Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Brooklyn Triumphant and Other October 4 Anniversaries


October 4, 1955: The Brooklyn Dodgers beat the New York Yankees, 2-0, in Game 7 of the World Series.

(This is a previous post, updated.)

After losing the World Series to Boston in 1916, to Cleveland in 1920, and to the Yankees in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953; blowing Playoffs for the National League Pennant to St. Louis in 1946 and to the New York Giants in 1951; and blowing Pennants on the last weekend of the season to St. Louis in 1942 and Philadelphia in 1950, the Dodgers had finally won their first undisputed World Championship in 55 years, since they finished the 1900 season as National League Champions, with no postseason series available.

But in 1955, it all seemed to come together. True, the Dodgers had traded away two of the beloved players who would later be known, in the title of the book that Roger Kahn wrote in remembrance of his days covering them for the New York Herald Tribune, as “The Boys of Summer”: Pitcher Elwyn “Preacher” Roe and third baseman Billy Cox.

The team was in transition: Jackie Robinson was still a factor, but his replacements had arrived in Jim “Junior” Gilliam and Don Zimmer. Ralph Branca, the goat of the 1951 Playoff, had retired, but the Dodgers still had Don Newcombe and Carl Erskine, and they were joined by a hotshot lefty named Johnny Podres.The Dodgers won their first 13 games of the ’55 season, and finished 13 games ahead of the preseason favorites, the Milwaukee Braves.

But the Yankees took the first two games of the World Series, despite Robinson’s steal of home plate in Game 1. But the Dodgers took the next three at Ebbets Field. Then the Yankees tied it up. In fact, the home team won each of the first 6 home games.

October 4, 1955. Game 7 of the World Series. Yankee Stadium. The Boys of Summer were getting old. The younger Dodgers didn’t quite seem ready. The team was in transition, and it did seem like it had been a seamless one; but for veterans like shortstop Pee Wee Reese, first baseman Gil Hodges, center fielder Duke Snider and catcher Roy Campanella — along with Robinson, all but Hodges are in the Hall of Fame and he damn well should be — it was now or never.

Podres was the choice of manager Walter Alston, having won Game 3. Yankee manager Casey Stengel, with ace Whitey Ford having pitched brilliantly in Game 6, had to go with Tommy Byrne, a lefty who was occasionally wild, but had come up big for Stengel in several big games.

The Dodgers scored a run in the 4th and another in the 6, to take a 2-0 lead. But the Yankees got two men on in the bottom of the 6th. And Yogi Berra, as much a “Mr. October” as the Yankees have ever had, was coming up. Yogi had delighted in hitting Series homers off the Dodgers, and would again. To hell with the lefty-on-lefty matchup: Yogi had no fear. And, despite usually being a pull hitter, Yogi hooked the ball down the left-field line, into the corner.

Left field had long been a troublesome position for the Dodgers. Gene Hermanski. Cal Abrams. George “Shotgun” Shuba. Andy Pafko had played it well, but for whatever reason they got rid of him. Now Zimmer was the usual left fielder, though he was a natural infielder. But Alston had pinch-hit Gilliam for Zimmer, and put Gilliam in at second, replacing the righty-throwing Zimmer in left with lefty-throwing Sandy Amoros, a Cuban whose English was halting but whose play, on this day, changed baseball history.

A righthanded fielder, like Zimmer, never could have caught this ball, no matter how fast he was. But Amoros was fast and lefthanded, and he stuck out his right hand and caught the ball. Then he wheeled it back to the infield. Reese relayed it to Hodges, and Gil McDougald was unable to get back to first in time. Double play end of threat.

Doris Kearns was a 12-year-old girl living in Rockville Centre, Long Island at the time. Years later, award-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin would cite Amoros’ robbery of Berra and the ensuing rally-killing double play as a sign that the Dodgers would win. “There’s always these omens in baseball,” she said. Translation: If the Dodgers could get Yogi out in a key situation, then that was it, the Yankees would not threaten again.

Bottom of the 9th. Two out. Podres has pitched a stomach-churning game: Eight hits, but no runs. The last batter is Elston Howard. Six months earlier, Howard had become the first black man to play in a regular-season game for the Yankees, and was now the left fielder and Yogi’s backup at catcher. In 1959, they would switch positions, and Ellie would become one of the game’s best catchers. In 1955, he was a 26-year-old “rookie,” having played in the Negro Leagues for a while.

