Glenn Guzzo

 

1924: The Next Classic Baseball Season

         

          Two Great Pennant Races, Hornsby’s .424 and More

 

By Glenn Guzzo

 

            A unique and exciting part of baseball history awaits Strat-O-Matic gamers in early 2009, when the game company makes the 1924 season its next classic baseball season.

 

            The ’24 season was one of a kind in so many ways:

 

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The Washington Senators won their first pennant and only World Series.

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The New York Giants became the first team to win four straight pennants.

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Babe Ruth won his only batting title, hitting a lusty .378.

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The Cardinals’ Rogers Hornsby hit .424 – unmatched in the 20th or 21st Centuries.

 

The season had two thrilling, three-team pennant races.

 

            And it had a pair of “Triple Crown” pitchers. Washington’s Walter Johnson (23-7, 2.72, 158 strikeouts) and Brooklyn’s Dazzy Vance (28-6, 2.16, 252 strikeouts) each led his league in wins, ERA and strikeouts.

 

            To win a World Series, the Senators needed a freak bad hop off a pebble that gave Earl McNeely a game-winning single over the third basemen’s head in the 12th inning of Game Seven.

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

 

            But getting to the World Series was no fluke for the Senators, who needed their well-balanced offense and pitching to outmaneuver the New York Yankees by two games and the Detroit Tigers by six.

 

            The Yankees had Ruth (.378-46-121 with .739 slugging and 142 walks). He single-handedly out-homered five other American League teams. But he was by no means 1924’s only slugger, as 18 men in the majors had slugging averages higher than .500. Ruth had powerful help in the lineup with outfielder Bob Meusel (.325-12-120, with 40 doubles, 11 triples and 26 stolen bases) and first baseman Wally Pipp (.295-9-113 with 30 doubles, 19 triples and 12 steals). Little did Pipp know that when Lou Gehrig filled in for him in 1925, Pipp never would never return to first base for the Yankees.

 

            On the mound, the Yankees also had 21-game winner Herb Pennock, but no longer Carl Mays, who went to Cincinnati before the season and won 20.

 

            As powerful as the Yankees were, the Tigers had the AL’s top offense, leading with 849 runs and a .298 team batting average. Ty Cobb (.338-4-79 with 23 steals), Harry Heilmann (.346-10-13 with 45 doubles and 16 triples) and Heinie Manush (.289-9-68) formed a Hall of Fame outfield. Detroit had five .300 hitters in the regular lineup and three more on the bench.

 

            Washington won with pitching – Johnson, 16-game winner George Mogridge, 15-game winner Tom Zachary and reliever Firpo Marberry – and with the hitting by future Hall of Fame OFs Goose Goslin (.344-12-129 with 30 doubles, 17 triples and 16 steals) and Sam Rice (.334, 38 doubles, 14 triples, 24 steals). Goslin’s RBIs denied Ruth the Triple Crown. 1B Joe Judge hit .324 and three men hit above .300 off the bench.

 

            The Senators’ heroics kept the Yankees from joining the Giants as history’s first team to win four straight pennants and from an all-New York World Series.

 

            There are stars on every other AL team.

 

            Fourth-place St. Louis had outfielders Baby Doll Jacobson (.318-19-97 with 41 doubles and 12 triples) and Ken Williams (.324-18-84). Fifth-place Philadelphia had rookie OF Al Simmons (.3088-102), veteran OF Bing Miller (.342) and 1B Joe Hauser (.288-27-115). Sixth-place Cleveland had five .300 hitters, including future Hall of Famers Tris Speaker (.344, .510 slugging) and Joe Sewell (.316 and 45 doubles), plus OF Charlie Jamieson (.359). Seventh-place Boston had OF Ike Boone (.333-13-96) and even last-place Chicago had five men hit .320 or better, including future Hall of Famer Eddie Collins (.349 and AL-best 42 steals). The Sox led the AL in stolen bases and had 20-game winner Hollis “Sloppy” Thurston.

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

           

            Manager John McGraw’s Giants outscored the next-best NL offense by more than 100 runs, had the league’s third-best pitching and still won the pennant by only 1.5 games over Brooklyn and three over Pittsburgh.

           

            The heavy Giants’ offense features an MVP-caliber season from 1B George Kelly (.324-21-136), with much support from OFs Ross Youngs (.355 with .521 slugging) and Irish Meusel (.310, 102 RBIs), plus 2B Frankie Frisch (.328, 15 triples, 22 steals).  The lineup has five future Hall of Famers (Kelly, Frisch, Youngs, SS Travis Jackson, who hit .302-11-78, and CF Hack Wilson) plus two more on the bench in young 1B Bill Terry and 3B Fred Lindstrom (the victim of McNeely’s bad-hop grounder).

 

            Brooklyn had a sensational 1-2 pitching punch in future Hall of Famers Vance and Burleigh Grimes (22-13, 311 IP). Future HOF OF Zach Wheat hit .375-14-97 with 41 doubles and .549 slugging, 1B Jack Fournier hit .334-27-116 with .536 slugging and 2B Andy High hit .328 with 13 triples.

 

            Pittsburgh hit only 43 homers but had the league’s No. 3 offense built on league leads in triples and stolen bases. Six different men hit at least 11 triples, led by 2B Rabbit Maranville’s 20 and SS Glenn Wright’s 18. Rookie OF Kiki Cuyler hit .354 with 16 triples and 32 steals. CF Max Carey led the majors with 49 steals. Maranville, Cuyler, Carey and 3B Pie Traynor were all headed for the Hall of Fame.

 

            But the league’s big hitter was Hornsby, who had 227 hits, including 43 doubles, 11 triples and 14 homers. He slugged .696, walked 89 times and scored 121 runs. Fellow future Hall of Famer Jim Bottomley hit .316-14-111 for Hornsby’s Cardinals, but they finished sixth.

 

            Cincinnati, with 20-game winner Mays, the majors’ best pitching, and five .300 hitters, finished fourth at 83-70. Future HOF CF Edd Roush hit .348 with a baseball-best 21 triples and slugged .501.

 

            Future HOF C Gabby Hartnett (.299-16-67) led Chicago’s offense. The Cubs (81-72) might have done better than sixth place if future HOF P Pete Alexander (12-5) hadn’t broken his wrist in mid-August.

 

            Slugging OF Cy Williams (.328-24-93, with .552 slugging) led seventh-place Philadelphia’s offense. The Phillies escaped the cellar by four games because the Boston Braves were the only ones to lose 100 games.