Arts and Leisure

The 1948 World Series: Spahn, Sain and No Rain

It didn’t rain during the 1948 World Series, which may be why the Boston Braves lost to the Cleveland Indians in their first fall classic since the Miracle Braves of 1914.

Or maybe Boston fans were destined to be heartbroken that year. New England was hoping for a streetcar series between the Braves and the Red Sox, but the Indians beat the Sox in a one-game playoff.

Boston had two great pitchers, Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain. Together they won 39 games in 1948 and inspired the saying “Spahn and Sain, then pray for rain.” During one streak, when it did rain, Spahn and Sain won eight games in 12 days.

1948 Boston Braves Team Photo (Boston Public LIbrary).

1948 Boston Braves (Boston Public LIbrary).

Cleveland had its own pair of pitching aces: Superstar Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller and Hall of Famer Bob Lemon. Not surprising, then, that four of the six 1948 World Series games were pitchers’ duels.

If the games were quiet, there were plenty of colorful characters both on and off the field during the 1948 World Series. The game wasn’t yet dominated by corporate sponsorship and the demands of broadcast networks.  Television was brand new then; so new that RCA donated 100 television receivers to the Boston Parks Commission, so 10,000 Braves fans could watch the Series on the Boston Common.

Off-Field Characters

Broadcast legend Red Barber called the game. Barber was famous for such hokey expressions as “They’re tearin’ up the pea patch”  for a team on a winning streak, or Sittin’ in the catbird seat when a player or team was performing exceptionally well. He finished out his career chatting with Bob Edwards on National Public Radio.

Bill Veeck – as in ‘wreck’ — owned the Cleveland Indians.  Veeck had a wooden leg, the result of a World War II wound, and cut a hole in it to use as an ashtray. One of his most famous publicity stunts was to pinch hit little person Eddie Gaedel – wearing uniform number 1/8 – so he would draw a walk for the St. Louis Browns. Another was “Disco Demolition Night” years later at Comiskey Park. Blowing up disco records on the infield caused a riot and the Chicago White Sox forfeited the game.

The Indians

Satchel Paige at 42 became the oldest rookie in Major League history when Veeck signed him to the Indians in 1948. He pitched for two innings in Game 5, becoming the first African American to pitch in a World Series game. While pitching for a semi-pro team, Paige once told his outfield to sit down in the infield behind him after they’d made three consecutive errors, loading the bases. They did, and he struck out the last batter.

Paige, of course, was known for his seven rules of how to keep young, including “Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.”

Bob Feller earned the nickname “The Heater from Van Meter” because he threw hard and came from Van Meter, Iowa. Ted Williams called him the fastest and best pitcher he ever saw. A Hall of Famer on the first ballot, Feller pitched for 18 seasons with a winning record of 266–162. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy two days after Pearl Harbor, the first professional athlete to sign up, and served for four years.

Center fielder Larry Doby was the first African American to play in the American League when Veeck signed him in 1947. He was the first player to go right from the Negro Leagues to the Major Leagues, and the first African American to hit a home run in a World Series game.

Reserve infielder Johnny Berardino sat on the bench. Berardino had appeared in Our Gang comedies, and Veeck had his face insured for $100,000. After his baseball career ended in 1952 he went back to acting, landing the role of Dr. Steve Hardy on the soap opera General Hospital for 40 years.

And for the Boston Braves

Hall of Fame manager Billy Southworth was sometimes known as “Casey Stengel’s younger brother from another mother.” Both were from out west, they were about the same age and had similar careers playing and managing.

Eddie ‘The Brat’ Stanky Leo Durocher once said of the second baseman, “”He can’t hit, can’t run, can’t field. He’s no nice guy … all the little SOB can do is win.” He was the first Brooklyn Dodger to speak up in defense of Jackie Robinson in 1947.

Hall of Famer Warren Spahn was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. He won 363 games, more than any other left-hander. At 42, he had a 23-7 record. Spahn famously said, “Hitting is timing. Pitching is disrupting timing.

Johnny Sain was the last to pitch to Babe Ruth and the first to pitch to Jackie Robinson. He became one of the top pitching coaches in baseball, winning the respect of pitcher Jim Bouton in his book Ball Four (which was so irreverent Bouton is still not invited to old-timers’ games).

Bill Voiselle, the third pitcher behind Spahn and Sain, wore the name of his hometown on his uniform. He was from Ninety Six, S.C.

Braves batboy Frank McNulty went on to become president of Parade Magazine for many years.

This story was updated in 2021.

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