Friday, October 23, 2009

Now Batting for the Yankees, Mo Mentum

The most fickle person in sports is Maurice Mentum. Better known as Mo Mentum.

He's the ultimate free agent. He knows not the meaning of contracts or loyalty. He jumps from team to team anytime he damn well pleases.

Mo Mentum may have left the Yankees in last night's Game 5. They may have to win tomorrow night's Game 6 without him.

If they don't, Game 7 will be Sunday night, and while it will also be at Yankee Stadium Mark II, I have to wonder how much CC Sabathia will have left in the tank.

I'm also worried about Nick Swisher. Mark Teixeira finally got off the schneid in Game 5, but Swisher, who has been terrific for the Yanks from Opening Day through the Division Series, isn't hitting a lick. I'm thinking Joe Girardi should bench him, move Melky Cabrera over to right field, and put Brett Gardner in center.

And it is yet again time for Alex Rodriguez to step up. If he does, and finishes his October redemption, it won't matter who Mo Mentum plays for.


Rutgers beat Army tonight, 27-10. A bowl game appearance is now much more likely than it was last week.

East Brunswick beat Jackson Memorial tonight, 19-13 in overtime. A Playoff appearance is now almost certain.


October 23, 1869, 140 years ago today: John Heisman is born. He coached several college football teams, his tenure at Georgia Tech being the best-remembered. Upon his death in 1936, the national player of the year trophy first awarded the year before is named the Heisman Memorial Trophy in his memory.

October 23, 1876: The Chicago Tribune publishes season-ending batting percentages based on the new method of dividing number of at bats into number of hits. Ross Barnes of the Chicago White Stockings (forerunners of the Cubs) leads with a .429 average‚ thanks in part to the fair-foul rule. The following season‚ the rule is changed so that a ball hit in fair territory and rolls foul before passing first/third base is a foul ball.

October 23, 1886: The American Association Champion St. Louis Browns win the World Championship by beating the National League Champion Chicago White Stockings, 4-3 in 10 innings. This is the beginning of the rivalry between the teams now known as the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs.

Pitching his 4th game in 6 days‚ John Clarkson holds St. Louis hitless for 6 innings as Chicago builds a 3-0 lead. The Browns tie the game in the 8th‚ and Curt Welch scores the "$15‚000" run on a wild pitch in the 10th. St. Louis wins the entire gate receipts from the series ($13‚920)‚ with each of 12 players getting about $580.

October 23, 1894: Raymond Bloom Bressler is born. "Rube" Bressler was a pitcher-turned-outfielder, and a member of the Cincinnati Reds team that won the 1919 World Series, and, like his teammate, future Hall-of-Famer Edd Roush, was interviewed by Lawrence S. Ritter for his book The Glory of Their Times. And, like Roush, he insisted that the Reds would have won the Series even if the White Sox hadn't thrown it. He had a .301 lifetime batting average and batted over .300 5 times.


October 23, 1905: Gertrude Ederle is born (although many reference books had said 1906). In 1924, she was part of a U.S. women's swimming relay team that won an Olympic Gold Medal. In 1925, she swam the 21 miles from the southern tip of Manhattan Island to Sandy Hook, in just 7 hours. On August 6, 1926, she not only became the first woman to swim the English Channel, but broke the existing men' record for fastest swim of it from 16½ to 14½ hours. Already hard of hearing, she eventually went deaf and spent much of her life teaching deaf children to swim. She lived to be 98.

October 23, 1910: The Philadelphia Athletics win the World Series for the first time, defeating the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs finish a streak of 4 Pennants in 5 seasons, and the A's have just begun an equal streak. Three-Finger Brown comes back to face Jack Coombs‚ who takes a 2-1 lead into the 7th. The A's get to Brown for 5 runs and a 7-2 win.

The crowd of 27‚374 at Shibe Park is the Series' largest. The A's .316 BA remains a WS record. For this Series‚ cork-center balls were secretly used for the first time‚ and will be used in the majors starting next year. Previously‚ rubber-center balls were used.

October 23, 1915: Dr. William Gilbert Grace dies. He was 67. I don't know much about cricket, but the native of Bristol, England played at the top level of the sport for a record 44 seasons, from 1865 to 1908, and was regarded as the game's 1st modern batsman, and by many as its greatest player ever – which certainly suggests that he was the greatest of its early years.

Although he was a practicing physician, he was usually referred to publicly by his initials, "W.G. Grace," rather than "Dr. Grace."


October 23, 1923: Babe Ruth makes a post-season (as opposed to a "postseason") appearance in a Giants uniform‚ as the Giants defeat the Baltimore Orioles of the International League. 9-0. Ruth hits a home run over the right-field roof at the Polo Grounds. The game is a benefit for the owner of the Giants' franchise from their arrival in New York in 1883 until 1892, the now-destitute John B. Day.

October 23, 1925: Johnny Carson is born in Corning, Iowa. Host of The Tonight Show from 1962 to 1992, he made his share of sports jokes. "Well, it's fall again, and now, we here in Los Angeles can forget about the Dodgers, and concentrate on forgetting the Rams." Every year, around Christmastime, he would break out the ideal toy: Dickie the Stick! Dickie the Stick was very versatile. One time, Johnny demonstrated that, "With Dickie the Stick, you can hit a baseball like Reggie Jackson! Or scratch like Pete Rose!"

Also on this day, Fred Shero is born in Winnipeg. "Freddie the Fog" coached the Philadelphia Flyers to the 1974 and 1975 Stanley Cups – the only ones that franchise has ever won. He also coached the New York Rangers to the 1979 Stanley Cup Finals. His philosophy of hockey was simple: "Take the shortest route to the puck, and arrive in ill humor." Before the clinching Game 6 in 1974, he told his Flyer players, "We will win together now, and we will walk together forever."

October 23, 1931: The Brooklyn Baseball Club of the National League announces that Wilbert Robinson has been fired as manager, and the club will be called the Robins only in the past tense. Max Carey‚ a no-nonsense sort who had been a star outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates‚ will take over next year. The team reverts to its original name: The Brooklyn Dodgers.

Also on this day, Jim Bunning is born in Southgate, Kentucky. He is one of the few pitchers to win at least 100 games in both Leagues, and one of the few to pitch no-hitters in both Leagues, including a perfect game against the Mets at Shea Stadium in 1964. It was on Father's Day, and he had 6 children. He now has 9.

He has served his native Kentucky in both houses of Congress, but the last few years, the very conservative Republican has been one of the Senate's nuttier voices. He may be losing his mind. Then again, pitching for the Phillies prior to 2007 (except for 1980) could do that to you. He is, however, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Phillies have retired his Number 14.

October 23, 1935: Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at a saloon in Newark, New Jersey, in what will become known as The Chophouse Massacre. As my father, a Newark native, would say, "No great loss."

In 1998, Michael Walsh published As Time Goes By, a combination prequel and sequel to the film Casablanca authorized by the estate of the film's writers. In it, he fictionalizes this shootout as being part of the reason Yitzik "Rick" Baline has to flee the United States and become saloonkeeper/casino operator "Rick Blaine."

October 23, 1939, 70 years ago today: Zane Grey dies. He had played minor-league baseball, and once he failed at that, he became a sportswriter. Eventually, he became a writer of Western novels, including Last of the Plainsmen, and was a favorite of another frustrated athlete, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. On M*A*S*H, Colonel Sherman T. Potter (played by Harry Morgan) was also a big fan of Grey's novels.


October 23, 1940: Edson Arantes do Nascimento is born in Tres Coracoes -- "Three Hearts." The most famous native of Brazil, you know him as Pele. If he is not the greatest soccer player who ever lived, he is certainly the most celebrated.

He helped Brazil win the World Cup in 1958, 1962 and 1970. He led his club side Santos to 10 championships of the State of Sao Paulo between 1958 and 1973, 5 national tournament titles and the Copa Libertadores (the South American equivalent to the UEFA Champions League) in 1962 and 1963.

He played his final 3 seasons in America with the New York Cosmos, playing home games at Downing Stadium on Randall’s Island in 1975, Yankee Stadium in The Bronx in 1976, and Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands of East Rutherford, New Jersey in 1977, leading them to the NASL Championship that season. When he got the entire stadium to "Say it with me: Love! Love! Love!" prior to his testimonial match, heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who liked to call himself "The Greatest" and generally refused to take a back seat to anyone, is said to have said, "Now I understand: He is greater than me."

Also on this day, Ellie Greenwich is born in Brooklyn. With her then-husband, Jeff Barry, she wrote "Be My Baby", "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", "Da Doo Ron Ron", "Leader of the Pack", "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", and "River Deep, Mountain High", and about a jillion other rock-and-roll classics. In 1964 alone, 17 different songs that she and Barry wrote appeared on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 – the only songwriting team that's ever topped that in the rock-and-roll era also did it that year: John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

She discovered Neil Diamond, and sang backing vocals on several of Diamond's hit songs. In the 1980s, her life and songs were turned into a Broadway musical titled Leader of the Pack. She died of a heart attack this past August 23, age 68.

October 23, 1945: Brooklyn Dodger president Branch Rickey announces the signing of Jackie Robinson by the Dodger organization. Robinson signs a contract for 1946 for the Dodgers' top farm team, the Montreal Royals of the International League. Black pitcher John Wright also signs with the Dodger organization..

October 23, 1949, 60 years ago today: Michael Walsh is born in Rochester, New York. Author of the aforementioned As Time Goes By, he is also the author of the novel And All the Saints, and several nonfiction books about music.


October 23, 1962: Doug Flutie is born in the Baltimore suburb of Manchester, Maryland, and grows up in the Boston suburb of Natick, Massachusetts. Almost singlehandedly, he turned Boston College from a pretender to Division I-A grandeur into an Eastern football powerhouse.

Had there been a Big East Conference in 1984, BC would have won it, and even without the thrilling 47-45 Thanksgiving Friday game in the rain which he won with a last-second pass to his college roommate Gerard Phelan, Flutie would likely have won that year's Heisman Trophy.

But the NFL balked at him because of his height, 5-foot-9¾. The USFL's New Jersey Generals tried him out, and then the Chicago Bears, desperate for someone to step in for the injured Jim McMahon, tried him. His hometown New England Patriots – their 60,000-seat former home of Foxboro Stadium was used for games too small for BC’s 44,000-seat Alumni Stadium – also gave him a shot.

But it was in Canada where he achieved professional success, winning the Grey Cup with the Vancouver-based British Columbia Lions in 1992 and the Toronto Argonauts in 1996 and 1997. He was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player 6 times in 7 years from 1991 to 1997.

Finally, in 1998, the NFL could ignore him no longer, and he got the Buffalo Bills into the Playoffs. In 1999, Flutie got the Bills into the Playoffs again, but coach Wade Phillips – who said he was acting on the orders of owner Ralph Wilson – benched him in favor of Rob Johnson for a Playoff game against the Tennessee Titans. The Titans won, on the play known as the "Music City Miracle."

The Bills have not made the Playoffs since, leading to talk of a "Flutie Curse"; however, the Bills have not gone as far as the schedule will let them since the 1965 AFL Championship, losing the '66 AFL Title Game and 4 AFC Title Games, so if there really is a curse on the Bills, it goes back a lot further than Flutie. He went to the San Diego Chargers, and closed his career on January 1, 2006 with his hometown Patriots. In his first attempted kick in NFL play, Flutie executed a dropkick for a field goal, the only one in NFL play since 1941.

He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and is the only non-Canadian in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. A short stretch of road connecting the Natick Mall in his hometown of Natick, Massachusetts and the Shoppers' World Mall in Framingham, MA is named "Flutie Pass."

October 23, 1965: Al Leiter is born in Toms River, New Jersey. He and his brother Mark Leiter, who also became a major league pitcher, grew up in nearby Berkeley Township and attended Central Regional High School. He both began and ended his career with the Yankees, won World Series with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993, another with the Florida Marlins in 1997, and a National League Pennant with the Mets, the team he grew up rooting for, in 2000.

He won Game 1 of the 1993 World Series and hit a double in the game. He started Games 1 and 5 in the 2000 World Series, stood to win Game 1 before the bullpen blew it, and gave it everything he had in Game 5 before the Yankees won it. He pitched a no-hitter for the Marlins in 1996, just 3 days before Dwight Gooden pitched his for the Yankees. He won 162 games in his career, despite much of his early career being riddled with injuries. He has since become a broadcaster.

Also on this day, Augusten Burroughs is born in Pittsburgh. He is the author of the books Running With Scissors and Dry.

October 23, 1975: Keith Van Horn is born in the Los Angeles suburb of Fullerton, California. A three-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year with the University of Utah, he played for several teams, but was generally considered to be a lazy player. He did reach the NBA Finals with the New Jersey Nets in 2002.

October 23, 1976: Ryan Reynolds is born in Vancouver. The actor recently starred in The Proposal with Sandra Bullock – ironically, as an American who marries Bullock's Canadian character so she doesn't get deported. He has been signed to star in the upcoming movie about the superhero Green Lantern.

As far as I know, he has nothing to do with sports. He is married to Scarlett Johansson, making him a member of the Lucky Bastards Club.

October 23, 1979, 30 years ago today: Billy Martin is involved in a barroom altercation with Joseph Cooper‚ a Minnesota marshmallow salesman. Cooper requires 15 stitches to close a gash in his lip. Billy's 2nd tenure as Yankee manager soon ends.

