Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Arsene Wenger: A Birthday Appreciation (He Could Use It)


Scary: Mere hours after I posted my travel guide for Devils fans who might be going to Ottawa this weekend to see them play the Senators, at least 2 men, possibly more, shot up Parliament Hill in Ottawa -- their "Capitol Hill."

At last check, a soldier guarding Canada's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and one of the shooters were dead.

Freaky.

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October 22, 1949, 65 years ago: Arsène Wenger is born, in Strasbourg, in Alsace, a region that France and Germany spent the better part of 1870 to 1945 fighting over.  He grew up in neighboring Duttlenheim, where his German father and French mother ran a bistro name La Croix d'Or (The Cross of Gold), where he would spend hours studying the behavior of the football-loving customers.

He would later say, "There is no better psychological education than growing up in a pub, because, when you are five or six years old, you meet all different people, and hear how cruel they can be to each other. From an early age, you get a practical, psychological education to get into the minds of people. It is not often that a boy of five or six is always living with adults in a little village. I learned about tactics and selection from the people talking about football in the pub – who plays on the left wing and who should be in the team."

He got an economics degree at the University of Strasbourg, and played as a sweeper with FC Strasbourg, winning the Ligue 1 title in 1979 -- but that club has since been liquidated and reformed, its successor club RC Strasbourg Alsace playing in the 5th tier of the French football system, roughly equivalent to baseball's "A-ball."

As a manager, he led AS Monaco – keep in mind that Monaco is a separate, though very small, nation but their soccer team is in the French league – to the 1988 Ligue 1 title and the 1991 Coupe de France, and Nagoya Grampus Eight to Japan’s Emperor’s Cup in 1996. That’s when he was signed to manage the Arsenal Football Club of London.

Known as "Le Boss" for being French and "The Professor" for his scholarly demeanor, Wenger led "the Gunners" (whose fans are called "Gooners") to the Premier League title in 1998, 2002 and 2004, and to the FA Cup, England’s national tournament, in 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2014 – taking both titles, a.k.a. "The Double," in 1998 and 2002.

The 2004 Arsenal team is known as "The Invincibles," as they went through an entire league season undefeated: 26 wins, 12 draws, 0 losses. It is the only undefeated season in the Football League since its very first, 1889, when Preston North End did it in far fewer games.

Their undefeated streak eventually reached 49, breaking the former record of 42 set by the Nottingham Forest team of Brian Clough in 1978-79. In a couple of weird twists of fate, Arsenal tied the record of 42 against Middlesbrough, Clough's hometown and his first professional club, and Clough died shortly before the streak was finally broken by Manchester United, thanks to a penalty won by a dive by Wayne Rooney. (Same United, always cheating.)

Arsenal infamously went 9 seasons without a trophy until last season's FA Cup. But Wenger did lead Arsenal to that Cup this past May. In the last 2 seasons, he has bought international superstars Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and an actual English striker in Danny Welbeck.

But for many Arsenal fans -- forgetting how the club was not nearly as successful before Le Boss arrived -- it's never enough. Some even brought a "WENGER OUT" banner to tonight's away game in the Champions League, against Anderlecht in Belgium. That's some serious disrespect to show a man who just won you a trophy (2, if you count the preseason Community Shield) on top of everything else he's won for you, and on his birthday, no less.

Tonight, Arsenal trailed 1-0 late, and the Goonersphere on Twitter was apoplectic. Then goals by Kieran Gibbs and Lukas Podolski pulled the Gunners' fat out of the fire, and they won, 2-1.

True Arsenal fans support the team, and thus they support the manager. Wenger isn't going anywhere, so the people who want him gone should be the ones to go. "Arsène Knows."

Joyeux Anniversaire, mon chef.

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October 22, 1746: The College of New Jersey receives its royal charter from King George II of Britain. The college will be located in Elizabeth, New Jersey. It moves to Newark in 1747, and to Princeton in 1756.

In 1896, while its president is Class of 1878 graduate Woodrow Wilson, it will be renamed Princeton University. (He was the 2nd President to be one of its graduates. The 1st was James Madison.) In 1996, Trenton State College in nearby Ewing will change its name to The College of New Jersey.

October 22, 1845: The New York Morning News – not to be confused with the New York Daily News, which begins publication in 1919 – reports that in yesterday's "friendly match of the time honored game of Baseball" the New York Club beat Brooklyn 24-4. A box score of the game is included in the account.

Henry Chadwick, the New York Clipper writer who did much to popularize the game, is often credited with inventing the box score, but this appears not to be the case, as he would not first write about baseball until 1857.

Two oddities: First, this account lists the name of the sport as 1 word, “baseball,” not 2 words, “base ball,” as was common even at the end of the 19th Century.

Second, we have been told that “the first baseball game” – usually defined as the first game under codified rules, as written by Alexander Cartwright and the Knickerbocker Club in September 1845, was played on June 19, 1846, between the Knickerbocker Club and the New York Club, and that this club, often referred to as “the New York Nine,” beat the Knickerbockers 23-1 in 4 innings – 21 runs constituting a win under the rules of that time – despite rule-writer Cartwright serving as umpire for a contest involving the club of which he was a member.

Hello? Conflict of interest! But somebody had to be the ump; who better to enforce the rules of the game than the man who literally wrote them? (Even if he wasn't the originator of all of them, though he probably was the originator of some of them, particularly the 90-feet-apart rule for the bases.)

I’ve often wondered how the Knickerbocker Club, the people who are the closest thing we have to the definitive inventors of the game, could get their heads handed to them, so soon after they wrote the rules. Were the members of the New York Club quick studies? Were the Knickerbockers truly bad at the game they “invented”?

Now I know: While this game may not have been under the Cartwright rules, those rules were based in part on the way the game had already been played for a while, and, clearly, the NY9 was already quite good at that version of the game, and it appears they did not need to do much adapting to the Cartwright rules.

October 22, 1857: The Atlantic Club defeats the Eckford Club‚ both of Brooklyn‚ to take the best-of-3-games match and claim the championship for 1857. The baseball custom, by this point, has become that the championship can only be won by a team beating the current title holder 2 out of 3 games.

And, of course, at this point, baseball is still all-amateur. Nobody is getting paid to play. At least, as far as anybody is willing to say publicly. There is, as yet, no surviving evidence that anyone in the pre-Civil War period had been paid to play for any team.

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October 22, 1872: The Boston Red Stockings win the National Association championship‚ winning their 39th game by defeating the Brooklyn Eckfords 4-3. When the season ends on the 31st (only 17 matches will be played this month) Baltimore and Mutual (of New York) will be the closest teams finishing behind Boston‚ with 34 wins.

The Boston Red Stockings were direct descendants of the first openly all-professional team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. Harry Wright was the owner, the manager, and the left fielder. His younger brother George Wright was the shortstop, and, at this point, the best player in the game. Cal McVey was the catcher, Charlie Gould played 1st base, and Andy Leonard was in right field. That’s 5 out of the 10 Boys of ’69.

Their 2nd baseman was Roscoe “Ross” Barnes, who would move on to the Chicago White Stockings, forerunners of the Cubs, when the National League was founded in 1876, and not only win the 1st batting championship of what’s now considered a “major league,” but hit the 1st home run in NL competition.

The Red Stockings’ leading pitcher was 21-year-old Albert Goodwill Spalding, who will go to Chicago with Barnes and form the White Stockings, and later found the sporting goods empire that still bears his name and will go on to dominate the sport, and thus make him the closest thing baseball had to a commissioner in those days.

By winning the 1872 Pennant, the Red Stockings resume the dominance they had enjoyed as the Cincinnati club from April 1869 to June 1870, until their legendary defeat by the Brooklyn Atlantics. This is the 1st of 4 straight NA Pennants that they will win, and upon entering the NL in 1876, they will win Pennants in 1877, ’78 and ’83.

By the time of that 1883 Pennant, they will be known by another name, indicative of their city: The Boston Beaneaters. They will win Pennants in 1891, ’92, ’93, ’97 and ’98, before a change in management damages them and ends their dominance. From 1899 to 1956, they will win just 2 Pennants in 58 seasons; from 1899 to 1990, only 4 Pennants in 92 seasons. By 1912, they will be known as the Boston Braves; in 1953, they move to Milwaukee; in 1966, to Atlanta.

Thus they, not the franchise founded in 1882 and known these last 132 seasons as the Cincinnati Reds, are the descendants of the first professional baseball team, and thus the oldest continuously-operating professional sports franchise in North America. But as the Atlanta Braves, they cannot legitimately claim the 1869 Cincinnati “world championship,” or the 14 Pennants and the 1914 World Series won in Boston, or the 1957 World Series and 1958 Pennant won in Milwaukee.

October 22, 1873: The Boston Red Stockings clinch the NA Pennant by defeating the Washington Nationals‚ 11-8‚ in Washington. George Wright leads the attack with a triple and 2 singles. Note that there are teams today named the Boston Red Sox and the Washington Nationals, but neither is connected to these 19th Century teams.

October 22, 1878: According to sources I have found, the first rugby match under floodlights takes place at the Yew Street Ground in Salford, outside Manchester, England, between host Broughton and visiting Swinton.

How was this done, almost exactly 1 year to the day before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb?

Earlier that year, in the English city of Newcastle, Joseph Wilson Swan demonstrated an electric lamp using a carbon-paper filament. The year before that, Charles Francis Brush used a similar set of lamps to light up Public Square in Cleveland. But their filaments burned out quickly -- perhaps lasting long enough for an hour-and-a-half rugby match to be played under their lights. Edison's 1879 experiments led to a filament that would last for 40 hours; soon, he could make it last 1,500 hours -- over 2 months. So while Edison didn't "invent the light bulb," he did make the 1st practical one.

As for the match, Broughton won, scoring "two goals, three tries, three touchdowns," while Swinton was held scoreless. A contemporary account suggests that there were 8-10,000 people on hand.

October 22, 1885: John Montgomery Ward, a licensed attorney as well as “a clever base ballist” (as someone called him at the time, a phrase used as the title of a 21st Century biography of him), and several teammates secretly form the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, the 1st players’ union in any American sport. The Brotherhood‚ strengthened by fights against salary restrictions and abuses of the reserve clause‚ will become a force to be reckoned with by the end of the decade.

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October 22, 1907: James Emory Foxx is born in Sudlersville, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The 1st baseman known as "Jimmie," “Double X” and “The Beast” was said by Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez to be so strong, “even his hair has muscles.” Gomez also said, “He wasn’t scouted, he was trapped.”

