Thursday, October 17, 2013

10 Years Since the Fenway Punk



October 11, 2003, 10 years ago: Pedro Martinez commits 3 felonies: Assault with a deadly weapon on Karim Garcia, conspiracy to commit murder against Jorge Posada, and assault (and possibly attempted murder) on Don Zimmer.

In spite of this, he is not arrested. The felonies, after all, occurred at Fenway Park, not Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees beat the Red Sox, 3-2, with Roger Clemens outpitching Martinez, and take a 2-games-to-1 lead in the ALCS.

The New York Post, in one of the rare instances in which I agree with it, labeled Pedro the Fenway Punk.  Ever since, he has been the opposing athletes I have loathed the most.  Which is why my favorite home run of all time is no longer the one Aaron Boone hit 5 days later, but the one Hideki Matsui hit off Pedro to clinch the 2009 World Series -- Pedro's last game.

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October 11, 1898: The Boston Beaneaters beat the Washington Senators, 8-2, in Washington, and win their 2nd straight National League Pennant — their 5th in the last 8 years, their 8th overall, and their 12th if you count their days as the Boston Red Stockings of the National Association.

Future Hall-of-Famers on the 1898 Beaneaters include outfielders Hugh Duffy and Billy Hamilton, 3rd baseman Jimmy Collins, pitchers Kid Nichols and Vic Willis, and manager Frank Selee.

For the team that will, by 1912, be known as the Boston Braves, this is the end of a golden age. They had finished 1st in their League 12 times in their first 28 seasons, effectively dominating professional baseball the way no team would again until the Yankees started winning Pennants in 1921. But in their last 54 seasons, they would win just 2 more Pennants.

But at least they would still exist, and still do, if not in the same city (they’re in Atlanta now). The Senators would be contracted out of existence after the 1899 season, opening the door to a new team of the same name in the American League in 1901.

The last survivor of the Beaneaters’ 1890s dynasty was Duffy, who played all 3 outfield positions, and who lived on until 1954, spending the last few years of his life still involved in Boston baseball, as an executive with the Red Sox.

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October 11, 1899: Eddie Dyer is born in Morgan City, Louisiana. Like so many mediocre players, he became a successful manager, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to the 1946 World Championship, having played on their 1926 World Championship team.

October 11, 1913, 100 years ago: New York Giants manager John McGraw loses his 3rd straight World Series – something that, a century years later, no other team, let alone manager, has done since, although his former Baltimore Orioles teammate, Hughie Jennings, did it with the 1907-08-09 Detroit Tigers.

In Game 5‚ Christy Mathewson is good‚ but his fellow future Hall-of-Famer Eddie Plank is better: His 2-hitter wins the 3-1 finale. Plank retires the first 13 batters‚ bettering the mark of 12 set by the Cubs’ Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown on Ocotber 9‚ 1906. It is the A’s 3rd title, all in the last 4 years.

This turns out to be the last postseason appearance for Mathewson, who, at this point, is identified with the World Series as much as anyone, even though his team is only 1-for-4 in them.

October 11, 1925: Elmore Leonard is born in New Orleans, but grew up in Detroit and was a hard-core Tigers fan.  Or, perhaps I should say, “hard-boiled” instead, as he was the writer of hard-boiled fiction such as Get Shorty, one of several of his novels to be turned into popular movies.  He died earlier this year.

October 11, 1943, 70 years ago: The Yankees defeat the Cardinals, 2-0 at Sportsman’s Park, to take Game 5 and the World Series. It is the Yankees’ 10th World Championship. It will be 2006, and the Cardinals themselves, before another team wins a 10th World Series.

October 11, 1944: Mike Fiore is born in Brooklyn. He was basically a journeyman, but on April 13, 1969, he hit the first home run in Kansas City Royals history, off John “Blue Moon” Odom of the Oakland Athletics – appropriately enough, the team whose move out of Kansas City had made the Royals possible.

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October 11, 1946: In one of the rare trades that works out well for both teams, the Yankees trade Joe Gordon, Allie Clark and Ed Bockman to the Cleveland Indians for Allie Reynolds.  Gordon, a future Hall-of-Famer, and Clark, a native of South Amboy, New Jersey, would help the Indians win the 1948 World Series.

