The Yankees captured their third consecutive American League pennant under manager Casey Stengel in 1951, finishing the campaign with a record of 98-56, five games in front of the second-place Cleveland Indians. Although no one in New York’s lineup knocked in as many as 90 runs during the regular season, the team somehow managed to place second in the junior circuit with 798 runs scored. Phil Rizzuto and A.L. Rookie of the Year Gil McDougald both had solid years, providing a great deal of support to league MVP Yogi Berra, who finished the season with 27 home runs, 88 runs batted in, 92 runs scored, and a .294 batting average.
The Yankees, though, would not have successfully defended their A.L. title without their “Big Three” of Vic Raschi, Ed Lopat, and Allie Reynolds, who helped the club compile the third-lowest team ERA in the league. Raschi finished 21-10, with a 3.27 ERA and 15 complete games. Lopat finished 21-9 and placed among the league leaders with a 2.91 ERA and 20 complete games. Reynolds won 17 games, posted an ERA of 3.05, threw 16 complete games, and led the league with seven shutouts. He also tossed two no-hitters, helping him to earn a third-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting and a spot on The Sporting News All-Star Team at season’s end.
Meanwhile, the New York Giants played phenomenal ball over the season’s final two months to erase a 13 ½ game lead the Brooklyn Dodgers had established over them in the National League by early August. Deadlocked at season’s end, the two teams met in a three-game playoff that the Giants won on Bobby Thomson’s three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game Three. The Giants hoped to carry their momentum with them into the Fall Classic against the Yankees, who they faced for the first time in the World Series since 1937.
The Giants, though, had more than just momentum on their side. In addition to posting an outstanding 98-59 record under manager Leo Durocher, the Giants finished second in the National League in runs scored, and they led the senior circuit with a team ERA of 3.48. Monte Irvin and Bobby Thomson paced the Giants on offense. Irvin hit 24 home runs, scored 94 runs, batted .312, and led the league with 121 runs batted in, en route to earning a third-place finish in the N.L. MVP voting. Thomson hit 32 homers, drove in 101 runs, and batted .293. Meanwhile, Sal Maglie and Larry Jansen tied for the National League lead with 23 victories apiece.
Momentum clearly appeared to be on the Giants’ side in Game One of the World Series. Starter Dave Koslo limited the Yankees to one run on seven hits, Monte Irvin stole home, and shortstop Alvin Dark put the game out of reach with a three-run homer in the sixth inning, as the Giants took the first contest by a score of 5-1.
However, the Yankees evened the Series in Game Two, defeating Jansen by a score of 3-1 behind the five-hit pitching of Ed Lopat, who went the distance for the victory. The win proved to be a costly one for the Yankees, though, who lost the services of rookie outfielder Mickey Mantle for the remainder of the Series after he injured his knee trying to avoid a collision with Joe DiMaggio while chasing after a fly ball hit by Giants rookie Willie Mays.
The Giants regained the Series lead in Game Three, posting a 6-2 victory in the first contest played at the Polo Grounds. First baseman Whitey Lockman provided the game’s big blow, delivering a three-run homer during a five-run fifth inning for the Giants.
The Yankees responded in kind, winning Game Four by an identical 6-2 score. Joe DiMaggio’s two-run homer off Sal Maglie in the top of the fifth inning gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead they refused to relinquish. The blast turned out to be the final one of DiMaggio’s career.
The Yankees routed the Giants in Game Five by a score of 13-1 on another complete-game five-hitter by Ed Lopat. DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto each drove in three runs, and Gil McDougald hit a grand slam that put the game totally out of reach.
Yankee right-fielder Hank Bauer broke a 1-1 tie with a bases loaded triple in the bottom of the sixth inning of Game Six, to give his team a 4-1 lead. The Giants mounted a late rally, scoring two runs in the top of the ninth inning, before Yankee reliever Bob Kuazva induced pinch-hitter Sal Yvars to line out to Bauer in right for the final out.
Monte Irvin and Alvin Dark excelled for the Giants in defeat. Irvin collected 11 hits in 24 times at-bat, for a .458 batting average. Dark homered, drove in four runs, and accumulated 10 hits in 24 trips to the plate, for a .417 batting average.
On the Yankee side, Joe DiMaggio homered once, knocked in five runs, and batted .261 in his final World Series appearance. Ed Lopat compiled an exceptional 0.50 ERA in his two complete-game victories. Phil Rizzuto earned Series MVP honors by hitting a homer, driving in three runs, scoring five others, and collecting eight hits in 25 times at-bat, for a .320 batting average.By Bob_Cohen
- 1951 World Series, Allie Reynolds, Alvin Dark, Bob Kuzava, Bobby Thomson, Casey Stengel, Dave Koslo, Ed Lopat, Gil McDougald, Hank Bauer, Joe DiMaggio, Larry Jansen, Leo Durocher, Mickey Mantle, Monte Irvin, New York Giants, New York Yankees, Phil Rizzuto, Polo Grounds, Sal Maglie, Sal Yvars, Vic Raschi, Whitey Lockman, Willie Mays, Yogi Berra