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  • Mike Whiteman

The Pitchers of Murderer's Row

By Mike Whiteman December 3, 2023 *** The Yankees of the mid-late 1920s are among the best and iconic teams in the history of baseball. Even the most casual of baseball fans know the 1927 Yankees of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were something special. Coined “Murderer’s Row” due to their overwhelming offensive attack, the lineup usually looked something like this: Earle Combs, cf Mark Koenig, ss Babe Ruth rf Lou Gehrig, 1b Bob Meusel, lf Tony Lazzeri, 2b Joe Dugan, 3b Catcher Pitcher There are four Hall of Famers and some solid complimentary pieces in this order. From 1926-1928, the Yankees won three pennants and World Series titles in 1927 and 1928. The 1927 team of course is considered be many as the best team of all time. We know that hitting alone does not a dynasty make, yet the Yanks' pitching during this time seems severely overlooked. In fact, the 1927 squad led the league not only in all relevant offensive stats, but in team Earned Run Average as well - by a lot. They were just a dominant team. The 1928 squad finished second among all teams in ERA.


Here's a look at the prominent Bronx hurlers of the time: Waite Hoyt – If there’s an “ace” on this staff, Hoyt would be it. The righthander was picked up – like a lot of the players of the 20s Yankees - in a deal with the Red Sox. From 1921-1929 he averaged 17 wins with a 3.46 ERA. He was at his best with the 1927-28 squad, winning 45 games with a 3.01 ERA (128 ERA+) and even saving nine games. He was a reliable postseason performer, going 4-1, 2.01 ERA during the 1926-1928 World Series, starting and winning the openers in then 1927 and 1928 Fall Classics. Hoyt was voted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969. Urban Shocker – Shocker was a crafty veteran picked up in 1925 after a number of seasons as the St. Louis Browns’ ace. Playing for the Yanks rejuvenated his career, as he won 37 combined games in 1926-1927 on the strength of guts, smarts and a spitball, which he was grandfathered to throw after it was outlawed in 1920. He pitched well despite dealing with a heart ailment that would drain his energy and sadly take his life in September 1928.


Herb Pennock - Another hurler who found his path to the Yankees through Boston, Pennock won 59 games during 1926-1928 with a 3.10 ERA (124 ERA+). The lanky lefty really bore down in the World Series, going 3-0 with a 1.16 ERA in the 1926 and 1927 classics. Pennock was immortalized in Cooperstown in 1948. George Pipgras – A complimentary piece of the 1927 juggernaut when he was 10-3, 4.11, Pipgras was a horse for the 1928 Yanks, stepping in after the losses of Shocker and Dutch Reuther and winning 24 games while tossing 300 innings. He hurled a complete game win over the Cardinals in Game Two of the World Series. Wilcy Moore – You may not have heard of Wilcy Moore, but he was the first really good Yankee relief pitcher. The righthander came out of nowhere at age thirty in 1927 to go 19-7, with an AL-leading 2.28 ERA, including a dominant 13-3, 1.81 out of the bullpen with 12 (retroactively awarded) saves.


The Yankees' hitters of the time get a lot of glory, and reasonably so! Without the stellar pitching, though, they would likely have been remembered as only pretty good teams, if at all.

6 Comments


Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Dec 03, 2023

The '27 pitching was about as good as the hitting: 122 ERA+ and 127 OPS+, both leading the AL. The AL was a pitching league that year, with NY the only team with >100 OPS+, but five teams with >100 ERA+. It also shows up in team WAR. Yankee pitchers nearly lapped the No. 2 A's in pitcher WAR, 6.8 to 3.5. But in hitting? Murderers Row was 26.9 WAR, the A's 6.0 in second, and four teams were below replacement value. That's how much Yankee hitting dominated the league and why the pitchers (unfairly) are not nearly as well remembered.

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yankeerudy
Dec 03, 2023

I wonder how much of the Yankees' outstanding ERA was due to their pitchers not having to face their hitters.

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Alan B.
Alan B.
Dec 03, 2023

There was a computer game called Micro League Bseball. It came out out in 1985, where in school, we had a bunch of IIe computers with a new thing called the floppy disk drive and you had certain teams like the '27 Yankees up to the '84 Tigers. We called it computerized Strat-o-matic.. First time I ever heard about algorithms. But it did make me, my Yeshiva's pre-eminent Sports fan, and of course, Yankee fan (1985, the emergence of Brian Fisher in the Yanks 'pen, & Donnie Baseball's MVP), I always had to be the Yankees. Because of that game, I learned about Combs, Meusel, Hoyt, Peckinpaugh, Arroyo ('61 Yanks), and countless others.. Back in those days, meant …

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Mike Whiteman
Dec 03, 2023
Replying to

Alan, thanks for sharing!

At about the same time I was learning about the 1927 Yanks, along with the 1909 Pirates, 1924 Senators, 1931 A’ and 1934 Cardinals etc. with the Strat-O-Matic Oldtimer teams.


I can barely remember yesterday’s dinner, but can snap off the 1927 Yankee lineup easily :)

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Dec 03, 2023

GREAT STUFF MIKE!

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Mike Whiteman
Dec 03, 2023
Replying to

Thanks Paul!

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