In honor of the Dodgers looking to clinch the World Series tonight in Dodger Stadium, a look back at the first World Series clinched at Chavez Ravine, Dodgers vs Yankees, Game 4, Sunday, October 6, 1963.
Los Angeles narrowly missed the World Series in their first season in Dodger Stadium in 1962. Despite a strong campaign, Koufax was plagued by a finger injury, which caught up with him as the season wound down and rendering him mostly ineffective in the winner-take-all 3-game playoff vs the S.F. Giants after ending in a flatfooted tie at season’s end. So all eyes were on the Dodgers and Sandy Koufax (and his finger) to lead them back to the Fall Classic in 1963. And despite a slow start, possibly from a ’62 hangover, they did gain steam in the summer and this time, with Koufax rebounding strongly to go 25-5 and earn both MVP and Cy Young honors, held off the Giants (and the Cardinals) to earn the first NL pennant flag to fly at Chavez Ravine.
And Koufax didn’t let up in the World Series either, setting the tone with a dominant performance in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium, fanning a then-World-Series-record 15 batters, going all the way for the victory. And with 1955 World Series hero Johnny Podres in Game 2 and Don Drysdale in Game 3 (the first W.S. game at Dodger Stadium) also twirling gems against the aging Bombers, the Dodgers were poised to close out the Yankees with the league’s best pitcher again taking the mound. His opponent would be the future Hall-of-Famer Whitey Ford, who had lost Game 1 to Koufax and was looking for redemption, and to help his team live another day.
Koufax started out strong, being perfect through 3 innings, and allowing his first baserunner in the 4th on a fly ball that Willie Davis lost in the sun for a double, but quickly got two more outs to quell the threat. And Ford matched him inning by scoreless inning, until the Dodgers broke through in the 5th on a home run by big Frank Howard to make it 1-0 L.A.
Koufax nursed his single-run lead until the 7th, when Mickey Mantle went deep (above) to knot the score at 1-1. But the Dodgers would answer in their half of the 7th on an error by Joe Pepitone at 1B on a throw from 3B Clete Boyer that allowed Jim Gilliam to scamper all the way to third with none out. Willie Davis then hit a sac fly to score Gilliam, and the Dodgers were back on top, 2-1.
Koufax would strand a single in the 8th and take a 2-1 lead to the 9th with three outs to go to secure the title. Bobby Richardson would lead off with a walk, but Koufax bore down and got both Tom Tresh and Mantle on called third strikes, leaving only one out to go. An untimely error by 2B Dick Tracewski allowed Elston Howard to reach, putting runners on first and second, but Koufax got Hector Lopez to ground out 6-3 to clinch the 1963 World Series.
The Dodgers had won the World Series in 1959, while in residence at the L.A. Coliseum, but clinched that title in Chicago (against the White Sox). They would win another World Series in 1965, with Koufax again pitching the clincher, but this time at Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis against the Twins. Koufax would return to the Fall Classic one more time in 1966, but they were shut out by the Baltimore Orioles, with Koufax calling it a career soon after due to lingering injuries.
Nevertheless, Sandy Koufax will always be the Dodger that christened beautiful Dodger Stadium with their first-ever World Series Championship. And he will certainly be there tonight as well, 54 years later, in the first Fall Classic in the stadium in 29 years. Can he close out just one more title at Chavez Ravine?