Just because: June 26, 1944 - Dodgers vs. Yankees vs. Giants
The exhibition played on June 26, 1944, remains like nothing baseball has ever seen. All three of New York City's teams were involved.
(Image: KeyMan Collectibles)
The idea of a three-team round-robin -- the "Tri-Cornered Baseball Game," as it were -- was concocted by a gaggle of New York sportswriters and then carried out in support of the Allied forces in World War II. Here's how it worked ...
Each team -- the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees and New York Giants -- would play in the field and bat for two consecutive innings and then sit for an inning until they'd played a total of six innings. That structure yielded a less-than-tidy nine-inning game, but a nine-inning game it was.
Sound complicated? It was. In fact, a Columbia University math professor, Paul A. Smith, was brought in to structure the contest and to help official scorers keep track of what, exactly, was going on during the game (in the service of this latter task, the good professor used a slide-rule). Here's how Smith set things up ...
As you may have already surmised by force of unchecked genius, "Y" stands for "Yankees," "D" is for "Dodgers," and "G" indicates the "Giants." Each team faced the other two on the mound and at the plate an equal number of times. Unwieldy, yes, but also rather brilliant.
As for the combatants, the ranks of major-league players by '44 were of course greatly thinned out by war-era conscription and volunteerism, but organizers still rustled up future Hall of Famers like Paul Waner, Joe Medwick and Ernie Lombardi. Other notables included Ralph Branca, Eddie Stanky, Dixie Walker and Snuffy Stirnweiss. Leo Durocher managed the Dodgers, Joe McCarthy helmed the Yankees, and Mel Ott was in the dugout for the host Giants (Durocher and McCarthy, it should be noted, managed the game from opposite wings of the same bench). Even legendary umpire Jocko Conlan and his perfect baseball name were on hand.
And the winner? Here's how the International News Service headlined it ...
Final score: Dodgers 5, Yankees 1, Giants 0. As the headline notes, the real winner was the war effort, which netted more than $56,000,000 in bond purchases. To be fair, $50 million of those bond buys came from the civic pockets of New York City and pocket-minder Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, but the event was a rousing success even in context.
And now, courtesy of the most excellent SABR, your decidedly unique box score ...
As you have no doubt been assuming this entire time, postgame entertainment was provided by none other than Milton Berle. He would later become the first person in recorded history to make jokes following a three-way charity baseball game, appear in a Ratt music video and feud with RuPaul.
As for the "tri-cornered" game, I see no reason why our World Series winner shouldn't
square triangle off against, say, Japan's champ and Korea's champ each winter. Or perhaps this will be how we one day sort out a three-way tie for the final wild-card berth.
Disinter and make use of this, is what I'm saying.
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