The 1944 baseball season was the peak -- or, to look at it another way, the nadir -- of wartime baseball. The National League didn't embarrass itself; the Cardinals won their third straight pennant behind respectable ballplayers like Marty Marion, Walker Cooper, Johnny Hopp, and especially Stan Musial.

But in the American League, the acute shortage of players dragged the entire league down to the level of the St. Louis Browns, perennial doormats who had finished in the second division nine out of the previous ten seasons. The dismal Browns had never won a pennant in 43 years of American League competition.

The 1944 Browns were relatively untouched by the military draft, as they featured an all-4F infield, nine players on the roster 34 years old or older, and a motley collection of notorious characters, such as Tex Shirley and Mike Kreevich. Fourth starter Sig Jakucki, who went 13-9 with a 3.55 ERA, had retired in 1936 with a 0-3 major league record; he was rediscovered pitching for a Houston industrial-league team.

Rounding out the staff were old men Nels Potter (who went 19-7 with a 2.83 ERA) and Denny Galehouse (9-10), and youngsters Jack Kramer (who finished 17-13 with a 2.49 ERA) and Bob Muncrief (13-8). The big hitters for the Browns were 23-year-old shortstop Vern Stephens, who hit .293 and was second in homers with 20 and first in RBI with 109, and Kreevich, the team's only .300 hitter at .301.

St. Louis won its first nine games of the season, and continued to surprise the baseball world by hanging tough in a four-team race with Detroit, Boston, and the Yankees. The race came down to the final week, when the Browns defeated New York five times, winning the pennant by 1 game over Detroit.

St. Louis clinched the flag with a come-from-behind 5-2 victory over New York on two home runs by Chet Laabs and one by Stephens. The Browns finished with a record of 89-65, which was, at the time, the worst record ever by an American League pennant-winner.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was Major League Baseball’s first administrator.
Kenesaw Mountain Landis
was Major League
Baseball’s very first
administrator.

The sportswriters couldn't bring themselves to name one of the Browns American League MVP, so the award went to Detroit lefthander Hal Newhouser, who had a record of 29-9. Newhouser and teammate Dizzy Trout were first and second in both wins and ERA. Cleveland's Lou Boudreau took the batting title at .327, and New York's Nick Etten led in homers with 22.

The Cards slipped from first for just four days during the season. Their 105 triumphs made them the first National League team to win over 100 games for three straight years.

The National League MVP went to Cardinals shortstop Marty Marion. Musial hit .347 (second only to Brooklyn's Dixie Walker at .357) with 51 doubles, 112 runs, and 94 RBI Leadoff man Johnny Hopp hit .336, stole 15 bases, and scored 106 runs.

MVP runner-up Swish Nicholson of the Cubs had another big power-hitting year, leading the league with 33 homers and 122 RBI. The Reds' wartime search for talent reached an extreme when they used 15-year-old pitcher Joe Nuxhall in one game. He returned to high school with a major league ERA of 45.00.

The surprising Browns put up a good fight in the 1944 World Series -- especially by the pitchers -- but were undone by poor defense. The St. Louis double-play combo of Don Gutteridge and Stephens made three errors apiece, as their team lost the Series in six.

A month after the 1944 World Series, 78-year-old commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis died.

His 35-year tenure was characterized by a strong and successful stand against gambling-related corruption, and surprising sympathy for the players' side in disputes with owners. The baseball owners have made sure never to give any other commissioner the power that they regretted giving to Landis. Landis was replaced by Happy Chandler.

The next page provides headlines and summaries for some of the top stories of the 1944 baseball season.

To learn more about baseball, see:

1944 Baseball Season Headlines

The year 1944 gave several less well-known baseball players unexpected chances to shine, since many of the better players were serving in the military. Below are headlines from the the 1944 baseball season:

Snuffy Stirnweiss Leads American League in Runs

Snuffy Stirnweiss totaled 290 MVP votes in 1944 and 1945 and never received another. In 1944, he led the American League with 125 runs scored and 205 hits. Although he is lumped now among the war-time players who had a couple of fluky good seasons, in one respect -- fielding -- he did his best work after the war.

