The Amazing Yankees of the 40s and 50s

Unless you’re a die-hard New York Yankees fan, you probably don’t know that they have appeared in 40 World Series and have won an incredible 27 of them—which means they came out on top almost 70 percent of the time.
But you would have to be of a ripe old age, have watched Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary more than once, or have read up on the history of the National Pastime to know just what a powerhouse and dynasty the New York Yankees were in the 1940s and 1950s.

Not that they didn’t have tremendous seasons or streaks of success before then: From 1927 to 1941 the Yanks reached the World Series seven times…and won each time.

Sure, it was a different time that many decades ago. There were only 16 teams and there were no teams on the West Coast, so there wasn’t travel fatigue. Nonetheless, the game on the field was still solid professional American Major League Baseball, played by some of the best players around.

And many of them wore Yankee pinstripes.

Here’s a quick look at the amazing Yankees achievements during the ’40s and ’50s. Even Yankee haters (and there are many) should be impressed.

Dominance by the numbers.
Some of the statistics are simply eye-popping. You simply don’t see anything like that in professional sports anymore:

1. The Bronx Bombers played in seven World Series from 1943 to 1953, and won seven times.
2. In the 1940s, they made it to the World Series five times and won four of them (’41, ’43, ’47, ’49).
3. In the ’50s they made it to the World Series eight times! They won six of them…’50, ’51, ’52, ’53, ’56, ’58).
4. They won five straight World Series titles, 1949–1953.
5. They won six out of the seven World Series played from ’47 to ’53.
6. Of the 12 World Series played from 1947 through 1958, the Yankees were in 10 of them, winning eight times.
7. During that ’47–’58 span, they missed making it to the World Series only twice (’48, ’54).
8. In three World Series between 1941 and 1958, they beat the team that had defeated them in the Series the previous year.
9. The runner-up in World Series appearances from ’47–’58? The Brooklyn Dodgers. They were in six Series, winning only once, in 1955.
10. Between 1947 and 1964 (18 seasons!), the Yankees missed the World Series just three times.

Streaking into the 1960s.
If you add in 1960–’64, here’s what you get:
• The Yanks were in the World Series in each of those five years.
• They won back to back in the ’61 and ’62 Series against the Reds and then the Giants.

That means that from 1947 through 1964—18 seasons—the New York Yankees were in 15 of those World Series contests.

Memories from the Golden Age.
The small league and short trips to other cities aside, the Yankees simply had strong lineups and solid pitching on their teams during that span, even though there weren’t many “superstars,” by today’s standards. Here are just some of the more recognizable names on the Yankees’ rosters from 1947 to 1958:

Position players: Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich, Ralph Houk, Hank Bauer, Phil Rizzuto, Jerry Coleman, Johnny Mize, Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin, Gil McDougald, Elston Howard, Bill Skowron, Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson, Bobby Shantz
Pitchers: Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, Whitey Ford, Johnny Sain, Don Larsen, Bob Turley
Managers: Bucky Harris, 1947; Casey Stengel 1949–1960

The Bronx Bombers and World War II.
The war didn’t stop baseball, but it seemed to slow many teams, including the Yankees. According to the book Baseball (the companion book to the Burns’ documentary):

The draft had wreaked such havoc on most Major League franchises that in 1944, the relatively unscathed St. Louis Browns, the worst team in baseball when the war began, actually captured the American League pennant, the only time they ever won it.

The Yankees weren’t in the World Series in the ’44, ’45 and ’46 seasons. A lot of players, from all teams, served in WWII, including DiMaggio, who missed those three seasons.

Highlights of those days.
The ’40s and ’50s were the glory days of baseball and it had no competition from other professional sports at that time. So baseball stars, and their feats on the field, made headlines, especially in World Series play. Here is a glimpse of Yankee memories from that era:

• In 1941 Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games, a record that many feel will never be broken. (Pete Rose reached 44 straight in 1978.)
• DiMaggio struck out only 13 times during the 1941 season while hitting 30 home runs and batting .357.
• The Yankees played their first Series against Brooklyn in 1941. They’d face Brooklyn six more times through 1956, losing to them only once.
• Even when the Yankees lost, which was rarely, it was historic. The 1955 loss to the Dodgers was the highlight of Brooklyn’s existence. They moved to Los Angeles three years later. (In 1960 they lost to the Pirates on a walk-off home run by Bill Mazeroski, which remains one of the most famous World Series home runs of all time.)
• On June 13, 1948, Babe Ruth paid a visit to Yankee Stadium as part of a 25th anniversary celebration. He died a few months later. He was only 53 years old.
• At the end of the 1940s, the lineup was changing, but the new blood was exciting. New catcher Yogi Berra came up in ’46 and quickly became one of the best catchers in baseball history. Berra would play in 75 World Series games…not playoff games—and would play a huge role in World Series Championships. Mickey Mantle joined the team in 1951.
• When the Yanks defeated Brooklyn in five games to win the 1949 World Series, they were led by their first-year manager…Casey Stengel. Stengel himself led the Yankees to 10 World Series appearances and seven World Series titles.