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1923 Yankees Diary: June

The 1923 Yankees extended their AL lead over the course of June and also gave a debut to a certain youngster named Lou Gehrig.

Photo File Photo by Photo File/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Throughout this year here at Pinstripe Alley, we’ve been commemorating 25 years since the 1998 Yankees by doing daily entries looking back at what that historic team had done on a given day.

However, 2023 also marks the anniversary of another notable Yankees’ team. One-hundred years ago, the 1923 Yankees made their mark by becoming the first team in franchise history to win a World Series title. In their honor, we’re going to do a monthly look back at what was happening for that year’s team, and today, it’s time for June.

Through June 30: 42-22, .656 (8 GA in American League)

After catching fire in mid to late-May, the Yankees had a seven-game lead in the AL after trailing in the standings going into the month. Over the course of June, the Yankees ended up increasing their lead by a game despite it arguably being their worst month of the season.

Excluding the .500 record they had in the four regular season games they played in October, by winning percentage the Yankees’ 13-12 record in June is tied for the worst month they had in the 1923 season. They put up the exact same record in August, but June was slightly worse going by run differential. Despite that, they were able to increase their lead in the standings thanks in large part to one series. The Yankees took the first three games of a series against the Philadelphia Athletics that started on June 28th. The A’s were in second place at the time, but beating them saw the Yankees go from five games up to eight in short time. The second game of that set saw the Yankees blow a 9-5 lead after seven innings, only to win it anyway thanks to an Ernie Johnson walk-off single.

June 1923 also marked the beginning of a very notable Yankee career. After signing him a couple months prior, the Yankees called up and gave Lou Gehrig his MLB debut on June 15th. It was a fairly inconspicuous debut, as he came in as a defensive replacement for Wally Pipp for the ninth inning with the Yankees up 10-0. He didn’t get his first at-bat until three days later, and his first hit didn’t come until July. In total, Gehrig appeared in 13 games in 1923, and showed flashes of what was to come — he put up a 218 OPS+ — but he was still two years away from the famous Wally Pipp-ing of Wally Pipp.

Another decently notable debut for the Yankees in June came from pitcher George Pipgras. While he was never an ace or anything, Pipgras had a solid career with the Yankees, going on to be part of four World Series-winning teams, including in ‘23. He was on the roster but didn’t appear in the 1923 World Series, but made a start in all of the ‘27, ‘28, and ‘32 Fall Classics.

One of the reasons the Yankees might’ve gone 13-12 in June is that it was arguably Babe Ruth’s worst month of the 1923 season. His tOPS+ — which aims to measure how a player did in a particular split compared to what they normally do — was just 79, or 21 percent worse than normal. That means he hit a disgusting 1.139 OPS compared to 1.309 for the season. Gross.

June of 1923 was not the best month of the season, but they Yankees still did some good things that helped them take a step towards a World Series title.