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Bases Loaded:

The History of the Los Angeles Kings


By Chris Oakley

Part 9


adapted from material previously posted at Othertimelines.com



Summary: In the first eight chapters of this series we recalled William Randolph Hearst’s creation of the Continental League and the Los Angeles Kings; the 1935 CL-MLB merger and subsequent MLB reorganization; the Kings’ postseason triumphs and heartbreaks in the late ‘30s and the firing of manager Al Bridwell after they lost the 1940 World Series; the Kings’ spectacular 1941 season; L.A.’s World War II doldrums on the diamond; the Los Angeles postwar resurgence which led to World Series victories against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and the Boston Braves in 1948; the heartbreak of their 1949 ALCS defeat; their collapse in the home stretch of the 1950 baseball season; Hearst’s death late in the 1951 season; the retirement of "California Clipper" Joe DiMaggio; and the return of Al Bridwell as Kings manager. In this segment we’ll remember the Kings’ 1953 ALCS faceoff with the Yankees, the epic Purple & Gold playoff runs of the mid-‘50s, and the Hearst family’s reaction to Dodger owner Walter O’Malley’s decision to move his franchise from Brooklyn to the San Fernando Valley.


To say that both contestants in the 1953 ALCS were impatient for the series to start would have been putting it mildly. After three straight seasons of having been on the outside looking in when the postseason came around, the Kings wanted nothing more than to wipe the floor with the Bronx Bombers and advance to the World Series. As for the Yankees, ever since picking up Buddy Rosar and the Cooper brothers in that blockbuster trade four years earlier, they’d taken considerable pride in reasserting their Babe Ruth-era status as the American League’s 800-pound gorillas; a postseason series victory over their West Coast rivals would help to solidify that status.

Conversely, by the same token the Kings saw the ’53 ALCS as their chance to reverse an unfortunate recent trend of falling short at the moment of truth in their pursuit of another American League pennant. Though it had been at least four years since the Purple & Gold and the Pinstripes had last gone head-to-head in the postseason, L.A.’s 1949 ALCS defeat at the hands of New York stung as badly as if it had happened just yesterday; Al Bridwell wanted to wipe that sting away. No, more than that: he wanted to reverse it and make New York feel a touch of the misery LA players and fans had had to live with for four long years.

The 1953 ALCS had more subplots than a Russian novel-- and one of the most intriguing of those subplots was the resurgence of Tommy Henrich’s career since he was traded to Los Angeles. At the time he’d come over from the Bronx Bombers in the Cooper brothers-Rosar trade, he’d been in something of a decline; since joining the Purple & Gold, however, he’d revitalized his hitting defense to the point where he’d become a perennial Gold Glove candidate. No matter which team a fan was pulling for in the ALCS that year, there was widespread agreement among baseball aficionados on both the East and West Coasts that the former Pinstripe would be a crucial factor in the final outcome; the better he did at the plate, the stronger L.A.’s chances were of making a return to the World Series.

It was with bated breath that spectators came to Hearst Palladium on October 2d, 1953 to watch the 1953 ALCS opener; Tommy Henrich was leading off for the Kings that afternoon. On the fourth pitch of the game, Henrich slammed an eye-popping double off Yankee pitcher Allie "Super Chief" Reynolds that ricocheted off the top of the right field wall and, had it gone just an inch higher, might well have turned into a home run. As it was, it set the stage for Henrich to score later in the first inning courtesy of a long single by Preston Ward.

That double would also set the tone for the rest of the series. The Yankees had been sure that the struggle to regain the AL West division pennant had drained the Kings’ energy and left them with little energy to spare for the ALCS, but Henrich’s double quickly disabused them of that idea; if anything, the Purple & Gold seemed to have discovered a previously untapped reserve of power in the last weeks of the regular season. That reserve would propel the Kings to a three-run shutout of New York in Game 1 and a 5-4 comeback victory over the Pinstripes the next day in Game 2.

When the series shifted to Yankee Stadium for Game 3, the Yanks hoped that a bit of home cooking might turn their fortunes around. And after New York lit up the Kings’ pitching staff for five runs in the first three innings en route to a 12-7 Yankees victory, it seemed like the Yankees’ wish had been granted. But in the end that illusion of hope would turn out to be just that-- an illusion....


