Today’s Postseason Series From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is the 1957 World Series. The 1950’s were a turbulent time in Major League Baseball. Television was rapidly gaining popularity and attendance throughout baseball was dwindling. That and population shifts resulted in many teams moving. While the St. Louis Browns moved east to Baltimore, four other teams moved west. The Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1953. The Dodgers and Giants went to the west coast in 1958. But in 1952 the Boston Braves were the first to move for greener pastures and headed to Milwaukee.
The success was immediate, as the Braves went from 64-89 in 1952 in Boston to 92-62 in Milwaukee the following season. And the attendance was noticeable, too. In 1952 they drew 281,278 fans (and people complain about today’s attendance figures); their first year in Milwaukee saw 1,826,397 fans go through the turnstiles.
The Braves lineup led the National League in runs in 1957. A lineup based on power, the led the league in homeruns and stole just 35 bases. Anchoring the lineup were three future Hall of Famers: 23-year old Hank Aaron (166 OPS+, 44 HR), 25-year old Eddie Mathews (154 OPS+, 32 HR), and Red Schoendienst (116 OPS+) to go along with Wes Covington (138 OPS+). The pitching staff was nothing to sneeze at, either, anchored by the ageless wonder Warren Spahn (130 ERA+).
After a back-and-forth pennant race through July, the Braves took over first place for good on August 7, winning the pennant by eight games, their first in Milwaukee.
The Yankees on the other hand weren’t moving anywhere. In 1957 they had won their ninth pennant in 11 years, led by Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra in the lineup and Whitey Ford on the hill. Also aiding Casey Stengel’s bunch was super utility man Gil McDougald and former AL MVP Bobby Shantz. The Yankees took over first place for good at the end of June and pulled away, winning the pennant by eight games over Al Lopez’s “Go-Go” White Sox.
The Series opened in Yankee Stadium on October 2 with future Hall of Famers Warren Spahn and Whitey Ford squaring off on the mound. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fifth, when Jerry Coleman led off with a single and after Spahn got Tony Kubek and Ford to ground out, Hank Bauer doubled to get the first run of the game across. The Yanks added two more runs in the sixth and Ford did the rest as the Bronx Bombers took Game 1 3-1.
The Braves got the scoring going in Game 2 when Hank Aaron led off the second with a triple and Joe Adcock singled him home. The Yankees got the run back in the bottom half, then Johnny Logan and Bauer swapped homeruns in the third.
In the top of the fourth the Braves got to Bobby Shantz with three straight singles, the third scoring two runs assisted by Tony Kubek’s error. That proved to be enough as Lew Burdette kept the Yankees off the board for the rest of the game to even the series.
Game 3 in County Stadium was the not the way the Braves wanted to celebrate the first World Series game played in Milwaukee. Starter Bob Buhl couldn’t get out of the first inning, giving up three runs. The Braves got one back in the second, but quickly gave it back in the third. In the fourth Mickey Mantle hit his ninth of what would become 18 career World Series homeruns*. Hank Aaron homered in the fifth, but it didn’t matter. The Yankees blew the game open with five in the seventh and took Game 3 12-3.
*-Interesting stat: Mantle’s career average in the World Series was a very pedestrian .257.
The Yankees jumped out early in Game 4, scoring a run in the first. It remained 1-0 until the bottom of the fourth. Johnny Logan led off with a walk then Eddie Mathews doubled. Aaron gave the Braves the lead with a three run shot to left. Two batters later Frank Torre (Joe Torre’s brother) homered Milwaukee had a 4-1 lead. It remained that way until the ninth. With Spahn still on the mound (because damnit, that’s what you did!) Bauer and Mantle made two quick outs. Then Yogi Berra and Gil McDougald both singled, then Elston Howard hit a three run shot of his own to tie the game. The game went into extra innings and again Spahn got the first two in the tenth before giving up a single to Tony Kubek. Then Hank Bauer tripled to give the Yankees the lead. Then Casey Stengel got cute.
