Thursday, December 01, 2016

Anguish in the Eyes of Mickey Owen - Vintage Press Photo from RMY Auction

Here is proof positive that Baseball will break your heart.

Featured above is an Associated Press photo taken the evening after Mikey Owen's fateful misplay that handed Game 4 to the Yankees during the 1941 World Series.  It is currently available at RMY's current vintage photo auction. (Auction Link Here)

As you can see, the rather despondent Dodgers catcher, Mickey Owen, is being consoled by his wife.  She could not, however, assuage his guilt.

For those who don't know, this event is considered one of the most impactful plays in World Series history. Even with the Yankees up two games to one in the series, the Dodgers were considered the odds on favorite to take home the crown.  Unfortunately, fate would go in a different direction.

With the Dodgers clinging to an 4-3 lead going into the ninth inning of Game 4, Yankees right fielder Tommy Henrich came up to bat with two outs and nobody on against tough righty Hugh Casey.  Then with two strikes recorded Casey threw a wicked curve that fooled everybody.  Henrich swung meekly for strike three and the always reliable receiver Mickey Owen missed the ball.  Per Mickey Goldstein at the NY Times:   
"As soon as I missed it, I looked around to see where the ball was. It fooled me so much, I figured maybe it fooled Mickey, too. And it did."
The ball rolled to the backstop and the Yankees would rally to score four runs to win the game.  Per Bill Francis at the Baseball Hall of Fame:
“I think I got my glove on that ball and I ought to be charged with an error,” said an emotionally distraught Owen – who was given an error on the play by the official scorer – minutes after the game was over. “It isn’t being the ‘goat’ that bothers me, though. That doesn’t worry me in the least. What I’m really broken up about is the other boys on our club who did so well and certainly deserved to win.

“It was all my fault. It wasn’t a strike. It was a great breaking curve that I should have had. But I guess the ball hit the side of my glove. It got away from me and by the time I got hold of it, near the corner of the Brooklyn dugout, I couldn’t have thrown anybody out at first.”

Henrich had sympathy for the catcher afterward: “That was a tough break for Mickey to get. I bet he feels like a nickel’s worth of dog meat.”
Fortunately, Brooklyn fans proved to be a forgiving bunch.  He would not become the Dodgers Merkle.  Per the NY Times story
"I got about 4,000 wires and letters," he told W.C. Heinz in The Saturday Evening Post on the 25th anniversary of the passed ball. "I had offers of jobs and proposals of marriage. Some girls sent their pictures in bathing suits, and my wife tore them up."
On another note, Groucho Marx wrote this about the play in a book published a year later:
I wrote this book because I had to. It was a creative urge—the same thing that prompted Beethoven to compose the Eighth Symphony. This was actually a patchwork job, adding together snatches of the Third and Fifth, thus making the Eighth. The Ninth was when Catcher Owen dropped the ball and the World Series, but I'd rather not discuss it, because it cost me $14, not deductible.
BTW, MLB provides a great video that includes interviews and a replay of Owen's error.  Watch it below.

Video Link:

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