Look back at the 1939 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
- Joe DiMaggio hits a career-high .381 with 30 home runs and 126 RBI. The New York Yankees center-fielder wins the first of three American League MVP awards. DiMaggio, the son of Italian immigrants, retires after the 1951 season. He makes the All-Star team in every season of his career. (He missed the 1943-45 campaigns during World War II.)
- Bucky Walters, a sinker-baller for the Cincinnati Reds, compiles a 27-11 won-loss record and posts a 2.29 ERA. Besides leading the National League in wins and ERA, the 30-year-old right-hander also tops the circuit in starts (36), complete games (31) and innings pitched (319). In addition, Walters also is handy with the bat. He hits .325 (39-for-120) with one home run and 16 RBI.
- The St. Louis Cardinals’ Johnny Mize, a slugging first baseman, leads the N.L. in home runs (28), batting average (.349) and several other offensive categories. In addition, Mize belts finishes first in slugging percentage (.626) and OPS (1.070). The right-handed hitter from Georgia ends up second in the MVP vote.
- A Boston Red Sox rookie named Ted Williams plays his first game at Fenway Park on April 21. He scores a run and the Red Sox win 9-2 against the Philadelphia A’s. Williams, the greatest player ever from San Diego, slams 31 homers and leads the A.L. with 145 RBI. He hits .327 with an on-base percentage of .436.
- The Yankees’ Lou Gehrig goes 0-for-4 on April 30 against the Washington Senators. His season batting average drops to 143. Gehrig also plays in the 2,130th straight game of his career. It is the Iron Horse’s last game in baseball.
- Bob Feller’s mom, Lena, sits in the stands on May 4 to see her son pitch against the Chicago White Sox. It the first time she has ever seen Bob pitch in person. Unfortunately, the White Sox’ Marv Owen fouls a ball into the stands that knocks out Lena Feller. She needs some stiches but recovers from her wound.
- The Yankees honor Lou Gehrig on July 4. They retire his uniform No. 4 and give him an outpouring of gifts. Gehrig steps to the microphone. “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. …”
- The Red Sox send future Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese to the Brooklyn Dodgers on July 18. The deal costs the Dodgers $35,000 and four players to be named later. Brooklyn calls up Reese the following season. The shortstop from Louisville, Ky., makes 10 N.L. All-Star teams and is inducted into Cooperstown in 1984.
- The Yankees’ Atley Donald beats the St. Louis Browns 5-1 on July 25 to win a rookie-record 12th straight game. The right-hander from Mississippi ends the year 13-3. He spends eight years in the majors, all with the Yanks, and ends his career at 65-33.
- Cincinnati wins the N.L. pennant, finishing 97-57, 4.5 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Yankees enjoy a 106-45 campaign and take the A.L. pennant. New York sweeps the World Series despite hitting just .206 as a team. (Cincinnati hits only .203.) The Yankees still belt seven homers; Charlie Keller smacks three and drives in eight runs.