Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mazeroski Day and Treating A-Rod as "Buckner"

I have a new theory as to why Alex Rodriguez has been so bitterly criticized by myself and other Yankee Fans for his failures in the postseasons of 2004 to 2007, and blamed for the failures of the entire Yankee team in those series.

It's because the Yankees haven't really had very many "heartbreaking" moments in postseason (or end-of-regular-season) play. Usually, when the Yankees play in the postseason, they win; and when they don't, there's no "Dear God, noooooooo!" moment that, if it had not happened, they would have won.

The Boston Red Sox have Johnny Pesky (1946 World Series), Denny Galehouse (1948 AL Playoff), Luis Aparicio tripping around third base twice (1972 last series of regular season), Jim Burton (1975 WS), the Boston Massacre and Bucky Dent (1978), John McNamara and Bill Buckner (1986 WS), and Grady Little and Aaron Boone (2003 ALCS).

The Chicago Cubs have the September Swoon, symbolized by the Black Cat Game (1969 RS), Steve Garvey and Leon Durham (1984 NLCS) and Steve Bartman (2003 NLCS). The Philadelphia Phillies have Black Friday (1977 NLCS), the normally superb-fielding Garry Maddox blowing it at the worst possible time (1978 NLCS) and Mitch Williams (1993 WS). And the Mets? Plenty of moments, from Mike Scioscia (1988 NLCS) to Kenny Rogers (1999 NLCS) to Aaron Heilmann (2006 NLCS) to the recent September collapses (2007 and '08 RS).

The Yankees? When you've won as often as the Yankees have, you tend to brush off such moments, because you know you'll be back. Swept by the Reds in '76? Reggie goes boom, boom, boom in '77. Edgar Martinez leads the Seattle comeback in '95? '96 was a great season. Sandy Alomar Jr. in '97? '98 was the greatest season ever. That awful 9th inning in Game 7 in 2001? We got right back on the winning track in '02. Jeff Weaver in '03? Uh… we're still waiting to finish the job since that one.

The point is, Alex Rodriguez, in the 2004 ALCS, and in the ALDS of '05, '06 and '07, made us face things that other teams face every now and then: A single object of hatred. A convenient (if not completely fair) symbol of why we lost: It's his fault! It's all his fault!

And we ignore all the other guys who didn't hit (Gary Sheffield, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, Robinson Cano, etc.) And we ignore the pitchers who didn't come through (Randy Johnson, Chien-Ming Wang, even Andy Pettitte and, in 2004, the sainted Mariano Rivera).

Fair? If life were fair, the Yankees might have won 'only' 16 World Series instead of 26, and they would still be quite a bit in front of the 2nd-place team (the Cardinals have 10), and the Red Sox, Phillies, Indians, White Sox and Mets wouldn't have had to wait as long as they did -- or, in the case of the Cubs, are still waiting.

Of course, if A-Rod hits in the ALCS against the Angels, and then in the World Series against the Phillies or Dodgers, the way he hit in the ALDS against the Twins, then nobody, not even I, will be allowed to hold 2004 to '07 (or even the missing of the Playoffs in '08) against him.

Unless and until that happens, A-Rod, fairly or not, remains the Yankees' "Buckner."


Today is the anniversary of one of the few big Yankee moments that went horribly wrong. It was on October 13, 1960, and a Yankee Fan would have to be in the latter half of his 50s to remember this with any authority, but there are still some that it bothers. Comedian-actor Billy Crystal, for one: He was 11 and living in Long Beach, Long Island when it happened, and he still gets verklempt about it.

Scientist Stephen Jay Gould, a Bayside, Queens native and a former New York Giants fan who drifted to the Yankees even before the Giants left, was 19 and a student at Antioch College in Ohio – ironically, closer to the location of the event than to his native New York – and would later say, 'There is one thing that all my friends know must never be discussed in my presence, and that's Bill Mazeroski's home run that won the 1960 World Series."

The Yankees had won their games of that Series by scores of 16-3, 12-0 and 10-0. But the Pittsburgh Pirates actually took a 3-games-to-2 lead on them, before the 10-0 Yank win pushed it to a Game 7 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.

In the top of the 8th, the Yankees led 7-6, when a grounder hit by Bill Virdon hit a pebble on the infield dirt, and it jumped up and hit Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek in the throat. This led to Virdon reaching first, and extending an inning to the point where a home run by Hal Smith gave the Pirates a 9-7 lead. But the Yankees tied it up in the top of the 9th.

In the bottom of the 9th, Yankee manager Casey Stengel – already having hurt the Yankees by letting Whitey Ford start Games 3 and 6, rather than Games 1, 4 and 7 – brought in Ralph Terry. The leadoff batter of the inning was Bill Mazeroski.

Now, Maz was already building a reputation as a great-fielding 2nd baseman. He may have been the best fielder the position has ever seen. Baseball historian and statistical analyst Bill James has written, "Bill Mazeroski's defensive statistics are probably the most impressive of any player at any position." That's an opinion, but the available facts show that it's not a particularly notable exaggeration.

But as a hitter? His lifetime batting average was .260; on-base, .299; slugging, .367; OPS, .667; OPS+, a mere 84 (meaning he was 16 percent beneath the average NL batter over the period from 1956 to 1972). Playing his entire career with the Pirates (meaning he played all but his last 2½ years' home games at Forbes Field, and its successor Three Rivers Stadium wasn't exactly a launching pad, either), he hit just 138 home runs, not a big number even for a middle infielder. He was not a batter to be feared.

Still, even with that relatively unimpressive offensive output, among players who spent all or most of their careers at 2nd base, I'd have to rank him about 8th, behind Eddie Collins, Rogers Hornsby, Charlie Gehringer, Napoleon Lajoie, Joe Morgan, Ryne Sandberg and Jackie Robinson. (I usually count Rod Carew as a 1st baseman, because the position he was at by the time I was old enough to see him play. And if Robinson had been allowed to play more than 10 seasons, he'd probably be a bit higher on the list. So would Tony Lazzeri, who played only 12.)

The count was one ball, no strikes, and Terry delivered a slider that didn't quite slide. There's a fantastic photograph of the moment, showing the old hand-operated scoreboard at Forbes Field, with a Longines clock on top showing the time, 3:36 PM, and the Carnegie Library in the background. Chuck Thompson, usually the voice of the Baltimore Orioles, calling the game for NBC, said this:

Here's a swing and a high fly ball, going deep to left, this may do it! Back to the wall goes Berra, it is over the fence, home run! The Pirates win!

Mazeroski took off his cap, windmilled it around, and somehow managed to get through a crowd running onto the field to touch home plate. Pirates 10, Yankees 9. For the 1st time, a World Series had ended with a home run. (It's only happened once since, and that was in a Game 6, not a Game 7.)

For the Pirates, it was their 1st World Championship in 35 years, the only one they would win between 1925 and 1971. For the Yankees, it was crushing. Mickey Mantle later said he cried all the way back to New York on the plane, and that, of all 12 World Series he was in, this was the only one in which he thought the better team didn't win. He had a point: The Yankees outscored the Pirates, 55-27.

But it's not how many total runs you score, it's how many games you win. The Pirates were the 1st ones to win 4. As Bob Prince, the broadcast voice of the Pirates, known as the Gunner and a "homer" every bit as notorious as Mel Allen, Phil Rizzuto or Harry Caray, would have put it, "The Buccos had 'em all the way." As then-Yankee prospect Jim Bouton would have put it, "Yeah, surrrre!"

The most just thing about this game is that the winning pitcher was Harvey Haddix, who had pitched perfect ball for 12 innings against the Milwaukee Braves on May 26, 1959, but lost the perfect game, the no-hitter, the shutout, and the game itself in the 13th. The Baseball Gods can be kind, or they can be cruel. To Haddix, they were both that night in Milwaukee. On October 13, 1960, they were kind to him, to Mazeroski, and to all the Pirates and all their fans.

Despite all the successes the Pirates would have in the 1970s, despite 6 Super Bowls for the Steelers, 3 Stanley Cups for the Penguins, and the 1976 National Championship for University of Pittsburgh football, Mazeroski’s homer remains the greatest moment in the history of sports in Western Pennsylvania. Even the "Immaculate Reception" isn't as big.

Today, 49 years after his big moment, William Stanley Mazeroski is retired and living in Panama City, Florida, and is a spring-training fielding instructor for the Pirates. The Pirates have retired his Number 9. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001.

He should have been elected years earlier. I think the reason he wasn't elected sooner was the home run. Think about it: When you hear "Mazeroski," the first thing you think is, "Home run, won the 1960 World Series for the Pirates." The second thing you think is, "Greatest-fielding second baseman who ever lived."

