June 15th, 2012
In 17 of their 18 World Series appearances, Dodger home games were played either at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field or Dodger Stadium. The lone exception was in 1959 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum when the Dodgers and Chicago White Sox drew crowds of more than 92,000 for each of the Games 3, 4 and 5.
Between 1941 and 1956, the Dodgers appeared in seven World Series, and in each case, the opponent was the New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers dominated the era during manager Casey Stengel’s tenure as manager from 1949-60, winning 10 pennants in 12 seasons. The two exceptions were teams managed by Hall of Famer – and former Dodger catcher – Al Lopez, who guided both the 1954 Cleveland Indians and the 1959 White Sox into the World Series.
The 1959 White Sox went 94-60 during the regular season to finish five games ahead of Cleveland and 15 games ahead of the third-place Yankees. The White Sox roster featured three future Hall of Famers – second baseman Nellie Fox, shortstop Luis Aparacio and pitcher Early Wynn. A fight song was written during the season titled, “Let’s Go, Go-Go White Sox”. The 1959 pennant was the first for the White Sox since 1919 and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley celebrated by ordering his fire chief to sound the city’s air-raid sirens.
Chicago bombed the Dodgers, 11-0, in Game 1 at Comiskey Park. After the game, pitcher Don Drysdale walked onto the team bus and wondered aloud, “Is that all they got?”, which broke the tension from an embarrassing loss. The Dodgers rebounded with wins in the next three games and had a chance to close out the Series in Game 5 at the Coliseum, but Bob Shaw edged Sandy Koufax, 1-0, and the teams returned to Chicago.
In Game 6, left-hander Johnny Podres was staked to an 8-0 lead in the fourth inning, but he lasted only 3 1/3 innings. Series MVP Larry Sherry (two wins, two saves) pitched the final 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief and the Dodgers won, 9-3.
Reserve outfielder Chuck Essegian became the first player to hit two pinch-hit home runs in a Fall Classic and the first Dodger to participate in both a baseball World Series and a football Rose Bowl (1952 Stanford University linebacker-halfback vs. Illinois). Essegian’s second home run occurred in the ninth inning of Game 6 when he pinch-hit for Duke Snider, who had 11 lifetime World Series home runs and wasn’t happy with manager Walter Alston’s strategy.
Essegian, a right-handed batter, was supposed to face lefty Billy Pierce, who hurt himself during his warmup pitches prior to the ninth, prompting Lopez to insert right-handed pitcher Ray Moore. Already out of the game because of the announced substitution, Snider told Essegian, “Nobody has ever pinch-hit for me in a World Series before, so you’d better hit another home run.” Essegian obliged, putting the finishing touches on a Dodger championship in just their second season on the West Coast.
Decades later, Essegian’s wife Holly asked Snider if he would sign a baseball for her husband. The message on the ball read: “Chuck – You can pinch-hit for me any time! – Duke”.
(Photo: The Chicago White Sox played Games 3, 4 and 5 of the 1959 World Series against the Dodgers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The three games drew a total of 277,750 fans and remain the three largest postseason crowds in MLB history.)