The New York Yankees were on the verge of adding another victim to their list of vanquished teams in the World Series. Since 1950, the Yankees had beaten the Phillies, Giants and Dodgers and looked poised to take their 7 World Series title in the 9 seasons that Casey Stengel managed the team.
With the Yankees on the verge of a devastating victory that would give them a 3-1 lead over the Milwaukee Braves, a pinch hitter who began the season playing for an independent team in Sacramento would change the momentum of the series. He did not use his bat, glove, speed nor batters eye. Pinch hitter Nippy Jones used his foot.
After the 1952 season, the Braves left Boston and set up in Milwaukee where they played to record sized crowds. In 1957, with the former powerhouses Dodgers and Giants playing their final games in New York, the Braves coasted into the World Series.
They would face the Yankees, who built up a 2 game to 1 lead going into Game 4. The Braves sent 21 game winner and future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn to the hill to tie the series at 2.
Spahn took a 4-1 lead into the 9th inning with 2 outs and nobody on. Then Yogi Berra and Gil McDougald both singled. Then Elston Howard hit a dramatic 3 run homer to tie the game.
In the 10th, again the Yankees rallied with 2 outs and nobody on and took a 5-4 lead. Now 3 outs from a 3-1 series lead, New York manager Casey Stengel let Tommy Byrne pitch to pinch hitter Nippy Jones.
A decade earlier, the California native was a reserve player on the Cardinals, getting an at bat in the 1946 World Series. Over the next bunch of years, Jones would bounce between the Cardinals, the Phillies and the Sacramento Solons of the Pacific Coast League.
During the 1957 season, he was acquired by Milwaukee from Sacramento to give them some depth at first for the injured Joe Adcock.
Now as a pinch hitter leading off in the 10th, Jones needed to spark a rally.
Byrne threw low at Jones and umpire Augie Donatelli called it a ball. But Jones insisted he was hit by a pitch and needed to be awarded first base. After pleading his case, Jones showed Donatelli that the ball had a little black smudge on it, claiming it was his shoe polish.
Donatelli relented and Jones was the lead off man on base.
Yankees manager Casey Stengel could not believe the call and counter argued. But the call on the field stood.
Jones was pinch run for. Felix Mantilla moved to second on a Red Schoendienst bunt and score on Johnny Logam’s double.
Eddie Mathews was the next batter and he clubbed a 2 run walk off shot to tie the series and 2 games a piece. The Braves, behind starting pitcher Lew Burdette, would capture the World Series in 7.
But the momentum of the game and in a way the series, started when Jones reached base to start the bottom of the 10th. It would be Jones’ final appearance in a big league game. It is safe to say his last game left a mark in Braves history.
That is why Nippy Jones is the Unsung Post Season hero for October 6.