Tuesday, October 21, 2014
October 21, 2000: The Greatest Game I Ever Saw?
After 39 years of hoping, wishing, praying for a chance to beat the Yankees in a World Series, Met fans finally have that chance. And they were sure they were going to win it. After all, Al Leiter was going to start Games 1 and 5, and Mike Hampton was going to start Games 2 and 6. And, as everybody knows, “The Yankees can’t hit lefthanded pitching. Especially in the postseason.” I guess Met fans, the Flushing Heathen, hadn’t noticed how the Yankees beat all pitchers, left and right alike, in winning the Series in 1996, ’98 and ’99, and winning another Pennant to put them in this Series.
Still, Met fans always wanted this chance. In the immortal words of Leonard Nimoy -- who, being a Bostonian, probably knows just how illogical baseball can be -- “You may find that having is not so fine a thing as wanting.”
Leiter outpitches Andy Pettitte, but 4 baserunning blunders by the Mets leave the score 3-2 in the Mets’ favor entering the bottom of the 9th. Still, to be able to take Game 1 at Yankee Stadium would be a huge boost to the Mets.
Manager Bobby Valentine brings in his closer. Unfortunately for him, it’s Armando Benitez. Paul O’Neill fouls off pitch after pitch, and finally draws the most clutch walk in baseball history. The Yankees bring him around to score on DH Chuck Knoblauch’s sacrifice fly, and the game goes into extra innings.
It goes to the bottom of the 12th, and a Met castoff, Jose Vizcaino, playing second base because Knoblauch is not fielding well, singles home the winning run.
Yankees 4, Mets 3. Essentially, the World Series that Met fans had waited their whole lives for has been decided in Game 1. Had the Mets won this game, the Series would have been very, very different.
October 21, 1845: According to John Thorn, author of a bunch of books about baseball and now Major League Baseball's official historian, the first real baseball game may have been played on this date. It also begins the baseball rivalry between New York and Brooklyn, which will still be separate cities until 1898.
October 21, 1861: At the Elysian Fields in Hoboken‚ the greatest event of the baseball season‚ the Grand Match for the Silver Ball‚ takes place between all-star teams from Brooklyn and New York. The Silver Ball Trophy is the same size as a regular baseball, and will be kept by the club whose members score the most runs during the match.
A crowd of 15,000 fans sees the Brooklyn team‚ behind their star Jim Creighton‚ defeat New York 18-6. This is the same Jim Creighton who will be dead within a year.
October 21, 1887: The National League Champion Detroit Wolverines clinch the World Championship with their 8th victory in Game 11 of the series this afternoon, over the American Association Champions, the St. Louis Browns, 13-3 on neutral ground in Baltimore.
With a rainout yesterday in Washington‚ this morning's rescheduled Game 10 sees the Browns pull off a triple play and win‚ 11-4‚ to delay elimination. But the Wolverines take Game 11 to clinch.
But they will end up losing money, and fold at the end of the next season. Detroit will not return to major league ball until the American League and the Tigers arrive in 1901, and will not win another World Championship for 48 years. The Browns will win their 4th straight AA title the next season, but will go 38 years before winning another Pennant. In 1892 they join the NL; by 1901, they will be named the Cardinals.
October 21, 1917: An exhibition game in Kansas City features the 2nd and last matchup between Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander. Alex's team wins‚ 4-3. Included in Alexander's lineup is 21 year-old Cardinals rookie Rogers Hornsby. In his 1962 book My War With Baseball, Hornsby described his last at-bat:
Johnson had two strikes on me. He threw me a real fast ball and I knocked it straight for the fence. The ball knocked out the knot and went through the fence for a home run and we won 4-3. The hole‚ I admit‚ was one of the biggest cases of pure luck I ever heard of. I'm convinced he absolutely had the best fastball of anyone who ever played baseball.
Hornsby will face Johnson again in 1924.
October 21, 1928: Edward Charles Ford is born in Manhattan, and grows up in the adjoining Queens neighborhoods of Long Island City and Astoria. Known as Whitey for his hair, now white but even as a kid it was very light blond, and as the Chairman of the Board because he was such a commanding figure on the mound (and he loved the nickname, as he was a big Frank Sinatra fan and Sinatra also had the nickname), his 236 wins are the most by any Yankee.
Among all pitchers with at least 200 decisions, his .690 career winning percentage is the highest. (For a while, Pedro Martinez was ahead of him, but finished his career at .687.) And that percentage is higher than the percentage of the Yankees he pitched for, so as good as the Yankees were when he didn’t pitch, he still made them better when he did.
