Happy Aaron Boone Day!

What were you doing, and where were you doing it, 10 years ago today, October 16, 2003?

It was the night of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Pedro Martinez vs. Roger Clemens. In his first game at Yankee Stadium since he tried to kill Don Zimmer, Pedro gets the hell booed out of him – and that’s a lot of hell. But the Sox take a 4-0 lead over the Yankees in the 4th, before Joe Torre lifts Clemens and brings in Mike Mussina. Making the first relief appearance of his career, Mussina stops the bleeding.

Jason Giambi hits 2 home runs to make it 4-2 in the 7th, but David Ortiz – not for the first time, and certainly not for the last (cough-steroids-cough) – hurts the Yankees by blasting a home run off David Wells. It’s 5-2 Yankees, and although I’m not much of a lip-reader, Wells appears to be yelling, “Fuuuuuuuuck!”

Pedro gets the first out in the bottom of the 8th, but then… Derek Jeter doubles. Then Bernie Williams singles, scoring Jeter to make it 5-3. Pedro is over the 100-pitch mark. From pitches 1 through 99, he throws like Sandy Koufax; from pitch 100 onward, he throws like Sandy Duncan. Red Sox manager Grady Little goes to the mound to remove Pedro…

No! He leaves him in! We got the headhunting son of a bitch!

Hideki Matsui hits a ground-rule double down the right-field line, moving Bernie to third. Well, now, for sure, Little has to pull Pedro. No, he stays in the dugout. He’s sticking with Pedro come hell, high water, mystique or aura.

Jorge Posada, the man that Pedro the Punk threatened with a fastball to the head in Game 3, hits a looper into short center, scoring the tying runs.

Just 5 outs from the Pennant, and the greatest victory the Red Sox would have since, oh, 1918, they have choked again.

Mariano Rivera pitches the 9th, 10th and 11th for the Yankees. He pitches the top of the 11th pretty much on courage alone. The Yankees need to win it in the bottom of the 11th, because the bullpen situation doesn’t look good.

Tim Wakefield, the knuckleballer who won Games 1 and 4 of this series, is on the mound. Leading off the inning is Aaron Boone, the Yankee 3rd baseman.

You know where I was at this moment? I was going from place to place watching the game, and I decided to get on the Subway and head up to The Stadium. Win or lose, I felt I had to be there. But the Subway was crawling, seeming to take forever. I forgot that it was after midnight. Frustrated, I got off at the 50th Street station of the A train.

Next thing I know, I’m standing in front of 220 West 48th Street, the Longacre Theatre. Do you know who built (in 1912) and owned this theater? Harry Frazee. The very man who broke up the Red Sox and sold off so many of their players to the Yankees, including Babe Ruth. What a place to be standing in as the Yankees and Red Sox battled for the Pennant.

In 1935, Clifford Odets’ play Waiting for Lefty debuted at the Longacre. Sox fans were still waiting for Alan Embree, the lefty that Little refused to bring in for Pedro.

It was 12:16 AM, actually October 17, 2003, but since the game started on the 16th, it goes down in history as October 16.
I had my headphones on, and on WCBS 880, I heard Charley Steiner say this:

“There’s a fly ball, deep to left! It’s on its way! There it goes! And the Yankees are going to the World Series! Aaron Boone has hit a home run! The Yankees go to the World Series for the 39th time in their remarkable history! Aaron Boone down the left field line, they are waiting for him at home plate, and now he dives into the scrum! The Yankees win it, 6-5!”

Together, Steiner and John Sterling yell Sterling’s tagline: “Ballgame over! American League Championship Series over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Yankees win!” Steiner: “I’ve always wanted to say that!”

 

The Longacre is at the northern end of Times Square. It sounded like a million car horns went off at once. People poured out of the restaurants and bars in the Square. People were slapping each other on the back, giving high five after high five.
 

By the time I finally got home at around 2 in the morning, my hair was soaked with sweat, my eyes were aching from being up too late, my voice was shot from screaming, my hands throbbed from shaking and high-fiving, my legs and feet throbbed from all the walking.

I’ve never felt better in my life.

Boone joined Tommy Henrich (1949 World Series vs. Brooklyn Dodgers), Mickey Mantle (1964 WS vs. St. Louis Cardinals), Chris Chambliss (1976 ALCS vs. Kansas City Royals), Jim Leyritz (1995 AL Division Series vs. Seattle Mariners) and Bernie Williams (Game 1 of ALCS in both 1996 and 1999) as Yankees who have hit walkoff home runs in postseason play.  And he joined Enos Slaughter (1946 Cardinals), Lou Boudreau (1948 Cleveland Indians), Bob Gibson (1967 Cardinals), Joe Morgan (1975 Cincinnati Reds), and, collectively, the 1978 Yankees (especially Bucky Dent) and the 1986 Mets as Red Sox postseason tormentors.

Jeter said, “We’ve got some ghosts in this Stadium.”

Fortunately, they made the trip across the street.

Clemens, Wells, and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre walk out to the Babe Ruth Monument, and offer the Big Fella some champagne. Clemens slaps the plaque on the tablet, and says, “He’s smiling! He’s smiling! He’s smiling, Mel!”

Grady Little was not smiling. He was fired as Sox manager within days.

The next day’s Daily News headline read, “THE CURSE LIVES.” For the Sox… once again, it was “Wait Till Next Year.”

No, no. Really. They meant it this time.

Has it really been 10 years? Wow. Only 1 player is still with the Yankees: Derek Jeter.  Still with the Red Sox: Only David Ortiz.

Boone got hurt in the off-season, leading the Yankees to trade for Alex Rodriguez. Injuries and a heart ailment ended his career after the 2009 regular season, after which he was an analyst on Fox’ postseason broadcasts as the Yankees won their first Pennant since his walkoff. He now works for ESPN.

A descendant of early American hero Daniel Boone, he is the grandson of 1950s major leaguer Ray Boone, the son of 1970s Phillies catcher Bob Boone, the brother of 1990s-2000s big-leaguer Bret Boone, the husband of Playboy’s Miss October 1998 Laura Cover), and the father of 2 children, neither of whom is anywhere near old enough to make the Boones MLB’s first 4-generation family. The David Bells — Gus, Buddy and David — didn’t beat them to being the first 3-generation, but 4-generation is still up in the air.

A lot can change in ten years.  We now have a black President, Twitter, YouTube, the Kardashians on TV, Snooki, NCIS, Castle, and Kevin Youkilis has become a Red Sock and a Yankee.

And we have seen the Red Sox win 2 World Series, breaking the Curse of the Bambino — and we have seen them exposed as dirty rotten cheaters, and continue to lie about it, meaning we can no longer chant, “NINE-teen-EIGHT-teen! (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap),” but we can still write 1918*.

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.

*

October 15, 1968: Didier Deschamps is born in Bayonne. That’s Bayonne, in the Basque Country of southwestern France; not Bayonne, New Jersey. The midfielder captained France to victory in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. He starred for Nantes, Olympique de Marseille and Bordeaux in his native land; Juventus in Italy, Chelsea in England and Valencia in Spain. He is now manager of France’s national team.

October 15, 1969: Game 4 of the World Series at Shea Stadium, the Mets’ Tom Seaver against the Orioles’ Mike Cuellar, in a rematch of Game 1. It turns out to be a brilliant pitching duel between the Fresno stuff-mixer and the Cuban curve and screwball master.

The Mets were clinging to a 1-0 lead in the top of the 9th, but the O’s get Frank Robinson to third and another runner on first with one out. Brooks Robinson hits a sinking liner to right field, which looks like a game-winning 2-run double. But Ron Swoboda dives and snares it. Frank still manages to tag up and score the tying run, sending the game to extra innings.

In the bottom of the 10th, tied at 1-1, Met manager Gil Hodges gambles on getting a run now or good work from his bullpen and a run at some later point, and sends J.C. Martin up to pinch-hit for Seaver. “Tom Terrific” is normally a good hitter by pitchers’ standards, but this is no time for that. Martin bunts, and Pete Richert, who has relieved Cuellar, tries to throw him out at first, but his throw hits Martin on the wrist. The ball gets away, and Rod Gaspar, who had been on second, comes around to score the winning run.

The Mets are now 1 win away from completing their “Miracle.” The upset is nearly complete, and former Yankee and Met manager Casey Stengel no longer speaks sarcastically when he uses the word he used to describe the awful early Mets: When interviewed about it, he says, “The New York Mets are amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing… ”

*

October 15, 1970: The Orioles avenge their upset loss in last year’s World Series, and claim their 2nd title with a 9-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 5 at Memorial Stadium.

After winning the first three games and then dropping Game 4 – this remains the only time in Series history this has ever happened – the O’s overcome a 3-0 deficit for the 3rd time in the Series. Frank Robinson and Merv Rettenmund each homer and drive in 2 runs. Brooks Robinson‚ who has not only fielded so spectacularly that he has been nicknamed the “Human Vacuum Cleaner‚” but has also gotten several key hits, and fields the final out, easily wins the Series MVP award.

October 15, 1971: Andy Cole is born in Nottingham. One of the first great black soccer players in England, the striker is the second-leading goal scorer in Premier League history – that is, the second-highest in English league play since the first division of “the Football League” became the Premier League in 1992. Too bad he did most of it for Manchester United. He scored 187 times in Premiership play, although this is well behind the record of 260 held by former Newcastle United star Alan Shearer.

October 15, 1972: In his last appearance at a major league ballpark, Jackie Robinson, speaking prior to Game 2 of the World Series, urges baseball to hire a black manager. Jackie will die of a heart attack, brought on by years of weakening by diabetes, 9 days later.

The first African-American skipper will not be hired until 2 years later, just after the conclusion of the 1974 regular season, when the Cleveland Indians hire Frank Robinson to run the team.

The Oakland Athletics win Game 2, 2-1, as Joe Rudi clouts a homer and makes an amazing game-saving catch in the 9th to back up Catfish Hunter’s pitching. Despite being without their best player, the injured Reggie Jackson, the A’s take a 2-game advantage over the Big Red Machine as the Series moves to Oakland.

October 15, 1977: The Yankees beat the Dodgers in Game 4 at Dodger Stadium, 4-2, to take a 3-1 advantage in the World Series. Reggie Jackson doubles and homers‚ and rookie lefthander Ron Guidry pitches a 4-hitter‚ striking out 7.

From August 10, 1977 through April 22, 1979, including the postseason, Guidry went 42-5 with a 1.93 ERA, one of the greatest runs any pitcher will ever have.

October 15, 1978: The Yankees beat the Dodgers in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, 12-2, to take a 3-2 advantage in the World Series. Jim Beattie, the Yanks’ 4th starter who had a 6-9 record in the regular season, pitches the first complete game of his career. Bucky Dent, Mickey Rivers, and Brian Doyle, substituting at second base for the injured Willie Randolph, each collect 3 hits.

After taking the first 2 games in L.A., the Dodgers have been shellshocked by Graig Nettles’ defensive display in Game 3 and Reggie Jackson’s “Sacrifice Thigh” in Game 4, and have not recovered. The Series heads back to California, and the Yankees need to win only 1 of the last 2.

October 15, 1981: The Yankees beat the A’s, 4-0 at the Oakland Coliseum, and sweep the ALCS in 3 straight. Once and future Yankee manager Billy Martin, a native of nearby West Berkeley, California, had previously played for the Oakland Oaks’ 1948 Pacific Coast League champion under Casey Stengel, and now, once again, he had revived the fortunes of his hometown team, saving the A’s from total incompetence and irrelevance, taking them from 108 losses the year before he arrived to second place in his first season to the AL West title in his second.

This was the 5th time Billy had managed a team into the postseason, and with the 4th different team: Minnesota in 1969, Detroit in ’72, the Yankees in ’76 and ’77, and he came close to making it 6 times with 5 different teams, with Texas in ’74.

When introduced before Game 1 of this series at Yankee Stadium, Billy got a huge ovation. That made him very happy. George Steinbrenner couldn’t be reached for comment. But in this series, the Yankees just had too much for the A’s, and took their 33rd Pennant — the A’s, if you count their Philadelphia years, are 2nd among AL teams, with 12.

For reasons partly, but not entirely, his fault, Billy would never manage in the postseason again. And, for reasons partly, but not entirely, Billy’s fault, the Yankees’ 34th Pennant would not be soon in coming. Today, the total stands at Yankees 40, A’s 16. (Red Sox? 12. If you count the last 2 *.)

During this Game 3 at the Oakland Coliseum, “professional cheerleader” Krazy George Henderson, a native of nearby San Jose, leads what is thought to be the first audience wave. “And anybody who says I didn’t is a stinkin’ liar,” he would later say. Robb Weller, later to co-host Entertainment Tonight, would say he didn’t, claiming to have invented the Wave himself, at a University of Washington football game.  But the game in question happened 2 weeks later, so I’m inclined to believe Krazy George.

Still a “free agent” cheerleader, Krazy George once game to a Trenton Thunder game I was at, and we won. I told him, “George, stick around, we need the wins!” To be honest, though (and I didn’t tell him this), I’ve always hated the Wave, found it juvenile.

*

October 15, 1986: Desperate to win Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at the Astrodome, the Mets do not want to face Houston pitcher Mike Scott – a Met-killer both as a Met and an Astro – in a Game 7, especially in the Astrodome, where Scott is far better than he is on the road.

The Mets use that sense of desperation to score 3 runs in the top of the 9th to force extra innings. In the 14th, the Mets make their first bid to win. After Gary Carter opens with a single, a walk to Darryl Strawberry puts two runners on with nobody out. After Knight forces Carter at third, Wally Backman drives a single to right. When Kevin Bass’ throw to the plate sails high over Alan Ashby’s head to the screen, Strawberry scores.

But with one out in the bottom of the 14th and the Houston fans with their heads in their hands, Billy Hatcher shocks everyone with a line-drive home run off the left field foul pole. It was the first earned run allowed by the Mets bullpen in the entire series. Hatcher went 3-for-7 in the game, and his homer meant the Astros would be kept alive for at least one more inning.

Both teams fail to score in the 15th, and the game goes to the 16th inning, the most innings in baseball’s postseason history at that time.  The Mets appear to take control of the game once again, this time coming up with three runs in the top half of the inning. The rally begins with Strawberry receiving a gift double when Billy Hatcher and Bill Doran misplay his towering fly ball with one out. When Knight followsd with a single to right, a poor throw to the plate by Kevin Bass allows the tiebreaking run to score, just as it had in the 14th. Jeff Calhoun then relieves Aurelio Lopez and uncorks a walk, two wild pitches, and a single by Lenny Dykstra to bring in two more runs, putting the Mets up 7–4.

But as they had in the 14th, the Astros refuse to go down without a fight in the bottom of the 16th. Jesse Orosco strikes out Craig Reynolds to open the inning, but a walk and two singles later, Houston has a run in and the tying run on base. Orosco induces Denny Walling to hit into a force play at second for the second out, but Glenn Davis singles home another run, bringing the Astros within 7-6.  The tying run is on second, the winning run on first – a run that Met fans, freaking out over the possibility of facing Scott in the Dome in Game 7, and their magnificent 108-win season, their “inevitable” World Championship, going down in flames.

But Orosco strikes out Kevin Bass, ending the game. He throws his glove in the air, foreshadowing the end of the World Series. As the pitcher of record when the Mets took the final lead, he is was awarded the victory, marking the first time in postseason history that a reliever won three games in a series.

Despite a .189 batting average, the lowest average ever recorded by a winning team in a postseason series, the Mets have their 3rd National League Pennant, and it remains the only one they’ve ever clinched on the road.

In fact, to this day, 11 of the Mets’ 15 clinchings have been at Shea Stadium: 1969 Division (beating the St. Louis Cardinals to eliminate the Chicago Cubs), 1969 Pennant (Atlanta Braves), 1969 World Championship (Baltimore Orioles), 1973 Pennant (Cincinnati Reds), 1986 Division (Chicago Cubs to eliminate Philadelphia Phillies), 1986 World Series (Boston Red Sox), 1988 Division (beating and eliminating Pittsburgh Pirates), 1999 Division Series (Arizona Diamondbacks), 2000 Wild Card (beating the Braves to eliminate the Los Angeles Dodgers), 2000 Division Series (San Francisco Giants), and 2006 Division (beating the Florida Marlins to eliminate the Phillies).

Their only road clinchings have been: 1973 Division (at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, eliminating the Cardinals), the aforementioned 1986 Pennant, 1999 Wild Card (at Riverfront Stadium in a play-in game against the Reds), and 2006 Division Series (at Dodger Stadium against, well, the Dodgers).

My Grandma watched Major League Baseball for about 70 years, first as a Dodger fan in Queens and Newark, then as a Met fan in the New Jersey towns of Belleville, Nutley and Brick. I asked her once, what was her favorite game of all time. This is the one she chose, without hesitation.  I can’t say that I blame her. It wasn’t a “heavyweight title fight,” with big punches going back and forth. It was more like a middleweight or welterweight fight, with lots of jabs, until finally one fighter finished off a “death of a thousand cuts” and the other fell. It was an epic.

The same day, after being down three games to one in the ALCS, the Red Sox completed one the greatest comebacks in Playoff history by defeating the California Angels 8-1 to win the American League Pennant.  The game caps yet another heartbreaking failure for Angels skipper Gene Mauch‚ who in Game 5 was one strike away from reaching his first World Series in 25 seasons as a major league manager. He had previously been a part of the Phillies’ collapse in 1964, a tough last-weekend Division loss for the Montreal Expos in 1980, and the Angels’ 2-games-to-0 choke against the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982. No manager ever managed longer without winning a Pennant. After the game‚ second baseman Bobby Grich retired after a fine career with the Orioles and Angels.

*

October 15, 1989: Wayne Gretzky scores a goal for the Los Angeles Kings for his 1,851st career point, surpassing Gordie Howe to become the NHL’s all-time leading points scorer. The goal comes with 53 seconds left in regulation, tying the game against his former team, the Edmonton Oilers, a game the Kings go on to win in overtime.

October 15, 1997: The Baltimore Orioles waste another magnificent effort by Mike Mussina, as the Cleveland Indians score the game’s only run on Tony Fernandez’s home run in the top of the 12th to win‚ 1-0. Mussina hurls 8 shutout innings and allows just 1 hit‚ while walking 2 and striking out 10. Charles Nagy does not give up a run in 7 1/3 innings for the Indians‚ while surrendering 9 hits‚ as the O’s leave 14 batters on base.

The pitcher who gave up the Pennant-winning homer to Fernandez? Armando Benitez. It is not the last time he will mess up a postseason game, but it is the last time he will do so for the Orioles. The O’s now had a 1-5 record in postseason games played at Camden Yards.  Having finally gotten back to the postseason in 2012, that record now stands at 2-6.

October 15, 1999: Despite his guidance of the team to 5 straight AL Central titles and 2 Pennants, the only postseason berths the team has had since 1954, the Cleveland Indians fire manager Mike Hargrove.

October 15, 2001: The Yankees defeat the A’s‚ 5-3‚ to move into the ALCS. In doing so‚ they become the 1st team ever to win a best-of-5 series after losing the first 2 games at home. Derek Jeter gets a pair of hits to break Pete Rose’s postseason record with 87. David Justice hits a pinch-hit homer for the Yanks.

They will face the Seattle Mariners, whose 116-win season nearly went down the drain against the Indians, but they came back from a 2-games-to-0 deficit. Not the biggest choke in Indians’ history, but bad enough.

October 15, 2003, 10 years ago: The Florida Marlins complete a stunning comeback by defeating the Chicago Cubs‚ 9-6 in Game 7 at Wrigley Field‚ to win their 3rd straight game and the NLCS.

The Cubs seemed, at first, not to be affected by their Game 6 disaster, as homers by pitcher (!) Kerry Wood and aggrieved left fielder Moises Alou give them a 5-3 lead. But Florida bounces back to take the lead on Luis Castillo’s RBI single in the 6th. Miguel Cabrera hits a 3-run homer for the Marlins.

Catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who wins his first Pennant after going 1-9 in postseason games with the Texas Rangers, is named the NLCS Most Valuable Player. (Cough-steroids-cough, cough-Bartman-cough-absolved-cough)

Meanwhile, Game 6 of the ALCS is played at Yankee Stadium, as the Hundred-Year War builds toward a crescendo. The Red Sox rally for 3 runs in the 7th inning to come from behind and pull out a 9-6 victory over the Yankees to send it to a Game 7. Boston slugs 16 hits‚ including 4 by Nomar Garciaparra‚ and gets HRs from Jason Varitek and Trot Nixon.

October 15, 2005: Jason Collier, center for the Atlanta Hawks dies at age 28, of an enlarged heart. He remains the last active NBA player to die.

October 15, 2007: The Colorado Rockies beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 6-4 at Coors Field in Denver, and complete a sweep for their first National League Pennant. Matt Holliday’s 3-run homer makes the difference.

No team had ever swept their way to the World Series since the Division Series began in 1995. Colorado was also the first team to have a 7-0 start to a postseason since the 1976 Cincinnati Reds finished the playoffs 7-0 sweeping both the LCS and World Series. The Rockies now have a chance to match or beat the 1999 Yankees’ achievement of 11-1, the best postseason record since the LCS went to a best-4-out-of-7 in 1984. They have now won 21 of their last 22 games. But it will be their last win of the season, as they are, themselves, swept in the World Series by the Boston Red Sox * .

October 15, 2008: In Game 5 of the NLCS, the visiting Phillies beat the Dodgers, 5-1, to win their first pennant since 1993. Southpaw Cole Hamels, the series MVP, hurls his third postseason gem and Jimmy Rollins starts Philadelphia attack with a leadoff home run to start the game.

October 11 Baseball Anniversaries

October 11, 1898: The Boston Beaneaters beat the Washington Senators, 8-2, in Washington, and win their 2nd straight National League Pennant — their 5th in the last 8 years, their 8th overall, and their 12th if you count their days as the Boston Red Stockings of the National Association.

Future Hall-of-Famers on the 1898 Beaneaters include outfielders Hugh Duffy and Billy Hamilton, 3rd baseman Jimmy Collins, pitchers Kid Nichols and Vic Willis, and manager Frank Selee.

For the team that will, by 1912, be known as the Boston Braves, this is the end of a golden age. They had finished 1st in their League 12 times in their first 28 seasons, effectively dominating professional baseball the way no team would again until the Yankees started winning Pennants in 1921. But in their last 54 seasons, they would win just 2 more Pennants.

But at least they would still exist, and still do, if not in the same city (they’re in Atlanta now). The Senators would be contracted out of existence after the 1899 season, opening the door to a new team of the same name in the American League in 1901.

The last survivor of the Beaneaters’ 1890s dynasty was Duffy, who played all 3 outfield positions, and who lived on until 1954, spending the last few years of his life still involved in Boston baseball, as an executive with the Red Sox.

*

October 11, 1899: Eddie Dyer is born in Morgan City, Louisiana. Like so many mediocre players, he became a successful manager, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to the 1946 World Championship, having played on their 1926 World Championship team.

October 11, 1913, 100 years ago: New York Giants manager John McGraw loses his 3rd straight World Series – something that, a century years later, no other team, let alone manager, has done since, although his former Baltimore Orioles teammate, Hughie Jennings, did it with the 1907-08-09 Detroit Tigers.

In Game 5‚ Christy Mathewson is good‚ but his fellow future Hall-of-Famer Eddie Plank is better: His 2-hitter wins the 3-1 finale. Plank retires the first 13 batters‚ bettering the mark of 12 set by the Cubs’ Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown on Ocotber 9‚ 1906. It is the A’s 3rd title, all in the last 4 years.

This turns out to be the last postseason appearance for Mathewson, who, at this point, is identified with the World Series as much as anyone, even though his team is only 1-for-4 in them.

October 11, 1925: Elmore Leonard is born in New Orleans, but grew up in Detroit and was a hard-core Tigers fan.  Or, perhaps I should say, “hard-boiled” instead, as he was the writer of hard-boiled fiction such as Get Shorty, one of several of his novels to be turned into popular movies.  He died earlier this year.

October 11, 1943, 70 years ago: The Yankees defeat the Cardinals, 2-0 at Sportsman’s Park, to take Game 5 and the World Series. It is the Yankees’ 10th World Championship. It will be 2006, and the Cardinals themselves, before another team wins a 10th World Series.

October 11, 1944: Mike Fiore is born in Brooklyn. He was basically a journeyman, but on April 13, 1969, he hit the first home run in Kansas City Royals history, off John “Blue Moon” Odom of the Oakland Athletics – appropriately enough, the team whose move out of Kansas City had made the Royals possible.

*

October 11, 1946: In one of the rare trades that works out well for both teams, the Yankees trade Joe Gordon, Allie Clark and Ed Bockman to the Cleveland Indians for Allie Reynolds.  Gordon, a future Hall-of-Famer, and Clark, a native of South Amboy, New Jersey, would help the Indians win the 1948 World Series.

Dan Daniel, the legendary sports columnist of the New York World-Telegram, will later report that Yankee GM Larry MacPhail and newly-hired manager Bucky Harris originally wanted another Cleveland pitcher, Red Embree. But, Daniel said, Joe DiMaggio advised them to take Reynolds, a part-Cherokee pitcher from Oklahoma, whose record with (perhaps appropriately) the Indians had not been good, but DiMaggio had never been able to hit him well.

The Yankee Clipper guessed well, as “the Superchief” (Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen nicknamed him that not just for his heritage but because his fastball reminded Allen of the Santa Fe Railroad’s fast Chicago-to-Los Angeles train “the Super Chief”) began a portion of his career that put him in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park. Had he come along 30 years later, with his fastball and his attitude, he might have been a Hall of Fame closer.

It is around this time that, allegedly, MacPhail and Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey had been drinking (as both men liked to do — a lot), and wrote out on a cocktail napkin an agreement to trade their biggest stars for each other, Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams.

At first glance, it looked like a great idea: DiMaggio, a righthanded hitter, hated hitting into Yankee Stadium’s left- and center-field “Death Valley,” while at Fenway Park he would have the nice close left-field wall — whose advertisements would come down in this off-season, debuting nice and clean and green for 1947, giving rise to the nickname “the Green Monster.” While Williams, hitting to a right field that was 380 feet straightaway at Fenway, would flourish with Yankee Stadium’s “short porch.”

But it wouldn’t have been a good trade. DiMaggio wouldn’t have been happy in the smaller city of Boston, and he would have forced his brother Dom to move out of center field. And Williams, who had enough problems with the media in Boston, would have been scorched by the press of much bigger New York.

Neither man would have been the best; DiMaggio might have outright retired after his 1948 heel spurs (at age 34), and Williams might have said the hell with it at the end of his Korean War service in 1953 and retired (at 35).

Why did the trade not happen? Supposedly, in the morning, Yawkey sobered up and decided that Williams was more valuable than DiMaggio. (Yeah, right: Ted was a great hitter; Joe was a great hitter AND a great fielder.) So he called up MacPhail and demanded a throw-in. A rookie left fielder who could also catch a little. MacPhail refused, and the deal collapsed. The rookie’s name was Larry Berra. Yes, Yogi, although the nickname he already had was not yet widely known.

*

October 11, 1947: Thomas Boswell is born in Washington, D.C. The longtime columnist for the Washington Post helped keep alive the flame of baseball fandom in the Nation’s Capital, never ceasing in his belief that the city needed to get Major League Baseball back after Bob Short moved the Senators to Texas in 1971.

He spoke nobly in Ken Burns’ Baseball miniseries about Washington Senators legend Walter Johnson, and poignantly about the fall of Pete Rose.  However, his job also led him to cover the team then closest to D.C., and that was the Baltimore Orioles (which led Burns to ask him about O’s manager Earl Weaver).  Covering the Orioles allowed Boswell to become part of the propaganda machine for Cal Ripken.

His books include Why Time Begins On Opening Day, and How Life Imitates the World Series. The former is sunny and optimistic, like Opening Day itself; the latter is more serious, suggesting the pressure that comes with October play.

*

October 11, 1948: At Braves Field in Boston, the Cleveland Indians defeat the Braves behind “rookie” 30-year-old knuckleballer Gene Bearden, 4-3, and take Game 6 and win the World Series.

It is their 2nd title, the first coming in 1920. It has been 63 years, and despite some agonizing close calls in 1952, ’54, ’59, ’95, ’97, ‘98 and 2007, and nearly two generations of never even being in a Pennant race from 1960 to 1993, the Indians have never won another World Series.

But at least they’re still in Cleveland, despite a number of fears of having to move in the 1960s, ’70s and ‘80s.  In contrast, despite all their success in the 19th Century and winning Pennants in 1914 and 1948, this was the last late-season meaningful game the Boston franchise of the National League would ever play. The Braves would be in Milwaukee by the next time they reached the Series.

Surviving players from these teams, 65 years later: Indians Al Rosen and Eddie Robinson, and Braves Alvin Dark and Clint Conatser.

*

October 11, 1964: Al Downing is cruising through the first 5 innings of Game 4 of the World Series, but he loads the bases in the 6th, and Ken Boyer, the Cardinal Captain and 3rd baseman who will soon be named NL MVP, hits a grand slam. The 4 runs his hit drives in are all the runs the Cards get, but that’s all they need, as the Cards win, 4-3, and tie up the Series at 2 games apiece.

*

October 11, 1967: Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Smith and Rico Petrocelli hit the only back-to-back-to-back home runs in World Series history. Petrocelli adds another, and the Red Sox defeat the Cardinals, 8-4 at Fenway Park, and send the World Series to a deciding Game 7.

Cardinal manager Red Schoendienst, himself a World Series winner as a player with the Cardinals of 1946 and the Milwaukee Braves of 1957, announces his choice to pitch Game 7: Bob Gibson, on 3 days rest. Sox manager Dick Williams, knowing that his ace, Jim Lonborg, would have only 2 days rest, announces his starter to the Boston media: “Lonborg and champagne.” Those words are put on the front page of the Boston Globe the next day, and it ticks the Cards off.  And the last thing anyone wants to see in a World Series game is a ticked-off Bob Gibson.

