When Baseball was New York and New York was Baseball
by John Delach
Nineteen Fifty-Five seemed different. After all the years of suffering, failure and regrets and those near misses in 1952 and 1953, confidence replaced the frustration that enveloped the psyche of the Dodgers organization, the team and their fans.
From the first pitch thrown and the first crack of the bat on opening day, the quality of the very air Dodger fans breathed was different. Every hunch and feeling confirmed that this was our year. Expectations were high. The newspaper beat reporters and the columnists caught on as did the Dodger fans I lived with. I was only eleven, but old enough to understand what was going on. When the Dodgers began the season by winning their first ten games, we all started believing that 1955 might be special. When the Brooklyn team extended that early streak to 22 and 2, we jumped on the band wagon.
Through my own experience, I have learned that if you are a devoted fan of a specific team, sometimes you develop insight to sense that those players were bound for glory. I knew that to be true for my 1986 Football Giants even before that season began. My premonition was fulfilled when they beat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI to finally became Super Bowl Champions.
The 1955 Dodgers were my first experience of rooting for a team of destiny. The Dodgers stars were at their best that year. Newcomers, Jim Gilliam and Sandy Amoros joined Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson, Carl Furillo and Roy Campanella. Brooklyn’s powerful pitching staff led by Don Newcombe, Johnny Podres, Carl Erskine and Clem Labine were aided and abetted by a very young Sandy Koufax and a another who would have a long career with this team, Tommy Lasorda.
The Dodgers overwhelmed the National League that year with a record of ninety-eight wins and fifty-five loses winning the pennant by 13 1/2 games over the second place Milwaukee Braves.
Who else but the Yankees would be opposition in the World Series? The first two games were played in Yankee Stadium. Whitey Ford outlasted Don Newcombe in Game One that the Bronx Bombers won 6 to 5.
The Yankees repeated their prowness the following day, winning Game Two, 4 to 2.
The venue shifted to Ebbets Field for the next three games. Johnny Podres led the Brooklyn nine to a comfortable 8 to 3 Victory in Game Three. Game Four was a home run marathon as Campanella hit two home runs while Snider and Hodges each went yard once tying the series at two games each. Roger Craig got the win and Labine the save. Snider hit two homers and Amoros, one as the Dodgers won Game Five by a score of 5 to 3.
Up three games to two, the contest returned to Yankee Stadium for Game Six. Whitey Ford once again, stopped the Dodgers, this time by a score of 5 to 1 to even the series at three games each.
Brooklyn started Podres while the Yankees depended on Tommy Byrne who was one and one in the series. Byrne gave up two runs, one in the fourth and one in the sixth, both credited as RBIs to Hodges.
The most dramatic moment came in the bottom of the sixth inning when Yagi Berra hit a shot to deep left field where Sandy Amoros made a remarkable catch that ended the inning when Pee Reese’s relay to Hodges tagged out Gil McDougald before he could get back to first. Photos in the next morning tabloids revealed that Amoros eyes were closed when he caught the ball.
At the end of Game 7, the scoreboard read: Brooklyn 2, New York: 0. Johnny Padres had shut out the Bombers and the Dodgers were World Series Champions for the first time ever. The headlines on the tabloids reflected this triumph and reality that the long wait was over:
The Daily News: THIS IS NEXT YEAR!
The Daily Mirror: DODGERS DOOO IT: BUMS AIN’T BUMS ANY MORE!
And all of Brooklyn and Dodger fans everywhere celebrated followed by the best sleep they’d ever would have with and without alcohol. Better yet, was waking up to discover that sometimes dreams really do come true.
The World Series turned out to be a rematch of 1955. The Yankees coasted to win the AL pennant by ten games over the second place Chicago White Sox. The Yankees began their assault on opening day, April16 against the Washington Senators in Griffith Park. President Dwight David Eisenhower witnessed Mickey Mantle parking two home runs into the bleachers as the Bombers won 10 to 4. By the close of business on the last regular season game, Mantle had won the triple crown by hitting fifty-two home runs, driving in 130 runs with a batting average of .353!
The Dodgers had a rougher road to the pennant with the Milwaukee Braves nipping at their heels. The Braves changed managers midway though the season and came within one game of tying the Dodgers. Close, but no cigar!
Once again, the World Series went a full seven games. Brooklyn won the first two games both played at Ebbets Field. Sal Maglie, once the Giants ace, now traded to the Dodgers outlasted Whitey Ford in Game One: Brooklyn 6, Yankees 3. In Game Two, Brooklyn poured on the firepower in a barnburner that finally by the Dodgers ending the contest by outlasting the Yankees by a final score of 13 to 8.
The series shifted to Yankee Stadium for the next three games. Whitey Ford had a terrific outing in Game Three going the distance while Enos Slaughter’s three-run homer led the home team to a 5 to 3 victory.
The next day, homers by Hank Bauer and Mickey Mantle tied the series at two games each as the Yankees prevailed 6 -2.
Game Five was played at 2:05 PM on October 8, 1956, before a crowd of 64,519 fans. Mel Allen and Vin Scully shared the TV mics broadcasted on NBC. Bob Neal and Bob Wolff handled the radio broadcast on the Mutual Broadcasting System.
Dodger’s manager, Walter Alston handed the ball to Sal Maglie while Casey Stengel put his into the hands of Don Larsen. Two hours and six minutes later, the Stadium crowd watched as, Yogi Berra, the Yankees catcher raced out from home plate and lept into his pitcher’s arms to begin the celebration of Larsen’s perfect game. Twenty-Seven Dodgers up and Twenty-Seven down and not one batter ever reached first base.
Final score, 2-0. Maglie only gave up two runs, Mantle hit a solo homer in the fourth inning and Hank Bauer hit an RBI single in the sixth inning. “Larsen needed just 97 pitches to complete the game. In 1998, Larsen recalled, ‘I had great control. I never had that kind of control in my life.”
In the Dodgers ninth, Larsen retired Carl Furillo on a flyout to Bauer and Roy Campanella on a grounder to Billy Martin. Larsen faced Dale Mitchell, a .312 career hitter. For the final out. Larsen got ahead of the count at 1-2 before striking Mitchell out.
Don Larsen became a celebrity after the series concluded making numerous appearances and enjoying an extended fifteen minutes of fame. But what he accomplished remains untarnished. Simply put, Don Larsen is the only player in Major League History to throw a perfect World Series game.
Despite the trauma the Brooklyn team had to endure as the losing team in a perfect game, Back home in Ebbits Field, they prevailed in a ten-inning marathon, 1-0. Clem Labine and Bob Turley both pitched complete games that ended when Jackie Robinson hit an RBI single allowing Jim Gilliam to score the winning run from third base.
Go figure, the Yankees blew Game Seven wide open from the get-go. They scored two runs in the first inning, two runs in the third inning, one in the fourth and seven in the seventh to win the 1956 World Series by a score of 9-0.
Jackie Robinson made the last out in what would be his last time at bat. His out also brought down the curtain on New York’s subway series. The Milwaukee Braves won the next two National League Pennants. The Yankees World Series streak would continue until 1964, but both the Giants and the Dodgers would leave town at the end of the 1957 season.