TERRE HAUTE —
Part VI - Final
Any team seeking to win the 1947 Three-I League had to go through the Danville Dodgers and their stellar pitching staff including Ken Olsen, who became a 22-game winner, and the future Brooklyn Dodgers star from Anderson, Carl Erskine.
As the Terre Haute Phillies entered the home stretch, pitchers Ed Sundra and Al Porto were ailing. Sundra was in and out of the hospital with back spasms and Porto was hospitalized for influenza and a kidney infection.
In a season defined by the tragic death of manager Ray Brubaker, Terre Haute nurtured spirited rivalries with Danville, Evansville and Waterloo. The White Hawks led the league in attendance, luring 5,116 fans for a doubleheader against the Phillies July 30 to pass the 100,000 threshold. At year’s end, Waterloo had attracted a league record 174,064.
Terre Haute split four-games with the Hawks and then swept a three-game series at Decatur when Dick Welker had a 5-for-5 night during a doubleheader on Aug. 3.
Acrobatic baseball clown Jackie Price performed at the series opener against Danville at Memorial Stadium. Bill Jankowski allowed only two hits over eight innings to lead the Phillies to a 9-6 victory before 5,302. Six Phillies got extra base hits.
Then, Hardy Holt and Erskine united to whip Terre Haute, 10-4, in the second game before 2,913 fans. Sundra started but did not last long with his ailing back. The attendance catapulted the Phillies past 100,000.
Released from the hospital, Porto unexpectedly returned to action to limit the Dodgers to eight well-spaced hits as Terre Haute won 2-1 before 2,464. The victory moved the Phillies within three games of first place. It was Porto’s twelfth win of the year.
The Phillies swept a four-game series against Quincy, getting good effort from several members of the pitching staff and a brilliant 8-0 shutout from Jankowski.
With the season was winding down, the Big Phillies sent rookie Leo Cristante, a 21-year old righthander from Detroit, to Terre Haute before the Phillies entered a crucial home series against third place Springfield on Aug. 11.
Unfortunately, the Brownies swept the three game series, even winning on Fan’s Appreciation Night, Aug. 12, before 4,134. The loss dropped Terre Haute to third place.
With their tails between their legs, the Phillies headed to Bosse Field Aug. 15, for a hotly-contested four-game set against the fourth place Braves. Evansville’s Bob Whicher outdueled Porto and Cristante in the first game, 5-4, And, in the second game, David “Red” Sheehan, the baseball pride of Arlington, Mass., shutout Terre Haute, 5- -0.
Jack Brittin helped the Phillies salvage the second game of the Aug. 17 doubleheader, 4-3, before 5,303 and the locals departed Evansville still tied for third.
The Phillies scored nine runs in the seventh inning of its first game at Quincy to win 14-7. Though he pitched only two-thirds of an inning, Sundra was the winning pitcher. When Evansville lost to Springfield, Terre Haute moved into third place. Cristante pitched a five-hit gem in his first pro start to protect the Phillies’ position.
Quincy beat Terre Haute in the final game of their series, 4-2, while Springfield stayed in second place by sweeping successive series with Danville and Evansville.
But the Phillies surprised the Brownies, sweeping a three-game set at Springfield to edge back into second place. The Phillies needed three hours and four pitchers to win the first game. Manager Jack Sanford was ejected and the game was played under protest.
Bill Higdon, Charley Hood, Dick Welker, Willie “Puddin-head” Jones and Wally Jakowczyk wielded big bats for the winners.
Sanford got a key pinch hit during a five-run eighth inning of the second game, won by Terre Haute, 7-5. Jakowczyk, Don Hasenmayer, Guy Glaser and Gene Olive gave Cristante, Grasmick and Revels strong support in the third game for an 8-4 victory.
Danville proved to be the Phillies’ nemesis once again, winning two of three at home. Lefty Morrie Martin won the opener, 5-2, and Olsen, voted the Dodgers’ most popular player, notched his 20th victory Aug. 27 with a 2-0 shutout in the first game of doubleheader. Terre Haute rallied to defeat Erskine in the second game, 8-3. Business manager Bill Boyle sought to lure the season’s biggest crowd by promoting a doubleheader against Evansville at Memorial Stadium on Aug. 28. His mission was accomplished: 10,920 fans passed through the gates that day, breaking the Three-I League single game record. A full page game story with photo was featured in The Sporting News.
Official attendance at Memorial Stadium for 1947 was recorded at 133,654.
Evansville’s Whicher allowed only two hits in the first game to win 4-3 but Cristante won the second game, 3-2, thanks to two extra base hits by Jakowczyk. The Phillies then won two of three at home against lowly Decatur.
Danville clinched the pennant Sept. 1. On Labor Day, Porto and Cristante whitewashed Evansville, 1-0 and 3-0, before 3,948 at Memorial Stadium to secure second, 4 1/2 games out. Superb defense accompanied effective pitching. Unfortunately, Higdon cracked a bone in his wrist and was forced to miss the playoffs.
The two losses knocked Evansville out of the first division as well as the Shaughnessy playoffs. Waterloo beat Davenport twice to tie Springfield for third but the Browns won the one-game playoff 11-7.
Before Terre Haute’s best of five playoff against Waterloo, the Phillies were feted by the Fred Rogers family, owners of the Dinner Bell, with a chicken dinner. Glaser was chosen as the team’s most popular player, followed by Welker and Jakowczyk.
Waterloo won the first three games of the playoffs against Terre Haute, 5-2, 1-0 and 11-1; the first two were played at Memorial Stadium. Porto pitched well in Game Two but lost a tense duel with Waterloo’s Jim Hughes.
John Perkovich and Howie Judson won the other two games for the White Hawks, who then beat champion Danville for the 1947 playoff title, 4 games to 1.
Jones, who hit .307, was the only player Philadelphia called up at the end of 1947. He spent 15 years in the majors with Philadelphia, Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Brittin, Cristante, Grasmick, Porto and Higdon eventually made it to “The Bigs.” Higdon, Welker, Jankowski and Jakowczyk, who finished behind Hank Arft of Springfield for the batting crown, played for Terre Haute in later seasons. Wally married a Terre Haute girl and resided here for many years.