Casey Stengel was not a man to hold a grudge. But as the 1956 season started, his Yankees were only the second best in the world to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Stengel had spent too many years getting used to being first, and began the season with that goal in mind.
The Yankees roared to seven victories in their first eight matches, hovering near the top until permanently staking their claim to the lead on May 16, and waltzing home to their seventh pennant in the Old Professor's eight-year reign.
A successor to Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio finally came to fruition in the person of Mickey Mantle. The 24-year-old Oklahoman hit 52 home runs en route to his Triple Crown and was voted the MVP. While Mantle provided the heavy artillery, Stengel had other key performers at his beck and call. Yogi Berra hit .298 with 30 homers and 105 RBI's, Hank Bauer belted 26 homers, and both Bill Skowron and Gil McDougald were .300 batters.
The pitching did not come as easy, causing Stengel to again provide some magic. He patched up his pitching by coming up with two trump cards in the form of Tom Sturdivant and Johnny Kucks. With Don Larsen, Bob Turley, Tommy Byrne, and Bob Grim all disappointing, Sturdivant, a 26-year-old ex-minor league infielder, and Kucks, a 22-year-old-baby-faced sophomore, both came out of the bullpen to win 16 and 18 games respectively.
Whitey Ford provided continuity to the staff by winning 19 games, missing the 20th only by losing on the final day of the season. Runnerup Cleveland boasted superior pitching by flashing three 20-game winners in Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, and strikeout phenom Herb Score, but could not keep pace with New York's offense.
In the National League, the Dodgers almost failed to accommodate Stengel for another showdown, winning the pennant only on the final day of the season by one game over the Milwaukee Braves and two over the Cincinnati Reds. All three teams battled for the top spot all season-Brooklyn's aging championship squad, Milwaukee's maturing young team, and Cincinnati's surprising Reds, who made a strong run on overwhelming home run power and not much else.
Don Newcombe chalked up 27 wins for Brooklyn in carrying them most of the way; his crackling fastball won him the MVP and the first Cy Young Award. Down the stretch, though, Sal Maglie booted the Dodgers home. Obtained on waivers from Cleveland in May, Sal the Barber won 13 games, threw a no-hitter against the Phils on September 25, in the peak of the flag fight, and won key games, whenever they were there to win.
The Braves' attack centered around young Hank Aaron, whose.328 batting average led the league and whose 26 homers and 92 RBI's provided much firewater for the Braves' attack. Warren Spahn won 20 games for the Tribe late season slumps by Bob Buhl, Lew Burdette, Eddie Mathews, and Joe Adcock took the edge off their fine season.
The Reds' 221 homers, tying 1947 Giants for the most ever by a team in one season, kept them in the race until the end. The final weekend of the season saw Milwaukee in front of Brooklyn by one game with three left to play. But, while the Dodgers, behind Clem Labine, Maglie, and Newcombe, were taking three straight from the Pirates, the Braves dropped two of three to St. Louis.
Finally, Stengel had his chance. But after the second World Series game was over, Stengel found himself on the bottom of a 13-8 score and a two-game deficit. As the experts pondered whether the Yankees would suddenly start chanting Brooklyn's cry of "wait till next year", Whitey Ford returned with help of a three-run homer from Enos Slaughter to give the Yankees a 5-3 win.
The muscle of Mantle and Bauer combined with Sturdivant's pitching to give the Yankees a 6-2 win. Game No. 5 made history. Don Larsen made his second Series start after being shelled in the second inning of the second game and threw an unprecedented perfect game. Although Clem Labine restored Brooklyn's hopes in the sixth game with a brilliant 1-0 pitching triumph in ten innings over Bob Turley, who was the victim of a misjudged fly ball by Slaughter, the final game proved anticlimactic.
Newcombe made his second start and again failed to go beyond the third inning, as the Yankees won in a 9-0 rout; which, of many things, gave proof through the night that Stengel and the Yankees were again supreme.
Casey Stengel's Career Player Statistics:
Outfield 1912 - 1925 played for Dodgers, Pirates, Phillies, Giants, Braves
Games - 1277
Batting Average - .285
HR's - 60
RBI - 535
Games - 12
Batting Average- .393
Hr's - 2
RBI - 4
Casey Stengel's Career Managerial Record:
Manager in 1934 - 36, 38 - 43, 49 - 60, 62 - 65 Yankees, Mets
W/L - 1926 - 1827
Winning % - .508
W/L - 37 - 26
Winning % - .587