1948 – The All-Boston World Series That Never Was (PART I)

Red Sox fans have all heard of the Curse of the Bambino, which followed the Boston Red Sox from 1918 to 2004 and kept a World Series Championship away from the city for 86 agonizing years. During that time span, the Sox didn’t just miss a World Series crown by being a terrible team, they often came very close but would often fail to win in bizarre fashions

The Curse has given infamy to men like Bill Buckner, Bucky Dent, and Aaron Boone. The last two have even gotten a new (and shared) middle name to boot.

The Curse of the Bambino seemingly affected all of Boston. For the 30+ years that the Braves played in Boston after the inception of the Curse, they too did not manage to win a World Series. The follies of the Red Sox during that time span are mostly well known; Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone hit home runs that robbed the Sox of the chance to even make the World Series, and Bill Buckner let a routine grounder roll through his wickets in the 1986 World Series. Rarely discussed however is 1948, a year in which we came within a single game of an all-Boston World Series, a series that would have assured that the championship trophy would return to New England for the first time in 30 years.

The Red Sox

After years of neglectful ownership, the Red Sox were purchased by Tom Yawkey just prior to the 1933 season. Before Yawkey’s purchase of the team, they had finished dead last in the American League in almost every season since 1922 with the exception of just two years. Furthermore, they had not even finished in the top half of the American League since their 1918 World Series win. Yawkey initially invested large sums of money into the team, hoping to turn around its fortunes. By the end of the 1930s, the Sox were contenders again, finishing 2nd in 1938, 1939, 1941, and 1942 before winning the pennant in 1946 (though they would fall to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series that year). The Sox had finished the 1947 season with an 83-71 record, good enough for 3rd in the American League.

The Braves 

Like the Red Sox had been in the American League, the Braves were a perennial doormat in the National League. Between 1917 and 1945, the Braves had only managed to finish in the top half of the National League on three occasions. In 1938, they managed to go 38-115, the second worst winning percentage in National League history. They had also not been the World Series since their win over the Athletics in 1915. They were on an upward trajectory heading into 1948, having finished 86-78, good enough for 3rd in the National League.

The season begins and the Sox sputter out of the gate! 

The names on the 1948 Red Sox still ring through the lore of New England: Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio. The boys at Fenway Park had quite the roster and the expectations were high. The Braves down at Braves Field, led by pitcher Warren Spahn also faced down high expectations. Optimism was so high in The Hub that Harold Krease wrote in the April 14, 1948 Boston Globe that an all-Boston World Series was inevitable and that “only the formality of winning 85 or so ball games” stood in the way of it happening.

At least for the Red Sox, that formality seemed difficult to obtain. The Sox couldn’t get out of their own way, and by June 1st were 11.5 games out of the lead. By late May, the Boston sports media had even started questioning new manager Joe McCarthy, who had previously been the long time manager of the New York Yankees: was he up to the task of managing the Red Sox?

In his May 30th article in the Globe, Harold Krease questioned whether or not McCarthy could withstand the Boston sports media and the harsh criticisms that are often directed at the manager when things go wrong. Despite the criticisms, McCarthy held firm to his promise that the Red Sox would win the pennant. In a June 3rd letter to the editor, Sheila Nickerson of Dedham attempted to exonerate McCarthy by saying that Ted Williams’ disproportionately high salary was to blame for the team’s struggles because it was a discouraging factor to the rest of his team. Whatever the case and wherever you placed the blame, the Red Sox were struggling and the dream of an all-Boston World Series was becoming less and less vivid by the day.

PART II will cover the beginning of the Braves season as well as the Summer of 1948 for both teams.