May 30, 1950: Dodgers sweep Phillies to take over first place; Duke Snider blasts three homers
A crowd of 18,884 showed up for the first game of a Memorial Day doubleheader at Ebbets Field. It was chilly when the day started but things heated up as the day progressed. At stake was the top spot in the National League. The Phillies had arrived in Flatbush with a one-game lead over Brooklyn.
Burt Shotton, the Dodgers manager, was tight-lipped about his starter for the first game. He claimed that it benefitted gamblers to announce the starter so he generally waited as long as possible to announce his choice. Most expected Preacher Roe or Jack Banta to take the mound. Roe had faced the Phillies on April 27 and only lasted 2/3 of an inning. Banta had yet to face the Phillies this season.
Shotton surprised many fans when he picked Rex Barney as his starter in the morning contest. Barney earned his lone win back on May 7 when he pitched 5 2/3 innings in relief in a 3-2 Dodger victory over the Pirates. When Shotton tagged him for the start, it was his first start of the season. Barney walked leadoff batter Richie Ashburn with the count full. But he was able get the next three Phillies out on fly balls, leaving Ashburn stranded at first.
Robin Roberts took the mound for the Phillies. He was coming off a 3-2 complete-game victory against the Giants on May 26 that lifted his record to 9-3. Roberts beat the Dodgers twice in April, pitching complete games in those victories.
Although Roberts hoped to repeat his success against Brooklyn, the Dodgers had other ideas. Billy Cox led off with a single up the middle. With two outs, Cox stole second. His timely steal allowed him to scurry home when Jackie Robinson hit a double in the gap in center field. Carl Furillo followed and hit the Dodgers second double of the frame. It was a line drive down the left field line that brought Robinson across the plate. By the time that Roberts struck out Gil Hodges to end the inning, the Dodgers had jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
The Phillies wasted no time in grabbing the lead when they came to bat in the second. Dick Sisler hit the second pitch that he saw from Barney into the right field corner for a triple. Barney walked Dick Whitman on four pitches to bring Mike Goliat to the plate. Goliat hit Barney’s first pitch out of Ebbets Field for a three-run homer to put the Phillies in front 3-2. Barney continued to struggle. He hit the next batter and walked two more. But he eventually got the Phillies out while preventing them from doing more damage.
But when Barney walked the first two Phillies batters in the third, Shotton wasted no time in going to his bullpen. Bud Podbielan replaced Barney. Although Podbielan walked Roberts to load the bases, he was able to get the Phillies out without any runs crossing the plate.
Roberts got through the second unscathed but gave a pass to leadoff batter George Shuba in the third. After Roberts got ahead in the count to Robinson, Shuba stole second. Robinson hit a single to center field for his second hit of the game to bring Shuba home with the tying run.
The score was unchanged through the fourth but Sisler led off the fifth and took Podbielan’s first pitch deep for the second Phillies home run of the game. His blast let the Phillies retake the lead 4-3. Roberts kept the Dodgers in check for the next three innings.
Roy Campanella came to bat with one out in the bottom of the seventh. He had ground out and struck out in his first two at-bats. This time he got hold of a pitch and sent the ball soaring over the left field wall into the stands to tie the game 4-4.
After Podbielan was removed for a pinch hitter in the seventh, Roe finally made it into the game when he took over the pitching duties for Brooklyn in the eighth. The first batter that he faced was Ashburn who hit Roe’s fifth pitch over the right field wall, “sending the Phils rooters wild and for a few moments it looked like he would be the hero”1 as the Phillies had climbed back into the lead, 5-4.
But Roberts was unable to hold on to Phillies lead in the bottom half of the eighth. After he got Snider to fly out, Robinson came to the plate and sent the first pitch over the right field wall, barely inches from the foul line to tie the game for the third time. When Furillo tripled, Roberts walked Hodges to set up a double play. Bobby Morgan didn’t comply and hit a fly ball to center field that brought Furillo home with the go-ahead run.