There was hardly an empty seat to be found in the House That Ruth Built when the Bronx Bombers and the Purple & Gold squared off in the fourth and final game of the 1953 ALCS. For that matter, there weren’t many empty cells at Rikers Island either; the NYPD had been kept busy arresting ticket scalpers almost from the second the first tickets for Game 2 were sold. The day after the game, the New York Daily News and the New York Post devoted almost as much ink to those trying to scalp game tickets as they did to the game itself-- and that was an ocean of ink.

In sharp contrast to Game 1, when the Bronx Bombers’ bats had been the deciding factor in the outcome, Game 4 of the 1953 ALCS would be dominated by the defensive strengths and weaknesses of the two teams’ respective infields. Neither side even managed to drive in a run until the bottom of the seventh inning, when Yogi Berra smashed a sacrifice fly to deep center with runners on second and third. In the top of the eighth inning Preston Ward tied the score with a solo home run to deep right field; Mickey Mantle then reached first base when he was hit by a 3-2 fastball, and at that moment Yankee fans got a dreadful feeling things were about to go badly wrong for their boys.

That feeling turned out to be justified. Joe Page, who’d been credited with the save when Los Angeles won Game 2, drilled an RBI triple to deep left to put the Kings ahead 2-1; Page himself would score on a two-out single by Larry Doby to stretch that lead to 3-1. By the time the Yanks came to bat again in the bottom of the ninth, LA was ahead 5-2 and Page was throwing heat. As a Chicago Tribune sportswriter covering the game put it in his story for the next day’s edition: "He could have started a forest fire with his curveball."1 Page struck out the first two pitchers he faced in the ninth, then retired Yankee second baseman Billy Martin on a force play to end the game and punch LA’s ticket to the 1953 World Series.

The 1953 World Series would pit the Kings against their old foes from the ’41 and ’47 Fall Classic, the Brooklyn Dodgers. It would be the third time the Bums had battled the Purple and Gold in the Fall Classic since the CL-MLB merger-- and the most intense such battle yet between the rival franchises. Indeed, of the five Series meetings between the two clubs before the Dodgers moved out of Ebbets Field in 1958, the ’53 encounter would see the most ejections and the fiercest bench-clearing brawl Hearst Palladium had witnessed so far during its three decade-plus-long history.

It would also see the emergence of second-year Los Angeles catcher Ed Bailey as a bona fide postseason force; Bailey, who’d originally been signed by the Kings as a free agent in 1950 and made a highly favorable impression on scouts over a two-season stint in the Kings’ minor-league system, had first been called up to the majors halfway through the 1952 season and designated as LA’s full-time starting catcher in May of 1953 partly on the strength of sharp reflexes and a fairly effective home run swing. Both Bailey’s bat and his reflexes would give Brooklyn manager Charlie Dressen screaming fits before the ’53 World Series was over.


Though few people realized it, baseball was on the verge of its most profound geographical realignment in a generation. Near the end of the 1951 season the Seattle Schooners, who had spent three years in extensive but fruitless negotiations with Seattle and King County officials over financing for a proposed new ballpark, had started to quietly shop around for a new home city; when the negotiations were finally terminated for good in September of 1952, the search gained new importance-- and the news that the Boston Braves were relocating to Milwaukee for the 1954 season only added to the pressure. America’s national pastime, like the country itself, was stretching from sea to shining sea to an extent not seen since the Continental League’s early days in 1920. Nor were the Schooners and the Braves the only ballclubs willing to pull up stakes in search of greater profits elsewhere: in New York, Horace Stoneham’s Giants and Walter O’Malley’s Dodgers had started contemplating a westward move of their own in order to tap the substantial fan base previously mined by the Kings and Prospectors; O’Malley in particular thought it might be an enjoyable challenge to spread the gospel of National League baseball to a city which had been an American League bastion for nearly two decades. Even Connie Mack’s Athletics, long thought to be as much of a Philadelphia civic landmark as the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall, were contemplating the idea of transferring to a new ballpark in the Midwest or the Sun Belt.

In fact, the same day that the Kings took the field in Brooklyn for the first game of the 1953 World Series, Atlanta joined the long list of suitors trying to attract the Schooners to their cities. As one of the most prosperous and fastest-growing cities in the Deep South, Atlanta was ideally suited to make a pitch(no pun intended) for the Schooners to relocate to its environs. One additional selling point in Atlanta’s favor was that it had a ready-made fan base waiting for the team; for years the city had supported two professional clubs of its own, the Crackers of Double A’s Southern Association2 and the Black Crackers of the Negro Leagues3. With the right promotional work and improvements to the Crackers’ then-home field Ponce de Leon Park,4 getting Atlanta fans to come out to Schooners games would be easy as pie.

The official announcement of the Schooners’ move to Atlanta would be held off until January of 1954, but in anticipation of that event the Atlanta city council had already passed a bill granting the team a number of tax incentives to encourage them to come south. They had also approved plans to give de Leon Park an extensive series of top- to bottom renovations aimed at making it more suitable to host an MLB- caliber ballclub.


The opening game of the 1953 World Series saw Los Angeles hang a four-run shutout on Brooklyn courtesy of Ed Bailey’s bat and a(to say the least) brilliant performance on the mound by LA starting pitcher and San Diego native Don Larsen. Larsen, a hard-living and hard-throwing right-hander who’d gained the nickname "Gooney Bird" during his minor league days in Bakersfield because of his lanky physique, had one of the greatest pitching days in Series history that afternoon; he took a no-hitter deep into the eighth inning of the game before Brooklyn utility player Billy Cox broke up the no-hit bid with a two-out double.5

If Larsen was the star of Game 1 of the ’53 World Series, the two biggest supporting actors were Ed Bailey and Mickey Mantle. In the third inning Bailey drove in the game’s first two runs with a bases-loaded triple; Mantle scored the third run with a sixth inning solo homer to center field and saved Larsen’s shutout in the ninth with a diving catch which deprived Dodgers slugger Carl Furillo of what under other circumstances might have been a spectacular extra-base hit or even an inside-the-park home run.

The Dodgers evened things up with a 4-3 extra innings comeback win over Los Angeles in Game 2. To the Kings’ frustration, they had a potential game-tying run taken away in the tenth inning because the home plate umpire ruled that an apparent RBI double to have in fact been a foul ball; Preston Ward, the player who’d been at bat for Los Angeles when the call was made, vehemently argued with the ruling and got ejected for his outburst, which frustrated his teammates even further. And by the team they boarded a charter plane back home to California to host Brooklyn in the next two games of the Series, they would be positively livid over the news that Ward would have to serve a one-game suspension as a result of his tirade.

Their anger boiled over in the sixth inning of Game 3, when an 0-2 fastball by Brooklyn starting pitcher Carl Erskine went wild and bounced off the chest of Tommy Henrich; convinced Erskine had hit him intentionally, an irate Henrich bolted toward the mound determined to get payback for the perceived insult. Dodger third baseman Billy Cox immediately rushed to Erskine’s defense, prompting Larry Doby to bolt from the Kings dugout to come to Henrich’s aid, and quicker than you can say "suicide squeeze" both benches had emptied as Los Angeles and Brooklyn ripped into each other in one of the most ferocious bench- clearing brawls baseball had ever seen. It took all four umpires and ten Los Angeles police officers to restore order, and after the dust had settled eleven players-- including Henrich and Erskine --were ejected. Brooklyn manager Charlie Dressen might have been shown the gate himself had Jackie Robinson not persuaded him to walk back to the Dodger bench in a discreet silence.

The scuffle lit a fire under the Purple and Gold; the Kings, who prior to the brawl had been trailing 2-0, roared back to win the game 6-3 and take a 2 games-to-1 lead in the World Series, a lead they would never relinquish. Their followed up their Game 3 triumph with a 7-6 win in Game 4, and even after they lost 4-2 to the Dodgers in Game 5 they still had momentum on their side going into Game 6 up at Ebbets Field. A veritable regiment of newsreel cameras descended on Flatbush in anticipation of filming a possible Series-clinching victory by Los Angeles.

The camera crews got even more than they’d bargained for. Stan Musial, Larry Doby, and Mickey Mantle all notched extra bases hits for the Kings in L.A.’s 11-4 Series-ending rout of the Bums; Musial and Doby also combined on a stellar double play that squelched a potential Brooklyn rally in the fifth inning. Preston Ward, back in the lineup after being suspended for Game 4 and missing Game 5 with a sore back, recorded three unassisted putouts in Game 6-- the most remarkable of which was a force play at home plate that just beat Jackie Robinson to the bag by half a second. Los Angeles’ Game 6 starting pitcher, a 21-year-old Mexican immigrant’s son named Carlo Montoya, became a modern- day folk hero by throwing a nearly perfect game against Brooklyn for the first six innings. When he left the game in the eighth inning with two outs and the Kings ahead 10-2, all but a few of the Los Angeles sportswriters covering the game voted to name Montoya Series MVP; he would end up sharing the MVP honors with Ed Bailey.

Montoya’s performance was all the more remarkable given that he had spent half the 1953 regular season in the minors struggling with control problems; when Al Bridwell first announced Montoya’s inclusion in the Purple & Gold’s playoff roster, baseball fans all over America thought he’d lost his marbles for sure. But Montoya vindicated the LA skipper’s confidence in his abilities, and after his Series-clinching win over the Dodgers he would increasingly be regarded as one of the most potent weapons in the Kings’ pitching arsenal.


The last pieces of confetti had barely been swept up from the Kings’ Series victory parade down Hollywood Boulevard when baseball started its game of musical chairs that would sharply redraw America’s sports landscape. Shortly after Los Angeles clinched the 1953 World Series championship, the Braves held a press conference to officially establish their new home base in Milwaukee; two weeks after the press conference the Schooners signed an agreement with the Atlanta city council to play at de Leon Park for the next five seasons while a new larger stadium was being built.

By the time spring training got under for the 1954 season, the Philadelphia Athletics were under new ownership and were stepping up preparations to relocate out west. In New York the Dodgers’ battle with city planning expert Robert Moses over a proposed new stadium to replace Ebbets Field was approaching its endgame and the Giants were leaning more and more heavily towards moving to San Francisco(there had been an alternative plan to put the team in Minneapolis, but it fell through because of unresolved real estate issues).

In Los Angeles, however, the focus of most baseball fans was on the Kings’ quest to repeat as World Series champions. And for a while at least, it looked like they might accomplish this with the greatest of ease; they cruised through the 1954 regular season, winning 102 games and clinching the AL West division championship with four weeks still left in the regular season. But in the 1954 ALCS, the Purple & Gold’s irresistible force ran into the immovable object of the AL East division champion Cleveland Indians, who were out to avenge their 1948 ALCS defeat by Los Angeles. After the Kings and the Indians split the first four games of the ’54 ALCS, it all came down to a nail-biting Game 5 to decide who would win the American League pennant and face Leo Durocher’s New York Giants in the 1954 World Series. Los Angeles drew first blood in that game, scoring three runs in the second inning on a sacrifice bunt by Ed Bailey and an RBI double by Stan Musial; in the fourth inning Cleveland third baseman Al Rosen tied the game with a three-run homer deep to center field.

The score stayed locked in a 3-3 tie throughout the next four innings; in the ninth, Mickey Mantle looked to have put the game away for good with an RBI triple to right field only to have Cleveland tie the score again with a one-out solo home run by utility outfielder Dale Mitchell. With the Tribe and the Purple & Gold in a 4-4 deadlock after ten innings, it all came down to reserve Indians shortstop Sam Dente with two outs in the eleventh inning. The first two pitches that Dente faced whipped past him for strikes; the third was fouled into the stands behind home plate.

