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By The Numbers: A Forgotten Season: Gehrig in ’27

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Lou Gehrig. The name is still magic. Some of the words that come to mind when you hear his name are: class…consistency…reliability…power. By virtually every metric, he must be rated as the greatest of all first basemen, notwithstanding the awesome figures of Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, Willie McCovey and Willie Stargell, to name but a few Hall of Fame initial sackers.

And, of course, there was the colossal presence of one George Herman Ruth…The Babe…from whose shadow Gehrig could never really escape.

And yet, Gehrig left us an enduring legacy and batting statistics that are sterling.

For this episode of By The Numbers, I would like to focus on a season Gehrig had when he played on what has come to be known as arguably the greatest team ever, the 1927 Yankees.

The Yankees were in first place from Opening Day and held that position throughout the season. Winning 110 games, they swept a very good Pittsburgh Pirates team (4-0) in the World Series. For nearly six months Ruth and Gehrig were engaged in the first real home run derby, totaling 107 circuit clouts between them, the first time the century mark for homeruns by teammates had ever been attained. This unparalleled 1-2 punch had Ruth batting third with Gehrig following him in the clean-up slot. That was quite a year! Ruth swatted 60 homeruns, solo pilot Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic Ocean and entertainer Al Jolson starred in the talking movie, The Jazz Singer. The Roaring Twenties!

Back to Gehrig in 1927…these are the numbers he put up:

Statistic Number
At Bats    AB 584
Batting Average    BA .373
Runs    R 149
Hits    H 218
Extra Base Hits    XBH 117
Homeruns    HR 47
On Base Average    OBA .474
Slugging Average    SLG .765
On Base Plus Slugging    OPS = OBA+SLG 1.239
Isolated Power    ISO = SLG – BA .392
Power Factor    PF = SLG/BA 2.051
Power Average    PA = (H+HR)/AB .454

By all accounts, these numbers reflect one of the most prolific batting seasons ever. The XBHs total of 117 was the second highest ever, falling two short of Ruth’s 119 made in 1921. These XBHs totals are even more amazing when one reflects on the fact that both Gehrig and Ruth played in 154–game seasons.  Another observation to be made is that Gehrig’s 47 HRs were the highest number of homers ever recorded by anyone not named Ruth.

However, there is one statistic which we have deliberately failed to mention up to this point: runs batted in (RBIs). When one realizes that Gehrig came to bat at least sixty times with no one on base, the only run he could drive in was himself. So, how many runs did Gehrig drive home during the 1927 campaign?

Would you believe Lou Gehrig drove in 175 runs that year!?

What a year for Larruping Lou! ‘Nuff said!

Next Blog: Should Gil Hodges be in the Hall of Fame?