October 23, 1981: Despite an uncharacteristic poor performance (9 hits‚ 7 walks) Los Angeles' sensational Mexican rookie Fernando Valenzuela goes the distance in the Dodgers' 5-4 come-from-behind win in Game 3 of the World Series over the Yankees.

The deciding run scores on a double play. Yankee starter Dave Righetti lasts just two innings‚ walking 2 and allowing 5 hits‚ but reliever George Frazier takes the loss. Ron Cey has a 3-run homer for L.A.. Starters Valenzuela and Righetti are the 1st 2 two Rookies of the Year to oppose each other in the World Series since Willie Mays and Gil McDougald in 1951.

Also on this day, recently fired Met manager Joe Torre signs a 3-year contract to manage the Atlanta Braves. This tenure will be a bit more successful. However, after this World Series, the Yankees will not reach the Series again, and Torre will still not have reached it as either a player or a manager, until they come together 15 years later.

Also on this day, Ben Francisco is born in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Ana, California. The outfielder known as "Benny Fresh" was a throw-in for the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies from the Cleveland Indians, in the Cliff Lee trade.

October 23, 1983: A suicide bomber kills 241 U.S. Marines in their barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. It remains the worst one-day loss for the U.S. armed forces since June 21, 1945, the end of the Battle of Okinawa.

Also on this day, NBC newscaster Jessica Savitch is killed in a car crash along the Delaware River in New Hope, Pennsylvania. She was 36.

October 23, 1986: Game 5 of the World Series. Bruce Hurst outduels Dwight Gooden, and the Red Sox beat the Mets, 4-2. The Series goes back to Shea, and the Sox only have to win 1 of the last 2 to win their first World Championship in 68 years. The Mets are 1 loss away from one of the most humiliating defeats in the history of baseball.

October 23, 1991: The Atlanta Braves even the Series at 2 games apiece with a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins in Game 4 at Fulton County Stadium. Journeyman catcher Jerry Willard's sac fly in the bottom of the 9th is the deciding blow. Terry Pendleton and Lonnie Smith stroke solo homers for the Braves‚ while Mike Pagliarulo does the same for the Twins.

October 23, 1993: Game 6 of the World Series, at the SkyDome in Toronto. The Toronto Blue Jays lead the Philadelphia Phillies 3 games to 2, but trail 6-5 in the bottom of the 9th. Mitch Williams comes in to close it out, but allows 2 runners, before Joe Carter comes to bat. Carter would go on to hit 396 home runs in regular season play. He sends a screaming liner down the left-field line, just clearing the fence, and just fair. Home run.

Toronto 8, Philadelphia 6. The Jays have won back-to-back World Championships. Only Bill Mazeroski, who ended a World Series Game 7 with a home run, has ever hit a bigger one than this.

Williams, a.k.a. the Wild Thing, has often been blamed for losing the Series. But it was Game 6, so if the Phils had won, they still would have had to play Game 7 on the road. The rest of the Philly bullpen hadn't been much better in this Series. The Phils really lost the Series in Game 4, when they blew a 14-9 lead at Veterans Stadium and lost 15-14. The Jays were the defending World Champions, very experienced, and were the better team. Besides, the Phils wouldn't have gotten that far without Williams.

When the Vet closed in 2003, Williams was one of the in-uniform attendees, and was cheered, rather than subjected to the well-known venom of "the Philadelphia Boo-Birds." All was forgiven.

October 23, 1995: The Yankees name Bob Watson their new General Manager‚ replacing Gene Michael, who becomes Director of Scouting. Now, they just need a new manager, to replace the recently resigned Buck Showalter.

Also on this day, plans are approved for a new $320 million stadium for the Seattle Mariners. By mid-1999, they will be out of the ugly gray Kingdome, and their long-term stay in the Pacific Northwest will be secure.

October 23, 1996: Game 4 of the World Series. The Braves rock Yankee starter Kenny Rogers and lead 6-0 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. They close to within 6-3, but in the top of the 8th, they are 4 outs away from being down 3 games to 1 in the Series, their great season coming to a very disappointing close.

But they get 2 runners on, and backup catcher Jim Leyritz comes to bat against Braves closer Mark Wohlers. Wohlers throws pitches at 98 and 99 miles per hour, and Leyritz manages to foul them off. Then Wohlers dials it down a little, throwing an 86-mile-per-hour slider. Leyritz, a postseason hero for the Yankees a year earlier with his 15th-inning walkoff homer in the Division Series against Seattle, knocks it over the left-field fence to tie the game.

