The Cleveland Indians won an American League record 111 games in 1954, but in the games that really mattered, the highly favored Indians couldn't win even once when they met the New York Giants in the World Series. Almost everyone but the Giants was surprised.
The Indians and Giants held spring training is Arizona and played approximately one-half of their exhibition games against each other. A game on April 3 was a portent of things to come.
The star of the game was, of course, Willie Mays, who was defying the conservative expectations of the Giants and their fans as he led New York to its 11th win in 15 games against the Tribe.
Willie hit two singles, a double and a home run as the Giants won 6-1. For the spring, Willie was batting .420, with 34 hits in 81 at-bats. He had eight home runs, one triple, eight doubles and batted in 24 runs.
The Giants couldn't wait for April 13, which was opening day. They really believed that Willie would lead them to the pennant. Remember that the Giants finished 35 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953.
The return of Willie from the army transformed the team on the field and in the clubhouse. The Giants were a loose team that laughed and enjoyed playing the game.
The Indians jumped in front in the first inning when Dale Mitchell singled home Bobby Avila, who would go on to lead the American League in batting with a .341 average that season.
Starter Dave Hoskins held the Giants scoreless in his three innings of work, but when "The Bear," Mike Garcia entered to work the fourth inning, he was greeted by a Monte Irvin single and a Willie Mays double that scored Irvin. Bill Taylor's single scored Willie with the second run, and the Giants never were challenged.
Monte Irvin hit a home run over the center field fence in the seventh inning and Willie followed with a blast to left field off Garcia to end the scoring.
Mike Garcia started the third game of the World Series at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium with the Giants leading the Series, two games to none. It was a must-win game.
On occasion, an exhibition game is a solid indicator of things to come. The Giants dominated the Indians in the spring, and they were even more dominating in the fall.
With Don Mueller on second and two outs in the first inning, Willie singled to right field, scoring Mueller with the Giants' first run.
In the third inning, the Giants basically put the game and World Series away with three runs. The Giants won easily, 6-2, as Garcia lasted only three innings.
Willie finished the game with three singles, two RBI, and one run scored in five at-bats. It was not quite equal to the four-for-four in the April exhibition game, but it did the job.
The next day, the Giants became World Champions for the first time since 1933 with a 7-4 win.
By LOUIS EFFRATSpecial to The New York Times.. (1954, April 4). GIANTS' 13 BLOWS DOWN INDIANS, 6-1; MAYS GETS 4 FOR 4 :New Yorkers Register 11th Victory in 15 Contests With Cleveland Club WILLIE WALLOPS HOMER Collects Double, Two Singles Also -- Liddle, Grissom and Wilhelm Hurl 3-Hitter Mays Hits 4 for 4 as Giants Beat Indians for Eleventh Time, 6 to 1. New York Times (1923-Current file),S1. Retrieved November 19, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2007). (Document ID: 92558778).