Between its opening in April 1923 and its final game in September 2008, Yankee Stadium hosted 161 postseason games. That stadium’s legacy is larger, perhaps, than even our collective memory of it, a true baseball cathedral that hosted so many of the sport’s immortal players and moments that it is inextricably meshed with the lore of the game. The fans sat much closer to the field than in the current iteration, but the outfield farthest outfield fences were originally 490 feet from home plate. When paired with a 295-foot right-field line, the facility was unique to baseball. So many of those contests at that stadium now fill baseball’s collective lore: part myth, part memory, and part fact, those unforgettable events are tiny tiles in the mosaic of the game’s history. One of the most notable games occurred on October 10, 1962. It was Game Five of a World Series against the San Francisco Giants, and the 5-3 New York victory put the Yankees up 3 games to 2 to send the Series back to California for what would prove to be a compelling seven-game championship for the Yankees.
To that point, the first pitch of Game Five, the Series had been a see-saw battle between the longtime rivals. Whitey Ford and the Yankees won Game One by a 6-2 score, but San Francisco’s Jack Sanford shut out Ralph Terry and New York, 2-0, in the second game.1 The Yankees took a 2-games-to-1 Series lead with a tight 3-2 Game Three win, but again the Giants roared back to tie the Series at two games each with Chuck Hiller’s grand slam pacing a 7-3 win in Game Four.2 In a plot twist found only in baseball, the Giants’ winning pitcher in Game Four was none other than Don Larsen, who tossed one-third of an inning and thus became the pitcher of record for the day.3 This was the same Don Larsen who had tossed the only perfect game in World Series history for the Yankees in 1956. Game Five, it turned out, ratcheted up the drama a few more clicks, ultimately ending on a dramatic eighth-inning home run by young outfielder Tom Tresh.4
The game actually began later than originally planned because of a one-day rain postponement. The scheduling problem caused a bit of trouble for the visiting Giants. They “checked out of their hotel and their bags were at the airport,” according to The Sporting News.5 The team had ultimately found lodging, but scheduled starting pitcher Jack Sanford was not pleased. Not only did key Yankees Bill Stafford and Bill Skowron enjoy an extra, free day to heal various dings, but ace Whitey Ford picked up an extra day of rest as well, all while the emotional Sanford had to temper his competitive juices for another day.
The next day, October 10, turned out to be a beautiful early autumn day. The game-time weather was clear, the temperature a brisk 65o F. The outfield was reportedly still a bit slick from the previous day’s rain, but The Sporting News reported that the infield was “in splendid shape.”6 The first pitch was finally thrown on Wednesday afternoon, in front of 63,165 spectators, a ball from Ralph Terry to Giants second baseman Chuck Hiller. After Hiller walked, Terry struck out Jim Davenport and Matty Alou before ending the inning on Willie Mays’ lineout to left field.
Tony Kubek led off the Yankees attack with a single to right-center field. Second baseman Bobby Richardson hit a sure-thing double-play grounder to Hiller at second base, but Hiller misplayed the ball and Richardson was safe on the error. Tom Tresh then smote a liner up the middle, but it somehow found Sanford’s glove. The Sporting News characterized the play: “Apparently unaware for the moment that he had it, Sanford looked down to find it – and that cost him what could have been triple play.”7 Mickey Mantle hit a grounder between first and second, with first baseman Willie McCovey deflecting the ball toward Hiller as he attempted to field it. Even after 10 years in the majors, Mantle was still quick enough to beat the toss to Sanford, covering first. Mantle then proceeded to steal second base as well, before Roger Maris flied out to end the rally.
Both teams went down one-two-three in the second. Chuck Hiller’s double drove in shortstop Jose Pagan for the first run of the game in the third, but the Yankees knotted the score in the bottom of the fourth. Tresh hit a popup to shortstop Jose Pagan, but the ball bounced out of Pagan’s normally reliable glove. Mantle walked, and Tresh took third when Maris’s grounder forced Mantle at second. Catcher Elston Howard struck out, but Sanford’s wild pitch allowed Tresh to score.
Pagan atoned for his earlier miscue with a home run on a 1-and-0 count to lead off the fifth, but a Sanford offering that catcher Tom Haller couldn’t handle, scored as a passed ball, once again tied the score, 2-2, in the bottom of the sixth. Haller retrieved the ball and rifled it to Sanford, covering home, but plate umpire Al Barlick called Richardson safe. The seventh inning passed, like the entire game to that point, in relative quiet, a figurative calm before the eighth-inning storm. Through seven innings, a Yankees lineup that featured Mantle and Maris, the M-and-M boys of the preceding season’s home-run race to the record, had been able to score only two runs, on a passed ball and a wild pitch.
Terry mowed down the Giants in the top of the eighth inning: Jim Davenport struck out, Matty Alou flied out to left, and Mays grounded out to third to end the frame. Both teams had squandered earlier scoring opportunities. While Sanford had wriggled out of several potential threats earlier, continuing to put Yankees on base was bound to cause trouble for the visitors. After the game there was some murmuring that manager Alvin Dark had intended to relieve Sanford. According to one national writer, “Sanford was doing a good bit of talking (to the manager), Dark kept looking at the bull pen and once appeared to almost raise his hand as if to call in a reliever.”8 The manager stuck with his starter, a pitcher with a 24-7 record that season and certainly one of the stars of the talented pitching staff.
Opening the bottom of the eighth, Terry struck out, but then Tony Kubek lined a single to right field. Bobby Richardson pushed Kubek to second with another single, this time to left, which brought Tresh to the plate. According to The Sporting News, Tresh “blistered” Sanford’s third pitch over the right-field fence, at the 344-foot marker, for a three-run homer. That blow pushed the score to a 5-2 Yankee advantage.9 Tresh later told reporters that “I was choked up on the bat, just trying for a base hit, especially with [Sanford] pitching.” He continued, saying, “But he threw me a fast ball right down the pipe. I was sure surprised to see it, because I hadn’t seen anything like that off him in two games. … It was the biggest hit of my life.”10
After the bases cleared, Dark brought in Stu Miller to relieve Sanford, and Miller coerced a weak grounder to second base by Mantle. Maris walked, but the inning ended on Elston Howard’s fly ball to center field.
Willie McCovey led off the Giants’ ninth, their last shot, with a single, but Felipe Alou struck out for the first out. Haller smacked a double to center field to drive in McCovey, but Pagan grounded out and pinch-hitter Ed Bailey lined out to right to end the threat and the game.
For the game, Ralph Terry threw 120 pitches in going the distance for New York. At the time, according to The Sporting News, that was considered “about par for a nine inning effort.”11 On the San Francisco side, Jack Sanford pitched into the eighth, throwing 129 pitches, but still absorbed the loss. In all, the game lasted 2 hours and 42 minutes.
With the 5-3 win, the Yankees took a 3-games-to-2 lead and headed to San Francisco needing only one win to take the Series. The Giants prevailed in Game Six, 5-2, but Sanford and Terry matched up again in Game Seven, a 1-0 win for Terry, who threw a four-hitter.12 It was the 20th championship in the storied history of the franchise.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
Photo credit: National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.
1 Associated Press, “Dark Shakes Up ‘Shook-Up’ Giants,” Elmira (New York) Star-Gazette, October 5, 1962: 14.
2 Jack Hand (Associated Press), “Giants Even Series on Hiller Grand Slam,” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, October 9, 1962: 34.
3 Associated Press, “He’s Hit So Few – Hiller Wasn’t Sure It Was Homer,” Syracuse Post-Standard, October 9, 1962: 13.
5 “Rain Drops,” The Sporting News, October 20, 1962: 23.
6 “Yanks Ride to 5-3 Victory on Tresh’s Three-Run HR,” The Sporting News, October 27, 1962: 25.
7 “Yanks Ride to 5-3 Victory on Tresh’s Three-Run HR.”
8 “Did Sanford Outtalk Dark?” The Sporting News, October 27, 1962: 25.
9 “Yanks Ride to 5-3 Victory on Tresh’s Three-Run HR.”
10 Associated Press, “Tresh Hero of Yankees’ 3rd Series Win,” Paterson (New Jersey) News, October 11, 1962: 41.
11 “Skowron Whiffs Three Times,” The Sporting News, October 27, 1962: 25.
12 The lone run of the game scored when, with the bases loaded and nobody out, Tony Kubek grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.