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Legends On Deck

Greatest MLB Teams of All-Time: 1923 Yankees v. 1946 Cardinals

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Arguably speaking the New York Yankees are the most successful franchise in major league baseball with 27 World Series titles to their credit. However, it was not always that way for the team from the Bronx. During the first years of their existence the team was known as the Highlanders and from 1903 until 1918 they finished in the top for of the American League standings just five times with a top finish of second three times (1904,1906 and 1910). The team was purchased by Colonel Jacob Ruppert and Colonel Tillinghast L’Hommedeiu Hutson and with the big money behind them they began to build a dominant franchise. They won their first American League pennant in 1921, again in 1922 and then after getting booted out of the Polo Grounds by John McGraw and the Giants, the two Colonels built the team a brand new standing one befitting the franchise. The Yankees first year in the new ballpark was 1923 and they ushered in their new place with their third American League pennant and first World Series title.

The manager of the team was Miller Huggins and he had quite the starting lineup with Wally Schang catching, Wally Pipp at first base, Aaron Ward at second base, the durable Everett Scott at shortstop and “Jumping Joe” Dugan at third base. The outfield was impressive too and it consisted of Whitey Witt, Bob Meusel and Babe Ruth. Huggins’ choice for pitcher would not be easy with the choices being “Bullet Joe” Bush, Bob Shawkey, “Sad Sam” Jones, Waite Hoyt or Herb Pennock.

Eddie Dyer was the manager of the 1946 Cardinals guiding them to their fourth Word Series appearance in five years. (The first three pennants were under Billy Southworth 1942-1944). The catcher of the 1946 Cardinals was Joe Garagiola while Stand “The Man” Musial played first base, Red Schoendienst at second, Marty Marion at shortstop with Whitey Kurowski rounding out the infield at third base. The Cardinal outfield was Harry Walker, Erv Dusak and Enos “Country” Slaughter. Dyer’s pitching staff had two aces Howie Pollet (21-10) and Harry Breechen. Murry Dickson and Al Brazle were also available in case the starter got into trouble.

In the matchup between the catchers Wally Schang was the catcher for the Yankees during the 1923 season. The 33-year-old veteran was a member of the Yankees World Series teams in 1921-1922 as well as the Philadelphia Athletic in 1913 and 1914 as well as the 1918 Boston Red Sox World Series winners. During the 1923 season Schang hit for a .276 batting average with 75 hits including eight doubles, two triples and two home runs. He scored 39 runs and had 29 runs batted in. On defense Schang made 11 errors in 363 chances for a .970 fielding percentage. His catching opponent Joe Garagiola was a 20-year-old rookie who had made his major league debut on May 26, 1946. During his rookie season in the major leagues Garagiola hit for a .237 average knocking out 50 hits including four doubles, one triple and three home runs. He scored 21 times and had 22 runs batted in. While crouching behind the plate for St Louis in 1946 he had just three errors in 288 chances for a .990 fielding percentage. Schang did hit for a higher batting average and on defense Garagiola had a better fielding percentage but these types of game are the big time and based on Schang’s experience he get the advantage here.

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The first baseman for the 1923 New York Yankees was Wally Pipp. Later on Pipp became well-known as the first baseman who was replaced by Lou Gehrig who went on to become one of the greatest Yankees ever. Pipp was not a slouch as a first baseman either. Prior to the 1923 season Pipp twice led the American League in home runs (1916-12 and 1917-9). Later in 1924 he also led the league in triples with 19. During the 1923 season Pipp hit for a .304 average with 173 hits in 569 at bats. Included in the hits were 19 doubles, eight triples and six home runs. He scored 79 runs and had 109 runs batted in. As a fielder Pipp in 1923 made just 12 errors in 1554 chances for a .992 fielding percentage. The St Louis first baseman in 1946 was Stan Musial. Musial went on to become one of the greatest ball players of all-time with  3,630 hits 475 total home runs and 1951 runs batted in. He would lead the league in all kinds of offensive categories and was a 24 time All Star selection and a three-time National League Most Valuable Player. In 1946 “Stan the Man” played 114 games at first base and 42 games in the outfield. On offense Musial led the league in at bats (624), runs scored (124), hits (228), doubles (50), triples (20) and batting average (.376). He also added 16 home runs and 103 runs batted in. Out of the 114 games he played at first base he made 13 errors in 1134 chances. As steady as Wally Pipp was Musial had the better year winning the second of his three MVP Awards. That being said, “Stan the Man” gets the nod at first base.

