Thursday, October 6, 2011

Yankees: 75 Years As Baseball's Greatest Franchise

October 6, 1936, 75 years ago today: The New York Yankees defeat the New York Giants in Game 6 of the World Series, 13-5 at the Polo Grounds, and clinch their 5th World Championship.

At this point, the following teams have won 5 World Series: The Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, and the Philadelphia Athletics. (The A's wouldn't win another until 1972, by which point they were in Oakland. The Red Sox have never won another. Not without cheating, anyway.)

By beating the Giants, who have 4, the Yankees move ahead of the Giants into first place in New York, and they have never relinquished it. Now, they are tied with the Sox and A’s for first among all teams.

They have never been second again. Nor will they be.

The teams that reached the 2011 postseason: The Yankees have won 27, the St. Louis Cardinals 10 (2nd all-time and easily 1st in the NL), the Detroit Tigers 4 (last in 1984), the Philadelphia Phillies 2, the Arizona Diamondbacks 1, the Texas Rangers none (1 Pennant in 2010), the Tampa Bay Rays none (1 Pennant in 2008), and the Milwaukee Brewers none (1 Pennant in 1982).

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October 6, 1923: In a regular-season game, Ernie Padgett of the Boston Braves, in only his 2nd major-league apperance, pulls off an unassisted triple play in a doubleheader sweep of the Phillies.

October 6, 1926: Game 4 of the World Series, at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Someone got a message to Babe Ruth, asking him to hit a home run for a sick kid in a hospital.

He hit one. And another. And another. It was the first time a player had hit 3 home runs in a World Series game. The Yankees win, 10-5, and tie up the Series with the Cardinals.

The boy’s name was Johnny Sylvester. He got well, later met the Babe, and lived to be 74.

In legend, the boy was dying, and the Babe visited him in the hospital, and promised him he’d hit a home run for him, and ended up hitting 3, and, hearing the game on the radio, instantly began to get well. The truth is great enough, is Ruthian enough.

October 6, 1934: The Tigers defeat the Cardinals, 10-4 at Navin Field in Detroit (later renamed Briggs Stadium and Tiger Stadium).

Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean – or Jerome Herman “Dizzy” Dean, depending on which story Ol’ Diz liked to tell on any given day – enters the game as a pinch-runner, and is hit in the head by a throw. He is taken to a hospital, examined, and released.

He tells the press, apparently without realizing what he’s saying, “They examined my head, and they didn’t find anything.” A newspaper says the next day, “X-rays of Dean’s head show nothing.” Dean will have the last laugh, though.

October 6, 1938: The Yankees defeat the Chicago Cubs, 6-3 at Wrigley Field, and take a 2-games-to-0 lead in the World Series. Dean, now with the Cubs following an arm injury that will ultimately end his meteoric career at age 31, takes a 3-2 lead into the 8th inning, but Frank Crosetti’s homer gives the Yanks a lead they will not relinquish.

The winning pitcher is Lefty Gomez, making him 6-0 in World Series play. Although Whitey Ford with 10 and Bob Gibson with 7 will win more Series games, Gomez has the best winning percentage in Series history to this day.

October 6, 1941, 70 years ago today: The Yankees beat the Dodgers, 4-1, and win their 9th World Series, clinching in 5 games at Ebbets Field. The Brooklyn Eagle’s headline reads, “WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR.”

A catchphrase is coined. It will take another 14 years before “Next Year” arrives for Brooklyn.

This is the last Major League Baseball game before World War II, although some players, including Detroit Tiger Hall-of-Famer Hank Greenberg, are already in the U.S. armed forces. Not until April 1946 will baseball again be played without players missing due to military service.

This is also the first Yankees-Dodgers World Series. There have now been 11: Seven all-New York “Subway Series,” four Coast-to-Coast N.Y./L.A. series. There hasn’t been one in 30 years, and as long as Don Mattingly -- a.k.a. Donnie Regular Season Baseball -- is managing the Dodgers, there will never be a 12th.

October 6, 1943: Robert Cooper, father of Cardinal pitcher Mort Cooper and their catcher Walker Cooper, dies during the World Series. But the brothers play on, and in Game 2, Mort goes 1-for-3 at the bat and pitches the Cards to a 4-3 win over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He leaves for home, Independence, Missouri, after the game. The Yankees win the next three games to take the Series, at which point Walker goes home, too.

October 6, 1945: Game 4 of the World Series is held at Wrigley Field. William “Billy Goat” Sianis is the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, across from Chicago Stadium, home of the NHL’s Blackhawks and the Midwest’s premier boxing venue. He has a goat as his bar’s mascot, and he buys two tickets to this game, one for himself and one for the goat.

There is no rule against this. But fans around him complain to the ushers that the goat smells bad, and Sianis and his goat are kicked out. A Greek immigrant and a superstitious man, Sianis puts a curse on the Cubs. The Tigers win the game, 4-1, all their runs coming in the 4th inning, after Sianis and the goat are kicked out. The Tigers win the Series in 7, and afterward, Sianis sends a telegram to Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley, asking, “Who stinks now?”

In 1963, Sianis would move his bar, a precursor to today’s sports bars, to its current location on Michigan Avenue, just north of the Loop, near the Tribune Tower and the Sun-Times Building, making it a popular watering hole for journalists. He died in 1970, about a year after the Cubs’ 1969 September Swoon.

His nephew Sam Sianis now runs the place, and when William Wrigley Jr. sold the Cubs to the Tribune Company in 1981, he offered to lift the Curse of the Billy Goat. A number of times, Cub management has allowed Sam to take his bar’s current mascot onto the field in an attempt to lift the Curse. It hasn’t worked: Apparently, Billy’s curse is stronger even than his own flesh and blood. The Cubs haven’t been back to the World Series in 66 years.

Is the goat the reason? Well, let’s put it this way: In 1945, the Cubs had already not been World Champions for 37 years, and had already had a number of weird things happen to them in Series play, including a 10-run inning by the A’s in 1929, Babe Ruth’s “called shot” in 1932, and Stan Hack leading off the 9th with a triple with what would be the tying run and then getting stranded there to lose Game 6 and the Series to the Tigers in 1935. The goat curse doesn't explain that. So what’s the real reason the Cubs haven’t won the World Series in 104 years now? Your guess is as good as mine.

Left fielder Andy Pafko, later one of the Dodgers' "Boys of Summer," now 90, and shortstop Lennie Merullo, 94, are the only living men to have played for the Chicago Cubs in a World Series.

October 6, 1947: The Dodgers threaten in the top of the 9th at Yankee Stadium, but a double play clinches the 5-2 win for the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series. It is the Yankees’ 11th World Championship. The next-closest team is the just-dethroned Cardinals with 6.

This was the first World Series on television, on NBC, although it wasn’t baseball on coast-to-coast TV, that wouldn’t happen until 1951. This was also the first integrated World Series, with Jackie Robinson playing for the Dodgers.

However, it was Italians who were the major figures in the Series: Yogi Berra for hitting the first pinch-hit home run in Series history in Game 3, Cookie Lavagetto for breaking up Floyd Bevens’ no-hitter with one out to go in Game 4, Joe DiMaggio for coming through for the Yankees again with a homer in Game 5, Al Gionfriddo for robbing DiMaggio with a spectacular catch in Game 6, and Phil Rizzuto for starting the game-ending twin killing in Game 7.

An interesting note is that, while Bevens, Lavagetto and Gionfriddo were the biggest names to be featured in this Series, none of them would ever play another major league game. Yogi, Jerry Coleman, and Dodger Ralph Branca are the only surviving players from the rosters in this game, 64 years later.

October 6, 1957: Eddie Matthews becomes the first National Leaguer to hit what we would now call a “walkoff” home run in a World Series game, and the first player in either League to do it in extra innings, hitting one out of Yankee pitcher Bob Grim in the bottom of the 10th, to give the Milwaukee Braves a 7-5 win and even the World Series at 2 games apiece.

This was the Shoe Polish Game, in which Braves pinch-hitter Vernal Leroy “Nippy” Jones claimed to have been hit on the foot by a Tommy Byrne pitch, and a smudge of polish on the ball reveals him to be telling the truth, leading to a Brave run.

This would happen again, in favor of the Mets in 1969, with Cleon Jones – although they are not related, as Nippy was white and Cleon is black.

Nippy, who had been sent up to pinch-hit for Warren Spahn, was replaced by pinch-runner Felix Mantilla, who was sacrificed to second by Red Schoendienst (who, like Jones, had also played on the 1946 World Champion Cardinals), and then came Mathews’ blast.

Players from this game who are still alive, 54 years later: From the Braves, Schoendienst, Hank Aaron, Del Crandall, Johnny Logan, Felix Mantilla (also an original 1962 Met) and Frank Torre (Joe's older brother); from the Yankees: Berra, Jerry Coleman, Andy Carey, Tony Kubek, Jerry Lumpe, Bobby Shantz and Johnny Kucks -- Whitey Ford is still alive, but did not appearin this game.

October 6, 1959: A crowd of 92,706, the largest ever for a baseball game that counts, plows into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for Game 5 of the World Series. Dick Donovan shuts out the Dodgers, and Sherm Lollar grounds into a double play that forces home a run, and the White Sox win, 1-0, with Bob Shaw outdueling Sandy Koufax (not yet a star). This will remain the last World Series game won by a Chicago team for 46 years.

Players from this game who are still alive, 52 years later: From the Dodgers: Sandy Koufax, Don Zimmer, Maury Wills, Joe Pignatano, Wally Moon, Don Demeter, Ron Fairly, Chuck Essegian and Stan Williams; from the White Sox: Luis Aparicio, Jim Landis, Jim Rivera, Billy Pierce and Jim McAnany.

Also on this day, Dennis Boyd is born. The Red Sox pitcher will be nicknamed “Oil Can,” because that’s what people in his native Meridian, Mississippi called a can of beer. Despite helping them to the 1986 World Series, Boyd will be remembered for his eccentricities more than his pitching.

October 6, 1963: The Dodgers complete a 4-game sweep over the Yankees at Dodger Stadium. Sandy Koufax, who won Game 1, wins Game 4 as well. The Yankees had come into this first West Coast version of Yankees vs. Dodgers having won 104 games, but would not win another until next April.

October 6, 1965: Game 1 of the World Series at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota -- the first World Series game ever played in that State. Koufax, being Jewish, does not pitch today, because it is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. So he is pushed back to Game 2, and Don Drysdale is started. No problem, right? Big D is also a future Hall-of-Famer, right?

Not today: Don Mincher and soon-to-be AL MVP Zoilo Versalles (who hit only 2 homers in the regular season, and got the MVP for his contact hitting, speed and defense) hit home runs off Drysdale, and when manager Walter Alston comes to take him out in the 3rd inning, Drysdale says to him, “I bet you wish I was Jewish, too!”

Jim “Mudcat” Grant allows only one hit, a home run by Ron Fairly, and the Twins, in the first World Series game in their history (unless you count their Washington Senators days, in which case it’s their first in 32 years), win 8-2.

To make matters worse for the Dodgers, Koufax loses Game 2 as well. The Dodgers will come back, though, and win the Series in 7 games. The Twins will not get this close to a World Championship again for another 22 years.

October 6, 1966: Dodger outfielder Willie Davis, having trouble seeing a white baseball against the smog-gray L.A. sky, commits three errors in one inning, enabling the Baltimore Orioles to win 6-0, and take both World Series games at Dodger Stadium, and head back to Memorial Stadium with a 2-0 lead. Jim Palmer outduels Koufax, who struggles with the Oriole bats, Davis’ fielding, and the pain in his elbow.

No one knows it yet, but this is the last major league game for Koufax. He is not yet 31, Palmer is just 20. This could be called a “generational hinge” game.

On this same day, LSD is declared illegal throughout the United States.

Also on this day, Niall Quinn was born. Most Americans don’t know who he is. He is an Irish-born soccer player who was a reserve on Arsenal’s 1989 League Championship team.

He moved on to Manchester City, where he got in an altercation with teammate Steve McMahon, who had been on the other side when Arsenal beat Liverpool in the season finale that decided that League title; McMahon looked like a fool that night, signaling to his teammates that there would be just 1 minute of injury time, when there turned out to be 2, with Michael Thomas scoring the winning goal in said minute. But Quinn didn't even play in the game.

After their fight on a 1992 preseason tour in Italy, Quinn pulled off his T-shirt, stained with McMahon's blood, so he wouldn’t be denied entry into a dance club, danced his arse off (as they’d say in the British Isles), and, seen wearing only a pair of cutoff jeans by a Man City fan, heard that fan sing, to the tune of “The Stars and Stripes Forever,”...

Niall Quinn’s disco pants are the best!
They go up from his arse to his chest!
They are better than Adam and the Ants!
Niall Quinn’s disco pants!

Quinn, who has called it “the song that will follow me to the end of my career,” admits that he no longer has those pants. However, they can't possibly fail to be better than Adam and the Ants. They sucked.

Quinn finished his playing career for Sunderland, and went into management, eventually buying a part-ownership of the team and being made its chairman.

In 2006, Sunderland, then in English football’s 2nd division, were playing away at Cardiff City, along with Swansea City one of two teams from Wales in the 92-team English Football League. Sunderland won, and Quinn got on the plane that was to take him, the players, and a few fans back to Sunderland. Already, there was a problem, as Cardiff’s airport wasn’t willing to take them. They had to go 40 miles across a bay to Bristol, England. Recognized by some fans, who’d already had a few drinks that night, they started singing “Niall Quinn’s Disco Pants.” At the top of their lungs.

A few of the other passengers complained, and the pilot had 80 people thrown off the plane. The airline, EasyJet, told them they could have seats on the first plane out the next morning, but wouldn’t give them a place to spend the night. They were really in a bind.

Quinn pulled out the club checkbook – since it’s Britain, I should say “chequebook” – and hired taxis. He paid 8,000 pounds, about $15,000 at the time, to take them up Britain's M5 Motorway, from Bristol in the southwest of England to Sunderland in the northeast -- about 300 miles, or roughly the distance from New York to Portland, Maine. Or from Philadelphia to Boston.

This would have been chump change for a big club like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester United. But for Sunderland, it was a pretty penny. Sunderland fans – a.k.a. “Mackems” – have never forgotten this act of generosity, and adapted the song, including taking a pot-shot at Freddy Shepherd, then owner of their arch-rivals, Newcastle United, a.k.a. the Magpies or Mags (and since replacing him with Mike Ashley, current Newcastle owner):

Niall Quinn’s taxi cabs are the best!
So go shove it up your arse, EasyJet!
Fat Freddy/Fat Ashley would do it for the Mags!
Niall Quinn’s taxi cabs!

I don’t like Sunderland, but, using the U.K. vernacular, Niall Quinn is a top man.

October 6, 1969: The New York Mets defeat the Atlanta Braves, 7-4 at Shea Stadium, and sweep the first-ever National League Championship Series. As they did after the NL Eastern Division clincher on September 24, the Met fans storm the field.

It is the first Pennant won by a New York team in 5 years. A long time by New York standards. But for Met fans, the children of a “shotgun wedding” between two groups of fans who once hated each other, to use the late scientist and former Giant fan Stephen Jay Gould’s phrase, “with that love that only hate can understand,” it is the first Pennant in either 13 years (Dodgers) or 15 years (Giants).

After 7 bad years, 5 of them absolutely horrible, in Year 8 the Mets have won the Pennant. It is the fastest any team has reached the World Series since the early days of the competition. It will be 1980 – or 1973, if you count the Mets’ 2nd Pennant – before a team other than one of the “Original 16” reaches the World Series again.

October 6, 1978: Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. Winner takes a 2-1 lead in the series. George Brett of the Kansas City Royals hits three home runs off Catfish Hunter, the only three-homer performance in LCS play in either league – in fact, the only three-homer performance in any postseason game since Reggie Jackson in the previous season’s World Series.

