Position Players by WAR: Post-War Era

Baseball Prehistory | Deadball Era | Liveball Era | Post-War
Expansion | Free Agency | Modern Era

I mentioned in the Liveball Era article that over 500 MLB players served in WWII. Those gaps are a lot more apparent in many of the post-war players. Not only did players miss years (like Ted Williams), but they also had partial seasons due to service in the military. With so many players going off to serve, the quality of the Major Leagues dropped, and scoring dropped as a result. While I’m jumping from the Liveball Era to the Post-War Era, please keep in mind that players on the edges were more likely to be affected by the war.

If anyone has a full list of players that served, and the years they served, I would love to add that information to the charts to make the impact more obvious.

After the war, baseball started to change again. In 1947, Jackie Robinson was the first black player since the 19th century to play in the National League. He was joined 11 weeks later by Larry Doby in the American League, and baseball started integrating. 1947 also saw the first televised World Series. Baseball’s popularity soared after the war. During the Liveball Era it had been relatively stable, but the end of the war brought far more spectators than ever:


I don’t know what caused it. There were no new teams, stadiums weren’t really holding more people than they did before, but more people were coming to see the games. It could have been post-war bliss, TV increasing baseball’s visibility, integration, or just the great players from this era like Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Mickey Mantle.

Part of it had to do with the relocation of teams. The Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953. The St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954 and became the Baltimore Orioles. The Philadelphia Athletics became the Westernmost team in the Majors when they moved to Kansas City in 1955. In 1957 1958, the Brooklyn Dodgers were moved to the West Coast along with the New York Giants to become the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Fransisco Giants.

Editor’s note: Night games spread to 15 out of 16 teams (the Cubs being the sole exception) by 1949. I’ll bet you that had something to do with the increase.

Regardless of the reason, the Post-War Era’s increase in popularity led MLB to expand during the 60′s Expansion era, which we will cover next.

Post-War Era Part I:

Post-War Era Part II:

If we had to do it all over again, who would we elect from this time period? If you had a ballot, who would you vote for?

Player list (career WAR in parentheses):

Ted Williams (139.8) Stan Musial (139.3)
Mickey Mantle (123.1) Eddie Mathews (107.2)
Ernie Banks (74.1) Duke Snider (71.7)
Yogi Berra (71.4) Pee Wee Reese (69.7)
Richie Ashburn (67.5) Jackie Robinson (62.7)
Bobby Doerr (60.9) Minnie Minoso (58.1)
Enos Slaughter (57.6) Larry Doby (56.6)
Bob Elliott (56.2) Nellie Fox (55.3)
Vern Stephens (53.7) Ralph Kiner (53.4)
Gil Hodges (50.4) Red Schoendienst (47.4)
Phil Rizzuto (47.2) Eddie Yost (45.3)
Mickey Vernon (44.5) Gil McDougald (44.2)
Alvin Dark (44) Sherm Lollar (43.7)
George Kell (43.4) Roy Campanella (43.1)
Joe Adcock (42.7) Eddie Stanky (42.6)
Andy Pafko (42) Jim Gilliam (41.9)
Sid Gordon (41.7) Dom DiMaggio (41.1)
Carl Furillo (39.7) Smoky Burgess (39.6)
Gene Woodling (39.3) Tommy Holmes (38.9)
Bobby Thomson (38.8) Al Rosen (38.8)
Vic Wertz (38.5) Johnny Logan (38.2)
Eddie Joost (38.1) Jackie Jensen (37.5)
Del Ennis (37.5) Johnny Pesky (36.8)
Earl Torgeson (35.9) Bill Skowron (35.7)
Del Crandall (35.2) Pete Runnels (35.1)
Jim Piersall (34.7) Roy Sievers (34.3)
Walker Cooper (34.3) Ted Kluszewski (34.2)
Harvey Kuenn (33.9)

References:




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I'm an expat living in Japan since 2003, doing sales and marketing work. More of my work is available on Henkakyuu, my personal blog. Also feel free to inspire me to use twitter more often @henkakyuu


41 Responses to “Position Players by WAR: Post-War Era”

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  1. MrKnowNothing says:

    You always know how good is Ted Williams, but when you see that his WAR was almost DOUBLE Banks AND Williams missed all that time in the war.

    By the way, I’m probably missing something, but where is Willie Mays on the list? Seems that he and Banks would be perfect contemporaries (Banks 53-71, Mays 51-73).

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    • Sorry, I missed something. I had left Ty Cobb off the Deadball Era list, which ruffled a lot of feathers, so I rethought the way I did groupings to throw people into the era they had the most WAR.

