By Tom Ruane
This article is a continuation of the Retro-Review articles. As with the other pieces, this is not intended to be a proper history of the decade. Instead, each review contain a summary of the year's pennant races and postseason as well as a collection of things that interested me while I was helping to proof the box scores for that year and generate the html files for our web-site.
In addition, from time to time I will be focusing on a few of the statistical discrepancies from these years. These are cases where the data being displayed on Retrosheet's web-site differs from either the current official statistics or what was considered official at the time. In many cases, it is unclear which version is correct, but in many others the official view is pretty obviously wrong and at some point ought to be corrected.
Many of the footnotes in the text below simply list a source for a quote or fact, but the cases where they contain additional information (and might be worth clicking on even if the sources don't interest you) are marked with a "+" following the superscript.
Of course, like the earlier articles, this one would not have been possible without the work of dozens of Retrosheet volunteers who worked on digitizing the major league box scores for the 1910s.
Similar articles on the 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1960s are also available on our web-site.
Yearly links: 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
A note on the scope of the data presented in these articles:
As of this writing, the data used in these articles does not include any of the Negro Leagues that are now considered by MLB to be part of the "Major Leagues" as of December 2020. These leagues are the Negro National League from 1920 to 1931 and 1933 to 1948, the Eastern Colored League from 1923 to 1928, the 1929 American Negro League, the 1932 East-West League, the 1932 Negro Southern League, and the Negro American League from 1937 to 1948.
This omission is not in any way a reflection upon the major league status of those leagues (or for that matter any additional leagues that may come under the Major League umbrella in future years), only that I did not have access to data associated with these leagues while I was researching and writing these articles. In light of this, any data presented in this article, as well as my use of the term "major leagues," should be viewed in light of this omission.
In 1950, for the second time in two years, the Brooklyn Dodgers played the Philadelphia Phillies in an extra-inning game on the last day of the season with the pennant on the line. This time around, however, the Phillies were also playing for the pennant. Having led the Dodgers by nine games on September 18th, a loss to the Dodgers on the final day would have left them tied at the end of the regular season, bringing them to the brink of a collapse that would have dwarfed their famous meltdown of 1964. And it almost came to pass. Only a perfect throw by Richie Ashburn cut off what would have been a winning Dodger run in the bottom of the ninth inning.1 Instead, the game headed into extras tied at one. The starting pitchers, Don Newcombe and Robin Roberts, were both going for their twentieth win and were pitching in their third game in five days. In the top of the tenth inning, Dick Sisler hit perhaps the most famous home run in the history of the Phillies, a three-run blast that sent Philadelphia to the World Series.
It would be an understatement to say that it had been a long time coming. Not only was it their first pennant since 1915, but it was only their third winning season (after ones in 1932 and 1949) in the previous 33 years, or ever since they had traded Pete Alexander following the 1917 season, triggering a long descent into the second division (due, some say, to the "Curse of the Grover").2+ Here are the cumulative standings of the NL from 1918 to 1948:
Team W L T GB 1st STL N 2660 2060 41 - 9 NY N 2567 2129 29 81 7 CHI N 2530 2193 29 131.5 6 PIT N 2510 2195 39 142.5 2 BRO N 2422 2290 38 234 3 CIN N 2331 2382 24 325.5 3 BOS N 2057 2639 27 591 1 PHI N 1752 2941 27 894.5 0
This reminds me a little of a model of the solar system, with the Cardinals playing the role of the Sun, surrounded by a group of inner planets along with two distant satellites receiving only a pale glimpse of first place.
If they didn't have a tradition of winning on their side, they did have a group of good and mostly young players. The list of regulars who were less than 25 at the start of the season included Robin Roberts, Curt Simmons, Richie Ashburn, Del Ennis, Granny Hamner and Willie Jones. Perhaps contributing to their late season collapse was the fact that manager Eddie Sawyer rode his starting lineup very hard. Two starters (Jones and Hamner) played in all 157 games, three others played more than 150, and only catcher Andy Seminick played in less than 140.
I wondered if they had set a record for the highest percentage of games played by their starting eight players. And they almost did, as long as you're willing to overlook professional baseball's first two decades. There was one team in major league history whose eight regulars didn't miss a single game. I'm talking, of course, about the 1871 Rockford Forest Citys (who won only four of their twenty-five games that year). In second place were the 1878 Boston Red Caps, whose nine starters missed only two of their 60 games. If you don't include teams from the 1870s and 1880s, however, here is the list of the teams with the most stable lineups, along with the number of games played by their eight most durable regulars:
Year Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 % Win% Sept% 1953 STL N 157 157 154 154 153 146 143 135 .9546 .539 .500 1926 CLE A 154 154 151 150 149 143 142 126 .9489 .571 .560 1894 BAL N 129 129 129 128 124 123 109 108 .9486 .695 .870 1938 PIT N 149 148 148 147 145 143 139 133 .9474 .573 .448 1950 PHI N 157 157 154 153 151 145 141 130 .9459 .591 .448 1989 STL N 163 162 162 158 155 155 145 141 .9459 .531 .467 1977 CIN N 162 158 156 154 153 151 149 142 .9452 .543 .571 1978 MON N 159 159 157 157 151 150 148 144 .9452 .469 .536 1962 MIN A 160 159 159 158 155 149 148 144 .9448 .562 .577 1981 KC A 102 101 101 99 98 94 89 89 .9381 .485 .625
I also included each team's winning percentage as well as their winning percentage in September and October. I'm not sure the last two columns add all that much. Teams on this list were pretty lucky with injuries and didn't have anyone in their starting lineups who did badly enough to be replaced mid-season. So you'd expect them to have winning records and almost all of them do. I also expected to see a decline over the last month of the season, but the evidence of this is less convincing. I was willing to ignore the 1894 Orioles (after all, men were Men back then), but four of the remaining nine also played better in the last month and one team only saw a small decline.
Not all of the Phillies "Whiz Kids" were kids (or necessarily whizzes). Perhaps their most valuable player was one of their oldest, Jim Konstanty, a 33-year-old retread who set major league marks that year by pitching 74 games in relief and by winning sixteen of them. At first, I didn't think these records were all that significant. After all, the role of the relief pitcher had been continually evolving and weren't these records broken regularly? Well, Konstanty's performance was the only time a new mark for relief appearances was set between 1943, when Ace Adams set the previous standard, and 1964, when John Wyatt finally topped Konstanty's total. It doesn't have anything to do with 1950, but when I looked into the evolution of this record, I noticed that Doc Crandall alone broke the mark five years in a row from 1909 to 1913.
By winning the last game of the season, the Phillies ended a five-game losing streak and won the right to face the Yankees in the World Series. New York had emerged victorious in a close three-team battle with the Tigers and Red Sox. The Yankees were led by Phil Rizzuto, who enjoyed a career year and was selected the league MVP, as well as Joe DiMaggio, who bounced back from injuries to have the last big season of his major league career, but they also received unexpected help from Johnny Mize and rookie Whitey Ford. Mize spent most of the first half of the year in the minor leagues and didn't play regularly until the beginning of July, when he took over first base duties and hit a ton down the stretch. Here are his splits before and after the beginning of July:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SB CS AVG OBP SLG April-June 18 26 1 6 3 0 1 5 3 5 0 0 0 0 .231 .310 .462 July-Oct 72 248 42 70 9 0 24 67 26 19 2 0 0 1 .282 .355 .609
It is often said that Ford burst onto the scene by winning his first nine decisions, but he actually pitched poorly his first month. He debuted on July 1st, and here are his stats for both July and the rest of the season:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA July 5 4 0 0 25.1 31 17 17 15 11 2 0 6.04 Aug-Oct 15 8 7 2 86.2 56 22 18 37 48 7 1 1.87
Only a loss in relief during the last week kept Ford from an undefeated rookie season. He would spend the next two years in the military before winning his first seven decisions of 1953, giving him a 16-0 mark as a starter before his loss on June 16, 1953.
As usual, DiMaggio was hurt by playing in Yankee Stadium and his road marks of 66 runs scored, 22 doubles, 23 home runs, 75 RBIs and a .671 slugging percentage all led the majors.
The Tigers led the league most of the season and were tied for first-place before getting swept in a three-game series at Cleveland in late September. The last of these was especially brutal, a 2-1 extra-inning loss in which the winning run scored when catcher Aaron Robinson, not realizing that the force had been removed moments before, neglected to tag the runner coming in from third.3
Boston had an unusual season. The team went 55-22 at home, but was little more than a .500 outfit on the road. They scored 625 runs at Fenway Park, including a .335 home batting average. In early June, they had a particularly memorable home stand. It began with an 11-5 win over the Indians and Bob Feller, who never made it out of the first inning, and continued the next day when opposing starter Mike Garcia failed to retire a batter and lost 11-9. Boston completed the sweep with a 17-7 win before welcoming the White Sox to town with a 12-0 shellacking. After taking a break from double-digit scoring with a 8-4 loss to White Sox pitcher Ken Holcombe (who entered the game with a 13.50 ERA and ended up pitching the first complete game victory of his major league career), Boston clobbered the Browns in the first two games of the next series, 20-4 and 29-4. The last game represented the most runs scored in American League history and also helped them set league marks for the most runs scored in two, three, four, five, six and seven consecutive games.
Here are how their regulars hit during that seven game stretch:
Name G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SB CS AVG OBP SLG Bobby Doerr 7 31 7 14 2 1 3 17 6 0 0 1 0 0 .452 .541 .871 Walt Dropo 7 36 15 18 4 0 4 19 2 3 0 0 0 0 .500 .526 .944 Johnny Pesky 7 35 13 14 2 0 0 4 3 1 0 1 0 0 .400 .447 .457 Vern Stephens 7 33 13 11 2 1 3 14 5 5 0 0 0 0 .333 .421 .727 Ted Williams 7 28 17 15 2 0 5 16 10 1 0 0 0 0 .536 .658 1.143 Al Zarilla 7 29 14 17 7 2 0 11 9 1 0 0 0 0 .586 .684 .966 Birdie Tebbetts 6 23 5 9 2 0 1 6 2 2 0 0 0 0 .391 .440 .609 Clyde Vollmer 5 23 9 8 1 0 2 8 4 4 0 0 1 0 .348 .444 .652
Not included in this list is Chuck Stobbs, who walked four times in the first four innings of the last game. Those walks tied a mark for pitchers last set by White Sox right-hander Red Faber in 1915.
In their record-setting game, the Red Sox pounded rookie pitcher Sid Schacht for twelve runs (nine earned) in less than four innings and he saw his ERA rise from 12.86 to 16.03. It was his last appearance of 1950. The next year, Schacht had an even higher ERA (21.00) with the Browns, before being put on waivers and wrapping up his major league career by allowing four runs in 4 2/3 innings with the Braves. Schacht had a career ERA of 19.29 in Fenway Park, but he had an even higher ERA in his two home parks. Among pitchers with twenty or more innings pitched, Schacht has the highest career ERA. The leaders with different minimum innings:
INNs Name Year(s) IP R ER ERA >0 Joe Cleary 1945 0.1 7 7 189.00 >1 Lewis 1890 3 20 20 60.00 >15 June Greene 1928-1929 15.2 34 32 18.38 >20 Sid Schacht 1950-1951 21.1 41 34 14.34 >30 Stu Flythe 1936 39.1 63 57 13.04 >50 William Stecher 1890 68 110 78 10.32 >100 Andy Larkin 1996-2000 105.2 112 104 8.86 >150 Aaron Myette 1999-2004 154.1 144 140 8.16 >300 Bill Kissinger 1895-1897 319.1 342 248 6.99 >500 Les Sweetland 1927-1931 740.2 570 502 6.10 >1000 Jimmy Haynes 1995-2004 1200.2 778 717 5.37
Four pitchers allowed more than ten runs in 1950. All four of them were victimized by the Red Sox. After their 29-run outburst, however, Boston immediately went into a tailspin, dropping nine out of ten. At this point, with his team mired in fourth place, nine and a half games behind the Yankees, manager Joe McCarthy decided to call it a career and resigned. And the news seemed to only get worse for Boston when Ted Williams suffered a serious elbow injury in that year's All-Star game and missed two months.4 Against all odds, however, the Red Sox caught fire under new skipper Steve O'Neill, and with the eventual batting champion Billy Goodman substituting for Williams in left field, won sixteen of seventeen games at the end of August to jump back into the race. The streak started with a five-game sweep of the A's at home, part of a 22-game Fenway Park losing streak for Philadelphia in 1949 and 1950.
A late September slump, including two straight losses in New York on September 23rd and 24th eventually dropped them out of contention and into third place. Despite their disappointing finish, Boston won 94 games and this got me to wondering if they were the best third-place team in league history (or at least the history of the eight-team league). Well, they weren't. That honor is held by the 1920 Yankees. The 1950 Indians, however, were the best fourth-place team, finishing with a 92-62 mark. Here are the best first through eighth-place teams during the eight-team era:
- - National League - - - - American League - - PL Year Team W L Pct Year Team W L Pct 1 - 1906 CHI N 116 36 .763 1954 CLE A 111 43 .721 2 - 1909 CHI N 104 49 .680 1954 NY A 103 51 .669 3 - 1908 NY N 98 56 .636 1920 NY A 95 59 .617 4 - 1904 PIT N 87 66 .569 1950 CLE A 92 62 .597 5 - 1933 STL N 82 71 .536 1904 PHI A 81 70 .536 6 - 1928 BRO N 77 76 .503 1926 DET A 79 75 .513 7 - 1932 NY N 72 82 .468 1916 WAS A 76 77 .497 8 - 1915 NY N 69 83 .454 1924 CHI A 66 87 .431
The Phillies entered the World Series without Curt Simmons, their second-best starting pitcher, who in early September had become the first major leaguer to be called up because of the Korean War.5 Two other starting pitchers, Bob Miller and Bubba Church, suffered mid-September injuries and were question marks for the series6. With Robin Roberts unavailable until game two, Eddie Sawyer got creative and selected relief specialist Jim Konstanty to make his first start of the season in the opening game. It was a bold gamble and it (sort of) worked, as Konstanty allowed only a single run in eight innings. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Vic Raschi, the ace of the Yankees' staff, was even better, throwing a two-hit shutout. The next two games were even closer, but both were won by New York in their last at-bat, pretty much wrapping up the series. Instead of their first championship, the Phillies had to settle for the NL pennant and the honor of losing the closest Series sweep in history. The only game that wasn't decided by a single run was the final one, and even in that game Philadelphia had the tying run at the plate when Stan Lopata struck out the end the series.
The years' top single-game hitting performance was turned in by Brooklyn's Gil Hodges, who on August 31st hit four home runs and a single in the Dodgers 19-3 win over the Braves. His seventeen total bases tied the major league mark, last accomplished by Ed Delahanty of the Philadelphia Phillies on July 13, 1896.
At the other end of the offensive spectrum, White Sox pitcher Bill Wight set a mark for futility when he failed to get a single hit in 61 at-bats. He did walk four times that season (none intentionally) and scored two runs.
Catcher Walker Cooper came to the Braves in a trade that May and had a good year for his new team. It might have been even better, however, if he had liked hitting in his home park. He are his home/road splits for Boston:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SB CS AVG OBP SLG Home 60 201 24 56 12 1 4 27 13 20 3 1 1 0 .279 .332 .408 Away 42 136 28 55 7 2 10 33 17 6 0 2 0 1 .404 .471 .706
On June 23rd, the Tigers and Yankees combined for a record eleven home runs in Detroit's 10-9 win. All 19 runs scored as a result of a homer. Tiger pitcher Dizzy Trout hit a grand slam (one of five home runs hit in the fourth inning) to help give his team a two-run lead, but then gave up two circuit clouts himself to (temporarily, as it turned out) lose the lead. Red Sox pitcher Ellis Kinder also hit a grand slam in his August 6th win over the White Sox. Despite getting only the one hit, he tied the modern mark (since broken) for most RBIs by a pitcher in a game with six. It was the only home run of his major league career.
The victim of his blast run that day was Billy Pierce, who had one of most extreme home-road splits that season. Here is his line both at Comiskey Park and in enemy territory:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Home 16 13 10 1 115.1 86 36 25 62 62 8 5 1.95 Away 17 16 5 0 104 103 76 71 75 55 4 11 6.14
On June 18th, the Indians scored 14 runs in the bottom of the first inning on their way to a 21-2 victory over the A's. Lou Brissie, who had thirty wins over the two previous years, allowed nine runs in only a third of an inning to take the loss. In his next start two days later, he lost a very different game, dropping a 1-0 decision to Ned Garver and the Browns. Despite his 7-19 record that year, Brissie's season did include a five-game winning streak, which tied the longest streak of his career. This is not the worst record I could find for a pitcher with a streak that long. In 1943, Lum Harris won five straight in the middle of his 7-21 campaign. And although he ended up with a higher winning percentage than either Brissie or Harris, Chris Capuano deserves some mention for winning his first five games of 2007 and then proceeding to lose his last twelve decisions.
The top pitching performance of the year was turned in by Sal Maglie of the Giants, who had a 45 2/3 inning scoreless streak from August 16th to September 13th. The streak ended in a rain-shortened 3-1 win over the Pirates. Had the rain stopped the game one inning earlier, Maglie would have tied Doc White's record of pitching five consecutive shutouts.7 It was his eleventh consecutive complete game victory. Maglie started only one game before July 21st that year and still managed to win eighteen.
The Pirates' Bill Werle struck out only 78 batters in 215.1 innings in 1950, but thirteen of them came in one game, a 7-3 extra-inning loss to the Braves. Only Ewell Blackwell of the Reds struck out more in a game in 1950, when he fanned fourteen Cubs while pitching a ten-inning two-hitter on July 1st.
Lou Kretlow set a record (at least since 1918) when he pitched a total of one third of an inning over three consecutive starts for the Browns and the White Sox. He started the string by getting lead-off batter Dom DiMaggio to ground out, but he would not retire another batter in his starts that season. Here is his record as a starter and reliever in 1950:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Start 3 3 0 0 0.1 5 10 10 8 0 0 2 270.00 Relief 17 0 0 0 35.1 37 22 18 37 24 0 0 4.58
Baseball decided to strictly enforce the balk rule in 19508, and at least in the early going, it had the desired effect (a lot of balks were called). The statistical highlight of the new directive occurred on May 3rd, when the Yankees' Vic Raschi was called for a major league record four balks in his 4-3 win over the White Sox. I'm not sure whether the leagues called off the dogs or the pitchers collectively decided to stop flouting the rule, but about halfway through the year, the frequency of these calls dropped dramatically. Here are the number of balks each month that year:
Month NL AL April 18 9 May 27 17 June 21 6 July 7 8 August 5 5 Sept-Oct 3 1
Raschi would set a record of a different sort that August when he retired 32 consecutive batters, the last 12 on August 4th and the first 20 on August 9th. The record would be tied by the Phillies' Saul Rogovin in August, 1955, and then broken by Harvey Haddix of Pittsburgh in May, 1959.
The Dodgers were leading the Pirates 19-12 on June 24th with one out in the bottom of the eighth when midnight arrived and the game was suspended because of New York's Sunday baseball law.9 When the game was resumed on August 1st, the Pirates sent back out reliever Vic Lombardi, who had been on the mound when the game had been stopped. Before the break, he had given up five runs in the inning (including a Jackie Robinson grand slam) and had a runner on first with only one out. Given a chance to finish the mess he had started, Lombardi gave up two more hits and runs before getting the last two outs.
And finally, the Reds and Phillies played the marathon of the year on September 15th, Cincinnati winning the nineteen-inning contest 8-7, despite allowing 23 hits. NL MVP Jim Konstanty got a no-decision for ten innings of relief. He was opposed on the mound by Herm Wehmeier, who also pitched more than nine innings out of the bullpen. The game ended less than a minute before the one o'clock curfew.
A few minutes before four o'clock on the afternoon of August 11, 1951, the Giants lost to the Phillies and the Dodgers finished beating the Braves in the first game of their double-header. Those next three hours, until Brooklyn could lose to Max Surkont in the second game of their double-header, marked the high-point of the Dodgers' season, the moment that future commentators would be referring to when outlining their subsequent collapse, the short period of time when Brooklyn led their cross-town rivals by thirteen and a half games. By the end of the day it was down to thirteen games. Before the Giants lost again, it would be a scant five games. And by the time the Dodgers, for the third straight year, played Philadelphia in a season-ending extra-inning game with the pennant in the balance, the lead had disappeared entirely.
Had the Dodgers' victory that afternoon at Shibe Park brought them the National League title instead of merely a berth in a three-game playoff, their thrilling victory that day would probably be one of the most famous games in the history of the franchise. Trailing 6-1 after three innings, the Dodgers battled back to tie the game with three runs in the eighth. In the bottom of the twelfth, with the bases loaded and two out, Eddie Waitkus hit an apparent game-winning line drive toward right-centerfield. Second baseman Jackie Robinson dove and caught the ball either just before or after it hit the ground (depending upon whether you believe the umpire or the Phillies). Umpire Lon Warneke made the out call and Robinson lay on the ground for several minutes before "he rose groggily and walked slowly and uncertainly toward the dugout...."10 Two innings later, with two out and no one on base, Robinson hit a homer into the left field stands to win the game and send Brooklyn back home to play the Giants.
The playoffs got off to a puzzling start. The previous Thursday, representatives of the two teams had met to determine home field advantage.11 The Giants lost the toss, but the Dodgers chose to have first game played at Ebbets Field, meaning that they would play the final two at the Polo Grounds. In doing this, Brooklyn effectively declined home field advantage. As a result of this blunder, the Dodgers played the deciding game on the road, a game that turned their victory over the Phillies earlier in the week into a mere footnote.
The deciding game of the playoffs was tied going into the top of the eighth inning when the Dodgers rallied for three runs, the runs coming on a Sal Maglie wild pitch and two singles. Like the Phillies of the previous year, it looked like the Dodgers would be spared the ignominity of an historic late-season collapse. But Newcombe tired in the ninth, and with one out, two runners on base, and the Dodger lead cut to two, Chuck Dressen waved Ralph Branca into the game to face Bobby Thomson.
History has not been kind to this decision. Thomson, after all, had already homered off of Branca in the first game of the playoffs. But was this a such a bad match-up? Here was Thomson's career batting line and his line against Branca heading into that fateful at-bat:
AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO HBP SH AVG OBP SLG Career 2791 779 134 32 130 246 307 17 16 .279 .341 .490 Branca 49 13 1 1 3 5 4 1 1 .265 .345 .510
There's not much difference between these two lines. And yet Branca had given up a lot of homers to Giant batters in 1951, more than to the rest of the league combined. And the majority of those had come at the Polo Grounds. Willie Mays, in the on-deck circle when the game ended, had the following career line against Branca at the time:
AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO HBP SH AVG OBP SLG 19 2 1 0 0 2 4 0 0 .105 .190 .158
Whether or not it was foolish to bring Branca in at that point, the maneuver did fail and the result was the "Shot Heard 'Round the World," or if you like, the "Miracle of Coogan's Bluff." Of course, Thomson's hit would have been a routine fly ball to left in Ebbets Field and, had the Dodger brain trust not thrown away home-field advantage in the playoffs, that's exactly where the last game would have been played.
By the way, next April 19th, in his first start since the playoff loss, Branca gave up four homers to the Giants but won 11-6. Bobby Thomson went hitless in four at-bats with a walk.
Over in the Junior Circuit, the Yankees fought off a determined challenge from the Indians down the stretch to take their third straight pennant. The Indians held a one-game lead as late as September 16, when the Yankees beat Bob Feller, having the last great season of his career, and Bob Lemon in a two-game series to take charge of the race. New York was led by league MVP Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and the strong front-line pitching of Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat and Allie Reynolds. It was somewhat of a transitional year for the champions as Joe DiMaggio limped through a mediocre final year, and rookies Mickey Mantle and Gil McDougal arrived on the scene.
The Indians boasted an even better starting rotation. Among their four starters, the only one who didn't win at least twenty games was seventeen-game winner Bob Lemon, and he had won twenty or more the previous three years (and would win at least twenty in four of the next five years as well). The Chicago White Sox were a newcomer to the first division in 1951, but with should-have-been Rookie of the Year Minnie Minoso, as well as young veterans like Nellie Fox and Billy Pierce, were already taking their place as one of the three elite teams in the league. With the exception of two third-place finishes by the Red Sox in 1957 and 1958, the Yankees, Indians and White Sox would monopolize the top three spots in the league for the rest of the decade.
In the World Series that October, the Giants won two of the first three games, with the winning rally in the third game starting when Eddie Stanky was caught stealing but kicked the ball out of Phil Rizzuto's glove. The story goes that Rizzuto and the Yankees, angered by what Stanky had done, raised their level of play and swept the Giants in the next three games, behind Joe DiMaggio's final major league home run and Allie Reynolds' complete game victory in game four, Gil McDougald's grand-slam and Eddie Lopat's five-hit win the next day, and Hank Bauer's three-run triple and Bob Kuzava's relief work in the finale.12
I'm always suspicious of these kinds of stories. The Yankees won, so the kick inspired them; if they had lost, Stanky's play would have intimidated them. More likely, it had little effect on the next three games. Earl Weaver used to say that momentum is the next day's starting pitcher, and in the Yankees case, their starting pitchers allowed only two earned runs in the last three games.
But regardless of whether or not Stanky's kick inspired the Yankees, when the series was over, they had become only the second team to win as many as three straight World Championships (or third if you want to count the 1936-38 and 1937-39 Yankees as two separate teams). Casey Stengel's crew did not inspire the same fear and worry that those earlier teams had. As a matter of fact, his team had yet to be The Sporting News pre-season pick to win the pennant. For the fourth straight year, the Red Sox had been selected by their panel of experts to take the flag.13
Scoring was down in 1951, especially in the American League, where runs were nearly 10% scarcer than they had been the previous year, and the result was a decrease in the number of big offensive performances. Where five teams had scored twenty or more runs in a game in 1950, only the Browns managed to turn the trick this year, beating the Tigers 20-9 on August 18th. Veteran Hank Borowy faced nine men in the seventh inning of that game and all nine came around to score, raising his ERA from an awful 5.02 to a frightful 7.17.
The Indians' Bobby Avila probably had the biggest day with the bat when he clubbed three home runs, a double and a single in Cleveland's 14-8 beating of the Red Sox on June 20th. Prior to the game, Avila had hit two homers in a career spanning 157 games.
Gus Zernial had set the White Sox single-season home run record the previous year in dramatic fashion, with three circuit clouts on the last day of the season to push him past Zeke Bonura and Joe Kuhel, the previous record holders. But this didn't stop White Sox general manager Frank Lane from trading his slugger early in 1952 as part of a three-team deal that brought Minnie Minoso to Chicago and landed Gus on the Philadelphia A's. Two weeks after the trade, Zernial tied a major league record by hitting six home runs in three consecutive games (and tied the AL mark with seven homers in four straight games) on his way to leading the league in both home runs and RBIs.
In general, Ted Williams was helped by Fenway Park, but he was never helped by his home field quite as much as he was in 1951. Here are his splits for that year:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SB CS AVG OBP SLG Home 73 268 70 108 22 3 18 81 64 17 0 0 0 0 .403 .518 .709 Away 75 263 40 61 6 1 12 45 80 28 0 0 1 1 .232 .411 .399
Two September callups made immediate, if not lasting, impressions. St. Louis Browns rookie Bob Nieman started his career off with a bang - actually, two bangs - when he homered in his first two major league at bats on September 14th. He finished his twelve-game trial with a .372 batting average and a 1.014 on-base plus slugging percentage. If his subsequent career did not live up to those first two weeks, neither was it a complete bust, as Nieman hit pretty well during a major league career that lasted until 1962. Such was not the case with Pirate rookie Jack Merson. After hitting a double in three trips to the plate in his debut, he followed that up with four hits, including a double and triple, good for six RBIs in his next game. Finishing out the year with a .360 batting average and a .573 slugging percentage, he was given a long look the next year by the talent-starved Pirates. He hit poorly in his encore, however, and was gone by 1953.
No-hitters were in the news in 1951. Cliff Chambers pitched the season's first on May 6th, but it turned out to be his last win in a Pittsburgh uniform. After five straight poor starts had dropped his record to 3-6 and raised his ERA to 5.58, he was sent to the Cardinals in a seven player deal at the trading deadline. Then on July 1st, Bob Feller tied the mark originally set by Larry Corcoran and Cy Young when he pitched the third no-hitter of his career. For Feller, who also had ten one-hitters to his credit, it was his first no-hitter or one-hitter in over four years.
Two starts later, Feller was the victim of the majors' next no-hitter when Allie Reynolds shut down the Indians without a safety on July 12. And Reynolds wasn't done. On the last Friday of the regular season, he did not allow a hit in the first game of New York's pennant-clinching double-header sweep of the Red Sox. It was only the second time in major league history that a pitcher had thrown two no-hitters in a season, the first being Cincinnati's Johnny Vander Meer's consecutive gems in 1938.
It wasn't a no-hitter, but White Sox right-hander Luis Aloma allowed only five singles in holding the A's scoreless on June 17th in his first major league start. He had previously pitched 46 games in relief and, despite his success that day, would never start another game in the majors, finishing his career with another 69 relief appearances spread across the next three years.
Brooklyn's Preacher Roe started the season with ten consecutive victories, split his next four decisions, and then won another ten straight, pushing his record to 22-2 with a week left in the season. But things didn't end well for him. He got beat on September 27th, was knocked out in the second inning of the crucial last game against Philadelphia, and then missed the playoffs with a sore arm.
Tommy Byrne, coming off back-to-back fifteen-win seasons with the Yankees, completely lost his command in 1951. He allowed more than a walk an inning, pitching himself out of New York and into the St. Louis Browns rotation by the middle of June. Of the last twelve batters he faced as a Yankee, he walked seven, hit two, allowed two hits and threw two wild pitches. Oh, he also got one batter out. Once he arrived in St. Louis, he allowed ten or more walks in four of his starts, the high point being a record-tying sixteen walks on August 22nd, something that hadn't been done since the Athletics' Bruno Haas turned the trick in his major league debut on June 23, 1915. Byrne also hit two batters each in five of his first seven starts with the Browns and ended up leading the AL in both walks and batters hit despite not pitching enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.
There was another famous game in 1951, the second game of a double-header between two second-division teams that took place on the third Sunday of August. Many details of this game have since become the stuff of trivia. Whom did he hit for? (Frank Saucier) Who walked him? (Bob Cain) Who ran for him once he reached first base? (Jim Delsing) Who broke his (and team owner Bill Veeck's) heart by banning him (and people like him) from baseball forever? (American League President Will Harridge)
I'm talking, of course, about the first and last game of Eddie Gaedel's major league career. Gaedel was a midget hired by Bill Veeck to - well, I'm not sure what he was hired to do. The obvious answer was to drum up interest in Veeck's last place club, but were people really expected to come out to the park to see a midget pinch-hit? I suppose some people found it amusing or outrageous or both. Perhaps Veeck just wanted the people of St. Louis to have something to talk about other than how bad the Browns were. It's hard to imagine what he would have done if Harridge hadn't stepped in, but I can't imagine it would have been something that anyone wanted to see.
In a quirk of scheduling caused by rainouts, the Cardinals on September 13th, played a double-header against two different teams. The New York Times story that appeared the next day reported that this was the first time this had happened in the National League since 1883,14 but it had actually happened several times between 1884 and 1899, the last time being on October 15, 1899. In the second game, the Braves' Warren Spahn pitched the first one-hitter of his career and also out-hit the opposing team for the first time. As I mentioned in an earlier article (when discussing Ted Lyons' pitching and hitting exploits of 1926), on four separate occasions Warren Spahn had more hits than he allowed in a complete game (three of them after his 39th birthday), the most by any pitcher during the Retrosheet Era. Here they are:
Date Team IP H R ER BB SO AB R H RBI 9-13-1951 @ STL N 9 1 0 0 1 2 3 0 2 1 9-16-1960 v PHI N 9 0 0 0 2 15 3 1 1 0 5- 3-1961 v LA N 9 2 1 1 2 9 4 2 3 0 9-24-1961 v CHI N 9 2 0 0 1 7 4 2 3 1
At the beginning of September, the pre-season favorite Cleveland Indians were only two games behind the New York Yankees. After splitting a double-header with the Browns and losing a wild game to the the Tigers, the Indians went on a tear, winning 18 of their last 21 games. Unfortunately for them, the Yankees, despite being on the road for almost the entire month, were able to match that pace and, helped by 7-1 victory over Mike Garcia (who had pitched three consecutive shutouts coming into the game) in their only head-to-head matchup, finished the season still two games in the lead.
Once again, three of the Indians' starting pitchers won twenty or more games, but Bob Feller suffered through the worst season of his career, winning only nine games before he was shut down in early September and finishing the season with the highest ERA among all qualifying AL pitchers. New York lost Joe DiMaggio to retirement and Jerry Coleman, Bobby Brown, and Tom Morgan to the military, but Casey Stengel got big years from Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Allie Reynolds and Vic Raschi, and the Yankees won their fourth straight pennant.
Just about the only team to beat the Yankees in September were the surprising Philadelphia A's, who used an MVP season by Bobby Shantz to propel them into the first division. In the early going, he almost single-handedly kept his team out of basement. After his victory on June 19th, Shantz had a 12-1 record while the rest of the team was 11-29, and as late as July 2nd, he still had half of his team's victories. On August 5th, Shantz won his twentieth game and at the time had only three losses and a 1.55 ERA. He wore down after that, spliting his last eight decisions with a 4.93 ERA, but he still finished with the most wins in a season by an A's pitcher since Lefty Grove. 1952 turned out to be a brief visit into the first division for the A's and they wouldn't have their next winning season until they moved to Oakland (via Kansas City) in 1968.
Despite all of his accomplishments, Shantz might have been only the second-best pitcher in his city that summer. The Phillies' Robin Roberts had the greatest season of his Hall of Fame career that year, winning 28 games despite going almost a month, from May 21st to June 20th without a win. During that stretch of six starts, Roberts went 0-4 even though he didn't allow more than three earned runs in any game and posted an ERA of 3.38. But in his other 31 starts, Roberts went 28-3 with 29 complete games.
In the National League, the defending champion Giants were dealt a blow in the pre-season when an injury cost them the services of Monte Irvin until after the All-Star break. They still played well in the early going. Sal Maglie won his first nine starts, with a 1.12 ERA, giving him a 50-10 record since the start of 1950, and after completing a three-game sweep of the Dodgers on May 28th, the team had a 26-8 record and a two and a half game lead. Unfortunately, the team lost Willie Mays to military service the next day and, perhaps coincidentally, went into a tailspin, dropping eight of their next ten games.
Brooklyn took over at that point, and behind a great season from Jackie Robinson and 28-year-old rookie reliever Joe Black, went out to a comfortable lead. The Giants refused to go away completely, however, and had a chance to make it a race when the Dodgers came to the Polo Grounds for a five game series in early September. New York swept a double-header on September 6th, drawing within four games of the lead, but Brooklyn won the next two games, the first on Preacher Roe's three-hitter and the second a 10-2 rout, and were never challenged again.
After two rather anti-climatic Fall Classics, the 1952 edition was a hard-fought, exciting struggle. In a move reminiscent of the 1950 series, relief ace Joe Black was picked to start game one for the Dodgers. He responded with a complete game victory. The Yankees came back the next day behind Vic Raschi's three-hitter and the teams exchanged victories until Duke Snider's RBI double gave Brooklyn an extra-inning victory in game five, sending them back to Ebbets Field needing one victory in their last two games to bring the franchise their first World Championship.
The Yankees took the next game, overcoming two solo homers by Duke Snider with two of their own, along with pitcher Vic Raschi's RBI single and Allie Reynolds' sterling relief effort. When Eddie Lopat ran into trouble in the fourth inning of game seven, Stengel called on Reynolds again, and he worked three more innings, leaving in the top of the seventh with a 4-2 lead. But the Dodgers weren't done yet. Raschi came in to pitch the bottom of the seventh, but after starting the previous game, he had little left. Brooklyn loaded the bases with one out and Stengel went to Bob Kuzava. After Duke Snider popped out, Jackie Robinson hit a high fly in the infield. First baseman Joe Collins didn't seem to see the ball and while the rest of the infielders stood watching it fall, Billy Martin raced across the diamond and speared it at the last moment. The threat averted, Kuzava retired Brooklyn without much trouble the rest of the way, and the Yankees had their record-tying fourth consecutive championship.
One oddity of the World Series was the performance of both teams' regular first-basemen. Both Gil Hodges and Joe Collins failed to get a hit the entire series. Hodges' 0-21 tied the record for the most at-bats in a series without a hit, matching the previous mark set in 1906 by Jimmy Sheckard and Billy Sullivan and then tied in 1911 by Red Murray. It was eventually broken by Dal Maxvill in 1968. Collins' hitless drought was more modest, only twelve at-bats, because the Yankees went to Johnny Mize (also known as plan B) after Collins went hitless in the first three games. Mize, who had hit only four home runs during the regular season, responded to the opportunity by hitting three homers (and coming within a brilliant catch by Carl Furillo in the fifth game of hitting a fourth).
Bob Feller didn't start the year like a pitcher nearing the end of his career. In his second start, he matched up with the Browns' Bob Cain and the two combined for the first double one-hitter since 1906, when the Cubs' Mordecai Brown beat the Pirates' Lefty Leifield 1-0. Feller allowed only a leadoff triple to Bobby Young, but that led to a run while Cain was touched for a harmless fifth-inning single. The Indians made it up to their pitcher in his next start, however, pounding an assortment of Philadelphia pitchers for 25 hits and 21 runs, including three homers by Al Rosen and six hits by Jim Fridley. A's Rookie Tex Hoyle allowed seven runs in a third of an inning, saw his ERA climb from 0.00 to 27.00 and never played another ML game. Feller weakened badly toward the end, but even with the huge lead, was left in and his final line was ugly: eighteen hits, five walks and nine runs. I wonder if his problems the rest of the year were in any way related to all the pitches he threw on that April night.
By the way, Fridley would retire with only 105 career hits, the lowest for a player with a six-hit game since Zaza Harvey, who had his big game on April 25, 1902, before ending his career later that year with only 86 hits.
On May 21st, the Dodgers set a modern National League for the most runs in an inning when they exploded for fifteen runs in the first inning of their 19-1 win over the Reds. Frank Smith, the fourth Reds pitcher of the inning, allowed the first six batters he faced to reach safely but stayed in the game and finally struck out Duke Snider to end the inning. I guess Reds' manager Luke Sewell wasn't going to waste any more pitchers in that inning no matter how many runs were scored. Snider had already homered and walked in the inning before his bases-loaded strikeout. Prior to his at-bat, a major league record nineteen consecutive batters, including Pee Wee Reese three times, had reached base.
On June 15th, the Cardinals set a NL record when they overcame an eleven-run deficit to defeat the Giants 14-12. Solly Hemus homered in both of the last two innings to provide the margin of victory. The winning pitcher for St. Louis was Eddie Yuhas, whose victory that day was the start of ten consecutive winning decisions for him, a run that was still active at the end of his career. This is the longest career-ending winning streak since at least 1919, with the next being the eight-game streaks that finished the careers of Roy Thomas and Bill Butland. The longest active losing streak among retired players is Craig Anderson's nineteen consecutive losses.
Just two years after a second-place finish, the Detroit Tigers collapsed in 1952, finishing in the basement for the first time in their history. In three years, their victory totals had gone from 95 to 73 to 50. Still, the season was not without its highlights for Tiger fans. On May 15th, Virgil Trucks pitched a no-hitter to win his first game of the year. He had an 8.47 ERA to go with an 0-2 record entering that game. In his next start, he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before departing, having allowed only two singles, with two outs in the eighth inning. It seemed as if Trucks had turned his young season around, evening his record at 2-2 and lowering his ERA to 4.54. But he pitched in bad luck for the next two months, winning only a single game against nine losses, before his next brush with fame. On July 22nd, Virgil Truck pitched nine hitless innings for the second time that season. Unfortunately, he allowed a single to the first batter of the game before starting his streak, and so had to settle for a one-hitter. He would only win once more in the season's final nine weeks, but this would be another gem, his second no-hitter of the year, and this time his victim would be the powerful New York Yankees. Here is his record in his five victories and the rest of his games:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Wins 5 5 4 3 43.2 9 2 1 13 37 5 0 0.42 NotWins 30 24 4 0 153.1 181 97 86 69 92 0 19 5.04
And Trucks wasn't the only Tiger worth watching that year. On July 14, nearly a month and a half after being sent from Boston to Detroit in a nine-player trade, Walt Dropo hit five straight singles against the Yankees. The team travelled to Washington the next day for a double-header and Dropo continued his hot streak, with hits in his first seven at-bats, tying Pinky Higgins' 1938 mark of twelve consecutive hits. He also finished the day with thirteen hits in three games, tying Joe Cronin's 1933 record.
By the way, Dropo was leading the league in RBIs as late as July 28th. Had he managed to hold onto that lead, it would have been the second straight season that the RBI leader had been traded during the season (Zernial led the AL in both homers and RBIs the year before playing for both the White Sox and the A's).
The Cardinals' Peanuts Lowrey also had a record hitting-streak in 1952. His started on April 17th, when he drove in two-runs with a pinch-single in the seventh inning of a 5-3 loss to the Pirates. He got his third straight pinch-hit on April 27th, and then spent a month in the starting lineup before resuming his streak in the first week of June. He recorded his seventh straight hit as a substitute batter on June 5th, before heading to left field for a few weeks and his streak didn't end until his next pinch-hit appearance on June 27th.
Future Hall of Fame relief pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm made his debut with the Giants in 1952. He picked up his first win and, in his first major league at-bat, hit a home run in the fourth inning, the only one he would hit in his career. His clout was part of three homers hit by the Giants in that inning. After Don Mueller and Wes Westrum had gone deep against starter Gene Conley, manager Tommy Holmes called on rookie Dick Hoover to face Wilhelm. The rest is (sort of) history. For Hoover, whose outing that day was the last of his two-game major league career, Wilhelm's blast was the only one he allowed. This got me to wondering how often a batter hit his only homer off of a pitcher who allowed only one home run. Since 1920, this has happened four times (ignoring, for the moment, a homer hit in 2010 where the players involved are still active). As you can imagine, apart from Wilhelm, none of the players involved are exactly household names, but here they are anyway:
Date Batter Pitcher 8- 3-1940 Johnny Gorsica Alex Mustaikis 9-29-1950 Hal Keller James Atkins 4-23-1952 Hoyt Wilhelm Dick Hoover 4-19-1983 Ken Smith Mike Couchee
The only other moderately well-known name on the list is Johnny Gorsica, who was also a pitcher. Prior to 1920, when home runs were much scarcer, this occurrence was more common, happening ten times.
On June 14th, Warren Spahn tied the modern major league record by striking out eighteen batters in a game. It had been done previously by Bob Feller in 1938 and by Jack Coombs of the A's, who needed 24 innings to set the mark originally in 1906. Like Coombs, Spahn needed extra-innings, with seven of his strikeouts coming after the ninth. Bill Serena, the last out in the top of the fifteenth inning, was his final victim. Unfortunately, this record-tying strikeout came one batter after Hal Jeffcoat had hit a two-run triple to provide the visiting Cubs with their final margin of victory as the Braves got only four hits in the game and scored their only run on a home run by Spahn. The mark would be broken in 1962 when Washington's Tom Cheney fanned 21 Orioles in sixteen innings.
Browns' reliever Satchel Paige had a game to remember against the Senators on June 3rd. He didn't enter until the twelfth inning, but pitched scoreless ball the rest of the way and contributed three hits, including a game-winning single in the seventeenth inning. A few weeks later, he again shut down Washington in a marathon game, pitching ten scoreless innings in an eighteen-inning 5-5 tie. Another highlight for the 46-year-old All-Star that summer was a twelve-inning shutout victory over the Tigers on August 6th. Starting for the Tigers that day was the luckless Virgil Trucks.
Called up to the Cardinals in mid-August, Stu Miller came within a ninth-inning unearned run of starting his career with two shutouts. As it was, he pitched complete games in his first four games and finished the year with a 6-3 mark and a 2.05 ERA. He struggled with St. Louis after that, but would eventually come to prominence as one of baseball's top relief pitchers with both the Giants and Orioles. Today, he is most well-known for getting blown off the mound at the 1961 All-Star game at Candlestick Park.