In 1937, Foxx became the first player to hit a home run into the upper deck in left field at Yankee Stadium, which was much harder to left than to right because of the angle of the seats. He hit it off Gomez, who was asked how far he thought it went: “I don’t know, but I do know it took somebody 45 minutes to go up there and get it.” After the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, it was said that the astronauts on the Moon found an object there that they couldn’t explain. Gomez said, “I know exactly what it was: It was the home run that Jimmie Foxx hit off me in 1937!”

Foxx helped the Philadelphia Athletics win the World Series in 1929 and ’30 and the Pennant in ’31. He hit 58 home runs in 1932, second only to Ruth’s 60 in 1927. He won the Triple Crown in ’33, and won the 2nd of back-to-back MVP awards that year.

After the 1936 season, Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey opened the vault and paid A’s owner Connie Mack $150,000 for Foxx’s contract -- $2.56 million in 2014 money. This time, Foxx did break a record of Ruth’s, the $125,000 purchase of 1920 ($1.72 million).

Foxx even looked a lot like Ruth, and both were from the State of Maryland. Foxx hit 50 homers for Boston in 1938, making him the first man to hit 50 homers in a season for 2 different teams. (He has since been joined by only Mark McGwire.)

At his retirement, he had a .325 lifetime batting average and 534 home runs, which remained 2nd all-time to Ruth and 1st among righthanded hitters, until surpassed by Willie Mays in 1966. Until Alex Rodriguez, he was the youngest player ever to reach 500, doing so shortly before his 33rd birthday. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his 1st year of eligibility.

His life was a sad one, though, as he was plagued with alcoholism, was perennially broke, and choked to death before he turned 60. Jimmy Dugan, the Tom Hanks character in A League of Their Own was based on him. (A banner was made to hang in the Hall of Fame, showing that Dugan had hit 58 homers in 1936.)

In an additional sad note, because Foxx played so long ago, died before the rise of baseball nostalgia films and books, did not give a televised interview, and did his best work for a team that technically no longer exists (the Philadelphia A’s), he has been largely forgotten today.

It doesn’t help that the A’s don’t retire numbers from their Philadelphia days, and the Red Sox haven’t retired his number, either: He usually wore Number 3. But The Sporting News didn’t forget: In 1999, publishing their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, Foxx, who hadn’t played a game in 54 years, and with most of his teammates, like himself, dead and unable to speak on his behalf, came in at Number 15.

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October 22, 1918: Louis Frank Klein is born in New Orleans. Lou Klein was the starting second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals when they won the NL Pennant in 1943, then served in World War II, and, when he and previous starter Red Schoendienst returned from the war, Klein accepted an opportunity to “jump” to the Mexican League. He was immediately suspended indefinitely by Commissioner Happy Chandler.

He and the other “Mexican Jumping Beans” were reinstated in 1949. He soon became a coach with the Chicago Cubs, and is now best known for being a part of the Cubs’ ridiculous “College of Coaches” experiment in 1961-62. He died in 1976, only 57.

October 22, 1927: New York Giants outfielder Ross Youngs‚ one of manager John McGraw's favorite players‚ dies of the kidney ailment Bright's disease at age 30‚ cutting short a 10-year career in which he batted .322. Youngs had been accompanied by a specialist as early as 1924‚ and after the illness had been identified‚ the Giants hired a nurse to travel with him. He was bedridden in 1927‚ after appearing in just 95 games in 1926.

For years, McGraw had no pictures of former players in his office. Two years earlier, when Christy Mathewson died, he became the 1st player so honored by McGraw. Youngs would become the 2nd.

Like Mathewson, World War I hero Eddie Grant, and eventually McGraw himself, Youngs would be honored with a plaque on the wall of the center field clubhouse at the Polo Grounds. (There would later be 3 other plaques: For New York Giants football players Al Blozis and Jack Lummus, both of whom died in combat in World War II, and former Mayor Jimmy Walker, who left office in scandal but was a great friend of the sports establishment in the City.)

Decades after his death, Youngs will be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Since he died before uniform numbers were worn, there is no number to retire for him.

October 22, 1929: Lev Ivanovich Yashin is born in Moscow. He was a goaltender for both the soccer and ice hockey teams at Dynamo Moscow, the team sponsored by the Soviet Union's secret police -- first the NKVD, then the KGB.

With their soccer team, he won 5 Soviet league championships and 3 Soviet Cups, and led the USSR to the 1956 Olympic Gold Medal and the 1960 European Championship -- the only major "professional" tournament won by the Soviets or any of their post-1989 breakaway nations, including Russia. In 1963, he was named European Footballer of the Year, and he remains the only goalkeeper ever to receive this award.

He had jet-black hair and a dark complexion, and his warmup tracksuit was black. These factors, and his dexterity which made it seem like he had 8 arms and legs, won him the nickname The Black Spider. And, like Eusébio, the Mozambican who played for Portgual (and who called him "the peerless goalkeeper of the century"), he was known as The Black Panther.

He played for the Soviets at the 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970 World Cups, reaching the Semifinals in the latter 2, and winning the admiration of the entire world, even among those who despised Communism and the KGB. (He wasn't actually a KGB agent; indeed, he'd been purchased by Dynamo from a team sponsored by a factory.)

In 1967, while still an active player, he was awarded the Order of Lenin. His testimonial match brought over 100,000 fans to the Lenin Stadium (now the Luzhniki Stadium), and Pelé, Eusébio and Franz Beckenbauer attended.

He died of cancer in 1990. In 2000, FIFA named him the goalie on their World Team of the 20th Century. In 2003, in celebration of its 50th Anniversary, UEFA named a "Golden Player" for each member nation, designating them as that country's best-ever footballer, and Yashin was posthumously so awarded for Russia. A statue of him was erected outside Dynamo Stadium in Moscow, the leading stadium of the Soviet Union from 1928 until the Luzhniki opened in 1957. Dynamo Stadium was demolished, and a new stadium is being built on the site, to open in 2018, complete with Yashin's statue.

Also on this day, Philadelphia Phillies catcher Walt Lerian is hit by a truck and killed in his native Baltimore. He was only 26.

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October 22, 1936: Robert George Seale is born in Dallas, and grows up in Oakland, California. Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party co-founder (with Huey Newton) who was ordered bound and gagged for his outbursts during the Chicago Eight trial, went the opposite way of the A's: He left Oakland for Philadelphia, where he taught at Temple University.

He has written a barbecue cookbook and founded a youth-outreach organization, and has moved back to Oakland, and remains involved in youth outreach programs. I suppose he's been trying to show that the Black Panthers were about more than just brandishing firearms and threatening the white power structure of the 1960s.

October 22, 1938: Derek George Jacobi is born in Leytonstone, East London. He starred in the title roles in the miniseries I, Claudius and the mystery series Cadfael, and, despite being British, was one of the voiceover readers for Ken Burns’ Baseball.

Also born on this day, in Stamford, Connecticut, is Christopher Allen Lloyd, who watched the World Series with Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, played “Reverend” Jim Ignatowski on Taxi, played a Klingon ship commander who ordered the killing of James T. Kirk’s son in Star Trek III, played a cartoon character masquerading as a hardline judge in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and invented a time machine in Back to the Future, expressing in the 1st BTTF film how nice it would be to know who’s going to win the next 25 World Series -- and then, in the 2nd film, warning how dangerous it might be to know things about the future and bring that information back to the past, and being proven right.

October 22, 1939, 75 years ago: For the 1st time, a professional football game is televised, on experimental New York station W2XBS, the forerunner of WNBC-Channel 4. The Brooklyn Dodgers -- yes, there was an NFL team with that name -- play the Philadelphia Eagles at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. The Dodgers win, 23-14. There's no record of how many people paid to watch it in person, but there were apparently less than 300 TV sets capable of receiving the signal.

Also on this day, George Reginald Cohen is born in Kensington, in Central London. He was the right back on the England team that won soccer's World Cup on home soil in 1966. He played all 13 seasons of his career for West London club Fulham, winning no trophies. He retired at age 29 due to injury, and could still have been playing in 1975 when Fulham reached their one and only FA Cup Final (which they lost to East Londoners West Ham United). But, when you've got a World Cup winner's medal, you're a national icon and a world hero of the sport. (Unless you got it dishonestly, like Diego Maradona.)

A recent poll named him the greatest right back in the history of English football, ahead of, to use 3 more recent examples, Phil Neal of Liverpool, Lee Dixon of Arsenal and Gary Neville of Manchester United. He still attends Fulham home matches. His nephew Ben Cohen also won the World Cup for England, but in rugby, in 2003. He played most of his club rugby for Northampton.

October 22, 1942: Robert Gaston Fuller is born in Baytown, Texas, a suburb of Houston. In 1966, with his band, the Bobby Fuller Four (including his brother Randy), he had a huge, iconic hit record with “I Fought the Law.”

But within a few weeks, he was murdered. It has never been solved. He could have become one of the giants of rock and roll. Instead, we have only his one real hit and a few other tracks.

October 22, 1943: Catherine Fabienne Dorléac is born in Paris. “Share the fantasy,” the French actress better known as Catherine Denueve said in her Chanel No. 5 perfume commercials. She has been the object of many a fantasy.

She and director Roger Vadim had a son, Christian Vadim; she and actor Marcello Mastroianni had a daughter, Chiara Mastroianni. Both children, now grown, are also actors.

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October 22, 1960: The New Yorker magazine publishes "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," an article by 28-year-old John Updike, which chronicles Ted Williams' last game in the major leagues. The future Pulitzer Prize-winning author, among the 10,454 fans to watch the game at Fenway Park in Boston, includes the words, "Gods do not answer letters,” as an explanation of why the 41-year old superstar did not acknowledge the Fenway faithful after homering in his final major league at-bat.

Even if you don't like the Red Sox (and I sure as hell don't), you really should read it. It is one of the best pieces of sportswriting ever -- and it's by someone whose writing training was not in sports at all (even if his most famous character, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, had been a high school basketball star).

October 22, 1963: Brian Boitano is born in Mountain View, Califorina, in the San Francisco Bay Area. He won the Gold Medal in men’s figure skating at the 1988 Winter Olympics. Before losing his hair, he bore a striking resemblance to Bronson Pinchot, a.k.a. Balki Bartokomous on the ABC sitcom Perfect Strangers.

Also on this day, Roy Hamey resigns as Yankee general manager. Field manager Ralph Houk is promoted to replace him. He had managed 3 seasons, and won the Pennant all 3 times, including winning 2 World Series.

Soon, Houk will ask the man to whom he was backup catcher, Yogi Berra, “How would you like to manage?” Yogi says, “Manage who?” Houk says, “The Yankees!” Yogi says, “Sure.”

October 22, 1964, 50 years ago: Drazen Petrovic is born in Šibenik, in what was then the Croatia province of Yugoslavia. He starred for his national team – first the united Yugoslavia, then Croatia – medaling in 3 Olympics, and was an All-Star for the New Jersey Nets, before a car crash in Germany killed him in 1993. The Nets retired his Number 3, and he was posthumously elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

October 22, 1966: Valeria Golino is born in Naples, Italy. The actress has nothing do to with sports, unless you want to count her equestrian scenes in Hot Shots! So why do I mention her? Why do you think I mention her? Google her or YouTube her, and you’ll find out why I mention her!

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October 22, 1972: The Oakland A's win their first World Championship in 42 years, since the 1930 Philadelphia team, with a 3-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 7 at Riverfront Stadium. Gene Tenace has 2 RBI in the game. Tenace‚ who had only 5 homers in the regular season, had 4 in the Series‚ and is named MVP.

The Reds go on to win 2 World Series in the 1970s, and will win more games in the decade than the A’s. They win 4 Pennants and 6 Division Titles in the decade to the A’s’ 3 Pennants and 5 Division Titles. For these reasons, their surviving players are convinced that they, not the A’s, were the team of the decade.

However, the A’s won 3 World Series in a row, and, what’s more, in the one head-to-head matchup between the A’s and the Reds, the A’s won, winning 3 of the 4 games in Cincinnati, including the clincher, and doing so without their best player, Reggie Jackson. So there can be no doubt that the A’s were the Team of the Seventies.

Besides, neither team was the one that won the most games in the decade: It was the Baltimore Orioles who did that, while winning 5 Division Titles and 3 Pennants, but only 1 World Series.

It would take until 1990 for the Reds to get revenge on the A's.

October 22, 1973: Ichiro Suzuki is born in Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, outside Nagoya, Japan. The first Japanese batter to really make it in the North American major leagues, he may become the first player to make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame based on both his Japanese and his North American achievements.

He has won 10 Gold Gloves, and his 1,278 hits for the Orix Blue Wave and his 2,844 hits with the Seattle Mariners and the Yankees gives him 4,121. This includes 262 hits in 2004, which broke the 84-year-old major league record of 257 by George Sisler.

Granted, those 1,278 Japanese hits weren’t all against pitchers good enough to make it in MLB, but if the Japanese leagues are accepted as “major league,” then his 4,121 hits would rank him 3rd all-time, trailing only Pete Rose and Ty Cobb, and 1st in the Divisional Play Era, ahead of, yes, even Derek Jeter.

October 22, 1974: The Giants and Yankees swap popular star outfielders: Bobby Bonds goes to New York, and Bobby Murcer heads to San Francisco. Bonds will hit 32 homers and steal 32 bases in 1975‚ becoming the Yankees' 1st-ever member of "the 30-30 Club."

But leg injuries prevented him from doing more that season. He never quite adapted to New York, and after just the 1 season, he is traded to the California Angels for outfielder Mickey Rivers and pitcher Ed Figueroa. They turn out to be 2 major figures in the Yankees’ revival, so Bonds' greatest value to the Yankees was as trade bait.

Today, Bonds is known 3rd for his amazing combination of power and speed, 2nd for being traded so many times, and 1st for being the father of Barry Bonds. That really isn’t fair, as Bobby was a fantastic player, one of the best of the 1970s.

As for Murcer, he loved the city of San Francisco, but hated playing in cold, windy Candlestick Park, both as a batter and as an outfielder. He would be traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1977, and he enjoyed Wrigley Field a lot more. (Sure, Wrigley also has wind issues, but it is also much more of a hitter’s park.)

Still, Murcer was heartbroken to be traded by the Yankees, to whom he had given as much as anybody could in those dark years between 1964 and 1976, and swore he would never forgive them for trading him. But in 1979, George Steinbrenner traded to get him back, and Bobby jumped at the chance, and he remained a part of the Yankee family, as a player until 1983, and then as a broadcaster until his death in 2008.

Also on this day, Pat Pieper dies at age 88. He had been the Cubs' public address announcer since 1916 -- 49 years. "Attention... Attention, please!... Have your pencil... and scorecards ready... and I'll give you... the correct lineup... for today's ball game." Those words became as familiar to Chicagoans as the "Your attention please... ladies and gentlemen... " of Bob Sheppard, the Yankee PA announcer who now holds the record for the majors' longest-serving (57 years) and oldest (97) PA announcer.

He was there when the Cubs' James "Hippo" Vaughn and the Reds' Fred Toney both pitched no-hitters in 1917, Toney keeping his for 10 innings as the Reds reached Vaughn for a hit and the winning run. He was there when Babe Ruth called his shot against the Cubs in the 1932 World Series -- and, unlike most Cub fans, was willing to admit that the Babe did it. He was there when Gabby Hartnett hit his "Homer in the Gloamin'" that won a key Pennant race game for the Cubs in 1938. He was there when the Cubs won their last Pennant in 1945, when Ernie Banks integrated the team in 1953, and when they had their thrilling but heartbreaking season of 1969.

In nearly half a century, he missed only 16 home games, none after 1924, until he fell ill late in the 1974 season. The Cubs inducted him into their Walk of Fame when it was established in 1996.

Also on this day, Miroslav Šatan is born in Jacovce, in what’s now Slovakia. He scored 363 goals in 15 NHL seasons. Despite having a name that sounds like the English name for the Devil (but pronounced “Sha-TANN” in his language), he never played for the New Jersey Devils. Indeed, he seemed to play particularly well against them, no matter what team he was on.

He recently retired from the game, and, remembering his good times with the New York Islanders, has settled in Jericho, Long Island, New York.

October 22, 1975: Just 20 hours after Carlton Fisk's home run finished what some still call the greatest baseball game ever played, the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox have to play Game 7 of the World Series at Fenway Park, to decide the championship of the baseball world.

Before the game, Reds manager Sparky Anderson says of his starter, Don Gullett, “No matter what happens in this game, my starter’s going to the Hall of Fame.” Told by the reporters that Anderson had said that, Red Sox starter Bill Lee says, “No matter what happens in this game, I’m going to the Eliot Lounge.”

The Eliot was a popular Boston watering hole, at the convenient intersection of Massachusetts and Commonwealth Avenues, known for local athletes dining and drinking there. Essentially, it was Boston's answer to Toots Shor's in New York or The Pump Room in Chicago. But since its closing in 1996, people who knew it well have argued that it was not a “sports bar,” as if that term diminishes what the Eliot meant to the sports fans of Boston.

The Sox take a 3-0 lead in the 3rd, just as they had in Game 6. And, just as they had in Game 6, as they would say in English soccer, “Three-nil, and you fucked it up.” Lee decided to try a blooper pitch against All-Star 1st baseman Tony Perez, and the man known as Big Doggie crushes it, sending it well over the Green Monster. That makes it 3-2 Boston.

Lee allows another run – some sources say he’d developed a blister, or maybe I’m confusing this with Roger Clemens in 1986 – and the game is tied.

Jim Willoughby finishes up the 7th for Boston, and also pitches the 8th. But in the 9th, Sox manager Darrell Johnson pinch-hits Cecil Cooper for Willoughby. Johnson brings in Jim Burton to pitch, and Burton allows 2 runners, and Joe Morgan singles up the middle to bring home Ken Griffey Sr. to make it 4-3 Cincinnati. Will McEnaney stares down Carl Yastrzemski with 1 out to go, and Yaz flies out to center fielder Cesar Geronimo to end it.

The Reds thus win their 3rd World Series, but their 1st in 35 years. The Red Sox have now gone 57 years without winning one, and New England will have to wait.

Many Sox fans wonder what could have been: If Johnson hadn’t brought in Dick Drago and blown Lee’s 2-1 lead in the 9th in Game 2; if Ed Armbrister hadn’t interfered with Carlton Fisk in Game 3; if umpire Larry Barnett had called interference on that play; if the Sox hadn’t blown a 1-0 lead in the 4th in Game 5; if Lee hadn’t thrown the blooper to Perez; if Johnson hadn’t pinch-hit for Willoughby; if Johnson had relieved Willoughby with someone other than Burton; and if rookie outfielder Jim Rice hadn’t been injured late in the regular season, rendering him unavailable for the Series...

This Series has been regarded as one of the best ever, maybe the best. For the Red Sox, Yastrzemski, Fisk and Rice have been elected to the Hall of Fame, and some people think Luis Tiant should also be elected. For the Reds, Anderson, Morgan, Perez and Johnny Bench have been elected, and Pete Rose, named MVP of this Series, would have been elected to the Hall if he hadn’t been caught betting on baseball.

However, despite Anderson’s prediction, his Game 7 starter, Don Gullett, developed a shoulder problem, and a promising career was cut short, and he did not achieve election to the Hall. He did, however, help the Reds win the Series again the next year, and then signed with the Yankees as a free agent, and won another, before his shoulder injury ended his career in 1978.

*

October 22, 1982: Robinson Jose Cano is born in San Pedro de Macoris, in the Dominican Republic. The Yankees’ 2nd baseman was named after Jackie Robinson, and wears Number 24 as it is Robinson’s 42 reversed. He has really come into his own in regular-season play, although his postseason hitting leaves much to be desired.

That the Yankees made a mistake in letting him go, instead of throwing a huge salary and a long-term contract at him, was conventional wisdom this season. Let's see who was right when he gets to the same point in his Seattle contract that Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira or CC Sabathia is at now.

Also born on this day is Earl Heath Miller Jr., in Richlands, Virginia. The tight end for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Heath Miller is the winner of 2 Super Bowl rings thus far.

October 22, 1986: Game 4 of the World Series at Fenway Park. Gary Carter hits 2 home runs, and the Mets beat the Red Sox, 6-2. The Series is tied, and those trash-talking Met fans get their confidence back.

October 22, 1991: For the 1st time, a World Series game is played in a place that used to be part of the Confederate States of America. Game 3 is held at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and Mark Lemke’s 2-out single in the bottom of the 12th gives the Braves a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Twins.

October 22, 1992: Walter Lanier Barber, the Voice of Baseball, dies from complications from surgery. The Old Redhead was 84. Since then, he has watched games from the real "catbird seat."

October 22, 1994, 20 years ago: Had there been a 1994 World Series, it would have begun on this date, in the home park of the National League's Pennant-winner.

October 22, 1996: The Yankees get a desperately-needed win in Game 3 of the World Series in Atlanta, 5-2 over the Braves, behind the gutsy pitching of David Cone. John Wetteland gets the save as Bernie Williams drives in 3 runs.

October 22, 1997: With the Jacobs Field game-time temperature hovering at 35 degrees, the coldest start on record for any postseason game, the Cleveland Indians' bats come out smoking in Game 4 of the World Series, scoring 3 runs in the 1st and another 3 in the 3rd.

Highlights of their 10-3 rout of the Florida Marlins include Tribe 3rd baseman Matt Williams reaching base 6 times, and the matchup of 2 rookie starters on the mound: 21-year-old right-hander Jaret Wright for Cleveland and 23-year-old southpaw Tony Saunders for Florida. This is only the 6th time that freshman hurlers have opposed one another in the history of the Fall Classic.

*

October 22, 2000: Game 2 of the Subway Series, at the original Yankee Stadium, is one of the most bizarre contests in baseball history. In the top of the 1st, with 2 out and a man on, Mike Piazza bats for the Mets against Roger Clemens of the Yankees. Piazza had hit some long home runs off Clemens, and in July, in an Interleague game also at Yankee Stadium, Clemens had nailed Piazza on the helmet with a fastball, giving him a concussion.

This time, Piazza hits a foul ball, and breaks his bat. The barrel of the bat comes back to Clemens, and... he throws the jagged-edged bat barrel across the first-base foul line. Right in Piazza’s path, and Piazza almost steps into it.

We may never know what was going on in the head of the Rocket, but what’s going on in the head of Piazza is rage. He thinks Clemens was throwing the sharp object at him. Piazza moves toward Clemens and both benches empty. Piazza is furious. For one of the few times in his career, there’s an on-field controversy and Clemens is not the most insane man involved.

The umpires restore order, and Clemens finishes the at-bat by striking Piazza out. He pitches 8 strong innings, and the Yankees pound Mike Hampton, and take a 6-0 lead into the 9th.

But the bullpen can’t hold it, and the Mets come to within 6-5, including home runs by Piazza (the 1st-ever World Series homer for the alleged “greatest-hitting catcher ever”) and Jay Payton, before Joe Torre has enough and brings in the Hammer of God, Mariano Rivera, to slam the door and keep it 6-5. The Yankees take a 2-games-to-0 lead in the Series, which now heads across town to Shea.

Clemens will be fined $50,000 for his what-the-hell moment. But Met fans have never gotten this into their thick skulls: Clemens was not throwing the bat at Piazza. If there’s one thing that Roger Clemens made perfectly clear many times in his playing career, it’s this: If he wants to throw something at someone with the intention of hitting him, that person will get hit. If he wanted to throw the bat at Piazza, that bat would have hit Piazza.

And now, the question needs to be asked: Which of these men was on steroids, warping their perceptions of what was happening? Was it Clemens? Was it Piazza? Was it both? Until either man, or both men, decide to change their stories, we may never know for sure.

As it turned out, both men played their last game in 2007, meaning that both became eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in the election of January 2013 -- and neither man made it last year, nor this year. I suppose this avoids the most awkward induction ceremony in the Hall's history.

Almost lost in the craziness of this game is that fact that, a few hours earlier, Corey Dillon of the Cincinnati Bengals rushed for 278 yards against the Denver Broncos, breaking Walter Payton’s single-game record of 275, set in 1977. The Bengals had been 0-6, but win this one, 31-21. They win the next week, too, beating their arch-rivals, the Cleveland Browns. But they fall apart, finishing 4-12.

Dillon, who has since been arrested for hitting his wife, has seen his record surpassed by Jamal Lewis and Adrian Peterson -- a cocaine addict and a child abuser. Walter Payton, one of the most decent men in sports history, went to his grave with his record intact. I don't think he would have minded seeing his record broken, but it would have upset him to see the character of the men who have done it.

October 22, 2002: Renel Brooks-Moon becomes the 1st woman to be the public address announcer at a finals game in any major league sport, in Game 3 of the World Series at Pacific Bell Park (now AT&T Park) in San Francisco. Her predecessor with the Giants, Sherry Davis, had been the 1st female P.A. announcer in Major League Baseball. Brooks-Moon was not the 1st female, nor the 1st black, P.A. announcer in the major leagues, but she was one of the earliest of each.

She can't be happy with the result of this game, as the host Giants are pounded 10-4 by the Anaheim Angels. This was the first World Series game played in San Francisco since the earthquake-interrupted Series of 1989 ended in Game 4 at Candlestick Park. (Although the A's had played 2 Series games in Oakland in 1990.)

Born across the Bay in Oakland, Brooks-Moon remains the Giants' P.A. announcer, and has long been a disc jockey at San Francisco radio station 98.1 KISS-FM and and the entertainment reporter for KPIX, Channel 5, the CBS affiliate in the Bay Area. She has now announced 2 World Championship wins for the Giants, in 2010 and 2012, and the Giants are now 3 wins away from winning a 3rd title with her at their microphone.

*

October 22, 2003: The Jeff Weaver Game. As Phil Rizzuto would have said, I get agita just thinking about it.

It's Game 4 of the World Series at the Dolphins/Marlins Stadium. I’ve seen the location listed as “Miami,” “Miami Gardens,” “Miami Lakes,” “Carol City” and “Opa-Locka.” Just as the stadium itself has gone through several names: Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Land Shark Stadium, and, currently, Sun Life Stadium.

The Florida Marlins lead the Yankees 3-1 after 7 innings, but as he strikes out Luis Castillo (a name that will feature in the Yankees-Mets rivalry in 2009) to end the 7th, Roger Clemens walks off the mound, and a crowd of 65,934 gives him a standing ovation, thinking that the 41-year-old legendary fireballer is walking off the field as an active player for the last time. (Within weeks, this will prove to have been greatly exaggerated.) Marlins starter Carl Pavano holds the Yankees to 1 run through 8 strong innings. Like Clemens' retirement, Pavano's frustration of Yankee Fans is happening for the first time, but by no means for the last.

The Yankees rally in the 9th against reliever Ugueth Urbina, whose own post-baseball career will be incredibly troubled. Bernie Williams singles with one out, Hideki Matsui walks and Jorge Posada grounds into a force play. Pinch-hitter Rubén Sierra fouls off two full-count pitches before tripling into the right-field corner to tie the ball game. This is Sierra’s 2nd tenure with the Yanks, having made up with manager Joe Torre after Torre had him traded for Cecil Fielder in ’96 due to disciplinary issues; this is the biggest hit Sierra ever got for the Yankees – or for anyone else, for that matter. But he is stranded on 3rd.

No matter, as the momentum seems to have shifted to the Yankees, and if they can win the game in extra innings, they will take a 3-games-to-1 lead and can clinch their 27th World Championship tomorrow night over a Marlins team that really was unworthy of being there. (This unworthiness is almost certain now that nearly everybody suspects Ivan Rodriguez of steroid use.)

The Yankees threaten to score in the top of the 11th when they load the bases with one out off Chad Fox. Braden Looper relieves and strikes out Aaron Boone, and replacement catcher John Flaherty pops out to third. (Yes, the same John Flaherty who has since parlayed one big regular-season hit, against the Red Sox in 2004, into a career as a mediocre broadcaster. At least he had one big hit, which is more than the similar Fran Healy ever got.) Still, the Yankees have the chance to win this game.

But in the bottom of the 11th, Torre makes a mistake every bit as critical as the stranding of Sierra on 3rd in the 9th. He had already used Jeff Nelson, and Jose Contreras, originally a starter, had already pitched 2 innings. Torre could have left Contreras in. He could have brought in his closer, Mariano Rivera. He could also have brought in Chris Hammond.

Instead, he brings in Jeff Weaver, who gets through the 11th with no trouble, but Alex Gonzalez leads of the bottom of the 12th. This is not the now-retired Alex Gonzalez, ironically from Miami, whose error at shortstop made the Cubs' collapse in the Steve Bartman Game possible a week earlier. This is the Venezuelan shortstop, who has a .245 lifetime batting average (although he did hit 18 home runs that season), and is now playing out the string for the Tigers.

Weaver throws him a hanging curveball, and Gonzalez hits it down the left-field line, and it creeps over the fence for a game-winning home run. Marlins 4, Yankees 3.

Not since Bill Mazeroski, 43 years earlier, had the Yankees given up a walkoff home run in a Series game. By bringing in Weaver – or, as Red Sox fans would say if this happened to them, Jeff Fucking Weaver – Torre turned the Yankees from a team that was 1 run away from being up 3 games to 1 to a team that ends up losing the World Series to a team that was lucky to even get the NL's Wild Card and then needed both steroids and the Bartman-connected collapse.

The Yankees don't win another World Series game until October 29, 2009.

This loss really, really pissed me off. I was not heartbroken. I was enraged. And that was before I knew the Marlins' emotional leader, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, was a steroid cheat. And before I knew that Josh Beckett, who shut the Yankees out in Game 6 to clinch it, was going to become a typical classless Red Sock. 

I was enraged.  I remain enraged.  This loss angers me more 11 years later than it did at the time.

On July 5, 2002, the Yankees traded Ted Lilly to the A's. Lilly was a much-hyped prospect, but had been horrible for the Yankees.  When I heard he'd been traded, I used the old line: "Great trade.  Who did we get?"

It was a 3-team deal, also involving the Tigers. The only player worth mentioning that the A's got was Lilly, who turned out to be a good pitcher -- when he wasn't wearing Pinstripes. The Tigers got Carlos Pena, who's had a pretty good career, and Jeremy Bonderman, who gave them some good pitching.

The only player the Yankees got as part of the deal was Weaver, who, to that point, was an average pitcher at best.  He would be less than that with the Yankees. He pitched poorly in the 2002 Playoffs, had nearly a 6 ERA in the 2003 regular season, and gave up that home run to "the other Alex Gonzalez."

Joe Torre didn't trust Weaver enough to put him on the Division Series or League Championship Series roster. But he put him on the World Series roster.

In that Game 4, Torre used Clemens into the 8th, Nelson to get out of the 8th, Contreras in the 9th and 10th, and Weaver in the 11th -- aside from facing Gonzalez to lead off the 12th, that was the only inning Weaver pitched in the entire postseason. Those 4 games against the Minnesota Twins, and those 7 games against the Red Sox, including the epic Game 7? No sign of Weaver. And the Yankees won both series. As former UCLA quarterback Mark Harmon would say on NCIS, a TV series that began airing on CBS the previous month, would say in character as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, "There is no such thing as coincidence."

Contreras was a starter. He could have pitched long relief. Torre could also have used Hammond, one of the best middle-relievers of that period, in his only season with the Yankees. He could also have used a pretty good relief pitcher by the name of Mariano Rivera. But Torre had this mental block about using Mo in non-save situations -- Game 7 of the ALCS being the most notable exception.

In Game 5 the next night, David Wells lasted only an inning, and Torre threw Contreras out there with no notice and about 20 hours' rest. He had nothing, and the Marlins won. In Game 6, the last World Series game ever played at the old Yankee Stadium, Beckett shut out a lifeless bunch of Yankees, and the Marlins were World Champions for the 2nd time -- both times as a Wild Card.  They've been in 6 postseason series in their history, and won them all. Between 1996 and 2003, 8 seasons, the Yankees or the Marlins won 6 World Series.

Torre trusted Weaver, and the World Series turned on that one pitch.

On December 13, 2003, the Yankees traded Weaver and 2 guys you don't need to know about to the Los Angeles Dodgers, for a better pitcher. Or so we thought.

On April 29, 2004, I went to Shea Stadium to see the Mets play the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Mets beat the Dodgers, 6-1. The losing pitcher was Jeff Weaver. I went to that game for the sole purpose of booing Weaver. Cheering for the Mets? That felt lame. But booing Jeff Fucking Weaver? Damn, that felt good.

On June 18 of that year, the Yankees went out to L.A. to play the Dodgers in an Interleague series. I did not go to any games of that series. The Dodgers won that day, 6-3. The winning pitcher was Jeff Fucking Weaver.  Damn, that felt lousy.

But Weaver wasn't done screwing the Yanks over. You know that pitcher the Yanks got for him? Well, he also gave up a major postseason homer for the Yanks. It was Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.  The batter was David Ortiz. The pitcher was... Kevin Brown.

In 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series. On their Series roster was... Jeff Weaver.

Jeff FUCKING Weaver has a World Series ring. You know who doesn't have a World Series ring? Ty Cobb, Nap Lajoie, George Sisler, Ted Williams, Early Wynn, Ralph Kiner, Robin Roberts, Ernie Banks, Luis Aparicio, Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Carl Yastrzemski, Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro, Ferguson Jenkins, Bobby Murcer, Don Sutton, Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Robin Yount, Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy, Ryne Sandberg, Tony Gwynn, Don Mattingly, Ken Griffey Jr., Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, and Trevor Hoffman. And, so far, the still-active Ichiro Suzuki, Curtis Granderson, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout.

You know who else doesn't have a World Series ring so far? Jered Weaver, the younger and considerably better brother of Jeff Fucking. Since reaching the majors with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2006 -- he has spent his entire career with them -- he has won 131 games against only 69 losses, and an ERA+ of 124, making him 24 percent better at preventing earned runs since 2006 than the average pitcher over those 9 years.

Jeff, whose career ended in 2010, when he was only 34 years old, had a record of 104-119, and an ERA+ of 93 -- meaning he was 7 percent less effective at preventing earned runs from 1999 to 2010 than the average pitcher was over that stretch.

But Jeff Fucking Weaver has a World Series ring.

I would hate Jeff Weaver's guts -- if he had any guts to hate.

*

October 22, 2005: For the 1st time in 46 years, a World Series game is played in the City of Chicago. The White Sox take Game 1 with a 5-3 victory over the Astros at U.S. Cellular Field. Yankee castoff Jose Contreras gets the win for Chicago‚ despite hitting 3 batters in the game, to tie a Series record set by Bruce Kison of the Pirates in 1971. Joe Crede homers and makes a pair of great defensive plays in the field. Jermaine Dye also homers for Chicago, while Mike Lamb connects for Houston.

October 22, 2006: The Tigers even the Series with a 3-1 win over the Cardinals, behind the rather mysteriously rejuvenated Kenny Rogers. Craig Monroe homers for Detroit, and Carlos Guillen gets 3 hits. This remains, for the moment, the only World Series game won by the Tigers in the last 30 years.

It is also the 1st time that a father-and-son combination have appeared in a World Series game as a player for the same franchise. Scott Speizio, the Cardinals' current 2nd baseman, and his father, Ed, a 3rd baseman for the club in the 1967 and '68, both played (and won) in the Fall Classic with the Cards. Scott had already won a ring with the '02 Angels, thanks in part to his home run that sparked their big Game 6 comeback. And Ed had hit the first home run in San Diego Padres history in 1969.

October 22, 2008: For only the 3rd time in World Series history, and the 1st since 1970, both starting pitchers in Game 1 are under the age of 25. Cole Hamels, a 24-year old lefthander, gets the victory when the Phillies beat the Rays and their 24-year old southpaw Scott Kazmir at Tropicana Field, 3-2.

October 22, 2010: The Texas Rangers win their first Pennant.  Unfortunately, they beat the Yankees to do it, winning Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.

October 22, 2011: Game 3 of the World Series. Albert Pujols hits 3 home runs, matching the feat of Babe Ruth in 1926 and 1928, and of Reggie Jackson in 1977. He gets 5 hits and 6 RBIs, which also tie Series records, on his way to a new Series record of 14 total bases. The Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers 16-7, tying for the 2nd-most runs in a Series game. (The Yankees got 18 in the clinching Game 6 in 1936.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 21, 2000: The Greatest Game I Ever Saw?


October 21, 2000: Game 1 of the 1st Subway Series since 1956 – it doesn’t matter what Met fans call those Interleague series in the regular season, it’s not a true Subway Series unless it happens in October – is played at the original Yankee Stadium. It turns out to be, quite possibly, the greatest game I’ve ever seen. At the least, it was the most nerve-wracking game I've ever seen.

After 39 years of hoping, wishing, praying for a chance to beat the Yankees in a World Series, Met fans finally have that chance. And they were sure they were going to win it. After all, Al Leiter was going to start Games 1 and 5, and Mike Hampton was going to start Games 2 and 6. And, as everybody knows, “The Yankees can’t hit lefthanded pitching. Especially in the postseason.” I guess Met fans, the Flushing Heathen, hadn’t noticed how the Yankees beat all pitchers, left and right alike, in winning the Series in 1996, ’98 and ’99, and winning another Pennant to put them in this Series.

Still, Met fans always wanted this chance. In the immortal words of Leonard Nimoy -- who, being a Bostonian, probably knows just how illogical baseball can be -- “You may find that having is not so fine a thing as wanting.”

Leiter outpitches Andy Pettitte, but 4 baserunning blunders by the Mets leave the score 3-2 in the Mets’ favor entering the bottom of the 9th. Still, to be able to take Game 1 at Yankee Stadium would be a huge boost to the Mets.

Manager Bobby Valentine brings in his closer. Unfortunately for him, it’s Armando Benitez. Paul O’Neill fouls off pitch after pitch, and finally draws the most clutch walk in baseball history. The Yankees bring him around to score on DH Chuck Knoblauch’s sacrifice fly, and the game goes into extra innings.

It goes to the bottom of the 12th, and a Met castoff, Jose Vizcaino, playing second base because Knoblauch is not fielding well, singles home the winning run.

Yankees 4, Mets 3. Essentially, the World Series that Met fans had waited their whole lives for has been decided in Game 1. Had the Mets won this game, the Series would have been very, very different.

*

October 21, 1845: According to John Thorn, author of a bunch of books about baseball and now Major League Baseball's official historian, the first real baseball game may have been played on this date. It also begins the baseball rivalry between New York and Brooklyn, which will still be separate cities until 1898.

October 21, 1861: At the Elysian Fields in Hoboken‚ the greatest event of the baseball season‚ the Grand Match for the Silver Ball‚ takes place between all-star teams from Brooklyn and New York. The Silver Ball Trophy is the same size as a regular baseball, and will be kept by the club whose members score the most runs during the match.

A crowd of 15,000 fans sees the Brooklyn team‚ behind their star Jim Creighton‚ defeat New York 18-6. This is the same Jim Creighton who will be dead within a year.

October 21, 1887: The National League Champion Detroit Wolverines clinch the World Championship with their 8th victory in Game 11 of the series this afternoon, over the American Association Champions, the St. Louis Browns, 13-3 on neutral ground in Baltimore.

With a rainout yesterday in Washington‚ this morning's rescheduled Game 10 sees the Browns pull off a triple play and win‚ 11-4‚ to delay elimination. But the Wolverines take Game 11 to clinch.

But they will end up losing money, and fold at the end of the next season. Detroit will not return to major league ball until the American League and the Tigers arrive in 1901, and will not win another World Championship for 48 years. The Browns will win their 4th straight AA title the next season, but will go 38 years before winning another Pennant. In 1892 they join the NL; by 1901, they will be named the Cardinals.

*

October 21, 1917: An exhibition game in Kansas City features the 2nd and last matchup between Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander. Alex's team wins‚ 4-3. Included in Alexander's lineup is 21 year-old Cardinals rookie Rogers Hornsby. In his 1962 book My War With Baseball, Hornsby described his last at-bat:

Johnson had two strikes on me. He threw me a real fast ball and I knocked it straight for the fence. The ball knocked out the knot and went through the fence for a home run and we won 4-3. The hole‚ I admit‚ was one of the biggest cases of pure luck I ever heard of. I'm convinced he absolutely had the best fastball of anyone who ever played baseball.

Hornsby will face Johnson again in 1924.

October 21, 1928: Edward Charles Ford is born in Manhattan, and grows up in the adjoining Queens neighborhoods of Long Island City and Astoria. Known as Whitey for his hair, now white but even as a kid it was very light blond, and as the Chairman of the Board because he was such a commanding figure on the mound (and he loved the nickname, as he was a big Frank Sinatra fan and Sinatra also had the nickname), his 236 wins are the most by any Yankee.

Among all pitchers with at least 200 decisions, his .690 career winning percentage is the highest. (For a while, Pedro Martinez was ahead of him, but finished his career at .687.) And that percentage is higher than the percentage of the Yankees he pitched for, so as good as the Yankees were when he didn’t pitch, he still made them better when he did.

