October 7 Baseball Anniversaries

October 7, 1885: The Providence Grays sweep a doubleheader from the Buffalo Bisons, 4-0 and 6-1 at Olympic Park in Buffalo. Fred Shaw wins both games for the Grays, pitching a no-hitter in the opener.

These are the last 2 games ever played by these franchises, who are both struggling for cash — only 12 fans come out, as Buffalo, as it so often is, turns out to be cold in October.

Never again has a major league baseball team played in the State of Rhode Island. And, unless you count the Federal League of 1914-15, never again has a major league team represented Buffalo or any other city in the State of New York, other than the City of New York.

Although Buffalo has an NFL team and an NHL team, and it has an in-city population of 261,000 that isn’t that much less than those of St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, its metropolitan area population of 1,135,000 ranks it 51st among American metro areas. The current smallest area with an MLB team, Milwaukee, has over half a million more: 1,671,000. If you count Canadian cities, Buffalo drops to 56th.

Providence? It has 178,000 people, and while its metro count of 1,600,000 isn’t that far behind Milwaukee, it’s usually included within Boston’s area. Providence is, for this reason, the home of Boston’s Triple-A baseball (well, Pawtucket is) and hockey teams, and the NFL team is actually slightly closer to Kennedy Plaza in Providence than to Downtown Crossing in Boston.

But Providence ain’t getting another MLB team, and Buffalo will never get any closer than it did in 1991, when it was one of 5 finalists for the 2 that began play in 1993.

*

October 7, 1899: The Brooklyn Superbas clobber their arch-rivals, the New York Giants, 13-2 at Washington Park, to win the NL Pennant, and thus the unofficial World Championship of baseball.

October 7, 1902: Perhaps the first all-star game in North American sports is played at Exposition Park in Pittsburgh — the Pirates’ current stadium, PNC Park, is built roughly on the site. Sam Leever and the Pirates, including the great Honus Wagner, beat a team of American League all-stars‚ with Cy Young as the losing pitcher, 4-3.

October 7, 1904: Jack Chesbro pitches the New York Highlanders to a 3-2 win over the Boston Pilgrims (Red Sox) for his 41st victory of the season — a record under the post-1893 pitching distance of 60 feet 6 inches that ain’t never gonna be broken unless there’s a major change in the way pitching is done.

The win gives New York a half-game lead over Boston. But the season will not end well for the Highlanders in general and Chesbro in particular.

October 7, 1911: With just 1‚000 fans on hand at the Polo Grounds‚ and with the Pennant already clinched, New York Giant manager John McGraw finally listens to the appeals of Charles Victor “Victory” Faust, who’d told McGraw that a fortune teller had told him that if he pitched for the Giants, they’d win the Pennant.

Faust is sent to the mound in the 9th inning against the Boston Rustlers‚ allowing a hit and a run in a 5-2 loss. Faust also hits‚ circling the bases for a score as the Rustlers, in on the joke, deliberately throw wildly.

Faust will reprise his act on October 12th against Brooklyn: He allows a hit in his one inning; is hit by a pitch and then steals 2nd base and 3rd base‚ and scores on a grounder.

In the next few weeks, Boston owner William H. Russell, for whom the Rustlers were named, will die. The team is purchased by James Gaffney, an officer in New York’s Tammany Hall political organization. They are known as “Braves,” and the Boston team is so named.

The team carries the name to this day, although they are now in Atlanta. Braves Field is built in 1915, and one of the bordering streets is still named Gaffney Street. Boston University’s Nickerson Field complex was built on the site, with the right-field pavilion of Braves Field still standing as the home stand. An NFL team named the Boston Braves will also play there, changing its name, to avoid confusion, to the Redskins. They will move to Washington in 1937.

October 7, 1918: Robert Gustave “Bun” Troy‚ born in Germany‚ who pitched in one game for the 1912 Detroit Tigers, fighting for his new country against his old one in World War I, is killed in battle in Meuse‚ France.

October 7, 1922, 90 years ago: With the questionable calling of Game 2 due to “darkness” in mind, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis insists that Game 4 be played, despite a heavy rain. Again one big inning, a 4-run 4th off Yankee pitcher Carl Mays, is enough for Hugh McQuillan of the Giants to squeeze out a 4-3 win. Aaron Ward’s 2nd HR of the Series is all the long-ball clout the Yankees will display.

Mays’s brief collapse today‚ coupled with his 2 losses in the 1921 Series‚ leads to rumors that he took money to throw the games. The accusations will persist for decades.

October 7, 1925: Christy Mathewson dies of tuberculosis at the health-spa town of Saranac Lake‚ New York‚ at the age of 45. At the time of his death, the Giant pitching legend he was part owner and president of the Boston Braves. The next day, as word reaches Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, the flag is lowered to half-staff, and will remain so there and at Griffith Stadium in opposing Washington for the remainder of the Series.

October 7, 1927: The 60‚695 on hand for Game 3 of the World Series see the Yankees’ Herb Pennock take an 8-0 lead and a perfect game into the 8th against the Pirates. He retires Glenn Wright‚ the 22nd straight batter‚ but Harold “Pie” Traynor, the Bucs’ Hall of Fame 3rd baseman, breaks the spell with a single‚ and Clyde Barnhart doubles him home. Pennock settles for a 3-hit 8-1 victory.

October 7, 1933, 80 years ago: At the World Series‚ at Griffith Stadium in Washington, flags are at half staff to honor William L. Veeck‚ president of the Chicago Cubs, who died suddenly. His son, Bill Veeck, already working in the Cubs’ front office, will become one of baseball’s most remarkable men.

