Memories of 1950 Series remain vivid
Scribe, Roberts recall last Philly-New York Fall Classic
PHILADELPHIA -- Fifty-nine years ago the Phillies played the Yankees in the World Series -- and lost in four games.
The 1950 World Series, which began in Philadelphia's Shibe Park, was special for me because thanks to my dad's passion for baseball I was able to attend all of the games.
This is my 45th World Series as a reporter and many of them are, frankly, very forgettable. I was just a young, wide-eyed fan in '50. I can remember many of the plays in that Series better than I can of games I actually have reported.
And for some of the vignettes of '50 I had forgotten, Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, at Citizens Bank Park on Monday, helped me remember.
The Phillies, as die-hard fans easily recall, won the National League pennant on the last day of the 1950 season, when Dick Sisler blasted a three-run 10th-inning homer off Don Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
That sent the "Whiz Kids" to their first World Series since 1915.
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?
|"The one thing I've learned about this team is Charlie will work it out. I'll never second-guess him."|
|-- Hall of Famer Robin Roberts|
"The Konstanty thing was a miracle," Roberts said Monday. "He hadn't started a game all year. Sawyer sent him out there, and Jim pitched like he'd been doing it his whole life. If he had won, it would have been a great story forever, but when he lost, people forgot about it. That was the first game he'd ever started in the big leagues."
The Phillies then were beaten, 2-1, in Roberts' Game 2 start, fell, 3-2, in the third game and the Yankees wrapped up the sweep, 5-2.
The Phillies led the NL by 7 1/2 games on Sept. 20, but their lead dwindled to one game ahead of the Dodgers with just one game left. That set the stage for Sisler's historic homer.
I had forgotten how depleted Philadelphia's pitching was down the stretch.
"The thing that was bad about it was Curt Simmons left the team on Sept. 10 to go on active duty with the National Guard," said Roberts, who turns 83 on Friday. "When he left, he was as good a pitcher as there was in baseball at the time. He had 17 wins.
"Losing Curt really hurt us. Bubba Church got hit in the eye, and he was gone. Bob Miller hurt his back, so we went from a really good starting rotation to three guys who couldn't play. That's why it ended the way it did."
Roberts, who started four times in the last nine games of the season, got the ball for Game 2. He lost in 10 innings when Joe DiMaggio homered to the left-field upper deck.
Manager Charlie Manuel and many of the current Phillies are entering this World Series thinking about their legacy. If they can get past the Yankees, they'll be the first NL team since the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds to win back-to-back titles.
"I think this team has a chance to be a winner for years to come," said right fielder Jayson Werth. "The nucleus is solid, and we should keep winning."
That didn't happen with the 1950 Phillies. When they went to the World Series that year they were young and hungry, but that was their only shining moment. Sadly, they began a downward spiral that didn't stop until the three consecutive division titles in the 1970s that led to the 1980 World Series championship.
"We tried," said Roberts, who'd win 20 games six consecutive seasons. "The Dodgers, the Braves and the Giants were great clubs all those years. The Braves in the middle-'50s were as good a team as I've ever seen.
"We snuck in on them in 1950. A lot of our guys who had big years in '50 never duplicated them. We never quite had those years together again. We weren't as solid as the Dodgers, but we put it together for that one year."
Roberts said if the World Series had been played in mid-September the result might have been different.
"We were a cocky bunch, an awful good club. We had good pitching, and I can't say enough about Curt. The way [Yankees starter] CC Sabathia pitches, that's the way Curt was."
Roberts, who's watched most of the Phillies games on TV this season from his Florida home, believes the current Philadelphia team has all the tools to knock off New York.
"The one thing I've learned about this team is Charlie [Manuel] will work it out," said Roberts. "I'll never second-guess him."
Roberts says when his team got to the World Series "we were tired. It had been a struggle to get there. But we were kinda happy to be there. When Konstanty did what he did, it should have perked us up, but it didn't. You have to give credit to the Yankees. They were tough."
When DiMaggio, who batted .308 in the four games, blasted his home run off Roberts, my dad put his arm around my shoulder and whispered in my ear.
"Son, play close attention to this," he said. "This is a moment and a player you'll remember for the rest of your life."
I'm not sure how closely I paid attention to those words, but they still ring in my ears.
My dad was a prophet.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.