|Few decades before or after the 1950s has been so loaded with fans' heroes. There may have been many reasons that such pleasant memories stand out, but the nation becoming wired for television certainly brought a new way of experiencing baseball. No longer, could radio announcers' vivid imaginations be counted on to encourage local baseball fans to believe that their hometown teams with their poor losing records were playing good baseball. "After all, if you don't win, you're not the best." |
Before TV, going to a game in the old Polo Grounds in New York, or a game in Crosley Field in Cincinnati, or Shibe Park in Philadelphia, or the needed-a-paint-job Busch Stadium in St. Louis or other Ballparks was the only way of experiencing firsthand the stars of the '50s.
In the 1950s, Americans were on the move and so were many of baseball's franchises. No team had moved to another city, since the early 1900s, when the AL's old Milwaukee Brewers moved, and became the St. Louis Browns in 1901, and the old Baltimore Orioles transferred to New York and were called the Highlanders, and later the Yankees.
For over 50 years, baseball was caught in a status-quo condition. Then 5 of the 16 major league teams relocated, with the Boston Braves being the first to pull up stakes in 1953 and go to Milwaukee. The following year, fans were saddened to see the St. Louis Browns become the Baltimore Orioles.
In 1955, Connie Mack's old team, the Philadelphia Athletics, began the march westward - first moving to Kansas City and then to Oakland in 1968.
But the most stunning, heart-breaking news was the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn and the Giants leaving New York at the start of 1958. The jet air plane brought about the demise of two-thirds of New York's baseball and made California the talk of-the-town in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
In 1951 all three of the New York teams ended the regular season in first place - not before or after has this occurred. The Yankees won the AL title and the Dodgers and Giants ended tied for first. Bobby Thompson's home run in a special playoff game gave the Giants the NL pennant.
Additionally, the 1950s were the years when baseball's sluggers knew the strike zone. Cincinnati's first baseman Ted Kluszewski, 6'2", 225 lbs., hit 171 home runs in a four year period from 1953 through 1956 and struck out only 140 times total in those four years.
Regarding this fact, some modern day players strike out as many times in one season as "Big Klu" did in four years (140) while he was belting his 171 homers. Yogi Berra, George Kell, Ted Williams and Stan Musial all stand out because of their low strike out to at bats ratio.
The early 1950s brought the best to fans in Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. Both superstars were hailed as baseball's best all-around players ever and played winning ball for many years.
Stan Musial and Ted Williams, both stars of the 1940s were still going strong well into the late '50s. Musial of the Cardinals and Williams of the Red Sox retired with the highest lifetime batting averages of any player from 1940 to the present time (2000).
The decade included Willie Mays' over the shoulder catch for the New York Giants that broke the hearts of the Cleveland Indians in the 1954 World Series and Don Larsen's only perfect (no-hitter) in a World Series. Larsen, of the Yankees, spun his masterpiece against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the fall of '56.
Day baseball, doubleheaders and peanuts-popcorn were the norm on lazy Sunday afternoons and every team arguably had the best players in the major leagues, but none could beat the three teams from New York. 14 of the 20 pennants won during the 1950s and 8 of the 10 World Series Crowns, and 11 of the 20 Most Valuable Player Awards were won by the three from New York.
None-the-less, the Phillies' fans had Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn and Del Ennis, the Cubs boasted of Bob Rush, Hank Sauer and Hall of Fame shortstop Ernie Banks, who won two straight MVP Awards, 1958-1959, in which he hit a total of 92 home runs.
To go to a game in Milwaukee during the late '50s was pure delight for any youngster, they could cheer on pitchers Lew Burdette & Warren Spahn and watch sluggers Eddie Mathews and Joe Adcock. Superstar Hank Aaron joined the Braves in the mid-'50s and helped them win the World Series in 1957 and the NL pennant in '58.
The Tigers had George Kell and later Al Kaline to provide the thrills..... On and On .... the stars stayed because there was no free agency and teams did not trade their franchise players, so most fans thought their big name, hometown stars were going to play for their favorite team forever. Needless to say - they did not. The players are long gone but not our memories of baseball played during the 1950s. (Rotating Green Boxes) - Manager's Notes