July 3, 1932: Yankees beat Red Sox in first Sunday baseball game at Fenway Park

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

Lyn Lary (Trading Card DB)For years, Sunday baseball was banned in Boston – and in most cities around the country. Over the years, various states and cities began to permit Sunday ball. By the late 1920s, prohibitions on Sunday games remained in only two major-league states – Massachusetts, home of the Boston Red Sox and Braves, and Pennsylvania, home of the Philadelphia Athletics and Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates.1

After many years of local effort to legalize Sunday baseball in Massachusetts, the matter was placed on the ballot in a statewide referendum in 1928. The voters chose to permit Sunday baseball, beginning in the 1929 season.2 A proviso in the law, however, stipulated that Sunday baseball was not to be played within 1,000 feet of a house of worship. Apparently it was feared that the distractions of the national pastime might impinge on the calm of church services or cause worshippers to divert to the ball field while on their way to church. Braves Field could host Sunday games, but Fenway Park – erected approximately 900 feet from the Church of the Disciples, at the corner of Peterborough and Jersey Streets – could not.

As a result, the Red Sox initially played Sunday home games at Braves Field, not Fenway Park. In fact, the first-ever Sunday big-league baseball game in Boston was the Red Sox’ 7-3 loss to the Philadelphia Athletics at Braves Field on April 28, 1929.3 (The Braves had been scheduled to host the New York Giants a week earlier on April 21, but the game was rained out. Their first Sunday home game was a 7-2 loss to the Pirates on May 5.)4

In May 1932, after three years of both Boston franchises playing at Braves Field on Sundays, Massachusetts Governor Joseph B. Ely signed legislation changing the 1,000-foot limitation to 700 feet.5 Finally, Fenway Park was cleared for Sunday games.

The Red Sox spent most of June 1932 on a 22-game road trip, visiting all seven of their AL opponents. Their first chance to play at Fenway Park on a Sunday came on July 3, the finale of a five-game set with the New York Yankees.

It was nearly halfway through the 32nd year of Boston’s American League franchise and the 21st season of their ballpark’s existence. “Yes, it’s true,” read a Boston Herald subhead that morning. “The first Sunday baseball game in Fenway Park history will be played today.”6

At 49-21, the Yankees were comfortably in first place in the AL. The Red Sox (14-56) were last, already 35 games behind New York. The Yankees’ 15-4 win in the series opener on June 30 made it 10 wins in 11 games against Boston in ’32, but the Red Sox had won 11-6 on July 1 and split the July 2 doubleheader, outhitting the Yankees in all three games.

The starting pitcher for the Red Sox on July 3 was 25-year-old righty Ivy Andrews. He’d been a Yankee when the season began. He was 2-1 with a 1.82 ERA in four appearances with New York, but on June 5 he’d been sent from first to worst, traded to the Red Sox. He won his first game for his new team, but then lost his next three decisions – all on the road. The first Sunday game at Fenway Park was also his first appearance before his new home crowd.

Starting for the Yankees was another right-hander, 32-year-old George Pipgras, who’d first pitched for New York in 1923. His best year had been 1928, when he led the league with 24 wins. He was 8-5, but with a 4.53 ERA. He had taken the loss to the Red Sox two days earlier, when he was charged with five runs in 1⅔ innings.

“This was to have been a festival occasion,” wrote the Herald, “this first Sabbath ball game at Fenway Park.” The problem was that “both the Red Sox and Yankees reverted to type.”7

The Yankees jumped ahead in the first. Andrews walked leadoff batter Earle Combs, the center fielder. Third baseman Joe Sewell singled to right field, Combs taking third. Andrews navigated past the two most dangerous Yankees, getting left fielder Babe Ruth to pop up, then fielding first baseman Lou Gehrig’s comebacker and throwing to catcher Bennie Tate for the tag on Combs. But second baseman Tony Lazzeri doubled to the embankment in left field,8 scoring Sewell and Gehrig for a 2-0 Yankees lead.

The Red Sox got a leadoff single by center fielder Roy Johnson in their half but could do no more.

