September 23, 1932: Jumbo Brown tosses first career shutout as Yankees defeat worst-ever Red Sox team

This article was written by Larry DeFillipo

Jumbo Brown (TRADING CARD DB)“Cupcake,” a euphemism for a should-be-easy-to-beat opponent, entered the sports lexicon in the 1970s.1 Forty-some years earlier, the New York Yankees would’ve agreed it applied to their September 23, 1932, opponent: the cellar-dwelling, 63 games back2 Boston Red Sox.

The hapless 1899 Cleveland Spiders were the last major-league team to face an opponent 60 or more games above them in the standings, when they opposed the Cincinnati Reds on October 12, 1899.3 Between then and 1932, only two major-league teams finished 60 or more games out of first place. Both were oddball chapters of the NL’s Boston franchise: the 1906 Beaneaters (66½ games out) and the 1909 Doves (66 games out). Unlike the 1932 Red Sox, neither had the misfortune of playing the eventual pennant winner after they’d fallen 60 games off the pace.4

Unlike their NL counterparts, Boston’s AL franchise dominated the early years of the twentieth century. The Boston Americans defeated the NL champion Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1903 World Series. After rebranding themselves as the Red Sox in 1907,5 they claimed four more World Series titles, the last in 1918. But once Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919, it was all downhill. They finished last in the AL in 1922 and were last again on August 1, 1923, when Frazee sold the team to a group led by James Aloysius “Bob” Quinn.

Quinn and his investors were in over their heads. A deep-pocketed partner’s withdrawal and the 1929 stock-market crash left them without enough money to compete for talent. A vicious cycle developed: The Red Sox finished in or near last place, causing attendance to drop, cutting gate receipts, which further kept them from attracting or retaining talented players.6 They became the laughingstock of the league, a dumping ground for unwanted players.7

After five consecutive last-place finishes, the 1931 Red Sox improved to sixth place on the shoulders of journeyman outfielder Earl Webb, who hit .333 and set a major-league record, still standing as of 2021, for doubles in a season (67). Hopes were high for further improvement in 1932. In spring training, manager Shano Collins announced that “the boys have lost their inferiority complex.”8 The Sporting News offered that “better things are expected in 1932, with the outfit bolstered in some weak spots.”9 When pitcher Big Ed Morris was fatally stabbed during spring training, the good vibes were gone.10

The Red Sox season opened on April 11, at the height of the search for the Lindbergh baby, kidnapped five weeks earlier.11 They lost their first four games, followed by losing streaks of eight, six, five, and six games, each separated by a single victory. They were in last place, 25½ games out, by June 12. The next day, Webb was traded to Detroit, and a week later, Collins quit.12 Second baseman Marty McManus become player-manager. The team responded by losing eight of its next nine games. By the time New York arrived for the season’s final series at rundown Fenway Park,13 the Red Sox were 42-109.

The 1932 Yankees, in contrast, were the stuff of legend.14 They boasted the immortals, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, along with future Hall of Famers Earle Combs, Tony Lazzeri, Bill Dickey, Joe Sewell, Lefty Gomez, Herb Pennock, and Red Ruffing. After finishing behind the pennant-winning Philadelphia Athletics the past three seasons, Yankees manager Joe McCarthy upgraded the pitching staff and infield for the 1932 season.15

The spring training additions of fiery Johnny Allen16 to their rotation and the long-awaited Frankie Crosetti17 to their infield filled the bill. Sportswriter Frederick Lieb picked New York to win the AL pennant, and “stop the Athletics’ pilot [Connie Mack] from making it four straight.”18 The Yankees’ mix of accomplished veterans and talented youngsters catapulted New York into first place with a 20-8 start; they never looked back.

Five months after that auspicious start, the Yankees entered the Red Sox series having clinched the pennant; their record was 105-45.19 The Boston Globe gushed, “Boston is lucky to have the pennant winning Yankees here for the season’s windup.”20

The Red Sox starter for the series opener was 6-foot-4, 242-pound righty Bob Kline. He led the Red Sox with 11 victories, despite an ERA of 5.35 and a ghastly 2.44 walk-to-strikeout ratio.21 The Yankees countered with rookie Jumbo Brown, a mountain of a man at 6-feet-4 and 254 pounds.22 He’d worked exclusively in relief until McCarthy inserted him into the rotation two weeks earlier to rest the Yankees’ regular starters leading up to the World Series. The New York Daily News observed, “For immensity of pitchers the game today was quite unusual. Tremors frequently were felt in the grandstand.”23

Four remaining members of their famed Murderers’ Row anchored the Yankees’ lineup – Ruth, Gehrig, Combs, and Lazzeri. Joining them were third baseman Sewell; Sporting News All-Star catcher Dickey;24 the “Alabama Flash,” right fielder Ben Chapman;25 and shortstop Crosetti.

