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Random Game Callback, May 10, 1927
2006-05-10 03:59
by Bob Timmermann

This is probably no other year in baseball where the mention of it instantly brings to mind one team. If you say "1927" and the Yankees don't come to mind, either you are woefully ignorant of baseball's history or you are just one of those people who really, really, really likes the National League. So today, we look back at one of the New York Yankees 110 regular season wins of 1927. This one was more dramatic than most as the Yankees scored three times in the ninth inning, and held on for an 8-7 win over the St. Louis Browns at Sportsman's Park.

Yankees manager Miller Huggins chose George Pipgras, playing in his first full season at age 26 and Browns manager Dan Howley picked veteran Milt Gaston, who broke in with the Yankees in 1924 and was traded to St. Louis in the offseason for Urban Shocker.

The Yankees started off fast as Earle Combs and Mark Koenig reached on a single and an error. Babe Ruth followed with a home run and the Yankees were off and running with a 3-0 lead.

However, Pipgras was wild. He walked six Browns in four innings and gave up four hits. He was left in the fifth after giving up his sixth walk. Joe Giard came into relieve. He was able to retire Bing Miller, but then he walked Harry Rice. Fred Schulte then tripled up to deep center and the Browns had taken a 6-3 lead.

Bob Meusel closed the gap to 6-5 in the sixth. Lou Gehrig singled and Meusel followed with a home run. The Browns got another run in the eighth when Frank O'Rourke singled home Wally Schang. This set the stage for the dramatic ninth.

Gaston, with the exception of the two home runs, had kept the Yankees in check, giving up only five hits.

Cedric Durst, who was traded from the Browns to the Yankees in the offseason for Sam Jones, led off as a pinch hitter for Joe Dugan and walked. Johnny Grabowski followed with a single to left and Mike Gazella ran for him. Ben Paschal pinch hit for the Yankees third pitcher, Wilcy Moore and lined out to third. Gaston then walked Combs to load the bases.

Koenig hit a long fly to center to score Dugan and make the score 7-6. This brought up Ruth and Howley opted to walk him to load the bases. Of course this meant, Gaston had to pitch to Lou Gehrig with the bases loaded. And Gehrig singled to center to score Gazella and Combs and then the Yankees led 8-7. Gaston got out of the inning without further damage.

Herb Pennock, the fourth Yankees pitcher, came into relieve in the ninth. Pennock walked George Sisler to start the ninth and Miller followed with a single to move Sisler to second. Harry Rice sacrificed the runners over. Schulte was intentionally walked (the intentional walk wasn't an official stat at the time though). Shortstop Wally Gerber came up with the bases loaded. Huggins had the infield playing back in hopes of getting a double play. And Gerber obliged with a grounder to Koenig, who flipped it to Tony Lazzeri at second, who relayed it to Gehrig for a double play to end the game.

The 1927 Yankees, a team with 6 future Hall of Famers (Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri, Combs, Pennock, and Hoyt as well as the manager, Huggins), would win the American League pennant by 19 games and then take apart the Pirates in the World Series in four games. The Yankees would go 21-1 against the Browns in 1927, losing the final game between the two teams on September 11, 1927. (Milt Gaston got the win.) But the 1927 Browns, who finished 59-94 and 50 1/2 games behind the Yankees in seventh place (Boston would finish 51-103) had some good stories too.

The Browns of course had a future Hall of Famer of their own in Sisler, although his eyesight had been damaged by a sinus infection and he was "just" a .327 hitter, instead of a .400 hitter. 37-year old Ken Williams was finishing up a respectable career. Williams had led the AL in home runs in 1922 with 39 and he would hit 17 in 1927 and bat .322. 247,879 hearty souls opted to pay to see the Browns play in St. Louis. That was almost 500,000 fewer fans than the defending World Series Champion Cardinals drew in the same stadium. And the Browns were the landlords.

Gaston was an interesting figure. Mainly because he managed to pitch for 11 years in the majors and he was never any good, although never quite bad enough for teams to give up on him. He had a lifetime record of 97-164 and an ERA of 4.55. He was always on bad teams after his first two seasons and played on two teams that lost 102 games in a season. He lost 20 games in a season in once and 19 games twice. He walked 836 batters overall and struck out just 615. His WHIP for his career was 1.508. Gaston is one of two pitchers to throw a complete game 9-inning shutout and give up 14 hits, which is a major league record. He led the AL in losses twice. He led in wild pitches twice. In 1927, he allowed the most earned runs of any AL pitcher: 141. (The leader in the AL in 2005 was Jose Lima with 131).

Yet Gaston persisted. And teams wanted him. The Browns traded him to Washington in 1928. And before the 1929 season, Gaston was one of five players sent to Boston in exchange for shortstop Buddy Myer. And in 1931, the White Sox acquired Gaston from Boston. After a 6-19, 5.85 season for the White Sox in 1934, Gaston retired, although I'm not sure whose choice it was. Regardless, Gaston had the last laugh on any teammate who might have scoffed at his abilities. Gaston lived to be 100 years old and passed away in 1996. Gaston's youngest teammate on the 1927 Browns was a 20-year old rookie named Red Kress. Gaston outlived him by 34 years.

So, if you are Joe Mays or Scott Erickson or Jose Lima or Eric Milton, take heart, guys like you will live forever.

Sources: New York Times, Baseball-Reference, Retrosheet

2006-05-10 14:55:52
1.   das411
I used to think the name "Urban Shocker" was the coolest in major league history.

Then I saw "Wally Schang" in Bob's recap here. And I was enlightened.

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