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Before NBA Finals ‘three-match’ with Cavs and Warriors, there was Yankees vs. Giants

New York Yankees' Babe Ruth is seen in

New York Yankees' Babe Ruth is seen in 1923. Credit: AP

Everyone’s talking about the upcoming three-match between the Cavaliers and Warriors, and rightly so. It is a first for the NBA, and a first for any major American team sport in more than a half-century.

But, as usual, New York can match that — and top it.

How about the same teams meeting in three consecutive championship rounds, and representing the same city, and for two of those years playing in the same stadium?

Yeah, that happened here, when the Yankees took on the Giants in 1921, 1922 and 1923, the first and still only time the World Series featured the same teams three years in a row.

Actually, it widely was called the “World’s Series” then. But whatever the name, it was big news in an era when baseball was king.

Unlike the Warriors and Cavaliers, for whom the upcoming Finals are a rubber match, the third Giants-Yankees meeting was more about redemption for the American Leaguers.

John McGraw’s lordly, old-school Giants had won it all in 1921 in eight games in the last of year of the experimental best-of-nine format, then again in a 4-0-1 “sweep” in 1922.

In those years, the teams shared the Polo Grounds while the Yankees awaited their new baseball palace across the Harlem River in the Bronx.

The Yankees had a 3-2 series lead in 1921, but with Babe Ruth suffering from an elbow infection, the Giants won three in a row to clinch it with a 1-0 victory in Game 8, in which Ruth pinch hit unsuccessfully in the ninth inning.

It was the first World Series carried live on the radio — with sportswriter Grantland Rice at the microphone! — and six of the eight games took less than two hours to complete. They all began at 2 p.m.

In 1922, the Giants made quick work of the Yanks, with Ruth batting .118 for the Series. The Giants have not clinched a World Series at home since.

There was a controversial tie in Game 2 that year, with many suspecting it was called because of darkness sooner than necessary as part of a scheme to generate more revenue by extending the Series.

The skeptics included commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis, who ordered the gate receipts donated to charity.

All of that made for quite the pre-Series frenzy when the teams met yet again in 1923, this time with the Yankees having a home of their own at last. The teams alternated stadiums game by game, starting in the Bronx.

With the Polo Grounds having expanded in the offseason and Yankee Stadium’s cavernous seating capacity, the Series widely was expected to generate record revenue, which it did.

New Yorkers knew the drill by then. As The New York Times wrote, “It will be Giants versus Yankees again, as the veriest schoolboy knows.”

Bookmakers made the Yankees slight betting favorites, anticipating a breakthrough at last, with Ruth on the hot seat.

“If he fails, the house of Huggins will also come clattering down around his ears,” The Times wrote of Ruth, referring to manager Miller Huggins.

Call it a “hot take” of sorts, 1923-style.

Stars of the day showed up for the festivities, including Giants fan Charlie Chaplin, who held court with fans and reporters after Game 4 at the Polo Grounds.

The Yankees would win it in six, scoring five runs in the eighth inning of the clincher to erase a 4-1 deficit and win, 6-4, for the first of their 27 world championships.

Ruth batted .368 with three home runs in the Series. Future Yankees manager Casey Stengel hit game-winning home runs in both of the Giants’ victories.

The winners’ share was a record $6,160.46 per man, some of which Ruth soon handed over to the Tigers’ Harry Heilmann to purchase a $50,000 life insurance policy.

Heilmann, who had beaten out Ruth for the American League batting title with a .403 average, sold insurance in the offseason.

Ruth also announced he would head to Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada, to hunt moose and unwind.

The Times reported that in the giddy Yankees clubhouse after Game 6, someone yelled, “It took us three years, but we arrived!”

Someone else shouted, “Who will we have to beat next year?”

No one, as it turned out. The Giants won their fourth pennant in a row in 1924, but there would be no fourth straight showdown against the Yankees. They finished second in the AL, two games behind the Washington Senators, who beat the Giants in Game 7 of the Series, 4-3, in 12 innings.

So keep the faith, Washington Wizards . . . and everyone else in the NBA. There’s always 2018.

New York Sports