Saturday, January 06, 2007


A range of individuals made up the 1927 roster of the New York Yankees. The average age was 27.6. All white, they came from diverse backgrounds, had very different personalities, professional backgrounds, educations, interests, skills, avocations.

There was a former teacher, a railroad fireman, a bartender, a boilermaker, a seaman, a logger, a cardsharp, one who had studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood, another who as a kid had climbed the tenement stairs in New York City delivering laundry, swam in the Hudson River and knew his way around local pool halls. There was one who had an almost royal aura who had attended the finest prep schools and wore thousand dollar diamond rings, there was a meat cutter and an ex-vaudevillian. There was a former full time boilermaker, a talented painter, artist, writer and singer, a skilled piano (jazz and classical) player, several former farm boys and farmers. And a few who had never known anything but playing baseball.

Baseball was what bound the 25 of them together. The total payroll for that 1927 team was an estimated $250,000, while the average salary was $10,000 as compared to $2,699.292 for the 2006 Yankees. Salaries ranged from Julie Wera's $2,400 to Babe Ruth's $70,000. The team had a pronounced German- American flavor from its owner beer baron Jacob Ruppert to Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Mark Koenig, Bob Meusel, George Pipgras, Dutch Ruether and half Germans Waite Hoyt and Earle Combs.

There was also a collegiate flavor: Lou Gehrig (Columbia), Miller Huggins (University of Cincinnati), Joe Dugan (Holy Cross), Benny Bengough (Niagara University), Earle Combs (Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College), Mike Gazella (Lafayette), Ray Morehart (Stephen Austin College, Texas), Myles Thomas (Penn State), Bob Shawkey (Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania), Ben Paschal (University of Alabama), Dutch Ruether (St. Ignatius College, now San Francisco University)

One player received his education at St. Mary's Industrial School and another had been in an out of one room cotton county schoolhouses. A few had no true formal education at all.Born in 1904, the youngest player on the roster was Mark Koenig. He, along with Joe Grabowski, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri and Julie Wera were the only Yankees born in the 20th century.

The shortest players were catcher Benny Bengough and utility man Mike Gazella. Bob Meusel was the tallest Yankee at 6' 3" and Babe Ruth was the next tallest at 6' 2". Other six footers included pitchers Wilcy Moore, Herb Pennock, George Pipgras, Dutch Ruether, infielders Lou Gehrig and Mark Koenig, and centerfielder Earl Combs. The only members of the Yankee who weighed more than 200 pounds were Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

There was no roster shuttling of players back and forth from the minor leagues. The 25 players who began the season remained on the roster all season long, tying a record for fewest players used by a major league team.

Only Lou Gehrig would start every game (155) at first base. Tony Lazzeri appeared in 113 games at second base, Mark Koenig 122 at shortstop and Joe Dugan 111 at third base. Earl Combs would start all but three games. The final statistics on Ruth and Meusel would be misleading. The Babe would start 95 times in right field and "Silent Bob" 83 times in left field. But they flip-flopped starts at Yankee Stadium and in a few parks on the road. Six men accounted for almost 90% of the innings pitched.

There was an almost grotesque quality to the team collectively as well as individually. One player could only sleep sitting up. He had a heart condition that he kept secret from his teammates. Another seemingly aloof, sometimes painfully quiet, was an epileptic whose condition was never mentioned by the press. One was taciturn, some would say miserable, a drinker, a scowler who looked at the world about him with annoyance and anger. One worked off-season as a mortician. Another was a "mama's boy," allegedly a virgin, who was very uncomfortable in the presence of women, enjoyed fishing by himself for eels and living with his parents in an apartment. There was one whose hearty belches sometimes rattled bats stacked in the dugout, who slugged down great quantities of beer, ate prodigiously. His prowess with women was the talk throughout baseball. Another was an uneducated dirt farmer, aged 30, or was it 40. There was also a Kentuckian, a church goer, a non-smoker, non-drinker, a man who never cursed and read his Bible on the road in hotel rooms.

There were ten pitchers on the roster, three catchers, seven infielders and five outfielders. =================================================================(This is an excerpt from a book to be published by John Wiley, Fall 2007)====================================================