1959: “We go to Chicago!”
The game turned in the seventh inning. With two outs, the White Sox had consecutive singles, but Drysdale fanned outfielder Jim Landis and the score remained 0-0. In the bottom of the seventh, Donovan may have faltered from the summery temperature. After a one-out single to Neal, Donovan got another out, but then walked Larker and Hodges to load the bases. The chess game between Alston and White Sox Manager Al Lopez began as Gerry Staley relieved Donovan. Alston had Demeter up, but Alston had a hunch and sent up Carl Furillo, another right hand hitter, to hit for Demeter. Alston explained after the game, “I wanted Furillo up there because I’ve got great confidence in him and because we just needed a single. Furillo gets those base hits and doesn’t strike out much. So he was my choice in that situation. I didn’t have to do any debating with myself.”Al Wolf, Los Angeles Times, October 5, 1959
Furillo came through on Alston’s hunch. He hit a bouncer through the middle that just eluded White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio and Neal and Larker scored to put the Dodgers up 2-0. The 2-0 lead was some margin of comfort, but the White Sox came back in the top of the eighth. Drysdale started the inning, but leadoff singles by Kluszewski and Lollar put runners on second and Alston put out a call for Sherry to relieve. Sherry complicated the issue by hitting Billy Goodman with a pitch to load the bases with none out.
It was not the White Sox’ day. Outfielder Al Smith hit a ground ball comparable to Furillo’s two-run single in the seventh inning, but Wills was able to grab the ball and start a 6-4-3 double play. One run did score, but the Dodgers took the heart out of the inning and one out later, Sherry was out of the jam.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Dodgers got an insurance run when Wills singled, was sacrificed to second, and scored on Gilliam’s two-out double. In the ninth, Sherry fanned the first two hitters, allowed the 11th and final White Sox hit, and then struck out the last batter for his second save of the Series and the Dodgers now led, 2 games to 1.
Game Four was described by Bob Hunter as the “type of game played all season”Bob Hunter, Los Angeles Examiner, October 6, 1959 (by the Dodgers.) Another World Series attendance record would be set by the Game 4 crowd as again more than 92,000 fans came to watch Craig start for the Dodgers.
The White Sox went after Craig early. In the first inning, they had two walks, a stolen base, and a double, but an inning ending ground ball double play stopped them from scoring. Craig allowed consecutive singles in the third inning, but again a ground ball double play turned the White Sox aside.
White Sox starter Wynn, who had stopped the Dodgers for seven innings in Game 1, was again shutting out the Dodgers. With two outs in the bottom of the third, he allowed a single to Moon. And the Dodgers played their own form of running baseball. When Larker singled to center, Moon took the extra base to third and then scored when an errant throw to third base got away and Larker took an extra base on the error. Hodges singled to score Larker. After Demeter singled, Hodges ran two bases on the single and ended up at third. Hodges then scored the third run of the inning on a passed ball and Demeter moved into scoring position. Roseboro picked him up with a single to right field, and the Dodgers with their hitting and base running, scored four runs with two outs for a 4-0 lead. Since first scoring in Game 2, the Dodgers had now scored 11 runs with two outs and with a 2-1 lead in the Series, they held a 4-0 advantage.
The White Sox threatened against Craig in the fourth and the sixth innings, but he held them scoreless and he entered the seventh inning with a 4-0 lead. With two outs in the seventh, Craig allowed three singles for a White Sox run, and he faced Lollar, the tying run for the White Sox. Alston had Sherry heating in the bullpen and he elected to remain with Craig. Lollar upset Alston’s plans by hitting a three run home run to tie the game at 4 and give the White Sox new life. Craig retired the final hitter in the seventh, but then gave way in place of Sherry in the eighth inning.
Sherry was pitching his third consecutive game in the Series, and kept the White Sox from scoring. In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Dodgers’ home-run hitting first baseman Hodges hit against White Sox reliever Gerry Staley. Hodges broke the tie game as he homered over the left field screen to give the Dodgers a 5-4 lead. As Hodges crossed home plate, he blew a kiss to his wife Joan, sitting in the stands. He had followed the same routine in Brooklyn and now continued to do it in Los Angeles.Jeane Hoffman, Los Angeles Times, October 6, 1959 For the first time in the Series, the Dodgers had scored a run with less than two outs and it would be the deciding run.
Sherry, now in line for the win, got good defensive help on a ground ball charged by Wills for a putout, and one out later, got the final out. Sherry had a win and two saves and the Dodgers had a 3-1 Series lead. British actor Niven had high praise for the Dodgers and Walter Alston. Niven was new to baseball, but had become a faithful Dodger fan through his son’s interest. He told a reporter, “The thing that intrigues me is the generalship that goes on. Our boy Walt Alston is quite good at it.”Bob Thomas, Los Angeles Mirror-News, October 6, 1959.
Optimistic Dodger public relations director Red Patterson wrote on the Dodger chalkboard in their clubhouse, “One to Go-Go-Go”, in reference to the “Go-Go” White Sox and the idea the Dodgers were now one game away from a World Championship.Al Wolf, Los Angeles Times, October 6, 1959
Game 5 saw a third major league attendance record set as 92,706 fans came to the Coliseum to see if the Dodgers could win their second World Championship in team history. The attendance record for the game today, still stands 50 years later as the largest crowd to see a major league game to count in the record books.
Both clubs were pulling out all the stops, the White Sox to win the game in order to return to Chicago and the Dodgers to win the Series. The White Sox’ idea to change their luck was to change their socks. All season long, the White Sox had worn black stirrups socks with white bands. For the World Series, the White Sox had been wearing white stirrup socks with red and black bands, maybe to fully emphasize their team brand. However, after three losses in four World Series games, the team needed something drastic.
Walter O’Malley would wear a blue and green sports shirt for the third consecutive game in Los Angeles, but it was presumed he had washed it after each wearing.
Hall of Fame great Ty Cobb met with the teams before the game. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were in attendance. It was reported that Sinatra had seats in the front row, but exchanged his seats with another person so he could say he sat in the grandstand.John Hall, Los Angeles Mirror-News, October 7, 1959
Alston started Koufax in Game 5. Alston’s reasoning was to give Podres an additional day of rest as he had started Game 2 and Koufax had thrown the ball well in Game 1. Koufax got off to a smooth start. As Los Angeles readers picked up their afternoon newspaper, the Los Angeles Herald-Express, fans could read that Koufax had retired the side in the first inning on seven pitches.John Old, Los Angeles Herald-Express, October 6, 1959
The game was scoreless until the fourth. Singles by Nellie Fox and Jim Landis put White Sox runners on the corners with none out. Percentages dictated the Dodgers play the infield back to allow a run and hopefully get a double play to shorten the inning. That’s what Koufax wanted, as Lollar hit into a double play and Fox scored the first and what would be the only run of the game. Koufax said after the game, “If our foresight had been as good as our hindsight, we would have gone for the out at the plate.”Sid Ziff, Los Angeles Mirror-News, October 7, 1959 The Dodgers had played the percentages and they had allowed one run, but felt a one-run disadvantage could be overcome with their offense.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Hodges tripled to right center with one out, but White Sox pitcher Bob Shaw retired the next two Dodgers and Hodges was left stranded. In the fifth inning, Gilliam singled and stole second with two outs, but was left there. The Dodgers had a two-out single in the sixth inning and nothing else. The frustration that met the White Sox was now claiming the Dodgers.
Koufax, despite allowing one run, was setting down the White Sox. He pitched seven good innings with just one hit allowed over the last four, but he still trailed. In the seventh inning, White Sox Manager Al Lopez made a defensive move that helped save his lead. With two outs, the Dodgers had Podres on second and Gilliam at first on a single.
This needs to be backed up a little. Yes, Alston had put in pitcher Podres in place of Snider to be a pinch-runner. With one out and a runner on first, Snider hit for Koufax and Snider hit into a force play. Snider had a sore knee that limited his running, and Alston with only three reserves, Carl Furillo and Rip Repulski to pinch-hit, and back-up catcher Joe Pignatano.
Not wanting to be without a top pinch-hitter or his only reserve catcher, the Dodger manager went to a pitcher to pinch-run. Podres was not known for his base-running ability, but he had better mobility than Snider at that point, and so it was Podres running for Snider at first base. Gilliam then singled Podres to second and with two outs, both base runners moved up on a wild pitch to third and second.
Here, it was Lopez who made a key strategic decision. With Neal up, the White Sox manager moved reserve outfielder Jim Rivera into right field and Al Smith went into left field. Rivera was known as a good defensive outfielder and Neal was known to hit toward the alleys. The move worked. Neal hit a deep drive to right center field and Rivera made a long run to glove it to retire the side and prevent the Dodgers from scoring.
