The Yankees got the 1939 World Series against the Reds off to the perfect start. They won the first two games at home and then went up 2-0 in the top of the first in Game 3 in Cincinnati.
In the bottom of the first, Lefty Gomez allowed a run on three hits. He wouldn’t come back out for the second, having to exit the game due to an injury to his side. The Yankees still had a cushion in the game and in the series, and had won 106 games in the regular season. They were definitely still decent favorites. However, they were down a starting pitcher in the World Series. If the Reds were to take advantage, the series would be 2-1 with the next two games in Cincinnati. There was some wiggle room, but there was potential for things to get precarious.
Enter Bump Hadley.
Hadley was somewhat of a swingman for the Yankees in 1939. He appeared in 26 games, 18 of which were starts. He put up great numbers that season, running a 2.98 ERA (146 ERA+) in 154 innings. As good as that performance was, the Yankees had several other decent starting pitching options that season, and Hadley often went six or more days between appearances. His 18 starts was fifth most on the team.
In Game 3, he was tasked with arguably one of the more important roles of the entire series. He absolutely delivered.
In his first inning of work, the Reds got to Hadley a bit. They recorded four singles over the course of five batters, scoring two runs to take the lead. Luckily, Hadley got Cincinnati cleanup hitter Frank McCormick to pop up, ending the inning and stranding two runners on base.
The Yankees answered back in the top of the third, scoring two runs of their own to retake the lead. From there, Hadley threw seven more scoreless innings. Only four further Reds reached scoring position after the third inning, and the batters who came up in those instances went 0-6 with one walk. Most notably, Hadley induced a double play with runners on the corners and one out in the seventh. He finished with a final line of eight innings pitched, having allowed two runs on seven hits and three walks. The eight innings pitched remains the longest relief outing in Yankees’ playoff history, a record that seems unlikely to be broken anytime soon.
Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense put up another three runs and cruised to a 7-3 win. That put them up 3-0 in the series and a win away from another World Series championship. They followed that the next day with an extra-inning win after one of the funniest plays in World Series history, clinching the championship.
After his performance in 1940 in his age-35 season, Hadley took a big step back. The Yankees let him go to the Giants in a deal after that season. He pitched just 13 innings for them and was returned to the Yankees, who later sent him to the Athletics. He stuck around with Philly that year, but 1941 would be his final big league season.
Considering that the series ended in a sweep, Hadley’s Game 3 performance may not have been the difference between a championship and a series loss. However, a 3-0 lead is much different than ones that’s 2-1. They needed him to step up and he did. That ended up being Hadley’s only contribution to the series, and it was a big one.
New York Times, October 8, 1939