October 5, 1956: Dodgers win Game 2 with slugging on the diamond and in parking lot

This article was written by John Bauer


For the sixth time in 10 years, October baseball was the exclusive preserve of the same two boroughs of New York City: the Bronx and Brooklyn. Once again, the championship would be contested between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Until the Dodgers finally bested the Yankees in 1955, every preceding October matchup went to the Yankees. With home-field advantage at their Ebbets Field home, the Dodgers got the jump on turning the success of the previous year into a trend. They won the 1956 Series opener, 6-3, with Sal Maglie outdueling Whitey Ford.

Ebbets Field would serve as the confluence of sport and politics ahead of the coming presidential election. Game One had been attended by President Dwight Eisenhower; his opponent, Adlai Stevenson, would witness Game Two. The plan had been for Stevenson to throw out the first pitch before Game Three at Yankee Stadium but weather would interrupt those plans. With overcast skies and light sprinkles on the morning of the Wednesday, October 4, Commissioner Ford Frick huddled with the managers and the umpires. Based on information from weather agencies, the game was postponed. The domino effect related not just to the presence of presidential candidates; it also affected the preparation of the starting pitchers, particularly Dodgers ace Don Newcombe.

A 27-game winner during the 1956 NL season, Newcombe had pitched in the pennant-clincher against Pittsburgh the prior Sunday. The extra day of rest was not considered a benefit. Dodgers manager Walter Alston said, “With four days his control isn’t always so sharp.”1 Newcombe agreed: “I’m better with three days rest than four.”2 For a pitcher whose season would result in the Cy Young and MVP awards, the issue of rest might seem overdone. Newcombe dealt with lingering questions about winning the “big one”; he pitched three times against the Yankees in the 1949 and 1955 World Series, and lost each time. Irritated by the narrative about his prior performances, Newcombe said, “Some people have said I choke up. I’ve pitched and won a lot of games and why is it that none of ‘em is a ‘big one’?”3 Following some pregame clowning in which Alston and Yankees manager Casey Stengel would place their caps atop the dome of the White Sox-supporting Stevenson, Newcombe took the mound against his tormentors, albeit an altered lineup from what Maglie faced.

Stengel shook up his lineup after the Game One loss. First baseman Bill Skowron was benched in favor of Joe Collins. Andy Carey surrendered third base to Billy Martin, who moved over from second base to accommodate Jerry Coleman. The only unchanged position in the Yankees infield concerned shortstop and leadoff hitter Gil McDougald, who ground out to his opposite number Pee Wee Reese for the first out of Game Two. Enos Slaughter slapped a single to right for the game’s first hit. Mickey Mantle flied out to Duke Snider in center field, but Newcombe surrendered a two-out walk to Yogi Berra. Collins lined a single to center that plated Slaughter for an early lead. Hank Bauer‘s popup to second baseman Junior Gilliam ended the top half. New York starter Don Larsen, who went 11-5 with a 3.26 ERA during the regular season, walked Gilliam and Snider in the bottom half, but Jackie Robinson‘s grounder to Martin started an inning-ending double play.

The Yankees went back to work against Newcombe in the top of the second. Martin started the inning by beating out a throw from Gilliam on his groundball. Coleman’s sacrifice to Newcombe moved Martin to second base, from which Martin scored on Larsen’s single to left. McDougald also singled, but then was forced at second on Slaughter’s grounder to Reese. Larsen was positioned at third, with Slaughter on first, as Mantle strode to the plate. Despite a Triple Crown-winning season that would end with the AL Most Valuable Player Award, there would be no home-run drama for Mantle on this at-bat. That would be saved for Berra. Instead, Mantle walked on four pitches to load the bases for the Yankee catcher. Berra took Newcombe’s first pitch for a ball, but crushed his second pitch over the right-field screen for the fifth grand slam in World Series history. His ace behind early 6-0, Alston relieved Newcombe of his duties in favor of Ed Roebuck. Collins grounded out to Gilliam, and one could have been forgiven for assuming that irreparable damage had been done to the Brooklyn cause.

By the time Brooklyn completed its “ups” in the bottom of the second, the teams were tied. Gil Hodges opened with a single to center. The next play became one of the game’s most discussed events. Sandy Amorós hit a bouncer to the usually reliable Collins at first base. Collins collected the ball and pivoted to throw the ball to second. When Collins, up to then error-free in 24 World Series games, reached into his glove, the ball was not there. Collins later said, “I guess it dropped out as I turned to make the throw to second base. I never got my bare hand on it at all. I didn’t know I’d dropped it until I saw it rolling on the ground.”4 With the Yankees holding a six-run lead, the damage from this single miscue might have seemed containable. But Larsen walked Carl Furillo to load the bases. Roy Campanella‘s sacrifice fly to Slaughter scored Hodges for the first Dodgers run. Veteran Dale Mitchell, who had all of 24 plate appearances for Brooklyn after a midseason trade, popped up to Martin in foul territory for the second out. Gilliam walked to load the bases once again, bringing Stengel out of the dugout and Johnny Kucks into the game. Larsen had faced 10 batters and walked four of them; his next outing for the Yankees would prove much different.

