Sunday, October 27, 2013

Curse of Kevin Mitchell: Now 27 Years

October 27, 1986: The Mets win the World Series.   I was not happy about this.  They have not done so since.  I am very happy about that.

After a one-day delay, the Red Sox actually seem to be shaking off the historical, hysterical Game 6 loss. They lead the Mets, 3-0 in the bottom of the 6th. Bruce Hurst, with an extra day’s rest, is doing just fine. The Sox have chased Ron Darling. Sid Fernandez has relieved him. The Sox are just 12 outs away from their first World Championship in 68 years after all.

Can they hold it? These are the Boston Red Sox, what do you think? The Mets tie it up in the 6th. The idiot McNamara brings in Schiraldi to pitch the 7th, and Knight leads off with a home run.  The Mets make it 6-3 by the inning’s end. The Sox make it 6-5 in the top of the 8th, so there’s still hope, but then Al Nipper serves one up to Darryl Strawberry, and he hits one out, and takes a leisurely stroll around the bases, allowing NBC to run about a dozen commercials.

The Mets let reliever Jesse Orosco bat for himself, and he drives in another run, and he gets the last out by striking out Marty Barrett. Mets 8, Red Sox 5. Orosco hurls his glove high into the Flushing air.

The Mets are still looking for that 3rd World Championship. They’ve won just one more Pennant and just one more World Series game. To make matters worse, that one Pennant, they went on to lose to the Yankees in the World Series, one of 5 the Yankees have won since 1986.

What the hell happened? Well, when something goes wrong, people like to look for scapegoats. Someone frustrated with the Red Sox’ inability to win a World Series since 1918 thought he found a reason: They hadn’t won since they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919, and the phrase “The Curse of the Bambino” was born. The phrase was popularized by Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy, and became the title of his 1990 book about the history of that franchise.
December 11, 1986, a date which lives in Flushing infamy: The Mets sent Kevin Mitchell, Shawn Abner, Stan Jefferson, Kevin Armstrong and Kevin Brown (no, not that Kevin Brown, though he did later pitch for the Padres) to Mitchell’s hometown, San Diego, for Kevin McReynolds, Gene Walter and Adam Ging. Forget everyone else, if you hadn't already: The keys to this trade were Mitchell and McReynolds.

McReynolds was a good player, but he was not a member of the glorious ’86 team that went all the way, and when the Mets didn’t go all the way again, he became a scapegoat, and got the hell booed out of him. Fair? Of course not.

But it wouldn’t have mattered so much if Mitchell hadn’t panned out. And, as far as his hometown Padres were concerned, he didn’t: On July 5, 1987, not even at the All-Star Break of his first season with them, he was batting just .245 in 62 games, so they sent him, and pitchers Dave Dravecky and Craig Lefferts, up the coast to the San Frnacisco Giants, getting back third baseman Chris Brown, reliever Mark Davis (both of whom became All-Stars but never helped the team into the Playoffs) and two guys you don’t need to remember. So Mitchell-for-McReynolds didn’t help the Mets or the Padres.

These two Mitchell trades, however, helped the Giants tremendously. Before the trade, they had been in San Francisco for 29 years and had reached the postseason exactly twice, the last time 16 years earlier. In 1987, the Giants won the NL West, as Mitchell responded to the change of scenery by hitting .306 with 15 homers and 44 RBIs in just 69 games for them.

In 1988, Mitchell tailed off a little, and the Giants tailed off a lot. But in 1989, he hit 47 home runs, had 125 RBIs, put up a sick OPS+ of 192, and made one of the great catches of all time, a running barehanded catch in St. Louis -- off the bat of defensive "Wizard" Ozzie Smith, no less -- that almost sent him barreling into the stands. Not since the salad days of Willie Mays had the Giants seen that kind of outfield defense. He won the NL’s MVP award, and helped the Giants win only their 2nd Pennant in 35 years, while the Mets finished 2nd in the NL East for the 5th of 6 times in a span of 8 years – the others being the ’86 crown and the ’88 Division title.

Problems with his weight and other disciplines led to Mitchell being traded several times. But he did help the Cincinnati Reds into first place when the Strike of ’94 hit, and still had an OPS+ of 138 as late as 1996. But he played his last big-league game in 1998 at age 36, and after bouncing around the independent minors, including stints in New Jersey with the Newark Bears and Atlantic City Surf, he called it a career. Sort of: At 49, he is back in his native San Diego, playing in an “adult baseball league” (no, no porn stars involved – that I know of), and his team won a title in 2009.

Mitchell had an adolescence connected to gangs in San Diego. He has been arrested for assault twice since his last major league game, although on neither occasion did the case go to trial. He was once listed as a tax delinquent to the tune of over $5 million. And then there's the shocking story that Dwight Gooden told, in his first memoir, told of an act of animal cruelty -- a story which Doc, in his new memoir, now admits that he made up.

I don't know Kevin Mitchell. For all I know, these things were all blown out of proportion and he's really a good guy. For all I know, it could all be true, and he's one of those people who should be avoided at all costs.

But it seems silly to suggest that he was angry about being traded by the Mets so soon after winning the Series, certainly not so angry that he would place a “curse” on them. After all, he went to his home town, the team he grew up rooting for. They soon traded him, but that worked out really well for him. Perhaps not in terms of team success, but in terms of fame and fortune, getting away from the Mets was the best thing that could have happened to him.

(Mitchell, in a recent photo.)

Still, the fact remains that the Mets won a World Series, and were expected to win more; then, just 45 days after they won said Series, they traded Mitchell away, and they haven’t won one since.

Are the Mets cursed? Or have they just been hit with a quarter-century-long combination of good competition and their own incompetence -- on the field, in the dugout, and in the boardroom?

Other teams have waited a longer. Some, a lot longer. Some of those teams have had bizarre moments and crashes-and-burns that suggest being cursed. Some haven't, and have just... not... gotten it done.

The Mets?

Chokes in 1988, ’98, ’99, 2006, ’07 and ’08.

Near-misses, aside from those, in 1987, ’89, ’90 and 2001.

Injury-riddled seasons, aside from those, in 1995, ’96, ’97, 2002, ’09, '10 and '11.
The Madoffization of the Wilpons' finances in 2008, from which the club is still suffering.

And losses to teams they considered rivals in ’87 and ’06 (Cardinals), ’89 (Cubs), ’98 and ’99 (Braves), ’00 (Yankees), and now ’07 and ’08 (Phillies). That’s... 18 out of 25 seasons with possible “Curse Material.”

The Curse of Kevin Mitchell? Do you believe?

Met fans like to use the old line of 1965-74 relief pitcher Tug McGraw: YA GOTTA BELIEVE!

I’d rather believe in the curse on the Mets than believe in the Mets themselves.


October 27, 1275: This is the traditional founding day of the city of Amsterdam, the capital and artistic center of The Netherlands. Home of lax laws regarding prostitution and drug use, Heineken and Amstel Light beers.

And the mighty Amsterdamsche Football Club (AFC) Ajax (pronounced “EYE-ax”), founders of “Total Football,” which has given the world Johan Cruijff (sometimes spelled “Cruyff”), Johan Neeskens, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Louis van Gaal, Zlatan Ibrahimovich, and Arsenal stars Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars, Nwankwo Kanu and Thomas Vermaelen.

October 27, 1682: This is the known-for-sure founding day of the city of Philadelphia. Home of American independence, Benjamin Franklin, the former Pennsylvania Railroad, the cheesesteak sandwich, the Number 8 pretzel, real-life heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier, and cinematic heavyweight champ Rocky Balboa.

And 7 World Series Championships (5 by the Athletics from 1910 to 1930, and the Phillies in 1980 and 2008), the NFL’s Eagles (Champions 1948, '49 and '60 but apparently cursed ever since), the NBA’s 76ers (Champions 1967 and '83, as the now-Golden State Warriors were in 1947 and '56), the NHL’s Flyers (Stanley Cup winners in 1974 and '75 but another long drought), and the basketball-playing “Big 5” colleges: The University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, St. Joseph’s University, La Salle University and Villanova University.

October 27, 1858: Theodore Roosevelt is born at 28 East 20th Street in the Gramercy Park section of Manhattan. Over a century and a half later, he remains the only President to have been born in New York City – although others have, at some point or another, lived in the City: Washington, both Adamses, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Grant, Arthur, Cleveland, Hoover, FDR, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Obama. (Eisenhower was, for a time, president of Columbia University, and Obama was a student there. So was Monroe, at a time when it was still called King's College)

TR was a member of the boxing team at Harvard University. (Yes, colleges once had boxing teams, even the Ivies.) He loved tennis, although, knowing it was considered an elitist sport, refused to allow the press to photograph him while he played. (He warned his handpicked successor, William Howard Taft, not to let them take his picture while he played golf, another sport then considered elitist, but Taft didn’t listen to him.)

Seeing a newspaper photo of a bloodied Swarthmore College player, Robert “Tiny” Maxwell, in 1905, TR called in the top football officials of the time, and told them to do something about the violence in the game, or he would act. Not knowing how far he would go, fearing he might pass a law banning the game, they formed what became the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and passed rule changes including the forward pass.

October 27, 1866: In Philadelphia‚ the Unions of Morrisania‚ with future Cincinnati Red Stockings star George Wright playing shortstop‚ upset the Athletics‚ 42-29. In other words, in late October, a baseball team from The Bronx pounds a team from Philadelphia.

October 27, 1904: The first Subway line opens in New York. It runs from City Hall to Grand Central Station (roughly today’s 4, 5 and 6 trains), then turns onto 42nd Street (today’s S, or Times Square-Grand Central Shuttle), then up Broadway to 207th Street (today’s 1 train) before making one final curve into the Bronx to Bailey Street (this part is part of today’s A train).

The Polo Grounds of the time, and its 1911 successor, were served by the 155th Street station that opened on this day; it is supposedly on this line in 1908 that Jack Norworth, a songwriter, saw a sign saying, “Baseball To-Day, Polo Grounds,” inspiring him to write the lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

It would be 1918 before “34th St.-Penn Station” opened to service the 1910-built Pennsylvania Station, and the successor station and the “new” Madison Square Garden built on the site. The 34th Street station on the 8th Avenue side of Penn Station opened in 1932, as did the 42nd Street station that began serving the Port Authority Bus Terminal in 1950, and the 50th Street station that served the old Garden from 1932 until its closing in 1968.

The current 4 train station at 161st Street and River Avenue opened in 1917, and began serving Yankee Stadium at its opening in 1923; the D train station there opened in 1933, probably to coincide with the opening of the nearby Bronx County Courthouse. The Prospect Park station now used by the Q train became part of the City Subway in 1920, and was used to get to games at Ebbets Field.

The station now served by the 7 train opened in 1939 for the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, well predating the 1964-65 World’s Fair and the opening of Shea Stadium and the National Tennis Center; it was named “Willets Point Blvd.” from 1939 to 1964 and “Willets Point-Shea Stadium” from 1964 to 2008, it has been renamed “Mets-Willets Point,” as the MTA did not want to use the name “Citi Field” due to CitiGroup’s role in the 2008 financial crisis.

October 27, 1918: Muriel Teresa Wright is born in Manhattan.   Dropping her first name, Teresa Wright played Eleanor Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees. She died in 2005, the last surviving major castmember of the film.

October 27, 1922: Ralph McPherran Kiner is born in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. He grew up in Alhambra, California, outside Los Angeles. From 1946 to 1952, he led the National League in home runs every year, twice topping 50 homers in a season. He was a one-dimensional player, but he was the best the Pittsburgh Pirates had. But the team wasn’t doing well, on the field or at the gate, and team president Branch Rickey said, “We finished last with you, and we can finish last without you,” meaning, "We can finish last without having to pay your salary," and sold him to the Chicago Cubs.

A back injury ended his career in 1955, after only 10 seasons. But in those 10 seasons, he hit 369 home runs. If it had been 20 years, double that, and it becomes 738 home runs – not as many as Hank Aaron and the cheating Barry Bonds ended up with, but more than the man who held the record then, Babe Ruth. Hall-of-Famer Warren Spahn said, “Ralph Kiner can wipe out your lead with one swing.” Kiner allegedly said, “Home run hitters drive Cadillacs, singles hitters drive Fords.” That line has also been attributed to Luke Appling, but he probably didn’t say it, since he was a singles hitter (albeit one of the best ever).

Kiner went into broadcasting, and joined the staff of the expansion New York Mets in 1962. His postgame show Kiner’s Korner did so much to teach a generation of us about the game. But Ralph’s broadcasting, well, had its moments. Remembering early Met Marv Thronberry and ’73 Met George Theodore, he called Darryl Strawberry “Darryl Throneberry” and “George Strawberry.” He said, “Darryl Strawberry has been voted into the Hall of Fame five times in a row” – he meant the All-Star Team. He called Gary Carter “Gary Cooper.” He called himself “Ralph Korner” many times.

He once called his broadcasting partner “Tim McArthur.” At the end of the game, Tim McCarver said, “Ralph, Douglas MacArthur said, ‘Chance favors the prepared mind, and the Mets obviously weren’t prepared tonight.’” Kiner said, ‘He also said, ‘I shall return,’ and so will we, right after these messages.”

Then there was, “Today is Father’s Day, so for all you dads out there, Happy Birthday.” Like Herb Score in Cleveland and Jerry Coleman in San Diego, he is sometimes cited as having said, “He slides into second with a standup double.” But he definitely said, “Kevin McReynolds stops at third, and he scores.” Like Phil Rizzuto across town with the Yankees, he frequently called home runs that ended up off the wall or caught.

My favorite Kinerism is when he cued up an ad for Manufacturer’s Hanover, a bank now owned by CitiGroup, by saying, “We’ll be right back, after this message from Manufacturer’s Hangover.”

He blamed his malaprops on hanging around Casey Stengel and Yogi Berra so much in the Mets’ early days. But when he did call a home run correctly, it was with a variation on the classic theme: “That ball is going, it is going, it is gone, goodbye!” And he paid one of the great tributes to a player, when he cited the fielding of the Phillies’ 1970s center fielder: “Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water. The other third is covered by Garry Maddox.”

A bout with Bell’s palsy a few years back left him with a noticeable speech impediment, and as he reached the age of 80, his workdays were cut back, but he still does Met games on Friday nights. As the Mets’ radio booth is named for Bob Murphy, their TV booth is named for Kiner. The Pirates retired his Number 4, the Mets elected him to their team Hall of Fame, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. At 91, he is one of the game’s elder statesmen and, deservedly so, one of its most revered figures.

October 27, 1924: Ruby Ann Wallace is born in Cleveland.   Known professionally as Ruby Dee, she played Rachel Robinson in The Jackie Robinson Story, while Jackie played himself. It’s a little weird that two actresses (Ruby and Teresa Wright) who played wives of Baseball Hall-of-Famers, in films only 8 years apart, would have the same birthday.

Dee was married to Ossie Davis, who, among his own many acting achievements, did many of the voiceovers, including some concerning Jackie, for Ken Burns’ Baseball miniseries. And, like Rachel Robinson, Ruby Dee is still alive, and they live just 18 miles apart, Ruby in New Rochelle, New York; Rachel in Stamford, Connecticut.

October 27, 1932: Harry Gregg is born in Magherafelt, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  A soccer goalkeeper, he played 5 years for Doncaster Rovers before being sold to Manchester United.  He was on the plane that crashed and killed several people, including 8 teammates, in a snowstorm in Munich, on the way back from a European Cup match in Yugoslavia.  He pulled teammates Bobby Charlton, Jackie Blanchflower and Dennis Viollet, and manager Matt Busby, from the wreckage, probably saving their lives.

The Munich Air Disaster is blamed for short-circuiting United's great team of the 1950s, and (considerably less fairly) for preventing England from winning the 1958 and 1962 World Cups.  Gregg played for Northern Ireland in 1958 and was voted the outstanding goalkeeper of the tournament.  But injuries prevented him from playing in United's 1963 FA Cup Final win, and from getting enough appearances to qualify for league championship medals when United won in 1965 and '67.  He later managed 4 different League teams, and is now retired from active service in the game.

October 27, 1939: John Marwood Cleese is born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, in the West County of England. The Monty Python performer is not an athlete? You try doing “Silly Walks” sometime. He’s also narrated and starred in a documentary explaining soccer in a humourous vein. (You were expecting something completely different?) While Somerset currently has no soccer team in the top flight, he is a fan of the East London club West Ham United.

October 27, 1945: Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva is born. President of Brazil from 2003 to 2010, “Lula” is largely responsible for the South American nation being one of the few countries that has thrived in the 2007-current global slowdown, and spearheaded the movement to get Brazil to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

October 27, 1949: Marcel Cerdan is killed. The French boxer, once the welterweight champion of Europe, won the middleweight championship of the world by knocking out Tony Zale at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City in 1948, but lost it in his first defense, against Jake LaMotta at Briggs Stadium (later renamed Tiger Stadium) in Detroit, as he had to drop out of the fight due to a dislocated shoulder.

He was flying from Paris to New York to prepare for his rematch with “the Raging Bull” when his plane crashed in the Azores. He was only 33. His career record was an amazing 113-4, although it should be noted that nearly all his fights were against Europeans.

In 1983, Marcel Cerdan Jr. played his father in Edith et Marcel, which told of the affair Cerdan Sr. had with the legendary French singer Edith Piaf, played by Evelyn Bouix. In 2007, Jean-Pierre Martins played him opposite Marion Cotillard in her Oscar-winning role as Piaf in La Vie en Rose.

October 27, 1954: The divorce of Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe is certified in San Francisco -- their hometown being one of the few things the Yankee Clipper and the Blonde Bombshell had in common.

Apparently, Joe wanted Marilyn to stay home and be a good little Italian wife -- even though, with a birth name of Norma Jeane Mortensen, Marilyn was of Scandinavian descent. And she wanted to keep acting. Supposedly, the last straw was the skirt-billow over the subway grate scene filmed for The Seven Year Itch. It's been alleged that Joe hit her on occasion.

Even if that despicable possibility is true, in 1961 he got her out of a psychiatric institution to which she'd been committed. And, with rumors abounding that they might remarry, after she died in 1962, he organized her funeral and kept all the Hollywood leeches out. For 20 years, he had roses sent to her grave every day, until he found out they were being stolen by tourists and local kids. He seems never to have gotten over her. Nor have we all: Even in the first verse of "We Didn't Start the Fire" and the spoken-word part of "Vogue," respectively, Billy Joel and Madonna rhymed their names.

October 27, 1955: Clark Griffith dies at the age of 85. “The Old Fox” would probably have been elected to the Hall of Fame strictly on his pitching with the Chicago White Stockings (forerunners of the Cubs), but he also managed the Chicago White Sox to the first American League Pennant in 1901, and nearly managed the New York Highlanders (forerunners of the Yankees) to the Pennant in 1904 – in each case, while still an All-Star quality pitcher -- or he would have been considered such, had there been All-Star Games back then.

He managed the Washington Senators, and was still pitching for them at age 45 in 1914.  He bought the Senators in 1919, and their home, National Park, was renamed Griffith Stadium. However, in a play on the phrase describing George Washington, a comedian named Charley Dryden called them, “Washington: First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.”

With Walter Johnson pitching, and 26-year-old “boy manager” and second baseman Bucky Harris leading the way, the Senators finally won a World Series in 1924 and another Pennant in 1925. With yet another “boy manager,” shortstop Joe Cronin – who married Griffith’s adopted daughter, Mildred Robertson – they won the Pennant again in 1933. But that was it: They finished 1 game out in 1945, and no Washington team has ever come close again.

