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An Alternative History of the Yankees: the 1940s

Using the game Out of the Park Baseball 21, we’ve been going back through history and rewriting Yankees and baseball history. The computer is controlling all teams, and all real life transactions have been turned off. Therefore, it’s possible the likes of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, and Derek Jeter will never end up in pinstripes, while other notable names end up as Yankee stars. Here’s where you can read parts one and two, three, and four. Let’s see what happens next as we begin the 1940s.

Spring Training - New York Yankees Photo by: Diamond Images/Getty Images

In real life, the 1940s were another good decade for the Yankees. They added another four championships to their tally, and had already developed a couple pieces who would become core members of their next decade.

In our simulation, the Yankees have won just one World Series so far, but appear to be on the verge of another thanks to young star pitcher Bob Feller. Let’s see what happens as we rewrite the 1940s.

1940: 74-80, 5th in AL, 23 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP Bob Feller (9.6)

Like they did in 1910 and 1930 , the Yankees began the decade with a new manager, as former Athletics and Cardinals skipper John P. Murphy was hired.

Murphy got an incredible season out of eventual Cy Young winner Feller, but outside of a few hitters, the offense wasn’t great. An intriguing young shortstop named Pee Wee Reese made his debut, while the Joe DiMaggio-led Senators brought home the championship.

1941: 69-85, 6th in AL, 26GB, Team WAR Leader SP Bob Feller (7.4)

Murphy’s reign wouldn’t last long as the Yankees immediately got rid of him and hired George Whiteman away from the Cubs to take his place.

On the field, the pitching staff, led by Feller, allowed just 578 runs all season, less than every team but the Senators. However, their offense scored just 525, which was dead last in all of baseball.

The Senators failed to go back-to-back, falling to the Braves in the World Series. Elsewhere, Pirates legend Lou Gehrig retired after a 20-year career. He finished as the all-time home run leader with 595.

1942: 78-76, 4th in AL, 19 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP Bob Feller (7.9)

The Yankees manage to take a step forwards thanks to the development of Reese and fellow up and coming younger player Snuffy Stirnweiss. They’re wasting some valuable years from Feller, who wins another Cy Young, but at the same time, he’s only 23, so in theory, they have plenty more time to build.

The Senators fall in the World Series again, this time losing to the team formerly known as the Phillies, currently going by the Blue Jays. In the draft, a 17-year old catcher named Yogi Berra goes first overall to the Pirates.

1943: 100-54, 1st in AL, Team WAR Leader: SP Bob Feller (8.3)

The Yankees take a giant step forward and win the American League. They get a lot more contributions from everyone, but Feller is still the star, putting up a 1.99 ERA in over 300 innings. They finish 15 games ahead of second place to clinch a spot in the World Series.

Waiting for them are the NL champion St. Louis Cardinals, who won 108 games. The Cardinals have an incredible offense led by Ted Williams and Stan Musial. Things look especially auspicious when the Cardinals took game one over Feller.

Despite that, the Yankees came storming back, taking the next four games to win their second World Series and first since 1916. They held the powerful St. Louis offense to just 12 runs over the last four games. First baseman Frank McCormick took home MVP honors after hitting .421/.476/.632, and driving home five of the 17 runs the Yankees’ scored in the series.

After the season, Feller won a fourth Cy Young and even won MVP for his incredible season.

1944: 77-77, 4th in AL, 16 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP Gene Jones (6.5)

When Feller returns for spring training, he finds himself with hardly any stamina. His stuff is still there, but he doesn’t feel able to go deep into games. The Yankees decide to move their star to the bullpen and hope he’s able to get back to normal in the future.

(To break character, for some reason, the game decided to drop Feller’s stamina rating to 2 on a scale of 1-250. There’s nothing major in his injury history, for some reason his stamina just fell off a cliff.)

The Yankees suffer as a result. Their rotation besides Feller was solid, but they really miss having their ace and fall back to .500. Feller doesn’t exactly light things up in the bullpen, putting up an ERA over six. Despite the World Series title the previous year and losing his star to a dead arm, Whiteman is fired. Art Butler is hired in his place.

The Cardinals avenge their loss and beat the Tigers in six in the World Series.

1945: 103-51, 1st in AL, Team WAR Leader: SS Snuffy Stirnweiss (12.5)

Feller shows up this spring ready and raring to go. He deals with some ticky tack injuries, but other than that is back to normal, putting up a 2.57 ERA. However, this time he’s not doing it on his own as the lineup takes a giant step forward. Three of the top four position-player WAR leaders are Yankees, led by Stirnweiss. Eddie Stanky and Phil Cavarretta finish second and fourth, respectively.

In the World Series, however, the Cardinals extract some revenge for ‘43, knocking off the Yankees in six. The Yankees are held to just nine runs total in their four losses with Stirnweiss putting up a .578 OPS in the series. Stirnweiss and Gene Jones won the MVP and Cy Young respectively, but it’s certainly not the trophies they wanted.

1946: 93-61, 2nd in AL, 15 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP Bob Feller (11.1)

Feller is fully back and better than ever, and the Yankees have another good season. They unfortunately were stuck in the AL with the 108-win Tigers, who dominated all season long and beat the Giants in five in the World Series. In the offseason, the Brooklyn Dodgers select pitcher Whitey Ford in the draft.

1947: 69-85, 6th in AL, 26 GB, Team WAR Leader: LF Phil Cavarretta (6.2)

The Yankees make yet another change at manager and promote bench coach Ernesto Rodriguez. His first year doesn’t go great as a couple players have down seasons and the Yankees fall all the way to sixth. The White Sox came out on top in the AL and the World Series.

1948: 79-75, 3rd in AL, 17 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP Gene Jones (7.9)

The Yankees spent most of the season in the 3-8 games back range behind the Tigers before a late season swoon dropped them fully out of contention. Detroit went on to beat the Yogi Berra-led Pirates in the World Series.

1949: 76-78, 4th in AL, 18 GB, Team WAR Leader: SP Gene Jones (8.6)

Feller and Stirnweiss both have genuinely bad seasons, and as a result the Yankees are fairly mediocre. The Giants beat the White Sox in the World Series, while an outfielder named Mickey Mantle is selected by the St. Louis Browns in the draft.