In 2012 Shane Tourtellotte of the Hardball Times created a “statistical method to measure the excitement of ballgames.” He called it the Win Percentage Sum Index or WPS Index.
Tourtellotte’s method calls for calculating the sum total of the change in Win Expectancy (WE) for every play in a ballgame after converting each WE to a positive integer. WE data for a major league ballgame is contained in the game’s boxscore at Baseball-Reference.com. After converting all WE figures to a positive integer and then summing up the total, Tourtellotte then re-adds the top three WE plays of the game to the total. He then re-adds the WE of the last play of the game to come up with a grand total. The higher the total; the more exciting the game is said to be. The link to Tourtellotte’s article can be found in the sources section provided at the end of this article.
We have used Tourtellotte’s WPS Index to determine the Top 20 World Series’ of all-time. We have measured very game for every World Series’ that lasted six or seven games. Based on the scores of each game in a given World Series, a WPS Index Score was then calculated to assign an overall score to a World Series.
For games with a WPS Index of 399 or less, zero points were assigned. For games with a WPS Index of 400 to 499, two points were assigned. Games that had a WPS Index of 500 to 599, three points were assigned. Games with a WPS Index of 600 or greater received four points.
For example, our 20th ranked World Series, the 1958 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Braves had a WPS Index Score of five. Game One was assigned three points for its 588 WPS Index. Game Six was assigned two points for its 475 WPS Index. The other games were not assigned any points since the games were below 400 in terms of WPS Index. That isn’t to say that games that have a WPS Index of less than 400 do not come into play in our World Series rankings. They do. Those games are used as tie-breakers. If two or more World Series’ have the same WPS Index Score, the tie is broken based on the highest WPS Index scored game that was not assigned points i.e. games with a WPS Index of less than 400.
The 1958 World Series kicks off our list of the 20 most exciting World Series of all-time.
1958 World Series- New York Yankees (92-62) vs. Milwaukee Brave (92-62)
World Series MVP- Bob Turley
WPS Index Score: 5
Game 1: 588
Game 2: 150
Game 3: 235
Game 4: 241
Game 5: 181
Game 6: 475
Game 7: 342
The 1958 World Series was a rematch of the ‘57 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Braves. In ’57 the 8 to 5 underdog Braves stunned the defending champion Yankees by defeating the Bronx Bombers in seven games. In ’58, the two sides were said to be evenly matched with the Yankees being a slight 13-10 favorite to win the series.
Of course the Braves scoffed at the bookmaker’s series line. After defeating the defending champions in ’57, the Braves’ players had no fear of the Yankees in ’58. “We’re on top now, let them knock us down if they can (1),” a fired up Braves shortstop Johnny Logan stated prior to the series opener. “We’ll win it in six games, (2)” the nine-time 20 game-winner and scheduled Game One Braves’ starter Warren Spahn added. Milwaukee manager Fred Haney concurred with Spahn that the Braves would win the series although he did not quite go as far as Spahn had with his prediction. “We’ll win but I won’t make any prediction ‘bout the number of games it will take to wrap it up (3),” Haney declared to the press.
Braves second baseman Red Schoedienst was even more diplomatic when asked about his team’s chances in ’58 but just as confident, “I feel our club is good enough to win again. Right now we’re in pretty good shape. Mickey Mantle and Bill Skowron will help the Yankees, but I don’t believe their absence last year was what caused us to win (4).”
Mantle, who had suffered from shin splints for most of the 1957 season, injured his right shoulder in the first game of the ’57 World Series. The injury worsened as the series wore on and ultimately forced the Yankee MVP to miss Game Six of the series, a game in which the Yankees actually ended up winning. Mantle returned to action in Game Seven. However, the Yankees lost the deciding game 5-0. All-Star first baseman Bill “Moose” Skowron, who had missed most of the last month of the ’57 season due to a bad back, re-injured said back in Game One and was forced to miss the rest of the series.
On the Yankees side, when pressed by the media to make a prediction, New York manager Casey Stengel declined to do so. “I can’t forecast anything. That ball goes around the air you know. These are both first class ball clubs and I won’t comment on that until it’s all over (5).”
Some prominent baseball men were also predicting a Braves win. Famed manager Leo Durocher was convinced the Braves would be too much for the Yankees. “There’s no doubt in my mind the Braves will win. They have too much pitching, power and all around strength for the Yankees (6).” Cincinnati Reds manager Birdie Tebbets agreed, “I’m picking the Braves because they have too much all-around pitching, too many consistent hitters and too stout of a defense to lose to the Yanks. (7).”
Despite Durocher’s and Tebbets’ opinions that the Braves were a better team than the Yankees offensively and defensively, the press gave the Yankees the edge in offense and the Braves the advantage in pitching due to the fact that the two built-in travel days during the series meant that the Braves could conceivably have both Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette each start three games. Spahn led the NL in wins with 22 in 1958 as well as innings pitched (290) and complete games (23). Burdette was also a 20-game winner in ’58 and had led the NL in winning percentage with a mark of .667. Moreover, Burdette completely dominated the Yankees in the ’57 World Series and was named series MVP. Burdette beat the Yankees three times in ‘57, two of which were complete game shutouts including the deciding seventh game.
Ironically Lew Burdette was once a New York Yankee. The Yankees traded Burdette (and $50,000) to the Braves in August of 1951 in exchange for left-handed pitcher Johnny Sain. Initially it appeared as though the Yankees had easily won the trade. In his three seasons in New York, Sain was 33-20 with a 3.31 ERA and a part of three World Championship teams. However in 1956, five years after the trade, the sinker ball-throwing Burdette blossomed into one of the NL’s best pitchers. That year his 2.70 ERA led the NL. He was named to the NL All-Star team one year later in 1957.
As brilliant as Burdette had been against the Yankees in ’57, Braves manager Fred Haney named Warren Spahn his Game One starter to open the ’58 World Series. Casey Stengel countered with his ace, Whitey Ford. Ford led the AL with a 2.01 ERA, the best of his career but had missed time late in the season due to a sore elbow. Whether or not Ford had the ability to pitch three games in the series was definitely in question. Stengel though assured the media that Ford, as well as the rest of his rotation was healthy, “Whether it was the hitters, one or two men in slumps, or whether it was those pitchers with the arm trouble I don’t know…but my pitchers (Ford, Bob Turley and Don Larson) are all right now and we’re in pretty good condition (8).” Stengal was alluding to the Yankees’ slow finish in 1958, that is, their 27 and 28 won/loss record from August 1 up until the end of the season.
The Braves on the other hand had gone 38-20 since the first of August. Famed sportswriter Red Smith cited the Yankees’ lackluster second-half as opposed to the Braves’ strong finish as one of the main reasons he was picking the Braves to repeat as World Series champions:
“The Braves won the pennant galloping in the latter half of the season. The Yankees won theirs in the first half and have been a poor baseball team ever since….Were the Yankees coasting from late July on, knowing nobody in their league could threaten them? Maybe; whatever the cause, this has been a bad ball club. You do not pick a bad ball club to beat a good club, even though it happens sometimes (9).”
Contrary to Smith’s opinion, the Yankees did not look like a “bad ball club” in Game One of the ‘58 World Series. The Yankee offense had immediately jumped on Braves’ starter Warren Spahn. Yankee right fielder Hank Bauer led off the game with a single to left field. In doing so, Bauer had extended his record breaking World Series hitting streak to 15 games which dated back to Game One of the 1956 World Series versus the Brooklyn Dodgers.
However, in what Braves’ manager Fred Haney later called the “key play of the game (10),” Warren Spahn, as he was gearing up to pitch to the next batter, noticed Bauer’s wide lead at first base and fired the ball to first baseman Joe Adcock in an attempt to pick off the Yankee right fielder. Bauer, recognizing that he was dead to rights at first had he tried to dive back into the base, instead bolted for second. With Bauer heading for second base, Adcock calmly threw over to shortstop Johnny Logan who was covering the bag and tagged Bauer for the first out of the game. After the game when asked about the pick-off play Spahn replied, “I felt beforehand the Yankees were going to try a running game and I believed I could cope with it (10).”
Maybe so but initially Spahn wasn’t coping with the Yankees’ bats. After Bauer was picked-off, Spahn allowed another hard hit single, this time off of the bat of New York second baseman Gil McDougald that was just over the reach of a leaping Eddie Mathews who was playing third base for the Braves. Spahn then retired Mickey Mantle on a pop-up foul ball. With two out and Yankee left fielder Elston Howard at bat, Spahn unleashed a wild pitch that allowed McDougald to advance to second base. Howard then ripped a Spahn offering to deep right-center that Braves centerfielder Andy Pafko was able to snag just before crashing into the center field wall for the third out. Given the McDougald hit and the subsequent wild pitch, the Bauer pick-off may have cost the Yankees a run as Bauer most likely would have advanced to third on the two preceding plays and then would have scored on the Howard fly ball to center. Instead the game was scoreless after one inning.
The aforementioned Andy Pafko made another key defensive play in the second inning after the Yankees again singled twice off of Spahn. Pafko’s strong and accurate throw to second base after Yankees third baseman Andy Carey had flied out to deep center prevented Bill Skowron from advancing to third. Once again Spahn was able to escape an inning unscathed.
In the Yankees’ half of the third inning, New York batters continued to hit Spahn hard; however the Yankees had nothing to show for it. Both Bauer and Mantle drilled Spahn pitches to the outfield but right at the Braves’ defenders. After the game Yankee losing pitcher Whitey Ford, expressed his frustration with the “bad breaks” New York batters had experienced in Game One. “We were licked but did you notice we had seven line drives caught? Mantle, Bauer and among them, Howard had four, I think; Mickey two and Hank one (11).”
The Yankees though were finally able to break thru in the fourth when Bill Skowron clubbed a Spahn change-up over the left field fence that stayed just fair to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
After the Braves scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 2-1 lead, Hank Bauer smashed a Spahn screwball deep into the left field stands. Bauer’s fifth-inning blast was a two-run shot to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. Spahn had just walked Yankee pitcher Whitey Ford prior to facing Bauer. After five innings of work, Spahn was fortunate to have given up just the three runs and trailing by only one. After the game Spahn commented on his troubles in the early innings and the in-game adjustment he and Braves catcher Del Crandall had made after the fifth inning:
“I had a little trouble at the start….but a pitcher doesn’t decide what he’s going to throw, the other club tells him that. Del Crandall thought the Yankees weren’t getting out front of the fastball so we used the fastball. In the later innings I threw more changeups because of those shadows that covered the mound- the shadows gave me an edge (12).”
Crandall elaborated further, specifically on the unusually high number of fastballs Spahn had thrown during the game:
“We didn’t plan it that way but we adopted the pattern when the Yankees weren’t getting out in front of Spahnie’s fastballs (13)… “Hank Bauer hit a screwball right down the middle, Bill Skowron though he hit a real good pitch; a low outside change-up. Real good. You never know. Warren was a little shaky out there but the last couple of innings he pitched as good as anybody you ever saw (14)…He never wavered at all after he got past the fifth inning (15).”
Indeed, after a Yogi Berra lead-off double in the top of the sixth inning, Spahn retired 14 consecutive Yankee hitters. Spahn would not allow another hit until the top of the tenth inning. On the Yankees’ side, Spahn’s counterpart, Whitey Ford, had also pitched well. Ford had thrown seven innings of five-hit ball and had struck out eight heading into the Braves’ half of the eighth with the Yankees still up 3-2.
In that inning Ford surrendered a lead-off walk to Eddie Mathews. The Braves’ next batter was slugger Hank Aaron. In his three previous plate appearances Aaron had struck out, walked and had hit into a fielder’s choice. With his flame-throwing right-handed reliever Ryne Duren warming up in the bullpen, Stengel elected to stick with Ford and have him pitch to the right-handed Aaron. Aaron proceeded to smash a Ford offering off of the right field fence, just out of Hank Bauer’s reach, advancing Mathews to third base.
Surprisingly, Braves’ manager Fred Haney was asked after the game why he had Aaron, the 1957 home run champion, swing away rather than calling for a sacrifice bunt to advance Mathews to second. “Aaron has won me games with the long ball (16),” Haney answered in his postgame interview. “I don’t think he has won me a game in three years with a bunt. If I had Aaron bunt it would have given Casey the opportunity to walk Covington. Then I’d have two right-handed hitters facing Duren, a right-handed pitcher (17).”
Aaron’s double meant the end of the line for Ford. With the right-handed Joe Adcock due up and left-handed Wes Covington on deck, Stengel called for his closer, the aforementioned Ryne Duren, who had led the AL in saves in ’58 with 19, to shut the door on the Braves. “Ford looked tired to me. That’s why I pulled him (18),” Stengel explained to the media after the game when asked why he had lifted Ford in favor of Duren.
Stengel’s decision to pull Ford came as a surprise to the Yankee starter. “When Casey came out to me in the eighth I didn’t think he was going to take me out…I think it was the hardest ball hit (Aaron double) off me all day (19),” Ford reflected after the game. Yankee catcher Yogi Berra agreed with his battery-mate. “Ford had good stuff. His slider was great. He’s getting all of ‘em on the slider. They’re going for it big. But Aaron? He hits a curveball (20).”
