The Yankees poor play at the end of the 1922 season, followed by a World Series defeat in which they could manage only a tie and four losses, was of great concern entering the 1923 season. After play on September 23, the Yankees held a 4 ½ lead over the Browns, having won six consecutive games, but they went on to lose 4 of their last 5 games to edge the Browns by a single game.
The Indians Sloppy Play Helped the Yankees Win
The Yankees beat the Indians, 7-6, on September 23 to clinch at least a tie for the pennant, thanks to the Tribe’s sloppy play. The Yankees fell behind by 4 runs in the fifth inning, but some loose Cleveland infield play enabled them to tie the game and score the winning run in the eighth inning. Catcher Wally Schang singled to right and moved to second on Indians’ catcher Steve O’Neill’s THIRD passed ball of the contest. Big right hander George “The Bull” Uhle walked both Everett Scott and pitcher Waite Hoyt, bringing up Elmer Smith, who hit a fly ball to right fielder Homer Summa. Schang scored from third with the eventual winning run, although newspaper accounts indicate that he never touched home plate.
The Indians Snapped the Yankees’ Winning Streak
The next day, the Indians shut out the Yankees, 3-0, behind Uhle. Yes, in 1922, starting pitchers often pitched in relief when they didn’t start. The baseball moguls and managers were not concerned about pitch counts. Before a Sunday crowd in excess of 20,000 at Dunn Field, Bob Shawkey pitched a decent game as he and Uhle exchanged shut out innings until the Tribe tallied three times in the seventh inning and snapped the Yankees’ six game winning streak. St. Louis beat Philadelphia to cut the Yankees’ lead to 3 games.
Babe Ruth Gave Up a Triple, Double, and Single in the Same Inning
On the way to Boston from Cleveland, the Yankees stopped at Buffalo on Monday to play the Bisons. The highlight of the game was that Babe Ruth pitched one inning, allowing the minor leagues a triple, double and single for two runs. The Babe hit a home run and also played first base. The three game Boston series would not start until Thursday, which meant that the Yankees would not have played against major league competition for three days. It was not unusual scheduling in 1922. The Yankees were scheduled to finish the season with a single Sunday game in Washington, probably having to face Walter Johnson.
Panic Was Setting In
The lowly Bosox, lowly because they sold or traded their stars, many to the Yankees, were not friendly hosts. They took the first two games of the series by scores of 3-1 and 1-0, as former Yankees Rip Collins and Jack Quinn each went the route against their former team. The Browns were idle on Thursday, but they beat the White Sox on Friday to cut their deficit to 2 games. The Yankees were running out of time and panic was starting to set in. They didn’t want to play the Browns a best two out of three playoff series. There was an interesting situation that could arise in 1922 that has no longer exists.
Rain Could Help the Yankees
A rule stated that no games could be played after the season ended unless teams were tied for first place. Starting play on Saturday, September 30, the Yankees were 93-59 and the Browns were 91-61. If it rained in Boston on Saturday, the game couldn’t be made up because the Yankees were scheduled to play in Washington on Sunday. The Yankees would clinch the pennant because they could finish with no more than 60 losses if they lost in Washington. St. Louis already had 61 defeats.
If it rained in Chicago on Saturday, the Browns and White Sox would play a twin bill on Sunday, but if the Browns won on Saturday and the Yankees lost, cutting the lead to one game, and the Browns were rained out on Sunday, the game was gone forever. The Yankees would finish with 93 wins but the Browns would never get the chance to win their 93rd game. The Yankees would win the pennant by ½ game in the WIN column.
The Yankees Finally Won
On Saturday afternoon, New York fans gathered around ticker tapes machines, newspaper offices were deluged with telephone calls, and at the Polo Grounds, where the Giants were playing a meaningless game against Boston’s other team, fans were more interested in watching the scoreboard than the game. Yankees’ general manager Ed Barrow was in a somber mood as he received an account of the game over his office telephone. Real concern existed but the Yankees made it a little easier for themselves and their fans by scoring three runs in the first inning, the only runs they would score. Boston threatened in almost every inning, but Waite Hoyt worked eight innings and Joe Bush nailed it down in the ninth by a score of 3-1.
The Browns beat the White Sox on Saturday, and on Sunday, despite being eliminated from the pennant race, they edged the Sox on Sunday, 2-1. They were a formidable offense team, led by George Sisler’s .420 batting average. As a team, they batted .313, scoring 867 runs. The Yankees batted .287 and scored 758 runs, but the difference was the Yankees’ strong, deep pitching, which is always a more powerful weapon than strong, deep hitting.
“Yanks Fight Way to 7-6 Victory; Defeat Indians for Their Sixth Straight Triumph.” New York Times. 24 September 1922, p. 108.
“Yanks Lose Final Game to Indians; Hugmen End Last Western Trip of Season by Bowing to Cleveland Team, 3-0.” New York Times. 25 September 1922, p. 18.
“Ruth Pitches for the Yankees. New York Times. 26 September 1922, p. 32.
“Yankees Still Fail to Clinch Pennant; Fans Becoming Worried Over Hugmen’s Delay in Setting Outcome of Flag Race; Rain Would Prevent Tie; Rule Provides That League Games Cannot Be Played After Season Closes Tomorrow.” New York Times. 30 September 1922, p. 18
“Yankees Go Over in Pennant Race; Clinch Their Second American League Flag by Trouncing Red Sox, 3 to 1.”New York Times. 1 October 1922, p. 28.