1940 Baseball Season

By the 1940 baseball season, 21-year-old Bob Feller was already a veteran of four big-league seasons and had achieved almost every pitching distinction possible. He had led the American League in strikeouts twice and in innings pitched once. In 1939, he went 24-9 to lead the American League in wins and complete games with 24.

Three times -- once in 1938 and twice in 1939 -- he had thrown one-hitters. Just about the only thing Feller hadn't done was to throw a no-hit game, an omission he remedied on Opening Day, 1940, when he no-hit the Chicago White Sox 1-0. It was the only Opening Day no-hitter in American League history.

The 1940 baseball season ended much less happily for the Cleveland ace, as he lost the game that clinched the pennant for Detroit on the next-to-last day of the season. Cleveland finished with an 89-65 record, 1 game behind the 90-64 Tigers. Feller had no reason to hang his head; the Indians would never have come that close to a pennant without his 27-11, 2.62 ERA virtuoso performance. He led the league in wins, ERA, games, complete games, strikeouts, and innings pitched.

Cleveland's mediocre offense was led by young shortstop Lou Boudreau, who hit .295 and drove in 101 runs, and first baseman Hal Trosky, who led the team in home runs with 25. The team's chances were undermined by a palace revolution against manager Ossie Vitt in the closing days of the race. The uprising culminated with the players presenting a petition to management demanding, unsuccessfully, that Vitt be fired.

New Detroit manager Del Baker was a more positive factor. He made the managerial move of the year by putting Hank Greenberg in left field in order to open up first base for young, poor-fielding slugger Rudy York: Greenberg responded with an MVP season, hitting .340 and leading the league in home runs (41), RBI (150), and doubles (50). York contributed 134 RBI and 33 home runs, and the Tigers as a whole scored a league-leading 888 runs.

On the pitching side, Detroit featured 21-5 Bobo Newsom, who was runner-up to Feller in ERA at 2.83; 16-3 Schoolboy Rowe; and 12-9 Tommy Bridges. Both Detroit and Cleveland were momentarily distracted from their neck-and-neck race down the stretch by the hard-charging New York Yankees, who rose from dead last in May to within 2 games of the flag by season's end. Joe DiMaggio won the batting title at .352, hit 31 home runs, and drove in 133.

Ernie Lombardi was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.
Ernie Lombardi spent his
final five seasons in the
majors with the New
York Giants.

The Cincinnati Reds took the National League pennant by 12 games over Brooklyn, but it was no cakewalk. With starting catcher Ernie Lombardi out with an injury in August, backup catcher Willard Hershberger became overwhelmed by the pennant-race pressure and committed suicide. A month later, Lombardi reinjured himself. Coach Jimmy Wilson, who was 40 years old and hadn't caught regularly for five years, was activated and guided the Reds pitchers into the 1940 World Series.

First baseman Frank McCormick was the Reds' big gun on offense, with a league-leading 191 hits, as well as 44 doubles and 127 RBI. He was named National League MVP. Cincinnati relied heavily on its pitching staff, which was led by Bucky Walters and Paul Derringer (who combined for 42 wins).

The Reds won the 1940 World Series in seven games to give the National League its first victory since 1934, when Detroit was also the loser. Walters and Derringer continued their good work, each winning two games. But an unexpected hero of the 1940 World Series was catcher Wilson, who was brilliant defensively and hit .353. Wilson re-retired the following year to manage the Chicago Cubs.

Check out the next page for some of the headlines from the 1940 baseball season.

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1940 Baseball Season Headlines

Despite huge efforts throughout the season by Bob Feller, Cleveland couldn't grab the American League pennant in 1940. It went instead to Detroit. Read about some of the headlines from the 1940 baseball season below.

Floyd Giebell Secures American League Pennant

Floyd Giebell beat Bob Feller 2-0 on the last weekend of the season to clinch the 1940 American League flag for Detroit. It was Ladies Day in Cleveland and thousands of women came to the park armed with fruit and vegetables, prepared to bombard the Tigers into submission. Instead they saw Giebell win for the last time in the majors.

Lou Boudreau Wins Fielding Title

In 1940, his final full season, Lou Boudreau was already a polished shortstop, good enough to cop his first of five consecutive fielding crowns. Boudreau topped the American League in fielding average every year between 1940 and 1948, except 1945 when he played only 97 games owing to an injury.

Charlie Keller's a Killer in Pinstripes

Charlie Keller, who led the American League in walks with 106 in 1940, was one of New York's biggest Bombers from 1939 through 1943. As a rookie in the 1939 World Series, Keller batted .438 with three home runs. And from 1940 through '43, he averaged 28 homers, 102 RBI, 102 runs, and 107 walks per season.

Red Ruffing Falls to 15-12

In 1940, Red Ruffing completed his 11th year as a mainstay of the Yankees pitching staff. It was the first time in five years he didn't win 20 games, as he finished 15-12. Ruffing was a durable hurler, going 273-225 in his career, but was never truly exceptional, as evidenced by his 3.80 career ERA. Nevertheless, Ruffing won seven World Series games, second-most of all time.

Stan Hack Posts .317 BA

According to the current rule to determine a batting leader, Stan Hack would have won the 1940 National League hitting crown (.317 in 603 at-bats). At the time, however, Debs Garms of the Pirates, who had just 358 at-bats, was declared the victor (.355). Despite leading the National League in pinch hits the following year, Garms was back in the minors in 1942. Hack would again hit .317 in 1941 but would finish only fourth in the National League bat race.

Jimmy Ripple on the Wane

Although just age 30, Jimmy Ripple was on the decline by 1940. That year's World Series -- in which he totaled six RBI -- was the final mark he left on the game. Ripple had to play six seasons with the Montreal Royals in the International League before the Giants finally gave him his first major league look in 1936.

Find even more 1940 baseball season headlines in the next section.

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More 1940 Baseball Season Headlines

Following are more headlines from the 1940 baseball season, including stats on Johnny Mize's stellar season.

Joe DiMaggio Continues to Reign

Joe DiMaggio terrorized virtually every American League pitcher except Cleveland's Mel Harder. Unable to account for his success, Harder said, "I'm just grateful I had good luck against him. It kept me around for a long time." In his 20 seasons with the Tribe, Harder won 223 games (a dozen in 1940). DiMaggio led the circuit in batting in 1940 with a .352 average.

Hank Greenberg Serves American League, Army

Hank Greenberg was the American League MVP in 1940 (129 runs scored, 41 home runs, 384 total bases, 150 RBI, .670 slugging average) and played just 19 games the following year before departing to start his military training. Greenberg missed over four full seasons while he served in World War II.

Willis Hudlin: A Travelin' Man

Willis Hudlin pitched just eight games in a Washington uniform. In fact, all but 16 of his 491 major league appearances came with Cleveland, for whom he won 157 games over 15 seasons. In 1929, Hudlin beat the Yankees 4-3 in the first major league game involving two teams wearing numbered uniforms. In 1940, he became the first player since 1904 to play for four teams in one year.

Injuries Bench Ernie Lombardi

Injuries curtailed the playing time of Ernie Lombardi for much of the 1940 regular season and again in the 1940 World Series. His unavailability forced the Reds to activate 40-year-old coach Jimmy Wilson for the fall classic. Behind the plate in six of the seven contests, Wilson hit .353 and nabbed the only stolen base in the 1940 World Series.

Johnny Mize Misses the Triple Crown

Johnny Mize paced the National League in every major slugging department in 1940, including home runs (43) and RBI (137). Moreover, his .314 batting average was just three points behind that of Stan Hack, now recognized by some historians as the bat leader that year. If their view is accepted, Mize's 1940 baseball season is the closest any National League player has come to winning a Triple Crown since 1937.

Del Baker Scales New Heights

Del Baker, a former catcher and long-time coach, piloted the Tigers for four and a half seasons before being canned following a fifth-place finish in 1942.

On the next page, find out more about the 1940 baseball season by reading through dozens of highlights.

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1940 Baseball Season Highlights

The 1940 baseball season was filled with incredible highs and tragic lows. Opening Day 1940 was the only Opening Day no-hitter in American League history, the Cincinnati Reds won the 1940 World Series, and Willard Hershberger succumbed to pennant-race pressure by committing suicide.

Find the highlights from the 1940 baseball season below.

  • Detroit Tigers temporarily break the Yankee dynasty and cop the American League flag.
  • Cincinnati Reds score second straight National League flag.
  • The Reds win their first untainted World Championship in seven games.
  • Bucky Walters and Paul Derringer both collect two CG wins for the Reds in the 1940 World Series.
  • Forty-year-old catcher Jimmy Wilson, playing for injured Ernie Lombardi, is unlikely 1940 World Series hero, hitting .353.
  • Sub outfielder Jimmy Ripple hits .333 with six RBI for Reds in 1949 World Series.
  • The Reds win the National League flag by 12 games, the largest margin in the National League since 1931.
  • Frank McCormick is National League MVP -- the third-different Red in three years to win award.
  • Joe DiMaggio takes second-consecutive American League bat crown as he collects a .352 BA.
  • Bob Feller pitches the only American League Opening Day no-hitter on April 16 vs. Chicago.
  • Johnny Mize was also known as
    Johnny Mize was also
    known as "The Big Cat."

