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They Played
the Game
JOE PAGE

Nickname: "Fireman"
Born: October 28, 1917 (Cherry Valley, PA)
ML Debut: April 19, 1944
Final Game: May 25, 1954
6'2"     205
Bats: Left     Throws: Left
Played for New York Yankees (1940-1951), Pittsburgh Pirates (1954)
Postseason: 1947 WS, 1949 WS
All-Star 1944, 1947, 1948
AL Babe Ruth Award 1949
Joseph Francis Page, a powerful left-handed hurler out of the coal-mining region of Pennsylvania, made his Yankee debut on April 19, 1944. That season he posted a 5-1 record and secured a place on the All-Star team. Then a shoulder injury lessened his effectiveness and he drifted back and forth in mediocrity from starter to reliever. However, Bucky Harris saved Page's career in 1947 by putting him in the bullpen. A 14-8 record with seventeen saves and a 2.15 ERA in relief that season got Page a lot of attention. Those fourteen relief wins lasted as the AL record until Luis Arroyo snapped it in 1961.
Page followed up his regular-season heroics with outstanding hurling in the 1947 World Series, getting the save in game one and winning the clincher, holding the Dodgers to one hit in five scoreless innings. He was the first World Series Most Valuable Player. In 1948, Page led the league with fifty-five appearances and became an All-Star for the third time....
Under Casey [Stengel], Page saved twenty-seven games and posted a 13-8 record. He closed out the Red Sox in the next-to-last game of the season, enabling the Yankees to win the pennant. In the World Series, Page won game three and held the Dodgers scoreless in game five from the seventh inning on.
Joe Page's final Yankee season was 1950. Perhaps it was the heavy workload through the years, perhaps it was just time. But after only seven seasons as a Yankee, he was done. Joe Page still ranks in seventh place in franchise history with seventy-six saves.
-- Harvey Frommer
A Yankee Century
In mid-August [1949] Boston began a late surge that seriously threatened the Yankees' hold on first place, but because of [Casey] Stengel's uncanny foresight and his players' excellent execution, the team was somehow hanging onto the lead despite widespread injuries to key players. The pitching staff was holding up satisfactorily, and Joe Page, the controversial relief pitcher, was at the top of his form, sneering at the hitters, and throwing bullets at them.
When everything was going right for Page, he was awesome. To remember him in his prime is to see the tall, lanky pitcher stare down at Ted Williams at taunt him with a rising fast ball that sailed in toward the lefty Williams....
Joe Page was Henry Fielding's Tom Jones in a baseball uniform, a tall, handsome celebrity with jet-black hair and a toothpaste smile, a rounder who enjoyed being noticed in public, a night owl who greeted the rosy-fingered sunrise through bloodshot eyes after a lusty night's play.
For two years of his checkered career Joe Page was the most valuable pitcher in the American League, a left-handed relief specialist who would insolently saunter to the mound from the right-field bullpen, his jacket saucily slung over his shoulder partially covering the number 11 on the back of his pinstripe uniform. When he got there he took the ball from the manager and nonchalantly fired a half-dozen warm-up pitches of medium velocity. Then after the batter stepped in, Page would survey the runners dancing off the bases, sneer defiantly at the batter, and then streak exploding, rising fastballs past the usually overmatched batsman.
....Page came from the coal country of the Allegheny valley where human life was cheap. During the depths of the Depression the life of a miner wasn't worth much more than the cost of a good headstone .... In mining society the threat of death was really the way of life, something which had to be stoically accepted because its likelihood was so immediate. Few miners put money in the bank for a rainy day. Instead they took that money and lived life day by day. This was Joe Page's milieu, a lifestyle most of his teammates could never understand. They thought him to be irresponsible, out for himself, and an attention-seeker who loved public adulation whereas they wanted to be left alone .... Page's reaction to this rejection was a veneer of indifference, as he traveled his side of the tracks while they traveled theirs.
It was this veneer that also drove his managers into fits of rage when they would chastise him, only to see him shrug his shoulders. Few could understand how a man could be so excellent one year and so mediocre the next, yet seem so indifferent to his change of fortune.
Page reached the Yankees in 1944 ... [and] started the season winning five of his six starts and was named to the 1944 All-Star team by manager [Joe] McCarthy. There was a tremendous amount of pride in his local community when he was named to play in the game, being held in Pittsburgh that year. But on the day that was to be his triumphant homecoming, his father suffered a stroke, and Page, instead of playing, sped to the local hospital where his father died before he could see his son pitch in the majors.
Abruptly Page stopped winning, and for the first time MCCarthy took notice of Page's extracurricular activities. After six straight losses, Page was returned to Newark, which was okay with him, and where [he] was named to pitch on the International League All-Star team. When he returned to the Yankees in 1945 his relationship with McCarthy had not improved. Page continued to lead his own life style, and though the occasional fines and tongue-lashings hurt his feelings, his outward reaction continued to be one of total indifference to McCarthy's martinet influence, and it was this indifference which so agitated the gruff Yankee manager. McCarthy was strict, but he was concerned, and he righteously contended that Page was throwing his career away and wasn't considering his future. What McCarthy couldn't understand was that Page was only interested in the adventures of the next game or the next evening.
In 1946 McCarthy's frustrations with managing the losing wartime Yankee teams and with fighting a seemingly losing battle to reform Page finally surfaced on a plane trip from Cleveland to Detroit in May .... McCarthy slipped into the aisle seat next to Page and propped up his right leg... to lock Page in. He tapped Page firmly on the arm to get his attention. "You're going to sit and listen to what I have to say," McCarthy said.
"Sure," said Page breezily.
"What the devil's the matter with you?" McCarthy asked.
"Nothing," Page said.
"When are you gonna settle down and start pitching? How long do you think you can get away with this?" McCarthy's voice level was beginning to rise.
"Get away with what?" Page asked annoyedly. "I'm not trying to get away with anything. I'm doing the best I can. What do you want outta me?"
McCarthy began shouting, so that he was audible throughout the entire plane. The other players and the press, embarrassed, tried to act like they weren't listening and like nothing unusual was happening. "Who the hell do you think you're kidding?" McCarthy shouted, his Irish temper at the boiling point. "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to send you back to Newark, and you can make your four hundred dollars a month for all I care."
Page, unruffled, shrugged his shoulders. "That's okay with me," he said. "You wanna send me to Newark, send me to Newark. Maybe I'll be happier there."
....But that afternoon when the plane landed in Detroit, McCarthy did not go to the ball park. He was too hypertense to manage. After a rest in his hotel room, he flew directly home to his Tonawanda, New York, farm. The next day he telephoned in his resignation as Yankee manager, a job he had held since 1931.
....Page didn't become a big winner until 1947 under the much more live-and-let-live Bucky Harris, who switched him to the bullpen. In '47 Page appeared in fifty-six games, winning fourteen and saving twenty others. He was fourth in the voting for Most Valuable Player. In the world series he saved the first and third games. In the seventh and deciding game Page entered in the top of the fourth inning, and over the final five innings he blew his fast ball past the Dodgers, allowing one hit and no runs. After the final game, the entire team toasted Joe Page and his live fast ball, including owner Larry MacPhail who earlier in the year had dispatched a female private detective to follow Page around. Columnist Ed Sullivan wrote about Page and the female detective, and before long there were stories that she had fallen in love with Page and was sending MacPhail the most glowing reports.
After Page's 1947 triumphs, he spent the entire winter celebrating, and the following year he arrived in camp thirty pounds overweight, and after crash-dieting to lose the weight, he was weak all season. He also suffered from a tired arm after Harris used him with mixed success in fifty-five games. Again stories and rumors of Page's extracurricular escapades surfaced .... [W]hen the Yankees lost the '48 pennant by two games, Page was accused of being the major factor in Harris's dismissal .... Toward the end of the season the team was in Penn Station, ready to board a train to take them to Washington, D.C., when the mild-mannered Harris took Page aside. "Joe," Harris said, "whatever happens in the future, if I get let go, which is probably going to happen, it's not on account of you."
