Year In Review : 1943 American League
Off the field...
In Washington D.C., the Pentagon was completed making it the largest office building in the world. The revolutionary, five-sided building consisted of five concentric pentagons connected to each other by immense corridors covering an area of thirty-four acres and was intended to consolidate the various offices of the U.S. War Department and now the Department of Defense.
In January, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill held a World War II meeting known as the "Casablanca Conference" in French Morocco to form a joint declaration that pledged that the war would only end with the unconditional surrender of the Axis Powers.
The withholding tax on wages was introduced in 1943 and was instrumental in increasing the number of taxpayers to sixty million and tax collections to $43 billion by 1945.
In the American League...
The Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Browns played four consecutive extra-inning games (May 31 and June 2) totaling forty-five innings. Both leagues combined to set a Major League record for overtime activity with ninety-one extra-innings in the American League and eighty in the National.
New York Yankees outfielder Roy Weatherly caught ten separate fly balls in a single game on April 28th and then went on to repeat the performance on June 12th. In doing so, he became the first outfielder in Major League history to record ten putouts in a game — twice in one season.
On August 24th, the miserable Philadelphia Athletics recorded their twentieth loss in a row tying the American League mark for consecutive defeats. Luckily they managed to avoid breaking the record by scoring eight runs on the home team Chicago White Sox in the bottom half of the double header.
In the National League...
Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Rip Sewell debuted a bizarre "softball-like" pitch that looped the ball eighteen to twenty feet high on its way down to the strike zone. The "gag-pitch" was almost impossible to judge from the batters box and was later coined as a "blooper" or "eephus ball". Despite the complaints of many batters from around the league, the approach was ruled legal and Sewell went on to a 20+ win season.
New York Giants player-manager Mel Ott walked five times in a single game on June 17th against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Amazingly Ott had also received five passes in two other games (1929 and 1933) and went on to set a Major League record for seven consecutive walks over a two-day period.
The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the National League pennant thanks to the extraordinary play of second-year-man Stan Musial who hit .357 with two-hundred twenty hits, three-hundred forty-seven total bases, forty-eight doubles and twenty triples.
Around the league...
Baseball moguls Phil Wrigley and Branch Rickey established the All-American Girls Softball League as a "wartime sports backup" in case the government was forced to shut down Major League Baseball. The novelty league quickly became a very popular draw and later switched to hardball with a pitching distance of forty feet and bases set at sixty-eight feet apart.
Major League Baseball approved a new "official" ball that was comprised of reclaimed cork and balata, which were two suitable materials that were not needed in the war effort. Officials insisted that the ball would have the resiliency of the old version, but players later complained of an inability to drive the "overripe grapefruits" and pointed out the lack of home runs as a result.
Due to the wartime absence of sixty starters (including some of the games greatest players: Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Enos Slaughter and Johnny Mize) Major League Baseball started two weeks later than usual as teams scrambled to fill their line-up cards and owners scrambled to fill their ballpark stands.
The evening before the All-Star Game in Boston, a team of Armed Forces "all-stars" managed by Babe Ruth and featuring Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams played the visiting Braves in a war fund-raising effort. Ruth himself agreed to pinch-hit in the eighth and his team went on to win 9-8 thanks to a Ted Williams home run. The following night, the Americans went on to edge the Nationals 5-3 in the first Midsummer Classic to be played under the lights.