Then the fourth pitch came, and Dente crushed it-- along with Los Angeles fans’ hopes for a second consecutive World Series title. Dente circled the bases to a thunderous ovation from Cleveland fans; by the time he rounded second base, the Kings infielders had already started to vacate the Cleveland Stadium turf and were making their way towards the visitors’ clubhouse to pack their equipment and uniforms for what was sure to be a long plane ride home to southern California. The Los Angeles Kings had come out on the wrong end of a 5-4 final tally; the Indians’ subsequent four-game demolition at the hands of the Giants in the 1954 World Series brought little comfort to the Purple & Gold or their supporters, because they felt Al Bridwell’s squad could easily have given Durocher’s Giants a run for their money.


When the 1955 baseball season began, the consensus was that the Kings would be lucky to finish as high as third place in the AL West. They’d looked exhausted in the wake of their ’54 ALCS defeat by the Indians, and their bullpen was thought to have been weakened by Joe Page’s retirement; furthermore, Larry Doby had suffered through an unusually long slump during spring training and there were rumors he, too, might retire before the season was over.6

But the Kings surprised the experts by coming strong out of the gate, winning ten of their first eleven games. Larry Doby batted a torrid .473 in the opening week of the regular season, erasing all mention of his spring training drought at the plate and replacing it with talk of Doby as a possible American League MVP candidate. Stan Musial was his typical reliable self, leading the league in double plays and putouts of opposing runners; Reynaldo Montoya, picking up where he’d left off in Game 6 of the 1953 World Series and Game 3 of the 1954 ALCS, won five of his first six starts and came within two strikes of a no-hitter during a 4-0 Kings win over the Longhorns in Kansas City in early May. By late June Los Angeles was thirteen games ahead of San Francisco in the AL West division standings, and at one point they led the division by as many as twenty games; they would ultimately clinch the AL West title by fifteen games, a feat made all the more satisfying by the fact that the Kings had won all of their regular season games against the Prospectors-- the first time in franchise history that the Purple & Gold had gone undefeated in the regular season against their division archrivals.

The Kings went on to beat the AL East champion Yankees three games to one in the 1955 ALCS, clinching the American League pennant with an 8-1 pounding of the Bronx Bombers in the fourth and final game of the series. By then television had started broadcasting MLB games coast-to-coast on a regular basis, and consequently all major league clubs were gaining new fans well beyond the confines of their respective home cities; indeed, TV was enlarging the game’s fan base in much the same way as radio had 25 or so years earlier.7


The 1955 World Series marked the fourth time since the MLB-Continental League merger that the Kings and the Dodgers would be squaring off in the Fall Classic. Los Angeles had won two of the three previous encounters, and if they could prevail over Brooklyn this time around they would have a 3-1 edge over the Bums in terms of world championships won; by contrast, a Dodgers victory against the Purple & Gold would give both clubs an identical 2-2 all-time record in Series play and seriously change the complexion of the postseason rivalry between the two clubs. Not surprisingly, emotions were running high on both sides when the Bums took the field at Hearst Palladium for the ’55 Series; Dodgers starting pitcher Don Newcombe and Kings closer Ed Roebuck exchanged some cross words just after the stadium organist finished playing "The Star-Spangled Banner".

Those feelings would run even higher after Preston Ward got drilled in the chest by a 2-2 slider from Newcombe; convinced that he’d been beaned intentionally, Ward threw down his bat and tried to charge the mound to get some payback. Newcombe insisted it had been an accident and accused Ward of trying to a start a fight in order to throw Brooklyn off their stride. If that were true, Ward’s tactic backfired-- he finished the game 0 for 4 at the plate, including two strikeouts, and the Kings came out on the losing end of a 3-1 final score.

But in Game 2 of the ’55 Series they exploded for six runs in the first inning en route to a 10-4 victory that evened the Series at one game apiece. Tommy Henrich, who was nearing the end of his career, got five of those ten runs single-handedly with a three-run homer in the fourth inning and a two-run RBI double in the seventh; by the time the Series was over he would join Joe DiMaggio on the franchise’s all-time playoff RBI leaders list. Ed Roebuck sealed the Game 2 win by striking out the side in the eighth inning to shut down Brooklyn’s last major scoring opportunity. Their morale raised by this decisive victory, the Kings went on to beat the Dodgers 9-7 in Game 3 at Ebbets Field, and to L.A. fans it seemed like just a matter of time before the Purple & Gold took a commanding overall lead in the World Series and then won the Series itself.

In the ninth inning of Game 4, however, the wheels started coming off the truck for Al Bridwell’s crew. With Los Angeles up 7-4 and the Bums seemingly down to their last strike, Brooklyn left fielder Sandy Amoros hit a 3-2 curve toward the bleachers that looked like an easy fly out for Mickey Mantle; he raced to the warning track to catch it only to slip on a soft spot in the Ebbets Field turf and land flat on his back, hurting his arm and allowing the Dodgers to score two runs to cut the Kings’ lead to 7-6. Center fielder Duke Snider then drove home the tying run with a long single to right field, and in the tenth inning catcher Roy Campanella won the day for the Dodgers with an RBI double that scored reserve outfielder George Shuba from second base.

From there the bad news just kept coming for Los Angeles; in Game 5 the Purple & Gold blew a 4-2 fifth inning lead and wound up losing 8-5, a defeat made worse by the seventh inning ejection of Al Bridwell after the veteran Kings skipper shoved the first base umpire during an argument over a putout call. But it was Game 6 which would put the final nail in the Kings’ casket-- the normally rock-steady Los Angeles infield committed three errors before the top of the fifth inning and L.A. Game 6 starting pitcher Harry Dorish only lasted three innings before being pulled from the mound after having given up ten hits and five runs. By the bottom of the fourth inning Brooklyn was up 6-1 on their West Coast arch-foes, and after tacking on two more runs in the fifth inning they never looked back; they went on to win Game 6 by a final score of 13-38 and returned to Flatbush with their second World Series title in four tries against Los Angeles.

Irritated that their ballclub had lost a World Series which by all rights it should have won, some of the more impatient elements among Kings fandom began petitioning the team’s front offices to get rid of Al Bridwell and hire a new manager. But the Hearsts decided to stick by the incumbent skipper, believing he still had at least one more world championship left in him, and in the 1956 MLB playoffs the gamble paid off and then some....


The 1956 MLB season may have been the greatest of Al Bridwell’s managerial career; it was certainly the most successful of his second stint with the Kings. The team won a franchise-record 106 games in the regular season that year and swept the Yankees in the 1956 ALCS. But of all the highs the Purple and Gold experienced in the ’56 campaign, beyond any doubt their greatest peak was Don Larsen’s epic Game 4 no- hitter in the 1956 World Series. His no-hit masterpiece was all the more remarkable considering he’d only finished three games over .500 in the regular season and pitched a shaky performance in Game 1; there had been speculation prior to the start of Game 4 that Bridwell might ask him to sit down in favor of Reynaldo Montoya or Harry Dorish. It wasn’t until fans actually saw Larsen walk onto the mound that anyone was even certain Larsen would start.

The pitcher fans knew as "Gooney Bird" started off by retiring Brooklyn second baseman Jim Gilliam on a grounder to second base; his first strikeout victim of the afternoon was first baseman and future New York Mets manager Gil Hodges. So far, so good. But nobody at Hearst Palladium, least of all Larsen himself, realized that this would be the start of a historic afternoon for the L.A. right-hander. It wasn’t until Larsen fanned Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese in the third inning that anyone dared to hazard a guess something special was in the making.

By the sixth inning, when Los Angeles was ahead 5-0 and Larsen had retired Brooklyn right fielder Carl Furillo for the second time that day, it was obvious that this game was going to be a classic in the annals of World Series play. And yet few people dared to think or hope Larsen would end up pitching a perfect game; Mickey Mantle would recall years later that when he took his usual place in the outfield for the top of the seventh inning he was thinking in the back of his mind that there was still a chance the Dodgers could break up the no-hit bid, even if their chances of winning the game were slim to none at that point.

Most doubts that Larsen could pull off the no-hitter were silenced at the start of the ninth inning, when he struck out Carl Furillo for the third time that day and retired Roy Campanella on a force play at first base. With the Kings leading 7-0 and two outs on the Dodgers in the ninth, all that remained was for Larsen to retire Brooklyn reserve left fielder and former Indians slugger Dale Mitchell, who’d been sent in by Dodgers manager Walter Alston to pinch-hit for starting pitcher Sal Maglie.

