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Monday, 26 October 2009
Just for Eric

Since you brought it up my friend...

The 1950 Philadelphia Phillies climbed to the top of the National League, thanks to a clutch performance down the home stretch by twenty-game winner Robin Roberts. Roberts pitched three times in the last five days of the regular season and although he managed to nail down the National League pennant, the marathon had left him unavailable for a Game 1 start. Manager Eddie Sawyer was left with a limited rotation due to the late-season loss of Curt Simmons (seventeen victories) to the Army and recurring injuries to rookie pitchers Bob Miller and Bubba Church.

The Philly skipper shocked everyone after nominating a thirty-three year old right-hander named Jim Konstanty, who had not made a single start during the 1950 regular season. He did however appear in seventy-four games and the standout reliever was 16-7 with a 2.66 earned run average. Konstanty was confident and certainly up to the challenge (and what a challenge it would be).

His opponent was none other than the defending World Champion New York Yankees who had swept six previous World Series (from the Pirates, Cardinals, Cubs and Reds) in twenty-four years and captured twelve World Series titles to date. Many felt that another sweep was a foregone conclusion, but Philadelphia was determined to prove their critics wrong. Konstanty rose to the occasion and pitched a superb outing against the American League champions while allowing only one run and four hits in eight innings. Unfortunately for the Phillies, New York's Vic Raschi spun a two-hit, 1-0 shutout for the opening lead.

By now, Roberts was well rested and ready for Game 2. The Philadelphia ace went up against New York right-hander Allie Reynolds and neither blinked through a 1-1, nine inning standoff. So far, through two regulation games, there had been a total of three runs scored as the pitchers clearly dominated the contest (much to the dismay of the crowds). Joe DiMaggio added a fourth to the total after launching a leadoff homer in the tenth inning for a 2-1 triumph. Now down two games to none, the Phillies were desperate for an advantage on the mound and called upon an unlikely hero named Ken Heintzelman (a seventeen-game winner for the Phillies in 1949 but a lowly, 3-9 pitcher in 1950).

Despite his deplorable regular season stats, the left-hander started beautifully in Game 3 against Eddie Lopat and carried a 2-1 lead going into the eighth inning. After retiring the first two Yankees, Heintzelman stuttered and walked three consecutive batters. Sawyer saw that it was time to make a change and called for Konstanty who induced Bobby Brown to ground to Granny Hamner. Unable to get a break, the Phillies' winced as their shortstop fumbled the ball, and the tying run scored. The Yankees continued their momentum in the ninth, as Jerry Coleman stepped up to the plate and sealed the 3-2 victory.

Now on the verge of another Yankees sweep, the Phillies had kept pace with the perennial champs and only lost by three consecutive one-run decisions (the closest of any contender in any previous New York rally). Their efforts however, would be in vain, as NY skipper Casey Stengel introduced a young up-and-coming talent in Game 4. His name was Ed "Whitey" Ford and the rookie went 9-1 during the regular season after being called up from Kansas City of the American Association. After teammate Yogi Berra led off the Yankees' attack with a run-scoring single and a bases-empty homerun, Ford breezed into the ninth inning with a 5-0 lead. A shutout seemed inevitable for Ford, as he forced Andy Seminick to hit a textbook fly to left field. However, Gene Woodling dropped the ball and both Phillies runners scored. Reynolds came in to get the last out, making the New York Yankees 5-2 winners and repeat champions.

Woodling, who tied Granny Hamner for the World Series batting lead with a .429 average, was distraught over his failure to protect the shutout. Ford was less concerned and happy with the win (which would be the first of many in the Fall Classic). In fact, the Yankees newest ace would go on to set several World Series records. "The Chairman of the Board" as he would later be called, still holds the World Series records for most wins (ten) and most strikeouts (ninety-four). The New York Yankees pitching rotation during the 1950 Series only allowed three (3) earned runs and finished the Fall Classic with a combined 0.73 ERA.

Following their defeat, one of the most frequently asked questions in Philadelphia's sports papers was, "Why didn't the Phillies start Robin Roberts during Game 1?" The answer is during the National League pennant race, Roberts had three (3) starts in five (5) days including the pennant winner on the final day of the regular season - played October 1, 1950 (three days before Game 1).

Ironically, the last two National League teams without a home run during the Fall Classic were the Cincinnati Reds in the 1939 World Series (swept by the New York Yankees) and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1927 World Series (also swept by the New York Yankees).

Originally written for Baseball-Almanac: World Series section, by Michael Aubrecht

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 9:39 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 26 October 2009 10:07 PM EDT
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