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  • Lincoln Mitchell

Yankees v. Giants Part 4

by Lincoln Mitchell

March 28, 2023

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Part IV-Damon Runyon, Charlie Brown and the World Series


Here’s another trivia question. Every Yankee fan knows that Don Larsen threw a perfect game in the 1956 World Series against the Dodgers. Most have seen the famous photo of Yankees catcher Yogi Berra embracing Larsen after the final out of that game, but do you know who was the last batter to reach base against Larsen in a World Series game. The answer is Yogi Berra who drew a walk against Larsen in the sixth inning of game four of the 1962 World Series, when Larsen was pitching for the Giants.


The term Subway Series evokes images of Jackie Robinson’s Dodgers and Casey Stengel’s Yankees battling it out in the World Series during the 1950s. However, the first five times two New York teams met in the World Series, it was the Giants trying to get past the Yankees. It would be inaccurate to describe those as Subway Series because no New Yorker who knew their way around town would have taken the subway between the two ballparks. In fact, the first two times the teams met in the World Series, in 1921 and 1922, they played the entire series in the Polo Grounds. By 1923, the Yankees had their own ballpark, but Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds were across the East River from each other, a short walk but a very inconvenient subway ride.


The Giants and Yankees have played each other a total of seven times in the World Series, 1921-1923, 1936, 1937, 1951 and 1962. The Giants won the first two times, but the Yankees won the other five. These seven World Series have features some of the greatest players of all time including Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Joe DiMaggio, Frankie Frisch, Bill Dickey, Bill Terry, Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell and Monte Irvin.


The truth is that most of these World Series were not memorable. The Giants beat the Yankees pretty handily in 1921 and 1922, but the Yankees beat them in 1923. The Yankees teams in 1936, 1937 and 1951 handled the Giants easily as the Giants won a combined five games across those three World Series. However, the 1962 World Series was one of the greatest and most dramatic ever played.


Before we get to that, there is one thing from the 1923 World Series that should be mentioned. Damon Runyon is remembered now as a great New York character and writer whose work was the impetus for the great musical Guys and Dolls. But Runyon also covered baseball in his newspaperman days and one of his assignments was the first game of the 1923 World Series. With two outs in the top of the ninth, the two teams were tied at four runs when Casey Stengel came to bat for the Giants. This was a literal Casey at the Bat moment.


Stengel hit an inside the park home run to give the Giants a 5-4 lead. They would go on to win the game by that score. Runyon, described the home run in the paper the next day in a lyrical poem titled “Stengel’s Brilliant Play in Ninth Inning Wins Game for Giants.” The poem begins “This is the way old ‘Casey’ Stengel ran, running his home run home to a Giant victory over the Yankees by a score of 5 to 4 in the first game of the world’s series of 1923,” and is worth reading in its entirety.


The last time the Giants and Yankees played in the World Series was 1962, but we’re going to begin thirty years after that. By the end of the 1992 season, the Giants seemed to be moving to Tampa, the deal was almost complete, but many in San Francisco did not want to let the Giants go. One of those people was a man who had been rooting for the team since they had arrived in San Francisco in 1958. By 1992, that man, Frank Jordan, was Mayor of San Francisco. He spent his first year in office trying to help put an ownership group together to keep the Giants in the city. Fortunately he succeeded.


That is a nice story, but you may be asking what this has to do with the 1962 World Series. Well, back in 1962 Jordan was a young police officer who, due to threats made against the Yankees, was part of a team of police responsible for ensuring the Yankees’ safety. The last task Jordan had to do was to help two Yankees make it to the airport to return to New York. Jordan told me that his charges, Tony Kubek and Bobby Richardson, were extremely nice and polite to him, but it didn’t make the sting of that game seven loss go away.


The 1962 World Series was one of the best ever with one of the absolute most dramatic endings. The Yankees went into the bottom of the ninth of game seven with a 1-0 lead. Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry was working on a complete game shutout, but had to get Matty and Felipe Alou, followed by Chuck Hiller, out. The problem was if any of those guys got on base the next three batters were Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda. Matty Alou led off with a pinch hit single. Felipe Alou could not get a sacrifice bunt down and struck out-a failure that haunted him for decades. Terry then struck out Hiller for the second out. The Yankees were one out away, but Mays was coming up. In 1962, Mays was at the top of his game. He had a 169 OPS+ and 49 home runs during the regular season. Mays lined a double to right, but respecting Roger Maris’s arm, Matty Alou was held at third.


This brought Willie McCovey to the plate. McCovey was a huge left-handed slugger who hit the ball hard and always did better against right-handed pitchers like Terry. McCovey would frequently claim that he never hit a ball harder than he did in that moment, but he hit it right to Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson who caught it for the final out. Giants’ fans carried that disappointment with them until San Francisco finally won a championship in 2010. One of those Giants fans was Charles M. Schultz. Damon Runyon may have celebrated Stengel’s inside the park home run in 1923, but Charlie Brown may never get over the last out of the 1962 World Series.


It is very unlikely that the 2023 season will end with a rematch of the 1923 or 1962 World Series, but on Opening Day when we celebrate the beginning of another baseball season, and making it through another winter, we can also take a moment and enjoy the great history shared by the Yankees and the Giants.

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For more of Lincoln’s writing, check out his Substack: Kibitzing with Lincoln.



3 comments

3 Comments


Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Mar 28, 2023

One of my favorite Stengel stories is him taking rookie Mickey Mantle out to right field in the Polo Grounds to show him how to play the wall. Mantle asks Casey how he knows all this. Stengel says, "Do you think I was born old?"

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yankeesblog
Mar 28, 2023

Imagine in 2023 a starting pitcher even being allowed to pitch into the 9th inning of the 7th game of the WS protecting a 1-0 lead and being allowed to face a LH power hitter with the platoon advantage over him. Today's over managed and over analyzed game would have had a parade of one-inning one-trick pony relief specialists after the 6th inning and if they all had managed to hold the lead then another guy would have been brought in specially for the 9th inning and might have given up a game-winning homer to Mays or McCovey.


When Rob Manfred and all of the "geniuses" who have given us all these rule changes (some of which I like) to…

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Mike Whiteman
Mar 28, 2023

This has been a great series of articles.

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