The 1961 World Series was closer than mere statistics could ever reveal.
The New York Yankees defeated the Cincinnati Reds in five games, which seems to indicate that the Yankees were not highly challenged.
Those who saw the 1961 World Series know that some key events allowed the Yankees to win.
After each team had won one game, the Reds were leading 2-1 as the Yankees batted in the top of the eighth inning at Crosley Field.
Reds knuckleballer Bob Purkey was baffling the Yankees with his stuff. The Reds were poised to take the series lead, two games to one.
Then, with two outs and the bases empty, Johnny Blanchard hit a pinch-hit home run to tie the game.
It was the key hit of the World Series.
Luis Arroyo, who in 1961 had one of the greatest seasons of any Yankees relief pitcher, retired the Reds in order in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Roger Maris led off the ninth with a home run, Arroyo pitched a scoreless ninth and the Yankees—not the Reds—led the World Series.
The fourth game was not close, as Whitey Ford and Jim Coates combined for a 7-0 win, but the fifth game loomed as an almost must-win for the Yankees, despite having a commanding three-games-to-one edge.
Mickey Mantle was out for the remainder of the Series with his infamous hip abscess. Roger Maris moved from right field to take over in center. Johnny Blanchard was in right field.
Yogi Berra was out with a bruised right shoulder. Hector Lopez played left field for Berra.
Whitey Ford was through for the series with an injured ankle and a bad toe.
Blanchard and Lopez came through, but starter Ralph Terry, who had been the losing pitcher in the second game, and who delivered the pitch in the Bill Mazeroski incident that ended the 1960 World Series, again failed.
The Yankees scored five times in the first inning and once in the second to stake Terry to a 6-0 lead, but Frank Robinson blasted a three-run home run in the third inning to cut that lead in half.
That was it for Terry.
Bud Daley came in and pitched respectable ball the rest of the way. He held the Reds to a pair of runs as the Yankees won 13-5.
Blanchard and Lopez each hit a home run. Blanchard had three hits and drove in two runs, while Lopez had two hits and drove in five runs.
If the Yankees hadn’t won the fifth game, Bill Stafford would have gotten the start in the sixth game on three days rest, but if the Yankees lost, the seventh game would present a problem.
Ford, Terry and Daley would be unavailable, which meant that Jim Coates would probably start. Starting Coates would not be a good thing.
Yes, the 1961 World Series was much closer than the final results indicate.