Thursday, June 24, 2010

1949 World Series

We continue our look at the eleven World Series contested between the Yankees and Dodgers, with the 1949 Fall Classic. Things weren't about to get any better for Dem Bums.

-1949-

Both clubs entered the Fall Classic coming off furious pennant races. With four games remaining in the season, the Dodgers trailed the Cardinals by a game and a half. On the final Thursday of the season the Dodgers swept a doubleheader against the Braves while the Cardinals dropped their game to the Pirates. It put the Dodgers up a half game, and another loss by the Cardinals on the Dodgers' Friday off day ran the lead to a full game. Both clubs lost on Saturday, then won on Sunday, giving the Dodgers the flag by a single game.

Meanwhile, the Yankees entered the season's final weekend trailing Boston by a game. The Red Sox needed to win just one of the two games at Yankee Stadium to clinch the pennant. Instead, the Yankees swept, capturing their fifth AL Pennant of the decade and setting up a third World Series against the Dodgers.

Brooklyn once again carried a potent offense into the Series, led by Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo, and Duke Snider, but without an easy out anywhere in the lineup. The pitching staff was fronted Don Newcombe and Preacher Roe. Meanwhile the Yankees were once again led by Joe DiMaggio, who despite missing half the season with a heel injury, had one of the finest seasons of his career. He was supported by trusty veteran Tommy Henrich, shifted fom right field to first base, and emerging slugger Yogi Berra.

The Yankee roster had seen some turnover since their last meeting just two years prior. Casey Stengel was at the helm, having replaced Bucky Harris following the 1948 season. Youngsters Gene Woodling and Hank Bauer had replaced Henrich and Charlie Keller as DiMaggio's flanks in the outfield, and the hodgepodge pitching staff that led the team to victory in '47 had morphed into the reliable starting trio of Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, and Eddie Lopat.

As it had in both '41 and '47, the Series began at Yankee Stadium. The 66,000 plus in attendance that Wednesday afternoon were treated to one of the great pitching duels in World Series history. Reynolds and Newcombe matched zeros for eight innings, Reynolds allowing just two hits and four walks with nine K's, Newcombe five hits and no free passes with 11 K's. Reynolds retired the Dodgers in order in the ninth, and Old Reliable Henrich led off the bottom half with a game winning home run.

Game Two was an equally compelling pitchers duel, with Raschi squaring off against Roe. Jackie Robinson led off the second inning with a double, and came around to score on a Gil Hodges single. It was the only run Raschi allowed before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the eighth, but it was one too many, as the Yankees came out on the short end of another 1-0 final score.

As the series shifted to Ebbets Field for Game Three, whatever momentum the Dodgers gained in Game Two was left in the Bronx. The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the third, as a sacrifice fly from Phil Rizzuto scored Cliff Mapes. Brooklyn pulled even in the fourth thanks to a leadoff home run from Pee Wee Reese. Yankee starter Tommy Byrne, given the Game Three nod over Lopat, had an effective '49, winning fifteen games and posting an ERA 10% better than league average. But as it was throughout his career, Bynre's control was spotty. He issued a league leading 179 walks in '49, his first of three consecutive years leading the AL in free passes. His control hurt him again in that fourth inning, as a single and back-to-back walks left Byrne in a bases loaded, one out jam after the Reese homer.

Sensing the game was about to slip away, Stengel gave Byrne the hook, and handed the ball to fireman Joe Page. In spite of his Game Six implosion two years earlier, Page saved the Yankees bacon three times in the '47 Series, tossing twelve innings of two run ball in closing out Games One, Three, and Seven. Page came through again here, cleaning up Byrne's mess and keeping the Dodgers off the board through the eighth.

Heading into the ninth the game was still tied. With the bases loaded and two outs, Stengel sent Johnny Mize up to pinch hit for Mapes. Mize's two run single gave the Yankees the lead and chased Dodger starter Ralph Branca. Jerry Coleman followed with an RBI single, plating what would become an important insurance run. With a three run lead in the bottom of the ninth, Page, in his sixth inning of relief, finally flinched. Solo homers by Luis Olmo and Campanella pulled the Dodgers within one, but Page fanned pinch hitter Bruce Edwards to give the Yankees a two games to one lead.

Game Four wouldn't be quite as dramatic. The Dodgers brought back Newcombe on just two days rest, and the Yankees touched him up for three runs in both the fourth and fifth innings., behind a two RBI double from Mapes, an RBI double from starter Eddie Lopat, and a three run triple from Bobby Brown. Lopat cruised into the sixth, but got into trouble with two outs, allowing five straight singles to cut the lead to 6-4. Stengel yanked Lopat and handed the ball to his Game One starter. Allie Reynolds was perfect over three and a third innings of relief, striking out five and pushing the Dodgers to the brink.

The Yankees sucked all the drama out of Game Five early, scoring two in the first and three in the third to take a 5-0 lead. The Dodgers got one back in the third, but the Yankees responded with five more runs over the middle three stanzas. Raschi got in a jam in the seventh, allowing four Dodger runs to make it 10-6 Yankees, but Page came on to get the final seven outs and give the Yankees their fourth World Series victory of the forties, three of them over the Dodgers.

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