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How errors (and a called shot) helped the Yankees win the 1932 World Series

While Babe Ruth doing a certain pointing motion is remembered, several Cubs errors help the Yankees pick up a crucial win the 1932 World Series.

New York Yankees... Sports Studio Photos/Getty Images

Game 3 of the 1932 World Series is a pretty famous one in Yankees lore. In the fifth inning of a tied game, Babe Ruth made a pointing gesture towards the outfield moments before hitting a home run, in what is now known as the “Called Shot.” What exactly Ruth was doing and whether or not he truly called that he was going to hit a home run remains debated, but even the mere possibility of him doing so is enough to make the moment iconic.

The home run was also a fairly important one too, as the Yankees won by just two runs. The 7-5 victory put the Yankees in a commanding 3-0 lead in the series, and they clinched the championship the following day. While Ruth’s home run was part of the Yankees eking out that win, it was one of several runs that went in their favor that allowed them to do that. Several of the other ones might not have happened had the Cubs not made four errors and partly booted away a chance at World Series title.

Chicago’s woes in Game 3 started pretty much immediately. Center fielder Earle Combs led off the top of first for the Yankees and started off by hit a groundball at Cubs shortstop Billy Jurges, who was only in the lineup due to an injury to former Yankee Mark Koenig. Jurges fielded the grounder, but sailed his throw over the head of first baseman/Cubs player-manager Charlie Grimm. That would be a problem. After Chicago starter Charlie Root then walked Joe Sewell, Ruth stepped to the plate. In the first at-bat of what would be a very notable day, he homered — without calling anything — to give the Yankees a very early 3-0 lead. Combs’ run was the only one of that play that went down as unearned, but who knows what happens if Root gets an easy out to start the game.

The Cubs got one run back in the bottom of the first, before Lou Gehrig hit a solo shot in the third, kicking off what would also be a big day for him. However, the Cubs then rallied, scoring three runs in the third and one in the fourth after Tony Lazzeri made an error of his own.

In the fifth, Ruth hit his “called shot” and Gehrig immediately followed with another homer, reestablishing the Yankees’ lead. The score held there until the top of the ninth, when the Yankees picked up a needed insurance run.

The Cubs had managed to clear through the toughest part of the Yankees’ order when reliever Jackie May got Gehrig to pop up for the first out of the ninth. Next up was Lazzeri, who also hit a shallow popup. Catcher Gabby Hartnett couldn’t corral it, and was charged with an error. Bill Dickey then hit yet another pop up, and this time second baseman Billy Herman made an error after failing to make the catch. That put two on for Ben Chapman, who delivered a double that scored another unearned run.

Yankees’ starter George Pipgras took a 7-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but was pulled after he allowed a home run to Hartnett and a single to Jurges. With the tying run coming to the plate, manager Joe McCarthy went to Herb Pennock. Although a groundout and a stolen base got Jurges all the way to the third, Pennock got the three outs needed to seal the win. The Yankees had the 3-0 lead and won the next day to seal the World Series title.

In total, the Cubs made four errors in Game 3. (Jurges made a second that didn’t end up leading to a run.) Those errors helped lead to two unearned runs, which coincidentally ended up being the difference in the final score. Sure, if things hadn’t played out that way, maybe the Yankees score runs in other ways. Even if they didn’t, that still leaves the game tied 5-5, with the Yankees the clear better team. There’s a decent chance they just win anyway.

However, there’s also a chance they don’t. If they lose that game, instead of 3-0, their series lead is 2-1 with still two games to come in front of what was apparently a lively Chicago crowd. Again, the Yankees were the better team, so you can’t exactly say that those errors won the World Series, but they were very helpful.


New York Times, October 2, 1932