With Mathews occupying third base and Aaron on second, Duren struck out Joe Adcock for the first out of the inning. With first base open, Stengel then elected to have Duren pitch to the left-handed Covington rather than intentionally walk him. “I figured the big fellow (Duren) would throw the ball past a few of them and he did…I had no intention of doing anything else but having the big guy (Duren) pitch to him (Covington) (21),” was Stengel’s explanation as to why Covington wasn’t intentionally walked. Unfortunately for Stengel and the Yankees, the strategy backfired.
Covington, who had been hampered by a left knee injury that dated back to spring training and who had also missed time several weeks earlier due to a pulled right thigh muscle, was a last minute decision by Fred Haney to start in left. Covington rewarded his manager by hitting a towering fly ball to left-center which was caught by Mickey Mantle by way of a fine running catch. The ball though was hit deep enough to score Mathews from third to tie the score at three. Duren was then able to end the inning by striking out Crandall.
In fact, in his 2.2 innings of work in Game One, Duren stuck out five Milwaukee batters. Duren’s fastball had certainly made an impression on the Braves’ hitters. “Wow,” Braves back-up catcher Del Rice commented after the game when asked about Duren, “I have never seen anybody as quick as this guy (22).” “This Duren is greased lightning (23),” quipped Spahn. Andy Pafko was just as descriptive when asked about Duren when he said that he “could nearly feel the breeze from his (Duren) fastball clear over the dugout. Fastest I have ever seen and I saw him from the bench, Bruton had replaced me (24).”
Indeed, Pafko had been replaced in center by Bruton in the bottom of the ninth when Braves’ manager Fred Haney called on the left-handed Bruton to pinch-hit for Pafko and face Ryne Duren to lead off the inning. Haney’s decision to replace the 36 year-old Pafko with Bruton was one of several managerial decisions the press had praised Haney for making. Haney on the move: “Andy gave me 100 percent out there but he is no longer a youngster. I have to watch him to a point where I can keep him at his top physical condition. He was getting tired, it’s a long series. I need him (25).”
Bill Bruton, who had missed the entire 1957 World Series due to a fractured leg, proceeded to strike out to lead off the ninth. However, Bruton would get another shot at Duren later in the game. Meanwhile, with the pitcher’s spot due up, rather than pinch-hit for Spahn, who at that point had already completed nine innings of work, Haney allowed his pitcher to hit for himself. The fact that Spahn had just retired his twelfth consecutive Yankee hitter to end the ninth and that Spahn himself was no slouch at the plate (.333 BA, .844 OPS in ‘58); Haney’s decision to have Spahn hit, rather than sending in a pinch-hitter, was not all that surprising to the press.
In fact, Haney had made the same decision in the bottom of the seventh inning with the Braves down 3-2. In that at-bat though, Spahn led off the inning by flying out to center. After the game Spahn expressed his gratitude for his manager allowing him to hit for himself and to remain in the game, “I was surprised when Fred let me hit with us trailing 3-2 but that’s the sort of confidence that helps a pitcher. Don’t think it isn’t. He stuck his neck way out in the open (26).” In the ninth inning, Spahn rewarded his manager by singling to right.
Spahn’s hit was followed by a Red Schoendienst walk. With runners on first and second and shortstop Johnny Logan due up, Haney called for the left-handed hitting Frank Torre to pinch-hit for his shortstop. Torre had hit .317 and slugged .458 versus right-handers that season. However, Ryne Duren had Torre pop up to second base. He then struck out Eddie Mathews to end the threat and send the game into extra innings tied at three.
Spahn returned to the mound in the 10th inning. It was the first time Spahn had pitched into extra-innings since he had done so versus the Yankees in Game Four of the ’57 World Series. Spahn promptly retired Yankee pitcher Ryne Duren, who Stengel had left in to hit for himself. Spahn then struck out Hank Bauer after Bauer had worked Spahn to a full count. Then with two outs, Yankee second baseman Gil McDougald, once again singled, this time up the middle on a ball that had hit off of Spahn’s glove.
Spahn walked the Yankees’ next hitter, Mickey Mantle. The Mantle walk was the fourth Spahn had issued in the game and the second to Mantle. “I pitched carefully to a lot of batters, especially with Mantle. You can’t fool with him. He has power to any field (27),” was how Spahn explained how he approached the dangerous Mantle to the press after the game. With the potential go ahead run on second in McDougald and with Mantle on first, Spahn was able to retire Elston Howard on a fly ball to right field to end the inning. After 9 ½ innings the game was still nodded at three.
In the bottom of the tenth, Hank Aaron led off for the Braves but struck out. Joe Adcock followed with a single to center. Wes Covington then drilled a shot to left that Elston Howard tracked and caught just in front of the left field fence for the second out of the inning. Even though the ball was hit to deep left center, Adcock was unable to advance to second on the play. Del Crandall followed with a single up the middle which advanced the slow-footed Adcock to second and into scoring position.
With runners on first and second and two out, center fielder Bill Bruton was due up to hit. As previously mentioned, Bruton had struck out in his first at-bat versus the flame-throwing Duren when he was inserted into game as a pinch-hitter back in the ninth inning. “Duren struck me out on a low fastball when I went up for Andy Pafko in the ninth (28),” Bruton recollected after the game. In this at-bat though Bruton was ready for the Yankee All-Star closer:
“The next time I faced Duren, I knew he would come in with a fastball- that’s all he was throwing….With the grandstand shadows in his favor, he kept coming higher with his pitches. I felt, with a 1-1 count in the 10th that Duren would come in again with a fastball. This time it was right for me. I met it squarely and that was the ballgame (29).”
Indeed, Bruton lined a Duren fastball to right center that had split the outfielders and had rolled to the wall which would have assuredly been scored a triple had Adcock not scored the winning run first. Bruton’s “single” gave the Braves the win in a thrilling 4-3 Game One. The game scored 588, the highest scored game of the series.
The Braves had been confident heading into the series but after their Game One victory, Milwaukee’s level of confidence was sky-high; maybe a tad too much so. “I think we can beat ‘em in five (30),” a jubilant Warren Spahn opined after the game. “In fact, it may even be four, if Lew beats Turley. And I think he will (31).”
Of course Spahn was referring to Lew Burdette and Bob Turley, the pitchers scheduled to start Game Two. Burdette entered Game Two with a 24-inning playoff scoreless streak intact. His counterpart, Bob Turley, was the AL leader in wins in 1958 with 21 as well as complete games with 19, though he had led the AL in walks with 128. Turley would also go on to win the 1958 MLB Cy Young Award by beating out both Spahn and Burdette who finished second and third in Cy Young voting.
The Yankees had acquired Turley in November of 1954 from the Baltimore Orioles in what was at the time, one of the biggest deals in major league baseball history. Besides Turley, the other marquis player the Yankees acquired in the seventeen-player deal was their 1956 World Series MVP, Don Larsen. While pitching for the Orioles, “Bullet” Bob Turley had established himself as one of the hardest throwing pitchers in baseball but also one of the wildest. In 1954 and 1955 he led the AL in walks with 181 and 177 respectively. In 1958, once again Turley paced the AL in walks but had significantly reduced the number to 128.
Milwaukee Braves’ scout and former Chicago Cubs general manager, Wid Matthews, had scouted the Yankees in advance of the World Series for the better part of September. His scouting report on Turley included the following: “Turley is a great power pitcher. He’s conquered some of his wildness and is a pitcher all the way now (32).” Matthews believed that Turley threw just as hard as St. Louis Cardinal Sam Jones. Jones had led the NL in both strikeouts and walks with 225 and 107 respectively in ‘58 (33).
Despite his 21 wins, Turley had finished the 1958 season on a down note. In his four September starts, Turley was 1-1 with a 4.88 ERA, including a three-inning outing in his last start versus the Boston Red Sox in which he allowed seven earned runs on nine hits. He also walked four. Nevertheless, Stengel named Turley his Game Two starter, although he waited until just the day prior to do so. Of course Turley being selected to start Game Two came as no surprise. After all, on top of leading the Yankees in wins in ’58, Turley had beaten the Braves with a four-hit complete-game gem in a do or die Game Six in the ’57 series. Turley starting Game Two meant that the hard-throwing righty would be available to appear in three games if the series once again went to a seventh game. “I’m sure I can pitch three Series games. I’ll still try to do it if Casey needs me. My arm’s in good shape; the no wind-up style hasn’t hurt my arm a bit (34),” Turley told the press prior to the opening of the series.
The “no wind-up style” Turley was referring to was a “short, simple delivery (35)” that Turley had adopted late in the 1956 season on the recommendation of Yankee pitching coach, Jim Turner (36). Turley credited the no-wind up for his improved control. The Yankees’ Game Three starter, Don Larsen, had also adopted the no wind-up (37).
No wind-up or not, Turley was ambushed by the Braves in the first inning of Game Two. After the Yankees opened the scoring thanks in large part to an Eddie Mathews throwing error that led to a run and an early 1-0 Yankee lead, the Braves hung a four-spot on Turley. Game One hero Bill Bruton led off the game by belting a homerun to right field to tie the game at one. Red Schoendienst then followed with a double. After Turley struck out Mathews for the first out of the inning, he issued a walk to Hank Aaron. Wes Covington then singled home Schoendienst to make the score 2-1 Braves with runners on first and third and the left-handed hitting Frank Torre due up. At that point Stengel had seen enough and summoned Yankee reliever Duke Maas from the bullpen, ending Turley’s day. Maas proceeded to allow the two runners he had inherited from Turley to score. As a result, Turley was charged with four runs in just one third of an inning. The Braves ended up scoring a total of seven runs in the first, which at the time was a new record for runs scored by a team in the first inning of a World Series game.
According to Yankee’s catcher Yogi Berra, Turley’s ineffectiveness was caused by his inability to throw his breaking pitches for strikes. “They were hitting his fastball and he couldn’t get his breaking ball over the plate (38),” the Yankee back-stop explained after the game. Bruton’s homerun was hit off of one the few fastballs Turley had thrown in that first inning. “He was missing with his curve,” Bruton explained in his postgame interview, “So I waited for the fastball. I’m just meeting the ball and swinging easy.” According to Braves pitching coach Whit Wyatt, Turley had thrown the Braves for a loop when he came out throwing for the most part, breaking pitches and shying away from his fastball, “Our batters simply weren’t expecting him to pitch like he did. We knew Turley had a great fastball and we expected him to come out firing those bullets but all he threw were change-ups and sliders (39).”
Turley’s counterpart, Lew Burdette, on the other hand had been brilliant for most of the afternoon. After wriggling out of a zero-out bases loaded first inning jam and limiting the Yankees to just one run, Burdette dominated. After giving up the one run in that first inning, Burdette settled in and faced the minimum in the second and third innings. In the fourth inning, Mickey Mantle blasted a solo homerun off a pitch that according to Burdette was no more than “six inches off the ground (40).” Mantle’s shot travelled an estimated 400 feet and landed in the Braves’ bullpen. Mantle’s dinger cut the Braves lead to 8-2 after four complete.
After the Mantle homerun, Burdette proceeded to retire the next 15 Yankee hitters in order. By the time the Yankees came to bat in the ninth inning, the Braves had tacked on five more runs to increase their lead to 11 with Burdette twirling a three-hitter. However, the Yankees managed to score three runs in the final frame thanks to another Mantle homerun and a solo homerun hit by Hank Bauer which was his second of the series to make the final score 13-5 Braves. Burdette’s line of 9 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 BB and 5 SO was not indicative as to how well he had pitched. Burdette had breezed through the Yankee line-up for most of the afternoon.
Besides his pitching, Burdette had also made an impact with his bat. His three-run homerun in the first inning off of Duke Maas chased the Yankee reliever and broke the game open, making the score 7-1 Braves. Burdette’s dinger was the first homerun hit by a pitcher in a World Series game since Reds’ pitcher Bucky Walters had homered against the Detroit Tigers in 1940 Fall Classic.
On the Yankee’s side there wasn’t much to write home about; they had been beaten badly. To make matters worse, Yankee left fielder Elston Howard was forced to leave the game in the first inning after crashing into the iron outfield fence while tracking Burdette’s homerun ball. Howard had suffered a lacerated knee on the play which put his status for Game Three up in the air.
When asked if the Yankee’s situation had become desperate given that they were now down two games to none in the series, Stengel shot back, “What’s desperate about it? Just in 1956 we lost the first two to the Dodgers and then beat ‘em. Sure, we’re not in what I would call a rosy situation but this thing is not over by a long shot (41).” Indeed, the Yankees had dropped the first two games to the Brooklyn Dodgers in the ’56 World Series 6-3 and 13-8 before heading back to Yankee Stadium and winning the next three games at home. The Yankees ultimately won the series in seven games. Later in his postgame interview, Stengel put the Braves on notice that his Yankees were more than capable of coming back: “Somebody ought to tell those guys not to get cocky just because they beat us a couple of times. This club of mine has a way of coming back. I know we haven’t looked good but we might get to ‘em pretty quick (42).”
