Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Game 3 Focus On A-Rod: We Need Him -- And He Needs Us
About that game, let me be brief:
* Andy Pettitte, in spite of his age and recent injury, did his job. He pitched 7 innings and allowed just 3 runs, not at all a bad performance in the Baltimore Bandbox.
* Nor was the bullpen an issue: Only one reliever was used, David Robertson, and he pitched a perfect 8th inning.
* Derek Jeter was not an issue: Although he left 3 men on base, he also went 2-for-5 with an RBI.
* Mark Teixeira was not an issue: He went 2-for-4, in spite of a hostile crowd that still sees him as a native of the Baltimore area who spurned his local club for the big money -- more than once, as the Yankees aren't the first team for whom he turned down the Orioles.
* Robinson Cano was not an issue: He had a double that drove in the other Yankee run.
The issue was 20 men left on base. That is not an typographical error (or a clean base hit): Twenty men. TWENTY.
One by Russell Martin, 2 each by Cano, Ichiro Suzuki and Curtis Granderson; 3 each by Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher; and 4 by Eduardo Nunez.
NunE5 was in the game as the designated hitter because, as we all know, he can't field any position, and was thus in the game solely for his bat. And he left four men on base all by himself. FOUR.
It would be easy, of course, for me to place blame on A-Rod. I've done it many times before. Sometimes unfairly. Sometimes very fairly.
In the first 2 games of this series, he is 1-for-9. That's a .111 batting average. Counting walks, he's 2-for-10, an on-base percentage of .200. His one hit was a single, so that's a slugging percentage of .200. No RBIs, 5 strikeouts, 4 men LOB -- and that includes Game 1, which the Yankees won, although it was still tied 2-2 going into the 9th.
And he's the 3rd man in the batting order.
We all remember that, in the 2006 American League Championship Series, Joe Torre got so frustrated with Alex that he dropped him to 8th in the order. Certain people said it was about time; certain other people considered it a slap in the face to the greatest player in the game. Whichever it was, it still didn't work.
We also remember his disappearing acts in the 4-game slide to end the 2004 ALCS (including the slap play), the 2005 ALDS, and the 2007 ALDS. These things always seem to happen in the late innings, too.
But we also remember how he was the biggest reason the Yankees got into the postseason in 2009, by far the biggest reason the Yankees got into that year's World Series, and how he got 6 RBIs in that Series to finally get over the hump and get his ring, after making the postseason 7 previous times without even winning a Pennant.
All was forgiven -- but not forgotten.
In the 2010 ALCS, he went 4-for-25, .190, although he did have 2 RBIs. The Yankees lost in 6 games, and the final play was A-Rod getting called out on strikes, not even taking the bat off his shoulder. Though, if we're being completely fair, let's point out that the Yankees were losing 6-1, and a home run in that spot wouldn't have made much difference. It looked a lot worse than it was, and he was hardly the biggest culprit: Hardly any Yankee hit in that series.
In the 2011 ALCS, he went 2-for-18, .111, although he did have 3 RBIs. The Yankees lost in 5 games. And, again, A-Rod struck out for the final out, and this was in a 3-2 game. Though, if we're being completely fair, let's point out that the home plate umpire, Ted Barrett, was giving Tiger pitchers a wide strike zone all night, and the 2nd strike to A-Rod was way outside, leading him to swing at a strike 3 that should not have been a strike if he had let it go.
Now... He's doin' it again, Cholly.
Tonight, Game 3 will be held at the House That Ruth B... sorry, the House That Steinbrenner Built. First pitch is scheduled for 7:37 PM, on TBS.
Hiroki Kuroda starts for the Yankees, Miguel Gonzalez for the Orioles. The 28-year-old rookie Mexican righthander beat the Yankees at Yankee Stadium II on July 30 and at Camden Yards on August 28, but he's no longer the proverbial "pitcher the Yankees have never seen before." I think the pitching matchup favors the Yankees, especially since, being that the Oriole starter is a righthander, we can load up on lefties (including the switch-hitting Teix and Swish, who are better from the left side) and shell the short porch in right field.
But about A-Rod...
Do you want him to get on base? Of course you do. Do you want him to move runners over? Of course you do. Do you want him to drive runners home? Of course you do. Do you want him to knock the living hell out of the ball and hit it over the fence? Well, you're reading my blog, so it's a pretty safe bet that, yes, that is exactly what you want.
Are you going to the game tonight? Then cheer A-Rod on. Are you not going, but do you know someone who is? Then tell him/her to cheer A-Rod on. He can do a lot more with us with him than he can with us against him.
We need him. And he needs us.
This is not about his legacy. He's the youngest player to reach 500 home runs, and the youngest to reach 600 homers. He is 5th on the all-time list, will probably end up no lower than 3rd, and 1st is still not out of the question. Barring a career-ending injury, in the last one-third of next season, he will collect his 3,000th career hit. He has been a very good fielder almost from the beginning. His mid-season switch from shortstop to 3rd base means it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to select him as the greatest ever at either position, but he is already one of the Top 20 greatest players ever, maybe one of the Top 10. True, he used steroids for 3 years, but he admitted it, unlike some other players who lied about it, and no one can prove he used them as a Yankee. He will almost certainly receive his plaques in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Yankee Stadium's Monument Park. No Yankee will ever again wear Number 13. And, most importantly, he did help the Yankees win a World Series. The difference between one title and two pales in comparison to the difference between one title and none. If you don't believe me, ask Ernie Banks. If they were still alive, you could ask Ty Cobb and Ted Williams.
This is not about what A-Rod has already done, or failed to do. This is about what he needs to do tonight, and in whatever else remains of this postseason.
Without our support, he won't be able to do much.
With our support, he has the chance.
Give him that chance.
Because I was unable to post yesterday, I have to do the October baseball anniversaries for both the 9th and the 10th.
October 9, 1886: Richard William Marquard is born in Cleveland. Known as “Rube” because he was a lefty fireballer, similar to Rube Waddell, the New York Giants signed him for $11,000, a record for the time. When he got off to a rough start in the majors, the press called him “the $11,000 Lemon.” But he led the National League in strikeouts in 1911, helping the Giants win the Pennant, and he became “the $11,000 Beauty.”
In 1912 he won 19 consecutive games, leading the Giants to another Pennant. They won another in 1913, and he won Pennants with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1916 and 1920 – making him the first player, and one of the very few, ever to win Pennants for two NL teams in New York. (None ever did with either the Dodgers or Giants, and the Mets.) But his teams went 0-5 in World Series play. He was 3rd all-time in strikeouts by a lefthander upon his retirement, trailing only Waddell and Eddie Plank, and lived long enough to see his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
October 9, 1887, 125 years ago: The St. Louis Browns (forerunners of the National League Cardinals, rather than of the American League team that became the Baltimore Orioles) end their American Association Pennant season with a 95-40 record‚ besting their 1886 record by 2 wins. This total of 95 wins will not be topped by any major league team until the adoption of the 154-game schedule.
Also, Guy Hecker of the Louisville Colonels, who went 52-20 pitching for the Colonels in 1884, and usually played 1st base when he wasn't pitching, becomes the first 1st baseman to play a 9-inning game with no fielding chances. The Colonels lose 2-0 to the Cincinnati Red Stockings (later to become the Reds) and finish 4th in the AA. Hecker finished his career with a .282 batting average and 175 pitching wins, and lived on until 1938, age 82.
October 9, 1890: The National League, the American Association, and the insurgent Players’ League, all hit hard financially by their three-way “war” for players and fans, reach a truce. The PL folds, and their players are welcomed back to their former teams at their former salaries.
The NL survives to this day. The AA, however, is mortally wounded, and folds after one more season. This brings a vacuum that is filled by the American League in 1901. In 1902, a new American Association will be formed, at the highest minor-league level.
October 9, 1906: Snow flies at the West Side Grounds as the first one-city World Series opens with the Cubs heavy favorites over the AL's White Sox, a.k.a. the "Hitless Wonders." Neither ballpark can accommodate the crowds‚ so the Chicago Tribune recreates the games on mechanical boards displayed at theaters. White Sox starter Nick Altrock and Cubs starter Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown give up 4 hits each‚ but Cub errors produce 2 unearned runs for a 2-1 White Sox victory.
There will not be another single-city, or single-metro area, World Series played for 15 years. There will not be another World Series game played in snow for 91 years. As you might guess, that one was also played in a Great Lakes city, Cleveland.
October 9, 1907: For the first, and perhaps only, time in World Series history, the hidden-ball trick is successfully tried. In Game 2 at Chicago’s West Side Grounds, Detroit Tigers third baseman Bill Coughlin tags out Cub center fielder Jimmy Slagle, who is leading off the base.
October 9, 1909: Ty Cobb's steal of home is the highlight Tigers' 7-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, which knots the World Series at one game apiece. The Georgia Peach swipes home plate 54 times during his career, a major league record. This is the only time, however, that home plate will be stolen in a World Series game for 42 years.
October 9, 1910: The battle for the American League batting title is decided on the final day of the regular season‚ when Cobb edges Nap Lajoie of the Cleveland... Naps. (Seriously, the team was named after their star 2nd baseman and manager. They would be renamed the Indians in 1915.) Cobb’s final average is .3851, Lajoie’s is .3841 -- a difference of .0010.
