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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Bearing the Glory: The Tragedy of Jackie Robinson’s 1949 MVP Award

Here’s a story about Jackie Robinson that you may not have heard. It seems a small thing, a footnote in this man’s monumental life and legacy. But it’s telling, so it’s worth telling.

gehrig97 Posted: February 11, 2018 at 05:46 PM | 14 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dodgers, jackie robinson, mvp, race in baseball

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   1. The Ghost of Logan Schafer Posted: February 12, 2018 at 01:12 PM (#5623585)
Wow, what a great writer. You can use the Lord's name in vain in a baseball story. You couldn't just use "damn", could you?
The F word and the S word don't bother me at all. But I just don't get the GD usage. Jeremy Lehrman, you are a damn jerk.
   2. TomH Posted: February 12, 2018 at 02:29 PM (#5623663)
Interesting. A nice find.

I would like more on this... was it (I wanna quit) only expressed once? Or a reoccurring thing? LOTS of guys have mused calling it quits early at some point. True, they didn't have as much to overcome as Mr Robinson.

The article exaggerates Jackie's accomplishments (Jackie was never as good a player as Musial or Williams; was Jeff Burroughs or Zoilo Versailles the best player in the league the moment they won their MVP awards?), and needlessly compares his supposedly-pitiful salary to others (but again, Musial made only $13,500 the year he won his SECOND MVP award). Neither of those help the story.
   3. dlf Posted: February 12, 2018 at 02:53 PM (#5623696)
The article exaggerates Jackie's accomplishments (Jackie was never as good a player as Musial or Williams; was Jeff Burroughs or Zoilo Versailles the best player in the league the moment they won their MVP awards?)


Robinson lead the NL in WAR two out of three years and was either first or second each season from '49 to '52. I'd say there is a damn good argument that he absolutely was the best player in the NL over that stretch.
   4. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 12, 2018 at 02:57 PM (#5623699)
LOTS of guys have mused calling it quits early at some point.

Not mentioned in the article, but in those days, threatening to retire or holdout was the only leverage a player had in salary negotiations. Robinson commenting about his other employment opportunities may not have actually indicated that he really wanted out of MLB.
   5. Rusty Priske Posted: February 12, 2018 at 03:23 PM (#5623728)
Mostly good article, other than floating the idea that winning RoY makes one the best player in baseball.

People still complain about a writer swearing? What year is this?

Oh well. My mom wouldn't like it either.
   6. gehrig97 Posted: February 12, 2018 at 03:25 PM (#5623730)
The article exaggerates Jackie's accomplishments...


Robinson was also the game's greatest drawing card (in addition to being one of its best players -- he led the league in WAR three times in four years, including his MVP season. I'd say that's a pretty strong case for being the best player in the league at the time).
   7. gehrig97 Posted: February 12, 2018 at 03:32 PM (#5623734)
Mostly good article, other than floating the idea that winning RoY makes one the best player in baseball


Where in the article does it suggest such a thing?
   8. dlf Posted: February 12, 2018 at 03:46 PM (#5623749)
he led the league in WAR three times in four years, including his MVP season


Nitpick: led the league in position player WAR 3x in 4 years (assuming bb-refWAR), but in one of those years, a pitcher (Robin Roberts, IIRC) topped him.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: February 12, 2018 at 09:09 PM (#5623942)
Cherry-picked but WARpos for ages 30-34:

Mays 52
Wagner 48
Ruth 45
Gehrig 43
Robinson 42
Clemente 40
Gehringer 38
Aaron 38
Musial 38
Schmidt 38

If you look at ages 30-37, he only falls to t8th, tied (half a WAR) with Musial

For 1949-53 ... talk about an obvious gap

Robinson 42
Musial 41
Kiner 29

It took him a while to really get going but, still, for the ages he played, he's 16th in WAR. In the universe without the racial ban and without WW2, Robinson quite likely is one of the 25 greatest position players ever in both peak and career, a cross between (the far too obvious comps) Morgan and Aaron. (Or Clemente without the lousy start.) We only got to see 10 seasons, some at ages where players are usually unproductive, and he rocked in those seasons ... and even put up 4.5 WAR (2.7 oWAR) in just 431 PA in his last season suggesting he still had plenty left.
   10. BDC Posted: February 12, 2018 at 09:41 PM (#5623952)
Jackie and Frank Robinson used to share a page in the old Macmillan encyclopedia, so I would sometimes compare them at the same ages: excellent at age 28, MVPs at age 30, excellent again at age 33. Frank was clearly the better hitter, but I figured Jackie to be enough better in the field and on the bases that they were equals. That was a little counterintuitive, because Frank's career was so impressive, and he'd won two MVPs, and he was a 500-HR guy and could have had 3,000 hits if he'd been intent on it. But of course that was almost entirely because Frank was able to break in so young.

Of course the Macmillan didn't have anything like WAR; come to find per B-Ref that Jackie had 62 WAR at those ages, Frank 52. I underestimated Jackie Robinson even while I was looking straight at his record.
   11. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: February 13, 2018 at 03:01 AM (#5624015)
Wow, what a great writer. You can use the Lord's name in vain in a baseball story. You couldn't just use "damn", could you?
The F word and the S word don't bother me at all. But I just don't get the GD usage. Jeremy Lehrman, you are a damn jerk.


Don't be such a god damn weenie.
   12. TomH Posted: February 13, 2018 at 07:54 AM (#5624030)
#3; yes, but what he did in 50-52 wasn't apparent in '49, now was it? My argument wasn't about 49-52, it was Oct '49.
   13. DavidFoss Posted: February 13, 2018 at 08:47 AM (#5624051)
#3; yes, but what he did in 50-52 wasn't apparent in '49, now was it? My argument wasn't about 49-52, it was Oct '49.

Everyone writes about the 1949 AL Pennant race, but the NL race that year was almost as good. The main difference being that the Cardinals and Dodgers were not playing each other the final weekend.

Robinson had a great first half building large a huge league lead in AVG while also leading the league in RBI (Kiner would catch him in RBI, but 124 is his career high). But the Cardinals were in first place for much of the summer despite Musial having a slow-for-him first half (especially noticeable since 1948 was his best year).

The last couple of months of the year, they stopped pitching to Jackie. His batting average regressed but his walks went up so he was still getting on base. Musial caught fire and hit .400 over the last two months making up for his slow first half. But the Dodgers won the pennant. The Cardinals faltered in the last week and lost by 1 game.

Interesting narratives. I don't know what to make of it. I suppose if the Cardinals had held on then Musial's last month could have won him the MVP thanks to his finishing kick, but Robinson would have been seen as the best player in the league for most of the summer.
   14. gehrig97 Posted: February 13, 2018 at 09:32 AM (#5624079)
#12: I'm still not seeing what you're seeing... the article says that with the 1949 MVP award, Robinson was now acknowledged as the best player in the game. That doesn't seem a stretch to me.

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