Year In Review : 1951 National League
Off the field...
On May 12th, the United States military detonated the first hydrogen bomb on an uninhabited testing island in the Pacific. The development of an A-bomb by the Russians had convinced the U.S. to proceed with development of the H-bomb version, which was several times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki to prompt the end of World War II.
Remington Rand Corporation debuted the first commercial digital computer, called the "UNIVAC" (Universal Automatic Computer). The first "UNIVAC" was sold to the United States Census Bureau to assist in the storage, compiling and managing of the U.S. population data. It weighed some 16,000 pounds, used 5,000 vacuum tubes, and could perform about 1,000 calculations per second. "UNIVAC" was also used to predict the 1952 presidential election. No one involved in the project actually believed its prediction (based on 1% vote in) that Eisenhower would sweep the election...he did.
The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) introduced its first color television broadcast across five American cities for two and a half hours a day. However, due to the proprietary system used by CBS, more than 10½ million monochrome sets in the United States were blind to these telecasts. In response to the company forcing their own receivers on the consumer, the National Production Authority issued Order M-90 prohibiting the manufacturing of color sets for general public sale. Two years later, during a Congressional hearing on March 25, 1953, CBS announced that it had no plans to resume its own proprietary color system and the NPA lifted its ban on receiver manufacturing the following day.
In the American League...
During a March 26 exhibition game between the New York Yankees and the University of California, an up-and-coming nineteen year old rookie named Mickey Mantle hit a home run (estimated at six-hundred feet) out of U.S.C.'s Bovard Stadium. "The Mick" went on to finish the day with four hits and seven runs batted in (including two, two-run home runs and a bases-loaded triple) as the Major Leaguers prevailed 15-1. Mantle struggled at the plate over the next few months while striking out fifty-two times and was eventually sent back to the Minor League team in Kansas City.
St. Louis owner Bill Veek had everyone in stitches after substituting a midget to pinch-hit during the first inning in game two of a doubleheader. Eddie Gaedel, a three-foot, seven inch dwarf, emerged from a cake wearing the number 1/8 during pre-game festivities, then took the plate for center fielder Frank Saucer and walked on four balls. The Detroit Tigers had the last laugh however after posting a 6-2 victory over the comedic Browns.
In the National League...
Howie Pollet finally ended the New York Giants sixteen-game winning streak with a clutch three hitter for a 2-0 Pittsburgh Pirates victory. The sixteen games (lasting from August 12th to 28th) represented the longest winning streak in National League history since 1935.
On September 13th, the St. Louis Cardinals became the first team since 1883 to play a doubleheader against two different teams on the same day. First they went up against the New York Giants (for a rescheduled rain game) and lost 4-6, then they fell 0-2 to the Boston Braves in their regularly scheduled night game.
The New York Giants literally snatched the National League pennant from the clutches of their rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, after Bobby Thomson hit the infamous "shot heard 'round the world". It was a perfect ending to a career season in which Thomson hit .293 with thirty-two home runs and one-hundred one RBIs.
Around the league...
National League president Ford Frick was elected to a seven-year term as Major League Baseball's third commissioner. Frick, who had held the top office of the National League since 1934, also made a name for himself as a respected sports journalist and as Babe Ruth's "ghost" writer.
TOPPS debuted its first baseball cards (a five set series) that featured such favorites as Yogi Berra, Bob Feller, Ralph Kiner, Phil Rizzuto, Enos Slaughter, Duke Snider and Warren Spahn.
A resolution was put forth by the South Carolina House to reinstate "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, who had been banished from baseball because of his part in the 1919 "Black Sox Scandal". Jackson was one of eight players convicted of throwing the Series (five games to three) in favor of the underdog Cincinnati Reds. After a lengthy investigation in 1920, members of Chicago's tainted team were amazingly acquitted the following year despite their own confessions (which were recanted later). All of the players involved were banned from baseball because of their undeniable link to gamblers. Jackson himself had batted a Series-leading .375 but later acknowledged that he had let up in key situations.
On April 18th, as part of a pre-game publicity stunt, golf legend Sam Snead teed off from home plate at Wrigley Field and bounced a golf ball off of the center field scoreboard. He was the first player ever to reach the structure and the Chicago Cubs followed suite with an 8-3 win over the visiting Cincinnati Reds.