1929 Philadelphia A’s
104 – 46 (0.693)
Fifteen years after his perennial pennant-winning powerhouse was dismantled in 1914, Connie Mack finally managed to rebuild another juggernaut in Philadephia in the late 1920s. After a valiant but unsuccessful run at the powerful Yankees in 1928, Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics finally took the pennant in 1929. Philadelphia’s White Elephants had finally usurped New York’s Murderer’s Row as the dominant force in the American League.
The Yankees introduced uniform numbers in 1929, but the numbers put up by their rivals were the only ones that mattered. Philadelphia’s pitching staff, which boasted the lowest ERA in the AL, included two twenty-game winners — George Earnshaw and Lefty Grove, who led the majors in victories and ERA, respectively. Five of the eight regulars in the A’s lineup batted .300, including Al Simmons, who topped the league with 157 RBIs.
Everything clicked into place. Young Jimmie Foxx, who had been shunted around the infield to get his bat into the lineup, finally found a home at first base when Joe Hauser was sold to Cleveland. He responded with a .354 average, 33 homers, and 117 RBIs. Mickey Cochrane again starred behind the plate. Outfielders Bing Miller and Mule Haas, who had replaced aging legends Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker the year before, each hit .300 alongside Simmons; Miller led the club with 24 stolen bases.
Philadelphia rolled away from New York early in the summer, and by August their title seemed so assured that Shibe Park‘s attendance began to dip. (One local newspaper suggested that A’s weren’t “colorful enough” to draw fans.) Although they didn’t officially clinch the pennant until September 14th, a sweep of the reeling Bronx Bombers over the Labor Day weekend erased any doubt that the A’s would be crowned AL champs.
Grove was the logical choice for Game One of the World Series against the Cubs, but Mack surprised everyone by giving the ball to control specialist Howard Ehmke. The move caught the Cubs off guard, and Ehmke set a World Series record with 13 strikeouts. “The long, lazy right arm of Howard Ehmke,” wrote Grantland Rice, “fell across the back of the Cubs like a whip.” With Grove and Earnshaw still in reserve, the A’s wrapped up the Series in five games.