Griffith’s nephew and adopted son, Calvin Griffith, took over, and in 1959 publicly said he would never move the Senators. Of course, he did, just a year later. A monument to Griffith stood outside Griffith Stadium, and was moved first to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium and then to Nationals Park. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in the Pioneers & Executives category.

October 27, 1957: Glenn Hoddle is born in the Hillingdon section of West London. The midfielder starred for North London soccer team Tottenham Hotspur, leading them to the FA Cup in 1981 and 1982, and the UEFA Cup in 1984. He also helped AS Monaco, which is located outside of France but is a member of France’s football system, to the 1988 Ligue 1 title and the 1991 Coupe de France. At the time, their manager was Arsene Wenger, who went on to manage Spurs’ North London arch-rivals, Arsenal. Hoddle last played as a player-manager for the West London club Chelsea in 1995.

Wenger has said, “His control was superb, and he had perfect body balance. His skill in both feet was uncanny... I couldn't understand why he hadn't been appreciated in England. Perhaps he was a star in the wrong period, years ahead of his time.”

Others have appreciated him, calling him the best English player of his generation.  But that may just be because Tottenham are a classically "English" team -- while Arsenal, long having had stars who were Scottish and later Irish, and more recently French, Dutch and African, are a "foreign team" and thus unworthy of standing up to "English" clubs like Tottenham, Chelsea, West Ham and the Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester and North-East clubs.

Hoddle's status as a player made the English want to like him as a manager, but in that capacity he was a joke.  He got Chelsea to the FA Cup Final in 1994, and Tottenham to the 2002 League Cup Final, but he was unable to consummate the hype and lead either of his former clubs to glory. In between, he managed the England national team to an ignominious crash out of the 1998 World Cup at the first knockout round, and his evangelism, his reliance on (not an affair with) "faith healer" Eileen Drury, and his remarks that the disabled were "being punished for sins in a former life" -- which would seem to conflict with the tenets of Christianity -- led to his sacking. He also failed as manager of Southampton, Swindon Town and Wolverhampton Wanderers, his last managing job, in 2006.

In 2008 he established a soccer academy, not in his native England but in Spain. He says he has received 26 management offers since then, but has had to turn them all down "until the academy is able to run itself." Tony Cascarino, a former Chelsea teammate, has said Hoddle was "completely besotted with himself. If he had been an ice cream, he would have licked himself."

October 27, 1960: Trying to jump ahead of the National League‚ the American League admits Los Angeles and Minneapolis to the League, with plans to have the new clubs begin competition in 1961 in the new 10-team league.

At the same time, Calvin Griffith is given permission to move the existing Washington Senators franchise to Minneapolis/St. Paul‚ the “Twin Cities,” where he will settle the “Minnesota Twins” at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, on the Minneapolis side of the Mississippi River but equidistant from the downtowns of both cities. An expansion team is given the Washington Senators name. (Coincidentally, the new Senators will be moved in 1972, to an existing and greatly-expanded minor-league park at point halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, and take the name of the State instead of that of a city: The Texas Rangers.)

AL President Joe Cronin says the AL will play a 162-game schedule‚ with 18 games against each opponent. The NL will balk‚ saying the two expansions are not analogous and that the AL was not invited to move into L.A.

Also on this day, Thomas Andrew Nieto is born in Downey, California. A backup catcher, Tom Nieto played in the World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985 and lost. He was not listed on the World Series roster for the Minnesota Twins, but he did play for them in 1987 and won a World Series ring for them that way. He served as a coach for both New York teams. He managed the Twins’ Triple-A team, the Rochester Red Wings (a longtime Baltimore Orioles affiliate), and now manages the Yankees' affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, the bottom of minor league baseball.

October 27, 1965: Catcher Bob Uecker‚ 1st baseman Bill White and shortstop Dick Groat are traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Art Mahaffey‚ outfielder Alex Johnson‚ and catcher Pat Corrales.

In his first at-bat for the Phils against the Cards, White has to hit the deck, as a pitch from his former roommate, Bob Gibson, comes perilously close to his head. White would later say that this was a clear message from Gibson: “We’re not teammates anymore.”

Uecker, as has been his custom, found humor in the trade: “I was pulled over by the police. I was fined $400. It was $100 for drunk driving, and $300 for being with the Phillies.” You don’t think that’s funny? Well, that’s because the Phillies aren’t a joke anymore.

October 27, 1972: Brad William Radke is born in Eau Claire, in a part of Wisconsin that tilts toward Minneapolis rather than Milwaukee.  Somewhat appropriately, he pitched his entire 12-year career for the Twins, and was a member of their Playoff teams of 2002, ’03, ’04 and ’06. He won 148 games in the majors, and has been elected to the Twins’ Hall of Fame.

October 27, 1973, 40 years ago: Jason Michael Johnson is born in Santa Barbara, California. The pitcher has had some terrible luck: He was a member of the original 1998 Tampa Bay Devil Rays; he was traded away by the Detroit Tigers (2005-06) and the Cleveland Indians (2006-07) the seasons before each reached their next Playoff berths; he played for the Boston Red Sox in 2006, the one season between 2002 and 2010 that they did not make the Playoffs; he pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers in their NL Western Division Championship season of 2008 but did not appear in the Playoffs; and was injured throughout 2009, resulting in his release by the Yankees.

