Posts Tagged ‘Larry Sherry’

The End of a Dynasty: the 1963 Dodgers

August 29, 2015
Ron Perranoski

Ron Perranoski

There are a couple of misconceptions about the 1963 Dodgers. One is that they were never supposed to make the World Series. A second is that all they could do was pitch. In 1962 the Dodgers had taken eventual champion San Francisco to a three game playoff before losing the playoff in the third game. So reality is that Los Angeles was a formidable team a year early with both the MVP (Maury Wills) and the Cy Young Award  winner (Don Drysdale). Additionally Tommy Davis won the 1962 batting title and led the National League in RBIs. Allegations that the team could pitch but not hit fail when you understand that Davis repeated the batting title in 1963, the team finished first in stolen bases, and in the middle of the pack (in a 10 team league) in hitting, OBP, runs, hits, and even home runs (seventh). It wasn’t the 1927 Yankees, but the team could hit a little.

Walter Alston was in his 10th year managing the Dodgers. His record was 99-63 (almost a duplicate of 1962’s 101-61). He’d managed the Dodgers’ two previous World Series victories (1955 and 1959) and had supervised the move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958.

John Roseboro was the catcher. He’d replaced the legendary Roy Campanella in 1958 and maintained his job into 1963. He was solid, unspectacular, a good teammate and hit all of.236 with nine home runs and an OPS+ of 91 with 1.9 WAR (BBREF version).

The infield was also solid, and occasionally spectacular. Ron Fairly was at first. He hit .271 and had 12 home runs, good for third on the team. His 77 RBIs were second, while his OPS topped out at .735 (OPS+ 120) with 2.8 WAR. Jim Gilliam, a Brooklyn holdover, was at second. He hit .282, stole 19 bases, bunted well, was third on the team with 201 total bases, had 5.2 WAR (good for second on the team), played an excellent second base and did all those things managers wanted the two hitter to do. Maury Wills was the spectacular part of the infield. He hit .302, scored a team high 83 runs, stole 40 bases, and was credited with reestablishing the stolen base as an offensive weapon. It wasn’t really true but it was believed. Third base was in flux. Ken McMullen ended up playing more games there than anyone else, but hit all of .236 with neither power nor speed. By the time the World Series came around he was out of the lineup with Gilliam replacing him at third. That left second open and Dick Tracewski took over the position. He was a good fielder but hit .226 with one home run and 10 RBIs.

The outfield had two Davis’s and a Howard. The aforementioned Tommy Davis was in left field. He hit .326 to repeat as batting champion, and his home run total was second on the team at 16. His RBIs had fallen off to 88, but it still led the team. His OPS+ was 142 with a 3.9 WAR. The other Davis was center fielder Willie. He was generally a good fielder who could run. He hit only .245, but stole 25 bases and scored 60 runs, which equaled his RBI total. The power came from Frank Howard who was a genuinely huge man for the era. He played right field, hit .273, led the team with 28 home runs, had an OPS of .848 (easily first on the team), led all everyday players with and OPS+ of 150 and had 4.1 WAR.

The bench was long, if not overly good. Six players (including Tracewski mentioned above) were in 50 or more games and three more played at least 20 games. Wally Moon, at 122, played the most games. He hit .262 with eight home runs, 48 RBIs and 41 runs scored. Former Yankee Moose Skowron got into 89 games and had 19 runs scored, 19 RBIs, and four home runs. Doug Camilli was the primary backup catcher.

But no matter how much the Dodgers hitting was overlooked, the pitching dominated the team. Don Drysdale was the reigning Cy Young Award winner and went 19-17 with an ERA of 2.63 (ERA+ 114), 315 innings pitched, 251 strikeouts, a WHIP of 1.091, and 4.7 WAR. But he’d ceded the ace title to Sandy Koufax. Koufax was 25-5 with an ERA of 1.88 (ERA+ 159), 11 shutouts, 306 strikeouts, 0.875 WHIP, and 9.9 WAR. All, except ERA+(which was second) were first among NL pitchers. All that got him the NL MVP Award and a unanimous Cy Young Award in an era when only a single Cy Young Award was given. The third pitcher was 1955 World Series MVP Johnny Podres. He went 14-12 with an ERA of 3.54, 1.311 WHIP, and 0.3 WAR. Pete Reichert and Bob Miller, neither of which figured in the World Series, were the other pitchers with double figure starts.

