Robert Weintraub, author of The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball’s Golden Age, took some time out of his schedule to talk to Redbird Rants about the 1946 World Series.
The Victory Season cover photo courtesy of Little Brown and Co. Books.
Redbird Rants: Looking back at the 1946 World Series, it was the first AL pennant for the Red Sox since 1918. The Cardinals squad was a dynasty with their 4th NL pennant in five years. Boston had a better record but the Cards were able to to win in seven games thanks to Enos Slaughter’s Mad Dash. How did it get to that point?
Robert Weintraub: Boston ran away with the American League pennant, cruising behind a loaded offense featuring Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, and Johnny Pesky. St. Louis battled Brooklyn all the way to the wire, in fact winding up tied, necessitating the first-ever playoff, which the Cards won in two straight. Boston was the heavy betting favorite, but the Redbirds matched them win for win until game seven, when Country shocked the world by scoring from first on a base hit, thus winning the first post-war title for the Cardinals.
Redbird Rants: In some ways, did that series set up a rivalry between the two clubs seeing as how they are now facing each other in a fourth Fall Classic?
Robert Weintraub: Well, four times in six and a half decades is hard to classify as a rivalry, exactly, but these are two of the sport’s most fabled franchises (along with the Yankees and Dodgers), and the fact that the Series in ’46 was so memorable, and proved such a turning point, certainly linked the two clubs in the public imagination. 1967 only cemented the bond, and this year looks to have the same effect (2004 we won’t talk about).
Redbird Rants: The 1946 World Series had Hall of Famers in Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, and Enos Slaughter for the Cards and Bobby Doerr, Ted Williams, and manager Joe Cronin for the Red Sox yet both franchise icons Musial and Williams didn’t have a great performance. How brave was it of Williams that he insisted on playing despite being injured?
Robert Weintraub: Well, he had quite the golf ball on his elbow, a really bad bruise, but his arm would have needed to be decapitated to keep Ted out of the action. Alas, between the injury, defensive shifting, and excellent St. Louis pitching, Williams was held to but one RBI, and a miserable seven games overall. Stan wasn’t much better, but victory in the Series erased any memory of that.
Redbird Rants: Is it hard to believe that a player like Williams would finish his career with only one World Series RBI?
Robert Weintraub: Sure. Ted was distraught after the 1946 Series, but one can only imagine how awful he would have felt had he known he would never return to the Fall Classic. Certainly, he’s in good company when it come to all-time greats who struggled in the postseason, but it depressed him and made him the object of derision in the press throughout his career.
Redbird Rants: Will we ever see a repeat of Game 4—the only game in which 3 players on the same team had 4 hits a piece (none of which were Musial)?
Robert Weintraub: And don’t forget–Wally Moses of Boston also had four hits, albeit in a losing effort. A repeat seems unlikely, but never say never.
Redbird Rants: Why is it that the little guys tend to come through for each team in place of the superstars and what do you see happening as the series goes back to Busch this weekend?
Robert Weintraub: That’s what makes the game so great–expectations are upset with regularity and unknowns become legends with a single swing. Certainly the stars are under far more pressure to come through in the postseason, which opens the door for the average joes to deliver from outside the intense spotlight.
As for the rest of the Series, the team that gets unexpected production from the lesser lights of the lineup will prevail. I dearly hope that is St. Louis.