The Dodgers were not through. Stan Williams pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and the wheels really started to turn in the bottom of the eighth. Moon led off with a single and one out later, Hodges singled him to third and Hodges took second when the throw went to third base. Demeter was slated to face White Sox pitcher Shaw, and Alston decided to counter with left hand-hitting outfielder Fairly as a pinch-hitter. Lopez then changed his pitcher, Shaw, to left hander Billy Pierce to face Fairly. Alston then counter moved to have right hand-hitting reserve Eldon “Rip” Repulski hit. Lopez was not to be outmaneuvered. Knowing the requirement his relief pitcher, Pierce, had to face one hitter, Lopez gambled and had Repulski walked intentionally to load the bases, knowing the left hand-hitting John Roseboro waited on deck. After Alston announced Furillo would pinch-hit for Roseboro to face the left hander Pierce, Lopez re-countered by bringing in a right-hand relief pitcher, Donovan.
Lopez knew Alston had run out of left-hand pinch hitters on the bench and Alston knew that Lopez knew. Even though the Dodgers had the bases loaded with one out, Lopez liked his percentages better with Donovan facing two right-hand hitters, first Furillo and then Don Zimmer. And Donovan came through for Lopez. Two fly ball outs later, the White Sox were out of the eighth inning, clinging to their 1-0 lead.
The White Sox went quickly in the top of the ninth inning and in the bottom of the ninth, Alston had run out of answers. Pitcher Stan Williams was scheduled to lead off. All Dodger reserves, except for Pignatano, were already in the game. Alston was reduced to sending up Larry Sherry to hit for Williams. Sherry grounded out and when Gilliam and Neal grounded out, the White Sox had won 1-0 to send the Series back to Chicago.
It had been an exceedingly frustrating game. The Dodgers had no hits in 9 plate appearances with men in scoring position and they had left 11 men on base. Alston had tied a World Series mark with six pinch-hitters, but the number of moves made in the game had him run out of regular players. And now, the team would have to go to Chicago.
Despite the loss, O’Malley was confident in his team. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll end the agony on Thursday. Call today’s game a good demonstration of the national pastime. It was—a temporary setback. We have consolidated our forces. Like the folks are saying, it’s “On To Chicago.”Frank Donoghue, Los Angeles Examiner, October 7, 1959
If there could be anyone who could be pleased about the results of Game 5, it would be Los Angeles Examiner columnistVincent X. Flaherty. It had been Flaherty who had been the driving voice of the media to encourage major league baseball in Los Angeles. He had gone back into his files and found a column he had written in 1946 making the prediction that Los Angeles would break all attendance records as a site for a major league baseball team. “Major league baseball would start breaking all-time baseball attendance records right here off the bat, beginning with the first game that is played. It won’t matter who’s playing, either—just as long as they have major league labels. A Los Angeles team will become the best patronized team in baseball—which means it eventually will land in a World series. When that day comes—and it will come—your Los Angeles Coliseum won’t be large enough to hold the crowds.”Vincent X. Flaherty, Los Angeles Examiner, October 7, 1959 For three consecutive days, Los Angeles crowds had set attendance records of more than 92,000, the total increasing every date, the greatest attendance for a major league game that made a difference in the standings.
Game 6 would have the Dodgers returning to Chicago and southpaw Podres to start. Podres had always been an ace in the hole for Walter Alston. Podres had won two games following Dodger losses in the 1955 World Series, including Game 7. He had started and won Game 2 following the Game 1 White Sox romp.
The White Sox were confident. They were returning home. Their club had won 35 of 50 one-run games during the season. Four of the five games had been close and they had Wynn scheduled for Game 6. Sox manager Lopez told reporters, “We’ll win it now. I couldn’t be more specific than that.”Bob Hunter, Los Angeles Examiner, October 8, 1959
Columnist Mel Durslag warned Dodger fans on the possible loss of one of their effective pitchers. Durslag wrote, “It is our feeling that we won’t be seeing Larry Sherry in the sixth game, even if trouble should befall the starter, Johnny Podres. Unless it is a special spot, with just a batter or two involved, Walt Alston isn’t likely to gamble with Sherry, but will keep him for the final game as either the man who starts or the one who is first to the rescue.”Mel Durslag, Los Angeles Examiner, October 8, 1959
The Dodgers’ starting lineup had one addition for Game 6 as Snider started in center field. Snider had started Games 1 and 2, but had just one plate appearance in Los Angeles limited by a sore knee. He was back in the lineup for this important game.
