The Brooklyn Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals reprised their down-to-the wire pennant race from three years earlier in 1949, finishing the campaign just one game apart in the National League standings. However, the young Dodgers came out on top this time, capturing the league championship by edging out the Cardinals with a record of 97-57. The Cardinals had to settle for second-place for the third straight year.
Piloted by Burt Shotton, who took over as Dodger skipper when Leo Durocher left to manage the rival Giants, Brooklyn featured the National League’s most potent offense and also one of the senior circuit’s best pitching staffs. The Dodgers surrendered the second-fewest runs of any team in the league to their opposition (651), with Don Newcombe and Preacher Roe anchoring their starting rotation. Newcombe captured N.L. Rookie of the Year honors by going 17-8, with a 3.17 ERA, 19 complete games, and a league-leading five shutouts. Roe finished 15-6 and placed among the league leaders with a 2.79 ERA.
Brooklyn’s deep and talented lineup led the National League with 879 runs scored. Rookie centerfielder Duke Snider batted .292, hit 23 homers, drove in 92 runs, and scored 100 others. Carl Furillo hit 18 home runs, knocked in 106 runs, and batted .322. Gil Hodges hit 23 homers and drove in 115 runs. Pee Wee Reese hit 16 homers, knocked in 73 runs, finished second in the league with 26 stolen bases, and topped the circuit with 132 runs scored. Shifted from first base to his more natural position of second base, Jackie Robinson responded by capturing N.L. MVP honors. In his finest all-around season, Robinson hit 16 home runs, knocked in 124 runs, scored 122 others, collected 203 hits, and led the league with a .342 batting average and 37 stolen bases.
Robinson’s inspired play helped lead his team into the World Series. However, the Yankees defeated the Dodgers in the Fall Classic, in what became an all-too-familiar scenario for Dodger fans. After the two teams traded 1-0 victories in the first two contests, the Yankees won the next three games to take the Fall Classic in five games. The Yankees went on to defeat the Dodgers in three of the next seven World Series as well.
Although Jackie Robinson had a superb season for pennant-winning Brooklyn, Stan Musial posted even better numbers for the second-place Cardinals. Musial finished among the league leaders with 36 home runs, 123 runs batted in, 128 runs scored, a .338 batting average, and a .624 slugging percentage. He also topped the circuit with 207 hits, 13 triples, 41 doubles, and a .438 on-base percentage, en route to earning a close second-place finish in the league MVP voting.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• January 28 - The New York Giants signed their first black players, inking Negro League outfielder Monte Irvin and pitcher Ford Smith to contracts. New York assigned both players to minor league Jersey City. Irvin ended up starring for the Giants, but Smith never made it to the major leagues.
• July 8 - Hank Thompson and Monte Irvin became the first black players to appear in a New York Giants uniform. Thompson started at second base, and Irvin pinch-hit in the eighth inning. Thompson was also the first black to play for the St. Louis Browns in 1947, 12 days after Larry Doby made his debut with the Cleveland Indians.
• September 15 - Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tiny Bonham died following an appendectomy and stomach surgery, just 18 days after his last pitching performance, an 8–2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. Mrs. Bonham subsequently received the first benefits under the players’ pension plan, $90 a month for 10 years.
• Cardinals pitcher Howie Pollet finished 20-9, with a 2.77 ERA and a league-leading five shutouts.
• St. Louis outfielder Enos Slaughter batted .336, drove in 96 runs, scored 92 others, and led the National League with 13 triples.
• Warren Spahn topped the senior circuit with 21 wins, 302 innings pitched, 25 complete games, and 151 strikeouts.
- 1949 World Series, Brooklyn Dodgers, Burt Shotton, Carl Furillo, Dave Koslo, Don Newcombe, Duke Snider, Eddie Waitkus, Enos Slaughter, Gil Hodges, Hank Thompson, Howie Pollet, Jackie Robinson, Leo Durocher, Monte Irvin, New York Yankees, Pee Wee Reese, Preacher Roe, Ralph Kiner, Roy Campanella, St. Louis Cardinals, Stan Musial, Tiny Bonham, Walker Cooper, Warren Spahn, Willie Mays