Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy Don Larsen Day! And Other October 8 Anniversaries


October 8, 1956: Don Larsen pitches a perfect game for the New York Yankees over the heavy-hitting Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series. It is no longer the only no-hitter in postseason history, but it's still the only perfect game, and still the only no-hitter in a game later than the Division Series.

Larsen is still alive, 56 years later.  The only other Yankee who played in the game who still lives is Yogi Berra -- Andy Carey died within the last year. Sadly, none of the Dodgers who played in the game are still alive.

Still living and on the rosters, but not playing in the game, are: Yankees Whitey Ford, Jerry Coleman, Johnny Kucks, Bob Cerv, Norm Siebern and Bob Turley; and Dodgers Don Zimmer, Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Roger Craig, Randy Jackson (not the Jackson 5 singer or the American Idol panelist) and Ed Roebuck -- who came from Brownsville... Pennsylvania, not Brownsville, Brooklyn.  (A year ago, I reported that Yankee reserve George Wilson was still alive.  This was an error on my part, as he died in 1974.)

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October 8, 1871: The Great Chicago Fire burns down about two-thirds of the city, including the Union Base-Ball Grounds, home of the Chicago White Stockings of the National Association.  The White Stockings are forced to play the rest of the season on the road in borrowed uniforms.  This likely costs them the first Pennant of a baseball league that could be (but, in retrospect, is not always) called "major league."

October 8, 1896: The Baltimore Orioles complete a 4-game sweep of the Cleveland Spiders to win the Temple Cup. They have won the last 3 National League Pennants. It will be 70 years before another Baltimore team wins a major league Pennant.

Of those legendary, wild, mischievous, unethical yet brilliant 1890s Orioles, keeping in mind the state of medicine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with no antibiotics: pitcher Bill Hawke only lived until 1902, infielder Frank Bonner died in 1905, catcher Frank Bowerman in 1909, pitchers Charles "Duke" Esper and William "Jack" Horner in 1910, pitcher Arthur Hamilton "Dad" Clarkson in 1911, 2nd baseman Heinie Reitz in 1914, 3rd baseman Jim Donnelly in 1915, 1st baseman George "Scoops" Carey in 1916, right fielder Willie Keeler in 1923, infielder Bill "Wagon Tongue" Keister (no doubt his name made him the butt of a few jokes) in 1924, pitcher-outfielder Kirtley Baker in 1927, shortstop Hughie Jennings in 1928, pitcher Bill Kissinger in 1929, pitchers George Hemming and Erasmus Arlington "Arlie" Pond in 1930, 1st baseman Dan Brouthers in 1932, 2nd baseman William "Kid" Gleason and pitcher Otis Stockdale in 1933, 3rd baseman John McGraw and catcher Wilbert Robinson in 1934, center fielder Steve Brodie in 1935, manager Ned Hanlon and pitcher Jerry Nops in 1937, infielder Joe Quinn in 1940, pitcher Bert Inks in 1941, left fielder Joe Kelley in 1943, pitcher Tony Mullane in 1944, pitcher Joe Corbett in 1945, pitcher Richard "Stub" Brown in 1948, pitcher John Joseph "Sadie" McMahon in 1954, 1st baseman John Joseph "Dirty Jack" Doyle (the only Ireland-born player on a team loaded with Irish-Americans) in 1958,
and catcher-1st baseman William Jones "Boileryard" Clarke and pitcher Bill Hoffer lived on until 1959.  Hoffer died at age 88 on July 21, and Clarke 8 days later at 90, making him the last survivor.

To show you just how smart this team was: Between them, McGraw (1904-05-11-12-13-17-21-22-23-24 New York Giants), Jennings (1907-08-09 Detroit Tigers), Robinson (1916 & '20 Brooklyn Dodgers) and Gleason (1919 Chicago White Sox) would manage teams to 16 Pennants -- but win only 3 World Series.

