Ten Greatest Yankees Games Ever-A Very Subjective List, Part I 1900-1962
If you could go back in time and see ten Yankees games, which ones would you choose? There are no wrong answers to this question-actually that is not true, games four through seven of the 2004 ALCS, game six of the 1981 World Series, the entire 1980 ALCS, game seven of the 2001 World Series and games six and seven of the 2003 World Series are indeed wrong answers, but no Yankees fan would chose those anyway. For my list, which is in chronological order I wanted to include a mix of great games, historically important games and personal favorites. The first five all occurred before I was born.
1. April 18, 1923 was the first game ever played at Yankee Stadium. An opening day win over the Red Sox is always a good game, but this one was special. Yankees ace Bob Shawkey threw a three-hitter helping the Yankees to an easy 4-1 victory, but the real magic came in the bottom of the third when the Yankees scored all four of their runs. With one run in and two men on, Babe Ruth hit the first home run in the new ballpark, putting the Yankees ahead 4-0 and giving the more than 74,000 fans in attendance the moment they had hoped to see. Yankee Stadium would become the most famous baseball stadium and the world and Ruth the best baseball player in the world. As for the 1923 Yankees, the season that began with such excitement ended with the team winning its first ever World Series.
2. October 1, 1932 During the late 1920s and early 1930s the Yankees won three World Series, but with little excitement or drama as they swept their opponents in 1927, 1928 and 1932. However, one game stands out from those three championships. Game three of the 1932 World Series was the Ruth and Gehrig Yankees at their best. Both sluggers hit two home runs to help the Yankees to 7-5 win that was not as close as the score suggested, but the reason this game was so special is because of Ruth’s second home run of the day. In the top of the fifth, with one out, Ruth fell behind in the count 0-2 and then raised his hand and, depending on who you believe, either did or did not point his finger over the centerfield fence, which is where he hit Cubs pitcher Charlie Root’s next offering. For good measure Gehrig followed with a round tripper to right. Over the years, Ruth’s called shot has been shrouded in uncertainty, but if I could go back in time and watch the game, I would know for sure what happened.
3. July 4, 1939 The 1939 Yankees were an excellent team, winning 106 games and sweeping the Reds in the World Series. On July 4th of that year they hosted the Washington Senators. The game was not close. A relatively obscure Yankees hurler named Steve Sundra tossed a six hitter, helping the Yankees to a 11-1 victory which would improve their record for the year to 52-17 and give them an eleven and a half game over the second place Red Sox. The Yankees offense was led by George Selkirk who singled, tripled and homered and Joe DiMaggio who hit two singles and a double to raise his batting average for the season to .431. He would end the year hitting .381. A big win over the Red Sox is always fun for Yankees fans, but that is not what made this day special. July 4, 1939 was Lou Gehrig Day when the ailing Yankees slugger made probably the most famous speech in baseball history and proclaimed himself the “luckiest man on the face of the earth.”That was one of the most extraordinary moments in Yankees history, one that went a long way to forging the best aspects of the Yankees image.
4. October 8, 1956 From 1949-1964 the Yankees were at their most dominant, winning 14 pennants and nine World Series. They played in a number of thrilling World Series, but game five in 1956 was not just another Yankees win. This was the day Don Larsen, facing a Brooklyn Dodgers lineup with four future Hall of Famers, threw a perfect game. Larsen’s effort remains the only perfect game in World Series history and is still one of the most famous World Series game the Yankees ever played. For good measure, the game included a big home run and fine defensive play by Mickey Mantle as well as catcher Yogi Berra calling one of the best games of his career and leaping into Larsen’s arms after the final out.
5. October 16, 1962 This might be the biggest surprise on the list, but it also might have been the most dramatic World Series game the Yankees ever played. The Yankees have been on the wrong end of walkoff hits in the seventh game of the World Series in 1960 and 2001. Those memories are still painful for Yankees fans who watched those games, but game seven of the 1962 World Series against the San Francisco Giants was different. Star Giants pitcher Jack Sanford and reliever Billy O’Dell limited the Yankees to only one run over nine innings. That run came on a double play ground ball by Tony Kubek. Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry was even better holding the Giants scoreless over eight innings. Terry came out to pitch the ninth, but pinch hitter Matty Alou singled. Matty’s brother Felipe could not get the bunt down and struck out. Chuck Hiller then struck out and Terry only needed one more out. The problem was the next three hitters were all Hall of Famers sluggers in the prime of their career. Willie Mays hit a double to right, but Matty Alou was held up at third base. Now there were runners on second and third with two outs. A single would probably win the game because Mays was one of the best and fastest baserunners ever. The Giants batter was Wille McCovey a devastatingly strong left-handed hitter who had a 154 OPS+ in the regular season and had already tripled off of Terry earlier in the game. Terry could have walked McCovey but then would have pitched to Orlando Cepeda. McCovey hit a line drive which he would claim was one of the hardest balls he ever hit, but it was right at second baseman Bobby Richardson. Richardson caught it and the Yankees had won the World Series.