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Yankees history: The story of Whitey Witt’s unheralded five-hit performance

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The Yankees outfielder reached base five times, but somehow his team only scored two runs.

MLB: ALCS-Houston Astros at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As good as a single baseball player can be, they still can’t do it on there own. There’s a reason Mike Trout can deservedly win MVP on a fourth-placed team. Whitey Witt was a perfectly average major league baseball player, but he probably felt those 2016 Mike Trout feelings in one particular game in 1922.

The Yankees had gotten off to an extremely hot start in 1922, going into an April 29th game against the Red Sox with an 11-3 record. Babe Ruth was in his third season with the team, but missed time due to his suspension for barnstorming in the offseason. Perhaps to somewhat offset the early loss of Ruth and fellow outfielder Bob Meusel, the Yankees brought in Whitey Witt from the Philadelphia Athletics.

The 26-year old Witt was coming off the best full season of his career, mainly hitting in the leadoff spot for the Athletics. While he likely would have gotten more than plenty playing time were it not for the Ruth suspension, it led to an increased role for Witt that season.

Like he had in Philly, Witt was the leadoff hitter for the Yankees on April 19, 1922. They were tasked with facing Jack Quinn. The former Yankee went on to have a pretty solid season in ‘22. Witt, however, got the better of him that day.

The game went 14 innings, with Quinn going 11.2 and reliever Alex Ferguson throwing 2.1 innings. Witt went 5-6 on the day, sacrifice bunting in another plate appearance. So surely if your lead-off hitter gets on base five times, your offense scored a decent amount of runs? Well...

As Witt was going 5-6, the rest of the team combined went 5-42. Home Run Baker got two of those hits and walked three times. Wally Schang got two hits, and starting pitcher Waite Hoyte got the other. Schang and Hoyte were hitting in the eight and nine slots, so they wouldn’t have had much of a chance to bring home Witt. Baker was hitting third, yet somehow neither of his hits scored Witt either, Despite getting on five times, Witt was neither of the two runs the Yankees scored.

Witt drove in one run, but the Yankees ended up losing 5-2 in 14 innings. Hoyte went all 14 innings, but couldn’t hold off the Red Sox any further. To use “ironically” in the Alanis Morissette sense, he made the final out of the game. He also got picked off twice, so Witt isn’t totally blameless. However, if you got on five times and didn’t score, I wouldn’t blame you for trying to make something happened.

Despite the loss, the Yankees were a good team that season, and ended up winning the American League pennant. They lost the World Series to the Giants in five games. Witt was about an average hitter that season, but did lead the league in walks.

This game is an advertisement in baseball being a team sport. It’s also an advertisement for home runs, but that’s a discussion for a different day.

Sources

http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1922/B04290NYA1922.htm

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/wittwh01.shtml

https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/a80ae3b1

https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/NYY/1922.shtml