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Murderers’ Row - The 1927 New York Yankees

Widely known for "5-o¡¯clock lightning", the 1927 New York
Yankees boasted awesome offensive power. Intimidating all of
baseball with the bats of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, this team
was unstoppable. Many of their opponents built up hope slowly
in the early stages of a contest, only to be "struck" with an
unceasing barrage some time around 5-o¡¯clock. Baseball games
routinely started at 3:30 pm back in the 1920s and generally
ended somewhere around 6:00 pm. The '27 Yanks usually
delivered a crippling offensive blow to their opponents in the
late innings, thus the phrase "5-o'clock lightning." Of course,
they had no lights for playing at night, all games were day
games. Major League Baseball was settling into its widely held
superstitions and routine, repetitiveness and all of the mythical
and obsession-based ceremonial acts that still exist to this day.
The 3:30 start time was one of those mystified traditions that
players did not like to break from. Many considered it bad luck if
a game was to start at any other time, or to start early or late if
scheduled for 3:30 pm.

"Murderers¡¯ Row" was actually a nickname for the New York
Yankees first used in 1919 before Babe Ruth was imported from
the Boston Red Sox. A sports reporter had used it as he was
describing the spring training projected line-up. It was actually
hype more than anything else, although the 1919 line-up was
very good, even without Ruth. The Babe arrived and the term
was used loosely here and there, but never really took root until
it was widely used in the 1927 season. Babe Ruth hit his high
mark of 60 homeruns in ¡¯27 and the New York Yankees won 110
games, losing only 44 times. They also swept the World Series
against the Pittsburgh Pirates and then repeated the feat again
in 1928. Babe Ruth hit 161 homers from the 1926 season
through the 1928 season. The Babe also hit for a high average
during this period, with a three-year batting average of .350.
During this stretch, he collected 452 RBIs as well. His single
season home run mark of 60 would stand for 34 years.

Lou Gehrig, believe it or not, was voted the American League
Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1927. He hit .373 that year, better
than Ruths¡¯ .356. He also added 47 homeruns and 175 RBIs. The
combination of Ruth and Gehrig struck fear into all of the Major
League players that were playing the game in the "Murderers¡¯
Row" era. These two players, however, weren¡¯t all the ¡¯27
Yankees had. It seemed they had all the best players of the
time, and not just offensive players but solid defensive players
as well. However, the most astonishing numbers from this
alleged "greatest team ever" came from the offense; the lead
off hitter and centerfielder, Earle Combs, had an on-base
percentage of .414, hit .356 and had 62 walks and 231 hits.
Tony Lazzeri played second base and hit 18 homers that year,
finishing third in the American League home run race. Ruth and
Gehrig, of course, were I-2. Bob Meusel played the outfield (left
or right) and batted .337 with 103 runs batted in. He also piled
up 24 stolen bases. Lazzeri had 22 swipes. Other notable
offensive minded "Murderers¡¯ Row" members were Johnny
Grabowski, Joe Dugan, Pat Collins and Mark Koenig. As a team,
the ¡¯27 Yankees¡¯ batting average was a staggering .307. They
out-scored their opponents by 376 runs and broke a lot of
defensive-minded hearts by scoring 975 runs that year.

"Murderers¡¯ Row" also boasted some of the best pitching in the
Major Leagues in 1927; Dutch Ruether, Waite Hoyt, Herb
Pennock and Wilcy Moore, an early relief prot¨¦g¨¦. Hoyt, Shocker
and Moore were the top three pitchers in the league, based on
wins and earned run average (ERA). These three amassed a
combined total in wins of 59. Defensively, the very same players
that drew massive crowds with their legendary "5-o¡¯clock
lightning" were making a statement with their gloves as well.
Fielding the ball was not as big of an attention-getter as their
explosive offense, but they did it well enough to hold their
opponents to 599 total runs scored.

These trends were not just evident in the 1927 Yankees, but all
through the middle of the decade. The Yankees¡¯ success
continued, and the term "Murderers¡¯ Row" stuck. It was carried
all the way to the 1936-39 Yankees, who won 4 World Series in
a row. Professional Baseball officially "crowned" the 1927
Yankees as the best overall team of all-time in 1969, during the
Centennial celebration of Major League Baseball.

About the Author: This article was written by FR Penn sponsored by If you’re looking for baseball tickets to see your favorite team live in action, look no further than where fans buy and sell the hottest sports tickets. Reproductions of this article are encouraged but must include a link back to

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