When you think of the 1927 Yankees. you almost certainly first think of the powerful “Murderers’ Row” offense. Led by the likes of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, the ‘27 Yankees averaged over six runs per game, which was nearly a full run better than any other MLB team. Even in the game this post is about, which will highlight a disappointingly bad performance, they still put up 11 runs.
That is what makes their complete inability to bring Gehrig home on September 5th of the year so very bizarre.
While they hadn’t done it mathematically yet, the Yankees pretty much had the AL sewn up by the time they faced the Red Sox on September 5, 1927. Meanwhile, the opposing Boston team was down the other end of the AL standings, and went into the matchup 49 games back of the Yankees. But on that day, with future Yankee Red Ruffing on the mound, Boston jumped out to a 3-0 first inning lead.
It wouldn’t take too long for the Yankees’ dynamic offense to fight back. In the third, they scored four runs, with the big blow coming on a two-run home run by Gehrig. It was the Iron Horse’s second time on base that day, having walked in the first inning.
Over the next couple innings, the teams kept trading the lead back and forth, with the Red Sox eventually going up two runs and holding onto that. Down to their final two outs, the Yankees rallied in the top of the ninth and sent the game to extra innings, tied at eight.
In extras, Gehrig did about everything you could ask of him, bar asking him to hit a home run every single time. In the 10th, he singled. In the 12th, he was put on via intentional walk. In the 14th, he kept the inning alive thanks to a walk of a more normal variety. In the 16th, he singled. In none of those times in which he got on base did he come around to score. You can blame him for the missed chance in the 10th considering that he was thrown out trying to steal. Besides that, the still stacked lineup hitting behind him just kept failing to bring him home.
In the 17th, Gehrig wasn’t due up, having ended the previous inning on base. However, the Yankees’ offense did come alive, scoring two runs and bringing him to the plate with two on. With fate somewhat in his own hands, Gehrig delivered, singling home a run. However, during the play, Ruth attempted to go from first to third. He was thrown out, ending the inning. You would’ve thought that wouldn’t be such a big deal. A great Yankees team was now up three against a bad Red Sox one. A fourth (or fifth or maybe even more) run failing to score shouldn’t necessarily be a big deal. It turned out to be pretty big.
In the bottom of the 17th, down to their last three outs, the Red Sox rallied. They scored three runs to tie the game as the Yankees needed to throw out a runner at home to prevent a Red Sox win. It turned out, that was only delaying matter. After the Yankees failed to score in the 18th, the Red Sox didn’t with Ira Flagstead hitting a walk-off double. Boston won 12-11 in 18 innings.
Now back to Gehrig’s performance. He finished the day having gone 4-6 with four walks and three RBI. Eight times on base is a Yankee franchise record. No one has truly come that close to breaking it recently either. Three Yankee players have gotten on base seven times in a game, but the last time that happened was 1936.
Despite getting on so many times, he only scored one run on the day. As you may recall, he hit a home run, so he was responsible for that too. There have been 74 instances of a Yankee getting on base at least six times in one game. The Yankees are 64-10 in those games, although that figure does include some overlap with multiple instances coming in the same game. The point remains the same, however: if one player reaches base that many times, chances are the offense had a pretty good day, and that’ll usually be good enough for a win. Yet in the case, the actual record wasn’t enough for one.
Lou Gehrig did pretty much everything you could ask of him on September 5, 1927, and yet it still wasn’t enough. Baseball is a very weird sport sometimes.