Here’s the latest from Joe Guzzardi, a regular Wednesday contributor here. Today, Joe provides some wonderful insight into Sal Maglie on the eve of his impressive, but losing, effort in Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
Earlier this month while I was researching Sal Maglie for my post “Bring Back the High Hard One,” I came across the You Tube video from the television program What’s My Line? Maglie appears as the mystery guest.
I’ve since watched the video maybe a dozen times and noticed a few things that I missed the first time around. All provide interesting insights into that long ago baseball era and, specifically, to the famous 1956 Don Larsen-Maglie perfect game World Series match up.
The first thing I caught was Arlene Francis, in a reference to her fellow panelist Phil Rizzuto, ask Maglie if he would be worried about Scooter if he were still with the New York Yankees “where he belongs…”
This was a swipe at Yankee general manager George Weiss and Casey Stengel whose horrible treatment of Rizzuto angered the team’s fans.
On August 25, 1956, the Yankees in a most inglorious way released Rizzuto despite his outstanding career. The Yankees, having reacquired Enos Slaughter who had been with the team in 1954–55, summoned Rizzuto to the front office allegedly to discuss the postseason roster.
Weiss asked Rizzuto to review the current list of Yankee players and to suggest which ones might be cut to make room for Slaughter. For each name Rizzuto mentioned, Weiss offered a reason why that player had to be kept.
Finally, Rizzuto realized that he was the expendable player. For years, although Rizzuto never publicly complained, he harbored deep resentment toward the Yankees.
Back to What’s My Line?
When after very little time the panel identified Maglie, moderator John Daly suggested that the purpose for their blindfolds wasn’t because they would instantly recognize the famous Dodger pitcher but that Rizzuto would identify him by the suit he was wearing.
After a few more listens and more digging, I realized that Maglie bought his coat at All American Clothing, a men’s store in Bayonne, New Jersey where Rizzuto and other Yankees worked part time to make ends meet.
Can you imagine anyone in baseball today having a winter job in retail sales?
Finally, Bennett Cerf asked Maglie: “How about tomorrow, Sal?”
“Tomorrow,” I learned, was Monday, October 8, when Maglie pitched against Larsen in Game Five.
Interestingly, the Dodgers and Yankees had played a Sunday game. Maglie must have left the Dodger club house immediately after the fourth World Series game, gone to the CBS network (on a subway?) to participate in a prime time game show and then headed home to rest up before his start against the Yankees the next afternoon.
Maglie promised Cerf that he would “give ‘em all I’ve got,” and noted that the Yankees had “a great ball club” and “let the best team win.” In the series opener, Maglie had outpitched Whitey Ford, 6-3, tossing a complete game.
And Maglie certainly did give it his best. He held the Yankees to five hits, one a Mickey Mantle solo homer, and two earned runs. As we all know, it wasn’t enough.
But even some of the most avid Yankee rooters pulled for Sal. As Yankee fan Daly told Maglie at the end of the show, the only time he wants to see his team lose is when Sal pitches.
Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org