Despite sitting on opposite coasts for the past half century, the Phillies and Dodgers franchises have had numerous memorable run-ins over the years. Here's Part I of our micro-series look at this rivalry as we wait through the next few interminable days before real baseball starts again...
Phillies lock up National League Pennant on Last Day of Season - 1950: In the pre-divisional era, first place = pennant. As a result the regular season really meant something. The Phillies were coming off a run of 29 of 30 losing seasons from 1918 to 1948. After a solid 81-73 finish in 1949, the Phillies were finally looking respectable. Enter 1950, and the "Whiz Kids", led by future Hall of Famers Rich Ashburn, Robin Roberts, and 1950 MVP Jim Konstanty (really?), fought the rest of the league, including the Brooklyn Dodgers, in a tight pennant race. By mid September, however, it appeared that the Phillies were pulling away; with a 7 1/2 game lead on September 20, things appeared to be wrapped up.
Uh oh. Sound familiar?
The Phillies proceeded to lose eight of their next ten, and faced the Dodgers on the last game of the season with Brooklyn just one game back in the standings. A Brooklyn victory would have set up a three-game playoff to award the National League pennant.
With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning and no outs, and runners on first and second, Duke Snider lined a single up the middle. Ashburn fielded the ball and threw home, nailing Cal Abrams, the potential winning run, at the plate. Robin Roberts then intentionally walked Jackie Robinson before retiring the next two batters to preserve the 1-1 tie.
In the top of the 10th, after leadoff singles by Roberts and Ed Waitkus and a failed sacrifice bunt attempt by Ashburn, Dick Sisler slugged an opposite field home run. Roberts finished the game, a 10 inning complete game giving him his 20th victory on the season and the Phillies first pennant in 35 years. One of the greatest pennant races ever, and would probably be better remembered had the 1951 Bobby Thompson "Shot Heard 'Round the World" not sucked all of the nostalgia oxygen out of the early 1950s National League.