Wednesday, October 7, 2009

103 Wins Down, 11 to Go

The postseason starts tonight. I know, I usually consider a playoff to get into the Playoffs, as won yesterday by the Minnesota Twins over the Detroit Tigers, to be "postseason play," but tonight, the Twins are in New York to start their Division Series against the Yankees, so, for me, it really begins tonight.

Detroit Tigers fans, I realize this is the 2nd time in 4 years that you've blown a big AL Central lead to the Twinkies, but consider 2 things:

A. In 2006, you ended up winning the Pennant anyway.

B. In 1987, you trailed the Toronto Blue Jays by 4 games with 7 to play, but won 7 straight, including a 4-game sweep of Toronto, to take the AL East. This gave Toronto the nickname "Blow Jays," which they wouldn't toss aside until winning it all in 1992. So the Tigers have benefited from a collapse like the one they just put up. On the other hand, what happened to the Tigers in the '87 ALCS? They lost. To whom? The Twins. These things happen.

The Yankees will use a rotation of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte, a three-man rotation made possible by the ALDS schedule. Joba Chamberlain will spend this series in the bullpen, which is where he should have been all along.

I want this one. I want this one badly. Worse than any since 2000 against The Other Team.


October 7, 1885: The Providence Grays sweep a doubleheader from the Buffalo Bisons, 4-0 and 6-1 at Olympic Park. The Bisons are so far out of first place on this last day of the regular season, and the weather is so bad, that only 12 people come out. That’s not a misprint: Twelve people. These remain the last major league games ever played in Buffalo, 124 years later – unless you count the Federal League of 1914-15, in which Buffalo had a team. Then, it’s only been 94 years.

October 7, 1898: Joe Giard is born. No, not Joe Girardi. Joe Giard pitched for the St. Louis Browns in 1925 and ’26, and in 16 games for the 1927 Yankees, making him possibly the most obscure member of the team often called the greatest baseball team of all time. He died in 1956.

October 7, 1899: The Brooklyn Superbas – forerunners of the Dodgers – clinch the National League Pennant, and thus the de facto World Championship of baseball, with a 13-2 win, over the hated New York Giants, no less.


October 7, 1902: Although the 1st official Baseball All-Star Game would take place 31 years later, the newly-crowned National League Champion Pittsburgh Pirates – their 2nd of 3 in a row – take on a team of all-stars from the American League, and prove that they deserve their unofficial status as World Champions. Led by superstar shortstop Honus Wagner and pitcher Sam Leever, they beat the AL stars, 4-3 at Exposition Park, which was roughly at the same location as the Pirates’ current home, PNC Park. Boston's Cy Young takes the loss for the AL.

October 7, 1904: For the 1st time, a game between the New York and Boston clubs of the American League takes on major significance. Jack Chesbro of the Highlanders (forerunners of the Yankees) defeats the Boston Pilgrims (forerunners of the Red Sox), 3-2 at Hilltop Park at 165th & Broadway in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.

It is his 41st victory of the season, a major league record in the 60 feet, 6 inches era that began in 1893. The 2nd-year Highlanders and 4th-year Pilgrims, the defending World Series Champions, will take the race to the season's final day, October 10. (In the post-1920 Lively Ball Era, the record is 31, shared by Lefty Grove of the '31 A's and Denny McLain of the '68 Tigers; in the post-1969 Divisional Play Era, Steve Carlton of the ’72 Phils and Bob Welch of the '90 A's have both reached 27 wins.)

Also on this day, the Cleveland Naps (the Indians-to-be were then named for second-baseman manager Napoleon Lajoie) go into Bennett Park in Detroit and sweep the Tigers, 8-1 and 9-0. George Stovall of the Naps hits his first major league home run, off his old brother, Jesse Stovall, in, as it turns out, his last game. It marks the first time one brother gives up a HR to another‚ a feat which will be duplicated by Rick Ferrell off Wes in 1933‚ and by Joe Niekro off Phil in 1976.

October 7, 1916: This has nothing to do with baseball, but Georgia Tech, coached by John Heisman – he for whom the Trophy was named – defeats Cumberland College, 222-0 in the most lopsided game in the history of American college football. Now Cumberland University, the Lebanon, Tennessee school is in the NAIA, while Georgia Tech is in the ACC and remains one of the most respected programs in the country.