Of the 2 pitchers, with more than a few decisions, ahead of him, 1 is Al Spalding, who pitched in the 1870s with the pitching distance at 45 feet; the other is former Yankee Spurgeon “Spud” Chandler, was 109-43 for .717, but that’s just 152 decisions; Whitey was 236-106 in 342. The current active leader is Clayton Kershaw, at .667, but that's at 98-49, just 147 decisions.

Whitey's 2.75 career earned-run average is the best among starting pitchers in the post-1920 Lively Ball Era. The leader among all post-1920 pitchers, at 2.21, is Mariano Rivera; the only other ahead of Whitey is also a reliever, Hoyt Wilhelm. Among Lively Ball Era starters, Sandy Koufax is 2nd, with the top 10 being rounded out by Chandler, Jim Palmer, Andy Messersmith, Met legend Tom Seaver, Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson, Harry Brecheen and Dean Chance. Pedro Martinez was ahead of Whitey for a while in this category, too, but fell to 2.93 and is now 11th among Lively Ball Era starters. The current active leader, given enough innings to qualify, is Kershaw at 2.48, but that's only over 7 years. Among pitchers with at least 10 seasons, it's Felix Hernandez -- at 3.08.

Whitey’s 10 wins in World Series play has never been approached –- Gibson won 7, and as great as he was in his wins, Koufax won “only” 4. And Whitey still holds the record for consecutive scoreless innings in Series play, 33. Mariano holds the record for postseason play, 33 1/3.

“There’s really only four numbers that should be retired” by the Yankees, he says, “and mine’s not one of them.” Nevertheless, his Number 16 was retired by the Yankees in 1974, when he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, making him the 1st Yankee pitcher thus honored. He was also 1 of the 1st 2 Yankee pitchers awarded a Plaque in Monument Park, honored along with Lefty Gomez in 1987.

It says something about this great competitor that my Grandma, a dedicated Brooklyn Dodger fan who hated the Yankees (especially Casey Stengel and Yogi Berra, for some reason), loved 2 Yankees: Phil Rizzuto and Whitey Ford. That both were from her home Borough of Queens had something to do with it, but she also loved that Whitey was smart and didn’t rely on overwhelming force, mixing up his pitches like her favorite Dodger pitchers, Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine and especially Preacher Roe. (And also like her favorite Met pitchers, Tom Seaver, Ron Darling, David Cone and Al Leiter.) She had no patience for pitchers who were fastball-reliant, like Ralph Branca of the Dodgers. She also hated hotheads like Billy Martin, Eddie Stanky and Roger Clemens. She loved that Whitey kept his cool.

Years later, Erik Schrody, a white rapper from Long Island using the nom de rap of Everlast, would also nickname himself “Whitey Ford,” and title an album Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, with the follow-up titled Eat at Whitey’s and another Love, War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford.

*

October 21, 1938: Carl Thomas Brewer is born in Toronto. A 4-time All-Star defenseman for his hometown Maple Leafs, he helped them win the Stanley Cup in 1962, ’63 and ‘64. He died in 2001.

October 21, 1942: Lou Lamoriello is born in Providence, Rhode Island. He coached the hockey team at Providence College into the NCAA Final Four, a.k.a. the Frozen Four, and since 1987 has been the general manager of the New Jersey Devils.

The team made the Playoffs every year but one from 1990 to 2010, including 10 Atlantic Division titles, 4 Eastern Conference championships and 3 Stanley Cups. It has now added a 5th Conference Championship after missing the Playoffs in 2011.

But El Baldo has also made some puzzling trades, and has been so cheap that he has let go some terrific players without lifting a finger, including Scott Niedermayer (who helped the Anaheim Ducks win the Cup in his first season away from the Devils, 2007), Brian Rafalski (who helped the Detroit Red Wings win the Cup the very next season, 2008), John Madden, Brian Gionta and Zach Parise. The Devils have now missed the Playoffs in 3 of the last 4 seasons, with the 2012 Conference Championship mixed in.

And yet, every time I start thinking Lou Lam has to go, that’s when he manages to build another Cup team. Only 6 players played for all 3 Devils Cup teams, and barely more than half the players on each of them was on the next one. (Martin Brodeur, the last one left who played on all 3, is now a free agent, and Patrik Elias is the only other one left who played on any of them.)

The Devils won their 1st 3 games this season, but have now dropped 3 straight, including to the damn Rangers tonight.

I have never figured Lamoriello out, and I doubt that I ever will.

October 21, 1949: Two very different kind of legends of hockey are born. Michel Briere, of Malartic, was one of the brightest young players the Province of Quebec has ever produced, and put together a terrific rookie season for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1969. But in 1970, he was in an awful car crash and fell into a coma. He died in 1971. His Number 21 was immediately taken out of circulation by the Pens, although there was no official retirement ceremony for 30 years.

Also on this day, Mike Keenan was born in Bowmanville, Ontario. He coached the Philadelphia Flyers into the Stanley Cup Finals in 1985 and 1987, and did the same with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1992.

But he’s best known for the one and only season in which he coached the New York Rangers, 1994. With the highest payroll the NHL had yet seen, and seasons veterans all over the place (many of them, led by Captain Mark Messier, from the Edmonton Oilers, including some who had beaten his Flyers in the ’85 and ’87 Finals), he led the Broadway Blues to their 1st Stanley Cup in 54 years -- their only Cup in the last 74 years.

But he demanded a big new contract right after that, and threatened to take the Madison Square Garden Corporation to court if he didn’t get it. Instead, they let him walk, and he signed with the St. Louis Blues. It was one of the most shocking “divorces” in the history of New York Tri-State Area sports, and the Rangers have won just 1 Stanley Cup Finals game since. He is a mad genius, but except for once, and that once just barely, the madness is what has triumphed. In 2014, he led Metallurg Magnitogorsk to the Gagarin Cup, the championship of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.

Also on this day, Benjamin Netanyahu is born in Tel Aviv, Israel. He is now Prime Minister of his nation for the 2nd time. As with the 1st time, he has been unable to avoid being a warmonger, though (as far as we know) he has avoided the financial scandals and adulteries of his 1st term, that made him look like he was taking the worst of Bill Clinton and the worst of Newt Gingrich and combining them, instead of the best of each. (I’m still not sure Gingrich has a “best” – he and Netanyahu are both really smart, but have serious blind spots.)

*

October 21, 1956: Carrie Frances Fisher is born in Beverly Hills, California. No relation to Frances Fisher, a redheaded actress of similar age. But she is the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, and half-sister of actress Joely Fisher (daughter of Eddie and actress-singer Connie Stevens).

She will forever be known as Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars saga, but she’s also an accomplished writer and director, having written the novel Postcards On the Edge about her relationship with her mother and struggle with drug addiction, later writing the screenplay for the film version. She co-wrote the TV-movie These Old Broads, which starred her mother, and Shirley MacLaine (who played the Reynolds character in the film version of Postcards), and Elizabeth Taylor, the woman her father left her mother for.

October 21, 1959: George Bell is born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. A left fielder and a 3-time All-Star for the Toronto Blue Jays, he hit a walkoff for the last home run in Exhibition Stadium. He also hit the 1st homer at the SkyDome.

At that dome, now named the Rogers Centre, his name hangs in the “Level of Excellence,” the Jays’ team hall of fame that, until Roberto Alomar's Number 12 was retired, served as a substitute for retiring numbers such as Bell’s 11. (The NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs don’t retire numbers, either, except for 2 very special cases; instead, they have a system of “Honoured Numbers” that remain in circulation.) However, the Jays never won a Pennant until after trading Bell, brother of major leaguer Juan Bell.

*

October 21, 1964, 50 years ago: After just 11 years in Milwaukee‚ the Braves’ Board of Directors votes to ask the National League for permission to move to Atlanta. Milwaukee County officials sue to block the move. The end result is that they must play the 1965 season in Milwaukee, as lame ducks.

Attendance, once booming as the city embraced Major League Baseball for the first time in 50 years, collapses, and only 14,000 come out for the final Milwaukee Braves home game 11 months later. The reason? Partly, it was the novelty wearing off. Partly, it was the Minnesota Twins taking away huge chunks of their market, including the entire States of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, and even westernmost Wisconsin. The Brewers will arrive in Milwaukee in 1970.

October 21, 1967: Paul Emerson Carlyle Ince is born in East London. The midfielder helped restore Manchester United to glory, winning back-to-back Premier League titles after not having won England’s predecessor league for 26 years, and winning 2 FA Cups – taking both titles, or “The Double,” in 1994. He was also the 1st black Captain of the England national team.

After managing some lower-division teams, including Milton Keynes Dons, in 2008 Blackburn Rovers signed him, making him the 1st black manager in the 1st division of English football (either as “the Football League Division One” or as “the Premier League”). He won only 3 of 17 matches in 6 months and was fired. He has since managed MK Dons again and also Notts County and Blackpool, a team that included his son Tom Ince, also a midfielder. Tom now plays for Hull City.

Also on this day, an antiwar protest hits Washington, D.C. The marchers head across the Potomac River to the Pentagon, and, to this day, some marchers claim they actually "levitated" the building. Uh-huh. This was the day of the famous photograph of the long-haired (but not hippie-length-haired) kid in the turtleneck sweater sticking a flower in the barrel of a rifle held by a soldier "protecting" the Pentagon from the demonstrators.

October 21, 1968: Elston Howard announces his retirement after 14 big-league seasons, the first 12½ with the Yankees. He will soon be named a Yankee coach, making him the 1st black coach in the American League. He was preceded in the National League by former Kansas City Monarchs 1st baseman and manager John "Buck" O'Neil, with the Chicago Cubs, and former 2nd baseman Jim "Junior" Gilliam with the Dodgers.

October 21, 1969: Morris “Mo” Lewis is born in Atlanta. The All-Pro linebacker played in 200 games for the New York Jets, 3rd-most in franchise history at the time he retired.

He is probably best known for his sack of Drew Bledsoe of the New England Patriots early in the 2001, which injured Bledsoe and forced the Pats to bring in a new quarterback. Tom Brady. So maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to praise Mo, because that sack altered the course of NFL history, and not for the better!

Also on this day, Jack Kerouac dies. The novelist and poet whose works led the Beat Generation writing genre had been a football and track star at Lowell High School in Massachusetts, but injuries and squabbles with coach Lou Little ended his football scholarship at Columbia.

