After cruising to the National League pennant by a 13 ½ game margin of victory the previous year, the Brooklyn Dodgers had a far more difficult time separating themselves from the rest of the senior circuit in 1956. It took a season-ending three-game sweep of the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates for the Dodgers to finally lay claim to the N.L. flag with a record of 93-61. The Milwaukee Braves finished second, just one game back, while the surprising Cincinnati Reds came in a very close third, only two games off the pace.
The Reds featured the National League’s most potent offense, topping the circuit with 775 runs scored and establishing a new league record by hitting 221 home runs as a team. N.L. Rookie of the Year Frank Robinson led the assault with 38 homers, 83 runs batted in, a .290 batting average, and a league-leading 122 runs scored. Ted Kluszewski clubbed 35 homers, drove in 102 runs, scored 91 others, and batted .302. Outfielders Wally Post and Gus Bell added 36 and 29 round-trippers, respectively, while catcher Ed Bailey chipped in with 28 of his own.
The Braves also had an impressive lineup that included sluggers Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, and Joe Adcock. Aaron hit 26 homers, drove in 92 runs, scored 106 others, and led the league with a .328 batting average and 200 hits, en route to earning a third-place finish in the N.L. MVP voting. Mathews hit 37 home runs, knocked in 95 runs, and scored another 103. Adcock batted .291 and led the team with 38 home runs and 103 runs batted in.
Equally impressive was Milwaukee’s pitching staff, which compiled a league-leading 3.11 team ERA. Warren Spahn finished second in the league with 20 victories, 20 complete games, and a 2.78 ERA. Lew Burdette won 19 games and led all N.L. hurlers with an ERA of 2.70. Bob Buhl posted an outstanding record of 18-8.
In the end, though, the Dodgers’ combination of solid hitting and strong pitching enabled them to win their last pennant in the borough of Brooklyn. Duke Snider paced the Dodger offense, batting .292, driving in 101 runs, scoring 112 others, and leading the league with 43 home runs, 99 walks, a .402 on-base percentage, and a .598 slugging percentage. Gil Hodges added another 32 round-trippers, while Jim Gilliam batted .300 and scored 102 runs.
Don Newcombe anchored Brooklyn’s starting rotation, finishing the campaign with a record of 27-7, a 3.06 ERA, 268 innings pitched, 18 complete games, and five shutouts. The big right-hander’s outstanding season earned him N.L. MVP honors and recognition as major league baseball’s first Cy Young Award winner.
The Dodgers got off to a good start against the Yankees in the World Series, winning the first two games by scores of 6-3 and 13-8. However, the Yankees took the next two contests, to even the Fall Classic at two games apiece. New York then took a 3-2 Series lead when Don Larsen hurled the only perfect game in postseason history by shutting out the Dodgers 2-0 in Game Five. Brooklyn’s Clem Labine helped his team even the Series again by hurling 10 scoreless innings during a 1-0 Dodger victory in Game Six. But the Yankees pounded five Dodger pitchers in the decisive seventh contest, en route to posting a 9-0 Series-clinching victory.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• May 12 - Carl Erskine tossed the second no-hitter of his career as the Brooklyn Dodgers blanked the New York Giants, 3–0, at Ebbets Field.
• July 25 - Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates hit the first, and, to-date, the only walk-off inside-the park grand slam in major league history in a 9-8 win over the Chicago Cubs.
• September 25 - Brooklyn Dodgers hurler Sal Maglie pitched a 5-0 no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies.
• Cincinnati fans stuffed the ballot boxes during the All-Star voting process, putting all Reds regulars onto the starting team. Commissioner Ford Frick disallowed the vote and replaced some of the Reds with more deserving players.
• Dale Long of the Pirates hit home runs in a record eight consecutive games.
• Willie Mays led the National League with 40 stolen bases, compiling in the process the highest total in the major leagues since 1944.
• The National League won the All-Star Game 7-3 at Washington.
• The Braves led the National League race by one game with three games remaining on the schedule, but they dropped two of three while the Dodgers won three straight.
• Stan Musial led the National League with 109 runs batted in.
• Clem Labine led the major leagues with 19 saves.
• Robin Roberts led the major leagues with 22 complete games.
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- 1956 World Series, Bob Buhl, Brooklyn Dodgers, Carl Erskine, Clem Labine, Dale Long, Don Larsen, Don Newcombe, Duke Snider, Ed Bailey, Eddie Mathews, Ford Frick, Frank Robinson, Gil Hodges, Gus Bell, Hank Aaron, Jim Gilliam, Joe Adcock, Lew Burdette, Roberto Clemente, Robin Roberts, Sal Maglie, Stan Musial, Ted Kluszewski, Wally Post, Warren Spahn, Willie Mays