1948 Baseball Season


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.

Baseball Seasons Image Gallery

Lou Boudreau was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970.
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.

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1948 Baseball Season Headlines

In 1948, Stan Musial had one of the greatest seasons in baseball history, and the great Babe Ruth passed away. Here are some of the headlines from the 1948 baseball season:

Stan the Man Shines Again

Musial's 1948 baseball season ranks among the ten greatest in history (.376 average, 39 home runs, 131 RBI). What made it even more amazing was that, with the exception of Enos Slaughter, Musial got very little help from other Cardinals batters. On the mound, Harry Brecheen (20-7, 2.24 ERA) had a similar kind of year for the Redbirds.

World Mourns the Death of Babe Ruth

Baseball fans, young and old, file past the bier of Ruth in the rotunda of Yankee Stadium on August 18, 1948, to say farewell to the greatest slugger in the game's history. Ruth died of throat cancer at the age of 53. At Ruth's burial, on a hot day, ex-teammate Joe Dugan whispered, "I'd give a lot for a cold beer about now," Waite Hoyt confided, "So would the Babe."

Gene Bearden Wins the American League Flag

The 1948 Cleveland Indians lefthander Gene Bearden completed a stunning 8-3 win over the Red Sox in the first pennant playoff game in American League history.

Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr: Unbeatable Duo

Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr combined with shortstop Vern Stephens to produce 81 home runs and 375 RBI for the Red Sox in 1948. The trio was largely responsible for Boston tallying 67 more runs than Cleveland, even though the Tribe both outhit and outhomered the Red Sox by a substantial margin.

Pat Seerey Smacks Four HRs

Pat Seerey produced four home runs on July 18, 1948. Seerey, a 200-pound slugger with a 200-inch hole in his swing, was the American League whiff leader in every one of the four seasons that he played 100 or more games. Though he cracked four four-baggers in this game, he hit just 15 more during the rest of the season.

Dale Mitchell Scores in Series

Cleveland Indians on-deck hitter Joe Gordon signals to Dale Mitchell that he can score standing up on Lou Boudreau's double. The tally was the Indians' first run in game four of the 1948 World Series, won by the Tribe 2-1 behind Steve Gromek. A record 81,897 attended the game; the next day, a new record of 86,288 was set.

Check out more headlines from the 1948 baseball season on the next page.

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More 1948 Baseball Season Headlines

Below are more headlines from the 1948 baseball season, including the Cleveland Indians winning the World Series and Alvin Dark being named Rookie of the Year:

Tribe Wins 1948 World Series in Six

During the 1948 World Series-clinching win Joe Gordon hit a key home run; Bob Lemon was the winning pitcher; shortstop/manager was Lou Boudreau; and Gene Bearden relieved Lemon in the eighth inning and stifled a Braves rally to earn the save.

Alvin Dark Named ROTY

Shortstop Alvin Dark, who batted .322 with 39 doubles and 85 runs, was the controversial choice for Rookie of the Year in 1948. With only one award given for both leagues, Dark beat out Richie Ashburn, who hit .333 and led the majors in steals, as well as Gene Bearden, who won 20 games for Cleveland.

Richie Ashburn Hits .333 in Debut

Few players have batted .300 in both their first season and their last season. Ashburn was one of them. Ashburn debuted with a .333 average in 1948, leading the National League in steals (32). He led the league in batting twice. In his final season, 1962, he hit .306 with the Mets.

Rex Barney Enjoys Final Thrill

After years of struggling to acquire control, Rex Barney seemed right on the verge of putting it all together in a big way in 1948 (he went 15-13 that season with a 3.10 ERA). Instead, he regressed -- so enormously that he was gone from the majors by 1950. In the 1949 World Series, Barney started the final game but was lifted in the third inning after issuing six walks.

Barney's big moment came on September 9, 1948, when he no-hit the Giants.

Satchel Paige, 42, Goes 6-1

Cynics were convinced that Cleveland owner Bill Veeck signed the ancient Satchel Paige midway through the 1948 season solely as a gate attraction. The 42-year-old "rookie" went 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA that season. Five years later, he pitched in 57 games for Veeck's St. Louis Browns and was fourth in the American League in saves.

The next page highlights key events and details from the 1948 baseball season.

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1948 Baseball Season Highlights

During the 1948 baseball season, Richie Ashburn batted a .333 debut, Stan Musial's 1948 baseball season ended up ranking among the ten greatest in baseball history, and the world said goodbye to Babe Ruth.

Below, you will find more highlights from the 1948 baseball season:

  • 1948 Cleveland Indians win first flag since 1920.
  • The Braves take the first National League flag since 1914.
  • The Indians ruin all-Boston World Series by defeating Red Sox in first pennant playoff game in American League history.
  • The Indians win the 1948 World Series in six games.
  • Johnny Sain beats Bob Feller 1-0 in game one of the 1948 World Series.
  • In game one of the 1948 World Series, Boston's Phil Masi scores the lone run after being ruled safe on a pickoff play at second, though replays show he's out.

