1955, the season that was next year


After the New York Giants won the World Series in the previous year, the Dodgers started the season hopeful as ever. How many World Series had they played without winning one? 1916 and 1920 as the Robins, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953. In five of these World Series appearances, the hated Yankees were the opponent.

In the 1954-1955 off season the Dodgers had made some trades with the Baltimore Orioles: Ray Moore was traded to Baltimore  for Chico García. Billy Cox and Preacher Roe were traded the Orioles in exchange of Johnny Jancse, Harry Schwegeman and cash. Erv Palica was traded for Frank Kellert and cash. On the first sight not trades that would have a major impact.

The team had slowly gotten older. Several players were older than thirty already: Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson were 36, Gil Hodges was 31 and Carl Furillo 33.

The team started the season at home for one game vs the Pirates. Then the Dodgers moved to the Polo Grounds to take on their cross town rivals the Giants for a two game series. The team had an unexpected start. They won the first ten games, lost the eleventh, won the twelfth, lost the thirteenth and then improved to a 22-2 record on May 10. In the first game of that unprecedented streak, Jackie Robinson “invented” his double-play stopper: he deliberately let a batted ball hit him for an automatic one-out to prevent the Pirates from making a very likely double play. In the third game of the season, Billy Loes humiliated the Giants by picking Willie Mays off third base to end a Giants rally. Duke Snider hit a homerun that cleared the right field fence of the Polo Grounds at 460 feet. Was this an omen of what was about to come?

On the afternoon of April 21st the Dodgers could clinch their tenth consecutive win, there was only a small crowd of 3,874. “What happened to the crowd?”, Pee Wee Reese asked after Ebbets Field was flooded with fans on the previous nights. Despite the fact that this game was an afternoon game, it showed how unpredictable the Dodger fans could be. You’d expect a large crowd at a game in which the team can break a record.

Around the halfway of the season a young promising pitcher broke into the Majors. This pitcher, a certain Sandy Koufax, would have a role that would be mainly limited to relief outings. Nevertheless he started five games of his twelve appearances that year. Because the Dodgers called him up, Tommy Lasorda had to make room and was sent down to Montreal. Since Koufax was a bonus baby, they treated him with care and didn’t overuse him., which is quite an understatement since he saw no action in the play offs.

As the regular season ended, the Dodgers were in first place, as they were on day one of the season. They ended the regular season with a 13.5 game lead over the Milwaukee Braves. Catcher Roy Campanella would win his third MVP award.

Once again they would meet their nemesis the New York Yankees, the team that had tortured Brooklyn in their previous five meetings. The Dodgers lost the first two games in Yankee Stadium (6-5 and 4-2) despite a controversial call in game one when Jackie Robinson stole homeplate and was called safe. Once again that sickening feeling reared up it’s ugly head and many Dodger fan may have had a deja-vu. Despite having a 20 win season, Don Newcombe who started game one, could not hold back the big bats of the Yankees. But in game three (at Ebbets Field) an unlikely hero emerged in the person of Johnny Podres. Podres struggled all season, posting a 9-10 record. But on his birthday he faced the Yankees’ 17 game winner Bob Turley. Despite being heavily favoured over Podres, Turley lasted only 1.1 inning, giving up four runs on three hits. Podres on his turn pitched a complete game gem, in which he walked two and fanned six for the 8-3 win.

This was the spark plug that the Dodgers needed. Feeling invincible at Ebbets Field, took game four and five as well (8-5 and 5-3) to head back to Yankee Stadium with a one game lead over the hated Yanks.

At Yankee Stadium, Whitey Ford pitched a complete game in which he fanned eight for a 4-1 win for the Yankees, tying the Series at three games each.

So a game seven was needed to decide the 1955 Fall Classic.

In this game, mamager Walter Alston pushed all the right buttons. He opted for Johnny Podres to start the game, while Casey Stengel sent game two winner Tommy Byrne to the mound. Both pitchers went head-to-head but Byrne would give up two runs in the 5.1 innings he pitched. Podres on his turn got some tremendous help from his defense. Key play was a double play in the sixth inning. After Alston brought in Sandy Amoros to play left field and left fielder Jim Gilliam moved from left field to second base. In the Yankees’ at bat, Billy Martin drew a walk of Podres. Gil McDougald bunted for a single to put runners on first and second. The next hit by Yogi Berra sailed to left field. Every Dodger fan held his breath since it looked that it would be an extra base hit. But swift Sandy Amoros caught the ball with his glove hand just inside the playing field for the first out. Amoros fired a perfect throw to cut off man Pee Wee Reese, who bowled McDougald off first base before he could even safely return to finish the double play.

Johnny Podres lasted into the ninth inning, despite giving up eight hits and two walks. In the Yankees’ final at bat, Moose Skowron lead off with a dribbler to Podres for an easy first out. Bob Cerv flied out to left fielder Sandy Amoros. Then Elston Howard grounded to shortstop Pee Wee Reese who fielded the ball cleanly but made a lame throw to first. Nevertheless Gil Hodges could pick up the ball from the ground for the final out. After two hours and fourty-four minutes the unimaginable  happened: The Dodgers were world champions. The New York Daily News headed “ This is next year!” making a link to the line that the Dodger fans chanted after every lost World Series: “Wait ‘til next year!!!”

The 1955 World Series was the first in which an MVP title was rewarded. Dodgers pitcher Johnny Podres won the first one for his performance in game three and game seven.

The aftermath of the 1955 World Series
Despite the World Series win, Walter O’Malley was already looking to move his team. When the WS flag was handed over to the Dodgers at Opening Day 1956, there was a small crowd at Ebbets Field. Pee Wee Reese reportedly said that this was the beginning of the end of baseball in Brooklyn. Eventually he was right. After the 1957 season the Dodgers moved West leaving Brooklyn in tears with a broken heart.

Raising of the 1955 WS banner

The 1955 World Series flag is still in Brooklyn. It went to Los Angeles when the Dodgers moved, but it was snatched from a ballroom when the Dodgers displayed it during a 1959 WS win celebration. After a long odyssey, the flag ended up in an exhibition at at the Brooklyn Historical Society at 128 Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights.

The 1955 World Series banner at the Brooklyn Historical Society

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