1945 World Series

The 1945 World Series is considered by some to be one of the worst World Series ever played, mostly due to how World War II had depleted the MLB rosters. I wrote a lot about what the war did to MLB rosters in my 1944 World Series post.

Researching these wartime World Series is tough. Every stat I look at, every performance I read about, needs an asterisk next to it that reminds me: “The best baseball players on the planet weren’t even playing that season, so of course they dominated.”

Imagine facing the 2015 Dodgers if Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke both enlisted in the military. Suddenly Buster Posey is hitting .400 off Brett Anderson and Friends and the defending champion Giants are making a postseason run in an odd year for a change.

But the flip side of the conversation is also true: If the Dodgers didn’t have their staff aces, then the Giants probably wouldn’t have Buster Posey or Madison Bumgarner either. So the featured matchup is no longer Kershaw/Posey…instead you’re really excited for Brett Anderson vs Nori Aoki or something. Shoot, if half the league was off to war, suddenly Aoki might be an All Star and a Gold Glove outfielder.

My point here is two-fold. 1. Wartime baseball was mediocre baseball all around the league and 2. Statistics can’t be given any significant value. It’s all a mirage.

So when I tell you the Chicago Cubs led the NL in team ERA (2.98) and batting average (.277) take those stats with a grain of salt. This is exemplified in Phil Cavarretta, who hit .355/.489/.500 and won the NL MVP that season, despite never coming close to those numbers in any other year. He was a career .293 hitter, but his best years were 1944 and 1945 due to the war.

Bullpens have evolved over the years as teams are becoming more and more aware of their value, but the Cubs apparently never had one. They led the league in complete games in 1945 with 86 – over half of their games. Their primary regular season arms were Claude Passeau, Hank Wyse, Paul Derringer and Ray Prim, but they acquired Hank Borowy from the Yankees mid-season and he became their best pitcher down the stretch. Chicago Manager Charlie Grimm leaned heavily on this battery in the Series – especially Borowy and Passeau – and, in the opinion of this blogger, was the primary reason the Cubs failed to win it all that year.

There are two other major reasons the Detroit Tigers managed to come back from a 2-1 series deficit and steal 3 of 4 games at Wrigley Field to win the 1945 World Series. One is a human. The other is not.

Hammerin’ Hank

The human is Hall of Fame slugger, Hank Greenberg, who was the first ballplayer to return to baseball from active duty. He hadn’t played since 1941, yet on July 1, 1945, he hit a home run against Connie Mack‘s Philadelphia Athletics in first game back in the bigs. From there, he started poorly: .219/.324/.438 in his first 29 games back. Essentially for the month of July he was 2015 Omar Infante with a slight power boost. But then over the final 49 games of the season he hit .362/.448/.603 and powered the Tigers to the AL pennant finishing a game ahead of the Washington Senators.

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Here’s a fun story: on the final game of the 1945 regular season, the Tigers were playing in Sportsman’s Park against the reigning AL Champs, the St. Louis Browns. The game was 3-2 Browns in the 9th. It was getting late and the umpire was about to call the game due to darkness. The bases were loaded for Greenberg, when the umpire said, “Sorry Hank, I’m gonna have to call the game. I can’t see the ball.”

Hank replied, “Don’t worry, George. I can see it just fine.” He hit the next pitch over the fence and the Tigers won the pennant, avoiding a one game playoff against the Senators.

In the World Series, Greenberg hit over .300, slugged nearly .700 and hit the only two Tiger home runs of the series. So if the Cubs want to point the finger at one person who cost them the 1945 World Series, it’s Hank Greenberg.

But Cubs fans rarely point the finger at a human at all. Instead, they blame a goat.

The Curse of the Billy Goat

The Cubs went into Game 4 – the first game at Wrigley Field – having taken two games in Detroit and leading the series 2-1. All they needed to do was win 2 of the next 4 at home.

Greek immigrant and tavern owner, Billy Sianis, purchased two tickets to Game 4. And accompanying him to the game was his pet goat, Murphy. The goat had fallen off a truck outside his tavern one day and Sianis decided to take in the animal as a sort of mascot. The goat was allowed to enter the ballpark, and was allowed to stay in its seat through part of the game. Some complaining from nearby fans were quelled early, but after a short rain delay, the goat began to stink, and that was when Sianis and his goat were asked to leave Wrigley Field.

Upon leaving, the angry tavern owner supposedly declared a curse on the Cubs, stating that the team would lose the game, the Series, and would never play in a World Series again.

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The Cubs lost Game 4, and proceeded to lose Games 5 and 7 as well, dropping the series 4 games to 3, and as of this post, 1945 was the last time the Cubs have ever played in a World Series. Despite a few exceptionally good Cubs teams, the Curse of the Billy Goat has yet to be broken.

Charlie Grimm loves Hank Borowy

But again, when I look at this series on paper, I don’t think Hank Greenberg OR Murphy the Goat were the reasons for the Tigers eventual triumph over the Cubs. If I’m pointing the finger somewhere, I’m pointing it at manager Charlie Grimm’s use of starting pitcher Hank Borowy.

Borowy debuted as a rookie in 1942 and even got some MVP votes. He won 14 games for the Yankees’ 1943 championship team and won Game 3 of that series. In three and a half years in New York he won 56 games to the tune of a 2.74 ERA. And down the stretch with Chicago in 1945, he was even better, going 11-2 with a 2.13 ERA. He was downright dominant – all during the war, mind you…he was exceptionally average in 1946 and beyond.

So sure, ride your ace to the championship. I get it. It’s a solid strategy that we’ve seen play out numerous times. But this was on another level.

Hank Borowy

First of all, Borowy threw a complete game shutout in Game 1 in Detroit scattering 6 hits and 5 walks and a hit batsman. The Cubs led 4-0 after the first, 7-0 after the third, eventually won 9-0. A potential first demerit against Grimm: the game was well in hand after the first few innings, why couldn’t he have rested his best pitcher a bit? And it’s not like he was dominant – he faced 37 batters and allowed 12 baserunners. But you can’t really get on his case about it. It was a different era entirely, and why waste other pitchers? It’s nitpicking, I suppose, and inconsequential to Grimm’s major blunder later in the series.

So since he threw a bazillion pitches in Game 1, he didn’t pitch again until Game 5 in Chicago. He made it into the 6th with minimal damage – the score was tied 1-1 at that point, the only run coming off a sac fly. But then the floodgates opened the third time through the Tigers’ lineup: Doc Cramer singled, Greenberg doubled making it 2-1, Roy Cullenbine singled advancing Greenberg to third and Rudy York singled scoring Greenberg and forcing Borowy out of the game with 2 baserunners on, nobody out, and the score 3-1. Those two baserunners would score, making it 5 earned runs credited to Hank Borowy, who would got the loss.

Game 6 was a marathon. It was 5-1 Cubs entering the 7th inning, but when starter Claude Passeau – who had thrown a 1 hit shutout in Game 3) gave up his second run of the ballgame, Grimm made a move and brought in Game 2 starter Hank Wyse.

Wyse was, in a word, awful. He gave up another run before getting the final out in the 7th. The Cubs scored 2 in the bottom half with Wyse striking out with 2 outs and the bases loaded to end the inning. Wyse came back out for the 8th and gave up 2 more runs before getting an out. Grimm had seen enough and made another move bringing in Game 4 starter, Ray Prim, who gave up 2 more – one inherited form Wyse and the other his own. The Cubs failed to score in the bottom half. The score was 7-7 entering the 9th.

It was an ugly chain of events. Grimm couldn’t have known Wyse and Prim would be so awful. Nor would he have known the pitchers spot would come up with the bases loaded after the Cubs sent 8 men to the plate the next half inning. Up 2 with 10 outs to go, He probably thought he could ride Wyse and Prim to victory and bring back Borowy for Game 7 on short rest. Plus, now with the Cubs one loss away from elimination, Grimm had to pull out all the stops.

When Charlie Grimm looked over at the bullpen, he saw 5 options…

Paul Derringer, Hy Vandenberg and Paul Erickson had thrown the most during the regular season. Derringer was in the rotation before Borowy was acquired from New York, and was moved to the bullpen for the World Series. He had also thrown 2 innings the day before. Vandenberg and Erickson had both made appearances in Games 4 and 5 the previous 2 days and weren’t as fresh, but in an elimination game everyone is available.

Bob Chipman was probably just happy to be there. The 26 year old was one of the few young guys in the Series with the majority being drafted into military service. He’d faced two batters the day before, walking one before recording a groundout. So he was availble. But he was a lefty, and the Tigers had Rudy York, Jimmy Outlaw and Bob Swift coming up – all righties. Not a terrific option either.

Which left the guy who had just given up 5 earned runs in 5+ innings the day before: Hank Borowy.

Incredibly, Borowy was awesome. He allowed two singles to reach in the 9th before Houdini-ing out of the jam with a play at the plate. He then faced the minimum the rest of the way allowing two more singles, but getting Greenberg to hit into a double play in the 10th and Joe Hoover was caught trying to steal in the 12th.

He went 4 scoreless before the Cubs finally managed to win 8-7 in 12 on a Stan Hack walkoff double scoring the speedy pinch runner Bill Schuester from first.

The Cubs had survived, but the Tigers had forced the bullpen dry. With a day off between Games 6 and 7, the Cubs manager had another choice: Who should start Game 7?

Derringer was the best option. The guy was a 6-time All Star once upon a time, and he had finished in the Top 10 of MVP voting three different times and as recent as 1942. He had logged 30 starts and 213.2 innings during the regular season. And he was fresh having not pitched since Game 5. Grossly under-utilized.

Vandenberg, Erickson and Chipman were all options too. They’d combined for 26 starts during the regular season and had each put up an ERA in the low- to mid-3’s. Prim and Wyse had only thrown an inning or so each, so should’ve both been available to start. Even Passeau, who had thrown 6.2 innings two days ago, would’ve been a better option than the man who got the ball.

Because Grimm did the unthinkable.

He gave the ball back to Hank Borowy.

I mean, come on. He’s literally the only guy who should not have been an option. Sure, he’d shocked everyone by throwing 4 shutout innings just two days ago, but he was fortunate to get out of that unscathed, and he’d thrown 5+ innings and taken the loss just the day before that magic act. How in the world Grimm thought the solution to the problem was Hank Borowy is beyond me.

To start the game, Borowy gave up 3 consecutive singles and Grimm pulled him for Derringer. The Tigers scored 5 in the 1st and went on to win the game 9-3 and the Series 4-3.

The Tiger were beatable. The Cubs were the better team outside of Greenberg. Cubs fans can act like they’re cursed by some smelly wet goat, but the truth is this: Charlie Grimm’s inability to manage his pitching staff is what cost the Cubs the 1945 World Series. Overusing Borowy and underusing the rest of the bullpen, specifically Derringer.

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The Last of the Living from 1945

One last bits of info: the last living ballplayer from that Detroit Tigers team is Ed Mierkowicz. The only action he saw in the World Series was playing left field the final three outs of Game 7 as a defensive replacement for Hank Greenberg.

The first batter of the inning singled to Mierkowicz in left, but Detroit starter, Hal Newhouser (who got roughed up in Game 1, but threw all 9 innings of Games 5 and 7) gets the next three outs to end the game and Mierkowicz gets to party on the field, running in from the outfield. I encourage you to go read his story by The Detroit News here.

And the last living Cub from that 1945 team died last Spring. Lennie Merullo was 98. He played shortstop for the 1945 squad. Here’s an article from the NY Times about his life and legacy.

-apc.

Image credits: Program here. Billy Goat here. Wrigley facade here. Greenway card here. Borrow card here.

 

1944 World Series

Let me begin with this: the St. Louis Browns Historical Society has an absolutely beautiful website. Take a look: thestlbrowns.com. Bravo.

The Browns were perrenial losers. The bottom of the American League. They fired Branch Rickey who turned the Cardinals into a winner and later signed Jackie Robinson to a deal with Brooklyn. The 1944 Browns also had a one-armed left fielder, Pete Grey.

Here’s what the STLBHS has to say about the 1944 St. Louis Browns…

When the U.S. entered World War II, President Roosevelt gave the “green light” to keep playing. New manager Luke Sewell got surgical with his 1942 roster, and rebuilt the team. The Browns lost a few men to the war effort, but other teams said goodbye to key players. By 1944, every Browns infielder was classified 4-F, or excused from military service, many for physical limitations. The Browns cashed in on their odds, opening the season with a bang — nine straight wins.

Cut to October 1, 1944, the last regular-season game. The pennant was at stake. No player on the Browns roster had ever made it to a World Series. The Browns led the visiting Yankees 5-2 into the ninth. Down to the final out, Oscar Grimes shot a high fly ball into foul territory. Browns first baseman George McQuinn nabbed it. Pandemonium ensued. The Browns were going to the World Series to face the Cardinals.

Thus began the Streetcar Series, called such because St. Louis had so many trolleys at the time. Both teams would have the home field advantage — the Cards for the first two and last two games; the Browns for the three in the middle. With a 3-1 Game 6 loss, the Browns said goodbye to their “Cinderella season” and World Series hopes. After World War II, the rest of the league’s talent was replenished. The Browns’ best years were put behind them as they returned to last place.

I guess you can call it a “Cinderella season,” but let’s be real: with the war at it’s height, it’s not like the Browns were the prettiest girl at the ball…they were more like the only girl at the ball.

The Browns and the Cardinals played in the third World Series to be ever hosted in the same ballpark for all games: Sportsman’s Park. The other two took place at the Polo Grounds in New York City. It also is one of two all-Missouri World Series, the other being 1985 when Kansas City won it all against the Cardinals.

Embarrassingly, the Junior World Series in Baltimore outdrew the real World Series that same year – a large reason why the Browns would end up moving to Baltimore a decade later. 1944 was clearly a low point for baseball. The war was taking it’s toll.

The Cardinals were in their 3rd straight World Series, the previous two splitting against the Yankees. Stan Musial struggled in both of those series, but in 1944 he was his normal self hitting .304/.360/.522 and hitting his only career postseason HR in Game 4.



The Games

The Cardinals had a huge chance in the 3rd inning of Game 1. They loaded the bases with 1 out and couldn’t score. The next half inning George McQuinn’s hit a 2 run homer off veteran Mort Cooper and the Browns had the first runs of the Series. Denny Galehouse worked around 11 baserunners (7 H, 4 BB) allowing just one run in a complete game affair. Browns took a early series lead.

Game 2 was an epic 11-inning walkoff win for the Cardinals. The game was tied 2-2 after nine. George McQuinn hit a leadoff double to start the 11th for the Browns, but they couldn’t score him. 

Ray Sanders led off the bottom half with a single. Whitey Kurowski bunted him to second. Marty Marion was intentionally walked. Ken O’Dea won it with a pinch hit single to right field scoring Sanders from second. Cardinals win in walkoff fashion to tie the Series at 1.

Game 3 featured another huge game for George McQuinn, who went completely bananas in the postseason turning his regular season .250/.357/.376 into a .438/.609/.750 – aided heavily by his 7 walks over the 6 game series. The obvious MVP if the Browns had managed to pull it out in the end (if they handed out MVP awards in 1944, that is). He went 3-3 with a double and a walk in Game 3, setting the table for the Browns 6-2 win.

Game 3 also featured another complete game by a Browns pitcher, this time Jack Kramer who struck out 10.  This is the last World Series game the St. Louis Browns would ever win.

Game 4 was over early. Stan Musial hit a 2-run home run three batters into the game. The Browns only chance to counter came in the 2nd when catcher Red Heyworth grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the rally. The Cardinals added 2 more in the next inning and it was 4-0. The Cardinals went on to win 6-2. This time it was Harry Brecheen of the Cardinals throwing the complete game. Series tied, 2-2.

Game 5 was a pitchers duel and a rematch of Game 1 starters: Mort Cooper and Denny Galehouse. This time both men would go the distance, and Galehouse actually allowed two fewer baserunners. Unfortunately for the Browns, two of those hitters – Sanders and Danny Litwhiler – circled the bases. The Cardinals won 2-0 behind Mort Cooper’s final World Series appearance. This was his 3rd career World Series win, 2nd career World Series complete game and 1st career World Series shut out.

And Game 6 sealed it for the Redbirds. The Cards posted a 3-run 4th inning and that was plenty. The Browns only trip to the World Series ended in a 3-1 loss that wasn’t even that close – the Cardinals had 10 hits and 4 walks and had plenty of chances to add to their total, but it wouldn’t matter in the end.



The Cardinals won their 5th championship and 2nd in 3 years. We’ll see them again in 1946 to complete the 3 straight even-yeared championship circuit (just like the Giants completed in 2014). But next year features two different faces. 

As for the Browns, well, to quote Eminem, “you only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, cause opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo.”

So true, Marshall. So true.

-apc.

Photo cred: 1944 Brochure accessed here, 1944 ticket stubs accessed here. Game 1 at Sportsman’s Park photo accessed here.

1943 World Series

1943 press passes

As I posted over the weekend, I’m beginning a new series looking at every World Series starting with 1943. I promise future posts won’t be nearly this long. I’m going to try and vary my approach to these posts too – sometimes focusing on stats, other times stories, other times focusing on specific players.

I figured out the reason for MLB Films beginning in 1943. It was the first year they ever did a World Series highlight film, and thus the first footage that was comprehensive enough to tell the story well enough visually.

1943 World SeriesThe film was made for those fighting overseas during World War II so they wouldn’t miss the Fall Classic. Babe Ruth, 8 years into retirement, opened the highlight reel with a speech thanking the men and women for their service. This was especially important since many professional ballplayers from both teams were in active duty and not on the ball field.*

* – This year also marked the launch of the All American Girls Baseball League. In an effort to keep baseball alive in a time when so many stars were off at war. This 1943 season is told loosely in the film, A League of Their Own, which popularized the classic Tom Hanks line, “There’s no crying in baseball!”

The 1943 World Series featured the Cardinals and the Yankees – a rematch of the 1942 Series that the Cardinals won in 5 games – but because of so many players entering the military during the 1943 season, the rosters looked very different than the year before.

Take a look; players in italics left for the military before or during the ’43 season, and players with asterisks were their replacements.

Yankee Position Players – 1942/1943

C – Bill Dickey/Bill Dickey
1B – Buddy Hassett/Nick Etten*
2B – Joe Gordon/Joe Gordon
SS – Phil Rizzuto/Frankie Crosetti
3B – Frankie Crosetti/Billy Johnson*
OF – Charlie Keller/Charlie Keller
OF – Joe Dimaggio/Johnny Lindell*
OF – Tommy Henrich/Bud Metheny*

Cardinals Position Players – 1942/1943

C – Walker Cooper/Walker Cooper
1B – Johnny Hopp/Ray Sanders
2B – Jimmy Brown/Lou Klein*
SS – Marty Marion/Marty Marion
3B – Whitey Kurowski/Whitey Kurowski
OF – Stan Musial/Stan Musial
OF – Enos Slaughter/Harry Walker*
OF – Terry Moore/Danny Litwhiler*

The Yankees had 4 position players leave for the military, while the Cardinals had 3.* So New York, at a glance, lost way more than St. Louis to the war. So how did they both make it back here to defend their pennants?

* – I chose not to include Cardinals’ 2B, Creepy Crespi, who technically started the most games (93) there in 1942, but Jimmy Brown started more games overall as a utility infielder playing 145 games between 2B (82), 3B (66), & SS (12). Plus, Crespi’s 1942 WAR was -0.2, so technically the Cardinals gained something when Crespi left. Crespi would go on to break his leg playing a pickup game on an Army base, then would break it again in a wheelchair race, and later a nurse would accidentally administered 100 times the correct amount of boric acid to his injury leaving him with severe burns and a permanent limp. 

Well, first, it should be noted that every team lost players to the war, and not just the two defending pennant winners. But this is about the World Series and not the regular season. But in order to set up the Fall Classic, let’s quickly look at the comparative WAR between the starters in 1942 and their replacements during the 1943 season.

1942 Yankees: 15.9 WAR
Joe DiMaggio (5.7), Phil Rizzuto (5.7), Tommy Henrich (2.7), Buddy Hassett (1.4)
1943 Yankees: 8.0 WAR
Billy Johnson (3.8), Nick Etten (2.4), Johnny Lindell (1.0), Bud Metheny (0.8)

NYY Difference: -7.9 WAR

1942 Cardinals: 9.9 WAR
Enos Slaughter (6.2), Terry Moore (2.6), Jimmy Brown (1.1)
1943 Cardinals: 10.2 WAR
Lou Klein (5.8), Harry Walker (1.8), Danny Litwhiler (1.5)

STL Difference: -0.8 WAR

So while the Yankees, coming off their World Series loss, fielded a team with -7.9 WAR than the previous year, the Cardinals, coming off their World Series win, amazingly enough, fielded a nearly identically talented team in 1943 after shipping 3 of their starters overseas. They decreased by less than 1.0 WAR.

How did the Cardinals manage to maintain their level of production, and how did the Yankees overcome such massive losses?

For St. Louis, the answer is obvious: Stan Musial won his first MVP in 1943 and contributed more than enough to lead the Cardinals back to the World Series. His 9.4 WAR led the entire MLB.

The other major contributor was rookie Lou Klein. Klein, in his only worthwhile statistical year, played every single inning at 2B, and nearly matched Enos Slaughter’s WAR from the year before. Klein left for military duty in 1944, and came back playing second fiddle to future Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst.

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Flyover prior to Game 1 at Yankee Stadium.

So here’s the real question: How did the Yankees lose such major pieces of their team and make a return to the World Series?

The answer: Spud Chandler, AL MVP.

Spud had one of the most historical pitching seasons in the history of baseball. In 30 starts, Chandler went 20-4 for the best Win & mark in baseball that year. He threw 20 complete games and his 1.68 ERA was the lowest of any starting pitcher between 1920 and 1967, and is still the Yankee record. His .992 WHIP was the lowest in 1943, and the only sub-1.000 of any pitcher that season.

So this series featured the face-off of the two league MVPs – Musial and Chandler – who had risen to the occasion and carried their teams back to the World Series for a rematch.  The Cardinals looking to defend and the Yankees looking to reclaim. And while the names on the front of the jerseys were the same, the names on the back were drastically different (that is, if they’d had names on their backs).

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Game 1

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Spud Chandler, Yankees Game 1 starting pitcher.

The Yankees sent Spud Chandler out to pitch Game 1, and the Cardinals countered with lefty Max Lanier.The Cardinals had home field advantage in 1943, but due to the costs of war, it was decided that the teams should play the away games first in New York and then finish with 4 straight games in St. Louis. The Yankees crowd was astonishingly huge in all 3 games in New York, averaging around 69,000 fans each game.

In the early innings, both teams tried their best to manufacture runs. A lot has been written about bunting in recent years. Today, sabermetrics suggest two things that make bunting a poor decision:

1. Outs are too precious to just give away for free. Even if it advances a runner, your team only gets 27 outs, so you’d be more likely to score more in the long run by just swinging away.

2. Odds are better that a run will score with a man on 1st and 0 outs than with a man on 2nd and 1 out. Typically, managers will simply intentionally walk the next batter anyway, and set up the double play scenario. Statistically, it doesn’t help much.*

* – However, I still believe strongly in the bunt in certain situations. Unlike some of my peers, I haven’t written off bunting entirely. Late innings. No outs. One run or tie game. Strikeout pitcher on the mound. Putting the ball in play is infinitely better than a strikeout. But never NEVER bunt a guy to second when your best hope is on deck. Automatic IBB.

However, this is not 2014. This was 1943, and bunting was extremely popular in those days. And if this World Series is any example, the fielding wasn’t nearly as good those days either (the teams combined for 15 errors over the 5 games of this Series), so maybe the advantage was greater simply to put the ball in play.

All that to say, both teams succeeded in plating their first run thanks to advancing the runner with a bunt. After Cardinals catcher Walker Cooper singled in the 2nd inning, Whitey Kurowski sacrificed him over to 2B with a bunt and he eventually scored on a Marty Marion double.

The Yankees’ SS, Frankie Crosetti, reached on an infield error by the pitcher in the 4th, stole second, and then Billy Johnson bunted for a single to set up 1st and 3rd with no outs. Charlie Keller hit into a double play, but Crosetti scored making it 1-1.

Then Joe Gordon hit a 420 foot bomb to make it 2-1. Which, after all the small ball the teams had played up until that point, makes a HR seem way too easy.

Gordon would give the Cardinals the run right back in the next half inning though after a poor throw let Sanders advance to 2B to start off the 5th. Sanders came around to score tying it back up at 2-2.

The Yankees next two runs would come thanks to a screwy play. After lacing together two leadoff singles, and with 1 out, a pitch from Lanier popped up off the front of the plate. Cooper, throwing off the mask and looking around frantically, had no idea where it was (it was sitting about 5 feet behind him on the grass). He searched long enough for the baserunners to advance two bags, scoring 1, the other coming across on a shallow fly to CF two batters later.

Even though both runs were considered earned to Lanier after the wild pitch, they were sloppier than they appear in the box score.

This game (and entire series) was a pitchers duel, but poor fielding led to a 4-2 finish in Game 1. Chandler went the distance, spreading out 7 hits over the complete game. Lanier pitched well too, but he was responsible for both errors.

Game 2

The Cardinals sent out Mort Cooper to start Game 2 in New York. Mort Cooper was the older brother of Cardinals catcher Walker Cooper, and the pitcher-catcher duo played together in St. Louis from 1940-1945.

Just hours before the beginning of Game 2, the Brothers received news that their father, Robert, had died. Suddenly, Mort was pitching to honor his father and his mentor.

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Cardinals’ Game 2 starter, Mort Cooper (right) and his brother and catcher Walker.

The Cooper brothers were from Atherton, MO, just East of Kansas City near Independence. Had this been the 70’s, the Cooper Bros. might have been Royals instead, but white baseball* wouldn’t be in Kansas City until Connie Mack moved the Philadelphia Athletics in 1955.

* – Of course, the Monarchs of the Negro Leagues were huge in KC from 1920-1965. Two years later, in 1945, Jackie Robinson would come back from the war and become a Monarch.

Ernest Edward Bonham, better known as Tiny, was on the mound for the Yankees, but the Cardinals offense came out strong. A solo homer from Marion in the 3rd that barely cleared the 301′ sign in LF put the Cards up early again. Unlike Game 1, this time they were able to increase their lead by posting 3 runs the next inning anchored by a 2-run homer by Sanders.

Mort Cooper was brilliant until the bottom of the 9th when he got into some trouble. Johnson doubled. Keller tripled. The next batter, Bill Dickey, lined a shot right at Lou Klein at second base. Who knows what the damage would have been had that screamer found grass. Instead, it was just a loud out.

Nick Etten grounded out to Klein to make the second out, but Keller scored from third to make it 4-3. And with 2 outs and nobody on, Gordon came to the plate.

And he popped out unceremoniously to the catcher in foul territory to end the game.

Mort Cooper threw a complete game giving up 3 runs on 6 hits, most coming in the final inning.

Game 3

The final game in Yankee Stadium of 1943 hosted a record crowd of 69,900 fans. The tie series put significant pressure on both teams to take Game 3 and head to St. Louis up 2-1.

The Cardinals had a big 2nd inning. Leadoff single from Stan the Man*, double by Kurowski, and an intentional walk to Sanders juiced the bases with 1 out. Litwhiler singled, plating Musial and Kurowski. Another intentional walk, this time to Marion, loaded the bases again for pitcher, Al Brazie, who fouled out to 1B. Lou Klein then grounded out to end the inning. The Yankees dodged some major damage,

* – Musial wasn’t much of The Man in his 4 World Series appearances, only batting .256/.347/.395 with 4 RBI in 99 plate appearances.

The Cardinals seemed on their way to taking a Series lead back home until the bottom of the 8th. With the score 2-1, suddenly Brazie got into some trouble. The Yankees put up 5 runs with a Billy Johnson triple off the 450 ft sign on the CF wall.

The Yankees took Game 3, 6-2, and more importantly held a 2-1 Series lead headed to Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

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Game 4

With the Yankees up in the Series, manager Joe McCarthy decided to hold Spud Chandler until Game 5. Instead they threw Marius Russo, who went 5-10 during the season in 24 appearances. He walked more guys than he struck out that year (45 BBs, 42 Ks). He hadn’t won a single game in August, going 0-5 in 4 starts and 1 relief appearance. Opponents hit nearly .300 against him that month, and his ERA was 5.11.

But September was a different story. In 6 games (5 starts), Russo posted a 1.53 ERA with a 2-1 record, and even got a save in his one relief appearance. Batters hit only .184 against Russo in September. He was a different guy altogether.

And his excellence in September spilled over into October. Going into the 7th, Russo had only allowed 3 singles and nobody had made it past 1B. The Yankees lad 1-0, and if Frankie Crosetti hadn’t dropped an easy 2-out pop fly in the 7th inning, the Cardinals never would’ve had a chance. Then two batters later, Johnson botched a grounder to third, and the Cardinals knotted the game a 1-1.

So Russo decided to bring his excellence to the offensive side of the ball too. The Cardinals brought in Harry Brecheen to take over for Lanier who had been pinch hit for the previous inning, and Russo lead off with a double – his second of the game. After being bunted over to third. A fly to CF plated him and the Yankees took the lead back 2-1.

And that’s the way the game would finish.

Russo’s run was unearned, so his line was 9 innings, 7 hits, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 Ks. He pretty much single handedly won Game 4 for New York and put the Cardinals up against the ropes for the Series.

Game 5

Finally, the matchup everyone wanted: Mort Cooper vs Spud Chandler.

Mort Cooper struck out the first 5 Yankee batters of the game, and held the Yankees in check until the 6th inning when Keller singled and Bill Dickey hit a homer to make it 2-0 New York.

And that’s all the help Spud Chandler would need.

He pitched another complete game, giving up 10 hits, but managed to pitch his way out of multiple jams. The Cardinals had runners in scoring position in 5 different innings, and couldn’t get the clutch hits when they needed them. Chandler kept the ball down and forced the Cardinal hitters into 16 ground ball outs on top of 7 strikeouts.

front page Daily News New York Yankees Book with Eastern PressThe Cardinals probably had the better offense, and were likely the better team overall, but the 1943 World Series was all about pitching. The Yankees – behind Chandler and Russo – were better and deeper in that department, and reclaimed the championship they’d lost in 1942.

But all was not lost for the Cardinals. As we will see in 2 of the next 3 Fall Classics. And maybe next time Stan Musial will actually live up to his regular season performance. We’ll see.

This was the 10th World Series championship for the Bronx Bombers, and the last appearance for manager Joe McCarthy who would stay with the club through the 1946 season, but would retire before the Yankees could get back to the World Series again in 1947.

-apc.

Introducing the World Series Blog Series

1943yankees
I’m starting a new blog series called the World Series Blog Series where I’ll look at each World Series between 1943-2013. Seventy* years worth of posts is a major undertaking, but I’m excited to have another series to pick up after my last one on my favorite NES games is behind me. It might even turn into 73 posts. By the time this post series is over I might have to include the 2014-2016 championships too.

* – Even though the 1994 Series was cancelled do to the MLBPA strike, I think I’ll take a look at what might have been. Go Expos.

The title is still open for discussion. I’m not crazy about the initials WSBS. It looks like radio station call letters or something about bullshit. It may get a makeover soon but I’m the worst at coming up with creative titles for anything. For example, an Oscars party will be called “Oscars Party”; a book that explores spirituality in the game of baseball gets the title “Exploring Baseball and Spirituality” (also a working title, by the way); or a retreat in the fall will just be named the “Fall Retreat”. I just call it what it is and move on.

But if you have any ideas – for this series or my book – shoot them my way. But don’t get offended if I think they’re terrible/cheesy/corny/lame. It’s not you that stinks, just your idea.

Why start with 1943? Seems like an arbitrary year to me. The answer: because that’s the year the MLB decided to go with for the World Series Film Collection they released back in 2009. Not sure why they began there, but I’m going to follow their lead.

Assuming this goes well maybe I’ll even do 1906-1942 after the fact. No guarantees though. I’ll probably be so thrilled to finish this series that the thought of committing to another 37 posts just might kill me.

These will slowly be released as I find time to write them, but look for the 1943 post later this week.

-apc.