Larsen’s first pitch to Maglie blazed into Ed Bailey’s mitt for strike one. An almost graveyard-like silence hung over the stands at Hearst Palladium; Larsen was now just two strikes away from making baseball history, and nobody dared to say anything for fear of jinxing the perfect game bid. A fastball raced past Maglie for strike two, at which point cameramen and sportswriters in the Palladium press boxes braced themselves for the historic climax to one of the most exciting World Series games anyone could remember.

Maglie swung at an 0-2 changeup by Larsen....and missed. The crowd erupted like Mount Vesuvius in a standing ovation as Larsen’s perfect Series game officially went into the record books; as the Los Angeles pitching ace was being swarmed by his jubilant teammates and a desponded Sal Maglie was trudging back to the Dodger dugout, a representative from the Baseball Hall of Fame met with the home plate umpire to claim the ball that had been used to record the final out so that it could be shipped to Cooperstown for display.

Three days later, the Kings beat Brooklyn 5-2 in the fifth game of the Series to clinch their second world championship in three years and their sixth in franchise history. But it was the Larsen no-hitter that people would remember most when they talked about the ’56 World Series. Not surprisingly, Larsen was voted the Series MVP.


When Walter O’Malley made the official announcement on October 8th, 1957 that the Dodgers were relocating to Los Angeles for the 1958 MLB season, there was a howl of outrage among millions of people on both coasts. For Brooklynites, O’Malley’s decision to take his team to the West Coast constituted a betrayal of what they saw as a sacred bond between their borough and their baseball team. For Kings fans, it was an intolerable violation of what they regarded as their own club’s exclusive turf. "Who the hell does that Flatbush Johnny-come-lately think he is?" one East Los Angeles cab driver famously erupted when a local radio news correspondent asked for his opinion on the move.

The Hearst brothers were particularly incensed by the news; as far as they were concerned, O’Malley’s transfer of the Bums to the LA area constituted nothing less than an act of war against the Purple & Gold, and they resolved to fight harder than ever to maintain the upper hand over their team’s most hated non-league rivals. Coming as it did on top of a bitter Kings loss to the Yankees in the 1957 ACLS, the Dodgers’ arrival in southern California was a sting to the pride of the Hearsts and their ballclub, and it would set the stage for one of the fiercest cross-town feuds ever seen in professional sports in America. World Series battles between the Kings and the Dodgers had been intense enough when the rival franchises were playing on opposite coasts; now that they would be sharing the same city, future Series contests between them were bound to turn into something close to civil war...


To Be Continued



[1] “Kings Wallop Yanks To Clinch Pennant, Face Dodgers In World Series”, from the October 8th, 1953 edition of the Chicago Tribune.

[2] A minor league baseball organization that existed in the southeastern United States from 1901 to 1961; the Atlanta Crackers were the league’s most successful ballclub, so much so that one sportswriter nicknamed them “the Yankees of the Minors”.

[3] The two franchises are thought by some to have been named for the cattlemen who cracked whips to drive oxen and other livestock when they were traveling through the Georgia-Florida region during Georgia’s early days as a state. Understandably, given the whip’s role in slavery prior to the Civil War, African-American players didn’t particularly care for the name Black Crackers, but had little choice on the subject since their team was owned by whites.

[4] Also known as Spiller Field in honor of a local businessman who rebuilt the park in 1924 after it had been destroyed in a fire the previous year.

[5] By an interesting coincidence, when Larsen finally did get a World Series no-hitter three years later, Billy Cox was the man Larsen struck out to end the game.

[6] The rumors would, of course, prove wrong; Doby continued playing with Los Angeles till 1960.

[7] Kings GM Fred Haney is reputed to have told a friend “We’ve hit a gold mine!” after reading a report on how ticket sales for his team had dramatically increased following its first nationally televised game. One can only imagine how he might have reacted had he known how all sports, including baseball, would be globalized by the cable and satellite broadcast revolution of the next half-century.

[8] This prompted a well-known TV comic of the day to quip to his audience the following afternoon: “I went to a baseball game and a football game broke out.”


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