Thursday, May 5, 2016

1943, the Middle...

Sometimes people ask me why I pick particular years over others. Sometimes I pick a year by request, sometimes to prove a point, sometimes something I read sparks my interest in a season. This season, the 1943 season, has historical and performance significance.

The world was at war. The U.S. arriving a bit later than our European brethren, but by 1943, we were fully involved. Where the National Pastime was concerned, each organization in each league was affected by the war. While only two major leaguers gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country (Captain Elmer Gedeon and First Lieutenant Eugene O'Neill), over five hundred minor leaguers, semi-pro players and college athletes also gave their lives in the conflicts.

Every major league team had a veteran player who served in the armed services. Some were marginal players, but also quite a few stars of the game served as well. Twelve future Hall of Famers served during the 1943 season, which had a huge impact on the game being played at home. Players of note include: Dom DiMaggio, Joe Dimaggio, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, Tommy Henrich, Cookie Lavagetto, Bob Lemon, Ted Lyons, Johnny Mize, Johnny Pesky, Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto, Red Ruffing,Johnny Sain, Enos Slaughter, Warren Spahn,Birdie Tebbetts, Cecil Travis and Ted Williams.

All of these players spent the entirety of 1943 in the military. Some were stationed stateside. Some were stationed on bases and played ball during their tenure. A few were actually in combat. Ted Williams was famously an Air Force fighter pilot. (Williams also served during the Korean War in the same capacity)

Baseball, allowed to keep playing by President Roosevelt, continued to be an 'entertaining diversion' to help boost the morale of the American public during the war. To that end, scheduling accommodations were made to make the games more accessible to workers who were furthering the war effort. There were more night games scheduled, there was the introduction of twi-night doubleheaders, and even some games scheduled for mornings to accommodate late shift workers.

With travel being restricted, 1943's Spring Training venues left the exotic locales of Havana, Sarasota, Miami and the warmer climates, and were replaced with places like French Lick, Muncie and Cape Girardieu.

So, on to the regular season at hand. As with any season, there were some curiosities that occurred.

Casey Stengel managed the Boston Braves for the last part of the season, having been injured in a traffic accident involving a cab before the season started. Casey broke his leg, and developed a staph infection, so he missed the first six weeks of the season in the hospital. (One sportswriter claimed that the cab driver that hit Stengel did the most for Boston baseball that year)

Bob Coleman managed the beginning of the season in Casey's absence. Casey, who finished sixth with the Braves, left Boston after that season, for the warmer (and friendlier) climes of the Pacific Coast League. There he managed until returning to the majors with the Yankees in 1949, to begin a historic run of success.

In May of 1943, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League made its debut, playing a 108 game season. Historically speaking, the AAGPBL played its All-Star Game on July 1st, at Wrigley Field in Chicago. It was the first ever night baseball game played at Wrigley Field.

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game was held at Shibe Park, in Philadelphia. It was the first All-Star night game.

At the conclusion of the 1943 season, Commissioner Landis declared Philadelphia Phillies owner William Cox permanently ineligible from baseball for associating with known gamblers, and for placing bets involving his own team. The Carpenter family purchased the franchise, and would remain the owners for many years, until 1981.

In an effort to disassociate themselves from the gambling scandal, the Phillies actually changed their name to the Philadelphia Blue Jays. That name was dropped in 1946.

There were no playoffs or divisions. Just eight teams in each league, and the top two played each other in the World Series. In this case, the Cardinals faced the Yankees in the Fall Classic, which was won by the Yankees won in five games.

The 'Power Rankings' for the season were as follows:
  1. Cardinals              NL Champs
  2. Tigers                   5th place 20 games out
  3. Pirates                  4th place 25 games out
  4. Dodgers               3rd place 23.5 games out
  5. Yankees               AL Champs

In the National League, the Cardinals had the best pitching, by far, as the won 105 games, but the Dodgers had a better offensive season. In the AL, the Senators had the better offensive team, while the Yankees out slugged the rest of the league. None of the races were particularly close.

So, let's look at the pitching first. The overall ranking in the American League was:
  1. Spud Chandler               Yankees     20- 4 1.64
  2. Tiny Bonham                 Yankees     15- 8 2.27
  3. Al Smith                         Indians      17- 7 2.55
  4. Dizzy Trout                    Tigers        20-12 2.48 6 saves
  5. Tommy Bridges             Tigers        12- 7 2.39
  6. Butch Wensloff              Yankees     13-11 2.54
  7. Virgil Trucks                  Tigers        16-10 2.84
  8. Orval Grove                   White Sox 15- 9 2.75
  9. Johnny Murphy              Yankees     12- 4 2.51 8 saves
  10. Mickey Haefner             Senators     11- 5 2.29 6 saves
And then their performance against their own teams, here are the rankings:
  1. Jesse Flores                    Athletics     12-14 3.11
  2. Spud Chandler                            above
  3. Roger Wolff                   Athletics     10-15 3.54 6 saves
  4. Al Smith                                      above
  5. Oscar Judd                     Red Sox      11- 6 2.90
  6. Dizzy Trout                                 above
  7. Orval Grove                                above
  8. Tiny Bonham                              above
  9. Virgil Trucks                               above
  10. Bob Muncrief                 Browns       13-12 2.81 8 saves

Then figuring the factors to get a total number, those rankings are as follows:
  1. Spud Chandler                   AL MVP
  2. Al Smith                            15th in MVP
  3. Jesse Flores                        27th in MVP
  4. Tiny Bonham                     no votes
  5. Dizzy Trout                       11th in MVP
  6. Tommy Bridges                 no votes
  7. Oscar Judd                         no votes
  8. Virgil Trucks                      no votes
  9. Orval Grove                       no votes
  10. Tex Hughson                 Red Sox        12-15 2.64 2 saves

