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The Best Baseball Team Ever

1927 "Murderers' Row" New York Yankees:
No Team Has Ever Been Better

?Murderer?s Row? is what they were called. Most people in 1927 weren?t as finicky about metaphors glorifying violence, but heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey was the ?Manassa Mauler? and football star Red Grange was the ?Galloping Ghost?.

And so, because of their unbeatable batting power, the 1927 Yankees became ?Murders? Row?, often delivering their fatal blows in the late innings as ?five o?clock lightning?, because baseball games started at 3:30 in the afternoon those days and were usually finished by six o?clock.

Were they the best baseball team of all-time?

The idea began to take hold in the late 1930s. The 1927 team, including Babe Ruth?s 60 home runs and a sweep of the World Series from the Pittsburg Pirates, was only the apex of a three-year domination of the sport, including the 1926 pennant and another four-game sweep in 1928. Immediately following this domination, the Philadelphia Athletics reigned, and when the Yankees of 1936-39 won four World Series in a row, the similarity solidified into conventional wisdom.

When professional baseball glamorously celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1969, an all-time all-star team was named and the 1927 Yankee team was singled out as the ?official? all-time best. The era of statistical and historical research was just beginning to form, but that designation has endured as established myth.

Just who was this team, the Yankees?

Babe Ruth, whose whose 1926-28 home-run output was 47, 60 and 54, played right field at home and left field in many other places, avoiding the sun field, and held batting averages of .372, .356 and .323 and he batted in 452 runs. Right on his coattails, was Lou Gehrig, who hit 47 home runs in 1927 with a .373 average and 175 runs. Only Ruth, nine years Gehrig?s senior, had ever hit more home runs.

Bob Meusel, the left or right fielder, and Tony Lazzeri, the second baseman, were two right-handed sluggers. Lazzeri's 18 home runs ranked third in the whole league. Meusel hit .337 and knocked in 103 runs, and had 24 stolen bases which left him second only to George Sisler?s 27 in the American League. Lazzeri was .309 with 102 runs and stole 22 bases.


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The success of those four was aided by several others ? Earle Combs, the center fielder, led off with his record. He hit .356 and added 62 walks to his 213 hits. His on-base average was .414. With Mark Koenig, shortstop, Joe Dugan, third baseman, and Pat Collins and Johnny Grabowski, catchers, the team?s batting average was .307.

However, pitching is the real source of baseball success.

Miller Huggins, manager who won six pennants in eight years from 1921 to 1928, had a four pitcher rotation - right-handers Waite Hoyt and Urban Shocker and left-handers Herb Pennock and Dutch Ruether. Wilcy Moore, a 30-year old rookie, was one of the earliest relief specialists, starting 12 times, but relieving 38, and winning 19 games along with saving 13 others. Hoyt, Shocker and Moore ranked one-two-three in the league in winning percentage and two-three-one in earned run average. Hoyt won 22, Pennock 19, Shocker 18.

So the won-lost record was 110-44. Their margin over the second-place Athletics was 19 games. Against the first-division teams -- the A's, Senators and Tigers - they went 14-8. They were 17-5 vs. the White Sox, 18-4 against the Red Sox and 21-1 vs. the St. Louis Browns (losing only the last one), but only 12-10 against sixth-place Cleveland.

Winning 110 games is not most of all-time. The 1906 Chicago Cubs won 116, losing only 36, while the 1954 Cleveland Indians 111, the 1998 Yankees 114 (of 162) and, of course, the 2001 Seattle Mariners 116. But the Cubs and Indians lost the World Series that followed, and the Mariners didn't even reach the Series in the expanded postseason now used. The 1998 Yankees did win it in a four-game sweep, after winning two preceding playoff series to get there.

The 1998 Yankee season would be termed ?most successful?, for 124 total wins, through three postseason elimination series, in a population of 30 teams as opposed to just 16.

Calling something ?the greatest? can never be free of challenge, but to rank any team above the success of the 1927 Yankees, would require a case based on unimaginable factors. With that, we can settle for a less glamorous, but a more reasonable ?No team has ever been any better?.


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