Lajoie goes 8-for-8 in a doubleheader with the St. Louis Browns‚ accepting six gift hits on bunt singles, on which Browns rookie 3rd baseman Red Corriden is apparently purposely stationed at the edge of the outfield grass. The prejudiced St. Louis scorer also credits the popular Nap with a "hit" on Brownie shortstop Bobby Wallace’s wild throw to 1st. In Lajoie's last at-bat‚ he is safe at 1st on an error call‚ but is credited with a sac bunt since a man was on.
The St. Louis Post is just one of the papers to be openly critical of the move against Cobb: "All St. Louis is up in arms over the deplorable spectacle‚ conceived in stupidity and executed in jealousy." The Browns win the opener‚ 5-4‚ and Cleveland takes the nightcap‚ 3-0, with both managers‚ Jack O'Connor and Jim Maguire catching. O'Connor is behind the plate for just an inning‚ but Maguire goes all the way.
Cobb‚ meanwhile‚ doesn't exactly end up covered in glory, either: Rather than risk his average‚ sits out the last two games‚ the Tigers beating the White Sox in the finale‚ 2-1. AL President Ban Johnson investigates and clears everyone concerned‚ enabling Cobb to win the 3rd of 9 straight batting crowns.
The embarrassed Chalmers Auto Company, which had promised a brand-new car to the winner of the batting title, awards cars to both Ty and Nap.
In 1981, The Sporting News uncovers an error, finding that Cobb was credited for a 2-for-3 game twice. If corrected‚ this would give the title to Lajoie. But the commissioner's committee votes unanimously to leave history unchanged. This also retroactively reduced 2 of Cobb's records: His hit total goes from 4,191 to 4,189 (although Pete Rose is still accepted as having broken the record with his 4,192nd hit in 1985, not his 4,190th 3 days earlier), and his lifetime batting average goes from .367 to .366.
In case you’re wondering, Cobb had a better on-base percentage that Lajoie, .456 to .445. Cobb also had the higher slugging percentage, .551 to .514; the higher OPS, 1.008 to .960; and the higher OPS+, 206 to 199. And neither Detroit nor Cleveland seriously challenged the Philadelphia Athletics for the Pennant.
October 9, 1913: In Game 3 of the World Series, rookie right-hander Joe Bush throws a complete game, limiting the Giants to five hits in the A's 8-2 victory at the Polo Grounds. At the age 20 years and 316 days, "Bullet Joe" is the youngest pitcher to start a game in the Fall Classic, 40 days sooner than Jim Palmer in 1966 and Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.
October 9, 1915: Woodrow Wilson becomes the first incumbent President to attend a World Series game. He and his fiancee Edith Galt come to Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, and see Boston Red Sox hurler Rube Foster limit the Phillies to just three hits, and single home the winning run himself in the bottom of the 9th, to win Game 2, 2-1.
It’s not clear what team Wilson usually rooted for, although he did teach at Bryn Mawr University, near Philly, and attended Princeton University, taught there, and was its President, before becoming Governor of New Jersey; and, from 1887 onward, when the predecessor ground to Baker Bowl opened, the Phillies were the closest team to Princeton, closer by a few blocks than the Athletics, and by a few miles than any of the New York City teams.
Two months later, Wilson, widowed a year and a half earlier, marries Edith, becoming the 3rd President to marry while in office, following then-widower John Tyler in 1844 and then-bachelor Grover Cleveland in 1886. (There has not been a 4th.)
Due to the Washington Senators bringing the World Series to the nation's capital, Calvin Coolidge -- who hates baseball, but his wife Grace loves it -- will attend the World Series in 1924 and '25. Herbert Hoover will be cheered at Shibe Park in Philadelphia when throwing out the first ball of a 1929 Series game, but in 1930, after the Wall Street crash, with the Great Depression well underway and Prohibition still in effect, becomes the first President ever booed at a baseball game, with fans also chanting, "We want beer!" Franklin Roosevelt attended Game 3 of the 1932 World Series between the Yankees and Cubs at Wrigley Field, laughing at the sight of Babe Ruth's called shot, but he wasn't yet President; while he was, he went to Game 2 of the 1936 World Series between the Yankees and Giants at the Polo Grounds.
In 1956, on back-to-back days at Ebbets Field, Dwight D. Eisenhower, running for re-election, attends Game 1, while his opponent Adlai Stevenson attends Game 2. There will not be another President attending a World Series game until Jimmy Carter is at Game 7 in Baltimore in 1979 -- not quite making up for the fact that he is the only President, since William Howard Taft started the tradition in 1910, not to attend an Opening Day game and throw out the first ball to symbolically start the season. While Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all attended some big games while in office, George W. Bush, in Game 3 in 2001, remains the only President in the last 32 years and 1 of only 3 in the last 81 years to do so. Barack Obama, are you listening?
October 9, 1916: The longest game in World Series history is played. Both pitchers go the distance: Sherry Smith of the Dodgers and… Babe Ruth of the Red Sox. In the 2nd, Hy Myers hits an inside-the-park home run, the only round-tripper hit off Ruth the entire season. (That is due as much to the fact that it was the Dead Ball Era that Ruth would later end, as it is to Ruth's pitching talent.) The Red Sox finally win the game in the bottom of the 14th, and Ruth’s streak of 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings pitched is underway.
In 1986, an NLCS game went 16 innings. In 2005, 89 years later to the day (as you'll see when you read on), an NLDS game went 18, and another World Series game went 14. But going into the 2012 Fall Classic, 14 remains the World Series record.
October 9, 1919: The Cincinnati Reds defeat the Chicago White Sox, 10-5, taking Game 8 and the best-5-out-of-9 World Series. It is the first World Championship for Cincinnati – or, at least, the first since the unofficial one for the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first openly professional baseball team, in 1869, half a century earlier.
Sox pitcher Lefty Williams gets one man out in the 1st before departing. The Reds lead 4-0‚ and go on to give Hod Eller plenty of offense. White Sox left fielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson hits the only home run of the Series. Eddie Collins' 3 hits give him a total of 42 in Series play‚ a record that stands until 1930, when it is broken by Frankie Frisch‚ whose record will be bettered by Lou Gehrig in 1938. A stolen base by Collins is his 14th in Series competition‚ a record tied by Lou Brock in 1968 but not yet broken.
How could the White Sox have lost? Everybody said they were the superior team. Actually, while the ChiSox were more experienced – they had won the Series two years earlier – they had won 88 games that season, while the Reds had won 95, 7 more. And the Reds had Hall-of-Famer Edd Roush, and several players who would have been multiple All-Stars had there been an All-Star Game at the time. Still, everybody seemed to think the Sox were better. And yet, the betting shifted to make the Reds the favorites. What had happened?
On September 28, 1920, eight White Sox players were indicted for conspiracy to throw the Series: Jackson, Williams, pitcher Eddie Cicotte, right fielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch, 1st baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil, shortstop Charles “Swede” Risberg, reserve infielder Fred McMullin (only in on the fix because he overheard Felsch and Gandil talking about it), and 3rd baseman George “Buck” Weaver (who refused to take part, but was indicted because he knew about it and refused to report it). Although all were acquitted, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned them all permanently.
For the rest of their lives, Roush and the other ’19 Reds insisted that, if the Series had been on the up-and-up, they would have won anyway. Except that, down 4 games to 1 in that best-of-9, the Sox won Games 6 and 7 because the gamblers hadn’t come through with their payments, and Williams only caved in for Game 8 because he was threatened with harm to his wife and children if he did not comply. Williams was 0-3 for the Series, a record not achieved honestly until 1981, by George Frazier of the Yankees.
Trust me on this one: If you want to get closer to the facts of the case, see the film Eight Men Out; but if you want to see a movie that makes you feel good, see the factually-challenged but beautiful Field of Dreams.
October 9, 1928: At Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, the Yankees beat the Cardinals, 7-3, completing their 2nd consecutive sweep of the World Series. The Bronx Bombers, who win the 3rd World Championship in franchise history, live up to their name as they slug 5 homers in the game, a feat which will not be matched until 1989 when Oakland does it against San Francisco. Three of the homers are hit by Babe Ruth, who had done it at the same park 2 years earlier. This time, though, the Yankees win.
In 2009, seeing Hideki Matsui collect 6 RBIs, including a home run, in Game 6, Yankee broadcaster John Sterling cited the only other player to hit 3 homers in a Series game, and asked his listeners, "Has anybody, outside of Reggie Jackson, ever had a better Series-clinching game?" Only one other player has: The Great Bambino.
October 9, 1934: Before the proceedings began, Cardinal pitcher Jay “Dizzy” Dean said of himself and his brother and teammate, Paul “Daffy” Dean, “Me an’ Paul are gonna win this here World Series.” Diz was right: All 4 St. Louis wins had one of the Dean brothers as the winning pitcher, as the Cards pound the Detroit Tigers in Game 7, 11-0 at Navin Field.
In the bottom of the 6th, Cardinal slugger Joe Medwick slides hard into 3rd base, and is tagged hard by Marv Owen. Medwick then kicks Owen: Despite this still being, effectively, the early days of film, with no camera behind 3rd base to get a closeup of the action, the camera behind 1st base, used for the official World Series highlight film, clearly shows Medwick's kick. A fight results, and when Medwick goes out to left field for the bottom of the 6th, Tiger fans start throwing things at him. Wadded-up programs. Hot dogs. Pieces of fruit. This goes on for minute after minute.
