The 1947 baseball season, the year of Jackie Robinson and the first televised World Series, began with another controversy -- the Leo Durocher affair. Although he was the fall guy in an ongoing feud between Dodgers GM Branch Rickey and Yankees executive Larry MacPhail, Durocher also got himself in trouble with the commissioner's office for associating with gamblers and unsavory types like actor George Raft and gangster Bugsy Siegel.
Durocher received a year's suspension for "an accumulation of unpleasant incidents." Burt Shotton took over as Brooklyn's manager for the 1947 baseball season, and Durocher's career as a Dodger came to an end in mid-1948, when he moved to New York as manager of the Giants.
All this momentarily distracted baseball fans from the Dodgers' purchase of first baseman Robinson from Montreal. Robinson opened the season as the first black major leaguer since the Walker brothers, Fleet and Welday, who played in the American Association in the 1880s. To add to the obvious pressure on Robinson, many of his teammates were initially malevolent.
After a group of them signed a protest petition during spring training -- to which Rickey and Durocher responded by offering to trade any player who wished to go -- the general attitude of the team mellowed to cold indifference. For weeks, none of them sat near Robinson; some refused even to speak to him. Things changed when Robinson's aggressive, running brand of baseball helped move Brooklyn into first.
Robinson hit .297, scored a team-high 125 runs, and led the National League in stolen bases with 29. He was voted 1947 Rookie of the Year. With Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, and .300 hitters Dixie Walker and Pete Reiser -- and without a legitimate power threat -- the Dodgers led the league in stolen bases and on-base average on their way to a 94-60 record.
Philadelphia's Harry Walker (Dixie's brother) won the batting title at .363, and New York's Johnny Mize and Pittsburgh's Ralph Kiner shared the league lead in homers with 51. Boston third baseman Bob Elliott, who hit .317 and drove in 113 runs, was named National League MVP. A reunited Yankees team scored the most runs in the American League (794), allowed the fewest (568), and ran away with the flag by 12 games over Detroit.
While defending champion Boston stumbled due to injuries, New York tied an American League record with a 19-game winning streak and never looked back. MVP Joe DiMaggio hit .315 with 97 runs, 97 RBI, and 61 extra-base hits, and Tommy Henrich drove in 98 runs on 35 doubles and an American League-high 13 triples. Allie Reynolds went 19-8, and reliever Joe Page compiled a 2.49 ERA and 17 saves.
Another great Ted Williams season went for naught; he won the Triple Crown with a .343 average, 32 home runs, and 114 RBI. He also led in runs with 125 and drew the most walks, 162. Cleveland debuted the first black player in American League history, Larry Doby, on July 4, and the St. Louis Browns followed suit with Hank Thompson and Willard Brown.
Yankees pitcher Spud Chandler retired in 1947 with the highest winning percentage in history, .717. Also retiring were Mel Ott, who ranked among all-time leaders in homers (511), walks (1,708), runs (1,859), and RBI (1,860); and Hank Greenberg, who owned a career slugging mark of .605.
New York defeated Brooklyn in a seven-game World Series, as Spec Shea went 2-0 with an ERA of 2.35 and Johnny Lindell drove in seven runs. The highlight of the 1947 World Series was game four, when Bill Bevens took a no-hitter into the ninth inning. With two outs and two on, pinch hitter Cookie Lavagetto doubled to win the game for Brooklyn, 3-2.
The next page provides headlines and summaries for some of the top stories of the 1947 baseball season.
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