It seemed like old times, too, for the Phillies and the White Sox, but more pleasantly so. Their aces, big Robin Roberts for the Phils and small Billy Pierce for the White Sox, each gained two victories the first week. Pierce won 2-1 and 3-0, a glittering start for this stylish left-hander.
Lew Burdette, one of the pitchers the Milwaukee Braves are counting on to have a big year if the Braves are to vie for the pennant, started off the season with a shutout. And Sam (Toothpick) Jones of the Chicago Cubs, whose blazing curve and questionable control make him probably the most respected pitcher in the circuit as far as National League hitters are concerned, picked up a victory his first time out.
Pitching was the big story almost every place in baseball the opening week and when the season's first big series began—the three-game set in Yankee Stadium between the American League champions, the New York Yankees, and their most exciting challengers, the Boston Red Sox—it was felt that pitching would be the big story there, too. After the first game, in which chunky, muscular Whitey Ford stopped the Sox cold, 7-1, it seemed certain to be. Bob Turley and Don Larsen were on deck for New York for the last two games, and Boston had brilliant young George Susce and steady Frank Sullivan to throw back at them.
WEAKNESS AND STRENGTH
But Susce and Sullivan had nothing, and the Yankees ran up huge leads in both games, 8-0 in the first and 6-1 in the second. Neither Turley nor Larsen, however, was able to conserve these extravagant advantages. In both games the Red Sox scrambled back, on Saturday actually taking the lead at 10-9 and on Sunday tying the score at 6-6. They had found and exploited the one Yankee weakness: pitching.
But they failed miserably to contain the Yankee strength: hitting, the kind of hitting that ignores batting percentages and concentrates on scoring runs. After the Sox had gone ahead 10-9 in the eighth inning of the Saturday game, a leather-lunged anti-Yankee New Yorker in the left-field stands yelled at the Bostons: "Don't stop now! One run isn't enough! Berra is first up next inning!"
But the Red Sox did stop and, sure enough, they did need more runs. For almost inevitably Yogi Berra, whom Paul Richards calls the best late-inning hitter in baseball, led off the bottom of the eighth with a home run and tied the score. The pressure of Yankee power broke through after him, and New York turned what could have been a humiliating defeat into a telling, if disorderly 14-10 triumph.
Much the same thing happened the next day. The Red Sox fought back to tie the score in the top of the sixth, but in the seventh a Yankee single was followed by a jarring Red Sox error and suddenly there were two men on base with Mickey Mantle (see page 26) and Berra coming one after the other to the plate.
Once again, the Red Sox waited like condemned men for the executioners to throw the switch. It was thrown. Mantle doubled for two runs, Berra homered for two more. The game broke wide open and New York went on to win 13-6.
Boston's opening three-game winning streak had been neutralized. The Yankees had won the first battle of Bull Run. This weekend the two clubs meet again in Boston and this time the Red Sox have no choice. They have to win. Defeat is oblivion.