Year In Review : 1944 National League
Off the field...
After months of preparation, a military coalition of forty-five Allied divisions consisting of over three million soldiers began landing on Normandy Beach in France during one of the largest amphibious assaults ever conducted. Christened as "D-Day", June 6th became the major turning point in the war against Nazi Germany. After three weeks of intense fighting, Allied troops captured all of the Normandy peninsula and port of Cherbourg. By the end of August, Paris was liberated, and the Allied forces continued on toward Germany.
German forces conducted a surprise attack known as "The Battle of the Bulge" against U.S. forces in Belgium. The Germans made rapid progress, but were unable to capture the city of Bastogne thanks to the extraordinary efforts of American GI's who were "dug in" and completely encircled. Although a coalition of U.S. and British infantry divisions were able to counterattack forcing the Germans to withdraw, they suffered massive casualties totaled at over 35,000.
In the Pacific Campaign, American forces landed on the island of Iwo Jima, seven-hundred fifty miles south of Tokyo in an effort to gain a strategic foothold on the enemy's Navy and establish airbases for future bombing campaigns. The invasion resulted in some of the fiercest fighting ever witnessed in WWII as Japanese soldiers, who fought to the death, heavily opposed the landings. U.S. Marines managed to take the beachhead and eventually pushed inland to overwhelm the defenders in a few days.
In the American League...
Converted from a pitcher, outfielder Johnny Lindell of the New York Yankees tied a Major League record on August 17th after hitting four consecutive doubles against the Cleveland Indians during a 10-3 effort at Yankee Stadium.
Hal Trosky, a comeback player with the Chicago White Sox, stole home in the 16th inning (to break a 2-2 tie) for a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Athletics on May 6th. The feat was not duplicated for twenty years until Willie Davis of the Los Angeles Dodgers pulled off the "same caper" in 1964.
Despite running a close race for first in the American League, the St. Louis Browns recorded the worst A.L. attendance on September 29th with an embarrassing total of only 6,172 fans witnessing their sweep of a double header against the New York Yankees. The following day, attendance doubled to 12,982 as Dennis Galehouse pitched the entire game, winning 2-0 for his ninth victory of the year. Two days later, the Browns were tied with the Detroit Tigers and boasted their first sellout in over twenty years as 37,815 packed Sportsman's Park to watch their "forgotten" team clinch the pennant on the final day of the season.
In the National League...
On May 9th, the New York Giants purchased one of the tallest players ever to play professional baseball, a six foot nine pitcher named Johnny Gee from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite a mediocre record of 5-8, he went on to split his limited season with a 2-4 record.
Red Barrett of the Boston Braves tossed a fifty-eight pitch shutout over the Cincinnati Reds on August 10th for a 2-0 victory and a Major League record for fewest pitches in a nine-inning game. The outing itself set a record as the shortest night game ever at one hour and fifteen minutes.
One of baseball's worst franchises the Philadelphia Phillies attempted to induce public support by announcing a fan based contest to rename the team. Mrs. Elizabeth Crooks who was given a $100 war bond and a season ticket submitted the winning entry of "Blue Jays". Her entry, which would later end up on another team's uniform, was chosen over a number of monikers ranging from the Daisies to the Stinkers. The new name was used as the unofficial team title for 1944-45 but abandoned in 1946, though the team was still referred to in newspaper accounts as the "Blue Jays" occasionally through 1949.
Around the league...
Representatives from the top offices in both leagues met in New York City to discuss several new postwar policies and their effects on Major League Baseball. All parties agreed that all military deployments would count as playing time and any player who had served on active duty would be guaranteed thirty days of trial at pay and restrictions of their release or assignment.
Anticipating a positive change for race relations in the United States, the St. Louis Browns announced that they were officially dropping their "segregation policy" restricting African Americans to the bleachers while allowing them to purchase any ticket for any seat in the house.
The final survivor of baseball's original National Association (1871-75) John McKelvey died at the tender age of ninety-six. Retired for many years and living in Rochester, New York, McKelvey was the oldest member of Major League Baseball.
On October 4th, the first all St. Louis World Series (dubbed the Streetcar Series) opened with the Browns beating the Cardinals 2-1. A Fall Classic of many firsts including no-days off, it was also the first Series in which all games were played west of the Mississippi River.