GAME 1 MASTERFUL MR. SPAHN
A Constant chill breeze blew across the infield of County Stadium in Milwaukee during the first game of the 1958 World Series, and a steady aura of tension arose from it. Now, it must be pointed out that the Milwaukee Braves' remarkable Warren Spahn was pitching against the New York Yankees' Whitey Ford in this opening game, and that the tension did not embrace Spahn. The night before, he and his equally remarkable roommate, Lew Burdette, clowned offstage as Leo Durocher conducted interviews on a TV show, then ambled easily on camera to be interviewed themselves. Carefree as a brace of puppy dogs, they grinned at each other, at the audience, at Durocher. To Leo's inane question, "What do you think of tomorrow's game?" Spahn replied blandly, "I don't know. I haven't pitched it yet." That's Spahnie.
Though not so relaxed a man as Spahn, Whitey Ford seldom appears nervous, either on or off a baseball field. But in this first game he seemed far more intense than usual. He was very impressive, but he seemed to be trying almost too hard and, when three successive Braves hit first pitches to score two runs in the fourth, after two were out, the feeling persisted that this was all a mistake that could have been avoided if only Whitey would relax a little.
In contrast, Spahn pitched sloppily in the beginning, yet escaped relatively unscathed, mostly because of some faulty Yankee base running. Hank Bauer was picked off first base by Spahn, and Yogi Berra, trying to go from first to third on a base hit to left, ran in a careless semicircle and was nipped as he bellywhopped head first into the bag. Bauer and Berra, alive on base, might well have had Spahn sagging on the ropes. Bauer and Berra, out, let Spahn escape trouble.
October 12, 1958
Even so, when Bauer homered in the fifth to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead, it seemed merely a matter of time before Spahn would be completely routed. As it turned out, the homer marked New York's high water mark against the left-hander. He had been hit hard, had given up six hits and three runs and had been lucky to get off that cheaply. But, starting right after the Bauer home run, in his next 14‚Öî innings, including his shutout in Yankee Stadium, Spahn was to allow just four more Yankee hits and no runs at all.
The Yankees, faced with this rejuvenated Spahn, lost the game in the eighth. Ford walked Ed Mathews to open the inning. Then Henry Aaron timed a slow curve and lined it to right, off the fence under Hank Bauer's mistimed leap. Mathews went to third, Aaron to second and Ford came out of the game. (Afterward, asked if he felt Aaron had hit the ball hard, Ford grinned sardonically. "Hard?" he said. "Just because he hit the ball to the fence in the teeth of the wind, you think he hit it hard?" Then, seriously, "I thought it was gone. I thought it was a home run.")
Casey Stengel scuttled out to the mound, to the loud derisive roar of the Milwaukee crowd, relieved Ford and brought in his myopic relief pitcher, Ryne Duren. Duren excited the crowd with his startling fast ball, struck out Joe Adcock and then gave up an important long fly to Wes Covington.
This, to many, was the key moment of the Series. Covington is a feared clutch hitter, and grandstand managers decided it would be wiser to walk him, as long as first base was open. But Stengel, not wanting to pressure the sometimes wild Duren with a bases-loaded situation, had him pitch to Covington. His fly ball—justification for the grandstand strategists—brought in Mathews with the tying run.
The Yankees went down listlessly before Spahn; the Braves fought against the overpowering Duren fast ball. Spahn himself, greeted at the plate by Yogi Berra's wry "Don't get hit, Warren. This guy is apt to throw one right through you," ducked one pitch and then pulled a fast ball to right for the first hit off Duren. An inning later, in the last of the 10th, Bill Bruton—who was in the hospital having a knee operation during the last World Series—lined a Duren pitch to deep right center to drive in the game-winning run.
Ford had failed, Duren had failed, the Yankees had failed, and Casey Stengel, feeling the importance of the defeat, was plunged in gloom.
GAME 2 BURDETTE, BRUTON AND 7 RUNS
Bill Bruton had received a hero's ovation when he drove in the winning run of the first game, partly because it was the winning run, naturally, but partly, too, because Bill Bruton is a very popular man in Milwaukee. He hit the home run that won the first major league game played in County Stadium in 1953. Milwaukeeans remember those glorious, innocent days of second place with warmth and nostalgia, and they were delighted when Billy Bruton came through. Now on the next day, in the first inning of the second game, he was a hero again, but only for a moment, only to be obscured by a succession of other heroes, culminating in the majestic figure of one Lew Burdette.
