Note: Leverage Index is an average of the leverage of situations, with 1 being average, below 1 being low-pressure, and above 1 being high-pressure.
No World Series featured more future Hall of Famers than the 1932 World Series – 14 of the players, managers, and umpires would wind up enshrined. No World Series featured a more legendary moment – this is the Series in which Babe Ruth allegedly called his shot. So why the low ranking?
Well, it just wasn’t a very good World Series. Of the 12 players who would wind up in the HOF, 9 played for the 1932 Yankees. The outcome of the Series definitely reflected that.
There was bad blood between the two teams before the Series ever started, and it all revolved around Cubs SS Mark Koenig. Koenig was a starter for the last great Yankee teams, an every day player from 1926 until 1930, when he was traded to the Tigers. In 1932, Koenig, while at AAA in the PCL, was sold to the Cubs. Koenig played well in Chicago, batting .353 in 33 games before an injury ended his season. Koenig’s Cub teammates voted for him to only receive a half share of the postseason bonuses. Ruth publicly called the Cubs cheapskates, setting the tone for a nasty World Series that featured more contention than competition.
The Chicago Cubs (90-64) were one of the NL’s best teams throughout the 1930’s. Over 11 years from 1928 through 1938, the Cubs never finished worse than 3rd place in the Senior Circuit and won the NL pennant 4 times. The offense was competent and better than average, scoring 4.7 runs per game. With the ball in hand, the Cubs were the stingiest team in the league, allowing just 4.1 runs per game. The best hitter was OF Riggs Stephenson (.324/.383/.443), who, despite just 4 HR, earned a 4th place MVP finish with 49 doubles. OF Johnny Moore (.305/.342/.470), in his first full season, led the team with 13 HR. C Gabby Hartnett (.271/.354/.436) was productive, hitting 12 HR, but wasn’t at the level he’d been in 1930, or that he’d be in the years following ’32 – he received MVP votes every year from 1933 through 1939. 1B Charlie Grimm (.307/.349/.425) hit 42 doubles and took over as the team’s manager after the release of player-manager Rogers Hornsby in August (Hornsby was batting a very un-Hornsby-esque .221, and he’d never again be a full time starter). 2B Billy Herman (.314/.358/.404 / 42 2B / 14 SB) and OF Kiki Cuyler (.291/.340/.442/ 10 HR) stood out as well. But the name of the game for the ’32 Cubs was pitching, boasting 1 fantastic starter and 3 better than average ones. Leading the way was the Arkansas Hummingbird, 23-year old Lon Warneke (22-6, 2.37), in his breakout season. In the 10 years covering 1932-1941, Warneke won 175 games, received MVP votes in 7 years (finishing 2nd in 1932), and played in 5 of the first 9 All-Star games. Warneke wasn’t the only good pitcher or nickname on the staff. Guy Bush (19-11, 3.21) received MVP votes and was known as the Mississippi Mudcat. Pat Malone (15-17, 3.38) led the team in strikeouts and Charlie Root (15-10, 3.58) was a dual threat, with 11 complete games and 10 games finished out of the pen. The worst pitcher in ’32 was 38-year old future HOF-er Burleigh Grimes (6-11, 4.78).
The 1932 New York Yankees (107-47), believe it or not, was the only pennant-winning Yankees team in the years 1929-1935. I know that’s hardly a drought, but it’s not exactly in line with the reputation of the Yankees of the era. The last 7 year span with only one World Series trip was 1915-1921. The next would be 1964-1970. This 107-win season sticks out a bit in this short era. The offense was fantastic, scoring 6.4 r/g, and at just 4.6 r/g were tough to score on as well. 1932, at the age of 37, was the last time Babe Ruth (.341/.489/.661) was really Babe Ruth, hitting 41 HR, getting on base 288 times, and knocking in 137. He was a very good player in 1933 and 1934, but he wasn’t quite the same. 1932 would be the last year in which Ruth was New York’s best player, as he’d be surpassed soon by 1B Lou Gehrig (.349/.451/.621), already a near equal with 34 HR, 151 RBI, 42 2B, and 108 BB. 2B Tony Lazzeri (.300/.399/.506) was excellent, hitting 16 3B and 15 HR. OF Earle Combs (.321/.405/.455) was one of 5 Yankees with over 50 extra base hits, OF Ben Chapman (.299/.381/.473) was in double digits in doubles, triples, and homers while leading the team with 38 SB, and C Bill Dickey (.310/.361/.482) continued to get better. Even though the 1932 MVP was awarded to Double X in Philadelphia, the ballot was littered with Yankee hitters: Gehrig (2nd), Ruth (6th), Lazzeri (8th), Dickey (14th), and 29th was defensive stalwart 3B Joe Sewell (.272/.349/.392 / 11 HR), who struck out 3 times in 576 plate appearances (try not to let the pants tighten too much, Braves fans). Leading the rotation was 23-year old Lefty Gomez (24-7, 4.21, 176 K’s), who won 24 games because all those hitters I just mentioned averaged 7.2 runs per game when he pitched. The best pitcher on staff was Red Ruffing (18-7, 3.09, 190 K’s). George Pipgras (16-9, 4.19) managed to eat innings, but #4 starter Johnny Allen (17-4, 3.70) was far more effective. If the regular season was any indication, the Yankees would be the prohibitive favorite in this Series. It was an indication, it turned out.
