Today is for long time Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodger baseball fans, like James O’Berry in Houston, to celebrate the birthday of two players who were on a World Series Champion Dodger team; Sandy Amoros (left) in 1955 and Charlie Neal (right) in 1959. Neither of them received formal “hero status” in their team’s triumph. But Dodger fans know how important each of them were those years; the two World Series Championships for the franchise in the 1950s.
After five previous World Series losses against the New York Yankees; 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, and 1953, the Brooklyn Dodgers defeated them in 1955. Johnny Podres claimed the moniker of “Series hero” for the Dodgers by pitching a 2-0 shutout in Game Seven, his second complete game win in the Series. It is in that important Game Seven when Sandy Amoros makes his contribution to the Dodgers’ victory.
Born January 30, 1930 in Matanzas, Cuba, Edmunido “Sandy” Amoros could hit a baseball with surprising power for his 5’7 ½”, 170 pounds physical stature. He played Negro League baseball in 1950 with the New York Cubans. The team went out of business after the season and Amoros played in Caribbean baseball leagues until signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952. The left-handed outfielder hit over .300 and showed power in his batting stroke while in the team’s minor league system. However, after integration Major League teams had a “quota” on the number of African-Americans to have on their rosters. With Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, Joe Black, and Jim Gilliam already wearing Dodger blue, the team kept Amoros in the minor leagues.
It is Amoros’ defense, however, that engraved him a place in Dodger history. In the deciding Game Seven of the 1955 World Series, the Dodgers were leading 2 – 0 in the bottom of the sixth inning; but the Yankees had the tying runs on base with no outs. Yankees’ catcher Yogi Berra hit a line drive headed towards the Yankee Stadium left field corner that appeared it to be a game tying double. However Amoros; who had been put in the game for defensive purposes when the inning started, ran as fast as he could and caught it. He quickly threw it back to the infield and completed a double play. Amoros’ play killed the Yankees’ scoring threat and the Dodgers held on to win the game and be 1955 World Series Champions.
In 1959, the second season after moving to Los Angeles, the Dodgers defeated the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. Dodger relief pitcher Larry Sherry played a role in all four of the teams’s victories and got the nod as Series “Most Valuable Player”. He pitched 12.2 innings with an Earned Run Average (ERA) of 0.71. Entering the contests as a relief pitcher, Sherry got the save in World Series Games Two and Three, and was the winning pitcher in Games Four and Six. Whereas Sherry was the pitching star for the Dodgers in the Series, Charlie Neal led the team in hitting.
Born January 30, 1931 in Longview, Texas; Charles Lenard Neal signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950. A promising prospect, the 5’10’, 165 lb. infielder first languished in the minor leagues as the Dodgers had team captain Pee Wee Reese at shortstop, All Star Jackie Robinson playing second base, and 1953 National League Rookie of the Year Jim Gilliam also playing on the infield. In addition as Sandy Amoros discovered, the Dodgers were reluctant to have “too many” African-American and dark-skinned Latinos on the Major League roster.
Neal made his Major League debut April 15, 1956; playing in 62 games his rookie season and hitting .287. The starting second baseman in Game Three of the 1956 World Series, Neal went hitless against the Yankees’ Whitey Ford in the Dodgers’ 5 -3 lost. When Jackie Robinson retired in 1957, Reese moved over to play third base and Neal became the Dodger’s starting shortstop. In 1958, the Dodgers first season in Los Angeles, Neal hit 22 home runs and drove in 65 runs.
Charlie had the best year of his career in 1959, hitting .287 with 19 home runs, 83 RBIs (2nd on the team), and a team leading 177 hits. The All-Star second baseman also received his only Gold Glove Award. After the White Sox won Game One of the 1959 World Series 16 – 0, the Dodgers trailed 2 – 0 in the top of the fifth in Game Two. Neal broke the team’s streak of 13 scoreless innings with a solo home run. He then hit a 2-run homer in the seventh to give the Dodgers a lead that Sherry kept in their 4 – 3 win. While a crowd of 92,394 looked on at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Game Three, Neal went 2 for 4. With the score 0 – 0, he singled to start a Dodger rally in the bottom of the seventh and scored the first run in the team’s 3 – 1 victory. In the Series clinching Sixth Game, he got three hits. His double drove in two of the Dodgers’ six runs in the top of the fourth on their way to winning the game 9 – 3 and the World Series Championship (four games to two). For the Series, Neal hit .370 with two home runs, six RBIs and had the most hits; 10.