The Obit For Al Gionfriddo

The New York Times, Sunday, March 16, 2003

Ex-Brooklyn Dodger Al Gionfriddo Dies

03/15/03 03:17 EST

.c The Associated Press

SOLVANG, Calif. (AP) - Al Gionfriddo, the former Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder who robbed Joe DiMaggio of a tying home run in the 1947 World Series, died Friday. He was 81.

Gionfriddo was playing golf at Solvang's Alisal course when he collapsed on the fifth green.

``He was an outstanding ballplayer and friend,'' former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda told the Santa Barbara News-Press. ``He wore the Dodger uniform proudly and we're losing a great Dodger.''

Gionfriddo caught DiMaggio's drive to left field in Game 6 of the 1947 World Series, saving an 8-6 win for the Dodgers at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees went on to win Game 7 in the second of many World Series they would take from the Dodgers.

Gionfriddo played just three seasons in the big leagues - two with the Pittsburgh Pirates and one with the Dodgers - and had a .266 career batting average. His famous catch was the last moment he would play in the major leagues.

In a 2002 interview with the News-Press, Gionfriddo said he still signed autographs for people on the East Coast who said they saw him make the catch.

``There must have been a million people in the stands that day,'' he said. ``It was a thrill just to get to the major leagues. Once you get there, to be able to play in the World Series is so thrilling.''

Gionfriddo moved to Santa Barbara in 1963 when he became the first general manager of the Santa Barbara Dodgers, a short-lived minor league team. He had been living in Solvang since 1995.

Gionfriddo had just returned from a vacation in Hawaii where he celebrated his 81st birthday.

John Pate, a longtime golfing partner of Gionfriddo's and father of PGA Tour player Steve Pate, was playing a few holes ahead of Gionfriddo when he collapsed.

``He had just returned from Hawaii and shot a 76 at the Alisal,'' Pate told the News-Press. ``I played with him on Thursday and he was absolutely ecstatic.''

Gionfriddo is survived by wife Sue and four children.