Pivotal World Series Plays
Owen Muffs the Third Strike
1941 World Series Game 4: New York Yankees @ Brooklyn Dodgers
The Yankees lead the Series two games to one.

Situation: Top of ninth, Dodgers lead 4-3 with ace reliever ("closer" in today's lingo) Hugh Casey pitching.

  • 1B Johnny Sturm grounds out to 2B.
  • 3B Red Rolfe grounds to P.
  • RF Tommy Henrich swings and misses at strike three, but the ball gets away from C Mickey OwenHenrich is safe at first.

Hugh Casey

Mickey Owen
Keller, DiMag, Henrich
1941 Yankee outfield L-R: Charlie Keller, Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich

Mickey misses 3rd strike in 1941 World Series
Owen Misses Third Strike to Henrich.
Still, Brooklyn's chances of evening the series look good. Casey has been pitching since the 6th and has yet to allow a run. There are two outs and a runner on first. But the third out proves elusive.
  • CF Joe DiMaggio singles to left, sending Henrich to 2B.
  • LF Charlie "King Kong" Keller doubles off the RF wall, scoring Henrich and DiMaggio.
  • Bill Dickey walks.
  • 2B Joe Gordon doubles over the LF Jimmy Wasdell's head, scoring Keller and Dickey with the third and fourth unearned runs of the inning.
  • SS Phil Rizzuto walks.
  • Johnny Murphy grounds out to SS Pee Wee Reese to end the nightmarish inning.
Leo Durocher's Dodgers went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth to fall behind in the Series three games-to-one. The Yankees closed them out the next day.
In later years, Casey claimed that he had thrown a spitball on the last pitch to Henrich in Game 4. But at a reunion in 1988, both Owen and Henrich disagreed. "If Casey threw a spitball, he threw it on his own," said Mickey. "It never looked like a spitball to me. It was a curveball. That's what I called for."
"That's right," said Henrich. "Spitballs drop down. I swung at a big breaking curveball."
"Casey had two kinds of curveballs," explained Owen. "One was an overhand curve that broke big. The other one was like a slider. It broke sharp and quick. But we had the same signs for either one. He just threw whichever one was working best. From the sixth inning when he came in, he had stopped the Yankees using the quick curve. He never tried the big overhand curve. When we got to 3 and 2 on Tommy, I called for the curveball. I was looking for the quick curve he had been throwing all along. But he threw the overhand curve, and it really broke big, in and down. Tommy missed it by six inches."
Henrich added, "As soon as I missed it, I looked around to see where the ball was. It fooled me so much. I figured maybe it fooled Mickey, too. And it did."
Owen explained his biggest regret about the passed ball. "The big mistake I made was not going out to the mound to tell Casey that I blew it. I just stood there behind the plate. I should've gone out to tell Casey that I blew it and to settle him down. But all of us were in shock from what happened."
Tommy recalled, "When I got to first base, Dolph Camilli never said a word to me. Not a word."
Owen: "I don't remember Leo Durocher saying much in the clubhouse. We were still in shock when Larry MacPhail came in. Larry was the general manager, and he always had something to say. I thought, 'I'm going to hear something now.' But he was feeling no pain. He came over and hugged and kissed me. I thought, 'I can't believe this.'"
In the Yankee clubhouse, Henrich's locker was near DiMaggio's. "Even with all the noise," Henrich recalled, "I can still hear Joe saying, 'They'll never come back from this one.'"
Months later, Owen asked Casey about the strike three pitch. Instead of saying it was a spitball, Hugh said, "It just happened."