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. 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.
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 Avila 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).
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.
Cohen, Richard M.; Neft, David S. (1990). The World Series: Complete Play-By-Play of Every Game, 1903–1989. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 250–253. ISBN0-312-03960-3.
Hano, Arnold (2004). A Day in the Bleachers. Cambridge: Da Capo Press. ISBN0-306-81322-X. The author, who later wrote Mays' biography, described sitting in the left-center field bleachers at the Polo Grounds for Game 1. An entire chapter was devoted to "The Catch".
Reichler, Joseph (1982). The Baseball Encyclopedia (5th ed.). Macmillan Publishing. p. 2162. ISBN0-02-579010-2.