Friday, October 9, 2009

Teix and A-Rod Give Us a Happy Jeffrey Maier Day!

Here's the result from the big game: East Brunswick 23, South Brunswick 13.

No, of course that's not what you're looking for. The words you're looking for are the John Sterling words:

Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win!

Mark Teixeira hits one juuuuuuuust over the fence in the left-field corner, and the Yankees win a wild Game 2 of the ALDS, 4-3 in 11 innings over the Minnesota Twins! Up 2 games to none, and we can close out the Metrodome on Sunday.

It was so close that John Sterling didn't have the chance to do "It is high! It is far!" He was as shocked as anyone else.

And Alex Rodriguez came through again in the clutch, too, with a game-tying homer in the bottom of the 9th. And the Yanks held the Twins off with bases loaded, nobody out in the top of the 11th. A.J. Burnett pitched well, Jose Molina's bat was not a liability, Jorge Posada got the job done when he came in after Burnett came out, and Francisco Cervelli had to be the third-string catcher and made a fine defensive play in said 11th.

Teixeira joins Tommy Henrich (1949 WS Game 1), Mickey Mantle (1964 WS Game 2), Chris Chambliss (1976 ALCS Game 5), Jim Leyritz (1995 ALDS Game 2), Bernie Williams (1996 ALCS Game 1 and 1999 ALCS Game 1), Chad Curtis (1999 WS Game 3), Derek Jeter (2001 WS Game 4) and Aaron Boone (2003 ALCS Game 7) as Yankees who have hit walkoff home runs in postseason games.

Think about that: This was the 10th time the Yankees have won a postseason game with a home run. The Mets have only won 43 postseason games.


What a spectacular game. Reminiscent of Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series, played 13 years ago today.

October 9, 1996: The Yankees trail the Baltimore Orioles, 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th, in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, the first ALCS game at Yankee Stadium in 15 years.

Armando Benitez is on the mound in relief for the O's, facing rookie shortstop Derek Jeter. Benitez blows a big-time postseason game, for the 1st time but by no means for the last – not even for the last time against the Yankees. Jeter's "inside-out swing" sends the ball flying toward right field. Oriole right fielder Tony Tarasco stands on the warning track, sure he can catch the ball. He puts up his glove, and…. As Bob Costas put it on NBC, "And what happens here?"

What happened here is that Tarasco screwed up. Look at the tape: His glove is not properly lined up. He was not going to catch this ball. It was going to bounce off the wall, just above his glove. From the point of view of the home-plate camera, in relation to his glove the ball was back and to the left. That's right, back and to the left. Had this play proceeded normally, it would have bounced off the wall, rolled away, and Jeter would have ended up on at least second base.

Instead, a 12-year-old kid from Old Tappan, New Jersey, Jeffrey Maier, reached out with his glove and pulled the ball into the stands. Tarasco screams at right-field umpire Rich Garcia, the crew chief for the series and then the dean of American League umpires. Screaming at Garcia probably didn’t help his cause, but, as I said, Tarasco was a moron. Garcia ruled it a home run, no interference. Home run for Jeter. Tie game.

In the bottom of the 11th, Bernie hits his walkoff against former Met closer Randy Myers, deep to left. Yankees 5, Orioles 4. After the game, asked about the Jeter/Maier homer, Yankee manager Joe Torre says, "Did anybody see Bernie's home run? That wasn't all bad." The media laughed.

The Orioles won Game 2, and to this day, fans in the Baltimore half of Maryland, and Southern Delaware, and wherever Baltimoreans may be, insist that Jeffrey Maier stole a Pennant from their team.

Get this into your heads, you meatballs... or, should I say, you crabcakes:

A. If Maier isn't there that day, for whatever reason, Tarasco does not catch the ball. Maier saved him from becoming the biggest goat in the history of Baltimore sports. Maier saved Tarasco from being the Bill Buckner of the Chesapeake region.

The least Tarasco can do is buy Maier a nice crab-cake dinner. And a beer: Maier is now 25 and a consultant for the New Haven County Crosscutters, playing at Yale Field in West Haven, built in 1926 and former home of a Yankees farm team. He was also an extra in The Bronx Is Burning, having played ball at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

B. The Yankees won Games 3, 4 and 5 at Camden Yards. In fact, the Orioles blew a lead at home in Game 4 due to some horrible fielding. Not only that, but the Orioles blew the Pennant at home the next season, as well. The Orioles’ ALCS record at Camden Yards is 1-5. If you can’t defend your home field in the Playoffs, you do not deserve to win a Pennant.


October 9, 1886: Richard Marquard is born. Known as "Rube" because he was a lefty fireballer, similar to Rube Waddell, the New York Giants signed him for $11,000, a record for the time. When he got off to a rough start in the majors, the press called him "the $11,000 Lemon." But he led the National League in strikeouts in 1911, helping the Giants win the Pennant, and he became "the $11,000 Beauty."

In 1912 he won 19 consecutive games, leading the Giants to another Pennant. They won another in 1913, and he won Pennants with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1916 and 1920 – making him the 1st player, and one of the very few, ever to win Pennants for 2 NL teams in New York. (None ever did with either the Dodgers or Giants, and the Mets.) But his teams went 0-5 in World Series play.

He was 3rd all-time in strikeouts by a lefthander upon his retirement, trailing only Waddell and Eddie Plank, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

October 9, 1890: The National League, the American Association, and the insurgent Players' League, both hit hard financially by their 3-way "war" for players and fans, reach a truce. The PL folds, and their players are welcomed back to their former teams at their former salaries.

The NL survives to this day. The AA, however, is mortally wounded, and folds after one more season. This brings a vacuum that is filled by the American League in 1901. In 1902, a new American Association will be formed, at the highest minor-league level.

October 9, 1906: The 1st World Series game between 2 teams from the same city begins, at the West Side Grounds in Chicago, home of the Cubs, with the White Sox as the visitors. The Cubs have won a major league record (since tied but not broken) 116 games, and the White Sox are known as the "Hitless Wonders." But 2 Cub errors lead to a 2-1 White Sox win.

This being Chicago and October, no one is surprised when snow falls on the proceedings. There will not be another snowfall on a World Series game for another 91 years, Game 4 of the 1997 World Series, in another Great Lakes city, Cleveland.

October 9, 1910: The battle for the American League batting title is decided on the final day of the regular season‚ when Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers edges Nap Lajoie of the Cleveland… Naps. (Seriously, the team was named after their star 2nd baseman and manager. They would be renamed the Indians in 1915.) Cobb’s final average is .3851, Lajoie’s .3841.

Neither man covers himself with glory. Lajoie goes 8-for-8 in a doubleheader with the St. Louis Browns‚ accepting six gift hits on bunt singles on which Browns rookie third baseman Red Corriden is apparently purposely stationed at the edge of the outfield grass. The prejudiced St. Louis scorer also credits popular Nap with a "hit" on the Brownie shortstop Bobby Wallace’s wild throw to first. In Lajoie's last at-bat‚ he is safe at first on an error call‚ but is credited with a sac bunt since a man was on.

The St. Louis Post is just one of the papers to be openly critical of the move against Cobb. "All St. Louis is up in arms over the deplorable spectacle‚ conceived in stupidity and executed in jealousy." The Browns win the opener‚ 5-4‚ and Cleveland takes the nightcap‚ 3-0, with both managers‚ Jack O'Connor and Jim Maguire catching. O'Connor is behind the plate for just an inning‚ but Maguire goes all the way.

Cobb‚ meanwhile‚ rather than risk his average‚ sits out the last 2 games‚ the Tigers beating the White Sox in the finale‚ 2-1. AL President Ban Johnson investigates, and clears everyone concerned‚ enabling Cobb to win the 3rd of 9 straight batting crowns.

The embarrassed Chalmers Auto Company, which had promised a brand-new car to the winner of the batting title, awards cars to both Ty and Nap.

In 1981, The Sporting News uncovered an error, crediting a 2-for-3 game to Cobb twice, that‚ if corrected‚ would have given the title to Lajoie. But the commissioner's committee votes unanimously to leave history unchanged.

In case you're wondering, Cobb had the better on-base percentage, .456 to .445; the higher slugging percentage, .551 to .514; the higher OPS, 1.008 to .960; and the higher OPS+, 206 to 199. And neither Detroit nor Cleveland seriously challenged the Philadelphia Athletics for the Pennant.