Think about it: Imagine he had led off that inning not with a home run, but with a single. (This is a similar exercise to the one I did for Bucky Dent on October 2.) The next batter would have been the pitcher, Haddix. Most likely, Pirate manager Danny Murtaugh would have pinch-hit for him. Or maybe Haddix would have been ordered to bunt. That would have put Maz at 2nd with 1 out.

That would have brought up Virdon. If he couldn't single home Maz (he already had 2 hits and 2 RBIs in the game), the next batter was Dick Groat, that year's NL MVP. If he gets a hit, Mazeroski scores, the Pirates still win 10-9, and he still gets his ring (and he'd get another with the Pirates in 1971), and while he doesn't get his big moment, he gets remembered first and foremost for his entire career of excellent fielding, not one great hit, and he probably gets into the Hall of Fame much sooner. (There, I changed it, and benefited the Pirates but not the Yankees. As Mel Allen would say, "How about that?")

Dick Schaap, then writing for the New York Herald Tribune, was doing an article on comedian Lenny Bruce, and was also covering the 1960 World Series. He invited Bruce to come with him and sit in the press box at Forbes Field for Game 7. Despite being a native New Yorker, Bruce admitted to Schaap that he’d never been to a ballgame before. Schaap would later write that Bruce enjoyed the game, but that he would never go to another. The only baseball game Lenny Bruce ever saw, and it may have been the greatest game of all time. It was also Bruce’s birthday: He turned 35.

After the Series, Yankee owners Del Webb and Dan Topping fired Casey Stengel. They made Casey read a statement in which he said he was resigning, but Casey put the paper down, and told the press, "I guess this means they fired me." He later said that they forced him out due to his age: "I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again."

In 2003, Jack McKeon managed the Florida Marlins to a World Championship. He was about to turn 73. In 2009, the most successful Yankee manager since Casey, Joe Torre, managed the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 2nd straight NLCS berth. He is 69.

The Baseball Gods were cruel to Ralph Terry that day in Pittsburgh, but they would be kind to him for the next 2 years, allowing him to win 39 regular-season games for back-to-back Yankee World Championship teams, and to add his own shutout in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series.

Which brings me back to one of my points: As bad as certain moments of Yankee history have been, there's usually a sequel that sets it all right, and goats become heroes.

It was thus for Ralph Terry. Is it in the process of becoming such for Alex Rodriguez? I hope so. Not for his sake, but for ours, for the sakes of Yankee Fans wherever they may be.


October 13, 1775: The Continental Congress orders the creation of the Continental Navy, the forerunner of the United States Navy.

This would seem to have nothing to do with baseball, but, during World War II, it would be the Navy that would have, arguably, the three greatest catchers in baseball history: Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. (I think Johnny Bench served in the Army Reserve during Vietnam, but I don't think he missed significant playing time. Certainly, he never saw combat.) The WWII Navy would also have Phil Rizzuto, Pee Wee Reese and, through the Marine Corps which is officially part of the Navy, Ted Williams, Jerry Coleman, and broadcasters Jack Brickhouse and Ernie Harwell.

The Army would have Hank Greenberg, Warren Spahn, Jackie Robinson, and, through the Army Air Corps, forerunner of the U.S. Air Force, Joe DiMaggio.

October 13, 1885: The Georgia Institute of Technology is founded in Atlanta. Georgia Tech will go on to become one of America's great collegiate sports institutions, its baseball program producing such talent as Marty Marion, Del Pratt, Whitlow Wyatt, Nomar Garciaparra, Marlon Byrd and Jay Payton. And Yankee-killer Jason Varitek. And Kevin Brown, a very different kind of Yankee-killer.

Georgia Tech's mascot, along with Buzz the Yellow Jacket, is a 1930 Ford Model A known as the Ramblin’ Wreck. Don’t let the name fool you: The old sports coupe is very well-maintained. College football programs take their traditions very seriously, especially in the South, and Tech wouldn't dare let the car actually become a wreck. As a 1930 model, it would have been released for sale to the public in October 1929, 80 years ago this month.

October 13, 1895: Mike Gazella is born in Olyphant, Pennsylvania, in the Lehigh Valley. He was a reserve infielder on the Yankees’ 1923 and 1927 World Championship teams.

October 13, 1899: The Louisville Colonels score 4 runs in the 9th to take a 6-5 lead over the Pirates‚ but heavy‚ black smoke from the Pittsburgh steel mills spills over the field, and the game is called because of poor visibility. The score reverts to what it was at the end of the previous inning: Pirates 5, Colonels 2.

The Colonels, led by shortstop Honus Wagner, end the season today in 9th place at 75-77. It will be their last season, as the National League contracts from 12 to 8 teams. The Pirates' owners buy the Colonels franchise, lock, stock and Honus, and will win 4 of the next 10 NL Pennants and be in the race for most of the rest. Louisville has since been one of the top minor-league cities of the last 100 years, but it has never returned to the major leagues.

October 13, 1903: The Boston Americans, forerunners of the Red Sox, win the 1st World Series, 5 games to 3, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-0 in Game 8. Hobe Ferris singles home 2 runs in the 4th, and Bill Dineen, pitching his 3rd win of the Series, outduels Deacon Phillippe, pitching his 5th complete game. Boston is the champion of the baseball world.

October 13, 1914: The Boston Braves complete a shocking 4-game sweep, the first in World Series history, over the mighty Philadelphia Athletics, winning Game 4, 3-1 at Fenway Park. Johnny Evers, former 2nd-base star with the Chicago Cubs, singles in the 5th to make the difference.

The "Miracle Braves," who came from last place on the 4th of July to win the whole thing, had abandoned South End Grounds, at whose location they had played since their founding as the Boston Red Stockings in 1871, in mid-season, because the new stadium they were building was not yet ready, and because Fenway Park had a larger seating capacity. (A year later, Braves Field would open, and because it was the largest stadium yet built, with a capacity of 40,000, the Red Sox would play their 1915, '16 and '18 home games there. It would be 1946 before Fenway Park hosted another postseason game.)

Fighting the rise of salaries caused by the Federal League, A's owner-manager Connie Mack sold off most of his stars after this Series, ending a run of 4 Pennants and 3 World Championships in 5 seasons. In fact, he had won 6 of the 1st 14 AL Pennants and was in the race nearly every year. In 1915, the A's would collapse to last place, and in 1916 they would produce a record of 36-117, the most losses in the major leagues between the 1899 Cleveland Spiders and the 1962 New York Mets, and still the lowest winning percentage since 1899, .235. To this, Mack is alleged to have said, perhaps coining the now-familiar phrase, "Well, you can't win them all."

It would take Mack until 1927 to get the A's back into a Pennant race and 1929 to get them back into the Series.

The Braves would not be unable to maintain their prosperity, either. They finished 2nd in 1915 and 3rd in '16, but in '17, catcher Hank Gowdy, a key figure in their '14 run, became the 1st big-leaguer to enlist in World War I. (In fact, he would go on to become the only big-leaguer to serve in that war and World War II.)

Like the A's, the Braves would go on to become symbolic of baseball frustration: From 1917 to 1932, the Braves would have one season above .500, and 4 seasons of at least 100 losses. A 4th-place finish in 1933 was followed by a 38-115 season in 1935, a .248 winning percentage that's the lowest in baseball in the last 93 years and the lowest in the NL in 110, even less than the 40-120 '62 Mets' .250. Not until 1947 would they get back into a Pennant race, not until 1948 would they win another Pennant, and by the time they won another World Series, 1957, they would be in Milwaukee, and the Red Sox would be in Boston all alone.

October 13, 1915: Harry Hooper hits 2 homers, and hurrahs are hoisted in Hingham, Holyoke, Hartford, Hanover and Hyannis. The 2nd comes in the top of the 9th of Game 5 at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, and the Boston Red Sox defeat the Phillies, 5-4, and win the World Series.

The Red Sox had gotten such strong pitching from Ernie Shore, Rube Foster and Dutch Leonard that rookie southpaw George "Babe" Ruth didn’t pitch at all, and made just 1 appearance, as a pinch-hitter.

The Phillies won their 1st World Series game to lead off the Series. Their 2nd win in a World Series game will not come for another 65 years.


October 13, 1920: Laraine Day is born in Roosevelt, Utah. The actress is best known for being the second of three Mrs. Leo Durochers. In spite of the fact that he cheated on her to no end, she gave his induction speech at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.

