P-Tex Hughson, BOS
P-Hal White, DET
P-Ted Lyons, CHW
P-Al Benton, DET
P-Johnny Niggeling, SLB
P-Johnny Humphries, CHW
P-Dizzy Trout, DET
P-Hal Newhouser, DET
P-Tiny Bonham, NYY
P-Virgil Trucks, DET
C-Bill Dickey, NYY, 1942 ONEHOF Inductee, Most All-Star lists as C-11
C-Birdie Tebbetts, DET
1B-Les Fleming, CLE
2B-Joe Gordon, NYY
2B-Bobby Doerr, BOS
3B-Harlond Clift, SLB
SS-Johnny Pesky, BOS
SS-Phil Rizzuto, NYY
SS-Lou Boudreau, CLE
LF-Ted Williams, BOS, 1st MVP
LF-Charlie Keller, NYY
LF-Bob Johnson, PHA
CF-Joe DiMaggio, NYY
CF-Wally Judnich, SLB
CF-Stan Spence, WSH
281 IP, 22-6, 2.59 ERA, 113 K, 144 ERA+, 2.89 FIP, 1.185 WHIP
102 AB, .176, 0 HR, 6 RBI, .176/.236/.206, 23 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-6.3 (5th)
WAR for Pitchers-6.2 (1st)
All-Star: Yes (Didn’t play)
MVP Rank: 6
Ron’s: No (Would require 12 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Boston Red Sox
93-59, 2nd in AL
Manager Joe Cronin
Ballpark: Fenway Park (Hitter’s)
OPS+-109, 2nd in league
ERA+-109, 3rd in league
WAR Leader-Ted Williams, 10.4
WAR for Pitchers-6.2
Adj. Pitching Runs-36
Adj. Pitching Wins-3.9
1st Time All-Star-Cecil Carlton “Tex” Hughson was born on February 9, 1916 in Buda, (you guessed it) TX. The six-foot-three, 198 pound righty pitcher started with the Red Sox in 1941 and became their workhorse this season. The last time Boston had the best pitcher in the league was Lefty Grove in 1937. Of course, it helped Tex that Bob Feller was off fighting for his country. This was Hughson’s best season ever.
SABR gives a good breakdown of his 1942 season, saying, “Hughson emerged as the ace of the Red Sox in his breakout 1942 season (the ‘pitching sensation of the league this season,’ according to Jack Malaney of the Boston Post), in which the Red Sox won 93 games, their most since 1915. Tex completed 22 of his 30 starts, his first start not having come until May 16 (after he again experienced arm troubles in the spring), an amazing number considering his final win total. His career-best 22 wins, against only six losses, led the American League and tied the Cardinals’ Mort Cooper for the major league lead. Hughson also led the league in complete games, innings (a career-high 281), and strikeouts (113). His ERA was an exceptional 2.59. Tex was 5-1 against the World Series-bound Yankees. According to Oren Renick, Tex relished the opportunity to face the Yankees throughout his career. ‘I would rather beat the Yankees once than any other team twice,’ he told Renick. ‘They were the best, and they were cocky, particularly in New York with those Yankee pinstripes on. It was as if you ought not to beat them. You ought to just go out there and rather politely lose.’”
216 2/3 IP, 12-12, 2.91 ERA, 93 K, 136 ERA+, 3.12 FIP, 1.357
77 AB, .169, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .169/.200/.182, 4 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-5.3 (9th)
WAR for Pitchers-5.5 (3rd)
Ron’s: No (Would require 29 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
73-81, 5th in AL
Manager Del Baker
Ballpark: Briggs Stadium (Hitter’s)
OPS+-79, 7th in league
ERA+-127, 1st in league
WAR Leader-Hal White, 5.3
1st Time All-Star-Harold George “Hal” White was born on March 18, 1919 in Utica, NY. The five-foot-10, 165 pound righty pitcher was the ace of a loaded Detroit staff. He started with the Tigers in 1941, was a starting pitcher in 1942 and ’43, and would be a relief pitcher after the war. He had the best Detroit pitching season since Bobo Newsom in 1940 and also his best year ever.
Baseball in Wartime wraps up his career and life, stating, “White was 16-4 with Buffalo in 1940 and made his major league debut with the Tigers on April 22, 1941. He made four relief appearances in Detroit before returning to Buffalo where he again won 16 games. In 1942 he was back with the Tigers and had his best season in the majors with a 12-12 record and 2.91 ERA in 34 appearances, including 25 starts. He also threw shutouts in his first two starts. In 1943 – his last season before entering military service with the Navy – White was 7-12.
“He entered military service on January 3, 1944 and was based at Sampson Naval Training Station in New York, where he played on the same service team as Del Ennis and Johnny Vander Meer. He later went to the Pacific as part of the Navy’s Western Pacific Tour. Following the tour, White was appointed recreation director on Guam. ‘I was assigned on the island with Pee Wee Reese,’ he later recalled. ‘Mickey Vernon was assigned to Ulithi, which is a tiny island all by itself.’
“White remained in baseball for many years as a minor league coach and scout. In 1975, he managed Batavia in the New York-Penn League. He was one of 90 veterans who attended the closing of Tiger Stadium in 1999. Hal White passed away at the age of 82, in Venice, Florida on April 21, 2001.”
180 1/3 IP, 14-6, 2.10 ERA, 50 K, 171 ERA+, 3.12 FIP, 1.070 WHIP
67 AB, .239, 0 HR, 10 RBI, .239/.282/.299, 65 OPS+
WAR for Pitchers-4.8 (4th)
MVP Rank: 12
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1955)
Ron’s: Yes (Inducted in 1930)
Chicago White Sox
66-82, 6th in AL
Manager Jimmy Dykes
Ballpark: Comiskey Park I (Pitcher’s)
OPS+-81, 6th in league
ERA+-100, 5th in league
WAR Leader-Ted Lyons, 5.2
1942 AL Pitching Title
Earned Run Average-2.10
9th Time All-Star-After he made this list in 1939 — the first year Lyons started pitching exclusively on Sundays — he had good, but not great seasons in 1940 and ’41. When Thornton Lee, the best pitcher in the American League in 1941, stumbled this season, it was up to Ol’ Teddy to be the staff ace once again. Surprisingly, after this year, the 41-year-old veteran will miss the next three seasons due to the war.
