1922 Yankees Go Home

The shared home field for both the New York Giants and New York Yankees takes center stage as both tenants battle it out in a close World Series.

Through the first two decades of the 20th Century, the New York Giants owned New York City. There were no comparisons; the toast of the Big Town, the Giants frequently outdrew the combined attendance of their two poor cousins, the Brooklyn Robins and the New York Yankees. Manager John McGraw (left), the fiery heart and soul of the Giants, reveled in his role as king of the New York baseball world. But in 1920, Babe Ruth came to New York City, saw it, conquered it. Suddenly, the Giants not only became the number two team in town, but number two in their own ballpark, which they shared with the Yankees. The Giants still played winning baseball, yet they lacked the bravado of Ruth and his 50-plus home runs. The tempestuous McGraw shook his head in angry disbelief as fans—over a million of them, a major league first—flocked to see the crowd-pleasing Ruth and his Yankees. McGraw’s jealous reaction to the Yankees was predictably swift and venomous: Get out.

When the Polo Grounds went up in flames in 1911, the then-New York Highlanders offered the homeless Giants use of their venue, shoddy Hilltop Park. Responding in kind, the Giants allowed the re-christened Yankees to leave Hilltop in 1913 and pay rent at a rebuilt, steel-and-concrete version of the Polo Grounds. What was thought to be a one-year deal became an indefinite stay, one that became very strained once Ruth arrived and started packing ’em in for the Yankees.

Fortunately for the Yankees and their owners—the “two colonels,” Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast Huston—they had money. Initially wanting to stay at the Polo Grounds, they offered to buy half interest in it, but the Giants ignored them. After a fruitless scouring of potential sites in Manhattan, the Yankees decided on a different locale for a ballpark of their own—practically next door to the Polo Grounds, right across the Harlem River.

The colonels paid $600,000 to acquire a former lumber yard some ten acres in size from William Waldorf Astor. Their goal was to build the biggest baseball palace yet—a gigantic, three-tiered stadium that would house over 70,000 spectators, a potential crowd figure no other baseball team had yet approached. It would be named, simply if not aptly, Yankee Stadium.

Construction began in May 1922—not coincidentally, about the same time the Giants officially handed the Yankees an eviction notice from the Polo Grounds, effective at the end of the 1922 season.

Commissioner Landis had warned Babe Ruth not to go on a barnstorming tour immediately following the 1921 season; Ruth ignored him and, as a result, was banished for the first six weeks of the 1922 campaign.

Nearly one year and $2 million later, the Yankees would have their jewel. But until then, the two antagonists of Gotham would have one last October battle at the Polo Grounds.

Going into the season, evictions were the furthest thing from the Yankee colonels’ minds.

After the 1921 World Series, Ruth and a few of his teammates, most notably talented outfielder Bob Meusel, quickly headed out on a barnstorming tour for fun and profit outside of their major league establishments. Baseball had drawn up a rule ten years earlier permitting such tours to take place—provided they didn’t occur immediately after the World Series. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis warned Ruth and the others to wait, but they defied his command. In his typical swagger, Ruth said of Landis, “To hell with the old goat.”

Ruth and Landis, the two men who had helped trudge baseball out of the depths of the Black Sox Scandal, now became the main event. And Ruth quickly discovered in this clash of titans who reigned more supreme, how uncompromising the first commissioner of baseball truly was.

No meant no. And Landis meant no to the order of a six-week suspension at the beginning of the 1922 season without pay, as well as cancellation of the players’ World Series shares of the year before, at $3,362 apiece. Reprimanded were Ruth, Meusel and pitcher Bill Piercy.

Despite the loss of their two biggest sluggers, the Yankees carried on smoothly without them, anchoring first place when the two returned on May 20. However, Ruth was in no moodRuth’s bad behavior cost him the Yankee captaincy, for all it was it worth.; in his first week back, he would be ejected for throwing dirt in an umpire’s face, and then went into the Polo Grounds seats after some fans unmercifully booed him.

The Yankees as a team had a bigger fight to deal with in the American League race. Their main opposition: The St. Louis Browns.

