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This Day in Yankees History: Rivals and Ruffing

September 18th


Top Three September 18th Highlights in Yankees History

1. 1960- Doubleheader sweep deflates second-place Baltimore Orioles

The New York Yankees failed to win the American League pennant in 1959, and they sought to avenge this rare disappointment with manager Casey Stengel still at the helm. The defending AL champion Chicago White Sox were an unsurprising foe, but few experts foresaw the Orioles challenging for the pennant. Nonetheless, they emerged from the second division, spending 51 days in first place. On September 14th, an 11-10 triumph against the Detroit Tigers combined with a 2-1 upset victory by the Kansas City Athletics over the Yankees put the two contenders in a tie atop the AL. The Yankees and Orioles faced off in a crucial four-game series at Yankee Stadium from September 16-18.

Unfortunately for the Orioles, the Yankees did not lose any of the four matchups. Even worse, the Yankees won every game for the remainder of the season, a 15-game winning streak. The toughest day for Paul Richards' young Orioles crew to swallow was on the 18th. Though the Orioles had dropped the first two games of the series, a doubleheader sweep would put them back into a tie for first place. Alas, the Yankees knocked Baltimore starter Jack Fisher out of the game in the third inning, and they carried a 5-0 lead into the sixth. The Orioles scored a few runs on Art Ditmar, but reliever Jim Coates shut them out the rest of the way. 24-year-old righthander Ralph Terry absolutely dominated the Orioles in the nightcap, retiring the first 20 hitters he faced and hurling a two-hit shutout. Instead of a tie, the sweep meant the Orioles now stood four games back with nine games to play. The pennant race was effectively over.

2. 1993- Yankee Stadium fan ruins potential victory for the Boston Red Sox

The Yankees were fighting for their lives in the '93 AL East race for the division title against the defending World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays. The teams were tied for first on September 5th, but the Yankees fell into a tailspin and went 3-6 on a nine-game road trip to Texas, Kansas City, and Milwaukee. Returning home, the Yankees played a four-game series against the Red Sox, who finished the season a disappointing two games under .500. Regardless, the teams split the first two and the Yankees sat three games behind the Jays on September 18th. A 5-1 victory by Toronto over the Minnesota Twins earlier in the day called for the Yankees to win in response, but ace Jimmy Key did not get off to a good start. Slugging first baseman Mo Vaughn crushed a two-run homer in the first inning for his 26th of the season, and a bases-loaded walk in the third made the score 3-0. Although they had seven hits on the day entering the ninth, the Yankees' only run came when Paul O'Neill hit a solo homer of his own in the seventh against Nate Minchey, who excelled in his second career start.

The game appeared to be nearing its end when reliever Greg Harris induced two quick grounders to begin the ninth. A 2-1 pitch to second baseman Mike Gallego hit him though, and manager Buck Showalter called on strong catcher Mike Stanley to pinch-hit for shortstop Randy Velarde. A few pitches later, Stanley lifted a fly ball to left fielder Mike Greenwell to apparently end the game. Third base umpire Tim Welke called the play dead however, since a fan ran out onto the field in the middle of the pitch. The do-over gave Stanley a second life, and he lined a single to left field. Former BoSox hero Wade Boggs grounded a single to score Gallego, then left fielder Dion James walked to load the bases for captain Don Mattingly. Suddenly, Boston was a mere single away from losing with pinch-runners Gerald Williams and Andy Stankiewicz in scoring position. Mattingly broke the spirits of Boston fans by singling to right, scoring both to end the game in a stunning 4-3 victory. The Yankees did not go on to win the AL East, but it was another crushing memory for Red Sox fans to absorb in the history of their rivalry.

3. 1930- Pitcher Ruffing surprises Browns with two homers

Hall of Fame pitcher Red Ruffing was the greatest righthanded pitcher in Yankees history, and his potent bat was a secret weapon that only made him even more valuable. The Yankees saw talent in the 25-year-old despite his 39-96 record and 4.61 ERA in 189 games with Boston, and they immediately reaped the rewards when they traded for him on May 6, 1930. Ruffing turned his 6.38 ERA season in four games around, and pitched to a superior 4.14 mark the rest of the way. He also had a tremendous season at bat, hitting .374/.415/.596 with four homers and a 157 OPS+ in 116 plate appearances as a Yankee. Half of his season's output of roundtrippers came in one game, a victory over the St. Louis Browns. Even on days when he did not look his best (seven innings, ten hits, five runs), Ruffing could take some of those runs back, which he did by taking opposing starter Fred Stiely deep in the second and the sixth. Only three times in Yankees history has a pitcher hit two homers, and Ruffing was the slugger on two of those occasions. Although Ruffing blew the 4-2 lead created almost entirely by himself, the offense bailed him out by taking the lead back in the eighth when Ruffing was gone from the game. They would eventually win 7-6.

Honorable Mention

1922- "Bullet Joe" Bush stops St. Louis Browns batsmen George Sisler's AL record 41-game hitting streak with a five-hit 3-2 victory. Sisler's 0-for-4 is his first game without a hit since July 26th. Although Joe DiMaggio of course blew past Sisler's record with a 56-game hitting streak in '41, Sisler's mark is still the second-best in league history and fifth-best overall.