Thursday, June 24, 2010

1941 & 1947 World Series

Good morning Fackers. The Yankees have just wrapped a series against the Diamondbacks, a team the Bombers faced in one very memorable World Series. I have mixed emotions about that series. The heroics of Tino Martinez, Derek Jeter, and Scott Brosius won't soon be forgotten. An equally momentous longball from Alfonso Soriano is all but forgotten thanks to what happened after it, but I still remember it fondly. And the Yankees' run through the entirety of that postseason will always be memorable because of what was going on in the city around them at the time. But in the end, that Series will be remembered for its painful conclusion. And given the youth of the Diamondbacks' franchise and the lack of history between the two clubs, interleague series such as this week's will always conjure up bitter memories.

After today's off day however, the Yankees will begin an interleague series against a franchise with whom they have far, far more history. And those memories are much more pleasant than those against Arizona.

The Yankees and Dodgers have faced each other in eleven World Series, far and away the most frequent match up in the 105 Fall Classics played. In fact, even if you were to discount their four October meetings after the Dodgers moved west, the seven Subway Series between the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers would still be the most common pairing in World Series history. The Tigers, Reds, Braves, Pirates, Orioles, Phillies, Twins, White Sox, and Indians - all in existence since the first World Series in 1903 - have all appeared in fewer World Series than there have been Yankee-Dodger match ups.

Having Thursday off in advance of the weekend series gives us a little time and space to fill. As such, we're going to attempt to give at least a cursory overview of all eleven Fall Classics between the Yankees and Dodgers. We'll start in this very post with the first two Subway Series between the clubs and go on from there.


1941 marked the fifth Yankee pennant in a six year period, and their twelfth in twenty one years. During that time they faced the cross-town Giants five times, but never once squared off against the Dodgers despite both leagues consisting of just eight teams. Prior to 1941, the Dodgers had last reached the Fall Classic in 1920, when they were still know as the Robins. The following year they would begin a twenty one season World Series drought. At the same time, the Yankees would win the first of three consecutive pennants, playing Subway Series against the Giants each time.

The Dodgers, under the tutelage of former Yankee infielder Leo Durocher, won the NL by 2.5 games over the Cardinals. They featured a potent offensive attack led by slugging first baseman Dolph Camilli and outfielders Pete Reiser, Dixie Walker, and Ducky Medwick. Meanwhile, the Yankees featured a balanced attack with future Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Joe Gordon, and the rookie Phil Rizzuto on offense, and Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez on the mound.

The Series began at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday October 1st. The Yankees cruised to a 3-2 victory behind a complete game from Ruffing. They never trailed, with Joe Gordon driving in two of the runs, one of them on a solo homer. Charlie Keller scored the other two runs with Bill Dickey adding two hits and picking up the remaining RBI. Ruffing allowed just nine base runners and fanned five, with one of the runs being unearned thanks to a Rizzuto error.

The Dodgers evened things up in Game Two, overcoming an early two run deficit to beat Spud Chandler 3-2. The winning run was unearned, courtesy of a Joe Gordon error.

From there the Yankees took over the Series. After playing seven scoreless innings in Game Three, in the eighth Joe DiMaggio drove home Red Rolfe, then Keller plated Tommy Henrich. Yankee starter and Brooklyn native Marius Russo gave one back in the bottom half, but it was the only blemish on his record as he went the distance for a 2-1 victory.

The Dodgers were poised to tie the Series in Game Four, as they carried a 4-3 lead into the top of the ninth inning. Dodger pitcher Hugh Casey retired the first two batters to put the Dodgers within an out of making the Series a best of three. Tommy Henrich was the Yankees last hope, and he went down swinging. It would have ended the game, but in one of the more notorious moments in World Series history, Dodger catcher Mickey Owen couldn't squeeze strike three. Henrich raced to first and the rally was on. DiMaggio followed with a single, then Keller doubled them both home to give the Yankees the lead. Dickey followed with a walk, the Gordon doubled both runners home to make it 7-4. Yankee fireman Johnny Murphy worked a flawless bottom half of the inning to push the Dodgers to the brink.

Their season died at Ebbets Field the very next day. Once again, the Dodgers helped squander the game, as a third inning wild pitch from Whit Wyatt allowed Keller to score the game's first run and Dickey to move into scoring position. Gordon promptly drove him in, to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. The Dodgers got one back off Tiny Bonham in the third, but it would be their only offense on the day. Bonham went the distance, allowing only six men to reach base. A Tommy Henrich solo shot in the fifth iced the game, and the Yankees clinched their fifth championship in the last six seasons, and their ninth overall.

The World Series MVP award was first issued in 1955, but had it existed in 1941 it surely would have gone to Gordon. The second baseman hit .500/.667/.929 over 21 PA, with one of only three home runs in the Series and a series leading 5 RBI and 7 BB. Charlie Keller (.389/.476/.500, 5 RBI) also had an outstanding Series.


Two months after the conclusion of the 1941 World Series, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, drawing the United States into the Second World War. American life was severely altered for the better part of five years, and Major League Baseball was far from immune to the changes. Several prominent players, and many Yankees, lost years serving in the armed forces. The Yankees picked up two more pennants and another championship during the war years, but it was with players,and against competition, that were diminished. Many players began returning to action in 1946, but it wasn't until 1947, when the war was over in both theaters, that things began to return to normal in MLB.

