Thursday, October 22, 2009

Phillies Win Pennant, Their Phans Stay Phocused

I have to hand it to Phillies fans: No sooner did their team get the final out to win the Pennant, the team's 2nd straight, and their 7th overall in 127 seasons, than their chants changed from "Beat L.A.!" to "Yankees Suck!" and "Fuck the Yankees!"

They are certainly focused. Or, should I say, "Phocused."

More than once, the announcers on WPVI-Channel 6's Action News had to apologize for the language used by fans out in the streets of Philly.

Not since 1950 have the Yanks and Phils played each other in a World Series. If the Yankees can finish off the Angels tonight, the 59-year wait will be over.

And in "neutral zones" all over New Jersey, from Phillipsburg to Flemington, the Princeton-Trenton corridor, around FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, home of the South Atlantic League Champion BlueClaws, and all down the Shore from Point Pleasant to Cape May, but especially on the island of Atlantic City, Yankee Fans and Phillie Phans, usually in peaceful coexistence aided by a simple and totally understandable principle (hatred of the Mets), will go at it hammer and tongs. Hopefully just verbally and metaphorically, not literally or close enough to literally.

It's going to be an interesting next couple of weeks.

If, that is, the Yankees can finish the job tonight in Game 5. And finish it tonight they must. We don't want a repeat (or something close enough to being a repeat) of the 2004 ALCS against the Red Scum. Besides, the weather for a potential Game 6 and Game 7 in New York is projected to be not very good. So let's do it tonight.

Phillies fans, I congratulate you, but as for a Yanks-Phils World Series... You know the old saying: Be careful what you wish for. You may get it. Boy, are you going to get it.

After all, from 1962 onward, Met fans wanted a World Series against the Yankees. In 2000, they finally got one. You know how that turned out, don't you?

Don't get me wrong: I think the Phillies are an excellent team. After all, they've won the last 3 NL East titles, the last 2 NL Pennants, and are the defending World Champions. The Yankees will not take them lightly.

But even though the Phillies are the defending champs, I think most people will consider the Yankees to be the favorites coming into the Series. There is good reason for that.

I think it'll be a good Series. Maybe even a great Series. If the Yankees lose the World Series to the Phillies, I won't like it, but I can live with it. But I'd much rather win it.

And I think we will, clinching at home. Yankees in 6.

But first, we need to make it Yankees in 5 tonight. Then... we can move on to the World Series.

I've been so focused on the Yankees that I totally forgot tonight was Devils vs. Rangers at The Garden. I may have mentioned this before, but... RANGERS SUCK!


October 22, 1746: The College of New Jersey receives its royal charter. The college will be located in Elizabeth, New Jersey. It moves to Newark in 1747, and to Princeton in 1756. In 1896, it will be renamed Princeton University. In 1996, Trenton State College in nearby Ewing will change its name to The College of New Jersey.

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

Two oddities: First, this account lists the name of the sport as 1 word, "baseball," not 2 words, “base ball,” as was common even at the end of the 19th Century. Second, we have been told that "the first baseball game" – usually defined as the first game under codified rules, as written by Alexander Cartwright and the Knickerbocker Club in September 1845, was played on June 19, 1846, between the Knickerbocker Club and the New York Club, and that this club, often referred to as "the New York Nine," beat the Knickerbockers 23-1 in 4 innings – 21 runs constituting a win under the rules of that time – despite rule-writer Cartwright serving as umpire for a contest involving the club of which he was a member. Hello? Conflict of interest! But somebody had to be the ump; who better than the man who literally wrote the rules of the game? (Even if he wasn't the originator of all of them, though he probably was the originator of some of them, particularly the 90-feet-apart rule for the bases.)

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

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

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

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

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

The Boston Red Stockings were direct descendants of the first openly all-professional team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. Harry Wright was owner, manager and left fielder. Brother George Wright was shortstop. Cal McVey was catcher, Charlie Gould played first base, and Andy Leonard was in right field. That's 5 out of the 10 Boys of ’69.

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

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

By winning the 1872 Pennant, the Red Stockings resume the dominance they had enjoyed as the Cincinnati club from April 1869 to June 1870, until their legendary defeat by the Brooklyn Atlantics. This is the 1st of 4 straight NA Pennants that they will win, and upon entering the NL in 1876, they will win Pennants in 1877, '78 and '83. By that point, they will be known by another name, indicative of their city: The Boston Beaneaters.

