This entry for MLB Monday takes on the first World War II season, when a lot of star players were still in the lineups around the country. For example, Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams won the first of his two Triple Crowns this season—despite not winning the MVP vote. Regardless, October was dominated by a rookie pitcher (see below), and that was a fresh breath of air as America kept ramping up to take over the globe for the rest of the twentieth century.
1942 World Series MVP: Johnny Beazley, SP, St. Louis (NL)
The last time the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals met in the World Series, it was 1928—and times were different, as the Bronx Bombers swept the Cards. When the Yankees won the first game of this Fall Classic on the road by a 7-4 score, it looked like more of the same. But St. Louis roared back to win four straight and claim the MLB title. Three of the wins came by a combined five runs, so it was closer than it appeared to be, on paper at least.
The two most viable MVP candidates for the Cards here are third baseman Whitey Kurowski (.953 OPS, 1 home run, 5 RBI) and starting pitcher Johnny Beazley (2-0, 2.50 ERA, 1.111 WHIP). Kurowski led his team in RBI, but he had only 4 hits total in the Series. That’s not impressive enough. Meanwhile, Beazley won Games 2 and 5, which were both pressure packed. If he loses Game 2, the Cards go down 0-2 at home, and it’s over, for example. So, the rookie (!) is our pick here.
1942 AL MOTY: Joe Cronin, Boston
The Yankees won the pennant over the Boston Red Sox by 9 games, but neither New York Manager Joe McCarthy (minus-4 PPP) nor Boston Manager Joe Cronin (even-0 PPP) distinguished themselves in this pennant race. In fact, the best effort by a manager with a winning team was Cronin’s merely average effort with the Red Sox. Can we reward that? Or should we go with Cleveland Indians Manager Lou Boudreau, who led the league with a plus-6 PPP mark?
Yet Cleveland finished 75-79, a whopping 28 games behind the Yankees, so we find it hard to reward that kind of effort in a vacuum. Cronin will win this, then, almost by default. He sort of kept his team in it, by not screwing up. Oh well; sometimes, this kind of thing happens, in all kinds of award analyses. Still, this is Cronin’s third MOTY nod from us (1933, 1939). That’s significant, in itself.
1942 NL MOTY: Leo Durocher, Brooklyn
The Cards won the pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers by 2 games, despite St. Louis Manager Billy Southworth managing just a minus-1 PPP effort. Meanwhile, Dodgers Manager Leo Durocher kept it closer than it ever should have been with a plus-2 PPP mark. That means Durocher takes our hardware this time out: This is his first win, and something tells us that he will be back in this space a few times over the next decade or so.