After having their championship run halted by the Cleveland Indians the previous year, the Yankees returned to the top of the American League standings in 1955, finishing the campaign with a record of 96-58, three games ahead of the second-place Indians. The Chicago White Sox finished a close third, just five games off the pace. An eight-game winning streak that began in the season’s last two weeks finally enabled the Yankees to separate themselves from their two closest competitors.
The American League’s most well-balanced ball club, New York finished second in the junior circuit in both runs scored (762) and fewest runs allowed (569). Whitey Ford headed their deep pitching staff, which posted a league-leading 3.23 team ERA. Ford finished 18-7, to tie for the A.L. lead in victories. He also topped the circuit with 18 complete games and placed second in the league with a 2.63 ERA and 254 innings pitched. Bob Turley finished second on the team with 17 victories, while Tommy Byrne added another 16 wins.
Meanwhile, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle spearheaded the Yankee offense. Berra captured A.L. MVP honors for the third time by hitting 27 home runs and driving in 108 runs. Mantle, though, finished with better overall numbers, leading the league with 37 homers, 11 triples, 113 bases on balls, a .431 on-base percentage, and a .611 slugging percentage. He also knocked in 99 runs, scored 121 others, and batted .306.
The Yankees entered the World Series against the Dodgers hoping to defeat Brooklyn in the Fall Classic for the fifth time in nine years. However, the Dodgers turned the tables on their old tormentors, handing the Yankees their first World Series defeat since 1942 by edging them out in seven games. The Fall Classic’s pivotal moment occurred late in Game Seven, when Brooklyn left-fielder Sandy Amoros squelched a Yankee rally by starting a double play after he made a spectacular running catch on a long fly ball hit by Yogi Berra into the left field corner. The play helped preserve Johnny Podres’ 2-0 victory, earning the Dodger pitcher Series MVP honors.
Although the Cleveland Indians failed to repeat as American League champions, they continued to feature arguably the circuit’s best pitching staff. Bob Lemon tied Whitey Ford for the league lead with 18 victories, while Early Wynn posted 17 wins and a 2.82 ERA. Herb Score gave the Indians a third outstanding starter. The American League’s Rookie of the Year won 16 games and led all A.L. hurlers with 245 strikeouts. However, with both Al Rosen and Larry Doby suffering through subpar seasons, the Indians lacked the offensive firepower to keep up with the Yankees.
Two teams that matched up well with New York on offense were the fourth-place Boston Red Sox and the fifth-place Detroit Tigers. Jackie Jensen and Ted Williams led Boston’s attack, which scored only seven fewer runs than the Yankees. Jensen hit 26 home runs, led the league with 116 runs batted in, and scored 95 runs. Although injuries limited Williams to only 98 games and 320 official at-bats, he finished the campaign with 28 homers, 83 runs batted in, 77 runs scored, and a .356 batting average.
Meanwhile, the Tigers had arguably the junior circuit’s finest all-around player in Al Kaline. The 20-year-old outfielder led the league with a .340 batting average, 200 hits, and 321 total bases in just his second full season. Kaline also hit 27 home runs, knocked in 102 runs, scored 121 others, compiled a .421 on-base percentage, and posted a .546 slugging percentage, en route to earning a second-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• April 14 - Elston Howard became the first African-American to wear the New York Yankees uniform. Howard singled in his first at-bat against the Boston Red Sox during an 8-4 Yankee win.
• May 13 - Mickey Mantle hit home runs from both sides of the plate for the first time in his major league career during a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium. Mantle finished the game with three home runs – two left-handed and one right-handed, while driving in all five of New York’s runs.
• Cleveland Indians outfielder Al Smith earned a third-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting by hitting 22 home runs, driving in 77 runs, batting .306, and scoring a league-leading 123 runs.
• Chicago White Sox second baseman Nellie Fox batted .311, scored 100 runs, and collected 198 hits.
• Even though the Yankees lost the World Series in seven games, Yogi Berra led all players from both teams with 10 hits and a .417 batting average.
• Calvin Griffith, adopted son of Clark, took over as Senators president upon his father's death.
• Washington's Harmon Killebrew hit his first major league home run on June 24 at age 18.
• For the first time in history, no American League pitcher won 20 games.
• Boston’s Frank Sullivan led the American League with just 260 innings pitched.
• Chicago’s Billy Pierce led all A.L. hurlers with a 1.97 ERA.
• The Hall of Fame inducted Joe DiMaggio, Ted Lyons, Dazzy Vance, Gabby Hartnett, Home Run Baker, and Ray Schalk.
• The A's moved to Kansas City, marking the first franchise shift that failed to result in an immediate financial success.
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- 1955 World Series, Al Kaline, Al Rosen, Al Smith, American League, Billy Pierce, Bob Lemon, Bob Turley, Brooklyn Dodgers, Calvin Griffith, Early Wynn, Elston Howard, Frank Sullivan, Harmon Killebrew, Herb Score, Jackie Jensen, Johnny Podres, Larry Doby, Mickey Mantle, Nellie Fox, New York Yankees, Sandy Amoros, Ted Williams, Tommy Byrne, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra