With World War II raging on in Europe and most of the game’s finest players fulfilling their military obligations, the St. Louis Browns captured the only pennant in franchise history in 1944, edging out the Detroit Tigers by just one game. The Yankees finished third in the American League with a record of 83-71, six games behind the Browns.
After losing standout performers such as Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich, and Phil Rizzuto to the war effort one year earlier, the Yankees had their roster further depleted when Joe Gordon, Charlie Keller, Bill Dickey, Billy Johnson, and A.L. MVP Spud Chandler were subsequently called into service as well. Putting out on the field each day a team that hardly resembled a defending world champion, manager Joe McCarthy did all he could to lead the team to a third-place finish. Nick Etten and Johnny Lindell were the only recognizable names McCarthy wrote down on his lineup card each day, although George Snuffy Stirnweiss built a reputation for himself before long as well. The scrappy 25-year-old second baseman batted .319 and led the American League with 125 runs scored, 205 hits, 16 triples, and 55 stolen bases, en route to earning a fourth-place finish in the league MVP voting. Meanwhile, Etten and Lindell supplied much of the team’s power. Etten topped the circuit with 22 home runs and 97 bases on balls, while also driving in 91 runs, scoring 88 others, batting .293, and compiling a .399 on-base percentage. Lindell tried to do his best impersonation of DiMaggio in centerfield, placing among the league leaders with 18 homers, 103 runs batted in, 91 runs scored, and a .300 batting average, while topping the circuit with 16 triples.
The other members of the starting rotation did their best to compensate for the loss of Chandler, who made just one start before entering the Army in April. Hank Borowy led the staff with 17 victories, a 2.64 ERA, 19 complete games, and 253 innings pitched. Atley Donald and Monk Dubiel each won 13 games, and Dubiel tied Borowy for the team lead with 19 complete games. Tiny Bonham added another 12 victories, while posting a 2.99 ERA and 17 complete games. In the end, though, it just wasn’t enough. With New York’s best players serving in the military, the team failed to advance to the World Series for just the second time in nine years.By Bob_Cohen
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- Atley Donald, Bill Dickey, Billy Johnson, Charlie Keller, Hank Borowy, Joe Gordon, Joe McCarthy, Johnny Lindell, Monk Dubiel, New York Yankees, Nick Etten, Snuffy Stirnweiss, Spud Chandler, Tiny Bonham