Posts Tagged ‘Joe DiMaggio’

Joltin’ Joe, Bob Wills and Piercing the Iron Curtain

August 8, 2016

This marks the 1000th time I’ve sat down at a computer, gone to my blog page, started typing, and hit “publish” rather than “delete.” Frankly, I never expected I’d go on this long, but I have. When I began, I knew some day I would tell you this story. It’s one of my favorite personal stories and I’ve been saving it for a special occasion. Being a child of the Cold War, this little tale speaks to me in a way that some of you who are considerably younger than I may not understand; but I think it’s worth telling. The 1000th post seemed like a good time. For  those of you read me occasionally, thank you. For those of you who read me with some consistency, have you seen a shrink recently? Now the story, which is true.

City Museum, Dresden

City Museum, Dresden

Back in 2000 my wife and I got to take a trip to Europe. She wanted to see Berlin and both of us were curious about how the former East Germany was dealing with the end of the Cold War. As it was only two hours by train from Berlin, we decided we’d hop down for a quick look at Dresden.

The city was restored from the World War II bombing, but then was allowed to deteriorate under the East German regime. The buildings were nice, but dingy with an ugly coat of soot and grime on most of them. If you walked through the old part of town you noticed that they were cleaning the buildings slowly and doing it with systematic thoroughness. With exceptions, the further west you went in the town, the dirtier the buildings. The further east you went in the town, the cleaner the buildings. It was as if the city fathers (and mothers, I suppose) decided to clean the town starting on the east side and finish up on the west side. The Dresden City Museum was on the far eastern side of the old town area.

It was a lot fancier building than our local city museum, but essentially it was the same kind of thing. It featured local items ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous and emphasized how much the locals had contributed to German culture and art, which is pretty much what our local museum does in my home town. Dresden is just bigger and has a lot more stuff in a much more impressive building.

My wife and I have a deal when we visit a museum. We find a spot and agree to meet there at a specific time. That allows us to go through at our own speed seeing what each of us wants and ignoring those things that don’t interest us at all. She doesn’t have to stand patiently waiting for me to finish looking over some exhibit and I don’t have to pound my head on the wall hoping she’ll eventually get through with what I consider a particularly boring room. It’s a marvelous system and we used it in Dresden. As fate would have it I finished first and arrived back at the appointed meeting place, the bottom of the staircase to the second floor right next to the kiosk where you paid your money and got your entry ticket.

As I’m likely to do on those occasions, I parked on the edge of one of the lower steps out of people’s way and did something I do a lot when I’m killing time, I started whistling softly. I never pay much attention to what I’m whistling, I just try to keep it low so I don’t disturb anyone. Well, I blew it this time. There were two older ladies in the kiosk, docents who took your money and would lead the occasional tour group through the museum. The younger one looked to be in her late 60s and it was she who heard me.

She came out of the kiosk, looked directly at me and in a heavy accent said, “Bob Wills.”

Now I have to admit that got my attention. Here I was in Eastern Germany (former East Germany) and I was hearing the name of an American musician that had been dead 25 years and hadn’t had a hit in 50. It took me a second to realize that I was whistling the old Wills staple “Faded Love.” Where I live in Oklahoma you have to be able to sing both the chorus and one verse to graduate from high school. The same is true of getting into college, unless you happen to play football. In that case they waive the requirement. My son knew both verses and the chorus so he was given a free ride scholarship for four years.

I nodded. She came over, sat down on the stairs beside me and started singing, again in heavily accented English, very softly, “I miss you darling more and more every day, as heaven would miss the stars above.” That got my attention too. I had enough sense not to join her. Then she told me a story which I now pass on to you. Her English was pretty good, my German isn’t that bad, so between her English and my German I got most of the tale and I think I got it right.

Back about 1950 (the name of the song and the reference to one of the ball players mentioned gave me this approximate date) the Russians and East German Communist Party decided that the citizens of the new People’s Paradise should have nothing to do with Western ways (and here I mean the West in the sense of the US, Britain, Canada, France, etc., not the Cowboy Old West of Jesse James and John Wayne). No western style clothes, no western music, no western books, no western anything. She was about 15 or so and was part of a group of six or seven other kids about the same age. Turns out they loved western music. Someone had a record player of some type (I don’t remember her telling me what kind) and they had a few western records smuggled in, among which was Wills’ version of “Faded Love.” It was new in 1950, hence the earliest date this story could occur. They also had a radio. Dresden was still a bombed out mess, but there were some cellars that were useable and unoccupied so they’d set up a scout to tell them if anyone was coming and then get down in one of the cellars. Light was by lantern (I always think of the oil lanterns you see in Cowboy movies, but I don’t know if that’s what she meant.). They had to make sure that no light could get out of the cellar to alert anyone. The solution was to bring blankets to hang over big holes and tattered pieces of cloth to put into chinks that might show light. Then they could crank up the record player and very softly play a song and dance to it. One of their favorites was “Faded Love.” It wasn’t so great to dance to but the words, which those who spoke English translated into German, spoke to them of the sadness they felt in their own lives behind the “Iron Curtain.”

“I miss you darling more and more every day as heaven would miss the stars above.

“With every heartbeat I still think of you and remember our faded love.”

And then there was the radio. They could pick up the BBC and a few other channels. One was American. She thought it was the Army radio channel. I asked if it was AFN (Armed Forces Network) she but wasn’t sure. It gave them more music, uncensored news, and it gave them baseball. They didn’t know a thing about the game, but there was a crowd and they were loud and they were, unlike the singer in “Faded Love,” obviously happy. Loud and happy? Well, those were things the docent and her buddies weren’t and probably weren’t going to get much of a chance to be. So they listened to the games to hear the crowd cheer and to hear people being happy. And of course they picked up a little baseball knowledge, although she said she never understood much about the game. Most particularly they picked up the names of players like Joe DiMaggio (whose last season was 1951 and serves as the latest date for the story) and Duke Snider. They loved the nicknames so much that most of the boys in the group took a nickname for themselves (to only be used when they were with the group). One guy became “Duke” and another “Joltin’ Joe”. Of course they had no idea what “Joltin'” meant, but it sounded good. As time went along my little docent married “Joltin’ Joe.” She told me they were still married and she still called him “Joe” occasionally, but only in private (old habits die hard).

