Saturday, October 22, 2011
C.S. Lewis and the World Series
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis imagined a world where a witch had cast a spell, and as a result it was "always winter but never Christmas."
There are 26 metropolitan areas in Major League Baseball -- including 4 that each have 2 teams, including New York. The chances of your area making it to the World Series is not good. Even if you live within the realm of the Yankees, your odds of making it are less than 50-50. You're almost assured of at least reaching the Playoffs, but the Yankees have reached the World Series just once in the last 8 years. Fans in some other areas would gladly take such a pace.
Billy Crystal remembers growing up on Long Island in the 1950s, when it seemed like there was always at least 1 New York team in the Series. From 1949 to 1958, there was a New York team in there every season. From 1947 to 1964, there was a New York team in 16 out of 18 Series. And from 1949 to 1956, all but 2 World Series were "Subway Series," with the New York Yankees facing either the New York Giants or the Brooklyn Dodgers -- and in the 2 that weren't, a New York team won anyway (Yankees over Philadelphia Phillies, 1950; Giants over Cleveland Indians, 1954).
It was always played in the 1st week of October, and Crystal remembers, "World Series meant you had to wear a sweater. We used to call it 'World Series weather.'"
By the early 1960s, the increase of the Major League Baseball schedule from 154 to 162 games meant the Series was usually centered in the 2nd week of October. With Divisional Play in 1969 came a round of Playoffs, which pushed the start of the season back a week. By the time I was old enough to watch, in the late 1970s, the Series was getting later and later:
1984: October 14.
1970: October 15.
1969 and 1983: October 16.
1971, 1974, 1978 and 1979: October 17.
1977: October 18.
1982: October 20.
1973, 1976 and 1980: October 21.
1972 and 1975: October 22.
1981, due to the mid-season strike: October 28.
Due to the addition of another round of Playoffs, the whims of Commissioner Bud Selig and the Fox television executives, and once due to the 9/11 attacks, we have now seen World Series games on Halloween, and even in November.
And it gets colder for these games. Sometimes. A sweater is no longer enough. Sometimes even a light jacket is no longer enough, if you're lucky enough to have the money and the connections to snag World Series tickets.
But when your team isn't even in it, it can seem colder. The air has a chill, the leaves are falling, and you don't have the World Series to fall back on.
Before becoming Commissioner of Baseball, Bart Giamatti once wrote:
It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone
You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.
Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.
And if your favorite football team isn't cooperating, it can seem worse. Last night, Rutgers blew a game they should have won, losing 16-14 to Louisville, and East Brunswick was slaughtered by Sayreville, 47-13.
It is October. And it is not yet Halloween.
Right now, for me, and for fans everywhere not within the realm of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers...
It is Autumn, but not the World Series.
C.S. Lewis was Irish, not American -- but I think he would have understood.
Dear Commissioner Selig, move the Series back a week or two, you detestable wormwood!
October 21, 1861, 150 years ago: At the Elysian Fields in Hoboken‚ the greatest event of the baseball season‚ the Grand Match for the Silver Ball‚ takes place between all-star teams from Brooklyn and New York, still separate cities until 1898.
The Silver Ball Trophy is the same size as a regular baseball and will be kept by the club whose members score the most runs during the match. Fifteen thousand fans see the Brooklyn team‚ behind their star Jim Creighton‚ defeat New York 18-6. This is the same Jim Creighton who will be dead within a year.
October 21, 1887: The National League Champion Detroit Wolverines clinch the World Championship with their 8th victory in Game 11 this afternoon, over the American Association Champions, the St. Louis Browns, 13-3 on neutral ground in Baltimore. With a rainout yesterday in Washington‚ this morning's rescheduled Game 10 sees the Browns pull off a triple play and win‚ 11-4‚ to delay elimination. But the Wolverines take Game 11 to clinch.
But they will end up losing money, and fold at the end of the next season. Detroit will not return to major league ball until the American League and the Tigers arrive in 1901, and will not win another World Championship for 48 years. The Browns will win their 4th straight AA title the next season, but will go 38 years before winning another Pennant. In 1892 they join the NL; by 1901, they will be named the Cardinals.
October 21, 1928: Edward Charles Ford is born in Manhattan, and grows up in the adjoining Queens neighborhoods of Long Island City and Astoria. Known as Whitey for his hair, now white but even as a kid it was very light blond, and as the Chairman of the Board because he was such a commanding figure on the mound (and he loved the nickname, as he was a big Frank Sinatra fan and Sinatra also had the nickname), his 236 wins are the most by any Yankee.
Among all pitchers with at least 200 decisions, his .690 career winning percentage is the highest. (For a while, Pedro Martinez was ahead of him, but finished his career at .687.) And that percentage is higher than the percentage of the Yankees he pitched for, so as good as the Yankees were when he didn’t pitch, he still made them better when he did. Of the two pitchers with more than a few decisions ahead of him, one is Al Spalding, who pitched in the 1870s with the pitching distance at 45 feet; the other is former Yankee Spurgeon “Spud” Chandler, was 109-43 for .717, but that’s just 152 decisions; Whitey was 236-106 in 342. Current Red Sox starter Jon Lester is at .691, but his career record is just 76-34.
Whitey's 2.75 career earned-run average is the best among starting pitchers in the post-1920 Lively Ball Era. The leader among all post-1920 pitchers, at 2.21, is Mariano Rivera; the only other ahead of Whitey is also a reliever, Hoyt Wilhelm; among Lively Ball Era staters, Sandy Koufax is 2nd, with the top 10 being rounded out by Chandler, Jim Palmer, Andy Messersmit, Met legend Tom Seaver, Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson, Harry Brecheen and Dean Chance. Pedro Martinez was ahead of Whitey for a while in this category, too, but fell to 2.93 and is now 11th among Lively Ball Era starters. The current active leader, given enough innings to qualify, is Tim Lincecum at 2.98.
Whitey’s 10 wins in World Series play has never been approached –- Gibson won 7, and as great as he was in his wins, Koufax won “only” 4. And Whitey still holds the record for consecutive scoreless innings in Series play, 33. Mariano holds the record for postseason play, 33 1/3.
“There’s really only four numbers that should be retired” by the Yankees, he says, “and mine’s not one of them.” Nevertheless, his Number 16 was retired by the Yankees in 1974, when he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, making him the first Yankee pitcher thus honored. He was also the first Yankee pitcher awarded a Plaque in Monument Park.
It says something about this great competitor that my Grandma, a dedicated Brooklyn Dodger fan who hated the Yankees (especially Casey Stengel and Yogi Berra, for some reason), loved two Yankees: Phil Rizzuto and Whitey Ford. That both were from her home Borough of Queens had something to do with it, but she also loved that Whitey was smart and didn’t rely on overwhelming force, mixing up his pitches like her favorite Dodger pitchers, Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine and especially Preacher Roe. (And also like her favorite Met pitchers, Tom Seaver, Ron Darling, David Cone and Al Leiter.) She had no patience for pitchers who were fastball-reliant, like Ralph Branca of the Dodgers. She also hated hotheads like Billy Martin, Eddie Stanky and Roger Clemens. She loved that Whitey kept his cool.
Years later, Erik Schrody, a white rapper from Long Island using the nom de rap of Everlast, would also nickname himself “Whitey Ford,” and title an album Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, with the follow-up titled Eat at Whitey’s and another Love, War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford.
October 21, 1938: Carl Brewer is born. A 4-time All-Star defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, he helped them win the Stanley Cup in 1962, ’63 and ‘64.
October 21, 1942: Lou Lamoriello is born. He coached the hockey team at Providence College into the NCAA Final Four, a.k.a. the Frozen Four, and since 1987 has been the general manager of the New Jersey Devils.
The team made the Playoffs every year but one from 1990 to 2010, including 10 Atlantic Division titles, 4 Eastern Conference championships and 3 Stanley Cups. But El Baldo has also made some puzzling trades, and has been so cheap that he has let go some terrific players without lifting a finger, including Scott Niedermayer (who helped the Anaheim Ducks win the Cup in his first season away from the Devils, 2007) and Brian Rafalski (who helped the Detroit Red Wings win the Cup the very next season, 2008), and now John Madden and Brian Gionta. And, last season, the Devils got off to a horrendous start that couldn't quite be balanced by an amazing finish, so they didn't make the Playoffs.
And yet, every time I start thinking Lou Lam has to go, that’s when he manages to build another Cup team. Only 6 players played for all 3 Devils Cup teams, and barely more than half the players on each of them was on the next one. (Martin Brodeur is the only one left who played on all 3, and Patrik Elias is the only other one left who played on any of them, although Petr Sykora, from the 2000 Cup team, recently returned.)
I have never figured Lamoriello out, and I doubt that I ever will.
October 21, 1949: Two very different kind of legends of hockey are born. Michel Briere was one of the brightest young players the Province of Quebec has ever produced, and put together a terrific rookie season for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1969. But in 1970, he was in an awful car crash and fell into a coma. He died in 1971. His Number 21 was immediately taken out of circulation by the Pens, although there was no official retirement ceremony for 30 years.
Also on this day, Mike Keenan was born. He coached the Philadelphia Flyers into the Stanley Cup Finals in 1985 and 1987, and did the same with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1992. But he’s best known for the one and only season in which he coached the New York Rangers, 1994. With the highest payroll the NHL had yet seen, and seasons veterans all over the place (many of them, led by Captain Mark Messier, from the Edmonton Oilers, including some who had beaten his Flyers in the ’85 and ’87 Finals), he led the Broadway Blues to their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.
But he demanded a big new contract right after that, and threatened to take the Madison Square Garden Corporation to court if he didn’t get it. Instead, they let him walk, and he signed with the St. Louis Blues. It was one of the most shocking “divorces” in the history of New York Tri-State Area sports, and neither the Rangers nor Keenan have been back to the Stanley Cup Finals since. He is a mad genius, but except for once, and that once just barely, the madness is what has triumphed.
Also on this day, Benjamin Netanyahu is born. He is now Prime Minister of Israel for the second time. As with the first time, he has been unable to avoid the warmongering, financial scandals and adulteries of his first term, that made him look like he was taking the worst of Bill Clinton and the worst of Newt Gingrich and combining them, instead of the best of each. (I’m still not sure Gingrich has a “best” – he and Netanyahu are both really smart, but have serious blind spots.)
October 21, 1956: Carrie Fisher is born. The daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, and half-sister of actress Joely Fisher (daughter of Eddie Fisher and Connie Stevens), she will forever be known as Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars saga.
But she’s also an accomplished writer and director, having written the novel Postcards On the Edge about her relationship with her mother and struggle with drug addiction, later writing the screenplay for the film version. She co-wrote the TV-movie These Old Broads, which starred her mother, and Shirley MacLaine (who played the Reynolds character in the film version of Postcards), and Elizabeth Taylor, the woman her father left her mother for.
October 21, 1959: George Bell is born in the Dominican Republic. A left fielder and a three-time All-Star for the Toronto Blue Jays, he hit a walkoff for the last home run in Exhibition Stadium and the first homer at the SkyDome, now the Rogers Centre, where his name hangs in the “Level of Excellence,” the Jays’ team hall of fame that, until Roberto Alomar's Number 12 was retired, served as a substitute for retiring numbers such as Bell’s 11. (The NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs don’t retire numbers, either, except for 2 very special cases; instead, they have a system of “Honoured Numbers” that remain in circulation.) However, the Jays never won a Pennant until after trading Bell, brother of major leaguer Juan Bell.
October 21, 1964: After just 11 years in Milwaukee‚ the Braves’ Board of Directors votes to ask the National League for permission to move to Atlanta. Milwaukee County officials sue to block the move. The end result is that they must play the 1965 season in Milwaukee, as lame ducks. Attendance, once booming as the city embraced Major League Baseball for the first time in 50 years, collapses, and only 14,000 come out for the final Milwaukee Braves home game 11 months later. The Brewers will arrive in 1970.
October 21, 1967: Paul Ince is born. The midfielder helped restore Manchester United to glory, winning back-to-back Premier League titles after not having won England’s predecessor league for 26 years, and winning 2 FA Cups – taking both titles, or “The Double,” in 1994.
After managing some lower-division teams, including Milton Keynes Dons, in 2008 Blackburn Rovers signed him, making him the first black manager in the first division of English football (either as “the Football League First Division” or as “the Premier League”). He won only 3 of 17 matches in 6 months and was fired. He has since managed MK Dons again and also Notts County, but is not currently employed by any club. His son Thomas Ince plays for Blackrpool.
