For a manager with two championships already under his belt, Walt Alston sure faced a lot of job insecurity in 1963, with rumors swirling and tempers flaring at various points during the season.
A lot had to do with fresh memories of the Dodgers blowing a four-game lead with seven to play in 1962, then blowing a lead at home in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the National League playoff to the hated Giants. So it’s understandable that doubts started to creep in when the Dodgers’ seven-game cushion atop the NL standings shrunk to just one entering the week of September 16.
But this wasn’t a case of choking by the Dodgers, who were 11-6 since building such a big lead. It was the Cardinals who were playing out of their minds, winning 19 out of 20 to close the gap. This added a ton of importance to a series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis between the top two teams in the National League, with only two weeks left in the season.
Such was the tension that George Lederer in the Press-Telegram wrote, “Vin Scully describes best the Dodgers’ ups and downs of 1963: ‘The team photo,’ says Scully, ‘will be one big ulcer.’”
But the Dodgers found some measure of relief by sweeping the Cardinals in St. Louis in a week that all but wrapped up another National League pennant for Los Angeles.
Strong pitching was key in the first two games. Johnny Podres pitched eight innings in Monday’s 3-1 win, and Sandy Koufax pitched a shutout on Tuesday. Koufax’s 11 shutouts were the most by a major league pitcher since Grover Alexander had 16 for the Phillies in 1916.
Wednesday was a dogfight, in which the Dodgers overcame a 5-1 deficit against Bob Gibson. One of the heroes was Dick Nen, the first baseman from Long Beach State who was called up earlier in the day. He pinch-hit for pitcher Bob Miller in the eighth inning, then hit a game-tying home run off Ron Taylor in the ninth inning.
Four innings later, the Dodgers finished off the sweep.
“Dick Nen, 23-year-old rookie first baseman who joined the Dodgers Wednesday night after playing for Spokane in the PCL play-off at Oklahoma City the previous night, isn’t eligible for the World Series,” wrote Frank Finch of the Los Angeles Times, “but the Dodgers should vote him a sizable share of the swag.”
Batter of the week
Willie Davis had multi-hit games and scored in all three games in St. Louis, and for the week had 10 hits in 23 at-bats with a home run, a double, drove in six runs, and scored five.
Pitcher of the week
Koufax had another fine week, and Don Drysdale pitched a shutout in Pittsburgh. But this week’s award goes to relief ace Ron Perranoski. He closed out Monday’s win with a scoreless ninth inning, then entered in the eighth inning Wednesday with the Dodgers down a run, and pitched six scoreless innings to earn the win, even working around a leadoff triple by Dick Groat by stranding him at third base to keep the game going.
Week 24 results
20 runs scored (3.33 per game)
13 runs allowed (2.17 per game)
.687 pythagorean win percentage
Year to date
623 runs scored (3.97 per game)
525 runs allowed (3.34 per game)
.578 pythagorean win percentage (90-66)
National League standings: 1st place, up 5½ games on St. Louis
Magic number to clinch pennant: 1
- Monday, Sep. 16: Dodgers 3, Cardinals 1
- Tuesday, Sep. 17: Dodgers 4, Cardinals 0
- Wednesday, Sep. 18: Dodgers 6, Cardinals 5 (13 innings)
- Friday, Sep. 20: Dodgers 2, Pirates 0
- Saturday, Sep. 21: Dodgers 5, Pirates 3
- Sunday, Sep. 22: Pirates 4, Dodgers 0
1963 Week 24 batting
1963 Week 24 pitching
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
The week ahead
The Dodgers will try to clinch the pennant during the Bobby Smith gauntlet, hosting the Mets and Phillies to close out the regular season.