Another impressive debut was turned in by the Senators' Mike Fornieles, who pitched a one-hit victory over the A's on September 2nd in his first game and threw eight innings of three-hit scoreless relief two weeks later in his last appearance. Like Miller, Fornieles would have more success later in his career as a reliever and would also pitch in that 1961 All-Star game.
Earlier, I had mentioned in passing that Walt Dropo had come to Detroit from Boston in a nine-player trade. Well, trades were in fashion during the 1950s. Here are the number of players with major league experience traded per team during each decade of the 20th century:
Decade Teams Players P/T 1900s 152 217 1.43 1910s 176 309 1.76 1920s 160 332 2.08 1930s 160 540 3.38 1940s 160 511 3.19 1950s 160 976 6.10 1960s 198 1313 6.63 1970s 246 1822 7.41 1980s 260 1572 6.05 1990s 278 1531 5.5115+
So what happened to cause the trade bonanza of the 1950s? I think Frank "Trader" Lane happened. Lane came to the White Sox in October, 1948, and in a little more than a decade had revolutionized the job of general manager. He started by sending Aaron Robinson to the Tigers for Billy Pierce and $10,000. The next fall he finessed16 Chico Carrasquel from the Dodgers and sent Joe Tipton to the A's for Nellie Fox. For those first few years, everything he touched seemed to turn to gold, and by the time he orchestrated the three-team deal that brought Minnie Minoso to Chicago, his team was a pennant contender and he was one of the most famous men in baseball.
"We believe in making changes in personnel," he said during those first few years in Chicago. "New faces are bound to create new interest."17 The press loved him, partly because trades made news and Lane made a lot of trades. In February, 1953, the Sporting News ran a story on Lane outlining the 155 deals involving 220 players he had made in his first fifty-plus months as general manager.18 He was not the first manager, owner or general manager to trade a lot, but he was the first baseball executive to become famous primarily though his trading prowess, and I'm sure that all the attention paid to him did not escape the notice of his fellow general managers.
One of the people paying close attention to Lane's success was Bill Veeck, who had arrived in St. Louis to run the Browns prior to the All-Star break in 1951 and saw Lane's White Sox sitting at the top of the league standings. The next year, Veeck would make deals involving 42 players. After that season, Veeck told a reporter: "This promises to be the greatest turnover of players in the history of major league ball."19 A week later, Lane was reported "...eager to increase the Sox' momentum in the 'Swap Derby', which he claims to be leading."20 A strange competition seemed to have developed between the two men. You get the feeling from reading Veeck's statements during this time that he thought the point of his job was to see how many trades he could make. Even the trading deadline didn't stop him in 1952. With his team sitting in seventh-place that August, he took advantage of a loophole in the waiver rules to make an eight-player deal with the last-place Tigers. All this, from a man whose most famous trade prior to coming to St. Louis was one he didn't make: the rumored Lou Boudreau trade prior to the Indian's championship season of 1948. Following the 1952 season, The Sporting News ran a cartoon showing Veeck and Lane receiving a plaque of appreciation from the Railroads of America. The caption over the cartoon read: "Haul-of-Famers."21
After leaving the White Sox after the 1955 season, Frank Lane was the general manager of the Cardinals, Indians and A's. He was fired in 1961 by A's owner Charlie Finley. Through the end of that season, here were the teams that traded the most players in a year, along with their general manager.
Year Team # General Manager 1961 KC A 46 Frank Lane 1956 STL N 43 Frank Lane 1952 STL A 42 Bill Veeck 1954 BAL A 40 Art Ehlers 1958 CLE A 35 Frank Lane 1952 DET A 33 Charley Gehringer 1954 CHI A 33 Frank Lane 1960 CLE A 32 Frank Lane 1958 DET A 31 John McHale 1959 CLE A 30 Frank Lane 1951 STL A 29 Bill Veeck
Lane would not be a general manager of another team until taking the reins of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1971. He swapped 48 players that year, a record that still stands.
Major league baseball took a break from close pennant races in 1953. A double-header sweep on June 14th, gave the Yankees a 41-11 record, an eighteen-game winning streak, and pretty much ended any suspense about the American League's representative in that year's World Series. Their hot start was fueled by the hitting of Mickey Mantle, who at the time was leading the league in runs scored, RBIs, batting average and on-base percentage, and the pitching of Whitey Ford, who returned from two years of military service and had started the year with seven straight wins and a league-leading 2.17 ERA. Both Mantle and Ford cooled off somewhat the rest of the year, but fine seasons by Yogi Berra, Gene Woodling and Eddie Lopat, among others, allowed New York to coast to their fifth straight pennant.
In the NL, it was a similar story. The Dodgers' hot streak in July and August culminated in their thirteenth consecutive win on August 20th, and secured their ticket to another World Series. Had a few games gone otherwise in 1950 and 1951, Brooklyn could very well have been playing in their fifth straight World Series that fall. Fans of their 1899 edition might have disagreed, but this was perhaps the franchise's greatest team. Of the team's eight starters, four (Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo and Duke Snider) made the Sporting News Major League All-Star Team, two others (Jackie Robinson and Gil Hodges) played in the All-Star game, and Jim Gilliam, their second baseman, was selected the NL Rookie of the Year. They scored 955 runs, the most by any team in the league since 1930 and outscored the second best-hitting team that year by 187 runs, the largest gap between the top two teams since the 1874 Boston Red Stockings had scored 234 more runs than the New York Mutuals. Their pitching wasn't as impressive, with Don Newcombe missing his second straight year due to military obligations, but it was a better than average staff that was led by Carl Erskine's twenty wins. Erskine pitched poorly in the first half of the season before finishing with a fine last three months. His splits:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA April-June 18 14 5 1 91.1 93 60 58 51 64 5 4 5.72 July-Sept 21 19 11 3 155.1 120 46 39 44 123 15 2 2.26
The World Series was yet another disappointment for Brooklyn and their fans, as they fell in six games to the Yankees, who celebrated their record-setting fifth consecutive championship. New York was led by Billy Martin, their weakest hitter during the regular season, who collected twelve hits, including five for extra bases, and drove in eight runs. He started the series with a three-run triple in the first inning of the first game and finished with a game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth-inning of the last. Other stars included Carl Erskine, who struck out a career-high and World Series record 14 batters in his game three win, and Mickey Mantle, who hit a game-winner homer in the second game and then bounced back after striking out four times against Erskine to hit a home run with the bases loaded in the fifth. Prior to the grand-slam, Yankee batters had complained about a blinding glare coming from centerfield. The glare was traced to man in an apartment across the street from Ebbets Field who was using a mirror to distract the hitters. A tarpaulin was quickly erected to block the reflections and the game was resumed.22
The Dodgers hit .300 as a team during the series, and yet averaged only four and a half runs, due in most part to a .189 batting average (and a .548 on-base plus slugging percentage) with runners in scoring position. Gil Hodges, for example, bounced back from his poor showing in the previous year's Fall Classic to lead his team with eight hits, but drove in only one run in the six games.
The offensive highlights started early in 1953 when, during the first week of the season, 21-year-old Mickey Mantle hit a tremendous home run off of Chuck Stobbs in New York's 7-3 win over the Senators on April 17th. The ball was estimated to have gone 460 feet on the fly before finally rolling to a stop in a backyard 565 feet from home plate.23 At the time, it was reported to be the second longest hit of all time, the longest being a circuit clout by Babe Ruth at Navin Field on June 8, 1926. That homer came in the third inning of the game, left the park in the air before landing on top of a car. It bounced over several others and "rolled down the street, with a mob of youngsters in pursuit."24 That blow was reported to have gone 600 feet, and the next longest, estimated at 560 feet, was reported to have been hit by Pittsburgh's Ralph Kiner on April 22, 1950.25 Of course, estimated distances should never be taken at face value, and at least one current researcher now thinks that Babe Ruth hit a longer home run in Detroit on July 18, 1921, and that Mantle's home run on September 10, 1960, also in Detroit, was even longer than his blast out of Griffith Stadium in early 1953.26
On May 24th, the Dodgers scored twelve runs before a batter was retired in the top of the eighth inning of their game with the Phillies. Brooklyn was leading by a single run when the parade of hits and walks started. Curt Simmons was removed after the first five batters reached base, and the next three relievers also failed to get anyone out. The fifth pitcher of the inning, Kent Peterson, started his outing by giving up the second bases-loaded triple of the inning, the only time a team has hit two grand-slam triples in a single frame, but then settled down and retired the next three batters.
Less than a month later, the Red Sox had an even bigger inning in their game against the Tigers, scoring a modern major league record seventeen runs in the seventh inning. The first nine runs that inning were charged to reliever Steve Gromek, who was making a rather inauspicious debut for his team after coming to Detroit in an eight-player trade three days earlier. In his first start for his new team five days later, Gromek pitched a four-hit shutout, lowering his ERA with the team from 81.00 to 8.10. The next season, he would be one of the league's best pitchers, winning eighteen games for the second-division Tigers and posting the best ERA in the league outside of Cleveland.
During the Red Sox outburst that day, twenty-year-old left fielder Gene Stephens became the first player since 1883 to collect three hits in an inning, but he would finish the year with only a .204 batting average. Pitcher Ellis Kinder had two of Boston's hits that inning. It was the second time in his career that he had managed the feat, previously doing it in the Red Sox fourteen-run inning on July 4, 1948. Apart from those two big innings, however, Kinder was not much of hitter, having broken an 0-34 streak dating back to 1951 only a month earlier.
On same day that the Red Sox were running up the score on the Tigers, the Dodgers began a NL record-run of hitting at least one home run in 24 consecutive games. Despite the power display, they went only 13-11 during those games and didn't start the hot streak that secured the pennant until the game after it ended. One of their last victims during the run was Phillies ace Robin Roberts, who was knocked out of the game on July 9th. It broke a string for Roberts of 28 straight complete games dating back to the previous August. Brooklyn was finally held without a circuit clout on July 11th, when Al Worthington of the Giants held them without a run. It was the second shutout of his two-game major league career, becoming the first pitcher since Red Sox right-hander Dave Ferriss in 1945 to start his career with back-to-back shutouts. As a starting pitcher, this was as good as it was going to get for Worthington. He went on to lose his next eight decisions and would only pitch one more shutout in his career. The Giants would eventually make him a reliever and he would have several good years with the Minnesota Twins during the 1960s.
The Braves, playing their first season in Milwaukee, tied a major league record when they hit eight home runs while beating the Pirates 19-4 on August 30th. They were led by Jim Pendleton, who hit three of the long balls, and was in the middle of a two-month stretch that saw him bat .351 with six homers. He was hitting only .220 with a .520 on-base plus slugging-percentage at the start of the streak. He would hit the same .220 (with an even lower OPS) the next season.
New York's Whitey Ford pitched seven shutout innings against the Senators before departing with a 22-0 lead on August 12th. The Yankees clubbed four pitchers for a season-high 28 hits, including four each by Ford and Gene Woodling. It was one of two four-hit games for the Yankee pitcher in his career, the other coming nine days earlier, in a 11-3 win over the Browns. Rookie pitcher Steve Kraly pitched the last two innings to receive credit for a (retroactive) save. Kraly would not pick up a win in his short career but he came close in his last game, when he allowed a single run in eight innings on September 15th, only to lose a 1-0 decision to Cleveland ace Bob Lemon, who picked up his twentieth win.
Reserve Giants' infielder Bobby Hofman hit a single, double and two home runs in a rare start on April 22nd and was hitting .404 (with a .915 slugging percentage) in limited duty as late as July 26th. His statistics came back down to earth as he saw more action over the last month and a half of the season, but he did have another two-homer game on September 7th and ended the season with a fine .544 slugging percentage. Both of his big games came against the Pirates and he finished that year going 14-24 with six homers against Pittsburgh.
On May 2nd, Pirate rookie Carlos Bernier became the first player since the Indians' Ben Chapman in 1939 to have three triples in a game. It was the high point of Bernier's brief major league career as the outfielder slumped badly over the second half of the season and did not return in 1954.
Two of the season's batting highlights involved pitchers. On July 24th, St. Louis Browns rookie Don Larsen relieved Bob Cain and then doubled in the bottom of the eighth inning, one of only six hits the team collected off of Red Sox pitcher Mickey McDermott. Four days later, he again relieved Cain and this time singled three straight times. Unfortunately, after helping the Browns tie the game with his hitting, he allowed two runs in the bottom of the eighth and took the loss. He was given a start on August 5th, and singled in his three at-bats. None of his hits, nor those of any of his teammates, led to a run and Larsen and the Brown lost 5-0. His seven consecutive hits were one of his few bright spots during a two-month long six-game losing streak.
One pitcher who didn't have to worry about long losing streaks was Vic Raschi of the Yankees, who didn't drop consecutive decisions all year. On August 4th, Raschi set a record for pitchers when he knocked in seven runs in a game. He drove in his runs with bases-loaded hits in the second, third and fourth innings. He left after six with a thirteen-run lead and Art Schallock pitched the last three innings to pick up his only (retroactive) career save.
On May 6th, thirty-year-old Browns' rookie Bobo Holloman became one of the least likely pitchers to ever throw a no-hitter. It was his first major league start, but he had pitched four times in relief previously and entered the game with an 8.44 ERA, courtesy of having allowed ten hits and five runs in five and a third innings. The game also included his only major league hits (two) and RBIs (three). The 2,474 fans who attended the game got to see the highlight of Holloman's career for free. Because of the threatening weather, Bill Veeck announced during the game that rain checks would be honored for any future date.27
Holloman would win only two more games before he was farmed out in July. One of them was a near-gem. He pitched a two-hitter over eight shutout innings against the Red Sox on June 21st. This got to me to wondering about no-hit pitchers with short careers. Now, the definition of what constitutes a no-hitter has changed over the years, but for the purposes of the list below, I've opted for simplicity: a no-hitter is any complete game where the starting pitcher did not allow any hits. The biggest difference between my definition and the one currently favored by MLB is that I count complete games that are less than nine innings. This difference will be important.
So, using this definition, here is a list of no-hit pitchers with the fewest career victories:
Name Date First Last G IP W L Bumpus Jones 10-15-1892 1892 1893 8 41.2 2 4 Devern Hansack 10- 1-2006 2006 2008 9 24.1 2 2 Bobo Holloman 5- 6-1953 1953 1953 22 65.1 3 7 Iron Davis 9- 9-1914 1912 1915 36 191.0 7 10 Bud Smith 9- 3-2001 2001 2002 27 132.2 7 8 Mike Warren 9-29-1983 1983 1985 52 204.2 9 13 Joe Borden 7-28-1875 1875 1876 36 284.1 13 16 Bill McCahan 9- 3-1947 1946 1949 57 290.2 16 14 Sam Kimber 10- 4-1884 1884 1885 42 369.1 18 21
Bumpus Jones threw his no-no in his first major league start, and by the time he pitched his next game, the pitching distance had been changed and he had little success with the new layout. Devern Hansack owes his appearance on this list to my decision to include games shorter than nine innings, as his no-hitter on the last day of the Red Sox's 2006 season was called after five innings because of rain. It was his second career start.
Milwaukee's Max Surkont set a modern major league mark when he struck out eight straight batters in his May 25th victory over the Reds. He fanned the last batter in the second and by the time a Cincinnati batter put the ball in play next, the Braves had a 10-1 lead, due in large part to two homers by 21-year-old third-baseman Eddie Mathews, who was on his way to hitting a career-high 47 home runs. Surkont ended the game with thirteen strikeouts, one of only two double-digit strikeout games in his career.
Billy Pierce started August with a forty inning scoreless streak, and he ended the month with a shutout as well. Pierce finished the year with a career-high seven shutouts, good for the second highest total during the 1950s, but Bob Porterfield led the league that season with nine. Porterfield, who had come to the Senators from the Yankees in a trade for Bob Kuzava during 1951, pitched at least one shutout each month of the season, threw two one-hitters, and finished his season by winning twelve of his last thirteen starts. The streak started after he was forced to leave his July 21st game after five innings with a knee injury,28 and he also had to leave his September 3rd start after six shutouts innings with a bad back,29 but he ended the season leading the league in complete games, wins and, of course, shutouts.
And since we mentioned Bob Kuzava, he also was in the news in 1953, when he pitched back-to-back shutouts in August that had very little in common with one another. In the first one, he had a no-hitter with one out in the ninth inning before the White Sox's Bob Boyd doubled to break it up. He then retired the next two batters to preserve the only one-hitter of his career. His performance didn't do much to improve his position on manager Casey Stengel's depth chart, and he didn't make his next start for a week and a half. This time, he lost his no-hit bid to the second batter he faced and had runners on base in every inning except the seventh, but managed to keep the A's from scoring despite their eleven hits. Stengel was still unimpressed with his left-hander, and sent him back to the bullpen. He made only one more start that year and he would not pitch another shutout or complete game in his career.
After going 5-19 for Detroit despite two no-hitters in 1952, Virgil Trucks was traded from the league's worst to its second-worst team in a six-player deal that December and started the year with Bill Veeck's St. Louis Browns. For the second straight year, Trucks faced Ned Garver in the opening game of the season. In the 1952 game, Garver had pitched a shutout victory for the Browns. One year later, the tables were turned and Trucks pitched a shutout for St. Louis and Garver was the losing pitcher for the Tigers. Trucks was pitching well in June when Veeck's financial difficulties forced him to send his ace to the White Sox in a four-player trade that netted the owner $75,000. It wasn't good news for St. Louis, but it was the best thing that could have happened to their ex-pitcher. In his first two and a half months with his newest team, Trucks went 13-2, and with his five-hit victory on September 20th, won twenty games in a season for the only time in his career (or second, if you count his 25-6 mark, including twelve shutouts, 418 strikeouts and a 1.25 ERA while pitching for Andalusia of the Alabama-Florida League in 1938).
A player who made a less favorable impression on his new team was White Sox pitcher Tommy Byrne, who walked six men before leaving with none out in the second inning of his first start with Chicago. By the time Byrne was unloaded to the Senators in June, he had allowed 26 walks (and 44 base-runners) in only 16 innings, good for a 10.12 ERA despite winning his only two decisions.
The Red Sox were never really in contention in 1953, but they got some good news on July 23 when the Marine Corps announced that they would release Ted Williams on August 1st.30 Williams had been out of baseball since heading into the Corps after only six games in 1952 and there was some doubt when or if he would report to Boston. He ended up getting released a few days early and was in a Red Sox uniform on July 29.31 It didn't take him long to get into a game. On August 6th, in his first game since hitting a game-winning home run on April 30, 1952, Williams popped up to first. Three days later, he electrified the Fenway faithful by hitting a pinch-homer in his second appearance. It was another week before he was ready to take the field, but when he did, he went on a hot streak that lasted until the end of the season. He finished the year with a .407 batting average and an incredible 1.410 OPS, with thirteen home runs in only 91 at-bats.
In November 1952, Frank Lane, head of the major league's Realignment Group, recommended a sweeping change to the rule governing the shift of franchises. Previously, a club needed unanimous consent in its own league and a majority approval from the other circuit to change cities. Lane's group suggested the following change: if the proposed city was not currently represented by a major league team, only a simple majority in the franchise's league would be required; if there was already a team in the new city, unanimous consent would be required in both leagues. With one minor modification (the AL required 6 votes in favor of the move rather than 5), the group's recommendation was accepted during the winter meetings.
During the ensuing five years, several franchises packed up and moved as major league baseball tried to correct the problems caused by fifty years of stability. In 1952, five cities accounted for eleven of the sixteen teams. Six years later, only Chicago would have two teams and baseball would have finally reached past the Mississippi River to the Pacific. Of course, New York would get another team of sorts in 1962, but the era of two-team cities was over.
This was essentially the effect Lane had predicted for his rule change. Prior to the 1952 winter meetings, he told a reporter that only New York and Chicago were equipped to support two teams. He also looked into the future and predicted the likely new major league cities: "San Francisco and Los Angeles should be able to support a big league team and so should Houston and Dallas of the Texas League, Milwaukee and Kansas City of the American Association and Montreal and Baltimore of the International League."32 Within twenty years, every city he mentioned would have a major league team. This rearrangement of the baseball map would go a long way toward improving the competitive balance in the major leagues.
It was the year of the Indians. Well, most of it anyway. They started the season by losing six of their first nine games, and they ended it with four more, higher-profile losses, but in between they were one of the most dominant teams in history. Cleveland was led by the best pitching staff in baseball, including a big three of Bob Lemon, Early Wynn and Mike Garcia, who combined for 65 wins, and a strong bullpen made up of Don Mossi, Ray Narleski and Hal Newhouser. The staff allowed only 504 runs, the lowest in the American League since the deadball era, but they also had the second best offense in the AL, led by Bobby Avila, Al Rosen and Larry Doby. They had five winning streaks of eight games or longer and not counting their slow start in April, they posted their worst winning percentage in June, when they went 20-9, and their 26 wins in August were the highest since the 1938 Yankees won 28 games that July.
There were really two different American Leagues in 1954. There were the top tier teams, the Indians, Yankees and White Sox, and then there were the rest of them, the bottom dwellers, who were only competitive, it seemed, when they played each other. The worst of top tier teams, the White Sox, finished with 94 wins, the franchise's most since 1920, while the other top two teams finished with the best first and second-place records in league history. The gulf between the White Sox and the best of the rest was a full 25 games. All five of the remaining teams had records worse than cellar dwellers in other years (1924, for example). Here are the records of the two groups:
Top - Vs Top - - Vs Bot - Team W L Pct W L Pct CLE A 22 22 .500 89 21 .809 NY A 26 18 .591 77 33 .700 CHI A 18 26 .409 76 34 .691 Bottom Team - Vs Top - - Vs Bot - BOS A 16 50 .242 53 35 .602 DET A 24 42 .364 44 44 .500 WAS A 20 46 .303 46 42 .523 BAL A 15 51 .227 39 49 .443 PHI A 13 53 .197 38 50 .432
The Yankees won the most games of any team under Casey Stengel, but couldn't catch Cleveland, primarily because they were less dominant against the poorer teams. They were within three games of the top on August 19th, but then went to Fenway Park where the Red Sox managed a three-game sweep of New York that pretty much finished the race. The series included a heart-breaking extra-inning loss on August 21st. In the game, Johnny Sain failed to hold leads in the bottom of the ninth and ten innings, and Whitey Ford lost another lead (and the game) in the bottom of the twelfth. The final blow was a two-out two-run single by Don Lenhardt.
