31 Oct

spirit of ’46

The 70th anniversary of the 1946 World Series (see previous posts) is worthy of any and all hoopla it receives. St. Louis and Boston, featuring Mississippians Harry Walker and Boo Ferriss, battled it out for seven games in what was truly a Fall Classic. But that World Series didn’t corner the market on thrills that fall, and Walker wasn’t the only Mississippi native toasting a title. In the ’46 Negro Leagues World Series, the Newark Eagles, led by Monte Irvin, Larry Doby and Hattiesburg native Rufus Lewis, beat the Kansas City Monarchs in seven games, winning the clincher 3-2 at Ruppert Stadium in Newark. Lewis, one of the aces of the Eagles’ staff, started and got the victory in Game 7 and went 2-1 with a 1.23 ERA in the series. Lewis never made the major leagues but did pitch in the minors in “organized baseball.” Of course, 1946 was also the year that Jackie Robinson broke the color line and led the Montreal Royals, a Brooklyn Dodgers farm club, to the International League and Junior World Series championships. Robinson’s manager in Montreal was none other than Clay Hopper, a Portersville native and Mississippi State alum who had a long and decorated career as a minor league skipper.

15 Oct

dash away

You’ll find it on most any list of the best World Series moments: Enos Slaughter’s “mad dash” for the St. Louis Cardinals. It happened on this date 70 years ago in Sportsman’s Park in the eighth inning of Game 7 against Boston, and it produced the winning run in a 4-3 victory. Let’s not forget who delivered the hit that sent Slaughter dashing for home: Pascagoula native Harry Walker. Facing Boston’s Bob Klingler with Slaughter at first base and two outs, Walker ripped a shot into left-center field that was chased down by Leon Culberson (grandfather of current Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Charlie Culberson). As Slaughter tore around the bases, Culberson threw to shortstop Johnny Pesky, who appeared to hesitate before he threw home. Slaughter slid in safely. It was the seventh hit and sixth RBI in the 1946 World Series for Walker, the man known as “The Hat,” a .296 career hitter and two-time All-Star who would have turned 100 on Oct. 22. He passed in 1999. It’s worth noting that Boo Ferriss, the legend from Shaw, started that game for Boston, looking for his second win in the Series. He was lifted in the fifth. The final out was made by Tom McBride, who played for the Jackson Senators in the late 1930s and early ’40s. He bounced into a force out with two runners on in the ninth, and St. Louis celebrated its sixth world championship.

29 Oct

going seven

In its most recent issue, Baseball Digest chose the top 13 World Series Game 7’s in major league history, and two of them involved Mississippians. In 1997, Meridian native and ex-West Lauderdale High and Mississippi State star Jay Powell got the win as Florida beat Cleveland 3-2 in 11 innings. Powell worked a scoreless top of the 11th, keeping the score at 2-2, and the Marlins won the championship in the bottom half on Edgar Renteria’s memorable two-out hit. In 1946, Pascagoula native Harry Walker delivered the game-winning hit for St. Louis against Boston. Walker’s eighth-inning double, with two down, scored Enos Slaughter from first base on the latter’s famous “mad dash,” and the Cardinals held on to win 4-3. Shaw native and former Delta State coaching legend Boo Ferriss, who had a win earlier in that Series, started Game 7 for the Red Sox, departing in the fifth. Tonight’s San Francisco-Kansas City clash will be the 37th Game 7 (under the best-of-7 format) in World Series history. Aren’t we lucky?

21 Oct

looking ahead — and back

If you are a baseball fan, you’ve got to like a World Series that features the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, two of the game’s truly storied franchises. (And the best teams, by record, in their respective leagues this season.) This will be the fourth time the Red Sox and Cardinals have met in the Fall Classic, and two of the previous three were indeed classics in which Mississippians played significant roles. In 1967, the year of The Impossible Dream in Boston, the Cardinals took down the Red Sox in seven games behind the brilliant pitching of Bob Gibson, who won three times. McComb native Dalton Jones, an infielder for the BoSox, went 7-for-18 in that series, and the late, great George Scott was 6-for-26 with a double and a triple (but no taters or even RBIs). Scott managed one of the three hits Gibson allowed in Game 7, a 7-2 Redbirds win at Fenway Park. Back in 1946, the Cardinals and Red Sox also played a seven-game grinder, with St. Louis winning the finale, 4-3 at Sportsman’s Park, thanks to one of baseball’s historic moments. Enos Slaughter scored the game-winning run in the eighth inning, racing around from first base on a hit by Harry “The Hat” Walker, a native of Pascagoula. Walker had a great series, going 7-for-17 with three runs and six RBIs. Dave “Boo” Ferriss, the Shaw native and legendary Delta State coach, made two starts for Boston, including Game 7. He was 1-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 13 1/3 innings. He left Game 7 after 4 1/3, trailing 3-1. Boston tied the score in the top of the eighth, but Slaughter’s famous mad dash put the Cards back on top. In 2004, when Boston finally ended its 86-year curse with a World Series sweep of St. Louis, there were no Mississippians on the roster of either club. Vicksburg’s Ellis Burks, the slugging outfielder, did start that season with the BoSox, and Meridian native Jamie Brown also made a handful of pitching appearances that year. P.S. On the subject of championships, former Nettleton High star Bill Hall earned a ring with the Long Island Ducks, who won the independent Atlantic League championship. The veteran Hall, who played briefly in the Los Angeles Angels’ system this year, hit .239 with 16 homers for the Ducks.