This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
Dick Newsome’s career was only three seasons long, but the World War II veteran was arguably the best rookie of the 1941 season. The Rookie of the Year Award was still 6 years away from being award to its first recipient, Jackie Robinson, so we’re left to merely speculate who would’ve won the award in 1941.
The only other candidate to consider for the 1941 Rookie of the Year likely would have been Phil Rizzuto, who was wrapping up an incredible debut season where he hit .300 with a slugging percentage of .398 for the eventual World Champion New York Yankees. In the Most Valuable Player voting, Rizzuto ranked 20th while Newsome ranked 10th. Neither player received a 1st place MVP vote, which is not surprising, since 1941 was the season of Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hit streak and Ted Williams’ season with a .406 batting average.
Dick Newsome’s career sputtered in 1942 and 1943 before he left to join Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Phil Rizzuto and many other ballplayers fighting in World War II. After he served in the military, Newsome did not return to the big leagues as many ballplayers did. He returned to his home in Ahoskie, North Carolina instead. With his baseball career behind him, he worked on his farm, where he died in 1956 in an auto accident.
If Dick Newsome were alive today, he’d be celebrating his 100th birthday, and probably would agree that he was the 1941 Rookie of the Year! Happy Birthday, Dick Newsome!