After Roe walked Andy Seminick with one out in the ninth, Del Ennis pinch hit for Roberts. The speedy Putsy Caballero was sent in to run for Seminick. Roe managed to strike out Ennis but then he walked Ashburn to move Seminick into scoring position.
Granny Hamner hit a ground ball towards the mound. “Roe dashed off the hill, scooped up the ball and promptly threw it wildly past Hodges at first.”2 Hamner was given a single and the Phillies had tied the game. Ashburn tried to go all the way around the diamond but an alert Furillo was able to get the ball and throw it to Campanella to keep the Phillies from grabbing the lead.
Jim Konstanty, who had been excellent in relief for the Phils, took over for Roberts in the bottom of the ninth. Konstanty was coming off of five-inning performance on May 28 where he allowed just one hit and one walk after coming out of the bullpen. He got the Dodgers out in order in the bottom of the ninth on just nine pitches.
Roe got through his half of the tenth unscathed and it looked like Konstanty might do the same in the bottom of half after he got the first two Dodgers out. But then he walked Morgan and Campanella. This brought up Roe, who was “a notoriously weak hitter.”3 Roe hit an easy ground ball to short. But Hamner’s throw to first landed in the dirt and skipped past Eddie Waitkus to allow Morgan to score before Waitkus retrieve the ball and throw home.
The extra-inning victory tied Brooklyn with the Phillies for first in the National League. As news spread of Brooklyn’s victory, 34,700 fans packed the stands to see the second game of the double admission twin-bill. No doubt the excitement of the first game was on many of their minds as well as the chance to see their team move into first place in the standings.
“The A.M. game ended just as Jack Collins, biz manager of the Brooks, began to wonder how and when he was going to get the 18,000 morning customers out of the park in order to get the waiting mob of P.M. customers into the park.”4
When the two teams finally took the field, Banta started for the Dodgers. He entered the game with a 3-1 record after pitching a complete game victory against the Boston Braves on May 26. Banta had been pitching through pain since he arrived for spring training but seemed to be on track to perform as well as he did in 1989, his best year in the majors.
The Phillies managed to put two runners in scoring position in the first. Banta walked Ashburn and then surrendered a double to Waitkus. But the Phillies could not capitalize as the next two runners got out on infield outs.
Russ Meyer took the mound for the Phillies. He was still looking for his first victory of the year. On May 23, he pitched seven scoreless innings before giving up four runs in the eighth in a 6-0 loss to the Pirates.
Meyer got the first two batters out easily in the first. Duke Snider then stepped to the plate. Snider had gone hitless in five at-bats in the first game. After fouling off the first pitch from Meyer, he connected and sent the ball over the right field wall into Bedford Avenue. The Daily News described it as “a Ruthian blow; one that must have towered 100 feet in the air as it cleared the right field screen.”5
Although the Phillies continued get runners on base, Banta kept them from scoring. Dick Whitman led off the second with a single. Goliat was walked. Both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Meyer. But Banta managed to get out of trouble by striking out Hamner for the third out.
The Dodgers built on their lead in the second. Hodges led off with a double. Morgan then walked. When Campanella hit into a double play, Hodges ended up on third. He came home when Banta singled to left, giving the Dodgers a two-run lead.
The Phillies finally got on the scoreboard in the third. Waitkus led off with a double and moved to third on a fielder’s choice to the right side of the infield. He came home on a Sisler single. The run narrowed the Dodger’s lead to one.
Snider came to bat again in the third. He fouled off the two pitches before connecting on a Meyer pitch, sending it over the right-field wall again. It was his second solo home run of the game and it gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.
The Dodgers added two more runs in the fourth as Meyer struggled with his control. After getting the leadoff batter out, he walked the next two Dodgers that he faced. Banta flied out. Banta just needed one more to get out of trouble but when the Phillies catcher couldn’t hold a Meyer pitch, both runners advanced.
