July 26, 1961 – Johnny Blanchard homered twice and Mickey Mantle and Clete Boyer also went yard as the Yankees beat the White Sox 5-2 in the Bronx.
Blanchard, below, who pinch-hit a pair of home runs in the ninth inning in Boston but sat out the last three games, stretched his home run streak to four with blasts in the first and fourth innings against Chicago starter Ray Herbert. Bidding for the MLB record five home runs in successive at-bats, Blanchard hit a long drive to right in the sixth that Chicago outfielder Floyd Robinson caught right up against the short fence.
“Who am I to break records?’ the reserve catcher grinned, looking over to Mantle and Roger Maris. “Record breaking is for others.
In the photo above, the two sluggers, Mantle at left, display 79 for combined home runs. to date. Ruth and Lou Gehrig hold the record with 107. In 1960, Mantle led the AL with 40 and Maris had 39.
Third baseman Clete Boyer also homered in the fourth for the Yankees, his ninth HR of the season and third in the last two games.
Outside of a two-run single by JC Martin in the seventh, Rollie Sheldon (7-3) kept the ChiSox at bay, limiting them to four hits. Herbert (9-7) was tagged with the loss.
That day, the New York Times reported: “Thirty-four years ago today, a Yankee home run derby was in progress that was every bit as hot as that between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle…Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were the principals. After the Yankees beat the Browns in a doubleheader on July 26, the home run standing was Ruth 33, Gehrig 32.”
There was some overt rooting against Maris going on, from commissioner Ford Frick to old timers like Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby and Nap Lajoie, who said Maris “couldn’t carry Ruth’s jock.”
And most Yankee fans were cheering for Mantle, the established Yankee superstar, over Maris, the new pinstripe hero. That led to some booing for Maris, which prompted Mantle to say, “Hey Rog, thanks for taking my fans away.”
BASEBALL IS BACK: And the SportsLifer will continue to provide day-by-day updates on the 1961 New York Yankees as the M&M Boys try and chase down the Babe. Play ball!
June 2, 1961 – Whitey Ford got back on the winning track with a complete game effort and Yogi Berra hit a pair of home runs to give the Yankees a 6-2 win over the White Sox at Comiskey Park.
Al Smith homered off Ford, above left, in the first inning to put Chicago on top 2-0. But Berra, above right, homered in the second to make it 2-1 White Sox.
After a Tony Kubek sacrifice fly tied the score in third third, Roger Maris hit a two-run shot to right field to make it 4-2.
Berra belted his second homer of the game and eight of the season to put the Yankees up 5-2 in the fourth. Elston Howard singled home the final run of the game in the sixth,
Ford (7-2) went the route, allowing seven hits, walking two and fanning three. Cal McLish (3-6) was the loser.
PS – Today marks the 20th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s death, June 2, 1941. He was just 38 years old when he died.
BETTER DAYS: With baseball and life in general on hold during the coronavirus crisis, the SportsLifer will take a daily look at the 1961 Yankees as they captured the attention of sports fans everywhere. It was the year of the great home run race, as Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chased Babe Ruth into history. Hopefully the SportsLifer can provide some nostalgic entertainment for fans who are starving for baseball, past and present. Play ball!
Over the years, New York athletes have worn some of the most famous numbers in all of sports. Icons like Babe Ruth (#3), Lou Gehrig (#4) and Joe DiMaggio (#5) sit atop a long and storied list of Yankees, who will have retired all single digit numbers as soon as they get around to Derek Jeter (#2). Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson wore #42, which has now been retired by major league baseball. Willie Mays wore #24 when he roamed center field for the New York Giants.
And there are so many more. Legends such as Lawrence Taylor (#56) with the New York Football Giants, Joe Namath (#12) with the Jets, Walt Frazier (#10) with the Knicks and Wayne Gretzky (#99) with the Rangers, just to name a few.
As you might expect, since there are more players per team and higher numbers in football, the Giants top our list of top New York athletes by number with 36. Every team is represented, even the Giants and Dodgers, who left New York for California in 1958. There are 21 Yankees, 16 Jets, 7 Mets, 6 Knicks, 5 Rangers, 3 Dodgers and Nets, 2 Devils and an Islander and baseball Giant on the list. If you’re counting with me that adds up to 101, with Casey Stengel (#37) getting the nod as both Yankee and Met manager.
Here are the top New York players by number from 0-99, with other candidates also listed. Competition was tough in some spots, most notably #10, where Walt Frazier edged out Pele, Eli Manning, Phil Rizzuto and Fran Tarkenton, and #42, where Mariano Rivera and Charlie Conerly failed to make the cut.
