Long before the post-season gaffes of Donnie Moore, Dennis Eckersley, Bill Buckner or Johnny Pesky, there was Mickey Owen. From Sunday’s New York Times and Richard Goldstein.
Mickey Owen maintained that he was not bothered by the barbs over his famous World Series miscue. As he put it long afterward, “I would’ve been completely forgotten if I hadn’t missed that pitch.”
Owen, the Brooklyn Dodger catcher remembered for a misadventure in the 1941 World Series that propelled the Yankees to the championship and overshadowed his All-Star career, died Wednesday at a nursing home in Mount Vernon, Mo. He was 89.
The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, his son, Charles, said.
Owen played for 13 seasons in the major leagues and was an outstanding catcher with a strong, accurate arm. But he has been linked in baseball history with figures like Fred Merkle, Ralph Branca and Bill Buckner, all outstanding players defined by a single moment of misfortune.
On the afternoon of Oct. 5, 1941, the Yankees were trailing the Dodgers, 4-3, at Ebbets Field in Game 4 of the World Series and were down to their final out with Brooklyn about to tie the Series at two games apiece. Tommy Henrich, the Yankees’ star outfielder, was at the plate facing the ace reliever Hugh Casey, with nobody on base and a full count.
Casey threw a pitch that broke sharply, and Henrich swung and missed. The home-plate umpire, Larry Goetz, signaled a strikeout and the game was seemingly over.
But the pitch hit the heel of Owen’s glove and skipped away for a passed ball. As Owen chased the ball near the Dodgers’ dugout, Henrich raced to first base. Joe DiMaggio followed with a single to left, then Charlie Keller hit a ball high off the right-field screen, scoring Henrich and DiMaggio and giving the Yankees a 5-4 lead.
After Bill Dickey walked, Joe Gordon doubled to make the score 7-4. The Dodgers went down quickly in the ninth, and the Yankees had a lead of three games to one. They captured the World Series the next day, inspiring the enduring headline in The Brooklyn Eagle, “Wait Till Next Year.”