Heading into Game 4 of the 1939 World Series, the Yankees had a 3-0 lead over the Cincinnati Reds. They had won the first game on a walk-off single by Bill Dickey. The second and third games were less tense, as the Yankees won both pretty easily.
For Game 4, the Yankees gave the start to Oral Hildebrand. Hildebrand had a solid first season with the Yankees in 1939. He made just 15 starts and appeared in just 20 games, but had a 3.06 ERA in 126.2 innings. He wasn’t the Yankees’ ace, but he was a solid option up 3-0. The Reds countered with Paul Derringer. Derringer was the losing pitcher in Game 1, but had an excellent season in 1939, finishing third in MVP voting.
Early on, the game was a pitcher’s duel. No batter reached until the bottom of the second, when Frank McCormick singled off Hildebrand. Through four innings, no Yankee had reached base.
Despite allowing just two hits in four innings, Hildebrand was replaced by Steve Sundra to start the fifth inning. Sundra allowed a two-out triple in the fifth, but kept the game scoreless. Derringer had continued to keep the Yankees off the board, as Sundra picked up where Hildebrand left off.
In the top of the seventh, Charlie Keller finally broke the deadlock. He led off the inning with a home run, his third of the series. Two batters later, Bill Dickey added a solo home run. The Yankees were up 2-0, and seemingly on the verge of a fourth-straight World Series title.
Sundra came back out for bottom of the seventh inning. Third baseman Red Rolfe made an error on a ground ball, allowing McCormick to reach to start the seventh. After a strikeout, Sundra gave up a double to Al Simmons, putting the tying run on.
Sundra then got a ground out, but it allowed a run to score. After Billy Myers walked, Willard Hershberger and Billy Werber hit back-to-back singles. Two more runs scored, and the Yankees’ lead was now gone. Sundra was pulled, and Johnny Murphy was brought in. Murphy got out of the seventh inning, but the Reds tacked on another run against him in the eighth. Going into the top of the ninth inning, the Yankees were down 4-2.
Keller and Joe DiMaggio got the rally started in the ninth with two-straight singles. Dickey then grounded into a fielder’s choice, but an error by the Reds’ shortstop Myers allowed Dickey to reach, DiMaggio to be safe at second, and Keller to score. After a fly out moved DiMaggio to third, Joe Gordon singled, scoring the run to tie the game.
The Yankees couldn’t push the go-ahead run across in the ninth. Murphy remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, and threw a scoreless inning to send the game to extras.
Bucky Walters had thrown two innings in relief of Derringer when he came back out for the tenth. He started the tenth by walking Frankie Crosetti. Rolfe bunted Crosetti over to second, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position. Keller then grounded one to Myers. The Reds’ shortstop made his second error of the game, moving Crosetti to third, and putting two runners on. What happened next was one of the weirdest plays in World Series history.
DiMaggio singled, scoring Crosetti. Reds’ left fielder Ival Goodman then fumbled the ball. The Yankees waved Keller all the way around from first as Goodman threw home. Keller scored, kneeing Reds’ catcher Ernie Lombardi in the groin while doing so. With Lombardi still lying on the ground, DiMaggio came all the way around to score, putting the Yankees up 7-4.
Goodman and McCormick reached to start the bottom of the tenth, but Murphy got the next three outs, and sealed a fourth-straight World Series for the Yankees.
The Yankees were up 3-0 in the series, and it would have been difficult for a team of that quality to blow a 3-0 lead. That being said, the Yankees won a World Series thanks in part to a guy getting hit in the groin, and that is funny.