Wednesday, May 9, 2012

1950 World Series: What could have been

The Teams
American League: New York Yankees (98-56) -  17th World Series (won 12 previous times)
National League: Philadelphia Phillies (91-63) - Second World Series

What Happened
Things were looking so good for the Phillies in 1950. Dubbed the Whiz Kids because of the youth of their talented roster, the Phillies stormed to the top of the National League after the All Star break and had a 7.5-game lead in the standings on September 20. But then, all the bad luck that they had been avoiding all season caught up with them. No. 2 starter Curt Simmons was called up to military duty and two other starters went down with injury. The Phillies started to tumble, and what had been a seemingly safe lead was cut to a single game entering the final game of the season. But the Phillies beat the Dodgers in 10 to win their first pennant since 1915.

Exhausted and shorthanded, the Phillies were overwhelming underdogs against the Yankees, who some places had listed as 2-5 favorites. To drive the mismatch home, the Phillies were forced to use Jim Konstanty as their Game 1 starters. It's true that Konstanty had won the NL MVP award that year, but he had done so as a reliever, having not started a game since 1946.

Konstanty pitched well, probably better than the Phillies could have imagined. He got into jams int he first, third, fourth, and fifth innings, but he got out of all of that allowing only a single run. That one run was costly, though, as the Phillies weren't hitting Yankees pitcher Vic Raschi at all. Raschi's two-hit shutout helped the Yankees open the series on a positive note.

Game 2 was about more blown chances for Philadelphia. The game was tied 1-1 entering the eighth, with Phillies ace Robin Roberts pitching gamely despite his exhaustion at being overused down the stretch. The Phillies threatened in both the bottom of the 8th and the bottom of the 9th, only to see both threats snuffed out with double plays. Then, in the bottom of the 10th, the great Joe DiMaggio, who up to this point had been a sleeping giant, woke up with a bang, leading off the inning with a home run. Allie Reynolds finished his complete game, and the Yankees had handed the Phillies their second straight heartbreaking defeat.

If they were deflated after losing two painfully close home games to open the series, the Phillies didn't show it in Game 3, taking a 2-1 lead into the 8th inning. Then, the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs, leading Philadelphia to bring Konstanty in from the bullpen. Konstanty did his job, getting a ground ball, but the Phillies didn't, as an error let the Yankees tie the game. Philadelphia threatened in the top of the ninth, but had the potential go-ahead run cut down at the plate. Then, with Konstanty having been taken out for a pinch hitter, the Yankees strung three straight singles together in the ninth; the last one, by Jerry Coleman, won the game.

Having given everything they had and still fallen behind 3-0 in the series, the Phillies were done by the time Game 4 rolled around. The Yankees scored 2 in the first, forcing the Phillies to go to Konstanty again, and they added three runs off the exhausted reliever in the sixth. As if to torture their fans even more, the Phillies got two runs back in the ninth, but ended the game with the tying run at the plate.

Defining Game
Game 3 was a perfect example of how frustrating the series was for the Phillies. Even when they were succeeding, they couldn't get out of their own way, like when they had a sixth-inning rally snuffed out by getting a runner picked off.

He didn't have the best numbers on his team, but Coleman came up big for the Yankees all series long. He drove in the only run of Game 1, scored one of the two Yankee runs in Game 2, then drove in two runs and scored a third in Game 3. His 0-fer in Game 4 didn't matter much, because by then the series was over. Then came the ugly 8th, when the Yankees loaded the bases with three consecutive two-out walks, then scored on an error by shortstop Granny Hamner. After getting the tying run thrown out at home in the top of the ninth, the Phillies again let the Yankees off the hook. After two outs, the Yankees got two straight infield hits before Coleman ended it with another single. At least Coleman's single made it to the outfield.

Random Fact
Three years after Jackie Robinson, the Yankees and Phillies still hadn't integrated their teams. That makes this the last all-white World Series. 

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

New York 12 (10)3 5
Philadelphia 012 2

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

63. 1950 - New York (A) def. Philadelphia (N) 4-0
64. 1906 - Chicago (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-2
65. 1981 - Los Angeles (N) def. New York (A) 4-2
66. 1943 - New York (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-1
67. 1954 - New York (N) def. Cleveland (A) 4-0
68. 1978 - New York (A) def. Los Angeles (N) 4-2
69. 2006 - St. Louis (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-1
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

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