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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1956 Baseball Season Headlines

In 1956, key players like Clem Labine, Duke Snider, and Mickey Mantle competed fiercely for their teams. Here are some of the headlines from the 1956 baseball season:

Clem Labine: 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers MVP

Clem Labine was quite probably Brooklyn's most valuable pitcher during the mid-1950s. In 1956, Labine led the majors with 19 saves. His 1-0 shutout of the Yankees in game six of the 1956 World Series was eclipsed by Don Larsen's perfect game the day before and by the blowout of the Dodgers in game seven.

It was his last complete game in the majors. Labine had some rather notable accomplishments in his career: He shut out the Giants in the second game of the 1951 National League playoff; he retired Stan Musial 49 straight times; and he collected three hits in 1951-all home runs.

Duke Snider: The Last Brooklyn Dodger HR King

In 1956, Duke Snider became the sixth Dodgers player since 1900 -- and the last to date -- to win the National League home run crown, hitting 43 dingers that season. In 1957, he became the first player ever to hit 40 or more round-trippers and net less than 100 RBI.

Mickey Mantle: 52 HRs, 130 RBI

By racking up a .353 average, 52 home runs, and 130-RB1 in 1956, Mickey Mantle became the first switch-hitter in modern history to win a batting crown and the only one ever to win a Triple Crown. He also set all-time switch-hitter records for slugging average (.705) and total bases (376), and the modern RBI mark for switch-hitters.

The 1956 World Series Fails to Sell Out

Of the three 1956 World Series games played at Yankee Stadium, only the first drew close to a sellout crowd. Game five, the final contest at the stadium and the matchup in which Don Larsen achieved perfection, was played to some 10,000 empty seats.

Luis Aparicio Brings Back the Steal

Luis Aparicio served notice in his rookie season that a dimension that had been missing from the game for some 30 years was about to return. Though he stole only 21 bases in 1956, he was caught swiping just four times. Aparicio's high rate of success induced him to increase his attempts with each passing season.

Check out more headlines from the 1956 baseball season on the next page.

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More 1956 Baseball Season Headlines

Below are more headlines from the 1956 baseball season, including Frank Robinson showing his stuff in the majors and Jackie Robinson choosing retirement over a trade.

Frank Robinson was the 1966 MVP.
Frank Robinson entered
the majors as an outfielder
for the Cincinnati Reds.

Frank Robinson Blooms in a Hurry

Many in the Reds organization doubted that Frank Robinson was ready for the parent club in 1956. The previous year, he had hit just .263 for Columbia in the Class-A Sally League. By mid-season of 1956, however, the question became whether National League pitchers were ready for Robinson. He led the loop with 122 runs scored and tied for second place with 38 home runs.

Whitey Ford Just Can't Lose

Whitey Ford led the American League with his .760 winning percentage and his 2.47 ERA in 1956. In just one of his first 13 seasons with the Yankees did Ford lose as many as ten games. His career record after the 1964 season, his last great year, was 216-84 for a .720 win percentage. Playing for a losing New York team in his final three campaigns, Ford was 20-22.

Willie Mays: Speed with Power

Willie Mays became the only player to hit 50 or more home runs one season and lead his league in steals the next by nailing 51 home runs in 1955 and pilfering 40 bases (in 50 attempts) in 1956. Mays swiped 338 cushions in his career, including 23 in 1971, the year he turned 40 years old.

The 1956 New York Yankees Finally Break the Color Line

The 1956 World Champion New York Yankees included a black player. The Yankees were one of the last teams to continue to field an all-white crew. Pressure on the club to break the color line grew until Elston Howard made the final roster in 1955.

Jackie Robinson Hangs Up His Spikes

Jackie Robinson chose to retire at the finish of the 1956 season rather than report to the hated Giants to whom he was traded. He wrapped up his career with a ten-home run, 43-RBI year. In Robinson's ten seasons with Brooklyn, the Dodgers won six pennants and their first World Championship.

Wrote Roger Kahn: "(Robinson) had intimidating skills, and he burned with a dark fire. He wanted passionately to win . . . He bore the burden of a pioneer and the weight made him more strong. If one can be certain of anything in baseball, it is that we shall not look upon his like again."

The next page highlights key events and details from the 1956 baseball season.

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1956 Baseball Season Highlights

The 1956 baseball season was a mixed bag of excitement, highs, and disappointments. While the 1956 World Series failed to sell-out in game five, and Jackie Robinson announced his retirement, the season still produced numerous historic moments, award winners, and a "perfect game" for Brooklyn Dodgers Pitcher Don Larsen.

Below, you will find more highlights from the 1956 baseball season:

  • The Yanks cop the 1956 American League flag by 9 games.
  • The Dodgers repeat in the National League, squeaking past Braves by 1 game.
  • Yankee Don Larsen pitches the only perfect game in World Series history in game five to put the Yankees up three games to two.
  • The Yanks win the 1956 World Series in seven games.
  • Brooklyn’s Clem Labine, normally a relief pitcher, beats the Yankees 1-0 in ten innings in game six of Series.
  • Yogi Berra tops all hitters in the Series with .360 BA and ten RBI.
  • Don Newcombe wins the 1956 National League MVP.
  • Newcombe also wins the first ever Cy Young Award (only one was given each year until 1967).
  • Mantle wins the Triple Crown, hitting .353 with 52 homers and 130 RBI.
  • The Reds hit 221 homers to set major league record (since broken).
  • Cincinnati fans stuff the ballot boxes; all the Reds regulars are voted All-Star starters. Commissioner Ford Frick disallows the vote and replaces some of the Reds with more deserving players.
  • Dale Long of the Pirates hits home runs in a record eight consecutive games.
  • The Reds’ Frank Robinson clubs 38 homers to tie the National League rookie record (also a major league record at the time).
  • Mantle is the first switch-hitter to lead a major league in batting since 1889.
  • Don Newcombe leads the majors in wins (27) and in win pct. (.794).
  • Milwaukee’s Hank Aaron wins the National League batting crown (.328).
  • Willie Mays tops the National League with 40 steals, most in the majors since 1944.
  • The 1956 National League wins the All-Star Game 7-3 at Washington.
  • On Sept. 21, the Yankees leave a major league record 20 men on base in the nine-inning game vs. Boston.
  • Jim Derrington of the White Sox, age 16, becomes the youngest pitcher in this century to start a game.
  • Carl Erskine of Brooklyn no-hits the Giants on May 12.
  • On May 26, three Reds pitchers throw a combined no-hitter vs. Milwaukee for nine innings, but lose 2-1 in 11 innings.
  • Boston’s Mel Parnell no-hits the White Sox on July 14.

See the next page for more highlights of the 1956 baseball season.

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More 1956 Baseball Season Highlights

Check out more 1956 baseball season highlights below, including the stats of top players like Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider:

  • Sal Maglie of Brooklyn no-hits the Phils on Sept. 25.
  • Maglie is released by Cleveland, signs with Brooklyn, and is voted National League MVP runner-up.
  • The Braves lead the National League race by 1 game with three to play, but drop two of three while the Dodgers win three straight.
  • Hank Aaron tops the National League in hits (200), doubles (34), and runs produced (172).
  • Duke Snider tops the National League in homers (43), SA (.598), OBP (.402), and walks (99).
  • Mickey Mantle leads in runs (132), runs produced (210), SA (.705), and total bases (376).
  • Herb Score wins 20 for Cleveland, tops the majors in Ks (263), and the American League in shutouts (five).
  • Cleveland once again has three 20-game winners, but finishes second to New York.
  • White Sox Luis Aparicio tops the American League in thefts (21), and is the 1956 American League Rookie of the Year.
  • Robinson is the National League Rookie Of The Year.
  • Whitey Ford leads the American League in win pct. (.760) and ERA (2.47).
  • The Hall of Fame inducts Hank Greenberg and Joe Cronin.

    Red Schoendienst was selected to ten All-Star teams.
    Red Schoendienst was the
    Cards' second baseman
    for more than a decade.

  • Al Lopez leaves as Cleveland’s manager and is hired by the White Sox.
  • The Phils swap Del Ennis to the Cards for Rip Repulski and Bobby Morgan.
  • The Giants send Al Dark and three other players to the Cards for Red Schoendienst, Jackie Brandt, and three others.
  • Kansas City trades Eddie Robinson and three other players to Detroit for Virgil Trucks, Ned Garver, and two others.
  • Kansas City rookie Troy Herriage goes 1-13 with a 6.64 ERA in his only major league season.
  • KC’s Al Ditmar leads the majors with 22 losses.
  • The Orioles bonus baby Tom Gastall perishes at sea in a private plane crash.
  • Johnny Podres misses the season when he’s inducted into the Navy.
  • Washington’s Eddie Yost leads the majors in walks with a whopping 151.
  • Washington’s Jim Lemon sets a major league record for batter Ks with 138.
  • Detroit’s Harvey Kuenn leads the American League in hits with 196.
  • Boston’s Jimmy Piersall leads the majors with 40 doubles.
  • Detroit’s Frank Lary leads the American League in wins (21) and innings (294).
  • Billy Hoeft joins Frank Lary to give Detroit two 20-game winners.
  • Clem Labine leads the major league in saves with 19.
  • Cubs pitcher Sam Jones again leads the National League in whiffs (176).
  • Milwaukee’s Lew Burdette tops the National League in ERA at 2.71.
  • Detroit manager Bucky Harris retires after 29 years as a major league helmsman.

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