After working the count full against Kucks, Reese fouled off the next three pitches before smacking a single to left that scored Amorós and Furillo. The Dodgers had halved the deficit, 6-3, and Snider would close it completely. Stengel opted for veteran lefty Tommy Byrne to face the Brooklyn slugger, a “percentage move,”5 according to the Yankees manager. Byrne’s curve broke sharply for Snider, who flailed at the ball. The next pitch was intended to back Snider off the plate. According to Berra, “It was supposed to be a waste pitch so we could set him up for the curve.”6 Berra added, “We didn’t want the pitch to be in the strike zone but it was.”7 Indeed, Snider launched the ball over the right-field screen and across Bedford Avenue for a game-tying homer. Robinson’s strikeout ended the inning with the clubs knotted, 6-6.

Don Bessent took the hill for Brooklyn in the third, and would not surrender the mound for the remainder of the contest. Although Bauer opened the third with a single, Martin’s double-play ball and Coleman’s grounder, both to Reese, ended the half-inning. Tom Sturdivant started the Brooklyn third on the mound for New York. He walked Hodges before striking out Amorós. Furillo singled to left, advancing Hodges to second. Sturdivant struck out Campanella for the second out, but Bessent cracked a run-scoring single to left for Brooklyn’s first lead. Stengel made another pitching change after Gilliam walked to load the bases. Fortunately for the Yankees, Reese popped up against Tom Morgan for the final out. Morgan remained in the game to lead off the Yankees fourth, and did so with a single. McDougald’s sacrifice and Bessent’s wild pitch moved Morgan to within 90 feet of the plate. Slaughter’s sacrifice fly to Snider had enough distance to bring Morgan home and tie the game, 7-7.

In the Dodgers fourth, Snider and Robinson opened with back-to-back singles. Hodges “hammered a buzzing liner over Slaughter’s head”8 with such force that it rebounded halfway to the infield after striking the base of the wall. It was McDougald who fielded the ball, but Snider and Robinson crossed the plate on Hodges’ two-bagger for a 9-7 lead. This same group increased the Dodgers lead in the fifth. With two outs, Snider walked and Robinson followed with a single on a ball that skipped over McDougald. Hodges blasted another double past a diving Slaughter in left-center, again scoring Snider and Robinson. Down 11-7, Stengel dipped once more into his bullpen. Right-hander Bob Turley struck out Amorós on a called third strike for the final out. That strikeout proved Turley’s only action; Norm Siebern unsuccessfully hit for him in the sixth, requiring another pitching change for New York. Stengel turned to Mickey McDermott, who would make the only World Series appearance of his career. McDermott walked Bessent with two outs in the sixth, and did the same against Robinson and Hodges in the seventh, but he kept the Dodgers from expanding the lead until the eighth.

Furillo opened that home half with a single to left. Campanella lofted a fly ball toward right-center that appeared an easy catch for Bauer, but the Yankees right-fielder muffed the play. Bauer said, “The ball was right in the middle of my glove and jumped out. It was that kind of day.”9 Bessent’s sacrifice advanced Furillo and Campanella up a base, and Gilliam’s shot over second base brought home both runners for a 13-7 Dodgers lead. Reese’s fly out and Snider’s strikeout ended the eighth, and Yankees had three outs to close a six-run gap. Slaughter began a nascent rally with a leadoff single. After Mantle flied out to Snider, Berra singled to left and advanced Slaughter to third. Reese fielded Collins’s grounder and opted for the force at second, allowing Slaughter to score. Bauer’s fly ball to Amorós ended the game, the longest nine-inning World Series game to that point (3 hours 26 minutes), leaving the Yankees with a two-games-to-none deficit.

Pitching and fielding served as the primary talking points in the postgame commentary. Stengel was quick to absolve Collins of responsibility for his error in the second inning. Stengel explained, “That put the second man on base. But who put the first one on? And who didn’t get out the others they should’ve got out? The pitching was to blame, not Collins.”10 The Yankees established a new Series record with seven pitchers. Stengel analyzed the situation: “They’re making the wrong pitches. They’re throwing exactly what they shouldn’t be throwing.”11

It was not just Yankee pitching that made postgame news. The Dodger offense saved Newcombe from another Series loss to the Yankees, but Newcombe literally heard complaints about his performance. Ebbets Field parking-lot attendant Michael Brown made the mistake of heckling Newcombe after the game, asking “What’s the matter with you, Don? When things get tough, do you fold?”12 Newcombe slugged Brown in the stomach, and a patrolman intervened before another blow could be landed. Alston, however, was in a slightly more jovial mood in the Dodgers clubhouse. His two-finger V-salute displayed the achievement to date: two Series wins with only two more required for a second championship.



Besides the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.



1 John Drebinger, “Rivals to Stand on Hurling Plans,” New York Times, October 5, 1956: 28.

2 Roscoe McGowen, “Labine Rated Strong Possibility to Pitch 3d Contest at Stadium,” New York Times, October 5, 1956: 28.

3 McGowen.

4 Joe Trimble, “Poor Pitching Doomed Yankees,” New York Daily News, October 6, 1956: 17.

5 Louis Effrat,”Bombers Absolve Collins for Boot,” New York Times, October 6, 1956: 25.

6 Trimble.

7 “Flatbush Fusillade,” The Sporting News, October 17, 1956: 21.

8 Dick Young, “Flock 2 Up; Spot Yanks 6, Win, 13-8,” New York Daily News, October 6, 1956: 16, 19.

9 Trimble.

10 Effrat.

11 Effrat.

12 “Fan Is Reported Hit by Newcombe,” New York Times, October 6, 1956: 25.

Additional Stats

Brooklyn Dodgers 13
New York Yankees 8
Game 2, WS

Ebbets Field
Brooklyn, NY


Box Score + PBP:

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