An Illustrated Life
by Dick Johnson and Glenn Stout
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Game four is one of the most talked-about contests in Series history. DiMaggio's performance played a key role in that perception.
Brooklyn's Hugh Casey entered the game in the fifth with the bases loaded and the Yankees up 3-2. Casey got Joe Gordon to fly out. In the bottom of the inning, Pete Reiser cracked a two-run home run to give the Dodgers a 4-3 lead, which Casey made stand, giving up only a hit to Johnny Sturm in the sixth and one of DiMaggio's patented World Series infield hits in the seventh. Entering the ninth inning, Brooklyn was three outs away from tying the Series.
Johnny Sturm grounded to second for the first out, then Red Rolfe bounced back to Casey for out number two. With the partisan crowd roaring approval, Henrich worked the count to 3 and 2.
Casey's next pitch fooled Henrich completely. He swung wildly at a ball on the inside corner, for strike three. But Dodger catcher Mickey Owen was equally fooled. The pitch glanced off his glove and rolled behind the plate.
Much of the Yankee team had already headed for the clubhouse when they saw the ball squirt away. They scrambled back as Henrich tore for first. Half of Brooklyn's police force had left the Dodger dugout and swarmed onto the field. Owen recovered the ball but was unable to throw through the borough's finest, and Henrich reached first safely.
The Yankees still had a chance, albeit a slim one. DiMaggio stepped up and lined a single to left. Then Charlie Keller whaled a line drive off the right-field screen. Henrich scored easily to tie the score and DiMaggio again demonstrated his baserunning ability, tearing around third and sliding home, just beating the relay, to put the Yankees ahead 5-4. Bill Dickey walked and Gordon doubled two more home before Casey was able to get out of the inning. The Dodgers now trailed 7-4.
The stunned Bums went out quietly in the ninth, unable to believe their fate. After the game, some tried to blame the police, but Owen would have none of it, saying simply, "I shoulda caught the ball ... it was a sharp curve, inside and low, and I just didn't get it." Since that time, many have speculated that what Owen described as a curve was, in fact, a spitball, a notoriously hard pitch to catch. Sadly, the career of Mickey Owen, who was one of the best defensive catchers, is forever colored by the mishap.
The Dodgers were unable to recover in game five. Joe Gordon led the Yankee attack and New York led 2-1 entering the fifth. Brooklyn pitcher Whitlow Wyatt had pitched well, even striking out DiMaggio twice.
But Henrich homered in the fifth to give New York a 3-1 lead. DiMaggio then stepped up, and this at bat provided a rare insight into his on-field attitude.
Earlier in the year, Wyatt had created a controversy when he told a reporter that the best way to stop DiMaggio was to put him on his back. Now he tried to make good on his promise. After Henrich's home run, he greeted DiMaggio with two pitches under his chin. DiMaggio then flied out to Reiser in deep center.
As DiMaggio trotted past the mound, he yelled at Wyatt, "The Series isn't over yet." Wyatt responded profanely that if DiMaggio couldn't take it, he should get out of the game.
DiMaggio stopped in his tracks and started walking toward the mound. Both benches emptied and the incident passed without contact between the two men. If Wyatt hoped to intimidate DiMaggio and goad him into a fight, he failed.
From DiMaggio: An Illustrated Life by Dick Johnson and Glenn Stout.
text Copyright © 1995 by Glenn Stout. Reprinted with permission.