Of the 2 pitchers, with more than a few decisions, ahead of him, 1 is Al Spalding, who pitched in the 1870s with the pitching distance at 45 feet; the other is former Yankee Spurgeon “Spud” Chandler, was 109-43 for .717, but that’s just 152 decisions; Whitey was 236-106 in 342. The current active leader is Clayton Kershaw, at .667, but that's at 98-49, just 147 decisions.
Whitey's 2.75 career earned-run average is the best among starting pitchers in the post-1920 Lively Ball Era. The leader among all post-1920 pitchers, at 2.21, is Mariano Rivera; the only other ahead of Whitey is also a reliever, Hoyt Wilhelm. Among Lively Ball Era starters, Sandy Koufax is 2nd, with the top 10 being rounded out by Chandler, Jim Palmer, Andy Messersmith, Met legend Tom Seaver, Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson, Harry Brecheen and Dean Chance. Pedro Martinez was ahead of Whitey for a while in this category, too, but fell to 2.93 and is now 11th among Lively Ball Era starters. The current active leader, given enough innings to qualify, is Kershaw at 2.48, but that's only over 7 years. Among pitchers with at least 10 seasons, it's Felix Hernandez -- at 3.08.
Whitey’s 10 wins in World Series play has never been approached –- Gibson won 7, and as great as he was in his wins, Koufax won “only” 4. And Whitey still holds the record for consecutive scoreless innings in Series play, 33. Mariano holds the record for postseason play, 33 1/3.
“There’s really only four numbers that should be retired” by the Yankees, he says, “and mine’s not one of them.” Nevertheless, his Number 16 was retired by the Yankees in 1974, when he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, making him the 1st Yankee pitcher thus honored. He was also 1 of the 1st 2 Yankee pitchers awarded a Plaque in Monument Park, honored along with Lefty Gomez in 1987.
It says something about this great competitor that my Grandma, a dedicated Brooklyn Dodger fan who hated the Yankees (especially Casey Stengel and Yogi Berra, for some reason), loved 2 Yankees: Phil Rizzuto and Whitey Ford. That both were from her home Borough of Queens had something to do with it, but she also loved that Whitey was smart and didn’t rely on overwhelming force, mixing up his pitches like her favorite Dodger pitchers, Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine and especially Preacher Roe. (And also like her favorite Met pitchers, Tom Seaver, Ron Darling, David Cone and Al Leiter.) She had no patience for pitchers who were fastball-reliant, like Ralph Branca of the Dodgers. She also hated hotheads like Billy Martin, Eddie Stanky and Roger Clemens. She loved that Whitey kept his cool.
Years later, Erik Schrody, a white rapper from Long Island using the nom de rap of Everlast, would also nickname himself “Whitey Ford,” and title an album Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, with the follow-up titled Eat at Whitey’s and another Love, War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford.
October 21, 1938: Carl Thomas Brewer is born in Toronto. A 4-time All-Star defenseman for his hometown Maple Leafs, he helped them win the Stanley Cup in 1962, ’63 and ‘64. He died in 2001.
October 21, 1942: Lou Lamoriello is born in Providence, Rhode Island. He coached the hockey team at Providence College into the NCAA Final Four, a.k.a. the Frozen Four, and since 1987 has been the general manager of the New Jersey Devils.
The team made the Playoffs every year but one from 1990 to 2010, including 10 Atlantic Division titles, 4 Eastern Conference championships and 3 Stanley Cups. It has now added a 5th Conference Championship after missing the Playoffs in 2011.
But El Baldo has also made some puzzling trades, and has been so cheap that he has let go some terrific players without lifting a finger, including Scott Niedermayer (who helped the Anaheim Ducks win the Cup in his first season away from the Devils, 2007), Brian Rafalski (who helped the Detroit Red Wings win the Cup the very next season, 2008), John Madden, Brian Gionta and Zach Parise. The Devils have now missed the Playoffs in 3 of the last 4 seasons, with the 2012 Conference Championship mixed in.
And yet, every time I start thinking Lou Lam has to go, that’s when he manages to build another Cup team. Only 6 players played for all 3 Devils Cup teams, and barely more than half the players on each of them was on the next one. (Martin Brodeur, the last one left who played on all 3, is now a free agent, and Patrik Elias is the only other one left who played on any of them.)
The Devils won their 1st 3 games this season, but have now dropped 3 straight, including to the damn Rangers tonight.
I have never figured Lamoriello out, and I doubt that I ever will.
October 21, 1949: Two very different kind of legends of hockey are born. Michel Briere, of Malartic, was one of the brightest young players the Province of Quebec has ever produced, and put together a terrific rookie season for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1969. But in 1970, he was in an awful car crash and fell into a coma. He died in 1971. His Number 21 was immediately taken out of circulation by the Pens, although there was no official retirement ceremony for 30 years.
Also on this day, Mike Keenan was born in Bowmanville, Ontario. He coached the Philadelphia Flyers into the Stanley Cup Finals in 1985 and 1987, and did the same with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1992.
But he’s best known for the one and only season in which he coached the New York Rangers, 1994. With the highest payroll the NHL had yet seen, and seasons veterans all over the place (many of them, led by Captain Mark Messier, from the Edmonton Oilers, including some who had beaten his Flyers in the ’85 and ’87 Finals), he led the Broadway Blues to their 1st Stanley Cup in 54 years -- their only Cup in the last 74 years.
But he demanded a big new contract right after that, and threatened to take the Madison Square Garden Corporation to court if he didn’t get it. Instead, they let him walk, and he signed with the St. Louis Blues. It was one of the most shocking “divorces” in the history of New York Tri-State Area sports, and the Rangers have won just 1 Stanley Cup Finals game since. He is a mad genius, but except for once, and that once just barely, the madness is what has triumphed. In 2014, he led Metallurg Magnitogorsk to the Gagarin Cup, the championship of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.
Also on this day, Benjamin Netanyahu is born in Tel Aviv, Israel. He is now Prime Minister of his nation for the 2nd time. As with the 1st time, he has been unable to avoid being a warmonger, though (as far as we know) he has avoided the financial scandals and adulteries of his 1st term, that made him look like he was taking the worst of Bill Clinton and the worst of Newt Gingrich and combining them, instead of the best of each. (I’m still not sure Gingrich has a “best” – he and Netanyahu are both really smart, but have serious blind spots.)
October 21, 1956: Carrie Frances Fisher is born in Beverly Hills, California. No relation to Frances Fisher, a redheaded actress of similar age. But she is the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, and half-sister of actress Joely Fisher (daughter of Eddie and actress-singer Connie Stevens).
She will forever be known as Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars saga, but she’s also an accomplished writer and director, having written the novel Postcards On the Edge about her relationship with her mother and struggle with drug addiction, later writing the screenplay for the film version. She co-wrote the TV-movie These Old Broads, which starred her mother, and Shirley MacLaine (who played the Reynolds character in the film version of Postcards), and Elizabeth Taylor, the woman her father left her mother for.
October 21, 1959: George Bell is born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. A left fielder and a 3-time All-Star for the Toronto Blue Jays, he hit a walkoff for the last home run in Exhibition Stadium. He also hit the 1st homer at the SkyDome.
At that dome, now named the Rogers Centre, his name hangs in the “Level of Excellence,” the Jays’ team hall of fame that, until Roberto Alomar's Number 12 was retired, served as a substitute for retiring numbers such as Bell’s 11. (The NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs don’t retire numbers, either, except for 2 very special cases; instead, they have a system of “Honoured Numbers” that remain in circulation.) However, the Jays never won a Pennant until after trading Bell, brother of major leaguer Juan Bell.
October 21, 1964, 50 years ago: After just 11 years in Milwaukee‚ the Braves’ Board of Directors votes to ask the National League for permission to move to Atlanta. Milwaukee County officials sue to block the move. The end result is that they must play the 1965 season in Milwaukee, as lame ducks.
Attendance, once booming as the city embraced Major League Baseball for the first time in 50 years, collapses, and only 14,000 come out for the final Milwaukee Braves home game 11 months later. The reason? Partly, it was the novelty wearing off. Partly, it was the Minnesota Twins taking away huge chunks of their market, including the entire States of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, and even westernmost Wisconsin. The Brewers will arrive in Milwaukee in 1970.
October 21, 1967: Paul Emerson Carlyle Ince is born in East London. The midfielder helped restore Manchester United to glory, winning back-to-back Premier League titles after not having won England’s predecessor league for 26 years, and winning 2 FA Cups – taking both titles, or “The Double,” in 1994. He was also the 1st black Captain of the England national team.
After managing some lower-division teams, including Milton Keynes Dons, in 2008 Blackburn Rovers signed him, making him the 1st black manager in the 1st division of English football (either as “the Football League Division One” or as “the Premier League”). He won only 3 of 17 matches in 6 months and was fired. He has since managed MK Dons again and also Notts County and Blackpool, a team that included his son Tom Ince, also a midfielder. Tom now plays for Hull City.
