Monday, October 13, 2014

The Miracle Braves at 100

October 13, 1914, 100 years ago: The Boston Braves defeat the Philadelphia Athletics, 3-1, at Fenway Park in Game 4, and complete the first-ever sweep of a World Series.

The "Miracle Braves" completed one of the most amazing seasons any baseball team had ever had, although it is nearly forgotten now, partly because of the passage of time, meaning that just about everybody who attended a game of theirs is now dead (if not, he would probably be at least 105 years old), and partly because the Braves have since moved twice. The team didn’t win another Pennant for 35 years, and didn’t win another World Series until after leaving Boston for Milwaukee in the spring of 1953. Today, when people speak of a World Series win being a "miracle," they're usually referring to the 1969 Mets.

Why did they move? Simple: Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey had money, and Braves owner Lou Perini didn't. If Yawkey hadn't bought the Sox in 1933, they probably would have been the ones to move. After all, they probably wouldn't have won the 1946 American League Pennant, and once the Braves won the National League Pennant in 1948, it would have stamped the Braves as New England's Number 1 baseball team. Plus, at the time, Fenway Park was hardly beloved.

The Braves -- so named because team owner James Gaffney was a "Brave," an official in New York's Tammany Hall Democratic political machine -- were in last place on July 4, but went on a tear, and won the Pennant by 10 1/2 games over the 3-time defending Champion New York Giants. Then they demolished the A's, who had won 3 of the last 4 World Series.

They were managed by George Stallings, whom the Highlanders had foolishly fired as manager late in the 1910 season, rather than release the dishonest star 1st baseman Hal Chase. They had 2 future Hall-of-Famers: Johnny Evers, the 2nd baseman who had starred on the Chicago Cub Pennant winners of 1906-07-08-10, and Walter "Rabbit" Maranville, a rookie who would go on to be known for slick fielding and heavy drinking. Catcher Hank Gowdy was also considered a star. Their leading hitters were 1st baseman Butch Schmidt and left fielder Joe Connolly, while their top pitchers were Dick Rudolph, Bill James (no relation to the baseball stats guru of the same name) and Cuban star Adolfo "Dolf" Luque.

The Braves had abandoned their 43-year-old home field, the antiquated and too-small South End Grounds, in August 1914, choosing to rent Fenway from the Sox while awaiting construction of Braves field, which would seat 40,000 when it opened in August 1915. When the Sox won the Pennant in 1915, 1916 and 1918, the Braves returned the favor of 1914 by letting the Sox play their Series games at Braves Field. Despite the Sox winning 3 Pennants in 4 years, there were no World Series games played at Fenway between 1912 and 1946.

Fighting the rise of salaries caused by the Federal League, A’s owner-manager Connie Mack sold off most of his stars after this Series, ending a run of 4 Pennants and 3 World Championships in 5 seasons. In fact, he had won 6 of the first 14 AL Pennants and was in the race nearly every year. In 1915, the A’s would collapse to last place, and in 1916 they would produce a record of 36-117, the most losses in the major leagues between the 1899 Cleveland Spiders and the 1962 New York Mets, and still the lowest winning percentage since 1899, .235. To this, Mack is alleged to have said, perhaps coining the now-familiar phrase, “Well, you can’t win them all.” It would take Mack until 1927 to get the A’s back into a Pennant race and 1929 to get them back into the Series.

The Braves would not be unable to maintain their prosperity, either. They finished 2nd in 1915 and 3rd in ’16, but in ’17, Gowdy became the 1st big-leaguer to enlist in World War I. (In fact, he would go on to become the only big-leaguer to serve in that war and World War II.) Like the A’s, the Braves would go on to become symbolic of baseball frustration: From 1917 to 1932, the Braves would have one season above .500, and 4 seasons of at least 100 losses. A 4th-place finish in 1933 was followed by a 38-115 season in 1935, a .248 winning percentage that’s the lowest in baseball in the last 98 years and the lowest in the NL in 115, even less than the 40-120 ’62 Mets’ .250. Not until 1947 would they get back into a Pennant race, not until 1948 would they win another Pennant, and by the time they won another World Series, 1957, they would be in Milwaukee, and the Red Sox would be in Boston all alone.

Braves Field saw only 1 more Series, in 1948. It has not been totally demolished: The right field pavilion is now Nickerson Field, the sports stadium for Boston University, and the iconic Spanish-style ticket booth is now BU's police headquarters. Like Fenway, it can be seen from the Massachusetts Turnpike.
The last survivor from the 1914 Braves was shortstop Jack Martin. A native of Plainfield, New Jersey, he later lived in the Shore town of Brick, and died in 1980, a few days after attending Old-Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium. At the time of his death, he was also the last living New York Highlander (as the Yankees were called until 1912), and the oldest living Phillie.
The Atlanta Braves hardly even acknowledge their Boston past, as none of the Braves’ 4 National Association and 11 National League Pennants, including the 1914 World Series title, are acknowledged with the Pennants on the façade of the left-field stands at Turner Field. (Nor are their 1957 World Series and 1958 Pennant win from Milwaukee.) The closest the Braves come to honoring their Boston history in any way is the retired Number 21 of Warren Spahn, who debuted with Boston 28 years after the last Boston title.

From 1871 (the founding year of the National Association) through 1914, the Boston Red Stockings/Beaneaters/Rustlers/Doves/Braves won 13 Pennants in 44 years, an enviable achievement that marked them as the most successful sports franchise in North America to that point. In the 100 years since, they've won a grand total of 8 -- only 3 in the 76 seasons from 1915 to 1990. In Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, they have been one of the more underachieving sports franchises of the last 100 years. Maybe their World Series wins of 1957 and 1995 were the real "miracles."
*

October 13, 1775: The Continental Congress orders the creation of the Continental Navy, the forerunner of the United States Navy.

This would seem to have nothing to do with baseball, but, during World War II, it would be the Navy that would have, arguably, the 3 greatest catchers in baseball history: Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. (I thought Johnny Bench served in the Army Reserve during Vietnam, but I can’t find any record of this.)

The WWII Navy would also have Phil Rizzuto, Pee Wee Reese and, through the Marine Corps which is officially part of the Navy, Ted Williams, Jerry Coleman, and broadcasters Jack Brickhouse and Ernie Harwell. The Army would have Hank Greenberg, Warren Spahn, Jackie Robinson, and, through the Army Air Corps, forerunner of the U.S. Air Force, Joe DiMaggio.

*

October 13, 1862: In a game against Unions of Morrisania (now part of The Bronx), Jim Creighton of the Brooklyn-based Excelsiors hits a 6th-inning home run, after doubling in each of 1st 4 times to plate.

When he crosses home plate, the 21-year old Brooklynite complains of having broken his belt. It turns out to be a suspected ruptured inguinal hernia, caused by the torque created by his all upper-body hard swing with the bat. Medicine being what it was during the years of the American Civil War, he dies in agony 5 days later.

Creighton was the first true baseball superstar, and his monument in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery is rather outlandish. Had this not happened to him, he could have lived to see baseball in the 20th Century.

Also buried in Green-Wood are pioneer sportswriter Henry Chadwick, Dodger owner Charles Ebbets, actor DeWolf Hopper (famed for his recitings of “Casey at the Bat), “New York, New York” lyricist Fred Ebb, conductor Leonard Bernstein, pianomaker Henry Steinway; Theodore Roosevelt’s parents, uncle and first wife; minister Henry Ward Beecher; publishers Horace Greeley, Henry J. Raymond and James Gordon Bennett (on whose land the 1st Polo Grounds was built), and reporter Nellie Bly; artists Nathaniel Currier and James Ives, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Jean-Michel Basquiat; inventors Samuel Morse and Elias Howe; New Jersey’s first Governor William Livingston; the people for whom the male and female components of New Jersey’s State University are named, Henry Rutgers and Mabel Smith Douglass; New York Governor DeWitt Clinton and “Boss” William Marcy Tweed; actors Lola Montez, Laura Keene (onstage when Lincoln was shot) and Frank Morgan (the title role in The Wizard of Oz); and mob boss Albert Anastasia and the man often suspected of killing him, “Crazy” Joey Gallo.

*

October 13, 1896: For his contributions to the game, the National League, already notorious for its penny-pinching, awards the 1st real sportswriter in America, Henry Chadwick, a pension of $50 a month -- about $1,200 in today's money, or $14,400 a year.

Chadwick died on April 20, 1908, at the age of 83. So the NL ended up paying him $6,900 -- about $165,000 in today's money.

October 13, 1899: The Louisville Colonels score 4 runs in the 9th to take a 6-5 lead over the Pirates‚ but heavy black smoke from the Pittsburgh steel mills spills over the field, and the game is called because of poor visibility. The score reverts to what it was at the end of the previous inning: Pirates 5, Colonels 2. The Colonels, led by shortstop Honus Wagner, end the season today in 9th place at 75-77.

