Archive for January, 2011

1954-American League

Friday, January 28th, 2011

The 1954 American League pennant race was remarkable because a team that won 103 games finishing 8 games back in 2nd, while another team ended in 3rd with a .610 winning percentage. The pennant winner finisher 111-43, a .721 percentage.  The season started out typically enough.  On May 1, Detroit was in 1st place with a 8-4 record.  Chicago had a 1/2 game better record, but there 10-5 record put them percentage points behind Detroit.  Philadelphia was in 3rd 7-5 (1) and Cleveland was in 4th 7-6 (1 1/2).  On June 1, all the principals mentioned above were in the  1st Division, which was:  CLE 28-13 (—);  CHW 28-15 (1);  NYY 26-17 (3);  DET 21-17 (6.5).

1st place would bounce back and forth between the Indians and White Sox until 6/12, when Cleveland took over the lead by 1/2 game over Chicago.  They stayed there the rest of the season.  However, for a good part of the season, the race was close enough to keep things interesting.  Between June 22-July 1, Chicago stayed between 1-3 games of Cleveland.  Chicago’s fate was sealled when they could not win 1 of the 4 games played at Cleveland Stadium.  The Yankees took over possession of 2nd place on July 2, and it was their turn to keep the race with the Indians close.

This they did through most of the rest of the season.  Through the games of August 19, the team was never more than 3 games behind the front runner.  New York even shared 1st place on 7/20.  As symbolized the two teams’ battle during this period, the results of the games played in New York, on July 23-25, and then Cleveland, on Aug 3-5, was 3-3. 

When Cleveland came to Yankee Stadium on August 31, they were 4 1/2 games to the good.  New York would just about have to sweep the Indians to stay in the race. In the first game, Cleveland’s ace Early Wynn held the Yankees to 1 run; and won the game 6-1.  New York won the next two games 4-1 and 3-2, but the 3 1/2 games behind that this left them would be the closest they would get.  The  1st Division on Sept 4 was:  CLE 96-39 (1);  NYY 82-42 (3.5);  CHW 87-49 (9.5);  DET 59-75 (36.5). 

That one lose seemed to take the wind out of the Yankee’s sails.  After Sept 5, New York would play .500 ball— winning 9 and losing 9.  Cleveland continued their torrid pace finishing the season 15-4.  The final standings on 9/26 was:  CLE 111-43 (—);  NYY 103-51 (8);  CHW 94-60 (17);  BOS  69-85 (42);  DET 68-86 (43);  WAS 66-88 (45);  BAL 54-100 (57);  PHI 51-103 (60).

Combining hitting and pitching, the Cleveland Indians were one of the best teams in Major League history.  There 746 runs scored was 2nd behind New York; and their 504 runs allowed was 1st in the league.  Bobby Avila led the team with a .341 average.  Al Rosen (.300, 32 HR, 126 RBI) and Larry Doby (.272, 32, 126) were other hitting stars.  Bob Lemon (23-7, 2.72), Early Wynn (23-11, 2.73), and Mike Garcia (19-8, 2.64) anchored an excellent staff.

In the World Series the Indians did not fare as well.

Resources:  http://baseballrace.com

1952-National League

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

The 1952 National League season was similar to 1951, as the too top contenders for the flag were New York and Brooklyn.  The difference, however, was the order of finish.  This time, the Dodgers took the lead on June 1,  built it to 10.5 on August 25, and, except for one day, never were less than 3 games ahead the rest of the season.

Still there was some excitement in September.  New York closed the lead to 3 games on 9/13 and it was still 3 games after the games of 9/17.  On 9/19-9/21 though the Dodgers won three games against Boston and the Giants lost three in Philadelphia.  That was it.  While New York met the criteria for year long pennant contention (still having a chance after the next to last weekend), they met it barely.  On Tuesday, Sept 23 when Brooklyn beat Philadelphia, 5-4 New York’s chances for the pennant were over. 

 The final standings were:  BRO 96-57 .627 (–);  NYG 92-62 .597 (4.5);  STL 88-66 .571 (8.5);  PHI 87-67 .565 (9.5).  As was noted above, Brooklyn lost the 1952 World Series to the New York Yankees, 4-3.