October 13, 1921: For the last time, the World Series is a best-5-out-of-9 affair. Game 8 is played at the Polo Grounds, home for one more season after this of both the National League’s Giants and the American League's Yankees. George "Highpockets" Kelly of the Giants hits a ball through the legs of Yankee shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh in the first, scoring a run. It is the 1st time Peckinpaugh has blown it in a Series game, but it will not be the last.

The game is still 1-0 in the 9th, when Aaron Ward draws a walk with one out. Frank "Home Run" Baker, previously a Series star for Connie Mack's A's, hits a line shot that Giant 2nd baseman Johnny Rawlings snares, and throws to 1st to get Baker with the 2nd out. Ward, thinking the ball had gone through, heads for 3rd base, and Kelly throws across the infield to Frankie Frisch, and Ward is out. That's the game and the 1st "Subway Series" (although the term wouldn't be used for another few years), as the Giants win, 5 games to 3.

For the Giants, it is their 2nd World Series win, their 1st since 1905. For Giants manager John McGraw, it is proof that his scrappy, run-scratching, pitching-and-defense-leading style of baseball, is better than the Yankee style, which is to get guys on base and wait for someone (most likely Babe Ruth, who was ineffective in this Series) to hit a home run.

For the Yankees, their 1st World Series ends in disappointment. They will, however, be back.

October 13, 1931: Eddie Mathews is born in Texarkana, Texas. The Hall-of-Famer is the only man to have played for the Braves in Boston (his rookie season, 1952, was their last there), Milwaukee (all 13 years the franchise played there) and Atlanta (their 1st season there, 1966, was his last with the team).

His 47 home runs in 1953 was a franchise record, tied by teammate Hank Aaron in 1971, until Andruw Jones broke it with 51 in 2005. Mathews hit a 10th-inning walkoff home run to give the Braves Game 4 of the 1957 World Series, which they would win in 7 games.

He hit his 500th career home run as a Houston Astro in 1967, finished his career as a World Champion with 512 home runs with the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and managed Aaron when he became the all-time home run leader in 1974. The Braves retired Mathews’ Number 41, and along with Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Brooks Robinson, he is one of the top four third basemen of all time.


October 13, 1941: Paul Simon is born in Newark, New Jersey. In 1967, looking around at a world seemingly falling apart, he wrote a song for the film The Graduate: "Mrs. Robinson." A Yankee Fan, he included a tribute to a Yankee player who exemplified a seemingly (but hardly) simpler, more innocent time: "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

Simon later met DiMaggio, who objected, saying, "I haven't gone anywhere. Simon explained that the line was a longing for what DiMaggio represented. When Mickey Mantle asked Simon why his name wasn't used, Simon, who turned 10 as DiMaggio was replaced by Mantle, said that the rhythm and the syllables of the song wouldn't have worked for Mantle’s name.

Simon recorded it with his singing partner, Art Garfunkel. "Mrs. Robinson" hit Number 1 in June 1968, and it was on top of the charts when Robert Kennedy was assassinated, making its search for meaning and hope even more poignant.

In 1972, now gone solo, Simon released "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard." In 1988, he made a video of the song, and he's shown pitching to kids in a stickball game. And Mantle shows up. I guess Paul had to make it up to Mickey, and while Mickey whiffs on Paul's first pitch, Mickey blasts the next one, and then lip-synchs the title (though it’s still Simon's voice we hear).

October 13, 1942: Bob Bailey is born outside Los Angeles in Long Beach, California. An original member of the 1969 Montreal Expos, he was Pete Rose's backup at 3rd base on the 1976 World Champion Cincinnati Reds. He was also one of the inadequate backups that helped cost the Boston Red Sox the 1978 American League Eastern Division title -- to the Yankees' benefit.

His lifetime batting average was just .257, but he did hit 189 home runs with 773 RBIs. He once said, "Your batting average goes up and down, but those home runs and RBIs never go away."”

Also on this day, Jerry Jones is born outside Los Angeles in Inglewood, California, but grows up in Little Rock, Arkansas. The less said about the man who's owned the Dallas Cowboys for the last 20 years, the better.

October 13, 1943: Mike Barnicle is born in Worcester, Massachusetts. The longtime columnist for the Boston Globe and pundit for MSNBC is a prominent Red Sox fan.

October 13, 1954: George Frazier is born in Oklahoma City. As a rookie with the Yankees, he lost 3 games in the 1981 World Series. And, unlike the only other man to do so, Lefty Williams of the 1919 White Sox, he was trying to pitch well, not throw the Series. He didn’t last much longer with the Yankees.


October 13, 1962: Jerry Rice is born in Crawford, Mississippi. He may be the greatest player in the history of American football. Certainly, he is the greatest receiver. Also on this day, Kelly Preston is born in Honolulu, and grows up in Adelaide, Australia. The actress played Kevin Costner’s love interest in the film For Love of the Game. And, of course, she is married to John Travolta.

October 13, 1965: Jim "Mudcat" Grant wins Game 6 of the World Series, pretty much all by himself. He pitches a 1-hitter, and hits a 3-run home run. The Minnesota Twins beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-1, and the Series goes to a Game 7.

October 13, 1967: Trevor Hoffman is born in the Los Angeles suburb of Bellflower, California. Having spent most of his career with the San Diego Padres, now with the Milwaukee Brewers, he is baseball's all-time saves leader with 591.

Sports Illustrated dedicated their May 13, 2002 issue to Hoffman, calling him "the greatest closer in MLB history." I guess they forgot about Mariano Rivera: He may be second behind Hoffman with 526, but the question was settled in the 1998 World Series, when Rivera got 3 saves and Hoffman blew one against… Scott Brosius?

Still, Hoffman is a class act and a sure Hall-of-Famer. His brother Glenn Hoffman was also a big-league player, and briefly managed the Dodgers.

Also born on this day are Scott Cooper, in St. Louis,, a former All-Star 3rd baseman for the Red Sox; and Kate Walsh, in San Jose, who played Dr. Addison Montgomery on Grey's Anatomy and now on Private Practice.

Also on this day, the American Basketball Association has its 1st game, at the Oakland Coliseum Arena: The host Oakland Oaks defeat the Anaheim Amigos, 134-129. The ABA will last 9 seasons, and 4 of its franchises will be absorbed into the NBA in 1976: The 2-time ABA Champion New York (now… for the moment… New Jersey) Nets, the 3-time ABA Champion Indiana Pacers, the Denver Nuggets (who lost to the Nets in the last ABA Finals) and the San Antonio Spurs (who never won anything in the ABA but have been consistently successful in the NBA, winning 4 titles).

October 13, 1970: The Baltimore Orioles win Game 3 of the World Series, 9-3 at Memorial Stadium, and take a commanding 3-games-to-0 lead. Dave McNally hits a grand slam, making him the 2nd pitcher to hit 2 homers in World Series play, after Bob Gibson, and the 1st (and still only) one ever to hit a grand slam.

Frank Robinson and Don Buford also homer, and Brooks Robinson plays another spectacular game at third base. In this Series, Brooksie has practically rewritten the rules for playing the position.

October 13, 1971: The 1st night game in World Series history is played. The Baltimore Orioles blow a 3-0 lead, and the Pittsburgh Pirates win 4-3, on a pinch-hit single in the 8th by backup catcher Milt May. The Pirates have tied the Series at 2 games apiece.

October 13, 1972: An Aeroflot Ilyushin Il-62 crashes outside Moscow, killing 176. This plane crash has been virtually forgotten.

More remembered is another crash on this day: Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashes in the Andes mountains, in between the borders of Argentina and Chile. It was carrying Stella Maris College's "Old Christians" rugby union team from Montevideo, Uruguay, to play a match in Santiago, Chile. By December 23, 1972 only 16 out of 45 people lived long enough to be rescued. Some had died in the crash, some from the cold, some in a subsequent avalanche. The survivors had lasted as long as they did by feeding on the dead – cannibalism.

It became known as the Miracle of the Andes, and 20 years later, the film Alive told their story. On his late-night talk show, Arsenio Hall said, "I have a cameo in the movie Alive. I play the dark meat." I don't know what's worse: The joke, or that I laughed at it then, or that I still laugh at it 17 years after it aired.

October 13, 1973: Brian Dawkins is born in Jacksonville, Florida. One of my favorite football players of all time, he was a devastating safety on the Philadelphia Eagles teams that went to 5 NFC Championship Games – but only 1 Super Bowl, and losing that – in the 2000s.

The Eagles chose not re-sign him for 2009, and now he's with the Denver Broncos. Right now, the Eagles are 3-1 and looking like a Playoff team. But the Broncos are 5-0, and, despite playing 1 more game than the Eagles, have allowed half as many points – in fact, they've allowed the fewest points in the league. Is Dawkins the reason? Hmmmm...