SABR wraps up this season and his career, saying, “Theodore Amar Lyons had reached the age of 41 when he began the season of 1942, his 20th and last full year as a pitcher. As usual the Sunday schedule could not be established early in the year because of postponements, and the Sox started miserably, winning just four of their first 22 games. Then Lyons ran off a string of seven wins in a row, all complete games.
“But Lyons had an excellent year; he won 14 and lost 6; he walked only 26 batters in 180 innings while striking out 50; and his earned run average of 2.10 led the league. These were startling statistics. Above all, consider one more element, that of completions. Lyons started 20 games and completed 20 games, a feat that had not been achieved since Walter Johnson started and completed 26 games for Washington in 1918.”
Most likely, I’ll be writing up Lyons one more time, for his ONEHOF induction which could come as early as 1944. Lyons died on July 25, 1986 at the age of 85 as the best White Sox pitcher of all time.
226 2/3, 7-13, 2.90 ERA, 110 K, 136 ERA+, 3.08 FIP, 1.297 WHIP
67 AB, .075, 0 HR, 0 RBI, .075/.075/.090, -55 OPS+
WAR for Pitchers-5.6 (2nd)
All-Star: Yes (S, 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R)
Ron’s: No (Would require 15 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
2nd Time All-Star-Despite his won-loss record, Benton had a great season. It wasn’t his fault that the Tiger offense was so terrible. He’s the second of five Detroit pitchers who are going to make this list. It was Benton’s best season ever.
SABR says of this time of his career, “Benton was an All-Star in both 1941 and 1942, putting together back-to-back years of considerable success mixing starting and relieving. He was 15-9 with a 2.97 ERA in 1941, and improved his ERA to 2.90 in 1942, though his won/loss record was 7-13. He didn’t appear in the 1941 All-Star Game, held at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium, but he pitched the final five innings of the 1942 game, in relief of Spud Chandler, giving up just one run on the way to an AL 3-1 win. Benton was credited with a save and not the win.
“After the 1942 season concluded, Benton joined the United States Navy. He missed the full seasons of 1943 and 1944, but was discharged (due to migraine headaches) in time to rejoin the Tigers in April. He’d played baseball in the Navy and reportedly won 39 games in his two years.”
This is going to be a familiar statement throughout the next few years. Such and such player had a great year and then would join the armed forces. I have a lot of respect for this greatest generation. I don’t have blinders on, I realize these players had their faults. Still, I admire these players fighting for their country, heck, my country!
206 1/3, 15-11, 2.66 ERA, 107 K, 140 ERA+, 3.52 FIP, 1.289 WHIP
72 AB, .139, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .139/.184/.139, -9 OPS+
WAR for Pitchers-4.7 (5th)
Ron’s: No (Would require 16 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
St. Louis Browns
82-69, 3rd in AL
Manager Luke Sewell
Ballpark: Sportsman’s Park III (Hitter’s)
OPS+-81, 6th in league
ERA+-100, 5th in league
WAR Leader-Wally Judnich, 5.2
Hit By Pitch-11
Fielding % as P-1.000 (2nd Time)
1st Time All-Star-John Arnold “Johnny” Niggeling was born on July 10, 1903 in Remsen, IA. The six-foot, 170 pound righty pitcher started with the Braves in 1938 at the age of 34. The next season, he was picked up by the Reds at the end of the season. The Browns picked him up off of waivers before the 1940 season and this old man would be a good pitcher during wartime. He was the best Browns pitcher due to Bob Muncrief having an off year.
SABR says 1942 was a significant year for the aging Niggeling: “In Le Mars, Iowa on February 2, 1942, 39-year-old Johnny Niggeling married 24-year-old Ruth Puglesa from Del Rapids, South Dakota. Ruth had been employed in the town of Le Mars, eleven miles west of Remsen. The couple honeymooned in Pensacola, Florida, where the groom reported for the Browns spring training. Marriage seemed to agree with the aging athlete then, as the season to follow proved the best of his baseball career. He ended it with a 15-11 won-loss record and a 2.66 ERA. Six of those victories were over Boston. That aided the Browns progression to third place. After that season’s end, Niggeling informed the club that Uncle Sam had rejected him for service. Earlier, he had expressed his desire to serve in the armed forces. And although he did not disclose the reason for the turndown, it was most likely because of his persistent stomach problems.” Ted Lyons entered the war at age 41 and Niggeling tried to enlist at age 38. It was a different breed of man back then.
228 1/3 IP, 12-12, 2.68 ERA, 134 K, 134 ERA+, 3.18 FIP, 1.253 WHIP
80 AB, .225, 0 HR, 5 RBI, .225/.262/.325, 67 OPS+
WAR for Pitchers-3.9 (9th)
Ron’s: No (Would require 58 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
1st Time All-Star-John William “Johnny” Humphries was born on June 23, 1915 in Clifton Forge, VA. The six-foot-one, 185 pound righty pitcher started with Cleveland in 1938 and led the American League in games pitched with 45. After the 1940 season, he was traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Chicago White Sox for Clint Brown. This season was his best ever.
Wikipedia wraps up this man’s life, saying, “John William Humphries (June 23, 1915 – June 24, 1965) was a pitcher in Major League Baseball from 1938 to 1946. Born in Clifton Forge, Virginia, he played for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, and Philadelphia Phillies. Humphries played college baseball at North Carolina. When Humphries made his Major League debut with the Indians in 1938, he was thought to have the best fastball in the American League. He made 45 pitching appearances as a rookie in 1938 to lead the American League, beating out Bobo Newsom of the St. Louis Browns by one. Between July 13 and July 26, 1942, Humphries pitched ten or more innings in four consecutive starts. As of 2020, no other pitcher had ever pitched more than nine innings in more than three consecutive appearances
“He died in 1965 in New Orleans, Louisiana.”
There’s not a lot of information on this pitcher who got most of his action during the war years. My guess is that’s going to be common over the next few seasons as there will be so many players filling in for those who went off to war.
223 IP, 12-18, 3.43 ERA, 91 K, 115 ERA+, 3.73 FIP
75 AB, .213, 1 HR, 7 RBI, .213/.253/.293, 49 OPS+
WAR for Pitchers-3.9 (10th)
Ron’s: No (Would require six more All-Star seasons. 50 percent chance)
1st Time All-Star-Paul Howard “Dizzy” Trout was born on June 29, 1915 in Sandcut, IN. The six-foot-two, 195 pound righty pitcher started with Detroit in 1939 and participated in 1940 World Series, going 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA. This season, he was part of the vaunted Detroit pitching staff, which has five pitchers on my list. For years and years, Dizzy would be the best player with Trout as a last name. He isn’t anymore!
SABR says there were a lot of stories told about Trout, but it was hard to determine the veracity of them: “Consumer alert: Some of the stories repeated here probably are not true. The difficulty is, we don’t know which ones.
“Dizzy Trout was a magnet for tall tales. Many of the stories Trout told, and those told about him, can’t be verified, but they’re too much fun to pass up.
“One sportswriter said, ‘He had a beautiful sense of humor and sometimes a temper to match.’ Trout’s temper held back his career. Once he dragged a heckler out of the stands and began pummeling him. After Diz was ejected, he thumbed his nose at the crowd. True? Yes. It happened on September 11, 1942, in Detroit.
“Trout was a fastball pitcher with a curve and a sinking forkball. Manager Del Baker wouldn’t give up on him because Baker believed in his stuff. But after Baker removed him from a game in 1942, the enraged Trout charged the manager in the dugout. Teammate Doc Cramer wrestled him away before he could do any damage to Baker or his own career. That same year he attacked a heckler in the stands.”
183 2/3 IP, 8-14, 2.45 ERA, 103 K, 162 ERA+, 3.47 FIP, 1.367 WHIP
52 AB, .154, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .154/.200/.192, 7 OPS+
WAR for Pitchers-4.1 (6th)
All-Star: Yes (Didn’t play)
Cooperstown: Yes (inducted in 1992)
Ron’s: No (Would require four more All-Star seasons. Sure thing)
Hits per 9 IP-6.713
Strikeouts per 9 IP-5.047
1st Time All-Star-Harold “Prince Hal” Newhouser was born on May 20, 1921 in Detroit, MI. The six-foot-two, 180 pound lefty pitcher started with Detroit in 1939 and by 1940 was a regular starter. This year didn’t look great if you just glance at the won-loss record, but he was one of five Tigers’ pitchers to make this list. He’s got some great years ahead, along with making Cooperstown and my Hall of Fame,
“The Tigers southpaw did show signs of greatness. In 1942, for instance, Newhouser led AL pitchers in fewest hits allowed per game, 6.7, lowest opponents batting average, .207, and most strikeouts per game, 5.4. While his 2.45 ERA ranked fourth in the league, his record was 8-14, and that mark was not helped by DetroIt’s sloppy fielding. Only the seventh-place Washington Senators played worse in the field, recording a fielding mark of .962 compared to DetroIt’s .969.
“Regarding his marriage, Beryl Steele met Hal at a party for teenagers in 1939. Their love grew, and she married the major leaguer on December 2, 1941. Later she explained her favorite pitcher from a wife’s perspective. For the June 1949 issue of Sport Magazine, Milton Gross, who wrote ‘I Married A Pitcher,’ reported that Beryl said baseball for her husband was both an emotional and a physical experience. ‘I guess Hal gets mad on the field,’ she said, ‘but It’s always the same. He gets mad at himself and not at anybody else.’”
226 IP, 21-5, 2.27 ERA, 71 K, 152 ERA+, 2.75 FIP, 0.987 WHIP
74 AB, .122, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .122/.167/.122, -18 OPS+
WAR for Pitchers-4.0 (8th)
All-Star: Yes (Didn’t play)
MVP Rank: 5
Ron’s: No (Would require 12 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
New York Yankees
103-51, 1st in AL, Lost WS 4-1 to STL
Manager Joe McCarthy
Ballpark: Yankee Stadium I (Pitcher’s)
OPS+-110, 1st in league
ERA+-119, 2nd in league
WAR Leader-Joe Gordon, 7.7
Walks & Hits per IP-0.987
Bases On Balls per 9 IP-0.956
Strikeouts/Base On Balls-2.958
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.75
Base-Out Runs Saved-40.77
Win Probability Added-5.0
Sit. Wins Saved-4.2
Base-Out Wins Saved-4.8
Fielding % as P-1.000
1st Time All-Star-Ernest Edward “Tiny” Bonham was born on August 16, 1913 in Ione, CA. The six-foot-two, 215 pound righty pitcher started with the Yankees in 1940 and in 1941 pitched against Brooklyn in the World Series, limiting the Dodgers to one run in his complete game victory. This year, the Yankees lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, their first loss in the Fall Classic since 1926 after nine straight postseason victories. Bonham is the first Yankee pitcher to make my list since Red Ruffing in 1939. He is going to die tragically young and I’ll have more on that next year.
SABR says of this season, “There was no talk of back trouble in 1942. Bonham dominated with a 21-5 record and a 2.27 ERA, second best in the league. He led with six shutouts and tied for the lead with 22 complete games. He allowed less than one walk per nine innings and struck out nearly three times as many batters as he walked, the best ratio in the majors. Baseball writers ranked him fifth in the Most Valuable Player voting; his teammate, second baseman Joe Gordon, won the award.
“The Yankees won 103 games and faced no significant challenge. Bonham’s twentieth win clinched the pennant on September 14. But the St. Louis Cardinals beat them four games to one in the Series. Bonham lost the second game, 4-3.”
As you can probably tell, the nickname Tiny is sarcastic, and even though some writers tried to change it to Jumbo, it was Tiny that stuck.
167 2/3 IP, 14-8, 2.74 ERA, 91 K, 145 ERA+, 2.92 FIP, 1.318 WHIP
65 AB, .123, 0 HR, 3 RBI, .123/.123/.138, -29 OPS+
WAR for Pitchers-4.1 (7th)
Ron’s: No (Would require seven more All-Star seasons. 64 percent chance)
Home Runs per 9 IP-0.161
1st Time All-Star-Virgil Oliver “Fire” Trucks was born on April 26, 1917 in Birmingham, AL. The five-foot-11, 198 pound righty pitcher started his career by pitching one game in 1941 and then had this good rookie year. He is the fifth Detroit pitcher to make my list which, without researching it, I can honestly say is a record. Trucks has a chance at making my Hall of Fame, but losing a couple years to the war probably dooms that opportunity.
SABR summarizes his 1942 season, stating, “In 1942 Trucks arrived at spring training anticipating being in the starting rotation. He made his first career start in the fourth game of the season, losing 7-6 to the Browns in St. Louis. In his second start, on his birthday, he notched his first career win, but afterward lost his place in the rotation due to wildness. After being idle for a month Trucks had another poor start, on May 22, and manager Del Baker considered demoting him. Pitching for his future, Trucks tossed a complete-game four-hit victory and followed it with his first career shutout, a six-hit gem against the Athletics at Philadelphia to cement not just his spot on the team, but also in the rotation. By September The Sporting News considered him the best hurler on the staff. He finished his rookie season with a team-high 14 wins and a 2.74 ERA.”
Incredibly, Detroit had another pitcher, Tommy Bridges, who started over 20 games and he wasn’t too far from making this list. There might not have been a better pitching staff in the history of the game.
268 AB, .295, 2 HR, 37 RBI, .295/.359/.373, 108 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (Didn’t play)
MVP Rank: 17
ONEHOF: Yes (Inducted in 1942)
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1954)
Ron’s: Yes (Inducted in 1936)
Caught Stealing %-60.0 (3rd Time)
11th Time All-Star-There’s a lot to go over with Dickey this year, but we’ll start off with him being inducted into the One-A-Year Hall of Fame (ONEHOF), joining 1800s catchers Charlie Bennett and Buck Ewing and 1910s catcher Roger Bresnahan, as the only backstops. Click on the link above to see the whole list. My guess is eventually Mickey Cochrane and Gabby Hartnett will also make this list, but that’s down the road. As a matter of fact, Hartnett and Cochrane are among next year’s nominees along with Bill Terry and Ted Lyons.
Dickey also has now made more All-Star teams at catcher than any other player before him. The full list is here. My guess is he’s also making in 1943.
The Man Nobody Knows also went to his seventh World Series, but this time he was on the losing end for the first time. He hit .263 (five-for-19) as the Yankees lost to the Cardinals, 4-1.
SABR mentions Dickey would eventually go off to war, saying, “Five months later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States was in World War II. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, while giving baseball a green light to continue playing, emphasized that players would be treated just like other men who were eligible for the draft. It took many months for the nation’s Selective Service machinery to get into full gear, and the draft affected relatively few players in 1942. Dickey remained with the Yankees in 1942 and 1943, but missed the 1944 and 1945 seasons in military service.”
308 AB, .247, 1 HR, 27 RBI, .247/.335/.292, 72 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (0-4, 2 K)
Ron’s: No (Would require 78 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Putouts as C-446
Errors Committed as C-12 (3rd Time)
Range Factor/Game as C-5.31 (2nd Time)
1st Time All-Star-George Robert “Birdie” Tebbetts was born on November 10, 1912 in Burlington, VT. The five-foot-11, 170 pound righty catcher started with Detroit in 1936 and made the All-Star team in 1941. After this year, he’ll lose three seasons to the war.
As for this campaign, Tebbetts made my list as a fluke, due to a lack of good catchers in the American League. Look at his WAR above, 0.4. That might be the lowest WAR to make my list since the 1870s or 1880s. I have no time to research all that!
Wikipedia gives us the wrap-up on his career and life, saying, “Despite holding a 3-A draft classification because of his mother’s dependency, Tebbetts applied for an Army Air Corps commission. He joined the military services in August 1942 and was assigned to recruiting duties in Waco, Texas during the Second World War. Tebbetts honed his managerial skills as a player-manager for the Waco Army Flying School’s baseball team. He lost three years of his baseball career to his military service.
“Perhaps most revealing of Tebbetts’s character is his recollection of an umpire who suffered dizzy spells following his return from the war. Afraid of losing his job, the umpire asked Tebbetts, then the Tigers catcher, to help calling balls and strikes, and Tebbetts tipped him off with hand signals following each pitch.
“Birdie Tebbetts died on March 24, 1999 in Bradenton, Florida, at the age of 86. On May 28, 2009, Birdie was announced as a Local Legend of Nashua, New Hampshire, and commemorated with a plaque to be placed in Holman Stadium.”
548 AB, .292, 14 HR, 82 RBI, .292/.412/.432, 144 OPS+
MVP Rank: 25
Ron’s: No (Would require 36 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Intentional Bases on Balls-23
Def. Games as 1B-156
Putouts as 1B-1,503
Double Plays Turned as 1B-152
Fielding % as 1B-.993
1st Time All-Star-Leslie Harvey “Les” or “Mae” Fleming was born on August 7, 1915 in Singleton, TX. The five-foot-10, 185 pound lefty first baseman and rightfielder started with Detroit in 1939. He didn’t play in the Majors in 1940 and then joined the Indians in 1941. After two Major League seasons, he had a total of 24 at bats, so 1942 was his rookie season and while I wouldn’t say it was great, it was good enough to be the best first baseman in a depleted American League. Fleming is the first Indian to make my list at first base since Hal Trosky in 1940. Trosky left baseball due to migraines and his career was just about over.
Wikipedia wraps up his career and also tells of an affliction he had that was way too common in his day, racism. It says, “In 1942, as Cleveland’s regular first baseman, he set personal bests in games played (156, tied for the American League lead), and most offensive categories. During his long career in minor league baseball, he was selected the Most Valuable Player of the 1948 American Association. In 1950, he knocked in 138 runs in the Pacific Coast League, another Triple-A circuit, but finished 18 RBI behind the league’s leader, Harry Simpson.
“As a member of the Indians during the 1947 season, Fleming became a teammate of Larry Doby when Doby broke the color barrier in the American League on July 5. On that day the Indians were preparing for a match against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park. Fleming was one of the Indians who turned his back to Doby when player-manager Lou Boudreau introduced Doby to his new Indians’ teammates in the clubhouse before the game.”
Fleming died on March 5, 1980 at the age of 64.
538 AB, .322, 18 HR, 103 RBI, .322/.409/.491, 155 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-7.7 (2nd)
WAR Position Players-7.7 (2nd)
Offensive WAR-5.9 (4th)
Defensive WAR-2.5 (2nd)
All-Star: Yes (0-4, 3 K)
MVP Rank: 1
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 2009)
Ron’s: No (Would require two more All-Star seasons. Sure thing)
1942 AL MVP
Double Plays Grounded Into-22
Def. Games as 2B-147 (3rd Time)
Errors Committed as 2B-28 (3rd Time)
Double Plays Turned as 2B-121 (3rd Time)
4th Time All-Star-In 1941, the baseball writers and I both gave the Most Valuable Player to Joe DiMaggio over Ted Williams, despite the Splendid Splinter’s incredible year in which he hit over .400, the last Major Leaguer to do that thus far. However, DiMaggio didn’t exactly slouch that year and I’m comfortable with my pick. However, I couldn’t do that to Williams again since he was easily the best player in the league, so he’s got my vote. The winner of the writers’ vote, though, was this man right here, Flash Gordon.
SABR summarizes this season, saying, “Gordon walked away with the MVP honors in 1942, after hitting .322 with 18 home runs and 103 RBIs. He had a 29-game hitting streak. But he also led the AL in strikeouts with 95 and grounded into a league-leading 22 double plays. For the second straight year the MVP award eluded the Red Sox’ Ted Williams, who had won the Triple Crown and led the league in runs scored and walks. (In 1941, DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak trumped Williams’s .406 batting average.) After losing out to Gordon in ’42, Williams was sportsmanlike, saying, ‘I was glad Gordon got it. I really think he kept the Yankees up there.’
“The Yankees lost to the St. Louis in five games in the World Series, and Gordon collected only two hits and hit .095, with no RBIs. In the ninth inning of Game Five, with the Yankees trailing, 4-2, he was picked off second base by St. Louis catcher Walker Cooper, a potential Yankees rally fizzled and the game, and the Series, were over a few minutes later. Cardinals manager Billy Southworth later said the pickoff was not just a random play, but that Gordon was ‘the victim of a set play which we had pulled time and again all season in the National League.’”
545 AB, .290, 15 HR, 102 RBI, .290/.369/.455, 127 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-5.4 (8th)
WAR Position Players-5.4 (7th)
Offensive WAR-4.3 (8th)
Defensive WAR-1.8 (4th)
All-Star: Yes (Didn’t play)
MVP Rank: 11
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1986)
Ron’s: No (Would require five more All-Star seasons. Sure thing)
Range Factor/9 Inn as 2B-5.90 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 2B-5.84 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as 2B-.975
1st Time All-Star-Robert Pershing “Bobby” Doerr (pronounced DOUGH-er) was born on April 7, 1918 in Los Angeles, CA. The five-foot-11, 175 pound righty second baseman started with Boston in 1937, became a regular in 1938 and was on his way to a Hall of Fame career as the Red Sox best all-time second baseman, at least before a man named Dustin Pedroia entered the picture. It’s a toss up between the two. Doerr is the first Red Sox to make my list as a second baseman in the team’s long history since 1901.
The Oregon Encyclopedia says, “In 1937, Doerr debuted at age nineteen with the Red Sox and played in forty-seven games. By 1938, he was a regular. Williams joined the Red Sox in 1939, center fielder Dom DiMaggio in 1940, and shortstop Johnny Pesky in 1942. They were friends for the rest of their lives, and a sculpture of the four as they appeared in 1946 is at Fenway Park.
“[Ted] Williams referred to Doerr as the ‘silent captain of the Red Sox.’ As David Halberstam writes, Doerr had ‘an uncommon emotional equilibrium that would stay with him throughout his life. He never seemed to get angry or to get down.’ He was one of the few people who could correct Williams’s swing when it went awry. That didn’t stop Williams from telling Doerr, after their regular argument about swinging with an uppercut (Williams) or swinging level (Doerr): ‘Okay, you wanna be a lousy 280, 290 hitter, go ahead and hit that way.’”
541 AB, .274, 7 HR, 55 RBI, .274/.394/.399, 122 OPS+
Offensive WAR-4.3 (9th)
Ron’s: No (Would require two more All-Star seasons. 1 percent chance)
6th Time All-Star-After making my list five straight times, Clift had an off season in 1941 but came back for one last decent season here in 1942. He continued to be a walking machine, garnering 100 walks for the fifth straight season and for the sixth time in his last seven seasons. His power had faded. He certainly was not the same player who smashed 34 homers in 1938, but he was still the American League’s best at third base.
Let’s go to SABR to wrap up the career of this underrated Brown. “But starting in 1942, Clift’s power dried up. While still a reliable defensive third baseman, he managed only seven homers, 55 RBI, and a .274 batting average. The Browns, under Sewell, finished in third place with an 82-69 record, their best season since Clift joined the club in 1934.
“Clift tended to the family farm of 50,000 acres. Eventually, however, he lost it all. He admitted that he had made many mistakes dealing with cattle ranching, ‘where you never know how it’s gonna go.’ By the 1980s, Clift was widowed and living alone in a mobile home in Yakima, getting by on his Social Security checks and a small pension from the Association of Professional Ball Players of America.
“Clift was remembered twice for his career as a ballplayer. He reportedly broke down and cried when he received an invitation to an old-timer’s game at New York’s Shea Stadium, so surprised was he to be remembered at all. Then in 1977, Clift was inducted into the Washington Sports Hall of Fame.”
“Clift died at the age of 79 on April 27, 1992, at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Yakima. He was buried in Yakima’s Terrace Heights Memorial Park.”
620 AB, .331, 2 HR, 51 RBI, .331/.375/.416, 119 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-6.1 (6th)
WAR Position Players-6.1 (5th)
Offensive WAR-5.0 (6th)
Defensive WAR-2.2 (3rd)
MVP Rank: 3
Ron’s: No (Would require eight more All-Star seasons. 38 percent chance)
Def. Games as SS-147
Assists as SS-465
1st Time All-Star-John Michael Paveskovich, more commonly known as John Michael “Johnny” or “The Needle” Pesky was born on February 27, 1919 in Portland, OR. The five-foot-nine, 168 pound lefty hitting, righty throwing infielder started his career with this incredible rookie season. He’s most famous nowadays for having the rightfield foul pole in Fenway Park named after him. He’s the first Red Sox shortstop to make this list since, well, his manager, Joe Cronin, made it last year. Cronin was now 35 and was cutting down on his playing time going forward.
SABR has much to say about this great year, stating, “By year’s end, Pesky was bound for Boston, offered $4,000 for his first year’s salary. He joined the Sox for spring training just three months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. War loomed large over all of baseball, and during Pesky’s rookie year; he spent three evenings a week beginning in May taking classes for the United States Navy, where he was in training to become a naval aviator, in the same program as teammate Ted Williams. Pesky won the shortstop spot in spring training and was assigned number 6. Despite the need to balance baseball with naval training, Johnny Pesky finished the season with a .331 batting average, second only to Williams (.356) in the American League. He led the league in sacrifice hits. There was no ‘rookie of the year’ award yet. That same year, The Sporting News named Johnny the shortstop on its All Star Major League team. And he came in third in the MVP voting, behind Joe Gordon and Ted Williams.
“Tom Yawkey had his own prize for Pesky. At season’s end, there was a $5,000 bonus for the rookie shortstop — enough to buy his parents a home in Portland. Johnny Pesky never forgot Tom Yawkey’s generosity at a time when Johnny was off to military service, perhaps never to return. Yawkey won fierce loyalty from many of his players; with gestures like this, one can understand why.”
553 AB, .284, 4 HR, 68 RBI, .284/.343/.374, 103 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-5.7 (7th)
WAR Position Players-5.7 (6th)
Defensive WAR-3.4 (1st)
All-Star: Yes (Didn’t play)
MVP Rank: 19
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1994)
Ron’s: No (Would require seven more All-Star seasons. 79 percent chance)
Defensive WAR-3.4 (2nd Time)
Putouts as SS-324
Double Plays Turned as SS-114 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as SS-5.39 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as SS-5.34 (2nd Time)
1st Time All-Star-Philip Francis “Phil” or “Scooter” Rizzuto was born on September 25, 1917 in Brooklyn, NY. The five-foot-six, 150 pound righty shortstop started with the Yankees in 1941 and hit .307 along with leading the American League in Defensive WAR. In the World Series, he hit .111 (two-for-18), but it didn’t stop his squad from beating Brooklyn, 4-1. This season, he became the first Yankee to make my list at shortstop since Lyn Lary in 1931.
Wikipedia says, “After receiving The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year Award in 1940 while playing with the Kansas City Blues, he played his first major league game on April 14, 1941. Taking over for the well-liked Frank Crosetti, whose batting average had dropped to .194 after several strong seasons, Rizzuto quickly fit into the Yankees lineup to form an outstanding middle infield with second baseman Joe Gordon. In his syndicated column on October 1, Grantland Rice compared the pair favorably to the middle infield of the crosstown Brooklyn Dodgers: ‘Billy Herman and Pee Wee Reese around the highly important keystone spot don’t measure up, over a season anyway, with Joe Gordon and Phil Rizzuto, a pair of light-footed, quick-handed operatives who can turn seeming base hits into double plays often enough to save many a close scrap.’
“Rizzuto’s rookie season ended in the World Series, and though he hit poorly, the Yankees beat the Dodgers. The following year, Rizzuto led all hitters, for both the Yankees and the opposing St. Louis Cardinals, with 8 hits and a .381 average in the 1942 World Series; the light-hitting shortstop even added a home run after hitting just 4 in the regular season.”
.283, 2 HR, 58 RBI, .283/.379/.370, 117 OPS+
WAR Position Players-4.5 (10th)
Defensive WAR-1.7 (5th)
All-Star: Yes (1-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI)
MVP Rank: 10
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1970)
Ron’s: No (Would require two more All-Star seasons. Sure thing)
75-79, 4th in AL
Manager Lou Boudreau
Ballpark: League Park II and Cleveland Stadium (Pitcher’s)
OPS+-92, 4th in league
ERA+-96, 6th in league
WAR Leader-Lou Boudreau, 4.5
Fielding % as SS-.965 (3rd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-Boudreau made my list for the third straight year, but more importantly for his life, he took over the reins of the Cleveland Indians at the age of 24. It’s hard enough being a young ballplayer, so I can’t imagine the pressures put on The Good Kid having to run the team. It didn’t stop him from having a decent season and he was Manager Boudreau’s best player.
SABR has a lot to say about Boudreau as skipper and I suggest you read the whole thing. Here’s a bit: “After just a single season, Peckinpaugh was promoted to general manager and while a search was underway for a new manager, Lou sent a letter requesting an interview. On November 24, Lou presented his case. Initially, the vote was 11-1 against him, but George Martin, president of Sherwin Williams Paint Company, felt that a young man would be more desirable at this point than the tried and true. The directors finally agreed on Boudreau, backing him up with a staff of older and more experienced coaches: Burt Shotton, Oscar Melillo and George Susce.
“Bradley introduced Lou to the press as the new manager, and one wag wrote, “Great! The Indians get a Baby Snooks for a manager and ruin the best shortstop in baseball.” The general feeling around the city was that Boudreau would not be able to handle both being a ballplayer and a manager, but the press was generally kind.
“Not all of the Indians were happy with the new manager. During his first spring training, Boudreau had three players walk into his office (Ben Chapman, Gee Walker and Hal Trosky) to tell him they had asked for the job and could do a better job than he would. During some conferences on the mound, veteran pitchers would give Boudreau a variation of ‘Listen, college boy, you play shortstop and I’ll do the pitching.’ Especially troublesome was Jim Bagby Jr., who Boudreau considered ‘the nastiest pitcher [I] ever played behind.’ When Boudreau would boot a ball, he would hear razzing about going back to college to learn how to play shortstop.”
.356, 36 HR, 137 RBI, .356/.499/.648, 216 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-10.4 (1st)
WAR Position Players-10.4 (1st)
Offensive WAR-9.9 (1st)
All-Star: Yes (1-4)
MVP Rank: 2
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1966)
Ron’s: Yes (Inducted in 1941)
1942 Major League Player of the Year (2nd Time)
1942 AL Batting Title (2nd Time)
1942 AL Triple Crown
Wins Above Replacement-10.4 (2nd Time)
WAR Position Players-10.4 (2nd Time)
Offensive WAR-9.9 (2nd Time)
Batting Average-.356 (2nd Time)
On-Base %-.499 (3rd Time)
Slugging %-.648 (2nd Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-1.147 (2nd Time)
Runs Scored-141 (3rd Time)
Total Bases-338 (2nd Time)
Home Runs-36 (2nd Time)
Runs Batted In-137 (2nd Time)
Bases on Balls-145 (2nd Time)
Adjusted OPS+-216 (2nd Time)
Runs Created-168 (3rd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-93 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Wins-9.3 (2nd Time)
Extra Base Hits-75 (2nd Time)
Times On Base-335 (3rd Time)
Offensive Win %-.890 (2nd Time)
AB per HR-14.5 (2nd Time)
Base-Out Runs Added-91.45 (2nd Time)
Win Probability Added-9.6 (2nd Time)
Situ. Wins Added-8.2 (2nd Time)
Base-Out Wins Added-9.0 (2nd Time)
Double Plays Turned as LF-4 (2nd Time)
4th Time All-Star-For Williams’ first four seasons, his slash line was .356/.481/.642 with an OPS+ of 190. That was his average year! Yet at this point in his career, he hasn’t been given one MVP by the baseball writers. Well, I finally couldn’t overlook the Splendid Splinter and I’ve given him my vote for American League Most Valuable Player. The writers put him below Joe Gordon, which makes no sense to me.
Bosox Injection says 1942 is Williams’ third best season, stating, “While there’s one clear choice in my mind for selecting his best season, which we’ll get to later this week, picking between these next two is a toss up. Baseball-Reference has Williams’ 1941 and 1942 seasons tied for second-best in his career with 10.4 WAR. While FanGraphs rates ’42 as slightly higher, I’m calling that season the third-best of Teddy Ballgame’s career.
“His dominance at the plate wasn’t enough to earn him the MVP, as Williams finished as the runner-up to a Yankees player for a second consecutive season.
“Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon hit .322 with a .900 OPS, 18 home runs and 103 RBI that year. A fine season from a Hall of Fame player but those numbers pale in comparison to Williams’. Gordon’s 7.7 WAR compared to Ted’s 10.4 WAR exemplifies what a joke that ballot was in retrospect.”
Unfortunately, the writers looked at the top team and figured the Most Valuable Player must come from there. I think that should be used as a tiebreaker but not if one player (Williams) is so much more dominant than the other (Gordon).
.292, 26 HR, 108 RBI, .292/.417/.513, 163 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-6.7 (3rd)
WAR Position Players-6.7 (3rd)
Offensive WAR-6.4 (2nd)
MVP Rank: 14
Ron’s: No (Would require four more All-Star seasons. 40 percent chance)
Def. Games as LF-152 (2nd Time)
Putouts as LF-310 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as LF-2.10
Fielding % as LF-.985
3rd Time All-Star-In Ted Williams’ blurb, I talked a bit about the Most Valuable Player award and how the baseball writers of this time tended to favor those on the pennant-winning team. So the writers gave the American League award to Joe Gordon instead of the obviously deserving Williams. Yet if the scribes were going to honor people on winning teams, how did Keller, who was third in WAR, finish 14th in MVP voting? You would have thought being on the Yankees would give him a boost. Oh, well, I could talk forever about MVPs, but let’s just acknowledge this was Keller’s best season ever.
Jonah Birenbaum writes in The Score, “Charlie Keller never liked his nickname, a moniker used by fans and writers alike. They called him ‘King Kong.’ Rarely did he respond to it.
“Still, it fit.
“In 1942, for the first time in his young career, Keller outproduced DiMaggio, delivering essentially a carbon copy of his previous season – 7.3 WAR with a .930 OPS – while his more celebrated teammate looked vaguely human, managing what were then career lows in average, homers, and slugging percentage.”
In the World Series, which the Yanks lost to the Cards, 4-1, Keller struggled, hitting just .200 (four-for-20), though he did belt two home runs, both in losses.
It’s too bad Keller faded after he turned 30 because he was certainly on his way to a Hall of Fame career. He also had the misfortune of playing at the same time as Williams so he was never the best at his position.
.291, 13 HR, 80 RBI, .291/.384/.451, 135 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (1-1)
Ron’s: No (Would require one more All-Star season. Sure thing)
55-99, 8th in AL
Manager Connie Mack
Ballpark: Shibe Park (Neutral)
OPS+-79, 8th in league
ERA+-86, 7th in league
WAR Leader-Bob Johnson, 3.6
Assists as LF-17 (4th Time)
Errors Committed as LF-13 (4th Time)
5th Time All-Star-In Johnson’s 1938 blurb, I wrote, “Johnson reminds me of Earl Averill in that he had a terrific career with terrible teams and couldn’t make the postseason (except for three at-bats by Averill late in his tour). Because Indian Bob made the list this year, he’s still keeping his chances alive of making my Hall of Fame. I know he’s going to make two of these All-Star teams for sure, he just has to make one I’m not expecting and then he’s in.”
Well, this is that season I wasn’t expecting. Johnson made my All-Star team as Philadelphia’s best player. It wasn’t a terrible season by any means, but after nine consecutive years of hitting 20 or more homers and driving in 90 or more runs, it did seem like a letdown. By WAR, he actually had a better year in 1941, but there was too much competition. This year, Johnson took advantage of the departure of many good players to make my list.
Since he made it onto my list this year and will certainly make it in 1944, he’s going to be in my Hall of Fame. I think it’s a good choice. Sure, he got a late start in his career and yes, he played on some terrible Athletics teams, but that’s not his fault and he was still one of the most productive players in the American League over a good stretch of time. This, however, is his last year with Philadelphia, but I’ll write that up sometime later.
.305, 21 HR, 114 RBI, .305/.376/.376, 147 OPS+
Wins Above Replacement-6.4 (4th)
WAR Position Players-6.4 (4th)
Offensive WAR-6.0 (3rd)
All-Star: Yes (2-4)
MVP Rank: 7
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1955)
Ron’s: Yes (Inducted in 1939)
Def. Games as CF-154
Putouts as CF-391 (4th Time)
Def. Games as OF-154
7th Time All-Star-After six marvelous seasons, Joltin’ Joe almost looked human this year, admittedly a human who was still better than 99 percent of all other ballplayers. Also, for the sixth time in seven years, DiMaggio found himself on a pennant-winning Yankee team. Unfortunately, he’s going to lose three prime years as he goes off to the war after this season.
SABR says of this season and that war time, “DiMaggio batted just .305 in 1942, the lowest average of his seven years in the majors, and he also compiled the lowest number of home runs and runs batted in. The Yankees won the pennant, but they lost the World Series to the Cardinals, marking the team’s only loss in 10 trips to the Series during DiMaggio’s career.
“On February 17, 1943, DiMaggio enlisted in the Army Air Force. Like many other major leaguers, he never saw combat, serving instead in a morale-boosting role by playing on service baseball squads. In June 1944 he was sent to Hawaii, where he continued to play ball but also spent several weeks in a Honolulu hospital suffering from stomach ulcers. After being sent back to the mainland, he was granted a medical discharge in September 1945. In the meantime, his wife had been granted a divorce and custody of their son, Joe, Jr.”
In the Fall Classic loss to St. Louis, DiMaggio wasn’t to blame as he hit .333 (seven-for-21) though he didn’t have any extra base hits. He won’t have another good Series until 1950.
.313, 17 HR, 82 RBI, .313/.413/.499, 154 OPS+
WAR Position Players-5.2 (9th)
Offensive WAR-5.2 (5th)
MVP Rank: 16
Ron’s No (Would require 18 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Fielding % as OF-.991
1st Time All-Star-Walter Franklin “Wally” Judnich (pronounced JUD-nick) was born on January 24, 1916 in San Francisco, CA. The six-foot-one, 205 pound lefty centerfielder and first baseman started with St. Louis in 1940 and was a good hitter from the beginning. This year was his best ever, but after it, he, too, like so many during this time, went into military service and would lose three years.
Wikipedia gives us the wrap-up, stating, “In 1941, Judnich started off the season in a slump, and partway through the season he had a batting average under .200. He remained in the starting lineup for the Browns and rebounded by the end of the season, finishing with a .284 batting average, 14 homers, 40 doubles, and 83 RBIs in a career-high 146 games. Judnich remained as the starting center fielder for 1942. His performance for the season included hitting two home runs and five RBIs in a 9–0 win against the New York Yankees on September 10. For the season, he hit 17 home runs, seventh in the American League, with 82 RBIs and a .313 average, a career-high. He was one of only seven players in the American League to reach the .300 mark in the season, and was the only Browns player to do so. Judnich also finished 16th in MVP voting with 14 votes.
“After retiring from professional baseball, Judnich moved to Glendale, California, where he lived with his wife and three children. He led a relatively quiet life; when asked of hobbies or interests, he stated during his career, ‘our fans here aren’t interested in those things.’ He died at the age of 55, and was interred at Grand View Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale.”
.323, 4 HR, 79 RBI, .323/.384/.432, 130 OPS+
Offensive WAR-4.9 (7th)
All-Star: Yes (Didn’t play)
MVP Rank: 8
Ron’s: No (Would require 13 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
62-89, 7th in AL
Manager Bucky Harris
Ballpark: Griffith Stadium (Pitcher’s)
OPS+-91, 5th in league
ERA+-80, 8th in league
WAR Leader-Stan Spence, 3.2
AB per SO-39.3
Errors Committed as CF-11
1st Time All-Star-Stanley Orville “Stan” Spence was born on March 20, 1915 in South Portsmouth, KY. The five-foot-10, 180 pound lefty centerfielder started with Boston in 1940 and ’41 and then was traded by the Boston Red Sox with Jack Wilson to the Washington Senators for Ken Chase and Johnny Welaj. With the Senators, he’d have his best years. He’s the first Senator to make my list as a centerfielder since Ben Chapman in 1936.
Wikipedia says of this season, “A part-time player for the Boston Red Sox during two years, Spence played his first full-season for the Washington Senators in 1942 and he responded ending third in the American League batting race with a .323 average behind Ted Williams (.356) and Johnny Pesky (.331).”
Spence brings us to another What the WAR?! moment. You’ll notice his overall WAR is 3.2 and Offensive WAR 4.9. According to Baseball Reference, his Defensive WAR was -1.8. which is one of the worst defensive seasons I’ve seen over the years. Can a centerfielder really lose almost two games over a replacement player with his glove? SABR says he was a good defensive centerfielder, but according to dWAR, he never was above 0.0 in any full year.
It’s interesting because in 2013, Mike Trout had an awesome year with the bat, but his Defensive WAR was -1.2. I watch Trout more than any other player because we have the Angels on TV where I live and he seems like a great defensive centerfielder. It shows the eyes can be deceived!