After waiting until the season’s final day to clinch the American League pennant the previous year, the Yankees didn’t wait quite as long to lay claim to the league championship in 1950. Nevertheless, it took a five-game winning streak at the end of the year for them to separate themselves somewhat from three other teams in the hotly-contested junior circuit. New York finished the regular season with a record of 98-56, just three games ahead of the runner-up Detroit Tigers. The Red Sox finished third, only four games back, while the Indians came in fourth, six games off the pace. The strong showings by all four clubs marked the first time during the pre-expansion era that four teams in one league surpassed 90 victories.
Fourth-place Cleveland was actually in the process of assembling a team that proved to be New York's primary nemesis over the next several seasons. Featuring a strong pitching staff and a potent lineup, the Indians had already formed much of the nucleus of the team that ended up dominating the American League in 1954. Bob Lemon served as the ace of their pitching staff, finishing the campaign with a league-leading 23 wins, 170 strikeouts, 288 innings pitched, and 22 complete games. Centerfielder Larry Doby and young third baseman Al Rosen comprised the middle of the Cleveland lineup. Doby, who integrated the American League three years earlier, hit 25 home runs, knocked in 102 runs, batted .326, and scored 110 runs. Rosen led the league with 37 home runs, drove in 116 runs, batted .287, and scored 100 runs.
Although the second-place Tigers and third-place Red Sox finished extremely close to the Yankees in the standings, both clubs might well have beaten out New York for the top spot had they not been compromised somewhat by injuries. A sore arm limited staff ace Virgil Trucks to only seven starts for Detroit. Meanwhile, Boston had to do without the services of Ted Williams for most of the season’s second half after he fractured his left elbow making a leaping, off-the-wall catch of a Ralph Kiner drive in the first inning of the All-Star Game.
Even without Williams, the Red Sox still boasted the league’s best offense, topping the circuit with 1,027 runs scored. Dom DiMaggio batted .328 and led the league with 131 runs scored, 11 triples, and 15 stolen bases. Johnny Pesky batted .312 and scored 112 runs. Bobby Doerr hit .294, slugged 27 homers, drove in 120 runs, and scored 103 others. Walt Dropo won A.L. Rookie of the Year honors by batting .322, hitting 34 home runs, scoring 101 runs, and topping the circuit with 144 runs batted in. Vern Stephens batted .295, hit 30 homers, scored 125 runs, and drove in 144 others, to tie Dropo for the league lead in RBIs. Yet, with Williams unable to play for most of the season’s second half (he hit 28 home runs and knocked in 97 runs in only 89 games), Boston fell just short of advancing to the World Series for the third straight year.
Instead, the Yankees ended up representing the American League in the Fall Classic for the second year in a row under manager Casey Stengel. Although the Red Sox had the most potent offense in the junior circuit and the Indians featured the league’s best pitching staff, the Yankees were the circuit’s most well-balanced ball club, placing second in both runs scored (914) and fewest runs allowed (691). New York’s deep starting rotation included Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat, Allie Reynolds, and Tommy Byrne. Raschi led the staff with 21 victories, 17 complete games, and 257 innings pitched. Lopat placed second to Raschi on the team with 18 wins and 15 complete games. Reynolds won 16 games, while Byrne added another 15 victories. The arrival of Whitey Ford at mid-season further enhanced the Yankee rotation. The 21-year-old left-hander compiled a record of 9-1 over the season’s final three months, along with a team-leading 2.81 ERA.
Manager Stengel enjoyed manipulating his team’s roster, platooning players at most positions. However, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, and Phil Rizzuto found their names written on Stengel’s lineup card virtually every day. After missing more than half of the previous season with injuries, DiMaggio had his last big year, batting .301 and placing among the league leaders with 32 home runs, 122 runs batted in, and 114 runs scored. Berra had his breakout season, hitting 28 home runs and finishing near the top of the league rankings with 124 runs batted in, 116 runs scored, and a .322 batting average. Rizzuto had easily his finest season, batting .324, compiling a .418 on-base percentage, and placing among the league leaders with 125 runs scored, 200 hits, and 36 doubles. The Yankee shortstop earned A.L. MVP honors for his exceptional performance. Berra finished third in the balloting, while DiMaggio came in ninth
After finishing the regular season strong, the Yankees swept Philadelphia’s “Whiz Kids” in four straight games in the World Series. Nevertheless, the Series remained competitive throughout, with the outcomes of three of the four contests not being determined until the final inning. In the end, New York’s superior pitching proved to be the difference, as the Yankees outscored their National League counterparts by a combined margin of 11-5.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• February 7 - Ted Williams became the highest paid player in major league history by signing a contract for $125‚000.
• February 16 – Although such notables as Mel Ott and Bill Terry were on the list of eligible candidates, the BBWAA failed to name anyone to the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.
• November 26 - The Gillette Safety Razor Co. signed a six-year deal, worth an estimated $6 million, with Major League Baseball for the television and radio rights for the World Series.
• Boston’s Billy Goodman won the American League batting title with a mark of .354, becoming in the process the only player ever to capture the batting crown without having a regular position.
• Cleveland’s Early Wynn led all A.L. hurlers with a 3.20 ERA – the highest mark ever posted by a league leader.
• Connie Mack retired after finishing last in his final season as manager of the A’s.
• On September 10, Joe DiMaggio became the first player to hit three homers in one game in Washington’s Griffith Stadium.
• On June 8, the Red Sox defeated the Browns 29-4 at Fenway Park, in the most lopsided game of the century.
• New York’s Vic Raschi set a major league record (since broken) by retiring 32 consecutive batters.
• Detroit’s George Kell batted .340, knocked in 101 runs, and led the American League with 218 hits and 56 doubles.
• Kell’s Tiger teammate Vic Wertz hit 27 home runs, drove in 123 runs, and batted .308.
• Chicago’s Luke Appling announced his retirement.
• The Red Sox scored a major league record 625 runs at home.
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- 1950 World Series, Al Rosen, Allie Reynolds, American League, Billy Goodman, Bob Lemon, Bobby Doerr, Boston Red Sox, Casey Stengel, Cleveland Indians, Connie Mack, Detroit Tigers, Dom DiMaggio, Early Wynn, Ed Lopat, George Kell, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, Larry Doby, Luke Appling, New York Yankees, Phil Rizzuto, Ted Williams, Tommy Byrne, Vern Stephens, Vic Raschi, Vic Wertz, Virgil Trucks, Walt Dropo, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra