1944 was the year the St. Louis Browns won the pennant. Surprising things happened when team rosters were put through so many changes due to the exigency of wartime. The Red Sox had been in the race through August, and even as late as September 2, they were just a game and a half out of first place.
Bobby Doerr hit .325. He had been able to play baseball, exempt thanks to a punctured eardrum, but as more and more men needed to be called, his classification changed and his last game before reporting for duty was September 3. The Sox began to slide. From being 70-61, they only won seven more games but accumulated 16 more losses, including a 10-game losing streak. They finished 77-77, in fourth place.
Bob Johnson, age 38, drove in 106 runs. Doerr, leaving with a month to go, drove in 81. The Boston baseball writers voted Doerr as the team MVP. His presence in the stretch drive was missed, and may have cost the team a pennant.
Tex Hughson had a very strong season, overcoming his down year in 1943, putting together an 18-5 W-L record around a 2.26 earned run average. Mike Ryba, age 41, was 12-7, and 34-year-old Joe Bowman – back in the American League for the first time since 1932, had a career-best 12 wins, losing eight.
Rex Cecil won four games, a good example of the opportunity opened up for some by the way. He was 27 years old, a right-handed pitcher from Oklahoma who’d won 19 games that year for the Pacific Coast League’s Padres. He’d never been in a major-league ballpark, when he got the call and flew across the country, arriving at Fenway Park just in time to be handed a uniform and shown the way to the mound. The Sox and St. Louis were tied 6-6 after nine innings. Cecil threw four scoreless innings, and won when Doerr hit a walkoff homer in the bottom of the 13th.
After the season, Fenway Park hosted another event. On November 4, a huge crowd of around 45,000 people jammed into Fenway for the final campaign rally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fourth presidential campaign. It was the last major campaign event of his life.By Bill Nowlin
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