4. GAME 7, 1946 WORLD SERIES, BOSTON AT ST. LOUIS
If this were Elizabeth Taylor's marital history, this game would be Nicky Hilton. Mark it down as the first time the Red Sox took their fans to the brink of victory — and sent them crashing down in despair. Boston hadn't reached the World Series in 26 years, but star veterans like Williams, Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, and Tex Hughson returned from service in World War II to boost the Sox to a 98-56 record. This team could play. The Sox put eight players in the '46 All-Star Game, including Williams, the American League MVP. Las Vegas tabbed them as enormous 20-7 favorites over the Cardinals in the Series. After splitting the first six games, Boston rallied from a two-run deficit in the eighth inning of Game 7 when center fielder DiMaggio doubled home two runs, tying the game at 3-3. Unfortunately, Joe's little brother pulled up lame at second base with a charley horse. Backup Leon Culberson replaced him.
(Inconsequential fact? Hah! Remember, this is the Red Sox, and if you don't think Culberson-for-DiMaggio won't come into play in the next few sentences, you should skip this article and start reading from the "Entre Nous" section.)
In the bottom of the inning, Enos "Country" Slaughter stood at first with two outs when Harry Walker lined a shot to left center. Those watching felt the ball wasn't dangerous enough to tie the game, but by the time the dust cleared, Walker was at second, Slaughter scored, and the Series was basically over. What happened? Culberson didn't cover nearly as much ground as the fleet DiMaggio, and by the time he got to Walker's base hit, Slaughter was nearly at third base. Culberson relayed to shortstop Johnny Pesky in short center field, but Pesky apparently never thought Slaughter could score from first on such a hit. Pesky caught the relay, turned, saw Slaughter tearing towards home, paused for a brief, historic split second, then tossed the ball home. Not in time. To make matters worse, the Sox stranded leadoff singles by Doerr and Rudy York in the top of the ninth, and the Series belonged to St. Louis.
POSTSCRIPT:People have argued for decades about how long Pesky held the ball. Unfortunately, Abe Zapruder and his hand-held camera were not at the game.