1946 Baseball Season

Ted Williams started the 1946 baseball season on fire, after coming off four years of military service, as the Red Sox built a huge lead before coasting to a 12-game lead over Detroit at the wire. Even though Williams's final stats look good (.342 average, 38 home runs, and 123 RBI ), the Red Sox MVP did most of his damage early.

Cleveland manager Lou Boudreau contributed to Williams's poor second half when he introduced the "Ted Williams overshift" in the second game of a July 14 doubleheader. Williams had homered three times in the opener, and when he came to bat in the second game, he faced a defense in which every man was stationed to the right of second base except the left fielder, who played deep short. Williams was laughing so hard that he had to step out of the batter's box to regain his composure.

The shift became less funny as the season wore on and other managers copied it -- though the Red Sox slugger did get a measure of revenge by clinching the American League flag for Boston with an opposite field, inside-the-park homer against Cleveland on September 13.

Many American League teams simply pitched around Williams, as evidenced by his 156 walks. Other Red Soxers picked up the slack. Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio batted over .300 (.335 and .316, respectively); Rudy York and Bobby Doerr knocked in over 100 RBI (119, 116).

Washington's Mickey Vernon took the American League batting title at .353, and Detroit's Hank Greenberg led in homers with 44 and RBI with 127. The Tigers' Hal Newhouser won his second straight ERA title at 1.94, and Bob Feller struck out 348, the most in the majors since 1904.

The National League race was disrupted when several players from contending teams jumped to the Mexican League, where the Pasquel brothers were offering underpaid American major leaguers huge increases in salary. Brooklyn's Mickey Owen and Luis Olmo and Giants Danny Gardella and Sal Maglie were among the first to go.

The Cardinals lost pitcher Max Lanier, who started the 1946 season 6-0 with a 1.93 ERA, and came close to losing hitting star Stan Musial. Commissioner Happy Chandler discouraged others from leaving by threatening the jumping players with five-year suspensions from the majors. He later issued an amnesty in 1949.

The National League race came down to a season-long battle between St. Louis and Brooklyn. The Dodgers led by 7-1/2 in July, but again faded down the stretch. The two teams finished in a tie to set the stage for the first National League pennant playoff, a best-of-three affair.

MVP Musial and Enos Slaughter were the twin engines that powered the Cardinals' attack. Musial batted a league-leading .365, and also led in runs with 124, doubles with 50, and triples with 20; the .300-hitting Slaughter scored 100 runs and drove in a league-high 130. With Lanier gone, Howie Pollet became St. Louis' ace, going 21-10 with a National League-low 2.10 ERA.

The Dodgers were led by Pete Reiser, who stole a league-leading 34 bases; Dixie Walker, who had 116 RBI; and second baseman Eddie Stanky, who drew 137 walks to lead the National League in on-base average at .436. But it was all for naught. St. Louis won the playoff in two games on Pollet's 4-2 complete-game defeat of Ralph Branca in game one, and an 8-1 drubbing in game two.

The Cardinals also won the World Series in seven well-pitched games. York's tenth-inning homer won game one for the Red Sox, and the teams exchanged victories until the final game. With the score 3-3 in the top of the eighth, the slumping Williams popped up to leave the go-ahead run on second.

In the bottom half, Slaughter singled and scored the winning run on a two-out single to left-center by Harry Walker.

The next page provides headlines and summaries for some of the top stories of the 1946 baseball season.

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1946 Baseball Season Headlines

In 1946, Mickey Vernon won a batting title and the St. Louis Cardinals won the National League pennant. Here are some of the headlines from the 1946 baseball season:

Harry Brecheen Rises in the 1946 World Series

In the 1946 World Series, Harry Brecheen ceded the Red Sox just one run in 20 innings and became the last National League lefty to win three games in a fall classic. Brecheen was a consistent winner during his eight seasons in the minors, but was judged too small to succeed up top. However, the war-time pitching shortage caused the Cards to reconsider. He went 15-15 for them during the 1946 regular season.

Forbes Field Gets a Facelift

The new Pirates owners and manager Billy Herman and Principal owner John Galbreath were astute enough to realize that, with the coming of Ralph Kiner, it was time to bring in the left-field wall of Forbes Field.

Mickey Vernon Wins the American League Bat Title

In the 20 seasons Mickey Vernon played, he won two batting titles (.353 in 1946, .337 in 1953) yet cleared the .300 mark just five times. Four of them came when he was past 35 years old. Asked about Vernon, Satchel Paige said, "I've faced the best in the world just about, but I never could get Mickey out."

Ralph Kiner was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.
Ralph Kiner was inducted
into the Hall of Fame
in 1975.

Stan Musial Posts Three Highs

In 1946, home runs were so scarce in the National League that Stan Musial tied for fifth in the four-bagger derby with just 16. But he led the circuit in hits (228), doubles (50), and triples (20) by such a wide margin that his 366 total bases were 83 more than the National League runner-up, teammate Enos Slaughter, collected. Musial also led the league in batting at a robust .365.

Ralph Kiner Leads the National League in Homers

Kiner's minor league performance offered no hint chat he would win the National League home run crown his rookie year. Furthermore, his 23 round-trippers tied Johnny Rizzo's club record, set in 1938 when Rizzo was also a rookie. Ironically, Rizzo was back in the minors in 1946 and was never heard from again.

The St. Louis Cardinals Take the 1946 National League Pennant

Dodger catcher Bruce Edwards sheds his mask as Marty Marion of the Cardinals lifts a pop fly in the 1946 playoff series for the National League pennant. The Cardinals had to watch the Scoreboard when they lost to the Cubs on closing day of the season; St. Louis had to hope that former Cardinal Mort Cooper could beat the Dodgers and get them a tie. He did, 4-0. The Cards also won the playoff.

Check out more headlines from the 1946 baseball season on the next page.

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More 1946 Baseball Season Headlines

Below are more headlines from the 1946 baseball season, including players returning from the war and the great pitching of Bob Feller.

Bob Feller Racks Up 348 Strikeouts

Bob Feller struck out 348 batters in 1946. He would have fanned even more had he been able to pitch against his teammates. In 1946, Cleveland batters fanned only 16 fewer times than the Browns, the most strikeout-prone team in the majors.

Feller, who won 26 games and spun a no-hitter in 1946, overpowered hitters with his curve, his slider, and, of course, his blazing fastball. Manager Bucky Harris once told his team how to bat against Feller: "Go up and hit what you see. And if you don't see anything, come on back."

Ted Williams Hits Through Shift

One has to wonder how much the "Williams Shift" affected the lifetime stats of Ted Williams. From 1946 on, opponents regularly applied the shift, and Williams still pulled the ball in their direction, hitting .342 in '46. Williams was also hurt by the deep right field fence in Fenway Park, as well as the nearly five years he lost to armed service. Still, he hit .344 with 525 homers in his career.

Warren Spahn, Johnny Sain: Boston's Best

Both Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain debuted with the Braves in 1942, missed 1943 through 1945 due to the war, and rejoined the Braves in 1946. From 1946 through 1951, Boston boasted a 20-game winner -- be it Spahn or Sain. The rest of the staff, unfortunately, never measured up to the two aces, inspiring fans to chant, "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain."

Harry Walker Hits .412 in the 1946 World Series

Harry Walker hit .412 in the 1946 World Series and got the hit that won the championship for the Cardinals, but his performance failed to atone for his .236 average during the season. The following spring, he was shipped to the Phils. Walker became the first player to win a batting crown during a season in which he was traded (.363 in the '47 season).

The next page highlights key events and details from the 1946 baseball season.

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1946 Baseball Season Highlights

During the 1946 baseball season, the St. Louis Cardinals won the 1946 World Series in seven well-pitched games and Forbes Field received a much needed facelift. Below you will find the highlights from the 1946 baseball season:

  • The Red Sox win their first flag since 1918.
  • The Cardinals cop their fourth National League flag in five years.
  • The Cards defeat the Dodgers two games to none in the first pennant playoff in major meague history.
  • The Cards win the most exciting World Series since 1926 in seven games.
  • Harry Brecheen wins three 1946 World Series games for the Cards.
  • Enos Slaughter scores the winning run in game seven of the 1946 World Series by coming all the way home from first on a single by Harry Walker.
  • Harry Walker leads all 1946 World Series players with a .412 BA and six RBI.
  • Williams is selected 1946 American League MVP.
  • Musial is named 1946 National League MVP.
  • The American League wins the most one-sided All-Star Game in history 12-0 at Fenway, as Williams hits two homers.
  • Bob Feller fans 348 in his first full year back from Navy.
  • Hal Newhouser and Bob Feller tie for the major league lead with 26 wins.
  • Feller's 36 CGs are the most by a major league pitcher since the end of the dead-ball era.
  • Boo Ferriss of the Red Sox wins 25 games.

  • Washington's Mickey Vernon leads the American League in batting at .353.
  • Pirate Ralph Kiner becomes the first rookie to lead the National League in homers -- he hits just 23.
  • Hank Greenberg leads majors with 44 homers and American League with 127 RBI.
  • Greenberg is the first in major league history to hit 40 homers with under a .300 average.
  • Musial tops the majors in batting (.365), hits (228), and triples (20).
  • Musial tops the National League in runs (124), doubles (50), total bases (366), and SA (.587).
  • The Mexican League lures several major league stars by offering them more money than the majors are paying.
  • Jackie Robinson becomes first black American to play a full season in OB in this century.
  • In January, the Giants buy Walker Cooper from the Cards for $175,000.
  • A four-man group, including John Galbreath and Bing Crosby, buy the Pirates.
  • Buddy Rosar of the A's becomes the first regular catcher with a perfect 1.000 FA for a season.
  • Buddy Kerr of the Giants sets a new FA record for shortstops (.982).
  • On May 28, the first night game is played at Yankee Stadium.
  • On July 27, Rudy York of the Red Sox hits two grand slams.

Take a look at the next section for more highlights from the 1946 baseball season.

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More 1946 Baseball Season Highlights

Check out more highlights of the 1946 baseball season, including the Red Sox winning 104 games and trades between teams:

  • Johnny Schmitz of the Cubs tops the National League with just 135 Ks.
  • Players form the American Baseball Guild in the fourth attempt to unionize.
  • The American Baseball Guild helps raise the minimum major league salary to $5,000.
  • Bill Kennedy of Rocky Mount in the Coastal Plains League fans 456 hitters and has a 28-3 record with a 1.03 ERA.
  • On June 9, the Giants' Mel Ott becomes the first manager to be ejected from both games of a doubleheader.
  • Brooklyn's Pete Reiser steals home an National League record seven times in a season.
  • Reiser breaks an ankle with two weeks left in the season, possibly costing the Dodgers the pennant.
  • Joe Cronin of the Red Sox becomes the first to manage two different American League teams to flags.
  • The Red Sox win 104 games during the 1946 baseball season after winning just 71 in 1945.
  • Ed Head of Brooklyn no-hits Braves on April 23.
  • Hal Newhouser tops the major league in ERA (1.94), is second in the American League MVP vote.

    Bill Veeck's Hall of Fame plaque reads,
    Bill Veeck's Hall of Fame
    plaque reads, "A
    of the Little Guy."

  • Cardinal Howie Pollet is the National League ERA king (2.10) and also tops the National League in wins (21).
  • Ted Williams tops the American League in SA (.677), total bases (343), runs (142), runs produced (227), OBP (.497), and walks (156).
  • Bill Veeck serves his first full season as owner of the Indians.
  • The Braves get Bob Elliott from the Pirates for four players.
  • Cleveland trades Allie Reynolds to the Yankees for Joe Gordon and Eddie Bockman.
  • Cleveland trades Sherm Lollar and Ray Mack to the Yankees for Gene Bearden, Hal Peck, and Al Gettel.
  • The Tigers trade Barney McCosky to the A's for George Kell.
  • McCosky is the only American League regular who Bob Feller fails to fan in 1946.
  • A group headed by Lou Perini buys the Braves.
  • Bill Thomas, winningest pitcher in minor league history, is banned after the season in a gambling probe (he's later reinstated).
  • On May 8, Boston's Johnny Pesky becomes the first American Leaguer to score six runs in a game.
  • Pesky leads the American League in hits (208) in his first year back from armed service.
  • On July 14, Lou Boudreau becomes the first player in the 20th century to collect five extra-base hits in a nine-inning game.
  • An all-time record 52 minor leagues begin the season.

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