Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October 7 Baseball Anniversaries


October 7, 1885: The Providence Grays sweep a doubleheader from the Buffalo Bisons, 4-0 and 6-1 at Olympic Park in Buffalo. Fred Shaw wins both games for the Grays, pitching a no-hitter in the opener.

These are the last 2 games ever played by these franchises, who are both struggling for cash — only 12 fans come out, as Buffalo, as it so often is, turns out to be cold in October.

Never again has a major league baseball team played in the State of Rhode Island. And, unless you count the Federal League of 1914-15, never again has a major league team represented Buffalo or any other city in the State of New York, other than the City of New York.

Although Buffalo has an NFL team and an NHL team, and it has an in-city population of 261,000 that isn’t that much less than those of St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, its metropolitan area population of 1,135,000 ranks it 51st among American metro areas. The current smallest area with an MLB team, Milwaukee, has over half a million more: 1,671,000. If you count Canadian cities, Buffalo drops to 56th.

Providence? It has 178,000 people, and while its metro count of 1,600,000 isn’t that far behind Milwaukee, it’s usually included within Boston’s area. Providence is, for this reason, the home of Boston’s Triple-A baseball (well, Pawtucket is) and hockey teams, and the NFL team is actually slightly closer to Kennedy Plaza in Providence than to Downtown Crossing in Boston.

But Providence ain’t getting another MLB team, and Buffalo will never get any closer than it did in 1991, when it was one of 5 finalists for the 2 that began play in 1993.

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October 7, 1899: The Brooklyn Superbas clobber their arch-rivals, the New York Giants, 13-2 at Washington Park, to win the NL Pennant, and thus the unofficial World Championship of baseball.

October 7, 1902: Perhaps the first all-star game in North American sports is played at Exposition Park in Pittsburgh — the Pirates’ current stadium, PNC Park, is built roughly on the site. Sam Leever and the Pirates, including the great Honus Wagner, beat a team of American League all-stars‚ with Cy Young as the losing pitcher, 4-3.

October 7, 1904: Jack Chesbro pitches the New York Highlanders to a 3-2 win over the Boston Pilgrims (Red Sox) for his 41st victory of the season — a record under the post-1893 pitching distance of 60 feet 6 inches that ain’t never gonna be broken unless there’s a major change in the way pitching is done.

The win gives New York a half-game lead over Boston. But the season will not end well for the Highlanders in general and Chesbro in particular.

October 7, 1911: With just 1‚000 fans on hand at the Polo Grounds‚ and with the Pennant already clinched, New York Giant manager John McGraw finally listens to the appeals of Charles Victor “Victory” Faust, who’d told McGraw that a fortune teller had told him that if he pitched for the Giants, they’d win the Pennant.

Faust is sent to the mound in the 9th inning against the Boston Rustlers‚ allowing a hit and a run in a 5-2 loss. Faust also hits‚ circling the bases for a score as the Rustlers, in on the joke, deliberately throw wildly.

Faust will reprise his act on October 12th against Brooklyn: He allows a hit in his one inning; is hit by a pitch and then steals 2nd base and 3rd base‚ and scores on a grounder.

In the next few weeks, Boston owner William H. Russell, for whom the Rustlers were named, will die. The team is purchased by James Gaffney, an officer in New York’s Tammany Hall political organization. They are known as “Braves,” and the Boston team is so named.

The team carries the name to this day, although they are now in Atlanta. Braves Field is built in 1915, and one of the bordering streets is still named Gaffney Street. Boston University’s Nickerson Field complex was built on the site, with the right-field pavilion of Braves Field still standing as the home stand. An NFL team named the Boston Braves will also play there, changing its name, to avoid confusion, to the Redskins. They will move to Washington in 1937.

October 7, 1918: Robert Gustave “Bun” Troy‚ born in Germany‚ who pitched in one game for the 1912 Detroit Tigers, fighting for his new country against his old one in World War I, is killed in battle in Meuse‚ France.

October 7, 1922: With the questionable calling of Game 2 due to “darkness” in mind, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis insists that Game 4 be played, despite a heavy rain. Again one big inning, a 4-run 4th off Yankee pitcher Carl Mays, is enough for Hugh McQuillan of the Giants to squeeze out a 4-3 win. Aaron Ward’s 2nd HR of the Series is all the long-ball clout the Yankees will display.

Mays’s brief collapse today‚ coupled with his 2 losses in the 1921 Series‚ leads to rumors that he took money to throw the games. The accusations will persist for decades.