Also on this day, an antiwar protest hits Washington, D.C. The marchers head across the Potomac River to the Pentagon, and, to this day, some marchers claim they actually "levitated" the building. Uh-huh. This was the day of the famous photograph of the long-haired (but not hippie-length-haired) kid in the turtleneck sweater sticking a flower in the barrel of a rifle held by a soldier "protecting" the Pentagon from the demonstrators.
October 21, 1968: Elston Howard announces his retirement after 14 big-league seasons, the first 12½ with the Yankees. He will soon be named a Yankee coach, making him the 1st black coach in the American League. He was preceded in the National League by former Kansas City Monarchs 1st baseman and manager John "Buck" O'Neil, with the Chicago Cubs, and former 2nd baseman Jim "Junior" Gilliam with the Dodgers.
October 21, 1969: Morris “Mo” Lewis is born in Atlanta. The All-Pro linebacker played in 200 games for the New York Jets, 3rd-most in franchise history at the time he retired.
He is probably best known for his sack of Drew Bledsoe of the New England Patriots early in the 2001, which injured Bledsoe and forced the Pats to bring in a new quarterback. Tom Brady. So maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to praise Mo, because that sack altered the course of NFL history, and not for the better!
Also on this day, Jack Kerouac dies. The novelist and poet whose works led the Beat Generation writing genre had been a football and track star at Lowell High School in Massachusetts, but injuries and squabbles with coach Lou Little ended his football scholarship at Columbia.
By the mid-Sixties, his fellow Beat writer and close friend Allen Ginsberg noticed that he no longer looked like the handsome young athlete he had so recently been when they met in 1944, or even the mature (physically if not emotionally) writer who became famous with the publication of On the Road in 1957. Rather, Allen though that Jack now looked like his father Leo, the result of 25 years of massive drinking. That drinking burned an ulcer in his esophagus, and that’s what killed him at age 47.
(By contrast, Ginsberg, who rather enjoyed various mind-altering drugs but wasn’t a serious boozer, lived to be 70; and the other member of the Beats’ Big Three, William S. Burroughs, who abused himself in countless ways, turned out to be the last survivor, outliving Ginsberg by a few weeks and passing away peacefully at 83.)
Kerouac and the early Beats loved jazz, especially bebop, whose two main leaders were saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker and trumpter John “Dizzy” Gillespie. Parker died in 1955, on March 12, Kerouac’s birthday, which crushed Jack. Jack himself then died on an October 21, which was Gillespie’s birthday.
October 21, 1973: Game 7 of the World Series at the Oakland Coliseum. Bert Campaneris and Reggie Jackson hit home runs off Jon Matlack, and the A’s beat the Mets, 5-2, for their 2nd straight World Championship.
Reggie is named Series MVP. After having missed the previous year’s Series with an injury sustained while scoring the winning run in the NLCS, he has begun to build his reputation as a big-time postseason performer.
A's reliever Darold Knowles -- who once said of Reggie, "There isn't enough mustard in the world to cover that hot dog -- becomes the 1st pitcher, and remains the only one, to appear in all 7 games of a Series.
The Mets had a 3-games-to-2 lead, but considering what that A’s team was capable of, and that the A’s had the home-field advantage for Games 6 and 7, it’s hard to say that the Mets "choked." They just got beat.
They had a great run, coming from last place and 11 1/2 games back in August, to win a Division that no one seemed to want to win, doing it with just 82 wins, and fighting off Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine in the NLCS and taking the defending World Champion A’s to the limit.
And, considering how good the A's were, it might not be fair to blame Yogi Berra, then the Met manager, for losing the Series by pitching Tom Seaver on 3 days' rest in Game 6. A, Yogi was hoping he could prevent a Game 7 entirely. B, Seaver didn't pitch all that badly on short rest.
Reliever Frank "Tug" McGraw had given the Mets their late-season rallying cry, "Ya gotta believe!" But what you should believe is that this Series was not lost by the Mets nearly so much as it was won by the A's, the better team. This time, unlike in 1969 (and 1986), the Mets simply ran out of miracles.
Also on this day, Fred Dryer of the Los Angeles Rams becomes the 1st player in NFL history to score 2 safeties in the same game. The Rams beat the Green Bay Packers, 24-7 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Dryer, an All-Pro defensive end, remains the only player ever to accomplish the feat, but will become better known as an actor, starring in the police drama Hunter.
October 21, 1975: Game 6 of the World Series. You may have heard about this one.
In The Curse of the Bambino, his somewhat skewed history of his beloved Boston Red Sox, Dan Shaughnessy called it “a brilliant autumn day in New England,” following a 3-day delay for rain. Brilliant though the Tuesday afternoon may have been, this game was played at night at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox trail the Cincinnati Reds 3 games to 2, and must win to force a Game 7. The Sox haven’t won the World Series in 57 years, including a loss as recently as 1967; the Reds, 35 years, including 2 Series losses in this decade already. Both teams need it badly.
Shaughnessy wrote, “Game Six has taken on a life of its own in the years since it was played, and it gets larger and more thrilling in each retelling. Some distance allows that there may be other contenders for the title of The Greatest Game Ever Played, but by any measure, 1975’s Game Six will stand as one of the top ten games in World Series history, and one that came at a time when baseball needed it most.” In The New Yorker magazine, Roger Angell wrote, “Game Six... what can we say of it without seeming to diminish it by recapitulation or dull it with detail?”
Fred Lynn’s homer gave the Sox an early 3-0 lead. But, as they would say in English soccer, Three-nil, and they fucked it up. Typical Boston choke, leading to a Reds win? As Lee Corso would say, Not so fast, my friend. Six-three, and they fucked it up. Bernie Carbo, a former Red, hit a pinch-hit home run of Rawley Eastwick in the bottom of the 8th.
The game went to extra innings, because in the bottom of the 9th, because Denny Doyle thought Sox 3rd-base coach Don Zimmer was telling him, “Go, go, go!” to tag up, when in fact he was saying, “No, no, no!” and George Foster threw Doyle out at the plate.
The top of the 11th featured an amazing over-the-fence catch of a Joe Morgan drive by Sox right fielder Dwight Evans, who then started a double pay to end the Reds’ rally. During that rally, Pete Rose was batting, and he turned to Sox catcher Carlton Fisk and said, “Can you believe this game?” (Some sources have Rose’s comment as, “Some kind of a game, isn’t it?”)
At 12:34 AM on October 22, 1975, Fisk leads off the bottom of the 12th against Pat Darcy, and hits a 1-0 pitch down the left-field line. It’s got distance. Will it be fair? Will it be foul? Fisk, thinking it will actually influence the flight of the ball, waves his arms to his right. The ball hits the pole near its top, for a home run. Final score, Boston 7, Cincinnati 6. The Series is tied, and will go to a Game 7.
John Kiley, the organist at Fenway Park (and also at the Boston Garden, thus the answer to the corny old joke about “the only man to play for the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins”), plays George Friedrich Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” Then he plays “Stout-Hearted Men.” Then he plays “The Beer Barrel Polka.” (“Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun.”) Then he plays “Seventy-six Trombones.”
(It was late.)
The shot of Fisk thinking he can wave the ball fair, which I’ve dubbed the Fenway Twist, is the most familiar clip in the history of televised sports. (As they had with every World Series since 1947, NBC was televising it, although they would begin to alternate with ABC starting the 1977 season.)
From seeing this clip so much, and hearing so much talk about Game 6 of ’75 from Red Sox fans, a reasonable person might have asked (through 2004 anyway), “Wait a minute. The Red Sox haven’t won the World Series since 1918. That means... they lost Game 7! So why do people make such a big deal about this homer?” Well, it won one game, not a World Series, but it was still one of sports’ greatest epics.
Dick Stockton was the lead broadcaster for NBC in this Series. A young writer named Lesley Visser was part of the Boston Globe's coverage. Stockton and Visser would both go on to become key cogs in CBS Sports' programming. Supposedly, they met on this night. Other sources say they met at another Boston-based event in 1982. Either way, they married in 1983, but got divorced in 2010, and Visser has married someone else.
October 21, 1976: The Cincinnati Reds beat the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, and complete a four-game sweep of the World Series. Johnny Bench hits 2 home runs and is named Series MVP. The 9th inning featured Bench’s homer, which helped the Reds go from a 3-2 to a 7-2 lead, which holds until the end.
A frustrated Billy Martin, with nothing left to lose (except maybe a fine from the Commissioner), argues with the umpires and gets thrown out, the only Yankee manager ever to be tossed from a World Series game.
Thurman Munson excels in defeat, tying a Series record with 6 straight hits. On the official Series highlight film, Reds manager Sparky Anderson is heard telling Bench and Pete Rose, “That fella can flat-out hit, now. Ooh, is he a good hitter. He just stays with the ball.” Rose responds by comparing Munson to Bill Madlock, then with the Chicago Cubs, who had just won the 2nd of what turned out to be 4 NL batting titles.
