I use that title in jest; it’s hard to be bitter about something that happened 25 years before I was born. However, I saw a few small similarities between the San Francisco Giants’ win in the 2012 World Series and the New York Giants’ win over the Indians in the 1954 series. I should also point out that the Giants had one of the longer droughts without a championship, until they won it all in 2010. They had reached 56 years without winning a World Series, and had not won it all since they moved west in the late 1950s. For a number of years their drought was similar to the Indians, but unlike the Indians, they’ve won two World Series in the past three years.
Here are some of the similarities I saw between 1954 and 2012:
The Giants swept their opponent, 4-0, against a fairly heavily favored team. In 1954, the Indians had won an (at the time) AL-record 111 games. They were able to ward off the perennial AL pennant winners, the New York Yankees, in order to reach the World Series against the Giants. Because of the Indians’ dominance during the regular season, they were the heavy favorites in the series. The pitching staff on the 1954 Indians had the lowest team ERA in the AL, led by 23-game winners Early Wynn and Bob Lemon (an aging Bob Feller was also still in the rotation). Even though Detroit had a far from dominant season in 2012, they were a team that was almost built for success in the postseason. Any game in which you start Justin Verlander, you’re almost guaranteed a shot at victory. Add in the 1-2 punch of Triple-Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, and you’ve got a tough team in either a five or seven game series. The Tigers steamrolled the Yankees and had a chance to rest their starters before the World Series started in San Francisco (it’s debatable whether a layoff is beneficial or detrimental). Even though San Francisco was on an incredible hot streak, it seemed as if most pundits thought that this World Series was Detroit’s to lose.
The path to the World Series runs through the Yankees. As I mentioned, the Indians needed to defeat the Yankees to make it to the fall classic, as did the Tigers. In fact, 1948 and 1954 were the only two years between 1948 and 1958 in which the Yankees did not represent the AL in the World Series. Even though the Indians locked them out in 1954, they were back on the top of the pile in the AL the very next year. The 1954 Yankees did not have nearly the drama as the 2012 version, and I’m sure the current Yankees will be right back in the thick of things next season.
Keeping the opponent down and out. The Indians only held the lead for six total innings during the 1954 World Series. Despite this show of dominance, the Indians were at least not shut out during the series. The 2012 Tigers only held the lead for three total innings, all in game four. They were shut out in two of the four games.
Best chance for a win dashed in extra innings. The Indians were locked in a 2-2 tie for much of Game 1 at the Polo Grounds, as Bob Lemon and Sal Maglie dueled on the mound. In the eighth inning, Maglie walked Larry Doby and surrendered a single to Al Rosen; putting runners on first and second with nobody out. Don Liddle came in to pitch for Maglie and faced Vic Wertz. His at-bat culminated in one of the most famous plays in World Series history – Wertz hit a 460-foot fly ball, that Willie Mays nabbed in an over the shoulder catch. Even though Doby was able to advance to third, Mays saved at least one run and the game for the Giants. Marv Grissom then replaced Liddle and got Dave Pope to strikeout looking and Jim Hegan to fly out. In the bottom of the 10th, Dusty Rhodes hit a three-run shot off of Bob Lemon to win the game for the Giants in a walk-off. Lemon had not surrendered a run since the third inning, before the game-winning shot.
The best chance for a Tigers victory came much later in the series, when their backs were up against the wall. They managed to take a 2-1 lead off the Giants’ ace with a two-run shot from Miguel Cabrera. The Giants took the lead on a Buster Posey home run, and Delmon Young knotted the game at three in the bottom of the sixth. The Giants were able to take the lead in the top of the 10th, and hold on for the sweep of the World Series on their opponent’s turf (just like the 1954 Giants). The Tigers were held hitless after Young’s game-tying home run.
While there are a number of similarities, there are obviously some big differences. No team in 1954 had to worry about one of their top hitters getting busted for steroids in the middle of the season, and had to decide whether or not to bring him back for the postseason. (Just imagine if the Giants would have lost, or if their offense would have been terrible. Everyone would have been screeching “they should have brought back Melky!”) There was also a much more simplistic playoff schedule, since there were only two divisions – the AL and the NL – in 1954. The Tigers’ World Series drought now reaches 28 years and counting; they should take solace in the fact that this is still 36 years fewer than the Indians!
Author’s note: I actually wrote this several months ago after the World Series, and forgot to post it!