Sloppy baseball isn’t particularly fun if your team is losing. It definitely can be if your team wins, though.
On May 18, 1931, the Yankees were in Detroit to play the Tigers. From the outset, the Yankees took control of the game. After scoring one in the first, the Yankees tacked on another five in the third and never trailed in the game. That’s not the interesting part.
The Tigers got two runs back in the bottom of third, but that’s as close as they would get. The Yankees tacked on 13 runs in the eight and ninth innings, and the game wound up finishing in a 20-8 Yankees win.
All eight of the runs the Yankees allowed were unearned. Yankees starter Ed Wells pitched a complete game. He came into the game with a 6.30 ERA. He exited with a 3.32 ERA in a game where he allowed 12 hits and the opposing team scored eight runs.
Some of the unearned runs scored because of two errors. Being that the Tigers scored in four separate innings, they weren’t all due to these miscues. However, I can’t find any passed balls or anything else listed for this game. So the blame for the unearned runs has to fall mostly at the feet of one individual.
Both errors were committed by shortstop Lyn Lary. In 1931, Lary played 155 games at shortstop. He made 35 errors for the season. After this game, he had nine. It was May 18th. It isn’t always the most reliable stat, but he finished that season with a fielding percentage of .946. It takes an impressive effort to get it that low. In 2016, there are literally no innings-qualified shortstops with a lower fielding percentage.
Somehow, the Yankees weren’t the worst fielding team on the day, however. The Yankees also scored eight unearned runs on the day. That came on the back of the Tigers committing five errors.
Five separate Tigers made errors on the day. All three of their outfielders committed one, as did both middle infielders.
The Yankees also did all of that scoring while hitting just three extra base hits. The Yankees scored 20 runs on 19 hits. Just two of them were doubles, and one was a triple. They also got just a combined two hits from Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
This game was the most unearned runs the Yankees have allowed in a game they still won. It helps when the other teams gifts you the same number of unearned runs right back.
Allowing eight runs because of two errors, probably wouldn’t have been the best feeling for Lyn Lary or the Yankees. It probably wouldn’t have been fun to watch for them. It probably would have been worse for Tigers fans.
The Tigers finished the 1931 season in seventh place in the AL, 47 games back of first place. Fielding like that probably was one of the reasons.
Data courtesy of the Baseball Reference Play Index