The second baseman on the 1923 New York Yankees was Aaron Ward who played in 152 games for the Yankees and had a .284 batting average with 161 hits in 567 at bats. Of those 161 hits, 26 were doubles, 11 were triples and 10 were home runs. He scored 79 runs and had 81 runs batted in. With the glove Ward was an adept second baseman making 18 errors in 898 chances for a .980 fielding percentage. As for the 1946 Cardinals the second baseman was Albert “Red” Schoendienst. During the 1946 season “Red” had 170 hits including 28 doubles five triples, 94 runs scored, and 34 runs batted in to go with a .281 batting average. In the field he made 13 errors in 775 chances for a .983 fielding percentage. He would later go on to a Hall of Fame career as a player being elected in 1989 by the Veteran’s Committee. He also managed the Cardinals to the 1967 World Series title over the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox. Ward had better power numbers for the season and Schoendeinst was just a tad bit better on defense. If this was to go over the course of a career Schoendeinst would win in a landslide however or the seasons that these two me played it comes in as a tie.

The shortstop on the 1923 Yankees squad was Everett Scott. Scott was the man who had held the record of consecutive games played at 1,307 before Lou Gehrig shattered that record. During the 1923 season Scott, had 131 hits in 152 games. Those hits included 16 doubles, four triples and six home runs. He also scored 48 runs and drove in 61 runs to go with a .246 batting average. While he was a member of the 1923 Yankees infield he made 27 errors in 686 chances for a .961 batting average. As for the 1946 Cardinals Marty Marion was the choice of manager Eddie Dyer. Previous to the 1946 season Marion was a two-time National League All Star and the 1944 National League MVP  as he led the Cardinals to the 1944 World Series title over their crosstown rivals the St Louis Browns, with all games being played at Sportsman’s Park. That World Series remains just the third time in history that all World Series game were played in the same ballpark. (1921 and 1922 Polo Grounds when the Yankees and Giants played were the other two World Series’ were that occurred). During the 1946 season Marion had 116 hits in 146 games including 29 doubles, four triples and three home runs. He also scored 51 times and 46 runs batted in to go with a .233 batting average. He would make 21 errors in 791 chances for a .973 fielding percentage. Marion was a better fielder than Scott but given that Scott was in the midst of his consecutive game streak and had better offensive numbers that swings the advantage to Scott.

Now moving on to the “hot corner” third base for the 1923 Yankees it would be Joseph Anthony “Jumping Joe” Dugan who played in 146 games for New York. He had a league leading 644 at bats pounding out 182 hits that included 30 doubles, seven triples and seven home runs. He also scored 111 times and had 65 runs batted in to go with a solid .283 batting average. In 467 chances at third base Dugan made 12 errors for a .974 fielding percentage. Third baseman for the 1946 Cardinals was George “Whitey” Kurowski who in 142 games had 156 hits including 32 doubles, five triples, 14 home runs, 76 runs scored, and 89 runs batted in to go with a .301 batting average. He made 15 errors in 439 chances for a .966 fielding percentage for the 1946 season. Dugan was a veteran of 10 major league seasons and would play just three more years in the majors while Kurowski was a six-year veteran and would play just three more seasons in the major leagues. Dugan holds a slight advantage in fielding but Kurowski’s offensive numbers more than make up for that and therefore advantage to Kurowski and the Cardinals.

