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.
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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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1943 Baseball Season Headlines
In 1943, the Yankees won the American League pennant, and teams adjusted to changes due to World War II. Here are some of the headlines from the 1943 baseball season:
Joe McCarthy Finishes On Top Again
Joe McCarthy guided the Yankees to their third straight American League pennant and second World Championship in 1943. He was so miffed that the club sold pitcher Hank Borowy to the Cubs against his wishes that he left the team for three weeks in 1945 and even offered to resign. A month and a half into the 1946 baseball season, with the Yankees off to a slow start, McCarthy's resignation was accepted.
The 1943 St. Louis Cardinals Move Training Digs
The Cardinals, as did all 16 major league teams, had to forsake their regular training site in St. Petersburg, Florida, and conduct their preseason drills closer to home during the war. The Indians, for one, trained at Purdue University.
The 1943 New York Yankees Miss Phil Rizzuto, Joe DiMaggio
The temporary departure of stars like Phil Rizzuto and Joe DiMaggio ended the Yankees' run of seven pennants in eight seasons. In 1944, and even more in 1945, Joe McCarthy had to do some of his best managing just to preserve his record of never finishing out of the first division.
Stan Musial Slugs .562
Stan Musial participated in four World Series in his first four full seasons in the majors. He then played 17 more years without ever appearing in another. In 1943, Musial led the National League in slugging average at .562 despite hitting just 13 home runs. The following year, he repeated as the National League slugging leader, although his home run total fell to 12.
Arky Vaughan Quits the 1943 Brooklyn Dodgers
Still at his peak -- 305 average, 66 RBI, and a National League-leading 112 runs scored -- Arky Vaughan quit the Dodgers rather than play under Leo Durocher. Nowadays, he could have become a free agent, but in 1943 Vaughan had no other choice. He came out of retirement in 1947 to play again for Brooklyn after Durocher was suspended for the season.
Bill Nicholson: 29 HRs, 128 RBI
Purchased from Chattanooga of the Southern Association. Bill Nicholson joined the Cubs in July 1939 and almost immediately demonstrated that he would soon be one of the National League's top sluggers. During World War II, he twice led the National League in both home runs and RBI. In 1943, he led the league with 29 dingers and 128 RBI.
Spud Chandler Leads American League in Wins
Spud Chandler's .717 career winning percentage is the highest in history for a 100-game winner. All of Chandler's 152 decisions came with the Yankees. A lackluster record in the minors delayed his major league debut, and a fragile arm idled him for long stretches after he made it. Chandler went 20-4 in '43, leading the American League in wins and ERA (1.64).
See the next page for more headines from the 1943 baseball season.
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More 1943 Baseball Season Headlines
Below are more headlines from the 1943 baseball season, including Bill Cox betting on his own team and George Case stealing 61 bases.
Bill Cox Goes Down in Disgrace
Few owners are so brazen as to be photographed wearing their team's uniform. Then again there have been few owners like the Phil's Bill Cox. He was barred in 1943 by the commissioner for betting on his own team. Not only was Cox foolish, he was also apparently a masochist. The Phils that year won just 64 games.
Dick Wakefield Arouses the American League
Dick Wakefield led the American League in hits (200) and doubles (38) as a rookie in 1943. He was also second in the league in batting (.316) and total bases (275) and third in runs (91). In 1944, he hit .355 for a half-season and nearly carried the Tigers to the pennant. Baseball came so easily to Wakefield that he adopted a lackadaisical attitude -- one which he couldn't shed even when his career began to go down the drain.
George Case Swipes 61 Bases
George Case was an anachronism. He stole bases by the carload (61 in 1943) yet his home runs could be counted on the fingers of one hand (one homer in '43). His talents made him invaluable to the Senators, who played during the war years as if it were still the dead-ball era. In 1943, the Senators stole 142 bases but clubbed just 47 home runs. In 1944, they smacked just 33 homers.
1943 New York Yankees Earn World Title
The 1943 World Champion New York Yankees were missing Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Tommy Henrich, and Red Ruffing, all of whom were in the armed services. Among the new Yankees was rookie Snuffy Stirnweiss who hit .219 in 1943, fielded .938, and gave no hint that he would be the club's biggest wartime star.
Walker Brother Falters
There were two sets of Walker brothers playing in the majors during the war years. All four of them were outfielders. Harry Walker and Dixie Walker were the better known of the two sibling acts. A World Series hero in 1946, Harry hit just .143 for the Cardinals in the 1943 fall classic. Harry was nicknamed "The Hat" because he had a habit of tugging at his cap when he was in the batter's box.
In the next section, learn about some of the historic highlights of the 1943 baseball season.
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1943 Baseball Season Highlights
The 1943 baseball season was greatly affected by World War II, along with the loss of key players to the military. While morale was low at times around the country, somehow, history was still being made in the sport of baseball. Take, for instance, the debut of the first twinight doubleheaders.
Below you will find major highlights from the 1943 baseball season:
- The Yankees repeat in the American League, earning their seventh flag in eight years.
- The Cardinals also repeat in National League.
- Yankees turn the tables on the Cards in the 1943 World Series; Yanks win in five games.
- Yankee Spud Chandler's two CG wins is top World Series performance.
- Yankee Billy Johnson leads World Series players in hits with just six.
- St. Louis and New York lose players to the armed forces; Yanks are without Joe DiMaggio, Cards are without Enos Slaughter.
- Joe McCarthy collects the last of his record seven World Series wins.
- McCarthy takes the last of his American League record (since broken) eight pennants.
- Spud Chandler is the American League MVP.
- Stan Musial is National League MVP, beating out Cardinal teammate Walker Cooper.
- Musial wins his first National League bat crown (.357).
- Musial leads the National League in OBP (.425), SA (.562), hits (220), doubles (48), triples (20), and total bases (347).
Luke Appling was star
shortstop for the Chicago
White Sox for close to
- Chicago's Luke Appling becomes lone American League shortstop to win two bat crowns (.328).
- Appling leads the American League in OBP (.419).
- Detroit's Rudy York tops the American League in homers (34) and RBI (118).
- York leads the American League in runs produced (174), SA (.527), and total bases (301).
- Chicago's Bill Nicholson leads the National League in homers (29), RBI (128), and runs produced (194).
- Major League teams are forced to conduct spring training in northern sectors due to World War II travel restrictions.
- The Browns add to their ongoing major league record when they complete their 42nd season without having won a pennant.
- Ace Adams is the first pitcher to appear in 60 or more games two years in a row.
- Washington finishes second in American League -- its best showing since 1933.
- On May 2, Phillie Schoolboy Rowe becomes the first pitcher to hit a grand slam in each league.
- Boston Red Sox Jim Tabor leads American League third basemen in errors for a fifth straight year.
- The Brooklyn Dodgers start season with Branch Rickey as their GM, replacing Larry MacPhail who's in the armed forces.
- New York Yankee Nick Etten goes 77 at-bats without hitting a single (though he does get other hits).
- Prior to the 1943 baseball season, the Yanks get Etten from the Phils for four players and $10,000.
- The Twin Ports League, the only Class E league in OB history, disbands on July 13.
See the next page for more highlights of the 1943 baseball season.
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More 1943 Baseball Season Highlights
Check out more 1943 baseball season highlights, including Jim Bagby Jr. topping the American League in innings and the Giants finishing last:
- On June 17, Joe Cronin becomes the first to pinch-hit a homer in both games of a doubleheader.
- Chicago White Sox Wally Moses and New York's Johnny Lindell tie for the American League lead in triples with 12 -- a new record-low for loop leader.
- Spud Chandler and Detroit's Dizzy Trout tie for the American League lead in wins (20).
- Spud Chandler leads in win percentage (.833) and ERA (1.64) and ties for the lead in shutouts (five).
- Jim Bagby Jr. -- son of 30-game winner Jim Sr. -- tops the American League in innings (273).
- During the 1943 baseball season, no pitcher in the American League has more than 20 complete games.
- Cleveland's Allie Reynolds leads the American League in Ks with 151.
- Cincinnati's Johnny Vander Meer repeats as National League K leader (174).
- For the first time since 1927, major league homer total falls below 1,000.
- The Cards hit .279 while no regular on the Yankees hits above .280.
- The Cards' Max Lanier leads the National League in ERA at 1.90.
- Cardinal Mort Cooper leads National League in win pct. (.724) and ties for lead in wins (21).
- Washington's George Case wins his fifth consecutive American League theft crown (61).
- George Case leads the American League in runs (102).
- The Giants finish last for the first time since 1915.
- To save on rubber, a new balata baseball is introduced.
- There are no homers in the first 11 games of the season, and the new ball is shelved.
- Mel Ott is second in the National League with 18 homers -- all 18 are hit in his home park.
- The Chicago White Sox play 44 doubleheaders.
- The Phils play a National League record 43 doubleheaders.
- The bankrupt Phils franchise is sold to the National League for $50,000; Bill Cox becomes owner.
- Guy Curtwright of the Chicago White Sox hits in 26 straight games, an American League rookie record.
- The A's lose an American League record (since broken) 20 straight games.
- Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis bans Phils' new owner Bill Cox for life for betting on his own team.
- On Sept. 16, Philly's Carl Scheib, age 16, becomes the youngest player ever to pitch in an American League game.
- The American League wins the first All-Star Game played at night, 5-3 at Shibe Park.
- Arky Vaughan quits the Dodgers at the end of the 1943 baseball season rather than continue to play under manager Leo Durocher.
- During the season, Vaughan leads the National League in runs (112).
- Detroit rookie Dick Wakefield tops the American League in hits (200) and doubles (38), and is second in batting (.316).
- The American League has only three .300 hitters and only five above .290.
- Ace Adams sets a new modern major league record with 70 mound appearances.
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