Friday, October 9, 1959 – Los Angeles International Airport
24 hours after winning the World Series the magnitude of what the Dodgers had accomplished began to sink in. They had begun the 1959 season with little hope for success. The Boys of Summer were either gone or fading fast. Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson had already called it quits. Campy was in a wheel chair. Don Newcombe had been traded the year before. Duke Snider still hadn’t fully recovered from his 1957 knee surgery. Gil Hodges was 35, and it was obvious that Carl Furillo and Carl Erskine were playing on borrowed time. At the age of 23, Sandy Koufax was still an erratic young left-hander. None of the pre-season polls gave the Dodgers a chance to contend for the pennant. The consensus of the experts was that the Braves, with a veritable all-star team led by Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, and Lew Burdette, would win their third consecutive pennant and continue to build a dynasty in Milwaukee.
But the 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers shocked the baseball world by coming out of nowhere to unseat mighty Milwaukee before going on to win the World Series. In contrast to the powerhouse Brooklyn team that won the Dodgers’ first World Championship in 1955, the 1959 team─a rag-tag group of underdogs and has-beens─did in 2 years in Los Angeles what it had taken the Dodgers 75 years to do in Brooklyn.
That evening 3,500 baseball-crazed Southern Californians─including civic officials and Hollywood stars such as master of ceremonies Desi Arnaz─greeted the world champion Dodgers at Los Angeles International Airport. The crowd mobbed Larry Sherry for autographs and sang “Happy Birthday” to Walter O’Malley on his 56th birthday. Walter Alston received an official scroll signed by Los Angeles Mayor Norris Poulson certifying October 9, 1959 as “Baseball Champions of the World Day.” The rooters brought hundreds of signs, including “The Greatest World Champions of All,” and “Our Dodgers, Bless ‘Em.”
These were the days before all-day civic orgies for World Series victors. There would be no parade. The ceremonies broke up in twenty minutes, and since these were also the days before free agency transformed baseball economics, the Dodgers went home to enjoy a long weekend before starting their winter jobs.
For the complete story of this remarkable team, see my new book “Bums No More: The 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers, World Champions of Baseball,” to be published October 2009 by McFarland & Company, Inc.
Thursday, October 8, 1959 – Comiskey Park, Chicago
Dodgers 9, White Sox 3
(Dodgers win the Series 4 games to 2)
With their backs to the wall, the White Sox called on their 39-year-old ace right-hander Early Wynn to help them survive Game 6 and send the series into a sudden-death seventh game. It was the third start of the Series for Wynn−this time on only two days rest. But it was not to be, as the Los Angeles Dodgers won the second World Series in their history by defeating Chicago 9-3 with three home runs on an overcast afternoon at Comiskey Park.
Duke Snider, who was limited to pinch-hitting duty during the games in Los Angeles due a bad knee, asked Walter Alston to start him in center field. “I want to play against Wynn. I feel in my own heart that I am going to get a hit that will help us win,” Snider presciently told him the day before. In the top of the third inning of a scoreless tie, Snider came to the plate against Wynn with two outs and a runner on first. The visibly tired Wynn grooved a 1-and-1 pitch that Snider connected with, sending it over 400 feet into the left-center-field stands to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.
By the time the Dodgers chased Wynn in the top of the fourth on their way to scoring six runs to go ahead 8-0, the game was out of reach. The desperate White Sox clawed back in the bottom of the fourth as Ted Kluszewski, carrying the team on his back, rocked Dodger starter Johnny Podres with a mammoth 3-run homer to make it 8-3. But Larry Sherry, in his fourth relief appearance of the series, came in to shut out the Sox for the last 5 2/3 innings to get credit for the victory. Of the Dodgers’ four wins, the 24-year-old rookie right-hander won two and saved the other two, and was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1959 World Series.
In the top of the ninth, Chuck Essegian drove the last nail in the coffin of the Go-Go Sox. Pinch hitting for Snider, he lined Ray Moore’s first pitch into the left-field stands to make the score 9-3. Essegian’s second pinch-hit homer in the Series tied a record held by Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra.
Wednesday, October 7, 1959 – Travel Day
As the White Sox and Dodgers flew back to Chicago to resume the Series the next day both teams pondered Game 5. Though the Sox scored only one run resulting from a double play ground ball, they managed to snap a 3-game losing streak to stay alive for another day at Comiskey Park. The Dodgers failed to score a run, letting many opportunities to clinch the Series at home elude them.
