In the end, the 1955 baseball season belonged to the Brooklyn Dodgers. After a heartbreaking string of near-misses that began in 1947, the Dodgers finally had their year, breezing to the National League pennant and nipping the Yankees in the World Series in seven tough games to win the first world championship in franchise history.
Sophomore skipper Walter Alston had the Dodgers flying out of the starting gate. They won their first 10 games, and 20 of their first 22, en route to building a 12 ½ game lead by July 4. Brooklyn cruised from that point on, finishing the regular season with a record of 98-55, 13 ½ games in front of the second-place Milwaukee Braves.
Easily the National League’s most well-balanced ball club, the Dodgers topped the senior circuit with 857 runs scored, while also surrendering fewer runs to the opposition than any other team in the league (650). Don Newcombe anchored Brooklyn’s pitching staff, finishing the year with a record of 20-5, a 3.20 ERA, 17 complete games, and 234 innings pitched. Meanwhile, Roy Campanella and Duke Snider led an offense that topped the major leagues with 201 home runs. Fully recovered from the hand injury that hampered him one year earlier, Campanella hit 32 homers, drove in 107 runs, and batted .318, en route to winning his third N.L. MVP Award. Snider hit 42 round-trippers, batted .309, and led the league with 136 runs batted in and 126 runs scored. He finished a close second to his teammate in the MVP balloting.
After laying waste to the rest of the National League during the regular season, the Dodgers faced their old nemesis, the New York Yankees, in the World Series. Brooklyn got off to a rocky start, losing the first two contests by scores of 6-5 and 4-2. However, the Dodgers won the next three games to take a 3-2 lead in the Series. Three hits and three RBIs by Roy Campanella and a strong pitching effort by Johnny Podres gave the Dodgers an 8-3 victory in Game Three. Home runs by Campanella, Gil Hodges, and Duke Snider helped Brooklyn even the Series with an 8-5 win in Game Four. Two more homers by Snider led the Dodgers to a 5-3 victory in Game Five. The Yankees came back to take Game Six, though, riding a Whitey Ford four-hitter to a 5-1 win that evened the Fall Classic at three games apiece.
Johnny Podres took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning of the decisive seventh contest. But the Yankees mounted a serious threat by putting runners on first and second, with no one out. Representing the go-ahead run, Yogi Berra then lofted a long fly ball deep into the left field corner that Sandy Amoros pulled in with an outstanding running catch. The Dodger left fielder quickly got the ball back into the infield, allowing shortstop Pee Wee Reese to double-up Gil McDougald, who had strayed too far from first base. Podres did the rest, shutting out the Yankees the rest of the way to give Brooklyn its first world title. The rookie left-hander’s two victories earned him Series MVP honors.
Although the Dodgers’ World Series triumph proved to be the highlight of the 1955 campaign, several players from other teams distinguished themselves over the course of the season. Philadelphia’s Robin Roberts led all N.L. hurlers with 23 wins, 26 complete games, and 305 innings pitched. Ted Kluszewski had his second straight monstrous year for the fifth-place Cincinnati Reds, hitting 47 home runs, driving in 113 runs, scoring 116 others, batting .314, and leading the league with 192 hits. Chicago’s Ernie Banks established a new record for major league shortstops by hitting 44 home runs. He also knocked in 117 runs, scored 98 others, and batted .295. Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews both had big years for the second-place Braves. In just his second season, Aaron hit 27 home runs, drove in 106 runs, scored 105 others, and batted .314. Mathews hit 41 homers, knocked in 101 runs, scored another 108, batted .289, and led the N.L. with 109 walks. Although the defending-champion New York Giants stumbled to third in the senior circuit, Willie Mays had another superb year, batting .319, driving in 127 runs, scoring 123 others, and leading the league with 51 home runs, 13 triples, 382 total bases, and a .659 slugging percentage.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• May 12 - Sam Jones of the Chicago Cubs became the first African-American to pitch a no-hitter in the major leagues when he no-hit the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4–0.
• July 31 - On the anniversary of his four-home run game, Braves' first baseman Joe Adcock had his arm broken by a pitch from the New York Giants' Jim Hearn. Adcock missed the remainder of the season.
• November 12 - Fred Hutchinson replaced Harry Walker as the St. Louis Cardinals manager, leaving the National League without a player-manager for the first time in its history.
• Dodger pitcher Don Newcombe collected 42 hits.
• Philadelphia’s Richie Ashburn led the National League with a .338 batting average.
• Robin Roberts led the National League in starts a record sixth straight year.
• Down 5-0 at one point, the National League rallied to win the All-Star Game 6-5 in 12 innings at Milwaukee. Stan Musial delivered the winning blow with a walk-off home run.
• Bill Virdon of the Cardinals earned N.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
• Ted Kluszewski’s 47 home runs gave him 136 round-trippers and only 109 strikeouts from 1953 through 1955.
• Pittsburgh’s Bob Friend led the National League with a 2.84 ERA
• Ernie Banks established a new single-season major league record by hitting five grand slam home runs.
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- 1955 World Series, Bill Virdon, Bob Friend, Brooklyn Dodgers, Don Newcombe, Duke Snider, Eddie Mathews, Ernie Banks, Fred Hutchinson, Gil Hodges, Hank Aaron, Harry Walker, Jim Hearn, Joe Adcock, Johnny Podres, Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Roy Campanella, Sam Jones, Sandy Amoros, Stan Musial, Ted Kluszewski, Walter Alston, Warren Spahn, Willie Mays