Stengel may have had Lew Burdette in mind when he mentioned the Braves’ cockiness. After Milwaukee’s victory in Game Two, Burdette said the following about the New York Yankees, “I’d like to see the Yanks in the National League and see where they would finish. They’re no tougher than a couple of clubs in our league (42a).”
Of course the highlight of the Yankee’s comeback in the ’56 World Series against the Dodgers that Stengel had referenced in his postgame interview was Don Larsen’s perfect game in the pivotal fifth game of the series that sent the Yankees back to Brooklyn up three games to two. As previously mentioned, Larsen had been acquired in the same deal the Yankees made with the Orioles that brought Bob Turley to New York after the 1954 season. Larsen was a 21-game loser in ‘54. His overall record was just 3 and 21. Interestingly though, two of Larsen’s three wins in ’54 came against the Yankees including a complete-game seven-hit shutout.
In his first four years with the Yanks, Larsen had accumulated a 39-17 record with a 3.31 ERA in 103 games pitched and 72 games started to go along with his 1956 World Series MVP Award. In 1958 though, Larsen was limited to just 114.1 innings due to a sore elbow. Larsen was only able to make two starts that September but did not allow a run in either start. As previously mentioned like Turley, Larsen had also adopted the “no wind-up;” however, Larsen abandoned it during the season to alleviate the pain in his elbow. According to Larsen, “With the no wind-up you don’t have as much snap in the elbow, and I think that helps (alleviate the pain) (43).”
With the Braves taking the first two games of the ‘58 series, the bookmaker’s line had moved to 11-5 in the Braves’ favor. However, the Yankees were still a 7-5 favorite to win Game Three. Yankee players had publicly voiced their confidence in Larsen heading into Game Three. “All we need is one win to give us a big lift and I don’t know anybody better to start us off than Larsen (44),” Yankee Game One starter Whitey Ford had remarked to the media. While surrounded by reporters during batting practice, Hank Bauer, who had supplied most of the Yankees offense in the first two games of the series by going 4 for 9 with two homeruns and two RBI, pointed in Larsen’s direction and said, “See that big guy over there; nothing in the world bothers him. When he’s right he can stand the best club on its ear….I got a hunch he’s gonna start the snowball rolling the other way (45).” Larsen himself was nothing short of extremely confident heading into Game Three, “Darn right I think I’ll win. My arm has never been in better shape and I’m raring to go (46).” Indeed he was.
Larsen began Game Three by retiring the Braves in order in the first inning. After four innings; Larsen had yet to give up a run and had limited the Braves to just three singles and one walk. Two of those singles came off of the bat of Frank Torre who was making his second consecutive start in the series at first base for the Braves. Joe Adcock was on the bench as Braves manager Fred Haney was platooning his first basemen.
On the Braves’ side, their Game Three starter, veteran Bob Rush, had bettered Larsen in his first four innings of work by allowing just one single and one walk. Rush had been named the Braves’ Game Three starter just several hours prior to the start of the game as Braves’ manager Fred Haney had difficulty deciding between the aforementioned Rush, the 21 year-old lefty Juan Pizarro and the 27 year-old rookie Carl Willey . “Up until this morning I hadn’t been able to make up my mind (47),” Haney explained once he had finally announced that Rush would be starting. Haney opted not to start Willey because “anytime the kid gets in trouble, he’s high with his pitches (48).” Haney had considered the Yankees to be a “primarily a high-ball hitting club (49).” Haney gave Rush the nod over Pizarro because of Rush’s lengthy experience and Pizarro’s lack thereof. Rush was an 11-year veteran who prior to the 1958 season had spent his entire career with the Chicago Cubs. In ’58, pitching for the Braves, Rush was 10-6 with a 3.42 ERA in 147.1 innings pitched.
After Larsen had a 1-2-3 top of the fifth, the Yankees were finally able to break through against Rush. Yankee left fielder Norm Siebern led off the inning with a walk. Siebern started in left in place of the injured Elston Howard. He was able to advance to second by way of a Bill Skowron ground out on a ball that Braves’ second baseman Red Shoendienst had made a nifty play on by ranging to his left to grab the ball and then making the off-balance throw to first base to retire Skowron. With two outs and first base open, the Yankees number-eight hitter, second baseman Gil McDougald, came to the plate. Initially Haney chose to have Rush pitch to McDougald; however, after Rush threw his first pitch of the at-bat for a ball, Haney decided to intentionally walk McDougald and have Rush pitch to Larsen.
Larsen though was in no way an easy out in ’58. He had hit .306 and slugged .571 with four homeruns in just 57 plate appearances that year. Perhaps being aware of Larsen’s ability to hit the long ball, Rush may have been a bit too fine with the pitcher. Rush ended up walking Larsen on a full count. With the bases now loaded the Yankees’ hottest hitter, Hank Bauer, was next to bat. Bauer who had already extended his record breaking playoff hitting streak to 17 games back in the first inning, went with a pitch on the outside of the plate and was able to dump a single into right field, just out of the reach of Hank Aaron to score two runs. Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek followed Bauer but lined out to center to end the inning, stranding two runners. After five innings, the Yankees were up 2-0.
In what proved to be the most pivotal inning of the game, Milwaukee’s Red Schoendienst led off the Braves’ half of the sixth by lacing a single off of a slow Don Larsen curveball to the right field corner. Larsen then struck out Eddie Mathews which was the third time he had struck out Mathews in the game. He then walked the dangerous Hank Aaron on a 3-2 pitch. With runners on first and second and one out, Wes Covington then ripped a ball down the first base line that struck Yankees’ first baseman Bill Skowron on the wrist. The ball was hit so hard that after it struck Skowron it ricocheted towards the first base box seats. Red Schoendienst, who was on second base, first hesitated thinking that Skowron had made the catch. However, once getting the signal from Braves’ third base coach Billy Herman, Schoendienst turned on the burners.
After rounding third base, Schoendienst was at full speed and heading for home. Fortunately for the Yankees the ball had hit off a handrail and had bounced right back to Skowron. Seeing that Schoendienst was heading for home, Skowron fired the ball to Berra who was covering the plate. Recognizing that he may be thrown out at the plate, Schoendienst stopped in his tracks and began heading back to third with Berra chasing him. Berra then tossed the ball to Yankee third baseman Jerry Lumpe. The Yankees now had Shoendienst hung up.
With Schoendienst caught in a rundown, Hank Aaron, who was originally on first base had advanced to all the way to third. Seeing Aaron at third and with Lumpe now in possession of the ball, Schoendienst again reversed course and headed back for home. In another incredible stroke of luck for the Yankees, Lumpe’s toss back to Berra got past the catcher but went right to Larsen who was covering home. That prompted Schoendienst to once again head back to third base. After faking a couple of throws to third, Larsen was finally able to tag Schoendienst for the out. In the meantime, Aaron had returned to second base. After Schoendienst had run into the second out of the inning, Larsen was then able to get Torre to fly out to right field to end the frame. With what began as a very promising inning for the Braves ended in disappointment; they had come away with no runs. After five and one half innings the score remained 2-0 Yankees.
After the game Schoendienst commented on the play, “I should have kept going, but I don’t think I would have made it but that’s a second guess now (50)….even if I hadn’t, I might have been better off to try. Then Aaron could have been on third, no matter what happened to me (51).” Fred Haney was also asked about the play after the game. Haney’s assessment of the play: “If Red had kept going, he would have made it (52).” Haney though was careful not to assign blame to his veteran second baseman. “I wouldn’t blame it on anybody. We just got mixed up on the play. We had our chance, and we blew it (53).”
After the disappointing inning for the Braves, Bob Rush was able pitch a scoreless sixth inning. After six complete, the score remained Yankees 2, Braves 0. In the seventh, Del Crandall led off the inning with a single. Braves’ shortstop Johnny Logan followed with a fly ball to center that resulted in an out. Haney then had left-handed utility man Harry Hanebrink pinch hit for Rush which marked the end of the day for the veteran right-hander. Rush’s final line was: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, and 2 SO. Hanebrink proceeded to pop up to second base for the second out of the inning. Bill Bruton then followed with a walk on four pitches. However, Schoendienst lifted a fly ball to center to end the inning.
With Rush out of the game, Haney called for his hard-throwing All-Star reliever Don McMahon. In ’58 McMahon was 7-2 with a 3.68 ERA in 58.2 innings pitched. As a rookie in 1957, McMahon appeared in three games in the World Series. He struck out five and walked three without allowing a run in his five innings of work. McMahon began the Yankee half of the seventh by striking out Gil McDougald. With his pitcher due up, Stengel elected to pinch-hit for Larsen. When asked as to why he decided to go with a pinch-hitter thus ending Larsen’s day, Stengel replied:
“He was doing good but he hadn’t pitched over six innings since July 7, so I asked him after the sixth how he felt, and he said he wanted to stick with it as long as he could. So I asked him the next inning and he said he didn’t know. So I decided to take him out then, rather than in the middle of an inning (54).”
Actually the “Old Perfessor” Stengel was mistaken. Larsen had pitched beyond six innings since July 7, that being on July 18 when he threw a complete game versus the Kansas City A’s. Since that game though, Larsen had not pitched beyond the sixth inning in any of his next seven starts.
Larsen had succeeded in keeping the Braves off-balance for most of the day. He pitched seven innings of six-hit ball and had struck out eight Braves hitters and walked three. Game reports had Larsen throwing 113 pitches. According to Larsen’s battery-mate, Yogi Berra, Larsen’s slider had been very “effective (55),” and was one of the main reasons the Braves, for the most part, were unable square-up Larsen.
Pinch-hitting for Larsen in the Yankees’ half of the seventh was future Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter. The 42 year-old Slaughter was in the twilight of his career in ’58 and had appeared in just 77 games. However Slaughter, in his limited role, still managed to hit .304 in 160 plate appearances that season. Slaughter proceeded to work McMahon for a walk. The red-hot Hank Bauer followed. Bauer continued his torrid World Series hitting by muscling a Don McMahon offering over the left field fence for a two-run homerun to make the score 4-0 Yankees.
According to Bauer, “The homerun came on a slider that Don McMahon put a little on the inside. I knew that ball was going to reach the seats right after I hit it (56).” Braves’ catcher Del Crandall though had a slightly different take on the pitch, “It was a low and away slider. It’s a good pitch. We’ll keep throwing him there. He’s just been tough for us (57).”
Indeed, Bauer had been tough on the Braves. In fact, he had been practically the entire Yankee offense for the first three games of the series by hitting .538 with three homeruns and four runs scored. Bauer had also driven in seven of the Yankees’ 12 runs over the three games. “Bauer’s the man that put the thing on ice. I don’t know where we would have been without him (58),” an elated and somewhat relieved Casey Stengel said after the game.
Bauer’s homerun did put the game out of reach; however, the Braves stirred up a bit of trouble for Yankees’ reliever Ryne Duren. Duren was called upon to pitch the last two innings and close the game out. Duren ended up pitching two scoreless innings. He allowed zero hits but he did walk three. Nevertheless, the Braves were unable to score a run and the Yankees took the crucial third game of the series, 4-0. Now down only two games to one, the Yankees were in the words of Casey Stengel, “back in business (59).”
Game Four was a rematch between Game One starters Warren Spahn and Whitey Ford. With the left-handed throwing Ford on the mound, Braves’ manager Fred Haney went with the exact same line-up he had gone with in Game One against Ford. That meant that right-handed hitters Joe Adcock and Andy Pafko were starting at first base and center field. Lefties Frank Torre and Bill Bruton began the game on the bench.
On the Yankees’ side, despite New York’s Game Three win, Stengel elected to shake-up his batting order ahead of Game Four. Stengel moved Game Three hero Hank Bauer from the leadoff spot to the number three hole in the order. Replacing Bauer at the top of the order was left fielder Norm Siebern. Siebern had started in left field in Game Three. He had replaced Elston Howard in Game Two after Howard was forced to leave that game due to his injured knee. Siebern starting in left field in Game Four meant that Howard would once again be on the bench.
Stengel’s decision to sit Howard in Game Four was a curious one. Prior to the game, Howard had insisted that he had “felt fine” and was “able to play any time (60),” when answering questions regarding his status. Also, Howard was one of the few Yankee hitters who had made solid contact off of Spahn in Game One. Moreover, Howard had actual previous success against Spahn going back to Game Six of the 1957 World Series. In that game Howard hit a dramatic game-tying three-run homerun off of Spahn in the bottom of the ninth that sent the game into extra-innings.
Rather than the outfield, Howard had spent most of his playing time in ‘58 behind the plate. He had taken over the Yankee’s starting catcher role in July of that year. At the time, Yogi Berra was dealing with an injury to his catching hand. The injury led to Berra transitioning to the outfield (61). Prior to having become the Yankees’ full-time catcher, Howard was hitting .333 and slugging .597 as Stengel was finding ways to get Howard’s bat into the line-up, including having Howard play both corner outfield positions and giving Howard the occasional start at catcher.
“I hit better when I’m catching. I think about other things when I play the outfield and don’t concentrate as well (62),” Howard told the press back in July after he had become the Yankee’s primary catcher. According to Howard’s 1958 hitting stats though, Howard may have been short-changing himself- in terms of hitting anyway. As a catcher, Howard hit .310 and slugged .456 including seven home runs. As an outfielder, Howard hit .306 and slugged .565, including four homeruns. When starting in left, Howard hit .345 and slugged .673. All in all, Howard hit wherever he played- catcher or in the outfield. Stengel, almost assuredly was aware of this fact which created a dilemma for the Yankee manager heading into the ’58 World Series.
At the beginning of the series, Stengel had to decide how he was going to divvy up playing time between Berra, Howard and Siebern. In fact, on the eve of Game One, Stengel still hadn’t decided what he was going to do: “I suppose Berra’s my catcher for the first game because he’s caught Ford so much. At least right now Berra is my catcher. He may not be at 6 o’clock tonight….but left field is one problem I’ve got (63).” The “problem” Stengel was referring to was whether to start the left-handed hitting Siebern or the right-handed hitting Howard in left field with the southpaw Warren Spahn on the mound for the Braves. Stengel continued, “You can say he (Siebern) don’t hit a left-hander but then you talk about Spahn, there’s a lot of right-handers who don’t hit him either…My left fielder (Siebern) had to go and hit .300 the other day with two homeruns and who does he hit them against; a left-hander (64).”
The “left-hander” Stengel was referring to was Baltimore Oriole Jack Harshman. In the first game of a doubleheader which was played on the last day of the season, Siebern tagged Harshman for a pair of homeruns in a 7-0 Yankee drubbing of the O’s. Elston Howard began that game in right field. Howard started the second game of the doubleheader in left field as Stengel was getting Howard accustomed to playing the outfield again in preparation for the World Series.
Ultimately, Stengel ended up starting Berra at catcher and Howard in left with Siebern on the bench in Game One. The same dilemma that Stengel had faced in Game One with respect to finding positions for Berra, Howard and Siebern had come up again prior to Game Four. This time though Stengal had to weigh the fact that thru the first three games of the series, Berra had been 2 for 12 (both hits against Spahn) and still dealing with the sore hand that had nagged him for most of the season. Siebern was 1 for 5 with two walks since taking over left field from Howard, who may or may not have been still nursing a sore left knee.
Originally Stengel had chosen to sit Berra in favor of Howard for Game Four. In fact, according to the New York Daily News, Berra was not in the original starting line-up up until approximately one hour prior to game-time. Instead, Howard was selected to start at catcher and Berra was pegged as Stengel’s “number one pinch-hitter (65),” off the bench. The Daily News reported that the reason Stengel had changed his mind at the last minute and instead had chosen to go with Berra over Howard as his Game Four starting catcher was due to Berra’s consecutive World Series games started streak. Just prior to game-time, Stengel had learned from reporters that Berra had started 51 consecutive World Series games. And again, according to the Daily News, after learning of the consecutive games streak, Stengel named Berra his starting catcher. Incidentally, Yankee great Joe DiMaggio ended his career having started 51 consecutive World Series games, the most of any Yankee in history at the time. Whether or not Stengel had also learned of this fact prior to game time is unknown.
Having decided to start Berra at catcher in Game Four, Stengel next had to decide who was going to start in left- Howard or Siebern. Given that Stengel originally had Howard in the starting line-up; the logical assumption would be that Howard would be moved from starting catcher to starting left fielder. However, that was not what Stengel chose to do. Instead, Stengel elected to stick with Siebern as his starting left fielder. Apparently Stengel, who usually preferred platooning his players, was comfortable with Siebern’s ability to hit left-handed pitching as Stengel had stated prior to Game One. Siebern’s numbers versus left-handers in ’58 back-up Stengel. That year, the left-handed hitting Siebern hit .283 and slugged .462 versus left-handed pitching. However, it would not be Siebern’s bat or lack thereof that would make the headlines after Game Four. Instead it was Siebern’s play in the outfield and a Berra mental lapse that was the focus of the media’s attention and that Stengel would end up having to answer for.
Game Four was a scoreless affair after three innings as both Spahn and Ford had little trouble navigating their way through the opposing lineups. In the top of the fourth, Ford was able to strand Aaron at third base after the Braves’ right fielder doubled and had advanced on a wild pitch. In the home-half of the fourth, Mickey Mantle roped a one-out triple to the right-center field fence for New York’s first hit of the game. The Yankees’ next batter, Bill Skowron, followed with a weakly hit ball back to Spahn. Spahn fielded the ball, looked Mantle back at third and then threw to first to retire Skowron for the second out.
Yogi Berra was the next batter up. Berra lined a shot off of the glove of Red Schoendienst. The leaping Schoendienst was able to knock the ball down and throw to first base to just get a diving Berra for the third out of the inning, stranding Mantle at third. Berra may have beaten the throw to first had he not momentarily broken stride believing that Schoendienst had made the catch. “I thought the ball I hit was going to drop over Schoendienst’s head (66),” Berra explained in his postgame interview with the press. “Then when I saw him leap and get it in his glove, I thought he had caught it and broke stride for a second. Then, I couldn’t tell for sure where it dropped, and I dug in again but Red made a fast recovery and I was out (67).” Berra’s hesitation may have cost the Yankees a run. As a result, the game remained tied at zero after four innings.
The game remained scoreless until the top of the sixth inning. Red Schoendienst, who took most of the blame for the Braves’ loss in Game Three but had just made a terrific play in the fourth to rob Berra of a hit, further redeemed himself by leading off the inning with a triple. Schoendienst’s shot had split Siebern and Mantle and had rolled all the way to the left-wall. Siebern originally had a beat on the ball; however, he ended up losing it in the sun. Siebern on the misplay:
“I saw that (the ball) for a while, but lost it in the sun. I kept running anyway, hoping I might see it again. Then, I saw Mantle getting nearer and I hoped Mantle would get it. Mickey didn’t call for it, there were no signals. It was my ball all the way and I blew it in the sun (67).”
Braves’ shortstop Johnny Logan then drove in Schoendienst thanks to his Yankee counterpart, Tony Kubek, allowing Logan’s ground ball to get under his glove and roll into the outfield. Kubek was charged with an error on the play. Ford was then able to retire the next three Braves’ batters in order to limit the damage. In the New York half of the sixth, Spahn was able to retire the Yankees in order and preserve the 1-0 Milwaukee lead.
Siebern losing the ball in the sun in the sixth wasn’t his only miscue of the day. In the seventh, after Ford had walked Braves’ catcher Del Crandall and then had given up a one-out double to Andy Pafko which advanced Crandall to third, Warren Spahn was due-up. With the Braves’ pitcher at the plate, Casey Stengel ordered his outfield to play in. Nevertheless, Spahn was able to bloop a single into left field on a ball that Siebern should have gotten to had he not lost it in the lights. “I didn’t see that (Spahn’s hit) too well either because of the lights (68).” The “lights” Siebern was referring to were the home plate lights that had been turned on in order to accommodate the television network broadcasting the game in color. Spahn’s hit scored Crandall for the Braves’ second run of the game. Pafko though, who had to hold up at second because he was unsure Spahn’s bloop would land for a hit, stopped at third. Ford was then able to induce an inning-ending double-play.
In the bottom of the seventh, Spahn stranded Skowron at first after the Yankee first baseman hit a one-out single to center. Skowron’s hit was New York’s first hit since Mantle’s fourth inning triple. After seven innings, the Braves were up 2-0.
The Braves went up 4-0 in the top of the eighth when Johnny Logan and Eddie Mathews hit back to back doubles to open the inning with Siebern and the sun/lights once again having played a role. Logan’s “double” was a routine fly ball that according to Siebern, he did not see once “the ball had left the bat (69).” The back to back doubles meant the end of the day for Ford. His final Game Four line was 7 IP, 8 H, 3 R (one unearned), 1 BB and 6 SO. Ford had pitched better in Game Four than he had in Game One but had been victimized by his defense. Poor defense or not, Warren Spahn had once again out-pitched Ford. New York was unable to mount any kind of threat in the final two innings as Spahn ended up going the entire route, shutting out the Yankees on just two hits as the Braves took Game Four 4-0.
“I lost the game for Ford (70),” a dejected Norm Siebern said after the game. His manager though, Casey Stengel, stood up for his player, sort of anyway:
“I’ll tell you one thing. I’m not asking waivers on him (Siebern) and you can print that. I know he’s lost some games in the outfield for us before. He’s a nice kid and I know he’ll worry over this. He’s playing the toughest left field in baseball, don’t forget….It was the pitcher who beat us…This man (Spahn), 37 years-old, didn’t give us any runs and after only three days’ rest. He did it all the way (71).”
Indeed, Spahn was terrific and dominated the Yankees. And unlike in Game One, Spahn was in complete control for the entire game. Of course Spahn’s manager Fred Haney agreed: “What can you say about a game like that. It was a wonderful game by Spahn and better than the opener because his control was better (72).” Del Crandall concurred with his manager and elaborated further, “His control was really uncanny…He was hitting the corners, inside, outside. Mostly a fast ball. It was so good we didn’t need many screwballs. Most of it was low. He made very few high pitches. (73).”
Spahn’s impeccable control had mesmerized Yankee hitters all afternoon. According to game reports, Spahn had 23 strikes called in his favor with five of his seven strikeouts coming on called third strikes. “You know, I almost think they would rather take a third strike than swing at the ball (74),” Spahn had commented after the game. “I was surprised at how they stood there with their bats on their shoulders on some real close pitches (75).”
Spahn estimated that he had thrown between “95 and 100” pitches and wasn’t at all tired after the game. “Tired? Hell no. I could pitch in relief tomorrow if they need me (76),” Spahn told reporters following the game.
The likelihood that Spahn or any other reliever for that matter would be needed in Game Five was minimal given that Lew Burdette was the Braves’ scheduled starting pitcher. Burdette had beaten New York four straight times dating back to the ’57 World Series, all of which complete games with two being complete-game shutouts. “We’re going with our best pitcher (Burdette) tomorrow, they’ve never beaten him yet and they won’t do it tomorrow (77),” an elated Johnny Logan had boldly predicted following Game Four. “It’ll be all over by this time tomorrow (78).”
One could hardly blame Logan for his supreme level of confidence. The Yankees had dug themselves into a hole and were now down three games to one. Moreover, at that time there had only been one team that had ever come back to win the World Series after being down three games to one, that being the 1925 Pittsburgh Pirates and up to this point, the Yankees had given no indication that they were capable of winning three straight games.
Through the first four games of the series, the Yankees, who supposedly had the edge over the Braves in offense, had scored a total of only 12 runs. As a team, New York was hitting an anemic .168 with an on-base percentage of .252 and a slugging percentage of .336. With the exception of Hank Bauer, whose consecutive World Series game hitting streak had come to an end at 17 in Game Four but was still hitting .411 with three homeruns and seven RBI, none of the Yankees were producing.
Center fielder Mickey Mantle was 3 for 12 thru the first four games, though he had walked five times in his 17 plate appearances. Nevertheless, Mantle’s production up to that point in the series was below his standards. Over in left field, Elston Howard and Norm Siebern were a combined 1 for 14 with three walks.
In terms of the infield, New York had received practically zero production from the left side. Shortstop Tony Kubek was 0 for 13 thru the first four games. The combination of Andy Carey, Jerry Lumpe and Bobby Richardson playing third base was 1 for 13. The right side of the Yankee infield was only slightly better. Second baseman Gil McDougald was 3 for 14 with two walks and first baseman Bill Skowron was 3 for 15. Yankee catcher Yogi Berra was only 2 for 15.
On the rare occasions the Yankees were able to get men on base, they were miserable at driving them in. New York was 4 for 24 with runners in scoring position thru the first four games. The Yankees’ dismal offensive performance up to that point in the series had Stengel wondering; “I can’t understand what has happened to them. Maybe the club isn’t as good as people think it is (79).”
When speaking of the Yankees’ lack of production after Game Four, Stengel had made it a point to single out his second baseman, Gil McDougald. “He (McDougald) went good for us the first 17 games of the season when our pitchers were pitching shutouts. He then gave me about three more games the rest of the season. What has happened to him now, I don’t know (80).” Indeed, McDougald began the 1958 season red-hot. On May 10th thru 16 games, McDougald was hitting .403 and slugging .565. McDougald then went on to hit a paltry .229 and slugged .349 the rest of the season.
However, it was the maligned McDougald who would open the scoring for New York in a must-win Game Five. After Braves’ starter Lew Burdette had made quick work of the Yankees in the first two innings, McDougald led off the bottom of the third with a homerun that was just fair as the ball hit off of the screen alongside the left field foul pole. Interestingly, just prior to hitting the homerun, McDougald had asked the home plate umpire to inspect the ball Burdette had thrown on the previous pitch. During his career, Burdette had been rumored to occasionally throw a spitball. “The ball did something it should not have done, (81)” McDougald explained after the game. “It dropped down like a knuckler….and I know Burdette doesn’t throw a knuckler. He didn’t have time to doctor up the next pitch (82).”
Burdette dismissed the McDougald homerun as a “freak” and that “It would have been a foul ball (83)” in any other park. After the McDougald homerun, Burdette regrouped and retired the next three Yankee hitters in order to end the inning.
With the Yankees still leading 1-0 in the top of the sixth, Milwaukee center fielder Bill Bruton led off the inning with a single to left field. Bruton’s single was just the second hit Yankee starter Bob Turley had allowed up to that point. Unlike in Game Two, Turley was in complete command in Game Five. With Bruton on first, Red Schoendienst was the Braves’ next hitter. Schoendienst hit a sinking line-drive to left field. Elston Howard, who had been given the start in left field by Stengel after Norm Siebern’s disastrous day in left the game prior, charged hard toward the infield then dove to make a terrific catch on the sinking line-drive. Howard then returned to his feet and threw to first base to double-up Bruton who had advanced to second believing the ball would drop in for a hit. In his post-game interview Howard described the play as follows:
“I had that ball all the way. It was about six inches off the ground when I lunged for it…I knew I could get it. When I saw Bruton around second base, then I knew my throw could get him at first too (84).”
Thanks to Howard’s great catch, rather than the Braves having runners on first and second with nobody out, Braves’ third baseman Eddie Mathews came to bat with the bases empty and two outs. Given that Mathews proceeded to single in his at-bat, Howard’s catch saved the Yankees one run and preserved New York’s 1-0 lead. Turley was then able to strike out Hank Aaron to end the top of the sixth inning.
After the game both Bob Turley and Casey Stengel emphasized how significant Howard’s catch was at that point in the game. “That double play by Howard was the turning point for me (85),” was Turley’s reply when asked to comment on the play. Stengel agreed with his pitcher: “That catch of his (Howard) was a real boost to the morale of this club. It showed them we could get those other guys out and you saw what happened when we came to bat that inning (86).”
Indeed, the Yankees immediately pounced on Burdette in their half of the sixth inning. Hank Bauer led off the inning with a single to left. After Jerry Lumpe failed to successfully advance Bauer by way of a sacrifice bunt, Mickey Mantle singled to left center, advancing Bauer to third. Catcher Yogi Berra, who had grounded into a rally-killing double play in his last at-bat back in the fourth inning, followed.
This time Berra made hard contact, lining a double down the right field line which scored Bauer to make the score 2-0 Yankees and advanced Mantle to third. With first base open, Braves’ manager Fred Haney chose to intentionally walk Elston Howard. The strategy to walk Howard to load the bases did not work. New York’s next batter, Bill Skowron, muscled a single to right which scored Mantle to increase the Yankees’ lead to three runs.
Skowron’s hit meant the end of the line for Lew Burdette. It also meant that for the first time in five starts versus the Yankees, Burdette would be unable to go the distance and pitch a complete game. The New York Yankees had finally solved their nemesis. After the game though Burdette was incredulous when asked if the Yankee hitters had finally figured him out:
“The only ball they hit hard was (Yogi) Berra’s double. He hit a sinker downstairs to right field. The ball (Hank) Bauer hit had eyes. Mickey (Mantle) dunked a blooper but they’ve got to play him deep. I jammed (Bill) Skowron on the fists. He didn’t swing. If he did he would shattered the ball all over the place. He punched it….I pitched as well as the other day (Game Two)…this was the same Yankee club as last week. I had just as much stuff (87).”
Burdette’s catcher Del Crandall had a different take as to why the Yankees were able to rough up Burdette. “Lew’s big trouble was that he was pitching too high (88),” Crandall explained after the game. “When he keeps the ball low, it moves much better. He didn’t have his usual control (89).” Braves’ pitching coach Whit Wyatt echoed Crandall’s sentiment and claimed to have known that Burdette wasn’t at his best soon after the game had begun. “Early in the game the Yanks were hitting long fly balls. Nobody does that to Burdette when he’s right. They hit them on the ground. I thought then and there that Lew wasn’t quite right (90).”
After the Skowron hit that knocked Burdette out of the game, Milwaukee manager Fred Haney replaced Burdette with his young lefty starter Juan Pizarro. Pizarro promptly gave up a ground-rule double to the first batter he faced, Gil McDougald. McDougald’s double scored both Berra and Howard to make the score 5-0 New York. After striking out Tony Kubek, Pizarro then gave up a hit to Bob Turley which scored two more runs to make the score 7-0 with six of the Yankee runs charged to Lew Burdette. Pizarro finally ended the sixth inning by striking out Hank Bauer.
Meanwhile on the Yankees’ side, unlike his Game Two start in which he was unable to get out of the first inning, Turley completely dominated the Braves in his Game Five start. Turley had endured Stengel’s wrath after his Game Two start. According to Stengel, Turley’s “fancy stuff got him” in Game Two i.e. Turley’s inability to command his breaking pitches led to his early exit. Stengel’s opinion was that Turley was a “fastball pitcher and that he should stick to his fastball (91).”
Despite Stengel’s criticism, Turley’s game-plan for Game Five hadn’t changed from his game-plan for Game Two. Turley was going to once again rely on his breaking pitches to set-up his fastball. According to Turley, approximately three quarters of the 131 pitches he had thrown in Game Five were curveballs or sliders (92). Unlike in Game Two though, Turley was able to command his breaking stuff. “My control was the difference today (93),” explained Turley. “I was getting behind all the hitters in the second game. Then I had to come in with my fast ball and they really jumped on it. But it was an entirely different story today, all because of my control (94).” Stengel agreed with his pitcher: “The difference in the way he (Turley) pitched today and last week was that today, when he threw a curve it was a strike and they couldn’t hit it. In the other game when he threw a curve it was a ball and they didn’t have to hit it (95).” Indeed.
After the Yankees blew the game open in the bottom of the sixth, Bob Turley cruised in the next three innings to end up with a complete game five-hit shutout and a 7-0 win for the Yankees. Turley’s ten strikeouts made him just the second pitcher to twice strike out ten or more batters in a World Series start. The only other pitcher to accomplish the feat was legendary Hall of Famer Walter Johnson.
Turley had first turned the trick in Game Six of the 1956 World Series we he struck out 11 Dodgers in a 9 2/3 inning losing effort. Turley believed his performance against the Braves in Game Five was better than his Game Six start in ’56 versus the Dodgers. “I feel this was my finest pitching in the World Series. It was better than when Clem Labine beat me 1-0 in 10 innings in the sixth game of the ’56 Series. I overpowered them (Brooklyn). Today I was pitching (96).” After the game Del Crandall had succinctly summed up Game Five for the Braves’ hitters when he said, “Every time we walked into that little rectangle (batter’s box) today, we were overmatched (97).”
A relieved Casey Stengel summarized Game Five by saying, “We looked more like the Yankees today. Our pitching was amazing, we got some hits and that leftfielder (Elston Howard) made the key play of the game (98).” Indeed, thanks to Turley’s brilliant performance, a key defensive play and their bats finally coming to life in Game Five, the Yankees avoided elimination and were heading back to Milwaukee for Game Six.
Speculation as to who would start Game Six for the Yankees was rampant among the press all the way up until game time; though it was Stengel’s indecisiveness which he had made public that was fueling the speculation. “All my pitchers want to pitch tomorrow (99),” Stengel explained to the press. “Ford thinks he is going to pitch. Larsen wants to pitch. Turley might be able to go. But I’ve got to think about 15 different things. This ain’t like the regular season. If we don’t do it right tomorrow, it’s all over (100).”
Considering that Stengel had begun the series with a rotation of Ford, Turley and Larsen, one would assume that Larsen would be the Yankees’ scheduled starter for Game Six. Moreover, Larsen had thrown seven innings of scoreless ball in Game Three and had limited the Braves to just six hits. However, Stengel had to consider Larsen’s health given that Larsen would be pitching on just three days’ rest. Stengel: “We had to give him (Larsen) four days’ rest, sometimes five, six or seven during the season. If I start him and he stiffens up, it’s not fair to him and I make a bad decision, (101).”
On top of his three starters, Stengel had also considered going with one of his relievers to start Game Six. The first reliever Stengel bandied about was his closer, Ryne Duren. Up to that point in the series Duren had thrown 4.1 innings, allowing just one run on four hits. He had struck out six Braves hitters and walked four. While thinking out loud Stengel speculated as to what a Ryne Duren start may look like, “I can just ask him to throw as hard as he can and follow him with anybody I need. I’ve got a lot of pitchers and they’ve got all winter to rest so nobody’s going to be spared (102).”
In ’58 Duren had made one start for the Yankees, that being against the Detroit Tigers on September 16. Duren threw five innings of shutout ball allowing four hits and one walk. He struck out four. The second reliever Stengel had considered starting was Art Ditmar. Ditmar had yet to make an appearance in the World Series. Heading into the series, Stengel had named Ditmar his “number one man in the bullpen (103).”
By “number one man,” Stengel probably meant long reliever as it was obvious during the 1958 season that Ryne Duren was the Yankees’ fireman. Duren was simply overpowering. Ditmar on the other hand was not. In 1958 Ditmar was 9-8 with a league average 3.42 ERA. He appeared in 38 games, 13 of which were starts. Ditmar actually performed better as a starter in ’58 than he had as a reliever. As a starter, Ditmar was 7-5 with a 3.17 ERA in 88 innings pitched. As a reliever, Ditmar was 2-3 with four saves and a 3.66 ERA in 51.2 innings pitched.
Ditmar was acquired by the Yankees in the winter of 1957 in a multi-player deal with the Kansas City Athletics. The year prior, Ditmar led the AL in losses with 22. Between Ditmar and Don Larsen, the Yankees had two former 20-loss pitchers on their World Series roster. Ditmar went from being a 20-game loser in ’56 to an 8-3 swingman for New York in ’57. In the ’57 World Series versus the Braves, Ditmar appeared in two games, throwing a total of six innings. Ditmar allowed six hits and zero walks while striking out two in his two appearances.
With the choice as to who to start in Game Six coming down to Larsen, Duren, Ditmar or Ford, Stengel elected to go with his ace, Whitey Ford. “You’ve got to get a pitcher to compare with Spahn. Ford told me he is ready…I think Ford expects to pitch. He always thinks I’ve got a weak head if I don’t pitch him (104),” Stengel had explained to the media once it appeared as though he had finally made his decision.
Having started Game Four, Ford would be making his start on just two days’ rest which he had done two years prior in the 1956 World Series. In that game, Ford fired a complete-game four-hitter to beat the Dodgers 5-1 and send the series to a seventh game. However, that game was played in Yankee Stadium. This game would be played on the road in Milwaukee. At the time, Ford had been 0-4 in previous road post-season starts.
Stengel’s counterpart, Fred Haney, also had a decision to make as to whom to start in Game Six, although Haney’s situation wasn’t as desperate as Stengel’s. Haney had Game Three starter Bob Rush available on three days’ rest. Another option for Haney was rookie Carl Willey whom Haney had praised for his one inning of scoreless relief in Game Five. Haney though elected to go with his veteran ace Warren Spahn which meant Spahn would be facing Ford for a third time in the series. “I had Spahnie in mind all along (105),” Haney informed the press the day prior to Game Six. “But I had to wait to ask him how he felt. If he had said he couldn’t go, then I’d get around to considering someone else. (106).”
Spahn starting meant that he too would be pitching on two days’ rest. When asked by reporters as how he felt starting on just two days’ rest, Spahn answered:
“Actually, I don’t think coming back too soon will hurt me. You’re usually not tired after a good game, because you’ve got your stuff and you throw a minimum number of pitches. It’s the games you lose or have a tough time winning that tire you (107).”
Braves’ catcher Del Crandall was also asked as to how the short rest may affect Spahn’s pitching. Crandall’s reply: “I can’t think of any weakness Spahnie might have because of the short rest…No, I don’t think his control will be affected. That’s his strong point right now (108).”
With the pitching match-up now set, bookmakers had Game Six as a pick ‘em game but still had the Braves as the favorite to win the series at 5-2. Warren Spahn though made his own prediction for Game Six by proclaiming, “I’m going to beat those sons o’ guns (109).” For Spahn to beat the New York Yankees though, he was going to need help from the Braves’ offense which had clearly struggled in the last three games.
Milwaukee had been shut-out by the Yankees in two of those three games. Moreover, the Braves’, who finished fourth in the NL in homeruns in 1958 with 167, had only hit two in the first five games of the World Series, one of which was hit by a pitcher- Lew Burdette. Even more alarming was the rate at which Braves hitters were striking out. In their 195 plate appearances during the series, the Braves had struck out a total of 41 times or just over 21% which was 10% higher than their regular season rate.
Third baseman Eddie Mathews, who had led the Braves in homeruns in 1958 with 31, had been particularly inept at the plate. Heading into Game Six, Mathews had struck out a total of nine times in his 22 plate appearances and was only 4 for 22 in his at-bats. Milwaukee’s other slugger, Hank Aaron, had fared better than Mathews. Aaron was 5 for 19 in the first five games but he had yet to drive in a run. Aaron was Milwaukee’s leader in RBI during the season with 95. The platoon of Frank Torre and Joe Adcock at first base was a combined 5 for 22 with just one RBI. During the season the two players had combined for 109 RBI.
