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  • Mike Whiteman

The Best Game Ever

By Mike Whiteman February 25, 2024

Tony Lazzeri was an infielder, primarily a second baseman, for the New York Yankees from 1926 through 1937. During this time, he averaged 14 home runs, 96 RBI per season while slashing at .293/.379/.467. He usually batted anywhere from fifth to seventh in the batting order, as the glamor spots in the lineup were reserved for a couple of fellas named Ruth and Gehrig.

In 1936, Lazzeri continued to play second fiddle to Gehrig and a new Yankee slugger – rookie Joe DiMaggio. Newspapers were stating that the Yankee infielder was in “the twilight of his career”, and some said that he had developed a “hitch” that was sapping him of his power. But for one day, Tony Lazzeri outshined them all.   On May 24, 1936, the Yanks were playing the Philadelphia Athletics in Philadelphia. These were clearly two franchises going in the opposite direction. The Yankees came into the game with a Major League baseball-best 24-11 record and would be heading to a 102-win season and World Series title. The A’s were a bad team, a far cry Connie Mack’s great 1929-1931 squads that won three American League pennants and two World Series crowns. In order to keep financially solvent through the Depression era years, Mack had unloaded future Hall-of-Famers Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Al Simmons, and Mickey Cochrane in deals which netted almost a half-million dollars in total and some forgettable players. They would go on to a 53-100 record in 1936, 49 games out of first place. The Mackmen would send 21-year old George Turbeville to the mound. The young lefty had a 5.13 ERA on the season, 6.90 for his brief career. Things started well, as he retired the first three batters he faced, and in the bottom of the frame his teammates put two runs on the board. In the top of the second, Turbeville walked Bill Dickey, Ben Chapman, and George Selkirk to bring Lazzeri to the plate. The Yankee second sacker had recently been on a hot streak, slugging .542 on the month.  Despite this, Yankee manager Joe McCarthy had him batting eighth in the batting order. The good times continued for Lazzeri, as he smacked a home run to right field. The grand slam put the Yanks up 4-2, a lead they would not yield on this Sunday afternoon. Turbeville wouldn’t make it out of the inning. The next time he came up in the fourth inning, Lazzeri drew a walk to extend a five-run rally and the Yanks now had a 10-2 lead. With Monte Pearson settling in and silencing the A’s bats after the runs allowed in the first, the game looked to be in hand for the Yankees. They didn’t let up though.

The next inning, Lazzeri ripped his second grand slam on the day, and the contest was turning into laugher - 16-2 after five frames. In the seventh inning, he added a solo shot to left field. To cap his day, Lazzeri tripled in Chapman and Selkirk in the eighth, and scored on a Pearson single. A two-run home run by Frankie Crosetti capped the scoring for the contest, and mercifully for the A’s the contest was over. Yankees 25, Athletics 2.

On the day, Lazzeri had four hits and a walk in six trips to the plate. He had three home runs – two grand slams – and an RBI triple. He tallied eleven runs batted in, still the American League record. In one day, Lazzeri’s batting average increased 21 points. His slugging percentage was raised almost a hundred. All while batting eighth. Pearson was masterful after sputtering a bit in the first inning. He went on to toss a complete game and run his record to a 6-1, 2.76. He would go on to be an AL All-Star in 1936 and toss a complete game win in Game Four of the World Series. Through the years, all of the great Yankee players of the 1920s and 1930s found their places in Cooperstown: Babe Ruth in 1939. Lou Gehrig in 1939. Herb Pennock in 1948. Bill Dickey in 1954. Joe DiMaggio in 1955. Red Ruffing in 1967. Waite Hoyt in 1969. Earle Combs in 1970. Lefty Gomez in 1972. Lazzeri was first eligible for Hall of Fame voting in 1945, and he was on less than one percent of all ballots. Sadly, he suddenly died by a heart attack in 1946. He was on the BBWAA ballot fourteen years after his death, and never approached 50 percent. The Veteran’s committee finally voted the unappreciated Yankee into the Hall in 1991, over 50 years after his career ended in 1939. It took a log time, but finally he, and that great game, was enshrined among the greats of the game.

5 comentários

Alan B.
Alan B.
25 de fev.

What is amazing about the Yankees is that the Yankees 3rd, 4th best player at most positions would be 1st or 2nd for any other organization. Now, some of those players who deserve to be in the Hall, based on the new criteria that has been made, are nowhere getting a sniff 👎


25 de fev.

Interesting article.

P.S. Bellinger to the Cubs is good news for Yankee fans that wanted him here. He can opt out after the first year and reenter the market without the Qualifying Offer penalties. If the Yanks opt to let Rizzo leave, he would be a solid 1B replacement if he has another good year.

25 de fev.
Respondendo a

Yeah, but he only needs to beat 2 years/$50 million at that point. If he has another big season, he’ll almost certainly opt out.

P.S. If he does have another great season, arguments could be made that signing Bellinger for $150 million or so would be a safer move than investing $500+ million on Soto. Considering Judge is already locked in and Dominguez & Jones are on the horizon… would signing another DH type be the best idea?

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