Thursday, July 22, 2010

PTWSW #56: The 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers

Manager: Walter Alston
Record: 88-68
Ballpark: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Owner: Walter O'Malley
GM: Buzzie Bavasi
Coaches: Joe Becker, Chuck Dressen, Greg Mulleavy, Pee Wee Reese

Future Hall of Famers: Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Duke Snider

All-Stars: Don Drysdale, Jim Gilliam, Wally Moon, Charlie Neal

Team Leaders, Batting

Duke Snider, .308
OBP: Duke Snider, .400
SLG: Duke Snider, .535
OPS: Duke Snider, .935
2B: Charlie Neal, 30
3B: Wally Moon, Charlie Neal, 11 (NL leaders)
HR: Gil Hodges, 25
RBI: Duke Snider, 88
BB: Jim Gilliam, 96 (NL leader)
SB: Jim Gilliam, 23

Team Leaders, Pitching

Don Drysdale, 17
SO: Don Drysdale, 242 (NL leader)
ERA: Don Drysdale, 3.46
IP: Don Drysdale, 270.2
CG: Don Drysdale, 15
SHO: Roger Craig, Don Drysdale, 4 (NL leaders)
K/BB: Don Drysdale, 2.60
SV: Clem Labine, 9


Oldest Player:
Carl Furillo (b. March 8, 1922)

Youngest Player: Tommy Davis (b. March 21, 1939)

First to Leave Us: Gil Hodges (d. April 2, 1972). Manager of the Mets at the time, Hodges suffered a heart attack during spring training while returning to his hotel after a game of golf.

Last Survivor: Almost half are still living as of July 10, 2013.

First in Majors: Gil Hodges (debut October 3, 1943)

Last in Majors: Ron Fairly (final game September 23, 1978)

First to Play For the Franchise: Gil Hodges (October 3, 1943)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Maury Wills (October 4, 1972)

Pre-union Team: No team had more than two of these guys, as the deep Dodger farm system provided most of the ammo.

Reunion Team: The 1962 New York Mets with six: Roger Craig, Gil Hodges, Clem Labine, Charlie Neal, Joe Pignatano and Don Zimmer. The Mets' front office thought collecting former Dodgers would appeal to the fans in New York nostalgic for the old Brooklyn Bums. The 1963 Mets also had five, with Norm Sherry and Duke Snider replacing Labine, Pignatano and Zimmer.

Other: Memorial Coliseum was host to the second All-Star Game in 1959, marking the second time the All-Star host became the World Series champion.


Gil Hodges, NL First Base Gold Glove
Charlie Neal, NL Second Base Gold Glove

Season Summary

1958 was the Dodgers' first season in Los Angeles, and it didn't draw many comparisons to their Brooklyn glory days. They finished in seventh place with a roster full of washed-up veterans and undeveloped youngsters, and star center fielder Duke Snider was hampered by a knee injury all year. Going into 1959 it was questionable whether they had enough to contend.

The team's biggest offseason move was acquiring outfielder Wally Moon from the Cardinals. Moon was a .300 hitter who could also take a walk, and his presence in the lineup helped the Dodgers boost their on-base percentage from league-worst in 1958 to second-best in 1959. The Dodgers led the league in base on balls, out-walking the competition by almost a hundred free passes, and it was only their low team batting average that kept them from leading the NL in OBP. They weren't much of a slugging group, as they were only fifth in homers and tied for last in doubles, but they compensated with speed, finishing first in stolen bases and second in triples. Their pitching staff was where they kept the power: their hurlers struck out 1,077 batters, 204 more than the second-best Giants. The only problem was control, as they also led the league in walks and hit batsmen. Still, the positives outweighed the negatives, as their 112 ERA+ was league-best.

The Milwaukee Braves, winners of the last two pennants, were favored by most experts going into the season; it ended up being a pretty tight race between the Braves, Giants and Dodgers. The Braves held the lead most of the way through July, at which point the Giants took over until September. The Dodgers briefly grabbed the lead a few times, but usually they stayed a game or two or three behind the leader. The Giants played five straight games against their two challengers from September 16-20 which were the beginning of the end for them: they went 1-4, then lost four of their remaining five after that. Meanwhile, the Dodgers and Braves kept winning and finished the season tied, necessitating a best-of-three playoff series. The Dodgers won the first game, then staged a dramatic thriller in the second. The Braves led 5-2 going into the bottom of the ninth, but L.A. rallied for three runs, tying it on a sacrifice fly by Carl Furillo, the oldest man on the roster. The game remained deadlocked until the 12th inning, when the Dodgers got two runners on base with two out. Once again it was Furillo who came through. The Reading Rifle hit an infield single that drew an errant throw from shortstop Felix Mantilla, allowing Gil Hodges to score the pennant-winning run.

For the first time in history the World Series would feature a team from the west coast. The AL representative would be the Chicago White Sox, a franchise that had suffered through 40 years of pennant-free ball after the infamous "Black Sox Scandal." Game 1 was a White Sox blowout, but the Dodgers evened the Series in Game 2 with a 4-3 victory. Furillo was a hero yet again in Game 3, giving the Dodgers all the runs they needed with a two-run single in the seventh. Fellow veteran Gil Hodges followed suit in Game 4, breaking a 4-4 tie with a home run in the eighth to give the Dodgers a 3-1 Series lead. The White Sox stayed alive with a 1-0 victory in Game 5, but the Dodgers routed them 9-3 in Game 6 to claim the title. Just two years after the arrival of Major League Baseball, the state of California had itself a World Series champion. Reliever Larry Sherry was named Series MVP for pitching 12 2/3 innings and allowing only one run.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
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