After finishing fourth in the senior circuit the previous year, the Cincinnati Reds celebrated the 70th anniversary of the champion 1869 Reds, baseball’s first openly professional team, by capturing their first National League pennant in 20 years in 1939. The Reds replaced the Chicago Cubs atop the N.L. standings, finishing the campaign with a record of 97-57, 4 ½ games ahead of the second-place St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs slipped to fourth, 13 games behind the pennant-winners, and one-half game behind the third-place Brooklyn Dodgers.
Only two years removed from the N.L. cellar, Cincinnati proved to be an extremely well-balanced team over the course of the regular season. The Reds finished a close second in the league with 767 runs scored, and they surrendered the fewest runs of any team in the senior circuit, allowing their opposition to cross the plate a total of only 595 times. Ernie Lombardi, Bill Werber, Ival Goodman, and Frank McCormick all contributed significantly to the Reds on offense. Lombardi batted .287, led the team with 20 home runs, and finished second on the club with 85 runs batted in. Werber batted .289 and led the league with 115 runs scored. Goodman drove in 84 runs, scored 85 others, and placed among the league leaders with 16 triples and a .323 batting average. McCormick hit 18 home runs, scored 99 runs, placed second in the league with a .332 batting average, and topped the circuit with 128 runs batted in and 209 hits.
Meanwhile, the tandem of Paul Derringer and Bucky Walters gave the Reds an extremely formidable duo at the top of their starting rotation. Derringer compiled a record of 25-7 and also finished among the league leaders with a 2.93 ERA, 28 complete games, and 301 innings pitched. Walters earned N.L. MVP honors by leading all league hurlers with 27 wins, a 2.29 ERA, 137 strikeouts, 319 innings pitched, and 31 complete games.
The Reds subsequently faced an overpowering New York Yankees team in the World Series that swept them in four straight games. The Reds found themselves outscored by a margin of 20-8 over the course of the four games, and also out-homered by a 7-0 margin.
Although the Reds were the National League’s most well-balanced team in 1939, the runner-up St. Louis Cardinals weren’t very far behind. The Cardinals finished second in the senior circuit in fewest runs allowed (633), and they led the league with 779 runs scored. The trio of Enos Slaughter, Joe Medwick, and Johnny Mize paced the Cardinals on offense. Slaughter batted .320, drove in 86 runs, scored 95 others, and led the league with 52 doubles. Medwick placed among the league leaders with 117 runs batted in, 201 hits, 48 doubles, and a .332 batting average. Mize was the senior circuit’s top offensive performer, leading the league with 28 home runs, a .349 batting average, 353 total bases, and a .626 slugging percentage, and also finishing near the top of the league rankings with 108 runs batted in, 104 runs scored, 197 hits, 14 triples, 44 doubles, and a .444 on-base percentage, en route to earning a second-place finish in the N.L. MVP voting.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• April 17 – A new baseball tradition began, as the baseball season opened in Cincinnati, Ohio, home of Major League Baseball's oldest franchise. The Cincinnati Reds lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7–5.
• August 26 - The Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers played the first televised Major League Baseball Game at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. Red Barber served as the announcer.
• The St. Louis Cardinals' Curt Davis won 22 games and batted .381.
• Billy Herman of the Chicago Cubs led the National League with 18 triples.
• Mel Ott topped the circuit with a .449 on-base percentage.
• The St. Louis Cardinals led the major leagues with a .294 team batting average.
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- 1939 World Series, Billy Herman, Billy Werber, Bucky Walters, Cincinnati Reds, Curt Davis, Enos Slaughter, Ernie Lombardi, Frank McCormick, Ival Goodman, Joe Medwick, Johnny Mize, Mel Ott, New York Yankees, Paul Derringer, Red Barber