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June 24, 1950: A ‘weird affair’ and slugfest in Flatbush as Dodgers sock Pirates, 21-12

This article was written by Glen Sparks

Trading Card DatabaseThe Dodgers and Pirates broke off what New York Daily News sportswriter Dick Young called their “weird affair”1 at just before midnight on June 24, 1950. Brooklyn led, 19-12. A report from the Associated Press boasted, “The crowd of 22,010 was treated to one of the wildest games in Ebbets Field history.”2 And it wasn’t over.

Umpires suspended the action with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning. According to the New York state Sunday baseball law, play could not continue – no matter how exciting – after 11:59 P.M. Saturday. When the game picked up on August 1, Brooklyn hitters ripped a few more line drives. One of baseball’s brawniest teams won, 21-12. The Dodgers collected 25 hits, including eight for extra bases. Jackie Robinson, Carl Furillo, and Roy Campanella knocked four hits apiece.

The three-game series began on June 23. Brooklyn scored eight times in the seventh inning and won, 15-3. Duke Snider drove home four runs and led a 19-hit attack. Furillo smacked a home run “into the center-field bleachers – that used to be more or less unprofaned ground.”3 Brooklyn upped its record to 34-22 and led the pennant chase by one game over the Phillies. Pittsburgh dropped to 21-38 and looked up from seventh place, 14½ games from the top.

Young gave Brooklyn batters only so much credit. He wrote that “the Pirate pitching may have had some small part in the one-sidedness of the tilt. Buc bowlers make the good old American game look like cricket, inasmuch as a team may remain at bat against them all night.”4

Harold C. Burr from the Brooklyn Eagle noted that one “sarcastic” fan yelled “Fore!” after Furillo’s long blast. That fan, according to Burr, “has been rooting for the return of the old-fashioned pitchers’ battle for years.” Were the baseballs of 1950 livelier than ones from past seasons? According to Burr, “The manufacturers claim that their baseballs are turned out on the same old machines and that perhaps some of ’em are wound tighter than others.” Also, of note, Burr wrote, “Baseball is a perverse game where a famine follows hard after a feast. It’s just possible the Flock would like to recall some of those 15 runs tonight.”5

In the second game, the Dodgers’ 24-year-old right-hander Ralph Branca faced 28-year-old lefty Cliff Chambers. Both pitchers took early showers. Pittsburgh scored four runs in the opening frame. Branca, already a three-time All-Star, began by walking Stan Rojek and Ted Beard. Ralph Kiner singled to load the bases. Pittsburgh went ahead, 1-0, when Gus Bell grounded out and Rojek raced home. Danny Murtaugh popped out, and first baseman Dale Coogan ripped a pitch deep into the right-field stands. Coogan, playing his first and only big-league season, never hit another home run.

Branca’s day ended after catcher Earl Turner homered to start the second inning. His replacement, the often wild-armed right-hander Rex Barney, retired Pittsburgh in order.

Brooklyn scored its first run in the second inning. Furillo led off with a line-drive single to center field, advanced to second on a Campanella base hit, and made it to third after Pee Wee Reese’s grounder forced Campanella at second. Barney drew a walk, which loaded the bases. Chambers also walked Billy Cox, bringing Furillo home.

Dodgers hitters knocked out Chambers in the third. Furillo lined a two-run double that scored Snider and Robinson after both players singled. Gil Hodges, the next batter, doubled Furillo home. Chambers gave way to Murry Dickson, a reliever known as “Tom Edison Jr.” “because,” according to his SABR biography, “he was always experimenting on the mound.”6

Dickson, though, could not figure out a way to put down the Brooklyn rally. Campanella greeted him with an RBI single. Reese followed by knocking a base hit into right field. After Barney struck out, Cox singled to fill the bases once again. Pirates manager Billy Meyer pulled Dickson for Mel Queen. Snider greeted the new pitcher with a two-run double, making the score 8-5.

Strong hitting – weak pitching? – kept this game suspenseful. Barney, in the last year of a once-promising career, battled his control once again and walked Turner to lead off the fourth. He got Johnny Hopp, pinch-hitting for Queen, to ground into a double play but issued free passes to Rojek and Beard. Kiner stepped to the plate. The Pirates outfielder had slammed a career-high 54 home runs in 1949 and led the NL in homers for a fourth straight season. Against Barney, Kiner hit his 16th round-tripper of 1950 “into the upper deck in deepest left center,”7 tying the game, 8-8.

Enter a new reliever for the Pirates, Frank Papish. The left-hander appeared in just four games in 1950 and just once after this contest. With one out, Hodges, the big first baseman and former Marine, blasted a solo home run, one of his 32 round-trippers in 1950.

Brooklyn manager Burt Shotton called on Dan Bankhead in the fifth. Baseball’s first African American pitcher, a former member of the Birmingham Black Barons and Memphis Red Sox, Bankhead found himself in quick trouble. The right-hander gave up a two-run double to Nanny Fernandez, along with the lead. Pittsburgh took a 10-9 advantage.

Bankhead began the sixth by walking Beard and Kiner. Dodgers pitchers had now given up 10 bases on balls. Shotton, surely tiring of the gifts, asked Preacher Roe, usually a starter, to end this rally. Wally Westlake, though, greeted Roe with a run-scoring double. Two batters later, Coogan added a run-scoring fly ball. The Pirates now led 12-9. It wasn’t enough.

