Did you know Jackie Robinson was the first ever Rookie of the Year? How about that only 14 Hall of Famers have won Rookie of the Year?
Ever wonder which league has produced the better rookies throughout the course of history? Not only stellar first seasons, but careers?
I’m determined to tackle the National League vs. American League showdown of players, going year for year. It’s interesting to think which ones have produced the better rookies, but does it really mean anything? Let’s examine the years (yes, this might take a while) and see where we finish up with. I’ll go with a point system, three points for the best rookie year, five points for the best career. Understand? Good.
Let’s do this. Hey, you might learn a few things … as will I.
In 1947 and 1948, the Rookie of the Year honors were combined into one award for both leagues. So, let’s start with 1949 …
American League: OF Roy Sievers, St. Louis Browns
Sievers hit to the tune of .306 with 16 home runs and 91 RBIs during his rookie campaign.
For his career, Roy was a four-time All-Star who is known as the first member to hit 300 home runs and not make the Hall of Fame. He finished his career with a .267 average, 318 home runs and 1147 RBIs over 17 seasons.
Sievers came close to grabbing MVP honors in 1957 when he finished third behind Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams. During that year, he hit .301 and drilled 42 long balls while chasing home 114 batters. He led the league in home runs that year grabbing the honor from Mickey Mantle.
National League: P Don Newcombe, Brooklyn Dodgers
Don was a member of the great Brooklyn Dodgers and led the Dodgers to a 3.17 ERA, five shutouts and finished with a 17-8 record during his rookie campaign. He had 32 consecutive scoreless innings pitched and became the first black pitcher to start a World Series game. During that year, he became one of the first four black players to make the All-Star team.
Newcombe pitched in only 10 seasons and finished with a 149 – 90 record and 3.56 ERA. The four-time All-Star won the Cy Young and MVP in 1956 when he posted a 27-7 record and 3.06 ERA. He’s a three-time 20-game winner. Before Justin Verlander completed the trifecta with his MVP/Cy Young sweep, Newcombe was the only player ever to win the Rookie, Cy Young and MVP honors in a career. Newcombe struck out 1,129 batters over the course of his career.
He also hit .271 with 15 home runs and was used as a pinch-hitter at times. He holds the ninth-best average in history among pitchers, highlighted by 33 doubles and 108 RBIs.
Newcombe went to the Chunichi Dragons in Japan in 1962 after leaving MLB. He returned to the Dodgers in the ’70s to work in the front office. Unfortunately, Newcombe’s career dwindled throughout the years as he battled alcoholism.
Rookie of the Year goes to … Don Newcombe. He led the Dodgers to a pennant, became the first black pitcher to start a World Series game, and he led the league in shutouts.
Rookie career goes to … Don Newcombe. He had several stellar seasons, won 27 games in a season, first and only (until Verlander) to win the Rookie, Cy Young and MVP during a career. If Newcombe could have stayed away from the alcohol, he would have been a lock for the Hall of Fame at his time.
Score: NL 8, AL 0
Next up is Walt Dropo of the American League and Sam Jethroe of the National League.