Q & A

Don Newcombe

Newk’s Stellar Career

The game is nearly lost to history.

Many who saw the game consider it to be one of the greatest games ever played in baseball history. The New York Times was so moved by the game it felt compelled to write an editorial.

“The Dodgers and Phillies gave us an afternoon that just about rocked the nation,” the editiorial said.

The date is September 30, 1951, the last day of the regular season.

The game had everything. On the final day of the regular season, a team, battling in an excruciatingly tight pennant race, is in a must-win situation. The team is behind in the game in the last innings on the road. Then, there is a late-inning rally, stalwart relief pitching, a miracle fielding play, and in the final inning, a dramatic home run to win the game.

And, without this game, without a pitching performance that can only be described as heroic and a player that one writer said of him “the unconquerable did the impossible” baseball history would pay minimal regard to Bobby Thomson.

Instead, attention must be paid and deservedly so, to Don Newcombe and one of the greatest pitching performances in Dodger history.

Newcombe had one of the stellar pitching careers in a Dodger uniform. He won 20 games three times in six seasons. He is the only major league player ever to win the three significant awards, Rookie of the Year in 1949 and the Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player in the National League in 1956.

Newcombe is one of a few major league pitchers to start both games of a doubleheader. When he started Game 1 of the 1949 World Series, he was only the second rookie pitcher to accomplish this feat and he was the first African-American pitcher to start a World Series game. He set a National League record for home runs by a pitcher in 1955. He once stole home on a straight steal.

Newcombe has been the Dodgers’ director of community services since 1970 and he has traveled the world speaking to groups regarding the dangers of alcohol abuse. He has received honors from Major League Baseball, the city of Los Angeles, the State of California and the President of the United States for his volunteer work.

And now, for the first time, Newcombe tells the story of his incredible pitching performance in the final two games of the 1951 season and how Jackie Robinson played his greatest game.

Wild Pennant Race

The tale of the 1951 National League Pennant race and playoff has been well chronicled in baseball history. However, there is a greater story to be told, a team and players giving all their ability, against all odds, with full heart and hope.

The Dodgers and the Giants were bitter rivals in New York and they waged a tremendous pennant race during the season. The Dodgers led the Giants by 13 1/2 games in the middle of August. The Giants caught fire and began to win virtually every game.

Throughout the month of September, eyes were riveted on the scoreboards to follow the games in progress. Slowly, steadily, the Dodger lead over the Giants shrank. The Giants continued to keep the pressure on the Dodgers until ultimately on September 28, a Dodger loss to the Phillies in Philadelphia left the Dodgers and Giants with an identical 94-58 record with two games left to play for the 1951 National League Pennant.

On Saturday, September 29, the Giants won that afternoon in Boston, beating the Braves and moved 1/2-game ahead. The Dodgers would have to win to remain tied for first place. The Dodgers’ best pitcher, Don Newcombe, started against 21-game winner and future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts of the Phillies.

Q--You started the Saturday game against Philadelphia on just two days’ rest. Were you ready to pitch?

“Charlie Dressen (Dodger manager) asked me how I felt as I recall. He asked me to go as long as I possibly could go and then he would get somebody fresh in there to relieve me. He was leading up to and hoping to get to the playoffs if there was going to be one with the Giants. He asked me if I was willing to do it. I said sure. I was lucky enough to have good stuff. It was just one of those times where you have to get ready and go as far as you can go and then you get somebody else in there to relieve you.”

Q--Was it a risk to start you on two days’ rest?

“We had to win and he was going to go with his best. I guess I was considered his best at that time. I was fortunate enough to have the kind of stuff to pitch a shutout.”

A large crowd filled Shibe Park and thousands of Dodger fans came to the game in Philadelphia.

Q--Were you going to pitch nine innings to help the bullpen rest?

“I always wanted to pitch because of my contract with Buzzie Bavasi. My compensation in that era was based upon complete games and I had a shutout going, so I wanted a complete game shutout. It was based upon my contract negotiation for the next season.”

