But for the Dodgers it will almost certainly come down to pitching. Like Ford, Sandy Koufax can work three games if needed, and Koufax is baseball's best pitcher. Johnny Podres, the old man of the Dodger pitching staff at 31, beat the Yankees the last two times that he pitched against them in a Series, and Podres is a "money pitcher" with a fine change-up. Ron Perranoski (16-3) has an earned run average of 1.73, and Alston likes to bring him on in late relief. Perranoski has given up only one homer to a left-handed hitter in 323 innings, and it is usually the Yankee left-handed hitters—the Berras, Blanchards, Marises, Kubeks and Pepitones—who win games in the late innings. Don Drysdale, and Reliever Bob Miller (2.98 ERA) are very good Dodger righthanders, which is what right-handers must be against the Yankees. Pitching usually wins a Series, and the Dodgers certainly have that.
The Yankees are equipped with a brilliant infield, fine pitching, excellent power and three of the largest and most confusing uncertainties in their long, proud history. How sound, really, is Mickey Mantle? He can still hit a baseball, but can he now use his once blinding speed? When he bats right-handed against Koufax or Podres or Perranoski and hits the ball on the ground, can he still outrun those close ones? Can his brittle legs stand the strain of all-out defensive play? If Mantle is at full speed—and even Yankee-haters must hope that he is—there is no better baseball player in the world. Then there is the question of Roger Maris. Almost unnoticed, Maris has had an excellent, if limited, year for the Yankees, hitting home runs at the rate of more than one every four hits. But Maris has been repeatedly sidelined with a bad back. Both Koufax and Podres have good changeup pitches, and when Maris, a severe pull hitter, tries to jerk the ball to right field, who can tell how that back will react? Finally, Switch Hitter Tom Tresh, the leading Yankee hitter against the Giants last year, has been harassed by an injury to his throwing hand, and it has made him a less effective hitter when he bats from the right side of the plate. Although the Yankees maintain that the throwing ability of Tresh has not been impaired, no one will really know until the Dodgers try to run on him. Should anything happen to any one of these three outfielders, Hector Lopez and John Blanchard are capable replacements, but Lopez in the past has been less than spectacular in the October shadows of Yankee Stadium, nor has he distinguished himself afield in Chavez Ravine. If Mantle, Maris and Tresh are in top shape the Yankees have the kind of power to worry even the Dodger pitchers. Being able to use all three in the outfield at the same time is also very important to New York defensively. Maris is a truly excellent right fielder in the Stadium, and Tresh has developed rapidly as a left fielder.
With the exception of the bullpen, the Yankee pitching staff is almost as good as that of the Dodgers; New York also is betting on left-handers (see cover). Whitey Ford is still Whitey Ford: cagey, cute and with a Series earned-run average of 2.31. And Al Downing, who was brought up from Richmond in June to win 13 games with a brilliant 2.39 ERA, has an exceptional fast ball. Downing, however, would appear to be vulnerable to the Dodger attack because of fielding inadequacies and a marked slowness in getting off the mound. The best Yankee right-hander is young Jim Bouton, a 20-game winner. Ralph Terry, who completed more games than any other member of the Yankee staff, has been less effective since midseason, and his history of giving up home runs in costly situations still stalks him. He may be used only in relief—which would help a Yankee bullpen that could use some help. Steve Hamilton is used primarily against left-handed hitters and excels at getting left-handers out. Hal Reniff is probably the most reliable member of the relief staff. His record of 4-3 is not overpowering, but he saved 17 games, the same number as Perranoski. Marshall Bridges is usually wild, and Bill Kunkel has a tendency to give up big hits.
If the Dodger left-handers can contain Pepitone in Yankee Stadium, the Yankee attack will suffer. Pepitone is not supposed to be strong against lefties, but he hit 15 of his 25 homers in Yankee Stadium and six of them were against left-handers. Third Baseman Clete Boyer can hit behind a runner better than anyone in the American League, and has power. Bobby Richardson might surprise the Dodgers with his speed; generally overlooked is his record this year of 15 steals in 16 attempts. Catcher Elston Howard leads the Yanks in homers with 28, but only eight of them were hit in the Stadium. The long (402 feet) distance to left center there works against him, but he has hit more homers in Chavez Ravine (five) than any other Yankee. The Yankee bench is much better than the Dodger bench, and Harry Bright, Phil Linz, Yogi Berra and John Blanchard are good enough to start on almost any other team in the American League.
The Yankees have a big advantage in their infield. Boyer at third, Kubek at short, Richardson at second and Pepitone at first make the double play at the critical times. Pepitone has tremendous range to his right, and Richardson never seems to be out of position. Boyer borders on the spectacular, while Kubek remains one of the American League's best shortstops.
This comfortable edge in defense, in power and in World Series experience is enough to offset the remarkable Dodger speed. But the Series will be decided by pitching—by left-handed pitching—and Ford and Downing, as good as they are, cannot match Koufax, Podres and Perranoski. The Dodger lefties are the best. The Dodgers should win.