In the meantime, the Series comes to a close after 5 games, when Mel Ott homers in the top of the 10th inning for a 4-3 Giants victory. Adolfo “Dolf” Luque, Cuban but light-skinned enough to play in the majors of the time, gets the win in relief. The Giants are World Champs for the 4th time, tying the Yankees and the Philadelphia Athletics for the most all-time.

This remains, 80 years later, the last World Series game played by a Washington team, let alone in the District of Columbia.  Ya think the Nationals now wish they’d let Stephen Strasburg pitch just ONE inning in last year’s postseason? One very particular inning?

October 7, 1935: In Game 6 of the World Series at Navin Field in Detroit (later renamed Tiger Stadium), Stan Hack leads off the top of the 9th inning with a triple, but his Chicago Cub teammates can’t bring him home. In the bottom of the 9th, Goose Goslin singles home Mickey Cochrane to win, 4-3, and to give Detroit its first World Championship in any major sport.

This will be quickly followed by the Lions winning the 1935 NFL Championship, the Red Wings winning the 1936 and 1937 Stanley Cups, and Alabama-born, Detroit-raised Joe Louis winning the heavyweight boxing championship in 1937.

October 7, 1950: Rookie lefthander Eddie Ford, with 9th inning help from Allie Reynolds, beats the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-2, as the Yankees complete the World Series sweep of Philadelphia’s “Whiz Kids.” Jerry Coleman wins the Babe Ruth Award as the Series MVP.

Ford, and the Phillies’ center fielder Richie Ashburn, both have very light blond hair that gets them nicknamed “Whitey.” In Ashburn’s case, even that was a shortening of “The White Mouse.” Ford will be drafted into the Army and spend the 1951 and ’52 seasons in the Korean War, but when he comes back in ’53, he will be at the top of his game, and he will be “Whitey” from then on.

In contrast, most Phillies fans did not yet know Ashburn as “Whitey,” but his friends did. The nickname became more familiar as he becomes a broadcaster, with partner Harry Kalas calling him “Whitey” and referring to him, when he’s not there, as “His Whiteness.”

The Phils are nicknamed “the Whiz Kids” because they have the youngest average age of any Pennant-winner ever, 23. Ashburn would later say that they figured they had enough time to win a few more Pennants.

But mismanagement, and the success of the team the Phils edged to win the Pennant, the Brooklyn Dodgers, meant that, by the time the Phils did win another Pennant, Ashburn was in the booth, and the Phils’ biggest stars would be men who were small children in 1950: 9-year-old Pete Rose, 6-year-old Steve Carlton and Tug McGraw, 2-year-old Mike Schmidt, and a child who would not be born until a few weeks after the 1950 World Series, Greg Luzinski.

October 7, 1952, 60 years ago: In the decisive Game 7, the Yankees beat the Dodgers at Ebbets Field, 4-2, to win their 4th consecutive World Championship, their 15th overall. The Dodgers still haven’t won a World Series — the idea that “Next Year” will come is getting more and more frustrating.

This game was highlighted by the Dodgers loading the bases in the bottom of the 7th. Yankee manager Casey Stengel had already used each of his “Big Three”: Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat, and now Allie Reynolds. He calls on the lefty reliever who had closed out the previous year’s Series, Bob Kuzava.

He gets Jackie Robinson to pop the ball up, but the late afternoon sun is peeking through the decks of Ebbets Field, and nobody sees the ball! Nobody except 2nd baseman Billy Martin, who dashes and catches the ball at his knee to end the threat.

It was the first time Billy would ruin Dodger hopes. The last time he did so, it would be as a manager, and the Dodgers would represent Los Angeles.

Gil Hodges finishes the Fall Classic hitless in 21 at-bats, which had prompted some Brooklyn fans, some fellow Catholics, some not, to gather at local churches asking for divine help for their beloved 1st baseman. Fortunately, Dodger owner Walter O’Malley, mean old man that he is, is not George Steinbrenner, and doesn’t do what George did to Dave Winfield following his 1-for-21 performance in the ’81 Series against the L.A. edition of the Dodgers: Call him “Mr. May,” in comparison to “Mr. October,” Reggie Jackson.

October 7, 1957: Lew Burdette beats the Yankees in Game 5, his 2nd win of the Series, a brilliant 1-0 shutout to give the Milwaukee Braves a 3-2 Series lead.

The day gets worse for New York baseball, as the Los Angeles City Council approves the Chavez Ravine site for Dodger Stadium by a vote of 10 to 4. The Giants had already announced their move to San Francisco, and now the Dodgers’ move was inevitable. It was announced the next day.  Apparently, finally winning the World Series in 1955 and another Pennant in 1956 couldn’t save them.

October 7, 1968: Mickey Lolich saves the Detroit Tigers‚ winning Game 5, 5-3 over the St. Louis Cardinals, with an unlikely assist from Lou Brock. On 2nd base in the 5th‚ Brock, normally one of the game’s greatest baserunners, tries to score standing up on Julian Javier’s single, and is gunned down by Willie Horton’s throw from left field. Al Kaline’s bases-loaded single off Joe Hoerner in the 7th scores 2 for the winning margin. The Tigers stay alive, but still need to win Games 6 and 7 — in St. Louis, with Bob Gibson the potential Game 7 starter.

