First I found out it’s Mickey Owen and not Owens, then I sponsored Owen’s baseball-reference page.
Mickey Owen was the Brooklyn Dodgers’ catcher for a few years in the 1940s. He wasn’t a particularly good hitter, but he was regarded as a good catcher, setting a record for most errorless fielding chances by a catcher with 508 perfect attempts in 1941.
So you can almost taste the irony that he’s remembered for a passed ball.
Game 4 of the 1941 World Series, Dodgers are down in the series 2-1 to the Yankees, who are in the midst of the Joe McCarthy era. It looks like the Dodgers are gonna take game 4, up 4-3 in the ninth, to tie the series. Hugh Casey is in to close it out for Brooklyn. He gets Johnny Sturm to ground out to second and Red Rolfe to ground out to the pitcher. Tommy Henrich comes up for the Yankees and strikes out, which would have ended the game, but the ball gets past Owen and Henrich is safe at first. Joe Dimaggio singles. Charlie Kelley doubles. Bill Dickey walks. Joe Gordon doubles. Phil Rizzuto walks. The inning finally ends when Hugh Casey gets the pitcher Johnny Murphy to ground out. Yankees score four. Murphy pitches the bottom of the ninth and shuts down Pee Wee Reese, Dixie Walker and Pete Reiser.
Yankees took game 5 with ease. It was their ninth World Series in 12 appearances up to that point; their sixth under McCarthy, who would win eight total as a manager.
Just to add to the patheticness of it all, it was the Dodgers’ first World Series appearance since 1920 (those bums), while their main rivals, the New York Giants, had been to it seven times and won three just in that same span.
Owen had a great sense of humor about it, even signing the ball that he dropped in his later years. He played for the Dodgers for a few years after that until 1944, when he served his country in World War II. After returning home, he found some work
I sponsored his B-R page for two reasons. One, it was the beginning of the golden age of the Bums. The Bum identity was created long before that, but 1941 was the first year of a string of World Series appearances featuring a core of players built by Branch Rickey, all losses until the magical 1955 World Series title. The Mickey Owen play was also so Bum-ish. Imagine your team doesn’t make the World Series for 20 years (in an eight-team division) only to finally get to it and lose a deciding game because the catcher couldn’t snag strike 3. Only the Dodgers could have lost a World Series on a passed ball–and only the Dodgers could have completely melted down the way they did.
Second, my grandfather Cy, who was working in construction in New York at the time, was listening to the game on the radio and heard it live. After the game was over, he thought, “Well there’s somebody out there stupider than me” and became a Dodger fan for life.