When the Yankees won the World Series Championship in 1958, it capped the most dominant decade of baseball excellence in the history of the sport. It represented the team’s seventh World Series victory of the decade and marked the ninth time in the 1950s that the Yankees had represented the American League in the World Series. Overall, the 1958 World Series Championship marked the 18th in the illustrious history of the franchise. Of course, the Yankees would go on to win nine more World Series Championships over the next 57 seasons, exactly 16 more than the next closest MLB team. While the 1958 victory may seem like just another in the mix, a couple of facts point to this potentially being the most significant of the team’s wins.
The World Series itself was a rematch of the previous year’s fall classic as the National League Champion Milwaukee Braves looked to repeat as champions. The Braves had just won their second World Series Championship in 1957, their first in Milwaukee and first since they were the miracle Boston Braves of 1914. Both teams had won their respective league pennants with identical 92-62 records. The Braves were looking to join the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals as the only teams to defeat the Yankees more than once in World Series competition. Yankees manager Casey Stengel was hoping to tie Joe McCarthy with a record of seven World Series Championships, a record for a major league manager.
The Braves won game one 4-3 in ten innings on a walk off single by outfielder Bill Bruton. 1957 World Series hero Lew Burdette led the Braves to a 13-5 victory in game two with his pitching and a three run first inning home run (only five other pitchers had hit a home run in World Series play). After Don Larsen led the Yankees to a 4-0 win in game three, Milwaukee’s Warren Spahn shutout the Yankees in a rematch of the game one pitching match-up with the Yankees Whitey Ford. At this point, the Milwaukee Braves had a commanding three games to one lead in the best of seven series. In the fifty-four year history of the World Series, only once had a team come back from a three games to one deficit to win the whole thing. (In 1925, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Washington Senators after being down 3-1.)
Stengel re-inserted outfielder Elston Howard into the lineup as he had missed the past two plus due to injury. 21 game winner Bob Turley avenged a terrible performance in game two for the Yankees to lead the team to a 7-0 victory. The Yankees took game six 4-3 in ten innings setting up a rematch of game seven of the 1957 World Series. Don Larsen, who had failed to get out of the third inning in the deciding game a year earlier, was matched up against the likely 1957 World Series MVP (if the award had existed back then) Burdette. Once again, Larsen did not come up to the challenge. He was relieved by Turley in the third inning with the team leading 2-1. The Braves tied it up before the Yankees scored four runs in the eighth inning en route to a 6-2 series clinching victory. The Yankees won the series 4-3, becoming the second team to win a World Series after trailing the series 3 games to one.
An unknown fact at the time was that the 1957 World Series victory would be the last for legendary manager Stengel. The Yankees returned to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960, losing the series in heartbreaking fashion. Stengel did not return to the Yankees the following year. He took over the expansion New York Mets for the start of the 1962 season.
The most important part of the New York Yankees victory in the 1958 World Series is what it meant for the city of New York. Less than a year before, it had been announced that the city’s two National League teams would be relocating to California. This, of course, was devastating news to the fans of the two teams as well as to the city. The Yankees had many fans, and as most people would expect, a growing fan base built on their continuous winning tradition, developed over the course of the past decade. But New York City was known as a National League town, with both the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers supported by the working class people. While many continued their allegiance to their respective teams, transplanted to California, other fans were insulted by their teams leaving their city. A decent number of fans felt that their teams had abandoned them, and therefore started rooting for the Yankees. The victory in the 1958 World Series was a victory for the city of New York. Some Giants and Dodgers fans enjoyed the World Series Championship because they saw it as a win for their city. While not all New Yorkers were on board as fans, very few in the city of New York were not happy that the New York Yankees defeated the Milwaukee Braves in the 1958 World Series.