On the positive side, left fielder Wes Covington was 5 for 18 over the first five games and second baseman Red Schoendienst was 6 for 21. Milwaukee’s center field platoon of Bill Bruton and Andy Pafko were a combined 8 for 19. However, given the lack of production from the Braves’ middle of the order, they had only scored a combined two runs in the series.
With the left-handed Ford on the mound, Fred Haney went with the same starting line-up he had gone with the two previous games against Ford. That meant that right-handed hitters Joe Adcock and Andy Pafko would be starting. Haney’s line-up was as follows:
Red Schoendienst, 2B
Johnny Logan, SS
Eddie Mathews, 3B
Hank Aaron, RF
Joe Adcock, 1B
Del Crandall, C
Wes Covington, LF
Andy Pafko, CF
Warren Spahn, P
On the Yankees side, manager Casey Stengel made a couple of changes. Third baseman Andy Carey returned to the starting line-up. Carey hadn’t started since Game Two. Stengel inserted Carey in the lead-off spot in the order. The Game Five hero, Gil McDougald, who had hit in the seventh hole, was moved back to the second spot in the order where he had been in the previous two games in which Spahn had started. Below is the Yankees’ Game Six line-up:
Andy Carey, 3B
Gil McDougald, 2B
Hank Bauer, RF
Mickey Mantle, CF
Elston Howard, LF
Yogi Berra, C
Bill Skowron, 1B
Tony Kubek, SS
Whitey Ford, P
Warren Spahn began Game Six by retiring Andy Carey on a fly ball to center and Gil McDougald on a liner to third base. That brought up the Yankees’ best run producer of the series, Hank Bauer. Bauer had connected for a homerun off of Spahn in Game One. In Game Four though, Bauer was 0 for 4 against Spahn. However, in his first at-bat versus Spahn in Game Six, Bauer smashed a “down and in (110)” fastball over the left field fence for a homerun. Bauer’s blast travelled an estimated 360 feet and gave the Yankees a quick 1-0 lead. The homerun was Bauer’s fourth of the World Series making him just the third player in MLB history to hit four homeruns in a World Series. The other two players to accomplish the feat were Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Duke Snider. Ruth hit his four homeruns in the 1926 World Series. Snider had hit four homeruns in both the 1952 and 1955 World Series’.
In the home half of the first, the Braves evened up the score after Red Schoendienst singled to lead off the inning. He was eventually driven in by Hank Aaron. It was Aaron’s first RBI of the series.
In the top of the second, Spahn was able to work around a Johnny Logan error to preserve the 1-1 tie. Logan’s error was already the Braves’ second error of the game. In the first inning, Schoendienst had committed an error after the Bauer homerun but the Yankees failed to capitalize.
In the bottom of the second Whitey Ford began the inning by striking out Del Crandall. However, the Braves’ next two hitters, Wes Covington and Andy Pafko both singled. Covington’s single first appeared to have been caught by Mantle in center; however, it was ruled a hit by the umpires. Mantle did not protest, instead he quickly threw the ball back into the infield. When asked after the game whether or not he had caught the ball Mantle answered, “Sure I caught the ball. But there’s no use running in there and arguing once they call it (111).” Stengel on the other hand did protest the call. “I went out and argued because my fellows naturally just don’t argue (112),” Stengel explained after the game.
After the Covington and Pafko singles, Ford then gave up his third consecutive hit when Spahn was able to poke a single through the right side of the infield to score Covington and give the Braves a 2-1 lead. Ford then threw more gas on the fire when he walked Red Schoendienst to load the bases.
Recognizing that the game may be quickly getting away from the Yankees, Stengel applied the hook to Ford and called for his long-man out of the bullpen, Art Ditmar. Up to that point, Ditmar had yet to make an appearance in the series. “He (Stengel) told me I’d get into a game but I was beginning to wonder (113),” Ditmar remarked following the game. “You never know what Casey is thinking (114).” With the bases loaded and only one out, Stengel was relying on Ditmar to close the door on the Braves’ second inning.
Thanks in large part to his defense and some indecision by Braves’ third base coach Billy Herman; Ditmar did exactly that and escaped the inning without allowing any additional runs to score. The first and only batter Ditmar faced in that second inning was the right-handed hitting Johnny Logan.
Logan had jumped on Ditmar’s first pitch, lifting a short fly ball to left field which was caught by Elston Howard. Pafko tagged up at third base and then dashed for home. Seeing Pafko break for the plate, Howard gunned a perfect throw to Yogi Berra, who was blocking the third base side of the plate, to easily throw out a diving Pafko by at least three steps for the third out of the inning.
The play would have been closer had Billy Herman immediately made the decision to send Pafko. “I wasn’t going to send him (Pafko) at first (115),” a disappointed Herman explained to the media after the game. “Then at the last second I thought of that throw Howard made in the second game here, the one that went over Yogi Berra’s head….Our ‘book’ on Howard said he had a strong arm but inaccurate… It’s just as if a voice told me to change my mind (116).” Pafko’s take on the play was as follows: “Billy told me to go. I was sure the ball wasn’t hit too far so I yelled ‘Billy what should I do?’ He said ‘Yeah, go’ or something like that. I didn’t have a chance the way he (Howard) threw the ball (117).”
For the second straight game, Howard was able to double up a Braves’ baserunner on a fly ball to end a Milwaukee rally. Howard’s terrific throw enabled Ditmar to get out of the bases loaded jam with just the one pitch. Thanks to both Howard and Ditmar, the Yankees were only down 2-1 after two innings.
Ditmar would hold the Braves to the two runs in his 3.2 innings of work, limiting Milwaukee to just two hits, one of which was a Hank Aaron bunt. The other hit was a bottom of the fifth leadoff double by Red Schoendienst. Schoendienst had advanced to third after Logan successfully sacrificed. However, Ditmar was able to retire Eddie Mathews on a weak pop-up to first and Hank Aaron on a groundball to third.
Meanwhile Warren Spahn was showing no signs that the short rest between starts was having an effect. After five complete innings of work, Spahn had allowed only the one run, that being Bauer’s first inning solo shot and just three hits. As his catcher Del Crandall had predicted, the short rest hadn’t affected Spahn’s control. He had yet to walk a batter through five innings.
Heading into the sixth inning still leading 2-1, Braves’ manager Fred Haney replaced Andy Pafko in center with Bill Bruton for defensive purposes as he had done in Game One. However, this time the move may have ended up costing the Braves. After Mickey Mantle led-off the top of the sixth with a single, Elston Howard followed with a single up the middle. Bruton fielded the low bouncing ball but bobbled it which allowed Mantle to advance to third base. Bruton was charged with an error on the play. It was the third error of the day for the Braves.
Yogi Berra followed with a sacrifice fly to right to score Mantle to tie the score at two. Spahn then issued his first free pass of the day when he walked Bill Skowron. With runners now on first and second and only one out, Casey Stengel sent up the left-handed Enos Slaughter to hit for shortstop Tony Kubek who was a miserable 1 for 19 at the plate up until that point. Spahn retired Slaughter on a groundout and then struck out Jerry Lumpe, who was sent up to pinch-hit for Ditmar, to end the inning. However, the Yankees were able to tie the game at two heading into the Braves’ half of the sixth.
Stengel replaced Ditmar with the hard-throwing Ryne Duren. Duren proceeded to mow down the Braves for the next four innings, including striking out the side in the ninth. Spahn though was able to match Duren. Spahn had faced just one batter over the minimum since the Yankees had tied the score at two in the top of the sixth. Spahn ended the ninth by inducing a double play ball off of the bat Andy Carey.
After nine innings, the game was deadlocked at two. Incredibly, Spahn returned to the mound to pitch the 10th inning. Leading off for the Yankees in the top of the tenth was Gil McDougald. After taking Spahn’s first pitch for a strike, McDougald clubbed a Spahn fastball into the left field bleachers to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. “I was lucky (118),” McDougald reflected after the game. “Believe me, Spahnie happened to lay it right down the middle, He’d been pitching me high and tight, low and away all afternoon. This one must have gotten away from him. I’m sure he didn’t mean to get it in that spot (119).”
Despite giving up the homerun, Spahn remained in the game to face the dangerous Hank Bauer. Spahn though was able to retire Bauer on a long fly ball to the center field warning track and then Mickey Mantle on a groundout. Elston Howard followed with a single. He then advanced to third on Yogi Berra’s single to right field. Berra’s 10th inning single was his second hit of the game. Berra had also singled in the fourth inning. Berra’s fourth inning single was his 59th career World Series hit which made him the all-time career World Series hits leader, surpassing Hall of Fame second baseman Frankie Frisch’s mark of 58.
With runners on the corners and two outs and with Yankee first base man Bill Skowron due up, Fred Haney finally decided to pull his veteran pitcher. When asked after the game if he was fatigued in that tenth inning Spahn answered, “I felt strong all the way. I really didn’t tire (120)….You can’t be selfish out there. You never like to leave but I had confidence in Mac coming in (121).”
The player Spahn referred to as “Mac,” was Braves’ closer Don McMahon. McMahon had made one previous appearance in the series, that being in Game Three. He gave up two runs in two innings of work in a 4-0 loss. Surprisingly, rather than Haney instructing McMahon or Spahn for that matter to intentionally walk Bill Skowron with the Yankee pitcher Ryne Duren on deck, Haney had McMahon pitch to Skowron. In Haney’s defense, McMahon had struck out Skowron in Game Three. This time though, Skowron got the best of McMahon by lining a single to right field to score Howard and providing the Yankees a precious insurance run to make the score 4-2 Yankees.
The next hitter due up for the Yankees was their pitcher, Ryne Duren. Rather than pinch-hitting for Duren with runners on first and second to possibly increase the lead, Casey Stengel elected to have Duren hit for himself. McMahon was able to make quick work of Duren by striking him out to end the inning.
Having turned over their line-up in the bottom ninth inning, the Braves had the top of their order due up in the bottom of the tenth. Red Schoendienst led off the inning with a grounder to second that McDougald originally bobbled but had quickly recovered just in time to make the throw to first to retire Schoendienst. The Braves’ next hitter, Johnny Logan, worked Duren for a walk.
Duren had fallen behind in the count 3-0 in the Logan at-bat before firing two strikes to run the count to full. Duren’s next pitch, a low fastball at the knees, was called a ball by home plate umpire Charley Berry. The questionable called ball frustrated the Yankee reliever so much so that he barked something at Berry and apparently made some sort of gesture. Some claimed that Duren had grabbed his throat, a gesture to signal to Berry that he had “choked” under pressure in making the call. After the game, Duren dispelled those claims. “No I didn’t give him the choke sign (122),” Duren explained, “I just made that motion to tell him (the umpire) the ball was high enough to be a strike (123).”
The Logan walk brought Eddie Mathews to the plate. Mathews, who had been struggling the entire series, was 0 for 4 in Game Six. He had struck out once and had been unable to get the ball out of the infield in his other three plate appearances. In his fifth plate appearance in the tenth, Mathews struck out looking. It was the eleventh time Mathews had struck out in the series, setting a World Series record for futility at the plate. Mathews’ strikeout was also the Braves’ twelfth strikeout of the game giving them a total of 53 which was also a World Series record, surpassing the 52 strikeout mark set by the 1929 Chicago Cubs.
With the Braves’ next batter at the plate, Hank Aaron, Logan was able to advance to second in what was scored as defensive indifference. Duren was still using the wind-up rather than pitching from the stretch with Logan on first when facing Aaron. “No, nobody told me to wind up with Logan on first. I did it on my own. They couldn’t beat me with that run- couldn’t even tie me. I thought I’d have better stuff and control if I wound up, that’s why I did it (124),” was Duren’s explanation to the press as to why he did not pitch from the stretch with Logan on first.
With Logan now on second, Aaron “tomahawked” a letter-high Duren fastball to left field, scoring Logan to cut the Yankees lead to 4-3. With the tying run at first base in Aaron and Joe Adcock at the plate, Casey Stengel made a mound visit to discuss how Duren was going to approach Adcock. Duren on the mound visit: “Casey asked me how I intended to pitch to Joe Adcock. I told him I was going to keep the ball low on him. That’s what I did and Adcock singled (125).” Indeed. Adcock’s single to center field advanced Aaron to third. With the tying run just 90 feet away and a potential Braves’ winning run standing on first base, Stengel decided that Duren was at the end of his line.
In his postgame interview Stengel explained what his thinking was at the time: “He (Duren) did me a terrific job, but I thought maybe he looked just a little tired. What I mean is I thought he was gettin’ some balls where he maybe didn’t want them and they were getting’ their bats on them and getting’ some hits (126).”
After the game, Duren stated that he agreed with his manager’s assessment and the decision to relieve him, “I never worked so hard in my life and my only regret is that I couldn’t finish. Much as I would have liked to though, I’ll go with Casey Stengel’s decision any time. I simply kept firing away until I got tired. When I started to lose it in the 10th inning, I knew it and Casey knew it (127).” Duren ended up throwing 4.2 innings allowing one run on three hits. He walked two and struck out eight.
