After failing to finish atop the National League standings in each of the previous 20 seasons, the Cincinnati Reds captured their second straight N.L. pennant in 1940. The Reds finished the campaign with a record of 100-53, a full 12 games ahead of the second-place Brooklyn Dodgers. The St. Louis Cardinals came in third, 16 games off the pace.
Although a winning margin of 12 games would seem to suggest the Reds had a relatively easy time capturing their second consecutive league championship, they actually experienced a considerable amount of adversity along the way. With starting catcher and 1938 N.L. MVP Ernie Lombardi forced to sit out most of the final two months of the regular season with an injury, backup receiver Willard Hershberger took over the catching duties. However, Hershberger soon became overwhelmed by the pressure of being in a pennant race, and he committed suicide in early August. Coach Jimmie Wilson subsequently found himself pressed into service, even though the 40-year-old, 18-year veteran hadn’t caught regularly for four years. Nevertheless, Wilson did an expert job of handling Cincinnati’s talented pitching staff, guiding it into the World Series.
The Reds had the National League’s best pitching staff for the second straight year, once again leading the senior circuit in fewest runs allowed (528). Paul Derringer earned a fourth-place finish in the N.L. MVP voting by finishing second in the league with 20 wins, 26 complete games, and 297 innings pitched, while also placing among the leaders with a 3.06 ERA. Teammate Bucky Walters led N.L. hurlers in all four categories, finishing the year with 22 wins, 29 complete games, 305 innings pitched, and a 2.48 ERA. Walters placed third in the MVP balloting.
Winning the award was Reds first baseman Frank McCormick, who hit 19 home runs, drove in 127 runs, scored 93 others, batted .309, and led the league with 191 hits and 44 doubles. Bill Werber, Lonny Frey, and Ernie Lombardi ably assisted McCormick in Cincinnati’s lineup. Werber scored 105 runs and stole 16 bases. Frey scored 102 runs and led the league with 22 stolen bases. Lombardi led the team with a .319 batting average and finished second on the club with 74 runs batted in.
Cincinnati subsequently gave the National League its first World Series victory since 1934, defeating the Detroit Tigers in seven games in the Fall Classic. Bucky Walters and Paul Derringer each posted two victories for the Reds, who also benefited from the outstanding play of Jimmie Wilson and reserve outfielder Jimmy Ripple. In addition to playing brilliant defense behind the plate, Wilson batted .353. Ripple batted .333 and drove in six runs.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• April 23 - Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese made his major league debut at shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
• April 30 - Tex Carleton pitched a no-hitter as the Brooklyn Dodgers defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 3-0.
• July 9 - Boston Bees outfielder Max West hit a three-run home run in the first inning, as the National League defeated the American League, 4-0, in the All-Star Game at Sportsman's Park, home of the St. Louis Cardinals.
• October 8 - The Cincinnati Reds defeated the Detroit Tigers, 2-1, in Game Seven of the World Series to win their second World Championship, four games to three. This was Cincinnati's first World Series victory since the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919. Cincinnati skipper Bill McKechnie became the first manager to win World Series with two different teams. He earlier won the Fall Classic in 1925 as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
• Pittsburgh’s Debs Garms was declared N.L. batting champion for posting a batting average of .355, even though he accumulated only 358 official at-bats. By modern standards, most baseball historians consider Chicago’s Stan Hack to be the true batting champ. Hack posted a mark of .317 in 686 total plate appearances.
• Johnny Mize of St. Louis led the National League with 43 home runs, 137 runs batted in, 368 total bases, and a .636 slugging percentage. He also placed among the leaders with a .314 batting average, 111 runs scored, 13 triples, 182 hits, and a .404 on-base percentage, en route to earning a second-place finish in the MVP voting.
• Frank McCormick tied the National League record by topping the circuit in hits (191) for a third consecutive season.
• Pittsburgh's Arky Vaughan led the National League with 113 runs scored and 15 triples.
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- 1940 World Series, Arky Vaughan, Bill McKechnie, Billy Werber, Bucky Walters, Cincinnati Reds, Debs Garms, Detroit Tigers, Ernie Lombardi, Frank McCormick, Jimmie Wilson, Jimmy Ripple, Johnny Mize, Lonny Frey, Max West, Paul Derringer, Pee Wee Reese, Stan Hack, Tex Carleton, Willard Hershberger