Marty Marion is Named 1944 National League MVP

Marty Marion was regarded by sportswriters as the National League's best shortstop during the 1940s, but most National League players felt that Eddie Miller was his superior -- at least in the field. A .267 hitter in 1944, Marion won the National League MVP Award by a scant one-vote margin over Bill Nicholson of the Cubs.

Nick Etten Leads the American League in HRs

If asked to rattle off the names of all the Yankees' home run and RBI kings, few will remember to mention Nick Etten. But his anonymity today notwithstanding, Etten was the Yankees' top slugger from 1943 to 1945, blasting an American League-high 22 home runs in 1944. He later played in the high minors until he was nearly age 40.

George McQuinn Tops the 1944 World Series Hitters

George McQuinn hit .438 for the Browns in the 1944 World Series. McQuinn had the dimmest future imaginable in the early 1930s. He played first base in the Yankees farm chain while Lou Gehrig played the position every day for the parent club.

Joe DiMaggio Serves in the Military

Staff sergeant Joe DiMaggio has his unit patch sewn on his uniform by Brigadier General William Floos. In DiMaggio's absence, Johnny Lindell manned center field for the Yankees in 1944. Lindell was drafted the following season, and the job fell to Tuck Stainback, who had not played regularly in the majors since 1934.

Dixie Walker Tops the National League at .357

The favorite player of many Brooklyn fans in the 1940s, Dixie Walker was nicknamed "The People's Cherce." He earned the most cheers in 1944 when he led the National League with a .357 average. However, Dixie overestimated his popularity with the Brooklyn management. When Walker declared in 1947 that he would not play on the same team with Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey traded him to Pittsburgh.

See the next page for more 1944 baseball season headlines.

To learn more about baseball, see:

More 1944 Baseball Season Headlines

Below are more headlines from the 1944 baseball season, including the Cardinals winning the World Series and the death of commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Marty Marion Homers in Game Two

Marty Marion, who led the Cards in hitting in the 1943 classic, nonetheless batted eighth in the order for much of the 1944 baseball season. The first eighth-place hitter to win an MVP Award, Marion collected 63 RBI while hitting .267.

Dizzy Trout Shuts 'Em Out

Irv Haag wrote that Dizzy Trout "came by his nickname naturally." In 1944, striving to overhaul the Browns, Tigers manager Steve O'Neill started Trout in 40 games and used him in relief in nine more. The hurler won 27 games that year, posting an American League-high seven shutouts. Trout and his son Steve lead all father-son pairs in combined career wins.

Ray Sanders Heads for Home

Cardinals on-deck hitter Augie Bergamo used body language to speed teammate Ray Sanders across home plate in game two of the 1944 World Series. Sanders scored on a fly ball by Emil Verban for the Cards' second run in the contest. The umpire is Bill McGowan, who officiated a record 2,541 consecutive games over a 16-1/2 year period without missing so much as a single inning.

Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis Dies

For years prior to his death in 1944, commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis had been regarded as the players' best friend, yet that did not mean all players. When asked by a chauffeur when he was going to let blacks play in the major leagues, the commissioner replied, "I can't do a damn thing about it, Art. It's up to the club owners."

1944 St. Louis Cardinals Win the World Series

Cardinals pitcher Ted Wilks' scoreless relief stint in game six handed the Cardinals the 1944 World Series. Wilks was 17-4 as a rookie that year. In 1946 and again in 1947, he pitched the entire season for the Cards without suffering a single loss (12-0 total).

Sportsman's Park Hosts Series

More than 30,000 fans packed Sportsman's Park to see the 1944 World Series, featuring the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns. Both teams played in the stadium during the regular season and, consequently, all of the World Series games were played there. Though the Browns owned the ballpark, the Cardinals won the Series, four games to two.

The next page highlights key events and details from the 1944 baseball season.

To learn more about baseball, see:

1944 Baseball Season Highlights

­

During the 1944 baseball season the National League performed well, while the American League suffered due to a shortage of players that had to serve in the military. Below you will find major highlights from the 1944 baseball season:

  • The Browns win the first and only flag in their history.
  • The Cardinals grab its third straight flag in the National League.
  • The Cards take all-Mound 1944 City World Series in six games.
  • George McQuinn of the Browns leads all 1944 World Series players with .438 BA and five RBI.
  • Emit Verban hits .412 to lead the Cards in the 1944 World Series.
  • The Cards get World Series wins from four different pitchers.
  • Blix Donnelly wins the key game of the 1944 World Series, game two, in 13 innings after Cards drop the opener.
  • Cardinal Marty Marion is the 1944 National League MVP.
  • Hal Newhouser wins 29 games for the second-place Tigers, the most since 1931 by an Major League lefty.
  • Hal Newhouser leads the American League in strikeouts with 187.
  • Dizzy Trout wins 27 for the Tigers to give the club a post-dead-ban tandem record of 56 wins from two pitchers.
  • Dizzy Trout is second to Hal Newhouser in MVP vote -- only time pitchers from the same team have finished one-two.
  • Dizzy Trout and Hal Newhouser are the top two in the league in wins, ERA, innings, strikeouts, CGs, and shutouts.
  • Dizzy Trout tops the American League in CGs (33), innings (352), ERA (2.12), and shutouts (seven).
  • Brooklyn's Dixie Walker tops the National League in batting at .357.
  • Cleveland's Lou Boudreau wins the American League bat title at .327.
  • Cub Bill Nicholson tops the majors in homers with 33 and RBI with 122.
  • American League homer leader Nick Etten of the Yankees has just 22.
  • Giant's rookie Bill Voiselle wins 21; is the last rookie in Major League history to pitch 300 or more innings, as he works 313.
  • Bill Voiselle leads the National League in Ks (161).
  • The Giants' Ace Adams appears in 60 or more games as a pitcher for a record third consecutive year.
  • Ace Adams leads the majors in saves with 13.
  • Snuffy Stirnweiss, a .219 hitter in 1943, tops the majors with 205 hits.
  • Elmer Gedeon becomes the first former major leaguer to be killed in action in World War II.
  • On June 10, the Reds use 15-year-old pitcher Joe Nuxhall, the youngest player in this century.
  • The Cardinals sweep 17 doubleheaders.
  • Lou Boudreau is involved in 134 DPs, a record for shortstops in a 154-game season.
  • Ray Mueller sets a National League record when he participates in 217 consecutive games as a catcher.
  • Ray Mueller sets a National League record for a 154-game season by catching in 155 games.
  • At the end of August, the Cards have a 91-30 mark, but are only 14-19 the rest of the way.
  • Tom Sunkel, the most successful one-eyed player in Major League history, appears in his last Major League game.
  • Detroit rookie Chuck Hostetler, age 41, hits .298 in 90 games.
  • The National League wins the 1944 All-Star Game 7-1 at Pittsburgh.
  • On April 27 vs. Dodgers, Jim Tobin of Braves becomes first pitcher to hit a homer while tossing a no-hitter.
  • On August 10, Red Barrett of the Braves throws record-low 58 pitches in a CG shutout of Reds.
  • Cincinnati's Clyde Shoun no-hits the Braves on May 15.
  • Stan Musial tops the National League in doubles (51) and SA (.549), and ties for lead in hits (197).
  • Bill Nicholson leads the National League in runs (116), runs produced (205), and total bases (317).
  • Snuffy Stirnweiss tops American League in runs (125) and ties for lead in triples (16).
  • The Cards lead the majors in batting (.275), runs (772), homers (100), fielding (.982), and ERA (2.68).
  • Washington's George Myatt goes 6-for-6 on May 1.
  • Washington's Stan Spence goes 6-for-6 on June 1.
  • The Browns' pennant-clinching game is hurled by Sig Jakucki -- he had been out of majors since 1936.
  • The Carpenter family assumes ownership of the Phillies.
  • On August 29, the Braves' Damon Phillips becomes the first third baseman since 1890 to make 11 assists in a nine-inning game.
  • Hal Gregg of Brooklyn is first pitcher in Major League history to fail to finish as many as 25 starts in a season.
    Bobby Doerr was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.
    Bobby Doerr (above)
    and Bob Johnson both
    slug .528 in 1944.

