Tuesday, October 27, 2009

1950 World Series: Games One & Two

Game One

Like this year, the 1950 World Series began on a Wednesday, October 4th. Philadelphia's Shibe Park, home to both the Phillies and the Athletics, hosted Games One and Two. Thanks to a late season slide coupled with a push from 1949 pennant winners Brooklyn, the Phillies had to pitch their ace, Robin Roberts on the regular season's final day in order to clinch the NL flag. As such, Philly skipper Eddie Sawyer gave the Game One start to relief ace Jim Konstanty, who would win the NL MVP that year. Konstanty had started just one game since the end of the 1944 season, but was the NL's premier reliever. He earned 16 wins, 22 saves, and posted a 152 ERA+ and a 1.04 WHIP in 152 innings of relief work.

Konstanty was opposed by Vic Raschi. Despite being 31 years old, thanks in part to his time at William and Mary and serving in World War II, Raschi was in just his third full Major League season. His ERA that year slipped a bit from his previous seasons, but the Yankees' prolific offense propelled him to 21 wins for the second consecutive season. He saw action for the Yanks in the 1947 and '49 Fall Classics, going 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four appearances, two starts.

The teams matched zeros through the first third of the game. In the top of the fourth Yankee third baseman (and future cardiologist and AL President) Bobby Brown led off with a double, then moved to third on a Hank Bauer flyout. With Raschi waiting on deck, Konstanty elected not to walk number eight hitter Jerry Coleman. The Yankee second baseman came through with a deep flyball, scoring Brown.

It was the game's only run. Raschi went the distance, allowing just two hits, a walk, and striking out five. He was perfect through the first four and a third innings, with the two Phillie hits, both singles, coming in the fifth. He retired the last eleven men he faced and no baserunner made it past second base.

Game Two

Down a game, Thursday's Game Two allowed Philadelphia to bring back ace Robin Roberts. Roberts debuted in mid 1948 and enjoyed a breakout season in 1950. His 39 starts and five shutouts led the league. He went 21-11 with a 135 ERA+, a 1.18 WHIP, and recorded a save in his only relief appearance of the year.

Roberts would face the Yankees' Allie Reynolds. The Superchief came to the Yankees following the 1946 season, with future Hall of Famer Joe Gordon heading to Cleveland for him. Reynolds immediately became the Yankees' ace. His 16-12 mark in 1950 was his poorest winning percentage since donning Pinstripes, but his 115 ERA+ was his best, as were his 160 strikeouts, good for second in the AL. He appeared in four games, three starts, between the '47 and '49 World Series and went 2-0 with a save and a 2.28 ERA. According to Peter Golenbock's Dynasty, Casey Stengel held Reynolds back specifically to oppose Roberts. The two would engage in one of the World Series' greatest, if forgotten, pitching duels.

After stranding two runners in the first, the Yankees struck in the second inning. With two outs Jerry Coleman, who had the lone RBI in Game One, drew a walk. Reynolds was up next, and though he was a pitcher, he was a decent hitter and had gone 4 for 8 with a double and an RBI in his two previous World Series. Reynolds singled the other way, pushing Coleman to third, who then scored on an infield single by leftfielder Gene Woodling.

Reynolds worked around an extra base hit in each of the first three innings, and stranded a runner in scoring position in the fourth following a walk and a stolen base. He finally yielded a run in the fifth, as a pair of singles put runners at the corners and a Richie Ashburn sacrifice fly knotted the score at one.

It would remain that way into extra innings, but both teams would have one more good chance before then. In the top of the eighth, Bobby Brown and Hank Bauer hit back-to-back singles to left, giving the Yankees two on with one out. Coleman grounded to short for the second out, moving the runners up. Reynolds was due, with six outs to go and the go-ahead run just 90 feet away. Stengel, never shy to pinch hit when he sniffed an opportunity, let Reynolds, who was 1 for 2 with a walk, hit for himself. He went down looking, ending the threat.

Reynolds, who had allowed just a walk and a bunt single since the run in the fifth, faced a jam of his own in the bottom of the ninth. With one out, he surrendered a double to Granny Hamner. With the potential winning run in scoring position, Philly pinch hit for their catcher for the second time on the day. Reynolds intentionally walked pinch hitter Dick Whitman to set up a force at any base, then induced an inning ending 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Mike Goliat.

In the top of the tenth, Joe DiMaggio led off with a home run to left field to give the Yanks a 2-1 lead. Reynolds issued a lead off walk in the bottom half, and the runner was promptly sacrificed to second. With the tying run in scoring position, Reynolds got a foul out from Ashburn, then got number three hitter Dick Sisler looking to give the Yanks a 2-0 Series lead in a game that neither pitcher deserved to lose. Both starters went the distance. Reynolds surrendered seven hits and four walks in ten frames while striking out six. Roberts gave up ten hits and three walks while striking out three.

After going 1-10 with 5.08 ERA in 1961, the Phillies sold Roberts to the Yankees. He pitched well for them in Spring Training in 1962, but the Yankees cut him in favor of youngster Jim Bouton. Roberts landed with Baltimore, where he had three more good years. The '62 Yankees won the World Series, but couldn't get past the Dodgers in '63 or the Cardinals in '64. Perhaps Roberts could have helped.

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