The Grudge World Series, Game Six

Down 3-2 in games in the 1958 World Series, the Yankees needed to beat the Braves in the final two contests, both of which were to be played in Milwaukee. Logic strongly suggested that Don Larsen start Game 6 and Whitey Ford game Game 7. Both had been effective in the Series and, if used in this order, both would have three days rest. But Stengel decided to send Ford out for Game 6.

Why? It must have bolied down to Stengel having more faith in his great left-hander than in his erratic right-hander. In Game 6, the Yanks would be facing Warren Spahn and a loss would eliminate them. Stengel probably considered a Spahn-Larsen match-up too risky. Moreover, by Game 7 (if there was one), Bob Turley would be available to back-stop Larsen or maybe even start, if Stengel got cold feet about Larsen. Having pitched nine innings in Game 5, Turley could not be expected to handle extended duty in Game 6.

But pitching Ford was risky too. Unlike nearly all top pitchers of the 1950s, Ford rarely pitched on short rest (in his willingness to “pamper” Ford, Stengel was way ahead of his time). In fact, Ford averaged only about 30 starts per year under Stengel, a number that would rise to nearly 40 under Stengel’s successor, Ralph Houk. Thus, Stengel could not be confident that, on two days rest, Ford would be at all sharp.

Fred Haney elected to start Warren Spahn on two days rest, as well. But Spahn (36 starts and 290 innings in 1958) was much more of a workhorse than Ford.

This was the third match-up between Ford and Spahn in this Series. Fred Haney used virtually the same line-up he had employed the previous two times; his only change was to flip Covington and Crandall in the batting order. Stengel made two changes in personnel from Game 4, restoring Game 1 starters Carey and Howard. And he continued to tinker with the order. Only McDougald, Kubek, and Ford hit in the same slot as in Game 1.

Early on, it became clear that Stengel’s gamble on Ford was a mistake. With the score 1-1 in the bottom of the second inning and one out, Covington, Bruton, and Spahn all singled (RBI Spahn), and Ford then walked Schoendienst. Stengel had seen enough. He pulled his ace and brought in Art Ditmar to face Logan. Like Larsen, Ditmar had been a 20 game loser before coming to the Yanks. In 1958, though, he was a solid 13-9 with a 3.42 ERA.

Logan flied out to left. Pafko tried to score from third, even though Mathews was on deck. In a pivotal play, Howard threw him out. Stengel had blundered, but the Yanks trailed by only one run with seven innings left.

After yielding a first inning home run to Bauer (that man again), Spahn breezed along. Through five innings, he had given up only one additional hit, and having survived three errors by his team, still held a 2-1 lead.

Mantle and Howard started the sixth inning with singles, and Mantle advanced to third on an error by Bruton. Berra then tied the game with a sacrifice fly.

Ace reliever Ryne Duren came on in the bottom of the sixth, Stengel having used a pinch-hitter for Ditmar in the top of the inning. Duren was nearly flawless for the next four innings, allowing ony one hit and one walk while striking out seven. Spahn was less overpowering but just as effective. During this period — the bottom of the sixth through the bottom of the ninth — neither team got a runner to second base. And so the game went to extra innings.

McDougald led off the tenth with a home run. Spahn then retired Bauer and Mantle, but Berra and Howard singled. Haney finally decided to pull Spahn, bringing in Don McMahon, the closest thing he had to a high quality reliever. Skowron greeted McMahon with a single to right, pushing the Yankee advantage to 4-2. Duren (hitting in the eighth slot) was next up. Although Duren had pitched four innings, his second longest outing of the year, Stengel wanted him to finish, so he let his ace bat. For the second time in the game, Duren fanned.

In the bottom of the tenth, Duren got Schoendienst on a ground ball but walked Logan. The tying run was now up in the person of Mathews, with Aaron on deck.

Duren made Mathews his eighth strikeout victim, but Aaron singled, scoring Logan who had taken second on “defensive indifference.” Stengel stuck with Duren and Adcock singled Aaron (the potential tying run) to third.

Finally, Stengel went to the bullpen and brought on Bob Turley. Haney countered by sending up Frank Torre (Joe’s older brother) for Crandall. Torre had batted .318 against right-handed pitchers for the year. This time he hit a liner, but it was at second-baseman McDougald to end this classic game.

The Yankees had fought their way back to even-up the Series, and everything now would come down to one final game.

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