Historic Baseball Moments: Gil McDougald Remembered

SportsLifer@sportsliferCorrespondent IIDecember 3, 2010

Gil McDougald of the Yankees slides back into first, too late to avoid a double play, in the play that turned the 1955 World Series and gave Brooklyn its only World Series.

Gil McDougald, the Yankees' utility infielder who passed away earlier this week, was a major player in four of the most memorable moments in baseball history. McDougald played key roles in three of the most famous World Series games ever played and was involved in one of the game’s most horrifying injuries.

A versatile infielder who spent his entire 10-year career with the Yankees, McDougald played second, shortstop and third base and was a member of eight pennant winners, five World Champions and five American League All-Star teams.

Now about those moments.

1. In Game 7 of the 1955 World Series at Yankee Stadium, Billy Martin led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a walk against Brooklyn’s Johnny Podres and McDougald followed with a bunt single. Yogi Berra then sliced a long drive into the left-field corner, but the Dodgers' Sandy Amoros made a spectacular one-hand catch and fired to Gil Hodges to double up McDougald at first.

That was as close as the Yankees came to scoring. Despite three hits by McDougald, Podres pitched a 2-0 shutout, giving Brooklyn its only World Championship.

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2. McDougald started at shortstop in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series when New York’s Don Larsen matched up against Brooklyn’s Sal Maglie at Yankee Stadium. In the second inning of that game, the Dodgers' Jackie Robinson hit a liner that caromed off third baseman Andy Carey right to McDougald, who threw out Robinson by a step.

That play helped preserve what became Larsen’s perfect game, the only no-hitter in World Series history.

3. On May 7, 1957, in Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, McDougald smacked a line drive that hit young Indians southpaw Herb Score in the right eye. The injury caused Score, the American League strikeout leader his first two years, to miss the rest of the 1957 season. Score eventually regained his vision and returned to the mound late in the 1958 season but was never the same pitcher after the injury. Arm troubles led to the premature end of his promising career.

While addressing reporters following the contest, McDougald said, “If Herb loses the sight in his eye, I’m going to quit the game.” McDougald, who remembered long afterward being “sick to my stomach” when Score collapsed, remained in touch with him over the years.

4. McDougald played his last major league game on October 13, 1960: Game 7 of the World Series at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. He entered the game in the ninth inning as a pinch runner for Dale Long and scored on a ground ball by Yogi Berra to tie the game 9-9.

The Pirates won the game and the Series in the bottom of the ninth when Bill Mazeroski hit a leadoff, walkoff home run against New York’s Ralph Terry, one of the most legendary home runs ever.

McDougald decided to retire after the World Series when it appeared that the Yankees were going to leave him unprotected for the 1960 expansion draft.
He was the American League’s Rookie of the Year in 1951, playing third base and second base and hitting .306. McDougald connected for the first World Series grand slam by a rookie, a drive at the Polo Grounds off the New York Giants’ Larry Jansen that helped propel the Yankees to a Game 5 victory.

A timely hitter despite an unorthodox right-handed open stance he used early in his career, he twice hit better than .300 in a season and had a career batting average of .276 with 112 home runs.