1947: Anatomy of a Winning Streak
By Mike Whiteman February 1, 2021
On June 29, 1947, the Yankees beat the Washington Senators 3-1 in the second game of a doubleheader. Pitchers Don Johnson and Allie Reynolds held Washington to only six hits and one run. The Yankee offense wasn’t much better, scratching out only six hits of their own, but a bit more productive. Phil Rizzuto led the Yankee “attack” with two RBIs on a single and sacrifice fly.
On the surface, this wasn’t that remarkable of a win, one of many that season, but it was significant in that it was the first of a franchise record nineteen straight wins. It a streak that set into motion a new period of Yankee dominance. At the end the Yanks an insurmountable lead in the American League pennant race, and was the start of stretch in which the team won six of seven World Series titles.
Some context here – the Yanks had not won an AL pennant since 1943, a lifetime for the franchise at that time. The last they had gone this long without a flag was 1933-1935, the period of transition for the franchise from the end of Babe Ruth’s career in pinstripes to Joe DiMaggio joining the team in 1936.
This game had the first relief appearance by Reynolds in a Yankee uniform. The hard throwing right-hander was acquired in a trade with Cleveland before the season for All-Star (and future Hall of Fame) second baseman Joe Gordon. The deal was a boon for the Yanks as Reynolds would go on to be a valued two-way pitching weapon for the team for the next eight years, averaging 16 wins and five saves per season.
Here’s a summary of the streak:
6/30/1947 – Rookie Spec Shea hurls a complete game over Boston. The right-handed phenom runs his record on the season to 10-2, 1.98.
7/2/1947 – Reynolds is back on the mound, and the Yanks cruise to an easy 8-1 win.
7/4/1947 – The Yankees sweep a doubleheader from the Washington Senators. In the opening contest Spud Chandler spins a complete game and hits a three-run home run. He has served as another Yankee ace this season, with a 9-4, 2.21 ERA.
In the second game, the Yanks come back from a 2-0 deficit with two runs in the eighth and ninth innings to complete the sweep.
7/5/1947 – Shea absolutely dominates the Philadelphia A’s, allowing only three hits and dispensing with the Mackmen in a tidy hour and 29 minutes! His record is now 11-2, 1.91.
7/6/1947 – A sweep of a Sunday doubleheader against the A’s. In the first contest the Yankees rushed out to an early 8-0 lead behind home runs by DiMaggio and rookie catcher/outfielder Yogi Berra, then held on for the win.
In the second game, Reynolds wins his third straight start, and the Yankee offense rapped out thirteen hits and they cruised to a 9-2 victory.
The team took their eight game winning streak to the All-Star game, held July 8th at Wrigley Field. Nine Yankees were selected to the game. DiMaggio and first baseman George McQuinn started. Among AL reserves were third baseman Billy Johnson, outfielder Tommy Henrich, outfielder Charlie Keller (injured) and catcher Aaron Robinson. The Junior Circuit pitching staff included reliever Joe Page, Shea and Chandler, who was originally slated to start the contest, but was pulled beforehand due to elbow stiffness.
7/10/1947 – The Yanks return to action to take win number nine in a row. Relief pitcher Page’s home run in the top of the ninth broke a 3-3 tie, then he set the St. Louis Browns down in order in the bottom of the frame to close it out. This would be the ailing Chandler’s last appearance until September, when he struggled in two outings. His career was basically over.
7/11/1947 – The streak lives yet another day as Reynolds stymies the Browns, hurling another complete game.
The Yanks make a move to reinforce their mound corps, purchasing Bobo Newsom. For the soon to be forty-year old righthander with 198 career wins (and 208 losses), the Yankees were his eighth team in the era of the sixteen team MLB.
7/12/1947 – The Yankees pound the Browns, taking a doubleheader by a scores of 12-2 and 8-5. DiMaggio homers and drives in four in the opening contest. In another concerning injury development, Shea was removed from the first game after just an inning with a sore arm. The rookie would return from his injury but would struggle the rest of the season with a 6.04 ERA in seven more starts.
Shea would win two over the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1947 World Series. He had his moments in his eight year career, but would continue to struggle with injuries, and pose the question “what might have been”.
7/13/1947 – The injuries aren’t phasing the team, as the two newest members of the starting rotation, Newsom and Vic Raschi (recalled from the minors) both hurl the Yanks to wins over Chicago. Henrich rips six hits and drives in five runs over the doubleheader. The winning streak is at fourteen games.
7/15/1947 –In front of 62,355 spectators in Cleveland, the Yanks gain another doubleheader sweep. Allie Reynolds wins his sixth in a row.
7/16/1947 – The Yanks took another one from Cleveland. Bruce Wensloff holds the Indians in check for five innings in a spot start; Henrich and Berra homers power the team to an easy win.
7/17/1947 – With a twinbill sweep of Cleveland, the Yanks completed a rout of the five-game series, and their streak reached nineteen games. In another era rarity, this was a doubleheader the day after a night game. The team has swept four doubleheaders in six days.
The team had to be gassed by this point, and the streak ended with a convincing 8-0 loss to Detroit July 18th.
What a run it was! Some fun facts about the streak:
Top Hitter – DiMaggio (.375, four home runs and 17 RBI during streak) Top Pitcher – Reynolds (6-0, 1.77, two saves) Largest crowd – 62,355 in Cleveland 7/15 Smallest crowd – 2,171 in St. Louis 7/11 Longest game – 2:30 against St. Louis 7/12 Shortest game – 1:29 (!) against Philadelphia 7/5 13 wins on road 6 wins at home
On Sunday June 29th the Yanks went into play 4.5 games ahead Boston. At the end of play July 17th they were 11.5 games ahead of Detroit.
The AL pennant race was basically over, and everyone knew it. The cover of The Sporting News on July 23rd exclaimed “Groggy AL Rivals Yelling ‘Stop Yankees’. NY Streak Turns Race to Shambles”. The Bombers eventually took the American League pennant by twelve games.
In early June, the Yankees had the American League’s leading home run and RBI man, Charlie Keller. Sadly, he developed back soreness 6/5, and aside from a couple subsequent pinch hitting appearances, was done for the season after back surgery. Two ace pitchers, Chandler and Shea, both lost time on the mound due to injury. Reminiscent to the Yankee “next man up” of 2019, the team just plugged the holes with folks like Raschi, Newsom, Berra and outfielder Johnny Lindell and didn’t miss a beat. The season culminated with a thrilling seven-game World Series victory for the Yanks over the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The summer of 1947 was epic for the sport, and for that matter the world, because of Jackie Robinson’s debut and season with the Dodgers. In many ways, the usual events of a baseball season rightly pales in comparison to Robinson’s heroics.
So the 1947 Yanks really were an overlooked juggernaut, and a post-World War II springboard to the dynasty that followed in the next decade.