The Boston Red Sox suffered a heartbreaking defeat on the season’s final day for the second straight year in 1949, once again falling just one game short of capturing the American League pennant. After being eliminated by the Cleveland Indians in a one-game playoff the previous year, the Red Sox lost their final two contests to the New York Yankees, who moved past their arch-rivals to win their second league championship in three seasons. The Yankees finished the regular season with a record of 97-57, one game ahead of the second-place Red Sox. The Cleveland Indians finished third in the circuit, eight games behind the pennant-winners, while the Detroit Tigers came in fourth, 10 games off the pace.
The Red Sox failed to win the pennant even though they again had the best offense in baseball. Bobby Doerr hit 18 home runs, knocked in 109 runs, and batted .309. Johnny Pesky batted .306 and scored 111 runs. Dom DiMaggio hit .307 and placed among the league leaders with 126 runs scored and 186 hits. Vern Stephens finished second in the league with 39 home runs, tied for the league lead with 159 runs batted in, batted .290, and scored 113 runs. Ted Williams had another phenomenal year, coming within a fraction of a point of winning an unprecedented third Triple Crown by batting .343 and topping the circuit with 43 home runs and 159 runs batted in. Williams also led the league with 150 runs scored, 39 doubles, a .490 on-base percentage, and a .650 slugging percentage.
Boston even had two of the league’s top pitchers in right-hander Ellis Kinder and left-hander Mel Parnell. Kinder compiled a record of 23-6, a 3.36 ERA, 252 innings pitched, 19 complete games, and a league-leading six shutouts. Parnell posted an ERA of 2.77 and led all A.L. hurlers with 25 wins, 295 innings pitched, and 27 complete games.
Even though the Red Sox had arguably more talent than any other team in baseball, first-year manager Casey Stengel’s clever manipulation of the New York roster prevented Boston from finishing atop the A.L. standings. Stengel did a masterful job of managing a Yankee team that spent the first three months of the campaign competing without their best player, Joe DiMaggio. After signing a record contract worth $100,000 during the off-season, DiMaggio found himself unable to take the field until late June due to a painful bone spur in his heel. Although the Yankees trailed the Red Sox by as many as 12 games at one point, Stengel’s shrewd maneuvering of his roster helped keep his team within striking distance until DiMaggio made a triumphant return by hitting four home runs during a three-game sweep of Boston at Fenway Park. The star centerfielder’s play helped spark the Yankees the rest of the way, leading them on a second-half surge that enabled them to barely edge out Boston for the title. DiMaggio finished the campaign with a batting average of .346, a .459 on-base percentage, 14 home runs, and 67 RBIs in only 76 games.
In addition to Stengel and DiMaggio, several other men made key contributions to New York’s success over the course of the season. Placing second in the junior circuit in both runs scored (829) and fewest runs allowed (637), the Yankees boasted a solid lineup and a deep pitching staff. Vic Raschi anchored the starting rotation, finishing the year with 21 wins, a 3.34 ERA, 21 complete games, and 275 innings pitched. Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat contributed 17 and 15 victories, respectively. Meanwhile, Joe Page excelled out of the bullpen, winning 13 games and leading the league with 27 saves, en route to earning a third-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting.
Yogi Berra, Tommy Henrich, and Phil Rizzuto led the Yankees on offense. Berra hit 20 home runs, knocked in 91 runs, and batted .277. Henrich hit 24 homers, drove in 85 runs, scored 90 others, and batted .287. Rizzuto earned a second-place finish in the MVP balloting by batting .275 and placing among the league leaders with 110 runs scored and 18 stolen bases.
The Yankees subsequently faced the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series for the second time in three years. After trading 1-0 victories in the first two contests, the Yankees went on to win the final three games to capture their 12th world championship. Allie Reynolds was the star of the Fall Classic, throwing 12 1/3 scoreless innings and allowing the Dodgers only two hits.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• April 19 - At pregame ceremonies marking the season opener in Yankee Stadium, the Yankees unveiled a granite monument to Babe Ruth in center field. The team also presented plaques honoring Lou Gehrig and Miller Huggins.
• June 28 - After missing the first 69 games of the season because of an ailing heel, Joe DiMaggio returned to the New York Yankees lineup with a single and a home run to beat the Boston Red Sox 6–4 in a night game at Fenway Park. DiMaggio homered four times in a three-game sweep.
• July 12 - The National League committed five errors, allowing the American League to record an 11–7 triumph in the All-Star Game at Ebbets Field. The contest marked the first appearance of black players in the Midsummer Classic: Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and Don Newcombe on the N.L. roster, and Larry Doby on the A.L. squad.
• Bob Lemon's seven home runs tied the American League record for most homers by a pitcher during a 154-game schedule. Lemon also finished the year with a record of 22-10, a 2.99 ERA, 279 innings pitched, and 22 complete games.
- 1949 World Series, Alex Kellner, Allie Reynolds, American League, Bill Veeck, Bob Lemon, Bobby Doerr, Boston Red Sox, Casey Stengel, Dale Mitchell, Dom DiMaggio, Ed Lopat, Ellis Kinder, George Kell, Hank Greenberg, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Page, Johnny Pesky, Mel Parnell, Mike Garcia, New York Yankees, Phil Rizzuto, Roy Sievers, Ted Williams, Tommy Henrich, Vern Stephens, Vic Raschi, Vic Wertz, Yogi Berra