Thursday, June 24, 2010

1952 World Series


It would be three years before the Yankees and Dodgers resumed their autumnal rivalry. In the two seasons between the Yankees won two more titles, beating the Phillies in 1950 and winning a Subway Series against the Giants in '51. The Big Three of Reynolds, Raschi, and Lopat still fronted the rotation, but '47 and '49 hero Joe Page was gone as the fireman, replaced by veteran Johnny Sain. On the offensive side, the Yankees had just completed their first season without Joe DiMaggio, but hadn't really skipped a beat. Yogi Berra was still the best catcher in the league, Gene Woodling and Hank Bauer had outstanding seasons, and DiMaggio's replacement, Mickey Mantle - not yet 21, had emerged as one of the best players in the game in just his second season.

The Dodgers had the same core as they did in '49, and once again were an offense heavy team. With Don Newcombe serving in the military and Preacher Roe transitioning to crafty veteran, youngsters Carl Erskine and Billy Loes took over at the front of the rotation.

For the first time in their four World Series meetings, the Series began at Ebbets Field. Allie Reynolds got the Game One start, just as he did in '49. There would be no shutout this time though, as the Dodgers pushed three across against him, and one more against reliever Ray Scarborough to take a 4-2 victory. Joe Black went the distance for Brooklyn, surrendering a solo home run to Gil McDougald. Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, and Duke Snider all homered for Brooklyn.

The Yankees pulled even in Game Two, plating five against Erskine in as many innings and tacking on two more against Loes in relief. Billy Martin was the offensive star for the Yankees, going two for four with a homer and four RBIs. It wouldn't be his only big moment of the Series. Raschi went all nine, allowing eight baserunners and one run, with nine strikeouts.

Game Three was a matchup of veteran lefties as Eddie Lopat went against Preacher Roe. Roe got the better of the deal, as the Dodgers won 5-3. Berra and Johnny Mize hit homers for the Yankees in the losing effort.

Game Four saw the Yankees even the Series again. Stengel gave the ball to Reynolds on two days rest, and the Yankee ace responded by tossing a four hit, three walk shutout, with 10 Ks. The Yankee offense came courtesy of another Mize solo homer and a Mickey Mantle triple in combination with an error by Pee Wee Reese on the relay throw.

The Series reduced to a best of three, the Yankees gave the ball to Ewell Blackwell for Game Five. Blackwell had outstanding seasons with the Reds in '47 and '50, but was suffering through a miserable 1952. Despite that, he still fetched a package of four players and $35,000 when the Yankees traded for him at the end of August. The Whip, as he was called, spotted the Dodgers to a 4-0 lead through five innings and was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom half. The Yankees took the lead with a five run fifth, capped by a three run homer from Mize, his third of the series.

Sain took over for Blackwell, and allowed the Dodgers to tie the score at five thanks to a Duke Snider RBI single in the seventh. The score remained that way into the eleventh, when Snider doubled in the go-ahead run. Erskine retired the heart of the Yankee lineup in order in the bottom half, earning himself a hard fought, eleven inning complete game victory, and placing the Dodgers just a win away from their first championship.

With their backs against the wall and the Series shifting back to Brooklyn, the Yankees turned to Raschi for Game Six. He and Loes matched zeroes for five and a half frames, then Snider gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead with a solo shot in the bottom of the sixth. Berra tied the score the next inning with a solo homer of his own, then Raschi gave the Yankees the lead by singling Woodling home. Mantle led off the eighth with a solo homer, the first of his record 18 in World Series play, to make it 3-1. Snider homered again in the bottom half to make it a one run game, and when a two out double by George Shuba put the tying run in scoring position, Stengel went to Reynolds again. Super Chief got Campanella to strike out to end the threat, and worked around a ninth inning walk to push the Series to Game Seven.

Thanks to his inning plus of relief the day before, Reynolds did got the Game Seven start. Instead, Stengel handed the ball to Lopat, the losing pitcher in Game Three. Brooklyn countered with Game One winner Joe Black. The game was scoreless through three, then the Yankees struck first with an RBI single from Mize in the fourth. The Dodgers loaded the bases with three consecutive singles, the last two of them bunts, to start the bottom of the fourth. Stengel called on Reynolds to get out of the jam. He retired the next three batters in order, but one of the outs was a sacrifice fly to tie the score at one.

The teams matched runs again in the fifth, courtesty of a Gene Woodling solo homer for the Yankees and an RBI single from Reese for Brooklyn. Over the next two innings, the Yankees continued building their picket fence, as Mickey Mantle's solo homer in the sixth and RBI single in the seventh gave them four consecutive one spots and a 4-2 lead.

With Reynolds having been lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the seventh, Raschi took the mound on zero days rest to start the bottom half. He issued a leadoff walk to Carl Furillo, got Rocky Nelson to pop to short for the first out, then loaded the bases with a Billy Cox single and another walk to Reese. With the season on the line and the red hot lefty Duke Snider due, Stengel again went to the pen, summoning journeyman southpaw Bob Kuzava.

Kuzava had bounced from Cleveland to Chicago to Washington when the Yankees acquired him in mid 1951. He did outstanding as a swingman down the stretch that year, going 8-4 with a 2.40 ERA. In the same role in 1952 he had taken a bit of step back, his record falling to .500 and his ERA dropping just below league average, but outside of Sain, he was Stengel's most trusted bullpen arm. Even so, he hadn't appeared in any of the '52 Series' first six games.

Snider dug in at 10 for 28 in the Series, with four home runs. A base hit would tie the game, an extra base hit could very well hand the Dodgers the lead. Kuzava induced a popout to third for the second out of the inning, but the equally dangerous Jackie Robinson was the next batter. With Sain available in the pen, Stengel elected to stick with the lefty Kuzava. He induced another pop up, this one to shallow second base. In the late day sun, none of the Yankee infielders made an initial move for the ball. With two outs, the runners were off on contact, racing around the bases as the ball fell closer and closer to the infield grass. With the ball less the a few feet from the ground, Billy Martin came racing in from the infield dirt, making a shoe string catch to end the rally and preserve the lead.

After his Houdini act in the seventh, Stengel left Kuzava in the rest of the way. He worked around a one out error in the eighth and retired the side in order in the ninth to hand the Yankees their fourth consecutive championship, tying the record set by the '36 through '39 Yankees.

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