The Chicago White Sox and Los Angles Dodgers split the first two games of the 1959 World Series in Chicago. The scene then shifted to LA for the first ever West Coast World Series games.
The Dodgers, their pitching rotation having been thrown off by a playoff series with Milwaukee, were finally able to start their ace, Don Drysdale, in Game Three. White Sox manager Al Lopez opted for Dick Donavan over Billy Pierce. Pierce was one of the top pitchers of the mid-to-late 1950s and was behind only Warren Spahn and Whitey Ford among left-handers. But he slumped a bit in 1959, and Donavan had been just as effective as Pierce that year. The decisive factor for Lopez must have been the fact that the Dodgers hit left-handed pitching considerably better than they hit right-handers.
Donovan pitched brilliantly through six innings, allowing no runs and just one hit. A double-play erased the only baserunner (Gil Hodges), meaning that Donovan had faced the minimum number of batters. Drysdale also had a shut-out going but had given up seven hits and three walks (one of them intentional).
In the bottom of the seventh, the Dodgers finally got to Donovan. A one-out single by Charlie Neal was followed by a pair of two-out walks to Norm Larker and Hodges. With Don Demeter due up, Walter Alston turned to Carl Furillo. By 1959, Furillo was basically a singles hitter, whereas Demeter had good power. But Alston just needed a single, and the numbers showed that Furillo was significantly more likely than Demeter to deliver one.
Alston’s move paid off. Playing in his seventh World Series, “Skoonj” delivered a two run single to put the Dodgers up 2-0.
The White Sox responded by putting their first three hitters on base in the top of the eights. Ted Kluszweski and Sherm Lollar began the inning with singles, as they had in the fateful eighth inning of Game 2. At that time, Lopez had used a pinch-runner for Big Klu but not for Lollar, and Lollar had been thrown out at home trying to score the tying run. This time, Lopez didn’t use a pinch-runner for either player.
Alston pulled Drysdale, who by now had given up nine hits, in favor of Larry Sherry, who promptly plunked Billy Goodman. Lopen then brought on Sammy Esposito to run for Goodman, who represented the go-ahead run.
This time none of the pinch-running decisions mattered. Kluszewski scored when Al Smith grounded into a double play. Then Jim Rivera popped out, just as Sherry had induced him to do to end a similar White Sox rally in the eighth inning of Game Two.
The Dodgers added a run in the bottom of the inning on a double by Charlie Neal who was emerging as the hitting star of the Series. Sherry fanned three White Sox in the ninth to seal the victory. The Dodgers were now up two games to one; Sherry had a win and a save; and Alston was pushing all the right buttons.
UPDATE: Reader Steve Robins writes about the two outstanding veteran first basemen who graced the 1959 Series:
By 1959, Klu’s back was bothering him more and he wasn’t hitting as well as he had in the mid-50s. But in that ’59 series, Ted managed to hit three homers, and had a 10 run series.
Klu ended up batting .391 for the series, exactly tying Dodger first baseman, Gil Hodges.
One of the most endearing fables connecting Kluszewski and the Dodgers, also related to Hodges.
Gil Hodges had huge hands. Peewee Reese kidded that Hodges only wore a glove when he played first base because “it was fashionable.”
Some also claimed Gil was the strongest man who ever played the game, and stories abound.
There are a number of versions of the following story. A version without specific attribution of a quote was listed in Rodger Kahn’s, “The Boys of Summer,” at page 344.
Other versions of the story, which were more specific, claim that it was former Dodger manager Leo Durocher who once told a sports writer that Gil Hodges was the strongest guy in the game, to which the scribe asked, “What about Kluszewski?”
“Yeah, but he ain’t human,” Durocher reputedly quipped. It sure sounds like something Durocher would have said.