After winning the World Series in 1958, the Yankee front office chose to essentially maintain the status quo and ignore the warning signs that surrounded the team the previous two seasons. With Yogi Berra no longer a true offensive force, the Yankees needed another powerful bat in the middle of their lineup to complement Mickey Mantle. Opposing hurlers refused to pitch to the Yankee centerfielder with men on base, since he had no one of comparable ability to protect him in the batting order. That being the case, Mantle led all of baseball in walks in each of the previous two seasons. The Yankees also seemed reluctant to sign the top black and Hispanic talent that was available to them. As a result, they found it increasingly difficult to defeat their National League counterparts in the World Series, since teams in the senior circuit generally appeared far more willing to integrate their squads.
Having failed to address either of the aforementioned issues, New York’s shortcomings surfaced in 1959, when the team finished third in the American League, 15 games behind the pennant-winning Chicago White Sox, with a record of only 79-75. The Yankees’ .513 winning percentage represented the lowest mark compiled by the team in 34 years.
Yankee pitching remained solid, posting the third lowest team ERA in the American League with a mark of 3.60. Whitey Ford led the staff with 16 victories and nine complete games, while compiling a 3.04 ERA. Art Ditmar won 13 games and topped the starters with a 2.90 ERA. Ryne Duren continued to excel in relief, saving 14 games, compiling a 1.88 ERA, and striking out 96 batters in 77 innings of work. Bob Turley, though, struggled terribly. After leading the league the previous year with 21 wins en route to capturing Cy Young honors and earning a second-place finish in the MVP voting, Turley finished just 8-11, with a 4.32 ERA.
After scoring more runs than any other team in the American League in each of the previous three seasons, the Yankee offense floundered in 1959, placing fifth in the junior circuit in runs scored. Hank Bauer batted just .238 and scored only 44 runs. Gil McDougald knocked in just 34 runs and scored only 44 others. Yogi Berra batted .284 but hit only 19 home runs and drove in just 69 runs. Bill Skowron appeared well on his way to having the finest year of his young career over the season’s first few months. However, after hitting 15 homers, knocking in 59 runs, and batting .298 through early July, he missed virtually the entire second half of the season after fracturing his wrist in a collision at first base. Second baseman Bobby Richardson led the team with a .301 batting average. His double play partner Tony Kubek batted .279 and finished second on the team with 67 runs scored. The only other Yankee regulars who performed well were Hector Lopez and Mickey Mantle. Lopez, acquired early in the year from Kansas City, hit 16 homers, drove in 69 runs, and batted .283, while splitting his time between the outfield and third base. Mantle did his best to carry the team, but the lack of another big bat to protect him in the batting order eventually took its toll on him. Mantle ended the year with 31 home runs, only 75 runs batted in, and a .285 batting average. However, he did manage to finish second in the league with 104 runs scored and 21 stolen bases. Mantle and eight other Yankees were named to the American League All-Star squad. But, in a season filled with disappointment, no Yankee player earned a spot on The Sporting News All-Star Team.
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- Art Ditmar, Bill Skowron, Bob Turley, Bobby Richardson, Casey Stengel, Elston Howard, Gil McDougald, Hank Bauer, Hector Lopez, Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees, Ryne Duren, Tony Kubek, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra