The humiliating loss in front of a disappointed gathering at Forbes Field made the Pirates’ trip to New York for the midsection of the World Series all the more agonizing. Still, some of the Pirates wisely used the off day between the second and third games to their advantage. The team’s third base coach, Frank Oceak, snared a fungo bat and smacked balls off the walls in left field during an afternoon workout at Yankee Stadium. Oceak instructed his outfielders to watch the way that balls tended to spin around the curve of the outfield wall. They noted that the walls at Yankee Stadium played far differently than their counterparts at Forbes Field.
Even first baseman Dick Stuart, hardly known as a conscientious defender, took the time to measure the distance from the Yankee Stadium foul line to the first row of stands. “I learned I can take 15 strides to my left for a foul [ball],” Stuart informed The Sporting News.
Whitey Ford had a different set of concerns as he prepared to make his first start of the Series in Game Three. When questioned by reporters, Ford listed Roberto Clemente and Dick Groat as the two most formidable Pirate hitters because of their ability and willingness to take pitches to the opposite field. Since Ford liked to work the outside corner against most right-handed hitters, he might have to change up his strategy against Clemente and Groat.
Ford’s belated appearance in the Series once again raised questions about Casey Stengel’s controversial selection of starting pitchers. Even some of the most ardent supporters of the “Ole Professor” had questioned the manager’s decision to use Art Ditmar and Bob Turley in the first two games. Yes, Ditmar had been the Yankee’s most effective pitcher during the regular season, but Ford had proven himself above and beyond all other pitchers in the pressurized circumstances of the World Series. While Ditmar had pitched well in prior post-season outings, his World Series experience was rather limited; Ford had pitched in six Fall Classics, winning five games and compiling an ERA of 2.81.
Furthermore, by waiting until the third game to use Ford, Stengel had reduced the maximum number of starts he could give Ford in the series from three to two. Yet, perhaps that wasn’t such a bad thing. Defenders of Stengel’s strategy pointed to Ford’s ineffectiveness when pitching with three days rest, something he would have to do twice if asked to pitch in the fourth and seventh games.
The debate surrounding Stengel’s use of Ford gathered more steam when The Chairman proceeded to pitch brilliantly against the Pirates. In spite of a nine-day layoff, Ford retired the first nine batters he faced before allowing a fourth-inning double to Bill Virdon. Deftly mixing his sinking fastball with a variety of off-speed curveballs and change-ups, the masterful left-hander kept the Pirates off balance throughout the afternoon, limiting them to four hits and no runs. Ford held the Pirates’ two most accomplished hitters—Groat and Clemente—to one hit in a combined eight at-bats.
Ford didn’t need to pitch that precisely, given the ample support of New York’s offense. The Yankees scored 10 runs against another hapless parade of six Pittsburgh pitchers, accounting for a 10-0 thrashing at The Stadium. Four of the runs came against starter Vinegar Bend Mizell, once termed “the left-handed Dizzy Dean” before settling into a journeyman career. Looking nothing like Dean, Mizell retired only one Yankee batter. Although Mizell found himself undone by several “seeing-eye” singles, one also had to wonder if his routine was affected by missing the team bus to the ballpark in the morning.
Every one of the Yankees, with the exception of Roger Maris—an early departure from the game because of a bruised chest—notched at least one hit. Part-time left fielder Bob Cerv tied a Series record by picking up two hits during a six-run rally in the first inning. Mickey Mantle also tied a record by banging out four hits, including his third home run of the Series. Mantle hit the two-run shot against Fred Green so hard that it actually injured one of the fans in the outfield bleachers.
Yet, the Pirates may have found Mantle’s latest monstrosity of a home run easier to fathom than the unanticipated power display of a far less celebrated Yankee veteran. Bobby Richardson, who had authored one home run in 460 regular season at-bats, failed in his effort to bunt and then launched a first-inning grand slam on a 3-and-2 delivery from reliever Clem Labine. For Richardson, it was the first grand slam of his life, including his days in high school and in the minor leagues. Just as notably, Richardson accumulated a single-game World Series record of six RBIs.
