The 1947 season will always be remembered as the year Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues. Robinson made his debut with the National League’s Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15th, thereby becoming the first player of African-American descent to don a major league uniform since the Walker brothers, Fleet and Welday, played in the American Association in the 1880s.
Yet, while Robinson’s arrival in Brooklyn gained a significant amount of notoriety during the early stages of the season, the 1947 campaign began with another controversy – the year-long suspension of Dodger manager Leo Durocher. Punished by commissioner Happy Chandler for “an accumulation of unpleasant incidents” that centered around his association with known gamblers, Durocher found himself replaced as Dodger manager by Burt Shotton.
The Durocher affair momentarily distracted baseball fans from Brooklyn’s purchase of Robinson from Montreal. Robinson opened the season as Brooklyn’s starting first baseman after spending the previous year integrating the International League.
Many fans and opposing players around the league greeted Robinson’s arrival at Ebbets Field with a considerable amount of animosity and resentment. Making the former Negro League star’s adjustment to his new surroundings even more difficult was the malevolence several of his own teammates showed him at first. After a number of Dodger players signed a petition during spring training to express their displeasure over having to play alongside Robinson, Durocher and Brooklyn GM Branch Rickey quelled the revolt by offering to trade anyone who wished to leave. Most of Robinson’s teammates treated him with a cool indifference in the ensuing weeks, with virtually all of them choosing not to sit anywhere near him in the dugout, and others refusing to even speak to him. However, Robinson’s outstanding play eventually won them over, as his aggressive brand of baseball helped the Dodgers move into first place.
Brooklyn ended up winning the National League pennant, finishing five games ahead of the second-place St. Louis Cardinals, with a record of 94-60. The Boston Braves finished third, eight games off the pace. The Dodgers placed third in the senior circuit in both runs scored (774) and fewest runs allowed (667). Ralph Branca served as the ace of Brooklyn’s pitching staff, compiling a record of 21-12, with a 2.67 ERA, 280 innings pitched, and 15 complete games. Meanwhile, Robinson captured Rookie of the Year honors and finished fifth in the league MVP voting by batting .297, scoring 125 runs, and topping the circuit with 29 stolen bases.
The Dodgers subsequently faced the Yankees in the first televised World Series. Although the Yankees won the exciting seven-game affair, the Dodgers provided their fans with several thrilling moments, one of which occurred in Game Four. With New York clinging to a 2-1 lead with two men out and two men on base in the bottom of the ninth inning, Dodger pinch-hitter Cookie Lavagetto stepped to the plate to face Yankee starter Bill Bevens, who had yet to surrender a hit to Brooklyn. Lavagetto delivered a two-run double off the right field wall that evened the Series at two games apiece. Backup outfielder Al Gionfriddo thrilled Dodger fans once more in Game Six when he made a circus catch against the Yankee bullpen in deep left-center field on a drive hit by Joe DiMaggio. Brooklyn reliever Hugh Casey saw action in six of the seven games between the two clubs, compiling in the process an exceptional 0.87 ERA. However, the Yankees fared much better against the rest of the Dodger pitching staff, which posted an ERA of 6.52.
Although the Dodgers represented the National League in the Fall Classic, most of the senior circuit’s top performers played for other teams. Cincinnati’s Ewell Blackwell and Boston’s Warren Spahn were the league’s two best pitchers. Blackwell compiled an outstanding 2.47 ERA and led all N.L. hurlers with 22 wins, 193 strikeouts, and 23 complete games. Spahn finished 21-10, threw 22 complete games, and topped the circuit with a 2.33 ERA, 289 innings pitched, and seven shutouts.
Both Ralph Kiner and Johnny Mize made a run at Hack Wilson’s National League home run record of 56 long balls before settling for a first-place tie for league leadership honors with 51. Meanwhile, three of Mize’s Giants teammates – Willard Marshall (36), Walker Cooper (35), and rookie Bobby Thomson (29) helped New York establish a new National League single-season home run record by hitting a total of 221 round-trippers.
Boston’s Bob Elliott captured N.L. MVP honors for leading his team to a very respectable third-place finish by hitting 22 home runs, driving in 113 runs, scoring 93 others, batting .317, and compiling a .410 on-base percentage.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• August 26 – Brooklyn Dodger Dan Bankhead became the first black pitcher in the major leagues. He homered in his first major league plate appearance, but didn't fare well on the mound. In 3 1/3 innings of relief, Bankhead gave up 10 hits and six earned runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who won the game, 16–3.
• Ralph Kiner hit a record eight home runs in a four-game stretch.
• Johnny Mize scored at least one run in a National League record 16 straight games.
• Mel Ott and Hank Greenberg both announced their retirements. Ott ended his career first among all National League players with 511 home runs, 1,860 runs batted in, 1,859 runs scored, and 1,708 walks.
After failing to advance to the World Series the previous three seasons, the Yankees captured the American League pennant under new manager Bucky Harris in 1947, finishing 12 games ahead of the second-place Detroit Tigers, with a record of 97-57. Although no one individual player had a truly dominant year for the Yankees, they were easily the junior circuit’s most well-balanced team. New York led the A.L. with 794 runs scored and 568 runs allowed, compiling in the process a league-best 3.39 team ERA. Allie Reynolds topped the pitching staff with 19 victories, while Joe Page won 14 games in relief and led the league with 17 saves. On offense, Tommy Henrich led the team with 98 runs batted in and 109 runs scored. Joe DiMaggio captured A.L. MVP honors despite posting relatively modest numbers. He finished the year with 20 home runs, 97 runs batted in, 97 runs scored, and a .315 batting average.
The Brooklyn Dodgers returned to the World Series for the first time in six years, earning the right to face the Yankees in the Fall Classic by finishing five games ahead of the second-place St. Louis Cardinals in the National League, with a record of 94-60. The Dodgers were also a well-balanced squad, finishing third in the senior circuit in both runs scored (774) and runs allowed (667). Ralph Branca placed among the league leaders with 21 wins, a 2.67 ERA, and 280 innings pitched. Dixie Walker led the club with a .306 batting average and 94 runs batted in. Meanwhile, Jackie Robinson earned Rookie of the Year honors and a fifth-place finish in the N.L. MVP voting by batting .297, scoring 125 runs, and leading the league with 29 stolen bases.
The Dodgers seemed overmatched in the first two games of the World Series, losing both contests played at Yankee Stadium in convincing fashion. The Yankees scored five times against Brooklyn ace Ralph Branca in the fifth inning of Game One, after which they cruised to a 5-3 victory. New York then brought out the heavy lumber the following day, rocking four Dodger pitchers for 10 runs and 15 hits, en route to posting an easy 10-3 win.
The Dodgers showed their resilience, though, winning the next two games at Ebbets Field. Brooklyn jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the second inning of Game Three, then held on the rest of the way, outlasting the Yankees by a final score of 9-8.
The fourth contest turned out to be the most memorable of the Series. Yankee hurler Bill Bevens entered the bottom of the ninth inning clinging to a 2-1 lead, having no-hit the Dodgers over the first eight frames. After retiring the first two batters he faced, Bevens issued his ninth and tenth walks of the contest (the second one intentionally). The New York right-hander then lost both his no-hitter and the game when Dodger pinch-hitter Cookie Lavagetto stroked a double off the right field wall to bring home both runners with the tying and winning runs.
The Yankees bounced back in Game Five to take a 3-2 Series lead, with Spec Shea throwing a complete-game four-hitter, en route to leading New York to a 2-1 victory. Joe DiMaggio’s fifth-inning homer provided the winning margin.
Another memorable moment occurred after the Series returned to Yankee Stadium for Game Six. With the Dodgers holding onto an 8-5 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, DiMaggio stepped to the plate with two men out and two men on. Crushing an offering from Brooklyn reliever Joe Hatten to deep left-centerfield, DiMaggio delivered what appeared to be the game-tying blow. However, substitute left fielder Al Gionfriddo raced to the bullpen fence some 415 feet from home plate and made a circus catch to rob The Yankee Clipper of at least a triple. In a rare display of emotion, the usually stoical DiMaggio kicked the infield dirt as he neared second base. Gionfriddo’s catch ended up enabling the Dodgers to come away with a Series-tying 8-6 victory.
The Yankees put an end to the Dodgers’ hopes of capturing their first world championship the very next day, defeating Brooklyn by a final score of 5-2 in Game Seven. Joe Page preserved the victory by shutting out the Dodgers after he entered the game in the fifth inning. While DiMaggio’s two homers led all players on both teams, Johnny Lindell was the hitting star of the Series. The Yankee outfielder drove in seven runs and collected nine hits in 18 times at-bat, for a .500 batting average.By Bob_Cohen
- 1947 World Series, Al Gionfriddo, Bill Bevens, Bob Elliott, Bobby Thomson, Branch Rickey, Brooklyn Dodgers, Burt Shotton, Cookie Lavagetto, Dan Bankhead, Ewell Blackwell, Hank Greenberg, Happy Chandler, Harry Walker, Hugh Casey, Jackie Robinson, Johnny Mize, Larry Jansen, Leo Durocher, Mel Ott, Ralph Branca, Ralph Kiner, Walker Cooper, Warren Spahn, Willard Marshall