Henrich missed the pitch badly. Umpire Larry Goetz shot his right arm upward, signifying strike three. Game over. Dodgers win. Series tied. There's joy in Flatbush.
But no. Henrich was right; the wicked curve he couldn't hit was a pitch Owen couldn't catch. The ball bounced off the tip of the catcher's mitt and rolled off toward the box seats along the first base line, where Dodgers fans looked on in amazement. Henrich sped safely to first.
Roger Angell, now a writer and editor for The New Yorker, was in Ebbets Field that steamy October Sunday, home in New York for the weekend from his studies at Harvard. "The minute that happened, as soon as Owen dropped the ball," he recalls, "you knew somehow the Yankees were going to win."
Camilli, waiting hopelessly at first for an Owen throw that never came, was fighting off a similar premonition. "There's no question that was the turning point of the entire Series," he says. "I couldn't believe it. Mickey Owen was a great catcher who hardly ever made an error [only three all season]. It looked to me as if he just took his eye off the ball. All he had to do was knock the darn thing down and throw it to me. But it didn't happen."
"It was all my fault," a disconsolate Owen said after the game. "I should have had it."
DiMaggio, the next hitter, singled cleanly to left, and Henrich held at second. Then Charlie (King Kong) Keller—"Lord, how that sensitive man hated that nickname," says Henrich—lofted a high fly ball to right-field that hit the screen above the 19-foot concrete fence, then rolled lazily down the wall to the concave bottom for an easy double.
"I scored from second with the tying run," says Henrich. "And then, to my surprise, here comes DiMaggio. The ball Charlie hit on the screen took just long enough to roll down for Joe to score all the way from first. Joe, you know, always had an extra gear. He could really run. He slid home so hard he finished up a good eight feet past the plate."
The Yankees tasted Dodgers blood now. Bill Dickey walked; then Gordon followed with a screaming liner that hit the leftfield fence so hard that it rebounded past a pursuing Jimmy Wasdell. "Jimmy was really a first baseman," says Henrich. "He misplayed that ball." Dickey and Keller scored on the double. Casey was finished, and so were the Dodgers. "They'll never come back from this," DiMaggio correctly predicted.
Devastated by the defeat, the Dodgers succumbed quietly the next day, losing 3-1 to the Yankees' Ernie Bonham. But players on both teams knew that this Series had been lost the day before. "It could happen only in Brooklyn," Smith wrote. "Nowhere else in this broad, untidy universe, not in Bedlam nor in Babel nor in the remotest psychopathic ward...only in the ancestral home of the Dodgers...could a man win a World Series game by striking out."
Wait till next year, the headline in the Brooklyn Eagle read. But with a war on and several stars in the armed services, "next year" wouldn't come to Brooklyn for six more. The Bums would be supplanted by the Boys of Summer in the late 1940s and early '50s. And then it would all end. Brooklyn would lose its Dodgers and with them its very identity.