I love my uncle.
My favorite cat is Quincy.
My favorite dog is Carly and Sweet Pea.
What were you doing, and where were you doing it, 10 years ago today, October 16, 2003?
It was the night of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Pedro Martinez vs. Roger Clemens. In his first game at Yankee Stadium since he tried to kill Don Zimmer, Pedro gets the hell booed out of him – and that’s a lot of hell. But the Sox take a 4-0 lead over the Yankees in the 4th, before Joe Torre lifts Clemens and brings in Mike Mussina. Making the first relief appearance of his career, Mussina stops the bleeding.
Jason Giambi hits 2 home runs to make it 4-2 in the 7th, but David Ortiz – not for the first time, and certainly not for the last (cough-steroids-cough) – hurts the Yankees by blasting a home run off David Wells. It’s 5-2 Yankees, and although I’m not much of a lip-reader, Wells appears to be yelling, “Fuuuuuuuuck!”
Pedro gets the first out in the bottom of the 8th, but then… Derek Jeter doubles. Then Bernie Williams singles, scoring Jeter to make it 5-3. Pedro is over the 100-pitch mark. From pitches 1 through 99, he throws like Sandy Koufax; from pitch 100 onward, he throws like Sandy Duncan. Red Sox manager Grady Little goes to the mound to remove Pedro…
No! He leaves him in! We got the headhunting son of a bitch!
Hideki Matsui hits a ground-rule double down the right-field line, moving Bernie to third. Well, now, for sure, Little has to pull Pedro. No, he stays in the dugout. He’s sticking with Pedro come hell, high water, mystique or aura.
Jorge Posada, the man that Pedro the Punk threatened with a fastball to the head in Game 3, hits a looper into short center, scoring the tying runs.
Just 5 outs from the Pennant, and the greatest victory the Red Sox would have since, oh, 1918, they have choked again.
Mariano Rivera pitches the 9th, 10th and 11th for the Yankees. He pitches the top of the 11th pretty much on courage alone. The Yankees need to win it in the bottom of the 11th, because the bullpen situation doesn’t look good.
Tim Wakefield, the knuckleballer who won Games 1 and 4 of this series, is on the mound. Leading off the inning is Aaron Boone, the Yankee 3rd baseman.
You know where I was at this moment? I was going from place to place watching the game, and I decided to get on the Subway and head up to The Stadium. Win or lose, I felt I had to be there. But the Subway was crawling, seeming to take forever. I forgot that it was after midnight. Frustrated, I got off at the 50th Street station of the A train.
Next thing I know, I’m standing in front of 220 West 48th Street, the Longacre Theatre. Do you know who built (in 1912) and owned this theater? Harry Frazee. The very man who broke up the Red Sox and sold off so many of their players to the Yankees, including Babe Ruth. What a place to be standing in as the Yankees and Red Sox battled for the Pennant.
In 1935, Clifford Odets’ play Waiting for Lefty debuted at the Longacre. Sox fans were still waiting for Alan Embree, the lefty that Little refused to bring in for Pedro.
It was 12:16 AM, actually October 17, 2003, but since the game started on the 16th, it goes down in history as October 16.
I had my headphones on, and on WCBS 880, I heard Charley Steiner say this:
“There’s a fly ball, deep to left! It’s on its way! There it goes! And the Yankees are going to the World Series! Aaron Boone has hit a home run! The Yankees go to the World Series for the 39th time in their remarkable history! Aaron Boone down the left field line, they are waiting for him at home plate, and now he dives into the scrum! The Yankees win it, 6-5!”
Together, Steiner and John Sterling yell Sterling’s tagline: “Ballgame over! American League Championship Series over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Yankees win!” Steiner: “I’ve always wanted to say that!”
The Longacre is at the northern end of Times Square. It sounded like a million car horns went off at once. People poured out of the restaurants and bars in the Square. People were slapping each other on the back, giving high five after high five.
By the time I finally got home at around 2 in the morning, my hair was soaked with sweat, my eyes were aching from being up too late, my voice was shot from screaming, my hands throbbed from shaking and high-fiving, my legs and feet throbbed from all the walking.
I’ve never felt better in my life.
Boone joined Tommy Henrich (1949 World Series vs. Brooklyn Dodgers), Mickey Mantle (1964 WS vs. St. Louis Cardinals), Chris Chambliss (1976 ALCS vs. Kansas City Royals), Jim Leyritz (1995 AL Division Series vs. Seattle Mariners) and Bernie Williams (Game 1 of ALCS in both 1996 and 1999) as Yankees who have hit walkoff home runs in postseason play. And he joined Enos Slaughter (1946 Cardinals), Lou Boudreau (1948 Cleveland Indians), Bob Gibson (1967 Cardinals), Joe Morgan (1975 Cincinnati Reds), and, collectively, the 1978 Yankees (especially Bucky Dent) and the 1986 Mets as Red Sox postseason tormentors.
Jeter said, “We’ve got some ghosts in this Stadium.”
Fortunately, they made the trip across the street.
Clemens, Wells, and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre walk out to the Babe Ruth Monument, and offer the Big Fella some champagne. Clemens slaps the plaque on the tablet, and says, “He’s smiling! He’s smiling! He’s smiling, Mel!”
Grady Little was not smiling. He was fired as Sox manager within days.
The next day’s Daily News headline read, “THE CURSE LIVES.” For the Sox… once again, it was “Wait Till Next Year.”
No, no. Really. They meant it this time.
Has it really been 10 years? Wow. Only 1 player is still with the Yankees: Derek Jeter. Still with the Red Sox: Only David Ortiz.
Boone got hurt in the off-season, leading the Yankees to trade for Alex Rodriguez. Injuries and a heart ailment ended his career after the 2009 regular season, after which he was an analyst on Fox’ postseason broadcasts as the Yankees won their first Pennant since his walkoff. He now works for ESPN.
A descendant of early American hero Daniel Boone, he is the grandson of 1950s major leaguer Ray Boone, the son of 1970s Phillies catcher Bob Boone, the brother of 1990s-2000s big-leaguer Bret Boone, the husband of Playboy’s Miss October 1998 Laura Cover), and the father of 2 children, neither of whom is anywhere near old enough to make the Boones MLB’s first 4-generation family. The David Bells — Gus, Buddy and David — didn’t beat them to being the first 3-generation, but 4-generation is still up in the air.
A lot can change in ten years. We now have a black President, Twitter, YouTube, the Kardashians on TV, Snooki, NCIS, Castle, and Kevin Youkilis has become a Red Sock and a Yankee.
And we have seen the Red Sox win 2 World Series, breaking the Curse of the Bambino — and we have seen them exposed as dirty rotten cheaters, and continue to lie about it, meaning we can no longer chant, “NINE-teen-EIGHT-teen! (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap),” but we can still write 1918*.
Note: The technical difficulties I had with Blogger.com look like they’ve been resolved. It is possible that this will be my last post on this version of the blog, before I go back to the old one.
October 15, 1988, 25 years ago today: In one of the most improbable finishes in World Series history‚ pinch hitter Kirk Gibson hits a 2-run home run off Dennis Eckersley with 2 out and 2 strikes in the bottom of the 9th inning, to give the Los Angeles Dodgers a 5-4 win over the Oakland Athletics in Game 1.
The injured Gibson was not expected to play in the Series, and will not play in it again. It is the first World Series game to end on a home run since game 6 in 1975.
Vin Scully, normally the voice of the Dodgers but broadcasting this game for NBC, said, “In a year that has been so improbable the impossible has happened.” Jack Buck, normally the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals but broadcasting on radio for CBS, said, “I don’t believe what I just saw!”
Yankee Fans of my generation had heard tall tales of Mickey Mantle limping up to home plate, looking like he had no chance, then hitting a home run anyway, and limping around the bases to the rapturous cheers of the Bronx faithful. But since we weren’t old enough to have seen it, and the expense of videotape meant that so many of those old games were taped over by WPIX-Channel 11, we’ve heardly seen any footage of it. (Mickey’s 500th homer, on May 14, 1967, is an exception, thankfully preserved, showing both Mickey and the pre-renovation old Yankee Stadium in full color.) Gibson, one of many players who got the tag “the next Mickey Mantle” — and he got a lot more of the Mantle injuries than the Mantle homers — gave my generation a glimpse of what that must have been like.
After the game, Eckersley coined the phrase “walkoff home run.” The powerful A’s, winners of 103 games, were expected to make quick work of the comparatively weak-hitting Dodgers, who barely scraped by the Mets in the NLCS. Instead, Gibson’s homer set the tone for a very different Series.
It’s also worth noting that Gibson had a good enough year to be named National League Most Valuable Player that season, and had previously hit 2 home runs in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series, to give the Detroit Tigers the championship. So he’s one of the few players to be a World Series hero for 2 different teams — in 2 different leagues, no less.
Today, Gibson is the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, having won the NL West title in 2011. He is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, as some predicted he might be, because injuries limited him to 252 home runs. He, David Wells and Jake Peavy share ownership of a hunting ranch in Michigan. He and his wife JoAnn have been married for almost 28 years, and they have 4 children. One, son Cam, has followed in his father’s footsteps, playing baseball at Michigan State University.
Eckersley was not unduly affected by this home run, he just kept on becoming one of the best relief pitchers ever, after having been a pretty good starter. He won 197 games in his career, and saved 390 others. He is one of 2 pitchers to have a 20-win season and a 50-save season, the other being John Smoltz. He is in the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame, and the A’s have retired his Number 43. He’s now a studio analyst for both TBS and the Red Sox’ NESN.
Also on this day, Mesut Özil is born in Gelsenkirchen, Westphalia, Germany. A 3rd-generation Turkish-German, the midfielder has starred for the German national soccer team. He helped Werder Bremen win the 2009 DFB-Pokal (German national cup), and Spanish club Real Madrid win the 2011 Copa del Ray (King’s Cup) and 2012 League title. He now plays for London club Arsenal. Which, for me, means, “Yay!”
October 15, 1858: John Lawrence Sullivan is born. He is considered the first “true” heavyweight champion of the world, reigning from 1882 to 1892, and was a great hero for America’s Irish Catholic immigrants and their children. His personal life, however, was greatly criticized, mostly by the English Protestant establishment of the time, but who remembers them more than they remember “the Great John L.?”
October 15, 1881: H. D. McKnight organizes a new Allegheny Baseball Club of Pittsburgh in anticipation of the proposed new league, which becomes the American Association. This is the birth of the club known today as the Pittsburgh Pirates, although they cite their 1887 entry into the National League as their “date of birth,” and wore centennial patches on their sleeves in the 1987 season.
October 15, 1892: Charles “Bumpus” Jones of the Cincinnati Reds‚ making his major league debut‚ pitches a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates‚ winning 7-1 on the final day of the season. Jones‚ who won 16 games in a row in the minors‚ will have a tough time the following season when the pitching distance is increased from 50 feet to 60 feet, 6 inches. He will go 1-4 with a 10.93 ERA, and never pitch in the majors again.
October 15, 1897: William Chase Temple, a coal, citrus and lumber magnate based in Pittsburgh‚ who also owns the Pirates and as such donated a trophy that has been contested for the last 4 baseball seasons by the first- and second-place finishers in the National League‚ is dissatisfied with this year’s contest. He will attend the league meeting and ask that the Temple Cup be returned to him. The League will investigate the charge that the players agreed beforehand to divide the receipts equally.
In 1894, despite finishing second, the New York Giants had won the Temple Cup by sweeping the NL Champion Baltimore Orioles in 4 straight. In 1895, the second-place Cleveland Spiders took the Champion Orioles in 5. In 1896, the Pennant-winning Orioles got half of their revenge, sweeping Cleveland in 4. In 1897, the second-place Orioles defeated the Champion Boston Beaneaters (forerunners of the Braves) in 5. These games are not, however, generally considered to be for the “world championship,” and after the 1899 season the Orioles were consolidated out of the NL, making possible the brief two-year presence of a franchise of the same name in the AL, and then a minor-league team of that name from 1903 to 1953, before the St. Louis Browns moved and returned the City of Baltimore and the Orioles name to the major league level.
There was also a Dauvray Cup, donated by actress Helen Dauvray, wife of Giants star John Montgomery Ward. The Giants won it in 1888 and 1889, but the three-league strife of 1890 led to its end. Today, the Temple Cup can be seen in the museum section of the Baseball Hall of Fame, while the Dauvray Cup has long since been lost.
I’ve occasionally wondered if baseball history would have been any different if the game had a prominent trophy such as the Stanley Cup as a prize all those years. Would the White Sox have thrown the 1919 World Series if they knew it meant they would not win the Temple Cup, or the Dauvray Cup?
The current trophy, the Commissioner’s Trophy, with its ring of flags, was first awarded in 1967, but it still isn’t as identified with its sport as the Stanley Cup, or the Super Bowl trophy, also first awarded that calendar year and renamed the Vince Lombardi Trophy after Lombardi’s death in 1970. The trophy has been won the following number of times: The Yankees 7 times, the Cardinals and A’s 4 each, the Reds 3, 2 each to the Pirates, Orioles, Tigers, Mets, Twins, Blue Jays, Marlins, Phillies, Giants and Red Sox *, and once each to the Royals, Braves, Diamondbacks, Angels and White Sox. The Cubs and Indians have each won at least 2 World Series, but did so before the Commissioner’s Trophy was created, so they dont have one.
October 15, 1899: The Cincinnati Reds close out the season with 16-1 and 19-3 home victories over the hapless Cleveland Spiders. John “Bid” McPhee‚ usually considered the best second baseman of the 19th Century‚ plays in both games‚ the last of his career, with all 18 being spent with the Reds.
Cleveland finishes deep in the cellar with 20 wins and 134 losses‚ 84 games out, a “winning” percentage of .149. They also conclude a 36 game road trip (1-35) after setting a mark earlier this year with a 50-game road trip. These all remain records for professional baseball futility.
The reason for the Spiders’ futility is that they were bought by the owners of the St. Louis team that would soon be renamed the Cardinals. This system, known as “syndicate baseball,” was legal at the time. And, as St. Louis natives, the owners brought all of the good Cleveland players, including pitcher Cy Young – but not Louis Sockalexis, the once-powerful but now injured and alcoholic Penobscot tribesman who has been called “the original Cleveland Indian” – to St. Louis. The result is a Cleveland team that may not have been, by today’s standards, Triple-A quality.
The Spiders, the Baltimore Orioles, the Louisville Colonels and the Washington Nationals will be consolidated out of the National League within weeks, though this makes the American League, and its franchises in Cleveland, Washington and, at least for two years, Baltimore, possible.
October 15, 1910: Stanley Ketchel, middleweight champion of the world since 1907, known as the Michigan Assassin, is murdered at the Conway, Missouri ranch where he was training. He was 34.
The murderer was a ranch hand named Walter Dipley. He and the ranch’s cook, Goldie Smith, were a couple (but not married) and set Ketchel up to be robbed. Dipley was captured the next day. At the trial, Smith said she had no idea Dipley was going to rob Ketchel. They were both convicted of murder anyway, and sentenced to life in prison, but Smith’s conviction was overturned and she served just 17 months. Dipley served 23 years.
The writer John Lardner (son of Ring and brother of Ring Jr.) wrote, “Stanley Ketchel died yesterday, shot by the husband of the woman who was cooking his breakfast” – the implication being that Dipley was a jealous husband who had caught Ketchel having an affair with his wife. It was great writing, but it wasn’t true.
Ketchel’s manager, a con artist named Wilson Mizner, was told about Ketchel’s death, and said, “Tell ’em to start counting ten over him, and he’ll get up.” (Mizner is also believed to be the source of the classic lines, “If you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism. If you copy from two, it’s research” and “Be kind to the people you meet on the way up, because you’re going to meet the same people on the way down.”)
October 15, 1911: In an exhibition game at the Polo Grounds in New York‚ Honus Wagner‚ Walter Johnson‚ Gabby Street and other white major leaguers take on the Lincoln Giants‚ a star-studded black team featuring John Henry “Pop” Lloyd‚ Dick McClelland‚ and Louis Santop. Johnson strikes out 14 to give the white all-stars a 5-3 win. Wagner, Johnson, Lloyd and Santop would all be elected to the Hall of Fame.
October 15, 1912: In Game 7 on a cold day in Boston‚ the Giants catch up with Joe Wood’s smoke‚ teeing off for 6 runs on 7 hits before the 32‚694 fans have settled down. Jeff Tesreau wobbles to an 11-4 win and the Series is tied at 3-all. (Game 2 was called because of darkness while still tied.) The only Boston bright spot is Tris Speaker’s unassisted double play in the 9th‚ still the only one ever by an outfielder in Series play.
Before the game‚ Red Sox management foolishly releases the Royal Rooters’ block of tickets to the general public‚ and when the Rooters march on to the field shortly before game time‚ they find “their” seats taken. The Rooters refuse to leave the field, and the club resorts to using mounted policemen to herd them behind the left-field bleacher rail or out of the park.
When the Red Sox win the coin flip after today’s game to determine the site for the deciding match‚ the upset Royal Rooters boycott the finale‚ lowering the attendance. Imagine that, the Boston Red Sox management doing something to upset their loyal fans. Good thing that didn’t become a trend, right?
October 15, 1917: After the White Sox’ Urban “Red” Faber and the Giants’ Rube Benton match 3 scoreless innings in Game 6‚ the Sox’ Eddie Collins leads off the 4th and hits a grounder to Heinie Zimmerman at third base. Collins takes 2nd when the throw gets past first baseman Walter Holke. Joe Jackson’s fly to right field is dropped by Dave Robertson‚ and Collins goes to third. When Happy Felsch hits one back to the pitcher‚ Collins breaks for home. Benton throws to third to catch Collins‚ and catcher Bill Rariden comes up the line. But with Zimmerman in pursuit, Collins keeps running and slides home safely. Zimmerman will be blamed for chasing the runner‚ but nobody was covering home plate.
The Giants come back with two runs on Buck Herzog’s triple in the 4th‚ but Faber, a future Hall-of-Famer, wins his 3rd game of the Series 4-2, and the White Sox take the Series.
This turns out to be the last World Series won by a Chicago team for 88 years – partly due to the fault of at least 6 and possibly 7 White Sox “throwing” the Series 2 years later.
A letter signed by 24 members of the World Series Champion Chicago White Sox and manager Pants Rowland contains complaints concerning not receiving their full winner share after beating the Giants. The written request, which will be discovered as a tattered document more than 40 years later in boxes stored at the Hall of Fame library, may explain the ‘Black Sox’ motivation for fixing the Fall Classic the two years later.
The last surviving member of the 1917 White Sox was right fielder Harry “Nemo” Leibold, who lived until 1977.
October 15, 1920: Mario Gianluigi Puzo is born in Manhattan. In his screenplay for The Godfather Part II, the character of Hyman Suchowsky, a young Jewish mobster played in that part of the film by John Megna, is asked by his new boss, young Vito Corleone, to pick a new name. He chooses Rothstein, later shortened to “Hyman Roth,” in honor of the man behind the Black Sox Scandal, saying: “I’ve loved baseball ever since Arnold Rothstein fixed the World Series in 1919.”
The older Roth is played by Lee Strasberg, and the character was based on real-life mobster Meyer Lansky, who, unlike Roth, not only outlived the 1959 finale of that film but was still alive when the film was released in 1974, and phoned Strasberg to compliment him on his performance.
October 15, 1923, 90 years ago: The Yankees win Game 6 of the World Series, riding a first-inning homer by Babe Ruth and the pitching of “Sad” Sam Jones, to beat the Giants 6-4 at Polo Grounds, and clinch their first World Championship.
This was not, however, the first title for many of the Yankees, and some of them, including Ruth and Jones, had won titles with the Boston Red Sox in the 1910s. In fact, of the 25 men on the Yankee roster when they won their first World Championship, 12, nearly half, had been Red Sox sold off by Boston owner Harry Frazee.
This was also the beginning of the end for Giant manager John McGraw and his style of baseball: Finally, the Yankees had put together a team that did not have to simply rely on Ruth’s home runs to beat McGraw’s style of “inside baseball” – what would, today, be called “small ball.”
The Giants would win another Pennant the next season, but that would be the last under McGraw’s leadership. In the 90 seasons after that, in New York and San Francisco combined, the Giants have taken 10 Pennants, still more than most teams have. Up until this moment, the Giants had won 11 Pennants and 3 World Championships, either through the World Series, pre-1900 postseason series, or the title of the only league then playing; the Dodgers, 6 and, by the means available to them to win a “world championship” at the time, 3, but none since 1900; the Yankees, 3 and none. From the Yankees’ 3rd Pennant in September 1923 until the end of the Giants’ and Dodgers’ last season in New York, September 1957, forward, the count was: Yankees, 21 and 17; Giants, 7 and 2; and Dodgers, 7 and 1.
The last surviving member of the 1923 Yankees was center fielder Ladislaw Waldemar Wikttkowski, a.k.a. Lawton Walter Witt, a.k.a. Whitey Witt, who lived until 1988.
October 15, 1925: A steady downpour yesterday and today has left the field at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh a muddy mess as Game 7 of the World Series is played in the rainiest conditions ever. The weather forecast suggested rain for the next 3 days for both cities involved, Pittsburgh and Washington, making the moving of Game 7 to Washington a bad idea, and Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis was anxious to get it over with.
While I’ve never seen film of this game — I don’t even know if any survives, although YouTube has footage from earlier in the Series — it would have been just plain wrong to play if the rain were as bad as what Philadelphia and Tampa Bay faced when Game 5 of the 2008 Series was suspended. There was a 4-day delay in 1911, and there were 3-day delays in 1962 and 1975. It could have been done again.
It’s a short day for Pirate starter Vic Aldridge: 3 walks and 2 hits‚ and he’s out of there with one out in the first. Walter Johnson takes a 4-0 lead to the mound. In what becomes known as “Johnson’s Last Stand,” the Bucs clobber the 38-year-old Big Train for 15 hits‚ good for 24 total bases. Max Carey’s 4-for-5 gives him a Series-high .458.
The Senators make the most of 7 hits‚ scoring 7 runs‚ including shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh’s home run‚ the 12th homer of the Series by both teams combined‚ then a Series record, despite Forbes Field and Washington’s Griffith Stadium both having some of the most distant fences in the game. Johnson would have fared better but for 2 more errors by Peckinpaugh‚ his 7th and 8th‚ still the Series record for any position. The Senators made only one other error in the 7 games.
Ray Kremer picks up his 2nd win with a 4-inning relief effort‚ as the Senators lose 9-7. This is the Pirates’ first World Championship in 16 years, and only one player remains from that 1909 title with Honus Wagner: Babe Adams, who had pitched and won 3 games in ’09, and was riding out the string in ’25.
The last surviving member of the 1925 Pirates was shortstop Glenn Wright, who lived until 1984.
October 15, 1928: After just one season away from the club for which he’d played his entire big-league career, Walter Johnson signs a 3-year contract to manage the Senators‚ owner Clark Griffith having secured his release from the 2nd year of his contract to manage the minor-league Newark Bears. Tris Speaker, newly retired as a player, will take over as Newark’s manager.
Despite being arguably the greatest pitcher and the greatest center fielder the game has yet seen, neither Johnson nor Speaker would lead the Bears to a Pennant. In fact, Johnson never won a Pennant as a manager, and Speaker never did except in 1920, when he had himself in his prime as a player.
October 15, 1933, 80 years ago: The Philadelphia Eagles play their first game in the NFL. It doesn’t go so well: They lose to the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds, 56-0. The birth of the Eagles was made possible by Pennsylvania finally dropping its law banning sporting events on Sunday. Due to their proximity, Eagles vs. Giants will, eventually, become one of the NFL’s best rivalries.
October 15, 1935: Willie Eldon O’Ree is born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. He played 44 games for the Boston Bruins between 1958 and 1961, but was still playing at the hockey equivalent of Triple-A ball until he was 43, winning 2 scoring titles in the Western Hockey League. It was hard to break into a team in the era of the “Original Six,” when just 6 teams meant that there were only 120 spots open at the big-league level. It was harder still for O’Ree, because he was nearly blind in one eye. And on top of that, he faced discrimination because he was the first black player in the NHL.
After he last played for the Bruins in 1961, not until the expansion season of 1974-75 would there be another black player in the NHL, Mike Marson of the hopeless first-year Washington Capitals. After these African-Canadians, the first African-American to play in the NHL was Val James, a left wing from Ocala, Florida, who played 7 games for the Buffalo Sabres in 1982 and 4 more for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1988, but spent most of his career in the minors.
Today, there are 27 black players in the league, including New Jersey Devils Captain Bryce Salvador, and Jarome Iginla of the Boston Bruins, who will probably be the 2nd black player in the Hockey Hall of Fame, after Grant Fuhr, the starting goalie on 4 Stanley Cup teams for the Edmonton Oilers and backup on a 5th.
As O’Ree played much of his career for the WHL’s San Diego Gulls, his Number 24 was retired by that team (now defunct, but the banner still hangs at the San Diego Sports Arena), and he has been elected to the San Diego Hall of Champions, the city’s equivalent of a municipal sports hall of fame. His hometown of Fredericton named its new arena Willie O’Ree Place, and his country has named him an Officer of the Order of Canada for his youth hockey work.
October 15, 1937: Rather than accept any trade offers‚ the Yankees release Tony Lazzeri, and allow him to make his own deal. That’s right: In the heart of the reserve clause era, a future Hall-of-Famer, not yet 34 years old, has been allowed to become a free agent. He later signs as a player-coach with the Chicago Cubs, and retires as a player after the 1939 season.
October 15, 1945: James Alvin Palmer is born in Manhattan, and grows up in Scottsdale, Arizona. Jim Palmer helped the Baltimore Orioles win the World Series in 1966, 1970 and 1983, and when I say “helped” I don’t just mean he pitched very well in the regular season: He is the only pitcher to win World Series games in 3 different decades. He is in the Hall of Fame, and the Orioles have retired his Number 22. At Scottsdale High School, he was 2 years ahead of future Vice President Dan Quayle, who was a star on their golf team.
Also on this day, Jerald Eugene Burns II is born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Known professionally as Jere Burns, he is best known as the womanizer Kirk Morris on Dear John, and now plays Wynn Duffy on Justified.
October 15, 1946: It seems only fitting that the World Series with the most regular-season wins by the combatants – the Boston Red Sox with a city-record 106 wins, and the St. Louis Cardinals with 105, 1 win off their city record from ’42 – goes to a deciding Game 7 at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.
Red Sox fans are confident: After all, no Boston team has ever lost a World Series. The Braves won one in 1914; the Red Sox won them in 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918.
But center fielder Dom DiMaggio gets hurt, and has to be replaced by Leon Culberson. In the bottom of the 7th, Enos Slaughter is on first for the Cards, and Harry Walker is up. Slaughter takes off for second on the hit-and-run. “Harry the Hat” drives the ball to center. Slaughter sees Culberson bobble the ball, and thinks he can score.
I’ve seen the film of the play many times. Culberson gets the ball to Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky, and I simply cannot see that with which Pesky has been accused for the last 67 years: “Hestitating” or “holding the ball.” And I don’t think it would have mattered, as Slaughter scored by plenty.
It has become known as “the Mad Dash” or “Slaughter’s Sprint,” and in the telling of the legend, Slaughter scores from 1st on a single. Not really, Walker did make it to 2nd and was credited with a double. But it is the go-ahead run, and the Cardinals win, 4-3.
For the Cardinals, led by Slaughter and the sensational Stan Musial, it is their 6th World Championship, their 3rd in 4 tries in the last 5 seasons. For the Red Sox, it is not only their first-ever World Series defeat, after not getting that far for 28 years, but it is the beginning of a stretch of 4 seasons in which they will end up bitterly disappointed 3 times.
Billed as the duel between the 2 best hitters in baseball‚ the Series sees Musial go 6-for-27 and Boston’s Ted Williams 5-for-25. This will be the only Series of Williams’ career, and the only one the Red Sox will play in a 49-year stretch from 1918 to 1967. The Cardinals, at first, will fare little better, as they won’t play in another Series for 18 years: Whereas Musial, who spent the ’45 season in the Navy and that was the only season from ’42 to ’46 when the Cards didn’t win at least the Pennant, had won a Pennant in each of his first 4 full seasons, he will play another 17 seasons without winning one, despite close calls in ’47, ’48 and ’49 and 2nd-place finishes in ’56 and his final season of ’63.
Harry Brecheen wins 3 games for the Cardinals‚ the first lefthander ever to accomplish this. It is a feat that has been matched only by Mickey Lolich in 1968 and Randy Johnson in 2001. Brecheen won Games 6 and 7‚ a feat matched only by the Big Unit.
With Musial’s death earlier this year, and that of Pesky last year, there are now 2 surviving members of each of these teams: For the Cards, 2nd baseman Red Schoendienst (HOF as a player although he was also a pretty good manager), and catcher Joe Garagiola (HOF as a broadcaster); for the BoSox, HOF 2nd baseman Bobby Doerr and pitcher Dave “Boo” Ferriss.
October 15, 1959: Emeril John Lagasse is born in Fall River, Massachusetts. I hope the great TV chef, a big Red Sox fan but a man who loves New York City, doesn’t blow out the candles on his cake by shouting, “BAM!” I do hope, however, that he contacts Dan Le Batard, the Miami Herald columnist and sometime guest-host on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, about appropriating his “BAM!” on the air.
October 15, 1964: Game 7 of the World Series at Sportsman’s Park – or, as Cardinals owner and Anheuser-Busch beer baron August Anheuser Busch Jr., a.k.a. “Gussie” Busch, has renamed it, Busch Stadium. The Cardinals start Bob Gibson, loser of Game 2 but winner of Game 5, on 2 days’ rest. The Yankees start rookie Mel Stottlemyre, who had defeated Gibson in Game 2.
Lou Brock’s 5th-inning homer triggers a 2nd 3-run frame and a 6-0 lead for Gibson. Mickey Mantle‚ Clete Boyer‚ and Phil Linz homer for New York – for Mantle, the record 18th and final Series homer of his career – and the Yanks close to within 7-5 in the 9th. But it’s not enough, as Gibson finishes the job, and the Cards are the World Champions.
Both Boyers‚ Ken for the Cards and Clete for the Yankees‚ homer in their last Series appearance. While they had homered in back-to-back games, Clete in Game 3 and Ken a grand slam in Game 4, this remains the only time in Series history that 2 brothers have both homered.
For each manager, it is his last game at the helm. Johnny Keane had nearly been fired by Cardinal management in mid-season, and their come-from-behind run to top the Philadelphia Phillies had saved his job. But he had had enough, and he resigns. Yogi Berra, after helping the Yankees to 14 World Series as a player and now one as their manager, also coming from behind, to top the Chicago White Sox, thinks he’s done a good job, and expects to be offered a new contract. Instead, he gets fired, and Yankee management hires… Johnny Keane.
This will turn out to be a massive mistake. While the Cardinals will hire former star second baseman Red Schoendienst, who will lead them to the 1967 World Championship and the 1968 Pennant, Keane, already in ill health, will be a terrible fit for the Yankees, getting fired early in 1966, and he dies in 1967. Del Webb and Dan Topping, who had owned the Yankees since 1945, had just sold the Yankees to CBS – yes, the broadcast network – and had cared little for keeping the farm system stocked. As a result, there was very little talent left to call up to the majors when the Yanks’ current stars got hurt or old, and it seemed like they all got hurt or old at once.
In the 44 seasons from 1921 to 1964, the Yanks won 29 Pennants and 20 World Series, but fell to 6th place in 1965, 10th and last in ’66. Despite a 2nd-place finish in ’70, they were well behind the World Series-winning Orioles. They didn’t get into a race where they were still in it in August until ’72, to the last weekend still in the race until ’74 (by which time George Steinbrenner had bought the team from CBS), to the postseason until ’76 and the World Championship until ’77.
October 15, 1968: Didier Deschamps is born in Bayonne. That’s Bayonne, in the Basque Country of southwestern France; not Bayonne, New Jersey. The midfielder captained France to victory in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. He starred for Nantes, Olympique de Marseille and Bordeaux in his native land; Juventus in Italy, Chelsea in England and Valencia in Spain. He is now manager of France’s national team.
October 15, 1969: Game 4 of the World Series at Shea Stadium, the Mets’ Tom Seaver against the Orioles’ Mike Cuellar, in a rematch of Game 1. It turns out to be a brilliant pitching duel between the Fresno stuff-mixer and the Cuban curve and screwball master.
The Mets were clinging to a 1-0 lead in the top of the 9th, but the O’s get Frank Robinson to third and another runner on first with one out. Brooks Robinson hits a sinking liner to right field, which looks like a game-winning 2-run double. But Ron Swoboda dives and snares it. Frank still manages to tag up and score the tying run, sending the game to extra innings.
In the bottom of the 10th, tied at 1-1, Met manager Gil Hodges gambles on getting a run now or good work from his bullpen and a run at some later point, and sends J.C. Martin up to pinch-hit for Seaver. “Tom Terrific” is normally a good hitter by pitchers’ standards, but this is no time for that. Martin bunts, and Pete Richert, who has relieved Cuellar, tries to throw him out at first, but his throw hits Martin on the wrist. The ball gets away, and Rod Gaspar, who had been on second, comes around to score the winning run.
The Mets are now 1 win away from completing their “Miracle.” The upset is nearly complete, and former Yankee and Met manager Casey Stengel no longer speaks sarcastically when he uses the word he used to describe the awful early Mets: When interviewed about it, he says, “The New York Mets are amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing… ”
October 15, 1970: The Orioles avenge their upset loss in last year’s World Series, and claim their 2nd title with a 9-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 5 at Memorial Stadium.
After winning the first three games and then dropping Game 4 – this remains the only time in Series history this has ever happened – the O’s overcome a 3-0 deficit for the 3rd time in the Series. Frank Robinson and Merv Rettenmund each homer and drive in 2 runs. Brooks Robinson‚ who has not only fielded so spectacularly that he has been nicknamed the “Human Vacuum Cleaner‚” but has also gotten several key hits, and fields the final out, easily wins the Series MVP award.
October 15, 1971: Andy Cole is born in Nottingham. One of the first great black soccer players in England, the striker is the second-leading goal scorer in Premier League history – that is, the second-highest in English league play since the first division of “the Football League” became the Premier League in 1992. Too bad he did most of it for Manchester United. He scored 187 times in Premiership play, although this is well behind the record of 260 held by former Newcastle United star Alan Shearer.
October 15, 1972: In his last appearance at a major league ballpark, Jackie Robinson, speaking prior to Game 2 of the World Series, urges baseball to hire a black manager. Jackie will die of a heart attack, brought on by years of weakening by diabetes, 9 days later.
The first African-American skipper will not be hired until 2 years later, just after the conclusion of the 1974 regular season, when the Cleveland Indians hire Frank Robinson to run the team.
The Oakland Athletics win Game 2, 2-1, as Joe Rudi clouts a homer and makes an amazing game-saving catch in the 9th to back up Catfish Hunter’s pitching. Despite being without their best player, the injured Reggie Jackson, the A’s take a 2-game advantage over the Big Red Machine as the Series moves to Oakland.
October 15, 1977: The Yankees beat the Dodgers in Game 4 at Dodger Stadium, 4-2, to take a 3-1 advantage in the World Series. Reggie Jackson doubles and homers‚ and rookie lefthander Ron Guidry pitches a 4-hitter‚ striking out 7.
From August 10, 1977 through April 22, 1979, including the postseason, Guidry went 42-5 with a 1.93 ERA, one of the greatest runs any pitcher will ever have.
October 15, 1978: The Yankees beat the Dodgers in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, 12-2, to take a 3-2 advantage in the World Series. Jim Beattie, the Yanks’ 4th starter who had a 6-9 record in the regular season, pitches the first complete game of his career. Bucky Dent, Mickey Rivers, and Brian Doyle, substituting at second base for the injured Willie Randolph, each collect 3 hits.
After taking the first 2 games in L.A., the Dodgers have been shellshocked by Graig Nettles’ defensive display in Game 3 and Reggie Jackson’s “Sacrifice Thigh” in Game 4, and have not recovered. The Series heads back to California, and the Yankees need to win only 1 of the last 2.
October 15, 1981: The Yankees beat the A’s, 4-0 at the Oakland Coliseum, and sweep the ALCS in 3 straight. Once and future Yankee manager Billy Martin, a native of nearby West Berkeley, California, had previously played for the Oakland Oaks’ 1948 Pacific Coast League champion under Casey Stengel, and now, once again, he had revived the fortunes of his hometown team, saving the A’s from total incompetence and irrelevance, taking them from 108 losses the year before he arrived to second place in his first season to the AL West title in his second.
This was the 5th time Billy had managed a team into the postseason, and with the 4th different team: Minnesota in 1969, Detroit in ’72, the Yankees in ’76 and ’77, and he came close to making it 6 times with 5 different teams, with Texas in ’74.
When introduced before Game 1 of this series at Yankee Stadium, Billy got a huge ovation. That made him very happy. George Steinbrenner couldn’t be reached for comment. But in this series, the Yankees just had too much for the A’s, and took their 33rd Pennant — the A’s, if you count their Philadelphia years, are 2nd among AL teams, with 12.
