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Fantastic Finishes - I
This feature discusses the last weekend of a close pennant race in the NL or AL.

American League 1908

Tigers Manager Hughie Jennings
Hughie Jennings

 

 

Cubs Manager Fielder Jones
Fielder Jones

 

 

Napoleon Lajoie, Cleveland
Napoleon Lajoie

In Crazy '08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History [highly recommended], Cait Murphy persuasively argues the point made in her subtitle. The NL pennant race, of course, featured the infamous Bonehead Merkle Game. However, the AL race was equally gripping.

The three participants in the Junior Circuit drama were the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Naps (after their star Napoleon Lajoie), and Detroit Tigers. Going into Labor Day (September 7), Cleveland is fourth, four games behind the third-place St. Louis Browns, 4.5 behind second place Chicago, and 5.5 behind Detroit. On the way home for the holiday DH, the Naps survive not one but two train accidents. After getting to League Park a few minutes late, the Naps sweep the White Sox, 6-0 and 5-2. Thus begins a 16-2 run that catapults Cleveland into the lead on September 21.

As is always true in a pennant race, each team is led by several players having outstanding seasons.

  • Detroit, managed by Hughie Jennings: CF Ty Cobb (.324/108 RBI), RF Sam Crawford (.311/80), RHP Ed Summers (24-12/1.64 ERA), RHP George Mullin (17-13/3.10).
  • Chicago, led by player-manager Fielder Jones: The "Hitless Wonders" with a .224 team BA and only 3 HR all year but outstanding pitchers led by RHP Ed Walsh (40-15/1.42) and LHP "Doc" White (18-13/2.55).
  • Cleveland, managed by Lajoie: 2B Lajoie (.289/74), RHP Addie Joss (24-11/1.16).

As almost always happens in a pennant race, a lowly team bites a contender. The 7th-place Washington Nationals win in Cleveland September 24-25. Listening to a friend give the play-by-play of the second game over the phone, former Cleveland owner Frank Robison dies of a heart attack. The news doesn't unnerve the Naps, who run off four straight. After the games of Thursday, October 1, the standings look like this.

Team
Wins
Losses
GB
Detroit
87
61
Cleveland
87
62
0.5
Chicago
85
62
1.5

Cleveland hosts Chicago on Friday and Saturday, while St. Louis visits Detroit both days. Then Detroit goes to Chicago for the final three while Cleveland plays three at St. Louis.

The Friday game in Cleveland features one of the great duels of the age: Ed Walsh vs. Addie Joss. Walsh pitched both games against the Red Sox on September 29, winning 5-1 and 2-0. Although a strapping guy, Walsh features a spitball. "Raising his glove in front of his mouth on every pitch so batters could not tell if he was loading up or not, he would lick his index and middle fingers, place them on top of the ball and his thumb underneath, and squirt the ball through. Using the same motion as his fastball, he could make the spitball break three different ways ..." [Murphy, p.208] A crowd of 10,698 gathers on a crisp afternoon to watch Walsh strike out 16 but allow an unearned run. That is all Joss needs as he is perfect, retiring 27 straight. Meanwhile, Detroit scores two in the bottom of the ninth to upend the Browns 7-6 for its ninth straight win to retain the half-game lead.

  • Saturday, October 3: Detroit wins easily 6-0 and gains a game when Chicago upends Cleveland 3-2 helped by a key error by Lajoie, of all people. Walsh hurls 2 2/3 for the save.
  • Sunday, October 4: Detroit loses in Chicago, 3-1, before the largest crowd in South Side Park history – 26,000. However, the Naps tie St. Louis 3-3 in a game called by darkness. The game is rescheduled as part of a DH the next day. Detroit leads Cleveland by one with two days left.
  • Monday, October 5: Another overflow crowd watches Walsh four-hit Detroit, 6-1, for his 40th victory. However, Cleveland can garner only a split, taking the nightcap 5-3 after dropping the opener 3-1. They are a half game behind with one to play.
  • Tuesday, October 6: Cleveland does its part, defeating the Browns 5-1. However, the Tigers drive White from the mound in the first to romp 7-0. The three games in Chicago draw 65,000 to boost the league-leading attendance to 636,000.
Final American League Standings
Team
Wins
Losses
GB
Detroit
90
63
Cleveland
90
64
0.5
Chicago
88
64
1.5

Under American League rules, Detroit's late season rainout against Washington is not made up after the last day of the regular season, leaving the Tigers with 153 games to Cleveland's 154. Detroit wins its second straight American League champions for the second straight AL pennant. In the off-season, the AL adopts the NL rule that any postponed games affecting the race must be played.

Of course, as any Cubs fan and most baseball fans know, the Tigers lost to Chicago in the World Series in five games. Over a century later, the Chicago Northsiders still seek another championship.

Sam Crawford, Detroit
Sam Crawford

White Sox P Ed Walsh
Ed Walsh

Cleveland P Addie Joss
Addie Joss

American League 1948

Cleveland P Bob Lemon
Bob Lemon

 

Cleveland P Gene Bearden
Gene Bearden

 

Cleveland P Bob Feller
Bob Feller

 

Yankees CF Joe DiMaggio
Joe DiMaggio

The Cleveland Indians awoke Friday morning, October 1, 1948, with a 1 1/2 game lead over both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. The Tribe, winners of 11 of 12 to rise from 4 behind, needed one win in their last three at home against the 5th-place Detroit Tigers to clinch a tie for the pennant. Win two and the Red Sox or Yankees could do nothing to stop them. Boston hosted New York Saturday and Sunday; so one would lose and one would win each day.

  • Friday afternoon: Before only 15,988 in cavernous Cleveland Stadium, starter Bob Lemon, trying for the third time to win his 21st, carried a 3-2 lead into the ninth. Lemon, who had pitched more than 290 innings, left with one out and the bases loaded but reliever Russ Christopher gave up three runs. The Indians went down 1-2-3 in the last of the ninth to reduce their lead to one game.
  • Saturday: 32,118 turned out at Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox and Yankees start the most important series the two franchises had ever played against each other. RHP Jack Kramer (from New Orleans) pitched a 5-1 victory highlighted by Ted Williams' two-run HR and double. In cold, windy Cleveland, 56,235 watched their Indians clinch a tie for the pennant 8-0 behind sensational rookie LHP Gene Bearden, pitching his third game in eight days for his 19th victory. The Yankees were eliminated but could play the spoiler on Sunday. That evening, Cleveland owner Bill Veeck considered but rejected the idea of cancelling the Sunday game even if the weather was acceptable since AL rules did not allow for games to be made up after the end of the season.
  • Sunday: In Boston, 31,304 watched their BoSox score five in the third to wipe out a 2-0 NY lead. Many fans also followed the game in Cleveland on bulky portable radios. A throng of 74,181 turned out there to complete an attendance record of 2,620,627 that would last more than 30 years. Bob Feller took the mound to clinch his first chance to play in a World Series. He had started nine straight games without a loss. Another win would give him his sixth straight 20-win season. His mound opponent, Hal Newhouser, had won his 20th game the previous Wednesday and didn't expect to pitch again. But manager Steve O'Neill knew he would be criticized if he didn't start his ace. Rapid Robert faced 14 batters and retired only 6. Back in Boston, the crowd roared as Feller's number was taken off the scoreboard and a 4 entered for Detroit in the third. However, the fans got worried in the fifth when Joe DiMaggio hit a two-run double, his second of the day, to cut the margin to 5-4. However, the Red Sox pulled away for a 10-5 victory. DiMaggio, who had played the last part of the season with a bad heel, ended with four hits and received a standing ovation when he left for a PR in the ninth. On Lake Erie, Newhouser dashed the home team's hopes, 7-1, to create a tie after 154 games. AL rules called for a one-game playoff which Boston would host as a result of an earlier coin flip. A Red Sox win would create an all-Beantown World Series against the Braves.
  • Monday: 33,957 packed Fenway for the first playoff game in AL history. On the overnight train ride, Boudreau decided to start Bearden despite the traditional fear of a lefty pitching in front of the Green Monster. Although Gene had pitched Saturday, his main pitch was a knuckle-curve, not a fastball. In the other dugout, Joe McCarthy made one of the most controversial decisions in baseball history when he went with 36-year old journeyman RH Dennie Galehouse (8-7) instead of 26-year old rookie LH Mel Parnell (15-8). No one was more shocked than Boudreau when Galehouse came out to warm up. In fact, Lou sent someone to check whether Parnell was warming up under the stands in case McCarthy was employing the strategy Bucky Harris had used for the 7th game of the 1924 World Series. Boudreau lifted a HR over the LF wall with a 20-mph wind in the first, but SS Vern Stephens singled home the tying run in the bottom of the inning. In the top of the fourth, Ken Keltner's rising liner over the Green Monster for a three-run HR gave the Indians a lead they did not relinquish. Boudreau hit another HR in the fifth. 2B Bobby Doerr reciprocated in the 6th to cut the lead to 6-3. McCarthy amazingly let reliever Ellis Kinder make the last out in the seventh. Cleveland added two more to win going away, 8-3. Bearden had done what Feller had failed to do the day before – win his 20th.

Follow-up: The Indians stayed in Boston to begin the Series on Wednesday. They defeated the Braves in six games for Cleveland's first championship since 1920 and second in as many tries. 60 years later, they have yet to win a third World Series.

Ted Williams
Ted Williams

 

Cleveland Owner Bill Veeck
Bill Veeck

 

Hal Newhouser
Hal Newhouser

 

 

Red Sox Manager Joe McCarthy
Joe McCarthy

National League 1949

Cardinals Manager Eddie Dyer
Eddie Dyer

 

 

Cardinals OF Stan Musial
Stan Musial

 

 

Cardinals OF Enos Slaughter
Enos Slaughter

 

 

 

Cardinals 2B Red Schoendienst
Red Schoendienst

1949 saw great pennant races in both leagues. The American League thriller is more famous because the Yankees defeated the Red Sox in the last two games at Yankee Stadium to win by one. However, the NL likewise produced a one-game winner.

The Senior Circuit campaign was a two-horse race most of the season between Eddie Dyer's St. Louis Cardinals and Burt Shotton's Brooklyn Dodgers. However, both clubs started slowly.

  • Hovering around .500 for the first 25 games, the Bums win 10 of 13 to tie the defending champion Boston Braves by Memorial Day. Wracked by dissension, the Beantowners quickly fall out of contention.
  • After a 12-17 start, the Redbirds find themselves in 7th place. However, they catch fire in mid-May, rising to second by June 7. St. Louis stays there until July 24 when Stan "The Man" Musial hits for the cycle in a 14-1 route at Ebbets Field. Except for three days in mid-August, the Cards remain at the top until the last half-week of the season.

Besides LF Musial (.338/123/36 for the season), the Cards are led by two other future Hall-of-Famers: RF Enos Slaughter (.336/96/13) and 2B Red Schoendienst (.297). All-Star Marty Marion patrols SS. The mound corps boasts southpaws Howie Pollet (20-9, 2.77), Harry Brecheen (14-11, 3.35), and Alpha Brazle (14-8, 3.18), and righty Red Munger (15-8, 3.87).

"The Boys of Summer" have settled in Flatbush. Jackie Robinson, in his second year at 2B a rookie season at 1B, leads the league in BA with .342 and SB with 37 and the team in RBI with 124 to win the NL MVP Award. 1B Gil Hodges and CF Duke Snider tie for the team lead in HRs with 23, adding 115 and 106 RBIs respectively. Brooklyn blasts 50 more HRs than St. Louis: 152-102. Shotton's staff features Rookie of the Year RHP Don Newcombe, who wins 17 games. LHP Preacher Roe contributes 15 triumps, followed by RHP Ralph Branca with 13 and LHP Joe Hatten with 10.

Starting play on Thursday, September 29, St. Louis leads by one. Owner Fred Saigh has deposited $1.5 million in World Series ticket orders. However, the 6th-place Pirates beat the Redbirds for the second straight game, 7-2, at Forbes Field. Worse yet, Schoendienst breaks his thumb fielding a throw from Slaughter. In Boston, Brooklyn sweeps the Braves, 9-2 (behind Preacher) and 8-0 (behind Newk) to take a half-game lead.

Friday, September 30

  • Dodgers have the day off.
  • Cardinals lose their third in a row, this one to the last-place Cubs at Wrigley, 6-5.
  • Result: Brooklyn leads by one full game.

Saturday, October 1

  • Brooklyn loses in Philadelphia to the third-place Phillies, who are enjoying their best season in 31 years.
  • However, the Cardinals lose to the Cubs again, 3-1.
  • Result: Dodgers still lead by one game but have clinched at least a tie for the pennant.

Sunday, October 2

  • The Cards do their part, belting Chicago 13-5 behind Pollet. They then retire to the clubhouse to listen to the end of the Dodgers game.
  • With a large contingent of Brooklynites in the Shibe Park crowd of 36,765, Newcombe, on only two days rest, blows a 5-0 lead as the Phils fight back to tie at 7. In the tenth, Snider's sizzler up the middle plates Pee Wee Reese. Then PH Luis Olmo drives home an insurance run. Young reliever Jack Banta completes four scoreless innings for the 9-7 victory.
  • Result: Brooklyn wins the pennant by one game: 97-57 to 96-58.
Burt Shotton and Duke Snider
Burt Shotton and Duke Snider

 

 

Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella
Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella

 

 

Dodgers P Preacher Roe
Preacher Roe

 

 

Dodgers SS Pee Wee Reese
Pee Wee Reese

National League 1966

Dodgers P Sandy Koufax
Sandy Koufax

Dodgers Manager Walt Alston
Walt Alston

Dodgers P Claude Osteen
Claude Osteen

 

Dodgers P Don Drysdale
Don Drysdale

The most famous pennant race in National League history is the 1951 thriller between the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers that culminated in a three-game playoff. However, the Dodgers and Giants also went to the wire in 1966 when they were located in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

On Thursday, September 29, Sandy Koufax pitched a complete game 2-1 victory over the Cardinals in St. Louis for his 26th win against 9 losses. The Dodgers enjoyed a two-game lead in the 10-team NL over the Pirates and 3.5 over the Giants as they traveled to Philadelphia for the closing three-game series at Connie Mack Stadium. As fate would have it, the Pirates and Giants were to meet in a three-game set at Forbes Field. L.A.'s Magic Number was 2, meaning that if they won two of their three in Philly, the Pirates and Giants were helpless.

Friday, September 30
  • Walt Alston sent out Claude Osteen (17-13) to oppose the Phillies' Chris Short (18-10). Short won the battle of lefties, 5-3.
  • Meanwhile, the Pirates-Giants game was rained out and rescheduled as part of a DH the next day.
  • Result: Dodgers led Pittsburgh by 1.5 and the Giants by 3.
Saturday, October 1
  • The same system that drenched Pittsburgh on Friday did the same to Philadelphia, postponing the Dodgers-Phils. The game would be played as part of a DH Sunday if it were necessary to determine the pennant winner.
  • The Giants swept the Pirates, 5-4 behind Juan Marichal's 25th and 2-0 on Bobby Bolin's one-hitter. This was quite a gem against a Pirate lineup that boasted Matty Alou, Matty Mota, Roberto Clemente, and Donn Clendenon. (Willie Stargell didn't play.)
  • Result: The Giants were second, 2 behind, with the Pirates 2.5 back.
Sunday, October 2
  • L.A.'s task was simple: Win the first game and the pennant is yours. Or back in if the Giants lost. Alston wanted desperately to clinch without having to use Koufax in the second game. Ideally, he would start Sandy against the Orioles in Game One on Wednesday.
  • The Pirates took a 3-2 lead after three before the pitchers settled in for five scoreless innings.
  • In the City of Brotherly Love, Dick Stuart donned headphones in the Dodger dugout to give updates from Pittsburgh. Don Drysdale, who had held out in spring training with Koufax but had suffered a disappointing season (13-16), lasted only two+ innings. Nevertheless, the visitors clung to a 3-2 lead in the eighth when the Phillies loaded the bases with no outs. Suddenly, Koufax ran down to the bullpen. Two errors gave the home team two runs and a 4-3 victory. Short won his 20th with a scoreless eighth/ninth.
  • Meanwhile, the Giants tallied a run in the ninth to avert elimination. The Dodgers retired to the clubhouse to await the result from the Steel City. The Pirates loaded the bases in the 9th and 10th to no avail. Finally, Sandy stood up and said, "The hell with it" and went out to warm up. Jeff Torborg caught him while connected to a headset (not as portable in those days). Sparked by Willie McCovey's two-run shot, S.F. erupted in the 11th to prevail 7-3. Lindy McDaniel won with four scoreless innings despite surrendering six hits and two walks. Steve Blass took the loss. The Giants were now only one game behind. If L.A. lost the second game, the Giants would makeup an earlier rainout, and a victory in that contest would propel them into a tie just as in '51.
  • The Phils trotted out their ace righty, Jim Bunning, who, like Koufax, listed a perfect game on his resume. The Dodgers struck for 3 in the third and amassed a 6-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. Despite pitching on ony two days rest, Sandy was his masterful self. When he couldn't get his curve over in the first inning, he went exclusively with the heater. Unknown to the public, Koufax had been taking cortisone shots in his left elbow for several years to assuage the constant pain that drove him to retirement at the end of the '66 season at age 30. After feeling something pop in his back in the fifth, he retreated to the clubhouse to have the trainer smear Capsolin on his arm, back, and side. He also took pain pills. Nevertheless, after eight he had surrendered only one solid hit, a double by Bill White. Exhausted after 322 innings for the season, he geared up for the final trio of Richie Allen, Harvey Kuehn, and Tony Taylor. Allen reached on 2B Jim LeFebvre's error. Then Kuenn, in his last at-bat before retirement, singled. Taylor also singled to break the shutout. Alston visited the mound to remind Sandy not to overthrow. White cracked a double off the scoreboard to cut the lead to 6-3. K K'd PH Bob Uecker for the first out, and Bobby Wine grounded out. Jackie Brandt was all that stood between L.A. and the pennant. He had no chance. Sandy threw three right past him.

The Series was anti-climactic. The Dodgers, who had swept the Yanks in '64, were themselves swept by Baltimore.

Reference: Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy, by Jane Leavy

Chris Short, Phillies
Chris Short

 

 

 

Giants P Juan Marichal
Juan Marichal

 

 

 

Giants 1B Willie McCovey
Willie McCovey

 

 

 

Jim Bunning
Jim Bunning

National League West 1993

 

Braves 1B Fred McGriff
Fred McGriff

 

 

1993 Atlanta Braves Pitching Staff
Steve Avery, John Smoltz, Pete Smith, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine

 

 

 

Braves 3B Terry Pendleton
Terry Pendleton

 

Braves Manager Bobby Cox
Bobby Cox

The 1993 NL West pennant race has been dubbed "the last real race" because the loser was eliminated from the playoffs. '93 was the final year of two divisions in the NL with the division winners meeting in the NLCS for the right to go to the World Series. 1994 brought three divisions and a wild card team in each league, although the format did not affect post-season play until '95 because of the players' strike in August, 1994.

On July 28, the San Francisco Giants led the Atlanta Braves by ten games. The Braves were the two-time defending NL champions, having lost in the World Series to the Twins in '91 and the Blue Jays in '92. The Giants had won the NL in '89 but also lost to the Oakland A's in the "Earthquake Series."

Helped by the acquisition of 1B Fred McGriff from the Padres, the Braves slowly closed the gap in August until they were only 3.5 behind on September 2. Atlanta's young arms – Steve Avery, John Smoltz, Pete Smith, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine – stayed strong while the Giants staff faded – starters Trevor Wilson and Bud Black were on the DL. SF picked up two veterans, Jim Deshaies and Scott Sanderson, for the stretch run.

The Giants experienced the "home stand from Hell." After defeating the Pirates on Labor Day, SF lost seven straight in Candlestick Park to fall 3.5 behind the Braves, who were in the midst of a 21-4 streak. Included was a two-of-three series victory in Fulton County Stadium August 31-September 2 in the last meeting of the two teams for the season – an unfortunate scheduling quirk.

"Battered and seemingly beaten, the Giants somehow rallied." Billy Swift finally won his 18th game to end the losing streak and begin a 14-2 stretch. SF tied Atlanta on Tuesday, September 28. However, they lost the next night to Colorado to fall a game behind the Braves, who beat Houston. On Thursday, the Giants began a four-game series at Chavez Ravine. Dodger skipper Tommy Lasorda relished ruining his archrival's season just as SF had done to his team two years earlier. "We're having meetings, we're showing films, we're going to throw everything we have at them." However, the Giants beat LA 3-1 as Swift bested Tom Candiotti. Meanwhile the Braves lost to the Astros 10-8 before 49,021 at home to create another tie (101-58) and set up an exciting final weekend. The Braves' final three games, however, were at home against the expansion Rockies, whom they had beaten all 10 times they'd played so far.Friday, October 1: Atlanta beat Colorado 7-4, with 3B Terry Pendleton driving in five. However, across the continent the Giants kept pace, beating the Dodgers 8-7 before 51,870 at Chavez Ravine. LF Barry Bonds hit two three-run HRs on his way to 46 for the season.

  • Saturday, October 2: Maddux cruised 10-1 over the Rockies but, again, the Giants didn't flinch, holding off LA 5-3. Dave Hansen's long fly in the 8th fell just short of a grand slam. Dave Martinez felt the fans behind him as he made the catch at the fence. "They must have been Giants fans; Dodger fans might have tried to pull my hat down." The two frontrunners were tied with one game to go. Thanks to a coin flip several weeks earlier, the Giants would host a one-game playoff on Monday if the teams tied.
  • Sunday, October 3: It was 42 years to the day that Bobby Thomson hit the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" to defeat the Dodgers for the NL pennant. Would the anniversary be good to the Giants again? Owner Peter Magowan flew Thomson and Willie Mays to LA to provide good luck. Back in Georgia, Bobby Cox started the pitcher with the most wins over the last three seasons, Tom Glavine. The Rockies' starter Dave Nied, left unprotected by Atlanta for the expansion draft, gave up four early runs, and the Braves hung on, 5-3, to clinch a tie. The Braves retired to their clubhouse to watch the Giant game on TV (McGriff watched the 49ers) while several thousand fans watched on the video board in the stadium. Giant manager Dusty Baker agonized over his starter before selecting rookie Salomon Torres. "I took Salomon to dinner the night before the game. We had some Latin food, and prayed on it." However, he pulled Torres in the fourth trailing 3-0. Rookie of the Year C Mike Piazza put the game away with two homers and Lasorda got his revenge, 12-1, in front of 54,340.

So the Giants won 103 games, six more games that East winner Philadelphia but could only watch as the Phillies upset the Braves before Toronto defended its World Series championship in six games.


Reference: The Last Real Race

Giants P Billy Swift
Billy Swift

Giants OF Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds

Dodgers Manager Tommy LaSorda
Tommy LaSorda

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giants Manager Dusty Baker
Dusty Baker

American League 1949
Casey Stengel
Casey Stengel
DiMaggio Brothers
Joe and Dom DiMaggio
Berra & Dickey
Yogi Berra and Coach Bill Dickey

Tommy Henrich
Tommy Henrich
Phil Rizzuto
Phil Rizzuto
Vic Raschi
Vic Raschi

Jerry Coleman
Jerry Coleman

The Boston Red Sox started slowly in 1949. On June 18, Joe McCarthy's team was in sixth place. However, they started a steady climb that brought them to second on August 12. They stayed in the runner-up spot through September 24. The pitching staff was headed by New Orleans' own Mel Parnell (25-7/2.77 for the season) and Ellis Kinder (23-6/3.36). LF Ted Williams (.343/43 HR/159 RBI) led the hitters, although SS Vern Stephens matched Ted's 159 RBI and contributed 39 HRs and a .290 BA. CF Dom DiMaggio (Joe's brother) was second on the team with 126 runs to Ted's 150.

The team the BoSox chased was the New York Yankees, who won their first five games to seize the lead and then held it through September 25 in Casey Stengel's first year at the helm. The Bombers accomplished this despite the health problems of CF Joe DiMaggio, who played in only 76 games. The HR/RBI load was primarily shouldered by young C Yogi Berra (20/91) and 1B Tommy Henrich (24/85). SS Phil Rizzuto scored 110 runs. RHP Vic Raschi (21-10/3.34) topped the mound corps along with another righty, Allie Reynolds (17-6/4.00), and southpaw Joe Page (13-8/2.59) who relieved 60 times.

The highlight of the season for New York had occurred on June 28 when DiMaggio played his first game of the year after a painful bone spur operation. The arena was Fenway Park, where he went 2-3 with a HR in a 5-4 Yank win. The next day he hit two more round-trippers and tallied 5 RBI in another victory, 9-7. Joltin' Joe continued his rampaged in the series finale. He smashed a Parnell fast ball off the steel tower in left for a three-run HR to complete the sweep, 6-3. It would turn out that NY needed every one of those victories.

Nevertheless, the Red Sox hung around and finally took the lead with their own three-game sweep of the Yanks September 24-26. Boston won the first two in Fenway, 3-0 as Kinder won his 23rd and 4-1 behind Parnell and Ted's 43rd. September 26 was a makeup of an earlier rainout in Yankee Stadium. Before an incredible Monday crowd of 66,156, the BoSox came from behind to win 7-6 to take their first lead of the season.

The Red Sox maintained their one-game lead the next day with their 11th-straight win, this one in Washington, while the Yankees beat the A's. Each team split the next two games, making it 59 wins in the last 78 games for McCarthy's boys. Boston's win in the Senator finale was one of the weird games of the year. The Red Sox prevailed 11-9 despite being outhit 18-5!

This set up the dramatic final weekend. Boston returned to the Stadium Saturday and Sunday needing just one win to clinch the crown. One big problem for Stengel: DiMag was quite sick with a viral infection that had kept him out of action since September 18. He wouldn't miss the most important games of the season, however.
  • Saturday, October 1: 69,551 jammed the House That Ruth Built on Joe DiMaggio Day. Joe needed the support of Dom to make it through the hour-long ceremony that showered $50,000 in gifts on him. Nevertheless, Joe contributed several hits to rallies. The Red Sox jumped to a 4-0 lead in the third, knocking out Reynolds. However, Page pitched shutout ball the rest of the way to allow NY to fight back. They tallied two in the fourth after DiMag led off with a ground rule double and two more in the fifth to kayo Parnell. Then in the eighth, 6'4 1/2" 217 lb. LF Johnny Lindell homered off Joe Dobson to break the tie. Both teams were 96-57 to set up, in effect, a one-game playoff for the pennant just like '48, except Cleveland and Boston had to play a 155th game.
  • Sunday, October 2: The line for bleacher seats stretched for over a block and, as on Saturday, many were turned away. The 68,055 who got in saw another thriller. Two 20-game winners faced off: Kinder vs. Raschi. Both were outstanding. Rizzuto led off the bottom of the first with a triple and scored on Henrich's grounder for a quick 1-0 lead that held up into the eighth. Then, for the second year in a row, McCarthy made a heavily criticized decision in the season's ultimate game. In '48 he started journeyman Denny Galehouse in the playoff instead of Parnell. This time, having pinch hit for Kinder in the top of the eighth, he brought Parnell back. Unfortunately, Mel had nothing. Henrich homered and Berra singled. In came rarely-used veteran Tex Hughson, 1949's rendition of Galehouse. Yet he seemed to be the right choice when Joe hit into a DP. Then disaster struck.
    • Lindell and 3B Billy Johnson singled.
    • RF Cliff Mapes walked.
    • 2B Jerry Coleman hit a bloop down the right field line that barely escaped Zeke Zarilla and rolled to the wall, clearing the bases. (40 years later, Williams labeled Coleman's hit his worst baseball memory.)
Up 5-0, Raschi relaxed in the ninth. With one out, Williams walked and Stephens singled. 2B Bobby Doerr hit a long fly to center that the ailing DiMaggio couldn't track down for a two-run triple. At that point, Joe took himself out of the game to avoid further damage. Zarilla hit a bloop to center that Mapes handled. 1B Billy Goodman singled home Doerr to bring the tying run to the plate. However, C Birdie Tebbetts fouled to Henrich to give NY its 16th AL championship.

The Brooklyn Dodgers, who edged the Cardinals by one game in the NL, lost to the Yankees in five games in the World Series.

References:
Walkoffs, Last Licks, and Final Outs, Bill Chuck and Jim Kaplan (2008)
Ted Williams: A Baseball Life by Michael Seidel (1991)

Red Sox Manager Joe McCarthy
Joe McCarthy
Mel Parnell
Mel Parnell

Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Ellis Kinder
Ellis Kinder
Vern Stephens
Vern Stephens

Bobby Doerr
Bobby Doerr
Billy Goodman
Billy Goodman