Although the United States’ involvement in World War II continued to adversely affect the level of play in the major leagues throughout much of the 1945 campaign, the season brought with it hope as the conflict in Europe slowly began to draw to a close. Some of baseball’s biggest stars returned to their teams during the latter stages of the season, with Bob Feller rejoining the Indians, Charlie Keller returning to the Yankees, and Hank Greenberg rejoining the Tigers. Greenberg’s return held special significance since it helped shift the balance of power in the hotly-contested American League pennant race. Rejoining Detroit at midseason after spending the previous 4 ½ years in the military, Greenberg batted .311, hit 13 home runs, drove in 60 runs, and scored 47 others in only 270 at-bats over the final 78 games. The hulking Greenberg delivered perhaps the biggest blow of the year in the Tigers’ final game of the season when he hit a grand slam home run in the ninth inning to give his team a pennant-clinching 6-3 victory over the defending A.L. champion St. Louis Browns. The Tigers finished the campaign with a record of 88-65, just 1 ½ games ahead of the second-place Washington Senators. St. Louis finished third, six games back, while the Yankees came in fourth, 6 ½ games off the pace.
Although the Tigers captured the American League flag for the first time in five years, they had neither the best pitching staff nor the most potent lineup in the junior circuit. Detroit finished second to New York in runs scored. Meanwhile, three other teams surrendered fewer runs to the opposition.
Nick Etten and George “Snuffy” Stirnweiss paced New York’s league-leading offense. Etten batted .285, hit 18 home runs, and topped the circuit with 111 runs batted in. Stirnweiss won the batting title with a mark of .309, and he also led the league with 195 hits, 107 runs scored, 22 triples, and 33 stolen bases.
Pitching is the thing that kept Washington in the pennant race the entire year. The Senators led the league with a team ERA of 2.92, and their staff featured two of the circuit’s top hurlers. Dutch Leonard compiled a record of 17-7 and placed among the league leaders with a 2.13 ERA. Roger Wolff, who posted a winning record just once in his seven-year career, had easily his finest season. Wolff finished 20-10, with a 2.12 ERA, 21 complete games, and 250 innings pitched.
However, the pennant-winning Tigers had baseball’s best pitcher in Hal Newhouser. The left-hander kept his team in the pennant-race almost singlehandedly for much of the year, en route to earning A.L. MVP honors for the second straight time. Newhouser won the pitcher’s Triple Crown by leading all A.L. hurlers with a record of 25-9, an ERA of 1.81, and 212 strikeouts. He also topped the circuit with 313 innings pitched, 29 complete games, and eight shutouts. While Hank Greenberg’s midseason return gave the Tigers a huge lift over the final three months of the campaign, they never would have been in a position to capture the American League flag had it not been for Newhouser.
The Tigers met the Chicago Cubs in the World Series and laid claim to the second world championship in franchise history by defeating their National League counterparts in a close, seven-game Series. After being knocked out of the box in an ugly Game One loss, Newhouser returned to win his next two starts. Meanwhile, Hank Greenberg starred for Detroit at the plate, batting .304, hitting two homers, and driving in seven runs.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• St. Louis shortstop Vern Stephens led the American League with 24 home runs and also placed among the leaders with 89 runs batted in, 90 runs scored, and a .289 batting average.
• One-armed outfielder Pete Gray played the full season for the Browns, posting a batting average of .218.
• Happy Chandler was named the new commissioner of baseball.
• The 1945 All-Star Game was not held due to World War II. This was the only cancellation in baseball history.
• Dick Fowler of the A's tossed a no-hitter against the Browns on September 9.
• Boston rookie Boo Ferriss won 21 games and finished second in the league with 265 innings pitched and 26 complete games.
• Ferriss set an American League record by starting his career with 22 scoreless innings.
• On July 21, the Tigers and A's played to a 24-inning 1-1 tie. Detroit starter Les Mueller pitched the first 19 2/3 innings.
• Former major leaguer Harry O'Neill was killed in the Iwo Jima assault.
• The Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Roger Bresnahan, Dan Brouthers, Fred Clarke, Jimmy Collins, Ed Delahanty, Hugh Duffy, Hughie Jennings, Mike Kelly, Jim O’Rourke, and Wilbert Robinson.
• A rule was put into place requiring a player to accumulate at least 400 at-bats to qualify for a batting title.
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- 1945 World Series, American League, Bob Feller, Boo Ferriss, Charlie Keller, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Dick Fowler, Dutch Leonard, Hal Newhouser, Hank Greenberg, Happy Chandler, Les Mueller, Nick Etten, Pete Gray, Roger Wolff, Snuffy Stirnweiss, Vern Stephens