One week later the Giants had closed the deficit to one game. In the final game on September 30, Willie Mays’ eighth-inning home run gave San Francisco a 2-1 victory at home against Houston, while Los Angeles was losing at home to St. Louis, 1-0. Gene Oliver’s eighth-inning homer sent the Dodgers to their fourth straight defeat and sixth loss in their last seven games. Second in the league to San Francisco in runs scored, they were in the midst of a batting slump and hadn’t scored in 21 innings.1
A three-game playoff would decide the winner of the National League pennant.2 Dodgers manager Walter Alston selected Sandy Koufax as his starting pitcher for the first playoff game, at Candlestick Park on October 1. Koufax, sidelined in mid-July because of numbness in his left index finger, had been ineffective since returning in mid-September. Mays hit a two-run homer in the first inning,3 and San Francisco went on to win, 8-0.
The teams moved to Dodger Stadium the next day. The score was 5-0 in San Francisco’s favor when Los Angeles finally broke its scoring drought with seven runs in the sixth inning. The Giants tied the game in the eighth, but the Dodgers won, 8-7, when Maury Wills scored the winning run in the ninth on a sacrifice by Ron Fairly.
For the decisive third game, Dodgers coach Leo Durocher, who had managed the 1951 Giants to their dramatic playoff victory over the Dodgers when both teams were in New York, brought the same T-shirt he wore 11 years earlier when Bobby Thomson hit his pennant-winning home run. Current Giants manager Alvin Dark, Durocher’s starting shortstop in 1951, was asked if he had brought anything from that game. He replied, “Yeah, Willie Mays.”4
Johnny Podres, pitching on two days’ rest for the first time in his career,5 held the Giants scoreless in the first two innings, allowing only a single by leadoff hitter Harvey Kuenn. Wills singled to start the bottom of the first, but he was the only baserunner allowed by San Francisco starter Juan Marichal in the initial two frames.
Jose Pagan singled to open the top half of the third. Podres fielded Marichal’s bunt and threw past second base into center; Pagan took third on the error. Pagan scored on Kuenn’s single to left, with Marichal holding at second.
Hiller flied out to left. Marichal bluffed for home, and Duke Snider’s throw was cut off by third baseman Tommy Davis, who threw to Jim Gilliam at second, catching Kuenn in a rundown. Kuenn scrambled back toward first; Gilliam’s throw hit him in the back. Kuenn was safe at first, and Marichal scored on Los Angeles’s third error of the inning for a 2-0 lead.
In the Dodgers’ half of the third, Wills singled with two outs and stole second. He was stranded there after Gilliam’s fly out. Consecutive two-out singles in the fourth put Giants runners on first and second, but Kuenn fouled out to the catcher, ending the threat.
Snider doubled to start the Dodgers fourth and advanced to third on a single by Tommy Davis. One out later, Frank Howard grounded to third. Davis slid hard into second base, breaking up a potential double play and allowing Snider to score. The Giants’ lead was down to 2-1.
In the sixth, the Giants loaded the bases with no outs on Orlando Cepeda’s line-drive single to right, Ed Bailey’s smash off Wills’s glove, and Jim Davenport’s bunt single. Ed Roebuck, making his sixth appearance in the Dodgers’ last seven games, relieved Podres. Pagan grounded to Wills, who threw home for the force out. Marichal hit into a groundball double play; the Dodgers escaped, still training by only a run.
Roebuck’s clutch relief looked like a turning point after Snider led off the Dodgers’ half of the sixth with a single. Tommy Davis hit a 3-and-1 pitch deep into the left-center-field seats, putting the Dodgers in front, 3-2.6
The Giants failed to score in the seventh, leaving runners stranded at first and second, and the Dodgers added a run in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Wills hit his fourth straight single and stole second on Marichal’s first pitch to Gilliam, who then flied out to left. Wills stole third on the first pitch to the next batter, Larry Burright, and came home when Bailey’s errant throw bounced past Davenport into left field.7 Los Angeles now led 4-2.
Roebuck kept the Giants scoreless in the eighth. In the Dodgers half of the inning, Marichal, after throwing three pitches to Tommy Davis, all balls, was relieved by Don Larsen, whose first pitch was a low curve for ball four. A sacrifice by Fairly moved Davis to second. He stole third on Frank Howard’s swinging strikeout. Larsen intentionally walked the next two batters, bringing up the pitcher. Roebuck grounded out, but the Dodgers were three outs from the World Series.
Matty Alou, pinch hitting for Larsen, singled on Roebuck’s first pitch in the top of the ninth. Kuenn forced Alou at second on a grounder but beat the throw to first, avoiding a double play. Pinch-hitter Willie McCovey walked on four pitches, then Felipe Alou walked on a 3-and-2 count to load the bases.
Alston visited the mound, but left Roebuck in the game. Mays lined a single off Roebuck’s glove, scoring Kuenn to cut the gap to 4-3.
Stan Williams relieved with the bases still loaded. Cepeda’s sacrifice fly to right tied the score, with Felipe Alou advancing to third.
Williams threw a strike to Bailey, then sailed a high pitch over Roseboro’s glove. Alou held at third as Mays advanced to second on the wild pitch. Alston called for an intentional walk to Bailey, and the bases were again loaded.
Davenport walked on five pitches, sending Alou home with the go-ahead run.
Ron Perranoski relieved Williams, and Jose Pagan hit a grounder toward second. Burright, a defensive replacement in the seventh, bobbled the ball for an error – Los Angeles’ fourth error of the game. Mays scored for a two-run lead.
After watching his team score four runs on two hits, four walks, an error, and a wild pitch to take the lead, 6-4, Billy Pierce relieved and retired the Dodgers in order in the home half of the ninth. The Giants were headed to the World Series for the first time since moving to California after the 1957 season.
The Dodgers kept the press out of their locker room for nearly an hour after the loss. Team captain Snider, one of the few to dress in order to congratulate the Giants, said, “Don’t hold it against the guys. They just want to cool off. They agreed they didn’t feel like talking. They’re still in a daze.”8
Alston said he let Roebuck hit in the eighth with the bases loaded and two out because Roebuck was the best pitcher to protect the Dodgers’ two-run lead. Stating that his pitchers finally “ran out of gas,” Alston added, “We just came close, that’s all. Ed Roebuck did one helluva job as long as he lasted. I think everybody gave it everything he possibly could.”10
Dark defended his counterpart’s strategy. “Maybe some will think he should have taken Ed Roebuck out of the game earlier in the ninth inning, but I don’t think he could have, the way Roebuck was pitching,” Dark said. “When McCovey went to bat with a man on first, Alston could have called in Ron Perranoski, his lefthander, but he knew that my next three batters after McCovey were righthanders, so he couldn’t take a chance with a lefthanded pitcher in a spot like that.”11
San Francisco and the New York Yankees split the first six games of the 1962 World Series. Down 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth in Game Seven, the Giants had runners on second and third with two outs and McCovey at the plate. Their hopes of another comeback were silenced when McCovey’s line drive was caught by Bobby Richardson.
Despite speculation that he would be replaced by either Durocher or Pete Reiser,12 Alston signed his 10th one-year contract to manage the Dodgers the day after the World Series ended.13 Koufax made a complete recovery in 1963, winning 25 games and the Cy Young Award.14 He was also named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. Los Angeles held off a late-season challenge by the St. Louis Cardinals to win the pennant. San Francisco finished in third place. The Dodgers swept the Yankees in the 1963 World Series.
The author accessed Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org. for box scores/play-by-play information, player, team, and season pages, pitching and batting game logs, and other data:
1 Dan Hafner, “Stunned Dodgers Can’t Believe It,” Los Angeles Times, October 1, 1962: C4.
2 It was the fourth time the NL season ended with two teams tied for first place, necessitating a best-of-three-games playoff to decide the pennant winner. In 1946 the Dodgers and Cardinals tied, with St. Louis winning the first two playoff games. In 1951 the Dodgers and Giants needed three games to determine a winner, with Bobby Thomson’s home run in the bottom of the ninth giving the Giants the pennant. In 1959, the Dodgers won the first two playoff games against the Braves. Dodgers outfielder Duke Snider and Giants center fielder Willie Mays were the only active players remaining from the 1951 playoff. Leo Durocher, now a coach for Los Angeles, managed the Dodgers in 1946 and the Giants in 1951. Current San Francisco manager Alvin Dark and coaches Whitey Lockman, Wes Westrum, and Larry Jansen all played for the Giants in 1951.
3 Results of the playoff games counted in the players’ season statistics. At the end of the 162-game schedule, Mays led the National League in home runs, with 47, but Harmon Killebrew of the American League’s Twins led the majors with 48. In addition to his first-inning home run, Mays hit one off Larry Sherry in the sixth inning, giving him a major-league-leading total of 49.
4 “Playoff Pearls,” The Sporting News, October 13, 1962: 10.
5 Bob Hunter, “Dodger Slab Staff Cracks in Showdown,” The Sporting News, October 13, 1962: 7.
6 The two RBIs gave Davis 153 for the season, tops in the majors. Davis started the game with a .344 batting average, two points ahead of Cincinnati’s Frank Robinson. He ended the day with a .346 average after two hits and a walk in four plate appearances.
7 Wills had four steals in the playoff series, bringing his season total to 104, a major-league record at the time. He edged out Mays for the National League MVP award (209 points with 8 first-place vote to 202 points with 7 first-place votes for Mays).
8 “Dodgers Want to Be Alone,” San Francisco Examiner, October 4, 1962: 65.
9 “Dodgers Want to Be Alone.”
10 “Dodgers Want to Be Alone.”
11 “Playoff Pearls,” The Sporting News, October 13, 1962: 10.
12 Sid Ziff, “Walt Will Be Back,” Los Angeles Times, October 11, 1962: B3.
13 Paul Zimmerman, “Alston Keeps Job, OK’s Durocher Stay,” Los Angeles Times, October 18, 1962: B3.
14 Until 1967, only one Cy Young Award, covering both the National and American Leagues, was given.