Friday, January 15, 2010

PTWSW #37: The 1940 Cincinnati Reds

Manager: Bill McKechnie
Record: 100-53
Ballpark: Crosley Field
Owner: Powel Crosley Jr.
GM: Warren Giles
Coaches: Hank Gowdy, Jimmie Wilson

Future Hall of Famers: Ernie Lombardi

All-Stars: Paul Derringer, Ernie Lombardi, Frank McCormick, Bucky Walters

Team Leaders, Batting

Ernie Lombardi, .319
OBP: Ernie Lombardi, .382
SLG: Ernie Lombardi, .489
OPS: Ernie Lombardi, .871
2B: Frank McCormick, 44 (NL leader)
3B: Lonny Frey, Ival Goodman, 6
HR: Frank McCormick, 19
RBI: Frank McCormick, 127
BB: Lonny Frey, 80
SB: Lonny Frey, 22 (NL leader)

Team Leaders, Pitching

Bucky Walters, 22 (NL leader)
SO: Paul Derringer, Bucky Walters, 115
ERA: Bucky Walters, 2.48 (NL leader)
IP: Bucky Walters, 305 (NL leader)
CG: Bucky Walters, 29 (NL leader)
SHO: Paul Derringer, Junior Thompson, Bucky Walters, 3
K/BB: Paul Derringer, 2.40
SV: Joe Beggs, 7 (NL leader)


Oldest Player:
Jimmie Wilson (b. July 23, 1900)

Youngest Player: Junior Thompson (b. June 7, 1917)

First to Leave Us: Willard Hershberger (d. August 3, 1940). Hershberger's suicide made him the third member of a World Series champ to die before the season ended, following Ray Chapman and Urban Shocker.

Last Survivor: Eddie Joost (d. April 12, 2011). Billy Werber and Lonny Frey, two of his fellow infielders, were also still alive at the beginning of 2009.

First in Majors: Jimmie Wilson (debut April 17, 1923)

Last in Majors: Eddie Joost (final game September 25, 1955)

First to Play For the Franchise: Ernie Lombardi (April 12, 1932)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Johnny Vander Meer (September 22, 1949)

Pre-union Team: The 1937 Boston Bees had four: Wally Berger, Vince DiMaggio, Milt Shoffner and Jim Turner.

Reunion Team: The 1946 New York Giants had four too: Morrie Arnovich, Vince DiMaggio, Ernie Lombardi and Junior Thompson.


Frank McCormick, NL MVP
Harry Craft, cycle on June 8

Season Summary

The Reds were built on an outstanding defense that committed only 117 errors and led the NL in DER by a sturdy margin. These top-notch glovemen helped their pitching staff put up a 125 ERA+, by far the league's best, and allow the fewest runs per game. Their offense was just above average in each of the slash stats, but they managed to finish with the NL's third-most runs per game. They led the league in sacrifices and were second in stolen bases, though their 89 homers (about league average) proved they weren't a pure "smallball" team. The first half of the season was a back-and-forth battle between the Reds and Dodgers; the second half saw the Reds kick into second gear and speed away with the pennant. They cemented their league championship with a 23-8 record in September.

Though the Reds were known as a team that quietly went about its business, there were some situations that put them in the spotlight that year. Flood waters from the Ohio River reached Crosley Field in April, which led to the postponement of two games with the Cardinals. It was the first time in Major League history a game had been flooded out. On a more tragic note, backup catcher Willard Hershberger committed suicide in August, suffering from severe depression. The team was in a slump at the time, and Hershberger blamed himself for one of the losses, claiming he'd called the wrong pitches. The Reds wore black armbands the rest of the season in honor of their late teammate. After Hershberger's suicide the only backup catcher the Reds had was Bill Baker, who wasn't much of a hitter. The club decided to activate 40-year-old coach Jimmie Wilson, who'd been a fine catcher in his playing days.

By the time the World Series arrived the Reds were without two of their regulars: catcher Ernie Lombardi and second baseman Lonny Frey. Wilson was pressed into starting duty for the engagement with the Detroit Tigers, while Frey was replaced by Eddie Joost, primarily a shortstop. Both proved capable substitutes; Wilson batted .353 with the Series' only stolen base while nailing both runners who attempted to steal against him, and Joost played error-free ball at second. The first six World Series games went back and forth, with Detroit winning the odd-numbered matches and Cincinnati winning the evens. None of the games was closer than two runs, but the Series as a whole certainly provided more excitement than the Yankee dominance of recent years. Game 7 was the only edge-of-your-seat thriller. Paul Derringer and Bobo Newsom staged a classic pitcher's duel, with Derringer and the Reds walking away with a 2-1 victory. Billy Myers' sacrifice fly in the seventh gave the Reds the lead, and Derringer made it stand up by allowing only one hit the rest of the way.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
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