The New York numbers list:
0 – Orlando Woolridge (Nets)
1 – Pee Wee Reese (Dodgers)
Eddie Giacomin, Billy Martin, Earle Combs
2 – Derek Jeter (Yankees)
3 – Babe Ruth (Yankees)
Bill Terry, Harry Howell, Ken Daneyko
4 – Lou Gehrig (Yankees)
Mel Ott, Duke Snider, Tuffy Leemans, Scott Stevens
5 – Joe DiMaggio (Yankees)
Denis Potvin, David Wright
6 – Joe Torre (Yankees)
Tony Lazzeri, Carl Furillo
7 – Mickey Mantle (Yankees)
Mel Hein, Rod Gilbert, Ken O’Brien, Carmelo Anthony
8 – Yogi Berra (Yankees)
Bill Dickey, Walt Bellamy, Gary Carter
9 – Richie Guerin (Knicks)
Roger Maris, Graig Nettles, Andy Bathgate, Adam Graves, Clark Gillies, Hank Bauer, Charlie Keller
10 – Walt Frazier (Knicks)
Pele, Eli Manning, Phil Rizzuto, Fran Tarkenton, Brad van Pelt
11 – Mark Messier (Rangers)
Carl Hubbell, Lefty Gomez, Phil Simms
12 – Joe Namath (Jets)
13 – Don Maynard (Jets)
Alex Rodriguez, Mark Jackson, Odell Beckham, Dave Jennings
14 – Gil Hodges (Dodgers)
YA Tittle, Bill Skowron
15 – Thurman Munson (Yankees)
Red Ruffing, Earl Monroe, Dick Mcguire, Jeff Hostetler, John McLean
16 – Frank Gifford (Giants)
Whitey Ford, Dwight Gooden
17 – Keith Hernandez (Mets)
18 – Darryl Strawberry (Mets)
Don Larsen, Phil Jackson
19 – Willis Reed (Knicks)
Bryan Trottier, Dave Righetti, Jean Ratelle
20 –Allan Houston (Knicks)
Jorge Posada, Monte Irvin, Jimmy Patton, Joe Morris
21 – Paul O’Neill (Yankees)
22 – Mike Bossy (Islanders)
Dave DeBusschere, Allie Reynolds, Dick Lynch
23 – Don Mattingly (Yankees)
24 – Willie Mays (Giants)
Bill Bradley, Derrell Revis, Robinson Cano, Ottis Anderson
25 – Bill Mclchionni (Nets)
Dick Nolan, Jason Giambi, Joe Pepitone, Bill Cartwright, Mark Collins
26 – Patrik Elias (Devils)
Wade Boggs, Orlando Hernandez
27 – Rodney Hampton (Giants)
Scott Niedermayer, Alexi Kovalev
28 – Curtis Martin (Jets)
29 – Catfish Hunter (Yankees)
30 – Martin Brodeur (Devils)
Bernard King, Henrik Lundqvist, Dave Meggett, Eddie Lopat, John Davidson
31 – Dave Winfield (Yankees)
John Franco, Mike Piazza, Billy Smith
32 – Julius Erving (Nets)
Elston Howard, Sandy Koufax, Al Blozis
33 – Patrick Ewing (Knicks)
34 – Charles Oakley (Knicks)
John Vanbiesbrouck, Don Chandler
35—Mike Richter (Rangers)
36 – David Cone (Yankees)
37 – Casey Stengel (Yankees/Mets)
38 – Bob Tucker (Giants)
39 – Roy Campanella (Dodgers)
40 – Joe Morrison
Lindy McDaniel, Mark Pavelich
41 – Tom Seaver (Mets)
42 –Jackie Robinson (Dodgers)
Mariano Rivera, Charlie Conerly
43 – Spider Lockhart (Giants)
44 – Reggie Jackson (Yankees)
John Riggins, Ahmad Bradshaw
45 – Emlen Tunnell (Giants)
Tug McGraw, John Franco
46 – Andy Pettitte (Yankees)
47 – Luis Arroyo (Yankees)
48 – Jacob deGrom (Mets)
Andy Pafko, Kenny Hill, Bobby Humphrey
49 – Ron Guidry (Yankees)
50 – Ken Strong (Giants)
51 – Bernie Williams (Yankees)
52– Buck Williams (Nets)
Jon Schmitt, CC Sabathia
53 – Harry Carson (Giants)
54 – Goose Gossage (Yankees)
55—Hideki Matsui (Yankees)
56 –Lawrence Taylor (Giants)
57 – Johan Santana (Mets)
John Wetteland, Mo Lewis
58 – Carl Banks (Giants)
59 – Kyle Clifton (Giants)
60 – Larry Grantham (Jets)
D’Brickeshaw Ferguson, Brad Benson
61 – Rick Nash (Rangers)
62 – Al Atkinson (Jets)
Joba Chamberlain, Carl Hagelin
63 – Karl Nelson (Giants)
64 – Jim Burt (Giants)
65 – Joe Fields (Jets)
66 – Jack Stroud (Giants)
David Diehl, Randy Rasmussen
67 – Dave Herman (Jets)
