October 9, 1948
It was the first World Series game that triple play man Bill Wambsganss had seen since his Cleveland Indians defeated the Brooklyn Robins in Game Seven in 1920. The grand slam man, Elmer Smith, had seen a few since, however.
“This is the first series I’ve seen since our 1920 victory,” Wamby said in an article originally from The Plain Dealer. “Elmer, of course, played in two other series’ with the New York Yankees.”
Wambsganss played through the 1926 season with the Indians, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Athletics, having never appeared in the Fall Classic again. Smith, meanwhile, traveled around the league and won the pennant with the Yanks in 1922 and the championship again in ’23 with the Bronx Bombers.
Wambsganss and Smith were just two of the several former Tribesmen on hand to witness the current day Indians take Game Three of the World Series, as the men all reflected on the town’s last and only baseball title.
Other members of the team that were present were relief pitcher George Uhle, catcher Steve O’Neill, reserve outfielder Jack Graney, and Hall of Famer/outfielder/manager Tris Speaker. The six members of the Tribe’s old wigwam sat behind home plate to witness the pitcher’s duel.
The game was the first World Series contest that Cleveland had hosted since that glorious day in October, 28 years ago this weekend. The glory came due to the outstanding play of Wamby and Smith, who both shined in the historic fifth game of that series.
The history started in the very first inning, as the Indians loaded the bases on three straight singles from Charlie Jamieson, Wamby and Speaker. Smith then quickly unloaded the sacks, as he rocketed the first ever World Series grand slam over the fence for a 4-0 Tribe lead. The lead grew to 7-0 in the fourth, when starter Jim Bagby became the first ever pitcher to homer in the Fall Classic as well.
It was in the top of the fifth when things got really historic, however, as Pete Kilduff and Otto Miller both singled to start the inning. A line drive to Wambsganss at second base was caught, who stepped on second to retire Kilduff and then tagged Miller to record the first unassisted triple play in World Series history. The rare feat had only been accomplished one other time in history at that point, and has only occurred five times since.
“Yep, Elmer’s grand slam home run and my play both came 28 years ago to the day Sunday and it was the fifth game of the series,” Wamby remembers.
The 1920 championship members in attendance walked down to the field prior to Game Three and congratulated the current Indians on their American League pennant and Game Two victory. Their presence seemed to be good luck for Game Three and hopefully will continue to linger for the next few days.
After all, those 1920 Indians may soon have some company.