Shutting ’em Down in Game 7: Bums Win

The Podres statue at the Hall of Fame

The Podres statue at the Hall of Fame

Game seven of the 1955 World Series is arguably the most famous game in Brooklyn Dodgers history. April of 1947 is its only rival. Finally, after years of frustration going back to 1901 the Dodgers finally were World Champions. It had last occurred in 1900.

The Dodgers were playing the Yankees for the sixth time (’41, ’47, ’49, ’52, ’53 are the others) and were 0-5. Some had been good Series’ (particularly 1947) but Brooklyn always lost. The 1955 team was still very much the same team as the 1952 and 1953 teams but there were significant changes. First, Walter Alston was now the manager. He’d been a minor league manager for a while, but in 1954 took the leadership of the team. The infield was different from the more famous “Boys of Summer” infield. Gil Hodges was still at first and Pee Wee Reese still held down shortstop, But Jim Gilliam now spent more time at second than anyone else. He could also play the outfield in for game seven he was in left. Utility man Don Zimmer was at second. Jackie Robinson now was the primary third baseman, but for game seven he was on the bench with Don Hoak at third. Carl Furillo and Duke Snider were still in right and center field, but Sandy Amoros did most of the work in left. As mentioned earlier, on 4 October 1955 he started on the bench. He didn’t stay there. Roy Campanella having his last good year, was the MVP winning catcher.

The pitching staff was in transition. Don Newcombe was still the ace, Carl Erskine was fading, Billy Loes was still there, but a key newcomer (he’d been around awhile, but wasn’t anything like a star) was 22-year old Johnny Podres. Ed Roebuck and Clem Labine did the bulk of the bullpen work, but 19-year old bonus baby Sandy Koufax was on the roster (he didn’t pitch in the Series). Podres, the game three winner, got game seven.

He faced a Casey Stengel New York Yankees team that, after a string of five consecutive World Series victories, had finished second in 1954. They were back with a new lineup that included Moose Skowron at first, Gil McDougald at second, Andy Carey at third, and shortstop Billy Hunter. Gone was Johnny Mize while Billy Martin, Phil Rizzuto and Joe Collins were on the bench. Mickey Mantle and Hank Bauer were in center field and right field with Irv Noren doing most of the work in left. Elston Howard had finally integrated the Yanks in ’55 and now backed up in left.

MVP Yogi Berra caught a staff that included Whitey Ford, Bob Turley, Tommy Byrne, Bob Grim and Don Larsen. Ford was the ace, with Turley a close second. Larsen was still learning (and would figure it all out in one game the next World Series). Byrne had a good year but as usual walked more than he struck out. He drew game seven which was played in Yankee Stadium.

Both pitchers got through the first inning without incident. Byrne gave up a walk in the second and Podres gave a double to Skowron, but no runs came across. It stayed that way to the top of the fourth. With one out, Campanella doubled, then went to third on a grounder to short. Hodges then singled to left scoring Campy with the initial run of the game. In the bottom of the fourth New York got a runner as far as third before a pop up to short ended the threat.

Reese led off the top of the sixth with a single then went to second on a Snider bunt. An error by Skowron made Snider safe. Then a Campanella bunt put runners on second and third with only one out. Byrne intentionally walked Furillo to load the bases, then gave up the mound to Bob Grim. Hodges hit a long sacrifice to right center that scored Reese with an unearned run. A wild pitch (that didn’t allow Snider to score) and a walk reloaded the bases, but pinch hitter George Shuba grounded out to end the inning. As a short aside, it’s a measure of how much the game has changed that both Snider and Campanella, the three and four hitters, laid down bunts in a critical situation.

Shuba’s pinch hit was critical to the game. It removed Zimmer from the lineup and forced Gilliam to take second. That brought Amoros into the game in left. That immediately made a difference. Martin, playing second in this game, walked to lead off the bottom of the sixth and went to second on a bunt by McDougald, who was safe at first. Berra then slammed a drive down the left field line. Amoros, a left-hander, got to the line, stuck up his glove (on his right hand) and snagged the ball. A toss to Reese and a relay to Hodges completed a double play. Bauer then grounded out to end the threat. Most experts agree that Gilliam, with his glove on his left hand, would have never been able to make the play in left, but southpaw Amoros became an instant Brooklyn hero.

