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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 lead.    

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 ran full.

"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 championship again.

For the Dodgers, it was "Wait 'til Next Year" again.

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "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 acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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