Tom Knight’s Diamond Reflections: New York Loses Two Legends
By Tom Knight
Brooklyn Baseball Historian
Bang the drum slowly for two ballplayers who starred here in New York — Don Mueller and Andy Carey.
Mueller was 84 years old when he died at his home in suburban St. Louis on Wednesday, Dec. 28. He was a two-time All-Star whose hit helped set up Bobby Thomson’s famed home run that won the 1951 NL pennant playoff.
In the deciding Game 3 of the playoffs against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951, Mueller had a single in the bottom of the ninth with the Giants trailing 4-1. Whitey Lockman later hit an RBI double and Mueller tore up his ankle sliding into third base. Mueller was carried off the field and Clint Hartung pinch-ran for him. It was then that Thomson hit his three-run home run that became known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”
Mueller came up through the Giants’ farm system and was a career .296 hitter in 10 years with New York and a final two seasons with the Chicago White Sox. In 1954, the popular outfielder led the majors with 212 hits as the Giants won the NL pennant and swept the heavily-favored Cleveland Indians in four straight games to become the world champs.
There was a great race for the NL batting title that year: Mueller’s teammate Willie Mays won with a .345 average, Mueller was second with .342 and Brooklyn’s Duke Snider came in third with .341. Those were the days, my friends!
Mueller’s ability to hit the ball through holes in the infield earned him the nickname “Mandrake the Magician” from the popular comic strip of the day.
As the World Series program of 1951 stated, “Don Mueller is one of those camera-eye hitters who can judge a pitch by a split inch. He swings where the ball is pitched, and sprays it in all three directions. Not noted particularly for long-range power, he does blast the ball tremendous distances upon occasion. Top performance was his play during the Dodgers’ last visit to the Polo Grounds in September. In two games he whaled five home runs!”
The exact date escapes me, but it was around 1990 at one of the Dodgers’ Hall of Fame parties in Brooklyn. The Giants were in town at the same time and three of them came over for the festivities. I had the pleasure of introducing Don Mueller and pitchers Jim Hearn and Larry Jansen to the crowd and a good time was had by all. That would not have happened in 1951!
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Andy Carey, the former Yankees’ third baseman who helped preserve Don Larsen’s 1956 World Series perfect game, died on Dec. 15 in Costa Mesa, Calif. He was 80 years old.
Carey played from 1952 through 1962 and was a lifetime .260 hitter. He played on four Yankees’ World Series teams, winning rings in 1956 and 1958.
Carey is remembered for playing a key role in Larsen’s Oct. 8, 1956 perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Yankee Stadium. Opening the second inning, Carey made contact with Jackie Robinson’s smash to the third baseman’s left, deflecting the ball and allowing shortstop Gil McDougald to field it with barely enough time to throw Robinson out at first base.
It was a memorable day. The final score was Yankees 2, Dodgers 0. The losing pitcher was Sal Maglie.
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