Howard grounded to short. It was so appropriate that it went to Harold Henry Reese, the Dodgers’ Captain and senior player. Pee Wee threw it to Gil Hodges, and Hodges, perhaps the best-fielding first baseman of his era, had to trap it on the ground to keep it from being an error and bringing the tying run to the plate. But he got it.

Ballgame over. World Series over. With Red Barber having been chased out of Brooklyn by team owner Walter O’Malley after the 1953 season, it was Vin Scully who got to make the announcement over the airwaves: “Ladies and gentlemen, the Brooklyn Dodgers are the World Champions of baseball.”

Not exactly how Mel Allen, Phil Rizzuto or John Sterling would have described it.

It had been 55 years — or 52 years if you count only from the first World Series forward. The 0-for-7, and 0-for-5 against the Yankees, no longer mattered.

“Please don’t interrupt,” Shirley Povich wrote for the next day’s Washington Post, “because you haven’t heard this one before: The Brooklyn Dodgers are World Champions of baseball.” (Povich wrote for the Post from 1924, when Walter Johnson finally pitched them to the World Series, until his death in 1998. His son is the TV journalist Maury Povich.)

And they did it at Yankee Stadium, no less. They never clinched a World Championship at Ebbets Field — although the Yankees had, in ’41, ’49 and ’52, and would again in ’56. Not until ’63 would the Dodger franchise clinch a World Series win on their home field.

The party in Brooklyn was the biggest since V-J Day ended World War II 10 years earlier. Scully told the story for Ken Burns’ miniseries Baseball: “When we were riding through Manhattan, it was fall. Football was in the air. We came out the other end of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, and it was New Orleans chaos!”

No more “Wait ‘Til Next Year,” as the Brooklyn Eagle -- which had, sadly, gone out of business a few months too soon to report on the Dodgers' title -- had first blared in a headline after the 1941 Series.  This was Next Year.

The next day’s New York Daily News had a new famous headline, “WHO’S A BUM!” Willard Mullin, who had drawn the “Dodger Bum” cartoon character, drew him again, a big nearly-toothless smile, for that front page, consisting only of that headline and that drawing.

Two personnel notes should be made. One is that Mickey Mantle was injured and unable to play in Game 7 for the Yankees. Does that mean the one and only World Series won by the Brooklyn Dodgers should have an asterisk? No: There’s no guarantee that Mickey would have made the difference, even though he had hit the Dodgers hard in the ’52 and ’53 Series, and would again in ’56. Although he was one of the true Mr. Octobers, he didn’t always have a good Series, and in fact went only 2-for-10 in the 3 Series games he did get into in ’55, even if one of those hits was a homer off Podres in Game 3.

The other personnel note is that Jackie Robinson was not put into the lineup in Game 7. The noblest character in the history of baseball was deemed unworthy of this moment by his manager. Alston was not a Jackie Robinson fan. Neither was owner O’Malley. But on the highlight film, you can see Number 42 running onto the field. After all he’d been through, at 36 he still had enough energy to be one of the first men into the celebratory pile, if not enough energy to persuade his manager to put him into the lineup. But can we really argue with the decision? After all, it worked.

There are still 7 living members of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers. Zimmer and Shuba are the only 2 who played in the game, plus Carl Erskine, Roger Craig, Ed Roebuck, and two lefthanded pitchers worth mentioning.

One was a chunky guy from outside Philadelphia who had starred for the Dodgers’ Triple-A farm team, the Montreal Royals, but his entire big-league career consisted of 4 games for Brooklyn in both the ’54 and ’55 seasons, then 18 more the next season for the Kansas City Athletics. Despite his pitching for that team, he never got on the Kansas City/Bronx shuttle. Maybe it was because, in '56, he got into a fight with Yankee 2nd baseman Billy Martin.

