A Brief Look At How The Yankees Championship Teams Were Built (Pt. 7)
by Paul Semendinger
In this article, I continue to look at how each of the Yankees’ championship teams were assembled. This article, focusing just on the 1947 team, is part seven in the series.
The statistics I will share in this exercise are the typical counting stats of the time - batting average/home runs/runs batted in (and for pitchers, wins, losses, ERA). These will serve as a quick guide to see how that player performed over those years. (I used Baseball-Reference.com to determine all these stats and the transaction data. Some other information came from the SABR Biography Project.)
Please note that this is not an exhaustive study, it is only a start. More and deeper research is welcome.
The 1947 Yankees
1943: First Place (97-57) 12 games over second place Detroit. Defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series.
Catcher - Aaron Robinson was the Yankees’ primary catcher in 1947, working behind the plate in 74 games. (There was another catcher on the team, a rookie playing in his first big league season - Yogi Berra. Berra wasn’t the primary catcher yet. He played catcher in 51 games and outfield in 25 other games.) Robinson (.270/5/36) was signed by the Yankees off the sandlot and he came up through the Yankees’ system. He was a home grown player.
First Base - George McQuinn was a ten year big leaguer when the Yankees acquired him for the 1947 season. He was a star, having appeared in four All-Star games as a member of the St. Louis Browns before spending one season with the Philadelphia A’s before becoming a Yankee. McQuinn suffered a difficult 1946 season, but found himself again after the Yankees signed him as a free agent. In 1947, McQuinn hit .304/13/80. He was an All-Star in 1947 and was such a difference maker that he finished sixth in the voting for American League MVP.
Second Base - After starring as a two-sport athlete at Fordham Prep in the Bronx, and then the University of North Carolina, Snuffy Stirnweiss was signed by the Yankees. A home grown player who came up through the Yankees’ system, Stirnweiss batted .256/5/41 while playing second base for the 1947 Yankees. Stirnweiss had been the 1945 American League Batting Champion.
Shortstop - Phil Rizzuto (.273/2/60) was in his second full season as the Yankees’ shortstop in 1947. His solid play helped the Yankees up the middle of the diamond. Beginning in 1948, he would be so important to the team that he would earn MVP votes in six consecutive seasons. Rizzuto won the MVP in 1950. Rizzuto was signed by the Yankees and played his entire career with them.
Third Base - Bill “The Bull” Johnson was signed by the Yankees organization back in 1936. He slowly made his way to the Major Leagues arriving in 1943, but then not returning again until after the war in 1946. In 1947, Billy, nicknamed “The Bull,” batted .285/10/95.
Left Field - The left fielder in 1947 was Johnny LIndell. He was signed by the Yankees off the campus of the University of Southern California. He was originally a pitcher and he did appear as a pitcher in 23 games for the Yankees in 1942. Still, he never quite made it as a successful big league pitcher and was converted to an outfielder where he would play until 1950. In 1947, Lindell batted .275/11/67. Of note - Johnny Lindell then resumed pitching in the Pacific Coast League after the 1950 season., winning the MVP of that league in 1952 and making it back to the Major Leagues in 1953, as a pitcher, with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Lindell’s is a story worth looking at closer one day.
Center Field - Joe DiMaggio – The Yankee Clipper was purchased for $25,000 and five players, but was coming off of a knee injury in the 1934 season. After his knee proved solid in 1935, he arrived in New York in 1936. Joe DiMaggio was the American League MVP in 1947. He hit .315/20/97. This was DiMaggio’s last MVP season, though was was the runner-up in 1948.
Right Field - Tommy Henrich – “Old Reliable” was originally Cleveland Indian property but was released by Commissioner Judge Landis, when Henrich appealed to him that he was being treated unfairly after not receiving a Spring Training invitation in 1937. The Yankees outbid the New York Giants for the outfielder’s services, offering him a $20,000 bonus. Henrich hit .287/16/98 for the 1947 Yankees.
Yankee money was crucial in bringing both DiMaggio and Heinrich to the Bronx. Ed Barrow’s willingness to take a risk on DiMaggio’s health was a franchise changing decision. Signing George McQuinn as the first baseman for 1947 was also a huge decision as his stellar play helped stabilize the infield and the line-up. The rest of the starting players were all signed by the Yankees and came up through their farm system before arriving in the Bronx.
Allie Reynolds: After five seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Allie Reynolds was traded to the Yankees after the 1946 season. 1947 was Reynolds’ first in New York. That trade was a big one as the Yankees sent future Hall-of-Famer Joe Gordon to the Indians in order to acquire Reynolds. Reynolds didn’t disappoint as he went 19-8, 3.20 as the ace of this staff. Reynolds would be an important pitcher for the Yankees for eight seasons.
Spec Shea: 14-5, 3.07, was signed by the Yankees after starring as a high school pitcher in Connecticut. 1947 was Shea’s best as he helped solidify the Yankees’ staring rotation. In 1947, there was only on Rookie of the Year Award in baseball and it went to a very deserving National League player - Jackie Robinson. Many feel that Shea would have won the award if one was also given in the American League.
Bill Bevens: The 1947 season was Bill Bevens’ last in the Major Leagues. He went 7-13, 3.82 but, in his last game ever, he carried a no-hitter into the final out of the World Series against the Dodgers only to lose the no-hitter and the game. Bevens pitched four seasons in the Major Leagues, all with the Yankees. He had been signed out of American Legion ball in the late 1930’s by the Yanks.
Spud Chandler: 1947 was Spud Chandler’s final season. Chandler had come up in 1937. He spent his entire eleven year career with the Yankees pitching through the war year and after. He came to the Yankees from the University of Georgia where he starred in baseball and football. In 1947, Chandler, the former AL MVP ( 1943) started 16 games going 9-5, 2.46.
Bobo Newsom: Bobo was a 39 year-old pitcher by the time the Yankees acquired him in 1947. Newsom was a solid and respected veteran who had toiled for many second-division clubs. In his career, we won more than 200 games, but also lost more games than he won (211-222). The Yankees acquired Newsom in July and he helped them the rest of the way going 7-5, 2.80.
Vic Raschi: Young Vic Raschi came up from the minors and pitched in 15 games (14 starts) going 7-2, 3.87. He would soon be a star pitcher for the Yankees.
Joe Page: The fireman, Page’s bullpen work also solidified this team. In 1947, Page was an All-Star. He also finished fourth in the MVP voting. He went 14-8, 2.48 in 56 games. Page did start two games that year. In his role in 1947, he helped define the idea of a bullpen ace. He was signed by the Yankees and came up through their system.
Conclusion - This team ‘s core was home grown, but Yankees money and smart trades helped to make this team the powerhouse it was and would become. The Yankees would miss out on a pennant in 1948, but their greatest era of all would begin the next year…