Year In Review : 1939 National League

O ff the field...

"The Daughters of the American Revolution", a colonial patriotic society in the United States open to women having one or more ancestors who aided the cause of the Revolution refused to allow Marian Anderson to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Anderson was the first African American to be named a permanent member of the Metropolitan Opera Company, as well as the first black woman to perform at the White House. In protest of their protest, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned her DAR membership and sponsored Anderson's concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

On August 12 th , Louis B. Mayer and his staff at MGM released what is considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made, the classic musical version of "The Wizard of Oz". Although the lavish production of L. Frank Baum's children's book originally lost a million dollars on its initial release, its musical score, technical artistry, star-making performance from Judy Garland, and unexpected TV success turned it into a perennial classic.

I n the American League...

On May 2 nd , New York Yankee Lou Gehrig, also known as "The Iron Horse" voluntarily benched himself "for the good of the team" ending his consecutive-game streak at 2,130. After being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (later renamed Lou Gehrig's Disease) the ailing first baseman continued to struggle while batting .143 with a single run batted in. Soon after, the thirty-six year-old star retired, but remained with the team as the captain. Later that season (on the Fourth of July) a tearful Gehrig spoke to 61,808 fans at Yankee Stadium stating, "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." After his moving speech, his uniform #4 was retired.

The New York Yankees hit a whopping eight homeruns in the first game of a June 28 th doubleheader with the Philadelphia Athletics, and then followed up with five more in the second. Both totals set a Major League record for most homeruns in a game as well as their total of fifty-three total bases in a doubleheader. To no surprise, the Bronx Bombers swept the series winning the opener 23-2 and taking the night-game 10-0.

I n the National League...

St. Louis Cardinals standout Johnny Mize equaled a National League record on July 3 rd after hitting four extra-base hits including a double, triple, and two home runs during a 5-3 win over the Chicago Cubs.

In New York, nine players from the Giants and Dodgers combined for nine home runs in a 10-6 Brooklyn win at the Polo Grounds. The home run derby fell one round-tripper short of the record for two teams in one game set in 1923.

On September 21 st , the National League announced that for the first time in the twentieth century games would be moved from one city to another in order to top one million paid attendance. As a result, a double header between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies was swapped from the "City of Brotherly Love" to "The Big Apple".

A round the league...

On June 12 th , the greatest line-up in the history of baseball assembled in Cooperstown, New York for the official dedication of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, Grover Alexander, Nap Lajoie, George Sisler, Eddie Collins, Tris Speaker, Cy Young, and Connie Mack all accepted their plaques and a special six-inning game was also held at the adjacent Doubleday Field featuring the talents of many future members.

The first telecast of a Major League Baseball game took place at Ebbets Field on August 26 th as the Cincinnati Reds took on the home team Brooklyn Dodgers in a double header. Announcer Red Barber broadcasted the play-by-play on Channel W2XBS as the two teams split with the visitors taking the first game 5-2 and the "Bums" taking the second game 6-1.

An "off-season" experiment known as "The National Professional Indoor Baseball League" debuted in November to poor reviews. Headed by president Tris Speaker, the league boasted ten clubs, one in each Major League city except Washington. Unfortunately, the novel concept of playing baseball indoors during the winter months failed miserably at the ticket gates and the league was disbanded within a month.

"Take your ugly puss out of my face and I won't be spitting in it." - Giants' shortstop Billy Jurges. "Yeah, and I'll spit right back in your ugly puss." - Umpire George Magerkurth (July 15, 1939)
1939 National League Player Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

Base on Balls

Brooklyn

110

Batting Average

St. Louis

.349

Doubles

St. Louis

52

Hits

Cincinnati

209

Home Runs

St. Louis

28

On Base Percentage

New York

.449

RBI

Cincinnati

128

Runs

Cincinnati

115

Slugging Average

St. Louis

.626

Stolen Bases

Chicago

17

Pittsburgh

Total Bases

St. Louis

353

Triples

Chicago

18

1939 National League Pitcher Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Complete Games

Cincinnati

31

ERA

Cincinnati

2.29

Games

St. Louis

53

Saves

St. Louis

9

St. Louis

Shutouts

Boston

6

Strikeouts

Philadelphia

137

Chicago

Cincinnati

Winning Percentage

Cincinnati

.781

Wins

Cincinnati

27

1939 National League

Team Standings

Cincinnati Reds

97 57 .630 0

St. Louis Cardinals

92 61 .601

Brooklyn Dodgers

84 69 .549 12½

Chicago Cubs

84 70 .545 13

New York Giants

77 74 .510 18½

Pittsburgh Pirates

68 85 .444 28½

Boston Bees

63 88 .417 32½

Philadelphia Phillies

45 106 .298 50½

1939 National League Team Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

Base on Balls

Brooklyn

564

Batting Average

St. Louis

.294

Doubles

St. Louis

332

Hits

St. Louis

1,601

Home Runs

New York

116

On Base Percentage

St. Louis

.354

Runs

St. Louis

779

Slugging Average

St. Louis

.432

Stolen Bases

Chicago

61

Triples

Chicago

62

St. Louis

1939 National League Team Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Complete Games

Cincinnati

86

ERA

Cincinnati

3.28

Fewest Hits Allowed

Cincinnati

1,340

Fewest Home Runs Allowed

Boston

63

Fewest Walks Allowed

Brooklyn

399

Saves

St. Louis

32

Shutouts

St. Louis

18

Strikeouts

Cincinnati

637



What difference will expansion mean in the future? More opportunity for players is one major benefit. Case and point: In the 1939 Brooklyn Dodger Spring Training camp Pete Reiser went 10-for-10, had one home run, and fielded flawlessly - yet he failed to make the Major League team.

On August 27, 1939, the New York Times wrote, "At times it was possible to catch a fleeting glimpse of the ball as it sped from the pitcher's hand toward home plate." The article was written due to the W2XBS broadcast of the first Major League game - a Reds (5) versus Dodgers (2) game which was played at Ebbets Field.

On September 21, 1939, the National League made a decision to move games from one team's home park to another team's home park. This unique move, which had not taken place since the 19th century, was done solely to help the Brooklyn Dodgers break the million attendance plateau.

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