By IAIN HIGGINS
Tied at 76 wins apiece at the close of the regular season, Rochester and Toronto squared off in a one-game play-in bout for the fourth and final International League playoff spot in front of a Red Wing Stadium crowd of 7,184 on this day in 1961.
Jim Finigan’s bat delivered the tying and winning runs as the Wings came back from a 7-0 deficit at the end of the second inning to best the Maple Leafs 12-11. Finigan, who came into the contest batting .224, drove in six runs in four hits, including a ninth-inning, game-tying home run and the game-winning single in the 10th.
Prior to his two-run homer in the ninth inning, Finigan scored the tying and go-ahead runners with a centerfield single to cap off the seventh inning and make the ballgame 9-8 Red Wings. He also helped the Wings gain momentum with a fourth inning RBI single. Catcher Harry Chiti initiated scoring for the Red Wings, hitting his fourth home run in as many days in the fourth inning.
Early in the seventh inning, Barry Shetrone reached first on an error by Toronto first baseman R.C. Stevens as Buddy Barker and Stan Jok scored. Boog Powell and Fred Valentine both walked with loaded bases to force two additional runs. Finigan singled to centerfield. The Wings began the seventh inning five runs down on Toronto and ended the inning one run up.
Finigan saved the Wings in the ninth inning after they had fallen down two runs in the eighth and another in the top of the ninth. His bullpen-bound deep ball tied Toronto at 11-11 as he and Valentine, who singled, rounded the bases. He stepped up again in the 10th, singling to right with two outs as Shetrone scored the winning run.
Toronto scored seven runs in the first two innings off of four Rochester pitchers. Alex Castro earned the win, striking out two and holding the Maple Leafs to one hit and no runs in the 10th inning.
Forty-two players, including 17 pitchers, took part in this four hour spectacle. Rochester advanced to the IL semifinals to face the first seeded Columbus Jets.