March 25, 2019

At the All-Star Break 60 Years Ago: Yankees Look Poised to Run Off With AL Flag

July 13, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

At the end of play on Sunday, July 10, 1955, when the major league baseball season adjourned for the annual All-Star Game, the pennant races in both leagues had a clear favorite to advance to the World Series. On the strength of their 22-2 start to take a 9½-game lead as early as May 10, the Dodgers were just biding time till October. They had been playing a bit ragged of late, having lost 7 of the 13 games they had played so far in July, but Brooklyn was very comfortably 11½ games out front of Milwaukee. The Yankees had a more modest five-game lead heading into the break, but also looked to be likely unstoppable. This is the 12th article in a series on the 1955 season60 years ago.

Less than a month earlier, on June 18, it looked like the American League might witness a tight three-team race when the White Sox pulled into a first-place tie with the Yankees after winning the first two in a four-game set at the Baseball Cathedral in the Bronx otherwise known as the Yankee Stadium; Cleveland was just 2½ behind the New Yorkers and Chicagoans. But the Yankees swept the White Sox in their Sunday double-header—the start of a stretch in which they won 12 of 13 to assume a 6½-game lead over second-place Chicago on July 2. And at eight games off the pace in third place, the defending AL-champion Indians looked like they might not put up much of a fight in defense of their 1954 bragging rights.

Seven of those wins were against the teams with the three-worst records in the American League—three against Kansas City (in sixth place), two against Baltimore (in last place), and two against Washington (in seventh). But in addition to their two wins against Chicago to start that streak, the Yankees had also taken three at home from the Indians, against whom they also lost their only game between June 18 and July 3. Cleveland had come into Yankee Stadium four games behind; they left six games out.

The Yankees won just three more games before the All-Star break, all against the Senators in Washington on the final weekend before the season was adjourned, but had lost just a game-and-a-half of their lead. At the break, their record stood at 55-29, and four Yankees made the All-Star team, with Mantle and Berra voted into the starting line-up.

The two other Yankee All-Stars were their top two pitchers—lefty Whitey Ford, whose record was 10-4 with a 2.69 ERA at the break, notwithstanding having given up eight runs in eight innings in his last two starts, and Bob Turley, whose shutout of the Senators on July 9 gave him an 11-7 record and 3.06 ERA to take into the American League All-Star clubhouse. Ford’s recent ineffectiveness wound up extending to the All-Star Game, played in Milwaukee, when he came on to pitch in the seventh inning with the AL leading 5-0 and surrendered the lead without surviving the eighth. The NL won the game, 6-5, in the 12th on a Stan Musial walk-off home run.

Although each had highlight moments vs. the Yankees’ two principal rivals for the pennant, Ford and Turley both had losing records against the White Sox and Indians. Ford was 1-2 in four starts against Chicago, but his win was a 1-0 seven-hit shutout on May 17. He had also thrown a four-hit shutout against Cleveland on June 26. The Indians had otherwise roughed up the slick lefty, however, hammering Ford for 13 runs in 10.1 innings covering another start and two relief appearances; he was the losing pitcher in only one of those debacles, however.

And Turley was 1-2 in three starts vs. the White Sox and 0-2 in two starts vs. the Indians. His one win was a one-hitter on April 26 at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Sherm Lollar got the only hit, a second-inning single. Turley was less than sharp in his one-hit shall we call it a masterpiece (?), walking nine (that’s “9”) batters, striking out 10, and throwing an uncounted but presumably outrageous number of pitches. He was helped out by three double plays turned by the Yankee infield.

The Indians and White Sox both had five players named to the AL All-Star team. Chicago second baseman Nellie Fox was voted into the starting line-up and Billy Pierce, with only a 5-6 record but an excellent 2.11 ERA, was selected to start. White Sox catcher Sherm Lollar, shortstop Chico Carrasquel, and pitcher Dick Donovan, who had an outstanding 10-2, 2.38 mark at the break, rounded out the Chicago contingent to the AL All-Stars.

Cleveland had nobody starting in the game, but position players Bobby Avila (second base), Al Rosen (third base), and Larry Doby (center field) made the team, as did rookie phenom Herb Score—whose record was only 8-7 but was setting the league afire by striking out more than a batter an inning—and Early Wynn (11-4, 2.71) as pitchers. Wynn had beaten the Yankees in complete games in all three of his starts against the team that seemed poised to run away with the title.

The Yankees’ 6½-game lead on July 2nd and July 3rd, despite their 5-0 loss that day to the visiting Senators, would be their biggest of the season. Their loss to Washington began a stretch straddling the All-Star break in which they dropped 13 of 18 to lose the entirety of their All-Star-break lead by July 23. On that date, the White Sox had moved into a tie with them for first and the Indians had closed to within a game of the top. It was now 94 games down for the Yankees with a 57-37 record and 60 to go. Cleveland had the same number of games remaining on their schedule after July 23, and Chicago had 62 left.

Comments

One Response to “At the All-Star Break 60 Years Ago: Yankees Look Poised to Run Off With AL Flag”
  1. Paul Dunn says:

    I was eight years old when the 1955 season and this was the first pennant race
    I really followed. These articles are great. In May I saw Herb Score blank the Red Sox 19-0. My Mother and Father pulled me out my third grade class to see the game.

    Many Thanks

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