October 28, 1981, 30 years ago today: A dark day in my life, as the L.A. Bums finally beat the Yankees in the World Series, after 2 failed attempts in 1977 and ’78. Pedro Guerrero drives in 5 runs, and Burt Hooton and the Dodgers beat the Yankees 9-2 to win the World Series in 6 games. In a remarkable postseason‚ the Dodgers came from behind to win 3 series (down 2-0 to Houston and 2-1 to Montreal in the best-of-5 series).
Guerrero‚ Ron Cey‚ and Steve Yeager (2 home runs) are named co-MVPs‚ while Dave Winfield and relief pitcher George Frazier are the goats for New York. Winfield was just 1-for-21‚ while Frazier tied a Series record by losing 3 games. The record was set by the White Sox Lefty Williams in 1919‚ but Williams‚ one of the 8 "Black Sox‚" was losing on purpose.
The long-term effects on the Yankees were as follows:
* This was the last game that Reggie Jackson ever played for the Yankees, and George Steinbrenner refused to exercise the option for a 6th year on his contract, and Reggie happily accepted an offer from Gene Autry to return to the West Coast and play for the Angels.
* Winfield’s performance contrasted so much with Reggie’s Mr. October persona that George eventually nicknamed him Mr. May, never gave him the respect he deserved, and ended up chasing Dave out of town – coincidentally, also to the Angels, although Reggie was retired by that point – and getting himself in trouble with how he did it.
* George went through various experiments in managers and styles of play (booming bats one year, speed the next, and so on) to get the Yankees back on top, but they wouldn’t reach the World Series again for 15 years, giving the new ownership of the Mets the chance to become from 1984 to 1992 what they have not been since ’92, New York’s first team.
Blowing that lead, to the evil O'Malley Bums and their fat hypocritical slob of a manager, losing the Series at home, and when I was just 11 going on 12...
More than any other Yankee defeat, including this year's, 2001, 1995, the regular-season close call of 1985, even the disaster of 2004, this one sticks in my craw.
And, unlike with the 2004 Red Sox, I can't even rationalize it away by saying the Dodgers cheated!
That I know of.
Also on this day, Nate McLouth is born. In 2008, the center fielder for the Atlanta Braves was named to the All-Star Team and won a Gold Glove.
October 28, 1882: The Philadelphia Athletics reveal that, in the first season of the American Association, they reaped a $22‚000 profit‚ more than any National League team earned. This helps convince the NL that the AA is a viable league. However, within 10 years, both the league and this version of the Philadelphia Athletics will be gone anyway. But within 12 years of that, the AA name and the A’s name will be revived (but not in the same league).
October 28, 1904: After a 4th-place finish‚ the Cleveland Blues release Bill Armour and name Nap Lajoie manager. Armour takes over the Tigers‚ where Ed Barrow and Bobby Lowe split the season‚ as Detroit falls to 7th. But with their star second baseman, one of the game’s best hitters, as manager, the Cleveland team – now nicknamed the Naps for him – becomes a contender. After he leaves in 1914, they will jump on a bandwagon, seeing the team called the Braves as World Champions, and rename themselves the Cleveland Indians.
October 13, 1913: In the only time the two greatest pitchers of their time face each other‚ Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson square off at South Main Park in Tulsa‚ Oklahoma. Johnson‚ backed by the Chicago White Sox‚ wins the battle‚ 6-0‚ pitching the distance‚ while Matty exits after 4 innings. Johnson strikes out 8. Tris Speaker and Buck Weaver do the hitting for the Sox‚ while Oklahoma native, Sac and Fox Indian and fan favorite Jim Thorpe has 2 hits off Johnson. The game is delayed for nearly 2 hours when the stands collapse‚ injuring 52 people and killing a soldier. Governor R.L. Williams of Oklahoma narrowly escapes injury in the tragedy.
October 28, 1922: Butch van Breda Kolff is born. The Montclair, New Jersey native was an original member of the New York Knicks, playing from 1946 to 1950. He coached Princeton University to the first Final Four appearance of any New Jersey school, in 1965 with future Knick star and Senator Bill Bradley. But he’s best remembered as the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1969, who saw Wilt Chamberlain come out for an injury with 5 minutes left in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, then ask to go back in with 2 minutes left. VBK refused to let him back in, and the Lakers lost Game 7 and the World Championship to the Boston Celtics by 2 points.
He was fired soon thereafter by Laker owner Jack Kent Cooke (who later owned the Washington Redskins), and spent the rest of his career in the college ranks before dying in 2007. His son Jan van Breda Kolff was Southeastern Conference Player of the Year with Vanderbilt in 1974, played for the Nets in both New York and New Jersey, and was also a college coach, including at his alma mater.
October 28, 1926: Bowie Kuhn is born. He was Commissioner of Baseball from 1969 to 1984 – though he often seemed like a puppet to Dodger owners Walter and later Peter O’Malley. He frequently acted, in his own words, “to preserve the integrity of the game,” but all too often he seemed more like the lawyer he was than the fan he should have been. He was prudish, moralistic, unimaginative, and a tool of the owners. That he, and not the leader of the players’ union, Marvin Miller, is now in the Hall of Fame is deeply disturbing – but not all that surprising. Like Butch van Breda Kolff, he died in 2007.
October 28, 1937: Lenny Wilkens is born. One of New York’s greatest basketball legends, he starred for Brooklyn’s Boys High, where he was a basketball teammate of future baseball star Tommy Davis, before moving up to New England (Seriously, Lenny?) to play for Providence College. He played for the St. Louis Hawks in the now-Atlanta franchise’s last NBA Finals appearance in 1961, and starred for the early Seattle SuperSonics before coaching the franchise to its only NBA Title in 1979. He was a 9-time All-Star, and at his retirement had more assists than any player except Oscar Robertson.
He’s also coached the Hawks, his hometown Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors, first coaching while still a player with the Sonics in 1969 and last (for now?) with the Knicks in 2005. He was the first NBA coach to win 1,000 games – and the first to lose 1,000. His totals of 1,332 wins and 1,155 losses are both records. He coached the U.S. team to the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal.
One of the oddities of his career is that the Hawks traded him immediately before moving to Atlanta, and he resigned his executive’s position with the Sonics as they moved to become the Oklahoma City Thunder. Providence retired his Number 14, and the Sonics retired his Number 19, in each case the first on the team to be so honored. Along with John Wooden and Bill Sharman he is one of just 3 people elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame as player and elected again a coach. But he tops them both, and everyone else, in a manner of speaking by having been named, as part of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, as one of its 50 Greatest Players and one of its 10 Greatest Coaches, the only man to receive both honors.
October 28, 1944: Dennis Franz is born. Best known as Detective Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue, he previously starred in the original Chicago production of Bleacher Bums, a play about Cub fans, of which he is one. You wanna make somethin’ of it?
October 28, 1946: Wim Jansen is born. The midfielder played most of his soccer career with his hometown club, Feyenoord Rotterdam. In 1970, he helped them to become the first Dutch team to win the European Cup, immediately preceding the 3 straight wins by their arch-rivals, Ajax Amsterdam.
October 28, 1949: Bruce Jenner is born. He won the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, becoming an international hero and the man on the Wheaties cereal box. But these days, he’s best known as the weird, desperately trying to hang onto his youth husband of Kris Jenner and the stepfather of Kim, Kourteney and Khloe Kardashian.
October 28, 1953: Fed up with the meddling of Brooklyn Dodger owner Walter O’Malley, Red Barber leaves the Dodgers’ broadcast booth, and signs with the crosstown Yankees. During his time in Brooklyn, O’Malley chased off Branch Rickey in 1950, Red Barber in 1953, and Jackie Robinson in 1956. And he shortchanged his players in contract negotiations. In other words, he was already a dirty bastard, and would have remained one even if he had kept the Dodgers in Brooklyn as God intended it.
October 28, 1954: Despite a last-minute plea by 92-year-old Connie Mack‚ now owner of the Philadelphia Athletics in name only, the MLB owners vote down the sale of the Athletics to a Philadelphia syndicate. The A's‚ plagued by debt - even their 1954 team uniforms have not been paid for - have little choice as the Philadelphia group‚ in Mrs. Mack's words, "dilly-dallied." A week later‚ trucking executive Arnold Johnson buys a controlling interest in the Athletics from the Mack family for $3.5 million, and moves the team to Kansas City.
October 28, 1957: Singer Bing Crosby sells his shares of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even he couldn’t stand all the losing anymore. In the 1951 film Road to Bali, Dorothy Lamour asked him, “Do they still have pirates in America?” He said, “Yes, but they’re in the basement.” Strangely, the Pirates start to get a lot better after Der Bingle sells them. But the Cleveland Indians didn’t get any better after his pal Bob Hope sold his shares in them.
October 28, 1961, 50 years ago today: Ground is broken for Flushing Meadow Park, the stadium that will later bear the name of the attorney, activist and baseball fan who made it possible, William A. Shea.
October 28, 1963: James Miller is born. He was a parachutist and paraglider pilot from Henderson, Nevada, known for his outrageous appearances at various sporting events. His most famous appearance was the November 6, 1993 boxing match between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip near Las Vegas, Nevada. He used his powered paraglider to fly into the arena, eventually crashing into the ring. The fan on the device got him nicknamed Fan Man. "It was a heavyweight fight," Miller would joke later, "and I was the only guy who got knocked out." Heart disease and mounting medical bills led him to commit suicide in 2002, and the age of 29.
October 28, 1966: Steve Atwater is born. The safety bridged the eras of Denver Bronco glory, playing for them in Super Bowl XXIV before appearing on the winning side in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII, retiring after the latter. His 1990 tackle of Christian Okoye, the Kansas City Chiefs’ huge fullback known as the Nigerian Nightmare, is regarded as one of the greatest hits in NFL history. He is a member of the Broncos’ Ring of Honor, but he has not yet received his rightful induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Also on this day, Andy Richter is born. He was the sidekick for Conan O’Brien when he took over as host of NBC’s Late Night, and is back with Conan as the announcer for TBS' Conan. In between, he starred in the Fox sitcoms Andy Richter Controls the Universe (in which he, well, didn’t) and Quintuplets (in which he was the father of the eponymous teenagers).
October 28, 1972: Terrell Davis is born. One in a long line of star running backs at the University of Georgia, in Super Bowl XXXII he fought a blinding headache to become the only player (through SB XLIII) to score 3 touchdowns in a Super Bowl, leading the Denver Broncos to victory. He also starred in the Broncos’ victory the next year in Super Bowl XXXIII. A knee injury cut his career short, and, like Atwater, he is in the Broncos’ Ring of Honor but not yet the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
One of my favorite sports oddities is that, in calendar year 1998, the football season ended with the Broncos winning the Super Bowl, and the baseball season ended with the Yankees winning the World Series, and since the Super Bowl is always held at a neutral site, and the Yankees beat the Padres, both contests ended at Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, and each had a San Diego native who was key to the victory: The Broncos had Davis, and the Yankees had David Wells (although Wells’ lone appearance in the Series was in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium; the Yanks swept, and had it gone to a Game 5 Wells was scheduled to start in San Diego). “The Murph” is the only stadium ever to host a Super Bowl and the clinching game of a World Series in the same calendar year. The Los Angeles Coliseum, the Metrodome and the Dolphins’ current stadium have hosted both, but not in the same calendar year.
Also on this day, Brad Paisley is born. The country singer, married to actress Kimberly Williams, had one of those songs that you figure has to got to be a parody, but it was all real: “Alcohol.”
October 28, 1974: Braden Looper is born. Now retired, the reliever won World Series with the Florida Marlins in 2003 and the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. In between those titles, he pitched for the Mets. He was considerably less successful with them.
Also on this day, Joaquin Phoenix is born. A member of the Phoenix acting family, he is best known for having played Emperor Commodus in Gladiator and Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. Or he was, before growing a beard and becoming a rapper, leading to him becoming an object of ridicule.
Also on this day, Dayanara Torres is born. The Puerto Rican was Miss Universe in 1993, but is best known for her marriage to singer Marc Anthony, who cheated on her interminably, and, while she was pregnant, left her for Jennifer Lopez. Look, I love J-Lo, too, but I wouldn’t leave a woman who looks like Dayanara for anyone. Not even if Catherine Zeta-Jones came up to me wearing an Obama campaign button on a Yankee cap, and nothing else.
October 28, 1975: I underwent surgery at the Hospital for Joint Diseases, then located at 123rd Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan’s Spanish Harlem, to correct a problem in my legs that made walking difficult. The surgery was successful, to an extent, although I still have pain in my legs that sometimes makes walking a chore.
My two weeks in that hospital are a blur, as I was almost 6, but what I do remember is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Those two weeks included the “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD” headline and the Rangers’ trade of Eddie Giacomin and his well-received return to The Garden, but I don’t remember those things happening at the time. Nor do I remember, the week before, the 1975 World Series including Carlton Fisk's "Fenway Twist."
Also on this day, Georges Carpentier dies. A hero who helped to save France from the invading Imperial Germans in World War I, he was light heavyweight champion of the world, and challenged Jack Dempsey for the heavyweight title, at a huge, 90,000-seat temporary stadium in Jersey City called “Boyle’s Thirty Acres.” Dempsey knocked him out.
October 28, 1979: George Steinbrenner officially fires Billy Martin for the second time, following his barroom brawl with a man described as a “marshmallow salesman.” (It always sounded ridiculous. Was this a guy walking around yelling, like a ballpark vendor? “Marshmallows! Get yer marshmallows here!” He was probably a businessman who simply negotiated contracts to sell something in bulk, and it just happened to be marshmallows.)
Also on this day, Martin Skoula is born. The Czech defenseman won a Stanley Cup with the 2001 Colorado Avalanche, and is now playing in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.
October 28, 1980: Alan Smith is born. The midfielder is the Captain of Newcastle United, and is not to be confused with Alan “Smudger” Smith, the former striker for Arsenal and now TV soccer pundit, who was an Arsenal teammate of David O’Leary, who was this Alan Smith’s first manager, at Leeds United. In between Leeds and Newcastle, each of which was relegated while he played for them, this Alan Smith played for Manchester United in their Premier League Championship season of 2007.
October 28, 1982: Jeremy Bonderman is born. His first season in the majors, at age 20, was with the 2003 Detroit Tigers, a horrible team, and he was 6-19 before being benched for the final week of the season, in order to avoid becoming the first pitcher since Brian Kingman of the ’80 A’s – but this same courtesy was not extended to his Tiger teammate, Mike Maroth, who went 9-21. But while Maroth dealt with injury issues that kept him off the 2006 postseason roster, Bonderman bounced back, helping the Tigers win the American League Pennant. But he was injured for nearly all of the 2008 and 2009 seasons, and while he did pitch for the Tigers in 2010, he missed all of 2011, and it is unclear whether he will be an effective, pain-free pitcher again.
October 28, 1983: Jarrett Jack is born. The guard helped get Georgia Tech into the 2004 National Championship game, and now plays for the New Orleans Hornets.
October 28, 1984: Obafemi Martins is born. The striker played for Internazionale Milan in their 2006 “Double” season, and starred for Newcastle United, and now plays for Russian team Rubin Kazan.
October 28, 1989: The Oakland Athletics take an 8-0 lead, and beat the San Francisco Giants 9-6 at Candlestick Park, to complete a 4-game sweep of the Bay Bridge World Series‚ the first Series sweep since 1976. Oakland native Dave Stewart‚ who won Games 1 and 3‚ is named MVP. However, with the Loma Prieta Earthquake only 11 days prior, it may be the most subdued World Series celebration ever.
October 28, 1995: In a pitcher's duel‚ the Braves win Game 6 of the Series‚ 1-0‚ on a combined 1-hitter by Tom Glavine and Mark Wohlers. David Justice's 6th-inning homer accounts for the game's only run. In winning‚ the Braves become the 1st team to win World Championships representing three different cities: Boston in 1914‚ Milwaukee in 1957‚ and Atlanta in 1995. Catcher Tony Pena's leadoff single in the 6th is Cleveland's only hit. The Indians, who led the majors in homers and runs scored‚ bat just .179‚ the lowest average for a six-games series since 1911.
October 28, 2000: Andujar Cedeno dies in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic. He was 31, and the shortstop had been playing in the Dominican league. Previously, he had played in the majors, including for the Houston Astros, who previously had pitcher Joaquin Andujar and center fielder Cesar Cedeno – both with nasty tempers, unlike Andujar Cedeno, but also considerably more talented.
October 28, 2001, 10 years ago today: The Arizona Diamondbacks jump out to a 2-0 Series lead on the Yankees, as Randy Johnson hurls a 3-hit shutout. Matt Williams hits a 3-run homer for the Diamondbacks. Andy Pettitte takes the loss for New York.
Also on this day, Commissioner Bud Selig says it is possible that two major league teams could be eliminated by the start of next season. The Montreal Expos‚ Florida Marlins‚ Minnesota Twins‚ and Tampa Bay Devil Rays are the teams mentioned as most likely to be eliminated.
