- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Today, we rank the 10 best lineups in history -- and this has nothing to do with defense or pitching or nicknames. It's all about pure offensive dominance.
1. 1931 New York Yankees
The 1927 Yankees have the best nickname in history, Murderers' Row, but it was the '31 team that scored the most runs of the Bronx teams from that era -- 1,067, or almost 100 more runs than the '27 Yankees (975).
Six of the eight guys in the Yankees' everyday lineup batted .300 or better -- and heck, their ace pitcher, Red Ruffing, hit .330. Lou Gehrig had 92 extra-base hits and 184 RBIs, and Babe Ruth reached base with hits or walks 327 times and scored 149 runs. The lowest on-base percentage of those in their everyday lineup was .371.
The '31 Yankees are largely obscured in history because they finished second to the Philadelphia Athletics. But they scored the most runs of any team ever. Here's a list of the highest-scoring teams since 1900, with their run total.
1931 Yankees: 1,067
1936 Yankees: 1,065
1930 Yankees: 1,062
1950 Red Sox: 1,027
1999 Indians: 1,009
2. 1995 Cleveland Indians
The guy who would hit sixth in the lineup for the Indians that season would go on to hit more than 600 homers in his career, and the guy who mostly hit seventh would eventually hit more than 550 homers -- Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez, respectively.
"The best offensive team I ever played for or against," Orel Hershiser wrote in an email.
Cleveland scored 840 runs in a season that was limited to 144 games by labor strife -- or almost six runs per game. The Indians may have approached 1,000 runs in their production over a full season, given the power of Kenny Lofton, Eddie Murray, Carlos Baerga, Paul Sorrento and others; there were nine players on the Cleveland roster who played in at least 52 games and had an OPS+ of at least 108.
The most prolific of them all was Albert Belle: 52 doubles, 50 homers, 121 runs scored, 126 RBIs. Bart Swain of the Indians' media relations office recalls that the day after the Indians clinched a playoff spot, Mike Hargrove was prepared to play a bunch of reserves to give his partied-out veterans a day to recover. Belle walked into Hargrove's office and handed his manager a lineup card with his name on it -- and yes, he played.
Buster Olney ranks the top 10 lineups in history, starting with a Yankees lineup from more than 80 years ago. (Though it's not the one that you think.)