Year In Review : 1945 National League
Off the field...
After several days of street-to-street combat in Berlin and the suicide of Nazi leader Adolph Hitler, Germany finally agreed to an unconditional surrender marking the end of the European campaign of World War II. The conflict lasted five years, eight months, and six days, and cost millions of lives, including six million Jews and twenty million soldiers and civilians killed in the U.S.S.R. alone.
In an effort to hasten the Pacific campaign, the United States Air Force dropped the world's first Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, destroying the entire city and killing over seventy-thousand people. Three days later a second bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki with similar results. Realizing that further resistance was futile, the Japanese government finally agreed to terms of surrender aboard the Battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Harbor marking the absolute end of WWII.
In the American League...
Pete Gray of the St. Louis Browns became the first "physically challenged" Major League ballplayer. Despite the loss of his right arm in a childhood accident, Gray had learned to field, throw and bat solely with his left. He quickly built a reputation for hitting clutch, line drives around the field and also exhibited fearless speed and daring on the base paths. As a testament to overcoming adversity, his fielding technique was a study in both agility and dexterity. After catching a fly ball, the outfielder would tuck his thinly padded glove under his stump; roll the ball across his chest, and throw it to the cut-off man in one fluid motion.
Red Sox rookie Boo Ferriss set an American League record after pitching twenty-two consecutive shut out innings for the most scoreless innings at the start of a Major League career. His streak finally ended on May 13th after he allowed one earned run against the Detroit Tigers en route to a 6-2 victory.
In the National League...
On April 17th, New York Giants player-manager Mel Ott set several records during his team's 11-6 win over the Boston Braves. In nine-innings, Ott collected a double, two walks and three runs to achieve several career marks (for a single player with one team) including one-thousand twenty-six extra-base hits, two-thousand seventy-six total bases, one-thousand seven-hundred seventy-eight RBIs, one-thousand seven-hundred eighty-seven runs and one-thousand six-hundred thirty-one walks.
The Boston Braves swept a July 6th double header against the Pittsburgh Pirates 13-5 and 14-8 as Tommy Holmes hit in his thirty-fourth consecutive game to pass the previous streak of thirty-three set by Rogers Hornsby in 1922.
"Joe D's" older and less-famous brother Vince DiMaggio tied a Major League record after hitting his fourth grand slam of the season during an 8-3 Philadelphia Phillies victory over the Boston Braves on September 1st. Unfortunately, DiMaggio would not get an opportunity to break the record as an injury would keep him out for the rest of the season.
Around the league...
Major League owners decided to cancel the 1945 All-Star Game due to wartime travel restrictions. Eight simultaneous games were scheduled in place of the Midsummer Classic pitting the National and American Leagues against one another in interleague play.
Billy Southworth Jr., the first player in organized baseball to enlist for military service in WWII, died on February 15th after his B29 crashed off the coast of Flushing, New York. The twenty-seven year-old combat veteran had flown twenty-five successful missions in Europe and was the son of St. Louis Cardinals manager Billy Southworth.
Despite the depletion of quality rosters around the league due to wartime commitments, attendance in ballparks across the majors rose to a staggering 10.28 million, breaking the 1940 record. The Detroit Tigers topped the list with 1.28 million and the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, and Chicago Cubs came in a close second with one million fans each.
On October 23rd, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey announced the signing of Jackie Robinson as the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues. Over the course of a distinguished ten year career, Robinson went go on to lead the Dodgers to six National League titles and one World Series championship. A man of many "firsts", Robinson also became the first black player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.