Baseball-Almanac.com's World Series section
Chapter 5: The 1950's
1950: Philadelphia Phillies (0) vs. New York Yankees (4)
The Philadelphia Phillies climbed to the top of the NL thanks to a clutch performance down the home stretch by 20-game winner, Robin Roberts. Roberts pitched 3 times in the last 5 days of the regular season and although he managed to nail down the National League pennant, the marathon had left him unavailable for a Game 1 start. Manager Eddie Sawyer was left with a limited rotation due to the late-season loss of Curt Simmons (17 victories) to the Army and recurring injuries to rookie pitchers Bob Miller and Bubba Church. The Philly skipper shocked everyone after nominating a 33-year-old right-hander named Jim Konstanty, who had not made a single start during the 1950 regular season. He did however appear in 74 games and the standout reliever was 16-7 with a 2.66 ERA. Konstanty was confident and certainly up to the challenge (and what a challenge it would be).
His opponent was none other than the defending World Champion New York Yankees who had swept six previous World Series (Pirates, Cardinals, Cubs, Reds) in 24 years and captured 12 World Series titles to date. Many felt that another sweep was a foregone conclusion, but Philadelphia was determined to prove their critics wrong. Konstanty rose to the occasion and pitched a superb outing against the American League champions while allowing only 1 run and 4 hits in 8-innings. Unfortunately for the Phillies, New York's Vic Raschi spun a two-hit, 1-0 shutout for the opening lead.
By now, Roberts was well rested and more-than-ready for Game 2. The Philadelphia ace went up against New York right-hander, Allie Reynolds and neither blinked through a 1-1, 9-inning standoff. So far, through 2 regulation games, there had been a total of 3 runs scored as the pitchers clearly dominated the contest (much to the dismay of the crowds). Joe DiMaggio added a 4th to the total after launching a leadoff homer in the 10th for a 2-1 triumph. Now down 2 games to none, the Phillies were desperate for an advantage on the mound and called upon an unlikely hero named Ken Heintzelman (a 17-game winner for the Phillies in 1949 but a lowly, 3-9 pitcher in 1950). Despite his regular season stats, the lefthander started beautifully in Game 3 against Eddie Lopat and carried a 2-1 lead going into the 8th. After retiring the first 2 Yankees, Heintzelman stuttered and walked 3 consecutive batters in the inning. Sawyer saw that it was time to make a change and called for Konstanty who induced Bobby Brown to ground to Granny Hamner. Unable to get a break, the Phillies' winced as their shortstop fumbled the ball, and the tying run scored. The Yankees continued their momentum in the 9th as Jerry Coleman stepped up to the plate and sealed the 3-2 victory.
Despite being on the verge of another Yankees sweep, the Phillies had kept pace with the perennial champs and only lost by three consecutive one-run decisions (the closest of any contender in any previous New York rally). Their efforts however, would be in vain, as Casey Stengel introduced a young up-and-coming talent in Game 4. His name was Ed "Whitey" Ford and the rookie went 9-1 during the regular season after being called up from Kansas City of the American Association. After teammate Yogi Berra led-off the Yankees' attack with a run-scoring single and a bases-empty homerun, Ford breezed into the 9th inning with a 5-0 lead. A shutout seemed inevitable for Ford as he forced Andy Seminick to hit a textbook fly to leftfield. However, Gene Woodling dropped the ball and both Phillies runners scored. Reynolds came in to get the last out, making the New York Yankees 5-2 winners and repeat champions.
Woodling, who tied Granny Hamner for the World Series batting lead with a .429 average, was distraught over his failure to protect the shutout. Ford was less concerned and happy with the win (which would be the first of many in the Fall Classic). In fact, the Yankees newest ace would go on to set several World Series records. "The Chairman of the Board" as he would later be called still holds the World Series records for most wins (10) and most strikeouts (94).
1951: New York Giants (2) vs. New York Yankees (4)
The '51 season has been referred to by some as "The Season of Change" as it witnessed the departure of several of the games veteran superstars and the introduction of a new generation of talent. Many of the games biggest names from the previous 2 decades were nearing the end of their careers and the empty spaces on the line-up cards would need to be filled by players of the same caliber. Luckily for the managers (and the fans), there was no shortage of up-and-coming talent in the various farm systems around the league. Several new rookies on the scene included a young switch-hitter named Mickey Mantle and a phenomenal fielder named Willie Mays. The 19 year-old Mantle was called up to the big leagues from the Yankees Kansas City franchise and hit 13 homers in 96 games. Mays had been called up in late May by the Giants from their Minneapolis team (where he was batting .477) and the 20-year old responded with 20 homers of his own. It seems fitting that in their first year of professional play, both future Hall of Famers found themselves competing against one another in the biggest game of the year; the 1951 World Series.
The Giants had steamrolled their way to the Fall Classic and were determined to dethrone their world champion, cross-town rivals. Manager Leo Durocher's team had rallied to win the National League pennant after trailing the Brooklyn Dodgers by 13 1/2 games. Beginning August 12, the Giants won 16 consecutive outings and 37 of their last 44 to forge a tie for the top of the NL with Brooklyn. They went on to beat the Dodgers in a best-of-three playoff, ending with the infamous Thomson 3-run homer off Ralph Branca that gave the Giants a 5-4 victory in the 3rd game at the Polo Grounds. With Brooklyn out of the way, the Bronx was next and the Giants wanted to prove that the last team standing was truly "New York's baseball team".
