Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 14, 1976: Chris Chambliss Wins the Pennant

My chances of being able to get online tomorrow are not good. So I'm posting tomorrow's entry today.

Happy 47th Birthday to Yankee manager Joe Girardi. It won't be an especially happy one, as he is no longer managing in this baseball postseason.

Today is also the anniversary of a massive event in Yankee history: Chris Chambliss' Pennant-winning home run.

October 14, 1976: For the first time in 12 years, the Yankees are in the postseason. For the first time ever, a Kansas City team is. The Yankees lead the Royals in the deciding Game 5, 6-3, in the top of the 8th. But George Brett slams a long home run off Grant Jackson to tie it.

The game goes to the bottom of the 9th, and a few fans had thrown garbage onto the field, delaying action. Mark Littell, the Royals' closer at the time, had to restart his warmup pitches, and it may have unsettled him just a little bit.

Leading off the inning was Yankee first baseman Chris Chambliss. Good player. Very good with the glove. Had a little power. But not a big-time slugger like Graig Nettles, who led the American League in homers that year with 32; or Reggie Jackson, the newly-minted free agent who was moonlighting in the ABC booth with Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell.

It was quite a night. Quite a cold night. The game-time temperature was about 40 degrees. A banner read, "NO MATTER HOW COLD, THE YANKS STAY HOT."

Among the celebrities there that night was Telly Savalas, star of the CBS cop drama Kojak, who was wearing a big fur coat. The camera caught that big Kojak smile, the newly-renovated Stadium's arc lamps reflecting off both his big bald head and his big white teeth. Cold or no, the man was enjoying himself, and was so macho that nobody dared to tell him a man can’t wear a fur coat.

Cary Grant was at the game. So was James Cagney. The Stadium was back, the Yankees were back, everybody wanted to be there, New York City’s fiscal difficulties and the rising crime rate of the Subways and the South Bronx be damned.

Littell threw one pitch. Just one pitch.

Phil Rizzuto, who once wore the Number 10 now worn by Chambliss, had the call on WPIX, Channel 11:

"He hits one deep to right-center! That ball is... outta here! The Yankees win the Pennant! Holy cow, Chris Chambliss on one swing!"

The fans jump over the fences and come pouring onto the field by the thousands. This had happened in many a ballpark celebration, and I'm sure some of them had seen their fathers or older brothers do it in 1969 when the Mets did all three of their clinchings (Division, Pennant and World Series) at home at Shea Stadium. The Mets had also clinched the Pennant and Series at home in 1973. I'm sure there were a few "Yankee fans" running onto the field that night in '76 who had been "Met fans" in '69 and '73. Maybe some were now running onto their 2nd New York ballfield. Maybe it was the 3rd, 4th, 5th or... 3 in '69, 2 in '73... 6th time.

Chambliss threw his arms into the air before reaching 1st base. As soon as he turned for 2nd, a fan ran over and pulled 1st base out. Who says you can't steal 1st base? The New York Police Department and Yankee Stadium's orange-capped, orange-blazered ushers, that's who. But there was little they could do at this point, as they were hopelessly outnumbered.

So was Chambliss. He touched 2nd, but was then tripped up. He later said his big fear was falling and being trampled by fans. By the time he got to the 3rd base area, the base was gone. He did the best he could, ran by home plate, and, remembering his training as a high school football player, threw a couple of blocks and got into the dugout.

"And the Yankees win the Pennant!" Rizzuto went on. "Unbelievable! What a finish! As dramatic a finish as you'd ever wanna see! With all that delay, we told you, Littell had to be a little upset. And, holy cow, this field will never be the same, but the Yankees have won it!"

On Channel 7, doing the game for ABC, this is what happened:

Reggie noticed that, as cold as it was, Chambliss had the top button of his jersey undone, something that would likely have gotten him fined today. Of course, Reggie did that a lot, too, once he came to the Yankees and was no longer wearing a pullover jersey, like he had in Oakland and in his one, just-concluded season in Baltimore.

Reggie: "Chambliss is so hot right now, he's got his top button undone. He's in heat!"

Keith: "Mark Littell delivers, there's a high drive, deep to right-center field… "

Howard, interrupting: "That's gone!"

Keith: "It could be, it is… gone!"

Howard: "Chris Chambliss has won the American League Pennant for the New York Yankees! A thrilling, dramatic game with overtones of that great sixth game in the World Series last year, and the seventh game, too!" Etc., etc., etc., in that oft-imitated Cosellian way.

The scoreboard – ignoring for the moment that there was still a World Series to play – flashed, "WE’RE #1" for a minute and finally "N Y YANKEES 1976 AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONS."

When they got into the locker room, the big question was asked: "Did you touch home plate?"

Of course, Chambliss didn't touch home plate. What home plate? Did you see a home plate? He didn't see any home plate!

Fortunately, Lee MacPhail, President of the AL and a former general manager of the Yankees (and son of former Yankee part-owner Larry MacPhail), was at the game, and the ruling was easy: Since the ball left the field of play, and no one was on base for Chambliss to pass to nullify one or more bases, the home run stands, and the Yankees remain 7-6 victors.

Just to be sure, Chambliss, the umpires, and a couple of cops cleared a path through the fans, walked him over to the locations of third base and home plate, and he stepped on the spots where they were supposed to be.

If the Yankees had lost that game, it would have been a terrible way to end what had been a season of rebirth, for the team, the Stadium, the beleaguered City which, just one year after the worst financial crisis in its history, had hosted the nation's Bicentennial celebrations and the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden.

Maybe George Steinbrenner wouldn't have been able to convince Reggie, Goose Gossage, Dave Winfield, etc. to come to the Yankees. Who knows, maybe the fabled "Yankee Stadium Mystique" would have been considered lost in the renovation process.

Maybe, when George began to make noise about wanting out of the South Bronx, he could have added to his arguments, "It's not like there's anything special about this version of Yankee Stadium." And maybe he would have been right.

And maybe a new stadium would have opened in the Meadowlands by 1990 – and, since it wouldn't have had the faux-retro influence of Baltimore's Camden Yards, but would more likely have been a "mallpark" like Toronto's SkyDome or Chicago's new Comiskey Park (now Rogers Centre and U.S. Cellular Field, respectively), it probably wouldn't have been thought of as such a great place once the new/old ballparks of the 1990s were built.

Ah, but the Yankees did win that game. So… Happy Birthday, Joe Girardi, and Happy Chris Chambliss Day, everyone!

*

October 14, 1066: On Senlac Hill, seven miles from Hastings, England, the forces of William, Duke of Normandy, defeat the Saxon army of King Harold II of England.

According to legend, the battle was hours long, approaching sundown, and was fairly even, until Harold was struck in the eye by a Norman arrow. Once their King and commander fell, the Saxons lost hope. However, Lord Baltimore and his followers, still loyal to Harold, insist that a young squire named Geoffrey of Mighor interfered with the arrow’s path. Just a joke.

The Duke, previously known as "William the Bastard" for his illegitimate birth, becomes known as "William the Conqueror." The old joke about King William I is that you should never go into battle against someone called "the Bastard," because he's probably got a chip on his shoulder already; and you should never go into battle against someone called "the Conqueror," because he's probably done something to earn that nickname.

October 14, 1644: William Penn is born. He would go on to found the colony of Pennsylvania. In 1901, the city he founded, Philadelphia, would place a statue of him, sculpted by Alexander Calder, atop their new City Hall. It was 585 feet high, counting the statue, and until the completion of the Singer Building in New York, it was the tallest building in the world. It was also the first secular (non-religious) building to be the tallest building in the world; Penn, a Quaker who deeply believed in religious freedom, would have loved that.

For decades, an "unwritten law" (sometimes called a "gentleman's agreement") stated that no structure in the city could be taller than the hat on the Penn statue. In 1987, One Liberty Place opened. At 948 feet, it was the first structure in the city taller than City Hall – in fact, for a few years, it was the tallest building between New York and Chicago.

From that point forward, no Philadelphia team won a World Championship in any sport. Between them, the Phillies, the Eagles, the 76ers and the Flyers would make 5 trips to their sports' finals, but none would win. No college basketball team from the Philadelphia area even reached the NCAA Final Four, as, between them, Temple, St. Joseph's and Villanova would make 5 trips to the Elite Eight, but none could get into the Final Four. And Smarty Jones, a horse born and trained in the Philly suburbs, won the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and was leading in the Belmont Stakes, before falling behind and finishing a close 2nd, so Philly even choked in the thoroughbred Triple Crown.

Some people, believing in forces larger than life, suspected that the building of what were now several structures taller than City Hall's Penn statue began calling the city's inability to win a major sports championship "the Curse of Billy Penn."

On June 18, 2007, the Comcast Center was "topped off," at 975 feet the tallest in the city and the tallest between New York and Chicago. A miniature version of the City Hall statue of William Penn was placed on top, so that "Billy Penn" could once again look out over his city without having his view obstructed by taller buildings.

Within 16 months, the Phillies won the World Series. Five months after that, Villanova reached the Final Four. The Curse of Billy Penn was broken. However, in between, the Eagles lost the NFC Championship Game, and the 76ers and Flyers have still stunk, so maybe there’s more to Philly’s struggles than the Penn statue.

October 14, 1842: Joseph Start is born in New York. He was one of the earliest baseball stars, playing for the Brooklyn Atlantics from 1862 to 1870, the New York Mutuals from 1871 to 1876, the Hartford Dark Blues in 1877, the Chicago White Stockings (forerunners of the Cubs) in 1878, the Providence Grays from 1879 to 1885, and the Washington Nationals in 1886.

He led the Atlantics to undefeated seasons in 1864 and 1865 (although there was no league whose "Pennant" could be won then), helped the Atlantics beat the Cincinnati Red Stockings for the closest thing there was to a "world championship" of baseball in 1870, and the Grays to National League Pennants in 1879 and 1884. He is said to have been the first 1st baseman to play away from the bag, although, like everyone else in the game at the time, he didn't use a glove. He lived on until 1927.

October 14, 1890: Dwight David Eisenhower is born. He played football and baseball at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He played on the losing side in the legendary upset of Army by the Carlisle Indian School in 1912.

Legend has it that the future Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War II and 34th President of the United States tried to tackle the man behind Carlisle's rise, Jim Thorpe, and that Thorpe crashed into Eisenhower and broke the future President's leg. The truth is less romantic: "Ike" played in Army's next game, and got hurt in that one, so if he did try to tackle Thorpe, it was not injurious; but it probably wasn't all that successful, either, as Thorpe was the greatest football player of the 1910s, and the greatest track star of that time, and played Major League Baseball as well, and remains one of the greatest all-around athletes of all time.

In 1953, his 1st year as President, Ike was invited, as all Presidents had been since 1910, to throw out the first ball on Opening Day at Washington's Griffith Stadium. He declined, saying he had a golf date that day. But it rained, postponing the ballgame, and that enabled him to throw out the first ball. He also threw out the first ball before Game 1 of the 1956 World Series at Ebbets Field. The next day, his election opponent, Adlai Stevenson, threw out the first ball.

October 14, 1891: Former Chicago White Stockings (forerunners of the Cubs) pitcher Larry Corcoran, the 1st man to pitch 3 no-hitters, dies in Newark at the age of 32 of the kidney disorder Bright's Disease, exacerbated by alcoholism. Corcoran's best year was 1884 when he went 27-12.

October 14, 1892: The scheduled game between the Boston Beaneaters (forerunners of the Braves) and the Washington Nationals (who fold in 1899 and are not to be confused with any later D.C. team) is postponed because the Senators' field has already been reserved by the Columbia Athletic Club for a football game against Princeton. As far as I know, this is the first time football has ever asserted its authority, whatever that might be, over baseball.

*

October 14, 1905: Christy Mathewson pitches his 3rd shutout in 6 days‚ giving up 6 hits to Chief Bender's 5. The Giants win, 2-0, and clinch the World Series in 5 games, thus proving their point from last year, when they refused to play the Boston Pilgrims (forerunners of the Red Sox), that they were already the best team in baseball.

The three goose eggs make Mathewson, already the most popular player in the game, bigger than any U.S. athlete has ever been. The A's' .161 team BA is the lowest ever for a Series, and the teams' combined .185 is also the lowest.

October 14, 1906: The Chicago White Sox jump on Three-Finger Brown for 7 runs in the 1st 2 innings‚ and coast behind Doc White to a 7-1 Series-ending victory in what is still the only all-Chicago World Series. Despite winning 116 games in the regular season, the Cubs lose to the "Hitless Wonders." But the Cubs will be back. No, that is not a joke.

October 14, 1908: Before the smallest crowd in World Series history, just 6‚210 at Bennett Park in Detroit, the Tigers are tamed on 3 hits by Orval Overall‚ who fans 10 in a 2-0 win. The Chicago Cubs win the series in 5 games. In the 101 years since, they have never won another, despite 13 trips to the postseason. Upset over seating arrangements at the Series‚ sports reporters form a professional group that will become the Baseball Writers Association of America.

October 14, 1910: John Wooden is born. One of the top players of his time, he led Purdue University's basketball team to a season in 1932 that was retroactively awarded National Championship status. In 1947, he coached Indiana State University to a conference title, and was invited to play at a tournament in Kansas City. He declined, because the tournament was segregated, and he refused to leave his team’s one black player behind.

In 1949, he was hired to coach the University of California at Los Angeles, UCLA. Not until 1962 did they reach what's now known as the Final Four. But in 1964, he coached them to an undefeated season. They would win 10 National Championships in 12 seasons, including seven in a row from 1967 to 1973, with a 47-game winning streak from 1966 to 1968 and an 88-game winning streak from 1971 to 1974, still the third-longest and longest winning streaks in the history of college basketball.

