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Three Players Made the Most of Their Final Moments in the 1947 World Series

Following a successful career as a journalist, graphic designer, and marketer, Gary Kauffman is now a freelance writer.

Al Gionfriddo seconds after catching Joe DiMaggio's long drive in Game 6 of the 1947 World Series.

Al Gionfriddo seconds after catching Joe DiMaggio's long drive in Game 6 of the 1947 World Series.

It’s not often that a Major League Baseball player experiences his greatest career moment in his final moment in the game. For three players to experience that at virtually the same time is mind-boggling.

But in the 1947 World Series, Al Gionfriddo, Cookie Lavagetto, and Bill Bevens all exited the baseball stage in dramatic style.

The 1947 Series was the first of what would be six times that the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers would meet in a 10-year period. It was an exciting seven-game series. The Yankees won the first two and the Dodgers won the next two. New York won a one-run thriller in Game 5, with Brooklyn bouncing back to take the sixth game before the Yankees closed it out with a 5-2 win in the final game.

The MVP of the series, had such a thing existed back then, would probably have been Yankee outfielder Johnny Lindell, who batted .500 with three doubles and seven RBIs. The Dodgers’ star was Hugh Casey, who won two games in relief, giving up just five hits and one run in 10.1 innings.

But the ’47 Series, the first to be televised, is remembered more for the odd twists of fate that shone a brief, final spotlight on Gionfriddo, Lavagetto, and Bevens.

Bill Bevens

Bevens was tabbed as the Game 4 starter. At age 30, Bevens was in his fourth season in the Majors and had started 23 games during the season in somewhat unspectacular fashion. He was 7-13 with a 3.82 ERA and a 1.479 WHIP. His issue was control – he issued 77 walks while striking out 77 in 165 innings. He also gave up 167 hits.

That lack of control was evident in Game 4 when he walked 10. Yes, he walked 10 batters in a World Series game. But, probably because he was so wild, Brooklyn couldn’t hit him. Inning after inning went by with a zero in the Dodgers’ hit column.

The Yankees scored in the first inning, ironically on a bases-loaded walk to Joe DiMaggio, then scored again in the fourth when Billy Johnson tripled and Lindell doubled him home. The Dodgers managed to plate a run in the bottom of the fifth when Bevens walked Spider Jorgensen and the pitcher, Hal Gregg. Following a sacrifice bunt by Eddie Stanky, Pee Wee Reese hit into a fielder’s choice, allowing Jorgensen to score.

Bill Bevens

Bill Bevens

One Out Away

Things looked grim for the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth. After a flyout, Bevens walked Carl Furillo. But Jorgensen popped out. Bevens was one out away from pitching a no-hitter in the World Series, and the Yankees were one out away from taking a 3-1 Series lead. But then all three unlikely heroes met at once.

Gionfriddo was sent in to run for Furillo and promptly stole second. That led to the Yankees intentionally walking pinch-hitter Pete Reiser, who was replaced by pinch-runner Eddie Miksis, and brought Lavagetto to the plate as a pinch-hitter for Stanky.

Bevens’ first pitch to Lavagetto hit the outside corner for a strike. His second pitch was high and outside, but Lavagetto swung and smashed it over righfielder Tommy Henrich’s head for a double. Both Gionfriddo and Miksis scored on that lone hit allowed by Bevens, ending the no-hitter and hanging a 3-2 loss on him.

It wasn’t quite Bevens last appearance, although it was his last Major League start. He entered the seventh game in relief. He pitched 2-2/3 innings, allowing two hits and a walk, but no runs. He never pitched in the Majors again.

Cookie Lavagetto

Cookie Lavagetto

Cookie Lavagetto

Harry “Cookie” Lavagetto started his career with Pittsburgh in 1934, but became an All-Star third baseman for the Dodgers from 1937-41. He was a solid if unspectacular performer, known for his oddball antics. But four years in the Navy during World War II robbed him of his prime years. When he returned it was as a part-time player in 1946 and ’47.

In fact, he only had 82 plate appearances in ’47, most of them as a pinch hitter, and had hit only one double all season. In the first game of the Series, Lavagetto entered the game as a pinch-hitter and remained in the game at third. He didn’t make another appearance until Game 4 against Bevens.

His hit off Bevens may have come as a result of a faulty scouting report from the Yankees. Bevens later told Lavagetto that he’d been told to pitch him high and outside, but Lavagetto responded, “That’s where I like them.”

It wouldn’t be Lavagetto’s last appearance but it would be his last hit in the Majors. He pinch-hit and struck out in Game 5, hit a pinch-hit sacrifice fly in Games 6 and stayed in at third and pinch-hit in the final game, popping up to second.

He never played a Major League game after that, but stayed in the game as a coach for the Dodgers and Senators, later managed the Senators and was the team’s skipper when they moved to Minnesota and became the Twins.

Game 4 Box Score, 1947 World Series

New YorkABRHRBIBBSO

Snuffy Stirnweiss, 2b

4

1

2

0

1

2

Tommy Henrich, rf

5

0

1

0

0

1

Yogi Berra, c

4

0

0

0

0

0

Joe DiMaggio, cf

2

0

0

1

2

0

George McQuinn, 1b

4

0

1

0

0

1

Billy Johnson, 3b

4

1

1

0

0

0

Johnny Lindell, lf

3

0

2

1

1

0

Phil Rizzuto, ss

4

0

1

0

0

0

Bill Bevens, p

3

0

0

0

0

1

Totals

33

2

8

2

4

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brooklyn

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Eddie Stanky, 2b

1

0

0

0

2

0

Cookie Lavagetto, ph

1

0

1

2

0

0

Pee Wee Reese, ss

4

0

0

1

0

0

Jackie Robinson, 1b

4

0

0

0

0

1

Dixie Walker, rf

2

0

0

0

2

0

Gene Hermanski, lf

4

0

0

0

0

0

Bruce Edwards, c

4

0

0

0

0

3

Carl Furillo, rf

3

0

0

0

1

0

Al Gionfriddo, pr

0

1

0

0

0

0

Spider Jorgensen, 3b

2

1

0

0

2

0

Harry Taylor, p

0

0

0

0

0

0

Hal Gregg, p

1

0

0

0

1

1

Arky Vaughan, ph

0

0

0

0

1

0

Hank Behrman, p

0

0

0

0

0

0

Hugh Casey, p

0

0

0

0

0

0

Pete Reiser, ph

0

0

0

0

1

0

Eddie Miksis, pr

0

1

0

0

0

0

Totals

26

3

2

3

10

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Bill Bevens, L

8.2

1

3

3

10

5

Totals

8.2

1

3

3

10

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brooklyn

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Harry Taylor

0

2

1

0

1

0

Hal Gregg

7

4

1

1

3

5

Hank Behrman

1.1

2

0

0

0

0

Hugh Casey, W

0.2

0

0

0

0

0

Totals

9

8

2

1

4

5

Al Gionfriddo

Al Gionfriddo’s career was brief and almost all of it was played for Pittsburgh. At 5-foot-6 he was small for an outfielder. He got into four games as a 22-year-old in 1944, then the following year played his only year as a regular, appearing in 122 games primarily as the Pirates’ centerfielder. In 1946 he lost playing time to rookie sensation Ralph Kiner and his season ended in August after an appendectomy.

He played just one game for Pittsburgh in 1947 before being sent to Brooklyn in a multi-player deal that included pitching star Kirby Higbe, a southerner who refused to play with Jackie Robinson. With a full outfield, Gionfriddo found few opportunities to play for Brooklyn. He got into just 37 games, primarily as a pinch-hitter and late-inning defensive replacement.

In the World Series, he appeared as a pinch-hitter to make the final out in Game 2, and came in to pinch-run in the memorable Game 4. In Game 5 he drew a pinch-hit walk and scored the Dodgers’ only run in a 2-1 loss. But it was in Game 6 that Gionfriddo made his lasting mark on baseball memory.

Down 3 games to 2, Game 6 was a must-win for Brooklyn at Yankee Stadium. It got off to a wild start, with Brooklyn scoring twice in the first and third innings to take a 4-0 lead, only to see the Yankees score four times in the bottom of the third to tie. New York went up 5-4 in the fourth.

Then in the top of the sixth Brooklyn scored three runs, now holding an 8-5 lead. In the bottom of the inning, Gionfriddo went to play left field, replacing Eddie Miksis who had already replaced Gene Hermanski. Reliever Joe Hatten had two runners on and two outs when Joe DiMaggio stepped into the batter’s box. He swung at the 1-0 pitch and drove it deep to left.

A Great Catch

Yankee Stadium at the time had a cavernous outfield. Although only 314 down the line, it swelled quickly to 461 in center. DiMaggio’s drive headed toward the low bullpen gate at the 415 mark. Gionfriddo, who later admitted he’d been playing too shallow, raced toward the wall, back to the plate. Gionfriddo, a left-handed thrower, picked up the ball coming over his left shoulder and at the last moment twisted his body around to catch the ball with his right hand. Iconic footage of the game shows DiMaggio rounding second and kicking at the dirt in frustration.

Debate has surrounded whether the ball would have cleared the 3-foot gate, had Gionfriddo not caught it, for a game-tying homer or if it would have caromed off the metal barrier. Gionfriddo and one of the pitchers in the bullpen claim it would have cleared the fence; others think from viewing the footage that it wouldn’t have. But given that DiMaggio was already rounding second when the catch was made, even if it had hit the fence it would have been at least a triple and, depending on the carom, possibly an inside-the-park homer.

Gionfriddo had two at-bats without a hit the remainder of the game and, although he fielded two singles, never got another flyball. He didn’t appear in Game 7 and never appeared in a Major League game after that, so the last flyball he caught in his career was one of the most dramatic in World Series memory.

The Final Spotlight

The fact that neither Gionfriddo, Lavagetto nor Bevens made another Major League appearance may not be as surprising as it seems. Lavagetto was easily the best of the three, and he was at the end of his career by then in a lineup that featured up-and-coming stars. Gionfriddo was a borderline player at best and Bevens had a dead arm after the Series and was far too wild to last long anyway. Without the 1947 World Series few people would have ever heard of them.

But for that one, brief moment, the spotlight stopped on all three of them to give them a measure of fame that will last in the annals of World Series play.