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The way it was

Braves-Yankees rivalry closed a golden decade for baseball

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Posted: Sunday October 24, 1999 06:28 PM

  Warren Spahn Warren Spahn was one of many Braves pitchers who tried to stop the Yankee juggernaut. AP

ATLANTA (AP) -- In this age of pampered pitchers, the starters will work once, perhaps twice, in the Braves-Yankees World Series.

That's like a week at the beach compared to what Lew Burdette and Bob Turley did when these teams played four decades ago.

Pitchers were considered less fragile then. So Burdette and Turley each took the baseball on short rest and pitched their teams to championships.

The Braves were still in Milwaukee and the Yankees were in the midst of their Casey Stengel dynasty years when the teams met in 1957 and 1958, each time producing a seven-game classic.

Milwaukee won in '57 when Burdette beat New York three times, twice with shutouts. The Yankees responded in '58 when Turley spurred a comeback from a 3-1 deficit, winning two of the last three games and saving the other.

"In retrospect, those were two of the best teams to go against each other in the World Series," said Tony Kubek, who played shortstop for those Yankees. "If they had played against each other 20 times, it probably would have wound up 10-10.

"They were two teams who understood how to play the game, who had pitching and defense, who knew how to run the bases. They played quality baseball and they matched up very well together."

Both were loaded with future Hall of Famers -- Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron and Red Schoendienst for the Braves; Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra for the Yankees.

"The managers were pals, too," Kubek said. "Casey and Fred Haney invested together in Texas oil fields. It was very unique."

Stengel stirred things up on the eve of their first Series by dismissing Milwaukee as a "bush town." The Braves were more amused than offended.

"That was Casey, just yakking," Mathews said. "We had a good team. We just went out and played."

Spahn, who threw out the first ball at Saturday night's World Series opener, was beaten in Game 1 of the 1957 Series. Burdette came back to win Game 2.

When the Series moved to Milwaukee for Game 3, Kubek hit a pair of home runs in a 12-3 Yankees romp. The Braves tied the Series at 2-2, winning Game 4 on Mathews' two-run homer in the 10th inning after the Yankees rallied with two out in the ninth to tie the game on Elston Howard's three-run homer against Spahn.

New York took the lead in the 10th on a triple by Hank Bauer, but the Braves bounced back. Nippy Jones pinch-hit for Spahn leading off the 10th. When the first pitch from Bob Grim was in the dirt, umpire Augie Donatelli called it a ball. Jones argued that it had hit him and offered evidence -- a shoe polish smudge on the ball. Johnny Logan doubled home pinch-runner Felix Mantilla and then Mathews hit a two-run homer to win it for Milwaukee.

Then Burdette took over.

He pitched a seven-hitter to beat Whitey Ford 1-0 in Game 5. Mathews scored the only run after beating out an infield hit.

"Jerry Coleman didn't know Eddie was the second-fastest guy on the club," Burdette said. "If he doesn't back up on Mathews' ball to play it on the big hop, it's hard to tell how long it would have gone."

After Turley outpitched Spahn to win Game 6 on a home run by Bauer, the Braves went back to Burdette on just two days rest. He pitched another shutout, winning 5-0.

"It was nothing special for me," he said. "I had pitched three complete games in eight days before, quite a bit. These pitchers today don't seem to have stamina. I don't see how you build stamina without using your arm."

The same two teams returned for the 1958 Series and this time it looked as if Milwaukee would win easily. The Braves took three of the first four games, with Spahn winning the opener and shutting out New York in Game 5. Burdette won Game 2, contributing a three-run homer to a seven-run first inning.

But these Braves were flawed. Mathews and the other hitters were struggling. They were shut out by Don Larsen in Game 3 and Turley in Game 5 and scored just eight runs in the last five games.

"I went into the Series in a slump and I stayed in it," Mathews said. "I fell on my face. If I had done anything, we'd have won that year, too."

Mathews managed just four hits in 25 at-bats, a .160 average. The Braves batted .250 for the Series but that was a lot better than the Yankees, who hit just .210.

Turley shut out Milwaukee in Game 5, came out of the bullpen to get the last out in Game 6 and pitched the last six innings of the seventh-game clincher, benefiting from a four-run Yankees rally in the eighth that beat Burdette.

"People remember how Burdette won three games in 1957," Kubek said. "They forget how often Turley pitched in 1958."

Kubek recalled how close the players were, how Schoendienst taught him things about covering second and how Spahn and Burdette showed Ford something called a mud ball, which of course, none of them ever threw.

"Those were fun World Series," he said.

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