September 1, 1957: Willie Mays homers in New York Giants’ last game at Ebbets Field

This article was written by John Burbridge


Willie MaysFranchise moves were the talk of New York City in 1957 with both the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants being wooed by West Coast interests. On May 28 the National League owners voted unanimously to allow both the Giants and Dodgers to move to the West Coast but with the stipulation that both teams must move, not just one, to reduce the impact of higher travel costs on the remaining six teams.1

Given the approval, the board of directors of the Giants met on August 19 and voted 8 to 1 to move to San Francisco for the 1958 season.2 All eyes were now on the Dodgers and whether they would commit to Los Angeles. Interestingly, Warren Giles, president of the National League, said he didn’t believe the owners’ May 28 resolution required both franchises to move.3

Los Angeles Mayor Norris Poulson, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, and others from Southern California had been meeting with Walter O’Malley, the Dodgers’ principal owner, since the end of  1956 season attempting to attract the franchise to Los Angeles. While a final decision had not been reached by the time of the Giants vote, it appeared that the Dodgers move was probably inevitable as O’Malley had been unable to convince New York politicians and Robert Moses, the man who controlled city property for development purposes, to provide the necessary land for a new ballpark in Brooklyn. O’Malley maintained that he wanted to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn. However, given the deteriorating condition of Ebbets Field and the lack of parking, he felt playing in the ballpark was no longer possible.4

Thus, this Sunday game on September 1 was very likely the last time the Giants would visit Ebbets Field. The celebrated rivalry between the suave urbanites of Manhattan who supposedly rooted for the Giants and the working-class Brooklynites appeared to be about over. Many an exciting game was played between the two traditional rivals in Ebbets Field. Two years before, Sal Maglie, Jackie Robinson, and Alvin Dark were involved in a fracas that began with Maglie throwing at Dodgers hitters and resulted with Robinson knocking down Davey Williams at first base and Dark deliberately barreling into Jackie Robinson at third base and knocking the ball from his grasp.5 Such skirmishes typified many of the games between the two rivals.

As the Sunday contest, before a crowd of 17,936, was to begin, the Dodgers were in third place in the National League but still felt the pennant was in their grasp. The Giants were having another disappointing season; they currently occupied sixth place. The Dodgers were still led by Boys of Summer Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, and Roy Campanella. Except for the Hodges, the other three were having disappointing seasons as age was taking its toll. The Giants had the best player in baseball, Willie Mays, who always experienced success playing in Brooklyn.

The Dodgers had beaten the Giants the first two games in the series. The starting pitchers for the Sunday game were the 1955 World Series hero for the Dodgers, Johnny Podres, and Ray Crone for the Giants. The Dodgers took the lead in the second inning. Charley Neal walked with one out and Campanella singled him to third. Neal scored on a bad throw to first base by Danny O’Connell, the Giants second baseman, on Reese’s groundball. With Campanella on second base and Reese at first base, Podres doubled off the wall in right field; Campanella scored but Reese, following him, was tagged out at home. Whitey Lockman, the Giants first baseman, then booted Jim Gilliam’s groundball but Crone got Gino Cimoli to hit a bouncer to shortstop, ending the inning. The Giants with their shoddy play were lucky to be trailing only 2-0.

The Giants cut into the Dodgers’ lead in the fourth. Mays led off with a home run. Ray Jablonski followed with a double and moved to third base on Hank Sauer’s grounder to second, but Podres retired the next two batters. But the Giants came back to tie the game in the sixth inning when as Willie Mays led off with a triple high off the scoreboard in right field. Mays scored on Jablonski’s liner to left field when Cimoli’s throw home soared over Campanella’s head. (No error was charged.)

After that difficult second inning, Crone was very effective during the middle innings. He walked Cimoli and Hodges in the fifth inning but retired Carl Furillo on a popup snagged by O’Connell in foul territory. In the bottom of the sixth, Charlie Neal singled with two outs but Podres ended the inning by grounding out to Crone.