The Dodgers pushed across five runs in the sixth. Bill Werle gave up all of them. Robinson and Furillo singled to open the frame. After Hodges flied out, Campanella and Reese followed with RBI hits. Preacher Roe, a woeful hitter, “laid down a poor bunt to the left of the mound.”8 Werle grabbed the ball and that’s when, Young wrote, “the screwiness started.”9 Werle threw wildly to third base while trying to force out Campanella, and the ball sailed into left field. The Brooklyn catcher and Reese easily scored. Kiner threw to the plate, wildly like Werle did. Roe, rounding second, “was waved all the way home on a unique four-base bunt.” The Dodgers moved ahead, 14-12.

Roe held the Bucs scoreless over his next two innings. In the bottom of the eighth, Brooklyn added seven more runs. Vic Lombardi, a 5-foot-7-inch left-hander, endured the agony. The former Dodger (1945-47) walked Reese and, after Roe grounded out, gave up a triple to Billy Cox. Jim Russell walked, and Snider singled to fill the bases.

Robinson, with three hits already, stepped to the plate. Exactly two years earlier, he hit a grand slam in the ninth inning to beat the Pirates at Ebbets Field, 6-2. On this day, he boasted a .358 batting average and a robust .447 on-base percentage. The first African American major leaguer of the twentieth century was the reigning National League Most Valuable Player. He topped the circuit in 1949 with a .342 batting average and 37 stolen bases. He also drove home 124 runs and scored 122. The former football and basketball star at UCLA and infielder for the Kansas City Monarchs slammed a pitch “deep into the left-field seats.”10 Pittsburgh sportswriter Charles J. Doyle called that blast “the most sensational moment of the battle.”11

Furillo singled, and Hodges came to bat. That’s when the clocked ticked to 11:59. Young, in his lead the following day, wrote, “Running out of time before the Bucs ran out of pitchers, Brooklyn last night scored 19 runs but still didn’t have a victory, for sure.” In the following paragraph, he added, “You can bet the 22,010 fans who sat through the dizzy doings will be talking about it right up to the date of resumption.”12 Doyle called the game up to that point a “sensational affair.”13 Brief rain showers, one in the second inning and another in the third, had stopped the action, though just briefly. Those delays, Young estimated, “added up to only 19 minutes.”14

By time play resumed, the Dodgers had slipped to fourth place with a 51-40 record. The Phillies, a team with talented young players like Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn and labeled the Whiz Kids, had moved into first. The Pirates, meanwhile, had dropped into last place, with a 34-60 mark, 22½ games behind their cross-state rival.

More than one month after the game’s opening pitch, Campanella drove a one-out double to right field that scored Furillo and Hodges. Reese and Roe grounded out to end the inning. Young wrote, “Brooklyn batters, too accustomed to the extravagance of their own pitchers, weren’t satisfied to coast on the seven-run bulge they enjoyed last night.”15 Even so, he added, “They needn’t have bothered” to tack on those extra runs. “The game was in good hands, Preacher’s left.”16 Roe quickly retired the Pirates in the top of the ninth. Thus ended what the Pittsburgh Press back in June, nearly echoing the words of Young, had called “a weird conflict.”17

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author accessed Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, and SABR.org.

 

Notes

1 Dick Young, “Dodgers Lead Bucs, 19-12; Suspend at Midnight,” New York Daily News, June 25, 1950: 421.

2 Associated Press, “Dodgers Leads Bucs, 19-12, as Law Halts Tiff,” Rochester (New York) Democrat and Chronicle, June 25, 1950: 60.

3 Harold C. Burr, “Dodgers Take Turns on Alternate Days of Going from Ridiculous to Sublime,” Brooklyn Eagle, June 24, 1950: 6.

4 Young, “Dodgers Soak Pirates, 15-3, on 19 Hits, 3 HR,” New York Daily News, June 24, 1950: 162

5 Burr.

6 Murry Dickson SABR bio, sabr.org/bioproj/person/1bb26f23.

7 Young, “Dodgers Lead Bucs, 19-12; Suspend at Midnight.”

8 Young, “Dodgers Lead Bucs, 19-12; Suspend at Midnight.”

9 Young, “Dodgers Lead Bucs, 19-12; Suspend at Midnight.”

10 Charles J. Doyle, “Bucs Trail, 19-12, as Curfew Stops Game,” Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, June 25, 1950: 31.

11 Doyle.

12 Young, “Dodgers Lead Bucs, 19-12; Suspend at Midnight.”

13 Doyle.

14 Young, “Dodgers Lead Bucs, 19-12; Suspend at Midnight.”

15 Young, “Flock Cops Buc Encore 21-12, Then Wins, 3-1,” New York Daily News, August 2, 1950: 194.

16 Young, “Flock Cops Buc Encore 21-12, Then Wins, 3-1.”

17 Les Biederman, “Curfew Halts Battle in the 8th Inning; Kiner Clouts No. 16,” Pittsburgh Press, June 25, 1950: 39.

Additional Stats

Brooklyn Dodgers 21
Pittsburgh Pirates 12


Ebbets Field 
Brooklyn, NY

 

Box Score + PBP:

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1950s ·