Let us go back to the thrilling baseball days when pitchers finished what they started. When pitchers weren'’t coddled and when the ace of the staff pitched when his team needed a win, regardless when he last pitched.
Let us go back to one of the most exciting of all pennant races, the one between the Philadelphia Philles and the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950.
At the close of play on Tuesday, September 26, the Phillies had a seemingly safe five-game lead over Brooklyn, but as experienced baseball fans never seem to learn, no lead is safe.
Now, “doubleheader” meant that fans paid one admission to see two regularly scheduled games. There was about a 20-minute break between games.
Today, “doubleheader” means that one game is played in the afternoon, fans leave the ballpark and then another game is played at night. Those who want to see the second game pay a second admission.
Sometimes, the home team requires fans who want to see both games to remove their cars from the parking lot and then re-park it before the second game. Of course, there is a second parking fee.
Robin Roberts started the opener against the Giants, yielding five runs in four innings. The Phillies lost, 8-7, with Jim Konstanty being charged with loss. Big Giants right-hander Jim Hearn shut out the Phillies in the nightcap, 5-0.
A few miles away, Brooklyn was splitting a twin bill against the Braves to shave a game off the Philadelphia lead, but the Dodgers' loss reduced the Phillies’ magic number to two games.
Any combination of Phillies wins and/or Brooklyn losses totaling two would give the Phillies their second pennant and first since the 1915 glory days of Grover Cleveland Alexander.
The next day, the same things happened. The Phillies lost another doubleheader to the Giants while Brooklyn split a doubleheader with the Braves, cutting the lead to three games. The Phillies were assured of no less than a tie for the pennant.
Who was the Phillies’ starting pitcher in the second game of the second twin bill? Robin Roberts, that’s who.
Phillies manager Eddie Sawyer reasoned that since Roberts had pitched only four innings the previous day and since Friday was an off day, Roberts should be able to pitch. He would have Friday and Saturday to rest.
Roberts pitched effectively, but a Whitey Lockman bloop hit did him in. He lost. What is fascinating is that newspaper accounts do not even mention that Roberts was starting with no days' rest.
Although the Phillies were not scheduled on Friday, September 29, Brooklyn had another doubleheader against Boston. It was the third consecutive doubleheader for the Dodgers and Braves.
Facing elimination with a loss, the Dodgers swept the doubleheader, cutting the Phillies' lead to a mere two games. The Phillies were coming to Brooklyn for the last two games of the season.
Bob Miller started for the Phillies against Brooklyn’s Erv Palica. The Dodgers won, 7-3, which meant that they could force a three-game playoff with a win on Sunday against Phillies’ starter Robin Roberts.
You read that right. Roberts started on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.
Roberts started the final regular season game. With the Phillies leading 1-0 in the Dodgers’ sixth, PeeWee Reese hit a towering two out fly ball to right field that lodged in the screen. It was ruled a game-tying home run.
The game remained 1-1 until Dick Sisler hit a three-run home run in the 10th inning. Roberts retired the Dodgers in the bottom of the 10th.
Robin Roberts had his 20th win. The Phillies had their pennant.
Sheehan, Joseph M. “Giants Turn Back Whiz Kids, 8-7, 5-0, Scoring the Winning Run for the Giants in the Tenth.” New York Times 28 September, 1950: p.52.
Effrat, Louis. “Giants Turn Back Whiz Kids, 3-1, 3-1; A Blow That Helped the Giants Beat Phillies Yesterday.” New York Times 59 September, 1950: p.35.
McGowen, Roscoe. “Palica Takes 13th; Snider and Campanella Drive Dodger Homers Against Konstanty; Timely Triple for Reese; Four-Run Fifth Defeats Phils and Catcher’s Four-Bagger in Eighth Adds Three; Dodgers Top Phils, 7-3; Need One to Tie.” New York Times 1 October, 1950: p.159.
McGowen, Roscoe. “Phils Beat Dodgers for Flag; Win 4-1 on Homer in Tenth.” New York Times 2 October 1950: p.1.