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Yankees History: 1908 and a horrid run of offensive ineptitude

With the Yankees struggling of late, let’s dig into the past and look at an even worse run from franchise history.

New York Highlanders Play at Hilltop Park 1907 Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images

The Yankees lineup has been struggling for a while now, but the lack of offense in recent weeks has been especially brutal. From August 12th to September 4th, they scored 64 runs in 22 games, an average of under three per game. That stat even comes with a 13-run outburst against an awful Athletics team. Excluding that performance drops the average to less than 2.5 runs per game.

It’s been especially brutal considering the first half of the season, where the Yankees’ offense was performing genuinely well, helping the team to a historic win pace. In retrospect, it’s clear that they probably weren’t that good, but they’re also probably not this bad.

A team that absolutely was very bad was the 1908 New York Highlanders. Their 51-103 record is the second-worst by winning percentage in franchise history. A midseason managerial change from inaugural skipper Clark Griffith left veteran shortstop Kid Elberfeld in charge. His 27-71 record to close out the year and the .276 winning percentage that came with it is the worst of any manager in Yankees/Highlanders history.

Kid Elberfeld, New York Highlanders, Baseball Card Portrait, American Tobacco Company, 1909
Kid Elberfeld
Photo by: GHI Vintage/Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Knowing that, you might not be surprised to find out that the 1908 Highlanders went on a run so insipid that it would make this year’s team blush. On August 25th, the Highlanders wrapped up a series against the St. Louis Browns with a 3-1 win. They were supposed to open up a set against the Chicago White Sox the next day, but rain over the next two days pushed them back a couple days, setting up doubleheaders on the 28th and 29th.

The Highlanders would win the opening game of the series, but only by squeaking out a 1-0 margin on a Red Kleinow walk-off. They followed that with a loss in the second game, only scoring one run. Again, that lone run came in the ninth inning, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a 2-1 loss. In the doubleheader the following day, the White Sox again held the Highlanders to just two runs total on the day. Both came in the second game, a 6-2 loss, coming after a 1-0 loss where they left eight runners on base.

Next was a series against the Philadelphia Athletics, and, once again, the Highlanders would have to play them in doubleheaders on two-straight days, this time due to weather from back in May. In the first on August 30th, the Highlanders combined for just one run across the two games, taking another two losses, extending the losing streak to five. The next day in the first game, they finally won, and actually scored a passable amount of runs with four. It took 12 innings for them to reach that amount. They also clearly used up all the runs they had in them, and were shutout in the second game.

September 2nd saw a 5-2 loss, but they bounced back the next day in their series finale against the A’s with a win. However, they again scored just two runs; that time it just happened to be enough.

Next up were the Washington Senators, who immediately shutout out the Highlanders in the first three games of their four-game series. By the time they finally broke that drought in the fourth of those games, they had gone 37 innings without scoring. The Highlanders ended up putting up three runs in their finale against the Senators, but would lose once again.

On September 8th, they went to Philadelphia to play the A’s. That day, the Highlanders finally put up a somewhat decent amount of runs, scoring five in a 6-5 loss. The following day, they won 9-6, truly ending their barren spell.

From August 28th to September 7th, the Highlanders played 14 games. Over that stretch, they went 3-11, but even more damning is that they scored just 16 runs in that period. They were shut out six different times. As mentioned, they played several different doubleheaders in that stretch. In three of them, they failed to top more than two combined runs in both games. For as much crap as we’ve collectively heaped on the Yankees’ offense in recent week, well, they weren’t this bad.

From a pure offensive ineptitude standpoint, it’s hard to beat what the 1908 New York Highlanders did.