October 7, 1918: Robert Gustave "Bun" Troy, who pitched one game for the Detroit Tigers in 1912, is killed in action serving with the U.S. Army at Petit Majouym, France. He was 30. Ironically, he was born in Germany, the nation he was fighting in World War I.


October 7, 1920: The Brooklyn Robins – the Dodgers temporarily renamed in honor of their manager, Wilbert Robinson – defeat the Cleveland Indians, 2-1, and take a 2-games-to-1 lead in the World Series.

It will be 27 years before they get this close to a World Championship again. Not for another 36 years will they have this much of a lead in a World Series. And not for another 35 years will they actually win one.

October 7, 1925: New York Giants pitching legend Christy Mathewson dies from complications from tuberculosis. He was only 45. Although he had been accidentally gassed in a demonstration while in the Army in World War I, it was not in combat, and he is not listed as one of the major leagues killed in war.

October 7, 1927: Herb Pennock takes a perfect game into the 8th at Yankee Stadium, before fellow Hall-of-Famer Harold "Pie" Traynor, regarded as the best third baseman of his era, breaks it up with a single. Pennock settles for a three-hitter and an 8-1 win, and the Yankees take a 3-games-to-0 lead in the World Series.

October 7, 1933: William Veeck, president of the Chicago Cubs, and father of future big-league team owner Bill Veeck, dies. A moment of silence is held before Game 5 of the World Series at Griffith Stadium in Washington.

Mel Ott of the New York Giants hits the 1st extra-inning home run in Series play, in the top of the 10th, and the Giants defeat the Washington Senators, 4-3, for their 4th World Series win. At this point, they trail only the Red Sox and the A's, with 5, and match the Yankees with 4.

This remains the last postseason baseball game played by a Washington team. Only once since has a Washington team even finished 2nd. The District has had just 5 winning seasons in those 76 years.

October 7, 1943: Jose Cardenal is born. The Cuban outfielder was an All-Star for the Chicago Cubs, played for the Mets in 1979 and '80, was traded to the Kansas City Royals and retired following their defeat in the 1980 World Series. He was the first-base coach on the Yankees' championship teams of 1996, ’98 and ’99.

He shares his exact birthday with comedienne Joy Behar on the left, and traitorous former Marine and current lying talk-show bastard Oliver North on the right.


October 7, 1950: The Yankees defeat the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-2 at Yankee Stadium, completing a sweep and winning the World Series for the 13th time. Next-best is the St. Louis Cardinals with 6.

Eddie Ford, a rookie lefthander out of nearby Astoria, Queens, takes a shutout into the 9th, but left fielder Gene Woodling drops a fly ball that allows 2 runs to score. Casey Stengel comes to take Ford – beginning to be nicknamed "Whitey" because of his very light blond hair – out of the game. As he walks off the mound, Ford hears booing, and wonders what he did to bring it on. He later found out they were booing Casey for taking him out, and that they were behind Ford all the way. Allie Reynolds gets the last out, striking out Phils catcher Stan Lopata.

Ford, then wearing Number 19, is featured in the World Series highlight film's capture of the locker room celebration. But he will miss the next 2 seasons, as the Army wants him in olive drab fighting the Korean War instead of navy blue Pinstripes fighting the American League. When he returns in 1953, wearing Number 16, he begins to take Reynolds' place as the Yankee ace, a role he will hold until his retirement in 1967.

October 7, 1952: Casey starts Steady Eddie Lopat in Game 7 at Ebbets Field, but needs 3 relievers, including the other 2 members of the Big Three, Vic Raschi and Allie Reynolds. The Dodgers get a good performance from Joe Black, normally a reliever, but who in Game 1 started and became the 1st black pitcher to win a World Series game.

But Black gives up a home run to Johnny Mize, who will be 40 in 3 months, and another to Mickey Mantle, who will be 21 in 2 weeks. Mantle's not only clears the 40-foot-high right-field fence, designed to offset the 297-foot distance to the pole and the 318-foot distance to straightaway right, but soars over Bedford Avenue – no stands behind this fence, there wasn't enough room on Ebbets Field's block for it – and bounces around a gas station across the street, where the World Series highlight film shows kids running around trying to retrieve it.

This was Duke Snider's territory: There was a Plymouth dealership, Young Motors, next door to the gas station, and on a few occasions the Duke had hit homers that knocked letters off the YOUNG MOTORS sign.

In the bottom of the 7th, the Yanks lead 4-2, but the Dodgers load the bases. Casey brings in Bob Kuzava, the lefty who'd shut down the Giants for the last outs the year before, for what we would call today an 8-out save. He strikes out the Duke, bringing up Jackie Robinson. Robinson pops the ball up, but the late afternoon sun was shining through the park’s double decks, and the infielders couldn’t see it. With 2 outs, the runners were all moving. If this ball drops, 2 runs score easily, maybe 3, which would give the Dodgers the lead.

Suddenly, 2nd baseman Billy Martin makes a mad dash and makes a shoestring catch. Billy was rarely a believer in Rudyard Kipling’s belief of, "If you can keep your head about you, while others are losing theirs and blaming you… yours is the world and all that's in it, and, what's more, you’ll be a man, my son." This time, Billy was the only one who kept his head about him. End of threat.

Kuzava then got the last 6 outs, and the Yankees matched their 1936-39 predecessors by winning their 4th straight World Series, their 15th overall, and their first without Joe DiMaggio in 20 years. The Dodgers? One of their best teams, which would later be chronicled by Roger Kahn, at this point the 25-year-old Dodger beat writer for the New York Herald Tribune, as "The Boys of Summer" – but, again, they had to "Wait Till Next Year."

First baseman Gil Hodges, beloved by Dodger fans, went 0-for-21 in the Series. Did he get booed? No. In fact, clergymen all over Brooklyn – ministers, priests and rabbis – asked their congregants to pray for Gil Hodges. That sounds like an apocryphal story, made up years later by people like Kahn to burnish the memory of their martyred ballclub. After all, look how Dave Winfield was treated after going 1-for-21 in the 1981 World Series. Would a player going 0-for-the Series today receive the kind of adulation Hodges received? Surely not. So the Hodges story sounds made-up.

But in 1997, long after most of the participants, including Hodges himself, had died, Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote Wait Till Next Year, recounting her Long Island childhood as a Dodger fan and a Catholic schoolgirl, and she says it's true. In 2005, Tom Oliphant, a Brooklyn native who became a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Boston Globe (now retired), published a memoir of that era, titled Praying For Gil Hodges. Some things, you just can't make up.

October 7, 1957: The Los Angeles City Council votes 10-4 to sell 300 acres of land near downtown to Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley. This is the land that would become Dodger Stadium and its surrounding property.

Remember the 10 names: Rosalind Wyman, Gordon Hahn (the brother of County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn and uncle of later Mayor James Hahn), Everett Burkhalter (future Congressman), Ransom Callicott, James Corman, Ernest Debs, John Gibson, Charles Navarro, L.E. Timberlake and Karl Rundberg. Although they thought they were doing the right thing for the city they loved, which is to be applauded, they, along with Mayor Norris Poulson, handed O’Malley the knife he used to stab Brooklyn in the back.

Let us now praise the 4 Council members who cast opposing votes: Earle Baker, Harold Henry, John Holland and Patrick McGee. Councilman Edward Roybal, later a Congressman and father of current Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, did not vote as he was on vacation.

Also on this day, Jayne Torvill was born. I have long remarked that figure skating is not a real sport, but I will never forget this woman. I was 14 when she and partner Christopher Dean did their Gold Medal-winning ice-dance performance to Maurice Ravel's "Bolero" at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. It was the closest thing to porn I'd yet watched.

The British pair repeated it in an exhibition performance at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, in tribute to the people of Sarajevo, as the bastard Serbs shelled those poor innocent Bosnians. (Okay, maybe they weren't totally innocent, but they were still the ones on defense!)

Torvill and Dean now co-host Dancing On Ice, on the British network ITV. They are married, but, despite what their "Bolero" dance would suggest, not to each other. In fact, Dean has been married twice, both times to another champion skater: First, to French-Canadian Isabelle Duchesnay; now, to American Jill Trenary.

