When the New YorkYankees swept through the Boston Red Sox for three straight last weekend—whileCleveland was losing three bitter ones in a row to Detroit—it was no longerpresumptuous to expect that the World Series will get under way next week in anold familiar setting—Yankee Stadium. Any other outcome now will deserve to beknown as the Cleveland Miracle of 1955. Barring the miracle, the World Seriesdrama will match those classic antagonists, the Brooklyn Dodgers (who havenever won a Series) against the Yankees of Casey Stengel (who have never lostone).
This is theyear—Dodgerdom tells itself—when the old drama is due for a differentending.
For one thing,the Dodgers have been having trouble lately, and this is considered a good omenin Brooklyn. In the meaningless games played since the pennant was clinched inMilwaukee on September 8, the Dodgers have looked awful, playing listlessly andlosing games like an eighth-place club. Dissension has raised its rousing head(Jack Robinson again, arguing that he should be playing and not sitting on thebench). And Walter Alston, the quiet, even-tempered manager, has begun to snapat his players. This is a good omen? you ask the Brooklyn supporter. He nodsand points artfully to the Dodgers of spring training, shot through with sorearms, lame backs, foul tempers and a black future. From such chaos came arunaway jump in the pennant scramble, 22 victories in the first 24 games and ahead start so great that the rest of the season was a cake-walk. From similarchaos now, the argument goes, will come similar success in the WorldSeries.
More practically,the Dodger diehard points to Brooklyn's pitching, Brooklyn's hitting,Brooklyn's fielding and Brooklyn's speed. He backs up his lecture with somehard and often surprising figures, and he points out that the figures wereachieved in a strong league, a much better league than the American. (Thiscannot be proved, of course, but most baseball men feel that the NationalLeague's second division, for example, is decidedly superior to its counterpartin the American League.)
In this strongleague the Dodgers were first in scoring runs and first in preventing them. Inother words, they had the best offense and the best defense, a sure-fireformula for success in almost any sport.
The Dodgers hitmore than 200 home runs, the third team in major league history to exceed 200.They also led the league in stolen bases. Needless to say, it is unusual tofind in baseball a team that combines overwhelming power with overwhelmingspeed, but the Dodgers have had this reputation for muscular shoulders andlight feet for years. It is their pitching that has been their Achilles heel.In the spring it was felt that Dodger speed and power could not offset the runsthat Dodger pitching would let in. And now, in September, after a season inwhich Dodger starters like Newcombe, Erskine, Loes, Podres and Meyer allsuffered from debilitating ailments at one time or another, isn't it a factthat Dodger pitching this year, as always, was precariously weak?
Not so. CharleyDressen, the old Brooklyn manager now with the Washington Senators, said flatlya few weeks ago, "They got the best pitching in the league." There waslaughter directed at old Charley. But the facts back him up.
Brooklyn pitchingthis year was the best in the National League. The staff had the lowestearned-run average, it led in strikeouts and, while it completed less than athird of its games, this was still as good as the pitching-rich Giants of 1954could do.
Where was thepitching strength centered, if everybody was hurt or slumping? Well, for onething, it wasn't centered. It was spread around. Ed Roebuck, helpless later,was a great relief pitcher early in the year. Clem Labine did little relievingearly but has been best in the league since July 27. Don Newcombe, the bellcow, did almost nothing in the first great rush and almost nothing after August1, but in between he was magnificent. Rookies (like Don Bessent and RogerCraig, who came up from the minors in July to win everything in sight and stopa panic, and Karl Spooner and Sandy Koufax and Roebuck) have won over 25 gamesamong them.
Dodger hittingwas more consistent. Roy Campanella, the most valuable Dodger, has hit wellover .300 all year. Gil Hodges and Pee Wee Reese have been at a level, helpful.280, Duke Snider and Carl Furillo were erratic but brilliant in their peakperiods (Snider hit 23 homers and batted in 62 runs in June and July). Newcombethe pitcher became a near legend at the plate, with his seven home runs and hisnear .400 batting average.
