The New York Yankees were the defending World Series champions in 1950 with Casey Stengel going into his second year as the team's manager. It took them until the very end of the '49 season for them to capture the American League pennant, and they again faced struggles securing this title in '50. Stengel's Yankees were not yet known as the dominant crew they are renowned as today, and the pennant was certainly there for the taking. The Yankees held first place from May 17th through June 12th, but they dropped to second place behind the Detroit Tigers on June 13th, and they spent most of the summer trying to get back to the top. They tied for first place with a doubleheader sweep of the Chicago White Sox on July 30th, but a sweep in Detroit forced them down again. Entering the morning of August 18th, they were 4.5 games behind the Tigers and they were actually in third place since the Cleveland Indians were a game in front of them. They were 7-9 in August and in need of a spark.
The Yankees went to Shibe Park to play the last-place Philadelphia Athletics, still managed by 87-year-old owner Connie Mack. The game figured to be a good opportunity for them to take an easy since the "Mackmen" were playing so poorly. The events of the day did not go as seamlessly as planned. The Yankees did take an early 1-0 lead when eventual AL MVP Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra hit back-to-back doubles, but the Athletics tied the game at one in the third inning against starter Vic Raschi. The Yankees took the lead back in the next inning when Athletics starter Lou Brissie gave up another double to Berra and third baseman Billy Johnson singled him home. Raschi held the lead through the seventh inning, but a solo homer surrendered to shortstop Eddie Joost tied the score again at two apiece.
From the fourth inning on, Brissie was pitching terrific baseball despite the Yankees' superb lineup. Entering the ninth inning, he had not allowed a single hit since the third inning. Brissie got one out in the ninth, and star center fielder Joe DiMaggio stepped to the plate. Although he was having a fine season entering the day (.270/.363/.537 with 21 homers), it was not as overwhelming as fans were accustomed to seeing from "Joltin' Joe." He was 35 years old and not quite the player he once was. Stengel actually played him at first base on July 3rd (where DiMaggio felt humilated) and the previous week, he had benched him the previous week to give him a "rest," much to DiMaggio's chagrin. In his first full game since returning to the lineup, he sought to prove to fans that he was still an impact player. He slammed the first pitch he saw from Brissie "some 400 feet into the upper left field stands." The surprising smash gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead, which Raschi preserved in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Yankees a much-needed win.
The win was the start of a six-game winning streak, and the Yankees went 31-12 to end the season, overtaking both the Indians and Tigers. They were greatly assisted by DiMaggio's improved play. Perhaps helped by Stengel's suggested week of rest, he hit ..373/.465/.696 with 11 homers in 41 games, improving his season stat line to a line more familiar to him: .301/.394/.585 with 32 homers, a .432 wOBA and a 146 wRC+. They won the AL pennant by two games and they swept Philadelphia's other team, the "Whiz Kid" Phillies, in the World Series for their 13th championship flag (DiMaggio's eighth title).
The '50 campaign turned for the better 62 years ago today.