As was typical for the Red Sox in 1932, their lineup was a combination of journeymen and players no other team would have on its roster.26 Undeniably, their best player was first baseman Dale Alexander, acquired from Detroit in exchange for Webb. Alexander sported a .361 batting average, but was two games shy of qualifying for the league lead.27

The Red Sox were in trouble before the ladies day crowd of 6,000 had settled in on this warm first day of autumn.28 In the top of the first, with Combs on third after he’d doubled and Ruth grounded out, Kline walked Gehrig. With Lazzeri batting, Gehrig broke for second base on a Kline pitch. Catcher Smead Jolley fired to second baseman Andy Spognardi, but Gehrig stopped and headed back to first. The throw offline, Combs broke for home and scored. Spognardi’s only option was to throw to first baseman Alexander, who tagged Gehrig for the third out.29 The Yankees were up, 1-0.

After walking the leadoff batter, Spognardi, in the first, Brown escaped without damage. The Red Sox attempted to rally in the second when right fielder George Stumpf singled and advanced to second on a groundout and to third on shortstop Rabbit Warstler’s infield single. Warstler stole second but Brown struck out Kline to end the inning.

In the fifth, Warstler walked, advanced on a sacrifice, and reached third on an error by Crosetti, but center fielder Tom Oliver30 grounded into an inning-ending double play. Singles by Alexander and Stumpf gave Boston two baserunners in the sixth; lineouts by Jolley and third baseman Urbane Pickering31 left them stranded.

In the seventh the Yankees broke through for another score. Lazzeri singled to center, and Dickey smacked a hit-and-run single to right. Stumpf fumbled the ball, allowing Lazzeri to scoot home32 with an unearned run. Fly outs by Chapman and Crosetti limited the damage to one run, but the Yankees led 2-0.

Red Sox pitcher Johnny Welch pinch-hit for Kline with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Welch, who had the highest career batting average of anyone on the bench, doubled to left field for the first and only pinch-hit of his career.33 Spognardi followed with a single to right fielder Chapman, who gunned down Welch at home, preserving Brown’s shutout.

Welch dusted himself off and headed out to the mound. The Red Sox gifted the Yankees another run in the top of the eighth. With one out, Welch walked Sammy Byrd, who’d replaced Combs in center field. A single by Sewell and a walk to Ruth loaded the bases. Lyn Lary, who’d replaced Gehrig,34 grounded back to Welch for a force out at home. With Lazzeri up, Welch uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Sewell from third.35 The Yankees’ lead was now 3-0.

Brown cruised through the final two innings. In the ninth, Crosetti’s second error of the day was inconsequential as Brown struck out Welch to end the game.36 Brown had tossed a shutout, the first of his career, scattering seven hits. For the first time all season, no Yankee was credited with an RBI, with all their runs coming on Red Sox errors.37 Sportswriter Marshall Hunt tutted, “the Yankees runs weren’t well earned.”38 Kline, victim of those runs, suffered the loss.

Turning on the home team, Hunt got in one last dig. “As soon as [the game ended], a workman trudged out on the field with a pick. He started digging a great hole in the infield. He perhaps was looking for a pitcher. The Boston team has looked everywhere for one.”39

The Red Sox split the final two games of their series. Alexander went 5-for-7 in those games, passing Jimmie Foxx to win the AL batting title and deny him the Triple Crown.40 Boston finished the season 43-111, the worst record in the history of the franchise.

A few months later, a savior arrived: lumber magnate Tom Yawkey.41 On February 25, 1933, Bob Quinn sold the Red Sox to Yawkey, whose money and vision would bring the franchise back to respectability.42 Before long, cupcakes were nowhere to be found at 24 Jersey Street.43



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted the Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org websites for pertinent material and the box scores noted here.





