Led by Sandy Koufax, a mild young man with a lethal left arm, the Dodgers broke up the Yankees in four games. The Yankees were as shocked as their fans. Never before had the proud New Yorkers lost a World Series in this fashion; never had they been reduced to this impotency. In support of brilliant pitching, the Dodgers turned loose their speed at the right moments and hit just enough to win. Against such a team, sharpened by a fierce, competitive National League season, the Yankee attack collapsed. Having again made a farce of the American League pennant race, perhaps the Yankees really do belong in a different league—but it may be a third league, situated in some limbo between the American and the National.
After a separation of seven years and 3,000 miles, the Yankees and the Dodgers were at it again. On a soft October afternoon, 69,000 people descended upon the famous ball park in The Bronx to watch the two old rivals settle the baseball championship of the world. At least that was the acknowledged reason why they were there. In truth, they wanted to know whether Sandy Koufax could really outpitch Whitey Ford.
The expectations were for one of the great pitching duels, and for a golden inning it was all of that. Ford was the same old Ford. In the first inning he struck out two Dodgers and got the third to bounce weakly to short. It was hard to see how even Sandy Koufax could improve on that. Yet he did. Koufax struck out all three Yankees. The great pitching duel had begun.
October 13, 1963
In the second inning it came to an abrupt end. With one out, Frank Howard came to bat. Howard is 6 feet 7 inches tall, weighs 255 pounds and worries all the time. When Los Angeles is on the road, Howard will politely excuse himself from the rest of the players and walk the streets alone. Five years ago the Dodgers gave $108,000 to Frank Howard and strongly suggested to him that he should soon become the best baseball player alive. But Frank Howard is a streaky hitter, to be mistreated with embarrassing regularity by a clever, talented pitcher like Whitey Ford. So Ford threw a fast ball, and Howard lined it 460 feet to left center for the longest double in the 41-year history of Yankee Stadium. The double also brought Bill Skowron to bat.
This has been a bad season for Skowron, who had been a Yankee for nine years. When the Dodgers traded for him they felt sure he would add right-handed power to their lineup. He did not. Moose hit .203 and knocked in only 19 runs for the Dodgers, and the crowds in Los Angeles began to boo him whenever he was announced as a pinch hitter.
When Dodger Manager Walt Alston decided to start Skowron against Ford in the first game, Skowron was truly touched. "I hope," he said, "I can do something to help this team. It is going to feel funny to me to hit against Ford because we are old friends, but I've got to help my guys. I've failed them this year."
Skowron did not fail the Dodgers on the first Wednesday in October. He singled Howard home, bringing tears to his eyes and Dick Tracewski to bat. Tracewski is the second most famous citizen of Eynon, Pa. The most famous citizen of Eynon is Joe Paparella, who happened to be umpiring behind the plate. Due to an injury to Third Baseman Ken McMullen, the Dodgers had to move Jim Gilliam from second to third and put Tracewski at second. Tracewski hit only .266 this year and was used primarily for defensive purposes in the late innings of close games. The Dodger team has a little chant that it sings when defensive help is required: "One-ski, two-ski, use Tracewski." When Tracewski, who spent eight years in the minor leagues, walked to the plate, he got a strange feeling in his stomach. "I couldn't wait for the game to start," he said. "I had a feeling that something was going to happen and the chance to play in a Series would be taken away from me. Walking to the plate, I felt kind of sick and afraid, and Paparella said, 'Dick, aren't you even going to say hello to me?' "
Tracewski looked straight out at Ford and said, "Please Joe, not now. Next time I will, Joe." Tracewski blooped a single to center. John Roseboro, the Dodger catcher, followed with a homer to right, and as Tracewski rounded second he was the funniest sight in the ball park, the only man trotting and applauding at the same time.
Ford stood on the mound with his hands on his hips. No one expects Whitey Ford to give up four runs to anyone in one inning, especially to the Dodgers. Since August 10, in 48 games covering 437 innings, the Dodgers were able to score as many as four runs in one inning only four times, and yet they managed it in the second inning of the first game of the World Series against the best pitcher in the American League.
