Posts Tagged ‘1941 World Series’

Lefty Grove, Ted Williams, and the 1941 Red Sox

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

They say the third time’s a charm.  And so it was with Lefty Grove’s 300th victory, which occurred on July 25, 1941, against the Cleveland Indians.  “Here the hundreds of fans who had been waiting for this moment ever since it became possible for Grove to reach his goal here in Boston refused to be denied,” wrote Gerry Moore in the Boston Globe.  “They rushed onto the field and undoubtedly would have mobbed the veteran they have come to idolize except for half a dozen policemen who finally managed to escort Lefty into the runway leading to the clubhouse.”

Grove’s landmark achievement—which was also his last victory in a 17-year major league career—reflected output that defined excellence.

  • Led the major leagues in ERA five times (four time consecutively)
  • Led the American League in ERA nine times
  • Led the major leagues in victories three times
  • Led the American League in victories four times
  • Led the major leagues in Win-Loss percentage five times
  • Led the American League in strikeouts in his first seven seasons
  • Led the major leagues in strikeouts four times
  • .680 career Win-Loss percentage.

The Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Grove in 1947.  His plaque highlights being an integral part of the Athletics’ squad that won three consecutive American League pennants—1929, 1930, 1931.

While Grove inched towards the pitcher’s plateau of 300 wins with a 7-7 record in 1941, Red Sox teammate Ted Williams slugged towards a hitter’s benchmark—.400 batting average.  It was a lock on the last day of the season—with a .39995 batting average, Williams would have benefited from the simple mathematics of rounding up if he sat out the season-ending Athletics-Red Sox doubleheader.  Instead, despite an endorsement from Red Sox player-manager Joe Cronin to lay low, Williams grabbed his bat, went six for eight, and marked .406 for the year.  Nobody to date has hit .400 in the major leagues.

In a 1986 Sports Illustrated interview with Williams, Wade Boggs, and Don Mattingly about hitting, Williams explained his strategy at the plate.  “Now, if I could give you any advice, it would be that the tougher the pitcher, the tougher the situation, the tougher the count, the worse the light, the worse the umpires, the tougher the delivery, the single most important thing to think about is hitting the ball hard through the middle.  You’ll never go wrong with that idea in your mind.  As long as you hit, and especially as you get older, hang in there and be quick.”

1941 was a solid year for the Boston Red Sox:

  • Joe Cronin (Shortstop):  .311 batting average, 95 RBI
  • Jimmie Foxx (First Base):  .300 batting average, 105 RBI
  • Bobby Doerr (Second Base):  .282 batting average, 93 RBI
  • Jim Tabor (Third Base):  .279 batting average, 101 RBI

Championship glory was not to be, however.  With an 84-70 record, the Red Sox trailed the New York Yankees by 17 games.  Joe DiMaggio—the Yankee Clipper—scored a 56-game hitting streak in ’41, another achievement that has not been matched since.  The Yankees defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers in five games to win the 1941 World Series.

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on January 22, 2017.

Brooklyn, Baseball, and the Aurora Borealis

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

Brooklynites tuning their radios to WOR for the Dodgers-Pirates broadcast on September 18, 1941 encountered an unexpected delay in Red Barber’s recounting of balls and strikes.  A natural phenomenon triggered the interruption and, consequently, the ire of Dodger fans.  The New York Times reported, “Sun spots and the aurora borealis yesterday and last night played havoc with radio communications, but treated New York and the Eastern Seaboard as far south as Virginia to a display of light unparalleled in recent years.”

The Dodgers and the Pirates were in a scoreless tie at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field when the event happened at 4:00 p.m., preventing the broadcast from continuing for about 15 minutes.  During the delay, the Pirates scored four runs.  The source of the delay had no import for the Brooklyn faithful, though.  “Thousands of Brooklyn followers meanwhile had telephoned the station and displayed little satisfaction with the explanation that the sun was to blame,” explained the Times.

The Pirates won the game 6-5, but the Dodgers won the National League pennant, vaulting to the World Series after a two-decaf drought.  History repeated itself as a World Series championship proved elusive.  The Dodgers lost the World Series to the Red Sox in 1916 and again in 1920 to the Indians; in ’41, they lost to the Yankees.

The most memorable moment of the 1941 World Series occurred in Game 4 with a 4-3 Dodger lead and two outs in the ninth inning.  Yankee outfielder Tommy Henrich sprinted to first base after Hugh Casey’s pitch hit Mickey Owen’s glove and a called third strike became a passed ball.  A succession of hits guided the Yankees to a 7-4 comeback victory and a 3-1 lead in the World Series.  The next day, the Yankees won the World Series in Game 5.

In Owen’s 2005 obituary, Richard Goldstein of the New York Times described the moment’s effect.  “Owen played for 13 seasons in the major leagues and was an outstanding catcher with a strong, accurate arm.  But he has been linked in baseball history with figures like Fred Merkle, Ralph Branca and Bill Buckner, all outstanding players defined by a single moment of misfortune.”

The Dodgers had three players who cracked the .300 batting average barrier in 1941: Dixie Walker, Pete Reiser, and Joe Medwick.  Reiser was Brooklyn’s powerhouse in the batter’s box, leading the National League with a .343 batting average.  He scored 117 runs, smashed 184 hits, and reached second place in the voting for National League Most Valuable Player.  Reiser’s teammate Dolph Camilli won the MVP, giving Brooklyn a one-two MVP punch in 1941.

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on June 1, 2014.