Looking Back: 1950 World Series, Part 1

The scene is 1950 in Philadelphia. The Phillies went to the final day of the season and won the National League pennant on a tenth inning homerun from Dick Sisler. For the first time in 35 years, the Phillies were hosts of a World Series game. The Whiz Kids, a collection of young players had pushed the Phillies over the top with some help along the way from a grizzled veteran or two.

The Phillies World Series counterparts, the New York Yankees were dominant. You couldn't tell from watching him play, but history would show that Joe DiMaggio was in the penultimate season of his great career. Joltin' Joe smashed 32 homeruns, drove in 122 and hit .301 for the Yankees and was their leader.

Joining DiMaggio was an up and coming catcher named Yogi Berra. He was young, but played well beyond his years. Berra, who would become famous for his, shall we say, interesting, command of the english language, would go down as one of the great players and characters of baseball. In 1950, Berra hit 28 homeruns and hit .322 while driving in 124 runs.

The Yankees readily plattoned players in their lineup, but it all came together in a successful way. They were solid from top to bottom and featured names like Hank Bauer and Jerry Coleman.

The pitching staff was led by 21 game winner Vic Raschi. 1950 was the second season in a row that Raschi won 21 games and he would do so again in 1951. Raschi joined the Yankees in 1946 and was a part of their 1947 and 1949 World Champion teams. Eddie Lopat, Allie Reynolds and Tommy Byrne were also part of a good, if not spectacular, Yankees starting rotation.

The Yankees won the American League with a 98-56 record. Like the National League, the American League race featured four teams – the Yankees, Tigers, Red Sox and Indians – who battled for most of the season. The Yankees won the pennant by three games over Detroit and came into the World Series pretty well rested. They were also relaxed since they were somewhat used to playing in the Fall Classic.

The Phillies were anything but rested. Robin Roberts pitched ten innings on the final day of the season and had started four of the Phillies last eight games as the Fightin's held on to win the pennant by two games over the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The Phillies came into the series as an underdog, but you would have never known it from listening to the clubhouse banter. To a man, the Phillies thought that they not only could win the Series, but that they would win the World Series. Their upbeat approach belied the fact that the Phillies were limping. Curt Simmons had a ten day pass from his military service, but wasn't in pitching shape and could only watch as the Phillies did battle. Plus, Andy Seminick, Bob Miller and Bubba Church were all battling various injuries. Seminick would be available for the series, but Miller would only be able to pitch 1/3 of an inning, while Church would miss the entire series after being hit in the face by a Ted Klusczewski line drive.

Since the Phillies did battle till the final day of the season, there was no definite choice for their starting pitcher in Game One. Robin Roberts was exhausted, Simmons was out. Ken Heintzelman was mentioned as a possibility. Heintzelman had struggled through a rough season, but did pitch better late in the season. Miller wasn't a likely choice because of his sore arm and veteran Russ Meyer had also struggled during the regular season. Manager Eddie Sawyer didn't reveal his choice until the last minute and it took most by surprise; Jim Konstanty.

Konstanty had appeared in 74 games for the Phillies, but none of them were as a starter. He had often bailed starters out of jams, but was never the one to get the call. Perhaps, Sawyer thought back to an August day when Konstanty pitched nine innings in an 8-7 win in 15 innings against the Pirates. In his work that day, Konstanty had allowed just five hits and seemed very comfortable pitching in very long relief. Relief had been Konstanty's stock and trade as a major leaguer as he had worked in 133 games as a reliever since his last start which came as a member of the 1946 Boston Braves. Now, with the World Series ready to begin, Konstanty was the man.

Game One: Wednesday October 4, 1950 in Philadelphia.

Historic Shibe Park cleaned up pretty well. Decorated in red, white and blue, the old ball yard seemed perfect for the Phillies return to the World Series. A crowd of over 30,000 filled the place convinced that their Philadelphia Phillies would dispose of the New York Yankees and their first pennant in 35 years would turn into a World Series celebration.

While Sawyer had been pressed into an unconventional choice to start Game One, Casey Stengel had an easy choice; Vic Raschi.

It was pitching that ruled the day. The Yankees had a reputation as a free swinging team, which was part of the reason that Sawyer had tabbed Konstanty to start Game One. The Yankees swung and swung, but were unable to do much off of Konstanty. Raschi was baffling Phillies hitters as well, keeping the fans on the edge of their seats.

After an uneventful couple of innings, the Yankees seemed to be putting a little something together in the third. It was Raschi himself who started things with a single off Konstanty. The single may have rattled Konstanty momentarily and he walked Gene Woodling putting runners on first and second. Phil Rizzuto put down a perfect bunt to move the runners and Konstanty got Berra to fly out to shallow left field for the second out of the inning. The Phillies didn't take their chances with DiMaggio, opting instead to put him on base intentionally. The strategy worked as Konstanty got Johnny Mize to pop up for the final out of the inning.

Ironically, the Yankees would get a run in the fourth inning, but the biggest hit would come on the weakest hit of the inning. Bobby Brown led off and reached way out of the strike zone to poke a ball down the left field line. Brown raced into second for a leadoff double. Hank Bauer then came up and smashed a ball to straightaway center field, but Richie Ashburn made the catch. The ball was deep enough for Brown to move easily to third base. Jerry Coleman then stepped up and he too hit a long drive that carried deep to left field. Dick Sisler raced back and made the catch but had no shot at throwing Brown out at the plate as the Yankees drew first blood and led 1-0.

Raschi hadn't allowed a hit through four innings, but the Phillies changed that in the fifth. Willie Jones singled and Andy Seminick followed with another single to put runners on first and second. Raschi settled down and ended the threat and wouldn't give up another hit the rest of the way.

Sawyer's choice of Konstanty to start was a good one, but the Phillies came up short. The Yankees had won the opener 1-0 at Shibe Park.

Game Two: Thursday October 5, 1950 in Philadelphia

Having gotten three days of rest, Robin Roberts came back tostart Game Two for the Phillies. Even though they had lost the opener, the Phillies were optimistic since Roberts was on the mound. Allie Reynolds got the call for the Yankees and the ingredients for another pitching duel were in place.

Roberts was still a little weary. The Yankees had him on the ropes in the second inning. Jerry Coleman walked and just as Raschi had done the day before, Reynolds followed with a single. Gene Woodling then hit a bouncer to Willie Jones, who deflected the ball to Granny Hamner at shortstop. Hamner scurried to make a play at second, but couldn't get the ball there in time. When Hamner threw to second, an alert Coleman raced for home and scored on the play.

Reynolds again followed Raschi's game plan and kept the Phillies at bay until the fifth inning. The Phillies had threatened in the second on a triple by Hamner which was followed by a long drive by Andy Seminick that twisted foul. Reynolds came back to get Seminick on a weak bouncer to second and then got Mike Goliat to fly out to end the inning. In the fifth, Goliat hit a ball to deep second and Coleman made a nice play on the ball, but couldn't throw out Goliat. Eddie Waitkus would bounce a ball over Coleman's head and Richie Ashburn would hit a fly ball long enough to score Goliat with the tying run.

The fifth inning broke the ice for the Phillies and they started to show signs of life against Reynolds. Unfortunately, Reynolds would always find one way or another to get out of the jam. Philadelphia seemed destined to score in each of the final three innings of regulation, but always came up empty. Meanwhile, the Yankees were hitting Roberts, but also couldn't push another run across and the game went to the tenth inning.

Roberts had pitched ten innings in the Phillies pennant clinching game against Brooklyn and told Sawyer he was strong enough to do it again. Without ace reliever Jim Konstanty in the bullpen, Sawyer was going to ride Roberts as long as possible. Roberts started the tenth by having to face Joe DiMaggio. The Phillies had somehow held DiMaggio hitless in his first six at bats. Number seven wouldn't be so lucky. Roberts delivered and DiMaggio swung into action. A rocket launched off of DiMaggio's bat and headed for left-center field. As Ashburn and Sisler both moved toward the flight path, hoping that the rocket would somehow tumble to Earth, Phillies fans held their breath. When the ball finally did come back into the Earth's atmosphere, it was well into Shibe Park's upper deck. Joltin' Joe had spoken. The Yankees led 2-1.

Even though the Phillies had Reynolds in trouble the three previous innings, Stengel sent him back out for the tenth. Jackie Mayo came to the plate as a pinch-hitter and led off with a single. Looking to tie the game, Sawyer had Waitkus lay down a bunt and moved Mayo to second. Richie Ashburn, who already had two hits in the game, was next. Ashburn popped a weak fly ball into foul territory and Mayo stayed at second for Dick Sisler to drive home. Sisler, who led the league with 126 RBI in 1950 stepped confidently to the plate. With two strikes on him, Sisler watched as Reynolds delivered. The split second decision on whether or not to swing was made, but Sisler had chosen the wrong opinion of the pitch. The ball caught the corner of the plate and Sisler was called out on strikes.

The joy of reaching the World Series was now tempered. The Yankees not only led the series 2-0, but were headed back to New York. Now, another interesting choice confronted Sawyer as he thought about his starter for Game Three. With no off day, Sawyer didn't want to bring back Jim Konstanty and of course, Roberts was out as was Simmons. It all looked bleak as Sawyer considered his options.

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