      I just forgot to tell you folks.

      So all the old ones are updated (and Ty Cobb is the in Deadball Era now!), but that also means that Willie Mays gets moved into the next era, because he was slightly more an expansion player.

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    • alskor says:

      Williams actually went to war TWICE. The light WAR seasons a few years later he was in Korea most of the time.

      He completely missed his age 24-25-26 seasons and parts of the backside of his prime. By age 23 he was already at his peak as a superstar hitter, too.

      Its really amazing considering what a one dimensional slugger he was. Many *think* Ruth was also one dimensional but he was a good fielder most of his career despite our images of him at the end as a big fat slob. He also gets credit for a lot of pitching early. Williams would be right behind Ruth if he hadn’t missed times in the wars. He was just that much better a hitter than his contemporaries.

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    • Ben says:

      I agree. These lists go straight from post WWII to free agency, totally neglected players like Mays who had a ridiculously high WAR.

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  2. Rick says:

    Albert Pujols is a still Jackie Robinson away from Ted Williams and Stan Musial. Give those guys back their WWII years and he’s like halfway there. Those guys were pretty good, eh?

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    • Mike Green says:

      Stan Musial was a great, great player, but…He led the NL in WAR in 4 years- 1943, 1944, 1946 and 1948. The first two years are not really that impressive because of the war. His utter domination of the league in 1946 and 1948 is, of course, very impressive. On the other hand, Albert Pujols has led the NL in WAR in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Pujols actually was noticeably better during his peak/prime, but it is questionable whether he will be able to sustain his greatness the way Musial (or Williams) did. Appreciate him.

      As for Williams, his domination of the weaker league was perhaps even more thorough than Pujols, but he may have had an easier time of it, due to the lack of integration (and slow pace of it in the AL) during his career.

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  3. Tigerdog says:

    The spectators all came back from the war and went to the ballparks.

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    • siggian says:

      My thoughts too. Escapism entertainment combined with improved and more available transportation. Pure speculation on my part.

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      • I wrote it up in the article as a note, but night games were played by 15/16 teams by 1949. I think that was probably a major factor, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it earlier.

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    • That’s what I originally thought, and why I looked at attendance before the war. Increase in transportation is a good thought though.

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      • Mac says:

        One of the biggest factors was that baseball is a team sport. Prior to the war, the most popular sports in America were baseball, horse racing, and boxing. During the war it was baseball that citizens at home latched on to, in part because it was a team sport and reflected the one America united attitude towards war.

        After the war ended, team sports continued to gain traction as football, hockey, and eventually basketball took over as the big four sports in America, while individual sports such as boxing, horse racing, and track & field fell out of popularity.

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      • That makes a whole lot of sense, did one of the other pro leagues pop up around 1950 then, explaining the sudden drop in baseball around there? The 5-year peak is just odd (it grows quite steadily after that)

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      • Mike K says:

        (responding to Joshua)

        The NBA officially started in 1949, after a merge of the two top leagues. I wouldn’t think that would effect baseball attendance much, as the seasons barely overlap. And may not have at all back then what with shorter playoffs for basketball.

        I’d think a bigger effect would be the Korean War. Offically 1950-1953, less people here to watch baseball.

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      • baycommuter says:

        Don’t forget what the Depression did to attendance. Take that and the war out and draw a straight line from 1900 and it’s a fairly good representation.

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    • Greg H says:

      The U.S. enjoyed an economic boom after World War II. People had more disposable income. Our economy also shifted from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy. By the 1950s, white collar jobs out-numbered blue collar jobs, so fewer people were doing physically demanding work that might deter them from taking their families to a baseball game after a day on the job. More people bought cars, and better roads were constructed. So after the war we had a large population with disposable income who had the means to drive from the suburbs to baseball stadiums. And teams increased the number of night games after World War II, which certainly helped boost attendance.

      Simply put, people had more money to spend on entertainment, and technology made it more convenient to attend baseball games.

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      • Did the boom start in 1946 though? I know that there was a lot more prosperity in the 50′s especially, but in the 40′s there was a lot of readjustment with the amount of people coming back looking for jobs, and the loss of a lot of the military manufacturing jobs that had been created. That spike right after the war is baffling me.

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  4. Vegemitch says:

    By these standards there should be 35 or so entering the hall next year and Jack Morris has a case as solid as granite.