The ensuing furor results in a 2002 collective bargaining agreement that leaves all 30 current teams in place, although the Expos will be moved to Washington after the 2004 season. They've never been any good since, but... the Marlins won the 2003 World Series, the Rays won the 2008 AL Pennant, and the Twins have won 6 AL Central titles. Looks like Bud was looking at the wrong teams.
October 28, 2002: The Mets name former Houston Astros second baseman, and former Oakland Athletics manager, Art Howe as their new skipper. Howe had just led the A’s to their 3rd straight Playoff berth. His tenure in Flushing will be significantly less successful.
October 28, 2005: Bob Broeg dies at age 87. The longtime baseball writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was elected to the sportswriters’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and later sat on its board of directors and on its Veterans’ Committee. Hearing Brooklyn Dodger fans, with their 1940s rivalry with the Cardinals, say of Stan Musial, noted for hitting the Dodgers hard, “Uh-oh, dat man is back in town,” he started calling him “Stan the Man” in his columns, and the name stuck. I’d like to know who gave 1970s Baltimore Oriole pitcher Don Stanhouse the oh-so-appropriate nickname “Stan the Man Unusual.”
October 28, 2006: Arnold Jacob Auerbach dies at age 89, and finds out that, in heaven, you can eat all the Chinese food you want, and not have to worry about calories, cholesterol, or monosodium glutamate. As the leading figure in the history of professional basketball, he rarely had to worry about the other MSG, Madison Square Garden.
A native of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, “Red” Auerbach starred in basketball at Eastern District High School, before moving on to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., later coaching in that city at the high school, college and professional levels, taking the Washington Capitols to the NBA Finals in 1949. When they didn’t reach the Finals the next season, owner Mike Uline fired him. Within another year, the Caps folded, and the NBA would not return to the D.C. area until 1973.
Auerbach, of course, would go on to become the head coach, general manager, and eventually president of the Boston Celtics, leading them to 9 NBA Championships as coach and 16 while he was involved with them. While still running the team, in 1985, a statue of him, on a bench, with a basketball by his side and a trademark “victory cigar” in his hand, was dedicated at Boston’s Quincy Market. The accompanying plaque says he won 15 Championships. The 16th came a year later. Rubbing the statue’s bald head is said to be good luck. I have a picture of the statue wearing one of my Yankee caps. I’m a wiseass, but then, so was Red.
When Celtics founder Walter Brown died, leaving Red in charge of the franchise, Red ordered the Number 1 retired for Brown. At the time of the statue’s dedication, the Celtics held an old-timers’ game, with Red coaching a team in green Celtic road jerseys and his star pupil and successor as head coach Bill Russell coaching a team in white Celtic home jerseys – Red’s team won of course – and the Number 2 was retired for Red, even though, like Brown, he never played for the team.
Also on this day, Trevor Berbick is killed. The Jamaican boxer, the last man to fight Muhammad Ali, knocked out Pinklon Thomas to win the WBC version of the heavyweight title in 1986, but lost it later that year when Mike Tyson knocked him out. Brain damage from boxing left him impaired, and though he became a minister, he was murdered in his church in Kingston, Jamaica, by his own nephew and an accomplice. He was just 51.
October 28, 2007: The Boston Red Sox hold off a late comeback by the Colorado Rockies, and win Game 4, 4-3, to sweep the World Series. After 86 years of never winning a Series, the Sox now have 2 in the last 4 years, 7 total. When Boston Globe columnist, now WEEI radio show host, Michael Holley writes a book about this group of Red Sox, and titles it Red Sox Rule, many people fume over the the wording, but, for now, few can put up much of a complaint about its essential truth.
Also on this day, sports agent Scott Boras announces that his client, Alex Rodriguez, has exercised the opt-out clause in his contract with the Yankees, and will become a free agent. Both A-Rod and Bore-Ass are criticized as classless for making the announcement during a World Series game -- the deadline was not for another few days -- and for looking like a couple of greedy bastards who didn't give a damn about the player's team.
My, how perceptions can change in a couple of years: Now we know that A-Rod, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez all cheated with steroids, but it didn't do A-Rod any good; and now that they've all stopped (or so they say), A-Rod is a hero again, while the Red Sox have jettisoned Manny, and Big Papi is but a shadow of his former fat but winning self.
Also on this day, Porter Wagoner dies. The country singer known as “Mr. Grand Ole Opry,” who discovered and did many fine duets with Dolly Parton, was 80. He had the first hit version of “The Green, Green Grass of Home.” Clearly, the inventor of artificial turf wasn’t listening.