One of the most bizarre, and dramatic plays in the history of baseball.
Let’s set the stage.
It’s another October and what do you know? The Yankees are playing in the World Series. It’s only the 12th time in the last 21 years.
But who are these guys they’re playing, the Brooklyn Dodgers? Well they haven’t won a pennant since 1920. But don’t sell these Dodgers short. These are not the same bums from the 1920s and 1930s, who couldn’t draw flies to Ebbets Field. These Dodgers had a record of 100-54. (Okay, the Yankees were 101-53. So what’s a game?) They had three .300 hitters (Dixie Walker .311, Joe Medwick .319 and league leader Peter Reiser .341. They also featured the NationalLeague MVP winner, Dolph Camilli who hit 34 home runs along with 120 RBIs. The Dodgers even had a pair of 20-game winners on their pitching staff (Kirby Higbe 20-9, and Whit Wyatt 22-10).
But the Yankees are the Yankees. They take the opener 3-2. The Dodgers come back though, and win game two, also by a score of 3-2. The series moves from the Bronx to Brooklyn and Yanks win another squeaker, 2-1. And now it’s game four at Ebbets Field. Top of the ninth, Yankees batting. They trail the Dodgers 4-3 and are down to their final out.
Hugh Casey is on the mound for the Dodgers.
He strikes out Tommy Henrich. Game over, series tied! Uh oh, not so fast.
The “strikeout” pitch that fools Henrich is so bad, it’s in the dirt. But Dodgers’ catcher Mickey Owen, can’t find it either. The ball dribbles toward the back stop, Henrich runs to first. It’s not even close, he is safe.
Now Carey gets to face Joe Dimaggio.
Dimaggio singles to left, Henrich moves to second. Then Charlie Keller doubles and both Henrich and Dimaggio score. By this time Casey has lost his composure (Can you imagine that?) and walks Bill Dickey and gives up a double to Joe Gordon. Keller and Dickey both score.
When the inning finally ends the Yankees lead 7-4. And the Dodgers go down one-two-three in their half of the ninth inning.
The Yankees lead the series 3-1. The next day they finish off the Dodgers, beating them 3-1. And in case you’re wondering –
A batter is out when-
6.05 (b) A third strike is legally caught by the catcher;
Rule 6.05(b) Comment: “Legally caught” means in the catcher’s glove before the ball touches the ground. It is not legal if the ball lodges in his clothing or paraphernalia; or if it touches the umpire and is caught by the catcher on the rebound. If a foul tip first strikes the catcher’s glove and then goes on through and is caught by both hands against his body or protector, before the ball touches the ground, it is a strike, and if third strike, batter is out. If smothered against his body or protector, it is a catch provided the ball struck the catcher’s glove or hand first.
Among all the days in the history of the universe, October 4, 1955 is unique.
On that day, unlike any other, the Brooklyn Dodgers became the World Series champions. Prior to 1955, the citizens of “America’s fourth largest city” celebrated their team’s winning the National League Pennant on seven occasions, only to see them defeated in the World Series, every single time.
Dodgers score in the 4th
The Dodgers game-seven triumph in 1955, was all the sweeter, because it came at the hands of their hated cross-town rivals, the New York Yankees. In 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953, the Dodgers won the right, to lose to the Yankees in the World Series. But on this day in Yankee Stadium, in the top of the fourth inning, Roy Campanella doubled to left field. He moved to third when Carl Furillo grounded out. Then Gil Hodges singled, scoring Campanella.
One more in the 6th
In the sixth inning the Dodgers “small balled” their way again to another run. (Pee Wee Reese singles, Duke Snider reaches on an error, successful sacrifice bunt by Campanella moves them to second and third, and Reese scores an unearned run off of Carl Furillo’s sac fly – sorry Carl, no RBI for you, but you get a World Series ring instead.)
That’s all she wrote.
The Dodgers starter Johnny Podres scattered eight hits, but only once did the Yankees even advance a runner to third base. In the eighth inning the Yanks had runners on first and third after a pair of singles by Phil Rizzuto and Gil McDougald, but Podres stranded them by striking out Hank Bauer.
Brooklyn couldn’t provide Podres with any more insurance runs, but he didn’t need them. In the bottom of the ninth, he retired the at-long-last vanquished Yankees, in order.
Musical video sums it up beutifully
Bobby Thomson played 15 seasons of Major League baseball.
Between 1946 and 1960 he made 6,305 plate appearances. However, one of those plate appearances, the one he made at the Polo Grounds on October 3, 1951, is more famous than the other 6,304, combined.
Maybe Thomson’s friends and family know and/or care about his other 1,704 hits and 263 home runs, but for the rest of us, Bobby Thomson’s entire legacy is built upon a single swing of the bat; a line drive to left field field; a walk off, season ending, pennant winning, three run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The Echoing Green, Josh Prager
The Giants Win the Pennant!
The Giants Win the Pennant!
The Giants Win the Pennant!
Bucky Dent was a typical all-glove, no-bat shortstop who became famous for hitting one of the most famous home runs in the history of baseball.
On July 17, 1978, the Yankees lost their third straight game to the Kansas City Royals. Their record at that point was 47-42, which put them in fourth place in The AL East, 14 games behind the division leading Red Sox. At the same time, Boston was on fire, with a 61-28 record.
Then the Red Sox cooled off and went 38-35 the rest of the way. Conversely, the Yankees got hot and won 52 of their last 73 games. The season ended with both teams tied at 99-63. It all came down to a one game playoff at Fenway Park on Oct 2, 1978.
Not what you call a Slugger
Dent was in his sixth Major League season. He was a .255 hitter and had amassed a total of 22 home runs in 2.630 at bats, prior to the one that made him a household name (especially in Boston where he also has an unprintable middle name) when he hit a Mike Torrez slider over the wall in left field. It was a seventh inning, three run homer, that put the Yankees ahead 3-2. Prior to Dent’s shot, Torrez had been pitching a 2-hit shut out. The Yankees went on to win the game 5-4. After winning the American League Pennant, the Yankees won the World Series in six games, against the Dodgers.
When Bucky hit the ball, I said, “That’s an out.” And usually you know when the ball hits the bat whether it’s short, against the wall, in the net or over the net. I see Yaz backing up, and when he’s looking up, I still think he’s going to catch it. When I see him turn around, then I know he’s going to catch it off the wall. Then the ball wound up in the net.
Excerpt from Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox, by Harvey Frommer
Babe Ruth broke the single season home run record in 1919, 1920, 1921 and 1960
When Babe Ruth hit 59 home runs in 1921, he broke his own record of 54 homers, which he had set in 1920. His 1920 record also broke a record that Ruth already held. He hit 29 homers in 1919, the year that is generally considered to be the last of the “dead ball era.”
After 1921, the Yankee slugger went five whole seasons without breaking the home run record, in fact 47 homers was the best he could manage from 1922 through 1926. Then on September 30, 1927, he hit the his 60th home run of the season and set a record that would hold up until Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961.
Here’s what they wrote about it, back in the day
The Washington Post:
Babe Ruth has confirmed his right to be known as the mightiest hitter that baseball has ever known. Yesterday he hammered out his sixtieth home run of the present season, surpassing his own record of 59 in a playing year, which he established in 1921… Never has any sport produced a hero who has attracted as much attention as Ruth, whose renown lies in the fact that he can hit a ball harder and farther than any other living mortal. He has been written about until he is almost a legendary figure. He receives in payment more than any other player, a salary comparable to the one enjoyed by the President of the United States.
And the New York Times:
Babe Ruth scaled the hitherto unattained heights yesterday. Home run 60 a terrific smash off the southpaw pitching of Zachary, nestled in the Babe’s favorite spot in the right field bleachers, and before the roar had ceased it was found that this drive not only had made home run history but also was the winning margin in a 4 to 2 victory over the Senators… When the Babe stepped to the plate in that momentous eighth inning the score was deadlocked, Koenig was on third base, the result of a triple. One man was out and all was tense. It was the Babe’s fourth trip to the plate daring the afternoon, a base on balls and two singles resulting on his other visits plateward. The first Zachary offering was a fast one, which sailed over for a called strike. The next was high. The Babe took a vicious swing at the third pitched ball and the bat connected with a crash that was audible in all parts of the stand. It was not necessary to follow the course of the ball. The boys in the bleachers indicated the route of the record homer. It dropped about half way to the top. Boys, No. 60 was some homer, a fitting wallop to top the Babe’s record of 59 in 1921.
Ted Williams hit .406 for the entire 1941 season. He is the last Major League player to hit .400 for a whole year.
From the start of baseball’s modern era (1900) until Bill Terry hit .401 in 1930, there were 11 occurrences of a player hitting .400 or more. Williams was the first and last .400 hitter after Terry.
After Williams’s Red Sox lost to the Indians on May 16, 1941, he was hitting a perfectly respectable .333, but between the May 17 and May 25, he went 19 for 39, and lifted his average to .404. Williams was hitting above .400 for the entire month of June, but he hit a “soft spell” at the beginning of July, and by July 19 his average was down to .393. That was his low point for the remainder of the the season. He was hitting exactly .400 on July 25, and he never got below that level for the rest of the way.
After a 3 for 5 game on September 7, Williams’s average spiked to .413, and he appeared to be cruising to a .400 season, but going into the last day Williams had slid back to .400 again.
The 1941 season ended with the Red Sox playing the A’s in a doubleheader at Shibe Park (later renamed Connie Mack Stadium) in Philadelphia. At that point in the season the Red Sox were in second place, but the Yankees had long since run away with the American League Pennant and had a 17 game lead over Boston. For what little it was worth, the Red Sox’ second place finish was also a done deal. Chicago was seven games behind them in third place. And the A’s certainly weren’t going anywhere. They were in dead last place, seven games behind the seventh place Washington Senators.
Williams’ actual batting average before the final double header was 0.399553571428571, which of course rounds to .400.
It’s doubtful that anybody would have cared if Williams sat out the whole double header in order to secure his .400 average, but “Teddy Ballgame” wouldn’t have any parts of that.
He went 4-5 in the opener (three singles and a home run, and two RBIs). That took his average up to .404. As long as Williams didn’t go 0-6 in the second game, he was going to be a .400 hitter. As it turned out, he went 2-3 and wound up the season hitting 0.405701754, or was we say four-oh-six!