By the mid-Sixties, his fellow Beat writer and close friend Allen Ginsberg noticed that he no longer looked like the handsome young athlete he had so recently been when they met in 1944, or even the mature (physically if not emotionally) writer who became famous with the publication of On the Road in 1957. Rather, Allen though that Jack now looked like his father Leo, the result of 25 years of massive drinking. That drinking burned an ulcer in his esophagus, and that’s what killed him at age 47.

(By contrast, Ginsberg, who rather enjoyed various mind-altering drugs but wasn’t a serious boozer, lived to be 70; and the other member of the Beats’ Big Three, William S. Burroughs, who abused himself in countless ways, turned out to be the last survivor, outliving Ginsberg by a few weeks and passing away peacefully at 83.)

Kerouac and the early Beats loved jazz, especially bebop, whose two main leaders were saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker and trumpter John “Dizzy” Gillespie.  Parker died in 1955, on March 12, Kerouac’s birthday, which crushed Jack. Jack himself then died on an October 21, which was Gillespie’s birthday.

*

October 21, 1973: Game 7 of the World Series at the Oakland Coliseum. Bert Campaneris and Reggie Jackson hit home runs off Jon Matlack, and the A’s beat the Mets, 5-2, for their 2nd straight World Championship.

Reggie is named Series MVP. After having missed the previous year’s Series with an injury sustained while scoring the winning run in the NLCS, he has begun to build his reputation as a big-time postseason performer.

A's reliever Darold Knowles -- who once said of Reggie, "There isn't enough mustard in the world to cover that hot dog -- becomes the 1st pitcher, and remains the only one, to appear in all 7 games of a Series.

The Mets had a 3-games-to-2 lead, but considering what that A’s team was capable of, and that the A’s had the home-field advantage for Games 6 and 7, it’s hard to say that the Mets "choked." They just got beat.

They had a great run, coming from last place and 11 1/2 games back in August, to win a Division that no one seemed to want to win, doing it with just 82 wins, and fighting off Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine in the NLCS and taking the defending World Champion A’s to the limit.

And, considering how good the A's were, it might not be fair to blame Yogi Berra, then the Met manager, for losing the Series by pitching Tom Seaver on 3 days' rest in Game 6. A, Yogi was hoping he could prevent a Game 7 entirely.  B, Seaver didn't pitch all that badly on short rest.

Reliever Frank "Tug" McGraw had given the Mets their late-season rallying cry, "Ya gotta believe!" But what you should believe is that this Series was not lost by the Mets nearly so much as it was won by the A's, the better team. This time, unlike in 1969 (and 1986), the Mets simply ran out of miracles.

Also on this day, Fred Dryer of the Los Angeles Rams becomes the 1st player in NFL history to score 2 safeties in the same game. The Rams beat the Green Bay Packers, 24-7 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Dryer, an All-Pro defensive end, remains the only player ever to accomplish the feat, but will become better known as an actor, starring in the police drama Hunter.

*

October 21, 1975: Game 6 of the World Series. You may have heard about this one.

In The Curse of the Bambino, his somewhat skewed history of his beloved Boston Red Sox, Dan Shaughnessy called it “a brilliant autumn day in New England,” following a 3-day delay for rain. Brilliant though the Tuesday afternoon may have been, this game was played at night at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox trail the Cincinnati Reds 3 games to 2, and must win to force a Game 7. The Sox haven’t won the World Series in 57 years, including a loss as recently as 1967; the Reds, 35 years, including 2 Series losses in this decade already. Both teams need it badly.

Shaughnessy wrote, “Game Six has taken on a life of its own in the years since it was played, and it gets larger and more thrilling in each retelling. Some distance allows that there may be other contenders for the title of The Greatest Game Ever Played, but by any measure, 1975’s Game Six will stand as one of the top ten games in World Series history, and one that came at a time when baseball needed it most.” In The New Yorker magazine, Roger Angell wrote, “Game Six... what can we say of it without seeming to diminish it by recapitulation or dull it with detail?”

Fred Lynn’s homer gave the Sox an early 3-0 lead. But, as they would say in English soccer, Three-nil, and they fucked it up. Typical Boston choke, leading to a Reds win? As Lee Corso would say, Not so fast, my friend. Six-three, and they fucked it up. Bernie Carbo, a former Red, hit a pinch-hit home run of Rawley Eastwick in the bottom of the 8th.

The game went to extra innings, because in the bottom of the 9th, because Denny Doyle thought Sox 3rd-base coach Don Zimmer was telling him, “Go, go, go!” to tag up, when in fact he was saying, “No, no, no!” and George Foster threw Doyle out at the plate.

The top of the 11th featured an amazing over-the-fence catch of a Joe Morgan drive by Sox right fielder Dwight Evans, who then started a double pay to end the Reds’ rally. During that rally, Pete Rose was batting, and he turned to Sox catcher Carlton Fisk and said, “Can you believe this game?” (Some sources have Rose’s comment as, “Some kind of a game, isn’t it?”)

At 12:34 AM on October 22, 1975, Fisk leads off the bottom of the 12th against Pat Darcy, and hits a 1-0 pitch down the left-field line. It’s got distance. Will it be fair? Will it be foul? Fisk, thinking it will actually influence the flight of the ball, waves his arms to his right. The ball hits the pole near its top, for a home run. Final score, Boston 7, Cincinnati 6. The Series is tied, and will go to a Game 7.

John Kiley, the organist at Fenway Park (and also at the Boston Garden, thus the answer to the corny old joke about “the only man to play for the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins”), plays George Friedrich Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” Then he plays “Stout-Hearted Men.” Then he plays “The Beer Barrel Polka.” (“Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun.”) Then he plays “Seventy-six Trombones.”
(It was late.)

The shot of Fisk thinking he can wave the ball fair, which I’ve dubbed the Fenway Twist, is the most familiar clip in the history of televised sports. (As they had with every World Series since 1947, NBC was televising it, although they would begin to alternate with ABC starting the 1977 season.)

From seeing this clip so much, and hearing so much talk about Game 6 of ’75 from Red Sox fans, a reasonable person might have asked (through 2004 anyway), “Wait a minute. The Red Sox haven’t won the World Series since 1918. That means... they lost Game 7! So why do people make such a big deal about this homer?” Well, it won one game, not a World Series, but it was still one of sports’ greatest epics.

Dick Stockton was the lead broadcaster for NBC in this Series. A young writer named Lesley Visser was part of the Boston Globe's coverage. Stockton and Visser would both go on to become key cogs in CBS Sports' programming. Supposedly, they met on this night. Other sources say they met at another Boston-based event in 1982. Either way, they married in 1983, but got divorced in 2010, and Visser has married someone else.

*

October 21, 1976: The Cincinnati Reds beat the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, and complete a four-game sweep of the World Series. Johnny Bench hits 2 home runs and is named Series MVP. The 9th inning featured Bench’s homer, which helped the Reds go from a 3-2 to a 7-2 lead, which holds until the end.

A frustrated Billy Martin, with nothing left to lose (except maybe a fine from the Commissioner), argues with the umpires and gets thrown out, the only Yankee manager ever to be tossed from a World Series game.

Thurman Munson excels in defeat, tying a Series record with 6 straight hits. On the official Series highlight film, Reds manager Sparky Anderson is heard telling Bench and Pete Rose, “That fella can flat-out hit, now. Ooh, is he a good hitter. He just stays with the ball.” Rose responds by comparing Munson to Bill Madlock, then with the Chicago Cubs, who had just won the 2nd of what turned out to be 4 NL batting titles.

But in a postgame press conference, Anderson is asked to compare Munson to Bench, and he says, “Don’t ever embarrass someone by comparing him to Johnny Bench.” In all fairness, even at his best, and 1976 was his MVP year, Munson was not as good as Bench. Bench was the greatest catcher in NL history, and in all of baseball history the only catchers that could be greater are the 2 Yankee legends, Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra; Bench and Berra were voted by fans to the All-Century Team in 1999. But Munson did have the right to be offended: Comparing him to Bench did not embarrass him, nor did it embarrass Bench.

The Reds have their 4th World Championship, and become the 1st (and still only) NL team to win back-to-back World Series since the 1921-22 New York Giants. (The 1995-96 Atlanta Braves came within 2 games of doing it, but we all know how that ended.) The Reds had also swept the Phillies in the NLCS, and they remain the only team ever to make it through both the LCS and the World Series undefeated. Their 7-0 postseason record has never been matched, although the Yankees went through the ’99 postseason, with an extra round, 11-1. And, with the 2014 World Series starting tonight, the Kansas City Royals are 8-0, but will have to face the San Francisco Giants, who've played 9 World Series games in this decade and won 8 of them.

As for the ’76 Yankees, they were in their 1st Series in 12 years, most of them were in postseason play for the 1st time, and they were physically and emotionally exhausted after their ALCS battle with the Royals that ended with Chris Chambliss’ Pennant-winning home run. Against the experienced and rested Reds, they had little reason for confidence. But they will be back, while the Reds will win only 1 Pennant in the next 37 years.

October 21, 1978: Joey Harrington is born in Portland, Oregon. The University of Oregon star was supposed to be the quarterback who led the Detroit Lions out of the wilderness. Unfortunately, the highlight of his career was a game after they cut him, and he led the Miami Dolphins to victory over, yes, the Lions at the Silverdome. He has since retired, become a broadcaster, and runs a charitable foundation.

October 21, 1979: Khalil Greene is born in Butler, Pennsylvania. An All-Star for the San Diego Padres, the shortstop has not played in the majors since 2009, and has gone into the music business.

Also on this day, Gabe Gross is born in Baltimore. The son of former New Orleans Saints center Lee Gross, he was an outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays, and played on their 2008 AL Pennant winners before retiring before the 2011 season.

October 21, 1980: After 98 seasons of play, the Philadelphia Phillies are one game away from finally winning their 1st World Championship. They are the last of the “Original 16” teams to have not won one. The last World Series won by a Philadelphia team was by the Athletics, 50 years ago.

It’s Game 6 against the Royals at Veterans Stadium. Steve Carlton pitches 8 shutout innings, and closer Tug McGraw, one of the heroes of the Mets’ 1969 and ’73 postseason runs, takes a 4-0 lead into the 9th in front of 65,838 Phanatics. But he lets a run in, and loads the bases with one out.

Nervous about fans running onto the field and vandalizing the stadium, as happened 10 years earlier when the Phils played their last game at Connie Mack Stadium, Philadelphia Mayor Bill Green has ordered police on horseback to surround the field to keep fans from running onto it.

