Brooklyn's frustrating search for a world baseball championship ended in 1955. That, in capsule form, was the story of the major league season. In effect, all the drama, the turbulence, the joy and the heartbreak of an entire baseball year were blended into a single game. That was the seventh and deciding struggle of the world series, and the Dodgers won it. They beat their neighbouring rivals, the New York Yankees, 2 to 0, after splitting the first six games. Further embellishing the Brooklyn triumph was the fact that the Dodgers captured the series despite the loss of the first two games. No other team in modern annals had overcome an obstacle of that magnitude. Brooklyn thus was rewarded following seven previous fruitless series appearances.
Don Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers preparing to pitch to Gene Baker of the Chicago Cubs. Newcombe won 20 games in 1955.
Meanwhile, baseball in 1955 found Kansas City meeting the challenge of its newly-acquired major league franchise. The transplanted Athletics attracted 1,393,054 customers at home, a figure in excess of 1,000,000 over that drawn by the last-place Athletics at Philadelphia in 1954. Kansas City finished a respectable sixth in its American league debut.
Baseball lost one of its pillars with the death of 85-year-old Clark Griffith, owner of the Washington Senators, on Oct. 27. Eight days later, Denton True (Cy) Young, baseball's winningest pitcher, died at the age of 88. Griffith's son, Calvin, was named to carry on as president of the Senators.
Major League Races.
The major league pennant races represented two exaggerated extremes. The New York Yankees waited until two days before the season terminated to emerge from one of the most exhausting American league fights in years. Conversely, Brooklyn ran away from the pack in the National league.
The Yankees brought Manager Casey Stengel his sixth pennant in seven years, but the issue was in doubt among four teams almost until the end. New York wound up three games in front of the Cleveland Indians and five ahead of the Chicago White Sox. The Boston Red Sox made an exciting bid but faltered in the stretch to settle in fourth place. 12 games back. Detroit stayed within reach until midway through the season but dropped to fifth in the final standing.
Moreover, the Yanks got a superlative comeback from 35-year-old pitcher Tommy Byrne, who left his wildness in the minor leagues and came on to compile a 16 and 5 record. Whitey Ford showed 18 and 7 on the mound to parlay a potent one-two southpaw pitching punch for New York. As usual, the Yankees outstripped the rest of the league in home runs, with 175. Switch-hitting centrefielder Mickey Mantle delivered a league-leading total of 37
In the National league, Brooklyn opened the season with a record ten straight victories and ultimately won 21 of its first 23 games. Thereafter, Manager Walter Alston's club remained in control. The Dodgers formally clinched the pennant on September 8 in their 138th game, the earliest in modern major league history. The battle for second place provided a scramble, with the Milwaukee Braves finally shaking off the 1954 world champion New York Giants. The Braves were 13 1/2 games be-hind Brooklyn at the end. The Giants, in third, finished 181 games from the top. Philadelphia was fourth, 21 1/2 games out.
An ironic twist in Brooklyn's fortunes came on May 5 when Manager Alston suspended pitcher Don Newcombe briefly for refusal to pitch batting practice. Once reinstated, Newcombe proceeded to win a club high of 20 games against 5 losses. His bat was also a factor, with a .359 average featured by seven home runs and 23 runs batted in. The Dodgers boasted three regulars in the charmed .300 hitting circle. Catcher Roy Campanella hit .318, rightfielder Carl Furillo .314 and centrefielder Duke Snider .309. Brooklyn led the major leagues in home runs with 201, including 42 by Snider.
Johnny Podres won the 1955 world series for Brooklyn. He didn't do it singlehandedly, for baseball sub-scribes to the team theory. But he was the primary difference between the Dodgers and a Yankee club which previously had plucked off 16 series championships as compared with only four reversal.
With the series tied at three games apiece, Podres, a 23-yearold-lefthander, shut out the Yankees, 2 to 0, in the climactic seventh game. He scattered eight hits to beat Tommy Byrne and he did it in Yankee stadium. Gil Hodges batted home both Dodger runs, one with a single in the fourth inning, the other with his sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Earlier, New York had threatened a possible sweep. The Yanks opened the postseason classic by beating Don Newcombe, 6 to 5, behind Whitey Ford. Two home runs by Joe Collins, good for three runs, settled the game.
New York took the second game, too, as Tommy Byrne stopped the Dodgers on five hits and singled in two decisive runs during a four-run Yankee fourth inning.
Now trailing by two games, with both losses effected at Yankee stadium, Brooklyn found a haven of refuge in its Ebbets field home and a stopper in Podres. He shackled the Yanks on a seven-hitter and Brooklyn bats responded with an 8 to 3 victory.