For almost five innings Koufax was beyond perfection. In order, he struck out Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson, Tom Tresh, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Elston Howard fouled out to the catcher, then Joe Pepitone struck out, too. After Koufax got Cletis Boyer on a ground out and Ford on a foul fly to third, he struck out Kubek, Richardson, Tresh and Mantle in order once more.
Trouble came to Koufax with two out in the fifth. He loaded the bases on three singles, then struck out Hector Lopez. In the sixth he walked two hitters, but got Mantle and Maris to pop out to the infield. The Yankees finally scored in the eighth when Tom Tresh hit a two-run homer. But that was all for New York. With his last pitch of the game, Koufax struck out Harry Bright to break Carl Erskine's one-game Series strikeout record of 14. Koufax had struck out every Yankee regular except Clete Boyer at least once, and he struck out all three Yankee pinch hitters. Bobby Richardson fanned three limes, and Richardson only struck out 22 times in 630 times at bat during the season.
Only twice in the first game did the Dodgers exhibit their speed. In the third inning Willie Davis, on first, wheeled around to third on a line-drive single to right and, with an excellent slide, beat a near-perfect throw from Roger Maris. This brought Skowron to bat, and Skowron singled through the middle to score Davis with the last Dodger run, making the final score 5-2. In the seventh inning Tommy Davis stole second, easily beating Howard's high, hurried throw. Tommy did not score but, for the Yankees, it should have been an indication of what was to come.
The first batter to face Al Downing in the first inning of the second game was Maury Wills. Wills singled through the box and then, standing on first base, he studied the young Yankee left-hander's motion as Downing threw a strike past Jim Gilliam. On the second pitch Wills took off for second base, a small blurred object in blue and gray. "Once I saw his foot lift up off the ground, I went," said Wills.
Downing is a young pitcher, but hardly a naive one and, like the other 66,000 in Yankee Stadium on Thursday, he knew exactly what to expect. His foot moved not toward the plate but toward first, and he whipped the ball to Joe Pepitone. Oops, Wills was trapped. Just a matter of seconds, and the superb Yankee infield would turn poor Maury into the first out of the game. But Maury was gone, really gone, not to be caught hanging there limply in the middle of Al Downing's clever trap. Wills never once paused in his flight, and the Yankees, without the problem of a rundown, moved into position for the simple tag at second base. Pepitone's throw, however, was on the infield side, and the Yankee second baseman, Bobby Richardson, had to lunge across the base to take it (opposite page). Wills, still 15 feet away from the base, dived onto his stomach in a headfirst slide, angling away from the base, away from Richardson at a 45° angle. The quickness of Wills, his challenge, his slide, Pepitone's throw, all seemed to arrive at the same moment in time. Richardson's momentum carried him too far. Tony Kubek, coming in from shortstop on a direct line to back up the play, might have taken the throw and made the put-out, but Richardson had the ball and could not reverse himself in time. As he waved frantically at the runner, crumbling into a version of a Cossack dance at second, Wills's arms hugged the base. This is the way the second game began and, for all intents and purposes, the second game was over. Maury Wills, a minister's son, had once again successfully broken the Eighth Commandment.
The Yankees were rattled, Downing was straining and the Dodgers were on the attack. Downing threw three straight balls to Gilliam, then put one over the plate. Gilliam singled sharply to the right of Pepitone, and Wills held up at third, only bluffing at going home. Roger Maris fired the ball in from right field, but his throw arrived at the plate on the fly. There could be no cutoff, and Gilliam scooted into second base.
With Wills racing up and down the third-base line, Downing was reluctant to use his curve. Willie Davis stood at the plate and in came a fast ball. Out it went, on a hard line to Maris. Wills, it seemed certain, would score after the catch. But Maris had trouble picking up the flight of the ball. He started in, skidded, tried to turn and go back, then slipped and fell. The ball bounced to the wall in right, and two runs came home. Two quick runs. The hare was ahead of the tortoise—and Johnny Podres made certain that it stayed that way.
Podres, another left-hander, was the man who beat the Yankees twice in 1955, including a 2-0 shutout in the seventh game to give the Dodgers their first world championship. Johnny had quite a bit more trouble last week, but it was not until the ninth inning that the Yankees could score. Frank Howard made a sensational catch on a long but rather routine drive by Mantle to end the first inning; Podres struck out two men in a row to end the second, leaving two runners on base. This started Podres on a run of 13 consecutive outs. Even after Tom Tresh singled in the sixth, Willie Davis ran down Mantle's long drive to center. And when Skowron hit a home run in the fourth, a sliced drive down the right-field line, like so many he had hit in years gone by, the Dodger lead was up to three runs.
In the meantime, the Yankees lost, at first indefinitely, then quite definitely for the rest of the Series, their No. 2 slugger. Maris. With two out in the third inning, Tommy Davis hit one of Downing's pitches into the right-field corner. Trying to field the ball, Maris ran into the wall. Davis wound up on third base with a triple, and Maris was led off the field with a badly bruised arm, never to appear again. His substitute, Hector Lopez, hit two doubles and scored the only Yankee run, but the Yankees could hardly afford to lose even one good man.
Willie Davis was the second hitter for the Dodgers in the eighth inning. On September 13, when Willie was getting ready to play against the Phillies in Philadelphia, he received a phone call from Kenny Myers, the scout who had signed him five years ago for $5,000. "Willie," said Myers, "you are standing up at the plate like a stick. Bend over so you can see the pitch better. You are too great an athlete to be hitting .220." So Davis went to the ball park and copied the stance used by Stan Musial. Since that day, Davis has hit .344.
He pumped a double to right off Ralph Terry and quickly came home on a tremendous triple by his roommate, Tommy Davis, a hit that temporarily raised Tommy's World Series batting average to .625. Podres lasted through the seventh, through the eighth and got one man out in the ninth. Then he tired—and admitted it. So Walter Alston brought in Ron Perranoski from the bullpen. The best relief pitcher in baseball finished off a short Yankee rally and kept the score 4-1.
In the dressing room Tommy Davis shook Willie Davis' hand.
"What do you say, Baby?" he asked.
"I say goodby, New York. We won't be back."
Los Angeles was ready for the third game of this World Series, all the way from Disneyland to Pasadena and back downtown to the Follies strip joint at Main and Third, where top billing went to a brunette named Sandi Cofacks. The city of Los Angeles, however, did not really believe that the Dodgers could win the third game of the Series. This season Los Angeles had been persuaded that Don Drysdale, with a record of 19-17, was only a fair pitcher, because his record was not as supreme as it was in 1962 when he won 25 games and lost only nine. Silly city.
Once this year, when Drysdale was enveloped by a canopy of criticism from the Los Angeles press, Walter Alston asked to meet the Dodger writers and discuss his best right-hander. "I consider Don Drysdale," Alston said, "to be just as effective a pitcher this year as he was last year. Look at his earned-run average and not at his won-lost record. In a lot of the games that he has lost we have given him nothing to work with. But his earned-run average is lower now than it was last season [2.66 vs. 2.84]."
When Drysdale arrived at Dodger Stadium for the third game he was an 11-10 underdog in the betting but, universally, he was almost odds-on to lose. There were few people in Los Angeles willing to bet on him. He had lost tough games this year, 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, but losing is losing, and Los Angeles has a definite feeling about losing. Before walking down the left-field line to pose for pictures and to talk to reporters, Drysdale was asked two questions:
Q. There are a lot of people who feel that you will lose today. How do you feel?
A. If I lose today, I will lose because I'm not good enough. I feel emotionally and physically as good as I've felt all year.
Q. Do you feel that you can possibly pitch as well as Koufax and Podres pitched in the first two games?
A. Look, Sandy and Johnny pitched great ball games. What do you want me to say, that I'm going to do the impossible? What they have done is set a hell of a high level. I'd like to reach that level in this Series. I'd like to do as well, but they have set up an incentive thing, and I don't want to consciously try to knock up against it. Sure, I want to do better than they did. They themselves would like to do better if they get to go again. Today it's me and the Dodgers against the Yankees. This is my game to pitch. I've got to pitch it.
