by Harold Friend
Doc Friend has followed the New York Yankees since Sept. 1951. To say that he is intense is like saying the desert is dry. In 1963, Doc felt so strongly that the Yankees would lose to Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers in the World Series that he was tempted to bet on the Dodgers. His weird logic was that at least he would be compensated for his misery. Of course, Doc never did make a bet, because betting is illegal.
Worried About the Dodgers
The New York Yankees won their fourth consecutive pennant without much trouble in 1963, winning 104 games to finish 10 and one-half games ahead of the WhiteSox, but I was worried about facing the Dodgers in the World Series.
Sandy Koufax' Great 1963 Season
Sandy Koufax was one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he was coming off a season in which he had won 25 games while losing only five,
He pitched 311 innings, allowing only 214 hits and 65 walks, seven of which were intentional.
Koufax had a 1.88 ERA, a 159 ERA+, a minuscule WHIP of 0.875, 11 shut outs, and 306 strikeouts. Teams just didn't score many runs against him, and the Yankees' offense was not close to what it had been in 1961.
I had been wary of the Braves in 1957 and 1958, but I thought we had a good chance of beating them.
Most "experts" today consider Warren Spahn better than Koufax, but I knew (thought) it was possible to score a few runs off Spahn. I didn't feel that way about Koufax.
Bill Skowron Could Not Help the Yankees
In a terrible trade, the Yankees had sent Bill Skowron to the Dodgers for Stan Williams. The Yankees' power was now primarily left handed, with Joe Pepitone, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, and Johnny Blanchard.
Of course, Mickey Mantle and Tommy Tresh switch-hit, Ellie Howard was coming off his best season, and there was always Hector Lopez, but Skowron would have helped against left handers.
Los Angeles' Offense
Los Angeles was close to being an offensively challenged team, but they usually managed to scratch out a run or two, which was enough in most games.
Frank Howard was their only real home run threat besidesSkowron, but the Moose was coming off a horrible season in which he batted only .203 with four home runs.
Stolen Base Threats
Tommy Davis led the National League in batting with a .326 average and hit 16 home runs. Lead off batter Maury Wills, a Detroit Tigers' reject, hit .302 with 40 stolen bases.
Wills, Willie Davis, Tommy Davis, and Jim Gilliam were threats to steal a base, which could result in the Dodgers stealing a run and a game.
Johnny Podres Again
Koufax would open up the World Series at Yankee Stadium, and he would be followed by Johnny Podres the next day.
Managers liked to pitch lefties at Yankee Stadium to counteract the short right field porch. Podres was another reason I was concerned. In 1955, he beat us in Game 3, and then shut us in Game 7.
The Yankees would open with Whitey Ford, but I felt about him the same way I felt about Spahn. Both were great pitchers, but there was a better chance of scoring a run or two against them than against Koufax.
Al Downing Would Oppose Podres
Al Downing, who threw almost as hard as Koufax, but who lacked experience, would oppose Podres.
I thought that if Downing could stay with Podres, we would have a chance, but Los Angeles made short work of him, scoring two runs in the first and then getting another in the fourth when Skowron hit a home run.
Don Drysdale was the third Los Angeles pitcher. Drysdale was an experienced pitcher who could shut down a team.
He struck out 251 batters, had a 2.63 ERA, and won 19 games in 1963. Lack of offense was the primary reason he was beaten 17 times.
Until the era of "Arena Baseball," starting pitchers worked on three days' rest. Koufax and Ford would face each other again in the fourth game.
Tommy Tresh: Too Little, Too Late
I couldn't watch most of the first game because I was teaching, and the games were played in the afternoon. Bold text I heard TommyTresh hit a two-run home run off Koufax in the eighth inning, but that made the score 5-2, Los Angeles.
It gave me some hope for the fourth game, but not much. Koufax struck out 15 to break Carl Erskine's mark, and we were down by a game.
A Costly Error
Podres won the next day, 4-1, Drysdale out-dueled Jim Bouton in the third game, and although Ford matched Koufax in Game 4, Joe Pepitone missed a throw from third baseman Clete Boyer which allowed Jim Gilliam to get to third base with no outs.
Gilliam scored on a sacrifice fly by Willie Davis to deep center field, and the World Series would soon be over.
Koufax had been amazing. He was 2-0, pitched two complete games, struck out 23 Yankees, and had a 1.50 ERA.
The Yankees scored four runs the entire Series. They batted .171 with a .240 slugging average. It was not a happy time.