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Yankees History: How a losing streak nearly tanked the 1922 Yankees

The longest-ever losing streak by a pennant-winning Yankees team nearly cost them dearly.

New York Yankees Team Portrait, circa 1922 Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The past couple weeks have not been great for the Yankees. A 4-14 stretch to start August saw their lead in the AL East go from 12 games down to seven, and it would’ve been even lower had it not been for a crucial Andrew Benintendi home run against the Blue Jays on the 21st.

While it’s clear the Yankees aren’t as good as their early season historic win pace, they also aren’t quite this bad. You can absolutely put some of the blame on some possibly ill-advised trade deadline moves and the roster construction in general. However, another part of it is that they’ve just been dealing with slumps, and injuries, which have then contributed to the slumps. The truth of what the 2022 Yankees are is probably somewhere in the middle, and that they trend more towards a good, playoff-making team than a bad one.

If that is the case, they would be far from the first good Yankee team to go through a horrific stretch. Famously in 2000, the Yankees went 5-16 to close the season, ending the regular season with seven consecutive losses. Despite leading by nine games on September 13th, it took them until September 29th to officially clinch the division.

However, there was an AL pennant-winning Yankees team that had a longer losing streak and an even worse stretch than 2000, and it happened exactly 100 years ago.

On the back of the franchise’s first ever AL pennant in 1921, the ‘22 Yankees got off to a good start. A June 11th win over the St. Louis Browns saw them improve their record to 35-19, opening up a 4.5 game lead in the AL.

The next day didn’t go great, as they allowed two early runs on route to a 7-1 loss. The next day went even worse as they were crushed 13-4 by the Browns. That would be it for their series in St. Louis, but next up was a trip to Detroit, and that didn’t go any better. While a couple of the games were close, the Tigers swept the Yankees over four games. After dropping two more games in Cleveland, the Yankees finally broke their streak with a 6-5 win on June 20th.

While they won that game and another the next day, the malaise wasn’t over yet. Immediately following those two wins was another losing streak. This one lasted four games, all coming against a Red Sox team that would finish dead last in the AL that season.

In total from June 12th to June 28th, the Yankees went 4-15. Over that time, their record went from 16 games over .500 to just six, while they also went from 4.5 games up in the AL to three back.

It should be noted that Babe Ruth missed nine of the 19 games in that stretch, with a couple due to a suspension. After having already been suspended twice that season, he was sat for another couple games after an altercation with an umpire in which Ruth was alleged, according to AL president Ban Johnson, to have called umpire Bill Dinneen “one of the vilest names known.” When he did play in this stretch, he was merely good, but not great, at least for him. His .855 OPS over the losing run was quite a bit below the 1.104 he put up for the 1922 season.

On June 29th, the Yankees began a four-game winning streak, mostly closing the book on their struggles. However, it took them until July 28th to regain the lead in the AL, and they mostly spent the rest of the season trading it back and forth with the Browns. They regained the lead on September 8th and would hold it for the rest of the season, eventually winning the pennant by just one game. Despite that, they would go on to lose the World Series to the Giants.

The eight-game losing streak in 1922 is the longest in franchise history by a team that would go on to play in the World Series. When you look at the final margins, you see just how costly it nearly was. Had they even gone .500 in that time, they add four wins to their total. Had the rest of the season played out, it still would’ve been a close race, but the Yankees would’ve ended up leading the AL the whole way.

None of this is to say that the 2022 Yankees are going to replicate the 1922 team and go to the World Series. However, it does show that a bad run doesn’t have to be the defining storyline for them.


New York Times, June 21, 1922