1952-American League

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

The 1952 season in the American League was interesting because of all the teams that had a chance at the pennant through a major part of the season.  Boston started it off with a flash and were at the top of the league  with a 10-3 record on May 1.  Three other teams, Chicago; Cleveland; and St. Louis were all tied for 2nd place at 9-6.  The Yankees who would play a major role in the race started slow and were 12-12 on May 15.  Boston had cooled off and were now 15-11 in 3rd place.  Cleveland was in 1st, winning 9 of 12.  Washington was in 2nd at 14–10, 2 1/2 games back. 

An indication of the early fortunes of Cleveland and New York occurred when the Yankees travelled to Cleveland to play a  3 game series on May 6-8.  The Indians swept the series 1-0; 7-2 ; and 12-5.   The Indians would  maintain their lead throughout the rest of May.  However,  by the start of June, New York was recovering it footing;  and the top of the league saw 1st place switching hands between the Yankees, Red Sox, and Indians.  On June 14 New York was in 1st place at 29-19.  Boston and Cleveland were in a virtual tie for 2nd at 31-22 and 32-33 respectively.  Chicago was in 4th 29-25 (3);  and even Washington and Philadelphia who were 1 and 2 games under .500 were just 5 1/2 and 6 games out. 

For the next month and a half the most interesting aspect of the season was the see-saw battle for 2nd place.  Chicago (6/22;  6/29; 7/3;  7/6), Boston (6/23;  6/25;  7/17), Cleveland (6/24;  7/2;  7/5;  7/12);  and Washington (6/28;  7/1) all took possession of the slot until Cleveland took control on 7/27.  During that time period, in games involving these 4 teams Chicago was 8-13;  Boston was 9-11;  Cleveland was 10-11;  and Washington was 14-7.  From July 16 to July 27, the Yankees were 3 1/2- 5 games in the lead, but accept for that brief period, no more than 3 games separated 1st and 2nd place. 

 With New York in 1st and Cleveland in 2nd, this close pattern was maintained until August 22 when Cleveland went into 1st by 1 percentage point.  New York would regain the lead by 1 game the next day.  On that date there were still 5 teams in shouting distance of 1st place.  The standings were as follows:  CLE  69-51 (—);  NYY 70-52 (—);  BOS  63-54 (4 1/2);  PHI 62-56 (6);  CHI 64-58 (6);  WAS 63-58 (6.5).  The Indian’s victory on August 22 evened the season series with the Yankees at 10-10.  Interestingly, the last two games of the season between the two teams would determine the pennant winner.

On August 23, the two teams played the 2nd game of a two game series at Yankee Stadium.  Yankee manager Casey Stengel picked 14- game winnerVic Raschi to start.  Indian Al Lopez tapped 15 game winner Early Wynn.  Both pitchers posted zeroes through 3 1/2 innings.  In New York’s part of the 4th they scored 1 run on doubles by Gene Woodling and Joe Collins.  The score was still 1-0 when Cleveland took their turn at bat in the 8th.  Barney McCosky pinch hit for Ray Boone and struck out.  Another pinch hitter Bill Glynn singled.  After Hank Majeski pinch hit for Early Wynn, Dale Mitchell doubled to right but Glynn was thrown out— Hank Bauer to Billy Martin to Yogi Berra.  The most serious threat to Vic Raschi was over as he pitched a 6-hit shutout.  The Yankees won 1-0.

New York again travelled to Cleveland for one game on Sunday, September 14.  The Yankees started Ed Lopat; the Indians Mike Garcia.  The Yankees would score all the runs they would need in the 3rd inning on singles by Joe Collins and Yogi Berra, and Hank Bauer’s RBI ground out.  The final score was New York 7 Cleveland 1.

Yes, the New York Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians in their last two meetings of the 1952 season; and New York’s final margin over Cleveland was two games.  Over the entire course  of the 154-game season the Yankees record vs. Cleveland was 12-10;  and the final two games was the difference of 2 games in an otherwise .500 season between the two teams.  Of course the Yankees did the job against the rest of the league, going 25-7, a torrid .781 pace, after August 22.  And they needed every one of those wins because Cleveland was finishing 24-10, two games off the Yankees mark.  Without the two New York games, Cleveland finishes even with the Yankees torrid pace.  The difference made New York the American League Champions in 1952.

And what of the other 4 contenders?  The rest of their seasons were at best average.  Chicago finished at 81-73, 14 games back; Philadelphia 79-75 (16);  Washington 78-76 (17); and Boston 76-78 (19).  This was the affect that the Yankees and Indians great finish had on the rest of the league.  New York went on to beat Brooklyn 4-3 in the 1952 World Series.

Resources:  http://baseballrace.com

1951-National League

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

The beginning of the 1951 National League season was a foreshadowing of how it would end.  On April 29  Brooklyn was in a virtual tie for 1st place at 8-4; and the New York Giants after starting the season at 2-12 were 7 games behind them.  When New York proceeded to win 12 of the next 19, they were in 5th place 3.5 games off the pace.  Things would get considerablely worse before they got better for the Giants.

At 14-10 Brooklyn took over possession of 1st on May 13. They would hold on to this position for nearly the rest of the season.  On May 31 the standings were as follows:  Brooklyn 24-16 (-);  St. Louis  22-17 (2);  Chicago 19-17 (3.5);  Boston 21-19 (3.5).  New York at 21-21 were in 5th place, 4.5 games back.  By June 12, St. Louis had gone 4-8 and was in 4th; Chicago 3-8 in 7th; and Boston 5-7 in 5th.  New York was 7-5 during the two weeks and was now in 2nd 6 games behind Brooklyn who had gone 8-2.  The Giants from here on in would be various amount of games behind the Dodgers.  The rest of the league, except as opponents of Brooklyn and New York, became irrelevant in this pennant race.

By August 11 Brooklyn at 70-36 was 13 games ahead of New York, who had a 59-51 record.  From April til August 9 Brooklyn and NewYork had played 15 games with the Dodgers winning 12 and the Giants 3.  On August 12 while playing Philadelphia in a Sunday doubleheader at the Polo Grounds, New York won the 1st 2 of 16 straight games.  Whitey Lockman lead the team with 12 RBIs; and Monty Irvin and Wes Westrum had 10 each.  Al Corwin and George Spenser each won 3 games.  On August 14 -16 at the Polo Grounds the Giants began to change their fortunes against the Dodgers by sweeping them 4-2; 3-1; and 2-1.  By the last day of the streak, after beating Chicago 5-4 and 6-3, New York had taken a whopping 8 games of of Brooklyn’s lead and were 5 games back.

For the next three weeks, despite the Giants winning 3 out of 4 games played between the two teams, the Dodgers maintained at least a 5 game lead.  New York then went on a 9-1 tear vs. Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Boston, and Philadelphia.  When Brooklyn lost to Philadelphia at Shibe Park on Sept 28 4-3, the Giants entered the last weekend of the season tied for 1st place with the Dodgers.  Both teams were on the road, with New York at Boston and Brooklyn at Philadelphia.  Both contenders won on Saturday, the
Giants 3-0 and the Dodgers 5-o, thus  leaving the determination of the pennant race to the last day of the season.

Twenty game winner Larry Jansen started for New York;  Jim Wilson for Boston.  The Braves drew first blood scoring a run in the 1st.  The Giants answered back with a run of their own in the 2nd; then 2 more in the 3rd and 5th.  The score remained 3-1 until the bottom of the 9th when Boston attempted a comeback.  Bob Addis doubled.  Sam Jethroe singled him to third.  Earl Torgeson’s force out scored Addis.  Sid Gordon’s ground ball forced out Torgeson; and Walker Cooper’s single put Braves on  1st and 2nd.  But Jansen induced a fly by Marshall to left and New York had won their game 3-2.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Brooklyn’s starter Preacher Roe and relievers Ralph Branca and Clyde King were ineffectual, giving up 8 runs in 4 innings pitched.  Brooklyn hitters however kept the Dodgers in the game by scoring a run in the 3rd and 4th and 3 in the 5th.  So after five innings the score was 8-5.  It stayed this way until the Dodger’s eight.  Gil Hodges and Bobby Cox started the inning off with singles.  Rube Walker’s double made the score 8-7 and Carl Furillo tied it at 8 with a single.  Brooklyn relievers would hold Philadelphia in check for 10 innings, the biggest threat being in the 12th when with 1 out and the bases loaded Don Newcombe struck out Del Ennis and Eddie Waitkus.  Brooklyn won it 9-8 on a Jackie Robinson HR in the 14th.  With 154 games completed, the Giants had staged the greatest comeback in baseball history, but it would take the biggest drama of all to complete this story.

Game 1 of the best 2 out of 3 playoff took place on Monday, October 1 at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn. New York’s manager Leo Durocher chose Jim Hearn as his starting pitcher.  Brooklyn’s Chuck Dressen chose Ralph Branca.  Brooklyn struck first in the bottom of the second.  However in a bit more forshadowing, the Giants scored all the run they would need when in the 4th inning Monte Irvin single and Bobby Thomson hit a two run homer off Branca.  Monty Irvin hit another HR in the 8th and New York lead the series 1-0 on the strength of their 3-1 victory.

The next day the series shifted to the borough of Manhattan as the Giants took home field advantage at the Polo Grounds.  But this game would belong totally to the Dodgers.  Starter and winner Clem Labine pitched a six hit shutout and Brooklyn was triumphant 10-0.  Led by Jackie Robinson’s and Rube Walker’s 3 hits and one HR each, the Dodgers pounded loser Seldon Jones, and Brooklyn relievers, for 13 hits and 26 total bases.  And all on a day when Jackie Robinson’s 1st inning 2-run HR would have been sufficient for the victory.  The stage was now set for the winner take all 3rd game.

For this game played in the Polo Grounds Leo Durocher chose his 23-game winner Sal Maglie to start.  Dressen countered with his 20-game winner Don Newcombe.  Neither pitcher would be around by the end of the game to claim the decisions.  Jackie Robinson got the Dodgers off on the right foot when his 1st inning single drove in Peewee Reese, who reached base on a walk and 2nd on a Maglie walk to Duke Snider.  Both hurlers then proceeded to pitch goose eggs until the bottom of the 7th, when a combination of a Irvin double, a Lockman sacrifice bunt, and a Thomson sacrifice fly to center tied the score at 1-1.  But the Giants share of the lead was short lived.

In the top of the  8th Brooklyn scored 3 runs on a wild pitch and singles by Andy Pafko and Bobby Cox.  When Newcombe put the side down in order in the bottom of the 9th, and reliever Larry Jansen did the same in the top of the 9th,  New York took its last turn at bat down 4-1.  It looked as if their tremendous pennant run was going to fall an inning short until….

….Alvin Dark and Don Mueller started the inning off with singles, putting runners on 1st and 3rd.  After Monty Irvin fouled out to 1st, Whitey Lockman hit a double scoring Dark.  Mueller was injured sliding into third and was replaced by Clint Hartung.  Manager Dressen went to the mound and in a questionable move replaced Newcombe with Ralph Branca.  Bobby Thomson then strode to the plate.  The 1st pitch was a fast ball down the middle for strike one.  The next pitch was a fast ball that Branca meant to set-up his next pitch a curveball, but Thomson swung and sent a low line drive toward the left field stands.  Andy Pafko playing left field was hoping the ball would sink and hit the wall but it went over it at the 315 ft. mark.

All pandimonium broke out at the Polo Grounds as Giant announcer Russ Hodges made the most famous call in baseball history over radio station WMCA-AM:

“THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!!  THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!  THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!!  Bobby Thomson hits into  the lower deck of the leftfield stands! The Giants win the pennant and they’re goin’ crazy, they’re goin’ crazy!  HEEEY-OH!!!

The Giant’s indeed had finished their miraculous run at the 1951 National League pennant, with an even more miraculous 5-4 victory over the Dodgers.  But this was also midnight for Cinderella, as the Giants would lose the World Series 4-2 to their rival from across the Harlem River, the New York Yankees.


Baseball Bloggers Alliance Hall of Fame Recommendations

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

The BBA announcecd on December 30 that its members had recommended that Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The vote has no force, but BBA selections for awards are a good predictor of how actual voting will turn out.

Both received 117 of 154 votes cast for 75.97%.

Barry Larkin finished 3rd with 70.78 percent of the vote.