October 13, 1974: Hall of Fame outfielder Sam Rice dies at Rossmor‚ Maryland‚ not far from where he played for the Washington Senators. He was 84. He left a letter‚ opened at the Baseball Hall of Fame, confirming his controversial catch in the 1925 World Series. The letter‚ dated July 26‚ 1965‚ details the entire play and ends with Rice's declaration, "At no time did I lose possession of the ball." The Senators lost that Series to the Pirates, anyway.

Also on this day, the St. Louis Cardinals trade Joe Torre to the Mets for pitchers Ray Sadecki and Tommy Moore. This trade will not help either team much. Torre, once a great hitter and a good catcher, will not solve the Mets' perennial 3rd base problems. In fact, he is moved to 1st base.

He recently fielded a question about his thinning hair: "I call it the Watergate. I try to cover up as much as I can." He has begun to handle the press like an expert manager. But it will be 3 years before he is named manager of the Mets, 8 years before he gets a team into the postseason (not the Mets), and 19 years before he manages a team into, and wins, a World Series (also not the Mets).

October 13, 1978: Game 3 of the World Series. Joe DiMaggio throws out the ceremonial first ball at Yankee Stadium. The Dodgers lead the Yankees 2 games to 0. The Yankees are desperate for a win. They send out Ron Guidry, who has already won 26 games (including the Divisional Playoff against Boston and the Pennant-clincher against Kansas City) against only 3 losses, but is exhausted. And he doesn't have his best stuff: He strikes out only 4 and walks 7.

But... Graig Nettles puts on a clinic at 3rd base, much as Brooks Robinson did 8 years to the week (including the day) earlier. He makes 6 sensational plays, including 2 scintillating stops that end innings with forceouts at 2nd base. Roy White's 1st-inning home run gets the Yankees going, and, somehow, Guidry goes the distance in a 5-1 win, striking out the dangerous Ron Cey for the final out. The Yankees are still alive in the Series.

October 13, 1984: Frank Simek is born in St. Louis. He was the 1st North American ever to play for Arsenal Football Club, the pride of London. Although it was just 1 game, at right back in the League Cup against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Highbury on December 2, 2003. Arsenal won, 5-1, although he had neither a goal nor an assist.

He now plays for Sheffield Wednesday, but they're in the 2nd division, a.k.a. The Coca-Cola Championship, not the 1st division, a.k.a. The Barclays Premiership.

October 13, 1985: The Cardinals rout the Dodgers 12-2, to even the NLCS at 2-2‚ but also lose rookie sensation Vince Coleman to one of the more bizarre injuries in sports history. Coleman is stretching before the game when his left leg becomes caught in Busch Memorial Stadium's automated tarpaulin as it unrolls across the infield‚ trapping him for about 30 seconds. He is removed from the field on a stretcher and will not play again this year.

This will turn out to be a critical injury – not for Coleman's life, or for his career, but for the Cards' lineup, as they will not have their leadoff man and sparkplug for the World Series, in which they put up one of the most pathetic batting performances in postseason history.

October 13, 1993: The combined pitching of Tommy Greene and Mitch Williams give the Phillies a 6-3 win over the heavily-favored Atlanta Braves and the National League Pennant, only the 5th flag in Fightin' Phils history.

Dave Hollins hits a 2-run homer for the winners‚ while Mickey Morandini and Darren Daulton also drive in 2 runs each. Curt Schilling is named the NLCS MVP despite no victories: He gave up just 3 earned runs and struck out 19 in 16 innings. And, lest Phils fans forget, they would not have gotten that far if Williams hadn't been a terrific closer all year long, including getting the final out tonight at Veterans Stadium.

With long hair, chewing tobacco, in a few cases being well overweight, and some bad manners, the 1993 Phillies were known as "Macho Row," and remain, despite the dream ending a little sourly in the World Series, one of the most popular teams in the history of Philadelphia sports.

October 13, 1996: The Yankees defeat the Orioles‚ 6-4 at Camden Yards‚ giving them the Pennant, 4 games to 1. The victors score all of their runs in the 3rd inning‚ which features homers by Jim Leyritz‚ Cecil Fielder‚ and Darryl Strawberry. Scott Erickson gives up the 3 homers in 1 inning‚ a 1st in LCS play, in either League. Bobby Bonilla‚ Todd Zeile‚ and Eddie Murray homer for the losers.

The last out is a bit of a torch-passing moment: Cal Ripken, the face of the Oriole franchise, for the last few years and possibly for the rest of his life, hits a ground ball to the Yankee shortstop, a rookie named Derek Jeter, who goes on to become the face of the Yankee franchise. Jeter throws to Tino Martinez at first, and Ripken, desperate to keep the series alive, slides head-first. He's too late, and the Yankees have their 1st Pennant in 15 years.

There's another torch-passing fact: The Orioles' manager is Davey Johnson, who, 10 years ago, managed the Mets to New York baseball's most recent Pennant; while the Yankees' manager is Joe Torre, who, after 4,279 combined games as a player and a manager, more than anyone who’s never participating in a World Series in either role, has finally made it.

I'll never forget (and this is another torch-passer) Reggie Jackson, in the Yankee dugout, with a big smile, giving Joe a big hug, and Joe trying to maintain his composure as Mr. October gives him his long-worked-for due. However, after the game, Reggie is interviewed in the locker room, and he speaks a truth he knows full well: "They’ve got another leg to go. They've got another lap to make. Not done yet." There's still the matter of winning 4 more games against either the Cardinals or the Braves.

The Orioles, who last won a Pennant 13 years ago, are frustrated, not in the least because of the Jeffrey Maier incident in Game 1. However, they lost all 3 home games in the series, and a team that can't defend its home field in the Playoffs needs to zip their lips.

Especially since that Oriole team had Rafael Palmeiro (proven steroid user), Brady Anderson (almost certainly a steroid user, because the 50 homers he had that year far outpaced his previous high of 21 and his next-best later total of 24), and Bobby Bonilla (never proven a steroid user but the guy had some incidents that suggest "roid rage").

October 13, 1998: The Yankees win Game 6 of the ALCS over the Indians, 9-5 at Yankee Stadium, to take their 35th American League Pennant. Chuck Knoblauch, in his 1st game back in The Bronx after his Game 2 "brainlauch," leads off the bottom of the 1st, and gets a big hand from the fans, who've seen the big double plays he started late in both Game 4 and Game 5. "Apparently, all is forgiven," says Bob Costas on NBC.

October 13, 1999: Bernie Williams becomes the 1st Yankee to hit 2 walkoff home runs in postseason play. His drive off Rod Beck goes over the center field fence to lead off the bottom of the 10th, and the Yankees win the first official postseason Yankees-Red Sox game, 4-3. (The 1978 "Boston Tie Party" is counted by MLB as a regular season game.)

Red Sox fans, buoyed by the success of Pedro Martinez and Nomah Gahciahpawhah – or, at least, that's how Nomar Garciaparra's name sounded in their New England accents – were sure that this was The Year that the Red Sox were finally going to "Reverse the Curse" and stick it to the Yankees. But Bernie remembered the script handed to him earlier that day by Yankee legend Yogi Berra: "We've been playing these guys for 80 years. They can't beat us." Not yet, anyway.


October 13, 2001: The Yankees enter Game 3 at the Oakland Coliseum (or whatever corporate name the "Mausoleum" had at the time) down 2 games to 0 against the A’s, and are desperate for a victory. Jorge Posada homers in the top of the 5th, to give the Yanks a 1-0 lead.

That lead holds in the 7th, but Terrence Long drives one into the corner. Right fielder Shane Spencer heaves the ball home, but it’s off the line. Jeremy Giambi, brother of star Oakland slugger Jason Giambi, will score for sure.

Except... out of nowhere comes Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, who sprints in, grabs the ball, and, holding it for less than half a second, flips it to Posada at the plate, and Posada juuuust barely tags Giambi on the back of the knee, before his foot touches the plate, completing one of the most amazing defensive plays in baseball history.

"The Flip" allows Mike Mussina and, in the 9th, Mariano Rivera to preserve the 1-0 shutout, and keep the Yankees from being eliminated.

October 13, 2002: The Anaheim Angels – as they are officially known at the time – score 10 runs in the 7th inning on their way to a 13-5 win over the Minnesota Twins, winning the 1st Pennant in the team's 42-season history. Adam Kennedy is the hero for Anaheim with 3 homers and 7 RBIs. Scott Spiezio also homers for the Angels‚ with Francisco Rodriguez getting the win in relief.

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