Baseball Classics: 1956 World Series Game 3 (DVD Review)29 Aug, 2011 By: Mike Clark
Available now from www.raresportsfilms.com
One of my favorite bits in Randa Haines’ underrated Wrestling Ernest Hemingway comes when Robert Duvall’s Cuban accent pronounces Bill (Moose) Skowron’s name as “Moose Skarn” — or something in that ballpark — when the character Duvall plays talks of having first come to the U.S. to see the Yankees’ first baseman and his teammates in the ’58 World Series between the Yankees and the Milwaukee Braves.
Skowron also played some in the ‘56 Series (platooned at first base with Joe Collins) — and, in fact, belted a grand slam in game 7 of history’s final Yankees-Dodgers matchup while the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn. But as we see here in the NBC broadcast of game 3, the Moose achieved an added dimension of glory when he shaved on national television with a Gillette blade with announcing royalty Mel Allen standing next to him at the mirror. This occurred in the more elaborate of two player-based commercials that aired between innings (the other featured Dodgers first baseman Gil Hodges).
Of course, it’s a miracle that we can now even see this — thanks to a onetime edict that even the Major League Baseball games kinescoped for delayed viewing by armed forces overseas had to be destroyed almost immediately. (The same kind of brain-trust mentality that failed to preserve movies that had been printed on nitrate stock existed in sports as well.) Fewer than 10 baseball telecasts before 1965 (all World Series games) exist in complete or even semi-complete form, and the majority are owned by sniff-them-out archivist and Rare Sportsfilms Inc. founder Doak Ewing. He’s the guy who previously found the Game 5 perfect game pitched by the Yankees’ Don Larsen in this same ’56 Series, which took place on the Monday after this Saturday broadcast. The kinescope quality is about the same on both (i.e. very good), and this particular contest is enough of a nail-biter that Moose’s shave is merely one of the high points. And while we’re on the topic of non-game material, there’s also Allen co-announcer Vin Scully demonstrating a nifty new “piggy-back” Papermate pen on live TV, which was dangerous to do. What if the second cartridge failed to deliver the ink after Vin switched the dried-up half with its replacement?
But enough of this: we’re looking here at the Dodgers in (figurative) Ebbets Field twilight, and we’re also looking at Jackie Robinson in the final week of his career playing on a diamond packed with household names (both teams). And as it turns out, the game itself is kind of a revelation: it proved to me that we’ll never really know just how many games that no longer exist few had the kind of pivotal moments mere box scores fail to convey. Game 3 case in point: the Yankees were down 2-0 in the Series and obviously in a tough spot, especially after they’d blown a 6-0 lead in the second game to lose 13-8. In this must win for them, Brooklyn scored first, and the Yankees quickly tied it up before the decisive offensive blow in the sixth inning (a three-run Yankees home run by 40-year-old Enos Slaughter).
But arguably as crucial was a defensive turning point in the ninth (Yanks up 5-3) when the Dodgers’ Carl Furillo led off with what looked like a sure triple, only to be nipped — just barely — on a perfect relay from Yankees right fielder Hank Bauer to second baseman Billy Martin to third baseman Andy Carey (then married in real life to movie starlet Lucy Marlow, best remembered for playing studio chief Charles Bickford’s date in the spectacular charity-event gala that opens the Judy Garland-James Mason version of A Star Is Born). Had Furillo been safe, it easily could have led to a changed outcome both to the game and Series. It also might have — on some kind of moon/stars/karmic level — obliterated the conditions that would make Larsen’s subsequent achievement possible.
With a notable exception of the 1960 Series Game 7 that was recently discovered in Bing Crosby’s wine cellar, most recent “miracle acquisitions” have been missing some footage; with kinescopes originally mounted on more than one reel, it didn’t take much for one or more of them to get lost over the course of decades. This particular release is missing innings 2 and 3 but nothing else — the key omission being the Martin home run that tied up the game 1-1 in the second. As exclusions go, it’s hardly a deal-breaker, though unless he hit one on some regular season Game of the Week during the first few weeks of the 1957 season, this would have been the last nationally televised Billy blast in a Yankee uniform (unless you count kicking dirt on umpires when much later he became the team’s manager).
Because in May of ‘57, a Yankees contingent of predominantly star players with names like Whitey, Mickey and Yogi capped a celebration of Martin’s birthday by getting involved in the folkloric “Copacabana Nightclub Incident” (read: fisticuffs with an apparently racist bowling team — and direct from the men’s room). Constipated Yankees management didn’t like Martin’s unpolished persona in the first place — and as the designated fall guy, he was almost immediately off to a fate worse than death (a trade to the Kansas City Athletics). Delineating these details would be my pick for the 20-point concluding essay question for any college final devoted to Yankees mania. And if Doak Ewing can ever find this footage, I will pay triple.