Two sweeping changes accented the major league baseball picture in 1954. One transition happened on the field: the New York Yankees failed to win the world championship for the first time since 1949. The other happened off the field: the 54-year-old Philadelphia Athletics' franchise was moved to Kansas City, Mo.
Willy Mays, New York Giants outfielder, winner of the National League batting championship and most valuable player award in 1954.
The world title left Yankee stadium but still remained in New York. The Giants saw to that. They upset favoured Brooklyn in the National league pennant race, then parlayed the trend into a stunning four-in-a-row conquest of Cleveland in the World Series. The Indians had spent the regular season snapping short the Yankees' unprecedented reign of supremacy.
American league clubowners unanimously approved Chicago realtor Arnold Johnson's purchase of the Athletics on Nov. 8, and by a 6 to 2 vote gave him permission to transfer the team to Kansas City. Washington and Cleveland cast dissenting votes on the transfer. Five votes were needed to approve the sale and six to approve the move.
Consummation of the deal terminated months of uncertain, headline-making negotiations and ended, too, the dynasty of Connie Mack, the 91-year-old patriarch who long had been synonymous with the title of "Mr. Baseball."
Johnson earlier appeared to have won the debt-ridden franchise. But the Mack family, in a dramatic bid to keep the team in Philadelphia. suddenly switched its favour to a syndicate of local businessmen. The American league, however, turned down the group to again clear the way for Johnson.
Johnson paid a reported price of $3,500,000, a figure that included the purchase of Connie Mack stadium.
The American league, as part of the transaction, ordered John-son to dispose of all his interests in Yankee stadium, which he had purchased from the Yankees in Dec. 1953. A person is prohibited by baseball rule from having any interest in more than one major league club.
The franchise shift was the second in the American league in less than 14 months. The league had approved the transfer of the St. Louis Browns to Baltimore, Md., on Sept. 30, 1953.
Major League Races.
Cleveland convincingly shattered the New York Yankees' five-year stranglehold on the American league pennant in 1954. The Indians won a staggering total of 111 games to surpass the league record of 110 set by the Yankees during the heyday of Babe Ruth in 1927. Cleveland grabbed first place on June 12 and stayed there. The Yankees collected 103 victories, more than in any of their unprecedented five straight championship years, but faltered in the stretch to finish eight games back in second place. The Chicago White Sox took third, 17 games behind Cleveland. The Indians, Yankees
and White Sox completely dominated the field, with the fourth-place Boston Red Sox 42 games off the pace. Cleveland enjoyed superlative pitching. Bob Lemon and Early Wynn each contributed 23 wins, Mike Garcia got 19 and Bob Feller, supposedly in the twilight of his phenomenal career, took 13. Bobby Avila brought Cleveland its first batting title in ten years with his .341 average. Al Rosen rode out an injury-plagued season to hit .300, the only Indian player besides Avila to reach that figure. Larry Doby supplied 32 home runs and 126 runs-batted-in, tops in the league in both categories.
In the National league, the New York Giants presented two principal changes in the club which had wound up in fifth place in 1953, 35 games out of first. Centerfielder Willie Mays, back from a two-year hitch in the army, and pitcher Johnny Antonelli. acquired in a trade with Milwaukee, provided the impetus which dethroned the defending champion Brooklyn Dodgers. Mays became the third modern Giant star ever to win the batting crown. He hit .345, including 41 home runs, and repeatedly turned in defensive plays that defied description. Antonelli, meanwhile, pitched 21 victories as the Giants' lone 20-game winner. The Giants took over the league lead on June 15 and held on despite furious bids by Brooklyn and the Milwaukee Braves. The Dodgers, unable to overcome the slack created by the hand ailment of veteran catcher Roy Campanella, finished second, outdistanced by five games. Milwaukee suffered a crushing preseason blow when leftfielder Bobby Thomson, its main acquisition in the trade which sent Antonelli to the Giants, suffered a fractured ankle. Thomson returned amidst a late-season Milwaukee drive, but the Braves finally had to settle for third place, eight games behind the Giants. The Philadelphia Phillies, 22 games out, were fourth.
The New York Giants won the 1954 world series in four straight games from the Cleveland Indians with a touch of fantasy. James (Dusty) Rhodes broke open the first three games with storybook pinch-hits, then sat on the bench in the fourth and final game as the Giants completed the National league's first four-game sweep in 40 years.
Manager Leo Durocher of the Giants pitched Sal Maglie in the series opener at the Polo grounds. Al Lopez, the Cleveland pilot, countered with Bob Lemon. The Indians jumped ahead, 2 to o, in the first inning on Vic Wertz's two-run triple. New York tied it at 2-all in the third. Cleveland threatened with two men on base in the eighth inning, but centerfielder Willie Mays raced back to make an over-the-shoulder catch of Wertz's long drive to give the Giants a new life. Rhodes took it from there. In the last half of the tenth inning, he batted for Monte Irvin and pounded out a home run with two men on. That blow started off the Giants with a 5 to 2 victory. Mary Grissom, the third New York pitcher, got credit for the win in relief.
Rhodes's bat struck again in the second game. His pinch-single in the fifth inning brought the Giants a 1 to 1 deadlock. After New York pulled ahead, 2 to I, Rhodes hit a home run for insurance in the seventh inning to mould a 3 to I victory. Johnny Antonelli, surviving a home run by Al Smith on the game's first pitch, gained the pitching verdict on an eight-hitter.Early Wynn was the loser.