McGraw, already in a jam, looks around, sees one of the horses, and sees the horse's tail go up. “They did not send us stadium-trained horses,” he would later say. “And I’m thinking, if I don’t get these guys out, and something bad happens, that’s what I’m gonna be: What that horse is getting rid of.” In baseball, “horseshit” is a common term for something lousy.

A popup sails over the area in front of the Phillies’ dugout, and catcher Bob Boone grabs it, but he can't hang onto it, and it pops out of his glove. This is the kind of play that has led Phillies fans to think that their team is jinxed, that they will never win the big one. Except, this time, the bobbled ball is snared by 1st baseman Pete Rose, who shows it to the umpires so they know it's a legit catch, and promptly spikes the ball on the Vet’s hideous artificial turf as if he’s just scored a touchdown. (Pete was a high school football star, as well as baseball.)

All that remains is for Tug to get the Royals’ Willie Wilson out. At 11:29 PM, the exhausted Tugger fires, and Wilson swings and misses for strike 3.

(While tipping your hat to the Phils for this magnificent victory, have a moment of silence for Wilson: It was his 12th strikeout of the Series, a record that would stand until 2009 when it was broken by... Phillies 1st baseman Ryan Howard.)

From Scranton in the north to Rehoboth Beach in the south, from Atlantic City in the east to Lancaster in the West, Phillies fans erupt in the kind of joy they had never experienced – not with this team, anyway. Dallas Green’s bunch has done it. Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Garry Maddox, all the rest, after 3 failed trips to the postseason before this, they have their ring at long last. Rose and McGraw, opponents in the ’73 NLCS and each with a previous ring (in Rose’s case, 2), add to their collection.

The next day’s Philadelphia Daily News fills up their entire front page beneath the masthead with the words “We Win!” A parade goes down Broad Street from City Hall to the Sports Complex, and a massive rally at John F. Kennedy Stadium, whose 105,000 seats is a lot more than the Vet’s 65,000. It remains the greatest moment in the history of Philadelphia sports.

Also on this day, Kimberly Noel Kardashian is born in Los Angeles. Unlike another L.A.-based heiress with an embarrassingly released sex tape, Kim is not an “heirhead.” She actually works for a living, and not just as a model: She worked for the music-marketing company that was run by her late father, Robert Kardashian, who had given up being a high-powered L.A. lawyer to do it, returning for one last case in 1994-95 (the murder defense “Dream Team” of O.J. Simpson).

She and her sisters Kourtney and Khloe also run high-end women's clothing stores, one in their hometown near L.A., one in Miami's South Beach, and one in New York's SoHo. She has been the main focus of the E! reality series Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

What does Kim have to do with sports? Well, after her parents Robert and Kris divorced, Kris married Olympic decathlon Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner. (Though it looks like they have now split up.) Kim recently married New Jersey Nets player Kris Humphries, following sister Khloe's marriage to Los Angeles Lakers player Lamar Odom. However, the Kardashian-Humphries marriage collapsed after 72 days, and Kim is now married to Kanye West, and they have a baby girl named North West. Previously, Kim dated, among others, running back Reggie Bush, in a relationship the gossip pages liked to call “Kush.” And if “Bush” and “Kush” rhyme with a prominent part of Kim’s anatomy, that’s not my fault!

October 21, 1981: The Yankees take a 2-0 lead in the World Series, as Tommy John and Goose Gossage combine on a 3-0 shutout of the Dodgers at Yankee Stadium. Bob Watson has 2 hits and an RBI.

The Yankees are 2 wins away from their 23rd World Championship. No one can imagine it now, but it will take them 15 more years to get that 23rd title.

The Yankees also make a trade today, sending 22-year-old outfielder Willie McGee to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Bob Sykes. It will be one of the worst trades in Yankee history, as Sykes, a native of nearby Neptune, New Jersey, is already damaged goods, and never appears in another big-league game, finished at 27; while McGee helps the Cards win the next year’s World Series and 3 of the next 6 NL Pennants, and by the time his career begins to slow down in the mid-1990s, Bernie Williams will have been ready.

Also on this day, Nemanja Vidić is born in Uzice, Serbia. He is a dirty soccer player, and was the Captain of Manchester United. I don’t think we need a 3rd reason to loathe him. He now plays for Internazionale in Milan, Itlay.

October 21, 1983: Donald Zackary Greinke is born in Orlando, Florida. Zack won the AL's Cy Young Award in 2009, and pitched the Milwaukee Brewers to their first Division title in 29 years in 2011. He now pitches for the Dodgers.

He is married to Emily Kuchar, a former beauty-pageant winner and Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader. If they have kids, I hope the Cowboy gene is the recessive one.

October 21, 1986: Here's an October 21 that Met fans can get behind. Game 3 of the World Series at Fenway Park. Desperate for a win to keep their “inevitable” World Championship alive, the Mets turn to lefty Bob Ojeda, who had been with the Red Sox until last season. With Len Dykstra leading off the game with a homer, as he had also hit the walkoff homer in Game 3 of the NLCS, Ojeda cruises, and the Mets win, 7-1, to get back in the Series.

*

October 21, 1993: Curt Schilling’s stellar pitching and Kevin Stocker’s 2nd-inning RBI double keeps the Phillies alive, beating the Toronto Blue Jays 5-0 in Game 5 of the World Series.

This is the kind of pitching that will lead Phillies GM Ed Wade to say of Schilling, "One day out of every five, he's a horse; the other four, he's a horse's ass." But Schilling will not reach his greatest fame with the Phillies. Neither will most of the baseball world realize what a horse's ass he is during his tenure with the Fightin' Phils.

This turns out to be the last postseason baseball game ever played in Veterans Stadium, and the last postseason game the Phillies will win for 15 years.

October 21, 1996: Greg Maddux shuts out the Yankees, as the Braves take Game 2 of the World Series, 4-0. The Yankees have been embarrassed in the first 2 games, and now have to go to Atlanta in front of 52,000 war-chanting, tomahawk-chopping rednecks.

The outlook is grim.  Anybody predicting a new "Yankee Dynasty" at this point sure looks delusional.

October 21, 1998: The Yankees beat the San Diego Padres, 3-1 at Jack Murphy Stadium (Qualcomm), and complete the sweep for their 24th World Championship. Scott Brosius, who hit 2 homers last night, takes a grounder at 3rd base for the final out, and is named Series MVP.

The Padres had maybe their best team ever. Arguably, so did the Cleveland Indians that the Yankees beat in the ALCS.  Maybe, so did the Texas Rangers that the Yankees beat in the ALDS. All of them had the bad luck to run into what may have been anybody’s best team ever.

*

October 21, 2001: The Arizona Diamondbacks defeat the Atlanta Braves‚ 3-2‚ to win the NLCS and reach the World Series for the first time in their history. They get to the Series faster than any expansion team in history‚ doing so in the 4th year of their existence. Randy Johnson gets the win for Arizona. Erubiel Durazo's pinch-hit 2-run homer is the key blow. Craig Counsell is named the NLCS MVP.

The Yankees take a 3-1 lead in their ALCS matchup with Seattle‚ defeating the Mariners by a score of 3-1 at Yankee Stadium. Bret Boone's 8th inning homer broke a scoreless tie‚ but Bernie Williams homers in the bottom half of the inning to tie the score. The Yankees win on Alfonso Soriano's 2-run walkoff dinger in the 9th. Mariano Rivera gets the victory in relief.

In spite of this defeat, Mariner manager Lou Piniella makes a bold prediction: His team will win Game 5. “We’re going back for Game 6,” he tells the media, meaning back to Seattle. Sweet Lou should have known better than to test the Yankees’ Ghosts of October. After all, he was one of them.

October 21, 2003: The Yankees beat the Marlins‚ 6-1‚ behind the pitching of Mike Mussina and the hitting of Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams. Jeter gets 3 hits off losing starter Josh Beckett (the only hits Beckett allows)‚ while Williams and Aaron Boone hit home runs. Williams' homer is his record 19th in postseason play. His 65 RBI are also a new postseason record.

The Yankees lead this World Series 2 games to 1. Things are looking good for them. No one can yet imagine that it will take them 6 years to win another World Series game -- and that, when they do, it will be in a new Yankee Stadium.

October 21, 2004, 10 years ago: After blowing a 2 games to none lead, the Cardinals come from 3 games to 2 down to beat the Houston Astros 5-2 in Game 7 of the NLCS. Craig Biggio leads off the game with a home run off Jeff Suppan, but Scott Rolen takes Roger Clemens deep, and the series concludes with the home teams having won every game.

For the Cards, it is their 1st Pennant in 17 years, and the beginning of a run that saw them win 4 Pennants in 10 seasons. For the Astros, Year 43 ended just like Years 1 through 42: Without a Pennant. Fortunately for them, they only have to "Wait 'Til Next Year" 1 more time.

October 21, 2006: In the 1st-ever match-up of rookies to start Game 1 of the World Series, Anthony Reyes bests Justin Verlander as the visiting Cardinals beat the Tigers at Comerica Park, 7-2. The 25-year old righthander allows 2 runs and 4 hits striking out 5 Redbirds in eight innings of work.

This game also makes Detroit the 2nd city to host a Super Bowl and a World Series in the same calendar year. San Diego had done so in 1998. Detroit had also hosted a World Series and an NFL Championship Game in the same year in 1935. Cleveland did so in 1964. New York did it 7 times: 1934, 1936, 1938, 1941, 1956, 1958 and 1962.

Reaching the World Series and the NFL Championship Game in the same calendar year? New York 11 times (1933, '38, '39, '41, '56, '58, '61, '62, '63, '69 and 2001; '33 being both sets of Giants, '69 being the Mets and Jets, and all the others being the Yankees and the football Giants), Baltimore twice (1969 and '71), Oakland twice (1989 and '90), Boston twice (1986 and 2004), and once each for Chicago (1932), Detroit (1935), Cleveland (1954), Pittsburgh (1979), San Francisco (separate from Oakland in 1989) and Atlanta (1999).

October 21, 2009: In Game 5 of the NLCS, the Phillies defeat the Dodgers, capturing their 2nd straight pennant, the 1st time the franchise has ever done it, and the 1st time any Philly baseball team has done it since the 1929-30-31 A's.

Philadelphia, with their 10-4 victory at Citizens Bank Park, becomes the 1st NL team to win back-to-back Pennants since the Braves in 1995-96.