After failing to win their fifth straight American League pennant the previous year, the Yankees returned to the World Series in 1941, riding Joe DiMaggio’s hot bat all the way to the league championship. DiMaggio hit in 72 out of 73 games at one point, establishing in the process an all-time major-league record by hitting in 56 consecutive games. With DiMaggio leading the way, the Yankees took control of the American League, claiming the pennant by a 17-game margin over the second-place Boston Red Sox, with a record of 101-53. The New York centerfielder finished the season with 30 home runs, 125 runs batted in, 122 runs scored, a .357 batting average, a .440 on-base percentage, and a .643 slugging percentage, en route to earning A.L. MVP honors. Still, the Yankees were far from a one-man team, featuring a lineup that also included Charlie Keller, Tommy Henrich, Joe Gordon, and Bill Dickey, and a pitching staff that allowed the fewest runs of any club in the league.
Although the Brooklyn Dodgers had a far more difficult time beating out St. Louis for the National League pennant, finishing only 2 ½ games in front of the runner-up Cardinals, they were also an outstanding ball club, posting a record of 100-54 over the course of the regular season under manager Leo Durocher. The Dodgers starting staff included 22-game winners Kirby Higbe and Whitlow Wyatt, while their lineup featured future Hall of Famers Joe Medwick and Billy Herman, along with the senior circuit’s top two offensive performers that year, Pete Reiser and Dolph Camilli. The 22-year-old Reiser led the National League with a .343 batting average, 117 runs scored, 17 triples, 39 doubles, and a .558 slugging percentage, en route to earning a second-place finish in the MVP balloting. Teammate Camilli finished first in the voting, having led the league with 34 home runs and 120 runs batted in.
Runs proved to be hard to come by in the first all-New York World Series that didn’t feature the Yankees and Giants. Game One set the tone for the entire Series, with Yankee starter Red Ruffing going the distance for a 3-2 victory. Brooklyn’s Whitlow Wyatt returned the favor the following day, out-dueling Spud Chandler to give the Dodgers a 3-2 victory and a 1-1 tie in the Series.
Pitching on both sides continued to excel when the Series shifted to Brooklyn for Game Three. Brooklyn’s Freddie Fitzsimmons and New York’s Marius Russo each worked seven scoreless innings, before the Dodger hurler failed to come out to start the eighth after being struck in the knee with a line drive the previous frame. The Yankees subsequently pushed across two runs against Dodger reliever Hugh Casey, enabling them to squeeze out a 2-1 victory. Russo went all the way, allowing the Dodgers only four hits.
The pivotal moment of the Series occurred the very next day in Game Four. With the Dodgers nursing a 4-3 lead with two men out and no one on base in the top of the ninth inning, they apparently evened the Fall Classic when Tommy Henrich failed to connect with a two-strike offering from Hugh Casey. However, Brooklyn receiver Mickey Owen allowed the inning to continue when he permitted Casey’s pitch to get past him and go all the way to the backstop. With Henrich reaching first base safely, the Yankees proceeded to score four runs, on three hits and two walks, thereby taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the Series with a 7-4 victory. New York’s Tiny Bonham clinched the Series for the Yankees the following day, allowing the Dodgers only four hits during a 3-1 complete-game victory. Tommy Henrich’s solo home run against Whitlow Wyatt in the top of the fifth inning provided Bonham with all the insurance he needed to give the Yankees their ninth world championship.
Charlie Keller and Joe Gordon excelled at the plate for the Yankees throughout the Series. Keller knocked in five runs and collected seven hits in 18 times at-bat, for a .389 batting average. Gordon homered once, drove in five runs, and accumulated seven hits in 14 trips to the plate, for a .500 batting average.
However, it truly was outstanding pitching that enabled the Yankees to defeat a Dodger team that gave them a very difficult time, in spite of the somewhat deceptive four-games-to-one margin of victory. Yankee pitchers allowed the Dodgers to score only 11 times in the five games, limiting them to a .182 team batting average.By Bob_Cohen
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- 1941 World Series, Bill Dickey, Billy Herman, Brooklyn Dodgers, Charlie Keller, Dolph Camilli, Freddie Fitzsimmons, Hugh Casey, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Joe Medwick, Leo Durocher, Marius Russo, Mickey Owen, New York Yankees, Pete Reiser, Red Ruffing, Spud Chandler, Tiny Bonham, Tommy Henrich, Whit Wyatt