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Yankees History: An insanely sloppy win from 1930

The Yankees and Red Sox couldn’t stop trying to outdo each other with bad fielding on July 31st, 1930.

New York Yankees Team Portrait Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

On Thursday, the Yankees played a bit of a weird game against the Orioles. They were the beneficiaries of five Orioles errors in a 10-5 win. Four of the 10 runs ended up being unearned thanks to Baltimore’s miscues in the field.

Today, that many errors is a game is pretty rare. The average per game in 2022 through Thursday is 0.55, which is very slightly up from 2021’s 0.54. The per game average has steadily fallen over the years with 2021 being the smallest ever. While it’s not completely linear, if you go back through history, the totals keep on rising. In the early 1870s, in the National Association in a pre-gloves era, the average was in the 7-8 per game range.

The 1930 season was a long way away from the 1870s, but it was still a decent amount above nowadays at 1.00 errors per game. The Yankees and Red Sox worked a great deal towards raising that average all on their own on July 31st, 1930.

Facing Boston’s Danny MacFayden in Fenway Park, the Yankees got off to a quick start in the top of the first. After a Babe Ruth RBI triple opened the scoring, Boston’s center fielder Tom Oliver failed to catch what should’ve been a Lou Gehrig sacrifice fly. Ruth scored and Gehrig ended up on second, beginning what would be a very long day.

The Red Sox took the lead in the bottom of the first thanks to some assistance via error themselves. The frame started with four consecutive hits off Yankees starter Ed Wells, plating two runs to tie the game. Ben Chapman caught a pop fly for the first out, but then made a run-scoring error attempting to throw home.

The Yankees took the lead back in the third thanks in part to, what else, an error. Having already scored three runs on a couple hits, Chapman reached on what is called a single to third as Boston third baseman Bobby Reeves made some sort of throwing error. Another run scored, and the Yankees had opened up a three-run lead.

Boston slowly got back into the game and tied it at 6-6 in the sixth, on, for once, an error-free inning. Then in the sixth, it seemed like the Yankees had broken the game open. They scored four runs thanks to three separate Red Sox errors. While it was only the sixth inning, that could’ve been the game’s death blow. Instead, there were still a lot of twists and turn left.

Leading off the bottom of the sixth for the Red Sox was Rabbit Warstler. While Warstler’s at-bat didn’t end in an error, it did feature some very weird defense. He hit one to center that was seemingly set to be a double. Yankees center fielder Harry Rice fielded the ball and, according to the New York Times’ story of the game, attempted to get the ball to Babe Ruth, who was playing left field. Maybe that throw made sense for how the play unfolded, but it’s a move you don’t see everyday. Ruth apparently wasn’t expecting it either, as he apparently wasn’t watching Rice and the throw sailed past him, allowing Warstler to race around for what is credited as an inside-the-park home run. Naturally, the Yankees made a pair of errors after that, from Lyn Lary and Chapman, and Boston got back within a run.

However, the Yankees then fought back and put up another four spot in the seventh, courtesy of a Gehrig grand slam. The Red Sox got one run back in the seventh and two in the eighth after Tony Lazzeri committed his second error of the day.

The Yankees were nursing a two-run lead going into the ninth with Roy Sherid on the mound. He allowed a single and a walk before the Yankees then failed to get an out on a fielder’s choice, because of: an error. Lary failed to catch a throw while covering second base, loading the bases with still no one out.

Sherid induced a double play in the next at-bat, but it scored a run, cutting the Yankees’ lead to just one. Despite now just needing one out to finish the game, and the runner left on after the double play being at first, Sherid made it hard on himself again, loading the bases again on a single and a walk. The game finally ended on a groundout with Lary and Chapman working together without either completing a hat trick of errors. The Yankees finished off a wild 14-13 win.

In total, the teams combined to make 13 errors on the game, with the Yankees “winning” making seven to Boston’s six. Chapman, Lary, Lazzeri, and Boston’s Reeves all made two as nine players in total committed at least one. Thanks to all of them, nine of the game’s 27 runs went down as unearned. That’s especially wild considering plenty of times there aren’t nine runs scored total in a game.

Look, sloppy games happen. It can be irritating to watch if your team is the one throwing and booting the ball all over the place, but it’s not unheard of. The Yankees and Red Sox were clearly on another level on that day in 1930.


New York Times, August 1, 1930