Dan Daniel, the legendary sports columnist of the New York World-Telegram, will later report that Yankee GM Larry MacPhail and newly-hired manager Bucky Harris originally wanted another Cleveland pitcher, Red Embree. But, Daniel said, Joe DiMaggio advised them to take Reynolds, a part-Cherokee pitcher from Oklahoma, whose record with (perhaps appropriately) the Indians had not been good, but DiMaggio had never been able to hit him well.

The Yankee Clipper guessed well, as “the Superchief” (Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen nicknamed him that not just for his heritage but because his fastball reminded Allen of the Santa Fe Railroad’s fast Chicago-to-Los Angeles train “the Super Chief”) began a portion of his career that put him in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park. Had he come along 30 years later, with his fastball and his attitude, he might have been a Hall of Fame closer.

It is around this time that, allegedly, MacPhail and Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey had been drinking (as both men liked to do — a lot), and wrote out on a cocktail napkin an agreement to trade their biggest stars for each other, Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams.

At first glance, it looked like a great idea: DiMaggio, a righthanded hitter, hated hitting into Yankee Stadium’s left- and center-field “Death Valley,” while at Fenway Park he would have the nice close left-field wall — whose advertisements would come down in this off-season, debuting nice and clean and green for 1947, giving rise to the nickname “the Green Monster.” While Williams, hitting to a right field that was 380 feet straightaway at Fenway, would flourish with Yankee Stadium’s “short porch.”

But it wouldn’t have been a good trade. DiMaggio wouldn’t have been happy in the smaller city of Boston, and he would have forced his brother Dom to move out of center field. And Williams, who had enough problems with the media in Boston, would have been scorched by the press of much bigger New York.

Neither man would have been the best; DiMaggio might have outright retired after his 1948 heel spurs (at age 34), and Williams might have said the hell with it at the end of his Korean War service in 1953 and retired (at 35).

Why did the trade not happen? Supposedly, in the morning, Yawkey sobered up and decided that Williams was more valuable than DiMaggio. (Yeah, right: Ted was a great hitter; Joe was a great hitter AND a great fielder.) So he called up MacPhail and demanded a throw-in. A rookie left fielder who could also catch a little. MacPhail refused, and the deal collapsed. The rookie’s name was Larry Berra. Yes, Yogi, although the nickname he already had was not yet widely known.

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October 11, 1947: Thomas M. Boswell is born in Washington, D.C. The longtime columnist for the Washington Post helped keep alive the flame of baseball fandom in the Nation’s Capital, never ceasing in his belief that the city needed to get Major League Baseball back after Bob Short moved the Senators to Texas in 1971.

He spoke nobly in Ken Burns’ Baseball miniseries about Washington Senators legend Walter Johnson, and poignantly about the fall of Pete Rose.  However, his job also led him to cover the team then closest to D.C., and that was the Baltimore Orioles (which led Burns to ask him about O’s manager Earl Weaver).  Covering the Orioles allowed Boswell to become part of the propaganda machine for Cal Ripken.

His books include Why Time Begins On Opening Day, and How Life Imitates the World Series. The former is sunny and optimistic, like Opening Day itself; the latter is more serious, suggesting the pressure that comes with October play.

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October 11, 1948: At Braves Field in Boston, the Cleveland Indians defeat the Braves behind “rookie” 30-year-old knuckleballer Gene Bearden, 4-3, and take Game 6 and win the World Series.
It is their 2nd title, the first coming in 1920. It has been 63 years, and despite some agonizing close calls in 1952, ’54, ’59, ’95, ’97, ‘98 and 2007, and nearly two generations of never even being in a Pennant race from 1960 to 1993, the Indians have never won another World Series.

But at least they’re still in Cleveland, despite a number of fears of having to move in the 1960s, ’70s and ‘80s.  In contrast, despite all their success in the 19th Century and winning Pennants in 1914 and 1948, this was the last late-season meaningful game the Boston franchise of the National League would ever play. The Braves would be in Milwaukee by the next time they reached the Series.
Surviving players from these teams, 65 years later: Indians Al Rosen and Eddie Robinson, and Braves Alvin Dark and Clint Conatser.

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October 11, 1964: Al Downing is cruising through the first 5 innings of Game 4 of the World Series, but he loads the bases in the 6th, and Ken Boyer, the Cardinal Captain and 3rd baseman who will soon be named NL MVP, hits a grand slam. The 4 runs his hit drives in are all the runs the Cards get, but that’s all they need, as the Cards win, 4-3, and tie up the Series at 2 games apiece.

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October 11, 1967: Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Smith and Rico Petrocelli hit the only back-to-back-to-back home runs in World Series history. Petrocelli adds another, and the Red Sox defeat the Cardinals, 8-4 at Fenway Park, and send the World Series to a deciding Game 7.

Cardinal manager Red Schoendienst, himself a World Series winner as a player with the Cardinals of 1946 and the Milwaukee Braves of 1957, announces his choice to pitch Game 7: Bob Gibson, on 3 days rest. Sox manager Dick Williams, knowing that his ace, Jim Lonborg, would have only 2 days rest, announces his starter to the Boston media: “Lonborg and champagne.” Those words are put on the front page of the Boston Globe the next day, and it ticks the Cards off.  And the last thing anyone wants to see in a World Series game is a ticked-off Bob Gibson.

Also on this day, former Dodger star Gil Hodges, who married a Brooklyn woman, Joan Lombardi, and stayed in the Borough after the Dodgers moved, leaves the managerial post of the Washington Senators to become the manager of the Mets. The Mets do compensate the Senators. Hodges will only manage the Mets for 4 seasons before a heart attack claims his life, but one of those seasons will be the Miracle of ’69.

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October 11, 1969: As expected, the New York Mets lose the first World Series game in franchise history, as Don Buford hits a leadoff home run off Met ace Tom Seaver, and the Orioles win, 4-1. But it will be the last game the O’s win in the Series.

Fast facts with which you can amaze your friends: The Mets have been in 4 World Series, and have never won Game 1 -- including in the Series they have ended up winning.  They won Game 2 in 1969 and ’73; Game 3 in ’69, ’86 and 2000; Game 4 in ’69, ’73 and ’86; Game 5 in ’69 and ’73; Game 6 in ’86; and Game 7 in ’86.  They lost Game 1 in 1969, ’73, ’86 and 2000; Game 2 in ’86 and 2000; Game 3 in ’73; Game 4 in 2000; Game 5 in ’86 and 2000; Game 6 in ’73; and Game 7 in ’73.

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October 11, 1970: The love affair between Boston Red Sox fans and local boy Tony Conigliaro comes to an end – or, as it turned out, it comes to an an interruption – as the Sox trade him to the California Angels for 2nd baseman Doug Griffin.

Despite a courageous comeback from his beaning, his eyesight had begun to deteriorate again, and he was making a nuisance of himself within the organization. There was also dissension between him and his brother and teammate, Billy Conigliaro.

The fans, knowing little about this, were shocked, but the team decided that Tony C had to go. He would be back for the Sox, twice, first as a player and then as an interviewee for a broadcast position, but his playing career would end with a fizzle, and his useful life with a tragedy.

October 11, 1971: Just one year to the day after trading Tony C, the Red Sox trade his brother Billy, and the pitching hero of the 1967 “Impossible Dream” Pennant, Jim Lonborg, who hadn’t been the same since a skiing accident following that season. They are sent to the Milwaukee Brewers, along with 1st baseman George Scott.

Although Lonborg turned out to still have something left, as he went on to help the Phillies make the Playoffs 3 times, letting go of Scott turned out to be the bigger mistake, as they really could have used his bat in 1972, ’73, ’74 and ’75.

And what did the Sox get in this trade? Pitchers Marty Pattin and Lew Krausse, and outfielder Tommy Harper. Harper would be a good hitter and baserunner, but nothing Earth-shaking. Pattin would also not develop into much in Boston, although he would become a good pitcher later in Kansas City. (He also turned out to be the last member of the 1969 Seattle Pilots still active in the majors.) Krausse was pretty much finished.

By the time the Sox won the Pennant again in 1975, all 3 of them were gone, and after losing the World Series that year, the Sox would trade 1st baseman Cecil Cooper to the Brewers to get Scott back. Trading him away was a mistake, and, considering how fat Scott got and how good Cooper got, getting Scott back wasn’t a good idea, either.

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October 11, 1972: The Pittsburgh Pirates lead the Cincinnati Reds 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th inning of the final game of the NLCS at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. But Johnny Bench hits a home run off Dave Guisti, over the left-field fence to tie the game‚ over the head of the Pirates’ legendary right fielder, Roberto Clemente, who had joined the 3,000 Hit Club just 2 weeks earlier. The Reds collect two more singles, and Bob Moose, who had come in to relieve Guisti, throws a wild pitch, and the Reds win, 4-3.

Not since Jack Chesbro in 1904 had a wild pitch decided a Pennant, and not since Johnny Miljus in the 1927 World Series had a wild pitch ended a postseason series. By a weird coincidence, Miljus threw his wild pitch as a Pirate, and Chesbro had also pitched for them before coming to the Highlanders/Yankees.

The Reds, taking their 2nd Pennant in 3 years, would go on to lose the World Series to the Oakland A’s. The Pirates, having won their 3rd straight NL East title but having only 1 Pennant to show for it, would lose something far greater: A plane crash on New Year’s Eve would make this game the last one that Clemente would ever play.

October 11, 1973, 40 years ago: Dmitri Dell Young is born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and grows up in Oxnard, California. The slugging 1st baseman known as “Da Meathook” helped the St. Louis Cardinals reach the postseason in 1996, although personal problems and diabetes led the Detroit Tigers to release him in 2006 before they could win that season’s AL Pennant. He is now retired, and runs a charity in Southern California.  His brother Delmon Young is now with the Tampa Bay Rays, afte rhaving been a key cog for the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.

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October 11, 1975: Saturday Night premieres on NBC. After this first season, it will be renamed Saturday Night Live. The first cast, “the Not Ready for Prime Time Players,” includes John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin and Garrett Morris — but not, as is commonly believed, Bill Murray, who replaced Chase after one season.

The first guest host is George Carlin, who begins his monologue with a whacked-out version of the Lord’s Prayer, and goes on to do his now-classic routine “Baseball and Football.” (This version is from 1990, from the State Theater in New Brunswick, New Jersey.)
 
Not long before Carlin died, someone took a poll to determine the greatest standup comedians of all time. Carlin came in second. Coming in first was Richard Pryor, who, like Carlin was at the peak of his powers in the mid-Seventies.
A month into SNL’s run, Pryor was asked to host the show. But, nervous that he would issue some four-letter words — they didn’t seem as nervous about such language coming from Carlin, creator of the bit “Seven Words You Can Never Use On Television,” none of which he used when he hosted — the show was not quite “Live, from New York.” They used a seven-second delay, in case they had to bleep anything out. They did. Ever since, even SNL hasn’t been totally live.

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October 11, 1977: Ty Allen Wigginton is born in San Diego. One of several bright young stars for the New York Mets who never did quite pan out, the utility player now plays for the Cardinals.
On this same day, the Yankees win Game 1 of the World Series in 12 innings, 4-3, as Paul Blair singles home Willie Randolph.

And, apparently, the scene shown taking place before that game in the miniseries The Bronx Is Burning actually happened: George Steinbrenner really did leave 20 tickets to be given to Joe DiMaggio at the Yankee Stadium will-call window for this game, but the tickets weren’t at the window, and there really was a brouhaha about it, before Joe and George smoothed things out, allowing Joe to throw out the first ball before Game 6.

October 11, 1978: The Dodgers go 2 games up with a 4-3 win in Game 2. Ron Cey drives in all the Dodger runs, and Reggie Jackson does the same for the Yankees. But Bob Welch saves Burt Hooton’s win in dramatic fashion by striking out Jackson in the 9th inning. The only teams that have ever come back from 2 games to 0 to win the Series have been the ’55 Dodgers and the ’56 Yankees.

October 11, 1980: In one of the most exciting and controversial games in playoff history‚ the Phillies tie the NLCS at 2 games apiece with a 10-inning 5-3 win over the Astros at the Astrodome. In the 4th inning‚ Houston is deprived of an apparent triple play when the umpires rule that pitcher Vern Ruhle had trapped Garry Maddox’s soft line drive. In the 6th‚ Houston loses a run when Gary Woods leaves the base early on Luis Pujols’ would-be sacrifice fly. (Luis, a future big-league manager, is no relation to Albert Pujols.)

October 11, 1981: The Yankees won the 1st 2 games of their strike-forced Playoff series for the AL East title in Milwaukee, but the Brewers, playing in their first postseason series (and the first by any Milwaukee team since the ’59 Braves), won the next 2 at Yankee Stadium, forcing a deciding Game 5.

This led to a postgame tirade by George Steinbrenner in the locker room, lambasting the players, telling them how they had let him down, and how they had let New York down. Trying to play peacemaker, Bobby Murcer said, “Now is not the time, George, now is not the time.” George insisted that it was the time, and continued to rant, until catcher Rick Cerone stood up and told The Boss, “Fuck you, George.” Stunned, George left the room.

So on this night, back-to-back home runs by Reggie Jackson and Oscar Gamble, and a later homer by, yes, Cerone give the Yanks a 7-3 victory over the Brewers, and the series. The Yanks will move on to face the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS. The Brewers, however, will be back.

On this same day, the Playoff for the NL East is won by Steve Rogers. No, not Captain America:
This one doesn’t even work in America. Steve Rogers of the Montreal Expos drives in 2 runs and shuts out the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Expos win, 3-0, in Game 5 of the series.  In 45 seasons of play, this remains the only postseason series ever won by the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals franchise.

October 11, 1986: Former Detroit Tigers star Norm Cash dies when he slips off his boat in Lake Michigan, hits his head, and falls into the lake and drowns. One of the most beloved Tigers of all time, a former batting champion, a man who had slugged 377 home runs, and a member of their 1968 World Champions, he was only 51.

October 11, 1998: Game 5 of the ALCS at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, and feeling before the game was that the winner of this game would take the series. The Yankees once again take the early lead with a three-run 1st inning, but the Indians respond. A leadoff homer by Kenny Lofton and a sacrifice fly by Manny Ramírez make it a one-run game. Paul O’Neill singles home a run in the 2nd to make it 4–2 Yankees. Chili Davis homers in the fourth to put the Yankees ahead by three, but Jim Thome hits his 3rd homer of the series in the bottom of the 6th to make it a two-run game.

Chuck Knoblauch, still fighting for redemption after his Game 2 “brainlauch,” starts a key 4-6-3 double play in the 8th inning for the 2nd night in a row. David Wells, who claimed to have heard Indian fans insulting his dead mother all through the game, and the Yankee bullpen hold off any further Indians scoring, and the Yankees are one win away from the World Series, as the series goes back to The Bronx.

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October 11, 2004: The Houston Astros win a postseason series for the first time in their 43-season history, defeating the Braves‚ 12-3‚ to take their Division Series. Carlos Beltran is the hero for Houston with 4 hits‚ including 2 HRs‚ and 5 RBIs.

October 11, 2006: Cory Lidle, newly acquired by the Yankees as pitching help for the stretch drive and the postseason, dies when his single-engine plane crashes into an Upper East Side apartment high-rise.  He was 34.  Killed with him is his pilot instructor, Tyler Stanger.

That night, the Mets are scheduled to open the NLCS against the Cardinals at Shea Stadium, but the rain that falls shortly after Lidle’s crash gets the game postponed. It’s just as well. This, of course, is the only season since 1988 in which the Mets have been playing after the Yankees have been eliminated.

October 11, 2009: In the final baseball game to be played at the Metrodome, the Yankees advance to the the ALCS by defeating the host Twins, 4-1. A costly 8th inning baserunning blunder by Nick Punto ends Minnesota’s hopes of a comeback. Alex Rodriguez went 5-for-11 with 2 homers and six RBIs in the 3-game Division Series sweep.

Also on this day, Jonathan Papelbon, who had never given up a run in any of his previous 26 postseason innings, allows 2 inherited runners to score in the 8th, and yields another 3 runs in the 9th, giving the Los Angeles Angels, who trailed 5-1 going into the 6th inning, a 7-6 victory over the Red Sox.

The Halos’ comeback victory — or, if you prefer, the Red Sox’ characteristic choke — at Fenway completes a 3-game sweep of ALDS over a team which historically had been their nemeses, having been eliminated from the Playoffs in their past 4 post-season encounters with Boston. The Angels will now face the Yankees for the Pennant.

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