Are you old enough to remember when major league players didn’t have names on the back of their uniforms? The first thing you’d see at the ballpark was a small stand with a vendor yelling, “Programs, Programs…you can’t tell the players with a program”.
During the course of any given year, lots of sports memorabilia comes across my desk. Dominated by baseball cards and autographed items, there are always odds & ends. This time, a collection included an official program and score card from a 1947 game at Yankee Stadium. The exact date isn’t on the program as they were most likely printed for a series of games with the same opponent, but the best guess is that this particular one was from an August visit from the defending AL pennant-winning Red Sox.
Looking at baseball history through a 70 year-old lens is one thing, but before focusing on the game and the players, let’s get a sense of American society at the time by examining the advertising that helped keep the cover price at 10 cents…
> Smoking was an accepted practice in 1947 and there are cigarette ads for Camel, Chesterfield, Old Gold & Lucky Strike…none of which had filters. In addition, Briggs pipe mixture, Muriel cigars and Garcia y Vega Havana cigars (made in Tampa) were featured.
> Catering to a predominantly male audience, tobacco shared the space with alcohol. Three Feathers Whiskey claimed to be “Major League” quality, Great Western Champagne showed a winning medal from a 1900 Paris tasting, Ruppert Beer was “slow aged” and Ballantine Ale & Beer always meant “The Perfect Glass”. In case you needed to concoct a mixed drink, there were also ads for Morgan Beverages, Canada Dry Ginger Ale and White Rock Sparkling Water.
> The well-dressed fan was also being tempted with marketing from Eagle Clothes, Douglas Shoes, Sherman Bows (bow ties), Esquire Boot Polish & GGG Clothes.
> To make the fans taste buds take notice, some New York restaurants took space along with ads for Schrafft’s Peppermint Patties, Gulden Mustard, Drake’s Cake (“The Rooters Snack”) and Beech-Nut Gum.
> Not to leave Fantasy Baseball players out of the history, there was even an ad for a baseball-themed board game called Pro-Baseball Game. You could purchase it at Department and Sporting Goods Stores for $5.00.
Now that the stage has been set, we’ll travel back to the Friday night game on August 15, 1947 in front of 67,803 fans at Yankee Stadium. Here are the starting line-ups…
1) Sam Mele, RF – A rookie who ended up with a 10-year big league career, he was very productive in ’47 with a .356 OBP in 123 games.
2) Johnny Pesky, SS – A legendary figure in BoSox history including the famous “Pesky Pole” at Fenway Park. Think about this…he led the AL in hits (205) in his rookie season of 1942, then missed three years serving in World War II before coming back to lead the AL in hits again in both 1946 (208) and 1947 (207).
3) Dom DiMaggio, CF – Despite playing in the shadow of his Brother, he was an outstanding player. In 10 seasons surrounding his three-year military commitment, he was a 7-time All-Star.
4) Ted Williams, LF – Arguably the greatest hitter in the history of the game…in ’47, he led the AL in Runs, HR’s, RBI’s, BB, BA, OBP, SLG & OPS. Oh, by the way, he finished 2nd in the MVP vote.
5) Bobby Doerr, 2B – The oldest living Hall-of-Famer at age 99.
6) Jake Jones, 1B – Traded over from the White Sox in June, ’47 was his only season as a regular…he hit .237, but had 19 HR’s & 96 RBI’s.
7) Birdie Tebbetts, C – A reliable back-stop who made four All-Star teams during his career, he shared the catching duties with Roy Partee. In the 50’s & 60’s, he was a big league Manager for 11 seasons.
8) Sam Dente, 3B – The Sox never had a reliable regular at this position during the season and this rookie hit .232 in 168 AB’s.
9) Mickey Harris, P – Had 17 Wins in ’46, but only got six starts in ’47…had a 5-4 record with a 2.42 ERA.
Manager – Joe Cronin
1) Stuffy Stirnweiss, 2B – An interesting case study, as he was one of the few everyday players who didn’t serve in World War II. He led the AL in Hits for both 1994 & 1945, batting over .300 each season. Once the soldiers got back and the competition was tougher, he regressed to a .256 BA in ’47.
2) Tommy Henrich, RF – A natural hitter, he was very good even into his mid-30’s…led the league in Triples for both ’47 & ’48 at ages 34 & 35.
3) Yogi Berra, C – Just starting his illustrious career in ’47, he played 83 games and hit .280. Won three AL MVP’s in the 50’s.
4) Joe DiMaggio, CF – The famous “Yankee Clipper” was still in his prime at age 32…a 315 BA, 20 HR’s & 97 RBI’s got him the MVP.
5) George McQuinn, 1B – A 37 year-old veteran, he posted a solid year with a .304 BA, 80 RBI’s and a .395 OBP.
6) Billy Johnson, 3B – Hit .285 with 95 RBI’s and made the All-Star team.
7) Johnny Lindell, LF – Played as a position player through 1950, then returned to the majors in 1953 (at age 36) to make 26 starts as a NL Pitcher.
8) Phil Rizzuto, SS – “Scooter” was on his way to a Hall-of-Fame career and many years in the broadcast booth.
9) Karl Drews, P – Started 10 games at the back-end of the rotation…his best season was 1952 when he won 14 games for the Phillies.
Manager- Bucky Harris
So, how did the game turn out? It ended up being somewhat of a slugfest, as neither starting pitcher got out of the 2nd inning. Amazingly, the Yankees brought in their best relief pitcher (Joe Page) in the 2nd inning and he pitched 7 2/3 innings, finished the game and got the win. Can you imagine one of today’s Closers being asked to accomplish that task?
On the offensive side, Stirnweiss had two solo HR’s and a Triple while Berra had 3 RBI’s. For the Sox, Williams went 4-for-5 with two Doubles and Doerr had two RBI’s. The final score was 10-6. Two interesting pieces of trivia are that Williams had an OF assist and Berra got picked off 3rd base.
Hope you enjoyed this little trip through the baseball time machine.