With baseball’s month-long playoffs just starting, it’s sobering to recall that on this day 50 years ago the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Braves met in the fourth game of the World Series. They produced one of the best World Series games ever.
The Yankees held a 2-1 lead in games, but the Braves were playing at home behind the great Warren Spahn. Spahn had lost game one to Whitey Ford but had won 21 games on the season and, all things considered was probably the best pitcher in baseball. Yankee manager Casey Stengel elected not to go with Ford. Instead he started Tom Sturdivant, a 16 game winner and one of four starters on the staff with an ERA of under 3.00.
Sturdivant began well but gave up 4 runs in the fourth, three of them coming on a Hank Aaron home run and the other on a home run by Frank Torre, the older brother of Joe. Spahn gave up a run in the first, but the Yanks could barely touch him after that, and he took a 4-1 lead into the ninth inning.
Spahn retired the first two Yankee batters in the ninth, but Yogi Berra and Gil McDougald singled. Then, Elston Howard, playing first base in place of the injured Moose Skowron, tied the game with a three-run homer.
In the top of the tenth, Spahn again retired the first two batters. However, a Tony Kubek single and a Hank Bauer triple gave the Yankees the lead. With first base open, the Braves pitched to Mantle (Berra was on deck) and retired him on a fly ball.
With their season pretty much on the line, Braves manager Fred Haney sent up Nippy Jones to bat for Spahn in the bottom of the tenth. The 32 year-old Jones hadn’t played in the majors since 1952 until being called up by the Braves in July. In what would be his major league appearance ever, Jones was hit on the foot by a Tommy Byrne pitch. Home plate umpire Augie Donatelli didn’t see the contact and ordered Jones back to the batter’s box. But when Jones retrieved the ball and showed Donatelli the shoe polish, he was awarded first base.
Stengel then replaced the left-handed Byrne (loser of game seven of the 1955 Series) with his best reliever, right hander Bob Grim. Grim had saved a league high 19 games (relievers were used much differently in those days) and had ptiched to a 2.63 ERA.
Red Schoendienst sacrified pinch runner Felix Mantilla to second. Johnny Logan doubled in Mantilla to tie the score. That brought up left-handed hitting Eddie Mathews, a future Hall of Famer. First base was open, but the even more fearsome Aaron was on deck, so the Yanks pitched to Mathews. He ended the proceedings with a two-run homer.
The Braves went on the win the Series in seven games. Lew Burdette won the other three games for them with three complete games and two shut-outs, one of them in game seven.
These two great teams would meet again the following year. Check this space next October to see (or recall) what happened.
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