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by Harold Friend
One team's misfortune is another team's gain. On their way to five straight World Championships (1949-1953), the Yankees had outstanding teams, clutch performances, shrewd roster additions (Johnny Mize, Johnny Sain, and Johnny Hopp) and some good luck. Three key events helped make the Yankees the 1950 American League pennant winner.
Virgil Trucks' Sore Arm
On May 19, the first of three pivotal events occurred. Tigers' ace right hander Virgil Trucks, who had won 19 games with a 2.81 ERA and led the league in strikeouts and shutouts in 1949, suffered a sore arm. He was lost for the rest of the season. On September 19, with only ten games remaining, the Yankees led the Tigers and Red Sox by ½ game. The Yankees finally pulled in front to stay but if the Tigers hadn't lost Trucks, the chances are things would have been different.
Rookie Eddie Ford
The second key event occurred when the Yankees brought up twenty one-year-old left handed pitcher Ed Ford, who would eventually become Whitey Ford. After a June 30 12-7 loss to the Senators, which was their seventh loss in nine games, the Yankees announced that they had purchased Ford's contract from their Kansas City farm team. Eddie Ford made his debut against the Red Sox in relief of starter Tommy Byrne, giving up six walks and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings as the Yanks again lost. But things improved. Starting against Philadelphia, Ford was leading 3-1 going to the top of the seventh. Billy Hitchcock and Kermit Wahl led off with singles and Mike Guerra tripled them home to tie the game. Wally Moses singled home Guerra, putting the Athletics ahead by a run, but Ford got out of the inning without further damage. The Yankees rallied, with Tom Ferrick getting the win. Ford made twelve starts, won 9, lost 1, and had a 2.81 ERA. He pitched effectively and gave a much needed lift to a pitching staff that lacked depth. It is unlikely the Yankees would have won the pennant without Whitey Ford.
Ted Williams' Fractured Elbow
Finally, on July 11, the Red Sox pennant hopes were fractured and so was Ted Williams' wrist during the All-Star game played at Comiskey Park. In the first inning, Ralph Kiner hit a deep drive to left field. Sportswriter John Drebinger wrote that
"Kiner slammed into one of Raschi's swift pitches and sent the ball riding toward the scoreboard in left center for what looked like an extra base hit. But Ted Williams, who some folks think specialize (sic) exclusively in getting his bat on the ball, got his glove on this one for a spectacular running catch that sent him careening off the wall. For a moment it looked as if the Boston kid had hurt himself as his left elbow crashed into the barrier, but after some vigorous rubbing, Ted signaled he was still sound in wind and limb."
It was later discovered that Williams had fractured his elbow. He missed more than sixty games and despite a team batting average of .302 and scoring an amazing 1027 runs, the Red Sox still could have used the offense Williams would have provided. The Yankees won the pennant and swept the Phillies in the World Series. It is wrong to think that the World Series wasn't close because it was. The Phillies had a chance to win every game but they didn't.
A Close World Series Sweep
The Yankees won the first game, 1-0 and the second game 2-1, both in Philadelphia. When the teams moved to Yankee Stadium, the Yankees won Game 3 by a score of 3-2 and then in Game 4, Allie Reynolds had to enter in the ninth inning in relief of Whitey Ford to nail down a 5-2 victory. The Yankees deserved to win the pennant, but one cannot help but wonder what would have happened if Trucks and Williams had been healthily, and if the Yankees hadn't acquired Ford.
Daley, Arthur. "Sports of the Times; The Case of the Slumbering Tigers." New York Times, 15 March 1950.
Sheehan, Joseph. M. "Washington Hits Pin 7th Loss In Last 9 Games On Bombers." New York Times, 30 June 1950.
Effrat, Louis."Bombers Turn Back Mackmen, 5-4; Ford Makes First Start for Yanks." New York Times, 7 July 1950.
Drebinger, John. "National League Beats American on Schoendienst's Homer in 14th." New York Times, 12 July 1950.