A Closer Look At The 1936-39 Yankees
With the wealth of elite young talent the Yanks have brought to the big league level, and the potential for additions in the trade and free agent market, one hears many pundits comment that the Yanks should be a good team “for a long while”, with potential to be great. We probably shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves quite yet though, as this team has only accumulated two playoff berths, wild card ones at that.
Looking back, a case can be made for the “best” Yankee era was the 1936-1939 squads. Here’s the standings breakdown:
1936 102-51, World Champions 1937 102-52, World Champions 1938 99-53, World Champions 1939 106-45, World Champions
That’s an average of 102 wins a season in the days of the 154 game schedules. They finished ahead of the second place team those seasons by an average of fourteen games. In 1936, 1937 and 1939 the team took first place in May and didn’t relinquish the top spot for the rest of the season!
In World Series play these teams were 16-3.
Only the 1949-1953 teams had a longer streak of World Championships. While they were obviously excellent teams, on paper they weren’t quite as dominant as the 1936-39 edition.
This era featured a number of Hall of Famers:
Joe DiMaggio – Joe D was a rookie in 1936. Slashed .341/.397/.622, over 1936-39, averaging 34 homers and 140 RBI. Great start to a HOF career.
Lou Gehrig – here are his slash splits: 1936 .354/.478/.696 1937 .351/.473/.643 1938 .295/.410/.523 1939 .143/.273/.143
Of course, 1939 is when Lou was stricken by the effects of ALS and retired. From 1936-1938, he was still an elite first baseman.
Bill Dickey – really hit the stride of his HOF career during this time, averaging .326 with 26 homers and 115 from behind the plate. In each season, he finished in the top six MVP voting and was an All-Star, starting the contest three times.
Red Ruffing – Was 82-33 over the four seasons with a 3.29 ERA, and an ERA+ of 137, among the AL leaders. He was 4-1, 2.34 in World Series action.
Joe McCarthy – Prior to 1936, McCarthy had a very good managerial career, averaging 92 wins per season for the Cubs (1926-1930) and Yankees (1931-1935) with an NL pennant in 1929 and World Series championship in 1932. The 1936-39 teams pushed McCarthy into the Hall of Fame. By the end of the 1939 season, he had accumulated five championships, which at the time tied him with Connie Mack for the most of all time. He later added titles in 1941 and 1943, and is tied at the top with Casey Stengel with seven.
Lefty Gomez – His 64-38 record wasn’t as exciting as Ruffing’s, but his 138 ERA+ was right with him. He started two All-Star games and was 5-0, 3.12 in World Series play.
Tony Lazzeri/Joe Gordon – Lazzeri was a veteran finishing a Hall of Fame career. He was replaced as the Yankee second baseman by Gordon in 1938, beginning his HOF career. Gordon was known as an excellent defensive second baseman with a potent bat. He received MVP votes in the first two seasons of his career.
Elite teams aren’t made by Hall of Famers alone. The left side of the infield was hard to beat, as third baseman Red Rolfe batted .308 and was a three-time All-Star and Frankie Crosetti made the midseason classic twice at shortstop. Monte Pearson was acquired from Cleveland in a 1935 offseason trade, averaged fourteen wins a season and was 4-0, 1.01 in World Series contests. Johnny Murphy was an All-Star from 1937-1939 in primarily a relief role. In 1939, the Yankees hosted the All-Star game and had nine players named to the squad.
Clearly, this is one of the great baseball teams of all time
How was the team put together?
The Yankees not only had talent on the field, but in scouting and the front office as well. Previously I penned an article that focused on the assembly of this dynasty. That article was published here yesterday.