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Murderers' Row

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Murderers' Row was the nickname given to the New York Yankees baseball team of the late 1920s, in particular the 1927 team. The term was actually coined in 1918 by a sportwriter to describe the 1918 pre-Babe Ruth Yankee lineup, a team with quality hitters such as Frank Baker and Wally Pipp, which led the A.L. in home runs with 45. A 1918 newspaper article described it: "New York fans have come to know a section of the Yankees' batting order as 'murderers' row.' It is composed of the first six players in the batting order -- Gilhooley, Peckinpaugh, Baker, Pratt, Pipp, and Bodie. This sextet has been hammering the offerings of all comers."[1]

The term became revived for the Ruth, Lou Gehrig Yankee teams beginning in the mid-1920s, and was much more an appropriate term for this Yankee lineup (that produced some astounding offensive numbers) than for the earlier 1919 squad. The 1927 Yankees are recognized as one of the best teams in baseball history, alongside the 1939 Yankees, the 1961 Yankees and the 1998 Yankees.

Owner Jacob Ruppert is the man most often credited for building the line-up of the team, although general manager Ed Barrow may have had as much to do with it. In a July series against the Washington Senators, the Yankees blasted their opponents 21-1 in one game and prompted Senators' first baseman Joe Judge to say, "Those fellows not only beat you but they tear your heart out. I wish the season was over."

The 1927 season was particularly spectacular by baseball standards for the Yankees. After losing in the 1926 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, they went 110-44 the next year, winning the A.L. pennant by 19 games, and sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1927 World Series. Only four teams have won more regular season games: the 1906 Chicago Cubs and the 2001 Seattle Mariners with 116, the 1954 Cleveland Indians with 111, and the 1998 Yankees with 114. However, the '98 Yanks and the Mariners played in 162 game schedules. More importantly, both the Cubs and the Indians lost the World Series in their years, and the Mariners didn't even reach the World Series in 2001.

The '27 Yankees batted .307, slugged .489, scored 975 runs, and outscored their opponents by a record 376 runs. Center fielder Earle Combs had a career year, batting .356 with 231 hits, left fielder Bob Meusel batted .337 with 103 RBIs, and second baseman Tony Lazzeri drove in 102 runs. Gehrig batted .373, with 218 hits, 52 doubles, 18 triples, 47 home runs, a then record 175 RBIs, slugged at .765, and was voted A.L. MVP. Ruth amassed a .356 batting average, 164 RBIs, 158 runs scored, walked 137 times, and slugged .772. Most notably, his 60 home runs that year broke his own record and remained the Major League mark for 34 years until Roger Maris broke it.

The pitching staff led the league in ERA at 3.20, and included Waite Hoyt, who went 22-7, which tied for the league lead, and Herb Pennock, who went 19-8. Wilcy Moore won 19 as a reliever. The 1927 Yankees would eventually send six players to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Three other Yankees pitchers had ERAs under 3.00 that season. After sweeping the Pirates in the Series, the Yankees repeated the feat by sweeping the Cardinals in the 1928 World Series. The Yankees remain the only team to ever sweep the World Series in consecutive years, though the Yankee teams of 1938-1939 and 1998-1999 repeated the feat.

The nickname was revived in early 2004 following the trade of Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees, and again in 2006, when the media began labeling that year's Yankees lineup as a modern-day Murderers' Row, a squad that included Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Gary Sheffield, Robinson Cano, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui. Neither of these teams reached the World Series; the 2004 team reached the American League Championship Series but lost four straight games against the eventual champion Boston Red Sox after winning the first three games in a best-of-seven series. The 2006 team reached the postseason, but a great pitching Detroit Tigers lineup shut down the Yankee bats in the American League Division Series. Nevertheless, this lineup still commanded great fear and respect throughout the league.

1927 NY Yankees Roster

Fielders
C - Pat Collins
1B - Lou Gehrig
2B - Tony Lazzeri
3B - Joe Dugan
SS - Mark Koenig
LF - Bob Meusel
CF - Earle Combs
RF - Babe Ruth

C - Benny Bengough
C - Johnny Grabowski
IF - Mike Gazella
IF - Ray Morehart
IF - Julie Wera
OF - Cedric Durst
OF - Ben Paschal

Pitchers
SP - Waite Hoyt
SP - Herb Pennock
SP - George Pipgras
SP - Dutch Ruether
SP - Urban Shocker


RP - Myles Thomas
RP - Bob Shawkey
RP - Joe Giard
RP - Walter Beall


CL - Wilcy Moore

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