erik lundegaard

Yankees Suck posts

Tuesday July 21, 2015

How the Yankees Almost Got Ty Cobb 13 Years Before They Got Babe Ruth

From Charles Leerhsen's biography “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty”:  

Clark Griffith of New York had hinted that [Tigers new manager Hughie Jennings] might want to make a swap. When Hughie heard back from the Highlanders the next day, however, they were offering only Frank Delahanty, a .238 hitter, a proposal that was either, as Hughie said, “a humorous effort,” or an indication of just how wary some people were of young Tyrus.

Ty Cobb: A Terrible BeautyThis was before the start of the 1907 season. Cobb, who at this point was 20 years old and had played 139 games over the two previous seasons (batting .293), would go untraded. There'd been strife on the team, according to Leerhsen, because some of the other players, northerners mostly, disliked Cobb, who kept to himself, had airs, read books, and was, you know, good. They hazed him for the better part of a season. To some, Jennings mostly, it would just be easier to get rid of the kid, but Tigers' business manager (and eventual owner) Frank Navin liked Cobb and squelched any deal.

Over the next 13 seasons, Cobb would win 12 batting titles, lead the league in OPS nine times, hits eight times, runs five times, RBIs four times, and stolen bases six times. The Tigers would also win three straight pennants (but no championships).

The Highlanders, soon to be the Yankees, would have to wait out those 13 seasons before they began their turnaround. 

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Posted at 05:43 AM on Jul 21, 2015 in category Yankees Suck
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Wednesday May 20, 2015

Which A.L. Team Suffered Most from Mid-Century Yankees Dominance?

I just finished Bill Pennington's excellent bio, “Billy Martin: Baseball's Flawed Genius,” and, as often happens when I read about Yankees history, particularly mid-century Yankees dominance, I wonder about the teams that finished second in the A.L. all those years. Who stayed home as the Yankees went to another effin' World Series?

Here's who. These are the second-place finishers in the American League the years the Yankees won the pennant. I've limited the scope to the years before divisions were created (1969), when the team with the best record in either league immediately went to the World Series:

Year Second-place Team GB
1921 Cleveland Indians 4.5
1922 St. Louis Browns 1
1923 Detroit Tigers 16
1926 Cleveland Indians 3
1927 Philadelphia Athletics 19
1928 Philadelphia Athletics 2.5
1932 Philadelphia Athletics 13
1936 Detroit Tigers 19.5
1937 Detroit Tigers 13
1938 Boston Red Sox 9.5
1939 Boston Red Sox 17
1941 Boston Red Sox 17
1942 Boston Red Sox 9
1943 Washington Senators 13.5
1947 Detroit Tigers 12
1949 Boston Red Sox 1
1950 Detroit Tigers 3
1951 Cleveland Indians 5
1952 Cleveland Indians 2
1953 Cleveland Indians 8.5
1955 Cleveland Indians 3
1956 Cleveland Indians 9
1957 Chicago White Sox 8
1958 Chicago White Sox 10
1960 Baltimore Orioles 8
1961 Detroit Tigers 8
1962 Minnesota Twins 5
1963 Chicago White Sox 10.5
1964 Chicago White Sox 1

It's a mixed bag. Different teams threaten the Yankees at different times. The Philadelphia A's got the scroogie in the late '20s, but then gave back good in '29, '30 and '31. The Tigers won the pennant in '34 and '35 but then sat home because of the DiMaggio-resurgent Yankees of the late '30s. The Red Sox, sadly, never gave as good as they got. That '30s/'40s team hadn't won a pennant since 1918, and spent four out of five years finishing second to the team whose league dominance they (or Harry Frazee) started with the Babe Ruth, et al., trades. Ouch. 

But it's Indians fans who have real reason to hate the Yanks. They finished second in '51, '52, '53, '55 and '56, and only threw off the Yankee yoke in '54 by winning 111 games. (The Yankees won 103.) During this run—this is awful—the Indians won 93, 93, 92, 111, 93 and 88 games, and all they have to show for it in historical terms is Willie Mays' catch against them in the '54 Series. Ouch again.  

Anyway, that's the answer. If the New York Yankees had been the New York Suckees and everything else stayed more or less the same, the Cleveland Indians would've benefitted the most with seven additional pennants. Tigers would've had six, Red Sox five:

Team Regifted pennants Current pennants New total
Indians 7 5 12
Tigers 6 11 17
Red Sox 5 13 18
White Sox 4 6 10
Athletics 3 15 18
Browns/Orioles 2 7 9
Senators/Twins 2 6 8
Yankees  -29 40 11

Overall, the greatest A.L. team in terms of pennants wouldn't be the Yankees with 40 but the Red Sox and the A's tied with 18. The Tigers would be right behind them with 17. The National League leader is the St. Louis Cardinals with 19. 

The saddest bit of data? If you do this, if you take away all of the Yankees pennants from 1921 to 1964, all 29 of them, and assume that 1976 was the first year the Yankees won the pennant, they still would have more pennants than the White Sox, Browns/O's and Senators/Twins. Ouch for a third time, and out. 

Cleveland Indians 1954 button

Indians' fans would've seen more buttons like this in the '50s if not for the Bronx Bombers.

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Posted at 05:33 AM on May 20, 2015 in category Yankees Suck
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Sunday April 05, 2015

The Decline and Fall of the New York Yankees ... Kinda Sorta

When I was reading Marty Appel's history of the New York Yankees, “Pinstripe Empire: From the Babe to the Boss,” I was really looking forward to 1965. You know why. 

From 1921 to 1964, a span of 43 years, the Yankees won 29 pennants and 20 world championships. Essentially they were in two out of every three World Series (67% of them), while winning nearly half of all Series titles in those years (46% of them). No wonder author Douglass Wallop had to enlist Satan to stop them. (And of course, Satan is really a Yankees fan, so he wasn't much help.)

