After an eight-year study, scientist Jonas Salk finally developed a vaccine that prevented the crippling disease known as polio. Though he was hailed as a miracle worker and a national hero, Salk remained shy of the public eye. He declined to apply for a patent for the vaccine, saying that he was more concerned with people having access to it than the money it would bring him. His next project, one that lasted up until his death in 1995, was to find a cure for AIDS.
The 1952 Olympic games took place in Helsinki reflecting the attitudes of "East versus West" that had been spawned by the Cold War. The Soviet Union decided to rejoin the competition for the first time since 1912, although from a distance. Instead of joining the other athletes in the Olympic Village, the Soviets set up their own camp strictly for Eastern bloc countries near the Soviet naval base at Porkkala. All Russian athletes were then chaperoned by Soviet officials everywhere they went in an effort to prevent communication with athletes from the West.
On April 30 th , renamed "Ted Williams Day" at Boston's Fenway Park, "Teddy Baseball" played in his final game of the season before going overseas to serve in the Korean War as a Marine fighter pilot. Fittingly, in his last at-bat, the Red Sox slugger hit a game-winning, two-run home run off Detroit's Dizzy Trout for a 5-3 victory over the Tigers.
Seven players including members of the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians were turned in by American League umpire Bill Summers for apparently "fraternizing" before a game. Although the players remained nameless, they were fined $5 each for violating the 1951 rule that strictly prohibited socializing between players from two competing teams.
Washington Senators' owner Clark Griffith dispelled any chance of being accused of practicing preferential treatment after he sold his own nephew, catcher Sherry Robertson, to the Philadelphia Athletics. Robertson later returned to his uncle's front office and served as director of their farm system from 1958-1970.
Boston Braves ace Warren Spahn tied a National League record (set by Jim Whitney) after posting eighteen strikeouts against the Chicago Cubs in a ffiteen inning, 3-1 loss. Spahn also added a home run as the only score in support of his own efforts. June 14 th has also been remembered as a winning day in Braves history after team scout Dewey Griggs signed an up and coming rookie named Henry Aaron to his first Major League contract.
The Brooklyn Dodgers set a National League mark after completing double plays in twenty-three consecutive games.
On September 29 th , Stan Musial shocked the Cubs by making his first (and only) Major League pitching appearance. After beating Chicago's Frank Baumholtz for his sixth batting title, the St. Louis Cardinal's slugger decided to face his adversary from the mound. Baumholtz responded to the challenge with a clutch hit and managed to reach base on a fielding error en route to a 3-0 victory.
The Celler committee announced that legislation for government control of Major League Baseball was unnecessary. The committee stated that the sport was obviously "competent and trustworthy" enough to solve its own problems. They also opposed all legislation exempting the reserve clause from antitrust laws.
Seventy-seven year-old Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer Honus Wagner finally retired after forty years as both a Major League player and coach. "The Flying Dutchman" completed his career with a .327 career batting average, six-hundred forty-three doubles, two-hundred fifty-two triples and seven-hundred twenty-two stolen bases. He also hit one-hundred one home runs (with never more than ten a season), won the National League Batting Champion title eight times and batted .300 (or better) sixteen times — including fifteen seasons in a row.
Russia openly criticized the American game of baseball by citing their own version called "lapka" as being the original concept for the game. The State Department quickly came to the defense of the National Pastime by accusing the Soviet's claim as the founders of baseball to be part of its "Hate America" Cold War campaign.
Major League attendance plummeted for the second season in a row as National League ticket sales dropped a staggering 904,854 and American League sales went down 588,788.
"Man, I'm a hundred years old and I can still strike these guys out." - Satchel Paige on August 6, 1952
Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard
Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard
The Yanks and Indians fought it out again in the AL but this time in a tighter race. After three consecutive world championships, Casey Stengel’s Yankees, surprisingly, were not picked to win the pennant. Having lost Dimaggio to retirement and with infielders Bobby Brown, Jerry Coleman and pitcher Tom Morgan joining pitcher Whitey Ford in the armed forces there were doubts. The Indians with their four dominant starting pitchers looked good to topple the world champions.
Cleveland got off to a fast start, while the Yankees struggled to a 18-17 record at the end of May. But as the season progressed, infielders Billy Martin, Gil McDougal and the switch hitting Mickey Mantle, stepped forward to replace the missing soldiers and the retired Dimaggio,. By Labor Day they were 2 ½ games up on the Indians. The lead shrank to 1 ½ in late September until Allie Reynolds nailed the Red Sox 3-2 which was followed by a 5-2 win over the A’s behind Lopat and Sain to clinch their fourth pennant in a row.
#1 New York Yankees (95-59) . Although Berra, Rizzuto and pitchers, Raschi, and Lopat, were not able to reach their peaks of 1951 the roster was very balanced. Sophomore Mantle batted .311 with 23 homeruns and Berra hit 30. First baseman Joe Collins and right fielder Hank Bauer also made significant contributions. Allie Reynolds won 20 games again but Lopat slumped to 10 wins after suffering a shoulder injury.
#2 Cleveland Indians (93-61) . Well almost. The mighty quartet of pitchers dropped to a mighty three. Wynn and Garcia each won 20 games and Lemon 17, but age caught up with rapid Rapid Bob Feller as he dropped to only 9 wins in 22 decisions. Second baseman Bobby Avila, 3B Al Rosen and outfielder Dale Mitchel batted above the .300 mark while home run power came from 1B Luke Easter 31 , Rosen 28 and OF Larry Doby 32 ..
#3 Chicago White Sox (81-73) . After raising the hopes of White Sox fans with their great improvement of 1951, the Sox did not improve, posting the exact same record. The roster didn’t change but slumped somewhat as both of their stars, Nellie Fox and (HOF) Minnie Minoso, fell short of 1951. However, that was partially offset with the addition of catcher Sherm Lollar who was picked up from the lowly St Louis Browns. Billy Pierce recorded 15 wins just as he had the previous season.
#4 Philadelphia Athletics (78-75) . The A’s jumped from 6th to 4th and shockingly won more games than they lost. The biggest reason was MVP pitcher Bobby Shantz and 27 year old Rookie of the Year pitcher Harry Byrd. The 5’6” left handed Shantz posted his career year winning 24 games while losing only 7 with a fine 2.42 era. His biggest win came in late September when he shut out the Yanks and delayed their push to the pennant. Byrd surprised the league by winning 15 games. As in 1951, the offense was led by Faris Fain batting .323 and 1B Gus Zernial with 29 homeruns and 100 RBIs.
The Second Division
#5 Washington Senators (78-76) . The A’s were not the only surprise. The Senators won 16 more games than the previous season. The acquisition of a future MVP outfielder Jackie Jensen from the Yankees made a big contribution knocking in 80 runs and stealing 17 bases. Pitcher Bob Porterfied won 13 games with an excellent 2.73 era.
#6 Boston Red Sox (76-78) . The BoSox slumped. Ted Williams was off to war again, this time in Korea. Although reliable hitters ,2B Billy Goodman batted .306 and 3B George Kell .319 , there was a lack of power and subpar pitching. Ace pitcher Mel Parnel led the staff with only 12 wins.
#7 St. Louis Browns (64-90) . The Browns had some highlights and a 12 win improvement. Baseball and St. Louis were shocked when after a late April double header sweep of the Indians due to two one hitters, the Browns were in first place for one day. Forty five year old Satchel Paige was the leader of the pitching staff with 12 wins. Ned Garver was unable to match his 20 win season from the year before and fell to 7-10.
#8 Detroit Tigers (50-104) . Possibly the all time low point for this storied franchise. Although they had been showing signs of decay the past couple of years, no one thought they would fall from 73 wins to 50 in one year. A team batting average of .243 with little power or speed, coupled with a pitching squad whose best pitchers were Ted Gray, 12-17, and 20 game loser Art Houtteman, the Tigers were doomed for failure.
Most fans know that Ted Williams hit a home run in his final Major League at-bat , but did you know that on April 30, 1952, Williams also hit a home run in his last at-bat before entering the Korean War?
On May 15, 1952, Virgil Trucks of the Detroit Tigers no-hit the Washington Senators. On August 25, 1952, Trucks no-hit the potent New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium making him the third pitcher ( Johny Vander Meer in 1938 and Allie Reynolds in 1951 were the other two) to hurl two gems during the same season.