Former New York Yankees’ Manager Ralph Houk’s Biggest Gamble

July 23, 2010   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

It was one of the biggest gambles in World Series history.

Matty Alou was on third base with the potential tying run. Willie Mays was on second base with the potential World Series winning run. There were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Willie McCovey was the batter with Orlando Cepeda on deck.

New York Yankees’ manager Ralph Houk went to the mound to talk to right-handed starter Ralph Terry. It would be Terry’s choice.

Terry decided to face McCovey.

“I said: Let me go after him with good stuff, high and tight, low and away. If we fall behind in the count, then we’ll put him on and work on the next guy,”

McCovey slugged from the left side. Cepeda slugged from the right side.

During the season, McCovey batted .293 with 20 home runs in only 229 official at bats.

Cepeda batted .306 with 35 home runs in 625 at bats, but he walked only 37 times.

The logical move was to intentionally walk McCovey.

“If you have the bases loaded you don’t have much breathing room out there. You’re in the seventh game, National League ballpark and a National League umpire. There’s a lot of pressure on the umpire. Anything close, I know which way the call’s going to go,” Terry related many years later.

Left-hander Bud Daley and right-hander Bill Stafford were warming up in the bullpen, but Houk knew that it was going to be Terry.

The Yankees’ 6’3″ right-hander peered in to get the signal from Elston Howard, nodded assent, and delivered. McCovey took ball one.

Howard fired the ball back to the big right-hander.

Ralph toed the rubber and delivered.

This time, Willie made contact. Oh, how he made contact. Willie McCovey hit a tremendous drive down the right field line that went foul.

Terry heaved a big sigh of relief, but there would be no relief.

Alou led off third base, making certain to stay in foul territory, despite the fact that there was almost no chance that McCovey would hit anything near third base.

Willie led off second, trying to extend his lead as much as possible, as Terry again delivered.

McCovey made solid contact, but this time the ball wouldn’t go foul.

For a brief instant, it seemed as if Terry would give up the World Series’ winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning for the second time in three years, but it didn’t happen.

McCovey’s line drive, barely five feet off the ground, exploded into second baseman Bobby Richardson’s glove. Jubilant teammates swarmed over Ralph Terry.

Ralph Houk had guts. He went against the “book.” He almost lost. Maybe he should have lost. But he won.

It is easy to imagine what would have been written in 1962 if Houk’s move backfired.

It is easier to imagine what we would have read this week, when Ralph Houk, a New York Yankee to the end, passed away on July 21st, 2010.


Lucas, Ed and Paul Post. “Former Yankee Ralph Terry.” Baseball Digest , Oct. 2005.

By JOHN DREBINGER Special to The New York Times . (1962, October 17). Yanks Beat Giants, 1-0; Win World Series :Terry Yields Only 4 Hits as Bombers Take 20th Title. New York Times (1923-Current file),1. Retrieved July 23, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2006). (Document ID: 90538854).

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