1944 World Series
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1944 World Series (4-2)
The 1944 World Series featured a crosstown matchup between the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns, with the Cardinals winning the Series in six games for their second championship in three years and their fifth overall.
This war year saw perhaps the nadir of 20th-century baseball, as the long-moribund St. Louis Browns won their only American League pennant. The pool of talent was depleted by the World War II draft to the point that in 1945 (but not 1944), as the military scraped deeper and deeper into the ranks of the possibly eligible, the Browns actually used a one-armed player, Pete Gray, who had starred in the Southern Association a year prior. Some of the players were 4-Fs, physical rejects whose defects precluded duty in the trenches but not limping around the bases of ballparks. Others divided their time between factory work in defense industries and baseball, some being able to play ball only on weekends. Some just plain got lucky.
Stan Musial of the Cardinals was one. Musial, enlisting in early 1945 but never called, was able to stay with his team throughout the war. The Browns, on the other hand, were not so fortunate, and their 1944 team was a patched together fabric of those ineligible for military service, virtual misfits, alcoholics and retreads who somehow managed to win games.
As both teams called Sportsman's Park home, the 2-3-2 home field assignment was preserved. The Junior World Series of that same year, partly hosted in Baltimore's converted football stadium, easily outdrew the "real" Series and attracted attention to Baltimore as a potential major league city. Ten years later, the Browns would relocate there and became the Baltimore Orioles. Another all-Missouri World Series was played 41 years later, with the Kansas City Royals defeating the Cardinals in seven games.
The Series was also known as the "Streetcar Series", or the "St. Louis Showdown."
Note: George Pipgras became the fourth person to appear in the World Series both as a player and as an umpire.
Many of the games' best players were called away for the war, and the result was a seriously depleted pool of talent. The top team in the American League was the St. Louis Browns, who collectively batted .252 in route to their only pennant. They only had one .300 hitter in outfielder Mike Kreevich (who barely made it at .301), one man with twenty home runs, shortstop Vern Stephens (who hit exactly twenty); and one player over the eighty-five runs batted in mark, Stephens, who knocked in one-hundred nine runs. Part of the explanation for the low numbers is that the ball used during WWII was made of a denser material and did not travel as well. On the mound, the Browns boasted Nels Potter and Jack Kramer who combined for a mediocre thirty-six victories. The Browns squeaked into first place by winning eleven out of their final twelve games, including the last four in a row over the defending champion New York Yankees. The victory, combined with Detroit's loss to Washington, enabled St. Louis to finish one game ahead of the Tigers in the American League.
Across town, the other Major League team from St. Louis was doing business as usual. In making off with their third straight National League pennant (leading by 14½ games over Pittsburgh), manager Billy Southworth's Cardinals had won one-hundred five games and ran their three-year victory total to three-hundred sixteen.
|1||Browns 2, Cardinals 1||October 4|
|2||Cardinals 3, Browns 2 (11 innings)||October 5|
|3||Browns 6, Cardinals 2||October 6|
|4||Cardinals 5, Browns 1||October 7|
|5||Cardinals 2, Browns 0||October 8|
|6||Cardinals 3, Browns 1||October 9|
|St. Louis Cardinals||3||0||3||4||0||2||1||1||1||0||1||16||49||1|
|St. Louis Browns||0||1||4||2||0||0||4||1||0||0||0||12||36||10|
|Total Attendance: 206,708 Average Attendance: 34,451|
|Winning Player’s Share: – $4,626 Losing Player’s Share – $2,744|
Both teams had the same home field, Sportsman's Park. The only other World Series in which both teams had the same home field were in 1921 and 1922, between the New York Yankees and New York Giants, played entirely at the Polo Grounds; Yankee Stadium opened the following year.
"The funny thing about that World Series (in 1944), the fans were rooting for the Browns, and it kind of surprised me because we drew more fans than the Browns during the season. The fans were rooting for the underdog, and I was surprised about that, but after you analyze the situation in St. Louis, the Browns in the old days had good clubs. They had great players like George Sisler and Kenny Williams, and the fans who were there were older fans, older men, old-time Brownie fans. But it was a tough series." - Stan Musial
With one-hundred five (105) victories, the St Louis Cardinals franchise became the first ever with three (3) consecutive one-hundred win seasons.
- Mel R. Freese: The St. Louis Cardinals in the 1940s, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2007.
- John Heidenry and Brett Topel: The Boys Who Were Left Behind: The 1944 World Series Between the Hapless St. Louis Browns and the Legendary St. Louis Cardinals, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2006.
- William B. Mead: Even the Browns: Baseball During World War II, Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, 2010 (originally published in 1978).
- David S. Neft and Richard M. Cohen: The World Series, St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 1990, pp. 196-200.
- 1944 World Series at Baseball-Reference.com
- 1944 World Series at WorldSeries.com (MLB.com)
- 1944 World Series at Baseball-Almanac.com
- 1944 World Series box scores and play-by-play at Retrosheet.org
|Modern Major League Baseball World Series
Pre-1903 Postseason Series