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Yankees history: The reliever who saved the day in two ways

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Joe Page helped the Yankees out in two ways in one 1947 game.

Garth Brooks Press Conference Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Joe Page spent most of his career as a pretty good major league reliever. He even finished high in MVP voting in two separate years with the Yankees, in 1947 and 1949. On July 10, 1947, he was a hero for the Yankees in two different ways.

The Yankees were in the midst of what would be a 19-game winning streak when they took on the St. Louis Browns on the road on July 10th. At this point, they had won eight games in a row, beating the Red Sox once and sweeping the Senators and the Athletics.

Spud Chandler got the start on the mound for the Yankees. The starter was in his final season in the majors, and would go on to lead the league in ERA that year. However, he got into a bit of trouble in the early innings.

Chandler allowed a run in the second and third, including an RBI single to catcher Les Moss, who wasn’t exactly a great hitter in 1947. The Yankees’ starter did settle down after that, but never quite got into a groove.

In the meantime, the Yankees scored a couple runs to take the lead. Phil Rizzuto got them on the board with an RBI single in the fifth. The following inning, a wild pitch with a runner on third and a Joe DiMaggio double added two more runs, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead.

Despite not allowing any runs in the fourth, fifth, or sixth innings, Chandler had still dealt with baserunners. In the sixth, he allowed a lead-off single to Paul Lehner, only to seemingly have him picked off. Except, a Snuffy Stirnweiss error allowed Lehner to safely reach second.

Later, Ray Coleman started the seventh for the Browns with a single. Bob Dillinger erased Coleman after grounding into a force out, but Dillinger made up for that by stealing second, and coming around to score when Chandler made an error.

That error allowed the Browns to tie the game, and would be the last thing Chandler did in the game. Manager Bucky Harris decided to go to Joe Page.

Page came in with the go ahead run on second. He and the Yankees opted to intentionally walk Vern Stephens to face Jeff Heath. That worked as Page got Heath to fly out. Now one out away from getting out of the jam, Page got Lehner to ground one to Rizzuto at short. Rizzuto made the Yankees’ third error of the day, but they lucked out as Dillinger went for home and Rizzuto was able to throw him out there.

Page led the league in saves that year, and considering his fourth place finish in MVP voting, he would have been considered one of the better relief pitchers in baseball. He showed that in the seventh, and would show it even more in the next few innings.

He would allowed a one-out single to Billy Hitchcock in the eighth, but again got out of the inning with the score intact. The bottom of the Yankees’ order was then due up in the ninth, including Page.

Aaron Robinson and Rizzuto both grounded out to start the inning. With two outs in the top of the ninth, instead of using a pinch hitter, the Yankees decided to send Page to bat, presumably wanting him to pitch another inning. It’s not something that would happen often, if at all, today, but it did in 1947.

Page rewarded the Yankees for letting him bat. Not only did he reach base, he got a hit. It wasn’t just a single, either. Joe Page hit the go ahead home run in the top of the ninth. He only hit one other in over 200 career at-bats, and finished with a .521 OPS. Yet on that day, he did the damage.

Despite the heroics, Page still had work to do in the ninth. He was facing the top of St. Louis’ lineup, but retired them in order, sealing a 4-3 win. The Yankees’ win streak would continue for another 10 games after this one, and they had the bat of a light-hitting reliever to thank for it.