to 1927, surpassing 20 victories on four separate occasions. Although Shawkey had no prior managerial experience, he understood pitching, and the Yankees certainly needed help with their pitching staff. However, once the season began, it became apparent that the Yankees needed more than Shawkey to cure their pitching woes. The team ended up surrendering 898 runs to the opposition – the second most in the American League. No one on the staff compiled an ERA of less than 4.00. Herb Pennock finished 11-7, with a 4.32 ERA. George Pipgras went 15-15, with a 4.11 ERA. Waite Hoyt pitched so ineffectively early in the season that the Yankees traded him and shortstop Mark Koenig to the Detroit Tigers at the end of May for three journeymen players.
GM Ed Barrow did his best to improve the team’s pitching, completing a trade with Boston early in the year that brought 25-year-old right-hander Red Ruffing to New York. Although Ruffing posted a losing record in each of his five full seasons in Boston, Barrow believed that pitching for a better team might help to make a winner out of him. Barrow proved to be prophetic, since Ruffing went on to win a total of 231 games for the Yankees in his 15 years with them, surpassing 20 victories four straight times at one point. He finished the 1930 campaign with an impressive record of 15-5 for the team, despite posting a rather high 4.14 ERA. Barrow also brought up from the minor leagues 21-year-old Lefty Gomez. Although the southpaw experienced significant growing pains during his initial trial in the Bronx, going just 2-5 with a 5.55 ERA, he, too, went on to make major contributions to the Yankees in the coming years.
In spite of the additions, New York pitchers continued to struggle throughout the year, allowing just under five earned runs per-game over the course of the regular season. Their poor performance relegated the Yankees to a third-place finish, 16 games behind the pennant-winning Athletics, with a record of 86-68.
Had Yankee hurlers held up their end, the team might well have contended for the pennant, since the New York offense established a new league record by producing a total of 1,062 runs. With nary an easy out in the lineup, the Yankees boasted a batting order second to none in all of baseball. Leadoff hitter Earle Combs batted .344, knocked in 82 runs, and scored 129 others. Rookie Ben Chapman batted .316 and drove in 81 runs. Lyn Lary, who replaced Mark Koenig as the team’s starting shortstop, batted .289 and scored 93 runs. Bill Dickey batted .339, knocked in 65 runs, and provided exceptional defense behind the plate. Tony Lazzeri batted .303, drove in 121 runs, and scored 109 others. Babe Ruth led the league with 49 home runs, a .493 on-base percentage, and a .732 slugging percentage, while also batting .359, driving in 153 runs, and scoring 150 times. Lou Gehrig posted numbers that were equally impressive, hitting 41 homers, knocking in a league-leading 174 runs, scoring 143 others, and finishing second in the league with 220 hits, a .379 batting average, a .473 on-base percentage, and a .721 slugging percentage.
In the end, though, it just wasn’t enough. The outstanding performance of the A’s, coupled with the shortcomings of New York’s pitching staff, cost Bob Shawkey his managerial job at the end of the year.By Bob_Cohen
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- Babe Ruth, Ben Chapman, Bill Dickey, Bob Shawkey, Earle Combs, Ed Barrow, George Pipgras, Herb Pennock, Lefty Gomez, Lou Gehrig, Lyn Lary, Mark Koenig, Miller Huggins, New York Yankees, Red Ruffing, Tony Lazzeri, Waite Hoyt