Hang on, I am now, officially, only 1 week (7 days) behind.
I hear there was a “Jeffrey Maier moment” in last night’s ALDS game between Detroit and Oakland.
This was one day before the anniversary of the original “Jeffrey Maier moment.”
This is an update of a post I put on the previous version of my blog. As you’ll see, for the most part, October 9 has been a very good day in Yankee history.
October 9, 1996: Game 1 of the American League Championship Series is held at the original Yankee Stadium. The Yankees trail the Baltimore Orioles 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th. The big, scowling, fearsome Armando Benitez is on the mound for the Orioles. He does not yet have a repuation as a pitcher who chokes in the clutch. He is about to get one.
He pitches to Derek Jeter, the Yankees’ rookie shortstop. Jeter, as later fans might guess, uses an inside-out swing to send the ball to right-center field. Oriole right fielder Tony Tarasco goes back, stands at the fence, and holds up his glove.
Tarasco is an idiot. Take a look at the tape: His glove wasn’t lined up right. He played it totally wrong. It’s baseball’s “Zapruder Film”: Instead of falling into his glove, it would have hit the fence above him and to his right — or from the view of the TV fan, “back and to the left.” It would have been at least a double, possibly a triple, putting the tying run in scoring position.
Except that’s not what happened. Jeffrey Maier, a 12-year-old fan from Old Tappan, Bergen County, New Jersey, ran over, and reached out with his glove. The ball hit his glove, and as he tried to pull it into the stands, he lost control of it. That’s right, he didn’t even get the ball.
Umpire Rich Garcia ruled it a home run, tying the game. Tarasco was furious. Oriole manager Davey Johnson — at the moment, still the last man to manage a New York team to a Pennant, the 1986 Mets — runs out to protest. To no avail.
In the bottom of the 11th, Randy Myers, who had pitched for Johnson on the ’86 Mets and had won a World Series under Lou Piniella for the 1990 Cincinnati Reds, pitched to Bernie Williams, the star of the Yanks’ AL Division Series win over the Texas Rangers. On radio station WABC, John Sterling said this:
“Theeee pitch, swung, and it’s driven to deep left! It is high! It is far! Iiiiiiiit… is gone! Yankees win! Theeeeeeeeeeee Yankees win!”
It wasn’t the first time Sterling had used the line, but it was the first time I’d heard him drag it out that much.
Yankees 5, Orioles 4. After the game, the media asked Yankee manager Joe Torre about the fan-assisted Jeter home run. Without missing a beat, or changing his expression, The Man of One Face said, “Did anybody see Bernie’s home run? That wasn’t all bad.” Laughter in the press room.
The Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame Jeffrey Maier for the Baltimore Orioles losing the 1996 American League Pennant
5. Tony Tarasco. He blew the play. If he had tracked the ball properly, he would have gotten under it and jumped for it. Jeffrey Maier probably saved him from being the biggest goat in the history of Baltimore sports. Tarasco still owes Maier a steak dinner, in my opinion. At the very least, now that Maier is about to turn 29, he could buy him a beer.
4. Bernie Williams. He not only hit the Game 1 winner, but torched the O’s in Games 3 and 4 in Baltimore as well.
3. The Bullpens. The Yankees had Graeme Lloyd, Jeff Nelson and a rookie named Mariano Rivera setting up John Wetteland. The Orioles had Benitez setting up Myers.
2. The Managers. Joe Torre kept his cool. Davey Johnson didn’t. He got so upset over the call that his anger spread to his team. He could have calmed them down afterward and said, “Aw, forget it. We got screwed, but it’s just one game. If we win Game 2 here tomorrow, we can come home with a tie and in great shape to take this thing. Put it out of your minds and win tomorrow.” He didn’t.
This wasn’t the first such example in postseason history, and it hasn’t been the last. Frankly, I think the Mets won that 1986 in spite of Johnson, not because of any leadership he provided. A better manager, and the Mets might have won the Pennant in 1988, too, and at least won the National League East in 1985, 1987 and 1990.
1. The Yankees Were Better. They did win the Division (the Orioles had won the Wild Card), they didn’t need steroids (the Orioles had Rafael Palmeiro, who was caught, and Brady Anderson, who has never been publicly outed but whose season and career fit the profile), and they won all 3 games at Camden Yards.
The next season, the Cleveland Indians would win 2 of the 3 ALCS games in Baltimore. The Orioles have a record of 1-5 in ALCS games played at Camden Yards. Or, to put it another way, they have won just 1 home game in ALCS play in the last 28 years. If you can’t defend your home field in the Playoffs, you have no right to blame a kid in the stands at an away game. The Yankees proved they were better going on to win that Pennant, a stretch of 6 Pennants and 4 World Championships in 8 years. The O’s? Still looking for their first Pennant since Ronald Reagan’s first term.
