October 5, 1947: Dodgers beat Yankees to send World Series to decisive seventh game
The Brooklyn Dodgers had their backs to the wall. After coming back from a two-game deficit in the World Series, they lost the fifth game to the New York Yankees at Ebbets Field. Now they were back at Yankee Stadium and needed to win to keep the Series alive.
After Spec Shea’s four-hit complete game at Ebbets Field the previous day, the Yankees needed just one more victory to claim another championship. With the two teams returning to Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees had taken Games One and Two, they had to feel confident.
Yankees manager Bucky Harris planned to start Allie Reynolds. Reynolds had led the Yankees to a 10-3 victory in Game Two with his complete-game performance. “I’ll pitch Reynolds. … No, I’m not figuring on a seventh game. We’ve got ’em now,” Harris told reporters by way of expressing the Yankees’ confidence.1
Burt Shotton, the Dodgers manager, had sent 18 pitchers to the mound in the first five games with no starter lasting through five innings. Vic Lombardi had told Shotton he was ready to pitch in the fourth game but the only action Lombardi saw was pinch-running. Ralph Branca had also told Shotton that he was ready to take the mound. Shotton told both pitchers, “I suppose both of you boys want to pitch today. But I can only use one of you.”
After Branca pitched 2 innings in Game Three, it was Lombardi’s turn. He had pitched four innings four days earlier, giving up five earned runs on nine Yankees hits in a 10-3 loss. Shotton hoped that Lombardi would last longer when given his second chance in the Series.
The Dodgers jumped on the Yankees right out of the gate. The first three batters singled to load the bases. When cleanup hitter Dixie Walker grounded into a double play, Eddie Stanky crossed the plate with the first Dodgers run. Then Sherm Lollar allowed a passed ball, and Pee Wee Reese scooted home for the second Brooklyn run.
In the third, consecutive doubles by Reese, Jackie Robinson, and Walker plated two more runs. At this point Harris sent Reynolds to the bench and replaced him with Karl Drews, who got the next two outs.
Lombardi made it unscathed through the first two innings, but the Yankees got on the scoreboard in the third, sending four runners across the plate to tie the game. Lollar led off with a double and reached third on a wild pitch. Spider Jorgensen fumbled Snuffy Stirnweiss’s sharp groundball, and Lollar scored. The next three batters singled, one run scored, and Shotton decided it was time to go to the bullpen.
Branca, the winner of the Game One, took over for Lombardi. He didn’t have any better success than Lombardi: Billy Johnson and pinch-hitter Bobby Brown each singled. By the time Branca retired the side the Yankees had tied the game.
Branca gave up a leadoff single to Aaron Robinson in the bottom of the fourth. After he struck out the next two batters, Tommy Henrich singled. Yogi Berra, who had entered the game in left field when Johnny Lindell was pulled with an injury,2 followed and hit the ball down the right-field line. “[T]he Bums screamed to the high heavens that the umpires were blind in calling Berra’s single fair,” reported the New York Times.3 But the umpire disagreed and the Yankees took the lead, 5-4.
The Yankees pitchers kept the Dodgers in check until the sixth inning. With left-hander Joe Page on the mound, Bruce Edwards led off with a single. Carl Furillo followed with a double to put two runners in scoring position. Shotton now sent right-handed batter Cookie Lavagetto to bat for Jorgensen. He lifted a fly ball to Berra in left field that brought home the tying run.
Shotton went to his bench again and sent right-hander Bobby Bragan to pinch-hit for Branca. Bragan doubled to left field to score the go-ahead run. He was replaced by pinch-runner Dan Bankhead. Stanky followed with a single and reached second when Yankees catcher Robinson let Berra’s throw bounce over his head for an error.
Harris removed Page and called Bobo Newsom out of the bullpen to stop the bleeding. Newsom gave up a single to Reese that scored Bankhead and Stanky. The Dodgers’ four runs allowed them to reclaim the lead, 8-5.