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The outfield for the 1923 season consisted of Bob Meusel, Whitey Witt and of course Babe Ruth. These men played together in the outfield for 132 games and put up some magnificent offensive numbers. Meusel (132 games, 144 hits, 29 doubles, 10 triples and nine home runs. He scored 59 times, had 91 runs batted in and a .313 batting average-in the field Meusel had 11 errors in 234 chances for a .953 fielding percentage). Witt (146 games, 187 hits, 18 doubles, 10 triples, six home runs, 113 runs scored, 55 runs batted in and a .314 batting average-in the field Witt made eight errors in 379 chances for a .979 fielding percentage). As for “the Babe” ( 152 games, 205 hits 45 doubles, 13 triples, 41 home runs 151 runs scored, 130 runs batted in, and a phenomenal .393 batting average-his fielding showed him making 12 errors in 452 chances for a .973 fielding percentage). The Cardinals trio of outfielders was Harry Walker, Erv Dusak and Enos “Country” Slaughter. Walker’s numbers ( 112 games 82 hits, 14 doubles, six triples, three home runs, 53 runs scored, 27 runs batted in and a .237 batting average, fielding numbers showed him making seven errors in 295 chances for a .976 fielding percentage). Erv Dusak ( 100 games, 66 hits, nine doubles, one triple, nine home runs, 38 runs scored, 42 runs batted in and a .240 batting average- fielding numbers, two errors in 180 chances for a .989 fielding percentage). Finally Enos Slaughter ( 156 games, 183 hits, 30 doubles, eight triples, 18 home runs, 100 runs scored, 130 runs batted in to go with a .300 batting average in the field, six errors in 313 chances for a .981 fielding percentage. The numbers don’t lie and the Yankees outfield dominates this when looking over all the numbers together.

Huggins had five pitchers to choose from: Bullet Joe Bush 19-15, 3.43 ERA, 22 complete games, three shutouts, 125 strikeouts Bob Shawkey 16-11, 3.51 ERA, 17 complete games, one shutouts, 125 strikeouts Sad Sam Jones 21-8, 3.63 ERA, 18 complete games three shutouts, 68 strikeouts Waite Hoyt 17-9, 3.02 ERA, 19 complete games, one shutout, 60 strikeouts Herb Pennock 19-6, 3.13 ERA, 21 complete games, one shutout,93 strikeout. Eddie Dyer the Cardinals manager had four choices: Howie Pollet 21-10, 2.10 ERA, 22 complete games, four shutouts, 107 strikeoutsHarry Breechen 15-15, 2.49 ERA, 14 complete games, five shutouts, 117 strikeouts-Murry Dickson 15-6, 2.88 ERA, 12 complete games, two shutouts, 82 strikeouts-Al Brazie 11-10, 3.29 ERA, six complete games, two shutouts, 58 strikeouts. To put it simple which ever pitcher Huggins picked would have the advantage over any of Dyer’s choices and advantage Yankees.

Simply put the 1923 Yankees win this in a runaway. Their numbers are just too good for whoever Dyer would put on the field and the mound.

Kevin Larkin

Kevin Larkin has been going to all kinds of baseball amateur and professional since 1969. When asked he says he is a baseball fan who likes the Yankees. He was a police officer for 24 years in his home town of Barrington Massachusetts and helped on investigating most major crimes including murder, plane crashes and automobile crashes. He was certified as an expert witness in accident reconstruction and investigated almost 90 fatal automobile accidents. After retiring from the police force he renewed a love for baseball and as of now has authored three books on the subject: Baseball in the Bay State, Gehrig:Game by Game and Baseball in the Berkshires. He has authored articles for SABR and helps out there with research whenever possible. He has a coloection of almost 700 baseball books and enjoys pre 1900 and post 1900 baseball as well as the Black Sox Scandal and learning about the Negro Leagues. He also writes a column for CNY Baseball and loves giving back to the sport which has given him so much.