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Gee Whiz: A Look Back at the 1950 World Series

Posted By Cliff Corcoran On October 27, 2009 @ 10:43 pm In Cliff Corcoran | Comments Disabled

1958 Topps Richie Ashburn [1]One of the happy side-effects of the Yankees’ general dominance over major league baseball since 1921 is that they have a postseason history with nearly every other team in the game. In the American League, only the White Sox, Blue Jays, and Rays have never faced the Yankees in the playoffs, and in the senior circuit, only the Rockies, Astros, Brewers, and Expos/Nationals have never faced the Yankees in the World Series (the ‘Spos/Nats have never been to the World Series, period), and the Brewers faced the Yankees in the 1981 Division Series.

Of the 24 teams the Yankees have faced in the postseason, they’ve faced 22 of them since their lone meeting with the Phillies in the 1950 World Series (the exception being the Cubs, who they last faced in the 1938 Serious). To give you a sense of just how long it’s been since the Yankees swept Philadelphia’s Whiz Kids, the 1950 World Series was the last Fall Classic to feature two all-white teams.

That fact is not as trivial as it might sound. The Yankees’ struggles in the late 1960s and early 1970s had several sources, including the institution of the amateur draft and the corporate ownership of CBS, but their failure to properly exploit the African American talent pool was undeniably a contributing factor. When they finally emerged from that slumber, it was with black stars such as Mickey Rivers, Willie Randolph, Chris Chambliss, Roy White, Oscar Gamble, and Gamble’s replacement, Reggie Jackson.

Similarly, the Phillies’ surprising pennant in 1950 fed the organization’s resistance to integration. The 1950 Whiz Kids got their name not only because they won the pennant, but because they were the youngest team in the National League on both sides of the ball. In fact, the 1950 Phillies were the youngest pennant winners ever. The Phillies’ oldest regular was first baseman Eddie Waitkus (the player whose shooting the previous year inspired The Natural). Just one of the six men to make more than ten starts for them was over the age of 26, and future Hall of Famers Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts were both just 23.

Assuming that young squad would only get better with age, the Phillies didn’t even begin scouting black players until 1954, when Roy Hamey took over as general manager following four seasons in which the Phillies finished between third and fifth place. The Phillies didn’t field their first black player until 1957, didn’t have an African-American starter until 1961, and didn’t have an African-American star until the arrival of Richie Allen in 1964.

That was awful timing for Allen, who despite one of the best rookie campaigns in major league history, fell victim to the Phillies infamous Phlop, in which they blew a 6.5-game lead over the final dozen games of the season thanks to a ten-game losing streak (during which Allen hit .415/.442/.634). Allen’s ensuing battles with the Philadelphia faithful as well as the organization’s brutal treatment of Jackie Robinson back in 1947 were key factors in Curt Flood’s decision to refuse to report to the Phillies after being traded from the Cardinals, ironically for Dick Allen, after the 1969 season. The Phillies wouldn’t return to the postseason until 1976 (again ironically with Dick Allen back in the fold as their first baseman), and despite the Philadelphia fans’ affection for center fielder Gary Maddox and a late-career cameo by Hall of Famer Joe Morgan on the superannuated 1983 pennant winners, the Phillies didn’t have a black superstar who was embraced by the city until the arrivals of Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard in the new millennium.

As for the 1950 World Series itself, it was indeed a Yankee sweep, but it was paradoxically closely contested. The first three games were all decided by one run, with the Yankees winning 1-0 in Game One, in ten innings in Game Two at Shibe Park, and winning in a walk-off in Game Three.

Game One pit the Springfield Rifle, 21-game-winner Vic Raschi, against Jim Konstanty. The bespectacled Konstanty was a curious case. He had been a 27-year-old rookie with the Reds in 1944, then threw just 25 major league innings over the next four season before reemerging in the Philadelphia bullpen in 1949. Then, in 1950, at age 33, he claimed the NL MVP by winning 16 games in relief for the pennant-winning Whiz Kids. Game One of the 1950 World Series was his first major league start since 1946, and he was excellent, allowing just one run in eight innings despite not striking out a single batter. However, Raschi was better, holding the Phillies to a walk and two singles, retiring the first 13 men he faced as well as the last 11, and not allowing a runner past second base. It was the third year in a row that Game One of the World Series finished 1-0 with one team managing just two hits. The lone Yankee run scored following a leadoff double by third baseman Bobby Brown in the top of the fourth. Brown moved to third on a 400-foot drive by Hank Bauer that was flagged down by Phillies center fielder Richie Ashburn and scored on a sac fly to the left-field warning track by Jerry Coleman.

As good as that pitching matchup was, Game Two’s pairing was even better. Future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts and “Supercheif” Allie Reynolds, who would throw two no-hitters the following year, both went the distance in a ten-inning game that was knotted at 1-1 after nine. The Yankees got their run in the bottom of the second when Coleman drew a two-out walk, moved to third on a single by pitcher Reynolds, and scored on an infield single to deep shortstop by left fielder Gene Woodling. The Phils tied it up in the fifth when second baseman Mike Goliat led off with a single, moved to third on a single by Waitkus that took a wild bounce over Coleman’s head at second, and scored on a sac fly to left by Ashburn. Joe DiMaggio struck the decisive blow by leading off the tenth with a home run off Roberts and into the second deck in left center. Reynolds walked pinch-hitter Jackie Mayo to start the bottom of the tenth but, after a sac bunt, got Ashburn to foul out and struck out Dick Sisler on a check swing on a high fastball to put the Yankees up 2-0.

Game Three brought the Series to New York without an off-day. The Yankees got an early lead on veteran lefty Ken Heintzelman when, with two outs in the third, Phil Rizzuto walked, stole second on the next pitch, and moved to third when catcher Andy Seminick’s throw skipped into center field. Coleman singled Scooter home, but was thrown out trying to take second when the throw home was cut off. Junkballing lefty Eddie Lopat took that 1-0 lead into the sixth, but with two outs in that frame, Del Ennis doubled and Dick Sisler singled him home on the very next pitch to tie it. Ennis was then picked off first by Berra on a missed bunt attempt to end the inning. The Phils took the lead in their next turn when shortstop Granny Hamner singled, moved to second on a bunt, and scored on a Golait single.

Heintzelman held the 2-1 lead, which would prove to be the Phillies’ only lead of the series, into the bottom of the eighth, but with two outs he lost the plate, walking Coleman, Yogi Berra, and, after a mound visit from Phillie manager Eddie Sawyer, DiMaggio to load the bases. Sawyer then turned to relief ace Konstanty, but Hamner booted a grounder from pinch-hitter Bobby Brown to allow Coleman to score with the tying run. Casey Stengel had hit for Lopat in the eighth, so Tom Ferrick got the ball in the ninth. Hamner, the Phillies’ top hitter in the Series, immediately tried to atone for his error with a drive toward the 457-foot sign in death valley, but DiMaggio chased down the ball before it reached the wall and held Hamner to a double. Seminick then bunted Hamner to third, putting the go-ahead run 90 feet from home with one out, after which Stengel had Ferrick intentionally walk Golait to get to the pitcher’s spot. That took Konstanty out of the game. Pinch-hitter Dick Whitman hit a grounder to first that defensive replacement Joe Collins (in for Johnny Mize) charged and fired to home to retire Hamner. Sawyer then sent the remarkably-named Putsy Caballero in to run for Golait, but Waitkus flew out to end the inning.

Caballero’s pinch-running attempt was not without its impact, however. Russ Meyer, who had been bumped from the rotation in favor of Konstanty due in part to his 5.30 regular-season ERA, came on to pitch the ninth and got two quick outs, but then Woodling hit a chopper to Jimmy Bloodworth, who had taken over for Golait/Caballero at second base. Bloodworth flubbed the ball allowing Woodling to reach on what was ruled an infield single. Rizzuto followed with a hard shot off Bloodworth for another infield single. That brought up that man Jerry Coleman, who split the left and center fielders with a game-winning single that gave the Yankees a 3-2 win and a 3-0 lead in the Series. There was no on-field celebration.

The concluding Game Four wasn’t nearly as interesting. The Yankees bounced rookie righty Bob Miller in the first inning after a Golait error, a Berra single, a wild pitch, and a DiMaggio double made it 2-0 with one out. Konstanty came on, stranded DiMaggio and shut the Yankees down for the next four innings, but he fell apart in the sixth, giving up a lead-off homer into the right-field corner by Berra, after which he hit DiMaggio in the small of his back. Joe D came around to score on a triple to the 407-foot sign in right center by Brown, who himself scored on a sac fly to the left-field warning track by Hank Bauer.

Those five runs were more than enough for the Yankees’ 21-year-old rookie starter. After the Yankee defense cut down a run at the plate in the first, Whitey Ford, wearing number 19, held the Phillies scoreless into the ninth. Philadelphia didn’t break through until they were down to their last out, when Gene Woodling lost what would have been the last out of the Series in the sun of Yankee Stadium’s left field, allowing two runs to score. After a mound visit by Stengel, Golait singled through the shortstop hole past the reach of Rizzuto to bring the tying run to the plate in pinch-hitter Stan Lopata. Much to Ford’s obvious disappointment, Stengel countered with Reynolds, and the big righty struck out Lopata swinging on four pitches to give the Yankees their second in their record five consecutive world championships.

The Phillies would have to wait thirty years for a return trip to the series and the first (and prior to 2008, only) world championship in franchise history.

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