His players included Basketball Hall-of-Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (known by his birth name of Lew Alcindor at the time), Bill Walton and Gail Goodrich, and Olympic Gold Medalists Goodrich and Walt Hazzard.

John Wooden died last year, just short of his 100th birthday, and was the first of 3 people who are in the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. There are few more respected people in the history of sports, living or dead.

October 14, 1914: Harry Brecheen is born. In 1946 the St. Louis Cardinal became the first lefthanded pitcher to win 3 games in one World Series. Only Mickey Lolich and Randy Johnson have joined him since. He was known as "the Cat," and a younger Cardinal lefty who was something of a protégé, Harvey Haddix, became known as "the Kitten." The experience led to a long career as a pitching coach, and his Baltimore Oriole staff held the Los Angeles Dodgers to 33 consecutive scoreless innings in the 1966 World Series.

October 14, 1916: Sophomore tackle and guard Paul Robeson is excluded from the Rutgers football team when Washington and Lee University of Virginia refuse to play against a black person. The game, played at Neilson Field in New Brunswick, New Jersey, ended in a 13-13 tie. A friend of Robeson’s called it "a wound that never healed."

A month later, West Virginia University sent its team to play Rutgers, and insisted that Robeson not play. This time, Rutgers coach George Foster Sanford said that if the Mountaineers didn't want to play against a black man, they could go home. They didn't want to forfeit either the game or the money, so they played, and Robeson made a game-saving tackle near the goal line to preserve a scoreless tie. Afterward, the WVU players lined up to shake his hand.

In 1917 and 1918, Robeson was considered by many observers to be the best player in the country. In 1920, making his all-time All-American team, Walter Camp, the legendary Yale player and coach who invented the "All-American team" concept, named Robeson the best defensive end he’d ever seen.

His pro career was brief, but he did play for the 1st champions of the league that became the NFL, the Akron Pros, led by black coach and back Fritz Pollard. Robeson went on to bigger things in the law, music, acting and social activism.

October 14, 1927: Walter Johnson, regarded by many as the greatest pitcher of all time, announces his retirement as a player. In 2 weeks‚ the Big Train will sign a 2-year contract to manage the Newark Bears of the International League.

Also on this day, Roger Moore is born. You might know him by another name: That name is Bond. James Bond. What does that have to do with sports? Well, in Live and Let Die, he raced a boat. In The Man With the Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me, he raced cars. Not good enough? In The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only, he not only skied, but unlike competitive skiers, he actually had to "play defense." Not to mention he got into fights in all his Bond movies. As Mr. Bond, Mr. Moore was definitely athletic.

October 14, 1929: After a day off, because sports on Sunday are illegal in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (and will remain so until 1934), a special train from Washington brings President and Mrs. Hoover to Shibe Park to see if Howard Ehmke can wind up the Series against Pat Malone. They match zeroes for 3‚ but with 2 outs in the 4th‚ a walk and 3 hits give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. Malone stifles the A's with 2 hits and the 2-0 lead holds up into the 9th. The Athletics rally and come up with 3 runs‚ the winning run scoring on a Bing Miller double‚ and take the series four games to one.

There won't be another winning rally by a team down 2 runs in the 9th of game 7 this century; the Diamondbacks‚ in 2001‚ will do it next. NL MVP Rogers Hornsby‚ hobbled with a heel spur‚ manages just five hits in the Series. This is the last Major League Baseball game played before the stock market begins to crash 10 days later, beginning the Great Depression.

*

October 14, 1941, 70 years ago: Art Shamsky is born. On his 28th birthday, the right fielder (though not starting in front of Ron Swoboda – lucky for the Mets in Game 4) would help the Mets win Game 3 of the World Series. Of course, he’s best known for being the hero of NYPD Detective Robert Barone, played by Brad Garrett on Everybody Loves Raymond. Robert loved Shamsky so much, he named his dog "Shamsky."

In 1999, on the 30th Anniversary of the Mets' "Miracle," Robert and his brother Ray, a sportswriter for Newsday, drove up to Cooperstown, where some of the '69 Mets were signing autographs at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ray wanted to use his press credentials to skip to the head of the line. But Tug McGraw recognized Ray and remembered a critical column that Ray had written. Art Shamsky wasn't impressed, either, and the brothers got thrown out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Later, at a diner, Robert said they should have waited in line like everybody else. Ray: "But we're not like everybody else!" Robert: "Obviously, we're not like everybody else. Because everybody else got to meet the Mets!"

October 14, 1946: Al Oliver is born. A 7-time All-Star, the center fielder (later first baseman) was a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates' 1971 World Champions. In 1970, he hit the last home run at Forbes Field and drove in the 1st run at Three Rivers Stadium. In 1978, he was traded to the Texas Rangers, and switched from Number 16 to Number 0 – not a zero, but an O for Oliver.

His 2,743 career hits make him 4th among players currently eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in, trailing Rafael Palmeiro (who is not banned but will never get in due to steroids), Harold Baines and Vada Pinson. His son Aaron Oliver played for Texas A&M's football team in their 1998 Big 12 Conference Championship season.

October 14, 1953: The Brooklyn Dodgers force Charley Dressen's resignation as manager when he refuses to sign anything less than a 2-year contract. The club reportedly offered him a $7‚500 raise‚ but, on the insistence of his wife, he tried for a 2-year contract, and lost.

My Grandma, a major Dodger fan in those days, hated Dressen, telling me decades after the fact about how bad he was: "Oh, that Dressen was so stupid!" And she confirmed that his wife bossed him around and demanded that he ask for the two-year contract. But for as long as Walter O’Malley and his son Peter owned the Dodgers, from 1950 to 1997, the Dodgers only offered their managers one-year contracts – 23 such contracts to Walter Alston, Dressen's replacement, and then 20 such contracts to Alston's successor, Tom Lasorda.

Dressen immediately signs to manage the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League. He had previously been one of Casey Stengel’s coaches with Oakland. He would later manage the Washington Senators and the Detroit Tigers, and died as the Tigers' manager in 1966.

October 14, 1964: On the very day that future Yankee manager Joe Girardi is born, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle hit HRs on back-to-back pitches from Curt Simmons‚ and Joe Pepitone belts Gordie Richardson for a grand slam. New York wins 8-3 at St. Louis, and sends the World Series to a deciding Game 7. With all the home runs that Mickey and Roger hit, this is the only time they hit back-to-back homers in a postseason game.

Also on this day, Jim Rome was born. But any man whose 2 favorite athletes of all time are Manny Ramirez and Rickey Henderson – in that order – gets no respect from me.

October 14, 1965: The Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series, coming back from a 2-games-to-0 deficit in which Don Drysdale lost Game 1 and Sandy Koufax lost Game 2. But Claude Osteen won Game 3, Drysdale Game 4, and Koufax Game 5. Now, working on two days rest‚ and throwing only fastballs so that his great curveball doesn't hurt his aching elbow as much as it hurts the Minnesota batters, Koufax pitches a 3-hitter and blanks the Twins, 2-0.

This is the Dodgers' 4th World Championship, their 3rd since moving to Los Angeles, and their 2nd in 3 years. In each of the last 2, Koufax was named Series MVP.

October 14, 1967: Pat Kelly is born. He played second base for the Yankees from 1991 to 1997. In 1995, his home run brought the Yanks back from behind to win a key game against the Blue Jays in Toronto, and enabled them to clinch the first-ever American League Wild Card. He was a member of the Yankees' 1996 World Championship team. He is not to be confused with two other Pat Kellys who have played Major League Baseball, an outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles on their 1979 Pennant team, and a catcher who had a cup of coffee with the Blue Jays in 1980.

October 14, 1968: American sprinter Jim Hines becomes the 1st man ever to break the 10-second barrier in a 100-meter race, at the Olympic final in Mexico City. His time is 9.95 seconds. This will stand as a world record for 15 years.

Also on this day, Matt Le Tissier is born on Guernsey, in the Channel Islands – closer to France than to England, and ethnically French, but a citizen of England and the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The midfielder for English soccer club Southampton, the greatest player in the club's history, was 48-for-49 on penalty kicks in his career, and is often regarded as the greatest player ever at that task.

October 14, 1969: The Mets continue their "Miracle," winning Game 3 of the World Series, 5-0 over the Baltimore Orioles. Ed Kranepool, the last remaining Met from their original, pathetic 1962 squad, hits a home run. So does Tommie Agee, who makes 2 sensational running catches in center field.

*

October 14, 1972: Oakland Athletics catcher Gene Tenace becomes the 1st player ever to homer in each of his 1st 2 World Series at bats‚ leading the A's to a 3-2 opening-game win over the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. This is the first postseason game for the A’s franchise since Game 7 of the 1931 World Series, when the A’s were still in Philadelphia (though that game was played in St. Louis).

October 14, 1973: The Mets win Game 2 of the World Series‚ 10-7‚ scoring 4 runs in an 11th inning featuring what turns out to be the last major league hit by Willie Mays, and 2 errors by Oakland A’s second baseman Mike Andrews.

Andrews, who'd previously played for the Boston Red Sox in their 1967 "Impossible Dream" Pennant season, is subsequently put on the "disabled list" by an enraged A's owner Finley, triggering the baseball equivalent of a constitutional crisis, just as the one started by the Watergate scandal is reaching a new peak.

