Pivotal World Series Plays
The Lombardi Snooze
1939 World Series Yankees vs Reds: Game 4 at Crosley Field, Cincinnati.

The Reds led 4-2 heading into the top of the ninth in their desperate push to avoid being swept by the mighty American League champions. Cincy ace Bucky Walters, 27-11 during the season, tried to complete a two-inning save for starter Paul Derringer (25-7) in an age when starting pitchers were expected to go the distance. But in a win-or-go-home game, Reds manager Bill McKechnie pulled out all stops. Bucky set the Yanks down in order in the 8th.
But in the 9th, three singles and a crucial error by SS Billy Myers, who dropped the throw from the second baseman on a potential double play grounder, allowed the Bronx Bombers to tie the score. It was Cincinnati's first error of the Series but not their last.
When NY's ace reliever Johnny Murphy retired the Reds in the bottom of the inning, the game went into extra innings.
In a strategy that is unheard of today, McKechnie let Walters bat for himself in the bottom of 9th. So the 30-year-old righthander starts his third inning of relief.
SS Frankie Crosetti draws a leadoff walk and is sacrificed to second by 3B Red Rolfe. Then poor Myers boots a potential double-play grounder off the bat of RF Charlie Keller to put runners on first and third.
That sets up perhaps the craziest play in World Series history, a play in which three runs score on a single.


L: Keller prepares to slide as Lombardi receives the throw.
R: DiMaggio completes his trip around the bases after hitting a single.
Joe DiMaggio slaps a single into RF. Crosetti scores easily and, when RF Ival Goodman lets the ball get away from him, Keller is waved around third. As the belated but perfect throw comes in, Lombardi grabs the ball in front of the plate, whirls and lunges back and down to apply the tag on the sliding Keller. Charlie's slide knocks the ball loose and Lombardi ends up sprawled on the ground with the baseball less than 6' away behind the plate. In the meantime, DiMaggio, one of the fastest players in the big leagues, has rounded second. He hesitates momentarily but, seeing the ball get away from Lombardi with Walters not backing up the plate, roars around third and heads home. Ernie awakes from his three-second snooze, retrieves the ball, and puts a tag to the sliding DiMaggio a split second too late. Just like that, the Yankees lead 7-4.

Two Hall of Famers: Joe DiMaggio and Ernie Lombardi
The Reds got two singles to start the bottom of the 10th, but Murphy retired the next three hitters. The Yankees thus swept a World Series for the fifth time in their last seven appearances, a streak that will likely never be repeated.
Parts of the radio broadcast of Game 4 of the 1939 World Series are available. Unfortunate­ly, the 10th inning action picks up right after the three-run play.
We do have Red Barber announcing the bottom of the tenth. When Goodman leads off with a single, Red comments on the weakness of the cheers, indicating the crowd is resigned to losing. But when Frank McCormick follows with another single, you hear a much louder response from the Cincinnati faithful. Unfortunately, the runners - and the Reds' hopes - died on the bases.
Lombardi never revealed what caused his "snooze." The explanation that prevailed is that Keller accidentally kneed Ernie in the groin when he slid into home.
Reds P Johnny VanderMeer said, "The throw from the outfield came in a short hop and hit Lom in the cup. You just don't get up too quick." But the video referenced above as well as the picture on the left show conclusively that was not the case. The throw came to Ernie on one full hop. Instead you see Keller's left leg sliding between Lombardi's legs.
Myers' ninth inning error, which contributed to the Yanks tying the score, was labeled the "$150,000 muff." That was the estimated revenue the Cincinnati club lost by not playing a fifth game at home the next day.