In the middle of the ’55 season, he was told by Dodger general manager Emil “Buzzie” Bavasi that he was being sent back down to Montreal. He objected. Bavasi said, “If not you, who should we send down?” The portly portsider said to send down the other lefty, because he had no control. Bavasi told him that the other lefty couldn’t be sent down, because he was a “bonus baby,” and under the rules of the time, he had to stay on the major league roster for 2 full seasons, no matter what — a rule designed to discourage teams from just throwing big (for the time) sums of money at prospects.

The bonus baby was a local boy, a Brooklyn kid who had made his major league debut that season, appearing in 12 games, nothing remarkable yet. He wanted to be an architect, and had so studied at the University of Cincinnati. He also preferred basketball to baseball.

The fat lefty insisted that he was a better pitcher than the bonus baby — and, 58 years later, he still insists that, at the time, he was better.

Eventually, the bonus baby would get his pitching straightened out, and become one of the very best men ever to mount a pitcher’s mound. His name was Sandy Koufax.

The hefty lefty? His name was Tommy Lasorda. In 1977, he and his former antagonist Billy were shaking hands in World Series pregame ceremonies, as fellow, mutually-admiring, Pennant-winning Italian-American managers.

Ironically, it was Lasorda’s Dodgers who went back to his old stomping grounds of Montreal and ended the one and only postseason run ever made by the Royals’ National League successors, the Expos.

There are 8 living members of the 1955 New York Yankees. Berra and Bob Cerv played in Game 7. Also on the roster were Ford, Jerry Coleman, Don Larsen (still a year away from his moment in time), Johnny Kucks (a Hoboken, New Jersey native whose moment came 2 days after Larsen’s), Irv Noren and Tom Carroll (a Queens native who was a defensive replacement in 2 games and only played 64 games in the majors).

October 4, 1955, 3:43 PM Brooklyn Standard Time. Dem Bums had finally dooed it.

Two years later, it would all be over. And only one man had imagined such a blasphemy.  Unfortunately, the blasphemer was the caretaker of the faith, Walter Francis O’Malley.

In 1962, the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York — that was the original corporate name of the team we know as the Mets — did something that had previously been done only by hatred of the Yankees: United the fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the fans of the New York Giants. Until 1996, including even the Yankees’ quasi-dynasty of 1976-81, the Mets were New York’s most popular team.

That is no longer the case, and a person would have to be at least 60 years old to have any memory of the previous National League teams of New York; more like 65 to remember such events as the ’55 win and Willie Mays’ catch in ’54, nearly 70 to accurately remember Bobby Thomson’s homer in ’51, 75 to remember Jackie Robinson’s debut season in ’47, about 80 to remember the ’41 season that began the Dodgers’ renaissance, and at least 85 to remember the Giant teams that won 3 Pennants in the 1930s.

Long time passing.

*

October 4, 1867: At Brooklyn’s Satellite Grounds‚ two black teams play a match called “the championship of colored clubs” by the Daily Union newspaper. The Philadelphia Excelsiors outscore the Brooklyn Uniques‚ 37-24‚ in a game called after 7 innings on account of darkness.

October 4, 1880: At a special NL meeting in Rochester‚ the league prohibits its members from renting their grounds for use on Sundays and from selling alcoholic beverages on the premises. These rules are aimed at the Cincinnati club‚ which has sold beer and rented out the park to amateur teams for Sundays.

October 4, 1892: Amos Rusie of the New York Giants pitches 2 complete-game victories over the Washington Nationals (no connection to the current NL team with the name) at the Polo Grounds‚ winning 6-4 and 9-5.

The next season, the pitching distance will be extended from 50 feet to 60 feet, 6 inches, making achievements in pitching durability a lot harder. Many star pitchers of the time will never be the same, although Rusie will remain successful through the rest of the 1890s.

October 4, 1905: Just one point apart in the batting race on the final day of the season, Cincinnati Reds centerfielder Cy Seymour and Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner played against each other in a doubleheader. Seymour entered the last day of the season with a league leading .365 average, and Wagner was in 2nd place, batting .364. A very good day at the plate for Honus combined with a poor one for Cy would have reversed their positions.

Seymour had 4 hits in 7 attempts to end up with the NL batting title (.377), while Wagner collected 2-for-7 to end up in 2nd place (.363). Don’t weep for Honus, though: He won 8 batting titles.
A newspaper account of the day stated “…10,000 were more interested in the batting achievements of Wagner and Seymour than the games…cheer upon cheers greeted the mighty batsmen upon each appearance at the plate…”

October 4, 1906: The Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-0, and notch their 116th win of the season. It remains a major league record, although it was tied in 2001 by the Seattle Mariners. But the Cubs’ winning percentage of .763 remains a record for either of the current major leagues.
Both the 1906 Cubs and the 2001 M’s found out that it doesn’t mean a whole lot if you don’t win the World Series.

October 4, 1913, 100 years ago: Washington Senators manager Clark Griffith uses 8 pitchers — unheard-of in that era — in an end-of-season farce game with the Boston Red Sox‚ including 5 in the 9th inning. At age 43‚ the former Chicago Cubs hurler pitches an inning himself‚ and coach John Ryan‚ also 43‚ catches. Griffith also plays RF‚ where he plays one off his head and misplays Hal Janvrin‘s liner into an inside-the-park homer.

On the other end of the scale‚ 17-year-old Merito Acosta – a white Cuban who was one of the first Hispanic players in the American major leagues — plays left field alongside Walter Johnson in center field. Johnson then comes in the 8th inning to lob pitches to 2 hitters. Both batters‚ Clyde Engel and Steve Yerkes, lace hits to send Johnson back to center. Then‚ in relief‚ Nats catcher Eddie Ainsmith‚ in his only major league pitching appearance‚ gives up 2 triples to allow the baserunners to score.

The Sox score in the 9th on Hal Janvrin‘s 2nd inside-the-park homer of the game. Joe Gideon‚ in his only pitching appearance, retires the last 2 batters as Washington wins‚ 10-9‚ beating Fred Anderson who goes the distance.

The 2 runs “allowed” by the Big Train will have historical repercussions: His ERA for the season goes from 1.09 to 1.14‚ and Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA in 1968 will put Johnson’s ERA in 2nd place on the all-time list (in the post-1893 60-feet-6-inches era, anyway). The 8 pitchers sets a ML record that won’t be matched until the Dodgers do it on September 25‚ 1946.

October 4, 1923, 90 years ago: John Charles Carter is born in Wilmette, Illinois.  We knew him as Charlton Heston -- and as historical figures Moses, Marc Antony (in 3 films), John the Baptist, El Cid, Michelangelo, King Henry VIII, Michelangelo, Cardinal Richelieu, William Clark (of Lewis & Clark), Andrew Jackson (in 2 films), General Henry Hooker, Buffalo Bill Cody and General Charles "Chinese" Gordon; and fictional characters Judah Ben-Hur, Peer Gynt and Robert Neville.

He played Ron Catlan, an aging quarterback, in the 1969 film Number One.  In 2010, with the demolition of the original Yankee Stadium complete, I knew -- especially in a city still hurting from the 9/11 attacks -- it would have been wrong, but I wanted to yell his line as Colonel George Taylor, at the end of Planet of the Apes: "Oh my God.  I'm back.  I'm home.  All the time, it was... We really, finally did it.  You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"

October 4, 1935: Game 3 of the World Series is a wild one. Chicago Cubs manager Charlie Grimm and 2 of his players, 3rd baseman Woody English and outfielder Tuck Stainback, are thrown out of the game for bench-jockeying. Coach Del Baker of the Detroit Tigers is also thrown out, for arguing a pickoff play at 3rd base. That’s 4 uniformed men thrown out of 1 World Series game — and none was actually playing in the game!

The game goes to 11 innings, and is won 6-5 by the Tigers, on Jo-Jo White’s single scoring Marv Owen.

October 4, 1937: The St. Louis Cardinals trade shortstop Leo Durocher to the Brooklyn Dodgers for Johnny Cooney‚ Joe Stripp‚ Jim Bucher‚ and Roy Henshaw. Durocher, first as shortstop, then as manager, will become the face of the Dodgers for the next 10 years.

October 4, 1941: In the 7th inning of a scoreless tie‚ Yankees pitcher Marius Russo bats against Dodger pitcher Fred Fitzsimmons, and launches a line drive off Fat Freddie’s kneecap. The ball caroms to shortstop Pee Wee Reese, who throws him out to end the inning. The Yankees score 2 in the 8th off reliever Hugh Casey to win 2-1.

On the official World Series highlight film, Fitzsimmons is shown limping off the field, but it’s not clear how bad the injury is. It turns out that the kneecap is broken. Once an All-Star for the Giants, who seemed to specialize in beating the Dodgers, he had crossed town to be welcomed by the Flatbush Faithful, and they wouldn’t have won the 1941 Pennant without him. But he will pitch in just one game in 1942 before retiring to the coaching ranks.

October 4, 1944: The first all-St. Louis World Series opens with the Browns‚ as the official visiting team (both teams play at Sportsman’s Park)‚ beating the Cardinals 2-1 on George McQuinn‘s homer. Denny Galehouse is the winning pitcher, while Mort Cooper loses despite allowing just 2 hits.
It is the first Series in which all the games are played west of the Mississippi River. The Series is dubbed the Streetcar Series (as opposed to a Subway Series), and is played with no days off.

October 4, 1948: In a one-game playoff for the AL Pennant at Fenway Park‚ the Cleveland Indians beat the Boston Red Sox 8-3, behind 30-year-old rookie knuckleballer Gene Bearden, who wins his 20th game.

It was the year of a lifetime for Bearden: He had never been that good before, and he never would be again. Red Sox manager Joe McCarthy, who had won so much with the Yankees, ignores the well-rested rotation pitchers Ellis Kinder and Mel Parnell to go with journeyman Denny Galehouse, who was 8-7. It wasn’t a totally crazy pick: Galehouse had helped the St. Louis Browns win the 1944 Pennant. With the score 1-1 in the 4th‚ Ken Keltner hits a 3-run home run over the left-field fence. Indians shortstop-manager Lou Boudreau gets 4 hits‚ including a pair of homers‚ and finishes the year with just 9 strikeouts.

Who is still alive from this game, 65 years later? For the Indians, no one: Allie Clark, a South Amboy, New Jersey native whom the Yankees had traded with Joe Gordon to get Allie Reynolds, was the last survivor, dying in 2012. For the Red Sox, only Bobby Doerr and Tom Wright.

That same day, in St. Louis‚ Taylor Spink‚ publisher of The Sporting News, writes in a Baltimore newspaper that Baltimore will have an AL team within two years: “You can put a clothespin in this: Baltimore will be in the American League‚ if not next year‚ then surely in 1950.”

In spite of his deep knowledge of the way the game had been working, including no franchises moving to a different city since 1902, he turned out to be off by only 4 years. It was his hometown Browns who became the new major-league version of the Baltimore Orioles, following previous major- and minor-league teams with those names. Spink and the NL’s Cardinals were tight, and he didn’t particularly care whether the Browns moved.

October 4, 1950: With his ace Robin Roberts exhausted, and his Number 2 starter Curt Simmons having been drafted into the Korean War, Phillies manager Eddie Sawyer rolls the dice and starts Jim Konstanty in Game 1 of the World Series against the Yankees at Shibe Park. It’s not quite the gamble that it seems: Konstanty, about to become the first relief pitcher ever to be named his league’s Most Valuable Player, had pitched long relief during the season, including one game where he went 9 innings.

The gamble nearly paid off, as Konstanty pitched 8 innings, allowing only 1 run (on a double by Bobby Brown and 2 sacrifice flies) on 4 hits and 4 walks. But Vic Raschi of the Yankees was even better, tossing a shutout with 2 hits and 1 walk, and the Yankees win, 1-0.

The next day, Sawyer starts Roberts on a full 4 days’ rest, and he, too, is magnificent in defeat. The Phils lose the first 3 games of the Series, all by 1 run.

October 4, 1951: The Giants have no time to really celebrate their amazing Pennant wno the day before, as the World Series gets underway. Monte Irvin steals home in the 1st inning (and, unlike Jackie Robinson 4 years later, the film definitively shows that he was safe) and collects 4 hits. The Giants defeat Allie Reynolds and the Yankees 5-1, with Dave Koslo going all the way at Yankee Stadium.

With Don Mueller missing the World Series due to the ankle he broke in the climactic inning the day before‚ homer hero Bobby Thomson switches to 3rd base, and the Giants field the first black outfield in a World Series: Irvin in left, Rookie of the Year Willie Mays in center, and Hank Thompson in right.