    Bob Lemon signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1938 as an amateur free agent.
    Bob Lemon signed with
    the Cleveland Indians in
    1938 as an amateur
    free agent.

  • Gene Bearden is the 1948 World Series hero, winning game three and saving the final game in relief of Bob Lemon.
  • The Indians win the 1948 World Series despite a team BA of .199.
  • Cleveland's Lou Boudreau is American League MVP -- last player/manager to win the award and the last to win a World Series.

  • Musial is named National League MVP.
  • Brave AI Dark is named Rookie of the Year and is third in the National League MVP vote.
  • Musial misses the Triple Crown by a margin of just one home run.

  • Ralph Kiner and Johnny Mize again tie for the National League homer crown with 40.
  • Sain tops the majors with 24 wins.
  • Ted Williams tops the American League in BA (.369), SA(.615), and OBP (.497).
  • Rookie Gene Bearden wins 20 games for Cleveland, tops the American League in ERA (2.43), and wins the pennant playoff game vs. Red Sox.
  • The Indians become first team in major league history to draw more than two million at home.
  • The Negro National League disbands, as most of its top players have jumped to the majors.
  • Boudreau tops American League shortstops in FA for the eighth time to tie a loop record.
  • The American League wins the All-Star Game 5-2 at St. Louis.
  • The Pirates make a record 19 outfield putouts on July 5.
  • Eddie Joost of the A's sets a new American League record when he leads off six games with home runs.
  • Pittsburgh's Johnny Riddle, age 42, catches for his brother Elmer Riddle in a major league game for the first time.
  • Phillies rookie Richie Ashburn leads the National League in steals (32).
  • Cleveland's Russ Christopher, the American League's saves leader with 17, retires after the season because of a heart condition.
  • New York Yankee Tommy Henrich leads the American League in runs (138) and triples (14).

Take a look at the next section for more highlights from the 1948 baseball season.

To learn more about baseball, see:

More 1948 Baseball Season Highlights

Check out more highlights of the 1948 baseball season, including the signing of Satchel Paige and Stan Musial getting 429 total bases:

  • Lou Boudreau is the first shortstop in American League history to hit over .350 and drive in more than 100 runs in the same season.
  • In the American League playoff game, Lou Boudreau goes 4-for-4.
  • Paige becomes the first black American to pitch in the American League and the first to pitch in a World Series game.
  • Veeck holds a special night for a fan, Joe Early, after Early writes Veeck inquiring why players are always honored and not the fans.
  • Casey Stengel, manager of the Oakland Oaks of the PCL, is hired to manage the Yankees in 1949.
  • White Sox Pat Seerey hits four homers in an 11-inning game on July 18.
  • Boston's Dom DiMaggio sets an American League record (since broken) with 503 outfield putouts.
  • Musial gets 429 total bases, the most by any major league player since Jimmie Foxx's 438 in 1932.
  • Musial gets five hits in a game four times during the season.
  • Cleveland's Joe Gordon hits an American League record 32 homers by a second baseman.
  • Snuffy Stirnweiss's .993 FA is a new major league record for second basemen.
  • Brooklyn's Rex Barney no-hits the Giants on Sept. 9.
  • The A's win 84 games, their best season between 1933 and 1969.
  • Cardinal Harry Brecheen tops the National League in win pct. (.741), ERA (2.24), Ks (149), and shutouts (seven).
  • Lemon leads the American League in innings (294), CGs (20), and shutouts (ten).
  • Joe DiMaggio tops the American League in RBI (155), homers (39), and total bases (355).
  • St. Louis' Bob Dillinger paces the American League in hits (207) and steals (28).
  • Cleveland tops the American League in BA (.282), ERA (3.22), and FA (.982).
  • Cleveland's four infielders have a combined 432 RBI and 97 homers.
  • Braves manager Billy Southworth wins his fourth pennant as a helmsman.
  • Cleveland pitcher Don Black suffers a brain aneurysm while batting in a game and nearly dies.
  • Frank "Trader" Lane is hired as the White Sox general manager.
  • The White Sox send Eddie Lopat to the Yanks for Aaron Robinson, Bill Wight, and Fred Bradley.
  • The White Sox trade Bob Kennedy to Cleveland for Pat Seerey and Al Gettel.
  • The Browns trade Sam Zoldak to Cleveland for Bill Kennedy and cash.
  • Cleveland swaps Eddie Robinson, Joe Haynes, and Ed Klieman to Washington for Mickey Vernon and Early Wynn.

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