Jeffrey Maier went on to play baseball at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where he became the school’s all-time hits leader. He served as an extra and assisted with baseball skills training for the actors in ESPN’s miniseries about the 1977 Yankees, The Bronx is Burning. He now works with Internet LeagueApps in Manchester, New Hampshire. Yes, Jeffrey Maier (who now prefers to be called Jeff) lives and works in “Red Sox Nation.” Beyond that, his wife Andrea is a Sox fan. He says, "I've been able to look past that flaw in her character." They have 2 children.
October 9, 1886: Richard Marquard is born. Known as “Rube” because he was a lefty fireballer similar to Rube Waddell, the New York Giants signed him for $11,000, a record for the time. When he got off to a rough start in the majors, the press called him “the $11,000 Lemon.” But he led the National League in strikeouts in 1911, helping the Giants win the Pennant, and he became “the $11,000 Beauty.”
In 1912 he won 19 consecutive games, leading the Giants to another Pennant. They won another in 1913, and he won Pennants with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1916 and 1920 – making him the first player, and one of the very few, ever to win Pennants for two NL teams in New York. (None ever did with either the Dodgers or Giants, and the Mets.) But his teams went 0-5 in World Series play. He was 3rd all-time in strikeouts by a lefthander upon his retirement, trailing only Waddell and Eddie Plank, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
October 9, 1887: The St. Louis Browns (forerunners of the National League Cardinals, rather than of the American League team that became the Baltimore Orioles) end their American Association Pennant season with a 95-40 record‚ besting their 1886 record by 2 wins. This will not be topped until the adoption of the 154-game schedule.
Also, Guy Hecker of the Louisville Colonels, who went 52-20 pitching for the Colonels in 1884, and usually played 1st base when he wasn’t pitching, becomes the first 1st baseman to play a 9-inning game with no fielding chances. The Colonels lose 2-0 to the Cincinnati Red Stockings (later to become the Reds) and finish 4th in the AA. Hecker finished his career with a .282 batting average and 175 pitching wins, and lived on until 1938, age 82.
October 9, 1890: The National League, the American Association, and the insurgent Players’ League, both hit hard financially by their three-way “war” for players and fans, reach a truce. The PL folds, and their players are welcomed back to their former teams at their former salaries.
The NL survives to this day. The AA, however, is mortally wounded, and folds after one more season. This brings a vacuum that is filled by the American League in 1901. In 1902, a new American Association will be formed, at the highest minor-league level.
October 7, 1906: Snow flies at the West Side Grounds as the first one-city World Series opens with the Cubs heavy favorites over the AL’s “Hitless Wonders.” Neither ballpark can accommodate the crowds‚ so the Chicago Tribune recreates the games on mechanical boards displayed at theaters. White Sox starter Nick Altrock and Cubs starter Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown give up 4 hits each‚ but Cubs errors produce 2 unearned runs for a 2-1 White Sox victory.
There will not be another World Series game played in snow for 91 years. As you might guess, that one was also played in a Great Lakes city, Cleveland.
October 9, 1907: For the first, and perhaps only, time in World Series history, the hidden-ball trick is successfully tried. In Game 2 at Chicago’s West Side Grounds, Detroit Tigers third baseman Bill Coughlin tags out Cub center fielder Jimmy Slagle, who is leading off the base.
October 9, 1909: Ty Cobb’s steal of home is the highlight Tigers’ 7-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, that knots the World Series at one game apiece. The Georgia Peach swipes home plate 54 times during his career, a major league record. This is the only time, however, that home plate will be stolen in a World Series game for 42 years.
October 9, 1910: The battle for the American League batting title is decided on the final day of the regular season‚ when Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers edges Nap Lajoie of the Cleveland… Naps. (Seriously, the team was named after their star 2nd baseman and manager. They would be renamed the Indians in 1915.) Cobb’s final average is .3851, Lajoie’s .3841.
Neither man covers himself with glory. Lajoie goes 8-for-8 in a doubleheader with the St. Louis Browns‚ accepting six gift hits on bunt singles on which Browns rookie third baseman Red Corriden is apparently purposely stationed at the edge of the outfield grass. The prejudiced St. Louis scorer also credits popular Nap with a “hit” on the Brownie shortstop Bobby Wallace’s wild throw to first. In Lajoie’s last at-bat‚ he is safe at first on an error call‚ but is credited with a sac bunt since a man was on.
The St. Louis Post is just one of the papers to be openly critical of the move against Cobb. “All St. Louis is up in arms over the deplorable spectacle‚ conceived in stupidity and executed in jealousy.” The Browns win the opener‚ 5-4‚ and Cleveland takes the nightcap‚ 3-0, with both managers‚ Jack O’Connor and Jim Maguire catching. O’Connor is behind the plate for just an inning‚ but Maguire goes all the way.
Cobb‚ meanwhile‚ rather than risk his average‚ sits out the last two games‚ the Tigers beating the White Sox in the finale‚ 2-1. AL President Ban Johnson investigates and clears everyone concerned‚ enabling Cobb to win the 3rd of 9 straight batting crowns.
The embarrassed Chalmers Auto Company, which had promised a brand-new car to the winner of the batting title, awards cars to both Ty and Nap.
In 1981, The Sporting News uncovers an error, crediting a 2-for-3 game to Cobb twice, that‚ if corrected‚ would give the title to Lajoie. But the commissioner’s committee votes unanimously to leave history unchanged. This reduced Cobb’s career hit total from 4,191 to 4,189 (thus meaning that Pete Rose broke the record 3 days before we thought he did, although it was still celebrated at 4,192), and his lifetime batting average from .367 to .366.
In case you’re wondering, Cobb had the better on-base percentage, .456 to .445; the higher slugging percentage, .551 to .514; the higher OPS, 1.008 to .960; and the higher OPS+, 206 to 199. And neither Detroit nor Cleveland seriously challenges the Philadelphia Athletics for the Pennant.
October 9, 1913, 100 years ago: In Game 3 of the World Series, rookie right-hander Joe Bush throws a complete game, limiting the Giants to five hits in the A’s 8-2 victory at the Polo Grounds. At the age 20 years and 316 days, “Bullet Joe” is the youngest pitcher to start a game in the Fall Classic, 40 days sooner than Jim Palmer in 1966 and Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.
October 9, 1915: Woodrow Wilson becomes the first incumbent President to attend a World Series game. He and his fiancee Edith Galt come to Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, and see Boston Red Sox hurler Rube Foster limit the Phillies to just three hits, and single home the winning run himself in the bottom of the 9th, to win Game 2, 2-1.
It’s not clear what team Wilson usually rooted for, although he did teach at Bryn Mawr University, near Philly, and attended Princeton University, taught there, and was its President, before becoming Governor of New Jersey; and, from 1887 onward, when the predecessor ground to Baker Bowl opened, the Phillies were the closest team to Princeton, closer even than the Athletics.
Two months later, Wilson, widowed a year and a half earlier, marries Edith, becoming the 3rd President to marry while in office, following then-widower John Tyler in 1844 and then-bachelor Grover Cleveland in 1886. (There has not been a 4th.)
Due to the Washington Senators bringing the World Series to the nation’s capital, Calvin Coolidge — who hates baseball, but his wife Grace loves it — will attend the World Series in 1924 and ’25. Herbert Hoover will be cheered at Shibe Park in Philadelphia when throwing out the first ball of a 1929 Series game, but in 1930, after the Wall Street crash, with the Great Depression well underway and Prohibition still in effect, becomes the first President ever booed at a baseball game, with fans also chanting, “We want beer!” Franklin Roosevelt attended Game 2 of the 1936 World Series between the Yankees and Giants at the Polo Grounds.
In 1956, on back-to-back days at Ebbets Field, Dwight D. Eisenhower, running for re-election, attends Game 1, while his opponent Adlai Stevenson attends Game 2. There will not be another President attending a World Series game until Jimmy Carter is at Game 7 in Baltimore in 1979 — not quite making up for the fact that he is the only President since William Howard Taft started the tradition in 1910 not to attend an Opening Day game and throw out the first ball to symbolically start the season. While Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all attended some big games while in office, George W. Bush, in Game 3 in 2001, remains the only President in the last 32 years and 1 of only 3 in the last 81 years to do so. Barack Obama, are you listening?
October 9, 1916: The longest game in World Series history is played. Both pitchers go the distance: Sherry Smith of the Dodgers and… Babe Ruth of the Red Sox. In the 2nd, Hy Myers hits an inside-the-park home run, the only round-tripper hit off Ruth the entire season. The Red Sox finally win the game in the bottom of the 14th, and Ruth’s streak of 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings pitched is underway.
In 1986, an NLCS game went 16 innings. In 2005, 89 years later to the day (as you’ll see when you read on), an NLDS game went 18. But going into the 2009 Fall Classic, 14 remains the World Series record.
October 9, 1919: The Cincinnati Reds defeat the Chicago White Sox, 10-5, taking Game 8 and the best-5-out-of-9 World Series. It is the first World Championship for Cincinnati – or, at least, the first since the unofficial one for the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first openly professional baseball team, in 1869, half a century earlier.
Sox pitcher Lefty Williams gets one man out in the first before departing. The Reds lead 4-0‚ and go on to give Hod Eller plenty of offense. White Sox left fielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson hits the only home run of the Series. Eddie Collins’ 3 hits give him a total of 42 in Series play‚ a record broken in 1930 by Frank Frisch‚ and bettered by Lou Gehrig in 1938. A stolen base by Collins is his 14th in Series competition‚ a record tied by Lou Brock in 1968.
How could the White Sox have lost? Everybody said they were the superior team. Actually, while the ChiSox were more experienced – they had won the Series two years earlier – but they had won 88 games that season; the Reds, 95. And the Reds had Hall-of-Famer Edd Roush, and several players who would have been multiple All-Stars had there been an All-Star Game at the time. Still, everybody seemed to think the Sox were better. And yet, the betting shifted to make the Reds the
favorites. What had happened?
On September 28, 1920, eight White Sox players were indicted for conspiracy to throw the Series: Jackson, Williams, pitcher Eddie Cicotte, right fielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch, first baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil, shortstop Charles “Swede” Risberg, reserve infielder Fred McMullin (only in on the fix because he overheard Felsch and Gandil talking about it), and third baseman George “Buck” Weaver (who refused to take part, but was indicted because he knew about it and refused to report it).
Although all were acquitted, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned them all permanently.
For the rest of their lives, Roush and the other ’19 Reds insisted that, if the Series had been on the up-and-up, they would have won anyway. Except that, down 4 games to 1 in that best-of-9, the Sox won Games 6 and 7 because the gamblers hadn’t come through with their payments, and Williams only caved in for Game 8 because his wife and children had been threatened if he did not comply. Williams was 0-3 for the Series, a record not achieved honestly until 1981 and George Frazier of the Yankees.
Trust me on this one: If you want to get closer to the facts of the case, see the film Eight Men Out; but if you want to see a movie that makes you feel good, see the factually-challenged but beautiful Field of Dreams.
October 9, 1928: At Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, the Yankees beat the Cardinals, 7-3, completing their 2nd consecutive sweep of the World Series. The Bronx Bombers, who win the 3rd World Championship in franchise history, live up to their name as they slug 5 homers in the game, a feat which will not be matched until 1989 when Oakland does it against San Francisco. Three of the homers are hit by Babe Ruth, who had done it at the same park 2 years earlier. This time, though, the Yankees win.
In 2009, seeing Hideki Matsui collect 6 RBIs, including a home run, in Game 6, Yankee broadcaster John Sterling cited the only other player to hit 3 homers in a Series game, and asked his listeners, “Has anybody, outside of Reggie Jackson, ever had a better Series-clinching game?” Yes. But only one. The Great Bambino.
October 9, 1934: Before the proceedings began, Cardinal pitcher Jay “Dizzy” Dean said of himself and his brother and teammate, Paul “Daffy” Dean, “Me an’ Paul are gonna win this here World Series.” Diz was right: All 4 St. Louis wins had one of the Dean brothers as the Cards pound the Detroit Tigers in Game 7, 11-0 at Navin Field.
In the bottom of the 6th, Cardinal slugger Joe Medwick slides hard into third base, and is tagged hard by Marv Owen. Medwich then kicks Owen; the official World Series highlight film clearly shows it. A fight results, and when Medwick goes out to left field for the bottom of the 6th, Tiger fans start throwing things at him. Wadded-up programs. Hot dogs. Pieces of fruit. This goes on for minute after minute.
Finally, Commissioner Landis asks the umpires to call Medwick over, as well as the opposing managers, both player-managers wearing Number 3: Cardinal shortstop Frankie Frisch and Tiger catcher Mickey Cochrane. Landis, a former federal Judge, asks Medwick if he kicked Owen. Medwick confesses. Landis removes him from the game, he says, not for disciplinary reasons but “for his own safety.”
Afterward, Medwick, no dummy, says, “I understood why they threw all that food at me. What I don’t understand is why they brought it to the ballpark in the first place.” It was the left-field bleacher section at Navin Field, later replaced by the double-decked stands that formed the Tiger Stadium we knew. Those seats were the last to be sold, and fans had lined up all morning, and had brought their breakfast and lunch. In the off-season, Cardinal general manager Branch Rickey refuses to give Medwick, his best hitter, a raise. Medwick says, “Mr. Rickey thinks I can live for a year on the food that the Detroit fans threw at me.”
Joe Medwick was a graduate of Carteret High School, Class of 1929, a three-sport star. A Middlesex County Park, stretching through Carteret and the Avenel section of Woodbridge, is named in his honor. He is one of 5 people who grew up in New Jersey who have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, one of 3 born in the State, and the only one from Central Jersey, let alone from Middlesex County.
I don’t think Medwick, Newark native Billy Hamliton, Salem native Goose Goslin, raised-in-East Orange Monte Irvin and raised-in-Paterson Larry Doby are going to be joined by any HOFers anytime soon. The only two New Jersey-born active players to have even made an All-Star team are Andrew Bailey, the Voorhees native who made it as a rookie pitcher for this year’s A’s, and a kid born in Pequannock and living in West Milford, but his family moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan when he was 4. Derek Jeter.
October 9, 1938, 75 years ago: The Yankees beat the Chicago Cubs, 8-3, and complete a four-game sweep at Yankee Stadium. It is the Yankees’ 7th World Championship, and their 3rd in a row. To this day, the only franchises that have more than 7 are the Cardinals with 10 and the A’s with 9 (and even then you have to combine the 5 from Philadelphia with the 4 from Oakland). And, to this day, the only franchises to have won 3 in a row are the Yankees and the 1972-74 A’s.
October 9, 1940: Joe Pepitone is born in Brooklyn. He will be a backup to Bill “Moose” Skowron at first base in 1962, and receive a World Series ring. The Yankees think so highly of Pepitone that they trade Moose before the 1963 season. Pepitone helps the Yankees win the 1963 and ’64 AL Pennants, and hits a grand slam in Game 6 of the ’64 World Series.
He was a New York kid playing for the local team, and he was good. Very good. He had a bit of a nose, and was actually balding, but you couldn’t tell while he was wearing a cap or a batting helmet. (He had two toupees: A small one for during games and a bigger “Guido” hairpiece for being out on the town.) Women wanted him, men wanted to be him. He was a matinee idol, and a hero to many, not just to his fellow Italian-Americans.
But, he would later admit, his father’s death left him depressed, and he looked for comfort in New York’s nightlife, in drinking and women. He still hit a few home runs, and he still won Gold Gloves at first base, although he switched to center field in 1967 and ’68 so that Mickey Mantle, with no DH in those days, could ease the strain on his legs by playing 1st base. But if you’re going to carouse like Mantle, you’d better be able to play like Mantle. Like all but maybe 20 men who have ever played the game, Pepitone was not at that level.
By 1970, he would no longer be a Yankee; by 1973, he would be out of the major leagues. He would do time on gun charges in 1988, although drug charges against him were dropped; and would have continued alcohol and marriage problems, arrested again in 1995. He has stayed out of trouble since then, and now lives on Long Island, getting by and then some at memorabilia shows. Still, he knows he could have been so much more, and he knows he blew it: He titled his 1975 autobiography Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud.
But what he did is no excuse for what Cosmo Kramer did in that episode of Seinfeld. He had no right to hit him with a pitch at that fantasy camp. For crying out loud, Joe was 53 years old! You don’t plunk a 53-year-old man!
Tony Conigliaro was a very similar player in Boston, but his career was curtailed by injury as much as by wasting his talent. New England fans have often suggested that, had he stayed healthy, Tony C would have been their Mantle. But now that Tony C is dead, and the Boston press no longer has to protect the popular, handsome, ethnic local boy, sordid details have come out. Perhaps Sox fans should consider that Conigliaro, rather than their Mantle, could have become their Pepitone.
There was also a famous musician born on this day, name of John Lennon. He would end up living in New York and being photographed wearing a Yankee cap as well. But apparently, Pepitone didn’t listen to Lennon, who seemed to believe that “All You Need Is Love.” What Pepitone could have been, we can only “Imagine.” (And, yes, I know there’s a Christian rock song titled “I Can Only
October 9, 1944: The only all-St. Louis World Series ever ends as Emil Verban drives in 3 runs, and the Cardinals defeat the Browns 3-1, and win in 6 games. Within 10 years, the Browns will realize that the Cardinals will always be the Number 1 team in St. Louis, and move and take up the name of several previous teams in their new home town, the Baltimore Orioles.
The current Orioles are champions of the International League, despite Oriole Park having burned down on the 4th of July, necessitating a move to Municipal Stadium, a football stadium a few blocks away. A crowd of 52,833, then a record for a minor league game, sees the Orioles fall to the Louisville Colonels, 5-4 in Game 4 of the “Junior World Series.” But the Orioles would win the series in 6 games. This team, and how well it drew (it’s not the fault of the teams involved, but Sportsman’s Park seated only 30,804 people, so the Junior World Series brought in more fans than the senior version), rose Baltimore’s profile, and made its return to the majors for the first time since 1902 possible.
October 9, 1948: Behind the solid pitching of Steve Gromek, the Indians win pivotal Game 4 of the Fall Classic edging the Braves, 2-1, to take a 3-1 series lead. Larry Doby’s home run, the first by a black player in World Series history, provides the difference in the Tribe’s victory.
October 9, 1949: The Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers, 10-6 at Ebbets Field, and win the World Series in 5 games. The two teams had combined to win Pennants in the only season in the history of the single-division Leagues, 1901 to 1968, that both League’s Pennants remained undecided on the last day of the regular season.
With Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and Carl Furillo, rookies from 1947, and older players Pee Wee Reese and Gil Hodges, bolstered by the 1948 arrivals of Roy Campanella, Billy Cox, Preacher Roe and Carl Erskine, and 1949 arrival Don Newcombe, “the Boys of Summer” had arrived. But they were not ready to beat the Yankees. Once again, the Dodgers had to “Wait Till Next Year.” The Yankees, now winners of 12 World Championships, would enjoy many “next years” to come.
October 9, 1950: Brian Jay Downing is born in Los Angeles. A catcher for the Chicago White Sox, by 1981 he would be converted to an outfielder for the team then known as the California Angels. In 1979, still a catcher, he batted .326, made the AL All-Star Team, and helped the Angels reach the postseason for the first time, as they won the AL West. He also helped them win the AL West in 1982 and 1986, meaning that, assuming you don’t count their one-game Playoff loss the the Seattle Mariners in 1995, the Angels did not reach the postseason without Downing until 2002.
For a time, he was the Angels’ all-time home run leader, hitting 222 of his 275 career home runs for the Anaheim club. But he’s probably best known now for being the player whose home run Dave Henderson went over in the Red Sox’ incredible comeback in Game 6 of the 1986 ALCS. He remained a pretty good player into his 40s: In 1990, ’91 and ’92, the last 2 with the Texas Rangers, he had OPS+’s of 138, 132 and 138 — his career OPS+ was 122. Although nowhere near Cooperstown, he is a member of the Angels Hall of Fame.
October 9, 1956: Apparently, the perfect game pitched by Don Larsen the day before did not faze the Brooklyn Dodgers. Or maybe getting back to the cozy confines of Ebbets Field has given them a boost. Clem Labine goes the distance in Game 6, and then some. Enos Slaughter misjudges Jackie Robinson’s fly ball, and Jim Gilliam scores on the play. The Dodgers win, 1-0 in 10 innings. There will be a Game 7.
October 9, 1958: The Yankees complete a 3-games-to-1 comeback – only the 2nd in World Series history, after the 1925 Pirates – by gaining revenge on the Braves, 6-2 at Milwaukee County Stadium, and take their 18th World Championship. After being defeated by former Yankee farmhand Burdette 3 times in the ’57 Series, this time the Yanks knock him out of the box in Game 7.
The Yankees would miss the World Series in 1959, but would be back in each of the next 5 years. The Braves, on the other hand, would not return to the Fall Classic for another 33 years, and by then would be in Atlanta. The City of Milwaukee would not get back for another 24 years, and then with the Brewers. This was also the first World Series to have its official highlight film in color.
Also born on this day, in Houston, is Mike Singletary, Hall of Fame linebacker for the Chicago Bears. Singletary is also an ordained minister, like the late Reggie White, and it was Singletary who had the nickname “Minister of Defense” first. After 2 seasons as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, he is now an assistant with the Minnesota Vikings.
October 9, 1961: With the help of a pair of 5-run innings at Crosley Field, the Yankees win the World Series, beating the Reds in Game 5, 13-5. Johnny Blanchard, a reserve player who will collect 10 hits in 29 at-bats in five Fall Classics, hits 2 home runs and bats .400 en route to the Bronx Bombers’ 19th World Championship.
Mickey Mantle barely played in this Series, but Roger Maris hit an unofficial 62nd home run of the season, while Whitey Ford broke the record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched in the World Series, running his total to 30. The previous record? It was 29 2/3, set by a Boston Red Sox lefthander named… Babe Ruth.
Whitey would raise the record to 33 in 1962. Mariano Rivera would slightly break this record, pitching 33 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in postseason play, but not all of it in World Series play.
October 9, 1965: Following losses by Don Drysdale in Game 1 and Sandy Koufax in Game 2, the World Series moves out to Los Angeles, and Claude Osteen saves the Dodgers’ bacon, shutting out the Minnesota Twins, 4-0, and turning the Series around. Osteen had previously pitched for the Washington Senators – the expansion team that became the Texas Rangers, not the established Senators who became the Twins – and had a 5-0 career record against Minnesota coming into this game.
October 9, 1966: For the second consecutive day, the Orioles win a World Series game, 1-0, at home at Memorial Stadium, in a contest decided by a home run when Frank Robinson takes a Don Drysdale pitch deep over the left field fence in the fourth inning. The lone run being scored on a homer, for only the fifth time in the history of the Fall Classic, and the complete-game shutout thrown by Dave McNally, Baltimore completes a four-game sweep over the Dodgers.
It is the first World Championship won by a Baltimore baseball team in 70 years, since the original version of the Orioles won the 1896 National League Pennant. For the Dodgers, 33 consecutive innings without scoring a run is a Series record for futility. Their streak would run to 38 innings before they scored in the 5th inning of Game 1 of the 1974 World Series. For the Orioles, they have won Baltimore’s first World Championship of baseball since the old Orioles won the National League Pennant in 1896 – 70 years before.
Still alive from the ’66 O’s World Series roster: Hall of Fame 3rd baseman Brooks Robinson, Hall of Fame right fielder Frank Robinson, Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio (the only ring the White Sox legend ever won), Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer (the only man on all 3 Oriole World Champions: ’66, ’70 & ’83), 1st baseman John “Boog” Powell, center fielder Paul Blair (who would also win with the ’70 O’s and the ’77 and ’78 Yankees), 2nd baseman Davey Johnson (later the manager of the ’86 Mets), outfielder Russ Snyder, catcher Andy Etchebarren and pitcher Wally Bunker.
October 9, 1970: The Tigers trade the great but undisciplined pitcher Denny McLain to the Washington Senators in an 8-player deal that also sees outfielder Elliott Maddox‚ 3rd baseman Aurelio Rodriguez‚ and pitcher Joe Coleman change teams. This ranks as one of Detroit’s best trades ever, as McLain will continue to be a pain in the ass to his managers and team management, and a should injury will end his career 2 years later. Coleman would be a key to the Tigers’ 1972 AL East title, as would Rodriguez, who became one of the best-fielding 3rd basemen ever.
Maddox, who grew up in Union, New Jersey, wouldn’t do much for his new team, before or after the Senators moved to become the Texas Rangers. The Yankees bought him in 1974, and he had a good year, batting .303, playing sparkling defense in center field, and finishing 8th in the AL MVP voting.
But the next year, he slipped on the wet grass at Shea Stadium (where the Yankees were playing while Yankee Stadium was being renovated), and he was never the same player. He sued the Yankees, the Mets, and the owner of Shea, the City of New York. But since he knew the risk of playing on grass he knew to be wet, the court ruled against him. Just before the ’77 season, the Yanks traded him to the Orioles for Blair. Ironically, he would conclude his career with the Mets, playing 3 seasons at Shea before retiring in 1980, only 32.
Also on this day, Kenny Anderson is born in Queens. Raised in the LeFrak City housing project and a graduate of the famed Archbishop Molloy High School, he went to Georgia Tech for one year before going pro. He came to the New Jersey Nets and looked like he was going to be a superstar, until a clothesline tackle by John Starks of the Knicks caused him to crash to the floor and break his wrist. He was never the same: Not only did his play suffer, but his personality became surly. He was reduced to journeyman status. Also born on this day is Swedish golfer Annika Sorenstam.
October 9, 1973, 40 years ago: Pete Rose rebounds from the previous day’s fight, and the hatred of the Met fans – a banner in left field at Shea Stadium reads, “A Rose by any other name still stinks” – and homers in the top of the 12th, to give the Cincinnati Reds a 2-1 win over the Mets, and the NLCS will go to a 5th and deciding game.
On this same day, Bert Campaneris hits a walkoff homer in the 11th, and the Oakland Athletics defeat the Baltimore Orioles 2-1, which is also now the A’s’ lead in the series.
On the same day, William Thomas Pulsipher is born at Fort Benning, Georgia. He moved around with his family as his father served in the U.S. Army. In 1995, he, Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson were “Generation K,” the pitchers who were going to lift the Mets to glory as the 20th Century turned to the 21st. It didn’t work out that way, because all 3 of them got hurt.
Bill Pulsipher bounced around, closing his career with the Cardinals in 2005. His career record was 13-19, his ERA 5.15. He is still trying a comeback, with the independent-league Long Island Ducks.
October 9, 1976: For the first time, the New York Yankees play an American League Championship Series game. For the first time, a Kansas City team plays a postseason game in Major League Baseball. The experience is far better for New York, as 2 1st-inning errors by the Royals’ best player, George Brett, helps Catfish Hunter go the distance in a 4-1 Yankee win at Royals Stadium (now Kauffman Stadium).
Philadelphia plays its first postseason game in 26 years, but in spite of ace Steve Carlton being on the mound — usually described by the Phillies as “Win Day” — Don Gullett retires 21 of his last 22 batters to outduel the legendary Lefty, and the Cincinnati Reds defeat the Phillies, 6-3.
But the Royals and Phillies still have a better day than Bob Moose. The Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, an integral part of their 1971 World Championship, was driving to a golf course owned by former teammate Bill Mazeroski in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio – also the home town of the Niekro brothers – when his car crashes, killing him. To make matters worse, it’s his birthday. He was 36.
October 9, 1977: The Yankees come back from deficits of 1-game-to-none, 2-games-to-1, and 3-0 down in the 8th inning of Game 7, to defeat the Kansas City Royals, 5-3 at Royals Stadium, to win their 31st American League Pennant.
The Royals had won 102 games, still a record for any Kansas City team (the A’s never got close to a Pennant race in their KC years), and with the home-field advantage in Games 3, 4 and 5, and with lefthanded pitching from Paul Splittorff and Larry Gura that they could use to neutralize Yankee sluggers like Reggie Jackson, Graig Nettles and Chris Chambliss, they were sure they were the better team. They were wrong. The Yankees go on to face the Dodgers in the World Series for the 9th time.
Indeed, this series was the source of the long-since-debunked, but still popular, idea of “The Yankees can’t hit lefthanded pitching, especially in the postseason.” Reggie just couldn’t hit Splittorff or Gura, and Billy Martin benched him for the deciding Game 5 — sending Reggie’s best friend on the team, backup catcher Fran Healy, to tell him, because Billy didn’t have the guts to do it himself. But when Splittorff tired, and was replaced by righthander Doug Bird, Billy sent Reggie up to pinch-hit for righthanded DH Cliff Johnson. It was a most un-Reggie-like hit, but it got the job done: A looper, nearly but not quite caught by center fielder Amos Otis, got home a run to cut the deficit to 3-2, before the Yankees won it in the 9th.
Veteran 2nd baseman Cookie Rojas, who had also been a member of the collapsing 1964 Phillies, had announced his retirement, and shortstop Freddie Patek, with whom Rojas had jumped into the Royals Stadium fountains after they clinched the Division last year, is shown crying in the dugout, because Rojas will never play in a World Series.
October 9, 1979: Superman is born. Well, Superman Returns star Brandon Routh is, anyway, in Norwalk, Iowa. Most recently, he was on the short-lived CBS drama Partners. His career hasn’t gone well since his one and only appearance in the cape. ”Curse of Superman”? At least, for the moment, he’s still alive.
