Year In Review : 1951 National League

Off the field...

On May 12 th , the United States military detonated the first hydrogen bomb on an uninhabited testing island in the Pacific. The development of an A-bomb by the Russians had convinced the U.S. to proceed with development of the H-bomb version, which was several times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki to prompt the end of World War II.

Remington Rand Corporation debuted the first commercial digital computer, called the "UNIVAC" (Universal Automatic Computer). The first "UNIVAC" was sold to the United States Census Bureau to assist in the storage, compiling and managing of the U.S. population data. It weighed some 16,000 pounds, used 5,000 vacuum tubes, and could perform about 1,000 calculations per second. "UNIVAC" was also used to predict the 1952 presidential election. No one involved in the project actually believed its prediction (based on 1% vote in) that Eisenhower would sweep the election...he did.

The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) introduced its first color television broadcast across five American cities for two and a half hours a day. However, due to the proprietary system used by CBS, more than 10½ million monochrome sets in the United States were blind to these telecasts. In response to the company forcing their own receivers on the consumer, the National Production Authority issued Order M-90 prohibiting the manufacturing of color sets for general public sale. Two years later, during a Congressional hearing on March 25, 1953, CBS announced that it had no plans to resume its own proprietary color system and the NPA lifted its ban on receiver manufacturing the following day.

In the American League...

During a March 26 exhibition game between the New York Yankees and the University of California, an up-and-coming nineteen year old rookie named Mickey Mantle hit a home run (estimated at six-hundred feet) out of U.S.C.'s Bovard Stadium. "The Mick" went on to finish the day with four hits and seven runs batted in (including two, two-run home runs and a bases-loaded triple) as the Major Leaguers prevailed 15-1. Mantle struggled at the plate over the next few months while striking out fifty-two times and was eventually sent back to the Minor League team in Kansas City.

St. Louis owner Bill Veeck had everyone in stitches after substituting a midget to pinch-hit during the first inning in game two of a doubleheader. Eddie Gaedel, a three-foot, seven inch dwarf, emerged from a cake wearing the number 1/8 during pre-game festivities, then took the plate for center fielder Frank Saucer and walked on four balls. The Detroit Tigers had the last laugh however after posting a 6-2 victory over the comedic Browns.

In the National League...

Howie Pollet finally ended the New York Giants sixteen-game winning streak with a clutch three hitter for a 2-0 Pittsburgh Pirates victory. The sixteen games (lasting from August 12 th to 28 th ) represented the longest winning streak in National League history since 1935.

On September 13 th , the St. Louis Cardinals became the first team since 1883 to play a doubleheader against two different teams on the same day. First they went up against the New York Giants (for a rescheduled rain game) and lost 4-6, then they fell 0-2 to the Boston Braves in their regularly scheduled night game.

The New York Giants literally snatched the National League pennant from the clutches of their rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, after Bobby Thomson hit the infamous "shot heard 'round the world". It was a perfect ending to a career season in which Thomson hit .293 with thirty-two home runs and one-hundred one RBIs.

Around the League...

National League president Ford Frick was elected to a seven-year term as Major League Baseball's third commissioner. Frick, who had held the top office of the National League since 1934, also made a name for himself as a respected sports journalist and as Babe Ruth's "ghost" writer.

TOPPS debuted its first baseball cards (a five set series) that featured such favorites as Yogi Berra, Bob Feller, Ralph Kiner, Phil Rizzuto, Enos Slaughter, Duke Snider and Warren Spahn.

A resolution was put forth by the South Carolina House to reinstate "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, who had been banished from baseball because of his part in the 1919 "Black Sox Scandal". Jackson was one of eight players convicted of throwing the Series (five games to three) in favor of the underdog Cincinnati Reds. After a lengthy investigation in 1920, members of Chicago's tainted team were amazingly acquitted the following year despite their own confessions (which were recanted later). All of the players involved were banned from baseball because of their undeniable link to gamblers. Jackson himself had batted a Series-leading .375 but later acknowledged that he had let up in key situations.

