The 1944 season presented the concern that baseball observers had about all the players lost to World War II service. Namely, that a perennial loser might take advantage of the thinned talent pool and actually win.
That's what the St. Louis Browns did in 1944.
The Browns had been the AL's lovable losers for years. They had a winning record in 1942, but mostly they were second division finishers. But in 1944, they proved to be the team that kept the resurgent Tigers away from the pennant.
Utilizing pitching for a change, the Tigers strayed from a thumping offensive team to a more refined, pitching and defense squad. Leading the way on the mound was "Prince Hal" Newhouser, the Detroit-born kid who won 29 games and a 2.22 ERA. The wildness was gone; Newhouser walked just 102 batters in 312 innings. Dizzy Trout was almost as good, winning 27 games with a 2.12 ERA. Newhouser's efforts were good enough to make him the American League MVP for 1944.
The Tigers entered September two games behind the surprising Browns, thanks to taking three of four games from the Brownies in St. Louis. On September 24, the Tigers led the Browns by one game; the Tigers had five games to play, the Browns had seven. The Tigers split a doubleheader with Washington on September 29, leaving them tied with the Browns with two games to play. But the Browns finished their season with an 11-1 record, including a season-concluding four game sweep of the Yankees in St. Louis, which gave them the pennant by one game over the Tigers.
It was certainly disappointing for the Detroiters, but the team got some good news when it was announced that Hank Greenberg would return sometime in 1945 after missing nearly four full seasons to military service.
The Browns, by the way, played the crosstown St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, lost in six games, and two years later were back in the AL abyss.By GregEno