Even though they ended up losing the World Series to the Yankees in six games, the Brooklyn Dodgers fielded arguably their greatest team in franchise history in 1953. Winning a club-record 105 games over the course of the regular season, the Dodgers finished 13 games ahead of the second-place Braves in capturing their fourth National League pennant in seven years.
Strong in every facet of the game, the Dodgers topped the senior circuit with 955 runs scored, while they also surrendered the third-fewest runs of any team in the league (689). Carl Erskine led the Dodger staff with 20 victories, a 3.54 ERA, 16 complete games, and 247 innings pitched. Russ Meyer, Billy Loes, Preacher Roe, and Clem Labine also posted double-digit win totals for Brooklyn.
Brooklyn’s greatest strength was its powerful offense. A veritable collection of All-Stars, the Dodger lineup included a record six players that crossed the plate more than 100 times. N.L. Rookie of the Year Jim Gilliam batted .278, stole 21 bases, scored 125 runs, and topped the circuit with 17 triples. Pee Wee Reese swiped 22 bags and crossed the plate 108 times. Jackie Robinson batted .329, drove in 95 runs, and scored 109 others. Gil Hodges batted .302, hit 31 homers, knocked in 122 runs, and scored 101 others. Although he scored only 82 runs, Carl Furillo hit 21 home runs, drove in 92 runs, and led the league with a .344 batting average. Duke Snider placed among the league leaders with 42 home runs, 126 runs batted in, 198 hits, a .336 batting average, and a .419 on-base percentage, and topped the circuit with 132 runs scored, 370 total bases, and a .627 slugging percentage. He finished third in the N.L. MVP balloting. Roy Campanella won the award by establishing new single-season records for catchers by hitting 41 home runs and driving in a league-leading 142 runs. The Dodger receiver also batted .312 and scored 103 runs.
In spite of their outstanding team balance, the Dodgers again came up short against the Yankees in the World Series, losing to their old nemesis in six games. The defeat marked the Dodgers’ seventh loss in as many World Series appearances, and the fifth time they fell victim to the Yankees in the Fall Classic.
Although Brooklyn’s dominance of the National League in 1953 put an early end to the pennant race, the second-place Braves ended up being baseball’s most watched team over the course of the season. With air transportation facilitating travel, owner Lou Perini chose to move his struggling franchise from Boston to Milwaukee, where the Braves drew a record 1,826,397 fans. The Braves’ relocation represented the first such shift since 1903. The success they subsequently experienced, both on the field and at the gate, prompted other owners to consider changing cities.
The fans of Milwaukee also had an opportunity to witness two of the National League’s top performers throughout the campaign. Eddie Mathews broke Ralph Kiner’s seven-year stranglehold on the N.L. home run title by topping the circuit with 47 homers. The 21-year-old third baseman also batted .302 and finished among the league leaders with 135 runs batted in, 110 runs scored, 363 total bases, a .406 on-base percentage, and a .627 slugging percentage, en route to earning a second-place finish in the league MVP voting. Meanwhile, Warren Spahn led all N.L. hurlers with 23 wins and a 2.10 ERA. He also finished second in the league with 24 complete games, 266 innings pitched, five shutouts, and a .767 winning percentage.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• Brooklyn's Carl Erskine established a new World Series record (since broken) by striking out 14 Yankee batters in Game Three of the Fall Classic.
• The Braves surpassed their previous year's attendance in Boston by their 13th game.
• The Dodgers homered in a record 24 straight games.
• Philadelphia’s Robin Roberts tied Warren Spahn for the league lead with 23 victories. Roberts also compiled a 2.75 ERA and topped the circuit with 198 strikeouts, 33 complete games, and 347 innings pitched.
• The Dodgers named Walter Alston their new manager after suffering another devastating World Series loss to the Yankees.
• The National League won the All-Star Game 5-1 at Cincinnati.
• On May 25, Max Surkont of the Braves became the first pitcher in the 20th century to fan eight batters in a row in a game.
• Stan Musial led the National League with 105 walks, a .437 on-base percentage, and 53 doubles.
• A 15-month sentence for income tax evasion forced Cardinals owner Fred Saigh to sell the club to Augie Busch.
• Cardinals rookie Harvey Haddix won 20 games.
• Philadelphia’s Richie Ashburn led the National League with 205 hits.
- 1953 World Series, Billy Loes, Brooklyn Dodgers, Carl Erskine, Carl Furillo, Clem Labine, Duke Snider, Eddie Mathews, Fred Saigh, Gil Hodges, Harvey Haddix, Jackie Robinson, Jim Gilliam, Max Surkont, Pee Wee Reese, Preacher Roe, Ralph Kiner, Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Roy Campanella, Russ Meyer, Stan Musial, Ted Kluszewski, Walter Alston, Warren Spahn