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Major League Baseball reached its nadir during the war years of 1944 and 1945, especially in the American League, where the acute shortage of players dragged the entire circuit down to the level of the St. Louis Browns.  Perennial doormats that finished at or near the bottom of the A.L. standings in nine of the previous 10 seasons, the Browns captured their first and only league championship in 1944.  St. Louis finished the campaign with a record of 89-65, just one game ahead of the second-place Detroit Tigers.  The New York Yankees came in third, six games off the pace.

Relatively untouched by the military draft, the 1944 St. Louis Browns featured an all-4F infield, nine players age 34 or older, and a motley collection of notorious characters such as Tex Shirley and Mike Kreevich.  Fourth starter Sig Jakucki won 13 games after he previously retired in 1936 with a major league record of 0-3.  The Browns rediscovered him pitching for a Houston industrial-league team.  Nels Potter and Jack Kramer were the team’s big winners, posting win totals of 19 and 17, respectively.  Meanwhile, 23-year-old shortstop Vern Stephens paced the St. Louis offense, batting .293, scoring 91 runs, placing second in the league with 20 home runs, and topping the circuit with 109 runs batted in.  

After opening the season with nine consecutive victories, the Browns continued to surprise the baseball world by remaining in contention the rest of the year.  With St. Louis, Detroit, and New York involved in a close three-team pennant race down the stretch, the Browns laid claim to the league championship by defeating the Yankees five times during the season’s final week.  They clinched the pennant with a come-from-behind 5-2 victory over New York on two home runs by Chet Laabs, and another by Vern Stephens.

The Browns subsequently faced the Cardinals in a World Series played entirely within the confines of Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.  The Cardinals emerged victorious in the Fall Classic that came to be known as the “Streetcar Series,” defeating their American League counterparts in six games.

Although St. Louis edged out Detroit for the A.L. title by one game, the Tigers featured the circuit’s top two pitchers.  Dizzy Trout and Hal Newhouser dominated the league statistical categories for pitchers, finishing first and second in virtually every department.  Newhouser led the league with 29 wins and 187 strikeouts, and he finished second to his teammate with a 2.22 ERA, 25 complete games, 312 innings pitched, and six shutouts.  Trout placed second to Newhouser with 27 victories and 144 strikeouts, while also leading all A.L. hurlers with a 2.12 ERA, 33 complete games, 352 innings pitched, and seven shutouts.  The two Detroit aces also finished first and second in the league MVP voting, with Newhouser edging out Trout for the honor by a mere four points.   

Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:

• George McQuinn of the Browns led all 1944 World Series players with a .438 batting average and five runs batted in.

• Cleveland's Lou Boudreau won the American League batting title with a mark of .327.

• New York’s Snuffy Stirnweiss, a .219 hitter in 1943, batted .319 and led the American League with 205 hits, 125 runs scored, 16 triples, and 55 stolen bases.   

• Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis died.  Immediately after his passing, the members of the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee voted him into Cooperstown.

• Elmer Gedeon became the first former major leaguer to be killed in action in World War II.

• Boston’s Bob Johnson led the American League with a .431 on-base percentage and finished third in the batting race with a mark of .324.

• Red Sox teammate Bobby Doerr led the American League with a .528 slugging percentage and finished second in the circuit with a .325 batting average.

• Detroit’s Dick Wakefield almost led his team to the pennant after he returned from the armed forces by batting .355 over the season’s final 78 games.  

• Detroit’s Rudy York finished among the league leaders with 18 home runs and 98 runs batted in.

• New York’s Nick Etten batted .293, knocked in 91 runs, and led the league with 22 home runs.

• Stan Spence hit 18 of Washington's 33 home runs.

Batting

TM G AB R H RBI AVG 2B 3B HR SB CS TB OBP SLG OPSLG GIDP SF SH
BOS 1744 5400 739 1456 691 .190 277 56 69 60 40 2052 .328 .249 .622 111 110
CHA 1650 5292 543 1307 494 .209 210 55 23 66 47 1696 .294 .262 .566 111 0 67
CLE 1861 5481 643 1458 615 .221 270 50 70 48 42 2038 .312 .275 .614 134 0 107
DET 1668 5344 658 1405 591 .195 220 44 60 61 55 1893 .336 .276 .663 132 111
NYA 1629 5331 674 1410 631 .218 216 74 96 91 31 2062 .309 .294 .613 130 102
PHA 1710 5312 525 1364 475 .219 169 47 36 42 32 1735 .320 .264 .601 146 0 121
SLA 1734 5269 684 1328 629 .237 223 45 72 44 33 1857 .332 .306 .639 93 0 107
WS1 1657 5319 592 1386 530 .206 186 42 33 127 59 1755 .302 .250 .584 111 0 108

Pitching

Team G W L IP SO BB BF H HR ERA ER R GC SH SV WP BK
BOS 306 77 77 1394 524 592 6047 1404 66 82.480 592 676 58 5 17 28 5
CHA 266 71 83 1390 481 420 5906 1411 68 62.820 553 662 64 5 17 26 4
CLE 355 72 82 1420 524 621 6156 1428 40 80.690 576 677 48 7 18 30 2
DET 275 88 66 1399 568 452 5904 1373 39 47.570 480 581 87 20 8 20 5
NYA 265 83 71 1393 529 532 5920 1351 82 47.520 523 617 78 9 13 30 3
PHA 262 72 82 1396 534 390 5860 1345 58 50.980 506 594 72 9 14 30 4
SLA 281 89 65 1397 581 469 5958 1392 58 42.060 492 587 71 16 17 18 3
WS1 264 64 90 1382 503 475 5939 1410 48 79.290 536 664 83 12 11 29 3

Fielding

Team ID G TC PO A E Fld% InOuts SB CS CS% PB
BOS 1616 6147 4183 1792 172 .942 0 0 0 0 12
CHA 1549 6184 4169 1832 183 .962 0 0 0 0 18
CLE 1684 6350 4257 1929 164 .927 0 0 0 0 10
DET 1565 6340 4198 1952 190 .944 0 0 0 0 12
NYA 1538 6036 4173 1707 156 .957 0 0 0 0 8
PHA 1603 6116 4195 1745 176 .937 0 0 0 0 12
SLA 1616 6102 4186 1745 171 .961 0 0 0 0 12
WS1 1543 6105 4135 1752 218 .953 0 0 0 0 33

West

Central

East

Awards

Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

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Tagged:
1944 World Series, American League, Bob Johnson, Bobby Doerr, Chet Laabs, Dick Wakefield, Dizzy Trout, Elmer Gedeon, George McQuinn, Hal Newhouser, Jack Kramer, Kenesaw Landis, Lou Boudreau, Mike Kreevich, Nels Potter, Nick Etten, Rudy York, Sig Jakucki, Snuffy Stirnweiss, Spud Chandler, St. Louis Browns, St. Louis Cardinals, Stan Spence, Tex Shirley, Vern Stephens

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