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MLB Dynasties, Vol. 2

As the Dodgers players charged onto the field after Julio Urias secured the final out of the World Series the word dynasty began to be thrown around. What if I told you these Dodgers already were a dynasty? I’ve posited a definition that in order to be a dynasty, a team must make it to at least 3 World Series games in no more than 6 years. To read about the process, check out Volume 1 of the series here.

Since there’s a lot to cover, this will be Volume 2 of a 3 part series. I’ll cover everything from 1930 to 1970 in this one and Vol. 3 should be out sometime later this week. So, let’s take a look at the MLB dynasties.

1930s

The first volume closed with two powerhouse offenses: the second Philadelphia Athletics team and the second New York Yankees team. The A’s, known as “Cochrane-Simmons-Foxx,” and the Yanks “Murderer’s Row” were opposed in the NL by several teams but specifically our first dynasty in this decade. The second dynasty of the era bridges the NL to the next Yankees dynasty which may have been the most dominant team in MLB history. Let’s take a look at the 30s.

St. Louis Cardinals

The second dynasty from St Louis stretched from 1926 (when they took down Murderer’s Row) to 1934. They also won the ’31 series against Connie Mack’s A’s. They went to five World Series in the stretch winning 3. The ’26 team was the last great hurrah of one of MLB’s greatest players, Rogers Hornsby. The core of the Cardinals throughout the dynasty was managed by former player Gabby Street and featured several Hall of Famers. The heart and soul of the “Gashouse Gang” was middle infielder Frankie Frisch. In fact, Frisch took over for Street as the manager in ’33 and remained in the role to 1938. A composite roster of the first Cards dynasty was:

New York Giants III

The first Giants dynasty had infamously failed to bring home any hardware while the second one featured 6(!!!) Hall of Famers. The third version didn’t quite have the overwhelming star-power of the second but had a few legends of its own and took home the 1933 trophy. They returned in ’36 and ’37 but were beaten by the next dynasty we’ll talk about both years. One of their legends was player-manager and first baseman, Bill Terry. Their other superstar was slugger Mel Ott who led the league in homers 6x and finished his career with a .947 OPS. Their combined lineup would be something like this:

New York Yankees III

The Yankees will appear in this series an enormous number of times. As such, each dynasty is typically very close temporally to the ones before it and after it. This results in a sense of fading from one roster to the other. There will be a lot of overlap, simply because players play with one team longer than six years. The 3rd Yankees dynasty has a couple of key players from Murderer’s Row (Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri) while introducing some new pieces that will appear in multiple dynasties (Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon). From 1936-1939 these Yankees, helmed by Hall of Fame manager Joe McCarthy, went to and won four-straight World Series. They defeated the aforementioned Giants twice, a Cubs team that was in the middle of an almost dynasty (3 appearances but over 7 years), and in ’39 beat the Reds who happened to return and win the ’40 series while the Yankees took a year off. The “Yankees III” looked something like this:

1940s

In the 1940s World War II changed the landscape of the world and Baseball was affected just like everything else. Many of the league’s superstars served in the war, some in ‘celebrity’ type roles while others had legitimate and distinguished service records. Baseball marched on though and the decade featured a pair of Yankees AL dynasties and another Cardinals dynasty, the two most decorated franchises in MLB history.

New York Yankees IV

After the Tigers swiped the 1940 AL pennant, Joe McCarthy and the Yankees were back on top. Their new superstar, Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, redefined celebrity status for a Baseball player and the pinstripers went to three straight Series’ winning in ’41 and ’43. In the first Series, they defeated the Dodgers who will be a common enemy in the years to come. The second two were against the next dynasty we’ll meet and they split the two meetings. The most impressive thing about these Yankees teams was how little they struck out. DiMaggio, in particular, only K’d 13x in 1941 despite 621 plate appearances! That’s an average week for some guys these days…the Yankees IV would look something like this:

St Louis Cardinals II

The Cardinals had retooled after their 30s dynasty and again went on a run of dominance in the 40s. They were led by a pair of Hall of Fame outfielders, Enos Slaughter and Stan ‘The Man’ Musial. Musial was a transcendent talent that established a new standard of excellence in the NL. Over the four years they went to the series, 1942-1944, and 1946, Stan had 181 doubles and K’d only 102 times. Billy Southworth, who took over for Frisch in ’38, managed them up until ’46 when Eddie Dyer took over for the final championship in this run. The St Cardinals II would look like this:

New York Yankees V

Yep, right back to the Yankees. After a three year hiatus that featured the St. Louis Browns, Detroit Tigers, and Boston Red Sox all making appearances, the Yankees returned. From ’47-53 the AL won every World Series and only in ’48 it wasn’t the Yankees when the Indians won a one-off. I’ll actually be splitting the five-peat from ’49-53 for a couple of reasons. First of all, the key superstar of the team transitions from DiMaggio to the ‘Commerce Comet’ Mickey Mantle. Second, the first set faced 3 different opponents over four years, while the next dynasty opposed the same team in every Series, a dynasty in its own right. Also, thank goodness the Indians were around because had they not clawed their way to the top in ’48 and ’54 the Yankees would’ve reached the World Series in 12 straight seasons.

Bucky Harris took over for Joe McCarthy and captured the ’47 title against a Brooklyn Dodgers team that was on the rise, due in no small part to their rookie infielder Jackie Robinson. Then in ’49 former player Casey Stengel took over and they defeated those Dodgers again. In ’50 they beat the Phillies and in ’51 the Giants to secure a three-peat. They weren’t done, but for reasons mentioned above, I’m gonna cut it off there. Joining DiMaggio on this Yankees team were Hall of Famers Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra. A composite lineup would look like this:

1950s

The 50s were completely dominated by two rival dynasties. They had faced off in “preview” series in the 40s but in this decade they met 4 times in 5 years. They dueled in some of the most exciting Fall Classics in MLB history.

New York Yankees VI

The Yankees ended up going to and winning five straight World Series from 1949-53. That is the longest consecutive streak of both making the Series and of course winning it. The last two years of the five-peat and then two additional seasons after an interruption by Cleveland comprise this dynasty. I divided it that way because in all four of those World Series they faced the same opponent, the Brooklyn Dodgers. More on the Dodgers in a minute, but the Yankees won three of the four, both ’52 and ’53, and then ’56. This Yankees team still had several members of the 40s dynasty including manager Casey Stengel, catcher Yogi Berra, and shortstop Phil Rizzuto. They had a new leader though, Mickey Mantle. In 1956, The Mick logged one of the greatest seasons in league history with 52 HRs, 130 RBIs, and a .353/.464/.705 slash worth 11.5 fWAR. The two Yankee immortals, Mantle and DiMaggio, only shared the field for the ’51 season, had either one been 3 or 4 years offset towards the other, one can only imagine the stats they would’ve put up together. The Yankees VI looked something like this:

Brooklyn Dodgers

After a couple of attempts at hitting paydirt in the 40s resulting in losses to the Yankees, in both ’47 and ’49, the Dodgers dominated the NL in the 50s with four World Series appearances in five years and then, after moving out to LA, a title in ’59. The 40s teams and the ’59 team had a few pieces of the dynasty, but the ’52-56 run was a close-knit and potent group. Chuck Dressen managed them to the ’52 & ’53 losses and then was replaced by Walter Alston. He stayed with the franchise all the way to ’76 and will appear again later in our series. In ’55, the Dodgers stunned the world and the Yankees and took the World Series. In Game 1, Jackie Robinson swiped home and set the tone for Brooklyn’s eventual win. But then, in the 4th matchup, the Yankees responded and got the greatest pitching performance in history from Don Larsen as he was perfect in Game 5 and the Dodgers couldn’t recover.

Four Hall of Famers made up the core of the Dodgers’ roster, shortstop Pee Wee Reese, outfield Duke Snider, catcher Roy Campanella, and of course Jackie Robinson. From ’52-56 Snider (32.2 fWAR) was the best player in baseball not named Mickey Mantle (32.9 fWAR), and Duke hit 30 more HRs, was a better defender, and slugged 40 points better, better than the likes of Eddie Matthews, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, and Hank Aaron. The Dodgers lineup was thus:

New York Yankees VII

The Yankees continued to dominate, appearing in the ’57-58 Series, taking a year off, and then the ’60 series. This next dynasty comprises those years. They continued into the next decade as well, but I’m splitting them for similar reasons as before. In the first two years, they faced the Milwaukee Braves, an almost dynasty that featured Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews, and Warren Spahn. They split the two years, losing in ’57 and winning in ’58. In ’59, the White Sox lost to the newly relocated Los Angeles Dodgers in a World Series that featured the first California team. The Yankees were back again in ’60 but they lost to the Pirates. Yankees VII featured a slugger to partner with Mantle named Roger Maris. His peak was bright but brief, though this is not the last we’ve seen him in this series. A composite of their rosters is here:

1960s

The 60s saw a shift from the powerful offenses of the 50s to some of the most dominant pitching staffs in league history. Teams were also relocating west as the league began to expand geographically and technologically which brought the game to millions of new fans.

New York Yankees VIII

The Yankees again?? Yes, again. From ’61-64, the Yankees remained dominant with Mantle and Maris in the lineup and Whitey Ford on the mound. They faced four different opponents, beating the Reds and San Francisco Giants the first two years and losing to the next two dynasties, the LA Dodgers and St Lous Cardinals the following two years. The ’61 team featured the only teammates to ever hit 50+ home runs in the same season, as Mantle had 54 and Maris broke the single-season record with 61. The Yankees VIII looked like this:

Los Angeles Dodgers

Two NL dynasties dominated the rest of the decade while the AL was equal-opportunity to finish out the 60s. First, reaching the Fall Classic in ’63, ’65, and ’66 were the Los Angeles Dodgers. Having moved west in ’58 and already won in ’59, it was clear the Dodgers would continue to be one of the more successful franchises in the league. Walter Alston was still in the dugout but the LA Dodgers were not known for their offense. No, instead it was a pair of dominant arms that carried them to the promised land. On the right-handed side was “Big D” Don Drysdale. The 6’5″ fireballer exceeded 200 K’s six seasons (four in a row) and won the ’62 Cy Young. The left-hander was Sandy Koufax. Koufax was a good but not great pitcher until 1963 and then he reeled off four consecutive astronomically dominant seasons. Over 1190 innings he averaged an astounding 9.27 K/9 and held down opponents to the tune of a 1.86 ERA and 0.91 WHIP.

St Louis Cardinals III

The other NL team was the St Louis Cardinals again. Johnny Keane managed the ’64 team but then former star Red Schoendienst took over and led them to back-to-back appearances in ’67-68. While pitching was also the primary highlight for these Cardinals, they featured a pair of Hall of Fame position players as well. Leading off was speedster Lou Brock and looking to drive him in was power-hitter Orlando Cepeda. They did their best to back the stellar pitching efforts from two of the greatest pitchers in history. Similar to the Dodgers, they had a dominant righty and a dominant lefty. The left-hander was Steve Carlton. While Carlton would spend most of his career toiling for the bottom-feeding Phillies, he provided valuable innings to the ’67-68 teams. The righty was Bob Gibson. Gibson’s ’68 season was a masterclass, as he went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA over 304.2 innings with 268 K’s.

Baltimore Orioles

The last dynasty of this Volume straddled the 60s-70s line. The first and only Baltimore dynasty went to the ’66 series and then three-straight from ’69-71. They were manged first by former Yankee great Hank Bauer but then Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver took over at the end of the decade. They swept the Dodgers in ’66 but lost to the “Amazin’ Mets” in ’69. They then took down a harbinger of a dynasty we’ll talk about next time in ’70 and then fell to the Pirates in ’71. One of the more balanced teams in league history, the O’s featured all-timers on the mound (Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar), all-timers at the plate (Frank Robinson, Boog Powell), and all-timers in the field (Brooks Robinson, Mark Belanger). A composite would look like this:

So that wraps up the 30s to the 60s. The Yankees were all over the place, by my demarcation they registered six separate dynasties over the forty-year stretch. The Cardinals and Dodgers were also active with three and two teams respectively. The Giants’ last New York dynasty at the beginning and the Orioles only dynasty at the end bookmarked the era. The Chicago Cubs went to the ’32, ’35, and ’38 series just barely missing the cut. The Reds (’39-40), Braves (’57-58), and Tigers (’34-35) had almost dynasties with the Tigers returning in ’40 and ’45. In the final volume, we’ll look at all the dynasties since 1970 and have some concluding thoughts.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

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