In 1963, as Bob Dylan sang that year, the "times were a-changing." It was not so obvious during the regular season, as the Yankees, winners of all but two American League pennants since 1949, ran stayed with the pack until June, then spent the rest of the season far out in front.
In the National League, the Dodgers survived a late rush by the Cardinals to take the pennant they so narrowly lost the previously year, their first since 1959 and second since moving to Los Angeles.
The Yankees looked strong coming into the World Series. The team had won 104 games that year, and had finished second in the American League in both runs and pitching. Easy winners of the last two World Series, the Yankees combined power and pitching for a devastating combination this season.
Mickey Mantle had been hurt for much of the year, but he was ready to play in October. When Mantle had been on the field, he had been devastating at the plate, with a .314 batting average, .441 on base percentage, and a .622 slugging average.
All of the names from past years were still there: Yogi Berra was still playing and hitting well, although no longer an everyday player. Elston Howard was behind the plate regularly, and he was to win the MVP award that year.
Up-and-coming Joe Pepitone was at first, and reliable Bobby Richardson manned the keystone sack, teaming with Tony Kubek at shortstop, and Clete Boyer at third base to form an outstanding defensive infield. Tom Tresh and Roger Maris rounded out the outfield.
The pitching staff was anchored by a mix of veterans and young arms, with Whitey Ford and Jim Bouton winning 24 and 21 games, respectively. The bullpen was led by Hal Reniff and his 18 saves.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, although only six years out of Brooklyn, had only one starting player left over from Ebbets Field, Jim Gilliam. Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres were still throwing from the Brooklyn days, as was a young left-hander who had made little impression before the team had hit the west coast, but who certainly was making an impression now, Sandy Koufax.
Koufax was coming off of a devastating year, going 25-5 with a 1.88 era, including 306 strikeouts. He had tossed 11 shutouts. Don Drysdale, the 1962 Cy Young Award winner, was 19-17. Ron Perranoski led the bullpen with a 16-3 record and a 1.67 era to go with his 22 saves.
Offensively, the team was led by Tommy Davis, coming off his second-straight batting title, with a .328 average and 16 home runs, and Frank Howard, the enormous slugger with 28 home runs. Maury Wills, the 1962 MVP, had dropped from 104 stolen bases to only 40 in 1963, but it was enough to lead the team, while Willie Davis stole 25 bases.
The first game pitted Koufax against Ford, in New York. In the second inning, the Dodgers struck hard, as Howard doubled and former Yankee Moose Skowron singled to knock him in. Dick Tracewski singled, then John Roseboro slammed a three-run homer.
It was all Koufax would need. He set what was then a World Series record that day with 15 strikeouts, giving up only a two-run shot to Tom Tresh in the eighth inning, as the Dodger cruised to a 5-2 victory.
The next day, Johnny Podres, hero of the 1955 World Series, started against Al Downing. Once again, the Dodgers got going early. The game began with a single by Wills, who then stole second base. Gilliam singled, and then Willie Davis drove them both in with a double.
Podres held the Yankees scoreless until the ninth, when he gave up a single run, and Perranoski struck out Clete Boyer to end the game. The Dodgers had taken the first two games in New York, and the series was headed back to Los Angeles.
Two days later, Don Drysdale matched up against Jim Bouton. The Dodgers squeezed out a run in the first, when Gilliam walked, advanced on a wild pitch, and then scored on a single by Tommy Davis. That was to be all of the scoring, and the Dodgers took a 3-0 lead in the series.
Trying to stave off elimination, and avoid the first sweep in team history, the Yankees sent Ford back to the mound. The Dodgers, seeking to avenge a long history of losses to the Yankees, countered with Koufax. Ford was masterful allowing only two hits and one earned run, but Koufax was even better, striking out eight as the Dodgers walked away with a 2-1 victory and a sweep of the Yankees.
Koufax, with two complete-game victories, was named the World Series MVP, and the 1963 season ended without a Yankees victory. It was the beginning of a long dry spell for New York, which would not see another World Series victory until 1977, when a different crop of Yankees would defeat a whole new group of Dodgers.