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.
"(Hank) Aaron is the best prospect see in the Negro League since Willie Mays." - The Chicago Defender (1952)
Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard
Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard
The "good purchase of the year award" must be given to the Boston Braves who were wise enough to obtain an 18-year-old Hank Aaron from the Indianapolis Clowns for $2,500 (plus $7,500 if he remained with the franchise for 30 days).
The Dodgers turned the table on the Giants in 1952. It was largely accomplished by the emergence of pitcher Joe Black. The 28 year old rookie, who was not on the team’s roster at the start of spring training, won 15 games while losing only 4. Thank goodness for Black’s arrival as pitching ace Don Newcombe was off to the military. It did not hurt that they went 54-11 against the lower division teams.
The Giants got off to a commanding 16-2 record but things turned sour when Willie Mays was called into the armed forces in May. Monte Irvin, the league’s RBI hitter in 1951, went down in spring training until September due to breaking his ankle. The Dodgers took the lead on June 1 and never relinquished it. By August 25 the lead had grown to 10 ½ games however the Giants again took a run at it in September closing to within 3 games on September 17. The Giants would not been as close if not for the arrival of knuckle baller29 year old (HOF Hoyt Wilhelm who led the league with a 2.43 ERA along with 15 wins.
#1 Brooklyn Dodgers (96-57) . With the exception of losing Newcombe and the addition of Joe Black ,the roster was a repeat of 1951. Campanella, Snider, Reese and Robinson continued adding to their Hall of Fame careers. Reese and Robinson tore up the base paths combining for 52 stolen bases. Gil Hodges swatted 32 homeruns and knocked in 102. In addition to winning 15 games, Rookie of The Year Black saved 15 others.
#2 New York Giants (92-62) . Replacement outfielders Don Mueller and Bob Elliott were a far cry from the missing Monte Irvin and Willie Mays. Alvin Dark batted over .300 again and Bobby Thomson hit 24 homeruns with 104 RBIs. Sal Maglie, at age 35 , won 15 games. Crusty manager Leo Durocher argued and fought with the umpires, but in retrospect the roster did not hold a candle to the Dodgers.
#3 St. Louis Cardinals (88-66) . For an aging roster the Cardinals held their own and improved their record in winning seven more games than 1951. Thirty six year old Enos Slaughter drove in 101 runs and Musial was Musial batting .336 with 21 homeruns and 91 RBIs. However, age caught up to newly acquired 35 year old Eddie Stanky and 34 year old outfielder Peanuts Lowery. Gerry Staley had another good year on the mound winning 17 games while rookie, 21 year old Vinegar Bend Mizell, notched 10.
#4 Philadelphia Phillies (87-67) . Although a bit of a comeback after 1951 there continued to be serious concerns that the 1950 Whiz Kids were not headed in the right direction. Del Ennis continued showing his power hitting 20 homeruns with 107 RBIs but Richie Ashburn batted a disappointing .282. Robin Roberts, with a weak offense behind him, had his best year yet winning 25 games and losing only 7. Curt Simmonds returned from the armed forces and notched 14 wins, but Jim Konstanty’s age (35) was catching up with him resulting in just 5 wins.
#5 Chicago Cubs (77-77) . A .500 record was a marked improvement from the past few years. They did it with a very lackluster lineup. Only 35 year old Hank Sauer stood out with his 37 homeruns and 121 RBIs. Sauer was named the NL MVP. Bob Rush was the ace of a mediocre pitching staff with 17 wins and a 2.75 ERA.
#6 Cincinnati Reds (69-85) . A repeat of 1951. No new stars, nor any on the way. Again Kluzewski led the team but with a very pedestrian 15 homeruns. Outfielder Joe Adcock gained some attention with 13 homeruns in 117 games. Kenny Raffensberger had his finest season winning 17 games with a 2.85 era.
#7 Boston Braves (64-89) . Things were so bad in Boston that even Warren Spahn only won 14 games despite an era of under 3. Twenty year old 3B Eddie Mathews and OF Sid Gordan each hit 25 homeruns. Pitcher Lew Burdette made his debut with the Braves but only managed 5 wins versus 11 losses.
#8 Pittsburgh Pirates (42-112) . The Pirates hit rock bottom. Of course, Ralph Kiner hit a lot of homeruns (37) but he also struck out a lot while batting a measly .244. The only sign of hope came from rookie shortstop Dick Groat who displayed some future potential. Pitcher Maury Dickson won 14 games but he lost 21.
On June 15, 1952, the St. Louis Cardinals were losing 11-0 versus the New York Giants at The Polo Grounds. Five innings later the score was 14-12 and the Cardinals were victorious in the greatest comeback game of the season.
Trivia alert: The pitcher who got the last win for the Boston Braves was Virgil Jester and it took place on September 27, 1952 at Ebbets Field.