In the meantime, a frustrated group of Pirate players showered quickly and returned to their lodging at the Commodore Hotel. As members of the Pittsburgh entourage neared the entrance of the Manhattan hotel, groups of Yankee fans taunted them with shouts and insults. They reminded the Pirates of what the media had been saying all along, how they didn’t belong on the same playing field as the Yankees. Most of the Pirate players remained silent as they entered the hotel lobby, refusing to acknowledge the fans. Roberto Clemente took a different approach. He turned back, and stared at the fans who had dared to insult his team. Clemente sternly informed them that things would be different in Game Four.
Nothing seemed different in the early moments of the next game. In the first inning, the Yankees placed runners on second and third with no one out against Pirate ace Vernon Law. With Maris, Mantle, and Yogi Berra the next scheduled batters, the Yankees appeared on the verge of blowing a third consecutive game wide open.
Maris popped a fly ball to short right field. Both Yankee runners wisely held their ground against Clemente, the owner of the game’s most revered outfield throwing arm. Danny Murtaugh then ordered Law to intentionally walk Mantle, even though the switch-hitter had been struggling in recent at-bats from the left side of the plate. With the bases loaded, Law now faced Berra, who sliced a ground ball off the end of his bat in the direction of third base. At first glance, the ball appeared destined to trickle down the left field line. Strangely, Don Hoak was playing close to the third base bag, even though Berra rarely hit the ball down the opposite field line. After gloving the weak grounder, a quick-thinking Hoak stepped on the bag to force Tony Kubek, then threw to Dick Stuart. As Berra dove into the base, first base umpire Dusty Boggess made his call. “Out,” yelled Boggess, completing the unlikely double play. Berra protested the agonizingly close call, which allowed the Pirates to escape the inning scoreless.
Law continued to keep New York off the scoreboard until the fourth, when he tried to waste a pitch away from Moose Skowron, but left the pitch over the outside corner. Skowron rifled a two-out solo home run into Yankee Stadium’s accommodating right field seats. Rather than discourage Law, the home run only made him more determined. Law struck out four of the next five Yankee batters he faced.
Skowron’s home run also seemed to rejuvenate Pittsburgh’s own nodding offense, which had endured 13 innings without a score. In the top of the fifth, Gino Cimoli led off with a single. Smoky Burgess followed by tapping a slow chopper down the first base line. After picking the ball cleanly, Skowron decided to spin his body and take aim at the fast-running Cimoli—a tough play for a right-handed throwing first baseman—but his toss to Tony Kubek arrived late. All hands were safe.
With no one out, Ralph Terry toughened. Don Hoak, who attempted a swinging bunt, popped the ball up in back of Bobby Richardson at second base. Since Hoak had bunted the ball, the infield fly rule did not apply, giving Richardson the option of letting the ball drop and attempting a double play. Richardson momentarily thought about trapping the pop-up, but decided to make the safe play and catch the ball. Bill Mazeroski then swung away and also popped out, putting Terry within one out of ending the inning.
Terry now faced his counterpart Law, who was considered a good-hitting pitcher, but had batted a mere .181 during the regular season. Needing a dose of self-contribution, Law doubled into the left field corner, the ball bounding off the Yankee Stadium wall. The two-out blow scored Cimoli, the game-tying run, and pushed the slow-footed Burgess to third.
With the left-handed hitting Virdon coming to bat, some writers called for Casey Stengel to remove right-hander Ralph Terry and replace him with Bobby Shantz, but “The Professor” held forth with his starting pitcher. The second-guessers applauded themselves when Virdon looped a fly ball that landed about 15 feet in front of a helpless Mickey Mantle, scoring both Law and Smoky Burgess. After Law crossed the plate with the Pirates’ third run, Danny Murtaugh rewarded him with a firm handshake near the top step of the Pittsburgh dugout.
Having pitched capably in the first game of the Series, Law continued his run of effectiveness in Game Four. He gave up only one run through the first six innings before running into trouble in the seventh. Skowron led off by lofting a ground rule double into the right field corner. Gil McDougald followed with a single to right field, with Skowron stopping at third, in no mood to challenge the arm of Roberto Clemente.
With the infield playing back for a double play, the hot-hitting Bobby Richardson stepped in against Law and bounced a grounder a few feet to the right of second base. Bill Mazeroski flagged the ball down, took three steps to his right, and stepped on the bag for one out, then snapped off a throw to first base. Richardson barely beat the relay, as Skowron scored the Yankees’ second run of the game.
Backup catcher Johnny Blanchard, a pinch-hitter for relief pitcher Bobby Shantz, lined a single to right field. Richardson advanced to second and held his ground, what with Clemente in right field. Still, the Pirates had their share of concerns. With the lead down to one run and still only one man out, Law gave way to Roy Face. Danny Murtaugh’s No. 1 bullpen option had not pitched for the last three days, including the back-to-back blowouts in the second and third games.
The Pirates’ ace reliever faced Bob Cerv, who sliced a searing line drive toward right-center field. Much like he did in Game One against Yogi Berra, Bill Virdon caught up to the 400-foot catapult, made a fully-extended, leaping catch in front of the Yankee Stadium outfield wall, and then fell and rolled into the base of the fence. He also made sure to clasp his bare hand over his glove hand, so that the ball would not jar loose from the impact of either the ground or the wall. It was another marvelous play by the wide-ranging center fielder. Virdon’s whirlwind grab not only robbed Cerv of extra bases, but also prevented Richardson and pinch-runner Joe DeMaestri from scoring the tying and leading runs.
Bolstered by Virdon’s latest sample of outfield robbery, Face retired the next seven batters he faced to preserve a tense 3-2 victory. Face’s work, much improved over his shaky performance in Game One, drew the praise of several Yankees, including Mickey Mantle. “They talk about his forkball,” Mantle told The Sporting News, “and you get the wrong idea. He’s no junk pitcher. He’s quick. His fastball is plenty fast enough.”
Yet, Face’s fastball might have been insufficient, if not for Virdon’s continuing circus act in the outfield. “He’s made two great catches that saved victories for them in the first and fourth games,” said an admiring Mantle, Virdon’s counterpart in center field. “If it hadn’t been for him, we probably would have the Series all wrapped up by now and be on our way home.” Instead, the Yankees found themselves in a two-two deadlock.
The outcome of Game Four also insured the Pirates that they would be able to return the Series to Forbes Field for Game Six. No small accomplishment, given that most writers had predicted a Yankee victory in four or five games. In that sense, Pittsburgh had already scored an upset. They had also improved considerably on their last, disastrous appearance in the World Series: a four-game sweep at the hands of the 1927 Yankees.
No one player, or reason, had enabled the Pirates to compete more formidably against the recent vintage of the Yankees. Vernon Law, though burdened by a late-season ankle injury, had pitched efficiently, almost brilliantly in the context of facing such a powerful Yankee lineup. Roy Face, as expected, had halted attempted Yankee comebacks in the first and fourth games. Bill Virdon’s defensive play had minimized two Yankee rallies, once in Game One and once in Game Four. On offense, Virdon had supplied the game-winning RBI in the fourth game.
In the meantime, Casey Stengel faced questions about his choice of a starting pitcher for Game Five. Would he stay with his planned rotation and use Art Ditmar, the starter in the first game? Or would he go with Bill Stafford, a 22-year-old rookie who had not yet appeared in the World Series? According to one report, a Yankee coach had already told Stafford that he would pitch the last of the three games to be played at Yankee Stadium.
Either the report turned out to be a bald-faced lie, or Stengel had changed his mind. It was Ditmar who would square off against Harvey “The Kitten” Haddix, not the untested Stafford.
Ditmar and Haddix each posted a scoreless first inning. In the Pirate half of the second, Dick Stuart led off with a single before being erased on a groundout by Gino Cimoli. Smoky Burgess then hammered a double into the right field corner, Cimoli stopping at third. When Don Hoak bounced a grounder deep in the hole toward shortstop, the Pirates scored their first run. On the play, Tony Kubek decided to flip to Gil McDougald at third in an attempt to retire the slow-running Burgess. Kubek’s throw easily beat Burgess to the bag, but McDougald (a less sure-handed defender than usual starter Clete Boyer) was out of position, since he had already broken to his left to make a play for the ground ball. As a result, McDougald had to catch Kubek’s throw on the run. Just before Burgess began a forceful slide into the bag, McDougald dropped the ball. It was “a very bad thing to do,” according to the understated post-game commentary of Casey Stengel. “My man should have been straddling the bag,” Stengel informed Jerome Holtzman, reporting for Baseball Digest.