The Giants collapsed down the stretch in 1953, finishing 35 games behind the Dodgers. They had two major additions in 1954, center fielder Willie Mays, returning after nearly two years in the military, and Johnny Antonelli, picked up in a big pre-season trade with the Braves. Mays blossomed into the best player in the majors and Antonelli into the best pitcher, leading New York back to the top. The Dodgers had crept to within two games of them on August 29th, before losing eight of ten, including two of three at the Polo Grounds, to drop back into third place. A seven-game winning streak gave them a glimmer of hope, but that was extinguished when they lost their next five, including a pair to the lowly Pirates and the first two of a three-game series with the Giants. Brooklyn was hurt that year by a hand injury suffered by Roy Campanella, who followed his MVP season in 1953 with the worst one of his career.
The favored Cleveland Indians had never lost a World Series and New York's manager Leo Durocher had never won one, but these two (admittedly short) streaks came to end as the Giants won the series in four straight games. The two teams were hardly strangers, having played each other in spring training 263 times since 1934. The past spring, the Giants had a 13-8 advantage, but the Indians held the overall edge, 132-125-6.33 The Giants took the first game thanks to a fantastic eighth-inning catch by Willie Mays on Vic Wertz's 460-foot out to deep center field, and to a three-run 260-foot Dusty Rhodes home run that ended the game in the bottom of the tenth.
Rhodes was again the hero in game two, hitting a run-scoring pinch-single in the fourth inning and a home run in the seventh, both providing more than enough support for John Antonelli, who allowed fourteen men to reach base but only one to score. A third straight pinch-hit off the bat of Rhodes, this one driving in two runs in the third inning, allowed the Giants to build a commanding six-run lead in the third game. Rhodes had pinch-hit for Monte Irvin in the first three games, but in the next one, Durocher let his left fielder bat for himself with the bases-loaded in the fifth inning, and Irvin responded with a two-run single, part of a four-run rally that put the series away.
Four years earlier, the Dodgers' Gil Hodges hit four home runs against the Braves. On July 31st, Milwaukee's Joe Adcock repaid the favor, hitting four homers against Brooklyn in a 15-7 slugfest. Both games took place at Ebbets Field. Adcock also hit a double, setting the major league record for the most total bases in a game. The day before, he had three hits, including a homer and a double, so he also tied the marks for most home runs, extra-base hits and total bases in consecutive games. The next day, after hitting another double against the Dodgers, he was beaned by Clem Labine and forced to leave. Adcock always loved Ebbets Field, hitting 26 career homers in only 250 at-bats there, but he especially loved the place in 1954, hitting a record nine home runs. He would become a power hitter in the years to come, hitting a high of 38 homers in 1956, but by 1954 he was only a top threat in Brooklyn. Here are his splits both in and out of Ebbets Field that year:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG Ebbets 11 39 12 17 4 0 9 17 1 3 2 0 1 0 1 .436 .465 1.231 Not-Ebbets 122 461 61 137 23 5 14 70 43 55 1 11 3 1 3 .297 .356 .460
The Chicago Cubs' Hank Sauer, one of the team's few bright spots during the early 1950s, hit a NL record thirteen homers that year against the Pirates, the only team in the league worse than his. Lou Gehrig holds the major league mark of fourteen against the Indians in 1936.
Stan Musial had one of the biggest days of his career when he hit five home runs and knocked in nine runs in a double-header on May 2nd. No one else would hit as many home runs in a single day until San Diego's Nate Colbert on August 1, 1972.
After the Reds beat the Braves 9-8 on opening day, Jim Greengrass was on a pace to hit 616 doubles and Andy Pafko was on a 462-double pace. Most of the doubles in the game were caused by special ground rules in place to handle the overflow crowd.34 Hank Aaron debuted in the same game and went hitless in five at-bats. He bounced back with a five-hit game on April 25th and finished his first month hitting .333 and slugging .519. His season came to end when he was injured running out his fourth hit on September 5th. He was replaced by Bobby Thomson, the player whose spring training injury had opened up a spot for Aaron.35 Greengrass hit .611 in his first five games, with eight extra-base hits and twelve RBIs. It wouldn't last.
Ted Williams also suffered a spring training injury, a broken collarbone after only fifteen minutes of his first workout, and missed the first month of the season.36 He didn't start a game until a double-header on May 16th, but showed no signs of rust, collecting three hits in the first game, and five more, including a double and two homers good for five RBIs, in the second. Williams hit over .400 in May and walked 45 times in July, the highest monthly total since he walked 50 times in August 1941. A batter would not walk as many times in a month until Barry Bonds walked 46 times in June 2004. Williams had an on-base percentage over .500 for the first time since 1941, although from 1942 to 1949 he was a model of slightly sub-.500 consistency, with percentages of .499, .497, .499, .497 and .490.
Cardinal left fielder Rip Repulski went on a tear in June, including ten straight games with two or more hits. This was the longest such streak between eleven-game runs by the Cubs' Billy Herman in 1935 and Cincinnati's Tony Perez in 1973. Herman's streak finished the 1935 season and was extended to twelve games when he had five hits, including three doubles and a homer, in the Cubs' opening game of 1936. And Perez' streak was unusual in that he had exactly two hits in all eleven games.
Joe Cunningham was never much of a power-hitter during a career that lasted from 1954 to 1966. He hit for a good average, drew more than his fair share of walks, and even played in a 1959 All-Star game. But his career high in homers was twelve, which at the time was not a lot for a first-baseman and corner-outfielder. But for the first two games of his career, two games that produced three home runs and nine RBIs, the Cardinal rookie looked like he might turn into a very different hitter. Those are still the most homers and RBIs in a player's first two major league games.
Entering the game having hit only one homer all year, Cleveland's Bill Glynn hit three (with eight RBIs) in the first game of a double-header on July 5th. He hit another home run the next day, the last one of his career. World Series hero Dusty Rhodes also had a three-homer game on July 28th, his second in two years. Both of his big games were against the Cardinals, as was his record-tying six extra base hits in a double-header on August 29th. For the season, Rhodes had a 1.306 slugging percentage against St. Louis.
Starting on August 27th, Ted Kluszewski of the Reds scored at least one run in seventeen consecutive games, a modern National League record. In nine of those games, the only runs he scored were a result of his home runs, and during the streak, he scored 24 runs and drove in 32.
There may not have been much of a pennant race in 1954, but the NL batting race went down to the wire. As the teams entered the final day of the season, the top three hitters were within a third of a percentage point:
Don Mueller 613 210 .34258 Duke Snider 581 199 .34251 Willie Mays 561 192 .34225
Mueller went 2-6 and Snider went hitless in three at-bats, while Mays had a single, double and triple in four at-bats to win the title:
Willie Mays 565 195 .34513 Don Mueller 619 212 .34249 Duke Snider 584 199 .34075
The year's biggest slugfest came early in the season when the Cubs squeaked past the Cardinals 23-13 on April 17th. The difference turned out to be the ten runs Chicago scored in the bottom of the fifth to take a 22-10 lead. Things settled down after that, with Cot Deal and Jim Brosnan wrapping up the game. For Brosnan, it was the first victory of his career.
On July 11th the Giants hit six home runs in the first game of a double-header with the Pirates, setting major league marks for the most homers hit in five (19), six (22), seven (24), eight (26), nine (27) and ten (28) games. None of these records would survive a power surge by the Boston Red Sox from June 14 to June 24, 1977. The same day that the Giants were finishing their home run binge, the Red Sox were wiping out the A's in a double-header 18-0 and 11-1 and out-hitting them 40-10. It was the most lopsided double-header since the Yankees beat the A's by an even greater margin (23-2 and 10-0) on June 28, 1939. And there would not be a greater double-whipping until August 22, 2007, when the Rangers clobbered the Orioles 30-3 and 9-7.
The Dodgers beat the Reds 20-7 on August 8th. With one run in, two outs and the bases empty, the Reds decided to intentionally walk Roy Campanella, who entered the game hitting .196. The move back-fired when Clem Labine, owner of a .077 career batting average, walked as well. Another walk and an error brought in two runs and the rout was on. Because the error prevented the side from being retired, all of the runs after that the were unearned. In 1969, the rule book was changed so that relief pitchers were not given the benefit of errors made before they entered the game. The fact that 1969 was fifteen years in the future was good news for Jackie Collum. He entered the game at that point, gave up a walk, single, double, single, hit a batter, gave up a single and walk (again to Clem Labine). All seven of these batters came around to score and Collum's ERA stayed at 3.78 instead of climbing to 5.04.
Brooklyn left-hander Karl Spooner burst upon the scene at the end of 1954. Other pitchers had started their careers with back-to-back shutouts, but none of them had been as dominant as Spooner. He struck out fifteen in his first start on September 22nd, setting major league records for the most strikeouts and consecutive strikeouts (he struck out the side in the seventh and eighth innings) in a pitcher's debut. He pitched a four-hit shutout in his next outing, fanning twelve and setting the NL mark for the most strikeouts in two consecutive games. It was an incredible beginning to a career. Unfortunately, he came down with a sore arm next spring and struggled in his starts that year. He did pitch very well in relief, but after the end of 1955 was done as a major league pitcher. Here is his record as a starter and reliever in 1955:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Start 14 14 2 1 66.1 67 46 36 33 48 3 5 4.88 Relief 15 0 0 0 32.1 12 4 4 8 30 5 1 1.11
Spooner's debut was not the top strikeout game in the majors that year. That distinction belonged White Sox first-baseman turned pitcher Jack Harshman, who struck out sixteen Red Sox batters on July 25th. Less than two weeks later, he struck out another twelve while beating Detroit's Al Aber in the pitching duel of the year, a 1-0 extra-inning game. Both starters were still in the game when Minnie Minosi tripled to finally end it in the bottom of the sixteenth.
In his second start of the season, Baltimore's Bob Turley went into the ninth inning with fourteen strikeouts and a no-hitter. He allowed two hits (and runs) in the last frame and ended up with his first loss of the year instead of his second victory. He had four double-digit strikeout games, but also three games with ten or more walks, and finished the year leading the league in both categories. He came within a win of posting a .500 record for a team that lost 100 games, but that winter he was called up to the first division when he was sent to the Yankees as part of a seventeen-player trade.
Another Baltimore pitcher had worse luck than Turley that summer. Don Larsen did have one surprisingly good moment, however, and that happened when he faced off against the Yankees' Allie Reynolds at the end of July. Coming into the game, Reynolds had a ten-game winning streak, while Larsen was 2-12. On paper, the game looked like a mismatch and it was, but the Orioles were the team on the good side of a 10-0 score as Larsen pitched his only shutout of the year. It was his third and last win, as he dropped nine straight decisions to finish with a 3-21 record. This was the fewest wins with at least 20 losses since Jack Nabors of the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics went 1-20. But things were looking up for Larsen, as he would be joining Turley in New York next year, where better things awaited them both.
On September 10th, the Giants' Ray Katt found that the knuckleball can be as hard to catch as it is to hit when he failed to corral four of Hoyt Wilhelm's pitches in the eighth inning of New York's 8-1 loss to the Reds. The four passed balls in an inning set a National League record that still stands. Bobby Adams, at least, expected it to be even worse. He had walked and moved to third on two passed balls. Expecting another one, he took off as Wilhelm delivered the pitch. This time, however, Katt was able to catch the ball and he tagged Adams at the plate for the final out of the inning.37
After winning 111 games the previous year with the best pitching staff in baseball, the Cleveland Indians added Herb Score to their starting rotation, one of the most exciting young pitchers to arrive in the majors in years. On paper, things didn't look so good for the rest of the American League, but despite an excellent season from Score, who set a rookie record with 245 strikeouts, the Indians' pitchers got disappointing seasons from their other starters, especially Mike Garcia, and came back to the pack.
As a result, the league had a fierce four-team pennant race on their hands much of the summer. By the end of August, the White Sox, Indians and Yankees were all within a half-game of the top. As late as September 7th, even the fourth-place Red Sox were only three games off the pace. The Indians and the Yankees separated themselves from the pack after that, with the Indians holding a slim lead following a double-header split in their last head-to-head meeting of the year with New York. Two days later, however, the Yankees started an eight-game winning streak that secured their sixth pennant in seven years under Casey Stengel.
The Yankees were led by the usual suspects: Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra (who was named the league's MVP for the third time) and Whitey Ford. But they also got unexpected help from Tommy Byrne, whose control problems had landed him in the minor leagues at the start of 1954. A twenty-win season with Seattle that year (along with only 118 walks in 260 innings) caught the attention of his former team, and the Yankees purchased him at the beginning of September. He gave a preview of things to come by pitching four straight complete games (three of them wins) during that month, but he started slowly in 1955, making only two appearances on the mound before a four-hit victory on May 30th. He didn't make it out of the first inning of his next start, giving up a grand-slam to the White Sox's Jim Rivera, but was one of the team's best pitchers after that, going 14-3 with a 2.42 ERA until losing his last start of the season.
New York was also helped by two of their imports from the team formerly known as the St. Louis Browns. Bob Turley won seventeen games and Don Larsen went a combined 18-3 with the Yankees and the Denver Bears, their top farm club. Turley was a sensation early in the year, pitching one-hit and two-hit shutouts to go with five games of ten or more strikeouts by the middle of May. He hit a rough patch after that, pitching at times both badly and in bad luck before finishing strong, including back-to-back five-hit shutouts during September. Here are his splits:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Start 9 9 7 2 76 31 22 21 57 78 8 1 2.49 Middle 21 19 4 2 122.1 107 61 54 95 102 5 12 3.97 End 6 6 2 2 38.1 30 9 9 25 30 4 0 2.11
On October, 18, 1900, the Brooklyn Superbas picked up their third and final win of the best-of-five series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pitcher Joe McGinnity went all the way to win his second game of the competition, a performance that caused the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to declare him "the greatest pitcher that ever lived."38 It wasn't the World Series (those wouldn't start for another three years) but it was a post-season competition between the two best teams in the major leagues. At the start of 1955, it was also the closest that Brooklyn had ever come to winning a World Series.
The 1955 edition of the Dodgers started the season with one of the hottest opening streaks in history, and with their victory on April 21st became the first major league team to win their first ten decisions since the 1884 St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association opened with twenty consecutive wins and the New York Gothams started 12-0. After losing two of three to the defending champions, Brooklyn reeled off another eleven straight wins, culminating in a 3-0 Don Newcombe one-hitter. By then, they already had a nine and a half game lead over New York.
They were led by three-time MVP Roy Campanella behind the plate and All-Star center fielder Duke Snider and 20-game winner Don Newcombe in front of it. They were an even better team than the 1953 version for much of the season, only dropping behind that record-setting pace in mid-August, once the pennant was secured.
Newcombe's season could have been even better. By the end of July, he had a 18-1 record and the Dodgers had a commanding lead. He was less impressive while his team played out the string over the last two months, winning only two of his last nine starts, and his slump continued into the first game of the World Series, a 6-5 loss to the Yankees and Whitey Ford. He would not pitch again in the series, suffering from the "flu, a sore arm and a sore back."39
Byrne put the Dodgers in a 2-0 hole with a five-hit victory in game two of the series. It was the first complete game victory by a left-hander against Brooklyn all season. Their predominately right-handed hitting lineup was considered so deadly against lefties that during the season only 416 of their 5193 at-bats came against southpaws (the other seven teams in the league averaged more than 1400 at-bats against lefties). Warren Spahn, for example, avoided the Dodgers entirely during 1955, and from 1954 to 1957, faced them in less than four of his 1081 innings. Stengel went against the book in the series, starting Ford and Byrne in four of the seven games, and his strategy worked, as the Yankee left-handed pitchers held Dodger batters to a .224 batting average and a .310 slugging percentage.
Unfortunately for New York, the Dodgers fared much better against their right-handers and stormed back to take the middle three games of the series behind the hitting of Duke Snider (a single, double, three homers and five RBIs) and Roy Campanella (two singles, doubles and homers good for four RBIs). Once again, the Dodgers were one game away from their first World championship.
With Newcombe unavailable for game six, manager Walter Alston went with former-phenom Karl Spooner instead. Spooner, making what turned out to be the last appearance of his major league career, never made it out of the first inning, while Ford pitched the second complete game victory by a lefty over Brooklyn in less than a week. For the first time in World Series history, the home team had won the first six games.
Alston sent Johnny Podres to the mound in the decisive seventh game, opposed by Tommy Byrne. Podres was coming off a mediocre season in 1955, with both his 9-10 mark and 3.95 ERA the worst among the team's top five starters, but he had already pitched a complete game victory in game three, and he would be even better in game seven. Gil Hodges knocked in a run with a single in the fourth and then extended the lead with a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth. In the bottom half, Podres, who had not been in any serious trouble until then, gave up a walk and a bunt single with no out. The next batter was left-handed hitting Yogi Berra and the outfield shifted toward right, expecting him to pull the ball. Instead, he hit a fly ball down the left field line. Sandy Amoros, who had just entered the game as a defensive replacement, ran a long way and made a fine play on the ball. Instead of a run-scoring (or even game-tying) double, the play turned into a rally-killing double-play when Amoros' throw to first beat the retreating Gil McDougald.40
There were more threats over the next few innings. Mickey Mantle, who missed most of series with leg problems, popped up with a man on first in the seventh, and both Yogi Berra and Hank Bauer were retired with men on first and third in the eighth. Podres ran into no trouble at all in the ninth, however, retiring the side in order to bring Brooklyn their first (and last) World Series championship.
The White Sox, a team known during the decade more for their pitching and defense, turned in the top offensive performance in almost five years when they scored 29 runs to defeat the Kansas City A's on April 23rd. For Kansas City, it was only their sixth home game since rejoining the major leagues (after an absence of nearly forty years if you count their Federal League team of 1914-1915, and sixty-six years if you don't). Less than a week earlier, they had lost a 16-0 blowout in Detroit and after getting clobbered by the White Sox sported a 2-7 record and had been outscored 95 to 38.
The White Sox tied the American League record with their outburst that day, a mark that had originally been set by the Red Sox in 1950. Walt Dropo was part of both offensive outbursts, going a combined 7-13 with three home runs and ten RBIs in the two games. Sherm Lollar had a home run and a single in the second inning and, after homering in the fourth, had another two hits in the sixth inning. This was the first time a player had collected two hits in two different innings during a game since Johnny Hodapp did it with the 1928 Indians.
Pitcher Bob Spicer played in only two games for the A's during 1955. He made his major league debut during that 16-0 loss to the Tigers and finished his season in that record-setting defeat against the Sox. In both of these games, he allowed five runs in less than two innings of work. Two more games the next year comprised the rest of his career. In his last major league game, also against the White Sox, he allowed five runs in two innings of a 17-3 rout.
As I mentioned earlier, the fourth-place Red Sox were only three games out of first as late as September 7th. The team must have wondered where they might have been had Ted Williams not missed the first 41 games of the season. He had decided to retire and didn't change his mind until his divorce with his first wife was finalized in May. By the time he appeared in a game, Boston was eleven games out of first. Here are the standings from that day until the end of the season:
Team W L PCT GB NY A 69 46 .600 - CLE A 70 47 .598 - BOS A 67 46 .593 1 CHI A 69 48 .590 1
Red Sox fans will tell you that missing Williams for the first quarter of the season was not the most painful loss of the season. Harry Agganis had been an All-American football player at Boston University before he signed with the Red Sox in 1952. Because of his football exploits, Agganis was a famous athlete throughout New England before ever appearing in the Red Sox uniform. He had shown promise as a rookie in 1954 and battled Norm Zauchin for the first-base job during the spring training of 1955. Agganis appeared to have won the job in early May and his five hits (including a bases-loaded triple) in a double-header on May 15th pushed his batting average over .300 and seemed to cement his hold on the job. Unfortunately, he became ill the next day and was hospitalized with pneumonia in his right lung. He returned to the lineup, collecting three hits in two games in early June, before being hospitalized again, this time with pneumonia in the left lung.41 On June 27th, he died of a pulmonary embolism.42
Norm Zauchin, his replacement, had the year's most productive day when he clubbed three home runs and a double, good for ten RBIs, in the Red Sox' 16-0 drubbing of the Senators on May 27th. It was the first double-digit RBI game since Walker Cooper in 1949. For winning pitcher Tom Brewer, it was his first victory of the season following six defeats, three of them complete games losses by scores of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, as well as an extra-inning scoreless no decision. Had he been able to spread some of the runs that day across those other games, he could have finished that game 5-3 instead of 1-6.
The Giants were never really in contention in 1955, primarily because both Johnny Antonelli and Ruben Gomez could not repeat their fine performances of the previous year. One player who did not experience a dropoff was Willie Mays. He hit more than fifty home runs for the first time, including a record-tying seven in six straight games in September. Had his team been in the thick of a pennant race that year, he would probably have repeated as both league MVP and Sporting News Player of the Year. Mays also tied Joe Adcock's mark of the year before by hitting nine homers in a visiting park. Like Adcock, his park of choice was Ebbets Field. A lot of people were sorry to see the Dodgers abandon Ebbets Field after the 1957 season, but few players were as sorry to see the old park go as Willie Mays. He played 56 games at the park in his career, hitting 28 homers and slugging .786.
For a while it looked as though the Cubs would finish in the first division for the first time since 1946. They were in second place on July 4th, but won only fifteen of their next fifty games. In the early going, they were led by rookie Bob Speake, who entered the lineup at the beginning of May and by June 3rd had already hit eleven home runs. The league caught up to him with a vengenge after that, however. Here are his splits:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG To June 3rd 35 102 23 30 5 2 11 32 14 20 2 0 1 2 0 .294 .387 .706 Afterwards 60 159 13 27 4 3 1 11 15 51 1 0 0 1 4 .170 .246 .252
Third-year player Ernie Banks, however, was a star for the Cubs all season long. His 44 home runs were the most ever hit by a shortstop and he also set a record for the most grand-slam homers when he belted his fifth on September 19th. The record would be tied by Jim Gentile in 1961 and then broken by Don Mattingly in 1987. For Mattingly, the six grand-slams he hit in 1987 would be the only ones of his career.
