Well life never made it easy on Don Newcome. He was the big black baseball pitching star to arrive after Jackie Robinson. The good news was he was on the same team as Jackie and Roy Campanella which should a lot of help on dealing with bigotry and adaption into the major leagues. He might have been able to come up earlier on another team as he was 23 his rookie year and ready to go. He won rookie of the year and was an all-star that year. He was even 8th on the MVP ballot.
I gave pioneer points for Newcome coming in the league, but also gave those points for something he did after he left the league. You see, Don Newcome was an alcoholic. We are more enlightened today, but at that time there was a lot of shame in being an alcoholic. So, Newcome kept his drinking hidden. However, when he did come out that he was an alcoholic he was very fourth right and eventually became a consultant for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. He was the first player I remember admitting he was an alcoholic and that alone was awfully brave, much less being a spokesperson on the dangers of alcohol. That is a significant reason he is in my Hall of Fame.
Looking at his career stats, I feel sorry for Don Newcome. Here he comes into the white man’s world, does a great job of pitching and is settling in and about to hit his prime. Then he has to do two years of military service. That could do nothing but affect his career.
I think part of the reason Newcome is not in the hall of fame is his World Series starts and not holding the lead in the 1951 playoffs against the Giants in the final game. Newcome started 5 games in the World Series. He had one great start and four bad ones. That was a bad break in timing, or the Yankees picked up something. The first game he pitched against the Yankees was a great start. He and Allie Reynolds battled to a scoreless tie after 8. Then Newcome gave up a leadoff homer to Tommy Heinrich to lead off the bottom of the ninth.
However, if you look at Reynolds pitching at the end of the regular season in 1951 you see someone who was carrying his team to the pennant and just came up short. On September 26, Don Newcome pitched a complete game win to keep the Dodgers a game ahead with four to play. He gave up 5 runs, but that was after the Dodgers had built an 8-0 lead. The Dodger magic number was 3. They wouldn’t get there.
Preacher Roe who only lost two game all year, lost his third the next day. The score was 4-3. On Friday the Dodgers lost again 4-3. This time after having a 3-0 lead. Carl Erskine lost this game. The lead was 3-1 going into the bottom of the eighth, but Andy Seminick hit a two-run homer to tie the game and the Phillies scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Andy is my 956th ranked player and 65th at catcher. The Giants didn’t play those two days, so now the team teams were in a flat-out tie.
Both teams won with shutouts in game 153. Don Newcome, pitching on two days’ rest, shut out the Phillies to keep the tie.
So now the race was coming down to the last game of the season. Preacher Roe starts and doesn’t have anything. The first three Dodger pitchers gave up 8 runs in 4 plus innings. The Dodgers scored 5 runs themselves to stay withing striking distance. In fact, they worked from 6-1 down to pull within 1 run but the Phillies scored 2 in the bottom of the fifth to make the lead 3. Then things settled down. Carl Erskine pitched a scoreless 6th and 7th. However, the Dodgers were still down 3. In the top of eighth the Dodgers got the three to tie the game. Guess who comes in.
Your right Don Newcome. Now Don Newcome was a really good hitter for a pitcher, so he could pitch and keep pitching. However, he just pitched a shutout the day before. Guess who came out of the bullpen in the top of the eighth in relief. Robin Roberts did, so those two faced each other again. Roberts was tougher again. After Newcome pitched a scoreless eighth both pitchers pitched a scoreless ninth, a scoreless tenth, a scoreless eleventh, a scoreless 13th. Roberts pitched a scoreless 13th. With two outs in the bottom of the 13th Newcome ran out of gas and walked two batters.
Bud Podbielan came in and got the final out. In the top of the 14th Jackie Robinson hit a homerun off of Robin Roberts. Podbielan pitched a scoreless 14th and got out of the inning. The Giants won so they would play in a three-game series starting the next day.
Now at this point Newcome’s arm must have been dead. Ralph Branca started the first game. He pitched well, but the Dodgers lost 3-1. Clem Labine won an easy game two, 10-0. Now there are three pitchers. Roe is the most rested but didn’t pitch well in the last two games. Preacher Roe had a mediocre start and a bad start in his last two outings but had three great starts before that. Carl Erskine didn’t have that great of a year. Then there was Newcome who pitched great the last two games of the season but pitched a lot of innings in those two games.
Newcome made the start. He pitched six scoreless innings and the Dodgers led 1-0. In the seventh Newcome gave up a leadoff double and the next man got on when the throw went to third and didn’t get the runner on a sacrifice bunt. Bobby Thomson hit a long fly out to score a run. However, Newcome got Willie Mays to hit into a double play. However, pitching on two days rest after pitching so many innings the two days before were starting to get to him. Newcome came into the dugout and said his arm was dead.
Nowadays it would be easy. There were a lot of pitchers available including Preacher Roe the other ace starter that year. Only Labine wasn’t available as he pitched a shutout the day before. Instead, Dressen had Newcome pitch the eighth after the Dodgers had taken a three-run lead. Newcome got the side in order two pinch hitters and Eddie Stanky. Newcome was supposed to bat first in the top of the ninth. This would have been a good way to gracefully relieve him. All the pinch hitters were available. It didn’t happen.
Newcome went out in the ninth with a dead arm and he and the Dodgers paid for it big time. He gave up to singles, a popout then a one run double to cut the lead to two. Then Dressen finally relieved him with Ralph Branca. This was unusual. He pitched two days before. The story is that Carl Erskine was warming up next to Branca and bounced a pitch. Where was Preacher Roe. Maybe Dressen thought he was too old to warm up that fast. Then Bobby Thomson the batter made history.