Golden Baseball Magazine

Almost Heroes

This feature discusses players whose feats were topped by another player in a crucial game and therefore forgotten to history.
Maury Wills, Tommy Davis, and Ed Roebuck
The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants finished in a tie for first in the 1962 National League pennant race. Read about the pennant race. ...
  • The Giants easily won the first game of the best-of-three playoff in San Francisco, 8-0.
  • The Dodgers staved off elimination by rallying from a 5-0 deficit in Game 2 in Los Angeles to win 8-7.
As in 1951 on the East Coast, the two rivals clashed in a winner-take-all Game 3, this time in the Dodgers' stadium.
  • The Giants scored two in the third to take the lead. The Dodgers answered with a run in the fourth off Juan Marichal on Duke Snider's double, Tommy Davis's single, and Frank Howard's ground out.
  • Johnny Podres, the hero of the Dodgers' first World Series victory in 1955, kept the Giants at bay until the sixth when the visitors loaded the bases with no one out on three singles.

So Manager Walt Alston brought in Ed Roebuck from the bullpen. It was the rubber-armed righthander's 62nd appearance of the season and his seventh in the last nine days. The Dodger manager could not have scripted the rest of the inning any better.

  • A sinker-ball specialist who threw sidearm, Roebuck got Jose Pagan to bounce to SS Maury Wills, who threw home for a forceout.
  • Then P Juan Marichal also grounded to Wills who stepped on second and threw to first for a double play as the home crowd went wild.

Dodger fans got even crazier in the bottom of the inning.

  • 3B Tommy Davis was the surprise hitting star of the Dodgers. He led the National League in batting average (.346), hits (230), and RBIs (53).
  • After Snider led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, Tommy clouted his 27th homer into the left field stands to put the Dodgers ahead 3-2.

After Roebuck got in and out of trouble in the top of the seventh, Dodger prospects improved in the bottom of the inning thanks to their stellar leadoff man.

  • With one out, Wills got his fourth single in four at-bats and promptly stole second - his 103rd of the season.
  • With Larry Burright at the plate after Junior Gilliam flew out, Maury took off for third. When C Ed Bailey's throw sailed down the line, Wills scampered home with an insurance run.
    The antics of Dodger 3B Coach Leo Durocher incited the Giants. Felipe Alou: "It was that tack-on run in the seventh inning that especially bothered me, because of the way the Dodgers' third base coach, Leo Durocher, acted when they scored it. ... Durocher ran all the way down the line with him (Wills) and slid as Wills slid home safely. Thinking they had the game won, Durocher got up laughing, like it was a show, a joke. I never wanted to win a game as badly as I did that game."
Roebuck stayed strong, facing only three batters in the 8th because of a double play.
Durocher claimed he asked Roebuck, "'How do you feel, buddy?' as Ed left the mound after the top of the 8th. He said, 'My arm feels like lead. Man, I am tired.' I didn't go to Alston. I went to the pitching coach, Joe Becker, who was standing practically alongside him at the corner of the dugout. ... 'Get somebody ready,' I said to Becker. 'Don't let this fellow go out in the ninth inning. He can't lift his arm.' Becker didn't say a word. Alston didn't say a word. It was like I wasn't there. I said, 'Walt, he told me he was tired. He's through.' And Alston said, more to Becker than to me, 'I'm going to win or lose with Roebuck. He stays right there.'"

The Dodgers had a chance to score in the bottom of the eighth until a smart move by SF skipper Alvin Dark forced Alston to make a crucial decision.

  • New Giants P Don Larsen walked the first batter, Davis. Ron Fairly sacrificed him to second.
  • Howard struck out. So Dark shrewdly ordered intentional walks to C John Roseboro and CF Willie Davis to bring Roebuck to the plate. That forced Alston to make a decision–pinch-hit for Ed to try to get more runs and bring in a new pitcher in the ninth or let Ed hit and probably end the threat.
  • Alston chose to go with Roebuck. Sure enough, he grounded out to keep the margin at 4-2 with three outs to go.
    Alston explained afterward his decision to let Roebuck hit. "Ed's a pretty fair hitter, and he was the man I wanted in there to protect the two-run lead in the ninth."
    Felipe Alou: "When I came off the field after the bottom of the eighth ... I went straight to the clubhouse and did something I've never done before or since - I prayed for us to win. I felt I needed a quick connection with Jeho­vah God, a few seconds to visit with him before going into combat."
    Durocher: "When I came back in (after the bottom of the 8th) and took my seat at the other end of the bench, Drysdale, Koufax, and Johnny Pod­res ... were standing right there. 'Don't let them send Roebuck back out,' they pleaded. 'Tell him he's got make a change. Don't let him do it, Leo.' Don't let him? 'What the hell do you want me to do, I'm not managing the club. There's not a goddamn thing more I can say that I've said.'"

The 9th inning turned into a nightmare for the Dodgers.

  • Alou lined a single.
  • Harvey Kuenn grounded to Wills but was able to beat the throw to first to avoid the double play.
  • Both McCovey and Alou walked to load the bases. Alston had two pitchers warming up but stayed with Ed.
  • Mays hit a line drive that bounced off Roebuck to move all runners up a base and keep them loaded. 4-3 Dodgers.
    Roebuck: "The tirerder I got, the more the ball sunk, which is probably one of the reasons why Walt didn't take me out of the game. But I was really beat. It was the most uncomfortable I've ever felt in a game. The smog was just hanging in the park, it was hot, and I was thinking how happy I was going to be when this thing was over."

Alston finally made a pitching change, bringing in right-hander Stan Williams instead of southpaw Ron Perranoski. That proved to be another bad decision.

  • Cepeda hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Alou took third after the catch.
  • With Bailey at bat, Roseboro blocked a wild pitch enough to keep Alou from scoring, but Mays scurried to second.
  • Alston ordered an intentional pass for Bailey to reload the bases. He left Stan in to face the right-hand-hitting Davenport.
  • But Williams walked Jim to force in the go-ahead run. So the call finally went out for Perranoski.
  • Pagan hit a grounder to 2B Burright, who booted it, to allow Mays to score to make it 6-4.
  • Bob Nieman struck out to end the pennant-winning inning.

Dark called on veteran lefty Billy Pierce to seal the pennant, and he did a masterful job, setting the Dodgers down in order.

Duke Snider

Tommy Davis

Ed Roebuck

Walter Alston

Maury Wills

Alvin Dark