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.

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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.

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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

 

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

 

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

 

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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?

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Hal Smith: Bucs Bridesmaid, World Series Hero

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What a moment! Roberto Clemente and Dick Groat celebrate as the Pirates’ Hal Smith hits an unbelievably clutch 2-strike, 2-out, 3-run blast off the Yankees’ Jim Coates in the bottom of the 8th inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, to put the Bucs up 9-7, and to put them only 3 outs away from their third championship. Certainly the biggest HR in the history of venerable Forbes Field, and for the Pittsburgh franchise for that matter, and Hal Smith went down as one of the biggest Pirate heroes of all time, and it is often cited as one of the most memorable performances in a World Series. Or at least that’s the way it should have played out.

Hal Smith was signed by the Yankees as a catching prospect in 1949, and while he was a pretty fair hitter for a few years in the minors (albeit with limited power), someone named Berra was to be behind the plate for the Bombers for quite a while, so Smith was eventually packaging up in a staggering 10 player-for 7-player trade with the Orioles. The trade turned out to be a shrewd one for New York, acquiring two very good pitchers, Bob Turley, who would be a strong starter for the Yanks and eventually win the Cy Young in 1958, and another gentleman by the name of Don Larsen.

halsmith55_zps75fb32eaHal would eventually get his big league chance with the Orioles, as their starting catcher in 1955, and had a fair season, batting .271, but with little pop, and also unfortunately led the league with 14 passed balls. With the emergence of slugging catcher Gus Triandos, Smith was relegated to part-time status for most of 1956, until he was sent to Kansas City in August, swapped for the left-handed hitting catcher Joe Ginsberg.

Hal returned to the starting catcher role in 1957 and batted .303, with new found power, hitting a career-high 13 home runes, but the passed balls got him again, leading the league with 16 this time, so his future was as a utility man, splitting time between C, 1B and 3B for the Athletics in 1958, and 1959. And then, as luck would have it, he was traded to the Pirates for the 1960 season.

The Pirates were already set at starting catcher, with lefty Smoky Burgess coming over from Cincinnati and having a strong 1959 season, batting .297 and making the All-Star team, and would go on to have very good years for Pittsburgh well into the 1960’s. But for 1960, the Pirates would looking to upgrade in the backup catcher’s spot, and Smith, who could play other positions as well (although he only caught on the field in 1960), got the nod.

halsmith60_zps18b6486fAnd this time, he flourished as a backup, hitting .295 with 11 HRs and 45 RBIs in only 77 games, and even cut his passed balls down a bit. Also, his appearances were not based on a strict lefty-righty platoon, but mostly to give Burgess breaks along the way, and Smith performed equally well against both left-handed and right-handed pitching. And as the Pirates marched to the NL pennant, Hal Smith was one of the “steady performers” that made the 1960 NL pennant drive a “solid team victory” (NYT).

In the World Series, with the Yankees going with two right-handed pitchers in the first two games at Forbes Field, lefty Burgess would catch both games, but with lefty Whitey Ford going in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, Smith got the start. Unfortunately, Hal would go 0-3 as the Yanks drubbed Vinegar Bend Mizell and the Pirates, 10-0. With two more rightys going in Games 4 and 5, Smith was back for Game 6, again against Ford, again a Yankee laugher, but Hal managed two hits off Whitey.

Game 7 saw rightly Bob Turley take the mound for the Yanks, so Smith started the game on the bench. Burgess was having a good game, and led off the bottom of the 7th inning with his second hit of the contest. But Smoky being slow afoot allowed fate to intervene for the first time, and with the Pirates down by a run, the catcher was pulled for a pinchrunner. The Pirates didn’t score in the frame, and when Smith took over the catching duties as the Yankees tallied two more in the top of the 8th to go up 7-4, it looked bleak for the locals. But fate was not nearly done this October day in Pittsburgh, PA.

In the bottom of the 8th, Gino Cimoli, pinch-hitting for Elroy Face, led off with a single. Bill Virdon then hit the perfect double play ball to Tony Kubek at short, but as many of us know, the ball hit the most intrusive pebble in MLB history, and smacked Kubek in the throat, and there was no play. As Kubek left the game due to injury, Yankee pitcher Bobby Shantz was rattled, and instead of going for the third out of the inning with the bases cleared, allowed a single to Dick Groat with two men on and still no one out, to score the first run of the inning, and he was done.

Enter Jim Coates. Coates was a very good young hurler for the Yanks, and had a stellar year in 1960 as a spot starter, going 13-3 and being selected as an All-Star. Coates had appeared in two games in the Series already, and was less than stellar; after Art Ditmar got knocked out in the 1st inning of Game 1 at Forbes, Coates came in to put out the fire, and did for a while – until a fellow by the name of Mazeroski hit a 2-run shot off him in the 4th inning to give the Pirates a healthy lead that they would not relinquish. He fared better in Game 4, pitching the final two innings at Yankee Stadium and only allowing 1 hit, but the Yankees could not muster anything off of Elroy Face, who allowed no hits after coming in in the 7th, and the Yankees lost 3-2. Speaking of fate, had the Yanks pushed across a run or two against Face in this pivotal Game 4, the Bombers could’ve went up 3 games to 1 in the Series, and may never have had to even return to Pittsburgh to win the Series. But, such is fate.

Coates again had a chance to be a hero, but had his work cut out for him. With the score now 7-5 Bob Skinner sacrificed the runners to second and third, but now there was one away. He then got Rocky Nelson to fly to Roger Maris in medium right field, and Bill Virdon had to hold third as Maris fired a perfect no-bounce throw to Johnny Blanchard at the plate. Two out. Again, fate would lend a hand.

Roberto Clemente was up next, and it looked like Coates gave him a pretty good pitch – with Clemente almost bailing out, he hit a slow dribbler to the right side, and with no one getting to the first base bag soon enough, Clemente was safe at first, and another run had scored, making it 7-6. Coates has been blamed throughout history for failing to cover first on this play, but as one can see (below), Coates did made a quick jaunt to first – it appeared no one would have been able to catch the speedy Clemente in that footrace.


First and third, still two outs. Up stepped Hal Smith. While he had some pop this year, he was .222 in the Series, with only a pair of singles. Although Ralph Terry was warmed up, he had started and lost Game 4 (all hands on deck for Game 7), and the Yankees felt Coates had a good of a chance as any to get the Yanks out of the inning with the lead.

But on a 2-2 count, what happened should have been a highlight that any baseball fan would have committed to memory all these years, and maybe even had known Mel Allen’s call word for word:


As Terry then did come in, and got Don Hoak on a fly to left, all that was needed for the Pirates was to retire the Yanks in the 9th, and the Bucs even had an insurance run in their pocket thanks to Hal’s homer. Bob Friend, the Pirates’ All-Star ace, with a stellar return to form for the 1960 regular season with 18 victories, and a red hot September, with 3 complete games and winning 4 out of 5 decisions, was called upon to finish the game and secure the crown for the locals. Unfortunately, Manager Danny Murtaugh may not have checked the stat sheet before calling on Friend – he had had an absolutely awful Series, losing Game 2 after lasting only 4 innings, then being positively tattooed in Game 6 (just the day before), allowing 5 runs in 2+ innings.

After Friend let the first two Yankees on with singles, and lefty Maris was coming up, Friend was done for 1960 and Harvey Haddix came in, in a tough spot. He got Maris to foul out, but when Mickey Mantle dunked one into short right, and Yogi Berra grounded a slow roller to first, the game was tied 9-9, and Smith’s heroics were quickly buried into the narrative of the game, instead of being its ultimate moment.

Of course, Ralph Terry, who came in the 8th, would have an even worse day than Friend and Coates, as he took the mound in the bottom of the 9th – and on his second pitch of the inning became part of the memory of Mazeroski’s historic blast over a drifting Yogi Berra to win the 1960 World Series, to the same spot where Hal Smith’s shot went. And Mazeroski became the hometown hero, complete with a nice statue, and a place in the MLB Hall Of Fame. And Hal Smith was largely forgotten, except to a few diehards in the Steel City.

