Jack Banta was a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher who threw with a deceptive sidearm delivery. He played in parts of four seasons in the Majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers, but it was his performance on the final day of the 1949 season, in Philadelphia, that gained Banta his everlasting place in Brooklyn Dodgers history. Because St. Louis was in the process of winning their game in Chicago, a Dodgers loss would necessitate a threegame playoff with the Cardinals for the National League pennant.
Brooklyn took an early 5–0 lead, but the Phillies rallied to tie the score at 7–7 after six innings. Banta, who had entered the game with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, shut down the Phillies the rest of the way, giving up only two hits and a walk. After the Dodgers took a 9–7 lead in the top of the tenth, Banta retired the Phillies in the bottom of the inning to seal the victory and give Brooklyn the NL flag.
Jackie Kay Banta was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, on June 24, 1925. He was the only son of Glen and Blanche (Hutsell) Banta. Glen, a barber by trade, later opened a popular billiards parlor in Hutchinson. Jack’s parents were dedicated baseball fans, and early on they instilled in him an appreciation and passion for the game.
Jack pitched on the local Optimist baseball team on the sandlots of Hutchinson until he was seventeen. He graduated from Hutchinson High School (which had no baseball team) in 1943 and took a full-time warehouse job. The teenager tried to enlist in the military in World War II, but a bad knee kept him out of the service.
Dodgers scout Burt Wells, who had seen Banta play in 1942, was driven by the war-induced player shortages to sign young talent. In 1944 Wells invited Banta to a tryout in Springfield, Missouri, where the Dodgers’ American Association affiliate, the St. Paul Saints, were practicing.
Jack Banta made his Major League debut on
September 18, 1947.
It did not take long for the 6-foot-2½, 175pound Banta to impress everyone at the Saints camp with his blazing fastball, and he was quickly signed. Brooklyn general manager Branch Rickey first assigned Banta to the Newport News (Virginia) team in the Class B Piedmont League. After