After 3 years of pain and torture that the country endured during World War II, things wee finally taking a turn for the better both on the field and off as it was beginning to finally look like the war was coming to an end. Many major leaguers had fought bravely to keep the country free and two, Harry O’Neill and Elmer Gedeon would give the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, in defense of the United States. Former Pirate outfielder Billy Southworth, who now was the very successful manager of the St Louis Cardinals, sadly would give up his son, who was a minor league player before the war.
Despite the tragedy, the boys were coming home. Although most would reappear in the majors in 1946, some made triumphant returns home this season as Hank Greenberg and Bob Feller both picked up where they left off, Greenberg leading his team to the world championship with many dramatic homers and Feller looking like he hadn’t missed a step. Canadians Dick Fowler and Phil Marchildon of the Athletics both made their returns in spectacular fashion with Fowler tossing a no-hitter, the only one in the AL during the war and Marchildon, although unimpressive during his short 1945 campaign, turned in perhaps the most extraordinary return as it was a miracle he even was ready to pitch, being that a few short months earlier he was in a German POW camp.
Things were certainly looking up for the Bucs even though they had no such triumphant comebacks in 1945. What they did have was their superstar Bob Elliott, who continued his torrid hitting during the war with 108 RBI’s to lead the team.
The other member of the power duo, Vince DiMaggio was sent packing in March too the Phillies for pitcher Al Gearhauser after DiMaggio had a dispute over a dinner bill he charged to the team in 1944. Gearhauser only went 5-10 for the team while DiMaggio haunted his ex-mates and June 2nd with a pinch-hit grand slam, although the Bucs still won the game 7-6.
One area that was not as sharp as it was in 1944 was on the mound. 38-year old Rip Sewell, fell to 11-9 with a 4.07 ERA as the team was led by Nick Strincevich and Preacher Roe, who were 16-10 and 14-13 respectively while Roe led the circuit in strikeouts with 148. As a whole Pittsburgh’s ERA shot up from 3.44 to 3.76.
With the end of the war, brought the end of the first division finishes for the Pirates, except for 1948, until they made a run in 1958 which set up their glorious championship in 1960. Despite the gloomy forecast ahead for the team, the bright forecast ahead for the country was a much better sight to see. The war was finally over and with it, so was segregation in the national pastime when soon to be Bucs GM Branch Rickey, then of course with the Dodgers, took advantage of the fact that baseball had a new commissioner in Happy Chandler and changed the course of the games history by finally doing what Bucs President Bill Benswanger claimed 3 years earlier that somebody eventually had to do, he signed an African-American by the name of Jackie Robinson to a contract, and they game would be better for it.By Pirates Encyclopedia
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- Al Gearhauser, Bill Benswanger, Billy Southworth, Bob Elliott, Bob Feller, Branch Rickey, Dick Fowler, Elmer Gedeon, Hank Greenberg, Happy Chandler, Harry O'Neill, Nick Strincevich, Phil Marchildon, Preacher Rowe, Rip Sewell, Vince DiMaggio