June 28, 2016

The 1920’s: Beginning of the Golden Age of Sports

Historians point to the 1920’s as the beginning of the Golden Age of American Sports. It also has been called the Age of the Spectator. The United States had a strong economy for most of that decade. Many workers had more leisure time and discretionary income to spend. New and bigger stadiums and gymnasiums were built. The introduction of the radio made it easier for fans to keep up with their favorite teams. Newspapers increased their coverage os sports. Improvements in roads made it possible for fans to travel to watch games and events in distant cities and towns. For the first time, large numbers of Americans began to pay to watch professional and amateur athletes compete in games.

Babe RuthBaseball was the “National Pastime” in the 1920’s. More people went to baseball games, more people followed baseball, and more people played baseball than any other sport. The most famous athlete in the United States in the 1920’s was baseball star George Herman “Babe” Ruth, the right fielder for the New York Yankees. The colorful Ruth hit more home runs than any player had ever hit before. He captivated fans with his outgoing personality and was the perfect hero for the Roaring Twenties.





On April 18, 1923 Yankee Stadium opened and at the time, it was hailed as a one-of-a-kind facility in the country for its size. The stadium was built from 1922 to 1923 for $2.4 million ($32 million in 2014 dollars). The stadium’s construction was paid for entirely by Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, who was eager to have his own stadium after sharing the Polo Grounds with the New York Giants baseball team the previous 10 years. Over the course of the history of this stadium, it hosted a variety of sports events many with historic moments became one of the most famous venues in the United States.

The 1920’s was also a decade when college football became more popular. Notre Dame, coached by Knute Rockne, became the most famous college football team. Illinois star Harold “Red Grange” became a household name. The best college teams would compete in bowl games such as the famous Rose Bowl held in California.

Boxing was popular too. Heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey was almost as famous as Babe Ruth. Horse racing, golf, and tennis all had their fans. College basketball was still a young sport. Professional football and basketball were minor sports.

Baseball in New York

New York teams dominated Major League Baseball with either the Yankees or the Giants winning the World Series. The New York Giants won in 1921 and 1922 and the New York Yankees won in 1923, 1927, and 1928.

The 1927 New York Yankees

Murders RowThe 1927 New York Yankees are widely considered to be the best team in the history of Major League Baseball. They became the first team in baseball history to occupy first place every day of the season. Their final record was 110–44 and they finished 19 games ahead of the second place Philadelphia Athletics. En route to their fifth pennant, the 110 victories broke the previous American League mark of 105 set by the 1912 Boston Red Sox and would stand as the American League single-season record until it was broken by the Cleveland Indians in 1954. The Yankees swept the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 in the 1927 World Series.

An amazingly balanced team, New York was the fourth team in league history to have both the highest batting average and the lowest earned run average in the same season. This Yankee team is known for their feared lineup, which was nicknamed “Murders’ Row.” The roster included seven future Hall of Famers: Pitchers Herb Pennock and Waite Hoyt, Infielders Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri, Outfielders Babe Ruth and Earle Combs, and Manager Miller Huggins.

As a team, the 1927 Yankees batted .307, slugged .489, scored 975 runs, and outscored their opponents by a record 376 runs. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig combined to form the most devastating offensive tandem in baseball history. Together, they set major league records for teammates in six different batting categories, specifically with 107 home runs, 339 runs batted in, 864 total bases, 214 extra base hits, a .769 slugging average, and 307 runs scored. In fact, to further illustrate just how destructive this pair was, not only one of them, but both men had just posted one of the top five individual marks in history in each of those categories. Gehrig batted .373, with 218 hits, 52 doubles, 18 triples, 47 home runs, a then record 175 RBIs, slugged at .765, and was voted A.L. MVP. Ruth amassed a .356 batting average, 164 RBIs, 158 runs scored, walked 137 times, and slugged .772. Most notably, his 60 home runs that year broke his own record of 59 and remained the Major League mark for 34 years until Roger Maris of the New York Yankees broke it in 1961 by hitting 61.