Burdette, of course, is the man who. The man who beat the Yankees last year. The man who shut them out twice in three games. The man who carried a scoreless streak of 24 innings into this Series, only five shy of Babe Ruth's 40-year-old record. Yet in the first inning of the second game, the Yankees scored on Lew and shook him up a little. Trailing 1-0, the Braves came to bat, Bill Bruton leading off. Bruton promptly clouted a homer and the Braves were back in the ball game. Before the inning was over they were so far in front of the ball game that the last eight innings were a polite formality. Schoendienst doubled, Aaron walked, Covington singled. Casey Stengel took his 21-game winner, Bob Turley, out of the game and put in Duke Maas. Maas got Frank Torre on a fly to left field. That made two out, and it nearly turned into three. Aaron, on third, tagged up on Torre's fly and threatened to come in, but held his base. Elston Howard, in left, fired the ball home, five feet over Yogi Berra's head. Aaron again broke for the plate. Maas, backing up Berra, caught the ball, and seemingly had Aaron caught off third. But Henry was between Maas and Third Baseman Andy Carey, causing Maas to delay his throw just long enough to let Aaron get back safely. The missed third out seemed a shame to Yankee supporters, but nothing too serious. Maas proceeded to make it serious. He walked Crandall to load the bases, and then pitched to Johnny Logan, who had been hungering for the opportunity to come to bat in a crucial moment. ("I want to be a hero in at least one game," he complained the day before, after Fred Haney had lifted him for a pinch hitter.) Logan seized the opportunity nicely, breaking the game open to 4-1, Milwaukee, with a line single to left field. Maas tried again. There were still two men on base, still two out, but now the pitcher, Burdette, was at bat. Lew, who seems to walk into the heroic situations that Johnny Logan hungers for, took a big swing and lofted a fly ball that, unbelievably, carried over the left field fence for a home run. The crowd was ecstatic. The Braves led 7-1, and there was Stengel out on the mound again, bearing the taunts of the crowd, easing his belt away from his abdomen as he peered out once more to the bullpen in center field for something that looked like a pitcher.
GAME 3 THE POINT OF SOME RETURN
Oddly, Stengel was less glum after the second game rout (the final score was an embarrassing 13-5) than he had been after the close first game. Now he seemed almost optimistic about the Series, as if the worst had already happened. Yankee rooters shared the optimism. Suddenly finding that rare odds of 2-1 against the Yankees could be had, they bet with more enthusiasm than wisdom.
Hank Bauer and Don Larsen made the bet look good, for a day at least. Larsen pitched seven innings, gave up six hits, all singles, walked only two, allowed no runs, and went off for an early shower with a slightly stiff arm. Ryne Duren finished up to complete the first two-man shutout since Lefty Grove relieved George Earnshaw in the eighth inning against the Cardinals back in 1930. Bauer batted in all four Yankee runs in the 4-0 win.
The Braves, possibly envious of the Yankees' monopoly of bad base running (Bauer, hero or no, had been caught off first again by a pretty throw by Del Crandall), engineered a beautiful mess in the sixth inning. Red Schoendienst was on second and Henry Aaron on first when Wes Covington bounced a tremendously hard ground ball off First Baseman Bill Skowron for a base hit. The ball caromed toward the first base stands, Schoendienst turned third and headed home and Aaron turned second and raced to third. But the ball bounced off the stands and back to Skowron, who threw the ball in to Yogi Berra at home plate. Schoendienst braked halfway there and started back to third. Who was on third? Why, Henry Aaron, not only on the base but actually past it. There, too, was Yankee Third Baseman Jerry Lumpe, yelling at Berra to throw him the ball. To crib from the late Gertrude Stein, Aaron instead of going the way he was going went back the way he had come. Schoendienst took the opposite tack and headed for home again at the instant Berra threw the ball to Lumpe. Lumpe threw back to Berra, but badly, bouncing it on the ground past the catcher. Schoendienst was nearly home at this point, but Larsen, backing up the play, scooped up the wild throw and took off after Schoendienst. Back toward third went Red with Larsen chasing him. Halfway there, Larsen caught him. Aaron was snug at second, and Covington, aghast at what he had wrought, was on first. For all the help his hard smash had been to the Braves, Wes might as well have hit into a forceout. When Frank Torre followed with a fly out, the inning full of promise was over.
Another bit of Milwaukee brain-work had backfired in the fifth. With two out and a man on second, Fred Haney ordered Pitcher Bob Rush to walk Gil McDougald intentionally. Rush did so and then walked Larsen unintentionally to fill the bases. Bauer, up next, scooped a hit into short right that Aaron could not reach in time. Two runs came in, and in the seventh Bauer homered (his third in three games) to add two more.
That was about the game: Larsen's pitching, and Duren's; Bauer's hitting (the homer was the only clean hit of the Yankees' four); and Milwaukee's dubious thinking.
Stengel was cautiously hopeful after the game. "There were some bad plays, and bad plays add up in a ball game. Now we have to win tomorrow. That will be the real game."
GAME 4 TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY
THE "real game" was just that for the Braves—a beautifully pitched, decently hit, magnificently fielded victory—but for the Yankees it was a disaster. Once again Warren Spahn and Whitey Ford faced each other. This time, both pitched splendidly from the beginning. Ford gave up three hits in the first five innings, but he walked none. Spahn allowed only one hit in the five innings, but that was an immense triple that Mickey Mantle hit off the bleacher wall in left center field about 425 feet from home plate. Only an amazing fielding play by Red Schoendienst on Yogi Berra's subsequent line drive prevented Mantle from scoring (see photos above).