They will win Pennants in 1891, '92, '93, '97 and '98, before a change in management damages them and ends their dominance. From 1899 to 1956, they will win just 2 Pennants in 58 seasons; from 1899 to 1990, only 4 Pennants in 92 seasons. By 1912, they will be known as the Boston Braves; in 1953, they move to Milwaukee; in 1966, to Atlanta.

Thus they, not the franchise founded in 1882 and known for over 100 years as the Cincinnati Reds, are the descendants of the 1st professional baseball team, and thus the oldest continuously-operating professional sports franchise in North America. But as the Atlanta Braves, they cannot legitimately claim the 1869 Cincinnati "world championship," or the 14 Pennants and the 1914 World Series won in Boston, or the 1957 World Series and 1958 Pennant won in Milwaukee.

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

October 22, 1878: The 1st rugby match under floodlights takes place in Salford, outside Manchester, England, between Broughton and Swinton.

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


October 22, 1907: Jimmie Foxx is born. The 1st baseman known as "Double X" and "The Beast" was said by Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez to be so strong, "even his hair has muscles." Gomez also said, "He wasn't scouted, he was trapped."

In 1937, he became the 1st player to hit a home run into the upper deck in left field at Yankee Stadium, which was much harder to left than to right because of the angle of the seats. He hit it off Gomez, who was asked how far he thought it went: "I don't know, but I do know it took somebody 45 minutes to go up there and get it." Gomez also said, after the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, that the astronauts on the Moon found an object there that they couldn't explain: "I know exactly what it was: It was the home run that Jimmie Foxx hit off me in 1937!"

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

After the 1936 season, Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey opened the vault and paid A's owner Connie Mack $150,000 for Foxx's contract. This time, Foxx did break a record of Ruth's, the $125,000 purchase of 1920. He even looked a lot like Ruth, and both were from the State of Maryland. Foxx hit 50 homers for Boston in 1938. At his retirement, he had a .325 lifetime batting average and 534 home runs, which remained 2nd all-time to Ruth and first among righthanded hitters until surpassed by Willie Mays in 1966. Until Alex Rodriguez, he was the youngest player ever to reach 500 homers, doing so shortly before his 33rd birthday. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

His life was a sad one, though, as he was plagued with alcoholism, was perennially broke, and choked to death before he turned 60. The Tom Hanks character in A League of Their Own was based on him. Sadly, because he played so long ago, died before the rise of baseball nostalgia films and books, did not give a televised interview, and did his best work for a team that technically no longer exists (the Philadelphia A's), he has been largely forgotten today.

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

October 22, 1918: Lou Klein is born in New Orlenas. He was the starting 2nd baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals when they won the NL Pennant in 1943, then served in World War II, and when he and previous starter Red Schoendienst returned from the war, Klein accepted an opportunity to "jump" to the Mexican League. He was immediately suspended indefinitely by Commissioner Happy Chandler.

He and the other "Mexican Jumping Beans" were reinstated in 1949, soon became a coach with the Chicago Cubs, and is now best known for being a part of the Cubs' ridiculous "College of Coaches" experiment in 1961-62. He stayed in the Cubs' organization as a scout, served as interim manager again in 1965, and died in 1976.


October 22, 1925: Marv Goodwin‚ a former righthanded pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals who joined the Cincinnati Reds at the end of the season‚ is killed in a plane he was piloting. He was 34. He is the 1st active player to die from injuries sustained in an airplane crash. Goodwin was one of the 17 spitball pitchers who was "grandfathered" and still allowed to use the illegal pitch after it was banned in 1920.

The tragedy becomes a controversy when Cards GM Branch Rickey asks for the full payment from the Reds for Goodwin. Cincinnati answers that the agreement was that Goodwin had to stick with the club for 30 days into the new season. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis steps in, and, reading the letter of the agreement and ignoring its spirit, rules in favor of the Reds.

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

For years, McGraw had no pictures of former players in his office. Two years earlier, when Christy Mathewson died, he became the first player so honored by McGraw. Youngs would become the second. Like Mathewson, World War I hero Eddie Grant, and eventually McGraw himself, Youngs would be honored with a plaque on the wall of the center field clubhouse at the Polo Grounds. (There would later be two other plaques: For New York Giants football players Al Blozis and Jack Lummus, both of whom died in combat in World War II, and former Mayor Jimmy Walker, who left office in scandal but was a great friend of the sports establishment in the City.)