Yankees Game 1 starter Ruffing gave up 3 first inning singles which, when combined with a Ruth error, gave Chicago a 2-0 lead. Guy Bush would handle the Yanks offense through the first 3, reportedly calling Ruth “n*****” whenever he saw him, but in the 4th a RBI single from the pissed off Ruth and 2 run HR from Gehrig gave New York a 3-2 lead. The lead would expand in the 6th when Bush lost his control, walking the first 3 batters. With 1 out, a 2-run single from Dickey would push it to 5-2, and then Chapman brought home another with a productive groundout. NY would re-load the bases, and Earle Combs would drive in two more with a single. By the end of the 6th, it was 8-2. The Cubs showed some life in the 7th, thanks to a 2-run single from Stephenson, but the Yankees attacked reliever Grimes in the bottom half, which went like this: walk, single, single, HBP, Sac-fly, groundout, and finished with a wild pitch, which allowed a runner to score but also registered the final out as Frank Crosetti tried to advance from 1st to 3rd. When Crosetti was thrown out, it was 11-4 and pretty much out of reach. The Cubs scored 2 in the 8th, but the Yankees tacked on another run, and the 12-6 score held up, with Ruffing completing the game.
Average leverage: 0.69
20 game winners Warneke and Gomez faced off in Game 2, and once again Chicago got a 1st inning lead, this time from a Stephenson sacrifice fly. New York didn’t wait as long to answer, scoring 2 in the bottom of the 1st thanks to RBI singles from Gehrig and Dickey. Chicago would tie it in the 3rd, however, on a single from CF Frank Demaree. But alas, ties never last in this section of the countdown, and New York untied it in the same inning on a bases loaded single from Chapman, driving in a pair. 4-2 became 5-2 on a 5th inning single from Dickey, and that’d still be the score when Gomez struck out Rollie Hemsley to end the game.
Average leverage: 1.025
Prior to Game 3, Ruth’s disgust for the Cubs continued to manifest. After putting on a batting practice show, Ruth called Wrigley a “dump” while saying he’d love to hit there every day. In the first, the Babe hit a 3-run HR to give the Yankees an early, comfortable lead. A Cuyler double drove in a run in the bottom of the 1st, cutting the lead to 3-1. Gehrig led off the 3rd with a HR, increasing New York’s back to 3. However, Cuyler homered in the bottom of the 3rd, and Grimm doubled home Stephenson to make it a 4-3 game. A 4th inning error by Lazzeri allowed the tying run to score. With one out in the 5th, Root had 2 strikes on Ruth. The Cubs, continuing to shower Ruth with vitriol, were relentless. At that point, there are different stories of what happened. Here’s footage of it:
According to legend, Ruth pointed to the CF stands and predicted exactly where he’d hit a HR. More realistically, and according to several players, he lifted two fingers and shook them at the Cubs dugout, indicating that he only had 2 strikes and could still do some damage. He could very well have predicted his HR – Ruth was pretty boastful and probably always thought he would homer, but it doesn’t look like he hit the HR where he pointed.
Either way, it gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead. In the next at-bat, Gehrig followed with a HR of his own for a 6-4 lead, chasing Root from the game. In the 9th, a Ben Chapman double would plate another, and a bottom of the 9th HR from Hartnett could only close the gap a little, as New York won 7-5.
Average leverage: 0.99
Guy Bush, the same P who berated Ruth with racial slurs in Game 1, hit Ruth to load the bases in the top of the 1st. A Gehrig sac-fly gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the inning, Chicago built their biggest lead of the Series on the back of a Demaree 3-run HR, and a RBI single from SS Billy Jurges. It was 4-1, and Chicago was finally in good position. In the 3rd, however, Lazzeri hit a 2 run HR to make it 4-3. In the 6th, Gehrig came to the plate with 2 runners in scoring position, and his single drove in both to give New York a 5-4 lead. In the 6th, a throwing error from Gehrig put Grimm on 2nd, and a subsequent throwing error from Crosetti allowed him to come around and tie the game at 5-5. The Cubs’ chances died in the top of the 7th, when a single, double, and intentional walk loaded the bases. A bloop single from Combs gave the Yankees a 6-5 lead. Two more came home on a single from Sewell. Ruth then singled home another for a 9-5 lead. In the 9th, Combs homered to make it 10-5. Ruth grounded out to 1st in his final World Series AB, but Lazzeri homered to make it 11-5. Chapman doubled home Dickey for a 12-5 lead to finish the Yankee scoring. In the final half inning, the Cubs scored one off a single, some defensive indifference, and a ball in play, but the 6 run deficit was too great, and the Yankees finished the sweep.
Average leverage: 1.08
The Cubs hated Ruth, and Ruth hated the Cubs. Ruth’s 2 HR Game 3 gets all the attention, but the MVP of the Series, had that sort of thing been awarded, would’ve been Gehrig (.529/.600/1.118), who won the 4-game Triple Crown with his .529 batting average, 3 HR, and 8 RBI. Stephenson had 8 hits in a losing effort.
The Yankees scored 37, over 9 per game against the best pitching staff in the majors. Guy Bush was rewarded for his racist slurs with 5.2 innings of work over 2 starts, giving up 9 runs and walking 6 batters. On the Yankee side, Red Ruffing struck out 10 batters in his complete game win, and Gomez struck out 8 and allowed just 2 runs in his.
The cheapskates lost. It wasn’t in dramatic fashion, but I’m sure Ruth and the Yankees didn’t mind.
Average leverage: 0.94625