If you read my prior blog post, you know that the 1950 Phillies clinched the National League pennant on the last day of the season by beating the Brooklyn Dodgers, just as this year's team had to subdue those same Dodgers to earn a berth in the 2009 World Series. The Phillies opponent in the 1950 Series, was none other than their current opposition - The New York Yankees. The Yankees were considered by everyone to be the best team in baseball and it was difficult to argue otherwise. The starting lineup for The Bronx Bombers included Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Johnny Mize, Hank Bauer and Gene Woodling. The starting pitchers were Vic Rashi, Alli Reynolds, Eddie Lopat, and a rookie lefthander named Ed Ford, better known as "Whitey". It was a true dynasty with 15 World Championships already to their credit.
The Phillies, on the other hand, were young and virtually unknown. Affectionately known in Philadelphia as "The Whiz Kids", the nickname came not primarily from their age (the average age of the 1950 team was 26) but from a program very popular on a new and rare device - the television. The show was a sort of early version of Jeopardy, and the scholary aspect seeemed to suit manager Sawyer, as well as players such as Jim Konstanty - professorial. Unfortunately, this team that had captured the imagination of not only Philadelphis, but of true baseball fans throughout the country, was running into a large stretch of bad luck. Their left-handed ace, Curt Simmons, had been called up to active military service and was unavailable for the Series (Could you imagine such a thing happening today?). Another starting pitcher, Bubba Church had been badly injured by a line drive that struck him in the face, and yet another starting pitcher, Bob Miller had injured his pitching arm. To make matters worse, the Whiz Kids starting catcher (and elder statesman) Andy Seminick suffered an ankle injury in a recent game against the Giants. X-Rays taken after The World Series would show a complete separation of the ankle bones: the Phillies backstop played the whole World Series with a broken ankle, limping noticeably throughout. (Again I ask, could you see this happening today?) The Series appeared to be David (and a limping, sore armed David at that!) against the Goliath from Gotham. Perhaps not surprisingly, Goliath won - in fact he swept the Series, but David went down fighting, kicking and screaming like its rabid Philadelphia fans.
The Series was very exciting. You could get a bleacher seat for $1.00 in either stadium, and the most expensive seat in the house cost $8.75.
Phillies manager, Eddie Sawyer, surprised everyone by naming relief pitcher Jim Konstanty (The 1950 MVP, as it turned out) as his starter for Game 1 at Shibe Park. This was Jim's first ever start. What a way to earn your wings! Jim pitched a wonderful game, but Vic Rashi of the Yankees held the Phillies to 2 hits and The Whiz Kids dropped a heartbreaker in the first game, losing 1-0 to the mighty Yankees.
Robin Roberts was ready for Game 2, and the hopes of the Philadelphia faithful soared. "Robbie", who is still my favorite Phillie ever, could pitch against anyone, dynasty or otherwise. He did just that, holding the mighty Bombers to just 1 run on 9 hits through the regulation 9 innings. Unfortunately, The Phils scored only one run themselves, and the game headed to extra innings. Joe DiMaggio led off the 10th inning. Robbie popped him up in all 4 prior plate appearances that day, but he made a slight mistake, got a little too much of the plate, and the ever elegant Joltin' Joe quickly deposited the ball into the upper deck of the left field seats. The Phillies failed to score in the bottom of the frame, and the Yankees took Game 2 by a a 2-1 margin. Two days and two heart-wrenching one run losses.
With no off day (could this happen today?) the two teams met for Game Three in The House That Ruth Built. The Phillies bats came alive and the Phils took a two run lead into the 8th inning. The first victory, the one that could turn the Series around, seemed in sight. Then the wheels came off. The Yankees scored a run in the 8th inning on 3 walks and an infield error, and bled out another run in the 9th to take Game 3. The final score: Yankees 3 Phillies 2. Another one run loss to the best team in baseball. Baseball can be a tortuous game if you start to play "what if", but with a key hit here or there and a little better fielding, The Whiz Kids could have up by three games, instead of down 3-0. As the philosopher observed: "If "ifs and buts were toys and nuts, what a Christmas we would have". The Yankees simply played better baseball, and it appears that the Game 3 loss lowered the Phillies spirits considerably.
Game 4, also played at Yankee Stadium was not really close. Whitey Ford held the Phillies completely in check through 8 innings and despite a minor uprising in the 9th, the Phillies dropped the final game 5-2. The Yankees had another World Championship and the Phillies had a gloomy train ride back to Philadelphia. The Philadelphia faithful welcomed them warmly and felt that more pennants would be brought home. Alas, it never happened. The lightning escaped the bottle, and it would be another 30 years before The Fightin' Phillies would make it back to The World Series.
Next time I will share some thoughts on putting together an affordable collection of World Series Memorabilia.
This is the second of a series of posts written by Phillies aficionado and friend of Mitchell & Ness, Joe Hetrick