To start off the bottom of the tenth he replaced Elston Howard with Joe Collins at first base. After Tommy Byrne a ball to Nippy Jones a debate rose as to whether it hit Jones or not. After shoe polish was pointed out on the ball, Jones was awarded first and Stengel replaced Byrne with Bob Grim while Jones was pinch ran for with Felix Mantilla. After Red Schoendienst bunted Mantilla over (ugh) Stengel inexplicably replaced the 25-year old Mantle with 41-year old Enos Slaughter and moved Tony Kubek to centerfield to keep Slaughter in left. Johnny Logan then doubled down the leftfield line to tie the game. Then Eddie Mathews launched one into the rightfield seats for a game winning two run shot. While Stengel’s moves may seem inconsequential, they are still head scratchers. I know that Stengel loved to platoon and would mix and match as much as he could, but sometimes a manager overmanages.
Now with the series tied, Game 5 was a huge swing game (theoretically). Whitey Ford was brilliant, but Lew Burdette was every bit as good. The Yankees only real threat came in the fourth when Berra reached on an error and Slaughter singled with one out. Burdette got Harry Simpson to hit into an inning ending double play and elude any danger. In the bottom of the sixth Ford got the first two without any problem, but then gave up three straight singles to Mathews, Aaron, and Joe Adcock, Adcock’s bringing in Mathews. Then another questionable move came in the eighth. After Jerry Coleman got a one out single, he was replaced with Mickey Mantle as a pinch runner. Why was Stengel’s best player on the bench for the first seven innings? And how did his best bat get zero plate appearances in a pivotal game? What do I know? Anyway, the Yankees failed to score in the eighth and ninth, and the Braves took the series lead with a 1-0 victory as Burdette threw his second complete game of the series.
The Yankees got the scoring going in Game 6 when Slaughter drew a two out walk and Yogi Berra homered to give the Bombers a 2-0 lead. The Braves got a run back when Frank Torre homered off of Bob Turley in the fifth. Then in the seventh, Aaron led off with a homerun to tie the game. The game didn’t stay tied long and Hank Bauer homered off of Ernie Johnson with one out in the bottom of the seventh, giving the Yankees a 3-2 win and the series was going to Game 7.
Braves manager Frank Haney decided to go with the unlikely hero Lew Burdette in Game 7 while Stengel countered with Don Larsen. Everyone remembers Larsen for throwing a perfect game in the 1956 World Series, but many forget that he was pretty much an average pitcher (career ERA+ of 99), or that for the 1954 Orioles he had a 3-21 record (granted, the Orioles were terrible, too). On this day he was more like his norm than his greatest moment. In the third Bob Hazle got a one out single and Logan reached on an error. Eddie Mathews doubled them both in and Larsen’s afternoon was done. Bobby Shantz wasn’t much more successful, as Hank Aaron greeted him with an RBI single of his own, then Torre drove him in with a groundout.
That would be all Burdette would need as he cruised through the first eight innings, only twice allowing multiple baserunners to reach. Del Crandall added a homerun in the eighth and Burdette took a 5-0 lead into the ninth. After Berra popped out to lead off, McDouglald singled. With two out Jerry Coleman singled and then Tommy Byrne singled to load the bases. But Burdette got Bob Skowron to ground a ball to Eddie Mathews, who stepped on third to end the series. Burdette won World Series MVP honors, going 3-0 with three complete games and two shutouts.
The following season the two teams would meet again, this time the Yankees taking Game 7. The Braves’ success in Milwaukee was short lived as they spent only 13 seasons there before moving to Atlanta. Eddie spent one season in Atlanta, becoming the only player in Braves history to play for the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. When you look at the talent the Braves had in Milwaukee one could easily make the case that they were the biggest underachievers of that era, maybe of any era. The Yankees over the next seven seasons would win six pennants and three World Series, then old age caught up to them. By the late 1960’s were an average team, but from 1949 through 1964, only the 1954 Indians and 1959 White Sox were able to finish ahead of the Yankees in the final standings.