Appel: An appreciation of Red Ruffing

From SABR member Marty Appel at The National Pastime Museum on June 19, 2014:

On Saturday afternoon, August 5, 1939, Red Ruffing went out and did what he usually did when he started a game for the New York Yankees. Pitching off the very flat mound of Yankee Stadium, Ruffing hurled a complete game 6–1 victory over Cleveland, allowing seven hits and a walk (the run was unearned). As a batter, he went 2 for 2 with a home run (Joe DiMaggio also homered). The game took one hour and 37 minutes and was played before 13,207 fans.

Just another day at the office for Red.

It gave him a 15–4 record for the season, one in which he would finish 21–7 for a team rated one of the best of all time. At 34, it was his fourth consecutive 20-win season. The home run was the 30th of his career (he would hit six more). He was one of the best-hitting pitchers in baseball history.

Generally unnoticed that day was the fact that the victory was his 169th as a Yankee, and it enabled him to pass Bob Shawkey as the franchise’s career leader. Little attention was paid to such things in the ’30s. There were no PR departments to hand out such notes. It would have taken an enterprising journalist to spot it, and it doesn’t appear that any did. (Not every newspaper is available for back research.)

Ruffing went on to win 231 games for the Yankees, and that remained the club record until Whitey Ford won his 232nd game with his final win in 1965. He would win only four more over the next two years and finished with 236. And there they sit atop the Yankees leader board—Ford 236, Ruffing 231.

But wait.

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Originally published: June 19, 2014. Last Updated: June 19, 2014.