For reasons partly, but not entirely, his fault, Billy would never manage in the postseason again. And, for reasons partly, but not entirely, Billy’s fault, the Yankees’ 34th Pennant would not be soon in coming. Today, the total stands at Yankees 40, A’s 16. (Red Sox? 12. If you count the last 2 *.)
During this Game 3 at the Oakland Coliseum, “professional cheerleader” Krazy George Henderson, a native of nearby San Jose, leads what is thought to be the first audience wave. “And anybody who says I didn’t is a stinkin’ liar,” he would later say. Robb Weller, later to co-host Entertainment Tonight, would say he didn’t, claiming to have invented the Wave himself, at a University of Washington football game. But the game in question happened 2 weeks later, so I’m inclined to believe Krazy George.
Still a “free agent” cheerleader, Krazy George once game to a Trenton Thunder game I was at, and we won. I told him, “George, stick around, we need the wins!” To be honest, though (and I didn’t tell him this), I’ve always hated the Wave, found it juvenile.
October 15, 1986: Desperate to win Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at the Astrodome, the Mets do not want to face Houston pitcher Mike Scott – a Met-killer both as a Met and an Astro – in a Game 7, especially in the Astrodome, where Scott is far better than he is on the road.
The Mets use that sense of desperation to score 3 runs in the top of the 9th to force extra innings. In the 14th, the Mets make their first bid to win. After Gary Carter opens with a single, a walk to Darryl Strawberry puts two runners on with nobody out. After Knight forces Carter at third, Wally Backman drives a single to right. When Kevin Bass’ throw to the plate sails high over Alan Ashby’s head to the screen, Strawberry scores.
But with one out in the bottom of the 14th and the Houston fans with their heads in their hands, Billy Hatcher shocks everyone with a line-drive home run off the left field foul pole. It was the first earned run allowed by the Mets bullpen in the entire series. Hatcher went 3-for-7 in the game, and his homer meant the Astros would be kept alive for at least one more inning.
Both teams fail to score in the 15th, and the game goes to the 16th inning, the most innings in baseball’s postseason history at that time. The Mets appear to take control of the game once again, this time coming up with three runs in the top half of the inning. The rally begins with Strawberry receiving a gift double when Billy Hatcher and Bill Doran misplay his towering fly ball with one out. When Knight followsd with a single to right, a poor throw to the plate by Kevin Bass allows the tiebreaking run to score, just as it had in the 14th. Jeff Calhoun then relieves Aurelio Lopez and uncorks a walk, two wild pitches, and a single by Lenny Dykstra to bring in two more runs, putting the Mets up 7–4.
But as they had in the 14th, the Astros refuse to go down without a fight in the bottom of the 16th. Jesse Orosco strikes out Craig Reynolds to open the inning, but a walk and two singles later, Houston has a run in and the tying run on base. Orosco induces Denny Walling to hit into a force play at second for the second out, but Glenn Davis singles home another run, bringing the Astros within 7-6. The tying run is on second, the winning run on first – a run that Met fans, freaking out over the possibility of facing Scott in the Dome in Game 7, and their magnificent 108-win season, their “inevitable” World Championship, going down in flames.
But Orosco strikes out Kevin Bass, ending the game. He throws his glove in the air, foreshadowing the end of the World Series. As the pitcher of record when the Mets took the final lead, he is was awarded the victory, marking the first time in postseason history that a reliever won three games in a series.
Despite a .189 batting average, the lowest average ever recorded by a winning team in a postseason series, the Mets have their 3rd National League Pennant, and it remains the only one they’ve ever clinched on the road.
In fact, to this day, 11 of the Mets’ 15 clinchings have been at Shea Stadium: 1969 Division (beating the St. Louis Cardinals to eliminate the Chicago Cubs), 1969 Pennant (Atlanta Braves), 1969 World Championship (Baltimore Orioles), 1973 Pennant (Cincinnati Reds), 1986 Division (Chicago Cubs to eliminate Philadelphia Phillies), 1986 World Series (Boston Red Sox), 1988 Division (beating and eliminating Pittsburgh Pirates), 1999 Division Series (Arizona Diamondbacks), 2000 Wild Card (beating the Braves to eliminate the Los Angeles Dodgers), 2000 Division Series (San Francisco Giants), and 2006 Division (beating the Florida Marlins to eliminate the Phillies).
Their only road clinchings have been: 1973 Division (at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, eliminating the Cardinals), the aforementioned 1986 Pennant, 1999 Wild Card (at Riverfront Stadium in a play-in game against the Reds), and 2006 Division Series (at Dodger Stadium against, well, the Dodgers).
My Grandma watched Major League Baseball for about 70 years, first as a Dodger fan in Queens and Newark, then as a Met fan in the New Jersey towns of Belleville, Nutley and Brick. I asked her once, what was her favorite game of all time. This is the one she chose, without hesitation. I can’t say that I blame her. It wasn’t a “heavyweight title fight,” with big punches going back and forth. It was more like a middleweight or welterweight fight, with lots of jabs, until finally one fighter finished off a “death of a thousand cuts” and the other fell. It was an epic.
The same day, after being down three games to one in the ALCS, the Red Sox completed one the greatest comebacks in Playoff history by defeating the California Angels 8-1 to win the American League Pennant. The game caps yet another heartbreaking failure for Angels skipper Gene Mauch‚ who in Game 5 was one strike away from reaching his first World Series in 25 seasons as a major league manager. He had previously been a part of the Phillies’ collapse in 1964, a tough last-weekend Division loss for the Montreal Expos in 1980, and the Angels’ 2-games-to-0 choke against the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982. No manager ever managed longer without winning a Pennant. After the game‚ second baseman Bobby Grich retired after a fine career with the Orioles and Angels.
October 15, 1989: Wayne Gretzky scores a goal for the Los Angeles Kings for his 1,851st career point, surpassing Gordie Howe to become the NHL’s all-time leading points scorer. The goal comes with 53 seconds left in regulation, tying the game against his former team, the Edmonton Oilers, a game the Kings go on to win in overtime.
October 15, 1997: The Baltimore Orioles waste another magnificent effort by Mike Mussina, as the Cleveland Indians score the game’s only run on Tony Fernandez’s home run in the top of the 12th to win‚ 1-0. Mussina hurls 8 shutout innings and allows just 1 hit‚ while walking 2 and striking out 10. Charles Nagy does not give up a run in 7 1/3 innings for the Indians‚ while surrendering 9 hits‚ as the O’s leave 14 batters on base.
The pitcher who gave up the Pennant-winning homer to Fernandez? Armando Benitez. It is not the last time he will mess up a postseason game, but it is the last time he will do so for the Orioles. The O’s now had a 1-5 record in postseason games played at Camden Yards. Having finally gotten back to the postseason in 2012, that record now stands at 2-6.
October 15, 1999: Despite his guidance of the team to 5 straight AL Central titles and 2 Pennants, the only postseason berths the team has had since 1954, the Cleveland Indians fire manager Mike Hargrove.
October 15, 2001: The Yankees defeat the A’s‚ 5-3‚ to move into the ALCS. In doing so‚ they become the 1st team ever to win a best-of-5 series after losing the first 2 games at home. Derek Jeter gets a pair of hits to break Pete Rose’s postseason record with 87. David Justice hits a pinch-hit homer for the Yanks.
They will face the Seattle Mariners, whose 116-win season nearly went down the drain against the Indians, but they came back from a 2-games-to-0 deficit. Not the biggest choke in Indians’ history, but bad enough.
October 15, 2003, 10 years ago: The Florida Marlins complete a stunning comeback by defeating the Chicago Cubs‚ 9-6 in Game 7 at Wrigley Field‚ to win their 3rd straight game and the NLCS.
The Cubs seemed, at first, not to be affected by their Game 6 disaster, as homers by pitcher (!) Kerry Wood and aggrieved left fielder Moises Alou give them a 5-3 lead. But Florida bounces back to take the lead on Luis Castillo’s RBI single in the 6th. Miguel Cabrera hits a 3-run homer for the Marlins.
Catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who wins his first Pennant after going 1-9 in postseason games with the Texas Rangers, is named the NLCS Most Valuable Player. (Cough-steroids-cough, cough-Bartman-cough-absolved-cough)
Meanwhile, Game 6 of the ALCS is played at Yankee Stadium, as the Hundred-Year War builds toward a crescendo. The Red Sox rally for 3 runs in the 7th inning to come from behind and pull out a 9-6 victory over the Yankees to send it to a Game 7. Boston slugs 16 hits‚ including 4 by Nomar Garciaparra‚ and gets HRs from Jason Varitek and Trot Nixon.
October 15, 2005: Jason Collier, center for the Atlanta Hawks dies at age 28, of an enlarged heart. He remains the last active NBA player to die.
October 15, 2007: The Colorado Rockies beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 6-4 at Coors Field in Denver, and complete a sweep for their first National League Pennant. Matt Holliday’s 3-run homer makes the difference.
No team had ever swept their way to the World Series since the Division Series began in 1995. Colorado was also the first team to have a 7-0 start to a postseason since the 1976 Cincinnati Reds finished the playoffs 7-0 sweeping both the LCS and World Series. The Rockies now have a chance to match or beat the 1999 Yankees’ achievement of 11-1, the best postseason record since the LCS went to a best-4-out-of-7 in 1984. They have now won 21 of their last 22 games. But it will be their last win of the season, as they are, themselves, swept in the World Series by the Boston Red Sox * .
October 15, 2008: In Game 5 of the NLCS, the visiting Phillies beat the Dodgers, 5-1, to win their first pennant since 1993. Southpaw Cole Hamels, the series MVP, hurls his third postseason gem and Jimmy Rollins starts Philadelphia attack with a leadoff home run to start the game.
October 14, 1976: For the first time in 12 years, the Yankees are in the postseason. For the first time ever, a Kansas City team is.
The Yankees lead the Royals in the deciding Game 5, 6-3, in the top of the 8th. But George Brett slams a long home run off Grant Jackson to tie it. The game goes to the bottom of the 9th, and a few fans had thrown garbage onto the field, delaying action. Mark Littell, the Royals’ closer at the time, had to restart his warmup pitches, and it may have unsettled him just a little bit.
Leading off the inning was Yankee first baseman Chris Chambliss. Good player. Very good with the glove. Had a little power. But not a big-time slugger like Graig Nettles, who led the American League in homers that year with 32; or Reggie Jackson, the newly-minted free agent who was moonlighting in the ABC booth with Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell.
It was quite a night. Quite a cold night. The game-time temperature was about 40 degrees. A banner read, “NO MATTER HOW COLD, THE YANKS STAY HOT.” Among the celebrities there that night was Telly Savalas, star of the CBS cop drama Kojak, who was wearing a big fur coat. The camera caught that big Kojak smile, the newly-renovated Stadium’s arc lamps reflecting off both his big bald head and his big white teeth. Cold or no, the man was enjoying himself, and was so macho that nobody dared to tell him a man can’t wear a fur coat.
Cary Grant was at the game. So was James Cagney. The Stadium was back, the Yankees were back, everybody wanted to be there — New York City’s fiscal difficulties and the rising crime rate of the Subways and the South Bronx be damned.
Littell threw one pitch. Just one pitch. Phil Rizzuto, who once wore the Number 10 now worn by Chambliss, had the call on WPIX, Channel 11:
He hits one deep to right-center! That ball is gonna be… outta here! The Yankees win the Pennant! Holy cow, Chris Chambliss on one swing! And the Yankees win the Pennant. Unbelievable, what a finish, as dramatic a finish as you’d ever wanna see! With all that delay, we told you, Littell had to be a little upset. And this field will never bee the same, but the Yankees have won it!
The fans jumped over the fences and come pouring onto the field by the thousands. This had happened in many a ballpark celebration, and I’m sure some of them had seen their fathers or older brothers do it in 1969 when the Mets did all three of their clinchings (Division, Pennant and World Series) at home at Shea Stadium. The Mets had also clinched the Pennant and Series at home in 1973.
I’m sure there were a few “Yankee fans” running onto the field that night in ’76 who had been “Met fans” in ’69 and ’73. Maybe some were now running onto their second New York ballfield. Maybe it was the third, fourth, fifth or… 3 in ’69, 2 in ’73… sixth time.
Chambliss threw his arms into the air before reaching first base… As soon as he turned for second, a fan ran over and pulled the base out. Who says you can’t steal first base? The New York Police Department and Yankee Stadium’s orange-capped, orange-blazered ushers, that’s who. But there was little they could do at this point, as they were hopelessly outnumbered.
So was Chambliss. He touched second, but was then tripped up. He later said his big fear was falling and being trampled by fans. By the time he got to the third base area, the base was gone. He did the best he could, ran by home plate, and, remembering his training as a high school football player, threw a couple of blocks and got into the dugout.
On Channel 7, doing the game for ABC, this is what happened: Reggie noticed that, as cold as it was, Chambliss had the top button of his jersey undone, something that would likely have gotten him fined today. Of course, Reggie did that a lot, too, once he came to the Yankees and was no longer wearing a pullover jersey, like he had in Oakland and in his one, just-concluded season in Baltimore.
Reggie: “Chambliss is so hot right now, he’s got his top button undone. He’s in heat!”
Keith: “Mark Littell delivers, there’s a high drive, deep to right-center field… ”
Howard, interrupting: “That’s gone!”
Keith: “It could be, it is… gone!”
Howard: “Chris Chambliss has won the American League Pennant for the New York Yankees! A thrilling, dramatic game with overtones of that great sixth game in the World Series last year, and the seventh game, too!”
Etc., etc., etc., in that oft-imitated Cosellian way.
The scoreboard – ignoring for the moment that there was still a World Series to play – flashed, “WE’RE #1” for a minute and finally “N Y YANKEES 1976 AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONS.”
When they got into the locker room, the big question was asked: Did you touch home plate? Of course, Chambliss didn’t touch home plate. What home plate? Did you see a home plate? He didn’t see no home plate! Fortunately, Lee MacPhail, President of the AL and a former general manager of the Yankees (and son of former Yankee part-owner Larry MacPhail), was at the game, and the ruling was easy: Since the ball left the field of play, and no one was on base for Chambliss to pass to nullify one or more bases, the home run stood, and the Yankees remain 7-6 victors. Just to be sure, Chambliss, the umpires, and a couple of cops cleared a path through the fans, walked him over to the locations of third base and home plate, and he stepped on the spots where they were supposed to be, and all was official.
If the Yankees had lost that game, it would have been a terrible way to end what had been a season of rebirth, for the team, for The Stadium, for the beleaguered City which, just one year after the worst financial crisis in its history, had hosted the nation’s Bicentennial celebrations and the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden. Maybe George Steinbrenner wouldn’t have been able to convince Reggie, Goose Gossage, Dave Winfield, etc. to come to the Yankees.
Who knows, maybe the fabled “Yankee Stadium Mystique” would have been considered lost in the renovation process. Maybe, when George began to make noise about wanting out of the South Bronx, he could have added to his arguments, “It’s not like there’s anything special about this version of Yankee Stadium.” And maybe he would have been right. And maybe a new stadium would have opened in the Meadowlands by 1990 – and, since it wouldn’t have had the faux-retro influence of Baltimore’s Camden Yards, but would more likely have been a “mallpark” like Toronto’s SkyDome or Chicago’s new Comiskey Park (now Rogers Centre and U.S. Cellular Field, respectively), it probably wouldn’t have been thought of as such a great place once the new/old ballparks of the 1990s were built.
Ah, but the Yankees did win that game. So I’d like to wish a Happy Birthday to Joe Girardi, and and Happy Chris Chambliss Day to everyone.
October 14, 1066: On Senlac Hill, seven miles from Hastings, England, the forces of William, Duke of Normandy, defeat the Saxon army of King Harold II of England.
According to legend, the battle was hours long, approaching sundown, and was fairly even, until Harold was struck in the eye by a Norman arrow. Once their King and commander fell, the Saxons lost hope. However, Lord Baltimore and his followers, still loyal to Harold, insist that a young squire named Geoffrey of Mighor interfered with the arrow’s path. Just a joke.
The Duke, previously known as “William the Bastard” for his illegitimate birth, becomes known as “William the Conqueror.” The old joke about King William I is that you should never go into battle against someone called “the Bastard,” because he’s probably got a chip on his shoulder already; and you should never go into battle against someone called “the Conqueror,” because he’s probably done something to earn that nickname.
October 14, 1644: William Penn is born. He would go on to found the colony of Pennsylvania. In 1901, the city he founded, Philadelphia, would place a statue of him, sculpted by Alexander Calder, atop their new City Hall. It was 585 feet high, counting the statue, and until the completion of the Singer Building in New York, it was the tallest building in the world. It was also the first secular (non-religious) building to be the tallest building in the world; Penn, a Quaker who deeply believed in religious freedom, would have loved that.
For decades, an “unwritten law” (sometimes called a “gentleman’s agreement”) stated that no structure in the city could be taller than the hat on the Penn statue. In 1987, One Liberty Place opened. At 948 feet, it was the first structure in the city taller than City Hall – in fact, for a few years, it was the tallest building between New York and Chicago.
From that point forward, no Philadelphia team won a World Championship in any sport. Between them, the Phillies, the Eagles, the 76ers and the Flyers would make 5 trips to their sports’ finals, but none would win. No college basketball team from the Philadelphia area even reached the NCAA Final Four, as, between them, Temple, St. Joseph’s and Villanova would make 5 trips to the Elite Eight, but none could get into the Final Four. And Smarty Jones, a horse born and trained in the Philly suburbs, won the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and was leading in the Belmont Stakes, before falling behind and finishing a close 2nd, so Philly even choked in the thoroughbred Triple Crown.
Some people, believing in forces larger than life, suspected that the building of what were now several structures taller than City Hall’s Penn statue began calling the city’s inability to win a major sports championship “the Curse of Billy Penn.”
On June 18, 2007, the Comcast Center was “topped off,” at 975 feet the tallest in the city and the tallest between New York and Chicago. A miniature version of the City Hall statue of William Penn was placed on top, so that “Billy Penn” could once again look out over his city without having his view obstructed by taller buildings. Within 16 months, the Phillies won the World Series. Five months after that, Villanova reached the Final Four. The Curse of Billy Penn was broken. However, in between, the Eagles lost the NFC Championship Game, and the 76ers and Flyers have still stunk, so maybe there’s more to Philly’s struggles than the Penn statue.
October 14, 1842: Joseph Start is born in New York. He was one of the first baseball stars, playing for the Brooklyn Atlantics from 1862 to 1870, the New York Mutuals from 1871 to 1876, the Hartford Dark Blues in 1877, the Chicago White Stockings (forerunners of the Cubs) in 1878, the Providence Grays from 1879 to 1885, and the Washington Nationals in 1886.
