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The World Series No-Hitter That Wasn't
Bill Bevens was hurting.
Somewhere during that fourth game of the 1947 World Series, his pitching arm had started to hurt. It had never given him any trouble before, and he was conscientious about keeping it in shape. He worked an offseason job in a cannery back in Oregon that helped build muscle, and refereed basketball games to keep his legs strong. And he threw every day. “You cannot expect your arm to be strong if you do not exercise it,” he once said.
But something in that arm started hurting anyway, and at the worst time. It wasn’t just a World Series game, the first one he’d ever played in. No, it was more than that.
It was the ninth inning. And Bill Bevens hadn’t given up a hit yet.
In major league history, there had been 250 World Series game to that point in time. Game 4 was the 251st. And not single one of the pitchers in those 250 games had thrown a World Series no-hitter.
Ed Reulbach of the Cubs came very close in 1906, when he threw a one-hitter against the White Sox. He surrendered an unearned run in the fifth inning, but held the Sox to no hits until the 7th inning, when Jiggs Donahue stroked a single to center field. Reulbach and the Cubs won the game, 7-1.
Just two years before Bevens’ attempt, another Cub, Claude Passeau, had also thrown a one-hitter, this one against the Tigers. But that time there was no real suspense, as Rudy York singled to left in the second inning before Passeau shut them down the rest of the way.
That’s the best anyone had managed before Bevens’ game, and in both cases, those pitchers had much easier outings. The entire game had been a slog for Bevens, despite being staked to a 1-0 lead before he ever took the mound. The first batter he faced, Eddie Stanky, drew a walk. So did the Dodgers’ cleanup hitter, Dixie Walker, but Bevens got out of the inning.
He walked another batter in the second, then walked Stanky again in the third, before throwing a wild pitch that put him on second base. He worked around that jam, too.
After the Yankees gave him another run in the fourth, Bevens finally had a clean inning, retiring all three Dodgers he faced. He went right back to scuffling with his control in the fifth, walking Spider Jorgensen to lead off the inning, and then walking pitcher Hal Gregg to put runners on first and second with no one out. A sacrifice by Stanky moved them up, and then a ground ball by Pee Wee Reese produced a force out at third, but pushed across a run, cutting the Yankee to lead to 2-1. Bevens then struck out Jackie Robinson to end that threat.
That score held until the ninth, and so did Bevens’ form. He allowed no hits in the sixth, but walked his seventh batter. He did the same in the seventh, walking his eighth batter. Now really aching, he somehow managed to retire the heart of the Dodgers’ order, Robinson, Walker, and Gene Hermanski, on two groundouts and a fly ball in the eighth.
The first batter of the ninth, Bruce Edwards, hit a harmless fly ball to left field for the first out. Then Bevens walked Carl Furillo, his ninth walk of the game, tying the all-time record for a World Series game. After a Jorgensen foul popup for the second out, Dodger manager Burt Shotten sent pinch-runner Al Gionfriddo to first base to run for Furillo, and sent oft-injured outfielder Pete Reiser to plate to pinch-hit for pitcher Hugh Casey.
Yankee manager Bucky Harris ordered Bevens to intentionally walk the dangerous Reiser, which he did, his record-breaking tenth walk of the game. Shotten then made two more moves. First, he put Eddie Miksis into the game to run for Reiser. Then, rather than let Stanky face Bevens again, Shotten sent up pinch-hitter Cookie Lavagetto, who had been the Dodgers’ regular third baseman before World War II interrupted his career. Now a bench player in his final season, he had pinch-hit 26 times during the regular season, and had six hits, including a pinch-hit home run in his very first plate appearance of the season.
Bevens had never faced him before. He’d been told that the book on Lavagetto was that he struggled with fastballs away. Lavagetto disagreed, later saying “Fast and tight was the way to handle me.” This proved to be bad news for Bevens, the Yankees, and fans of no-hitters.
Bevens threw the first pitch low and away for a strike, as planned. Lavagetto was waiting for the next one, which Bevens threw in the same place. He hit a ringing line drive over right fielder Tommy Henrich, slamming it off the wall. Both runners were moving as soon as the ball was hit, and Miksis came around all the way from first with the winning run.
As you might expect, Bevens was crushed. He trudged slowly to the Yankees clubhouse, a photographer catching a shot of him, soaked in sweat, dejection written all over him.
His 10 walks remains a record for a World Series game. In addition to himself, Passeau, and Reulbach, three other pitchers have since pitched at least eight innings in a World Series game while surrendering one hit or less. Bevens is the only one of the six who lost the game.
The day after the game, Bevens said he “felt like a guy who had dropped ten stories in an elevator. My heart and my brains and everything was right down by my spikes.”
On top of that, his arm felt dead. His wife, Mildred, to whom he would ultimately be married for 55 years, stayed up all night before Game 7, kneading and massaging his arm muscles, hoping to get it in shape if he was needed in the Series’ final game.
He was. Brooklyn jumped on Yankee starter Spec Shea immediately. He worked around a leadoff single by Stanky and a walk in the first inning, but couldn’t escape the second. A triple by Hermanski, RBI single by Edwards, and another single by Furillo chased Shea to the showers, and Harris called on Bevens and his aching right arm to stop the bleeding.
He did exactly that. Jorgensen managed a ground-rule double to score Furillo, by Bevens then retired Gregg and Stanky to close out the inning. After the Yankees got on run back in the bottom of the inning, Bevens retired the top of the Dodgers’ order in the third, and then pitched a scoreless fourth as well.
The Yankees scored two in the bottom of the fourth to take a 3-2 lead they would never relinquish. By today’s scoring, Bevens would have earned the victory, but since he was pulled for a pinch-hitter before the lead run was scored, the win went to Joe Page, who pitched the remainder of the game. Regardless, Bevens had kept the Yankees in the game, setting them up for the title.
It was the last major league game he ever pitched. His arm simply would not recover. He missed the entire 1948 season, and was sold to the White Sox. They returned him to the Yankees when he still proved to be injured, and was released at the end of Spring Training in 1949. Bevens managed to pitch again in the minor leagues, and when he was 34 he even won 20 games for the Class B Salem (OR) Senators in 1951, but his career was essentially over.
In four major league seasons, he had a record of 40-36, and had that World Series ring as a memento. After he passed away in 1991, his performance in Game 4 was always mentioned. And though he lived a happy life with Mildred and his sons after baseball, it’s a bit sad that he was remembered as the guy who sacrificed his arm for a shot at being the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the World Series, instead of being the first pitcher to actually do it.
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