Their run ended in '64, the year after I was born. For 10 years, they sucked. Then Steinbrenner instigated their rise (late '70s), fall (the '80s), rise again ('96-'03) and fall again (post-'09). Since '64, the Yankees have won 11 pennants (22%) and seven titles (14%)—paltry numbers compared to what they did before.

That's why I was so looking forward to 1965.

But I wondered: Sure, the Yankees in my lifetime have paled compared to the dynasty years. But how do their numbers stack up again the rest of Major League Baseball?

Yeah. Still on top. And in terms of World Series titles, it's not even close: 

MLB Pennants and Titles Since 1964

Team Pennants World Series titles
NYY 11 7
STL 9 4
LAD 7 3
BAL 6 3
BOS 6 3
OAK 6 4
CIN 5 3
PHI 5 2
SF 5 3
ATL 5 1
DET 4 2
NYM 4 2
MIN 3 2
KC 3 1
TOR 2 2
CLE 2 0
TEX 2 0
PIT 2 2
SD 2 0
FLA 2 2
MIL 1 0
LAA 1 1
CWS 1 1
TB 1 0
ARI 1 1
HOU 1 0
COL 1 0
SEA 0 0
WA 0 0
CHC 0 0

This is why I root against them. Even after their fall, they're still the most successful team in baseball. 

1966 New York Yankees

This 1966 Topps card displays the previous year's sixth-place finish of the former World Champions. The '66 team would do it better, finishing in last place in the A.L. for the first time since 1908. Can you name the only other year the Yankees finished in last place?

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Posted at 07:38 AM on Apr 05, 2015 in category Yankees Suck
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Saturday April 04, 2015

Virginia is for Yankee Lovers?

Tomorrow is Opening Day (or Night), so everyone's talkin' baseball while their team is in first place. I've seen the map below several times today. It's Facebook's map of baseball fandom: “Each county is color-coded based on which Facebook team pages has the most likes from people who live in that county”:

Facebook MLB fandom map

You can see a bigger version here, courtesy of The Atlantic.

A couple of things about the map:

  • That little notation in the lower left? It says: “There are no U.S. counties where a plurality of fans like the New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, or Oakland Athletics.” Almost makes you want to root for those teams. 
  • I get that the Yankees have fans in places other than New York. “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.” Gen. George S. Patton. But ... in the South?

So which Southern states root for the Yankees? Most of Virginia, West Virginia, and Louisiana. Half of Florida. And parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi.

I get Florida (spring training, Steinbrenner home), and my friend Mr. B lets me know the Yankees had a farm team in Greensboro, NC from 1990 to 2002. But c'mon, Southern states. Yankees? Really? 

I just got back from a quick trip to Atlanta, where I stayed in midtown and during a free moment walked over to the Margaret Mitchell house, where I participated in a tour, etc., and watched a film on the making of “Gone with the Wind.” I came in on the film when all of those actresses were trying out for the character originally known as Pansy O'Hara before she got an 11th-hour name change to “Scarlett.” When the film role finally went to Vivien Leigh, the reaction among the Southern was disappointment tempered by worst case scenarios: sad, yes, that an English girl got the part, but at least it was better than a Yankee.

Now look at you. That old attitude is gone with the wind.

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Posted at 02:05 PM on Apr 04, 2015 in category Yankees Suck
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Wednesday March 25, 2015

How Many Teams Have Won More than One World Series in a Row?

First, a few tears for victims of high expectations: the early 1950s New York Yankees:

“You would think we would have had one of those ticker-tape parades after all those years,” said Whitey Ford. “But we never had a single one. People just expected us to win, and we did, and then it was on to next year. We had our victory celebrations, we got our rings, but there was never a parade. It would have been fun! I would have liked to have been in at least one!”

That's from Marty Appel's book, “Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss.” Appel was PR for the Yanks, but there's still good stuff here. Ammunition, you might say.

So from 1949 to 1953, the Yankees won five World Series in a row, and only one time ('52, against Brooklyn) did it even go seven games. Otherwise: five and out, four and out, six and out and six and out. 

That Yankees team was the only team to ever win five World Series in a row. But another team won four in a row. Can you name them?

Right, it's still the Yankees: the 1936-39 version. When DiMaggio was starting and Gehrig was finishing. 

As for three in a row? Only two teams have ever done that:

  • 1972-74 Oakland Athletics
  • 1998-2000 New York Yankees

Even two in a row is rare:

  • 1907-08 Chicago Cubs (dry patch since)
  • 1910-11 Philadephlia Athletics
  • 1915-16 Boston Red Sox
  • 1921-22 New York Giants
  • 1927-28 New York Yankees
  • 1929-30 Philadephia Athletics
  • 1961-62 New York Yankees
  • 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds
  • 1977-78 New York Yankees
  • 1992-93 Toronto Blue Jays

That's it: only seven of the 30 franchises. And no team has gone back-to-back this century. The Giants have won three of five, but they keep spacing them out.  

Interesting footnote: for all of their postseason triumphs (11 titles, most in the NL, and second-most in the Majors), the Cardinals have never gone back-to-back. My Cardinals friends blame Mickey Lolich. 

The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant/ The Kid Who Beat the Oakland A's 

The 1949-53 Yankees inspired Douglas Wallop's novel, which became the Broadway/movie musical “Damn Yankees”; the 1972-74 Oakland A's inspired the DC Comics story “The Kid Who Beat the Oakland A's,” which kind of inspired the Thomas Ian Nicholas movie “Rookie of the Year.” So far, the 1998-2000 Yankees have inspired nothing.

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Posted at 03:33 AM on Mar 25, 2015 in category Yankees Suck
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