Friday, May 21, 2010

PTWSW #51: The 1954 New York Giants

Manager: Leo Durocher
Record: 97-57
Ballpark: Polo Grounds
Owner: Horace Stoneham
VP: Charles Feeney
Coaches: Freddie Fitzsimmons, Herman Franks, Larry Jansen, Frank Shellenback

Future Hall of Famers: Monte Irvin, Willie Mays, Hoyt Wilhelm

All-Stars: Johnny Antonelli, Alvin Dark, Marv Grissom, Willie Mays, Don Mueller

Team Leaders, Batting

Willie Mays, .345 (NL leader)
OBP: Willie Mays, .411
SLG: Willie Mays, .667 (NL leader)
OPS: Willie Mays, 1.078 (NL leader)
2B: Don Mueller, 35
3B: Willie Mays, 13 (NL leader)
HR: Willie Mays, 41
RBI: Willie Mays, 110
BB: Hank Thompson, 90
SB: Willie Mays, 8

Team Leaders, Pitching

Johnny Antonelli, 21
SO: Johnny Antonelli, 152
ERA: Johnny Antonelli, 2.30 (NL leader)
IP: Johnny Antonelli, 258.2
CG: Johnny Antonelli, 18
SHO: Johnny Antonelli, 6 (NL leader)
K/BB: Sal Maglie, 1.67
SV: Marv Grissom, 19


Oldest Player:
Sal Maglie (b. April 26, 1917)

Youngest Player: Joey Amalfitano (b. January 23, 1934)

First to Leave Us: Hank Thompson (d. September 30, 1969)

Last Survivor: Four are still living as of January 24, 2021: Joey Amalfitano, Billy Gardner, Willie Mays, and Al Worthington.

First in Majors: Hoot Evers (debut September 16, 1941)

Last in Majors: Willie Mays (final game September 9, 1973). Mays actually played his final game with the Mets in the 1973 World Series.

First to Play For the Franchise: Whitey Lockman (July 5, 1945)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Willie Mays (May 9, 1972)

Pre-union Team: The 1953 Milwaukee Braves had three: Johnny Antonelli, Don Liddle and Ebba St. Claire. All were acquired in the same pre-season trade.

Reunion Team: The 1956 St. Louis Cardinals had four: Alvin Dark, Ray Katt, Don Liddle and Whitey Lockman. All were shipped out in the same mid-season trade.


Willie Mays, NL MVP
Don Mueller, cycle on July 11

Season Summary

Willie Mays' return from the Army was exactly the boost the Giants needed to jump from fifth place to first. Mays had an MVP season, leading the league with a 175 OPS+ and hitting .345 to win the batting title. He also hit 31 home runs before the All-Star Break, spurring talk of a run at Babe Ruth's single-season record. The Say Hey Kid would finish with only 41, but what he lost in power during the second half he made up for with an improved on-base percentage.

Stellar team defense was the biggest key to the Giants' success. They led the league in DER as well as TotalZone rating. Their pitching staff had an incredible 132 ERA+, but their strikeout rate was only the NL's second-best and their walk rate second-worst, suggesting that their glovework was responsible for much of their run prevention. On offense the only slash stat in which they were above average was slugging percentage. They tied for the league lead in home runs, and their team OPS+ was a third-best 95.

The pennant race essentially came down to the Giants and their city rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Giants made their way into first place for good on June 12, but Brooklyn stayed on their tails until the final month. The Giants finally clinched with a 7-1 victory over the Dodgers on September 20. For the fourth year in a row the National League representative in the Fall Classic would hail from the Big Apple.

The 1954 American League Champions were the Cleveland Indians, another team with a power-based offense and outstanding pitching and defense. The Indians had set an American League record with 111 wins that season, making them the heavy favorite. Game 1 became legendary for "The Catch," when Mays hauled in a deep drive off the bat of Vic Wertz with his back to the plate to preserve a 2-2 tie. The decisive moment, however, was when pinch-hitter Dusty Rhodes, still fuming from being left out of the starting lineup, delivered a three-run homer off Bob Lemon in the 10th inning to give the Giants a 1-0 Series lead. Rhodes was again a hero in New York's Game 2 victory, tying the game with a pinch-hit single and later delivering an insurance run with a solo homer. The Series shifted to Cleveland for Game 3, but the Indians' luck was no better at home. Rhodes delivered yet another key pinch-hit, driving in two runs and giving the Giants a 3-0 lead in a game they'd win 6-2. The demoralized Indians went down 7-4 in the final game, and the Giants had pulled off one of the biggest upsets in baseball history.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
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