Dodgers of ’55 gave Brooklyn the chance to cheer

Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series
Written by: Isabelle Minasian

The Dodgers franchise made their World Series debut in 1916 as the Brooklyn Robins, squaring off against the Boston Red Sox, but it wasn’t until nearly four decades – and six more World Series appearances – later that the team affectionately nicknamed “The Bums” won their first Fall Classic title.

Their 1955 season got off to a rocky start, when their Opening Day game against the Pittsburgh Pirates was rained out. The two teams reconvened a day later in front of just under 7,000 fans at Ebbets Field where the Dodgers defeated the Pirates 6-1. Brooklyn went on to win 97 more games that season, finishing 13-and-a-half games ahead the second-place Chicago Cubs in the National League.

All told, six future Hall of Famers – along with manager Walter Alston – played for the Dodgers that season: Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax, Tommy Lasorda, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider. Robinson, Reese and Campanella were in the twilight years of their careers, with Robinson retiring after the 1956 season, Campanella suffering a career-ending injury after the 1957 season and Reese retiring after one season in Los Angeles in 1958. Koufax, meanwhile, was a 19-year-old youngster who made his major league debut but pitched only 41.2 innings, not exceeding his rookie eligibility until the following season.

Up in the broadcast booth, there were two more men who would later find themselves in Cooperstown: Vin Scully and Al Helfer. Scully, the 1982 Ford C. Frick Award winner, was in his sixth season with the Dodgers, broadcasting for both radio and TV. Helfer, the 2019 Frick Award winner, had spent three seasons with the Dodgers at the start of his career and returned to the booth midway through 1955.

The 1955 season marked career years for Campanella and Snider, who finished first and second, respectively, in MVP voting. Don Newcombe was the ace of the staff, and made history as the first Black pitcher to record a 20-win season.

Newcombe got the start for Game 1 of the World Series, as the Dodgers squared off against their crosstown rival New York Yankees for the sixth time in 15 seasons. The Yankees took the first two games, but the Dodgers capitalized on their home field advantage, winning Games 3, 4 and 5 at Ebbets Field. A 5-1 Yankees victory in Game 6 pushed the series to its finale on Oct. 4 at Yankee Stadium.

Campanella and Reese were the only Dodgers to score in Game 7, both driven in by Gil Hodges in the fourth and sixth innings respectively – but two runs was all that Brooklyn would need. Johnny Podres shutout the Yankees for all nine innings, making him 2-0 in the Fall Classic with a 1.00 ERA and earning the left-hander the first-ever World Series MVP award.

The story of this legendary Game 7 comes to life in Cooperstown, outside the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, where two statues depict Podres just after releasing a pitch Campanella in his crouch 60 feet, six inches away.

The Dodgers would face the Yankees in October again the following season, but the 1955 title was the team’s only championship in Brooklyn before they moved to Los Angeles.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum preserves several artifacts related to the 1955 Dodgers, including a copy of the World Series program, the hat worn by Jackie Robinson during the Fall Classic, the bat used by Roy Campanella during Game 3 and a ring from the World Series.

Isabelle Minasian was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series