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Gionfriddo's Catch

by Harvey Frommer

Al Gionfriddo passed away in Solvang, California at the age of 81 on March 14. He was playing golf at Solvang's Alisal course when he collapsed on the fifth green. "He was an outstanding ballplayer and friend," former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda told the newspaper. "He wore the Dodger uniform proudly, and we're losing a great Dodger."

On October 3, 1947, Al Gionfriddo had been one of those cast in history's spotlight. He scored for the Brooklyn Dodgers as Yankee hurler Bill Bevens lost the game and a no-hitter.

But the 5' 6", 165 pound Albert Francis Gionfriddo who played in only 37 games that 1947 season for the Brooklyn Dodgers would have a larger role in Game Six of the hard fought World Series.

There were 74,065, a World Series record, on hand at Yankee Stadium on a beautiful day for baseball. Most of them had come to see the home team, now leading 3 games to 2, wrap up another world championship Allie Reynolds started for the Yankees against little left-hander Vic Lombardi for the Dodgers. Neither would be around when the game ended.

"Dem Bums" had made up a 5-4 deficit against reliever Joe Page, taking an 8-5 lead as the game moved to the bottom of the sixth inning. As the Dodgers took the field Gionfriddo was put in for defensive purposes.

A George Stirnweiss walk, a two out single by Berra set the stage for Joe DiMaggio - the potential tying run. The Yankee Clipper mashed the first pitch he saw from Dodger reliever Joe Hatten. Dodger broadcaster Red Barber shouted:"Back, back, back" as Gionfriddo raced toward the bullpen railing. He lost his cap, turned, leaped, stuck out his glove. The catch was made just to the left of the 415-foot. marker in front of a low metal gate.

It was said that the catch was one of the greatest in baseball history. It was said that the moment was the only time Joe DiMaggio ever showed real emotion on the ball field. In disbelief as he neared second base, DiMag shook his head and kicked at the dirt.

The game lasted three hours and 19 minutes. There were a total of 38 players used. Brooklyn hung on to eke out an 8-6 win and force a seventh game which the Yankees won.

And Gionfriddo? He joined Bill Bevens and Cookie Lavagetto after the series ended in the distinction of never ever playing in another major league game.

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