In 1962 Maury Willis stole an unthinkable amount of bases. He stole 101 bases, at the time an MLB record. 1963 would provide great numbers once again for the Dodgers leadoff hitter. He stole 40 bases, batted .302 and had over 155 hits. Willis was a pitcher’s nightmare on the base path. He instilled a fear inside the heads of pitchers, wondering if he would go on any pitch.
As far as power production for the Dodgers, there was only one man who hit over 20 homeruns in 1963. Twenty-six year old Frank Howard was the main power threat for the lineup and was known to be one of the best in the game. The 1960 NL Rookie of the Year had hit 30 homeruns in 1962 and looked for more of the same in 1963. His numbers went down slightly, but he managed 28 homeruns and 64 RBIS. (In the future when he signed with Washington, Frank Howard would go on to hit 40 plus homeruns in three consecutive years.)
One run producing hitter would never do in any lineup. Frank Howard would need some backup to help him out. That backup would come in the form of Left Fielder Tommy Davis. Davis led the team with a .326 batting average as well as a team high 88 RBIS. His 16 homeruns were second on the team to only Frank Howard.
Now the offense was led by speed. The pitching staff was led two of the game’s all time greats in Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.
Don Drysdale was one of the greatest all time in Dodgers history. He played with the team his entire career and had over 200 wins and an ERA of 2.95. Specifically in 1963,
Drysdale had another terrific season. He went 19-17 with a 2.63 ERA. He also led the National League in innings pitched with 314.1. Usually that would make you number one on any staff, but on this staff you had a pitcher whose 1963 defied the laws of baseball.
Sandy Koufax was coming off an all star season in 1962 and was looking to improve in 1963. Not only did he improve, but he became the best pitcher in baseball in 1963. Koufax went 25-5 with a 1.88 ERA. Along with Drysdale, Koufax threw over 300 innings. He also led the league by striking out 306 batters. His fastball was the stuff of legends, sometimes gunning it to 99 miles per hour. He also had a “nose to toes” curveball that made many a batter look foolish at the plate. Both Koufax and Drysdale were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Think back Dodger fans to the glorious year of 1955 when the Brooklyn Dodgers upset the New York Yankees in the World Series. Now think about who pitched the final game of that series. To give you a hint he threw a complete game shutout in that final game. The answer was Johnny Podres and he was the pitcher who backed up Drysdale and Koufax in 1963.
Podres was known as “The Yankee Killer” due to his outstanding pitching performances against the Bronx Bombers. In 1963, Podres was the veteran pitcher on the ballclub, but he could still bring it. His 14 wins and 3.54 ERA in 1963 proved that even if you made it through Drysdale and Koufax, you still had a difficult opponent in front of you.
Thanks to all this great hitting and pitching the Dodgers won the National League pennant by 6 games over the St. Louis Cardinals. They would go on to face the defending champion New York Yankees in the World Series.