December 2 – Happy Birthday Ray Morehart

morehartIt took the New York Yankees about two decades to learn how to get to the World Series and a couple more years to figure out how to win one, but once they created the formula, they applied it more efficiently than any other franchise in the history of professional sports. It required owners who had lots of money at their disposal who were willing to spend it freely; plus a front-office executive who could convert that money into great scouting, shrewd signings and clever trades; plus a manager who had the ability to put those players on the field and in the positions they needed to be to perform most effectively. But most of all, the Yankee formula for success required getting 25 of the best players possible under contract and then somehow motivating them to deliver when called upon.

No one could blame Miller Huggins if he thought his 1924 Yankee team was a cinch to win a fourth straight AL Pennant or even a second straight World Championship. Instead the team finished second to the Washington Senators and then collapsed to seventh place the following year. How could the fortunes of a team with Babe Ruth in his prime in its lineup reverse so rapidly? Huggins blamed complacency and too much partying off the field. He was determined to shake up his roster by getting rid of some of some veterans and bringing in some young talent that was capable of challenging the Yankee starters for playing time. Those new faces included young Yankee infield prospects like Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri and Mark Koenig and it would be those three Baby Bronx Bombers who helped lead the Yankees back to the World Series in 1926.

Determined not to repeat his mistake, Huggins had Barrow make a deal with the White Sox in January of 1927 that brought catcher Johnny Grabowski and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant to New York for veteran second baseman, Aaron Ward. Originally, the Yankee skipper expected Ray Morehart to be his utility infielder during the 1927 season. The native of Abner, Texas had been known for his defensive ability more than his bat, but he raised some eyebrows when he hit .318 during his final season in Chicago. When he bested all of the great Yankees in that legendary Murderers’ Row lineup with a .378 batting average during his first spring training season with the team, Huggins started thinking he could start Morehart at second. That would permit him to move Lazzeri to short and shift Koenig over to third where he would replace Joe Dugan, who was the only starting infielder on the team who had reached the age of 30. That meant every infielder but Gehrig would have somebody behind him pressing for playing time which suited old “Hug” just fine.

Both Dugan and backup third baseman Mike Gazella started the season hitting the ball well as did both Lazzeri and Koenig. This greatly restricted Morehart’s innings and at bats, which helped turn his hot spring training bat ice cold. Eventually, Huggins did begin playing Lazzeri at both third and short and inserted Morehart at second, where the first-year Yankee impressed everyone with his outstanding defense. The more at bats he got, the better he hit too. He raised his average almost two hundred points over the two months he played regularly and became a valuable little piece of that legendary 1927 Yankee team.

Still, there was too much talent on that roster to keep Morehart a part of it and he was let go following his only year on the team. He would never again appear in a big league ball game. He continued playing minor league ball until 1933.

Morehart shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher from the 1930s.

1927 NYY 73 230 195 45 50 7 2 1 20 4 29 18 .256 .353 .328 .681
3 Yrs 177 558 487 82 131 21 7 1 47 10 57 40 .269 .347 .347 .694
CHW (2 yrs) 104 328 292 37 81 14 5 0 27 6 28 22 .277 .343 .360 .702
NYY (1 yr) 73 230 195 45 50 7 2 1 20 4 29 18 .256 .353 .328 .681
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/2/2013.

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