Jackie Robinson’s most memorable moment in the 1955 baseball season was a steal of home against the Yankees in the World Series. It’s a famous play, one that Yankees catcher Yogi Berra disputed until his death, claiming that Robinson should have been called out.
I’ve got a play from 1955 that involves Jackie Robinson touching home plate that is pretty cool, and there’s no disputing it.
It comes from a regular season game with the Cardinals on June 6. The Dodgers had already made the race for the NL pennant a runaway, winning 37 of their first 49 games. But it looked like on this day that the Cardinals had their number. They had a 4-1 lead through five innings and 28—year-old rookie standout Luis Arroyo on the mound.
Though the Cardinals were 20-26, Arroyo had been awesome, going 6-0 with a 1.56 ERA in his first eight appearances. This is the same Arroyo who was the closer on one of the greatest teams of all-time, the 1961 Yankees. But that was then and this is now.
The Dodgers rallied for two runs in the sixth, with Pee Wee Reese homering for one and an RBI ground out by Frank Kellert producing the other. Arroyo stuck it out and got through the seventh and eighth innings unscored upon to take a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
In today’s game, Arroyo would have been long gone and a parade of relievers would have tried to finish the Dodgers off. In 1955, Harry Walker let Arroyo stay in the game, even after walking Gil Hodges to lead off the home ninth.
What’s funny here is that if Robinson had done what he intended to do, Arroyo might have escaped unscathed. But Robinson’s two bunt attempts both went foul. The third try was a normal swing and turned out to be the charm – Robinson hit a game-winning home run to left center field.
It marked the third time in two seasons that Robinson beat the Cardinals with a walk-off hit, the second time he’d done it with a come-from-behind-walk-off home run. Difference being that this one is another chapter in the most memorable season in Brooklyn Dodgers history.
You would have thought that Robinson would have had a walk-off steal of home in his career, but he never did. The Dodgers didn’t have a walk-off steal of home in Robinson’s tenure. They did have one a year after he retired – Jim Gilliam had one against the Cardinals in 1957.
Robinson did a pretty good job tormenting the Cardinals, posting a .342 batting average against them, the highest for him against any team. Coincidentally, 1955 was his worst season against them. He hit .282.
The title of this blog post is a tribute to a song about Jackie Robinson called “Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?”