The first two innings were scoreless, but in the third inning, Snider put the Dodgers on the board with a two-run home run. The home run was Snider’s 11th , second only to Mickey Mantle in World Series history.
Podres kept the 2-0 lead through the third inning and the Dodgers batted in the fourth. Larker singled and Don Demeter ran for him, and Demeter was sacrificed to second. Five batters later, the Dodgers would effectively be World Champions.
Wills drove home Demeter for the third run. After a pitching change, Podres doubled to center field and Wills scored. After Gilliam walked, Neal doubled home Podres and Gilliam. Moon then homered and it was a six run inning for the Dodgers and an 8-0 lead.
The game was far from over. The White Sox may have been down 8-0, but they tried to rise up against Podres. After a hit batsmen and a walk, Kluszewski hit a three run home run. When Smith walked, Alston went to his bullpen, specifically Larry Sherry. White Sox hopes soared as the first White Sox batter singled off Sherry. With two outs, Sherry walked a runner to load the bases to face future Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio. This was the White Sox’ best chance to get back in the game, but their best hopes ended when Aparicio popped to Wills. It was the last serious threat for Sherry.
In the ninth, Essegian hit for Snider and hit his second pinch-hit home run of the World Series, a record that stands today. It had been quite a day for Southern California natives to help the Dodgers win their first World Championship in Los Angeles. Snider, from Compton, hit a two-run home run. Sherry pitched 5 2/3 innings for the win and had two hits, and Essegian hit his second pinch-hit home run. Three players who had started the season in the minor leagues had played important parts in the Game 6 Championship win, again Sherry, Essegian, and Wills.
In Los Angeles, Campanella celebrated and discussed the value of the move by the Dodgers to Los Angeles. “After all”, said Campanella, “when 92,000 people come out to see games, it’s tremendous. Why, you just couldn’t get a crowd like that in Brooklyn.”Dwain Esper, Los Angeles Times, October 9, 1959 City Councilwomen Rosalind Wyman said, “This is Los Angeles’ great hour. In two short years, the Dodgers have gone from rags to riches.”Los Angeles Examiner, October 9, 1959 The Los Angeles Times wrote in an editorial, “What a season! What a series! What a town!”Los Angeles Times, October 9, 1959
Alston said after winning the second World Championship for the Dodgers, “This is the greatest team I ever was connected with, or any manager was ever connected with. This team never quit. It came from behind all the way. It won against big odds.”Al Wolf, Los Angeles Times, October 9, 1959
A confident Walter O’Malley had arranged for the wives of the Dodger players to be there in Chicago for Game 6 and it was O’Malley and his wife Kay as the hosts for the World Championship party that night. At one point in the festivities, a conference call was set up for Buzzie Bavasi, still in Los Angeles recovering from a virus, to speak with Walter Alston. Alston brought down the house when at one point he said to Bavasi, “What do I do now, Buzzie?” Charlie Park, Los Angeles Mirror News, October 9, 1959
The celebration was festive, everyone enjoying the relatively easy 9-3 win to win the World Championship after such a rollercoaster of a 1959 season. At midnight, October 8th swung into October 9th, and the members of the Dodger family sang “Happy Birthday”, his 56th to Walter O’Malley.
One final victory remained for the team. On October 19th, 1959, the United States Supreme Court denied federal review of the California Supreme Court decision affirming the Dodgers’ contract with the city of Los Angeles. The last legal hurdle had been removed, and in a short time, the construction would begin that would eventually result in Opening Day, 1962 at Dodger Stadium.
Persons hoping to revise history would vociferously state the 1959 World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers were not a great team. They didn’t have to be. They were good enough when it counted to win the National League pennant race, and they outplayed the American League Champion White Sox. During a seven-season span from 1959 to 1966, the core of this 1959 club would win three World titles, four National League pennants, and have the best record in baseball. The success of this organization would be noteworthy through sports, on and off the field, and plaques at the Los Angeles Coliseum today honor the 1959 team and the Dodger owner, Walter O’Malley and their contributions to Los Angeles.
And it all happened only 50 short years ago.