The 1943 baseball season saw a loss of key personnel to the armed forces for nearly every major league team. Baseball itself was allowed to continue because of its morale value, although Washington asked that travel be curtailed and that games be scheduled for the maximum convenience of fans who worked in war-related industries. For the most part, that meant more night games -- including the first twinight doubleheaders -- but teams also scheduled early-morning contests for those on night shifts.
Restricted travel meant changing not only the regular season schedule but spring training sites as well. Instead of sunny Florida, California, and Cuba, major league teams limbered up in exotic locations like Wallingford, Connecticut; Muncie, Indiana; and Asbury Park, New Jersey. Moreover, wartime rubber rationing adversely affected the quality of major league baseballs, and batting averages plummeted into the .240s.
Not surprisingly, the two clubs with the deepest talent and richest farm systems, the Yankees and Cardinals, weathered the storm best and won pennants in 1943. The Cardinals replaced Enos Slaughter, Terry Moore, Johnny Beazley, and Howie Pollet with the likes of Lou Klein, Alpha Brazle, and Harry Brecheen.
Stan Musial played in
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St. Louis had the league's two top pitchers in ERA with 157 Max Lanier at 1.90 and 21-8 Mort Cooper at 2.30. As a whole, the Cardinals' staff led in ERA at 2.57, shutouts with 21, and strikeouts with 639. Cincinnati came in second, 18 games out, and Brooklyn finished third under ex-Cardinal GM Branch Rickey.
The pitching-poor Dodgers had the National League's strongest offense, led by stolen-base leader Arky Vaughan with 20; .330-hitting Billy Herman; and Augie Galan, who drew a league-leading 103 walks. Chicago's Swish Nicholson led the league with 29 home runs and 128 RBI.
Pittsburgh's 36-year-old pitching ace Rip Sewell invented the blooper pitch, which he nicknamed the "eephus," and went 21-9 to lead the National League in wins. And in Philadelphia, owner Bill Cox ran afoul of baseball's anti-gambling laws. He was caught betting on his own team (to win), and was forced to sell the team.
The American League race was another laugher, as the Yankees smoked runner-up Washington by 13-1/2 games with a second-half surge. Bill Dickey, age 36, led the Yanks in hitting at .351; Charlie Keller hit 31 home runs, second only to Rudy York's 34; and first baseman Nick Etten totaled 107 RBI, second to York's 118.
Thirty-two-year-old Frank Crosetti took over at short, as Phil Rizzuto joined Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich, and Red Ruffing overseas. Pitcher Spud Chandler, age 35, went 20-4 with a league-low 1.64 ERA for the Bronx Bombers. Chicago's Luke Appling took over the batting title vacated by the absent Ted Williams with a .328 average. Detroit's Dick Wakefield was second in hitting at .316 and first in doubles with 38.
In the 1943 World Series, New York got its revenge for 1942 by beating St. Louis in five games. Chandler, the regular-season's MVP, was the pitching hero, winning game one 4-2 and game five 2-0, and recording an ERA of 0.50.
Dickey was the batting hero of New York's tenth World Championship, leading all hitters with four RBI. Dickey homered to account for both Yankee runs in the deciding game. Walker Cooper got the win in game two, the sole Card victory, despite mourning the loss of his father, who died earlier that day.
The next page provides headlines and summaries of the some of the top stories of the 1943 baseball season.
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