Things continued to go the Giants way as they went on to shock the Yankees in a 5-1 Series opening triumph. Dave Koslo held the Yankees to just 7-hits and Alvin Dark came up big with a 3-run homer. Monte Irvin was the game's "MVP" though with 3 singles, a triple and the first Series steal of home plate since the Yankees' Bob Meusel snatched the bag in 1928. Eddie Lopat got his team back in the running in Game 2 while pitching a 5-hitter and adding a run-scoring single in the 3-1 victory. However, the biggest play of Game 2 involved a devastating injury that would haunt the New York Yankees for years to come. Willie Mays had led off the top of the 5th with a high shot to right-center in what was to be an easy fly-out. Centerfielder Joe DiMaggio prepared to make the catch while Mickey Mantle followed from rightfield in pursuit. According to several sources, Yankees manager Casey Stengel had instructed Mantle earlier to "take everything he could get" as "Joe D" was in the twilight of his career. The 19-year old speedster pulled up at the last second as DiMaggio made the play and caught his foot on the wooden cover of a drainage outlet. His knee buckled forcing him out of the Series and instigating the start of several leg problems that would haunt Mantle for the rest of his 18-season career.
Game 3 remained anyone's for 4 1/2 innings as the Giants held on to a slim 1-0 lead. All that would change though as the National League champs would capitalize on a crucial error by their American League rivals. With 1 out in the 5th, Eddie Starky managed to coax a walk off of Series veteran Vic Raschi. The Yankees, thinking the Giants were about to play a "hit-and-run", "run-and-hit" or "straight steal", called for a "pitchout" and catcher Yogi Berra responded with a perfect throw to shortstop Phil Rizzuto in plenty of time to catch Stanky. However, the determined veteran kicked the ball out of Rizzuto's hand on the slide and scrambled up and onto 3rd. Instead of 2 out and nobody on, Stanky was standing firm on third with only 1 out. Dark scored him in on his next single and Whitey Lockman delivered the final blow, a 3-run homer for the 6-2 victory at the Polo Grounds.
With a 2 games-to-1 lead in the Series and Games 4 and 5 also at home, the Giants were in a favorable position. Their momentum was slightly stalled though as Game 4 was postponed for a single day due to rain. The inclement weather had allowed the Yankees to rest Game 1 loser Allie Reynolds and the "Bomber's" ace responded the following day with a clutch, 6-2 win over the Giants' Sal Maglie. "Joe D" added his 8th (and last) World Series homer and the Yanks were back in business. The victory by Reynolds inspired his fellow pinstripes and they went on to crush the Giants 13-1 in a Game 5 massacre. Yankees utility infielder Gil McDougald, who alternated between 2nd and 3rd for Stengel's club, nailed a bases-loaded homerun in the 3rd off Larry Jansen. The rocket, which broke a 1-1 tie, was only the 3rd World Series grand-slam (Cleveland's Elmer Smith in 1920 and the Yankees' Tony Lazzeri in 1936).
Game 6 was a real nail-biter as both teams went head-to-head for over 5 innings. With the bases loaded and 2 out in the 6th, Yankees outfielder Hank Bauer stepped up to the plate against Dave Koslo attempting to break through the 1-1 tie. For Bauer, it was the perfect opportunity to shake off his World Series despair. In 38 previous at-bats in the Fall Classic, Bauer had collected only 5 hits (all singles), a .132 Series batting average and only 1 RBI in postseason play. This time the former US Marine came through with "flying colors" with a bases-clearing triple. Then in the 9th, after the Giants closed within 1 and had the potential tying run in scoring position, a racing Bauer made a sensational 4-3 game-winning catch on a hit by pinch-hitter Sal Yvars.
Once again, the Yankees had ended the Giants "Cinderella" season and although the Series was nothing compared to the National League playoff in terms of memorable moments ("The Giants Win The Pennant!"), it was a sweet ending for some and a new beginning for others; Game 6 marked the final major league game for the Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio, who was headed for retirement at age 36, Mantle would appear in 11 more World Series, and Mays would compete in the Fall Classic 3 more times. The Yankees were now 14-4 in World Series appearances and 1951 marked the start of what would become their second dynasty.
1952: Brooklyn Dodgers (3) vs. New York Yankees (4)
In what was now becoming expected, the New York Yankees returned for their 18th World Series appearance against their cross-town rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Bronx Bombers had finished off the Giants "Cinderella" season the year before and were determined to retain their title as the kings of the "Big Apple" baseball teams. Charlie Dressen's Dodgers were angered by the heavy favoritism that the Yankees received in the press and many fans had already crowned them as champions before the first pitch was even thrown. Their frustration was merited and inspired them to a 4-2 victory that featured a 6-hit effort by Joe Black who was coming off a 15-4 season in which he made 56 appearances (the first 54 coming in relief). Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and Pee Wee Reese all supported the rookie's debut effort with homers of their own.
Perhaps now the press would give the National Leaguers some respect as Game 1 represented more than just an opening win. The Dodgers had made a statement and the Yankees were taking notice. Billy Martin was the standout in Game 2 and put the Dodgers back in their place with a 3-run blast and a RBI single that backed up Vic Raschi's 7-1 performance. Not to be outdone, the Dodgers came back swinging and answered the Yankees challenge with a strong outing by Preacher Roe, who held the "Pinstripes" to a 5-3 loss. Once again, it was anybody's Series and pitching seemed to be the only deciding factor.
