A Game I'll Never Forget: Los Angeles Defeats San Francisco in 1947 Playoff Game
This article was published in the 2011 The National Pastime.
On Monday night, September 29, 1947, 22,996 fans, with hundreds in the aisles and thousands more turned away, saw a game with all the elements of a great classic: fine pitching, sparkling defensive plays, dramatic offense, and an exciting finish.
The Angels and the Seals were the class of the league. The Seals had fine starting pitching. Cliff Melton, Al Lien, Bob Chesnes (an All-Star selection), and Jack Brewer completed 60 percent of their games and the starting staff of six won 90 of the team’s 105 wins. The double play combination of Roy Nicely, an All-Star selection, and Hugh Luby was the best in the league. Outfielder Don White led the team with 213 hits and hit .292. Neil Sheridan, an All-Star selection, hit 16 home runs in spacious Seals’ Stadium, had 9 triples, 95 runs batted in, and hit .286. He was a real asset defensively as well, as he threw out 24 runners.1 Dino Restelli at .292 and Joe Brovia at .309 proved to be valuable as well. What they didn’t have was a lot of good reserves. They lost Battle Sanders, Charles Henson, Bernie Uhalt, and Neil Sheridan for significant time and had no similar talent to replace them2
Los Angeles, on the other hand, was a power team. They led the league in home runs with 151 (33 more than second place Oakland) in hitter-friendly Wrigley Field. John Ostrowski and Cecil Garriott, both All-Star selections, had over 20 home runs. Larry Barton and Eddie Sauer showed a lot of power as well. The double play combination of Bill Schuster and Lou Stringer rivaled the duo of Nicely and Luby. Pitching was led by Cliff Chambers, an All-Star selection, with 24 wins, Red Adams, and Red Lynn.3Along with these three, the Angels had the Fireman of the Year Jess Dobernic. He appeared in 55 games with 13 saves and 8 wins. The last two weeks of the season he relieved 6 times, pitched 15 innings, and gave up 6 hits.4
At the end of July, it had seemed Los Angeles was going to win the pennant in a walk. But the power stopped. From August 12 to September 16 they won 18 and lost 19 while San Francisco won 25 and lost 12.5 Both teams rallied over the final two weeks, but wound up in a tie.
Since the teams had split their season series, there would have to be a playoff, and the Angels won the coin toss for home-field advantage. The game was to be played the next night, September 29, at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles.6
What a vivid memory for an eleven-year-old boy, enjoying his first full baseball season! And what great seats! On the day of the game, somehow my lovable dad had been able to get five choice seats ten rows behind home plate for the first playoff game in Pacific Coast League history.7
From there I watched as Jack Brewer of San Francisco and Cliff Chambers of Los Angeles pitched inning after inning of scoreless baseball. Ground out, strike out, ground out, fly out—rarely a meaningless single. Seals threats were quickly erased by two double plays. The Angels did have one serious threat in the bottom of the fourth inning. Leadoff man Cecil Garriott worked Jack Brewer for a walk. Bill Schuster was safe on an error. Big Ed Sauer made an out. Clarence Maddern, the cleanup man, also walked. Now Jack Brewer was in a real mess. Seals second baseman Hugh Luby came to the rescue, however. He stabbed John Ostrowski’s hard grounder, stepped on second quickly, and threw a strike to Bill Matheson at first for the double play.8
Then came the unforgettable Angels eighth inning. After the first batter, pitcher Cliff Chambers, made an out, feisty leadoff man Cecil Garriott began the destruction of the mighty Seals, the 1946 champions, when he worked a nervous Jack Brewer for a walk. The next batter, Broadway Bill Schuster, always trouble, called for a hit and run. The ball just eluded second baseman Luby as he was running to cover second base. The speedy Garriott raced to third. First and third, only one out. Brewer was now more visibly shaken as slugging outfielder Eddie Sauer stepped to the plate. One mistake and the Seals would be behind 3–0. Trying to keep the ball inside to avoid a home run, a too-careful Brewer hit Sauer. The bases were loaded; Hollywood could not have written it any better. The tension and excitement were high for me and thousands of other fans as victory was in sight for our beloved Angels. Clarence Maddern, the dangerous cleanup man, was up, and there was no place to put him. Brewer had to throw strikes. He wound up and threw his best pitch, a good hard fastball, for a strike. But the man in blue did not get a chance to call it as Maddern slammed a long, high blast over the left field wall onto 41st Place. The stands erupted, and I felt that there just may be something to this game of baseball.
That night, it was not an instant that brought everyone to their feet. It was a masterfully pitched game that heightened the suspense with each hitter. Which pitcher would be the first to falter?
That night, Clarence Maddern triumphed; Jack Brewer was left powerless. Now the Angels were in the driver’s seat. Only three more outs were needed for L.A. to become the Pacific Coast League Champions. Everybody knew that the Angels would never surrender this lead. The bases-loaded home run was too devastating. That one blow was too much for any team to overcome. Brewer did recover some as he struck out third baseman John Ostrowski, but first baseman Larry Barton added another nail to the Seals’ coffin with a solo shot into the right field bleachers. Finally, second baseman Lou Stringer closed out the inning.
As expected, the Seals did next to nothing in the top of the ninth inning. Left fielder and cleanup man Dino Restelli walked, but was quickly erased as third baseman Ray Orteig hit into the third Seals double play of the night. There was no way Cliff Chambers was going to give up anything at this point, and first baseman Bill Matheson obliged by making the final out of the game.
Why did the Angels win?
Chambers’s pitching was outstanding. He gave up only five hits and two walks. San Francisco’s leadoff men never got on. The middle of the Seals’order—Neil Sheridan, Dino Restelli, and Ray Orteig—got one hit amongst them. The Seals’ hits came from the bottom of the order. The Angels made three double plays, the pitcher’s best friends. The Angels’ eighth inning? A first batter walk, a timely single just eluding the second baseman, a power hitter up who was a real threat, and the fourth hitter, Clarence Maddern, who had been the hottest Angels hitter in the latter part of the season. All these elements in the Angels’ favor led to a dramatic and unforgettable finish.
Today, many, many years later the same excitement that I experienced in 1947 is just as strong and vivid as it was on that September night. Baseball has a certain drama and tension that no other game can claim. While the action is not as frenetic as in other team sports, this tension builds inning after inning in a well pitched game.
AL PARNIS is a retired high school English teacher and adjunct college professor. He has taught courses in baseball history and baseball literature. As a lifelong Angeleno his baseball loyalty is to the City of Angels, now the Dodgers, in years past the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League, whose memory is kept alive by his long membership in the Pacific Coast League Historical Society.