Finally, Commissioner Landis asks the umpires to call Medwick over, as well as the opposing managers, both player-managers wearing Number 3: Cardinal shortstop Frankie Frisch and Tiger catcher Mickey Cochrane. Landis, a former federal Judge, asks Medwick if he kicked Owen. Medwick confesses. Landis removes him from the game, he says, not for disciplinary reasons but “for his own safety.”
Afterward, Medwick, no dummy, says, “I understood why they threw all that food at me. What I don’t understand is why they brought it to the ballpark in the first place.” It was the left-field bleacher section at Navin Field, later replaced by the double-decked stands that formed the Tiger Stadium we knew. Those seats were the last to be sold, and fans had lined up all morning, and had brought their breakfast and lunch. In the off-season, Cardinal general manager Branch Rickey refuses to give Medwick, his best hitter, a raise. Medwick says, “Mr. Rickey thinks I can live for a year on the food that the Detroit fans threw at me.”
Joe Medwick was a graduate of Carteret High School, Class of 1929, a three-sport star. A Middlesex County Park, stretching through Carteret and the Avenel section of Woodbridge, is named in his honor. He is one of 5 people who grew up in New Jersey who have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, one of 3 born in the State, and the only one from Central Jersey, let alone from Middlesex County. I don't think Medwick, Newark native Billy Hamliton, Salem native Goose Goslin, raised-in-East Orange Monte Irvin and raised-in-Paterson Larry Doby are going to be joined by any HOFers anytime soon. The only two New Jersey-born active players to have even made an All-Star team are Andrew Bailey, the Voorhees native who made it as a rookie pitcher for the 2009 A's, but got shelled for this year's Red Sox; and a kid born in Pequannock and living in West Milford, but his family moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan when he was 4. Derek Jeter. And he ain't retiring anytime soon.
October 9, 1938: The Yankees beat the Chicago Cubs, 8-3, and complete a four-game sweep at Yankee Stadium. It is the Yankees’ 7th World Championship, and their 3rd in a row. To this day, the only franchises that have more than 7 are the Cardinals with 11 and the A’s with 9 (and even then you have to combine the 5 from Philadelphia with the 4 from Oakland). And, to this day, the only franchises to have won 3 in a row are the Yankees and the 1972-74 A’s.
Also on this day, Rocky Aoki is born in Tokyo, Japan. The founder of the Benihana steakhouse chain -- and father of model-actress Devon Aoki -- was a champion speedboat racer.
October 9, 1940: Joe Pepitone is born in Brooklyn. He will be a backup to Bill “Moose” Skowron at first base in 1962, and receive a World Series ring. The Yankees think so highly of Pepitone that they trade Moose before the 1963 season. Pepitone helps the Yankees win the 1963 and ’64 AL Pennants, and hits a grand slam in Game 6 of the ’64 World Series.
He was a New York kid playing for the local team, and he was good. Very good. He had a bit of a nose, and was actually balding, but you couldn’t tell while he was wearing a cap or a batting helmet. (He had two toupees: A small one for during games and a bigger “Guido” hairpiece for being out on the town.) Women wanted him, men wanted to be him. He was a matinee idol, and a hero to many, not just to his fellow Italian-Americans.
But, he would later admit, his father’s death left him depressed, and he looked for comfort in New York’s nightlife, in drinking and women. He still hit a few home runs, and he still won Gold Gloves at first base, although he switched to center field in 1967 and ’68 so that Mickey Mantle, with no DH in those days, could ease the strain on his legs by playing first base. But if you’re going to carouse like Mantle, you’d better be able to play like Mantle. Pepitone was not at that level.
By 1970, he would no longer be a Yankee; by 1973, he would be out of the major leagues. He would do time on gun charges in 1988, although drug charges against him were dropped; would have continued alcohol and marriage problems; and would be arrested again in 1995. He has stayed out of trouble since, and now lives on Long Island, getting by and then some at memorabilia shows. Still, he knows he could have been so much more, and he knows he blew it: He titled his autobiography Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud.
But what he did is no excuse for what Cosmo Kramer did in that episode of Seinfeld. He had no right to hit him with a pitch at that fantasy camp. For crying out loud, Joe was 53 years old! You don’t plunk a 53-year-old man!
Tony Conigliaro was a very similar player in Boston, but his career was curtailed by injury as much as by wasting his talent. New England fans have often suggested that, had he stayed healthy, Tony C would have been their Mantle. But now that Tony C is dead, and the Boston press no longer has to protect the popular, handsome, ethnic local boy, sordid details have come out. Perhaps Sox fans should consider that Conigliaro, rather than their Mantle, could have become their Pepitone.
There was also a famous musician born on this day, name of John Lennon. He would end up living in New York and being photographed wearing a Yankee cap as well. But apparently, Pepitone didn't listen to Lennon, who seemed to believe that "All You Need Is Love." What Pepitone could have been, we can only "Imagine." (And, yes, I know there's a Christian rock song titled "I Can Only Imagine.")
October 9, 1944: The only all-St. Louis World Series ever ends as Emil Verban drives in 3 runs, and the Cardinals defeat the Browns 3-1, and win in 6 games. Within 10 years, the Browns will realize that the Cardinals will always be the Number 1 team in St. Louis, and move and take up the name of several previous teams in their new home town, the Baltimore Orioles.
The current Orioles are champions of the International League, despite Oriole Park having burned down on the 4th of July, necessitating a move to Municipal Stadium, a football stadium a few blocks away. A crowd of 52,833, then a record for a minor league game, sees the Orioles fall to the Louisville Colonels, 5-4 in Game 4 of the “Junior World Series.” But the Orioles would win the series in 6 games. This team, and how well it drew (it’s not the fault of the teams involved, but Sportsman’s Park seated only 30,804 people, so the Junior World Series brought in more fans than the senior version), rose Baltimore’s profile, and made its return to the majors for the first time since 1902 possible.
October 9, 1948: Behind the solid pitching of Steve Gromek, the Indians win pivotal Game 4 of the Fall Classic edging the Braves, 2-1, to take a 3-1 series lead. Larry Doby's home run, the first by a black player in World Series history, provides the difference in the Tribe's victory.
October 9, 1949: The Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers, 10-6 at Ebbets Field, and win the World Series in 5 games. The two teams had combined to win Pennants in the only season in the history of the single-division Leagues, 1901 to 1968, that both Leagues’ Pennants remained undecided on the last day of the regular season.
With Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and Carl Furillo, rookies from 1947, and older players Pee Wee Reese and Gil Hodges, bolstered by the 1948 arrivals of Roy Campanella, Billy Cox, Preacher Roe and Carl Erskine, and 1949 arrival Don Newcombe, “the Boys of Summer” had arrived. But they were not ready to beat the Yankees. Once again, the Dodgers had to “Wait Till Next Year.” The Yankees, now winners of 12 World Championships, would enjoy many “next years” to come.
October 9, 1950: Brian Jay Downing is born in Los Angeles. A catcher for the White Sox, he would be converted to an outfielder for the team then known as the California Angels. For a time, he was the Angels’ all-time home run leader. But he’s probably best known now for being the player whose home run Dave Henderson went over in the Red Sox’ incredible comeback in the 1986 ALCS.
October 9, 1956: The perfect game pitched by Don Larsen the day before does not faze the Brooklyn Dodgers. Clem Labine goes the distance in Game 6, and then some. Enos Slaughter misjudges Jackie Robinson’s fly ball, and Jim Gilliam scores on the play. The Dodgers win, 1-0 in 10 innings at Ebbets Field. There will be a Game 7. But there will not be another World Series game won by a National League team from New York until October 12, 1969 -- 13 years and 3 days.
October 9, 1958: The Yankees complete a 3-games-to-1 comeback – only the 2nd in World Series history, after the 1925 Pirates – by beating the Braves, 6-2 at Milwaukee County Stadium, and take their 18th World Championship. After being defeated by former Yankee farmhand Lew Burdette 3 times a year earlier, this time the Yanks knock him out of the box in Game 7.
The Yankees would miss the World Series in 1959, but be back the next year. The Braves, on the other hand, would not return to the Fall Classic for another 33 years, and then in Atlanta. The City of Milwaukee, another 24 years, and then with the Brewers. This was also the first World Series to have its official highlight film in color.
Also born on this day, in Houston, is Mike Singletary, Hall of Fame linebacker for the Chicago Bears, and former head coach of the San Francisco. Singletary, now linebackers coach of the Minnesota Vikings, is also an ordained minister, like the late Reggie White, and it was Singletary who had the nickname “Minister of Defense” first.
October 9, 1961: With the help of a pair of 5-run innings at Crosley Field, the Yankees win the World Series beating the Reds in Game 5, 13-5. Johnny Blanchard, a reserve player who will collect 10 hits in 29 at-bats in five Fall Classics, hits 2 home runs and bats .400 en route to the Bronx Bombers’ 19th World Championship.
Mickey Mantle barely played in this Series, but Roger Maris hit an unofficial 62nd home run of the season, while Whitey Ford broke the record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched in the World Series, running his total to 30. The previous record? It was 29 2/3, set by a Red Sox lefthander named... Babe Ruth. Whitey would raise the record to 33 in 1962. Mariano Rivera would slightly break this record, pitching 33 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in postseason play, but not all of it in World Series play.
October 9, 1965: Following losses by Don Drysdale in Game 1 and Sandy Koufax in Game 2, the World Series moves out to Los Angeles, and Claude Osteen saves the Dodgers’ bacon, shutting out the Minnesota Twins, 4-0, and turning the Series around. Osteen had previously pitched for the Washington Senators – the expansion team that became the Texas Rangers, not the established Senators who became the Twins – and had a 5-0 career record against Minnesota coming into this game.
October 9, 1966: For the second consecutive day, the Orioles win a World Series game, 1-0, at home at Memorial Stadium, in a contest decided by a home run when Frank Robinson takes a Don Drysdale pitch deep over the left field fence in the fourth inning. The lone run being scored on a homer, for only the fifth time in the history of the Fall Classic, and the complete-game shutout thrown by Dave McNally, Baltimore completes a four-game sweep over the Dodgers.
It is the first World Championship won by a Baltimore baseball team in 70 years, since the original version of the Orioles won the 1896 National League Pennant. For the Dodgers, 33 consecutive innings without scoring a run is a Series record for futility. Their streak would run to 38 innings before they scored in the 5th inning of Game 1 of the 1974 World Series. That record still stands.
For the Orioles, they have won Baltimore’s first World Championship of baseball since the old Orioles won the National League Pennant in 1896 – 70 years before. However, on the 30th Anniversary of the franchise's greatest victory, it will suffer its most shocking defeat.
October 9, 1970: The Tigers trade the great but undisciplined pitcher Denny McLain to the Washington Senators in an 8-player deal that also sees outfielder Elliott Maddox‚ 3rd baseman Aurelio Rodriguez‚ and pitcher Joe Coleman change teams. This ranks as one of Detroit's best trades ever, as McLain will continue to be a pain in the ass, and a should injury will end his career 2 years later; while Rodriguez (who was NOT nicknamed "A-Rod") will become one of the best-fielding 3rd basemen ever, and Coleman, son of a big-league pitcher also named Joe Coleman, will be a key member of the Tiger rotation that wins the 1972 AL East title, teaming with Mickey Lolich, as McLain had done in the 1968 World Championship season.
Also on this day, Kenny Anderson is born in Queens. Raised in the LeFrak City housing project and a graduate of Archbishop Molloy High School, he went to Georgia Tech for one year before going pro. He came to the New Jersey Nets and looked like he was going to be a superstar, until a 1993 game when a clothesline tackle by John Starks of the Knicks caused him to crash to the floor and break his wrist. He was never the same: Not only did his play suffer, but his personality became surly. He was reduced to journeyman status. Last playing pro ball in 2006, he got his college degree from a school in Miami in 2010, and now coaches high school ball near Fort Lauderdale.
Also on this day, Annika Sorenstam is born in Bro, Sweden. She has won more tournaments and more money than any female golfer ever.
October 9, 1973: Pete Rose rebounds from the previous day’s fight, and faces the hatred of the Met fans – a banner in left field at Shea Stadium reads, “A Rose by any other name still stinks.” He homers in the top of the 12th, to give the Cincinnati Reds a 2-1 win over the Mets, and the NLCS will go to a 5th and deciding game.
On this same day, Bert Campaneris hits a walkoff homer in the 11th, and the Oakland Athletics defeat the Baltimore Orioles 2-1, which is also now the A’s’ lead in the series.
October 9, 1976: For the first time, the New York Yankees play an American League Championship Series game. For the first time, a Kansas City team plays a postseason game in Major League Baseball. The experience is far better for New York, as 2 1st-inning errors by the Royals’ best player, George Brett, helps Catfish Hunter go the distance in a 4-1 Yankee win.
Also on this day, Philadelphia sees its first postseason baseball game in 26 years, but the Reds spoil the party at Veterans Stadium, which is hosting its first postseason game -- the Eagles haven't played in one in 16 years. Don Gullett retires 21 of his last 22 batters to outduel Steve Carlton, and the Reds defeat the Phillies, 6-3, and take the opener of the NLCS.
But the Royals and Phillies still have a better day than Bob Moose. The Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, an integral part of their 1971 World Championship, was driving to a golf course owned by former teammate Bill Mazeroski in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio – also the home town of the Niekro brothers – when his car crashes, killing him. To make matters worse, it’s his birthday. He was 36.
October 9, 1977: The Yankees come back from deficits of 1-game-to-none, 2-games-to-1, and 3-0 down in the 8th inning of Game 7, to defeat the Royals, 5-3 at Royals Stadium (now known as Kauffman Stadium) to win their 31st American League Pennant.
The Royals had won 102 games, still a record for any Kansas City team (the A’s never got close to a Pennant race in their KC years), and with the home-field advantage in Games 3, 4 and 5, and with lefthanded pitching from Paul Splittorff and Larry Gura that they could use to neutralize Yankee sluggers like Reggie Jackson, Graig Nettles and Chris Chambliss, they were sure they were the better team. They were wrong. The Yankees go on to face the Dodgers in the World Series for the 9th time.
Veteran 2nd baseman Cookie Rojas, who had also been a member of the collapsing 1964 Phillies, had announced his retirement, and shortstop Freddie Patek, with whom Rojas had jumped into the Royals Stadium fountains after they clinched the Division last year, is shown crying in the dugout, because Rojas will never play in a World Series.
October 9, 1979: Superman is born. Well, Superman Returns star Brandon Routh is, anyway, in Norwalk, Iowa.
October 9, 1980: In Game 2 of the ALCS, with the Yankees trailing 3-2 with two outs in the top of the eighth inning, George Steinbrenner is caught on live national television jumping out of his seat and shouting what appears to be profanities when Willie Randolph is tagged out at home on a relay throw by the Kansas City Royals' George Brett.
George wants 3rd base coach Mike Ferraro fired on the spot, but manager Dick Howser refuses, and the skipper will lose his job when the team is swept in three games by the Royals, despite a first place finish in the American League East compiling a 103-59 record. Ferraro will eventually return to the Yankees as a coach, although he will never manage them.
October 9, 1988: A dark day in Mets history. You might even say, "A date which will live in infamy." Dwight Gooden is 1 out away from giving the Mets a win in Game 4 of the NLCS at Shea Stadium. But Mike Scioscia – a good-fielding catcher but not renowned as a hitter, hits a home run. The Dodgers win the game in the 12th, 5-4.
If Gooden had gotten Scioscia out, the Mets would have been up 3 games to 1. They could have won the Pennant without going back to Los Angeles. And if the weak-hitting Dodgers could beat the Oakland A’s in the World Series, surely the Mets could have. (The A’s complete a 4-game sweep over the Red Sox today, winning the AL Pennant.) It would have been the Mets’ 2nd title in 3 years, and deepened their status as New York’s Number 1 team.
Maybe that team would have been kept together. Maybe Gooden and Darryl Strawberry don’t fall back into drug problems. (Humor me here.) Maybe the Mets find suitable replacements for Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter, the glue of their 1986 World Champions. Maybe Doc, Darryl and David Cone don’t eventually end up on the Yankees, and the Yankees still haven’t won a World Series since 1978 – while the Mets probably get at least another in 2000, and maybe another one or two before their 1980s (-early ‘90s?) team winds down. Maybe...
This was the hinge day in Met history, when it all started to go wrong. It was the first major instance of what I've come to call "The Curse of Kevin Mitchell." Maybe, maybe, maybe? Since Scioscia’s homer 23 years ago, “maybes” are pretty much all the Mets have had.
October 9, 1989: Televising Game 5 of the NLCS, a 3-2 Giants victory over the Cubs from Candlestick Park, NBC broadcasts its final edition of The Game of the Week. This is the first Pennant for the Giants in 27 years. Next season, CBS’s sporadic and less frequent coverage of a regular season weekly game led many to believe the network was really only interested in airing the All-Star Game and post-season contests.
October 9, 1996: Game 1 of the American League Championship Series is held at the original Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are playing the Baltimore Orioles, 30 years to the day after the O's first-ever World Series title. The O's lead 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th. The big, scowling, fearsome Armando Benitez is on the mound for the Orioles. He does not yet have a reputation as a pitcher who chokes in the clutch. He is about to get one.
He pitches to Derek Jeter, the Yankees' rookie shortstop. Jeter, as later fans might guess, uses an inside-out swing to send the ball to right-center field. Oriole right fielder Tony Tarasco goes back, stands at the fence, and holds up his glove. Tarasco is an idiot. Take a look at the tape: His glove wasn't lined up right. He played it totally wrong. It's baseball's "Zapruder Film": Instead of falling into his glove, it would have hit the fence above him and to his right -- or from the view of the TV fan, "back and to the left." It would have been at least a double, possibly a triple, putting the tying run in scoring position.
Except that's not what happened. Jeffrey Maier, a 12-year-old fan from Old Tappan, Bergen County, New Jersey, ran over, and reached out with his glove. The ball hit his glove, and as he tried to pull it into the stands, he lost control of it. That's right, he didn't even get the ball.
Umpire Rich Garcia ruled it a home run, tying the game. Tarasco was furious. Oriole manager Davey Johnson -- at the moment, still the last man to manage a New York team to a Pennant, the 1986 Mets -- runs out to protest. To no avail.
In the bottom of the 11th, Randy Myers, who had pitched for Johnson on the '86 Mets and had won a World Series under Lou Piniella for the 1990 Cincinnati Reds, pitched to Bernie Williams, the star of the Yanks' AL Division Series win over the Texas Rangers. On radio station WABC, John Sterling said this:
Theeee pitch, swung on, and it's driven to deep left! It is high! It is far! Iiiiiiiit... is gone! Yankees win! Theeeeeeeeeeee Yankees win!
It wasn't the first time Sterling had used the line, but it was the first time I'd heard him drag it out that much.
Yankees 5, Orioles 4. After the game, the media asked Yankee manager Joe Torre about the fan-assisted Jeter home run. Without missing a beat, or changing his expression, The Man of One Face said, "Did anybody see Bernie's home run? That wasn't all bad." Laughter in the press room.
October 9, 1998: The Cleveland Indians beat the Yankees, 6-1, in Game 3 of the ALCS at Jacobs Field. Jim Thome homers twice, Manny Ramirez and Mark Whiten once each. The Indians lead 2 games to 1. Suddenly, after 114 wins – 118 wins if the postseason thus far is counted – the 1998 New York Yankees, already being hailed as one of the greatest teams in history, are in serious, serious trouble of not even making it to the World Series.
The Yankees will not lose again until April 5, 1999.
October 9, 1999: The Mets win a postseason series. Stop laughing. They defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks‚ 4-3‚ on backup catcher Todd Pratt's 10th inning homer. Pratt is in the game for starter Mike Piazza‚ who is unable to play because of a thumb injury. John Franco gets the victory in relief for the Mets.
Also on this day, the Yankees defeat the Texas Rangers‚ 3-0‚ to sweep the ALDS. Roger Clemens hurls 7 shutout innings for the win‚ as Darryl Strawberry's 3-run homer in the 1st provides all the runs in the game.
October 9, 2004: The Yankees finish off the Twins with a come-from-behind 6-5 win in 11 innings to win their Division Series. Ruben Sierra’s 3-run homer ties the game in the 8th inning, and Alex Rodriguez scores the winning run on a wild pitch. And yet, it will take the Yankees 5 years to win another postseason series.
October 9, 2005: At Minute Maid Park in Houston, Chris Burke’s 18th-inning homer ends the longest postseason game in baseball history, as the Astros defeat the Braves, 7-6, to advance into the National League championship series. Atlanta’s five-run lead late in the game is erased with an eighth inning grand slam by Lance Berkman and a two-out ninth inning solo shot by Brad Ausmus, which barely clears Gold Glove center fielder Andruw Jones' outstretched hand.
When this game ended, I called my grandmother. Sure enough, she likened it to that 16-inning game in Houston in the 1986 NLCS, the Mets winning the Pennant over the Astros in the Astrodome, her favorite game of all time. She would watch the 2005 LCS and World Series, and enjoy them. They would be the last baseball games she would ever see.
On this same day, the Yankees down the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim‚ 3-2‚ to even their Division Series. Al Leiter gets the win for New York in relief of Shawn Chacon. It is Leiter's first postseason win in 12 years, since he won a game for the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series. Counting postseason wins, it is the 164th win of his career. It will be the last. He also helped the Florida Marlins win the World Series in 1997 and the team he grew up rooting for, the Mets, win a Pennant in 2000, before losing the World Series to the Yankees, for whom he started his career, and would later broadcast on the YES Network. He now works for the MLB Network.
That was for October 9. Here's are the entries for October 10:
October 10, 1871: Octavius Valentine Catto is murdered in Philadelphia. He was an abolitionist and educator, and also an early black baseball player. In 1867, his Philly-based Pythian Base Ball Club (the sport's name was usually spelled as 2 words in the 19th Century) played its first season and went undefeated. In 1869, in one of the first games between an all-black team and an all-white team, the Pythians defeated the Philadelphia City Items, a team sponsored by a newspaper.
October 10, 1871 was Election Day in Philadelphia. Like most black men, Octavius Catto was a Republican, of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. White Protestants were mainly English and Republican. White Catholics were mainly Irish and Democratic. Aside from the question of helping the poor and immigrants, it was then the Republicans who were the liberals and the Democrats who were the conservatives. This was a long time ago. Catto had been harassed on the way to voting, and had a gun on him. So did Frank Kelly, a Democrat who, as far as I can determine, did not previously know Catto. Kelly shot Catto 3 times at 9th & South Streets. He was acquitted of the murder. Apparently, despite being a Northern city, in Philadelphia a white man could get away with murdering a black man. Catto was just 32.
October 10, 1893: Lipman “Lip” Pike dies of heart disease at age 48. He was one of the first baseball stars, a 2nd baseman despite being a lefthanded thrower. In 1866, playing for the first team to have the name "Philadelphia Athletics," he was revealed to have been paid to play, making him (or so it once was thought) the first openly professional baseball player.
In 1870, he was a member of the Brooklyn Atlantics team that ended the 93-game winning streak of the Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball’s first openly professional team, in what is often regarded as the first truly great game in the history of professional baseball. (Yes, “openly” suggests that, until the Red Stockings, being paid to play sports was considered a perverse, repulsive lifestyle. Until the Red Stockings and others proved that “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”)
When the National League was founded in 1876, Lip Pike played for the St. Louis Brown Stockings (not to be confused with any later St. Louis baseball team), and this made him the first Jewish player in Major League Baseball. Although home runs were rare in those days, he did lead the National Association, the first professional league, in 1873 with the Baltimore Canaries, and the NL in 1877 with the Cincinnati Reds (not the team founded with that name in 1882 that is still around today).
October 10, 1904: For the first time, and not for the last, an American League Pennant comes down to New York and Boston. The last day of the season features a doubleheader at Hilltop Park, at 165th Street & Broadway in Manhattan’s Washington Heights. The New York Highlanders, forerunners of the Yankees, need to sweep the Boston Pilgrims, forerunners of the Red Sox, in order to win. Otherwise, Boston will win it. Hilltop Park seats about 16,000, but there’s perhaps 30,000 jammed into the confines, including thousands of standees roped off in the massive outfield area.
Pitching the first game for the Highlanders is Jack Chesbro, who has already won 41 games, which remains the single-season record for pitching from 60 feet, 6 inches away. With the score 2-2 in the top of the 9th and Lou Criger on 3rd base, Chesbro throws a spitball – then a legal pitch – but it’s a wild pitch, going over the head of his catcher, Jim “Deacon” McGuire, and Criger scores the Pennant-winning run. The Yankees win the nightcap, 1-0, but it’s meaningless, as the Red Sox-to-be win the Pennant.
But, faced with the prospect of losing a postseason series not just to the champions of what they view as “an inferior league,” but to the other New York team, the National League Champion New York Giants refuse to participate in the World Series. The 1904 World Series is called off, and it will be 90 years before such a thing happens again – over a very different kind of stupidity, and a more egregious one at that.
Today, over a century later, the Red Sox organization does not claim a forfeit win and call themselves the 1904 World Champions, which would give them 8 World Championships through 2012, rather than 7. But they might as well. The Giants, however, were so shamed in the press for chickening out that they agreed that they would participate in any future World Series – and they participated in 14 before moving to San Francisco, their total now 18 (with a shot at a 19th this season). And yet, the plaque at Polo Grounds Towers lists the Giants as World Champions for 1904, as well as for 1905, 1921, 1922, 1933 and 1954 -- but not for 1888 and 1889, possibly because those titles were not won at that location, but rather at a different location with a facility called the Polo Grounds.
After 1904, the Pilgrims/Red Sox would win 4 more Pennants in the next 14 seasons. The Highlanders/Yankees would have to wait another 17 years before winning their 1st, but then, they would pretty much keep winning them for the next 43 years.
John Dwight Chesbro, a.k.a. Happy Jack, won 41 games that season, and 198 in his Hall of Fame career for the Pirates and the Yankees (and, for the very last game of his career, the North Adams, Massachusetts native came home and pitched and lost one for the Red Sox). Sadly, he is mainly remembered not for all the games he won, but for one he lost, basically for one pitch that he threw. He died in 1931, age 57.
A shocking percentage of the 1904 Pilgrims died young, what with that being the pre-antibiotic era -- although the man named Denton True Young, a.k.a. Cy Young, lived to be 87. The last survivor was shortstop Freddy Parent, a New England native, from Biddeford, Maine, who lived on until 1972, at the age of 96. The last surviving 1904 Highlander was 2nd baseman Jimmy Williams -- no relation to later Red Sox manager Jimy Williams -- who died in 1965.
October 10, 1920: Perhaps the most eventful game in World Series history unfolds at League Park in Cleveland. In the bottom of the 1st, Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Burleigh Grimes – one of 17 pitchers who will soon be allowed to continue throwing the spitball because it was their “bread-and-butter pitch,” or what we would call today his “out pitch,” though the pitch will be outlawed for everyone else – gives up hits to Charlie Jamieson, Bill Wambsganss, and Indians center fielder/manager/legend Tris Speaker. Tribe outfielder Elmer Smith then hits the first grand slam in Series history.
In the 3rd‚ Jim Bagby comes up with 2 on, and crashes another Grimes delivery for a 3-run home run‚ the first ever by a pitcher in Series play. In the 5th, with Pete Kilduff on second and Otto Miller on first, Dodger reliever Clarence Mitchell hits a line drive at 2nd baseman Wambsganss. One out. “Wamby” takes a couple of steps and tages Kilduff before he can get back to 2nd base. Two out. Then he tags the off-and-running Miller before he can see what’s happening and get back to 1st base. Three out. An unassisted triple play. And, 92 years later, this remains the only triple play in World Series history.
The Indians win, 8-1, and their 1st appearance in the World Series will soon be a successful one. But Wambsganss, suddenly nationally famous, will later lament that he had a pretty good career (and a case can be made that he was right), but that, for most people, he might as well have been born the day before this game and died the day after. As it turns out, "Wamby" dies on December 8, 1985, in a suburb of Cleveland, where he'd lived all his life, making him 89 years old, and the last survivor of the Indians' 1st World Championship team.
October 10, 1923: For the first time, the brand-new Yankee Stadium hosts a World Series game. The Yankees take a quick 3-0 lead over the 2-time defending champion Giants, but Heinie Groh triples in 2 runs in a 4-run 3rd that drives Waite Hoyt to cover. A 4-4 tie is broken in the top of the 9th by the Giants, when a blast by Giant outfielder Charles Dillon Stengel – yes, that Casey Stengel – rolls to the outfield wall. The sore-legged veteran hobbles around the bases, having lost a shoe while running, to score the winning run against reliever Bullet Joe Bush before 55‚307 spectators, a record for a Series game at the time.
This is also the first Series to be broadcast on a nationwide radio network. Graham McNamee‚ aided by baseball writers taking turns‚ is at the mike. Grantland Rice had broadcast an earlier World Series‚ but not nationally. Rice was on hand, though, and wrote a column about Stengel’s inside-the-park job, opening with the immortal words, “This is the way old Casey ran.” Old? The man who would one day be known as "the Ol’ Perfesser" wasn’t yet that old: He was 33, younger than a lot of great players, then and now.
October 10, 1924: With the score tied at 3-3 and one out in the bottom of the 12th in Game 7 of the World Series, Senators' backstop Muddy Ruel lifts a high catchable foul pop-up which Giant catcher Hank Gowdy misses when he stumbles over his own mask. Given a second chance, Ruel doubles. Earl McNeely then hits a grounder that strikes a pebble, and soars over the head of rookie Giant 3rd baseman Freddie Lindstrom, and drives home Ruel with the winning run making the Senators World Champions.
Walter Johnson, who had brilliantly toiled 18 seasons for a team known as "Washington: First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League," and had lost Games 1 and 4, pitched the 9th through 12th innings in relief, and not only had finally won a World Series game, but had won a World Series. The Senators had their first World Championship in 24 years of trying. In the 88 years since, no Washington baseball team has won another -- but now, for the moment, the Nationals have a chance to end the drought. Outfielder George "Showboat" Fisher was the last survivor of the '24 Senators, living until 1994, age 95.
October 10, 1926: For the first time, Yankee Stadium hosts a Game 7 of the World Series. The Yankees trail the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 in the bottom of the 7th inning, but Cardinal starter Jesse Haines, a future Hall-of-Famer, develops a blister on his hand, and can’t pitch any further.
Rogers Hornsby, the great-hitting 2nd baseman who doubles as the Cardinal manager, brings in another future HOFer, Grover Cleveland Alexander. Old Alex (also nicknamed “Pete”) had pitched and won Game 6 yesterday, but celebrated afterward, and legend has it that he was really hungover. Even if he wasn’t, he had gone the distance the day before. And he was 39, and an alcoholic, and also suffered from epilepsy, and was troubled by what he had seen in World War I (which, along with his epilepsy, he tried to treat with his drinking.) One of the greatest pitchers of all time, and he would retire with a total of 373 victories, tied for 3rd all-time with Christy Mathewson (sharing 1st all-time in National League wins, as Walter Johnson’s 417 were all in the American League and Cy Young’s 511 were split between both Leagues), but he was now a shadow of his former self.
And he comes in with a one-run lead, the bases loaded, and a dangerous hitter at the plate, Tony Lazzeri. Although just a rookie at the major-league level, Lazzeri had hit 60 home runs in a Pacific Coast League season, and would have been Rookie of the Year had the award existed in 1926.
Lazzeri hits a long drive down the left-field line, but just foul. That brings the count to 0-and-2. Alexander fires in, and Lazzeri strikes out. It is the most famous strikeout in baseball history, and according to legend, it ended the World Series, turning Alexander into a bigger hero than ever.
Except it didn’t end the game. There were 2 more innings to play. Alexander got through the 8th, and with 1 out to go in the 9th, he walked Babe Ruth. Then, for reasons known only to him – Yankee manager Miller Huggins said he hadn’t given him the signal to try – the Babe tried to steal 2nd base. Catcher Bob O’Farrell threw in, and Hornsby slapped the tag on him. The Babe was out, the game was over, and for the first time in 40 years – since the Cardinals, then known as the Browns, won the 1886 American Association Pennant and defeated the Chicago team now known as the Cubs in a postseason series – a St. Louis baseball team was World Champions.
This was also the first time the Yankees had played a Game 7 of a World Series, and they lost it. Actually, the Yankees’ record in World Series Game 7s isn’t especially good. They’ve won in 1947, 1952, 1956, 1958 and 1962; they’ve lost in 1926, 1955, 1957, 1960, 1964 and 2001, for a record of 5-6. At home at the old Yankee Stadium, it was even worse: 1-3. But they’ve still won more World Series in a Game 7 than all but 6 franchises have won Series regardless of how long they’ve gone – and the number drops to 4 if you only count the Series they’ve won in their current cities.
Alexander was a hero all over again, true, but it was a last stand. He helped the Cards back into the World Series in 1928, but this time the Yankees knocked him around. He spent much of his retirement trading his story of how he struck out Lazzeri for drinks. In 1945, interviewed for John P. Carmichael’s book My Greatest Day In Baseball, he told of meeting Lazzeri on the street in New York, and telling him, “Tony, I’m getting tired of fanning you.” And Lazzeri told him, “Perhaps you think I’m not.” Alexander’s health problems killed him in 1950, aged only 63.
Incredibly, he outlived Lazzeri. Lazzeri would rebound from this strikeout to help the Yankees win 5 World Series, bridging the 1920s Ruth-Gehrig Yankees to the 1930s Gehrig-DiMaggio Yankees. But he, too, had epilepsy. In 1946, he suffered a seizure at his home, fell down the stairs, and broke his neck. He was just 43. And, unlike Alexander, he did not live long enough to see his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was finally elected in 1991, 53 years after Alexander was so honored. Sadly, for all each man did, each had a hard life, and each is still best remembered for that one at-bat.
The last survivor from the 1926 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals was infielder George "Specs" Toporcer -- so nicknamed because he was one of the few players to wear glasses on the field in that era -- a Manhattan native who died in 1989 on Long Island, age 90.
October 10, 1930: Joe McCarthy, who had managed the Chicago Cubs to the 1929 National League Pennant, but was fired after a clash with management a few days ago, is hired to manage the New York Yankees. It will prove to be the greatest managerial hiring baseball has yet seen, as he will lead the Yanks to 8 Pennants and 7 World Championships. In other words, all by himself, McCarthy will have led the Yanks to more Pennants than all but 7 teams have won to this day (if you count combined city totals, all but 10), and more World Series than all but 2 (if you count combined city totals, all but 3).
October 10, 1931: With John “Pepper” Martin tying a World Series record with 12 hits, the St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Philadelphia Athletics, 4-2 in Game 7, and take the Series, denying the A’s the chance to become the first team to win 3 straight Series.
Burleigh Grimes, the last pitcher legally allowed to throw a spitball, had a shutout in the 9th, but tired, and Cardinal manager Gabby Street had to call on Bill Hallahan to nail down the win. “Wild Bill” did not live up to his nickname, and finished the A’s off. The A’s would not win another Pennant for 41 years, and that would only come after moving twice. By that point, the Cards would have won another 8 Pennants.
Infielder Ray Cunningham, who played just 3 games that season and not at all in the Series, plus 11 more games the next season before fading, was the last survivor of the 1931 World Champion Cardinals, dying in 2005, age 100.
October 10, 1937: The Yankees defeat the Giants, 4-2 in Game 5 at the Polo Grounds, and win their 2nd straight World Series, their 6th overall. This moves them past the Giants and the A’s to become the team with the most Series won. They have never seriously been threatened as such.
As for the Giants, here is a team that had Hall-of-Famers in Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell and player-manager Bill Terry, and had won their 3rd Pennant in the last 5 seasons, but had only won the Series in one of them, and has only won one since. So not only did the club not get the credit it deserved at the time, but the franchise has never really been the same, either.
The last survivor of the 1937 Yankees was Tommy Henrich, who died in 2009, at the age of 96. He was also the last survivor of the Yankee World Championship teams of 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1941.
October 10, 1945: The Detroit Tigers beat the Chicago Cubs, 9-3 at Wrigley Field, to win Game 7 and the World Series. Hal Newhouser, the American League’s Most Valuable Player this year and last, strikes out 10. Bloomfield, New Jersey native Hank Borowy, who had helped the Yankees win the ’43 Series and had already won 20 games in the regular season and 2 in this Series, is exhausted, and gives up 6 runs in the 1st inning.
With several players still in the service, this game marks the end of the World War II era in baseball. This also remains, 67 years later -- two-thirds of a century -- the last World Series game the Chicago Cubs have ever played. Pitchers Virgil Trucks and Les Mueller, and left fielder Ed Mierkowicz, are still living from the '45 Tigers; Andy Pafko is the last surviving Cub to have played in any World Series.
October 10, 1946: John Prine is born in Maywood, Illinois, outside Chicago. As far as I know, he has nothing to do with sports, and I only know one of his songs, but it should have been written decades earlier, as a memo to Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix and so many others:
There oughta be a law, with no bail:
Smash a guitar and you go to jail.
With no chance for early parole.
You don’t get out ‘til you get some soul.
It breaks my heart to see these stars
smashing a perfectly good guitar.
I don’t know who they think they are
smashing a perfectly good guitar.
October 10, 1948: The largest crowd ever to attend a World Series game, 86,288 fans, jams into Cleveland's Municipal Stadium to witness a showdown between two future Hall-of-Famers. Braves' southpaw Warren Spahn beats Bob Feller and the Indians in Game 5 of the Fall Classic, 11-5.
This remains the largest crowd ever to attend a single game that counts in an American League stadium -- the Indians and Yankees would get 86,563 for a 1954 doubleheader, and the Dodgers would cram over 92,000 into the Los Angeles Coliseum for 3 games of the '59 Series -- and the last postseason game ever won by the Boston franchise of the National League. When they win another, 9 years later, they will be the Milwaukee Braves. No Boston baseball team will win a World Series game again for 19 years.
October 10, 1950: Charlie George is born. A true "local boy made good," he grew up in the Islington section of North London, standing on the North Bank of the Arsenal Stadium (a.k.a. "Highbury," after the neighborhood), supporting the Arsenal Football Club (soccer team). He was good enough as a schoolboy to be signed by Arsenal in 1966, to reach the first team in 1968, and to be a regular by 1970.
He helped Arsenal win the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (precursor of today's Europa League) in 1970, the club's first trophy of any kind in 17 years. The next season, 1970-71, was Arsenal's annus mirabilis: Despite an early-season injury, George became a key cog in the Arsenal side that won the Football League for the first time in 18 years. Then he scored the winner in extra time to beat Liverpool for the FA Cup (Football Association Cup), England's national championship, drilling a 20-yard drive past Ray Clemence to give Arsenal a 2-1 win to clinch "The Double."
George's celebration, lying on the ground at Wembley Stadium, reminded fans of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, which had recently debuted in London's West End, giving rise to the title song being reworked as, "Charlie George, superstar, how many goals have you scored so far?" But opposing fans, seeing his long hair, tried it another way: "Charlie George, superstar, looks like a woman and he wears a bra!" But Arsenal fans had the last laugh, singing, to the tune of "The First Noel," "Charlie, Charlie, Charlie, Charlie! Born is the King of Highbury!"
He would continue to play for Arsenal until a 1975 falling-out with the manager, and even briefly played in America with the Minnesota Kicks of the North American Soccer League in 1978. Today he again works for Arsenal, as a tour guide at Highbury's replacement, the Emirates Stadium.
October 10, 1951: The Yankees defeat the New York Giants, 4-3 in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium, and win their 3rd straight World Series, their 14th World Championship. This is twice as many as the Boston Red Sox have now, 61 years later. The Giants had taken 2 of the first 3 games in this Series, but the Yanks had taken 3 straight to win.
In the bottom of the 8th, Joe DiMaggio had laced a double to left-center off Larry Jansen. It turned out to be the last hit of his career, as he announced his retirement 2 months later. His intended center field successor, Mickey Mantle, had gotten hurt in right field in Game 2, and missed the rest of the Series, and the knee he injured would never be the same again, the beginning of a cloud over his career that would only grow. The “other” great rookie center fielder, Willie Mays of the Giants, had a poor Series, and would spend most of the next two years in the Army in the Korean War. But both Mantle and Mays would be back, and would resume building their legends.
Four Yankees still survive from the '51 title: Yogi Berra, Bobby Brown, Jerry Coleman, and the pitcher who closed out this clincher and Game 7 in 1952, Bob Kuzava. Whitey Ford is still alive, but spent the '51 and '52 seasons in the U.S. Army, due to the Korean War.
October 10, 1956: Game 7 at Ebbets Field. A pair of Jersey boys start: Johnny Kucks of Hoboken, Hudson County, for the Yankees; Don Newcombe of Jefferson Township, Morris County, for the Dodgers. The New York Post’s headline reads:
Kucks vs. Newk and...
The Post is right: Win or lose, this is it for one of the best seasons in New York baseball history, as the Yankees had Mickey Mantle's Triple Crown & MVP season; the Dodgers had a fantastic Pennant race, over the Reds, Cardinals and Braves, edging the Braves by 1 game, a season highlighted by no-hitters from Carl Erskine and former Giant nemesis Sal Maglie; and the World Series had Don Larsen's perfect game in Game 5 and a 1-0 10-inning Dodger win in Game 6. This is Game 7. This is it.
The Yankees turn out to be “it.” They shell Newk, with 2 homers from Yogi and a grand slam from Bill "Moose" Skowron. Kucks pitches a shutout, and the Yankees win, 9-0. The Dodgers had been World Champions of baseball for 372 days.
The last out turns out to be the last play in the career of Jackie Robinson: He strikes out swinging, but Yogi drops the ball, a flash of the Mickey Owen & Tommy Henrich play 15 years earlier. His weight up and his speed down, but his instincts as keen as ever, Robinson sees what's happening and runs to first. But, as I said, his great speed is gone, and Yogi throws him out. Jackie retires 2 months later.
What no one knows at the time -- not Robinson, not even Dodger owner Walter O'Malley -- is the extent of the finality of this game. It is not just the end of a terrific baseball season. It is the last Subway Series game for 44 years -- 33 years if you count the 1989 "BART Series." It is the last home game in a World Series for a National League team from New York for 13 years. And it is the last postseason game that Ebbets Field, or Brooklyn, will ever host. The next season, the Giants will announce they are moving to San Francisco, and the Dodgers will announce they are moving to Los Angeles. “There’s no tomorrow,” indeed.
October 10, 1957: The Milwaukee Braves win the World Series, with Lew Burdette, on 2 days rest, winning his 3rd game of the Series, a 5-0 shutout of the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in Game 7. The 30-year-old right-hander, named the Series MVP, tosses 24 consecutive scoreless innings and posts a 0.64 ERA in his three Fall classic victories.
At the time, the Yankees were criticized for having traded Burdette to the Braves in 1951 (the Braves then in Boston) for All-Star pitcher Johnny Sain. However, Sain helped the Yankees win 3 World Series; the Braves won just 1 with Burdette -- the only World Series the franchise won between 1914 (in Boston) and 1995 (in Atlanta).
This is the first World Championship for the Braves since the “Miracle Braves” in Boston 43 years earlier. To this day, 55 years later, no Milwaukee team has ever won another World Series. In fact, the only other World Championship won by a Milwaukee team is the NBA Title won by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971. Unless, of course, you count the 13 NFL Championships won by the Green Bay Packers – and Lambeau Field is 117 miles from downtown Milwaukee.
October 10, 1959: Bradley Whitford is born in Madison, Wisconsin. Not to be confused with the Aerosmith guitarist of the same name, this guy was a “character actor” – one of those guys whose name you couldn’t quite remember, so you called him, “Oh yeahhhh... Him!” Then he began to play White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman on The West Wing.
Josh, a native of Westport, Connecticut, was a great character, a devoted public servant, and a hard but fair fighter. He had one flaw: He was a Mets fan. In a 2001 episode titled “The Stackhouse Filibuster,” he mentioned that he wanted to fly down to Florida to see a spring-training game, and hoped to get a “Hey, dude” from Met catcher Mike Piazza. I don’t know who Whitford roots for in real life.
October 10, 1962, 50 years ago: Tom Tresh belts an eighth-inning homer off Jack Sanford to give the Yankees a 5-3 comeback win over the Giants in Game 5 of the World Series, at the original Yankee Stadium. The rookie shortstop's dad, Mike Tresh, who hit only two home runs in his 12 big league seasons, prior to the at bat left his seat behind home plate, to bring his son good luck.
October 10, 1964: The Yankees and Cardinals are tied 1-1 in Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, going into the bottom of the 9th. Barney Schultz, a knuckleballer, comes on to relieve for the Cardinals. In the on-deck circle, Mickey Mantle watches Schultz warm up, times Schultz's knuckler in his head, and says to Elston Howard, standing there with him, “You can go back to the clubhouse, Elston. This game is over.”
Schultz threw Mantle one pitch. Mickey deposited it in the upper deck in right field. Yankees 2, Cardinals 1 – which was also now the Yankees’ lead in the Series. It was Mickey’s 16th home run in World Series play, surpassing the record he shared with Babe Ruth. He would hit a 17th in Game 6 and an 18th in Game 7, but the Cards would come back and win the Series. Still, Mickey would often speak of this homer, his only walkoff homer in postseason play, as the highlight of his career.
