Fall Classics: The 11 World Series showdowns between the Yankees and Dodgers
It took 17 years, but the Dodgers are finally coming to the Bronx for an interleague matchup against the Yankees. It’s inexplicable that it took this long for the game’s greatest interleague rivalry to visit its ancestral home, and now that it is finally happening, we’re getting a mid-week two-game series rather than a proper three-game or, ideally, weekend set. Still, even that can’t dampen the enthusiasm for fans who have not seen these two iconic franchises face off in the Bronx since the Dodgers clinched the 1981 World Series across the street from the House That George Built.
The Yankees have traveled to Dodger Stadium twice for an interleague matchup, once in 2004 and once in 2010. Prior to that, they had only met in the World Series, where they have squared off a record 11 times (next on the list: Yankees-Giants, seven times, and Yankees-Cardinals, five) for a total of 66 games, including some of the most famous in baseball history. Here is a quick look at those 11 Fall Classics, many of which truly lived up to the name.
1941: Yankees 4, Dodgers 1
Coming into the 1941 World Series, the Yankees had won 11 pennants and Brooklyn just two, one in 1916 and the other in 1920. In ’41, however, the Dodgers completed their climb out of the second division under third-year player/manager — and former Yankee infielder — Leo Durocher. Both teams reached 100 wins that season, and the Series started off as a tight, see-saw affair with the first three games each being decided by one run. The fourth game nearly continued the pattern as the Dodgers held a 4-3 lead with two outs in the top of the ninth inning at Ebbets Field, needing just one more strike to tie the Series at two games apiece.
Brooklyn reliever Hugh Casey broke off a nasty curveball to strike out Yankee rightfielder Tommy Henrich for the apparent final out, but Dodgers catcher Mickey Owen couldn’t handle the pitch and it went to the backstop, allowing Henrich to reach base. That brought up the 1941 version of Murderer’s Row, and the Yankees took full advantage of the opportunity. Joe DiMaggio singled. Leftfielder Charlie Keller doubled off the right-field wall to score both runners and give the Yankees a 5-4 lead. Bill Dickey walked, and Joe Gordon doubled home Dickey and Keller to give the Yankees a 7-4 advantage that they preserved in the bottom of the ninth.
With that, the Dodgers went from tying the series to trailing 3-games-to-1, and they were the walking dead in Game 5. New York took the lead in the top of the second and never relinquished it, winning the Series behind a complete game gem from sophomore righthander Tiny Bonham.
Gordon (7-for-14, 2B, 3B, HR, 7 BB, 0 K) and Keller (7-for-18, 2 2B, 3 BB) were the stars of the Series for the Yankees, while the Dodgers hit just .182/.249/.270 in a Series that will always be remembered for Owen’s dropped final strike in Game 4.
1947: Yankees 4, Dodgers 3
The next time the Dodgers reached the World Series, the Yankees were waiting for them again, as would be the case for seven consecutive Dodger pennants from 1941 to 1956. Once again the signature contest of the Series was Game 4
The first three games of the series were fairly lopsided. The Yankees won Game 1 on the strength of a five-run fifth inning and Game 2 by a final of 10-3. The Series then moved to Brooklyn where the Dodgers scored six runs in the second inning of Game 3 and never trailed.
Game 4 was another matter. The Yankees got a quick run in the top of the first and another in the fourth, but the Dodgers scratched out a tally in the fifth to make it 2-1. That score held until the ninth, and so did the fact that Yankee starter Bill Bevens had not yet allowed a hit, despite walking nine and throwing a wild pitch over the first eight innings.
With one out in the ninth, Bevens issued another walk, this one to Brooklyn centerfielder Carl Furillo. With two outs, Dodgers skipper Burt Shotton, who replaced the suspended Durocher that season, sent up lefty Pete Reiser to hit for his pitcher (none other than Hugh Casey), and replaced Furillo with pinch-runner Al Gionfriddo, who promptly stole second. With first base open and a 3-1 count on Reiser, Yankee skipper Bucky Harris had Bevens issue an intentional ball four despite the fact that doing so put the winning run on base. Shotton then pinch-ran Eddie Miksis for Reiser and sent up veteran Cookie Lavagetto to hit for Eddie Stanky. Lavagetto connected for Brooklyn’s first and only hit of the game, a double high off the rightfield wall that plated both pinch runners and gave the Dodgers a 3-2 win that evened the series.
The Yankees won a close Game 5 behind a strong outing from rookie righthander Spec Shea, who drove in as many runs at the plate (1) as he allowed on the mound, but Game 6, back in the Bronx, was a wild one in which neither starter survived the third inning. The Dodgers took early leads of 2-0 and 4-0, but New York tied the game in the bottom of the third and took a one-run lead in the fourth only to have the Dodgers storm back and go up 8-5 in the top of the sixth. The Yankees got a pair of men on base in the bottom of the sixth to bring DiMaggio to the plate as the tying run. Joltin’ Joe connected for a deep drive to leftfield off Brooklyn reliever Dan Bankhead, but Gionfriddo, who had just been installed as a defensive replacement that inning, raced back and caught DiMaggio’s drive in front of the short bullpen fence to end the inning. It has been said that when DiMaggio kicked the dirt near second base in disappointment, it was the only time in his career he showed that much emotion on the field.
The Dodgers won that game 8-6 to even the Series, but they couldn’t break through for their first world championship the next day. Bevens and relief ace Joe Page combined for 7 2/3 scoreless innings of relief and the Yankees won Game 7 5-2 to take the title.
1949: Yankees 4, Dodgers 1
Much like in 1941, the first three games of the 1949 World Series between the Yankees and Dodgers were tight, one-run games. Game 1 was a pitchers’ duel between Yankees fireballer Allie Reynolds and Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe, the National League Rookie of the Year. Those two combined to strike out 20 men in the game and hold their opponents scoreless until Henrich led off the bottom of the ninth with the first walk-off home run in World Series history. The Dodgers’ Preacher Roe beat Yankees rookie Vic Raschi with a 1-0 shutout in Game 2, and Game 3 in Brooklyn was knotted at 1-1 until New York broke out for three runs in the top of the ninth, a tally the Dodgers nearly answered with a pair of home runs in the bottom half only to fall one run short.
The Yankees jumped to a 6-0 lead in Game 4 and held on for a 6-4 win and then routed Brooklyn 10-6 in Game 5 after leading 10-1 at one point. It was the first of a record five consecutive World Series victories for New York under new manager Casey Stengel.
1952: Yankees 4, Dodgers 3
DiMaggio was gone, having retired after the 1951 season, but the Yankees were back in the World Series anyway. The Dodgers won Game 1 behind a complete game from Rookie of the Year righty Joe Black, kickstarting a back-and-forth series in which the teams alternated wins through the first six games. Game 7 was similarly tit-for-tat. The two teams exchanged single tallies in the fourth and fifth but when the Yankees scored again in the top of the sixth on Mickey Mantle’s home run, the Dodgers were unable to counter in the bottom half. New York tacked on another run in the top of the seventh but Brooklyn loaded the bases in their half of the inning, needing just a well-placed hit to tie the game. The Bums almost got it in the unlikeliest of places when Jackie Robinson’s two-out infield pop-up very nearly landed safely just off the mound, but Yankees second baseman Billy Martin raced in and caught the ball below his knees at the last second.
After that, New York lefthander Bob Kuzava secured the final six outs to seal the Yankees’ fourth straight championship.
1953: Yankees 4, Dodgers 2
The Yankees won the first two games at home, tying Game 2 on a Billy Martin home run in the seventh and scoring the winning runs on a two-run Mantle homer in the eighth. The Dodgers then answered with a pair of wins in Brooklyn, taking Game 3 thanks to a tie-breaking Roy Campanella home run in the eighth inning and making quick work of New York’s Whitey Ford in Game 4.
Game 5 was an all-out slugfest. The very first batter of the game, Yankees leftfielder Gene Woodling, went deep for the first of six home runs on the day, the biggest of which was a grand slam by Mantle in the third inning, two batters after a Gil Hodges error on what would have been the final out. That blast gave the Yankees a lead they’d never relinquish, though that was not true of their early 3-0 lead in Game 6 back in the Bronx. The Dodgers had closed to within 3-1 but New York was two outs from the title before a walk and a home run from Carl Furillo tied the game. New York won it anyway in the bottom of the ninth when Martin singled home Hank Bauer with the Series-clinching run. It was Martin’s 12th hit of the series, during which he batted .500 with two home runs and eight RBIs..
1955: Dodgers 4, Yankees 3
Coming into the 1955 World Series, the Dodgers had never won a Fall Classic, a fact that was particularly difficult for their loyal fans to accept given the quality of their teams over the previous six seasons. Brooklyn lost the World Series to the Yankees in 1947, 1949, 1952, and 1953, twice losing a Game 7. In 1950, the Bums were eliminated on the final day of the regular season by the pennant-winning Phillies, and in 1951 they were two outs away from the pennant when they blew a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth to the rival Giants on Bobby Thompson’s Shot Heard ‘Round the World. In 1954, they lost the pennant by five games to the Giants, and some believed that the Boys of Summer were over the hill by the time they got back to the World series in 1955. Robinson and Pee Wee Reese were 36. Campanella and Furillo were 33. Hodges was 31. However, NL MVP Duke Snider, who hit .320 with four home runs on the series, was in his prime, and 22-year-old lefty Johnny Podres was just coming into his own.
The most famous play in the 1955 World Series was Jackie Robinson’s steal of home in Game 1. That steal, which came with two outs in the eighth inning, brought the Dodgers within one run, but New York held on to win 6-5 and took a two-games-to-none lead in Game 2 behind a complete game by veteran lefty Tommy Byrne. Again, the Dodgers stormed back when the Series moved to Brooklyn, but this time they didn’t just tie the Series, they swept the three games at Ebbets Field to take a 3-games-to-2 lead. The Yankees tied things up back in the Bronx behind a complete game from Ford in Game 6, sending the Yankees and Dodgers to Game 7 for the third time in their last five meetings.
That’s when Podres, who had a complete game win in Game 3, took over. While Podres shut down the Yankees through the first five innings, Brooklyn scraped out a run in the fourth and another in the sixth. New York got the first two men on base in the bottom of the sixth for Yogi Berra, that year’s AL MVP, who laced a would-be double toward the leftfield corner. Dodgers leftfielder Sandy Amoros, who had just been inserted as a defensive replacement by second-year manager Walter Alston, made a great running catch toward the foul line and got the ball to Reese, who fired to first base to double off Gil McDougald. Podres continued to bend but not break, ultimately scattering eight hits and a pair of walks in the process of shutting out the Yankees and delivering Brooklyn its first and only world championship.
1956: Yankees 4, Dodgers 3
The Dodgers and Yankees met for the final time as cross-town rivals in the 1956 Series, which flipped the script on the previous year’s Classic. Brooklyn took the first two games at home. New York answered back by winning three straight in the Bronx, but Game 5 was was far more than just another Series game. Righty Don Larsen had been knocked out of his Game 2 start in the second inning as the Dodgers burned through seven Yankees hurlers in a wild 13-8 win, but Stengel gave him the ball again for Game 5, famously informing him of his start by leaving a ball in his shoe. Larson then went out and threw a perfect game, the first no-hitter in World Series history.
Game 6 back in Brooklyn was nearly as dramatic, as the Yankees’ Bob Turley and the Dodgers’ Clem Labine matched zeroes into the 10th inning. Neither team got a runner to third base until the bottom of the 10th, when Brooklyn second baseman Jim Gilliam drew a one-out walk, the seventh issued by Turley to that point. Reese sacrificed Gilliam to second, after which Stengel had Turley intentionally walk Snider only to have Robinson, in the penultimate game of his career, deliver a walk-off single to tie the series.
Game 7, however, was anticlimactic as the Yankees stomped the Dodgers 9-0 behind a three-hit shutout by 23-year-old Johnny Kucks and a quartet of home runs, two by Berra. Robinson made the final out.
1963: Dodgers 4, Yankees 0
The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season and promptly won their second World Series in 1959. That was the only World Series from 1955 to 1964 in which the Yankees didn’t represent the American League, so when the Dodgers returned to the Fall Classic in 1963, their old nemesis was there waiting for them.
This, however, was a very different World Series from the hard-fought battles from the rivalry’s peak as the Yankees were swept for just the second time in their first 28 World Series appearances.
Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and 1955 hero Podres dominated, requiring just two outs from the team’s bullpen all Series, as cracks began to show in the aging Yankees offense. Mickey Mantle collected just two hits. Roger Maris got hurt chasing a Tommy Davis triple early in Game 2 and was lost for the Series. He and the 38-year-old Berra combined for just six at-bats in the Series, all of them resulting in outs. American League MVP Elston Howard hit .333 but without an extra base hit or a walk, and no other Yankee had more than three hits in the Series as the Yankees batted .171/.207/.240 as a team and scored a total of five runs in the four games.
Drysdale threw a three-hit shutout in Game 3 and Koufax won MVP honors for his complete game victories in Games 1 and 4 in which he allowed a total of three runs and three walks while striking out 23.
1977: Yankees 4, Dodgers 2
The Koufax-Drysdale Dodgers went to two more World Series in the 1960s, winning in 1965 and losing to the upstart Orioles in ’66, and returned to the Fall Classic with a new young team in 1974 only to lose to the dynastic Oakland A’s. Meanwhile, the Yankees lost the Series again in ’64 and then endured what was at that time their longest pennant drought since the acquisition of Babe Ruth. Eleven World Series passed without the Yankees’ participation until they returned under manager Billy Martin in 1976, only to be swept by the Cincinnati Reds.
That offseason, the Yankees made a big splash by singing former Oakland star slugger Reggie Jackson via baseball’s new free agency process and returned to the Series. There, they ran into their old foes, the Dodgers, who were making their first World Series appearance under rookie manager Tommy Lasorda.
The Series kicked off in the Bronx with a 12-inning classic that ended when Paul Blair, who had come in as a defensive replacement for Jackson in the ninth, brought home Willie Randolph with a walk-off single.
The Dodgers countered in Game 2 behind a complete game from Burt Hooton, but the Yankees took the first two games in Los Angeles with complete games from Mike Torrez and rookie lefty Ron Guidry to push the Dodgers to the brink. L.A. stayed alive via a 10-run outburst in Game 5 backed by a Don Sutton complete game, but Jackson’s solo homer in his final at-bat in that game foreshadowed the Dodgers’ doom.
Back in the Bronx for Game 6, Jackson’s two-run homer off Hooton gave New York a lead it would never relinquish in large part thanks to what Jackson did in his next two at-bats. He delivered another two-run jack in the fifth off reliever Elias Sosa and, with the game and Series well in hand via a 7-3 Yankees lead in the eighth, Jackson crushed a Charlie Hough knuckleball into the batters’ eye in centerfield in the renovated Yankee Stadium to join Babe Ruth as the only men to that point to hit three home runs in a World Series game. All of Jackson’s blasts came on the first pitch of his at-bat, and he hit four home runs in four swings dating back to Game 5 (Jackson drew a four-pitch walk in his first trip in Game Seven).
1978: Yankees 4, Dodgers 2
The Dodgers and Yankees were right back at it in 1978, and this time the Dodgers, opening at home, jumped out to a two-games-to-none lead, scoring 11 in Game 1, keyed by Davey Lopes’ two home runs, and winning a tight 4-3 Game 2 when Bob Welch came on in relief with two on and one out in the ninth to retire Thurman Munson and strikeout Jackson in an epic, nine-pitch battle to save the game.
The Series then moved to New York, where Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles almost single-handedly shut down the Dodger offense with his play at the hot corner in Game 3. With the Yankees up 2-1 in the fifth and two Dodgers on base, Nettles knocked down a would-be RBI double off the bat of Reggie Smith to keep a run from scoring. Then, with the bases loaded, he turned a hard-hit ball down the line by Steve Garvey on the very next pitch into an inning-ending force-out at second. The next inning, the Dodgers loaded the bases with two outs again, and again Nettles turned a screamer down the line, this one by Lopes, into an inning ending force out at second. With Nettles’ help, Guidry, that year’s AL Cy Young award winner, went the distance on a night that he didn’t have his best stuff and the Yankees avoided falling behind 3-games-to-0.
New York then battled back from a 3-0 deficit in the latter innings of Game 4, aided by a controversial incident in which Jackson appeared to intentionally interfere with a thrown ball, to force extra innings and walked-off against Welch in the 10th on a single by Lou Piniella to tie the Series. From there, the Series was all Yankees as New York won the final two games by a combined score of 19-4, wrapping things up in Game 6 in L.A., where Jackson got some revenge with a long home run off Welch.
1981: Dodgers 4, Yankees 2
The most recent World Series meeting between these teams was a bittersweet one, coming as it did in a season bifurcated by a strike in which neither team had the best aggregate record in its respective division but made the playoffs on the strength of a strong first-half showing. Both clubs had to fight through an extra round of playoffs to reunite in the World Series, where the Yankees won the first two games at home with ex-Dodger Tommy John and relief ace Goose Gossage combining to shutout L.A. in Game 2.
As was so often the case when these two teams met in the World Series, the momentum shifted with the change in venue for Game 3 as the Dodgers pulled out a pair of a trio of one-run wins in Los Angeles. They won Game 3 behind a less-than-sparkling complete game by rookie sensation Fernando Valenzuela, who walked seven in a 5-4 win. Game 4 was a messy 8-7 affair in which Lasorda pulled starter Bob Welch after just four batters. Game 5, however, was a compelling duel between Guidry and veteran Jerry Reuss in which an early 1-0 Yankee lead held up until Guidry surrendered consecutive solo home runs to Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager in the seventh, after which Reuss finished out the 2-1 win.
That sent the Series back to New York, at which point Yankee owner George Steinbrenner’s megalomania came to the forefront. Prior to Game 6, Steinbrenner, bearing wounds on his head and hands, claimed he had gotten into a fight with a pair of Dodgers fans in his hotel elevator in L.A. He then supposedly called manager Bob Lemon in the dugout during Game 6 to demand he pinch-hit for starter Tommy John in the fourth inning of a 1-1 game despite John’s solid work to that point in the game and scoreless start in Game 2. Lemon complied, and the Yankee bullpen immediately imploded with righty George Frazier suffering his third loss of the Series in a 9-2 final that clinched the championship for Los Angeles. Steinbrenner then issued an apology to the city of New York for his team’s performance, making no mention, of course, of his role in its downfall.
That began a decade of dysfunction in the Bronx and the Yankees wouldn’t make it back to the Fall Classic until 1996. The Dodgers, meanwhile, won another World Series in 1988, becoming the only team to win multiple Series in that decade, but they haven’t returned to the World Series since. The Yankees have been to seven Series in the past 17 years, winning five of them. Neither team looks like a favorite to get there this year, but at least the Dodgers are finally back in the Bronx after 32 years.