Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happy Aaron Boone Day!

October 16, 2003: Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Pedro Martinez vs. Roger Clemens. In his 1st game at Yankee Stadium since he tried to kill Don Zimmer, Pedro gets the hell booed out of him – and that's a lot of hell. But the Sox take a 4-0 lead over the Yankees in the 4th, before Joe Torre lifts Clemens and brings in Mike Mussina. Making the 1st relief appearance of his career, Mussina stops the bleeding.

Jason Giambi hits 2 home runs to make it 4-2 in the 7th, but David Ortiz – not for the 1st time, and certainly not for the last (cough-steroids-cough) – hurts the Yankees by blasting a home run off David Wells. It's 5-2 Yankees, and although I’m not much of a lip-reader, Wells appears to be yelling, “Fuuuuuuuuck!”

Pedro gets the 1st out in the bottom of the 8th, but then... Derek Jeter doubles. Then Bernie Williams singles, scoring Jeter to make it 5-3. Pedro is over the 100-pitch mark. From pitches 1 through 99, he throws like Sandy Koufax; from pitch 100 onward, he throws like Sandy Duncan. Red Sox manager Grady Little goes to the mound to remove Pedro… No! He leaves him in.

Hideki Matsui hits a ground-rule double down the right-field line, moving Bernie to third. Well, now, for sure, Little has to pull Pedro. No, he leaves him in. Jorge Posada, the man that Pedro the Punk threatened with a fastball to the head in Game 3, hits a looper into short center, scoring the tying runs.

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

Mariano Rivera pitches the 9th, 10th and 11th for the Yankees. He pitches the top of the 11th pretty much on courage alone. The Yankees need to win it in the bottom of the 11th, because the bullpen situation doesn’t look good. Tim Wakefield, the knuckleballer who won Games 1 and 4 of this series, is on the mound. Leading off the inning is Aaron Boone, the Yankee third baseman.

It was 12:16 AM, actually October 17, 2003, but since the game started on the 16th, it goes down in history as October 16.

You know where I was at this moment? I was going from place to place watching the game, and I decided to get on the Subway and head up to The Stadium. Win or lose, I felt I had to be there. But the Subway was crawling. I forgot that it was after midnight.

Frustrated, I got off at the 50th Street station of the A train (which, due to the time of night, was running on the local track, where normally only the C train would stop). Next thing I know, I’m standing in front of 220 W. 48th Street, the Longacre Theatre. Do you know who built and owned this theater? Harry Frazee. The very man who broke up the Red Sox and sold off so many of their players to the Yankees, including Babe Ruth. What a place to be standing in as the Yankees and Red Sox battled for the Pennant.

I had my headphones on, and on WCBS 880, I heard Charley Steiner say this:

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

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

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

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

I've never felt better in my life.

Jeter said, "We've got some ghosts in this Stadium."

It’s beginning to look like they made the trip across the street.

Clemens, Wells, and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre walk out to the Babe Ruth Monument, and offer the Big Fella some champagne, pouring it over the mable slab. Clemens slaps the plaque on it, and says, "He's smiling! He’s smiling! He's smiling, Mel!"

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

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

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


October 16, 1900: Leon Allen Goslin is born in Salem, New Jersey. A .316 lifetime hitter, "Goose" is the only native of South Jersey to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He played in the World Series for the Washington Senators in 1933 and for the Detroit Tigers in 1934 and 1935, the last of these being his only championship.

He and Tiger teammates Hank Greenberg and Charlie Gehringer became known as the "G-Men" in those early days of the FBI. His bottom-of-the-9th single scored Mickey Cochrane to win Game 6 and the Series in '35, for the Tigers' 1st World Championship.

October 16, 1909, 100 years ago today: Rookie Charles "Babe" Adams comes through with a 6-hit shutout as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Detroit Tigers, 8-0. It is his 3rd complete-game World Series victory and gives the Pirates their first World Championship.

He is the only rookie in the 20th Century to win a Game 7 in the World Series. The next to do it will be John Lackey of the Angels in 2002. The 2 teams combine for a World Series record 34 errors‚ with Detroit contributing 19‚ also a record.

October 16, 1912: Game 8 of the World Series. Game 2 had been called due to darkness while tied – no lights at ballparks in those days – so this will decide it. Christy Mathewson squares off against Hugh Bedient in quest of his first win of the Series.

Matty takes a 1-0 lead into the 7th‚ but with one out‚ Boston manager Jake Stahl hits a pop-up to short left field. The ball drops among Art Fletcher‚ Josh Devore‚ and Fred Snodgrass. Heinie Wagner walks‚ and with 2 outs‚ pinch hitter Olaf Henriksen doubles home the tying run. Smoky Joe Wood relieves Bedient‚ and the 2 aces match zeroes until Red Murray doubles and Fred Merkle singles in the 10th to give New York a 2-1 lead. It looks like the Giants will win the Series.

But in the last of the 10th‚ pinch hitter Clyde Engle lifts a can of corn to center fielder Snodgrass‚ and, in his own words, "Well, I dropped the darn thing." In the next at-bat, Snodgrass makes a great catch of a long drive by Harry Hooper.

If only Snodgrass had made an ordinary catch of Engle's popup, and let Hooper's drive drop for a hit: The final score would have been exactly the same, but the perception of how the teams got there would have been totally different, and Snodgrass wouldn't have gone down in history as having made "The $30,000 Muff," a figure equivalent to the difference between the totals of the winning and losing teams' shares.

To be fair, though, Snodgrass wasn't a bad ballplayer at all, and dealt with it far better than teammate Merkle did with his "boner" that helped to cost the Giants the 1908 Pennant. As it is, Merkle has, for the moment, the RBI that will win the World Series, and stands to have been completely redeemed.

But Mathewson, for a decade the very definition of a control pitcher, walks Steve Yerkes, bringing up Tris Speaker‚ who pops a high foul along the 1st-base line. Catcher Chief Meyers chases it‚ but it drops a few feet from Merkle‚ who could have taken it easily. Much more so than the 1908 "boner," this is something for which to criticize Merkle.

Reprieved‚ Speaker didn’t need a written invitation to put his .345 lifetime batting average to work. He singles in the tying run and sends Yerkes to 3rd. After Duffy Lewis is walked intentionally‚ third baseman Larry Gardner hits a long sacrifice fly to a retreating Devore that scores Yerkes with the winning run.

This World Series was the most butterfingered in history until 1935‚ with 31 errors recorded‚ 17 for The Giants. But, just as in the playoff necessitated by the Merkle's Boner game in 1908, Mathewson, often hailed as the greatest pitcher of all time (especially back then), did not get the job done.

The Red Sox win the World Series in their 1st season in Fenway Park. By the time Fenway has hosted 7 seasons, the Sox will have won 4 World Championships there, plus the first-ever World Series from when they were playing at the Huntington Avenue Grounds. In their next 85 seasons at Fenway, the Sox will win a grand total of no World Series.


October 16, 1940: Dave DeBusschere is born. He pitched in 2 seasons for the Chicago White Sox, but the Detroit native was also a basketball star in his home town, first for the University of Detroit, then for the Pistons, where, briefly, he became the youngest head cocah in NBA history, at 24.

For a long time, Madison Square Garden would host NBA doubleheaders, with the Knicks playing the nightcap but not the opener. When the new Garden opened on February 14, 1968, DeBusschere, playing for the Pistons, scored the new building’s first basket.

The Knicks traded Walt Bellamy to the Pistons to get DeBusschere, already with a reputation as one of the league’s best defensive players. He led the defense that helped the Knicks win the NBA Championship in 1970 and 1973. He later served as head coach and general manager of the Knicks, and his Number 22 has been retired. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players.

Also on this day, Barry Corbin is born. He’s best known for playing Maurice Minnifield, boss of Cicely, Alaska, on Northern Exposure.

October 16, 1941: Tim McCarver is born. He played from 1959 to 1980, and is the only baseball player to be thrown out of major league games in 4 different decades. But he was also the catcher on the 1964 and ’67 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, and Steve Carlton’s “personal catcher” on the Philadelphia Phillies – he had also caught Carlton on the ’67 Cards. Although he did not play in the 1980 postseason, and in fact served as a Phils broadcaster during the NLCS, he received a World Series ring when the Phils won. But he is best known as a broadcaster, for the Mets and several networks. He’s also written several books about baseball.

The weird thing about McCarver is that the ballpark in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, which served as the home of a series of Memphis teams from 1968 to 1999, was renamed Tim McCarver Stadium while he was not only still alive, but still active in baseball. It has since been replaced by a more modern facility, and was demolished in 2005. Like Helen Hayes with the first Broadway theater named for her, McCarver has outlived the ballpark named for him. No wonder that, when he recorded his recently-released album, one of the songs he chose was the one that Joe Raposo wrote about Ebbets Field for Frank Sinatra: “There Used to Be a Ballpark.”

October 16, 1946: Suzanne Somers is born. She played Chrissie Snow on Three’s Company and Carol Lambert on Step By Step. Despite being 63 years old and having survived breast cancer, she remains in the phenomenal shape that has allowed her to write several fitness books, make her own exercise videos, and serve as the spokeswoman for the Thighmaster.

October 16, 1948: Leo Mazzone is born. He was the longtime pitching coach for the Atlanta Braves, and TV cameras frequently showed him rocking back and forth on the dugout bench, which drove Brave-haters crazy. He was their pitching coach from 1979 to 1990, and they reached the postseason just once. But from 1991 to 2005, they made the postseason every year – except, of course, for 1994, when there was no postseason. In 2006, he was hired as the pitching coach for the Baltimore Orioles, and after two years of being unable to repeat his Atlanta magic, he was fired.

October 16, 1953: Al Sobotka is born. You probably won’t recognize his name unless you’re from Michigan, or maybe Windsor, Ontario. But he is the zamboni driver for the Detroit Red Wings. He’s also the guy who picks up any octopus that’s thrown onto the ice at Joe Louis Arena, and if the Wings are winning, he’ll twirl the octopus around over his head. The Wings have won 4 Stanley Cups while he’s been an employee, and he’s gotten a ring for each of them.

October 16, 1956: Jules Rimet dies, 2 days after his 83rd birthday. He was the longtime president of FIFA, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, the world’s governing body for soccer. (The name comes from a shortening of “association football” to “assoc.”) He was the founder of the World Cup, whose championship trophy is named for him.

October 16, 1957: Hall-of-Fame slugger Hank Greenberg is fired by the owners of the Cleveland Indians. Greenberg‚ one of the architects of the strong Cleveland teams of the early 1950s‚ will be replaced by Frank "Trader" Lane‚ but will continue as a minority shareholder in the team until Bill Veeck, who had hired him for the Indians in 1948, hires him for the front office of the Chicago White Sox when he buys them in 1959. Lane’s hiring will be a disastrous one for the Indians.

October 16, 1958: Tim Robbins is born. The actor-director, and life-partner of Susan Sarandon, is best known for playing Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh in Bull Durham. Unfortunately, like his better half, he’s a hardcore Mets and Rangers fan. Go ahead, Tim, blow out those 51 candles. Just blow ‘em out. Don’t think, Meat, just blow.

October 16, 1959, 50 years ago today: Brian Harper is born. He was the catcher for the Minnesota Twins on their 1991 World Championship team.

October 16, 1962: Game 7 of the World Series at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Tony Kubek, who missed much of the season due to military service, grounds into a double play in the 5th inning, but a run scores. The score remains Yankees 1, Giants 0 in the bottom of the 9th. With 2 outs and Matty Alou on first‚ Willie Mays rips a double to right off Ralph Terry‚ but great fielding by Roger Maris keeps Alou from scoring.

The Yankees now have a choice to make: Have the righthanded Terry, who gave up Bill Mazeroski’s Series-winning homer in Game 7 in 1960, pitch to the next batter, the dangerous lefthander Willie McCovey; or walk him to load the bases and set up the Series-clinching out at any base, and pitch to the equally dangerous but righthanded Orlando Cepeda. Between them, they would hit 900 home runs in the major leagues. It’s like choosing between the guillotine and the hangman’s noose. They decide to pitch to McCovey. “Stretch” hits a screaming liner toward right‚ but second baseman Bobby Richardson takes one step to his left and snared it. Ballgame over, Yankees win, theeee Yankees win. Barely. It is the first World Series Game 7 that ends 1-0. There has since been only one more, in 1991, and that one went 10 innings.

