Tuesday, October 27, 2009

1950 World Series: Games Three & Four

Game Three

Ahead two games to none, the Yankees returned to the Bronx. Game Three was Friday afternoon; no major TV contract and the short distance between our nation's first and second Capitol cities meant that no off day was necessary between Games Two and Three.

Philly made the interesting choice to turn to Ken Heintzelman. Eight days shy of his 35th birthday, Heintzelman had appeared in only 23 games in 1950, just 17 of them starts. He went 3-9 and is his 4.09 ERA was a just a tick below league average. He had gone 17-10 with a 3.02 ERA and a league leading 5 shutouts in 1949, but it was the only season of his career that he was remotely above average. But, Heintzelman, like Joe Saunders, was a lefty. And even more than it does today, Yankee Stadium in 1950 favored left handed pitchers.

The Yankees countered with a lefty of their own, Ed Lopat, the final member of the Big Three in their starting rotation. Like Reynolds, Lopat came to the Yankees via trade, in a deal with the White Sox prior to the 1948 season. Lopat went 18-8 for the Yankees in 1950 with a 124 ERA+ and a 1.31 WHIP, good for third best in the AL. He picked up a win in his only start of the '49 Series, but gave up 4 ER in 5.2 IP. He would turn in a better performance without the benefit of such a positive personal outcome in 1950.

The Yankees used a two out rally to take a one run lead in the third inning. Phil Rizzuto worked a walk, stole second, and moved to third on an errant throw. With a southpaw on the mound, platoon master Stengel had benched the lefty swinging Gene Woodling, so the hot bat of Jerry Coleman had been moved up to second from eighth in the batting order. Coleman rewarded Stengel by singling Rizzuto home for the game's first run.

The Phillies tied the score in the sixth with a two out rally of their own. Lopat fanned the inning's first two batters, then allowed a double to Del Ennis, who was singled home by Dick Sisler. They took the lead the following inning. Granny Hamner led of with a base hit and was sacrificed to second. Mike Goliat, who grounded into a double play when he had a chance to win Game Two, drove Hamner home to give the Phils their first lead of the Series.

Heintzelman retired the first two batters of the eighth, including Woodling, who pinch hit for Lopat. Then, Heintzelman unraveled, walking Coleman, Yogi Berra, and Joe DiMaggio in consecutive plate appearances. Despite having his number two, three, and four starters available, Philadelphia manager Eddie Sawyer called upon his relief ace, Jim Konstanty, who had thrown eight innings in Game One just two days earlier. Konstanty got Bobby Brown to bounce to short, but an error by Hamner allowed Coleman to score the tying run. Konstanty managed to strand the three baserunners after that, but the damage was done.

In the ninth, Stengel turned to Tom Ferrick, another interesting pitching choice. Ferrick, like Heintzelman, was a bit of a journeyman, though one with a better track record. He came to the Yankees from the Browns in a mid-season deal and went 8-4 with 9 saves and a 3.65 ERA in 56.2 innings of relief work. In tapping Ferrick, Stengel passed over former relief ace Joe Page, who like Brad Lidge had a miserable season, and number four starter Tommy Byrne.

Ferrick gave up a leadoff double to Hamner, who was then moved to third on Philadelphia's fourth sacrifice of the game. Ferrick then intentionally walked Goliat to set up a potential double play. Dick Whitman pinch hit for Konstanty and grounded to first. Joe Collins, who replaced Johnny Mize for defense at the start of the inning, came home and got Hamner for the second out. Ferrick then recorded a flyout to end the inning and escape the jam.

In the bottom of the inning, the Yankees made two quick outs before Woodling and Rizzuto struck back-to-back infield singles up the middle. That brought Coleman to the plate, and he came through once again, singling Woodling home with the winning run. He didn't get a pie in the face, but he did the give the Yankees a commanding three games to none lead despite having outscored Philly by just three runs over the course of the three games.

Konstany took the loss for Philadelphia. The Yankees picked him up off waivers late in 1954 and he spent parts of three seasons with them. Ferrick got the win for the Yankees. They traded him away to the Senators the next season, one year to the day after they acquired him. In return they received Bob Kuzava, who would come up big for the Yanks in the 1951 and '52 World Series. Ferrick's son, Tom Jr, just a year old during his father's Game Three win, would go on to be a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Game Four

In Game Four, Philly turned to one of their Whiz Kids, 24 year old Bob Miller. The rookie went 11-6 with a 114 ERA+ and two shutouts on his way to a second place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

The Yankees turned to a whiz kid of their own. Without the benefit of an off day at any point, Stengel couldn't go back to Game One starter Vic Raschi. As he did late in Game Three, Casey skipped over number four starter Tommy Byrne and his league leading 160 walks and this time gave the ball to rookie Eddie Ford. Cocksure and confident, Ford, like Game Three pitchers Ed Lopat and Tom Ferrick, was a New York City native. As the Yankees battled the Red Sox down the stretch in 1949, Ford, then just in A-ball, phoned Stengel to offer his services for the pennant drive. Stengel didn't take Ford up on his offer, but he didn't disappoint when he got the call in July of 1950. In twenty games, twelve starts, Ford went 9-1 with a 2.81 ERA (153 ERA+), 1.24 WHIP, two shutouts, and a save. Like Miller, he finished second in the RoY race for his league.

Ford worked around a bit of trouble in the top of the first, then the Yankees came out swinging in the bottom of the inning. Gene Woodling reached on an E4, then moved to second on a groundout by Phil Rizzuto. Yogi Berra singled Woodling home, then moved all the way to third on a wild pitch. Joe DiMaggio's double plated Berra and chased Miller. Once again, Konstanty got the call for Philadelphia, and managed to end the inning.

Staked to a two nothing lead, Ford settled down, retiring six of the next seven with just one runner advancing past first through the sixth. The Yankees added more runs in the bottom of the sixth, starting with a leadoff homer from Berra. DiMaggio was hit by a pitch, then scored on Bobby Brown's triple. Brown scored the Yankees fifth run on a sacrifice fly from Hank Bauer.

Ford tossed perfect frames in the seventh and eighth. In the ninth he surrendered a leadoff single, then hit a batter. A groundout moved the runners up, then Ford recorded a strikeout to get him within an out of complete game, Series clinching shutout. Ford induced a flyball from Andy Seminick. It went to left, Yankee Stadium's sun field, and Woodling lost in the low hanging sun of the autumn afternoon. Two runs scored and then Mike Goliat's single brought the tying run to the plate. Taking no chances, Stengel, as he often did, called Allie Reynolds in to close it out. The same late day sun that caused Woodling to lose the flyball also caused the Stadium's upper deck to cast shadows over home plate. Armed with one of the best fastballs in the league, the shadows made Reynolds nearly unhittable. Reynolds struck out Stan Lopata, ending the game and giving the Yankees their second straight championship and third in four years.

The Yankees received outstanding pitching from all five men they sent to the mound. DiMaggio, Brown, and Woodling all put up gaudy offensive numbers. But Jerry Coleman always seemed to be in the middle of the big innings. His three RBI led the team, and all came in big situations. As such, Coleman was named the Series MVP.

For Ford, Game Four was the final game he would pitch for two years, as he spent 1951 and '52 in the military. But without a doubt, his Game Four start was a changing of the guard. When he returned in 1953 Raschi, Reynolds, and Lopat were all two years older. Ford became the unquestioned ace for the remainder of the Stengel-Houk dynasty years. His victory in the clinching game of the 1950 World Series was the first of his record ten in World Series play.


  1. Matt, great job on these. You've got a great sense of the history of the team and made this stuff from so long ago come alive. It must have taken a long time but I'm really glad you did it! Thanks!

  2. Thanks Anon; glad you enjoyed it. It did take a bit of time, but I had decent base of knowledge from things I've read in the past and the box scores and play by play on baseball reference really helped.

    In writing it I really grew envious of those who got to witness it. It's probably as close of a four game sweep as baseball will ever see. The way the Yanks came up big and caught the breaks they needed to reminded a lot of the ALDS and ALCS this year. I hope that trend continues for another four wins.

  3. Mode:Theif and Lair10/27/09, 6:49 PM

    Nice recaps. I'm a little curious as to why you never used Ford's nickname in the post. Do you just not like to use nicknames, was he not known as "Whitey" yet, or is there some other explaination?

    It was kind of fun, since in the back of my mind I thought you were taking about him, but I wasn't 100% sure. Until I got to the end of the post I kept thinking "was there another Ford that pitched for the Yankees or is this Whitey." I thought I knew my Yankee history pretty well, but I guess I still need to brush up on it once in a while.

  4. Thanks Mode. It was more because I don't think he was known as Whitey at that point. Although he's not the best source, Golenbock refered to him as "Eddie" throughout the 1950 chapter of Dynasty.

    His first baseball card came out the next year and listed him as "Ed 'Whitey' Ford" http://www.bmwcards.com/ebaystore/51ford86large.jpg

  5. Mode:Theif and Lair10/27/09, 8:03 PM

    Cool, thanks for that pic. Back in the day (my card collecting days in the 70's and 80's), it was always cool to get a hold of a vintage Bowman card.

  6. Great job! I remember running all the way home from school (3rd grade) to listen to the '50 Series (no World Series night games in those days. Tommy Bryne drove me nuts with his wildness until he left the Yankees; on his second tour, he had much better control.

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