On this date in 1942, the Cardinals race with the Dodgers for the National League pennant took a dramatic turn.
The Redbirds started the day eight games behind Brooklyn in the standings and cut the deficit to seven by winning the first game of a double header at Sportsmans Park. The Dodgers fought to regain their eight-game advantage with two runs in the first inning of game two. But the day was far from over and each team fought bitterly for the win.
The Birds stormed back with one run in the second and four more in the third to take a 6-2 lead. The Dodgers tied the game with four runs in the sixth inning and it stayed that way until the 11th inning.
St. Louis right fielder Enos Slaughter launched a fly ball to right centerfield that was chased by Brooklyn centerfielder Pete Reiser. The slugging Dodger outfielder ran into the wall at full speed, falling to the ground with a concussion as Slaughter circled the bases with a game-winning inside the park home run.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
Not only did the Birds win the game to cut their deficit to six games. But the loss of Reiser was devastating for the Dodgers.
Hitting .350 to lead the National League at the time of his injury, Reiser's average would drop 40 points by the end of the season. The St. Louis native would miss five days of play. Initially, when he came back he continued to hit well with 10 hits in his next six games. But after that things took a dramatic turn for the worse.
In August, Reiser was 14-for-68 to compile .206 batting average as his season mark dropped to .327. Meanwhile, the Dodgers lead over St. Louis swelled to 10 games at the beginning of August. But, by the end of the month, it was down to three.
The Cardinals would go on to edge out Brooklyn by two games with a 106-48 record and then defeat the Yankees in the World Series for the first baseball championship since 1934.
Reiser, originally a Cardinals farmhand before he was released in 1937, was not stranger to collisions with the outfield wall. In 1946 he knocked himself out cold by running into the left field wall in a game against St. Louis. He was hospitalized with facial fractures after that incident.
Winner of the 1941 National League batting title with a .343 average, Reiser was second that season in MVP balloting to Dolph Camilli. The 1942 season was Reiser's last until the end of World War II. He spent three years in the service playing baseball for the Army where he injured his shoulder.
Reiser claimed the arm problems he had from that mishap were even more damaging to his play than the knocks he took on the head.