Allie Reynolds continued to tip the scales back and forth with a dominant 2-0 triumph in Game 4 that balanced the Series at 2 games apiece, but Carl Erskine answered back with a 6-5 win in the 11-inning, Game 5. The Dodger ace allowed only 4-hits and all 5 runs in the 5th inning but permitted only 1 other hit which was a bunt-single by Mickey Mantle in the 4th. Duke Snider, who wound up with 4 homers and 8 RBIs in the Series, hit a 2-run homer in the 5th to counter a 3-run blast from Johnny Mize in the Yankees' half of the inning. The stalemate continued the following day when New York's Vic Raschi and Brooklyn's Billy Loes held each other scoreless for 5 1/2 innings. Loes got the upper hand however, when Snider knocked a Raschi pitch into the rightfield bleachers to lead off their 6th. Unfortunately for the Dodger faithful, the 1-0 lead vanished immediately in the top of the 7th when Yogi Berra led off with a 1-run blast igniting a Yanks rally. Raschi knocked in the 2nd run by singling off his adversary's knee and Mickey Mantle kept the momentum alive in the 8th with a homer of his own (the first of many). Raschi, working on a 3-1 lead, retired the first Dodger in the bottom of the inning, but the irrepressible Snider followed with yet another home run. After George Shuba doubled with 2 out, Allie Reynolds came in as relief. Reynolds, the Yankees' big winner in 1952 with 20 victories, struck out Roy Campanella to end the inning and, outside of allowing a walk to Carl Furillo, held the Dodgers to no runs in the 9th.
With the Game 6, Series-tying 3-2 triumph, the Yankees were once again ready to finish the job and add yet another World Championship to their mantle. In an unusual, but indisputable move Casey Stengel started Eddie Lopat against Game 1 winner and Game 4 loser, Joe Black. The veteran, bothered by shoulder problems, had won only 10 games for the Yanks in '52 (after going 21-9 in '51), but it mattered little as the Yankees dominated the 7th inning thanks to Mantle and Gene Woodling who both added homers for the 4-2 lead. Brooklyn almost took the lead after loading the bases when Furillo reached 1st on balls, Billy Cox singled and Pee Wee Reese walked as well. Anticipating a disaster, Bob Kuzava was summoned from the bullpen. The lefthander came up huge and got Snider to fly out to 3rd bringing up Jackie Robinson. With the count at 3-2, Robinson snapped a textbook pop-up towards the mound. Kuzava seemed confused on the location and Joe Collins, the man in position to make the play, lost sight of the ball. All the while, Dodger runners were tearing up the baselines with two crossing the plate and another rounding 3rd. Billy Martin, who was caught in the middle at 2nd quickly sized up the situation and made a miracle catch inches from the ground.
The phenomenal grab not only ended the chances of a Dodger comeback, but also inevitably sealed the Series victory for the defending champions. Despite their best efforts, "the Bums from Brooklyn" lived up to their nickname, as Kuzava remained in control the rest of the way. The loss was especially devastating after winning Games 1,3 and 5 and the 4-2 triumph enabled Stengel to match Joe McCarthy's mark of managing a club to 4 consecutive World Series titles.
1953: Brooklyn Dodgers (2) vs. New York Yankees (4)
In a classic rematch of the previous year's classic, "The Bronx Bombers" and "The Bums from Brooklyn" returned for yet another "Subway Series". The Yankees were poised for their 5th consecutive championship title and the Dodgers were ready for revenge. Brooklyn had given their cross-town rivals a run for their money, but had come up short in Game 7 thanks to a miraculous catch by Billy Martin that stopped a late inning comeback. Many felt that this was their year as the pitching staff had come up big during the regular season. Carl Erskine led the rotation with 20 victories, Russ Meyer went 15-5 and Billy Loes boasted a 14-8 record. Preacher Roe posted an 11-3 total, boosting his 3-year mark to 44-8 and Clem Labine won 10 games in relief and 11 outings overall. The veterans weren't the only ones contributing as rookie pitchers Johnny Podres and Bob Milliken both combined for a 17-8 mark. This solid line-up on the mound enabled Charlie Dressen's team to win the NL pennant race by a staggering 13 games over the newly moved Milwaukee Braves.
The '53 AL representative was the typical Yankees team that featured strong performances on both sides of the plate throughout the regular season. Yogi Berra (who hit .296) and Mickey Mantle (who batted .295) both combined for 200 RBIs and Gene Woodling (.306) and Hank Bauer (.304) led the line-up in hitting. The Yankees top 5 pitchers were even better with a 74-30 record. Whitey Ford, who had returned from a military tour of duty, led the staff with 18 victories and veteran Eddie Lopat, who topped the league with a 2.43 ERA.
Game 1 of the '53 Series began as Game 7 in '52 had ended with Billy Martin knocking the wind out of the Dodger's sails. The 2nd baseman nailed a 3-run triple in the 1st and went on to collect 3 more hits in the 9-5 opening victory. Berra and Joe Collins both hit homers for the Yankees, and Jim Gilliam, Gil Hodges and George Shuba contributed for the Dodgers. On a side note, Shuba's shot was the first "pinch homer" by a National Leaguer in World Series history, but the record did little to numb Brooklyn's pain. Martin continued to plague the Dodger's pitching rotation in Game 2 by adding a game-tying, bases-empty homer in the 7th. Mantle also continued adding to his ever-growing, post-season stats with a 2-run drive that nailed down Lopat's 4-2 win over Preacher Roe.
Things changed dramatically in Game 3, as it was the Dodgers besting the Yanks on the phenomenal arm of Carl Erskine. Brooklyn's leading ace set a World Series record of his own with 14 strikeouts (4 of them on Mantle) and MVP Roy Campanella finished the job with a tie-breaking homer in the 8th that lifted Brooklyn to a 3-2 victory. Hitting was the decisive factor for the Dodgers in Game 4 as the ever-present Duke Snider contributed 2 doubles and a homerun along with Gilliam who had 3 doubles of his own for the 7-3 victory. Unfortunately, that was all they could muster and the Yankees would have little resistance for the rest of the contest.
Game 5 once again belonged to Billy Martin and Mickey Mantle who both knocked one out of the ballpark on the way to an 11-7, 25-hit blowout (Mantle's was a grandslam). Game 6 was a closer effort, but unbelievably, it would be Martin again who would seal his second Series victory in a row with the game-winning run in a 4-3 triumph. The combative 2nd baseman had tallied 12 hits (a record), 8 RBIs and a staggering .500 average against the Dodgers who had lost the Series for the 7th time in 7 outings. The Yankees on the other hand, had won a record 5th consecutive title, were 15 for 16 in World Series appearances and had kept the trophy in the American League clubhouse for the 7th year in a row.
1954: New York Giants (4) vs. Cleveland Indians (0)
It was no surprise that a representative from the great city of New York was listed on the ticket stub to the 1954 World Series. However, it was surprising that the name that appeared printed was not that of the New York Yankees. After winning 5 consecutive Fall Classics, the "Bronx Bombers" had fallen short (despite winning 103 games) and were replaced by the Cleveland Indians who boasted the strongest pitching rotation in all of baseball. Bob Lemon, Early Wynn and Mike Garcia had dominated the American League (.721 winning percentage) and were clearly favored going into the '54 contest. Their opponents, the New York Giants, had rebounded after a 5th place finish in '53 for a 5-game lead over the defending NL champion Brooklyn Dodgers. Willie Mays (NL-leading .345, with 41 home runs and 110 RBIs) had returned from the Army and Johnny Antonelli (with 21 wins) was acquired during the off-season for a formidable 1-2 combination. Still, many had predicted that the Indians would sweep the Series due to the Giants post-season debacles of the past and Cleveland's surprise dethroning of the perennial champion Yankees.
Game 1 was held at the Polo Grounds and the fans in attendance witnessed what is considered by many to be the greatest defensive play in World Series history. With the opener tied at 2-2 (in the 8th) and 2 Cleveland runners on base, Willie Mays made a spinning, over-the-shoulder catch (of a 460-foot smash from Vic Wertz) in deep centerfield and fired a bullet to the infield that held the runners from tagging up and scoring. Despite a comeback rally later in the game, the Giants held on for the 5-2 win after pinch-hitter Dusty Rhodes (a .341 hitter in part-time duty) hit a 3-run, 10th-inning homer off of Bob Lemon.
Rhodes continued to shine in Game 2 with a game-tying pinch single in the 5th inning and another homer in the 7th. Once again, New York emerged as the 3-1 victor, with Cleveland notching its only run on a first-pitch-of-the-game homer by Al Smith. After yielding the opening smash, Antonelli appeared unshaken and pitched effectively the rest of the way. As the Series moved to Cleveland, Manager Al Lopez's Indians hoped for a little luck and a lot of "home field advantage". Unfortunately neither would come in Game 3 as the Giants struck for a 1st-inning run, then got 3 in the 3rd as the Series standout, Rhodes, came through with a 2-run pinch single with the bases loaded. New York's Ruben Gomez and Hoyt Wilhelm combined on a 4-hitter, and the hometown Indians lost, 6-2.
For Game 4, New York prepared to sweep Cleveland and led 7-0 after a mere 4 1/2 innings. Despite his sinking ship, Hank Majeski made a last desperate attempt (in the 5th) with a 3-run pinch-homer off of Don Liddle to close within 3. The always-steady Antonelli stalled the rally and closed out the Tribe with 1 2/3 innings of hitless relief. For the 6th consecutive season, the world championship title remained in New York, although this time it was in the hands of the National League. It would stay in the "Big Apple" for the next 2 years, sharing time in both the AL and NL clubhouses.
1955: Brooklyn Dodgers (4) vs. New York Yankees (3)
For the third time in 4 years, Brooklyn and the Bronx went head-to-head in what was becoming as common an occurrence in the "Big Apple" as traffic. Whether the perennial champion Yankees, or their long-time rivals the Dodgers and Giants, the World Series (otherwise known the "Big Show") was becoming a New York institution and some writers joked that it should be given a permanent place on Broadway. The "Subway Series" as it was christened, was always a fan favorite and the '55 Series promised more competition than the previous meetings had. Of the Dodgers' 7 World Series setbacks, the last 5 had come at the hands of the Yankees. However, this year, the "Bums from Brooklyn" won 10 consecutive games to start the season, managed a 22-2 record in the first four weeks and cruised to the National League pennant with a 13 1/2-game lead over the second-place Milwaukee Braves. The Yankees had missed the previous year's Classic (despite winning 103 games) and were replaced by the Cleveland Indians. This season, they were back in top form and ready to add to their ever-growing collection of championships.
Don Newcombe, a 20-game winner during the regular season, was called in for the Dodger start for Game 1. Despite a strong effort, the Yankees sluggers maintained the Brooklyn aces' winless Series streak as Joe Collins belted 2 homeruns and rookie sensation Elston Howard (the first black Yankee) added a 3rd. The Dodgers went down 6-5 and little would change the following day as Tommy Byrne, a 35-year-old lefthander, held the Dodgers to only 5 hits and posted a 4-2, Game 2, winner. Just as the Brooklyn faithful were on the verge of giving up hope, an unlikely hero named Johnny Podres took the mound. Podres had struggled to a 9-10 record for Brooklyn and was set to go up against the Yanks' 17-game winner, Bob Turley. A better script could not have been written for the occasion as the young man (on his 23rd birthday) lit up Ebbets Field with a clutch, 8-3 triumph that put his teammates back in the hunt.
The Dodgers' renewed momentum continued in Game 4 as Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges and Duke Snider all added homers for another 8-5 victory that tied the Series up at 2 games apiece. Brooklyn's train "kept a rolling" in Game 5 when rookie pitcher Roger Craig worked 6+ innings for a 5-3 decision that put the Dodgers ahead for the first time in the contest. Many fans had started to take notice and some predicted that this was the beginning of the end for the Yankees dynasty. However, as history could have predicted, the Yankees showed why they had more banners than anyone and nailed starter Karl Spooner and relievers Russ Meyer and Ed Roebuck for a 5-1, Game 6 win that was complimented by a supreme, 4-hit effort by Whitey Ford.
Dodgers' manager Walter Alston opted for Game 3 hero, Johnny Podres to close the deal in Game 7 while Yankees skipper Casey Stengel selected Game 2 winner Tommy Byrne. Both pitchers went head-to-head, holding each other scoreless for 4 innings, until Campanella doubled and scored on a single by Gil Hodges. The Dodgers continued to pick up the pace in the 6th as Pee Wee Reese added a clean single and Snider, attempting to sacrifice, reached base safely when he brushed the ball from Bill Skowron's glove while running down the line. Campanella came through a second time with a perfect bunt moving Brooklyn's base-runners to 2nd and 3rd. In an effort to prevent further damage the Yanks opted to intentionally walk Carl Furillo as Bob Grim came in as relief. Hodges fell victim to the fresh arm and lofted a sacrifice fly. A walk to Don Hoak reloaded the bases, but Grim and the Yankees escaped when George Shuba, batting for Don Zimmer, grounded out. Nevertheless, the Dodger's lead had grown to 2-0. In the bottom of the 6th, Jim Gilliam moved from leftfield to 2nd, and reserve Sandy Amoros replaced Gilliam in left. As the Bombers came to bat, Billy Martin drew a leadoff walk and Gil McDougald followed with a bunt single. Yogi Berra sliced a long drive just inside the foul pole in left field but Sandy Amoros charged the line and made a spectacular glove-hand catch. The winded outfielder followed with a picture perfect relay to Reese - who went to Hodges - who caught McDougald at 1st. The double-play was undoubtedly the most crucial of the entire Series as it prevented the Yankees from tying up the contest and having a runner in scoring position with no one out.
Despite surrendering 8 hits and 2 walks, Podres managed to hold "the Pinstripes" at bay and entered the 9th with a 2-run lead. Skowron started the Yankees' last at-bat by putting back to Podres for the easy out. Next Bob Cerv flied out to Amoros in left and Elston Howard grounded to shortstop Pee Wee Reese who made the schoolboy toss to Hodges to end the game. And then it was over, the Dodgers had finally beaten the Yankees for their first World Championship title. The "Bums from Brooklyn" would win another NL pennant the following year, but their days were numbered and they would play only 2 more seasons in the "Big Apple" before moving to sunny California.
1956: Brooklyn Dodgers (3) vs. New York Yankees (4)
Once again, the eyes of the baseball world were on the bright lights of New York City (for the fourth time in 5 years) as the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees met on familiar ground for the coveted World Series championship. The "Bronx Bombers" had bested "the Bums" in 3 out of the 4 meetings, but it was the Dodgers who had the last laugh by winning their first title off a dominant Game 7 in '55. Things seemed to pick up right where they had left off for Games 1 and 2 as 11 different members of the Yankees pitching staff were crushed by Brooklyn's bats. The result was a devastating 6-3 opener and an equally crippling 13-8 loss that put the defending champions up 2 games to none. However as sports often shows us, adversity and pride can turn a sinking ship around. Amazingly the Yankees aces rebounded for 5 consecutive complete-game performances from 5 pitchers who combined to allow the Dodgers 6 runs and 21 hits in 45 2/3 innings. In Game 3, a 3-run homer by late-August acquisition Enos Slaughter and 8-hit pitching by "The Chairman" Whitey Ford had rallied the Yankees to their first victory, while Tom Sturdivant's 6-hitter and homers by both Hank Bauer and Mickey Mantle highlighted the American Leaguers' triumph in Game 4.
Despite their back-to-back comebacks, Game 5 is the most notable Yankees performance of the '56 Series (and perhaps one of the most notable in all of baseball). The 64,000+ fans in attendance that day could never have predicted that they were about to witness the birth of a record that would stand into the next millennium or that their ticket stubs would mature into a $2000 piece of sports memorabilia. The Dodgers couldn't have predicted the beating they were about to take either. During the 1st inning, the Yankees' 27-year-old right-hander Don Larsen went to his first and only "ball 3" count on Pee Wee Reese. From then on, the modest pitcher and his pinstriped teammates worked together on both sides of the plate to deliver an instant classic. In the 2nd inning, Jackie Robinson smashed a line drive that was deflected by Yankees 3rd baseman Andy Carey to shortstop Gil McDougald, who threw out Robinson at 1st. In the 4th inning, Mickey Mantle hit a low line drive into the right field seats (just inside the foul pole) giving New York the 1-0 lead. In retrospect, "home field advantage" and a little luck sometimes pays off big. If the game had been at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field, "The Mick's" hit would have likely been off the right field screen for a mere double.
