Pivotal World Series Plays
Hoyt Whitewashes Giants
1921 World Series Game 2: New York Giants@New York Yankees
New Yorkers talked about a Giants-Yankees World Series since spring training. When the prospect came to pass, the normally blasé city contracted baseball fever. It was hard to find New Yorkers who had no opinion on the Series.
The first two games of the Series harkened back to the pre-1920 Dead Ball Era. The Yankees won the opener at the Polo Grounds 3-0 behind their ace Carl Mays, who posted a 27-9 record during the season. The second game would also be low scoring despite Yankee manager Miller Huggins choosing a surprise starter.
Righthanded P Waite Hoyt came to the New York Yankees in a trade from the Boston Red Sox before the 1921 season as part of Boston owner Harry Frazee's sale or trade of his best and most promising players to raise cash to get out of debt.
At the time, no one considered Hoyt one of Boston's top players. He won only 10 games over two seasons for the Red Sox against 12 losses with an ERA of 4.52.
A native of Brooklyn, Hoyt drew the attention of baseball scouts while pitching for his high school team and throwing batting practice for the Brooklyn Robins and the New York Giants. He impressed Giants manager John McGraw enough that he made the 17-year-old the youngest boy ever to sign a major league contract.
After pitching three years in the minor leagues, Hoyt decided he'd pitch in the major leagues or nowhere in pro baseball. Frustrated by the young hurler's obstinance, McGraw traded Hoyt to New Orleans, but he refused to report.
L-R: 1921 World Series program, Waite Hoyt
Finally, the Red Sox purchased Hoyt's contract from the Giants. His American League debut on July 31, 1919, was quite impressive. "Schoolboy Wonder" Hoyt hurled a 12-inning complete game to defeat Detroit 2-1. But his inconsistency the rest of that season and throughout the next one made him expendable.
Hoyt earned Huggins's trust in May 1921 by throwing four consecutive complete-game victories on the road, each on three days' rest. He finished the season with a 19-13 record as the Yankees, led by Babe Ruth's 59 home runs and 168 RBI, won 30 of their final 41 games to capture the franchise's first pennant. It enhanced Hoyt's value to the Yankees that he and Ruth had been good friends since both played for the Red Sox in 1919.
With Yankee Stadium in the Bronx still two years away, the Yankees played their home games at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan. With all games at the same park, the teams alternated batting last, starting with the Giants.
After staff ace Carl Mays (27-9) shut out the Giants 3-0 at the Polo Grounds, Huggins chose Hoyt to start the second game.
L-R: John McGraw, Ross Youngs, Art Nehf
Hoyt recalled his first World Series start for sportswriter Francis J. Powers as part of the My Greatest Day in Baseball publication in 1945.
"As a native New Yorker and only 22, you can imagine my jubilation. ... I was keen to get a crack at the Giants. ... When I was only 16, my father signed a contract for me with McGraw. But McGraw didn't keep me around long. ... That was one extra reason I wanted to pitch.
"Another reason developed the day before the series opened. ...The Giants took their workout from 10 to 2 in the morning and then we had the field. I was warming up in the bull pen, getting ready to pitch in batting practice when I heard a hard, rasping voice at my elbow. 'So that's the young punk who expects to beat us.' It was Ross Youngs talking to Frankie Frisch ... It was strictly a rib, plain and unsparing, but at the time I took it as a personal insult and promised myself I'd beat those fellows." McGraw had told friends that the Giants would "murder" Hoyt's fastball.
As Hoyt warmed up before Game 2, "I admit I was nervous ... There were photographers milling around, sports writers asking questions and fights in the grandstands, for New York was taking its subway series seriously."
Hoyt set the Giants down in order in the top of the first. The Yankees threatened in the bottom of the inning against Art Nehf on walks to CF Elmer Miller and LF Ruth. But the Giants got out of it unscathed when RF Bob Meusel lined to 3B Frisch, who doubled off Miller at second.
L-R: Elmer Miller, Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel
In the second, Hoyt got some revenge on his pre-series tormentor. "I made (RF) Youngs look bad on slow balls." Ross grounded out as the Giants went down in order again.
"I began to get confidence," Hoyt recalled. "I had spells of wildness, but I kept turning the Giants back, inning after inning. Johnny Rawlings, the fast little second baseman, clipped one that bounced over Mike McNally's head at third." That was the only hit the Giants got until the ninth.
Meanwhile, the Yankees got to Nehf for a run in the fourth. 2B Aaron Ward hit a one-out single. McNally grounded to the mound, but Nehf threw badly to second trying to start a double play and got nobody out. C Wally Schang drew a walk to load the bases. Then came a strange play. Hoyt grounded to 2B Rawlings, who threw the batter out at first as Ward scored. But McNally tried to sneak home also and was nipped at the plate by Kelly's good throw to C Earl Smith. 1-0 Yankees
L-R: Johnny Rawlings, Mike McNally, Aaron Ward
Hoyt kept racking up goose eggs on the scoreboard. "The Giants did everything they knew to get me out of the box, to get me up in the air. They even read the advertisements in the newspapers. Shortly before the series opening, I had signed a testimonial for some brand of soap. The Giants had seen the ads. McGraw never missed a trick. Once, after grounding out, when I was on my way back to the bench, a cake of soap came flying out of the Giant bench and landed at my feet. That was too much. I picked up the soap and with plenty of speed fired it back, and it just shaved McGraw's ear. Man, those Giants really singed my hair with their retorts–uncourteous. But it was no go; the Giants couldn't bother me that day."
The Yankees added to their lead in the eighth with the help of some more shoddy Giants fielding. 2B Frisch muffed Roger Peckinpaugh's easy fly back of second base after confusion with SS Dave Bancroft. Ruth smashed a grounder to Kelly, who threw to Bancroft to force Peck at second. Ruth sprinted from first to third on Meusel's single to center, beating CF George Burns' throw by a hair, with the batter taking second. Babe scored when Pipp grounded to second, Meusel moving to third. On the first pitch to Ward, Meusel surprised everyone, including the Giants, by stealing home as C Smith dropped the ball.
Ruth said after the game, during which he walked three times: "I can't knock home runs if the Giant pitchers walk me, but I can run the bases."
L-R: Wally Schang, Roger Peckinpaugh, Dave Bancroft
Pitching with a 3-0 lead in the ninth, Hoyt gave up a single to Frisch and walked Youngs with one out. But he ended his two-hitter with a flourish when Kelly bounced into a 5-4-3 double play.
The Giants had gone the first 18 innings of the World Series without scoring a run. But McGraw said, "I am anything but discouraged." His team had averaged nearly .300 for the season. He was confident they would start hitting, and they did.
References: My Greatest Day in Baseball As Told To John P. Carmichael and other noted sportswriters (1945)
John McGraw, Charles C. Alexander (1988)
1921: The Yankees, the Giants, & the Battle for Baseball Supremacy in New York, Lyle Spatz and Steve Steinberg (2010)
"Waite Hoyt," Society for American Baseball Research Biography Project, Gregory H. Wolf