He led the Atlantics to undefeated seasons in 1864 and 1865 (although there was no league whose “Pennant” could be won then), helped the Atlantics beat the Cincinnati Red Stockings for the closest thing there was to a “world championship” of baseball in 1870, and the Grays to National League Pennants in 1879 and 1884. He is said to have been the first first baseman to play away from the bag, although like everyone else in the game at the time, he didn’t use a glove. He lived on until 1927.
October 14, 1890: Dwight David Eisenhower is born in Denison, Texas. He grew up in Abeline, Kansas, and played football and baseball at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He played on the losing side in the legendary upset of Army by the Carlisle Indian School in 1912.
Legend has it that the future Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War II and 34th President of the United States tried to tackle the man behind Carlisle’s rise, Jim Thorpe, and that Thorpe crashed into Eisenhower and broke the future President’s leg.
The truth is less romantic: “Ike” played in Army’s next game and got hurt in that one. So if he did try to tackle Thorpe, it was not injurious. But it probably wasn’t all that successful, either, as Thorpe was the greatest football player of the 1910s, and the greatest track star of that time, and played Major League Baseball as well, and remains one of the greatest all-around athletes of all time.
In 1953, his first year as President, Ike was invited, as all Presidents had been since 1910, to throw out the first ball on Opening Day at Washington’s Griffith Stadium. He declined, saying he had a golf date that day. But it rained, postponing the ballgame, and that enabled him to throw out the first ball. He also threw out the first ball before Game 1 of the 1956 World Series at Ebbets Field. The next day, his election opponent, Adlai Stevenson, threw out the first ball.
October 14, 1891: Former Chicago White Stockings (forerunners of the Cubs) pitcher Larry Corcoran, the first man to pitch 3 no-hitters, dies in Newark at the age of 32 of the kidney disorder Bright’s Disease, exacerbated by alcoholism. Corcoran’s best year was 1884 when he went 27-12.
October 14, 1892: The scheduled game between the Boston Beaneaters (forerunners of the Braves) and the Washington Nationals (who fold in 1899 and are not to be confused with any later D.C. team) is postponed because the Senators’ field has already been reserved by the Columbia Athletic Club for a football game against Princeton. As far as I know, this is the first time football has ever asserted its authority, whatever that might be, over baseball.
October 14, 1905: Christy Mathewson pitches his 3rd shutout in 6 days‚ giving up 6 hits to Chief Bender’s 5. The Giants win, 2-0, and clinch the World Series in 5 games, thus proving their point from last year, when they refused to play the Boston Pilgrims (forerunners of the Red Sox), that they were already the best team in baseball.
The three goose eggs make Mathewson, already the most popular player in the game, bigger than any U.S. athlete has ever been. The A’s’ .161 team BA is the lowest ever for a Series, and the teams’ combined .185 is also the lowest.
The last survivor from the 1905 Giants is shortstop Bill Dahlen, who lived until 1950.
October 14, 1906: The Chicago White Sox jump on Three-Finger Brown for 7 runs in the first 2 innings‚ and coast behind Doc White to a 7-1 Series-ending victory in what is still the only all-Chicago World Series. Despite winning 116 games in the regular season, the Cubs lose to the “Hitless Wonders.” But the Cubs will be back. No, that is not a joke.
The last survivor from the 1906 White Sox is pitcher Guy “Doc” White, who lived until 1969.
October 14, 1908: Before the smallest crowd in World Series history, just 6‚210 at Bennett Park in Detroit, the Tigers are tamed on 3 hits by Orval Overall‚ who fans 10 in a 2-0 win. The Chicago Cubs win the series in 5 games. In the 101 years since, they have never won another, despite 13 trips to the postseason. Upset over seating arrangements at the Series‚ sports reporters form a professional group that will become the Baseball Writers Association of America.
The last survivor of the 1907-08 World Champion Cubs is infielder Henry “Heinie” Zimmerman, not yet ready in 1907 or 1908 to displace 3rd baseman Harry Steinfeldt, shortstop Joe Tinker or 2nd baseman Johnny Evers, but who ends up playing all 3 positions and becomes one of the top 3rd basemen of the 1910s. He lives until 1969.
October 14, 1910: John Robert Wooden is born in Hall, Indiana. One of the top players of his time, he led Purdue University’s basketball team to a season in 1932 that was retroactively awarded National Championship status. In 1947, he coached Indiana State University to a conference title, and was invited to play at a tournament in Kansas City. He declined, because the tournament was segregated, and he refused to leave his team’s one black player behind.
In 1949, he was hired to coach the University of California at Los Angeles, UCLA. Not until 1962 did they reach what’s now known as the Final Four. But in 1964, he coached them to an undefeated season. They would win 10 National Championships in 12 seasons, including seven in a row from 1967 to 1973, with a 47-game winning streak from 1966 to 1968 and an 88-game winning streak from 1971 to 1974, still the third-longest and longest winning streaks in the history of college basketball. His players included Basketball Hall-of-Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (known by his birth name of Lew Alcindor at the time), Bill Walton and Gail Goodrich, and Olympic Gold Medalists Goodrich and Walt Hazzard.
John Wooden died just short of his 100th birthday, and was the first of 3 people who are in the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. There are few more respected people in the history of sports, living or dead.
October 14, 1913, 100 years ago: Hugh Thomas Casey is born in Atlanta. The righthanded pitcher starred in the minors, including with his hometown Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association, then arrived in the major leagues for 13 games with the 1935 Cubs, then got sent down to the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels, then spent 1937 with the Birmingham Barons of the SA and 1938 with that league’s Memphis Chicks, before the Brooklyn Dodgers rescued him.
He went 15-10 for the ’39 Bums, and was then converted into a reliever. In 1942 and ’47, he led the National League in saves, and probably should’ve been named to the All-Star Game in 1939, ’42, ’46 and ’47. Casey, rather than late ’40s Yankee star Joe Page, was the first relief pitcher to receive the nickname of “Fireman.”
But he’s best remembered for one pitch he threw, to Tommy Henrich of the Yankees, which Henrich missed. That should have been strike 3 and the last out of the Dodgers’ win in Game 4 of the 1941 World Series, tying the Series at 2 games apiece. But catcher Mickey Owen couldn’t handle the ball, Henrich saw that, he ran to first, and got there safely. Casey came unglued after that, allowing a single to Joe DiMaggio and a double to Charlie Keller, blowing the game.
The Yankees probably would’ve won that Series anyway, as Dodger manager Leo Durocher — in a rare moment of blaming himself instead of everybody else — admitted that he’d messed up the Dodgers’ starting rotation. But Casey got as much of the blame for the mishandled 3rd strike as Owen, as many people (including players on both teams) have speculated that he threw a spitball, catching Owen by surprise.
Casey enlisted in the Navy during World War II, missing the 1943, ’44 and ’45 seasons — at ages 29, 30 and 31, usually peak years for a pitcher — so we shouldn’t judge him too harshly. But, whether due to stress over pitching, the ridicule from the ’41 pitch, or his war experiences, he began to drink heavily. The Dodgers released him in 1948, he was picked up and then released by the Pittsburgh PIrates, and then the Yankees picked him up for the 1949 stretch drive, but he only appeared in 4 games.
He never appeared in the majors again. He spent the 1950 season back home in Atlanta with the Crackers, was not picked up for another season, and, distraught over the end of his career and his girlfriend breaking up with him, on July 3, 1951, he shot and killed himself. He was only 37.
October 14, 1914: Harry David Brecheen is born in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. In 1946 the St. Louis Cardinal became the first lefthanded pitcher to win 3 games in one World Series. Only Mickey Lolich and Randy Johnson have joined him since. He was known as “the Cat,” and a younger Cardinal lefty who was something of a protégé, Harvey Haddix, became known as “the Kitten.” The experience led to a long career as a pitching coach, and his Baltimore Oriole staff held the Los Angeles Dodgers to 33 consecutive scoreless innings in the 1966 World Series.
October 14, 1916: Sophomore tackle and guard Paul Robeson is excluded from the Rutgers football team when the players of Washington and Lee University of Virginia refuse to play against a black person. The game, played at Neilson Field in New Brunswick, New Jersey, ends in a 13-13 tie. A friend of Robeson’s called it “a wound that never healed.”
A month later, West Virginia University sent its team to play Rutgers, and insisted that Robeson not play. This time, Rutgers coach George Foster Sanford said that if the Mountaineers didn’t want to play against a black man, they could go home. They didn’t want to forfeit either the game or the money their school would make by playing, so they played, and Robeson made a game-saving tackle near the goal line to preserve a scoreless tie. Afterward, the WVU players lined up to shake his hand.
In 1917 and 1918, Robeson was considered by many observers to be the best player in the country. In 1920, making his all-time All-American team, Walter Camp, the legendary Yale player and coach who invented the “All-American team” concept, named Robeson the best defensive end he’d ever seen.
His pro career was brief, but he did play for the first champions of the league that became the NFL, the Akron Pros, led by black coach and back Fritz Pollard. Robeson went on to bigger things in the law, music, acting and social activism.
October 14, 1927: Walter Johnson, regarded by many as the greatest pitcher of all time, announces his retirement as a player. In two weeks‚ the Big Train will sign a 2-year contract to manage the Newark Bears of the International League.
Also on this day, Roger Moore is born. You might know him by another name: That name is Bond. James Bond. What does that have to do with sports? Well, in Live and Let Die, he raced a boat. In The Man With the Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me, he raced cars. Not good enough? In The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only, he not only skied, but unlike competitive skiers, he actually had to “play defense.” Not to mention he got into fights in all his Bond movies. As Mr. Bond, Mr. Moore was definitely athletic.
October 14, 1929: After a day off, because sports on Sunday are illegal in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (and will remain so until 1934), a special train from Washington brings President and Mrs. Hoover to Shibe Park to see if Howard Ehmke can wind up the Series against Pat Malone.
They match zeroes for 3‚ but with 2 outs in the 4th‚ a walk and 3 hits give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. Malone stifles the A’s with 2 hits and the 2-0 lead holds up into the 9th. The Athletics rally and come up with 3 runs‚ the winning run scoring on a Bing Miller double‚ and take the series 4 games to 1.
There won’t be another winning rally by a team down 2 runs in the 9th of game 7 this century; the Diamondbacks‚ in 2001‚ will do it next. NL MVP Rogers Hornsby‚ hobbled with a heel spur‚ manages just 5 hits in the Series. This is the last Major League Baseball game played before the stock market begins to crash 10 days later, beginning the Great Depression.
The last survivor of the ’29 A’s, considered by some people to be the greatest team of all time, is right fielder Walt French, who lives until 1984.
October 14, 1941: Arthur Louis Shamsky is born in St. Louis. On his 28th birthday, the right fielder (though not starting in front of Ron Swoboda – lucky for the Mets in Game 4) would help the Mets win Game 3 of the World Series.
Of course, he’s best known for being the hero of NYPD Detective Robert Barone, played by Brad Garrett on Everybody Loves Raymond. Robert loved Shamsky so much, he named his dog “Shamsky.” In 1999, on the 30th Anniversary of the Mets’ “Miracle,” Robert and his brother Ray, a sportswriter for Newsday, drove up to Cooperstown, where some of the ’69 Mets were signing autographs at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ray wanted to use his press credentials to skip to the head of the line. But Tug McGraw recognized Ray and remembered a critical column that Ray had written. Art Shamsky wasn’t impressed, either, and the brothers got thrown out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Later, at a diner, Robert said they should have waited in line like everybody else. Ray: “But we’re not like everybody else!” Robert: “Obviously, we’re not like everybody else. Because everybody else got to meet the Mets!”
October 14, 1946: Albert Oliver Jr. is born in Portsmouth, Ohio. A seven-time All-Star, the center fielder (later first baseman) was a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 1971 World Champions. In 1970, Al hit the last home run at Forbes Field and drove in the first run at Three Rivers Stadium. In 1978, he was traded to the Texas Rangers, and switched from Number 16 to Number 0 – not a zero, but an O for Oliver.
His 2,743 career hits make him 6th among players currently eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in, trailing Rafael Palmeiro (who is not banned but will never get in due to steroids), Barry Bonds (ditto), Craig Biggio, Harold Baines and Vada Pinson. His son Aaron Oliver played for Texas A&M’s football team in their 1998 Big 12 Conference Championship season, and now teaches at a Texas high school.
October 14, 1953, 60 years ago: The Brooklyn Dodgers force Charley Dressen’s resignation as manager when he refuses to sign anything less than a two-year contract. The club reportedly offered him a $7‚500 raise‚ but, on the insistence of his wife, he tried for a 2-year contract, and lost.
My Grandma, a major Dodger fan in those days, hated Dressen, telling me decades after the fact about how bad he was: “Oh, that Dressen was so stupid!” And she confirmed that his wife bossed him around and demanded that he ask for the two-year contract. But for as long as Walter O’Malley and his son Peter owned the Dodgers, from 1950 to 1997, the Dodgers only offered their managers one-year contracts – 23 such contracts to Walter Alston, Dressen’s replacement, and then 20 such contracts to Alston’s successor, Tom Lasorda.
Dressen immediately signs to manage the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League. He had previously been one of Casey Stengel’s coaches with Oakland. He would later manage the Washington Senators and the Detroit Tigers, and died as the Tigers’ manager in 1966. As far as I know, he remains the last MLB manager to die in office. He was also an early pro football player, an original member of the 1920 Decatur Staleys, the team that became the Chicago Bears.
October 14, 1964: Joseph Elliott Girardi is born in Peoria, Illinois, and grows up in neighboring East Peoria. His 48th birthday was not a happy one, as he had to deal with Derek Jeter’s broken ankle in the 2012 Playoffs. But on his 49th, he has just signed a contract extension, and will manage the Yankees for a while longer.
Also on this day, in Yankee history, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle hit home runs on back-to-back pitches from Curt Simmons‚ and Joe Pepitone belts Gordie Richardson for a grand slam. The Yankees win, 8-3 at St. Louis, and send the World Series to a deciding Game 7. With all the home runs that Mickey and Roger hit, this is the only time they hit back-to-back homers in a postseason game.
Also on this day, James Philip Rome is born in Tarzana, California. But any man whose two favorite athletes of all time are Manny Ramirez and Rickey Henderson – in that order – gets no respect from me.
October 14, 1965: The Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series, coming back from a 2-games-to-0 deficit in which Don Drysdale lost Game 1 and Sandy Koufax lost Game 2. But Claude Osteen won Game 3, Drysdale Game 4, and Koufax Game 5. Now, working on two days rest‚ and throwing only fastballs so that his great curveball doesn’t hurt his aching elbow as much as it hurts the Minnesota batters, Koufax pitches a 3-hitter and blanks the Twins, 2-0. In other words, the Twins, led by Hall-of-Fame 3rd baseman Harmon Killebrew and should-be Hall-of-Fame right fielder Tony Oliva, knew exactly what was coming, but it was so good that they still couldn’t hit it.
This is the Dodgers’ 4th World Championship, their 3rd since moving to Los Angeles, and their 2nd in 3 years. In each of the last 2, Koufax was named Series MVP.
Players from this game, 48 years ago, who are still alive: For the Dodgers, Koufax, shortstop Maury Wills, 1st baseman Wes Parker, left fielder Lou Johnson, right fielder Ron Fairly, 2nd baseman Dick Tracewski and 3rd baseman John Kennedy (Drysdale and Osteen are still alive, but did not appear); for the Twins, Oliva, center fielder Joe Nossek, 2nd baseman Frank Quilici (who later managed the Twins as one of MLB’s last player-managers), pinch-hitters Rich Rollins and Sandy Valdespino, and pitchers Jim Kaat, Jim Merritt and Jim Perry. (The Twins used a 4th pitcher, Johnny Klippstein, but he’s dead. I guess, to pitch for the Twins in this game, it helped to be named Jim.)
October 14, 1967: Patrick Franklin Kelly is born in Philadelphia. He played 2nd base for the Yankees from 1991 to 1997. In 1995, his home run brought the Yanks back from behind to win a key game against the Blue Jays in Toronto, and enabled them to clinch the first-ever American League Wild Card. He was a member of the Yankees’ 1996 World Championship team, although he was not on the active roster for the postseason.
He should not to be confused with two other Pat Kellys who have played Major League Baseball, an outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles on their 1979 Pennant team, and a catcher who had a cup of coffee with the Blue Jays in 1980.
October 14, 1968: American sprinter Jim Hines becomes the first man ever to break the 10-second barrier in a 100-meter race, at the Olympic final in Mexico City. His time is 9.95 seconds. This will stand as a world record for 15 years. Hines also anchors the U.S. 4×100-meter relay team, the first all-black team of any kind, in any sport, from any country, to win an Olympic Gold Medal.
Like baseball legend Frank Robinson and basketball legend Bill Russell, Hines is a graduate of McClymonds High School in Oakland, California. Unfortunately, he is not as well remembered as some other Gold Medalists from the ’68 Olympics, such as George Foreman, Dick Fosbury and Tommie Smith. Like a few great sprinters, he got a pro football tryout, and he played 10 games with the Miami Dolphins in 1969 and 1 with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1970. He later worked on oil rigs in Houston, and now, at age 67, runs an inner-city youth advocacy program.
Also on this day, Matt Le Tissier is born on Guernsey, in the Channel Islands – closer to France than to England, and ethnically French, but a citizen of England and the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The midfielder for English soccer club Southampton, the greatest player in the club’s history, was 48-for-49 on penalty kicks in his career, and is often regarded as the greatest player ever at that task.
October 14, 1969: The Mets continue their “Miracle,” winning Game 3 of the World Series, 5-0 over the Baltimore Orioles. Ed Kranepool, the last remaining Met from their original, pathetic 1962 squad, justifies his place on this team by hitting a home run. So does Tommie Agee, who makes 2 sensational running catches in center field.
October 14, 1972: Oakland Athletics catcher Gene Tenace becomes the first player ever to hit home runs in each of his first 2 World Series at bats‚ leading the A’s to a 3-2 opening-game win over the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. This is the first postseason game for the A’s franchise since Game 7 of the 1931 World Series, when the A’s were still in Philadelphia (though that game was played in St. Louis).
October 14, 1973, 40 years ago: The Mets win Game 2 of the World Series‚ 10-7‚ scoring 4 runs in an 11th inning featuring what turns out to be the last major league hit by Willie Mays, and 2 errors by A’s second baseman Mike Andrews.
Andrews, who’d previously played for the Boston Red Sox in their 1967 “Impossible Dream” Pennant season, is subsequently put on the “disabled list” by an enraged A’s owner Finley, triggering the baseball equivalent of a constitutional crisis, just as the one started by the Watergate scandal is reaching a new peak.