Bill Ard, Kareem McKenzie
68 – Kevin Mawae (Jets)
Jaromir Jagr,Dellin Betances
69 – Rich Seubert (Giants)
70 – Sam Huff (Giants)
71 – Dave Tollefson (Giants)
72 – Ose Umenyiora (Giants)
73 – Joe Klecko (Jets)
74 – Nick Mangold (Jets)
75 – George Martin (Giants)
Jim Katcavage, Winston Hill
76 – Rosey Grier (Giants)
Jumbo Elliott, Chris Snee
77 – Phil Esposito (Rangers)
78 – Jerome Salley (Giants)
79 – Roosevelt Brown (Giants)
80 – Victor Cruz (Giants)
John Elliott, Wayne Chrebet, Jeremy Shockey
81 – Andy Robustelli (Giants)
Amani Toomer, Gerry Philbin
82 – Mario Manningham (Giants)
83 – George Sauer (Jets)
84 – Harland Svare (Giants)
85 – Del Shofner (Giants)
86 – Verlon Bigggs (Jets)
87 – Howard Cross (Giants)
Pete Lammons, Domenik Hixon
88 – Al Toon (Jets)
Pat Summerall, Eric Lindros
89 – Mark Bavaro (Giants)
90 – Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants)
91 – Justin Tuck (Giants)
92 – Michael Strahan (Giants)
93 – Marty Lyons (Jets)
94 – John Abraham (Jets)
95 – Frank Ferrera (Giants)
96 – Barry Cofield (Giants)
97 – Mathias Kiwanuka (Giants)
98 – Jesse Armstead (Giants)
99 – Wayne Gretzky (Rangers)
Mark Gastineau, Steve DeOssie
of Take a look, give a listen to the 20 greatest home runs in Yankee history. Many are on this list of 100 greatest home runs in baseball history.
Any list of greatest home runs would be incomplete without the immortal Babe Ruth.
Ancient footage played to the music of Queen’s “We are the Champions,” the Bambino makes his mark and challenges all comers to match it. “60. Count em 60,” roared the Babe. “Let’s see some other son of a bitch match that.”
The legendary called shot at Wrigley Field, with motion picture footage that shows Ruth pointing. But where?
3. 1932, Lou Gehrig, 4 HRs, single game
Close as we could come to video with Larrupin’ Lou is this photo. But you get the point, it was a long time ago. And four in one game — not even the great Ruth ever did that.
Great radio call, Joe D goes “high and far over the fence in deep left field” at Wrigley Field to bury the Cubs in another Yankee sweep.
Mantle, just 20 years old, goes deep on a 3-1 pitch off Joe Black in the sixth inning at Ebbets Field to give the Yankees the lead for good on their way to their fourth straight World Series. Mel Allen with the play-by-play in the sixth – “that ball is going, going…it is gone.” Watch how fast Mantle gets around the bases.
6. 1956, Yogi Berra, 2 HRs, Game 7, World Series
A signature moment for the Yankee catcher, who belted two early two- run homers against Don Newcombe to help the Yankees avenge their loss to Brooklyn the previous year in a 9-0 whitewash. Elston Howard also homered, and Bill Skowron hit a grand slam.
One of the great Phil Rizzuto calls (“Holy cow, he did it, 61 for Maris.”). At one point the camera catches Sal Durante, the fan who got $5,000 for coming up with the ball. Lots going on in this brief cut: fans booing Boston’s Tracy Stallard for going to a 2-0 count against Maris, a young fan running on the field to shake the Rajah’s hand, and Maris being pushed out for a curtain call by his teammates.
The Mick talks about the hardest ball he ever hit, which missed by less than a foot of clearing the right field facade of Yankee Stadium. No player has ever hit a fair ball out of the Stadium old or new — Mantle came the closest.