October 7, 1925: Christy Mathewson dies of tuberculosis at the health-spa town of Saranac Lake‚ New York‚ at the age of 45. At the time of his death, the Giant pitching legend he was part owner and president of the Boston Braves. The next day, as word reaches Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, the flag is lowered to half-staff, and will remain so there and at Griffith Stadium in opposing Washington for the remainder of the Series.

October 7, 1927: The 60‚695 on hand for Game 3 of the World Series see the Yankees’ Herb Pennock take an 8-0 lead and a perfect game into the 8th against the Pirates. He retires Glenn Wright‚ the 22nd straight batter‚ but Harold “Pie” Traynor, the Bucs’ Hall of Fame 3rd baseman, breaks the spell with a single‚ and Clyde Barnhart doubles him home. Pennock settles for a 3-hit 8-1 victory.

October 7, 1933, 80 years ago: At the World Series‚ at Griffith Stadium in Washington, flags are at half staff to honor William L. Veeck‚ president of the Chicago Cubs, who died suddenly. His son, Bill Veeck, already working in the Cubs’ front office, will become one of baseball’s most remarkable men.

In the meantime, the Series comes to a close after 5 games, when Mel Ott homers in the top of the 10th inning for a 4-3 Giants victory. Adolfo “Dolf” Luque, Cuban but light-skinned enough to play in the majors of the time, gets the win in relief. The Giants are World Champs for the 4th time, tying the Yankees and the Philadelphia Athletics for the most all-time.

This remains, 80 years later, the last World Series game played by a Washington team, let alone in the District of Columbia.  Ya think the Nationals now wish they’d let Stephen Strasburg pitch just ONE inning in last year’s postseason? One very particular inning?

October 7, 1935: In Game 6 of the World Series at Navin Field in Detroit (later renamed Tiger Stadium), Stan Hack leads off the top of the 9th inning with a triple, but his Chicago Cub teammates can’t bring him home. In the bottom of the 9th, Goose Goslin singles home Mickey Cochrane to win, 4-3, and to give Detroit its first World Championship in any major sport.
 
This will be quickly followed by the Lions winning the 1935 NFL Championship, the Red Wings winning the 1936 and 1937 Stanley Cups, and Alabama-born, Detroit-raised Joe Louis winning the heavyweight boxing championship in 1937.

October 7, 1950: Rookie lefthander Eddie Ford, with 9th inning help from Allie Reynolds, beats the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-2, as the Yankees complete the World Series sweep of Philadelphia’s “Whiz Kids.” Jerry Coleman wins the Babe Ruth Award as the Series MVP.

Ford, and the Phillies’ center fielder Richie Ashburn, both have very light blond hair that gets them nicknamed “Whitey.” In Ashburn’s case, even that was a shortening of “The White Mouse.” Ford will be drafted into the Army and spend the 1951 and ’52 seasons in the Korean War, but when he comes back in ’53, he will be at the top of his game, and he will be “Whitey” from then on.

In contrast, most Phillies fans did not yet know Ashburn as “Whitey,” but his friends did. The nickname became more familiar as he becomes a broadcaster, with partner Harry Kalas calling him “Whitey” and referring to him, when he’s not there, as “His Whiteness.”

The Phils are nicknamed “the Whiz Kids” because they have the youngest average age of any Pennant-winner ever, 23. Ashburn would later say that they figured they had enough time to win a few more Pennants.

But mismanagement, and the success of the team the Phils edged to win the Pennant, the Brooklyn Dodgers, meant that, by the time the Phils did win another Pennant, Ashburn was in the booth, and the Phils’ biggest stars would be men who were small children in 1950: 9-year-old Pete Rose, 6-year-old Steve Carlton and Tug McGraw, 2-year-old Mike Schmidt, and a child who would not be born until a few weeks after the 1950 World Series, Greg Luzinski.

October 7, 1952: In the decisive Game 7, the Yankees beat the Dodgers at Ebbets Field, 4-2, to win their 4th consecutive World Championship, their 15th overall. The Dodgers still haven’t won a World Series — the idea that “Next Year” will come is getting more and more frustrating.

This game was highlighted by the Dodgers loading the bases in the bottom of the 7th. Yankee manager Casey Stengel had already used each of his “Big Three”: Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat, and now Allie Reynolds. He calls on the lefty reliever who had closed out the previous year’s Series, Bob Kuzava.

