Baseball is replete with players who had a big day in baseball. Joe Adcock of the Braves once hit 4 home runs in a game. Harvey Haddix of the Pirates, pitched a 12-inning perfect game until he lost in heart-breaking fashion 1-0, in 13 innings. But Al Gionfriddo’s name is etched in baseball lore for making one of baseball’s most dramatic catches in the 1947 World Series off the bat of New York Yankee slugger, Joe DiMaggio in Game 6.
In Game 4, Gionfriddo played a big role in the infamous 9th inning. He was a pinch-runner and was driven in by Cookie Lavagetto’s hit to right field to not only break up Bill Beven’s no-hitter attempt, but to win the game, 2-1. But it is in Game 6 where Gionfriddo made his mark. He came in the game as a defensive replacement with the Dodgers leading 8-5 in the bottom of the 6th inning at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees had two runners on base with the mighty Joe DiMaggio at the plate. The Yankee Clipper drove the ball long and deep and it appeared to have been a game-tying, three-run blast, but the ball was run down by the speedy Gionfriddo, who raced over from left field to make a great catch with his glove hand just inside the bullpen wall deep in left-center field.
Seeing that he was robbed of at least an extra base hit, the usually implacable DiMaggio kicked the infield dirt near second base in frustration. Gionfriddo was a small player who certainly had some big moments. He was 5’ 6”, 165 lbs, batted and threw left-handed, and, was known for his speed and defensive skills. He displayed both in the 1947 World Series.
Here is the call of his catch as announced by the Dodgers’ Red Barber: “It’s a long one, deep in left-center…back goes Gionfriddo…back, back, back, back…He makes a one-handed catch against the bull-pen! Whoa doctor!” It first it was thought he robbed Joe DiMaggio of a home run, but a closer look shows that he made the catch just in front of the bullpen. His glove hand had the ball and appears to be over the wall, but his momentum pushed him back against the wall.
This was considered one of the great catches in World Series history and that includes Willie Mays’ acrobatic catch off of Vic Wertz in 1954 at the Polo Grounds. The 1947 Series would be Gionfriddo’s last appearance in the majors. In 1948, he was assigned to the Dodgers’ Triple-A team in Montreal. He played there four years, before making other minor league stops. He retired after the 1959 season. Gionfriddo, 81, will be forever known for his great catch and his daring speed to home as the Dodgers won a thrilling game from the Yankees in the last of the 9th inning.