October 8, 1908: In a make-up game necessitated by 19-year-old 1st baseman Fred Merkle's baserunning "boner" on September 23, Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown outduels Christy Mathewson, 4-2, as the Cubs win the National League Pennant by one game over the Giants in one of the most dramatic Pennant races of all time. Officially, the Polo Grounds was full to about 40,000 people. Unofficially, there may have been twice as many outside. This could very well have been the best-attempted-attendance baseball game of all time.

Merkle, as it turned out, outlived every Cub who played in the game, slightly surviving Cub right fielder Jimmy Slagle, both dying in 1956. The last survivor from either the September 23 or the October 8 game was Giant shortstop Al Bridwell, who lasted until 1969, and, as the last survivor, was interviewed about it by Giant fan Lawrence S. Ritter for his 1965 book of baseball interviews The Glory of Their Times.  He got the hit that would have scored the run in the September 23 game, had Merkle actually touched second, and told Ritter he wished he'd never gotten that hit.

October 8, 1922, 90 years ago today: This one worked about a lot better for the Giants. Behind Art Nehf’s complete game five-hitter, they repeat as World Champions, sweeping the Yankees in five games, including one tie. The comeback 5-3 victory is fueled by George "Highpockets" Kelly’s RBI single during the three-run eighth inning at the Polo Grounds.

October 8, 1927: The 1927 Yankees, considered one of the best teams in baseball history, live up to their reputation as they beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-3, to sweep the World Series in 4 straight. But this Game 4 concludes in an unusual fashion: In the bottom of the 9th, with the score tied, Pirate pitcher Johnny Miljus loads the bases with no out. He begins to work out of it, striking out Lou Gehrig swinging and Bob Meusel looking. Facing Tony Lazzeri with two outs and an 0-1 count, Miljus uncorks a wild pitch, and Earle Combs races home with the winning run, to give the Bronx Bombers the sweep and their 2nd World Championship.

This is the only time the winning run of a World Series has scored on a wild pitch. Flip the last 2 digits, and in 1972 the Pirates became the first (and still only) team to lose a League Championship Series on a wild pitch, by Bob Moose against the Cincinnati Reds.

October 8, 1929: In front of 50,000 fans at Wrigley Field -- which now holds only about 40,000 -- Philadelphia Athletics owner-manager Connie Mack fools everyone before Game 1 of the World Series, starting neither of his big fireballers, lefthander Robert "Lefty" Grove or righthander George Earnshaw. He gambles that the sidearm slow stuff of former Red Sox star Howard Ehmke (the visiting starter in the first game at the original Yankee Stadium) might frustrate the Cubs' big sluggers such as Rogers Hornsby, Hack Wilson and Riggs Stephenson.

Mack's gamble pays off, as Ehmke establishes a new World Series record, striking out 13 Cubs, en route to a 3-1 A's victory in Game 1 of the Fall Classic. The mark will last for 34 years until Dodger hurler Carl Erskine fans 14 Yankees in 1953. The Cubs never recover, and the A's win the Series in 5.

October 8, 1930: The A's beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-1 in Game 6, George Earnshaw outpitching Bill Hallahan thanks to home runs by Al Simmons and Jimmy Dykes. The A's take their 2nd straight World Series. They have now won 5, all in a span of 21 years. It will be 42 years, and two franchise moves, before they win another.

October 8, 1939: In the top of the tenth, Yankee outfielder Joe DiMaggio scores all the way from first base when Reds' catcher Ernie Lombardi lays in a daze at home plate after Charlie "King Kong" Keller crashes into him. The prudish press of the day says that Lombardi "swooned" or "snoozed" at the plate, but, in reality, Keller had inadvertently kneed him in the groin. The Yankees win, 7-4, to complete the World Series sweep and become the first club to win 4 consecutive Fall Classics. It is their 8th World Championship overall.

