1958 WS: Norm Siebern and Yogi Berra Helped to Sink Whitey Ford and the Yankees
Whitey Ford is 5 feet 10 inches tall. He weighed less than 180 pounds during his career. Today, he would be considered a small pitcher whose innings had to be limited.
In 1958, he was referred to as a small left-hander but no one, especially Ford, thought he had to limit either his starts or innings pitched.
The Yankees were down to the Milwaukee Braves, two games to one in the 1958 World Series. The fourth game was a rematch of the opening game starters, Ford for the Yankees against Warren Spahn for the Braves.
Each was pitching on two days’ rest.
Spahn had beaten the Yankees in the first game, 4-3, going the distance. No pitcher in 2011 can start on two days’ rest after working 10 innings in his previous start.
Ford pitched a solid game, but left fielder Norm Siebern unintentionally sabotaged Ford.
Left field was brutal for an outfielder on a sunny October day. Charlie Keller, who was an experienced outfielder, once said
“During the world series the sun is low behind the stands. There’s a purple haze from the tobacco smoke. You have to play the position by ear because you never see a ball. You try to judge where it will go from the sound of the bat, and then you just pray that you guessed right.”
Ford and Spahn matched zeroes until Red Schoendienst led off the sixth with a fly ball to left center field that fell between Siebern and Mickey Mantle. It appeared that either one could make the catch, but they backed away from each other at the last second.
Siebern overran the ball, which rolled to the wall, allowing Schoendienst to leg out what was ruled a triple.
Johnny Logan followed with a ground ball to shortstop that went through Tony Kubek's legs. Schoendienst scored the first run of the game.
It was unearned because Eddie Mathews, the number three hitter in the Braves batting order, bunted a pop fly that Ford snared. Hank Aaron forced Logan for what would have been the third out.
In the eighth inning, Siebern misjudged a fly ball that went for a double and led to the Braves second run.
Johnny Logan hit a high fly ball near the left field foul line. At the last second, Siebern lost track of the ball, which landed safely in fair territory and bounced into the stands for a ground rule double. Mathews doubled him home and that was it for Ford.
There was one play in the fourth inning that would not be unusual today, but which was rare in 1958.
With one out, Mickey Mantle hit a tremendous 425 foot drive that hit the left field auxiliary score board on the fly. Mantle wound up on third. That was not unusual.
Bill Skowron hit a come backer to Spahn for the second out, bringing up Yogi Berra, who hit a vicious line drive toward right. It had base hit written all over it. What happened to Berra next was unusual.
But Schoendienst leaped high into the air and managed to get a glove on it. Berra thought he had caught it, but he hadn’t.
Berra stopped running to first for less than a second as Schoendienst reached for ball on the ground, failed to pick it up, reached again and fired to first.
Yogi slid head first into the base but it was too late.
Ford pitched seven innings and allowed three runs, two of which were earned. He was touched for eight hits and one walk, while striking out six.
Spahn was better. On two days rest, he shut out the Yankees to win his second game of the World Series. The Yankees could manage only two hits and two walks. Spahn struck out seven. The Braves were within one of the World Championship.
It seems unbelievable today, but three days later, Ford and Spahn squared off for the third time, this time in the sixth game, each on two days rest -- again.
I guess you figured out that the Yankees won the fifth game.
Sports of the times. (1958, Oct 06). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 42. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/114536341?accountid=46260
Spahn tops yanks, 3-0, with 2-hitter; braves lead, 3-1. (1958, Oct 06). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 1. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/114531441?accountid=46260
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