Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 1964: 50 Years Later

New York's team picture lacks faces of color (TheDeadballEra)
50 years ago today, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series by beating the New York Yankees in a decisive Game 7 at Busch Stadium. The Cards won 7-5 behind Bob Gibson, who went the distance in his third Series start despite surrendering three long balls and nine hits in all. It was, David Halberstam wrote 30 years later, a turning point for the sport, the end of one dynasty coinciding with the birth of another. More significantly, the torch was passed from a still largely-white organization to a shining example of integration.

The Yankees, winners of their fifth straight pennant, needed every one of their 99 wins to squeak by the White Sox (98 wins) and Orioles (97). They wouldn't win another pennant until 1976. Here's a quick look at that great Yankees squad (check back later for a breakdown of the Cardinals):

Starting Lineup

C Elston Howard
The 1963 American League MVP finished third in the balloting behind Brooks Robinson and Mickey Mantle. The All-Star receiver batted .313/.371/.455, won his second straight Gold Glove, and played 146 games behind the plate (150 overall). Was worth 5.6 bWAR.

1B Joe Pepitone
All-Star swatted 28 home runs and drove in 100, though his rate stats were horrible at .251/.281/.418.

2B Bobby Richardson
All-Star and Gold Glove recipient. Was limited offensively (.626 OPS), but provided decent counting numbers such as 90 runs, 181 hits, and 11 steals in 13 tries.

3B Clete Boyer
A black hole on offense (.573 OPS) but an elite gloveman at the hot corner, second only to Brooks Robinson.

SS Tony Kubek
Couldn't hit a lick (.615 OPS) but still played good enough defense to be worth two wins above replacement.

LF Tom Tresh
Switch-hitting outfielder struggled compared to his previous two seasons, but still smacked 16 home runs and was a perfect 13-for-13 in stolen base attempts.

CF Mickey Mantle
In his last great season, the MVP runner-up mashed 35 home runs and had 111 RBI. Physically, the Mick (then-32) was a mess, but that didn't stop him from posting the highest OBP (.423), OPS (1.015) and OPS+ (177) in the major leagues. Pitchers wisely avoided him, throwing him four wide ones on 18 occasions, most in the AL.

RF Roger Maris (3.9 bWAR)
In his last good season with the Yankees, Rajah slugged 26 home runs and batted .281/.364/.464.


Phil Linz
Posted a solid .332 OBP and clubbed 21 doubles in 417 plate appearances.

Hector Lopez
Provided 10 home runs off the bench to go along with his .260/.317/.418 slash line in 313 PAs.

Johnny Blanchard
Blanch batted a robust .255/.344/.435 with as many walks (24) as strikeouts, albeit in only 189 plate appearances.

Pedro Gonzalez
Failed to go yard in 123 plate appearances but still managed to bat a solid .277/.331/.366.


Jim Bouton
"Bulldog" followed up his breakout 1963 campaign with another stellar season in '64, posting a 3.02 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over 271 and 1/3 innings--third most in the American League. True to his nickname, the 25 year-old Bouton topped the American League in starts while leading his team in innings and wins. It would be his last great year before arm troubles ruined his career.

Whitey Ford
Sharp as a tack at 35, Ford ranked second to Cy Young winner Dean Chance in the American League with 6.7 pitching bWAR. Slick posted the lowest FIP (2.45) and second-lowest ERA (2.13) of his Hall of Fame career in 244 and 2/3 innings. An All-Star for the eighth and final time, the Chairman of the Board notched his 200th career win in his second start of the season.

Al Downing
Like Bouton, Downing was in the second full season of his career. Also like Bouton, he regressed a bit from his breakout 1963 but still wound up with good numbers in '64. The 23 year-old completed 244 innings and led the American League in strikeouts with 217, but was also wild and paced the Circuit in walks too. He'd become forever famous 10 years later for serving up the gopher ball to Hank Aaron that broke Babe Ruth's career home run record.

Ralph Terry
After throwing 594 and 2/3 innings in 1962 and 1963 combined (World Series included) Terry fell apart in his final season with the Yankees, going 7-11 with a 4.54 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. The scuffling 28 year-old was demoted to the bullpen midseason, and though he returned to the rotation pitched sparingly in September. He'd be dealt to Cleveland after the season, enjoying a bounce back year in 1965 before retiring two seasons later.

Mel Stottlemyre
A 22 year-old rookie, Stottlemyre made his debut in mid-August and stabilized New York's rotation down the stretch. He helped spark the Yankees to the pennant by going 9-3 with a 2.06 ERA.

Rollie Sheldon
One of five Yankees to exceed 100 innings, Sheldon made 12 starts for the Bombers and seven relief appearances. He pitched well with a 3.61 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 3.17 K/BB ratio.


CL Pete Mikkelsen
The 24 year-old closer was Berra's most-used reliever, leading the club with 50 appearances, 27 games finished and 12 saves.

RP Stan Williams
"Big Daddy," a one-time All-Star with the Dodgers, made 10 starts and 11 relief appearances but failed to distinguish himself.

RP Hal Reniff
"Porky" was second on the team in appearances with 41. He pitched well out of the pen with a 3.12 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and nine saves

RP Bill Stafford
Not only did Stafford go 5-0 with a 2.67 ERA, but he also started a game, saved four, finished 12, and appeared in 31.

RP Steve Hamilton
The tall, lanky left-hander was New York's primary southpaw reliever.


Yogi Berra
Upon Berra's retirement in 1963, incumbent skipper Ralph Houk was promoted to general manager and Berra became field manager. While Berra guided his team to another pennant and came within one win of delivering a championship, he was not well-respected by his players, almost all of whom were former teammates. The future Hall of Famer was axed following the '64 Series.

Upon further review, I'm kind of dumbfounded as to how this team won 99 games, even though their Pythagorean Record (98-64) says it was no fluke. The offense had multiple weak spots (pretty much the entire infield save Howard), yet somehow finished second in runs scored despite ranking fifth in OBP, fourth in slugging, and fourth in OPS (all middle-of-the-pack in a 10 team league). They had good power but not much speed. I guess the fact that three regulars carried an OPS+ below 75 was offset by strong bench play, with the four most-used reserves posting an OPS+ of 92 of better.

Their pitching could be explained in a similar way. The rotation had a big three of Ford, Bouton, and Downing, though I'm very shocked they only won 48 games between them given that they accounted for more than half (50.4 percent) of the Yankees' innings. Except for Terry, the fourth and fifth rotation spots were surprisingly decent, especially after Stottlemyre's call-up. The bullpen was solid, with no obvious weak links but no standouts either. It also helped that New York fielded a very strong infield defense, capable outfield (except Mantle, who by that point was a wreck), and a tremendous catcher in Howard.

Nowadays, I think this team would win 90 games. But back then, when there were only 10 teams in the American League, teams could be more flawed and still win.

(From L to R) Pepitone, Tresh, Maris, and Mantle (MyYESNetwork)


  1. Great article, but you didn't mention mid-season acquisition Pedro Ramos who posted 8 saves and an incredible 0.60 WHIP through the stretch run.

  2. Great article, but you didn't mention Pedro Ramos, a mid-season acquisition from Cleveland, who saved 8 games and posted a 0.60 WHIP down the stretch.

    1. Yes Ramos was key as he helped shore up New York's bullpen. Without him they probably don't win the pennant.