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.
Look back at the 1953 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
- The Braves depart Boston and head to Milwaukee. Future Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn arrive from New England. A young man named Hank Aaron gets ready in the minor leagues. The Braves, founded as the Boston Red Stockings in 1871, win a World Series in the upper Midwest in 1957 and leave for Atlanta following the 1965 campaign.
- Mathews enjoys his new home. The third baseman blasts 47 homers to lead the league in his second season. Mathews (born in Texas, raised in southern California) cracks 512 home runs during a Hall of Fame career. He is the only player to see action with the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta.
- The Brooklyn Dodgers’ Carl Furillo, known as The Reading Rifle (for his Pennsylvania roots and strong throwing arm in right field) and Skoonj (for his Italian-American heritage), hits a career-high .344 to lead the National League. He adds 21 home runs and 92 RBI. Furillo finishes ninth in the N.L. MVP race.
- Harvey Kuenn enjoys a fine first year for the Detroit Tigers. He tops the A.L. with 209 hits and wins Rookie of the Year honors. Kuenn plays 15 years in the big leagues and retires with a .303 batting average. He makes eight All-Star teams.
- Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Robin Roberts finishes what he starts. He leads the N.L. with 33 complete games. The 26-year-old from Springfield, Ill., also tops the league in win (23), innings pitched (346.2) and strikeouts (198). The future Hall of Famer wins 286 games in a 19-year career.
- The O’Brien twins, Johnny and Eddie, both play 89 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Johnny, a second baseman, hits .247. He plays six seasons in the majors (’53, 1955-59). Eddie, an all-around utility man, bats .238. His big-league career lasts five years (’53, 1955-58). The O’Brien boys hail from South Amboy, N.J.
- Roy Campanella, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ vocal leader, wins his second N.L. MVP award. He belts 41 homers and drives in a league-leading 142 runs. The slugger from Philadelphia also bats .312 with a .395 on-base percentage (eighth in the league) and .611 slugging percentage (third in the N.L.). Campy hits 242 homers over a 10-year career that ends after a car accident leaves him paralyzed.
- The A.L. MVP goes to the Cleveland Indians’ Al Rosen. The 29-year-old third baseman enjoys his best season in the majors. He notches 43 homers and 145 RBI, leading the A.L. in both categories. Rosen nearly wins the Triple Crown. His .336 batting average is second to Mickey Vernon’s .337. The South Carolinian also paces the A.L. in slugging (.613) and OPS (1.034).
- No-no, Bobo Holloman. The St. Louis Browns pitcher throws a no-hitter on May 6 against the Philadelphia A’s. It is the first start of Holloman’s career. The right-hander makes 10 starts and pitches in 22 games in his entire career. He ends up 3-7 lifetime.
- Brooklyn finishes with the majors’ best record, 105-49, thanks to the slugging of Furillo, Campanella, Duke Snider and others. The New York Yankees, 99-52, take the A.L. pennant. They are the seeking their fifth straight World Series championship. This is a repeat of the 1952 World Series and the fourth match-up between the teams in the last seven seasons. Will Brooklyn finally win its first World Series title? Alas, Mickey Mantle drives in eight runs for the Yankees and Billy Martin brings home seven. New York wins in six games. The Dodgers bat .300 as a team.
Look back at the 1916 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
- The Cleveland Indians’ Tris Speaker leads the American League with a .386 batting average. Cleveland acquired the centerfielder in an offseason trade with the Boston Americans (the Red Sox). The future Hall of Famer from Hubbard, Texas, nicknamed The Grey Eagle, retires following the 1928 season with a .345 lifetime batting average and 3,515 hits.
- The New York Yankees’ Wally Pipp smacks a career-high 12 home runs to lead the A.L. The left-handed batter also leads the league in homers the following season, this time with nine. The first baseman plays 15 seasons in the majors and hits 90 round-trippers. He is most famous, though, for the headache that hits him June 2, 1925. Pipp asks Yankees manager Miller Huggins for the day off. Higgins obliges and sends in Lou Gehrig. Pipp never starts another game at first base for New York. The Cincinnati Reds him pick up on waivers in the offseason.
- The A.L. ERA leader is none other than a Boston lefty named George Herman Ruth Jr. Ruth has an ERA of 1.75 to go with his 23-12 won-loss record. He also leads the league in shutouts with nine and starts with 40. The future slugger (714 career home runs) compiles a 94-46 career pitching record.
- Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander wins the Triple Crown of pitching for the third straight season as ace of the Philadelphia Phillies. He wins a career-high 33 games, posts a 1.55 ERA and strikes out 167 batters. Pete also tosses a league-leading 16 shutouts and 38 complete games. He wins 373 games over a 20-year career and is inducted into baseball’s first class of Hall of Famers. Ronald Reagan portrays Alexander in the 1952 movie, The Winning Team.
- Walk this way. The Philadelphia A’s and Detroit Tigers combine for 30 walks in a game on May 9. The Tigers issue 12 free passes, and the A’s give out 18. Despite both teams being on the wild side, the Tigers win the game in lopsided fashion 16-2.
- The Boston Braves beat the New York Giants 3-1 in exciting fashion on June 22. They pull off a triple steal in the 11th inning to win the game.
- Chicago Cubs catcher Bill Fischer feels extra tired by the end of the day on June 28. He catches a Major League-record 27 innings of action that day. The second game goes 18 innings. To make things tougher, the Cubs lose both games to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
- Cubs owner Charles Weeghman decides that fans can keep any ball that is hit into the stands, reportedly the first owner to be so generous. He makes this decision following a fight between fans over a ball earlier in the season. The restaurateur sells the Cubs to chewing-gun tycoon William Wrigley Jr. in 1918. In 1921, Weeghman hosts a Ku Klux Klan rally on his property outside Chicago.
- St. Louis Browns ironman Del Pratt enjoys a big year. He leads the A.L. with 103 RBI. He also plays in all of his team’s games for the fourth straight season. Pratt plays 13 seasons for the Browns, Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers. Pratt, a star running back for the University of Alabama in his college days, smacks 43 career homers and drives in 979 runs. The infielder bats .292 lifetime and steals 247 bases. Pratt makes it into all 154 of the Yankees’ games in 1920.
- The Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) finish 94-60 and win their first National League pennant in 16 years. Zack Wheat leads the Brooklyn attack with a .312 average and nine homers. Jeff Pfeffer wins a career-high 25 games. The Red Sox (91-63), behind Ruth on the mound, take the American League pennant and celebrate a World Series championship. Boston needs five games to dispatch the Robins. Ernie Shore wins two games for the Red Sox and posts a 1.53 ERA. Ruth (0.64 ERA) wins a game as does Dutch Leonard (1.00).
Look back at the 1963 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
- Sandy Koufax wins the Cy Young award and National League MVP. The left-hander goes 25-5 with a 1.88 ERA for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He strikes out 306 batters in 311 innings and hurls 11 shutouts.
- New York Yankees catcher Elston Howard wins the American League MVP. He belts 28 home runs and drives in 85 runs. Howard also wins a Gold Glove.
- Minnesota Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew smashes 45 homers to lead the A.L. for the third time. He also tops the league with a .555 slugging percentage.
- Early Wynn wins his 300th career game on July 13. The 43-year-old right-hander for the Cleveland Indians gives up four runs in five innings and beats the Kansas City A’s and Moe Drabowsky 7-4. It is the only win of the year for the future Hall of Famer, who retires with a 300-244 lifetime record.
- Hometown boy Pete Rose takes N.L. Rookie of the Year honors. The second baseman collects 170 hits for the Cincinnati Reds and hits .273 with 101 runs scored. Rose beats out fellow second baseman Ron Hunt, who bats .272 for the New York Mets. Pitchers plunk Hunt 13 times. He retires following the 1974 season after being hit 243 times.
- The Dodgers’ Tommy Davis earns his second straight batting crown. He finishes the year at .326, ahead of runner-up Roberto Clemente (.320).
- Carl Yastrzemski wins his first batting title in his third season with the Boston Red Sox. He hits .321 and also leads the A.L. in hits (183), doubles (40), walks (95) and on-base percentage (.418).