Ron Perranoski was the ace of the bullpen with a 16-3 record and 21 saves. His ERA was 1.67 (ERA+ 179) with 4.5 WAR. Larry Sherry (another World Series hero–this time in 1959), Dick Calmus, and Ed Roebuck were the other bullpen men with 20 or more appearances. Sherry had three saves.

The Los Angeles hitting was underrated in 1963, but the pitching was first rate. If the pitching did its job, and the hitting did much of anything at all, it was a team that could compete with the New York Yankees in the World Series.

Playoff Baseball Comes to the West Coast

June 11, 2012

Felix Mantilla

Prior to divisional play beginning in 1969, the Major Leagues had a playoff system to determine pennant winners in case the regular season ended in a tie. It wasn’t used all that often. The American League used it all of once (1948) and the National League a bit more frequently (1946, 1951, 1959, 1962). The most famous occurred in 1951. Arguably the best occurred in 1959.

In 1959 the Milwaukee Braves were two-time defending NL champions. They featured Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Red Schoendienst, Enos Slaughter and Warren Spahn. They went into the last weekend of the regular season tied for first, then went 2-1 against Philadelphia to finish the year with a 86-68 record.

Their opponents were the Dodgers, the team they had replaced atop the NL in 1957. But it was a vastly different Dodgers team. First, it was no longer in Brooklyn, having relocated to Los Angeles following the 1957 season. Second, most of the “Boys of Summer” Dodgers were gone. Hall of Famer Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, and Carl Furillo were still around; but the new team featured Don Drysdale, Wally Moon, Johnny Roseboro, and a wild lefty named Sandy Koufax. Drysdale and Koufax were on the 1956 pennant winning team, but neither was considered a major player on that team. Gone were Roy Campanella, PeeWee Reese, Don Newcombe, and Carl Erskine, a stalwart of the Brooklyn mound who began the year in LA, but retired before the season ended.

The 1959 playoff format was a best of three series with LA getting two home games. The Milwaukee home game was 28 September in County Stadium. The next game was the following day in the LA Coliseum, the first playoff game ever on the West Coast. Game three, an if necessary game, would be in LA the 30th.

With both teams having to win late in the season, the first game saw Danny McDevitt start for the visitors with Carl Willey on the mound for the Braves. With two out and second baseman Charlie Neal on  second, Dodgers right fielder Norm Larker singled to drive in a run in the first inning. Milwaukee struck back in the second with two runs on a bunch of singles and an error. The two runs took McDevitt out of the game and brought in bullpen man Larry Sherry.  LA got the run back in the next inning on three singles and a force out. In the sixth, Roseboro led off the inning with a home run putting the Dodgers up 3-2. Sherry pitched masterfully shutting out Milwaukee on four hits (and two walks) making Roseboro’s homer the deciding run.

The next day the teams played one of the great playoff games ever. The Dodgers started Drysdale and the Braves countered with Lew Burdette. In the opening frame with an out Mathews walked, Aaron doubled, then Frank Torre doubled to plate both runs. The Dodgers got one back in the bottom of the first with a  Neal triple followed by a single by Wally Moon. The Braves got the run right back on a single and error by Snider in the second. In the bottom of the fourth Neal homered to bring the Dodgers within a run. Again Milwaukee got the run right back with a Mathews home run in the fifth. It drove Drysdale from the game. The score remained 4-2 until the top of the eighth when catcher Del Crandall tripled and came home on a Felix Mantilla sacrifice fly. The score remained 5-2 going into the bottom of the ninth. With three outs to go, Burdette stumbled. Moon, Snider, and Hodges all singled to load the bases. Out went Burdette, in came bullpen ace Don MaMahon. He proceeded to give up a two-run single to Larker. Out went McMahon, in came Warren Spahn. A sacrifice fly by Furillo tied the game.

It stayed tied through the tenth and eleventh, the Dodgers managing one hit in the eleventh. By the twelfth, Stan Williams was on the mound for LA and Bob Rush for Milwaukee. Williams got through the twelfth without giving up a hit, but with two out Rush walked Hodges. Joe Pignatano singled moving Hodges to second. Furillo then singled to shortstop Mantilla who was playing short instead of his normal second because of a defensive substitution in the seventh. Mantilla managed an error letting Hodges in with the winning run and putting the Dodgers into the World Series. They would win it over Chicago in six games.

