History lesson: the 1950 World Series

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A day off that serves absolutely no one but a few network people makes for a relative dearth of baseball news today. So let’s look backwards at the last time the Phillies met the Yankees for all the marbles: 1950.

I wasn’t around for it and neither were hardly any of you, but MLB.com’s Hal Bodley was, and he went to every game:

The day before my dad and I were to drive to Philadelphia for Game 1, he held up a newspaper in amazement. “Can you believe Eddie Sawyer is going to start Jim Konstanty in the first game? Against the Yankees!” 

Yes, that was the story of the first game. Konstanty, a 33-year-old who had pitched 74 games as a reliever, saving 22 (though the stat had yet to be invented) and winning 16, would be named the National League’s MVP.

But to start Game 1 of the World Series?

Well, it’s not like Sawyer had much of a choice.  Robin Roberts was the ace, but he had pitched three times in the last five days of the regular season, and back then there weren’t a ton of superfluous days off: Game 154 of the regular season was on October 1st. Game 1 of the World Series was on October 4th.  Guys may have been built out of iron and moxy and asbestos and whatever in those days, but even back then you didn’t throw your starter on two days’ rest after he had just started three of the last five.  And Konstanty did good! He only gave up one run in eight innings. The only problem was that Vic Raschi threw a shutout for the Bombers.

Which kind of set a pattern. As Robin Roberts remembers: “We got swept, but they were all close. Could have gone either way. We lost the first game, 1-0, the second one, 2-1, the third one, 3-2, and the last one, 5-2.” Joe DiMaggio was the hero of Game 2, hitting a 10th inning homer.  Yogi Berra hit an RBI single and a solo shot to stake rookie Whitey Ford to what in this series was an insurmountable lead in Game 4. Looking back and seeing those names, the path of history seems inevitable even if really wasn’t. The better team clearly won.

I’m a sucker for close pitchers’ duels, so I’d love to see a bunch of low-scoring, one run games like we, well, like Hal Bodley saw in 1950.  With the uncertainty of the Phillies rotation and the potency of the Yankees bats, however, I don’t see it happening.  Of course, I also don’t see the 2009 Phillies going without a home run like the 1950 Phillies did either.

But I’ll save a prediction for tomorrow.  Given my track record this postseason, whoever I pick is gonna have some really angry fans.

Yankees acquire James Paxton from Mariners

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The Yankees announced that the club has acquired starter James Paxton from the Mariners in exchange for three prospects: pitcher Justus Sheffield, outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams, and pitcher Erik Swanson.

Paxton, 30, has been among the game’s better starters over the past few years. In 2018, he went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and a 208/42 K/BB ratio in 160 1/3 innings. The lefty has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining after earning $4.9 million this past season.

Sheffield, 22, is the headliner in the Mariners’ return. He made his major league debut in September for the Yankees, pitching 2 2/3 innings across three appearances. Two of those appearances were scoreless; in the third, he gave up a three-run home run to J.D. Martinez, certainly not an uncommon result among pitchers. MLB Pipeline rates Sheffield as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect and No. 31 overall in baseball.

Thompson-Williams, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. This past season, between Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, he hit .299/.363/.546 with 22 home runs, 74 RBI, 63 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 415 plate appearances. He was not among the Yankees’ top-30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline.

Swanson, 25, was selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 2014 draft. He spent most of his 2018 campaign between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Overall, he posted a 2.66 ERA with a 139/29 K/BB ratio in 121 2/3 innings. MLB Pipeline rated him No. 22 in the Yankees’ system.

This trade comes as no surprise as the Yankees clearly wanted to upgrade the starting rotation and the Mariners seemed motivated to trade Paxton this offseason. To the Mariners’ credit, they got a solid return for Paxton, as Sheffield likely becomes the organization’s No. 1 prospect. The only worries about this trade for the Yankees is how Paxton will fare in the more hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium compared to the spacious Safeco Field, and Paxton’s durability. Paxton has made more than 20 starts in a season just twice in his career — the last two years (24 and 28). The Yankees are likely not done adding, however. Expect even more new faces before the start of spring training.