It is the Yankees’ 20th World Championship, their second in a row. Terry, who had also won 23 regular season games, Game 5 of the Series, and soon the Cy Young Award, is awarded the Series MVP award.

Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz, a Giants fan living in nearby Santa Rosa, soon draws a cartoon having Charlie Brown yell to the heavens, “Why couldn’t McCovey’s drive have been just three feet higher?” McCovey did his job, and the Giants took the Series to the last out of the last game. They just got beat by a team that was a little bit better.

Also on this day, Manute Bol is born. The son of a Dinka tribal chief in Sudan, he is 7-foot-6, and until Georghe Mursean, also a Washington Bullet, he was probably the tallest player in NBA history. He is the only player ever to block more shots than he made. He played for the Bullets, the Golden State Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers (where, naturally, he wore Number 76) and the Miami Heat. On both the Bullets and, previously, for the minor-league Rhode Island Gulls, his teammate was Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, at 5-foot-3 the shortest player in NBA history. He currently works in public relations for Ethiopian Airlines, and with African refugee groups.

October 16, 1968: American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, teammates at San Jose State University and the Gold and Bronze Medal winners, respectively, in the 200 meters, are kicked off the U.S. Olympic track team for their Black Power salute on the medal stand in Mexico City.

Also on this day, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Ellis Kinder dies during open-heart surgery, probably complicated by heavy drinking all through his adult life. Kinder was one of the heroes of Boston's 1948 and 1949 Pennant runs, though both fell short. Yet despite not becoming a big-league regular until he was 31, he won 102 games and saved 102 others in his career.

October 16, 1973: The Oakland A's win Game 3 of the World Series, 3-2 in 11 innings over the New York Mets. Bert Campaneris gets the winning RBI. In a private clubhouse meeting‚ Dick Williams tells the A's players he will resign after the Series, win or lose. He has had it with the meddling of team owner Charlie Finley.

October 16, 1974: A's pitcher Ken Holtzman‚ who due to the designated hitter hadn't come to bat all season‚ belts a 3rd-inning home run, and gets the win with Rollie Fingers in relief. Oakland scores 4 in the 6th to wrap up Game 4, 5-2 over the Los Angeles Dodgers

It will be 34 years before another pitcher homers in a World Series game.

October 16, 1977: The Dodgers stays alive in the World Series with a 10-4 victory in Game 5. Yeager and Reggie Smith homer as Don Sutton pitches a complete game. Reggie Jackson, who homered in Game 4, does so again in Game 5.

October 16, 1978: As the World Series heads west to Los Angeles for Game 6, Dan Dailey dies at age 62. He starred in two baseball movies, playing Hall-of-Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean in The Pride of St. Louis, and a peanut vendor turned baseball dad in the original version of The Kid From Left Field.

October 16, 1980: Sue Bird is born. The Syosset, Long Island native is one of the premier female basketball players of all time, she led the University of Connecticut to the 2000 and 2002 National Championships, going 114-4 there. She led the Seattle Storm to the 2004 WNBA Championship, and was a member of the 2004 and 2008 U.S. teams that won Olympic Gold Medals.

October 16, 1981: Anthony Reyes is born. Currently a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, he won Game 1 of the 2006 World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals.

October 16, 1983: Eddie Murray slams a pair of home runs and Scott McGregor pitches a 5-hitter, as the Baltimore Orioles beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-0 at Veterans Stadium, and win the World Series 4-1. Baltimore catcher Rick Dempsey‚ who hit .385 with 4 doubles and a home run‚ is the Series MVP. The Orioles win their 3rd World Series, but have not played a World Series game since.

October 16, 1985: Baseball gets its first intrastate World Series since 1974‚ as the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals win their respective Pennants. Kansas City beats the Toronto Blue Jays 6-2 in Game 7, to cap a comeback from a 3-games-to-1 deficit.

While in Los Angeles‚ Jack Clark drills a 3-run home run deep into the left field pavilion, off Tom Niedenfuer with 2 outs in the top of the 9th and 1st base open to give the Cardinals a 7-5 victory over the Dodgers, and a 4-2 series win.