October 14, 1975: In a game featuring 6 home runs‚ 3 by each team‚ Game 3 of the World Series is won by the Cincinnati Reds, 6-5 in the 10th inning. The inning is marked by a controversial play involving Cincinnati’s Ed Armbrister and Boston’s Carlton Fisk: Armbrister lays down a sacrifice bunt, and seemingly hesitates breaking out of the batter’s box; Fisk’s subsequent throwing error leads to the Reds’ winning run. The Sox scream for an interference call from umpire Larry Barnett‚ but to no avail.
Tony Kubek, former Yankee shortstop and now one of the NBC broadcasters, says on the air that Barnett blew the call. Barnett ends up getting thousands of angry letters, some of them death threats, nearly all of them from the New England States.
I’ve seen the film: Maybe this is just the Yankee Fan in me, used to hating the Red Sox, making this judgment, but I can’t say for sure that Armbrister intentionally interfered with Fisk.
The Armbrister play happened 38 years ago, but Red Sox fans still complain about it. It was even mentioned in the U.S. version of the movie Fever Pitch. Finally having won 2 World Series has done nothing to diminish Sox fans’ feelings about it. They still think that, if interference had been called on Armbrister, they would have won the Series.
I guess it never occurred to them that, Curse of the Bambino or no, the game was still tied when it happened, and, considering everything that’s gone wrong with their favorite team, they could have lost the game later in another shocking way.
It also hasn’t occurred to them that, instead of blaming Armbrister or Barnett, they should blame their own players for blowing leads in Games 2, 5 and 7, any one of which would have resulted in their World Series drought ending at 57 years… and the next one ending at 29 years. But then, these are Red Sox fans. It’s been a long time since I gave up on expecting them to be rational.
October 14, 1977: The Yankees win Game 3 of the World Series, defeating the Dodgers, 5-3 at Dodger Stadium. Mike Torrez is the winning pitcher, and Mickey Rivers collects 3 hits‚ including 2 doubles.
Also on this day, Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby dies at age 74. How good a golfer the legendary singer and actor known as “Der Bingle” was is open to debate, but he did sponsor the Bing Crosby Open tournament.
Golf isn’t a real sport? I agree. Okay, then: For a while, he was a part-owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, while his frequent movie costar and golfing buddy Bob Hope was a part-owner of the next-closest big-league team, the Cleveland Indians. Fortunately for them, the two teams are in different leagues, so the nasty Pittsburgh-Cleveland football rivalry did not spill over into baseball. (In fact, this year marked the first time both the Pirates and the Indians ever made the postseason in the same year.)
October 14, 1978: It’s Game 4 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees trail the Dodgers, 3-1 with 1 out in the bottom of the 6th. The Dodgers are 11 outs away from taking a 3-games-to-1 lead in the Series. But Reggie Jackson singles home a run, and Thurman Munson takes second on the play. Then Lou Piniella comes to bat. Sweet Lou hits a low line drive toward shortstop Bill Russell.
It’s important to remember that this ball was very low. If it had been any higher, the umpires would probably have invoked the infield-fly rule, which would automatically have declared the batter, Piniella, out with the 2nd out of the inning, and forced Munson to stay at 2nd and Jackson at 1st. But there is no time for the IFR to be called, and Russell… drops the ball. Thurman sees this and heads for 3rd. Russell steps on 2nd to force Reggie, who’s stuck just off of 1st, seemingly frozen. Russell throws to 1st, and…
And the ball hits Reggie on the leg and caroms away into foul territory. Lou gets to 1st safely. Thurman rounds 3rd and scores. The Yanks now trail 3-2, with Lou on 1st and 2 outs.
Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda storms out of the dugout, and furiously argues with the umpires’ crew chief, AL ump Marty Springstead, that Lou should be called out due to Reggie’s intentional interference. Springstead decides that he cannot determine Reggie’s intent, and he lets the result of the play stand. Lasorda would later say he was impressed with Reggie’s presence of mind to attempt the “tactic,” which becomes known as “the Sacrifice Thigh,” but he still thought it was an illegal play.
The Yankees tie the game in the 8th when Thurman doubles home Paul Blair. The score remains tied until the bottom of the 10th, when Lou singles home Roy White with the winning run, tying the Series at 2 games apiece.
This game still ticks off Dodger fans, but since when do I give a damn what they think? They’re rooting for a team that belongs in Brooklyn.
Also on this day, Ryan Matthew Church is born in Santa Barbara, California. The right fielder played for the Montreal Expos when they moved to become the Washington Nationals, and was traded to the Mets in the trade in which the Mets gave up on Lastings Milledge. He suffered 2 nasty concussions in 2008, and was never been the same player. He retired after the 2010 season.
Also on this day, Usher Raymond IV is born in Dallas, but grows up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and is usually identified with Atlanta, where he lives and records. A big Braves fan, he has a talent for cheating on the women he supposedly loves. I understand he does some singing, too. Yeah. Yeah.
Okay, in all fairness, Usher did a fantastic job playing a young Marvin Gaye in the 1960s-themed TV series American Dreams, singing “Can I Get a Witness.” But he also “discovered” Justin Bieber, and he will have to answer for that.
October 14, 1983, 30 years ago: Jim Palmer pitches two innings of scoreless relief and gets win as the Baltimore Orioles beat the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3 of the World Series, 3-2. The future Hall-of-Famer thus becomes the only pitcher in baseball history to win a World Series game in the 3 different decades.
October 14, 1984: The Detroit Tigers beat the San Diego Padres, 8-4, and win their 4th World Series, their first in 16 years, in 5 games. Series MVP Kirk Gibson blasts 2 upper-deck home runs at Tiger Stadium, including a 3-run shot off Goose Gossage in the 8th inning. Tiger fans riot all over the city‚ another black eye for their beleaguered hometown.
The Tigers have not won another Series in the quarter of a century since. The Red Wings have since won 4 Stanley Cups, and the Pistons 3 NBA titles, but the Tigers are without another ring. They’ve since lost 2 World Series, 2 ALCS, and blown 3 Division titles that they should have won. Strangely, no one calls them underachievers. After last night’s choke against the Red Sox, I’m starting to wonder.
October 14, 1985: Ozzie Smith homers off Tom Niedenfuer with one out in the bottom of the 9th to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead in the NLCS. It is the switch-hitting Smith’s first big-league home run while batting lefthanded. Cardinal broadcaster Jack Buck tells the fans, “Go crazy, fans, go crazy!” They do, although they don’t riot or storm the field. They know the Cards still have to win 1 of the last 2 games in Los Angeles.
October 14, 1986: Breaking out of a 1-for-21 slump‚ Mets catcher Gary Carter drives in the winning run of the Mets’ 2-1 win over the Houston Astros in the bottom of the 12th‚ rendering meaningless Nolan Ryan’s 9 innings of 2-hit‚ 12-strikeout pitching. The Mets still have to win 1 of the last 2 games in Houston.
October 14, 1992: For the first time ever, a team from outside the United States of America wins a Major League Baseball Pennant. The Toronto Blue Jays win the ALCS in 5 games with a 9-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. Joe Carter and Candy Maldonado both homer, while Juan Guzman gets the win.
The NL Pennant is also won today, in Game 7. With the Altanta Braves down 2-0 to Doug Drabek of the Pittsburgh Pirates entering the 9th‚ the decisive blow comes with 2 outs‚ as seldom-used 3rd-string C Francisco Cabrera drives in the tying and winning runs with a pinch-hit single.
The scene of ex-Pirate Sid Bream, often ridiculed as the slowest man in baseball, somehow reaching home plate before the tag of Pirate catcher Mike LaValliere, is one of the signature plays in the Braves’ postseason years of 1991 to 2005. John Smoltz‚ who works 6 strong innings without a decision‚ is named the series MVP.
It took 21 years, until this season, for the Pirates to even have another winning season, let alone make the postseason. An entire generation of Western Pennsylvanians was born and reached adulthood without ever having had a real Pennant race in their lifetime.
October 14, 1997: The Florida Marlins win their 1st Pennant by defeating the Braves‚ 7-4‚ and winning the NLCS‚ 4 games to 2. Kevin Brown goes the distance for the clincher‚ while Bobby Bonilla gets 3 RBIs to lead Florida.
October 14, 2000: The Yankees whitewash the Seattle Mariners‚ 5-0‚ behind Roger Clemens’ 1-hit shutout. Clemens fans 15 Mariners as the Yanks take a commanding 3-games-to-1 lead over Seattle. The Yankees score their runs on a 3-run homer by Derek Jeter and a 2-run blast by David Justice.
Al Martin’s double off the glove of Tino Martinez in the 7th inning is the Mariners’ only hit. Had Tino gotten his glove just 2 inches higher, Clemens would have had the second no-hitter in postseason history. Alas, a no-hitter is an accomplishment that will elude Clemens.
It will be 12 years before another Yankee pitcher throws a complete game in the postseason: CC Sabathia in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS against Baltimore.
October 14, 2001: The Yankee bats finally come alive as the defeat the A’s, 9-2 at the Oakland Coliseum‚ to even their ALDS at 2 games apiece. Orlando Hernandez gets the victory as he improves his postseason mark to 9-1. Bernie Williams drives home 5 runs to lead the Yankees. A’s outfielder Jermaine Dye fractures his leg when he fouls a ball off his left shin. He will miss the rest of the postseason and the start of spring training next year.
October 14, 2002: The Giants beat the Cardinals‚ 2-1‚ to take the NLCS and move on to the World Series against Anaheim. Kenny Lofton’s base hit in the bottom of the 9th scores David Bell with the winning run.
October 14, 2003: David Wells hurls the Yankees to a 4-2 win over the Red Sox and a 3-games-to-2 lead in the ALCS. Karim Garcia, victim of a Pedro Martinez fastball off his back in Game 3, delivers the key hit with a 2-run single in the 3rd.
But despite the implications of a Yankees-Red Sox postseason game, and everything that happened in Game 3 of that series, today’s action at Fenway Park pales in comparison to what happens at Major League Baseball’s other surviving pre-World War I ballpark, Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Leading 3-0 with 1 out in the 8th inning‚ and ace Mark Prior on the mound, the Cubs are just 5 outs away from their first Pennant in 58 years. By advancing to the NLCS, they had already won a postseason series for the first time in 95 years. Wrigley, and the surrounding streets, are jammed with people anticipating the Cubs’ first Pennant since 1945.
But Marlins’ second baseman Luis Castillo – Met fans will recognize that name from his 2009 miscue against the Yankees – hits a fly ball down the left-field line. Cub left fielder Moises Alou – another name Met fans will go on to remember with regret – reaches for the ball at the fence, but he can’t get it. A Cub fan named Steve Bartman reaches for it, and knocks it away. Despite appeals from the Cubs, umpire Mike Everitt rules there was no interference, that Bartman had not reached out into the field of play, and thus was entitled to try to catch the ball every bit as much as Alou was.
Castillo, with his at-bat extended, draws a walk. Iván Rodríguez singles, to make it 3-1 Cubs. Miguel Cabrera hits a ground ball to to Cub shortstop Alex Gonzalez – the Marlins had a shortstop of the same name – and he bobbles the ball. He could have turned a double play to end the inning and preserve the Cubs’ lead. Instead, all runners were safe and the bases were loaded. Derrek Lee doubles, tying the score and chasing Prior from the game.
The new Cub pitcher is… Kyle Farnsworth! Oh no! Foreshadowing his later Yankee screwups, he delivers an intentional walk to load the bases and set up a force play. But he gives up a sacrifice fly that scores Cabrera with the go-ahead run. He repeats the set-up-the-DP intentional walk, and then gives up a double to Mike Mordecai that clears the bases and makes it 7-3. The Marlins score another run for the final score of 8-3, and tie up the series.
Bartman had to be led away from the park under security escort for his own safety as Cubs fans shouted profanities towards him, and others threw debris onto the field and towards the exit tunnel from the field. News footage of the game showed him surrounded by security as passersby pelted him with drinks and other debris. Bartman’s name, as well as personal information about him, appeared on Major League Baseball’s online message boards minutes after the game ended. As many as six police cars gathered outside of his home to protect Bartman and his family following the incident.
Afterwards, then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich suggested that Bartman join a witness protection program (look who’s talking), while then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush offered Bartman asylum. For once, Jeb Bush was a better man than a Democrat; but, of course, living on Fisher Island, 15 miles from Joe Robbie Stadium, his gesture could be seen as a rather snarky one.
Shortly after the incident, Bartman released a statement, saying he was “truly sorry.” He added, “I had my eyes glued on the approaching ball the entire time and was so caught up in the moment that I did not even see Moisés Alou much less that he may have had a play.” His family changed their phone number to avoid harassing phone calls. He requested that any gifts sent to him by Marlins fans be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (a Cub cause celebre due to its association former star-turned-broadcaster Ron Santo).
Prior and former Cubs pitcher-turned-broadcaster Rick Sutcliffe spoke out in defense of Bartman. Even Jay Mariotti, then a Chicago Sun-Times columnist and a panelist on ESPN’s Around the Horn, who seems to revel in the miseries of his favorite team, defended Bartman. But Michael Wilbon, columnist for the Washington Post and co-host of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, a Chicago native and a huge Cub fan, has repeatedly said that he refuses to forgive Bartman.
To this day, Bartman refuses to make public appearances to talk about it, despite huge offers. I’m waiting for someone to do a Chris Crocker-style video and say, “Leave Bartman alone!”
October 14, 2006: Magglio Ordonez hits a walkoff 3-run homer with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, to give the Detroit Tigers a 6-3 win over the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park, a sweep of the ALCS, and their first Pennant in 22 years.
Despite having had such heavy hitters as Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, Harry Heilmann, Goose Goslin, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Rudy York, Al Kaline, Norm Cash, Rocky Colavito, Willie Horton, Kirk Gibson, Lance Parrish and Cecil Fielder, this is the first postseason walkoff homer in the Tigers’ 106-year history. It remains the only one in their now 109-year history.
October 13, 1960: Bill Mazeroski hits a home run off Yankee Ralph Terry in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 of the World Series, to give the Pittsburgh Pirates their first World Championship in 35 years.
After the Series, Yankee owners Del Webb and Dan Topping fired Casey Stengel. They made Casey read a statement in which he said he was resigning, but Casey put the paper down, and told the press, “I guess this means they fired me.” He later said that they forced him out due to his age: “I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again.”
Well, in 2003, Jack McKeon managed the Florida Marlins to a World Championship. He was about to turn 73. In 2009, the most successful Yankee manager since Casey, Joe Torre, managed the Los Angeles Dodgers to a second straight NLCS berth. He was 69.
The Baseball Gods were cruel to Ralph Terry that day in Pittsburgh, but they would be kind to him for the next 2 years, allowing him to win 39 regular-season games for back-to-back Yankee World Championship teams, and to add his own shutout in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series. Which brings me back to one of my points: As bad as certain moments of Yankee history have been, there’s usually a sequel that sets it all right, and goats become heroes.
Of the men who played in that game, 53 years ago, the following are still alive:
Pirates: 2nd baseman Mazeroski, shortstop Dick Groat, center fielder Bill Virdon, left fielder Bob Skinner, catcher Hal Smith, pinch-runner Joe Christopher (lost in the 1962 expansion draft to the Mets), and pitchers Vernon Law, Bob Friend and Elroy Face. Not entering the game but on the roster and still alive: Shortstops Dick “Ducky” Schofield and Dick Barone, outfielder Roman Mejias, catcher Bob Oldis, and pitchers Joe Gibbon, Bennie Daniels and Red Witt. Pitcher Red Witt dies this past January, and catcher Danny Kravitz this past June.
Yankees: Terry, left fielder Yogi Berra, 2nd baseman Bobby Richardson, shortstop Tony Kubek, substitute shortstop Joe DeMaestri, pinch-hitter Hector Lopez, and pitchers Bobby Shantz, Jim Coates and Ralph Terry. Not entering the game but on the roster and still alive: Outfielder Bob Cerv; and pitchers Whitey Ford, Art Ditmar, Luis Arroyo, Eli Grba, Bill Short, Fred Kipp, Johnny James and Hal Stowe. Pitcher Bob Turley died this past March.
Today, William Stanley Mazeroski is 77 years old, retired and living in Panama City, Florida, and is a spring-training fielding instructor for the Pirates. The Pirates have retired his Number 9, and in 2010, on the 50th Anniversary of the homer, dedicated a statue to him outside PNC Park. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001, the same year PNC Park opened.
October 13, 1775: The Continental Congress orders the creation of the Continental Navy, the forerunner of the United States Navy.
This would seem to have nothing to do with baseball, but, during World War II, it would be the Navy that would have, arguably, the three greatest catchers in baseball history: Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. (I thought Johnny Bench served in the Army Reserve during Vietnam, but I can’t find any record of this.)
The WWII Navy would also have Phil Rizzuto, Pee Wee Reese and, through the Marine Corps which is officially part of the Navy, Ted Williams, Jerry Coleman, and broadcasters Jack Brickhouse and Ernie Harwell. The Army would have Hank Greenberg, Warren Spahn, Jackie Robinson, and, through the Army Air Corps, forerunner of the U.S. Air Force, Joe DiMaggio.
October 13, 1862: In a game against Unions of Morrisania (now part of The Bronx), Jim Creighton of the Brooklyn-based Excelsiors hits a 6th-inning home run, after doubling in each of first 4 times to plate.
When he crosses home, the 21-year old Brooklynite complains of having broken his belt. It turns out to be a suspected ruptured inguinal hernia, caused by the torque created by his all upper-body hard swing with the bat. Medicine being what it was during the years of the American Civil War, he dies in agony 5 days later.
Creighton was the first true baseball superstar, and his monument in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery is rather outlandish. Had this not happened to him, he could have lived to see baseball in the 20th Century.
Also buried in Green-Wood are pioneer sportswriter Henry Chadwick, Dodger owner Charles Ebbets, actor DeWolf Hopper (famed for his recitings of “Casey at the Bat), “New York, New York” lyricist Fred Ebb, conductor Leonard Bernstein, pianomaker Henry Steinway; Theodore Roosevelt’s parents, uncle and first wife; minister Henry Ward Beecher; publishers Horace Greeley, James Gordon Bennett and Henry J. Raymond, and reporter Nellie Bly; artists Nathaniel Currier and James Ives, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Jean-Michel Basquiat, inventors Samuel Morse and Elias Howe, New Jersey’s first Governor William Livingston; the two people for whom the male and female components of New Jersey’s State University are named, Henry Rutgers and Mabel Smith Douglass; New York Governor DeWitt Clinton and “Boss” William Marcy Tweed, actors Lola Montez, Laura Keene (onstage when Lincoln was shot) and Frank Morgan (the title role in The Wizard of Oz); and mob boss Albert Anastasia and the man often suspected of killing him, “Crazy” Joey Gallo.
October 13, 1899: The Louisville Colonels score 4 runs in the 9th to take a 6-5 lead over the Pirates‚ but heavy black smoke from the Pittsburgh steel mills spills over the field, and the game is called because of poor visibility. The score reverts to what it was at the end of the previous inning: Pirates 5, Colonels 2. The Colonels, led by shortstop Honus Wagner, end the season today in 9th place at 75-77.
It will be their last season, as the National League contracts from 12 to 8 teams. The Pirates’ owners buy the Colonels franchise, lock, stock and Honus, and will win 4 of the next 10 NL Pennants and be in the race for most of the rest. Louisville has since been one of the top minor-league cities of the last 100 years, but it has never returned to the major leagues.
October 13, 1903: The Boston Pilgrims, forerunners of the Red Sox, win the first World Series, 5 games to 3, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-0 in Game 8. Hobe Ferris singles home 2 runs in the 4th, and Bill Dineen, pitching his 3rd win of the Series, outduels Deacon Phillippe, pitching his 5th complete game. Boston is the champion of the baseball world.
As with my previous mention of the 1904 Pilgrims/Red Sox, the last survivor was shortstop Freddy Parent, who lived on until 1972. Right fielder Tommy Leach is the last surviving 1903 Pirate, living until 1969.
October 13, 1914: The Boston Braves complete a shocking four-game sweep, the first in World Series history, over the mighty Philadelphia Athletics, winning Game 4, 3-1 at Fenway Park. Johnny Evers, former second-base star with the Chicago Cubs, singles in the 5th to make the difference.
The “Miracle Braves,” who came from last place on the 4th of July to win the whole thing, had abandoned South End Grounds, at whose location they had played since their founding as the Boston Red Stockings in 1871, in mid-season, because the new stadium they were building was not yet ready, and because Fenway Park had a larger seating capacity. A year later, Braves Field would open, and because it was the largest stadium yet built, with a capacity of 40,000, the Red Sox would play their 1915, ’16 and ’18 home games there. It would be 1946 before Fenway Park hosted another postseason game.
Fighting the rise of salaries caused by the Federal League, A’s owner-manager Connie Mack sold off most of his stars after this Series, ending a run of 4 Pennants and 3 World Championships in 5 seasons. In fact, he had won 6 of the first 14 AL Pennants and was in the race nearly every year. In 1915, the A’s would collapse to last place, and in 1916 they would produce a record of 36-117, the most losses in the major leagues between the 1899 Cleveland Spiders and the 1962 New York Mets, and still the lowest winning percentage since 1899, .235. To this, Mack is alleged to have said, perhaps coining the now-familiar phrase, “Well, you can’t win them all.” It would take Mack until 1927 to get the A’s back into a Pennant race and 1929 to get them back into the Series.
The Braves would not be unable to maintain their prosperity, either. They finished 2nd in 1915 and 3rd in ’16, but in ’17, catcher Hank Gowdy, a key figure in their ’14 run, became the first big-leaguer to enlist in World War I. (In fact, he would go on to become the only big-leaguer to serve in that war and World War II.) Like the A’s, the Braves would go on to become symbolic of baseball frustration: From 1917 to 1932, the Braves would have one season above .500, and 4 seasons of at least 100 losses. A 4th-place finish in 1933 was followed by a 38-115 season in 1935, a .248 winning percentage that’s the lowest in baseball in the last 95 years and the lowest in the NL in 112, even less than the 40-120 ’62 Mets’ .250. Not until 1947 would they get back into a Pennant race, not until 1948 would they win another Pennant, and by the time they won another World Series, 1957, they would be in Milwaukee, and the Red Sox would be in Boston all alone.
The last survivor of the 1914 Miracle Braves was 3rd baseman Charlie Deal, who lived on until 1979.
October 13, 1915: The Boston Red Sox beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-4 in Game 5, and win the World Series. The Sox would get to the next World Series, and another 2 years later. The Phillies would not get to another for 35 years.
This would be the last game in a Boston uniform for their superstar center fielder, Tris Speaker, who is soon traded to the Cleveland Indians. The trade doesn’t hurt the Sox much, though, as a new star had his first full season in 1915, although he did not appear in the Series: Babe Ruth.
October 13, 1921: For the last time, the World Series is a best-5-out-of-9 affair. Game 8 is played at the Polo Grounds, home for one more season after this of both the National League’s Giants and the American League’s Yankees. George “Highpockets” Kelly of the Giants hits a ball through the legs of Yankee shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh in the first, scoring a run. It is the first time Peckinpaugh has blown it in a Series game, but it will not be the last.
The game is still 1-0 in the 9th, when Aaron Ward draws a walk with one out. Frank “Home Run” Baker, previously a Series star for Connie Mack’s A’s against the Giants, hits a line shot that Giant second baseman Johnny Rawlings snares, and throws to first to get Baker with the second out. Ward, thinking the ball had gone through, heads for third base, and Kelly throws across the infield to Frankie Frisch, and Ward is out. That’s the game and the first “Subway Series” (although the term wouldn’t be used for another few years), as the Giants win, 5 games to 3.
For the Giants, it is their 2nd World Series win, their first since 1905. For Giants manager John McGraw, it is proof that his scrappy, run-scratching, pitching-and-defense-leading style of baseball, is better than the Yankee style, which is to get guys on base and wait for someone (most likely Babe Ruth, who was ineffective in this Series) to hit a home run. For the Yankees, their first World Series ends in disappointment. They will, however, be back.
The last survivor of the ’21 Giants was Kelly, who lived until 1984.
Also on this day, Louis Henry Saban is born in Brookfield, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He played linebacker for Paul Brown on the Cleveland Browns, winning all 4 All-America Football Conference titles, 1946 to ’49.
He did not play in the NFL. Rather, when the Browns joined in 1950, Saban was offered the head coaching job at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University. Like later coaches Larry Brown in basketball and Harry Redknapp in soccer, he would be known for never staying at a single job for very long. His last head coaching job was at Chowan University, a Division II school in North Carolina. In between, he would be the head coach at Northwestern, Western Illinois, Maryland, Miami, Army, Central Florida, SUNY-Canton, the Boston Patriots, the Denver Broncos, and the Buffalo Bills on 2 separate occasions.
He is the only man ever to coach the Bills in a season in which they went as far as the rules would allow them to go, winning the 1964 and ’65 American Football League Championships. Typical Bills luck, these would be the last 2 AFL Champions who would not face the NFL Champions in a world championship game, a.k.a. the Super Bowl. Lou died in 2009. You may know him best as the father of Nick Saban, winner of National Championships at Louisiana State and Alabama.
October 13, 1931: Edwin Lee Mathews is born in Texarkana, Texas. The Hall-of-Famer is the only man to have played for the Braves in Boston (his rookie season, 1952, was their last there), Milwaukee (all 13 years the franchise played there) and Atlanta (their first season there, 1966, was his last with the team).
His 47 home runs in 1953 was a franchise record, tied by teammate Hank Aaron in 1971, until Andruw Jones broke it with 51 in 2005. Mathews hit a 10th-inning walkoff home run to give the Braves Game 4 of the 1957 World Series, which they would win in 7 games. He hit his 500th career home run as a Houston Astro in 1967, finished his career as a World Champion with 512 home runs with the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and managed Aaron when he became the all-time home run leader in 1974.
The Braves retired Mathews’ Number 41, and along with Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Brooks Robinson, he is one of the top 4 3rd basemen of all time — or top 5, if you count Alex Rodriguez as a 3rd baseman.
October 13, 1941: Paul Frederic Simon is born in Newark, New Jersey, and grows up in Forest Hills, Queens. In 1967, looking around at a world seemingly falling apart, he wrote a song that was used in the film The Graduate: “Mrs. Robinson.” A Yankee Fan, he included a tribute to a Yankee player who exemplified a seemingly (but hardly) simpler, more innocent time: “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”
Simon later met DiMaggio, who was puzzled by the reference, saying, “I haven’t gone anywhere.” Simon explained that the line was a longing for what DiMaggio represented. When Mickey Mantle asked Simon why his name wasn’t used, Simon, who turned 10 as DiMaggio was replaced by Mantle, said that the rhythm and the syllables of the song wouldn’t have worked for Mantle’s name.
Simon recorded it with his singing partner, Art Garfunkel. “Mrs. Robinson” hit Number 1 in June 1968, and it was on top of the charts when Robert Kennedy was assassinated, making its search for meaning and hope even more poignant.
In 1972, now gone solo, Simon released “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard.” In 1988, he made a video of the song, and he’s shown pitching to kids in a stickball game. And Mantle shows up. I guess Paul had to make it up to Mickey, and while Mickey whiffs on Paul’s first pitch, Mickey blasts the next one, and then lip-synchs the title (though it’s still Simon’s voice we hear).
October 13, 1962: Jerry Lee Rice is born in Starkville, Mississippi. He may be the greatest player in the history of American football. Certainly, he is the greatest receiver.
Also on this day, Kelly Preston is born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and grows up there and in Adelaide, Australia. A high school classmate of Barack Obama, the actress played Kevin Costner’s love interest in the film For Love of the Game. And, of course, she is married to John Travolta.
Hmmmm, Hawaiian-born, Australian-raised, married a goofy Scientologist… Ah, but Kelly is still married to Travolta, whereas Nicole Kidman is no longer married to Tom Cruise.
October 13, 1963, 50 years ago: The last baseball game of any kind is played at the Polo Grounds. In the first (and last) Hispanic American major league All-Star Game, the National League team beats the American League 5–2 at the Polo Grounds.
The game features such names as Felipe Alou, Luis Aparicio, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Clemente, Juan Marichal, Julián Javier, Minnie Miñoso, Tony Oliva and Zoilo Versalles. Vic Power receives a pregame award as the number one Latin player — a justifiable award at the time, if not in retrospect, as Aparicio, Cepeda, Clemente and Marichal are all in the Hall of Fame, while Miñoso and Oliva should be.
October 13, 1965: Jim “Mudcat” Grant wins Game 6 of the World Series, pretty much all by himself. He pitches a one-hitter, and hits a three-run home run. The Minnesota Twins beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-1, and the Series goes to a Game 7.
October 13, 1967: Trevor William Hoffman is born in Bellflower, California. Having spent most of his career with the San Diego Padres, he finished his career as baseball’s all-time saves leader with 601.
Sports Illustrated dedicated their May 13, 2002 issue to Hoffman, calling him “the greatest closer in MLB history.” I guess they forgot about Mariano Rivera: Not only did Mo go on to break Trevor’s record, but the question was settled in the 1998 World Series, when Rivera got 3 saves and Hoffman blew one against… Scott Brosius?
Still, Hoffman is a class act, and a sure Hall-of-Famer — he will be eligible in January 2016. The Padres have retired his Number 51. His brother Glenn Hoffman was also a big-league player, and briefly managed the Dodgers.
Also on this day, the American Basketball Association has its first game, at the Oakland Coliseum Arena (now known as the Oracle Arena). The host Oakland Oaks defeat the Anaheim Amigos, 134-129. The ABA will last 9 seasons, and 4 of its franchises will be absorbed into the NBA in 1976: The 2-time ABA Champion New York (now Brooklyn) Nets, the 3-time ABA Champion Indiana Pacers, the Denver Nuggets (who lost to the Nets in the last ABA Finals) and the San Antonio Spurs (who never won anything in the ABA but have been consistently successful in the NBA, winning 4 titles).
October 13, 1970: In Game 3 of the Fall Classic played at Memorial Stadium, Dave McNally goes deep with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 6th inning off the Reds right-hander Wayne Granger, to become the first pitcher to hit a grand slam in World Series history. The Oriole hurler’s offensive output contributes to the Birds’ 9-3 victory over Cincinnati, and gives Baltimore a commanding 3-0 game advantage in the seven-game series.
October 13, 1971: The first night game in World Series history is played. The Orioles blow a 3-0 lead, and the Pirates win 4-3, on a pinch-hit single in the 8th by backup catcher Milt May. The Pirates have tied the Series at 2 games apiece.
October 13, 1973, 40 years ago: The Houston Aeros beat the Los Angeles Sharks, 4-3 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. This World Hockey Association match is notable for the main line for the Aeros, consisting of Mark Howe at left wing, Marty Howe at center, and their father Gordie Howe on right wing.
The Detroit Red Wings legend, now 45 years old, had come out of retirement to play with his sons, because the Red Wings weren’t listening to his personnel and strategy suggestions, and, thinking they just wanted his historic name on their letterhead, he said, “I was tired of being vice president in charge of paper clips.” When the Aeros win the 1974 WHA Championship, Gordie will be awareded the Gary Davidson Trophy as league Most Valuable Player — and the trophy, named for the league’s founder (Davidson was also a founder of the ABA and the WFL), will be renamed for him.
Also on this day, Brian Patrick Dawkins is born in Jacksonville, Florida. A devastating safety, he made 9 Pro Bowls, and the Philadelphia Eagles just retired his Number 20. He will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January 2017.
October 13, 1978: Game 3 of the World Series. Joe DiMaggio throws out the ceremonial first ball at Yankee Stadium. The Dodgers lead the Yankees 2 games to 0. The Yankees are desperate for a win. They send out Ron Guidry, who has already won 26 games (including the Divisional Playoff against Boston and the Pennant-clincher against Kansas City) against only 3 losses, but is exhausted. And he doesn’t have his best stuff: He strikes out only 4 and walks 7.
But… Graig Nettles puts on a clinic at third base, much as Brooks Robinson did 8 years to the week (including the day) earlier. He makes 6 sensational plays, including 2 scintillating stops that end innings with forceouts at 2nd base.
Roy White’s 1st-inning home run gets the Yankees going, and, somehow, Guidry goes the distance in a 5-1 win, striking out the dangerous Ron Cey for the final out. The Yankees are still alive in the Series.
October 13, 1984: Franklin Michael Simek is born in St. Louis, once considered the capital of American soccer. He was the first American ever to play for Arsenal Football Club, the pride of London. And that was just one game, at right back in the League Cup against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Highbury on December 2, 2003. Arsenal won, 5-1, although he had neither a goal nor an assist.
He would later play for Queens Park Rangers, Bournemouth, Sheffield Wednesday and Carlisle United, and is currently a free agent. He played 5 times for the U.S. national team, all in 2007.
Only one other American has ever played for Arsenal, Danny Karbassiyoon, a forward from Roanoke, Virginia who played 3 League Cup matches for the Gunners in the 2004-05 season, scoring a goal on his debut. He is now Arsenal’s chief North American scout.
October 13, 1985: The Cardinals rout the Dodgers 12-2, to even the NLCS at 2-2‚ but also lose rookie sensation Vince Coleman to one of the most bizarre injuries in sports history. Coleman is stretching before the game when his left leg becomes caught in Busch Memorial Stadium’s automated tarpaulin as it unrolls across the infield‚ trapping him for about 30 seconds. He is removed from the field on a stretcher and will not play again this year.
This will turn out to be a critical injury – not for Coleman’s life, or even for his career, but for the Cards’ lineup, as they will not have their leadoff man and sparkplug for the World Series, in which they put up one of the most pathetic batting performances in postseason history.
October 13, 1993, 20 years ago: The combined pitching of Tommy Greene and Mitch Williams give the Phillies a 6-3 win over the heavily-favored Atlanta Braves and the National League Pennant, only the 5th flag in Fightin’ Phils history. Dave Hollins hits a 2-run homer for the winners‚ while Mickey Morandini and Darren Daulton also drive in 2 runs each. Curt Schilling is named the NLCS MVP despite no victories: He gave up just 3 earned runs and struck out 19 in 16 innings, 2 no-decisions.
And, lest Phils fans forget, they would not have gotten that far if Williams hadn’t been a terrific closer all year long, including getting the final out tonight at Veterans Stadium. I was at a Phillies game in August 2011, when John Kruk was inducted into the Philadelphia Baseball Hall of Fame. Williams was one of the guests, and he got a nice hand. So Philadelphia sports fans do have some class, and some understanding.
With long hair, chewing tobacco, in a few cases being well overweight, and some bad manners, the 1993 Phillies were known as “Macho Row,” and remain, despite the dream ending a little sourly in the World Series, one of the most popular teams in the history of Philadelphia sports. And, while they share Lenny Dykstra with the similarly slobbish 1986 Mets, any resemblance to the 2004 Red Sox “Idiots” is strictly coincidental.
October 13, 1996: The Yankees defeat the Orioles‚ 6-4 at Camden Yards‚ giving them the Pennant, 4 games to 1. The victors score all of their runs in the 3rd inning‚ which features homers by Jim Leyritz‚ Cecil Fielder‚ and Darryl Strawberry. Scott Erickson gives up all 3 homers in one inning‚ a first in the LCS. Bobby Bonilla‚ Todd Zeile‚ and Eddie Murray homer for the losers.
The last out of the game is a bit of a torch-passing moment: Cal Ripken, the face of the Oriole franchise, for the last few years and possibly for the rest of his life, hits a ground ball to the Yankee shortstop, a rookie named Derek Jeter, who goes on to become the face of the Yankee franchise. Jeter throws to Tino Martinez at first, and Ripken, desperate to keep the series alive, slides head-first. He’s too late, and the Yankees have their first Pennant in 15 years.
There’s another torch-passing fact: The Orioles’ manager is Davey Johnson, who, 10 years ago, managed the Mets to New York baseball’s most recent Pennant; while the Yankees’ manager is Joe Torre, who, after 4,279 combined games as a player and a manager, more than anyone who’s never participating in a World Series in either role, has finally made it.
I’ll never forget (and this is another torch-passer) Reggie Jackson, in the Yankee dugout, with a big smile, giving Joe a big hug, and Joe trying to maintain his composure as Mr. October gives him his long-worked-for due. However, after the game, Reggie is interviewed in the locker room, and he speaks a truth he knows full well: “They’ve got another leg to go. They’ve got another lap to make. Not done yet.” There’s still the matter of winning 4 more games against either the Cardinals or the Braves.
The Orioles, who last won a Pennant 13 years earlier, are frustrated, not in the least because of the Jeffrey Maier incident in Game 1. However, they lost all 3 home games in the series, and a team that can’t defend its home field in the Playoffs needs to zip their lips. Especially since that Oriole team had Rafael Palmeiro (proven steroid user), Brady Anderson (almost certainly a steroid user, because the 50 homers he had that year far outpaced his previous high of 21 and his next-best later total of 24), and Bobby Bonilla (never proven a steroid user but the guy had some incidents that suggest “roid rage”).
October 13, 1998: The Yankees win Game 6 of the ALCS over the Indians, 9-5 at Yankee Stadium, to take their 35th American League Pennant. Chuck Knoblauch, in his first game back in The Bronx after his Game 2 “brainlauch,” leads off the bottom of the 1st, and gets a big hand from the fans, who’ve seen the big double plays he started late in both Game 4 and Game 5. “Apparently, all is forgiven,” says Bob Costas on NBC.
October 13, 1999: Bernie Williams, who had previous hit one to win Game 1 of the ’96 ALCS (the Jeffrey Maier Game), becomes the first Yankee to have hit 2 walkoff home runs in postseason play. His drive off Rod Beck goes over the center field fence to lead off the bottom of the 10th, and the Yankees win the first official postseason Yankees-Red Sox game, 4-3. (The 1978 “Boston Tie Party” is counted by MLB as a regular season game.)
Red Sox fans, buoyed by the success of Pedro Martinez and Nomah Gahciahpawhah – or, at least, that’s how Nomar Garciaparra’s name sounded in their New England accents – were sure that this was The Year that the Red Sox were finally going to “Reverse the Curse” and stick it to the Yankees. But Bernie remembered the script handed to him earlier that day by Yankee legend Yogi Berra: “We’ve been playing these guys for 80 years. They cannot beat us.” Not yet, anyway.
October 13, 2000: Extending his streak to 33 1/3 innings, Mariano Rivera breaks the 38-year-old record of Whitey Ford for consecutive scoreless frames in postseason play when the Yankees defeat the Seattle Mariners, 8-2 in Game 3 of the ALCS. The Yankees’ Hall of Fame lefty had established the record from 1960 to 1962 with 33 innings as a World Series starter.
October 13, 2001: The Yankees enter Game 3 at the Oakland Coliseum (or whatever corporate name the “Mausoleum” had at the time) down 2 games to 0 against the Athletics, and are desperate for a victory.
Jorge Posada homers in the top of the 5th, to give the Yanks a 1-0 lead. That lead holds in the 7th, but Terrence Long drives one into the corner. Right fielder Shane Spencer heaves the ball home, but it’s off the line. Jeremy Giambi, brother of star Oakland slugger Jason Giambi, will score for sure.
Except… out of nowhere comes Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, who sprints in, grabs the ball, and, holding it for less than half a second, flips it to Posada at the plate, and Posada juuuust barely tags Giambi on the back of the knee, before his foot touches the plate, completing one of the most amazing defensive plays in baseball history.
“The Flip” allows Mike Mussina and, in the 9th, Mariano Rivera to preserve the 1-0 shutout, and keep the Yankees from being eliminated. The Yankees would win the series in Game 5 at the old Yankee Stadium, with Jeter making another amazing play, tumbling into the stands to catch a foul pop, also off the bat of Terence Long.
Has it really been 12 years? Of the men who played in that game for the Yankees, only Jeter will still be the active roster next Opening Day. For the A’s, none are left. In fact, 3 of them would go on to become Yankees: Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Eric Chavez. Did somebody mention that Billy Beane was a genius?
October 13, 2002: The Anaheim Angels – as they are officially known at the time – score 10 runs in the 7th inning on their way to a 13-5 win over the Minnesota Twins, winning the first Pennant in the team’s 42-season history. Adam Kennedy is the hero for Anaheim with 3 homers and 7 RBIs. Scott Spiezio also homers for the Angels‚ with Francisco Rodriguez getting the win in relief.
Prior to the Angels’ first Pennant, they were considered “cursed”: The Curse of the Cowboy was legendary entertainer Gene Autry, who founded the team and died without them ever winning a Pennant. This one wasn’t funny, as men had died while still active with the Angels, in addition to their 1979, ’82 and ’86 ALCS collapses, and their late-season swoon that cost them the ’95 AL Western Division title.
Between 1959 and 1988, their rivals up Interstate 5, the Los Angeles Dodgers, had won 9 Pennants in a 30-year stretch, including 5 times winning the World Series. Since 2002, however, the Angels have been in the postseason 5 times in the last 10 years, including a World Championship; the Dodgers, twice, and still no Pennants in the last 25 years. It’s premature to say that the Angels have surpassed the Dodgers as Southern California’s most popular baseball team, but they are certainly the more successful one now. (The Dodgers can change that, but they’ll have to rebound from being 2-0 down in this year’s NLCS.)
October 13, 2012: Derek Jeter breaks his ankle trying to field a grounder in the top of the 12th inning, and hasn’t been the same since. The Tigers beat the Yankees, 6-4, and the Yankees don’t win another game until April.
October 12, 1492: Christoffa Corombo – as he was known in his native Genoa, or Christophorus Columbus as he was known in Latin, or Cristobal Colon as his patron, Queen Isabella I of Spain, calls him – finally gets his ships to land. He believes he has reached South Asia. He names the island on which he lands San Salvador, after Jesus. Eventually, the island will be taken over by the English, and renamed Watling Island. Today, it is a part of the Bahamas.
Eventually, the man the English-speaking world knows as Christopher Columbus will make 4 voyages west, never fully realizing he was in what became known as “the New World,” always thinking he was in Asia. But he does start the wave of European exploration that will make the Americas – eventually named for rival Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci – possible.
Yet, considering previous voyages of the Vikings (and, some believe, the Chinese), it is disingenuous to say, “Columbus discovered America.” In fact, he never set foot on the soil of the continental U.S., coming the closest when he reached Puerto Rico. As far as I can tell, it was Juan Ponce de Leon, who came with Columbus on his second voyage in 1493, who was the first European to set foot on present-day U.S. soil, reaching Florida in 1513. (Vespucci did reach land in what’s now called South America, but not North America; the Vikings reached present-day Canada, but not present-day America.)
It’s also not true that Columbus “proved the world is round.” By 1492, most people already believed that. Even so, it would be 1522, and the conclusion of the Ferdinand Magellan expedition, before anyone sailed all the way around the world, and proved through firsthand experience that the world was round.
What does this have to do with baseball? Today, there is a Triple-A minor league baseball team in Columbus, Ohio, and a Double-A team in Columbus, Georgia. And a major league team in Washington, District of Columbia. And, of course, there is a tremendous amount of talent in lands that Columbus revealed to the Old World, including the places now known as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
October 12, 1899: The American League is founded by Ban Johnson.
October 12, 1906: Joseph Edward Cronin is born in San Francisco. Both shortstop and manager for the Washington Senators, he led them to the 1933 American League Pennant, still the last Pennant ever won by a Washington baseball team (unless you count the Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues, and even then they split their “home” games between Washington and Pittsburgh).
Senators owner Clark Griffith, himself a former pitcher good enough to make the Hall of Fame even if he hadn’t been a pioneering team owner, liked Cronin so much he let him marry his daughter Mildred. But when Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey offered the perennially broke Griffith big bucks for Cronin, he sold his son-in-law, his shortstop, and his manager off all in one fell swoop.
Yawkey made Cronin his shortstop and manager, but ego made Cronin the manager keep Cronin the player at shortstop long after his skills had deteriorated. This caused the Red Sox to trade away the star shortstop of their Louisville farm team, Harold “Pee Wee” Reese.
True, this allowed Johnny Pesky to become an All-Star shortstop once Cronin finally accepted that he didn’t have it anymore, but it also led the greatest of all Red Sox, Ted Williams, to say that if the Sox had Phil Rizzuto at short, they would have won “all those Pennants” instead of the Yankees.
Finally, in 1946 – a year after he finally retired as a player, coincidence? – Cronin led the Red Sox to the Pennant, but lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, a loss often blamed on… drumroll please… shortstop Pesky “holding the ball.” Cronin only lasted another year as manager, then was “promoted” to team president. He left the team presidency in 1959 when he was offered the presidency of the American League, a post he held until 1973.
That the Red Sox became the last team to integrate is often blamed on owner Yawkey and his drinking buddy, 1950s manager Michael “Pinky” Higgins, who famously declared that there would never be a (racial slur beginning with N) on the team as long as he was the manager. And, once Yawkey fired him, the Sox then integrated. However, Yawkey hired him back, and at that point, Higgins managed more black players than his fired successor, Rudy York, or the man hired to replace York, Bucky Harris. Could it be that the real Yawkey drinking buddy/roadblock to integration was Cronin? After all, the year that the Sox integrated, with Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, was 1959, the very year Cronin left to become AL President.
Joe Cronin is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and his Number 4 has been retired by the Red Sox. But if he hadn’t managed the Sox to that ’46 Pennant, I wonder if he would have deserved these honors. After all, he wasn’t a great shortstop as long as his contemporaries Rizzuto, Reese, Luke Appling, Lou Boudreau or Marty Marion were. And, as far as I can tell, he was the first manager ever to walk out to the mound and tell his pitcher, “Don’t give him anything good to hit – but don’t walk him.”
October 12, 1907: At Detroit’s Bennett Park, right-hander Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown throws a 2-0 shutout, beating the Tigers to capture the World Championship for the Cubs. Although Game 1 ended in a 3-3, 12-inning tie, Chicago becomes the first club to sweep a Fall Classic.
October 12, 1910: With the AL’s season ending a week earlier than the NL’s‚ the champion Philadelphia Athletics tune up with a 5-game series against an AL all-star team‚ which includes Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers‚ Tris Speaker of the Red Sox‚ Doc White and Ed Walsh of the Chicago White Sox‚ and Walter Johnson of the Senators.
The A’s drop 4 out of 5 to the all-stars‚ but manager/part-owner Connie Mack will later state‚ “Those games‚ more than anything else‚ put the Athletics in a condition to outclass the National League champions.” These are not baseball’s first “all-star games,” but they were very consequential as far as determining the World Champions of baseball.
Also on this day, Robert Leo Sheppard is born in Richmond Hill, Queens, the same neighborhood that would produce Rizzuto. He played quarterback for St. John’s University in Queens, and later taught public speaking there.
In between, he taught public speaking at John Adams High School in the Ozone Park section of Queens. This means he could, arguably, have had, as one of his students, my Grandma. (Sadly, family concerns forced her to drop out, so she never did graduate. And I didn’t find out about the possibility until after both of them had died, so I could ask either if Grandma had been taught by Sheppard.)
When the NFL had a team called the Brooklyn Dodgers, speech professor Sheppard did the public-address announcements for their games. Football Dodgers owner, and Yankees co-owner, Dan Topping heard this, and asked Sheppard to do the Yankees’ games. He accepted, and from 1951 until 2007, he hardly ever missed a game. Ill health forced him to miss the 2008 and 2009 seasons, but… 57 years! On top of that, from 1956 to 2005, 50 years, he did the football Giants’ games.
Sheppard was a generous gentleman and a complete professional, from sounding like an announcer, not a shameless shill (unlike such braying animals as Bob Casey of the Minnesota Twins, may he rest in peace, and Ray Clay of the Chicago Bulls); to accepting with humility the appellation that Reggie Jackson gave him: “The Voice of God.”
Such was the appeal of Sheppard, and such is the pull of Derek Jeter, that Jeter asked that a recording of Sheppard introduce him before every at-bat, for the rest of his career, even after Sheppard died, which happened in 2010, just short of his 100th birthday. (A recording of Sheppard was also used, a few weeks ago, to introduce Mariano Rivera when he came out for his final big-league appearance.)
October 12, 1913, 100 years ago: Following the World Series, which his New York Giants lost to the A’s, John McGraw hosts a reunion for Hughie Jennings and the old NL version of the Baltimore Orioles, 20 years after their first Pennant.
After a night of heavy drinking‚ McGraw blames his longtime friend‚ business partner and teammate Wilbert Robinson, perhaps baseball’s first great pitching coach, for too many coaching mistakes in the 1913 Series. “Uncle Robbie” replies that McGraw made more mistakes than anybody. McGraw fires him. Eyewitnesses say Robbie doused McGraw with a glass of beer and left.
Six days later, Robbie will begin a legendary 18 years as manager of the crosstown Brooklyn franchise‚ replacing Bill Dahlen. The team will carry the nickname Robins‚ as well as Dodgers‚ during his tenure. Robbie and Mac won’t speak to each other for 17 years, and after winning 3 straight Pennants together, McGraw will win just 1 Pennant in the next 7 years, while Robbie will win 2 — the only Pennants the Brooklyn team will win between 1900 and 1941.
This is not the beginning of the rivalry between the Giants and the Dodgers, not by a long shot. That rivalry had its beginning in rivalries between clubs of New York (Manhattan) and Brooklyn when they were separate cities prior to 1898, even going back to the days of amateur baseball in the 1850s and ’60s. And the rivalry between Manhattan and Brooklyn would have happened even if baseball had never been invented.
But the McGraw-Robinson bustup is the beginning of a rivalry that ruined one of baseball’s great friendships, not resolved until both men were retired and near death. Still, they both ended up in the Hall of Fame – neither lived to see the Hall’s establishment, though – and are buried in the same Baltimore cemetery. Somebody should write a book about it: We’ve seen books about the Giants, about the Dodgers, about the Dodger-Giant rivalry, about McGraw, and even about the old Orioles — but the McGraw-Robinson relationship is a fascinating one. They’re like the John Adams and Thomas Jefferson of baseball: Great friends in a great cause, then a nasty split and a nastier rivalry, and ultimately the relationship was repaired and the great friendship restored toward the end.
October 12, 1916: The Red Sox defeat the Dodgers/Robins, 4-1, and win the World Series by the same margin. After winning back-to-back World Series – still the only manager in the history of Boston baseball to do so – Bill Carrigan announces his retirement. He will return to the post in 1927, but, without future Hall-of-Famers such as Speaker, Harry Hooper and, uh, Babe Ruth, he will finish at the bottom of the American League instead of the top.
October 12, 1920: The Cleveland Indians win their first World Series, in Game 7 of the best-5-out-of-9 Series, 3-0 over Uncle Robbie’s Dodgers/Robins, as Stan Coveleski outduels fellow future Hall-of-Famer Burleigh Grimes for his 3rd win of the Series. It will be 21 years before the Dodgers get back into the Series; for the Indians, 28 years.
October 12, 1929: Game 4 of the 1929 World Series, at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, remains one of the wildest in postseason history. Having started a seemingly washed-up Howard Ehmke in Game 1 and having it work, Connie Mack starts 45-year-old Jack Quinn.
This seems to work, too, until the 6th, when the Chicago Cubs start scoring. By the time they stop, they lead, 7-0. Cub manager Joe McCarthy starts Charlie Root, who would later become a victim of McCarthy’s Yankees, including Babe Ruth’s “called shot,” though this quirk of history/legend does not do Root justice, as he was a fine pitcher for many years. Root enters the bottom of the 7th with an 8-0 lead.
Then the A’s come storming back. Hack Wilson, a great slugger but not the best of outfielders even when not drunk or hungover, misjudges a fly ball from Mule Haas, and it turns into a 3-run inside-the-park home run, making the score 8-7 Cubs. One of the runners scoring on the play is Al Simmons, and the great slugger storms into the dugout, yelling, “We’re back in the game, boys!” and his momentum causes him to crash into Mack – already 67 years old, if not the elderly figure most of us imagine him to have always been. Simmons apologizes profusely, but Mack, a former big-league catcher and familiar with ballplayers crashing into him, is just as enthused and tells him, “That’s all right, Al.”
The A’s score a Series record 10 runs in the inning, and ace Lefty Grove comes in to relieve and finish the Cubs off, as 10-8 remains the final score. The A’s close down the shellshocked Cubs the next day.
October 12, 1938, 75 years ago: Leo Durocher, already the Brooklyn Dodgers’ shortstop, is named their manager. He will hold the post for nearly 10 years, nearly all of them controversial.
He had previously been a virtual coach on the field for Frankie Frisch on the St. Louis Cardinals when they won their “Gashouse Gang” World Series in 1934. However, unlike Joe Cronin in Boston, Durocher would recognize that his shortstop skills were fading, and allow Pee Wee Reese, whom the Dodgers had purchased from the Red Sox, to succeed him in the field and in the lineup.
October 12, 1944: Frank Sinatra appears at the Paramount Theater in New York’s Times Square. About 25,000 others, mostly teenage girls – “bobbysoxers” in the lingo of the day – were turned away, and vented their frustrations by smashing store windows.
It becomes known as the Columbus Day Riot, and for those Sinatra fans who grew up to have kids screaming over Elvis Presley and/or the Beatles, complaining that they never acted that way over a musical act they liked, well, guess what, old-timers, you did.
Just as One Direction ain’t no Beatles, and Justin Timberlake ain’t no Elvis, singers from Bobby Darin to Harry Connick Jr. to Sean Combs have deluded themselves, but none of them is in Sinatra’s league. The man has more charisma dead than any of them do alive.
What does this have to do with sports? Well, by itself, nothing. But Sinatra was a big sports fan. He sang “There Used to Be a Ballpark” about Ebbets Field, although he remained a Dodger fan after they moved to L.A. He was a great boxing fan who talked Life magazine into making him their official photographer for the 1971 “Super Fight” between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier – and, I have to say, he knew what he was doing: He took good pictures. And on a Pittsburgh Steeler roadtrip to San Diego, the Steeler fan club known as “Franco’s Italian Army” (named after the half-black, half-Italian running back Franco Harris) invited Sinatra, then living in nearby Palm Springs, and offered to make him an “Honorary General” in the Army. Although he had no connection to Pittsburgh, he posed for pictures with them and accepted a helmet with generals’ stars on it.
October 12, 1948: The Yankees hire Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel as their manager. Stengel had just managed the Oakland Oaks – including former star big-league catcher Ernie Lombardi and a 20-year-old sparkplug local boy from West Berkeley named Billy Martin – to the Pacific Coast League Pennant, so chances were that some big-league team would have snapped him up if the Yankees didn’t.
But his two previous big-league managing jobs, with the Dodgers (managing them in between Uncle Robbie and Leo the Lip) and the Boston Braves, were terrible. In Brooklyn in 1935, it was quipped that overconfidence might cost the Dodgers 6th place. In Boston in 1943, Casey was slightly injured when hit by a cab, and one sportswriter called the driver the man who had done the most for Boston baseball that season.
He was 58 years old in 1948, and, like Connie Mack, he always looked even older than he was. And he had a reputation as a “clown,” for such antics as tipping his cap and letting a bird fly out from under it, and protesting the weather to an umpire by walking out of the dugout with an umbrella. This was not a man who would manage “the Yankee way,” sportswriters said.
Then again, Casey really didn’t have the players in Flatbush or in Allston. Once he proved everyone wrong by winning the 1949 Pennant, he said, with a mixture of pride and humility, “I couldn’t have done it without my players.” Finally having the horses, Casey went on to manage the Yankees for 12 years, winning 10 Pennants and 7 World Series. He then managed the Mets in their first 4 years, 1962-65.
He is still the most successful manager in baseball history. He was fast-tracked to election to the Hall of Fame after his retirement, the Yankees dedicated a Plaque in Monument Park to his memory, and he lived to see both the Yankees and the Mets retire his Number 37.
October 12, 1954: The AL owners approve the shift of the Philadelphia Athletics franchise to Kansas City. Roy and Earle Mack, sons of the now-senile Connie Mack, sell the A’s to Arnold Johnson, a Chicago-based trucking magnate, 25 years to the day after the team’s magnificent 10-run inning in the ’29 World Series.
Johnson’s bid is $3‚375‚000 for the team and stadium‚ Shibe Park, recently renamed Connie Mack Stadium. He says he will sell the stadium to the Phillies for $1‚675‚000, although Phils owner Bob Carpenter, a very wealthy man as a member of both the Carpenter and the duPont families, says, “I need Shibe Park like I need a hole in the head.”
One of the offers for the team is from a wealthy Texas group that proposes to move the A’s to Los Angeles, but Kansas City, long a hotbed of minor league and Negro League baseball, gets major league status for the first time since the Kansas City Packers of the Federal League in 1915 – or, if you don’t count that, since the Kansas City Cowboys of the old American Association in 1889.
October 12, 1955: The St. Louis Cardinals fire manager Harry “the Hat” Walker, and replace him with former big-league pitcher Fred Hutchinson. Walker, like his brother Fred “Dixie” Walker, a former Dodgers slugger, was a really good hitter in his day, but he was not such a good manager. (He would, however, return to the Cards as a coach, and later manage the Pittsburgh Pirates, and would also take the Houston Astros to their first Pennant race in 1969.) But his day as a player was done.
He had used himself as a pinch-hitter in the ’55 season, but his firing means that, for the first time in the history of baseball, there are no current player-managers.
Frank Robinson (’75 & ’76 Indians), Joe Torre (’77 Mets), Don Kessinger (’79 White Sox) and Pete Rose (’85 and ’86 Reds) would briefly be player-managers, before Robinson, Torre and Rose retired as players and Kessinger was fired (and subsequently retired as a player). But, from this point forward, player-managers would be frowned upon. The last player-manager to get his team into a Pennant race was Lou Boudreau with the ’51 Red Sox. The last to win a Pennant, much less a World Series, was Boudreau with the ’48 Indians.
October 12, 1965: Following the departure of the Braves for Atlanta, a Milwaukee-based used-car salesman founds Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, Inc., named for the former minor-league team from the city, in the hopes of attracting an expansion team or buying an existing team and moving it to the Beer City.
The salesman’s name is Allan Huber Selig Jr. Yes, Bud Selig. He bought the Seattle Pilots on the eve of the 1970 season, moved them, and renamed them the Milwaukee Brewers, and has been Commissioner of Baseball since 1992. This, after starting out as a used-car salesman. He had become rich and famous by selling cars to the Braves players, including selling rookie catcher Joe Torre his first car.
October 12, 1967: Baseball and the Summer of Love converge on Fenway Park in Boston for Game 7 of the World Series, as a fan holds up a sign saying, “THE RED SOX ARE VERY BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE.”
But the prediction made the day before, after a Game 6 win, by Sox manager Dick Williams, of “Lonborg and champagne,” does not happen: On only 2 days’ rest, Gentleman Jim has nothing, and gets shelled. Even opposing pitcher Bob Gibson, himself on only 3 days rest (and having won Game 7 in ’64 on just two) hits a home run off him. The Cardinals win, 7-2, for Gibson’s 3rd win of the Series, the team’s 2nd title in 4 seasons, and their 7th World Championship.
For the Red Sox, “the Impossible Dream” came to an end one game too soon, but the season did revitalize the franchise, restoring its profitability and its place of veneration among the people of New England. They lost the World Series, but they cannot be called a failure. Without this season, the Red Sox might have ended up leaving Fenway Park, sharing a stadium out in Foxboro with the NFL’s Patriots. Or owner Tom Yawkey, who really wanted out of Fenway, might have moved them out of Boston entirely.
So, even more than 2004, this is the most important season in Red Sox history. Years later, after the Red Sox failures of 1975, ’78 and ’86, but before the tainted triumphs of 2004 and ’07, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy would write that, of all Red Sox teams, this one is absolved from criticism by “Red Sox Nation” – which, he says, essentially began that summer.
By the same – pardon my choice of words here – token, this was an incredibly important season in St. Louis. The holdovers from the 1964 season proved it was no fluke, and, much more so than the ’64 team, the ’67 team, with its mixture of white stars (Tim McCarver, Dal Maxvill and an aging but still power-hitting Roger Maris), black stars (Gibson, Lou Brock and Curt Flood) and Hispanic stars (Orlando Cepeda and Julian Javier) showed St. Louis, still thinking of itself as a Southern city, what integration could really do. Fans in Brooklyn had learned that 20 years earlier.
Yet, somehow, the 1964-68 Cards, as good as they were, have not been celebrated by Baby Boomers as much as have the 1950s and ’60s Yankees, the 1950s Dodgers, the ’60 and ’71 Pirates, the 1962-66 Dodgers, the 1962-66 Giants, the 1966-71 Orioles, the ’67 Red Sox, the ’68 Tigers and the ’69 Mets. Hopefully, that’s mainly because St. Louis was, and is, one of baseball’s smallest markets. Still, the Cardinals were then, and are now, one of baseball’s most profitable and most admired franchises.
October 12, 1969: The Mets win a World Series game for the first time, taking Game 2 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. Al Weis’ 9th-inning single breaks up a pitchers’ duel between the Mets’ Jerry Koosman (who is relieved in the bottom of the 9th by Ron Taylor) and the Orioles’ Dave McNally.
The film Frequency tells the fictional tale of an atmospheric phenomenon that allows a 1999 NYPD detective and Met fan, played by Jim Caviezel, to use his father’s old ham-radio set to talk to his father, a 1969 fireman, played by Dennis Quaid. October 12, 1969 was the day the father died in a fire, when the son was just 6, and the son is able to warn him from the future. The result is that the father, and the teenage girl he would have failed to rescue from the fire, get out alive.
But interfering with time means that, because she wasn’t preparing for her husband’s funeral, the cop’s mother, a nurse, saves the life of a serial killer who would otherwise have died, and several more women end up dying – including the mother herself, played by Elizabeth Mitchell (who, unlike Quaid, is actually younger than Caviezel).
Now, instead of having his mother but not his father from 1969 to 1999, he now has his father but not his mother from 1969 to 1989 – the father living long enough to see the son graduate from the police academy, but dying from smoking before the son makes Detective.
Using the ham radio, father and son, roughly the same age as each other, track down the killer, played by Shaun Doyle, a Canadian actor who appeared on the series Lost and Big Love, and now appears on the SyFy series Lost Girl. He was so creepy in Frequency that he really should have played the Joker in The Dark Knight, and not just to save Heath Ledger’s life. Seriously, look at his face and his hair (in the 1969 sequence) at the end of the film, and tell me he wouldn’t have made a good Joker.
The kicker is that, as a result of his 1969 confrontation with the killer, the father begins to be suspected for the killings (which do not yet include his wife) by a young cop, played by Andre Braugher, who will be the son’s mentor and boss in 1999.
The way the father gets out of this, and back on the killer’s trail, is that Game 5 of the Series is being shown on a TV behind them. Having been told what’s going to happen by his son from 30 years in the future, he tells the cop (whose nickname is Satch, after baseball legend Satchel Paige) about the Cleon Jones shoe-polish incident and the subsequent Donn Clendenon home run. When it happens, the cop realized the father really is telling the truth about these messages from his son from the future, releases him, and… well, you’ll just have to see the movie. It’s a fantastic thriller, and I highly recommend it – even though the Mets are glorified in it.
Also on this day, with a connection to the Mets, Jose Valentin is born in Manati, Puerto Rico. The infielder last played in the majors for the Mets in 2007, and his only trip to the postseason was with the AL Central Champion White Sox in 2000. He now manages the Fort Wayne Tin Caps in the Class A Midwest League.
October 12, 1970: Tanyon James Sturtze is born. Not a Yankee pitcher I care to say anything else about. He was born in Worcester, Massachusetts — a “Manchurian Candidate” for the nearby Red Sox?
Charlie Ward is also born on this day, in Thomasville, Georgia. The 1993 Heisman Trophy winner led Florida State to that season’s National Championship, but no NFL team would draft him, so he played for the NBA’s Knicks, not for the Giants or the Jets. Which is too bad, because, for a time, when the Giants had Dave Brown and Kent Graham, and the Jets had Neil O’Donnell and Bubby Brister, Ward was the best quarterback in New York. He did, however, play in the 1999 NBA Finals for the Knicks. He is now head coach of the football team at a private Christian high school in Houston.
Kirk Cameron is also born on this day, in Los Angeles. He has spent most his time since Growing Pains went off the air making Christian Fundamentalist-themed films, including the movie versions of the Left Behind fables. His sister Candace Cameron, one of the stars of Full House, married hockey star Valeri Bure (who also has a famous brother, hockey legend Pavel Bure).
October 12, 1972: The Oakland Athletics defeat the Detroit Tigers, 2-1, and take the American League Pennant. The winning run is scored by Reggie Jackson on the front end of a double-steal, but Reggie tears his hamstring, and is unable to play in the World Series. He will make up for that many times, as he is the only man to win World Series MVPs with two different teams, the A’s in ’73 and the Yankees in ’77.
October 12, 1977: The Dodgers pounce on aching Yankee starter Catfish Hunter, and win Game 2, 6-1, and tie up the Series. Billy Martin is criticized for putting Catfish on the mound when he’d been injured and hadn’t pitched in a month, but it allowed Billy to start Mike Torrez in Game 3, rookie sensation Ron Guidry in Game 4, and Don Gullett in Game 5, all on full rest.
During the ABC broadcast, the camera on the Goodyear blimp caught the image of an abandoned school on fire, just a few blocks east of Yankee Stadium. “There it is, ladies and gentlemen,” said ABC’s Howard Cosell. “The Bronx is burning.” This became the title of Jonathan Mahler’s book about life in New York City in 1977, and of the ESPN miniseries about it.
October 12, 1980: The Phillies win the Pennant with a 10-inning 8-7 win over the Astros in the deciding Game 5 at the Astrodome. Each of the last 4 games of this epic series was decided in extra innings. The Phils‚ down by 3 runs to Nolan Ryan in the 8th‚ rally to tie, and center fielder Garry Maddox makes up for his Playoff goof of 2 years earlier by doubling home the winning run and catching the final out.
Although Tug McGraw had been on the mound when the Phils clinched the Division in Montreal, and would be on the mound when they clinched the World Series at home 9 days later, he was already out of the Pennant-clincher before it ended. Dick Ruthven, the Phils’ Number 2 starter behind Steve Carlton, turned out to be the pitcher on the mound at the end. This was the Phils’ first Pennant in 30 years, and only the second by a Philadelphia team in 49.
October 12, 1982: The Milwaukee Brewers win the first World Series game the franchise has ever played, clobbering the Cardinals, 10-0 at Busch Memorial Stadium. Paul Molitor sets a Series record, becoming the first player to collect 5 hits in a game. Robin Yount gets 4 hits.
October 12, 1986: Game 5 of the ALCS. One loss away from elimination and trailing 5-2 entering the 9th‚ the Red Sox stage one of the most improbable comebacks in post-season history, winning 7-6 over the Angels in 11 innings.
After Don Baylor’s 9th-inning home run reduces the deficit to 5-4‚ reserve outfielder Dave Henderson slugs a 2-out‚ 2-run home run off Donnie Moore to give Boston a 6-5 lead. California ties the score with a run in the bottom of the 9th but Henderson‚ who had appeared to be the goat when he dropped Bobby Grich’s long fly ball over the fence for a home run in the 7th inning‚ delivers a sacrifice fly in the 11th for the winning run.
The Sox would win the Pennant 3 days later. Three years later, still despondent over having given up the home run that blew the Pennant for the Angels, Moore shot his wife, then himself. She lived, he didn’t. A loss in a baseball game may be a terrible disappointment, but there is a difference between disappointment, however great, and tragedy.
Henderson would also hit the home run that appeared to give the Sox Game 6 of the World Series, and their first title in 68 years. That they did not finish the job, and how they failed, has become legend. If they had, Henderson would have become a god in New England. That he is not is no fault of his.
He would later help Oakland with 3 straight Pennants, and he was invited to throw out the ceremonial first ball before Game 3 of the 2009 ALDS between the Red Sox and Angels. Unfortunately for the Sox, it didn’t work any more than the Yankees bringing out Bucky Dent to do the honors before Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS between the Yanks and the Sox.
October 12, 1987: The Minnesota Twins defeat the Detroit Tigers, 9-5, and win their first Pennant in 22 years. This was a major upset, as the Twins had won just 85 games in the regular season, and many people (including myself) were picking the Tigers to win it all. We did not reckon with the power of the Metrodome. Fortunately, the only people who will have to do so now are people whose favorite NFL team goes in there to play the Vikings.
This is the first Pennant ever won by a team playing its home games indoors — the Twins’ 1965 Pennant was won while they still played outdoors, in the suburb of Bloomington, at Metropolitan Stadium.
October 12, 1988, 25 years ago: Orel Hershiser shuts out the Mets, and the Dodgers win Game 7 and the Pennant, 6-0. New York – the National League “half” of it, anyway, the half that should have cared about this – finally had a chance to stick it to the evil O’Malley family, and they blew it. The Mets, whose fans did not realize that their “dynasty” had ended without really becoming one, would not return to the NLCS for 11 years – but that’s sooner than did the Dodgers, who waited 20 years.
October 12, 2003, 10 years ago: Joan Kroc, former owner of the San Diego Padres (inheriting them from her husband, McDonald’s tycoon Ray Kroc) dies at age 85. She had recently been the formerly “anonymous angel” who donated a huge sum to disaster relief when floods hit the Upper Midwest.
On this same day, the best possible thing that could happen in the Yanks-Red Sox ALCS does happen: Rain. An extra 24 hours gives everyone a chance to cool off a little.
October 12, 2005: In Boston, it’s Larry Barnett (1975 World Series Game 3). In St. Louis, it’s Don Denkinger (1985 World Series Game 6). In Baltimore, it’s Rich Garcia (1996 ALCS Game 1). In Atlanta, it’s Eric Gregg (1997 NLCS Game 5). In Orange County, California, the most hated of all umpires is Doug Eddings.
Game 2 of the ALCS at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. The Angels are up 1 game to 0 in the ALCS. Game 2 is tied 1-1 with the White Sox batting in the bottom of the 9th and 2 out. White Sox catcher A. J. Pierzynski faces Angels relief pitcher Kelvim Escobar, who quickly gets 2 strikes. Pierzynski swings at Escobar’s third pitch, a split-fingered fastball that comes in very low. Angels catcher Josh Paul says after the game, “I caught the ball, so I thought the inning was over.”
Eddings later said the ball had not been legally caught, but he made no audible call that the ball hit the ground. Pierzynski, already having had a reputation as a rough player, takes a couple of steps toward the dugout, but then, noticing that he had not heard himself called out, turns and runs to first base while most of the Angels are walking off the field. He makes it to first base safely. A pinch-runner, Pablo Ozuna, replaces Pierzynski and steals second base, and scores on a base hit by third baseman Joe Crede for the winning run.
The controversy surrounding the play concerns both whether Eddings’ ruling that the ball hit the ground was correct, and the unclear mechanic for signaling the ruling. Eddings did not indicate no-catch signals during the game. In fact, in the 2nd inning of the same game, Eddings had ruled no catch on a 3rd strike to Garret Anderson of the Angels, but the White Sox were not aware of the ruling until Eddings called Anderson out as he entered the dugout. At the time, professional umpiring mechanics did not dictate a specific no-catch signal or a “no catch” verbalization after an uncaught third strike. A mechanic has subsequently been added.
After the game, Eddings explained his actions: “My interpretation is that was my ‘strike three’ mechanic, when it’s a swinging strike. If you watch, that’s what I do the whole entire game. … I did not say ‘No catch.’ If you watch the play, you do watch me — as I’m making the mechanic, I’m watching Josh Paul, and so I’m seeing what he’s going to do. I’m looking directly at him while I’m watching Josh Paul. That’s when Pierzynski ran to first base.”
Angels fans remain convinced that Eddings screwed them over and cost them a Pennant – and, since the ChiSox went on to sweep the Houston Astros in 4 straight, that Eddings also cost them the World Series. They are wrong: The video clearly shows the ball touching the ground, and Angels catcher Benjie Molina should have tried to throw Pierzynski out at first. He didn’t, therefore Pierzynski was entitled to the base. Eddings was right, and Pierzynski acted within the rules of the game.
And here’s the key: The series was still tied. While the next 3 games were going to be in Chicago, theoretically the Angels still had as much chance to win the Pennant as the Pale Hose did. They could have shut their traps, gotten their acts together, and gone out and won Game 3 in Chicago, taken a 2-1 lead in the series, and it would have been a very different story. Instead, like the ’85 Cards on the Denkinger/Jorge Orta play, and like the ’78 Dodgers on the Reggie Jackson “hip-check” play, they let the incident get into their heads. They lost 3 straight and the Pennant. They did not deserve to win that one. The White Sox, thinking clearly, did.
October 12, 2010: Behind the complete-game effort by Cliff Lee, the Texas Rangers beat Tampa Bay, 5-1, in the decisive Game 5 of the ALDS at Tropicana Field, for the 1st Playoff series victory in franchise history. They are the last major league club to accomplish the task — unless you count the fact that the Montreal Expos, who did it in the strike-forced split-season format of 1981, still haven’t done it since they became the Washington Nationals in 2005.
The Rangers, who will take on the Yankees for the AL flag, lost their three previous playoff appearances with first-round losses to the Bronx Bombers in 1996 and 1998-99.
October 12, 2012: The biggest game in Washington baseball in 79 years is Game 5 of the NLDS at Nationals Park. The Nationals lead the Cardinals, 7-5 going into the 9th inning.
But Nats reliever Drew Storen implodes, allowing a double to Carlos Beltran, a walk to Yadier Molina, another walk to David Freese, a single to Daniel Descalso, a stolen base by Descalso, and a single to Pete Kozma. The Nats go down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th, and the Cards win, 9-7, and advance to the NLCS. The Nats went from having, according to Baseball-Reference.com, a 93 percent chance of winning the game to losing it.
The Nats had shut down ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg for the season after September 7, at which point he had pitched 159 innings. I wonder what Nats management would have given to have Strasburg pitch to just 1 batter: Descalso, when there were 2 outs and the score was still 7-5. Keeping Strasburg off the postseason roster was a major blunder.
But, hey, Strasburg came back strong in 2013, didn’t he? Not really: He threw 183 innings, and had a 3.00 ERA and a 1.049 WHIP, but was only 8-9, after going 15-6 the year before.