Buoyed by the return of Willie Mays from the military, the Giants prevented the Dodgers from winning their third straight National League pennant in 1954, finishing the season with a record of 97-57, five games ahead of the second-place Dodgers. The Braves came in third, eight games back of the pennant-winners.
Mays ended up capturing N.L. MVP honors by leading the league with a .345 batting average, a .667 slugging percentage and 13 triples. He also placed among the leaders with 41 home runs, 110 runs batted in, 119 runs scored, 195 hits, and a .411 on-base percentage. Teammate Don Mueller finished second in the batting race with a mark of .342, and he also topped the circuit with 212 hits. Hank Thompson added 26 homers and 86 runs batted in, while shortstop Alvin Dark batted .293, hit 20 home runs, and scored 98 runs.
The Giants’ greatest strength, though, lay in their pitching, which surrendered a league-low 550 runs to the opposition. An off-season trade brought left-hander Johnny Antonelli, who finished 21-7 with a league-leading 2.30 ERA and six shutouts. Ruben Gomez went 17-9 with a 2.88 ERA, and Sal Maglie added another 14 victories. Meanwhile, relievers Hoyt Wilhelm and Marv Grissom pitched exceptionally well out of the bullpen, combining for 22 wins and 26 saves.
The Giants entered the World Series as heavy underdogs against a Cleveland Indians team that won 111 games during the regular season. Nevertheless, they shocked their American League counterparts, sweeping them in four straight games and outscoring them in the process by a combined margin of 21-9. New York’s pitching staff held Cleveland’s lineup to a team batting average of just .190, with Vic Wertz being the only Indians regular to post a mark in excess of .250. Antonelli was particularly effective, going 1-0, with a 0.84 ERA in his two appearances. Willie Mays provided the Fall Classic’s most memorable moment, making an astonishing over-the-shoulder catch on a deep drive hit by Wertz with two men on base and the score tied in the top of the eighth inning of Game One. Dusty Rhodes later brought the Giants victory by hitting a pinch-hit home run off Bob Lemon in the bottom of the 10th inning. Rhodes turned out to be the hitting star of the Series, batting .667, with two home runs and seven RBIs in only six at-bats.
Although the Giants represented the National League in the World Series, the Cardinals and Dodgers boasted the senior circuit’s top two offenses. Stan Musial led the St. Louis attack, placing among the league leaders with 35 home runs, 126 runs batted in, and a .330 batting average, while topping the circuit with 120 runs scored and 41 doubles. Meanwhile, Duke Snider had a fabulous year for the Dodgers, tying Musial for the league lead with 120 runs scored, leading the league with 378 total bases, and finishing near the top of the league rankings with 40 home runs, 130 runs batted in, a .341 batting average, 199 hits, a .423 on-base percentage, and a .647 slugging percentage. Gil Hodges also had a big year for Brooklyn, hitting 42 homers, knocking in 130 runs, scoring 106 others, and batting .304. Only dismal pitching and a subpar performance turned in by Roy Campanella prevented the Dodgers from finishing atop the N.L. standings once again.
Cincinnati’s powerful first baseman Ted Kluszewski established himself as arguably the league’s foremost slugger by topping the circuit with 49 home runs and 141 runs batted in. He also batted .326 and scored 104 runs.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• Philadelphia’s Robin Roberts led all National League pitchers with 23 wins, 185 strikeouts, 29 complete games, and 337 innings pitched.
• St. Louis' Wally Moon earned National League Rookie of the Year honors.
• Cardinals rookie Rip Repulski collected a major league record two-or-more hits in 10 consecutive games.
• Ted Kluszewski broke Johnny Mize's National League record by scoring at least one run in 17 straight games.
• Karl Spooner of the Dodgers hurled shutouts in his first two major league starts.
• Spooner set a major league record by fanning 15 batters in his big league debut.
• Jim Wilson of Milwaukee no-hit the Phillies on June 12.
• On May 2, Stan Musial became the first player to hit five homers in a doubleheader.
• Bobby Thomson's injury freed up a spot in the Braves outfield for rookie second baseman Hank Aaron, who batted .280.
• Ray Jablonski of the Cardinals became the second player in major league history to drive in 100 runs in each of his first two seasons.
• On August 1, Milwaukee's Joe Adcock hit four home runs and collected a major league record 18 total bases.
• Ernie Banks played his first full season for the Chicago Cubs.
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- 1954 World Series, Alvin Dark, Bob Lemon, Bobby Thomson, Don Mueller, Duke Snider, Dusty Rhodes, Ernie Banks, Gil Hodges, Hank Aaron, Hank Thompson, Hoyt Wilhelm, Jim Wilson, Joe Adcock, Johnny Antonelli, Karl Spooner, Marv Grissom, New York Giants, Ray Jablonski, Rip Repulski, Robin Roberts, Roy Campanella, Ruben Gomez, Sal Maglie, Stan Musial, Ted Kluszewski, Vic Wertz, Wally Moon, Willie Mays