This turns out to be their last game, as the NL contracts from 12 to 8 teams. The Pirates’ owners buy the Colonels franchise, lock, stock and Honus, and will win 4 of the next 10 NL Pennants and be in the race for most of the rest. Louisville has since been one of the top minor-league cities of the last 115 years, but it has never returned to the major leagues.

Charlie Emig, a lefthanded pitcher from Cincinnati, who started 1 game for the Colonels in 1896, was not only the club's last surviving player, but also the last surviving man who had played a Major League Baseball (as we would now call it) game in the 19th Century. He died on October 2, 1975, age 100. 

*

October 13, 1903: The Boston Americans, forerunners of the Red Sox, win the 1st World Series, 5 games to 3, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-0 in Game 8. Hobe Ferris singles home 2 runs in the 4th, and Bill Dineen, pitching his 3rd win of the Series, outduels Deacon Phillippe, pitching his 5th complete game. Boston is the champion of the baseball world.

As with my previous mention of the 1904 Americans/Red Sox, the last survivor was shortstop Freddy Parent, who lived on until 1972.  Right fielder Tommy Leach was the last surviving 1903 Pirate, living until 1969.

October 13, 1915: The Red Sox beat the Phillies 5-4 in Game 5, and win the World Series. The Sox would get to the next World Series, and another 2 years later. The Phillies would not get to another for 35 years.

This would be the last game in a Boston uniform for their superstar center fielder, Tris Speaker, who is soon traded to the Cleveland Indians. The trade doesn’t hurt the Sox much, though, as a new star had his first full season in 1915, although he did not appear in the Series: Babe Ruth.

October 13, 1921: For the last time, the World Series is a best-5-out-of-9 affair. Game 8 is played at the Polo Grounds, home for one more season after this of both the National League’s Giants and the American League’s Yankees. George “Highpockets” Kelly of the Giants hits a ball through the legs of Yankee shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh in the 1st, scoring a run. It is the 1st time Peckinpaugh has blown it in a Series game, but it will not be the last.

The game is still 1-0 in the 9th, when Aaron Ward draws a walk with one out. Frank “Home Run” Baker, previously a Series star for Connie Mack’s A’s against the Giants, hits a line shot that Giant 2nd baseman Johnny Rawlings snares, and throws to 1st to get Baker with the 2nd out. Ward, thinking the ball had gone through, heads for 3rd base, and Kelly throws across the infield to Frankie Frisch, and Ward is out. That’s the game and the first “Subway Series” (although the term wouldn’t be used for another few years), as the Giants win, 5 games to 3.

For the Giants, it is their 2nd World Series win, their first since 1905. For Giants manager John McGraw, it is proof that his scrappy, run-scratching, pitching-and-defense-leading style of baseball, is better than the Yankee style, which is to get guys on base and wait for someone (most likely Babe Ruth, who was ineffective in this Series) to hit a home run. For the Yankees, their 1st World Series ends in disappointment. They will, however, be back.

The last survivor of the ’21 Giants was Kelly, who died in 1984, 30 years ago today, and exactly 63 years after this triumph.

Also on this day, Louis Henry Saban is born in Brookfield, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He played linebacker for Paul Brown on the Cleveland Browns, winning all 4 All-America Football Conference titles, 1946 to ’49.

He did not play in the NFL. Rather, when the Browns joined in 1950, Saban was offered the head coaching job at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University. Like later coaches Larry Brown in basketball and Harry Redknapp in soccer, he would be known for never staying at a single job for very long. His last head coaching job was at Chowan University, a Division II school in North Carolina. In between, he would be the head coach at Northwestern, Western Illinois, Maryland, Miami University (of Ohio), Army, Central Florida, SUNY-Canton, the Boston Patriots, the Denver Broncos, and the Buffalo Bills on 2 separate occasions.

He is the only man ever to coach the Bills in a season in which they went as far as the rules would allow them to go, winning the 1964 and ’65 American Football League Championships. Typical Bills luck, these would be the last 2 AFL Champions who would not face the NFL Champions in a world championship game, a.k.a. the Super Bowl.

Lou died in 2009.  You may know him best as the father of Nick Saban, winner of National Championships at Louisiana State and Alabama.

*

October 13, 1931: Edwin Lee Mathews is born in Texarkana, Texas. The Hall-of-Famer is the only man to have played for the Braves in Boston (his rookie season, 1952, was their last there), Milwaukee (all 13 years the franchise played there) and Atlanta (their first season there, 1966, was his last with the team).

