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Article:The Great Boston Pitching Robbery

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by Harold Friend

Steve Laden recently was reading about the 1918 World Champion Red Sox. As he analyzed their pitching staff, his anger grew and grew. He quickly realized that the Great Boston Pitching Robbery was something that was rarely mentioned.

World Champion Boston Red Sox

The 1918 Boston Red Sox handily defeated the Chicago Cubs in the World Series to win their fifth World Series since 1903, which was not news to me, but as I looked over the Sox' pitching staff and realized what happened, I got angrier and angrier.

The Yankees Steal Carl Mays

Carl Mays led the team with 21 wins, 13 losses, a 2.21 ERA, a 122 ERA+, and a 1.060 WHIP. On July 29, 1919, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee traded Mays to the New York Yankees for pitchers Bob McGraw, Allen Russell, and $40,000. Not too many of my friends, or even my grandfather's friends, remember Bob McGraw or Allen Russell.

The Yankees Seek More Help From the Red Sox

The Yankees won their first of their 40 pennants in 1921, but even then, no season was considered successful unless the Yankees won the last game. The rival New York Giants beat the Yankees in the World Series, which prompted the Yankees to go their friends in Boston for help.

The Great Boston Pitching Robbery Was in High Gear

On Dec. 20, 1921, the Great Boston Pitching Robbery was in high gear. In one fell swoop, the Yankees acquired Sad Sam Jones and Bullet Joe Bush. In 1921, Sad Sam had been a 23 game winner, while Bush won 15. Since the Yankees needed a shortstop, the Red Sox included Everett Scott, who was offensively challenged, but who was an outstanding fielder. The Yankees now had the 1918 World Champions' top three pitchers, with the best yet to come.

Ed Barrow

Ed Barrow became the Red Sox manager in 1918, Realizing that one of his pitchers, left hander Babe Ruth, was a pretty good hitter, Barrow utilized Ruth's power by having him play left field in 47 games, and in center field 12 games. Twenty-three year old Ruth hit .300 and tied Tilly Walker for the home run title with 11. Babe won 13 games, lost 7, and had a 2.22 ERA.

A Day That Lives in Baseball Infamy

Jan. 3, 1920, is a day that lives in infamy, not only in Boston, but everywhere there are fair-minded individuals who are not Yankees' fans. Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth's services to the Yankees for $100,000.

Although he started 15 games for Boston in 1919, the Yankees had no intention of using Ruth on the mound. He played the outfield full time, and the rest is history.

Ruth had one of the greatest seasons of all time in 1920, hitting .376, with an unbelievable 54 home runs. His on base average was .533, and he slugged .849. The Yankees finished third, behind the Indians and White Sox.

The New General Manager

Ed Barrow was the answer. He became the Yankees' general manager, and the Yankees won three consecutive pennants, but even with Barrow calling the shots, they lost the World Series in 1921 and 1922 before finally winning it in 1923.

Barrow Steals a Young Lefty

When Boston won in 1918, they had a young left hander who had missed the season because he was helping his freedom-loving country win the war to end all wars. In the winter of 1923, Ed Barrow stole Herb Pennock from the Red Sox for $50,000. Barrow threw in Norm McMillan, George Murray, and Camp Skinner.

Lou Gehrig Was No Longer Useful to the Yankees

There is a revealing incident with respect to Ed Barrow. When Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS in 1939, Barrow told Eleanor Gehrig that her husband should look for another line of work since he was no longer of any use to the Yankees.

Waite Hoyt and Red Ruffing

The Yankees didn't stop stealing from the Red Sox. In Dec. 1920, they acquired Waite Hoyt and catcher Wally Schang. A few years later, on May 6, 1930 Boston sent Red Ruffing to the Yankees for $50,000 and outfielder Cedric Durst. Ruffing was a major cog in the 1936-39 World Championship Yankees' teams.

I often dream about how it would have been if the Red Sox, and many other teams (see Arnold Johnson and Kansas City) had not allowed the Yankees to make purchases the resulted in the Yankees dominating baseball. My dream really isn't a dream. It's more like a nightmare.


1918 World Champion Red Sox

Ed Barrow at Baseball Library

Deadball Era

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