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2018 SABR Baseball Research Award Winner
Baseball in the 1920s is most known for Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees, but there was another great Yankee player in that era whose compelling story remains untold. Urban Shocker was a fiercely competitive and colorful pitcher, a spitballer who had many famous battles with Babe Ruth before returning to the Yankees. Shocker was traded away to the St. Louis Browns in 1918 by Yankees manager Miller Huggins, a trade Huggins always regretted. In 1925, after four straight seasons with at least twenty wins with the hapless Browns, Shocker became the only player Huggins brought back to the Yankees. He finally reached the World Series, with the 1926 Yankees.
In the Yankees’ storied 1927 season, widely viewed to be the best in MLB history, Shocker pitched with guts and guile, finishing with a record of 18?6 even while his fastball and physical skills were deserting him. Hardly anyone knew that Shocker was suffering from an incurable heart disease that left him able to sleep only while sitting up and which would take his life in less than a year. With his physical skills diminishing, he continued to win games through craftiness and well-placed pitches.
Delving into Shocker’s baseball career, his love of the game, and his battle with heart disease, Steve Steinberg shows the dominant and courageous force that he was.