In the end, the 1955 baseball season belonged to the Brooklyn Dodgers. After a heartbreaking string of near-misses that began in 1947, the Dodgers finally had their year, breezing to the pennant and nipping the Yanks in seven tough games to win it all.
It was the most balanced Dodger team in years. Roy Campanella fully recovered from the hand injury that hampered him in 1954 and once again led Brooklyn, batting .318 with 32 home runs en route to a third MVP Award.
Duke Snider belted 42 round-trippers with a .309 average and topped the league with 136 RBI and 126 runs scored. Don Newcombe rebounded from a poor season and pitched to a masterful 20-5 record, while Clem Labine was reliable out of the bullpen with 13 wins and 11 saves.
Sophomore skipper Walter Alston had the Dodgers flying out of the starting gate. They won their first ten -- 20 of their first 22 -- and were ahead by 12-1/2 on July 4. Eddie Mathews's 41 homers weren't enough for the Braves and Willie Mays's 51 dingers and .319 average weren't enough for the Giants as the Dodgers won the pennant by 13-1/2 games over Milwaukee and 18-1/2 over New York (the Giants were also hurt by weak performances from Johnny Antonelli and Ruben Gomez).
Although Philadelphia had Robin Roberts (the winner of 23 games, the most in the league for the fourth straight year) and Richie Ashburn (the batting champ at .338), they couldn't catch the Dodgers either, finishing a whopping 21-1/2 games back. The most that last-place Pittsburgh could do was come up with the ERA champ in Bob Friend, who posted a 2.84 mark. The Yankees and Yogi Berra, who won his third MVP, took a sixth American League flag in seven years.
The Bronx Bombers, able to survive pitching problems with good years from Bob Turley and Don Larsen and with Mickey Mantle (a league-high 37 homers), held off Cleveland by 3 games with a 96-58 record. The Indians got 16 victories and a league-topping 245 strikeouts from Rookie of the Year Herb Score, but they lacked offensive punch and never really made a run for it.
Third-place Chicago took consolation in Billy Pierce and his 1.97 ERA, best in the majors. Jackie Jensen's 116 RBI (tops in the league) and Frank Sullivan's 18 wins (tied for first) took Boston to fourth place. Detroit finished fifth, as sophomore right fielder Al Kaline, age 20, won the batting title with a .340 average to become the youngest batting champion ever (he was younger than Ty Cobb by one day).
But far and away, the highlight of 1955 was the World Series. The Yankees took the first two games 6-5 and 4-2. The Dodgers came back in the next three: Campanella had three hits and three RBI, including a two-run homer, to give Brooklyn and Johnny Podres an 8-3 win in game three. Campanella, Gil Hodges, and Snider all homered in the following contest and Labine pitched the final four frames, as the Dodgers evened the Series with an 8-5 victory in game four.
In game five, Snider hammered two more home runs and Sandy Amoros hit one, as the Dodgers won 5-3. The Yankees dominated the Dodgers in game six, winning 5-1 behind Whitey Ford's four-hitter. Podres took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth of game seven, but Billy Martin led off with a walk and then Gil McDougald bounced an infield single.
Berra strode to the plate for the go-ahead run. He lofted a fly ball deep into the left field corner. Amoros made the catch with an outstretched arm at the last second, then got the ball back to the infield to double up McDougald. Podres completed the eight-hit shutout that, at long last, crowned the Dodgers World Champions.
The next page provides headlines and summaries for some of the top stories of the 1955 baseball season.
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1955 Baseball Season Headlines
Ernie Banks Sets a HR Record
Ernie Banks hit his first major league home run on September 23, 1953. Less than two years later, he became the first shortstop in history to slam 40 four-baggers in a season, nailing 44 round-trippers in 1955. Banks also was the first slugger to hit 500 or more home runs and never play on a pennant-winner.
Don Newcombe Emerges
Don Newcombe won 47 games and lost just 12 for the Dodgers in the 1955 and '56 seasons. In 1955, he topped the National League with his .800 winning percentage; in 1956, he led the circuit with his .794 winning percentage. In three World Series starts during those two seasons, however, Newcombe had two losses.
Yogi Berra Cops his Third MVP
Yogi Berra picked up his third MVP plaque in 1955 for a season performance that included 20 doubles, 27 home runs, and 108 RBI. Berra also finished second in the balloting in 1953 and again in 1956, third in 1950, and fourth in 1952. No other player has ever been so highly regarded by MVP voters for a seven-year span.
Ted Kluszewski Clubs 47 HRs
Over the four-year span between 1953 and 1956, Ted Kluszewski drilled 171 home runs while fanning just 140 times, about the same amount that the typical home run leader nowadays whiffs in a single season. In 1955, "Klu" led the National League in hits with 192, came in second in home runs with 47 and total bases with 358, tied for third in runs scored with 116, and placed fifth in RBI with 113.
Roy Campanella is National League MVP -- Again
Upon receiving his third Most Valuable Player Award in 1955, Roy Campanella (.318 average, 32 home runs, 107 RBI) said, "When you win the first award, you're happy. When you win the second, you're very happy. When you win the third, you're overwhelmed." Campanella and Yogi Berra are the only catchers to be honored as three-time MVPs.
Mickey Mantle Tops the 1955 American League in HRs, Triples
In 1955, Mickey Mantle led the American League in home runs with 37 and tied for first place in triples with 11. Although Mantle would have a few more seasons in which he would top the circuit in home runs, he never again hit more than six triples in a season. Following a serious knee injury in 1962, he hit just a half-dozen three-baggers in his last seven seasons. Mantle also collected remarkably few doubles during his career.
Check out more headlines from the 1955 baseball season on the next page.
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More 1955 Baseball Season Headlines
Below are more headlines from the 1955 baseball season, including the Dodgers' victory in the World Championship and the feats of the great players who helped them win.
Al Kaline Wins the 1955 American League Bat Title
As a teenager in Baltimore, Al Kaline rooted for the Washington Senators and hoped to sign with them. When the Nats showed little interest, he went with the Tigers instead. Kaline made his major league debut just a couple of weeks after he graduated from high school and never played a day in the minors. He hit for a career-high .340 in 1955, the best average in the majors.
The 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers Celebrate
Owner Walter O'Malley and manager Walter Alston celebrated in the Brooklyn dressing room after Johnny Podres brought an end to the Dodgers' long World Championship drought. Prior to 1955, the closest a Brooklyn team had come to winning a post-season affair was in 1890. This would be Brooklyn's only World Title. The Dodgers would win four crowns in LA.
Roy Campanella Belts 32 HRs
Congratulations became a common scene in the Brooklyn dugout in 1955. Four Dodgers hit 26 or more home runs, and the club topped the majors in four-baggers with 201. Roy Campanella -- who ripped 32 circuit clouts that season.
Carl Furillo Clinches Game Five of the 1955 World Series
Moments after Carl Furillo of the Dodgers slid safely back into second as a Yankees' pickoff attempt fails in the eighth inning of game five, Furillo scored the final run of the contest on a single by Jackie Robinson to give Brooklyn a 5-3 victory and a 3-2 lead in games.
Robin Roberts Wins 23
Robin Roberts was a 20-game winner for the sixth consecutive season in 1955, spearheading the National League with 23 victories and 305 innings pitched. Although only 29 years of age that year, Roberts never had another 20-victory campaign. For the remaining 11 seasons of his career, he was a sub-.500 pitcher and a loop leader in only one department-losses.
The next page highlights key events and details from the 1955 baseball season.
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1955 Baseball Season Highlights
The Brooklyn Dodgers took the 1955 World Series after fighting through seven games, Ernie Banks set a HR record, and Yogi Berra earned his third MVP plaque during the 1955 baseball season. The 1955 season consistently created one amazing moment after the next. Below, you will find dozens of highlights from the 1955 baseball season:
- The New York Yankees return to the top in the 1955 American League.
- The Dodgers return to the top in the 1955 National League.
- The Dodgers win their first World Series in seven games.
- Johnny Podres is the Brooklyn hero with two CG wins and a shutout in game seven.
- Yogi Berra is the leading hitter in the 1955 World Series with ten hits and .417 BA.
- The Dodgers rally from a two-game Series deficit, as they drop the first two games in Yankee Stadium.
- Berra is named American League MVP for the third time in five years.
- Roy Campanella is the National League MVP for the second time in three years.
- Detroit's Al Kaline wins the American League bat title at age 20 -- the youngest bat crown winner in major league history.
- Cleveland rookie Herb Score tops the American League in Ks with 245, setting the major league rookie record for Ks.
- Dodger pitcher Don Newcombe cracks 42 hits.
- Rookie pitcher Toothpick Sam Jones of the Cubs sets the National League record with 185 walks.
- Sam Jones also tops the National League in strikeouts with 198.
- Jones no-hits Pirates on May 12 after walking the bases full in the ninth and then fanning the side.
- Phillie Richie Ashburn leads the National League in batting (.338).
- Robin Roberts again tops the National League in wins, as he earns 23.
- Roberts leads the National League in CGs (26) and innings (305).
- Roberts leads the National League in starts a record sixth straight year.
- Yankee Mickey Mantle wins the American League homer crown (37), his first of four such titles.
- Mantle leads the American League in OBP (.433), walks (113), and SA (.611), and ties in triples (11).
- Willie Mays hits 51 homers to pace the National League.
- Duke Snider leads the majors in runs (126), RBI (136), and runs produced (220).
- Elston Howard is the first black American to play for the Yankees, one of last teams to break the color line.
- Down 5-0 at one point, the National League rallies to win the All-Star Game 6-5 in 12 innings at Milwaukee.
- Herb Score is the American League Rookie of the Year.
- Bill Virdon of the Cards is the National League ROTY.
- Cincinnati's Ted Kluszewski slams 47 home runs, giving him 136 homers and only 109 strikeouts from 1953 through 1955.
- Ted Kluszewski leads the National League in hits with 192.
For more highlights of the 1955 baseball season, see the next page.
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More 1955 Baseball Season Highlights
- Don Newcombe wins 20 games, tops National League in win pct. (.800).
- Pirate Bob Friend leads the National League in ERA (2.84).
- Calvin Griffith, adopted son of Clark, takes over as Senators president upon his father's death.
- Washington's Harmon Killebrew hits his first major league home run on June 24 at age 18.
- Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs hits five grandslams.
- Banks becomes the first shortstop to hit 40 homers in a season, as he cracks 44.
- The Dodgers open the season with ten consecutive wins.
- Milwaukee's Bill Bruton takes the third consecutive National League theft crown (25).
- Al Kaline leads the American League in hits (200), total bases (321), and runs produced (196).
- For the first time in history, no American League pitcher wins 20 games.
- Ford leads the American League in CGs with just 18 -- the fewest by a loop leader to this juncture.
- Frank Sullivan paces the American League in innings with just 260.
- Yankee Tommy Byrne, back from the minors, leads the American League in win pct. (.762).
- White Sox Billy Pierce's 1.97 ERA tops the majors.
- Enos Slaughter of the A's tops the majors with 16 pinch hits; has .322 BA in 267 at-bats at age 39.
- Boston's Jackie Jensen and Detroit's Ray Boone tie for the American League RBI lead (116).
- Joe DeMaestri of the A's goes 6-for-7 in an 11-inning game on July 8.
- The Pirates finish last for the fourth consecutive year.
- The A's move to Kansas City -- the first franchise shift that is not an immediate financial success.
- Six American League teams begin the 1955 season with managers who were not at their helm at the start of the 1954 season.
- In a four-inning relief stint on July 19, Detroit's Babe Birrer hits two home runs in his only two at-bats.
- Braves teammates Hank Aaron and Johnny Logan tie for the National League lead in doubles with 37.
- Mickey Mantle and teammate Andy Carey tie for the American League triples lead with 11.
- The Phils swap Smoky Burgess and two other players to the Reds for Andy Seminick, Jim Greengrass, and Glen Gorbous.
- Al Smith of Cleveland leads the American League in runs with 123. Ray Narleski of Cleveland tops the majors with 19 saves.