1947...Jackie and the rest
Historians, and not just of the baseball type, look at 1947 as a milestone. That was the year that baseball's color line was finally broken (again) by one Jack Roosevelt Robinson. Many now about Robinson's debut, and all the issues created by his being the first man of color to play in the modern big leagues. I won't go into all the stories, the death threats, the horrendous treatment he endured both on and off the field.
I will share two incidents, however. The first being a near mutiny and an alleged proposed boycott by the St. Louis Cardinals players if they were forced to take the field against Robinson and the Dodgers. Rumors of this issue became so rampant that National League President Ford Frick issued an ultimatum stating that any player boycotting a game against the Dodgers would face a lifetime suspension.
The Cubs, while initially voted as a team to boycott, opted to face the Dodgers and just knock Robinson down at every opportunity.
The most famous issues was the death threats. On their first trip to Cincinnati, the Dodger officials were made aware of several death threats made against Robinson. One threat that they were most concerned with involved someone with a rifle threatening to shoot Robinson should he take the field. Teammate Gene Hermanski said that the Dodgers should all wear the jersey number 42 to confuse any sniper that may be inclined to fulfill on their threat.
Several of the Dodgers were concerned for their safety, and made an effort not to stand too close to Jackie during the pre-game warm-ups. Dodger great Pee Wee Reese, who was a native of Louisville, Kentucky, often had many friends and family at the ballpark when the Dodgers played in Cincinnati.
Pee Wee saw, and knew, what was going on, and decided to take action. His simple gesture spoke volumes to the Dodger ball club, to the Cincinnati fans and to Jackie. He walked up and put his arm on Jackie's shoulder.
Reese marked Robinson as a friend, teammate, colleague and contemporary. “You got a problem with Jackie, you got a problem with me.” was the feeling portrayed by this simple act.
There is a statue of these two men, and this event, outside the Brooklyn Cyclone's stadium in Coney Island.
While Robinson had a very impressive season, he didn't crack my top ten lists for the 1947 season, but more on that a little later.
Baseball was booming. There were 388 minor league teams spread out over 52 different minor leagues, rated from Class A through Class D. Among cities that hosted teams were: Sheboygan, WI, Sanford, NC, McAlester, OK, Jamestown, NY, Zanesville, OH, Mooresville, NC, Carbondale, PA, Ballinger, TX, Hopkinsville, KY, Miami, OH, Belleville, IL, Moultrie, GA, Lanett, AL, Gainesville, FL, Hammond, LA, Seaford, DE, Kinston, NC, Galax, VA, and Greenville, AL. These were the Class D season champions for 1947.
And also of note in the minor leagues, former Yankee great Bill Dickey, who was managing the team in Little Rock, was ejected from a game three times over just five games.
On to the season at hand...
On April 27th, Major League Baseball celebrated Babe Ruth Day, hosted by the Yankees , and honoring the legend who was losing his battle with cancer. This was the first time that all of baseball set aside a day to honor any one player. Sixty thousand fans attended the game in New York and listened to a weakened Ruth address the crowd, and that address was broadcast via radio to the fans in attendance at all the other ballparks in the League.
It would be a few days after Jackie Robinson's debut, and fifty years later, major League Baseball would also honor Robinson in the same way. Commissioner Bud Selig, along with Rachel Robinson, appeared in New York's Shea Stadium to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Jackie's first game. During that pre-game ceremony, Selig announced that Jackie's number 42 would be retired throughout baseball, and from that day, no one else could wear that number. (save for those who were already wearing it)
A few players opted to change their numbers for that last day, most notably Ken Griffey, Jr. did so. Now, each year, on Jackie Robinson Day, every uniformed person wears 42 for that game.
More on the Yankees in a little bit...
In Boston, Ted Williams would win his second Triple Crown in six years. Leading the league in hitting, home runs and runs batted in, his Red Sox were unable to keep pace with the Yankees.
Johnny Pesky became the first player in the modern era to gather 200 hits in their fist three seasons. He also became the first American League player with 200 hits but less than 40 extra base hits in a season.
Across town, the Braves featured their only Most Valuable Player, ans Bob Elliott won the award for 1947. He is the only Boston Brave to win the Award under the new voting procedures.
Pitcher Johnny Sain ended his streak of 174 consecutive plate appearances without a strikeout. He struck out on June 22nd. His last previous strikeout was on May 1st, 1942.
Sain formed a formidable one-two tandem with lefty Warren Spahn, which Boston fans coined the phrase "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain"
In Pittsburgh, slugger Hank Greenberg became the first player to earn $100,000 per season. (It would also be his last season as a player)
Fellow slugger, and teammate Ralph Kiner became the only Pirate to hit 50 homers in a season. He finished with 51, tied with Johnny Mize of the Giants for the home run crown. For Kiner, it would be the first of his record six straight seasons leading both leagues in homers, and the second of his (also) record of seven straight league homer crowns.
1947 was just his second year in the league, so he is the only player with 50 homers in his second year, and became the 2nd National league hitter to have two three-homer games during a season. (co-home run champ Johnny Mize was the first). He would hit 54 homers in 1949, becoming the first National League to hit 50 homers in a season twice.
Also for the Pirates, pitcher Art Herring, who was at the end of his long career, still holds the distinction of having the smallest shoe size of any major leaguer. He wore a size 3.
With his 51 homers, Johnny Mize and Kiner became the first two to hit 50 homers in the same season. It was the “Big Cat's” second time that he hit 40 or more homers in a season with less than 50 strikeouts.
The Giants would slug a record 221 homers in 1947.
In Chicago, The Cubs hosted the All-Star Game for the first time. Schoolboy Rowe of the Phillies became the first player to appear in the All-Star team for both leagues. He appeared as a pitcher for the Tigers in 1935-36.
Across town, the White Sox traded for slugger Rudy York from the Red Sox. York, who lived in a hotel in Boston, was awakened by the desk clerk after a hotel guest smelled smoked, and employees traced the smell to York's room. The staff entered the room and found York asleep and the room was ablaze. The awoke him and evacuated hi. He was singed a little, and suffered some smoke inhalation, but was otherwise alright. The fire was determined to have been caused by York falling asleep while smoking a cigarette in bed.
Four month's later, York's Chicago hotel room caught fire. He wasn't in the room at the time, but that fire was caused by a lit cigarette left on a window sill. York became the first (that we know of) to have caused two hotel fires during a season.
Here's my favorite part of his story. Apart from no injuries in the fires, York eventually would work for the Georgia State Forestry Commission, working as a fire prevention officer.
In Philadelphia, A's rookie Ferris Fain walked 95 times. He would walk 113 times in 1948, becoming the second player to reach 90 or more walks in his first two season. Ted Williams would be the first.
In Cincinnati, Ewell “The Whip” Blackwell won sixteen consecutive games on his way to a twenty-two win season.
In Detroit, Skeeter Webb pulled of an extremely rare feat, and may be the only one to have done so. Appearing as a pinch runner for pitcher Fred Hutchinson, Webb would be credited with driving in a run. How you may ask? Well, the Tigers batted around, and when Hutchinson/Webb's turn to bat came up, Webb knocked in a run. So in the box score, Webb only appeared as a pinch runner, was replaced by the relief pitcher, but scored a run and drove in a run.
The Cardinals' Ted Wilks finished the season with a 4-0 record. He went 8-0 in 1946. He went 77 appearances since his last defeat, which was on September 3rd, 1945.
In Brooklyn, the Dodgers made a trade with the Pirates, which sent Hank Behrmann, Kirby Higbe and a few others in exchange for outfielder Al Gionfriddo. That trade was made on May 3rd. For whatever reason, on June 14th, the Pirates returned Behrmann back to the Dodgers. So while it's not a Harry Chiti situation (where he was traded for a player to be named later, and that player was named Harry Chiti), Behrmann was kinda sorta traded for himself in a way.
Along with Jackie Robinson, 1947 saw Duke Snider make his debut as well, along with the return of (then) catcher Gil Hodges, back from military commitments. (Hodges appeared in one game in 1943)
Pee Wee Reese would have the first of two 100 walk seasons by a National League shortstop. It has only been accomplished five times, and Reese did it twice (also in 1949).
Jackie Robinson would be the first winner of the Rookie of the Year Award presented by the sportswriters.
