The 1948 baseball season saw many surprising events, new records, the death of Babe Ruth, and a few close calls. Baseball came within one game of having an all-Boston World Series in 1948, as the Braves went 91-62 to take the National League flag by 6 1/2 games over St. Louis, and the Red Sox finished the regular season tied with Cleveland at 96-58.
The star of the National League was 27-year-old, second-time MVP Stan Musial, who turned in the finest all-around year of his career. "Stan the Man" led the National League in batting at .376, runs with 135, and RBI with 131. He also led the league in hits with 230, total bases with 429, doubles with 46, triples with 18, on base average at .450, and slugging at .702. He came within one home run of leading the National League in every major offensive category, as Johnny Mize and Ralph Kiner tied for the league lead in homers with 40.
The Braves were led by Bob Elliott -- who hit 23 homers and drew 131 walks -- and .300 hitters Eddie Stanky, Al Dark, Tommy Holmes, Mike McCormick, and Jeff Heath. On the pitching side, the Boston fans' cry was "Spahn and Sain and two days of rain." Thirty-year-old righty Johnny Sain went 24-15 to lead the National League in wins, complete games with 28, and innings with 315.
Warren Spahn, 27, went 15-12 with 16 complete games and 257 innings. No other Braves pitcher won more than 13 games. Apparently, there were enough rain-outs that Boston led the National League in team ERA, complete games, and fewest walks allowed.
The American League race was still up for grabs at the All-Star break among Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. New York's Joe DiMaggio led the American League in home runs with 39 and RBI with 155, and the Yanks' Tommy Henrich led in runs with 138 and triples with 14, But as the second half wore on, the best hitting team, Boston, and the best pitching team, Cleveland, rose to the top.
The Red Sox featured batting champion Ted Williams, whose home run total slipped to 25, third on his own team behind Bobby Doerr's 27 and Vern Stephens's 29. The Sox also fielded Dom DiMaggio, who hit 40 doubles and scored 127 runs, and Johnny Pesky, who was tied with Williams for third in the American League in runs with 124.
Lou Boudreau (in uniform) was inducted into the
Hall of Fame in 1970. See more baseball seasons pictures.
Williams batted .369, but lost out in the MVP voting to Cleveland shortstop Lou Boudreau, who was runner-up in batting at .355. Cleveland also boasted second baseman Joe Gordon, who hit 32 home runs; third baseman Ken Keltner, who had his peak year with 31 homers and 119 RBI; and outfielder Dale Mitchell, who batted .336.
But the Indians' main strength, like the Braves', was pitching. Unlike their National League rivals, however, the Indians staff was a deep one. The Tribe featured two 20-game winners in Gene Bearden and Bob Lemon, a 19-game winner in Bob Feller, and spot starters Steve Gromek, Sam Zoldak, and Satchel Paige (who went a combined 24-10). Cleveland owner Bill Veeck was widely ridiculed for pitching Paige, the former Negro League star (his exact age is unknown, but he was definitely pitching for the Birmingham Black Barons in 1928). Paige quieted his critics, however, by going 6-1 with a 2.47 ERA.
A coin flip determined that the one-game American League pennant playoff would be played at Boston's Fenway Park. And almost 30 years to the day before Bucky Dent's famous home run over the Green Monster, shortstop Boudreau won the pennant for the Indians with two home runs.
Cleveland then proceeded to make it a clean sweep of Boston, polishing off the Braves in the World Series. Cleveland's Feller went 0-2, but the Indians beat the Braves in six games on great pitching performances by Bearden (who pitched a shutout in game three), Gromek (who posted one win and a 1.00 ERA), and Lemon (who triumphed in two games).
The next page provides headlines and summaries for some of the top stories of the 1948 baseball season.
To learn more about baseball, see: