What it was like, 59 years ago


For all of the baseball history in New York and Philadelphia, for all of the years when there were only 16 teams and the Yankees were in the World Series every year, the Yankees and the Phillies have matched up in the Fall Classic just once before. That year — 1950 — a seminal year in my life for it was the year my dad was born. The Yankees and Phillies, then, were his first World Series, and he assures me that he remembers it well.

That year, the Yankees swept the Phillies in a display of pitching. The first three games were all one-run affairs, and the teams combined to allow just 16 runs. As a team, the Yanks hit just .222/.295/.304, but their pitchers held the Phillies to a .203/.250/.266 line. Some kid The New York Times called Ed — Ed Ford, 21 and not yet Whitey — won Game Four. (For more on the games, check out Fack Youk’s excellent recaps of Games One and Two and Games Three and Four.)

Although nostalgia runs deep in baseball, this modern World Series with high-definition TV, FoxTrax and a chance to watch it streamed live over the Internet from multiple camera angles, offers up quite the contrast to the Classic played 59 years ago. A clear sign that times have changed comes to us from the Palm Beach Post. Joe Capozzi tracked down Curt Simmons for an interview about that World Series.

Simmons was one of the Phillies’ Whiz Kids at the time. Just 21 in 1950, he went 17-8 with a 3.40 ERA and would have started Game One of the series but for his military service. Simmons was called to active duty on September 4, 1950, and although the Phillies tried to get their ace out of the service, he would not return to the Majors until in 1952 after a stint in Korea.

Simmons was, in fact, the first Major Leaguer to fight in Korea, and he still thinks about that World Series. “Yeah, I’ve wondered,” Simmons, now 80, said to Capozzi. “I’m sure the Phillies would have liked to have had me.”

Simmons’ service is not the only thing that has changed. Take, for example, an article about a TV outage during Game One. The first World Series to be televised was the 1947 match-up, but still in 1950, CBS ran into some troubles. The networked paid $800,000 — or just $7.169 million in today’s dollars — to broadcast the games, and the picture went out just a few minutes into the broadcast. Coverage from Jack Gould and The Times is rather precious:

Pour old TV! After laying out $800,000 to go the world series, it was plagued at yesterday’s opening game by a number of technical mishaps, which were climaxed by Jim Britt’s determined assurances that television really was advancing. All that is needed now is someone to figure out how the darn thing works.

First to disappear was the picture portion of the program, a power failure near Shibe Park in Philadelphia, leaving the screen blank from 1:25 to 1:45. After an inning or so of just voice from the ball game, the video portion was restored. A little later the audio portion was interrupted while the video stayed on. At last reports this voice portion was “lost” somewhere between Philadelphia and the rest of the country. A lot of viewers were not sure where they were, either.

Once the game came back on, Gould questioned the announcer’s abilities to call a game. Jim Britt, the play-by-play man “was not always the best judge of where fly balls were going.” (Paging John Sterling.) Gould praised the “placement of a camera so that there was a direct, downward view of first base” and noted the use of five — five! — cameras for the broadcast. Radio, he said, had “a comparatively uneventful day. It just worked right.”

Other historical quirks abound. Brokers were selling box seats priced at $8.75 for $150 a pair. That today is the equivalent of selling $78 seats for over $1340 a pair. The Phillies’ ticket plan too broke new ground. Called “precedent-shattering” by the Associated Press, the Phillies sold single-game tickets and limited fans to just one game and two tickets to that game. Games were doled out on a first-come, first-serve basis. No longer would one fan be able to buy tickets to all four games, and the Phillies defended the move by noting that 92,000 fans instead of 23,000 fans would see the Series.

The World Series ended with each Yankee receiving a winners share of $5,737 or $51,411.38. This year, the World Series winners will earn shares of around $350,000 per player. And finally, with a victory in hand, Casey Stengel mulled retiring. He would stay on to manage the Yanks for another ten years and would win five more World Series titles. Those were the days.

Categories : Days of Yore, Playoffs


  1. steve s says:

    From an historical perspective Ed Ford might not yet have been “Whitey” but I believe this was the last WS where all the players were. Also, this was the last WS prior to Mantle supplanting Joe D. as the main Yankee star.

  2. Jordan says:

    Would be pretty cool to have Whitey throw out the first pitch.

  3. Rose says:

    “When I was a little girl, frankfurters used to only cost a nickel”

  4. [...] What it was like, 59 years ago – The Yankees and Phillies met in the World Series 59 years ago. See what it was like back then. [...]

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