On April 18 th , as part of a pre-game publicity stunt, golf legend Sam Snead teed off from home plate at Wrigley Field and bounced a golf ball off of the center field scoreboard. He was the first player ever to reach the structure and the Chicago Cubs followed suite with an 8-3 win over the visiting Cincinnati Reds.

Baseball Almanac Top Quote

"(Ralph) Branca throws, there's a long fly, it's gonna be, I believe, THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT, THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT, THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!" - Russ Hodges

1951 National League Player Review

1950 | 1951 National League Hitting Statistics | 1952

Pittsburgh
137
St. Louis
.355
New York
41
Philadelphia
221
Pittsburgh
42
Pittsburgh
.452
New York
121
Pittsburgh
124
St. Louis
Pittsburgh
.627
Boston
35
St. Louis
355
Pittsburgh
12
St. Louis

1951 National League Pitcher Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Boston
26
Boston
2.88
St. Louis
65
Pittsburgh
St. Louis
13
Pittsburgh
Boston
7
Brooklyn
164
Boston
Brooklyn
.880
New York
23

1951 National League Team Standings

1951 All-Star Game | 1951 Team Standings | 1951 World Series

98
59
.624
0
97
60
.618
1
81
73
.526
15½
76
78
.494
20½
73
81
.472
23½
68
86
.442
28½
64
90
.416
32½
62
92
.403
34½

1951 National League Team Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

Base on Balls
New York
671
Batting Average
Brooklyn
.275
Doubles
Brooklyn
249
Hits
Brooklyn
1,511
Home Runs
Brooklyn
184
On Base Percentage
Brooklyn
.352
Runs
Brooklyn
855
Slugging Average
Brooklyn
.434
Stolen Bases
Brooklyn
89
Triples
St. Louis
57

1951 National League Team Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Complete Games
Boston
73
ERA
New York
3.48
Fewest Hits Allowed
New York
1,334
Fewest Home Runs Allowed
Boston
96
Fewest Walks Allowed
New York
482
Saves
Cincinnati
23
St. Louis
Shutouts
Philadelphia
19
Strikeouts
Brooklyn
693
baseball almanac flat baseball

baseball almanac fast facts

What did the 1883 and 1951 National League seasons have in common? For the first time since the previous century a team, which was the St. Louis Cardinals this year, played a doubleheader versus two different opponents. The Cards lost first to the New York Giants [4-6] and then to the Boston Braves [0-2] on the same day - September 14, 1951.

1951 National League Pennant Race | by Jim Halloran ( Baseball and America )

Arguably the most exciting pennant race of them all. Two New York City neighborhood teams, Brooklyn versus Coogan’s Bluff, in a three game playoff for the pennant. The story of how they got there makes your head spin. August 12 the Dodgers were very comfy with a 13 ½ games. The promising Whiz Kids of 1950 deflated like a balloon. The Giants started the season by losing 11 straight games after an opening day victory. The only teams, outside the Dodgers, playing just barely above .500 baseball were the Giants and Cardinals. But on that date a miraculous stretch run commenced. The Giants under manager Leo Durocher went on a 16 game winning streak that allowed them to finish the season winning 39 of their final 47 games and draw even with the Dodgers.

Of course, a race that close could not end with anything except a final knock out blow. Bottom of the ninth, one out, runners on second and third, Dodgers up 4-2, outfielder Bobby Thomson strolls to plate. Dodger manager, Charlie Dresssen, made the critical decision to pitch to Thomson with an empty base rather than walking him and face the rookie Willie Mays. He called the bullpen and in comes mister dependability Ralph Branca to replace Don Newcombe who had pitched a tremendous game to this point. Not a bad decision considering the circumstance except for the fact that Thomson had hit a game winning home run in the first playoff game off Branca. With a one ball, no strike count Thomson lashed the ball over the left field fence for the game winner. There was no one more excited that day at the Polo Grounds than Giants announcer Russ Hodges whose dynamic call of “ the Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant! ” is still replayed to baseball audiences every year . That spectacular homerun and call is commonly referred to as The Shot Heard Around the World.

#1 New York Giants (98-59) . Welcome Willie Mays to the Major Leagues. After a disastrous start, 1 for 25 at the plate, the NL Rookie of the Year, the “Say Hey” Kid, found his touch and was a major contributor to the team’s down the stretch success by hitting the majority of his twenty homeruns . He joined veteran outfielders (HOF) Monte Irvin who batted .312, 24 homeruns with 121 RBIs and Bobby Thomson, .293, 32 homeruns and 101 RBIs, to form the most lethal outfield in the league. The Barber, Sal Maglie (23-6) and Larry Jansen ( 23-11) anchored the pitching staff.

#2 Brooklyn Dodgers (97-60) . Led by catcher (HOF) Roy Campanella’s MVP batting stats of .325, 33 homeruns, 108 RBIs, the Bums should have won the pennant. A roster that included (HOF) Jackie Robinson, .338, 19 homeruns, 88 RBIs and 24 stolen bases, (HOF) Duke Snider who clubbed 28 homeruns with 101 RBIs, (HOF) shortstop Peewee Reese batted.286 and 1B Gil Hodges added 40 homeruns and 103 RBIs. But even with a pitching staff that featured Don Newcombe (20-9) and Preacher Roe (22-3) they still fell victim to the late season meltdown.

#3 St. Louis Cardinals (81-73) . The Cardinals jumped up a couple of spots but were still a big step away from being a contender. The biggest change was Marty Marion moving from shortstop to manager. (HOF) Stan ‘The Man” Musial supplied the bulk of the offense batting .355, 32 homeruns 106 RBIS with support from (HOF) 2b “The Redhead “ Al Schoendienst .289 and an aging (HOF) Enos Slaughter .281. Starting pitcher Gerry Staley surprised by winning 19 games and was joined with former Pirate Ted Wilks who posted a league leading 21 saves.

#4 Boston Braves (76-78) . The Braves played the season with pretty much the same lineup but with less success than the previous season. The offense centered around catcher Earl Torgenson with 24 homeruns, 92 RBIs , second year outfielder Sam Jethrow .280, with 35 steals, and outfielder Sid Gordon who blasted 28 homeruns with108 RBIs. (HOF) Warren Spahn was great on the mound winning 22 games but his side kick Johnny Sain slumped to just 6 wins.

The Rest of the League

#5 The Philadelphia Phillies (73-81) . What happened to the Whiz Kids? The youngsters (HOF) Ashburn (.344 ) and (HOF) Robin Roberts (21-15) held their own but infielders Grady Hamner ,“Puddin Head” Jones, outfielder Del Ennis and the 1950 MVP Jim Konstanty tailed off. Pitcher Curt Simmons spent the season serving in the armed forces.

#6 Cincinnati Reds (68-86) . Just about the same cast of characters with the same result. The offense continued to evolve around 1B Ted Kluzewski although his numbers fell well short of the previous year. Ewell Blackwell managed to win 15 games and Ken Raffensberger 16.

#7 Pittsburgh Pirates (64-90) . The Pirates jumped over the Cubs by winning seven more games than 1950. It was still all about (HOF) Ralph Kiner’s all star numbers, .309,42 homeruns, 109 RBIs. Young outfielder Gus Bell started to show his power. Pitcher Maury Dickson doubled his win total from 1950 to 20 but no other pitcher won more than eight games.

#8 Chicago Cubs (62-92) . Not much to be said about this lackluster squad which had no up and coming youngsters. Old Hank Sauer kept swinging a good bat with 30 homeruns and 89 RBIs. Bob Rush was their leading pitcher with eleven wins. Future television and movie star Chuck Connors played first base but made the right choice to pursue an acting career.

Did you know that on September 27, 1951, outfielder Bill Sharman of the Brooklyn Dodgers became the first and only Major League player ejected from a game without ever playing in a single game? After a bang-bang play at home where Bob Addis was called safe, there was an argument that continued to the point where Dascoli ejected Roy Campanella and Preacher Roe then cleared the bench ejecting Sharman and Cookie Lavagetto .

On October 3, 1951 , Bobby Thomson hit the Shot Heard Round The World and Russ Hodges uttered the quotation found at the top of the page. The Dodgers' announcer, Red Barber, was a little less exhuberant and described the shot with, "It's in there for the pennant."

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