1 “Cupcake” was one of many uniquely descriptive terms used by Al McGuire, first as a college basketball coach and then as a college basketball television commentator. Hal McCoy, “McGuire Sees Basketball Evolving Away From Blacks,” Dayton Daily News, March 9, 1973: 19; Mike Douchant, “The Al McGuire Glossary,” The Sporting News, March 29, 1980: 12

2 Baseball-Reference lists the Red Sox 63½ games behind New York after play on September 22, while Retrosheet reports them as 63 games back. Baseball-Reference credited the Yankees with a victory in their August 1 game against Detroit, the outcome of which was vacated by a Tigers protest and replayed in mid-September. Retrosheet identifies that game as “no contest,” the baseline the author has followed.

3 The Spiders (20-130) entered the game 61 games behind the sixth-place Reds, and a whopping 81 games behind the first-place Brooklyn Superbas. The Spiders’ ineptitude was fallout from owners Frank and Stanley Robison transferring their most talented players, including future Hall of Famers Cy Young, Jesse Burkett, and Bobby Wallace, to another National League team that they’d recently purchased, the St. Louis Perfectos. (Multiple ownership of franchises was allowed at the time, but prohibited soon after.) The end result was an utterly noncompetitive Spiders team that finished the 1899 season with the worst record of any major-league team in history, 20-134. Bucyrus (Ohio) Evening Telegraph, October 13, 1899: 1; https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/september-16-1899-misfit-cleveland-spiders-lose-24th-in-a-row/.

4 Since 1932 six teams have finished 60 or more games out of first place. Most recently, the 2018 Baltimore Orioles finished 61 games behind the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox.

5 After finishing last in the AL in 1906 and seventh in 1907, owner John Taylor proposed team uniforms that included red stockings and a change in the team’s name to Red Sox. “To Be Known as ‘Red Sox,’” Boston Globe, December 19, 1907: 4.

6 The most egregious example of the Red Sox being unable to keep talented players in the Quinn years was future Hall of Famer Red Ruffing. After back-to-back 20-loss seasons, he was sold to the Yankees in 1930 for $50,000 and weak-hitting outfielder Cedric Durst. Ruffing went on to win 231 games for New York, with a 3.47 ERA and an ERA+ of 119. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/cedric-durst/.

7 https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/bob-quinn/.

8 https://www.mlb.com/redsox/ballpark/museum/timeline/1930-1939.

9 “Both Boston Pilots Nursing High Hopes,” The Sporting News, March 3, 1932: 5.

10 Morris was stabbed to death at a fish fry held in his honor. “Morris, Red Sox Pitcher, Dead,” Boston Globe, March 3, 1932: 1; “Death of Ed Morris Upsets Quinn Plans,” The Sporting News, March 10, 1932: 5.

11 Bostonians awoke on April 11 to news that the “King of the Cape Cod Rum Ring” was offering to pay a ransom of $100,000 for the return of the kidnapped Lindbergh baby “so that rum runners could resume landing and moving their liquor.” They’d been lying low due to increased Coast Guard and police surveillance. After the Lindbergh baby, 20-month-old Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr. had been kidnapped, a series of ransom notes were received, culminating in the family’s April 2 payment of a $50,000 ransom in exchange for a note with the child’s location. Searches in and around that location, on Massachusetts’ Martha’s Vineyard island, came up empty, triggering a frenzy of newspaper reporting and speculation the world over. “Lindy Hopes to Deal with Kidnappers Again,” Boston Globe, April 11, 1932: 1; https://www.fbi.gov/history/famous-cases/lindbergh-kidnapping; “U.S. Police Chief at Scotland Yard,” London Evening Standard, April 4, 1932: 1.

12 Collins told Red Sox owner Quinn that he was stepping aside to allow someone else to try his hand at the position. “Hub Hopes M’Manus Can Rally Red Hose,” The Sporting News, June 23, 1932: 1.

13 Quinn and his investors had the resources for neither repairs nor capital upgrades at Fenway Park. A fire on May 8, 1926, severely damaged the third-base bleachers, which had only been partially repaired. In order to improve their revenue stream, the club rented the ballpark for more and more nonbaseball events (lacrosse, boxing, wrestling, and football), which further accelerated wear and tear. https://www.mlb.com/redsox/ballpark/museum/timeline/1930-1939; https://ballparkmuseum.com/uncategorized/the-fires-that-changed-fenway-park/.

14 In lists of the top 10 all-time teams, the 1932 Yankees are typically ranked near the bottom, if at all, and always behind both the 1927 and 1939 Yankee teams. But one very-well qualified witness, Joe Sewell, who played with the Cleveland Indians against the 1927 Yankees and was a member of the 1932 Yankees, told an interviewer years later “I’ve seen every good team in the last sixty years, and I never saw a better one than the ’32 Yanks.” Arthur J. Conner, Baseball for the Love of It (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc., 1982), 180.

15 Ronald A. Mayer, The 1932 New York Yankees (Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Sunbury Press, 2018), 18-19.

16 Allen’s temper was notorious; at times he kicked over anything in his way after a loss. Raised in an orphanage from the age of nine, he developed a reputation for being hotheaded in the minor leagues, a reputation he maintained throughout his career. After a rough outing in his first start on April 19, in which he allowed five earned runs in 1⅔ innings, Allen settled into the starting rotation with three shutouts in his next seven starts. He finished the year with a remarkable 17-4 record, and according to Bill Dickey, “the meanest delivery in the league for a right-handed hitter.” https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/johnny-allen/; Mayer, 46-47.

17 Crosetti had been sold for an estimated $75,000 by the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League to the Yankees in August 1930. Manager McCarthy felt that the 19-year-old Crosetti needed another year of seasoning, and so the deal stipulated that Crosetti remain with the Seals for the 1931 season. Crosetti started the 1932 season at third, then was moved to shortstop, where he shared the position with Lyn Lary, the Yankees shortstop for all 155 games in 1931. Abe Kemp, “Crosetti Sold to New York Yankees,” San Francisco Examiner, August 24, 1930: 7.

18 Frederick G. Lieb, “Dope on American League Outlook,” The Sporting News, April 7, 1932: 3.

19 See Note 2 for explanation for differences in the reported Yankees record between the Baseball-Reference and Retrosheet websites. Perhaps the most significant hurdle the Yankees faced all season was the 30-day suspension imposed by AL President Will Harridge on Bill Dickey after he’d punched and broken the jaw of the Washington Senators’ Carl Reynolds. In the first game of a July 4 doubleheader at Griffith Stadium, Dickey slugged Reynolds after a collision at home plate, thinking Reynolds was intentionally trying to injure him. Dickey “was never so sorry about a thing in my life.” https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/bill-dickey/.

20 “Live Tips and Topics,” Boston Globe, September 23, 1932: 30.

21 The top starting pitcher on the Red Sox 1932 staff, using advanced pitching metrics (ERA+, FIP, and WHIP), was a tossup between Ivy Andrews (whom the Red Sox acquired from the Yankees in midseason) and Ed Durham. Kline was a uniquely (likely historically) poor pitcher, relative to his teammates, to have a large percentage of his team’s victories. Over the period 1920 to 1932, looking only at sub-.500 teams, 25 pitchers earned at least 25 percent of their team’s victories in a season. Only one of the 25, Kline, had an ERA above his team’s ERA (5.28 vs. 5.02). Kline’s singularly poor pitching stands out even more if you include all such pitchers on above-.500 teams as they tended to be dominant, with ERAs far below their team’s ERA – e.g., Lefty Grove on the A’s championship teams of 1931 and 1932.

22 Brown broke into the majors with the Chicago Cubs in 1926, but had played in only 15 games prior to 1932 and so was classified as a rookie. Weights for each starting pitcher were provided by the the Boston Globe in a summary of the game results the next day, identifying them tongue-in-cheek as Walter “Skinny” Brown and Bob “Teeny” Kline. The Globe may have been skimpy with its avoirdupois, as Brown’s weight was reported as high as 300 pounds, and Kline’s as high as 280 pounds that season. David F. Egan, “Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig Go Hitless,” Boston Globe, September 24, 1932: 9; https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/ivy-andrews/.

23 Marshall Hunt, “Brown Blanks Red Sox, 3-0,” New York Daily News, September 24, 1932: 22.

24 Dickey, along with Tony Lazzeri, represented the Yankees on the 1932 Sporting News All Stars. A combined AL/NL team was selected by the Baseball Writers Association of America for The Sporting News, with one honoree selected for each position, plus two pitchers. Edgar G. Brands, “Five New Faces Appear in The Sporting News’ All-Star Team of ’32,” The Sporting News, January 26, 1933: 3.

25 Chapman led the AL in stolen bases from 1931 through 1933. He is best known for the racist vitriol he heaped on Jackie Robinson during Robinson’s 1947 rookie season. Chapman, manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, unleashed a verbal barrage that unnerved Robinson but brought the Dodgers together in support of their pioneering teammate. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/ben-chapman/.

