After restoring order to the American League by winning their first pennant in four tries the previous year, the Yankees entered the 1948 campaign hoping to defend their championship. Realizing their starting rotation was perhaps an arm or two short, the Yankees traded catcher Aaron Robinson and two lesser players to the Chicago White Sox during the off-season for pitcher Ed Lopat. The 30-year-old left-hander won 16 games for the White Sox the previous season, while also compiling an outstanding 2.81 ERA and tossing 22 complete games. In addition to strengthening the team’s pitching staff, the Yankee front office believed that including Robinson in the deal might allow Yogi Berra to reach his full potential as the club’s full-time receiver.
Berra did, indeed, make a considerable amount of progress, finishing the year with a .305 batting average and 98 runs batted in. Lopat also had a very good year, winning 17 games and finishing second on the team with a 3.65 ERA and 13 complete games. However, the efforts of the two men were not enough to help the Yankees earn a return trip to the World Series. The Cleveland Indians represented the American League in the Fall Classic instead, earning that honor by defeating the Boston Red Sox in a one-game playoff. The Yankees finished in third place, just 2 ½ games behind the Indians, with a record of 94-60. Despite failing to repeat as A.L. champions, though, the Yankees benefited greatly from the thrilling three-team pennant race, establishing a new franchise record by drawing 2,373,901 fans to Yankee Stadium over the course of the season.
New York’s pitching staff performed well during the year, compiling the second-lowest team ERA in the league, with a mark of 3.75. Allie Reynolds and Vic Raschi joined Lopat in giving the Yankees an extremely formidable “Big Three” at the top of the rotation. Reynolds finished 16-7, with a 3.77 ERA and 11 complete games. Raschi had his first big year with the club, leading the team with a record of 19-8, six shutouts, and 18 complete games.
On offense, Bobby Brown batted exactly .300 for the second straight year in his role as part-time third baseman/utility infielder. However, aside from Berra, most of the team’s regulars had subpar seasons, forcing Joe DiMaggio and Tommy Henrich to shoulder much of the offensive burden. Splitting his time between the outfield and first base, Henrich had the best year of his career, batting .308, hitting 25 home runs, driving in 100 runs, accumulating 42 doubles, and leading the league with 138 runs scored and 14 triples. Meanwhile, DiMaggio showed he still had something left after serving in the military for three years. The Yankee Clipper batted .320, scored 110 runs, and led the league with 39 homers and 155 runs batted in, en route to earning a second-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting. Henrich placed sixth in the balloting. Both DiMaggio and Henrich were named to the American League All-Star Team, being joined on the squad by fellow Yankees Berra, Page, Raschi, and McQuinn. DiMaggio also earned his eighth and final nomination to The Sporting News All-Star Team.
Despite posting 94 victories over the course of the season and finishing only 2 ½ games out of first place, New York’s third-place finish ended up costing manager Bucky Harris his job at the end of the year. Yankee ownership replaced him with Casey Stengel, thereby beginning a whole new era in team history.
Meanwhile, as one era began, another one ended. After fighting a lengthy battle with cancer, Babe Ruth passed away at age 53 on August 16, 1948 due to pneumonia. His body lay in repose in Yankee Stadium. His funeral was held two days later at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where thousands of fans came to pay their last respects to the most colorful and charismatic player the game has ever seen. At his death, the New York Times called Ruth, "a figure unprecedented in American life. A born showman off the field and a marvelous performer on it, he had an amazing flair for doing the spectacular at the most dramatic moment."
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- Aaron Robinson, Allie Reynolds, Babe Ruth, Bobby Brown, Bucky Harris, Casey Stengel, Ed Lopat, George McQuinn, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Page, New York Yankees, Phil Rizzuto, Tommy Henrich, Vic Raschi, Yogi Berra