Newcombe thoroughly dominated the Phillies, allowing just seven hits to a good hitting Phillie club. The Dodgers staked him to a 4-0 lead by the third inning and supported him with fine defensive plays by Jackie Robinson and outfielder Andy Pafko. Pitching on the road and with only two days of rest from his previous start, Newcombe throws a 5-0 shutout over the Phillies. The shutout is Newcombe’s third of the season and his 20th win.

Q--The club scored four runs early. Did that help you with your stuff on two days’ rest?

“It helped me with my stuff and my mental approach to the game. The Phillies were a tough ballclub in that era to pitch against. You had to bear down all the time. And Jackie Robinson wasn’t the kind of player who would let you spot the ball once you had the lead. I did that once after joining the club in 1949 against Pittsburgh and Jackie read me out. I never forgot that. This was too important not only to the Dodger players, but the Dodger fans.”

Q--After the Saturday game, did you discuss with Dressen about coming back for the final regular season game on Sunday?

“We never talked about it. We just went along with the idea that everybody was going to be available, regardless of who it was and when it was. We always told our Manager Chuck Dressen that, because he wanted to know how you felt and if you’re okay and if I can use you, can I use you? And that’s the way it was with him. It’s an important part of the season, it couldn’t have been a more important part. And everybody had to be available, so I made myself available. It was just unspoken.”

The complete game shutout by Newcombe put the Dodgers and Giants in a flat out tie after 153 regular season games with just one game and plenty of drama left to play.

1951 Season Finale

Sunday, September 30, 1951.

In New York and across the nation, baseball fans opened their sports pages to see that the Giants and the Dodgers are tied with 95 wins and 58 losses.

Neither team will receive a break from the Braves or the Phillies. The Braves have just 76 wins and the Phillies have won 73 games in 1951, but each team will play their game just as if it is the World Series.

The game begins poorly for the Dodgers and every bad action by them is known by the Giants in Boston within moments.

In the Dodgers’ at bat in the first inning off Phillies’ starter and 15-game winner Bubba Church, Jackie Robinson has runners on first and third and grounds into an inning-ending double play and the Dodgers fail to score.

The Dodger starter, Preacher Roe, starting on two days’ rest, doesn’t have his best stuff, and the Phillies score four runs in the second inning for a 4-0 lead.

In Brooklyn, the Ebbets Field groundkeepers are working on the field, getting things ready for a hoped to be playoff game the next day. An unidentified man appears in the empty grandstand and calls out to them, “Second inning, 4-0----Philadelphia.”New York Times, October 1, 1951

Q--Preacher Roe starts and is not effective. Did you think you would be pitching at all in this game?

“Under the circumstances, we thought we were going to lose. We really didn’t have any future plans for the season. We could see the Giants were leading in Boston. I had no plans to be pitching. I had pitched the night before.”

In the third inning, Roe is relieved by Branca and the Phillies score two more runs when Bubba Church singles just past Jackie Robinson. The game, pennant, and season are slowly slipping away as the Phillies take a 6-1 lead.

As the third inning is over, an unidentified person walks into a Brooklyn diner and asks the score. “6-1, Phillies” said the counterman with tears in his eyes.Ibid.

A pall grows in Brooklyn.

Q--Down 6-1 in the third inning, what is the mood in the dugout?

“We’d like to think that we have to get back into the game. And being on the Dodgers and among the Dodgers I played with, we had hope, but we also had some doubts. We had a shadow of a doubt that we were not able to get back in this game.”

Q--Are you watching the game in the bullpen?

“I’m in the dugout, like always. Sitting there, I knew I didn’t have to pitch and there was no reason to sit in the bullpen.”

Dodgers Struggle Early

Meanwhile, in Boston, the Giants are in a close game with the Braves, but the Giants lead all the way. The Dodgers and the Dodger fans who came to Philadelphia, watch the scoreboard for out-of-town games with growing concern and fear to the inexorable march of another Giant win.

The frustration was getting to the Dodger fans but none of them were giving up hope. All over Brooklyn, scores of fans could be seen listening to their radio to the Dodger game and then quickly spinning the dial to hear the Giant broadcast.

The game was running long with many pitching changes and long rallies. With the change of the calendar to daylight savings time, fall had arrived in Philadelphia. As twilight to evening begins, Dodger fans feel the literal and virtual chill in the air, and the stadium lights go on.

The fifth inning starts the Dodger comeback. Jackie Robinson triples home one run and a single by Pafko scores Robinson and the Dodgers are back in the game, trailing just 6-5.

The feeling of relief of getting back in the game doesn’t last long. The Phillies’ Granville Hamner hits a ball into right field and the ball takes a bad hop over Carl Furillo and two more Phillie runs score making it an 8-5 game.

Q--The club trails 6-5 to the Phillies in the fifth inning, but now the Phillies get two more runs that looks like a knockout punch.

“We had doubts, there’s no doubt about that. We were worried. I remember Pee Wee (Reese) and Jackie (Robinson) always talked about not giving up. They kept us going.”

Down 8-5, the Dodgers fail to score in their half of the sixth inning. In the bottom of the sixth inning Carl Erskine, the Dodgers’ fourth pitcher, faces Willie Jones. Thousands of Phillie fans then erupt in cheers as the scoreboard announces the Giants the winners of their game at Boston. Out of calendar days, the Dodgers are now playing a must-win game.

The Dodgers go quietly in the seventh inning. As the eighth inning begins, the Dodgers are six outs away from a loss that will send them home for the season. For the third straight season, the pennant hopes for the Dodgers rest in defeating the Phillies.

In 1949, the Dodgers won an extra-inning game in Philadelphia to win the National League Pennant on the final day of the season. The 1950 season ended at Ebbets Field when Dick Sisler hit a three-run home run in the 10th inning to win the pennant for the Phillies. And now, the 1951 pennant hopes for the Dodgers rest with defeating the Phillies.

Doing their best to stay in the game, the Dodgers have run through their best pitchers. Preacher Roe had started, and was followed by Ralph Branca, Clyde King, Clem Labine, and Carl Erskine. All Dressen has left in the final innings is Bud Podbielan, Johnny Schmitz and Phil Haugstad. And Dressen must hit for the pitcher’s spot in the eighth.

Ironman Newcombe Returns

Q--You’re down by three runs in the eighth inning. Is there a point when you speak to Dressen to let him know you can pitch?

“I would not have said anything to the manager until we got close to maybe a tie or went ahead.”

Q--Did you feel you could pitch even though you had thrown a shutout less than 24 hours before?

“All through my career, my arm was such that it didn’t get stiff until the second day after I pitched, not the first day. The first day was fine. This was the first day after pitching.”

The Giants are on their way home from Boston on a train. At every stop made by the train, they check the Dodger score. Giant hopes build as the Dodger-Phillie game reaches the final innings.

Rallying one last time, the Dodgers are not finished yet. After singles by Gil Hodges and Billy Cox, Rube Walker hits a pinch-hit double for two RBIs and the Phillie lead is reduced to 8-7.

Q--The club is now down by a run in the eighth inning with a runner in scoring position. What happens next?

“I went to the manager and said ‘Skipper, I can go to the bullpen. Maybe I can give you an inning or two.’ Knowing Charlie Dressen as I did, he said, ‘Go ahead, let’s see what happens.’”

As Newcombe trots to the Dodger bullpen, the Phillies’ Manager, Eddie Sawyer goes to his bullpen and sends a message to the Dodgers and the Giants there would be no half way measures by the Phillies.

Despite a deep bullpen, Sawyer calls in his best pitcher, Robin Roberts. Roberts had started the Saturday game for the Phillies. It was clear the Phillies would win or lose with their best pitcher on the mound.

The move doesn’t help. Carl Furillo singles home Walker with the tying run and the Dodgers have caught the Phillies (8-8). The Giants continue on their train ride home to New York. Newcombe warms up in earnest, preparing to enter the game.

Q--How did you feel warming up after sitting on the bench for seven innings?

“I started to warm up to see how I felt. I felt good. I was able to get loose. I told Clyde Sukeforth (bullpen coach) that I felt good. He (Sukeforth) signaled to Dressen I was ready to go.”

Roberts gets the third Dodger out in the eighth inning. Newcombe leaves the bullpen to enter the game. He has made his previous pitching appearance less than 24 hours before. He is pitching for the third time in the last five games.

Dick Young, beat writer for the New York Daily News wrote, “Now, with the score snarled, Dressen had to come with his best. Newcombe, who had blanked the Phils last night, ambled out of the pen.....”

Roscoe McGowen of the New York Times added his view to the scene. “Newcombe came out amid a tremendous burst of cheers to start pitching in the eighth.”

Newcombe Blanks Phils

Q--As you enter the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, you pitched a nine inning shutout less than 24 hours earlier, the score is tied and the pennant is on the line. What are you thinking?

“This is what it is all about. If they brought me in and the guys are depending on me, I was going to give them everything I had. The players on the Dodgers knew that’s what I did all the time anyhow because of the games I had pitched before leading up to this game. I would have given all that I had.”

Q--How good is your stuff in the eighth inning?

“I felt good about my stuff. I felt that my command and velocity was as good pitching in the eighth inning as it had been the night before.”

Newcombe allows a leadoff single to Ashburn to start the eighth, but leaves him stranded. Ashburn’s single would be the only hit off Newcombe in 5 2/3 scoreless innings.

The teams are both scoreless in the ninth, 10th, and the 11th, and the Dodgers go out quietly in the top of the 12th inning. The two clubs had scored 16 runs in less than eight innings, but now, heroic relief pitching, fatigue and exhaustion are affecting hitters.

The Dodgers get the lead off man on base in the ninth and 10th innings, but cannot push a runner home. In the 11th inning, Dodger left fielder Pafko makes a running catch down the left field line with a runner on first and two out that might have been a game winner.

Q--You hold the Phillies scoreless in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings. What is your approach with everything riding on the line?

“You go from hitter to hitter. Not inning to inning. You go hitter to hitter. You get the hitter out and he comes to the plate and you do whatever you need to do to get him out. That was my approach.”

Dick Young of the New York Daily News wrote, “Newk had hurled nine innings of shutout ball the night before to keep the Brooks alive, and now he was dealing more zips with his long arm and strong heart. He had given up a hit to the first man to face him in the eighth and was to give no more through almost six innings of blank ball.....It was Newk versus Roberts in the payoff innings. Roberts, like Newk, had worked last night — and both men were magnificent as they tossed quoit after quoit onto the scoreboard.”

Phillie pitcher Roberts retires the Dodgers in order in the 12th. Newcombe begins the 12th inning and shows the first sign of the toll the enormous physical effort is taking. Pitcher Roberts walks to lead off the inning.

Strategy of Pitching

Q--As the 12th inning starts, how are you feeling?

“I think I was getting tired. I walk Robin Roberts to lead off the inning. Roberts was a decent hitter for a pitcher and I pitched him too carefully, but I was trying to bear down with what I had left to get him out. The next hitter, Eddie Pellagrini, is sacrificing and bunts to me and I go to second for the force. Roberts is called safe at second, but we thought he was out. And now they have first and second, and none out.”

Q--You go to a full count on Richie Ashburn. How loud is the crowd at that point?

“It’s pretty loud. The Dodgers were not well liked in Philadelphia and they wanted to beat us the way they had done the year before.”

Q--Ashburn grounds to Hodges and they get a force play at second. Roberts goes to third. You walk Willie Jones intentionally to load the bases. Whose decision was that?

“Charlie Dressen. That’s not my call.”

Q--Del Ennis is the hitter. The bases are loaded with one out in the 12th inning. If the Phillies score, the Dodgers lose the game and the pennant to the Giants, who had trailed them by 13 1/2 games in August. How are you going to pitch to Ennis?

“Del Ennis was a good power hitter and didn’t strike out very much. This is where the pitcher has to reach down and find the other 10 percent or 15 percent of effort that every athlete has. You go after Del Ennis and say, ‘You beat me or I beat you.’ I’m not going to walk him. You’ll hit what I’ve got and it’s going to be over the plate. And you reach down and get it. I’ve seen it happen with a lot of great pitchers...Warren Spahn, Robin Roberts, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. Ennis is a good contact hitter and you’ve got to make him hit the ball. All I need to do is get Ennis out. I don’t worry about the next hitter, I know who it is. It’s Eddie Waitkus. I have to get Ennis first. I can’t do anything until I get Ennis first.”

Q--How were you going to pitch to Ennis?

“I was going with my best stuff. Good fastball and hard breaking curve. I struck him out with the fastball.”

Q--Two outs, bases loaded, Eddie Waitkus up. Did you position your infield and outfield with two outs and Waitkus up?

“Nope. No way. No way you tell Robinson, Reese, and Hodges where to play. If I went to Robinson and told him to move, I had never done it my whole career with the Dodgers. Jackie would have told me you got a job to do, I do mine, you do yours.”

Newcombe stands alone on the mound, ready to face Eddie Waitkus of the Phillies with the bases loaded, and the pennant and the season on the line.

Q--How were you going to pitch Waitkus?

“One thing I cannot do with Waitkus is walk him. That’s important. I had walked Roberts but I can’t walk Waitkus now. I have nowhere to put him so I have to get him out. He knows I have to come over the plate and I have to come over the plate with my best pitch.”

“I knew he was going to be swinging at the first pitch. Waitkus knew I had pretty good control. And he hits a line drive to my left. It’s a low line drive.”

Jackie Robinson's Greatest Catch

Some of baseball’s best writers of that era described what happened next.

Dick Young wrote, “Before he (Robinson) could win the game with his no. 18 seat-smasher, Robby (Jackie Robinson) had to save it. He did it with as self-punishing and spectacular a money play as the 31, 755 attending fans, thousands of whom had poured down from Brooklyn, will ever see...... Eddie Waitkus shot a low, slightly looped liner to the right of second. It seemed ticketed for the hole, labeled Hit..... Game....Pennant.....But Robby diving face-first speared the ball an instant before he hit the ground. As he struck, his elbow dug into his stomach and he lay there in a crumpled heap. Many fans failed to realize he had held the ball until, in his pain, Robby rolled on his side and flipped the pill clear.

“And here he lay, for several minutes, while trainer Harold Wendler administered to him, trying to restore Jack’s breath, and clear his dazed head. Finally Robby wobbled to his feet and walked off the field to an ovation....”

Arch Murray of the New York Post wrote, “They couldn’t have done it without Jackie Robinson, who started the game as the goat and wound up as the hero. Robbie has had some great days in the five seasons that he has worn Brooklyn spangles, but there’ll never be one to match this one in his memory book. That catch saved the game.

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Red Smith wrote this eloquent version, “The ball is a blur passing second base, difficult to follow in the half light, impossible to catch. Jackie Robinson catches it. He flings himself headlong at right angles to the flight of the ball, for an instant his body is suspended in mid-air, then somehow the outstretched glove intercepts the ball inches off the ground.Larry Schwartz, Special to ESPN Classic, 2003

“Of all the pictures left in memory,” wrote Smith, “the one that will always flash back shows (Robinson) stretched at full length in the insubstantial twilight, the unconquerable doing the impossible.”Ibid.

The catch that Jackie Robinson had made to save the game and the pennant had been that close. And that great.

Q--What is your first thought when Waitkus hits the line drive?

“It’s a base hit and the game is over. I turned to my left and see this marvelous second baseman named Jackie Robinson, dives after the ball, he catches the line drive in the webbing of his glove, and then hits the ground. His elbow hits him in his stomach. He rolls over, and then Pee Wee runs over, and Gil runs over and then I run over from the mound to see if Jackie is all right.”

“We don’t see the ball. We don’t see the ball at all. The umpire hasn’t yet made the out call. Jackie is laying on his stomach with the ball in the glove. When Pee Wee got there and I got there, Jackie said, ‘I’ve got the ball.’ He was hurting because his elbow hit him in the stomach and he held onto the ball. God bless him. And he made the play.”

“We worried about him whether or not he was unconscious. It could have been at least a minute before the umpire made the call. The umpire had to find the ball. Nobody could see it. It didn’t ricochet off Jackie. There was a roar from Dodger fans when Jackie got up, he had the ball.”

Q--Is that Jackie’s greatest fielding play?

“I don’t know if it is his greatest, but it sure parallels the greatest that I ever saw him make. He was that kind of player.”

Robinson Homer Wins It

Q--Did Dressen ask you how you were feeling after the 12th inning?

“He asked me how I was feeling and I told him I was fine, feeling okay. We go with what we’ve got. If I went out there, he believed in what I said and he knew what my capabilities were, so he stayed with me. I was doing well, shutting them out and allowed just one hit and he stayed with me.”

After the game, Jackie Robinson describes the catch as he saw it. “I dove at the ball and speared it. When I fell, my elbow jammed into my stomach, knocking the wind out of me, I couldn’t even talk. I had to point to show the trainer what was wrong.”Washington Post, October 1, 1951

Roberts retires the Dodgers in order in the 13th inning and has retired the last eight hitters in a row. Newcombe starts his sixth inning of work in relief, but he has little left. With two outs, he walks catcher Andy Seminick and then Roberts. Dressen comes to the mound and decides he has gone with his best pitcher as far as he could go.

Q--Dressen comes to the mound after the two walks in the 13th inning. What does he say?

“He said, ‘I think you’ve had enough. We’re going to bring in somebody fresh.’ I left the mound and the Dodger fans and the Phillie fans gave me a great ovation. I won’t soon forget that and it’s been a lot of years now. Even though the Philadelphia fans didn’t like the Dodgers, they appreciated the effort.”

Q--Does the ovation compare to any other you received in an opposing city?

“I’ll never forget the time I pitched both games of a doubleheader in 1950 in Philadelphia, a twi-night doubleheader. Burt Shotton was the manager and after I won the first game 2-0 and I remember Mr. Shotton standing on the top step of the dugout and he puts his arms around me. He said, ‘You’re a big young guy, why don’t you take the second game, too?’ Allan Roth, our statistician, said I only made 83 pitches.”

“I said to him, ‘Are you serious?’ He said, ‘I’m serious, if you are.’ I went into the clubhouse and changed my shirt and Doc Wendler (Dodger trainer) gave me a rubdown. When I went out to the warm up area to get ready for the second game, I’ll never forget the Phillie fans as a murmur went through the stands and when they announced my name as starter for the second game there was loud applause.”

Podbielan relieved Newcombe and retires Pellagrini on a fly ball. The two teams stagger to the 14th inning.

Reese and Snider foul out to start the 14th inning. Roberts has retired 10 consecutive Dodgers. Jackie Robinson comes to the plate. The count was one ball, one strike, and Roberts delivered a curveball, and Robinson swings mightily.

Q--Where are you in the 14th inning?

“I stayed on the bench. I was there when Jackie hit the home run into the upper left field deck. There was no doubt about it.”

For the first time in 14 innings, the Dodgers had the lead.

Jackie Robinson was asked after the game if the home run was the greatest money hit in his career and he replied, “The greatest in my entire career, in any league anywhere.”Washington Post, October 1, 1951

In the bottom of the 14th inning, Podbielan allowed a leadoff single to Ashburn and Ashburn is sacrificed to second. Ennis and Waitkus get a second chance to deliver for the Phillies, but Podbielan retires them both, the final out on a fly ball to Pafko in left field. This tremendous ballgame ends after 14 innings and the Dodgers still alive for the National League Pennant.

Thousands of fans, most of them Dodger fans, race onto the field to celebrate their team’s victory, playing trumpets and drums.Dick Young, New York Daily News, October 1, 1951

Newcombe, Robinson Heroes

Q--Were you surprised to see the fans swarm to the field after the final out?

“Yes. My dad was one of them. He loved his Dodgers. After the game, we drove home to New Jersey. He was very proud of me.”

Sportswriters were unrestrained in their description of the monumental struggle. Joe King wrote in The Sporting News, “There will be no more poignant chapter in the history of the game than their (Dodgers) desperate comeback against the Phils in the final game of the regular schedule.”Harvey Rosenfeld, The Great Chase, The Dodgers-Giants Pennant Race of 1951.

Bill Corum of the New York Journal American stated it this way, “That game the Dodgers won made Jules Verne look like a realist. It was utterly fantastic and when Dressen’s team had won, it had proved itself as game a ball club as ever wore spikes.

“No other team could have won that one. It also proved, if any proof were needed, that Jackie Robinson is the best all-around ball player and most dangerous competitor in the game today.”Ibid.

Milton Gross of the New York Post wrote about the game: “I watched Robinson perform in Philadelphia...in the most exciting game I have ever seen, and I came away from it with a lump in my throat......Emotionally I had to be for the Dodgers because of what Jackie had done.”Ibid.

On the return train to New York City, Robinson’s wife, Rachel, displayed her box score of the entire 14 inning game. “I’m framing this,” Rachel said to Jackie, “and putting it in your den.” “You couldn’t have watched it the whole way,” said Jackie. “I looked over at you several times...I thought you were crying.”Ibid.

Rachel responded, “Maybe I was. You would be crying too, if you looked out there at your man and he looked as though he were lying there dead.”Ibid.

Dodger President Walter O’Malley admitted, “I began to lose hope, and was going over the phrasing of a telegram of congratulations I would send to Horace (Stoneham, Giants President). But then I said to myself, ‘Walter, you’re being a traitor’. So I put the idea aside, and it turned out, I was glad I didn’t have to send it, for the Dodgers won 9-8 in the 14th inning.”Ibid.

The next afternoon, October 1, the Dodgers and Giants would meet in a three-game playoff. The Giants won the first game, 3-1 at Ebbets Field and the Dodgers won the second game at the Polo Grounds, 10-0. In the third game, only then would there be a reason for the baseball world to remember Bobby Thomson.

What did it all mean in the end to the Dodger team and to Don Newcombe?

For the Dodgers, the 1951 season was never considered a tragedy. They would win the National League Pennant four of the next five seasons. The Dodgers would win their first World Championship in 1955 and extended theYankees to a seven-game World Series in 1952 and 1956. Many thought the 1951 season was a rallying point for the team in future seasons as the club won six National League Pennants in their next seven close pennant races.

As for Don Newcombe, he starts for the Dodgers in game 3 of the 1951 playoffs on Wednesday, October 3, just three days after the weekend series with the Phillies, and holds the Giants off for 8 1/3 innings until being relieved in the ninth inning (with two runs in and two runners on base his responsibility).

In the final eight days of the season, Newcombe started three times and relieved once. He won two games and held another game close. Twice he started on two days’ rest. He pitched in relief on Sunday after pitching a complete game less than 24 hours before. In one stretch covering three games, he allowed one run in 22 2/3 innings. Don Newcombe left nothing on the mound in the final week of the 1951 season.

Q--Your pitching is one of the most heroic performances in Dodger history, if not major league history.

“I remember very well what Pee Wee Reese told Charlie Dressen in the 1951 game when Bobby Thomson hit the home run. When they were contemplating making a pitching change (to decide whether to take Newcombe out) the infielders and Dressen were at the mound. Pee Wee said, ‘Charlie, this man has given us his all during the last two weeks of the season.’”

More than 50 seasons have gone by since this game for the ages was played. Few persons remain to remember the events as they happened.

It is left to the sportswriters and the Captain of the Dodgers, Pee Wee Reese, to their words of the effort and performance of Don Newcombe, Jackie Robinson, and the Dodger team and how they played when everything was on the line one fall day and night.


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By Robert Schweppe
  • Don Newcombe won the Major League Cy Young Award and the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1956, following his 27-win season for the Dodgers.Don Newcombe won the Major League Cy Young Award and the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1956, following his 27-win season for the Dodgers.
  • Big Don Newcombe handy with the glove and the bat set the National League for most home runs by a pitcher with seven in 1955.Big Don Newcombe handy with the glove and the bat set the National League for most home runs by a pitcher with seven in 1955.
  • When he started Game 1 of the 1949 World Series, Don Newcombe was only the second rookie pitcher to accomplish this feat and he was the first African-American to start a World Series game.When he started Game 1 of the 1949 World Series, Don Newcombe was only the second rookie pitcher to accomplish this feat and he was the first African-American to start a World Series game.
  • Don Newcombe was an all-time great pitcher for the Dodgers, having won 20 games in a season on three occasions. Newcombe is the last pitcher to have started both games of a doubleheader.Don Newcombe was an all-time great pitcher for the Dodgers, having won 20 games in a season on three occasions. Newcombe is the last pitcher to have started both games of a doubleheader.
  • A sequence of photos by Associated Press ran in the <em>New York Post</em> on October 1, 1951 showing the game-saving diving catch by second baseman Jackie Robinson. Many observers believe it was Robinson's greatest defensive play.A sequence of photos by Associated Press ran in the New York Post on October 1, 1951 showing the game-saving diving catch by second baseman Jackie Robinson. Many observers believe it was Robinson's greatest defensive play.
  • Dodger second baseman Jackie Robinson, left, slammed an upper deck home run in the 14th inning to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 9-8, at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, September 30, 1951 and receives congratulations from Manager Charlie Dressen. With the season on the line, the Dodgers' dramatic comeback included a spectacular diving catch by Robinson in the 12th inning and his game-winning homer in the 14th  inning. Along with Don Newcombe's stellar pitching performance to keep them in the game, the Dodger win put them into a three-game National League playoff with the New York Giants for the pennant.Dodger second baseman Jackie Robinson, left, slammed an upper deck home run in the 14th inning to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 9-8, at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, September 30, 1951 and receives congratulations from Manager Charlie Dressen. With the season on the line, the Dodgers' dramatic comeback included a spectacular diving catch by Robinson in the 12th inning and his game-winning homer in the 14th inning. Along with Don Newcombe's stellar pitching performance to keep them in the game, the Dodger win put them into a three-game National League playoff with the New York Giants for the pennant.AP Photo
  • The October 1, 1951 headline in the New York <em>Daily News</em> says it all as the Dodgers and Giants begin a best-of-three playoff series to determine the National League Pennant winner.The October 1, 1951 headline in the New York Daily News says it all as the Dodgers and Giants begin a best-of-three playoff series to determine the National League Pennant winner.
  • Don Newcombe is the only recipient of three of baseball's most significant awards - the Rookie of the Year (1949), Cy Young (1956) and National League Most Valuable Player (1956).Don Newcombe is the only recipient of three of baseball's most significant awards - the Rookie of the Year (1949), Cy Young (1956) and National League Most Valuable Player (1956).