Kodak Moments in Post WWII Baseball

The following five photos have these traits in common: (1) They are each photos of big moments in baseball history; (2) They each were taken during the widely agreed upon post World War II Era of 1946 to 1960; and (3) each were the figurative fulfillment of that magical expression about “catching lightning in a bottle;” and (4) all you need is magic to make something memorable – and a rarified photograph of the moment simply makes it harder to forget.

Here are my favorite examples from the post-World War II period:

October 15, 1946: Enos Slaughter's Mad Dash from First to Home.

October 15, 1946: Slaughter’s Mad Dash: It’s Game Seven of the World Series at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. The Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox are tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning. Enos Slaughter is at first base with two outs and Harry Walker is the batter.

Walker takes off for second base on the hit and run when Walker follows through with a lazy, looping single to left center. As BoSox center fielder Leon Culberson lumbers after the ball, Slaughter hits second and rounds the base for third. Culberson makes the cutoff throw to shortstop Johnny Pesky as third base coach Mike Gonzalez puts up the stop sign for the dashing Slaughter.

The mad man runner ignores the halt sign and rounds third base, heading for home. The pivoting Pesky takes a halting look at the action and then let’s go a not even close throw to the plate.

Slaughter slides home safe for a 4-3 lead that holds up for a St. Louis final winning score in Game Seven, delivering the World Series to the Cardinals on a late-in-the game mad dash from first to home by Enos Slaughter on a Harry Walker dumping hit that should’ve never been anything more than a single.

October 5, 1947: Gionfriddo's Catch.

October 5, 1947: Al Gionfriddo’s Catch: It’s the World Series again, the Yankees are losing 8-5 to the Brooklyn Dodgers in the bottom of the sixth of Game Six when Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio comes to the plate with two runners on base and a chance to tie it all up with the long ball.

DiMaggio launches a blast that seems destined to reach the stands at the 415 feet mark, but late inning substitute left fielder Al Gionfriddo, all 5’6″ of him, races far across the field to reach over the fence and make the catch, denying Joe and the Yankees a game-tying homer at the 415 feet sign. The Dogers go on to win Game Six by 8-6, but lose in Game Seven to the dynastic Yankees.

Not just by the way, the Gionfriddo photo is every inch covered in fame by another photo of this moment I like, but did not have available for this article. That’s the photo of Joe DiMaggio kicking the sand near second base when he realizes that Gionfriddo has just robbed him of the game-tying home run.

October 3, 1951: The Shot Heard Round the World.

October 3, 1951: The Shot Heard Round the World: If you’ve read this far, you probably already know the story by heart. The 1951 New York Giants were already a team powered by miracles when they reached the great cliff threat of their pennant-driving season. Coming from 13.5 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers in August, the Giants had fought back to tie the Dodgers for first place on the last day of the regular season.

Now, here they were in the bottom of the 9th of the third and deciding game of a playoff contest with the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds. With two runners on base and one man out, Bobby Thomson was coming to bat to face reliever Ralph Branca.

At 3:57 PM, Eastern time, Bobby Thomson unloaded a line drive home run that just shot its way into the left field stands like a Revolutionary War cannonball. For even larger reasons, the firing of that baseball oFf the bat of Thomson would be remembered to this day and forever as “The Shot Heard Round The World.” The Giants won the game and the in the biggest roaring walk-off victory of all time.

THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! ~ THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! ~ THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!

September 29, 1954: The Catch.

September 29, 1954: The Catch: It is arguably the most famous baseball photograph of all time. Running hard to the afr distant stands in deepest center field of the Polo Grounds in Game One of the 1954 World Series, Willie Mays of the New York Giants brings home the catch of Vic Wertz’s long drive in the very inning of play, setting a downward tone that the heavily favored Cleveland Indians will never escape.

The New York Giants sweep the Cleveland Indians in the 1954 World Series, four games to none. Willie sweeps defensive baseball history with “The Catch,” bar none.

October 13, 1960: Maz's Homer Beats Yankees!

October 13, 1960: Maz’s Homer Beats Yankees! In one of the most exciting Game Sevens of all time, little Bill Mazeroski came to bat for Pittsburgh in the bottom of the ninth at Forbes Field to face Ralph Terry of the Yankees with the score tied at 9-9.

Then “Maz” did something he wasn’t famous for doing. He poked a hard liner drive to left field that just kept on climbing. Left fielder Yogi Berra first started backing up as though he would have a play. Then we see Berra turn to watch. He is watching the ball sail over the wall and out of the park. Bill Mazeroski has just unloaded a World Series winning walk-off home run for a 10-9 Pirates win and joyous bedlam in the Land of Three Rivers.

Not so joyous in The Bronx or the home of their manager. Because of the loss, the Yankees fire manager Casey Stengel in spite of the fact that he had won ten pennants and seven previous World Series titles in his twelve seasons (1949-60) as the Yankee mentor.

In one more sidebar of mindless action, a 14 year old Pirates fan named Andy Jerpe retrieves the World Series winning homer ball outside the Forbes Field wall and he takes it to Bill Mazeroski for an autograph. The kid apparently never thinks to give it to Mazeroski or make a trade and the celebrating Pirates never think about a way to save the ball either. And who knows where the Hall of Fame representatives were on this day. They sure weren’t on hand back in that era trying to obtain and preserve historical artifacts.

The short of it is this: The Jerpe kid takes the signed Mazeroski major artifact baseball home with him. Some time later, an effort is made to locate the kid and the ball. The searchers learn the worst. The kid needed a ball for sandlot games at some point and put it in play. The magic Mazeroski home run ball was then worn down and finally lost.

Oh well, At least we aren’t likely to lose our famous photos – not once they are digitalized, anyway.

Have a nice day, everybody. And take care of what’s valuable to history.

 

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2 Responses to “Kodak Moments in Post WWII Baseball”

  1. Cliff Blau Says:

    “a Harry Walker dumping hit that should’ve never been anything more than a single.”

    Obviously the official scorer had a different opinion, since he ruled it a double. I’ve seen doubles hit less far than that.

  2. John Watkins Says:

    Can’t quibble with any of these choices, particularly the first one. As a life-long Cardinals fan, I definitely rank Slaughter’s “mad dash” as number one. Thanks for another great post, Bill.

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