The 1939 World Series featured the three-time defending champion New York Yankees against the Cincinnati Reds, who were making their first Series appearance since winning the scandal-tainted 1919 World Series. The Yankees swept the Series in four games for the second straight year, winning their record fourth consecutive title (they would later win five straight from 1949 to 1953). Yankee manager Joe McCarthy won his fifth title, tying the record held by Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack.
In the 10th inning of the final game, a famous play at the plate typified the Series. “King Kong” Charlie Keller scored when he and the ball both collided with catcher “Schnoz” Ernie Lombardi, and then Joe DiMaggio also scored while Lombardi, rolling on the ground, tried in vain to retrieve the ball. Lombardi had been smacked in the groin, but the puritanical press reported it as Lombardi “napping” at the plate.
The Yankees matched the Reds in hits with 27, but out-homered them 7 to 0. Keller led the Yanks with seven hits, three home runs, six RBI, eight runs scored, a .438 average and a 1.188 slugging percentage.
Keller broke the record for most homers by a rookie in a World Series game with two in Game 3. Also in Game 3, Junior Thompson gave up five hits in 4 2⁄3 innings worked. Four of the five were home runs, tying the record for long balls allowed during a Series game set by the Cubs’ Charlie Root in 1932.
Despite the loss, the Reds were an organization on the rise, having improved from eighth and last in the National League in 1937 (56–98, .364) to fourth in ’38 (82–68, .547) and first as NL champions in ’39. Ironically, despite being dominated by the Bronx Bombers in the 1939 Series, the Reds would return in 1940 to win the World Series while the Yankees finished behind Detroit and Cleveland in the AL pennant race, snapping their consecutive World Series streak at four.