1956 World Series: The Brooklyn Dodgers Rough Up Whitey Ford in Opening Game

Harold FriendChief Writer IAugust 26, 2011

Young Whitey Ford
Young Whitey Ford

In front of an Ebbets Field crowd of 34,479 fans, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Whitey Ford lasted only three innings in the opening game of the 1956 World Series.

The Brooklyn Dodgers scored all six of their runs off the Yankees' game little left-hander, who was Casey Stengel’s choice to pitch the opener despite everyone’s knowledge that the Dodgers “ate up lefties” in their bandbox ball park.

Ford, possibly the best pitcher in the American League, finished the season at 19-6 with a league-leading 2.47 ERA.

Speaking to “his writers,” Stengel said, “There is no question about it. Ford is clearly my best pitcher. He deserves to start the first game. Though they say that’s a bad park for left-handers, I can’t rest him."

Ford was his usual calm self. “A good night’s sleep and I’ll be ready for the Dodgers,” he said. He wasn't.

Mickey Mantle staked Ford to a two-run lead in the top of the first inning when he blasted a home run off Sal Maglie with ancient Enos Slaughter on first base. The ball easily cleared the high right field fence and landed on Bedford Avenue.

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Jackie Robinson led off the Brooklyn second inning with a drive that landed in the left field stands, cutting the Yankees lead in half.

Gil Hodges followed with a pop fly into short center field—a drive that Mantle usually catches, but he might have lost the ball in the sun, which resulted in a single. Carl Furillo, always a thorn in the side of the Yankees, followed with a double to tie the game.

The last of the third was when the fans saw the last of Ford.

With one out, Pee Wee Reese hit a ground ball into the hole. Shortstop Gil McDougald made a Derek Jeter-like play, but Reese beat the throw to first for an infield single.

Duke Snider, one of only two left-handed batters in the Dodgers lineup, was the batter. Ford hit the slugger on the hands.

All the Duke could do was lift a short fly ball, similar to Hodges’ drive, to center. Again, Mantle should have or could have caught it, but he didn’t.

With Reese on second and Snider on first, Ford got Robinson out on a line drive to Mantle, but Hodges hit the ball into the lower left field seats to finish off Ford and the Yankees.

The Dodgers won the game, 6-3, but Ford would get another shot at them in the fourth game, which would be played at Yankee Stadium.

Stengel wouldn’t take another chance pitching Ford in Ebbets Field.

Ford pitched the fourth game on Oct. 7. Since travel days were not necessary, the seventh game, if necessary, was scheduled for Oct. 10, which would have given Ford three days’ rest, but he wouldn’t get the start.

Stengel started 23-year-old Johnny Kucks against 27-game winner Don Newcombe.

References:

Bomber star is unawed by task of defying Brooklyn strength. (1956, Oct 03). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 38. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/113462993?accountid=46260

Drebinger, John. “Dodgers Maglie Beats Yanks, 6-3, in Series Opener. New York Times. 4 Oct. 1956. P.1.