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One Day in 1928…

The 1928 Yankees were an excellent team that is often overlooked because they were not quite as good as the 1927 version of the team. However, in 1928 the Yankees went 101 and 53, narrowly beat the Philadelphia Athletics by 2.5 games for the pennant and swept the Cardinals in the World Series. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were still at the height of their powers posting OPS+ of 206 and 193 respectively with 10.1 and 9.4 WAR. The best pitchers on that Yankees team were Herb Pennock who went 17-6 with a 2.56 ERA and Waite Hoyt who was 23-7 with a 3.36 ERA.

That would have been a fun team to see play, but one day in particular would have been very special. On May 24th, the Yankees were in Philadelphia for a doubleheader. At that point in the season they had won 26 of their 32 games and were 3.5 games up on the Athletics. The Yankees starting lineup for the first game that day was chosen by Miller Huggins who would eventually be enshrined in the Hall of Fame and recognized as one of baseball’s early great managers. The first four players in the Yankees lineup Earle Combs, Leo Durocher, Ruth and Gehrig would all end up in the Hall of Fame as well, Durocher as a manager, the others as players. The Yankees number six hitter that day was another future Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri. An amazing five of the Yankees eight starting position players would one day be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Huggins wasn’t the only Hall of Fame manager that day. Connie Mack, who still holds the record for most games, wins and losses of any manager in history was in his 28th of what would be 50 years managing the Athletics. His number two and three hitters that day were among the greatest of baseball’s first decades-future Hall of Famers Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb. Mickey Cochrane, another Hall of Famer caught and batted fifth. Cochrane’s battery mate was Lefty Grove one of the best pitchers in baseball history who was also bound for Cooperstown. Thus four out of the nine people in the Athletics were future Hall of Famers, bringing along with the Yankees five, a total of nine players and two managers who would someday be in the Hall of Fame.

The Yankees led 6-3 after six and a half innings. Then, in the bottom of the 7th the Athletics had runners on second and third with one out and Walt French due up. French was not much of a hitter, so Mack went to his bench and called up a slugging outfielder who had been given the first game of the day’s doubleheader off. The batter was Al Simmons who was also Cooperstown bound. That made ten players and two managers for those counting at home. Simmons singled to make the score 6-4. Two batters later, Joe shortstop Joe Boley was due up with runners on second and third. Again, Mack went to his bench and again found another future Hall of Famer. This time it was one of the greatest second baseman in baseball history and still the greatest in American League history, but Eddie Collins flew out for the final out of the inning. That brought the total to eleven players and two managers.

It had been an extraordinary game, but it wasn’t over yet. The next inning, with the Athletics still trailing 6-4 and Lefty Grove due up, Mack again went to his bench. One way to understand the veteran depth of this team is that three Athletics who played that day, Cobb, Speaker and Collins had already gotten 3,000, in Cobb’s case, 4,000 hits in the big leagues. This time Mack couldn’t find a forty year old, so he called on a player who had not yet reached his 21st birthday. Jimmie Foxx had yet to play a full season in the big leagues, but he too would end up in the Hall of Fame. Foxx grounded out, but brought the total to an amazing twelve future Hall of Fame players and two managers in one game.

The game still wasn’t quite over yet. Miller Huggins had a few tricks, and a future Hall of Famer, left as well. As the bottom of the ninth began, the Yankees were up 9-5 with Wilcy Moore, one of the game’s first relief specialists on the mound. Moore did not have it that day, giving up a single and couple of walks while throwing a wild pitch. With one out, one run in and the tying run at the plate, Huggins went to his bullpen and brought in his ace starter and, you guessed it, future Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt. Hoyt surrendered a walk to Bing Miller, retired Max Bishop on a run scoring grounder to first and then got Cobb for the final out. Hoyt would bring the total of future Hall of Famers to thirteen players and two managers.

Thirty players played in the first game of that doubleheader, almost half of whom would end up being enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Some, like Combs or Hoyt are among the weaker players in the Hall of Fame, but Ruth, Gehrig, Grove, Cochrane, Foxx, Collins, Cobb and Speaker are all unequivocal inner circle Hall of Famers and among the greatest ever to play the game. Later that year, the Yankees would bring up a 21 year old catcher for his first taste of the big leagues. Before he was done in 1948, Bill Dickey would go on to establish himself as one of the best catchers in baseball history and would be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1954. Dickey, along with Stan Covelski and Herb Pennock, who also did not make it into that first game of the May 24th doubleheader brought the total number of Hall of Famers on that 1928 Yankees squad to nine of the 30 players they used that year. The Athletics trailed the Yankees in that category as “only” seven of the 29 players they used in 1928 made it to Cooperstown.

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