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It was starting to look like déjà-vu. The 1949 season was as tight a race as 1948. On Sunday, September 25, the Red Sox and Yankees were tied for first place, with only six games to play. No other team was remotely close.

It had taken a lot of work to get there. New York had been in first place by 12 games as late as the Fourth of July. The 25th was the first day all season that the Red Sox reached first place. They won two games, then lost one, and were tied again on the 28th. The last two games on the schedule were in Yankee Stadium. All the Red Sox had to do was win one of the two, and the pennant was theirs.

They’d put together a great season. Mel Parnell won 25 games (25-7, with a 2.77 ERA), breaking the record held by Babe Ruth for most wins by a Red Sox left-handed pitcher. Ellis Kinder was 23-6. Vern Stephens continued to drive in runs, knocking in 159 to lead the league – though he shared the honor with Ted Williams, who also drove in 159. Simple math shows us it was 318 RBIs by just two players. Doerr drove in 109 more. The 43 home runs that Williams banged out led the league, and he would have had his third Triple Crown if he’d managed one more hit. He finished at .3427 but George Kell of the Tigers finished .3429. Ted did win his second Most Valuable Player award, though.

Williams also showed a consistency at the plate which no one has ever matched. From July 1 through September 27, he got on base in every ballgame he played – 84 games in a row reaching base safely. Ted played in every game, all year long, and there were only five games in which he didn’t reach base. In 1949, Dom DiMaggio hit safely in 34 consecutive games; his streak still stands as the longest hitting streak in franchise history.

The Red Sox leapt out to an early 4-0 lead in the first of the two final games, on October 1, but the Yankees got two runs in the fourth and two in the fifth and pushed across a fifth run in the bottom of the eighth. The Sox had had a bloop hit to right field with the bases loaded but the runner at third base was thrown out trying to score.

By Bill Nowlin
 

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Tagged:
Babe Ruth, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, Ellis Kinder, George Kell, Mel Parnell, Ted Williams, Vern Stephens

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