The Team That Forever Changed Baseball and America: The 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers

By Lyle Spatz; Maurice Bouchard et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 73. Al Gionfriddo

Rory Costello

“Running! turning! leaping! like little Al Gionfriddo—a baseball player, Doctor, who once did a very great thing.”

The great thing novelist Philip Roth described in Portnoy’s Complaint was Gionfriddo’s racing, twisting catch to rob Joe DiMaggio of extra bases or a three-run homer and save Game Six of the 1947 World Series for Brooklyn. Alas, the twentyfive-year-old Gionfriddo never played in the Major Leagues again. Yet more than sixty years later, his spectacular grab remains a potent memory. Red Barber’s exciting radio call, a classic action photo, dozens of writers, and thousands of fans all helped the play live on. At root, though, is the appeal of a hard-working little guy’s moment in the sun.

Albert Francis Gionfriddo (pronounced Gee-onFREE-doe) was born March 8, 1922, in Dysart, Pennsylvania. Dysart is northwest of Altoona, about ninety miles east of Pittsburgh. Al’s father, Paul Gionfriddo, was a coal miner. The family’s roots are Sicilian. Paul (originally Paolo) was born in the town of Solarino in Siracusa province and learned the trade of stone mason. He immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s.

Paul and his wife, the former Rose Rametta, daughter of a fellow coal miner from Calabria, had thirteen children, of whom Al was the seventh. Only ten reached adulthood. The Gionfriddo parents conversed in Italian, but they wanted their children to speak English. “Al could speak some broken Italian,” his second wife, Susan Jacobsen Gionfriddo, recalled in 2008. “He could understand it better.” The youngsters also grew up American thanks to sports. Sue notes that the Dysart baseball team “was half Gionfriddos, between his brothers and cousins.” Al played center field for the nearby American Legion team, the Cresson Juniors, and Jim played left field.

Al Gionfriddo came to the Dodgers from Pittsburgh as part
of the May 3 trade that sent Kirby Higbe to the Pirates.

Al also attended high school in Cresson, roughly twelve miles south of Dysart. As a running back in football, he won a scholarship to nearby St. Francis University, but his calling was on the diamond. At age nineteen, in 1941, before graduating from Cresson High, Al signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He had been discovered in August 1940 in the Legion’s Pennsylvania state tourna-

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The Team That Forever Changed Baseball and America: The 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents v
  • Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Chapter 1- How the 1947 Team Was Built 1
  • Chapter 2- Spring Training in Havana 3
  • Chapter 3- Jackie Robinson 6
  • Chapter 4- Branch Rickey 15
  • Chapter 5- Leo Durocher 22
  • Chapter 6- Kirby Higbe 28
  • Chapter 7- Bobby Bragan 32
  • Chapter 8- Dixie Walker 36
  • Chapter 9- Carl Furillo 44
  • Chapter 10- The Suspension of Leo Durocher 50
  • Chapter 11- Branch Rickey and the Mainstream Press 57
  • Chapter 12- Timeline, April 15-April 30 62
  • Chapter 13- Ebbets Field, 1947 64
  • Chapter 14- Jackie Robinson’s First Game 67
  • Chapter 15- Clyde Sukeforth 69
  • Chapter 16- Burt Shotton 73
  • Chapter 17- Ray Blades 80
  • Chapter 18- Spider Jorgensen 84
  • Chapter 19- Hal Gregg 87
  • Chapter 20- Timeline, May L-May 20 92
  • Chapter 21- Hank Behrman 95
  • Chapter 22- Rube Melton 99
  • Chapter 23- Jackie Robinson and the Jews 103
  • Chapter 24- Timeline, May 21-June 15 105
  • Chapter 25- Gene Hermanski 109
  • Chapter 26- Hugh Casey 113
  • Chapter 27- Rex Barney 119
  • Chapter 28- Tommy Brown 124
  • Chapter 29- Harry Taylor 129
  • Chapter 30- Timeline, June 16-June 29 132
  • Chapter 31- Ed Chandler 134
  • Chapter 32- Marv Rackley 137
  • Chapter 33- Gil Hodges 140
  • Chapter 34- George Dockins 146
  • Chapter 35- Eddie Stanky 150
  • Chapter 36- Timeline, June 30-July 14 157
  • Chapter 37- Arky Vaughan 159
  • Chapter 38- Duke Snider 164
  • Chapter 39- Ralph Branca 172
  • Chapter 40- Clyde King 176
  • Chapter 41- Jake Pitler 181
  • Chapter 42- Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1947 All-Star Game 185
  • Chapter 43- Timeline, July 15—July 31 186
  • Chapter 44- Pee Wee Reese 189
  • Chapter 45- Bruce Edwards 197
  • Chapter 46- The Protested Game of July 20, 1947 201
  • Chapter 47- Joe Hatten 203
  • Chapter 48- Timeline, August 1-August 17 207
  • Chapter 49- Howie Schultz 210
  • Chapter 50- Pete Reiser 215
  • Chapter 51- Tommy Tatum 223
  • Chapter 52- Timeline, August 18-August 31 226
  • Chapter 53- Eddie Miksis 228
  • Chapter 54- Stan Rojek 232
  • Chapter 55- Dan Bankhead 235
  • Chapter 56- Timeline, September L-September 19 239
  • Chapter 57- Phil Haugstad 242
  • Chapter 58- Don Lund 246
  • Chapter 59- Vic Lombardi 250
  • Chapter 60- Jack Banta 254
  • Chapter 61- Johnny Van Cuyk 257
  • Chapter 62- Timeline, September 20-September 28 261
  • Chapter 63- Willie Ramsdell 263
  • Chapter 64- Dick Whitman 267
  • Chapter 65- Ervpalica 271
  • Chapter 66- Ed Stevens 276
  • Chapter 67- Walter O’Malley 279
  • Chapter 68- John L. Smith 284
  • Chapter 69- Red Barber 287
  • Chapter 70- Connie Desmond 294
  • Chapter 71- Advertising and the Dodgers in 1947 298
  • Chapter 72- The 1947 World Series 305
  • Chapter 73- Al Gionfriddo 312
  • Chapter 74- Cookie Lavagetto 316
  • Chapter 75- Al Gionfriddo’s Memorable Game Six Catch 320
  • Chapter 76- Lavagetto Ends Bill Bevens’s No-Hit Attempt 323
  • Chapter 77- Most Valuable Player Award 326
  • Chapter 78- Rookie of the Year Award 327
  • Chapter 79- Cy Young Award 328
  • Chapter 80- Dodgers Attendance in 1947 329
  • Chapter 81 - Ownership Issues in Brooklyn 333
  • Epilogue 337
  • Notes and References 339
  • Contributors 373
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