Dick Sisler’s Legacy.

For a couple of days now,  I’ve been battling a virus that has done everything justaYGrYANJ above turning me inside out. I still am hoping to get this article done before  I crash again. It will keep if I don’t, but it will be more timely to get it done now, while the World Series is still going on.

Two days ago, I made the kind of error in a story that I never used to make. I wrote that the Philadelphia Phillies reached the 1950 World Series in a playoff victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers on a late inning home run by Del Ennis.

Whoa! I was so wrong about something I usually know so well. And I should know it well. I was 12 years old and taking in baseball with all five senses back in those days. I even heard the big game played out on the radio because the last day of the season fell on a Sunday, October 1, 1950.

I guess I had a senior moment. We all make mistakes, but I probably never will recover from the aspect of my perfectionism that says, “Yeah, Bill, we all make mistakes, but that’s one you shouldn’t have made.”

I’m also interested in learning why we make certain mistakes. In this case, it’s pretty easy: When you get to be 72, don’t always trust your memory!

Enough said. Let’s get down to the business of historical rectification about a very important game played 59 years ago.

The big game had all the excitement of a playoff. It wasn’t. It was the last game of the season. The game was decided by a late inning home run, but it really wasn’t the Phillies long ball man, Del Ennis, who hit it. It was first baseman Dick Sisler, the son of the great Hall of Famer, George Sisler of the old St. Louis Browns, who lit his way into baseball history by slamming a 3-run homer in the top of the 10th that carried the Phils to their second National League pennant.

It was a season in 1950 that baseball genuinely relished back in the pre-playoff era. Back in those days, two runaway champions in both leagues made for a boring few weeks near the end of the season. Fans were just waiting for the season to end so the World Series could start.

Not so in 1950. The Yankees took a close pennant race over the Tigers, Red Sox and Indians in the American League. The National League race came down as a race to the wire between Philadelphia and Brooklyn.

A little background helps the story build-up here.

In 1950, the Phillies were coming off a run of 29 losing seasons in 30 between 1918 and 1948. After going 81-73 in 1949, they entered the ’50 season with bright hopes as the “Whiz Kids,” a nickname that flew off the page from their average player age of 26.

On September 20, 1950, the Phillies had a 7 1/2 game lead over the Dodgers. The the Phils proceeded to lose 7 of their next 9 as they went into Brooklyn for a final two games on September 30-Oct 1. Their lead over the Dodgers had shrunk to 2 games. A Dodger sweep could tie them with the Phils for 1st place and force a best 2 wins of 3 games playoff series for the NL pennant.

The Dodgers were pumped. The Phillies were exhausted. When the Dodgers won the Saturday game, 7-3, Brooklynites were salivating for more of that red Philly blood. The moment was electric – and a groundswell of Phillies fans trekked up  to Flatbush, both sensing their team’s need for support, and also  hoping to score a ticket for the big game. Most couldn’t find a ticket into the packed 32,000 capacity ballpark, but they hung around the streets, anyway, listening to the game on their radios.

The stage was set for melodrama – and the kind of baseball we will not see again due to changes in pitching philosophy over the past half century. The great Don Newcombe took the mound for Brooklyn in a face off against  future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts of Philadelphia. As you may have guessed, these guys dominated the day. Going into the bottom of the 9th at Ebbets Field, the score stood tied and tight at 1-1.

Cal Abrams led off the bottom of the 9th for Brooklyn. He reached 1st on a 3-2 pitch walk and then advanced to 2nd on a single to left center by Pee Wee Reese. Uh Oh! Here comes Duke Snider!

The Phillies played in, looking for a sacrifice bunt from the Duke under these circumstances, but the Duke fooled ’em. He lined a base hit to  center as Abrams took off, rounding 3rd and heading for home with the potential winning run. Because he was playing shallow, Ashburn made a perfect pick up and throw to the plate, where catcher Stan Lopata nailed Abrams for the 1st out, and preventing Abrams from scoring the pennant-winning run.

On the play at the plate, Reese raced to 3rd and Snider took 2nd, With the double play now off, the Phillies remained in the deep dew. The winning run was now on 3rd with only one out and Jackie Robinson was coming to the plate.

Roberts walked Robinson, loading the bases and setting up the double play.

Carl Furillo then hit a harmless pop fly to 1st baseman Eddie Waitkus for the 2nd out, but that still left room for Gil Hodges to play the assassin’s role as the next batter.

Hodges unloaded one, sending a deep fly ball to right center. Del Ennis pulled it in near the scoreboard for the 3rd out, sending the game into extra innings.

Pitcher Robin Roberts was the first scheduled batter in the top of the 10th. Are the Phils thinking pinch hitter? No way. Roberts bats and lines a single to left.

Eddie Waitkus failed to sacrifice Roberts to 2nd, but then he reached on a Texas Leaguer to center, with Roberts stopping at 2nd. The Phils had two men on with nobody out.

Ashburn tried to move the runners with a sacrifice bunt, but he pushed it too hard. Newcombe was able to make the play at 3rd, forcing Roberts. The Phils still had men on 1st and 2nd, with one out, and lefty Dick Sisler coming to the plate. On a 1-2 pitch, Sisler got good late wood on a fastball that took off for the opposite left field wall. The ball kept going as home crowd voices watched in startled shock. It landed in the left field stands for a home run and the Phillies were suddenly going crazy. They now led the Dodgers, 4-1!

The Phillies scored no more, but neither did the Dodgers. Robin Roberts went out and put them down quietly in the bottom of the 10th and the Phiilies were back in the World Series for the first time in 35 years, and for only the second time in their history.

Dick Sisler was the batting hero that day. No question about it.

Dick Sisler recorded only 55 home runs in his eight year major league career, but one of those blasts will be remembered forever, even by those of us who sometimes forget. My apologies, Mr. Sisler. I doubt I’ll ever forget you again.

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3 Responses to “Dick Sisler’s Legacy.”

  1. Joseph Biundo Says:

    Bill, I loved your writing about the “Whiz Kids”. That 1950 team was probably my all time favorite. I knew the name of every player for many years, and likely still do. You were the only one of two people who ever got the right answer of my favorite baseball trivia question: “Who was the second baseman of the the Phillies that year”? As you know the correct answer was Mike Goliat, and I think you sent me some information on him. I clearly memember the first game of the World Series with the Yankees with Jim Konstanty pitching and losing 1-0.
    Best Regards,
    Joe Biundo

  2. Cliff Blau Says:

    You are still trusting your memory too much. Sisler played LF, not first base.

  3. Bill McCurdy Says:

    Cliff, You are right, of course, Dick Sisler played left field for the Phillies. Makes you wonder why I associate that name Sisler with 1st base, sometimes to the point of error, doesn’t it? You’re right again; I sometimes trust my once upon a time memory far too much, I do the same thing with my ’51 Oldsmobile. It still runs, but it also leaks.

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