In the years since, playoff games prior to the World Series became a staple of baseball. Now we don’t consider it unusual to see a round of games between the end of the regular season and the Series. Back in 1959 it wasn’t at all normal. It happened three times previously in all of NL history. So there was a level of anticipation that was different from today’s playoffs. And it was the first postseason play (although technically the games counted as regular season games, they were considered by most a playoff) on the West Coast. With game two, the West Coast got a great introduction to playoff baseball.

Bring on the Bullpen

October 17, 2011

Larry sherry

One of the things that I keep hearing the postseason announcers say is how important the bullpen is to teams, especially Texas and St. Louis. Well, there’s no arguing with them about the importance of the bullpen, but that’s been true for a long time. All the way back in 1959 there was a pretty obscure World Series played between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox. That Series was important for a lot of reasons. The Sox were in their first World Series since the Black Sox Scandal. The Dodgers were the first champions from the West Coast. But it was also a landmark in bullpen use.

A brief rundown of the Series is important here. The ChiSox won the first game behind Early Wynn, that year’s Cy Young Award winner (there was only one Cy Young Award that season), then the Dodgers won three in a row. The Sox came back in game five to win a 1-0 thriller that introduced the nation at large to a  struggling lefty named Sandy Koufax (who would later win three of those one-a-year Cy Young Awards). Then the Dodgers put away the Sox in game six to claim their second ever World Series victory and the first for any West Coast team.

Those barebones are true, but they don’t mention the bullpens. Both were important to the teams, especially Los Angeles. The 1959 World Series saw a record for bullpen use. For the first time ever no starting pitcher (on either team) pitched a complete game. Not one. In every game both teams made use of their bullpens to hold leads, keep the score from getting worse, shutting down the opponents, just all those things that bullpens are supposed to do.

The Chisox used Gerry Staley as their main man out of the ‘pen. He pitched four games in the Series picking up a win and a save. Dick Donovan also picked up a save, coupling it with a loss. But the big bullpen star was Dodgers right-hander Larry Sherry. Without him, the Dodgers simply don’t win. He appeared in five games (all but game one), getting a three inning save in game 2, and a two inning save in game 3. In game four he pitched the last two innings to pick up the win, and in the final game he entered the game with one out in the fourth and finished the game for the win.  And to top all that off, he pinch hit in game five, grounding out third to first. Needless to say (but of course I am going to) he was chosen the World Series MVP, the first reliever to gain the honor. In fairness to others, the award was only established in 1955.

So good bullpen use isn’t new. It goes back a long, long way. But its finest hour might simply have been 1959.

Four Outs

October 13, 2011

He got more than four outs

Now I’m normally not one to spout on and on about players being better when I was younger. Some of them were, some of them weren’t. But last night during the Cardinals-Brewers game I had to sit there in the eighth and ninth innings and listen over and over and over and over and over and …well, you get the idea, to a color guy tell me how hard it was going to be for Jason Motte, the Cardinals closer, to get four outs to end a playoff game. I’ll acknowledge that getting any out in a playoff game is hard enough (so is doing it in a regular season game) and that getting the 27th out is especially tricky, but four outs? Let me note something here. Way back when I was younger bullpen men got four outs with regularity. Let me just use four guys, which is a small sample but will have to do.

In 1959 Larry Sherry became the first reliever to be chosen World Series MVP (they only started the award in 1955). He got two wins and two saves (all four of the Dodgers wins). In four games he pitched 12.2 inning, or a little over 3 innings a pop, or a little over nine outs. In 1960 Roy Face was in four games, pitching 10.1 innings, or almost eight outs a turn. A caveat here is that this is the only World Series appearance for either man and might not hold had there been other appearances.

That isn’t true for Rollie Fingers. He makes playoffs in 1972 through 1975 and makes the World Series in the middle three years (winning all three). So how’s he do? Glad you asked. In the ALCS he pitched in 11 total games going 19.2 inning, or about 5.3 outs a game. His number varies a lot from 12 outs a game in 1975 (he pitched in one game) to a low of just over three out a game in 1972 (2 games and 2.1 innings pitched). In the World Series he pitched in 16 total games over 33.1 innings. That means he got a little more than six out per appearance. Fingers made one other playoff appearance, in 1981 with the Brewers (they lost in the ALCS). This time he threw 4.2 innings over 3 games or about four and a half outs per game.

Gosse Gossage? Again, glad you asked. In five pre-World Series playoffs he pitched 17.2 innings over 11 games, or just under five outs a games (including one series where he pitched only a third of an inning). In three World Series’ he pitched 13.2 innings over 8 games, or just over 5 outs a game.

So, TBS announcers, it can be done. Quality relievers can get four outs a game in the playoffs. I realize that they’ve changed the way relievers work, having gone from the “fireman” to the “closer”, but that’s a change in philosophy, not in capability. If your closer is that good, he’s just got to be able to get four outs. Maybe Motte isn’t that good, but I got the impression that the announcers were saying it about “closers” in general and not being specific to Motte. If a manager is concerned his “closer” can’t get four outs, maybe he should think about going back to the “fireman.”

My First Big League Game

October 20, 2010

Fenway Park

I grew up in two small towns far from the meccas of Major League Baseball. So I never saw a game in person until I joined the army in 1967. I spent a couple of months in basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri (“Fort Lost in the Wood, Misery” to all of us trainees). Then I went to Massachusetts for specialized training. It was there that I finally had time and money to attend my first big league game.

It was about an hour bus ride into Boston from the post.It wasn’t all that far, but the traffic made it take an hour. Then you could get the subway out to Fenway Park to catch a game. They had a special ticket booth where you could go if you were in uniform. The tickets there were 50 cents a pop for unassigned seats in the bleachers. A buddy who’d done it before went with us (there were four of  us) and showed us the ropes, including the little detail that if you stood up in the mezzanine for the first inning you could find out where the empty seats were and get a better view of the game than you got from the bleachers. The game was a double-header and in those days you got both ends for one ticket, so we had to get up between games and lounge around until the second inning started to make sure the same seats weren’t being used for game two. On this day they weren’t.

They say the experience is unique. The sights, the sounds, the smells are all special. Well, frankly I don’t remember any smells. I think we had a hot dog and a beer, or maybe it was a soda, but I don’t remember the smell of the hot dog or the wood on the seats. The sights and sounds? Well, that’s different.

Let me say here that I’ve never been a Boston fan. As a Dodgers fan you hate the Yankees, so that should make you at least somewhat partial to the Red Sox, right? Didn’t work with me. Didn’t care for the BoSox either. All that means that Fenway Park held no special place in my Southwestern US heart. The field was nice. I was stunned by how big the outfield actually was. Outfields to me were from the school yards or Little League or the Junior High fields where I played, or at most the High School diamond. This outfield was massive. It seemed to go on forever until it hit that stupid wall in left field. The “Green Monster” struck me as an eyesore. I’d never  seen it in color before (black and white TV) and so although I knew it was “Green”, I’d never actually contemplated what that meant. It was quirky, but ugly. The stands were old, the sight lines OK from where we sat, the seats creaked. At my age I understand creaking a bit better than I did then. All in all the place was OK, but you could tell there were problems.

The games, however, were different. The Sox were playing Detroit that day, 14 May 1967, a Sunday. I’m surprised how much I remember about the games. I jotted down what I remembered, then went to Retrosheet and looked the games up. Turned out I was right about what I remembered. In what follows, what I got from Retrosheet is in the parens. The Sox won both games (8-5, 13-9). I remember both Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich pitched for Detroit (McLain in game one and Lolich game two) and that Jim Lonborg pitched one of the games (the first). I remembered both were high scoring games (see the scores mentioned above) and that former Dodgers Johnny Podres and Larry Sherry pitched in a game (both were in game one and Sherry also worked the second game). I remembered Al Kaline scoring, knocking in a couple of runs, and making a heck of a catch for the final out in one of the innings of game one (the second inning). I recall that there were a lot of home runs (among others, Willie Horton had two in game two, Norm Cash hit a homer in game two, and Carl Yastrzemski had a home run in both games).  I remember wondering how Yaz could hit with his bat held that high. Got that one wrong. Finally I remember that the pitching was dreadful that day (50 total hits by both teams over both games).

I left happy. We caught a bus back to the post, talked about the games all the way back, never realizing this was “The Impossible Dream” year for Boston. It was my first ever Big League game and I was content.