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Benching Jackie

Tonight's Game

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And on the seventh day, a god was benched.

Did you know that Dodger manager Walter Alston benched Jackie Robinson for Game 7 of the 1955 World Series? Barry M. Bloom writes about it today at MLB.com:

"I don't know why Jack didn't play. I really don't know," said Rachel Robinson, the great man's wife, who was in attendance at Sunday's 50th anniversary celebration. "That was 50 years ago, buddy." ...

Alston, who had his problems dealing with the sometimes-explosive Robinson, had considered benching him even before the World Series started. This after an injury-riddled season during which Robinson slumped to .256 with eight homers, 35 RBIs and 12 steals in 105 games, all either matching or setting low-water marks for his 10-year career.

Even so, Leo Durocher, Robinson's former manager, said Alston would be making a big mistake if he didn't start Robinson.

"The Dodgers are not yet ready to win without him, no matter what the calendar says," (Robinson biographer Arnold) Rampersad quotes Durocher as saying at the time. "Keeping the amazing leadership that is Robinson's on the shelf would be like pinch-hitting for (Babe) Ruth in the clutch."

But it happened. Robinson was 4 for 22 with a double, triple and two walks in the first six games of the '55 Series, and Alston replaced him with 27-year-old Don Hoak, who had walked in his only Series appearance to that point. Hoak went 1 for 3 with another walk, while Robinson never got off the bench until the final celebration.

In 1956, the finale of Robinson's career, he hit .275 in the regular season (107 OPS+) and then went 6 for 24 with a home run and five walks in the 1956 World Series.

Alston managed for 23 seasons and finished with a winning percentage of .525 or better in 19 of them. He was 20-20 in World Series games, winning four Series out of seven.