Saturday, April 17, 2010
The 1954 American League Season
I love baseball. The sport captures the spirit of America better than any other social phenomena out there. It is not political. But beyond its unifying effect on the national pscyhe, the game is a treasure trove of historical statistical oddities that keep people like me up all night. I spend about two hours a week on www.retrosheet.org. The site is to baseball addicts what a corner bar is to the neighborhood drunk: a convenient excuse to ignore your responsibilities to your family and job and indulge in what you deep down inside feel you cannot live without. I like to drink as much as the next guy, but crunching meaningless baseball numbers is nirvana. This morning, and for no apparent reason, I started to search for teams that finished in second place and yet won over one hundred games and then separate out those teams that did not even come close to winning the pennant. As I was perusing different seaons, I came across the 1954 American League final standings. The Cleveland Indians finished in first place with 111 wins, a record for wins in one season. But just as interesting were the second place Yankees. They won 103 games and finished 8 games out of first. There have been other similar second place finishes. The 1961 Detroit Tigers finished in second place with 101 wins; the 1962 Dodgers did the same with 102 wins. For football's version of this oddity, check out the 1967 Baltimore Colts who finished 12-1-1 and never made the playoffs. I remember baseball quite well in the mid to late 60's but had no reference of comparison due to my youth. Looking back, I am amazed that baseball maintained its hold on the nation despite such lopsided races. In 1954, only there American League teams had a winning record, Even if there were pennant races, for most teams, the season was over by the All Star break, And here is an interesting number. The Boston Red Sox, who have sold out every game for about ten years, were not always the hot ticket in town. In 1966, the Sox opened the season at home against Baltimore. Only 12,386 people showed up. The next day, 1,955 came to the game. And this is opening day, when hope springs eternal, or so the myth goes. Imagine that happening today!