August Live 2014
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"Newcombe tried a fastball and missed outside. Then he came back with kind of a slider and missed outside again. Now it's two balls and no strikes. He hasn't walked anybody all game, and nobody wants to start an inning with a base on balls. So I say to myself, 'This is going to be a good ball.' I was ninety-nine percent certain he was going to throw his fastball and that it would be over the plate. So I'm geared for the right speed now. Everything was my way, right? Hitting the ball was something else again, but at least I knew I had every advantage. If I had been anything less than positive about it I would have sacrificed part of that advantage. Newk came in there with it and I tagged it good and solid. I knew it was hit hard enough, but sometimes that kind of ball sinks before it has a chance to go out. As I ran down the line I looked at Furillo and as soon as I saw his head go up a little bit I said to myself, 'That's all.' I knew it was going to go out." -- Tommy Henrich, as told to author Donald Honig in Baseball Between the Lines (1993).
Dubbed "Old Reliable" by Mel Allen, Yankees right-fielder Tommy Henrich always delivered in the clutch. But of all his nerves-of-steel hits and fielding plays over the course of seven World Series, Henrich's greatest moment in the sun came on October 5, 1949, when he broke a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the ninth with a game-winning solo shot off Dodgers ace Don Newcombe. Not only did Henrich's Game 1 heroics mark the first-ever walk-off in the storied annals of the Fall Classic, but it was also the initial spark that set off the Bronx Bombers' unprecedented dynasty run of five straight championships (1949-53).
Presented here is the very baseball that Old Reliable slugged into the record books. An OAL (Harridge) ball, it originates directly from Henrich himself, who gifted it to a close friend—as attested to in an accompanying LOA from a noted memorabilia dealer who obtained the milestone ball from Henrich's friend. As was common practice in that postwar era, Tommy most likely had the ball returned to him by the very fan who caught it (see video footage). He then documented the event for posterity with his inscription on the north panel: "Home Run Ball Hit off Don Newcombe First Game 1949 World Series Last of 9th Yankees 1 Dodgers 0." The well-soiled sphere is also notated "49 WS" on the south panel in an unidentified hand. And it it comes with a full LOA from JSA as well as a Henrich signed 8" x 10" photo.
Upon his death in 2009, 96-year-old Tommy Henrich was the oldest living Yankee and the last surviving teammate of Lou Gehrig. He began his career as quite possibly the first true major-league free agent, after convincing Commissioner Landis that he was being unfairly treated in the Cleveland Indians farm system and deserved his rightful chance in the bigs. Henrich went on to star with Joe DiMaggio and Charlie Keller in one of the greatest outfield triumvirates of them all, and he developed a reputation as one of the most intellectual students of the game—eventually even serving as a mentor to a rookie by the name of Mickey Mantle.
Ol' Reliable's high-pressure performance in 1949 also included another walk-off on Opening Day, plus a key solo homer (and fine fielding of the dicey last out) in the Yanks' dramatic final 2-game home stand that swiped the pennant away from the Red Sox. All of which spurred sportswriter Tom Meany to famously and humorously say: "Tommy Henrich hit a home run for the Yankees to win the opening game of the 1949 season. Tommy Henrich hit a home run to win the pennant for the Yankees in the closing game of the season. Tommy Henrich hit a home run for the Yankees to win the opening game of the World Series. What's the matter with the guy? Is he in a rut?" Full LOA from JSA.
Tommy Henrich 1949 World Series Game 1 Home Run Ball - The First Walk-Off Homer in World Series History!
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