Monday, January 21, 2013

When Duty Called: Part Two

A continuation of the post I wrote last winter, when I projected Hank Greenberg, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller,  Johnny Mize, Ted Williams, Whitey Ford, and Willie Mays to see what their career numbers would have looked like had they not sacrificed several seasons to serving their country.

Dom DiMaggio (1943-1945)
It is often said that while Joltin' Joe was the better hitter, his little brother was the superior center fielder. Like Tris Speaker before him, DiMaggio earned a great reputation on defense for his ability to play shallow and still get back on deep fly balls. Despite his diminutive Dustin Pedroia-esque stature and bookish appearance, he was no slouch with the bat either. DiMaggio batted .301 as a rookie and cemented himself as Boston's leadoff man. The seven-time All-Star never had a bad year and hit .298 for his career, same as Jim Rice and Mickey Mantle. DiMaggio could steal a base and had a great eye at the plate, too, using his .383 OBP to set the table for Red Sox run producers Vern StephensBobby Doerr, and of course the Splendid Splinter. He missed his age 26 through 28 seasons serving in the Navy, lost time that probably cost him a plaque in Cooperstown. Nevertheless, he spent his entire 11-year career with the Sox and has a claim as the best leadoff hitter in team history (no disrespect to Johnny Damon).
1943-1945 averages; 98 runs, 174 hits, 30 doubles, 8 triples, 11 home runs, 61 RBI, 68 BB, 250 TB, 13 steals
Career totals; 1,340 runs, 2,202 hits, 398 doubles, 81 triples, 120 home runs, 801 RBI, 954 BB, 3,113 TB, 139 steals

Johnny Pesky (1943-1945)
Passed away last summer, but his legacy lives on. Pesky enjoyed one of the best rookie seasons of all time when he took over as Boston's everyday shortstop in 1942. Besides leading both leagues with 205 hits, Bobby Doerr's double-play partner also batted .331, scored 105 runs and finished third in the MVP voting behind Joe Gordon and Ted Williams. The Needle hitched a ride in the Navy and lost out on three prime years that would have bolstered his Hall of Fame case. To his credit, he didn't skip a beat when he rejoined the Red Sox in 1946. He made his only All-Star team, paced the Junior Circuit with 208 base knocks and set personal bests across the board, production that merited his fourth place finish in the MVP race. Pesky never again seriously challenged the award, but topped the league in hits once more the following year and continued to play at a high level until the Sox dealt him to Detroit in 1952. He eventually made his way back to the Red Sox and dedicated most of his adult life to serving the organization in various capacities until his death at the age of 93. Rest in Peace Johnny Pesky.
1943-1945 averages; 110 runs, 207 hits, 36 doubles, 7 triples, 53 RBI, 53 BB, 262 TB, 11 steals
Career totals: 1,207 runs, 2,076 hits, 334 doubles, 71 triples, 560 RBI, 821 BB, 2,618 TB, 86 steals

Enos Slaughter (1943-1945)
"Country" Slaughter will always be remembered for his "mad dash" around the bases that propelled the St. Louis Cardinals to a Game 7 win over the Boston Red Sox in the 1946 Fall Classic. The play embodied Slaughter's speed, hustle, and aggressive style he used to lay the foundation for his Hall of Fame career. He had already been recognized as one of the top players in the Senior Circuit prior to the war with two All--Star nods and a second place finish in the MVP race to teammate Mort Cooper in 1942, a year in which Slaughter paced the league in hits, total bases and triples. After spending his age 27 through 29 seasons in the service, he returned strong in '46 to lead the major leagues with 130 RBI and help St. Louis secure its fourth pennant in five years. He finished third in the MVP race that year behind Stan Musial and Dixie Walker. Slaughter went on to play 13 more seasons, latching on with the Yankees near the end of his career as a role player and helping Mickey MantleYogi Berra and co. add a few more championships to Casey Stengel's ledger.
1943-1945 averages; 100 runs, 186 hits, 31 doubles, 13 triples, 16 home runs, 114 RBI, 79 BB, 288 TB, 9 steals
Career totals; 1,547 runs, 2,941 hits, 504 doubles, 187 triples, 217 home runs, 4,463 TB, 1,255 BB, 98 steals

Pee Wee Reese (1943-1945)
Reese was a top prospect in the Boston Red Sox farm system before player-manager-shortstop Joe Cronin forced a trade that sent Reese to the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he put together a Hall of Fame career. While he didn't hit for much power early on, his plus defense and plate discipline helped him make his first All-Star squad in 1942. Reese joined the Navy in '43 and served in the Pacific theater. After the war, He emerged as one of the top shortstops in the game as well as a cornerstone of a Brooklyn dynasty that captured six National League pennants from 1947 through 1956. He made nine consecutive All-Star squads and received MVP consideration in eleven straight years. Eight times he placed in the ballot's top ten, an impressive feat considering he shared a roster with perennial MVP candidates such as Duke Snider and Roy Campanella. More importantly, the Kentucky native befriended Jackie Robinson and supported his new double play partner throughout the legend's strenuous debut in 1947. After ceding his starting role to Charlie  Neal, an African-American, ten years later, Reese made the move out west with the Dodgers as their backup infielder but played just one season in the City of Angels before retiring.
1943-1945 averages; 83 runs, 149 hits, 20 doubles, 4 triples, 4 home runs, 57 RBI, 85 BB, 196 TB, 13 steals
Career totals; 1,587 runs, 2,619 hits, 390 doubles, 92 triples, 138 home runs, 1,056 RBI, 1,465 BB, 3,626 TB, 271 steals

Warren Spahn (1943-1945)
After making just two starts for the Boston Braves in 1942, Sphan put his baseball career on hold to fight for Uncle Sam in the U.S. Army. A combat engineer, he received a Purple Heart and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He returned from overseas a more mature, disciplined pitcher after surviving his baptism by fire on the frigid front lines. He went on compile 363 wins and stake his claim as the best southpaw starter in the sport's history, on par or better than Lefty GroveSandy Koufax and Randy Johnson. Some think the war prevented him from winning 400 games and/or passing Walter Johnson for second place on the all-time wins list behind Cy Young. Spahn was not so sure. He crediting the military for accelerating his development as well as prolonging his career, which lasted until he was
1943-1945 averages; 16 wins, 15 complete games, 3 shutouts, 208 innings pitched, 100 strikeouts
Career totals; 411 wins, 427 complete games, 38 shutouts, 5,867 innings pitched, 2,883 strikeouts

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