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History of the World Series - 1921

For the American Leaguers, 1913 was a season of change and here-we-go-again drudgery. The switch was in their nickname from the Highlanders to the Yankees. The constant came in the form of continued poor play with the 50-102 Highlanders of 1912 becoming the 57-92 Yankees of 1913.

Gradually, the Yankees assembled a decent club. By 1919, they were more than decent -- they were third-place finishers in the AL. By early 1920, they had purchased an outfielder/pitcher who merely changed the fact of the game. The acquisition: George Herman (Babe) Ruth, late of the Boston Red Sox.

Ruth, who had hammered 29 home runs (a major-league record for Boston in 1919, brought the game into a new era in 1920 by pounding 54 homers for the Yankees. At the same time, he brought throngs to the Polo Grounds -- as evidenced by the fact that he and the Yankees, playing their home games in the Giants' park, outdrew McGraw's team by more than 350,000.

As amazing as Ruth was in '20, he was even better in 1921 and led the Yankees to their first AL pennant. The Bambino increased his homer output to a staggering 59, boosted his runs-batted-in total from 137 to 171 and inched his batting average from .376 to .378. Ruth wasn't the whole story, though. Bob Meusel added 24 homers and 135 RBIs, and every Yankee regular batted .288 or higher. Carl Mays, obtained from Boston in mid-1919, was a 27-game winner for Manager Miller Huggins' team, which got 19 victories from Waite Hoyt (yet another acquisition from the Red Sox, coming over in December 1920) and 18 from Bob Shawkey.

The Giants were no slouches themselves. They had plenty of thump with such headliners as Frankie Frisch, Ross (Pep) Youngs, George Kelly and Irish Meusel (Bob's brother), and quality pitching in a staff featuring the foursome of Art Nehf, Fred Toney, Jesse Barnes and Phil Douglas.

In the first World Series to be played its entirety at one stadium, the Yankees and Giants got things going with a Mays-vs.-Douglas matchup. The Yanks made their first Series game a good one, blanking the Giants, 3-0, on Mays' five-hitter. Having gotten the hang of this postseason business in a hurry, Huggins' club went out and won by the same score the next day. This time, it was the two-hit pitching of Hoyt that turned the trick (loser Nehf allowed only three hits).

If the Giants' outlook in this best-of-nine battle appeared less than rosy at this point, it soon bordered on the bleak. With Game 3 scoreless after two innings, the Yankees hit the National Leaguers with four third-inning runs -- two scoring on a Ruth single. But McGraw's charges showed their mettle, rebounding with four runs in the bottom of the inning and then raking Yankees pitchers for eight runs in a seventh-inning outburst that featured Youngs' bases-loaded triple. By game's end, the Giants had 20 hits and a 13-5 victory. And when Douglas beat the Yankees, 4-2, in the following game despite Ruth's first homer in Series play, the 1921 fall classic was tied at two victories apiece.

Ruth, bothered by knee and arm ailments, nevertheless was a key figure in Game 5. Leading off the fourth inning of a 1-1 contest, the Yankees' slugger surprised the Giants by bunting for a hit. He scored what proved to be the winning run when Bob Meusel doubled. Hoyt, after yielding an unearned run in the first inning, held the Giants in check the rest of the way and the AL champions won, 3-1. But while the Yankees had regained the Series lead, three games to two, all was not well with Huggins' crew: The hobbled Ruth couldn't continue.

Considering the overall Strength of the Yankees, the absence of Ruth from the starting lineup probably didn't doom the club's hopes. Or did it? The Giants, getting home runs from Irish Meusel and Frank Snyder, won the sixth game, 8-5, and Douglas was a 2-1 victor over Mays in Game 7.

In Game 8, the Giants scored an unearned run in the first inning and, with Nehf and Hoyt at the top of their games, it remained a 1-0 contest entering the bottom of the ninth. First baseman Wally Pipp, having an awful Series (.154 average), was due to lead off for the Yankees. Huggins went to his bench, though and called on Ruth. The Babe grounded out to Kelly at first.

Aaron Ward drew a walk and Home Run Baker followed with a ground ball on which Giants second baseman Johnny Rawlings made a great stop. Rawlings, who fell while lunging for the ball, was sitting when he threw out Baker. On the play, Ward tried to advance to third, but Kelly's throw to Frisch cut him down and ended the Series. Nehf's first victory of the fall classic, a four-hit, 1-0 conquest, had sewn up the title for the Giants, five games to three.

The Yankees, in their first World Series, had come up losers despite an extraordinary performance by Hoyt, who did not permit an earned run in 27 innings. Mays also was effective with a 1.73 ERA over 26 innings. And Ruth batted .313 with one homer and four RBIs. (Replacement Chick Fewster homered in his first official at-bat after taking over for Ruth beginning in Game 6 but was 1-for-9 the rest of the Series.)

For McGraw and the Giants, it was a return to glory they hadn't known since 1905, when the second fall classic was played. After four October failures, the New York Giants once again were champions.


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