Page 89 – National League leaders in runs scored by season
Very few fans ever keep track of who leads the league in runs scored. Do you remember who led the NL and AL in runs scored last season? (Chase Utley and Grady Sizemore did.)
In 1952, there was a three-way battle for the NL lead in runs scored among two Hall of Famers: Stan Musial and Jackie Robinson, and a third player and a teammate of Musial's on the Cardinals, Solly Hemus. The race came down to the last day of the season, yet it was likely that few people cared or were even paying attention. So let's look back at that great non-event.
With three games left in the season, Musial and Robinson led the NL with 103 runs scored, and Hemus was third with 102. The Cardinals were finishing the season with three games at home against the Cubs, while the Dodgers were playing their final three at home against the Braves. The Dodgers had clinched the National League pennant already and the big news in St. Louis was whether or not Musial would hold off Chicago's Frank Baumholtz for the NL batting title.
On Friday, September 26, Brooklyn manager Chuck Dressen rested Robinson and most of his other starters as the Dodgers beat the Braves 8-4 before 1,440 fans at Ebbets Field.
But there were big doings in St. Louis, the Cardinals were looking to clinch third place in the NL. And 5,823 fans came to Sportsman's Park to watch the Cardinals clobber the Cubs 10-3. Warren Hacker of the Cubs, who was leading the NL in ERA coming into the game, gave up seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, and ended up finishing second in the league in ERA behind Hoyt Wilhelm of the Giants.
Hemus, the Cardinals shortstop, went 3 for 4 and scored three runs, with a home run helping his cause. Musial went 2 for 5 and scored two runs.
So with two games left in the season, the runs scored race was now: Hemus and Musial with 105 and Robinson with 103.
On Saturday, September 27, Dressen played most of his starters at home against the Braves, but the Dodgers lost 11-3. However, Robinson scored a run in the fourth after reaching on a walk, advancing to third on a single by Roy Campanella, and then scoring on a fly ball from Andy Pafko. (There were no sacrifice flies in 1952.) 4,903 fans packed Ebbets Field.
Over in St. Louis, Bob Rush of the Cubs held the Cardinals to just one run in a 4-1 win. Hal Rice scored the only run scored by the Cardinals in the ninth inning.
So going into the last game of the season, the runs race was led by Musial and Hemus with 105 and Robinson in third with 104.
The final day of the season saw the Dodgers and Braves play a 5-5 tie that was called after 12 innings because of darkness. Although Ebbets Field had lights, the rules of the day required that a game started in the daytime be completed without turning the lights on. This rule had been waived for Game 5 of the 1949 World Series at Ebbets Field when the umpires did order the lights turned on when the game ran long.
Dressen started all of his regulars, except Carl Furillo who was nursing a sore hand and Campanella, but most did not stick around long. Robinson had one at bat, no hits, a stolen base, but no runs scored.
So the runs race would come down to a game in St. Louis. Except the spotlight was on the batting race between Musial and Baumholtz and the home run race between the Cubs Hank Sauer and the Pirates Ralph Kiner, who were tied for the league lead with 37.
Musial led by over 10 points, but to make things interesting, Musial pitched to Baumholtz in the first inning and swapped positions with starter Harvey Haddix. Baumholtz reached first on an error by Hemus and then went back to the outfield.
But it was Cubs starter Paul Minner who was the star, shutting out the Cardinals on six hits, one of them by Musial, as the Cubs won 3-0.
Musial won the batting title with a .336 average. Sauer and Kiner both failed to homer.
And the runs race finished in a dead heat between Hemus and Musial, with Robinson one behind. Musial led the NL in runs scored five times in his career and is presently ninth on the alltime list for runs scored with 1949. Robinson never led the NL in runs scored, finishing second in his rookie year of 1947 with 125, but that was 12 short of league leader Johnny Mize.
Hemus only led the NL in two categories, one was runs scored in 1952 and the other was times hit by pitch, which he did three times. Hemus had only two good years in the majors: 1952 and 1953 and then slipped down from above average to mediocre or worse. The Cardinals would trade Hemus to the Phillies in 1956, but reacquire him in 1959 and make him player/manager.
However, Hemus remains one of the least likely leaders in this particular offensive category, which tends to be dominated either by very speedy leadoff men or, more frequently, guys who have a very high OPB with a lot of good hitters elsewhere in the lineup.
But everyone now and then a Hemus or an Ivan DeJesus (1978 leader) managers to sneak in and makes you scratch your head.
Sources: Retrosheet, Baseballreference.com, New York Times, Sporting News Complete Baseball Record Book