1958 Baseball SeasonIn the 1950s the Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee, the Browns from St. Louis to Baltimore, the Athletics from Philadelphia to Kansas City, and for the 1958 baseball season -- in the most shocking moves of all -- the Dodgers and the Giants from New York to California.
Ebbets Field was leveled (the Polo Grounds stood for several additional years), as the Dodgers made a home of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Giants set up shop at Seals Stadium in San Francisco. A record 78,672 attendees saw the Giants down the Dodgers on Opening Day at the Coliseum; the teams went on to pull in 167,204 supporters for the three-game series. The Dodgers drew 1,845,556 fans by year's end. Both teams would soon build new stadiums.
As the Dodgers dropped to a humiliating seventh place, tragedy struck. A car accident in New York left three-time Dodger MVP Roy Campanella permanently paralyzed. Old mainstays Pee Wee Reese and Carl Erskine saw limited action and Don Newcombe was traded. Duke Snider, who hit 40 home runs in 1957, managed only 15 in 1958.
Milwaukee took the pennant again, this time on a 92-62 record. Hank Aaron had another outstanding year with 30 homers and a .326 average, but the keys were Warren Spahn (a league-high 22 wins) and Lew Burdette (20-10). The surprising Pirates -- with solid years from pitcher Bob Friend (22-14) and third baseman Frank Thomas (35 home runs, 109 RBI) -- finished strong and wound up in second, 8 games back.
Rookie of the Year Orlando Cepeda racked up 25 homers and 96 RBI, Willie Mays hit .347, and Stu Miller turned in a league-best 2.47 ERA to spur San Francisco to third. Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks led the league with 47 homers and 129 RBI and was named MVP, even though Chicago finished fifth. Richie Ashburn won the batting crown at .350 for the last-place Phillies.
The Yankees won the American League flag, their eighth in nine seasons of the decade. Leading the way were Mickey Mantle (a league-high 42 homers), Bob Turley (the junior loop's first Cy Young Award-winner with a 21-7 record), and Whitey Ford (the ERA leader with 2.01). New York outdistanced the second-place White Sox by 10 games. Although the Red Sox placed third, the 40-year-old Ted Williams won the batting crown again with a .328 average. Teammate Jackie Jensen was awarded the MVP title for 35 homers and a circuit-topping 122 RBI.
The Yankees, winners of six of the last nine World Series, met the Braves with an axe to grind -- Milwaukee had dropped the Yanks in seven games in '57. Revenge, however, didn't come easy. The Braves stormed to a 3-1 lead with wins of 4-3 and 13-5 in games one and two and a 3-0 whitewashing in game four.
Things looked bleak for New York's only team. With their backs to the wall in game five, they started Turley, who had been shelled in the opener. The righthander responded with a masterpiece five-hitter, and the Yanks beat Burdette 7-0.
The Braves still held an advantage going into the final two games. With game six tied two-all after nine innings, the Yanks scored twice in the top of the tenth on a homer by Gil McDougald and three singles. The Braves rallied in the bottom half, scoring once and having the tying run on third when Casey Stengel brought Turley in from the bullpen. He retired Frank Torre for the final out.
The Yanks took game seven with four runs in the eighth (three on Bill Skowron's homer). Turley, the star of the 1958 World Series, pitched the final 6-2/3 innings as New York defeated the Braves 6-2 to become the first team since 1925 to win a World Series after being down three games to one.