Red Sox History: Ranking the biggest ‘What Ifs’ in franchise history
7: What if the do-or-die games at the end of the 1940s turned out differently?
After a lost 1947 season, the 1948 Red Sox recaptured the magic of their pennant-winning team two years prior. A sweep of the Yankees in the final weekend of the season forced a one-game playoff with the Indians, which would be played in Fenway Park by virtue of a coin toss. Momentum was on the Red Sox side until manager Joe Mccarthy decided to give the ball to journeyman Denny Galehouse.
There were much better options on the Red Sox staff, such as well-rested rookie Mel Parnell and 15-game winners Joe Dobson and Jack Kramer, but Mccarthy liked Galehouse’s experience. It didn’t work out. Galehouse lasted just three innings, giving up four runs in the Red Sox eventual 8-3 loss that ended their season.
The Red Sox found themselves in the exact situation a year later. The situation may have been even better, as the Red Sox went into Yankee Stadium needing to win just one of the final two games to clinch the 1949 American League pennant.
In Game One, the Red Sox jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead but saw it fade away behind a tiring Parnell. Johnny Lindell hit the go-ahead home run in the bottom of the eighth, and ace reliever Joe Page closed out a 5-4 victory.
Game two was even more painful. The game was a classic pitching duel between aces Ellis Kinder and Allie Reynolds. With the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead in the top of the eight, the Red Sox decided to pitch-hit for Kinder, who was a fine hitter in his own right. The Red Sox failed to score that inning, and the Yankees scored four runs off the exhausted Parnell in the bottom half.
The Red Sox put up a fight in the top of the ninth, cutting the deficit to 5-3 before Birdie Tebbets popped out to first base to end the game. Incredibly, the Red Sox had won 192 games over two years, finished a combined two games behind first place, and had exactly zero pennants to show for it.