Kirk Gibson Day: 25 Years Ago Today

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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.”)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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… ”

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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.

Happy Chris Chambliss Day!

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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.