|Major League Races.|
The chase for the championship in the National League was one of the most thrilling in history. The Brooklyn Dodgers got off to an early lead, which, by mid-August, had become a 13-game advantage over the remainder of the field. The New York Giants, on the other hand, fared badly as the season got underway, suffering an 11-game losing streak. But Manager Leo Durocher pulled his team together and they started in pursuit of their high-flying interborough rivals. As the season drew to a close the New York club was victorious in 38 of its final 45 games, a blistering pace that enabled the Giants to come into the morning of the next to the last day of the season in a deadlock for first place. Both Brooklyn and New York won their two remaining games, the Dodgers their finale in a 14-inning thriller in Philadelphia, and, for the second time in the 75-yr. history of the circuit (the first was in 1946), two teams finished the campaign in a dead heat. As a result, it was necessary to play a two-out-of-three playoff series.
The first game of the play-off was held in Brooklyn’s Ebbets field and the Giants won, 3–1, behind right-hander Jim Hearn. The second game was played at the Giants’ home park, the Polo Grounds, and this time the Dodgers routed the home club, 10 – 0, the winning pitcher being rookie Clem Labine.
And so the success of both clubs hinged on the outcome of one game. It was also played in the Polo Grounds and was tied 1 -1 at the end of seven innings. In the eighth inning, the Dodgers scored three times and led 4-1 when the Giants batted in the last inning. They had scored a run and had two men on base with only one out when Bobby Thomson, Giant third baseman, hit one of Ralph Branca’s pitches into the left-field stands to make the Giants National league champions for the first time since 1937.
Meanwhile, the American league race was over. The Yankees clinched the flag with two days remaining on the schedule. However, it had been a pretty tight race until the final week when the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox collapsed. It was the Yankees’ 18th American league flag since 192I and the 3rd in the three-year tenure of Manager Charles (Casey) Stengel.
Individual Performances.—Stan (The Man) Musial, St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder, led the National League in batting for the fifth time in his career (1943, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1951) with a mark of .355. American league batting honors went to the first baseman of the Philadelphia Athletics, Ferris Fain, who set the pace with a .344 average.
It was one of the biggest years in modern times in the matter of 2o-game-winning pitchers with no fewer than 13 big league moundsmen reaching that figure. The National league had seven such hurlers: Sal Maglie and Larry Jansen of the Giants, with 23 each; Preacher Roe of Brooklyn (22); Warren Spahn of the Boston Braves (22); Robin Roberts of the Phillies (21); Don Newcombe of the Dodgers (20); and Murry Dickson of the Pittsburgh Pirates (20). In the American league, there were six pitchers in the charmed circle: Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians (22); Ed Lopat and Vic Raschi of the Yankees, each with 21; and Early Wynn and Mike Garcia of the Indians and Ned Garver of the Browns with 20 apiece. Most outstanding of these totals was that of Garver, who won for the Browns 20 of their 52 victories during the season. Home-run honors again went to Ralph Kiner, the powerful Pittsburgh outfielder. His 1951 total was 42. In the American league, the leading home-run producer was Philadelphia outfielder Gus Zernial, who blasted out 33 round-trippers. Monford (Monte) Irvin of the New York Giants, who played both first base and left field, batted in the most runs in the National league with 121, while Zernial was also the leader in that department in the American loop with 129.All-Star Game.
By using the same weapon that had so often caused their downfall in the midsummer classic—the home run —the National League defeated the American League, 8–3, before 52,075 in Detroit’s Briggs Stadium. Stan Musial, Ralph Kiner. Bob Elliott of the Boston Braves and Brooklyn’s Gil Hodges hit four-baggers for the winners and Vic Wertz and George Kell, both of the Detroit team, hit homers for the losers. New York’s Sal Maglie was the winning pitcher, and Eddie Lopat of the Yankees was the loser. It was the sixth National league victory in 18 games and their second in a row.
World Series.—For the sixth time in baseball history the New York Giants and the New York Yankees met in the world series. The Yankees defeated their intercity rivals four games to two, to bring them their 14th world championship since 1923 and their 3rd in the last three years.
The series opened in Yankee Stadium on Oct. 4, with 65,673 fans on hand. Manager Casey Stengel nominated his ace, Allie Reynolds, to do the Yankees’ pitching, and Leo Durocher’s nominee was a surprise choice—left-hander Dave Koslo. It was expected by many that 23-game winner Larry Jansen would be the Giant’s choice, but Koslo pitched and won, defeating the Yankees 5–1.
Jansen was Durocher’s choice for the second game, opposing Eddie Lopat, and the Yankees tied the series at one game each by winning 3–1. After scoring in the first inning on two bunts and a pop fly single, the Yankees scored again on Joe Collins’ home run in the second inning, and Lopat drove home the final tally with a single in the eighth.
The series then moved to the Polo Grounds and the Giants moved back into the lead when they won the third game, 6–2. Vic Raschi was the starter for the Yankees and Jim Hearn for the Giants. The game was a close one, the Giants leading 1–0 until the fifth inning when they added five more runs, featured by Carroll (Whitey) Lockman’s three-run homer.
The following day (Sunday) the game was postponed because of rain, and the Yankees evidently profited from the rest, for they came back to win the next three games and the series. On Monday they won by the identical score by which they had been beaten on Saturday, 6-2. Reynolds was the winner over the Giants’ ace, Sal Maglie. The outstanding blow of the game was Joe DiMaggio’s two-run homer, the last of his illustrious career.
The Yankees made it three games to two when they won the fifth game 13–1, the biggest margin of victory in a series game in 15 years. Gil McDougald, the rookie third baseman of the Yankees, became the third man in world series history to hit a home run with the bases loaded when he hit one of Larry Jansen’s pitches out of the park in the third inning.
The final game was played back at Yankee stadium and it was a victory for the A.L. forces, 4–3. The Giants went into the first half of the ninth trailing 4–1, but, with two out, they had one man on second and two runs in. Sal Yvars. utility catcher was called upon to pinch-hit and he hit a sinking line drive to right field on which Hank Bauer made a sensational sliding catch to bring the title to the Yankees.
Records. Albert (Red) Schoendienst of the St. Louis Cardinals set a major league record for …