The visitors added two more runs in the top of the second. Right fielder Ben Chapman drew another leadoff walk. Shortstop Lyn Lary reached on a windblown single that dropped in behind an onrushing Smead Jolley in left; Chapman took second. Pipgras tried to bunt them both ahead, but Andrews picked up another assist, throwing to Urbane Pickering at third base for the force on Chapman. Combs hit the ball to first, and Dale Alexander threw to the plate, again cutting down the lead runner. Sewell hit a high fly to short center field; the wind played with the ball and shortstop Rabbit Warstler was charged with an error for letting it fall in while two runs scored.

Pickering doubled for Boston with one out in the bottom of the second, but there he remained.

The Red Sox got on the scoreboard with two runs in the bottom of the third inning. After Andrews struck out, Johnson doubled to right field, the Boston Globe suggesting he missed a home run by less than an inch.9 Second baseman Marv Olson singled to left field, scoring Johnson while managing to get all the way to third base on an error charged to catcher Bill Dickey, who had been bowled over and “momentarily stunned” by Johnson.10 The Herald said Dickey was knocked unconscious and offered a photograph of the collision, Johnson coming in standing up.11 After right fielder Johnny Watwood walked, Jolley hit a long fly ball and Olson tagged and scored. It was 4-2, Yankees.

Andrews had settled the game down with three scoreless innings, but the Yankees ignited their offense again in the sixth. Chapman led off with a walk, then was caught stealing. But Lary doubled, Pipgras bunted for a single, and Combs doubled and drove in Lary. Sewell singled and drove in two, making it 7-2.

Babe Ruth singled. At this point, Red Sox manager Marty McManus called on Pete Jablonowski – known as Pete Appleton later in his big-league career – to relieve Andrews.12 McManus had replaced Shano Collins on June 19, during the long road trip. Jablonowski had come from Cleveland via trade on June 10.

The first batter Jablonowski faced, Gehrig, singled, scoring Sewell. Lazzeri walked, loading the bases. Jablonowski struck out Dickey, but Chapman tripled and cleared the bases. Lary doubled a second time, scoring Chapman. Bob Kline relieved Jablonowski, but Pipgras singled home Lary for the ninth run of the inning. New York had a 13-2 lead.

Kline worked the seventh, eighth, and ninth, allowing only an uneventful one-out single to Gehrig in the seventh.

The only Red Sox hit Pipgras allowed in his final four innings was an eighth-inning leadoff single by Alexander, who was erased by a double play. Pipgras pitched a complete game, allowing just five hits but walking eight.13

The final score stood at 13-2. The Yankees had outhit the Red Sox, 15-5, with 10 of their hits in the sixth inning. Neither team had homered. The Sunday game had drawn 7,000. It lasted 2 hours and 28 minutes.

Even though Sunday baseball was now permitted at Fenway Park, there was a 6:30 P.M. Sunday curfew on the books until 1946.14

Was this the worst Red Sox club ever? That’s what the Boston Globe’s Harold Kaese, writing nearly 30 years later, called the 1932 team.15 It would be hard to argue otherwise. The team won just 43 games and lost 111 for a winning percentage of .279. Batting .300 is one thing. Winning less than 30 percent of your games is another. As of 2023, in 123 seasons of play, the 1932 club is the only Red Sox team to finish below .300. The Red Sox finished a mere 64 games behind the first-place Yankees, who came in at 107-47 and defeated the Chicago Cubs in the World Series.



This article was fact-checked by Tom Brown and copy-edited by Len Levin.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.





1 Massachusetts’ prohibition had not just been against games played professionally, as commercial activities. It applied to children playing purely recreationally. On May 22, 1887, nine were arrested in South Boston for playing baseball on the Sabbath, as were seven others in attendance. Charlie Bevis, Sunday Baseball (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2003), 214.

2 The vote in Boston itself was 172,800 to 54,418. Bevis, 227.

3 Much of the contextual material in this article, including most of the first few paragraphs come from Bill Nowlin, Red Sox Threads (Burlington, Massachusetts: Rounder Books, 2013). Over the stretch of 50 games played in the Boston Braves ballpark, the Red Sox won 17, lost 31, and tied two games. The 17-31 reflected a winning percentage of .354, which certainly doesn’t indicate any home-field advantage. Of course, part of the point was that it wasn’t their home field. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the Red Sox weren’t very good in any ballpark during this era. Their winning percentages for the four years in question were: .377, .338, .408, and .279. Red Sox Threads, 26, 27. The first Sunday ballgame played in Boston and featuring major-league clubs was an exhibition game between the Rd Sox and Braves played at Braves Field on April 14, 1929. The Braves won, 4-0. Donna Lee Halper, “April 14, 1929: Sunday baseball in Boston for the first time,” SABR Games Project.

4 Thus the first major-league team in Boston to play baseball on Sunday was the Red Sox – playing at Braves Field.

5 James C. O’Leary, “Quinn Awaits a Definite Offer,” Boston Globe, May 28, 1932: 9.

6 Arthur Siegel, “Red Sox Defeat Yankees, 6-5; After Losing First Game 8-5; New Men Produce Big Hits,” Boston Herald, July 3, 1932: 13.

7 Arthur Siegel, “Yankees Hold High Carnival, 13-2, As Red Sox Bats Are Silenced In First Fenway Sunday Game,” Boston Herald, July 4, 1932: 6.

8 The embankment, popularly known as Duffy’s Cliff, rose to a height of 10 feet in front of the left-field wall. It allowed on-field spectators to see over the heads of those in front of them. It was lowered after the 1932 season and eventually removed entirely. The embankment was named after Red Sox left fielder Duffy Lewis (Red Sox, 1910-1917), who was particularly adept at playing on it. See https://www.fenwayfanatics.com/fenway-park/history/forgotten-features/.

9 Johnson missed a home run “by the width which separates the left from the right eye of an under-nourished gnat.” David F. Egan, “Yankees Bunch Nine Runs, Rout Sox, 13 to 2,” Boston Globe, July 4, 1932: 7. Johnson had reached base his last four times at bat on Saturday and did so again this day, with two doubles and two walks.

10 William E. Brandt, “Yankees’ Barrage Routs Red Sox, 13-2,” New York Times, July 4, 1932: 7. Dickey remained in the game, but reportedly had a tooth loosened in the collision.

11 “Two Times When the Camera Does Not Tell the True Story,” Boston Herald, July 4, 1932: 6.

12 Pete Appleton was identified as Pete Jablonowski in all newspaper coverage in 1932. After the 1933 season, he changed his surname to Appleton. Bill Lamb, “Pete Appleton,” SABR BioProject, accessed November 11, 2023, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/pete-appleton/.

13 The game featured 16 bases on balls, eight charged to each team.

14 “On May 14, 1946 a bill was introduced in the Massachusetts legislature to repeal the curfew. The reason? On April 21, the Red Sox had hosted the Philadelphia Athletics for a Sunday doubleheader at Fenway. The Red Sox were losing the first game, 7-0, after five innings of play, but scored sufficient runs to overcome the deficit and gain a 12-11 win in 10 innings (on a bases-loaded single by Ted Williams). Boston was losing the second game, but only by 3-0, when the game was curtailed after the bottom of the fifth and declared a win for Philadelphia. This was, of course, particularly galling because of the earlier come-from-behind success. This just wouldn’t do; the legislature removed the early evening curfew.” Red Sox Threads, 401.

15 Harold Kaese, “Remember Sox of ’32? Worst Fens Club Ever,” Boston Globe. June 18, 1959: 37. How did the Red Sox do at home on the remaining Sundays in 1932? Better. They played five Fenway Park doubleheaders and then a final game on September 25 against the Yankees. Their record overall was 5-6, winning that final game 8-3. For home Sunday games overall, they were 5-7 in 1932, a winning percentage of .417, which compares quite favorably to the team’s .279 winning percentage.  

Additional Stats

New York Yankees 13
Boston Red Sox 2

Fenway Park
Boston, MA


Box Score + PBP:

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1930s ·