Mantle's Triple Crown, Berra's HR Mark & Larsen's Perfecto: 1956 Was a Good Year
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The 1956 baseball season started for the New York Yankees on April 17. The pennant was conceded to them by almost everyone but one or two American League teams.
It appeared that the Yankees had no weaknesses. A 1956 Sports Illustrated spring baseball preview article wondered how any team could beat them.
Yogi Berra was the best catcher in the game. He finished the 1956 season batting .298 and tying his own record for the most home runs by an American League backstop with 30.
In a fascinating statement about Mickey Mantle, the article claims, in all seriousness, "Mantle is so good they say he has a disappointing season if he doesn't hit .400." Mantle went on to win the Triple Crown and batted .353.
The infield of Bill Skowron at first, Billy Martin at second, Andy Carey at third and Gil McDougald at shortstop ranked among the best in the league. Both Skowron (.308) and McDougald (.311) were .300 hitters.
According to scouting reports, Skowron had almost as much power as any first baseman in the league. Martin was the Yankees spark.
McDougald had played third base on the 1951 world champions, second base on the 1955 American League champions and now was the regular shortstop, while Carey was expected to provide solid defense and decent power.
The outfield—with Mantle in center field, Hank Bauer (.241 but with 26 home runs) in right field and Elston Howard, Bob Cerv, Norm Siebern and eventually Enos Slaughter in left field—provided power and great defense.
Whitey Ford, who tied for the most wins in the league in 1955 with 18, was expected to win at least that many. He finished at 19-6 with a 157 ERA+.
Bob Turley, Don Larsen, Tom Sturdivant and Johnny Kucks were the other starters. Tom Morgan and Tommy Byrne worked out of the bullpen.
Turley won only eight games due to arm problems, but Kucks stepped up to win 18 and Sturdivant won 16. Larsen won only 11 but we all know what he did on October 8 in the fifth game of the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Kucks capped off a great season by shutting out the Dodgers in the seventh game as the Yankees became world champions for the first time since 1953.
The 1956 Yankees were not close to being the greatest Yankees team, but they won the pennant by nine games over the Cleveland Indians.
Mantle led the league in almost every offensive category, Berra hit the most home runs any American League catcher ever hit in a season and Larsen pitched a perfect game.
It was a pretty good team. Another way of looking at it is that it makes on realize the greatness of the 1998, 1927, 1936 and 1939 Yankees.
Yes, the 1998 team was better than Babe Ruth's 1927 Yankees.
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