Yankees’ five-year title stretch still unmatched
Stengel was 58, and after four decades in baseball, his wife, Edna, was hoping the two of them would finally be able to kick back and enjoy their home in California. But difficult big league stints with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves had left Stengel unfulfilled.
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As a 21-year-old in the 1950 Fall Classic, Ford started and pitched eight scoreless innings in the clinching game of a sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies’ “Whiz Kids.” The following October, Hank Bauer smashed a bases-loaded triple and made a diving catch in right field, and reliever Bob Kuzava clinched the title with three outs in the ninth inning after not having appeared in any of the previous five games.
The next year, Kuzava repeated his heroics when – after not pitching in the any of the Series’ first six games – he retired eight straight Dodgers to preserve the Yankees’ 4-2 victory in Game 7.
One of Stengel’s all-time favorite players – pugnacious Billy Martin, whom he had managed in the minors – starred in the Fall Classic in both 1952 and 1953. Martin’s heads-up catch of a Jackie Robinson pop-up in Game 7 of the 1952 Series – with Kuzava on the mound – snuffed out a seventh-inning rally, enabling the Bronx Bombers to beat the Dodgers. In the next Fall Classic, Martin rapped a record 12 hits in six games as the Yankees again beat their cross-town rivals and completed their “one-for-the-thumb” campaign.
The moves proved resoundingly that Stengel could win in the majors. The failure had become a genius.
Scott Pitoniak is the author of “Let’s Go Yankees: An Unforgettable Trip to the Ballpark.” He resides in Penfield, N.Y.