Tuesday, September 4, 2012

1957 World Series: Milwaukee's Best

The Teams
National League: Milwaukee Braves (95-59) - First World Series
American League: New York Yankees (98-56) - 23rd World Series (won 17 previous times)

What Happened
It was a breath of fresh air to see the Milwaukee Braves in the World Series in 1957. After all, every World Series game played since 1948 had been won by a team based in New York City. After a run like that, it was good to see a new team try to take on the Yankees. And while the Braves weren't exactly "new" - they had been based in Boston for more than 60 years, after all - they weren't the Giants or the Dodgers, so they were OK by most of America.

They were also underdogs, which seems bizarre in retrospect considering the star power that was on that team. But despite having Hall-of-Famers Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron batting back-to-back in the batting order and Warren Spahn, baseball's all-time winningest lefty, in the starting rotation, the Braves were, in fact, the underdogs. Mostly because they weren't the Yankees.

But after Whitey Ford beat Spahn in a Game 1 battle of Hall of Fame lefties, the Braves made the baseball world happy with their 4-2 win in Game 2. They were the first non-New York team to win a World Series game in nine years, and they had done so in Yankee Stadium, stealing home-field advantage away from New York.

The Yankees took the advantage right back with a 12-3 thrashing in Game 3, but even that game couldn't have upset the Braves too much; the Yankees got their 12 runs on just 9 hits, drawing 11 walks from the Braves pitchers. Milwaukee hadn't lost as much as they had given the Yankees the game. Drawing inspiration from that, the Braves won the next two in instant classics, winning Game 4 in 10 innings and getting a complete-game shutout from Lew Burdette in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead back to New York.

After dropping Game 6, the Braves picked for their Game 7 starter not Spahn, who had pitched all 10 innings of Game 4, but Burdette, the Game 5 winner. Despite the short rest, Burdette was just as unhittable as he had been the previous game. This time, he got more support, and Milwaukee's 5-0 win ended the city of New York's monopoly on baseball championships. Milwaukee celebrated like mad, reveling in their new team's sudden success. They had good reason: the 1957 championship was the only one the Braves won in Milwaukee, and it remains the only time any Milwaukee team has won a World Series.

Defining Game
Hank Aaron had the biggest hit of Game 4, crushing a three-run home run to put the Braves ahead 3-1 in the fourth inning.

But then New York's Elston Howard had the biggest hit of Game 4, stunning Spahn and the Braves with a two-out, three-run home run that tie the game in the ninth.

Then New York's Hank Bauer had the biggest hit of Game 4, hitting a two-out triple off Spahn to give the Yankees the lead in the top of the 10th.

Then, it was Mathews' turn. In some cases, it wouldn't have been, as he came up with runners on second and third and one out in the bottom of the 10th. With the game-winning run already on second, Mathews' run meant nothing, and walking him would set up a double play. But walking him would also bring Aaron to the plate, and Aaron had been lightning hot all series long. The Yankees wanted nothing to do with that, so they pitched to Mathews. And Mathews got what was truly the biggest hit of Game 4, ending the game with a three-run rocket to right.

The Yankees couldn't figure out Aaron during the series, as the future home run king batted .393 - for a Braves team that collectively hit only .208 - with a series-high three home runs and seven runs batted in. But Lew Burdette shut out the Yankees twice, including in Game 7, and won all three of his starts, giving up only two runs. In World Series MVP voting, the tie generally goes to the pitcher, and in this case, it might not have even been a tie. Burdette was the deserving winner. 

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

Milwaukee 1437 (10) 125
New York 3212 5030

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

30. 1957 - Milwaukee (N) def. New York (A) 4-3
31. 1985 - Kansas City (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-3
32. 1969 - New York (N) def. Baltimore (A) 4-1
33. 1935 - Detroit (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-2
34. 1934 - St. Louis (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-3
35. 1964 - St. Louis (N) def. New York (A) 4-3
36. 2003 - Florida (N) def. New York (A) 4-2
37. 1977 - New York (A) def. Los Angeles (N) 4-2
38. 1996 - New York (A) def. Atlanta (N) 4-2
39. 1921 - New York (N) def. New York (A) 5-3

Numbers 40-49
Numbers 50-59
Numbers 60-69
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

Game 7s
Simultaneously, I'll rank all the Game 7s. The ones that have appeared in my countdown so far:

12. 1979: Pittsburgh 4, Baltimore 1
13. 1955: Brooklyn 2, New York (A) 0
16. 1940: Cincinnati 2, Detroit 1
18. 1987: Minnesota 4, St. Louis 2
19. 1958: New York 6, Milwaukee 2
21. 1968: Detroit 4, St. Louis 1
22. 1931: St. Louis (N) 4, Philadelphia (A) 2
26. 1982: St. Louis 6, Milwaukee 3
28. 1965: Los Angeles (A) 2, Minnesota 0
29. 1964: St. Louis 7, New York (A) 5
30. 1957: Milwaukee 5, New York (A) 0
31. 1967: St. Louis 7, Boston 2
32. 1945: Detroit 9, Chicago (N) 3
33. 1909: Pittsburgh 8, Detroit 0
34. 1934: St. Louis (N) 11, Detroit 0 
36. 1985: Kansas City 11, St. Louis 0

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