26 Rick McNair, “Red Sox: Boston’s 1932 Squad Is as Bad as It Gets in Franchise History,”


27 At that time, qualification for a batting title required only that a player appear in 100 games. Heading into the game on September 23, Alexander trailed Jimmie Foxx by two points (.361 versus .363).

28 “There were 3000 women customers, and 3000 paid customers, so it was a poor day for the stags. Everybody must have come with somebody else.” The Boston weather for September 23 included temperatures peaking at 80 degrees, with light rain. Egan, “Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig Go Hitless”; https://www.weather.gov/wrh/Climate?wfo=box.

29 Accounts of this play differ. The Boston Globe reported that Gehrig and Combs pulled off a double steal, but the accompanying box score didn’t list Combs as having a stolen base. The New York Daily News’s description of the play makes no mention of a double steal. Egan, “Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig Go Hitless”; Hunt, “Brown Blanks Red Sox, 3-0.”

30 Oliver, playing behind pitchers who were often shelled and between left and right fielders who were often slow-footed, remarked many years later that “If I’d received mileage for running in the outfield, I’d have been paid higher than Babe Ruth.” https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/tom-oliver/.

31 Six weeks earlier, on August 14, Pickering had set a major-league record for the most assists by a third baseman, in a 2-0 Johnny Welch shutout over the Philadelphia Athletics. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/urbane-pickering/.

32 Egan, “Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig Go Hitless.”

33 Prior to this at-bat, Welch was a career .304 hitter (14-for-46). In his first major-league at-bat, as a member of the Chicago Cubs, Welch singled off future Hall of Fame knuckleballer Jesse Haines.

34 McCarthy had been giving Gehrig a few innings off in most games after the Yankees had clinched the pennant. This was Gehrig’s 1,196th consecutive game played.

35 Sewell finished the 1932 season with a major-league record low for strikeouts in a season by a qualified batter, fanning only three times in 503 at-bats (576 plate appearances). This was his seventh season with fewer than 10 strikeouts in over 500 plate appearances. Through 2021, Sewell holds the major-league record for the lowest strikeout percentage in a career, 1.4 percent, equivalent to striking out once per 63 at-bats. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/joe-sewell/.

36 Crosetti’s defensive struggles throughout the season prompted speculation that Lary should be starting at shortstop in the coming World Series, despite the two having near-identical fielding percentages (.941 for Lary, .937 for Crosetti). The Boston Globe’s David Egan noted that “Crosetti booted two yesterday, and is regarded as the weak link in the Yankee chain.” McCarthy stuck with Crosetti at shortstop throughout the World Series. Egan, “Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig Go Hitless.”

37 The Yankees finished the season without having been shut out in a game. Only the 2000 Cincinnati Reds have matched that feat. https://www.audacy.com/wtic/blogs/rob-joyce/longest-streaks-without-being-shutout-mlb-history.

38 Hunt, “Brown Blanks Red Sox, 3-0.”

39 Hunt, “Brown Blanks Red Sox, 3-0.”

40 Alexander batted .367 for the season, Foxx .364. Foxx led the AL with 58 home runs and 169 RBIs. Under current rules (3.1 plate appearances per team game), Alexander would not have had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title (he had 432, versus 3.1 x 154 = 477).

41 Yawkey was determined to buy a baseball team for his 30th birthday (February 21, 1933), the date on which he was to inherit over $7 million from trust funds set up by his mother and foster father. Bill Braucher, “Hooks and Slides,” Marshfield (Wisconsin) News-Herald, March 31, 1933: 6.

42 Yawkey, together with general manager and future Hall of Famer Eddie Collins, rebuilt the Red Sox roster with talented players, including future Hall of Famers Rick Ferrell, Joe Cronin, Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, and Ted Williams. Collins spotted the 19-year-old Williams while scouting the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League. Collins later explained, “It wasn’t hard to find Ted Williams. He stood out like a brown cow in a field of white cows.” Yawkey also funded the repair and major upgrades to Fenway Park, including construction of the iconic left-field wall later dubbed the Green Monster. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/ted-williams/; Leigh Montville, Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero, (New York: Doubleday, 2005), 33-34.

43 Fenway Park’s address was originally 24 Jersey Street. In 1977 a section of Jersey Street nearest the park was renamed Yawkey Way, and Fenway Park’s address was changed to 4 Yawkey Way. In 2018 the street name reverted to Jersey Street, and Fenway Park’s address became 4 Jersey Street.

Additional Stats

New York Yankees 3
Boston Red Sox 0

Fenway Park
Boston, MA


Box Score + PBP:

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1930s ·