Posts Tagged ‘Lonny Frey’

The First Integrated World Series: the Yanks

April 16, 2015
The Yankee Clipper

The Yankee Clipper

There was less disarray among the 1947 New York Yankees than there was with Brooklyn, but it was in some turmoil because it was a team in transition. Between 1921 and 1943 New York had never gone more than three seasons without a pennant. By failing to win in 1944, 1945, and 1946, they’d just matched that record. The idea of going four in a row was anathema. So it brought on changes within the team.

The most noticeable change, in many ways, was the man in charge in the dugout. After 16 years as manager, Joe McCarthy was gone. A combination of losing, poor teams during the war, his drinking, and new management had sent McCarthy and his seven world championships into retirement. In his place was rookie manager Bucky Harris. Now Harris was a rookie manager only in the sense of being new to the Yanks. He’d managed the Senators as far back as their single World Series title in 1924 and had spent other years managing in Boston, Detroit, and Philadelphia. On the hot seat after replacing the manager with the most championships ever and leading a team used to winning, Harris was able to provide stability to his team.

The infield was changed from the glory years. George McQuinn was at first after playing the same position for the Browns and Athletics. He hit over .300 and his 13 home runs tied for third on the team. Snuffy Stirnweiss had been around for a while. He’d taken over at second during the war years and was terrific. He’d picked up a batting title in 1945. Then reality set in. The major players were back from the war; the dominant pitchers were back on the mound. Stirnweiss suffered against them. His WAR (BBREF version) went from the mid-eights to the mid-threes. It was still better than backup Lonny Frey, seven years removed from his term with the world championship Reds of 1940. He’d come to New York in mid-season and hit .179. Phil Rizzuto hit .273, led the team in stolen bases, and was one of the better shortstops of the era. The primary third baseman was Billy Johnson. He had 10 home runs, had an ERA+ of 114 and was being challenged by Bobby Brown (who would later be President of the American League).

The outfield saw more stability. Johnny Lindell was now the regular in left field. He hit .275 with 11 home runs. He was the replacement for Charlie Keller. Keller was having back problems and so only saw action in 45 games. He only hit .238 but tied for third on the team with 13 home runs. His .550 slugging percentage and .954 OPS led the Yanks. Right field remained with Tommy Henrich. He led the team with 98 RBIs, and with 109 runs scored. His 158 hits was second on the team as were his 16 homers. And of course he was second in both to Joe DiMaggio. The Yankee Clipper hit .315, had 20 home runs, 97 RBIs, 168 hits, walked 64 times then had 31 doubles and 32 strikeouts. Just a more or less normal DiMaggio year.

No where was in greater transition than the catching job. Aaron Robinson began the year as the primary catcher. He was 32, hit .270, was a decent catcher, and by the end of the year was losing his job to second year man, the 22-year-old Yogi Berra. Berra hit .280, had 11 home runs, 54 RBIs, and 41 runs scored in 293 at bats. His catching numbers were on par with Robinson’s and in some cases (passed balls and caught stealing percentage) slightly better. The third catcher was Ralph Houk. He didn’t play much in 1947, but he would later manage the Yanks to three pennants and two World Series championships. Future All Star Sherm Lollar got into 11 games behind the plate.

But easily the most notable transition was in the pitching staff. Gone were the stalwarts of the 1930s and early 1940s, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing. Allie Reynolds was now the ace. He came over from Cleveland at the beginning of 1947,went 19-8 and posted an ERA+ of 110. He walked 123 while striking out 129 and gave up more hits than he had innings pitched. Vic Raschi was only 7-2 in his rookie year (he’d pitched two games the year before), but was already 28. He would join Reynolds as one of the mainstays of the early 1950s Yanks. Spec Shea was the second pitcher. He went 14-5 and had both 89 walks and 89 strikeouts. Bill Bevens, like Shea, had the same number of walks as strikeouts. In his case 77 of each. He was a journeyman who went 7-13 during the regular season, but would make the most of his one starting opportunity in World Series play. Spud Chandler and Bobo Newsom, both aged 39, rounded out the starters. Fireman Joe Page was the primary reliever, garnering 17 saves, while relieving in 44 of 56 games. Karl Drews started 10 games and pitched in 30. No one else appeared in more than 25 games. Tommy Byrne, who would come to fame on the 1950s Yanks got into four games. Except for Page (and Byrne) all of them were right-handed.

They were a formidable team and favored in the Series. Since 1927 they’d won nine World Series and lost only one. In 1941 they’d beaten the Dodgers in five games. Most writers expected them to do so again, although it might take more than five games.

