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1957 WS: Jerry Coleman Cost Whitey Ford the Game and the Yanks the World Series

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1957 WS:  Jerry Coleman Cost Whitey Ford the Game and the Yanks the World Series
COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 31: Jerry Coleman points to his wife in the crowd after receiving the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually to a baseball broadcaster for major contributions to the game, during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 31, 2005 at the Clark Sports Complex in Cooperstown, New York. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

On October 7, 1957, for the first time that anyone could remember, the New York Yankees were sad after losing a World Series game.

This particular clubhouse didn't resemble the same Yankee clubhouse that had lost the 1955 World Series to the Brooklyn Dodgers. These Yankees didn't think they should have won that Series' seventh game.

But they did think that they should have won the fifth game of the 1957 World Series.

During Game 5, Whitey Ford's "stuff" was as good as it had been all season. He pitched a dominant game, holding the powerful Milwaukee Braves to one run and six hits in his seven innings of work, but it was all for naught.

A team must score in order to win, and Milwaukee pitcher Lew Burdette prevented the Yankees from doing that as he beat them for the second time in the 1957 World Series. The fact that Mickey Mantle wasn't in the lineup didn't hurt Burdette either.

The key play of the game and, as it turned out, the World Series occurred in the sixth inning with two outs and the bases empty.

Braves slugger Eddie Mathews, who had surprising speed, hit a high bouncing ball toward second base off a Ford inside curve ball. Jerry Coleman, one of the best defensive second baseman to ever play the game, failed to charge the grounder. Mathews consequently beat Coleman's late throw to first.

After the game, a disconsolate Coleman spoke to the press.

"I blew the play and cost Ford the ball game after he had done such a great job of pitching," said Coleman. "I misjudged Mathews' speed. I should have charged the ball another step, rather than wait for it. I made the mistake and I blew the game."

Yankee skipper Casey Stengel agreed, but he would not reproach Coleman.

"Sure, the play should have been made, but Coleman has been a good man for me, and I'm not going to criticize him," he said. "We just didn't do anything for Ford, who pitched a winning game."

The legendary Hank Aaron followed for Milwaukee with a fly ball to short right field that fell between right fielder Hank Bauer and Coleman for a hit, sending Mathews to third. Billy Joe Adcock then singled to right, scoring Mathews with the game's only run.

The Yankees never mounted a serious rally against Burdette. Although two defensive plays, one by left fielder Wes Covington and the other by Mathews, were significant.

Gil McDougald led off the fourth inning for the Yankees with a deep drive to left field that looked as if it would clear the low County Stadium fence, but Covington, not known for his defense, raced back, made a desperate leap, crashed into the fence and caught the ball.

Yogi Berra followed by reaching base when Milwaukee first baseman Billy Joe Adcock fumbled his ground ball. Ancient Enos Slaughter then laced a single to left, bringing up Harry "Suitcase" Simpson, whom the Yankees had acquired during the season from their Kansas City friends.

Simpson hit a high bouncer down the third base line that looked as if it would bounce over third baseman Eddie Mathews' head.

Yet Mathews, who once was a poor defensive player but had made himself into a fine fielder, leaped, gloved the ball and fired a strike to second baseman Felix Mantilla to force Slaughter. 

Mantilla leaped to avoid the hard-sliding Slaugther and then fired to first to complete the double play, snuffing out the threat.

The loss put the Yankees into a 2-3 hole.

They won the next game at Yankee Stadium behind Bob Turley's eight strikeout complete game, but Burdette came back on two days' rest to start the seventh game.

Burdette shut out the Yankees to win the series.

Ford pitched twice in the 1957 World Series. He won the opener 3-1, beating Warren Spahn, although he and Berra thought that he didn't pitch one of his better games. Ford would later lose the fifth game despite pitching one of his best games of the season. 

Predicting baseball is an exercise in futility. Even if Coleman had made the play on Mathews' ground ball and the game had remained scoreless, there is no way of knowing if the Yankees would have won the game in extra innings.

Wondering about it is one of the reasons that baseball is so great.

 

Reference:

Coleman a sad second sacker in wake of bomber defeat. (1957, Oct 08). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 57. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/114333601?accountid=46260

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