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.
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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.
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1954 Baseball Season Headlines
In 1954, the Browns moved from St. Louis to Baltimore, and Duke Snider had a top-notch season. Here are some of the headlines from the 1954 baseball season:
Bobby Avila, Willie Mays Hit .340-Plus
Bobby Avila came in second in the American League with a .341 batting average in 1954; Willie Mays topped the National League with his .345 mark that year. Avila was the last Indian to win a hitting crown. Two years later, he hit .224 and had just 115 hits in 138 games.
The 1954 St. Louis Browns Head East
Bill Veeck might have remained the St. Louis Browns owner if the franchise could have been shifted to the West Coast or even to Kansas City. The team's move to Baltimore after the 1953 season seemed against the grain to him, and events proved him right. Apart from the Browns and the ill-conceived Seattle Pilots, every franchise shift since 1954 has resulted in a move from a city east of the Mississippi to one in either the West or South.
Duke Snider Can't Carry the 1954 Brooklyn Dodgers
Duke Snider had his finest all-around season in 1954, as he finished at or near the top in virtually every major batting department -- a .341 average, 130 RBI, 120 runs scored. Dismal pitching and a year below par by Roy Campanella, however, doomed the Dodgers. Rookie skipper Walter Alston may have done his best managing job ever to get the club a second-place finish.
Willie Mays, Don Mueller Fuel the 1954 New York Giants
A look at the 1954 World Champion New York Giants. Willie Mays and Don Mueller finished first and second in the National League batting race. Mueller, who also paced the loop in hits, walked so rarely that his career on-base percentage was only 28 points above his batting average.
Gil Hodges Nets 130 RBI
Gil Hodges, like Duke Snider, also had his top season in 1954, racking up a .304 average, 23 doubles, 42 home runs, and 130 RBI. Between them, Hodges and Snider collected 82 home runs, 260 RBI, and 713 total bases, All three totals were easily the best in the majors that year by a pair of teammates. The Orioles, in contrast, got just 91 combined RBI and 14 home runs from their strongest duo -- Vern Stephens and Bob Kennedy -- who split time at third base. In 1955, Hodges would knock in 100 runs for the seventh consecutive season.
Early Wynn Dusts Off the 1954 New York Giants
Early Wynn maintained that he would dust off his own mother if she came up to bat against him with the game on the line. In game two of the 1954 World Series, he gave up just four hits, two of them to Dusty Rhodes. Cleveland fans waited in vain for Wynn to dust Dusty.
Check out more headlines from the 1954 baseball season on the next page.
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More 1954 Baseball Season HeadlinesBelow are more headlines from the 1954 baseball season, including Larry Doby's combination of home runs and strikes and Yogi Berra's MVP award.
American League's All-Star Heroes
The American League heroes of the 1954 All-Star Game are: Larry Doby, Ray Boone, Al Rosen, Bobby Avila, and Nellie Fox. Rosen nailed two home runs that day; Doby and Boone had one apiece. Boone, traded to Detroit in 1953, began his career with Cleveland as Lou Boudreau's much-maligned replacement at shortstop. The Tigers made him a third baseman, and for four years he was the best in the American League.
Larry Doby: Lots of HRs, Lots of Strikeouts
The rap on Larry Doby was that he chased bad pitches and struck out too often. In 1954, he led the American League with 32 home runs and 126 RBI. Upon retirement in 1959, he held the major league career record for the most strikeouts (18.9) per 100 at-bats; by 1990, Doby barely ranked among the top 50 in Ks per 100 at-bats.
Ted Williams is Robbed of BA Title
By today's rules, Ted Williams would have won the American League batting title in 1954. Although he had just 386 at-bats, his 136 walks would have given him well over the minimum number of plate appearances needed to currently qualify. He was, however, conceded the slugging crown, as his .635 slugging average was a full 100 points better than runner-up Minnie Minoso's mark.
Stan Musial is Real's Main Man
Real magazine, which polled all 16 major league managers, names Stan Musial the greatest player in baseball in 1954. That year, Musial played on a second division team for the first time. The Cards finished in sixth place despite topping the National League in runs and hitting.
Yogi Berra: Two Awards, Two Sons
Yogi Berra earns his second MVP Award -- he also has two sons, Tim and Larry. In 1954, Berra hit .307 and knocked home 125 runs; he also caught 149 games. Two years later, Dale -- the only Berra to follow in his father's footsteps -- was born.
Rhodes Homers Again
For the second day in a row, backup outfielder and pinch-hitter Dusty Rhodes of the Giants rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the 1954 World Series. His 280-foot fly ball in game two hit the upper facing of the right-field stands at the Polo Grounds, just inside the foul pole.
The next page highlights key events and details from the 1954 baseball season.
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1954 Baseball Season Highlights
The 1954 baseball season featured many notable moments such as Yogi Berra's second MVP award, Gil Hodges had his top season, and Real magazine named Stan Musial the greatest player for 1954. The events that took place during this baseball season didn't stop there. Below, you will find more memorable highlights from the 1954 baseball season:
- The Indians break the Yankees' choke-hold on the American League flag -- they win an American League record 111 games.
- The Giants return to top in the National League.
- The Giants sweep the 1954 World Series in a huge upset.
- Willie Mays makes the most famous catch in Series history in game one on long drive by Vic Wertz.
- Giant Dusty Rhodes hits two game-winning homers, drives in seven runs in only six Series at-bats.
- Vic Wertz leads all regular players in Series with .500 BA and eight hits.
- The Yankees win 103 games, most in any season under Casey Stengel, but finish a distant second.
- Mays wins the 1954 National League MVP.
- Berra takes the 1954 MVP Award in the American League.
- The American League wins the All-Star Game 11-9 in Cleveland, as hometown star Al Rosen hits two homers and knocks in five runs.
- Mays tops the National League in batting (.345) and slugging (.667) after spending the past two years in armed service.
- Early Wynn and Bob Lemon tie for the American League lead in wins with 23. On August 1, Milwaukee's Joe Adcock hits four homers and collects a major league record 18 total bases.
- Players are no longer allowed to leave their gloves on the playing field while their team is batting.
- Ted Williams returns from Korean War duty and hits .345.
- Cleveland's Bobby Avila is awarded the American League bat crown (.341) because Williams has fewer than 400 at-bats.
- Cleveland's Larry Doby tops the American League in homers (32) and RBI (126).
- The Tribe outscores its opponents by 242 runs.
- Giants newcomer Johnny Antonelli tops the National League in win pct. (.750) and ERA (2.29), and ties for second place in wins (21).
- Robin Roberts leads the National League in wins (23), Ks (185), CGs (29), and innings (337).
- St. Louis' Wally Moon is the National League Rookie of the Year.
- Yankee Bob Grim is the American League ROTY.
- Grim becomes the only pitcher in major league history to win 20 games while pitching fewer than 200 innings.
- The Browns are sold and move to Baltimore, becoming the first American League franchise to be moved since 1903.
- On August 8, in the eighth inning, the Dodgers score 12 runs with two out and the bases empty.
- Cards rookie Rip Repulski collects a major league record two-or-more hits in ten consecutive games.
Check out the next page for more highlights of the 1954 baseball season.
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More 1954 Baseball Season Highlights
Check out more 1954 baseball season highlights, including Karl Spooner's major league record and Ted Kluszewski's many hits:
- The sacrifice fly rule is reinstated once again.
- Cincy's Ted Kluszewski breaks Johnny Mize's National League record when he scores at least one run in 17 straight games.
- Karl Spooner of the Dodgers hurls shutouts in his first two major league starts.
- Spooner sets a major league record by fanning 15 batters in his big league debut.
- Jim Wilson of Milwaukee no-hits the Phils on June 12.
Duke Snider made his
debut in the big leagues
in 1947 -- at age 20.
- After the 1954 baseball season, the Yankees and Baltimore make a record 18-player swap.
- On May 2, Stan Musial becomes the first player to hit five homers in a doubleheader.
- Bobby Thomson's injury frees a spot in the Braves outfield for rookie second baseman Hank Aaron, who hits .280.
- Duke Snider leads the National League in runs (120) and total bases (378).
- Ted Kluszewski tops the National League in homers (49) and RBI (141).
- Musial leads the National League in doubles (41) and ties in runs (120).
- Ray Jablonski of the Cards becomes the second player in major league history to drive in 100 runs in first two seasons.
- After the season, St. Louis trades Ray Jablonski and Gerry Staley to Cincinnati for Frank Smith.
- Baltimore trades Roy Sievers to Washington for Gil Coan.
- The Cards deal Enos Slaughter to the Yankees for Bill Virdon, Mel Wright, and Emil Tellinger.
- The Orioles ship Vic Wertz to Cleveland for Bob Chakales.
- In August, the Yanks buy Jim Konstanty from the Phils.
- Prior to the season, the Braves trade Johnny Antonelli, Don Liddle, and two other players to the Giants for Bobby Thomson and Sam Calderon.
- Cass Michaels of the White Sox is beaned and his skull is fractured; he's forced to retire at age 28.
- Gil Hodges of the Dodgers sets a major league record with 19 sacrifice flies.
- Only three American League teams win more than 69 games -- Cleveland, New York, and Chicago (94).
- Cleveland is only 22-22 against New York and Chicago, but goes 89-21 against the rest of the American League.
- The Yankees' 103 wins are the most ever by an American League -- also ran.
- The Red Sox finish fourth in the American League with a .448 win pet.
- The Pirates lose 100 or more games for the third year in a row.
- The 1954 World Series winner's share tops $10,000 per player for the first time.
- Joe Bauman of Roswell in the Longhorn League hits an OB record 72 home runs.
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