2003 | SOLVANG, CALIFORNIA – Al Gionfriddo died on this date in 2003. He was 81. Gionfriddo’s major league career only lasted 4 years, a total of 228 games, but the 5-foot 6-inch, 165 lb outfielder ended his short career by taking the spotlight from a Hall of Famer, and it guaranteed the Dysart, Pennsylvania native a place in baseball history.
It was the sixth game of the 1947 World Series at Yankee Stadium. More than 74,000 fans were on hand, most hoping the Yankees would close out the Series. They had a 3 games to 2 lead. It was the bottom of the 6th inning. The Brooklyn Dodgers had grabbed an 8-5 lead in the top of the 6th. There were two out, but the Yankees had two men on. Joe DiMaggio was up. He could tie the game.
DiMaggio hit the first pitch from Dodger reliever Joe Hatten. It looked like it might be a new ballgame. Gionfriddo, who’d been put in left field as a defensive replacement that inning, raced toward the left field corner. He was running out of room, and surrounded by Yankee fans. His hat flew off. At the last moment he reached out and grabbed DiMaggio’s shot – just feet before the 415 mark. The inning was over. The Yankees didn’t score. DiMaggio kicked the dirt. One of the rare times in his entire career he showed any emotion on the field.
The Dodgers went on to win that game 8-6, but the Yankees closed out the series in the next day. Al Gionfriddo didn’t get in the lineup. He would not play another game. After the 1947 season he retired, feeling pretty good about himself.