But for all theawesome deeds of these, the one player the Dodger fan turns to at World Seriesall by himself is the aging, aching, tiring, still crabby and competitiveJackie Robinson. He's hitting only .250 after six straight years over .300. Itis by all odds his worst season and probably his last. But Robinson is stillall ballplayer, all fire and victory. When the Dodgers late in August fritteredaway a good part of their lead and specters of the 1951 collapse rose in thedugout, it was Robinson who said, "I'll shake them up. If I get on baseI'll shake up this team."
He got on base.He shook them up. Heavy, gray and creaking, he stole a base against the Reds.Next day he stole two more. Next day he was out trying to steal home againstthe Cards. Day after that, he daringly, audaciously, contemptuously triedstealing home again—and this time he made it. During those four games he twicedrew wild pick-off throws to first and raced around to third before the errantthrow could be recovered. The Dodgers were "shook up." They promptlyran off a winning streak that didn't stop until the pennant was won.
And so Jackie isanother big reason why the Dodger fan feels optimistic. All that hitting andall that pitching. And Jackie.
There is one morereason why Mr. Brooklyn thinks his team will win. The two most dependableYankee pitchers are left-handers, Whitey Ford and Tommy Byrne, and—at least inthe National League—lefthanders do not beat the Dodgers. In fact, soawe-inspiring is the right-hand Brooklyn power that almost never doleft-handers pitch against the Dodgers, particularly in Ebbets Field.
Mr. Brooklyn nodshis head to Logic and enjoys thinking how his team should win but Memory andEmotion whisper in his ear too, and then he is not so happy. One says,"Don't forget the hold the Yankees have on the Dodgers," and remindshim of the record: seven straight failures in Series competition, the last fiveagainst the Yankees. The other says, "Forget the stumbling appearance ofthe Yankees during July and August and remember how they looked last week. TheYankees are tough. They're the Yankees. They just don't like to lose."
He is remindedthe Yankees have pitching too, four guys named Ford and Byrne and Larsen andTurley who struggled through those bad months without relief and, apparentlystronger for their labors, finished as if their names were Reynolds and Raschiand Lopat. He remembers they have a brilliant kid named Mantle and a scowling,dangerous ballplayer named Bauer and others, each in his own way, the equal ofthe beloved Dodgers; versatile McDougald, clutch-hitting Collins, powerfulSkowron and Howard and game, scrappy little guys like Martin and Rizzuto. Andthey have Yogi Berra. How do you get that man out when he wants to win a ballgame?
It is then thatMr. Brooklyn forgets Duke and Don and Roy and Pee Wee, forgets his own fineteam, thinks about the Yankees and shudders.
ABOUT THE SERIES
WHERE AND WHEN: First game next Wednesday, Sept. 28;succeeding games each day thereafter until one team wins four and world'schampionship. First two games scheduled to be played in Yankee Stadium, nextthree in Ebbets Field, final two back in the stadium. Weekday games at 1 p.m.EDT, Sunday game at 2:05.
RADIO AND TV: NBC-TV and Mutual radio will broadcastgames daily to more than 100 million Americans. Broadcasts will also be beamedto Alaska, Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe (including Soviet Union).
TICKETS AND RECEIPTS: Tickets $2.10 (bleachers), $4.20(standing room), $7.35 (all grandstand), $10.50 (boxes). Players share inreceipts from first four games only. Players on team winning Series expect$9,000 each, losers $6,000.
BROOKLYN'S EBBETS FIELD is smallest ball park in area in major leagues, is heaven for home-run hitters.
RIGHT-FIELD SCREEN: 40 Feet high
CENTER: 10-foot wall
LEFT-FIELD STANDS 10-foot wall
YANKEE STADIUM has been scene of more World Series games than any other ball park, holds over 70,000.
WALL: 8-14 feet high
WALL: 8-14 feet high