by Harold Friend
Charlie Cret i s still a Brooklyn Dodgers' fan. He admits that it is difficult to root for a team that no longer exists, but that is not enough to decrease his loyalty to his team. Living in Brooklyn, Charlie couldn't help but be exposed to the New York Yankees, a team that wasn't one of his favorites. Charlie believes that the 1961 Yankees are a vastly overrated team that would have had a difficult time beating his 1953 Dodgers.
The 1969 Mets and Jets
Don't tell me that the 1953 Dodgers didn't win the World Series. I already know that. I also know that the best team doesn't always become the World Champion. You don't really believe that 1969 Mets were better than the Orioles or that the 1968 Jets (Jan. 12, 1969 Super Bowl) were better than the Colts? You do?
Overrated Roger Maris
The 1961 Yankees had an overrated offense. Roger Maris hit 61 home runs, but he batted only .269, with a .372 on base average and a .620 slugging average. Besides his home runs, Roger had only 20 extra base hits (16 doubles and 4 triples).
The Top of the Yankees' Batting Order
Second baseman Bobby Richardson usually batted lead off. He batted .261, with an anemic .295 on base average and only 30 walks. Shortstop Tony Kubek, who often batted second, hit .276, with a .306 on base average and 27 walks.
Sometimes left fielder Hector Lopez batted second. "What a pair of hands," as writer Leonard Schechter referred to Hector, hit .222, with a .292 on base average and a .305 slugging average. Richardson, Kubek, and Lopez were not exactly table setters for Maris and Mantle, but the team was considered one of the greatest ever.
Clete Boyer Was Offensively Challenged
Clete Boyer played third base. He was great defensively, but he hit .224, had a .308 on base average, and slugged .347. At first base, Bill Skowron hit 28 home runs, batted .267, had a .318 on base average, and slugged .472. "Moose" had little range in the field.
The Yankees' Offense
The Yankees' offense was Mantle (.317 average, 54 home runs, .448 OBA, and .687 SA), the overrated Maris, and catcher Elston Howard, who hit .348, with a .387 on base average and a .549 slugging average. Johnny Blanchard and Yogi Berra provided power, and platooned with Hector Lopez in left field.
The bench consisted of either Berra or Lopez and Blanchard, depending upon who was playing left field. Jack Reed, Bob Cerv, Billy Gardner, Joe DeMaestri, Earl Torgeson, and Bob Hale contributed little.
Brooklyn's Lead Off Hitter
My 1953 Brooklyn team had second baseman Jim Gilliam leading off. Jim's 1953 season was far superior to Bobby Richardson's 1961 season. Our lead off batter hit .278 and had a .383 on base average, thanks to 100 walks. Jim Gilliam had 70 more bases on ball than Bobby Richardson.
Pee Wee Reese
Hall of Famer PeeWee Reese batted second. The Kentucky Colonel hit .271, with a .374 on base average. He slugged .420, compared to Tony Kubek's .395, and was more consistent in the field than Kubek.
Billy Cox Was Better Defensively Than Clete Boyer
Billy Cox out hit and out fielded Clete Boyer. Some arrogant Yankees' fans think that Boyer was better defensively than Brooks Robinson. Well, I have news for them. Boyer wasn't even as good in the field as Billy Cox, and in 1953, Billy hit .291 with a .363 on base average. I mean, Cox' batting average was almost as high as Boyer's on base average.
The Great Gil Hodges
You cannot compare Gil Hodges to Bill Skowron, Hodges was the greatest right handed defensive first baseman in baseball history, and in 1953, the man who managed the Miracle Mets, batted.302, blasted 31 home runs, batted in 122 runs, and slugged .550.
Comparing the 1953 Brooklyn infield with the 1961 Yankees' infield is like comparing a meal at your mother's house to a frozen dinner.
What An Outfield
Our outfield was unbelievable. Duke Snider hit .336, with 42 home runs and 126 RBIs. Those numbers compare quite favorably to Mantle's 1961 season. And Duke had a .419 on base average. He slugged .627, and was at least Mantle's equal in the field.
Carl Furillo played right field. He was not called the "Reading Rifle" for nothing. Yes, Maris had a great arm, but no one had a better arm than Carl Furillo. He hit .344, which led the National League, hit 21 home runs, and slugged .580.
Jackie Robinson usually played left field, although Jackie filled in elsewhere occasionally, He hit .329, with a .425 on base average, but it must be remembered that he was Jackie Robinson. A greater competitor never played the game. Jackie revolutionized baseball on many levels, not the least of which was his aggressive, "take no prisoners" style.
Roy Campanella's Season
Now we come to the best part. In 1961, Elston Howard the best season of his career. Don't tell me he was the MVP in 1963. Nineteen sixty one was Howard's best year, but Roy Campanella, who was better than even Yogi Berra, had a Mike Piazza offensive season (Campanella was a great, great defensive catcher) without a juiced up baseball.
Campy batted .312, hit 41 home runs (hello, Johnny Bench), batted in 142 runs, and had a .611 slugging average. Still think Elston Howard had a better season?
Comparing Team Statistics
Brooklyn dominated the team statistics. The Dodgers scored 955 runs in 155 games, for an average of 6.16 runs a game. The Yankees scored 827 runs in 163 games for an average of 5.07 runs a game. Brooklyn scored one more run a game than the Yankees. That is significant.
Brooklyn batted .285. New York batted .263. Brooklyn hit 208 home runs compared to the Yankees' record-setting 240 home runs. Brooklyn slugged .474 compared to the Yankees' .442. Even with Maris and Mantle, the Yankees were out slugged by Brooklyn.
Now, I know that pitching wins championships, but the 1953 Dodgers pitching was more than adequate. To be brief, the Dodgers team ERA was 4.10, but it was bettered only by Milwaukee's 3.30, and Philadelphia's 3.77. Brooklyn's ERA+ was 104, and the staff led the league with 817 strike outs when strikeouts were detested by good hitters.
The 1961 Yankees had a 3.46 ERA, with a 108 ERA+. A lot closer than most fans would think. The staff had 866 strikeouts in eight more games.
There is no doubt that the Dodgers would have beaten the 1961 Yankees. The 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers don't get the respect they earned, and because they were not World Champions, they are dismissed as one of the great teams, while the 1961 Yankees, because they had a player who broke the single season home record in an expansion season, are inaccurately ranked as one of the great teams. Not in my mind.