Stengel decided to have his Game Five starter, Bob Turley, relieve Duren in an attempt to get the final out of the game and even the series at three games apiece. Fred Haney countered the move by sending up the left-handed hitting Frank Torre to pinch-hit for Del Crandall. Turley later described how he approached the Torre at-bat:
“I threw those three pitches exactly where I wanted them. The first one was a fastball away from him (Torre). The next one was a sinker and then I said to myself; bust him right on the fists with a fastball, and that’s what I did. It was too close for him to take, so he had to swing, and he hit it right on the handle. I imagine he broke his bat on it (128).”
Whether or not Torre broke is bat on the pitch is not known; however, he was definitely jammed by the Turley inside fastball. Torre couldn’t do much with the pitch. He hit a soft liner in between first and second that Yankees’ second baseman, Gil McDougald, simply backed up on and caught to end the game with the final score being Yankees 4, Braves 3. The 1958 World Series was heading for a seventh and deciding game with the momentum clearly on the Yankees’ side. The Yankees were now an 11-10 favorite to win the series.
“We’re finally playing like we should (129),” a confident Casey Stengel said after Game Six. “The shoe is on the other foot. They’re down and we’re up. We’ve got them on the run. We won’t let up now….I feel better for my club and myself. We finally got tough and broke up that one man show of theirs- that Spahn (130).”
Stengel’s counterpart, Braves’ manager Fed Haney, in his postgame interview, expressed his frustration with his team’s Game Six performance. “What’s there for me to say? You all saw what happened. We had plenty of chances to score. What’d we leave on base-nine? Hookie (Spahn) pitched a helluva game. We should have won it for him (131).” Indeed, Spahn was masterful- for nine innings. In the tenth though, Spahn gave up the McDougald home run and was fortunate enough to have retired the Yankees’ next hitter, Hank Bauer, who had driven a ball to deep center. Regardless, Haney stuck with Spahn. After retiring Mickey Mantle on a grounder, Spahn allowed the next two batters to reach base, one of which eventually scored what turned out to be the winning run.
Oddly enough, Haney admitted he had noticed signs that Spahn may have been nearing the end of his line in the eighth inning but had decided to stick with the veteran. “The hardest thing I had to do in my life was pull him (in the tenth inning) out of there. I thought he was forcing himself in the eighth but I felt he should come out (to pitch) in the tenth and he agreed with me (132).”
With Spahn having started Game Six, it was obvious as to who Haney was going to start in Game Seven, that being Lew Burdette. Like Spahn had in Game Six, Burdette would also be starting on just two days’ rest in Game Seven. According to Milwaukee’s pitching coach Whit Wyatt, the Braves’ pitching plan for Game Seven would be as follows: “We’ll bring in Lew Burdette back for this last one (Game Seven), with Bob Rush as our ‘long relief’ man, and all the others with the possible exception of Spahn in reserve (133).”
On the Yankees’ side, the decision as to whom to start Game Seven wasn’t as clear. For Stengel the decision had come down to Game Three starter Don Larsen and the right-handed swingman Johnny Kucks. Kucks had made appearances in Games Two and Four of the series. He’d given up one run in 4.1 innings pitched and had impressed Stengel in doing so: “Kucks has looked good in his two relief appearances and don’t forget that shutout he pitched against Brooklyn that gave us the championship in 1956 (134).”
Indeed, back in 1956 Stengel had called upon the then 23 year-old Kucks to start the seventh game of the ’56 World Series. Kucks answered the call by twirling a three-hit shutout as the Yankees blew out Brooklyn 9-0 to win the game and the series. However, Kucks wasn’t the same pitcher in ’58 as he was in ’56. In 1956 Kucks was an 18-game winner and an AL All-Star. In 1958 Kucks was 8-8 and limited to just 15 starts.
Ultimately Stengel chose Don Larsen over Kucks to start the final game of the series setting up a rematch of Game Seven of the ’57 series between Larsen and Burdette. In that game, pitching on four days’ rest, Larsen lasted only 2.1 innings and gave up three runs, two of which were earned.
In terms of his line-up, Stengel returned Hank Bauer to the lead-off spot and inserted the left-hand hitting Jerry Lumpe at third base. On the Braves’ side, facing the right-handed Don Larsen meant that Haney would be starting his left-handed hitters Bill Bruton and Frank Torre in center and first. Manager Haney did make one significant change to the batting order. He dropped Eddie Mathews from the third spot to the sixth spot. “He isn’t hitting a lick, (135),” Haney announced prior to the game. “I just can’t bat him in the number three berth any longer. Frank Torre will most likely be the third spot hitter against the right-hander...I’m sure I will have Covington bat fifth. Mathews will hit sixth or seventh (136).” Haney’s finalized batting order had Mathews in the sixth spot and catcher Del Crandall in the seventh spot.
The weather for Game Seven was ideal. It was a glorious sunny afternoon with the temperature in the low 70’s. However, there was a strong wind blowing out to left field which would become a factor later in the game.
Lew Burdette began Game Seven by retiring the Yankees in order in the top of the first. In the bottom of the first, all eyes were on Don Larsen. How would the sore-elbowed Yankee starter react to having to pitch for the second time in four days, something he had only done four times during the regular season? Casey Stengel wasn’t taking any chances. Before Larsen even threw his first pitch he had Johnny Kucks warming up in the Yankee bullpen in case Larsen got into trouble early which is exactly what transpired.
Larsen gave up a lead-off single to Red Schoendienst to begin the game. He then walked Braves center fielder Bill Bruton. The Bruton walk prompted Stengel to have Bob Turley join Kucks in the bullpen to warm-up. Milwaukee first baseman Frank Torre was next up. The left-handed Torre laid down a beautiful bunt down the third base line, forcing Yankees’ third baseman Jerry Lumpe to field the ball. Lumpe fielding the ball meant the Schoendienst could advance to third on the play while Bruton advanced to second. Lumpe gunned down Torre with a throw to first base for the first out of the inning.
With runners on second and third and one out, Hank Aaron was the next batter up for the Braves. With the Yankee infield playing in, Larsen pitched carefully to the dangerous slugger. Larsen eventually walked Aaron to load the bases. Left fielder Wes Covington followed. Covington bounced a ball down the first base line which Skowron had short-hopped to retire Covington at first for the inning’s second out. However, Schoendienst was able to score the game’s first run on the play.
The struggling Eddie Mathews was the next batter up. As Mathews stepped into the batter’s box, he was greeted with a warm and encouraging applause from the Milwaukee home crowd. However, Mathews would not get a chance at redemption in this at-bat. Rather than pitch to Mathews, who at that point was just 4 for 24 and had struck out a World Series record 11 times, Stengel ordered Larsen to intentionally walk the Braves’ third baseman to load the bases, preferring instead to have Larsen pitch to the right-handed Del Crandall.
Crandall had been struggling at the plate almost as much as Mathews had. The Braves’ catcher was only 5 for 21 in the first six games and had struck out nine times including twice at the hands of Larsen in Game Three. The strategy to walk Mathews and pitch to Crandall paid off for Stengel and the Yankees. Larsen was able to strike out Crandall looking to get out of the first inning jam having given up just the one run and stranding three. After one inning, the Braves were up 1-0.
In the top of the second Lew Burdette would also have to wriggle out of a jam. Whether or not said jam was of his own doing was debatable. After issuing a lead-off walk to the Yanks’ catcher Yogi Berra, Burdette then faced New York left fielder Elston Howard. Howard sacrificed by bunting a Burdette pitch down the first base line to advance Berra. First baseman Frank Torre fielded the bunt but his throw to Burdette who was running to cover first base was high. Burdette failed to make the catch and Howard was safe at first. Berra advanced to third on the error which was charged to Torre.
With runners on first and third and nobody out, Fred Haney called for reliever Carl Willey to begin warming up in the bullpen. Up to bat next was New York third baseman Jerry Lumpe. Lumpe grounded a ball towards first base. Again it was Frank Torre who fielded the ball. Noticing that Berra was running down the third base line, Torre signaled a throw to home which forced Berra to retreat to third base. Torre then turned to first and flipped an errant throw to Burdette. Again Burdette was unable to handle the throw allowing Lumpe to be called safe at first. As a result, Torre was charged with his second error of the inning.
In his postgame interview a bitter Frank Torre questioned why the errors were charged to him. “Both of the throws had the runners beat. Why was it my error? I don’t mind taking the rap…but I fielded both balls clean. Both times the runners were beat by the ball and the throw was good. They should have been caught (137).” Lew Burdette agreed with his first baseman and accepted the blame. “Frank Torre flipped the ball to me both times and all I had to do was catch it and those runners are out (138).”
Whether Torre or Burdette should have been charged with the errors was debatable; however, one thing was clear; the two second inning errors were the fifth and sixth errors charged to the Braves in the last 12 innings of play going back to the start of Game Six. In the previous five series games the Braves had not committed an error.
With the bases now loaded and with still nobody out, the Yankees’ number seven hitter, Bill Skowron, was up to bat. On a Burdette 2-2 pitch, Skowron hit a weak ground ball to short that was fielded by Braves’ shortstop Johnny Logan. Logan stepped on second base to force Lumpe and then gunned a throw to first base in an attempt to double up Skowron. Skowron though was able to beat the throw and earn the RBI as Berra came home to even up the score at one. With runners on first and third, Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek hit a sacrifice fly to left that scored Howard to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Burdette then retired Don Larsen on a grounder to end the inning. The Yankees were able to score two runs without a hit.
In the bottom of the second it appeared as though Larsen had settled in. He quickly retired the Braves in order. However in the third, Bill Bruton led off the inning with a line drive to center field on the first pitch of the at-bat. Bruton’s hit prompted Stengel to call for Bob Turley and veteran left-handed reliever Bobby Shantz to begin warming up in the bullpen. Shantz had yet to make an appearance in the series as he was dealing with a jammed index finger on his throwing hand which he had suffered on the last day of the regular season.
Larsen was able to retire the Braves’ next hitter, Frank Torre, thanks to a terrific over the shoulder catch by Gil McDougald in shallow right for the first out of the inning. Hank Aaron followed Torre by drilling a Larsen 1-1 pitch through the middle of the infield for a single. With runners now on first and second and with only one out, Stengel went to the mound and motioned for Bob Turley to be sent in from the bullpen. Larsen’s day was over. He had pitched just 2.1 innings and had already given up three hits and three walks. “He had a good fastball but he couldn’t control his curve and changeup (139),” was Stengel’s assessment of his Game Seven starter. “When a pitcher gets that way, he’s liable to let up a little too much on a pitch and they hit it out of the park. That’s a good team and you can’t take chances with such fine hitters (140).”
Game Seven would mark Turley’s fourth appearance of the series. The first batter he would face was left fielder Wes Covington. After taking Turley’s first pitch of the game for a ball, Covington hit a chopper in front of the plate that was fielded by Yogi Berra. Berra threw to Yankee first baseman Bill Skowron to retire Covington for the second out of the inning. Skowron then attempted to double up Bruton at third by firing the ball across the diamond. However, his throw was wide of the base and into foul territory. Fortunately, New York third baseman Jerry Lumpe made a fantastic catch by diving for the ball and preventing it from going into the outfield. Lumpe’s great catch had saved the Yankees at least one run.
Faced with the same situation as he had faced in the first inning i.e. Braves’ runners on second and third with two out and first base open, Stengel again chose to intentionally walk Mathews, preferring instead to pitch to Del Crandall with the bases loaded. In the first inning the strategy worked as Crandall struck out and stranded three runners. The strategy worked again in the third inning, this time though Crandall was able to make contact. Crandall lined a ball that deflected off of Bob Turley’s glove and right to Yankee second baseman Gil McDougald. McDougald barehanded the ball and threw it to first to retire Crandall to preserve the 2-1 Yankee lead.
In just three innings the Braves or more accurately, Del Crandall, had already stranded a total of six runners. They would strand zero over the next two innings as Bob Turley had faced the minimum six batters over the two frames. In the bottom of the sixth with the Yankees still clinging to a one-run lead, Turley first retired Wes Covington on a deep fly ball to right field and then Eddie Mathews on a groundball to second. Del Crandall was then due up for his third at-bat of the game.
Unlike his previous two at-bats, this time Crandall had gotten the better of Yankee pitching. Crandall jumped all over Turley’s first pitch, a hanging curveball, and homered to left to tie the score at two. The Crandall wind-aided homerun was the first homer the Braves had hit since the first inning of Game Two and only Milwaukee’s third homerun of the series. Crandall’s shot was also the first hit Turley had given up since entering the game. The inning ended when Johnny Logan lined a hard shot to left field but right at Elston Howard for the third out. However thanks to Crandall, the Braves were tied at two with the Yankees after six innings.
