Thursday, October 18, 2012

Stay of Execution for Yankees -- and for A-Rod?

Game 4 of the American League Championship Series was rained out last night.  They'll play it this afternoon, with CC Sabathia and Max Scherzer still the starting pitchers.

This means that Game 5, if necessary, is pushed back to tomorrow, the intended travel day, and Games 6 and 7 will remain as scheduled. In other words, even if the Yankees can somehow push the Detroit Tigers to the limit, Game 7 will be 2 days rest for CC, not 3, and there's no way he can pitch -- at least, not for more than, say 3 innings.

I almost wish the game had been played, so we can get this ignominious defeat over with.


Of course, of all the big decisions that will have to come afterward, the biggest should be whether to keep Brian Cashman as general manager, and the next-biggest should be whether to keep Joe Girardi as field manager.

But, this being a tabloid society, the focus is on Alex Rodriguez, the tabloidiest athlete in the history of New York Tri-State Area sports.

Yeah, that's another Babe Ruth record that's fallen. And don't tell me that, in this modern era, the media is juiced. I know it is.

But the Babe had the personality necessary to handle it. If Joe DiMaggio had to face the kind of scrutiny A-Rod's gotten, I doubt he would be as revered as he was. Nobody realized that he had as thin a skin as Mickey Mantle, because DiMag's era was the radio era. The Mick struck out, he threw his bat, his flung his batting helmet, he punched the dugout's water cooler. Sometimes that was seen on TV, and many people viewed him as a petulant child.

Now imagine DiMaggio having TV cameras and microphones stuck in his face every day, instead of just reporters with notepads crowding around him. Imagine TMZ printing daily stories about the breakup of his marriage to Dorothy Arnold. (He didn't marry that other blonde actress until after he retired.) Imagine ESPN investigating his friendships with suspected Mob guys.

Joe could silence someone with a glare -- but he never even had to face "the chipmunks," the new breed of sportswriters that Mantle had to face. Would Joe have held up as well as Derek Jeter has, or would he have been more like A-Rod -- or, as Lisa Swan of Subway Squawkers pointed out a couple of years ago, Jorge Posada? I get the feeling Joe would have decided that ESPN was a four-letter word.


There's a rumor going around that A-Rod will be traded to the Miami Marlins. At first glance, this makes sense. A change of scenery might do him a world of good. Miami is his hometown: Yes, he was born in New York, but he, for want of a better phrase, grew up in Miami. These will be fans who are not conditioned to be mad at him for perceived postseason failures, because they're not conditioned to be in the postseason.  They'll take a 3rd-place, hovering around .500, season if it means they can see him hit 45 home runs in their new ballpark. (Humor me here. Humor him, too.) And the Miami media is only 2nd-tier nasty, like Chicago, or Los Angeles -- not 1st-tier nasty like New York, or Philadelphia, or Boston. It would be better for him.

But that trade will not happen. Why? Because Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is a cheapskate. He would want the Yankees to pay well over half of A-Rod's salary. And what would he give the Yankees in return? Not much. Although it would be funny if the trade package included Jose Reyes. Funny for a while, until, that is, Reyes started acting like, well, Jose Reyes.

If A-Rod goes anywhere, I think it will be to one of the Los Angeles area teams. New Dodgers owner Earvin "Magic" Johnson (you might remember, he played a little basketball) and Angels owner Arturo "Arte" Moreno both have gobs of money, and have shown that they have no problem spending it, if they think winning will result.

A-Rod and Albert Pujols on the same team? That would have been great, even 2 years ago, but A-Rod could still help the Angels. A-Rod and Matt Kemp on the same team? It might be just what the doctor ordered, for both A-Rod and the Dodgers. And while the Los Angeles media aren't the bend-over-for-the-Dodgers bunch they were in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, neither are they going to have their knives sharpened the moment A-Rod arrives.

But will A-Rod go? It now seems that it's either him, or Girardi, that they can no longer work together.

If it's A-Rod who stays, and Girardi who goes, then, suddenly, the Yankees have become an NBA team, where a star player can dictate who the boss is -- showing, in effect, that the star player is the real boss.

But if Girardi stays, and the Yankees do whatever it takes to get rid of the contract, then, suddenly, the Yankees have become an NFL team: "Contract? Ha! That contract isn't worth the paper it's printed on. We will do whatever it takes to get rid of you, because we like money and control more than we like you, and if we have to pay through the nose to ship your ass out of town, then that's what we will do. Us, ungrateful? You are the ungrateful one: We signed you when no one else would. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, punk!"

Is it possible that this will all blow over, that Girardi and A-Rod will swallow their differences, make peace, and be ready to go by spring training? Sure, it's possible.

But, at this point, I wouldn't wager a penny on any outcome. We just don't know.

At any rate, the game gets underway shortly.  Last day in a Yankee uniform for A-Rod? Nick Swisher? Curtis Granderson? Russell Martin? Anybody else?

Joe Girardi?


October 18, 1889: For the first time, a postseason series is played between two champions of baseball leagues that are both from New York.

The best-6-of-11 series between the Brooklyn Bridegrooms of the American Association (3 players on the team previously, and later, known as the Dodgers had gotten married during the previous offseason) and the New York Giants of the National League (formerly the Mutuals, manager Jim Mutrie had described them as “my big boys, my giants”) opens at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan. The Bridegrooms win, 12-10 in 8 innings. Oyster Burns is 4-for-5 with 3 RBIs‚ including the game-winning double in the bottom of the last inning.

October 18, 1919: Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau born in Montreal. Prime Minister of Canada for all but 9 months between April 1968 and February 1984, the man usually listed as "Pierre Elliott Trudeau" threw out the ceremonial first balls before the first Montreal Expos home game at Jarry Park in 1969, the first Toronto Blue Jays game at Exhibition Stadium in 1977, and the first game the Expos played at their new home, the Olympic Stadium, also in 1977.  As a sports participant, he was a brown belt in judo, and loved to ski in Quebec's Laurentian Mountains.  He died in 2000, and his son Justin Trudeau now serves in Canada's House of Commons, and is running for his father's old post as Leader of the Liberal Party.

October 18, 1925: Tony Lazzeri, 2nd baseman for the Salt Lake Bees of the Pacific Coast League, hits his 60th home run of the season, in a 12-10 victory over the Sacramento Solons in the final regular-season game of the year. It is an inside-the-park drive in the 7th off Frank Shellenback. The 21-year-old Lazzeri also had 222 RBIs, which may still be a North American professional record. However, given that the weather in California allowed for a longer season – though as a mountain city, Salt Lake probably had some problems with snow at both ends – the PCL season was 200 games long. Lazzeri’s record was accomplished in 197 appearances. He would soon be signed by the Yankees and go on to a Hall of Fame career.

On this same day, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Marvin Goodwin dies in a plane crash in Houston. The 34-year old appeared in four games for Cincinnati, three as a starter, and posted an 0-2 record which included two complete games. He appears to have been the first big-league athlete to die in a plane crash.

October 18, 1928: Keith Jackson is born in Roopville, Georgia. Whoa, Nelly, he’s the greatest college football broadcaster of all time.  My goodness.  He's still alive, but has said he's not going to write a book about his experiences until he loses his golf swing.  Too bad, I want to read that book.

October 18, 1933: A good birthday for a future football coach.  Alvis Forrest Gregg (he dropped the first name) is born in Birthright, Texas -- no, I'm not making that name up.  An offensive tackle, he and cornerback Herb Adderley are the only men ever to play on 6 NFL Championship teams, and the exact same ones, too: 1961, ’62, ’65, ’66 and ’67 with the Green Bay Packers, and ’71 with the Dallas Cowboys. This includes Super Bowls I, II and VI. Packer coach Vince Lombardi called this Hall-of-Famer “the finest player I ever coached.”

He went on to coach for Tom Landry in Dallas, took the head job with the Cleveland Browns, and got the Cincinnati Bengals into Super Bowl XVI, their first trip to the season finale. After his alma mater, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, got “the death penalty” from the NCAA, having their program suspended for a year due to recruiting violations while already on probation, he was named head coach, held the program back another year so it could rebuild, and got them back onto a footing where they’ve been able to consistently compete as what college basketball would call a “mid-major.” Lombardi and Landry would be proud.

October 18, 1939: Michael Keller Ditka Jr. is born in Carnegie, Pennsylvania. A star at the University of Pittsburgh, he practically invented the position of tight end with the Chicago Bears, helping them win the 1963 NFL Championship. He went on to the Dallas Cowboys and helped them win Super Bowl VI.

He then served as an assistant to Landry, including winning Super Bowl XII, and was the last head coach hired for the Chicago Bears by team founder-owner George Halas. Ditka got them into the Playoffs 7 times, including winning Super Bowl XX. In other words, the Bears haven’t won a World Championship without Ditka having some part in it in 66 years. He was the first tight end elected to the Hall of Fame. Amazingly, though, the Bears have never retired his Number 89. They should.

Unfortunately for Ditka, and anyone else born the same day, this was also the day that Lee Harvey Oswald was born, in New Orleans.  Another guy with a connection to Dallas – in fact, he was living in Irving in 1963, 8 years before Texas Stadium opened and the Cowboys moved there.  Some people will never be convinced that he is the one and only person behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – and I’m one of them. But there is no doubt that, later that day, he killed a Dallas police officer, Patrolman J.D. Tippit. And there were other reasons to conclude that Oswald was scum. When Jack Ruby killed him 2 days later, it meant that the chances of us ever hearing the full story were probably gone forever; but other than that, it was no great loss.

October 18, 1946: Yet another football coach with an October 18 birthday: Frank Beamer is born in Mount Airy, North Carolina. He turned the football program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, a.k.a. Virginia Tech, from a laughingstock into training stock for the NFL.  He is now in his 26th season there, having won over 200 games, including 8 bowls and 9 1st-place finishes in either his league (first the Big East, now the Atlantic Coast Conference) or his division (since the ACC split).  Counting his time as the head man at Murray State, he has over 250 wins.

October 18, 1949: George Andrew Hendrick Jr. is born in Los Angeles. The four-time All-Star hit 267 home runs, and was a member of two World Championship teams, the 1972 Oakland Athletics and the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals. Now a coach for the Tampa Bay Rays, he will only autograph Cardinals memorabilia.

October 18, 1950: Connie Mack’s sons, Connie Jr., Earle and Roy, take legal action that removes their father from the operating ownership and manager’s job with the Philadelphia Athletics after 50 years. Counting his time running the Pittsburgh Pirates before that, he managed a big-league record 54 years.

But he is 88 years old and senile, and had managed just one winning season in the last 17. It was long since time for him to step aside, but he never would, until his sons forced his hand.  To do so, they had to swallow their differences: Earle and Roy were the product of the old man's first marriage, Connie Jr. from his second, his second wife was still alive, she basically controlled Connie Jr. and hated Earle and Roy, and Earle and Roy didn't much like each other but sided with each other against their half-brother and stepmother.

"The Grand Old Man of Baseball" retains his title as president of the club, but it is purely ceremonial now. Before his death, Shibe Park will be renamed Connie Mack Stadium; but the A’s will also be sold by "the House of Mack" in 1954, and moved to Kansas City.  Connie dies in 1956, aged 93. Longtime A’s player and coach Jimmy Dykes ends up succeeding him as manager, and the results are little better, which is one of the reasons for the move.  None of the Mack sons was ever involved with sports again.  Connie Jr.'s son Connie III served Florida in both houses of Congress, and his son Connie IV is trying to do the same, serving in the House and running for the Senate, but he's probably going to lose.

October 18, 1951: Michael John Antonovich is born in Calumet, Minnesota.  A star hockey player at the University of Minnesota, Mike Antonovich was a member of the original 1982-83 New Jersey Devils, but his best years were in the 1970s in the WHA, with the Minnesota Fighting Saints (no, I’m not making that name up, they played in St. Paul and they did do a lot of fighting) and the New England Whalers.

Now a scout with the St. Louis Blues, he shares his exact date of birth with Mork & Mindy star Pam Dawber (born in Detroit) and novelist Terry McMillan (also in Michigan, in Port Huron). Status of Terry's groove, and whether she needs to get it back, is uncertain.  But, since Pam is married to former UCLA quarterback and NCIS star Mark Harmon, I'm guessing her groove is in good shape.

October 18, 1952, 60 years ago: Jeron Kennis Royster is born in Sacramento.  A speedy infielder, Jerry Royster played in the 1974 World Series for the Dodgers, and spent 1987 with the Yankees, but played the majority of his career on some mediocre Atlanta Braves teams in between.  He managed the Milwaukee Brewers briefly in 2002, and recently managed the Lotte Giants of Busan, Korea – the first non-Korean manager in Korea’s top baseball league.  He is now the 3rd base coach for the Red Sox.

October 18, 1954: Texas Instruments announces it has begun production of the first transistor radio. Baseball fans everywhere rejoice, for now they can listen to ballgames almost anywhere, from the office to the beach. Well, they’ll have to wait until Summer 1955 to listen to them on the beach. Maybe April 1955, if they live in California and can get Pacific Coast League broadcasts.

October 18, 1955: Ralph Kiner, formerly a great slugger for the Pittsburgh Pirates, calls it quits due to a back injury. He is about to turn 33 years old. He hit just 18 home runs for the Cleveland Indians this past season.

Years later, as a broadcaster for the Mets, a player hit his first major league home run, and Kiner said, “You always remember your first.” Kiner's first was on April 18, 1946, at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, off Howie Pollet of the Cardinals, who beat the Pirates that day anyway, and went on to win the World Series that season.

His broadcast partner Tim McCarver, who won 2 Series as a catcher for the Cardinals (1964 and '67) and one more with the Phillies (1980, his last season), said he didn’t remember his first major league home run: “You’d think I would, because I didn’t hit very many.” It came on July 13, 1961, also at Sportsman's Park (by then the first ballpark to get the name of Busch Stadium), off Tony Cloninger of the Milwaukee Braves, who beat the Cardinals that day anyway.

Kiner: “I don’t remember my last home run, because, at the time, I didn’t think it would be my last!” It was on September 10, 1955, at Fenway Park in Boston, off Ellis Kinder, and the Indians beat the Red Sox.

That last home run was Number 369 – and he did that in only 10 seasons, a career shortened at the beginning by service in World War II and at the end by his injury. If he’d been able to play 20, you can double that 369, and you’ve got 718.  I know it doesn't work that way, but, theoretically, he could have surpassed Babe Ruth before Hank Aaron did.

October 18, 1956: Martina Subertova is born in Prague, in the nation then known as Czechoslovakia.  We know her as Martina Navratilova. Sorry, Roger Federer, but Martina remains the greatest tennis player who ever lived, of any gender, of any era, of any nationality.

October 18, 1958: Thomas Hearns is born in Memphis, although, like Alabama-born Joe Louis, he grew up and trained as a boxer in Detroit.  Known as “The Hit Man” and "The Motor City Cobra," he was one of the most devastating punchers the ring has ever known, holding various titles ranging from welterweight to light heavyweight from 1980 to 1992.

Also, Kjell Samuelsson is born in Tingsryd, Sweden -- and that's pronounced like "shell." A defenseman, he played for the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers and didn’t gain a reputation as a thug – an amazing achievement. More importantly, he was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins when they won the 1992 Stanley Cup.

October 18, 1959: Christopher Michael Russo is born in Syosset, Long Island, New York. No word on whether the future sports-talk host known as “Mad Dog” said to the people in the delivery room, “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand goodaftanoon evwybody! Howayoutoday?”

October 18, 1960: Yankee co-owners Dan Topping and Del Webb officially relieve Casey Stengel as manager. He gives the press a prepared statement where he announces his resignation. Then he says, "I guess this means they fired me.” And “I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again.”

Also on this day, Erin Marie Moran is born in Burbank, California. Not an athlete, but as Joanie Cunningham on Happy Days, she played a cheerleader at Milwaukee’s Jefferson High School. There are about 40 Jefferson High Schools in the U.S., but Milwaukee doesn't have one in real life: The school used for exterior shots was the city's Washington High School.  She's had money troubles lately, and she and her husband were recently evicted -- by her mother-in-law.  Maybe she should use that experience and get a role as a nasty mother-in-law on a sitcom.

October 18, 1967: The American League approves Charlie Finley’s move of the Athletics to Oakland‚ California. Kansas City is promised a new team by 1971. When Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri and Mayor Ilus Davis of Kansas City threaten legal action against the move‚ possibly including the revocation of baseball’s exemption from antitrust laws, AL President Joe Cronin reopens talks‚ and the expansion deadline is moved to 1969.  Nevertheless, Symington is glad that his home State is rid of Finley, saying, "Oakland is the luckiest city since Hiroshima."

October 18, 1968: Bob Beamon sets a world record of 8.90 meters in the long jump at the Olympic Games in Mexico City. The crowd is stunned. But as an American, not familiar with the metric system, Beamon doesn’t know what 8.90 meters means. The old world record was 27 feet, 7¼ inches. Beamon’s jump is 29 feet, 2½ inches. He has broken both the 28-foot and 29-foot barriers.

The record stands for 23 years. Beamon was a native of South Jamaica, Queens, New York, the same neighborhood that produced Governor Mario Cuomo, rapper 50 Cent, and my Grandma.  After that Gold Medal, he was drafted by one of the NBA's brand-new expansion teams, the Phoenix Suns.  He didn't sign, staying at Long Island's Adelphi University and getting his degree.  He now operates a museum in Florida.

October 18, 1970: Douglas Anthony Mirabelli born in Kingman, Arizona. He is best known as Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher on the 2004 and 2007 World Champion * Boston Red Sox.  He is now head coach of a high school team in Michigan.

October 18, 1973: The Mets win Game 5 of the World Series, 2-0 over the Oakland Athletics at Shea Stadium, behind the 3-hit pitching of Jerry Koosman and Tug McGraw. Cleon Jones doubles in a run in the second and Don Hahn's triple scores the other run.

The Series now moves out to Oakland, and the Mets need to win only 1 of the last 2 games to win their 2nd World Series. It would take them another 13 years to get that 4th World Series game won.

Also on this day, a future Met, Jose Alexander Cora is born in Caguas, Puerto Rico. The starting shortstop of the 2007 World Champion * Boston Red Sox, he was released by both the Washington Nationals and the Detroit Tigers in spring training, and did not play in the 2012 season.  (Hmmmm, both those teams released him, and made the Playoffs.  Maybe the Yankees should give him a 2013 spring tryout, and then release him.) He has not yet officially retired.  His borther Joey Cora is a former big-leaguer and now a Marlins coach.

October 18, 1977: Reggie Jackson goes boom, boom, boom, and Mike Torrez goes the distance.  The Yankees beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-4 at the original Yankee Stadium, and win Game 6 to take their 21 World Series -- but their first in 15 years.

I only saw the first 2 of Reggie's home runs.  I was about to turn 8, and my parents figured the game was in the bag, and that I didn't need to stay up past 11 to see the last out, especially on a school night.  (It was a Tuesday -- don't bet me.) So I missed Reggie's mammoth 3rd blast.

I've seen the clip a few times since.  (Ya think, DiNozzo?)

October 18, 1986: Maybe the Mets’ World Series win this year isn’t “inevitable” after all. The Boston Red Sox win Game 1, 1-0 at Shea, when Tim Teufel botches Rich Gedman's routine grounder in the 7th inning‚ allowing Jim Rice to score the game's only run. Bruce Hurst and Calvin Schiraldi combine on a 4-hitter for the Red Sox.

October 18, 1988: Mark McGwire's home run off Jay Howell in the bottom of the 9th gives Oakland a 2-1 win in Game 3 of the World Series. This is the first time, and it remains the only time, that 2 games of a World Series end with walkoff homers. However, this will be the only game in the Series that the A’s will win.

October 18, 1992, 20 years ago today: The Toronto Blue Jays even the World Series with a 5-4 win over the Braves in Game 2 in Atlanta. Pinch-hitter Ed Sprague's 2-run home run in the top of the 9th proves to be the margin of victory‚ marking just the 2nd time in Series history that a 9th-inning homer turns a losing margin into a winning one. The other was Kirk Gibson's homer in the 1988 Series.

This is also the first time a non-U.S. team wins a World Series game. But, due to this international distinction, there is a mishap: The Canadian flag is inadvertently flown upside-down by a United States Marine Corps color guard during the pregame ceremonies. Although the international incident annoys many Canadians, most Toronto fans resist the call to fly the American Stripes and Stars in a similar fashion during Game 3 at the Skydome, but opt instead to wave Canada's L'Unifolié with the message, "This end up", affixed to the top.

October 18, 1997: For the first time, a World Series game is played in the State of Florida. The Marlins take Game 1‚ 7-4 over the Cleveland Indians at Joe Robbie Stadium‚ behind rookie Cuban pitcher Livan Hernandez. Moises Alou's 3-run homer in the 4th inning is the big blow for the Marlins‚ who are outhit by the Indians‚ 11-7.

October 18, 1998: The Yankees strike early‚ scoring 3 runs in each of the 1st 2 innings. They go on to cruise to a 9-3 win in Game 2 behind Orlando Hernandez, brother of Livan and nicknamed “El Duque” (the Duke). Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada connect for homers.

October 18, 1999: Yankees 6, Red Sox 1, in Game 5 of the ALCS. For only the second time, the Yankees clinch a Pennant at Fenway Park – the first was on September 25, 1960, back when Pennants could still be clinched in the regular season. El Duque wins the clincher and is named series MVP. Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada homer for the Yanks.

October 18, 2004: The Red Sox outlast the Yankees‚ 5-4‚ in 14 innings to force a Game 6 of their ALCS. David Ortiz again is the hero (cough-with a sidekick named “Steroids”-cough)‚ driving home the winning run with a bloop single. Ortiz also homers‚ as does Bernie Williams for the Yanks.

October 18, 2005: Longtime Bay Area sportscaster Bill King dies. He was the voice of the A's, the Raiders and the Warriors.  Like former A's reliever Rollie Fingers, he was noted for having a handlebar mustache.  He was 78.

October 18, 2006: The Mets edge the Cardinals, 4-2 at Shea, to even the NLCS at 3 games apiece. Jose Reyes gets 3 hits for the Mets, including a homer, and John Maine gets the win.

The Mets go into Game 7, one win away from the National League Pennant and a trip to their 5th World Series. They’re still looking for that win.

October 18, 2008: Scoring in each of the last three innings, the Red Sox erase a 7-run deficit in the 7th to beat the Rays, 8-7, in Game 5 of the ALCS.

The Philadelphia A's, who rallied after trailing 8-0 to beat the Cubs, 10-8, in Game 4 of the 1929 World Series, are the only team to have made a bigger comeback in the postseason.

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