October 14, 1975: In a game featuring 6 home runs‚ 3 by each team‚ Game 3 of the World Series is won by the Cincinnati Reds, 6-5 in the 10th inning. The inning is marked by a controversial play involving Cincinnati's Ed Armbrister and Boston's Carlton Fisk: Armbrister lays down a sacrifice bunt, and seemingly hesitates breaking out of the batter's box; Fisk's subsequent throwing error leads to the Reds' winning run. The Sox scream for an interference call from umpire Larry Barnett‚ but to no avail.

Tony Kubek, former Yankee shortstop and now one of the NBC broadcasters, says on the air that Barnett blew the call. Barnett ends up getting thousands of angry letters, some of them death threats, nearly all of them from the New England States.

I've seen the film: Maybe this is just the Yankee Fan in me, used to hating the Red Sox, making the judgment, but I can’t say for sure that Armbrister intentionally interfered with Fisk.

The Armbrister play happened 36 years ago, but Red Sox fans still complain about it. It was even mentioned in the U.S. version of the movie Fever Pitch. Finally having won 2 World Series has done nothing to diminish Sox fans' feelings about it. They still think that, if interference had been called on Armbrister, they would have won the Series.

I guess it never occurred to them that, Curse of the Bambino or no, the game was still tied when it happened, and, considering everything that's gone wrong with their favorite team, they could have lost the game later in another shocking way. It also hasn't occurred to them that, instead of blaming Armbrister or Barnett, they should blame their own players for blowing leads in Games 2, 5 and 7, any one of which would have resulted in their World Series drought ending at 57 years… and the next one ending at 29 years. But then, these are Red Sox fans. It's been a long time since I gave up on expecting them to be rational.

October 14, 1977: The Yankees win Game 3 of the World Series, defeating the Dodgers, 5-3 at Dodger Stadium. Mike Torrez is the winning pitcher, and Mickey Rivers collects 3 hits‚ including 2 doubles.

Also on this day, Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby dies at age 74. How good a golfer the legendary singer and actor known as "Der Bingle" was is open to debate, but he did sponsor the Bing Crosby Open tournament.

Golf isn't a real sport? I agree. Okay, for a while, he was a part-owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, while his frequent movie costar and golfing buddy Bob Hope was a part-owner of the next-closest big-league team, the Cleveland Indians. Fortunately for them, the two teams are in different leagues, so the nasty Pittsburgh-Cleveland football rivalry did not spill over into baseball.

October 14, 1978: It's Game 4 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees trail the Dodgers, 3-1 with one out in the bottom of the 6th. The Dodgers are 11 outs away from taking a 3-games-to-1 lead in the Series. But Reggie Jackson singles home a run, and Thurman Munson takes 2nd on the play. Then Lou Piniella comes to bat. Sweet Lou hits a low line drive toward shortstop Bill Russell.

It's important to remember that this ball was very low. If it had been any higher, the umpires would probably have invoked the infield-fly rule, which would automatically have declared the batter, Piniella, out with the 2nd out, and forced Munson to stay at 2nd and Jackson at 1st. But there was no time for the IFR to be called, and Russell... dropped the ball. Thurman sees this and heads for 3rd. Russell steps on 2nd to force Reggie, who’s stuck just off of 1st, seemingly frozen. Russell throws to 1st, and...

And the ball hits Reggie on the leg and caroms away into foul territory. Lou gets to 1st safely. Thurman rounds third and scores. The Yanks now trail 3-2, with Lou on 1st.

Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda storms out of the dugout, and furiously argues with the umpires’ crew chief, AL ump Marty Springstead, that Lou should be called out due to Reggie's "intentional interference." Springstead decided he could not determine Reggie's intent, and let the result of the play stand. Lasorda would later say he was impressed with Reggie's presence of mind to attempt the "tactic," but he still thought it was an illegal play.

The Yankees tie the game in the 8th when Thurman doubles home Paul Blair. The score remains tied until the bottom of the 10th, when Lou singles home Roy White with the winning run, tying the Series at 2 games apiece.

This game still ticks off Dodger fans, but since when do I give a damn what they think? They're rooting for a team that belongs in Brooklyn.

Also on this day, Ryan Church is born. The right fielder played for the Montreal Expos when they moved to become the Washington Nationals, and was traded to the Mets in the trade in which the Mets gave up on Lastings Milledge. He suffered 2 nasty concussions in 2008, and has never been the same player. He did not play this past season and is currently a free agent.

Also on this day, Javon Walker is born. The receiver reached the Pro Bowl with the Green Bay Packers in 2004, but did not play in 2010 after being cut by the Minnesota Vikings, and is now a free agent.

Also on this day, Usher Raymond IV is born. A big Braves fan, he has a talent for cheating on the women he supposedly loves. I understand he does some singing, too. Yeah. Yeah. Okay, in all fairness, he did a fantastic job playing a young Marvin Gaye in the 1960s-themed TV series American Dreams, singing "Can I Get a Witness."

October 14, 1983: Jim Palmer pitches 2 innings of scoreless relief and gets win as the Baltimore Orioles beat the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3 of the World Series, 3-2. The future Hall-of-Famer becomes the only pitcher in baseball history to win a World Series game in the 3 different decades.

October 14, 1984: The Detroit Tigers beat the San Diego Padres, 8-4, and win their 4th World Series, their 1st in 16 years, in 5 games. Series MVP Kirk Gibson blasts 2 upper-deck home runs at Tiger Stadium, including a 3-run shot off Goose Gossage in the 8th inning. Tiger fans riot all over the city‚ another black eye for their beleaguered hometown. The Tigers have not won another Series in the quarter of a century since.

October 14, 1985: Ozzie Smith homers off Tom Niedenfuer with one out in the bottom of the 9th to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead in the NLCS. It is the switch-hitting Smith's first big-league home run while batting lefthanded. Cardinal broadcaster Jack Buck tells the fans, "Go crazy, fans, go crazy!" They do, although they don't riot or storm the field. They know the Cards still have to win 1 of the last 2 games in Los Angeles.

October 14, 1986, 25 years ago: Breaking out of a 1-for-21 slump‚ Mets catcher Gary Carter drives in the winning run of the Mets' 2-1 win over the Houston Astros in the bottom of the 12th‚ rendering meaningless Nolan Ryan's 9 innings of 2-hit‚ 12-strikeout pitching. The Mets still have to win 1 of the last 2 games in Houston.

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October 14, 1992: For the 1st time ever, a team from outside the United States of America wins a Major League Baseball Pennant. The Toronto Blue Jays win the ALCS in 5 games with a 9-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. Joe Carter and Candy Maldonado both homer, while Juan Guzman gets the win.

The NL Pennant is also won today, in Game 7. With the Altanta Braves down 2-0 to Doug Drabek of the Pittsburgh Pirates entering the 9th‚ the decisive blow comes with 2 outs‚ as seldom-used 3rd-string C Francisco Cabrera drives in the tying and winning runs with a pinch-hit single. The scene of ex-Pirate Sid Bream, ridiculed as the slowest man in baseball, somehow reaching home plate before the tag of Pirate catcher Mike LaValliere, is one of the signature plays in the Braves’ postseason years of 1991 to 2005. John Smoltz‚ who works 6 strong innings without a decision‚ is named the series MVP.

To this day, 19 years later, not only have the Pirates never played another postseason game, but they have never even had another winning season. An entire generation of Western Pennsylvanians has been born and reached adulthood without ever having had a Pennant race in their lifetime.

October 14, 1997: The Florida Marlins win their 1st Pennant by defeating the Braves‚ 7-4‚ and winning the NLCS‚ 4 games to 2. Kevin Brown goes the distance for the clincher‚ while Bobby Bonilla gets 3 RBIs to lead Florida.

October 14, 2000: The Yankees whitewash the Seattle Mariners‚ 5-0‚ behind Roger Clemens' 1-hit shutout. Clemens fans 15 Mariners as the Yanks take a commanding 3-games-to-1 lead over Seattle. The Yankees score their runs on a 3-run homer by Derek Jeter and a 2-run blast by David Justice.

Al Martin's double off the glove of Tino Martinez in the 7th inning is the Mariners' only hit. Had Tino been just 2 inches higher, Clemens would have had the 2nd no-hitter in postseason history. Alas, a no-hitter is an accomplishment that will elude Clemens.

October 14, 2001: The Yankee bats finally come alive as the defeat the A's, 9-2 at the Oakland Coliseum‚ to even their ALDS at 2 games apiece. Orlando Hernandez gets the victory as he improves his postseason mark to 9-1. Bernie Williams drives home 5 runs to lead the Yankees. A's outfielder Jermaine Dye fractures his leg when he fouls a ball off his left shin. He will miss the rest of the postseason and the start of spring training next year.

October 14, 2002: The Giants beat the Cardinals‚ 2-1‚ to take the NLCS and move on to the World Series against Anaheim. Kenny Lofton's base hit in the bottom of the 9th scores David Bell with the winning run.

October 14, 2003: David Wells hurls the Yankees to a 4-2 win over the Red Sox and a 3-games-to-2 lead in the ALCS. Karim Garcia, victim of a Pedro Martinez fastball off his back in Game 3, delivers the key hit with a 2-run single in the 3rd.

But despite the implications of a Yankees-Red Sox postseason game, and everything that happened in Game 3 of that series, today's action at Fenway Park pales in comparison to what happens at Major League Baseball's other surviving pre-World War I ballpark. Leading 3-0 with 1 out in the 8th inning‚ and ace Mark Prior on the mound, the Chicago Cubs are just 5 outs away from their first Pennant in 58 years. By advancing to the NLCS, they had already won a postseason series for the 1st time in 95 years. Wrigley Field, and the surrounding streets, are jammed with people anticipating the Cubs' 1st Pennant since 1945.

But Marlins' 2nd baseman Luis Castillo – Met fans will recognize that name from his 2009 miscue against the Yankees – hits a fly ball down the left-field line. Cub left fielder Moises Alou – another name Met fans will go on to remember with regret – reaches for the ball at the fence, but he can't get it. A Cub fan named Steve Bartman reaches for it, and knocks it away. Despite interference appeals from the Cubs, umpire Mike Everitt rules there was none, that Bartman had not reached out into the field of play, and thus was entitled to try to catch the ball every bit as much as Alou was.

Castillo, with his at-bat extended, draws a walk. Iván Rodríguez singles, to make it 3-1 Cubs. Miguel Cabrera hits a ground ball to to Cub shortstop Alex Gonzalez – the Marlins had a shortstop of the same name – and he bobbles the ball. He could have turned a double play to end the inning and preserve the Cubs' lead. Instead, all runners were safe and the bases were loaded. Derrek Lee doubles, tying the score and chasing Prior from the game.

The new Cub pitcher is... Kyle Farnsworth! Oh no! Foreshadowing his later Yankee screwups, he delivers an intentional walk to load the bases and set up a force play. But he gives up a sacrifice fly that scores Cabrera with the go-ahead run. He repeats the set-up-the-DP intentional walk, and then gives up a double to Mike Mordecai that clears the bases and makes it 7-3. The Marlins score another run for the final score of 8-3, and tie up the series.

Bartman had to be led away from the park under security escort for his own safety as Cubs fans shouted profanities towards him, and others threw debris onto the field and towards the exit tunnel from the field. News footage of the game showed him surrounded by security as passersby pelted him with drinks and other debris. Bartman's name, as well as personal information about him, appeared on Major League Baseball's online message boards minutes after the game ended. As many as six police cars gathered outside of his home to protect Bartman and his family following the incident.

Afterwards, then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich suggested that Bartman join a witness protection program, while then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush offered Bartman asylum. For once, Jeb Bush was a better man than a Democrat; but, of course, living on Fisher Island, 15 miles from Joe Robbie Stadium, his gesture could be seen as a rather snarky one.

Shortly after the incident, Bartman released a statement, saying he was "truly sorry." He added, "I had my eyes glued on the approaching ball the entire time and was so caught up in the moment that I did not even see Moisés Alou much less that he may have had a play." His family changed their phone number to avoid harassing phone calls. He requested that any gifts sent to him by Florida Marlins fans be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Prior and former Cubs pitcher turned broadcaster Rick Sutcliffe spoke out in defense of Bartman. Even Jay Mariotti, the (then) Chicago Sun-Times columnist and panelist on ESPN's Around the Horn, who seems to revel in the miseries of his favorite team, defended Bartman. But Michael Wilbon, columnist for the Washington Post and co-host of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, a Chicago native and a huge Cub fan, has repeatedly said that he refuses to forgive Bartman. I'm waiting for someone to do a Chris Crocker-style video and say, "Leave Bartman alone!"

October 14, 2006: Magglio Ordonez hits a walkoff 3-run homer with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, to give the Detroit Tigers a 6-3 win over the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park, a sweep of the ALCS, and their first Pennant in 22 years.

Despite having had such heavy hitters as Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, Harry Heilmann, Goose Goslin, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Rudy York, Al Kaline, Norm Cash, Rocky Colavito, Willie Horton, Kirk Gibson, Lance Parrish and Cecil Fielder, this is the 1st postseason walkoff homer in the Tigers’ 106-year history. It remains the only one in their now 109-year history.

1 comment:

capt paul said...

Should also be noted that Bill White was at the Yankees radio mic for the Chambliss HR, and according to his book Uppity, got into a little trouble with Steinbrenner by adding "I think" to "The Yankees win the game", as he was not sure if the HR counted with Chambliss not touching the plate...I can only imagine how John Sterling (who at the time hosted a sports talk show on Yankees flagship WMCA and serving as the play by play voice for Long Island's NHL and NBA teams) would have called it...