Atley Donald threw a complete game three-hitter as the New York Yankees pulled to within three games of the first place Cleveland Indians with a 4-1 win over the Indians before a crowd of 44,161 at Yankee Stadium.
And in other events during the game, Yankees center Joe DiMaggio got a hit to stretch his hitting streak to 27 games, two short of the Yankees team record held by Earle Combs and Roger Peckinpaugh, who was the Cleveland manager this day. And the losing pitcher for Cleveland was 22-year old Bob Feller, who came into the game with an eight-game winning streak. And Babe Ruth looked on from the stands. It was quite a day in the Bronx.
Yankees right fielder Tommy Henrich got the Yankees going in the first with a home run off of Feller. It was the second straight time Henrich had homered off of Feller and third in four at bats. Henrich homered twice against Feller in Cleveland on June 2.
DiMaggio extended his hitting streak with an RBI double off of Feller in the third. Left fielder Charlie Keller drove home the other two runs with a single in the fifth inning.
Donald was a spot starter for Yankees manager Joe McCarthy. He made just 20 starts in 1941 and pitched in a career high 159 innings. His only blemish on this day was a home run he gave up to Cleveland catcher Rollie Hemsley in the fifth. Left fielder Gee Walker and right fielder Jeff Heath both had singles. Donald had three walks, four strikeouts, and hit a batter.
1941 was one of baseball's most momentous seasons. As you should know, DiMaggio's hitting streak would stretch to 56 games. He won the MVP award as he batted .357 with 30 homers and 125 RBI. The Yankees would win the pennant with a 101-53 record, 17 games better than the Red Sox.
The Red Sox had a left fielder who had a pretty good year too. Ted Williams batted .406, had an OBP of .553, slugged .735 for an OPS of 1.287. DiMaggio beat out Williams in the MVP voting by a healthy margin (291-254) and picked up 15 first place votes to 8 for Williams. One voter chose Chicago pitcher Thornton Lee for MVP. Feller finished third in the voting as he went 25-13 with a 3.15 ERA and 260 strikeouts.
The Yankees went on to win the World Series in five games over the resurgent Brooklyn Dodgers, who had won their first NL pennant since 1920. This would be the first of eleven World Series matchups between the two teams. The Yankees have won eight of them.
Cleveland, which had lost the pennant in 1940 in the last week of the season to Detroit, finished in fifth with a 75-79 record. Peckinpaugh had replaced manager Ossie Vitt, whom the Indians had a well-publicized team revolt against in 1940. In 1942, Cleveland would turn to 24-year old shortstop Lou Boudreau as manager. Boudreau would manage the Indians for nine seasons and would lead the Indians to what has turned out to be their last World Series win in 1948.
While players like DiMaggio and Williams deservedly drew most of the attention, Heath also had a very good year that flew under the radar. He was the first player every to have at least 20 doubles, triples, and home runs in a single season. Willie Mays in 1957 and George Brett in 1979 are the only other players to match that feat. Heath had a chance to play against Cleveland in the 1948 World Series when he was on the Boston Braves, but he broke his ankle in the last week of the season and missed the World Series.
Sources: New York Times, Baseball-reference.com, Retrosheet