In the top of the 5th, Gil Hodges (a 32-homer man during the regular season) drove a pitch deep into left-center field and right into the outstretched glove of a sprinting Mantle. The spectacular effort has been christened by some as "The Catch" and has been replayed in countless highlight films throughout the years. The next batter, Sandy Amoros, almost spoiled the masterpiece with a line drive toward the right field corner but it curved foul and just missed being a home run. It was a sign of the inevitable as the Dodgers would not get any other opportunities. As the game progressed, so did the anticipation of the crowd and the superstition of the players. Most of the Yankees avoided the pitcher completely in the dugout and even the Yankees' skipper got involved in attempting to preserve Larsen's marvelous momentum. As the 9th inning came to a close, Larsen got a called 3rd strike on pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell to end the game and set off a wild celebration that began with catcher Yogi Berra leaping high into his arms for one of baseball's most photographic moments.
Brooklyn's Clem Labine went against Bob Turley for Game 6 and had his team's revenge with an "almost as impressive" 1-0, 10-inning shutout that ended after an Enos Slaughter error turned Robinson's bottom-of-the-l0th drive into a game-winning single. Don Newcombe, a standout on the Dodgers' staff and Johnny Kucks, a Yankee sophomore, matched for the decisive Game 7. Newcombe had just become the first recipient of the Cy Young Award after his 27-victory season in '56, but still had yet to dominate a single postseason outing. Nothing changed in Game 7 as the veteran was knocked for a pair of 2-run homers by Berra (who hit a grand slam off him in Game 2) and a bases-empty home run by Elston Howard. Bill Skowron stepped up to the plate in the 7th and finished the job with a grand slam of his own off of Roger Craig who had replaced Newcombe in relief. Kucks returned the favor and held the defending champions to just 3-hits in a 9-0 triumph that completed the revival of the New Yorkers' pitching staff and returned the Yankees to post season glory.
No game would compare to Game 5 though and no other pitcher would even come close to Larsen's numbers. The Yankee ace pitched another 3 years in New York before bouncing from team to team over the final 7 seasons of a 14-year career. He retired in 1967 with a forgettable career record of 81-91, failing again to ever approach the heights he achieved on that October afternoon in 1956. Still, he is mainly remembered for being perfect where perfection is simply not possible and his record stands to this very day.
1957: Milwaukee Braves (4) vs. New York Yankees (3)
As predicted (and as usual) the New York Yankees continued to dominate the AL on their way to their 22nd Fall Classic with what seemed like a never-ending line-up of superstars. Manager Casey Stengel had already become the most successful skipper in postseason history and many fans were beginning to wonder if "The Curse of the Bambino" had rubbed off on the rest of the American League. Their counterpart was an up-and-coming franchise that lacked the familiar line-up card, but equally dominated the NL on the way to their 3rd pennant. The Milwaukee Braves were a definite contender and featured a "big gun" outfielder named Henry Aaron. "Hank" as he was called, tallied 44 home runs, 132 RBIs and batted .322 in his 4th season. He was backed up by 3rd baseman Eddie Mathews who knocked 32 homers of his own and outfielder Wes Covington who added 21 in 96 games. Defensively the Braves were stacked with Del Crandall behind the plate, Johnny Logan and Red Schoendienst serving as the keystone combination and Billy Bruton in centerfield. Burton was eventually replaced after a knee injury by Bob Hazle who batted a phenomenal .403 in 41 games. On the mound, Milwaukee's rotation boasted 56 wins from Warren Spahn (who had 20 wins for the 8th season), Bob Buhl and Lew Burdette. The National League champs were a well-balanced team indeed and a perfect candidate to match up with the perennial champion Yankees.
Game 1 opened in New York with Series veteran Whitey Ford tossing a 5-hitter that ended as a 3-1 victory, but the Braves answered back the next day with a Burdette 4-2 win. Game 3 moved the Series to Milwaukee and an unwanted "hometown hero" named Tony Kubek made a triumphant return. The 20 year-old rookie, who doubled as both a utility outfielder and infielder, nailed 2 homeruns for the Yanks on the way to an embarrassing 12-3 thrashing of the home team. Spahn was determined to retrieve the respect the Braves had lost in their own house and carried a 4-1 lead in Game 4 going into the 9th. After retiring the first 2 batters and holding a 3-2 count on Elston Howard, the Milwaukee ace blinked and surrendered a game-tying home run into the left-field stands. Then, in the top of the 10th, Hank Bauer tripled home Kubek, and the Yankees, (who were 1 strike away from defeat), pulled ahead, 5-4. Nippy Jones led off for the Braves as a pinch-hitter for Spahn. Umpire Augie Donatelli called Tommy Byrne's first pitch a ball, but the 32-year-old reserve infielder argued that he had been struck on the foot. In an effort to prove his point, Jones retrieved the baseball, showed Donatelli a smudge of shoe polish on it and was awarded his base. Felix Mantilla was sent in to run for Jones and scored on a Johnny Logan double off of Bob Grim. With the game tied, 5-5, Eddie Mathews put his team over the top by belting a home run to right for the 7-5 comeback.
The Braves entered Game 5 with a renewed vigor and a controversial pitcher who had evened the score in Game 2. Lew Burdette had been criticized throughout his career for using the "spitball" technique and many fans had suspected that the right-hander had prospered (114 wins in 2 seasons) by practicing the illegal toss. Despite the mounting questions, Burdette bested Whitey Ford for another clutch 1-0 performance. The Yankees Gil McDougald almost changed the outcome with a leadoff drive to deep left-field, but Wes Covington saved the day with a wall jumping grab. Milwaukee then scored the game's only run in the 6th. After 2 were out, Mathews, Aaron and Joe Adcock all singled. For Adcock, the timely hit was well overdue after a long frustrating year at the plate. After slugging 38 homers in '56, he had managed a meager 12 homers in 65 games.
Game 6 remained anyone's for 7 innings until Hank Bauer launched a rocket off of Braves reliever Ernie Johnson, who otherwise pitched brilliantly in a 4 1/3-inning effort. Milwaukee made it interesting with a 2-2 tie in the top of the inning on a bases-empty homer by Aaron. Earlier, Yogi Berra had belted a 2-run shot for the Yanks and Frank Torre had connected for the Braves. Besides surrendering the 2 homers, Yankees right-hander Bob Turley allowed only 2 other hits. In a bizarre twist, 1 year and 2 days after his perfect Game 5 against Brooklyn, Don Larsen had another chance to be a hero in Game 7. Unfortunately, in a rare instance for the Yankees, history did not repeat itself and the young righty didn't even make it through the 3rd-inning. After Mathews tagged him for a 2-run double, Larsen allowed the Braves to score 4 times. Del Crandall tacked on another run in the 8th giving Burdette his second shutout and a world championship title. In the end, the questioned pitcher had not only clinched the Series for Milwaukee, he had done so with 3 complete-game victories (with or without his "spitball"). Aaron had remained the Braves top standout throughout the postseason with 3 homers, 7 RBIs and a spectacular .393 average.
1958: Milwaukee Braves (3) vs. New York Yankees (4)
Almost a year to the day, the defending champion Milwaukee Braves and perennial champion New York Yankees met again for the 2nd time in as many years. The National League champions had surprised everyone the previous year after overcoming an early deficit to dominate their American League rivals for the remainder of the Series. For the first time, (in a long time) the "Bronx Bombers" were not the heavy favorites after losing 2 Fall Classics in a row. It was new territory for Casey Stengel's Yankees and they were determined not to make it 3. Many New York sports writers had already turned on their home team and several quoted predictions of the end of baseball's greatest dynasty.
Game 1 featured Warren Spahn going against Whitey Ford for a quick 4-3 opening victory. Things were not as close in Game 2 as the Braves' Lew Burdette (a 3 complete-game winner in '57) showed his talents on the other side of the plate with a 3-run blast that capped off a 7-run rally in the 1st. He continued his balanced attack by holding the Yankees to just 2 runs and 3 hits going into the 9th. Things changed quickly however, as he was shelled for 4 hits resulting in 3 runs. The Yankees Hank Bauer had a late-inning homer and Mickey Mantle added his second of the day. Over the course of his career "The Mick" would go on to set the all-time World Series home run record that still stands to this day. Both efforts went in vain though as Milwaukee went on to a crushing, 13-5 triumph. The third outing took the Series in a completely different direction as Don Larsen and Ryne Duren both combined for a 4-0 shutout that left the hitters on both benches high and dry. Bauer in fact, was the only slugger to generate any offense with a bases-loaded single and a two-run homer that extended his Series hitting streak to 17 games. The record wouldn't last long though as Warren Spahn would outdo the Yankees outfielder the very next day.
Down 3 games to 1, New York was nearing the end of an era and the Braves were on the verge of clinching their 2nd consecutive title. Burdette returned to face Bob Turley (a 21-game winner) in a final showdown. Backed by Gil McDougald's bases-empty homer in the 3rd, Elston Howard's spectacular snatch (and double play) off Red Schoendienst's 6th-inning liner and a 6-run rally against Burdette and reliever Juan Pizarro in the bottom of the 6th, Turley emerged a 7-0 winner by giving up only 5-hits and chalking up 10-Ks. Things remained in their favor the following day as the Yanks squared the Series with a 4-3, 10-inning victory in Game 6.
For the second straight year, Larsen would be chosen as the Yankees' starting pitcher in Game 7. And for the second straight year, he lasted exactly 3 innings before hitting the showers. A short-rested Turley returned in relief and after escaping a bases-loaded situation in the 3rd, held a 2-1 lead over Burdette and the Braves entering the Milwaukee 6th. With 2 out, though, Del Crandall belted a game-tying home run. After both clubs were held scoreless in the 7th, Burdette retired the first two Yankees in the 8th. Fortunately for New York, the Braves luck was about to run out. First, Yogi Berra tagged the Milwaukee ace for a double. Then, Elston Howard followed suite with a go-ahead single. Andy Carey singled off of 3rd baseman Eddie Mathews' glove and finally Skowron crashed a devastating home run to left-center, The Yankees were ahead, 6-2, and the score did not change. With Turley yielding only a single run and 2-hits in 6 2/3 innings of relief, the Yankees managed to beat the odds for their 18th World Series title.
The surprise comeback had not only restored the Yankees to their previous stature, it had also tied a record as they became only the 2nd team (1925 Pittsburgh Pirates) to rally back from a 3-1 deficit to win baseball's most prestigious crown. Hank Bauer (who was a 9-Series veteran) led with most runs scored (6), most hits (10), most home runs (4) and most RBIs (8). He also topped the Yankees sluggers with a .323 average. Despite less-than-stellar stats in his first 4 Classics (7 for 57 with a .123 avg.), he combined for 18 hits, 6 homers, 14 RBIs and a .290 average against the Braves in '57 and '58.
