August 28 – Happy Birthday Aaron Ward

His Yankee teammates used to call him “Wardie.” He had put on the pinstripes for the first time in 1917, when he was just 20 years-old. A year later, Miller Huggins became Yankee Manager and Ward sat on his bench for two seasons, listening, watching and learning how the game was played. In 1920, the wife of Yankee third baseman, Frank “Home Run” Baker, died suddenly. Baker decided to take a year off from playing baseball to be with his two young children. “Hug” started playing Ward at third that season and the Akansas native did OK, hitting 11 home runs and driving in 54 for an improving Yankee team that also featured newcomer Babe Ruth that year. When Baker decided to return to the game the following year, the Yankees traded their starting second baseman, Del Pratt to the Red Sox and Huggins made Ward the team’s new starting second sacker.

For the next three seasons, he was as valuable a Yankee as any with the exception of Ruth. Ward hit a career high .306 in 1921, helping Huggins and New York reach their first World Series, which they lost to their hometown rivals, the Giants. They lost to them again in the ’22 Fall Classic but the third time proved to be the charm the following year and Ward played a huge roll in the Yankees first-ever World Championship. He hit .284 in the regular season and drove in a career-high 82 runs. Than in the ’23 World Series, Wardie led the Yankees with 10 hits and a .417 batting average, while providing excellent defense at second. Yankee owner, Jacob Rupert told the press that Ward deserved as much credit as Ruth and Huggins, for the Yankees’ first title.

Neither the Yankees or Ward could continue their success in 1924, as the team finished in second place and the second baseman slumped to .253. The bigger problem facing Huggins was Ruth’s outlandish personal behavior and the impact it was having on not only the Bambino’s play but also the attitude of the entire Yankee team. It came to a head in 1925, the year of Ruth’s famous “big bellyache,” which in actuality was a complete physical and mental breakdown. The Yankees fell all the way to seventh place in the final standings.

The Bambino had been scared straight. He worked harder during the 1925 off season than he ever had before and helped the Yankees win another AL Pennant in ’26. But he sure didn’t do it by himself. New York had introduced a whole new right side of their infield that year. Lou Gehrig took over for Wally Pipp at first and Aaron Ward lost his job at second to a kid named Tony Lazzeri. He appeared in just 22 games during his final season in the Bronx and then got traded to the White Sox. He retired two seasons later with a .268 lifetime average and 966 hits during his dozen-year big league career.

Wardie shares his birthday with this former Cy Young Award winner, this outfielder known for his sweet swing,  this one-time Yankee pitcher who also gave up Bucky Dent’s home run and this former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1917 NYY 8 27 26 0 3 0 0 0 1 0 1 5 .115 .148 .115 .264
1918 NYY 20 36 32 2 4 1 0 0 1 1 2 7 .125 .176 .156 .333
1919 NYY 27 39 34 5 7 2 0 0 2 0 5 6 .206 .308 .265 .572
1920 NYY 127 551 496 62 127 18 7 11 54 7 33 84 .256 .304 .387 .691
1921 NYY 153 634 556 77 170 30 10 5 75 6 42 68 .306 .363 .423 .786
1922 NYY 154 641 558 69 149 19 5 7 68 6 45 64 .267 .328 .357 .685
1923 NYY 152 642 567 79 161 26 11 10 82 8 56 65 .284 .351 .422 .773
1924 NYY 120 476 400 42 101 13 10 8 66 1 40 45 .253 .324 .395 .719
1925 NYY 125 502 439 41 108 22 3 4 38 1 49 49 .246 .326 .337 .663
1926 NYY 22 34 31 5 10 2 0 0 3 0 2 6 .323 .364 .387 .751
12 Yrs 1059 4143 3611 457 966 158 54 50 446 36 339 457 .268 .335 .383 .717
NYY (10 yrs) 908 3582 3139 382 840 133 46 45 390 30 275 399 .268 .331 .382 .713
CLE (1 yr) 6 11 9 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .111 .200 .111 .311
CHW (1 yr) 145 550 463 75 125 25 8 5 56 6 63 56 .270 .360 .391 .751
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/31/2013.

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