1949 Baseball Season

Ted Williams won his second MVP Award during the 1949 baseball season, batting .343 with 150 runs, 159 RBI, and 43 home runs. Barely nosed out for the batting title by Detroit's George Kell, Williams led all American League hitters in on-base average at .490 and slugging at .650. The Boston offense improved around him.

George Kell regularly hit over .300.
Throughout his career,
George Kell regularly
hit over .300.

Dom DiMaggio, Vern Stephens, and Johnny Pesky were third, fourth, and fifth in runs. Stephens tied Williams with 159 RBI and was second in home runs with 39. And Williams, DiMaggio, Al Zarilla, and Stephens were first, third, fourth, and fifth in doubles. The Red Sox won 96 games and scored the most runs in the major leagues, 896, yet they lost the pennant by 1 game to the Yankees.

Rookie manager Casey Stengel did it with mirrors, as none of the Yankees' three best hitters -- Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich, or Phil Rizzuto -- led the American League in any major hitting category. Only Henrich, with the third-best slugging mark of .526, appeared in the top five.

Stengel overcame injuries to DiMaggio (who missed half of the season with a heel injury and a case of pneumonia), Yogi Berra, and even late-season acquisition Johnny Mize with deft platooning and substituting. Among everyday players, only shortstop Rizzuto was steady.

The Yanks featured solid pitchers in 21-10 Vic Raschi, 17-6 Allie Reynolds, and super reliever Joe Page, who went 13-8 with 27 saves and a 2.60 ERA in 60 appearances. However, no Yankee made the top five in ERA, and only Raschi (fourth place) cracked the top five in wins.

Still, the Yankees gutted it out. With two days to go in the season and New York trailing Boston by 1 game, a sick DiMaggio doubled and singled and Johnny Lindell smacked a key homer to lead New York to a 5-4 victory and a tie for the pennant. On the season's last day, the Yanks clinched the pennant 5-3, thanks to Jerry Coleman's three-run double.

The race for the National League flag was also decided by a single game, as St. Louis and Brooklyn fought all season long before the young Dodgers came out on top. The Cardinals featured their usual recipe of Stan Musial and tough pitching. Musial hit .338 and chalked up 41 doubles, 128 runs, and 123 RBI. Cardinals ace Howie Pollet went 20-9 with a 2.77 ERA, and five other St. Louis hurlers won in double figures.

Burt Shotton took over the Dodger reins as Leo Durocher went off to manage the Giants. Shotton's philosophy was to let the new recruits -- and the veterans -- show their stuff at various stations. He put Duke Snider, for example, in center field. The rookie responded by batting .292 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI.

Brooklyn's Jackie Robinson, now moved to his natural position at second base, put on an MVP performance, hitting .342 to lead the league, scoring 122 runs, and surpassing Musial in RBI 124 to 123. Robinson also cracked 38 doubles and 12 triples.

Teamed with fellow former Negro Leaguers Don Newcombe (who went 17-8) and Roy Campanella (who hit 22 homers), as well as Carl Furillo, Pee Wee Reese, and Gil Hodges, Robinson gave Brooklyn the National League's best offense.

For the first two games of the 1949 World Series, the Dodgers and Yankees were like two heavyweight fighters feeling each other out. Reynolds won game one 1-0, and Preacher Roe evened things up in game two by the same score.

Then the veteran New Yorkers began to land telling blows. In game three, the Yankees rallied for three in the ninth to win 4-3. In game four, Ed Lopat beat Newcombe 6-4. In game five, New York scored ten runs in the first six innings to win 10-6.

The next page provides headlines and summaries for some of the top stories of the 1948 baseball season.

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