He gets Jackie Robinson to pop the ball up, but the late afternoon sun is peeking through the decks of Ebbets Field, and nobody sees the ball! Nobody except 2nd baseman Billy Martin, who dashes and catches the ball at his knee to end the threat.

It was the first time Billy would ruin Dodger hopes. The last time he did so, it would be as a manager, and the Dodgers would represent Los Angeles.

Gil Hodges finishes the Fall Classic hitless in 21 at-bats, which had prompted some Brooklyn fans, some fellow Catholics, some not, to gather at local churches asking for divine help for their beloved 1st baseman. Fortunately, Dodger owner Walter O’Malley, mean old man that he is, is not George Steinbrenner, and doesn’t do what George did to Dave Winfield following his 1-for-21 performance in the ’81 Series against the L.A. edition of the Dodgers: Call him “Mr. May,” in comparison to “Mr. October,” Reggie Jackson.

October 7, 1957: Lew Burdette beats the Yankees in Game 5, his 2nd win of the Series, a brilliant 1-0 shutout to give the Milwaukee Braves a 3-2 Series lead.

The day gets worse for New York baseball, as the Los Angeles City Council approves the Chavez Ravine site for Dodger Stadium by a vote of 10 to 4. The Giants had already announced their move to San Francisco, and now the Dodgers’ move was inevitable. It was announced the next day.

Apparently, finally winning the World Series in 1955 and another Pennant in 1956 couldn’t save them.

October 7, 1968: Mickey Lolich saves the Detroit Tigers‚ winning Game 5, 5-3 over the St. Louis Cardinals, with an unlikely assist from Lou Brock. On 2nd base in the 5th‚ Brock, normally one of the game’s greatest baserunners, tries to score standing up on Julian Javier’s single, and is gunned down by Willie Horton’s throw from left field. Al Kaline’s bases-loaded single off Joe Hoerner in the 7th scores 2 for the winning margin. The Tigers stay alive, but still need to win Games 6 and 7 — in St. Louis, with Bob Gibson the potential Game 7 starter.

The bigger story, at least in the short term, is Puerto Rican-born, New York-raised singer and acoustic guitar wizard Jose Feliciano’s modern rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Born blind, Feliciano comes onto the field wearing sunglasses and being guided by a dog — both of which a lot of people consider threatening.  He does no vocal hysterics like some more recent singers we could mention; he just sings the National Anthem of the country he loves and which gave him the chance to become rich and famous, but a little differently, in his own style which is called “Latin jazz.”

In this time of the Vietnam War, race riots, assassinations and political unrest — Richard Nixon is about to be elected President in a squeaker because too many Democrats turned off by the war and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy stay home and don’t vote for longtime liberal hero Hubert Humphrey — the reaction to Feliciano’s rendition is muted in the stands, and furious on telephones, talk radio and newspapers. His career stalls for 2 years, until the release of his Christmas song “Feliz Navidad.”

Tiger broadcaster Ernie Harwell, himself a published songwriter authorized by Major League Baseball to select Detroit’s Anthem singers for the Series, defended his choice. Ironically, the man he’d selected for Game 4 was Marvin Gaye, a superstar of Detroit’s Motown Records. Gaye sang it straight, and very nicely.  In 1983, at the NBA All-Star Game, Gaye, in the midst of a big comeback that would tragically end with his death the next year, sang the Anthem gospel-style. The times had changed: His version was greeted with thunderous cheers and applause.

“Mr. Ernie” had introduced Feliciano to his wife, Susan, who grew up in Detroit. In 2010, Harwell died, and a memorial service was held at Detroit’s Comerica Park. Feliciano was invited to sing the Anthem, and was wildly cheered afterward. His version was also included on The Tenth Inning, Ken Burns’ 2010 sequel to his 1994 miniseries Baseball.  Listen and judge for yourself.  (NBC no longer has color videotape of most of the World Series prior to 1975.)

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October 7, 1969: The Cardinals trade Curt Flood, Byron Browne, Joe Hoerner and Tim McCarver to the Phillies in exchange for Richie Allen — who, among other controversies, had been to insist upon being called “Dick” instead of “Richie” — Jerry Johnson and Cookie Rojas.

As could be expected, Allen, who so badly wanted out of Philadelphia, was involved in a trade that also became controversial — except, ironically, his part in it wasn’t the controversial one. Flood, like Allen believing Philly to be a racist city (with some reason), refuses to report to Philadelphia.
The Cardinals will send Willie Montanez and a minor leaguer to complete the trade, but Flood’s courageous challenge to the reserve clause will have a dramatic impact on the game. (The Phillies will eventually get McCarver back.)

October 7, 1977: First 1950, then 1969, now 1977, October 7 is not a good day for baseball in the City of Brotherly Love.

It starts out as one: The 63,719 fans at Veterans Stadium are so loud, they force Dodger pitcher Burt Hooton to load the bases in the 2nd inning, and then walk 2 runs home. The Phils, who won 101 games (a team record not broken until 2011), look like they’re going to win this game, and will need just one more win for their 1st Pennant in 27 years, since the 1950 Whiz Kids.

But in the top of the 9th, trailing 5-3 and down to their last out, the Dodgers benefit from a sickening turn of events. Pinch hitter Vic Davalillo, a 41-year-old Venezuelan outfielder who has already retired from baseball once, shows enough guts to lay down a drag bunt, at his age, with 2 strikes, and he beats it out.

Another pinch hitter, 39-year-old Dominican Manny Mota, hits a long drive to left field. Ordinarily, Phils manager Danny Ozark would have sent Jerry Martin out to left for defensive purposes, in place of the powerful but defensively suspect Greg Luzinski. This time, he didn’t, and the Bull can only trap the ball against the fence. (In fairness, I’ve seen the play several times, and I don’t think Martin would have caught it, either, especially since he was a bit shorter than the Bull.) Luzinski throws back to the infield, but Phils 2nd baseman Ted Sizemore mishandles it, Mota goes to 3rd, and Davalillo scores. It’s 5-4 Phils, with 2 out.

Then comes one of the most brutal umpiring screwups ever. Remember, the Dodgers are still down to their last out. Davey Lopes’ grounder hits a seam in the artificial turf, and caroms off Mike Schmidt’s knee to Larry Bowa‚ and the shortstop’s throw is incorrectly ruled late. Instead of the game being over in Philly’s favor, Mota scores the tying run. The Dodgers go on to win, 6-5, and win the Pennant the next day.

In Philadelphia, the game is known as Black Friday. The umpire whose call killed the Phils? Bruce Froemming. He has already cost Milt Pappas a perfect game with a bogus ball four call (though Pappas kept the no-hitter), and will go on to umpire for a record 37 years, with his swan song being the 2007 AL Division Series between the Yankees and the Cleveland Indians, when he, as crew chief, refused to stop the game until the Lake Erie Midges left.

October 7, 1978: The Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals for the 3rd straight year, and win their 3rd straight Pennant, their 32nd overall. Roy White, in his 14th season with the Yankees, hits a tiebreaking homer in the 6th. Graig Nettles homers and makes a sensational play at 3rd, and Ron Guidry wins for the 26th time in his remarkable season.

October 7, 1981: For the first time, an MLB postseason game is played outside the United States. The Montreal Expos defeat the Phillies 3-1 in Game 1 of the strike-forced National League Eastern Division playoff at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

October 7, 1984: The San Diego Padres win their first Pennant, taking the NLCS as Tony Gwynn’s 7th inning two-run double breaks a 3-3 tie. The Cubs had a 2-0 game advantage as well as a 3-0 lead in the deciding Game 5, but were unable to end the thirty-nine year World Series appearance drought.

October 7, 2001: On the last day of the season — delayed a week due to the 9/11 attacks — Rickey Henderson bloops a double down the right field line off Rockies’ hurler John Thomson to become the 25th major leaguer to collect 3,000 hits. Tony Gwynn, who is playing in his last major league game and is also a member of the 3,000 Hit Club, meets the Padre outfielder at home plate in front of a sellout crowd at Qualcomm Stadium.

Gwynn retires with a .338 lifetime batting average, the highest of any player who debuted after 1939 – also the highest of any black man, whether American or Hispanic.

Also on this day, Barry Bonds extends his major league record for home runs in season to 73*, as he drives a 3-2 first-inning knuckleball off Dodger Dennis Spriner over the right field fence. The blast also secures two more major league records * for the Giants’ left fielder, as he surpasses Babe Ruth (1920, 847) with a .863 season slugging percentage, and bests Mark McGwire (1998, one homer every 7.27 AB * ) by homering in every 6.52 at-bats *.

October 7, 2006: The Mets defeat Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, 9-5, to complete a 3-game sweep in the NLDS.  The Mets haven’t won a postseason series since.  Since beating the A’s in the 1988 World Series, the Dodgers have not won a Pennant.

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