Major League Baseball Season Recap 1946

Ted Williams started the 1946 baseball season on fire, after coming off four years of military service, as the Red Sox built a huge lead before coasting to a 12-game lead over Detroit at the wire. Even though Williams’s final stats look good (.342 average, 38 home runs, and 123 RBI ), the Red Sox MVP did most of his damage early.

Cleveland manager Lou Boudreau contributed to Williams’s poor second half when he introduced the “Ted Williams overshift” in the second game of a July 14 doubleheader. Williams had homered three times in the opener, and when he came to bat in the second game, he faced a defense in which every man was stationed to the right of second base except the left fielder, who played deep short. Williams was laughing so hard that he had to step out of the batter’s box to regain his composure.

The shift became less funny as the season wore on and other managers copied it — though the Red Sox slugger did get a measure of revenge by clinching the American League flag for Boston with an opposite field, inside-the-park homer against Cleveland on September 13.

Many American League teams simply pitched around Williams, as evidenced by his 156 walks. Other Red Soxers picked up the slack. Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio batted over .300 (.335 and .316, respectively); Rudy York and Bobby Doerr knocked in over 100 RBI (119, 116).

Washington’s Mickey Vernon took the American League batting title at .353, and Detroit’s Hank Greenberg led in homers with 44 and RBI with 127. The Tigers’ Hal Newhouser won his second straight ERA title at 1.94, and Bob Feller struck out 348, the most in the majors since 1904.

The National League race was disrupted when several players from contending teams jumped to the Mexican League, where the Pasquel brothers were offering underpaid American major leaguers huge increases in salary. Brooklyn’s Mickey Owen and Luis Olmo and Giants Danny Gardella and Sal Maglie were among the first to go.

The Cardinals lost pitcher Max Lanier, who started the 1946 season 6-0 with a 1.93 ERA, and came close to losing hitting star Stan Musial. Commissioner Happy Chandler discouraged others from leaving by threatening the jumping players with five-year suspensions from the majors. He later issued an amnesty in 1949.

The National League race came down to a season-long battle between St. Louis and Brooklyn. The Dodgers led by 7-1/2 in July, but again faded down the stretch. The two teams finished in a tie to set the stage for the first National League pennant playoff, a best-of-three affair.

MVP Musial and Enos Slaughter were the twin engines that powered the Cardinals’ attack. Musial batted a league-leading .365, and also led in runs with 124, doubles with 50, and triples with 20; the .300-hitting Slaughter scored 100 runs and drove in a league-high 130. With Lanier gone, Howie Pollet became St. Louis’ ace, going 21-10 with a National League-low 2.10 ERA.

The Dodgers were led by Pete Reiser, who stole a league-leading 34 bases; Dixie Walker, who had 116 RBI; and second baseman Eddie Stanky, who drew 137 walks to lead the National League in on-base average at .436. But it was all for naught. St. Louis won the playoff in two games on Pollet’s 4-2 complete-game defeat of Ralph Branca in game one, and an 8-1 drubbing in game two.

The Cardinals also won the World Series in seven well-pitched games. York’s tenth-inning homer won game one for the Red Sox, and the teams exchanged victories until the final game. With the score 3-3 in the top of the eighth, the slumping Williams popped up to leave the go-ahead run on second.In the bottom half, Slaughter singled and scored the winning run on a two-out single to left-center by Harry Walker.

In the 1946 World Series, Harry Brecheen ceded the Red Sox just one run in 20 innings and became the last National League lefty to win three games in a fall classic. Brecheen was a consistent winner during his eight seasons in the minors, but was judged too small to succeed up top. However, the war-time pitching shortage caused the Cards to reconsider. He went 15-15 for them during the 1946 regular season.

Forbes Field Gets a Facelift

The new Pirates owners and manager Billy Herman and Principal owner John Galbreath were astute enough to realize that, with the coming of Ralph Kiner, it was time to bring in the left-field wall of Forbes Field.

Mickey Vernon Wins the American League Bat Title

In the 20 seasons Mickey Vernon played, he won two batting titles (.353 in 1946, .337 in 1953) yet cleared the .300 mark just five times. Four of them came when he was past 35 years old. Asked about Vernon, Satchel Paige said, “I’ve faced the best in the world just about, but I never could get Mickey out.”