October 9, 1915: For the 1st time, an incumbent President of the United States attends a World Series game. President Woodrow Wilson brings his fiancée, Edith Bolling Galt, to Baker Bowl in Philadelphia for Game 2 between the Phillies and the Red Sox.

It’s not clear what team Wilson usually rooted for, although he did teach at Bryn Mawr University, near Philly, and attended Princeton University, taught there, and was its President, before becoming Governor of New Jersey; and, from 1887 onward, when the predecessor ground to Baker Bowl opened, the Phillies were the closest team to Princeton, closer even than the Athletics.

Rube Foster not only pitches for the Red Sox, but singles home the winning run in the bottom of the 9th, to win, 2-1. Two months later, Wilson, widowed a year and a half earlier, marries Edith, becoming the 3rd President to marry while in office, following then-widower John Tyler in 1844 and then-bachelor Grover Cleveland in 1886.

October 9, 1916: The longest game in World Series history is played. Both pitchers go the distance: Sherry Smith of the Dodgers and… Babe Ruth of the Red Sox. In the 2nd, Hy Myers hits an inside-the-park home run, the only round-tripper hit off Ruth the entire season. The Red Sox finally win the game in the bottom of the 14th, and Ruth’s streak of 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings pitched is underway.

In 1986, an NLCS game went 16 innings. In 2005, 89 years later to the day (as you'll see when you read on), an NLDS game went 18. But going into the 2009 Fall Classic, 14 remains the World Series record.

October 9, 1919, 90 years ago: The Cincinnati Reds defeat the Chicago White Sox, 10-5, taking Game 8 and the best-5-out-of-9 World Series. It is the 1st World Championship for Cincinnati – or, at least, the 1st since the unofficial one for the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the 1st openly professional baseball team, in 1869, half a century earlier.

Sox pitcher Lefty Williams gets 1 man out in the 1st inning before departing. The Reds lead 4-0‚ and go on to give Hod Eller plenty of offense. White Sox left fielder "Shoeless" Joe Jackson hits the only home run of the Series. Eddie Collins' 3 hits give him a total of 42 in Series play‚ a record broken in 1930 by Frankie Frisch‚ and bettered by Lou Gehrig in 1938. A stolen base by Collins is his 14th in Series competition‚ a record tied by Lou Brock in 1968.

How could the White Sox have lost? Everybody said they were the superior team. Actually, while the ChiSox were more experienced – they had won the Series 2 years earlier – they had won 88 games that season; the Reds, 95. And the Reds had Hall-of-Famer Edd Roush, and several players who would have been multiple All-Stars had there been an All-Star Game at the time. Still, everybody seemed to think the Sox were better. And yet, the betting shifted to make the Reds the favorites. What had happened?

On September 28, 1920, 8 White Sox players were indicted for conspiracy to throw the Series: Jackson, Williams, pitcher Eddie Cicotte, right fielder Oscar "Happy" Felsch, 1st baseman Arnold "Chick" Gandil, shortstop Charles "Swede" Risberg, reserve infielder Fred McMullin (who was only in on the fix because he overheard Felsch and Gandil talking about it), and 3rd baseman George "Buck" Weaver (who refused to take part, but was indicted because he knew about it and refused to report it). Although all were acquitted, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned them all permanently.

For the rest of their lives, Roush and the other '19 Reds insisted that, if the Series had been on the up-and-up, they would have won anyway. Except that, down 4 games to 1 in that best-of-9, the Sox won Games 6 and 7 because the gamblers hadn't come through with their payments, and Williams only caved in for Game 8 because he was told that his wife and children would be harmed if he did not comply. Williams was 0-3 for the Series, a record not achieved honestly until 1981 and George Frazier of the Yankees.

Trust me on this one: If you want to get closer to the facts of the case, see the film Eight Men Out; but if you want to see a movie that makes you feel good, see the factually-challenged but beautiful Field of Dreams.

October 9, 1928: The Yankees beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-3, and complete a 4-game sweep at Sportsman's Park. It is the Yankees' 3rd World Championship. Three also happens to be the number of home runs hit in this game by Babe Ruth. He had previously done it in World Series play in the same ballpark 2 years earlier, but the Yankees lost that Series.


October 9, 1934: Before the proceedings began, Cardinal pitcher Jay "Dizzy" Dean said of himself and his brother and teammate, Paul "Daffy" Dean, "Me an' Paul are gonna win this here World Series." Diz was right: All 4 St. Louis wins had one of the Dean brothers pitching it, as the Cards pound the Detroit Tigers in Game 7, 11-0 at Navin Field.

In the bottom of the 6th, Cardinal slugger Joe Medwick slides hard into third base, and is tagged hard by Marv Owen. Medwick then kicks Owen; the official World Series highlight film clearly shows it. A fight results, and when Medwick goes out to left field for the bottom of the 6th, Tiger fans start throwing things at him. Wadded-up programs. Hot dogs. Pieces of fruit. This goes on for minute after minute.

Finally, Commissioner Landis asks the umpires to call Medwick over, as well as the opposing managers, both player-managers wearing Number 3: Cardinal shortstop Frankie Frisch and Tiger catcher Mickey Cochrane. Landis, a former federal Judge, asks Medwick if he kicked Owen. Medwick confesses. Landis removes him from the game, he says, not for disciplinary reasons but "for his own safety."

Afterward, Medwick, no dummy, says, "I understood why they threw all that food at me. What I don’t understand is why they brought it to the ballpark in the first place."It was the left-field bleacher section at Navin Field, later replaced by the double-decked stands that formed the Tiger Stadium we knew. Those seats were the last to be sold, and fans had lined up all morning, and had brought their breakfast and lunch.

In the off-season, Cardinal general manager Branch Rickey refuses to give Medwick, his best hitter, a raise. Medwick says, "Mr. Rickey thinks I can live for a year on the food that the Detroit fans threw at me."

Joe Medwick was a graduate of Carteret High School, Class of 1929, a three-sport star. A Middlesex County Park, stretching through Carteret and the Avenel section of Woodbridge, is named in his honor. He is one of 5 people who grew up in New Jersey who have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, one of 3 born in the State, and the only one from Central Jersey, let alone from Middlesex County.

I don't think Medwick, Newark native Billy Hamliton, Salem native Goose Goslin, raised-in-East Orange Monte Irvin and raised-in-Paterson Larry Doby are going to be joined by any HOFers anytime soon. The only two New Jersey-born active players to have even made an All-Star team are Andrew Bailey, the Voorhees native who made it as a rookie pitcher for this year's A's, and a kid born in Pequannock and living in West Milford, but his family moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan when he was 4. Derek Jeter.

October 9, 1938: The Yankees beat the Chicago Cubs, 8-3, and complete a 4-game sweep at Yankee Stadium. It is the Yankees' 7th World Championship, and their 3rd in a row. To this day, the only franchises that have more than 7 are the Cardinals with 10 and the A's with 9 (and even then you have to combine the 5 from Philadelphia with the 4 from Oakland). And, to this day, the only franchises to have won 3 in a row are the Yankees and the 1972-74 A's.

October 9, 1940: Joe Pepitone is born in Brooklyn. He will be a backup to Bill "Moose" Skowron at first base in 1962, and receive a World Series ring. The Yankees think so highly of Pepitone that they trade Moose before the 1963 season. Pepitone helps the Yankees win the 1963 and '64 AL Pennants, and hits a grand slam in Game 6 of the ’64 World Series.

He was a New York kid playing for the local team, and he was good. Very good. He had a bit of a nose, and was actually balding, but you couldn't tell while he was wearing a cap or a batting helmet. (He had 2 toupees: A small one for during games and a bigger "Guido" hairpiece for being out on the town.) Women wanted him, men wanted to be him. He was a matinee idol, and a hero to many, not just to his fellow Italian-Americans.

But, as he would later admit, his father's death left him depressed, and he looked for comfort in New York's nightlife, in drinking and women. He still hit a few home runs, and he still won Gold Gloves at 1st base, although he switched to center field in 1967 and '68 so that Mickey Mantle, with no DH in those days, could ease the strain on his legs by playing first base. But if you're going to carouse like Mantle, you'd better be able to play like Mantle. Pepitone was not at that level. (Not many players in the game's history were.)

By 1970, he would no longer be a Yankee; by 1973, he would be out of the major leagues. He would do time on gun charges in 1988, although drug charges against him were dropped; and would have continued alcohol and marriage problems, arrested again in 1995. He has stayed out of trouble since, and now lives on Long Island, getting by and then some at memorabilia shows. Still, he knows he could have been so much more, and he knows he blew it: He titled his autobiography Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud.

But what he did is no excuse for what Cosmo Kramer did in that episode of Seinfeld. He had no right to hit him with a pitch at that fantasy camp. For crying out loud, Joe was 53 years old! You don’t plunk a 53-year-old man!

Tony Conigliaro was a very similar player in Boston, but his career was curtailed by injury as much as by wasting his talent. New England fans have often suggested that, had he stayed healthy, Tony C would have been their Mantle. But now that Tony C is dead, and the Boston press no longer has to protect the popular, handsome, ethnic local boy, sordid details have come out. Perhaps Sox fans should consider that Conigliaro, rather than their Mantle, could have become their Pepitone.

There was also a famous musician born on this day, name of John Lennon. He would end up living in New York and being photographed wearing a Yankee cap as well. But apparently, Pepitone didn't listen to Lennon, who seemed to believe that "All You Need Is Love." What Pepitone could have been, we can only "Imagine." (And, yes, I know there's a Christian rock song titled "I Can Only Imagine.")

October 9, 1944: The only all-St. Louis World Series ever ends as Emil Verban drives in 3 runs, and the Cardinals defeat the Browns 3-1, and win in 6 games. Within 10 years, the Browns will realize that the Cardinals will always be the Number 1 team in St. Louis, and move and take up the name of several previous teams in their new home town, the Baltimore Orioles.

The 1944 version of the Orioles are champions of the International League, despite Oriole Park having burned down on the 4th of July, necessitating a move to Municipal Stadium, a football stadium a few blocks away. A crowd of 52,833, then a record for a minor league game, sees the Orioles fall to the Louisville Colonels, 5-4 in Game 4 of the "Junior World Series." But the Orioles would win the series in 6 games.

 This team, and how well it drew (it's not the fault of the teams involved, but Sportsman's Park seated only 30,804 people, so the Junior World Series brought in more fans than the senior version), rose Baltimore’s profile, and made its return to the majors for the first time since 1902 possible.

October 9, 1949, 60 years ago today: The Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers, 10-6 at Ebbets Field, and win the World Series in 5 games. The 2 teams had combined to win Pennants in the only season in the history of the single-division Leagues, 1901 to 1968, that both League's Pennants remained undecided on the last day of the regular season.

With Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and Carl Furillo, rookies from 1947, and older players Pee Wee Reese and Gil Hodges, bolstered by the 1948 arrivals of Roy Campanella, Billy Cox, Preacher Roe and Carl Erskine, and 1949 arrival Don Newcombe, "the Boys of Summer" had arrived. But they were not ready to beat the Yankees. Once again, the Dodgers had to "Wait Till Next Year." The Yankees, now winners of 12 World Championships, would enjoy many "next years" to come.

October 9, 1950: Brian Downing is born. A catcher for the Chicago White Sox, he would be converted to an outfielder for the team then known as the California Angels. For a time, he was the Angels' all-time home run leader. But he's probably best known now for being the player whose home run Dave Henderson went over in the Red Sox' incredible comeback in the 1986 ALCS.

October 9, 1956: The perfect game pitched by Don Larsen the day before does not faze the Brooklyn Dodgers. Clem Labine goes the distance in Game 6, and then some. Enos Slaughter misjudges Jackie Robinson's fly ball, and Jim Gilliam scores on the play. The Dodgers win, 1-0 in 10 innings at Ebbets Field. There will be a Game 7.

October 9, 1957: The Milwaukee Braves win the World Series, with Lew Burdette, on 2 days rest, winning his 3rd game of the Series, a 5-0 shutout of the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in Game 7. This is the 1st World Championship for the Braves since the "Miracle Braves" in Boston 43 years earlier. 

To this day, 52 years later, no Milwaukee team has ever won another World Series. In fact, the only other World Championship won by a Milwaukee team is the NBA Title won by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971. Unless, of course, you count the 12 NFL Championships won by the Green Bay Packers – and Lambeau Field is 117 miles from downtown Milwaukee.

October 9, 1958: The Yankees complete a 3-games-to-1 comeback – only the 2nd in World Series history, after the 1925 Pirates – by beating the Milwaukee Braves, 6-2 at Milwaukee County Stadium, and take their 18th World Championship. After being defeated by former Yankee farmhand Lew Burdette 3 times in the '57 Series, this time the Yanks knock him out of the box in Game 7.

The Yankees would miss the World Series in 1959, but be back the next year. The Braves, on the other hand, would not return to the Fall Classic for another 33 years, and then in Atlanta. The City of Milwaukee, another 24 years, and then with the Brewers. This was also the first World Series to have its official highlight film in color.

Also born on this day is Mike Singletary, Hall of Fame linebacker for the Chicago Bears, and now head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, and "the Samurai" has them looking better than they have in years. They’re still a ways from doing a "Super Bowl Shuffle," though. Singletary is an ordained minister, like the late Reggie White, and it was Singletary who had the nickname "Minister of Defense" first.


October 9, 1961: The Yankees shred the Cincinnati Reds, 13-5 at Crosley Field, and win the World Series in 5 games, their 19th World Championship. Mickey Mantle barely played in this Series, but Roger Maris hit an unofficial 62nd home run of the season, while Whitey Ford broke the record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched in the World Series, running his total to 30. The previous record? It was 29 2/3, set by a Boston Red Sox lefthander named… Babe Ruth.

Whitey would raise the record to 33 in 1962. Mariano Rivera would slightly break this record, pitching 33 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in postseason play, but not all of it in World Series play.

October 9, 1965: Following losses by Don Drysdale in Game 1 and Sandy Koufax in Game 2, the World Series moves out to Los Angeles, and Claude Osteen saves the Dodgers' bacon, shutting out the Minnesota Twins, 4-0, and turning the Series around.

Osteen had previously pitched for the Washington Senators – the expansion team that became the Texas Rangers, not the established Senators who became the Twins – and had a 5-0 career record against Minnesota coming into this game.

October 9, 1966: Dave McNally shuts out the Dodgers on just 4 hits, Frank Robinson homers off Don Drysdale to complete his fantastic Triple Crown season, and the Baltimore Orioles complete their sweep of the World Series, 1-0 at Memorial Stadium.

For the Dodgers, 33 consecutive innings without scoring a run is a Series record for futility. Their streak would run to 38 innings before they scored in the 5th inning of Game 1 of the 1974 World Series. For the Orioles, they have won Baltimore's 1st World Championship of baseball since the old Orioles won the National League Pennant in 1896 – 70 years before.

October 9, 1970: Kenny Anderson is born in Queens. Raised in the LeFrak City housing project and a graduate of Archbishop Molloy High School, he went to Georgia Tech for one year before going pro. He came to the New Jersey Nets and looked like he was going to be a superstar, until a clothesline tackle by John Starks of the Knicks caused him to crash to the floor and break his wrist. He was never the same: Not only did his play suffer, but his personality became surly. He was reduced to journeyman status. Also born on this day is Swedish golfer Annika Sorenstam.

October 9, 1973: Pete Rose rebounds from the previous day's fight, and the hatred of the Met fans – a banner in left field at Shea Stadium reads, "A Rose by any other name still stinks" – and homers in the top of the 12th, to give the Cincinnati Reds a 2-1 win over the Mets, and the NLCS will go to a 5th and deciding game.

On this same day, Bert Campaneris hits a walkoff homer in the 11th, and the Oakland Athletics defeat the Baltimore Orioles 2-1, which is also now the A's' lead in the series.

October 9, 1976: For the 1st time, the New York Yankees play an American League Championship Series game. For the 1st time, a Kansas City team plays a postseason game in Major League Baseball. The experience is far better for New York, as 2 1st-inning errors by the Royals' best player, George Brett, helps Catfish Hunter go the distance in a 4-1 Yankee win.

Philadelphia plays its 1st postseason game in 26 years, but Don Gullett retires 21 of his last 22 batters to outduel Steve Carlton, and the Cincinnati Reds defeat the Phillies, 6-3.

But the Royals and Phillies still have a better day than Bob Moose. The Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, an integral part of their 1971 World Championship, was driving to a golf course owned by former teammate Bill Mazeroski in Martin's Ferry, Ohio – also the home town of the Niekro brothers – when his car crashes, killing him. To make matters worse, it's his birthday. He was 36.

October 9, 1977: The Yankees come back from deficits of 1-game-to-none, 2-games-to-1, and 3-0 down in the 8th inning of Game 7, to defeat the Kansas City Royals, 5-3 at Royals Stadium (now known as Kauffman Stadium) to win their 31st American League Pennant.

The Royals had won 102 games, still a record for any Kansas City team (the A's never got close to a Pennant race in their K.C. years), and with the home-field advantage in Games 3, 4 and 5, and with lefthanded pitching from Paul Splittorff and Larry Gura that they could use to neutralize Yankee sluggers like Reggie Jackson, Graig Nettles and Chris Chambliss, they were sure they were the better team. They were wrong. The Yankees go on to face the Dodgers in the World Series for the 9th time.

October 9, 1979: Superman is born. Well, Superman Returns star Brandon Routh is, anyway.

October 9, 1980: This one still sticks in my craw. The Royals beat the Yankees, 3-2, in Game 2 of the ALCS. On the final play of the game, Willie Randolph is thrown out at the plate. The Royals now lead 2-games-to-0, coming back to New York. The Royals will complete the sweep, and finally gain revenge for '76, '77 and '78.

George Steinbrenner looks for a scapegoat, and it’s Mike Ferraro, the third-base coach who waved Randolph home. Manager Dick Howser stands up to George, saying that if Ferraro goes, he goes, too. George will not be moved, so Howser becomes one of the few Yankee managers to quit on George rather than wait to be fired by him.

October 9, 1988: A dark day in Mets history. Dwight Gooden is one out away from giving the Mets a win in Game 4 of the NLCS. But Mike Scioscia – a good-fielding catcher but not renowned as a hitter, hits a home run. The Dodgers win the game in the 12th, 5-4.

If Gooden had gotten Scioscia out, the Mets would have been up 3 games to 1. They could have won the Pennant without going back to Los Angeles. And if the weak-hitting Dodgers could beat the Oakland A's in the World Series, surely the Mets could have. (The A's complete a 4-game sweep over the Red Sox today, winning the AL Pennant.) It would have been the Mets' 2nd title in 3 years, and deepened their status as New York's Number 1 team. Maybe that team would have been kept together. Maybe Gooden and Darryl Strawberry don’t fall back into drug problems. (Humor me here.) Maybe the Mets find suitable replacements for Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter, the glue of their 1986 World Champions. Maybe Doc, Darryl and David Cone don't eventually end up on the Yankees, and the Yankees still haven't won a World Series since 1978 – while the Mets probably get at least another in 2000, and maybe another 1 or 2 before their 1980s (-early '90s?) team winds down. Maybe…

This was the hinge day in Met history, when it all started to go wrong. It was the first major instance of what I've come to call "The Curse of Kevin MItchell." Maybe, maybe, maybe? Since Scioscia's homer 21 years ago, "maybes" are pretty much all the Mets have had.

October 9, 1989: The San Francisco Giants win their 1st Pennant in 27 years, beating the Chicago Cubs, 3-2, and taking the NLCS 4 games to 1.

October 9, 1998: The Cleveland Indians beat the Yankees, 6-1, in Game 3 of the ALCS at Jacobs Field. Jim Thome homers twice, Manny Ramirez and Mark Whiten once each. The Indians lead 2 games to 1. Suddenly, after 114 wins – 118 wins if the postseason thus far is counted – the 1998 New York Yankees, already being hailed as one of the greatest teams in history, are in serious, serious trouble of not even making it to the World Series.

The Yankees will not lose again until April 5, 1999.

October 9, 2004: The Yankees finish off the Twins with a come-from-behind 6-5 win in 11 innings to win their Division Series. Ruben Sierra's 3-run homer ties the game in the 8th inning, and Alex Rodriguez scores the winning run on a wild pitch. And yet, 5 years to the day later, it remains the last postseason series won by the Yankees. For... the... moment.

October 9, 2005: Chris Burke's walkoff homer in the bottom of the 18th inning ends the longest postseason game in major league history‚ giving the Houston Astros a 7-6 win over the Atlanta Braves at Minute Maid Park, and moving them into the NLCS. Lance Berkman and Brad Ausmus also homer for Houston.

When this game ended, I called my grandmother. Sure enough, she likened it to that 16-inning game in Houston in the 1986 NLCS, the Mets winning the Pennant over the Astros in the Astrodome, her favorite game of all time.

She would watch the 2005 LCS and World Series and enjoy them. They would be the last baseball games she would ever see.

No comments: