Tuesday, July 24, 2012

1959 World Series: California Dreaming

The Teams
National League: Los Angeles Dodgers (88-68) - First World Series
American League: Chicago White Sox (94-60) - Fourth World Series (Won in 1906, 1917)

What Happened:
For the first time since 1948, no World Series games would be played in New York in 1959. And sure, that was technically true, but the Dodgers were only in their second season in Los Angeles, and many fans likely still thought of them as the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The Dodgers were definitely a team in transition, and not just the one from blue-collar Ebbets Field to the sunshine of California. The team's stars of the 1950s, the Boys of Summer, were on their way out: Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese were retired, Roy Campanella was paralyzed, and Duke Snider and Carl Furillo were part-time players. But their mix of aging ex-stars and young players with promise got them into a tie with the two-time defending champion Braves. After dispatching Milwaukee in the playoff, the Dodgers won the National League pennant for the fifth time in the decade.

Waiting for them was the Chicago White Sox, who won their first pennant since 1919 on the strength of their speed and defense. The Go-Go Sox, as they were known, won the American League pennant with surprising ease and went into the series hoping to erase the memory of the Black Sox of 40 years earlier.

Things started well for the Sox, winning the opener 11-0 and taking a 2-0 lead into the fifth inning of Game 2. Then L.A.'s Charlie Neal took over; he hit a home run in the fifth, then put the Dodgers ahead with another blast in the 7th. With the Dodgers up 4-2 in the 8th, Chicago's Al Smith hit a double that seemed destined to tie the game. Pinch-runner Earl Torgeson scored to make it 4-3, but a perfect relay from left fielder Wally Moon to shortstop Maury Wills to catcher John Roseboro cut down the tying run at the plate.

After escaping Game 2 with a win, the Dodgers went home to host the first World Series game in the state of California. Once in the west coast sun, the Dodgers' aging stars came to life for one more shot at glory. Furillo came first, getting a pinch-hit, two-run, seventh-inning single for the first two runs of Game 3, helping the Dodgers win despite being outhit 12-5. In Game 4, the hero was Gil Hodges, the only former Brooklyn hitter who was a regular for these Dodgers. Hodges hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of the game just one inning after the White Sox had tied the game.

Needing one win for the title, the Dodger bats went silent in Game 5, as Bob Shaw and Bill Donovan combined to shut out Los Angeles in a 1-0 Chicago win. Back in Comiskey, the last aging Dodgers' star got the big hit, as Snider's two-run home run in the third opened the scoring. The Dodgers then scored six in the fourth to clinch the championship. It had taken them eight tries to finally win a World Series in Brooklyn, but it took them only two years to claim a title in Los Angeles. In this instance, the grass was greener on the other side.

Defining Game
The White Sox were known for their great defense, but their defense let them down early in Game 4. Two Chicago errors and a passed ball helped the Dodgers score four runs in the third. Faced with a deficit, Chicago came back not with their trademarked speed, but with power. After an rbi single by bruising slugger Ted Kluszewski, Sherm Lollar hit a three-run home run to tie the game in the seventh. Hodges' eighth-inning heroics then won the game for Los Angeles, putting them one game from the title.

Reliever Larry Sherry won the MVP award, giving up only one earned run in a team-high 12 innings pitched and getting the win in Games 4 and 6 and saving Games 2 and 3. His single biggest pitch was the one he threw to Al Smith in the 8th inning of Game 3; with the Dodgers up 2-0 and the bases loaded and nobody out, Sherry got Smith to ground into a double play. A run scored, but the Dodgers still had the lead, and he was out of the inning one batter later.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

Los Angeles 0435 09
Chicago 11314 13

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

43. 1959 - Los Angeles (N) def. Chicago (A) 4-2
44. 2008 - Philadelphia (N) def. Tampa Bay (A) 4-1
45. 1933 - New York (N) def. Washington (A) 4-1
46. 1929 - Philadelphia (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-1
47. 1982 - St. Louis (N) def. Milwaukee (A) 4-3
48. 1923 - New York (A) def. New York (N) 4-2
49. 1944 - St. Louis (N) def. St. Louis (A) 4-2
Numbers 50-59
Numbers 60-69
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

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