Early to bed,
early to rise would have been advice wasted on many of those Yankees, who could
hit even half asleep. Besides Ruth's 60 homers—four more than the total hit by
any of the seven other clubs in the American League that season—Lou Gehrig hit
47. The Yankees belted 158 homers. Ruth, the rightfielder, batted .356, drove
in 164 runs and led the league in runs scored, with 158. First baseman Gehrig
batted .373 and topped the league with 52 doubles and a then record 175 RBIs.
Centerfielder Earle Combs also hit .356 and was first in the league in base
hits, 231, and triples, 23. Meusel batted .337, knocked in 103 runs and stole
24 bases, second in the league. Second baseman Tony Lazzeri hit .309 with 102
RBIs and 22 stolen bases, third in the league. It was, as the phrase of the day
had it, a Murderers' Row.
Huggins was a good manager, although he was a nervous little guy who moved his
feet a lot in the dugout," says Koenig. "But he didn't have to be much
of a strategist with that club. Lots of times, we'd be down five, six runs, and
then have a big inning to win the ball game.
"Ruth was the
best athlete on the team. He had a great pair of hands. I never saw him drop a
fly ball. He had a wonderful arm, and I can't ever remember him throwing to the
wrong base. And he was pretty fast for a man his size."
opposite of the flamboyant Ruth, of course, was the subdued Gehrig. "Gehrig
was a very nice chap," says Koenig. "I don't know how he ever got
married. He was so bashful. I never saw him with a girl."
Columbia University for two years before signing with the Yankees. Koenig
doesn't visualize Columbia Lou as a typically cerebral Ivy Leaguer,
"One time in
Waco, Texas," Koenig says, recalling a barnstorming trip, "Gene
Robertson, our third baseman, Gehrig and myself were sitting on top of the
third base dugout. There was a big screen behind it. Robertson said, 'Gee, they
could sure hurl epithets at you here.' Gehrig turned around and said, 'They
can't throw them through that screen.' "
The Yankees of
the Roaring '20s always were good for a laugh, whether at their own expense or
in inventing a roaring good time.
"We had some
friends in St. Louis who made home brew," Koenig says, "and we knew
where to get the most wonderful slabs of barbecued ribs. On the train trip home
from St. Louis, we'd sit in boxcars, open the doors, eat the ribs and throw
empty beer bottles at passing light poles."
Tempers did fly
on occasion. Late one season the Yankees were in Baltimore for an exhibition
game. Ruth played first base that day in his hometown. A double-play grounder
was hit to Lazzeri at second, but his throw sailed over Koenig's head. Ruth
began yelling at Koenig, convinced that the shortstop had made no effort to
catch the ball. When the inning concluded, Ruth was still fuming.
batting second the next inning," Koenig says, "and I was leaning over
to pick up a bat when Ruth came up behind me and shoved me down the dugout
stairs. We just wrestled; no punches were thrown. Ruth was six feet two, 215.
I'm six-even, and weighed 170 then, but I handled him O.K.