The 1940 World Series matched the Cincinnati Reds against the Detroit Tigers, with the Reds winning the Series in seven games for their second championship, their first since the scandal-tainted victory in 1919. Bill Klem worked the last of his record eighteen World Series as an umpire.
It was a closely contested Series, especially the final game, which was a heartbreaker for the Tigers, as losing pitcher Bobo Newsom had lost his father, who died in a Cincinnati hotel room the day after watching his son win Game 1. Newsom pitched a shutout "for dad" in his next start, Game 5. Newsom also pitched well in Game 7, but his one day of rest caught up to him in the seventh inning, when the Reds scored two runs to take the lead and eventually the game and the Series.
The Reds' win in Game 2 snapped a ten-game losing streak for the National League in the Series, tying the ten-game streak by the NL from 1927–1929.
Willard Hershberger, who had been the backup catcher for Ernie Lombardi in the 1939 Series, committed suicide during the season. One of the Reds' coaches, forty-year-old Jimmie Wilson, took over as Lombardi's backup. During the Series, Wilson batted .353 and was credited with the only stolen base.
Reds' manager Bill McKechnie became the first manager to win World Series with two different teams; in 1925 he had won the Series as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
As America welcomed in a new and promising decade, the Cincinnati Reds were still recovering from a miserable loss to the New York Yankees in the previous year's Series. The American League's newest dynasty had once again, swept the National League champs in four games (without Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig in their line-up). The Reds almost prevented a sweep in the bottom of the tenth (in Game 4) as they managed to send the tying run to the plate three times, but were unable to finish the job as Johnny Murphy protected the Yankees' 7-4 lead for their second consecutive sweep, and fourth consecutive World Series title.
Many National League fans had hoped that a worthy contender would finally step up and dethrone the perennial American League champions, but Cincinnati had come up short... very short. Things were finally looking up for the Nationals in 1940 as Bill McKechnie's club raced to one-hundred victories with a twelve-game margin in the National League pennant race and surprisingly, it was the New York Yankees who had come up short this time for the American League title. The Detroit Tigers had finished one game ahead of Cleveland and two in front of New York with a line-up that combined for seventy-four home runs and two-hundred eighty-four runs batted in. Plus, four Tiger regulars batted .313 or higher.
The American League's newest offensive superpower exhibited some of the skills that had dethroned the defending World Champions in Game 1 as they ran Reds' starter Paul Derringer from the mound in a five-run second on the way to a 7-2 opening victory. Pinky Higgins, Dick Bartell and Bruce Campbell each knocked in two runs for Detroit, who got solid eight-hit pitching from Bobo Newsom whose father had died suddenly after coming in from South Carolina to see his son pitch. The Reds were able to even it up the next day as Jimmy Ripple's two-run homer and Bucky Walters' three-hit pitching enabled Cincinnati to win, 5-3.
The "seesaw nature" of the Series continued in Game 3 as the Tigers regained the upper hand. Rudy York (who had thirty-three home runs and one-hundred thirty-four runs batted in), and Game 1 standout Pinky Higgins both nailed crucial two-run homers in a 1-1, seventh to push their team to a Series leading 7-4 triumph. Reds' starter Paul Derringer returned for Game 4 and had his revenge with a brilliant five-hit, 5-2 winner that tied the Series at 2 games apiece. The previous two seasons' one-sided, four game sweeps had left the Series with a feeling of predictability. After four close outings, it was truly anyone's game and the Commissioner's Office was obviously pleased with the competitive nature of the 1940 contest.
Detroit kept the streak alive in Game 5 with a strong 8-0 performance that featured an emotional, three-hit outing by the mourning Newsom (who had dedicated the win to his father). Teammate Hank Greenberg contributed a three-run homer and batted in four runs in support as the Tiger veteran capped off a monstrous season in which he had knocked the American League's top pitchers for forty-one homers, one-hundred fifty runs batted in and a .340 batting average. Games 6 and 7 would move east to Cincinnati, but home-field advantage had been certainly offset by the welcome pattern of alternating wins. Nevertheless, it was the Reds turn and sure enough, they delivered. Bucky Walters had not only thrown a five-hit shutout, but he also added a homerun for the 4-0 victory. Tigers Manager Del Baker called on his #1 ace Newsom for Game 7, even if that pitcher was coming off only one day of rest. McKechnie opted for Derringer, who had two.
Newsom, a twenty-game winner in the American League for the third consecutive season, was the beneficiary of an unearned run in the third and made that run stand up through six innings. However, Frank McCormick, easily the Reds' top power threat (with nineteen homers and one-hundred twenty-seven runs batted in during '40), and Ripple hit consecutive doubles to open the Reds' seventh. With the game tied, 1-1, Jimmie Wilson bunted Ripple to third and after pinch-hitter Ernie Lombardi was given an intentional walk, Billy Myers drove him home with a fly ball to deep center. Derringer was now working with a 2-1 lead and was determined to nail down the Series title. He allowed an inning-opening single to Charlie Gehringer in the eighth, and then retired the Tigers' next six batters. The alternating-victory sequence had ended, and so had Cincinnati's long wait for their second Series triumph. Derringer and Walters, (both twenty-game winners - Derringer for the third straight season and Walters for the second), saved face for their winless efforts in the '39 Series by posting two victories apiece this time. The Reds' Bill Werber batted a Series-high .370, Wilson hit .353 and Ripple finished with an impressive .333. Ripple and Ival Goodman had six and five runs batted in, respectively, for the winners.
The season, while ending on a joyous note for Cincinnati, had sadness, too. In early August, their reserve catcher, Willard Hershberger had committed suicide in his Boston hotel room. Detroit's standout was Newsom, who had overcome extreme emotional adversity and won two of three decisions with a 1.38 earned-run average in twenty-six innings. Campbell, Greenberg and Higgins posted .360, .357 and .333 averages and Barney McCosky had a .304 Series mark. None of which was enough to prevent the Cincinnati Reds from winning their first World Series of the non-tainted variety. The title's legitimacy finally gave the Nationals the respect they deserved and it was the first time since 1919 (when they were the beneficiaries of the famous "Black Sox Scandal") that the Reds were hailed as true champions.