The Crandall homerun and Logan’s hard line-drive may have given Stengel pause. While true, Turley had only allowed the one hit in his 3 2/3 innings of work, there were signs that Turley may not have been at his best. After the game Logan noted the difference between the Turley the Braves had faced in Game Five and the Turley they were facing in Game Seven. Logan: “He (Turley) looked like a different pitcher. We hit a lot of balls hard. It looked as if almost any inning we might get him out of there (141).” In his postgame interview Turley conceded that he may have not been at his best. “I didn’t have my best stuff (142)…but my fastball was hopping…I wasn’t as fast as usual because I was trying to keep the ball low and I couldn’t do that by throwing too hard (143).”
After Turley got out of the sixth inning having just given up the Crandall homerun, he was approached by Stengel in the dugout while the Yankees were batting in the top of the seventh. “I went to him (Turley) and told him that I didn’t want to ruin his arm for life to win this game. I wanted him to tell me the truth (144),” Stengel explained to the media in his postgame interview. Not surprising, Turley told Stengel that his arm felt “strong” and that he wanted to “finish it (the game) (145).” After weighing his rather limited options, Stengel chose to stick with Turley. Stengel: “I called the bullpen where I had Ford and Duren warming up. Duren said his arm was stiff. Johnson (Darrell Johnson, Yankees bullpen catcher) said that Ford could throw fastballs but wasn’t throwing good curves. So I stayed with Turley 146).”
On the Braves’ side, Lew Burdette had practically matched Turley inning for inning. After giving up the two unearned runs in the top of the second, Burdette had settled in. He had given up just two hits through six innings. In the top of the seventh though, Burdette gave up a lead-off hit to Bill Skowron. However, the Yankees’ next hitter, shortstop Tony Kubek, failed to advance Skowron to second. Instead he hit a weak fly ball to short for the first out of the inning.
Given his limited options in the bullpen, Stengel then allowed Turely to hit for himself. Stengel ordered Turley to sacrifice Skowron to second by way of a bunt. Turely succeeded. With Skowron now in scoring position, the Yankees had the very dangerous Hank Bauer at the plate. With reliever Carl Willey warmed up in the bullpen, Milwaukee manager Fred Haney chose to stick with Burdette. The strategy paid off as Burdette was able to retire Bauer on a weak pop-up to third to end the inning. In the bottom half of the seventh Bob Turely made quick work of the Braves by retiring the side in order. Game Seven was still deadlocked at two after seven innings.
In the top of the eighth Burdette was able to quickly get the first two outs of the inning by having Gil McDougald fly out to right center and striking out Mickey Mantle. He then faced Yogi Berra. After taking an outside pitch for a ball, Berra clubbed what Lew Burdette described as a “bad, high and inside pitch (147),” deep into the right field corner and off of the ten foot outfield wall for a stand-up double. There is no doubt that Berra had made very hard contact on the pitch but the ball may have been catchable. According to Braves’ pitching coach Whit Wyatt, Braves’ right fielder Hank Aaron should have caught the ball. “Two men out and Berra hits the double against the right field wall. The wall is padded, and the ball was low enough for him (Aaron) to grab it if he hadn’t misjudged it (148).”
Whether or not Aaron should have made the catch was definitely debatable. Regardless though, the Yankees now had the go-ahead run on second with two out and Elston Howard up to bat. Howard, who began the series 0 for 10 at the plate, had recently shown signs of coming out of his offensive funk. The Yankee left fielder had gone 2 for 5 in Game Six and had singled off of Burdette back in the fourth inning. Milwaukee manager Fred Haney had a decision to make. Pitch to Howard with first base open and a runner in scoring position or intentionally walk Howard and pitch to New York third baseman Andy Carey. Carey, who had replaced Jerry Lumpe at third in the sixth inning, was 0 for 11 in the series. Haney chose to have Burdette pitch to Howard. Of note, Haney also had Braves’ all-star closer Don McMahon warming up in the bullpen.
After fouling off Burdette’s first pitch, Howard took a ball inside to even the count at one and one. On Burdette’s third pitch, Howard was able to hit a high-hopper toward the mound that bounced just over the reach of a leaping Burdette and into center field for a RBI single. Howard’s hit scored Berra who had come home on the play from second to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. “Howard’s ball bounced over my head (149),” a despondent Burdette said after the game. “I missed it by about two or three inches and then Johnny Logan, our shortstop, was coming over fast for it and he missed it by inches too (150).” When Howard was asked by the media as to the pitch he had hit, the Yankee left fielder answered, “I hit a sinker square. That’s all he (Burdette) was throwing me (151).”
With Howard on first, the aforementioned Andy Carey was the next New York hitter. Carey hit a hard ground ball that deflected off of the glove of Braves’ third baseman Eddie Mathews and right to Johnny Logan who was backing up the play. Logan though had no chance to get Carey at first. Instead he threw off-balance to second base which was several feet wide of the mark. The play was scored a hit for Carey. With runners now on first and second, the Yankees had the heavy hitting right-handed Bill Skowron at the plate. Fred Haney once again chose to stick with Burdette rather than call on his relief ace Don McMahon to face Skowron. Most likely, fresh in Haney’s mind was Skowron’s game winning single off of McMahon in Game Six after McMahon had come into the game in relief of Warren Spahn.
After working Burdette to a 2-2 count, Skowron absolutely crushed Burdette’s next pitch for a three-run homerun to left center field to give the Yankees a 6-2 lead. The Skowron blast was measured to be in excess of 450 feet. “That was the best punt (homerun) I ever made (152),” an elated Skowron said after the game. “He (Burdette) had a 2-2 count and he was pitching me up tight, so I set myself for the high inside pitch and he gave it to me (153).” What Burdette “gave” to Skowron, according to Burdette was a “waist high change-up slider” that he failed to properly locate.
Burdette dismissed accusations that he had tired in the eighth given that he was pitching on two days’ rest. “Pitching on two days’ rest didn’t bother me anymore than it did last time. I felt strong all the way. I just got into trouble after two outs in the eighth (154).” Burdette’s catcher, Del Crandall agreed with his battery-mate. “He pitched a terrific game and didn’t tire even after two days’ rest. He was just as effective as before (155).” Despite the homerun, Burdette was allowed to finish the eighth inning. He did so by striking out Tony Kubek. Burdette had tossed eight complete innings and had given up seven hits and two walks while striking out three. He and the Braves were now down 6-2 after 7 ½ innings.
The Braves went quietly in the home half of the eighth before mounting one final threat in the bottom of the ninth. Stengel had Turley return to the mound to pitch the ninth but had Art Ditmar and Ryne Duren warming up in the bullpen should Turley get into trouble. Eddie Mathews led off the inning with a walk, his third of the day. Del Crandall followed by hitting a lazy fly ball to left for the first out. The Braves’ number-eight hitter, Johnny Logan, was the second out of the inning after flying out to deep center.
With the pitcher’s spot due up, Fred Haney called on Joe Adcock to pinch-hit for Don McMahon. Adcock was able to smack a Bob Turley 1-1 pitch for a single to left to keep the Braves’ slim hopes alive. Incidentally, Adcock’s hit was the only successful pinch-hit of the series for either team. The Braves and Yankees had been a combined 0 for 15 in pinch-hit at-bats. The only pinch-hitter to reach base prior to Adcock was Enos Slaughter who had walked in his pinch-hitting assignment in Game Three.
The game and the series would come to an end when Red Schoendienst lined out to left-center for the game’s final out. The New York Yankees had defeated the Milwaukee Braves 6 to 2 to complete the improbable comeback. Having been down three games to one, the Yankees were able to win the next three games and take the 1958 World Series four games to three.
Mickey Mantle, who hauled in Schoendienst’s liner for the final out of the game, summed up the elation the Yankees had felt once the game had ended. “No game we Yankees ever won since I joined the club made us as happy as the one which took the World Series from the Braves…We were all keyed-up to win because for the first time since I have been a Yankee we had to prove that we were a good ball club (156).”
No doubt. In fact, the Yankees had to prove they were a good ball club first and foremost to their manager Casey Stengel. After their Game Two shellacking, Stengel had harshly criticized his team and promised changes. “I’m going to make some changes on this club (157), Stengel had declared. “There are several men on this club who don’t deserve to be on it. I promise you this. They won’t be here next spring (158).”
Of course Stengel changed his tune once his Yankees had won the World Series. “Nobody could do it like the Yankees. They look like Yankees (159),” A triumphant Stengel had declared. “We were the Yankees like we used to be but let me tell you, it took a lot of doing. This was the hardest one ever (160)…Now we look like we can win in the National League. Now we look like the real New York Yankees (161).
Stengel mentioning winning in the National League was a jibe at Braves’ pitcher Lew Burdette. As previously mentioned, after the Braves had won Game Two, Burdette made the claim that the Yankees were “no tougher than a couple of clubs” in the National League. Yogi Berra joined his manager at taking a veiled swipe at Burdette when in his postgame interview with legendary Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen Berra said, “I guess the National League won’t be as smart now.”
Aside from the dig at Burdette, Stengel had praised the Milwaukee Braves for a hard fought series. Posing in front of the newsreel cameras with his counterpart Fred Haney, Stengel told Haney to “tell your guys they played like hell and I’m as proud of ‘em as you are for giving us a battle. (162).”
Of course Haney also praised his players. “I don’t think anybody has to be ashamed on this ball club. I’m just as proud of them as if they won (163).” Haney continued, “I give them (Yankees) all the credit in the world. I have no alibis and neither do my players. We had our chances. They beat us. They deserved to win. To the victor belong the spoils (164).”
Indeed, the Braves had ample opportunities to win. In fact, Milwaukee had stranded a total of 57 base runners in the series. Conversely, the Yankees had stranded 40 men on base, only one more than the record low for a seven-game series set by the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1920 World Series. Milwaukee sluggers Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron and Wes Covington who had hit a combined 105 homeruns during the regular season, accounted for zero in the seven-game series. In his postgame interview, Fred Haney was careful not to single out his hitters for the loss. “Let’s not talk about our batting slump, let’s talk about their pitching. Turley pitched great ball. So did Ford, only he was unlucky (165).”
Bob Turley was named the 1958 World Series MVP. Overall Turley was 1-1 with 1 save. He threw 16.1 innings and allowed five earned runs. He walked seven and struck out 13. Elston Howard was credited for turning the series around for New York with his diving catch in Game Five that snuffed out a potential Braves’ rally. According to Hank Bauer, Howard’s Game Five catch “woke up the whole club and after we won the game we felt we could do it again (166).” Of course Hank Bauer also played a significant role in the Yankees’ winning the series. Bauer led all players with six runs scored, four homeruns and eight RBI. Yankee second baseman, Gil McDougald, who had been singled out by Casey Stengel after the Yankees’ Game Four loss, led all players in the series in win probability added (WPA) with a mark of .45.
The 1958 World Championship was the seventh of Casey Stengel’s career, tying him with the great Joe McCarthy for most career managerial World Series championships. Stengel would get the opportunity to surpass McCarthy in 1960 when the Yankees faced the Pittsburgh Pirates in the ’60 World Series. However, Stengel and the Yankees lost to the Pirates in seven games. Five days after the series had ended, Stengel was fired.
Fred Haney returned as the Braves’ manager in 1959. He guided the Braves to an 86-70 record but Milwaukee failed to win a third consecutive NL Pennant. The Braves were swept in the NL deciding two-game playoff versus the Los Angeles Dodgers. Haney resigned shortly thereafter.
After the conclusion on the 1965 season, the Braves’ moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta. The city of Milwaukee would not host another World Series game until 1982 when the Milwaukee Brewers faced the St. Louis Cardinals. The Brewers lost the series in seven games. The Braves’ franchise would not return to the World Series until 1991 when they faced the Minnesota Twins in a memorable seven-game series.
Kenosha Evening News: Sept 30, 1958 (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7)
La Crosse Tribune: Oct 1, 1958 (5)
Daily Tribune: Sept 30, 1958 (8)
Desert News and Salt Lake Telegram: Sept 30, 1958 (9)
Star Gazette: Oct 2, 1958 (10, 16, 17, 25, 26)
Democrat and Chronicle: Oct 2, 1958 (11, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 27)
North Adams Transcript: Oct 2, 1958 (12)
Wisconsin State Journal: Oct 2, 1958 (13)
Janesville Daily Gazette: Oct 2, 1958 (14)
Raleigh Register: Oct 2, 1958 (24, 28, 29)
Wellsville Daily Reporter: Oct 2, 1958 (30, 31)
Guthrie Daily Leader: Sept 24, 1958 (32, 33)
Evening Sun (Baltimore): Sept 30, 1958 (34)
SABR Biography Bob Turley (35, 36, 37)
Wisconsin State Journal: Oct 3, 1958 (38)
Atlanta Constitution: Oct 3, 1958 (39)
Capital Times: Oct 3, 1958 (40, 41)
Star Gazette: Oct 3, 1958 (42)
Delaware County Daily Times: Oct 10, 1958 (42a)
Pittsburgh Press: Oct 3, 1958 (43)
The Tribune: Oct 4, 1958 (44, 45, 46)
Elmira Advertiser: Oct 4, 1958 (47, 48, 49)
Sunday News: Oct 5, 1958 (50, 54, 55)
Miami News: Oct 5, 1958 (51)
Beckley Post Herald: Oct 5, 1958 (52, 58)