Trying for Two: the Reds

January 20, 2015
Ival Goodman

Ival Goodman

If, in 1940, it was five years between pennants for Detroit, it was much longer for Cincinnati. The Reds hadn’t won since 1919, and that was the most tarnished of all World Series victories. For Cincy, it would be both a chance for a second title and for redemption from the fiasco of 1919.

For much of the 19th Century Cincinnati was a hotbed for baseball. They’d had the famous Red Stockings team of 1869, they’d been a charter member of the National League, they’d won the first ever American Association pennant. But the 20th Century turned the Reds into an afterthought. In 1919, they’d won their first NL pennant and promptly won the World Series. Of course it was the Black Sox World Series, noted primarily for Chicago throwing the Series to Cincinnati in eight games. The Reds argued they would have won anyway, but no one would ever know. In 1939 they’d won the NL pennant, and been destroyed in four games by the Yankees. The 1940 Series offered them the chance to finally prove they could be in true winner, particularly in the wake of tragedy.

In early August, backup catcher Willard Hershberger killed himself in a hotel room in Boston. Apparently he blamed himself for causing multiple losses to both the Giants and the Bees (now the Atlanta Braves). The team dedicated the remainder of the season to Hershberger and used his death as a  spur when they got to the Series. They also retired his number (5) but unretired it later and then gave it to Johnny Bench.

Hall of Fame manager Bill McKechnie, who had a World Series title already as manager of the 1925 Pirates, but was primarily known as Babe Ruth’s last manager, took over the Reds in 1938. They finished fourth. He maneuvered them to pennants each of the next two years by emphasizing pitching, good defense, and timely hitting (obviously he didn’t invent that formula).

His infield consisted of NL MVP Frank McCormick at first, Lonny Frey at second, Billy Myers at short, and Bill Werber at third. McCormick led the NL in hits and doubles, played a solid first base, led the team with 19 home runs, and hit .309. He also led the league in grounding into double plays. Frey hit .266 for the season, but led the NL in stolen bases with 22. He’d come to the big leagues as a shortstop, was lousy at it, and ended up at second, where he was at least a little better. He played little in the Series because of an injury to his toe. Myers was at the end of his career (1941 was his last season). He hit .202 for the year, but was a good enough fielder his glove kept him in the lineup. Werber was, at 32, the geezer of the group (all the others were 29). He hit .277 and his 12 home runs were tied for third on the team.

The outfield contained two new kids and one veteran. The vet was right fielder Ival Goodman. He hit .258, was tied with Werber for third in home runs, was third on the team with 63 RBIs, and played an excellent right field. The new guys were left fielder Mike McCormick (apparently not related to Frank) and center fielder Harry Craft (who later did a lot of managing). McCormick was a rookie who hit .300 but without power. Craft hit .244,  played center well, and by the Series was replaced by Jimmy Ripple, who hit better.

The catcher was Hall of Famer Ernie Lombardi. Lombardi was famous for two things: hitting the ball hard and being the slowest man on earth. For the year he’d hit .319 with 14 home runs and 74 RBIs. But he was hurt (his hand) and was limited in his performance during the Series.

With Frey and Lombardi hurt and Craft not hitting, the bench was essential for Cincinnati. Ripple, a mid-season acquisition from Brooklyn, filled in for Craft. He hit .307 in 32 games. For catcher, McKechnie picked part-time player, part-time coach Jimmie Wilson, age 39, to sub for Lombardi. He hit .243 for the year, caught 16 games (mostly after Hershberger’s death and after Lombardi’s injury), and was considered well over-the-hill. Frey’s replacement was 24-year old Eddie Joost.

McKechnie’s pitching staff was well front loaded. Twin aces Paul Derringer and converted third baseman Bucky Walters each won 20 games. Walters won the 1939 NL MVP and was third in 1940 voting. He led the NL in ERA and innings pitched, had an ERA+ of 154 and a league leading WHIP of 1.092. Derringer was almost as good, finishing fourth in MVP voting. His ERA 3.06 with an ERA+ of 124. Gene Thompson and Jim Turner also started 20 games and had a combined record of 30-16. Turner had given up as many hits as he had innings pitched. Whitey Moore was the only other pitcher to start more than 10 games. Double no hit Johnny VanderMeer was 3-1 in only 10 games. Only VanderMeer was left-handed. The main bullpen man was Joe Beggs who went 12-3 in 37 games (only starting one).

It was a good team. Except for Mike McCormick much the same team that had won the NL pennant the year before. It was for the Reds a chance to erase the questions of 1919 and to honor a fallen player. The Series started in Cincinnati.