Monday, July 22, 2013

Robbed, and On to Texas; Bert Trautmann, 1923-2013

After starting the (official) 2nd half of the season losing to the team currently in 1st place in the AL East -- which happens to be The Scum -- the Yankees needed very badly to win the last 2 games of the series.

On Saturday, they got the job done. Hiroki Kuroda pitched 7 strong innings. In the 5th, Brett Gardner singled home Luis Cruz. A 1-0 lead never holds up at Fenway Park, so more was needed. Eduardo Nunez led off the 7th with a double. Chris Stewart grounded him over to 3rd. Cruz singled Nunez home. Gardner singled Cruz over to 2nd. Ichiro Suzuki grounded into a force play, and then back-to-back singles by Robinson Cano and Lyle Overbay made it 4-0 Yankees.

Kuroda tired in the 7th, allowing 2 runs, but got out of it. David Robertson pitched the 8th and Mariano Rivera the 9th. In their half of the 9th, the Yankees added a sacrifice fly by Cano that got home Cruz.

Yankees 5, Red Sox 2. WP: Kuroda (9-6). SV: Rivera (31). LP: John Lackey (7-7).

*

And then, last night, the Yankees stayed in Fenway Park until nearly 1 AM, playing 11 innings. The lengths some people will go to, to avoid going to Texas.

Gardner led off the game with a single. Ichiro grounded into a force play that Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster blew, putting runners on 1st and 3rd with nobody out. A double steal got Gardner home and Ichiro to 3rd, on an error by Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Cano walked, Overbay struck out, and Vernon Wells singled home Ichiro.  2-0 Yankees.

A 2-0 lead never holds up at Fenway Park, so more was needed. Stewart led off the 2nd with a walk, Cruz moved him over, Gardner moved him over to 3rd, Ichiro was hit by a pitch (on purpose? With the Red Sox, you need to assume so), and Cano singled Stewart home.

A 3-0 lead never holds up at Fenway Park, so more was needed. (Is there an echo?) But it didn't come before the Sox struck back. They took the lead in the 3rd, largely due to a home run by Mike Napoli. They made it 6-3 in the 4th.

But no 1-run lead is safe at Fenway Park, and the Sox know this better than anyone. CC Sabathia just didn't have it, and Jonny Gomes capitalized with a homer in the 5th. It was 7-3, and the game was slipping away from the Yankees.

But the Yankee bats woke up. Singles by Gardner and Cano closed the gap to 7-5 in the 6th, and a Stewart single and a Cruz groundout tied it up in the 7th.

That's the way it stayed through regulation. This, in spite of the fact that Joe Girardi brought Boone Logan in to replace Preston Claiborne in the 7th.

In the immortal words of Maya Wilkes (played by Golden Brooks on Girlfriends), "Oh, hell, no!"
Logan struck out the side.

Doesn't make up for the 31 games he's blown for the Yankees since April 2010.

Brent Lillibridge, a 29-year-old journeyman from the Seattle area, who's played every position in the majors except for pitcher and catcher, but never had more than 216 plate appearances in a season (for the 2011 Chicago White Sox), has a lifetime batting average of .206 and an OPS+ of 63, and started this season with the Chicago Cubs, led off the 9th with a walk. When a guy like that gives you a leadoff walk in the 9th, you reward him by driving him home. Nope: Nunez struck out, Stewart popped up, Cruz struck out.

Gardner led off the 10th with a walk. But Ichiro flied out. Cano singled. 1st and 2nd, 1 out? Overbay grounded into a double play.

Nunez notched a 2-out single in the 11th, and tried to steal 2nd.

Now, this was a stupid thing to do with 2 outs in extra innings. Nunez is not a very smart ballplayer.

However, he did reach 2nd base safely. Except 2nd base umpire Mike Everitt called him out.

(to the tune of "My Darling Clementine")

Where's your father?
Where's your father?
Where's your father, umpire?
You ain't got one!
Never had one!
You're a bastard umpire!

Girardi had used the bullpen pretty well in relief of CC. Claiborne held the Sox off in the 6th, Logan in the 7th, Robertson in the 8th, and Shawn Kelley in the 9th and 10th.

He brought Adam Warren in for the 11th, and he got the 1st 2 outs. Then Napoli hit his 2nd home run of the game to end it.

Red Sox 8, Yankees 7. WP: Beato (1-0). No save. LP: Warren (1-1).

I don't hold it against Warren. Unlike Logan, Kyle Farnsworth, Scott Proctor, and a few other Yankee relievers that I could mention from these last few years (except for the bum Logan, all of them now thankfully gone), he doesn't have a litany of losing, games he's blown.

But we got screwed on that call at 2nd.

*

So, with 10 weeks remaining in the season, and with (roughly) 100 games in the books, here's how the AL East stands:

Boston 60-40
Tampa Bay 58-41, 1 1/2 games back (1 in the loss column)
Baltimore 56-43, 3 1/2 (3)
New York 52-46, 7 (6)
Toronto 45-52, 13 1/2 (12)

That we are only 6 games back in the loss column on July 22, with all the injuries and controversies we've had, is amazing.  We are still in position to make a serious run at The Scum. Especially since we still have 10 more games to play against them.