His 47 home runs in 1953 was a franchise record, tied by teammate Hank Aaron in 1971, until Andruw Jones broke it with 51 in 2005. Mathews hit a 10th-inning walkoff home run to give the Braves Game 4 of the 1957 World Series, which they would win in 7 games. He hit his 500th career home run as a Houston Astro in 1967, finished his career as a World Champion with 512 home runs with the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and managed Aaron when he became the all-time home run leader in 1974.

The Braves retired Mathews’ Number 41, and along with Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Brooks Robinson, he is one of the top 4 3rd basemen of all time -- or one of the top 5, if you count Alex Rodriguez as a 3rd baseman.

October 13, 1932: Richard Anthony Barone is born in San Jose. A shortstop, he played all of 3 games in the major leagues, for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960. But he still made the World Series roster. And on his 28th birthday, something amazing happened, as you'll soon see.

October 13, 1941: Paul Frederic Simon is born in Newark, New Jersey, and grows up in Forest Hills, Queens. In 1967, looking around at a world seemingly falling apart, he wrote a song that was used in the film The Graduate: “Mrs. Robinson.” A Yankee Fan, he included a tribute to a Yankee player who exemplified a seemingly (but hardly) simpler, more innocent time: “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”

Simon later met DiMaggio, who was puzzled by the reference, saying, “I haven’t gone anywhere.” Simon explained that the line was a longing for what DiMaggio represented. When Mickey Mantle asked Simon why his name wasn’t used, Simon, who turned 10 as DiMaggio was replaced by Mantle, said that the rhythm and the syllables of the song wouldn’t have worked for Mantle’s name.

Simon recorded it with his singing partner, Art Garfunkel. “Mrs. Robinson” hit Number 1 in June 1968, and it was on top of the charts when Robert Kennedy was assassinated, making its search for meaning and hope even more poignant.

In 1972, now gone solo, Simon released “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard.” In 1988, he made a video of the song, and he’s shown pitching to kids in a stickball game. And Mantle shows up. I guess Paul had to make it up to Mickey, and while Mickey whiffs on Paul’s 1st pitch, Mickey blasts the next one, and then lip-synchs the title (though it’s still Simon’s voice we hear).

In 1999, after DiMaggio's death, his Plaque in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park was replaced by a Monument, and Simon stood in Joe's former position of center field, and, with Joltin' Joe truly having "left and gone away," played "Mrs. Robinson" before a sellout crowd.

Simon is a good friend of longtime Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels. The 1st time Simon & Garfunkel appeared together after their 1970 breakup was on one of the 1st SNL episodes in 1975. Later that season, he appeared with former Beatle George Harrison. Together, they sang Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun" and Simon's "Homeward Bound." He has appeared on the show more times than any other musical guests, and to this day, SNL's closing theme is his 1976 hit "Still Crazy After All These Years."

*

October 13, 1960: Bill Mazeroski hits a home run off Yankee Ralph Terry in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 of the World Series, to give the Pittsburgh Pirates their first World Championship in 35 years. (Normally, this entry would headline today's entry as "Bill Mazeroski Day," but not on the Centennial of the Miracle Braves.)

After the Series, Yankee owners Del Webb and Dan Topping fire manager Casey Stengel. They make Casey read a statement in which he says he is resigning, but Casey puts the paper down, and tells the press, “I guess this means they fired me.” He later says that they forced him out due to his age: “I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again.”

Well, in 2003, Jack McKeon managed the Florida Marlins to a World Championship. He was about to turn 73. In 2009, the most successful Yankee manager since Casey, Joe Torre, managed the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 2nd straight NLCS berth. He was 69.

The Baseball Gods were cruel to Ralph Terry that day in Pittsburgh, but they would be kind to him for the next 2 years, allowing him to win 39 regular-season games for back-to-back Yankee World Championship teams, to add the 1962 Cy Young Award to his honors, and to add his own shutout in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series. So, as bad as certain moments of Yankee history, such as the Mazeroski Game, have been, there’s usually a sequel that sets it all right, and goats become heroes.

Of the men who played in that game, 54 years ago, the following are still alive:

Pirates: 2nd baseman Mazeroski, shortstop Dick Groat, center fielder Bill Virdon, left fielder Bob Skinner, catcher Hal Smith, pinch-runner Joe Christopher (lost in the 1962 expansion draft to the Mets), and pitchers Vernon Law, Bob Friend and Elroy Face. Not entering the game but on the roster and still alive: Shortstops Dick “Ducky” Schofield and Dick Barone (one heck of a birthday present, and he turns 82 today), outfielder Roman Mejias, catcher Bob Oldis, and pitchers Joe Gibbon and Bennie Daniels.

