Despite losing the previous year’s World Series to the Brooklyn Dodgers in seven games, the Yankees entered the 1956 campaign with a great deal of confidence, fully expecting to return to the Fall Classic once again. Youngsters Bill Skowron and Elston Howard appeared to be on the verge of stardom. Bob Turley and Don Larsen showed great promise as starting pitchers. Billy Martin returned to the team from the military after missing most of the previous two seasons. Minor leaguers Bobby Richardson and Norm Siebern seemed poised to earn roster spots. And veterans Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and Mickey Mantle were all coming off outstanding seasons. Little did the members of the organization realize that they were about to witness arguably the greatest individual season of their generation; one that would literally carry them to the American League pennant.
Mickey Mantle often found himself being booed by Yankee fans his first few years with the team. Hailed as the club’s next great player upon his arrival in 1951, Mantle failed to live up to the huge expectations that were placed on him when he took over for the great Joe DiMaggio in center field. Although he performed extremely well for the Yankees his first five years with the team, Mantle never quite reached the level of greatness others predicted for him. All that changed, though, in 1956, when he put together the kind of season a scant few in the history of the game have ever compiled. Mantle won the American League Triple Crown by hitting 52 home runs, knocking in 130 runs, and batting .353. He also topped the circuit with 132 runs scored, 376 total bases, and a .705 slugging percentage, while placing second with 112 bases on balls and a .467 on-base percentage. Mantle’s extraordinary performance enabled the Yankees to finish the regular season in first place with a record of 97-57, nine games ahead of the runner-up Cleveland Indians. It also earned him A.L. MVP honors for the first of three times in his career.
Although Mantle clearly established himself over the course of the season as the game’s most dominant player, he received a considerable amount of help from his Yankee teammates along the way. Yogi Berra earned a second-place finish in the league MVP voting by hitting 30 homers, driving in 105 runs, scoring 93 others, and batting .298. Bill Skowron developed into a star, hitting 23 home runs, knocking in 90 runs, and batting .308. Hank Bauer hit 26 homers, drove in 84 runs, and scored 96 others. After taking over at shortstop from the retired Phil Rizzuto, Gil McDougald batted .311 and scored 79 runs.
Yankee pitchers posted the second-lowest team ERA in the league – a mark of 3.63 that only Cleveland’s staff surpassed. Whitey Ford had another sensational year, finishing 19-6, with 18 complete games and a league-leading 2.47 ERA. Second-year right-hander Johnny Kucks finished second to Ford on the staff with 18 victories. Tom Sturdivant won 16 games and compiled a 3.30 ERA in his first full season. Don Larsen and Bob Turley combined to win 19 games. Ford and Kucks were both named to the A.L. All-Star Team, joining Mantle, Berra, Martin, and McDougald on the squad. Mantle, Berra, and Ford also earned spots on The Sporting News All-Star Team.
The Yankees subsequently faced the Brooklyn Dodgers again in the World Series, losing the first two games at Ebbets Field before storming back to win the next three contests at Yankee Stadium. Game Five proved to be a classic, with Don Larsen throwing the only perfect game in World Series history, en route to defeating Brooklyn’s Sal Maglie by a score of 2-0. Mickey Mantle hit a solo home run off Maglie and also helped preserve Larsen’s perfect game with a fine running catch in deep left-center field on a ball hit by Gil Hodges. Brooklyn tied the Series with a 1-0 victory in Game Six, before the Yankees captured their 17th world championship by shutting out the Dodgers 9-0 in Game Seven. Yogi Berra was the hitting star of the Series, batting .360, hitting three homers, and driving in 10 runs. Mantle also homered three times. But Series MVP honors went to Larsen for his amazing Game Five performance.
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- 1956 World Series, Bill Skowron, Billy Martin, Bob Grim, Bob Turley, Bobby Richardson, Brooklyn Dodgers, Don Larsen, Elston Howard, Gil McDougald, Hank Bauer, Johnny Kucks, Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees, Norm Siebern, Sal Maglie, Tom Sturdivant, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra