Saturday, October 28, 2017

Powerful Pairs


The Bronx Bombers have long been known for hitting the long ball. Aaron Judge smacked 52 homers this season and Gary Sanchez swatted 33. Where does their combined total of 85 rank in Yankee history?
Harry Wolter, one of two with two in '13

In the team’s first thirteen seasons, the top two home run hitters on the club averaged eight round-trippers a year. Not each. Combined! The lowest total ever will be hard to beat - the top pair in 1913 swatted just two each. Twelve homers remained the club’s dynamic duo record until 1916 when Wally Pipp and Frank Home Run Baker combined for 22.

So much for the Dead Ball Era, as Yankee fans will guess, that record was shattered in 1920 when the Babe blasted 54 and Wally Pip, Aaron Scott, and Silent Bob Meusel managed eleven a piece. The new mark of 65 by a twosome was bettered the very next season when Ruth launched 59 and Meusel hit 24 for a record 83.

Of course that record was broken in the Home Run Derby of ’27, which is meticulously chronicled in “Babe Ruth & the 1927 Yankees Have the Best Summer Ever”. Gehrig and the Babe combined for what must have seemed at the time a never-to-be-bettered 107 circuit clouts. (Reporters conjured up a lot of new names for homers that year.) Ruth and Gehrig combined for 81 in ’28 and again in ’29, had 90 in 1930 and then belted 46 each in ’31 for a total of 92, good for third place on the Yankee powerful pairs all-time list. With the Babe gone in ’35 the top two (Lou and Tony Lazzeri) hit just 43, the poorest total since 1919.

The 46 by 22-year-old Joe Dimaggio and 37 from 34-year-old Gehrig in ‘37 would be the most by a pair of Yankees until 1956, the meagerest total coming in the last year of WWII when Nick Etten hit 18 and Russ Derry added 13. In ’56 it was Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra leading the way with 52 and 30 for 82, just short of the ’21 mark of Ruth and Meusel. In the most famous Homer Derby since ’27 Mick and Roger combined for 115 in ’61.
The 60’s saw a decline in talent and in power as well. In ’67 Mantle and Tom Tresh managed just 36 dingers and the next year the Mick and Roy White totalled 35, the same number as Graig Nettles and Thurman Munson in ’74. The 69 homers - 37 by Nettles and 32 by Reggie - in 1977 were the most by a pair of sluggers since ’61.

After reaching a low point of just 40 in ’94 and ’95 there was an improvement to 65 in ’97, most of them off the bat of Tino Martinez. The 80 by Jason Giambi and Alfonso Soriano in 2002 were the most since ’61 but would be topped by A-Rod’s 48 and Gary Sheffield’s 34 in ‘05. The 2013 and ‘14 totals of 44 and 45 were the lowest in twenty years. Last year’s 43 was even worse. This year of course, things changed.
Here are the best ever Yankee pairs.
1st  1961  -  115   Maris & Mantle   2nd  1927 - 107  Ruth & Gehrig   
3rd  1931  - 92   Ruth & Gehrig    4th  1930  - 90   Ruth & Gehrig   
5th  2017 - 85  Judge & Sanchez    6th  1921 and 1937 – 83 Ruth & Meusel; Dimaggio & Gehrig 
8th  – 82  1956 and 2005   Mantle & Berra; A-Rod & Sheffield
10th  – 81  1928 and 1929  Ruth & Gehrig; Ruth & Gehrig    

So Judge and Sanchez were right up there with the best. As for how their top seven (add in Didi, Gardner, Holliday, Starlin, and Hicks) stack up against the top seven of all time … they belted 166 homers. In ‘61 Mick, Roger, Moose, Yogi, Ellie, Blanchard, and Clete whacked 218. Judge and Sanchez may well improve upon their 85 homers in years to come but when it comes to striking out it’s worth noting that Lou and the Babe fanned a combined 173 times in ’27 and Roger and Mickey whiffed in 179 of their 1961 bats. Aaron and Gary struck out 328 times this year! Joe Dimaggio would have been mortified to strike out like those two do. He whiffed 39 times in his rookie season and never that often again. In ’41 he went to the plate 622 times and struck out 13 times. Like I said, times change.
 
Injuries and illness played a role in each of the ’27, ’61, and 2017 powerful pairs’ performances. On September 10, with 18 games left in the ’61 season, Maris had 56 home runs, three more than Mickey. Mantle had been suffering severe muscle stiffness and soreness for weeks and had then caught a nasty cold that sapped his strength and caused him to miss four games. He returned to action on September 23 and hit his 54th in the first inning, but the next day went 0-3 before leaving the game in the sixth. On the advice of broadcaster Mel Allen, Mickey visited the office of Doctor Max Jacobsen, whose nickname was Doctor Feelgood. Among his patients Jacobsen boasted Eddie Fisher, Judy Garland, Tennessee Williams, and Elizabeth Taylor. The doctor gave Mantle a shot of amphetamine in the hip. The needle caused him severe pain, he felt like he’d been jammed with a hot poker. The Yankees’ doctor removed an abscess from Mick’s hip, leaving behind a hole the size of a golf ball.  He would hit no more homers.
This year, while Aaron Judge stayed healthy and played in 155 games, Gary Sanchez missed 21 games due to a muscle strain behind his right biceps.
Gehrig - no goiter
In ’27 the Babe stayed healthy and played in all but three of the Yankees’ games. Of course the indestructible Gehrig played them all. But he was stricken by a goiter, the removal of which would necessitate a then rather risky operation. On September 9, Lou was batting .389, with 45 homers and 161 runs batted in. He was on a pace to drive in 189. But in the 22 games after the goiter swelled the Iron Horse batted just .275 and hit just two home runs.

As you can read in “Babe Ruth & the 1927 Yankees Have the Best Summer Ever”, it wasn’t Lou that had the goiter!

 

 

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