Archive for the ‘Pennant Race Baseball History’ Category

1949-American League

Friday, October 15th, 2010

There were pennant races in both leagues in 1949.  The beginning of the  American League season saw 6 different teams (Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington) take their turn being no more than 5.5 games behind front running New York. By May 8, New York was 15-4 (.789), 4 games ahead of  Cleveland.  On May 31, 2nd place Boston was 20-16, 4.5 games behind the Yankees.   However, the Red Sox erratic play found them on the Fourth of July at 35-36, 12 games back in 5th place.  On that day,  New York was 48-25 (—), Philadelphia was 44-30 (4.5 back), and Cleveland was 40-31 (7). 

The 2nd half of the season would see things tighten up; and it was a steadied Red Sox 9 that would become New York’s main competitor.  Between July 4 and August 15, while the Yankees were barely playing .500 ball the Red Sox played a torrid .786 winning 33 while only losing 9.  Boston was now within 2.5 games of New York.  During this 42 game stretch, Ted Williams raised his battting average to .349 (from .322) while hitting 9 HR and accruing 35 RBIs.  Vern Stephens hit 11 HRs and knocked in 39 teammates.  Mel Parnell and Elllis Kinder were their top pitchers going 8-1 and 7-1 respectively.

Through the rest of August, and for most of September, Boston was in 2nd place no more than 4 game behind New York,  but on September 26 after  beating the Yankees 3 games in a row, the Red Sox stood atop the AL by a game.   In that last win, Boston scored 4 to come back from a  6-3 deficit to win in the 8th.  Jack Kramer was the winner and Joe Page the loser. From there, Boston was either on top or tied for the lead; and were a game ahead entering the last series against New York.  If they could win one of the two games they would win the pennant.

In the first game on Oct 1, the Red Sox pulled away to a 4-0 lead, knocking Allie Reynolds out of the box.  As if to avenge the earlier defeat, reliever Joe Page pitched shutout ball for New York.  This allowed Yankee Johnny Lidell the chance to break a 4-4 tie and win the game in the 8th inning.  With the 2 teams tied for 1st, Boston could still win it all with a victory on Oct 2.  The Red Sox’ Ellis Kinder and the Yankee’s Vic Raschi were locked in a 1-0 pitchers duel through 7.  The Yanks scored 4 in the 8th to make Boston’s 3 in the 9th a loser’s rally.  New York went on to play the National League’s pennant winner in the World Series.

References: http://baseballrace.comhttp://baseball-reference.comhttp://members.cox.net/bngolden1/fantasticfinishes1.htm

The History of Pennant Race Baseball

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Before 1969 and the beginning of division play in baseball, real pennant races were a major part of the game.  Every single game during the regular season was played against a rival for the same pennant.  When teams weren’t spread out across two and three divisions there was a greater chance of finding 2 or more teams with enough equal talent to compete for the same pennnant.

During this off-season I will be taking a look back, describing the best pennant races in baseball history.  Since the period of 1947-1962 saw 4 post-season playoffs to determine who won the pennant, we will be looking at these years first.  As has been noted before, there were 3 main reasons that this period was so rich in  close pennant races.  First was the fact that all the games were played against rivals for the same pennant.  Second,  the number of teams per league was at an optimum.  Finally with the breaking of the color line by Jackie Robinson in 1947 and before the thinning of talent started by expansion,  these were the best years for competitive balance in the leagues.

So keep coming back and experience these races unfold before your eyes.

1948-American League

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Anyone who observed the beginnning of the 1948 American League pennant race would have a hard time discerning the fact that it would be Cleveland and Boston battling down till the end.  Boston started the season slowly having an sub-.500 record on 6/1 (15-23), 10 games behind front-running Philadelphia.  When they finally hit the .500  mark at 26-26, on 6/19, they were still 7 games in back of Cleveland.  Putting together a 28-10 run, Boston finally made it to the top tying Philadelphia at 54-36 on 7/25.

Through August four teams were in contention (Philadelphia was in 4th place 4.5 behind on 8/31) and on 9/24 Boston, New York, and Cleveland were all tied for 1st at 91-56.  By the final week-end of the season, Cleveland was 1.5 games ahead of New York and Boston.  Cleveland needed to win one of their last three games to ensure a tie. Cleveland lost the 1st game to Detroit 5-3 and Boston and New York were both 1 game behind.  With  Boston sweeping two games from New York, and  Cleveland splitting with Detroit, after the last game of the regular season, Boston and Cleveland were tied for 1st place at 96-58.  For the 1st time in history the baseball world prepared for a one game playoff between the two teams.

By coin toss,  the game was played in Fenway Park.  In a controversial move, Boston manager chose journeyman Denny Galehouse to start over ace Mel Parnell.  Gene Bearden started for Cleveland.  Scoring 4 runs in the 4th inning, powered by two HRs from Lou Boudreau and one by Ken Keltner, Cleveland won 8-3.  The winning pitcher was Bearden, the loser Galehouse.

Cleveland went on to beat the Boston Braves in the World Series 4 games to 2.

References: http://baseballrace.com ;  “Fastastic Finishes-I” ( http://members.cox.net/bngolden/fantasticfinishes1.htm)