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After winning their second straight World Series the previous year, the Yankees chose not to rest on their laurels heading into the 1938 campaign.  Although the changes they made during the off-season could hardly be considered drastic, they nevertheless subtly began incorporating more youth into their starting lineup.  The team released 34-year-old Tony Lazzeri, who batted just .244 in 1937, to make room at second base for 23-year-old rookie Joe Gordon.  New York also gave the starting right field job to 25-year-old Tommy Henrich.  As a result, Lou Gehrig (35) and Bill Dickey (31) found themselves to be the only regulars on the team over 30 years of age.

The infusion of youth into the team didn’t slow down the Yankee machine in the least.  New York finished the year in first place, with a record of 99-53, 9 ½ games ahead of the runner-up Boston Red Sox.  The Yankees scored the most runs (966) in the American League for the third consecutive year.  They also allowed their opposition fewer runs (710) than any other team in the junior circuit for the third straight time.

New York boasted the deepest starting staff in the league.  Red Ruffing surpassed 20 victories for the third year in a row, finishing the campaign with a league-leading record of 21-7, while also placing second with a 3.31 ERA and 22 complete games.  Lefty Gomez won 18 games and finished third in the league with a 3.35 ERA and 20 complete games.  Monte Pearson finished 16-7, completed 17 of his 27 starts, and threw just the fourth no-hitter in team history, accomplishing the feat during a 13-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians on August 27th.  Spud Chandler chipped in with another 14 wins.

The Yankee lineup was equally impressive.  Red Rolfe batted .311, drove in 80 runs, and placed among the league leaders with 196 hits and 132 runs scored.  Frank Crosetti scored 113 runs and led the league with 27 stolen bases.  His double play partner Joe Gordon batted just .255 but hit 25 home runs, knocked in 97 runs, and displayed great range in the field.  Tommy Henrich hit 22 homers, drove in 91 runs, and scored 109 others in his first season as a full-time player.  Bill Dickey hit 27 home runs, knocked in 115 runs, and batted .313, en route to earning a second-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting (Boston’s Jimmie Foxx won the award).  Joe DiMaggio had another exceptional year, batting .324 and finishing among the league leaders with 32 home runs, 140 runs batted in, and 129 runs scored.

The only member of the starting lineup who experienced something of an off-year was Lou Gehrig.  New York’s 35-year-old captain batted under .300 for the first time since his rookie campaign of 1925, having in the process his least productive season since first becoming a full-time player.  Although most players would have been happy compiling the 29 home runs, 114 runs batted in, 115 runs scored, and .295 batting average Gehrig posted over the course of the regular season, those figures represented a sharp decline in his performance.  Something appeared to be wrong with the Iron Horse, even as he extended his consecutive games played streak to 2,000 early in the year.  Nevertheless, he earned his sixth straight All-Star nomination, joining teammates DiMaggio, Dickey, Rolfe, Gomez, and Ruffing on the A.L. squad.

The Yankees made their third consecutive World Series appearance, this time facing the Chicago Cubs in the Fall Classic.  The Cubs fared no better than the New York Giants had in either of the previous two World Series, being swept by the Yankees in four straight games.  The Yankees outscored their overmatched opponents by a combined margin of 22-9 during the Series, prompting Chicago first baseman Ripper Collins to later say, “We came, we saw, and we went home.”  Bill Dickey, Joe Gordon, and Red Ruffing were the stars of the Fall Classic.  Dickey batted .400, homered once, and drove in two runs.  Gordon batted .400, homered once, and knocked in six runs.  Ruffing threw two complete games in winning Games One and Four.    

By Bob_Cohen
 

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Tagged:
1938 World Series, Bill Dickey, Chicago Cubs, Frankie Crosetti, George Selkirk, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Lefty Gomez, Lou Gehrig, Monte Pearson, New York Yankees, Red Rolfe, Red Ruffing, Spud Chandler, Tommy Henrich, Tony Lazzeri
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