Off the field…

John William Mauchly designed the first all-electronic computer for the U.S. Department of Army Ordnance to help compute ballistic firing tables. The revolutionary device, called the ENIAC, weighed thirty tons and consisted of thirty separate units that were cooled by a crude, forced-air system. The all “digital” computer operated on 19,000 vacuum tubes, 1,500 relays, and hundreds of thousands of resistors, capacitors, and inductors that consumed almost 200 kilowatts of electrical power.

Dr. Benjamin Spock published his first book “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” with a dramatic contrast to earlier child-care guides that favored rigid schedules and warned against showing a child too much affection. Dr. Spock’s book was reassuring in its support of maternal tenderness and went on to sell 25,000,000 copies while revolutionizing parenting in the United States and abroad.

In the American League…

The New York Yankees became the first Major League Baseball team to fly on a regular basis after leasing a United Airlines plane nicknamed the “Yankee Mainliner”. Despite the convenience of a shortened travel schedule, four players, including Red Ruffing, still elected to take the train.

Boston Red Sox second baseman Johnny Pesky became the first American League player to single-handedly score six runs in a game during a 14-10 triumph over the Chicago White Sox on May 8th for their thirteenth straight victory. Boston extended its streak to fifteen games before losing to their rivals, the New York Yankees, on May 11th.

The American League All-Stars embarrassed the National’s representatives with a 12-0 triumph at Fenway Park. Despite the lop-sided finale, this particular Midsummer Classic remained special, as the ’45 event had been cancelled due to wartime travel restrictions. Many players later stated that they had never seen a more festive occasion and many of them had not seen their major league rivals in several years. “Home field” slugger Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox led the charge with two home runs, two singles, a walk, four runs scored and four runs batted in.

In the National League…

On March 17th, the Brooklyn Dodgers played an exhibition game in Daytona Beach against their own Minor League farm team, the Montreal Royals. With Jackie Robinson in the line-up, it marked the first appearance of an integrated baseball team during the 20th century. As a fitting tribute, the field was later renamed Jackie Robinson Ballpark in honor of the man who broke through baseball’s color barrier.

On May 20th, Chicago Cubs ace Claude Passeau made his first error since 1941 to end an all-time pitcher’s fielding streak of two-hundred seventy-three consecutive errorless chances. Passeau was noted for playing with a special modified glove due to a deformed left hand that was disfigured by a childhood shooting accident.

The Pittsburgh Pirates voted 20-16 in favor of a walkout (prior to a game against the New York Giants) in order to gain recognition of the American Baseball Guild. According to league policy however, a two-thirds majority vote was required to “legally” initiate a strike. Despite being unsuccessful, the players had made a statement in direct support of the newly established coalition that had yet to be acknowledged by the league. As a prelude to the Players Association, the guild had proposed the increase of the leagues’ minimum salary to $7,500 as well as a formal arbitration policy for all future salary disputes.

Around the league…

The Chicago White Sox became the first Major League team to provide an official Media Guide for the baseball writers. The seventeen-page publication had been developed by Marsh Samuel and listed individual player and team information as well as limited statistical data. Bill Veeck was so impressed by the concept; he hired Samuel himself to develop a similar guide for the Cleveland Indians.

The Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Athletics and Phillies all refused to raise their standard ticket fare while the rest of the league upped their costs considerably with $2.50 for boxes, $1.25 for general admission and .60 cents for outfield bleachers.

Fortune magazine published a study into the finances of Major League Baseball that included a detailed report on the New York Yankees franchise. As a sign of things to come, the Bronx Bombers posted league high revenues of $306,000 that were cut to $201,000 following Minor League losses. Of their overall gross income, $896,000 came from home ticket sales. Despite playing poorly, the Yanks completed their home season with a record attendance of 2,309,029. The best previous draw was credited to the Chicago Cubs who boasted 1,485,166 fans in 1929.

 

World Series – St. Louis Cardinals NL over Boston Red Sox AL 4 games to 3

Awards –
MVP Awards –

NL Stan Musial

AL Ted Williams

All-Star Game – July 9th – A.L. 12 over N.L. 0, played at Fenway Park (AL)
AL Starter Bob Feller NL Starter Camel Passeau MVP

 

Mickey Owen Autographed Ball - Official NL Chicago Cubs Beckett BAS #E48390 - Beckett Authentication

Dodgers go south of the border