Dodger Stadium’s First Championship

080 Sandy Koufax, 1963 World Series, Game 4

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.

 

sikoufax63Los 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.

63wsproglaAnd 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.

63wsgm4tix

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.

1963-1006-Mickey-Mantle-Sandy-Koufax-079008843

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.

080 Sandy Koufax, 1963 World Series, Game 4

Final out of the 1963 World Series

 

1963-Sandy-Koufax-080062794

Maury Wills looks on as Sandy Koufax and Johnny Roseboro celebrate winning the 1963 World Series

 

64topps2

1964 Topps cards celebrating the Dodgers’ Game 4 win and Championship

 

image-2

Sandy Koufax and Vin Scully in the winning clubhouse at Dodger Stadium

 

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?

koufax17

 

 

Advertisements

A Moment In Time – 4/15/58

58a

This particular “Moment In Time” is actually one of the seminal moments in the history of the game. Tuesday, April 15, 1958, at Seals Stadium in San Francisco, at 1:34 pm, Ruben Gomez of the Giants fires one to Gino Cimoli of the Dodgers as Valmy Thomas frames the pitch, and major league baseball in California (and the western United States) is born.

RubenGomezColon

Ruben Gomez

Ruben Gomez was a long time Giant and one of the earliest latino pitching stars in the majors, going 17-9 in his second season in 1954, and being the first Puerto Rican player to win a World Series game and eventually the first to win a ring, in the New York Giants’ final championship season. He was chosen by manager Bill Rigney to start this first game on the west coast not only because of his superb screwball, but also because he was right-handed, as the Dodgers were righty-heavy with Hodges, Furillo and even Cimoli. It would be Gomez’s first Opening Day, and although he pitched a complete game gem as SF defeated LA 8-o, it would also be his last. Gomez would have a subpar year for the Giants in ’58, and his decline from there was rapid – he was traded to the Phillies in ’59, sporting an E.R.A. over 6, then a spot reliever by 1960, and on to the Mexican League by 1963.

Regardless, Gomez would always carry the honor of being the first winning pitcher on the west coast, but had some help that day by fellow countrymen – Valmy Thomas, catching due to an injury by first-stringer Bob Schmidt late in spring-training, was also born in Puerto Rico, although was in fact the first major league player from the Virgin Islands, where he was raised and returned to after his baseball career. Thomas followed Gomez to Philadelphia in 1959 as a part-time catcher, and was out of baseball by 1962.

This first game also featured a 20-year-old rookie making his major league debut, with 13 assists at first base, not to mention a home run that day – another Puerto Rican fellow by the name of Orlando Cepeda.

Gino Cimoli in 1958

As for Gino Cimoli, he was home. He was born in San Francisco, was a star at local Galileo High School, and was purposely inserted at the top of the lineup by manager Walter Alston since he was a local legend and the only native San Franciscan on either roster. In fact, Cimoli had a knack for being in the right place at the right time – he bookended Brooklyn’s final season in 1957 by hitting a game-winning homer off Philadelphia’s Robin Roberts in the 12th inning of the season opener, then scored the Dodgers’ final run in Brooklyn in the last game at Ebbets Field, and their final run of the final game as well, in Philly, both in late September. And after his Dodger days, for good measure, as a Pirate he pinch-hit for Elroy Face to lead off the bottom of the 8th of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, igniting the improbable 5-run rally to pull ahead of the Yankees and eventually win the World Series an inning later. Unfortunately, Cimoli’s historic at-bat this day was less dramatic: he struck out.

Cimoli’s return to his west coast roots would be less than triumphant, and after his average slipped almost 50 points for the Los Angeles version of the Dodgers, was traded to St. Louis in 1959. He would kick around the NL for while, before experiencing a short resurgence with the Kansas City A’s in 1962-1963, retiring in 1965.

Cimoli would return to San Francisco after his playing days and live in the greater SF area for the rest of his life – and become a Giants fan, of the San Francisco variety.