During the final days of the 1950 season, Robin Roberts carried the Philadelphia Phillies. The Whiz Kids had a seven game lead with nine to play. But suddenly, the Phillies were in Ebbets Field on the season’s final day needing a win to wrap up the title.
Critics claim that the Phillies wilted under intense Dodger pressure. But injuries to key players hampered the Phillies down the stretch. Roberts, the team’s salvation, started four times in eight days including the first game of the September 27 doubleheader at the New York Giants (no decision), the second game of the September 28 doubleheader also at the Polo Grounds (complete game 3-1 loss) and the pivotal October 1 finale, a 10-inning 4-1 masterpiece against the Dodgers wherein Roberts notched his 20th victory.
Before the Phillies finally salted away the pennant, Roberts had to survive the mother of all ninth inning rallies.
Here, as recalled by Roberts, is what happened. With the game tied 1-1, the Dodgers’ Cal Abrams walked. The next batter, Pee Wee Reese, twice attempted to bunt but failed. Then Reese singled to left field, “a real shot,” according to Roberts. Duke Snider walked to the plate. Roberts again expected a bunt. Instead, Snider singled sharply to center field. Because Richie Ashburn had a notoriously weak arm, the third base coach waved Abrams home. But Ashburn threw a perfect strike to Stan Lopata and, said Roberts, “Abrams was out by fifteen feet. It wasn’t even close.”
Now, however, Dodger runners were on second and third with Jackie Robinson up. Phillies manager Eddie Sawyer ordered Robinson intentionally walked. Next up came Carl Furillo, “a high-ball hitter”. Roberts fired an “eye-high” fast ball which Furillo popped up.
Gil Hodges represented Brooklyn’s last chance but he lifted a lazy fly ball to Del Ennis.
Roberts led off the top of the tenth with a single to center and Eddie Waitkus followed with another base hit. But Roberts was thrown out trying to advance to third on an Ashburn sacrifice bunt.
The rest of the game, according to Roberts, unfolded this way.
So now we had men on first and second and one out. Dick Sisler came up. He had already had three hits. Well, he tagged one very hard, a line shot into the left field seats. That put us up 4-1.
I still had to get three outs in the last of the tenth and there was no doubt in my mind that I would. I got them one, two, three and Philadelphia had its first pennant since 1915—thirty-five years.
Roberts had a long, fruitful life before and after the Phillies. We’ll examine it in my Wednesday blog next week.
“Double the fun” is a Friday feature here that looks at one notable doubleheader each week.