Also on this day, former Dodger star Gil Hodges, who married a Brooklyn woman, Joan Lombardi, and stayed in the Borough after the Dodgers moved, leaves the managerial post of the Washington Senators to become the manager of the Mets. The Mets do compensate the Senators. Hodges will only manage the Mets for 4 seasons before a heart attack claims his life, but one of those seasons will be the Miracle of ’69.

*

October 11, 1969: As expected, the New York Mets lose the first World Series game in franchise history, as Don Buford hits a leadoff home run off Met ace Tom Seaver, and the Orioles win, 4-1. But it will be the last game the O’s win in the Series.

Fast facts with which you can amaze your friends: The Mets have been in 4 World Series, and have never won Game 1.  They won Game 2 in 1969 and ’73; Game 3 in ’69, ’86 and 2000; Game 4 in ’69, ’73 and ’86; Game 5 in ’69 and ’73; Game 6 in ’86; and Game 7 in ’86.  They lost Game 1 in 1969, ’73, ’86 and 2000; Game 2 in ’86 and 2000; Game 3 in ’73; Game 4 in 2000; Game 5 in ’86 and 2000; Game 6 in ’73; and Game 7 in ’73.

*

October 11, 1970: The love affair between Boston Red Sox fans and local boy Tony Conigliaro comes to an end – or, as it turned out, it comes to an an interruption – as the Sox trade him to the California Angels for 2nd baseman Doug Griffin.

Despite a courageous comeback from his beaning, his eyesight had begun to deteriorate again, and he was making a nuisance of himself within the organization. There was also dissension between him and his brother and teammate, Billy Conigliaro.

The fans, knowing little about this, were shocked, but the team decided that Tony C had to go. He would be back for the Sox, twice, first as a player and then as an interviewee for a broadcast position, but his playing career would end with a fizzle, and his useful life with a tragedy.

October 11, 1971: Just one year to the day after trading Tony C, the Red Sox trade his brother Billy, and the pitching hero of the 1967 “Impossible Dream” Pennant, Jim Lonborg, who hadn’t been the same since a skiing accident following that season. They are sent to the Milwaukee Brewers, along with 1st baseman George Scott.

Although Lonborg turned out to still have something left, as he went on to help the Phillies make the Playoffs 3 times, letting go of Scott turned out to be the bigger mistake, as they really could have used his bat in 1972, ’73, ’74 and ’75.

And what did the Sox get in this trade? Pitchers Marty Pattin and Lew Krausse, and outfielder Tommy Harper. Harper would be a good hitter and baserunner, but nothing Earth-shaking. Pattin would also not develop into much in Boston, although he would become a good pitcher later in Kansas City. (He also turned out to be the last member of the 1969 Seattle Pilots still active in the majors.) Krausse was pretty much finished.

By the time the Sox won the Pennant again in 1975, all 3 of them were gone, and after losing the World Series that year, the Sox would trade 1st baseman Cecil Cooper to the Brewers to get Scott back. Trading him away was a mistake, and, considering how fat Scott got and how good Cooper got, getting Scott back wasn’t a good idea, either.

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October 11, 1972: The Pittsburgh Pirates lead the Cincinnati Reds 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th inning of the final game of the NLCS at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. But Johnny Bench hits a home run off Dave Guisti, over the left-field fence to tie the game‚ over the head of the Pirates’ legendary right fielder, Roberto Clemente, who had joined the 3,000 Hit Club just 2 weeks earlier. The Reds collect two more singles, and Bob Moose, who had come in to relieve Guisti, throws a wild pitch, and the Reds win, 4-3.

Not since Jack Chesbro in 1904 had a wild pitch decided a Pennant, and not since Johnny Miljus in the 1927 World Series had a wild pitch ended a postseason series. By a weird coincidence, Miljus threw his wild pitch as a Pirate, and Chesbro had also pitched for them before coming to the Highlanders/Yankees.

The Reds, taking their 2nd Pennant in 3 years, would go on to lose the World Series to the Oakland A’s. The Pirates, having won their 3rd straight NL East title but having only 1 Pennant to show for it, would lose something far greater: A plane crash on New Year’s Eve would make this game the last one that Clemente would ever play.

October 11, 1973, 40 years ago: Dmitri Dell Young is born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and grows up in Oxnard, California. The slugging 1st baseman known as “Da Meathook” helped the St. Louis Cardinals reach the postseason in 1996, although personal problems and diabetes led the Detroit Tigers to release him in 2006 before they could win that season’s AL Pennant. He is now retired, and runs a charity in Southern California.  His brother Delmon Young is now with the Tampa Bay Rays, afte rhaving been a key cog for the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.

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October 11, 1975: Saturday Night premieres on NBC. After this first season, it will be renamed Saturday Night Live. The first cast, “the Not Ready for Prime Time Players,” includes John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin and Garrett Morris — but not, as is commonly believed, Bill Murray, who replaced Chase after one season.

The first guest host is George Carlin, who begins his monologue with a whacked-out version of the Lord’s Prayer, and goes on to do his now-classic routine “Baseball and Football.” (This version is from 1990, from the State Theater in New Brunswick, New Jersey.)

Not long before Carlin died, someone took a poll to determine the greatest standup comedians of all time. Carlin came in second. Coming in first was Richard Pryor, who, like Carlin was at the peak of his powers in the mid-Seventies.
A month into SNL’s run, Pryor was asked to host the show. But, nervous that he would issue some four-letter words — they didn’t seem as nervous about such language coming from Carlin, creator of the bit “Seven Words You Can Never Use On Television,” none of which he used when he hosted — the show was not quite “Live, from New York.” They used a seven-second delay, in case they had to bleep anything out. They did. Ever since, even SNL hasn’t been totally live.

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October 11, 1977: Ty Allen Wigginton is born in San Diego. One of several bright young stars for the New York Mets who never did quite pan out, the utility player now plays for the Cardinals.

On this same day, the Yankees win Game 1 of the World Series in 12 innings, 4-3, as Paul Blair singles home Willie Randolph. And, apparently, the scene shown taking place before that game in the miniseries The Bronx Is Burning actually happened: George Steinbrenner really did leave 20 tickets to be given to Joe DiMaggio at the Yankee Stadium will-call window for this game, but the tickets weren’t at the window, and there really was a brouhaha about it, before Joe and George smoothed things out, allowing Joe to throw out the first ball before Game 6.

October 11, 1978: The Dodgers go 2 games up with a 4-3 win in Game 2. Ron Cey drives in all the Dodger runs, and Reggie Jackson does the same for the Yankees. But Bob Welch saves Burt Hooton’s win in dramatic fashion by striking out Jackson in the 9th inning. The only teams that have ever come back from 2 games to 0 to win the Series have been the ’55 Dodgers and the ’56 Yankees.

October 11, 1980: In one of the most exciting and controversial games in playoff history‚ the Phillies tie the NLCS at 2 games apiece with a 10-inning 5-3 win over the Astros at the Astrodome. In the 4th inning‚ Houston is deprived of an apparent triple play when the umpires rule that pitcher Vern Ruhle had trapped Garry Maddox’s soft line drive. In the 6th‚ Houston loses a run when Gary Woods leaves the base early on Luis Pujols’ would-be sacrifice fly. (Luis, a future big-league manager, is no relation to Albert Pujols.)

October 11, 1981: The Yankees won the 1st 2 games of their strike-forced Playoff series for the AL East title in Milwaukee, but the Brewers, playing in their first postseason series (and the first by any Milwaukee team since the ’59 Braves), won the next 2 at Yankee Stadium, forcing a deciding Game 5.

This led to a postgame tirade by George Steinbrenner in the locker room, lambasting the players, telling them how they had let him down, and how they had let New York down. Trying to play peacemaker, Bobby Murcer said, “Now is not the time, George, now is not the time.” George insisted that it was the time, and continued to rant, until catcher Rick Cerone stood up and told The Boss, “Fuck you, George.” Stunned, George left the room.

So on this night, back-to-back home runs by Reggie Jackson and Oscar Gamble, and a later homer by, yes, Cerone give the Yanks a 7-3 victory over the Brewers, and the series. The Yanks will move on to face the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS. The Brewers, however, will be back.

On this same day, the Playoff for the NL East is won by Steve Rogers. No, not Captain America: This one doesn’t even work in America. Steve Rogers of the Montreal Expos drives in 2 runs and shuts out the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Expos win, 3-0, in Game 5 of the series.  In 45 seasons of play, this remains the only postseason series ever won by the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals franchise.

October 11, 1986: Former Detroit Tigers star Norm Cash dies when he slips off his boat in Lake Michigan, hits his head, and falls into the lake and drowns. One of the most beloved Tigers of all time, a former batting champion, a man who had slugged 377 home runs, and a member of their 1968 World Champions, he was only 51.

October 11, 1998: Game 5 of the ALCS at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, and feeling before the game was that the winner of this game would take the series. The Yankees once again take the early lead with a three-run 1st inning, but the Indians respond. A leadoff homer by Kenny Lofton and a sacrifice fly by Manny Ramírez make it a one-run game. Paul O’Neill singles home a run in the 2nd to make it 4–2 Yankees. Chili Davis homers in the fourth to put the Yankees ahead by three, but Jim Thome hits his 3rd homer of the series in the bottom of the 6th to make it a two-run game.

Chuck Knoblauch, still fighting for redemption after his Game 2 “brainlauch,” starts a key 4-6-3 double play in the 8th inning for the 2nd night in a row. David Wells, who claimed to have heard Indian fans insulting his dead mother all through the game, and the Yankee bullpen hold off any further Indians scoring, and the Yankees are one win away from the World Series, as the series goes back to The Bronx.

October 11, 2003, 10 years ago: Pedro Martinez commits 3 felonies: Assault with a deadly weapon on Karim Garcia, conspiracy to commit murder against Jorge Posada, and assault (and possibly attempted murder) on Don Zimmer. In spite of this, he is not arrested. The felonies, after all, occurred at Fenway Park, not Yankee Stadium. The Yankees beat the Red Sox, 3-2, Roger Clemens outpitching Martinez, and take a 2-games-to-1 lead in the ALCS.

October 11, 2004: The Houston Astros win a postseason series for the first time in their 43-season history, defeating the Braves‚ 12-3‚ to take their Division Series. Carlos Beltran is the hero for Houston with 4 hits‚ including 2 HRs‚ and 5 RBIs.

October 11, 2006: Cory Lidle, newly acquired by the Yankees as pitching help for the stretch drive and the postseason, dies when his single-engine plane crashes into an Upper East Side apartment high-rise.  He was 34.  Killed with him is his pilot instructor, Tyler Stanger.

That night, the Mets are scheduled to open the NLCS against the Cardinals at Shea Stadium, but the rain that falls shortly after Lidle’s crash gets the game postponed. It’s just as well. This, of course, is the only season since 1988 in which the Mets have been playing after the Yankees have been eliminated.

October 11, 2009: In the final baseball game to be played at the Metrodome, the Yankees advance to the the ALCS by defeating the host Twins, 4-1. A costly 8th inning baserunning blunder by Nick Punto ends Minnesota’s hopes of a comeback. Alex Rodriguez went 5-for-11 with 2 homers and six RBIs in the 3-game Division Series sweep.

Also on this day, Jonathan Papelbon, who had never given up a run in any of his previous 26 postseason innings, allows 2 inherited runners to score in the 8th, and yields another 3 runs in the 9th, giving the Los Angeles Angels, who trailed 5-1 going into the 6th inning, a 7-6 victory over the Red Sox. The Halos’ comeback victory — or, if you prefer, the Red Sox’ characteristic choke — at Fenway completes a 3-game sweep of ALDS over a team which historically had been their nemeses, having been eliminated from the Playoffs in their past 4 post-season encounters with Boston. The Angels will now face the Yankees for the Pennant.

October 10 Has Been a VERY Eventful Day In Baseball History

October 10, 1871: Octavius Valentine Catto is murdered in Philadelphia.  He was an abolitionist and educator, and also an early black baseball player.  In 1867, his Philly-based Pythian Base Ball Club (the sport’s name was usually spelled as 2 words in the 19th Century) played its first season and went undefeated.  In 1869, in one of the first games between an all-black team and an all-white team, the Pythians defeated the Philadelphia City Items, a team sponsored by a newspaper.

October 10, 1871 was Election Day in Philadelphia.  Like most black men, Octavius Catto was a Republican, of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.  White Protestants were mainly English and Republican.  White Catholics were mainly Irish and Democratic.  Aside from the question of helping the poor and immigrants, it was then the Republicans who were the liberals and the Democrats who were the conservatives.  This was a long time ago.

Catto had been harassed on the way to voting, and, anticipating this, he had a gun on him.  So did Frank Kelly, a Democrat who, as far as I can determine, did not previously know Catto.  Kelly shot Catto 3 times at 9th & South Streets.

Kelly was acquitted of the murder.  Apparently, despite being a Northern city, in Philadelphia a white man could get away with murdering a black man.  Catto was just 32.

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October 10, 1893: Lipman “Lip” Pike dies of heart disease at age 48. He was one of the first baseball stars, a 2nd baseman despite being a lefthanded thrower. In 1866, playing for the first team to have the name “Philadelphia Athletics,” he was revealed to have been paid to play, making him (or so it once was thought) the first openly professional baseball player.

On June 14, 1870, he was a member of the Brooklyn Atlantics team that ended the 93-game winning streak of the Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball’s first openly professional team, in what is often regarded as the first truly great game in the history of professional baseball.  (Yes, “openly” suggests that, until the Red Stockings, being paid to play sports was considered a deviant, perverse, repulsive lifestyle. Until the Red Stockings and others proved that “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”)

When the National League was founded in 1876, Lip Pike played for the St. Louis Brown Stockings (not to be confused with any later St. Louis baseball team), and this made him the first Jewish player in Major League Baseball. Although home runs were rare in those days, he did lead the National Association, the first professional league, in 1873 with the Baltimore Canaries, and the NL in 1877 with the Cincinnati Reds (not the team founded with that name in 1882 that is still around today).

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October 10, 1904: For the first time, and not for the last, an American League Pennant comes down to New York and Boston. The last day of the season features a doubleheader at Hilltop Park, at 165th Street & Broadway in Manhattan’s Washington Heights. The New York Highlanders, forerunners of the Yankees, need to sweep the Boston Pilgrims, forerunners of the Red Sox, in order to win. Otherwise, Boston will win it. Hilltop Park seats about 16,000, but there’s perhaps 30,000 jammed into the confines, including thousands of standees roped off in the massive outfield area.

Pitching the first game for the Highlanders is Jack Chesbro, who has already won 41 games, which remains the single-season record for pitching from 60 feet, 6 inches away. With the score 2-2 in the top of the 9th and Lou Criger on 3rd base, Chesbro throws a spitball – then a legal pitch – but it’s a wild pitch, going over the head of his catcher, Jim “Deacon” McGuire, and Criger scores the Pennant-winning run. The Yankees win the nightcap, 1-0, but it’s meaningless, as the Red Sox-to-be win the Pennant.

But, faced with the prospect of losing a postseason series not just to the champions of what they view as “an inferior league,” but to the other New York team, the National League Champion New York Giants refuse to participate in the World Series. The 1904 World Series is called off, and it will be 90 years before such a thing happens again – over a very different kind of stupidity, and a more egregious one at that.

Today, over a century later, the Red Sox organization does not claim a forfeit win and call themselves the 1904 World Champions, which would give them 8 World Championships as of the 2013 ALCS, rather than 7. But they might as well — after all, who can stop them, and how? The Giants, however, were so shamed in the press for chickening out that they agreed that they would participate in any future World Series – and they participated in 14 before moving to San Francisco, their total now 19. And yet, the plaque at Polo Grounds Towers lists the Giants as World Champions for 1904, as well as for 1905, 1921, 1922, 1933 and 1954 — but not for 1888 and 1889, possibly because those titles were not won at that location, but rather at a different location with a facility called the Polo Grounds.

After 1904, the Pilgrims/Red Sox would win 4 more Pennants in the next 14 seasons. The Highlanders/Yankees would have to wait another 17 years before winning their 1st, but then, they would pretty much keep winning them for the next 43 years.

John Dwight Chesbro, a.k.a. Happy Jack, won 41 games that season, and 198 in his Hall of Fame career for the Pirates and the Yankees (and, for the very last game of his career, the North Adams, Massachusetts native came home and pitched and lost one for the Red Sox). Sadly, he is mainly remembered not for all the games he won, but for one he lost, basically for one bad pitch that he threw.  He died in 1931, age 57.

A shocking percentage of the 1904 Pilgrims died young, what with that being the pre-antibiotic era — although the man named Denton True Young, a.k.a. Cy Young, lived to be 87.  The last survivor of the 1904 Pilgrims, and the 1903 team that won the first World Series, was shortstop Freddy Parent, a New England native, from Biddeford, Maine, who lived on until 1972, at the age of 96.  The last surviving 1904 Highlander was 2nd baseman Jimmy Williams — no relation to later Red Sox manager Jimy Williams — who died in 1965.

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October 10, 1920: Perhaps the most eventful game in World Series history unfolds at League Park in Cleveland. In the bottom of the 1st, Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Burleigh Grimes – one of 17 pitchers who will soon be allowed to continue throwing the spitball because it was their “bread-and-butter pitch,” or what we would call today his “out pitch,” though the pitch will be outlawed for everyone else – gives up hits to Charlie Jamieson, Bill Wambsganss, and Indians center fielder/manager/legend Tris Speaker. Tribe outfielder Elmer Smith then hits the first grand slam in Series history.

In the 3rd‚ Jim Bagby comes up with 2 on, and crashes another Grimes delivery for a 3-run home run‚ the first ever by a pitcher in Series play. In the 5th, with Pete Kilduff on second and Otto Miller on first, Dodger reliever Clarence Mitchell hits a line drive at 2nd baseman Wambsganss. One out. “Wamby” takes a couple of steps and tages Kilduff before he can get back to 2nd base.  Two out. Then he tags the off-and-running Miller before he can see what’s happening and get back to 1st base. Three out. An unassisted triple play. And, 92 years later, this remains the only triple play in World Series history.

The Indians win, 8-1, and their 1st appearance in the World Series will soon be a successful one. But Wambsganss, suddenly nationally famous, will later lament that he had a pretty good career (and a case can be made that he was right), but that, for most people, he might as well have been born the day before this game and died the day after.  As it turns out, “Wamby” dies on December 8, 1985, in a suburb of Cleveland, where he’d lived all his life, making him 89 years old, and the last survivor of the Indians’ 1st World Championship team.

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October 10, 1923, 90 years ago: For the first time, the brand-new Yankee Stadium hosts a World Series game. The Yankees take a quick 3-0 lead over the 2-time defending champion Giants, but Heinie Groh triples in 2 runs in a 4-run 3rd that drives Waite Hoyt to cover. A 4-4 tie is broken in the top of the 9th by the Giants, when a blast by Giant outfielder Charles Dillon Stengel – yes, that Casey Stengel – rolls to the outfield wall. The sore-legged veteran hobbles around the bases, having lost a shoe while running, to score the winning run against reliever Bullet Joe Bush before 55‚307 spectators, a record for a Series game at the time.

This is also the first Series to be broadcast on a nationwide radio network. Graham McNamee‚ aided by baseball writers taking turns‚ is at the mike. Grantland Rice had broadcast an earlier World Series‚ but not nationally. Rice was on hand, though, and wrote a column about Stengel’s inside-the-park job, opening with the immortal words, “This is the way old Casey ran.” Old? The man who would one day be known as “the Ol’ Perfesser” wasn’t yet that old: He was 33, younger than a lot of great players, then and now.

October 10, 1924: With the score tied at 3-3 and one out in the bottom of the 12th in Game 7 of the World Series, Senators’ backstop Muddy Ruel lifts a high catchable foul pop-up which Giant catcher Hank Gowdy misses when he stumbles over his own mask. Given a second chance, Ruel doubles. Earl McNeely then hits a grounder that strikes a pebble, and soars over the head of rookie Giant 3rd baseman Freddie Lindstrom, and drives home Ruel with the winning run making the Senators World Champions.

Walter Johnson, who had brilliantly toiled 18 seasons for a team known as “Washington: First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League,” and had lost Games 1 and 4, pitched the 9th through 12th innings in relief, and not only had finally won a World Series game, but had won a World Series. The Senators had their first World Championship in 24 years of trying.  Outfielder George “Showboat” Fisher was the last survivor of the ’24 Senators, living until 1994, age 95.

In the 89 years since, no Washington baseball team has won another, with the Nationals blowing a golden opportunity to end the drought last year, by denying Stephen Strasburg the chance to pitch in the postseason.

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October 10, 1926: For the first time, Yankee Stadium hosts a Game 7 of the World Series. The Yankees trail the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 in the bottom of the 7th inning, but Cardinal starter Jesse Haines, a future Hall-of-Famer, develops a blister on his hand, and can’t pitch any further.

Rogers Hornsby, the great-hitting 2nd baseman who doubles as the Cardinal manager, brings in another future HOFer, Grover Cleveland Alexander. Old Alex (also nicknamed “Pete”) had pitched and won Game 6 yesterday, but celebrated afterward, and legend has it that he was really hungover. Even if he wasn’t, he had gone the distance the day before. And he was 39, and an alcoholic, and also suffered from epilepsy, and was troubled by what he had seen in World War I (which, along with his epilepsy, he tried to treat with his drinking.) One of the greatest pitchers of all time, and he would retire with a total of 373 victories, tied for 3rd all-time with Christy Mathewson (sharing 1st all-time in National League wins, as Walter Johnson’s 417 were all in the American League and Cy Young’s 511 were split between both Leagues), but he was now a shadow of his former self.

And he comes in with a one-run lead, the bases loaded, and a dangerous hitter at the plate, Tony Lazzeri. Although just a rookie at the major-league level, Lazzeri had hit 60 home runs in a Pacific Coast League season, and would have been Rookie of the Year had the award existed in 1926.

Lazzeri hits a long drive down the left-field line, but just foul. That brings the count to 0-and-2. Alexander fires in, and Lazzeri strikes out. It is the most famous strikeout in baseball history, and according to legend, it ended the World Series, turning Alexander into a bigger hero than ever.

Except it didn’t end the game. There were 2 more innings to play. Alexander got through the 8th, and with 1 out to go in the 9th, he walked Babe Ruth. Then, for reasons known only to him – Yankee manager Miller Huggins said he hadn’t given him the signal to try – the Babe tried to steal 2nd base. Catcher Bob O’Farrell threw in, and Hornsby slapped the tag on him. The Babe was out, the game was over, and for the first time in 40 years – since the Cardinals, then known as the Browns, won the 1886 American Association Pennant and defeated the Chicago team now known as the Cubs in a postseason series – a St. Louis baseball team was World Champions.

This was also the first time the Yankees had played a Game 7 of a World Series, and they lost it. Actually, the Yankees’ record in World Series Game 7s isn’t especially good. They’ve won in 1947, 1952, 1956, 1958 and 1962; they’ve lost in 1926, 1955, 1957, 1960, 1964 and 2001, for a record of 5-6. At home at the old Yankee Stadium, it was even worse: 1-3. But they’ve still won more World Series in a Game 7 than all but 6 franchises have won Series regardless of how long they’ve gone – and the number drops to 4 if you only count the Series they’ve won in their current cities.

Alexander was a hero all over again, true, but it was a last stand. He helped the Cards back into the World Series in 1928, but this time the Yankees knocked him around. He spent much of his retirement trading his story of how he struck out Lazzeri for drinks. In 1945, interviewed for John P. Carmichael’s book My Greatest Day In Baseball, he told of meeting Lazzeri on the street in New York, and telling him, “Tony, I’m getting tired of fanning you.” And Lazzeri told him, “Perhaps you think I’m not.” Alexander’s health problems killed him in 1950, aged only 63.

Incredibly, he outlived Lazzeri. Lazzeri would rebound from this strikeout to help the Yankees win 5 World Series, bridging the 1920s Ruth-Gehrig Yankees to the 1930s Gehrig-DiMaggio Yankees. But he, too, had epilepsy. In 1946, he suffered a seizure at his home, fell down the stairs, and broke his neck. He was just 43. And, unlike Alexander, he did not live long enough to see his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was finally elected in 1991, 53 years after Alexander was so honored. Sadly, for all each man did, each had a hard life, and each is still best remembered for that one at-bat.

The last survivor from the 1926 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals was infielder George “Specs” Toporcer — so nicknamed because he was one of the few players to wear glasses on the field in that era — a Manhattan native who died in 1989 on Long Island, age 90.

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October 10, 1930: Joe McCarthy, who had managed the Chicago Cubs to the 1929 National League Pennant, but was fired after a clash with management a few days ago, is hired to manage the New York Yankees. It will prove to be the greatest managerial hiring baseball has yet seen, as he will lead the Yanks to 8 Pennants and 7 World Championships. In other words, all by himself, McCarthy will have led the Yanks to more Pennants than all but 7 teams have won to this day (if you count combined city totals, all but 10), and more World Series than all but 2 (if you count combined city totals, all but 3).

October 10, 1931: With John “Pepper” Martin tying a World Series record with 12 hits, the St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Philadelphia Athletics, 4-2 in Game 7, and take the Series, denying the A’s the chance to become the first team to win 3 straight Series.

Burleigh Grimes, as I mentioned the last pitcher legally allowed to throw a spitball, and still very much at it 11 years after that epic game in Cleveland, had a shutout going in the 9th, but tired, and Cardinal manager Gabby Street had to call on Bill Hallahan to nail down the win. “Wild Bill” did not live up to his nickname, and finished the A’s off. The A’s would not win another Pennant for 41 years, and that would only come after moving twice. By that point, the Cards would have won another 8 Pennants.

Infielder Ray Cunningham, who played just 3 games that season and not at all in the Series, plus 11 more games the next season before fading, was the last survivor of the 1931 World Champion Cardinals, dying in 2005, age 100.

October 10, 1937: The Yankees defeat the Giants, 4-2 in Game 5 at the Polo Grounds, and win their 2nd straight World Series, their 6th overall. This moves them past the Giants and the A’s to become the team with the most Series won. They have never seriously been threatened as such.

As for the Giants, here is a team that had Hall-of-Famers in Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell and player-manager Bill Terry, and had won their 3rd Pennant in the last 5 seasons, but had only won the Series in one of them, and has only won one since. So not only did the club not get the credit it deserved at the time, but the franchise has never really been the same, either.

The last survivor of the 1937 Yankees was Tommy Henrich, who died in 2009, at the age of 96.  He was also the last survivor of the Yankee World Championship teams of 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1941.

October 10, 1945: The Detroit Tigers beat the Chicago Cubs, 9-3 at Wrigley Field, to win Game 7 and the World Series. Hal Newhouser, the American League’s Most Valuable Player this year and last, strikes out 10. Bloomfield, New Jersey native Hank Borowy, who had helped the Yankees win the ’43 Series and had already won 20 games in the regular season and 2 in this Series, is exhausted, and gives up 6 runs in the 1st inning.

With several players still in the service, this game marks the end of the World War II era in baseball. This also remains, 67 years later — two-thirds of a century — the last World Series game the Chicago Cubs have ever played.  Left fielder Ed Mierkowicz is the last survivor from the ’45 Tigers, with pitchers Virgil Trucks and Les Mueller both having died within the last year; Andy Pafko, later to win Pennants with the Brooklyn Dodgers and a World Series with the Milwaukee Braves, was the last surviving Cub to have played in any World Series, having died just 2 days ago.

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October 10, 1946: John Prine is born in Maywood, Illinois, outside Chicago. As far as I know, he has nothing to do with sports, and I only know one of his songs, but it should have been written decades earlier, as a memo to Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix and so many others:

There oughta be a law, with no bail:
Smash a guitar and you go to jail.
With no chance for early parole.
You don’t get out ‘til you get some soul.
It breaks my heart to see these stars
smashing a perfectly good guitar.
I don’t know who they think they are
smashing a perfectly good guitar.

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October 10, 1948: The largest crowd ever to attend a World Series game, 86,288 fans, jams into Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium to witness a showdown between two future Hall-of-Famers. Braves’ southpaw Warren Spahn beats Bob Feller and the Indians in Game 5 of the Fall Classic, 11-5.

This remains the largest crowd ever to attend a single game that counts in an American League stadium — the Indians and Yankees would get 86,563 for a 1954 doubleheader, and the Dodgers would cram over 92,000 into the Los Angeles Coliseum for 3 games of the ’59 Series — and the last postseason game ever won by the Boston franchise of the National League. When they win another, 9 years later, they will be the Milwaukee Braves.  No Boston baseball team will win a World Series game again for 19 years.

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October 10, 1950: Charles Frederick George is born. A true “local boy made good,” he was born and grew up in the Islington section of North London, standing on the North Bank of the Arsenal Stadium (a.k.a. “Highbury,” after the neighborhood), supporting the Arsenal Football Club (soccer team).

In 1966, he was an apprentice carpenter, and helped build the ring at Highbury for the fight between Muhammad Ali and Henry Cooper.  Three years earlier, across town at Wembley Stadium, the rising Ali, still named Cassius Clay, fought Cooper, the Heavyweight Champion of Europe, and Cooper knocked him down in the 4th round, and appeared to be about to win the fight.  But Clay recovered and knocked him out in the very next round.  In On May 21, 1966, they fought again, this time for the Heavyweight Championship of the World,  Lee Marvin and football star Jim Brown, in London to film The Dirty Dozen, were on hand to see Ali knock Cooper out again, with considerably less difficulty.

By that point, Charlie George had been signed as a forward by Arsenal in 1966, to reach the first team in 1968, and to be a regular by 1970. He helped Arsenal win the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (the precursor of today’s Europa League) in 1970, the club’s first trophy of any kind in 17 years.

As author and Arsenal fan Nick Hornby put it in Fever Pitch, the next season, 1970-71, was Arsenal’s annus mirabilis: Despite an early-season injury, George became a key cog in the Arsenal side that won the Football League for the first time in 18 years. Then he scored the winner in extra time to beat Liverpool for the FA Cup (Football Association Cup), England’s national championship, drilling a 20-yard drive past Ray Clemence to give Arsenal a 2-1 win to clinch “The Double.”

George’s celebration, lying on the ground at Wembley Stadium, with his soon-to-be-iconic long hair, reminded fans of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, which had recently debuted in London’s West End, giving rise to the title song being reworked as, “Charlie George, superstar, how many goals have you scored so far?” But opposing fans, seeing the hair, tried it another way: “Charlie George, superstar, looks like a woman and he wears a bra!” But Arsenal fans had the last laugh, singing, to the tune of “The First Noel,” “Charlie, Charlie, Charlie, Charlie! Born is the King of Highbury!”

He would continue to play for Arsenal until a 1975 falling-out with manager Bertie Mee, and even briefly played in America with the Minnesota Kicks of the North American Soccer League in 1978. Today he again works for Arsenal, as a tour guide at Highbury’s replacement, the Emirates Stadium.

*

October 10, 1951: The Yankees defeat the New York Giants, 4-3 in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium, and win their 3rd straight World Series, their 14th World Championship.  This is twice as many as the Boston Red Sox have now, 62 years later. The Giants had taken 2 of the first 3 games in this Series, but the Yanks had taken 3 straight to win.

In the bottom of the 8th, Joe DiMaggio had laced a double to left-center off Larry Jansen. It turned out to be the last hit of his career, as he announced his retirement 2 months later.  His intended center field successor, Mickey Mantle, had gotten hurt in right field in Game 2, and missed the rest of the Series, and the knee he injured would never be the same again, the beginning of a cloud over his career that would only grow. The “other” great rookie center fielder, Willie Mays of the Giants, had a poor Series, and would spend most of the next two years in the Army in the Korean War. But both Mantle and Mays would be back, and would resume building their legends.

Four Yankees still survive from the ’51 title: Yogi Berra, Bobby Brown, Jerry Coleman, and the pitcher who closed out this clincher and Game 7 in 1952, Bob Kuzava.  Whitey Ford is still alive, but spent the ’51 and ’52 seasons in the U.S. Army, due to the Korean War.

*

October 10, 1956: Game 7 at Ebbets Field. A pair of Jersey boys start: Johnny Kucks of Hoboken, Hudson County, for the Yankees; Don Newcombe of Jefferson Township, Morris County, for the Dodgers. The New York Post’s headline reads:

Kucks vs. Newk and…
THERE’S
NO
TOMORROW

The Post is right: Win or lose, this is it for one of the best seasons in New York baseball history, as the Yankees had Mantle’s Triple Crown & MVP season; the Dodgers had a fantastic Pennant race, over the Reds, Cardinals and Braves, edging the Braves by 1 game, a season highlighted by no-hitters from Carl Erskine and former Giant nemesis Sal Maglie; and the World Series had Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 and a 1-0 10-inning Dodger win in Game 6.  This is Game 7.  This is it.

The Yankees turn out to be “it”: They shell Newk, with 2 homers from Yogi and a grand slam from Bill “Moose” Skowron. Kucks pitches a shutout, and the Yankees win, 9-0.  The Dodgers had been World Champions of baseball for 372 days.

The last out turns out to be the last play in the career of Jackie Robinson: He strikes out swinging, but Yogi drops the ball, a flash of the Mickey Owen & Tommy Henrich play 15 years earlier.  His weight up and his speed down, but his instincts as keen as ever, Robinson sees what’s happening and runs to 1st base. But, as I said, his great speed is gone, and Yogi throws him out.  Jackie retires 2 months later.

What no one knows at the time — not Robinson, not even Dodger owner Walter O’Malley — is the extent of the finality of this game. It is not just the end of a terrific baseball season. It is the last Subway Series game for 44 years — 33 years if you count the 1989 “BART Series.” It is the last home game in a World Series for a National League team from New York for 13 years. And it is the last postseason game that Ebbets Field, or Brooklyn, will ever host. The next season, the Giants will announce they are moving to San Francisco, and the Dodgers will announce they are moving to Los Angeles. “There’s no tomorrow,” indeed.

*

October 10, 1957: The Milwaukee Braves win the World Series, with Lew Burdette, on 2 days rest, winning his 3rd game of the Series, a 5-0 shutout of the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in Game 7.  The 30-year-old right-hander, named the Series MVP, tosses 24 consecutive scoreless innings and posts a 0.64 ERA in his three Fall classic victories.

At the time, the Yankees were criticized for having traded Burdette to the Braves in 1951 (the Braves then in Boston) for All-Star pitcher Johnny Sain.  However, Sain helped the Yankees win 3 World Series; the Braves won just 1 with Burdette — the only World Series the franchise won between 1914 (in Boston) and 1995 (in Atlanta).

This is the first World Championship for the Braves since the “Miracle Braves” in Boston 43 years earlier. To this day, 55 years later, no Milwaukee team has ever won another World Series. In fact, the only other World Championship won by a Milwaukee team is the NBA Title won by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971. Unless, of course, you count the 13 NFL Championships won by the Green Bay Packers – and Lambeau Field is 117 miles from downtown Milwaukee.

October 10, 1959: Bradley Whitford is born in Madison, Wisconsin. Not to be confused with the Aerosmith guitarist of the same name, this guy was a “character actor” – one of those guys whose name you couldn’t quite remember, so you called him, “Oh yeahhhh… Him!” Then he began to play White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman on The West Wing.

Josh, a native of Westport, Connecticut, was a great character, a devoted public servant, and a hard but fair fighter. He had one flaw: He was a Mets fan. In a 2001 episode titled “The Stackhouse Filibuster,” he mentioned that he wanted to fly down to Florida to see a spring-training game, and hoped to get a “Hey, dude” from Met catcher Mike Piazza. I don’t know who Whitford roots for in real life.

October 10, 1962: Tom Tresh belts an eighth-inning homer off Jack Sanford to give the Yankees a 5-3 comeback win over the Giants in Game 5 of the World Series, at the original Yankee Stadium.  The rookie shortstop’s dad, Mike Tresh, who hit only two home runs in his 12 big league seasons, prior to the at bat left his seat behind home plate, to bring his son good luck.

*

October 10, 1964: The Yankees and Cardinals are tied 1-1 in Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, going into the bottom of the 9th. Barney Schultz, a knuckleballer, comes on to relieve for the Cardinals. In the on-deck circle, Mickey Mantle watches Schultz warm up, times Schultz’s knuckler in his head, and says to Elston Howard, standing there with him, “You can go back to the clubhouse, Elston. This game is over.”

Schultz threw Mantle one pitch. Mickey deposited it in the upper deck in right field. Yankees 2, Cardinals 1 – which was also now the Yankees’ lead in the Series. It was Mickey’s 16th home run in World Series play, surpassing the record he shared with Babe Ruth. He would hit a 17th in Game 6 and an 18th in Game 7, but the Cards would come back and win the Series. Still, Mickey would often speak of this homer, his only walkoff homer in postseason play, as the highlight of his career.

Whether Ruth called his shot in the 1932 World Series is still debated, but Mickey sure called his shot here. He was asked how many others he called. “Well, I called my shot about 500 times,” he would say with a laugh. “This was about the only one that worked.”

*

October 10, 1966: Another great day for The Arsenal, although it’s not yet obvious that even the 1950 entry has made it so: Tony Alexander Adams is born in the Romford section of East London. The centre-back was the greatest Captain in the club’s history, helping them win League titles in 1989, ’91, ’98 and 2002, and the FA Cup in ’93, ’98 and ‘02. There’s only one Tony Adams, and his statue now stands outside the Emirates Stadium.

October 10, 1968: Mickey Lolich wins his 3rd game of the Series – matching Harry Brecheen as the only lefthander ever to do it thus far – and the Detroit Tigers win their first World Series in 23 years (to the day), beating the indomitable Bob Gibson and the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7, 4-1 at Busch Memorial Stadium. Jim Northrup’s triple over the normally sure-fielding Curt Flood makes the difference.

After the race riot and near-miss for the Pennant in 1967, and after 16 years without a Pennant for their legendary star Al Kaline, Detroit needed this World Championship very badly. With Kaline, Lolich, Northrup and Willie Horton being the stars of the Tigers’ comeback from 3-games-to-1 down, the ’68 Tigers remain the most beloved team in the history of Michigan sports.

Lolich, who would retire with 217 wins and as the all-time strikeout leader among lefthanders with 2,832, was criticized for being fat. He was the original “hefty lefty.” He was 6 feet even, and is usually listed as having been 210 pounds. Seriously, that was considered fat for a pitcher in 1968. Paging David Wells. Paging CC Sabathia.

October 10, 1969: Brett Lorenzo Favre is born in Gulfport, Mississippi. Seriously, he’s only 44? He seems a lot older. Well, that’s what happens when you retire 3 times and you end up requiring a 4th (at least). What should we get him for his birthday? How about something he’s not used to having: A clue!

October 10, 1973, 40 years ago: As Vice President Spiro Agnew is pleading no contest to income-tax evasion and resigning his office, Tom Seaver holds off the Reds, the Mets win, 5-2, and the fans storm the field at Shea Stadium to celebrate the Mets’ 2nd Pennant in 5 seasons.

October 10, 1975: Placido Polanco is born in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic.  The 2nd baseman helped the Detroit Tigers win the 2006 American League Pennant, but was also a part of their 2009 collapse.  He now plays for the Miami Marlins.

October 10, 1976: Patrick Brian Burrell is born in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. He helped the Philadelphia Phillies win the 2008 World Series, then signed as a free agent with the team the Phils beat in said Series, the Tampa Bay Rays.  “Pat the Bat” (a nickname he hated, though he liked his other nickname, “Met Killer”) won another ring with the 2010 Giants, retired after the 2011 season, and now works in the Giants’ front office.

October 10, 1980: After 3 failed attempts, the 4th time is the charm for the Kansas City Royals. George Brett’s mammoth home run off Goose Gossage gives the Royals a 4-2 win and a sweep of the American League Championship Series, for the first major league Pennant for a Kansas City team – the first Pennant won by any KC team since the Blues won the American Association Pennant in 1953. It is one of the most humiliating series in Yankee history.

