Yankees Suck postsWednesday 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:
|1922||St. Louis Browns||1|
|1938||Boston Red Sox||9.5|
|1939||Boston Red Sox||17|
|1941||Boston Red Sox||17|
|1942||Boston Red Sox||9|
|1949||Boston Red Sox||1|
|1957||Chicago White Sox||8|
|1958||Chicago White Sox||10|
|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|
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.
Indians' fans would've seen more buttons like this in the '50s if not for the Bronx Bombers.
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|
This is why I root against them. Even after their fall, they're still the most successful team in baseball.
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?
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”:
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.
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 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.
An Open Letter to Brian Cashman: Addendum
Here's a couple of dueling quotes. I wrote about the first yesterday in an open letter to Brian Cashman. The second I read last night in Marty Appel's book, “Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss”:
- “As far as I’m concerned — and I’m not the decision-maker on this — that captaincy should be retired with No. 2. I wouldn’t give up another captain’s title to anyone else.” — Yankees GM Brian Cashman, last week.
- “[The position of captain] has died with Lou [Gehrig]. There will never be another one on the Yankees.” — Yankees manager Joe McCarthy, in 1941.
McCarthy was close, by the way. After Gehrig retired in 1939, there wasn't another Yankee captain until 1976, when Thurman Munson was annointed. Then he died suddenly, too, 40 years after Gehrig's farewell speech. Was there ever talk of a curse following Yankee captains? If so, it died with the next few—Nettles, Randolph, Guidry, Mattingly—all of whom stayed with us.
McCarthy said his line because Gehrig was a great man and teammate who died suddenly and tragically. Cashman said his about Jeter because ... ? Jeter's fine, living his life. It's the Yankees who've died.