The 1962 New York Yankees have been somewhat glossed over by the history books in the same way that the '28 and '99 Yankees teams were ignored. They were each terrific teams that won the World Series, but they did so immediately after some of the greatest teams of all time. The '27, '61, and '98 Yankees were incredible teams, but their successors should not be so forgotten. Indeed, the '62 Yanks were playing .604 baseball entering action on July 27th, just five games off the pace of the '61 team. Mickey Mantle was in the process of winning his last of three American League MVP awards; Mantle would hit .321/.486/.605 with a 196 wRC+ and 6.7 fWAR despite only playing 123 games due to injuries. The team was solid in all aspects of the game, from the main squad to the bench.
One of these bench players with the Yankees on the 27th was a veteran first baseman named Dale Long. His name is famous in baseball history for his record-setting streak of a home run in eight consecutive games, a mark he reached in the middle of a 27-homer campaign with the Pittsburgh Pirates in '56 (the record has since been matched by the Yankees' Don Mattingly in '87 and the Seattle Mariners' Ken Griffey Jr. in '93). By '62 though, he was in his mid-thirties and on the decline. After a decent season with the expansion Washington Senators in '61, he plummeted to a wRC+ of 80 with them in '62. The Yankees remembered what he did with them in a brief appearance at the end of the '60 season though, when they claimed him from the San Francisco Giants in mid-August. That year, Long hit .366/.435/.707 in 26 games off the bench as the Yankees clinched the AL pennant (Long was claimed by Washington in the expansion draft after the season). Due to this previous success, the Yankees decided to give him another shot on the bench by trading for him, and almost instantaneously, Long turned his season around. He notched 10 hits in his first 26 at bats back in pinstripes (a .385 average). Long rode this hot streak into a game against the Chicago White Sox on July 27, 1962 at Yankee Stadium.
Southpaw Frank "Beau" Baumann started for the White Sox against 21-year-old righthander Bill Stafford for the Yankees. The ChiSox got off to a fast start against Stafford when first baseman Joe Cunningham smacked a solo homer into the stands, and his quick strike was followed by a walk to left fielder Floyd Robinson and an RBI double by right fielder Charlie Maxwell. The Yankees answered by loading the bases with their first three batters of the game against Baumann. Mantle lined out to right field, scoring a run on a sacrifice fly as leadoff hitter Tom Tresh tagged up and crossed home plate. Unfortunately, the Yankees did nothing more with this scoring opportunity; left fielder Hector Lopez hit a comebacker that turned into a 1-6-3 double play to end the threat. The Yankees shook off this missed chance and tied the game in the third inning when Stafford surprised the crowd by hitting his second double of the season, then came around to score on a single to short left field by second baseman Bobby Richardson.
Stafford held the White Sox at bay with a scoreless fourth inning, and the Yankees took the lead in the bottom half of the frame. Lopez grounded a single up the middle off Baumann to begin the inning, and after catcher Elston Howard flew out to center, he went from first to third on a hit to short centerfield by third baseman Clete Boyer. Up stepped Long, who was starting today in part because of his hot streak, but mostly because regular first baseman Moose Skowron was away from the team to attend his father's funeral. Long slapped a Baumann pitch on a line to left field and though Robinson made the catch, he was unable to throw Lopez out at the plate. Thanks to Long, the Yankees had the lead.
The game stayed quiet as it moved into the later innings. Stafford shut the White Sox out in six straight innings, allowing no hits between the first and the eighth. Baumann pitched a scoreless fifth, then was relieved by Dom Zanni, who kept the Yankees to a mere one-run lead. White Sox catcher Sherm Lollar broke Chicago's hitless streak with a double to left, and with one out, advanced to third base on an infield single to Tresh at shortstop. 16-year veteran Nellie Fox came up next and showed why he was one of the greatest players in White Sox history. The Hall of Fame second baseman lined a single to left field, scoring Lollar to tie the game at three. Stafford exited the game after 7.1 innings of five-hit baseball, and reliever Marshall Bridges helped the Yankees escape the inning with the tie.
Chicago pinch-hit for Zanni in the game-tying eighth inning, so reliever Dean Stone entered the game in the bottom of the eighth. Stone pitched two scoreless innings against the Bronx Bombers, holding them to just a one-out single in the ninth by Howard. Likewise, Bridges held the White Sox off the board for two innings beyond his initial appearance in the eighth. 38-year-old righthander Turk Lown, pitching in the last season of an 11-year career, entered the game for the White Sox in the bottom of the tenth inning. Lown breezed through the Yankees' batting order with surprising ease, retiring six men in a row in the tenth and the eleventh. The batters he retired were not easy outs by any consideration--a homer could have ended the game, but he induced a soft grounder to first from Roger Maris, fresh off his record 61-homer season in '61, and even caught the great Mantle looking at strike three. Lefty Bud Daley relieved Bridges in the tenth, and he threw two perfect innings of his own.
Thus, the game entered the bottom of the twelfth with Lown still on the hill for the ChiSox. He continued his perfect relief by retiring Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra on a grounder to first base and Boyer on a comebacker to the mound. Lown sent down eight men in a row before Long came to the plate for the Yankees. Despite his 0-for-3 evening thus far, he was still hitting .345 in his return to the Yankees. As UPI Sports writer Fred Down remarked, "That's the same Dale Long who was hitting .258 with the Washington Senators before the Yankees picked him up as 'pennant insurance' and dressed him in those magic pinstripes." Long turned on a 3-1 pitch from Lown and sent it over the fence for a walk-off home run, giving the Yankees a 4-3 victory. It was Long's fourth extra-base hit already since rejoining the Yankees, and the Yankees clinched their 59th win of the year. It all happened 50 years ago today.
The veteran would stay with New York through the end of the season and hit .298/.404/.468 with a 142 wRC+ as the Yankees won the AL pennant and eventually the World Series title. Although it was just another World Series ring for many of the team's players, it was the only one of Long's 10-year career, and he certainly played his role in the title chase.