The Dodgers in 1963 faced a test, a rare opportunity to vanquish two monkeys firmly entrenched on their backs — blowing the 1962 pennant with a late collapse, and losing six out of seven World Series to the Yankees.
But thanks to Sandy Koufax and friends, the Dodgers aced the test with flying colors. Koufax finished off his incredible season with a 2-1 win in Game 4 at Dodger Stadium, completing the sweep of the Yankees.
Manager Walt Alston, his job security in question numerous times during the 1963 season, instead secured his third championship in 10 years on the job, the first three World Series titles in franchise history.
“This makes up for everything,” Alston told United Press International after the sweep.
“What a difference a year makes,” Game 3 winner Don Drysdale said to the Associated Press.
Future Dodgers public relations executive then general manager Fred Claire was a reporter in 1963, and wrote this in the Pomona Progress-Bulletin:
“The Los Angeles Dodgers, who were the joke of the baseball world in 1962 because they blew the National League title, are the world champions of 1963 because they blew the New York Yankees off the field in four straight games.
“An autopsy showed that the Yankees passed away due to an overdose of Dodger pitching.”
That Dodgers pitching limited the mighty 104-win Yankees, winners of the previous two World Series, to only four runs in the Fall Classic, setting a record for a four-game series. The old record was five runs, by the “Whiz Kids” Phillies in 1950 against the Yankees.
These Dodgers in 1966 would break this record by famously scoring only twice while getting swept by the Orioles, including no runs over the final 33 innings of that World Series.
But this isn’t about the 1966 team, it’s about the 1963 Dodgers, who were kings of the sport. And sitting on the throne was Koufax, so it’s only fitting he was on the mound to finish off the Yankees.
Koufax set a record with 15 strikeouts in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium, and started off Game 4 with four strikeouts his first time through the Yankees lineup. He retired his first 10 batters faced at Dodger Stadium, and after Bobby Richardson doubled with one out in the fourth inning, Koufax stranded him.
Koufax also stranded Elston Howard after a leadoff single in the next frame, and kept the Yankees scoreless through six innings.
“I pitched better the first four innings in New York,” Koufax told the Associated Press. “But as far as the whole ball game, I think I did better this time. I held my stuff better.”
Frank Howard gave the Dodgers the lead with a fifth-inning home run, his second home run off Whitey Ford during the series after a double in Game 1.
Mickey Mantle homered off Koufax in the seventh inning to tie the game, just the second hit of the series for Mantle but his 15th career World Series home run, tying Babe Ruth for the all-time record.
The winning run for the Dodgers came in the bottom of the seventh, thanks to an error. Jim Gilliam grounded to third baseman Clete Boyer, whose throw was not caught by first baseman Joe Pepitone. Instead, the ball got by him and down the right field line, putting Gilliam on third. Willie Davis cashed him in with a sacrifice fly, giving Koufax all the margin he needed.
“I lost it in the sun and the white shirts of the grandstands,” Pepitone told the Associated Press.
Koufax faced some traffic in the final three innings. Howard singled after Mantle’s one-out homer, but was stranded. Pinch-hitter Phil Linz singled with one out in the eighth, but was erased on a double play to second baseman Dick Tracewski.
Richardson singled to open the ninth, but Koufax struck out Tom Tresh and Mantle. Howard’s grounder to shortstop could have ended the series, but Tracewski’s error at second put the tying and go-ahead runners on base with two outs in the ninth. But Hector Lopez grounded out to Maury Wills at shortstop to finally put a bow on the Dodgers’ sweep.
Koufax won Games 1 and 4, pitching complete games in both, allowing three total runs with 23 strikeouts in his 18 innings to win World Series MVP.
“He’s the greatest pitcher in the world. The greatest I’ve ever seen,” said Johnny Podres, himself a World Series MVP in 1955 who won Game 2 in 1963, told the Associated Press about Koufax’s dominance.
After leading the majors in ERA (1.88), strikeouts (306, a National League record), wins (25-5), and shutouts (11, the most in 47 years), during the regular season, Koufax counting the World Series won 27 games with a 1.86 ERA in 329 innings and 329 strikeouts.
It had the 27-year-old bullish on his future, including this fascinating quote after Game 4, to George Lederer in the Long Beach Post-Telegram:
“I want to go on and on, like Warren Spahn. My goal is to become the biggest winner in history. I’ll probably have to pitch 30 years to do it, but right now I feel that I can go on forever. The day you can’t do the job, the hitters will let you know before anyone else.”
Had Koufax not won the award, the Dodgers on offense had a few other candidates for World Series MVP.
Tommy Davis, the winner of the last two batting titles in the National League, had six hits in the series, hitting .400 with two triples, both in Game 2
Moose Skowron, who slumped mightily in the regular season, came alive against the Yankees, with whom he played the previous nine years. Skowron had five hits, hitting .385/.429/.615 with a home run and three RBI. Then again, the 32-year-old Skowron is used to the World Series, playing in eight of them in the last nine years, hitting .293/.326/.519 with eight home runs and 29 RBI in 39 games.
Only four of the nine active Dodgers pitchers appeared in a game during the World Series. Koufax completed both starts, and Drysdale pitched a shutout. Podres pitched into the ninth in Game 2, leaving the final two outs for Ron Perranoski.
For their efforts, a full World Series share for the winning Dodgers was $12,727, per the Associated Press. For comparison, the 26-year-old Howard made $22,000 that season.
Previous 1963 reviews: Snider to Mets | Nate Oliver | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | All-Star Game | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Ed Roebuck | Week 17 | Week 18 | Week 19 | Week 20 | Week 21 | Week 22 | Week 23 | Week 24 | Week 25 | World Series Game 1 | World Series Game 2 | World Series Game 3
Game 4 particulars
Home runs: Frank Howard; Mickey Mantle
WP — Sandy Koufax: 9 IP, 6 hits, 1 run, 8 strikeouts
LP — Whitey Ford: 7 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
One more post is coming in this season-long review of the 1963 Dodgers. We’ll get to the awards a little bit later this month.