The Craziest Game Ever Played By Major Leaguers!

The Craziest Game Ever Played By Major Leaguers!

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 The Craziest Game Ever Played By Major Leaguers!

“This was undoubtedly the wackiest diamond battle ever conceived!” – The New York Daily News 

What if I told you there was once a game played by major leaguers which consisted of not two, but THREE major league teams! And no, I’m not making this up!

It was called the Tri-Cornered Baseball Game and it was played 73 years ago this week, June 26, 1944, at the Polo Grounds in front of over 50,000 fans. The game consisted of the three New York teams: the Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees.

The game consisted of six innings to raise money for war bonds. The charity contest ended with the “highly unusual” final score of Dodgers 5, Yankees 1, and Giants 0.

The idea of a three-team “round robin” was concocted by a group of New York sportswriters to support the Allied forces in World War II. The format had each team coming to bat six times. Each team batted three times against each of the other two teams’ defenses. New York Times writer Arthur Daley suggested that “a sufficient number of traffic policemen be installed at strategic points in order to avoid snarls of various descriptions”!

A Columbia University math professor, Paul A. Smith, was brought in to structure the contest and to help official scorers keep track of what was going on. Here’s how Smith set things up:

 

Inning 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Field D Y D G Y G Y D G D G Y D Y D G Y G
Bat Y D G D G Y D Y D G Y G Y D G D G Y
Rest G G Y Y D D G G Y Y D D G G Y Y D D

(D = Dodgers, Y = Yankees, G = Giants; In each box the first letter was for the top half of the inning; the second letter for the bottom of the inning).

The ranks of major league players by 1944 were greatly thinned out due to military service; but the bizarre game still featured future Hall of Famers like Paul Waner, Joe Medwick and Ernie Lombardi. Other notables included Ralph Branca, Eddie Stanky, Dixie Walker and Snuffy Stirnweiss. The managers were Leo Durocher for the Dodgers, Joe McCarthy for the Yankees, and Mel Ott for the host Giants. The Dodgers and Yankees squeezed into the visitors’ dugout, while the Giants played from their home bench.

Before the game, 500 wounded servicemen arrived to watch the game. Pre-game festivities include a fungo-hitting contest won by Dodger pitcher Cal McLish; a throwing-for-accuracy competition for catchers won by Dodger Bobby Bragan; and three heats in a sprint contest, won by Snuffy Stirnweiss, Eddie Miskis, and Luis Olmo.

Before the game, the clown prince of baseball, Al Schacht, entertained the fans. Milton Berle led 6musical numbers played by the Manhattan Beach United States Coast Guard band. Former New York City Mayor James J. Walker introduced a group of New York “Old-Timers,” including Zack Wheat, Nap Rucker, Otto Miller, Wally Schang, Bill Dickey, Herb Pennock, Roger Bresnahan, Hooks Wiltse, and Moose McCormick. Babe Ruth had been scheduled to appear, but he did not show.

The real winner of the game was the war effort, which netted more than $56,000,000 in bonds. $50 million came from the civic pockets of New York City and Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. The event was a considered a rousing success.

In spite of all the extra goings-on, the game was played in 2:05. The umpire crew included Hall-of-Famer Jocko Conlon and former Yankee George Pipgras.

On the day of the game, the three teams had similar positions in the standings. After the Tri-Cornered Game the Dodgers went on a skid, losing 16 consecutive games. The Dodgers won the game, although they weren’t around to see the finish. They left early, as they had to catch a train to make it to Chicago for a June 28 doubleheader!

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Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the Tr-Cornered Game Wikipedia page.

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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