Looking back 50 years, one can only imagine what might have been for Sandy Koufax. Had the Dodgers been able to score a run, he was one run-scoring double play away from winning the final game of the 1959 World Series in front of a record crowd of 92,706 and a national television audience. Just as Johnny Podres would always be remembered for shutting out the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series, a shutout to win the final game of the 1959 series would have “put him on the map” two years before he blossomed into one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Instead, an inconsistent Sandy Koufax would continue to drift through the next season with confidence and control problems, posting an 8-13 record with 100 walks.
Tuesday, October 6, 1959 – Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
White Sox 1, Dodgers 0
(Sox reduce the Dodger lead to 3 games to 2; send the Series back to Chicago)
Today with the benefit of historical perspective, some might ask, “Why did the White Sox even show up?” Down 3 games to 1, they had to beat Sandy Koufax in front of 90,000+ hostile fans to stay alive in the Series. But 50 years ago today, Sandy Koufax was not the other-worldly Koufax who 2 years later would prompt a different question every time he began to warm up: “Does he have ‘no-hit stuff’ today?” Larry Sherry’s brother and catcher, Norm, had not yet helped Koufax make a breakthrough by convincing him to ease up on his velocity to achieve pinpoint control. Walter Alston wasn’t sure which Koufax would show up for Game 5: the 18 strikeout Koufax of August 31, or the erratic young lefthander who couldn’t find the plate. In fact, Sandy hadn’t started a game since September 22nd in St. Louis where he lasted just 2/3 of an inning.
But today the 23-year-old Koufax was on. He cruised through the first three innings, shutting out the White Sox with overpowering stuff. Then in the top of the fourth, Nellie Fox led off with a single, and Jim Landis followed by singling him to third. Koufax bore down and got Sherman Lollar to ground into a double play, but Fox scored on the play. It would be the only run of the game.
White Sox starter Bob Shaw was saved in the sixth inning by “The Thing,” as the left-field screen was known to Dodger pitchers. Still trailing 1-0, the Dodgers’ Gil Hodges connected with a line drive that was just taking off when it was caught by the top cross bar of the mesh netting. What would have been a game-tying home run in Comiskey Park, was a mere a single. Shaw recovered to leave Hodges stranded on first.
The Dodgers made their last serious scoring threat in the bottom of the eighth inning which became a chess game between managers Walter Alston and Al Lopez. With runners on second and third and one out, left-handed hitting rookie Ron Fairly was announced as a pinch hitter for Don Demeter. Lopez removed Bob Shaw and brought in left-hander Billy Pierce. Alston countered by sending up another right-handed hitter, Eldon “Rip” Repulski. Lopez neutralized that move by ordering Pierce to walk Repulski intentionally to load the bases. The third consecutive record crowd of 92,706 erupted when Alston countered by sending up Carl Furillo to bat for catcher John Roseboro. Lopez wasn’t about to let “Skoonj” hit against his southpaw Pierce, so he brought in right-hander Dick Donovan. All the Dodgers needed was a fly ball to tie the game. But Donovan, the starter and losing pitcher of Game 3 (which Furillo won), got even by inducing Furillo to pop up to third base for the second out. He then disposed of the feisty─but rusty─Don Zimmer, hitting for the first time in over a month, on an easy fly to Al Smith in short left field to extinguish the Dodgers’ last scoring opportunity.
Game 5 was a blow to the Dodgers, losing 1-0 on the only 3-man shutout in World Series history (Shaw-Pierce-Donovan). They had many chances to win the game and clinch the Series at home. Instead, they had to fly back to Chicago to face a resurgent White Sox team in their “big barn.” The odds makers now favored the Sox to win the sixth game and square the Series at 3-3.
Monday, October 5, 1959 – Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Dodgers 5, White Sox 4
(Los Angeles takes a 3-games-to-1 Series lead)
50 years ago today, Gil Hodges hit a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a 4-4 tie and give the Dodgers a 5-4 victory over the White Sox and a three-games-to-one lead in the Series. Larry Sherry, making his third appearance in four games, got the win by throwing the last two hitless innings in relief of Roger Craig. The Dodgers set their second consecutive World Series attendance record as 92,550 fans packed the Coliseum.
In a rematch of Game 1, Early Wynn and Roger Craig squared off again. Wynn started where he left off in Chicago, shutting out the Dodgers over the first two innings. But after retiring the first two batters in the third, he was tagged for five consecutive singles and four runs. Wynn was gone after only 2 2/3 innings and the Dodgers had a 4-0 lead.
