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Looking Back at 1951

By Sal Maiorana

Match 4, 2024

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Sal Maiorana, a friend of the site, shares some of his thoughts on the Yankees.


For honest, unfiltered analysis on the New York Yankees, you can subscribe to Sal Maiorana's free Pinstripe People Newsletter at https://salmaiorana.beehiiv.com/subscribe.

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Allie Reynolds Says No-No, Joe DiMaggio Says Goodbye


NEW YORK (Sept. 28, 1951) - At a time in Major League Baseball history when New York City was the epicenter of the sport, a 10-year period from 1949-1958 that saw at least one of Gotham’s three teams participating in the World Series, this was a truly seismic day that had the tabloids screaming.


Clinging to a 2.5-game lead over the Indians in the American League pennant chase, the Yankees hosted a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium against the rival Red Sox knowing that if they managed a sweep, they would be heading to the World Series for the third consecutive season.


Under that pressure, Allie Reynolds took the mound for the opener and became the second pitcher in MLB history to pitch two no-hitters in one season as he dominated the Red Sox in an 8-0 victory. And after all that emotion and excitement, the Yankees returned for the nightcap and finished the job with an 11-3 pennant-clinching pounding that was punctuated by a three-run homer by Joe DiMaggio, the last of his 361 career long balls.


As if that excitement wasn’t enough, over in the National League the Brooklyn Dodgers’ epic collapse continued when they blew a 3-0 lead in Philadelphia and were walked off when Carl Erskine gave up an RBI single to the Phillies’ Willie Jones in the bottom of the ninth. That loss allowed the New York Giants - who were idle - to pull even in the NL pennant chase after they had trailed the Dodgers by 13 games at the close of play on Aug. 11.


We all know what happened in the days to come as the Dodgers and Giants finished tied for first, and the Giants went on to win the pennant on Bobby Thomson’s shot-heard-round-the-world home run at the Polo Grounds, securing a date with the Yankees in the Fall Classic.

But this is a Yankees newsletter, so we’ll concentrate on the drama that unfolded in front of more than 39,000 in the Bronx.


“Imagine Reynolds pitching a no-hitter for the clincher, even though he’s handicapped by that bunch of bone splinters in his elbow; it’s without parallel,” said manager Casey Stengel, who was a bit off on that statement because the Yankees didn’t officially clinch until they won the second game. But remember, this was Casey Stengel, who never let the facts get in the way of a good Stengelism.


“There is one of the greatest pitchers of all-time,” Stengel continued. “Starter, reliever, in good weather and in bad, day or night, the great competitor.”


On that, Stengel was dead on accurate. They called Reynolds “Chief” because he was part Creek indian having grown up outside Oklahoma City. He ran track and played football in high school, and it wasn’t until he went to Oklahoma A&M on a partial track scholarship that his talent for pitching a baseball was discovered.


As the story goes, Henry Iba, the famed A&M basketball and baseball coach, spotted Reynolds heaving a javelin and asked him if he’d mind helping the baseball team by throwing batting practice. Reynolds agreed and after watching the right-hander strike out several batters, Iba told him to go to the equipment room and grab a uniform. If that’s how it really happened, the rest, as they say, is history.


Cleveland signed him to a contract in 1939 and Reynolds was in the majors with the Indians by 1942. He would pitch five years, going 51-47 with a 3.31 ERA before he was traded to the Yankees in exchange for second baseman Joe Gordon following the 1946 season. Over the next eight years, Reynolds helped the Yankees win six World Series championships as he went 131-60 with a 3.30 ERA and five All-Star game nominations.


While 1952 was his best year as he went 20-8 and led MLB with a 2.06 ERA, 1951 is the year Reynolds caught everyone’s attention as he joined Johnny Vander Meer of the Reds as the only men to that point to throw two no-hitters in one season. Reynolds twirled his first on July 12 against his former Indians teammates in Cleveland, a thrilling 1-0 victory over Bob Feller.

And then in September he won four of his five starts, all complete games including one against Cleveland and of course, the no-hitter against Boston. In those games, all pitched amid pennant chase pressure, his cumulative ERA was 2.05 ERA and batters hit a paltry .157 as the Yankees rallied past the Indians to win the pennant.


Unlike his Cleveland no-hitter, the game against the Red Sox was never in doubt as the Yankees jumped on Boston’s 18-game winner Mel Parnell for four runs and knocked him out in the third inning.


“In Cleveland,” Reynolds said of his first no-hitter, “I not only had to pitch the no-hitter, once I got to the seventh and saw the feat within reach, I had to win the game. Gene Woodling did that for me with a homer and I beat Feller. In (Yankee Stadium), the boys gave me plenty of support with their bats.”


