Monday, February 20, 2012

1965 World Series: Lefty dominates

The Teams
National League: Los Angeles Dodgers (97-65) - Third World Series (won in 1959, 1963)
American League: Minnesota Twins (102-60) - First World Series

What Happened
It might look strange, seeing a seven-game World Series ranked so low on the list. I mean, it had a winner-take-all game, the best kind of baseball game because they're so rare. Shouldn't a seven-game series automatically be considered an instant classic? Well, if the individual games themselves are all kind of "meh," it doesn't matter if there's four of them or if there's seven of them. And most of the games of the 1965 World Series were definitely "meh."

The biggest story lines of the '65 Series happened before it began. It started with the rise of the Twins, whose appearance was noteworthy not so much because they had been the Senators only four years earlier, but because they weren't the Yankees. It was only the third time since 1949 that someone other than the Yankees won the American League pennant and many baseball fans were happy to see someone new in the World Series.

The second story came before Game 1, when Dodgers' ace Sandy Koufax said he would not pitch in the game because it fell on Yom Kippur. While the Dodgers respected Koufax's religious beliefs, it put them in a bind. Not only would he not be available for Game 1, but it also meant that he most likely only be available for two games in the series instead of a possible three.

The Dodgers were in even more trouble when Don Drysdale, their other Hall-of-Fame starter, got rocked in an 8-2 Game 1 loss. Koufax came back to start Game 2, and he also lost, leaving the Dodgers stunned. Their biggest advantage was supposed to be their starting pitching, but the Twins had beaten Drysdale and Koufax in back-to-back games. The Dodgers went back to Los Angeles hurting and desperate.

The friendly environment of Chavez Ravine reinvigorated the Dodgers' pitching staff. No. 3 starter Claude Osteen shut out the Twins on five hits in Game 3, and then Drysdale and Koufax each got seven runs of support in wins in Games 4 and 5. Just as quickly as they had dug themselves a deep hole, the Dodgers turned things around and put the Twins behind the 8-ball.

Back home, the Twins beat Osteen in Game 6 to set up the deciding Game 7. Up to that point, the home team had won every game in the series. If the Twins were to make this the first World Series where the home team won every game, they would have to defeat Koufax in Game 7. Though it was Drysdale's turn in the rotation, Dodgers manager Walter Alston went to his star lefty on short rest. It turned out to be the right decision, as Koufax threw his second straight shutout to give the Dodgers the title.

Defining Game
Game 7. Based on the scoreboard, it was the only close game of the series. In reality, it was over when the Dodgers' Lou Johnson led off the fourth inning with a home run. The way Koufax was going, it was hard to believe the Twins would get two runs off him. When the Dodgers followed Johnson's home run with two more hits, leading to a second run, it was over. The Twins only threatened twice, and Koufax struck out 10 in a complete-game victory. I have it ranked 28th of the 36 World Series Game 7s.

Koufax, and it wasn't close. He lost Game 2, but that was more a result of his teammate's poor fielding than anything. Then he pitched complete-game shutouts in games 5 and 7, giving up only seven hits combined in the two games. His ERA for the series was 0.38, and he struck out 29 in 24 innings. Pure domination.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

Los Angeles 2 1 4 7 7 12
Minnesota 8 5 0 2 050

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

88. 1965 - Los Angeles (N) def. Minnesota (A) 4-3
89. 1961 - New York (A) def. Cincinnati (N) 4-1
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

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