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

October 22, 1929, 80 years ago today: Lev Yashin is born in Moscow. He was a goaltender for both the soccer and ice hockey teams at Dynamo Moscow. With their soccer team, he won 5 Soviet league championships and 3 Soviet Cups, and led the USSR to the 1956 Olympic Gold Medal and the 1960 European Championship. In 1967, he was awarded the Order of Lenin. He died in 1990. In 2000, FIFA named him the goalie on their World Team of the 20th Century. In 2003, he was named Russia’s Golden Player, their all-time best.

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


October 22, 1936: Bobby Seale is born. The Black Panther leader, ordered bound and gagged for his outbursts during the Chicago Eight trial, now lives in Philadelphia, teaches at Temple University, and has written a barbecue cookbook.

October 22, 1938: Two great actors are born. Derek Jacobi, who starred in the title roles in the miniseries I, Claudius and the mystery series Cadfael, was one of the voiceover readers for Ken Burns' Baseball despite being British.

Also born on this day is Christopher Lloyd, who "watched the World Series" with Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, played "Reverend" Jim Ignatowski on Taxi, played a Klingon ship commander who ordered the killing of James T. Kirk's son in Star Trek III, and invented a time machine in Back to the Future, expressing in the 1st film BTTF film how nice it would be to know who’s going to win the next 25 World Series, and then in the 2nd warning how dangerous it might be to know things about the future and bring that information back to the past.

October 22, 1942: Bobby Fuller is born in the Houston suburb of Baytown, Texas. In 1966, he had a huge hit with "I Fought the Law." But within a few weeks, he was murdered. It has never been solved. He could have become one of the giants of rock and roll. Instead, we have only his one real hit and a few other tracks.

October 22, 1943: Catherine Deneuve is born in Paris. "Share the fantasy," the French actress said in her Chanel No. 5 perfume commercials. She has been the object of many a fantasy. She and director Roger Vadim had a son, Christian Vadim; she and actor Marcello Mastroianni had a daughter, Chiara Mastroianni; both children, now grown, are also actors.

October 22, 1949, 60 years ago today: Arsene Wenger is born in Strasbourg, France. As a player, the sweeper won France's Ligue 1 title with his hometown team, Strasbourg. As a manager, he led AS Monaco – keep in mind that Monaco is a separate, though very small, nation but their soccer team is in the French league – to the 1988 Ligue 1 title and the 1991 Coupe de France, and Nagoya Grampus Eight to Japan's Emperor’s Cup in 1996. That’s when he was signed to manage the Arsenal Football Club of London.

"Le Boss" has led "the Gunners" to the Premier League title in 1998, 2002 and 2004, and to the FA Cup, England’s national championship, in 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2005 – taking both titles, a.k.a. "The Double," in 1998 and 2002. The 2004 Arsenal team is known as "The Invincibles," as they went through an entire league season undefeated: 26 wins, 12 draws, 0 losses. It is the only undefeated season in the Football League since its very first, 1889, when Preston North End did it in far fewer games. Their undefeated streak eventually reached 49, breaking the former record of 42 set by the Nottingham Forest team of Brian Clough in 1978-79.

A slogan of Arsenal fans, including myself, is "Arsene Knows." Joyeux Anniversaire, mon chef.


October 22, 1963: Brian Boitano is born in the San Francisco suburb of Mountain View, California. He won the Gold Medal in men's figure skating at the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Also on this day, Roy Hamey resigns as Yankee general manager. Field manager Ralph Houk is promoted to replace him. He had managed three seasons, and won the Pennant all 3 times, including winning 2 World Series. Soon, Houk will ask the man to whom he was backup catcher, Yogi Berra, "How would you like to manage?" Yogi says, "Manage who?" Houk says, "The Yankees!" Yogi says, "Sure."

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

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


October 22, 1972: The Oakland A's win their 1st World Championship in 42 years, since the 1930 Philadelphia team, with a 3-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 7 at Riverfront Stadium. Gene Tenace has 2 RBI in the game. Tenace‚ who had only 5 homers in the regular season, has 4 in the Series‚ and is named MVP.

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

However, the A's won 3 World Series in a row, and, what's more, in the one head-to-head matchup between the A's and the Reds, the A's won, winning 3 of the 4 games in Cincinnati including the clincher, and doing so without their best player, Reggie Jackson. So there can be no doubt that the A’s were the Team of the Seventies. And, besides, neither team was the one that won the most games in the decade: It was the Baltimore Orioles who did that, while winning 5 Division Titles and 3 Pennants, but only 1 World Series.

October 22, 1973: Ichiro Suzuki is born. The 1st Japanese batter to really make it in the North American major leagues, the All-Star right fielder for the Seattle Mariners may become the 1st player to make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame based on both his Japanese and his North American achievements.

He has won 8 Gold Gloves, and his 1,278 hits for the Orix Blue Wave and his 2,030 hits with the Mariners gives him 3,308. This includes 262 hits in 2004, which broke the 84-year-old major league record of 257 by George Sisler.

Granted, those 1,278 Japanese hits weren't all against pitchers good enough to make it in MLB, but if the Japanese leagues are accepted as "major league," then his 3,308 hits would rank him 11th all-time, 5th in the Lively Ball Era, and second only to Paul Molitor – barely, at 3,319 – among players whose careers began after the start of Divisional Play in 1969. And he's only 36: By the time he turns 41, if he plays that long, he could have over 3,000 hits in the U.S. alone and more than Pete Rose's record 4,256 hits combined.

October 22, 1974: The Giants and Yankees swap popular star outfielders: Bobby Bonds goes to the New York and Bobby Murcer heads to San Francisco.

Bonds will play just one season in New York‚ hitting 32 homers and stealing 32 bases‚ before leg injuries slowed him. He never quite adapted to New York, and after the season is traded to the California Angels for outfielder Mickey Rivers and pitcher Ed Figueroa, 2 major figures in the Yankees' revival. Today, Bonds is known third for his amazing combination of power and speed, second for being traded so many times, and first for being the father of Barry Bonds. That really isn't fair, as Bobby was a fantastic player, one of the best of the Seventies.

Murcer loved the city of San Francisco, but hated playing in cold, windy Candlestick Park, both as a batter and as an outfielder. He would be traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1977, and he enjoyed Wrigley Field a lot more. (Sure, Wrigley also has wind issues, but it is also much more of a hitter’s park.) Still, Murcer was heartbroken to be traded by the Yankees, to whom he had given as much as anybody had in those dark years between 1964 and 1976, and swore he would never forgive them for trading him. But in 1979, George Steinbrenner traded to get him back, and Bobby jumped at the chance, and he remained a part of the Yankee family until his death.

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

Before the game, Reds manager Sparky Anderson says of his starter, Don Gullett, "No matter what happens in this game, my starter's going to the Hall of Fame." Told by the reporters that Anderson had said that, Red Sox starter Bill Lee says, "No matter what happens in this game, I'm going to the Eliot Lounge." The Eliot was a popular Boston watering hole, at the convenient intersection of Massachusetts and Commonwealth Avenues, known for local athletes dining and drinking there. But since its closing in 1996, people who knew it well have argued that it was not a "sports bar," as if that term diminishes what the Eliot meant to the sports fans of Boston.

The Sox take a 3-0 lead in the 3rd, just as they had in Game 6. And, just as they had in Game 6, as they would say in English soccer,"Three-nil, and you fucked it up." Lee decided to try a blooper pitch against All-Star 1st baseman Tony Perez, who crushes it over the Green Monster. That makes it 3-2 Boston. Lee allows another run – some sources say he'd developed a blister, or maybe I'm confusing this with Roger Clemens in '86 – and the game is tied.

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

The Reds thus win their 3rd World Series, but their first in 35 years. The Red Sox have now gone 57 years without winning one, and New England will have to wait. Many Sox fans wonder what could have been: If Johnson hadn't brought in Dick Drago and blown Lee's 2-1 lead in the 9th in Game 2; if Ed Armbrister hadn't interfered with Carlton Fisk in Game 3; if umpire Larry Barnett had called interference on the play; if the Sox hadn't blown a 1-0 lead in the 4th in Game 5; if Lee hadn't thrown the blooper to Perez; if Johnson hadn't pinch-hit for Willoughby; if Johnson had relieved Willoughby with someone other than Burton; and if rookie outfielder Jim Rice hadn't been injured late in the regular season and unable to play in the Series...

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

However, despite Anderson's prediction, his Game 7 starter, Don Gullett, developed a shoulder problem, and a promising career was cut short, and he did not achieve election to the Hall.

October 22, 1982: Robinson Cano is born. The Yankees' 2nd baseman has really come into his own. He was named after Jackie Robinson, and wears Number 24 as it is Robinson's 42 reversed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This time, Piazza hits a foul ball, and breaks his bat. The barrel of the bat comes back to Clemens, and... he throws the jagged-edged bat barrel across the 1st-base foul line. Right in Piazza’s path, and Piazza almost steps into it.

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

The umpires restore order, and Clemens finishes the at-bat by striking Piazza out. He pitches 8 strong innings, and the Yankees pound Mike Hampton, and take a 6-0 lead into the 9th. But the bullpen can’t hold it, and the Mets come to within 6-5, including home runs by Piazza (the 1st-ever World Series homer for "the greatest-hitting catcher ever") and Jay Payton, before Joe Torre has enough and brings in the Hammer of God, Mariano Rivera, to slam the door and keep it 6-5. The Yankees take a 2-games-to-0 lead in the Series, which now heads across town to Shea.

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

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

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

October 22, 2003: Game 4 of the World Series at the Dolphins/Marlins Stadium. (I've seen the location listed as "Miami," "Miami Gardens," "Miami Lakes," "Carol City" and "Opa-Locka.") This one really, really, really sticks in my craw. I will forever remember this debacle as the Jeff Weaver Game.

The Florida Marlins lead the Yankees 3-1 after 7 innings, but as he strikes out Luis Castillo (a name that will feature in the Yankees-Mets rivalry in 2009) to end the 7th, Roger Clemens walks off the mound, and a crowd of 65,934 gives him a standing ovation, thinking that he's walking off the field for the last time. (Within weeks, the reports of his retirement will prove to have been greatly exaggerated. For the 1st time, but not for the last. But Brett Favre's still got a long way to go, ethics-wise, before he becomes the NFL version of Roger Clemens.)

Marlins starter Carl Pavano holds the Yankees to 1 run through 8 strong innings. His frustration of Yankee Fans is something else that happens for the 1st time, but by no means for the last. The Yankees rally in the 9th against reliever Ugueth Urbina. Bernie Williams singles with one out, Hideki Matsui walks and Jorge Posada grounds into a force play. Pinch-hitter Rubén Sierra fouled off 2 full-count pitches before tripling into the right-field corner to tie the ball game. This is Sierra's 2nd tenure with the Yanks, having made up with manager Joe Torre after Torre had him traded for Cecil Fielder in '96 due to disciplinary issues; this is the biggest hit Sierra ever got for the Yankees – or for anyone else, for that matter. But he is stranded on 3rd.

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

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

But in the bottom of the 11th, Torre makes a mistake every bit as critical as the stranding of Sierra on 3rd in the 9th. He had already used Jeff Nelson, and Jose Contreras, originally a starter, had already pitched 2 innings. Torre could have left Contreras in. He could have brought in his closer, Mariano Rivera. He could also have brought in Chris Hammond. Instead, he brings in Jeff Weaver. Weaver gets through the 11th with no trouble, but Alex Gonzalez leads of the bottom of the 12th, and Weaver throws him a hanging curveball, and Gonzalez hits it down the left-field line, and it creeps over the fence for a game-winning home run. Marlins 4, Yankees 3.

Not since Bill Mazeroski, 43 years earlier, had the Yankees given up a walkoff home run in a Series game. By bringing in Weaver – or, as Red Sox fans would say if this happened to them, Jeff Fucking Weaver – Torre turned the Yankees from a team that was 1 run away from being up 3 games to 1 to a team that ends up losing the World Series to a shit team with a steroid-ridden catcher that was lucky to win the Wild Card and face the Cubs during the Steve Bartman collapse.

In 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals will win the World Series. The winning pitcher in the clinching Game 5? J.F.W. Jeff Weaver has a World Series ring, while Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Ernie Banks, Willie McCovey, Phil Niekro, Rod Carew and Don Mattingly do not. What the hell?

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

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

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