Also on this day, an antiwar protest hits Washington, D.C. The marchers head across the Potomac River to the Pentagon, and, to this day, some marchers claim they actually "levitated" the building. Uh-huh. This was the day of the famous photograph of the long-haired (but not hippie-length-haired) kid in the turtleneck sweater sticking a flower in the barrel of a rifle held by a soldier "protecting" the Pentagon from the demonstrators.
October 21, 1968: Elston Howard announces his retirement after 14 big-league seasons, the first 12½ with the Yankees. He will soon be named a Yankee coach, making him the first black coach in the American League. Former Kansas City Monarchs first baseman and manager John "Buck" O'Neil was already coaching with the Cubs, making him the first black coach in the major leagues.
October 21, 1969: Morris “Mo” Lewis is born. The All-Pro linebacker played in 200 games for the New York Jets, 3rd-most in franchise history. He is probably best known for his sack of Drew Bledsoe of the New England Patriots early in the 2001, which injured Bledsoe and forced the Pats to bring in a new quarterback. Tom Brady. So maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to praise Mo, because that sack altered the course of NFL history, and not for the better!
Also on this day, Jack Kerouac dies. The novelist and poet whose works exemplified the Beat Generation writing genre had been a football and track star at Lowell High School in Massachusetts, but injuries and squabbles with coach Lou Little ended his football scholarship at Columbia.
By the mid-Sixties, his fellow Beat writer and close friend Allen Ginsberg noticed that he no longer looked like the handsome young athlete he had so recently been when they met in 1944, or even the mature (physically if not emotionally) writer who became famous with the publication of On the Road in 1957. Rather, Allen though that Jack now looked like his father Leo, the result of 25 years of massive drinking. That drinking burned an ulcer in his esophagus, and that’s what killed him at age 47.
(By contrast, Ginsberg, who rather enjoyed various mind-altering drugs but wasn’t a serious boozer, lived to be 70; and the other member of the Beats’ Big Three, William S. Burroughs, who abused himself in a hundred ways, turned out to be the last survivor, outliving Ginsberg by a few weeks and passing away peacefully at 83.)
Kerouac and the early Beats loved jazz, especially bebop, whose two main leaders were saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker and trumpter John “Dizzy” Gillespie. Kerouac was crushed when Parker died in 1955, on March 12, Kerouac’s birthday. Kerouac himself then died on October 21, which was Gillespie’s birthday.
October 21, 1973: Game 7 of the World Series at the Oakland Coliseum. Bert Campaneris and Reggie Jackson hit home runs off Jon Matlack, and the A’s beat the Mets, 5-2, for their 2nd straight World Championship. Reggie is named Series MVP. After having missed the previous year’s Series with an injury sustained while scoring the winning run in the NLCS, he has begun to build his reputation as a big-time postseason performer.
A's reliever Darold Knowles -- who once said of Reggie, "There isn't enough mustard in the world to cover that hot dog -- becomes the first pitcher, and remains the only one, to appear in all 7 games of a Series.
The Mets had a 3-games-to-2 lead, but considering what that A’s team was capable of, and that the A’s had the home-field advantage for Games 6 and 7, it’s hard to say that the Mets choked. They just got beat. They had a great run, coming from last place and 11 1/2 games back in August, to win a Division that no one seemed to want to win, doing it with just 82 wins, and fighting off Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine in the NLCS and taking the defending World Champion A’s to the limit. This time, unlike in 1969 (and 1986), they ran out of miracles.
Also on this day, Fred Dryer of the Los Angeles Rams becomes the first player in NFL history to score two safeties in the same game. The Rams beat the Green Bay Packers, 24-7 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Dryer, an All-Pro defensive end, remains the only player ever to accomplish the feat, but will become better known as an actor, starring in the police drama Hunter.
October 21, 1975: Game 6 of the World Series. You may have heard about this one. In The Curse of the Bambino, his somewhat skewed history of his beloved Boston Red Sox, Dan Shaughnessy called it “a brilliant autumn day in New England,” following a three-day delay for rain. Brilliant though the Tuesday afternoon may have been, this game was played at night at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox trail the Cincinnati Reds 3 games to 2, and must win to force a Game 7. The Sox haven’t won the World Series in 57 years; the Reds, 35 years, including 2 Series losses in this decade already. Both teams need it badly.
Shaughnessy wrote, “Game Six has taken on a life of its own in the years since it was played, and it gets larger and more thrilling in each retelling. Some distance allows that there may be other contenders for the title of The Greatest Game Ever Played, but by any measure, 1975’s Game Six will stand as one of the top ten games in World Series history, and one that came at a time when baseball needed it most.” In The New Yorker magazine, Roger Angell wrote, “Game Six... what can we say of it without seeming to diminish it by recapitulation or dull it with detail?”
Fred Lynn’s homer gave the Sox an early 3-0 lead. But, as they would say in English soccer, Three-nil, and they fucked it up. Typical Boston choke, leading to a Reds win? As Lee Corso would say, Not so fast, my friend. Six-three, and they fucked it up. Bernie Carbo, a former Red, hit a pinch-hit home run of Rawley Eastwick in the bottom of the 8th.
The game went to extra innings, because in the bottom of the 9th, because Denny Doyle thought Sox third-base coach Don Zimmer was telling him, “Go, go, go!” to tag up, when in fact he was saying, “No, no, no!” and George Foster threw Doyle out at the plate. The top of the 11th featured an amazing over-the-fence catch of a Joe Morgan drive by Sox right fielder Dwight Evans, who then started a double pay to end the Reds’ rally. During that rally, Pete Rose was batting, and he turned to Sox catcher Carlton Fisk and said, “Can you believe this game?” (Some sources have Rose’s comment as, “Some kind of a game, isn’t it?”)
At 12:34 AM on October 22, 1975, Fisk leads off the bottom of the 12th against Pat Darcy, and hits a 1-0 pitch down the left-field line. It’s got distance. Will it be fair? Will it be foul? Fisk, thinking it will actually influence the flight of the ball, waves his arms to his right. The ball hits the pole near its top, for a home run. Final score, Boston 7, Cincinnati 6. The Series is tied, and will go to a Game 7.
John Kiley, the organist at Fenway Park (and also at the Boston Garden, thus the answer to the corny old joke about “the only man to play for the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins”), plays George Friedrich Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” Then he plays “Stout-Hearted Men.” Then he plays “The Beer Barrel Polka.” (“Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun.”) Then he plays “Seventy-six Trombones.” (Huh? It was late.)
The shot of Fisk thinking he can wave the ball fair, which I’ve dubbed the Fenway Twist, is the most familiar clip in the history of televised sports. (As they had with every World Series since 1947, NBC was televising it, although they would begin to alternate with ABC starting the 1977 season.) From seeing this clip so much, and hearing so much talk about Game 6 of ’75 from Red Sox fans, a reasonable person might have asked, through 2004 anyway, “Wait a minute. The Red Sox haven’t won the World Series since 1918. That means... they lost Game 7! So why such a big deal about this homer?” Well, it won one game, not a World Series, but it was still one of sports’ greatest epics.
Dick Stockton was the lead broadcaster for NBC in this Series. A young writer named Lesley Visser was part of the Boston Globe's coverage. Stockton and Visser would both go on to become key cogs in CBS Sports' programming. Supposedly, they met on this night. Other sources say they met at another Boston-based event in 1982. Either way, they married in 1983, but got divorced in 2010, and Visser has married someone else.
October 21, 1976: The Cincinnati Reds beat the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, and complete a four-game sweep of the World Series. Johnny Bench hits 2 home runs and is named Series MVP. The 9th inning featured Bench’s homer, which helped the Reds go from a 3-2 to a 7-2 lead. A frustrated Billy Martin, with nothing left to lose (except maybe a fine from the Commissioner), argues with the umpires and gets thrown out, the only Yankee manager ever to be tossed from a World Series game.
Thurman Munson excels in defeat, tying a Series record with 6 straight hits. In the official Series highlight film, Reds manager Sparky Anderson, is heard telling Bench and Pete Rose, “That fella can flat-out hit, now. Ooh, is he a good hitter. He just stays with the ball.” Rose responds by comparing Munson to Bill Madlock, then with the Chicago Cubs, who had just won the 2nd of what turned out to be 4 National League batting titles.
But afterward, Anderson is asked to compare Munson to Bench, and he says, “Don’t ever embarrass someone by comparing him to Johnny Bench.” In all fairness, even at his best, and 1976 was his MVP year, Munson was not as good as Bench. Bench was the greatest catcher in NL history, and in all of baseball history the only catchers that could be greater are the two Yankee legends, Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra; Bench and Berra were voted by fans to the All-Century Team in 1999. But Munson did have the right to be offended: Comparing him to Bench did not embarrass him, nor did it embarrass Bench.
The Reds have their 4th World Championship, and become the first (and still only) NL team to win back-to-back World Series since the 1921-22 New York Giants. The Reds had also swept the Phillies in the NLCS, and they remain the only team ever to make it through both the LCS and the World Series undefeated. Their 7-0 postseason record has never been matched, although the Yankees went through the ’99 postseason, with an extra round, 11-1.
As for the ’76 Yankees, they were in their first Series in 12 years, most of them were in postseason play for the first time, and they were physically and emotionally exhausted after their ALCS battle with the Kansas City Royals that ended with Chris Chambliss’ Pennant-winning home run. Against the experienced and rested Reds, they had little reason for confidence. But they will be back, while the Reds will win only 1 Pennant in the next third of a century.
October 21, 1978: Joey Harrington is born. The University of Oregon star was supposed to be the quarterback who led the Detroit Lions out of the wilderness. Unfortunately, the highlight of his career was a game after they cut him, and he led the Miami Dolphins to victory over the Lions at the Silverdome. He has since retired, become a broadcaster, and runs a charitable foundation.
October 21, 1979: Khalil Greene is born. An All-Star for the San Diego Padres, the shortstop has not played in the majors since 2009, and has gone into the music business.
Also on this day, Gabe Gross is born. The son of former New Orleans Saints center Lee Gross, he was an outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays, and played on their 2008 AL Pennant winners before retiring before the 2011 season.
October 21, 1980: After 98 seasons of play, the Philadelphia Phillies are one game away from finally winning their first World Championship. They are the last of the “Original 16” teams to have not won one. The last World Series won by a Philadelphia team was by the Athletics, 50 years ago. It’s Game 6 against the Kansas City Royals at Veterans Stadium. Steve Carlton pitches 8 shutout innings, and closer Tug McGraw, one of the heroes of the Mets’ 1969 and ’73 postseason runs, takes a 4-0 lead into the 9th in front of 65,838 Phanatics. But he lets a run in, and loads the bases with one out.
Nervous about fans running onto the field and vandalizing the stadium, as happened 10 years earlier when the Phils played their last game at Connie Mack Stadium, Philadelphia Mayor Bill Green has ordered police on horseback to surround the field to keep fans from running onto it. McGraw, already in a jam, looks around, and sees one of the horse’s tails go up. “They did not send us stadium-trained horses,” he would later say. “And I’m thinking, if I don’t get these guys out, and something bad happens, that’s what I’m gonna be: What that horse is getting rid of.” In baseball, “horseshit” is a common term for something lousy.
A popup sails over the area in front of the Phillies’ dugout, and catcher Bob Boone grabs it, but it falls out of his glove. This is the kind of play that has led Phillies fans to think that their team is jinxed, that they will never win the big one. Except, this time, the ball pops out of Boone’s glove and is snared by first baseman Pete Rose, who shows it to the umpires, and promptly spikes the ball on the Vet’s hideous artificial turf as if he’s just scored a touchdown. (Pete was a high school football star, as well as baseball.)
All that remains is for Tug to get the Royals’ Willie Wilson out. At 11:29 PM, the exhausted Tugger fires, and Wilson swings and misses for strike three. (While tipping your hat to the Phils for this magnificent victory, have a moment of silence for Wilson: It was his 12th strikeout of the Series, a record that would stand until 2009 when it was broken by... Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.)
From Scranton in the north to Rehoboth Beach in the south, from Atlantic City in the east to Lancaster in the West, Phillies fans erupt in the kind of joy they had never experienced – not with this team, anyway. Dallas Green’s bunch has done it. Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Garry Maddox, all the rest, after 3 failed trips to the postseason before this, they have their ring at long last. Rose and McGraw, opponents in the ’73 NLCS and each with a previous ring (in Rose’s case, 2), add to their collection.
