This World Series could have been an even bigger one for the city of Boston. The AL's Red Sox finished the regular season in a tie for the American League top only to lose to the Indians in a one game playoff. Ted Williams had just played in his first World Series in 1946 and being on the near Pennant winning 1948 team was the closest the Splendid Splinter would get to another WS appearance.
The rise to competition for the Boston Braves started with the adding of Billy Southworth as manager before the 1945 season. Southworth won two World Series Championships with the St Louis Cardinals in 1942 and 1944. Coming into 1948, the Braves were led by 1947 MVP 3B Bob Elliott and OF Tommy Holmes, who finished 2nd in the 1945 MVP race. And of course, the longtime baseball expression of "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain" told you everything you needed to know about the pitching staff of the Boston Braves- though they had a little more talent than the expression would suggest. They made a trade with the Brooklyn Dodgers for 2B Eddie Stanky after Brooklyn decided to move forward with 1947 Rookie of the Year Jackie Robinson as their starting 2B. Also helping the cause for the Braves was rookie SS Alvin Dark, whose .322 average and 175 hits helped him gain the honors as the second ever Rookie of the Year (Robinson was the first).
The later part of the 1940s and the majority of the 1950s belonged to New York baseball. From the years of 1947-1958, the New York Yankees would win 7 World Series and appear in two others. The Brooklyn Dodgers would have their best run during that time, winning the WS in 1955 and winning the NL Pennant in 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953 and 1956. The New York Giants would win the World Series in 1954, against the Indians, while also winning the NL Pennant in 1951. Overall, out of the 24 possible Pennants from either the NL or AL during that time frame, the Yankees, Dodgers or Giants won a whopping 17 of them! And 9 of the 12 World Series Championships.
Obviously, the significance of this particular World Series would not be known until the latter part of the 1950s as it marked the only time a New York team was not representing either league. With no disrespect meant towards the Indians, it would have made it cooler if the Red Sox played the Braves, just like when Southworth's Cardinals played the St Louis Browns in 1944.
The Indians were certainly a worthy opponent as well as a solid representative of the American League. Feller and Bob Lemon led the pitching staff and their lineup featured future Hall of Famers Larry Doby, and SS/ manager Lou Boudreau as well as power hitting 1B Eddie Robinson (a guest on the Passed Ball Show). It was Boudreau's 2 HRs and a solid performance by 20 game winner Gene Bearden that led the Indians past the Joe McCarthy led Red Sox team in the one game playoff. Satchel Paige being part of the mix placed an impressive eight Hall of Famers in this matchup.
The first four games demonstrated the talent of the great pitchers showcased in this series. Sain beat Feller 1-0 in game one, while Lemon scattered 8 hits in a complete game win in game two. Bearden went the distance on a 5 hit shutout in game three while Steve Gromek out-dueled Sain in a 2-1 victory to give the Indians a 3 games to 1 lead. What makes the Indians success even more amazing, especially thinking about today's baseball, is how the Indians used four different starting pitchers, each of whom throwing a complete game- in succession.
Game 5 was the antithesis of games 1-4. Nels Potter got the start for Boston and he was out in the 4th inning with the Indians leading the game 5-4. Feller was pitching for the Indians and he was prone to the longball- Elliott took him deep with a 3-run shot in the first inning and catcher Bill Salkeld (grandfather of former MLB pitcher Roger Salkeld- a guest on the Passed Ball Show) hit a solo homer in the 3rd. Elliott's second HR of the game, a solo shot of Feller, tied the score at 5 in the 6th. The Braves then responded with a 6 run outburst in the 7th inning off Feller and three relievers- including Paige- to take a commanding 11-5 lead. To put the scoring barrage in perspective, Boston had scored just 4 runs... IN THE FIRST FOUR GAMES OF THE SERIES! Warren Spahn was the star of the day as he came on in relief in the 4th and went the rest of the way shutting out the Tribe. In 5 2/3 innings, Spahn gave up just 1 hit and 1 walk- while striking out 7 for the Braves.
Perhaps trying to give Sain the necessary rest to pitch a potential game 7, Southworth would go to Bill Voiselle- his 5th different starting pitcher in 6 World Series games- to match up against Lemon. A Boudreau double would put Cleveland on top 1-0, with the Braves tying it up in the bottom of the 4th. Joe Gordon led off the 6th with a HR off Voiselle to put the Tribe on top again. Before the inning was over, the Indians had a 3-1 lead. A Robinson single made it 4-1, which came off of Spahn who relieved Voiselle to start the 8th.
Lemon got into a little trouble to start the 8th for Cleveland. A one out double put runners at 2nd and 3rd and over came Boudreau to take out Lemon and replace him with Bearden. A sac fly and a double put tying run at second with two outs. Bearden retired Mike McCormick on a comebacker to end the inning. Stanky led off the 9th with a walk, but Bearden got Sibby Sisti to pop a bunt into a doubleplay and Holmes out on a flyball to end the game. The Indians, for the first time since 1920, were World Series Champions.
Of course, the next four seasons would be the last National League baseball played in the city of Boston. However, this should be a team that should always be remembered. Johnny Antonelli was the youngest to play for the Braves at age 18. Frank McCormick, a backup 1B, was the oldest player at age 37. Sadly, first hand memories of this team would start to die off during the decade of the 1960s. First was Bickford, who died of stomach cancer at the age of 39 in 1960. Next was utility player/ pitcher Al Lyons who passed away in 1965, followed by Elliott in 1966. Then, it was Salkeld who passed away in 1967. Clyde Shoun, a left handed reliever, had the distinction of being one of the few MLB players to pass away on their birthday. Unfortunately, he was just 56 when he died on March 20, 1968. Finally, in July of 1969, LHP Glenn Elliott died of a brain tumor and lung cancer, followed by the manager Southworth in November.
The trade that brought the Braves Stanky from the previous NL Champion Dodgers included 1B Ray Sanders. Sanders was an everyday player for Southworth's Cardinals, playing in the World Series from 1942-1944. Stanky was dealt from Brooklyn to Boston with a player to be named later for three players, one of whom was Sanders on March 8th. On April 18th, the Dodgers sent the PTBNL to the Braves and it was... Sanders. For the record, both Antonelli and back up OF Clint Conatser are still alive from the 1948 Braves ballclub.
As we all know, the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee for the 1953 season, where they remained through 1965. Of course, they were in two World Series playing in Milwaukee, winning in 1957 and losing the following season in 1958. Since they moved to Atlanta, they won the NL West division in 1969, then again from 1991-1993, appearing in the World Series in 1991 and 1992. They, of course, won the World Series in 1995, then won the NL East every season through 2005. Unfortunately, they only appeared in two more World Series, losing both in 1996 and 1999 to the New York Yankees. While in Boston, they only appeared in two WS, the first being the miracle team of 1914, which shocked the world by defeating the heavily favorited Philadelphia Athletics. And, as we all know, the Athletics had a similar moving path relocated first to Kansas City in 1955, then to Oakland in 1968.