"I was holding my breath," says Rizzuto.
Bauer, playing deep, charged. "I saw it, and then I didn't see it," he recalls. He slid forward feet-first and snatched it off the top of the grass, ending the game and winning the Series. Brown laughs at the unlikely climax: "Monte Irvin and Bobby Thomson hit two balls 900 feet and Yvars hit a screaming line drive, and the next day one headline said, KUZAVA SHUTS DOWN GIANTS IN THE NINTH."
DiMaggio played in his last World Series that year; Mantle was playing in his first. One of the most important plays in Mantle's career took place in the second game of that Series. On a Willie Mays fly ball, Mantle, trying to get out of DiMaggio's way, stepped on a drain cover, tore ligaments in his right knee and collapsed. He lay motionless. "I thought he'd been shot, the way he went down," Yankees second baseman Jerry Coleman says. "That was the beginning of Mickey's long, agonizing problems with his leg."
Mantle was DiMaggio's heir apparent to the most venerated role in the Stadium's lore: the Yankee slugger. It was a legacy founded by Ruth from Opening Day in '23, and a parade soon trooped in his wake: Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, Mize, Mantle, Roger Maris. But none of them, not even Ruth, hit the ball as far as Mantle did. Twice in his career, batting from the left side, the Mick was a foot or two short of becoming the first man to drive a fair ball out of the Yard. Over the years, the fact that no one has ever done so became a central element of the Stadium's mystique.
On May 30, 1956, facing Washington Senators pitcher Pedro Ramos, Mantle drove a 2-and-2 fastball into the copper frieze along the rightfield roof. "I first thought it was just a pop fly," Ramos recalls, "but it carried like that new airplane that's gonna take a half hour from San Francisco to New York. If it had not hit the roof, it would have been in Brooklyn."
Seven years later Mantle busted a fastball from Bill Fischer, now pitching for the Kansas City Athletics, that hammered the same filigree. "You could hear everybody suck in their breath when it was hit," says Rizzuto. "It was on its upward are when it hit that facade, and then it seemed to hesitate a moment before it dropped." Mantle proclaimed it the hardest ball he ever hit. Says Fischer, "Six feet over and it would have gone right through the gap by the bullpen and killed somebody waiting at the train station."
Perhaps the mother of all blasts in the Stadium came two years later when 6'7", 255-pound Frank Howard of Washington smote a Steve Hamilton fastball down the foul line and over the upper deck in left, over the exits and over the roof and out of the park. It was foul by about four feet. "Nobody's ever hit a ball that far," says Yankees third baseman Clete Boyer. "It was like a shot out of a bazooka. I wish it had been fair. You had to see it to believe it."
Which is precisely what they were saying on that afternoon of Oct. 4, 1955, as the 2,838,000 citizens of Brooklyn danced out their doors and into the streets. For Brooklyn fans the Stadium came to be the embodiment of a wicked curse—a mammoth white oracle orchestrating their fate. Coming into their '55 Series with the Yankees, the Dodgers had been in seven World Series since 1916, and they had never won a championship. The Yankees had beat them four times (two of those in seven games) in the past eight years. Going into the seventh game of the '55 Series, each team had won on its home field, setting up what Harold Rosenthal of the New York Herald Tribune described at the time as possibly "the most dramatic Series game ever played."
Dodgers manager Walter Alston made two fateful moves that day. First, since the Yard was friendly to lefthanded pitchers, he sent Johnny Podres to the mound. Second, in the sixth inning Alston moved Jim Gilliam, an infielder playing leftfield that day, to second base—where he belonged—and replaced him with Sandy Amoros, a light-hitting outfielder with the range of an antelope.
The Dodgers were leading 2-0 in the sixth when Berra came to the plate with no outs, Billy Martin on second and Gil McDougald on first. Amoros was playing the lefthanded pull hitter toward center. "I threw a fastball that was high and about a foot outside," recalls Podres. "He shouldn't have even swung at it! But Yogi did." Berra sliced the ball down the leftfield line. Amoros got a good jump and began sprinting wildly toward the foul pole. Martin took off for third, and McDougald raced to second. As he rounded second, he saw Amoros closing on the ball. "When Amoros got near the fence, he put on the brakes, and it looked like he was leaning backward," McDougald recalls. "When I saw that, I took off for third. I was going to score!