She thanked me for listening, went back to her kiosk. I sat there looking pretty stupid (something not uncommon for me) until my wife finally showed up. We left the museum, went on to tour the rest of the city, or at least as much as we could see in a day, and took the train back to Berlin. On the trip back I told the story to my wife and noticed a tear in her eye.

The Old and the New: Game 5

March 22, 2016

Game five of the 1942 World Series was played in New York with the Yankees down three games to one. To pick up the ’42 championship they would have to win three consecutive games.

Whitey Kurowski

Whitey Kurowski

Game 5

The game was played 5 October in the Bronx. To keep their hopes alive, the Yanks turned to game one victor Red Ruffing. St. Louis needing one win to clinch the Series countered with game two winner Johnny Beazley. As in game four, the Yankees scored early when Phil Rizzuto led off the bottom of the first with a home run. It held up until the top of the fourth when Enos Slaughter led off that half inning with a home run. Not to be outdone, New York replied in the bottom of the fourth. This time, rather than a home run, they used a Red Rolfe single, a botched pickoff, a sacrifice fly, and a Joe DiMaggio single to retake the lead 2-1.

Things stayed that way until the top of the sixth. Consecutive singles by Terry Moore and Slaughter put runners on first and third. A Stan Musial popup brought up Walker Cooper. His long fly to right plated Moore with the tying run, but a Johnny Hopp fly out stranded the go ahead run on the bases.

From the bottom of the sixth through the end of the eighth inning the pitchers ruled. Only one man, Rizzuto for the Yankees and Jimmy Brown for the Cardinals, got on base for either team. With it looking like extra innings, Walker Cooper led off the top of the ninth with a single. A bunt sent him to second and brought up Cards third baseman Whitey Kurowski. He proceeded to drive a pitch deep into the left field stands and put the Cardinals ahead 4-2 with three outs to go. Joe Gordon led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, the seventh hit given up by Beazley. Brown managed to boot a Bill Dickey grounder to put men on first and second with no outs. St. Louis shortstop Marty Marion then slipped behind Gordon at second and a snap throw from catcher Cooper caught Gordon off the base for out one. A pop-up to Brown brought the second out. Then a grounder went straight to Brown who flipped to first for the final out of the Series. St. Louis won the game 4-2 and the Series in five games.

For a short World Series it was a good Series. The Yankees actually outhit the Cardinals .247 to .239 and had more extra base hits (nine to eight), and more total hits (44 to 39). They even had fewer errors (5 to 10). But St. Louis scored more runs 23 to 18, more walks (17 to 8), and less strikeouts (19 to 22). Brown’s .300 led all St. Louis hitters while Kurowski’s five RBIs, including the Series winning one, paced the Cardinals. Four players, including Kurowski, scored three runs. Musial’s .222 average wasn’t much, but he scored two runs and drove in another pair while walking a team leading four times. For New York, Rizzuto hit .381, while Keller, who hit only .200, led the team with five RBIs and two home runs. MVP Gordon hit only .095 and was picked off in a critical situation.

It was the St. Louis pitching that made much of the difference. Their ERA was 2.60 as opposed to the New York ERA of 4.50. They gave up five more hits, but five fewer runs (how’s that for symmetry?). While the Yanks walked 17, the Cards walked only eight. In strikeouts the Cardinals had a small edge of 22 over the Yankees 19. Beazley won two games with an ERA of 2.50 while Ernie White had a complete game shutout. For New York only Red Ruffing claimed a win, but he also took a loss.

For both teams there would be the rematch of 1943, which New York would win by the same four games to one margin. Then New York would fall off, only to revive in 1947 and then have another great run from 1949 all the way to 1964. For Yankees manager Joe McCarthy it would be the only blot on his New York World Series resume. The Series would become known in some places as “the one the Yankees lost.” For St. Louis it was the beginning of an impressive run. During the 1940s the Cardinals would win four championships (’42, ’43, ’44, and ’46) and win three world titles (all but ’43). It was one of the truly best, and by now most overlooked, teams in National League history. It is still the last National League team to win three consecutive pennants (1942, ’43, and ’44). In the 1950s the Cards would fall off, but in a twist of great irony it was the 1964 Cardinals that would finally end the great Yankees run of the 1950s and early 1960s.

 

 

The Old and the New: games at Sportsman’s Park

March 14, 2016

The 1942 World Series began in St. Louis with two games. After those two, the Series would move to New York for games three through five. The final games, if necessary, would be back in St. Louis.

Red Ruffing

Red Ruffing

Game 1

The first game in Sportsman’s Park was played 30 September. St. Louis sent National League MVP Mort Cooper to the mound. New York countered with long time stalwart Red Ruffing. Both pitchers were on for three innings. In the top of the fourth Joe DiMaggio singled.  Consecutive pop ups got two outs, then Bill Dickey walked moving DiMaggio to second. A Buddy Hassett double down the left field line scored DiMaggio and sent Dickey to third. A grounder by pitcher Ruffing got Cooper out of the jam with only one run scoring. But the Yanks went back to work in the top of the fifth. With one out a Red Rolfe single and Roy Cullenbine double put runners on second and third. A Joe DiMaggio roller to third got Cullenbine trying to advance, but Rolfe scored the second New York run.

In the eighth inning, the wheels came off for Cooper. With two outs and DiMaggio on first, Dickey singled. A Hassett single scored the Yankee Clipper and sent Dickey to third. Then Ruffing lifted a fly to right field which Cardinals outfielder Enos Slaughter misplayed allowing both Dickey and Hassett to score. That put New York up 5-0. New York tacked on two more in the ninth when Rolfe singled and Cullenbine hit a little tapper back to Max Lanier, who’d relieved to start the ninth. Lanier threw it away allowing Rolfe to score and Cullenbine to go to third. A second out brought up Charlie Keller who walked. A Lanier pick-off attempt went wide and Cullenbine scored the seventh New York run.

Up 7-0 Ruffing started the bottom of the ninth. Considering what was to happen in the remainder of the Series, it was a harbinger of what was to come. Stan Musial fouled out, then Walker Cooper singled. Another out brought up pinch hitter Ray Sanders who walked. A Marty Marion triple scored both runners. Pinch hitter Ken O’Dea singled scoring Marion. Another single brought Terry Moore to the plate. His single scored the fourth run of the inning. A Slaughter single brought up Musial with two outs. He’d made the first out of the inning and proceeded to ground to the first baseman. A flip to the pitcher ended the game, the inning, and made Musial one of the few men to make two outs in one inning in the World Series.

The Yankees won 7-4, but the St. Louis rally in the bottom of the ninth was indicative of what the Cardinals were capable of doing. New York had gotten good production out of much of its lineup and Ruffing had been sterling for eight innings. Both teams did well, but New York led the Series 1 game to none.

The Man

The Man

Game 2

The second game was played 1 October. For the Cardinals Johnny Beazley took the mound. The Yankees response was Ernie Bonham. From the beginning Bonham was in trouble. He gave up a leadoff walk to Jimmy Brown. Terry Moore bunted Brown to second and beat out the throw. Two outs later Walker Cooper doubled home both runs to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead.

Both pitchers pitched well from there. They gave up a lot of hits but there weren’t many walks and no one scored. The Cards tacked on a run in the seventh on a Johnny Hopp single and a Whitey Kurowski triple, but failed to score Kurowski. That was to cost the Cards because the Yanks came storming back in the top of the eighth. With two outs, Roy Cullenbine singled, then stole second. Joe DiMaggio singled to bring home Cullenbine and scored himself when Charlie Keller slugged a two-run home run to right field that tied the game at 3-3.

In the bottom of the eighth, tied and in danger or possibly going down two games to none, St. Louis took a pair of quick outs. That brought up Enos Slaughter who doubled to right. Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto let the throw in from right get away and Slaughter dashed to third. Up came Stan Musial who had made two outs in one inning the day before, including the final out of the game. But it was Musial and he singled to score Slaughter and put the Cardinals ahead 4-3. The score stayed that way despite consecutive singles to lead off the top of the ninth. Neither man scored, the first being cut down at third on a great throw from Slaughter. A fly and a groundout finished off New York and the Cardinals had tied the Series one game apiece.

Beazley had one bad inning, but managed to win. He was in trouble a lot, giving up 10 hits and walking two, but New York’s scoring was confined to one inning. Bonham had given up only six hits and walked just one, but he’d spread four runs over the game and lost. Slaughter was a big hero scoring the decisive run and gunning down a key runner in the ninth, but it was Musial who drove in the game winner.

Several years ago I did a series of posts in which I gave my candidate for the best ever World Series by game (i.e. the best all time game 1, the best all time game 2, etc.). At the time I chose the 1942 Series game 2 as the finest game 2 in World Series history. It’s been several years since (and thus a number of game 2’s since) so I might now change my mind. But whether I would or not, it was still a great game.

After a day off for travel, the World Series would resume in New York with three games. With the Series tied, a split of any kind would bring the games back to St. Louis. A sweep would end the season.

 

 

 

The Old and the New: the ’42 Yankees

March 7, 2016
Marse Joe

Marse Joe

The 1942 baseball season was the first played while the US was involved in the Second World War. It changed a lot of things. One thing it didn’t change was the New York Yankees stranglehold on the American League. For the sixth time in seven years, New York won the AL pennant. Joe McCarthy’s gang won the league championship by nine games and were primed to win their ninth World Series since 1927.

Yankee hitters finished first in runs and home runs and second in almost everything else, finishing third in stolen bases and triples and fourth in doubles. The pitching was even better. New York hurlers led the AL in every major category except strikeouts (they were second) and in home runs. All that got them 103 wins and earned second baseman Joe Gordon an MVP award.

It wasn’t one of the more famous Yankee staffs, but New York pitchers were excellent. Ernie Bonham, Spud Chandler, Hank Borowy, Atley Donald, and Marv Breuer all started at least 19 games. Hall of Famer Red Ruffing had a 3.21 ERA which was last among the starters. His .667 winning percentage (14-7) was next-to-last. Johnny Murphy and Johnny Lindell did most of the damage out of the bullpen, while former ace Lefty Gomez was restricted to 13 games.

At 35, Bill Dickey was still a premier catcher. He hit .295 for the season with an OPS of .732 (POS+ of 108) and 1.6 WAR. His power was gone (two homers)but neither Buddy Rosar or Rollie Hemsley, his backups, had more.

The infield was formidable up the middle and weaker at the edges. Hall of Famers Joe Gordon and Phil Rizzuto played either side of the keystone bag. Gordon, as mentioned above, won the MVP hitting .322 with a .900 OPS and a 154 OPS+. His WAR was a team high 8.2. He contributed 103 RBIs, 88 runs, and 18 home runs (all third on the team). Shortstop Rizzuto added a .284 average, a .718 OPS, a 103 OPS+, and 5.7 WAR. He had 157 hits, 68 RBIs, and flashed good leather. Buddy Hassett held down first. He wasn’t Lou Gehrig, managing only a .284 average, 0.4 WAR, and a below average OPS+ of 95. Frankie Crosetti and Red Rolfe shared time at third. Neither hit.250 (Crosetti’s .242 easily outpacing Rolfe’s .219). Rolfe’s eight home runs doubled Crosetti’s four and between them they had 48 RBIs. Jerry Priddy and Ed Levy provided most of the bench work (infielders with more than 40 at bats).  Levy hit a buck-22, but Priddy hit .280 with a couple of home runs.

The 1942 team provided one of the best Yankee outfields. There was no Ruth or Mantle, but across the field from left to right the three main players might have given New York the best trio of outfielders it produced at one time. Joe DiMaggio was in center. His 6.1 WAR was third on the team. He hit .305 with 21 home runs (good for second on the team) while leading the team with 114 RBIs and 186 hits. Charlie Keller played left. He hit .292, led the team with 26 homers and a .930 OPS (163 OPS+) and posted 6.7 WAR (good for second on the team). Tommy Henrich hit .267 with 13 home runs, 129 hits, a team leading 30 doubles, an OPS+ of 121, and 2.7 WAR. Roy Cullenbine and George Selkirk were the other outfielders. Cullenbine hit .364 and led the team with an OPS+ of 188 (1.4 WAR) and had the only two home runs by the backup outfielders. Selkirk hit .192.

The Yanks were defending champions. They were seasoned, formidable, and ready to repeat. Standing in their way was the upstart team from St. Louis.

Nine Thoughts on the 2016 Hall of Fame Class

January 7, 2016

As baseball uses nine men in the field and nine men in the batting order, here’s nine random thoughts on the just concluded Hall of Fame voting:
1. First and foremost, congratulations to both Ken Griffey, Jr, the second best player from Donora, Pennsylvania (behind Stan Musial) and Mike Piazza on election to Cooperstown.

2. Three people didn’t vote for Griffey, but his 99% of the vote is the highest percentage ever. I read a lot of stuff saying Griffey could be the first unanimous selection. Come on, team, Babe Ruth wasn’t unanimous and neither Joe DiMaggio nor Yogi Berra made it on the first ballot so who could possibly believe that anyone was going to be unanimous? It renews my faith in the writers. I’ve said for years that they’re a poor group to pick the Hall of Fame and the three guys proved me right again.

3. Piazza is by far the more interesting choice. There are the steroid rumors around him that are just that, rumors. But there is the possibility that they are true. If, in his induction speech Piazza were to say “Yeah, I used the stuff,” then it becomes much more difficult for voters to keep out players who acknowledge they used stuff (McGwire) or are accused (Clemens, Bonds), or who flunked a test (Palmeiro). It will be interesting to see where this goes. None of this is meant to imply that I believe Piazza used anything but coffee while playing.

4. The culling of the deadweight among the voters allowed for some interesting results. Major jumps by Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Mike Mussina, Curt Shilling, and Edgar Martinez are unthinkable without a change in the voters. It may be a signal that all are on the road to Cooperstown (or maybe not).

5. The loss of the “old guard” type voters helped both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but not a lot. Neither went up as much as 10% and now we have six years left to see if they can continue gaining ground and how much of that ground they’ll gain. I was certain, until this vote, that the writers were going to kick them down the road to the Vets Committee and let them (the Vets Committee) make the hard choices. Maybe that’s changed. Next year will tell us much about how that’s going to work.

6. Jim Edmonds is not a Hall of Famer, the voters said so. OK, maybe he isn’t, but he’s better than 2% of the vote, a lot better. It’s a shame he won’t get another chance until the Veteran’s Committee has its say. Alan Trammell is not a Hall of Famer. At least he had 15 years and got 40% of the vote. I think they’re wrong, but now we get to see what the Veteran’s Committee says. And Mark McGwire is not a Hall of Famer although he had only 10 years to make his case. It appears he will be the test case for my kick it down the road to the Vets Committee theory (Geez, I’m writing about the Vets Committee a lot, aren’t I?).

7. Trevor Hoffman didn’t get in but got enough votes to appear a viable candidate for enshrinement on a later ballot. I think he needed that because I’m not sure he could sustain a long, gradual rise before getting over the 75% threshold. The problem is Mariano Rivera. When Rivera becomes eligible he should get in easily and Hoffman can no longer say he has the most saves of anyone eligible (and saves do seem to matter a lot to the voters). I was stunned Billy Wagner didn’t do better. At least he stayed on the ballot.

8. Next year adds Vlad Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, and Manny Ramirez (among others) to the ballot, making it again a large ballot. I do wish they’d dump the 10 vote rule. I wonder how much that hurt players like Edmonds?

9. All in all, with the exception of what happened to Edmonds and Trammell, I’m pleased with the results. Two worthy candidates got in, a handful of other candidates made major strides toward possible election. That’s not bad. Again congrats to Griffey and Piazza. Now I wonder which cap Piazza will wear on his plaque.

The Last Segregated World Series: the Games in New York

May 13, 2015

With the Yankees up two games to nothing, the World Series shifted to New York for games three, four, and, if necessary, game five. The Yanks needed two wins to wrap up the Series. Philadelphia needed to win at least two of the three games to send the Series back to Philly and a potential game six.

Jerry Coleman

Jerry Coleman

Game 3

The third game was played 6 October in the Bronx. The visiting Phillies sent 34-year-old Ken Heintzelman to the mound. He’d gone 3-9 with an ERA north of four during the regular season. But with the loss of Curt Simmons to the military and Bubba Church to injury, the Phils pressed him into service. He faced 18 game winner Eddie Lopat. Heintzelman was unsteady (he gave up  six walks) but over the first seven innings he gave up only one run. In the third with two outs he walked Phil Rizzuto who promptly stole second. A Jerry Coleman single plated Rizzuto with the game’s first run.

Philadelphia got it back in the sixth when, again with two outs, Del Ennis doubled. Dick Sisler then singled to tie the score. In the seventh, Granny Hamner singled to lead off the inning, was bunted to second, and scored on a Mike Goliat single. For the first time in the entire Series, the Phils were ahead.

They stayed that way for five outs. With two down in the eighth, Heintzelman walked Coleman, Joe DiMaggio, and Yogi Berra consecutively to load the bases. That sent Heintzelman out of the game and brought in Philly’s relief ace, Jim Konstanty. He got Bobby Brown to roll one to Hamner at short. Hamner booted the ball which scored Coleman with an unearned run. A foul pop to third ended the inning without more damage.

During the eighth, Lopat left the game as the result of a double switch. That brought Tom Ferrick to the mound. He let Hamner on with a double. A bunt sent the Philadelphia shortstop to third with one out. An intentional walk put men on first and third, bringing up the pitcher’s slot. Pinch hitter Dick Whitman banged one to first and Hamner, going on contact, was gunned down at the plate for out two. A fly ball then ended the inning.

In the bottom of the ninth Russ Meyer replaced Konstanty. He got the first two men, then Gene Woodling singled up the middle and Rizzuto put another single in almost the same spot. That brought up Coleman, who’d been involved in both Yankee runs. He singled to left scoring Woodling, resulting in a final score of 3-2, and putting the Yanks up three games to none. Ferrick, in his only postseason appearance ever, got the win with Meyer taking the loss.

The Chairman of the Board

The Chairman of the Board

Game 4

Down three games to none on the 7th of October, the Phillies sent rookie Bob Miller (he’d pitched 2.2 innings in 1949), an 11 game winner to the mound. The Yankees responded by sending their own rookie to the mound. His name was Whitey Ford. He was 21 and had pitched in 20 games that season, starting 12. His record was 9-1 with a 2.81 ERA (153 ERA+) and 59 strikeouts (but also 55 walks). He finished second (to Walt Dropo of Boston) in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

Ford was shaky in the first inning, walking the leadoff man and allowing a ground rule double to put men at second and third. But a fielder’s choice nipped the runner on third trying to score and a strikeout got New York out of the inning. Miller wasn’t nearly so lucky. Leadoff man Gene Woodling reached first on an error by the second baseman, went to second on a grounder, then scored an unearned run on a Yogi Berra single. A wild pitch moved Berra up and a Joe DiMaggio double scored Berra to make the score 2-0. It also sent Miller to the showers. He was replaced by Jim Konstanty who got the last out to end the inning.

Over the next four innings, the Yanks nursed the lead. Through the top of the sixth, Ford allowed only three singles (and an error let another man on). Konstanty was even better allowing only two singles. Used all season as a reliever (except game one of the Series), he tired in the bottom of the sixth. Berra led off the inning with a home run to make it 3-0, then Konstanty plunked DiMaggio. A ground out sent DiMaggio to second, and a Bobby Brown triple sent him home. Hank Bauer followed Brown with a fly that scored the fifth New York run.

Ford breezed through the seventh and eighth innings retiring the Phils in order. With three outs needed to claim a second consecutive championship, Ford started the ninth by allowing a single to Willie Jones. Then he plunked Del Ennis. That brought up Dick Sisler who grounded to second. A flip to the shortstop recorded the first out. Now with runners on first and third Ford struck out Granny Hamner for out two. Andy Seminick lofted a fly to left that Woodling misplayed allowing Jones and Sisler to score two unearned runs, making the score 5-2. That was all for Whitey Ford. In came Allie Reynolds to get the last out. He struck out Stan Lopata to end the threat, the inning, and the World Series.

Although it’s tough to call a sweep a terrific World Series, the 1950 World Series was a very good Series. Three of the four games were one run games. One of the games (2) went to extra innings, another (3) was won in the bottom of the ninth, a third (1) ended up 1-0. Only game four had a final victory margin of more than one run (5-2).

The Phillies pitching did well under the constraints of the loss of both Church and Simmons. Konstanty was terrific, starting his first game after a full season in the bullpen, and relieving in two others. His 15 innings pitched was tops for either team. As a staff they put up a respectable 2.27 ERA and gave up only 11 earned runs in 36 innings. But the hitting wasn’t as good. Philadelphia hit .203 as a team with only seven extra base hits (six doubles, one triple) in 26 hits. Hamner led the team with six hits two of the doubles, and the triple (but made a critical error). No player scored more than one run or drove in more than one run.

For the Yankees, the hitting was better, but not a lot. They hit .222 as a team, but with three doubles, a triple, and two home runs. Coleman led the team with three RBIs, five different players scored two runs, and Woodling led the team with six hits (all singles). The real New York heroes were the pitchers. Vic Raschi threw a complete game two-hit shutout, Ford went 8.2 giving up only unearned runs. Reynolds picked up both a win and a save and Eddie Lopat gave up only two runs in his one start. The team ERA was 0.73, with 24 strikeouts (seven walks), and a 0.892 WHIP. Ford and Reynolds both recorded seven strikeouts (Lopat and Raschi each had five).

For New York it was the second in a string of World Series victories that would reach five eventually. For Philadelphia it was a high water mark. They slid back in 1951 and didn’t resurface in the postseason until 1976.

The Last Segregated World Series: the Games in Philadelphia

May 11, 2015

The 1950 World Series was a contest between perennial power, the New York Yankees and the upstart National League winners the Philadelphia Phillies’ “Whiz Kids.” The first game was played 4 October at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. Due to the proximity of the two cities, the Series was played on consecutive days.

Vic Raschi

Vic Raschi

Game 1

The Yankees started ace Vic Raschi on the mound in game one. For the Phils there was a pitching dilemma. Ace Robin Roberts had started the last game of the season and was tired. Number two pitcher, Curt Simmons, was off doing military service due to the Korean War, and three pitcher Bubba Church was out with an injury. Manager Eddie Sawyer solved his quandary by starting Jim Konstanty, his bullpen ace. Konstanty had pitched in 74 games, started none, and averaged almost exactly two innings an outing. It was a gamble, but Philadelphia came close to pulling it off. Over three innings, Konstanty allowed two singles and three walks (one intentional), allowing one man to reach third. In the fourth Bobby Brown doubled. A Hank Bauer fly moved him to third, and another fly by Jerry Coleman brought him home with the Yanks first run. In the fifth, no Yank got on base. In the sixth there was one walk. In the seventh an error and a single put two men on, but Konstanty got out of it. The eighth was perfect and a pinch hitter removed Konstanty in the bottom of the eighth. He had been magnificent in an unaccustomed role. The last time he’d started a game was 1946 and he’d allowed one run, four hits, and four walks.

The problem for Philly was that Raschi was even better. In a complete game shutout he walked one, allowed two hits, and struck out five. The two hits were two singles in the fifth that put men on first and second with two outs. One of the five strikeouts ended the threat. The walk came with one out in the sixth but the runner didn’t advance. Those were the only three men to reach base against him. Raschi’s great performance gave the Yankees a one game lead in the Series.

Joe DiMaggio

Joe DiMaggio

Game 2

For game two on 5 October, the Phils finally got a chance to use their best pitcher. Fully rested, Robin Roberts took the mound in Shibe Park. He faced old hand Allie Reynolds. Roberts gave up two singles in the first, but got out of the jam on a popup and a foul. He wasn’t as lucky in the second. With one out, a walk to Jerry Coleman and back-to-back singles to pitcher Reynolds and Gene Woodling plated the first run of the game. Philadelphia got it back in the bottom of the fifth. Mike Goliat singled. After a failed bunt attempt, another single sent Goliat to third. He came home with the Phillies first run of the World Series when Richie Ashburn hit a sacrifice fly to left.

And that was all the scoring for the regulation game. Both pitchers gave up a lot of hits with Roberts giving up nine and Reynolds seven. Additionally both walked three men. Going into extra innings, both starters were still in the game. To lead off the 10th inning, Roberts faced Joe DiMaggio. The Yankee Clipper parked one in the left field stands and the Yanks took a 2-1 lead. Then a strikeout, a fly, and a grounder ended the top of the 10th. Reynolds walked the leadoff man in the bottom of the tenth, and a bunt sent him to second with one out. A foul to the first baseman and a strikeout ended the threat and the Yankees won 2-1 to take a two games to none lead in the Series.

Both games in Philadelphia were close games dominated by pitching.  Shibe Park was noted as a hitter’s park, but a total of four runs were scored in two games. Yankee Stadium was known as more of a pitcher’s park, especially in left and center fields. If the pitching continued to dominate, the Series, without regard to who won, could be counted on to produce some close games. It did.

 

The Last Segregated World Series: Casey’s Crew

May 8, 2015
Hank Bauer

8 Hank Bauer

In the 1950 World Series, the Philadelphia Phillies were tasked with defeating the current World Champion New York Yankees. The Yanks were winners of two of the previous three World Series and were a formidable foe.

They were led by retired player and former dental student (Thanks, Bloggess) Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel. He’d taken the reigns in New York in 1949 and led his team to a championship. In 1950 they were one game better than in 1949.

He had Joe Collins and Hall of Famer Johnny Mize at first. Both played about the same amount of games and both hit left-handed. Collins was a slightly better fielder and Mize the better hitter. For the season Mize hit .277 and was third on the team with both 25 home runs and 72 RBIs. His .946 OPS and 142 OPS+ were both second on the team. Jerry Coleman played second, hit .287 with no power, and was finding himself pushed by 22-year-old rookie Billy Martin. No one was pushing Hall of Fame shortstop Phil Rizzuto. He hit .324, led the team in both hits (200) and runs (125), played a good shortstop, and won the American League MVP for 1950 (his only MVP award). Billy Johnson and Bobby Brown (later AL President) were in a rough platoon system at third. Johnson hit .260, Brown .267.

Four men did most of the outfield work. Hall of Fame center fielder Joe DiMaggio was 35 and a year from retirement, but he hit .301, led the team with 35 home runs and a .979 OPS. His 122 RBIs were second on the team and his 5.3 WAR was third. In typical DiMaggio fashion he posted 80 walks to go along with only 33 strike outs. Hank Bauer was settling in as the new right fielder. He had 13 homers and hit .320. Gene Woodling did more work in left field than anyone else, hit .283 with only six home runs and made two errors all season. Cliff Mapes was the fourth outfielder, but got into 108 games. He had 12 home runs, but hit only .247.

The only other everyday players who appeared in 20 or more games were Jackie Jensen and Tommy Henrich. Jensen was a rookie outfielder who hit all of .171. Henrich was in his final season. He started 30 games at first, but spent most of his time as the main left-handed pinch hitter. He hit .272 with six home runs, a .918 OPS, and only six strikeouts to go with 27 walks. He had 41 total hits for the season, twenty were for extra bases: six doubles, eight triples, and the already mentioned six home runs. A lot of people forget that Henrich, never noted for his base stealing speed led the AL in triples twice (1947 and 1948).

Yogi Berra did almost all the catching. He had a great year hitting .322 (second to Rizzuto), with 28 home runs (second to DiMaggio), and a team leading 124 RBIs. His OPS was .915 and his WAR 5.6 (again second to Rizzuto’s 6.7). He struck out all of 12 times in 656 plate appearances and walked 55. His backups were future Yanks manager Ralph Houk and Charlie Silvera. Between them they got into 28 games (Houk started one game, Silvera seven).

The New York pitching corps was aging, unlike Philadelphia’s. Of the six men who started 10 or more games, only one was under 30. If you kick that up to all the men who pitched in 10 or more games, there were only two (and Bob Porterfield only pitched 20 innings over 10 games). Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat, Tommy Byrne, and Allie Reynolds all started at least 29 games with Byrne, at age 30, being the youngest (Reynolds at 33 was the oldest). Raschi had 21 wins but an ERA of 4.00. Lopat was 18-8 but had given up more hits than he had innings pitched (WHIP of 1.307). Reynolds led the team with 160 strikeouts and Byrne had 160 walks (with 118 strikeouts). Fred Sanford only started 12 games but walked more than he struck out. The other guy (and the other pitcher under 30) was a rookie named Whitey Ford. He went 9-1 over 20 games (12 starts), had a 2.81 ERA, and was on the way to a Hall of Fame career.

The bullpen was still anchored by Joe Page. He’d posted 13 saves, but his ERA was north of five and he had given up 66 hits in 55 innings. Tom Ferrick was 35 and had posted nine saves, for second on the team. And by way of trivia, Lew Burdette, age 23 pitched 1.1 innings over two games in his rookie campaign. In 1957, now playing at Milwaukee, he would handcuff his former team to lead the Braves to a World’s Championship.

They were a formidable team, World Champs, and ready to defend. They were favored over Philadelphia, which was considered an upstart.

The First Integrated World Series: Gionfriddo’s Grab

April 24, 2015

With New York leading Brooklyn 3 games to 2 in the 1947 World Series, the last two games would be played on consecutive days in the Bronx. Brooklyn needed to win game six to force a game seven. The Yankees simply wanted to end it quickly. Game six became one of the more famous of all World Series games because of one substitute’s glove and one superstar’s reaction.

Game 6

Al Gionfriddo 5 October 1947

Al Gionfriddo 5 October 1947

Desperate to win, the Dodgers jumped on Yankees starter Allie Reynolds for two runs in the top of the first. Consecutive singles by the first three Brooklyn batters loaded the bases. A double play traded a run for two outs, but a Sherm Lollar passed ball plated the second run. The Dodgers sent Reynolds to the showers with two more runs in the third on three straight doubles.

In the bottom of the third, New York finally got to Dodgers starter Vic Lombardi. A double and wild pitch sent Lollar to third. Then a ground ball error scored him. The Yankees then tied the score 4-4 on five consecutive singles, knocking Lombardi out of the game. New York went ahead in the fourth on singles by Aaron Robinson, Tommy Henrich, and Yogi Berra (playing right field rather than catching).

The hitters took the fifth inning off before the critical sixth inning. A single and double in the Brooklyn top of the sixth sent Bruce Edwards to third. Cookie Lavagetto, pinch hitting for the third game in a row, lifted a sacrifice fly that scored Edwards. A double by pinch hitter Bobby Bragan plated a second run. With Dan Bankhead running for Bragan, Eddie Stanky singled, then a PeeWee Reese single drove in both runs. Consecutive outs ended the top of the sixth.

To start the bottom of the sixth, the Dodgers made three major changes. Joe Hatten took over on the mound, Lavagetto went to third, and speedy outfielder Al Gionfriddo went to left for defense. With the score 8-5, New York’s Snuffy Stirnweiss worked a one out walk. One out later Berra singled sending Stirnweiss to second. Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio stepped in and drove a ball to deepest left field. Gionfriddo raced back, leaped for the ball and caught it. Initial reports indicated that Gionfriddo had robbed DiMaggio of a homer, but a frame by frame analysis of the film and a look at photographs indicate that Gionfriddo caught the ball a couple of steps from the bullpen gate and his momentum carried him to the gate. His arm was up and it appeared he’d snagged the ball as it was going out of the field of play. Whether it was going out or going to be a double (or triple) two runs, at least, were going to score. The catch ended the inning. Nearing second when the catch was made, DiMaggio kicked the dirt in a show of emotion, something no one could remember seeing him show in 11 years of baseball.

The Yanks loaded the bases in the seventh, but Hatten got out of it. After an easy eighth, he needed three outs to send the Series to game seven. He got none. A single and a walk brought in Brooklyn relief ace Hugh Casey. He got an out, then a single loaded the bases. A ground out force brought in a Yankees run, but a tapper back to the mound ended both the threat and the game.

It was a good game, made famous by Gionfriddo’s great catch, still one of the most famous of all World Series fielding plays, and by DiMaggio’s reaction to the grab. It would be Gionfriddo’s last big league game. It tied the Series 3-3. Game 7 would decide the champion.

Game 7

The Scooter

The Scooter

Game 7 of the 1947 World Series was played 6 October in Yankee Stadium. Spec Shea started his third game for the Yanks, while Hal Gregg took the mound for Brooklyn. The Dodgers struck first, picking up two runs in the top of the second. With one out, Gene Hermanski tripled and a Bruce Edwards single brought him home. A single by Carl Furillo pushed Edwards to second and took Shea out of the game. He was replaced by game four’s hard luck loser Bill Bevens. He gave up a double to Spider Jorgensen that scored Edwards, but then got out of the inning without further damage.

New York got one back in the bottom of the second on twin walks and a Phil Rizzuto single. In the fourth a walk, a single, and a Bobby Brown pinch hit double tied the game, and sent Gregg to the clubhouse. Then a Tommy Henrich single off reliever Hank Behrman, scored Rizzuto with the go ahead run.

Brown’s at bat had taken Bevens out of the game. In his place was relief ace Joe Page to start the fifth. He was magnificent, allowing only one hit and striking out one. Meanwhile the Yanks added a single run in the sixth on a bunt single and steal by Rizzuto followed by an RBI single. They tacked on one more in the seventh on a Billy Johnson triple and an Aaron Robinson single. By the ninth, the Dodgers were down 5-2 with their four, five, and six hitters up. Dixie Walker grounded out, Eddie Miksis singled to keep Brooklyn alive. Then Edwards grounded to Rizzuto at short. A 6-4-3 double play ended the game, the Series, and Dodgers hopes. New York was world champ by a 5-2 score.

It was a terrific World Series, particularly if you liked offense. The Dodgers team ERA was 5.55 and the Yanks were at 4.09. Brooklyn walked 38 while striking out only 37. New York’s numbers were almost as bad at 30 walks and 32 strikeouts. Having said that, Spec Shea had two wins and a 2.35 ERA for the Yankees and reliever Hugh Casey had two wins and a save to go with an ERA of 0.87 for the Dodgers.

For the Yankees Rizzuto scored three runs, including two in the Series clincher. Henrich had 10 hits, five RBIs, and a home run. DiMaggio’s average was only .231 but he scored four runs, drove in five, and had two home runs in six hits. Billy Johnson led both teams with eight runs scored. For the Dodgers the heroes were Jackie Robinson for simply showing up and performing well in a pressure situation (he had three runs scored and three RBIs), Casey on the mound, and Reese who hit .304 with five runs and four RBIs. Then there were the subs, Lavagetto and Gionfriddo. Lavagetto had one hit for the Series, but it won game four. Gionfriddo had a key stolen base, walked in a crucial situation, scored two runs, and made the catch of the Series, one of the most famous in World Series history.

It was the second Yankees-Dodgers World Series (1941 being the first). There would be five more (and even more after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles). The 1955 Series has become the most famous (because it’s the only one Brooklyn won), but none of them were better than 1947 in either drama or intensity.

 

 

 

The First Integrated World Series: Lavagetto’s Double

April 22, 2015

After sweeping Brooklyn in the Bronx, the New York Yankees stood poised to take the 1947 World Series handily. They would have three games in Ebbets Field and if they could win two, the Series was theirs. For Brooklyn, they had to win at least two to send the Series back to the Bronx. The fans ended up getting three interesting games.

Game 3

Hugh Casey

Hugh Casey

Game 3 was played on 2 October. The Dodgers sent Joe Hatten to the mound to stop the Yanks. New York countered with old-timer Bobo Newsom, aged 39 and seven years from his game 7 loss in 1940. Neither man got through the fifth inning as the game turned into a slugfest.

Newsom was the first to go. The Dodgers got to him for six runs in the bottom of the second. With one out, a walk, a double, and a single plated two runs. Another out, and a single  put men on second and third. A two-run double by Eddie Stanky made the score 4-0 and sent Newsom to the showers. Vic Raschi, of 1950s fame, replaced him. He watched Jackie Robinson single, then another two run double, this one by Carl Furillo, made the score 6-0. Finally a Dixie Walker ground out stopped the bleeding.

The Yankees responded with two in the third, but Brooklyn got one of those back in the bottom of the inning. In the fourth New York got two on a walk, a Sherm Lollar double, and a Snuffy Stirnweiss single. Not to be outdone, the Dodgers got both back in he bottom of the fourth on a pair of walks and two singles. By now it was 9-4.

The fifth saw a walk and a Joe DiMaggio home run narrow the score to 9-6. It also sent Hatten out of the game, replaced by Dodgers ace Ralph Branca. Branca finished the inning, but gave up a run on a Tommy Henrich double in the sixth and then a Yogi Berra home run made it 9-8 in the seventh. It was the first ever pinch hit home run in World Series history, and it sent Branca to the clubhouse and brought in Brooklyn’s bullpen ace big Hugh Casey. To this point, Casey was most famous for a 1941 pitch mix up with two out in the bottom of the ninth in game four of the World Series that let the Yankees win the game. He got redemption in 1947. He went 2.2 innings, gave up one run, one walk, and struck out one, and allowed only one other runner as far as second. The Dodgers won 9-8 to close the Series to a one game Yankees advantage.  Both teams had 13 hits. Fans wondered if the next game would also be a hammering match.

Game 4

Cookie Lavagetto

Cookie Lavagetto

There was never a World Series game quite like game four. It became one of the most famous of all World Series games. In it, a journeyman almost did the impossible and the Dodgers bench stepped up. Bill Bevens started for New York and Harry Taylor began the game for Brooklyn. By the time the day was over they sported two of the stranger pitching lines in World Series history.

Taylor faced four batters. Snuffy Stirnweiss and Tommy Henrich both singled, then Yogi Berra hit into a fielder’s choice which Dodgers shortstop PeeWee Reese dropped to load the bases. A walk to Joe DiMaggio brought in the first run and sent Taylor to the showers. He’d faced four men, given up two hits, a walk, got no one out, and given up an unearned run. Hal Gregg replaced him and got out of the inning with a pop to short and a double play grounder.

Bevens then went to work. He was wild, but he was effective. Over the first four innings he issued four walks and struck out three. He left men on base in every inning but the fourth. Meanwhile his teammates tacked on another run with a Billy Johnson triple and a Johnny Lindell double. With the score 2-0, Bevens went into the fifth with a no-hitter still going. He walked Spider Jorgensen and pitcher Gregg. A bunt  sent Jorgensen to third and a grounder to shortstop Phil Rizzuto got a second out, but allowed Jorgensen to score without benefit of a hit. The score stood 2-1 and the Dodgers still didn’t have a hit.

Bevens walked one more man in both the sixth and seventh, but no Brooklyn player picked up a hit or scored. By the bottom of the ninth the Yankees were still ahead 2-1 and Bevens pitching line stood at 8 innings pitched, 8 walks, 5 strikeouts, 1 run allowed, and 0 hits allowed. It wasn’t pretty, but it was three outs from the first no-hitter in the World Series. A fly recorded the first out, then Carl Furillo walked. A foul provided the second out. At this point, Dodgers manager Burt Shotten, sent speedy outfielder Al Gionfriddo in to run for Furillo. Gionfriddo immediately stole second, leaving first open. The Brooklyn pinch hitter, Pete Reiser was walked intentionally. No one was quite sure why. There were two outs and Reiser had a bad leg. Anything that stayed in the park was likely to result in an out. With Reiser unable to run, Shotten sent another speedy player, Eddie Miksis, to replace him at first, then called on pinch hitter Cookie Lavagetto. He was a backup third baseman who’d gotten into 41 games that year and hit .261 with three homers and a double. So far he was 0-2 in the Series. He turned on a Bevens pitch and drove it high against the right field wall (it missed the “Hit Sign, Win Suit” sign) and bounced back toward the infield. Gionfriddo and Miksis were, with two out, off with the crack of the bat. Gionfriddo scored to tie the game and Miksis easily beat the throw to plate the winning run. Lavagetto stopped that second with his second double all year.

Bevens had given up one hit and lost. Taylor hadn’t gotten anyone out and had not taken a loss. It was a strange pair of pitching lines in one of the more memorable World Series games ever played. As importantly, the Series was now tied at two games apiece.

Game 5

Joltin' Joe

Joltin’ Joe

There was no way game five was going to match the drama of game four, but for intensity, it was close. The Dodgers sent 22-year-old Rex Barney to the mound. New York countered with game one starter Spec Shea.

In the first, Barney got out of a bases loaded jam, then put two on in both the second and third but no Yankees scored. Shea, on the other hand, was perfect through three. In the fourth Barney, with two outs, walked both Aaron Robinson and Phil Rizzuto, bringing up Shea. The Yankees pitcher singled to left to bring home Robinson with the game’s first run. Another walk loaded the bases, but a grounder to second ended the threat. Brooklyn finally got a base runner when Shea walked PeeWee Reese. A pop to first and a grounder kept Reese at first. In the fifth, with one out, Joe DiMaggio hit a home run to deep left field to make the score 2-0. Following a second out and a walk, Joe Hatten replaced Barney on the mound.

The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the sixth, when Al Gionfriddo, pinch-hitting for Hatten, coaxed a walk, went to second on another walk, then scored on Jackie Robinson’s single. With the score 2-1, Shea got into a bit of trouble in the seventh, but pitched out of it. By the bottom of the ninth he’d walked five, struck out six, and given up three hits. Dodgers catcher Bruce Edwards led off the ninth with a single, went to second on a bunt, and stayed there after a fly failed to advance him. Brooklyn then sent up yesterday’s hero, Cookie Lavagetto to pinch hit. Shea struck him out to end the game.

With New York up 3 games to 2, the Series shifted back to the Bronx for game six and an if necessary game seven. The Yanks had to play .500 ball to win, the Dodgers had to win both. Like game 4, game 6 became a classic.