Friday, June 25, 2010

1953 World Series

Good morning Fackers. We continue our look at the Yankee-Dodger World Series today. Originally I had planned to cover all eleven in three or four shots, hence the introduction, 1941, and 1947 all being crammed into one post yesterday morning. But the more I got into this, the more I felt that each Series was worthy of its own post. So without further ado:


After squandering a three games to two lead in 1952, the Dodgers got a shot at revenge the very next year. The return match up between the two teams was the first World Series rematch since the Yanks and Cardinals met in 1942-'43, and the first non-wartime rematch since the Yanks and Giants met in '36 and '37. With the Yanks having played the Giants in the 1951 Fall Classic, the '53 Series was the third consecutive all-New York World Series, the first time that occurred since the Yankees and Giants faced off from 1921 through 1923.

Tying a mark set by the '36 through '39 Yankees, the Yankees entered the series as the four time defending champions. Two of those four victories had come at the expense of the Dodgers, as had three of their last five championships and four of their last seven. Overall, it was the fifth time in the last thirteen years the two clubs had met in baseball's showcase event.

The Dodgers ran away with the NL flag in '53, bettering Milwaukee by 13 games, and posting a 105-49 record that still stands as the best in franchise history. The Yankees meanwhile went 99-52, good for a comfortable 8.5 game cushion over Cleveland and the team's best record yet in their five years under Casey Stengel. The Yankees boasted the AL's best offense (first in runs, AVG, OBP, SLG) as well as a league leading 3.20 ERA. Per usual, the Dodgers were the leading sluggers in the NL, with their pitching ranking third in the league.

Seeing as the clubs had met just the year before, there wasn't much that had changed. The principal players were all the same for both clubs. For the Dodgers, the emergence of Rookie of the Year Jim Gilliam pushed Jackie Robinson off second base and into a super utility role, where he played virtually everyday, often in left field, sometimes at third, and occasionally at his former stomping grounds on the right side of the infield.

The Yankee regulars were identical to the year before. The biggest change for the Yankees was the return of Whitey Ford from two years of military service. As a rookie in 1950, Ford had gone 9-1 and tossed eight and two thirds shutout innings in the clinching game of the World Series. When Ford got into a jam in the ninth inning of that game, Stengel turned to ace Allie Reynolds to close it out. It was a technique the Yankee skipper utilized with increasing frequency through his tenure in the Bronx, and with the return of Ford to front the rotation with holdovers Vic Raschi and Ed Lopat, Stengel was free to push the aging Reynolds into a more permanent fireman role, as the Super Chief made more relief appearances than starts for the first time in his career and finished 23 games over the course of the season.

Yet when the Series began at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday September 30th, it was Reynolds, not Ford, who was on the mound. While Stengel had the benefit of choosing between his veteran ace or his returning military man, Dodgers manager Chuck Dressen had no such luxury. Don Newcombe, who had started against Reynolds in Game One of the '49 Series and fronted the Brooklyn staff for three seasons, was in his second and final year of military service. Instead Brooklyn turned to Carl Erskine, who fronted the Brooklyn staff for the second straight year, and in 1953 at least, was really their only above average starter.

The Yankees wasted no time in jumping on Erskine. Joe Collins worked a one out walk in the first, then came around to score on a Hank Bauer triple. After Yogi Berra struck out for out number two, Erskine issued walks to Mickey Mantle and Gene Woodling to load the bases. Billy Martin promptly unloaded them with a triple of his own, giving the Yankees an early 4-0 lead and sending Erskine to an early shower.

A solo shot from Junior Gilliam in the fifth made it 4-1, but the Yankees got the run back in the bottom half on a solo homer from Berra. Two more balls left the yard in the sixth, and this time both were off the bats of Dodgers. Gil Hodges led off with a shot to left, and three batters later George Shuba hit a two run blast to make it 5-4. That ended Reynolds' afternoon, as he gave way to the other top arm in the bullpen, Johnny Sain. Sain got out of the sixth, but allowed Brooklyn to tie it in the seventh on consecutive singles to Roy Campanella, Hodges, and Carl Furillo.

The Yankees answered in their half, with a solo home run from Joe Collins putting them back on top. They tacked on three more in the eighth, courtesy of a two run double from Sain and an RBI single from Collins. The game ended as a 9-5 Yankee victory, with Sain working three and two thirds of one run relief to earn the win.

Game Two was a match up of two aging left handers, as 35 year old Eddie Lopat took the mound for the Yankees to face 37 year old Preacher Roe. It was a rematch of their Game Three showdown the previous fall, one in which Lopat came out on the short end. Their fortunes would reverse this time. Gene Woodling led off the Yankee first with a walk, and came around on a sacrifice fly from Berra. Both teams went scoreless through the second and third, then the Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the fourth when Billy Cox pulled a double down the left field line.

From there the pitchers matched zeros until the bottom of the seventh, when Billy Martin tied the game with a leadoff homer to left. The following inning, with Hank Bauer on first and two outs, Mickey Mantle deposited one into the left field seats, giving the Yankees a 4-2 lead. Lopat put the tying runs on base in the ninth, and with two outs the dangerous Duke Snider came to the plate. The Duke of Flatbush had led the NL in runs, total bases, slugging, OPS, and OPS+, and had torched the Yankees for four homers the previous fall. But Lopat got him to roll over one, grounding weakly to Martin to end the game and give the Yankees a two games to none lead.

The series shifted to Ebbets Field for Game Three. The lack of travel didn't necessitate an off day, and not wanting to go down 0-3, the Dodgers went back to Erskine on just a day's rest. Of course, he had thrown just one inning in Game One, so he was well rested in opposing Vic Raschi. The two matched zeros through four. In the Yankee fifth, Billy Martin and Phil Rizzuto led off with infield singles, and were then sacrificed up by Raschi. A third infield single by Gil McDougald plated Martin with the game's first run. The Dodgers answered in the bottom half, as Cox bunted Jackie Robinson in from third to tie the score.

The Dodgers took the lead the following inning, as a two out single from Robinson pushed Snider across. The Yankees answered in the eighth, as a two out single from Woodling scored Bauer to knot the score. The tie was short lived however, as Roy Campanella hit a one out homer to left in the bottom of the eighth to give Brooklyn a 3-2 lead. The Yankees went quietly in the ninth, sending Raschi home a hard luck loser, despite going the distance. It would prove to be Raschi's final appearance as a Yankee, as the longtime member of the Yankees Big Three and the starter of eight World Series games over the past five seasons was sold to the Cardinals the next spring.

Whitey Ford had led the team in both starts and innings pitched over the course of the season, but it wasn't until Game Four that he took the mound. He could not recapture the magic of his Game Four start in the 1950 Series, as the Dodgers touched him up for three first inning runs, ending his day. It didn't get any better for the Yanks from there. The Dodgers added another run off Tom Gorman in the fourth. A two run homer from McDougald in the fifth cut the lead in half, but the Dodgers came back with two of their own in the sixth and one more in the seventh. Down 7-2, the Yankees had a mini-rally going in the ninth, when Mantle stepped to the plate against Clem Labine with the bases loaded, two outs, and potential tying run Joe Collins in the on deck circle. The Mick laced a single to left to score Woodling, but Martin was thrown out at the plate - an ugly end to an ugly game that saw all four Yankee pitchers surrender at least one run.

With the Series knotted at two games each, the Dodgers gave the ball to 20 year old rookie Johnny Podres. The unproven lefty had a good year in limited duty, having the second best ERA amongst Dodgers starters while serving as a fifth starter and swingman. The Yankees countered with an equally improbable starter. Despite Allie Reynolds being available and well rested, Stengel turned to 26 year old Jim McDonald, who served the Yankees in a swingman role similar to the one Podres filled for Brooklyn. The unconvential match up was a recipe for runs, and that's exactly what they cooked up.

The Yankees opened the scoring in the top of the first, as Gene Woodling hit a leadoff homer to left. The Dodgers countered in the second, as two singles and a Rizzuto error tied it at one. The floodgates opened in the top of the third, but it can't all be blamed on Podres. Rizzuto opened the frame with a walk, was sacrificed to second by McDonald, and moved to third on a groundout by Woodling. Joe Collins followed with a would-be inning-ending ground ball that Gil Hodges booted. Rizzuto scored the go-ahead run and the rally was on from there. Podres plunked Bauer, then walked Berra, and was then lifted in favor of Russ Meyer. Mickey Mantle welcomed him to the game by launching a grand slam to left, the only one of Mantle's 18 World Series homers to come with the bases juiced.

Armed with a six run lead, McDonald settled in. He worked scoreless innings in the third, fourth, sixth, and seventh, with a Duke Snider RBI single sandwiched in the fifth. His offense gave him three more runs in the seventh, courtesy of a two run homer from Martin and an RBI double off McDonald's own bat, and one more in the eighth on a sac fly from Berra.

Snider tapped back to McDonald to open the eighth, but from there the Yankee pitcher got into trouble. Robinson and Campanella followed with singles, and after Hodges fanned for the second out, Furillo singled Robinson home and Cox followed with a three run homer to cut it to 10-6. Last fall's hero Bob Kuzava closed out the frame. Gil McDougald's solo shot in the ninth made it 11-6, but Junior Gilliam led off the bottom of the ninth with a homer of his own. After Kuzava allowed a one out single to Snider, Stengel called on Reynolds, and the Super Chief induced a double play grounder from Robinson to end the game and push the Series to 3-2 Yanks.

Back in the Bronx the next day, Stengel put Ford, just two days removed from a one inning start, on the mound. The same strategy had worked for Brooklyn with Carl Erskine three days earlier, and history was about to repeat itself. Erskine got the Game Six start for Brooklyn, and the Yankees got to him early once again. With Bauer and Woodling on first and second, Yogi Berra's ground rule double made it 1-0. After Mantle was intentionally walked to load the bases, Martin bounced a would-be inning-ending double play ball to Gilliam, but he booted it, scoring Bauer and making it 2-0. The next inning, Rizzuto led off with a base hit, moved to third on a single from Ford, and scored on a sacrifice fly from Woodling.

Armed with a 3-0 lead, Ford pitched excellently. He shut the Dodgers out through five, before Robinson finally scored on a Campanella groundout in the sixth. Ford rebounded with a scoreless seventh to end his afternoon. He left having allowed just seven men to reach base in as many innings of work, while striking out seven. Just as he had in the final game of the 1950 Series, Reynolds came on to close out Ford's start, except this time it wouldn't go exactly as planned.

Reynolds worked around a single in the eighth, and took the mound in the ninth up two runs and three outs away from a fifth consecutive championship. Hodges led off with a flyout to Mantle, then Reynolds walked Snider. Carl Furillo followed, and he tied the game with a homer to right. Reynolds backed it up with consecutive strikeouts to end the inning, but the damage was done.

Hank Bauer led off the Yankee ninth, and he coaxed a base on balls from Clem Lebine. After Berra lined out to right, the young and not yet injury ravaged Mantle legged out an infield single. Billy Martin stepped to the plate. The brash second baseman had posted a four RBI game in the previous year's World Series, but his biggest contribution came on his game saving shoe string grab in Game Six. This time around, he did his damage at the dish, entering the at bat at 11 for 23 with a walk, two homers and eight RBI. Casey's Boy had one more hit in him still, singling to raise his Series average to an even .500, but more importantly scoring Bauer with the Series winning run. The Yankees vanquished the Dodgers yet again, and in doing so became the only team in Major League history to win five straight World Series.


  1. First of all, thanks for posting these WS retrospectives. They are very interesting, and you have done a great job.

    I love the way managers from that era didn't feel constrained to do everything by the book (if there even was a book back then). The choice of a starting pitcher appears to be almost random - the ace isn't always chosen even if he's ready to go - and if the starter got knocked around in one game, let's bring him back on one day's rest to have another go at it. I love it!

    Contrast today's managers who seem scared to death to shake things up. How long do you think Mark Texeira would have held down the #3 spot under Casey Stengel, if he was hitting .220? Three months? Not a chance. Three weeks? Maybe. Three games? You're getting closer. Would AJ start Game 2 if the WS started tomorrow? Under Girardi, probably. Under Stengel, it seems unlikely. Or not. I suppose anything could happen. But that's my point. It seems like it was an era when anything really could happen. The game seemed a lot more human.

    It also seems apparent that in those days managers could actually manipulate the lineup without the player crying to his agent, or the media, or demanding a trade, etc. etc. To apply it to today's Yankee world: Could Gardner bat leadoff? Why not? (At least until Jeter's OBP is 40 points better than Gardner's.) But we all know that it's heresy to even suggest the manager could make such a decision. It would be more controversial than the Gulf oil spill. The media would have a stroke.

    I have to admit that I would probably be the first one to complain if Girardi started, say, Chad Gaudin instead of CC in Game 1 of the WS. But there is a certain charm to managers that made gutsy decisions, weren't scared to death of being second-guessed, and actually put some personality into the game. I do think we've gone way too far in the other direction....


  2. Thank you for these stories, they bring back some sweet memories.

  3. Thanks for the comments guys.

    Jim - I agree that there's something appealing about looking back at how the game was different then. Stengel, perhaps even more than his contemporaries, was known for heavily platooning position players and not using anything resembling an established starting rotation. It's no coincidence that Whitey Ford's only Cy Young Award came in his first year under Houk - it was the first time in his career he pitched on a regular turn rather than being held for top opponents.

    That said, I think the game has evolved for a reason. There's a lot of copycatting in baseball, but I think teams go with established 5 man rotations these days because it's the most efficient way to run the club.