All this would be bad enough, but he is also a diabetic, and he was the first MLB player to receive permission to wear an insulin pump on the field during games. He pitched 2 seasons in New Jersey, for the Camden Riversharks of the Atlantic League, one of those "independent leagues" that are usually the last chance for pro ballplayers, but rarely work out for them.  He spent 2013 with the Amarillo Sox, of Texas, in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball..

October 27, 1978: Sergei Viktorovich Samsonov is born in Moscow. A longtime left wing for the Boston Bruins, he came very close to winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, when his Edmonton Oilers fell to the Carolina Hurricanes in 7 games.  He is now retired.

October 27, 1984: Brayden Tyler Quinn is born in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.  Though with a name like Brady Quinn and coming from a town named Dublin, it's not surprising that the quarterback spurned Ohio State for Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish.   An All-American, he now plays for the St. Louis Rams.

Also on this day, Kelly Michelle Lee Osbourne is born in the Westminster section of London. The singer and actress (who is probably not partially named for actress Michelle Lee) is not actively involved in sports in any way, but her father, a singer of some renown, is a native of Birmingham, England, and a big fan of that city's Aston Villa F.C. But her brother Jack roots for arch-rival Birmingham City F.C.

October 27, 1985: The Kansas City Royals rout the St. Louis Cardinals 11-0 in Game 7, to win their first World Championship and the first All-Missouri World Series since the Cardinals-Browns matchup of 1944. They become only the 6th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit and win the Series (and remain the last to do so). Series MVP Bret Saberhagen pitches the shutout while Cardinals ace John Tudor allows 5 runs in just 2 1/3 innings.

The Cards are still upset over the blown call that cost them Game 6 – 28 years later, they and their fans still are – and allowed it to affect their performances and their minds for Game 7. After being lifted from the game‚ Tudor punches an electric fan in the clubhouse and severely cuts his hand. Fellow 20-game winner Joaquin Andujar is ejected for arguing balls and strikes during Kansas City's 6-run 5th inning, screaming at Don Denkinger, who blew the call at first base the night before and is now behind the plate. The Cardinals finish the WS with a .185 team batting average‚ lowest ever for a 7-game Series.

Also on this day, Billy Martin is fired by the Yankees for an unprecedented 4th time (not counting all those firings in 1977 that didn’t take), and is replaced by former Yankee outfielder Lou Piniella‚ who had been the team's hitting instructor since retiring as a player in 1984.

October 27, 1989: After a 10-day delay following the Loma Prieta Earthquake, the World Series resumes at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Rescue workers from both sides of San Francisco Bay, San Francisco and Oakland, throw out ceremonial first balls.

The title song from the 1936 musical film about the 1906 quake ("San Francisco, open your Golden Gate... ") is sung on the field by the cast of a San Francisco-based drag-queen stage show, Beach Blanket Babylon, and in the stands by 60,000 people. After the events of the last 10 days, suddenly no one has the energy to make bigoted or silly remarks about gay people, drag queens and people dealing, directly or otherwise, with AIDS.

Game 3 begins, but it is over nearly as quickly as it was 10 days earlier, as the Oakland Athletics, hit 5 home runs, to beat the San Francisco Giants, 13-7. The A’s can wrap it up tomorrow.

October 27, 1991: The Minnesota Twins become World Champions with a 1-0 victory in 10 innings over the Atlanta Braves, behind Jack Morris's masterful pitching. Gene Larkin's single off Alejandro Pena scores Dan Gladden with the game's only run.

The game is the first Game 7 to go into extra innings since the Senators-Giants Series in 1924. Morris is named the Series MVP for the Twins‚ who win all 4 games in the Metrodome while losing all 3 in Atlanta -- repeating their pattern against St. Louis in 1987. Four of the 7 games are decided on the final pitch‚ while 5 are decided by a single run‚ and 3 in extra innings. All are Series records. Morris's 10-inning masterpiece is the last extra-inning complete game of the century.

Through the 2012 season, the Twins’ record in World Series play is 11-10: 11-1 at home (3-1 at Metropolitan Stadium in ’65, 4-0 at the Metrodome in ’87 and again in ’91, and they have yet to get that far at Target Field) and 0-9 on the road. However, since that day 21 years ago, they have never won another Pennant. The Braves have, although once in the World Series, they've rarely been better off.

October 27, 1999: The Yankees defeat the Braves‚ 4-1‚ to win their 25th World Championship. Roger Clemens gets the win‚ hurling 4-hit ball before leaving the game in the 8th inning, to finally get his first World Series ring, 13 years after his only previous appearance, with the ill-fated '86 Red Sox. Mariano Rivera gets the save‚ his 2nd of the Series. Jim Leyritz hits a solo homer in the 8th, the last home run, and the last run, in baseball in the 20th Century. The last out is Keith Lockhart flying out to left field, where the ball is caught by Game 3’s hero, Chad Curtis. Rivera wins the Series MVP award.