The franchise that would historically elicit chuckles upon the spoken words of its very name, the Browns were a bona fide powerhouse in 1922, their mightiest outfit until they moved to Baltimore in 1954. For a change, they had strong pitching that went beyond legal spitballer Urban Shocker; they had slugger Ken Williams, whose 39 home runs and 155 runs batted in would momentarily unseat the partially-absent Ruth from the top of the power charts; and they had George Sisler at the top of his game, batting a sensational .420—second in AL history only to Nap Lajoie’s .426 figure in the league’s inaugural 1901 campaign.

During the 52-year existence of the St. Louis Browns (before the franchise moved to Baltimore), the team managed to finish above .500 just 12 times—the most impressive season of which came in 1922.

That other team at Sportsman’s Park, the St. Louis Cardinals, was also in the thick of a tense National League race with that other Polo Grounds team, the Giants. The Cardinals’ hopes rested more one-dimensionally on the shoulders of Rogers Hornsby, who was on his way to shattering the NL home run mark—he would hit 42—while batting over .400Hornsby, who would also break the NL record for total bases at 450, secured a .401 average by going 3-for-5 on the season’s final day.. On the other hand, the Giants had a solid grouping of talent so balanced, everyone in the lineup hit over .320—except third baseman Heinie Groh, who strangely hit a mediocre .265 after manager John McGraw labored extensively to purchase the star hitter from Cincinnati.

McGraw had a harder time trying to keep his pitching staff intact. Among his problems was the dilemma of starter “Shufflin”’ Phil Douglas, the Giants’ best pitcher—and heaviest drinker. An 11-year veteran, Douglas was having a career year—an 11-4 record with a league-leading 2.63 earned run average—yet he detested McGraw for trying to dry him out. He was as angry of the idea of McGraw collecting another pennant as he was hopeful that he could be part of such a winner; so he wrote to Cardinals outfielder Leslie Mann, offering to vacate the Giants for some bucks. Standing in the shadows of the Black Sox Scandal, Mann wanted nothing to do with the letter and immediately had it sent on to Commissioner Landis—who promptly kicked Douglas off the Giants and out of baseball for life.

Faced with stiff competition from their rivals at St. Louis, the Giants and Yankees went to their friendly, cash-strapped rivals in Boston to take more budget-challenged talent off their hands. The Giants acquired pitcher Hugh McQuillan from the hapless Boston Braves; the Yankees filled a critical hole at third base when they called their friend, Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, and asked for Joe Dugan. For a little more cash, Frazee was happy to oblige the Yankees with yet another of his players.

Pitcher Jack Scott survived major personal and professional obstacles to bounce back late in 1922 and become a key component in the Giants’ run to the NL flag.

The moves of the New York clubs not only infuriated the Cardinals and Browns, who didn’t have that kind of money to throw around; civic leaders in St. Louis got into the act as well, wiring complaints to Commissioner Landis. Though there was nothing in the rulebook to force Landis to revoke the purchases, the controversy did lead to the establishing of a June 15 trading deadline starting in 1923.

For now, the promise of the new guidelines was too late for the Cardinals. They withered under the increased weight of the Giants’ talent, losing a hold of first place by the end of August. They finished tied for third with Pittsburgh, eight games back of the Giants.

Ironically, the Giants got help in the stretch run from a player no one was interested in. Pitcher Jack Scott, who just a year earlier had led the NL in appearances, suffered a nightmarish offseason in which his arm went dead and his farm in North Carolina burned to the ground. Released in spring training by the RedsThe Reds, finishing seven games back in second place, might have had more of a chance to catch the Giants had future Hall-of-Fame outfielder Edd Roush not held out for most of the season., Scott sat dormant and destitute until McGraw gave him a tryout. Revitalized, Scott answered the call as if his life depended on it—in a way, it did—winning eight of ten decisions while saving two more for the Giants in half a season’s work.

While the Giants coasted in the season’s waning weeks, the Yankees and Browns performed a nail-biting finish to the wire. Leading early in September, the Yankees were faced with the challenge of playing their final 18 games on the road—including a stop in St. Louis for a crucial three-game series against the Browns.

The St. Louis Browns’ chances of toppling the Yankees for the AL Pennant were imperiled when star hitter George Sisler—who would hit an astounding .420—played hurt down the stretch.

George Sisler came into the series handicapped, his shoulder having been severely bruised trying to make a catch one week earlier off of Ty Cobb—whose AL-record 40-game hitting streak Sisler was closing in on.

Basically swinging with one arm, Sisler managed to hit safely in the first two games against the Yankees to break Cobb’s record at 41 straight; the two teams traded victories. But he also watched helplessly as New York outfielder Whitey Witt, going after a fly late in the first game, was struck in the head by a bottle thrown from a Browns’ fan. Returning bandaged for the final game of the series, Witt extracted revenge by driving home two in the ninth, giving the Yankees not only a 3-2 winSisler went hitless in the third game to end the streak. but a lead in the AL race they would never relinquish. The bottle-throwing incident depressed the Browns’ spirits, but Sisler’s sore shoulder—which kept him out of action the rest of the year—hurt even more; they finished the season one game back of the Yankees.

The big World Series rematch between the Giants and Yankees, sharing the Polo Grounds for the last time, was anticlimactic. The Giants swept in four games; the only controversy came in the game that didn’t count—a 3-3 tie in Game Two—stopped after ten innings due to "darkness,"Commissioner Landis, in an effort to quell suspicions that the two teams were trying to rake in extra gate money, forced the $120,000 taken in during Game Two to be given to charity. even though the sun still had an hour to set.

Though a sweep, the Giants’ second straight Series triumph was not a convincing rout. Three times they had to come from behind to tip the Yankees, and their biggest margin of victory was three runs—courtesy of a four-hit shutout by the rediscovered Jack Scott in Game Three. To John McGraw’s utmost satisfaction, Giants pitching nullified Babe Ruth at the plate. Ruth had his second straight World Series of frustration, collecting only a single and double in 17 at-bats. As a team, the Yankees barely managed to hit .200 for the second straight year against the GiantsOffensively, Heinie Groh rose to the occasion following his disappointing regular season by batting .474 for the Giants..

John McGraw could say he was the king again. He had not only brushed the Yankees aside with a World Series sweep and again silenced Babe Ruth in the process, but he also kicked them out of the Polo Grounds for good.

It would be his last hurrah.

1923 baseball historyForward to 1923: With Regards to Harry The New York Yankees become one of baseball's great dynasties at the willful expense of the Boston Red Sox and their Broadway-obsessed owner, Harry Frazee.

1921 baseball historyBack to 1921: See You at the Polo Grounds The home for both the New York Yankees and Giants becomes the exclusive host to the first Subway Series.

1920s baseball historyThe 1920s Page: ...And Along Came Babe Baseball becomes the rage thanks to increased offense and the magical presence of Babe Ruth, whose home runs exert a major influence upon the game for ages to come.

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1922 Standings

National League
New York Giants
Cincinnati Reds
St. Louis Cardinals
Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs
Brooklyn Robins
Philadelphia Phillies
Boston Braves
American League
New York Yankees
St. Louis Browns
Detroit Tigers
Cleveland Indians
Chicago White Sox
Washington Senators
Philadelphia Athletics
Boston Red Sox

1922 Postseason Results
World Series New York (NL) defeated New York (AL), 4-0 (1 tie).

It Happened in 1922

In Baseball We Antitrust
The long-delayed, long-running antitrust suit against major league owners by those of the defunct Federal League franchise in Baltimore comes to an end, with the Supreme Court unanimously ruling against the plaintiffs on May 29. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, speaking for the court, states that baseball is a sport and not a true form of “interstate commerce.” The ruling cements baseball’s antitrust exemption, which along with the reserve clause will become two of the most frequently assailed documents outside of baseball’s front offices.

Game of the Year
The Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies slug out a record-setting explosion of offense on August 25 in Chicago. The Cubs win, 26-23, as the two teams establish major league records for most combined runs (49) and hits (51) in a nine-inning game. The Cubs use a ten-run second inning and a 14-run fourth to build a 25-6 lead—then hold on. There are also 25 walks and ten errors committed, and a combined 25 men are left on base—16 by the losing Phillies. Time of game: Three hours and a minute.

Charlie Perfection
The Chicago White Sox’ Charlie Robertson, who over eight big league seasons will never post a winning record, pitches the majors’ third perfect game of the century—and the last until Don Larsen’s perfecto in the 1956 World Series—in a 2-0 win at Detroit on April 30. Tigers stars Ty Cobb and Harry Heilmann believe Robertson is too good to be true, constantly arguing with umpires (to no avail) that the White Sox pitcher is doctoring up the ball.

