Don Newcombe - Superman for a Day
March 25, 2009
by William Szczepanek
Don Newcombe was the pride of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s. In 1956 Don was the Major League Cy Young Award winner with a record of 27 wins and 7 losses. He had a lifetime record of 149 wins and 90 losses. He is the only player to have won the rookie of the year, Cy Young and MVP awards. His career was shortened by two years in the service in 1952 and 1953.
There was a time when Newcombe needed to prove himself, though. He did it in a way that was done rarely before and never since. On September 6, 1950 Newcombe had just finished pitching the front end of a twilight-night doubleheader. He shut out the Phillies 2-0 on a 3-hitter to keep the Dodgers in contention for the pennant with the league-leading Phillies.
Going back to the spring of 1950 Newk was very optimistic after winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1949, but a sore arm limited his playing time. Back then there was the belief by some that extra work was the cure for a sore arm, but Newcombe wanted to rest it and took the heat for being lazy. The rest helped and Newk was one of the few Dodgers pitching well during the season, but the Dodgers were losing ground to the “Whiz Kids” from Philadelphia.
Later in September, 21 year-old, lefty Curt Simmons of the Phillies, with a 17-8 record was to be drafted. Two other starters, Bob Miller and Bubba Church would get injured in September. If the Dodgers were going to make a run for it, it would have to be now.
On this day Newk simply overpowered the Phillies in the first game, and Dodgers manager, Burt Shotton, was said to have asked Newcombe if he would like the next day off to go fishing. All he needed to do was to pitch the second game of the doubleheader. This feat was last attempted by Bobo Newsom in the Thirties, but he was shelled early in his game.
As the time for the second game approached a buzz could be heard throughout the stands which grew to a loud ovation from the 32,379 fans as Don Newcombe began warming up. Something special was going to happen.
Newcombe pitched valiantly in the second game, giving up a run in the first on a double by Del Ennis and another on a single by Eddie Waitkus in the third. Curt Simmons stopped the Dodgers cold and was working on a shutout when Newcombe was to come to bat in the eighth. Shotton had to pull him for a pinch hitter, even though Newcombe was one of the best hitting pitchers in the game. It was more of a shame that the Dodgers didn’t score in the eighth and Newcombe’s effort was over. It seemed like a waste and could hurt the Dodgers more in the long run.
The Phils went down in the ninth and Simmons took the mound to finish up the Dodgers in the bottom of the inning. After one out, Pee Wee Reese walked and Tommy Brown singled. The Phillies brought in their relief ace, Jim Konstanty. Jackie Robinson, with a flash of speed, beat out an infield dribbler to load the bases. Carl Furillo struck out. With two down Gil Hodges pulled a single to left driving in two runs, knotting the score. Robinson running with abandon took a wide turn at third and scampered home with the lead run when a pickoff throw got away. The Phillies went down in the tenth and the Dodgers had won.Now, the effort by Newcombe was realized - two great pitching performances in one day. While Newcombe got hit hard in his next couple of starts, the inspired Dodgers almost caught the Phillies, but were eliminated by them on the last day of the season.
On this day, though, no one would have been surprised to see a Superman insignia peeking from under Newcombe’s jersey when he finally departed the field.
You can check out Newcombe's stats at Baseball-Reference.com.