The St. Louis Cardinals continued to rule the National League in 1944, capturing their third straight pennant by finishing the campaign with a record of 105-49 that equaled the mark they posted one year earlier. The Cardinals so outclassed the rest of the league that they held on to first place for all but four days during the season. Their 105 wins made them the first National League club to surpass 100 victories for three straight years. Pittsburgh finished a distant second, 14 ½ games behind the pennant-winners, while Cincinnati came in third, 16 games off the pace.
The Cardinals dominated the senior circuit in every imaginable way. They led the N.L. with 772 runs scored and also allowed the fewest runs of any team in the league (490). Mort Cooper anchored the club’s pitching staff, placing among the league leaders with 22 wins, a 2.46 ERA, and 22 complete games, while topping the circuit with seven shutouts. Max Lanier and Ted Wilks both won 17 games and compiled earned run averages well below 3.00. Harry Brecheen rounded out the St. Louis starting rotation, finishing the campaign with a record of 16-5 and a 2.85 ERA.
St. Louis also had the National League’s best player in Stan Musial, who finished a close second in the batting race with a mark of .347. Musial also knocked in 94 runs, scored 112 others, amassed 14 triples, and led the league with 197 hits, 51 doubles, a .440 on-base percentage, and a .549 slugging percentage. Yet the members of the BBWAA surprisingly named Musial’s teammate Marty Marion league MVP instead, even though the Cardinals shortstop posted relatively modest offensive numbers. Marion finished the year with a .267 batting average, only 63 runs batted in, and just 50 runs scored. Johnny Hopp finished second on the club with a .336 batting average and 106 runs scored. Meanwhile, Ray Sanders led the team with 102 runs batted in.
The Cardinals faced the surprising Browns in a World Series played entirely within the confines of Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. The Browns put up a good fight in the Fall Classic that came to be known as the “Streetcar Series.” But defensive miscues cost them dearly, and the Cardinals went on to take the Series in six games.
While the Cardinals clearly established themselves as the class of the National League in 1944, Stan Musial received stiff competition from Chicago’s Bill Nicholson as the circuit’s top player. Nicholson led the league with 33 home runs, 122 runs batted in, 116 runs scored, and 317 total bases. He also batted .287, compiled a .391 on-base percentage, and placed second in the league with 93 bases on balls and a .545 slugging percentage, en route to earning a second-place finish in the league MVP voting. Unfortunately for Nicholson, the Cubs finished fourth in the league, 30 games behind the pennant-winning Cardinals.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• April 27 - Boston Braves pitcher Jim Tobin tossed a no-hitter in a 2-0 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Tobin also homered in the contest, making him the first pitcher to hit a home run while throwing a no-hitter.
• May 15 - Clyde Shoun pitched a no-hitter, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 1-0 win over the Boston Braves.
• June 10 – 15-year-old pitcher Joe Nuxhall made his major league debut for the Cincinnati Reds. Nuxhall remains the youngest person ever to play in a major league game. After giving up five runs to the Cardinals in 2/3 of an inning, Nuxhall was removed from the game.
• July 11 - At Forbes Field, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the National League defeated the American League, 7-1, in the All-Star Game.
• August 10 - Red Barrett of the Boston Braves threw a shutout with just 58 pitches - a record for fewest pitches in a nine-inning game. The game lasted 75 minutes. Barrett gave up only two hits. He did not strike out or walk any batters, and he threw an average of only two pitches per batter.
• Emit Verban led the Cardinals with a .412 batting average in the World Series.
• Brooklyn's Dixie Walker led the National League with a .357 batting average.
• New York Giants rookie Bill Voiselle won 21 games and led the league with 161 strikeouts. By working 313 innings, he also became the last rookie in Major League history to pitch 300 or more innings.
• Giants reliever Ace Adams appeared in 60 or more games for a then-record third consecutive year.
• Adams led the major leagues with 13 saves.
• The Cardinals led the major leagues in batting (.275), runs scored (772), home runs (100), fielding (.982), and ERA (2.68).
• The Carpenter family assumed ownership of the Phillies.
• Ed Heusser of the Cincinnati Reds led the National League with a 2.38 ERA.
• Pittsburgh’s Johnny Barrett led the National League with 28 stolen bases and 19 triples.
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- 1944 World Series, Ace Adams, Bill Nicholson, Bill Voiselle, Clyde Shoun, Dixie Walker, Ed Heusser, Harry Brecheen, Jim Tobin, Joe Nuxhall, Johnny Barrett, Johnny Hopp, Marty Marion, Max Lanier, Mort Cooper, Ray Sanders, Red Barrett, St. Louis Browns, St. Louis Cardinals, Stan Musial, Ted Wilks