Watch the gimpy-legged Mantle struggle around the bases after lining his milestone round tripper into the right field seats at Yankee Stadium. Jerry Coleman with the call. Again, kids on the field.
Chambliss helps the Yankees win their first AL pennant in 12 years. Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell with the call. Talk about security in the Bronx — fans storm the field as Chambliss barely makes it around the bases.
Mr. October earns his stripes with an unforgettable performance that matches the heroics of one George Herman Ruth.
” Deep to left. Yastrzemski will not get it. It’s a home run. A three-run homer for Bucky Dent.” Bill White with the call on the blast that brought Yaz to his knees and silenced Fenway Park.
Donnie Baseball ties Dale Long’s record by homering in his eighth consecutive game.
Jeter, a rookie, shares the spotlight with 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier, who gives the Yankees a boost on this controversial eighth inning call that tied the score and made Bob Costas ask “And what happens here?”
Same game as Jeter’s home run, the winning blow by Williams came in the bottom of the 11th. You may have to turn up the volume to hear it — but John Sterling gives a landmark Yankees win call as Bernie goes boom.
With Atlanta on the verge of taking a 3-1 lead in the World Series, Leyritz launches a game-tying, three-run homer to left to tie the game in the eighth. Watch the reaction on the Yankee bench, especially Don Zimmer.
Less than two months after 9/11, two outs in the ninth, game on the line, Martinez homers to tie the score. Derek Jeter’s walk-off wins it in the 10th. And the next night…..
….it happened again. One night after Tino’s shocker, Brosius goes yard with two down in the ninth to tie the score. This time the Yankees win in 12. Joe Buck with the dual calls.
With the score tied in the last of the 11th, Boone hits the first pitch from knuckleballer Tim Wakefield into the left field seats to send the Yankees to the World Series. Look closely in the background. As Boone is rounding the bases, Mariano Rivera is hugging the mound.
This dramatic 14th inning walk-off in the rain gave birth to John Sterling’s Giambino.
YouTubeism baby. A millenial generation shot of A-Rod’s two-run blast that broke a scoreless tie with the Red Sox.
Catcher Jorge Posada played his entire career with the Yankees.
Sometime soon, Jorge Posada will announce his retirement, a Yankee catcher for life.
There’s something to be said for playing an entire career with one team. Players like Ted Williams of the Red Sox, Stan Musial of the Cardinals, and Cal Ripken of the Orioles have done just that and become the faces of their franchises.
Posada caught 1,574 games with the Yankees, third behind only Hall of Fame catchers Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.
Few realize that Berra did not play his entire career with the Yankees. Early in 1965, a season after being fired as Yankee manager, Yogi started two games as catcher and pinch-hit twice for the Mets, getting two hits in nine at bats before becoming a full-time coach.
Berra is one of many legendary Yankee stars who played for other teams. Babe Ruth began his career as a pitcher with the Red Sox of course, and returned to Boston to play his final season with the Braves. Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon and Charlie Keller all played for other teams.
Andy Pettitte spent three years with the Houston Astros. Lefty Gomex went 0-1 with the Washington Senators in 1943. Red Ruffing, like Ruth, started out as a Red Sox pitcher. Reliever Joe Page came out of retirement to pitch for the 1954 Pirates.
But there is a core contingent of players throughout the years who spent their entire careers in pinstripes. Here they are, the all-time, all-the-time Yankees:
C — Bill Dickey — .313 career hitter with high of .362 in 1936, 202 home runs, 100 RBIs four straight years, beginning in 1936. (1928-46)
1B — Lou Gehrig — The Iron Horse, 2,130 consecutive games, 493 home run, .340 lifetime batting average. Captain, two-time MVP, 1934 Triple Crown. (1923-39)
2B — Robinson Cano — Seven years with Yankees, hit .300 or better five times, including career-high .342 in 2006. (2005-Present)
SS — Derek Jeter — First Yankee to accumulate 3,000 hits, .313 lifetime hitter, 240 home runs, 339 stolen bases. Rookie of the Year 1995, five Gold Gloves. (1995-Present)
3B — Red Rolfe — Batted .289 lifetime, led American League in runs, hits, doubles in 1939. (1931-42)
OF — Joe DiMaggio — The Yankee Clipper, right, 56-game hitting streak in 1941 is all-time mark. Hit .325 with 361 home runs. Three-time MVP (1936-51)
OF — Mickey Mantle — The Mick, 536 career home runs, .298 average. Three-time MVP, Triple Crown in 1956. (1951-68)
OF — Earle Combs — The Kentucky Colonel, .325 career hitter, led league in triples three times and hits once. (1924-35)
LHP — Whitey Ford — Yankees all-time winningest pitcher, 236 wins, .690 career win percentage highest for 200-game winner. MLB Cy Young winner 1961. (1950-67)
RHP — Spud Chandler — 109-43, including 20 wins in 1943 and 146. Won MVP in 1943. (1937-47)
Relief — Mariano Rivera — Became all-time saves leader last year with 603. Lowest ERA among active pitchers at 2.21. (1995-Present)
C — Jorge Posada — A .276 lifetime hitter with 275 career home runs. (1995-2011)
1B — Don Mattingly — Donnie Baseball, below,.307 career average, MVP in 1985. (1982-95)
2B — Bobby Richardson — Five-time Gold Glove winner, World Series MVP in 1960. (1955-66)
SS — Phil Rizzuto — The Scooter, 1950 MVP, long-time Yankee broadcaster. (1941-56)
3B — Gil McDougald — Utility infielder, Rookie of the Year in 1951. (1951-60)
OF — Bernie Williams — Batting champion in 1998, hit .297 lifetime. Four Gold Gloves. (1991-2006)
OF — Tommy Henrich — Old Reliable, batted .282 lifetime with 183 homers. (1937-50)
OF — Roy White — Batted .271 lifetime with 160 home runs, 233 stolen bases. (1965-79)
LHP — Ron Guidry — Louisiana Lightning, three-time 20-game winner, 170-91 lifetime, AL Cy Young in 1978. (1975-89)
RHP — Mel Stottlemyre — Won 20 games three times, 164-139 career mark. (1964-74)
Notes — Others who received major consideration include catcher Thurman Munson, shortstop Frankie Crosetti and outfielder George Selkirk….The Yankees have had some great relief pitchers through the years, but other than Rivera all wore other uniforms at one time. Wilcy Moore, Johnny Murphy, Joe Page, Luis Arroyo, Sparky Lyle and Goose Gossage were among the top relievers.
No matter what he does the rest of this World Series and for the remainder of his career, Albert Pujols carved out his own special niche in baseball history with three home runs in the third game of the 2011 World Series.
The 31-year-old Pujols is a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer once he retires, but unless he’s Babe Ruth (more on that in a moment) this World Series tour de force will be his signature moment.
More than a generation ago, on October 18, 1977, Reggie Jackson became Mr. October when homered three times on a cool night at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Jackson, like Pujols, homered off three different pitchers as he led the Yankees to their first World Championship in 15 years with an 8-4 win over the Dodgers.
That year, Jax set a record with five home runs in a single World Series, including four in his final four swings. Mr. October was named 1977 World Series MVP.
Fittingly, Babe Ruth is the only other player to hit three home runs in a World Series game. Ruth accomplished the feat twice, both times against the Cardinals.
Babe Does It Twice
But unlike Pujols or Jackson, Ruth had dozens of signature moments. His record-breaking 60th home run in 1927, his called shot in the 1932 World Series, and his three home run game with the Boston Braves in 1935 days before he retired are three that come to mind.
In Game Four of the 1926 World Series, Ruth hit three home runs at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis to lead the Yankees to a 10-5 victory. The Yanks won the next day and returned to New York with a 3-2 lead, but Hall of Fame right-hander Grover Cleveland “Old Pete” Alexander beat the Yankees 10-2 with a complete Game 6 effort.
In the decisive seventh game, Alexander came on in relief in the seventh inning to fan Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded. He walked Ruth, who had homered earlier in the game, with two outs in the ninth to put the tying run on base. But the Babe inexplicably tried to steal second base and was thrown out to end the Series with Bob Meusel on deck and Lou Gehrig in the hole.
Two years later, Ruth again hit three home runs in a World Series game against the Cardinals at Sportsman’s Park. The Yankees won the game 7-3 to sweep the Series. Ruth hit .625 in the 1928 World Series with those three homers and four RBIs and batted .625.
Atlanta’s Tony Cloninger is the only pitcher in baseball history to hit two grand slams in the same game.
The First Time
1. Roger Connor of the Troy Trojans is the first major league player to hit a grand slam, keying an 8-7 win over the Worcester Ruby Legs on September 10, 1881.
23 for Gehrig
2. Lou Gehrig hit 23 career grand slams, the most in major league history. Alex Rodriguez hit his 22nd career slam April 23, 2011.
3. Don Mattingly set a single season record with six grand slams in 1987 — the only slams of his 14-year career. Travis Haffner tied Mattingly’s record in 2006.
Can’t Get Any Better Than This
4. Four players have hit grand slams in their first MLB at bat — Bill Duggleby (1898), Jeremy Hermida (2005), Kevin Kouzmanoff (2006), and Daniel Nava (2010). Kouzmanoff and Nava hit their grand slams off the first pitch.
Twice in One Inning
5. The Cardinals Fernando Tatis is the only player to hit two grand slams in one inning — both off Dodgers pitcher Chan Ho Park — on April 23, 1999.
A Series Slam
6. Cleveland’s Elmer Smith hit the first grand slam in World Series history, Game Five against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1920. Smith’s slam was overshadowed later in the game by Indians second baseman, who turned the only unassisted triple play ever in the Series.
The Ultimate Walk-Off Slam
7. Roberto Clemente is the only player in MLB history of hit a walk-off, inside-the-park ultimate grand slam, in 1956 for the Pirates. An ultimate grand slam is a walk-off slam for a one-run victory.
Some Pitchers Can Hit
8. Tony Cloninger of the Braves is the only pitcher to hit two grand slams in a game, in 1966 against San Francisco. Yankee hurler Mel Stottlemyre is the last pitcher to hit an inside-the-park grand slam, in 1965 against the Red Sox.
An All-Star Rarity
9. Fred Lynn is the only player ever to hit a grand slam in the All-Star game. The Angels outfielder performed the feat in the 50th anniversary game in 1983.
Three in A Game
10. Only twice have three grand slams been hit in a single game — Baltimore (2) vs. Texas (1) in 1986 and Cubs (2) vs. Houston (1) the following year.
Wally Pipp is baseball’s answer to Rodney Dangerfield. And nearly 100 years past his prime, he’s still getting no respect.
The mention of Wally Pipp conjures visions of laziness and fake headaches and calling in sick.
As in, that guy “Pipped” out, he’s not coming to work. Or he’s pulling a “Wally”, translated loosely to mean he’s a coach potato, slacking off again. A sloth
Pipp is the guy that lost his job to Lou Gehrig, who just happens to the greatest first baseman in baseball history. But Pipp was hardly a slouch on the field. And he was rarely off the field, missing just a handful of games over the previous four seasons before Gehrig took his job in 1925.
In fact, Wally Pipp anchored Yankee pennant winners in 1921 and 1922, and the championship 1923 team, the Yanks first. And he was coming off a career year in 1924 when he hit .295 with nine home runs, 114 RBIs and an American League leading 19 triples.
At the close of play on June 2, 1925, the Yankees found themselves in seventh place in the eight-team American League, 13 1/2 games behind the first place Philadelphia Athletics.
Gehrig Takes Over
As the story goes, that day Pipp told Yankee manager Miller Huggins that he had a headache, and Huggins replaced him with Gehrig in the Yankee lineup. Lou Gehrig, who had pinch hit for Yankee shortstop Pee Wee Wanninger the previous day to start his famous consecutive games streak, didn’t sit down for nearly 15 years, 2,130 games later.
Pipp’s recollection of that day is somewhat hazy. Decades later, in a 1953 interview, he recounted that he did have a headache — because he had been beaned in batting practice.
“Charlie (Caldwell) (better known in later years as Princeton’s football coach) whistled one in and, somehow or other, I just couldn’t duck,” Pipp recalled. “The ball hit me right here on the temple. They carted me right off to the hospital. I was in that hospital for two solid weeks. By the time I returned to the Yankees, Gehrig was hitting the ball like crazy and Huggins would have been a complete dope to give me my job back.”
That’s not exactly how it went down. In fact, Pipp was a pinch-hitter the very next day, June 3, after his supposed beaning. Although Pipp never started another game at first base for the Yankees, Gehrig didn’t exactly tear the league apart in 1925, and Huggins had pinch hit for a few times because the Yankees’ manager was disappointed in Gehrig’s performance against left-handers.
Pipp’s beaning took place exactly a month later — on July 2. According to various accounts he suffered a fractured skull or a concussion — certainly more than a headache. He played sparingly the rest of the season, and was shipped to Cincinnati at the end of the season.
The Yankees originally picked up Pipp on waivers from Detroit in 1915. For nearly 10 years Wall Pipp was a fixture in the Yankee lineup. When Pipp sprained an ankle in 1923, Gehrig, pictured at left, was called up for a few games. Columbia Lou hit .423 with a his first homer and nine RBIs in limited duty. In 1924 he hit .500 in 12 at bats and knocked in five runs. In 1925, Gehrig hit 20 homers, drove in 68 runs and batted .295, a harbinger of much bigger and better things to come.
Pipp had a solid career, and was one of the best first baseman of his era. He led the American League in home runs with 12 in 1916 and nine in 1917. He hit .281 for this career, with 90 HRs, 997 RBIs and 1941 hits.
Hardly a dead beat. Wally Pipp may have lost his job — but he lost it to the guy who ultimately became the greatest first baseman in baseball history.
There’s no shame in that.
Three is a magic number in baseball. Three strikes and you’re out. Three outs in an inning. Babe Ruth wore #3.
When Alex Rodriguez, above, hit three home runs iagainst Kansas City on August 14, it marked the 30th time a Yankee player hit three homers in a single game.
Lou Gehrig achieved the feat four times, and hit four in one game, the only Yankee to perform that feat. Joe DiMaggio did it three times.
So did the Babe, although only one of his three occurred during the regular season. Ruth hit the final three home runs of his storied career in 1935 for the Boston Braves in a game at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, and retired soon afterwards.
A-Rod joins Tony Lazzeri, and Bobby Murcer as the only other Yankees to hit three in a game two times. Rodriguez had three HRs and 10 RBIs against Bartolo Colon and the Angels in 2005.
In all 20 Yankees have accomplished the feat, including eight Hall of Famers — Ruth, Lazzeri, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Johnny Mize, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson.
Ruth’s World Series Heroics
Ruth was the first Yankee to hit three in a game, against the Cardinals at old Sportsman Park in St. Louis in 1926 in the World Series, right. The Babe must have loved St. Louis, repeating the feat in 1928 to power the Yankees to a four-game sweep.
Ruth had his only regular season “hat trick” with the Yankees on May 22, 1930, in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park in the first game of a doubleheader which the Yankees lost, 15-7. Gehrig repeated the feat the following day in the first game of a another doubleheader in Philadelphia, a 20-13 victory over the A’s. Oh yes, Ruth and Lazerri also homered in that game.
Reggie Jackson is the only other major leaguer ever to hit three home runs in a World Series game. In just three swings in Game Six of the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers, Jax lifted the Yanks to to their first championship. in 15 years.
Gehrig is the only Yankee to hit four home runs in a single game, on June 4, 1932, against the Athletics in Philadelphia. He was the first player in the modern era to hit four in a single game. He belted the circuit clouts in his first four at bats in a 20-13 win against the A’s. Gehrig missed a fifth home runs by inches, when his drive was caught in the furthest reaches of deep centerfield.
In that same game, Lazzeri became the only player in major league baseball to finish a natural cycle with a grand slam.
Other Interesting Yankee Trey Factoids
On May 21 and 22, 1930, Ruth and Gehrig hit three home runs in successive games.
Mantle, Tommy Tresh and Tony Clark hit homers from both sides of the plate in their 3 HR games
Bobby Murcer hit four consecutive home runs — three in the second game — in a 1970 doubleheader against the Indians at Yankee Stadium.
Reggie Jackson, left, hit a home run in his final at bat in Game Five and three in a row during Game Six of the 1977 World Series. (My friend Matty was at the game at Yankee Stadium, and missed all three Reggie homers. But that’s a story for another blog.)
Johnny Blanchard in 1961 and Mickey Mantle in 1962 are the only other Yankees to hit four home runs in a row.
Lazzeri hit two grand slams and a third home run and drove in an American League record 11 runs in 1936 in a 25-2 rout of the Athletics at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. Poosh em up Tony was also the first Yankee to hit three home runs in a single game in the regular season, in 1927.
On three separate occasions, the Yankees have lost a game in which a player hit three home runs — Ruth in 1930, Mize in 1950 and Mike Stanley in 1995.
DiMaggio’s first three home run game in 1937 resulted in an 11-inning, 8-8 tie with the St. Louis Browns in Sportsman’s Park.
Mize holds the MLB record for most times hitting three home runs in a game — six. Five came with the Cardinals and Giants in the National League. He was the first player to hit three home runs in a game twice in one season in 1938 and did it again in 1940.
Mize had his final three home run game with the Yankees in 1950, just five days after DiMaggio performed the feat for the third time.
The Yankees as a team have hit three home runs in a game twice in different seven seasons — 1927, 1930, 1932, 1950, 1977, 1995, and this year.
Earlier this year, Mark Teixeira became the first Yankee to hit three home runs in a game at Fenway Park since Gehrig in 1927.
