The 1956 World Series is best remembered for Don Larsen and his perfect game victory in Game 5.
It is also went down in history as Brooklyn’s last World Series and the final Subway Series until the Yankees and Mets squared off in 2000.
The 1956 Series went back and forth. The defending champion Brooklyn Dodgers took the first two games at home. The Yankees won the next three, the last one being Larsen’s masterpiece. Game 6 was a 1-0 extra inning walk off win for Brooklyn. Jackie Robinson’s RBI single was his final hit.
With the Series going the distance for the second straight year, the identity of the Yankees starting pitcher for the finale was unknown just a few hours before game time.
Whitey Ford looked like a clear choice. He pitched a complete game victory in Game 3 and was on full rest. Tom Sturdivant pitched a complete game victory in Game 4 and looked like he could go.
Instead manager Casey Stengel handed the ball for Game 7 of the World Series to Johnny Kucks, who had thrown in relief in games 1 and 2.
Choosing the 23 year old New Jersey native was not a total roll of the dice. He had made the All Star team in 1956 with his 18 wins and 3.85 ERA. But he faded in the second half and was moved to the bullpen in October.
He threw a sinker ball that was considered to be super heavy and incapable of hitting out of the ballpark. Don Newcombe started for the Dodgers, still clinging to the title “Defending World Champions.”
Yogi Berra homered in the top of the first, giving Kucks a 2 run cushion before he even took the mound. Kucks got Jackie Robinson to hit into an inning ending double play in the first.
Berra hit his second 2 run homer and Elston Howard added a solo shot, chasing Newcombe in the top of the 4th. Moose Skowron clubbed a grand slam to make it 9-0, removing any drama from the game.
Meanwhile Kucks dominated the Dodgers, getting grounder after grounder. He recorded one strikeout and the rest of the game let his heavy sinker do the talking.
He allowed a single to Duke Snider with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th before striking out Jackie Robinson to clinch the World Series with a 3 hit shutout.
It would be Jackie Robinson’s last at bat, as he would retire after the season. It would also be the last World Series game played in Brooklyn. The Dodgers would move to Los Angeles after the 1957 season.
It was a World Series that a galaxy of stars and future Hall of Famers on both sides. And it featured the Don Larsen game, the greatest pitching performance in post season history.
But it was Johnny Kucks who would be standing on the mound to clinch it.
That makes Johnny Kucks the Unsung Postseason hero of October 10.