Four years earlier, as the final out was registered of the 1995 World Series, NBC's Bob Costas called the Braves "The Team of the Nineties." That label made sense at the time. Going into this Series, in the decade, the Braves had won 8 Division Titles and 5 Pennants, but just that 1 World Series; the Yankees had won 3 Division Titles (4 counting the strike-shortened 1994), 3 Pennants and 2 World Series. This Series decided it, and in indisputable fashion, as the Yanks were 2-0 over the Braves in Series play in the decade. This time, after the final out, Costas says it right: “The New York Yankees. World Champions. Team of the Decade. Most successful franchise of the Century.”

October 27, 2001: Game 1 of the World Series, the first Series game ever played in the Mountain Time Zone. The Arizona Diamondbacks pound the Yankees by a score of 9-1 behind Curt Schilling, who hurls 7 innings to win his 4th game of the postseason. Craig Counsell and Luis Gonzalez (cough-steroids-cough) homer for Arizona as Mike Mussina takes the loss for New York.

October 27, 2002: The Angels win their first World Series in 42 years of play – under any name -- as they defeat the San Francisco Giants‚ 4-1‚ in Game 7. John Lackey gets the Series-clinching win, making him the first rookie to win Game 7 of a World Series since Babe Adams of the 1909 Pirates. (My, how times have changed.)

Garret Anderson's bases-loaded double in the 3rd inning scores 3 runs for Anaheim. Troy Glaus is named Series MVP. The Giants had a 5-0 lead in Game 6, and were up 5-3 and just 9 outs away from winning the Series, but they blew it. Soon, people begin to wonder if the Giants are a “cursed team.” The Curse of Horace Stoneham? The Curse of Captain Eddie (Grant)? The Curse of Candlestick? The Kurse of Krukow? Who knows. And, now that the Giants finally have won a World Series as a San Francisco team (and are apparently about to win another), who cares?

This is the 21st World Series to be played between two teams of the same State, the 7th from a State other than New York, and the 4th from California. In each case, it remains, through 2012, the last.

October 27, 2003, 10 years ago: The Red Sox announce that manager Grady Little's contract will not be renewed for 2004. They also say it has nothing to do with Little's decision to stay with Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the ALCS. Readers of Jim Bouton’s book Ball Four have the right words for this: “Yeah, surrrre!”

But Sox fans come up with a rather cruel joke: “What do Grady Little and Don Zimmer have in common? Neither could take out Pedro.”

October 27, 2004: The Curse of the Bambino is finally broken. Well, sort of. The Boston Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years with a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Memorial Stadium. Derek Lowe ends up as the winning pitcher in all 3 postseason series-clinchers for the Sox, the first pitcher of any team to do so. (Andy Pettitte became the second in 2009.) Johnny Damon hits a home run for Boston. Manny Ramirez is voted Series MVP‚ as he leads Boston to the 4-game sweep with a .412 BA and 4 RBI.

Some people had joked that the Red Sox winning the World Series would be a sign of the Apocalypse. Well, according to the Bible, one such sign is the Moon turning blood red -- and, in fact, there was a full lunar eclipse during the game.

A sign held aloft at the victory parade in Boston sums it all up: “Our (late) parents and g’parents thank you.” So many people said, “We wanted them to win it in our lifetime, just once.” Well, as Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe said in the following weeks, “There was no spike in the obits. We checked. All those people who said they couldn’t die until the Red Sox won a World Series decided to live a little longer.”

Of course, they didn’t win it just once in those people’s lifetimes – except for those who died between October ’04 and October ’07. And now that we know that the Red Sox are a bunch of lying, cheating, dirty, low-down, no-good motherfuckers, we can tell the truth: They still haven’t really won a World Series since 1918*. The Curse lives.

So all those Sox fans who weren’t old enough to suffer through Harry Frazee, Johnny Pesky, Harry Agganis, Tony Conigliaro, Larry Barnett, Bobby Sprowl, Bucky Dent, John McNamara and Bill Buckner – though most of them did get through what Nomar, Pedro and Grady put them through – and showed more bastardry in victory than their forebears ever showed in defeat? They can kiss my 27 rings (well, 7 in my lifetime – for the moment), and then they can kiss my Pinstriped ass.

Now, where was I?

Oh yeah. Also on this day, Paulo Sérgio Oliveira da Silva dies. Better known as Serginho, the Brazilian played for São Caetano as a defender, and was playing for his team in a Campeonato Brasileiro match against São Paulo when he suffered a fatal cardiac arrest 60 minutes into the match. A later autopsy showed Serginho's heart to weigh 600 grams, twice the size of an average human heart, causing mystery towards his real cause of death. He had just turned 30, and his team was defending league champions. His 17-year-old son Raymundo has followed in his father's footsteps and is currently on the books of Grêmio.

October 27, 2006: The St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Detroit Tigers, 4-2, to take the 2006 World Series. Jeff Weaver – Jeff Fucking Weaver? Are you kidding me?!? – gets the win for St. Louis, who get a pair of RBIs from Series MVP (and former Trenton Thunder shortstop) David Eckstein. Sean Casey homers for Detroit.