But in a postgame press conference, Anderson is asked to compare Munson to Bench, and he says, “Don’t ever embarrass someone by comparing him to Johnny Bench.” In all fairness, even at his best, and 1976 was his MVP year, Munson was not as good as Bench. Bench was the greatest catcher in NL history, and in all of baseball history the only catchers that could be greater are the 2 Yankee legends, Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra; Bench and Berra were voted by fans to the All-Century Team in 1999. But Munson did have the right to be offended: Comparing him to Bench did not embarrass him, nor did it embarrass Bench.
The Reds have their 4th World Championship, and become the 1st (and still only) NL team to win back-to-back World Series since the 1921-22 New York Giants. (The 1995-96 Atlanta Braves came within 2 games of doing it, but we all know how that ended.) The Reds had also swept the Phillies in the NLCS, and they remain the only team ever to make it through both the LCS and the World Series undefeated. Their 7-0 postseason record has never been matched, although the Yankees went through the ’99 postseason, with an extra round, 11-1. And, with the 2014 World Series starting tonight, the Kansas City Royals are 8-0, but will have to face the San Francisco Giants, who've played 9 World Series games in this decade and won 8 of them.
As for the ’76 Yankees, they were in their 1st Series in 12 years, most of them were in postseason play for the 1st time, and they were physically and emotionally exhausted after their ALCS battle with the Royals that ended with Chris Chambliss’ Pennant-winning home run. Against the experienced and rested Reds, they had little reason for confidence. But they will be back, while the Reds will win only 1 Pennant in the next 37 years.
October 21, 1978: Joey Harrington is born in Portland, Oregon. The University of Oregon star was supposed to be the quarterback who led the Detroit Lions out of the wilderness. Unfortunately, the highlight of his career was a game after they cut him, and he led the Miami Dolphins to victory over, yes, the Lions at the Silverdome. He has since retired, become a broadcaster, and runs a charitable foundation.
October 21, 1979: Khalil Greene is born in Butler, Pennsylvania. An All-Star for the San Diego Padres, the shortstop has not played in the majors since 2009, and has gone into the music business.
Also on this day, Gabe Gross is born in Baltimore. The son of former New Orleans Saints center Lee Gross, he was an outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays, and played on their 2008 AL Pennant winners before retiring before the 2011 season.
October 21, 1980: After 98 seasons of play, the Philadelphia Phillies are one game away from finally winning their 1st World Championship. They are the last of the “Original 16” teams to have not won one. The last World Series won by a Philadelphia team was by the Athletics, 50 years ago.
It’s Game 6 against the Royals at Veterans Stadium. Steve Carlton pitches 8 shutout innings, and closer Tug McGraw, one of the heroes of the Mets’ 1969 and ’73 postseason runs, takes a 4-0 lead into the 9th in front of 65,838 Phanatics. But he lets a run in, and loads the bases with one out.
Nervous about fans running onto the field and vandalizing the stadium, as happened 10 years earlier when the Phils played their last game at Connie Mack Stadium, Philadelphia Mayor Bill Green has ordered police on horseback to surround the field to keep fans from running onto it.
McGraw, already in a jam, looks around, sees one of the horses, and sees the horse's tail go up. “They did not send us stadium-trained horses,” he would later say. “And I’m thinking, if I don’t get these guys out, and something bad happens, that’s what I’m gonna be: What that horse is getting rid of.” In baseball, “horseshit” is a common term for something lousy.
A popup sails over the area in front of the Phillies’ dugout, and catcher Bob Boone grabs it, but he can't hang onto it, and it pops out of his glove. This is the kind of play that has led Phillies fans to think that their team is jinxed, that they will never win the big one. Except, this time, the bobbled ball is snared by 1st baseman Pete Rose, who shows it to the umpires so they know it's a legit catch, and promptly spikes the ball on the Vet’s hideous artificial turf as if he’s just scored a touchdown. (Pete was a high school football star, as well as baseball.)
All that remains is for Tug to get the Royals’ Willie Wilson out. At 11:29 PM, the exhausted Tugger fires, and Wilson swings and misses for strike 3.
(While tipping your hat to the Phils for this magnificent victory, have a moment of silence for Wilson: It was his 12th strikeout of the Series, a record that would stand until 2009 when it was broken by... Phillies 1st baseman Ryan Howard.)
From Scranton in the north to Rehoboth Beach in the south, from Atlantic City in the east to Lancaster in the West, Phillies fans erupt in the kind of joy they had never experienced – not with this team, anyway. Dallas Green’s bunch has done it. Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Garry Maddox, all the rest, after 3 failed trips to the postseason before this, they have their ring at long last. Rose and McGraw, opponents in the ’73 NLCS and each with a previous ring (in Rose’s case, 2), add to their collection.
