Monday, June 28, 2010

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.


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.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent series! Matt you are awesome lol. Very entertaining way to close out my day at work. Looking forward to 77,78 and 81 recaps as those are the Series I was alive for (albeit a little baby).