In the meantime, a hustling Hoak, who was nicknamed “The Tiger” for his aggressive, hell-bent style of play, attentively advanced to second base, when most players would have simply overrun the bag at first. Hoak’s latest example of relentless baserunning became even more impressive in light of recent revelations by teammate Bob Friend. Prior to the Series, Friend had unveiled a well-kept secret involving Hoak. In mid-August, Hoak and three teammates were spending a relaxing afternoon at a swimming pool in St. Louis. As Hoak lifted himself awkwardly out of the cement pool, he endured a deep gash to his foot. Fortunately, a doctor was spending the day with the four Pirate players. Rather than go to the hospital, Hoak insisted that the doctor stitch up the eight-inch cut–without an anesthetic. Swearing his teammates to secrecy, Hoak told no one else of the injury and continued playing without interruption.
With the feisty Hoak and Burgess now in scoring position, Bill Mazeroski stepped to the plate. Maz bounced a ball down the third base line, past a leaping McDougald. As the ball hugged the left field line, Burgess and Hoak scored, while Mazeroski steamed into second base. The hopping double gave the Pirates a 3-0 lead and knocked a dazed Ditmar from the game. Casey Stengel’s newly-appointed ace had failed to survive the second inning of play.
The Yankees came back with a run in the bottom of the second, but the Pirates quickly added another run to their total in their next at-bat. Facing former Pirate reliever Luis Arroyo, Dick Groat led off the inning by doubling into the left field corner. Roberto Clemente rapped a hard ground ball past Clete Boyer and Tony Kubek into left field. The single to left scored Groat, ending Arroyo’s only appearance in the Series. Bill Stafford, the other choice to start Game Five, came on to end the frame, beginning a five-inning stint of shutout relief.
Clemente’s second RBI of the Series had given the Pirates a key insurance run, while also setting the stage for another substantial relief stint by Roy Face. With the Pirates leading 4-2, Face replaced a tiring Haddix. The Kitten, typically a tough pitcher for six innings, had already given the Pirates six and one-third innings of excellence in his World Series debut.
With runners on first and second and one man out, Face induced a ground ball by Gil McDougald, resulting in a force play at second. Mazeroski nearly turned an inning-ending double play, but his relay to first pulled Stuart off the bag. The Pirates had to be wondering whether the infield foul-up might cost them dearly, what with Roger Maris coming up as the potential game-tying run. Earlier in the day, Maris had homered against Haddix—his second long ball of the Series. But Maris would fare less prosperously against Face, who struck out the Yankee slugger, ending New York’s last legitimate threat of the afternoon.
Face didn’t seem fatigued by the previous day’s workload of two and two-thirds innings. This was actually no surprise, considering that he had once pitched in nine consecutive games. Face actually seemed to be gaining momentum as the Series progressed. He kept the Bombers hitless and scoreless the rest of the day, preserving a 5-2 win. The performance left Face feeling especially satisfied, considering that all of the Yankee players had refused to sign the reliever’s program prior to the game.
Face and Haddix deserved kudos for their combined clutch efforts, but much of the post-game conversation centered on their Yankee counterparts, Ditmar and Stafford. Ditmar had been ineffective in his brief stint, allowing the Pirates to open an early lead. Stafford had pitched brilliantly in relief, but entered the game only after the Pirates had scored their winning margin. Their contrast in fates led to inevitable questioning from both the New York and national media. Casey Stengel continued to defend his decision to go with Ditmar. “After all, my fella is experienced,” Casey told The Sporting News, “and he was my top winner this year with 15 victories. He certainly had plenty of rest, too, didn’t he?” In fact, Ditmar was still well-rested, having pitched a total of one and two-thirds innings in two starts.
Once supposedly overmatched underdogs, the Pirates had moved within one game of the world championship. By winning two out of three games in New York, the Pirates had not only forced the Series to return to Pittsburgh, but had put the Yankees in the unenviable position of having to win the final two games on the road.