After being eliminated from the pennant race on the season’s final day in three of the previous four years, the Brooklyn Dodgers clinched the National League flag with room to spare in 1952. Rebounding from a heartbreaking playoff defeat at the hands of the New York Giants one year earlier, the Dodgers finished the campaign with a record of 96-57, 4 ½ games ahead of the arch-rival Giants. The St. Louis Cardinals finished third, 8 ½ games back, while the Philadelphia Phillies came in fourth, 9 ½ games off the pace.
Easily the National League’s most well-balanced team, the Dodgers topped the senior circuit with 775 runs scored, while also surrendering the second-fewest runs in the league to their opposition (603). Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, and Roy Campanella led the Dodger offense. Robinson hit 19 home runs, drove in 75 runs, and finished third in the league with a .308 batting average and 104 runs scored. Snider hit 21 homers, knocked in 92 runs, and batted .303. Hodges led the team with 32 homers and 102 runs batted in. Campanella hit 22 home runs and drove in 97 runs.
Although the Dodgers had a difficult time replacing Don Newcombe in their starting rotation after the big right-hander was called in to the military, they somehow managed to put together one of the league’s best pitching staffs. Carl Erskine won 14 games and compiled a 2.70 ERA. Billy Loes posted 13 victories and an ERA of 2.69. Preacher Roe finished 11-2 with a 3.12 ERA. Working almost exclusively in relief, Joe Black earned N.L. Rookie of the Year honors and a third-place finish in the league MVP voting by posting 15 victories, 15 saves, and a 2.15 ERA.
Black continued his outstanding work in the World Series against the New York Yankees, earning a complete-game victory in Game One by limiting New York to just two runs on six hits. Black also pitched well in each of his other two starts, although he came out on the short end both times. The Yankees ended up claiming their fourth consecutive world championship by defeating the Dodgers in seven games. Duke Snider starred in defeat for Brooklyn, collecting 10 hits, hitting four homers, and driving in eight runs. However, Gil Hodges and Roy Campanella accounted for only six hits and a mere two runs batted in between them.
The Dodgers might not have represented the National League in the World Series at all had Giants’ star Monte Irvin not been forced to sit out the entire year after he broke his ankle in a spring training game against the Cleveland Indians. New York’s chances were further compromised when
second-year centerfielder Willie Mays was called into the military. The Giants still managed to put up a good fight, though, finishing only 4 ½ games behind the pennant-winners, primarily on the strength of outstanding performances turned in by pitcher Sal Maglie, rookie right-hander Hoyt Wilhelm, and 1951 playoff hero Bobby Thomson. Maglie compiled a record of 18-8 and a 2.92 ERA. Wilhelm finished 15-3 with a league-leading 2.43 ERA. Thomson hit 24 home runs and drove in 108 runs.
However, the National League’s top performer in 1952 played for the fourth-place Philadelphia Phillies. Robin Roberts pitched brilliantly for the Phillies all year long, finishing the campaign with a record of 28-7, a 2.59 ERA, and a league-leading 330 innings pitched and 30 complete games. His 28 victories were 10 more than any other pitcher in the league compiled, and the highest total posted by any N.L. hurler since Dizzy Dean won 28 games for St. Louis in 1935. With 28 victories, Roberts accounted for almost one-third of his team's 87 wins. Yet, for some reason, the members of the BBWAA named Chicago outfielder Hank Sauer league MVP. Sauer batted .270, scored 89 runs, tied Ralph Kiner for the N.L. lead with 37 home runs, and topped the circuit with 121 runs batted in.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• February 16 - Hall of Famer Honus Wagner retired at the age of 77 after 40 years as a major league player and coach. He received a pension from the Pittsburgh Pirates, with whom he spent most of those years.
• March 24 - St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Slaybaugh was hit in the left eye with a line drive, necessitating an operation to remove the eye. Slaybaugh pitched briefly in the minors in 1953-54 and then retired.
• June 19 - Carl Erskine of the Brooklyn Dodgers tossed a 5–0 no-hitter against the Chicago Cubs at Ebbets Field.
• July 8 – In a rain-shortened affair (five innings) at Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, the National League topped the American League, 3–2, in the All-Star Game. Jackie Robinson and Hank Sauer each homered for the NL.
• Stan Musial led the National League with a .336 batting average, 194 hits, 42 doubles, 311 total bases, and a .538 slugging average. He also finished tied for the league lead with 105 runs scored.
• With 37 round-trippers, Ralph Kiner tied Hank Sauer for the National League homer crown, giving him his major league record seventh consecutive home run title.
• Pee Wee Reese led the major leagues with 30 stolen bases.
- Billy Loes, Bobby Thomson, Brooklyn Dodgers, Carl Erskine, Don Newcombe, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Hank Sauer, Honus Wagner, Hoyt Wilhelm, Jackie Robinson, Joe Black, Monte Irvin, Pee Wee Reese, Preacher Roe, Ralph Kiner, Robin Roberts, Roy Campanella, Sal Maglie, Stan Musial, Warren Spahn, Willie Mays