Saturday, October 8, 2011
Happy Don Larsen Day
Larsen is still alive, 55 years later. So are 2 other Yankees who played in the game, Yogi Berra and Andy Carey. Sadly, none of the Dodgers who played in the game are still alive. Still living but not playing in the game are: Yankees Whitey Ford, Jerry Coleman, Johnny Kucks, Bob Cerv, Norm Siebern, Bob Turley and George Wilson; and Dodgers Don Zimmer, Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Roger Craig, Randy Jackson (not the Jackson 5 singer or the American Idol panelist) and Ed Roebuck -- who came from Brownsville... Pennsylvania, not Brownsville, Brooklyn.
October 8, 1896: The Baltimore Orioles complete a 4-game sweep of the Cleveland Spiders to win the Temple Cup. They have won the last 3 National League Pennants. It will be 70 years before another Baltimore team wins a major league Pennant.
October 8, 1908: In a make-up game necessitated by 19-year-old 1st baseman Fred Merkle's baserunning "boner" on September 23, Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown outduels Christy Mathewson, 4-2, as the Cubs win the National League Pennant by one game over the Giants in one of the most dramatic Pennant races of all time. Officially, the Polo Grounds was full to about 40,000 people. Unofficially, there may have been twice as many outside. This could very well have been the best-attempted-attendance baseball game of all time.
Merkle, as it turned out, outlived every Cub who played in the game, slightly surviving Cub right fielder Jimmy Slagle, both dying in 1956. The last survivor from either the September 23 or the October 8 game was Giant shortstop Al Bridwill, who lasted until 1969, and, as the last survivor, was interviewed about it by Giant fan Lawrence S. Ritter for his 1965 book of baseball interviews The Glory of Their Times.
October 8, 1922: This one worked about a lot better for the Giants. Behind Art Nehf’s complete game five-hitter, they repeat as World Champions, sweeping the Yankees in five games, including one tie. The comeback 5-3 victory is fueled by George "Highpockets" Kelly’s RBI single during the three-run eighth inning at the Polo Grounds.
October 8, 1927: The 1927 Yankees, considered one of the best teams in baseball history, live up to their reputation as they beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-3, to sweep the World Series in 4 straight. But this Game 4 comes in an unusual fashion: In the bottom of the 9th, with the score tied, Pirate pitcher Johnny Miljus loads the bases with no out. He begins to work out of it, striking out Lou Gehrig swinging and Bob Meusel looking. Facing Tony Lazzeri with two outs and an 0-1 count, Miljus uncorks a wild pitch, and Earle Combs races home with the winning run, to give the Bronx Bombers the sweep and their 2nd World Championship.
This is the only time the winning run of a World Series has scored on a wild pitch. Flip the last 2 digits, and in 1972 the Pirates became the first (and still only) team to lose a League Championship Series on a wild pitch, by Bob Moose against the Cincinnati Reds.
October 8, 1929: In front of 50,000 fans at Wrigley Field, Philadelphia Athletics owner-manager Connie Mack fools everyone before Game 1 of the World Series, starting neither of his big fireballers, lefthander Lefty Grove or righthander George Earnshaw. He gambles that the sidearm slow stuff of former Red Sox star Howard Ehmke (the visiting starter in the first game at the original Yankee Stadium) might frustrate the Cubs' big sluggers such as Rogers Hornsby, Hack Wilson and Riggs Stephenson.
Mack's gamble pays off, as Ehmke establishes a new World Series record striking out 13 Cubs en route to a 3-1 A's victory in Game 1 of the Fall Classic. The mark will last for 34 years until Dodger hurler Carl Erskine fans 14 Yankees in 1953. The Cubs never recover, and the A's win the Series in 5.
October 8, 1930: The A's beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-1 in Game 6, George Earnshaw outpitching Bill Hallahan thanks to home runs by Al Simmons and Jimmy Dykes. The A's take their 2nd straight World Series. They have now won 5, all in a span of 21 years. It will be 42 years, and two franchise moves, before they win another.
October 8, 1939: In the top of the tenth, Yankee outfielder Joe DiMaggio scores all the way from first base when Reds' catcher Ernie Lombardi lays in a daze at home plate after Charlie "King Kong" Keller crashes into him. The prudish press of the day says that Lombardi "swooned" or "snoozed" at the plate, but, in reality, Keller had inadvertently kneed him in the groin. The Yankees win, 7-4, to complete the World Series sweep and become the first club to win 4 consecutive Fall Classics. It is their 8th World Championship overall.
October 8, 1940: With the Reds' 2-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 7 of the Fall Classic, Bill McKechnie becomes the first manager to win a World Series with two different teams. The Deacon also piloted the Pirates to a World Championship beating Washington in 7 games in the 1925 Fall Classic.
With Lombardi injured down the stretch and backup catcher Willard Hershberger becoming (we think) the only big-leaguer ever to commit suicide during the season (slashing his throat in a Boston hotel room during a roadtrip), 40-year-old coach Jimmie Wilson was signed to a playing contract, and was one of the factors in this World Series -- as was an injury to Tiger star Hank Greenberg. The Tigers would win the Series again 5 years later; the Reds would need another 35 years.
October 8, 1959: In Game 6, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the "Go-Go White Sox," 9-3 at Comiskey Park, to win the World Series. Chicago's speed and quickness weren't enough to overcome Los Angeles' hitting and pitching. This was the 1st World Championship won by any team playing their home games west of St. Louis. It would also be the last World Series game played in Chicago for 46 years.
October 8, 1961, 50 years ago today: In Game 4 at Crosley Field, Whitey Ford blanks the Reds for 5 innings to extend his World Series consecutive scoreless inning streak to 32, breaking Red Sox hurler (and future Yankee slugger) Babe Ruth's previous record of 29 2/3 innings. Hector Lopez and Clete Boyer provide the offense driving in two runs each in the Yankee 6-0 victory.
October 8, 1966: The first World Series game played in the State of Maryland is Game 3 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, and the host Orioles continue their shocking upset of the defending World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, beating them 1-0.
October 8, 1973: The Mets beat the Reds 9-2 in Game 3 of the NLCS, in a game remembered for 5-foot-11, 200-pound Pete Rose breaking up a double play by crashing into 5-foot-11, 140-pound Bud Harrelson.
With the fight broken up, Rose returns to his position in left field, where Met fans (understandably, but hardly justified) start throwing things at him. Reds manager Sparky Anderson takes his team off the field. The umpires get a message to the Shea Stadium public address announcer, who announces that if the throwing doesn't stop, the game will be forfeited -- remember, the series is tied 1-1 and the Mets, barring a total (or even, dare I say it, Metlike) collapse, have this game won and need only one more win for the Pennant. Desperate, Met manager Yogi Berra takes Tom Seaver and Willie Mays out there, and the 3 of them plead for peace. Listening to the 3 legends, the fans stop, and the Mets finish off the win.
The next day, with a banner hanging from Shea's upper deck reading, "A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME STILL STINKS" -- I guess they weren't willing to say "Sucks" in 1973 -- Rose will make his point by winning the game and tying up the series with an extra-inning home run. But the Mets will win Game 5 and the Pennant.
October 8, 1978: Jim Gilliam, former 2nd baseman and now 1st base coach for the Dodgers, dies of complications of a brain hemorrhage that he suffered on September 15, just short of his 50th Birthday.
He had helped the Brooklyn Dodgers win Pennants in 1953, 1955 and 1956, winning the World Series in 1955. He continued to play for them in Los Angeles, winning the World Series again in 1959, 1963 and 1965, before losing the 1966 World Series. He was then named a coach, following Buck O'Neil of the Cubs as the 2nd black coach in the major leagues.
For the rest of the postseason, the Dodgers will wear Number 19 patches on their sleeves, retire the number, and dedicate the 1978 World Series to his memory.
October 8, 1983: In front of 64,494 fans at Veterans Stadium, the Philadelphia Phillies do something they had only done 3 times before in their first 100 years of play: Win a Pennant. They win the NLCS behind the pitching of Steve Carlton and the power of Gary Matthews’ three-run homer, 7-2. This win, over the Dodgers, gives them some measure of revenge, having lost to the Dodgers in 1977 (this is the anniversary of that loss, with "Black Friday" happening the day before) and 1978. They will also beat the Dodgers in the NLCS in 2008 and 2009.
October 8, 1986, 25 years ago today: The Mets' "inevitable" World Championship suddenly becomes quite evitable. Houston Astros' hurler Mike Scott -- a mediocre pitcher when the Mets got rid of him -- throws a five-hitter and ties a Playoff record with 14 strikeouts as Houston beats the Mets, 1-0 in Game 1 of the NLCS at the Astrodome. A Glenn Davis home run off Dwight Gooden accounts for the contest's lone run.
October 8, 1995: If you're a Yankee Fan, as I am, this one still rankles. Thanks to a 2-run double off Jack McDowell by Edgar Martinez, the Mariners become only the 4th team in major league history to overcome a 2-game deficit to win a 5-game series when they dramatically come-from-behind to beat the Yankees in 11 innings, 6-5.
This, of course, will be the last game as Yankee manager for Buck Showalter, and the last game as a major league player for Don Mattingly. George Steinbrenner will hire Joe Torre as manager, and Bob Watson as general manager, who will make the trades to bring Mariners Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson, and Cub catcher Joe Girardi, to New York. The Last Baseball Dynasty is about to begin.
October 8, 2000: The Mets win a postseason series. Stop laughing. At Shea Stadium, the Mets blank the Giants, 4-0, to win the NLDS in 4 games. Bobby Jones, who was sent to the minors earlier in the season to work on his mechanics, retires the side in order eight of the nine innings allowing only a 5th-inning double to Jeff Kent. It is only the 6th complete-game 1-hitter in postseason history.
October 8, 2007: And so it came to pass that, 12 years to the day after the Buck Showalter era ended, so did the Joe Torre era. A 6-4 defeat to the Cleveland Indians in Game 4 of the ALDS at The Stadium proves to be Torre’s final game with the Yankees. The veteran skipper, who during his 12-year tenure with the Bronx Bombers saw the team win 1,173 games and make the postseason every year, will later reject a $5 million, one-year contract to return as manager, a deal many believe to be structured to oust the popular pilot without upsetting the fans.
This was also the final postsesaon game at the original Yankee Stadium, ending not with a bang, or with a whimper, but a few grumbles.