The bigger story, at least in the short term, is Puerto Rican-born, New York-raised singer and acoustic guitar wizard Jose Feliciano’s modern rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Born blind, Feliciano comes onto the field wearing sunglasses and being guided by a dog — both of which a lot of people consider threatening.  He does no vocal hysterics like some more recent singers we could mention; he just sings the National Anthem of the country he loves and which gave him the chance to become rich and famous, but a little differently, in his own style which is called “Latin jazz.”

In this time of the Vietnam War, race riots, assassinations and political unrest — Richard Nixon is about to be elected President in a squeaker because too many Democrats turned off by the war and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy stay home and don’t vote for longtime liberal hero Hubert Humphrey — the reaction to Feliciano’s rendition is muted in the stands, and furious on telephones, talk radio and newspapers. His career stalls for 2 years, until the release of his Christmas song “Feliz Navidad.”

Tiger broadcaster Ernie Harwell, himself a published songwriter authorized by Major League Baseball to select Detroit’s Anthem singers for the Series, defended his choice. Ironically, the man he’d selected for Game 4 was Marvin Gaye, a superstar of Detroit’s Motown Records. Gaye sang it straight, and very nicely.  In 1983, at the NBA All-Star Game, Gaye, in the midst of a big comeback that would tragically end with his death the next year, sang the Anthem gospel-style. The times had changed: His version was greeted with thunderous cheers and applause.

“Mr. Ernie” had introduced Feliciano to his wife, Susan, who grew up in Detroit. In 2010, Harwell died, and a memorial service was held at Detroit’s Comerica Park. Feliciano was invited to sing the Anthem, and was wildly cheered afterward. His version was also included on The Tenth Inning, Ken Burns’ 2010 sequel to his 1994 miniseries Baseball.  Listen and judge for yourself.  (NBC no longer has color videotape of most of the World Series prior to 1975.)

October 7, 1969: The Cardinals trade Curt Flood, Byron Browne, Joe Hoerner and Tim McCarver to the Phillies in exchange for Richie Allen — who, among other controversies, had been to insist upon being called “Dick” instead of “Richie” — Jerry Johnson and Cookie Rojas.

As could be expected, Allen, who so badly wanted out of Philadelphia, was involved in a trade that also became controversial — except, ironically, his part in it wasn’t the controversial one. Flood, like Allen believing Philly to be a racist city (with some reason), refuses to report to Philadelphia.

The Cardinals will send Willie Montanez and a minor leaguer to complete the trade, but Flood’s courageous challenge to the reserve clause will have a dramatic impact on the game. (The Phillies will eventually get McCarver back.)

October 7, 1977: First 1950, then 1969, now 1977, October 7 is not a good day for baseball in the City of Brotherly Love.

It starts out as one: The 63,719 fans at Veterans Stadium are so loud, they force Dodger pitcher Burt Hooton to load the bases in the 2nd inning, and then walk 2 runs home. The Phils, who won 101 games (a team record not broken until 2011), look like they’re going to win this game, and will need just one more win for their 1st Pennant in 27 years, since the 1950 Whiz Kids.

But in the top of the 9th, trailing 5-3 and down to their last out, the Dodgers benefit from a sickening turn of events. Pinch hitter Vic Davalillo, a 41-year-old Venezuelan outfielder who has already retired from baseball once, shows enough guts to lay down a drag bunt, at his age, with 2 strikes, and he beats it out.

Another pinch hitter, 39-year-old Dominican Manny Mota, hits a long drive to left field. Ordinarily, Phils manager Danny Ozark would have sent Jerry Martin out to left for defensive purposes, in place of the powerful but defensively suspect Greg Luzinski. This time, he didn’t, and the Bull can only trap the ball against the fence. (In fairness, I’ve seen the play several times, and I don’t think Martin would have caught it, either, especially since he was a bit shorter than the Bull.) Luzinski throws back to the infield, but Phils 2nd baseman Ted Sizemore mishandles it, Mota goes to 3rd, and Davalillo scores. It’s 5-4 Phils, with 2 out.

Then comes one of the most brutal umpiring screwups ever. Remember, the Dodgers are still down to their last out. Davey Lopes’ grounder hits a seam in the artificial turf, and caroms off Mike Schmidt’s knee to Larry Bowa‚ and the shortstop’s throw is incorrectly ruled late. Instead of the game being over in Philly’s favor, Mota scores the tying run. The Dodgers go on to win, 6-5, and win the Pennant the next day.

In Philadelphia, the game is known as Black Friday. The umpire whose call killed the Phils? Bruce Froemming. He has already cost Milt Pappas a perfect game with a bogus ball four call (though Pappas kept the no-hitter), and will go on to umpire for a record 37 years, with his swan song being the 2007 AL Division Series between the Yankees and the Cleveland Indians, when he, as crew chief, refused to stop the game until the Lake Erie Midges left.

October 7, 1978: The Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals for the 3rd straight year, and win their 3rd straight Pennant, their 32nd overall. Roy White, in his 14th season with the Yankees, hits a tiebreaking homer in the 6th. Graig Nettles homers and makes a sensational play at 3rd, and Ron Guidry wins for the 26th time in his remarkable season.

October 7, 1981: For the first time, an MLB postseason game is played outside the United States. The Montreal Expos defeat the Phillies 3-1 in Game 1 of the strike-forced National League Eastern Division playoff at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

October 7, 1984: The San Diego Padres win their first Pennant, taking the NLCS as Tony Gwynn’s 7th inning two-run double breaks a 3-3 tie. The Cubs had a 2-0 game advantage as well as a 3-0 lead in the deciding Game 5, but were unable to end the thirty-nine year World Series appearance drought.

October 7, 2001: On the last day of the season — delayed a week due to the 9/11 attacks — Rickey Henderson bloops a double down the right field line off Rockies’ hurler John Thomson to become the 25th major leaguer to collect 3,000 hits. Tony Gwynn, who is playing in his last major league game and is also a member of the 3,000 Hit Club, meets the Padre outfielder at home plate in front of a sellout crowd at Qualcomm Stadium.

Gwynn retires with a .338 lifetime batting average, the highest of any player who debuted after 1939 – also the highest of any black man, whether American or Hispanic.

Also on this day, Barry Bonds extends his major league record for home runs in season to 73*, as he drives a 3-2 first-inning knuckleball off Dodger Dennis Spriner over the right field fence. The blast also secures two more major league records * for the Giants’ left fielder, as he surpasses Babe Ruth (1920, 847) with a .863 season slugging percentage, and bests Mark McGwire (1998, one homer every 7.27 AB * ) by homering in every 6.52 at-bats *.

October 7, 2006: The Mets defeat Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, 9-5, to complete a 3-game sweep in the NLDS.  The Mets haven’t won a postseason series since.  Since beating the A’s in the 1988 World Series, the Dodgers have not won a Pennant.

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October 6 Baseball Anniversaries

 October 6, 1923, 90 years ago: In a regular-season game, Ernie Padgett of the Boston Braves, in only his 2nd major-league appearance, pulls off an unassisted triple play in a doubleheader sweep of the Phillies.
 
Born in Philadelphia in 1899, the infielder would only last 5 seasons in the majors, and died in 1957 in East Orange, New Jersey.
 
October 6, 1926: Game 4 of the World Series, at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Someone got a message to Babe Ruth, asking him to hit a home run for a sick kid in a hospital.
 
He hit one. And another. And another. It was the first time a player had hit 3 home runs in a World Series game. The Yankees win, 10-5, and tie up the Series with the Cardinals.
 
The boy’s name was Johnny Sylvester. He got well, later met the Babe, and lived to be 74.
 
In legend, the boy was dying, and the Babe visited him in the hospital, and promised him he’d hit a home run for him, and ended up hitting 3, and, hearing the game on the radio, instantly began to get well. The truth is great enough, is Ruthian enough.
 
October 6, 1934: The Tigers defeat the Cardinals, 10-4 at Navin Field in Detroit (later renamed Briggs Stadium and Tiger Stadium).
 
Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean – or Jerome Herman “Dizzy” Dean, depending on which story Ol’ Diz liked to tell on any given day – inexplicably runs onto the field when player-manager Frankie Frisch calls for a pinch-runner, and is hit in the head by a throw. He is taken to a hospital, examined, and released.
 
He tells the press, apparently without realizing what he’s saying, “They examined my head, and they didn’t find anything.” A newspaper says the next day, “X-rays of Dean’s head show nothing.” Dean will have the last laugh, though.
 
October 6, 1936: The New York Yankees defeat the New York Giants in Game 6 of the World Series, 13-5 at the Polo Grounds, and clinch their 5th World Championship.
 
At this point, the following teams have won 5 World Series: The Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, and the Philadelphia Athletics. (The A’s wouldn’t win another until 1972, by which point they were in Oakland. The Red Sox have never won another. Not without cheating, anyway.)
 
By beating the Giants, who have 4, the Yankees move ahead of the Giants into first place in New York, and they have never relinquished it. Now, they are tied with the Sox and A’s for first among all teams.  They have never been second again. Nor will they be.
 
October 6, 1938, 75 years ago: The Yankees defeat the Chicago Cubs, 6-3 at Wrigley Field, and take a 2-games-to-0 lead in the World Series.
 
Dizzy Dean, now with the Cubs following an arm injury that will ultimately end his meteoric career at age 31, takes a 3-2 lead into the 8th inning, but Frank Crosetti’s homer gives the Yanks a lead they will not relinquish.
 
The winning pitcher is Lefty Gomez, making him 6-0 in World Series play. Although Whitey Ford with 10 and Bob Gibson with 7 will win more Series games, Gomez has the best winning percentage in Series history to this day.
 
October 6, 1941: The Yankees beat the Dodgers, 4-1, and win their 9th World Series, clinching in 5 games at Ebbets Field. The Brooklyn Eagle’s headline reads, “WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR.” A catchphrase is coined.
 
It will take another 14 years, and several agonizing close calls including 4 more World Series losses, all to the Yankees, before “Next Year” finally arrives for Brooklyn.
 
This is the last Major League Baseball game before World War II, although some players, including Detroit Tiger Hall-of-Famer Hank Greenberg, are already in the U.S. armed forces. Not until April 1946 will baseball again be played without players missing due to military service.
 
This is also the first Yankees-Dodgers World Series. There have now been 11: Seven all-New York “Subway Series,” four Coast-to-Coast N.Y./L.A. series. There hasn’t been one in 32 years, and as long as Don Mattingly — a.k.a. Donnie Regular Season Baseball — is managing the Dodgers, there will never be a 12th.
 
October 6, 1943, 70 years ago: Robert Cooper, father of Cardinal pitcher Mort Cooper and their catcher Walker Cooper, dies during the World Series. But the brothers play on, and in Game 2, Mort goes 1-for-3 at the bat and pitches the Cards to a 4-3 win over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He leaves for home, Independence, Missouri, after the game. The Yankees win the next three games to take the Series, at which point Walker goes home, too.
 
October 6, 1945: Game 4 of the World Series is held at Wrigley Field. William “Billy Goat” Sianis is the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, across from Chicago Stadium, home of the NHL’s Blackhawks and the Midwest’s premier boxing venue. He has a goat as his bar’s mascot, and he buys two tickets to this game, one for himself and one for the goat.
 
There is no rule against this. But fans around him complain to the ushers that the goat smells bad, and Sianis and his goat are kicked out of the ballpark.
 
A Greek immigrant and a superstitious man, Sianis puts a curse on the Cubs. The Tigers win the game, 4-1, all their runs coming in the 4th inning, after Sianis and the goat are kicked out. The Tigers win the Series in 7, and afterward, Sianis sends a telegram to Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley, asking, “Who stinks now?”
 
In 1963, Sianis would move his bar, a precursor to today’s sports bars, to its current location on Michigan Avenue, just north of the Loop, near the Tribune Tower and the Sun-Times Building, making it a popular watering hole for journalists. He died in 1970, about a year after the Cubs’ 1969 September Swoon.
 
His nephew Sam Sianis has run the place ever since, and when William Wrigley Jr. sold the Cubs to the Tribune Company in 1981, he offered to lift the Curse of the Billy Goat. A number of times, Cub management has allowed Sam to take his bar’s current mascot onto the field in an attempt to lift the Curse.
 
It hasn’t worked: Apparently, Billy’s curse is stronger even than his own flesh and blood. The Cubs haven’t been back to the World Series in 68 years — over two-thirds of a century without a Pennant, by far MLB’s record.  (Next-longest drought: The crosstown Chicago White Sox going 46 years without one, 1959 to 2005.)
 
Is the goat the reason? Well, let’s put it this way: In 1945, the Cubs had already not been World Champions for 37 years, and had already had a number of weird things happen to them in Series play, including a 10-run inning by the A’s in 1929, Babe Ruth’s alleged “called shot” in 1932, and Stan Hack leading off the 9th with a triple with what would be the tying run and then getting stranded there to lose Game 6 and the Series to the Tigers in 1935. The goat curse doesn’t explain any of that.
 
So what’s the real reason the Cubs haven’t won the World Series in 105 years now? Your guess is as good as mine.
 
Left fielder Andy Pafko, later one of the Dodgers’ “Boys of Summer,” now 91, and shortstop Lennie Merullo, 95, are the only living men to have played for the Chicago Cubs in a World Series.
 
October 6, 1947: The Dodgers threaten in the top of the 9th at Yankee Stadium, but a double play clinches the 5-2 win for the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series. It is the Yankees’ 11th World Championship. The next-closest team is the just-dethroned Cardinals with 6.
 
This was the first World Series on television, on NBC, although it wasn’t baseball on coast-to-coast TV.  That wouldn’t happen until 1951. This was also the first integrated World Series, with Jackie Robinson playing for the Dodgers.
 
However, it was Italians who were the major figures in the Series: Yogi Berra for hitting the first pinch-hit home run in Series history in Game 3, Cookie Lavagetto for breaking up Floyd Bevens’ no-hitter with one out to go in Game 4, Joe DiMaggio for coming through for the Yankees again with a homer in Game 5, Al Gionfriddo for robbing DiMaggio with a spectacular catch in Game 6, and Phil Rizzuto for starting the game-ending twin killing in Game 7.
 
An interesting note is that, while Bevens, Lavagetto and Gionfriddo were the biggest heroes of in this Series, none of them would ever play another major league game. Yogi, Jerry Coleman, and Dodger Ralph Branca are the only surviving players from the rosters in this game, 66 years later.
 
October 6, 1957: Eddie Matthews becomes the first National Leaguer to hit what we would now call a “walkoff” home run in a World Series game, and the first player in either League to do it in extra innings, hitting one out of Yankee pitcher Bob Grim in the bottom of the 10th, to give the Milwaukee Braves a 7-5 win and even the World Series at 2 games apiece.
 
This was the Shoe Polish Game, in which Braves pinch-hitter Vernal Leroy “Nippy” Jones claimed to have been hit on the foot by a Tommy Byrne pitch, and a smudge of polish on the ball revealed him to be telling the truth, leading to a Brave run.
 
This would happen again, in favor of the Mets in 1969, with Cleon Jones – although they are not related, as Nippy was white and Cleon is black.
 
Nippy, who had been sent up to pinch-hit for Warren Spahn, was replaced by pinch-runner Felix Mantilla, who was sacrificed to second by Red Schoendienst (who, like Jones, had also played on the 1946 World Champion Cardinals), and then came Mathews’ blast.
 
Players from this game who are still alive, 56 years later: From the Braves, Schoendienst, Hank Aaron, Del Crandall, Felix Mantilla (also an original 1962 Met) and Frank Torre (Joe’s older brother); from the Yankees: Berra, Jerry Coleman, Tony Kubek, Jerry Lumpe, Bobby Shantz and Johnny Kucks.  Whitey Ford is still alive, but did not appear in this game. Braves shortstop Johnny Logan died this past August.
 
October 6, 1959: A crowd of 92,706, the largest ever for a baseball game that counts, plows into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for Game 5 of the World Series. Dick Donovan shuts out the Dodgers, and Sherm Lollar grounds into a double play that forces home a run, and the White Sox win, 1-0, with Bob Shaw outdueling Sandy Koufax (not yet a star). This will remain the last World Series game won by a Chicago team for 46 years.
 
Players from this game who are still alive, 54 years later: From the Dodgers: Sandy Koufax, Don Zimmer, Maury Wills, Joe Pignatano, Wally Moon, Don Demeter, Ron Fairly, Chuck Essegian and Stan Williams; from the White Sox: Luis Aparicio, Jim Landis, Jim Rivera, Billy Pierce and Jim McAnany.
 
Also on this day, Dennis Boyd is born. The Red Sox pitcher will be nicknamed “Oil Can,” because that’s what people in his native Meridian, Mississippi called a can of beer. Despite helping them to the 1986 World Series, Boyd will be remembered for his eccentricities more than his pitching.
 
October 6, 1963, 50 years ago: The Dodgers complete a 4-game sweep over the Yankees at Dodger Stadium. Sandy Koufax, who won Game 1, wins Game 4 as well. The Yankees had come into this first West Coast version of Yankees vs. Dodgers having won 104 games, but would not win another until next April.
 
October 6, 1965: Game 1 of the World Series at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota — the first World Series game ever played in that State. Koufax, being Jewish, does not pitch today, because it is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. So he is pushed back to Game 2, and Don Drysdale is started. No problem, right? Big D is also a future Hall-of-Famer, right?
 
Not today: Don Mincher and soon-to-be AL MVP Zoilo Versalles (who hit only 2 homers in the regular season, and got the MVP for his contact hitting, speed and defense) hit home runs off Drysdale, and when manager Walter Alston comes to take him out in the 3rd inning, Drysdale says to him, “I bet you wish I was Jewish, too!”
 
Jim “Mudcat” Grant allows only one hit, a home run by Ron Fairly, and the Twins, in the first World Series game in their history (unless you count their Washington Senators days, in which case it’s their first in 32 years), win 8-2.
 
To make matters worse for the Dodgers, Koufax loses Game 2 as well. The Dodgers will come back, though, and win the Series in 7 games. The Twins will not get this close to a World Championship again for another 22 years.
 
October 6, 1966: Dodger outfielder Willie Davis, having trouble seeing a white baseball against the smog-gray L.A. sky, commits three errors in one inning, enabling the Baltimore Orioles to win 6-0, and take both World Series games at Dodger Stadium, and head back to Memorial Stadium with a 2-0 lead. Jim Palmer outduels Koufax, who struggles with the Oriole bats, Davis’ fielding, and the pain in his elbow.
 
No one knows it yet, but this is the last major league game for Koufax. He is not yet 31, Palmer is just 20. This could be called a “generational hinge” game.
 
On this same day, LSD is declared illegal throughout the United States.
 
Also on this day, Niall Quinn was born. Most Americans don’t know who he is. He is an Irish-born soccer player who was a reserve on Arsenal’s 1989 League Championship team.
 
He moved on to Manchester City, where he got in an altercation with teammate Steve McMahon, who had been on the other side when Arsenal beat Liverpool in the season finale that decided that League title; McMahon looked like a fool that night, signaling to his teammates that there would be just 1 minute of injury time, when there turned out to be 2, with Michael Thomas scoring the winning goal in said 92nd minute. But Quinn didn’t even play in that game.
 
After their fight on a 1992 preseason tour in Italy, Quinn pulled off his T-shirt, stained with McMahon’s blood, so he wouldn’t be denied entry into a dance club, danced his arse off (as they’d say in the British Isles), and, seen wearing only a pair of cutoff jeans by a Man City fan, heard that fan sing, to the tune of “The Stars and Stripes Forever,”…
 
Niall Quinn’s disco pants are the best!
They go up from his arse to his chest!
They are better than Adam and the Ants!
Niall Quinn’s disco pants!
 
Quinn, who has called it “the song that will follow me to the end of my career,” admits that he no longer has those pants. However, they can’t possibly fail to be better than Adam and the Ants. They sucked.
 
Quinn finished his playing career for Sunderland, and went into management, eventually buying a part-ownership of the team and being made its chairman.  He has since sold his stake in the team, and has returned to color commentary on soccer games.  (Or, should I say, “colour commentary on football matches.”)
 
In 2006, Sunderland, then in English football’s 2nd division, were playing away at Cardiff City, along with Swansea City one of two teams from Wales in the 92-team English Football League. Sunderland won, and Quinn got on the plane that was to take him, the players, and a few fans back to Sunderland. Already, there was a problem, as Cardiff’s airport wasn’t willing to take them. They had to go 40 miles across a bay to Bristol, England. Recognized by some fans, who’d already had a few drinks that night, they started singing “Niall Quinn’s Disco Pants.” At the top of their lungs.
 
A few of the other passengers complained, and the pilot had 80 people thrown off the plane. The airline, EasyJet, told them they could have seats on the first plane out the next morning, at no extra charge — but wouldn’t give them a place to spend the night. They were really in a bind.
 
Quinn pulled out the club checkbook – since it’s Britain, I should say “chequebook” – and hired taxis. He paid 8,000 pounds, about $15,000 at the time, to take them up Britain’s M5 Motorway, from Bristol in the southwest of England to Sunderland in the northeast — about 300 miles, or roughly the distance from New York to Portland, Maine. Or from Philadelphia to Boston.
 
This would have been chump change for a big club like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester United. But for Sunderland, it was a pretty penny. Sunderland fans – a.k.a. “Mackems” – have never forgotten this act of generosity, and adapted the song, including taking a pot-shot at Freddy Shepherd, then owner of their arch-rivals, Newcastle United, a.k.a. the Magpies or Mags (and since replacing him with Mike Ashley, current Newcastle owner):
 
Niall Quinn’s taxi cabs are the best!
So go shove it up your arse, EasyJet!
Fat Freddy/Fat Ashley wouldn’t do it for the Mags!
Niall Quinn’s taxi cabs!
 
I don’t like Sunderland, but, using the U.K. vernacular, Niall Quinn is a top man.
 
October 6, 1969: The New York Mets defeat the Atlanta Braves, 7-4 at Shea Stadium, and sweep the first-ever National League Championship Series. As they did after the NL Eastern Division clincher on September 24, the Met fans storm the field.
 
It is the first Pennant won by a New York team in 5 years. A long time by New York standards. But for Met fans, the children of a “shotgun wedding” between two groups of fans who once hated each other, to use the late scientist and former Giant fan Stephen Jay Gould’s phrase, “with that love that only hate can understand,” it is the first Pennant in either 13 years (Dodgers) or 15 years (Giants).
 
After 7 bad years, 5 of them absolutely horrible, in Year 8 the Mets have won the Pennant. It is the fastest any team has reached the World Series since the early days of the competition. It will be 1980 – or 1973, if you count the Mets’ 2nd Pennant – before a team other than one of the “Original 16” reaches the World Series again.
 
October 6, 1978: Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. Winner takes a 2-1 lead in the series. George Brett of the Kansas City Royals hits 3 home runs off Catfish Hunter, the only 3-homer performance in LCS play in either league.
 
But in the bottom of the 8th, with the Yankees trailing 5-4, Thurman Munson steps up against Royals reliever Doug Bird, and crushes a pitch 470 feet to left-center field. On ABC, Howard Cosell, who admired Munson a lot, laughs: “Ho-ho! The damaged man!”
 
Goose Gossage finishes it off for Catfish, and the Yankees win, 6-5. Reggie Jackson had also homered, his 2nd of this series, after taking KC closer Al “the Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky deep in Game 1 at Royals Stadium.
 
This is what I love most about Munson: At the moment when the Yankees most needed him to hit a home run, the banged-up Captain hit the longest home run of his career. Appropriately, it went into Monument Park. At this point, the only players honored there were the big four: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle – along with owner Jacob Ruppert, general manager Ed Barrow, managers Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel, and the plaque honoring the Mass delivered by Pope Paul VI. The next plaque to be dedicated would be the one for the Mass delivered by Pope John Paul II, but the next one for a Yankee would be, sadly, for Munson himself.
 
October 6, 1980: Having lost 3 straight to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Houston Astros must now play them in a one-game Playoff to decide the NL West title, and at Dodger Stadium, no less.
 
No problem: Art Howe drives in four runs (which is more than the Astro second baseman ever did for the Mets as their manager), and Joe Niekro knuckleballs his way to his 20th win of the season, and the Astros win, 7-1. In what is unofficially the first postseason game in their 19-year history, they officially advance to the Playoffs for the first time.
 
October 6, 1984: A dark day in the long, gray history of the Chicago Cubs. Leading the NLCS 2 games to 1, needing only 1 more win to take their first Pennant in 39 years, they are tied with the San Diego Padres in the bottom of the 9th at Jack Murphy Stadium. But closer Lee Smith gives up an opposite-field homer to former Dodger “hero” Steve Garvey, and the Padres win, 7-5, to tie up the series.
 
Fans of lots of teams hated Garvey, due to his smugness and, as it turned out, his hypocrisy. But I think Cub fans hate him even more than Philadelphia and Cincinnati fans do. Certainly, they hate him more than Yankee Fans do – and that’s a lot.
 
October 6, 1985: With the Yankees having been eliminated from the AL East race the day before, manager Billy Martin sends 46-year-old knuckleballer Phil Niekro out to pitch an otherwise meaningless game at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. He allows only 4 hits, becoming the oldest pitcher ever to pitch a complete-game shutout – top that, Nolan Ryan! The Yankees beat the Blue Jays, 8-0, and Niekro has his 300th career win. The Yankees will release him after the season, despite winning 16 games for them at age 45 and again at 46.
 
He will pitch two more seasons, with his home-State Cleveland Indians, the Blue Jays, and one more game with his original team, the Braves – he is the last active player who had played for the Braves in Milwaukee – reaching 318 wins for his Hall of Fame career. That makes him 16th on the all-time list, but among pitchers who’d spent most of their careers in the post-1920 Lively Ball Era, only his ex-Brave teammate Warren Spahn, and the still-active Ryan, Steve Carlton and Don Sutton had more wins before him. He has since also been passed by Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux.
 
With his brother Joe having won 223, the Niekro brothers are the winningest brother combination in MLB history, with 538 wins between them. Phil also struck out 3,342 batters, then 8th all-time and now 11th. In 1973, he pitched the first no-hitter in Atlanta history. It took 5 tries before he was finally elected to the Hall of Fame.
 
October 6, 1991: The final game is played at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. The Orioles lose to the Tigers, 7-3. Afterward, while the music from Field of Dreams plays, Brooks Robinson trots back out to his old position of 3rd base, followed by Frank Robinson into right field, Jim Palmer to the pitcher’s mound, and so on, until Cal Ripken goes to shortstop as the last player, and Earl Weaver gives one last lineup card (no doubt with little room on it) to an umpire.
 
This ceremony paves the way for many ballpark closing ceremonies since, including the farewell to the old Yankee Stadium (which, neatly, was against the Orioles). The Orioles moved into Oriole Park at Camden Yards the following April, and the NFL’s Ravens play their first 2 seasons (1996-97) at Memorial before moving into their own stadium at Camden Yards. Memorial Stadium, built in 1954, is demolished in 2002.
 
The same day that Memorial Stadium hosted its last baseball game, Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia hosts an interesting and troubled one.  With a policeman watching his every move from the Met dugout, and the fear of being arrested at any moment due to false rape allegations, David Cone ties a National League mark for strikeouts as he fans 19 Phillies, en route to a 7-0 victory in the season’s finale.
 
The charges come to nothing.  The Mets let him get away in the off-season, and, except for a brief comeback in 2003, never pitches for them again. He will, however pitch for another New York team, and far more successfully than he ever did for the Mets.
 
That 1991 season remains the last one in which the Mets finished with a better record than the Yankees.  It also remains the last one in which the Mets finished with better attendance than the Yankees.
 
October 6, 2001: Another farewell in Baltimore. At Camden Yards, in front of a full house including Orioles notables Frank Robinson, Palmer and Weaver, as well as Commissioner Bud Selig and former President Bill Clinton, Cal Ripken plays his 3,001st and final game. After a hitless night for the 41-year-old, the final out of the 5-1 loss to Red Sox is made as Cal watches from the on deck circle.
 
In Seattle, with their 116th win, the Mariners tie the 1906 Cubs as the winningest team in major league history. Bret Boone’s 37th home run of the season, and the shut out pitching of five Seattle pitchers prove to be the difference in the 1-0 historic win over the Texas Rangers. But the Yankees will prove to the M’s that 116 don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that ring.
 
At Shea Stadium, with his 151st career pinch hit, Lenny Harris breaks the major league mark established by Manny Mota. Coming off the Met bench to bat for Rey Ordonez, he lines a 1-2 pitch off Expo starter Carl Pavano for a single to become the career leader in pinch hits.
 
October 6, 2006: After failing to advanced past the first round of the American League playoffs in their previous five postseason appearances, the Oakland Athletics beat the much-favored Minnesota Twins, 8-3, to complete a three-game ALDS sweep. The victory, which was the team’s 10th opportunity to win a clinching game, puts Oakland in ALCS for the first time since 1992.
 
This remains the only postseason series ever won by a team with Billy Beane as its general manager. Explain to me again how Beane is a “genius”?
 
October 6, 2007: The Bug Game! In Game 2 of the ALDS at Jacobs Field, the Indians score the tying run on a wild pitch thrown by a bug-covered Joba Chamberlain. A rare infestation of Lake Erie Midges, which appeared en masse in the 8th inning, impacts the rookie Yankees reliever who suffers his first blown save of the season.
 
We may never know why Joe Torre didn’t tell the umpires, “Stop play until the bugs are gone, or I’m pulling my team off the field and taking my chances with the Commissioner’s office!” Would John McGraw have put up with that? Would Leo Durocher? Would Casey Stengel? Would Earl Weaver? Would Billy Martin? Would they hell! But Torre did.
 
The Yankees lost the game, 2-1, as several players — not just Alex Rodriguez — seemed to forget how to hit. So it wasn’t just the bugs.
 
October 6, 2009: With one out in the bottom of the 12th inning in the AL Central tiebreaker, the Twins beat the Tigers, 6-5, when Alexi Casilla’s single plates Carlos Gomez from second base with the winning run.
 
The Metrodome victory finishes an amazing comeback by Minnesota, going 17-4 in the final month to close a seven-game deficit and completes a colossal collapse for the Tigers, who become the first team in big league history to surrender a 3-game lead with only 4 contests to play. This, just 3 years after the Tigers blew a 15 1/2-game AL Central lead over the Twins, the biggest Division (or pre-1969 League) choke ever.  Of course, the Tigers won the Wild Card and ended up beating the A’s, who’d beaten the Twins, for the Pennant…
 
Maybe this anniversary will stick in the mind of some of the Tigers who are still here, 2 years later.
 
October 6, 2010: At Citizens Bank Park, Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay throws the second no-hitter in postseason history when he beats the Reds, 4-0, in Game 1 of the NLDS. Don Larsen became the first hurler to accomplish the feat by throwing a perfect game in the Yankees’ victory over Brooklyn in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.

MLB Promotion & Relegation

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If Major League Baseball did promotion and relegation, like European soccer, this is how the six divisions would line up for 2014: 

American League East: Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Durham Bulls (Champions of the International League Southern Division).

American League Central: Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Indianapolis Indians (Champions of the IL Western Division, although they’d have to use a new name, because we won’t put up with multiple team names in the same sport the way English soccer does with several Uniteds and Wanderers, because we can’t put Indy in the same division as their parent club, the Pittsburgh Pirates).

American League West: Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Seattle Mariners, Las Vegas 51s (Champions of the Pacific Coast League American South Division).

National League East: Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Pawtucket Red Sox (Champions of the IL Northern Division — can’t have them in the same division as their Boston parent club, can we?).

National League Central: St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Oklahoma City RedHawks (Champions of the PCL American South Division).

National League West: Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, and a playoff to determine the last team, since they were the 2 lowest-seeded division winners in Triple-A: The Salt Lake Bees (Champions of the PCL Pacific Northern Division) and the Omaha Storm Chasers (Champions of the PCL American Northern Division).

Relegated to Triple-A ball, the 6 last-place finishers: Toronto Blue Jays (after being preseason favorites to at least make the Playoffs), Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros (though they’d probably be in Double-A or lower by now), Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs (yes, both Chicago teams would be relegated), Colorado Rockies.

Yes, the Durham Bulls in the AL East. They’ve got a place in The Show. They need to hold onto that place. Hold it like an egg. Come on, Meat!