Red Sox Pennants

May 22, 1949

A crowd of 35,961 jammed Fenway Park to watch Red Sox’ pitcher Joe Dobson’s second straight shutout, a 4-0 decision over the defending World Series champion Cleveland Indians.

It was the biggest crowd at Fenway since Tom Yawkey rebuilt the park in 1934.

The Indians beat the Boston Braves in the 1948 World Series, getting there by beating the Red Sox in a one-game playoff for the American League pennant. They didn’t even have to pack their bags for Games 1 and 2 of the Series.

It was as close as Boston ever came to an all-Commonwealth Avenue World Series. The Braves fled to Milwaukee during spring training in 1953, their path greased by drawing 281,278 in 1952.

With the reserve clause binding a player to one team in perpetuity, until the team chose to trade or release him, the bar was set fairly low for a big-league ballclub to achieve financial success.

Teams selling more than one million tickets were considered solid. Drawing 750,000 or so was OK, but players’ salaries needed to be closely monitored.

Teams drawing 270,936 looked for escape hatches.

The St. Louis Browns were at the bottom of the American League standings, on the field and at the box office. Not even master showman Bill Veeck could save the Browns after buying the team in 1951.

In 1953, the Browns ended up in Baltimore, though Veeck had to sell the club before the move was approved. The other owners shared a loathing of Veeck’s showmanship, such as having a midget stride up to the plate and drawing a base on balls.

That led the way for the other moves made through the 1950s – the Philadelphia A’s to Kansas City, the Boston Braves to Milwaukee, the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles and the New York Giants to San Francisco.

With Tom Yawkey itching to win a World Series, the Red Sox’ payroll for 1949 came in at an estimated $325,220. Since the Red Sox drew 1,596,650, it’s fair to assume that despite falling to the Yankees down the stretch, finishing one game behind in the AL race, Yawkey had a little walking-around money at year’s end.

The Yankees drew 2,283,676, with a payroll at $272,375.