NEW YORK -- The last time there was a Subway Series, tokens
cost 15 cents instead of $1.50 and the underground ride between
ballparks took a little longer than it will starting Saturday.
Ebbets Field in Brooklyn is gone and so are the Dodgers. But 44
years ago, they played one last memorable Subway Series against the
New York Yankees -- punctuated by a perfect game, the only no-hitter
in World Series history.
That series ended one of the most memorable eras in baseball
Seven times in 10 years from 1947-56, the World Series was
played entirely in New York, the Yankees against either the Giants
or Dodgers. The city was wired for those confrontations but not
nearly as hyper as it seems for the one coming up between the
Yankees and Mets.
"When I was a kid, it was always a New York World Series,
mainly the Dodgers and the Yankees but, on occasion, the Giants and
the Yankees," said Yankees manager Joe Torre, who grew up in
Brooklyn and got 1956 World Series tickets from his brother, Frank,
then playing for the Milwaukee Braves.
"I was at the last World Series that the Dodgers and Yankees
played here in 1956 and it was crazy, but it's much more crazy
now," Torre said. "This is much different than it was 40 years
ago because the media is so much greater and the game has taken on
a much larger meaning.
"But I have a feeling this city is not going to be the same for
the next 10 days and maybe for some time after that."
New York was more casual about the Subway Series in the '50s
because there seemed to be one every year.
Don Zimmer, now Torre's bench coach, was a member of those
"I felt when we teed it up in spring training, we'd win the
National League and they'd win the American League and we'd get at
it in the World Series," he said. "It worked out so much that
when I got here in '96 I was not aware of the fact that the Yankees
had not won a World Series in 18 years. They were in it every
That was how Torre remembered it, too.
"The Yankees won every year," the manager said, "and everyone
was trying to knock them off their pedestal."
The Dodgers finally succeeded in 1955, winning the seventh game
on a 2-0 shutout by Johnny Podres. A year later, they were back for
another shot. Zimmer was an observer, on the Dodgers bench
recovering from a beaning. Brooklyn got permission from the
commissioner's office to allow him to be in uniform.
"I called myself a professional cheerleader, like I am today,"
he said. "It was a tremendous time. It was something very
Brooklyn began the 1956 Series the way it ended in 1955, by beating
the Yankees. President Dwight Eisenhower and Secretary of State
John Foster Dulles took time out from a Suez Canal crisis to attend
the opener, where the Dodgers beat Whitey Ford 6-3.
In one of manager Casey Stengel's hunches, the Yankees started
journeyman Don Larsen in Game 2 and jumped to a six-run lead as
Yogi Berra hit a grand slam. But Brooklyn battered seven Yankees
pitchers for 12 hits and 11 walks to win 13-8. Larsen, who once
lost 21 games in a season, was gone by the second inning.
"I was lousy in my first start," Larsen recalled. "I was
ahead 6-0 when I started walking people. Casey didn't like that. He
took me out in the second, and I didn't think I'd start another
When the Series moved to Yankee Stadium, Stengel went right back
to Ford for Game 3. Brooklyn had a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning
when Enos Slaughter turned the game around with a three-run home
run against Roger Craig. New York won 5-3.
"I hit .350 in that Series," Slaughter said. "That homer,
that was the first homer ever hit by a 40-year-old in the World
Slaughter had been a midseason pickup, a typical roster move by
the Yankees in those days. When he was added to the roster, the
team cut longtime shortstop Phil Rizzuto on Oldtimers Day.
A VERY GOOD YEAR
Top W.S. ticket
In Game 4, the Yankees used home runs by Mickey Mantle and Hank
Bauer to beat Carl Erskine 6-2. Now the Series was tied and the
stage was set for one of the most memorable games in baseball
Stengel chose to start Larsen, the gangly right-hander the
Yankees called "Gooney Bird," in the fifth game against
first-game winner Sal Maglie. Larsen remembered thinking, " 'I hope
I don't screw it up like Game 2.' I went out and warmed up,
wondering 'Why me?' "
Larsen sailed through the Dodgers' lineup, 27 batters up, 27
batters down. Pinch hitter Dale Mitchell was the last batter.
"My legs were shaking," Larsen said. "I thought, 'Just get me
through one more.' To get that close and mess it up, they'd run me
out of the ballpark."
On his 97th pitch, Larsen struck out Mitchell, and Berra bounced
out from behind the plate and leaped into his arms to celebrate
"That was a tremendous feeling, jumping into his arms," Berra
The game left everybody involved flabbergasted. One flustered
writer asked Stengel if that was the best game he'd ever seen
Larsen pitch. "So far," the manager cracked.
Now the teams returned to Brooklyn with the Yankees leading 3-2.
It was as if the perfect game had left hitters on both sides
exhausted, and New York's Bob Turley and Brooklyn's Clem Labine
were locked in a scoreless duel through nine innings.
Slaughter, in left field for the Yankees, was struggling. He
lost two hits in the sun and shadows. Then in the 10th inning, with
Junior Gilliam on second base, Jackie Robinson hit another ball
"I was playing where I thought if Jackie hit the ball through
the left side, I'd have a chance to throw Gilliam out at the
plate," he said. "He hit the left field wall. I didn't misjudge
it. I had no chance. I was not too deep. If he hit a high fly I
could get back to the wall."
The Yankees were convinced Slaughter had cost them the game.
Second baseman Billy Martin was the most critical.
"Billy went to Casey and said, 'Get that donkey out of
there,' " Slaughter said. For Game 7, the man whose homer had
rescued them in Game 3 was on the Yankees' bench.
The Yankees pitched Johnny Kucks, an 18-game winner who had
worked in relief in each of the first two games but was making his
first Series start. Brooklyn went with ace Don Newcombe, who had
been knocked out in the second inning of Game 2.
Kucks learned about the assignment when he got to the ballpark
and found that coach Frank Crosetti had placed a baseball in his
shoe. "My first inclination," the pitcher said, "was to put it
in somebody else's shoe."
Berra hit a two-run homer in the first inning to give the
Yankees a quick cushion. But the Dodgers tried to come right back.
"They had runners at first and second," Kucks said. "I turned
to get the resin bag and I see Ford and Tom Sturdivant warming up
in the bullpen. I thought, 'They really have a lot of faith in the
big guy.' "
Robinson hit into a double play, ending the threat. Berra hit
another two-run homer and Bill Skowron added a grand slam as Kucks
mowed down the Dodgers, finishing with a three-hit shutout.
Kucks struck out only one batter, the last man he faced, the
last major league swing for Robinson. The Game 7 victory was a
masterpiece but overshadowed by Larsen's perfect game.
"Nobody had ever done that before," Kucks said. "That was the
No. 1 item in that World Series."
It was reflected in the prizes the two pitchers got for their
"Larsen got a car," Kucks said. "I got a fishing rod."
|New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra (8) jumps into the arms of pitcher Don Larsen while other Yankee teammates stream onto the field after Larsen pitched the first perfect game in World Series history.|