Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Todays African American fact from baseball's "Golden Era" - Jackie Robinson

On September 30, 1951, the last day of the season, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants were tied for first place in the National League.  After trailing the Dodgers by 13 ½ games on August 11, the Giants won 16 games in a row and 19 out of 24 in September to catch the Dodgers.  When the Giants 3 – 2 win over the Boston Braves concluded that fall Sunday afternoon in September, the Dodgers were trailing the Philadelphia Phillies 8 – 5.  It would take a tremendous performance from Brooklyn’s Jackie Robinson to save the team’s pennant hopes.

The Dodgers tied the score 8 – 8 in the top of the eighth, but in the bottom of the 12th inning the Phillies had the bases loaded with two outs.  Eddie Maitkus hit a line drive up the middle to the right of second base heading towards center field.  Robinson makes a head first dive with his entire body stretched horizontally in the air and catches the ball just inches off the ground for the third out.  Then in the fourteenth inning, he homers off of Phillies’ ace pitcher Robin Roberts to win the game.
The Dodgers lost the three game pennant playoff series on the Giants’ Bobby Thomson’s ninth inning three run home run on October 3, famously called “the shot heard round the world”.  But there would not have been a playoff or Thomson’s home run had it not been for Jackie Robinson’s heroics in the Dodgers’ last game of the season.  What many consider one of the greatest game performances of  Robinson’s career is overlooked due to the dramatics of the 1951 Dodgers-Giants playoff.  

Which of Jackie Robinson’s Dodger teammates received the first of his three Most Valuable Player Awards in 1951?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Today's African American fact from baseball's "Golden Era" - Willie Mays

On September 29, 1954, New York Giant centerfielder Willie Mays made what is still considered by many the greatest single defensive play in World Series history.  With the scored tied 2 – 2 in the top of the eighth inning of Game One in that year’s Fall Classic, Mays made an over the shoulder catch of an estimated 440 foot line drive hit by Vic Wertz of the Cleveland Indians.   Mays then made an immediate 180 degree turn to make a strong, accurate relay throw back to the infield to keep the Indians’ runner on second from scoring and the one on first base from advancing.  Mays’ catch was the key play that kept the Indians from scoring that inning.
The Giants won the game 5 – 2 on a three run home run by Dusty Rhodes in the bottom of the tenth inning.  They went on to win the World Series against the heavily favored Indians, winners of 111 regular season games, four games to none. 
With the explosive growth television just beginning in 1954, an estimated 23 million viewers saw Willie Mays make that catch.  It was the most definitive play of his illustrious career that made him more than just a Hall of Famer, but a baseball legend. 
The Giants 1954 World Series Championship was a great ending for Mays’ great season.  He hit .345, winning the National League Batting Title, with 41 home runs and 110 RBIs.  He was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player, the first of two times in his career.
Along with Willie Mays, who were the other former Negro League players in the 1954 World Series?