But then fate intervened again.

In late 2009, in Bing Crosby’s old wine cellar in Hillsborough, CA, while an archivist was looking for footage of old holiday specials, he stumbled upon two dusty film canisters marked “1960 World Series”. And with that, the video of this long lost 7th game was available for the first time since it’s original TV broadcast, and legions of baseball fans and scholars could again revisit this classic contest, culminating in an exclusive screening of the game in Pittsburgh in November 2010, with many participants in attendance, including 79-year old Hal Smith himself. And as USA Today reported it, when his homer flashed on the screen, Hal Smith was given a standing ovation, not only from the fans in attendance, but from his fellow teammates as well, a gesture that brought Hal to near tears. And as fate would have it, Bill Mazeroski could not attend due to a short illness, so Smith, in effect, had the spotlight pretty much all to himself, at least for that day.

Catcher Hal Smith, Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate Game 7 heroics 50 years later

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So, as Mel Allen said on TV that day in 1960, Hal Smith’s home run will be “one of the most dramatic base hits in the history of the World Series…that base hit will long be remembered”. After a 50-year hiatus, and with a late-inning save from Der Bingle, I trust Mel was right, after all.

Pastime Portraiture, #2

Another in a series of great baseball portraits that almost no one knows. Mantle, Yankee Stadium, May 14, 1955. He went 2-4 against the Tigers that day, including a triple, and a single with 2 outs in the 9th to continue the game-winning rally as the Yanks scored 3 in the final frame to win it, 7-6, Mantle scoring the winning run. Just a day’s work for the consummate modern-day Yankee slugger.

This was the shot used on the June 18, 1956 Sports Illustrated cover, but with restrained color. Here’s the photo in it’s pre-magazine-processed glory; be sure to click through for a somewhat larger version.

Yet another great Hy Peskin shot, check out his site and buy a classic photo or two:

Hy Peskin Collection – Baseball

 

Welcome to Shea Stadium…now batting, #7, Mickey Mantle

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Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra at the 1964 All Star Game at Shea Stadium

There was a discussion in the Baseball Fever boards a while ago whether the venerable Mickey Mantle ever played at the Polo Grounds, and I believe it was determined he made one appearance, for an exhibition in 1957. Anyway, it got me to thinking about the Polo Grounds’ descendant, Shea Stadium, and how many times old #7 stepped to the plate at Shea (and probably stepped out a few times to let the planes pass as well).

Since, unfortunately, the Mets and Yankees did not meet in the World Series during Mantle’s career (Mick just missed his shot, retiring before the Mets’ first championship season), any appearances would have had to be limited to exhibition games of some sort.

First up would be the most obvious, the All-Star Game at brand new Shea on July 7, 1964. Mickey went 1-4, with the one hit a 6th inning single off the Phillies’ Chris Short, and scored along with Harmon Killebrew on a Brooks Robinson triple that just eluded Willie Mays and tied the game at 3-3 (Johnny Callison winning it for the NL with his classic walk-off in the 9th).

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Only known photo of Mickey Mantle batting at Shea Stadium, ’64 ASG

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After that, the only other exhibitions where the Yankees would play in Queens would be the Mayor’s Trophy Game (NYNL vs NYAL), revived in 1963 at Yankee Stadium. With the game at Shea every other year, Mantle played in the 1964, 1966 and 1968 contests in Flushing (boxes below).

August 24, 1964 – A month after the ASG, 0-0, appeared to have walked in his first and only at bat, and Pepitone pinch-ran for him.

June 27, 1966 – 0-1.

May 27, 1968 – 1-2, a single off Dan Frisella.

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So, Mick’s career at Shea: 4 games, going 2-7 in 8 official trips to the plate (.222), with 2 singles and a run scored.

Incidentally, the 1968 game above was not his last at-bat in an NL park – he went 0-1 in the Astrodome at the ASG on July 9th, in his last ASG appearance, striking out in his only at bat. Who was the NL Star who struck him out? None other than Met Tom Seaver, the only time the two faced each other in their careers (video of the K below).