The next day’s Philadelphia Daily News fills up their entire front page beneath the masthead with the words “We Win!” A parade goes down Broad Street from City Hall to the Sports Complex, and a massive rally at John F. Kennedy Stadium, whose 105,000 seats is a lot more than the Vet’s 65,000. It remains the greatest moment in the history of Philadelphia sports.
Also on this day, Kimberly Noel Kardashian is born in Los Angeles. Unlike another L.A.-based heiress with an embarrassingly released sex tape, Kim is not an “heirhead.” She actually works for a living, and not just as a model: She worked for the music-marketing company that was run by her late father, Robert Kardashian, who had given up being a high-powered L.A. lawyer to do it, returning for one last case in 1994-95 (the murder defense “Dream Team” of O.J. Simpson).
She and her sisters Kourtney and Khloe also run high-end women's clothing stores, one in their hometown near L.A., one in Miami's South Beach, and one in New York's SoHo. She has been the main focus of the E! reality series Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
What does Kim have to do with sports? Well, after her parents Robert and Kris divorced, Kris married Olympic decathlon Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner. (Though it looks like they have now split up.) Kim recently married New Jersey Nets player Kris Humphries, following sister Khloe's marriage to Los Angeles Lakers player Lamar Odom. However, the Kardashian-Humphries marriage collapsed after 72 days, and Kim is now married to Kanye West, and they have a baby girl named North West. Previously, Kim dated, among others, running back Reggie Bush, in a relationship the gossip pages liked to call “Kush.” And if “Bush” and “Kush” rhyme with a prominent part of Kim’s anatomy, that’s not my fault!
October 21, 1981: The Yankees take a 2-0 lead in the World Series, as Tommy John and Goose Gossage combine on a 3-0 shutout of the Dodgers at Yankee Stadium. Bob Watson has 2 hits and an RBI.
The Yankees are 2 wins away from their 23rd World Championship. No one can imagine it now, but it will take them 15 more years to get that 23rd title.
The Yankees also make a trade today, sending 22-year-old outfielder Willie McGee to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Bob Sykes. It will be one of the worst trades in Yankee history, as Sykes, a native of nearby Neptune, New Jersey, is already damaged goods, and never appears in another big-league game, finished at 27; while McGee helps the Cards win the next year’s World Series and 3 of the next 6 NL Pennants, and by the time his career begins to slow down in the mid-1990s, Bernie Williams will have been ready.
Also on this day, Nemanja Vidić is born in Uzice, Serbia. He is a dirty soccer player, and was the Captain of Manchester United. I don’t think we need a 3rd reason to loathe him. He now plays for Internazionale in Milan, Itlay.
October 21, 1983: Donald Zackary Greinke is born in Orlando, Florida. Zack won the AL's Cy Young Award in 2009, and pitched the Milwaukee Brewers to their first Division title in 29 years in 2011. He now pitches for the Dodgers.
He is married to Emily Kuchar, a former beauty-pageant winner and Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader. If they have kids, I hope the Cowboy gene is the recessive one.
October 21, 1986: Here's an October 21 that Met fans can get behind. Game 3 of the World Series at Fenway Park. Desperate for a win to keep their “inevitable” World Championship alive, the Mets turn to lefty Bob Ojeda, who had been with the Red Sox until last season. With Len Dykstra leading off the game with a homer, as he had also hit the walkoff homer in Game 3 of the NLCS, Ojeda cruises, and the Mets win, 7-1, to get back in the Series.
October 21, 1993: Curt Schilling’s stellar pitching and Kevin Stocker’s 2nd-inning RBI double keeps the Phillies alive, beating the Toronto Blue Jays 5-0 in Game 5 of the World Series.
This is the kind of pitching that will lead Phillies GM Ed Wade to say of Schilling, "One day out of every five, he's a horse; the other four, he's a horse's ass." But Schilling will not reach his greatest fame with the Phillies. Neither will most of the baseball world realize what a horse's ass he is during his tenure with the Fightin' Phils.
This turns out to be the last postseason baseball game ever played in Veterans Stadium, and the last postseason game the Phillies will win for 15 years.
October 21, 1996: Greg Maddux shuts out the Yankees, as the Braves take Game 2 of the World Series, 4-0. The Yankees have been embarrassed in the first 2 games, and now have to go to Atlanta in front of 52,000 war-chanting, tomahawk-chopping rednecks.
The outlook is grim. Anybody predicting a new "Yankee Dynasty" at this point sure looks delusional.
October 21, 1998: The Yankees beat the San Diego Padres, 3-1 at Jack Murphy Stadium (Qualcomm), and complete the sweep for their 24th World Championship. Scott Brosius, who hit 2 homers last night, takes a grounder at 3rd base for the final out, and is named Series MVP.
The Padres had maybe their best team ever. Arguably, so did the Cleveland Indians that the Yankees beat in the ALCS. Maybe, so did the Texas Rangers that the Yankees beat in the ALDS. All of them had the bad luck to run into what may have been anybody’s best team ever.
October 21, 2001: The Arizona Diamondbacks defeat the Atlanta Braves‚ 3-2‚ to win the NLCS and reach the World Series for the first time in their history. They get to the Series faster than any expansion team in history‚ doing so in the 4th year of their existence. Randy Johnson gets the win for Arizona. Erubiel Durazo's pinch-hit 2-run homer is the key blow. Craig Counsell is named the NLCS MVP.
The Yankees take a 3-1 lead in their ALCS matchup with Seattle‚ defeating the Mariners by a score of 3-1 at Yankee Stadium. Bret Boone's 8th inning homer broke a scoreless tie‚ but Bernie Williams homers in the bottom half of the inning to tie the score. The Yankees win on Alfonso Soriano's 2-run walkoff dinger in the 9th. Mariano Rivera gets the victory in relief.
In spite of this defeat, Mariner manager Lou Piniella makes a bold prediction: His team will win Game 5. “We’re going back for Game 6,” he tells the media, meaning back to Seattle. Sweet Lou should have known better than to test the Yankees’ Ghosts of October. After all, he was one of them.
October 21, 2003: The Yankees beat the Marlins‚ 6-1‚ behind the pitching of Mike Mussina and the hitting of Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams. Jeter gets 3 hits off losing starter Josh Beckett (the only hits Beckett allows)‚ while Williams and Aaron Boone hit home runs. Williams' homer is his record 19th in postseason play. His 65 RBI are also a new postseason record.
The Yankees lead this World Series 2 games to 1. Things are looking good for them. No one can yet imagine that it will take them 6 years to win another World Series game -- and that, when they do, it will be in a new Yankee Stadium.
October 21, 2004, 10 years ago: After blowing a 2 games to none lead, the Cardinals come from 3 games to 2 down to beat the Houston Astros 5-2 in Game 7 of the NLCS. Craig Biggio leads off the game with a home run off Jeff Suppan, but Scott Rolen takes Roger Clemens deep, and the series concludes with the home teams having won every game.
For the Cards, it is their 1st Pennant in 17 years, and the beginning of a run that saw them win 4 Pennants in 10 seasons. For the Astros, Year 43 ended just like Years 1 through 42: Without a Pennant. Fortunately for them, they only have to "Wait 'Til Next Year" 1 more time.
October 21, 2006: In the 1st-ever match-up of rookies to start Game 1 of the World Series, Anthony Reyes bests Justin Verlander as the visiting Cardinals beat the Tigers at Comerica Park, 7-2. The 25-year old righthander allows 2 runs and 4 hits striking out 5 Redbirds in eight innings of work.
This game also makes Detroit the 2nd city to host a Super Bowl and a World Series in the same calendar year. San Diego had done so in 1998. Detroit had also hosted a World Series and an NFL Championship Game in the same year in 1935. Cleveland did so in 1964. New York did it 7 times: 1934, 1936, 1938, 1941, 1956, 1958 and 1962.
Reaching the World Series and the NFL Championship Game in the same calendar year? New York 11 times (1933, '38, '39, '41, '56, '58, '61, '62, '63, '69 and 2001; '33 being both sets of Giants, '69 being the Mets and Jets, and all the others being the Yankees and the football Giants), Baltimore twice (1969 and '71), Oakland twice (1989 and '90), Boston twice (1986 and 2004), and once each for Chicago (1932), Detroit (1935), Cleveland (1954), Pittsburgh (1979), San Francisco (separate from Oakland in 1989) and Atlanta (1999).
October 21, 2009: In Game 5 of the NLCS, the Phillies defeat the Dodgers, capturing their 2nd straight pennant, the 1st time the franchise has ever done it, and the 1st time any Philly baseball team has done it since the 1929-30-31 A's.
Philadelphia, with their 10-4 victory at Citizens Bank Park, becomes the 1st NL team to win back-to-back Pennants since the Braves in 1995-96.