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Yankees history: Spec Shea does it all

Monday night we saw a hitter pitching in the playoffs. Now here’s a story of a pitcher hitting.

Divisional Round - Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

In Monday night’s Game Three loss, Austin Romine made history, albeit not the kind that he or any Yankee fan would have imagined. He became the first Yankee, and just the second ever, position player to pitch in a playoff game. The idea of Romine pitching is pretty funny, although the circumstances of why he had to took some of the shine off.

While position players pitching is a fairly new playoff occurrence, pitchers hitting in the playoffs has obviously been happening since the game’s advent. Because Romine’s pitching and Game Three against the Red Sox in general were so bad, let’s go back and check out the time a pitcher nearly did it all on both sides of the plate in the World Series.

If one looks up a list of the best Yankees’ playoff pitching performances according to win percentage added, Spec Shea’s Game Five in 1947 is near the top. That, however, was only half of the story of his performance that day.

After an impressive rookie season, Shea was given the ball in Game One of the 1947 World Series. He lasted just five innings before getting pinch hit for in the bottom of that inning. The Yankees took the lead, and he picked up the win despite leaving the mound with the Dodgers ahead.

The Yankees took Game Two as well, but the Dodgers won the next two games in Brooklyn to even the series. Shea then got the start again in a pivotal Game Five.

After retiring the first nine Brooklyn hitters in order, Shea got his second at-bat of the day in the top of the fourth. With two on and two out, Shea picked up a single, scoring Aaron Robinson. Despite having recorded five hits and one walk with a lineup containing Joe DiMaggio and several other good hitters, it took the pitcher himself for the Yankees to break though.

Shea allowed his first baserunner all day when he walked Pee Wee Reese in the bottom of the fourth. He then got an insurance run to work with when DiMaggio homered in the top of the fifth.

After five mostly excellent innings, Shea finally ran into some trouble in the sixth. He issued two walks on either side of a strikeout, bringing Jackie Robinson to the plate. In a battle of Rookie of the Year candidates, Robinson won by singling to get the Dodgers within one.

Shea kept them there, but the Dodgers threatened again in the seventh. He left the bases loaded by getting Reese to strike out to end the seventh. He then threw a clean inning in the eighth, and was then sent back out for the ninth.

Facing the bottom of the Dodgers’ order, Shea allowed a leadoff single to Bruce Edwards. A bunt moved Edwards into scoring position. He got a fly ball for out number two, and Cookie Lavagetto was then sent up as a pinch hitter.

A day earlier, Lavagetto had scored two runs with a double to give the Dodgers a walk-off win when they were down to their last out. There was no repeat in Game Five, as Shea struck him out to give the Yankees a win.

In addition to his single, Shea had actually doubled in another at-bat, going 2-4 in the game. For his career, Shea was a .195/.245/.258 hitter, but in the 1947 World Series, he hit .400/.400/.600.

The Dodgers won Game Six, and Shea was brought back for the decider. He had to be replaced in the second inning, as the Dodgers threatened early. They scored just two runs in the inning, and were shutout for the rest of the game. The Yankees took the lead in the fourth and hung on for the game and the championship.

While it’s certainly still possible, the odds of a Yankee starter providing one of the game-deciding hits in a playoff game are becoming slimmer by the years.