Dotson: The best rookies of the 1940s

From SABR member Chad Dotson at The Hardball Times on November 15, 2013:

Welcome to the 1940s. Rick and Ilsa and letters of transit. Benny Goodman and Ella Fitzgerald. Sam Spade sought a falcon. Louis Armstrong and Glenn Miller. Radar was developed, and so was The Slinky, and velcro. George Bailey never got to shake the dust of that crummy little town off his feet. Betty Grable. America learned for whom the bell tolled. Rosebud.

It wasn’t all fun and games, of course. The decade was dominated by World War II and, later, the beginning of the Cold War. The world was transformed by these events, and baseball was no exception. Some of the biggest stars in the game, such as Ted Williams, Bob Feller, and Joe DiMaggio, missed prime seasons of their careers in order to serve their country. As a result, the talent level in the majors was thinned out for a time.

We’re here today to talk about the rookies of that crazy decade. In some ways, evaluating the best rookie seasons of the 1940s was more difficult than previous decades. Thanks to the thinning of talent due to the war, a number of players had big rookie seasons, followed up by less-than-stellar careers (when the real players returned). Also, later in the decade, there was an influx of elite talent that had been unfairly kept out of the game. More on that in a moment.

Also, baseball was simply a different game in the ‘40s than the game we watch on our touch screen devices here in the future. You already knew that, right? Just to demonstrate, however, consider this: of the top ten WAR totals by rookie non-pitchers in the 1940s, five were posted by shortstops. (And we aren’t talking about slugging shortstops like we saw in the ‘90s.)

A number of eventual Hall of Famers made their debuts in the decade, though only two made the final cut on the top ten list. Some, like Richie Ashburn, Ralph Kiner, Robin Roberts, and Phil Rizzuto had decent cases for inclusion on this list. Others, such as Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Warren Spahn, Hal Newhouser, and Bob Lemon had less-stellar initial campaigns before going on to fame and glory.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: November 18, 2013. Last Updated: November 18, 2013.