The Giants erupted for five runs in the top of the seventh. Lockman began the inning with triple to right field. With Valmy Thomas up, Podres unleashed a wild pitch, scoring Lockman. Thomas walked and took second on a sacrifice by Crone. O’Connell drove in Thomas with a double to right field. After Podres retired left-handed-batting Don Mueller, Brooklyn manager Walter Alston replaced the pitcher with Don Bessent. who intentionally walked Willie Mays. Jablonski singled O’Connell home and Mays to third. Bessent walked Hank Sauer, loading the bases, and Daryl Spencer’s two-run single made the score 7-2. Alston replaced Bessent with future Hall of Famer and Brooklyn native Sandy Koufax who got Lockman to pop out, ending the inning.

In the bottom of the inning, Bill Rigney, the Giants manager, made some defensive moves. Ozzie Virgil replaced Jablonski at third base batting in Sauer’s slot, fifth, as Sauer was replaced in left field by Bobby Thomson, batting fourth. Crone held the Dodgers scoreless in the seventh and eighth innings, giving up a walk to Snider in the seventh and a single to Neal in the eighth.

Koufax retired the Giants in the eighth and ninth, striking out three batters. In the bottom of the ninth the Dodgers rallied. Elmer Valo, pinch-hitting for Koufax, started the inning by coaxing a walk from Crone. Crone retired Gilliam and Cimoli on force-play grounders. Crone then walked Snider and Hodges followed with a single to left field, scoring Cimoli. Rigney replaced Crone with Marv Grissom, the Giants’ top reliever. Furillo’s infield hit loaded the bases, and Charlie Neal’s single to right field drove in two runs. The Giants’ lead was just two runs, 7-5, with Roy Campanella coming to the plate as the potential winning run.

With the count two balls and two strikes, Grissom threw a curveball that caused Campanella to duck away. But Dusty Boggess, the home-plate umpire, ruled that the pitch broke across home plate and was strike three, ending the game. Campanella argued the call, to no avail.6 The game was over with the Giants the winner, 7-5.

After this game the Dodgers proceeded to lose their next three games to the Philadelphia Phillies and fell 10 games behind the league-leading Milwaukee Braves. With pennant aspirations significantly diminished, the move to Los Angeles became the main topic of discussion. A last-ditch effort by Nelson Rockefeller, a gubernatorial candidate, to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn failed. The Los Angeles interests were finally able to finalize a plan giving the Dodgers access to Chavez Ravine and on October 7 the Los Angeles City Council approved the plan.7 The next day O’Malley announced that the Dodgers would move to Los Angeles.8

 

Sources

In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, box scores and play-by-play accounts for this game can be found on baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.org.

baseball-reference.com/boxes/BRO/BRO195709010.shtml

retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1957/B09010BRO1957.htm

 

Notes

1 Joseph M. Sheehan, “Dodgers, Giants Win Right to Shift,” New York Times, May 29, 1957: 1.

2 Bill Becker, “Giants Will Shift to San Francisco for the 1958 Season,” New York Times, August 20, 1957: 1.

3 Ibid.

4 Paul Hirsch, “Walter O’Malley Was Right,” The National Pastime, 2011. sabr.org/research/2011-national-pastime.  

5 John Burbridge, “The Giants-Dodgers Rivalry During ‘The Era’: The Dark-Robinson Incident,” The National Pastime, 2017. sabr.org/research/dodgers-giants-rivalry-during-era-dark-robinson-incident.

6 Roscoe McGowen, “Five-Run Seventh Gains 7-5 Verdict,” New York Times, September 2, 1957: 16.

7 Gladwin Hill, “Dodgers Pact Wins Los Angeles Vote,” New York Times, October 8, 1957: 1.

8 Emanuel Perlmutter, “Dodgers Accept Los Angeles Bid to Move to Coast,” New York Times, October 9, 1957: 1.

Additional Stats

New York Giants 7
Brooklyn Dodgers 6


Ebbets Field
Brooklyn, NY

 

Box Score + PBP:

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