October 9, 1980: This is one October 9 that did not work out well for the Yankees. In Game 2 of the ALCS, with the Yankees trailing 3-2 with two outs in the top of the eighth inning, George Steinbrenner is caught on live national television jumping out of his seat and shouting what appears to be profanities when Willie Randolph is tagged out at home on a relay throw by the Kansas City Royals’ George Brett. The Yankees’ owner wants third base coach Mike Ferraro fired on the spot, but manager Dick Howser refuses, and the skipper will lose his job when the team is swept in three games by the Royals, despite a first place finish in the American League East compiling a 103-59 record.
October 9, 1988, 25 years ago: A dark day in Mets history. Dwight Gooden is one out away from giving the Mets a win in Game 4 of the NLCS. But Mike Scioscia – a good-fielding catcher but not renowned as a hitter, hits a home run. The Dodgers win the game in the 12th, 5-4.
If Gooden had gotten Scioscia out, the Mets would have been up 3 games to 1. They could have won the Pennant without going back to Los Angeles. And if the weak-hitting Dodgers could beat the Oakland A’s in the World Series, surely the Mets could have. (The A’s complete a 4-game sweep over the Red Sox today, winning the AL Pennant.) It would have been the Mets’ 2nd title in 3 years, and deepened their status as New York’s Number 1 team.
Maybe that team would have been kept together. Maybe Gooden and Darryl Strawberry don’t fall back into drug problems. (Humor me here.) Maybe the Mets find suitable replacements for Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter, the glue of their 1986 World Champions. Maybe Doc, Darryl and David Cone don’t eventually end up on the Yankees, and the Yankees still haven’t won a World Series since 1978 – while the Mets probably get at least another in 2000, and maybe another one or two before their 1980s (-early ‘90s?) team winds down. Maybe…
This was the hinge day in Met history, when it all started to go wrong. It was the first major instance of what I’ve come to call “The Curse of Kevin Mitchell.” Maybe, maybe, maybe? Since Scioscia’s homer 23 years ago, “maybes” are pretty much all the Mets have had.
October 9, 1989: Televising Game 5 of the NLCS, a 3-2 Giants victory over the Cubs from Candlestick Park, NBC broadcasts its final edition of The Game of the Week. This is the first Pennant for the Giants in 27 years. Next season, CBS’s sporadic and less frequent coverage of a regular season weekly game led many to believe the network was really only interested in airing the All-Star Game and post-season contests.
October 9, 1998: The Cleveland Indians beat the Yankees, 6-1, in Game 3 of the ALCS at Jacobs Field. Jim Thome homers twice, Manny Ramirez and Mark Whiten once each. The Indians lead 2 games to 1. Suddenly, after 114 wins – 118 wins if the postseason thus far is counted – the 1998 New York Yankees, already being hailed as one of the greatest teams in history, are in serious, serious trouble of not even making it to the World Series.
The Yankees will not lose again until April 5, 1999.
October 9, 1999: The Mets win a postseason series. Stop laughing. They defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks‚ 4-3‚ on backup catcher Todd Pratt’s 10th inning homer. Pratt is in the game for starter Mike Piazza‚ who is unable to play because of a thumb injury. John Franco gets the victory in relief for the Mets.
The Yankees defeat the Texas Rangers‚ 3-0‚ to sweep the ALDS. Roger Clemens hurls 7 shutout innings for the win‚ as Darryl Strawberry’s 3-run homer in the 1st provides all the runs in the game.
October 9, 2004: The Yankees finish off the Twins with a come-from-behind 6-5 win in 11 innings to win their Division Series. Ruben Sierra’s 3-run homer ties the game in the 8th inning, and Alex Rodriguez scores the winning run on a wild pitch. And yet, it will take the Yankees 5 years to win another postseason series.
October 9, 2005: At Minute Maid Park, Chris Burke’ 18th-inning homer ends the longest postseason game in baseball history as the Astros defeat the Braves, 7-6, to advance into the National League championship series. Atlanta’s five-run lead late in the game is erased with an eighth inning grand slam by Lance Berkman and a two-out ninth inning solo shot by Brad Ausmus, which barely clears Gold Glove center fielder Andruw Jones’ outstretched hand.
When this game ended, I called my grandmother. Sure enough, she likened it to that 16-inning game in Houston in the 1986 NLCS, the Mets winning the Pennant over the Astros in the Astrodome, her favorite game of all time. She would watch the 2005 LCS and World Series and enjoy them. They would be the last baseball games she would ever see.
On this same day, the Yankees down the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim‚ 3-2‚ to even their Division Series. Al Leiter gets the win for New York in relief of Shawn Chacon. It is Leiter’s first postseason win in 12 years, since he won a game for the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series. Counting postseason wins, it is the 164th win of his career. It will be the last.
He also helped the Florida Marlins win the World Series in 1997 and the team he grew up rooting for, the Mets, win a Pennant in 2000, before losing the World Series to the Yankees, for whom he started his career, and would later broadcast on the YES Network. He now works for the MLB Network.
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