At the close of our account of the fifth game of the 1958 World Series last week we said:

"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."

Everyone tolerated Casey Stengel's brave smile and admired his courageous tone of voice, but no one really believed that he and his New York Yankees had a chance. In fact, a good part of the sixth game went by before the onlookers began to realize that Stengel was not only defying the odds (which insisted that he had only the barest hope of winning the Series), he was changing them.

Warren Spahn, who had been superb in the first game of the Series and invincible in the fourth, was pitching against Stengel's Yanks again, for the third time in six games. By the second inning he had a 2-1 lead—which should have been greater except for some fairly stupid base running on Milwaukee's part—but in the sixth inning, Spahn, perhaps in subconscious reaction to his teammates' failure to supply him with just a little better lead, just a small cushion, gave up the tying run to the Yankees on two hits, an error and a long fly ball.

Now it became suddenly obvious that Spahn, the master, was laboring, and that Stengel, no longer the underdog, was pressing him. Still Spahn pushed on, through the seventh and eighth and, finally, the ninth. He certainly had done all that anyone could have asked. He had pitched nine innings and had given up only two runs. Now, if they could score just once, the Braves could win the World Series in the last of the ninth. Instead, three Braves struck out successively, dismally, depressingly, and Spahn lost the game to the first Yankee up in the 10th, Gil McDougald, who hit a home run.

He lost another run later in the inning, and the Braves scored one at last, uselessly, in their half of the 10th, but the game really ended on McDougald's home run. Milwaukee Manager Fred Haney took Spahn out before the inning was over, and as the pitcher walked to the dugout with his brisk, athletic stride, his head down, the crowd in County Stadium rose and enveloped him in a huge, warm, appreciative roar of applause. It was only a baseball game, of course, only a childish pastime turned into adult amusement, but this was a moment to remember, this salute to a great pitcher in the time of his bitterest defeat.

As for Casey Stengel, the situation had changed. He was still smiling, but this time the onlookers could appreciate why. The odds favored him now.


And so, unbelievably, the Series came down to a seventh game. There would be no ifs in this game, no tomorrow.

Attention focused on Casey Stengel. He had never given up in this Series, not even in the disastrous fourth game in Yankee Stadium when excruciatingly bad outfielding ruined Whitey Ford's fine pitching. That was the day he ran up the dugout steps, clapping his hands, shouting at his ballplayers, trying to keep them alive. That was the day that ended with the Yanks down, three games to one, and defeat in the Series all but certain.

But Stengel had rallied his team and had come back with two victories to tie the Series at three-all. Now all he had to do was win one more time. Faced with this problem, was he tense, worried? Writer-Reporter Les Woodcock reported on the pre-game scene in County Stadium:

"The sky was grey as Casey Stengel took his familiar position in the Yankee dugout about an hour and a half before the game started. Of course he was mobbed by reporters and, of course, he monopolized the conversation. For a man facing one of the most crucial games of his career, he seemed perfectly at ease as he talked and talked and talked. He talked about an umpire's decision the day before. He talked about postseason trades. He talked about Yogi Berra playing golf. He talked about Ryne Duren and his glasses. He talked about ex-Yankees like Cerv, Jensen, Triandos, and how good they are now. He mentioned another ex-Yankee, 'Look at Burdette, too. He pitches pretty good. I hope he doesn't today.'

"He talked about Roy Sievers and Lou Skizas and Ted Williams. He talked about hitting. He talked about Don Larsen and how well he could hit and what a good first baseman he might make. He talked about the scouting reports he had received on the Braves. He joked about his lineups for the day (he'd made out a couple and when they accidentally fell from his pocket to the bench he grabbed them up quickly, saying, I don't want you fellas to see the names I juggled around'). Of the game, the vital seventh game, he said: I feel better than I did earlier in the Series. I'm glad it went this far. My boys felt pretty good the last few days. Now they're either going to have a good winter or a bad winter. It depends in five hours.'

"The sun came out at 12:05 as Stengel was talking. The sky brightened, and the few clouds overhead eventually drifted away during the game."

Casey was relaxed, but the game itself was very tense until the eighth inning. At any rate the Braves were tense. They scored a run in the first and then left the bases loaded in that inning and again in the third. In his running notes on the game, Writer-Reporter Walter Bingham commented: "That first inning was a moral victory for the Yanks. There could have been much more damage. But the Braves do have a run, and if Burdette is sharp it may be hard to get it back."

But the Yanks got it back the next inning, and one extra to boot. The Braves were beginning to look hysterical. Two successive errors were charged to First Baseman Frank Torre on throws he made to Burdette when Burdette was slow in getting over to first in time to cover. These errors, plus a walk, filled the bases, and an infield grounder and a fly ball gave the Yankees two runs.


But where fidgety fielding hurt the Braves, great plays by the Yankees' Gil McDougald and Jerry Lumpe stopped Milwaukee from scoring in the third. Bill Bruton led off with a single. And Torre followed with a high pop fly to right. Hank Bauer was playing way too deep and could not get in to it. So McDougald, running out from second base, had to catch the pop with his back to home plate. When Henry Aaron followed with a line single, Stengel took Larsen out and brought in Bob Turley, who had halted the Yankee retreat by pitching a shutout in the fifth game, and who had relieved in the 10th inning of the sixth game to get the final out with the tying and winning runs on base. Turley stopped the Braves now, for a third time, but he needed that good fielding. Covington tapped in front of the plate and was out at first, Berra to Skowron, but when Berra came out to field the ball Turley forgot to cover home plate, and Bruton, rounding third, made a threat to come all the way in to score. Skowron promptly threw hard to third in an attempt to pick Bruton off, and threw wild. But Lumpe, playing third, made a diving backhand catch of the ball to hold Bruton on third, restore order and preserve the Yankee lead. A minute or so later, with the bases loaded (this was the second time), Crandall hit the ball hard through the middle; Turley deflected it; and McDougald, who had started to his right, abruptly changed course, charged in, picked up the ball barehanded and threw to first in time to get Crandall for the third out. It was the third impressive, cool-headed Yankee fielding play of the inning.

In the sixth Crandall, with no one on base this time, hit a high arching home run just beyond the left field fence to tie the score at 2-2. For a moment hope revived in Milwaukee, but two innings later, with the score still tied, the weary Burdette met the strongest part of the Yankee batting order and his ultimate defeat.

He got McDougald on a soft fly to right and struck out Mantle. But then, as Walter Bingham described it at the time in his notes: "Berra pulls soft liner down foul line which hits rubber about four feet from top of fence for a double. Howard at 1-1 chops single through middle to score Berra. Yanks lead 3-2. Carey hits ball to deep short for infield single. Moose [Skowron] can break open game. Swinging strike one. Inside ball one. Wild swing two. High ball two. Moose clinches the World Series with a three-run homer. Kubek strikes out."

There was a ninth inning, but no one really cared. The score was 6-2, the Yankees were in, and the Braves were utterly defeated.

Afterward Casey Stengel told the TV cameras: "I'll tell you the reason why we won and there were three reasons." He pursued this theme for some time and the pursuit was fascinating, if confusing. But when all was said and done, the biggest reasons why the Yankees won were almost certainly the heart and the fight of old Casey himself.