1946 NL Pennant? It’s in the Cards

Sunday, August 25, 1946, Sportsman’s Park, St. Louis, first game of a doubleheader between the St Louis Cardinals and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Enos Slaughter and the batboy at right come to congratulate Stan Musial after he just clouted a solo homer in the 4th inning, off young Ralph Branca, to go ahead of the Brooks 2-1. The dejected catcher is rookie Bruce Edwards.

This was a big day for Cardinal baseball in 1946, and a virtual sellout, as the Brooklyn Dodgers came into town for a first place showdown – after the Cardinals were behind Brooklyn as much as 7 1/2 games earlier in the season, they heated up after the All-Star break, and both were now tied atop the NL as the day began. And Stan The Man was certainly up to the task – after a year off for military service, he was ready to again dominant the NL, and was flying high in ’46, eventually winning the MVP by leading the league in most offensive categories (except, ironically, HRs and RBIs). And the Cards sure liked their chances in Game 1 – Branca, only a spot-starter in ’46, was facing the Cardinals All-Star ace lefty Howie Pollet, who would eventually pace the NL in wins and ERA. Fortunately for Brooklyn, the wily Branca held his own, and although he was lifted in the 6th after the Cards tied it at 2-2, a parade of relievers deftly held the Redbirds scoreless from there; and as pinch-hitter Cookie Lavagetto broke the stalemate to single in the go-ahead run in the 9th off Pollet, who went all the way in the loss, the Dodgers prevailed 3-2, moving up a full game on the locals.

However, the Cardinals and Musial weren’t about to let Brooklyn gain any more ground in their home park, and busted out early in the second game, knocking Joe Hatten out of the box with none retired in the first, and didn’t stop there, building a 10-0 lead after 6 innings, with MVP Stan going 4 for 5 to highlight the Redbirds’ attack. The Dodgers did storm back, scoring 4 in the 7th and 4 more in the 8th to get to within 11-8, but they were running out of time – darkness was approaching, and although Sportsman’s Park had had lights installed in 1940, the rules of the day did not allow for a day game to be continued into night with the aid of lighting – so when the Cardinals decided to score 3 more runs in the bottom of the 8th, the last vestige of daylight was exhausted, and the game was called after 8 innings due to darkness – and the Cardinals regained a first place tie with the visitors, thanks to at least a little help from Mother Nature. So after 6 hours of NL titans doing battle in front of a full house of rabid Cardinal fans, one more or less a pitching duel, the other a slugfest, the result was a No Decision, or as the NY Times put it, “Condition unchanged, patient still feverish”. The Dodgers had two more games in St. Louis in the series, and split those, leaving town still tied for first.

46tieIt turned out that each game did matter from here on in, as the Dodgers and Cardinals continued to battle down the stretch, and they both ended the season in a flat-flooted tie, surprisingly, for the first time in baseball history. There would be a 3-game playoff to decide the pennant, which oddly enough, had many parallels to that August stalemate doubleheader.

The first playoff game was held in St. Louis. The pitching matchup? Ralph Branca vs Howie Pollet. Lady luck had spun the same combination as back in August, and would the stars again line up for the Dodgers against the Cardinals’ ace? As it turned out, Pollet again allowed 2 runs in the middle innings, but didn’t give up that 3rd run in the 9th, and went on to notch his 21st win of the season (the first time being able to go beyond the usual amount of games to add to one’s season totals), and Branca didn’t get out of the 3rd inning, ironically suffering his first loss of the entire season, and the Cardinals took the first game 4-2.

The second game moved to Brooklyn, and, pitching for the Dodgers: Joe Hatten, the Game 2 goat back on that summer’s day in St. Louis. Hatten did make it out of the first inning this time, but not much further, as the Cardinals had 5 runs by the 5th inning, and the pennant was more or less lost, although the Brooks had the bases loaded in the 9th down 8-4, but Howie Schultz struck out to give the title to the Redbirds.

Ironically, although the Dodgers lost a tough pennant battle in the campaign of 1946, that year set the stage for the future, and young stars such as Branca, Reese, and rookie Carl Furillo (not to mention the addition of Jackie Robinson in 1947) would lead Brooklyn to many years of success in the late ’40’s and ’50’s, including the pennant in 1947 and 6 within the next 10 years, while for the Cardinals, although Stan Musial was one of the best players in the league in the late ’40’s and ’50’s, 1946 was the last hurrah for the Redbirds until the 1960’s.

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Whitey Kurowski, Enos Slaughter, Marty Marion and Stan Musial

Ironically, Howie Pollet would lose Game 1 of the ’46 World Series, and was removed due to injury in Game 5, although the Cardinals did win the World Championship in 7 games over the Red Sox – who would not win a title until almost a half century later.

Joe Hatten, who actually had a pretty good year in 1946, would rebound to go 17-8 for the pennant winners in 1947 and continue to be an effective starter for Brooklyn, although did poorly in the spotlight of both the 1947 and 1949 World Series.

An interesting footnote regards Brooklyn catcher Bruce Edwards; he had just been called up in June, but became the Dodgers starting catcher right away, and for the rest of the season. He would go on to play a career high 130 games as the Brooklyn catcher in 1947 (one of his backups would be none other than rookie Gil Hodges, who thankfully moved to first the following year), but the breaking of the color line relegated him to part-time status in 1948 with the emergence of Roy Campanella. He would remain Campy’s backup through mid-1951, when he was traded to the Cubs. He remained a part-timer for the rest of his career.

And one final note: The next time the National League ended in a tie, necessitating a playoff, was in 1951, with one Ralph Branca also involved. Let’s just say Branca winning playoff games was never in the cards.

Burns-Eye Views of Big Time Parks, #6 – Shibe Park

In 1937, Ed Burns, a sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune, penned a series of articles on every major league park at the time (15 articles in all, of 16 parks for 16 teams; the Cardinals and Browns shared Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, while the Indians played in both League Park and Cleveland Municipal Stadium that year, with one article for both), which were also published in the Sporting News that year.

A very interesting series, especially from the perspective of 1937, and the hand-drawn diagrams of interesting plays and quirks of each park are wonderful. I’ll post them in order of when they were originally published, and one at a time to make things interesting. Click the Burns-Eye Views of Big Time Parks category link to the right to see all the articles together.

Sixth in the series is Shibe Park, home to the Philadelphia Athletics. The Phillies were still up the street in smaller Baker Bowl, but since the late Mr. Shibe added accommodations for their Brotherly Love brethren  (including the then vacant “Phillyless Philly Clubhouse”, see and read below), they gave up on the old park and moved into beautiful Shibe for good in 1938. Although it looks like a “warehouse or brewery” from the outside, it’s hard to beat the best grass in the majors!

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Both parks together – Baker Bowl top, Shibe bottom. Pretty good looking brewery, lol. Click photo for much larger version.

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Radio Broadcast – 6/4/57, Dodgers vs Cubs, Ebbets Field

As part of my ongoing efforts to bring classic baseball moments to the masses, lol, I have been creating videos of classic radio broadcasts and uploading them to YouTube. Time-consuming, so there will only be a few here and there, but hope to get a bunch up soon enough.

From the YT page details:

Original full radio broadcast from the Dodgers radio network, originally preserved by WOKO, Albany, NY. Tuesday night, June 4, 1957, the Dodgers return from a 9 game PA trip to come home to face the Cubs, with a young Sandy Koufax taking the mound. After the intro by Jerry Doggett, an also young Vin Scully (starts at 6:43) calls the first 3 innings, with some middle-innings work later; Doggett does the last 6 innings, along with some between-innings work also. Al Helfert also contributes between innings, and does the quick post-game at the end. Dodgers prevailed, 7-5, as Sandy got the win and Clem Labine got the save. Campanella hits a 2-run double off the scoreboard in the first, and also there were 4 home runs: Snider in the 3rd, Hodges in the 5th, Speake of the Cubs in the 6th and Ernie Banks in the 8th. Also, Joe Pignatano makes his major league debut (discussion starting at 1:07:14) after Campy is hit by a pitch in the 3rd inning. The sounds of the fans, vendors and Ebbets announcer Tex Rickards (first heard at 4:10) are heard throughout the game. A classic time capsule of the Dodgers’ last season in Brooklyn, enjoy!

Line score:

CHC 0 0 0 – 0 0 2 – 0 3 0 – 5 6 1
BRO 3 0 3 – 0 1 0 – 0 0 x – 7 7 0

Retrosheet Box Score and Play-by-Play: http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1957/B06040BRO1957.htm

 

A Moment In Time – 7/12/55

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maysnewpTuesday, July 12, 1955, the 22nd All-Star Game, County Stadium, Milwaukee. Top of the 7th inning, AL up 5-0, one on, two out, and Willie Mays leaps at the fence to steal a home run away from Ted Williams, which would’ve made the score 7-0. In the NY Times: “…Williams stroked a powerful smash to right center. But Willie gave chase and just as the ball appeared to clear the wire railing, the Say Hey Kid leaped up to snare the ball in his glove.”

As it was an All-Star Game, there were many press photographers present, and as shown here, there were photos taken from all angles of this amazing catch, since no doubt there were many cameras already trained on Mays. Willie was flying high in 1955, as the reigning NL MVP, batting champ, and with the other New York Giants, World Series Champions from 1954. Unfortunately, the Gold Glove award was not originated until 1957, but it’s a sure bet that Mays would have snagged a few in the early ’50’s, as he in fact won 12 straight NL OF GG’s right from the award’s inception until 1969. Also, in the ’50’s and ’60’s, you could’ve almost renamed the ASG “Willie Mays Day” as he participated in the game in every season of his career, except his rookie season (in which he was Rookie Of The Year!).

 

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The American League could’ve used that clout by Williams; after Mays caught the last out in the top of the 7th, above, he trotted in and led off the bottom of the inning with a single, eventually coming around to score as the NL tallied 2 in the 7th, and then for good measure, Willie also singled and scored during a rally in the 8th as the National League scored 3 more to tie it. Mays did strike out looking with two on to end the 9th, however, sending the game into extras. Would the Say Hey Kid have one more magical moment this day? Perhaps, but Stan Musial had other ideas, hitting a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the NL a 6-5 victory – with Mays on deck.

Burns-Eye Views of Big Time Parks, #5 – Sportsman’s Park

In 1937, Ed Burns, a sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune, penned a series of articles on every major league park at the time (15 articles in all, of 16 parks for 16 teams; the Cardinals and Browns shared Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, while the Indians played in both League Park and Cleveland Municipal Stadium that year, with one article for both), which were also published in the Sporting News that year.

A very interesting series, especially from the perspective of 1937, and the hand-drawn diagrams of interesting plays and quirks of each park are wonderful. I’ll post them in order of when they were originally published, and one at a time to make things interesting. Click the Burns-Eye Views of Big Time Parks category link to the right to see all the articles together.

Fifth in the series, Sportsman’s Park, home to both the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns. How about roosters and hens to eat all the insects that would plague the field, and the only place in MLB you can get a hot dog that is broiled instead of “soaked”?

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The Call Heard ‘Round The World

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9/27/51, Braves Field, Boston, bottom of the 8th inning: Boston Brave Bob Addis slides into Roy Campanella as umpire Frank Dascoli looks on. Addis was called safe, sparking a furor amongst Campanella and the Dodgers.

In the late afternoon of Thursday, September 27, 1951, at old Braves Field in Boston, before only 2,086 hearty souls, occurred a controversial call on a play at home during the Dodgers/Braves contest that profoundly altered the NL pennant race with only mere days to go in the season, with every game of the utmost importance, and ultimately resulted in one of the most storied moments in baseball history.

