Year In Review : 1939 American League
Off 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 12th, 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.
In the American League...
On May 2nd, 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 28th 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.
In the National League...
St. Louis Cardinals standout Johnny Mize equaled a National League record on July 3rd 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 21st, 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".
Around the league...
On June 12th, 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 26th 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.