Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Game 77 Recap

Game 77: The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

Before the season started, some (including myself) thought that the Mariners were the favorites to win the AL West. They added Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins and Milton Bradley to a team that finished a solid 85-77 last year. After parting ways with Figgins, John Lackey and Vlad Guerrero, it appeared the Angels' reign atop the division was in jeopardy.

Instead of being somewhat of a surprise team in 2010, the Mariners are surprisingly bad. To start, they were outscored on the year and had an expected record of 75-87, so the foundation they were building upon was somewhat shaky. Many traditional baseball thinkers doubted that their mostly-pitching-and-defense mode of roster construction could work, and so far this season - although you couldn't tell by last night's game - it certainly hasn't. They are a dismal 14 behind the Rangers just 76 games into the season, in last place in the West by four in the loss column. Three weeks ago Dave Cameron at U.S.S. Mariner summed up their season to date thusly.

The biggest culprit is their offense. The M's are in last place in runs scored, home runs, doubles and slugging percentage and second to last in batting average and on base percentage. Only two of the players in their starting lineup (Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez) have an OPS+ better than league average. First base and designated hitter, the two positions that should be the easiest to find offensive production at, have been especially dismal, the production while occupying those roles checking in at a 42 & 43 OPS+, respectively. The reacquisition of Russell Branyan should be a boost to the former and parting ways with Ken Griffey has already helped with the latter, but it's probably too little, too late.

There's about 60% of the season left and their pitching staff has performed admirably, but it's hard to imagine that Seattle can leapfrog Oakland, Texas and Anaheim and win the division, and that's what they'll need to do because the Wild Card is almost certainly coming from the East. The Mariner's season may be sunk, but they still provide an extremely tough matchup for the Yankees once again tonight as King Felix takes on Javier Vazquez.

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.
-Lineups-

Yankees:
Brett Gardner's wrist keeps him on the bench for the second straight night. In his stead, Colin Curtis gets his first Major League start. Jorge Posada is the DH for the second consecutive night.
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada DH
Curtis Granderson CF
Colin Curtis LF
Francisco Cervelli C

Javier Vazquez RHP
Mariners:
Ichiro RF
Chone Figgins 2B
Russell Braynan 1B
Milton Bradley DH
Jose Lopez 3B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Jack Wilson SS
Michael Saunders LF

Felix Hernandez RHP

Game 76 Recap

[WE data via FanGraphs]

Usually, if a starting pitcher gives up seven runs in a game, there is one inning that they could point to that really did them in, but that wasn't the case last night for Phil Hughes. He got through the first unscathed but allowed a run in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings.

It didn't seem like he was getting hit all that hard, but it was one of those nights when the Mariners' hitters seemed to find holes in the Yankee defense. So when the Mariners scored three runs with two outs in the sixth, the game was pretty much out of reach. Sure, the M's plated seven runs against Hughes and put 12 runners on base in 5 2/3 innings, but I thought he pitched okay. There will of course be the inevitable mainstream media consternation about the extra rest he was given, but he wasn't wild or laying too many balls over the middle of the plate. He just caught some bad breaks, had a couple of errors made behind him and was up against Cliff Lee, who didn't have any of those problems.

Lee went the full nine and aside from the two solo home runs that he gave up to Nick Swisher and the ultimately futile rally the Yanks made in the ninth, was as good as you expected him to be last night. He only struck out two batters but when he allowed balls in play, they tended to be weakly hit or in the general vicinity of a defender.

Losing the series opener against a team that's a baker's dozen under .500 isn't optimal, but this wasn't a terrible defeat. Both teams took an excellent pitcher to the mound and the Baseball Gods decided whose night it would be. The Yanks have another uphill battle tonight as Javy Vazquez matches up against Felix Hernandez.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Game 76: Nearly Lost You

The Yankees return home for the first time since Father's Day, opening a six game homestand with a three game set against the Seattle Mariners. The M's were the darlings of the off-season, unloading the onerous contracts of Carlos Silva and Kenji Johjima, signing spark plug Chone Figgins away from their division rivals, and making a series of lesser low risk, high reward moves. But far and away, the biggest coup for GM Jack Zduriencik was sending a package of prospects to Philly for Cliff Lee.

Everything seemingly has gone wrong for the M's since then. Franchise legend Ken Griffey Jr's continued decline and possible narcolepsy culminated in an uncomfortable retirement and a possibly fractured clubhouse. Off-season signing Ryan Garko didn't even make it to Opening Day, while fellow signee Eric Byrnes lasted a mere month before riding his bicycle off to the California keg leagues. Their offense has been abyssmal, with Figgins taking a nose dive, Milton Bradley providing plenty of problems but little pop, and virtually everyone but Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez failing to hit at an acceptable level. All of which leaves Seattle entering the series with baseball's sixth poorest record and the AL's worst offense by a long shot.

As such, Cliff Lee and his expiring contract have become the hottest commodity on the market with the trade deadline 32 days away. There has been no shortage of rumors about whether the M's will hang on to him in an attempt to turn it around, or if they'd prefer the two draft picks his Type A status will net, or where he'd land if he were to be traded. There's been a ton of contradictory information out there, but the latest seems to be that the M's are quietly prepared to make a move.

As when any big name player hits the market, the Yankees have been rumored as a potential landing spot, with reports that Seattle has scouted the Yankees system. Yet even though a vocal segment of Yankee fans have been loudly clamoring for Lee since before Spring Training even began, a deal to the Bronx is unlikely. Despite A.J. Burnett's recent struggles, the Yankee rotation has been a strength for the team this year. As we saw with Javier Vazquez earlier this season, good pitchers may struggle for stretches, but they won't struggle forever. And with pitching coach Dave Eiland returning to the club tonight, perhaps Burnett's turnaround is coming soon. There just isn't the need nor the room for another front line starter.

Even if there were, there is no recent precedent for the Yankees making such a move. Following the 2007 season, the Yankees passed on an opportunity to acquire Johan Santana, who had a full year remaining on his contract. In his refusal to make the deal, Brian Cashman made his position clear: he is reluctant to pay twice - in both prospects and contract extensions - to acquire a player. He held fast to that philosophy the following summer, when in desperate need of pitching, he refused to deal for CC Sabathia and his expiring contract, content to gamble that the big lefty would be there for the taking on the free agent market after the season. He was, and after last season's World Series, Cashman appeared to be quite shrewd for biding his time.

If that's not enough to quell those covetous of Lee as he takes the Yankee Stadium mound tonight, then the pitcher in the other half innings should be. Phil Hughes was the centerpiece of the package the Yankees would have shipped to Minnesota had they pulled the trigger on the Santana deal, and had the Yankees pursued a Sabathia trade the asking price would have begun with Hughes as well. Instead Cashman chose to hang on to his top pitching prospect. After suffering through an injury plagued 2008, the organization was rewarded with a breakout 2009 from Hughes the set up man and is now enjoying a 2010 in which Phil Hughes is one of the top starters in the American League.

It's very possible that one of the two starting pitchers tonight will throw the first pitch of the All-Star Game in Anaheim two weeks from tonight. While it's tempting to think of Cliff Lee in Yankee pinstripes, that temptation isn't enough for me to feel comfortable sacrificing potential future All-Stars in Jesus Montero or Austin Romine or Manny Banuelos or Andrew Brackman or any number of other good Yankee prospects Seattle would want in exchange for Lee. The Yankees nearly lost Hughes two and a half years ago. I'm not prepared to lose the next Hughes in exchange for three months of Cliff Lee. Cashman runs the risk of losing Lee to another club now, but as the Sabathia situation taught us two years ago, sometimes a little patience leaves you with the best possible deal.


Did you hear the distant cry
Calling me back to my sin
Like the one you knew before
Calling me back once again

I nearly, I nearly lost you there
And it's taking us somewhere
I nearly lost you there
Let's try to see now

[Song Notes: Any series against the Mariners always has me thinking of the Seattle bands of the early nineties. Rather than going with one of the name brand grunge bands, tonight we'll go with the Screaming Trees. Though lesser known than Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains, they had a few good tunes to their credit, this being one of them. Just goes to show that you don't always need to go shopping on the top shelf to find what you're looking for.]

-Lineups-

Yankees:
Brett Gardner's sore wrist keeps him out of the lineup tonight, but he is reportedly available for defense and pinch running duties. With a lefty on the mound Chad Huffman gets the start in left. There's a likely a roster move coming as well, as it's widely speculated that Dustin Moseley will be added to the bullpen in advance of him exercising his opt out clause today.[UPDATE 6:45 PM: No Moseley tonight, as he's still with Scranton.
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada DH
Curtis Granderson CF
Chad Huffman LF
Francisco Cervelli C

RHP Phil Hughes
Mariners:
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chone Figgins 2B
Russell Branyan 1B
Milton Bradley DH
Jose Lopez 3B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Jack Wilson SS
Rob Johnson C
Michael Saunders LF

LHP Cliff Lee

1978 World Series

When the two teams met again the following fall, it was very much an encore of the previous season. Once again, the Dodgers knocked off the Phillies in the NLCS, while the Yankees ended the Royals' season for the third straight year. Of course, the Yankees struggled to even reach the ALCS. The 1978 AL East wasn't the summer long three team dog fight that it had been the previous year, but the Yankees needed a furious late season comeback and one game playoff in Boston to win the division. Oddly enough, the big blow in that game - Bucky Dent's improbable go-ahead homer - was served up by Mike Torrez, who had signed with Boston after winning Game Six of the '77 Series for the Yankees.

Both clubs carried relatively the same rosters as in '77, but for the Yankees there were two major changes: one in the bullpen, one in the dugout. Goose Gossage was signed as a free agent in the off-season, relegating Sparky Lyle to a lesser role in bullpen. Or, as Graig Nettles put it, causing him to go from Cy Young to sayonara. Meanwhile, the ever present tension amongst Steinbrenner, Martin, and Jackson finally boiled over in July. Martin suspended Jackson for failing to follow a bunt sign, then choosing to follow it after it had been taken off. Feeling that Steinbrenner didn't have his back, Martin quipped "The two deserve each other. One's a born liar, the other's convicted", referencing Steinbrenner's earlier conviction for illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon. Citing his health, Martin resigned before he could be fired, replaced by Bob Lemon. Then, in a move perfectly representative of the Bronx Zoo years, at Old Timers Day, five days after his resignation, it was announced that Martin would return as Yankee manager in 1980, with Lemon being promoted to the general manager's position.

-1978-

The Series began in L.A. on Tuesday October 10th. Tommy John, who had lost Game Three to the Yankees the year before, started for L.A. The Yankees countered with Ed Figueroa, who had just become the first, and thus far only, native of Puerto Rico to post a twenty win season. The Dodgers chased Figueroa early, with homers from Dusty Baker and Davey Lopes knocking him from the game in the second. Ken Clay, Paul Lindblad, and Dick Tidrow didn't offer any relief, combining to allow an additional eight runs. The Yankees put up five over the seventh and eighth, including another homer from Reggie Jackson, but it was a drop in the bucket as the Dodgers won 11-5.

The Yankees sent Catfish Hunter out to oppose Burt Hooton in Game Two. A two run double from Jackson gave the Yankees the lead in the third. The Dodgers got on the board with a Ron Cey RBI single in the fourth, and took the lead when he hit a three run homer in the sixth. Jackson brought the Yankees within one with an RBI groundout in the seventh, and had a chance to tie it in the ninth. Jackson came up with two outs, runners on first and second, and the Yankees trailing by a run. Lasorda called on fireballing twenty one year old rookie Bob Welch. In a 1-2 hole, Jackson fouled off four pitches in working the count full. On the ninth pitch of the at bat, Welch blew one by Jackson, putting the Dodgers up two games.

Back in New York for Game Three, the Yankees sent Ron Guidry out to avoid falling behind three games. Guidry had just turned in the finest pitching season in Yankee history, going 25 and 3 in 35 starts, his final victory coming in the one game playoff in Boston. He led the league in wins, winning percentage at .893, ERA at 1.74, shutouts with nine, WHIP at 0.946, and hits per nine at 6.1. He also led the league in WAR on his way to capturing the Cy Young Award and a second place MVP finish. He had a convincing victory against Kansas City in the ALCS and with his team in desperate need of win in Game Three, Guidry found a way to dominate without having his best stuff. He struck out only four and worked around eight hits and seven walks, but allowed just one run in nine innings of work. Graig Nettles made no fewer than four outstanding plays at the hot corner to help Guidry work out of trouble. The Yankees got a second inning home run from veteran Roy White, and RBIs from Dent, Munson, Jackson, and Piniella to take a 5-1 victory.


Game Four was a rematch between John and Figueroa. A three run homer by Reggie Smith in the fifth opened the scoring. The Yankees got two back in the sixth. A single by White and a walk to Munson put two on for Jackson. His single scored White to make it 3-1, but his biggest contribution came from his butt rather than his bat. With Munson on second and Jackson on first, Lou Piniella bounced a tailor made double play ball to short. Bill Russell made the force at second, but as his relay throw sailed towards first, Jackson, caught halfway between the bases, not-so-subtly turned his right hip into the path of the ball. The ball bounced off into short right field, allowing Munson to score despite the protests of Tommy Lasorda. In the eighth, Paul Blair led off a with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice from White, and scored the tying run when Munson doubled him home. Welch and Gossage kept the slate clean in the ninth. In the bottom of the tenth White drew a one out walk. Without two outs, Jackson turned the tables on Welch, singling to keep the inning alive. Piniella followed with a base hit, and the Yankees walked off with the Series tied at two.

For Game Five, the Yankees turned to young Jim Beattie, passing over Hunter. The tall 23 year old rookie had made the fourth most starts for the club on the season, but was also demoted mid-season and was skipped on several occasions. He put the Yankees in a two run hole over the first three innings, but his offense soon came to his aid. White, Munson, and Piniella combined to drive in four runs in the third, then Rivers, White, and Munson combined for three more in the fourth. Beattie shut the Dodgers down the rest of the way and the Yankees added five more in the seventh and eighth to take a convincing 12-1 victory and come back from being down 0-2 take a 3-2 lead in the Series.

Back in L.A. the Yankees looked to Catfish Hunter to close it out, while the Dodgers asked Don Sutton to save their season. Davey Lopes' leadoff home run gave the Dodgers a 1-0 first inning lead, but in the top of the second Brian Doyle, subbing for an injured Willie Randolph, doubled home Nettles, and Bucky Dent followed with a single that scored Jim Spencer and Doyle. Lopes made it 3-2 with an RBI single in the third, but it was the last offense the Dodgers would get. Hunter, pitching in the 22nd and final post-season game of his career shut the Dodgers down into the eighth. Doyle and Dent added RBIs in the sixth, and Jackson hit a two run shot off Welch in the seventh to make it 7-2. Gossage retired the final five in a row, and the Yankees had won their second consecutive title and their twenty second overall.

Monday, June 28, 2010

1977 World Series

Fourteen years passed before the Yankees and Dodgers met again. Baseball underwent some significant changes in that time. After years of pitching dominance, Major League Baseball lowered the mound to a regulation 10 inches after the 1968 season. Both leagues added two new teams for the '69 season, causing both leagues to split into two six team divisions, with the winners meeting in a League Championship Series prior to the World Series. The AL added two more teams in 1977, by which point the AL was in its fifth year of using the designated hitter, and multi-use, cookie-cutter, Astroturf parks had become home to about a third of baseball's clubs.

-1977-

Despite all the changes, there was an air of familiarity as the World Series dawned in October. The Dodgers, who had made three World Series appearances since their last meeting with the Yankees, put an end to the Big Red Machine's reign of terror over the National League, outpacing Cincinnati by ten games for the NL West flag then dispensing with Philadelphia in the NLCS.

The Yankees meanwhile were making their second consecutive appearance in the Fall Classic. After faltering through the late sixties and early seventies they returned to the World Series in '76 only to be swept by the mighty Reds. The Yankees went through a soap opera season in '77, winning a three team battle with Boston and Baltimore for the division crown, and fighting a three headed battle amongst their owner, manager, and star slugger on the tabloid backpages throughout the summer. Despite the turmoil, they not only won the division, but knocked Kansas City out of the ALCS for the second consecutive year.

While none of the players had been around long enough to remember past Yankee-Dodger tilts, there were folks in each dugout who had plenty of memories. The Yankees were managed by the combustible Billy Martin, a veteran of four Subway Series against Brooklyn in the fifties. His coaching staff featured Yogi Berra and Elston Howard, who between them faced the Dodgers in ten World Series.

Meanwhile the Dodgers coaching staff featured Junior Gilliam, a veteran of four World Series against the Yankees. Dodgers rookie manager Tommy Lasorda had ties to both organizations. Lasorda succeeded the legendary Walter Alston with four games remaining in the 1976 season. Alston had been the Dodger manager since 1954, dating back to their days in Brooklyn. Three times his clubs faced the Yankees in the Fall Classic, and twice they had emerged victorious. Lasorda made eight appearances as a middling pitcher on those '54 and '55 teams. After washing out with the Athletics in 1956, Lasorda was traded to the Yankees and assigned to their top affiliate in Denver. The next year he was traded back to the Dodgers, spent three more years in their system, then began a career as a scout, minor league manager, coach, and eventually their skipper.

The Series began at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday October 11th. For the Dodgers, longtime ace Don Sutton was on the mound. The Yankees sent lefty Don Gullett to oppose him. Just 26 years old, Gullett was the Yankees' second biggest free agent signing the previous off-season. He broke in with the Reds as a 19 year old in 1970 and was a member of their back-to-back World Series winners in '75 and '76. Arm troubles had prevented Gullett from pitching a full season since 1974, and limited him to just 22 starts in his first season with the Yanks.

Gullett spotted the Dodgers to a 2-0 lead in the first, walking leadoff man Davey Lopes, allowing a triple to Bill Russell, and surrendering a sacrifice fly to Ron Cey. The Yankees got one back in the bottom half, as an RBI single from Chris Chambliss scored Thurman Munson. Gullett settled down from there, shutting the Dodgers out through the eighth. The Yankees tied in the sixth on a solo shot from Willie Randolph, and took the lead in the eighth, when Munson doubled Randolph home.

Given the lead, Martin elected to stick with Gullett rather than summon relief ace and eventual AL Cy Young Award winner Sparky Lyle. Lyle was coming off an outstanding season, tossing 137 innings of relief to a 2.17 ERA, saving 26 games and winning 13 more. Dusty Baker singled to start the frame, and after Manny Mota flew out, Steve Yeager walked. With the tying run in scoring position Lyle came on, and allowed a game tying single to Lee Lacy. The teams traded zeros into the twelfth, with Lyle retiring eleven in a row after the game tying hit. Randolph led off the bottom of the inning with a double. The Dodgers walked Munson to face light hitting defensive replacement Paul Blair, and the former longtime Oriole delivered a game winning base hit.

Game Two matched Burt Hooton against Catfish Hunter. Hunter fronted the A's rotation as they won three straight titles earlier in the decade, then signed with the Yankees as a free agent prior to the '75 season. Though only 31, Hunter had logged more than 3,000 Major League innings, and they had begun to take their toll upon his arm. He was limited to just 22 starts in '77, but he was a certified big game pitcher and his championship pedigree was considered to be a major influence in putting the Yankees over the top. Hunter couldn't recapture his past magic in Game Two though, lasting only two and a third surrendering five runs on homers to Ron Cey, Steve Yeager, and Reggie Smith. Hooton allowed just six base runners over nine innings, and the Dodgers evened things up with a 6-1 victory.

Two days later in L.A., veteran starters Tommy John and Mike Torrez got the ball for the Dodgers and Yankees respectively. This time, it was the Yankees jumping out to an early lead, riding back-to-back-to-back RBI hits from Munson, Reggie Jackson, and Lou Piniella to a 3-0 lead. The Dodgers drew even in the third on a three run homer from Baker. The following inning, a Mickey Rivers groundout pushed Graig Nettles across with the go-ahead run, and an RBI single from Chambliss the following inning made it 5-3. Torrez shut the Dodgers down the rest of the way, and the Yankees jumped up two games to one.

The Yankees sent Ron Guidry to the mound for Game Four. After appearing briefly in '75 and '76, Guidry established himself as a valuable starter in 1977, his five shutouts portending things to come. Once again, the Yankees gave their starter an early 3-0 lead, as RBIs from Piniella, Nettles, and Bucky Dent chased Dodgers started Doug Rau in the second. Guidry gave two back in the third on a homer by Davey Lopes, but it was all the scoring the Dodgers would do. Reggie Jackson added a home run in the sixth, and Guidry surrendered four hits, three walks, and struck out seven in tossing the Yankees second straight complete game.

With their back against the wall, the Dodgers went back to Sutton in Game Five. A first inning RBI single from Bill Russell gave them an early lead, then they pounded Gullett, Ken Clay, and Dick Tidrow nine more across the middle three frames. The Yankees had a late rally, scoring two in the seventh and two more in the eighth on solo shots from Munson and Jackson, but it wasn't enough, as they fell 10-4.

As the teams returned to New York for Game Six, Reggie Jackson was winding down a tumultuous first season in pinstripes. The prize of the first free agent class the previous winter, George Steinbrenner was hellbent on making a splash by adding Jackson's potent bat and flair for the dramatic to the heart of the Yankee order. Martin preferred Orioles second baseman Bobby Grich, with designs on using him to fill the Yankees gaping hole at shortstop. Per usual, Steinbrenner got his way. The three clashed repeatedly over the course of the season: over Jackson's spot in the batting order, over whether he'd be the right fielder or the designated hitter, over everything. When Martin felt Jackson loafed it fielding a ball during a summer game at Fenway Park, he replaced him mid-inning. The two nearly came to blows in the dugout. Jackson's social awkwardness and desire for attention made him a bit of a misfit in a clubhouse full of gruff personalities, and his spring training interview with Sport magazine, in which he claimed he was "the straw that stirred the drink" and took a swipe at respected team captain Thurman Munson, alienated him from nearly the entire roster.

Despite all that, Jackson entered Game Six doing what he did best: shining on the big stage. His legend began as an A, with a monstrous home run off a Tiger Stadium roof transformer in the 1971 All-Star Game. That fall, in post-season play for the first time, Jackson knocked two more homers in a losing effort in the ALCS. A leg injury suffered in the ALCS the following year kept Jackson out of the '72 Series, but he returned with homers in the '73 Series against the Mets, the '74 Series against the Dodgers, and the '75 ALCS against the Red Sox.

When Jackson stepped into the batters with one on and no one out in the fourth inning of Game Six, he had already homered twice over the Series' first five games. With a chance to clinch, the Yankees were trailing 3-2, a Chris Chambliss home run not enough to overcome Steve Garvey's two run triple and Reggie Smith's solo shot. As he so often did though, Jackson game through when it mattered most. He took Hooton's first offering and launched it into the right field stands.

Jackson came up the following inning. The Yankees were now leading 5-3. Willie Randolph was on first with two outs and Elias Sosa had replaced Hooton on the mound. Jackson took Sosa' first offering and deposited into the right field seats to make it 7-3 Yankees. Three innings later, Jackson led off against Dodger fireman Charlie Hough. Jackson jumped on the knuckleballer's first pitch, blasting into the black bleacher seats in dead center field. In doing so, Jackson joined Babe Ruth as the only men to hit three homers in a World Series game. Torrez gave one back in the ninth to make it 8-4, but when he squeezed a pop bunt of the bat off Lee Lacy for the game's final out, the Yankees had their first championship in fifteen years.

1963 World Series

As I said at the conclusion of our post about it, the end of the 1956 World Series marked the end of the Golden Age of New York City baseball. Over a ten year span from 1947 through 1956, the only World Series not to feature at least one New York team was 1948. There were seven Subway Series, six between the Yankees and Dodgers, one between the Yankees and Giants. The Yankees won seven championships, the Dodgers and Giants one each.

Taking it back to 1936, New York was represented in 16 of 21 World Series, the three clubs combining for twenty six total appearances, including seven Subway Series between the Yankees and Dodgers and three more between the Yankees and Giants. New York City was home to the World Series champion fifteen times in those twenty one years.

The Yankees returned to the World Series in 1957, but after years of finishing second to the Dodgers, Milwaukee finally captured the NL pennant. The Dodgers slipped to third, the Giants to sixth. And as Jay detailed in Friday night's preview, there was a movement afoot with Gotham's two NL clubs. On August 19th, Giants owner Horace Stoneham announced his team would move to San Francisco for the 1958 season. On October 8th, one year to the day after Larsen's perfect game, Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley - who was instrumental in convincing Stoneham to choose San Francisco over Minneapolis, announced that the Dodgers would move to Los Angeles for 1958. Unlike Giants fans, the Brooklyn faithful didn't even get a chance to say goodbye.

Following the '56 season, the Dodgers did the unthinkable, trading Jackie Robinson to the hated Giants. He retired rather than report. On January 28, 1958, just a month shy of reporting to spring training, Roy Campanella was paralyzed following a car accident on Long Island. The Dodgers moved west without two of the cornerstones of their Brooklyn dynasty.

By the time the Yankees and Dodgers met again in the 1963 World Series, it had been more than three years since Ebbets Field had been reduced to a pile of rubble. The principle members of the Brooklyn dynasty had moved on. Don Newcombe was shipped to the Reds midway through the Dodgers' first LA season. Pee Wee Reese too moved west with the Dodgers, spent one season as a part time player, was released at the end of the year, and retired. Carl Erskine was finished midway through 1959. Thirty eight years old and his skills in steep decline, Carl Furillo was released a month into the 1960 season; a month later Clem Labine was traded to Detroit. Gil Hodges and Roger Craig were taken by the Mets in the expansion draft after the 1961 season, starting a Metropolitan fascination with the Brooklyn club that continues to this day. Duke Snider followed them back to New York just prior to the start of the '63 season.

The last remaining tie to the Brooklyn pennant winners was 1955 World Series hero Johnny Podres. Thirty one years old by the start of the 1963 Fall Classic, the southpaw was the Dodgers number three starter. The two men in front of him in the rotation were dominant workhorses who had cut their teeth as teenagers in Brooklyn. Sandy Koufax made his debut with the 1955 Dodgers and was joined by Don Drysdale the following spring. Koufax didn't see the field in neither the '55 nor the '56 Series; Drysdale pitched two mop up innings at the end of Game Four in '56. The two were still developing as the club moved west, but by 1963 they were the most dominant duo in baseball, combining for 44 wins in 82 starts, covering 626.1 innings pitched, 37 complete games, 14 shutouts, striking out 557 batters, and allowing just one baserunner per inning.

