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.

Minor League Baseball eclipses 40 million in attendance for 14th consecutive season

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Minor League Baseball announced on Wednesday that, for the 14th consecutive season, the league has eclipsed 40 million in total attendance. 20 teams set single-game attendance records and seven teams set franchise records for single-game attendance in their current parks.

ESPN’s Keith Law, who has been covering the minor leagues for quite a while, did the math:

Minor League Baseball president and CEO Pat O’Conner, whose most prominent stint in the public eye involved him disingenuously justifying the underpaying of his players, said, “Minor League Baseball continues to be the best entertainment value in sports, and these numbers support that. For us to top 40 million fans for the 14th consecutive season despite the weather challenges our teams faced in April and May is a testament to the continued support of our loyal fan bases and the creative promotions and hard work done by all of our teams across the country.”

Major and Minor League Baseball are quite happy to make money hand over fist on the backs of their players, but are too cheap to pay them adequately for their labor.