After failing to win the American League pennant for the third straight time in 1935, the Yankees turned to the West Coast for help prior to the start of the 1936 campaign, acquiring the rights to Joe DiMaggio from the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals. The son of Italian immigrants, the 21-year-old DiMaggio had built a reputation while playing in the PCL as “the perfect ballplayer.” Blessed with the ability to hit, hit with power, run, field, and throw, DiMaggio proved to be the perfect right-handed complement to the left-handed hitting Lou Gehrig. The rookie centerfielder moved seamlessly into the number three spot in the batting order, giving the Yankees the powerful bat they lacked hitting in front of Gehrig since Babe Ruth left the team two years earlier.
With Gehrig and DiMaggio leading the way, the Yankees ran away with the American League pennant, finishing 19 ½ games ahead of the second-place Detroit Tigers, with a record of 102-51. By scoring 1,065 runs, New York’s powerful offense fell just two runs shy of tying the all-time mark the team established five years earlier. Yankee pitchers also compiled the lowest team ERA in the league, posting a mark of 4.17, en route to allowing the opposition a total of 731 runs.
Red Ruffing led the Yankee staff with a record of 20-12, 25 complete games, and 271 innings pitched, while posting a 3.85 ERA. Right-hander Monte Pearson, acquired during the off-season for Johnny Allen, finished 19-7, with a team-leading 3.71 ERA. Lefty Gomez chipped in with 13 victories, while Pat Malone and Johnny Murphy posted a combined record of 21-7, working primarily out of the bullpen.
The Yankees’ greatest strength, though, was their potent lineup. Red Rolfe assumed the role of leadoff hitter, batting .319, driving in 70 runs, and scoring 116 others. Frank Crosetti had his finest offensive season, hitting 15 home runs, knocking in 78 runs, finishing fourth in the league with 137 runs scored, stealing 18 bases, and batting .288. George Selkirk hit 18 homers, knocked in 107 runs, batted .308, and compiled a .420 on-base percentage. After two consecutive injury-marred campaigns, Tony Lazzeri missed only three games, batting .287 and driving in 109 runs. In fact, Lazzeri had the greatest day of his career on May 24th, when he hit three home runs in the same game, two of which were grand slams, en route to driving in an all-time team-record 11 runs. Bill Dickey hit 22 home runs, knocked in 107 runs, scored 99 others, and established a 20th century record for catchers by batting .362. Joe DiMaggio displayed his all-around brilliance by hitting 29 homers, driving in 125 runs, scoring 132 others, batting .323, and collecting 206 hits, 15 triples, and 44 doubles. He also accumulated a league-leading 22 outfield assists.
Still, the heart and soul of the team remained Lou Gehrig. The 33-year-old first baseman led the American League with 49 home runs, 167 runs scored, 130 walks, a .478 on-base percentage, and a .696 slugging percentage, while also finishing among the leaders with 152 runs batted in, 205 hits, 403 total bases, and a .354 batting average. Although the arrival of DiMaggio in New York forced Gehrig to once again share the spotlight with another great player, it did not prevent him from walking away with the A.L. MVP Award for the second time in his career. He also earned All-Star honors for the fourth straight time, being joined on the A.L. squad by fellow Yankees DiMaggio, Dickey, Crosetti, Gomez, Pearson, and Selkirk.
The Yankees subsequently faced the New York Giants in the World Series, reviving the crosstown rivalry from more than a decade earlier. After the Giants ended the Yankees’ 12-game winning streak in World Series play by capturing Game One, the Bronx Bombers rebounded by humiliating their opponents in Game Two by a score of 18-4. The Yankees went on to win the Series in six games, taking home the fifth world championship in franchise history.By Bob_Cohen
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- 1936 World Series, Bill Dickey, Carl Hubbell, Frankie Crosetti, George Selkirk, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Allen, Johnny Murphy, Lefty Gomez, Lou Gehrig, Monte Pearson, New York Giants, New York Yankees, Pat Malone, Red Rolfe, Red Ruffing, Tony Lazzeri