clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

An Alternative History of the Yankees: the 1920s

Two of the biggest real life Yankee legends take down the team in our virtual replaying of history.

New York Yankees Photo by MPI/Getty Images

Using the game Out of the Park Baseball 21, we’ve been going back through history and rewriting Yankees and baseball history. The computer is controlling all teams, and all real life transactions have been turned off. Therefore, it’s possible the likes of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, and Derek Jeter will never end up in pinstripes, while other notable names end up as Yankee stars. Here’s where you can read parts one and two. Let’s see what happens next.

In real life, the 1920s were a big decade for the Yankees. Babe Ruth’s first season with the team came in 1920, Lou Gehrig’s debut came a couple years after that, and the franchise would soon win their first couple championships.

In our rewritten history, the Yankees already have one title under their belt in 1916. Will they springboard off that to dominate the 1920s just as they did in real life? Or will they falter, especially considering that Babe Ruth is a member of the Cincinnati Reds and seemingly not going anywhere? Let’s find out.

1920: 81-73, 3rd in AL, 5.5 GB, Team WAR Leader: SS Roger Peckinpaugh (8.2)

Much as they did in the last couple years of the 1910s, the Yankees began the 20s, by being decent, but not good enough to win the pennant. The White Sox won the AL, but lost to the Phillies in the World Series.

Two important things happened in the offseason. One is that manager Patsy Donovan leaves to take the Brooklyn manager’s job. Donovan had led the Yankees to the 1915 pennant and the 1916 World Series crown and generally turned the franchise into one that perennially put up a winning record at the very least. It’s the end of an era.

The other is that the Pirates use the first overall selection in the draft (which exists already if you haven’t read past editions of this series) to take a youngster by the name of Lou Gehrig.

1921: 67-87, 8th in AL, 23 GB, Team WAR Leader: SS Charlie Hollocher (6.6)

Jeff Colgan is hired to replace Donovan, but his first season is a disappointing one. It’s a perfect storm of Shoeless Joe Jackson being almost unplayable in the field (he puts up a 1.8 WAR despite a .927 OPS in 151 games), Roger Peckinpaugh playing in just 32 games, and former Cy Young winner Reb Russell throwing just 27 innings. The Yankees fall all the way to last as the White Sox take the AL and the World Series.

1922: 52-102, 8th in AL, 32 GB, Team WAR Leader: SS Charlie Hollocher (5.2)

The Yankees use the previous year’s draft to take an intriguing played named Babe.

Babe Herman comes up and wins Rookie of the Year, but the Yankees fall even further back. In a crazy year, first through sixth in the AL are separated by just three games, with the Senators winning the pennant at 84-70. Not shockingly, they were smoked in the World Series by the Phillies.

1923: 72-82, 6th in AL, 22 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP Bill Sherdel (6.1)

Thanks to the disastrous previous season, the Yankees have the #1 pick and use it on Chick Hafey, who comes up and makes an immediate impact, putting up 5.8 WAR in his rookie year. However, it’s still not enough to get the Yankees into real contention.

The Reds win the World Series, with Ruth putting up a 202 OPS+ and a 196 ERA+ in the World Series.

1924: 74-80, 6th in AL, 24 GB, Team WAR Leader: 1B Babe Herman (4.7)

The Colgan era comes to a short end as the Yankees finish below .500 for the fourth-straight year and he is dismissed after the year. Despite that, the young core of Herman, Hafey, and third baseman Ossie Bluege, all 23 or under, have solid seasons. Carl East also has another good season, winning Rookie of the Year as a 29-year old. East will remain under contract with the Yankees through 1927 but never play another major league game for them or any other team. It’s weird.

Meanwhile, Ruth and the Reds go back-to-back.

1925: 79-75, 4th in AL, 3.5 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP Bill Sherdel (4.8)

The Yankees hire Giants’ bench coach Miguel Luis and immediately begin a turnaround, going back over .500, with Sherdel winning the Cy Young Award. Elsewhere, the Reds win a third-straight championship.

1926: 90-65, 1st in AL, Team WAR Leader: 1B Babe Herman (6.6)

In his second year, Luis returns the Yankees to the World Series when they beat the White Sox in a one-game playoff. In the World Series, they battle the Reds in a seven-game series before Ruth and Cincinnati get the best of them in the decisive game. Ruth is still a two-way player and put up a combined 15 WAR season between pitching and hitting.

1927: 83-71, 2nd in AL, 17 GB, Team WAR Leader: LF Chick Hafey (6.6)

The Yankees fall off slightly, but not massively from the previous season. Problem was the St. Louis Browns put in a dominant 100-win campaign to take the AL. St. Louis also wins the World Series over the Cubs, who finally dethroned the Reds.

1928: 93-61, 1st in AL, Team WAR Leader: LF Chick Hafey (6.8)

The Yankees return to the top of the AL, squeaking out the pennant by one game over the Red Sox. Hafey’s big season sees him land the AL MVP as the Yankees once again go to the World Series. They meet the Pirates, who similarly won the NL by just a game. However, the Pirates had a certain Lou Gehrig in their lineup, who put up a 9.3 WAR season with a 200 wRC+. Gehrig hits .391/.500/.565 as the Pirates beat the Yankees in six games.

After the season, Yankees’ legend Shoeless Joe Jackson announces his retirement. His number is immediately retired, and he will undoubtedly gain entrance to the Hall of Fame upon becoming eligible. He certainly has the numbers, three MVPS, and with no scandals in his history, he is one of the most popular players ever.

1929: 71-83, 6th in AL, 24 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP Garland Braxton (6.6)

Unable to build upon the previous season, the Yankees drop back to sixth in the AL, costing Luis his job. Gehrig and the Pirates go back-to-back.