Monday, June 11, 2012

1949 World Series: Casey and Allie

The Teams
American League: New York Yankees (97-57) - 16th World Series (Won 11 previous times)
National League: Brooklyn Dodgers (97-57) - Fifth World Series

What Happened
After a third-place finish in 1948 - their fourth such finish in five years - the Yankees decided a change was needed. Looking for a new manager, they went with the unlikely choice of Casey Stengel. After a playing career with the Giants where he was better known for his clowning than his playing, Stengel had a less-than-stellar managerial record. In fact, he wasn't even in the Majors in 1948. But the Yankees liked what they saw, as Stengel steered an injury-riddled team to within a breath of the pennant in 1949. With a pair of wins over Boston in the final weekend of the season, the Yankess were back in the World Series, where they believed they belonged all along.

The pitching dominated the first two and a half games of the series, with the teams splitting a pair of 1-0 games. New York's Allie Reynolds matched Brooklyn's Don Newcombe pitch-for-pitch in Game 1, and the game was still scoreless when Tommy Henrich led off the bottom of the ninth with a home run. In Game 2, Jackie Robinson's second-inning run - coming after he had razzled Yankee starter Vic Raschi with his dancing on the basepaths - was enough for Preacher Roe to get the shutout for Brooklyn.

Game 3 was tied 1-1 as the teams entered the ninth inning in Ebbets Field. Ralph Branca was one strike away from getting out of the ninth unscathed before the Yankees' Johnny Mize lined one off the right field wall to score two runs. The Yankees added one more run, then held their collective breath as the Dodgers homered twice in the bottom of the ninth before falling one run short.

Having gotten a road win to reclaim home-field advantage, the Yankees went into Game 4 hoping to put the Dodgers away for good. Brooklyn tried to counteract that by bringing back Newcombe to pitch on short rest. That turned out disastrous, as the Yankees knocked the Dodger ace out of the game with a three-run fourth inning. A three-run fifth seemed to put the game away, but the Dodgers still had fight. Seven straight hits in the bottom of the sixth cut the lead to 6-4. Brooklyn still had two runners on when Game 1 starter Reynolds came in to relieve for the Yankees. Reynolds struck out Spider Jorgensen, then ended the game with three perfect innings. After going up 3-1, the fifth game was just a formality, as the Yankees took a 10-1 lead to cruise to another title.

It was the first title for Stengel, in his first season, and it was only the beginning. The Yankees would win the next four World Series and won a total of seven with Stengel at the helm. And to think people thought they were crazy for hiring him.

Defining Game
Game 3 was tight throughout mostly because of the great pitching of Yankee reliever Joe Page. Entering the game with the bases loaded in the fourth, with the Dodgers having already scored once, Page got two straight infield outs to get out of that inning, then held the Dodgers down the rest of the way - or, at least until he had a three-run lead in the ninth. Then, tiring, he gave up two solo home runs before striking out Bruce Edwards to end the game.

Allie Reynolds, and it wasn't close. After giving up only two hits to the powerful Dodger lineup in Game 1, his great relief work in Game 4 sealed the series. In his 12 innings in the series - more than a quarter of the innings the Yankees pitched in the series - he gave up only two hits and didn't give up a run.

Scores(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

Brooklyn 013 46
New York 104 610

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:
52. 1949 - New York (A) def. Brooklyn (N) 4-1
53. 1942 - St. Louis (N) def. New York (A) 4-1
56. 1974 - Oakland (A) def. Los Angeles (N) 4-1
57. 1955 - Brooklyn (N) def. New York (A) 4-3
58. 1979 - Pittsburgh (N) def. Baltimore (A) 4-3
59. 1987 - Minnesota (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-3
Numbers 60-69
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

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