Meanwhile, the Yankee dynasty had continued in the intervening years. After dropping the '57 Series to Milwaukee, they won a rematch in 1958. The club slumped to a third place finish the following year, missing yet another World Series encounter with the Dodgers, who in just their second season in L.A. equaled the number of championships they won in 74 years in Brooklyn. In 1960 the Yankees returned to the Fall Classic, losing Game Seven in heart breaking fashion on a walkoff homer by Pittsburgh's Bill Mazeroski. The loss spurred the club to end their twelve year relationship with seventy year old manager Casey Stengel.

Stengel was replaced by Ralph Houk. Dubbed "The Major" following his decorated Army career during World War II, Houk was one of several anonymous back ups to Yogi Berra before the emergence of Elston Howard, appearing in just 91 games over an eight year career from 1947 through 1954. Houk doubled as a coach during the final two years of his career, then spent the next three years managing the organization's top farm club at Denver. He returned to the Major League staff for the final three years of Stengel's career, and as the Yankees entered the 1963 World Series, they were aiming for their third championship in as many seasons under Houk.

-1963-

Though not quite as much as the Dodgers, the Yankees had undergone a number of changes since the clubs had last met seven years earlier. The axis of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Whitey Ford remained, but Berra was now 38 years old, serving as a player-coach in his final season, and had seen action in just 64 games. Mantle meanwhile, was limited to just 65 games, courtesy of broken foot suffered when his spikes became entangled in Baltimore's chain link outfield fence on June 5th. It was just the latest in a string of leg injuries that was starting to sap Mantle of his once top flight speed.

Roger Maris was in his fourth season as a Yankee, and while he had slipped somewhat from the form the saw him capture the MVP award in both of his first two seasons, he was still an outstanding all around player. Yet he too saw action in less than a hundred games as injuries cost him extended stretches of both June and July.

In their collective absence, Elston Howard picked up the slack in a big way. After spending the first five years of his career as a valuable utility player, Howard finally replaced Berra as the primary catcher in 1960. He had been an All-Star for seven years running, and with Mantle out of the lineup for much of the summer, Howard became the big bat in the heart of the Yankee order. He batted .287/.342/.528, with a career high 28 home runs. He won the first of his two Gold Gloves and became the first African-American to win the AL MVP award, the fourth consecutive year and eight time in ten years the award went to a Yankee.

Elsewhere on the roster, the Yankees had a new infield. Clete Boyer, Tony Kubek, and Bobby Richardson were in their fourth season as the Yankee third baseman, shortstop, ans second baseman respectively, forming a slick defensive, if offensively below average, infield. Meanwhile, longtime first baseman Moose Skowron was across the field in the Dodger dugout, having been traded the previous off-season with the emergence of Joe Pepitone. In the outfield, left fielder Tom Tresh enjoyed a great sophomore season, and filled in admirably in center field in Mantle's absence. Behind Ford, the pitching staff featured 1962 World Series hero Ralph Terry and youngsters Jim Bouton and Al Downing.

The Yankees entered the Series with a record five and a half games better than the Dodgers, but that wouldn't much matter by the time the games begun. The Series began on Wednesday October 2nd, at Yankee Stadium, with a heavyweight match up between lefties Ford and Koufax. The Dodgers got at Ford early, with former teammate Skowron opening the scoring with an RBI single in the second. He later came around to score on a three run homer from John Roseboro. Moose added another RBI an inning later, and Ford was gone after five innings and as many runs. The Yankees had no answers for Koufax. As he had been against NL competition all year, Koufax was dominant, tossing a complete game and allowing just nine baserunners against fifteen strikeouts. The only Yankee offense came on an eighth inning two run homer from Tresh, as the Dodgers took the opener 5-2.

Instead of Drysdale, Dodger manager Walter Alston gave the ball to the veteran Johnny Podres in Game Two. Aside from his being a veteran of three previous Fall Classics, Podres was a lefty, and pre-renovation Yankee Stadium was extremely favorable to southpaws. Houk was of the same mind, skipping over Ralph Terry and starting lefty Al Downing. While he's best remembered for serving up Hank Aaron's 715th home run, Downing was an effective starter for the Yankees for seven seasons, and 1963 was probably his finest. Once again the Dodgers struck early, with a two run double from Willie Davis in the first inning. Skowron burned his former teammates again in the fourth, launching a solo homer to right. L.A. added a fourth run of Terry in the eighth. Meanwhile, Podres recaptured some of his 1955 magic, carrying a 4-0 lead into the ninth. He allowed a one out double to Hector Lopez, and was lifted for Ron Perranoski. The Dodger fireman allowed Lopez to score, but got the final two outs to give the Dodgers a two game lead.

Two days later the Series resumed in Los Angeles. This time Drysdale got the nod. He had a nasty reputation for being an intimidator on the mound, standing 6'5" and leading the NL in hit batsmen for four straight years while living by the philosophy "you hit one of mine, I hit two of yours". He was opposed by the Yankees' own bulldog, Jim Bouton. For the third consecutive game the Dodgers took an early lead. Tommy Davis drove in Junior Gilliam with two outs in the first. It was all the offense Drysdale needed. He dominated the Yankee offense, allowing just three singles, a hit batsmen, and a walk. He and Bouton matched zeros from the first inning on, but Drysdale sent Bouton home a hard luck loser and the Yankees were in a 3-0 hole.

With their backs against the wall, the Yankees sent Whitey Ford to the hill for Game Four, and he once again had the unenviable task of opposing Koufax. Ford fared far better than in Game One, managing to keep the Dodgers off the board in the early innings for the first time all Series. Still, the Dodgers managed to draw first blood, on a solo homer from future Yankee coach Frank Howard in the fifth inning. The Yankees meanwhile were still flummoxed by Koufax. He was perfect through three and third and had allowed just two baserunners entering the seventh. With one out, Mantle hit his fifteenth career World Series homer, tying him with Babe Ruth for the most all time. More importantly, it tied the score, but it was to be short-lived. In the bottom of the inning, an error by Joe Pepitone allowed leadoff batter Junior Gilliam to go all the way to third. Willie Davis followed with a sacrifice fly, putting the Dodgers back on top. The Yankees put the potential tying run on base in both the eighth and ninth innings, but Koufax snuffed out the rallies and gave the Dodgers their second title in five years.

===

It wasn't apparent at the time, but the Yankee dynasty was crumbling. Game Four marked Houk's final game as Yankee manager, for the time being at least. Houk moved up to the general manager's chair, replacing the retiring Roy Hamey. Yogi Berra, now retired as a player, succeeded Houk as the Yankee manager. He had a successful 1964, leading the Yankees to another pennant, but lost a heartbreaking seven game World Series to the Cardinals. Berra's fate had been decided before the final out was made though. The club felt he was too close to his former teammates to be an effective leader and he was replaced by Johnny Keane, the Cardinals manager who had just defeated him in the Series. While the Dodgers captured another title in '65, Keane lasted just a year and a month as Yankee manager, replaced by Houk twenty games into the 1966 season.

By that point, the franchise was in disarray. Age or injuries, or both, had taken their toll on Mantle, Ford, Maris, Howard, Tresh, and Tony Kubek. The late dynasty years had produced some promising youngsters, like Tresh, Pepitone, Downing, and Bouton, with others like Mel Stottlemyre, Bobby Murcer, and Roy White following behind them. But some never reached their potential, others got injured, and none were enough to adequately replace the aging, but Hall of Fame caliber, core of the team. The bottom came in '66, as the club finished last for the first time since 1912, their .440 winning percentage standing as the fourth poorest mark in club history to that point. They improved by just two wins in '67, rising from tenth to ninth, and spent the majority of the next several years hovering within a few games of .500.

The turnaround would come eventually, as the club's fortunes began improving under George Steinbrenner's ownership in the mid-seventies. By the time the Yankees rose to the top of the American League again, they would find a familiar foe waiting for them in October.

Game 75 Recap

[WE data via FanGraphs]

When Joba Chamberlain gave up an RBI double to Rafael Furcal with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees looked to be dead to rights. It cut the Yanks' chances of winning from about three percent to one percent. When Mark Teixeira struck out looking on a 97mph fastball from Jonathan Bronxton leading off the ninth inning, it hacked the Bombers' odds of pulling it out by a third once again from 1.2% all the way down to 0.4%.

There wasn't much reason to be hopeful, either. Andy Pettitte had a bad start (by his high standards this year) despite not getting hit all that hard. The Dodgers laid down three consecutive bunts in the third inning and none resulted in outs - Andy made throwing errors on two of them and the third was a single. He gave up two more on a sac fly and a homer in the fourth, putting the Yanks in a 5-0 hole. The offense had been stagnant up until that point, the only two runs they scored coming on a home run by Alex Rodriguez, but unfortunately he was up after Teixeira and you can't hit a grand slam with the bases empty.

A-Rod did his job of not using up an out, poked a single through left field and advanced on defensive indifference before Robinson Cano drove him in with a double. Jorge Posada singled, moving Cano to third, and advanced on indifference as Curtis Granderson was in the process of working a tough 8 pitch walk from Broxton to load the bases. All of a sudden the Yanks had the go-ahead run at the plate and still only one out.

Recent call-up Chad Huffman (who came in for an injured Brett Gardner) let two 96mph heaters pass, one for a ball and one for a strike, but smacked the third one into right field, driving in Posada and Cano. Colin Curtis, who was also in Scranton not too long ago, battled through a 10 pitch at bat against Broxton and grounded a ball to first. James Loney fielded it and instead of trying to start an inning-ending double play at second or throw home to save the run, he attempted to get the force at first and then throw home. However, Granderson beat the ball to the plate and the score was tied at six runs apiece.

The Dodgers intentionally walked Derek Jeter and retired Frankie Cervelli, but the Yankees had made a divine comeback and gave themselves a chance to steal the series on their way out of the City of Angels.

It wouldn't take long. Riding the momentum of the moment, Girardi went to Mariano Rivera and he took down the side in order in the bottom of the ninth. Robinson Cano rewarded the aggressive move by launching a two run homer in the 10th off of George Sherrill (who Torre brought in specifically for him) to give the Yanks the lead. James Loney led off the bottom half of the inning with a single but Rivera struck out Russell Martin (who got ejected after throwing a tantrum over a pitch that was obviously a strike) and Reed Johnson (who was 3-4 on the night at that point) before inducing a game inning grounder from Jamey Carroll.

Without looking up the specifics, it's feels like it's been a long time since the Yankees have had a miraculous late comeback like this one [Update: Larry says it's the biggest 9th inning rally since April 2007]. It would have been sweet regardless, but the fact that it nailed down a series victory and came against some old friends makes it a little bit sweeter. The team has the day off today as they head back home and rest up before a three game set against the Mariners.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Game 75: West L.A. Fadeaway

When Joe Torre took over the Yankees in 1996, he inherited a roster that featured a talented young left-handed Texan named Andy Pettitte, coming off an impressive rookie campaign the previous season. Under Torre's tutelage, Pettitte turned in a breakout sophomore campaign, winning 21 games, making the All-Star team, and finished second in the AL Cy Young voting. The following year, Pettitte had perhaps his best season - unless he can keep up his torrid pace for the remainder of 2010 - finishing in the top five in most major pitching statistics.

More than a decade later, Torre found himself in a similar situation when he took over the Dodgers. When Torre managed his first game as Dodgers skipper in 2008, Texas southpaw Clayton Kershaw had yet to make his Major League debut. Less than two months into the season though, he was called up and turned in fair season as the Dodgers took the NL West. Kershaw had a sophomore season reminiscent of Pettitte's '96, posting a 142 ERA+ over 171 innings as a 21 year old. He's not quite on that pace this year, but he remains one of the best young pitchers in the game and enters the night with a league leading 10.1 Ks per nine.

Tonight, the two Texas lefties will face off in the rubber game of this interleague series between these old rivals. Kershaw, now in his third season, would be fortunate to replicate the successes Pettitte has had over the course of his career, while Pettitte, enjoying an outstanding first three months to his sixteenth Big League season, looks to continue what has thus far been his finest year as a Yankee.

Game is at 8:00 EDT on ESPN. If we have to suffer through Joe Morgan all night, the least the Yankees could do is win the game as this series fades away.


I met an old mistake
Walking down the street today
I met an old mistake
Walking down the street today
I didn't want to be mean about it
But I didn't have one good word to say

West L.A. fadeaway
West L.A. fadeaway
Little red light on the highway
Big green light on the speedway, hey hey hey

[Song Notes: Chavez Ravine is more north L.A. than it is west L.A., but I'm going to use a little artistic license here. "West L.A. Fadeaway" comes from the Dead's 1987 album In the Dark, which was easily their most commercially successful release. The song references L.A.'s famous Chateau Marmont, site of John Belushi's fatal 1982 overdose. The Dead debuted the song in a live setting later that year, and many interpretations of Robert Hunter's lyrics assume that much of the song is about Belushi's death.]

-Lineups-

Probably not. You know where to go.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Game 74: Hollywood Nights

A.J. Burnett and Hiroki Kuroda square off on Derek Jeter's birthday. Burnett has been amazingly shittastic of late while Kuroda has given up just two runs in his last 19 innings (over three starts).

Kuroda is in his third season in the MLB at age 35 and so far it has been his best one yet. He's got an ERA of 3.06 backed up with an FIP and xFIP in the mid-3.00s. He's a fastball and slider guy with the former coming in in the low 90's and the latter in the mid-80's. His heater has a bit of sink on it too, as his ground ball rate is at a strong 50%.

Recent performances would indicate that this match up is leaning heavily towards the Dodgers, but perhaps a trip to California will do Burnett good.


He'd headed west 'cause he felt that a change would do him good,
See some old friends, good for the soul,
She had been born with a face that would let her get her way,
He saw that face and he lost all control,
He had lost all control.

And those Hollywood nights,
In those Hollywood hills,
It was looking so right,
It was giving him chills,
In those big city nights,
In those high rolling hills,
Above all the lights,
With a passion that kills.
[Song Notes: There was one summer during college when my buddies and I would ironically listen to this tune when we were partying and, well, that's probably as much detail as I should go into about that summer.]

-Lineups-

Maybe?

Game 73 Recap

[WE data via FanGraphs]

A few random thoughts:
  • The star of last night's game was the 55 mph breaking pitch that Vincente Padilla was throwing. He first broke it out on Curtis Granderson in the first inning and used it 9 or 10 more times, including back to back against Brett Gardner in the second and Robinson Cano in the sixth. I loved it. The announcers were talking about how dangerous of a pitch it was for him to throw but he used it relatively sparingly, threw it mostly for strikes and the Yankees never squared up on it.

  • Okay, if the star of the game has to be a person as opposed to a pitch, it was CC Sabathia. After giving up a manufactured run in the first, he shut the Dodgers down through the eighth innings and gave up just three hits and two walks from there on in while striking out eight. Those totals on the night were four, three and ten, respectively.

  • Padilla did something I'd never seen before in the third. With Granderson at the plate and Jeter on second, the ball just dropped out of his hand when he was on the rubber for a balk.

  • Speaking of dropping balls, Manny, playing his typically stellar left field dropped an easy fly ball off the bat of Robinson Cano in the 8th.

  • With the game tied in the fourth, Padilla hit Cano right on the hip with a fastball. When Vincente's spot come up in the 5th, Sabathia threw a first pitch heater at his knees which evidently hit him, but it wasn't too serious. Padilla stared out of the mound as he slowly made his way to first with CC gazing right back at him as if to say "Make like Johnny Walker and keep walking, motherfucker".

  • Mark Teixeira was due up in the top of the sixth and give the history between the two, it felt like there might be a plunkstravaganza about to go down, but Teix popped out to short. The next batter, however, was A-Rod and he ripped a no doubt shot to left field that put the Yankees ahead for good.

  • Mariano Rivera came out for the 9th inning and with the aid of some close called strikes on the lower lefthand side of the plate (from the batter's perspective) struck out the side. James Loney was the third K victim and he threw a hissy fit and was ejected from the game after it had already ended. Joe Torre and Don Mattingly started jawing at the ump from the dugout and it was a rather ugly ending to the game.

  • For them, anyway. Suckas!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Game 73: My Old School

As the Dodgers and Yankees saw their paths cross in both the 1955 and '56 World Series, there was a movement beginning to take shape beneath the surface which would ultimately change the face of Major League Baseball and foreshadowed what would become a major trend in American society in the second half of the twentieth century, the second time in less than a decade they were ahead of the societal curve.

Just as the Dodgers were the first team to break the race barrier in baseball, they and the Giants were the first franchises to put down roots significantly west of the Mississippi when they shipped out to California after the 1957 season (the A's had moved to Kansas City three seasons prior). As the years went by, more and more baseball teams would add African-American players to their rosters until the league was completely integrated. Similarly, more and more citizens would flee the urban metropolises of the East Coast, causing the population to disperse into suburbs both along the eastern seaboard and into the western expanses of the country.

Of course, today, California is the most populous state in the union and there are five baseball teams in it, in addition to five more clubs - the Rangers, Astros, Mariners, Diamondbacks and Rockies - spread out over the western portion of the nation.

Why did the Dodgers flee the city that was home to their team since 1884 on the heels of their first World Series victory over the Yankees? As we've seen with countless sports franchises (including the Yankees), while Ebbets Field was becoming outdated if not untenable in the 1950's, the ownership group, headed by Walter O'Malley, threatened relocation so as to exert leverage upon the city in the negotiations for a new stadium. The team played seven regular season games at Roosevelt Field in Jersey City in 1956, which management thought would get the attention of and possibly frighten policy makers in Brooklyn into caving to their stadium-related demands, but their posturing was largely ignored.

O'Malley already had a 1/4th ownership stake in the franchise that he acquired when he became the team's lawyer in 1944, but it wasn't until the beginning of the next decade that he took full control of the club. The Bronx-born Giants fan bought out the ownership shares of Branch Rickey and John L. Smith after Smith's death in 1950, and through a series of complicated and somewhat shady transactions, took a majority stake in the team.

While Rickey was the driving force behind bringing Jackie Robinson to Brooklyn (along with creating the farm system), the move to Los Angeles probably never would have happened with him at the helm. He was considered far more conservative than O'Malley and the two frequently butted heads in board of directors meetings, disagreeing on everything from the construction of Dodgertown (O'Malley thought it was ostentatious although he came to embrace and modernize it when he became full owner) to whether or not the team should accept money by taking on an official beer sponsor (Rickey was against it). It seemed unlikely that the two would agree on a move this major, but with Rickey out of the picture in 1956, word got out that Los Angeles was looking for a baseball team and O'Malley was quick to let them know that he might be interested in making that leap.

At the time, professional baseball was limited to the eastern half of the country and unquestionably centered in New York. From 1936 to 1956, the three New York teams combined for 26 World Series appearances, seven of those 21, as Matt has been meticulously detailing, featuring the Yankees and the Dodgers and a smaller portion (3/21) pitted the Yanks and the Giants against one another.

When the City of Angels offered O'Malley something that New York could not - the opportunity to buy land to build a park on and the ability to own the facility - it was only a matter of time before New York went from having three baseball teams to just one.

At the time, the Giants were playing in the badly outdated and structurally-suspect Polo Grounds and were in the market for a new stadium as well. Knowing that he needed another team to make the jump to California with him, O'Malley convinced the owner of the Giants, Horace Stoneham, to relocate to San Francisco. In just one year, National League baseball had evaporated from New York City and the MLB had been stretched from sea to shining sea.

=====

Like O'Malley, Joe Torre grew up a New York Baseball Giants fan. He was raised in Brooklyn and according to legend, was in the stands when Don Larsen threw his perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Like O'Malley, baseball also caused him to leave New York for Los Angeles, albeit under very different circumstances.

By all accounts, Torre didn't want to leave the Yankees and has said as recently as yesterday that the performance-based incentives were what most made him turn down the offer from the Yankees that day in Tampa, get back on the private plane he flew in on, and leave his twelve year career with the team behind him.

Perhaps it was best for both parties. The Yankees now have a top-notch skipper in Joe Girardi who has already led them to another World Series title and Torre, with his wheatgrass and his longboard, seems to be getting along just fine out in Hollywood. Managerial tenures aren't meant to last forever and even though Joe said he would have preferred to stay, he acknowledged yesterday that his time in the Bronx seemed to have run its course:
I stayed there a long time. Maybe too long. But you don't know that until you stay there too long.
With exceptions of Alex Rodriguez and to a lesser extent, Brian Cashman (relationships which were strained mostly because of what was written in The Yankee Years), the Joe Torre Era - and by extension, Torre - still inspires fond memories for supporters of the Yankees. There is a much deeper bond with many of the players who were a part of those twelve seasons, particularly Jeter, Pettitte, Rivera, Posada and Joe Girardi, who all spoke glowingly of their old skipper when they met with the media Wednesday.

Tonight is going to be a little odd for everyone involved. There will surely be plenty of talk on the broadcast about Torre and Don Mattingly and "how strange it is to see them in another uniform", but at this point it would be significantly more odd to see them back in their old Yankee duds.

It will of course be bittersweet to see two significant parts of the franchise - guys that we felt connections to that transcended baseball - in the opposing dugout. There are Yankee fans of a wide swath of ages who grew up idolizing Donny Baseball and for whom Joe Torre almost seems like a distant relative.

It's probably best to look at those two like we would some childhood friends or old roommates from college. The bond is there, without question, but with the feelings of nostalgia comes a realization that the era during which you were extremely close is now gone. The circumstances that brought you together were extraordinary while they existed and should be reflected upon fondly even if they are never going to come back.

Well I did not think the girl, could be so cruel.
And I'm never going back, to my old school.

California tumbles into the sea,
That'll be the day I go back to Annandale,
Tried to warn you, about Chino and Daddy G,
But I can't seem to get to you through the U.S. Mail,
Well, I hear the whistle but I can't go,
I'm gonna take her down to Mexico,
She said "Oh no, Guadalajara won't do".
[Song Notes: Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (the two members of Steely Dan) first met when they, along with Chevy Chase, were both students at Bard College, located in Annandale-on-Hudson, just north of Kingston, NY. The full story behind this song can be found in this article in Entertainment Weekly from 2006, but here's a partial explanation of why they were "never going back" to Bard, starting with a quote from Fagen:
Bard hired a lawyer and bailed out the 50 or so students who'd been hauled in during the raid. Problem was, Becker and White weren't technically students at the time. ''I asked them to bail my girlfriend out,'' says Fagen. ''She had nothing to do with this and was just visiting me. And they refused to do it. So when graduation time came I protested by not going. My case had already been dismissed—they had withdrawn the charges, actually. So I was sitting on a bench in front of Stone Row with my father and lawyer, just watching the graduation. A lot of the students were also angry because apparently the school had let an undercover policeman be planted in the building and grounds department. Their cooperation with the investigation was despicable.
After the incident, Becker and Fagen moved to Brooklyn and divided much of the rest of their careers between New York City and Los Angeles.]

-Lineups-

Yankees:
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada C
Nick Swisher RF
Brett Gardner LF
CC Sabathia LHP
Dodgers:
Rafael Furcal SS
Russell Martin C
Andre Ethier RF
Manny Ramirez LF
Matt Kemp CF
James Loney 1B
Casey Blake 3B
Jamey Carroll 2B
Vicente Padilla RHP

1956 World Series

After finally dropping a Fall Classic to Brooklyn, the Yankees didn't have to wait long to get a shot at revenge. The Yankees took the AL by nine games in 1956, their most comfortable margin of victory since 1947. The Dodgers meanwhile, entered the season's final weekend hosting lowly Pittsburgh and trailing Milwaukee by a half game. Brooklyn swept a Saturday doubleheader while the Braves lost, putting the Dodgers up a game. Brooklyn completed the sweep on Sunday, clinching their fourth pennant in five years and setting up another World Series rematch with the Yankees.

-1956-

A year removed from their last meeting, both teams carried essentially the same rosters as the previous fall. Phil Rizzuto was unceremoniously released late in the season, but overall the position players for both teams were virtually the same as the year before, with the occasional variation depending upon how platoon masters Casey Stengel and Walter Alston tweaked the line up. The biggest change came on the pitching front. The respective staffs were still fronted by Whitey Ford and Don Newcombe, but Johnny Kucks had supplanted Tommy Byrne as the Yankees' number two man, while longtime Giant Sal "The Barber" Maglie joined Brooklyn early in the season and became their number two starter.

The Yankees featured their typical balanced attack, ranking at or near the top of the AL in most major batting and pitching categories. The Dodgers meanwhile, had changed the nature of their team. Long an offensive juggernaut with average pitching, the '56 club had an offense just slightly better than the NL average. Their pitching staff though, led by Newcombe, Maglie, and sophomore Roger Craig, and featuring two seldom used youngsters named Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, was the class of the NL.

The Series opened at Ebbets Field on Wednesday October 3rd. It was five years to the day since the Giants won a three game playoff against the Dodgers, courtesy of Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World". Maglie started for the Giants that day, and on the five year anniversary it was him, not his 1951 opponent Don Newcombe, who took the ball for Brooklyn. For the Yankees, Ford predictably got the Game One nod.

The Yankees defeated Maglie in Game Four of the '51 Series, and Game One started out looking like much the same. They took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on the strength of a two run homer from Mickey Mantle, who had destroyed AL pitching that summer, posting a career best OPS+ of 210, winning the Triple Crown, and leading the league in runs, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases as well. He finished second in OBP and walks, fourth in hits, and seventh in stolen bases. He would later call it his Favorite Summer, and his 12.9 WAR remains baseball's fourth best total since the Dead Ball Era.

Maglie settled in during the second inning though, retiring the side in order to make it five straight outs for him. His offense evened the score in the bottom half. Jackie Robinson led off with a home run; Gil Hodges then singled and was doubled home by Carl Furillo. Maglie worked around two singles in the third, then the Dodgers plated three more on a Hodges homer in the bottom half. Billy Martin started the top of the fourth with a solo shot to cut it to 5-4, but with Ford chased from the game in bottom of the inning, the Dodgers added a run off reliever Johnny Kucks. The teams stayed scoreless for the remainder of the day, and Maglie's complete game gave the Dodgers a 6-4 victory and one game lead in the Series.

After a rainout on Thursday, Game Two matched Don Newcombe against Don Larsen. Both turned in poor performances in their only starts in the '55 Series, and things didn't get any better for them in Game Two. Joe Collins singled Enos Slaughter home in the first to give the Yankees an early lead for the second straight day. The Yankees broke out the heavy lumber in the second. Martin led off with a single and was bunted second. Larsen, a fairly good hitting pitcher, singled him home and turned the lineup over. Gil McDougald reached on an infield single, and after Slaughter made the second out, Mantle drew a walk to load the bases. Yogi Berra then unloaded them, blasting a grand slam to right and ending Newcombe's day.

