Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox won the pennant for the first time since 1918, and took the World Series to the seventh game. After five world championships, 1946 was the first time the team ever lost a World Series.
It was a team that acted as though they couldn’t wait to get going. After spring training in Sarasota (and a couple of exhibition games in Havana), they won their first five regular-season games, and reeled off a 15-game win streak from late April into mid-May. After 24 games, the team was 21-3, and seven different pitchers already had at least one “W” to their credit.
The fill-ins of the war years made way for Ted Williams and Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio – the four later billed as “The Teammates” by author David Halberstam. Of course, the stars of every other team were back, too, but it was the Red Sox who pushed ahead and just kept going. There was only one day all year long – April 24 – that they were not in first place.
This was a ballclub which reflected the team-building of the first dozen years of the Tom Yawkey/Eddie Collins regime. Rather than buying or acquiring stars from other teams, the Athletics and the Browns, for instance. But the February 28 issue of The Sporting News pointed out that every player but three on the spring training roster of the Red Sox was one they had developed themselves, or acquired from a minor-league club. The three exceptions were Rudy York, Hal Wagner, and Pete Fox.
The Pasquel brothers were trying to build up the Mexican League and lavished large three-year contract offers in front of Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams at the Hotel Nacional in Havana, but neither signed on.
The 1946 Red Sox were 54-23 at the All-Star Break and the team was such a collection of superior players that eight members of the Red Sox were named to the American League All-Star team, and not because it was being held at Fenway Park – the game that had been postponed from 1945.
Rudy York at first base, Doerr at second, and Pesky at short comrpised ¾ of the infield. Williams and Dom DiMaggio were 2/3 of the outfield. Hal Wagner was the catcher, and Boo Ferriss and Mickey Harris were named to the pitching corps. In the July 9 game, Ted Williams hit two homers and drove in five runs, as the AL obliterated the NL, 12-0. Crowds flocked to Fenway all year long, and attendance passed one million for the first time – way past it: 1,416,944.
Boo Ferriss had a second year that was as good as his first, 25-6 with a 3.25 ERA. Even stingier with the earned runs was Hughson, 20-11, 2.75. Mickey Harris was 17-9. Williams hit .342 and Pesky – again hitting more than 200 hits – was .337. Ted’s 38 homers helped him drive in 123. York drove in 119 and Doerr 116.
Williams scored 142 runs, leading the league, in part because he reached base so often. The 156 bases on balls helped build a .497 on-base percentage. He was voted as the league’s Most Valuable Player.
The Sox clinched the pennant with 11 games remaining on the schedule. On September 13, with Hughson on the mound, Williams came up in the first inning and faced the new “Williams shift” designed to frustrate his pull hitting to the right side of the field. He crossed it up with a hit down the left-field line and circled the bases for an inside-the-park home run (the only one he ever hit). Hughson had a three-hit, 1-0 shutout. Williams had both driven in and scored the winning run.
The National League race went down to the wire, and a three-game playoff was scheduled. The Red Sox risked growing stale as they waited for the World Series, but a number of the better A.L. players (even including Dom’s brother Joe DiMaggio) came to Boston for a couple of exhibition games to keep the team in shape. A Mickey Haefner pitch hit Ted Williams on the right elbow, and it swelled up badly. He suffered with it throughout the Series, which saw him hit just .200 – at one point earning a headline because he bunted to get on safely.
Rudy York’s 10th-inning home won Game One in St. Louis. The Red Sox were 104-50 for the regular season, and most people felt that Boston was likely to beat St. Louis, but the Cardinals fought valiantly and the seventh game went into the bottom of the eighth inning tied, 3-3. Dom DiMaggio had hurt his leg on the basepaths after doubling in two to tie the score. Had the swift DiMaggio been in center field, Enos Slaughter never would have tried to score from first base on a looping ball to left-center…instead, it was a year that ended in disappointment for Red Sox fans.By Bill Nowlin