Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pitching Doesn't Win Championships

I don't like getting beat, but if my team does the best it can, and is still defeated fair and square, I can live with it.

And, certainly, the Detroit Tigers deserve a lot of credit. After all, they're 1 win away from having beaten the Yankees in the postseason not once, not twice, but three times -- all in the space of 7 seasons.

Here's a list of the teams that have beaten the Yankees in postseason play 3 times:

1. St. Louis Cardinals: 1926 World Series, 1942 WS, 1964 WS
2. Dodgers: 1955 WS (Brooklyn), 1963 WS (Los Angeles), 1981 WS (LA)

That's it. The Cleveland Indians have done it twice, and they did it in a span of 11 years. So have the Angels, in a span of 4 years. So have the Giants, in back-to-back years, if you count New York, but they've never beaten us since they moved to San Francisco.

The Tigers have done what they have to do, and, presuming they finish this off, will be worthy Champions of the American League.

But these Yankees, most of them anyway, have flat-out given up. That is unacceptable.

Last night, going into the 9th inning, the Yankees had just 2 baserunners off Justin Verlander, both singles by Ichiro Suzuki. Between them, Phil Hughes (who got hurt after 3 innings), David Phelps, Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain combined for 8 innings, 7 hits and 5 walks -- and 2 runs (only 1 earned). A good job, even in a pitcher's park like Comerica Park.

A real Yankee team would have topped that. This one didn't.

Eduardo Nunez -- or "NunE6," who is less qualified to play shortstop than I am, and I'm a 42-year-old guy who's never played organized ball, even in Little League, and I've got a bad hip on one leg and a bad knee on the other -- led off the top of the 9th with a home run. That made it 2-1 Tigers.

Brett Gardner followed Nunez' homer by grounding back to Verlander. Then Tiger manager Jim Leyland replaced the reigning holder of both the Most Valuable Player and the Cy Young Awards in the AL, with lefthander Phil Coke, to face lefty Ichiro, turn the switch-hitting Mark Teixeira to his weaker right side, and if necessary, face the lefties Robinson Cano and Raul Ibanez.

Now, I had some hope. This is Phil Coke we're talking about. Yes, he helped the Yankees win the World Series in 2009, but he also blew a lot of games. The Tigers can also be said to have reached the postseason the last 2 years in spite of him, rather than because of him. This Coke is not it.

But he got Ichiro to ground out. Teix singled to center, with Jayson Nix coming in as a pinch-runner.

Up came Cano, who was 0-for-29 in the postseason thus far. Worse than Dave Winfield in 1981. Even worse than Gil Hodges in 1952. But he singled to left.

The speedy Nix on 2nd with the tying run. The speedy Cano on 1st with the potential winning run.

At that point, I wrote on Facebook, "I swear, if the Yankees tie this up, and then lose in extra innings, I will be fuming."

Well, the Yankees didn't tease me by tying it up and then losing in extra innings. They teased me by getting 1 run and stranding 2 in the 9th.  aul Ibanez, who has been such a hero for the Yanks in this postseason, the only batter to be such, struck out to end the game.

Down three games to none - and now Hughes and Russell Martin are added to the injury list.

The Yankees aren't even putting up much of a fight.

Hitting instructor Kevin Long has got to go. And I'm THISCLOSE to saying manager Joe Girardi should also go. Aside from Ibanez, his hunches have not paid off. Certainly, leaving Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher, however pathetic they've been thus far, has not helped.

Only once has an MLB team come from 3 games to 0 down to win a series, or even to push one to a Game 7. And we all know when that happened.

But the 2012 Yankees are not the 2004 Red Sox - and not just because the Sox cheated to do it. Even when the Yankees beat the Sox 19-8 in Game 3, the Sox had still scored 16 runs in the 1st 3 games, including 7 in the 7th and 8th of Game 1, mounted a brief comeback attempt by scoring once in the 8th in Game 2, and in Game 3 were winning 4-3 after 2 and were tied 6-6 after 3. They were losing, but they had the opposite problem: They couldn't pitch, but they could hit.

The Yankees have let a lot of good pitching go to waste in this postseason. It is time for the people who say, "Pitching wins Championships" to shut the hell up. The Yankees haven't been bad because the Baltimore Orioles and the Tigers have had good pitching. They do, but the Yankees are the Yankees: They should be able to hit anybody's pitching.

Also needing a big steaming cup of shut the hell up: People who said, "Pitching is 75 percent of baseball." Even if it is, that other 25 percent is important.

The Yankees have gone through this postseason with every starting pitcher understanding a little bit of what Harvey Haddix felt. He was the Pittsburgh Pirate lefthander who threw 12 perfect innings against the Milwaukee Braves on May 26, 1959 -- on the road, no less. But Lew Burdette also threw goose eggs for the Braves, and in the bottom of the 13th, an error, a sacrifice bunt, and intentional walk and a Hank Aaron home run (ruled a double because of a baserunning blunder but the winning run scored anyway) beat Haddix.