Then, in the top of the sixth, Whitey Ford's nightmare began. Schoendienst hit a long fly to left center. The left-fielder, Norm Siebern, seemed to spook Mickey Mantle off the ball and then failed to catch it himself. Result: the ball fell in and rolled on toward the fence, and Schoendienst ended up on third.
Stengel pulled his infield in to cut off the run. Logan hit a sharp grounder directly to Shortstop Kubek, and it went through Kubek's legs for an error, scoring Schoendienst. Next inning, with men on second and third and one out, Spahn lifted a soft Texas Leaguer to left field. Siebern this time played the ball safe, when all common sense dictated a diving attempt at catching the ball. It fell in for a single, and a second tainted run scored.
Ford persisted, and so did Siebern. Logan led off the eighth with a high fly fairly deep to left, near the seats. Siebern got under it, adjusted his sunglasses and lost sight of the ball. It bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double. Ford, staring in disbelief at the outfield, heaved a massive sigh. Stengel, sick with failure but not giving up, ran up on the dugout steps, clapped his hands, yelled encouragement and rolled his fists in the "hustle" sign. But Ford laid one in over the plate, and Mathews hit a long double to right, driving in the third run.
That was the end. Stengel mercifully took Ford out, later mercifully defended Siebern ("toughest left field to play in the league").
Spahn, meanwhile, his control perfect, used his fast ball as a knife, sticking it into various parts of the strike zone with mortal effect. After Mantle's triple in the fourth, only Bill Skowron, who singled in the seventh, reached base.
The Braves won 3-0, took a 3-1 lead in the Series, and moved confidently toward the denouement.
GAME 5 STENGEL DEFIES THE ODDS
The series was over except for the formality of the coup de gr√¢ce, but listening to Casey Stengel talk in the Yankee dugout before the fifth game, you'd never have known it. He was losing three games to one (and since 1903 only one Series club, the 1925 Pittsburgh Pirates, had ever been able to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win), and here he was, amiably discussing pitching possibilities for the sixth game in Milwaukee.
"I'm just liable to pitch Duren for three or four innings," he said to the knot of sportswriters gathered around him. "I ought to be able to get five innings from Larsen. I might use that other fellow. I might use three or four men."
"Of course," he went on politely, "I have to win this game today. I won't have to pitch anybody if I don't win this game today."
All he was facing in "this game today" was Lew Burdette, whom the Yankees had not yet been able to beat in Series competition. Against Burdette went Bob Turley, who had lasted just one third of an inning against Lew in Milwaukee and whose 1958 Series earned run average was so astronomical (108.00) that the Yankee press release on pitching statistics censored it, substituting in its place a quiet, tasteful dash.
But times change. Turley pitched masterfully, working a marvelously controlled fast curve in with his fine fast ball. He struck out ten men, allowed only five hits, all singles, and shut the Braves out.
Burdette, on the other hand, was in trouble. Good fielding helped him in the first and second innings but, in the third, Gil McDougald reached the left field foul pole for a home run to put the Yankees ahead. In the sixth the Braves got a little something going against Turley, but Elston Howard, obviously demonstrating how to play left field, made a diving catch and a fine throw for a double play that ended the rally and stilled Milwaukee for the afternoon.
Then, in their half of the sixth, the Yankees, after 41 long innings of frustration, finally caught Burdette. Ten men batted, six men scored and everything went just right. Berra hit, Skowron hit, McDougald hit, even Turley hit. When it was over, Burdette was in the showers with a losing game on his hands, and the Yankees were beaming over a health-restoring 7-0 win.
Casey was still down, three games to two. He had an almost impossible job ahead, but his head was up and his voice was loud, and he was smiling as he headed for Milwaukee.
HOW DOTH THE REDHEAD LEAP AND DANCE!
For the connoisseur, the most delightful aspect of the 1958 World Series was the play of Mr. Albert Schoendienst, second baseman and pro par excellence. Red swung his bat and carried his glove with great finesse throughout the Series, but two plays—one at bat and one in the field—stand out.
On a hit-and-run play, with the runner on first breaking for second with the pitch, Red, batting left-handed, waited until the last possible minute to swing. In the long moment that this waiting took, the Yankee shortstop moved to his left to cover second base, and in that instant Red slapped a ground ball directly through the shortstop position so recently vacated. It was, well, perfect—the sort of thing you read about but seldom see.
An even rarer jewel was the superb play caught in the photo sequence above, which was his masterpiece in the field. With the score tied 0-0, two out and a Yankee runner on third base, Yogi Berra hit a changeup pitch on a slow line toward right field.
It appeared to be a certain base hit, a sure run, but Schoendienst timed his leap perfectly and got his glove on the ball. But he could not hold it. The ball angled off the leather, and as it and Red fell back toward the ground, Schoendienst pursued it with his bare hand. A loose ball in a tense situation is often a trigger for panic. Schoendienst, briskly but calmly, forced his body to stop going one way, twisted back, chased the ball to earth, grabbed it and threw it quickly to his first baseman. Berra, despite a desperate headlong leap across the base (right), was out by some inches. The run did not score. The inning was over. The tie and, as it turned out, the shutout were preserved.