Saturday, October 4, 2014

George "Shotgun" Shuba, 1924-2014: The Last Living Player From the Day Brooklyn Won the World Series

The last living player who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the game in which they won their one and only World Series has died.

George Thomas Shuba was born on December 13, 1924 in Youngstown, Ohio, the son of Slovak immigrants. As a boy, a teacher smacked him upside the head. This turned out to be a lucky break, because it damaged his hearing enough for the U.S. Army to reject him for service in World War II, and to allow him to play professional baseball. The Dodgers had signed him in 1943.

It was his line drives, rather than a strong outfield arm, that got him nicknamed "Shotgun." By 1946, only 21, he was playing for the Dodgers' top farm team, the Montreal Royals. On Opening Day, April 18, the Royals were playing the Jersey City Giants -- the top farm teams of the heated New York National League rivals -- at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, and the Royals' "rookie" shortstop hit a home run. His name was Jackie Robinson, and he had just become the 1st black player in "organized ball" in nearly 60 years. When he crossed the plate, the next batter, Shuba, was there to welcome him home and shake his hand. It was the first time anyone could remember seeing a white player shaking a black teammate's hand during a game, and it made headlines around the country. (Not always complimentary headlines: Southern papers denounced it.)

"To me," he said of Robinson, "Jackie was like all the other guys, a player who came to play and we knew he would be a good one, but what me or anyone else at the time didn't know was how good he would be."

Despite having reached Triple-A in 1946, Shuba was not called up to the parent club until July 2, 1948. His 1st game was at home, at Ebbets Field, against the arch-rival Giants. He wore Number 8 (and would keep that number throughout his career), played left field and batted 4th. In the bottom of the 1st inning, he singled to right off Andy Hansen, and drove in Pete Reiser for the Dodgers' 1st run. With the Giants winning 6-4, he led off the bottom of the 9th with a single, bringing the tying run to the plate. However, Gene Hermanski grounded into a double play to eliminate him, and the Giants won.

Although he batted .267 over 63 games in 1948, he spent all but 1 game of 1949 in the minors again. This was part of a problem that the Dodgers had: Although they were solid at nearly every position, they never found a left fielder they wanted to stick with. Shuba, Hermanski, Don Zimmer and Sandy Amoros would be used in their last few years in Flatbush. Only Andy Pafko, and he not even for 2 full seasons, was the closest thing they could find. Partly because of this refusal to give him a fair shot, and partly because he missed late 1950 and all of 1951 due to serving in the Korean War, and partly due to a knee injury from 1953 onward, he never had 300 plate appearances in a season.

His best season was 1952, after coming back from the war and before hurting his knee. In 294 plate appearances, he batted .305 with 9 home runs and 40 RBIs. Given double that, a not-unreasonable 588 plate appearances, it would have been 18 homers and 80 RBIs, a good season for a lefthanded hitter in the cozy confines of Ebbets Field.

*

After losing the World Series to Boston in 1916, to Cleveland in 1920, and to the Yankees in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953; blowing Playoffs for the National League Pennant to St. Louis in 1946 and to the New York Giants in 1951; and blowing Pennants on the last weekend of the season to St. Louis in 1942 and Philadelphia in 1950, the Dodgers were still looking for their 1st undisputed World Championship in 55 years, since they finished the 1900 season as National League Champions, with no postseason series available. Shuba had appeared in the 1952 and '53 Series, but, of course, did not get a ring.

But in 1955, it all seemed to come together. True, the Dodgers had traded away two of the beloved players who would later be known, in the title of the book that Roger Kahn wrote in remembrance of his days covering them for the New York Herald Tribune, as “The Boys of Summer”: Pitcher Elwyn “Preacher” Roe and 3hird baseman Billy Cox.

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

But the Yankees took the first 2 games of the World Series, despite Robinson’s steal of home plate in Game 1. But the Dodgers took the next 3 at Ebbets Field. Then the Yankees tied it up. In fact, the home team won each of the first 6 home games.

