The New York Yankees played three doubleheaders in three days, 60 years ago this week. Keep that in mind, when you hear and read about the “tough” schedule the Bombers will face, starting on Aug. 26, 2020: three doubleheaders in five days. And unlike this Covid-riddled season, when each game of the twin bill will be seven innings in length, in 1960 each game of the doubleheader was a scheduled nine-inning affair.
On August 26, 1960, the first place Yankees found themselves in a tight three-way pennant race with Baltimore and the White Sox. Before their 6 p.m. doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians, New York held a one game lead on the Orioles and two games over Chicago.
The first game on a Friday night, with 56,508 in attendance, went extra innings, lasting 3:43. The game ended in the last of the 11th inning on a Yogi Berra home run, his second of the contest, giving New York a 7-6 win. The Indians seemingly had the game in hand, taking a 5-2 lead on a two-run homer by Tito Francona, whose son Terry Francona is the current manager of the Cleveland Indians.
The Yankees needed a second-game comeback too, winning 7-5. The game did not end until 12:58 Saturday morning, leading Yankees broadcaster Phil Rizzuto to tell the radio audience, “we should probably sleep right here in the booth.” The two clubs had to be back at the Stadium that afternoon for another doubleheader, starting at 2:00.
There was no sneaking over the bridge in the seventh inning for “the Scooter,” back in those days, working the games with Mel Allen and Red Barber.
With both clubs playing on little sleep, starting 13 hours later, the Yankees made it another doubleheader sweep, winning the first game 7-4 (Francona homered again for Cleveland) and capturing the nightcap, 3-0, behind a Ralph Terry complete-game, two-hit shutout. It took 2:45 to play the opener and a thrifty 2:07 for the second contest, played before 42,520.
Tigers in for two
The marathon weekend concluded with a Sunday doubleheader starting a 2 p.m against the Detroit Tigers. Perhaps feeling as if they were in a daze, the Yankees lost the opener, 6-2 in a game lasting 3:24. But New York bounced back to win the second game, 8-5, paced by Mickey Mantle’s home run and four RBI. The game lasted 2:30 in front of 47,921.
When the weekend was over, the Yankees had played 56 innings of baseball or 17 hours and 19 minutes over 50 and-a-half hours. With both the Dodgers and Giants having moved out west, the Yankees, being the only game in town, drew 146,949 for the three days. There is no telling how many throat lozenges were used by Rizzuto, Allen and Barber.
After the six games the first place Yanks had picked up a game and held a two-game advantage over Baltimore. It wouldn’t be until mid-September, before the Yankees finally shook off the Orioles in a weekend series to win their 10th and final pennant under manager Casey Stengel. The “ol’ Professor” was denied his eighth World Series title when the Pirates defeated the Bombers in the deciding game of the series on a walk-off home run by Bill Mazeroski.
But over the next few days, while the media makes a big deal about three doubleheaders in five days, remember the 2020 Yankees cannot hold a candle to their 1960 counterparts.