When Stengel became manager in '49, Page, rested and fit, regained his 1947 form and pitched in a record sixty games, winning thirteen, saving twenty, and holding the opposition in fourteen other games without getting credited in the records. It was another incredible, magical year -- the last such season he would ever have.
In 1950 he again suffered a tired arm, pitching with mixed success, and then in 1951, in spring training, Page was on the mound when his right leg, the striding leg, slipped after his windup, and, releasing the ball off-balance, he tore the bursar muscle in his pitching arm. His career was over ....
-- Peter Golenbock
Dynasty: The New York Yankees, 1949-1964
....With [Joe] DiMaggio in the hospital, the recently-acquired slugger John Mize out with a sprained shoulder, Yogi Berra out with a broken thumb, and Tommy Henrich playing in a bulky corset after cracking a couple of ribs, the Yankees [in 1949] were finally passed by the Red Sox with only four games remaining in the season. When the season came down to the final two-game series between the Yankees and the Red Sox, the Sox were still leading by one game .... [T]his year the crucial series was being played in Yankee Stadium.
Yankee Stadium was shaped like a horseshoe with three tiers of grandstands stretching in foul territory from the left-field line around behind home plate out to the right-field line. Rows and rows of wooden bleachers sat behind the outfield. Because the Stadium was designed to take advantage of the left-handed power of Babe Ruth, the architect made it easier to hit home runs to right-field and right center than to left and left center, thus removing all symmetry but at the same time giving the Stadium its unique dimensions. Down the lines home runs were easy if a pitcher was foolish enough to allow the batter to pull the ball. It was 296 feet in right and 301 in left ... and hitting home runs into the power alleys, 407 feet from the plate over a fourteen-foot wall in right and 457 feet over a thirteen-foot wall in left, took strength of a Ruthian nature. Dead center was 461 feet, called Death Valley because 425-foot towering blasts became routine outs, ruining many batting averages.
....After much deliberation Stengel decided to start right-hander Allie Reynolds in the first game on Saturday and pitch his other right-handed ace, Vic Raschi, on Sunday. Boston needed just one win for the pennant. The Yankees needed them both. Early Saturday morning the people started streaming into the park, and even after the noon starting time, they were still flowing through the ramps leading to the seats. There was a holiday mood on this crisp, clear final day of September. Reynolds, the Yankee starter, was the type of pitcher who occasionally needed an inning or two to find his pitching rhythm, and as the partisan Yankee throng watched in dismay, this was one of those days. Boston, batting first, scored a run on two singles, a wild pitch, and a long sacrifice fly before everyone was seated, and then in the third inning Reynolds completely lost the plate, walked the first three batters to face him, and then allowed a blooping single for a second run.
Stengel quickly called time-out and slowly walked out to the mound to talk with his pitcher while relief star Joe Page heated up in the bullpen. Calling Page so early seemed to be a brazen, desperate move, since he rarely worked more than an inning or two, but before Stengel walked to the mound he had spoken to Page on the phone and asked him how far he could go.
"A long way," said Page.
"Get ready," Stengel said.
After Page peremptorily lobbed a few throws to loosen his arm, he informed bullpen catcher Houk that he was ready, and on Stengel's signal, in came the arrogant, insolent Page. With the bases still loaded, Page ran the count on the first batter he faced to 3-2 and lost him high to force in the third Boston run. Then he walked the next batter on four straight pitches, to make the score 4-0, as Stengel paced the concrete floor of the Yankee dugout, shouting out onto the field, swearing over the din. Page, raging inside, recovered his control, reared back and threw, striking out the next two batters on rising fast balls to end the inning. After his initial spell of wildness, Page pitched overpowering baseball. In the final six and two-thirds innings he pitched, Page only allowed one harmless single and not one Boston batter reached second base. Of the three base runners he allowed, two of them were erased on double plays.
The Yankees, meanwhile, scored two runs in the fourth and two in the fifth, and with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and the score tied 4-4, John Lindell came to bat against reliever Joe Dobson. The right-handed hitting Lindell had spent most of the season on the bench, platooning with Gene Woodling, a young favorite of Stengel's. Because Dobson was a right-hander, Lindell was surprised that Stengel was letting him bat. Dobson, a crafty veteran, had had success in the past against Lindell, pitching him high and tight, but after throwing a ball, Dobson threw a pitch waist-high instead of letter-high, and the powerful Lindell lined the ball down the left-field line high and deep. With on-deck hitter Jerry Coleman giving the descending ball as much body English toward the right side of the pole as he could muster, the ball crashed fair into the lower stands, ten feet to the right of the pole for a home run and a 5-4 Yankee victory. It was Lindell's sixth home run of the season, his first since July, a drop in performance from '48 which he freely blamed on Stengel's platoon system.
After the game, photographers were clamoring in the Yankee locker room for close-ups of Page and Lindell together. Garry Schumacher, a reporter watching the two men embrace before the cameras, said, "What I liked about this game is that the rogues won it."
-- Peter Golenbock
Dynasty: The New York Yankees, 1949-1964

"All I had was a fastball and curve, so after my rookie year, [Branch] Rickey sent me to New Orleans in the Southern Association, Double A ball, to work on an off-speed pitch .... In the spring, former Yankee reliever Joe Page had been in Pittsburgh's camp trying to make a comeback, and I had watched him throw his forkball. 'Forkball' wasn't really part of the baseball vocabulary then, but Page threw one and Rube Marquand had thrown one back in the twenties. That's the pitch I decided to work on while on the sidelines. About halfway through the season I started using it in ballgames. It was effective immediately. To throw a forkball, you hold the ball between your first and second fingers and let it slide through .... You wouldn't get the rotation you got on a fastball. On the fastball, you had your fingers behind the ball, giving it force. Page would move the ball so that one of his fingers would catch on one of the seams and he'd get a little pull on the seam to break it in or break it out. I'd throw it with the same delivery as my fastball .... Usually it would sink, but sometimes it moved in and out and sometimes it would shoot upward. I didn't vary it on purpose. I threw it the same way every time, aiming it for the middle of the plate, and let it take care of itself."
-- Elroy Face (1954)
We Played the Game
Major League Pitching Record
Year
Team
G
GS
CG
SV
SO
IP
H
R
ER
BB
K
W
L
ERA
1944
NYY
19
16
4
0
0
102.7
100
65
52
52
63
5
7
4.56
1945
NYY
20
9
4
0
0
102.0
95
43
32
46
50
6
3
2.82
1946
NYY
31
17
6
3
1
136.0
126
66
54
72
77
9
8
3.57
1947
NYY
56
2
0
17
0
141.3
105
41
39
72
116
14
8
2.48
1948
NYY
55
1
0
16
0
107.7
116
59
51
66
77
7
8
4.26
1949
NYY
60
0
0
27
0
135.3
103
44
39
75
99
13
8
2.59
1950
NYY
37
0
0
13
0
55.3
66
34
31
31
33
3
7
5.04
1954
PIT
7
0
0
0
0
9.7
16
17
12
7
4
0
0
11.17
TOTALS
285
45
14
76
1
790.0
727
369
310
421
519
57
49
3.53
World Series
1947
NYY
4
0
0
1
0
12.3
12
-
6
2
7
1
1
4.38
1949
NYY
3
0
0
1
0
9.0
6
-
2
3
8
1
0
2.00
TOTALS
7
0
0
2
0
21.3
18
-
8
5
15
2
1
3.38