October 6, 1957: Spahn goes the distance; Mathews belts two-run homer in 10th to tie Series
When Warren Spahn took the hill for Game Four of the 1957 World Series, he had started two previous Series games, losing to Bob Lemon of Cleveland in 1948 and to Whitey Ford of the New York Yankees in 1957’s Game One. Would today be his day? He was up against Tom Sturdivant of the Yankees, who was making his second World Series start. Sturdivant, who had gone 16-6 during the regular season, had hurled a complete-game 6-2 win against the Dodgers in Game Four of the 1956 Series.
The pregame festivities concluded with a rendition of the National Anthem by Marvin Moran, and the game began.1 The Yankees came into the game with a 2-1 lead in the Series and broke out in front in the first inning. Tony Kubek reached on a bunt single and advanced to second on a groundball by Hank Bauer, then was out on Mickey Mantle’s comebacker to Spahn. A walk to Yogi Berra put Mantle in scoring position. Gil McDougald singled Mantle home and the Yankees had the lead. Spahn settled down and retired the next 11 batters he faced. Meanwhile Sturdivant was equally stingy and took a 1-0 lead into the Braves half of the fourth inning.
Johnny Logan worked the count to 3-and-2 and fouled off two pitches before walking to lead off the fourth inning. A double by Eddie Mathews, his first hit of the Series, put runners at second and third and brought Henry Aaron to the plate. Although first base was open, the right-handed Sturdivant pitched to the right-handed-hitting Aaron. Sturdivant’s third pitch to Henry was a changeup that Aaron hit over the 355-foot sign in left field for his second homer in as many days, giving the Braves a 3-1 lead. After lefty Wes Covington grounded out, Frank Torre, a native New Yorker making his first World Series start, homered, his first-ever blast at County Stadium, and the Braves led 4-1.2 After the game, Torre said, “I’m glad I picked the right spot.”3
Spahn returned to the mound and kept returning Yankees batters to the dugout. He faced the minimum number of batters in innings five through seven, courtesy of two double plays that erased Yankees batters (Jerry Coleman and Yogi Berra) who had singled. New York mounted a threat in the eighth inning when Andy Carey led off with a double and, with one out, advanced to third on a single by Jerry Lumpe. That brought up Milwaukee native Kubek who had been the hero the day before with a pair of homers. This time up, however, Spahn got his third double-play ball of the game, and Carey was left stranded at third base.
Meanwhile, the Yankee pitchers had stopped the bleeding after the Braves’ fourth inning outburst. After Sturdivant left the game for a pinch-hitter, Bobby Shantz pitched hitless ball for three innings. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Johnny Kucks entered the game. It was the first 1957 Series appearance for Kucks, who had won the final game of the 1956 Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Red Schoendienst opened the inning with a double to left-center field and, two outs later, was still on second when Aaron walked. With Covington, a dangerous left-handed hitter, due up, Yankees manager Casey Stengel, playing the percentages, brought on a left-handed pitcher, Tommy Byrne. Byrne struck out Covington and the game headed to the ninth inning with the Braves still up by three runs.
Spahn took to the mound and quickly retired Bauer on a fly ball and Mantle on a grounder. Grounders were Spahn’s forte on this particular afternoon. Of the first 26 outs he registered, 21 came via groundballs. There had been four fly balls and one strikeout. Only Berra stood in the way of the Braves evening the series at two games apiece. The veteran catcher singled to right field as did McDougald, and the tying run came to the plate. Before Spahn would throw a pitch to the next batter, manager Fred Haney visited the mound. The strategy was to pitch Elston Howard outside, but a 3-and-2 slider from Spahn missed the mark, strayed inside, and found its way into Howard’s wheelhouse.4 Howard slugged the offering over the left-field fence as the crowd sat stunned. The game was tied and went into extra innings after Byrne retired the Braves in order in the bottom of the inning.
The Yankees drew first blood in extra innings. In the 10th, Kubek’s two-out infield hit set the stage for Bauer, who tripled Kubek home. The Yankees took a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the inning. It was Bauer’s only hit of the afternoon, but it extended his World Series hitting streak to 11 games.
Spahn had made his last pitch of the afternoon. Spahn, was one of baseball’s better hitting pitchers. He had 55 extra-base hits, including 19 homers, in his first 13 seasons with the Braves. Nevertheless, Haney sent up Nippy Jones to pinch-hit.
The first pitch from Byrne was in the general direction of Jones’s feet; it bounded in the dirt and went to the backstop. The ball caromed off the backstop and came to rest near Jones. After umpire Augie Donatelli had ruled the pitch a ball, Jones, convinced that he had been hit on the right shoe, picked up the baseball and handed it to Donatelli. Before catcher Berra could argue, Donatelli saw the shoe polish on the ball and awarded Jones first base.5 Stengel brought in Bob Grim to face Schoendienst. Meanwhile, Haney inserted Felix Mantilla to run for Jones. Schoendienst bunted Mantilla to second.
At this juncture, manager Stengel removed Mantle from the game. Mickey had hurt his shoulder in Game Three, and was having difficulty throwing. Enos Slaughter entered the game to play left field and Kubek moved from left to center, replacing Mantle.
After the player changes, Johnny Logan came to the plate, and doubled into the left-field corner. Mantilla scored and the game was again tied.
The crowd’s cheering reached a crescendo and Mathews stepped to the plate. A prayer was uttered in unison by 45,804 partisan onlookers. Among those onlookers was Mathews’ high-school coach, Clarence Schutte, who had traveled from Eddie’s boyhood home, Santa Barbara, California, to see his former pupil in action.6 An urgent cry echoed through the stands: “Hit it, Eddie!”7 And hit it he did. Mathews’ home run to right field gave the Braves a 7-5 win, and the cheering only got louder.
The Series was tied at two apiece and a return trip to New York was guaranteed. Not all the Braves fans at the game were from Milwaukee. Michael Andrechak and Larry Michaels drove all the way from Boston to see the game. Mike did the driving as Larry had yet to get his driver's license. The two had not been Braves fans when the team was in Boston, but had been following the team’s exploits in Milwaukee and had become Braves fans. Larry, who has been the scoreboard operator in New Britain, Connecticut, for more than thirty years, still remembers everything about the game, especially the shoe polish that was transferred from Jones' shoe to the baseball.
Writing in the Milwaukee Sentinel, Schoendienst summed it all up: “We won. It doesn’t matter how we won, whether it’s by two runs or 10. We had a job to do in the 10th and we did it. We got good timely hitting, and with Mathews getting out of his slump, we sure hit our stride.”8
All those groundballs thrown by Spahn, who recorded his first win as a World Series starter, helped Braves shortstop Johnny Logan set a World Series record. Logan, nursing a shin injury had 10 assists to break a record that had stood since 1921.9
Aaron’s homer in the fourth inning was his second of three during the 1957 World Series. They were his only homers in the two World Series he played in.
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.
Larson, Lloyd. “Tension High as Braves Go After Yanks and Get Them,” Milwaukee Sentinel, October 7, 1957, part 2, 2.
Rice, Cyrus F. “Fans Entitled to Whoopee After Win,” Milwaukee Sentinel, October 7, 1957, 1.
Thisted, Red. “Yanks Tie Game in Ninth 4-4, Then Lose 7-5,” Milwaukee Sentinel, October 7, 1957, 1.
Google News Archive.
1 Lloyd Larson, Milwaukee Sentinel, October 7, 1957, part 2, 1.
2 Lloyd Larsen, Milwaukee Sentinel, October 7, 1957, part 2, 4.
3 Gene Tackowiak, Milwaukee Sentinel, October 7, 1957, part 2, 6.
4 Warren Spahn, Milwaukee Sentinel, October 7, 1957, part 2, 3.
5 Tony Ingrassia, Milwaukee Sentinel, October 7, 1957, part 2, 5.
6 Jerry Cahill, Milwaukee Sentinel, October 7, 1957, 3.
7 Helen Burrowes, “45,804 Fans Root Braves to Victory,” Milwaukee Sentinel, October 7, 1957, 2.
8 Red Schoendienst, Milwaukee Sentinel, October 7, 1957, part 2, 3.
9 Gene Tackowiak, “Logan’s 10 Assists Set Series Mark,” Milwaukee Sentinel, October 7, 1957, part 2, 3.