There was the epic Yankee-Dodger Series in 1952, and the Indians' fall before Dusty Rhodes and the Giants in 1954. There was Johnny Podres, stopping the Yankees in 1955, Don Larsen and his perfect game in 1956, and Burdette last year.
With all this in mind—this lush history of things happening, of great moments, of epic heroes and monumental goats—the baseball fan approaches the World Series. The fun for the fan who, unhappily, is neither rabidly pro-Milwaukee nor casually pro-New York lies in the anticipation of what might happen when these two fine teams meet again; and, further, in the enjoyment of whatever does happen at the time it occurs. (This ignores, of course, the pleasure of reflecting on past wonders which will occupy the baseball buff's mind through the long cold winter of basketball.)
Specifically, we who are hopelessly smitten by the unparalleled beauty of a well-played baseball game ignore the matters of attendance and gate receipts and TV commercials and intra-squad jealousies to wonder whether Burdette can possibly be as good again this year as he was last, and we wait eagerly for the actual enjoyment that will come when Burdette spits, wriggles and throws, and we sit back to see if he'll come driving through in fine style or get his ears pinned back.
This anticipation of things to come in the Series goes beyond the obvious, like Burdette this year (or the coming test under fire of the ailing and questionable pitching arms of the Yankees' Whitey Ford and Don Larsen), to the completely unpredictable: Burdette last year, for instance, or Larsen the year before, or Podres the year before that and Rhodes the year before that. The point is, something will happen, something always does, something delightful, rich, unforgettable.
Consider the arenas, the stadiums—the one jammed into the teeming Bronx, crowded by antenna-topped apartment houses, the other sitting by itself in a roomy hollow in the low Wisconsin hills. One has a parking problem, the other has it solved. One is old (if 35 years is old) and storied; the other is new (if six is new) and relatively innocent of glory. One was built by a rich man to house his favorite hobby, the other by a band of practical politicians with their eye out for something that would benefit their city. One has been a real-estate football, the other an example of smart community planning. Either is worth close study (and, indeed, thousands on thousands of words have been written and hundreds of pictures taken to describe the stadiums and the operations required to keep them functioning efficiently).
THE IMPORTANT THINGS
Yet ask the baseball fan about them. He'll tell you the important things, the successes that ballplayers have had here, and the failures. Here, in Yankee Stadium, high, high up on the right-field façade, at the lip of the right-field roof, is where Mickey Mantle hit a tremendous home run in 1956, a home run that came within a foot or two of being the only fair ball ever hit out of this famous ball park. Then, over a bit, in center field, is where Mantle misjudged Henry Aaron's long fly in the second inning of the second Series game last year. Mickey played the ball into a triple and unintentionally set up the important run that Aaron scored moments later. Over still farther, toward the sunny seats on the left-field side of the Stadium, is the place where Wes Covington made his remarkable catch of Bobby Shantz' dangerous line drive in the same inning of the same game, just a few minutes after Mantle had misplayed Aaron's fly.
In a bit more is third base, where Ed Mathews made his even more remarkable play on Bill Skowron's hard-hit ground ball down the third-base foul line in the last inning of the last game. That was the play that ended the game, the play that gave Burdette his third victory, the play that finally brought their first World Championship to Milwaukee.
It also saved Burdette's shutout (his second in a row), and it enabled him to stretch his streak of scoreless World Series innings pitched to 24. The record is 29⅔ innings, held by that fellow Ruth, whose home runs are mentioned at some length above. Before he became a great hitter, the Babe was a great pitcher; this 40-year-old Series pitching record is clear evidence of that. But if Burdette can keep the Yankees from scoring through the first six innings he pitches in this year's Series, the record will be his.
Here, in Milwaukee's County Stadium, is where Lew will try, when he goes at the Yanks in either the first or second game. If he comes through against them as he did last year, there's a chance that a solid gold monument will be erected on the pitcher's mound. Till that time the most revered sites in the Milwaukee ball park are in the outfield. Henry Aaron hit the home run that won the game that gave the Braves their first pennant a year ago over the center-field fence. And over the right-field fence sailed Eddie Mathews' home run in the 10th inning of the fourth Series game last year.