The Team That Forever Changed Baseball and America: The 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers

By Lyle Spatz; Maurice Bouchard et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 79. Cy Young Award

Lyle Spatz

Official recognition of baseball’s best pitcher did not begin until 1956, when Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe won the first Cy Young Award. Starting in 1967, two awards were given, one to the best pitcher in each league. While there was no official vote in 1947, two retrospective attempts have been made to determine the likely pre-1956 Cy Young winners for each league. The two, one by the Society for American Baseball Research and one by awards historian Bill Deane, agree that the 1947 winner in the National League clearly would have been Cincinnati’s Ewell Blackwell.

Blackwell led the league in wins (22), complete games (23), and strikeouts (193), while finishing second in earned run average (2.47) and hits allowed per nine innings (7.48). He threw a no-hitter against the Boston Braves and just missed another in his next start, which Brooklyn’s Eddie Stanky broke up with a ninth-inning single. Blackwell, who finished second to Bob Elliott in the voting for Most Valuable Player, was also the National League’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game.

Because there was no separate award for them, pitchers were always well represented in the MVP voting, especially in the World War II era. The National League winner in 1942 had been Mort Cooper of the Cardinals, while American League pitchers had captured three consecutive MVP awards in the era: Spud Chandler of the New York Yankees in 1943, and Hal Newhouser of the Detroit Tigers in both 1944 and 1945.

In the majority of cases, the pitcher with the highest MVP vote total was the winner of the Retroactive Cy Young Award. Therefore, it’s not too large a leap of faith to assume that the order in which pitchers finished in the MVP voting in 1947 would have been the same had there been a Cy Young vote. Giants rookie Larry Jansen (21–5) would have finished second, with two Brooklyn right-handers—Ralph Branca and Hugh Casey— taking the next two slots.

The twenty-one-year-old Branca was the ace of the staff for the pennant-winning Dodgers. In addition to winning twenty-one games, he finished second in the league in strikeouts and innings pitched and third in earned run average. Casey (10–4) finished thirty-seven games for the Dodgers and led the NL with a retroactively determined eighteen saves. Philadelphia’s Dutch Leonard would have finished fifth, with Boston’s Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain gaining the final two spots.

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