  • The Senators finish last but only 25 games out of first-an American League record for closest margin between first place and last.
  • Ed Heusser of Cincinnati leads the National League in ERA (2.38).
  • Pirate Johnny Barrett leads the National League in steals (28) and triples (19).
  • Yankee Johnny Lindell ties Snuffy Stirnweiss for the American League lead in triples (16) and edges him for league lead in total bases (297-296).
  • Red Sox Bob Johnson leads the American League in OBP (.431) and runs produced (195).
  • Bob Johnson is edged by teammate Bobby Doerr for the SA lead, as both slug .528.
  • The Browns shortstop Vern Stephens leads the American League in RBI (109).
  • Dick Wakefield returns from the armed forces and hits .355 for the Tigers, almost carrying them to the pennant.
  • Stan Spence hits 18 of Washington's 33 home runs.

To learn more about baseball, see:

­­

More 1944 Baseball Season Highlights

Check out more 1944 baseball season highlights, including Ray Mueller's records and Stan Musial's many hits.

  • Ray Mueller sets a National League record when he participates in 217 consecutive games as a catcher.
  • Mueller sets a National League record for a 154-game season by catching in 155 games.
  • At the end of August, the Cards have a 91-30 mark, but are only 14-19 the rest of the way.
  • Tom Sunkel, the most successful one-eyed player in major league history, appears in his last major league game.
  • Detroit rookie Chuck Hostetler, age 41, hits .298 in 90 games.
  • The National League wins the 1944 All-Star Game 7-1 at Pittsburgh.
  • On April 27 vs. Dodgers, Jim Tobin of Braves becomes first pitcher to hit a homer while tossing a no-hitter.
  • On August 10, Red Barrett of the Braves throws record-low 58 pitches in a CG shutout of Reds.
  • Cincinnati's Clyde Shoun no-hits the Braves on May 15.
  • Musial tops the National League in doubles (51) and SA (.549), and ties for lead in hits (197).
  • Bill Nicholson leads the National League in runs (116), runs produced (205), and total bases (317).
  • Snuffy Stirnweiss tops American League in runs (125) and ties for lead in triples (16).
  • The Cards lead the majors in batting (.275), runs (772), homers (100), fielding (.982), and ERA (2.68).
  • Washington's George Myatt goes 6-for-6 on May 1.
  • Washington's Stan Spence goes 6-for-6 on June 1.
  • The Browns' pennant-clinching game is hurled by Sig Jakucki -- he had been out of majors since 1936.
  • The Carpenter family assumes ownership of the Phillies.
  • On August 29, the Braves' Damon Phillips becomes the first third baseman since 1890 to make 11 assists in a nine-inning game.
  • Hal Gregg of Brooklyn is first pitcher in major league history to fail to finish as many as 25 starts in a season.

    Bobby Doerr was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.
    Bobby Doerr (above)
    and Bob Johnson both
    slug .528 in 1944.

  • The Senators finish last but only 25 games out of first -- an American League record for closest margin between first place and last.
  • Ed Heusser of Cincinnati leads the National League in ERA (2.38).
  • Pirate Johnny Barrett leads the National League in steals (28) and triples (19).
  • Yankee Johnny Lindell ties Snuffy Stirnweiss for the American League lead in triples (16) and edges him for league lead in total bases (297-296).
  • Red Sox Bob Johnson leads the American League in OBP (.431) and runs produced (195).
  • Bob Johnson is edged by teammate Bobby Doerr for the SA lead, as both slug .528.
  • The Browns shortstop Vern Stephens leads the American League in RBI (109).
  • Dick Wakefield returns from the armed forces and hits .355 for the Tigers, almost carrying them to the pennant.
  • Stan Spence hits 18 of Washington's 33 home runs.

To learn more about baseball, see: