There is nothing better than winning the World Series and there is nothing worse than losing it, but despite the fact that nothing hurts more than losing the final game of the season, some World Series defeats are worse than others.
In 1963, the New York Yankees lost four consecutive games to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees never had a chance, although they were in every game.
When it was over, the players were embarrassed and depressed, but almost to a man, they felt that the 1960 loss was much worse.
Mickey Cried All the Way Home
Mickey Mantle expressed it eloquently.
“I don’t care if the Dodgers beat us 10 straight games. I still feel we have a better team. We couldn’t hit and their pitching was terrific. But this one didn’t hurt like 1960.”
Bill Skowron, who had been traded to the Dodgers during the off season and was part of the Dodgers’ winning team, confirmed Mickey’s statement.
“I sat next to Mickey that year, and he cried and cried all the way home.”
Los Angeles Had the Best Pitching the Yankees Had Seen in a World Series
The Yankees were angry with themselves but were calm. Manager Ralph Houk, who suffered his first World Series defeat after winning his first two, credited Los Angeles pitching for its championship.
“Their pitching was the best we’ve ever seen in a Series. I thought we played good ball but we couldn’t hit and that’s that.”
Houk had been with Yankees, as a player, coach, and manager since 1947.
Four Runs in Four Games Won’t Win
Elston Howard rated Koufax, Drysdale, and Podres ahead of the Braves’ Spahn, Burdette and Buhl, but it was Yogi who put things into perspective.
“We only got four runs in four games. It’s a little like the 1950 World Series. We beat the Phillies four straight with scores like 2-1 and 1-0.”
Mantle agreed, although he wasn’t yet a Yankee in 1950. Showing his competitive drive, Mickey told reporters, with a wistful grin, “Like they used to say in Brooklyn, ‘we’ll get ’em next year.'”
There Are Degrees of Pain
Winners hate to lose but recognize that, as Mantle said in the losing team’s locker room,
“There’s only two ways you can come out of a World Series. Feeling great or the way we are.”
But there are degrees of pain. In 1963, Sandy Koufax dominated Game 1 at Yankee Stadium, striking out 15 Yankees to set a new World Series record.
Johnny Podres shut out the Yankees for the first eight innings of Game 2 on the way to a 4-1 win, and when the teams went to Los Angeles, Don Drysdale out-dueled Jim Bouton for a 2-1 win.
Koufax beat Ford in Game 4, 2-1, to end the Series.
A Double Play That Never Happened in 1960
In 1960, the Yankees dominated the Pirates in three games, winning by scores if 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0, but they lost three close ones. The Pirates won their games by scores of 6-4, 3-2, and 5-2.
It came down to one game. The Yankees started Bob Turley, who no longer was the ace who won the 1958 Cy Young Award, against the Bucs Vern Law.
The Pirates jumped on Turley for two runs in the first inning, and when Smokey Burgess led off the second with a ringing single to right field, Casey Stengel brought in Bill Stafford. At the end of the inning, the Yankees trailed, 4-0.
In the sixth inning, the Yankees seemed to turn things around when one of the greatest clutch hitters of all time, Yogi Berra, facing Elroy Face, put the Yankees ahead, 5-4 with a three-run home run.
The Yankees tacked on two more runs in the eighth inning for a 7-4 lead.
Mariano Rivera wouldn’t be born for nine more years.
Gino Cimoli led off the Pirates’ eighth with a single off Bobby Shantz, who was in his sixth inning of work. And then it happened.
The diminutive lefty got Bill Virdon to hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop. It looked like a certain double play, but the ball hit a pebble, hopped weirdly, and struck Tony Kubek in the throat.
The Pirates had runners on first and second with no outs.
Dick Groat singled home Cimoli to make the score 7-5. Right-hander Jim Coates took over for Shantz to face left-handed hitter Bob Skinner. The Pirates’ left fielder sacrificed the runner to second and third.
Coates got left-handed hitter Rocky Nelson on a fly ball to right fielder Roger Maris.. The runners held and there were two outs with the great Clemente batting.
Roberto hit a slow ground ball towards first base. Bill “Moose” Skowron fielded the ball, but much to his chagrin and that of millions of Yankees’ fans, Coates was late covering first.
Clemente was safe, Virdon scored the Pirates’ sixth run, and there were runners on first and third.
Former Yankee Hal Smith hit a three-run home run. The Yankees trailed, 10-8.
But the Yankees never die easily. They tied the game with a pair of runs in the ninth inning off Bob Friend, but we all know what happened in the bottom of the ninth.
Bill Mazeroski wrote his ticket to the Hall of Fame when hit Ralph Terry’s second pitch over the left field wall.
Losing in 1963 was bad, but there were few regrets. Losing in 1960 was different.
What if Virdon’s double play grounder hadn’t hit a pebble? What if Coates had covered first base? “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, It might have been.”
Koppett, Leonard. “1960 Loss Worse, the Players Say; Team Felt More Humiliated After Defeat by Pirates in 7 Games 3 Years Ago.” New York Times. 7 October 1963, p. 39.