Tourtellotte: ‘Five O’Clock Lightning,’ a myth of the 1927 Yankees

From SABR member Shane Tourtellotte at The Hardball Times on August 1, 2018:

Whenever there is a discussion or debate about the greatest teams in baseball history, there is one candidate guaranteed to be in the mix: the 1927 New York Yankees. Their 110-44 record tore apart the American League, but opponents were almost too stunned by the display of sheer power to notice the standings. Babe Ruth, in his epochal 60-homer season, famously out-homered every other team in the AL. It was salt in the wound that Lou Gehrig, with 47 round-trippers, himself out-homered half the teams in the league, by double digits.

The lore began springing up around the ’27 Yanks well before their World Series sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates capped the season. Their lineup acquired a classic nickname that has stood the test of time. The batting order fronted by Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Tony Lazzeri would ever after be known as Murderers’ Row. Koenig’s light hitting didn’t really earn him a two-hole spot, certainly not as batting orders are constructed today. I doubt he ever complained of his good fortune.

There’s one small hitch to the story: it wasn’t the first time the Yankees had been called “Murderers’ Row.” Nine years earlier, an entirely different Yankees lineup earned that moniker from sportswriters. The 1918 squad did boast Frank “Home Run” Baker, but supporting players like Roger Peckinpaugh and Wally Pipp—yes, that Wally Pipp—not to mention Frank Gilhooley and Ping Bodie, don’t quite resonate with fans in the same way that Ruth and Gehrig or even Combs and Lazzeri do.

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Originally published: August 1, 2018. Last Updated: August 1, 2018.