The 1954 World Series matched the National League champion New York Giants against the American League champion Cleveland Indians. The Giants swept the Series in four games to win their first championship since 1933, defeating the heavily favored Indians, who had won an AL-record 111 games in the regular season; it has since been broken by the 1998 New York Yankees (114) and again by the 2001 Seattle Mariners (116, tying the 1906 Chicago Cubs for the most wins ever). The Series is perhaps best-remembered for "The Catch", a sensational running catch made by Giants center fielder Willie Mays in Game 1, snaring a long drive by Vic Wertz near the outfield wall with his back to the infield. It is also remembered for utility player Dusty Rhodes' clutch hitting in three of the four games, including his walk-off hit for Monte Irvin that won Game 1, probably the best-known hit to be described as a "Chinese home run", since it barely cleared the 258-foot (79 m) right-field fence at the Polo Grounds. Giants manager Leo Durocher, who had managed teams to three National League championships, won his first and only World Series title in his managerial career. After moving West, the San Francisco Giants would not win a World Series until the 2010 season.
This was the first time the Cleveland Indians had been swept in a World Series and the first time the New York Giants had swept an opponent without qualification. They had won four games without a loss in the 1922 World Series, but there was also one tie. Game 2 was the last World Series and playoff game at the Polo Grounds, because the Giants did not win another pennant until after their move to San Francisco and because the Mets did not reach the postseason until after they moved to Shea Stadium. Game 4 was the last World Series and playoff game at Cleveland Stadium; the Indians did not return to the World Series or playoffs until 1995, a year after Jacobs Field opened.
As a result, this World Series held the distinction of being the most recent World Series to host the final World Series game of its two venues, a distinction it lost to the 1959 World Series after the original Comiskey Park closed down at the end of the 1990 Major League Baseball season and Dodger Stadium opened in 1962.
The Indians, by winning the American League pennant, kept the Yankees from having a chance to win their sixth straight series. The last time the Yankees had not won the series or pennant beforehand was 1948, when, again, the Indians kept them out (although that year, they won the Series). It was also the only World Series from 1949 to 1958 which did not feature the Yankees.
The Indians easily won the 1954 pennant on the strength of the American League's top pitching staff, leading the AL in team ERA at 2.72 and complete games with 77. Pitchers Early Wynn (23–11, 2.73 ERA) and Bob Lemon (23–7, 2.72 ERA) were in top form, with solid contributions from Mike Garcia (19–8, 2.64) and Art Houtterman (15–7, 3.35). Bob Feller, at age 35, could only make 19 starts, and finished at 13–3. Cleveland also had potent hitting, leading the AL in home runs (156) and finishing second in runs scored (746), although the team managed just 30 stolen bases in 63 attempts. Bobby Ávila led the offense with 112 runs and a .341 average, while Larry Doby (.272 avg, 32 HRs, 126 RBIs) and Al Rosen (.300 avg, 24 HRs, 102 RBIs) provided the power. Defensively catcher Jim Hegan made only four errors in 134 games and threw out 44% of would-be base stealers.
The New York Giants entered the World Series with a top flight pitching staff as well, with Johnny Antonelli (21–7, 2.30 ERA), Rubén Gómez (17–9, 2.88), and 37-year-old Sal "The Barber" Maglie (14–6, 3.26). The Giants relied more heavily on relief pitching with Hoyt Wilhelm (12–7, 2.10, 7 saves) and Marv Grissom (10–7, 2.35, 19 saves) rounding out a staff that led the NL in team ERA at 3.09 and shutouts with 17. Manager Leo Durocher used a solid, consistent lineup with all his starters, except for the catching position, playing in at least 135 games. Willie Mays (.345, 41 HRs 110 RBIs) led an offense that also featured Don Meuller (.342 avg), Al Dark (.293, 98 runs), Hank Thompson (26 HRs, 86 RBIs) and pinch-hitter extraordinaire Dusty Rhodes (.341 avg).
NL New York Giants (4) vs. AL Cleveland Indians (0)
Cleveland got on the board first and fast. Leadoff man Al Smith was hit by a pitch, Bobby Ávila singled and Vic Wertz brought home both with a triple to right. Bob Lemon gave two back in the third on singles by Whitey Lockman and Alvin Dark, a walk to Willie Mays and a Hank Thompson single. And that was that until the 10th inning. Mays saved the day in the eighth after leadoff singles by Larry Doby and Al Rosen led to starting pitcher Sal Maglie being lifted for Don Liddle. Wertz's drive to deep center field would have scored both if not for Mays's memorable catch. Lemon went all the way for Cleveland, losing it in the 10th when Dusty Rhodes, pinch-hitting for Monte Irvin with two Giants on base, hit a walk-off home run.
Once again, the visitors started quickly, then couldn't hold onto their lead. Smith's leadoff homer off Johnny Antonelli put Cleveland up 1-0 before a lot of Polo Grounds fans had settled into their seats. Early Wynn preserved that lead until the fifth inning, but after Mays and Thompson singles, once again Rhodes pinch-hit for Irvin and came through, this time an RBI single. Antonelli himself got the go-ahead run home against his counterpart, scoring Thompson on a groundout. Antonelli was a little wild on the mound, walking six, but also struck out nine. New York got just four hits all day, but Rhodes delivered the game-winner again, a solo home run leading off the seventh.
A huge crowd, 71,555, hoped to see Cleveland get its first win, but things did not go well for the home team. It trailed 1-0 quickly when Whitey Lockman singled, took second on a groundout and scored on a hit by Mays. The clutch hitter of the series, Rhodes, had a two-run single pinch-hitting in the third, and an error by the pitcher, Mike Garcia, gave the Giants another run to make it 4-0. Gomez gave up just four hits, with knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm mopping up for the save. New York was now a win away from the championship.
Cleveland's slim chances at a comeback took a beating as the Indians fell hopelessly behind 7-0. Almost everything went wrong from the start, a pair of errors resulting in two New York runs in the second. A single by Mays in the next inning scored another run. Then the game broke wide open in the fifth. Lemon loaded the bases and was pulled. Hal Newhouser replaced him but got nobody out, giving up a walk to Thompson and single to Irvin. A brief glimmer of hope for the home team came in the bottom of the fifth with a couple of Giant errors and a Hank Majeski three-run pinch homer. But except for a meaningless RBI single by Rudy Regalado in the seventh off Don Liddle, the Indians got nothing more as Wilhelm and Game 2 starter Antonelli came on in relief and the Giants completed a four-game sweep.
1954 World Series (4–0): New York Giants (N.L.) over Cleveland Indians (A.L.)Hank Thompson set a World Series record for bases on balls received during a four-game series with seven and Bob Lemon set a World Series record for bases on balls given up during a four-game Series with eight.