Despite losing both Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris for extended periods of time due to injury, the Yankees captured their fourth consecutive American League pennant in 1963, finishing 10 ½ games ahead of the second-place Chicago White Sox, with a record of 104-57. The losses of Mantle and Maris severely curtailed New York’s offensive productivity, causing the Yankees to score 103 fewer runs than they tallied one year earlier. Nevertheless, New York still managed to finish second in the junior circuit in runs scored. Meanwhile, Yankee pitchers permitted the opposition to cross the plate 133 fewer times than they did the prior season, en route to posting the second lowest team ERA in the league.
New York’s deep pitching staff was led by Whitey Ford, who topped all A.L. hurlers with a record of 24-7 and 269 innings pitched. He also compiled an outstanding 2.74 ERA, en route to earning a third-place finish in the league MVP voting. Ralph Terry followed up his exceptional 1962 campaign with another solid season, posting 17 victories and a 3.22 ERA, while finishing second to Ford with 268 innings pitched and leading the league with 18 complete games. Second-year right-hander Jim Bouton quickly developed into one of the junior circuit’s best pitchers, placing among the league leaders with a record of 21-7, a 2.53 ERA, six shutouts, and 249 innings pitched. Al Downing also had a solid year as the team’s fourth starter, finishing his first full season with a record of 13-5, a 2.56 ERA, and 171 strikeouts in only 176 innings of work.
Joe Pepitone and Tom Tresh provided the offense with some much-needed power in the absence of Mantle and Maris. Tresh hit 25 home runs and placed among the league leaders with 91 runs scored. Pepitone hit 27 homers and led the club with 89 runs batted in. The baseball writers, though, deemed Elston Howard New York’s most important player, naming the Yankee receiver the American League’s Most Valuable Player at season’s end. Stepping to the forefront as New York’s on-field leader in Mantle’s absence, Howard did a superb job of handling the team’s pitching staff, while also posting solid offensive numbers. Howard finished the year with 28 home runs, 85 runs batted in, and a .287 batting average.
Facing the Yankees in the World Series were the Los Angeles Dodgers, who returned to the Fall Classic for the first time in four years after finishing a close second in the N.L. pennant race in each of the previous two seasons. The Dodgers earned the right to represent the senior circuit in the Series by finishing six games ahead of the second-place St. Louis Cardinals, with a record of 99-63.
Hardly an offensive juggernaut, the Dodgers finished just sixth in the National League, with 640 runs scored. They also placed eighth in the circuit, with 110 home runs. Relying more on speed than on power, they compiled easily the most stolen bases in the league, finishing the campaign with 124 steals.
Tommy Davis, Maury Wills, and Frank Howard paced the Los Angeles attack. Davis hit 16 homers, knocked in 88 runs, and won his second consecutive batting title with a mark of .326. Wills batted .302, led the team with 83 runs scored, and finished first in the league with 40 stolen bases. Howard led the club with 28 home runs.
It was their exceptional pitching that enabled the Dodgers to separate themselves from the rest of the National League. They led the circuit with a team ERA of 2.85, boasting both the league’s top starter and its best reliever. Closer Ron Perranoski finished 16-3, with a 1.67 ERA and 21 saves. Meanwhile, Sandy Koufax captured Cy Young and N.L. MVP honors by leading the league with a record of 25-5, a 1.88 ERA, 306 strikeouts, and 11 shutouts, while also placing among the leaders with 20 complete games and 311 innings pitched. Koufax received a considerable amount of help from fellow Dodger starters Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres. Drysdale won 19 games, compiled a 2.63 ERA, struck out 251 batters, tossed 17 complete games, and placed second in the league with 315 innings pitched. Podres chipped in with 14 victories and 10 complete games.
As it turned out, Dodger pitching simply overwhelmed the Yankees in the Fall Classic. Sandy Koufax set the tone for the entire Series by striking out the first five men he faced in Game One, played at Yankee Stadium. Meanwhile, Los Angeles scored five times against Whitey Ford in the first three innings, en route to taking a 1-0 Series lead with a 5-2 victory. Koufax ended up establishing a new World Series record by fanning 15 Yankees. New York’s only scores came on a two-run homer by Tom Tresh in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Los Angeles pitching continued to thwart the Yankees in Game Two, with Johnny Podres allowing just one run on seven hits in 8 1/3 innings of work. Ex-Yankee Bill Skowron homered for the Dodgers, who came away with a 4-1 victory.
Down two-games-to-none, the Yankees fared no better against Don Drysdale when the Series moved to Los Angeles for Game Three. Drysdale shut out New York on only three hits, while also striking out nine. Jim Bouton pitched almost as well for the Yankees, allowing the Dodgers just four hits. But Los Angeles pushed across a run in the first inning on a walk, a wild pitch, and a single, to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the Series with a 1-0 victory.
Sandy Koufax and Whitey Ford opposed each other again in Game Four, with Ford pitching much more effectively than he did in the Series opener. The score stood tied at 1-1 through 6 ½ innings, with the only runs scoring on solo home runs by Frank Howard and Mickey Mantle. However, Yankee first baseman Joe Pepitone lost sight of a throw from third baseman Clete Boyer for an error that sent Jim Gilliam all the way to third base in the bottom of the seventh inning. Willie Davis then followed with a fly ball to center field that brought Gilliam home with the go-ahead run. Koufax shut out the Yankees over the final two frames, handing Whitey Ford his second loss of the Series, even though the Yankee left-hander allowed the Dodgers just two hits. The 2-1 Los Angeles victory gave the Dodgers their second world championship since moving to California. Meanwhile, the sweep marked the first time ever the Yankees were eliminated from the Fall Classic in four straight games. So thorough was the beating that the Yankees scored only four runs the entire Series. They also failed to hold a lead at any point during the four games, and they compiled a team batting average of just .171.