Monday, October 20, 2014

October 19, 2004: 10 Years After The Slap Play

October 19, 2004, 10 years ago today: Game 6 of the ALCS. The Yankees had been 3 outs away from a sweep and the Pennant in Game 4. But the Sox had come from behind in both that game and Game 5 to make it a 3-2 series.

No matter, the series had come back to Yankee Stadium, home of Mystique and Aura and 39 American League Pennants and 26 World Championships. All the Yanks had to do was win tonight, and all those brand-new Sox memories would have been as wasted as Carlton Fisk’s homer in ’75.

Except Curt Schilling was pitching for the Sox. So badly hurt that he couldn’t pitch well in Game 1, he’d had a special surgery on his ankle that allowed him to pitch tonight.

And the Yankees refused to test that ankle by bunting on him. John McGraw would have done it. Casey Stengel would have done it. Earl Weaver (not a New York manager but a crafty one) would have done it. You can be damn sure that Billy Martin would have done it.

Joe Torre didn't do it.  What good is “class” if you lose? Especially to The Scum?

Schilling pitched 7 solid innings, and Mark Bellhorn (cough-steroids-cough) hit a home run. It was a reverse of the Jeffrey Maier play in 1996: The ball hit a front-row fan in the chest and bounced back onto the field. It was an obvious home run, but the umpires ruled it went off the wall. Sox manager Terry Francona appealed, and the ruling was (sadly, but correctly) changed to a homer.

The Sox still led 4-2 in the bottom of the 8th, but the Yankees got Derek Jeter on 1st. With 1 out, Alex Rodriguez came to the plate.

Now, keep in mind, while he hadn’t gotten a key hit that could have won Game 4 or Game 5, he does not yet have the reputation as a player who can’t handle the postseason or other clutch situations. And the pitcher is Bronson Arroyo, Captain Cornrows (cough-steroids-cough), whose purpose pitch to A-Rod’s back at Fenway back in July led to a nasty brawl.

Alex hits a weak grounder back to the mound, and as Arroyo tries to make the tag just before 1st base, he (or so it first appears) drops the ball. It’s been 18 years (minus 6 days) since the Bill Buckner Game, and now, at another New York ballpark in October, a ball rolls away from 1st base down the right-field line, and a run scores against the Red Sox! It’s 4-3 Boston, and A-Rod is on 2nd with the tying run!

The Stadium is going bananas! Red Sox fans are in full “Oh, noooo, not again! It can’t be happening again!” mode.

Except this call is reversed as well. It’s The Slap Play. A-Rod slapped the ball out of Arroyo’s glove.

Now, I don’t know why that’s not allowed. After all, a runner trying to score is allowed to crash into the catcher and thus to try to knock the ball out of his glove. Pete Rose did it to Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game and, at least until 1989, was usually praised for it. Lou Piniella tried to do it to Carlton Fisk in a 1976 Yanks-Sox game, but failed, and a brawl resulted. And in the 1951 World Series, Eddie Stanky infamously kicked the ball out of Phil Rizzuto’s glove at 2nd base, to break up a double play and keep a Giants rally going, and the Giants won the game -- but lost the Series.

If a play like The Slap Play is illegal, shouldn't crashing into the catcher or kicking the ball out of a glove also be illegal? There's an inconsistency there: Either all such plays should be legal, or none should be.

But the rule is in place, and A-Rod’s slap met baseball's legal definition of interference, and he was called out.

What’s more, Jeter was sent back to 1st. That’s the part that bothers me, ruling-wise: Jeter had nothing to do with the interference, and he would have had 2nd legitimately even if A-Rod had done nothing out of the ordinary, and Arroyo had been allowed to properly tag him out. It wasn’t Jeter's fault: 2nd base was rightfully his, interference or no, even if 3rd and home were not.

This killed the rally, but, as mad as I was at the umpires, A-Rod was rightfully the real target of Yankee Fans’ wrath, including my own. This was the beginning of A-Rod's image as "a player who screws the Yankees over in the clutch," and he did not shake it until October 2009. Though he did his damnedest to restore it in the next 3 Octobers.

The Sox held on to win by that same 4-2 score, and the series was tied, the 1st time a Major League Baseball team had ever come back from 3-games-to-none down to force a Game 7.

For the first time since I became aware of the Curse of the Bambino, I believed it was not going to work. As the man who popularized the Curse, Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy, pointed out, the kinds of things that usually went against the Red Sox and/or in the Yankees favor, were now working the other way around.

As bad as the next night was, Game 6 was really the day that any curse, jinx, hex, hoodoo, hammer, whammy, whommy, whatever you want to call it, that the Yankees had over the Red Sox came to an end.

And those of us who are old enough to remember could feel it coming. I had no confidence at all that the Yankees would win Game 7, not even at home, especially with their starting pitching options so messed-up. As historian and Red Sox fan Doris Kearns Goodwin likes to say, “There’s always these omens in baseball.” This was an omen to rival Damien Thorn.

Had the Yankees won Game 6, there would have been no Game 7. David Ortiz's "heroics" of Game 4 and Game 5 would have been meaningless, as they were the year before. They would have been no more consequential than Carlton Fisk's home run to win Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, or Jim Leyritz's Playoff homer against the Seattle Mariners in the 1995 AL Division Series was for us: Thrilling, but not preventing the ultimate loss of the series. The Yankees would have prepared for the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, and probably won it.

If that had happened, you can be damn sure that the outcry from Red Sox fans (and fans of other teams that hate the Yankees) that, due to the steroid use of A-Rod, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield, "The Yankees cheated" and should be stripped of their Pennant and title. And their willing accomplices in the media would have gone along with it. There would have been a cloud over the Yankees, the way there never has been over the Red Sox, who, through Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, were far more reliant on performance-enhancing drugs, and, from 2003 to 2013, the Big Papi Years, probably wouldn't even have made the Playoffs, much less won 3 World Series.

The Yankees wouldn't have gotten away with it, as the Red Sox always have.

Still, having that cloud over us -- which we essentially had put over us anyway -- would have been preferable to the insufferable unearned arrogance of the Boston fans of the last 10 years, especially the bandwagoners.

*

Indeed, October 19 has been a bad day in the history of New York City baseball, many times.

October 19, 1976: For the 1st time, a World Series game is played at the renovated version of the original Yankee Stadium. However, as was the case in the Stadium's 1st World Series in 1923, and would be at the new Stadium's 1st Series game in 2009, the premiere is a loss.

Dan Driessen, the 1st designated hitter in World Series history, contributes 2 singles and a homer to the Cincinnati Reds’ 3rd straight triumph over the Yankees. The final score is 6-2.

The Reds wrapped up back-to-back titles the next day, and, for only the 2nd (and so far last) time in their history, the Yankees were swept in a World Series. That has never happened to the Mets. Small consolation for them.

Speaking of whom, October 19 has been an even worse day in their history...

*

October 19, 1986: The Red Sox pound Dwight Gooden and 4 Met relievers in a 9-3 win. The Sox have now won the first 2 games of the World Series, both at Shea Stadium.

The next 3 – that’s if a Game 5 is even necessary – will be at cozy Fenway Park. Suddenly, it looks like the Mets do not, as their arrogant fans believed pretty much since the end of the ’85 regular season, have, as their new fight song says, “the teamwork to make the dream work.” The dream is dying, and the little green pinball machine in the Back Bay is not a fitting emergency room in which to save its life.

Shocked at the defeat of the “inevitable” World Champion-to-be Mets, the Daily News puts out a next day’s headline of surprise and anger, referencing a food familiar to Bostonians: “BEANS!”

Of course, we know how that story ends. Don't we, Sox fans? Don't we????

*

October 19, 1999: A wild NLCS, just 2 days after Robin Ventura’s “Grand Slam Single” won Game 5 at Shea Stadium, moves on to an even wilder Game 6 at Turner Field in Atlanta. The Braves blow Al Leiter off the mound with 5 runs in the 1st inning, and later lead the Mets 7-3.

But the Mets storm back, with Mike Piazza tying the game with a home run. The Braves take an 8-7 lead late, but the Mets tie it. The Mets take a 9-8 lead in the 10th, but the Braves tie it.

In the bottom of the 11th, the Braves load the bases, and Met manager Bobby Valentine, instead of bringing in righthanded reliever Octavio Dotel to pitch to righthanded hitter Andruw Jones, brings in lefthander Kenny Rogers. Rogers has been one of the top pitchers in baseball in regular-season play the last few years, but his postseason experience has been limited to some terrible outings for the Yankees in 1996 and ’97. For whatever reason, Valentine brings him in to face the Braves’ kinderwonder from the Netherlands Antilles.

I watched this game on TV with my father, who was a nominal Met fan (the only sports team he really cared about was Rutgers football), and it was this series, with all its twists and turns, that led him to finally understand what lunatics like me see in the game of baseball.

And I remember telling him, at several points in the game, that this game and this series deserved to end with a hero, and that it would be a shame if it ended with a goat.

Did it end with a hero or a goat? It involved the Mets, so take a wild guess.

With a 3-2 count on Jones, Rogers threw a pitch low and outside. Ball 4. 10-9 Braves. Winning run forced home. Ballgame over. Pennant dream over. Mets lose. Theeeeeeee Mets lose.

If Jones had gotten a hit, to drive home the Pennant-winning run, he would have been a hero, and you couldn’t really criticize anyone on the Mets. They had fought gallantly, at moments even brilliantly, from a 3-games-to-none deficit.

Of course, no one had ever come back from such a deficit to win a postseason series. Not in baseball, anyway. None had even forced a Game 7. None had even forced a Game 6 until the Braves themselves did it the year before against the San Diego Padres in the NLCS.

Back from 3-0 to win the series? That was never going to happen in baseball. Everybody who had ever watched baseball was thinking that in October 1999. If only it had stayed that way for 5 more years, plus a couple more days.

Was the goat Rogers, for pitching poorly when his team needed him to get one more out and get out of the 11th-inning jam? Or was the goat Valentine, for yet another dimwitted bullpen move? (Paging Mel Rojas, and that was in a game with far less significance.)

Did this move convince him to leave Leiter in to face Luis Sojo in Game 5 of the next year’s World Series after 141 pitches? Who knows. Bobby V himself probably doesn’t know.

What is known is that the Mets had taken their fans on a thrilling ride, their first October ride in 11 years, and provided them with treasured moments on the ride... and then they crashed. What a way for the Mets and their fans to end the 20th Century.

*

October 19, 2006: Game 7 of the NLCS at Shea Stadium. Mets and Cardinals for the Pennant. In the top of the 6th, Met starter Oliver Perez has held the Cards to a 1-1 tie, but Scott Rolen blasts a drive to deep left field. It looks like a 2-run home run, the kind of big-game shot that fans of the losing team will lament for the rest of their lives.

Except Endy Chavez jumps up, reaches over the top of the wall, and snares it. He then fires back to the infield to double Jim Edmonds off 1st and end the threat. Shea erupts in fan noise.

It seemed like one of “these omens in baseball”: The greatest catch made by a Met since Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda in the 1969 World Series; potentially, the most important defensive play made by a Met since the "Ball Off the Wall Play" against the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 20, 1973, by Cleon Jones, Wayne Garrett and Ron Hodges.

This was a sign. This was it. This was the Mets’ year. And the Yankees had already been eliminated. They’re taking New York back. They're taking New York back tonight!

In the top of the 9th, the score still 1-1, the Cards had a man on, and catcher Yadier Molina stepped up against Met reliever Aaron Heilman. If Heilman could just get out of this inning, the Mets would have the meat of their order coming up in the bottom of the 9th. And while Molina is one of the best defensive catchers of our time, he was not, then, regarded as much of a hitter.


But he hits a drive to left, and Chavez can’t reach this one. No one can. Home run. Cards 3, Mets 1, and the Mets are down to their last 3 outs.

In the bottom of the 9th, Jose Valentin and Chavez lead off with singles off rookie closer Adam Wainwright. The tying runs are on base, and the Pennant-winning run at the plate, with nobody out. And Shea is buzzing again, as if the Molina homer hadn't happened.

But Wainwright strikes Cliff Floyd out looking, and gets Jose Reyes to fly out. Wainwright walks Paul Lo Duca to bring up Carlos Beltrán with the bases loaded, with the Pennant-winning run on 1st, and 2 men out.

Wainwright throws a curve on the outside corner. Just like Floyd, Beltran never even takes the bat off his shoulder. Strike 3. Ballgame over. Pennant dream over. Mets lose. Theeeeeeee Mets lose.

For the 2nd time, the Cardinals have a Pennant-winning top of the 9th home run. The first time was Jack Clark against the Dodgers in Game 6 of the 1985 NLCS.

his was an absolutely crushing defeat. How could the Mets blow it? After all, they were the best team in baseball, right? Certainly, the 97-win Mets were better than the 83-win Cards, right? Beyond any doubt, the Mets were now the best team in New York, better than the Yankees, right? How could this happen?

It could happen because the Mets choked. Again. The Curse of Kevin Mitchell lives.

No matter, they were a young team. The Cards had the edge of experience: This was their 6th postseason trip in 7 years, and they had won the Pennant just 2 years earlier. This was a step forward for the Mets: As the old saying goes, you have to learn how to lose before you can learn how to win. Just as the Mets needed to get close in 1984 and very close in 1985 before they could win it all in 1986, this was something to build on. Surely, they would be back in 2007, and beyond, and would take over New York from the Yankees, and take over baseball.

And, as we've now seen, the potential was there.  The Yankees may have ended up winning the World Series in 2009, but didn't make the Playoffs in 2008, 2013 and 2014, blew the ALCS in 2010 and 2012, and blew the ALDS in 2011. So the chance to leapfrog the Yankees and "take over New York" ended up being there, if only the Mets could have taken it.

Instead, Game 7 of the ’06 NLCS was the last postseason game played at Shea Stadium. They’re still looking for that 4th LCS win. And looking. And looking. This game foreshadowed their agonizing collapses that saw them miss the Playoffs on the last day of the season in both 2007 and 2008.

Ironically, the temporary hero Chavez and the permanent goat Heilman would end up being traded away together, the Mets sending them to the Mariners after the 2008 season. And, in October 2013, Carlos Beltran played in the World Series... for the Cardinals.

Today? Molina is still with the Cardinals, reached the postseason for the 8th time in his career, reached the NLCS for the 7th, has appeared in 4 World Series, winning 2, has been an All-Star in each of the last 6 seasons, could well receive a Gold Glove for the 7th straight season, and is generally regarded as the best catcher in baseball.

Beltran is a Yankee, but had an injury-plagued season.

Chavez hasn't played a full season since 2006, although this year he had a decent season as a reserve outfielder with the Playoff-contending Mariners.

Heilman, not yet 36 years old, hasn't pitched in 2 years, since the 2012 Round Rock Express, the Texas Rangers' Triple-A team. He probably won't throw another pitch in official professional baseball (this is where being lefthanded would have really helped him), unless he can hook up with an "independent league" team and get noticed again that way.

And the Mets? They've never played another postseason game. An 8-year drought isn't terrible in the grand scheme of things, even in this era when 10 out of 30 teams make the MLB postseason... but, given the Mets' struggles to even be competitive since opening Citi Field in 2009, it's felt like a lot longer.

*

October 19, 2007: After 12 seasons and 12 Playoff appearances, including 10 AL East titles, 6 Pennants and 4 World Championships, manager Joe Torre rejects the Yankees' new contract offer, which calls for a pay cut.

The non-negotiable offer -- a 1-year, $5 million deal, with $1 million incentives per postseason round and an $8 million option for 2009 if the Yankees reached next year's (2008's) World Series -- was considered by many, including Joe himself, to be insulting, and a ploy to oust the popular manager without upsetting the team's fans.

Joe Girardi would soon be hired as manager. Torre would be signed to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers. He would lead them to the NLCS in 2008 and '09, but lose both times, and he has since retired. Girardi has now led the Yankees to 4 Playoff berths including a World Championship.

Maybe Torre's leaving was for the best.

*

Yes, many times, October 19 has been a bad day for New York baseball.

Today, October 19, 2014, a team the Yankees hate, the Kansas City Royals, and a team that used to represent New York in the National League, the San Francisco Giants, are getting ready to play each other in the World Series.

It's going to be a long off-season around here.

*

October 19, 1216: King John of England dies in Newark. No, he wasn’t carjacked. This was Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire, not Newark-on-Passaic in New Jersey. He died of dysentery, and was not quite 50 years old. One of the least effective and most-hated nglish monarchs, he is succeeded by his 9-year-old son, Henry (later remembered as King Henry I).

October 19, 1453: In Champions League action, Bordeaux defeats Arsenal, and manager Harry Lancaster is sacked.


Actually, no. The French army retakes Bordeaux, meaning that the only part of France still under English control is the port of Calais.

The Hundred Years War is over, after 115 years. But by no means should England, and King Henry VI in particular, feel relief: Soon, the Wars of the Roses will begin.

October 19, 1781: It took a combined U.S.-French all-star team, but the British are beaten at Yorktown, Virginia. Representatives of British commander Charles, Lord Cornwallis, handed over his sword and formally surrendered in person to George Washington and Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau.

The War of the American Revolution is not over, but this is the battle that ends what would, today, be called “major combat operations.” The British had the best navy in the world, and along with France one of the 2 best armies. But they fought this war as if their commander-in-chief was Juande Ramos.

Cornwallis himself, later 1st Marquess Cornwallis, got a bum rap: Before the war, he argued against the Stamp Act in the House of Lords; during it, he won battles at Bound Brook, New Jersey and Brandywine and Germantown (now part of Philadelphia), Pennsylvania. After the war, he served as Governor-General of India, and as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland argued for Catholic emancipation there. So he was actually a pretty good general, and not at all a bad guy.

October 19, 1810: Cassius Marcellus Clay is born in Madison County, Kentucky. A State legislator, he became one of America’s foremost abolitionists and public speakers in the pre-Civil War years.

He would tell his audience, “For those of you who believe in the laws of God, I have this,” and reach into a pocket and pull out a Bible. “For those of you who believe in the laws of man, I have this,” and reach into a pocket and pull out a booklet containing the text of the Constitution. “And for those of you who believe in neither, I have these,” and reach into his pocket and pull out a pair of dueling pistols. Abraham Lincoln appointed him Ambassador to Russia, and he soon came home and commanded a regiment in the Civil War.

The irony is that, when he is remembered at all today, he is remembered as the namesake of someone whose great-grandfather, an emancipated slave, grew up on land owned by Clay. His name was Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., but he changed it, calling it, of all things, “a slave name.” I wonder how much Muhammad Ali actually knew about the original Cassius Clay at the time?

October 19, 1812: CSKA Moscow, the club of the Red Army, defeats Paris Saint-Germain under gaffeur Napoleon Bonaparte.

Actually, Emperor Napoleon I of France retreats from Moscow, establishing the First Rule of European Warfare: Don’t try to invade Moscow if you know it’s going to get cold soon.

October 19, 1873: Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and Rutgers draft the first code of American football rules. At the time, however, “American football” still looked a lot more like soccer than the derivation of rugby it would soon become.

October 19, 1876: Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown is born in Nyesville, Indiana. “Centennial” because 1876 was the nation’s 100th Anniversary. A farm accident as a boy left him with one finger missing and another one mangled and useless.

But that disability became a strength, as it enabled him to grip a baseball in such a way that he had one of the best curveballs of all time. “Three-Finger” Brown became a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.

October 19, 1896: Robert Arthur O’Farrell is born in Waukegan, Illinois. A fine defensive catcher, Bob O'Farrell played for the 1926 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.


*

October 19, 1900: Roy Worters is born in Toronto. A star with the New York Americans, he was probably the best goaltender the New York Tri-State Area ever saw, at least until Billy Smith. Yes, that includes Ranger Hall-of-Famers Chuck Rayner, Gump Worsley and Eddie Giacomin.

He won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in 1929 – but not the Vezina Trophy as best goalie. That went to George Hainsworth of Montreal. Worters did win the Vezina in 1931. Known as “Shrimp” because he was just 5-foot-3, he came up big many times for the Amerks.

He is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, along with teammates Red Dutton, Lionel Conacher, Billy Burch, Sweeney Schriner and Bullet Joe Simpson – quite a haul of honors for a franchise that only existed for 17 seasons, and made the Playoffs 5 times and never reached the Stanley Cup Finals. They did reach the Semifinals in 1936, and again in ’38 after a hernia had ended Worters’ career.

October 19, 1923: Citing the unsavory characters associated with the sport‚ American League President Ban Johnson persuades AL owners to prohibit boxing matches in their parks. The National League declines to go along with it. A month earlier, Jack Dempsey and Luis Firpo had their wild heavyweight title fight at the Polo Grounds, an NL park.

But the Yankees had already hosted the first pro prizefight at Yankee Stadium, with Benny Leonard successfully defending the lightweight title in a unanimous decision against Lew Tendler on July 24. In July 1927, with Johnson having been forced out due to illness, the Yankees broke his taboo by staging former heavyweight champ Dempsey against future heavyweight champ Jack Sharkey, in between Dempsey’s two fights against Gene Tunney. This was the last significant fight Dempsey would win.

October 19, 1943: Streptomycin, the first antibiotic remedy for tuberculosis, is isolated by researchers at Rutgers University. Rutgers has had a lot of victories in the laboratory. On athletic fields, uh, let me get back to you.

October 19, 1945: One heck of a day to be born. John Arthur Lithgow in Rochester, New York -- great actor, and author of children's books. Patricia Ireland, in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. Longtime President of the National Organization for Women. Jeannie Carolyn Stephenson in Stamford, Texas.  Better known as Jeannie C. Riley, the singer of “Harper Valley P.T.A.” And, in the Baltimore suburb of Towson, Maryland, drag queen/actor Harris Glenn Milstead, a.k.a. Divine. As far as I know, though, none had anything to do with sports.

I often find days where 2 famous people were born, or even 3.  But 4, and I’ve heard of all of them? That doesn't happen very often.

October 19, 1949: Three weeks after acquiring shortstop Chico Carrasquel from the Brooklyn Dodgers organization for cash and 2 minor leaguers‚ the Chicago White Sox all but steal 2nd baseman Nellie Fox from the Philadelphia Athletics for catcher Joe Tipton.

Carrasquel was not the 1st good shortstop to get stuck behind Pee Wee Reese in Brooklyn, nor the last, but he might have been the best. And if the A’s had hung onto Fox, who knows, maybe they would have been the team that stayed in Philly, and the Phillies would have been the team that moved.

(Actually, when I wrote this, I was forgetting the money situation: Connie Mack and his sons were bankrupt, while the Phillies were owned by Bob Carpenter, a member of both the Carpenter and the DuPont family, who essentially had unlimited resources. Once he got control of the Phils, the A's were doomed in Philadelphia.)

Also on this day, Clifford Lynn Dickey is born in Osawotamie, Kansas. He would have sounded a lot better playing football as "Cliff Dickey." Instead, he went by "Lynn Dickey." Still, he is probably still the best-known player in Kansas State’s football history, and was named the all-time quarterback in Big Eight history when that league evolved into the Big Twelve. He and his successor at KSU, Steve Grogan, are the only KSU players to have their number retired – both wore Number 11.

He went on to play for the Houston Oilers and Green Bay Packers, helping the Packers to the 1982 NFC Central Division Title; famously outdueling Joe Theismann of the Washington Redskins in the highest-scoring Monday Night Football game ever, a 48-47 win in 1983; and steering the Pack through the biggest snowfall in NFL history, 15 inches, in a 21-0 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1985. He now hosts a sports-talk show on a Kansas City radio station.

*

October 19, 1954, 60 years ago: Samuel Allardyce is born in Dudley, West Midlands, England. Big Sam – or Fat Sam, as those of us who don’t like him, those of us with taste, call him – is best known for both playing for, and later managing, Bolton Wanderers in the English Football League.

He now manages the East End, London club known (incongruously) as West Ham United. He's mean, he’s corrupt, he’s a liar, and he’s a bastard.

Also on this day, Joseph Washington Bryant is born in Philadelphia. Joe was an All-Star with his hometown 76ers, known as “Jellybean.” He went on to coach the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks, and now coaches a pro team in Thailand.

His son is Kobe Bryant. And if you shorten the sounds of “KOH-bee BRIGH-unt,” well, you do the pronunciation.

October 19, 1956: Bruce Weber is born in Milwaukee. He coached the basketball team at -- no, not Weber State -- the University of Southern Illinois into the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, and led the University of Illinois to 2 Big Ten Championships and a trip to the 2005 National Championship Game. He is now the head coach at Kansas State.

 Ironically, as an athlete, he played baseball at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but was cut from their basketball team.

October 19, 1962: Evander Holyfield is born in Atmore, Alabama. He’s hardly without his flaws, but this multiple-time heavyweight champion of the world did boxing a huge favor by exposing Mike Tyson as what he is: A punk and a coward who could dish it out (as well as anybody ever has) but couldn’t take it. He’s also the only man to knock down, let alone the only one ever to defeat, Riddick Bowe, although he only won 1 of their 3 fights.

October 19, 1964, 50 years ago: Fred Hutchinson dies of cancer. The manager of the Cincinnati Reds was only 45. The team had made a great run down the stretch to try to win him a Pennant, but fell 1 game short of the Cardinals.

Hutch and the Reds had won the Pennant in 1961, beating out the Milwaukee Braves, before falling to the Yankees in the World Series, the only one Cincinnati hosted in a 30-year stretch. Ironically, the last time the Reds had won the Pennant, in 1940, they beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, a team which featured Hutch as a pitcher. He had a 95-71 career record, a 3.73 ERA, a 113 ERA+, a 1.281 WHIP, and was an All-Star in 1951.

The Reds retired his Number 1. The next season, Major League Baseball began presenting the Hutch Award, to the active player who "best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire of Fred Hutchinson by persevering through adversity." The inaugural winner was Mickey Mantle. Other winners connected with the Yankees have been Joe Torre, Tommy John, Jim Abbott, David Cone, Jason Giambi, John Olerud and Raul Ibanez -- but only Mantle and Cone were Yankees when they received the award. No player then with the Mets has ever received it, although it has been awarded to Torre, Olerud and Ray Knight while with other teams.

October 19, 1965: The Mets purchase Jerry Grote from the Houston Astros. He will be the starting catcher on their 1969 World Championship and 1973 Pennant teams.

Only 3 men have been starting catchers on Met teams that reached the World Series: Grote, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza; and only Grote and Carter have helped them go all the way.

In fact, from 1969 to 1977, both starting catchers for New York’s baseball teams, Grote and Thurman Munson, wore Number 15. And, between Elston Howard's 32 in 1962 and Carter's 8 in 1986, no New York team won a World Series without a Number 15 behind the plate.

Also on this day, Bradley Lee Daugherty is born in Black Mountain, North Carolina. A star at the University of North Carolina, Brad Daugherty was widely expected to be the top pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. The Philadelphia 76ers held that pick. Then, in one of the biggest bonehead trades in NBA history, Sixers owner Harold Katz traded that pick, and thus Daugherty, to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Roy Hinson and cash.

Now, Hinson is one of the best players ever to come out of Central Jersey (Somerset County's Franklin High School), and was a star at Rutgers. At the time, there was nothing wrong with wanting a healthy Roy Hinson on your team. But giving up Daugherty was a mistake.

The Sixers also traded Moses Malone that day, so they traded a Hall of Fame center, who had only gotten them the 1 NBA Championship the franchise has now won in the last 47 seasons, and a guy who would have been an ideal successor as Malone aged.

Daugherty became the Cavs’ all-time leading scorer and all-time leading rebounder, distinctions he held until 2008, when those totals were surpassed, respectively, by LeBron James and Žydrūnas Ilgauskas. They never won a title, though, only getting as far as the 1992 Eastern Conference Finals. A back injury cut short his career, but he was a 5-time All-Star, the Cavs have retired his Number 43, and was a unanimous choice among fans as the center on the Cavs’ 30th Anniversary All-Time Team. He would also be named to the ACC 50th Anniversary men's basketball team in 2002 and inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

He has run several businesses, made a fortune above and beyond his basketball salaries, and works for ESPN as an analyst for college basketball and NASCAR. Yes, a black man announcing for NASCAR. He loves it. He may be black, but he's also from North Carolina. He even sponsored a racing team before joining the ESPN NASCAR broadcast crew. (He had to sell the team to avoid a conflict of interest.) The reason he wore 43 was in tribute to the number on the car of the man he calls “my favorite sportsman,” North Carolina’s own Richard Petty.

*

October 19, 1972: Keith Charles Foulke is born at Ellsworth Air Force Base in Box Elder, South Dakota, and grows up in Huffman, Texas, outside Houston. He was the closer who got the final out of the 2004 World Series * for the Boston Red Sox, a bouncer up the middle from Edgar Renteria of the St. Louis Cardinals, which Foulke caught and tossed to 1st baseman Doug Mientkiewicz.

He previously reached the postseason with the Chicago White Sox in 2000 and the Oakland Athletics in 2003, that time losing an ALDS to the Red Sox. Knowing how their bullpen had failed them that year, the Red Sox signed him. He is now retired.

October 19, 1975: During a break in the World Series, The Boston Globe uses aerial photography to measure the exact distance from home plate to the foul pole at the left-field wall at Fenway Park, a.k.a. the Green Monster. Since the 1934 renovation, the distance has been posted as a perilously close 315 feet. The recent trend of posting fence distances in the metric system led to a second posting of 96 meters. But hardly anybody believes the 315/96 figure: Most fans think it’s closer, maybe even considerably closer.

A man who’d studied aerial photos taken from World War II reconnaissance planes, to prepare for missions bombing the photographed targets later, decides that the distance is exactly 304.779 feet. That’s 304 feet, 9.3 inches. More than 10 feet shorter than it has been officially alleged to be. Art Keefe and writer George Sullivan measure it later in the month at 309 feet‚ 4 inches.

In 1990, the Red Sox finally conceded that it wasn't 315 feet. The Wall was relabeled as 310 feet, or 94.5 meters. I wonder who Ted Williams believed. After all, he not only had to play that Wall as the Sox’ longtime left fielder, but had been, himself, a pilot in World War II (and the Korean War), and was noted for his fine eyesight. I’ll bet he didn’t buy the 315 figure or the 310 one.

October 19, 1976: Michael Brian Young is born in Covina, California. The 3rd baseman for the Texas Rangers won the 2005 American League batting title, won the MVP award of the 2006 All-Star Game, and drove in the winning run at the 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. He helped he Rangers win their first 2 Pennants, but not a World Series.

He began to decline in 2012, was traded twice, and retired before the 2014 season. He is the Rangers' all-time hits leader.

October 19, 1978: The Chicago White Sox fire Larry Doby‚ naming Don Kessinger as player-manager for the 1979 season. Kessinger will not work out, and will be fired the following June. The former All-Star shortstop with the Cubs then retires as a player. There has never been another player-manager in the AL, and only Pete Rose has been one in the NL.

*

October 19, 1981: Game 5 of the NLCS. Rick Monday hits a solo home run with 2 out in the top of the 9th against Montreal's Steve Rogers, to give Los Angeles a 2-1 victory and a trip to the World Series.

The loss becomes known as Blue Monday, due to having been played in bitterly cold conditions in Montreal (the roof hadn’t been finished yet), the Dodgers’ uniforms being blue, and the day being a very sad (a.k.a. "blue") one for baseball fans in Quebec.

The Expos were within 1 run of reaching the World Series. They would never find that run. In fact, they would never play another postseason game before being moved out of town after the 2004 season. The story of that team is one of dashed hopes and awful losses, including, ultimately, the loss to the fans of the team itself.

October 19, 1985: Game 1 of the World Series at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis, with the Cardinals facing their cross-State rivals, the Kansas City Royals. Governor John Ashcroft of Missouri shows up, wearing half a red Cardinals jacket and half a blue Royals jacket sewn together. Bipartisanship may not have been something he liked in politics, but if it would win him votes in the Show-Me State, then he would show the voters. He would later be elected to the U.S. Senate, and was George W. Bush's 1st U.S. Attorney General.

The Cardinals win Game 1 of the “Show-Me Series” or the “I-70 Series,” 3-1, behind ace John Tudor.

*

October 19, 2002: An All-California World Series begins at the ballpark then known as Edison International Field of Anaheim, the first Series in 13 years for the San Francisco Giants, the first ever in 42 seasons of play for the team then officially known as the Anaheim Angels.

Tsuyoshi Shinjo becomes the 1st Japanese-born player to appear in the World Series, beating Yankee Hideki Matsui by 1 year. The Giant designated hitter goes 1-for-3 in the 4-3 victory over the Angels.

October 19, 2003: The Yankees bounce back behind Andy Pettitte to tie the World Series at 1 game apiece, with a 6-1 triumph over the Florida Marlins in Game 2. Matsui's 3-run homer in the 1st inning is all Pettitte needs. Alfonso Soriano also homers for New York. Mark Redman takes the loss for the Marlins.

Nobody knows it at the time, and it would seem truly shocking to those fans still on a high after the Aaron Boone homer 3 days earlier, but this is the last World Series game the Yankees would ever win at the House That Ruth Built.

October 19, 2005: The Houston Astros clinch the first Pennant in their 44-season history, as they defeat the St. Louis Cardinals‚ 5-1‚ to win the NLCS 4-games-to-2. Roy Oswalt gets the victory for Houston, while Jason Lane hits a home run. Oswalt is named the series MVP for his 2 victories.

 This was the last sporting event ever held at Busch Memorial Stadium in its 40 seasons of operation.

October 19, 2008: Behind the solid performance of starter Matt Garza and the stellar relief work of rookie David Price to finish the game, which included striking out J.D. Drew with the bases loaded to end the 8th, the Tampa Bay Rays beat the defending World Champion * Red Sox, 3-1, in the decisive Game 7 of the ALCS, to win their 1st Pennant.


After posting the worst record in baseball in the preceding season, the Rays advance to the World Series, and will host the Phillies in Game 1 of the Fall Classic at Tropicana Field.

October 19, 2010: The Yankees pay tribute to Freddy Schuman, a fan favorite at the ballpark since 1988 due to his signs and the rhythmic banging of a spoon against a skillet, by putting some of his memorabilia inside Gate 4 at the Stadium, and with a moment of silence prior to Game 4 of the ALCS.

The fans also show their appreciation of 85-year old iconic “Freddy Sez” when they photograph friends banging his displayed pan, and with their chanting of “Fred-dy! Fred-dy!” during the contest against the Rangers.

The Yankees blow a 3-2 lead, and lose 10-3. The Rangers have now blown the Yankees out 3 games in a row, and are 1 win away from the 1st Pennant in their 39-season history.

October 19, 2014: As yet, the only recriminations from the Yankees' failure to reach the Playoffs 2 seasons in a row is the firing of hitting instructor Kevin Long. It's like working in the shoe department of a department store (as I have), being in the stockroom, and waiting for an entire rack of shoes to drop.

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