1959: Los Angeles Dodgers (4) vs. Chicago White Sox (2)
The 1950's had witnessed many changes throughout major-league baseball and as the game prepared to move into the '60's many had hoped that they would even the chances for parity across both leagues. The New York Yankees had dominated the entire decade, appearing in 8 out of the last 10 World Series. As a result, the commissioner's office had unsuccessfully attempted to limit the "dynasty syndrome" and tired predictability of the postseason. First the league underwent its first alignment switch in 50 years in '53 with the transfer of the Boston Braves to Milwaukee. Then the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore in '54 followed by the shifting of the Philadelphia Athletics to Kansas City in '55. The biggest move however took place in '58, when the Brooklyn Dodger's moved to Los Angeles and their cross-town rival Giants left for San Francisco leaving the Yankees as the only remaining ball club in America's biggest city.
The California fans were eager for the arrival of their new franchises, especially LA, where the Dodgers were riding high after winning 4 NL pennants in 6 years. However, the newly penned "west coast rookies" crashed and burned their debut season, finishing 2 games out of last place. After some adjustment and changes in the clubhouse, the former "Bums from Brooklyn" rebounded for their 7th flag in 13 years rising to the top of the National League in '59. In doing so they had also dethroned the 2x defending NL champs by beating the Milwaukee Braves in 2 consecutive games in a best-of-three playoff after the clubs finished in a first-place tie with 86-68 records. 1959 also saw the long-time return of the Chicago White Sox to the Fall Classic. The AL champs had not made a post-season appearance in 4 decades after the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal. Regardless, this year's effort was 40 years coming and promised to be a legit outing.
Game 1 featured a standout effort from Chicago's Luis Aparicio who contributed at the plate (and around the bases) while pitchers Early Wynn (7-plus innings) and Gerry Staley who took care of business the mound. Ted Kluszewski, (a late-August acquisition who hit 40 or more homers in an NL season 3 times) drove in 5 runs with a pair of 2-run homers and a run-scoring single as Chicago embarrassed Los Angeles, 11-0. In Game 2, Chicago right-hander Bob Shaw was guarding a 2-1 lead with 2 out in the 7th when Dodgers Manager Walter Alston sent up Chuck Essegian to bat for Johnny Podres. (who had clinched Brooklyn's previous title in '55, but missed the entire '56 season due to military service.) Essegian came up clutch and launched a game-tying blast to left. Jim Gilliam followed with a walk and Charlie Neal kept pace with a 2-run homer to center. Larry Sherry (a 24-year-old right-hander) was then called in to finish the final 3 innings and responded by holding the Sox to 1-run and 3-hits. The victory had sparked the NL champs as they eagerly returned to their new home for Game 3.
When the Dodgers last played at home in a World Series it was in the cramped settings of Ebbets Field in front of 33,782 fans. This year they were sprawled out in the spacious Memorial Coliseum with an attendance of 92,394. In the "decade of change" it was no surprise that the line-up had also been modified significantly over the 4-year span. Roy Campanella, a '56 Series standout was now in a wheelchair after a 1958 automobile accident. In addition, Pee Wee Reese was now the team's coach and Don Newcombe, who had led the Dodger's rotation, was now in Cincinnati pitching for the Reds. Both teams remained in a deadlock for 7 innings until Carl Furillo broke through with a 2-run single for a 3-1 win that also debuted the postseason pitching of a young Don Drysdale. Things remained quite the same for Game 4 as LA managed once again to break another tie late in the 8th for a 5-4 victory.
Anticipating ending the Series at home, the Dodgers introduced another up-and-coming talent from their young rotation, a 23-year old named Sandy Koufax. He was chosen to face Bob Shaw (who had an 18-6 record during the regular season). The young lefty had not yet matured into the hall of famer that we know today and had compiled an unspectacular 28-27 record. Shaw, getting 1 2/3 innings of crucial help from reliever Dick Donovan, managed a 1-0 win in a game where the only run was scored on a double-play grounder (Lollar, in the 4th). The score would have been higher if not for a great defensive play from the Sox's Jim Rivera in the 7th. Inserted into the game just minutes earlier, the reserve right fielder made an outstanding running catch of Charlie Neal's 2-out blast that carried near the fence in center, with runners at both second and third.
Still alive (and at Cominsky Park) for Game 6, Chicago planned to force a Game 7, but unfortunately, the Dodger's had other plans for the home team. Duke Snider led the charge with a 2-run homer off of Early Wynn in the 3rd and Wally added a 2-run shot off of Donovan in the 4th. While starter Podres failed to be the pitcher of record this time around in the Dodgers' Series-clinching victory (lasting only 3 1/3 innings and surrendering a 3-run homer), Larry Sherry came through once more in relief. Pitching 5 2/3 innings of 4-hit baseball, he tallied his 2nd victory of the contest. The Dodgers won the game (and the Series) 9-3, with Essegian "icing the cake" in the 9th with an unprecedented 2nd pinch homerun. In the end, Chicago may have finished with better overall stats in the contest (10 RBIs and a Series high .375 average from Ted Kluszewski) but the Dodgers went home with something a little more important than big numbers.
© 2002-2003 Pinstripe Press. All Rights Reserved.