Philadelphia's “Whiz Kids” captured the franchise's first National League pennant in 35 years in 1950, finally prevailing over the defending champion Brooklyn Dodgers in an extremely close pennant-race. After the Phillies lost ace left-hander Curt Simmons and his 17-8 record to military duty on September 10, the Dodgers made up six games over a nine-day stretch during the latter stages of the month to whittle down Philadelphia’s lead to a single game heading into the final day of play. Forced to use 20-game winner Robin Roberts for the third time in five days, the Phillies entered the 10th inning all tied up with the Dodgers at 1-1. However, Dick Sisler’s three-run homer in the top of the frame gave the Phillies a three-run lead they refused to relinquish, and their first N.L. flag since 1915. Philadelphia finished the season with a record of 91-63, two games ahead of the second-place Dodgers. The New York Giants finished third, five games back, while the Boston Braves came in fourth, eight games off the pace.
Philadelphia’s combination of solid pitching, timely hitting, and youthful exuberance helped them surprise virtually everyone in the National League. Youngsters such as Robin Roberts and outfielders Richie Ashburn and Del Ennis performed at an extremely high level. They also added some much-needed enthusiasm to a team that had been stagnant for almost two decades. Meanwhile, catcher Andy Seminick provided veteran leadership. Seminick did a fine job of handling Philadelphia's young pitching staff, while also contributing offensively with 24 home runs and a .288 batting average. Ashburn batted .303, scored 84 runs, led the league with 14 triples, and established himself as one of the finest defensive centerfielders in the game. Ennis hit 31 home runs, batted .311, and knocked in a league-leading 126 runs. Roberts led the pitching staff with a record of 20-11, an ERA of 3.02, 304 innings pitched, 21 complete games, and five shutouts.
Still, the man the members of the BBWAA considered to be most indispensable to the Phillies was relief pitcher Jim Konstanty, who they named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. Appearing in 74 games, Konstanty compiled a record of 16-7 and an ERA of 2.66, saved a league-leading 22 games, and threw 152 innings.
Pressed into a starting role in the opening game of the World Series against the Yankees, Konstanty pitched extremely well, allowing New York just one run on four hits over eight very strong innings. However, Vic Raschi was even better, throwing a two-hit shutout against the Phillies that very much set the tone for the entire Series. The Yankees’ outstanding pitching enabled them to sweep the Phillies in four straight games, outscoring them by a combined margin of 11-5. Philadelphia failed to hit a home run and compiled a team batting average of just .203 over the course of the four games.
Although the Phillies represented the senior circuit in the World Series, the Dodgers had more talent. Featuring the National League’s most potent lineup, Brooklyn topped the circuit with 847 runs scored. Jackie Robinson batted .328, drove in 81 runs, and scored 99 others for the “Boys of Summer.” Gil Hodges, hit 32 homers, knocked in 113 runs, scored 98 others, and batted .283. Duke Snider hit 31 home runs, drove in 107 runs, scored 109 others, batted .321, and led the league with 199 hits and 343 total bases.
Yet, the fifth-place Cardinals and last-place Pirates had the league’s two best players. Stan Musial had another outstanding year for the Cardinals, hitting 28 home runs, driving in 109 runs, scoring 105 others, and topping the circuit with a .346 batting average and a .596 slugging percentage. Ralph Kiner hit a league-leading 47 home runs, knocked in 118 runs, and scored 112 others for the Pirates.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• January 23 - The Associated Press picked the 1914 Miracle Braves as the greatest sports upset of the 20th Century.
• April 18 - At the Polo Grounds‚ Sam Jethroe became the first black player to don the uniform of the Boston Braves. He went 2-for-4 in his major league debut, including a home run. Jethroe went on to capture N.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
• April 18 - At St. Louis, the Cardinals and Pirates played the first “Opening Night” game in major league history.
• June 20 – The New York Giants signed Willie Mays as an amateur free agent.
• Brooklyn’s Gil Hodges hit four homers in a game on August 31.
• The National League won the All-Star Game 4-3 at Comiskey Park, as St. Louis’ Red Schoendienst homered in the 14th inning to win it.
• Sal Maglie won 18 games for the Giants and led all N.L. hurlers with a winning percentage of .818 and an ERA of 2.71.
• Stan Musial hit in 30 consecutive games.
• Vern Bickford of the Braves no-hit Brooklyn on August 11.
• Bickford led all major league pitchers with 27 complete games and 312 innings pitched.
• Ralph Kiner’s 47 home runs gave him his fifth consecutive National League home run title.
• Warren Spahn topped the National League with 21 wins and 191 strikeouts.
• Spahn’s Boston Braves teammate Johnny Sain finished tied for second in the league with 20 victories.
• By posting 20 victories, Robin Roberts became Philadelphia’s first 20-game winner since Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1917.
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- 1950 World Series, Andy Seminick, Brooklyn Dodgers, Curt Simmons, Del Ennis, Dick Sisler, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson, Jim Konstanty, Johnny Sain, Philadelphia Phillies, Ralph Kiner, Red Schoendienst, Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Sal Maglie, Sam Jethroe, Stan Musial, Vern Bickford, Warren Spahn, Whiz Kids, Willie Mays