    Brooklyn's Tex Carleton no-hits Cincinnati on April 30.
  • Johnny Mize tops the National League in RBI (137) and homers (43).
  • Feller's 27 wins top majors.
  • Tigers win pennant by edging Cleveland by 1 game and New York by 2 games.
  • Indians nicknamed "The Cry Babies" when they go to club owner Alva Bradley and demand he fire manager Ossie Vitt.
  • Alva Bradley retains Ossie Vitt as manager.
  • On Sept. 27, Detroit no-name Floyd Giebell beats Cleveland's Feller 2-0 to clinch flag.
  • Feller's 261 Ks are the most by any pitcher in major league since 1924.
  • Greenberg tops the American League in homers (41) and RBI (150).
  • After the season, Greenberg becomes first major leaguer to enlist in the armed services in preparation for World War II.
  • Cub Stan Hack tops the National League in BA at .317, the lowest in National League history to this juncture by leader.
  • The National League wins the All-Star Game by a score of 4-0 at St. Louis.
  • The National League also beats the American League 2-1 in an impromptu All-Star Game on St. Patrick's Day for the benefit of Finnish Relief Fund.
See our final section for more highlights from the 1940 baseball season.

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More 1940 Baseball Season Highlights

Following are more highlights from the 1940 baseball season, including who led the leagues in various slugging departments.

  • Frank McCormick ties the National League record when he leads loop in hits (191) for a third consecutive season.
  • Reds win a major league record 41 one-run games.
  • ¬≠The sacrifice fly rule is again abolished.
  • Johnny Mize paces the National League in every major slugging department except OBP.
  • Ted Williams leads the American League in runs (134) and OBP (.442) and is third in batting (.344).
  • Hank Greenberg tops majors in RBI (150), doubles (50), runs produced (238), SA (.670), and total bases (384).
  • Bob Feller tops majors in CGs (31) and AL in ERA (2.62).
  • Bucky Walters tops the National League in wins (22) for the second year in a row.
  • Walters leads the National League in CGs (29), innings (305), and ERA (2.48).
  • Detroit's Rudy York, second in American League in RBI with 134, combines with teammate Greenberg for 284 RBI.
  • Phils and A's both lose 100 or more games and finish last.
  • Cleveland shortstop Lou Boudreau has 101 RBI and tops AL shortstops in assists, DPs, and FA.
  • On Sept. 24, Red Sox became the first American League team to club four homers in one inning.
  • On April 30, Dom DiMaggio of the Red Sox ties American League record by scoring five runs in a game.
  • The Cards swap Mickey Owen to Brooklyn for Gus Mancuso and $65,000.
  • The Cards send Ducky Medwick and Curt Davis to Brooklyn for four players and $125,000.
  • Cubs finish below .500 for the first time in 15 years.
  • Walt Judnich's 24 homers set a record for a St. Louis Browns rookie.
  • Yankee Frank Crosetti leads the American League in being hit by the pitch a record fifth consecutive year.
  • Forty-three minor leagues begin the season -- a new record.
  • Cincinnati's Harry Craft sets a major league record for outfielders with a .997 fielding average.
  • Reds catcher Willard Hershberger commits suicide.
  • Pittsburgh's Arky Vaughan leads the National League in triples (15) and runs (113).
  • Hack Wilson ties Frank McCormick for National League lead in hits (191).
  • McCormick tops National League in doubles (44).
  • Pittsburgh's Elbie Fletcher leads the National League in OBP (.418) after walking a major league-leading 119 times.
  • Cincinnati's Lonnie Frey leads the National League in thefts with 22.
  • Washington's George Case again leads the American League in steals (35).
  • Brownie Rip Radcliff and Tiger Barney McCosky tie for American League lead in hits with an even 200.
  • McCosky's 19 triples lead the majors.
  • McCosky and Greenberg both hit .340 for Detroit.
  • Yankee Charlie Keller leads the American League in walks with 106.
  • Detroit's Schoolboy Rowe leads the American League in win percentage. (.842).
  • Brooklyn's Freddie Fitzsimmons tops the National League in win percentage. (.889)

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