Even though they boasted the American League’s best pitching staff, the Cleveland Indians came out second-best to New York for the fifth time in six years in 1956, finishing nine games behind the first-place Yankees, who captured their seventh pennant in eight seasons under manager Casey Stengel. Featuring a starting rotation that included three 20-game winners, the Indians surrendered a league-low 581 runs to the opposition. Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, and Herb Score each posted 20 victories, with sophomore sensation Score leading all A.L. hurlers with 263 strikeouts and five shutouts, while also placing second in the league with a 2.53 ERA.
Still, Cleveland’s outstanding pitching wasn’t enough to overcome a superior Yankee ball club that finished the year with a record of 97-57 and a league-leading 857 runs scored. Seeking to return to the top of the baseball world after losing to the Brooklyn Dodgers in the previous year’s World Series, New York rode a virtuoso performance by A.L. MVP Mickey Mantle all the way to the league championship. Mantle won the Triple Crown by topping the junior circuit with 52 home runs, 130 runs batted in, and a .353 batting average. He also led the league with 132 runs scored and a .705 slugging percentage, while placing second with 112 walks and a .467 on-base percentage.
Although Mantle was clearly the driving force behind New York’s first-place finish, he had a considerable amount of help from his Yankee teammates. Yogi Berra earned a second-place finish in the league MVP voting by hitting 30 home runs, driving in 105 runs, scoring 93 others, and batting .298. Bill Skowron hit 23 homers, knocked in 90 runs, and batted .308. Hank Bauer hit 26 round-trippers, drove in 84 runs, and scored 96 others. After taking over at shortstop from the retired Phil Rizzuto, Gil McDougald batted .311 and scored 79 runs.
Meanwhile, Yankee pitchers posted the second-lowest team ERA in the league – a mark of 3.63 that only Cleveland’s staff surpassed. Whitey Ford had a sensational year, finishing 19-6, with 18 complete games and a league-leading 2.47 ERA. Johnny Kucks placed second to Ford on the staff with 18 victories. Tom Sturdivant added another 16 wins.
The Yankees had an opportunity to redeem themselves when they faced the Dodgers again in the World Series. After losing the first two games at Ebbets Field, New York stormed back to win the next three contests at Yankee Stadium. Game Five proved to be a classic, with Don Larsen throwing the only perfect game in World Series history, en route to defeating Brooklyn’s Sal Maglie by a score of 2-0. Mickey Mantle hit a solo home run off Maglie and also helped preserve Larsen’s perfect game with a fine running catch in deep left-center field on a ball hit by Gil Hodges. Brooklyn tied the Series with a 1-0 victory in Game Six, before the Yankees captured their 17th world championship by shutting out the Dodgers 9-0 in Game Seven. Yogi Berra was the hitting star of the Series, batting .360, hitting three homers, and driving in 10 runs. Mantle also homered three times. But Series MVP honors went to Larsen for his amazing Game Five performance.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• May 30 – During a 4-3 New York victory over the Washington Senators, Mickey Mantle narrowly missed becoming the first player ever to hit a home run completely out of Yankee Stadium. With Mantle batting left-handed against Washington starter Pedro Ramos in the fifth inning of the first game of a doubleheader, he hit a towering drive above the level of the stadium roof. However, a stiff wind cut down the flight of the ball, which struck the right-field facade, some 18 inches above the level of the roof.
• June 21 - Jack Harshman of the Chicago White Sox defeated Connie Johnson of the Baltimore Orioles 1-0 in a game in which both pitchers threw one-hitters.
• July 10 - At Griffith Stadium, home of the Washington Senators, the National League defeated the American League, 7-3, in the All-Star Game. Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, and Mickey Mantle all hit home runs.
• July 14 - Boston Red Sox pitcher Mel Parnell pitched a no-hitter in Boston’s 4-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
• September 30 - Chicago White Sox pitcher Jim Derrington became the youngest pitcher in modern history to start a game. He lost to the Kansas City Athletics, 7-6, at the age of 16 years and 10 months.
• October 8 - New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in Game Five of the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, in a 2-0 victory. Larsen’s perfecto was just the fourth in the major leagues since 1900, and only the sixth in the history of major league baseball. It remains the only perfect game in postseason history, and also the only no-hitter in the World Series.
• White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio led the American League with 21 steals, en route to winning A.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
• The Hall of Fame inducted Hank Greenberg and Joe Cronin.
• After resigning as skipper of the Cleveland Indians, Al Lopez assumed the managerial post of the Chicago White Sox.
• Connie Mack died at age 93.
• Detroit’s Harvey Kuenn led the American League with 196 hits.
• Detroit’s Frank Lary led the American League with 21 wins and 294 innings pitched. A noted “Yankee killer,” Lary posted a record of 5-1 against the pennant-winners.
• Cleveland’s Vic Wertz hit 32 home runs and knocked in 106 runs.
• Detroit's Al Kaline followed up his superb 1955 campaign by hitting 27 home runs, scoring 96 runs, batting .314, and finishing second in the league with 128 runs batted in.
- 1956 World Series, Al Kaline, Al Lopez, American League, Bill Skowron, Bob Lemon, Brooklyn Dodgers, Casey Stengel, Connie Johnson, Connie Mack, Don Larsen, Early Wynn, Frank Lary, Gil Hodges, Gil McDougald, Hank Bauer, Hank Greenberg, Harvey Kuenn, Herb Score, Jack Harshman, Jim Derrington, Joe Cronin, Johnny Kucks, Luis Aparicio, Mel Parnell, Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees, Pedro Ramos, Sal Maglie, Ted Williams, Tom Sturdivant, Vic Wertz, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra