Returning from War
The next three years of his career were wiped out when Williams left baseball to serve his country during World War II. He returned in 1946 to finally capture his first MVP. Williams didn’t hit .400 or win another Triple Crown that year but he did lead the Red Sox to the pennant for the only time in his career and that’s what mattered most to the voters.
His 10.6 WAR that year would end up being the highest that Williams would produce in any season so the award was well earned. Putting up arguably the best season of his career after a three-year hiatus makes the achievement even more uncanny.
In 1947, DiMaggio was back to steal the spotlight. Only this time he didn’t have a record-breaking hitting streak to fuel his campaign and his production wasn’t even close to what Williams provided.
Williams: .343/.499/.634/1.133, 32 HR, 114 RBI, 125 R, 9.5 WAR
DiMaggio: .315/.391/.522/.913, 20 HR, 97 RBI, 97 R, 4.6 WAR
For the second time in his career, Williams won the Triple Crown but had to settle for second place in the MVP race. Williams had massive lead in every category and more than doubled DiMaggio’s WAR. Obviously, voters didn’t know what WAR was back in those days so it wasn’t a factor but it goes to show how ridiculous this ballot was in retrospect.
The Red Sox dropped to third place that year, two games behind the Detroit Tigers and 16 behind the 97-win Yankees. Boston wasn’t close to returning to the World Series but they still had a winning record. This was another clear case of the pennant deciding the MVP race.