October 10, 1982: The Milwaukee Brewers win their first Pennant, the first by any Milwaukee team since the ’58 Braves, beating the California Angels, 4-3 at Milwaukee County Stadium — and on the 25th Anniversary of the Braves’ World Series win, no less. The Angels had blown a 2-games-to-none lead. In their first World Series, the Brewers will play the St. Louis Cardinals, who win their Pennant in 14 years today by beating the Atlanta Braves.

October 10, 1984: Troy Trevor Tulowitzki is born in Santa Clara, California.  With a 3-T name like that, he should have been nicknamed “3T” or “T3” or “Trey.” Instead, he’s “Tulo.” In 2007, the shortstop pulled an unassisted triple play, helped the Colorado Rockies win their first postseason series and their first National League Pennant, and was named NL Rookie of the Year. He had them back in the Playoffs in 2009.

*

October 10, 1987: Princeton University beats Columbia University, 39-8 at Palmer Stadium in Princeton, New Jersey. Columbia thus loses their 35th straight game, a new record for Division I college football. They would extend the record to 44 the next year, before beating, of all teams, Princeton. But Prairie View A&M, a historically black school outside Houston, would double the disaster: 88 games. The old record, still the Division I-A record, is 34, by Northwestern, which ended in 1982.

I was at the 1987 Princeton-Columbia game, and there was a small contingent of Northwestern fans at the top of the east side of the Palmer Stadium horseshoe, holding up a banner reading, “THANK YOU COLUMBIA.” I sat on the west side, and saw Princeton’s last touchdown scored on an interception by a safety, wearing Number 11, who was so fast, he looked like he was flying. Just 6 years later, he would be flying. His name was Dean Cain, and from 1993 to 1997, he starred with Teri Hatcher in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

By a weird coincidence, the recent movie Superman, Christopher Reeve, grew up in Princeton, and graduated from Princeton Day School and was accepted at Princeton University, but chose another Ivy League school, Cornell in Western New York. Cain, who dated Brooke Shields while they both attended Princeton, grew up in Malibu, California, attending Santa Monica High School with acting brothers Rob and Chad Lowe, and Charlie Sheen (but not Charlie’s older brother Emilio Estevez).

*
October 10, 1990: The Oakland Athletics win their 3rd straight Pennant, the first team since the 1976-78 Yankees to do so, beating the Red Sox, 3-1 at the Oakland Coliseum. Red Sox starter Roger Clemens is ejected after arguing with plate umpire Terry Cooney over a ball-four call in the 2nd inning. He remains the last player to be thrown out of a postseason game. Funny, but, at the time, nobody suspected “roid rage.”

October 10, 1998: El Duque to the rescue. Having pitched for the 2 most demanding bosses in the Western Hemisphere, George Steinbrenner and Fidel Castro, no way was a little bit of Cleveland cold going to stop Orlando Hernandez. He pitches a 4-hit shutout (with 1 inning of help each from Mike Stanton and Mariano Rivera), and the Yankees win, 4-0, and tie up the ALCS at 2 games apiece. Chuck Knoblauch, whose “brainlauch” in Game 2 put the Yankees on a minor slide, starts a key 4-6-3 double play in the 8th to eliminate the last Indian threat. He is on his way to redemption.

*

October 10, 2004: Ken Caminiti dies of a drug overdose, after injuries (related to his steroid use) had ended his career in 2001. The 1996 NL MVP was 43.

Also dying on this day was actor Christopher Reeve, from complications from his 1995 horseback-riding accident and subsequent paralysis.  He was 52.

In 2002, I was at Yankee Stadium for one of the Yankee-Met Interleague games, and waited for the players to arrive, when a van pulled up at the media entrance. Suddenly, somebody yelled out, “It’s Superman! It’s Superman!” Not seeing Derek Jeter anywhere, I became confused. Then I stood on my toes and saw… Chris Reeve, in his motorized wheelchair, having been lowered out of his handicap-access van.

He was completely bald, his head probably shaven to alleviate what the headpiece of his chair was doing to his hair, and (I hate to say this) he looked more like Superman’s arch-enemy Lex Luthor than the Man of Steel himself. But, even though he couldn’t turn his head to see us, and had to work hard just to breathe air into the tube that operated the chair, he still had more charisma than most of us will ever have. And, apparently, the native of Princeton was a Yankee Fan. Well, of course: He knew heroes when he saw them.

It had been 15 years since he last put on the Superman costume for a movie (and 23 years since he did so for a good one), but, to those of us who were kids when he made those movies, he will forever be Superman – with all due respect to Bud Collyer, Kirk Alyn, George Reeves, Dean Cain, Tom Welling, Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill.

In the days after Reeve’s death, a cartoon would appear in the New York Daily News, showing an empty wheelchair, and Superman flying away from it.

*

October 10, 2005: The Los Angeles Angels of Katella Boulevard, Anaheim, Orange County, California, U.S.A., North America, Western Hemisphere, Planet Earth, Sol System, United Federation of Planets, Milky Way Galaxy, Known Universe, beat the Yankees‚ 5-3‚ to win their Division Series in 5 games. Rookie Ervin Santana gets the win in relief of Bartolo Colon. Garret Anderson homers for L.A., while Derek Jeter connects for the Yanks.

It is a humiliating defeat for the Yankees, who lose to the Angels in a Division Series for the 2nd time in 4 years. Naturally, I blamed Alex Rodriguez. And Randy Johnson. But, the truth is, just about nobody did a good job for the Yankees in this series. It took until the 2009 ALCS for the Yankees to beat the Angels in a postseason series.

October 10, 2009: For the first time, a postseason MLB game is postponed due to winter conditions.  Game 3 of the NLDS between the Phillies and Rockies at Coors Field is pushed back not so much due to the 2 inches of snow that fell on Denver, but to the 17-degree cold and the ice on the local streets.

October 10, 2010: With their 3-2 victory over the Braves in Game 4 of the NLDS series at Turner Field, the Giants advance to the National League Championship Series to play the Philadelphia Phillies. After the last out of the game, the Giants players come onto the field to salute the opposing manager, Bobby Cox, who has announced his retirement and just managed his last game after 29 years of managing for the Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays.

When Last We Met (Or So to Speak)

When last we met (or so to speak), on the afternoon of Saturday, September 7 — 9 days ago if you’re scoring at home — the Yankees were 9 games behind the Boston Red Sox (a.k.a. The Scum) for the AL East title, and 2 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the 2nd AL Wild Card.

Now, the Yankees are 12 1/2 games out of 1st place, officially eliminated from the Division race after being swept by the Sox this past weekend, and 3 games out of the Wild Card berths.

So? Two and a half games back, three games, what’s the difference? The difference is, on September 7, there were 20 games left in the regular season; now, there are only 12 games left.

If the Yankees had a completely healthy starting 9, this is what their lineup last night would have looked like:

11 LF Brett Gardner

2 SS Derek Jeter

14 CF Curtis Granderson

13 3B Alex Rodriguez

24 2B Robinson Cano

25 1B Mark Teixeira

55 DH Lyle Overbay

31 RF Ichiro Suzuki

29 C Francisco Cervelli

 

A decent enough lineup, right? Of course, this fully-healthy lineup presumes that the trading-deadline deal to obtain Alfonso Soriano would not have been necessary.  Nor would the wavier-wire pickup of Mark Reynolds.

 

Instead, here is what the Yankee lineup did look like at Fenway Park last night:

14 CF Curtis Granderson

13 DH Alex Rodriguez

24 2B Robinson Cano

12 LF Alfonso Soriano

55 1B Lyle Overbay

39 3B Mark Reynolds

31 RF Ichiro Suzuki

35 SS Brendan Ryan

19 C Chris Stewart

 

This isn’t “Who’s On First,” this is “Who’s at short, who’s catching, why’s he DH’ing, why’s he at first, and where is everybody?

Boone Logan has blown game after game.  So has Joba Chamberlain.  So has Phil Hughes.  Adam Warren, who got off to such a great start, has fallen apart.  CC Sabathia looks like he’s run out of gas.  This may also be the case with Hiroki Kuroda.  Ivan Nova pitched really well for much of this season, but got rocked in his last start.  The only Yankee starter really getting the job done lately is Andy Pettitte — and he’s 41 years old.  And David Robertson has been a bit shaky lately, making him look very much not like a viable successor to Mariano Rivera.

Granderson is back, but he’s been out most of the season.  So has Jeter.  So has Teixeira.  So was A-Rod.  So has Kevin Youkilis, who never really got a chance to show Yankee Fans that they should stop hating him from his Sox days.

If the Yankees’ current winning percentage of .527 holds (a pace for 85 wins), or if it rises to anything less than .540 (87 wins), it will be the worst Yankee season in 21 years — since 1992, the last time we didn’t have a winning season (76-86).

And yet, we’re still only 3 games out of the Wild Card.  As an old friend would have said, “I tell ya, Murcer, it’s unbelievable.  Holy Cow.”

Tomorrow night, the Yankees begin a 3-game road series, against those pesky Toronto Blue Jays.  Projected starting pitchers, with the Yanks’ listed first:

Tuesday: Pettitte vs. R.A. Dickey.

Wednesday: Hughes vs. J.A. Happ.

Thursday: Kuroda vs. Todd Redmond.

This has been a very hard season, by Yankee standards anyway.  But we can still make something of it.  The “World Series or bust” mentality doesn’t really apply, since, from the middle of the last off-season, when roster adjustments for our team and others made our 2013 situation look bleak before anyone even considered heading down to spring training.  Hardly anybody expected the Yankees to make the Playoffs.  That, with 12 games to go, they still have a chance to do so is incredible.

I’d say it’s “amazing,” but that’s a Mets word.  How are they doing? Oh, the usual, 15 games under .500, 22 games out of 1st place, 16 1/2 games out of the 2nd NL Wild Card, eliminated from both the NL East race and the Wild Card race a while ago.

Yes, Yankee Fans, it’s been rough, but we still have a chance to confound the experts and make the Playoffs.  The Mets?

As Bono sang, “Well, tonight, thank God it’s them, instead of you!”