Thompson and Irvin had been the first black players for the Giants, both debuting on July 8, 1949 (Thompson as a starter, Irvin as a pinch-hitter).

October 4, 1953, 60 years ago: In Game 5 of the World Series at Ebbets Field‚ Mickey Mantle hits a 3rd inning grand slam off Russ Meyer‚ and the Yanks hold on to win 11-7 in a game that features 25 hits and 47 total bases.

October 4, 1959: Game 3 of the World Series is played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, in front of a record crowd of 92,394. It is the first World Series game played in Los Angeles, in the State of California, indeed anywhere west of St. Louis. The Dodgers beat the Chicago White Sox, 3-1.

October 4, 1962: Game 1 of the World Series is played at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, the first World Series game played in Northern California. The Yankees beat the Giants, 6-2. Whitey Ford is the winning pitcher for a record 10th time in Series play, but it will be for the last time, and his record scoreless inning streak of 33 2/3 innings is stopped.

October 4, 1964: The Phillies bomb the Reds 10-0. The 2 teams then sit in the visitors’ clubhouse listening to a radio, hoping that the Cardinals lose, which would force a 3-way tie for the Pennant. The Mets take a 3-2 lead into the 5th inning‚ but St. Louis scores 3 runs to regain the lead. The Mets score once more but the Cardinals complete their scoring with 3 in the 8th to win 11-5. Bob Gibson wins in relief.

For St. Louis‚ it is their 1st Pennant since 1946. For Cincinnati, it is a crushing defeat, as they wanted to win for their manager, Fred Hutchinson, who was dying of cancer. For Philadelphia, it is even more devastating: The Phils had led by 6 1/2 games with 12 to play, but went on a 10-game losing streak to blow it. The Phillie Phlop would define the franchise for a generation — even fans who lived long enough to see the titles of 1980 and 2008 remain scarred by it.

October 4, 1969: The first League Championship Series games are played in Atlanta and Baltimore. The Mets survive homers by Hank Aaron andTony Gonzalez off Tom Seaver, and score 5 runs off Phil Niekro in the 8th to coast home 9-5. Paul Blair‘s 12th-inning squeeze bunt gives the Orioles a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Twins.

October 4, 1972: Ted Williams manages his final game as the Texas Rangers lose to the Kanas City Royals 4-0. Williams will be replaced by Whitey Herzog. It is the last game as Royals manager for Bob Lemon, and the last game played at KC’s Municipal Stadium, which opened as a minor league park in 1923.

October 4, 1980: Mike Schmidt‘s 2-run home run in the top of the 11th inning gives the Phillies a 6-4 win over the Montreal Expos‚ clinching the NL East title.

The home run is Schmidt’s 48th of the season‚ breaking Eddie Mathews‘s single-season record for 3rd basemen set in 1953. Alex Rodriguez would break that record, and Ryan Howard would break Schmidt’s franchise record for homers in a season.

The Yankees clinch their 4th AL East title in 5 seasons‚ beating Detroit 5-2 in the first game of a doubleheader.  Reggie Jackson hits his 41st home run of the season, and will share the AL home run crown with Milwaukee’s Ben Oglivie.

In a 17-1 rout of the Twins‚ Kansas City’s Willie Wilson becomes the first ML player ever to be credited with 700 at-bats in one season. Wilson will post 705 at bats‚ the highest this century. He also sets the AL record for singles in a season with 184‚ eclipsing the mark Sam Rice set in 1925.
Wilson also becomes only the 2nd player in history to collect 100 hits from each side of the plate‚ matching the feat accomplished by Garry Templeton in 1979. The loss ends Minnesota’s club-record 12-game winning streak.

The Dodgers break a 1-1 tie on a 4th inning HR from Steve Garvey to beat the Astros 2-1. Loser Nolan Ryan goes 11-10‚ while Jerry Reuss wins his 18th. Houston now leads by 1 game with 1 to play.

LaMarr Hoyt (9-3) of the White Sox stops California‚ 4-2‚ but the big attraction is DH Minnie Minoso‚ 57 (or 54‚ according to his autobiography). Facing Frank Tanana for the 2nd time in 5 years‚ Minnie goes 0-for-2. Minoso’s appearance‚ thanks to Bill Veeck‚ puts him with Nick Altrock as a 5-decade man in the ML. His next appearance will be for another Veeck team‚ St. Paul‚ in 1993.

October 4, 1981: The Mets fire manager Joe Torre and his entire coaching staff. You can’t win without the horses, and, at the time, the Mets did not have the horses.

October 4, 1985: The Yankees begin a season-ending 3-game series against the Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium. They have to sweep the series to win the AL East, or else the Jays win it for the first time.

The first game is tied in the top of the 9th, when catcher Butch Wynegar homers off Toronto closer Tom Henke, sailing over the right field fence and bouncing on the artificial turf of the football field past the pathetic little high school-style scoreboard the Big X had. The Yankees win, 4-3.

Rod Scurry got the win in relief of the ineffective Ed Whitson, and Dave Righetti got the save. Jimmy Key had started for the Jays, and would end up winning a World Series for each team — but neither does so this season.

October 4, 1986: On the next-to-last day of the season‚ Righetti saves both ends of the Yankees‘ doubleheader sweep of the Red Sox, to give him a ML-record 46 saves. Bruce Sutter and Dan Quisenberry had shared the record with 45.

The record is now 62 by Francisco Rodriguez in 2008, for a lefthander it’s 53 by Randy Myers in 1993, and for a Yankee it’s 53 by Mariano Rivera in 2004.

October 4, 1987: On the last day of the regular season‚ Detroit beats 2nd-place Toronto 1-0 at Tiger Stadium to win the AL East title. The Tigers were one game behind the Blue Jays entering their 3-game season-ending showdown‚ and won each game by a single run (4-3‚ 3-2‚ and 1-0). Frank Tanana outduels Jimmy Key in the finale‚ and Larry Herndon‘s 2nd-inning home run provides the game’s only run.

The Jays had been up by 4 with 7 to go, and blew it. This collpase, on top of their choke in the 1985 ALCS, gives them the nickname “Blow Jays,” and they will take until 1992 to get rid of it.

October 4, 1995: One of the wildest games in Yankee history. It starts at 8:10 PM, and ends at 1:22 AM, in the rain, in the bottom of the 15th inning. It features home runs by Ken Griffey Jr. and Vince Coleman for the Seattle Mariners; and, for the Yankees, by Ruben Sierra, Don Mattingly, Paul O’Neill, and, to walk off, Jim Leyritz. It is the first postseason walkoff at Yankee Stadium since Chris Chambliss, 19 years earlier.

The Yankees lead the M’s 2 games to 0, and need just 1 win in Seattle to take the series. But they won’t get it.

October 4, 1999: The Mets whitewash the Reds‚ 5-0‚ to become the NL’s wild card team. Al Leiter hurls a complete game 2-hitter for the win.

October 4, 2001: Rickey Henderson hits a home run for the San Diego Padres, allowing him to score his 2,246th career run, passing Ty Cobb as baseball’s all-time leader. The Padres beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-3 at Jack Murphy Stadium.

On the same day, Tim Raines Sr. plays left field for the Baltimore Orioles, while Tim Raines Jr. plays center field for them. It is only the 2nd time, and there has never been a 3rd, that a father and son have played in the same major league game. The first was Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. in 1990. The Orioles lost to the Red Sox, 5-4 at Camden Yards.

October 4, 2002: The Yankees blow a 6-1 lead as the Angels bounce back for a 9-6 victory and a 2 games to 1 lead in their division series. Tim Salmon and Adam Kennedy homer for Anaheim, and Francisco Rodriguez again gets the win in relief.

October 4, 2003, 10 years ago: The Red Sox beat the A’s, 3-1, on Trot Nixon’s walkoff homer in the 11th inning. This forces a 5th game in their ALCS.

October 4, 2010: The Mets fire field manager Jerry Manuel and general manager Omar Minaya. Firing Minaya was something they should have done at least 2 years earlier.

October 4, 2012: At the conclusion of their worst season in 47 years, the Red Sox fire Bobby Valentine as manager. He had restored his reputation by managing in Japan, but had ruined it again with the Red Sox.  Somehow, I don’t think he’ll ever get hired to manage another team… at least, not on this continent.

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