But in the bottom of the 8th, with the Yankees trailing 5-4, Thurman Munson steps up against Royals reliever Doug Bird, and crushes a pitch 470 feet to left-center field. On ABC, Howard Cosell, who admired Munson a lot, laughs: “Ho-ho! The damaged man!” Goose Gossage finishes it off for Catfish, and the Yankees win, 6-5. Reggie Jackson had also homered, his 2nd of this series, after taking KC closer Al “the Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky deep in Game 1 at Royals Stadium.

This is what I love most about Munson: At the moment when the Yankees most needed him to hit a home run, the banged-up Captain hit the longest home run of his career. Appropriately, it went into Monument Park. At this point, the only players honored there were the big four: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle – along with owner Jacob Ruppert, general manager Ed Barrow, managers Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel, and the plaque honoring the Mass delivered by Pope Paul VI. The next plaque to be dedicated would be the one for the Mass delivered by Pope John Paul II, but the next one for a Yankee would be, sadly, for Munson himself.

October 6, 1980: Having lost 3 straight to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Houston Astros must now play them in a one-game Playoff to decide the NL West title, and at Dodger Stadium, no less. No problem: Art Howe drives in four runs (which is more than the Astro second baseman ever did for the Mets as their manager), and Joe Niekro knuckleballs his way to his 20th win of the season, and the Astros win, 7-1. In what is unofficially the first postseason game in their 19-year history, they officially advance to the Playoffs for the first time.

October 6, 1984: A dark day in the long, gray history of the Chicago Cubs. Leading the NLCS 2 games to 1, needing only 1 more win to take their first Pennant in 39 years, they are tied with the San Diego Padres in the bottom of the 9th at Jack Murphy Stadium. But closer Lee Smith gives up an opposite-field homer to former Dodger “hero” Steve Garvey, and the Padres win, 7-5, to tie up the series.

Fans of lots of teams hated Garvey, due to his smugness and, as it turned out, his hypocrisy. But I think Cub fans hate him even more than Philadelphia and Cincinnati fans do. Certainly, they hate him more than Yankee Fans do – and that’s a lot.

October 6, 1985: With the Yankees having been eliminated from the AL East race the day before, manager Billy Martin sends 46-year-old knuckleballer Phil Niekro out to pitch an otherwise meaningless game at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. He allows only 4 hits, becoming the oldest pitcher ever to pitch a complete-game shutout – top that, Nolan Ryan! The Yankees beat the Blue Jays, 8-0, and Niekro has his 300th career win. The Yankees will release him after the season, despite winning 16 games for them at age 45 and again at 46.

He will pitch two more seasons, with his home-State Cleveland Indians, the Blue Jays, and one more game with his original team, the Braves – he is the last active player who had played for the Braves in Milwaukee – reaching 318 wins for his Hall of Fame career. That makes him 16th on the all-time list, but among pitchers who’d spent most of their careers in the post-1920 Lively Ball Era, only his ex-Brave teammate Warren Spahn, and the still-active Ryan, Steve Carlton and Don Sutton had more wins before him. He has since also been passed by Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux.

With his brother Joe having won 223, the Niekro brothers are the winningest brother combination in MLB history, with 538 wins between them. Phil also struck out 3,342 batters, then 8th all-time and now 11th. In 1973, he pitched the first no-hitter in Atlanta history. It took 5 tries before he was finally elected to the Hall of Fame.

October 6, 1991: The final game is played at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. The Orioles lose to the Tigers, 7-3. Afterward, while the music from Field of Dreams plays, Brooks Robinson trots back out to his old position of 3rd base, followed by Frank Robinson into right field, Jim Palmer to the pitcher's mound, and so on, until Cal Ripken goes to shortstop as the last player, and Earl Weaver gives one last lineup card (no doubt with little room on it) to an umpire.

This ceremony paves the way for many ballpark closing ceremonies since, including the farewell to the old Yankee Stadium (which, neatly, was against the Orioles). The Orioles moved into Oriole Park at Camden Yards the following April, and the NFL's Ravens play their first 2 seasons (1996-97) at Memorial before moving into their own stadium at Camden Yards. Memorial Stadium, built in 1954, is demolished in 2002.

The same day it hosted its last baseball game, at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, with a policemen watching his every move from the Met dugout and the fear of being arrested at any moment due to false rape allegations, David Cone ties a National League mark for strikeouts as he fans 19 Phillies en route to a 7-0 victory in the season's finale. The Mets let him get away in the off-season, and, except for a brief comeback in 2003, never pitches for them again. He will, however pitch for another New York team, and far more successfully than he ever did for the Mets.

October 6, 2001, 10 years ago today: Another farewell in Baltimore. At Camden Yards, in front of a full house including Orioles notables Frank Robinson, Palmer and Weaver, as well as Commissioner Bud Selig and former President Bill Clinton, Cal Ripken plays his 3,001st and final game. After a hitless night for the 41-year-old, the final out of the 5-1 loss to Red Sox is made as Cal watches from the on deck circle.

In Seattle, with their 116th win, the Mariners tie the 1906 Cubs as the winningest team in major league history. Bret Boone's 37th home run of the season, and the shut out pitching of five Seattle pitchers prove to be the difference in the 1-0 historic win over the Texas Rangers. But the Yankees will prove to the M's that 116 don't mean a thing if you ain't got that ring.

At Shea Stadium, with his 151st career pinch hit, Lenny Harris breaks the major league mark established by Manny Mota. Coming off the Met bench to bat for Rey Ordonez, he lines a 1-2 pitch off Expo starter Carl Pavano for a single to become the career leader in pinch hits.

October 6, 2006: After failing to advanced past the first round of the American League playoffs in their previous five postseason appearances, the Oakland Athletics beat the much-favored Minnesota Twins, 8-3, to complete a three-game ALDS sweep. The victory, which was the team's 10th opportunity to win a clinching game, puts Oakland in ALCS for the first time since 1992.

This remains the only postseason series ever won by a team with Billy Beane as its general manager. And Beane and the A's haven't won a postseason game since -- or even appeared in one in the last 5 seasons. Explain to me again how Beane is a "genius"?

October 6, 2007: The Bug Game! In Game 2 of the ALDS at Jacobs Field, the Indians score the tying run on a wild pitch thrown by a bug-covered Joba Chamberlain. A rare infestation of Lake Erie Midges, which appeared en masse in the 8th inning, impacts the rookie Yankees reliever who suffers his first blown save of the season.

We may never know why Joe Torre didn't tell the umpires, "Stop play until the bugs are gone, or I'm pulling my team off the field and taking my chances with the Commissioner's office!" Would John McGraw have put up with that? Would Leo Durocher? Would Casey Stengel? Would Earl Weaver? Would Billy Martin? Would they hell! But Torre did. The Yankees lost the game, 2-1, as several players -- not just Alex Rodriguez -- seemed to forget how to hit. So it wasn't just the bugs.

October 6, 2009: With one out in the bottom of the 12th inning in the AL Central tiebreaker, the Twins beat the Tigers, 6-5, when Alexi Casilla's single plates Carlos Gomez from second base with the winning run.

The Metrodome victory finishes an amazing comeback by Minnesota, going 17-4 in the final month to close a seven-game deficit and completes a colossal collapse for the Tigers, who become the first team in big league history to surrender a 3-game lead with only 4 contests to play. This, just 3 years after the Tigers blew a 15 1/2-game AL Central lead over the Twins, the biggest Division (or pre-1969 League) choke ever. Of course, the Tigers won the Wild Card and ended up beating the A's, who'd beaten the Twins, for the Pennant...

Maybe this anniversary will stick in the mind of some of the Tigers who are still here, 2 years later.

October 6, 2010: At Citizens Bank Park, Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay throws the second no-hitter in postseason history when he beats the Reds, 4-0, in Game 1 of the NLDS. Don Larsen became the first hurler to accomplish the feat by throwing a perfect game in the Yankees' victory over Brooklyn in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.

October 6, 2011: The deciding Game 5 of the ALDS between the Yankees and Tigers. Come on you Bombers!

1 comment:

nutballgazette said...

If I remember right in the game where Niekro won his 300th game he went the 1st8 innings without throwing a knuckle ball and thought about going the entire game without one. but decided he could not complete the game without throwing them.