Cardinals, Dodgers face off in baseball’s first three-game playoff
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The Cardinals would go on to defeat the American League champion Boston Red Sox, four games to three, in a back-and-forth World Series. After the 1946 season, Red Sox manager Joe Cronin called for Major League Baseball to reduce all tiebreaker series to one game. Cronin believed the prolonged battle between the Cardinals and Dodgers was indirectly responsible for an elbow injury to his star player, Ted Williams, after Williams was hit by a pitch during an exhibition game between the end of the regular season and the start of the World Series.
“If Brooklyn and St. Louis weren’t going through this best-of-three playoff this week, we wouldn’t have had to play any exhibition games to keep in trim,” Cronin told the press. “And, if there had been no exhibition games, Ted would not have been hurt needlessly.”
Cronin’s complaints were heard by American League owners, who instituted a one-game playoff for baseball’s next tiebreaker between the Indians and Red Sox in 1948. However, the National League maintained its three-game playoff format through three more playoffs in 1951, 1959 and 1962 before adopting the one-game format.
The 1946 showdown between the Cardinals and Dodgers was only the first of several memorable tiebreaker series to come, including Bobby Thompson’s ‘Shot Heard ‘Round The World’ walk-off homer that lifted the New York Giants over the Dodgers in 1951.
Matt Kelly is a freelance writer from Brooklyn, N.Y.