In the bottom of the inning, “[T]he Bombers [came] within an eyelash of tying the score again.” Joe Hatten, the third Dodgers pitcher, walked Stirnweiss and then gave a two-out single to Berra. Joe DiMaggio then sent a tremendous blast that many thought would leave the park. Rookie Al Gionfriddo made a leaping catch that “robbed Jolting Joe of his greatest moment.”4
Joe Trimble of the New York Daily News described it this way: “Little Al, hydrant high and running like a bunny with his tail afire, raced back, back, back. He finally turned and stuck out his gloved right hand as the ball was about to clear the bullpen barrier for a homer. He grabbed it and held it — a great one-hand catch. The crowd roared in appreciation.”5
The catch stunned the Yankees. As DiMaggio took his place in center field, he was described as “walking inconsolably in circles, doubtless wondering if he could believe his senses.”6
Vic Raschi, the fifth Yankees pitcher, got the Dodgers out in order in the top of the seventh. Hatten stayed on the mound for the Dodgers. With one out, he walked two Yankees. After another out, Ralph Houk pinch-hit for Raschi and singled to load the bases. But Hatten snuffed the Yankees’ opportunity when he got Stirnweiss to fly to center field.
Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler conferred with the umpires at the end of the inning. With the shadows falling quickly over the ballpark, they decided that if the game was tied at the end of the ninth inning the lights at Yankee Stadium would be turned on in order to allow the game to be completed.7
Neither team scored in the eighth inning. After the Dodgers failed to build on the lead in the top of the ninth, the Yankees were down to their final three outs. Hatten, who had managed to squirm out of one challenge in the seventh, suddenly found himself in trouble again.
Bill Johnson led off with a single and George McQuinn walked. With the tying run coming to the plate, Shotton went to his bullpen again and called on Hugh Casey. It was Casey’s fifth appearance in the series.
Casey got Phil Rizzuto to fly out to center. Aaron Robinson followed with a single to left that loaded the bases. Lonny Frey pinch-hit for pitcher Butch Wensloff. He grounded to Jackie Robinson at first whose only play was to get a force out at second, and a run scored.
With the tying runs on base, Stirnweiss hit a weak groundball that Casey handled easily and tossed to Jackie Robinson at first to end the game. The 8-6 victory tied the Series at three games apiece and sent it to a seventh game the next day.
Both teams emptied their benches. Shotton threw “17 players into the steaming cauldron of combat, four of them pitchers.”8 The Yankees sent 21 players into the game but it was still not enough to catch the Dodgers.
“Well, somebody’s gonna win tomorrow,” Harris said after the game. “You can’t beat those catches. That DiMaggio drive looked like a sure home run until Gionfriddo came up with an almost impossible catch.”9
With their backs to the wall, the Dodgers had tied the Series. It was the 11th time the World Series would go the distance. National League teams had won seven of those Game Sevens. The Dodgers had to feel like they were the “darlings of the baseball gods” after this victory.10 They just needed to win the next day and years of frustration would disappear.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, I also used the Baseball-Reference.com, and Retrosheet.org websites for box-score, player, team, and season pages, pitching and batting game logs, and other material pertinent to this game account.
1 Harold Burr, “Lombardi to Face Reynolds Today,” Brooklyn Eagle, October 5, 1947: 23.
2 Jim McCulley, “Lindell, Rib Broken, Out of Final Series Game,” New York Daily News, October 6, 1947: 18C.
3 John Drebinger, “Dodgers Set Back Yankees by 8 to 6 for 3-3 Series Tie,” New York Times, October 7, 1947: 1.
5 Joe Trimble, “Dodgers Win 8-6 to Even Series,” New York Daily News, October 6, 1947: 39.
9 James Dawson, “Hitting Star Hurt in Second Base Crash,” New York Times, September 7, 1947: 28.
10 Harold Burr, “Shotton Has Used 22 Moundsmen in Balking Yankees,” Brooklyn Eagle, October 6, 1947: 11.