Monday, August 11, 2014

Game 7: Exciting World Series Finales (1940)

October 8, 1940
Cincinnati Reds vs. Detroit Tigers
Crosley Field, Cincinnati


The Reds were looking to redeem themselves after getting swept by the Yankees in the '39 Fall Classic.The club's primary strength was pitching. Their rotation featured the one-two punch of Bucky Walters and Paul Derringer, who won a collective total of 130 regular season games between 1938 and 1940. Offensively, the Reds were led by two-time batting champ Ernie Lombardi and All-Star first baseman Frank McCormick--winner of the 1940 NL MVP Award. It had been an extremely difficult season for Cincinnati. Lombardi, a slow-footed catcher who would later be elected to Cooperstown, was injured multiple times during the year. His backup, Willard Hershberger, had committed suicide in a Boston hotel room on August 2. When Lombardi went down with a sprained ankle in mid-September, thirty-nine year old coach Jimmie Wilson was pressed into action. Wilson had appeared in just 2 games as a catcher over the previous two seasons. His presence in the lineup helped rekindle the Reds' spirits as they captured the National League pennant by a 12-game margin over the Dodgers.

The Tigers were a formidable club in 1940. Slugger Hank Greenberg had a monster year at the plate, leading the American League with 41 homers and 150 RBIs. Rudy York supplied plenty of additional power at first base while Hall of Fame infielder Charlie Gehringer hit .313 and compiled an impressive on-base percentage of .428. On the mound, the Tigers relied heavily on right-handers Bobo Newsom and Schoolboy Rowe, who combined for a record of 37-8. The American League pennant race came down to the wire with Detroit sneaking past Cleveland by a single game.

After beating the Reds in Game 1, Newsom learned that his father had passed away in a Cincinnati hotel room. The Tiger ace dedicated his 3-hit shutout in Game 5 to his father's memory. A sentimental favorite among fans, Newsom was summoned to pitch  on short rest in Game 7. He turned in a gutsy performance.

The Reds front office apparently had difficulty printing and distributing tickets for the finale. A sub-capacity crowd of 26,000-plus turned out to see a tight pitching duel that was played in a mere 1 hour and 47 minutes (unheard of nowadays). The Tigers struck first in the top of the third on an RBI single by Gehringer. The Reds answered with a run in the seventh on consecutive doubles by McCormick and Jimmy Ripple. Ripple later scored on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Billy Meyers to give Cincinnati a 2-1 lead.

Reds starter Paul Derringer faced the heart of the Tiger order in the eighth inning. After yielding a leadoff single to Gehringer, he retired Greenberg on a hard liner to short and Rudy York on a towering fly to center field. On the brink of elimination in the ninth, Tiger manager Del Baker called upon aging Hall of Famer Earl Averill to bat for Newsom with 2 outs and nobody on. Averill, who had hit .280 in limited duty during the regular season, managed a harmless grounder to second base. For the Reds, it was their first championship since the ill-fated 1919 affair.

In the Tigers' dressing room, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis tried to console Del Baker with the sentiment: "Tomorrow's another day." Baker reportedly grinned at Landis and replied: "There isn't much you can say to a loser, is there?" The feel-good story in Cincinnati was outfielder Jimmy Ripple. Released by the Dodgers during the spring, Ripple had spent most of the season with Montreal of the International League. When the Reds tried to claim him off of waivers, the Royals put up a fight. With the intervention of Commissioner Landis, Ripple was transferred to Cincinnati in late-August. He hit .307 down the stretch and was among the Reds top offensive stars in the World Series (.333 BA/ 2 2B/ 1 HR/ 6 RBI). He also made 14 putouts in left field, including a game-saving catch in Game 6.           

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