Al Kaline, Detroit's 20-year-old outfielder, led the American League in hits and batting average and was named The Sporting News Player of the Year. It was his second full season in the majors and represented a huge step forward for the young player. In 1954, Kaline had not hit his first triple or home run until June 11th and had managed only four home runs all year. In the first week of the 1955 season, Kaline had both a two-triple and a three-homer game. By the end of the year, he had hit 27 home runs, increased his walks from 22 to 82, and his on-base plus slugging percentage from .652 to .967. Or put another way, his OPS the year before had been the second worst among all right fielders with at least 100 games; in 1955, his OPS was the third highest in the league. Kaline would go on to have a Hall of Fame career, with just over 3000 hits and under 400 home runs, but Tiger fans probably envisioned an even brighter future for him during the winter of 1955-56. In many ways, Kaline peaked in 1955. He would never have as many runs scored or hits again, or have as high a batting average or on-base percentage. His triples, home runs and walk totals were also all within two of his career highs. He would also never hit three homers in a game again.
It was great to be young and a Yankee during the 1950s, but first-baseman Bill Skowron probably wished his home park was more like Kansas City's Municipal Stadium. Here are his three-year splits from 1955 to 1957:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG Home 181 591 70 152 23 4 13 85 47 74 6 3 7 4 5 .257 .315 .376 Away 183 618 108 222 30 10 39 154 55 77 6 2 3 4 2 .359 .415 .629
Over the same period, here is his line in Kansas City:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG KC A 24 74 19 37 5 1 8 27 11 6 2 0 0 0 1 .500 .575 .919
In addition to his exploits on the mound, Don Newcombe also set a National League record for pitchers by hitting seven home runs. He broke the mark of six previously held by Hal Schumacher in 1934. Newcombe started hitting early, with two home runs in his first start, added another two-homer game at the end of May, and by the time he had four hits, including a double and a home run, on July 15th, his batting average was .406 and his on-base plus slugging percentage was 1.243. Considering that he was 15-1 with a 2.94 ERA, you could argue that he was having one of the best all-around seasons for a pitcher in history. Like his mound work, however, his hitting also tailed off somewhat down the stretch, but he still finished the year with the highest batting average in the league (100 at-bats minimum).
It didn't end up costing the Yankees a pennant or anything, but Casey Stengel, who enjoyed juggling a lineup as much as anyone, juggled himself into a loss during a September 10th game with the White Sox. It was a classic case of over-managing, from Stengel pinch-hitting for his starting pitcher in the bottom of the second inning to removing his last remaining catcher in the ninth. When the game went into extra-innings, he was forced to send outfielder Hank Bauer behind the plate. Minnie Minoso, a good base stealer, opened the tenth with a walk, but rather than sending him on a straight steal, White Sox manager Marty Marion chose to have Bob Nieman, one of his team's best hitters, sacrifice instead. The move worked, I suppose, when Bauer's passed ball allowed Minoso to take third, where he scored the deciding run on an infield error.
The Dodgers won a curious game on September 9th when they trounced the Cubs 16-9 despite getting outhit 17-8. Chicago starting pitcher Sam Jones left in the sixth with a 4-3 lead. Unfortunately, he also left with the bases loaded (courtesy of two of his four walks that inning), and after the first grand-slam of Don Zimmer's career, he was on the short end of a 7-4 score. Clem Labine homered in the 9th for the final three runs. More importantly, it was his third hit and third home run of the season, tying Ed Sanicki's 1949 mark of hitting the most homers in a year with no other hits. This record would be tied in 2000 by Keith McDonald and in 2006 by Jorge Sosa.
For Sam Jones, that game was part of a season long struggle with his control. He ended the season with 185 walks, the most by a National League pitcher since Cy Seymour walked 213 batters in 1898. Despite finishing with a league-leading 20 losses, Jones also pitched the majors only no-hitter in 1955. The game had the kind of finish you might expect from the pitcher who led the league in both walks and strikeouts. In the top of the ninth inning, Jones walked the first three batters to load the bases before proceeding to strike out the next three to end the game.
On September 2nd and 7th, Whitey Ford became the first pitcher since Mort Cooper in 1943 to throw consecutive one-hitters. He would not pitch a shutout in either game and in between the two starts he also pitched in relief (without allowing a hit). Like Cooper, Ford would never pitch another one-hitter.
One pitcher with plenty of one-hitters (and no-hitters) to his credit was Bob Feller, who threw the last one-hitter (and shutout) of his illustrious career on May 1st. His fastball might have deserted him (his high in strikeouts that season was four), but for at least one more game, Feller was still very hard to hit. In the second game of that double-header, 21-year-old Herb Score turned in the top strikeout performance of the year (and his career) when he fanned sixteen in only his fourth major league start.
The pitcher with the second most strikeouts in a game that season was even younger than Score. Sandy Koufax would not turn twenty until December, but on August 27th, in only his second major league start, he gave Dodger fans a glimpse of the future when he struck out fourteen Reds while pitching a two-hit shutout for his first major league victory. His next start would also be a shutout, this one a five-hitter, and for a moment it must have seemed like it was going to be easy for him. It wasn't. He wouldn't pitch another complete game until 1957, and his next shutout would be more than two years after that.
Like Walter Alston, the man he replaced at the helm of the Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda was not known as being much of a player. He never mastered his control during his short career, walking nearly a batter an inning and failing to win a single major league game. On May 5th, Alston gave the left-hander his first major league start and the results were not promising. He walked the first two batters and proceeded to wild pitch the first of them all the way home. The three wild pitches in an inning tied a National League record. On the bright side, he did manage to strike out two of the three batters he didn't walk (including Stan Musial), but Alston had seen enough and once the inning was over, he sent in another pitcher. Lasorda would not start another game for Brooklyn, but would get a slightly longer trial with Kansas City in 1956.
Orioles manager Paul Richards was probably second-guessing his choice of starting pitcher on August 31st. His first choice, Bill Wight, never got an out in the bottom of the first inning, leaving with five runs in and two men on. Hal Brown, the team's second pitcher of the day, did not allow a hit the rest of the way. It was first time a reliever had recorded all of the outs in a game without permitting a hit since Ernie Shore back in 1917. The big news in the game, however, was the opposing pitcher. Herb Score struck out thirteen in the game, becoming the first hurler to top 200 strikeouts in a season since 1946. Bob Turley would join him less than two weeks later.
Unlike Shore, Brown was never recognized as a no-hit pitcher, probably because he only pitched eight innings. Here are some other "lost" one and two-hit games by relievers:
Player Game IP H R ER BB SO DEC SCORE Tom Earley 1942- 7-26(1) 9 1 0 0 5 3 W 5-2 Warren Hacker 1949- 6-12(1) 9 1 0 0 3 3 W 6-2 Earl Whitehill 1923- 9-29 9 2 0 0 2 3 W 3-0 Billy O'Dell 1961- 7- 4(1) 9 2 1 1 1 13 W 19-3
Hacker and Whitehill's wins were the first of their major league careers.
The marathon of the year took place on July 19th when the Pirates beat the Braves 3-2 in nineteen innings. Vern Law pitched eighteen innings, the last fourteen of them scoreless, set his career high with twelve strikeouts, but Bob Friend picked up the victory when he gave up a run in his inning of work only to see his teammates take him off the hook (and then some) when they rallied for a pair of runs off Gene Conley.
Robin Roberts won twenty or more games and pitched over 300 innings for the sixth straight year in 1955. It was the last time he would reach either of these marks. He also started his fifth All-Star game in six years. Ironically, the only Midsummer Classic he didn't start in that stretch was the 1952 game, in the middle of his greatest season. That game was started by Curt Simmons, a different Phillies pitcher, who would also start the 1957 game. But we digress. Robin Roberts' career reached its high-water mark on September 2nd, when he beat the Giants for his 22nd win of the season. Still only 28, he had a lifetime mark after that game of 159-98. Over the rest of his career, he would go 127-147.
As mentioned above, Kansas City returned to the ranks of major league cities in 1955, joining Baltimore and Milwaukee into the club. While these new cities drew better than their predecessors (the top three teams in attendance that year were the Milwaukee Braves, New York Yankees and Kansas City A's43), they didn't do much to expand the area covered by major league teams. Before the first shift, the teams comprised a box bounded by Boston on the north and east and St. Louis on the south and west. Among the new teams, Milwaukee extended that box 60 miles to the north, while Kansas City pushed it around 250 miles to the west. More dramatic changes were coming, however.
The World Champion Brookyln Dodgers had their hands full defending their crown in 1956. The Milwaukee Braves, led by batting champion Hank Aaron and seven-time twenty-game winner Warren Spahn, had the upper hand throughout much of the season, holding a three and a half game lead over the Dodgers and Reds on Labor Day and a slim one-game lead entering the final weekend of the season. But Braves' starter Bob Buhl didn't make it out of the first-inning of Friday night's game, and Milwaukee's loss cut their lead over the rained-out Dodgers in half. The Dodgers got complete-game wins by Sal Maglie (making his first start since pitching a no-hitter against the Phillies) and Clem Labine in a double-header sweep over the Pirates the next day, while the Braves' Warren Spahn lost a heart-breaking 2-1 game to Herm Wehmeier and the Cardinals when Rip Repulski's double scored Stan Musial in the bottom of the twelfth. On the season's final day, the Dodgers clinched the pennant when their five home runs gave MVP Don Newcombe his 27th win.
In addition to Newcombe, the Dodgers got a league-leading 43 home runs from Duke Snider as well as good seasons from Jim Gilliam and Jackie Robinson. They benefited from playing twenty games at home during September, winning fifteen of them. The Braves, on the other hand, were on the road for eighteen games during the final month and managed only a split.
Mickey Mantle took the AL triple crown in 1956 with arguably the greatest single season performance of the 1950s and was the driving force behind the New York Yankees' seventh pennant in eight seasons under Casey Stengel, tying the mark set by Joe McCarthy from 1936 to 1943. They started fast, with a easy win over the Senators on opening day, and by the time they won their eleventh straight game on July 17th, New York had a double-digit lead and it was time to start worrying about the World Series. In addition to Mantle, the Yankees were led by Yogi Berra, who would have won a record fourth MVP award were it not for his teammate, and Whitey Ford, who just missed winning twenty games when he lost 1-0 to Charlie Beamon and the Baltimore Orioles in his last start of the season. Beamon was making his major league debut and would make only four more starts in his career, not completing or winning any of them.
That fall featured the seventh subway series since 1947. There would not be another for 44 years. The Series started well for the Dodgers, who swept the first two games at Ebbets Field. In the second game, the Yankees started Don Larsen, who had spent his first two seasons in a Yankees uniform bouncing between the starting rotation, bullpen and the minor leagues. He had earned his World Series start with a hot September that produced four wins, a 0.52 ERA and, at least for his last few starts, a new no-windup delivery.44 Control problems that had bothered him even during that last month showed up in his game two start and Larsen couldn't hold a six-run lead, leaving after walking four batters in less than two innings.
Larsen would be the last New York starting pitcher to need relief in the series. Whitey Ford started the string with a complete game victory the next day, the big blow for the Yankees being a three-run homer by Enos Slaughter. Slaughter hadn't hit a round-tripper since being picked up from Kansas City in August, a move that required the Yankees to release long-time shortstop Phil Rizzuto. Tom Sturdivant kept the ball rolling with a six-hit victory in game four, setting the stage for the greatest pitching performance in World Series history: Don Larsen's perfect game the next day. There's not much to say about that game that hasn't already been said. It ended when Dale Mitchell took a called third strike that some thought might have been a ball. Umpire Babe Pinelli thought otherwise and the game was over. It was the last strike call of his umpiring career, one that had spanned 22 major league seasons and six World Series. Mitchell would make one more pinch-hitting appearance, grounding out in game seven, before he also retired. It was a little ironic that the most famous at-bat of his career ended in a strikeout, since he was extremely difficult to fan throughout his career. In 1952, he struck out only nine times in 571 plate appearances, the lowest rate in a season between 1948 (Lou Bourdreau) and 1958 (Nellie Fox).
Larsen's performance sent the Yankees back to Brooklyn needing only a single win to wrap up the championship. Game six matched Bob Turley and Clem Labine in an extra-inning pitchers duel that was scoreless until Jackie Robinson singled in the winning run with two out in the bottom of the tenth inning for the last RBI of his major league career. The home team had won the first six games of a series for the second straight year. For Labine, normally a relief pitcher, it was his first shutout since winning the second game of Brooklyn's 1951 playoff series against the Giants.
Labine's previous gem was followed by one of the most dramatic losses in baseball history. This time, the loss was more complete and a lot less suspenseful. The obvious choice to start game seven for the Yankees was probably Whitey Ford, the well rested ace of their staff. But the game was being played in Brooklyn, and in Ford's previous two starts there, he had allowed eight runs in four innings. So Stengel went with Johnny Kucks, who despite winning eighteen games for the Yankees that year, had made only two relief appearances so far in the series.
Dodgers' manager Walt Alston had a similar decision to make. Again, the obvious choice was to go with his ace Don Newcombe, who had pitched poorly in his earlier start against the Yankees and was still looking for his first career World Series victory. Alston stuck with Newcombe, a decision that didn't look too good when Yogi Berra hit two-run homers off his deliveries in the first and third innings. Elston Howard added a solo shot in the fourth and the rout was on. Kucks eliminated any doubt by pitching a three-hitter, and Bill Skowron added a seventh-inning grand-slam. For Berra, it was his third homer off of Newcombe in as many at-bats. His shot in game two had come with the bases loaded, giving him eight RBIs in the series against the Dodgers' ace.
Home runs were big news in 1956, with the Reds tying the major league mark of 221 set by Giants in 1947, and the Yankees hitting 190 to break the American League record set by their 1936 team. The Reds were led by Frank Robinson, whose 38 round-trippers tied Wally Berger's rookie record. Four different Cincinnati players hit three home runs in a game that year and none of them were named Robinson. Gus Bell, Ed Bailey, Ted Kluszewski and Bob Thurman turned the trick, tying the mark set by the Dodgers in 1950. Thurman's three homers were part of eight hit by the Reds in that game. It was the only multi-homer game of his career.
The Reds outfield that year was that first to hit a hundred or more home runs, as Robinson, Bell, Wally Post and others were responsible for 113. This got me to wondering about the top totals produced by infields and outfields in various categories. Here is the leader board since 1918:
- - Infield - - - - Outfield - - Category Year Team Total Year Team Total Hits 1930 NY N 874 1921 DET A 694 Doubles 2000 COL N 188 1929 DET A 146 Triples 1924 PIT N 65 1930 PIT N 52 Homers 2007 MIL N 134 1961 NY A 146 RBIs 1950 BOS A 506 1930 CHI N 438 Walks 1936 NY A 403 2004 SF N 374 Strikeouts 2010 ARI N 692 2004 CIN N 537 BAvg 1930 NY N .342 1925 DET A .370 OBP 1936 NY A .409 1925 DET A .441 SLG 1994 HOU N .526 1921 NY A .583
And the trailer board:
- - Infield - - - - Outfield - - Category Year Team Total Year Team Total Hits 1991 OAK A 478 1991 DET A 391 Doubles 3 teams 63 1920 BOS A 44 Triples 7 teams 3 2006 CIN N 2 Homers 1920 PIT N 4 1927 BRO N 5 1926 DET A 4 RBIs 1943 BOS N 148 1920 BOS N 136 Walks 1920 PHI N 117 1922 BRO N 94 Strikeouts 1921 BOS A 71 1933 PIT N 56 BAvg 1968 NY A .216 1991 DET A .221 OBP 1968 NY A .278 1981 TOR A .273 SLG 1943 BOS N .284 1918 PHI A .312
Except for the average categories, I have ignored seasons for the trailer board that were shortened by strikes or the First World War.45+
In 1991, Mickey Mantle and New York Daily News writer Phil Pepe wrote a book called My Favorite Summer about the 1956 baseball season. Actually, Mantle was even better that spring and the sixteen homers he hit in May made him the first player with as many as twenty by the beginning of June. He was hitting .400 as late as June 8th and had 27 home runs before the summer even started. Here are his stats both before and after June 21st:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG Before 6-21 60 229 62 87 12 1 27 64 36 32 1 1 1 4 0 .380 .464 .795 6-21 to End 90 304 70 101 10 4 25 66 76 68 1 0 3 6 2 .332 .464 .638
Not a bad summer (and fall), but an even better spring.
The Braves may have finished second to the Dodgers in 1956, but you couldn't blame Joe Adcock, who tied a National League record by hitting thirteen home runs against Brooklyn that season, including seven in eight games at Ebbets Field. He hit six against the Dodgers in July, part of the fifteen he would hit that month. Included in that July onslaught was the biggest day of his season, a two-homer, eight-RBI game against the Giants on July 19th. In the bottom of the first inning, the first four batters reached base before Adcock's grand-slam homer drove starter Jim Hearn from the game. Shortly after that, the game was delayed over an hour and a half by rain. Few people at County Stadium were rooting for a rain-out harder than Hearn that day, but the game resumed and Adcock followed his grand-slam with a double, single and three-run homer.
The Pirates were the early-season surprise that year, holding onto first place as late as June 16th, before an eight-game losing streak sent them on their way back into the second division. They were led to the top by thirty-year-old journeyman Dale Long, who set a record with home runs in eight consecutive games from May 19th to May 28th and was still leading the league in homers and batting average as late as June 23rd. Like the Pirates, he faded after his fast start and would be gone from Pittsburgh the next May. Here are his stats before and after June 15th:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG Before 6-15 50 186 37 69 10 3 17 46 22 28 0 0 4 1 0 .371 .429 .731 6-15 to End 98 331 27 67 10 4 10 45 32 57 0 0 7 0 0 .202 .268 .347
The flip side to Long's season was the one put up by Cleveland rookie Rocky Colavito. A slow start earned him a demotion to the minors in the middle of June46, but he was a very different hitter when he returned to the majors in late July. Here's are his splits before and after his demotion:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG Before 37 93 16 20 4 0 5 17 19 8 1 4 2 0 0 .215 .348 .419 After 64 229 39 67 7 4 16 48 30 39 1 0 1 0 2 .293 .375 .568
The second half performance was not quite good enough to win Colavito the Rookie of the Year award, which went to Luis Aparicio instead.
A few more offensive highlights (and lowlights) and then we'll move on to the pitchers. On May 30th, the Braves and Cubs combined for a record fifteen home runs in a double-header. Bobby Thomson led the way with four. Don Hoak tied an unenviable mark when he struck out six times in the Cubs' seventeen-inning loss on May 2nd. He tied the mark originally set by Browns' pitcher Carl Weilman in 1913. Weilman had the excuse of facing Walter Johnson, who set a career high that day with fifteen strikeouts.
Eddie Yost set a career high by walking 151 times in 1956. At the time, it was the fifth highest total in major league history. Now it is tied for the tenth spot with Barry Bonds' fourth-highest total. Of all the other players with more than 150 walks in a single season, the lowest slugging percentage is .615. Yost's 1956 slugging percentage? .336. You could argue that Yost and Eddie Stanky, who walked 148 times in 1945 with a .333 slugging percentage, had the greatest batting eyes in history since few pitchers ever pitched around them.
Minnie Minoso had the painful distinction of getting hit by a pitch eleven times in June, the highest monthly total since at least 1918. And he also got hit in both games of the double-header that ended the month of May. His mark was next tied by Ron Hunt in May, 1970 and July, 1971, as well as by Don Baylor in June, 1986.
His poor October aside, Don Newcombe was baseball's big winner in 1956. From July 4th to September 24th, Newcombe won seventeen of eighteen decisions, a run marred only by a 1-0 loss to John Antonelli and the Giants on August 15th. Including in this period was a scoreless streak of nearly forty innings. It was broken when Newcombe took a no-hitter and a four run lead into the seventh inning of his start against the Phillies on August 11th. With one out, he gave up a single to Marv Blaylock and a home run to Stan Lopata, ending both the streak and no-hitter.
Antonelli's shutout win over Newcombe was part of a late season comeback that netted him his second twenty-win season with the Giants. After losing to Curt Simmons on August 7th, Antonelli's record stood at 9-12. Here are his splits up to and after that loss:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA To 8-7 28 24 6 2 156.1 153 77 69 52 85 9 12 3.97 After 13 12 9 3 102 72 16 15 23 61 11 1 1.32
While Whitey Ford led New York with nineteen wins, three pitchers on the second-place Indians, Early Wynn, Bob Lemon and Herb Score, each won twenty games. It was the second time in five years that they had a trio of twenty-game winners without a pennant to show for it.
The Tigers' Billy Hoeft also narrowly reached the twenty win plateau, but his achievement should probably be noted with an asterisk. On September 28th, he entered his last start against the Indians with a record of 19-13 only to lose to rookie Hank Aguirre 2-1. That should have been that, but then the Indians decided to let Bob Feller take one last beating in the season's finale. He was opposed by Ned Garver, whose season had been ruined by injuries and, like Feller, was looking for his first win of the season.47 Feller struggled in the early going while Garver looked great, and heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, the Tigers held a 4-0 lead. At that point, Detroit manager Bucky Harris saw an opportunity to give his 19-game winner a cheap victory and sent Hoeft into the game. He didn't pitch well, allowing four runs in four innings, but Feller was even worse and the majors had yet another twenty-game winner. It was reminiscent of another dubious twentieth win, the one credited to Randy Johnson when Omar Olivares was removed after four innings with a 7-2 lead on the last day of the 1997 season.
I suppose that Indian skipper Al Lopez, managing his last game with Cleveland, figured he was doing Feller a favor by letting his one-time ace pitch a complete game in his last major league appearance. Only 5,910 fans were in attendance to watch the future Hall of Famer pitch a fourteen-hitter. He didn't strike out anyone and walked three.
I'm not sure why Brooks Lawrence wasn't given more of an opportunity to win twenty for the Reds that year. He won his first thirteen decisions, but after picking up his nineteenth win on September 15th, made only five more appearances, all in relief. Unlike Detroit, Cincinnati was in a pennant race and manager Birdie Tebbetts might have simply lost confidence in his pitcher.
For the second straight year, Robin Roberts set a major league record for most the home runs allowed. Despite that, he entered his last start with a chance to win at least twenty games for the seventh consecutive season. But the Giants overcame an early 2-0 deficit and buried Roberts and the Phils 8-3. New York was led by Bill White's first multi-homer game as well as the only home run of pitcher Al Worthington's career. While Roberts was setting records by allowing home runs, he also led the league in hits, runs, earned runs, doubles and triples allowed. Three of the triples were hit by Danny O'Connell in the Braves 8-6 victory over Roberts on June 13th.
While the Braves' Bob Buhl might have come up short in his last start of the year, his team probably wouldn't have been leading the league heading into the final weekend if it hadn't been for his eight victories over the Dodgers. It was the first time a pitcher had won as many as eight games from a single opponent since Tex Carleton won eight against the Bees in 1936
The pitchers duel of the year took place on June 21st, when Jack Harshman defeated Connie Johnson 1-0, in a game that featured only one hit by each team. Jim Rivera led off the bottom of the first with a walk, stole second, and scored on Nellie Fox's double. That was the last hit that either Johnson or reliever Guz Zuverink would allow in the game, but it was enough as Harshman took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, gave up a lead-off double to Gus Triandos and then retired the last nine men to face him. In his first start of the year, Harshman defeated Herb Score 1-0 in a game in which both pitchers allowed only two hits.
Toward the end of July, 1957, the National League was embroiled in a fierce pennant race. Two and a half games were all that separated the top five teams. But by mid August, it was all but over and the Milwaukee Braves had more than an eight game lead. What happened? Well, the Braves got hot and all four of their contenders went into a tailspin. Here are the standings on July 28th as well as their record between that date and August 15th:
- - July 28 - - 7/29-8/15 W L PCT GB W L Milwaukee Braves 57 41 .582 - 14 1 St. Louis Cardinals 55 40 .579 0.5 7 10 Brooklyn Dodgers 54 41 .568 1.5 9 10 Cincinnati Reds 54 43 .557 2.5 7 9 Philadelphia Phillies 54 43 .557 2.5 5 10
During their hot streak, the Braves got contributions from the usual suspects, including league MVP Hank Aaron, All-Star infielders Eddie Mathews and Red Schoendienst, as well as from starting pitchers Warren Spahn, Bob Buhl and Lew Burdette, who between them won ten of the games. But July 29th also marked the debut of Bob Hazle, an unheralded prospect who caught lightning (or a hurricane) in a bottle over the last two months of the season. He hit .545 (with a .879 slugging percentage) during those two and a half weeks. And he wasn't done. His average didn't drop below .500 for good until the last game of August and it was still over .400 at the end of the season. The magic didn't last, however, and after starting the next season in a slump, he was sent to the Tigers after a month and a half and was out of the majors for good at the end of 1958.
The Dodgers suffered through a disappointing season. Jackie Robinson retired in the off-season rather than accept a trade to the Giants, Pee Wee Reese and Roy Campanella were in their late thirties and looked like they had little left, and Don Newcombe followed up his MVP season by winning only eleven games. There was some good news for Brooklyn. Two of their young pitchers, Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres had excellent seasons, but that was not enough to prevent them from finishing out of the top two spots for the first time since 1948, when they also had a 84-70 record.
While the Dodgers faded out of contention, the Cardinals refused to fold, drawing within three games of the Braves on September 15th. They might have been even closer if batting champion Stan Musial hadn't injured his shoulder in their 6-5 win on August 22nd.48 It would be more than three weeks before he returned to the starting lineup. Milwaukee clinched the pennant on September 23rd when Aaron hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eleventh inning to give the Braves a 4-2 victory over the Cards.
Musial's injury broke a streak of 895 consecutive games played, dating back to the last game of the 1951 season. His streak was not without controversy, however. On August 31, 1955, he was listed as the starting rightfielder for the visiting Cardinals, only to be removed for a pinch-hitter in the top of the first inning. And earlier in 1957, he had sat out the July 21st game against the Pirates only to get a reprieve when the game was suspended in the top of the ninth inning. Although he was injured when the game was resumed and could not bat, he pinch-ran for Ken Boyer and played first-base. His appearance added 33 games to the length of his streak, but did little to improve its legitimacy.
Over in the Junior Circuit, it was business as usual. The Yankees were challenged by the White Sox for much of the year, but a three-game sweep at Comiskey Park near the end of August gave New York a six and a half game lead, all but wrapping up their record-setting eighth pennant in nine years. The Yankees were again led by MVP Mickey Mantle, who was threatening to win a second straight triple crown before a leg injury at the end of August ruined the last month of his season. Whitey Ford missed much of May and all of June with a strained shoulder tendon49, but new-arrival Bobby Shantz filled in admirably and the Yankees didn't miss a beat. Only pitcher Tom Sturdivant won fifteen or more games for New York and no pitcher made as many as thirty starts, but they still had the best staff in the major leagues. Five different Yankee pitchers won more than ten games with an ERA below 2.75, ranging from ERA leader Shantz at 2.45 to Bob Turley at 2.71.
The White Sox finished as high as second-place for the first time since 1920 under new manager Al Lopez. The White Sox's attack, led by Nellie Fox and Minnie Minoso, was short on power hitters but had the highest on-base percentage in the major leagues and the most stolen bases since the 1949 Dodgers. Billy Pierce was one of only two twenty-game winners in the AL (the Tigers' Jim Bunning was the other) and mound-mate Dick Donovan pitched the only two one-hitters in the league while posting a 16-6 record. Had they been able to beat the Yankees in their home park that year (they won only two of the eleven games at Comiskey Park), they might have been able to break New York's strangehold on the top spot.
After finishing in either first or second place for the past six years, the Indians tumbled into the second division in 1956, and first (and last) year manager Kerby Farrell paid for the disappointing season with his job. Of course, much of what happened to the team had little to do with Farrell, who had a distinguished career managing in the minor leagues, three times winning the Minor League Manager of the Year award. After winning 186 games over the previous nine years, 36-year-old Bob Lemon abruptly lost his effectiveness, winning only six games to go with a 4.60 ERA. More tragically, Herb Score's season came to a sudden end on May 7th when he was hit on the right eye by a line drive off the bat of Gil McDougald in the top of the first inning of a game against the Yankees. Score would miss the rest of the season and, although he would show flashes of his old brilliance (including a three-hit gem in 1958), he would never consistently return to his old form.
The Yankees entered the World Series as heavy favorites over the Braves and the first game went according to form, with Whitey Ford outdueling Warren Spahn 3-1. But Milwaukee broke serve the next day, earning a split in Yankee Stadium behind Lew Burdette's seven-hitter. Defense was the deciding factor in the game, with a misplay by a hobbled Mantle and an error by Tony Kubek accounting for half of the Braves' runs and a sensational catch by Wes Covington saving at least one run in the bottom of the second. No one knew it at the time, but Hank Bauer's home run in the third would be the last run New York would manage against Burdette in the series.
After the Yankees won a high-scoring blowout in game three, the Braves came back to even the series in a thrilling game that could have been a heart-breaking loss. Spahn had an apparently safe three-run lead with two outs and no one on in the top of the ninth when back-to-back singles and an Elston Howard home run tied the score. A triple by Hank Bauer gave New York a lead in the top of the tenth before Nippy Jones, leading off the bottom half, was awarded first base after shoe polish on the ball convinced home plate umpire Augie Donatelli that he had been hit by a pitch. After a sacrifice bunt, a double by Johnny Logan tied the score and then Eddie Mathews sent the crowd home happy (and relieved) with a home run. Burdette's 1-0 shutout win over Ford in game five, put the Braves on the brink of their first championship since 1914, but Hank Bauer's home run in game six broke a 2-2 tie and evened the series once again. Bauer had played in 35 World Series games before hitting his first round-tripper (in 1956); he would finish his career with seven homers in his last eighteen.
For the third straight year, the series had gone the limit, and for the third straight year, the decisive game would be a shutout. Burdette, pitching on two days rest, threw his third straight seven-hit complete game and his second straight shutout to bring Milwaukee the championship. As in his first start, defense had a lot to do with the outcome. Tony Kubek's error on an apparent inning-ending double-play opened the flood gates for four runs in the top of the third inning, and Eddie Mathews ended any thoughts of a Yankee comeback when he made an excellent play on a ground-ball headed down the line with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Burdette became the first pitcher since Stan Coveleski in 1920 to pitch three complete game wins and the first to throw more than one shutout in a series since Christy Mathewson in 1905.
The biggest baseball news in 1957, however, took place off the field as both the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants announced plans to pack up and move to California. The trip westward for the Dodgers actually started in Jersey City, when Walter O'Malley showed his displeasure with his ballpark by playing a handful of home games at Roosevelt Field in both 1956 and 1957. The Giants finished last in attendance in both of those years, while Brooklyn consistently drew much better on the road than at home.50 In retrospect, it seems inevitable that at least one of the teams would leave, but by the time the Giants made their move official on August 19th51, it was almost certain that both teams were going. The Dodgers' move wasn't finalized until October 8th52, but fans knew they were seeing the last of their teams when Brooklyn played their last home game of the season on September 24th and the Giants followed suit five days later. For trivia fans, Danny McDevitt pitched a shutout for Brooklyn in that game, while Bob Friend helped the Pirates trounce Johnny Antonelli and the Giants in their finale. Duke Snider hit the last Ebbets Field home run by a member of the Dodgers, and Hank Sauer hit the last Polo Grounds homer by a New York Giant.
The Senators may have finished in the cellar in 1957, but Roy Sievers gave Washington fans something to cheer about when he homered in six consecutive games from July 28th to August 3rd. He tied the AL record previously set by Ken Williams in 1922 and Lou Gehrig in 1931. All but one of Sievers home runs were solo shots and the Senators managed only a split during the streak. Sievers was helped by extra innings in his record-tying game, homering off Al Aber in the bottom of the seventeenth inning to end the longest game of the year in the major leagues.
The most impressive hitting performance of the year did not belong to Sievers, however. On September 1st, Ted Williams struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning of the Red Sox's 2-1 loss to the Orioles. He then missed more than two weeks with a bad chest cold53. He was limited to pinch-hit duties when he returned, but made the most of his opportunities, collecting a home run, walk. and home run in his first three games back. He was finally ready to start a game on September 21st and celebrated by hitting a grand-slam to go with three walks in Boston's 8-3 win over New York. He tied a record the next day with his fourth consecutive circuit clout. In the sixth inning, his bid to set a new mark was ended when Tom Sturdivant held him to a single. He also had two walks. The Red Sox headed to Washington after that and in his first game there Williams reached base in all five of his plate appearances with a single, three walks and a hit by pitch. He homered the next day, but not before he had grounded out in the first inning off Hal Griggs, breaking a record streak of reaching base sixteen straight times.
Earlier in the season, he became the first AL player with two three-homer games in one season, turning the trick on May 8th and June 13th. It had previously been done in the NL by Johnny Mize in 1940.
Vic Wertz set a mark of sorts when he knocked in seven runs in two consecutive innings on September 14th. Despite hitting a grand-slam in the first inning and a three-run homer in the second, the Indians were only tied with the Red Sox heading into the third and ended up losing the game 13-10. Although he didn't rack up his in back-to-back innings, Boston's Dick Gernert also had seven RBIs in the game. This is the only time since at least 1918 that a player on each team has driven in seven or more runs.
The top offensive outburst of the season occurred on September 2nd, when the Braves beat the Cubs 23-10. Milwaukee tallied in every inning except the fifth and Frank Torre scored six runs in the game, the first time this had been done since Johnny Pesky of the Red Sox did it against the White Sox in 1946. It wouldn't be done again for nearly thirty years
Neither of these are exactly hitting highlights, but the Reds set an NL record on April 24th when they walked nine times in the fifth inning of their victory over the Cubs. And the Dodgers set a short-lived mark when they struck out a combined 27 times in their double-header on June 30th. Cub pitchers were once again involved. Jim Brosnan was both responsible for the last three walks during that fifth-inning against the Reds and the final Brooklyn strikeout of the twin-bill. The strikeout record would be broken the next year, when the Phillies fanned 31 Pirates on September 22, 1958.
While the White Sox were stealing bases at a clip not seen in nearly a decade, the Senators were setting a record for the fewest stolen bases with thirteen. And it wasn't as if they didn't try to steal more. They got caught 38 times and their 25.5% success rate was the lowest in major league history. They were led by Eddie Yost and Jim Lemon, who combined for two stolen bases in twenty attempts. The 1953 St. Louis Browns had the second lowest success rate (33.3%) when they stole seventeen bases and were caught 34 times.
Herb Score wasn't the only promising young pitcher in 1957 whose career would end in disappointment. On June 21st, eighteen-year-old Von McDaniel made his first major league start a memorable one, pitching a two-hit shutout against the Dodgers. He had previously pitched twice in relief, allowing a combined two hits in eight innings, striking out nine and walking none. In his last start of July, he was even better, throwing a one-hitter against the Pirates. But that was as good as it got for Von, who pitched less than four innings in September (with a 18.90 ERA) before being sent to the minors the next spring. He was only a few weeks past his nineteenth birthday when he made his last major league appearance.
Dick Drott was the Cubs' answer to Von McDaniel. In May, the twenty-year-old rookie righthander struck out a major league high fifteen batters. On July 23rd, he fanned fourteen Giants in a four-hit shutout, including nine in the first four innings alone. He finished the season with fifteen wins, but was never as good again. A disappointing sophomore season was followed by a sore arm the next spring,54 and by the time his career finally came to an end in 1963, he had gone 11-35 over those last six years.
After pitching a complete game victory against the Reds on June 6th, Robin Roberts had evened his record at 6-6 and owned a modest three-game winning streak. He was leading the majors in both complete games and innings pitched and probably thought he was returning to the form that had made him one of the baseball's best pitchers. Instead, the bottom dropped out of his season. He won only four of his final twenty decisions to finish at 10-22. Normally, pitchers with that many losses are on really bad teams, but the Phillies actually had a .500 record. Teammate Jack Sanford went 19-8 on his way to winning Rookie of the Year honors and Philly reliever Turk Farrell ended up at 10-2 (in other words, he had the same number of wins as Roberts with twenty fewer losses). The last player to lose as many as 22 games on a team that didn't have a losing record was Dolf Luque, who went 13-23 with the second-place Reds in 1922. The most losses by a pitcher on a non-losing team since then has been twenty by Brian Kingman of the 1980 Oakland A's.
Roberts led his league in home runs allowed for the fourth straight year, the only man to do this, but unlike the previous three years, he did not lead the major leagues. Pedro Ramos was the overall leader, setting an AL record by giving up 43 round-trippers.
On June 23rd, the Orioles blanked the Tigers over the last five innings of their 5-4 victory. They followed that game with consecutive shutouts by Hal Brown, Billy Loes, Connie Johnson and Ray Moore. The scoreless streak reached 46 innings before the Indians scored a run in the top of the fifth inning of their June 29th game. It was the longest since the 1948 Cleveland Indian pitchers put together 47 straight zeroes. For the surprising Orioles, their improved pitching helped them post their first non-losing season since 1945.
The All-Star game that year showed us democracy in action. Actually, it was more like a hostile takeover. With a week to go in the voting for the All-Star game starters, the leaders (along with their team and votes received) were as follows:
1B - Stan Musial STL 45,330 2B - Red Schoendienst MIL 23,779 3B - Ed Mathews MIL 23,747 SS - Roy McMillan CIN 18.250 LF - Frank Robinson CIN 34,790 CF - Willie Mays NY 35,455 RF - Hank Aaron MIL 36,253 C - Ed Bailey CIN 34,15555
As the voting neared its close, however, a huge number of ballots were cast in Cincinnati for local players. Third baseman Don Hoak, for example, received 481,882 votes and Johnny Temple, 470,933.56 As the game drew near, it looked as though fans were in for a game between the American League All-Stars and the fourth place Reds. At this point, party-pooper Ford Frick stepped in and overruled three of the fans' apparent picks. He made the following changes (along with their stats as of the end of June):
Out: AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SB CS AVG OBP SLG 1B - George Crowe 230 36 65 11 1 15 45 14 22 1 0 0 .283 .323 .535 CF - Gus Bell 298 34 85 11 2 8 35 17 34 2 0 1 .285 .324 .416 RF - Wally Post 239 39 58 15 1 10 40 17 37 0 1 0 .243 .291 .439
In: AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SB CS AVG OBP SLG 1B - Stan Musial 272 42 95 24 1 18 60 29 18 2 1 0 .349 .412 .643 CF - Willie Mays 271 55 87 16 11 13 48 44 29 0 23 8 .321 .413 .605 RF - Hank Aaron 306 58 104 13 4 23 64 22 28 0 1 1 .340 .383 .63457
But of course, the All-Star game isn't only for players who have had the best start to their season. There's past performance and fame to take into consideration. In other words, all those things that Musial, Mays and Aaron had in excess.
As it turned out, Musial ended up topping Crowe by the time all the ballots had been counted58 and Bell was named as a substitute, but Cincinnati fans were still irate. They had stuffed the ballot box fair and square, and if fans in that city wanted to see an all-Cincinnati starting lineup, the rest of the league shouldn't complain. Or as one angry fan said, "I voted 800 times, and I worked hard to get the vote in. If it's the wrong way to choose a team, let them choose it next year."59 Which is pretty much what Frick did. Fans wouldn't vote for the starters in an All-Star game again until 1970.60
Oh, the American League won the game 6-5. Of the five Reds starters, Hoak and McMillan were removed for pinch-hitters after a single plate appearance, Temple was removed an inning later, and none of them were still in the lineup at the end. Musial, Mays and Aaron all played the entire game. This is not to imply that the representatives of the Reds played poorly. They collected three hits in ten at-bats during the contest, including a two-run pinch-single by Bell in the seventh inning that closed the gap to 3-2.
The Braves won the pennant in 1958 but it wasn't as easy as the final eight-game margin made it seem. Once again, it was a tight race in the first half of the season. As a matter of fact, the seven game spread between the first and last place team on July 4th was the smallest in the history of eight team leagues. (Tied for second was the eight games separating the top and the bottom of the American League in both 1943 and 1944.) Like the previous year, they were able to distance themselves from the pack after that, and after winning their third in a row from the surprising Pirates on August 7th, had a comfortable lead of seven games. That game was a matchup of the two biggest winners in the league, Warren Spahn and Bob Friend. Friend would win a return engagement four days later, but Milwaukee embarked on a seven game winning streak shortly after that to remove any suspense from the final month.
Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews anchored the offense, ably supported by Del Crandall and Wes Covington, the latter hitting 24 home runs to go with a 1.002 on-base plus slugging percentage in a season limited to 90 games by a variety of injuries. On the mound, Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette combined for 42 wins and 39 complete games. No other Braves pitcher won more than ten games, although Joey Jay and rookie Carl Willey pitched well in limited roles.
You couldn't tell it by looking at Milwaukee, but the NL was a league in turmoil that year. All of the other first division teams from 1957 had losing seasons, and the Pirates, who had spent the entire decade in seventh or eighth-place, finished in the number two spot, four games ahead of another surprising team, the San Francisco Giants. In addition to 22 wins from Bob Friend, Pittsburgh got good seasons from young players like Bill Mazeroski and Roberto Clemente as well as from rookie Red Witt and mid-season call-up Dick Stuart. Witt battled arm trouble during the season, but had a 1.61 ERA in 106 innings, including nine wins and three shutouts. After that season, he would lose his battle with injuries, winning only two more major league games.
Apart from drawing over 800,000 more fans than they had in their previous home, the transplanted Los Angeles Dodgers had a miserable year. It started with a crippling injury to future Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella on January 28th, and continued with the franchise's poorest season since 1944. Don Newcombe had a terrible start, losing all six of his decisions before being traded to the Reds in June; both Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres had losing records to go with ERAs at least a run higher than the previous year; and Duke Snider left his home run stroke back in Brooklyn. After hitting forty or more homers in five straight seasons, Snider saw that total tumble to only fifteen.
The Yankees started fast, with 25 wins in their first 31 games, good for a nine game lead. Included in this run were seven consecutive complete game victories by Bob Turley, with a league leading four shutouts and 0.86 ERA, and Whitey Ford's five wins and 1.64 ERA. The 68 runs they allowed in their first thirty games was the fewest since the 1907 Giants (60) and Cubs (66). The 1968 Indians (66) would be the next team to have a stingier pitching staff through their first thirty games.
By July 26th, they were on a pace to win 104 games and had more than a fifteen game lead. With the pennant secure, they struggled over the last two months. It was only the second time in history that a pennant winner had a losing record after the beginning of August. The first was the 1926 Yankees, and it would not happen again until the Cardinals limped to the finish line in 1968.
One of the reasons the Yankees had such a large lead at the beginning of the August was that none of the other teams were playing particularly well. On both August 1st and August 2nd, for the only time in major league history (not counting the first couple of games of a year), a league had only a single winning team. New York's final record of 92-62 was their worst so far under Casey Stengel. Although Mickey Mantle was once again probably the best player in the league, surprisingly few sportswriters agreed. He finished fifth in the MVP voting (with no first place votes), quite a bit behind winner Jackie Jensen.
The World Series opened with the Braves taking a pair of games at County Stadium and splitting the first two in New York. Warren Spahn went the distance to win the opener, a game decided on a run-scoring single by Bill Bruton in the bottom of the tenth. The next day, Lew Burdette didn't have the magic he had in the previous series, giving up a run in the top of the first to snap his 24-inning scoreless streak, but he pitched well enough to win as the Braves battered Bob Turley and Duke Maas for seven runs in the first inning on their way to a 13-5 rout. Burdette contributed a three-run homer to the onslaught. Don Larsen and Ryne Duren combined on a shutout for the Yankees' first win in game three before Spahn returned the favor in game four, sending Milwaukee to the brink of their second straight championship with his two-hitter.
That game was the high-water mark of the Braves' stay in Milwaukee. In the six seasons since they'd arrived, their worst finish had been a third-place showing in 1954. Although their attendance had fallen off slightly in 1958, it was still the fifth highest in league history, trailing only their totals from the four previous years, and the sixth consecutive year they had led the major leagues. The Braves had been the first franchise to move in fifty years, leaving Boston after the 1952 season, and their spectacular success had encouraged four other teams to follow suit. It's easy to imagine their fans, anxiously awaiting the start of the next game of the World Series, confident that a second championship was on its way, and that the good times were only just beginning.
Bob Turley bounced back from a poor performance in game two, pitching a shutout, while he and his teammates got some measure of revenge on Lew Burdette, driving the Braves right-hander out of the game with a six-run outburst in the sixth-inning that put the contest out of reach. Back in Milwaukee, Spahn went for his third victory. For the second time in the series, he pitched into the tenth inning. He didn't pitch well in the extra frame, however, giving up a homer to Gil McDougald and back-to-back two-out singles before departing. Reliever Don McMahon gave up a run-scoring single to Bill Skowron, a run that proved decisive when the Braves rallied in the bottom half of the inning. Ryne Duren, pitching in his fifth inning of relief, struck out Eddie Mathews with a man on first for the second out. It was his eighth strikeout of the day, the most by a relief pitcher in the Fall Classic since Jess Barnes struck out ten in the sixth game of the 1921 series. But Duren could not get the third out, and consecutive singles by Hank Aaron and Joe Adcock brought the Braves within one run and Bob Turley into the game. With the tying run on third, Frank Torre lined out to second and major league baseball had it's fourth consecutive seven-game World Series.
Casey Stengel usually had his starters on a short leash in big games and the deciding contest of this series was no exception. With a one run lead in the bottom of the third inning, the Yankees' manager pulled Don Larsen with one out and men on first and second and replaced him with Bob Turley, pitching in his third straight game. The move worked. Turley gave up a game-tying home run to Del Crandall in the sixth, but that was all, while Braves' starter Lew Burdette ran into all sorts of trouble with two outs and the bases empty in the top of the eighth. Yogi Berra started the rally with a double, and Elston Howard broke the tie with a single. After Andy Carey singled Howard to second, Bill Skowron hit a three-run homer to finish the scoring. For World Series MVP Bob Turley, his victory in game seven wrapped up a dream season, one that also saw him win the Cy Young Award and be named both The Sporting News AL Pitcher of the Year and Major League Player of the Year,
Although playing on a second-division team, the Cubs Ernie Banks was the National League's MVP in 1958, leading the major leagues with 47 home runs and 129 RBIs. The homers were a record for a shortstop, breaking the mark he had previously set in 1955. He played every inning of every game at shortstop for the Cubs that year, and so his team also set the mark for the most round-trippers hit at that position. I thought it might be interesting to look at the team record at each spot, along with the player most responsible:
Pos Year Team HR Player P 1956 CHI A 12 Jack Harshman (6) C 1953 BRO N 43 Roy Campanella (40) 1B 1938 DET A 58 Hank Greenberg (58) 2B 1922 STL N 42 Rogers Hornsby (42) 3B 1953 MIL N 47 Eddie Mathews (47) SS 1958 CHI N 47 Ernie Banks (47) LF 1949 PIT N 54 Ralph Kiner (54) CF 1930 CHI N 56 Hack Wilson (56) RF 1929 PHI N 46 Chuck Klein (40) PH 1957 CIN N 12 Bob Thurman (4)
And the current record holders:
Pos Year Team HR Player P 1956 CHI A 12 Jack Harshman (6) C 4 teams 43 1B 1998 STL N 72 Mark McGwire (69) 2B 1922 STL N 42 Rogers Hornsby (42) 1973 ATL N 42 Davey Johnson (42) 3B 2007 NY A 52 Alex Rodriguez (52) SS 2002 TEX A 58 Alex Rodriguez (57) LF 2001 SF N 73 Barry Bonds (71) CF 1961 NY A 59 Mickey Mantle (54) 1998 SEA A 59 Ken Griffey (56) RF 1998 CHI N 66 Sammy Sosa (65) DH 2006 BOS A 50 David Ortiz (47) PH 2001 SF N 14 Marvin Benard (3) Shawon Dunston (3) 2001 ARI N 14 David Dellucci (5) Erubiel Durazo (5)
With a week to go in the season, Ted Williams trailed Pete Runnels by nine percentage points in the AL batting race. Unfortunately for Runnels, Williams got twelve hits in his last eighteen at-bats to pass his teammate and win his seventh (and last) batting championship. The NL race was even closer, changing hands between Willie Mays and eventual winner Richie Asburn four times during the last ten days. Here is their day-by-day battle over that period:
Ashburn Mays Date AB H AVG AB H AVG 9-19 3 0 .340 5 3 .338 9-20 3 0 .338 5 3 .340 9-21 6 2 .338 3 2 .342 9-22 10 6 .343 - 9-23 4 2 .344 5 3 .344 9-24 - 3 2 .346 9-26 4 2 .345 3 0 .344 9-27 5 3 .347 5 2 .345 9-28 4 3 .350 5 3 .347
And while there are certainly better measures of offensive performance than batting average, players and fans of the time cared more about that statistic than any other hitting metric except for home runs. A close batting race could dominate the sport pages at the end of a season, especially if there wasn't a pennant in doubt, and managers would often help a player in his quest for a batting championship. For example, Giants manager Bill Rigney batted Mays in the leadoff spot in the final game, hoping to give him more opportunities to catch Ashburn. It was only the second time in his career that he had hit first for the Giants, and he would not start another regular season game in the top spot until 1969, when the soon-to-be 38-year-old outfielder began the season as the Giants' leadoff hitter.61+
On June 6th, Ozzie Virgil took the field for the Detroit Tigers, making them the second to last team in major league baseball to integrate. In his first game at Briggs Stadium, Virgil had five hits, including two singles in the second inning. It would be the only five (or four) hit game of his career. The Boston Red Sox would be the last team to integrate, when Pumpsie Green appeared for them over a year later.
On May 13th, Stan Musial hit a run-scoring pinch-double to become the eighth major league player with 3,000 or more hits in his career, the first since Paul Waner in 1942 and the last until Hank Aaron and Willie Mays both turned the trick in 1970. The double raised Musial's average to a league-leading .489, making him the only player in history to be leading his league in batting average on the day of his 3000th hit.
Don Drysdale might have had an off-year on the mound, but he was a terror at the plate, tying Don Newcombe's two-year-old NL record by hitting seven home runs as a pitcher. With his first homer coming on June 26th and his last two on August 23rd, Drysdale hit all of his home runs in a span of only twenty-four at-bats.
Hank Aaron had 55 hits in the month of August, the highest monthly total since Dale Mitchell collected 59 in August, 1948. Aaron's total would be matched by Pete Rose in August, 1968, but only topped once since, by Ichiro Suzuki in August, 2004.
On September 9th the Phillies' Dave Philley hit a pinch-single against the Dodgers. It was the beginning of a record nine straight pinch-hits that wouldn't end until he fouled out on April 22, 1959. The streak was part of a three year period (1957 to 1959) in which Philley hit over .400 (45-111) in a pinch role.
It was a story of missed opportunities for Gus Triandos on July 3rd. In an extra-inning game against the Red Sox, Triandos got up with fifteen runners on base and failed to drive in any of them. It is the highest number of men on base for a single batter among the games for which we have play-by-play data. Triandos grounded into three consecutive double-plays at one point and struck out in the tenth with the bases loaded. A run did score on his only hit of the game, but that was due to an error by Sammy White.
The San Francisco Giants clobbered the Dodgers 16-9 on May 13th. The 26 hits they hammered out was the most for the franchise since 1931 and wouldn't be topped by a San Francisco team until 1990. Both Willie Mays and Daryl Spencer had four extra base hits in the game and the team's 50 total bases were the most by a National League team since 1900 (the Cincinnati Reds had 55 in a 1893 game) and would remain the modern record until the Montreal Expos had 58 in 1978. The Giants also had five different players with four hits in the game, another post-1900 record (the Chicago White Stockings had seven different players join the four-hit club in 1882).
Eight days earlier, the Giants staged a ferocious rally in the bottom of the ninth inning of their game with the Pirates. Helped by three errors, San Francisco scored nine runs in an outburst that featured three straight doubles as well as back-to-back home runs. Unfortunately, they entered the inning trailing by ten runs and with the bases loaded and two outs, Don Gross, the fourth pitcher of the inning, retired Don Taussig to end the threat. The nine runs were the most scored in the bottom of the ninth inning since at least 1918 and was matched only by the Colorado Rockies in 2010. The Rockies won that game, so this one was more reminiscent of the game in 1918, when the Phillies scored nine runs in the top of the ninth inning but still lost by a run.
Two more offensive notes and then it's on to the pitchers. Vic Power stole home twice on August 14th. He had only one other stolen base that year. And finally, rookie Jim Marshall had a large home field advantage in 1958. Here are his splits:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG Home 56 138 18 41 3 2 9 22 14 21 0 0 1 4 2 .297 .357 .543 Away 55 134 11 22 3 1 1 8 15 21 1 0 1 0 0 .164 .252 .224
The unusual thing about this is that it was done with in two different home parks, since Marshall waived from the Orioles to the Cubs in August.
The almost pitching highlight of the year was turned in by Billy Pierce on June 27th. He had a perfect game with two outs in the top of the ninth when pinch-hitter Ed Fitz Gerald doubled to spoil it. Pierce struck out the next batter to complete the one-hitter, his third straight shutout.
Converted reliever Hoyt Wilhelm pitched an unlikely no-hitter on September 20th. It was only his ninth career start, and despite having pitched three previous complete games, his first win in a starting role. After leading the league in ERA in 1959, he would be converted back to a reliever and finished his career in 1972 with a record 1070 games pitched.
When the Giants scored a run in the top of the fifth inning of their 5-1 loss to the Reds on July 30th, it broke a string of 46 inning scoreless streak against Bob Purkey. It was the first run they had scored against the right-hander in over three years and ended the longest scoreless streak by one pitcher over another team since at least 1918. It has been topped only twice since. Larry Jaster had a 52 1/3 inning streak against the Dodgers from 1965 to 1967 (from the start of his career), and Mel Stottlemyre blanked the Angels in 46 2/3 innings from 1971 to 1973.
Another pitcher who had a favorite cousin was Detroit's Frank Lary who beat the New York Yankees seven times in 1958, raising his career record against them to 16-5. He finished his career with a 28-13 mark against them. He had a winning record against only one other of the eight original American League franchises, and that one probably shouldn't count. Having played almost his entire AL career with Detroit, Lary returned to the junior circuit to finish his career with the White Sox in 1965. His only decision that year was a victory over the Tigers, giving him a 1-0 career mark against his old team.
Vinegar Bend Mizell set an NL record when he pitched a shutout on September 1st despite giving up nine walks. The major league mark is eleven, set by Lefty Gomez in 1941. And Philly pitchers struck out a record 21 batters in their fourteen-inning 3-2 victory over the Pirates on September 22nd. Seth Morehead struck out a career high twelve to start and Jack Meyer finished by fanning seven in three innings of one-hit relief. Meyer had a 3-2 record and a 2.36 ERA in relief that year while going 0-4 with a 6.14 ERA in his five starts.
Paul Richards came up with a novel way to deal with a mediocre offense on September 11th when, instead of weak-hitting regulars Jim Busby and Billy Gardner, he listed pitchers Jack Harshman and Milt Pappas as his starting centerfielder and second-baseman. The hope was that Baltimore would get enough runners on in the top of the first to allow Richards to pinch-hit for one or both of his fake starters. He would then insert his regular players in the bottom half of the inning. The ploy sort of worked. Harshman's spot did come up with two out and two on and Richards was able to pinch-hit Gene Woodling for his pitcher-turned-outfielder. But Woodling flied out, Baltimore ended up losing 7-1, and about all his strategy accomplished was to give Harshman and Pappas credit for playing a new position. Under today's rules, by the way, they would not get such credit, but those were simpler times.
It may have been a decade remembered fondly by many, but outside of New York City, the 1950s weren't a lot of fun for the American League. As they steamrolled their way to nine pennants in ten years, the Yankee Problem was a large concern around the league. There was the same kind of panic the AL had witnessed in the late thirties and a host of remedies were proposed. Joe Cronin, the general manager of the Red Sox: "I honestly feel that for the best interests of the league, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit and our own club should try to work out some equitable deals whereby we could make better showings next season."62 According to The Sporting News, Hank Greenberg of the Indians thought that "...every club in the circuit should do its best, both on and off the field, to break the New Yorkers' strangle-hold."63 And Comiskey of the White Sox urged a "'Mutual Aid' Pact by Yankee Rivals."64
One person not involved in any conspiracy to dethrone New York was Arnold Johnson, the man who bought the Philadelphia Athletics at the end of 1954 and moved them to Kansas City. Before purchasing the team, he had been a business associate of Yankee owners Dan Topping and Del Webb and, after purchasing Yankee Stadium in 1953, their landlord for a time as well.65 The American League owners were happy to see the A's move westward but, except for Topping and Webb, became concerned and then alarmed as Johnson's organization started making deals.
His first move, the purchase of three players right before the start of the 1955 season, was with New York. His second deal, another purchase a month later, was also with the Yankees. Two weeks later he made his first big trade, getting Johnny Sain and Enos Slaughter from - you guessed it - the Yankees, for Sonny Dixon and cash. But the real complaints didn't begin until Johnson let that same Enos Slaughter go back to New York on waivers in August 1956. At the time, it was rumored that the Yankees would return the favor by selling Bob Cerv to Kansas City following the season.66 When those rumors came true in October, both teams denied any connection between the two transactions, which would have been against league rules, and officials of the A's went further and denied that there was any special relationship with the Yankees.67
After the teams made a 12-player deal the following February, Hank Greenberg said of the Yankees that "It must be great to have your own farm system in the same league."68 In many ways, the controversy started in earnest with this move. In June there was another six-player deal with New York. After a huge trade with the Tigers in November, 1957, writers wondered out loud how long it would take Duke Maas, one of the players coming to the A's in the deal, to get "called-up" to the Yankees. Johnson responded:
"So far as Duke Maas is concerned, I will bet anybody $1000 to a penny we don't trade him to the Yankees. There never was any thought of this when we made the trade with Detroit. In fact, these stories have become so ridiculous I would think any reasoning person would by now be able to see through them."69
Johnson would send Duke to the Yankees the following June, the same day he received Roger Maris in a trade with Cleveland. Frank Lane, the man sending Roger to the A's, supposedly forced Johnson to promise not to trade him to the Yankees.70 Often true to his word, Arnold managed to hold off New York's advances for over a year, before finally dealing the outfielder to them in December, 1959. Reaction to the trade was predictably unkind. Bill Veeck: "Before, the Yankee-Kansas City deals were just a joke; it is funny no longer."71
But for at least one season, the league could take a break from worrying about the Yankees' domination of the league. As a matter of fact, as late as May 30th, New York was still in the basement, the latest in a season that they were in last place since 1914. They would eventually make their move and, after beating the White Sox in the opener of a big weekend series on June 26th, were only two games out of first. But they lost the next day when Harry Simpson hit a come-from-behind grand-slam off Bob Turley and were swept in a Sunday double-header that featured Early Wynn's 9-2 win over Whitey Ford in the opener. They continued to stumble in July, posting a losing record that month that dropped them down to fifth place and out of contention.
By this time, it was a two-team race between the White Sox and Indians, one that remained close until Chicago took a game and a half lead into Cleveland at the end of August. The White Sox won the first two behind complete game victories by Bob Shaw and Dick Donovan. Early Wynn won the battle of aces by defeating Cal McLish 6-3 in the opener of the next day's double-header, and Chicago completed the four-game sweep by routing Gary Bell on their way to a 9-4 win in the nightcap.
The White Sox won despite a mediocre offense that was only sixth in the league in runs scored. They did it with the best pitching in the major leagues and a .700 winning percentage in one-run games (the second highest of the decade, behind only the 1954 Indians' 32-13 mark). The staff was led by 39-year-old Early Wynn and converted-reliever Bob Shaw, who combined to go 40-16, and the bullpen tandem of Gerry Staley and Turk Lown, who had 29 retroactive saves (they weren't an official stat until 1969) along with a 17-7 record in 127 relief appearances.
By contrast, the Indians had the best offense in the AL, one that featured Rocky Colavito's 42 home runs and a surprising performance by journeyman outfielder Tito Francona, who despite being only twenty-five years-old, was playing for his fourth team in less than two years. Francona didn't do anything but pinch-hit until early June, but when he finally got a chance to play, he was one of the hottest hitters in baseball. He was hitting over .400 as late as August 10th and finished with a .363 average, but without enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title.
There were no great teams in the National League in 1959 so they made up for it with a great pennant race. The two-time defending champion Milwaukee Braves entered the 1959 season as strong favorites to win their third straight pennant and up through early June, things seemed to be going according to form. On June 3rd, they had a three and a half game lead over the Giants, but then their struggles began. Over their next 87 games, they went 41-46 despite outscoring their opponents by thirty runs, and on September 5th had dropped to third place behind the Giants and Dodgers.
It was a frustrating year for the Braves and their fans. Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews had phenomenal seasons, giving the team the best one-two punch in the majors. Their front-line starting pitching, led by Warren Spahn and Bob Buhl, was also strong, but their inability to find an adequate replacement for Red Schoendienst, who missed almost the entire season with tuberculosis,72 as well as subpar years from Wes Covington and Frank Torre, brought them back to the pack and led to a furious race down the stretch in September.
The Braves were replaced at the top of the standings for much of the summer by the Giants, who continued their renaissance in San Francisco behind the best pitching staff in the league, anchored by Johnny Antonelli and Sam Jones, as well as fine seasons from Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda and rookie phenomenon Willie McCovey, who won the Rookie of the Year award with his play over the last two months of the season.
On paper, the Los Angeles Dodgers were the least impressive of the three contenders. Their offense was on a par with the others, with older stars like Gil Hodges and Duke Snider contributing along with Charlie Neal and newcomer Wally Moon, but their pitching behind Don Drysdale was suspect, at least before it was bolstered by the mid-season additions of Roger Craig and Larry Sherry
September 18th was a day of rest and rain for the contending teams in the NL with the Giants holding a two-game lead over both the Dodgers and Braves. That lead disappeared the next day in the wake of their two losses to Los Angeles. Milwaukee also won, putting all three teams within a half-game of each other. A loss in the series finale dropped the Giants to third place before the Braves grabbed a share of the lead behind Warren Spahn's twentieth win the following night. Milwaukee found themselves alone at the top on September 22nd with their win over the Pirates while both West Coast teams were dropping close games. The Giants' loss was especially heartbreaking, when a two out two-run homer by Chicago's George Altman in the bottom of the ninth inning turned an apparent San Francisco victory into a crushing defeat.
Roger Craig pitched his fourth shutout of the year for the Dodgers the next day, forging another tie with the Braves, who lost a tough one to the Pirates, while the collapsing Giants lost to another Cubs' walk-off homer, this time by Cal Neeman, for their fifth straight defeat. The Dodgers grabbed a slim one-game lead over Milwaukee on the last Friday of the regular season, defeating the Cubs on Gil Hodges' eleventh-inning circuit clout while the Phillies roughed up Milwaukee's Lew Burdette, who was looking for his twenty-second win but got his fifteenth defeat instead. But on Saturday they were tied again. Los Angeles got clobbered 12-2 by the Cubs while Warren Spahn went the distance for a 3-2 victory over Robin Roberts. It was probably a case of too little too late for San Francisco, but they finally broke their losing streak courtesy of Sam Jones' rain-shortened no-hitter. The three teams entered the last day of the regular season with the Dodgers and Braves tied at the top and the Giants holding onto a slim hope for a three-way tie. That hope disappeared when both of the top two teams won their last game, forcing the third playoff in league history, all three involving the Dodgers.
The first game showed the lacking of pitching depth on the Braves staff when they were forced to start Carl Willey, who had won only a single game since the first All-Star break and had pitched a total of three innings in the previous month. The Dodgers also sent out one of their second-line pitchers, Danny McDevitt, but fortunately were able to go to Larry Sherry, one of the hottest pitchers in baseball, when McDevitt failed to make it through the second inning. John Roseboro hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the sixth inning and Sherry allowed only a single baserunner over the last four innings to preserve the victory. The Braves were set to even the series the next day when they took a three-run lead into the bottom of the ninth. Unfortunately, Lew Burdette gave up three straight singles to start the frame and both Don McMahon and Warren Spahn could not keep them all from scoring. An error by Felix Mantilla in the bottom of the twelfth inning brought a disappointing season to a close for the Braves and the first pennant to Los Angeles.
The World Series started two days later and the Dodgers looked spent from the hectic pennant race as they fell 11-0 to the White Sox behind a combined shutout by Early Wynn and Gerry Staley and two home runs and five RBIs from Ted Kluszewski. The Dodgers recovered to even the series the next day. Things looked promising for Chicago when Bubba Phillips doubled with two men on and no outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. One man scored on the play, but Sherm Lollar was easily cut down at the plate trying to score the tying run. Had he been held at third, the White Sox would have had two runners in scoring position with no one out. As it was, Larry Sherry struck out pinch-hitter Billy Goodman and ended the threat by getting Jim Rivera to foul out to the catcher. The White Sox would not score against Sherry again as the rookie reliever ended up being named the World Series MVP behind two saves and wins in games four and six. It was fitting that a relief pitcher would be the star of the series since it was the first one played without a single complete game. The next World Series without a route-going effort would be in 1972.
While discussing the 1950 season, I showed a chart of the best first through eighth-place teams during the eight-team era. Here are the worst:
- - National League - - - - American League - - PL Year Team W L Pct Year Team W L Pct 1 - 1959 LA N 88 68 .564 1945 DET A 88 65 .575 2 - 1902 BRO N 75 63 .543 1958 CHI A 82 72 .532 3 - 1955 NY N 80 74 .519 1941 CHI A 77 77 .500 1958 SF N 80 74 .519 4 - 1906 PHI N 71 82 .464 1954 BOS A 69 85 .448 5 - 1906 BRO N 66 86 .434 1931 STL A 63 91 .409 6 - 1909 BRO N 55 98 .359 1948 STL A 59 94 .386 7 - 1928 BOS N 50 103 .327 1932 CHI A 49 102 .325 8 - 1935 BOS N 38 115 .248 1916 PHI A 36 117 .235
Both of these "worst" pennant winners won their World Series, while the 1906 Cubs and 1954 Indians, the best pennant winners, lost both of theirs.
As I mentioned above, Willie McCovey won the Rookie of the Year award in the National League with a little more than two months worth of work. He had a spectacular debut, hitting two singles and two triples against Robin Roberts and the Phillies. Two days later he hit two doubles against the Pirates, before closing out his first week in the majors by homering twice against Bob Buhl of the Braves. It was the quickest that anyone had completed the trifecta (two doubles, triples and home runs in a game) in their career. Here are the fewest games needed for a player to do this since 1918:
Player Year Team Games Willie McCovey 1959 SF N 6 Johnny Mize 1936 STL N 19 Dick Stuart 1958 PIT N 37 Roy Weatherly 1936 CLE A 44 Gene Moore 1931-1936 PIT N-STL N-BOS N 51
Gene Freese discovered one of the reasons it's hard to set pinch-hitting records that spring. By the end of May, he had already hit five pinch-hit home runs, drawing within one of Johnny Frederick's 1932 record. He hit so well, however, that the Phillies sent Willie Jones, their regular third-baseman for over a decade, to the Indians and put Freese into the starting lineup. He would get only two more pinch at-bats over the rest of the season.
Another player who threatened to set home run records in May was Harmon Killebrew, who despite playing in his sixth season, was only twenty-two at the beginning of 1959 and had yet to have even 100 at-bats in a year. He started the month with back-to-back two-homer games, and by the time he hit another pair on May 17th, had more games with two homers (five) than he did with only one (four). He hit a total of fifteen that month, coming within a single blast of tying Mickey Mantle's 1956 record for the most during the month of May.
Rocky Colavito had the biggest day at the plate in 1959 when he clubbed four home runs off of three Baltimore pitchers on June 10th. He walked in the first inning before going deep in his next four plate appearances. He was only the third player to hit four consecutive homers in a game. The first two were Bobby Lowe in 1894 and Lou Gehrig in 1932.
The Cardinals were held to one hit twice in three games, first by the Giants' Jack Sanford on April 18th and then by Glen Hobbie of the Cubs three days later. In both games, Stan Musial, who suffered through the worst season of his career, got the only St. Louis hit, breaking up both of the no-hitters in the seventh inning.
Willard Schmidt had a rough day on April 26th. It started well enough. He relieved Joe Nuxhall with one out and runners on first and second in the top of the third and induced Del Crandall to ground into a double-play to end the inning. Trailing by three runs in the bottom half, the Reds rallied for six and Schmidt was in the middle of it, getting hit by a pitch twice in the inning, the first time this had happened in the major leagues. He now had a lead and a chance to win his first game of the season. Unfortunately, Johnny Logan led off the top of the fourth by hitting a line drive single off of Schmidt's pitching hand, driving him from the game. Although the Reds eventually won the game, the victory went to Bob Purkey instead of the battered Schmidt.
Colavito may have hit four home runs in a game, but he wasn't responsible for the most famous on-field accomplishment of the year. That honor belonged to Harvey Haddix, who in 1959 became one of the most famous losing pitchers in history when took a perfect game into the thirteenth inning against the Braves on May 26th. Felix Mantilla was the first to reach base against Haddix when he led off the bottom of the thirteenth with a grounder that third-baseman Don Hoak misplayed. A sacrifice and an intentional walk to Hank Aaron set the stage for a game-winning three-run home run by Joe Adcock that turned into a one-run double when Aaron left the basepaths after touching second.
Haddix wasn't the only Pittsburgh pitcher making news that year. Roy Face, who hadn't been charged with a loss since the previous May, won his last five decisions of 1958 and his first seventeen of 1959 before losing his first and only game of the year on September 11th. Obviously, no one wins twenty-two consecutive decisions without a certain amount of luck. Six times during the streak, Face gave up the go-ahead run late in a game only to see his teammates take him off the hook. The games were on July 31st of 1958 and April 22nd and 24th, June 11th, July 12th and August 30th of 1959. His record in these games was 4-0. Here are the stats of the some of the top relief pitchers in baseball between his two losses:
Player G GS GF SV IP.X H R ER BB SO W L ERA Ryne Duren 74 1 52 26 137.1 80 35 30 80 160 8 9 1.97 Roy Face 98 0 75 25 151.2 130 39 37 45 104 22 0 2.20 Gerry Staley 93 0 48 16 154.2 154 59 44 36 61 11 5 2.56 Bill Henry 102 0 52 18 201.2 163 65 62 40 162 14 11 2.77 Dick Hyde 77 0 59 23 118.2 107 43 38 45 55 9 6 2.88
Face's eighteenth win on September 19th set a record for relief pitchers which still stands.
The pitching duel of the year took place on July 17th when Early Wynn and Ralph Terry combined to allow only a single hit through eight innings. Terry lost his no-hitter, shutout and game in the top of the ninth, while Wynn gave up a harmless single in the bottom half. For Terry, it was part of a difficult return to the Yankees, having been exiled to Kansas City for nearly two years. He would eventually become a mainstay of New York's rotation and play a pivotal role in two of their next three World Series.
Depending upon how you count these things, Giant pitchers either threw two no-hitters or none at all that year. Mike McCormick may or may not have thrown the first, a five-inning rain-shortened no-no over the Phillies on June 12th. And as I mentioned above, in his last start of the year, Sam Jones held the Cardinals without a hit for seven innings before the rains came on September 26th.
Despite being only twenty-three years old when he took the mound on June 22nd, it had been nearly four years since Sandy Koufax had pitched a two-hit shutout in only his second major league start. The fourteen batters he had struck out that day were still his career high and Dodger fans had been waiting in vain for his second shutout. But that night, Koufax fanned sixteen Phillies, the highest nine-inning total in the National League since Dizzy Dean struck out a record-setting seventeen in 1933. And in his next start, he finally pitched another shutout.
It didn't stop there. Two months later, he broke Dean's mark, striking out eighteen Giants in a 5-2 win. It looked like he was finally delivering on his nearly unlimited promise. Although he lost his next outing when Ernie Banks hit a three-run home run in the tenth inning to break up a scoreless duel with Art Ceccarelli, Koufax fanned ten batters, setting the major league record with 41 strikeouts in three consecutive games. But Koufax pitched poorly after that and was not much of a factor down the stretch, throwing less than two innings over the last week and a half of the season.
Roger Craig came within four outs of taking the ERA title in the National League when his complete game victory on the last Sunday of the season left him with only 152 2/3 innings pitched. He would have likely seen enough action if a third playoff game with the Braves had been necessary, and he had such a commanding lead in the race that he could have given up thirteen earned runs in the inning and a third and still had a lower ERA than Sam Jones, the pitcher who ended up with the black ink.
After going 10-33 in his first two seasons with the Browns, Don Larsen finally got to .500 when he won his first start of 1959. He raised his career mark to 55-51 with his win on June 13th, but then proceeded to lose twelve straight decisions, as well as sixteen of seventeen, and never got back to even again. Getting traded to Kansas City after the season certainly didn't help.
Major league baseball played two All-Star games in 1959 and Don Drysdale started both of them for the National League. He pitched brilliantly in the first game, retiring all nine batters he faced, four by strikeout. In the encore he was less successful, giving up home runs to Frank Malzone and Yogi Berra and getting tagged with the loss. There were pitchers having better seasons at the time of the first game, but Braves manager Fred Haney bypassed pitchers like Warren Spahn and Johnny Antonelli because they were lefties and the AL's starting lineup was predominately right-handed. By the time of the second game, Drysdale was one of the hottest pitchers in the league, and given his performance in the first game, was a logical choice. Only a cynic would point out that Haney's team was in dogfight with Drysdale's Dodgers and that in both games the big righthander was pitching with short rest. Here are the pitcher's splits both before and after the second All-Star game:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Before 29 24 13 3 199.1 165 69 64 60 173 14 6 2.89 After 15 12 2 1 71.1 72 44 40 33 69 3 7 5.05
At the start of the season, the AL record for the most passed balls allowed in a game was four. It had been done two times in the 58-year history of the league: by John Henry in 1911 and JW Porter in 1958. That last game was started by knuckle-ball pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm. With Wilhelm in Baltimore's starting rotation in 1959, that mark was tied on four separate occasions, twice by Gus Triandos (on April 26th and August 30th) and twice by Joe Ginsberg (on July 18th and September 10th). Each year from 1958 to 1967, more passed balls occurred with Wilhelm on the mound than with any other pitcher in the American League.
With Harmon Killebrew and Rookie of the Year Bob Allison in their lineup, the Washington Senators were surprisingly competitive for most of the year. On July 16th, they were only a game and a half behind the Yankees and threatening to finish in the first-division for the first time since 1946. But three days later, they embarked on an eighteen game losing streak, the longest in the major leagues since the Senators also lost eighteen in 1948, and by the time it was over, they were back in last place. Good times were coming for the franchise, however, but not necessarily for their fans in Washington.
Two teams managed to score twenty runs in a game during 1959, the White Sox on April 22nd and the Cubs on August 13th. Both teams were helped by thirteen walks. In the seventh inning of their game, the White Sox managed to score eleven runs on only a single hit. They were the beneficiaries of ten walks, a hit batter and three errors, in addition to the single by Johnny Callison. And speaking of bases on balls, rookie Earl Wilson was pitching a no-hitter when he was taken out of his first major league start with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning. He was removed after walking his ninth batter. The Red Sox won the game, despite giving up a season high fifteen walks,
And finally, Bill Veeck purchased a majority interest in the White Sox that spring, just in time to preside over their first pennant since 1919. And in the off-season following that pennant, he made three trades that ensured they wouldn't win another anytime soon. In the first, he sent Norm Cash, John Romano and Bubba Phillips to the Indians for Minnie Minoso and three others. Three days later, Veeck traded Johnny Callison to the Phillies for Gene Freese, and the third trade took place in early April when he dealt Earl Battey, Don Mincher and $150,000 to the Senators for Roy Sievers.
At the time, Veeck thought he was getting three players (Minnie Minoso, Gene Freese and Roy Sievers) who would help them defend their pennant, while not giving up anyone in their immediate plans for 1960. All three would be gone by 1962. From 1963 to 1967, the White Sox would have the best pitching staff in the league and fail to win a single pennant because of their weak offense. How many would they have won had they kept the five future all-stars that Veeck traded that off-season?
A host of people worked on making these boxscores available to baseball researchers. They include: Dave Lamoureaux, David Vincent, Bob Allen, Javier Anderson, Greg Antolick, Mark Armour, Chris Bates, Bob Boehme, Steve Bond, Jeff Bower, Tom Bradley, Rob Carron, Jim Clausing, Wade Coble, Clem Comly, Dennis Dagenhardt, Tom Davis, Richard Deegan, Larry Defillipo, Chris Dial, Jeff Eby, Mike Elliot, Steve Elsberry, Ken Fisher, Michael Fornabaio, David Foss, Jim Fraasch, Terry Frala, Jonathan Frankel, Gary Frownfelter, Mike Grahek, Aaron Greenberg, Brian Grinnell, Ed Hartig, Kathy Hartley, Chuck Hildebrandt, David Hoehns, Patrick Hourigan, Hugh Humphries, Howard Johnson, Ryan Jones, John Kalous, Christopher Kamka, David Kocher, Herm Krabbenhoft, Sean Lahman, Gary Lauher, Andre Leclerc, Walter LeConte, Dan Lee, John Lee, Bob LeMoine, Joel Luckhaupt, Trent McCotter, Bill McMahon, Sheldon Miller, Joe Murphy, Jack Myers, Dave Newman, Bill Nowlin, Paul Olubas, Charlie O'Reilly, Eric Orns, Ian Orr, Claude Paradis, Gary Pearce, Rob Pettapiece, Jonathan Pollak, J.G. Preston, Brad Ramirez, Denis Repp, Mike Round, Mark Ruckhaus, Ken Ruppert, Charles Saeger, Carl Schweisthal, Tasha Shaindlin, Stu Shea, Terry Small, Sean Smith, Matt Souders, Tom Stillman, Bob Strab, Tom Thress, Bob Timmermann, Dixie Tourangeau, Steve Vetere, Ron Wargo, Ed Washuta, Ron Weaver, Paul Wendt, Neil Williams, Mark Williamson, Rob Wood, Andrew Zager, Don Zminda and Pete Palmer.
1"Phils Beat Dodgers for Flag; Win 4-1 on Homer in Tenth," Roscoe McGowen. The New York Times. October 2, 1950. Pages 1 and 27.
2Okay, I made this one up.
3"Boner May Cost Tigers Pennant," Chicago Daily Tribune. September 25, 1950. Pages C1-2.
4Ted Williams with John Underwood, "My Turn At Bat" (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1988), Page 167.
5"Army to Indict Simmons and Division Today," Chicago Daily Tribune. September 5, 1950. Page C2.
6"In the Dugout with Rumill," Christian Science Monitor. October 3, 1950. Page 14.
7"Maglie's Scoreless String Ended At 45 Innings by Bell's Home Run," Joseph M. Sheehan. The New York Times. September 14, 1950. Page 42.
8"In the Dugout with Rumill," Christian Science Monitor. March 11, 1950. Page 12.
9"Brooks Lead, 19-12; Game is Suspended," John Drebinger. The New York Times. June 25, 1950. Pages S1-2.
10"Brooks Beat Phils in Fourteenth, 9-8," Roscoe McGowen. The New York Times. October 1, 1951. Pages 26-27. Also see "Drama in Philadelphia," Carl Lundquist. The Baseball Research Journal. Number 26. Pages 3-4.
11"Play-Off to Open at Ebbets Field If Dodgers and Giants Finish in Tie," John Drebinger. The New York Times. September 28, 1951. Page 43.
12"The Sporting News Baseball Guide and Record Book 1952" (St. Louis, Charles C. Spink & Son, 1952), Pages 119-122.
13"The Sporting News Baseball Guide and Record Book 1952" (St. Louis, Charles C. Spink & Son, 1952), Page 9.
14"Cards Halt Polo Grounders, 6-4, Routing Maglie in 6-Run Second," Joseph M. Sheehan. The New York Times. September 14, 1951. Page 29.
15The Transaction Database, the source of this information, is a work in progress and is almost certainly missing several player deals from the early part of the 1900s.
16Donald Dewey and Nicholas Acocella, "The Biographical History of Baseball" (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1995), Page 157.
17"12 Deals Turned by Lane Since He joined White Sox," Sam Levy. The Sporting News. August 31, 1949. Page 11.
18"A David Harum? A Trader Horn? Lane Makes 'Em Look Like Bums," Edgar Munzel. The Sporting News. February 18, 1953. Page 1.
19"Pinwheel Turnover Promised in Veeck's Trade Fireworks," Ray Gillespie. The Sporting News. November 21, 1951. Page 8.
20"Chisox Seeks to Widen Lead in Majors' Swapping Derby," Ed Burns. The Sporting News. November 28, 1951. Page 9.
21"Haul-of-Famers," Darvas. The Sporting News. November 5, 1952. Page 1.
22"Glare in Center Bothers Batters." The New York Times. October 5, 1953. Page 36.
23"Towering Drive by Yank Sluggers Features 7-3 Defeat of Senator," Louis Effrat. The New York Times. April 18, 1953. Page 12.
24"Ruth Hits 20 and 21; Second Wins in 11th," James R. Harrison. The New York Times. June 9, 1926. Page 14.
25"Ruth Hit Homer 600 Feet." The New York Times. April 18, 1953. Page 12.
26Bill Jenkinson, "Baseball's Ultimate Power" (Guilford, Connecticut: Lyons Press, 2010), Pages 179 and 191.
27"Browns' Rookie Pitches No Hit Debut." Chicago Daily Tribune. May 7, 1953. Page D1.
28"Porterfield Forced Out With Knee Injury." The Washington Post. July 22, 1953. Page 13.
29"Senators Topple White Sox by 5-1." The New York Times. September 3, 1953. Page 18.
30"Return of Williams and Karl Orson Seen Big Boost for Red Sox," Ed Rumill. The Christian Science Monitor. July 24, 1953. Page 15.
31"Williams Signed for 1953 and 1954." The New York Times. July 30, 1953. Page 26.
32"Most Two-Club Cities Doomed - Lane." The Sporting News. November 26, 1952. Pages 1, 6 and 8.
33"Indians Favored Over Giants in World Series Opening Here on Wednesday," John Drebinger. The New York Times. September 26, 1954. Page S3.
34"Braves Lose, 9-8; Mathews Hits 2 Homers," Irving Vaughan. The New York Times. April 14, 1954. Page B1.
35"Thomson Breaks Ankle as Yankees Down Braves, 3-2," John Drebinger. The New York Times. March 14, 1954. Page S1.
36"Red Sox Star Out 'About Six Weeks'." The New York Times. March 2, 1954. Page 28.
37"Redlegs Triumph Over Leaders, 8-1," John Drebinger. The New York Times. September 11, 1954. Page 12.
38"World's Championship to Brooklyn Ball Team." The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. October 19, 1900. Page 15.
39"Alston Will Send Newcombe of Spooner Against Yankees at Stadium Today," Roscoe McGowen. The New York Times. October 3, 1955. Page 30.
40"Dodgers Capture 1st World Series; Podres Wins, 2-0," John Drebinger. The New York Times. October 5, 1955. Page 1.
41"Agganis Is Sent Back to Hospital." The Hartford Courant. June 7, 1955. Page 18.
42"Harry Agganis of Boston Red Sox Dies; Ex-Football Star From Bay State Was 25." The New York Times. June 28, 1955. Page 27.
43"Major League Attendance," Robert L. Tiemann and Pete Palmer. Total Baseball, Fifth Edition (New York, New York: Viking Press, 1997), Pages 101-105.
44"Larsen Junked Windup Before World Series." Los Angeles Times. October 9, 1956. Page C1.
45For seasons not completely covered by our play-by-play event files, the infield/outfield splits might not agree with the sum of the appropriate positional splits on the team split pages. That has to do with how Retrosheet handles players appearing in a game at multiple positions. At present, the positional splits do not include statistics for these games (an argument could be made for counting them at all the positions, but we decided to undercount rather than overcount). In determining infield and outfield positional splits for the chart above, however, we did include statistics if all the positions played were in the infield or outfield.
46"Indians Option Rocky Colavito." The Washington Post and Times Herald. June 17, 1956. Page C1.
47"Tigers Shelve Garver." The New York Times. June 1, 1956. Page 16.
48"Cardinals Score Over Phils, 6 To 5." The New York Times. August 23, 1957. Page 12.
49"Ford Gains 3-2 Victory in Relief On Mantle's 22nd Homer in Tenth." The New York Times. July 2, 1957. Page 19.
50Attendance figures are taken from the following sources: "The Sporting News Baseball Guide and Record Book 1955" (St. Louis, Charles C. Spink & Son, 1955), Page 138. "The Sporting News Baseball Guide and Record Book 1956" (St. Louis, Charles C. Spink & Son, 1956), Page 144. "The Sporting News Baseball Guide and Record Book 1957" (St. Louis, Charles C. Spink & Son, 1957), Page 144. "The Sporting News Baseball Guide and Record Book 1958" (St. Louis, Charles C. Spink & Son, 1958), Page 150.
51"Giants Will Shift to San Francisco for 1958 Season." The New York Times. August 20, 1957. Page 1.
52"Dodgers Accept Los Angeles Bid to Move to Coast." The New York Times. October 9, 1957. Page 1.
53"Williams' Chest Condition Has Red Sox Brass Worried." The Washington Post and Times Herald. September 14, 1957. Page A10.
54"Drott's Secret Is Out: He Has Sore Arm." Chicago Daily Tribune. May 4, 1959. Page C1.
55"Mickey Takes Voting Lead." Los Angeles Times. June 23, 1957. Page C4.
56"Cincinnati Fans to Jam All-Star With Eight Reds." The Hartford Courant. June 28, 1957. Page 21B.
57"Frick Balks Redleg All-Star Monopoly." Chicago Daily Tribune. June 29, 1957. Page A1.
58"Frank Robinson Tops All-Star Game Vote." The Chicago Defender. July 6, 1957. Page 24.
59"Redleg Fans Rail Against Frick For Vetoing 3 of Their All-Stars." The New York Times. June 30, 1957. Page 144.
60"The Midsummer Classic," David Vincent, Lyle Spatz and David W. Smith. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2001), Page 153.
61Brian Wood pointed out that while Mays seldom hit leadoff for the Giants, he did it often in All-Star games. As a matter of fact, he had more All-Star at-bats in the first slot (32) than in any other position in the lineup.
62"Trade Coalition, Cronin Plan for 'Stopping Yanks'," Hy Hurwitz. The Sporting News. December 12, 1956. Page 10.
63"Not the Way to Stop the Yankees." The Sporting News. October 31, 1956. Page 10.
64"Comiskey Urging 'Mutual Aid' Pact by Yankee Rivals," Edgar Munzel. The Sporting News. March 6, 1957. Page 6.
65"Sale of Stadium Nets $4,875,000 to Topping, Webb," Dan Daniel. The Sporting News. December 23, 1953. Page 2.
66"Slaughter Deal Seen as Prelude to Wholesale KayCee Turnover," Ernest Mehl. The Sporting News. September 5, 1956. Page 14.
67"A's Friendly to All Major League Clubs, Says Carroll, Denying Yank Ties," Ernest Mehl. The Sporting News. November 28, 1956. Page 18.
68"Yank-A's Deal to Hurt A. L. at Gate--Comiskey." The Sporting News. February 27, 1957. Page 6.
69"Johnson of A's to Mark Time in Trade Mart," Ernest Mehl. The Sporting News. December 18, 1957. Page 8.
70"'You Can't Sell Maris to N. Y.', Lane Told A's," Hal Lebovitz. The Sporting News. June 25, 1958. Page 20.
71"Unhealthy Alliance Snorts Sportshirt; May Ask For Probe," Jerry Holtzman. The Sporting News. December 23, 1959. Page 6.
72"Schoendienst Has Tuberculosis and Appears Lost to Braves for Next Year." The New York Times. November 19, 1958. Page 46.