Arthur Daley joined the New York Times in 1926. Sixteen years later he started his outstanding column, “Sports of the Times,” which he wrote until 1973.
Daley respected statistics (yes, statistics existed before sabermetrics), but he also respected what his eyes saw. In 1954, as he had done numerous times, Daley eschewed statistics and played a hunch.
The Cleveland Indians won 111 in 1954, easily outdistancing the New York Yankees to win the American League pennant. The New York Giants, led by the incomparable Willie Mays, won 97 games to become the National League champions.
The Indians were overwhelming favorites to beat the Giants in what promised to be a close, exciting World Series, but Daley boldly predicted that the Giants would beat the Indians.
The Tribe’s starting pitchers, which consisted of Bob Lemon (23-7, 2.72), Early Wynn (23-11, 2.73), Mike Garcia (19-8, 2.64), Bob Feller (13-3, 3.07) and Art Houtteman (15-7, 3.35) was one of the most formidable rotations ever assembled.
Yes, it was probably better than the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies’ rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels.
Don Mossi (6-1, 1.94) and Ray Narleski (3-3, 2.22) led a solid Cleveland relief corps. Mossi had only 13 saves, while Narleski had a mere seven, but relief pitchers were, as Goose Gossage is fond of reminding today’s experts, firemen, not one inning closers.
Arthur Daley’s hunch seemingly defied reason. It ran contrary to logic, statistics, and the betting odds, but Daley wrote that the Giants would win.
Admitting that the Giants were not a great team, Daley felt that they had a fierce determination, great resiliency, and the ability to win the big game.
Statistics cannot take fierce determination, great resiliency, and the ability to win the big into account.
They can measure resiliency and clutch ability to a limited degree, but statistics fall short when it comes to the dogged determination and dedication of a Joe DiMaggio or a Pete Rose.
Daley used statistics judiciously in a limited manner, which worked to his advantage.
The Indians’ great numbers were achieved in what was generally perceived as the weaker American League. The National League was deeper, had more great black players, and had more outstanding stars.
Only the great Ted Wiliams, Minnie Minoso, and possibly Larry Doby could stand up to Wille Mays, Stan Musial, Duke Snider, and Ted Kluszewski,
No one in the American League, not Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, or even Whitey Ford were quite the equal of Warren Spahn or Robin Roberts.
Not only was Daley right in his pick of the Giants, but he was actually too conservative. The Giants swept the Indians, totally dominating them.
The Indians batted an anemic .190. The Giants hit .254. The Indians scored nine runs. The Giants scored 21 runs.
There is much too much emphasis on statistics in today’s game, especially during the regular season. It is fascinating that in the playoffs and World Series, where there is much less margin for error, most managers play the game the way it was played many years ago.
Doesn’t it make one wonder?
Daley, Arthur. “Sports of The Times.” New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 28 Sep 1954: pp. 36