From 1942-1945, the United States of America were in the midst of World War II. As more time went on, more MLB players left to join the cause. Three of the top AL teams, the Yankees, Red Sox and Indians, were all missing their best player, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Bob Feller. In fact, the biggest competition for the Browns were the Detroit Tigers, who would win the AL Pennant and World Series a year later (against the Chicago Cubs who have not been to a World Series since). And it was the Tigers who had the more impressive story. Pitchers Dizzy Trout and Hal Newhouser finished with 27-14 and 29-9 records, respectively. That was a combined 56-23. The rest of the staff went a combined 32-43, leaving the team with an 88-66 record, 1 game behind the first place Browns.
So what is there to tell that is interesting about the 1944 St Louis Browns. I already mentioned that this was their only postseason appearance. In fact, the franchise would not return to the World Series until the Orioles won in 1966, 22 years later. And they got to play their big brother Cardinals in the only all St Louis World Series in MLB history. But on to the team, all for the exception of Martin are deceased, and what allowed them to win the AL Pennant. Luke Sewell, who finished 22 games over .500 in his 6 seasons as a manager, pushed the right buttons to lead them to their 89 wins, the most in St Louis Browns history. A 22 year old SS named Vern Stephens (who I have profiled in one of my prior posts) had his breakout season, hitting .293, 20, 109 with 32 2Bs and 91 RS. 3B Mark Christman drove in 83 runs, with 1B George McQuinn hitting 11 HRs to be second on the team. Only 2B Don Gutteridge stole any more than 5 bases (20) and they had only 1 regular player, Mike Kreevich, who hit over .300 (.301).
Pitchers Nels Potter (19-7, 2.83) and Jack Kramer (17-13, 2.49) had their best career seasons. Kramer, who was later traded to the Red Sox along with Stephens, would win 18 games in 1948, but finished with an ERA well over 4.00. Just like with the hitters, the pitching was less than dominant. They did not have a pitcher with more Ks than IP, something that was more common at that time.
What I find the most fascinating about this team is the fact that there were no "names" on this team. Outside of Stephens, few knew who any of these other players on the team were. In fact, when it comes to the best players in the history of the St Louis Browns, only Stephens comes off this 1944 team that won the AL Pennant. Guys like Ned Garver, Roy Sievers, Don Larsen, Vic Wertz, Satchel Paige, George Sisler, Baby Doll Jacobson and Urban Shocker were among the best to ever wear the Browns uniform. But it was the blue collar team of 1944 that won St Louis' only AL Pennant.