With Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio back together and the rest of the team's talented nucleus back together, 1946 was a banner season for the Red Sox. Leading his team to 104 wins and the American League pennant, Williams earned MVP honors and even hit two home runs in the first All-Star game played at Fenway Park. However Williams suffered a poorly-timed elbow injury in an exhibition game shortly before the start of the 1946 World Series and the club fell to the underdog St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic.
Record: 104-50, 1st in American League
Manager: Joseph E. Cronin
Postseason: Played in World Series
In the first season after the end of World War II, no other team benefited more than the Red Sox did from the return of players from military service. All the Red Sox stars of the pre-war years were back in 1946, including Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio. With their return, the Red Sox set a blistering pace from the start of the season, winning 21 of their first 24 games.
In a sign of the overwhelming talent on the roster, there were bold-faced efforts by other leagues to woo Red Sox players away. For instance, while the team was in Havana for a couple of exhibition games, Mexican League officials made extravagant offers to both Williams and Pesky but they both declined. It was a testament to owner Tom Yawkey and GM Eddie Collins that such incidences occurred as the 1946 club was truly a homegrown collection. In the early Yawkey years, most of the roster had been acquired from other teams but the vast majority of Boston's 1946 club was composed of players who were either products of the farm system or acquired from a minor-league club.
The 1946 Red Sox went on to win over 100 games and capture the American League pennant for the first time since 1918. Crowds flocked to Fenway Park all year long and attendance passed 1,000,000 (and almost 1.5 million) for the first time in the ballpark's history. The 1946 team was so spectacular that eight Red Sox players were named to the AL All-Star team: Doerr, Pesky and Rudy York in the infield, Williams and DiMaggio patrolling the outfield, Hal Wagner behind the plate, while Boo Ferriss and Mickey Harris were on the pitching staff. In the game on July 9, which was played at Fenway Park after being cancelled in 1945, Williams hit two homers and drove in five runs to lead the AL to a 12-0 victory over the NL.
Ferriss suffered no sophomore slump, going 25-6 with a 3.25 ERA and Tex Hughson, in his first season back after the war, posted a 2.75 ERA and 20-11 record. Williams hit .342 with 38 home runs and 123 RBIs, while Pesky again collected more than 200 hits and batted .335. York drove in 119, while Doerr had 116 RBIs of his own. Williams got on base almost exactly half the times he came up to bat with a .497 OBP, and scored a league-leading 142 runs. On June 9, Williams hit the longest home run ever hit at Fenway Park, a 502-foot shot into the bleachers off Detroit's Fred Hutchinson. In Boston's pennant-clinching win on September 13, the Splendid Splinter foiled the new "Williams shift" defensive alignment when he hit an inside-the-park home run down the left-field line. After the season, Williams was named the American League's MVP.
On October 1, as Boston waited for the NL playoff to decide the NL pennant, the Red Sox brought in a number of top AL players, including Joe DiMaggio, and staged a pair of exhibition games to stay sharp. In the first game, an errant pitch hit Williams on the right elbow and injured him badly. He persevered and played through the injury in the World Series, but he hit just .200 and even earned headlines for bunting to reach base. Though heavily-favored, the 104-win Red Sox fell to the Cardinals in a seven-game heartbreaker.
Coming off a 104-win regular season, the Red Sox approached the 1946 World Series with no shortage of confidence. Led by AL Most Valuable Player Ted Williams, the Red Sox had won 61 of the 77 games they played at Fenway Park during the year, leading odds-makers to consider the team a heavy favorite in the Fall Classic.
The National League needed a best-of-three tie-breaker to decide its champion, so in the interim, the Red Sox scheduled a pair of tune-up exhibition games at Fenway Park against a team of American League All-Stars. Before a crowd of less than 2,000 patrons, Ted Williams was struck on the elbow by a pitch during one of these games. Though he played in the World Series, the injury likely persisted and hampered Williams, who only hit .200 in the postseason.
St. Louis prevailed over Brooklyn in the NL playoff and the World Series began at the Cardinals' Sportsman's Park. Game One featured two 20-game winners, Boston ace Tex Hughson and St. Louis southpaw Howie Pollet. The Red Sox trailed 2-1 in the top of the ninth inning and were down to their final out when a groundball off Tom McBride's bat took an unexpected bounce past St. Louis' Marty Marion and brought home the game-tying run. In the tenth inning, Red Sox first baseman Rudy York hit a two-out home run that put Boston ahead for good. After losing Game One, St. Louis evened things up in Game Two thanks to Harry "The Cat" Brecheen's four-hit shut-out of the Red Sox.
