The amazing success of the Yale hockey team last Saturday in winning the national championship provided the motivation for this writer to research the only other two times a Bulldog team in any sport was on the doorstep of winning an NCAA tournament.
Those opportunities came in consecutive years. Both in baseball, and each time Yale was denied by teams from California.
Let’s go back to the College World Series in 1948. Yale, which in those days had high level teams, made it to the championship best-of-three series against the University of Southern California Trojans. The year previous, in the event’s debut, in Kalamazoo, Mich., the Elis also reached the finals, but lost to the University of California Golden Bears in two games.
But in ’48, also at Kalamazoo, the Bulldogs came much closer. After losing game #1, they came back with an 8-3 victory the next day, creating a double header and a championship game, which they lost 9-2.
However, the real story took place in the series opener. Yale pushed across a run in the bottom of the third inning that stood up until the ninth. Then the Trojans scored three times with the help of two Yale errors, and led 3-1.
In the bottom of that frame Yale loaded the bases with none out. However the potential rally came to a screeching halt in a most unconventional way when Jerry Breen hit into a game ending triple play. That’s right, a devastating triple play.
P.S. The on deck batter, who never made it to the plate again because of the game ending triple play, was Yale’s captain and first baseman. Earlier he had scored his team’s only run. He was known since early childhood as Poppy, which was a family nickname handed down to him by his mother.
While at Yale, when he and his wife, Barbara, were living off campus in New Haven, they had a son. So, as a young father, the nickname Poppy took on more of a meaning.
Poppy, who was denied the opportunity to come up to the plate in the ninth inning because of the unusual finish, was George H. W. Bush. Poppy’s little son, born in New Haven, was George W. Bush. Each of them was to become a President of the United States.