Mickey Owen: The Called Third
Strike, October 5, 1941
It was Sunday baseball at Ebbets Field in
Brooklyn before 33,813, standing room only. Yankees against Dodgers,
Game Four, World Series, the first for Brooklyn in 21 years.
The first ball was thrown out by New York Mayor LaGuardia. Everyone
settled in on that summer-like day to watch the match-up of
Brooklyn's Kirby Higbe and New York's Atley Donald in the first
Subway Series between the two teams.
The game moved to the ninth inning with the Brooks clinging to a 4-3
Higbe and Donald were long gone. In their place were Brooklyn's
Hugh Casey and Yankee reliever Johnny Murphy.
The burly Casey got Johnny Sturm and Red Rolfe on ground balls. That
made it seven in a row for him. Tommy Henrich was next. The count
"Casey goes into the windup," Mel Allen described it. "Around comes
the right arm, in comes the pitch. A swing by Henrich . . . he
swings and misses, strike three! But the ball gets away from Mickey
Owen. It's rolling back to the screen. Tommy Henrich races down
toward first base. He makes it safely. And the Yankees are still
alive with Joe DiMaggio coming up to bat."
That fabled call by Allen succinctly and dramatically described what
happened. Tommy Henrich recalled: "That ball broke like no curve I'd
ever seen Casey throw. As I start to swing, I think, 'No good. Hold
up.' That thing broke so sharp, though, that as I tried to hold up,
my mind said, 'He might have trouble with it.'"
Owen, who ironically, that season, set the National League record
for 476 consecutive errorless chances accepted by a catcher while
setting a Dodger season record by fielding .995, was the goat.
There were those who thought the game was over when Henrich swung
and apparently struck out on the Casey 3-2 pitch. A few Yankee
players were headed down the runway to their locker room. Police,
positioned in the Dodger dugout, were out on the field prepared to
handle crowd control. The police, it was later claimed,were an issue
for Owen trying to come up with the passed ball.
A shaken Casey was roughed up for four runs. The Yankees wound up
beating the stunned Dodgers,7-4. The next day a four hitter by Ernie
(Tiny) Bonham gave the Yankees a 3-1 victory and the world
For the Dodgers, it was "Wait 'til Next Year" again.
# # #
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Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
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"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
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