I still remember the opening line of the chapter on it in John Thorn's book Baseball's 10 Greatest Games, after the previous 2 games in the book where the 1951 Giant-Dodger playoff and Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series: "Fate can be cruel, like it was to Ralph Branca. Or it can be kind, as it was to Don Larsen. Tonight, it will be both to Harvey Haddix."

(In that book, published in 1981, Thorn also cited the one and only double no-hitter in baseball history: May 2, 1917, Fred Toney of the Cincinnati Reds keeping his no-hitter after 10 when Hippo Vaughn of the Chicago Cubs lost his in the 10th on an RBI single by Jim Thorpe. Yes, that Jim Thorpe. Also cited by Thorn: A 1907 down-to-the-wire game between the Tigers and the Philadelphia Athletics that went 17 innings and, though it was a tie, essentially knocked the A's out of the race; the World Series Game 7s of 1924 and 1960, Game 7 in 1975, and the Bucky Dent Game in 1978.  There was one more, but I've forgotten what it was.)

Fate, or God, or "The Baseball Gods," or whatever you want to cite, has been kind to the Yankee pitchers in allowing them to pitch well. Indeed, not once in these 8 games have either the O's or the Tigers scored more than 2 runs in a single inning.

But the Yankee hitters have been a disgrace.

Perhaps that disgrace ends tonight. CC Sabathia takes the hill, against Max Scherzer. I'm confident that CC will pitch like a beast again. It's what he does. Some players can't handle pressure. CC loves pressure. Eats it up. (Save your jokes, he knows he's fat.) But if the Yankees don't give him runs, he'll give his all, and for nothing. He doesn't complain. Unlike most of the Yankees in this postseason, Carsten Charles Sabathia has been a man. So give the man some runs.

Last night, Barack Obama showed us what it means to stand up to a bully from Detroit, and beat him.

The Yankees need to follow BO44's example.

Or maybe that would only stave off the inevitable. Perhaps we shouldn't keep the patient alive on machines. Perhaps we should have a Do Not Rescuscitate order. Perhaps it should end tonight. Let the other shoe drop. Let the recriminations come. Let those who need to lose their jobs -- playing and otherwise uniformed, and non-uniformed -- lose them. Let new blood be brought in. Let changes be made.

Let the chips fall where they may.


A bunch of interesting anniversaries and birthdays today:

October 17, 1814: The London Beer Flood occurs. No, I’m not making that up. If Boston could have a molasses flood in 1918, why couldn’t London have a beer flood?

It happened in the London parish of St. Giles. At the Meux and Company Brewery on Tottenham Court Road, a huge vat containing over 135,000 imperial gallons of beer ruptured, causing other vats in the same building to succumb in a domino effect. As a result, more than 323,000 imperial gallons of beer burst out and gushed into the streets.

The wave of beer destroyed two homes and crumbled the wall of the Tavistock Arms Pub, trapping the barmaid under the rubble. The brewery was located among the poor houses and tenements of the St Giles Rookery, where whole families lived in basement rooms that quickly filled with beer. The wave left nine people dead: Eight due to drowning and one from alcohol poisoning.

October 17, 1860: For the first time, The Open Championship (referred to in North America as the British Open) is held, at Prestwick Golf Club, in Ayrshire, Scotland. The winner is Scotsman Willie Park. Wait, why am I mentioning this? Golf is not a sport!

October 17, 1906: Samuel Paul Derringer is born in Springfield, Kentucky.  Paul Derringer was a rookie pitcher with the 1931 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, and won the 1939 National League Pennant and the 1940 World Series with the Cincinnati Reds. He started the first major league night game, at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field in 1935, and won 223 games in his career.  Of those, 161 came in a Reds uniform, second only to Eppa Rixey's 179.

October 17, 1908: Robert Abial Rolfe is born in Penacook, Ne wHampshire. The starting 3rd baseman in 4 All-Star Games, Red Rolfe helped the Yankees win the 1932, ’36, ’37, ’38, ’39 and ’41 World Series. Retiring as a player at only 34, he was immediately hired, due to the wartime manpower shortage, as both baseball and basketball coach at Yale University. He later served as athletic director at his alma mater, Dartmouth College. Until Graig Nettles, and later Alex Rodriguez, he was probably the best all-around player ever to play third base for the Yankees. Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen selected him as the 3rd baseman on his all-time team, although Mel did also see plenty of Eddie Mathews and Brooks Robinson, and wasn't that far past the era of Pie Traynor.

October 17, 1911: After criticizing his teammate Rube Marquard's pitching to Philadelphia Athletics third baseman Frank Baker in his newspaper column‚ Christy Mathewson takes the mound for the New York Giants in Game 3 against 29-game winner Jack Coombs. Matty takes a 1-0 lead into the 9th. With one out‚ Baker lines another drive over the right field fence to tie it.

