With the United States fully engaged in World War II by 1943, virtually every major league team suffered a loss of key personnel to the Armed Forces. President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted that baseball itself be allowed to continue due its intrinsic value to the morale of the nation. However, Washington asked that travel be curtailed and that games be scheduled for the maximum convenience of fans who worked in war-related industries. For the most part, that meant more night games - including the first twi-night doubleheaders. Teams also scheduled early-morning contests for those on night shifts.
With many of the sport’s finest players serving in the military, the level of play in the major leagues invariably suffered. Forced to play without Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich, and Phil Rizzuto, among others, the New York Yankees were no exception. After leading the American League with 801 runs scored the previous season, New York’s tally fell to 669 in 1943. Nevertheless, with every other team being similarly adversely affected, the Yankees again managed to score more runs than any other team in the junior circuit. They also allowed the fewest runs of any team in the league, permitting their opponents to cross the plate a total of only 542 times over the course of the season. New York’s superior team balance enabled them to capture their third straight pennant, finishing the year with a record of 98-56, 13 ½ games ahead of the second-place Washington Senators.
Not yet pressed into military service, Charlie Keller served as the team’s primary offensive threat in Joe DiMaggio’s absence. Keller hit 31 home runs, drove in 86 runs, and scored 97 others. Reigning A.L. MVP Joe Gordon ably assisted Keller by hitting 17 homers and scoring 82 runs. Appearing in only 85 games before joining the military, Bill Dickey batted .351 and compiled a .445 on-base percentage.
It really was the Yankees' pitching that enabled them to capture their third straight league championship. New York's team ERA of 2.93 was the lowest in the league, and their staff included the two individual leaders in that category. Ernie "Tiny" Bonham, who won 21 games the previous year, compiled a 15-8 record and the second lowest ERA in the league (2.27). Staff ace Spud Chandler led the league with a record of 20-4, a 1.64 ERA, 20 complete games, and five shutouts.
The Yankees subsequently turned the tables on a St. Louis Cardinals team that defeated them in five games in the previous year’s World Series by disposing of their National League counterparts in five games. Spud Chandler continued his superb pitching in the Fall Classic, throwing two complete-game victories and allowing the Cardinals only one earned run in his 18 innings of work.
While the Yankees fared extremely well in the absence of their best player, Joe DiMaggio, the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox weren’t nearly as fortunate. Playing without their great star Hank Greenberg, the Tigers fell to fifth in the standings, 20 games behind New York. Meanwhile, with Ted Williams missing from their lineup, the Red Sox finished out of the first division for the first time since 1937, coming in 29 games off the pace, in seventh place.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• June 17 – Boston’s Joe Cronin became the first player to hit a pinch-hit home run in both games of a doubleheader.
• July 13 – At Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics, the American League won the first All-Star Game played at night, 5-3.
• New York’s world championship was their seventh and last under manager Joe McCarthy.
• Chicago White Sox shortstop Luke Appling captured his second batting title with a mark of .328. He also led the league with a .419 on-base percentage.
• Detroit's Rudy York topped the American League with 34 home runs, 118 runs batted in, 301 total bases, and a .527 slugging percentage.
• Washington's George Case stole 61 bases en route to winning his fifth straight American League stolen base crown. He also topped the circuit with 102 runs scored.
• Detroit rookie Dick Wakefield led the American League with 200 hits and 38 doubles. He also finished second in the batting race with a mark of .316.
• Detroit’s Dizzy Trout tied Spud Chandler for the league lead with 20 wins and five shutouts. Trout also placed among the league leaders with a 2.48 ERA, 18 complete games, and 246 innings pitched.
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- 1943 World Series, American League, Bill Dickey, Charlie Keller, Dizzy Trout, George Case, Hank Greenberg, Joe Cronin, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Joe McCarthy, Lou Boudreau, Luke Appling, New York Yankees, Phil Rizzuto, Rudy York, Spud Chandler, St. Louis Cardinals, Ted Williams, Tiny Bonham, Tommy Henrich