SI Vault
Noel Hynd
November 03, 1986
In 1912 the New York baseball club in the American League was a sorry operation indeed. Known as the Highlanders, they played in rickety, wooden Hilltop Park at Broadway and 165th Street and finished last in the league that year.
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November 03, 1986

When The Yankees Beat The Giants In The 1923 Series, A New Era Began

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Art Nehf, the Giants pitcher, had been coasting. He had pitched a shutout only three days earlier, but now in the eighth, Yankees Wally Schang and Everett Scott both singled. Then Nehf walked two pinch hitters on eight pitches, forcing in a run; he had lost his stuff so quickly that McGraw hadn't had time to warm up Rosy Ryan, his best reliever. Ryan had to come in anyway. He walked Joe Dugan and the Yankees had another run. The score was 4-3, and Ruth was up next.

Somehow, Ryan managed to pull himself together. In the final gasp of old time, inside baseball, Ryan fanned Ruth. Perhaps he then thought the worst was over and that the Giants could hold on. If so, he thought wrong. There was no Gehrig to follow Ruth yet—McGraw had seen to that—but there was Meusel, who bounced a ball over Ryan's head. When Bill Cunningham kicked the ball around in centerfield, the three men already on base scored. The Yankees had five runs in the inning, and 25 minutes later they returned to Yankee Stadium with their first world championship.

McGraw was strangely gracious and philosophical when it was over. "The best team won," he allowed. "The old guard changes but never surrenders." McGraw must have had an inkling of time passing him by. At 50 he was old beyond his years—his face lined, his hair white and his waistline thick. Worse, McGraw must have known how the public would interpret the 1923 World Series: The mighty Giants had been dethroned by the sluggers from the Bronx. By the next season young players across the land would be holding big bats down by the knob and swinging from the heels.

That is, of course, exactly what happened. The stars who evolved over the next few years were all sluggers: Ruth, Gehrig, Hornsby, Jimmy Foxx, Hack Wilson, Chuck Klein. Inside baseball was dead. The home run and the big inning—TNT ball, as it was called at the time—had killed it.

McGraw appeared in one more World Series, the following year against Washington. The American League won that one, too. McGraw's teams remained contenders after that, but they would never again finish first.

As for the Yankees, the nucleus was in place for the great, explosive teams that would rule baseball for the next half century. Playing exactly the type of ball that McGraw had so loathed, the Yankees would go on to win 33 pennants and 22 Series titles. Their park in the Bronx may have been the house that Ruth built, but John J. McGraw, the perfect foil, had certainly laid the foundation.

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