by Harold Friend
David Ain is an avid Yankees' fan who has followed his team longer than he cares to divulge.
He loved to relate how he feared Brooklyn's great first baseman, Gilbert Ray Hodges, because Gil Hodges could beat David's Yankees with his bat or his glove.
David was fortunate enough to be among the 14,226 fans who were at Ebbets Field on Thursday, Aug. 31, 1950.
The Enemy's Lair
The Yankees had beaten the Indians in the afternoon to sweep the Tribe and take over first place, so I went into the enemy's lair to watch our possible World Series opponent.
Ebbets Field was a small ball park that was nothing like Yankee Stadium. Baseball writers often called it friendly, but it was friendly only to Brooklyn fans.
Warren Spahn Against Carl Erskine
It was the last day of August, 1950, and the game promised to be interesting. Brooklyn trailed the league-leading Phillies by six and one-half games, which meant that the game against Boston was critical.
It would be Warren Spahn, who was 2-3 against Brooklyn that season, facing young Carl Erskine, who had only one win against three losses.
I figured there was a good chance Brooklyn would win, even with an inexperienced pitcher on the mound, because Spahn was Brooklyn's cousin.
The great left handed finished his career as the winningest left handed pitcher of all time, yet he had trouble with the Dodgers, and there were times his turn in the rotation would be skipped.
Sid Gordon's Home Run
Boston jumped in front when Sid Gordon, who was born in Brooklyn and whom Jewish fans loved, hit his 24th home run into the lower left center field seats in the second inning.
I rooted for Sid because his kids and I were classmates at Jamaica High School in Queens.
Having watched Brooklyn all season, I was not confident with a one run lead. Boy, was I right.
Brooklyn got to Spahn for three runs in their half of the second, two of the runs coming on a Gil Hodges home run. Spahn was gone in the third inning when Hodges hit his second home run of the game, a three run shot off relief pitcher Normie Ray.
Brooklyn scored seven runs before the inning ended.
I was tempted to go home, but although I was only a kid, I had watched enough baseball to know that anything can happen, but usually doesn't. I decided to stay a little longer.
A Third Home Run
The Dodgers offense was quiet until the sixth inning, when Gil Hodges hit his third home run, this time off Bob Hall. It was getting interesting.
I was happy for Gil, but I worried about what he might do to to our lefties, Eddie Lopat, Tommy Byrne, and rookie Whitey Ford in October if the Phillies didn't hang on through September.
Four Consecutive Singles by a Pitcher
Hodges wasn't the only Brooklyn batter who was having a banner day. Carl Erskine, who was pitching a great game, singled in the second, third, fifth and sixth innings.
I've thought of Erskine ever since I saw Ron Blomberg become the first designated hitter.
Gil Does It
When Hodges came up to bat in the eighth inning, the fans stood up in anticipation. They were so loud that it was hard to believe that public address announcer Tex Rickard had told us that the paid attendance was only 14,226.
The pitcher was former bonus baby Johnny Antonelli, who four years later would lead the Giants to the World Championship.
The Braves' big left hander delivered, and Hodges hit a blast into the upper left stands for his fourth home run, tying Lou Gehrig as the only players to hit four home runs in a nine inning game. The noise was deafening as the fans screamed at the top of their lungs.
Modesty Was the Norm
With the passage of time, I often think of how different it was then.
Today, players come out of the dugout and wave to the fans for hitting a single, or they raise a fist as they circle the bases after hitting a meaningless home run.
When Gil Hodges hit his fourth home run, he circled the bases with his head down, the way Mickey Mantle did his entire career.
Gil was congratulated when he reached home plate by the on deck batter, catcher Bruce Edwards, and he received a nod of approval from manager Burt Shotten.
Gil Hodges was one of the most consistent hitters in the 1950s.
He hit at least 22 home runs for 11 consecutive seasons, batted in at least 100 runs for seven consecutive seasons, and was a National League all-star for seven consecutive seasons.
Still a Yankee
As I left the ball park, I was really glad I had seen Hodges hit the home runs.
I knew the kids who were Brooklyn fans would let me have it the next day in school, but I had Lou Gehrig to defend me.
Hodges had hit four home runs, but they had not been in consecutive at bats. Gehrig hit his four home runs consecutively, which meant that a Dodger still had not topped a Yankee.
Reference: By ROSCOE MeGOWEN. (1950, September 1). BROOKLYN SLUGGER TIES MAJOR RECORD :Hodges' Four Homers, Batting In Nine Runs, Pace 19-3 Victory Over Braves. New York Times (1857-Current file),31. Retrieved January 14, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 94271876).