May 25, 2016

1954 World Champion NY Giants Pitcher Who Was Saved By Willie Mays' Catch: Don Liddle (1954-1956)

Don Eugene Liddle was born on May 25, 1925, in Mount Carmel, Illinois.

After high school Liddle went into the Navy to serve his country during World War II. The left-handed pitcher was signed by the Boston Braves in 1947, spending seven years in the minor leagues. He was already 27 years old when he debuted in the big leagues, & by this time the Braves had moved to Milwaukee.

In May 1953 he earned his first MLB win, it was a one run two hitter against the Chicago Cubs. Liddle ended up 7-6 with two saves, while posting a 3.08 ERA for the ‘53 Braves. During the winter of 1954 he was traded along with along with Johnny Antonelli, Billy Klaus, Ebba St. Claire and $50,000 to the New York Giants for Bobby Thomson & Sam Calderone.

Liddle had his best season in the Giants 1954 Championship season. After beginning the year at 0-2 then went on to go 9-2 the rest of the way, including a 5-1 stretch from August through September.

He finished out June pitching a complete game four hitter against his old Milwaukee Braves team mates to even out his record at 2-2. On July 15th he shutout the Cardinals in St. Louis on a five hitter 4-0 win. That same week he went into the 9th inning pitching five hit shutout innings in Cincinnati, but the Giants lost the game in the 11th inning.

On August 20th Liddle threw a three hit shut out at the Polo Grounds to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates. He closed out his season with another five hit shutout in Philadelphia beating the Phillies on September 24th to earn his ninth win. Liddle would start 19 games & also work out of the bull pen, going 9-4 with three shutouts, four complete games while posting a 3.06 ERA.

Post Season: In Game #1 of the 1954 World Series at the Polo Grounds, Liddle relieved Sal Maglie in the 8th inning with two Cleveland Indians on base. Giants manager Leo Durocher wanted Liddle to specifically pitch to Cleveland’s slugger Vic Wertz.

Wertz then bashed a long fly ball way back to deep center field, somewhere around 450 feet deep. Willie Mays went back, ran down the long fly ball & caught it over his shoulder, making the most famous catch in baseball history.

Liddle was off the hook and throughout time was the forgotten man, as to who actually threw the pitch that leaded to “The Catch” by Mays. Durocher came out & changed pitchers like he had originally intended. When the new pitcher Marv Grissom came to the mound to replace him, Liddle turned to Grissom saying "well, I got my man".

In Game #4 Don Liddle got the start at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. He went into the 7th inning, allowing four runs while striking out two batters.

He got the victory anyway as the Giants bats exploded to complete the four game sweep over Cleveland, beating Bob Lemon, 7-4.

In 1955 he returned to have another quality year, starting out the year with an eighth inning victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In July he won four straight games besting his record to 5-2. After taking a loss in relief at Wrigley Field he went on to win five of his next six games to end the season.

On the year he was 10-4 with a 4.23 ERA, one save & one hold in 33 games.

He dropped to 2-4 in 1956 before getting traded along with Alvin Dark, Ray Katt and Whitey Lockman to the St. Louis Cardinals for Dick Littlefield, Jackie Brandt, Red Schoendienst and Bill Sarni that June.

He played with St. Louis for the remainder of the year, finishing his career at age 31 at the end of the 1956 season. In his four year career he was 28-18, with four saves, 13 complete games, three shut outs, 198 strike outs, 203 walks and a 3.75 ERA in 117 games pitched.

Retirement: After leaving baseball, Liddle worked at the local Elks Club, owned a service station & sold insurance. He then went to work at the Snap-On Tools factory, for 22 years. He was a supervisor there for 18 of those years.

Honors: He also helped his community's construction of a new ballpark for its youth baseball program. The ballpark was named for him in his Honor.

Passing: Don passed away at age 75 in Mount Carmel, Illinois from lung cancer in 2000.

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