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The Yankees Champions Series: 1950

The Yankees finished strong behind their legendary up-the-middle trio to win a tight American League race.

Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra Admiring Joe DiMaggio’s Emblem

After a successful debut season guiding the Yankees in 1949, manager Casey Stengel returned with a mix of proven veterans and some exciting young players. The 1950 season would prove to be incredibly competitive in the American League with four teams in the mix for most of the season. Behind the AL MVP, a future three-time MVP and past three-time MVP, the Yankees pulled away down the stretch and delivered the franchise’s 13th World Series championship.

Regular Season Record: 98-56-1

Manager: Casey Stengel

Top Hitter by WAR: Phil Rizzuto (6.8)

Top Pitcher by WAR: Allie Reynolds (3.2)

World Series: Yankees sweep Philadelphia Phillies, 4-0

The Yankees played well from the start of the season, but were matched along the way by three other teams that would prove to have staying power through the season. On Opening Day, Billy Martin recorded two hits in one inning, becoming the first player to do so in his MLB debut. Martin entered the game in the bottom of the sixth with the Yankees trailing Boston 9-4. They rallied in the eighth inning, and he knocked in Yogi Berra with both of his hits in the inning as the Yankees scored nine times.

The Yankees held the AL lead for the second half of May, building up a four-game lead on the league by May 26th. This would prove to be their largest lead at any point during the season. The team could not sustain the lead and lost it in early June to the Detroit Tigers, who remained in first place for much of the season. New York stayed close and found themselves in a back-and-forth battle with both Boston and Cleveland for second place.

One of the factors leading to the Yankees’ inability to take control of the league was the early season struggles of their star centerfielder Joe DiMaggio. He was hitting just .220 in the middle of May, and that only rose up to .271 by the mid-point of the season. He battled through two 0-for-13 stretches that were troubling for the extremely proud three-time MVP.

On July 1st the Yankees saw rookie Eddie “Whitey” Ford make his debut in relief. The early results would not indicate what was to come for the future Cy Young Award winner and Hall of Famer. Facing a Boston team that knocked out Tommy Byrne after just 1.1 innings, Ford also allowed five runs over 4.2 innings. He would quickly bounce back from this outing and show the form that he would become known for by pitching in 20 games with a 2.81 ERA on the season.

In addition to the debut of several famous Yankees players, another historical first happened during this season on August 29th, when the team saw a day game completed under the lights for the first time at Yankee Stadium. Yogi Berra homered in the eighth inning to tie the game, before Hank Bauer ended it with a single off future Yankees manager Bob Lemon in the 10th.

That game was part of the Yankees’ best run of the season. After falling 4.5 games back of the Tigers on August 17th the team won 16 of their next 18 games to take the American League lead. Still, the team did not secure the lead for good until September 16th when Whitey Ford pitched a complete game allowing just one earned run against the Tigers. DiMaggio was bouncing back with a strong second half of the season and hit his 30th home run of the year in that game.

The Yankees would hold the lead over the last week of the season, playing nine games in seven days with double-headers on back-to-back days. DiMaggio finished the season hitting .301/.394/.585 in what would turn out to be his next-to-last season. Phil Rizzuto won the AL MVP award hitting .324/.418/.439 and continuing to play his strong defense up the middle. Yogi Berra finished third in the voting that year, receiving three first-place votes.

The Yankees were off to the World Series where they would face the Philadelphia Phillies who won the National League by two games over the Brooklyn Dodgers. The “Whiz Kids” were led by future Hall of Famers Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn. The Yankees pitching stepped up in a big way during the series, allowing just five runs in a four-game sweep.

In Game 1, Vic Raschi pitched a complete game shutout leading to a 1-0 victory for the Yankees. In the next game, DiMaggio hit a tie-breaking home run off Robin Roberts in the top of the 10th inning. Both Roberts and Yankees pitcher Allie Reynolds pitched 10-inning complete games. Game 3 was another tight game and the Yankees needed three straight singles with two outs in the ninth to earn the walk-off victory.

The last hit came from infielder and future broadcaster Jerry Coleman:

The final game of the series saw rookie Whitey Ford pitch eight scoreless innings as the Yankees went into the ninth inning with a 5-0 lead. Two unearned runs scored, and Allie Reynolds came in to secure the victory. Yogi Berra had a down series but hit an early home run in this game. DiMaggio also finished off a big series as he posted a 1.086 OPS with a home run and double for the sweep.

The 1950 Yankees were part of a transition team from the DiMaggio Yankees to the Berra/Ford/Mantle Yankees teams that would dominate the 1950s. After his early season struggles, Joe DiMaggio came on strong in a very competitive American League. Phil Rizzuto proved to be a force for the Yankees with his spark at the top of the lineup and steady defense up the middle. The Yankees phased in their young talent and had more on the way as they continued their winning ways.