Last of the Best
Mark Koenig, who died last week in California at the age of 90, was the last survivor of the fabulous 1927 New York Yankees, the team generally regarded even now, 66 seasons later, as the greatest in baseball history. Babe Ruth hit 60 homers for those Yanks, Lou Gehrig 47. Eye-opening figures even today, but in the '20s those stats were overwhelming. The third-highest home run total in the American League in '27 was only 18, and it belonged to another Yankee, second baseman Tony Lazzeri. As a team the Yankees hit almost three times as many homers as any other club in the league.
And their superiority didn't manifest itself in home runs alone. Centerfielder Earle Combs led the league in triples. Gehrig led it in doubles. Ruth, Gehrig and Combs were 1-2-3 in runs scored. Gehrig had 175 runs batted in, Ruth 164; the third man in the league was 44 RBIs behind the Babe. Gehrig, Ruth and Combs were 1-2-3 in total bases. Leftfielder Bob Meusel missed 23 games and still batted in 103 runs.
The Yankees also were formidable on the mound. Their pitchers led the league in shutouts, with 11, and allowed 109 fewer runs than any other staff. Wiley Moore (19 wins, seven losses) led the league with a 2.28 earned run average, Waite Hoyt (22-7) was second at 2.63, Urban Shocker (18-6) was third at 2.84, and Herb Pen-nock (19-8) was seventh at 3.00.
New York was in first place all season. It won 110 games (in a 154-game season), finished 19 games ahead of the second-place Philadelphia Athletics, who had seven future Hall of Famers—ironically, only five members of the '27 Yankees would make it to Cooperstown—and beat Pittsburgh in four straight games in the World Series, outscoring the Pirates 23 to 10. Ruth batted .400 in that Series but still hit well below the Series-leading .500 turned in by New York's young shortstop, Mark Koenig.
Easing concerns that he was going the way of George Bush on environmental issues, President Clinton said last week that the U.S. would combat global warming by cutting emissions of greenhouse gases and that he would sign an international treaty protecting endangered species of plants and animals. While these assurances were certainly welcome—both measures had been opposed by Bush when he was president—Clinton's resolve in protecting the environment will continue to be tested. This is especially true of his pledge to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, something that can be accomplished only through rigorous measures to limit the burning of fossil fuels.
Greenhouse gases—like the windows of a greenhouse, they trap heat from the sun—have been building up in the atmosphere over the last two centuries as the result of industrialization and deforestation. The global temperature is about one degree Fahrenheit warmer than it was in the 19th century, and if carbon dioxide emissions are left unchecked, it could be another three degrees warmer by 2025. Such increases would result in coastal flooding, drought conditions and the loss of forests, plants and animals.
Clinton said he would take measures that by the year 2000 would reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels. He said he would announce a plan by August; in the meantime, he said he would sign executive orders committing the government to buy thousands of U.S.-made vehicles that would run on electricity, natural gas, methanol and ethanol. But the environmental benefits of these energy alternatives—methanol and ethanol, in particular—are questionable. Moreover, although Clinton said the U.S. would return emissions to 1990 levels, he didn't say he would keep them there or reduce them further. Representatives of environmental organizations had pressed for adoption of this second step, but the White House would only go halfway.