The New York Yankees won 103 games during the 1954 baseball season -- more than they had in any of their five previous pennant seasons -- only to finish eight games behind the Indians, who won a league-record 111. The absence of the Yanks from post-season play was just one of several changes in '54.
Dodger skipper Chuck Dressen after winning two pennants demanded a three-year contract and was fired. Financially troubled, Bill Veeck sold the Browns to a group that moved the team to Baltimore. Arnold Johnson purchased the Athletics from Connie Mack, then took them to Kansas City after the season.
There were new faces that would become legends. Hank Aaron took over left field for the Braves, launching a 23-year career that would include 755 home runs. Ernie Banks played his first full season as the Cubs shortstop; 19 years later, he would retire, as a Cub, with 512 homers. Al Kaline played the first full season of 22 with the Tigers.
The story of the year, though, was the Tribe, who bested the seemingly invincible Yanks. Although Larry Doby led the league in home runs (32) and RBI (126) and Bobby Avila placed second in the league behind Boston's Ted Williams with a .341 average, it was Cleveland's pitching that won it. Early Wynn and Bob Lemon each took 23 games to share the league lead. Mike Garcia had the league's best ERA at 2.64, and rookie hurlers Don Mossi and Ray Narleski combined for nine wins and 20 saves.
The Yankees got an MVP year from Yogi Berra, and Bob Grim was Rookie of the Year with 20 wins. Age was taking its toll on the rest of the pitching staff, however, and they couldn't catch the Tribe. The Dodgers were expected to win the National League for a third straight year, but the Giants, coming off a fifth-place finish, ended up taking the flag by 5 games.
Yogi Berra (sliding) is a three-time American League MVP.
See more baseball seasons pictures.
Willie Mays returned from two years of service and won the MVP, hitting a league-high .345 (right fielder Don Mueller finished second in the National League with a .342 average); he also hammered in 41 home runs to tie with Hank Sauer of Chicago for third place. A trade, however, was what really-powered New York.
The Giants shipped Bobby Thomson to the Braves for pitcher Johnny Antonelli, who was 21-7 with a league-leading 2.29 ERA. The trade haunted Dodger fans, who had been trying to forget about Thomson since his pennant-winning homer in 1951. Giants starters Sal Maglie and Ruben Gomez combined for 31 wins, and relievers Marv Grissom and Hoyt Wilhelm teamed up for 22 wins and 26 saves.
Although Ted Kluszewski provided Cincinnati with a league-topping 49 homers and 141 RBI and Robin Roberts won a circuit-best 23 games for Philadelphia for the third consecutive year, both teams posed little threat to the Giants.
The 1954 World Series had some memorable moments. With the score tied two-all in the eighth inning of game one, the Tribe had two men on and Vic Wertz at the plate. He launched a rocket into center field of the Polo Grounds. The legendary Mays turned, sprinted straight back, and made an astonishing over-the-shoulder catch some 440 feet from the plate, preserving the tie. Dusty Rhodes broke the deadlock in the bottom of the tenth with a pinch-hit homer off Lemon.
Antonelli beat Wynn 3-1 in the second game, as Rhodes tied it in the fifth with a pinch-hit single and homered in the seventh. In the third inning of game three, Rhodes delivered a two-run, pinch single to give the Giants a 3-0 lead in a match they finally won 6-2. The Giants then swept the Series with a 7-4 win in game four.
The next page provides headlines and summaries for some of the top stories of the 1954 baseball season.
To learn more about baseball, see:
- 1953 Baseball Season
- 1955 Baseball Season
- Baseball History
- How Baseball Works
- How the Baseball Hall of Fame Works
- How Minor League Baseball Teams Work
- Babe Ruth