Page 376 – World Series, Most Sacrifice Flies, Both Teams, One Game – 5 – New York AL 3, Pittsburgh 2 NL, Oct. 6, 1927
When the 1927 Yankees are thought of, one thing that doesn't come to mind is sacrifice flies. The 1927 Yankees were Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig slamming home run after home run. The 1927 World Series is generally considered to be one of the biggest mismatches of all time. A lot of people probably forget the Yankees opponent in the World Series.
But let's first look back at the game of October 6, 1927, which was Game 2 of the World Series and played at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. George Pipgras started for the Yankees and Vic Aldridge started for Pittsburgh. Although the Pirates scored a run in the first, the Yankees scored three times in the third and three times in the eighth for a 6-2 win and a 2-0 lead in a series that they would sweep.
The Yankees got sacrifice flies from Ruth, Gehrig, and Tony Lazzeri and the Pirates got sacrifice flies from Clyde Barnhart and Paul Waner. Gehrig, however, had no RBI in the game. So what's the deal?
The sacrifice fly rule is something that baseball has never quite gotten the hang of. The first time the sacrifice fly was part of the scoring rules was in 1908. Starting with that year, any batter who drove in a runner from third with a fly ball was given credit for a sacrifice and not charged a time at bat. There was no distinction in the box score between sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies.
The rule stayed in place until 1926 when the sacrifice fly was expanded to include plays when a runner moved up to second or third. Surprisingly, this didn't seem to do much to the league batting average. In 1925, the National League batted .292 and in 1926 the NL batted .280. The AL league averages for 1925 and 1926 were nearly identical. With home run numbers surging, it's doubtful that many people cared too much about a handful of at bats being lost.
In Game 2 of the 1927 Series, Barnhart picked up the first sacrifice fly when he flied out to right to score Lloyd Waner who had tripled.
Ruth hit the second one in the third inning to score Earle Combs. Lazzeri added the third one later in the inning to score Gehrig.
In the fifth inning, Ruth drew a one-out walk and Gehrig followed with a fly ball to deep center (Forbes Field was 442' feet to center at the time) and Ruth was able to tag up and advance to second to spare Gehrig an at bat.
Paul Waner got the final sacrifice fly when his fly out to left scored his brother Lloyd with the Pirates final run.
When the series ended, there were nine sacrifice flies on the book. There were three in Game One and another in Game Four. However, the Sporting News recognizes the 1993 World Series as the record holder for most sacrifice flies with eight (seven of them by Toronto, one by Philadelphia.)
The sacrifice fly rule stayed on the books through the 1930 season, when it was eliminated. It came back in 1939 and then mysteriously disappeared the next year and didn't return until 1954 when it returned in its present form and as a separate stat from sacrifice bunts. When Ted Williams batted .407 in 1941, he didn't have the advantage of sacrifice flies to help his average. Depending upon the source, Williams would have hit .416 or .419 with the aid of the sacrifice fly rule.
The 1927 World Series was a sweep for the Yankees and they outscored the Pirates 23-10, but the Bucs played the Yankees very close in Games One and Four, losing both by one run and the World Series ended in the bottom of the ninth when Pirates reliever threw a wild pitch past catcher Johnny Gooch to let Combs score the winning run.
In addition to Miljus and Gooch, the Pirates also used Emil Yde in Game Four.
An oft-told tale is that the Pirates lost the World Series before it started when they saw the Yankees take batting practice before Game One and hit drive after drive over the fences at Forbes Field. Paul Waner always downplayed that story and said that the Pirates didn't even watch the Yankees take the batting practice. I've always thought it's hard to believe that any professional baseball team would be demoralized from watching another team taking batting practice.
But what of the sacrifice fly? Does it merit its special status? It's hard to say. Some studies I found showed that batters hit more fly balls with runners on third and less than two outs. Some showed it to happen less frequently. The official scoring rules of baseball give batters don't seem to think much of the sacrifice fly however.
Rule 10.21 (f) states On-base percentage, divide the sum of hits, bases on balls and times hit by pitch by the sum of at-bats, bases on balls, times hit by pitch and sacrifice flies.
Note that sacrifice hits don't affect your OBP, but sacrifice flies do. Also, a hitting streak would be snapped if a batter had one plate appearance in a game and it resulted in a sacrifice fly.
So, let's all take a moment to ponder the sacrifice fly and its effect on the game. Perhaps MLB can give out an award to the leaders in each league every year called the Eddie Murray Award, in honor of the career sacrifice fly champion (128, one more than Cal Ripken). Frank Thomas currently has 115. Let's see if ESPN does live cut-ins to Blue Jays games if Thomas gets close to the record. You can do it Frank!