October 7, 1958: After being down 3-games-to-1, the Yankees tie the World Series on a Hank Bauer home run in the top of the 10th, 4-3 at Milwaukee County Stadium.

October 7, 1965: Jim Kaat outduels Sandy Koufax, and drives in both Minnesota runs, and the Twins defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 2-0. That score is also the lead in the Series that the Twins have. With their pair of aces, Don Drysdale and now Koufax, both having been beaten, the Dodgers are in trouble.

October 7, 1968: Jose Feliciano, the blind Puerto Rican guitar wizard, sings the National Anthem before Game 5 of the World Series at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. It's not the usual Anthem, and he is heavily criticized for it. He later finds out that people were upset not just that he didn’t sing it the usual way, but that he was wearing sunglasses (as blind people are usually advised to do in daylight), and that he had his guide dog on the field. (As far as I know, nobody suggested he lend the dog to the umpires.) It hurt Feliciano's career for years to come, and it was totally unfair.

Ironically, the day before, the black Motown superstar Marvin Gaye had sung the Anthem straight and was cheered for it, but 15 years later would do it at the NBA All-Star Game and turn it into a gospel song, and be wildly cheered for it.

As for the game, the Tigers are desperate, down 3-games-to-1 to the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals. But Lou Brock, normally the best baserunner in the game, is gunned out at the plate on a throw by Tiger left fielder Willie Horton, stalling a Cardinal rally. Mickey Lolich, who had won Game 2, wins Game 5 as well, 5-3. The Tigers are still alive.

October 7, 1977: Game 3 of the National League Championship Series in Philadelphia. Although the fans at Veterans Stadium had so unnerved Dodger starter Burt Hooton that manager Tommy Lasorda had to take him off the mound, the Dodgers stayed close. In the top of the 9th, the Phillies led, 5-3, and got the first two outs. But 40-year-old pinch-hitter Vic Davalillo beats out a two-strike drag bunt. Manny Mota, pinch-hitter extraordinaire, hits a lazy fly ball to left field.

Normally, Phils manager Danny Ozark would have replaced Greg Luzinski with Jerry Martin for defensive purposes, but this time, he didn't. And Luzinski, a great slugger but not a good fielder, drops the ball. Men on first and second. Davey Lopes hits a grounder to short, and Larry Bowa throws him out. Except the 1st-base umpire calls Lopes safe.

The Dodgers win the game, 6-5, and win the Pennant the next day. It is known as Black Friday in the Delaware Valley, the worst single-game loss in Phils history, as bad in its own way as the 10-game collapse of 1964.

And the umpire who blew the call at first base? Bruce Froemming, in the 7th year of a record 37-game big-league umpiring career. I was 7 going on 8 at the time of this game, and it was many years later, after I had already decided he was the worst umpire ever, before I found out he made this hideous call. In 2007, as he finally retired, the Dodgers gave him a Number 37 jersey with his name on it in a ceremony at Dodger Stadium. A reward for having fixed a game for them 30 years earlier, perhaps?

October 7, 1978: The Yankees defeat the Kansas City Royals, 5-1 at Yankee Stadium, and clinch their 32nd American League Pennant, winning the ALCS in 4 games. Roy White and Graig Nettles account for all the Yankee runs, with home runs. Ron Guidry, having gone a mindblowing 25-3 in the regular season, strikes out George Brett, and makes a finger-gun motion, a rare display of on-field emotion for him. Shortly thereafter, Hal McRae hits a sizzling line drive down the left-field line, but Nettles snares it with an amazing catch – foreshadowing of what he would do in the World Series.

It is the Yanks' 3rd Pennant in a row, and, again, the fans storm the field, wrecking everything. The Yankees have 6 days to fix things up before hosting Game 3 of the Series against the Dodgers.

And why did the Dodgers win their 2nd straight Pennant? Because, today, they beat the Phillies, 4-3 in Game 4 at Dodger Stadium. The Phils thus join the Royals as the first two teams ever to lose 3 straight League Championship Series. To this day, no other team in either League has lost 3 straight LCS. Bill Russell singled to center in the bottom of the 10th, and Phils center fielder Garry Maddox muffs it, allowing Ron Cey to score the Pennant-winning run.

Normally, Maddox is the best-fielding center fielder of his day. Pirates slugger turned Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner said, "Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water, the other third is covered by Garry Maddox." This time, he blew it – which suggests that, had Ozark replaced Luzinski with Jerry Martin a year earlier, maybe he wouldn’t have made that play, either.

You would think that winning the World Series in 1980, and again in 2008 – a year in which they beat the Dodgers to win the Pennant and had former foe Lopes as their first-base and infield coach – would have put the ghosts of '64, '77 and '78 to bed for Philly fans. Not really: They are still kvetchers of the first order.

October 7, 1984: The San Diego Padres win their 1st National League Pennant, defeating the Chicago Cubs 6-3 at Jack Murphy Stadium in Game 5 of the NLCS. For the Padres, it remains the greatest day in their history. For the Cubs, who haven't won the Pennant in 39 years, haven't won the World Series in 76 years, and blew a 2-games-to-0 lead, it is yet another chapter in a devastating history.

October 7, 1985: Evan Longoria is born. No, not Eva, wife of San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker and Cover Girl – I understand she can act, too. This is Evan, the third baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays, the 2008 American League Rookie of the Year.

October 7, 1991: Legendary, and legendarily controversial, manager Leo Durocher dies. Heaven didn't want him. Hell is still concerned he might try to take over.

October 7, 1995: Four Seattle Mariner homers, including a walkoff by Edgar Martinez, give the M's an 11-8 win over the Yankees in Game 4 of the ALDS at the Kingdome. The Yankees have blown a 2-games-to-0 lead.

October 7, 1998: A bunt by Travis Fryman in the top of the 10th is improperly fielded, and Yankee second baseman Chuck Knoblauch yells at the umpire that Fryman interfered by running out of the baseline and should be out. This while the ball is lying just to his right. By the time he realized what was happening, two Cleveland runs had scored. The Indians add another, and the Yankees lose, 4-1. 

The ALCS is tied at 1 game apiece, and the next three games are at Jacobs Field, where the Yankees have had trouble since it opened in 1994, including losing 2 of 3 in the previous season’s ALDS. Suddenly, because of the "Knoblauch-head Game," the 114-win Yankees are in deep trouble.

They will recover, though, and the team they will end up playing in the World Series is the San Diego Padres. Ken Caminiti hits a 10th-inning home run, and the Padres beat the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS opener, 3-2.

October 7, 2000: Benny Agbayani homers in the top of the 13th at Pacific Bell Park, and the Mets beat the San Francisco Giants, 3-2, taking a 2-games-to-1 lead in the NLDS.

October 7, 2001: Rickey Henderson collects his 3,000th career hit, a double, but the Padres lose 14-5 to the Colorado Rockies at Jack Murphy – excuse me, Qualcomm Stadium. It is also the last game for Padres legend Tony Gwynn, another member of the 3,000 Hit Club.

October 7, 2003: Sammy Sosa hits a two-run home run in the bottom of the 9th to send the game to extra innings, but Mike Lowell hits a pinch-hit homer in the top of the 11th, and the Florida Marlins tie up the NLCS with the Chicago Cubs, 9-8.

October 7, 2006: The Detroit Tigers beat the Yankees, 8-3, and win the ALDS in 4 games. This was the game where Yankee manager Joe Torre batted Alex Rodriguez 8th in the order. It was on merit. But it was a team effort, a total disaster for the Yankees, who had won Game 1 and then dropped the next 3. Hopefully, that will not happen in the 2009 ALDS.

1 comment:

Huriye said...

Interesting description of Torvill & Dean's Legendary Bolero dance there! :-)
That's why, as a couple, they transcended the Sport of Skating, as they touched folk who normally would never take an interest in it, and created magic together.
In fact Jayne married an American, Phil Christensen, and they live on the South Coast of England with 2 adopted children. Chris Dean has 2 sons with Jill Trenary, and they live in Colorado.
Their career has had a wonderful renaisance with Dancing on Ice, which goes on Tour as a live show after every TV series here in the UK, and Jayne is looking stunning, you'd never believe she was 52, nor Chris 51!!