The next day’s Philadelphia Daily News fills up their entire front page beneath the masthead with the words “We Win!” A parade down Broad Street from City Hall to the Sports Complex, and a massive rally at John F. Kennedy Stadium, whose 105,000 seats is a lot more than the Vet’s 65,000. It remains the greatest moment in the history of Philadelphia sports.
Also on this day, Kim Kardashian is born. Unlike another Los Angeles heiress with an embarrassingly released sex tape, Kim is not an “heirhead.” She actually works for a living, and not just as a model: She worked for the music-marketing company that was run by her late father, Robert Kardashian, who had given up being a high-powered L.A. lawyer to do it, returning for one last case in 1994-95 (the murder defense “Dream Team” of O.J. Simpson).
She and her sisters Kourteney and Khloe also run high-end women's clothing stores, one in their hometown near L.A., one in Miami's South Beach, and one in New York's SoHo. She has been the main focus of the E! reality series Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
What does Kim have to do with sports? Well, after her parents Robert and Kris divorced, Kris married Olympic decathlon Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner. And Kim recently married New Jersey Nets player Kris Humphries, following sister Khloe's marriage to Los Angeles Lakers player Lamar Odom. Previously, Kim dated, among others, running back Reggie Bush, in a relationship the gossip pages liked to call “Kush.” And if “Bush” and “Kush” rhyme with a prominent part of Kim’s anatomy, that’s not my fault!
October 21, 1981, 30 years ago today: The Yankees take a 2-0 lead in the World Series, as Tommy John and Goose Gossage combine on a 3-0 shutout of the Dodgers at Yankee Stadium. Bob Watson has 2 hits and an RBI.
The Yankees are 2 wins away from their 23rd World Championship. No one can imagine it now, but it will take them 15 more years to get that 23rd title.
The Yankees also make a trade today, sending 22-year-old outfielder Willie McGee to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Bob Sykes. It will be one of the worst trades in Yankee history, as Sykes, a native of nearby Neptune, New Jersey, is already damaged goods, and never appears in another big-league game, finished at 27; while McGee helps the Cards win the next year’s World Series and 3 of the next 6 NL Pennants, and by the time his career begins to slow down in the mid-1990s, Bernie Williams will have been ready.
Also on this day, Nemanja Vidić is born. The Serbian soccer player is a dirty player, and he is the Captain of Manchester United. I don’t think we need a third reason to loathe him.
October 21, 1983: Zack Greinke is born. He won the AL's Cy Young Award in 2009, and pitched the Milwaukee Brewers to their first Division title in 29 years this season. He is married to Emily Kuchar, a former beauty-pageant winner and Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader. If they have kids, I hope the Cowboy gene is the recessive one, but as a Yankee Fan who remembers 1976 to 1985, I don’t much like the Royals, either.
October 21, 1986, 25 years ago: Game 3 of the World Series at Fenway Park. Desperate for a win to keep their “inevitable” World Championship alive, the Mets turn to lefty Bob Ojeda, who had been with the Red Sox until last season. With Len Dykstra leading off the game with a homer, as he had also hit the walkoff homer in Game 3 of the NLCS, Ojeda cruises, and the Mets win, 7-1, to get back in the Series.
October 21, 1993: Curt Schilling’s stellar pitching and Kevin Stocker’s 2nd-inning RBI double keeps the Phillies alive, beating the Toronto Blue Jays 5-0 in Game 5 of the World Series.
This is the kind of pitching that will lead Phillies GM Ed Wade to say of Schilling, "One day out of every five, he's a horse; the other four, he's a horse's ass." But Schilling will not reach his greatest fame with the Phillies. Neither will most of the baseball world realize what a horse's ass he is during his tenure with the Fightin' Phils.
This turns out to be the last postseason baseball game ever played in Veterans Stadium, and the last postseason game the Phillies will win for 15 years.
October 21, 1996: Greg Maddux shuts out the Yankees, as the Braves take Game 2 of the World Series, 4-0. The Yankees have been embarrassed in the first 2 games, and now have to go to Atlanta in front of 52,000 war-chanting, tomahawk-chopping rednecks. The outlook is grim.
October 21, 1998: The Yankees beat the San Diego Padres, 3-1 at Jack Murphy Stadium (Qualcomm), and complete the sweep for their 24th World Championship. Scott Brosius, who hit 2 homers last night, takes a grounder for the final out, and is named Series MVP. The Padres had maybe their best team ever, but had the bad luck to run into what may have been anybody’s best team ever.
October 21, 2000: Game 1 of the first Subway Series since 1956 – it doesn’t matter what Met fans call those Interleague series in the regular season, it’s not a true Subway Series unless it happens in October – is played at Yankee Stadium, and it turns out to be, quite possibly, the greatest game I’ve ever seen. At the least, it was the most nerve-wracking.
After 39 years of hoping, wishing, praying for a chance to beat the Yankees in a World Series, Met fans finally have it. And they were sure they were going to win it. After all, Al Leiter was going to start Games 1 and 5, and Mike Hampton was going to start Games 2 and 6. And, as everybody knows, “The Yankees can’t hit lefthanded pitching. Especially in the postseason.” I guess Met fans, the Flushing Heathen, hadn’t noticed how the Yankees beat all pitchers, left and right alike, in winning the Series in 1996, ’98 and ’99, and winning another Pennant to put them in this Series.
Still, Met fans always wanted this chance. In the immortal words of Leonard Nimoy -- who, being a Bostonian, probably knows just how illogical baseball can be -- “You may find that having is not so fine a thing as wanting.”
Leiter outpitches Andy Pettitte, but four baserunning blunders by the Mets leave the score 3-2 in the Mets’ favor entering the bottom of the 9th. Still, to be able to take Game 1 at Yankee Stadium would be a huge boost to the Mets. Manager Bobby Valentine brings in his closer. Unfortunately for him, it’s Armando Benitez. Paul O’Neill fouls off pitch after pitch, and finally draws the most clutch walk in baseball history. The Yankees bring him around to score on DH Chuck Knoblauch’s sacrifice fly, and the game goes into extra innings. It goes to the bottom of the 12th, and a Met castoff, Jose Vizcaino, playing second base because Knoblauch is not fielding well, singles home the winning run.
Yankees 4, Mets 3. Essentially, the World Series that Met fans had waited their whole lives for is decided in Game 1. Had the Mets won this game, the Series would have been very, very different.
October 21, 2001, 10 years ago: The Arizona Diamondbacks defeat the Atlanta Braves‚ 3-2‚ to win the NLCS and reach the World Series for the first time in their history. They get to the Series faster than any expansion team in history‚ doing so in the 4th year of their existence. Randy Johnson gets the win for Arizona. Erubiel Durazo's pinch-hit 2-run homer is the key blow. Craig Counsell is named the NLCS MVP.
The Yankees take a 3-1 lead in their ALCS matchup with Seattle‚ defeating the Mariners by a score of 3-1 at Yankee Stadium. Bret Boone's 8th inning homer broke a scoreless tie‚ but Bernie Williams homers in the bottom half of the inning to tie the score. The Yankees win on Alfonso Soriano's 2-run walkoff dinger in the 9th. Mariano Rivera gets the victory in relief.
In spite of this defeat, Mariner manager Lou Piniella makes a bold prediction: His team will win Game 5. “We’re going back for Game 6,” he tells the media, meaning back to Seattle. Sweet Lou should have known better than to test the Yankees’ Ghosts of October. After all, he was one of them.
October 21, 2003: The Yankees beat the Marlins‚ 6-1‚ behind the pitching of Mike Mussina and the hitting of Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams. Jeter gets 3 hits off losing starter Josh Beckett (the only hits Beckett allows)‚ while Williams and Aaron Boone hit home runs. Williams' homer is his record 19th in postseason play. His 65 RBI are also a new postseason record.
The Yankees lead this World Series 2 games to 1. Things are looking good for them. No one can yet imagine that it will take them 6 years to win another World Series game -- and that, when they do, it will be in a new Yankee Stadium.
October 21, 2006: In the first match-up of rookies to start Game 1 of the World Series, Anthony Reyes bests Justin Verlander as the visiting Cardinals beat the Tigers at Comerica Park, 7-2. The 25-year old righthander allows 2 runs and 4 hits striking out 5 Redbirds in eight innings of work.