Given new life the Dodgers tied the series at two games all, 8 to 5. Brooklyn grabbed the lead on home runs by Roy Campanella and Hodges, and clinched matters when Duke Snider homered with two on in the fifth inning. Clem Labine, in relief of starter Carl Erskine, gained credit for the win
Brooklyn pulled out ahead in the series by virtue of a 5 to 3 victory in the fifth game, their third in a row at Ebbets field. Snider smashed two home runs to run his lifetime series total to 9, a record for the National league. His homers benefited rookie Roger Craig, who became the winning pitcher.
Back at Yankee stadium, the Yanks squared the series. Ford came back for his second win, this time by a 5 to 1 margin on a four-hitter. New York broke it up with five runs in the first inning, three on a home run by Bill Skowron.
That forced the world series to the limit and Podres then re igned supreme.
I ndividually, catcher Yogi Berra of the Yankees led series regulars at bat with a .417 average. The irrepressible Snider finished with .320, including four home runs and seven runs batted in. The Yankees' Mickey Mantle saw action in only three games because of a leg injury.
Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto played in all seven games to run his lifetime total of appearances in series games to 52, a new record. Joe DiMaggio had held the previous standard of 51.
Total paid attendance at the series was 362,310, with net receipts therefrom totalling $2,-337,515. 34 Brooklyn players received $9.768.21 apiece fora full share, the Yankees $5,598.58.
Al Kaline of Detroit, only two years removed from the high school ranks, won the 1955 Ameri- can league batting championship, posting an average of .340 in final unofficial averages. The 20-year-old Kaline also led the league in hits with 200. Ted Williams of Boston, rejoining the Red Sox belatedly after reconsidering plans to retire, hit .356, but came to bat only 320 times, 80 less than the required num• ber to qualify for the title. Boston's Jackie Jensen and Detroit's Ray Boone tied for runs-batted-in honours with 116. Mickey Mantle of the Yankees produced 37 home runs and 11 triples for leadership in both departments. Harvey Kuenn of the Tigers led in doubles with 38. The stolen base title went to Jim Rivera of the Chicago White Sox. He had 25.
In pitching, lefthander Billy Pierce of Chicago turned in the top earned-run average of 1.97. The league had no 20-game winners. Boston's Frank Sullivan, New York's Whitey Ford and Cleveland's Bob Lemon each won 18. Herb Score, the highly publicized Indians' rookie, struck out 244 to head the circuit an set a new record for a first-year man.
Harry Agganis, a first baseman with the Red Sox, died unex- pectedly during the season following an illness..
In the National league, Richie Ashburn, fleet centrefielder of the Philadelphia Phillies. captured the batting championship or. the strength of a .338 average. Willie Mays of the New York Giants slammed 51 home runs to win the long-distance crown as the National league boasted six players with 40 or more home runs for the second straight year. Ernie Banks, the spectacular shortstop of the Chicago Cubs, broke two major league records, He hit 44 home runs, the most ever by a shortstop, and be came the first player to get five grand-slam homers in one sea son. Ted Kluszewski of Cincinnati collected the most hits, 192, and Brooklyn's Duke Snider topped the runs-batted-in category with 136. Mays and Dale Long of Pittsburgh each were credited with 13 triples, while Hank Aaron and Johnny Logan, both of Milwaukee,. hit 37 doubles apiece. Bill Bruton, also of the Braves, stole 25 bases
In pitching. Bob Friend of Pittsburgh won the earned-run leadership with 2.84 despite the Pirates' eighth-place finish. Robin Roberts of the Phillies ran up 23 wins against 14 losses for six 2o-game seasons in succession, and Brooklyn's Don Newcombe had 20 and 5. Sam Jones of the Cubs registered the only no-hit, no-run game of the season on May 12 at Wrigley field in Chicago, beating Pittsburgh, 4 to 0. Jones also paced the league in strikeouts with 197.
All Star Game.
The 22nd annual All Star baseball game July 12, at Milwaukee took 12 innings before the National league beat the American league, 6 to 5. A home run by Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals finally broke a 5 to 5 deadlock in the Nationals' favour. Musial's homer was delivered off Boston's Frank Sullivan, the loser, and brought Milwaukee's Gene Conley the triumph in his home park. The attendance was 45,314. It was the National league's ninth All Star victory against 13 losses. Arch Ward, sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, who had innovated the All Star game in 1933, died three days before the 1955 classic unfolded.
Hall of Fame.
Six famous baseball players won election to the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y. The group included Ray (Cracker) Schalk, Chicago White Sox catcher-manager, and John Franklin (Home Run) Baker, third baseman for the Philadelphia Athletics and New York Yankees, both of whom starred more than a quarter-century ago. Players of more recent vintage honoured were Joe DiMaggio, Yankee centrefielder; Ted Lyons, White Sox pitcher; Arthur (Dazzy) Vance, Brooklyn pitcher, and Leo (Gabby) Hartnett, Chicago Cubs' catcher-manager.