It started when Yogi Berra drove in a run with a grounder in the first and another in the third with a single that made it 4-0. Later, Joe Collins hit a two-run homer to make it 7-0 and that left the stage to Reynolds to complete his masterpiece.


He worked around a walk in the seventh, and after a 1-2-3 eighth, the ninth provided high drama. Charlie Maxwell led off for Boston and fouled off six two-strike pitches before finally grounding out to second. Reynolds then walked Dom DiMaggio but struck out dangerous singles’ hitter Johnny Pesky, and that brought Ted Williams to the plate as Boston’s last hope.

“I was very much aware of the no-hitter in the ninth inning,” Reynolds said. “All I had to get out was Ted Williams. Most times I tried to walk the damn guy. In my opinion it was just stupid to let an outstanding hitter like him beat you.”


On an 0-1 pitch, Williams took a mighty cut and skied the ball foul behind the plate and the crowd jumped to its feet anticipating the final out. Instead, Berra inexplicably dropped the ball. Reynolds, who had run toward Berra as the ball was descending, nearly caught the carom off Berra’s glove but the ball fell to the ground. Reynolds then helped Berra to his feet, threw an arm around his shoulder and told him, “Don’t worry Yogi, we’ll get him next time.”

And then amazingly, on the next pitch Williams did the same thing, popping it up behind the plate. This time Berra steadied himself under the ball and made the catch to end the game as the stadium erupted and the Yankees poured out of their dugout.


“You sons of b----- put me in a hell of a spot,” Williams said. “You blew it, and now I’ve got to bear down even harder even though the game is decided and your man has a no-hitter going.”


The no-hitter was the sixth in Yankees history with Reynolds becoming the first Yankee to pitch a pair.


In Cleveland, Reynolds had committed a baseball taboo during the first no-hitter because it was revealed that he was talking about it in the dugout as it was happening.


“In the Cleveland game I was relaxed and kidded around with Yogi and Eddie Lopat about having a no-hitter and they were scandalized,” Reynolds said. “I got a lot of letters from fans giving me hell for violating a tradition of the game and flaunting the whammy. So against the Red Sox it was all serious business. No quips, no conversation.”


In the nightcap, the Yankees’ bid to clinch the pennant began slowly as Boston jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Vic Raschi, but the Yankees erupted for seven runs in the bottom of the second inning and never looked back. Phil Rizzuto tied it with a two-run single and Gil McDougald capped the rally with a two-run triple.


The game stayed 7-3 until the sixth when Jerry Coleman doubled, Hank Bauer walked, and DiMaggio crushed a Chuck Stobbs fastball over the wall in center.


Everyone knew Joe was retiring and when his brother Dom came up with two outs in the ninth, Joe stood in center field silently praying that he’d be able to catch the pennant-clinching out. However, Dom flied to left where Woodling made the catch.


“Hold that ball for me,” Joe shouted out, and Woodling did. He handed it to DiMaggio as they were running to the celebration. “It was a tough thing to take off a guy, but I wanted it. I never wanted a souvenir more,” DiMaggio said.


After the game, DiMaggio refused to make public what everyone knew was coming, saying, “The work isn’t finished,” meaning the upcoming World Series.


And he was right. DiMaggio had a terrific World Series as he went 6-for-23 with two doubles, a homer and five RBI as the Yankees outlasted the Giants in a thrilling seven-game battle. In Game 7, DiMaggio was intentionally walked and was one of three men who scored on Hank Bauer’s triple that broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth. And in his final MLB at bat in the eighth, DiMaggio doubled to right off the Giants’ Larry Jansen.


As for Reynolds, in his first start since the no-hitter he was the losing pitcher in Game 1, but with the Yankees down two games to one, Reynolds stepped up and threw a complete game to beat Sal Maglie 6-2.

2 Comments


Alan B.
Alan B.
Mar 07

Thanks for Allie Reynolds Paul.


But what do we know best from the 1951 season? The best is the story the Scooter told more than once about having him coming off his MVP season in 1950, that there was a hotshot rookie in Camp, who was also a shortstop. Boy, was Scooter worried - until he saw the kid take grounders there, then he breathed a sigh of relief. Oh, the kid? none other than Mickey Mantle (the restaurant was a great place for a drink, even if Val from Brooklyn's big mouth cost me a date there)

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Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Mar 07
Replying to

The Scooter was my favorite baseball broadcaster of all time. He was so much more than a baseball play-by-play broadcaster or a color commentator. He was also a true entertainer. He even made long rain delays very entertaining with his banter with Bill White and Frank Messer (and Fran Healy on the radio). I also loved the way he unashamedly and emphatically rooted for the Yankees while broadcasting the games, not even trying to be impartial. As a Yankee broadcaster broadcasting to Yankee fans, that was such a wonderful thing! There will never be another one like him.

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