11/05/09 12:28 AM EST
Ghosts of '57 Game 7 remain just that
It's been 52 years since Stadium hosted ultimate game
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
How long has it been since Yankee Stadium, the scene in all its incarnations of more World Series games than any other ballpark, hosted a Game 7?Well, the last time it happened ... gasoline was 24 cents a gallon, a first-class stamp cost three cents and "Leave it to Beaver" ruled the Nielsen households. The year was 1957. Rookie Roger Maris hit .235 -- for the Cleveland Indians. Vince Lombardi was the offensive coordinator of the New York Giants. And Barry Gordy invested $700 into launching a Detroit record label called Motown. On Oct. 10, 1957, the Milwaukee Braves finished off the Yankees, 5-0, behind the seven-hit pitching of Lew Burdette, who unfurled his third complete game of the week, this one on two days' rest. In the intervening years, the Yankees have appeared in 16 more World Series. But, due either to scheduling -- home-field advantage alternated between the leagues on the 2-3-2 formula from 1924-2003 -- or the length of the Classic, they have not hosted another Game 7 since. That might resound as a remarkable oddity, but in reality, it is not. Because in their entire distinguished history -- and they were in their 40th World Series -- the Yankees have hosted only three Game 7s. In 1955, the host Bombers lost to the Brooklyn Dodgers, also by shutout, 2-0. And in '47, the Yankees prevailed over "Dem Bums," 5-2. And that is all we have in this department to bring us current -- finally, an element of baseball lore in which the Yankees actually are deficient. In 1957, there were no momentum shifts comparable to what we have witnessed the past eight days. The Yankees beat Warren Spahn in Game 1, then the teams essentially alternated victories. New York won when Burdette did not pitch -- and lost when the 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander from West Virginia did go to the hill. So that brought the Yankees' dynasty -- they had captured seven of the preceding 10 World Series -- to the brink. The world stopped to focus on Yankee Stadium on Oct. 10, and the world needed the break. It had had a busy year: Only six days earlier, the Russians had dropped the flag on the space race by launching Sputnik; "West Side Story" debuted on Broadway; the Billy Graham Crusade squatted in Madison Square Garden from May 15 through Sept. 2. Late arrivals in the crowd of 61,207 were still settling into their places when Don Larsen was yanked out of his: Eddie Mathews' two-run double in the third chased the Yankees' starting pitcher; New York manager Casey Stengel waved in lefty reliever Bobby Shantz, and soon the Braves' third-base coach was waving in Mathews, who scored on a single by Hank Aaron, who himself scored later in the inning on an infield grounder by Frank Torre. Del Crandall would add a solo home run in the eighth, but the 4-0 lead already appeared golden under the right wing of Burdette.
Burdette was originally a Yankee -- having been signed by them in 1947, three years before making his big league debut with two relief appearances for them -- and spent most of his career in the considerable shadow of Spahn.In this Fall Classic, and on this Series' ultimate day, he couldn't be hidden. In only one inning of Game 7 did the Yankees get more than one hit -- or get a man as far as third base -- and by then, it was too late. With two outs in the ninth -- Gil McDougald, having already singled with one away -- Jerry Coleman and Tommy Byrne also singled, loading the bases. And they stayed loaded, as Burdette induced a game- and Series-ending grounder to third by Moose Skowron.
In the three complete-game wins, Burdette allowed two runs in 27 innings for an ERA of 0.67.Burdette tendered those three gems on Oct. 3, 7, 10. Asked afterwards how he could possibly pitch so often and so well, the Series MVP explained, "I exploit the greed of all hitters." In that case, greed was not only good, it was exceptional. Two footnotes to that Game 7 are still worth prominent mention: The Braves, who had moved from Boston to Milwaukee four years earlier, became the first team to win a World Series after relocating (that list now also includes the Twins (the former original Washington Senators), the Orioles (formerly the St. Louis Browns) and the Dodgers). Underscoring New York's -- not just the Yankees' -- domination of that era's World Series, the Braves' four wins in 1957 were the first Classic games won by a non-New York City team since 1948. Every World Series between 1948 and '57 featured either two New York teams or a New York sweep.