Bevens & Lavagetto

Erick Emert 1998             

     On Friday, October 3, 1947, Bill Bevens was tired as he took the mound for the New York Yankees in the bottom of the 9th inning, but his adrenaline was pushing him beyond his fatigue. The fourth game of the 1947 World Series was winding down and Bevens had thrown a lot of pitches. He'd averaged a walk an inning and had run many deep counts as the game progressed, but he still had not given up a base hit to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

     No pitcher had ever thrown a no-hitter in Worlds Series play yet here was Big Bill, with his 7 and 13 record, a half inning away from baseball immortality.

     The Yankees led the game 2 to 1 as Bevens bent for the rosin bag before facing Bruce Edwards, the Dodger's catcher, leading off the 9th. New York had forced a run across in the 1st on an error by Pee Wee Reese and a bases loaded walk by Harry Taylor, the Dodger's starter. Burt Shotton, the Bum’s manager, replaced Taylor with Hal Gregg, who got the Brooklyns out of the inning. The Yankees added a second run in the 4th and the home team answered with 1 in the 5th without the benefit of a hit on a pair of Bevens walks, a sacrifice, and a ground ball. Now Bill needed three more outs to secure his spot in World Series history.

     Edwards hit a high fly ball for the first out in the 9th. Then Carl Furillo, the Reading Rifle, brought the Ebbets Field fans out of their seats by working Bevens for his 9th walk of the game. But Big Bill stilled the 33,443 fans by getting Spider Jorgensen to weakly foul out. Bevens needed one more out.

bum.jpg (176387 bytes)     The rival managers, Bucky Harris for the Yanks and Shotton of the Dodgers, both knew how to milk the most out of their respective teams. Although both were in their first year as managers with thier teams in '47, they both had been around the game of baseball for many years. Harris had taken the Yankees to their first pennant since 1943 and Shotton had the Dodgers in the World Series for the first time since '41. Harris badly wanted to see the Yanks go up 3 games to 1 for a commanding lead and Shotton needed this game to square the Series at 2 apiece.

     Shotton, with only 1 out to play with, started making moves. He replaced Furillo on first with the speedy Al Gionfriddo. Then he sent the limping Pistol Pete Reiser in to pinch hit for Dodger relief pitcher, Hugh Casey.

     With Bevens working carefully to the hard hitting Reiser, Gionfriddo stole second base. Harris had thoughts of removing his pitcher at this point but didn't because Bevens still had the no-no intact. With the speedy Gionfriddo representing the tying run at second base and the count 3-1 to Reiser, Bucky decided that the injured Brooklyn slugger represented more of a threat at the plate than he would as a runner on first.

     He signaled his catcher, Yogi Berra, to have Bevens serve up an intentional ball four to the Brooklyn hitter putting Reiser, who now represented the winning run, on first base. This flew in the face of all baseball strategy, but in this singular instance, it made sense. It was Bill Bevens' 10th walk of the game.

     But Shotton wasn't finished making moves. Even as his pesky leadoff hitter, Eddie 'The Brat' Stanky, headed for the plate, Shotton was looking over his bench. He signaled to the fleet Eddie Miksis to go in and run for Reiser on first. Now he had two speedsters on the bases. Then he made the move that was difficult for Brooklyn fans to understand. He called back Stanky and sent aging Harry Arthur "Cookie" Lavagetto to pinch-hit for him. Stanky, a fiery player, slammed his bat to the turf as he fumed past Lavagetto on his way back to the bench.

cookie.jpg (6655 bytes)  There they were Bill Bevens and Cookie Lavagetto facing each other, two journeymen players who would never again wear a major league uniform after this World Series. But for now, for this date with destiny, every eye in the baseball world was upon them.

     Big Bill turned and looked Gionfriddo back into second. Brooklyn fans screamed for a Lavagetto base hit. Sweat poured from beneath Bevens' hat. He hitched his belt. Bent forward for the sign. Straightened. Then threw from the stretch.

     Lavagetto, always a good hitter in clutch situations, swung hard but late on a pitch that was slightly outside. The ball came off the right-hander’s club on a line toward the right field wall.

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     At the crack of the bat the fans broke into even louder hysteria.

     Tommy Henrich's eyes went wide in right field. Playing the right-handed pull-hitter in front of the scoreboard in right-centerfield,  he knew he would have to chase down the carom off the wall. The ball struck high, near the center of the Gem Razorblade sign, bounding away from Henrich who tracked it down, turned, and threw in one motion. But Old Reliable's desperation throw would not beat the flying spikes of Eddie Miksis as he slid across home plate with the winning run.

     Gone was Bill Bevens' no-hitter. Gone was the Yankee lead in the Series. All Brooklyn celebrated. All except Eddie Stanky who sat grim faced at the end of the Brooklyn dugout.

lav.jpg (25749 bytes)  The rest of the Dodger players mobbed Lavagetto. From high in his catbird seat 'Red' Barber, voice of the Dodgers, called it this way: "Friends, they're killin' Lavagetto... his own teammates... they're beatin' him to pieces and it's taking a police escort to get Lavagetto away from the Dodgers!"  

     So Bill Bevens lost his bid for the 1st no hitter in World Series History.  He did, however, retain one small, unfortunate niche in the record book.   Fifty-two years later, his 10 walks are still a single-game World Series record.

     Years afterward, Lavagetto had this to say about his famous hit:  "People have asked me for years about that hit off Bevens.  To me it was like any other game.   It was my last year with the club.  The previous spring they had offered me a minor league managing job but I had turned it down because I thought I could play another season in the big leagues.  I was used mostly as a pinch-hitter that year and I did all right as a pinch-hitter.  I think I hit over .250 [.261].  So when I went up there to pinch-hit against Bevens, it was something I had been used to doing all year.  The pitch was right out there and I got hold of it good.  I ran down to first base and turned and saw the two runs scoring and that's all there was to it."


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Lavagetto and winning pitcher Hugh Casey after the game

All images used by permission

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