It looked like Meyer might get out of trouble when Cox hit a ground ball to Hamner but the Phillies shortstop misplayed the ball for the second time in as many games. Hamner threw wild and the two base runners scored. Although Meyer finally struck out Gene Hermanski for the third out, the damage was done. Brooklyn now led 5-1.
But the Phillies wasted no time in closing the gap. A pair of doubles sandwiching a walk allowed the Phils to score two runs and close the gap, leaving them trailing Brooklyn by just two runs.
Philadelphia manager Eddie Sawyer pulled Meyer to send Blix Donnelly to the mound in the fifth. Donnelly had started the season as the Phillies top relief pitcher but he had struggled with minor injuries and hadn’t pitched since May 2.
Snider led off and Donnelly quickly went ahead on the count 0-2. Snider connected on the third pitch. The ball hit the rail in the center field wall. Initially there was some confusion among the umpires whether the ball had left the park since it hit the fence and bounced back into play. Snider beat a close play at the plate and was rewarded with his third home run of the game. Dick Young wrote that it “was a mildly sliced thing that carried just over the wall in left center.”6 Once again Snider gave the Dodgers an insurance run.
It was Snider’s third home run of the game and only the third time that a Dodger had accomplished that feat. Jack Fournier hit three home runs for the Dodgers in 1924 at Sportsman’s Park. Hermanski hit three round trippers two years earlier at Ebbets Field before he was traded to the Phillies.
Snider came to bat for the fourth time in the seventh with a chance to make history. Bob Miller was pitching for the Phillies. Snider hit the first pitch “as hard as his other drives. His line drive was tailing off when it hit the right field screen a couple of feet from the top.”7
This time Snider had to settle for a single. “Three feet higher and it would have been over. One foot lower and it would have hit the slanted boards at the top corner of the grotesquely constructed scoreboard and perhaps would have bounced over the top for a homer,” wrote Dick Young.8
If the ball had gone over the wall, Snider would have joined elite company. At the time, just five players have hit four home runs in one game. Numerous players had knocked out three home runs prior to Snider’s big day. Young, writing about the event, noted that Snider will get his name printed in very small type at the bottom of a list of 81 other names.” Yet he also noted that Snider got “a tumultuous cheer from the fans.”9
The Phillies were not ready to throw in the towel. Banta hit leadoff batter Ashburn in the top of the eighth. Hamner followed him and hit a double to deep left field that brought Ashburn home for the Phillies fourth run. Shotton pulled Banta and called on Ralph Branca to come out of the bullpen for the Dodgers. He got Waitkus to fly out for the first out. After walking Willie Jones, Branca “poured it on impressively, to fan three men in the two-frame relief bit, save the game and first place with it.”10
While Branca pitched impressively and “deserved a curtain call”11 for his work, it was Snider who received most of the cheers from the fans. The 23-year-old slugger kept the Dodgers in the game although he failed to add more than three RBIs for his efforts since he found no teammates on base every time that he knocked one out of the park.
Stan Baumgartner, writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote: “Disaster hit the Phillies on this bright Memorial Day. [The Phillies were] lacking punch in the pinch, a punch so essential to a pennant-hunting club.”12
Although the sweep pushed the Dodgers past the Phillies, their hold on first place was short lived as they played .500 ball through June and July. The Phillies eventually won the National League crown after grabbing sole possession of first place on July 23 and then holding off the rest of the league down the stretch.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org for box score, player, team, and season information as well as pitching and batting game logs, and other pertinent material.
1 Stan Baumgartner, “Phillies. Dodgers Play 2 Games,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 31, 1950, 22.
2 Louis Effrat, “Snider’s 3 Home Runs Mark 6-4 Triumph,” New York Times, May 31, 1950, 42.
4 Dick Young, “3 Snider HR Win PM 6-4,” New York Daily News, May 31, 1950, 1014.
7 Tommy Holmes, “Dodger Fans Have Day to Remember as Phillies Cough Up First Place Post,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 31, 1950, 19.
12 Stan Baumgartner, “Phillies Lose to Dodgers, 7-6, 6-4,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 31, 1950, 44.