Game Six

As a baseball fan you beg for a game seven. They are the ultimate test of a team, of the entire sport. Over the course of Major League Baseball’s history there have been a number of very good game seven’s. There have also been a number of real stinkers. But let me take a moment and praise game six, the penultimate game in a playoff. There have  also been an extraordinary number of very good sixth games. True, they set the stage for game seven, but they can also be compelling in their own right. That being said, I want to take some time and look at bunch of games numbered six.

First a  couple of caveats (which I always seem to have). I’ve limited my look at game six to the period following World War II. This is not to downgrade those games prior to 1945, but I’ve seen a lot of the games I’m about to mention so there is a personal tug about each. That simply can’t be true of the games prior to World War II. By doing it this way, I can give personal comments from actually having seen the games themselves. Second, there is one exception to this list, one game I didn’t see (heck, my Dad had just barely met my Mom when it was played), but that game is so famous, I have to talk about it. Thirdly, I have included playoff games as well as World Series games in the list. There have been a lot of good playoff games on the road to the World series and they deserve mention also. Finally, I made my personal preference for the best ever game 6 known way back in December 2009, so this will be a look more at the games in chronological order than a look at them by worst to best or best to worst format.

Al Gionfriddo, sixth inning, 5 October 1947

1947

The only game I didn’t personally see (actually watch on TV) is game six of the 1947 World Series. The New York Yankees were leading the Series 3 games to 2 over the Brooklyn Dodgers when game six was played on Sunday, October 5th at Yankee Stadium. Facing elimination, the Dodgers sent Vic Lombardi to the mound  against Allie Reynolds.

Neither pitcher had it in game six. The Dodgers scored two in the first, two in the third, and New York answered with four in the bottom of the third. Relievers Ralph Branca (of Bobby Thomson fame) and Karl Drews for New York kept things in check for two innings, Branca giving up one run in the fourth, and Joe Page replacing Drews in the fifth..  Then in the sixth, the Dodgers struck with four more runs chasing Page and bringing in 40-year-old Bobo Newsom, who shut down the Dodgers.

The Dodgers made two major changes in the bottom of the sixth, Joe Hatten took the mound, and sub outfielder Al Gionfriddo went to left. Hatten was initially somewhat ineffective. He got two men out, but he also put two men on and had to face Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio drove a ball to deep left field. Gionfriddo raced to the fence, leaped and caught the ball to end the inning. The catch is, along with Willie Mays’ 1954 catch, among most famous in World Series history. The shot of DiMaggio kicking the dirt around second base is one of the most iconic memories of him in his  career.

With the inning over, Hatten still had a tough time in the 7th, again loading the bases before getting the final out. He had a one-two-three 8th inning, then let two men on to open the bottom of the ninth. Dodgers closer Hugh Casey came in, gave up a run on a force out, then finished the game by inducing a pitcher to first (1-3) ground out.

It was a great game six. Ultimately it was futile on the part of the Dodgers. They lost game seven 5-2 after leading 2-0 in the second. The 1947 World Series is still considered a classic. Bill Bevans almost threw the first no-hitter in Series play and the Dodgers and the Yankees began one of the greatest postseason rivalries in sports history (and, yes, I know they played in 1941, but the war broke the string and I consider the rivalry to begin in 1947). But game six was unforgettable. And as trivia buffs might know, it was Gionfriddo’s last Major League game.

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