Just as they had in the final pre-WWII season, the Yankees and Dodgers met in the World Series for the first post-WWII. Though only six years had passed, much had changed with the two clubs. Gone were Hall of Fame managers Leo Durocher and Joe McCarthy. Durocher had been issued a season-long suspension for associating with gamblers, and was replaced by Burt Shotton. McCarthy had resigned during the '46 season, and after finishing the year under interim managers Bill Dickey and Johnny Neun, the Yankees had hired longtime Senators manager Bucky Harris.

In many ways it was a transitional year for both clubs, and not just in returning to normalcy after the war. Shotton was intended to be just a stopgap while Durocher served his suspension. Durocher returned in '48 for a ninth season as Dodgers skipper, but he would last only half a season before being replaced again by Shotton and heading across town for eight years at the helm of the Giants. Meanwhile, after fifteen and a half dynastic years under McCarthy, the Yankees were seeking stability after the chaos of three different managers in '46. Harris was supposed to be the steady hand, but he would last only two years in the Bronx before giving way to Casey Stengel and the next Yankee dynasty.

Yet as the two clubs opened the Series at Yankee Stadium on September 30th, no one knew of the sweeping changes that would come over the next year plus. Rookie Spec Shea got the ball for the Yankees. The Naugatuck Nugget spotted the Dodgers to a first inning 1-0 lead, but the Yankees struck back with five of their own in the fifth, on strength of a two run double from Johnny Lindell, a bases loaded walk from Bobby Brown, and a two run single from Tommy Henrich. Armed with a lead, Harris summoned fireman Joe Page to pitch the final four innings. Brooklyn scratched out single runs in the sixth and seventh, but would get no closer as the Yanks took the opener 5-3.

In Game Two Allie Reynolds made the first of his fifteen World Series appearances with the Yankees. Acquired for 1941 World Series hero Joe Gordon after the '46 season, the Super Chief went the distance, scattering nine hits, three walks, and allowing three runs while striking out six. The Yankees scored in six of their eight innings, pounded out ten runs on fifteen hits, and got multi-hit games from Henrich, Lindell, Snuffy Stirnweiss, George McQuinn, Billy Johnson, and even Reynolds.

Brooklyn got in the win column in a Game Three slugfest, winning 9-8. Yankee starter Bobo Newsome, and relievers Vic Rashci, Karl Drews, and Spud Chandler all got knocked around until Page shut the door for the final three innings. Dodger pitchers Joe Hattan and Ralph Branca weren't much better, but they did enough to withstand the Yankee offensive, which included home runs from Joe DiMaggio, and a youngster named Yogi Berra, playing in just the third of his record 75 World Series games.

Game Four saw Brooklyn even the series at two with a 3-2 walkoff victory, but the lasting story of the game was the tough luck loss for Yankee starter Bill Bevens. Bevens flirted with history, carrying a no-hitter into the ninth inning. He had surrendered a run on walks, a sacrifice, and a fielders choice in the fifth, but carried a 2-1 lead into the final frame on the strength of a bases loaded walk from DiMaggio and yet another RBI double from Lindell. Things went awry for Bevens on his way to making history though. After retiring the leadoff batter, he issued a walk to Carl Furillo. After getting the second out, pinch runner Al Gionfriddo stole second, prompting the Yankees to intentionally walk the winning run to first base. Bad idea. Cookie Lavagetto followed with a double, the first hit surrendered by Bevens all day, and the Dodgers walked off with a best of three looming.

The Yankees took control once again with a Game Five victory. Shea pitched with moxie that belied his inexperience, going the distance with seven strikeouts and just one run allowed. He also chipped in with an RBI single, and that combined with a Joe DiMaggio solo homer gave the Yanks a 2-1 victory.

Back at Yankee Stadium for Game Six, Brooklyn again pulled even in another slugfest. The Yankees burned through six pitchers in trying to close out the Dodgers, but a four run sixth was enough to propel Brooklyn to an 8-6 victory. Trailing 8-5 in the bottom of the sixth, Joe DiMaggio came to the plate with two outs and two on. He blasted one deep into Death Valley, a would-be game tying home run, but Gionfriddo made a running, lunging catch on the warning track. DiMaggio kicked at the dirt as he approached second base, perhaps his only outward display of frustration in his entire career.

With the entire season riding on one game, and the pitching staff decimated by the previous day's slugfest, the Yankees were in need of starter for Game Seven. On just a day's rest, Shea took the ball for the third time in the Series. He got the Yankees through the first, but when he got into a jam in the second, Harris wasted no time in going to Bevens. The Dodgers pushed two across to take the lead. An RBI single from Phil Rizzuto in the bottom of the inning cut the lead in half. Bevens held the fort through the third and fourth, and the Yankees plated two in the bottom of the fourth to take a 3-2 lead.

Given the lead, Harris went right to Page, despite his getting touched up for four runs in one inning the day before. Page rewarded Harris' trust by finishing the final five frames, allowing just one hit. For the second time in seven years the Yankees had beaten the Dodgers in the World Series. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, it was only the beginning of the heartbreak.

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