Posts Tagged ‘Karl Drews’

The First Integrated World Series: the Yanks

April 16, 2015
The Yankee Clipper

The Yankee Clipper

There was less disarray among the 1947 New York Yankees than there was with Brooklyn, but it was in some turmoil because it was a team in transition. Between 1921 and 1943 New York had never gone more than three seasons without a pennant. By failing to win in 1944, 1945, and 1946, they’d just matched that record. The idea of going four in a row was anathema. So it brought on changes within the team.

The most noticeable change, in many ways, was the man in charge in the dugout. After 16 years as manager, Joe McCarthy was gone. A combination of losing, poor teams during the war, his drinking, and new management had sent McCarthy and his seven world championships into retirement. In his place was rookie manager Bucky Harris. Now Harris was a rookie manager only in the sense of being new to the Yanks. He’d managed the Senators as far back as their single World Series title in 1924 and had spent other years managing in Boston, Detroit, and Philadelphia. On the hot seat after replacing the manager with the most championships ever and leading a team used to winning, Harris was able to provide stability to his team.

The infield was changed from the glory years. George McQuinn was at first after playing the same position for the Browns and Athletics. He hit over .300 and his 13 home runs tied for third on the team. Snuffy Stirnweiss had been around for a while. He’d taken over at second during the war years and was terrific. He’d picked up a batting title in 1945. Then reality set in. The major players were back from the war; the dominant pitchers were back on the mound. Stirnweiss suffered against them. His WAR (BBREF version) went from the mid-eights to the mid-threes. It was still better than backup Lonny Frey, seven years removed from his term with the world championship Reds of 1940. He’d come to New York in mid-season and hit .179. Phil Rizzuto hit .273, led the team in stolen bases, and was one of the better shortstops of the era. The primary third baseman was Billy Johnson. He had 10 home runs, had an ERA+ of 114 and was being challenged by Bobby Brown (who would later be President of the American League).

The outfield saw more stability. Johnny Lindell was now the regular in left field. He hit .275 with 11 home runs. He was the replacement for Charlie Keller. Keller was having back problems and so only saw action in 45 games. He only hit .238 but tied for third on the team with 13 home runs. His .550 slugging percentage and .954 OPS led the Yanks. Right field remained with Tommy Henrich. He led the team with 98 RBIs, and with 109 runs scored. His 158 hits was second on the team as were his 16 homers. And of course he was second in both to Joe DiMaggio. The Yankee Clipper hit .315, had 20 home runs, 97 RBIs, 168 hits, walked 64 times then had 31 doubles and 32 strikeouts. Just a more or less normal DiMaggio year.

No where was in greater transition than the catching job. Aaron Robinson began the year as the primary catcher. He was 32, hit .270, was a decent catcher, and by the end of the year was losing his job to second year man, the 22-year-old Yogi Berra. Berra hit .280, had 11 home runs, 54 RBIs, and 41 runs scored in 293 at bats. His catching numbers were on par with Robinson’s and in some cases (passed balls and caught stealing percentage) slightly better. The third catcher was Ralph Houk. He didn’t play much in 1947, but he would later manage the Yanks to three pennants and two World Series championships. Future All Star Sherm Lollar got into 11 games behind the plate.

But easily the most notable transition was in the pitching staff. Gone were the stalwarts of the 1930s and early 1940s, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing. Allie Reynolds was now the ace. He came over from Cleveland at the beginning of 1947,went 19-8 and posted an ERA+ of 110. He walked 123 while striking out 129 and gave up more hits than he had innings pitched. Vic Raschi was only 7-2 in his rookie year (he’d pitched two games the year before), but was already 28. He would join Reynolds as one of the mainstays of the early 1950s Yanks. Spec Shea was the second pitcher. He went 14-5 and had both 89 walks and 89 strikeouts. Bill Bevens, like Shea, had the same number of walks as strikeouts. In his case 77 of each. He was a journeyman who went 7-13 during the regular season, but would make the most of his one starting opportunity in World Series play. Spud Chandler and Bobo Newsom, both aged 39, rounded out the starters. Fireman Joe Page was the primary reliever, garnering 17 saves, while relieving in 44 of 56 games. Karl Drews started 10 games and pitched in 30. No one else appeared in more than 25 games. Tommy Byrne, who would come to fame on the 1950s Yanks got into four games. Except for Page (and Byrne) all of them were right-handed.

They were a formidable team and favored in the Series. Since 1927 they’d won nine World Series and lost only one. In 1941 they’d beaten the Dodgers in five games. Most writers expected them to do so again, although it might take more than five games.

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Game Six

July 22, 2011

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.