Although Roger Craig shut out the White Sox for the first six innings, he walked four and allowed several batters to work him to a full count before he could put them away. By the seventh, he was showing signs of fatigue as Chicago put together three singles to score their first run, thereby reducing the Dodger lead to 4-1. With two outs and runners on first and third, a nervous Walter Alston trotted out to the mound to talk to Craig who convinced him that he could handle Sherman Lollar. As Alston settled back down on the Dodger bench, Craig left a slider hanging over the plate for Lollar to loft over the left-field screen for a 3-run homer to tie the game at 4-4.
Through the first seven innings of the fourth game, the Dodgers had scored all of their runs in the Series with two out. That would change in the bottom of the eighth when lead-off batter Gil Hodges jumped on a Gerry Staley sinker ball, and launched a towering fly over the left-center-field screen to put the Dodgers ahead for good, 5-4.
Making his third consecutive relief appearance, Larry Sherry took over for his roommate, Roger Craig, to start the eighth inning. He again dazzled the White Sox with a blazing fastball and sharp-breaking slider. Sherry, who pitched the last two innings without allowing a hit, was declared the winning pitcher. Thanks to his one win and two saves, the Dodgers now had a three-games-to-one lead and a chance to end the Series the next day in Los Angeles with the young Sandy Koufax scheduled to start.
Sunday, October 4, 1959 – Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Dodgers 3, White Sox 1
(Los Angeles takes a 2-games-to-1 Series lead)
A record crowd of 92,294 packed the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on a scorching Sunday afternoon for the third game of the 1959 World Series─the first Series game ever played in Los Angeles. Big side wheeling right-hander Don Drysdale was the starting pitcher for the Dodgers against fellow right-hander Dick Donovan for the White Sox.
The Dodgers continued to build on their Game 2 momentum as veteran Carl Furillo drove in two runs in the seventh inning with a bases loaded pinch-hit single to break a scoreless tie. That was all the Dodgers needed for a 3-1 win that put them up two games to one. Rookie reliever Larry Sherry pitched brilliantly for the last two innings to save the game for Drysdale─his second save in 27 hours.
In what turned out to be a pitcher’s duel in the sun, neither team could score a run through the first six innings. Donovan shut out the Dodgers on one hit. Drysdale gave up 11 singles, but continually pitched out of trouble to blank the Sox. After toiling for six innings in a concrete bowl where the sun blazed down without mercy, both pitchers were nearing the breaking point.
Pitching the bottom of the seventh with a runner on second base, Donovan suddenly lost his command and walked the next two batters on nine pitches to load the bases. Al Lopez took the ball from Donovan and handed it to the 39-year-old Gerry Staley. Walter Alston countered by sending up 37-year-old Carl Furillo to pinch hit for Don Demeter. Furillo rifled Staley’s second pitch up the middle for a 2-run single to break the scoreless tie.
Given a 2-0 lead, Drysdale hit a wall in the eighth inning allowing singles to the first two Chicago batters. Alston brought in Larry Sherry who promptly drilled Billy Goodman in the ribs to load the bases with nobody out. The Sox scored their only run as Sherry got Al Smith to ground into a double play allowing the runner to score from third. On only his sixth pitch of the inning, Sherry got “Jungle Jim” Rivera to pop up to end the inning and preserve the Dodgers’ 2-1 lead.
After the Dodgers scored an insurance run on Charlie Neal’s RBI-double in the bottom of the eighth, Sherry took a 3-1 lead to the ninth. He put on a brilliant exhibition by striking out the side to hold Chicago scoreless and save the victory for Drysdale.
Friday, October 2, 1959 – Comiskey Park, Chicago
Dodgers 4, White Sox 3
(Los Angeles ties the Series at 1-1)
47,368 fans squeezed into Comiskey Park in Chicago to witness the second game of the Series. The Dodgers sent left-hander Johnny Podres to the mound against White Sox right-hander Bob Shaw.
The Dodgers rebounded from their 11-0 thrashing in Game 1 to beat the White Sox 4-3 in a gutsy come-from-behind win to tie the series at one game apiece. The Dodgers scored all their runs with two outs on three homers off Bob Shaw: two by 156-pound second baseman Charlie Neal and one by pinch hitter, and former Stanford fullback, Chuck Essegian. Due to a base running blunder, the “Go-Go Sox” blew a golden opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth inning. In a clutch relief performance, Larry Sherry pitched the last three innings of 3-hit baseball to save the game for Podres.
Suddenly people who had been talking about a four-game Go-Go Sox sweep remembered that the team winning the first game in the last four years had lost the Series. In the post-game clubhouse baseball philosopher Gil Hodges summed up the Dodgers’ chances after the first two games in Chicago: “We weren’t down yesterday, and we weren’t up today. We just play ’em as they come along.”
After a travel day, the teams would resume the Series with Game 3 in Los Angeles on Sunday, October 4th.