October 4, 1955. Game 7 of the World Series. There were 62,465 fans at the originalYankee Stadium. The Boys of Summer were getting old. The younger Dodgers didn’t quite seem ready. The team was in transition, and it did seem like it had been a seamless one; but for veterans like shortstop Pee Wee Reese, 1st baseman Gil Hodges, center fielder Duke Snider and catcher Roy Campanella — along with Robinson, all but Hodges are in the Hall of Fame and he damn well should be — it was now or never.

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

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

Left field had long been a troublesome position for the Dodgers. Gene Hermanski. Cal Abrams. George “Shotgun” Shuba. Andy Pafko had played it well, but for whatever reason they got rid of him. Now Zimmer was the usual left fielder, though he was a natural infielder. But Alston had pinch-hit Shuba for Zimmer -- Shuba's only appearance of the Series, grounding out to 1st, Hodges tossing to a covering Podres -- and put Gilliam in at 2nd, replacing the righty-throwing Zimmer in left with lefty-throwing Sandy Amoros, a Cuban whose English was halting but whose play, on this day, changed baseball history.

A righthanded fielder, like Zimmer, never could have caught this ball, no matter how fast he was. But Amoros was fast and lefthanded, and he stuck out his right hand and caught the ball. Then he wheeled it back to the infield. Reese relayed it to Hodges, and Gil McDougald was unable to get back to 1st in time. Double play, end of threat.

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

Bottom of the 9th. Two out. Podres has pitched a stomach-churning game: 8 hits, but no runs. The last batter is Elston Howard. Only 6 months earlier, Howard had become the 1st black man to play in a regular-season game for the Yankees, and was now the left fielder and Yogi’s backup at catcher. In 1959, they would switch positions, and Ellie would become one of the game’s best catchers. In 1955, he was a 26-year-old “rookie,” having played in the Negro Leagues for a while.

Howard grounded to short. It was so appropriate that it went to Harold Henry Reese, the Dodgers’ Captain and senior player. Pee Wee threw it to Gil Hodges, and Hodges, perhaps the best-fielding 1st baseman of his era, had to trap it on the ground to keep it from being an error and bringing the tying run to the plate. But he got it.

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

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

It had been 55 years — or 52 years if you count only from the 1st World Series forward. The previous 0-for-7, including the 0-for-5 against the Yankees, no longer mattered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

This Game 7 was the last major league appearance for Shuba. He finished his career with a .259 batting average, a 104 OPS+, 24 home runs and 125 RBIs. For some hitters, that looks more like 1 full season. But over 8 seasons -- 7, since he missed one due to military service -- he only appeared in 355 games, or 2.3 full seasons (in the 154-game-season era). He was returned to Montreal for 1956, and then the Dodgers traded him to the Chicago Cubs. They took him down a step further, and he played the 1957 season in Double-A Memphis. At age 33, he had had enough, and retired.

Shuba hadn't yet gotten married by the time he left the game, but did so shortly thereafter, and raised 3 kids in Austintown, near his hometown of Youngstown, where a local ballfield was named for him. In 2007, he published a memoir, My Memories as a Brooklyn Dodger. He also had a website established.

George Shuba died this past Tuesday, at the age of 89. With his death, and that of Zimmer earlier in the year, there are no more living Dodgers from the team's single World Series clincher.

Shuba's death also leaves Erskine as the only surviving player among those profiled in The Boys of Summer: Hodges died in 1972, a few months after the book was published, and Robinson later that year; Cox in 1978, right fielder Furillo in 1989, Campanella in 1993, Reese in 1999, pitcher Joe Black in 2002, pitcher Clem Labine in 2007, Roe in 2008, Snider in 2011, and Pafko last October. Pitcher Don Newcombe is still alive, but, strangely, was not profiled in the book.

Today, 59 years after the clincher, there are still 5 living members of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, all pitchers: Erskine, Roger Craig, Ed Roebuck, and 2 lefties who require further explanation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are 6 living members of the 1955 New York Yankees. Berra and outfielder Bob Cerv played in Game 7. Also on the roster were Ford, pitcher Don Larsen (still a year away from his moment in time), outfielder Irv Noren and infielder Tom Carroll (a Queens native who was a defensive replacement in 2 games and only played 64 games in the majors).

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

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

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

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

Long time passing.

*

October 4, 1867: At Brooklyn’s Satellite Grounds‚ 2 black teams play a match called “the championship of colored clubs” by the Daily Union newspaper. The Philadelphia Excelsiors outscore the Brooklyn Uniques‚ 37-24‚ in a game called after 7 innings on account of darkness.

October 4, 1880: At a special NL meeting in Rochester‚ the league prohibits its members from renting their grounds for use on Sundays and from selling alcoholic beverages on the premises. These rules are aimed at the Cincinnati club‚ which has sold beer and rented out the park to amateur teams for Sundays. This will lead directly to the Cincinnati club founding the American Association, to begin play in 1882. Speaking of which...

October 4, 1882: For the 1st time, an AA team beats an NL team. In a postseason exhibition game between Ohio teams, the Cincinnati Red Stockings defeat the Cleveland Spiders, 5-2.

October 4, 1884: For the 1st time, a major league (sort of) pitcher comes close to pitching back-to-back no-hitters. I say, "Sort of," because the Union Association was a joke: Essentially, they were the St. Louis Maroons, owned by league founder Henry V. Lucas, and the 11 dwarfs.

Ed Cushman pitched for that league's version of the Milwaukee Brewers. He pitched a no-hitter on September 28, then faced the Boston Reds, and tosses another 8 hitless innings. But he allows
a single in the 9th, and wins 2-0.

Having more success on this day is Sam Kimber of the American Association's Brooklyn Atlantics -- not the amateur team that helped popularize the game. This team is the forerunner of the Dodgers. For 10 innings, he pitches no-hit ball against the Toledo Blue Stockings, featuring the (possibly) 1st black player in the major leagues, Moses Fleetwood "Fleet" Walker. But the Atlantics can't score, either, and the game is called due to darkness, 0-0. Kimber's baseball success ends there: He makes 1 more appearance, with the next season's Providence Grays of the NL, and leaves the game, living until 1925.

October 4, 1891: Ted Breitenstein, a rookie for the St. Louis Browns (forerunners of the Cardinals), is given his 1st major league start on the season's final day, and pitches a no-hitter against the Louisville Colonels. He allows only 1 baserunner, a walk. The Browns win 8-0.

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

The next season, the pitching distance will be extended from 50 feet to 60 feet, 6 inches, making achievements in pitching durability a lot harder. Some people, then as now, believed the blazing speed of Rusie, "the Hoosier Thunderbolt," was a big reason why the mound was moved back. Many star pitchers of the time will never be the same, although Rusie will remain successful through the rest of the 1890s.

October 4, 1902: A controversial game is played at Exposition Park in Pittsburgh. The Pirates have a chance to set a new major league record with 103 wins. But the field is soaked and, by modern standards, unplayable. Despite this, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss demands that the game with the Reds be played.

The Reds protest by playing most of its team out of their normal positions. Outfielders Joe Kelley‚ Cy Seymour and "Turkey Mike" Donlin all smoke cigarettes while playing in the field. The starting pitcher, in the only mound appearance of his career, is usual 1st baseman Jake Beckley. He pitches 4 innings, giving up 8 runs, only 4 earned. Seymour had pitched before, but he comes in to relieve, and never pitches again. Donlin closes the game.

Rube Vickers, normally a pitcher, makes his only appearance as a catcher, and makes no effort to get errant pitches, setting a single-game record (and it would be a record for both teams combined as well) that still stands with 6 passed balls -- and he probably should have been charged with more. The Pirates win, 8-2.

But the Pittsburgh fans are not happy at this ridiculous performance, and begin to tear up the wooden stadium. Dreyfuss announces that he will refund their money, and the Reds agree to return their share of the gate as well. While the Pirates did win the NL Pennant, the NL and the AL were still "at war," and so there will be no postseason series against the AL Champion Philadelphia Athletics. At age 40, Connie Mack has managed his 1st Pennant. He will manage his 9th at 69, manage his last game at 88, and die at 93.

October 4, 1905: Just 1 point apart in the NL batting race on the final day of the season, Cincinnati Reds centerfielder Cy Seymour and Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner play against each other in a doubleheader. Seymour enters the last day of the season with a league leading .365 average, and Wagner was in 2nd place, batting .364. A very good day at the plate for Honus combined with a poor one for Cy would reverse their positions.

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

October 4, 1906: The Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-0, and notch their 116th win of the season. It remains a major league record, although it was tied in 2001 by the Seattle Mariners. But the Cubs’ winning percentage of .763 remains a record for either of the current major leagues.

Both the 1906 Cubs and the 2001 M’s found out that it doesn’t mean a whole lot if you don’t win the World Series.

October 4, 1907: Frank Leary, who pitched 2 games for the Reds this season, dies following appendicitis surgery. No antibiotics in those days. He was just 26.

October 4, 1912: After playing an exhibition game in shortstop Ray Chapman's hometown of Herrin‚ Illinois‚ the Cleveland Naps (forerunners of the Indians) board a train for the season finale in St. Louis. The train is in an accident in Southwick‚ Missouri. While no players are injured‚ the engineer is killed.

Sadly, this is a foreshadowing of the day Chapman's luck will end: In 1920, he became the 1st (and still only) player who it can be conclusively determined to have died due to injuries sustained in a major league game.

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

On the other end of the scale‚ 17-year-old Merito Acosta – a white Cuban who was one of the 1st Hispanic players in the American major leagues — plays left field alongside Walter Johnson in center field. Johnson then comes in to pitch the 8th inning, merely to lob pitches to 2 hitters. Both batters‚ Clyde Engel and Steve Yerkes, get hits, sending Johnson back to center. In relief‚ Nats catcher Eddie Ainsmith‚ in his only major league pitching appearance‚ gives up 2 triples to allow the baserunners to score.

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

The 2 runs “allowed” by the Big Train will have historical repercussions: His ERA for the season goes from 1.09 to 1.14‚ and Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA in 1968 will put Johnson’s ERA in 2nd place on the all-time list (in the post-1893 60-feet-6-inches era, anyway). The 8 pitchers sets a major league record that won’t be matched until the Dodgers do it on September 25‚ 1946. (It should surprise no one that Leo Durocher was the manager who did it.)

October 4, 1919: Game 4 of the World Series. Eddie Cicotte of the White Sox gives up only 5 hits and walks none, but makes 2 errors in an inning, causing himself to lose to the Reds, 2-0. The Reds now lead 3 games to 1 in this best-5-out-of-9 Series. It's getting very suspicious.

October 4, 1923: John Charles Carter is born in Wilmette, Illinois. We knew him as Charlton Heston -- and as historical figures Moses, Marc Antony (in 3 films), John the Baptist, El Cid, Michelangelo, King Henry VIII, Cardinal Richelieu, William Clark (of Lewis & Clark), Andrew Jackson (in 2 films), General Henry Hooker, Buffalo Bill Cody and General Charles "Chinese" Gordon; and fictional characters Judah Ben-Hur, Peer Gynt and Robert Neville. Oddly, considering his real name, he never played John Carter of Mars.

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

October 4, 1924, 90 years ago: Game 1 of the World Series. It is the 1st ever played by the Washington Senators -- and the 1st one ever pitched in by the great Walter Johnson. In contrast, the New York Giants are in their 9th out of the 21 played, their 4th in a row. Their 3rd baseman, Fred Lindstrom, at 18 years and 10 months is the youngest player in Series history, and the 1st one born after the 1st Series in 1903 to play in one. In recognition of the teams involved, the U.S. Army band plays "Dixie" for the Senators and "Sidewalks of New York" (a.k.a. "East Side, West Side, All Around the Town") for the Giants.

And while he's not the 1st President to attend a Series game (that was Woodrow Wilson in 1915), Calvin Coolidge is the 1st to attend a Series opener. He hates baseball, but his wife Grace loves it, and besides, he is running for a full term as President (he succeeded the late Warren Harding last year), and his appearance there is good politics.

George "Highpockets" Kelly and Bill Terry hit home runs off Johnson, the game goes to a 12th inning, and the Giants win it. Though he strikes out 12 batters, the Big Train loses his Series debut, 4-3.

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

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

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

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

On the official World Series highlight film, Fitzsimmons is shown limping off the field, but it’s not clear how bad the injury is. It turns out that the kneecap is broken. Once an All-Star for the Giants, who seemed to specialize in beating the Dodgers, he had crossed town to be welcomed by the Flatbush Faithful, and they wouldn’t have won the 1941 Pennant without him. But Fat Freddie (not especially fat by modern standards, certainly not compared to David Wells or CC Sabathia) will pitch in just 1 game in 1942, before retiring to the coaching ranks.

October 4, 1944, 70 years ago: The 1st all-St. Louis World Series opens with the Browns‚ as the official visiting team (both teams play at Sportsman’s Park)‚ beating the Cardinals 2-1 on George McQuinn‘s homer. Denny Galehouse is the winning pitcher, while Mort Cooper loses despite allowing just 2 hits.

It is the 1st Series in which all the games are played west of the Mississippi River. The Series is dubbed the Streetcar Series (as opposed to a Subway Series), and is played with no days off.

October 4, 1948: In a one-game playoff for the AL Pennant at Fenway Park‚ the Indians beat the Red Sox 8-3, behind 30-year-old rookie knuckleballer Gene Bearden, who wins his 20th game. It was the year of a lifetime for Bearden: The Arkansan lefty had never been that good before, and he never would be again.

Red Sox manager Joe McCarthy, who had won so much with the Yankees, ignores the well-rested rotation pitchers Ellis Kinder and Mel Parnell to go with journeyman Denny Galehouse, who was 8-7. It wasn’t a totally crazy pick: Galehouse had helped the Browns win the 1944 Pennant. With the score 1-1 in the 4th‚ Ken Keltner hits a 3-run home run over the left-field fence. Indians shortstop-manager Lou Boudreau gets 4 hits‚ including a pair of homers‚ and finishes the year with just 9 strikeouts.

Who is still alive from this game, 66 years later? For the Indians, no one: Outfielder Allie Clark, a South Amboy, New Jersey native whom the Yankees had traded with Joe Gordon to get Allie Reynolds, was the last survivor, dying in 2012. For the Red Sox, only Hall of Fame 2nd baseman Bobby Doerr and rookie outfielder Tom Wright.

That same day, in St. Louis‚ Taylor Spink‚ publisher of The Sporting News, writes in a Baltimore newspaper that Baltimore will have an AL team within 2 years: “You can put a clothespin in this: Baltimore will be in the American League‚ if not next year‚ then surely in 1950.”

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

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

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

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

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

With Don Mueller missing the World Series due to the ankle he broke in the climactic inning the day before‚ homer hero Bobby Thomson switches to 3rd base, and the Giants field the 1st all-black outfield in a World Series: Irvin in left, Rookie of the Year Willie Mays in center, and Hank Thompson in right. Thompson and Irvin had been the first black players for the Giants, both debuting on July 8, 1949 (Thompson as a starter, Irvin as a pinch-hitter).

October 4, 1953: In Game 5 of the World Series at Ebbets Field‚ Mickey Mantle hits a 3rd inning grand slam off Russ Meyer‚ and the Yanks hold on to win 11-7 in a game that features 25 hits and 47 total bases. It is only the 4th grand slam in Series history, following Edgar Smith of the 1920 Indians, Tony Lazzeri of the 1936 Yankees, and Mickey's teammate Gil McDougald in 1951.

October 4, 1958: Hank Bauer hits a home run, to extend his World Series hitting streak to 17 games. This record has not been seriously threatened: Roberto Clemente and Derek Jeter both got to 14, but that's as close as anyone's come. Don Larsen and Ryne Duren combine on a shutout, and the Yankees beat the Milwaukee Braves 4-0, to close to within 2 games to 1.

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

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

October 4, 1964, 50 years ago: The Phillies bomb the Reds 10-0 at Crosley Field. The 2 teams then sit in the visitors’ clubhouse listening to a radio, hoping that the Cardinals lose, which would force a 3-way tie for the Pennant. The Mets take a 3-2 lead into the 5th inning‚ but St. Louis scores 3 runs to regain the lead. The Mets score once more, but the Cardinals complete their scoring with 3 in the 8th to win 11-5. Bob Gibson wins in relief.

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

October 4, 1967: The World Series opens at Fenway Park, the 1st Series game played there in 21 years, the 1st played in Boston in 19 years. With ace Jim Lonborg having pitched the season finale, Red Sox manager Dick Williams chooses not to send him out on 2 days' rest, and sends out Jose Santiago instead. The move almost works: Santiago pitches very well, and boosts his own cause by hitting a home run.

But the Cardinals had won their Pennant going away, giving manager Red Schoendienst time to pace his rotation, and allow his ace, Bob Gibson, to start Games 1, 4 and 7. With Lou Brock backing Gibson up with 4 hits and 2 stolen bases, the Cards win, 2-1.

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

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

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

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

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

In a 17-1 rout of the Twins‚ Kansas City’s Willie Wilson becomes the first major league player ever to be credited with 700 at-bats in one season. Wilson will post 705 at bats‚ the highest in the 20th Century. He also sets the AL record for singles in a season with 184‚ eclipsing the mark Sam Rice of the Senators set in 1925.

Wilson also becomes only the 2nd player in history to collect 100 hits from each side of the plate‚ matching the feat accomplished by Garry Templeton of the Cardinals the year before. The loss ends Minnesota’s club-record 12-game winning streak.

The Dodgers break a 1-1 tie on a 4th inning HR from Steve Garvey to beat the Astros 2-1. Loser Nolan Ryan goes 11-10‚ while Jerry Reuss wins his 18th. Houston now leads the NL West by 1 game with 1 to play. If the Dodgers win tomorrow, they can force a Playoff for the title.

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

October 4, 1981: The Mets fire manager Joe Torre and his entire coaching staff. You can’t win without the horses, and, at the time, the Mets did not have the horses. Joe is soon hired by another of his former teams, the Atlanta Braves, where he has a few more horses.

The Reds, who blank Atlanta, 3-0, finish with the best record in the major leagues in this strike-shortened season: 66-42. But because the didn't win the NL West in the 1st half (pre-strike, the Dodgers did) or the 2nd half (post-strike, won by the Astros), they will not make the Playoffs. The Dodgers and Astros will face each other in the NL Division Series.

October 4, 1985: The Yankees begin a season-ending 3-game series against the Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium. They have to sweep the series to win the AL East, or else the Jays win it for the 1st time.

The 1st game is tied in the top of the 9th, when catcher Butch Wynegar blasts a home run off Toronto closer Tom Henke, sailing over the right field fence and bouncing on the artificial turf of the football field past the pathetic little high school-style scoreboard the Big X had. The Yankees win, 4-3.

Rod Scurry got the win in relief of the ineffective Ed Whitson, and Dave Righetti got the save. Jimmy Key had started for the Jays, and would end up winning a World Series for each team — but neither team, nor he, does so this season.

Had the Yankees gone on to sweep the series, the Butch Wynegar Game would be a Yankee legend. Alas...

October 4, 1986: On the next-to-last day of the season‚ Righetti saves both ends of the Yankees‘ doubleheader sweep of the Red Sox, to give him a major league record 46 saves. It doesn't matter though, as the Sox had already clinched the AL East title.

Bruce Sutter and Dan Quisenberry had shared the record with 45. The record is now 62 by Francisco Rodriguez in 2008, for a lefthander it’s 53 by Randy Myers in 1993, and for a Yankee it’s 53 by Mariano Rivera in 2004.

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

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

On this same day, at Arlington Stadium, Charlie Hough and the Rangers lose to the Seattle Mariners, 7-4. The Texas knuckleballer is the last pitcher to start 40 games in a season.

October 4, 1991: Trailing 3-2 in the 9th‚ Cleveland's Jim Thome hits a 2-out, 2-run homer, his 1st major league round-tripper, to give the Indians a 4-3 lead over the Yankees. Steve Olin pitches the 9th to save the win for reliever Eric Bell.

Thome will go on to become the Indians' all-time home run leader, and a baseball legend who will make the Hall of Fame. Olin will not -- through, as far as I can tell, no fault of his own.

October 4, 1992: Juan Gonzalez of the Rangers becomes the youngest home run champion in baseball history: 22 years, 11 months and 19 days. With 43 round-trippers, he breaks the record of Joe DiMaggio, who was 46 days younger when he clinched the title in 1937.

Of course, DiMaggio didn't need steroids to do it. His drug was decidedly not performance-enhancing: Nicotine.

October 4, 1995: One of the wildest games in baseball history is played at the original Yankee Stadium. It starts at 8:10 PM, and ends at 1:22 AM, in the rain, in the bottom of the 15th inning. It features home runs by Ken Griffey Jr. and Vince Coleman for the Mariners; and, for the Yankees, by Ruben Sierra, Don Mattingly, Paul O’Neill, and, to walk off, Jim Leyritz. It is the 1st postseason walkoff homer at Yankee Stadium since Chris Chambliss, 19 years earlier -- and the first postseason walkoff hit of any kind since a Lou Piniella single in the 10th won Game 4 of the 1978 World Series.

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

October 4, 1999: The Mets whitewash the Reds‚ 5-0 at Riverfront Stadium (by this point, renamed Cinergy Field)‚ to become the NL’s wild card team. Al Leiter hurls a complete game 2-hitter for the win.

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

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

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

October 4, 2003: For the 1st time in 95 years, the Chicago Cubs win a postseason series. They beat the Braves 5-1 in Game 5 of the NLDS at Turner Field. Maybe that's why the Braves want to get ouf of "The Ted": They can't stand playing in a stadium where the Cubs won a postseason series for the only time since 1908.

On the same day, the Red Sox beat the A’s, 3-1, on Trot Nixon’s walkoff homer in the 11th inning. This forces a 5th and deciding game in their ALDS. Think of the odds you could have gotten, before the season started, betting on the Cubs and the Red Sox to both win a postseason series that year.

Elsewhere, the Florida Marlins beat the Giants 7-6, to win their NLDS. The game ends in bang-bang fashion as Jeff Conine, the recently-returned "Mr. Marlin," throws out J.T. Snow at home plate as Snow tries to score the tying run on Jeffrey Hammonds' single.

October 4, 2005: John Hart, who had previously built the Indians' 1995-2001 Playoff teams, resigns as general manager of the Rangers. His replacement is his assistant, Jon Daniels. He becomes the youngest GM in major league history. Within days, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays follow with their own 28-year-old GM, Andrew Friedman -- no relation to Andrew Freedman, the lunatic who owned the Giants at the dawn of the 20th Century and became the most hated man in New York sports.

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

October 4, 2012: At the conclusion of their worst season in 47 years, the Red Sox fire Bobby Valentine as manager. He had restored his reputation by managing in Japan, but had ruined it again with the Red Sox.

Despite being 1 of only 3 living human beings to have managed the Mets to a Pennant, somehow, I don’t think he’ll ever get hired to manage another major league team… at least, not on this continent.

1 comment:

rent slave said...

Who was the last Brooklyn Dodger to play in the majors?

BOB ASPROMONTE.He played as an 18 year old in 1956.Then finished up with the Mets in 1971.