For this week on MLB Monday, we look at the special 1941 season—which should stick in the minds of true baseball fans for three big reasons. First, it was the last full season before World War II interrupted the sport; second, there was a record hitting streak you may remember; and third, some guy hit .400, and it’s never been done again.
Read on to find out who wins our awards for 1941 …
1941 American League MVP: Joe DiMaggio (original), Ted Williams (revised)
The New York Yankees won the pennant by 17 games over the Boston Red Sox, and Boston left fielder Ted Williams (10.4) topped N.Y. center fielder Joe DiMaggio (9.4) in WAR. We all know Williams hit. 406, and we all know DiMaggio had the 56-game hitting streak.
Here are the league-leading stats from both players.
- Williams: 135 runs, 37 home runs, 147 walks, .406 average, .553 on-base percentage, .735 slugging percentage, 1.287 OPS, and 25 intentional walks
- DiMaggio: 125 RBI, 348 total bases
On paper, Williams had the better season with better value. But his team didn’t really contend. Was that his fault? The Splendid Splinter actually hit .471 against the Yankees in 22 games, so … no, Williams was not the reason the Red Sox didn’t finish closer to the Yankees.
The two historic achievements basically cancel each other out in a direct comparison, though. Williams did have a much more dominant season, while DiMaggio merely had a great one. In the end, we are going to give this award to Williams, because he was consistently better throughout the whole season.
We do acknowledge we don’t have a great argument against DiMaggio, however.
1941 National League MVP: Dolph Camilli (original), Pete Reiser (revised)
The Brooklyn Dodgers won the pennant by 2.5 games over the St. Louis Cardinals, and the top position player by WAR was Dodgers center fielder Pete Reiser—even though his teammate, first baseman Dolph Camilli, won the MVP vote at the time.
The two Brooklyn stars finished 1-2 in NL WAR, with Reiser (8.0) topping Camilli (6.8) by a fair amount. Here are the league-leading numbers for the two Dodgers, for the record.
- Reiser: 117 runs, 39 doubles, 17 triples, .343 average, .558 SLG, .964 OPS, 299 TB
- Camilli: 34 HRs, 120 RBI
Therefore, there is not a lot of struggle here in reassigning this MVP Award to Reiser.
1941 AL Cy Young: Thornton Lee
Neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox had top pitchers in 1941. In fact, the two best pitchers in the AL—and MLB, actually—were Chicago White Sox ace Thornton Lee (8.6 WAR) and Cleveland whiz Bob Feller (8.2 WAR).
The dilemma is that the White Sox finished 77-77, and Cleveland was two games behind Chicago in the standings. Which player had more value in that circumstance?
- Lee: 2.37 ERA, 30 complete games, 1.165 WHIP with 22 wins
- Feller: 25 wins, 6 shutouts, 260 strikeouts with 3.15 ERA and 1.394 WHIP
Rapid Robert’s WHIP is really high, since he also led the AL in walks (194). That is somewhat disqualifying. We will go with Lee for this award.
1941 NL Cy Young: Whit Wyatt
The Dodgers sweep the NL awards, as Brooklyn starter Whit Wyatt topped the NL in pitching WAR (6.7), as well as wins (22), shutouts (7), and WHIP (1.058)—to go along with a 2.34 ERA in 288 1/3 innings pitched.
Cincinnati’s Bucky Walters (6.6 WAR) was good, too, but his team finished 12 games behind Brooklyn, and Wyatt’s season was better as Walters only led the league in complete games (27) and innings pitched (302). His ERA was a half run higher than Wyatt’s number, too.