April 17, 2009

70 Years Later: Red Sox Battled Bulldogs at Yale Field

April 17, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - While most baseball fans remember Ted Williams for his .406 batting average in 1941 or the home run he hit in his final Major League at-bat, 79-year-old Joel Alderman's first memory of the Hall of Famer is an 0-for-4 performance from 70 years ago today.

"Although," says Alderman, "he was robbed of a homer in the ninth."

The game in question was an April 17, 1939, exhibition contest at Yale Field featuring the Boston Red Sox and the Yale Bulldogs. The Red Sox roster featured five future Hall of Famers, including Williams, a rookie who would make his major league debut three days later against the New York Yankees. Alderman recalls that Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr and Jimmie Foxx were all in the line-up along with Williams.

"I doubt if there are more than a few who would know on that day that four baseball immortals were in a game together at Yale Field," said Alderman, a 1951 Yale graduate. "But I do know this: it will never happen again."

Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Grove was also on the 1939 Red Sox roster, though he did not take the hill on that day.

The 1939 Yale club was managed by the legendary Smoky Joe Wood and captained by Eddie Collins '39. Wood was a former pitcher for the Red Sox, who boasted a 34-5 record for the 1912 World Series Championship team, and Collins, whose father Edward Sr. was the general manager of the Red Sox at the time, would go on to play for the Philadelphia Athletics.

The Elis led the Red Sox after three innings by a score of 4-0, but Boston came back to edge Yale, 6-5, with the go-ahead run crossing the plate in the ninth inning. Alderman never saw that deciding run, however, as the game was played "in almost freezing temperatures and a cold rain," according to the New York Times.

"I remember leaving early because it was so cold," Alderman said. "Years later I interviewed Ted Williams and he vividly recalled that game, saying he was never so cold in his life."

Foxx was 0-for-1 and Cronin went 1-for-2 before making early exits in the preseason contest. Doerr played all nine innings and went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles. Collins finished at 0-for-4 for Yale, and Joe Wood '41, Smoky Joe's son, went 2-for-4. Wood was also the right fielder that robbed Williams' home run in the ninth inning.

The Red Sox went on to finish 89-62, in second place in the American League behind the eventual 1939 World Series Champion New York Yankees. The Bulldogs posted an 11-20 record in the 1939 spring season.

report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity

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