Redemption For Larsen?
NEW YORK – Once again, the eyes of baseball-loving America were focused on New York, as the Brooklyn Dodgers faced the New York Yankees in the 1956 fall classic. For the fourth time in five years, the Bums would try and wrestle major league supremacy from the team that had bested them in every series but the last, in which Brooklyn captured its first world title – winning Game 7 in Yankee Stadium with a dominant Johnny Podres on the mound.
The first game of the 1956 series found 34,479 packed into Ebbets Field. Dodger Sal Maglie pitched well enough in Game 1 for the win against southpaw Whitey Ford. Allowing nine hits, ‘The Barber’ frustrated Yankee hitters with his inside pitches – only Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin responded with homeruns, the lone Bronx tallies of the game. The Dodgers however, were all business, as they punished Ford in the first three innings for 5 runs, while relievers Kucks, Morgan and Turley did not fair much better. Game 2 in Brooklyn saw Yankee right-hander Don Larsen give up six runs in less than two innings. The Yanks had tallied six runs by the third and were poised to put up a fight, though their relievers could not stop the bleeding. Brooklyn trounced them, 13-8.
It was in Game 3 that the series moved to the Bronx, enemy territory for the boys in blue. Both Ford and Brooklyn’s Roger Craig pitched well, but it was the latter who gave up the eventual game winning 3-run homerun to Enos Slaughter in the sixth inning. Game 4 was a slugfest for New York, with Hank Bauer and Mantle both hitting homeruns for the boys in pinstripes. Tom Sturdivant pitched very well, going the distance and holding Brooklyn to 6 hits and 2 runs.
Getting the nod for the all-important Game 5 starts were two righties who had one start under their belts, the Yankee’s Don Larsen and Brooklyn’s Sal Maglie. The Bomber’s manager Casey Stengel obviously believed in his starter after his second game shellacking. Not thinking he would start again against the Brooks, Larsen must have been surprised to find a game ball tucked in one of his spikes inside of his locker – Stengel’s way of choosing his starter for the day. Certainly, the bombers could not have felt great about their chances in Game 5 after Larsen had all but given Brooklyn in the second contest.
Pictured is the first pitch at game time, precisely 1:02 PM. Larsen is seen throwing a ball to Dodger lead-off hitter, Junior Gilliam. Yogi Berra waits for the offering, as does umpire Babe Pinelli. Billy Martin stands at second base, and Mickey Mantle, in centerfield. Little did the Yanks, Dodgers, or the 64,519 spectators in attendance that day realize that in little more than two hours from this captured moment, they would witness the completion of perhaps the most amazing feat in baseball history.