Yankees Who Have Hit Three Home Runs in One Game
1926 — Babe Ruth (World Series)
1927 — Tony Lazzeri
1927 — Lou Gehrig
1928 — Babe Ruth (World Series)
1929 — Lou Gehrig
1030 — Babe Ruth
1930 — Lou Gehrig
1932 — Lou Gehrig (4 HRs)
1932 — Ben Chapman
1936 — Tony Lazzeri
1937 — Joe DiMaggio
1939 — Bill Dickey
1940 — Charlie Keller
1948 — Joe DiMaggio
1950 — Joe DiMaggio
1950 — Johnny Mize
1955 — Mickey Mantle
1965 — Tom Tresh
1970 — Bobby Murcer
1973 — Bobby Murcer
1977 — Cliff Johnson
1977 — Reggie Jackson (World Series)
1995 — Mike Stanley
1996 — Darryl Strawberry
1995 — Paul O’Neill
1997 — Tino Martinez
2004 — Tony Clark
2005 — Alex Rodriguez
2010 — Mark Teixeira
2010 — Alex Rodriguez
Lou Gehrig making his famous “Luckiest Man” address to a packed house in Yankee Stadium, 71 years ago this Fourth of July.
George Steinbrenner, a Yankee Doodle Dandy, was born on The Fourth of July. The Yankee owner turned 80 this year.
Three years before George was born, the famed 1927 Yankees entertained the second place Washington Senators before 74,000 fans in a holiday doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.
Any notions the Nats entertained for staying in the race were quickly shattered that afternoon. The Yankees swept Washington, 12-1 and 21-1, opened up an 11 1/2 game lead in the American League, and never looked back in winning their second World Championship.
In the opener the Yankees collected 18 hits, including four by third baseman Joe Dugan (a Holy Cross man), and home runs by Lou Gehrig and catcher Pat Collins. George Pipgras pitched a complete game for the win.
Fourth of July Fireworks
But the Yankees were just warming up. In the nightcap, they pounded out 19 hits in support of Wilcy Moore. Tony Lazzeri had four hits, including a pair of doubles, and drive in five runs. Babe Ruth tripled and was 3-3. And Gehrig hit the third of his record 23 grand slams and finished with five RBIs.
When action concluded that Fourth of July, Gehrig was hitting .396, with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs — in just 74 games, less than half a season.
Later that year, Ruth passed him for the home run title and eventually hit 60, while Detroit’s Harry Heilmann led the AL in batting at .398. All Gehrig did in 1927, was hit .373 with 47 homers and a league-leading 175 RBIs.
Twelve years later, on July 4, 1939, the Yankees hosted the Senators in another holiday doubleheader. The teams split, Washington winning the opener 3-2 and the Yankees taking the second game, 11-1. George “Twinkletoes” Selkirk homered in each game, but that’s not what fans and baseball historians remember about that Independence Day.
Gehrig’s Farewell Speech
Because that’s the day when a dying Lou Gehrig delivered his famous farewell speech between games of the doubleheader. Gehrig’s tearful remarks are often referred to as baseball’s “Gettysburg Address.”
After Gehrig spoke, the huge crowd stood and applauded for almost two minutes. Gehrig was visibly shaken as he stepped away from the microphone, and wiped the tears away from his face with his handkerchief.
Babe Ruth came over and hugged him. Later that year, the Baseball Writers Association elected Gehrig to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, waiving the mandatory five-year waiting period.
And less than two years later Lou Gehrig passed away, a victim of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the disease that now bears his name. The Yankee captain, the Iron Horse, was just 37 years old.
Holiday at The Stadium
Years later, my son, brother-in-law and nephew and I went to a Fourth of July game at Yankee Stadium, this one in 2003.. No holiday doubleheader that day, but the Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians 7-1 behind Mike Mussina, with home runs by Raul Mondesi and Jason Giambi.
Before the game, as we were parking in my favorite spot in The Bronx — free and easy access to the Major Deegan northbound — an elderly gentleman climbed out of the his car next to us. He was wearing a blue Lou Gehrig #4 jersey. We remarked on his taste in Yankee ware.
The man then told us that he had gone to his first major league game 64 years ago to the day, July 4, 1939. Lou Gehrig Day at Yankee Stadium. He said he had seen hundreds of games since that one, but Gehrig’s farewell remained his greatest thrill.
Sometimes baseball and history come together nicely….just like that.
Related Story: Nice piece by Ray Robinson of The New York Times on Gehrig’s farewell address.