    Seriously though, players like Larkin, Trammel, Raines should *easily* enter the hall rather than have extended waits. Many of the current hall voters seem to cast their ballots as if only 40-50 players all time should be memorialized there and then go and vote for J. Rice and A. Dawson. These voters are as inexplicable as the V. Wells trade.

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  5. Mac says:

    I am shocked to see how far down that list Roy Campanella falls. He is one of the top five catchers in the history of the game. He is right in the conversation for second greatest with Berra and Gibson but falls short on longevity. His career started late due to segregation and ended early when Campy suffered a career-ending auto accident. But for the ten years he was in the league he dominated (8 All-Star teams, 3 MVPs).

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  6. David Carter says:

    This opening is a little misleading, as it says that “In 1957, the Brooklyn Dodgers were moved to the West Coast along with the New York Giants…”

    This implies that the Dodgers and Giants actually played in their new cities in1957. While the decision to move was made in 1957, the first games in LA and SF were in 1958.

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  7. PatsNats28 says:

    I like the title with WAR and war :D

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  8. Eppa says:

    Seems clear that Minoso is exceptionally deserving of a HOF spot. On this WAR list, all the names above him and many below are already in Cooperstown. Despite a late start to his MLB career, he still ranks well with many of the top players of the era.

    If Minoso’s stats are “projected out” for his Negro League service when he wasn’t eligible to play MLB, then he’s practically a shoo-in.

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  9. Steve says:

    Where is Kaline?

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  10. maqman says:

    From 1946 to 1950 over a million vets went to college on the G.I. Bill. When they graduated and started to make disposable income entertainment and sports got more of it. The introduction of TV also made a major impact along with night games. 1950 was a perfect storm of pro-baseball activity. Immigration was also heavy after the war due to millions of persons being stateless due to displacement by the Nazis and the war brides of U.S. servicemen and their children coming to Ameerica. I was one of them.

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  11. J.leeker says:

    Not to be rude, but what exactly is the purpose of this article?

    The article consists of two rather obvious points without much explanation of the connection between the two points. You simply make the obvious point that after WWII, baseball attendance increased for a variety of reasons (none of which is explored in depth) and that during this time there were a bunch of good players. The WAR list and graph doesn’t indicate anything insightful or provide something that isn’t easily found by a quick search of Fangraphs.

    Generally, the data dump articles are valuable because they parse through rather dense or obscure information even though they are light on actual analysis. However this article is one simple bar graph and some readily and easily available WAR information. The article provided neither in-depth analysis nor the presentation of valuable or even interesting data.

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    • Not rude at all.

      As I wrote in the first article:

      Looking at all the players in baseball is a daunting task. There are a lot of them. There are a lot of eras. How do you judge people who played back in the 19th century when you are only familiar with the players of more modern eras? Even if I look at the player page for someone like Cupid Childs, what can I really figure out? He is totally removed from context; how can I judge a guy who played so long ago against his peers if I’m not familiar with them? I get lost easily in the numbers. I can look and stare at stats until the cows come home, but not get anywhere because of the lack of context.

      Some people play well with lists of numbers. Others don’t. I don’t. So I turned the numbers into something more tangible so I could quickly look at the best hitters of all time in context with their peers. Personally I thought that was valuable enough to share (and of course, you’re free to disagree).

      If looking at the charts doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know, then you know a heck of a lot more about baseball than me, and kudos to you. But for folks like me who have a more passing knowledge about the more historical eras and the players in the Hall, it can make us see things we didn’t realize.

      Sorry it doesn’t suit you, that’s about all I can say.

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    • Telo says:

      I would disagree somewhat. I found the attendance graph enlightening. I didn’t realize there was such a drastic jump after the war. However, I would tend to the agree with the rest of your comment…

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  12. Brandon T says:

    I’ll submit a few causes for the upswing in baseball’s attendance. Firstly, after the war saw a huge increase in urban populations — most people didn’t go back to the farm. Secondly, the only contact the troops really had with “back home” was radio and I imagine that a lot of games were broadcast to the troops during the course of the war.

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  13. gdc says:

    It would also be worth estimating whether Rosie the Riveter not only wanted to keep her job after the war but also go to the ballpark with the guys more often. Thus the sports like boxing and horse racing which then had more of a mob stigma would be less of a family destination. Might be part of the Landis legacy to get baseball away from gamblers and cause pro football and basketball to see money could be made on the spectacle alone, rather than, say, end up like pro baseball in Taiwan with its gambling scandals.

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  14. Brian says:

    Your willingness to accept and communicate in a critical manner is to be commended. It is easily my favorite part of the Fangraphs authors. Thanks and keep up the great work.

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