The series moved to Cleveland's vast Municipal stadium for the third game but the story remained the same. Rhodes pinch-singled home the two deciding runs during a three-run Giant surge in the third inning. From there, New York went on 6 to 2 triumph. Rhodes's third pinch-hit tied a record established by Bobby Brown of the New York Yankees in the 1947 season. Pitcher Ruben Gomez was victorious on a four-hitter de relief help from Hoyt Wilhelm in the eighth inning. ] Garcia, the first of four Cleveland pitchers, was charged the loss.
The Giants pressed their advantage to the hilt in the ft game. Cleveland had summoned Lemon back to the mound] effort to stem the tide, but to no avail. New York piled
7 to o lead, then beat back an Indian challenge which was] lighted by Hank Majeski's three-run pinch home run in the inning. Don Liddle, the ultimate winner, started for the Giants and departed in favour of Wilhelm in the seventh. Wilhelm in turn, was replaced when Cleveland threatened offensive works in the eighth, but Antonelli came on to seal a 7 to 4 Giants conquest. Cleveland's three most trustworthy hitters—Bobby Avila, Al Rosen and Larry Doby—failed to produce a single run-batted-in during the series. By contrast, their teal Wertz managed to get eight hits in 16 times at bat n .500 average.
Financially, the series was the richest ever for the p The Giants received $11,147 apiece, topping by $2,867.2 previous high amount earned by the New York Yank 1953. The Indians got $6,712.50 each, likewise a record for a series runner-up. The total paid attendance was 251,5
Willie Mays captured the of the baseball public in 1954—and captured with it the championship of the National league. Producing three four official times at bat on the final day of the regular he lifted his average to .345. On the strength of that figure, he beat out his teammate, Don Mueller, who hit .342. Duke of Brooklyn was third at .341. Elsewhere in the unofficial stastical analysis of the National league, Ted Kluszewski of nati led in home runs, 49, and runs-batted-in, 141. collected 212 hits for leadership in that department. Stan of the St. Louis Cardinals got 42 doubles, Mays 13 trip Bill Bruton of Milwaukee 34 stolen bases to head their tive categories.
In pitching, earned-run-average honours went to John tonelli of the Giants with 2.29. Robin Robert,. of the P phia Phillies struck out the most batters, 183. Twenty-game winners included Roberts, 23—15 ; Antonelli, 21-7, and Spahn of Milwaukee, 21—12. Jim Wilson of Milwaukee r the only no-hit, no-run game of the season in the majors on June 12. He stopped the Phillies, 2 to o. Karl Spooner of lyn set a new major league record for strikeouts by a r his first start on Sept. 22, striking out 15 Giants in a victory. Spooner then came back to strike out 12 Pit batters in the season finale on Sept. 26 en route to 1 to 0. His total of 27 strikeouts in two consecutive nine-inning games exceeded the record of 25 established by Arthur Vance of Brooklyn in 1926.
In the American league, Bobby Avila of Cleveland coin .341 average in the unofficial statistical breakdown to batting championship. Minnie Minoso of the Chicago Sox was runner-up with .320. Minoso's teammate, Nelson Fox along with Irv Noren of the New York Yankees, finished out with .319. Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox hit .345 year, but a pre-season injury prevented him from corn the 400 times at bat necessary for title claimants. Williams was credited with 133 hits in 386 times at bat. Larry D Cleveland set the pace in home runs, 32, and runs-batted-in 126. Fox and Harvey Kuenn of Detroit tied for the m 201. Mickey Vernon of Washington led in doubles, 33; Minoso in triples, 18, and Jackie Jensen of the Boston Red Sox in stolen bases, 22.
Unofficial pitching averages in the American league found Mike Garcia of Cleveland on top in earned-run-averages with :64. Bob Turley of Baltimore headed the league in strikeouts, 184. Twenty-game winners were Bob Lemon of Cleveland, 23—7 ; Early Wynn of Cleveland, 23-11, and rookie Bob Grim of the Yankees, 2o-6.
Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals and Joe Adcock of the Milwaukee Braves each punctuated the 1954 season with individual home run field days. On May 2, Musial hit a record five homers during the course of a double header with the New York Giants. On July 31, Adcock hit four home runs and a double in a single game with Brooklyn. His four homers tied a major league record. and his 18 total bases broke another record.
All Star Game.
Six home runs featured the 1954 All Star game before 68,751 spectators at Municipal stadium in Cleveland. The American league produced four of the home runs—two by Al Rosen of Cleveland and one apiece by Ray Boone of Detroit and Larry Doby of Cleveland—to gain their first All Star victory in five years, 11 to 9. Ted Kluszewski and Gus Bell, team-mates at Cincinnati, both homered for the National league. Ironically, the American league's winning margin came on a two-run bloop single by Nelson Fox of the Chicago White Sox. The winning pitcher was rookie Dean Stone of Washington, even though he pitched to only one man. The National league used six pitchers and the loss was absorbed by Gene Conley of Milwaukee. The Americans thus claimed their 13th All Star victory against eight losses.
Hall of Fame.
Three famous baseball players of the past were elected to the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y. They were Walter (Rabbit) Maranville, shortstop for the `"miracle" Boston Braves of 1914; Bill Dickey, former catcher and currently coach for the New York Yankees; and Bill Terry, one-time first baseman and manager of the New York Giants.