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The story of when the Yankees played 44 innings in two days

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The Yankees played a lot of baseball from September 12-13, 1931.

MLB: MAY 07 Yankees at Cubs Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After wrapping up a series in Philadelphia, the Yankees returned home for a series against the White Sox in September 1931. A rain out caused the series to kick off on September 11th, a day after scheduled. The White Sox took the series opener on Friday, which was followed by a doubleheader to make up the Thursday game.

The Yankees played 27 different doubleheaders in that season, so that wasn’t exactly a new development. I can’t imagine, however, that anyone would be prepared for what was next.

In the first game of the doubleheader on September 12th, Red Ruffing got the start. He wasn’t terrible, giving up three runs on seven hits in nine innings. However, White Sox starter Vic Frazier had kept a good Yankees’ lineup in check, shutting them out through the eighth.

Babe Ruth pinch hit with two runners on, but he popped up for the second out, and it seemed as if the Yankees were done for. However, Samuel Byrd and Joe Sewell both hit singles, which combined with an error on Byrd’s, allowed three runs to score, sending the Yankees into extra-innings.

After three scoreless innings, where the teams combined to allowed just three runners to reach, the White Sox broke through in the 13th. George Pipgras, who had come in for the tenth and was still on the mound, had a bad inning. He walked the bases loaded before allowing three hits and five runs.

The Yankees made an attempt at a rally and even got as far as a potential tying run reaching the on-deck circle. However, White Sox pitcher Red Faber got a double play to give his team an 8-5 win.

Later that day, the White Sox got off to an even bigger lead, going up 6-1 after three innings. That would be the beginning of quite the seesaw. The Yankees then answered back with seven total runs in the fourth and fifth inning, only for the White Sox to score four in the sixth.

Once again, the Yankees made a late rally, only this one happened in the eighth. Tony Lazzeri tied the game with a bases-loaded single.

With new life in the game, naturally it all immediately went down the tube. Ed Wells and Hank Johnson proceeded to combine to give up three runs. As was the theme of the day, though, the Yankees rallied. They came all the way back, scoring three runs to send another game into extras.

In the tenth, Lefty Gomez threw a scoreless frame, while the Yankees’ offense was 90 feet away from a win. When it was over, after 23 innings of baseball on the day, the game finished as a tie, as was not uncommon back then.

That marked the end of the White Sox series, as the Tigers came to Yankee Stadium for one starting the next day. For reasons that I cannot find, the game that was scheduled for September 16th was moved up to the 13th. That meant that a day after playing a 23-inning doubleheader, the Yankees would have to take part in another doubleheader. And boy did they.

The first game on that day was a pitchers’ duel between Gomez and George Uhle. The Yankees had picked up a run in the sixth and looked poised to hand onto a win. In theme with the previous day, things would not be that easy.

This time it would be the Yankees’ turn to blow a late lead. Gomez came back out for the ninth and allowed a home run to Dale Alexander. For the third time in two days, the game went into extra-innings. The Yankees eventually pulled out a win in 12 innings, but they were now up to 35 innings in two days, and they still had another game to play.

The second game did not go into extra innings, but it wasn’t terribly far away. After allowing three runs in the second, the Yankees answered back with two in the bottom of the inning, and then two in the sixth. In the seventh, the Tigers put two runners in scoring position. The Yankees eventually escaped the jam, but one of the outs was on a fielder’s choice play at home. The offense did not score in the seventh and eighth, and didn’t have to bat in the ninth. Had something gone wrong on that play at home, this very well could have been a fourth extra inning game in two days.

In total, the Yankees played 44 innings across the four games. Gomez was the only pitcher to appear in more than one game, throwing 10 innings in total. It would have been a long two days for Lou Gehrig, as he went 2-21. Samuel Byrd had the best set of games, going 6-16, but only didn’t play in the first Tigers’ game. Bill Dickey caught portions of three games, spending 26 total innings behind the plate.

Luckily for them, the Yankees didn’t play an extra-inning game for the rest of the season. They probably got all of that out of their systems on September 12-13.

All historical box score and play-by-play courtesy of Baseball Reference