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The story of one of the craziest comebacks in Yankees' history

With the Yankees down five runs headed into the ninth, the game should've been over.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In August of 1947, the Yankees were rolling along in first place in the midst of a season that would end in a World Series win. On August 20, 1947, they were in Detroit, wrapping up a series against the third-place Tigers. The Yankees were up 12.5 games on Detroit, and 11.5 up on the second-place Red Sox. This game didn't have the biggest effect on shaping the standings that season, but 11 innings later, it would become one of the wilder games in Yankees' history.

The Yankees' offense got going pretty quickly against Detroit starter Virgil Trucks. Snuffy Stirnweiss led off the game with a triple, and then scored on a Tommy Henrich fly out. The Yankees put up three runs in the first, giving their starter, Bobo Newsom, some run support to work with.

Newsom was a major league journeyman. He played for nine teams in 20 years, and was in his second to last season in 1947. His short Yankee career was decent, but this day wasn't his finest work. Newsom gave those three runs right back in the bottom of the second. One of those runs came on a steal of home by Eddie Lake.

The Tigers then took the lead in the third when John McHale singled home Hoot Evers. Newsome wouldn't come back out for the fourth, having allowed three runs on eight hits in just three innings. He was replaced by Spec Shea, who only did marginally better.

The Yankees retook the lead in the fifth, when Yogi Berra hit a two-run home run. At that point, Shea was cruising. He threw a second scoreless inning in the fifth, and then a third in the sixth. He was brought back out for the seventh. In the seventh inning, things turned a bit.

Shea allowed a single, a walk, and then two more singles to start the seventh. Just like that, the Tigers had retaken the lead. Shea was then replaced by future relief ace Joe Page, but things only got worse from there. Page allowed another single, giving the Tigers another run. After Page got the next batter out, the Tigers then went single, walk, single, double, walk, fly out, single, fly out. The Tigers put up nine runs in the seventh, and a 5-4 Yankees' advantage suddenly turned into a 13-5 Tigers' lead.

Joe DiMaggio led off the top of the eighth with a single before manager Bucky Harris somewhat strangely called for a pinch-runner. It's entirely possible that happened because of some sort of injury concern that happened during that at bat. However, DiMaggio played the entire next game the following day. So, it's fairly likely that DiMaggio was taken out because the Yankees thought the game was over. The Yankees picked up three runs in the eighth inning, but were still down five.

Randy Gumpert threw a scoreless eighth inning for the Yankees. Allie Clark then led off the top of the ninth for the Yankees with a single, and Yogi Berra followed with a single. Bobby Brown, who was the pinch-runner for DiMaggio, then added a third straight single, scoring a run.

The Tigers got their first out of the ninth when George McQuinn flew out. Billy Johnson then grounded out. However, Berra, who was on third, did score on the grounder. Down to their last out, the Yankees were down three runs.

Johnny Lindell kept the inning alive with a single, scoring Brown. It was now a two-run game. Phil Rizzuto then added another single. Lindell moved to third and Rizzuto was able to move to second on the throw. That brought Lonny Frey to the plate. Frey played 24 games for the Yankees in 1947, hitting .179. He got just five hits for the Yankees. One of those came on this day. Frey singled, scoring both runners. Suddenly, the game was tied and would go to extra innings.

After a scoreless 10th inning, the Yankees took the lead in the 11th when a Rizzuto double scored Lindell. The Tigers had one last chance in the bottom of the 11th. Karl Drew, who had thrown two scoreless innings already, got into some trouble. He walked Doc Cramer and then allowed a single to Fred Hutchinson. The Tigers had runners on first and third with no one out.

A fielder's choice play got Jimmy Outlaw, who had pinch-run for Cramer, out at the plate. Drew then got the next two outs, sealing a 14-13 win for the Yankees.

Baseball has been played for a long time and has had some crazy games. In Yankees' history, there are few, if any, crazier than this one.

Sources

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/DET/DET194708200.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/n/newsobo01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/games/standings.cgi?date=1947-08-19

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/f/freylo01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/NYY/1947.shtml