After the 2004 Series, when the Cardinals lost to the Red Sox, Cardinal fans began to speculate about a Curse of Keith Hernandez. Hernandez had helped the Cards win the 1982 Series, but manager-GM Whitey Herzog didn’t like him and traded him to the Mets in 1983. After this, the Cards reached but lost the Series in ’85 (on the Don Denkinger blown call and their Game 7 11-0 meltdown) and ’87, blew a 3-games-to-1 lead in the ’96 NLCS, reached the Playoffs in 2000 and ’02 but failed to win the Pennant, and looked awful in losing the ’04 Series. Someone brought up pitcher Jeff Suppan’s baserunning blunder in ’04, and noted that he wore Number 37, Hernandez’s number in ’82.

But this win, in the Cardinals’ 1st season at the 3rd Busch Stadium, their 10th title, 2nd all-time behind the Yankees and 1st among NL teams, erases any possibility of a curse on them. It should be noted that the Cards' 83 regular-season wins are the fewest of any team to win a World Series in a full 162-game, or even 154-game, season.

Also on this day, Joe Niekro dies. The longtime knuckleballer, and brother of knuckleballing Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro, had pitched in the postseason for the Houston Astros in 1980 and ’81, and finally got his ring with the ’87 Twins. He won 221 games, joining with Phil to become the winningest brothers in baseball history. On May 29, 1976, he hit his only big-league home run, off Phil. He died of a brain aneurysm at age 61. His son Lance Niekro pitched for the San Francisco Giants, and is now the head coach at Florida Southern College in Lakeland.

October 27, 2007: In the first World Series game ever played in the State of Colorado, Daisuke Matsuzaka becomes the first Japanese starting pitcher in World Series history, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits in 5.1 innings, to get the win against the Rockies in the 10-5 Red Sox Game 3 victory.

After paying $51.1 million simply for the rights to negotiate with the right-hander, Boston obtained "Dice-K" from the Seibu Lions, signing the World Baseball Classic MVP to a 6-year deal worth $52 million. With where the Sox have been since, especially with Dice-K missing so many games due to injury, how does the deal look now? Pretty good, since he did help them win a World Series. (Well, as far as I know, he isn't one of the steroid freaks that helped the Sox cheat their way to said victory -- but with all of those injuries, you could wonder.)

October 27, 2008: Game 5 of the World Series begins at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. But it doesn't end on this night, and I don't mean because it ends after midnight tonight. Unless you mean well after midnight tonight.

The Phillies take a 2-0 lead in the 1st inning when Shane Victorino knocks in Jayson Werth and Chase Utley. Tampa Bay cuts the lead in the top of the 4th, as Carlos Peña doubles and scores on Evan Longoria's single. The Rays then tie the game in the top of the 6th when B. J. Upton scores from second base on a Peña single.

But it had already been raining all game, and as the Phillies get out of the inning, the umpires suspend the game. After the game was suspended, umpiring crew chief Tim Tschida told reporters that he and his crew ordered the players off the field because the wind and rain threatened to make the game "comical." The Phils’ Chase Utley agreed, saying that by the middle of 6th inning, "the infield was basically underwater."

Under normal conditions, games are considered to be official games after five innings, or four and a half if the home team is leading at that point. However, post-season games are operated by the Commissioner's Office, and thus are subject to the Commissioner's discretion of how to handle the scheduling of the games. So, with rain for the rest of the night in the forecast for Philadelphia, and remembering the fuss made when, due to entirely different circumstances, he had declared the 2002 All-Star Game a tie after 11 innings, Commissioner Bud Selig informed both teams’ management before the game began that a team would not be allowed to clinch the Series in a rain-shortened game.

This was the first game in World Series history to be suspended. There had been three tied games in the history of the World Series: 1907, 1912, and 1922, all of them called due to darkness, as artificial lighting had not yet been brought to ballparks. (Not until 1949 would lights be used on a dark day for a Series game, and not until 1971 would a Series game start at night.) In general, no ties would be needed under modern rules, which provide for suspension of a tied game and resumption of it at the next possible date. Weather has caused numerous delays and postponements in Series history (notable postponements beforehand coming in 1911, 1962, 1975, 1986, 1996 and 2006), but never any suspended games before 2008.

Rain continues to fall in Philadelphia on Tuesday, further postponing the game to Wednesday, October 29, when the Phils finish it off.

October 27, 2011: Game 6 of the World Series.  In 1986, the Boston Red Sox had a 2-run lead in the 10th inning of Game 6, and were one strike away from winning their first World Series in 68 years... and blew it.  Almost exactly 25 years later, the Texas Rangers had a 2-run lead in the 9th inning of Game 6, and were one strike away from winning the first World Series in the 51 years of the franchise, 40 of them in their current location... and blew it... and then had the exact same setup in the 10th inning and blew it again!

If the '86 Red Sox were not officially off the hook thanks to the Red Sox of 2004 and '07, they were now.

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