erik lundegaard

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.

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