With St. Louis losing Stan Musial and Walker Cooper to the military prior to the start of the season, the Chicago Cubs ended the Cardinals’ three-year stranglehold on the National League pennant in 1945. The Cubs finished the season with a record of 98-56, three games ahead of the second-place Cardinals.
Although the Cubs led the National League with a team batting average of .277, they hardly had an overwhelming offense. Chicago finished just fourth in the senior circuit in runs scored, and they hit only 57 home runs as a team. Stan Hack, Andy Pafko, and Phil Cavarretta served as the club’s primary offensive threats. Hack placed among the league leaders with a .323 batting average, 110 runs scored, and 193 hits. Pafko knocked in 110 runs and batted .298. Cavarretta earned N.L. MVP honors by knocking in 97 runs, scoring 94 others, and leading the league with a .355 batting average and a .449 on-base percentage.
The Cubs’ greatest strength lay in their pitching staff, which compiled a league-leading team ERA of 2.98. Ray Prim won 13 games and led the league with an ERA of 2.40. Claude Passeau won 17 games, placed second to Prim with a 2.46 ERA, and led all N.L. hurlers with five shutouts. Hank Wyse served as the staff ace, compiling a record of 22-10, an ERA of 2.68, 278 innings pitched, and 23 complete games.
However, the Cubs pitching failed them in the World Series, causing them to lose a close, seven-game Series to the Detroit Tigers. Although Chicago’s pitching staff held Detroit to a team batting average of just .223, it surrendered a total of 32 runs to the Tigers over the course of the seven games. Ray Prim and Hank Wyse were particularly ineffective, posting earned run averages of 9.00 and 7.04, respectively. Only Claude Passeau pitched well, compiling a 2.70 ERA in his two starts and three total appearances. The Tigers won the decisive seventh contest by a final score of 9-3.
Although the Cubs ended up representing the National League in the Fall Classic, the senior circuit’s top two offenses belonged to the runner-up Cardinals and the third-place Dodgers, who finished 11 games back in the standings. The Dodgers led the league with 795 runs scored, and their lineup featured defending N.L. batting champion Dixie Walker, who batted .300, scored 102 runs, and led the league with 124 runs batted in. Despite losing Stan Musial to the military for the entire year, St. Louis finished second in the league with 756 runs scored.
Nevertheless, Boston outfielder Tommy Holmes was the senior circuit’s top offensive performer over the course of the season. Holmes led the league with 28 home runs, 224 hits, 47 doubles, 367 total bases, and a .577 slugging percentage. He also placed among the leaders with a .352 batting average, a .420 on-base percentage, 117 runs batted in, and 125 runs scored. Despite leading the league in home runs, Holmes amazingly struck out only nine times over the course of the season. Unfortunately for the league’s best player, the Braves placed sixth in the final standings, coming in 30 games behind the first-place Cubs.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• August 1 - Mel Ott hit the 500th home run of his major league career, making him the first National League player to reach that milestone.
• September 29 - Chicago Cubs catcher Paul Gillespie homered in his final major league at bat. He also homered in his first major league at bat three years earlier, making him one of only two players in baseball history to do both. (John Miller is the other).
• October 23 – Brooklyn’s Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to a contract.
• Chicago's Phil Cavarretta led all World Series hitters with a .423 batting average.
• Boston's Tommy Holmes established a new modern National League record by hitting successfully in 37 consecutive games.
• Holmes became the only player ever to lead a league in home runs and also strike out fewer times than any other batter.
• On August 20, Dodgers shortstop Tommy Brown, age 17, became the youngest player in major league history to hit a home run.
• Philadelphia’s Andy Karl pitched 167 innings in relief to set a National League record that stood until 1974.
• Splitting his time between the Braves and Cardinals, Red Barrett led all National League pitchers with 23 wins.
• Jimmie Foxx announced his retirement after appearing in 89 games for the Philadelphia Phillies over the course of the season. The first player in either league to win three MVP Awards, Foxx ended his career with 534 home runs, 1,922 runs batted in, a .325 lifetime batting average, and a .609 slugging average.
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- 1945 World Series, Andy Karl, Andy Pafko, Branch Rickey, Chicago Cubs, Claude Passeau, Dixie Walker, Hank Wyse, Jackie Robinson, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Paul Gillespie, Phil Cavarretta, Ray Prim, Red Barrett, Stan Hack, Stan Musial, Tommy Brown, Tommy Holmes, Walker Cooper