Monday, October 3, 2022


It's a familiar story to us...because it was a repeat performance. The Giants scored four in the bottom of the ninth inning at the Polo Grounds in 1951 to win a three-game playoff and go on to lose the World Series to the New York Yankees; on 10/3/62, they'd score four in the top of the ninth, win another three-game playoff--and go on to lose another World Series to the Yankees.

But the background of this "repeat performance" has become obscured by the passage of time (and other, more spectacular memories that have intervened). So here is some of what has been pushed aside:

--Johnny Podres pitched for the Dodgers on two days' rest. 

--The fielding for both teams remained on the sloppy side. 

--Walt Alston stayed with his veterans Duke Snider (left field) and Wally Moon (first base). One delivered in Game Three; the other did not.

--Another attempt at a "heroic" relief appearance (four or more innings helping a team to come from behind) fell apart in the final, decisive inning.

The Giants scored twice in the third to get out in front, and it could have been worse. Podres threw wildly to second on Juan Marichal's sacrifice bunt attempt. Johnny Roseboro threw wildly to second when it appeared they had Marichal picked off. Podres induced Orlando Cepeda to hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded to keep the game close. 

In the bottom of the fourth, Snider hit a lead-off double, but had to hold at third on Tommy Davis' single to left because it was hit so hard. The Dodgers were still have problems hitting, however, and they just barely cashed in on this runners at second and third and no out situation; Davis' take-out slide at second allowed Frank Howard to beat out what otherwise might have been a double play. The Giants still led, 2-1.

That changed in the bottom of the sixth, when Snider and Davis teamed up to turn the game around. Snider slapped Marichal's 1-1 pitch into left field for a single, and Tommy D., trying to hang on to his batting title, homered into the left field pavilion to give LA the lead.

Maury Wills. who'd stolen his 102nd base back in the third inning, then manufactured an insurance run for the Dodgers by singling (his fourth straight hit off Marichal), and stealing second. He then took off for third, stealing #104 and coming home to score when Ed Bailey air-mailed his throw past Jim Davenport into left field.

All that led up to the fateful ninth, when Walt Alston decided to stretch Ed Roebuck into a fourth inning. In retrospect, he might have been better off bringing in Ron Perranoski, as the Giants had two lefty hitters among the first three man coming up in the inning. But he didn't do that.

Five batters later, the score was 4-3, the bases were loaded, and Alston brought in Stan Williams, who, in a reversal of his performance in Game Two, was unable to strand any runners, and walked in the go-ahead run. Then and only then did Alston call for Perranoski, who was sabotaged by second baseman Larry Burright booting a grounder, permitting the fourth run to score. (Burright, along with Stan Williams, would find himself playing for different team the following year.)

Billy Pierce, who'd shut down the Dodgers in SF two days earlier, came in for SF and retired the Dodgers in order: ground out by Wills, fly out by Jim Gilliam, and line out by Lee Walls. Final score: Giants 6, Dodgers 4.

--A long winter of discontent set in for the Dodgers, who contemplated changes in management. But cooler heads prevailed; in '63, Sandy Koufax rebounded completely from his injury and late-season ineffectiveness (the Dodgers went 34-6 in the games he pitched), and LA would win three of the next four pennants, including World Series titles in 1963 and 1965.

The Giants, with home field advantage, would play an intermittently exciting, but rain-marred World Series that proved to be most memorable for its disappointing conclusion (Willie McCovey's line drive caught by Bobby Richardson to foil a ninth-inning rally in Game 7 in a game the Giants lost 1-0). 

That frustration would linger for decades, as it took more than twenty-five years for them to return to the World Series (1989, where they were swept by their cross-town rivals, the Oakland A's) and another twenty-one years to actually win one (2010).