With that blow‚ he receives the nickname "Home Run" Baker. Based on 2 home runs? Well, it was 1911, the Dead Ball Era: He only hit 96 home runs in his entire 13-season career, although he did have a .307 lifetime batting average, is regarded as one of the best third basemen of the first half of the 20th Century, and is in the Hall of Fame.

However, Baker’s homer only ties the game, and it goes to extra innings. Errors by third baseman Buck Herzog and shortstop Art Fletcher give the A's 2 unearned runs in the top of the 11th. New York scores once‚ but the A's win 3-2 behind Jack Coombs's 3-hitter.

October 17, 1912, 100 years ago today: Albino Luciani is born in Canale d'Agordo, Veneto, Italy.  He was Patriarch of Venice when, on August 26, 1978, he was named Pope, to succeed the late Paul VI.  When Paul VI died, it was mentioned on a Yankee broadcast, and the very Italian, very Catholic Phil Rizzuto said, "Well, that puts a damper on even a Yankee win."

Cardinal Luciani took the name John Paul I.  But just 33 days later, on September 28, 1978, he also died, apparently of a heart attack.  The shortest-reigning Pope of the modern era, he was only 65.  With a Yanks-Sox Pennant race coming down to the wire, Charles Laquidara of Boston radio station WBCN began his broadcast, 'Pope dies, Sox still alive.'”

The late Pope's successor, Karol Wojtyla, Archbishop of Krakow in Poland, took the name John Paul II, and said of his predecessor, "What warmth of charity, nay, what an abundant outpouring of love, which came forth from him in the few days of his ministry."

October 17, 1915: Arthur Asher Miller is born in Harlem -- at the time, becoming the nation's foremost black neighborhood, but retaining much of its former German and Jewish character (Lou Gehrig was born there, the son of Protestant German immigrants).  In Miller's play Death of a Salesman, he quoted his lead character, Willie Loman, as exulting in the fact that, “We’re playing football at Ebbets Field!” Football? At Ebbets Field? Yes, it happened in real life, as the NFL had a Brooklyn Dodgers from 1930 to 1944.

October 17, 1918: Margarita Carmen Cansino is born in Brooklyn. Better known as Rita Hayworth. Although she was a huge star, for a lot more than two reasons, her personal life was a mess, including marriages to Orson Welles and a manipulative, skirt-chasing Muslim prince named Aly Khan. She said, "Basically, I am a good, gentle person, but I am attracted to mean personalities." She also said, citing her best-known film role, “Men fall in love with Gilda, but they wake up with me.”

What does she have to do with sports? Nothing, as far as I know, although ex-husband Aly Khan was a noted breeder of racehorses. She’s just one of the most magnificent women who ever lived. After so many years of martial abuse, alcoholism and Alzheimer’s disease, she finally found peace in 1987. Her daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, is a major fundraiser for Alzheimer’s research.

Also on this day, Ralph Cookerly Wilson Jr. is born in Columbus, Ohio.  Growing up in Detroit, he ran an industrial firm and was a minority owner of the NFL’s Detroit Lions during their glory years in the 1950s, when he had the chance buy a franchise in the fledgling American Football League. His first choice was Miami, but he was turned down. He got his second choice, and the Buffalo Bills were born.

Of the original eight AFL owners, a.k.a. “The Foolish Club,” only he and Bud Adams of the Houston Oilers are still in charge of their teams, although Adams moved his team to become the Tennessee Titans. When the naming rights to the Bills’ Rich Stadium ran out, the board of directors renamed it Ralph Wilson Stadium. Under him, the Bills won 2 AFL Championships, 1964 and ’65, and 4 AFC Championships, 1990, ’91, ’92 and ’93. But not, as yet, a Super Bowl.  Ralph is still alive and in charge at age 94, and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But there have been whispers that, due to the decline of the Western New York market, the team might have to be moved to Toronto, where they're already, since 2008, playing 1 regular-season home game every season.  Ralph Wilson Stadium, in the suburb of Orchard Park, is 11 miles southeast of downtown Buffalo's Niagara Square, and you don't need a passport to get there; the Rogers Center, in downtown Toronto, is 98 miles away.

October 17, 1927: Ban Johnson‚ in failing health‚ retires as President of the American League, after heading the League he started for its first 28 years. His endless battles with Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and the team owners had eroded his power. Detroit's president, Frank Navin, is named acting President, until Ernest Barnard, longtime general manager of the Cleveland Indians, is named President.

October 17, 1929: In the wake of the death of manager Miller Huggins, and interim manager Art Fletcher’s desire to remain as 3rd base coach (a post he held from Huggins’ arrival in 1918 until Joe McCarthy’s resignation in 1946), Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert hires former pitcher Bob Shawkey as manager.

In 1917, Ruppert had made Shawkey his first big acquisition. This would be paralleled 67 years later as George Steinbrenner made another A’s pitcher, Catfish Hunter, his first big free-agent signing. But Shawkey will only manage the 1930 season, and with the Cubs having fired McCarthy, Ruppert snaps him up, and the Yanks get back on track.

October 17, 1930: James Earl Breslin is born. As much as anyone – not a word, Ed Koch; shut up, Rudy Giuliani; put a sock in it, Donald Trump; sorry, Regis Philbin – Jimmy Breslin has been the voice of New York City.  He wrote for the New York Journal-American in the Fifties, and moved on to the New York Herald-Tribune in 1962, writing a book about the horrendous first year of the Mets, borrowing for his title a line from manager Casey Stengel: Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?

When the Trib folded in 1966, he became one of the cornerstones of “New York’s Hometown Paper,” the Daily News. He remains best known for receiving letters from David Berkowitz, the serial killer known as the Son of Sam, after the 6th of the 8 shootings in 1977, publishing them, and writing an editorial whose title was blasted on the front page: “Breslin to .44-Caliber Killer: GIVE UP! IT’S THE ONLY WAY OUT.” After Berkowitz was caught, Breslin and his former Trib teammate Dick Schaap collaborated on a novel based on the case, titled .44.

Unfortunately, like his Daily News stablemate Dick Young, and his Chicago counterpart Mike Royko, he got crochety and conservative in his later years, taking his image as the voice of his city’s common man too seriously. He moved on to the Long Island paper Newsday, and received a Polk Award and the last of his four Pulitzer Prizes. He has since returned to the Daily News, and his recent columns suggest that he has remembered that it's liberals, not conservatives, that are for the little guy.

Through all the drinking, smoking, inhalation of New York smog, rides in cabs with crazy drivers, health problems, and a particularly nasty beating from the Mob in 1970, he still lives.  In addition to the preceding, his books include the Mob novel The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, the Watergate-themed book How the Good Guys Finally Won, an expose of the priestly-abuse scandal titled The Church That Forgot Christ, and biographies of racehorse trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, sportswriter Damon Runyon, and, most recently, baseball executive Branch Rickey.  He appeared as himself in Spike Lee’s film Summer of Sam, and in another film based on life in New York in 1977, The Bronx Is Burning, he was very convincingly played by Michael Rispoli.

Also on this day, Robert Coleman Atkins is born -- like Ralph Wilson, in Columbus, Ohio. The nutritionist was the creator of the Atkins Diet, which emphasized lowering your carbohydrates and eating more protein, especially in vegetables. Contrary to urban legend, he did not die an ironic (or hypocritical) death, from a heart attack from being too fat. On April 8, 2003, following a rare April snowstorm in New York, he slipped on some ice, fell, and hit his head. He was on his way to work, at age 72, so that’s to be admired. But I like my carbs. Pasta! Mangia!

October 17, 1938: Evel Knievel is born in Butte, Montana.  Don't be fooled, though: He may have been on ABC Wide World of Sports many times, but what he did was not a sport.

October 17, 1946: Bob Seagren is born in Pomona, California. He won the pole vault at the 1968 Olympics, and the first Superstars competition in 1973.

October 17, 1948: Margaret Ruth Kidder is born in Yellowknife, the capital of Canada's Northwest Territories.  Better known as Margot Kidder, she is almost certainly the most famous person ever to come from the NWT -- though huge in area, it has just 41,000 people.

She played Lois Lane in Christopher Reeve’s Superman movies. “Don’t worry, Miss,” Superman says when meeting Lois in-costume for the first time. “I’ve got you.” Her classic response: “You’ve got me? Who’s got you?” A street in Yellowknife has been named Lois Lane in her honor.

Also on this day, George Robert Wendt III is born in Chicago. Who? “Good afternoon, everybody.” NORM! What’s goin’ on, Norm? “My birthday, Sammy. Gimme a beer, put a candle in it, and I’ll blow out my liver.” Actual exchange from a 1991 episode of Cheers, in which Wendt played beerhound and occasionally-employed accountant and Norm Peterson. “Bars can be sad places,” he once said. “Some people spend their whole lives in a bar. Yesterday, some guy came in, and sat down next to me for 11 hours.”

Wendt got his big break on M*A*S*H, playing a Marine (a guy that out of shape, playing an active-duty Marine? No way) who tried to stick an entire pool ball in his mouth, and, unfortunately for him, he succeeded. Having to treat him, Major Winchester, played by David Ogden Stiers, got to do something he rarely did: Have some fun. That episode was written by Ken Levine and David Isaacs, who would go on to co-create and write for Cheers, and remembered Wendt. They also remembered Shelley Long from a M*A*S*H episode they’d written. Come to think of it, there are some similarities between Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester III and Dr. Frasier Crane, although we later found out that, unlike Charles, Frasier was not actually from Boston.

Norm is a Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins fan. In real life, though, Wendt is Chicago through and through, and roots for the Cubs, the Blackhawks, and, as reflected in his character Bob Swerski on the Saturday Night Live sketch “The Super Fans,” he also loves “a certain team which is known as... Da Bears!” And another “certain team which is known as... Da Bulls!”

October 17, 1957: Stephen Douglas McMichael is born in Houston. Speaking of Da Bears, Steve McMichael was a defensive tackle on their 1985-86 Super Bowl Shuffle team, and made 2 Pro Bowls. Nicknamed “Mongo” after the Blazing Saddles character played by another legendary DT, Alex Karras, he later became a pro wrestler, and has twice been married to WWE “Divas.” He hosts a talk show on Chicago radio station ESPN 1000 (the former WLUP and WMVP), and coaches an indoor football team, the Chicago Slaughter.

October 17, 1960: The birthdate of the New York Mets and the team now known as the Houston Astros, even if they didn’t begin play until April 11, 1962. This is the date both franchises were granted by the National League.

October 17, 1966: Bob Swift, manager of the Detroit Tigers, dies in office. He had replaced Charlie Dressen earlier the year, after Dressen had died in office. As far as I know, no other MLB team has ever had two managers die on them in a single year.

October 17, 1970: John Steven Mabry is born in Wilmington, Delaware. He played 1st base, 3rd base, left field and right field, and even pitched twice in the major leagues. His 96 home runs make him the all-time leader... for players born in the State of Delaware, although he grew up 25 miles away in Chesapeake City, Maryland. He reached the postseason with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998, the Oakland Athletics in 2002, and the Cardinals again in 2004, this time reaching the World Series. He last played with the Colorado Rockies in 2007, although he was released before they won the Pennant that year.

October 17, 1971: Steve Blass hurls a 4-hitter and Roberto Clemente homers as the Pittsburgh Pirates win Game 7 of the World Series, 2-1 over the Baltimore Orioles at Memorial Stadium‚ becoming World Champions for the 4th time, the 1st time since 1960.

Clemente played in all 7 games in '60 and in all 7 games in '71, and got hits in all 14 World Series games in which he played. In fact, of the Pirates' 5 World Series wins -- 1909, '25, '60, '71 and '79 -- all have been in 7 games.

Clemente and Bill Mazeroski are the only men to have played for the Pirates in both the 1960 and the 1971 World Series, although Danny Murtaugh managed them in both, and 1960 player Bill Virdon was one of Murtaugh’s 1971 coaches.

After the game‚ 40‚000 people riot in downtown Pittsburgh; at least 100 are injured‚ some seriously. Earlier in the season, the Pirates had become the first team ever to field an all-black-and/or-Hispanic starting lineup, leading author Bruce Markusen to title his book about the '71 Bucs The Team That Changed Baseball. He's also written biographies of Clemente, Ted Williams, Orlando Cepeda, and a book about the 1970s Oakland A's team, published in 1998, just before the Yankees began a streak of 3 straight World Series, thus making a retroactive error of the title of Markusen's book: Baseball's Last Dynasty: Charlie Finley's Oakland A's.

October 17, 1972, 40 years ago today: Quite a day to be born. Marshall Bruce Mathers III is born in St. Joseph, Missouri, although the man better known as Eminem and Slim Shady has spent most of his life in the Detroit area. As far as I know, he has nothing to do with sports, but he does often wear a cap of his hometown Detroit Tigers. Say what you want about Em, and I don’t like him much, but at least he’s funny every once in a while, and he’s still got more class than that other redneck Detroiter who wants us to think he’s got streed cred, Rob “Kid Rock” Ritchie.

Wyclef Jean, lead singer of the Fugees, is born in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti. I don’t think he has anything to do with sports, either, but he was in Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” video, which required some athleticism.

Sharon Ann Leal is born in Tucson, Arizona, best known as a teacher on on the Fox TV drama Boston Public. She's also been in the film version of Dreamgirls and 2 Tyler Perry films. I don’t think she’s involved with sports either, but she’s so beautiful that I don’t care.

And Joseph Earl McEwing is born in Bristol, Pennsylvania, about halfway between Philadelphia and Trenton. He played for the Mets, so he doesn’t have anything to do with sports, either. (Ba-DUMP-bump-TSHHHH!) He did help the Mets win the 2000 National League Pennant, though, and is now the 3rd base coach for the Chicago White Sox.

October 17, 1973: The Mets even the Series with a 6-1 win over the A’s at Shea. Rusty Staub goes 4-for-4 with a homer and 5 RBI. The New Orleans chef was really cooking that night.

October 17, 1974: At the Oakland Coliseum, Oakland’s Vida Blue and L.A.’s Don Sutton are tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the 6th when Mike Marshall relieves Sutton and retires the side. In the 7th‚ a shower of debris from the fans halts the game for 15 minutes. When play is resumed‚ Joe Rudi hits Marshall's first pitch for a homer to give the A's a 3rd 3-2 win‚ clinching a 3rd straight World Championship for the team.

The A’s thus become only the 2nd major league franchise to win 3 straight World Series, and remain the only one other than the Yankees to have done it. This was also the first all-California World Series, or even the first with both teams playing more than a few blocks west of the Mississippi River (take note, fans of St. Louis and Minnesota).

Also on this day, John Loy Rocker is hatched from his pod in Macon, Georgia. He rose quickly to become a power pitcher, then fell apart, both competitively and physically. At first, we thought it was because, following all his insulting, ignorant, bigoted comments about the Mets and Met fans, that the furious reaction from the Flushing Faithful had gotten into his head. Certainly, there was room in there. (Not entirely a joke: The dope’s head is huge.) But, eventually, it was revealed that he was a steroid user. Which explains a lot of things.

He did pitch for the Atlanta Braves in the 1999 World Series, after pitching against the Mets in the NLCS. But here’s the difference: The Mets and their fans talked about how they wanted to beat him, while the Yankees actually did it.

He last pitched in the majors for the 2003 Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and recently published -- I won't say "wrote" -- a memoir, Scars and Strikes.  He also produces (again, I won't say "writes") a column for WorldNetDaily, the right-wing loon website also known as World Nut Daily.

October 17, 1978: The Yankees complete their last of many comebacks in this amazing season, taking Game 6, 7-2 at Dodger Stadium, and winning their 22nd World Championship, their 2nd in a row, having taken the last 4 games after dropping the first 2.

Reggie Jackson has his chance for revenge over Dodger rookie Bob Welch for striking him out with the bases loaded to end Game 2, and his revenge goes to right field, halfway to the San Gabriel Mountains.

Both haves of the Yankee double-play combination, Bucky Dent and Brian Doyle (subbing for the injured Willie Randolph) collect 3 hits. Dent batted .417 for the Series and is named MVP, capping a month that began with his Playoff homer over Boston. Doyle bats .438, and, along with third base wizard Graig Nettles and reliever Goose Gossage, also makes a pretty good case for Series MVP.

The final out is Gossage popping up Ron Cey behind home plate, where Thurman Munson catches it. The Goose becomes the first pitcher to nail down the final out of a Division clincher, a Pennant clincher, and a World Series clincher in the same season.

This remains my favorite single-season sports team of all time, as it was the first baseball season I was really old enough to "get" what was happening. I was aware of the 1977 title, but I didn't really comprehend what the Yankees had to overcome to win it.

Unfortunately, as with the year before, my parents waited until the Yankees were winning, and then sent me to bed, so I didn’t see it. Despite being a fan of the greatest franchise in the history of sports, I was almost 27 years old before I saw my favorite team win a World Series while it was actually happening. And I don’t think it was until that 1996 Series that I got over that fact.

October 17, 1979: The Pittsburgh Pirates complete their comeback from 3 games to 1 down, and defeat the Baltimore Orioles, 4-1 at Memorial Stadium. First baseman Willie Stargell, known as “Pops” not just for his age (39) but because of his playing of Sister Sledge’s hit disco song “We Are Family,” hits his 3rd homer of the Series, and is named Series MVP, after having also been named MVP of the NLCS.

After the season, it will be announced that there is a tie vote for the regular-season MVP, between Stargell and the NL’s batting champion, St. Louis Cardinal first baseman Keith Hernandez. Stargell becomes the first man, and remains the only one, ever to sweep the regular season, LCS and World Series MVPs in a single season.

This is the Pirates’ 5th World Championship, and the parallels with their 4th are uncanny: It was on October 17, against the Orioles, in Baltimore, in Game 7, holding the Birds to just 1 run. Stargell, pitcher Bruce Kison and catcher Manny Sanguillen are the only players to have played for the Pirates in both the ’71 and the ’79 Series, although Sanguillen had left and since returned.

But in the 33 years since -- a third of a century -- the Pirates have never won another Pennant, though they reached Game 7 of the NLCS in 1991 and ’92, losing to the Atlanta Braves both times. The Steelers have since won 3 Super Bowls and appeared in 2 others; the Penguins have reached the Stanley Cup Finals 4 times, winning 3; and the University of Pittsburgh football team has won some bowl games and is usually a contender for the Big East title (though they will be joining the Atlantic Coast Conference). The Pirates? Still waiting for the next generation of the Family to make good.

October 17, 1982, 30 years ago today: Robin Yount records his 2nd 4-hit game of the World Series to lead the Brewers to a 6-4 win in Game 5 at County Stadium, and give Milwaukee a 3-2 lead overall. Yount is the first player ever to have two 4-hit games in one World Series.

This night is the high-water mark of the Brewers franchise: Not only is this the closest they have ever gotten to winning a World Series, but they have never played a World Series game since. They got within 2 games of a Pennant this season, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be.

October 17, 1987, 25 years ago today: In the first indoor World Series game ever, at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis‚ Dan Gladden's grand slam caps a 7-run 4th inning and leads the Twins to a 10-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1. It is the first World Series grand slam since 1970.

October 17, 1989: Game 3 of the World Series, the first ever between the two teams of the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, is postponed when an earthquake strikes a half-hour before game time‚ causing minor damage to Candlestick Park but major damage to the surrounding area.

The official World Series highlight film shows fans at Candlestick reacting with a sense of fun, since nobody inside the ballpark got hurt. One fan, who’d brought white cardboard panels and magic markers to make up signs on the spot, had on one side, “That was nothing, wait till the Giants bat,” and on the other, a jagged line, supposed to be a quake-caused crack, and, “Welcome to Candlestick.”

But then the camera shifts to a man in a Giants cap with headphones on, and he develops a look that shows he’s just found out how serious the situation really is. There are fires all over the city. Many houses in the Marina District are burning. A section of the upper level of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge has collapsed onto the lower level, killing 3 people. Worst of all, a section of the double-decked Nimitz Freeway, Interstate 880, has collapsed in Oakland, killing several. The quake registers a magnitude of 7.1 on the Richter scale‚ killing 67 people, and does $7 billion in damage -- about $12.6 billion in today's money.

Commissioner Fay Vincent has Candlestick evacuated, and the remainder of the Series postponed. Everyone was lucky: The stadium then had a baseball seating capacity of 62,000, and if it had collapsed, the death toll almost certainly would have exceeded the nearly 3,000 in the World Trade Center attacks of 12 years later.

Just how bad it could have been is illustrated by a sporting event from earlier in the year. On April 15, in English soccer, an FA Cup Semifinal was held at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, chosen as a neutral site, between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Several thousand fans who didn’t have tickets tried to get in, and a horrible mistake was made when a gate was opened when it shouldn’t have been, and people were crushed against walls and wire fencing. Hundreds were injured, and 96 died.  At the time, I heard about this on the evening news, but since it didn’t involve Americans, we all quickly forgot about it. Had but one American been among the dead, no doubt the U.S. media would have featured the story day after day after day, practically flogging it, as they did with the World Series Earthquake.

October 17, 1991: The Braves advance to the World Series for the first time since their move to Atlanta – for the first time since they were in Milwaukee in 1958 – with John Smoltz leading the way with a 6-hit‚ 4-0 shutout.

The Pirates fail to score in the last 22 innings of the series -- and you think the 2012 Yankees are punchless. Steve Avery is named the MVP of the NLCS. Worst of all, for this Pennant-deciding game, only 47,000 fans come out to the 59,000-seat Three Rivers Stadium. That’s a disgrace for such a good sports city as Pittsburgh.

October 17, 1992, 20 years ago today: In the first-ever World Series game involving a team from outside the U.S., the Atlanta Braves defeat the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-1. Catcher Damon Berryhill hits a 3-run homer in the 6th inning. The pitching matchup of Tom Glavine and Jack Morris is the 1st time that a pair of 20-game winners starts the opening game of a World Series since 1969. Glavine goes all the way for the win‚ while Joe Carter homers for the only Toronto run.

October 17, 1995: The Cleveland Indians shut out the Seattle Mariners‚ 4-0‚ behind the pitching of Dennis Martinez‚ Julian Tavarez‚ and Jose Mesa‚ to clinch their first American League Pennant in 41 years.

To give you an idea of how long it was: This game was played at the Kingdome in Seattle, and the Indians were moving on to play the Atlanta Braves; in 1954, the last time the Indians won a Pennant, the Braves had just moved from Boston to Milwaukee, Seattle was home to a minor-league team (which had, not that much earlier, been one of Cleveland's farm teams and named the Seattle Indians), and the only person thinking much about a fully-roofed stadium for traditionally outdoor sports was Walter O’Malley, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who had just proposed a new home for Dem Bums, what he called the Brooklyn Sports Center and others mocked, not as an engineering or architectural impossibility, but as a monument to O’Malley’s greed and self-promotion, as “O’Malley’s Pleasure Dome.” (Which, of course, ended up never being built; when O'Malley finally got his stadium, it was across the country, and looked like a baseball stadium.)

October 17, 1996: The Yankees finally find out who they’ll be playing in their first World Series in 15 years. The Braves complete their comeback from being 3 games to 1 down in the NLCS‚ winning their 3rd in a row‚ 15-0‚ to defeat the Cardinals and win the NL Pennant. Homers by Fred McGriff‚ Javy Lopez‚ and Andruw Jones support the shutout pitching of Tom Glavine.

October 17, 1998: Game 1 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, the way God intended it. Down 5-2 in the bottom of the 7th, the Yankees explode for 7 runs to blow away the Padres‚ 9-6.

Chuck Knoblauch completes his redemption from his ALCS Game 2 “brainlauch” with 3-run homer in the inning to tie it‚ off Padre starter Kevin Brown, who had a reputation as a “Yankee Killer” while pitching for the Texas Rangers. (Yankee Killer? We hadn’t seen nothin’ yet.)

Then, after reliever Mark Langston (himself rather successful against the Yankees while pitching for the Mariners and Angels) loads the bases, Tino Martinez, who’s also been struggling lately, comes up.  With a 2-2 count, Langston throws a pitch that’s juuuust low. To this day, Padre fans will say that it was strike 3, and Tino should have been called out, and that this “fixed” the Series for the Yankees. Now, we Yankee Fans don’t have much reason to get upset with Padres fans, but if you blow a 3-run lead in the 7th inning of a World Series game, you don’t deserve to win the Series. Tino takes the full-count pitch, and cranks it into the upper deck in right field for a grand slam. San Diego native David Wells notches the win against his hometown team.

October 17, 1999: The Mets edge the Braves in a 15-inning thriller at Shea‚ 4-3‚ to move within 1 game of Atlanta in their NLCS. Robin Ventura's grand slam in the bottom half of the 15th wins it‚ but his Met teammates mob him before he can reach second base. He never completes his round of the bases and gets credit for a single instead of a grand slam.

The Braves leave a postseason-record 19 players on base in the contest. The Mets use 9 pitchers in the game‚ with rookie Octavio Dotel getting the win. No “Heartbreak Dotel” in this game.

No, if it’s heartbreak you’re looking for, head up to Fenway Park. The Yankees defeat the Red Sox‚ 9-2‚ to take a 3-games-to-1 lead in the ALCS. Andy Pettitte gets the victory for New York‚ with home run support from Darryl Strawberry and Ricky Ledee.

It was only 3-2 Yankees going into the top of the 8th, but the Boston bullpen (Ledee hits a grand slam off Rod Beck) and defense collapse – some would say aided by some poor umpiring. The Sox fans, angry about the calls, throw garbage onto the field in the 9th, for about five minutes until the umpires get the public-address announcer to ask the fans to stop or else the game will be forfeited.

But with all the errors the Sox have been making, and with all the bullpen failure, Sox fans have no one to blame but their own players. For years, I’d heard Boston described as “the Athens of America,” and Red Sox fans described as the most knowledgable in baseball. This proved both a lie. Even Tony Massarotti, then writing for the Boston Herald, ripped the Fenway faithful, saying that this was not the Curse of the Bambino, but “the Torment of the Drunks.”

October 17, 2000: The Yankees defeat the Mariners‚ 9-7 at Yankee Stadium‚ to win the ALCS and their 37th American League Pennant. David Justice's 3-run homer in the 7th inning gives New York a lead it never relinquishes. Justice wins the ALCS MVP award. Seattle catcher Dan Wilson's single breaks his 0-for-42 hitless streak‚ the longest ever in postseason history. Since the Mets have already wrapped up the National League Pennant, New York will have its first Subway Series in 44 years.

October 17, 2003: It was 12:16 AM when Aaron Boone became the newest in a long long of unlikely postseason heroes for the Yankees. But aside from another homer that turned out to be meaningless, he barely hit in the World Series against the Florida Marlins, and in the offseason he injured his knee so badly he'd be out for the 2004 season. So the Yankees got Alex Rodriguez. How did that turn out? Uh, well, one title so far.

Early editions of the October 17 New York Post include an editorial claiming the Yankees lose to Boston and couldn't get the job done in Game 7 of the ALCS. Way to go, Murdoch Post, showing your usual quality control and/or honesty.

October 17, 2004: The Red Sox stay alive in the ALCS with a 6-4‚ 12-inning win over the Yankees. David Ortiz's 2-run walkoff homer wins it in the 12th after the Sox tied the score off Mariano Rivera in the 9th, with a walk by Kevin Millar, pinch-runner Dave Roberts’ steal of second, and Bill Mueller singling him home with the tying run. Ortiz drives home 4 runs for Boston‚ while Alex Rodriguez homers for New York – his last positive contribution to a Yankee postseason effort for 5 years. (Millahhhh? Mueller? Ortiz? Cough-steroids-cough.)

The Sox jumped on Ortiz as if they'd just won not just one ALCS game, but the World Series. They had good reason to call themselves "Idiots." Aw, what the heck, it's only one game, right? The Yankees will wrap up the Pennant tomorrow, right?

It took the Yankees 5 more years to wrap up their next Pennant.

October 17, 2005: Albert Pujols' 3-run homer off Brad Lidge, practically smashing through the outer wall beyond left field at Minute Maid Park, with 2 outs in the 9th inning gives the Cardinals a 5-4 comeback win over the Astros and keeps their Pennant hopes alive. Lance Berkman's 3-run homer in the 7th had given Houston a 4-2 lead. The Astros still lead the Series‚ 3-games-to-2. Jason Isringhausen gets the win in relief for St. Louis.

Legend has it that Lidge was never the same after giving up this mammoth home run, but his performance for the Phillies since 2008 proved that not to be true.

October 17, 2008: Levi Stubbs, lead singer of the Four Tops and the voice of Audrey II in the film version of Little Shop of Horrors dies of cancer.  He was 72.

As far as I know, he had nothing to do with sports. I’m just mentioning him to set up this question: Why do I watch sports, when it costs me so much time, money and energy? ‘Cause, sugar pie, honey bunch, I’m weaker than a man should be. I can’t help myself.

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