1956 Baseball Season

The New York Yankees opened the 1956 baseball season wanting revenge. Their target: The Dodgers, who had beaten them the year before. New York took hold of first place on May 16 and never looked back, giving Casey Stengel his seventh flag in eight tries. Mickey Mantle, age 24, became the newest Yankee Stadium legend, winning the Triple Crown and the Most Valuable Player Award with 52 home runs, 130 RBI, and a .353 average.

Yogi Berra totaled 30 homers and 105 RBI, Hank Bauer knocked 26 homers, Gil McDougald batted .311, and Bill Skowron averaged .308. Pitcher and ERA champ Whitey Ford won 19 games, Johnny Kucks claimed 18, and Tom Sturdivant took 16. With Bob Lemon, Herb Score, and Early Wynn all winning 20 games, the Yankees might have been caught-if strong-armed Cleveland could hit.

The Indians finished 9 games out.The Tigers won just 82 games, but featured Frank Lary, the league-leader with 21 triumphs. Lary became known as the "Yankee Killer," going 5-1 against the Yanks in 1956 and 7-0 in 1958. The National League battle was waged by Brooklyn, Milwaukee, and, surprisingly, Cincinnati.

The defending champion Dodgers were carried by Don Newcombe, whose 27 wins earned him MVP honors and baseball's first Cy Young Award. Dodger Sal Maglie, obtained off waivers early in the season, won 13 and tossed a no-hitter against the Phils in September. Duke Snider clubbed a league-high 43 homers, teammate Gil Hodges belted 32 round-trippers, and Junior Gilliam hit .300 to pace the offense.

The Braves were led by Hank Aaron (the batting champ with a .328 average along with 26 homers) and Warren Spahn (20-11), Lew Burdette (19-10, a league-low 2.71 ERA), and Bob Buhl (18-8). Rookie of the Year Frank Robinson supplied 38 of Cincinnati's 221 homers (tied with the 1947 Giants for the most home runs by a team in a season) and scored a league-high 122 runs.

As Brooklyn swept the Pirates, the Braves lost two of three to the Cardinals and finished 1 game back. Cincinnati ended up 2 games off. The Dodgers closed with a 93-61 record. Even with RBI leader Stan Musial, St. Louis couldn't get above fourth. The Bums cruised to a 6-3 victory in the World Series opener behind Maglie, then roughed up Don Larsen in their 13-8 game two win. As the Series shifted to the Bronx, so did the tide. Ford and Sturdivant notched wins in the next two games.

On October 8, Larsen made headlines by hurling a perfect game-the only no-hitter in Series history. Using a no-windup style, the right-hander cut down 27 consecutive batters and struck out seven. There were some close calls: A deflected Jackie Robinson line drive in the second inning was saved by McDougald; Mantle caught Hodges's long drive with a sensational backhand
move in the fifth; and in the eighth, Andy Carey snapped up Hodges's line drive inches from the ground.

In the ninth inning, Carl Furillo flied out and Roy Campanella bounced out. Up came pinch hitter Dale Mitchell. Larsen's first pitch was wide. His second, a slider, rendered a called strike. Mitchell swung and missed on the third pitch and fouled off the fourth. Hitting the outside corner, the last pitch was declared a called strike. The pitcher who claimed a 30-40 record over four major league seasons had himself a record-setting feat.

Clem Labine threw a scoreless ten frames and Jackie Robinson, in his last season, singled in the bottom of the tenth to give the Dodgers a 1-0 win in game six. The Yanks scored off five Dodger hurlers in the seventh game to make the Series finale a 9-0 blowout.

The next page provides headlines and summaries for some of the top stories of the 1956 baseball season.

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