Once upon a time, long before the 2002 Oakland Athletics set the baseball world on fire with an incredible 20-game winning streak, the 1947 New York Yankees tied an American League record with 19 wins in a row. The eventual World Series champions, managed by Bucky Harris and led by AL MVP Joe DiMaggio, were already having a great season despite a loss in the first game of a doubleheader on June 29th. They were leading the way in the American League with a 39-26 record and a 4.5 game advantage on the Boston Red Sox. The team certainly did not appear to need to go on a run to take the pennant, but they would do so anyway.
They began their streak in the second game of that doubleheader, when they defeated the lowly Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium 3-1. The Yankees won each of their next seven games to take an eight-game winning streak into the All-Star Break. Relievers Spec Shea and Joe Page combined for 4.1 innings of one-run ball at Wrigley Field to help the Yankees and the American League take that exhibition, too (though it would, of course, not count toward the streak). After the All-Star Game, the Yankees bumped the win streak into double digits with wins over the St. Louis Browns on the 10th and the 11th.
They had a formidable task beginning on the 12th though—four doubleheaders in three cities over just six days (albeit with an off-day on the third day). Fortunately, the Yankees were up to the task and somehow swept the road doubleheaders on the 12th, 13th, and 15th in St. Louis, Chicago, and Cleveland, respectively. The unheralded Bill Bevens (who would later gain fame for narrowly missing a no-hitter in the ‘47 World Series) outdueled Hall of Famer Bob Feller in the second game of the doubleheader on the 15th by the score of 2-1 to extend the Yankees’ winning streak to 16. After another win on the 16th, the Yankees had that fourth doubleheader on July 17th with a chance to tie the AL record of 19 games in a row set by the 1906 Chicago White Sox.
In the first game, journeyman veteran Bobo Newsom took the hill for the Yankees against Cleveland at Municipal Stadium. Newsom was pitching for a personal accomplishment as well -- his 200th major league victory. The Yankees took an early 1-0 lead on a double play ball, then extended the lead to three in the top of the fourth on a two-run homer by first baseman George McQuinn against Cleveland starter Red Embree.
Newsom scattered nine hits throughout the game and bent, but did not break. Cleveland loaded the bases in the bottom of fourth with one out for future Hall of Famer Joe Gordon and seven-time All-Star Ken Keltner, but Newsom struck Gordon out and induced a grounder to second from Keltner. pushed across a run in the seventh when Keltner doubled home Al Lopez, but he was stranded as Newsom pitched out of another jam. I'll let the New York Times wrap up Newsom's complete game, because the prose is just awesome:
“(Newsom) was a tired, but happy man when DiMaggio snared Hal Peck's line drive near the fence in center-field and ended the first game. Newsom gave nine hits, but was master in the clutches."
With Newsom's 200th victory and an 18-game win streak under their belt, the Yankees were one win away from the American League record.
Rookie pitcher Vic Raschi, recently recalled from Portland, took the hill in the evening. The Yankees staked him to a 6-0 lead with an assault of singles against Cleveland starter Steve Gromek. They notched 10 hits on the evening, all of them singles, and the hits brought home seven runs. McQuinn, Snuffy Stirnweiss, and Tommy Henrich led the way with two hits apiece, and third baseman Billy Johnson managed to pick up three RBIs on groundouts despite a hitless evening.
The Yankees did not need many runs in the nightcap however; Raschi was in full control. He went all nine innings and gave up just six hits and two runs to move to 4-0 in his fourth career appearance (all starts). The Yankees won the game, 7-2, for their nineteenth consecutive win. Incredibly, 13 of those 19 wins came on the road.
The Yankees’ hopes of setting a new American League mark were dashed the next day in Detroit as Fred Hutchison shut them out on two hits and the Tigers won 8-0. By the end of the 19-game winning streak, the Yankees were 58-26 (a .690 winning percentage), and they had an 11.5 game lead on the rest of the American League. They would go on to win the pennant by 12 games with a 97-57 record, then win their eleventh World Series title with a seven-game victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The 1947 Yankees and the 1906 White Sox remained tied atop the American League record books for the next 55 years, until the 2002 Oakland beat the record with 20 in a row. Still, it should be noted that the 2002 Oakland team played half of their winning streak at home with no doubleheaders, and that the 1906 White Sox team played 11 games of their 19-game winning streak at home, with just one doubleheader. It could certainly be argued that the '47 Yankees' 19-game winning streak was even more impressive considering the fact that they only played six of those games at home and they needed to sweep four road doubleheaders. Sweeping one road doubleheader is remarkable enough, but to do it four times in six days is truly amazing.
Game recap source: Effrat, Louis. "Bombers Repulse Indians By 3-1, 7-2." New York Times, July 18, 1947.