Larsen took the hill in the bottom of the second with a 6-0 lead, but he, his defense, and his relief promptly gave it all back. Hodges led off with a single and an error by Moose Skowron allowed Sandy Amoros to reach. Furillo walked to load the bases. Roy Campanella hit a sacrifice fly to put Brooklyn on the board, and then pinch hitter Dale Mitchell popped up for the second out. Larsen couldn't close the door though, walking Junior Gilliam to reload the bases and end his afternoon. Kucks replaced him and immediately surrendered a two run single to Pee Wee Reese. Stengel then lifted Kucks for Tommy Byrne, who served up a three run bomb to Duke Snider, knotting the score at six. All six Brooklyn runs were unearned, but it didn't change the fact that the Yankees had just squandered a six run lead.

The Dodgers took a one run lead in the third, with pitcher Don Bessent driving in Hodges. The Yankees answered in the top of the fourth as a sac fly from Slaughter scored Yankee pitcher Tom Morgan. In the fifth, Hodges' two run double gave the Dodgers the lead for good, as Brooklyn went on to take a 13-8 final. Both Newcombe and Larsen pitched poorly. Both would have an opportunity to redeem himself before the Series ended; only one did.

The Yankees retreated to the Bronx in an 0-2 hole, having lost three in a row and six of seven to the team they had previously dominated. In desperate need of a win, the Thursday rainout allowed Stengel to bring back Ford on two days rest for Game Three. Brooklyn countered with Roger Craig. The clubs traded runs in the second, a sacrifice fly from Campanella scoring Robinson with the game's first run, and a solo homer from Billy Martin evening things up. It remained that way into the sixth, when a sac fly from Snider scored Pee Wee Reese. Once again the Yankees responded in the bottom half, as a three run home from Enos Slaughter gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead. Both teams scored an unearned over the final innings before Ford closed it out to bring the Yankees within a game.

Game Four was a match up of serviceable back of the rotation options. Carl Erskine had been one of the better pitchers for Brooklyn earlier in the decade, but now nearly thirty, he had slipped down the Dodger pecking order. For the Yankees, sophomore Tom Sturdivant was a valuable swingman on the club, logging the fourth most innings on the team while splitting his appearances between starts and the bullpen. Yogi Berra singled Joe Collins home in the first to spot the Yankees a lead. Hodges drove home Snider in the fourth to tie the score, but in the bottom half Martin singled Mantle in, then McDougald plated Slaughter with a sac fly to give the Yanks a 3-1 lead. Home runs from Mantle in the sixth and Hank Bauer in the eighth made it 6-1. The Dodgers loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but Stengel stuck with Sturdivant. He surrendered and RBI single to Campanella, then retired the next two men to earn a complete game victory and pull the Series even at two apiece.

When Don Larsen entered the Yankee clubhouse on the morning of Monday October 8th, he found a baseball tucked in his spikes, Stengel's way of informing he was starting that afternoon. Six feet four inches tall, Larsen was nicknamed the Gooney Bird, not only for his height, but also for his sometimes aloof demeanor. He was known to have a drink from time to time, like many of his teammates. The Yankees had acquired Larsen following the '54 season, as part of a massive 17 player trade. He pitched rather well for the club over the two intervening seasons, but his two World Series starts had been disastrous to the tune of nine runs (five of them earned) over five and two thirds innings. As we've seen over recent years, small doses of post-season performance aren't always indicative of true talent level. Larsen wasn't nearly as bad as those two starts suggested. He was an above average pitcher at that point in his career, and while no one would ever confuse him with the best pitcher in the game, for one afternoon he managed to turn in a reasonable impersonation.

Nine years and five days earlier, Yankee starter Bill Bevens came within one out of no-hitting the Dodgers for the first World Series no-no in history. Larsen finished what Bevens couldn't, doing him one better by not issuing a single walk, nor hitting a batter, nor having his defense make an error behind him. Mickey Mantle staked the Yankees to a one run lead with a solo homer in the fourth, then made a running, lunging catch to track down a Gil Hodges liner in the left field gap during the fifth. Bauer added an RBI single in the sixth, but it was more offense than Larsen needed. Home plate umpire Babe Pinelli rang up pinch hitter Dale Mitchell on a called third strike to end the ninth. It was a borderline call at best, but nonetheless, marked Larsen's seventh K on the day and the twenty seventh consecutive batter he retired. Berra leapt into his arms along the first base line, the two having just completed just the fourth perfect game in the modern era, and what remains the only no-hitter in post-season history.


Not only had they just made history, but the Yankees took their third game in a row to push he Dodgers to the brink of elimination. The Series shifted back to Ebbets Field the next day, and while Game Six didn't quite match the drama of Game Five, it came awfully close. Clem Labine, usually the Dodgers relief ace, got the start. For the Yankees, Bob Turley, who had been knocked around in a Game Three start the previous year, took the ball. Since that start, Turley had made four World Series relief appearances, covering five and a third innings, ten strikeouts, and just a single run. He would pitch even better than that in Game Six, but the end result didn't improve at all.

Turley and Labine matched zeros through nine innings. Only five men made it as far as second base, three for the Yankees and two for the Dodgers, and no one advanced as far as third. In the tenth, Labine retired the Yankees in order for the fourth time on the day. In the bottom half, Turley got Labine to pop up for the first out, then issued a walk to Junior Gilliam. Pee Wee Reese bunted Gilliam to second, and with two outs, the Yankees elected to walk Duke Snider and go after Jackie Robinson. The veteran was now 37 years old and in his tenth season. He wasn't the same player he had been in his prime, but had rebounded from a subpar 1955 to have a good '56. Facing the Yankees in the Fall Classic for the sixth time, he stepped in the box for his 156th World Series plate appearance, all of them against the Yankees. He singled Gilliam in to give the Dodgers the win and force a Game Seven. It would be the last of hit of Robinson's career.

For the second straight year, the third time in their last four meetings, and the fifth time overall, the Yankees and Dodgers faced a Game Seven. Stengel surprisingly chose Johnny Kucks over Whitey Ford. Alston, to the surprise of no one, went with Don Newcombe. It was the fifth start of Newk's World Series career. After taking a tough luck loss in Game One of the '49 Series, Newcombe got bounced early in Game Four. He missed the '52 and '53 Series while serving in the military, and was then torched in Game One in '55 and in Game Two in '56. Given a shot at redemption, Newcombe couldn't break the trend of poor peformances against the Yankees.

Yogi Berra hit a two run homer in the first to put the Yankees on the board, and he added a second two run shot in the third to double the lead. Elston Howard led off the fourth with a solo shot, making it 5-0 and chasing Newcombe from the mound. Moose Skowron added a grand slam in the seventh, but Berra's first inning blast was all the offense Kucks needed. The 23 year old Hoboken native was in his second Major League season, just four years removed from signing with the Yankees. The tall, lanky right hander absolutely baffled the Dodger batters, scattering three singles and three walks on the afternoon. He retired the side in order four different times, allowed multiple baserunners in just one inning, and just one runner made it as far as second base. Despite recording just one strikeout, Kucks tossed a brilliant complete game shutout, returning the Yankees to the top of the baseball world. It was their sixth championship in eight years under Stengel, their seventh over the last ten seasons, and their seventeenth overall.

No one knew it at the time, but the end of the 1956 World Series also marked the conclusion of the Golden Age of New York baseball.

1955 World Series

Without a vested rooting interest, there's a natural tendency to want to see the underdog win, or at the very least, to want to see the perpetually downtrodden catch a break. It's why we want to see Charlie Brown finally boot one through the uprights, and why we want Wile E Coyote to finally acquire a properly functioning contraption from ACME Inc.

So aside from non-Yankee fans wanting to see the Yankees lose just by virtue of their being the Yankees, the Dodgers likely had a groundswell of support when they faced the Yankees in the World Series for the sixth time in fifteen years. Not just because they were oh for the first five, but there was a certain endearing character to those Dodgers teams.

While the Yankees and Giants were the "New York" teams, both originally based in Manhattan and both having benefited from early successes, Brooklyn was a more provincial club, named after their borough rather than their whole city. They played in intimate little Ebbets Field rather than the vast Polo Ground or expansive Yankee Stadium. Until the 1940s, their history was marked mainly with poor play and colorful managers like "Uncle Robbie" Wilbert Robinson (who managed the franchise that would become the Yankees during their final season in Baltimore) and a pre-genius Casey Stengel. They were "Dem Bums" or "The Boys of Summer", while rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for U.S. Steel. And despite Brooklyn's run of excellence since the early forties, and the future Hall of Famers populating their roster, the perception still existed that no matter how well they did they would never be in the Yankees class. It was always "wait 'til next year".

Either that or I've listened to Doris Kearns Goodwin wax poetic in Ken Burns' Baseball far too many times. Either way, even though it never pleases me to see the Yankees come out on the short end of things, there is a certain part of me that's happy to know that Brooklyn eventually got theirs - especially with the crimes that were about to be committed against their fanbase.

-1955-

In 1954, the Yankees went 103-51, their best record yet under Casey Stengel. They finished eight games out of first, as Cleveland won a then record 111 games. The Yankees would not get a shot at a sixth consecutive championship. Over in the senior circuit, the Dodgers posted their fourth consecutive season of at least 92 wins, but finished five games back of the Giants. With the Yankees and Dodgers out of it, the Giants ensured NYC was represented in the World Series for the sixth straight year, and their surprising sweep of the Indians gave the city its sixth consecutive champion.

Normalcy was restored in 1955, as both the Yankees and Dodgers ascended to the top of their leagues for third time in four seasons. Brooklyn outpaced Milwaukee by 13.5 games while the Yankees held off Cleveland by three games.

Just two years removed from their last meeting, the Dodgers had essentially the same club as in '52 and '53, with Don Newcombe finally back in a Brooklyn uniform rather than an Army uniform. The biggest change was in the dugout, where Walter Alston replaced Chuck Dressen after the '53 Series. For the Yankees, the core of Mantle, Berra, and Ford remained, as did many of the complimentary parts, but things were changing.

Phil Rizzuto, the last link to the first Yankee-Dodger Series in '41, had lost his grip on the starting shortstop job. Gone were rotation stalwarts Allie Reynolds and Vic Raschi, and their partner in crime Ed Lopat had been reduced to just 12 starts in his age 37 season. Veteran Tommy Byrne and youngsters Bob Turley and Don Larsen rounded out the Yankee rotation behind Ford and the bullpen was essentially entirely overhauled. With Billy Martin serving in the Army until September, Gil McDougald had shifted from third to second, with Andy Carey taking over the hot corner. Reliable left fielder Gene Woodling had been traded away, replaced primarily by Irv Noren. Joe Collins was still on the roster, but Johnny Mize had retired and Moose Skowron had inherited the majority of the time that the tandem used to have at first base. Perhaps most noticeably, after years of facing the Dodgers with Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Newcombe, and Junior Gilliam, the Yankees finally had their first African-American player in Elston Howard.

As it had been in all but one of their previous meetings, Game One was at Yankee Stadium. Predictably, it was Ford against Newcombe. Perhaps less predictably, the game didn't prove to be the pitchers' duel one would expect with that match up. The Dodgers plated two in the second, on a Carl Furillo home run and a Don Zimmer RBI single. The Yankees responded in the bottom half. Elston Howard, playing in place of the injured Mantle, hit a two run homer in his first World Series at bat. The clubs traded single runs in the third to leave the game tied at three. Joe Collins led off the fourth with a homer to put the Yankees up a run, then added a two run shot two innings later to make it 6-3.

The Dodgers mounted a rally in the eighth. Furillo led off with a single. With one out, Robinson grounded to third, but an error by McDougald left runners on second and third. A sac fly from Zimmer scored Furillo and moved Robinson to third. With Frank Kellert at the plate, Robinson broke for home. In an extremely close play, home plate umpire Bill Summers ruled Robinson safe. Yogi Berra thought otherwise, and the perpetually affable backstop lost his head for one of the few times in his career. Fifty five years later Yogi still swears Robinson was out. It would be the final Brooklyn run on the afternoon. Bob Grim closed the Dodgers out in the ninth, giving the Yankees a 6-5 win and a one game lead.

Game Two pitted Tommy Byrne against Billy Loes. Byrne debuted with the Yankees in 1943, and after serving in the military, made four game cameos in both '46 and '47. He stuck for good the next year, spent the next three years as the Yankees' fourth starter, and started Game Three against Brooklyn in the '49 Series. Finally exasperated with his lack of control - back-to-back seasons of leading the League in walks and three straight in hit batsmen - the Yankees shipped Byrne to the Browns early in the '51 season. After stops with the White Sox, Senators, and in the Pacific Coast League, the Yankees reacquired Byrne as they chased Cleveland down the stretch in '54. Older and wiser, Byrne's second go-round in the Bronx was much smoother. He cut down on his walks and hit batsmen, and led the AL in winning percentage in '55. It was the best season of his career.

The Dodgers took a 1-0 lead against Byrne in the fourth, as Pee Wee Reese doubled and Duke Snider singled to start the inning. In the Yankee half, they would get the run back and then some. With two outs the bases empty, Berra singled and Collins walked. Howard and Billy Martin followed with consecutive singles, both of which scored a run. Pinch hitter Eddie Robinson got plunked, then Byrne ripped a single of his own, scoring two more. The Dodgers got one back in the fifth, but that was all the scoring for the day. The Yanks won 4-2, taking a two games to none lead. Byrne was characteristically wild, walking five and plunking another, but he gave up just five hits in going the distance.

With the Series shifting to Ebbets Field, Bob Turley got the start for the Yankees. Acquired from Baltimore in a seventeen player trade the previous off-season, Bullet Bob had just turned 25 and was the best non-Whitey Ford pitcher on the '55 Yankees. He didn't have it Game Three though, as the Dodgers got him for two in the first and two more before he could record the second out of the second inning. The Yankees responded with a pair of their own in the second. Mickey Mantle, making his first start of the Series, homered and Phil Rizzuto had an RBI single. But the Dodgers put up pairs of runs again in the fourth and seventh. Roy Campanella had a big day with a single, double, homer, and three RBI, and Johnny Podres tossed a complete game as the Dodgers took an 8-3 win to capture their first game of the Series.

Don Larsen and Carl Erskine faced off in Game Four. Erskine had been the Dodgers de facto ace while Newcombe was in the service; Larsen came to the Yankees in the same mega trade that brought Turley. Neither Game Four starter would fare much better than Turley had in Game Three. Erskine gave up three runs in as many innings, Larsen five in four plus. Reduced to a battle of the bullpens, Brooklyn was able to hold it together better than the Yanks, taking an 8-5 win an evening the Series at two games apiece.

It had been four full days since Game One, but neither Newcombe nor Ford took the ball in Game Five. Walter Alston tabbed rookie Roger Craig to start, while Stengel gave the ball to sophomore Bob Grim, who had spent most of the season pitching in relief and had closed out Game One behind Ford. The Dodgers jumped up 3-0 on home runs by Sandy Amoros and Snider. The Yankees scratched a run in the fourth on an RBI single from Billy Martin, but Snider took it back in the fifth with his second homer of the game. Bob Cerv and Berra hit leadoff homers in the seventh and eighth to cut it to 4-3, but Robinson singled in an insurance run in the eighth, and the Yankees went in order against Clem Labine in the ninth. The Dodgers took all three games in their home park to push the Yankees to the brink.

Back at Yankee Stadium for Game Six, the home team was in an unfamiliar position, but not an unprecedented one. Three years earlier, the Yankees entered Game Six down 3-2, before winning the last two on the road to take the Series. They had to do it again, and this time they'd get to attempt it at home.

Ford returned to the bump for Game Six, but Alston went with fireballing lefty Karl Spooner rather than Newcombe. The Yankees got to him immediately. He walked leadoff batter Phil Rizzuto and number three hitter Gil McDougald. Berra and Bauer followed with singles to make it 2-0, then Moose Skowron homered to right to make it 5-0 and chase Spooner, who would never again appear in the Majors. It was all the offense the Yankees would have on the day, but it was more than enough for Ford. He tossed a complete game, scattering four hits and four walks while striking out seven and allowing just one run.

And so, just as they had in 1947 and 1952, the Yankees and Dodgers would play one last game for all the marbles. Stengel chose Tommy Byrne; Alston went with Johnny Podres. The game was scoreless through the first three stanzas. Roy Campanella hit a one out double in the fourth, moved to third on a groundout from Carl Furillo, and scored the game's first run when Gil Hodges singled him home. The Dodgers doubled their lead in the sixth. Reese led off with a single, and the Dodgers attempted a bunt with number three hitter Duke Snider. Yankee first baseman Moose Skowron botched the catch, and both runners were safe. Clean up hitter Campanella bunted both runners over, then Byrne intentionally walked Furillo to load the bases. Stengel summoned Grim, who yielded a sacrifice fly to Gil Hodges, plating an unearned run.

Meanwhile the Yankee bats had no answers for Podres. He had shut them down in Game Three and was shutting them out in Game Seven. The Yankees had the makings of a rally in the bottom of the sixth. Martin led off with a single, and McDougald followed with a bunt base hit to put the tying runs on base for Yogi Berra. Berra, a dead pull hitter, sliced one into the left field corner. Left fielder Sandy Amoros raced to the ball, improbably hauled it in on the fly, and fired back to Reese, who threw to Hodges to double up McDougald. The rally was snuffed out and the Dodgers maintained their two run lead.

In the seventh, Elston Howard struck a two out single. With the pitcher's spot due, Stengel pulled an ace from up his sleeve, tabbing Mickey Mantle to pinch hit. Hobbled by a torn leg muscle, Mantle missed Games One, Two, Five, and Six in their entirety. Yet he managed a home run in his Game Three start, and another one here would tie the game. Instead, he popped to short to end the inning.

The Yankees threatened again the eighth. Singles from Rizzuto and McDougald put the tying runs on base with one out for Yogi Berra and Hank Bauer. Berra flew out to right, too shallow for Rizzuto to tag, and Bauer struck out to end the threat. Once again, Podres wriggled out of a jam.

In the ninth, Skowron tapped back to Podres; Cerv flew to left, and Howard bounced out to Reese. Finally, in their eighth World Series, in their sixth against the Yankees, the Brooklyn Dodgers had captured a championship. At long last, next year had come.