But we need to get Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson back from injury. And we need a reliable bat to play 3rd base, because, whether through injury or controversey, Alex Rodriguez may not be coming back anytime soon, and even if he does, who knows what kind of production he'll give us. And if CC, who's struggled this season, doesn't turn back into an ace, another starting pitcher will be worth going after.

On to Texas, to play the Rangers.  Like all teams called Rangers, they suck.

*

Bert Trautmann died this week. He could have died much earlier, in one of the biggest of all sporting events on planet Earth.

Some people, including some athletes, say they would die for their teams. Bert Trautmann broke his neck for his team. Literally.
Bernhard Carl Trautmann was born on October 22, 1923 in Bremen, Germany. He excelled in multiple sports, including soccer, where he was an expert goalkeeper. Like nearly every German male of his generation, he joined the Army, fighting for the Nazis whether they liked it or not. He became a paratrooper, so he was certainly brave. He would eventually be captured by, and escape from, the Americans, the Soviet Red Army, and the French Resistance. The 4th time, he was captured by the British. This time, he accepted his fate, and taken to a prisoner-of-war camp near Liverpool.

After the War, he was released, but declined an offer of repatriation, and stayed in England.  He played for St. Helens Town, a club near Liverpool. He was allowed to marry Margaret Friar, the daughter of the club secretary. He got the club promoted, and in 1949, he was signed by Manchester City. This made him the 1st soccer player in England to wear Adidas shoes, since he was a friend of the company's founder, Adolf Dassler. (His nickname was Adi, hence, "Adi Das." His brother Rudolf Dassler founded Puma.)

Man City fans were not happy about the signing. A, Trautmann wasn't just German, he had fought for the enemy. B, He was replacing Frank Swift, the greatest goalie in Man City's history to that point. (Swift then became a journalist, and died in the Munich Air Disaster of 1958, covering Manchester United's European Cup run.) A January 1950 match away to West London club Fulham changed things. He made several great saves, and, although Fulham won 1-0, their fans stopped hurling insults at him, and gave him a standing ovation as he walked off the field.

Man City were relegated to Division Two at the end of the season, but bounced back up to Division One at the end of the next season. Led by Trautmann and forward Don Revie (later the manager of the great Leeds United team of the late 1960s and early 1970s), they reached the 1955 FA Cup Final, losing to Newcastle United.

In 1956, they got back to the Final, and faced Birmingham City. The game was 1-1 at the hour, but Bobby Johnstone and Jack Dyson scored in quick succession to make it 3-1 to Man City. In the 73rd minute, Peter Murphy attempted a shot for the Brummies, but Trautman dove at his feet to win the ball. In the process, Murphy's knee struck Trautmann in the neck.

Trautmann was knocked unconscious. Substitutes were not allowed in English football until 1968, so if he could not continue, an outfield player who have to put on the green shirt, and they'd be down to 10 men. Trautmann came to, and, with the situation explained to him, insisted on staying in the game.

The Man City players did what they could to keep the ball away from him, but he had to make 2 more saves, the 2nd of which was another collision with Murphy, resulting in his needing treatment.

The game ended 3-1, and the Man City players climbed the famed Wembley Stadium steps to the royal box, where Prince Philip handed out the Cup to winning Captain Roy Paul, and the winner's medals to all the players. On the film, Trautmann can be seen rubbing his neck. Prince Philip expressed concern for Trautmann's condition.
After 3 days, the pain didn't go away, so Trautmann went to the doctor. He was told he had dislocated 5 vertebrae, 1 of which was cracked. The 3rd vertebra had lodged against the cracked 2nd, possibly saving his life. He had, quite literally, broken his neck to win the FA Cup.

He missed much of the 1956-57 season, and in 1958, because he had not fully recovered, Man City became the only team in the history of England's Football League (including the post-1992 Premier League) to score 100 goals and allow 100 goals in a single League season. But he continued to play until 1964, and his final match was a testimonial at Maine Road, City's ground. He captained a combined City and United team, with Bobby Charlton and Denis Law guesting from United, against an International XI that had England stars Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney and Jimmy Armfield.

He was not allowed to play for the West Germany national team because he was playing outside the country, and so he was not on the team that won the 1954 World Cup. He later coached in England, Germany and Spain, and managed the national teams of Burma, Tanzania, Liberia and Pakistan.

He settled in the Mediterranean coastal city of Valencia, Spain. He married 3 times, and had 4 children, 1 of whom died in a car crash as a boy, which led to the breakup of his 1st marriage. Queen Elizabeth II awarded him an OBE for his efforts at diplomacy through sport, and, on the occasion, asked him if his neck felt better. He was honored with a statue outside the City of Manchester Stadium, to which Man City moved in 2003, and is now named the Etihad Stadium.
He died on July 19, 2013, in Valencia, from the effects of a pair of heart attacks earlier in the year, up to which point he was still thought to be in good health. He was 89 years old.

Bert Trautmann was a symbol of courage, perseverance, understanding and sportsmanship. He could have been embittered by either the war he was in or his new country's reaction to his service in it. Instead, he made both his old and his new country better places to be. That's testimonial enough for anyone.

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