Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Yanks Swept in Four, 1st Time Ever

TRIVIA QUESTION:  In the 1963 season Mickey Mantle hit his second lowest home run total ever in his career with 15. What was his lowest year and total home run count that season?

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: Brothers Joe and Frank Torre did indeed play on the same team but only for part of one season. In 1960 Frank played his last season with the Milwaukee Braves and Joe came up for a cup of coffee that season, playing in two games with two at bats getting a single and striking out in the other AB. Frank played in 21 games batting .205 before being purchased by the Phillies in December 1961. He spent the 1961 season in the minor leagues. They played together on the same minor league AAA team during that 1961 season before Joe came up in 1962 to stay.

The 1963 World Series was one for the record books for many reasons. It was the first time ever the New York Yankees were swept in a four game World Championship Series. The Yanks who many times swept their opponents, did not win a game against the New York Giants in 1922 but that series actually went five games. Game Two ended in a 10-inning, 3-3 tie. In 1963 they would face their old rivals; The Dodgers. It was the Dodgers homecoming of sorts. It was their first time back to Yankee Stadium since leaving Brooklyn for the West Coast in the late 1950's.

New York was favored to win, after leading the American League with 104 victories while the Dodgers corralled 99 to take home the NL Pennant. The Yankees had the sluggers. Even with Mickey Mantle limited to 65 games and 15 dingers, the club still smacked 188 to finish second in the league in round-trippers.
Four players hit at least 20 home runs led by Elston Howard's 28. Roger Maris hit 23 and while not one Yankee had 100 RBI, they did score 714 runs which was again second in the AL. Mantle was the only player to bat .300 with a .314 average while an aging Yogi Berra (38) hit .293 in a very limited role.

And they were solid on the mound with two 20 game winners; Whitey Ford won 24 and Jim Bouton went 21-7. A young (22 year old) Al Downing was 13-5 and Ralph Terry won 17. The team ERA of 3.07 was only bested by one club and despite a tremendous bullpen, Yankee starters led the league in complete games with an amazing 59, led by Terry's 18. 

The bullpen was headed by Save leader Hal Reniff with 18, Steve Hamilton and Tom Metcalf each had ERA's under 3.00. To boot, Downing had four shutouts, Bouton six.  Downing was amazing as well in the K department, striking out 171 batters in 175 innings. 

Los Angeles was not a team of slouches by any means.  Not a power team the Dodgers were really in the middle of a run which featured speed and pitching. Maury Wills batted .302 and stole 40 bases, while Tommy Davis hit .326, clubbed 16 homers and stole 15 bases. Willie Davis stole another 25 and former Brooklyn Dodger Jim Gilliam stole 19. Frank Howard led the team in homers with 28 but amazingly only drove in 64 despite a .273 BA. Tommy D., would lead the team in RBI with 88.

The pitching staff is where the Dodgers chose to shine. Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax were at the top of their games, starting 82 games between them and completing 37 and combining for over 500 innings pitched. Koufax was 25-5 with a 1.88 ERA while Big D., was 19-17, 2.64 ERA. Koufax was unbelievable in another category which wasn't a big deal back then, WhIP. His was 0.87.
Johnny Podres won 14 and Bob Miller another 10, but the ace in the hole was closer Ron Perranoski who finished 16-3, 1.67 ERA with 21 Saves. The Dodgers still were no match for the slugging New Yorkers when it came to the plate. On the Mound give a very slight edge to New York, too.

But in a short series pitching usually holds sway and it was no different in 1963. Game One was on a Wednesday, which meant Koufax would open against Ford. If a series started on Saturday, it would be Drysdale because the devoutly Jewish Koufax would not pitch on Saturday. No worries in 1963.

Koufax was magnificent, giving up but six hits while striking out 15 Yankees on his way to a 5-2 win. Tom Tresh did homer but so did Johnny Roseboro who took Ford deep in a four-run second inning. 

In Game Two it was Podres turn to shine and he did. He went eight and a third before giving way to Perranoski to close it out. The Dodgers jumped on Al Downing for two runs in the first and in the fourth inning former Yankee, Bill Skowron clubbed a homer and when the dust settled the Dodgers were 4-1 winners. 

Following the Friday off day, Los Angeles sent Drysdale to the mound against Bouton. It was a classic match-up and the big man was never better. He allowed only three hits. Tony Kubek had a pair and Mantle had the other. He also struck out nine while walking one. Bouton was also outstanding except for one inning. He walked Gilliam, then wild pitched him to second before Tommy Davis drove him home with a single for the only run of the game, and a 1-0 Dodger victory.
Up three games to none, Manager Walt Alston brought back Koufax on three days rest. Again he was matched up against 24 game winner, Ford. It was going to be a tight battle and it was all about the most mistakes. Ford actually out-pitched Koufax. 

The game was scoreless until the fifth when Frank Howard blasted his only homer of the series to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. It stayed that way until Mantle homered in the seventh to tie it up 1-1. It was then the big break came. Jim Gilliam led off the seventh with a ground ball to third baseman Clete Boyer who made a leaping catch of the high bouncer and threw directly onto first base for the apparent out. However, Joe Pepitone (apparently losing the ball in the white shirted background) couldn't handle the throw at first and the ball got by him down the line. By the time he got the ball, Gilliam ran all the way to third base. Willie Davis followed with a deep fly ball to center to drive home Gilliam on a sacrifice fly with the go ahead run. 
Koufax closed out the last two innings without the Yankees really mounting a threat and the Dodgers had their sweep. Koufax, who gave up only six hits, struck out eight and did not walk a batter was named MVP of the series with two wins. 

New York hit an anemic .171 in the series with only two home runs while Los Angeles didn't fare much better at .214 and two homers. Boyer and Tresh each struck out six times and Mantle, five. The key may have been; Yankee pitchers issued 11 walks.  New York was  outscored 12-4. Scoring an average of one run per game isn't going to win you any championships and that's how New York finished. 

The Yankees would be back in the Series in 1964 but despite taking the series to seven games, they still lost to the Cardinals, 4-3. It wouldn't be until 1976 the Yanks were blitzed again. This time by the Reds. However, in 1998 and 1999 they swept both series against the Padres and the Braves and added a 4-1 Series win the following year, winning 12 of 13.

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