Year In Review : 1949 American League
Off the field...
On April 4th, foreign ministers from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United States formally signed the North Atlantic Treaty to create a worldwide coalition known as NATO. The alliance became necessary between nations of Western Europe and the United States to help deter the Soviet Union from further aggressive posturing. Article 5 of the treaty stated that an attack against one member of the coalition would be considered an attack against them all.
The American monopoly on the development of nuclear weapons ended on September 23rd after President Truman announced that the Soviet Union had successfully detonated their first atomic bomb. The "Us" vs. "Them" mentally that followed touched off a nuclear arms race that would last into the 1990's.
In the American League...
During pre-game ceremonies at the New York Yankees season opener, a monument to Babe Ruth was unveiled in center field along with two plaques honoring Lou Gehrig and Miller Huggins. All three would become centerpieces in the infamous Monument Park that now adorns the outfield area at Yankee Stadium.
On May 1st, Elmer Valo of the Philadelphia Athletics became the first American League player to post two bases-loaded triples in a single game during a 15-9 win over the Washington Senators. Later in the season, Valo hit a third, tying the Major League record previously set by Shano Collins in 1918.
A pharmacist from Cleveland named Charley Lupica climbed a twenty-foot platform atop a flagpole on May 31st and announced that he would remain perched there until the Indians won another pennant. Unfortunately, the 7th-place Tribe was only able to manage 4th place by the time Lupica descended on September 25, but owner Bill Veeck still rewarded the loyal druggist with a brand new car.
In the National League...
A riot literally broke out in the Philadelphia Phillies stands on August 21st after fans threw bottles in protest of umpire George Barr's call over a trapped fly ball. The unruly crowd's behavior resulted in the first forfeiture in the Major League in seven years. Ironically it was the visiting New York Giants who themselves, had been forced into the same situation in 1942, after their field was rushed by hundreds of youngsters.
On September 15th, Pittsburgh pitcher Ernie Bonham died following an emergency appendectomy and stomach surgery. His untimely death shocked the Pirates organization as Bonham had just pitched eighteen days before with a clutch, 8-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Mrs. Bonham later became the first spouse to receive benefits under the major league players' pension plan, which provided the widow with a check for $90 a month over the next ten years.
Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson continued to break barriers after setting a Major League record for stealing home (thirteen total over a three-year period) after thieving his 5th of the season during a 5-0 win over the Chicago Cubs. Robinson topped Ben Chapman who took eleven seasons to steal fifteen.
Around the league...
"Joltin" Joe DiMaggio signed with the New York Yankees for a reported sum of $100,000. It was the first six-figure contract in the history of Major League Baseball.
The 1949 All-Star Game at Ebbets Field marked the first appearance of black players including Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe and Larry Doby. In the end, it was the American League who capitalized on five National League errors for an 11-7 triumph.
The 1940s ended as the only decade in Major League Baseball history not to debut a new ballpark. The last new diamond had been the Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, which opened in 1932, and the following did not occur until 1953 when Milwaukee's County Stadium was unveiled.
In addition, the 1940s also ended with eight African-Americans on major league rosters: three each on the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cleveland Indians, and two with the New York Giants. Although it will be another decade before all teams would be fully integrated, most went on to sign players from the Negro Leagues over the next two years.