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This day in baseball history

A long-time reader wraps up his coverage of the 1961 World Series.

On October 9, 1961, the New York Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field to win the World Series 4 games to 1. As we have seen, the first of these games, Game 3, required the Yankees to come from behind late in the contest. Games 4 and 5 were routs.

Much of the early suspense in Game 4 centered on whether Whitey Ford would break Babe Ruth’s record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched in a World Series. Ford accomplished this fairly easily, by shutting out the Reds for the first three innings. During that stretch, he allowed just one hit, a single by his former battery mate Darrell Johnson.

Reds starter Jim O’Toole matched Ford during the first three innings, but the Yankees began to pull away with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. The first run resulted from a walk to Roger Maris, a single by Mickey Mantle, and a double-play ground out by Elston Howard. The second run was the product of a single by Moose Skowron, a walk to Ford, and a Bobby Richardson single.

The Yankees doubled their lead in the top of the sixth against reliever Jim Brosnan. Both runs scored on a double by Clete Boyer.

Ford left the game with an ankle injury in the bottom of the sixth, his scoreless innings record still intact at 32 innings. Ford’s replacement, Jim Coates, yielded no runs and only one hit over the final four innings. Meanwhile, the Yankees added three more runs in the top of the seventh and cruised home with a 7-0 victory.

Game 5 was a rematch of the Game 2 starters, Ralph Terry and Joey Jay. Jay had limited the Yankees to two runs and four hits in that outing, but this time the Yankees the pounded him for five runs in the top of the first.

With two out, Johnny Blanchard, batting clean-up in place of Mickey Mantle, hit a two-run home run. Then, after a Howard double and a RBI single by Skowron, Hector Lopez, playing in place of the injured Yogi Berra, tripled. Boyer completed the damage with another double that drove home Lopez.

The Reds fought their way back into the game thanks to a three-run homer by Frank Robinson in the bottom of the third. Robinson’s blow chased Terry and got the Reds to within 6-3. In the same inning, Cincinnati had runners on second and third with two outs against Terry’s successor, Bud Daley. But Johnny Edwards popped out to end the inning.

The Yankees then effectively ended the Series with five runs in the top of the fourth. The last three of these runs scored on a Hector Lopez home run. Lopez would end the game with five RBIs.

Daley limited the Reds to two more runs. In the final two games, he and Coates combined to pitch ten and two-thirds innings of relief, during which they allowed only two runs and six hits. And, in the final game, reserves Blanchard and Lopez (the replacements for Mantle and Berra) went a combined five for eight, with five runs, seven RBIs, and two home runs.

With their rout of Cincinnati, the Yankees instantly passed into legend as one of the greatest baseball teams of all-time. But decades later, that view came into dispute. Ironically, given the World Series contributions of second-line players Lopez, Blanchard, Coates, and Daley, lack of team depth is one of the revisionist indictments. We’ll examine the matter in a future offering to Power Line.

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