It was the turning point of the game. Podres allowed two base runners in both the seventh and eighth innings but worked out of both jams without damage. In the ninth a comebacker to the pitcher, a fly to left, and a ground out short to first ended the game and brought Brooklyn its first World Series championship. Brooklyn went crazy.

The big heroes were Amoros with a great catch and throw, Campanella with a run scored and a key bunt, Hodges with both RBIs, and Reese with a run and a fine relay on Amoros’ catch and throw. But the biggest hero was Podres. He’d pitched a complete game shutout. It was true that it wasn’t a masterpiece. He’d allowed eight hits (the Dodgers only had five) and walked two, but he’d also struck out four and pitched out of each jam. It was the first year an MVP for the World Series was awarded. Podres won it easily.

The Yanks played well. McDougald had three hits, but was doubled up in the sixth on Reese’s relay. Skowron had a double, but also an error, while Berra had the only other extra base hit for New York and smashed the ball to left that started the double play that was so pivotal to the game.

The game marked the high water mark for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The next year they were back in the World Series, but lost to the Yankees. In 1957 they had a bad year and by 1958 were relocated to Los Angeles. They did well there winning again it 1959. A handful of the 1955 winners were still around: Snider, Furillo, Gilliam, Zimmer, and Koufax among others. Most notably for fans of the 1955 team, so was Podres. He pitched two games and picked up the win in game two.




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5 Responses to “Shutting ’em Down in Game 7: Bums Win”

  1. Miller Says:

    The most fascinating thing about this account for me is the back-to-back bunts by Snider and Campanella. My comment isn’t a “remember the good ‘ol days” sort of comment. I understand that some run environments call for more bunting than others, and some situations call for much more if it than others. But Snider and then Campanella? I’m imagining Manny and Papi both bunting. Or Schmidt and Luzinski. Or even Aaron and Mathews. Excellent account of the game. Thanks.

  2. Glen Russell Slater Says:

    Must have been one of the happiest days of a certain fella who grew up in Brownsville, rootin’ for dem Bums! Bob Slater, my father’s father. I wish that I was there to see him celebrate, but I was born five years later.


  3. Glen Russell Slater Says:

    Ironically, Brooklyn was already starting to decline. That’s not why the Brooklyn Eagle went out of business earlier that year, though; it was largely because of a long, long strike. I’m pro-union, though. If it weren’t for the United Federation of Teachers, things would’ve been pretty rough around our household. (Both my parents are teachers). I’m not crazy about the baseball union, though.

    However, attendance wasn’t that great at Ebbets Field that year. The area around Ebbets Field was starting to get sort of dangerous even back then. But there were options to keep the Dodgers in New York and even in Brooklyn.

    V, you’ve got to read this book. It’s impartial and pragmatic. It’s non-sentimental and very factual, unlike most books about the Brooklyn Dodgers moving out of Brooklyn, yet it’s still fascinating and enriching. It’s all about the things that happened that brought it about.

    I wish that the Dodgers had stayed, but this is a must-read, V. And I know you’re a Dodger fan, so even more so.

    Still, being that I’m my grandfather’s grandson, I have trouble forgiving the lack of cooperation between Walter O’Malley and Robert Moses, and the indifference of Mayor Robert Wagner, or the opportunism of the mayor of Los Angeles, or the cooperation with O’Malley of Horace Stoneham (without the Giants moving to California, the Dodgers couldn’t have, either) or any of the others who participated in this sneaky and hideous plot against Brooklyn and its citizens.


    • wkkortas Says:

      Bill James, in one of the versions of his Historical Abstract, wrote a brief essay concerning the Dodgers and Brooklyn’s plight in the 50s; you probably don’t want to hear this, but he’s not wholly unsympathetic to O’Malley.

      Oh, and Johnny Podres? Upstate New York guy–in his case, way Upstate.

  4. steve Says:

    I would love to see this game 7 on tv. I can’t find it on you tube. There’s game 7 from 1952 in its entirety, but not 1955. Oh well. I had never thought about this game until reading your post today v. You mentioned it not being a masterpiece; about Podres giving up 8 hits. That’s fascinating to me. As you said, him working out of those jams.

    i love watching pitchers like that. Pete Vukovich was my favorite that year he won the Cy Young. I think he gave up more hits than innings pitched and had more walks allowed than strikeout. He used to do the Mike Hargrove human rain delay equivalent as a pitcher; changing his socks, tying and untying his shows, probably drove batters stir crazy. I don’t know if Podres did that but as you were saying v, he sure came up big when it mattered in this game 7.

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