The Yankees load the bases in the 10th, and third baseman Wade Boggs, benched in favor of Charlie Hayes by manager Joe Torre due to his usual magnificent hitting having failed him, is sent up to pinch-hit. Boggs draws one of the most important walks in baseball history, and it's 7-6 Yanks. An error makes the final score 8-6 Yanks.

Not since the 1929 Cubs has a team blown a 6-run lead in a Series game. The Yankees were in serious trouble, but now the Series is tied, and anything can happen. In this 1996 season, lots of anythings have already happened for the Yankees.

Also on this day, former Yankee pitcher Bob Grim dies. The New York native was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1954, and won the World Series with them in 1956.

October 23, 1997: Rookie Livan Hernandez wins for the 2nd time as Florida holds off Cleveland for an 8-7 victory in Game 5. Down 8-4‚ the Indians fight back with 3 in the 9th but strand the tying runner on base. Moises Alou hits a 3-run homer for Florida‚ while Sandy Alomar matches him for the Tribe.

This Series' games in Cleveland are 3 of the 4 coldest in Series history. They are the first Series games to have been played in a snowfall since 1906. And, despite the Indians having reached the postseason in 1998, '99, 2001 and '07, and the Cincinnati Reds doing so (sort of) in 1999, this Game 5 remains the last World Series game played in the State of Ohio.

October 23, 1999, 10 years ago today: The Yankees beat the Braves‚ 4-1‚ to take the opening game of the World Series. Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez holds Atlanta to 1 hit in 7 innings for the victory. The Braves' only run comes on a 4th inning homer by Chipper Jones.

October 23, 2001: Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. After 116 regular season wins, breaking the American League record and tying the major league record, the Seattle Mariners are down 3 games to 1. Their manager, former Yankee outfielder and manager Lou Piniella, has predicted, "We're going back to Seattle for Game 6."

Sweet Lou was a terrific player for the Yankees, and has often been a good manager, but as a seer, he's no Joe Namath or Mark Messier. More like Patrick Ewing: The prediction blows up in his face. Yankees 12, Mariners 3.

Yankee Fans, feeling every bit as arrogant as Mariner fans had all season – but unlike M's fans, they had earned it – chant "One-sixteen! One-sixteen! One-sixteen!" And "Over-rated!" And, for the Mariners' sensational Japanese "rookie" Ichiro Suzuki, "Sayonara!"

It is the Yankees' 38th American League Pennant, and one the City of New York really needed after the 9/11 attacks, 6 weeks earlier.

October 23, 2002: Adolph Green dies at age 87. With Betty Comden, he wrote several Broadway musicals. They wrote both "New York, New York" (as in, "It's a wonderful town" – sometimes "It's a hell of a town") and "Theme From New York, New York" (as in, "Start spreading the news... ").

October 23, 2003: The Florida Marlins move to one game away from a world championship as they defeat the Yankees‚ 6-4‚ to take a 3-games-to-2 lead in the World Series. Winning pitcher Brad Penny's 2-run single gives Florida a lead they never surrender. Jason Giambi hits a pinch-hit homer in the 9th to bring the Yankees within 2 runs‚ but Bernie Williams' attempt for a game-tying homer falls short at the warning track in center field.

The Yankees were a run away from going up 3 games to 1 last night, before Jeff Weaver screwed up. Now, the Yankees are in deep trouble.

October 23, 2004: The Boston Red Sox take the opener of the World Series with an 11-9 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Mark Bellhorn's 2-run 8th inning homer is the deciding blow, as Boston bounces back after blowing an early 7-2 lead. David Ortiz also homered for the Sox‚ while Larry Walker connected for St. Louis.

Also on this day, Robert Merrill dies at age 87. The legendary Brooklyn-born opera singer had been the Yankees' National Anthem singer in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. On Old-Timers' Day, he would walk up to the microphone wearing Number 1½.

Also on this day, Bill Nicholson dies at age 85. No, not the 1940s and '50s outfielder known as "Swish" for his many strikeouts. This was the longtime player and manager of the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club of North London. "Spurs" have won just 2 League Championships in their history, in 1951 with "Nick" as a player and in 1961 with him as their manager.

He also managed them to the FA Cup in 1961 (making them the first English team in the 20th Century to accomplish "The Double"), 1962 and 1967; the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1963, and the UEFA Cup in 1972.

October 23, 2005: Scott Posednik's walkoff home run in the bottom of the 9th inning off Brad Lidge gives the Chicago White Sox a 7-6 victory over the Houston Astros, and a 2-games-to-0 lead in the World Series. Paul Konerko's grand slam in the 7th puts Chicago in a short-lived lead, before Morgan Ensberg hits a solo homer for Houston.

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