This week PBS has been showing Ken Burns’ Baseball. The documentary is presented in nine “innings,” encompassing over 100 years of baseball history. Today I caught part of the 6th and 7th innings, covering the 40’s and 50’s. The 6th inning opens with the incredible season of 1941 when “Joltin” Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games and Ted Williams hit .406. The film explores the game with vintage photos, old footage and interviews with players and fans.
The 7th inning presents the historic cross-town rivalry between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. In 1951, after the Giants erased a 13 game deficit by winning 37 of their last 45, the teams were tied and a three-game playoff would decide the National League pennant. The teams went the distance and entering the 9th of game 3 at the Polo Grounds, the Giants trailed 4-1. By the time Bobby Thompson came to the plate, it was 4-2 with 2 runners on and one out. Dodger reliever Ralph Branca got ahead on a first pitch fastball. Narrator John Chancellor then said, “Branca’s next pitch was a fastball too.”
By the time the decade ended, the clubs would continue their rivalry in California.
Speaking of rivalries, the Red Sox begin defending their world championship tonight in the Bronx. Let’s hope they’re still playing each other again in mid-October.