As most baseball aficionados are aware, the 1951 National League campaign is famous for the New York Giants’ improbable rise from 13 1/2 games behind on August 11 to then win 16 in a row and go 37-7 the rest of the way overall (an .841 clip) to tie the Brooklyn Dodgers at the end of the regular season, forcing a 3-game playoff. It has since been revealed that much of the Giants’ success was due to the fact that they were likely stealing signs from mid-season on, through an elaborate system from clubhouse to bullpen to batter in the old Polo Grounds (which doesn’t explain their 17-4 road record during that stretch), but that’s a story for another blog post or two.

The Dodgers entered the contest with only a one game lead over the Giants, and a win would bump it to 1.5 games going into the final weekend – so from there the Dodgers would have to lose “out” to be denied a chance at the pennant. But the hometown Braves had other ideas, and were tied 3-3 going into the bottom of the 8th inning.

campy2Preacher Roe, a winner of 10 straight going into the game, began to tire, and the first two Braves reached with singles. With men on first and third and none out and the Brooklyn infield in, “Specs” Torgeson grounded one sharply to Jackie Robinson at 2nd, who fired a strike to Campanella to cut off the go-ahead run. Then, according to the Times account:

“As Dascoli spread his arms in the safe sign, Campy jumped up and down in violent protest and slammed his glove on the ground. Dascoli instantly thumbed the catcher out, then the dispute grew quickly.”

“Manager Chuck Dressen, his aides, Roe and many other players swarmed around Dascoli in protest, and Coach Cookie Lavagetto also got the heave-ho.”

Thankfully, LIFE photographer George Silk happened to be at Braves Field that day doing a piece on the Dodgers, and captured the rhubarb (click on photos for larger images):

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But the fun wasn’t over yet – apparently the Dodger bench continued to express their displeasure with the call. “When the game was resumed…with Cooper at bat, Dascoli suddenly wheeled and ordered the Brooklyn bench cleared. Jock Conlon, second base arbiter,  went to the bench and herded the players out. The boys took their time, many of them pausing en route to pay their compliments to Dascoli, resulting in the whimsical scene below.

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Unfortunately for the Brooks, they only had one more at-bat to stave off a bitter 4-3 defeat. As captured by LIFE, the ruckus had not calmed down in the 9th – the Dodger players in the field that were not ejected and now populated the half empty bench still made their voices heard:

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Even Dodger rooters in enemy territory had plenty of words for the men in blue:

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The ejection of Campanella, with his .326/32/107 numbers, turned out to be particularly damaging in the last frame as Pee Wee Reese led off the 9th with a double, but instead of Campy coming to bat with Reese having advanced to 3rd with one out, Wayne Terwilliger grounded to 3rd as Reese held, then Andy Pafko struck out to end it.

Tempers were still high after the game, with the Dodgers continuing to complain as they descended down the runways, and several even kicked and damaged a door leading to the umpire’s room. Said Dodger manager Chuck Dressen: “Dascoli is just incompetent.” Campanella himself took the high road – “I didn’t call him anything. I never called an umpire names in my life. I just asked him how he could call Addis safe when I had the plate blocked – and he just threw me out of the game”. What story Campy told the same boys over drinks after their articles were already sent to press is lost to history, however.

For their trouble, NL President Ford Frick fined Campanella and Robinson $100 each, and Roe $50, but none were suspended. And no one ever found out who splintered the umpire’s door, even though the Boston press thought Jackie did it. Said an unnamed Dodger, “I don’t know who damaged the umpire’s door, but quite a few of our boys either kicked or pounded it on their way to our dressing room.” Even Giants manager Leo Durocher chimed in, saying Robinson should be suspended if he kicked the door, since his catcher, Wes Westrum, was recently suspended 3 days for pushing an umpire, and also knowing full well a 3-game playoff with Jackie’s Dodgers was very likely.

After the smoke cleared, the controversial loss allowed the idle Giants to move to within only 1/2 game of the Dodgers heading into the last weekend of the season. The Dodgers then went to Shibe Park and won 2 out of 3 from the Phillies, but the Giants came to Braves Field after the Dodgers left, and (oddly enough after an additional off-day on Friday) won their last two games of the season there, setting up the 3-game playoff, and the legendary heroics of one Bobby Thomson in the third and final playoff game on October 3rd.