Friday, May 4, 2012

1943 World Series: Talent Drain

The Teams
American League: New York Yankees (98-56) -  14th World Series (won in 1923, 1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941)
National League: St. Louis Cardinals (105-49) - Seventh World Series (won in 1926, 1931, 1934, 1942)

What Happened
The 1943 season was when things started to get weird. With World War II going full swing, star players left and right were going overseas to either fight or play baseball with the troops to raise morale. The Yankees and Cardinals repeated as their league champions because they had the best talent available to replace the stars that were in Europe.

Though it was a rematch of the previous year's World Series, there were a lot of missing players, including Yankees great Joe DiMaggio. The Cardinals still had Stan Musial, and they still had the Cooper brothers, pitcher Mort and catcher Walker. Since the Cardinals had more of their stars left in the majors and had rather easily beaten the Yankees the year before, few people saw any reason to doubt a similar result for 1943.

But if there's one thing the Yankees had taught baseball fans over the previous two decades, it was that they should never be doubted. Oh, and if you give them an inch, they'll take a mile. In Game 1, Cardinals starter Max Lanier only had two missteps, but they were costly. An error in the fourth led to two Yankee runs, while a wild pitch in the sixth scored another one. That was more than enough for American League MVP Spud Chandler to give the Yankees the series lead.

Before Game 2, the Cooper brothers learned about the death of their father the night before. Going on with the game anyway, they led the Cardinals to a Game 2 win, with Mort holding off a Yankee rally in the bottom of the ninth. The Cooper brothers then caught a train back to St. Louis for the funeral, and the Cardinals' good fortune ran out. They were ahead 2-1 in the 8th inning of Game 3 before two errors led to a three-run triple that gave the Yankees the win. In Game 4, the Cardinals left the bases loaded in the seventh, two runners on in the 8th, and one on in the ninth, which proved costly in a 2-1 loss. Even getting Mort Cooper back on the mound for Game 5 didn't help; hall of famer Bill Dickey hit a two-run home run in his 38th and final career World Series game, giving Chandler all the runs he would need. The Yankees won 2-0 and won the series 4-1.

Defining Game
The series could have easily turned in the Cardinals' favor in Game 4. With travel restrictions for World War II, they would be able to end the series with four straight home games if it got that far. They were trailing 1-0 on a fourth-inning single by Dickey, but came back to tie the game on a bases-loaded error in the seventh. St. Louis left the bases loaded, though, then let the Yankees retake the lead in the top of the 8th. The Cardinals then couldn't score with two on and one out in the eighth and left the tying run on second to end the game.

After winning the American League MVP award in a year when many of the true stars were out of the league, Chandler probably would have been named the MVP of the World Series, had there been such an award at that time. He won two games, both complete-game wins, including a shutout in Game 5. Since no hitter really did much - the teams combined to hit just .222 in the series - it pretty much had to be a pitcher. So Spud wins.

Random Fact
Spud Chandler's real name was Spurgeon Ferdinand Chandler. I tried to look up why he was named "Spud," but I got bored and stopped. I thought it was because he was from Idaho or something, but he was from Georgia, so I give up.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

New York 4 36 22
St. Louis 2 4210

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

66. 1943 - New York (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-1
67. 1954 - New York (N) def. Cleveland (A) 4-0
68. 1978 - New York (A) def. Los Angeles (N) 4-2
69. 2006 - St. Louis (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-1
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

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