In two hours and five minutes Don Drysdale pitched the best pitched game of this superbly pitched Series. The Dodgers gave him one cheap, lucky, idiotic, precious run, and he defended it. The run came when Jim Bouton, the Yankees' young, 21-game-winning righthander, walked Jim Gilliam with one out in the first inning, wild-pitched him to second and watched Gilliam score on a freak single by Tommy Davis.
Davis blasted a ground ball to Bouton's left and, as Bouton reached down to get it, the ball skipped off the left side of the pitching rubber toward Bobby Richardson at second base. Richardson partially lost sight of the ball against the white shirts of the stadium crowd. He moved toward it at the last second at an angle, and it bounced against his left shin, ricocheting into right field. "If the breaks are our way," Richardson said, "the ball bounces toward shortstop and stays in the infield, and the run doesn't score. The break went against us, and they got the run."
In the second inning Drysdale struck out Bouton with the bases loaded to end a Yankee threat. In the third he caught Mickey Mantle looking at a pitch that may have been a spitball. In the sixth, with the possible tying run on third and Mantle again at bat, Frank Crosetti, the Yankee third-base coach, caused a scene. He said, of all things, that Drysdale was throwing a spitball. Crosetti ran down the third base line and pointed at Drysdale. Plate Umpire Larry Napp told Drysdale to wipe off his fingers after bringing them to his mouth. Drysdale said, of course. Two pitches later he threw a pitch to Mantle that dipped down for a third strike. Mantle looked at it. John Roseboro, the Dodger catcher, said it was a fast ball inside. He did not even smile when he said it.
In the ninth inning Joe Pepitone ended the game with a high drive to right field that looked like a home run. Ron Fairly, the Dodger right fielder, backed to the fence and nervously watched the ball. "At first," he said, "I didn't think it would go too far. Then it got up and carried pretty good, and I thought it would go out of the park. At the last minute it hung, and I moved in a couple of steps to get it."
The Dodger dressing room was not overly exultant. Ron Perranoski, a relief pitcher on relief, said, "Don pitched a big game." Not far from Perranoski stood Sandy Koufax, trying not to take any of the attention from Drysdale. "Koo-foo goes tomorrow," Perranoski said. "If he's right, I won't get in. I may not pitch again this year. I gotta get some action. I'm gonna go home and throw the ball against the stairs."
The Yankees had managed to lose the first three games, and their scores had become progressively worse—two runs the first game, one run the second game, no runs the third. Since June Yankee officials have been calling this "the greatest team in modern times." But this great team had managed to stay behind in 26 of the 27 innings. What on earth was going on here?
Early in the morning of the day of the fourth game of the Series a man stood at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Figueroa Street in Los Angeles. Had a glass of Scotch and water in his right hand. Said the weather looked dandy. Wore a blue Dodger cap with bright white rabbit ears stretching skyward. Kept tuning up a transistor radio in his suit coat pocket. As each car came to the corner he raised his glass and offered one piece of advice: "Relax with Koufax."
Despite a two-hit pitching performance by Whitey Ford, it turned out that he was right. Only no one ever completely relaxed until the final out. Even with Whitey Ford on your side, the idea of Sandy Koufax on a pitching mound is a hideous thing for any opponent to contemplate. If Koufax gets a run he will protect it. Once he gets ahead, the opponent not only has to fight Koufax but also the idea that one run begins to look like 19. The best thing to do is hope that an error will push him into trouble and that you may then somehow get one or two hits behind it.
For three innings Koufax was excellent. No errors, no hits. Not as good, of course, as he was in the first game, but no one may ever be as good as Sandy Koufax was in the first four innings of Wednesday, October 2, 1963. In the top of the fourth inning on Sunday, October 6, however, Koufax was shoved into a jam. With the score 0-0 and the Dodger attack melting before Whitey Ford's ankle-high pitches, Maury Wills, Dick Tracewski and Willie Davis ran under a fly ball hit by Bobby Richardson to short center field. Each assumed that another would catch it. None did. The ball dropped, and Richardson stood at second base with the first Yankee hit. Koufax got himself out of the jam with a foul pop and a ground ball, but through the vastness of Dodger Stadium there trickled a sense of doom. Koufax had been hit; the Dodgers had bungled. Worst of all, the Los Angeles attack seemed all but immobilized by a renewed and vital Whitey Ford.
Could anybody really hit Ford? Could anybody give Koufax the one or two runs he needed to win? The answer came in the fifth. Ford threw a slow curve, almost contemptuously, to that improbable Dodger eminence, Frank Howard. Howard hit it 450 feet into the second tier in left field. Never before had a ball been hit into that tier. Never again will a run be needed quite as much.
The run did not hold up. Mickey Mantle came to bat in the seventh inning with one out. Mantle had suffered through a frustrating Series. He had hit two possible home runs in New York in the second game, but each fell short of the distant wall, nothing more than long outs. His lone hit in 13 at bats was a fluke bunt that sailed into the outfield in the third game. This time, however, on Koufax' first pitch, Mantle hit a home run. As he trotted across the plate the entire Yankee bench rose to greet him. For the first time in 34 innings the Yankees had come from behind to gain a tie.
That tie lasted for only two more outs. In the bottom of the seventh Jim Gilliam hit a hard, high bouncing ball toward third base. It seemed about to soar over Clete Boyer's head when the Yankee magician stretched his body like a jumping jack released from his box and got it. His throw to Pepitone was perfect, but Pepitone lost the flight of the ball in the white-shirted crowd. It bounced off the first baseman's wrist, his forearm, his chest and finally bounced off the fence, 70 feet away. By the time Pepitone got to the ball, Gilliam was on third base and Willie Davis was at bat.
"I knew when I went up there," said Davis later, "that I would hit the ball. I was going to swing right away if Ford came anyplace around the plate." Ford's first pitch came in, and Davis hit it to Mantle in right center. Despite Mantle's fine throw home, Gilliam scored standing up. In frustration, Elston Howard took the ball and fired it to Boyer, who was standing on third base. Boyer looked at Umpire Larry Napp, begging for Napp to say that Gilliam had tagged up and started home before the catch. Napp split his hands in a short safe sign and shook his head.
The Yankees got the tying run on base in the eighth inning and the possible winning run on in the ninth, but Koufax managed to turn them away. Sandy Koufax, for the second time in five days, had beaten Whitey Ford. He did it on six hits, a wing (his left one) and a prayer—and Joe Pepitone's error. Whitey Ford had allowed only two hits, but the name of the game is runs. Koufax' reward and that of the Dodgers was the biggest that baseball can offer: a world championship.
In the Dodger dressing room everyone wanted Koufax—radio, television, photographers, the press. Tommy Davis stood with tears in his eyes deep inside his dressing cubicle. This year he had led the National League in batting with a .326 average, and in the Series he had hit .400, the highest any Dodger has ever hit. Finally Koufax walked away from his pursuers and into Davis' cubicle. He threw his arms around Tommy, and Davis blurted out: "Sandy, you are the greatest pitcher that ever lived!"
Walter Alston, the manager, sat in his office, patiently refusing to say something derogatory about the Yankees. Alston was asked what he was going to do. Would he go out on the town? What did he think of his team's chances next year? "The thing I'm thinking about right now," he said, "is packing my bags and going back to Darrtown, Ohio. I'm going to drive back slowly, and when I get there I'm going to take my 10-year-old grandson out squirrel hunting. His name is Robin Dean Ogle. Robin for Roberts, Dean for Dizzy. He's a switch-hitting first baseman. When we get out hunting I guess I'll sit with him on an old log and watch the leaves fall."
The Yankees had played good baseball, but the Dodger pitching was just too much for them. The Yankees were good but not good enough. They had been the victims of the best pitching anyone had seen in a World Series in a long, long time.