Thursday, October 1, 1959 – Comiskey Park, Chicago
White Sox 11, Dodgers 0
(Chicago takes a 1-game-to-0 Series lead)
On Thursday afternoon October 1, 1959, the 56th World Series opened in Chicago before 48,013 fans at Comiskey Park, scene of the Sox’s last World Series triumph of 1917. Roger Craig started for the Dodgers versus Early Wynn for the Go-Go Sox.
Thanks to a third inning Dodger defensive collapse and a career performance by White Sox first baseman Ted Kluszewski, the travel-weary Dodgers fell behind 11-0 after four innings and never recovered. Big Klu tied a World Series record by driving in five runs on two home runs and a single, and American League Cy Young winner Early Wynn breezed through seven shutout innings for the win. Roger Craig, who pitched brilliantly for Los Angeles in the pennant stretch, was “completely out of sync” and lasted just 2 ½ innings. There was now talk of a 4-game Chicago sweep.
In a subdued Dodger clubhouse after their humiliating 11-0 defeat at the hands of Chicago’s putative “hit-less wonders,” Gil Hodges remained philosophical: “You can’t lose a World Series on the first game. Remember, we dropped the first two games of the 1955 World Series to the Yankees and ended up winning the whole thing. Don’t count us out.”
Wednesday, September 30, 1959 – Chicago
The Dodgers arrived in Chicago exhausted at 5:30 AM after completing a whirlwind trip─Chicago to Milwaukee to Los Angeles to Chicago─and playing two pressure-packed playoff games with the Milwaukee Braves, all in less than 48 hours. Dodgers manager Walter Alston cancelled a scheduled workout at Comiskey Park, and most of the players hung “do not disturb” signs on their doors and slept until noon. They were expected to be ready to face Early Wynn the next in opening game of the 1959 World Series. With a 22-10 record, Wynn was the winningest pitcher in baseball on his way to the Cy Young Award. The Dodgers would go with their new meal ticket, Roger Craig, on his normal three days rest.
Before the season, both teams expected to spend October in front of their black and white television sets watching the Milwaukee Braves and the New York Yankees play their third consecutive World Series. But here they were─two underdogs─about to play the first Dodgers-White Sox World Series in baseball history.
Tuesday, September 29, 1959 – Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
WE GO TO CHICAGO!
Those were the words of Vin Scully from the Coliseum broadcast booth as Gil Hodges scored the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning to clinch the NL pennant for Dodgers in their 2-game sweep of the playoff series with Milwaukee. After being written off before the season started, the Dodgers had done the impossible: rising from the seventh place to first, in one year. But again, there was no time to celebrate. Immediately after their 4-hour pennant-clinching marathon with the Braves, the Dodgers had to board a plane to Chicago, and prepare to meet the White Sox in 36 hours.
Before the season started, the Braves were picked to make their third consecutive trip to the World Series on their way to establishing baseball’s newest dynasty. But it was not to be. The silence in the post-game Milwaukee clubhouse was interrupted by a sobbing Felix Mantilla reliving his fatal error on the last play of the game: “It was my only play. It was my only play. I had to throw to first.” But a reexamination of the 12th inning does not support Mantilla’s case.
After retiring Wally Moon and Stan Williams to start the bottom of the twelfth inning, the Braves’ fifth pitcher, Bob Rush, gave the Dodgers an opening by walking Gil Hodges. Next, he gave up a single to the Dodgers’ .237-hitting second-string catcher, Joe “Piggy” Pignatano, with Hodges playing it safe and stopping at second. With two out, two runners on, and the score tied 5 to 5, 37-year-old Carl Furillo came to the plate. Rush got ahead in the count one ball and two strikes before Furillo hit Rush’s next pitch sharply on the ground, bounding over the pitcher’s head, and heading for center field. Normally a second baseman, the 22-year-old Mantilla, who was moved from second to shortstop in the 7th inning, made a fine play on the ball to prevent it from going into center field. But he had no realistic chance to get Furillo at first. Had he held on to the ball, Hodges would have stopped at third base, and Rush could have had another chance to retire the side and prolong the Braves’ season. But young Felix made a desperate, off balance throw that exploded in the dirt in front of Braves’ first baseman Frank Torre (Joe’s older brother). Torre never touched the ball which took a crazy hop before ending its erratic journey in the stands. Hodges, who had taken off from second base with the crack of the bat, was waived home by third base coach Pee Wee Reese. As a leaping Hodges landed on home plate with the winning run, thousands of hysterical Dodger fans listening to their transistor radios in the stands heard Vin Scully begin the celebration as he yelled into his microphone, “We go to Chicago!”