Triple Teamed


World War Two on the home front produced some strange sights: teenagers driving old jalopies on their rims because of tire rationing, children pulling little red wagons filled with old pots and pans to scrap metal drives, woman painting black lines up the backs of their legs to resemble the nylon and silk stocking they could no longer buy, and possibly the strangest sight — a single baseball game between three major league teams.

The New York Yankees, the New York Giants, and the Brooklyn Dodgers played each other many times prior to the Giants and Dodgers skipping town for the West Coast following the 1957 season. As National League teams, the Giants and Dodgers played each other 22 times during 154- game season. The American League’s Yankees played their inter-borough rivals in thirteen World Series — seven against Brooklyn and six against the Giants. Over the years, the teams played countless spring training exhibition games in Florida and some in New York, but it took World War II and the Fifth War Loan drive to see the three teams play in the same game.

The three-cornered baseball game originated in the office of Stanley H. Oshan, head of the U.S. Treasury Department’s War Finance Committee, sports division. Oshan created the event as a feature promotion for the Fifth War Loan sports drive. The game was played on Monday night, June 26, 1944 at the Polo Grounds, home of the Giants. Hitting, running, and throwing contests preceded the game and admission was by purchase of series E, F, and G war bonds. The 40,000 general admission unreserved seats cost one $25 war bond; the 5,809 reserved seats in the lower stands went for a $100 bond; the box seats both upper and lower cost the fan a $1,000 war bond. Bleacher seats were free to servicemen.

The setup for a three-way nine inning game was simple: The Dodgers and Yankees played the first inning while the Giants sat out; the Dodgers and Giants played the second inning while the Yankees sat out; the Yankees and Giants played the third inning while the Dodgers sat out. The same order continued to the game’s end.

Before the game began, the Dodgers’ teenage pitcher, 18- year-old Calvin Coolidge McLish, won the fungo hitting contest with a 416-foot drive. In the throwing contest, none of the six catchers could rifle a throw into the barrel at second base, although Brooklyn’s Bobby Bragan came closest in his three attempts. The Yankees’ George Stirnweiss beat the Giants’ Johnny Rucker in the sprint contest. In two other heats the Dodgers’ Luis Olmo beat the Yankees’ Johnny Lindell and Dodger infielder Eddie Miksis beat Giant shortstop Buddy Kerr. In between contests, Al Schacht, the Clown Prince of Baseball, entertained the crowd of 50,000.

Act two of this three-ring circus took center stage at second base where radio and movie comedian Milton Berle (His reign as Mr. Television was five years in the future.) “boisterously ushered in” a series of musical numbers. Then former Mayor James J. Walker took charge as master of ceremonies to introduce some New York baseball oldtimers: Zack Wheat, Nap Rucker and Otto Miller of the Dodgers; the Giants’ Roger Bresnahan, George (Hooks) Wiltse, and Moose McCormick; the Yankees’ Wally Schang, Herb Pennock, and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Bill Dickey.

Brooklyn’s bums easily won the three-cornered game. The Dodgers scored one run off Yankee pitcher Al Lyons in the top of the first with singles by Goody Rosen, Augie Galan, and Dixie Walker. The Yankees failed to score in the first inning. The Giants, who sat out the first inning took the field against the Dodgers in the second as the Yanks sat out. The Dodgers tore into their National League rivals for two more runs. Giant pitcher Johnny Allen walked Mickey Owen who was driven in by Eddie Stanky’s double. Stanky scored on Frenchy Bordagary’s single. In their last at bat in the eighth, the Dodgers clipped two more runs off Giant pitching when Frank Seward gave up a single to Luis Olmo, a triple to Jack Bolling, and a sacrifice fly to Stanky.

Dodger pitchers Hal Gregg, Les Weber and Ralph Branca gave up no runs to either the Yanks or Giants. The Giants collected only two hits all evening. The Yankees scored the game’s only other run in the eighth against Giant pitcher Crip Polli. Stirnweiss singled and scored after back-to-back errors by Giant shortstop Buddy Kerr.

The game, which lasted three hours and four minutes (about average for two teams today), increased New York’s war bond quota by $56,500,000 — a roaring success. The Line Score:

Dodgers 12x 00x 02x — 5

Yankees 0x0 0x0 0x1 — 1

…Giants x00 x00 x00 — 0