The United States’ involvement in World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 formed a nebulous cloud over Major League Baseball’s 1942 campaign. Although it remained unclear heading into the season just how much the conflict in Europe would affect the national pastime, most players realized they might soon be pressed into military service. Some, such as Detroit’s Hank Greenberg and Cleveland’s Bob Feller, took it upon themselves to enlist in the Armed Forces shortly after the United States declared war on Japan.
Still, thoughts of pennant races that still needed to be waged returned to the players once they reported to Spring Training prior to the start of the regular season. The Yankees, seeking to capture their sixth world championship in seven years, made only minimal changes to a roster that enabled them to post 101 victories one year earlier. The faith the front office placed in the team’s players proved to be well-founded when the Yankees finished the 1942 campaign in first place with a record of 103-51, nine games ahead of the second-place Red Sox. Although New York led all of baseball with 801 runs scored, the key to the team’s success lay in its pitching staff, which posted a league-leading 2.91 ERA. Yankee pitchers allowed the opposition to score only 507 runs, which represented the lowest total surrendered by the team since 1919 – the last year of the Dead-ball Era.
New York’s starting rotation was headed by Tiny Bonham, who finished 21-5, with a 2.27 ERA and a league-leading 22 complete games and six shutouts. Spud Chandler had his finest season to-date, compiling a record of 16-5 and an ERA of 2.38, while also throwing 17 complete games. Red Ruffing, still effective at age 37, won 14 games, posted a 3.21 ERA, and completed 16 of his 24 starts. Rookie Hank Borowy, who replaced 33-year-old Lefty Gomez in the rotation, finished 15-4, with a 2.52 ERA. Atley Donald chipped in with a record of 11-3 and a 3.11 ERA.
Despite leading the major leagues in runs scored, the Yankees did not do justice to their acquired nickname of The Bronx Bombers. Their 108 home runs represented the second-lowest total compiled by the team in the past 18 seasons. Charlie Keller led New York with 26 homers. He also knocked in 108 runs, scored 106 others, batted .292, and compiled an on-base percentage of .417. Phil Rizzuto had a solid second season, batting .284, scoring 79 runs, and finishing third in the league with 22 stolen bases. Joe DiMaggio, perhaps distracted by the events over in Europe, had something of an off-year, hitting only 21 home runs, driving in “just” 114 runs, scoring 123 others, and batting “only” .305. Joe Gordon, though, had arguably his finest season in New York, hitting 18 homers, driving in 103 runs, batting .322, and compiling an on-base percentage of .409. The Yankee second baseman’s outstanding performance ended up winning him A.L. MVP honors, in an extremely close vote over Boston’s Ted Williams. Gordon also earned his fourth consecutive selection to both the A.L. All-Star Team and The Sporting News All-Star Team. Eight other Yankees joined him on the American League squad, while DiMaggio and Bonham also were named to The Sporting News team.
The Yankees subsequently entered the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals fully expecting to repeat as world champions. The Cardinals had other ideas, though, defeating the Yankees in five games after losing the opening contest. The Yankee loss marked their first in World Series play in nine tries, with their last defeat coming at the hands of the Cardinals 16 years earlier, in 1926.By Bob_Cohen
- 1942 World Series, Atley Donald, Bill Dickey, Charlie Keller, Hank Borowy, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, New York Yankees, Phil Rizzuto, Red Ruffing, Spud Chandler, St. Louis Cardinals, Ted Williams, Tiny Bonham, Tommy Henrich