With the United States fully engaged in World War II by 1943, more and more Americans joined the Armed Forces. As the number of military personnel representing the nation continued to grow, fewer and fewer major-league caliber ballplayers remained to participate in the national pastime. The Yankees alone lost almost half their roster from the previous season to the war effort, with Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich, Phil Rizzuto, Red Ruffing, and George Selkirk being among those who were called into service. DiMaggio, Henrich, and Rizzuto returned to the team three years later. However, Sekirk was among those who never made it back to the big leagues.
With many of the game’s best players fulfilling their military obligations, the level of play in the major leagues invariably suffered. The Yankees were no exception, scoring 132 fewer runs in 1943 than they tallied one year earlier. Nevertheless, with every other team being similarly adversely affected, New York’s total of 669 runs scored led the American League. The Yankees also allowed the fewest runs of any team in the circuit, permitting the opposition to score only 542 runs over the course of the season. Their superior team balance enabled the Yankees to capture their third straight pennant, finishing the year with a record of 98-56, 13 ½ games ahead of the second-place Washington Senators.
The Yankee offense was led by the three returning members from the previous year’s starting lineup. Charlie Keller hit 31 home runs, drove in 86 runs, and scored 97 others. Joe Gordon hit 17 homers and scored 82 runs. Bill Dickey appeared in only 85 games, but he batted .351 and compiled a .445 on-base percentage. Newcomers Nick Etten and Billy Johnson also made major contributions to the team. The 24-year-old Johnson, who took over as the club’s starting third baseman, batted .280 and drove in 94 runs. Etten, who the Yankees acquired from the Phillies during the off-season to play first base for them, finished third on the team with 14 homers and led the squad with 107 runs batted in.
It truly was their pitching staff, though, that enabled the Yankees to distance themselves from the rest of the American League. Hank Borowy finished 14-9 with a 2.82 ERA. Johnny Murphy won 12 games coming out of the bullpen, saved eight others, and compiled a 2.51 ERA. Tiny Bonham posted a record of 15-8, threw 17 complete games, and finished second in the league with a 2.27 ERA. Topping the circuit in earned run average was Spud Chandler, who had easily the greatest year of his career. The 35-year-old right-hander finished 20-4, with a 1.64 ERA, five shutouts, 20 complete games, and 253 innings pitched, en route to earning A.L. MVP honors. Chandler also earned a spot on the A.L. All-Star Team, being joined by fellow Yankees Bonham, Dickey, Keller, Gordon, and Lindell.
The Yankees subsequently entered the World Series with revenge in mind against the St. Louis Cardinals, who defeated them in five games in the previous year’s Fall Classic. Turning the tables on St. Louis, the Yankees came out on top in five games, with Spud Chandler throwing two complete-game victories and allowing the Cardinals only one earned run in his 18 innings of work.By Bob_Cohen
- 1943 World Series, Bill Dickey, Billy Johnson, Charlie Keller, George Selkirk, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Johnny Lindell, Johnny Murphy, New York Yankees, Nick Etten, Phil Rizzuto, Red Ruffing, Spud Chandler, St. Louis Cardinals, Tiny Bonham, Tommy Henrich