October 8, 1940: With the Reds' 2-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 7 of the Fall Classic, Bill McKechnie becomes the first manager to win a World Series with two different teams. The Deacon also piloted the Pirates to a World Championship, beating Washington in 7 games in the 1925 Fall Classic.

With Lombardi injured down the stretch and backup catcher Willard Hershberger becoming (we think) the only big-leaguer ever to commit suicide during the season (slashing his throat in a Boston hotel room during a roadtrip), 40-year-old coach Jimmie Wilson was signed to a playing contract, and was one of the factors in this World Series -- as was an injury to Tiger star Hank Greenberg. The Tigers would win the Series again 5 years later; the Reds would need another 35 years.

October 8, 1959: In Game 6, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the "Go-Go White Sox," 9-3 at Comiskey Park, to win the World Series. Chicago's speed and quickness weren't enough to overcome Los Angeles' hitting and pitching. This was the 1st World Championship won by any team playing their home games west of St. Louis. It would also be the last World Series game played in Chicago for 46 years.

Dodger players still alive from this World Series: Sandy Koufax, Maury Willis, Don Zimmer, Roger Craig, Stan Williams, Chuck Essegian, Ron Fairly, Wally Moon, Joe Pignatano, Don Demeter and Chuck Churn.  White Sox still alive are: Luis Aparicio, Billy Pierce, Jim Landis, Jim Rivera, Turk Lown, John Romano, Sammy Esposito and Jim McAnany.

October 8, 1961: In Game 4 at Crosley Field, Whitey Ford blanks the Reds for 5 innings to extend his World Series consecutive scoreless inning streak to 32, breaking Red Sox hurler (and future Yankee slugger) Babe Ruth's previous record of 29 2/3 innings. Hector Lopez and Clete Boyer provide the offense driving in two runs each in the Yankee 6-0 victory.

Before the game, Ford was asked if he was excited about breaking the record.  Not only did he say he didn't know he was approaching a record, he said he didn't know Babe Ruth had ever been a pitcher.

October 8, 1966: The first World Series game played in the State of Maryland is Game 3 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, and the host Orioles continue their shocking upset of the defending World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, beating them 1-0.

October 8, 1972, 40 years ago today: Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.  Bert Campaneris of the Oakland Athletics leads off the bottom of the 1st at the Oakland Coliseum with a single, steals 2nd and 3rd bases, and scores on a single.  Campaneris would end up getting 3 hits on the day against the Detroit Tigers.

In the 7th, Tiger reliever Lerrin LaGrow purposely hit Campaneris with a pitch, on the ankle.  Campaneris responded by throwing his bat at LaGrow, who just barely ducked in time to avoid getting hit with it.  There was a bench-clearing brawl, and Billy Martin, then managing the Tigers, had to be restrained from going after Campaneris.  Both Campaneris and LaGrow were suspended for the rest of the series.  The A's won the game, 5-0, and took a 2-games-to-0 lead in the series.  But the Tigers would fight back in Detroit to force a 5th and deciding game.

Years later, for work, I had to contact a Phoenix-area real estate office.  Turned out, it was run by LaGrow. Now, I don't condone what Campaneris did, but I will say that, 35 years later, LaGrow wasn't any nicer.

October 8, 1973: A year to the day after the LaGrow-Campaneris incident, another Playoff brawl, this time in the National League Championship Series.  The Mets beat the Reds 9-2 in Game 3, in a game remembered for 5-foot-11, 200-pound Pete Rose breaking up a double play by crashing into 5-foot-11, 140-pound Bud Harrelson.

With the fight broken up, Rose returns to his position in left field, where Met fans (understandably, but hardly justified) start throwing things at him. Reds manager Sparky Anderson takes his team off the field. The umpires get a message to the Shea Stadium public address announcer, who announces that if the throwing doesn't stop, the game will be forfeited -- remember, the series is tied 1-1 and the Mets, barring a total (or even, dare I say it, Metlike) collapse, have this game won and need only one more win for the Pennant. Desperate, Met manager Yogi Berra takes Tom Seaver and Willie Mays out there, and the 3 of them plead for peace. Listening to the 3 legends, the fans stop, and the Mets finish off the win.

The next day, with a banner hanging from Shea's upper deck reading, "A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME STILL STINKS" -- I guess they weren't willing to say "Sucks" in 1973 -- Rose will make his point by winning the game and tying up the series with an extra-inning home run. But the Mets will win Game 5 and the Pennant.

October 8, 1978: Jim Gilliam, former 2nd baseman and now 1st base coach for the Dodgers, dies of complications of a brain hemorrhage that he suffered on September 15.  "Junior" was just short of his 50th Birthday.

He had helped the Brooklyn Dodgers win Pennants in 1953, 1955 and 1956, winning the World Series in 1955. He continued to play for them in Los Angeles, winning the World Series again in 1959, 1963 and 1965, before losing the 1966 World Series. He was then named a coach, following Buck O'Neil of the Cubs as the 2nd black coach in the major leagues.

For the rest of the postseason, the Dodgers will wear Number 19 patches on their sleeves, retire the number, and dedicate the 1978 World Series to his memory.

October 8, 1982, 30 years ago today: The New Jersey Devils get their first win, a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers.  It will be a while, though, before the Devils can legitimately claim to again be better than the Rangers.

October 8, 1983: In front of 64,494 fans at Veterans Stadium, the Philadelphia Phillies do something they had only done 3 times before in their first 100 years of play: Win a Pennant. They win the NLCS behind the pitching of Steve Carlton and the power of Gary Matthews’ three-run homer, 7-2. This win, over the Dodgers, gives them some measure of revenge, having lost to the Dodgers in 1977 (this is the anniversary of that loss, with "Black Friday" happening the day before) and 1978. They will also beat the Dodgers in the NLCS in 2008 and 2009.

October 8, 1986: The Mets' "inevitable" World Championship suddenly becomes quite evitable. Houston Astros' hurler Mike Scott -- a mediocre pitcher when the Mets got rid of him -- throws a five-hitter and ties a Playoff record with 14 strikeouts as Houston beats the Mets, 1-0 in Game 1 of the NLCS at the Astrodome. A Glenn Davis home run off Dwight Gooden accounts for the contest's lone run.

October 8, 1995: If you're a Yankee Fan, as I am, this one still rankles. Thanks to a 2-run double off Jack McDowell by Edgar Martinez, the Mariners become only the 4th team in major league history to overcome a 2-game deficit to win a 5-game series when they dramatically come-from-behind to beat the Yankees in 11 innings, 6-5.

This, of course, will be the last game as Yankee manager for Buck Showalter, and the last game as a major league player for Don Mattingly. George Steinbrenner will hire Joe Torre as manager, and Bob Watson as general manager, who will make the trades to bring Mariners Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson, and Cub catcher Joe Girardi, to New York. The Last Baseball Dynasty is about to begin.

October 8, 2000: The Mets win a postseason series. Stop laughing.

At Shea Stadium, the Mets blank the Giants, 4-0, to win the NLDS in 4 games. Bobby Jones, who was sent to the minors earlier in the season to work on his mechanics, retires the side in order eight of the nine innings allowing only a 5th-inning double to Jeff Kent. It is only the 6th complete-game 1-hitter in postseason history.

October 8, 2007: And so it came to pass that, 12 years to the day after the Buck Showalter era ended, so did the Joe Torre era. A 6-4 defeat to the Cleveland Indians in Game 4 of the ALDS at The Stadium proves to be Torre’s final game with the Yankees. The veteran skipper, who during his 12-year tenure with the Bronx Bombers saw the team win 1,173 games and make the postseason every year, will later reject a $5 million, one-year contract to return as manager, a deal many believe to be structured to oust the popular pilot without upsetting the fans.

This was also the final postseason game at the original Yankee Stadium, ending not with a bang, or with a whimper, but a few grumbles.

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