- Warren Spahn, 42, years old, keeps rolling. He becomes the oldest 20-game winner in baseball history. The southpaw finishes 23-7 for the Milwaukee Braves. Spahn also completes 22 games. He retires in 1965 with 363 career wins.
- The Mets keep struggling, and Roger Craig keeps losing. Craig ties an N.L. single-season mark with 18 losses and finishes at 5-22.
- The Dodgers and Yankees meet in the World Series. Behind strong pitching, the Dodgers sweep. Koufax wins two games, goes 18 innings, strikes out 23 and gives up three earned runs (1.50 ERA). Don Drysdale adds a three-hit shutout (nine strikeouts), while Johnny Podres wins his Game Two start. The Yanks bat .171 as a team.
By Glen Sparks
Look back at the 1959 MLB season.
- The White Sox’ Early Wynn leads the majors with 22 victories and is voted the Cy Young winner at the age of 39. He also leads the A.L. in innings pitched (255.2) and has a 3.17 ERA with 14 complete games.
- Nellie Fox, the White Sox’ second baseman, is voted the A.L. MVP. He hits .306 with two home runs and drives in 70. Fox, famous for keeping a chaw of tobacco tucked into his left cheek, also makes the All-Star team for the ninth straight year.
- The N.L. MVP goes to another Chicago player. Ernie Banks repeats as the award winner. Banks blasts 45 homers and drives in a league-leading 143 runs. He hits .304 with a .374 on-base percentage.
- Elroy Face completes an amazing season in relief for the Pirates. The right-hander wins 17 straight games and finishes 18-1 (.947 winning percentage) in just 93.1 innings.
- Hanks Aaron enjoys another great year in his Hall of Fame career. He tops the majors with a .355 batting average and also leads the N.L. slugging percentage (.636), hits (223), total bases (400) and several other categories.
- Rocky Colavito paces the A.L. with 42 homers. The Cleveland Indians superstar blasts four homers on June 10.
- Sandy Koufax shows the shades of things to come on Aug. 31. The 23-year-old lefty for the Los Angeles Dodgers strikes out 18 batters, the first pitcher in the 20th century to reach that figure.
- Dave Philey helps the Baltimore Orioles in a pinch. He sets an MLB record with nine straight pinch hits.
- MLB plays two All-Star games for two All-Star games for the first time. The NL wins the July 7 game 5-4 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh; the A.L. wins the Aug. 3 game 5-3 at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.
- The White Sox win the A.L. pennant with a 94-60 record and finish five games ahead of the second-place Indians. The Dodgers, playing in just their second season in L.A., win the N.L. pennant with an 88-68 mark, two games in front of the runner-up Milwaukee Braves. The Dodgers win the Series in six games. Larry Sherry, a local boy, earns the World Series MVP. He wins two games, saves two more and records a 0.71 ERA over 12.2 innings.
Look back at the 1905 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
- Cincinnati’s Cy Seymour leads the National League with a .377 batting average and 121 RBI. The lefty batter from Albany, N.Y., also tops the NL in hits (219), doubles (40), triples (21) and slugging percentage (.559) in by far his best season in baseball.
- Seymour’s teammate, Fred Odwell, rips nine homers to lead the league. The outfielder did not make his MLB debut until 1904, when he was 31. He retires after the 1907 season with 10 career home runs.
- Elmer Flick, the American League leader in batting average, hits .308 for Cleveland. He also paces the league in triples (18), something he does three times in his 13-year career. Flick wins just one batting title in his career; he actually finishes with a higher lifetime average (.313) than he does in the year he tops the league.
- Christy Mathewson enjoys another big year for the New York Giants. He goes 31-9 with a 1.28 ERA. The right-hander also throws eight shutouts and strikes out 206 batters.
- Harry Davis of the Philadelphia A’s leads the league in home runs (8) for the second straight year. He goes on to top the league in 1906 and ’07 and retires with 75 round-trippers. The first baseman hits for the cycle on July 10, 1901.
- Rube Waddell, Philly’s enigmatic flamethrower, tops the league with 287 strikeouts. He also leads in wins (27, a career high) and ERA (1.48). Waddell retires with five 20-win seasons in his Hall of Fame career.
- Mathewson, Weldon Henry of the A’s, Frank Smith of the White Sox, and Bill Dineen of the Boston Americans all throw no-hitters.
- Jack McCarthy ties an MLB record by starting three double plays in one game for the Cubs.
- Archibald “Moonlight” Graham makes his MLB debut on June 29 for the Giants. Graham plays right field in the bottom of the eighth but never comes to bat in his only big-league game. His story is told in the book Shoeless Joe and the movie Field of Dreams.
- The Giants beat the A’s in five games in the World Series. Mathewson goes 3-0 in three starts with a 0.00 ERA in 27 innings. He gives up 13 hits, strikes out 18 and walks just one.
Look back at the 1949 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
- Jackie Robinson wins the National League MVP. He leads the Senior Circuit in batting (.342) and stolen bases (37). The Brooklyn Dodgers infielder also hits 16 home runs and drives in 124 runs.
- Ted Williams leads the American League with 43 homers and ties for the lead in RBI with a career-high 159. Teddy Ballgame, the great left-fielder for the Boston Red Sox, finishes second in the league in batting average (.343). He finishes a fraction behind George Kell, just missing out on a third Triple Crown. Williams wins the AL MVP.
- Williams’ Boston teammate Vern Stephens also drive in 159 runs. That number sets an MLB record for shortstops.
- Joe DiMaggio signs what is reportedly the first $100,000 contract in MLB history. The Yankee Clipper bats .346 but plays in just 76 games due to injury.
- The Red Sox’ Mel Parnell leads baseball with 25 wins. The left-hander from New Orleans loses just seven times and tops the AL with a 2.77 ERA.
- Ralph Kiner blasts a career-high 54 homers, leading the NL for the fourth straight season. The Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder goes on to top the league in homers for seven times consecutive campaigns (1946-52).
- The Yankees’ Joe Page saves 27 games, a new MLB record. The lefty pitches eight seasons and retires with 76 saves.
- The Philadelphia A’s double their pleasure. They turn an all-time record 217 double plays.
- Stan Musial enjoys another big season for the St. Lois Cardinals. He leads the NL in hits (207), doubles (41), total bases (382) and on-base percentage (.438). He ties for the lead in triples (nine) and adds 39 homers.
- Both the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers finish 97-57 and win the A.L. and N.L. pennants, respectively. The Yanks beat the Dodgers in five games in the World Series. Bobby Brown hits two triples and drive in five for New York.
Look back at the 1957 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
- Hank Aaron leads the National League in home runs for the first time, with 44. The Milwaukee Braves outfielder also finishes first in RBI (132), runs scored (118) and total bases (369). Not surprisingly, the writers vote Aaron as the league MVP.
- The Giants’ Willie Mays, playing in his final season in New York, leads the NL in triples (20) and stolen bases (38).
- The slow-moving Washington Senators steal just 13 bases, the lowest season total ever for a team.
- Roy Sievers belts 318 home runs over a 17-year career. He has his best year in 1957, leading the A.L. in homers (42) and RBI (114), while batting .301 for the Washington Senators. Sievers finishes third in the MVP race. He steals one base.
- The Cardinals’ Stan Musial hits .351 and wins the last of his seven career batting titles.
- Ted Williams turns 39 years old and tops the American League with a .388 batting average, the best mark in the major leagues since Williams hit .406 in 1941. The Boston Red Sox superstar will retire after the 1960 season with a .344 lifetime batting average.
- The Giants and Dodgers play their final games in New York. Following the season, the Giants leave for San Francisco and the Dodgers head to Los Angeles.
- Warren Spahn goes 21-11 with a 2.69 ERA. He is the majors’ Cy Young Award winner. Spahn goes on to win 363 games in a 21-year career and reaches the 20-win mark 13 times.
- Baseball gives out Gold Gloves to top defenders for the first time. Only one Gold Glove is given for each position (three in the outfield). First-year winners are: the Yankees’ Bobby Shantz (pitcher), the White Sox’ Sherm Lollar (catcher), the Dodgers’ Gil Hodges (first base), the White Sox’ Nellie Fox (second base), the Red Sox’ Frank Malzone (third base), the Reds’ Roy McMillan (shortstop), the Giants’ Willie Mays (outfield), the Tigers’ Al Kaline (outfield) and the White Sox’ Minnie Minoso (outfield).
- Lew Burdette throws three complete-game wins for the Braves in the World Series. Milwaukee beats the New York Yankees in seven games.
Look back at the 1925 MLB season.
By Glen Sparks
Rogers Hornsby hits 21 points lower in 1925 than he did in 1924. The great second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals still bats .403 to lead the National League. The Rajah also tops the N.L. in home runs (39) and RBI (143) in winning his second Triple Crown. Not surprisingly, he takes home the N.L. MVP trophy.
Babe Ruth suffers from his “bellyache heard ‘round the world.” He bats just .290 and belts only 25 homers, low marks for the immortal Sultan of Swat.
Bob Meusel, Ruth’s New York Yankee teammate, leads the American League in home runs (33) and RBI (138).
Detroit’s Harry Heilmann hits .393 batting average and wins a batting title for the third time in an odd-numbered year (1921, 1923 and 1925). He’ll do it again in 1927.
Dazzy Vance of the Brooklyn Dodgers tops the N.L. in wins (22) and strikeouts (221).
Cleveland’s Joe Sewell comes to bat 608 times. He strikes out just four times.
Pittsburgh’s Max Carey steals 46 bases, topping the N.L. for the 10th and final time.
Sam Rice collects 227 hits for the Washington Senators. That marks includes a record 182 singles.
Eddie Collins of the White Sox and Tris Speaker of the Indians both collect their 3,000th career hit.
The Pirates defeat the Senators in seven games in the World Series. Roger Peckinpaugh, the Washington shortstop and A.L. MVP winner in 1925, commits eight errors in the Series.
By Glen Sparks
Look back at the 1946 MLB season.
- Branch Rickey signs Jackie Robinson to a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He plays the 1946 season for the Montreal Royals of the International League, the Dodgers’ top farm club.
- Bob Feller, ace of the Cleveland Indians, tosses the second no-hitter of his career on April 30 at home. He beats the New York Yankees 1-0. Rapid Robert retired with three no-no’s, the first pitcher to reach that mark.
- The Chicago Cubs score six runs in the first inning and six in the ninth, the first team to do that, on May 18. The Cubbies score seven more runs in between and beat the New York Giants 19-3.
- Mel Ott gets an early shower twice on June 9. Umpires throw out the New York Giants manager, and former ballplayer, from both ends of a doubleheader. The Giants lose each game to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
- The American League pummels the National League 12-0 in the All-Star Game on July 9 at Boston’s Fenway Park. The game is most famous for Ted Williams’ home run off a Rip Sewell “ephus” pitch. Teddy Ballgame goes 4-for-4 and drove in five runs at his home park.
- Relief pitcher Tom Ferrick of the St. Louis Browns wins both games of a doubleheader against the Philadelphia A’s on Aug. 4.
- The Red Sox clinch the A.L. pennant on Sept. 13 at Cleveland’s League Park. Boston beats the Indians 1-0 on an inside-the-park home run, the only one of his career.
- The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox finish tied for first place for the National League pennant. The teams play a best-of-three series, and the Cards win both games.
- St. Louis beats Boston in seven games in the World Series. Harry Walker bats .412 (7-for-17) for the Cards and drives in six runs. Harry Brecheen wins three games for St. Louis and posts a 0.45 ERA in 20 innings.
- Ted Williams wins the AL MVP (38 HR, 123 RBI, .342 BA, .497 on-base, .667 slugging and 142 runs scored); Stan Musial takes home the NL MVP trophy (16 HR, 103 RBI, .365 BA, .434 on-base, .587 slugging, 124 runs scored, 50 doubles, 20 triples and 228 hits).