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After waiting until the season’s final day to clinch the American League pennant the previous year, the Yankees didn’t wait quite as long to lay claim to the league championship in 1950.  Nevertheless, it took a five-game winning streak at the end of the year for them to distance themselves from three other teams in the hotly-contested junior circuit.  New York finished the regular season with a record of 98-56, just three games ahead of the runner-up Detroit Tigers.  The Red Sox finished third, just four games back, while the Indians came in fourth, six games out of first.

The Yankees had neither the league’s top offense, nor its best pitching staff.  Boston topped the circuit with 1,027 runs scored, while Cleveland pitchers posted a league-leading team ERA of 3.75.  However, the Yankees were the American League’s most well-balanced team, placing second with 914 runs scored and finishing third with a team ERA of 4.15.

New York’s starting rotation was as deep as anyone’s in the league.  Vic Raschi led the staff with 21 victories, 17 complete games, and 257 innings pitched.  Eddie Lopat placed second to Raschi on the team with 18 wins and 15 complete games.  Allie Reynolds won 16 games, and Tommy Byrne posted 15 victories for the second straight year.  The arrival of Whitey Ford at mid-season further enhanced the Yankee rotation.  The 21-year-old left-hander compiled a record of 9-1 over the season’s final three months, along with a team-leading 2.81 ERA. 

The Yankee offense was buoyed by the return of Joe DiMaggio to relatively good health.  After missing more than half of the 1949 campaign due to injury, DiMaggio batted .301 and placed among the league leaders with 32 home runs, 122 runs batted in, and 114 runs scored.  Still, DiMaggio often found himself at odds with manager Casey Stengel, who drew the ire of Joltin’ Joe by starting him at first base in one game.  Stengel, in fact, angered several of his players by installing a platoon system at numerous positions.  Joe Collins, Johnny Mize, and Tommy Henrich shared time at first base.  Billy Johnson and Bobby Brown shared third base duties.  Meanwhile, Hank Bauer, Gene Woodling, and Cliff Mapes split time in the outfield.  Nevertheless, the success the Yankees experienced under Stengel made it difficult for any of his players to find fault with the decisions he made. 

Aside from DiMaggio, only three other players found their names written on the Yankee lineup card virtually every day.  Second baseman Jerry Coleman had a solid sophomore campaign, batting .287 and driving in 69 runs.  Yogi Berra had his breakout season, hitting 28 home runs and finishing among the league leaders with 124 runs batted in, 116 runs scored, and a .322 batting average.  Phil Rizzuto had the greatest season of his career, batting .324, compiling a .418 on-base percentage, and placing among the league leaders with 125 runs scored, 200 hits, and 36 doubles.  The Yankee shortstop earned A.L. MVP honors for his exceptional performance.  Berra finished third in the balloting, while DiMaggio came in ninth.  All three men earned a spot on the American League All-Star Team, along with teammates Coleman, Henrich, Raschi, Reynolds, and Byrne.  Rizzuto, Berra, and Raschi were also named to The Sporting News All-Star Team.

Despite being represented at the All-Star Game by eight players, the Yankees took a look into the future by calling up from the minors for the first time a pair of rookies who later went on to make names for themselves at the major league level.  Outfielder Jackie Jensen and second baseman Billy Martin both appeared in a Yankee uniform for the first time in 1950.

After finishing the regular season strong, the Yankees faced the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.  Although Philadelphia’s Whiz Kids made the Series a competitive one, they found themselves unable to overcome New York’s outstanding starting pitching.  The Yankees swept the Phillies in four straight games, outscoring their opponents by an 11-5 margin in the process.  Raschi, Reynolds, Lopat, and Ford stymied Philadelphia’s lineup, while Joe DiMaggio provided the big blow of the Series – a game-winning solo home run in the top of the ninth inning in Game Two against Philadelphia ace right-hander Robin Roberts.

 

By Bob_Cohen
 

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Tagged:
1950 World Series, Allie Reynolds, Billy Johnson, Billy Martin, Bobby Brown, Casey Stengel, Cliff Mapes, Ed Lopat, Gene Woodling, Hank Bauer, Jackie Jensen, Jerry Coleman, Joe Collins, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Mize, New York Yankees, Phil Rizzuto, Philadelphia Phillies, Robin Roberts, Tommy Byrne, Tommy Henrich, Vic Raschi, Whitey Ford, Yankee Stadium, Yogi Berra

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