With the Milwaukee Braves having won the opening game of the 1958 World Series the day before, the narrative was simple for both teams. If the Braves were to win again, they would take a 2-0 lead in the series and start to feel really confident about capturing their second straight title. If the New York Yankees won, they would earn a split on the road and home-field advantage.
Game-time weather was slightly warmer than the previous day, although still chilly. A crowd identical to that of the previous day, 46,367, was on hand to see the color guard present the colors, and to watch the highly anticipated matchup of 20-game winners. Yankee killer Lew Burdette (20-10 in the regular season) was coming back after his three wins in the previous World Series, facing Bob Turley, who had completed a career year by leading the American League in wins with a 21-7 record.
The Yankees started quickly. Hank Bauer led off the game with a single, extending his record World Series hitting streak to 16 games. Then Eddie Mathews threw a groundball past first, letting Bauer get to third and Gil McDougald to second. Mickey Mantle was intentionally walked (a wise decision given what was to come in the game), and the Yankees had the bases loaded with nobody out. But Elston Howard grounded to second, forcing Mantle as Bauer scored, and then Yogi Berra hit into a double play, and the Braves escaped with little damage.
Milwaukee quickly made the Yankees pay for missing the opportunity, as the Braves’ leadoff batter, Bill Bruton, homered to tie the score, and then the floodgates opened. Red Schoendienst doubled, and after Mathews struck out and Hank Aaron walked, a Wes Covington single just past the second baseman gave the Braves a 2-1 lead. Yankees manager Casey Stengel had already seen enough from his starter and pulled Turley after he had faced just five batters and gotten one out. After the game Berra talked about Turley’s pitching: “They were hitting his fastball. … I switched and called for curves. Bob couldn’t control his curve and he switched back to the fastball and they hit it again.”1
In came Duke Maas, who got Frank Torre to fly to shallow left, not deep enough to score Aaron from third, but Del Crandall walked to load the bases and Johnny Logan singled down the left-field line to bring in Aaron and Covington. Then came the backbreaking blow as Burdette shocked everyone by hitting a three-run homer to left-center, the sixth World Series home run by a pitcher. Howard ran into the fence trying to catch the ball. He tore his pants and cut his knee, and had to leave the game. Norm Siebern took over in left field.
Stengel pulled Maas, the second pitcher removed after getting just one out, and Johnny Kucks came in to get Bruton on a liner to short and end the inning. The Braves had scored seven runs, breaking the World Series record for the most runs in the first inning, and the game was seemingly over when it had barely begun. A double by Mathews and single by Covington tacked on a run in the second, and sure enough, Burdette made sure things stayed easy for the Braves. He dominated the hitters, keeping them off balance and not allowing New York to get anything going. Mantle homered into the Braves bullpen to lead off the fourth, but that was one of just two hits that Burdette allowed between the second and eighth innings.
Murry Dickson took the mound for the Yankees in the fifth inning and pitched well for a couple of innings, not letting the Braves mount much of a threat, but in the seventh he gave up three consecutive singles for a run, and a sacrifice fly that made it 10-2. In the eighth, rookie Zach Monroe took over for the Yankees, but he also gave up three straight hits and a sacrifice fly, pushing the score to 13-2. The Yankees made some noise in the ninth. Bauer led off with a home run to left, and after McDougald singled Mantle hit his second home run of the game, but it was too little too late and the Braves emerged with a 13-5 win and a 2-0 series lead.
The Yankees did almost nothing through eight innings, as Burdette dominated, giving up just three hits and one walk — which was intentional. He might have been excused for letting up a little in the ninth with such a big lead, but afterward he said that the Yankees had just hit good pitches at the end. Even after that performance Stengel wasn’t giving anything to Burdette. “I’ll say this, the man pitched all right with men on the bases, but he wasn’t great,” Stengel said.2
After the game Stengel still had faith in his team. “I’ll pay you when we return,” he told the visiting clubhouse man in Milwaukee, showing that he expected to be back for a Game Six.3 “We done it before, coming on to win after being two down, and we can do it again,” he insisted.4
The Braves weren’t counting on anything either, despite taking a 2-0 lead in the World Series. “They’re a tough ball club and it’s going to be a rough series,” said Haney.5 “Nobody on the club has even mentioned the idea of sweeping it in four,”6 wrote Schoendienst in his column for the Milwaukee Sentinel.
Mantle’s two homers took him to 11 World Series home runs for his career, passing Lou Gehrig, Duke Snider, and Yogi Berra (all with 10) into second place all-time, but still four home runs behind Babe Ruth’s record 15. He wasn’t impressed with himself though, saying after the game, “My hitting doesn’t mean anything if we get beat.”7
This article appears in “From the Braves to the Brewers: Great Games and Exciting History at Milwaukee’s County Stadium” (SABR, 2016), edited by Gregory H. Wolf. To read more stories from this book at the SABR Games Project, click here.
1 The Sporting News, October 15, 1958: 19.
2 Rel Bochat, “Desperate? Not Me — Casey,” Milwaukee Sentinel, October 3, 1958: 3.
3 Hy Hurwitz, “‘We’ll return,’ Stengel Told Milwaukee Clubhouse Man,” The Sporting News, October 15, 1958: 9.
4 Red Thisted, “4 in a Row? Braves Aren’t Saying,” Milwaukee Journal, October 4, 1958: 1.
5 Lou Chapman, “‘4 Straight’ Talk Scorned by Braves,” Milwaukee Sentinel, October 3, 1958: 3.
6 Red Schoendienst, “Can’t Sell Yankees Short,” Milwaukee Sentinel, October 4, 1958: 2.
7 Bochat: 4.