The Greatest Championships at the Old Yankee Stadium
We’re continuing Champions Week! Monday we looked at the most recent championship games (mostly) that happened at the New Yankee Stadium.
Today we’re going to look at the best championship game- per sport- that had been conducted at the original Yankee Stadium.
World Series: Brooklyn Dodgers @ New York Yankees
Date: October 6th, 1947
Nothing is more exciting than a Game Seven in the World Series. The Yankees have been in 11 different World Series that have gone to a Game 7, they have won 5 of them, though only 1 of those came at Yankee Stadium: 1947.
That season, the New York Yankees went 97-57 while taking the American League pennant by a whopping 12 games over the 2nd place Detroit Tigers. The Brooklyn Dodgers played to a 94-60 record while winning the National League by 5 games over the St. Louis Cardinals. Obviously, this season may also have been the most important in the history of the MLB as Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15th, breaking the color barrier and opening up baseball for black players.
At the time, there were no playoffs and the #1 teams in the AL and NL met immediately in the World Series after the regular season ended. In the World Series, the Yankees took the first two games in Yankee Stadium, the Dodgers took the next two at Ebbetts Field and they split the final two games at each opposing ballpark, setting up a Game 7.
The Dodgers broke out first, on four straight hits in the 2nd inning to score 2 runs. The Yankees responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the 2nd thanks to a Phil Rizzuto RBI single. The Yankees would score again in the bottom of the 4th during a two-out rally thanks to a pinch-hit RBI double by Bobby Brown and a bases-loaded RBI single by Tommy Henrich. After this the Yankees put in pitcher Joe Page for the 5th inning, who immediately put down 13 straight Dodgers hitters. The Yankees scored their 5th run in the 6th inning thanks to an Allie Clark RBI single and they scored their 6th run in the 7th inning thanks to a sacrifice fly by Aaron Robinson.
No MVP was awarded in the series and it would be tough to determine who was most important for the team, so I wanted to highlight a few players. Spec Shea started 3 games for the Yankees pitching to a 2.35 ERA over 15.1 innings, collecting 2 wins (Games 1 and 5). Joe Page pitched in 4 games over 13.0 innings to a 4.15 ERA while collecting a win, a loss, and an important save in Game 7. For hitters, Tommy Henrich hit to a .323/.364/.484 triple-slash with 10 hits, 2 doubles and a Home Run, and 5 RBI’s in 31 at-bats. Johnny Lindell hit to a .500/.625/.778 triple-slash with 9 hits, 3 doubles and a triple, and 7 RBI’s in 18 at-bats. Any of these 4 players likely would’ve won the World Series MVP if awarded in 1947 (it was first awarded in 1955).
World Heavyweight Championship: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling – II
Date: June 22nd, 1938
The rematch of one of the great fights in the history of boxing- which also took place at Yankee Stadium- saw American Joe Louis go up against German Max Schmeling in a rematch from 2 years earlier. Coming into the first match, Joe Louis was an undefeated fighter with a 24-0 record with 21 Knock-Out’s (KO’s), while Max Schmeling was 49-7-4 with 34 KO’s. After a grueling 11 rounds, Schmeling ultimately won the fight with a knockout of Louis in the 12th round with 2:29 remaining in the round. It was a disappointing defeat for American fans of all races who as noted afterwards by author Langston Hughes who wrote, “I walked down Seventh Avenue and saw grown men weeping like children, and women sitting in the curbs with their head in their hands. All across the country that night when the news came that Joe was knocked out, people cried.”
Joe Louis recovered well from their first bout, going 11-0 with 9 KO’s in between the first and second meeting. During this time, Louis became the heavyweight champion with a knock-out victory over James Braddock and had won 3 straight title defenses. Max Schmeling went 3-0 with 2 KO’s in that same period.
In their second meeting, Joe Louis was set to make it a different fight, planning to get ahead early and focus entirely on the early rounds in hopes of ending the fight quick. Just over a minute into the first round, Louis connected on 5 straight left hooks to Schmeling’s body leading to an audible cry of pain and referee Arthur Donovan sending Louis temporarily to his corner. Soon the fight was resumed and Louis continued his onslaught, knocking Schmeling down with a right hook to the face. Schmeling got back on his feet after a 3-count and the fight resumed yet again.
Louis then connected with 3 punches to Schmeling’s jaw, again sending him to the ground for a count of 3 before he got up again. This was soon met with another knock-down of Schmeling, having his corner throw in the towel. However, under NY rules at the time, this technically did not end the fight until Schmeling’s coach entered the ring (at the 8-count of the referee) which officially ended the fight- although Donovan had already called the fight off. Louis retained his heavyweight title and won the fight just 2 minutes and 4 seconds into the first round with a technical knock-out.
NFL Championship: Baltimore Colts vs. New York Giants
Date: December 28th, 1958
When a game is colloquially known as the “Greatest Game Ever Played”, then it’s fair to assume that it will be mentioned in almost every list of great games that I can be. It just so happens that the greatest football game ever took place in a baseball stadium in the Bronx: Yankee Stadium.
Both the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants had gone 9-3 in the regular season, the Colts for the Western Conference of the National Football League and the Giants for the Eastern Conference. Remember, this was before the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, so the championship was decided from only teams in the NFL.
The game started out with a bunch of chaos. Johnny Unitas was strip-sacked for a fumble and after the Giants recovered and offense took the field, Don Heinrich was sacked himself. When Unitas got the ball back after that he then threw an interception! The Giants next drive stalled and Unitas led the Colts down the field- including a 60 yard reception to Lenny Moore- but they were stopped short of the end zone and had their field goal attempt blocked. 0-0 through the first quarter.
To start the second quarter, the Giants drove down the field- now manned by Charley Conerly- to score the first points of the game with a successful field goal. Later in the second half, the Giants’ Frank Gifford fumbled and lost the ball close to their own end zone, setting up the Colts for an easy 2-yard touchdown run. The Giants then got into a similar situation when the Colts fumbled the ball on their own 10 yard line, but again after the Giants recovered their onw Gifford fumbled the ball. The Colts then drove down the field, scored a touchdown, and ended the half 14-3.
In the third quarter, the Giants had a big stop of the Colts on their own 1-yard line before they drove 95 yards down the field- highlighted by a 86-yard pass to Kyle Rote. The Giants scored their first touchdown on the game to bring the score closer at the end of the quarter, now 14-10.
The Giants took an early lead in the 4th quarter after scoring another touchdown, bringing the score to 17-14 and after some defensive work on both sides the Giants opted to punt instead of going for it on a fourth-and-inches from the 40 yard line with about 2 minutes left on the clock. However, they left too much time on the clock as Johnny Unitas led the Colts down the field with a wonderful drive to set up a game tying field goal before the game expired. This was the first true “two-minute” drill. On to overtime, tied 17-17 we go!
On the kickoff, the Giants muffed the punt before a quick three-and-out series, setting up the Baltimore Colts and Johnny Unitas once again. Without once consulting his offensive coordinator, Unitas drove the Colts down the field over 13 plays and 80 yards, with the game ending after a 1-yard touchdown run with 6:45 left in the game. The Colts won the game- the greatest game ever played- 23-17.