By Tom Knight
Brooklyn Baseball Historian
There are double plays and then there are unusual double plays. Here are a few from the good old days.
During the second game of a doubleheader in Boston on Aug. 11, 1940, Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Joe Vosmik was on third, second baseman Johnny Hudson was on first and pitcher Vito Tamulis was at bat. Manager Leo Durocher signaled for a squeeze play. As Vosmik came tearing into the plate, Tamulis’ bunt popped into the air and was caught by Boston pitcher Nick Strincevich, who kept right on running until he stepped on third to double off the embarrassed Vosmik.
On Sept. 21, 1947, Boston was at Ebbets Field. In the fourth inning, with Brooklyn at bat, outfielder Don Lund was on second base and third baseman Spide Jorgenson was on first with no outs. Pitcher Ralph Branca was bat with instructions from manager Burt Shotton to sacrifice both runners along. Ace lefthander Warren Spahn pitched to Branca, who bunted and lifted a high pop foul, midway between home and third.
Spahn, third baseman Bob Elliott and catcher Phil Masi all went after the ball. Spahn made the catch as he crashed into Elliott, but held onto the ball. Lund thought he could advance to third after the catch, but was surprised to see catcher Masi, who ran to cover third when Elliott went sprawling, waiting to tag him with the ball that had been tossed to him by Spahn. A heads-up double play by the Boston battery!
Before Dixie Walker was the “Toast of Brooklyn” and “The People’s Cherce,” the popular outfielder was involved in a weird double play at Yankee Stadium. Walker was with the Yankees in 1933 when they were fighting the Washington Senators for the pennant. The two clubs were battling in a tough game and the Yankees were trailing, 4-2, going into the bottom of the ninth.
Lou Gehrig led off and singled to right. Walker came to bat and singled, sending Gehrig to second. Then second baseman Tony Lazzeri hit a bullet of a line drive to right center. Gehrig held at second, just in case rightfielder Goose Goslin managed to get to the ball.
From Walker’s angle, he knew the ball would fall in, so he raced to second and stopped a few feet short of Gehrig. The ball fell safely and Gehrig and Walker took off for home. Walker was no more than two steps behind his teammate.
Goslin played the ball perfectly and made a great throw on the line to the plate. Catcher Luke Sewell caught the ball and made a sensational tag on the sliding Gehrig on the left side of the plate, then dove on the other side and tagged Walker to complete the double play!
The Yankees lost the game that day and Washington went on to win the pennant, only to lose the World Series to the New York Giants.