Tough to top Ruth-Gehrig combo

Mantle-Maris, Ruth-Gehrig, Bonds-Kent. Rob Neyer examines some of the best-known and longest-running 3-4 combos in major league history.

Originally Published: August 23, 2006
By Rob Neyer | ESPN Insider
Given the success of Boston's David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez -- two of the very best hitters in the game, obviously -- it's tempting to think they're not only the best No. 3-No. 4 combination today but also maybe the best ever. They've got some pretty tough competition, though. Here, in chronological order, are some of the best-known and longest-running 3-4 combos in major league history:

Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig
Gehrig
Babe Ruth
Ruth
They're only the best and most famous 3-4 combination, but in a way they're also the first. In 1929, when the Yankees became the first team to feature numbers on the backs of jerseys, the numbers were assigned by lineup slot. So leadoff man Earle Combs got No. 1, second hitter Mark Koenig No. 2, and Ruth and Gehrig drew Nos. 3 and 4, respectively. Ruth and Gehrig retained those numbers -- and their lineup slots -- through the 1934 season, after which Ruth left for an ill-advised stint with the Boston Braves. With Ruth gone, George "Twinkletoes" Selkirk took over No. 3, and kept it even after Joe DiMaggio (No. 9, then No. 5) arrived and took over the No. 3 slot in the batting order. And in 1936 and '37, DiMaggio and Gehrig comprised one of the greatest 3-4 combinations ever.

Mickey Cochrane-Al Simmons

Both Cochrane and Simmons are Hall of Famers, of course. But what really made the Philadelphia Athletics' lineup roll wasn't these two; it was these three: Cochrane, Simmons and -- the best hitter in the lineup -- first baseman Jimmie Foxx. This brilliant 3-4-5 combination, along with ace Lefty Grove, propelled the A's to three straight American League pennants, beginning in 1929. The trio was broken up after the 1932 season, when A's manager/owner Connie Mack sold Simmons to the White Sox (Cochrane was gone a year later, Foxx two years after that).

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