October 16, 1995: The Yankees sign former Met superstar pitcher Dwight Gooden‚ who has been on suspension for violation of his substance abuse program. George Steinbrenner likes comeback stories, redemption stories. This one works out for the Yankees, and for Doctor K, at least for 1996.

October 16, 1996: Eighty-four people are killed and more than 180 injured as 47,000 football (soccer) fans attempt to squeeze into the 36,000-seat Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City.

October 16, 1999, 10 years ago today: Jean Shepherd dies at age 78. The author and former late-night talk-show host on New York radio station WOR, best known today as the writer and narrator of the film A Christmas Story, was born in Chicago and grew up in nearby Hammond, Indiana.

He was a tremendous Chicago White Sox fan, and hosted the team's 1987 video history. He said, "If I was a colonel in some awful war, and there was a pillbox that had to be taken, and it looked like a suicide mission, I'd look out at my men and say, 'Are there any White Sox fans here? Follow me!' And those White Sox fans would join me, and we'd take that pillbox! Because White Sox fans are special."

Well, Met fans are special. In fact, as my sister would say, they're "especially special." But tonight, Game 4 of the NLCS, they have reason to be happy. The Mets trip the Braves‚ 3-2‚ to stay alive. John Olerud drives home all 3 New York runs with a solo homer in the 6th inning‚ and a 2-run single off John Rocker in the 8th. Rick Reed shuts out Atlanta over the first 7 innings on a single hit.

Shortly before this series, Rocker, sticking his nose in the Mets-Braves "rivalry," says, "I hate the Mets. I hate their fans. How many times do you have to beat a team to make their fans shut up?" The lunkheaded redneck had a point, but we still don't know the answer.

After this game, interviewed in the locker room, Rocker flaps his gums again: "I would say the majority of Met fans aren't even humans. They're more like... Neanderthals." I've said as much, but to John "Off His" Rocker, we can only say that it takes one to know one.

Yankees Fans have considerably less reason to be happy tonight, after what happened in the afternoon. The Red Sox roll over the Yankees‚ 13-1 at Fenway Park‚ behind the pitching of Pedro Martinez. Nomar Garciaparra gets 4 hits for Boston‚ while John Valentin drives home 5 runs. Garciaparra‚ Valentin‚ and Brian Daubach all homer for the Sox. New York now leads the ALCS‚ 2-games-to-1.

Pedro outpitches Roger Clemens, and Sox fans, still thinking of him as a traitor, give him the worst ripping any player has ever received at Fenway Park. One fan holds up a sign: "Roger, thanks for the memories, especially this one." After he leaves the game, a chant goes up: "Where is Roger?" After a few rounds of this, a counter-chant goes up: "In the shower!"

But, as Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy would write afterwards, the Sox fans who showed up seemed to think the point of coming was to stick it to Clemens, and it wasn't: The point was to beat the Yankees. The Sox beat the Yanks on this day, but that's the only game they win in the series; it turns out to be the only game the Yankees lose in the entire postseason.

October 16, 2000: The Mets defeat the Cardinals‚ 7-0 at Shea Stadium behind Mike Hampton‚ to win their 1st pennant since 1986. Hampton takes NLCS MVP honors with his 16 scoreless innings and 2 victories. Todd Zeile drives home 3 runs with a bases loaded double for New York.

October 16, 2004: The Yankees maul the Red Sox‚ 19-8 at Fenway Park‚ to take a commanding 3-games-to-0 lead in the ALCS. The 19 runs are an LCS record. Hideki Matsui leads the way for New York with 5 hits‚ 5 RBI‚ and 5 runs scored. Alex Rodriguez also score 5 for the Yankees. Gary Sheffield and Bernie Williams each have 4 hits. Matsui hits a pair of HRs‚ and Rodriguez and Sheffield connect once each for the Yanks. Jason Varitek and Trot Nixon homer for Boston.

The Yankees can wrap it up tomorrow, with 1 more ALCS win.

They're still waiting for that win.

October 16, 2005: The White Sox clinch their 1st Pennant in 46 years – the 1st Pennant for either Chicago team since the ChiSox clinched that day, September 22, 1959 – as they defeat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim‚ 6-3‚ behind Jose Contreras. Joe Crede homers and drives in 3 runs for Chicago, and Paul Konerko is named MVP of the ALCS.

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