The 1940 World Series matched the Cincinnati Reds against the Detroit Tigers, the Reds winning a closely contested seven-game series for their second championship 21 years after their scandal-tainted victory in 1919. This would be the Reds last World Series championship for 35 years despite appearances in 1961, 1970, and 1972. Bill Klem worked the last of his record 18 World Series as an umpire.
Other story lines marked this series. Henry Quillen Buffkin Newsom, the father of Detroit’s star pitcher Bobo Newsom, died in a Cincinnati hotel room the day after watching him win Game 1. Newsom came back to hurl a shutout in Game 5 in his memory. Called on to start a third time after a single day of rest by Tiger manager Del Baker, he pitched well in Game 7 until the seventh inning, when the Reds scored two runs to take the lead and eventually the game and the Series.
The Reds’ star pitchers Paul Derringer and Bucky Walters won two games apiece, with Derringer winning the decisive seventh game. Walters hurled two complete games, allowing only eight hits and three runs combined. He also hit a home run in Game 6 in the midst of his 4�0 shutout, which sent the Series to a Game 7.
It was redemption of sorts for the Reds, who returned to the World Series after being swept by the Yankees squad in 1939. The Reds’ win in Game 2 against Detroit snapped a 10-game losing streak for the National League in the Series going back to Game 6 in 1937.
The victory culminated a somewhat turbulent season for the Reds, who played large stretches of the season without injured All-Star catcher Ernie Lombardi. And on August 3, Lombardi’s backup, Willard Hershberger, committed suicide in Boston a day after a defensive lapse cost the Reds a game against the Bees. Hershberger was hitting .309 at the time of his death. The Reds dedicated the rest of the season to “Hershie.” Ironically, one of the stars in the World Series was 40-year-old Jimmy Wilson. Wilson had been one of the Reds’ coaches before Hershberger’s suicide forced him back onto the playing field as Lombardi’s backup. With Lombardi hurting, Wilson did the bulk of the catching against Detroit and hit .353 for the Series and recorded the team’s only stolen base.
Reds’ manager Bill McKechnie became the first manager to win a World Series with two different teams (at the helm of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1925, after trailing three games to one against Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators.