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The 1964 World Series marked the end of an era.  After capturing their fifth consecutive American League pennant and facing the St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic, the Yankees subsequently entered into arguably the darkest period in the history of the franchise.  The combination of an aging team, changes in ownership, and poor decisions by upper management doomed New York to more than a decade of mediocrity.  Little did anyone know at the time that the 1964 Series between the Yankees and Cardinals would mark the last time New York appeared in the Fall Classic for 12 long years.

The Yankees were indeed fortunate to advance to the World Series in 1964, since they spent most of the year looking up in the standings at the Chicago White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles.  Only a late-season surge that included an 11-game winning streak enabled the Yankees to edge out the White Sox and Orioles for the American League pennant.  New York finished the year with a record of 99-63, one game ahead of Chicago and two games in front of Baltimore. 

Although the Yankees were an aging and oft-injured club, manager Yogi Berra led a team that finished a close second in the league in runs scored, and that also placed third in the junior circuit with a team ERA of 3.15.  Despite being plagued by circulatory problems in his pitching arm for much of the year, staff ace Whitey Ford won 17 games and placed among the league leaders with a 2.13 ERA and eight shutouts.  Jim Bouton led the team with 18 victories and 271 innings pitched.  Al Downing finished 13-8, with a league-leading 217 strikeouts.  After being called up from the minor leagues in early August, 22-year-old rookie right-hander Mel Stottlemyre went 9-3 with a 2.06 ERA.

On offense, Joe Pepitone finished second on the team with 28 home runs and 100 runs batted in.  After slumping during the season’s first half, Roger Maris rebounded in the final two months to hit 26 homers, drive in 71 runs, score 86 others, and bat .281.  Elston Howard knocked in 84 runs and finished third in the league with a .313 batting average, en route to earning a third-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting.  Mickey Mantle finished second in the balloting after placing among the league leaders with 35 home runs, 111 runs batted in, 92 runs scored, a .303 batting average, and a .591 slugging percentage.  He also topped the circuit with a .426 on-base percentage. 

The St. Louis Cardinals team the Yankees faced in the Fall Classic also used a late-season spurt to capture their first National League pennant in 18 years.  A hot streak during the final two weeks of the campaign enabled St. Louis to move past San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia in the final standings.  The Cardinals barely edged out both the Phillies and the Reds by one game, finishing the year with a record of 93-69.  The Giants finished third, only three games back.

The Cardinals did not have a great deal of power on offense, finishing just seventh in the senior circuit with 109 home runs.  However, they employed timely hitting, good team speed, and the league’s highest team batting average (.272) to finish second in the league with 715 runs scored.  Lou Brock and Curt Flood served as the offensive catalysts at the top of the batting order.  After being acquired from the Cubs in mid-June, Brock batted .348, scored 81 runs, and stole 33 bases.  Flood batted .311, scored 97 runs, and led the league with 211 hits.  First baseman Bill White and third baseman Ken Boyer supplied much of the team’s power.  White hit 21 homers, drove in 102 runs, scored 92 others, and batted .303.  N.L. MVP Boyer hit 24 home runs, scored 100 runs, batted .295, and led the league with 119 runs batted in.

Although the Cardinals finished just sixth in the league with a team ERA of 3.43, their starting rotation featured three of the senior circuit’s top pitchers.  Staff ace Bob Gibson compiled a record of 19-12, an ERA of 3.01, 245 strikeouts, 17 complete games, and 287 innings pitched.  Ray Sadecki led the staff with 20 victories.  Curt Simmons finished 18-9 and placed second on the team to Gibson with 12 complete games and 244 innings pitched.  Meanwhile, 37-year-old reliever Barney Schultz compiled a 1.64 ERA and 14 saves.  

When the World Series opened in St. Louis on October 7th, the Yankees lost more than just the first contest by a score of 9-5.  After surrendering eight hits and five runs to the Cardinals in a little over five innings, New York starter Whitey Ford had to be removed from the game due to deadness in his pitching arm.  With Ford unable to pitch the remainder of the Series, the Yankees found themselves shorthanded the rest of the way. 

Nevertheless, the Yankees rebounded to take Game Two by a final score of 8-3.  Mel Stottlemyre went the distance, outpitching Bob Gibson, who surrendered four runs to New York in his eight innings of work, while striking out nine. 

Game Three in New York featured a classic pitchers’ duel between Jim Bouton and Curt Simmons.  Barney Shultz relieved Simmons in the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied 1-1.  Mickey Mantle led off the frame for New York by hitting Schultz’s first offering deep into the upper deck in right field, giving the Yankees a 2-1 victory and a 2-1 lead in the Series.  The homer was Mantle’s 16th in World Series play, moving him ahead of Babe Ruth into first place on the all-time list.

The Yankees appeared to be on the verge of taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the Series when they took a 3-0 lead into the top of the sixth inning of Game Four.  However, Ken Boyer’s grand slam homer against New York starter Al Downing shifted the momentum of the Series suddenly and dramatically.  The St. Louis bullpen kept the Yankees off the scoreboard the rest of the way, evening the Series at two games apiece with a 4-3 victory.

Stottleymre and Gibson opposed one another again in Game Five, with Gibson taking a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning.  However, Tom Tresh’s clutch two-out, two-run homer tied the score at 2-2.  The Cardinals won the game in the top of the 10th inning, though, when Tim McCarver gave St. Louis a 5-2 victory by hitting a three-run homer against Yankee reliever Pete Mikkelsen.

Down three-games-to-two, New York hammered five St. Louis pitchers for eight runs and 10 hits during an 8-3 victory when the Series returned to St. Louis for Game Six.  Maris and Mantle put the Yankees ahead to stay with back-to-back homers in the sixth inning, before Joe Pepitone put the game out of reach with a grand slam homer in the top of the eighth.  Jim Bouton earned his second victory of the Series for New York.

Stottlemyre and Gibson both returned to the mound on only two days’ rest for Game Seven.  The Cardinals built a 6-0 lead after five innings, but Mickey Mantle cut the deficit in half with a three-run homer off Gibson in the top of the sixth.  The homer was Mantle’s record 18th in World Series play.  A weary Gibson later surrendered solo home runs to Clete Boyer and Phil Linz in the top of the ninth.  But earlier blasts by Lou Brock and Ken Boyer staked Gibson to a lead he refused to surrender, and the Cardinals ended up winning the contest by a score of 7-5. 

Gibson’s two victories and 31 strikeouts earned him Series MVP honors.  Meanwhile, Tim McCarver starred at the plate for St. Louis, finishing the Fall Classic with a homer, five runs batted in, and 11 hits in 23 at-bats, for a .478 batting average.

Jim Bouton, Bobby Richardson, and Mickey Mantle excelled in defeat for New York.  Bouton won both his starts and posted a 1.56 ERA.  Richardson collected 13 hits in 32 times at bat, for a .406 batting average.  In his final World Series, Mantle batted .333 and led all players with three home runs and eight runs batted in.      

By Bob_Cohen
 

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Tagged:
1964 World Series, Al Downing, Barney Schultz, Bill White, Bob Gibson, Bobby Richardson, Clete Boyer, Curt Flood, Curt Simmons, Elston Howard, Jim Bouton, Joe Pepitone, Ken Boyer, Lou Brock, Mel Stottlemyre, Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees, Pete Mikkelsen, Phil Linz, Ray Sadecki, Roger Maris, St. Louis Cardinals, Tim McCarver, Tom Tresh, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra
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