And over in the National League, we have this as overall rankings:
  1. Mort Cooper             Cardinals        21- 8 2.30 3 saves
  2. Joe Beggs                  Reds                 7- 6 2.34 6 saves
  3. Rip Sewell                 Pirates            21- 9 2.54 3 saves
  4. Max Lanier               Cardinals         15- 7 1.90 3 saves
  5. Elmer Riddle             Reds                21-11 2.63 3 saves
  6. Whit Wyatt                Dodgers          14- 5 2.49
  7. Dick Barrett               Phillies/Cubs  10-13 2.90
  8. Hiram Bithorn           Cubs                18-12 2.60 2 saves
  9. Schoolboy Rowe       Phillies            14- 8 2.94
  10. Harry Brecheen         Cardinals           9- 6 2.26 4 saves

And against their teams:
  1. Dick Barrett                above
  2. Schoolboy Rowe         above
  3. Whit Wyatt                  above
  4. Joe Beggs                    above
  5. Rip Sewell                   above
  6. Ace Adams                Giants               11- 7 2.82 9 saves
  7. Hiram Bithorn              above
  8. Elmer Riddle                above
  9. Jim Tobin                  Braves               14-14 2.66
  10. Nate Andrews           Braves               14-20 2.57

Bringing us to a total number ranking of :
  1. Joe Beggs                        no votes
  2. Whit Wyatt                      15th in MVP
  3. Dick Barrett                     no votes
  4. Rip Sewell                       6th in MVP
  5. Elmer Riddle                   7th in MVP
  6. Mort Cooper                    5th in MVP
  7. Hiram Bithorn                 32nd in MVP
  8. Max Lanier                      no votes
  9. Jim Tobin                         24th in MVP
  10. Nate Andrews                  no votes

Looking now at the offensive side, AL first:
  1. Rudy York                  Tigers          34 118 .271
  2. Charlie Keller             Yankees       31  86 .271
  3. George Case                Senators        1  52 .294 61SB
  4. Vern Stephens             Browns        22  91 .289
  5. Nick Etten                   Yankees       14 107.271
  6. Dick Wakefield           Tigers            7   89 .319
  7. Jeff Heath                    Indians         18  79 .274
  8. Mickey Vernon            Senators         7  70 .268
  9. Bob Johnson                Senators         7  63 .265
  10. Stan Spence                 Senators       12  68 .267
Against their team:
  1. Rudy York                       above
  2. Vern Stephens                 above
  3. Bobby Estalella            Athletics       11 63 .269
  4. Charlie Keller                 above
  5. Jeff Heath                       above
  6. Dick Wakefield               above
  7. Luke Appling              White Sox        3 80 .328 27SB
  8. Chet Laabs                   Browns          17 85 .250
  9. Bobby Doerr                Red Sox         16 75 .270
  10. Jim Tabor                     Red Sox         13 85 .242

So that gives us a total ranking of:
  1. Rudy York                          3rd in MVP
  2. Charlie Keller                     13th in MVP
  3. Vern Stephens                     9th in MVP
  4. Dick Wakefield                   6th in MVP
  5. Jeff Heath                            no votes
  6. Nick Etten                           7th in MVP
  7. Luke Appling                      2nd in MVP
  8. Chet Laabs                           23rd in MVP
  9. Bobby Estalella                    no votes
  10. Pinky Higgins              Tigers           10 84 .277        21st in MVP

Over in the NL, the overall numbers were:
  1. Bill Nicholson              Cubs           29 128 .309
  2. Stan Musial                  Cardinals    13   81 .357
  3. Walker Cooper             Cardinals      9   81 .318
  4. Billy Herman                Dodgers       2 100 .330
  5. Arky Vaughan               Dodgers       5   66 .305 20 SB
  6. Bob Elliott                    Pirates          7 101 .315
  7. Phil Cavaretta               Cubs             8   73 .291
  8. Dixie Walker                 Dodgers       5   71 .302
  9. Augie Galan                  Dodgers       9   67 .287
  10. Elbie Fletcher                Pirates          9  70 .283

Against their teams, the rankings are:
  1. Bill Nicholson                       above
  2. Stan Musial                           above
  3. Chuck Workman           Braves         10 67 .249 12 SB
  4. Phil Cavaretta                        above
  5. Tommy Holmes             Braves          5 41 .270
  6. Walker Cooper                       above
  7. Bob Elliott                              above
  8. Ron Northey                  Phillies        16 68 .278
  9. Mel Ott                          Giants          18 47 .234
  10. Danny Murtaugh           Phillies           1 35 .273

Compiling the numbers, crunching them, the National League total ranking is:
  1. Bill Nicholson                       3rd in MVP
  2. Stan Musial                           NL MVP
  3. Walker Cooper                      2nd in MVP
  4. Phil Cavaretta                        28th in MVP
  5. Bob Elliott                             8th in MVP
  6. Billy Herman                         4th in MVP
  7. Arky Vaughan                        15th in MVP
  8. Dixie Walker                          24th in MVP
  9. Elbie Fletcher                        21st in MVP
  10. Eric Tipton                       Reds            9 49 .288     no votes

Since this season pre-dates the Cy Young Award presentation, I will follow the more contemporary route and award a player of the year, and a pitcher of the year.

In the American League, the same player would have won both, and that was Spurgeon “Spud” Chandler of the Yankees.

In the National League, where Stan Musial won the Most Valuable Player Award, I would have voted for Bill Nichlson of the Cubs as the player of the year,

and Joe Beggs of the Reds as my pitcher of the year.

So, there you have it.

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