The series headed back to Fenway Park for Game Three and Boston turned to Dave "Boo" Ferriss, a 25-game winner during the regular season. Ferriss blanked the National League champions and a three-run home run by Rudy York drove the Red Sox to a 4-0 victory. Up two games to one, Boston's defense broke down in Game Four. The Red Sox made four errors and St. Louis won 12-3, again tying the series.
The Red Sox shook off the doldrums of the previous contest and took an early 3-1 lead in Game Five. The club padded the lead with three additional runs and survived a shaky ninth inning to win 6-3, leaving the Red Sox just one victory short of the championship. The teams returned to the Midwest for Game Six but with Boston hoping to avoid a seventh game, Harry Brecheen delivered another clutch performance in a 4-1 St. Louis victory.
A winner-take-all Game Seven beckoned and the Red Sox sent Boo Ferriss back to the mound. However, the Boston right-hander couldn't recapture his magic of Game Three and the Cardinals knocked him out in the fifth inning. Trailing 3-1, Red Sox manager Joe Cronin sent up back-to-back pinch-hitters to lead off the inning: Rip Russell singled and Catfish Metkovich doubled, before Dom DiMaggio doubled in both runners with two outs. As he motored into second base, however, DiMaggio pulled up lame and was taken out of the game with the game tied.
The game was still tied in the bottom of the eighth inning when Harry Walker stepped to the plate with two outs and his Cardinals teammate Enos Slaugher on first base. Walker hit a drive to left center that DiMaggio's replacement, Leon Culberson, chased down. However, Slaughter never stopped running and by the time Boston shortstop Johnny Pesky received the ball from Culberson on the relay, there wasn't a realistic play at the plate. St. Louis went ahead 4-3 with the run and withstood a brief Boston rally in the top of the ninth inning. Tom McBride hit a ground ball to second base for the 27th and final out, and the underdog Cardinals prevailed with the championship. Though the Red Sox won 100-plus games for the first time since 1915 (and have yet to reach the century mark since), the 1946 season ended with disappointment and a host of "what could have been" questions.
Fenway Park hosted its first All-Star Game in 1946 and "Sky-view" seats were built for the national press covering the game. Running alongside the press box on each of its sides, the area was used for premium seating when not used by the press. In addition, a four foot wide photographer's box was installed along the front edge of the left-field press box and a steel electric scoreboard was erected on the grandstand roof. Each of these renovations came in handy when the Red Sox made the World Series in the fall.
With fresh paint on the bleachers at Braves Field still drying, the Boston Braves swept the Philadelphia Phillies in an April 28 doubleheader at Fenway Park, the first regular season Braves games at the home of the Red Sox since 1915. On July 9, Fenway Park hosted its first MLB All-Star Game. The AL squad crushed their NL counterparts, as Ted Williams went 4-4 with two home runs and five RBI's. One of Williams' blasts came off NL pitcher Rip Sewell's famous, parabolic "Eephus Pitch."
|1946 Non-Red Sox Baseball At Fenway Park|
|April 28||Boston Braves 6, Philadelphia Phillies 1|
|April 28||Boston Braves 2, Philadelphia Phillies 1|
|June 14||Eastern College All-Stars 6, Midwestern All-Stars 2|
|July 9||MLB All-Star Game: American League 12, National League 0|
|August 10||St. Paul 5, St. Louis 4 (32nd Annual Union Printers International Baseball Tournament)|
The Boston Yanks had a difficult season in 1946 and lost four of the five games they played at Fenway Park. The average margin of their home losses was nearly 20 points and their lone Fenway win of the year came against the Los Angeles Rams on November 24.
|1946 Non-Baseball Events At Fenway Park|
|October 20||Washington Redskins 14, Boston Yanks 6 (Football)|
|October 27||Pittsburgh Steelers 33, Boston Yanks 7 (Football)|
|November 3||Chicago Cardinals 28, Boston Yanks 14 (Football)|
|November 24||Boston Yanks 40, Los Angeles Rams 21 (Football)|
|December 8||Philadelphia Eagles 40, Boston Yanks 14 (Football)|