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After placing second in the National League the previous year, the Brooklyn Dodgers captured their first league championship in 21 years in 1941. The Dodgers finished the campaign with a record of 100-54, just 2 ½ games ahead of the second-place St. Louis Cardinals.
With many new players on their roster, several of whom ironically played for the Cardinals at one time, the Dodgers quickly went from perennial also-rans to league champions. Slugging outfielder Joe Medwick, catcher Mickey Owen, and manager Leo Durocher all spent a considerable amount of time in St. Louis before joining the Dodgers. Two of the other new faces in Brooklyn were veteran first baseman Dolph Camilli, who the Dodgers acquired from the Phillies a few seasons earlier, and rookie outfielder Pete Reiser, who the Dodgers plucked from the St. Louis farm system.
The tandem of Camilli and Reiser proved to be the difference in the pennant race, leading the Dodgers to their first World Series appearance since they lost to the Cleveland Indians in the 1920 Fall Classic. Camilli earned N.L. MVP honors by batting .285, scoring 92 runs, compiling a .407 on-base percentage, and topping the circuit with 34 home runs and 120 runs batted in. Reiser finished second in the balloting, leading the league with a .343 batting average, 117 runs scored, 17 triples, 39 doubles, and a .558 slugging percentage.
However, the Dodgers were much more than just a two-man team. Brooklyn led the National League with 800 runs scored, a .272 team batting average, 101 home runs, 69 triples, 286 doubles, a .405 team slugging percentage, and a team ERA of 3.14. Six members of the squad finished in the top 11 in the league MVP voting. Joe Medwick joined Camilli and Reiser among the N.L.’s elite, finishing the year with 18 home runs, 88 runs batted in, 100 runs scored, and a .318 batting average. Meanwhile, Kirby Higbe and Whitlow Wyatt tied for the league lead with 22 victories apiece. Wyatt also led all N.L. hurlers with seven shutouts, and he placed second in the league with 23 complete games and a 2.34 ERA.
The Dodgers entered the World Series against the Yankees seeking to win their first world championship. Although the Yankees defeated Brooklyn in five games, the Series remained competitive throughout. The Dodgers lost Game Three when a fractured kneecap forced Freddie Fitzsimmons to leave the mound after he shut out the Yankees for the first seven innings. Brooklyn’s bad luck continued the next day when a passed ball by catcher Mickey Owen allowed the Yankees to mount a four-run rally with two men out in the ninth inning. The Yankees clinched the Series the following day with a 3-1 victory.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• March 8 - Hugh Mulcahy of the Phillies became the first major leaguer to be drafted in World War II.
• June 1 - Mel Ott hit a two-run homer to give the New York Giants a 3-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds. The blast gave Ott 400 home runs and 1,500 runs batted in for his career.
• August 30 - Lon Warneke pitched a no-hitter, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 2-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
• Although the American League won the All-Star Game 7-5 on a two-out, three-run home run by Ted Williams in the bottom of the ninth inning, Pittsburgh’s Arky Vaughan became the first player to hit two homers in an All-Star Game.
• Lloyd Waner played a National League record 77 straight games without striking out.
• The Dodgers became the first team to wear plastic batting helmets after Pete Reiser and Pee Wee Reese were beaned.
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- 1941 World Series, Arky Vaughan, Brooklyn Dodgers, Dolph Camilli, Freddie Fitzsimmons, Hugh Mulcahy, Joe Medwick, Kirby Higbe, Leo Durocher, Lloyd Waner, Lon Warneke, Mel Ott, Mickey Owen, New York Yankees, Pee Wee Reese, Pete Reiser, Whit Wyatt