In 1954, two teams, besides the Dodgers and Yankees, in the Cleveland Indians (111-43-2) managed by former catcher Al Lopez with Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg as general manager met the New York Giants (97-57) managed by Leo Durocher with Chub Feeney as general manager in the 52nd World Series.
Cleveland had dominated the American League finishing eight games in front of the World Champion Yankees and were led on offense by Bobby Avila (.341 BA, 112 RS), Al Rosen ( 24 HR, 102 RBI, .300 BA), Larry Doby (32 HR, 126 RBI, 94 RS) and Al Smith (101 RS).
Their starting pitching was where they really excelled with future Hall of Famers Early Wynn (23-11. 2.73 ERA), Bob Lemon (23-7, 2.72 ERA), and Bob Feller (13-3) as well as Mike Garcia (19-9, 2.64 ERA) and Art Houtteman (15-7). In the bullpen they had Ray Narleski (2.73 ERA, 13 saves), Don Mossi (6-1, 1.94 ERA) and another future Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser (7-2, 2.51 ERA).
The Giants were led on offense by 23-year-old Willie Mays (43 HR, 110 RBI, .345 BA, 119 RS), Al Dark (20 HR, .293 BA, 98 RS), Hank Thomson (26 HR, 86 RBI), Monte Irvin (18 HR), Don Mueller (.342) and Dusty Rhodes (.341 BA).
Their starters were Johnny Antonelli (21-7, 2.30 ERA), Ruben Gomez (17-9, 2.89 ERA), Sal Maglie (14-6) and Don Liddle (9-4) while in the bullpen they had Marv Grissom (10-7, 2.35 ERA, 17 saves) and knuckleballer and future Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm (12-4, 2.10 ERA, 7 saves).
Game one was at the historic Polo Grounds in the Manhattan borough of New York City with Bob Lemon and Sal Maglie hooked up in a pitching duel. Cleveland got two first-inning runs off Maglie on a Vic Wertz triple and the Giants tied it up in the third.
With two runners on board in the seventh inning, Vic Wertz stepped to plate and drove a ball towards the centerfield wall. Willie Mays turned and with his back to the infield made a basket catch reaching out just before getting to the fence to make the catch, a catch considered one of the best in the history of the World Series.
The game went to the bottom of the tenth inning with the score 2-2.
Dusty Rhodes pinch hit for Monte Irvin and promptly deposited a home run in the right field seats with Willie Mays and Hank Thompson on base and the Giants won game one, 6-2.
Game two was a matchup between lefthander Johnny Antonelli and Early Wynn and again the Indians scored in the first inning on a solo home run by Al Smith. And again, Dusty Rhodes pinch hit for Irvin and this time singled in Willie Mays in the fifth inning to tie the score and Antonelli got what proved to be the winning run home on a fielder’s choice later in the same inning.
Dusty Rhodes continued his hot hitting by adding a solo home run in the seventh inning and the Giants won 3-1 to go up 2-0 over the Indians.
The Cleveland batters just couldn’t get anything going against the New York pitching and the Giants built a 6-0 lead with RBI singles by Willie Mays and Dusty Rhodes. Vic Wertz added a solo home run, but the Indians lost 6-2 to fall behind in the series 3-0.
Bob Lemon was back to try to get the Indians a win in game four, but two RBI’s each by Monte Irvin and Wes Westrum helped the Giants build a 7-0 lead. In spite of a three-run pinch hit homer by Hank Majeski, the Giants won the game 7-4 and the World Series.
The Giants would be back in the Fall Classic in 1962 as the San Francisco Giants while Cleveland did not return until 1995.
Hank Greenberg’s name has been in the news this past season as with 58 home runs in 1938 he and Jimmy Foxx (with 58 in 1932) held the record for most home runs in the American League by a right handed batter until Aaron Judge broke their record with 62.
Statistics for this article were from baseball-reference.com and youtube.com.