Dan Bankhead would become the first African-American pitcher to appear in the majors. And he hit a homer in his first big league at bat as well.
The Yankees steamrolled through the American League, winning the pennant easily by twelve games over the second place Detroit Tigers. This was helped by a nineteen game winning streak in early summer.
Joe DiMaggio would win the Most Valuable Player Award for the third time (in nine seasons). In a most contentious vote, DiMaggio beat Ted Williams by one vote for the award. Williams, who won the Triple Crown was denied the award because someone left him off their ballot. Had Teddy Ballgame been put on the ballot, that would have been at least one vote, which would have resulted in at least a tie for the award. Williams won two Triple Crowns, and lost the MVP vote to DiMaggio in both of those seasons.
Pitcher Spec Shea became the third pitcher to win an All-Star Game and a World Series game in the same season.
At the conclusion of the season, with the Yankees having sewn up the pennant, they held the first ever Old-Timer's Game...a two inning affair attended by former Yankee greats, as well as retired American League greats as well. The response was so that the Yankees decided to make this an annual event, and still continues to this day.
The Yankees would face the Dodgers in the Series, the first of five times they would would meet each other in the Fall Classic over the next nine years. The Yankees would win four of those five meetings, including this one. However...
The Dodgers would be the first team to use six different starting pitchers in the Series.
1947 would mark the first World Series to use six umpires per game.
This would be the first World Series to be broadcast on television, albeit very locally.
The Yankees won in seven games.
The Yankees won in seven games.
The power numbers for the season at hand held true, and were as follows:
- YankeesWorld Series ChampsDodgersNational League ChampsCardinals2nd in NL 5 games backBraves3rd in NL 8 games backTigers2nd in AL 12 games back
Now to the statistical part of the posts, I want to look at the National Pitching first. The NL hurlers had an 8.65 statistical advantage over their American League counterparts, and a 10.6% advantage over the hitters.
There were five twenty-game winners in the Senior Circuit, as opposed to just one in the Junior Circuit.
Our first look at the raw numbers gives us this top ten list:
- PitcherTeamW-LERAEwell BlackwellReds22-82.47Warren SpahnBraves21-102.33Dutch LeonardPhillies17-122.68Ralph BrancaDodgers21-122.67Harry BrecheenCardinals16-113.30Larry JansenGiants21-53.16Johnny SainBraves21-123.52Vic LombardiDodgers12-112.99Al BrazleCardinals14-82.84Red MungerCardinals16-53.37
Then, comparing the pitchers with their team's performances, we get this list:
- Ewell BlackwellAboveWarren SpahnAboveDutch LeonardAboveJohnny SchmitzCubs13-183.22Ralph BrancaAboveFritz OstermullerPirates12-103.84Johnny SainAboveLarry JansenAboveTiny BonhamPirates11-83.85Vic LombardiAbove
Adding the formula, and brings our overall top ten pitching performances in the National League (with their MVP votes) to this:
- Ewell Blackwell2nd in MVPWarren Spahn15th in MVPDutch Leonard13th in MVPRalph Branca11th in MVPLarry Jansen7th in MVPJohnny Sain16th in MVP (tie)Harry BrecheenNo votesVic LombardiNo votesJohnny SchmitzNo votesFritz OstermullerNo votes
Now, over to the American League, where the pitchers didn't fare too well against the hitters, besting the hitters by just 6.5%.
Our raw numbers bring us this list:
- PitcherTeamW-LERAJoe HaynesWhite Sox14-62.42Bob FellerIndians20-112.68Joe DobsonRed Sox18-82.95Fred HutchinsonTigers18-103.03Eddie LopatWhite Sox16-132.81Allie ReynoldsYankees19-83.20Spec SheaYankees14-53.07Phil MarchildonA's19-93.22Joe PageYankees14-82.48Spud ChandlerYankees9-52.46
Of note is Joe Page also recorded 17 saves.
So, comparing to their teams, we get this list:
- Joe HaynesAboveEddie LopatAboveEarly WynnSenators17-153.64Joe DobsonAboveWalt MastersonSenators12-163.13Fred HutchinsonAboveBob FellerAbovePhil MarchildonAboveDenny GalehouseAboveSpud ChandlerAbove
Which brings our top American League pitchers (with their MVP votes) to:
- Joe HaynesNo votesJoe Dobson29th in MVPSpud ChandlerNo votesEddie Lopat31st in MVPFred Hutchinson22nd in MVPBob Feller8th in MVPPhil Marchildon9th in MVPAllie Reynolds15th MVP (tie)Spec Shea14th in MVPDenny GalehouseNo votes
Now on to the batters, where the American Leaguers fared 8.4% better overall than the National Leaguers. We'll start with the Nationals.
Our top raw performers, featuring Runs Created per Game (RCG), were:
- PlayerTeamHRRBIAVGRCGJohnny MizeGiants51138.3021.45Ralph KinerPirates51127.3131.28Walker CooperGiants35122.3051.19Whitey KurowskiCardinals27104.3101.27Stan MusialCardinals1995.3121.27Bob ElliottBraves22113.3171.23Enos SlaughterCardinals1086.2941.20Bobby ThomsonGiants2985.2831.17Willard MarshallGiants36107.2911.12Dixie WalkerDodgers994.3061.09
The top three teams in offense, statistically were the Dodgers, Giants and Cardinals. While the Giants and Cardinals are well represented here, there is just one Dodger in the top ten. Mistake? No. I think it shows how evenly spread out the Dodger offense was.
The Dodgers also had the best pitching in the league, so obviously that combination is what led them to the pennant.
So now, when we look at performances against their team's averages, we get this list:
- Babe YoungReds/Giants1479.2751.10Ralph KinerAboveJohnny MizeAboveHarry WalkerPhillies/Cardinals141.3630.86Bob ElliottAboveWalker CooperAboveAndy PafkoCubs1366.3020.94Phil CavarettaCubs263.3140.92Whitey KurowskiAboveDel EnnisPhillies1281.2751.01
This brings our top NL batting performances to this list:
- Johnny Mize3rd in MVPRalph Kiner6th in MVPWalker Cooper18th in MVPWhitey Kurowski9th in MVP (tie)Bob ElliottNL MVPStan Musial20th in MVP (tie)Babe YoungNo votesEnos Slaughter20th in MVP (tie)Harry Walker9th in MVP (tie)Bobby ThomsonNo votes
Now to the stronger American League, and a bit of a surprise here:
- Ted WilliamsRed Sox32114.3431.33Tommy HenrichYankees1698.2871.35Joe DiMaggioYankees2097.3151.23Billy JohnsonYankees1095.2851.15George McQuinnYankees1380.3041.05Sam MeleRed Sox1273.3021.07George KellTigers593.3201.07Jeff HeathIndians2785.2510.99Bobby DoerrRed Sox1795.2581.08Ferris FainA's771.2910.99
The surprise is how Tommy Henrich rated higher than DiMaggio, who won the MVP. This is driven in part by Henrich's higher runs per game average, which was the highest in the league. Henrich scored a dozen more runs than DiMaggio, and drove in one more run. The Runs created difference was 191-174.
Also, notice how the Yanks had four hitters clumped together, which proves out because they were by far the best offensive team in the American League. While the Dodgers had a more spread out offense, the Yankees had an incredible heart of the lineup, which also carried them to the post-season
Now, as the players compared to their team averages, we get this list:
- Ted WilliamsAboveMickey VernonSenators785.2651.01Jeff HeathAboveStan SpenceSenators1673.2790.81Vern StephensBrowns1583.2790.95Ferris FainAboveBuddy LewisSenators648.2610.78Tommy HenrichAboveJoe GordonIndians2993.2720.99Sam ChapmanA's1483.2521.03
Our final calculations brings the top offensive American League players to this list:
- Ted Williams2nd in MVPTommy Henrich13th in MVPJoe DiMaggioAL MVPJeff Heath31st in MVP (tie)Mickey VernonNo votesGeorge Kell5th in MVPFerris Fain19th in MVP (tie)Sam MeleNo votesBilly JohnsonNo votesJoe Gordon7th in MVP
If I had a vote, my top performers in each league would then be:
Player of the Year
Pitcher of the Year
Player of the Year
Pitcher of the Year