The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) backed a coup by Colonel Carlos Armas to overthrow the Guatemalan Government. The government, ruled under Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, supported a Communist-authored land reform bill that expropriated most of the land holdings of United Fruit Company. The Guatemalan actions had led to a U.S. arms embargo, but they later purchased arms from Czechoslovakia providing an excuse for the uprising.
After hearing the case of Brown versus the Board of Education, Chief Justice Earl Warren (United States Supreme Court) formally ruled that all forms of segregation were unconstitutional. The landmark case was a first step in mandating racial equality and initiated the desegregation of all public institutions in the United States of America.
The Boston Red Sox managed to pull off a rare triple play, but still lost to the Baltimore Orioles during a seventeen-inning game that set a new American League record for time consumed at four hours and fifty-eight minutes, and tied the Major League mark (set seven weeks earlier) for the most players used in a single game (forty-two).
On August 30 th , the Cleveland Indians completed an embarrassing eleven home-game sweep of the visiting Boston Red Sox. It was the first such sweep since the New York Yankees, led by "Murderers Row", had blanked the laughable St. Louis Browns back in 1927.
Mickey Vernon of the Washington Senators tallied his 2,000 th career hit on September 2 nd . He also notched his nineteenth home run of the season for a franchise record for left-handers.
Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals hit five home runs during a May 2 nd doubleheader against the New York Giants. In a strange coincidence, eight-year-old Nate Colbert (who would grow up to play for the Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, Montreal Expos, Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics) was in attendance and would become the only other player in Major League history to tie Musial's mark. Both teams split for the day as the Cards won the first game 10-6 and the Giants took the second 9-7.
On May 4 th , the Phillies and Cardinals set a Major League record (later broken) by using a staggering forty-two combined players during an eleven-inning, 14-10 Philly victory. Philadelphia used seven pitchers throughout the effort and the St. Louis topped them with eight men on the mound.
At Ebbets Field, Milwaukee Brave Joe Adcock hit four home runs and added a double for a total of eighteen total bases during a 15-7 massacre over the Brooklyn Dodgers on July 31 st . Adcock's eighteen bases set a Major League record and when combined with the seven bases from the day before, gave him a two-day tally of twenty-five. The combined total tied the slugger with Ty Cobb for most bases in two consecutive games.
"The Yankee Clipper" Joe DiMaggio married Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe in San Francisco. Nine months later the two were divorced, but continued to maintain an on-again, off-again relationship. DiMaggio had reportedly told friends that the two were going to be re-married shortly before her death from a drug overdose eight years later. In the years that followed, he rarely spoke of her and had roses delivered to her gravesite twice a week for the next two decades. He never married again.
Rightfielder Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals outpolled every other National League player in the 1954 All-Star balloting.
In Game 1 of the Fall Classic, New York Giants outfielder Willie Mays made what many consider to be the greatest catch in World Series history. "Say Hey" managed to hold the game to a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning after racing back to deep centerfield and making an awkward "over-the-head" snatch of Cleveland Indian Vic Wertz's 462-foot drive.
The Major League owners association voted down the sale of the Athletics to a syndicate representing the city of Philadelphia. One week later, Arnold Johnson emerged to buy a controlling interest in the franchise from the Mack family for a reported $3.5 million dollars. He later decided to move the team to Kansas City amidst mixed emotions from the rest of the league.
"For the first time since 1954, it's the - yes! - the first-place Indians. Talk about a real-life 'Field of Dreams.' It don't get any better than this." - Walter Shapiro [fantasizing about a strike free season] in Time (1994)
Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard
Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard
On April 13, 1954, the Baltimore Orioles played their first Major League game and lost to the Detroit Tigers 3-0. Two days later they played their first game at Memorial Stadium and won 3-1 over the Chicago White Sox in front of 53,371 fans who were happy to see baseball return to Baltimore for the first time since 1902.
The king was overthrown, and in a big way, as the Indians broke the record with 111 wins. Despite winning 103 games, more than any of their previous pennant winning teams, the Yanks relinquished the crown. Everything fell into place for the Indians. A veteran pitching staff featuring Early Wynn, Mike Garcia, Bob Lemon and Bob Feller joined hitters 3B Al Rosen, 2B Bobby Avila and OF Larry Doby to form this dominant roster.
Baseball was showing its path to the future with its second franchise move in two years. The dismal attendance in St Louis of the Browns finally drove the their creative financially plagued owner, Bill Veeck, to give up and he sold his club to a syndicate that moved the franchise to Baltimore. Baltimore had lost its original franchise in 1902. The dismal won lost records of the bottom five teams raised concerns regarding the competitive imbalance of the league.
#1 Cleveland Indians (111-43) . Pitchers Lemon and Wynn each won 23 and Garcia 19. Feller and Art Houteman combined to support them with a combined 28 wins. Rookies Don Mossi and Ray Narleski accounted for nine wins and 22 saves. Rosen contributed 24 homeruns and 102 RBIs, Doby hit 32 home runs with 126 RBIs and Avila bated .341 just .4 points behind batting average champ Ted Williams.
#2 New York Yankees (103-51) . There was not much the Yanks could do against a 111 win team. They were every bit as good as the five previous World Championship teams, at least on paper. They added Rookie of the Year Bob Grim’s 20 win season to their pitching arsenal of Ford, Reynolds and Lopat. Thirty five year old Johnny Sain made a comeback as a reliever with 22 saves. Berra was the AL MVP again, batting .307 with 22 home runs and 125 RBIs. Rookie 3B Andy Carey hit over .300 along as did outfielders Mantle and Irv Noren . Mantle led the club with 27 homers.
#3 Chicago White Sox (94-60) . The rising White Sox appeared to be a team moving in the right direction. Although pitching ace Billy Pierce won only nine games, veteran 37 year old Virgil Trucks stepped up and won 19. Second baseman Nellie Fox and OF Minnie Minoso continued contributing each batting over .300. Minoso led the team with 19 homeruns and 125 RBIs.
#4 Boston Red Sox (69-85) . A fourth place team which lost 16 more games than it won in 1953 was an embarrassment for its loyal fan base. Despite an outstanding outfield of Jackie Jensen, (25 homeruns,117 RBIS, 22 stolen bases), batting champ Ted Williams, .(345, 29 homeruns in only 117 games), and the defensive prowess of centerfielder Jimmy Piersall it was not enough to offset a weak pitching staff that was minus its ace, Mel Parnell, for much of the season.
#5 Detroit Tigers (68-86) . Barely an improvement over 1953. The Tigers were not able to overcome their weak pitching staff. There was hope in the future stemming from nineteen year old rookie and future HOF outfielder Al Kaline and the continuing development of SS Harvey Kueen,.306, 20 homeruns and 85 RBIs.
#6 Washington Senators (66-88) . The Senators continued their downward plunge. Still dependent on 1B Mickey Vernon to carry the offense, (.290, 20 homeruns and 97 RBIS), there was little else. Pitcher Bob Porterfield followed his 22 win season by losing more games than he won (13-15) and he was the best of the bunch. There was a September call up ,18 year old Harmon Killebrew, who appeared in nine games primarily as a pinch hitter.
#7 Baltimore Orioles (54-100) . The change of address did not help this moribund team. They still lost 100 games. as they did in 1953, but at least there were fans in the seats. They did have three young pitchers. Bob Turley won 14 games while Don Larsen and Billy O’Dell were late season call ups. The leading home run hitter was 3B Vern Stephens with eight.
#8 Philadelphia Athletics (51-103) . The A’s made their last season in Philly a dismal one. The team’s number one pitcher, Arnie Portocarrero finished with 9 wins and 18 losses. Former ace Bobby Shantz pitched in only one game due to injury. The offense lost its only weapon, 1B Gus Zernial, for more than a third of the season.
On April 26, 1901, the Philadelphia Athletics played their first game. On September 26, 1954, they played their final game until they are relocated to Kansas City for the 1955 season.
Other notable dates in 1954 include: June 12 - Bob Feller 2,500th career strikeout, July 6 - Cleveland Indians scored 8 runs during the first inning (a new record), September 6 - Carlos Paula became first black player on the Washington Senators, and September 25 - Cleveland Indians won their 111th game of the season to set a new American League watermark.