Robertson gets help from center fielder Johnny Mostil, who makes two outstanding catches in a rare appearance playing in left. (Many sources say this is Mostil’s only career appearance in left field; retrosheet.org disputes this, saying Mostil played in left 19 other times in his career.)

Max Legroom
In a year where the stolen base success rate among baserunners is at 55%, Pittsburgh’s Max Carey is caught only twice in 53 attempts—and in one stretch collects a record 31 steals without being tagged out. That mark will be broken in 1975 by Davey Lopes.

Carey On
Besides his penchant for stealing bases, Carey also shows his adeptness at getting on base. On July 7, the Pirates speedster reaches base a record nine times without once being retired in an 18-inning, 9-8 loss to the New York Giants. He collects six hits consisting of five singles and a double, and walks three times. He also steals thrice, including one of home plate.

Toto, I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in the Deadball Era Anymore
Ken Williams of the St. Louis Browns becomes the first player this century, and the first American Leaguer, to smash three home runs in one game during a 10-7 drubbing of the White Sox on April 22. Later, on September 15, catcher Butch Henline of the Phillies is the first National Leaguer in 25 years to perform the round-trippin’ hat trick in a 10-9 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

More Ken Do
Williams establishes another home run milestone by becoming the first major leaguer this century to hit two home runs in the same inning, on August 7 against Washington. The Browns wallop the Senators at home, 16-1.

Cardinal Drawbacks
The Cardinals’ chances of winning the NL pennant are tragically handicapped with the death of two of their players. In February, back-up catcher William “Pickles” Dillhoefer dies of typhoid fever; and promising outfielder Austin McHenry, who batted .350 in 1921, is gradually overcome by a brain tumor that will result in his death in November. Both die at the age of 27.

The Magnificent Seventeen
The Cubs’ Ray Grimes sets a major league mark by knocking in at least one run in 17 consecutive games. He’ll knock in 27 during the streak from June 27-July 23, disrupted for ten games by a back injury. For the year, Grimes collects 99 RBIs in his second—and last—season as an everyday player.

Cobb Salad Days
Ty Cobb, hardly slowing down at age 35, sets an all-time mark by collecting five hits in a game four times for the Tigers during the season—three of them coming within an 11-day stretch in July. Cobb finishes the year batting .401, the third and final time in his career he finishes above that milestone.

Rabbit-Proof Fence
Rabbit Maranville of the Pittsburgh Pirates comes to bat 672 times and does not homer—the most at-bats in one year by a player without a four-bagger.

The Most, er, Eligible, Valuable Player Award
The AL revives the Most Valuable Player award, with the Browns’ George Sisler winning the honor in 1922 as voted on by eight baseball writers, one from each AL city. This version of the award will last for seven years, and will be criticized for its rule making previous winners or player-managers ineligible.

Foe to Friend, Friend to Foe
Max Flack of the Cubs and Cliff Heathcote of the Cardinals are traded for one another—between two games of a Cubs-Cardinals doubleheader on May 30 at Chicago. Playing for their new teams in the second game, they become the first players to play for two teams in one day.

Everyone's a Hit
The Pirates play five consecutive games, between August 5-10, in which every player in the lineup has at least one hit. The Bucs win all five games—one at Boston against the Braves, the other four at Philadelphia against the Phillies—and collect a total of 66 runs on 100 hits (20 per game) while batting .446 as a team. In the midst of their outburst, the Pirates will set a major league mark with 46 hits in an August 8 doubleheader against the Phillies.

Triple Plague
The Tigers and the Yankees combine to hit an AL record nine triples in the Tigers’ 9-8 win at Detroit on June 17. The Tigers collect six of the triples.

Mays Over A's
After two sensational (and tumultuous) years, Yankee pitcher Carl Mays struggles to reach the .500 mark—but he can’t blame the Philadelphia A’s for his troubles. During the year, Mays establishes an AL record by winning his 23rd straight game against the A’s, a streak that began as a member of the Red Sox in 1918. Underscoring Mays’ dominance against the woeful A’s is that all but one of his victories against Philadelphia is a complete game.

Don't Rock the Boat
For the fourth time, a union for major league ballplayers is formed. And for the fourth time, the union—this time named the National Baseball Players Association of the United States—will die a quick death, lasting less than a year. Reason: The perception among owners, the general public—and even some players—that major leaguers are lucky to be where they are relative to other careers, and thus the need for a union is superfluous.

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