Damn Yankees

This is for you Yankee haters (or lovers) out there.

Babe Ruth joined the Yankees in 1920.  The team then dominated baseball for 45 years, through 1964. During that time the Yankees appeared twenty nine times in the World Series, winning it twenty times.  Translates into winning the Pennant 66% of those years, and the World Series 45% of the time. 

You can break the dynasty into three eras, based on star players:

  • The 20’s and early 30’s: Babe Ruth (1920 – 1934) and Lou Gehrig (1925 - 1934)

  • The late 30's and 40's: Lou Gehrig's last years (1935 – 1939) and Joe DiMaggio (1936 – 1951)

  • The 50’s and 60’s: Mickey Mantle (1951 – 1968)

Which of those teams was the most dominant in its time? Which was the best of the Yankee dynasty?

Babe Ruth Era

The Sultan of Swat

The Sultan of Swat

The 1927 Yankees team, featuring ‘Murderers' Row’, is considered by some to be the best team ever. Ruth’s 60 home runs exceeded the total of any other team in the American league.  Gehrig added another 47 home runs.  Even their second basemen, Tony Lazzeri hit 18, good for third place in the League.  The team won 110 games, a .714 winning percentage, one of the best ever.  (For extra credit, can you name the teams and seasons that had a higher winning percentage?  Answer below).  The 1927 team finished in first place by 19 games, scoring 976 runs, still one of the highest totals ever.

Prior to 1927, in Ruth’s first seven years with the team, they appeared in the World Series four times, but only won once. The team repeated in 1928, but won the Pennant over the Philadelphia Athletics by only two games.  In both 1927 and 1928, the Yankees swept the World Series 4 – 0.  And after 1928, Ruth only appeared in one more World Series, 1932, against, who else, the Chicago Cubs. Overall, Ruth played a total of fifteen years for the Yankees.  In those years, the Yankees appeared in the World Series seven times, winning four.  Pretty good.

Joe DiMaggio Era

The Yankee Clipper

The Yankee Clipper

Joe DiMaggio started his career with the Yankees in 1936 overlapping with Lou Gehrig until 1939. He played through 1951 for thirteen years, missing three years during World War II.  In the thirteen years that DiMaggio played, the Yankees appeared in the World Series ten times winning nine of them. DiMaggio and the Yankees only lost a World Series once! The Yankees won the series four years in a row, from 1936-9 (a ‘four-peat’), only losing three World Series games in those four years. Their average Pennant winning margin was fifteen games in those four years. Wow. The team was so dominant that DiMaggio only played once in a World Series game 7, as the team  usually would win in 4 or 5 games.



The Mick

The Mick

Mickey Mantle Era

The final era starts in 1951, Mickey Mantle’s rookie year, and goes through 1964.  In this fourteen-year period, the Yankees won the Pennant twelve times, winning the World Series seven times. That’s a bit unfair.  In 1956 Mantle won the triple crown, leading the league in home runs, runs batted in and batting average, a rare feat.  Mantle played eight times in a World Series game 7, winning four and losing four.  He is the all-time leader in World Series home runs with 18 (Second place, by-the-way, Ruth with 15, Yogi Berra with 12). The team was completely rebuilt over this timeframe – by the 1960's, the only players left from the early 50’s were Mantle, catcher Yogi Berra and pitcher Whitey Ford.  Poor Cleveland finished second five times to the Yankees. And the White Sox finished second four times during these years. 


Summarizing the results:


World Series Appearances

World Series Wins

Overall 1920 – 1964

29 (66%)

20 (45%)

1920 – 1934

7 (47%)

4 (27%)

1936 – 1950

10 (66%)

9 (60%)

1951 – 1964

12 (86%)

7 (50%)

Surprisingly, the Yankees of the Babe Ruth era are the weakest of the Yankee dynasties. They ‘only’ reached the series 47% of the time.  Some other teams had success during this time period. Both the Washington Senators (‘first in war, first in peace, last in the American League’) and the  Philadelphia A’s won the Pennant three times during this time.

It is a close call between the 1936 – 1950 DiMaggio era and the subsequent Mantle era. When Mantle joined the team in 1951, they were almost an automatic lock to win the Pennant, appearing the series twelve out of fourteen years.  On the other hand, the 1936 – 1950 teams only lost the World Series once in ten appearances making them, in my opinion, the most dominant Yankee dynasty.

After 1964, the Yankees had a twelve-year dry spell.  But in the six-year period from 1976 through 1981, the Yankees appeared in four World Series, winning two.  After another fifteen-year dry spell, in the eight years from 1996 through 2003,  they won the Pennant six times, and the World Series four times.  

The Yankees have not been in the World Series since 2009. But the 2018 Yankees look pretty good. Could be their year!

Trivia Question

Which teams had a higher winning percentage than the 1927 Yankees? As shown in the table below,  four teams had a higher winning percentage, but only one was able to win the World Series.




Post Season Result

1906 Cubs

116 – 36


Lost World Series to Chicago White Sox

1954 Indians

111 – 43


Lost World Series to NY Giants

1909 Pirates

110 – 42


Defeated Detroit in World Series

2001 Seattle Mariners

116 – 46


Lost in Playoffs to, you guessed it, the Yankees

1927 Yankees

110 – 44


Defeated Pittsburgh in World Series