Seeking to win their second consecutive National League pennant, the Brooklyn Dodgers finished the 1942 season with a record of 104-50. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, the St. Louis Cardinals posted a record of 106-48 that enabled them to edge out the Dodgers for the league championship by two games.
The Dodgers may well have captured the N.L. flag had star centerfielder Pete Reiser not fractured his skull running into an outfield fence in early July. Brooklyn stood atop the N.L. standings at that juncture, 13 ½ games ahead of St. Louis. But, with the league’s leading hitter out of the Dodger lineup for the next few weeks, the Cardinals began to whittle away the Dodger lead. Still, Brooklyn continued to maintain a comfortable 10 ½ game lead by mid-August. Only an extraordinary 43-8 run by the Cardinals enabled them to catch, and finally surpass, an extremely strong Brooklyn team.
The 1942 Cardinals represented the finest hour for Branch Rickey, who served as the architect of the modern farm system. Players who came up through the St. Louis farm system littered the Cardinals’ roster. Rookie outfielder Stan Musial, shortstop Marty Marion, catcher Walker Cooper, and outfielders Terry Moore and Enos Slaughter all made major contributions to the Cardinals’ league-leading offense. Musial batted .315 and scored 87 runs. Marion batted .276 and led the league with 38 doubles. Cooper batted .281 and drove in 65 runs. Moore batted .288 and finished third on the club with 80 runs scored. Slaughter paced the St. Louis attack. Although the right-fielder hit only 13 home runs, he placed among the league leaders with 98 runs batted in and 100 runs scored. Slaughter also topped the circuit with a .318 batting average, 17 triples, and 188 hits, en route to earning a second-place finish in the league MVP voting.
The man who won the award was pitcher Mort Cooper, who anchored a Cardinals staff that surrendered a league-low 480 runs to the opposition over the course of the season. Cooper had the finest year of his career, compiling a record of 22-7 and leading the league with a superb 1.78 ERA and 10 shutouts. He also placed among the leaders with 152 strikeouts, 278 innings pitched, and 22 complete games. Rookie Johnny Beazley provided a considerable amount of support to Cooper in the Cardinals’ starting rotation, finishing second in the league to his teammate with 21 wins and a 2.13 ERA.
Beazley continued to excel during the postseason, defeating the Yankees twice in the World Series while compiling a 2.50 ERA. After losing Game One to New York, the Cardinals won the next four contests, taking the Series in five games. St. Louis turned in a staff ERA of 2.60, to New York’s mark of 4.50.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• By defeating New York in five games, the Cardinals handed the Yankees their first World Series loss since 1926.
• Brooklyn’s 104 wins tied the major league record for most victories by a team that failed to win the pennant.
• Mel Ott’s 30 home runs brought him his last National League home run crown. Ott also led the league with 118 runs scored and 109 walks, knocked in 93 runs, and batted .295. His 109 walks gave him more than 100 bases on balls for a record seventh consecutive year.
• The Cardinals relieved Branch Rickey of his duties as general manager.
• The Phillies compiled only 354 runs batted in as a team - the fewest by any club since the Dead-ball Era. They scored a total of just 394 runs over the course of the 151-game season.
• The Cardinals posted a team ERA of 2.55 that represented the lowest mark compiled by any major league ball club from 1920 through 1966.
• In his last major league start before going into the Navy, Brooklyn's Larry French pitched a one-hitter.
• Paul Waner collected his 3,000th hit.
• Phillies outfielder Danny Litwhiler became the first major league regular to play an entire season without committing an error.
• On May 13, Jim Tobin of the Braves became the only pitcher in the 20th century to hit three homers in a game.
• Pittsburgh's Elbie Fletcher led the National League in on-base percentage (.417) for the third consecutive year.
• Giants reliever Ace Adams established a new National League record by appearing in 61 games.
• Playing for the third-place Giants, Johnny Mize led the National League with 110 runs batted in and a .521 slugging percentage. He also batted .305 and finished second in the league with 26 home runs.
• Brooklyn’s Dolph Camilli tied Mize for second in the league with 26 home runs. He also placed among the leaders with 109 runs batted in.
• Despite missing almost a month of the season with a severe concussion, Pete Reiser batted .310, scored 89 runs, and led the league with 20 stolen bases.
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- 1942 World Series, Ace Adams, Branch Rickey, Brooklyn Dodgers, Danny Litwhiler, Dolph Camilli, Elbie Fletcher, Enos Slaughter, Jim Tobin, Johnny Beazley, Johnny Mize, Larry French, Marty Marion, Mel Ott, Mort Cooper, Paul Waner, Pete Reiser, St. Louis Cardinals, Stan Musial, Terry Moore, Walker Cooper