Whether Ruth called his shot in the 1932 World Series is still debated, but Mickey sure called his here. He was asked how many others he called. “Well, I called my shot about 500 times,” he would say with a laugh. This was about the only one that worked.”
October 10, 1966: Another great day for The Arsenal, although it's not yet obvious that even the 1950 entry has made it so: Tony Adams is born. The centre-back was the greatest Captain in the club's history, helping them win League titles in 1989, ’91, ’98 and 2002, and the FA Cup in ’93, ’98 and ‘02. There's only one Tony Adams, and his statue now stands outside the Emirates Stadium.
October 10, 1968: Mickey Lolich wins his 3rd game of the Series – matching Harry Brecheen as the only lefthander ever to do it thus far – and the Detroit Tigers win their first World Series in 23 years (to the day), beating the indomitable Bob Gibson and the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7, 4-1 at Busch Memorial Stadium. Jim Northrup’s triple over the normally sure-fielding Curt Flood makes the difference.
After the race riot and near-miss for the Pennant in 1967, and after 16 years without a Pennant for their legendary star Al Kaline, Detroit needed this World Championship very badly. With Kaline, Lolich, Northrup and Willie Horton being the stars of the Tigers’ comeback from 3-games-to-1 down, the ’68 Tigers remain the most beloved team in the history of Michigan sports.
Lolich, who would retire with 217 wins and as the all-time strikeout leader among lefthanders with 2,832, was criticized for being fat. He was the original “hefty lefty.” He was 6 feet even, and is usually listed as having been 210 pounds. Seriously, that was considered fat for a pitcher in 1968. Paging David Wells. Paging CC Sabathia.
October 10, 1969: Brett Lorenzo Favre is born in Gulfport, Mississippi. Seriously, he’s only 43? He seems a lot older. Well, that’s what happens when you retire 3 times and you end up requiring a 4th (at least). What should we get him for his birthday? How about something he's not used to having: A clue!
October 10, 1973: As Vice President Spiro Agnew is pleading no contest to income-tax evasion and resigning his office, Tom Seaver holds off the Reds, the Mets win, 5-2, and the fans storm the field at Shea Stadium to celebrate the Mets’ 2nd Pennant in 5 seasons.
October 10, 1975: Placido Polanco is born in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic. The 2nd baseman helped the Detroit Tigers win the 2006 American League Pennant, but was also a part of their 2009 collapse. He is now in his 2nd go-around with the Phillies.
October 10, 1976: Patrick Brian Burrell is born in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. He helped the Philadelphia Phillies win the 2008 World Series, then signed as a free agent with the team the Phils beat in said Series, the Tampa Bay Rays. "Pat the Bat" won another ring with the 2010 Giants, retired after the 2011 season, and now works in the Giants' front office.
October 10, 1980: After 3 failed attempts, the 4th time is the charm for the Kansas City Royals. George Brett’s mammoth home run off Goose Gossage gives the Royals a 4-2 win and a sweep of the American League Championship Series, for the first major league Pennant for a Kansas City team – the first Pennant won by any KC team since the Blues won the American Association Pennant in 1953. It is one of the most humiliating series in Yankee history.
October 10, 1982, 30 years ago: The Milwaukee Brewers win their first Pennant, the first by any Milwaukee team since the ’58 Braves, beating the California Angels, 4-3 at Milwaukee County Stadium -- and on the 25th Anniversary of the Braves' World Series win, no less. The Angels had blown a 2-games-to-none lead. In their first World Series, the Brewers will play the St. Louis Cardinals, who win their Pennant in 14 years today by beating the Atlanta Braves.
October 10, 1984: Troy Trevor Tulowitzki is born in Santa Clara, California. With a 3-T name like that, he should have been nicknamed "3T" or "T3" or "Trey." Instead, he's "Tulo." In 2007, the shortstop pulled an unassisted triple play, helped the Colorado Rockies win their first postseason series and their first National League Pennant, and was named NL Rookie of the Year. He had them back in the Playoffs in 2009.
October 10, 1987, 25 years ago: Princeton University beats Columbia University, 39-8 at Palmer Stadium in Princeton, New Jersey. Columbia thus loses their 34th straight game, a new record for Division I college football. They would extend the record to 44 the next year, before beating, of all teams, Princeton. But Prairie View A&M, a historically black school in Texas, would double the disaster: 88 games. The old record, still the Division I-A record, is 33, by Northwestern, which ended in 1981.
I was at this game, and there was a small contingent of Northwestern fans at the top of the east side of the Palmer Stadium horseshoe, holding up a banner reading, "Thank You Columbia." I sat on the west side, and saw Princeton's last touchdown scored on an interception by a safety who was so fast, he looked like he was flying. Just 6 years later, he would be flying. His name was Dean Cain, and from 1993 to 1997, he starred with Teri Hatcher in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
By a weird coincidence, the recent movie Superman, Christopher Reeve, grew up in Princeton, and graduated from Princeton Day School and was accepted at the University, but chose Cornell in Western New York. Cain, who dated Brooke Shields while they both attended Princeton, grew up in Malibu, California, attending Santa Monica High School with acting brothers Rob and Chad Lowe, and Charlie Sheen (but not Charlie's older brother Emilio Estevez).
October 10, 1990: The Oakland Athletics win their 3rd straight Pennant, the first team since the 1976-78 Yankees to do so, beating the Red Sox, 3-1 at the Oakland Coliseum. Red Sox starter Roger Clemens is ejected after arguing with plate umpire Terry Cooney over a ball-four call in the 2nd inning. He remains the last player to be thrown out of a postseason game. Funny, but, at the time, nobody suspected “roid rage.”
October 10, 1998: El Duque to the rescue. Having pitched for the 2 most demanding bosses in the Western Hemisphere, George Steinbrenner and Fidel Castro, no way was a little bit of Cleveland cold going to stop Orlando Hernandez. He pitches a 4-hit shutout (with 1 inning of help each from Mike Stanton and Mariano Rivera), and the Yankees win, 4-0, and tie up the ALCS at 2 games apiece. Chuck Knoblauch, whose “brainlauch” in Game 2 put the Yankees on a minor slide, starts a key 4-6-3 double play in the 8th to eliminate the last Indian threat. He is on his way to redemption.
October 10, 2004: Ken Caminiti dies of a drug overdose, after injuries (related to his steroid use) had ended his career in 2001. The 1996 NL MVP was 43.
Also dying on this day was actor Christopher Reeve, from complications from his 1995 horseback-riding accident and subsequent paralysis. He was 52.
In 2002, I was at Yankee Stadium for one of the Yankee-Met Interleague games, and waited for the players to arrive, when a van pulled up at the media entrance. Suddenly, somebody yelled out, “It’s Superman! It’s Superman!” Not seeing Derek Jeter anywhere, I became confused. Then I stood on my toes and saw... Chris Reeve, in his motorized wheelchair, having been lowered out of his handicap-access van.
He was completely bald, his head probably shaven to alleviate what the headpiece of his chair was doing to his hair, and (I hate to say this) he looked more like Superman’s arch-enemy Lex Luthor than the Man of Steel himself. But, even though he couldn’t turn his head to see us, and had to work hard just to breathe air into the tube that operated the chair, he still had more charisma than most of us will ever have. And, apparently, the native of Princeton, New Jersey was a Yankee Fan. Well, of course: He knew heroes when he saw them.
It had been 15 years since he last put on the Superman costume for a movie (and 23 years since he did so for a good one), but, to those of us who were kids when he made those movies, he will forever be Superman – with all due respect to Bud Collyer, Kirk Alyn, George Reeves, Dean Cain, Tom Welling, Brandon Routh, and the man who has been granted the mantle for the next film, British actor Henry Cavill.
In the days after Reeve's death, a cartoon would appear in the New York Daily News, showing an empty wheelchair, and Superman flying away from it.
October 10, 2005: The Los Angeles Angels of Katella Boulevard, Anaheim, Orange County, California, U.S.A., North America, Western Hemisphere, Planet Earth, Sol System, United Federation of Planets, Milky Way Galaxy, Known Universe, beat the Yankees‚ 5-3‚ to win their Division Series in 5 games. Rookie Ervin Santana gets the win in relief of Bartolo Colon. Garret Anderson homers for L.A., while Derek Jeter connects for the Yanks.
It is a humiliating defeat for the Yankees, who lose to the Angels in a Division Series for the 2nd time in 4 years. Naturally, I blamed Alex Rodriguez. And Randy Johnson. But, the truth is, just about nobody did a good job for the Yankees in this series. It took until the 2009 ALCS for the Yankees to beat the Angels in a postseason series.
October 10, 2009: For the first time, a postseason MLB game is postponed due to winter conditions. Game 3 of the NLDS between the Phillies and Rockies at Coors Field is pushed back not so much due to the 2 inches of snow that fell on Denver, but to the 17-degree cold and the ice on the local streets.
October 10, 2010: With their 3-2 victory over the Braves in Game 4 of the NLDS series at Turner Field, the Giants advance to the National League Championship Series to play the Philadelphia Phillies. After the last out of the game, the Giants players come onto the field to salute the opposing manager, Bobby Cox, who has announced his retirement and just managed his last game after 29 years of managing for the Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays.