Baseball in 1941

Joe DiMaggio in 1941, The Year of the Streak

The American League race in 1941 was a runaway for the New York Yankees and failed to have the engrossing interest in its closing weeks which 1940’s neck and neck finish between Detroit and Cleveland generated.

The National League’s 1941 race, on the other hand, was a back-and-forth affair between Brooklyn and St. Louis.

1941 is best remembered now as the season that Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees established a major league baseball record by hitting safely in 56 consecutive games. That record stands today as one of the most unreachable records of all-time.

We actually had two epic accomplishments in the same season, because Ted Williams finished 1941 with a .406 batting average, the last time anyone has batted over .400.

1941 World Series

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The opening game of the world series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers on Oct. 1st set an all-time high for attendance at a World Series game.

The 1941 world championship was won by the Yankees, four games to one, setting new records for New York’s American league representative club. It was the eighth straight world series victory for the club in eight appearances since defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1926. Until beaten by Brooklyn in the second game of the 1941 world series, the Yankees had a string of ten straight games won in world series play, also an all-time record.

All five games were close and hard fought, the first two on the Yankee grounds in the Bronx, with the other three played at Ebbets field in Brooklyn. The Yankees won the first game, 3 to 2, taking the lead on a homer by second-baseman Joe Gordon, the all-around individual star of the series, in the second inning, and keeping their lead the rest of the way.

Yankees Win World Series, Newspaper, October 6, 1941

Yankees Win World Series, October 6, 1941

Brooklyn’s 3-2 victory in the second game featured great pitching by Dodger ace, Whitlow Wyatt. Facing a 2-0 disadvantage after three innings of play, the “Brooklyn Bums” tied the score in the fifth and put over the winning run in the sixth on a single by Dolph Camilli, National league’s leading RBI-man and the 1941 NL MVP.

The 2-1 Yankee victory in the third game shone the spotlight on New York’s youthful left-handed pitcher, Marius Russo, who surrendered only four hits. New York scored its pair of runs in the eighth inning, the first driven across by Joe DiMaggio, the 1941 AL MVP.

The fourth game, however, staged the most dramatic episode of the series, the play which was not only the turning point of the game but probably decided the series as a whole. The Dodgers, thanks to a home run over the wall in right center by their center fielder, NL batting champion Pete Reiser, went ahead with two runs in the fifth inning and held a 4-3 lead with two out in New York’s half of the ninth.

Needing one out to end the game with Brooklyn victorious and the series in a deadlock, two games to two, the home team apparently achieved the objective when the Yankee batter, Tom Henrich, swung and missed for a third strike.

The pitch by the Dodger pitcher, Hugh Casey, was a low and sharp-breaking curve. The Brooklyn catcher, Mickey Owen, only partly blocked the ball instead of catching it. Entitled to a chance for first base as soon as the ball touched the ground, Henrich set out for the base and attained it before Owen could retrieve the ball and throw it there. Thus reprieved, the Yankees swung into action with their bats, scoring four runs before being retired. The vital hits came from the bats of husky Charlie (Killer) Keller and DiMaggio.

The last game, though the score was close, 3 to 1, offered no thrill comparable to those of its predecessors. The Yankees scored two runs in the second inning. Their pitcher, Ernie Bonham, held the Dodgers down.

1941 Pennant Races

The Yankees made history in winning their American league pennant as well as in their world series triumph.  They clinched their title September 4, the earliest date on record in either major league for the 154-game schedule in operation since 1901. It was their fifth pennant in six calendar years, also an all-time major league record.

By contrast, the Dodgers won their pennant in the most sustained two-team race in the history of baseball. From opening day to the finish Brooklyn and the St. Louis Cardinals kept so close in the percentage table that there was never a time, all season long, when either side could take a deep breath with the feeling that its lead was anysvhere close to “commanding.”

Starting April 27, the Dodgers and Cardinals kept first and second places as their own throughout the season. By May 3 they were the only two National league clubs above the .500 mark! Most of the first six weeks of the season the Giants were the only other club which won more than half of its games.

On July 15, when the Dodgers beat the Cubs a double-header, they enjoyed a four-game lead over the Cardinals, the largest margin held by either club over the other at any time in the course of the year. For the space of about an hour that afternoon the Dodger lead was actually 4.5 games. Their double-header was finished before a decision was reached in the St. Louis-Philadelphia game in Philadelphia, a i6-inning affair won by the Cardinals.

In 15 days the scene had shifted so that St. Louis held a three-game margin. On four occasions in late May and June the Cardinals also attained a three-game lead over the Dodgers, their tops for the year. In early June, first place changed
hands six times in nine days.

For the first time since 1928 the Brooklyn pitching staff had an ace who passed the 20-game mark in victories. Both Whitlow Wyatt and Kirby Higbe won 22. The 1941 Dodgers led the league in homers for the first time since 1908. Camilli was the first Dodger to win the National league home run championship since Jacques Fournier in 1924. Reiser was Brooklyn’s first batting champion since Lefty O’Doul in 1932, and the fifth man ever to win the batting title for Brooklyn in the 51 years of its National League history.

More 1941 Highlights

Camilli, elected the NL MVP by the BWAA, led the league both in HR and RBI. His teammate, Reiser, second in the voting, was the first player ever to win a batting championship in his first complete season of major league play. Wyatt, Dodger ace,
ranked third.

The voting in the American League was closer. DiMaggio’s outstanding batting performance was rivalled by that of Ted Williams, the batting champion, whose average of .406 was the first above .400 in the major leagues since Bill Terry of the Giants in 1930, and the highest in the American League since George Sisler’s .420 in 1922.

DiMaggio, though his batting average for the season was nearly 50 points below that of Williams, established a new record for hitting in consecutive games, his mark of 56 surpassing the American League record of 41, set by Sisler in 1922, and the National league record of 44 straight, set by Willie Keeler in 1897.

1941 MLB Standings

1941
NATIONAL LEAGUE
TEAM
W
L
PCT.
GB
Brooklyn Dodgers
100
54
.649
St. Louis Cardinals
97
56
.634
2.5
Cincinnati Reds
88
66
.571
12
Pittsburgh Pirates
81
73
.526
19
New York Giants
74
79
.484
25.5
Chicago Cubs
70
84
.455
30
Boston Braves
62
92
.403
38
Philadelphia Phillies
43
111
.279
57
1941
AMERICAN LEAGUE
TEAM
W
L
PCT.
GB
New York Yankees
101
53
.656
Boston Red Sox
84
70
.545
17
Chicago White Sox
77
77
.500
24
Cleveland Indians
75
79
.487
26
Detroit Tigers
75
79
.487
26
St. Louis Browns
70
84
.455
31
Washington Senators
70
84
.455
31
Philadelphia Athletics
64
90
.416
37

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Last modified: Apr 08, 2013 | Written by Paul Phipps