Yankees: Terry, left fielder Yogi Berra, 2nd baseman Bobby Richardson, shortstop Tony Kubek, substitute shortstop Joe DeMaestri, pinch-hitter Hector Lopez, and pitchers Bobby Shantz, Jim Coates and Ralph Terry. Not entering the game but on the roster and still alive: Outfielder Bob Cerv; and pitchers Whitey Ford, Art Ditmar, Luis Arroyo, Eli Grba, Bill Short, Fred Kipp, Johnny James and Hal Stowe.

Today, William Stanley Mazeroski is 78 years old, retired and living in Panama City, Florida, and is a spring-training fielding instructor for the Pirates. The Pirates have retired his Number 9, and in 2010, on the 50th Anniversary of the homer, dedicated a statue to him outside PNC Park. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001, the same year PNC Park opened.

*

October 13, 1962: Jerry Lee Rice is born in Starkville, Mississippi. He may be the greatest player in the history of American football. Certainly, he is the greatest receiver.

Also on this day, Kelly Preston is born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and grows up there and in Adelaide, Australia. A high school classmate of Barack Obama, the actress played Kevin Costner’s love interest in the film For Love of the Game. And, of course, she is married to John Travolta.

Hmmmm, Hawaiian-born, Australian-raised, married a goofy Scientologist… Ah, but Kelly is still married to Travolta, whereas Nicole Kidman is no longer married to Tom Cruise.

October 13, 1965: Jim “Mudcat” Grant wins Game 6 of the World Series, pretty much all by himself: He pitches a 1-hitter, and hits a 3-run home run. The Minnesota Twins beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-1, and the Series goes to a Game 7.

October 13, 1967: Trevor William Hoffman is born in Bellflower, California, outside Los Angeles. Having spent most of his career with the San Diego Padres, he finished his career as baseball’s all-time saves leader with 601.

Sports Illustrated dedicated their May 13, 2002 issue to Hoffman, calling him “the greatest closer in MLB history.” I guess they forgot about Mariano Rivera: Not only did Mo go on to break Trevor’s record, but the question was settled in the 1998 World Series, when Rivera got 3 saves and Hoffman blew one against… Scott Brosius?

Still, Hoffman is a class act, and a sure Hall-of-Famer; he will be eligible in January 2016. The Padres have retired his Number 51. His brother Glenn Hoffman was also a big-league player, and briefly managed the Dodgers.

Also on this day, the American Basketball Association has its 1st game, at the Oakland Coliseum Arena (now known as the Oracle Arena). The host Oakland Oaks defeat the Anaheim Amigos, 134-129.

The ABA will last 9 seasons, and 4 of its franchises will be absorbed into the NBA in 1976: The 2-time ABA Champion New York (now Brooklyn) Nets, the 3-time ABA Champion Indiana Pacers, the Denver Nuggets (who lost to the Nets in the last ABA Finals) and the San Antonio Spurs (who never won anything in the ABA but have been consistently successful in the NBA, winning 5 titles).

October 13, 1969: As the World Series has a travel day from Baltimore to New York, Billy Martin is fired as manager of the Twins after just 1 season -- a season in which they won the AL Western Division title.

What gives? Apparently, Twins owner Calvin Griffith was going to fire Billy no matter what, due to an August fight with 2 of his players, outfielder Bob Allison and pitcher Dave Boswell. Billy was out of baseball in the 1970 season, and in mid-1971 was hired to manage the Tigers.

*

October 13, 1970: In Game 3 of the Fall Classic played at Memorial Stadium, Dave McNally goes deep with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 6th inning off the Reds right-hander Wayne Granger, to become the first pitcher to hit a grand slam in World Series history. The Oriole hurler’s offensive output contributes to the Birds’ 9-3 victory over Cincinnati, and gives Baltimore a commanding 3-0 game advantage in the seven-game series.

October 13, 1971: The 1st night game in World Series history is played. The Orioles blow a 3-0 lead, and the Pirates win 4-3, on a pinch-hit single in the 8th by backup catcher Milt May. The Pirates have tied the Series at 2 games apiece.

October 13, 1973: The Houston Aeros beat the Los Angeles Sharks, 4-3 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.  This World Hockey Association match is notable for the main line for the Aeros, consisting of Mark Howe at left wing, Marty Howe at center, and their father Gordie Howe on right wing.

The Detroit Red Wings legend, now 45 years old, had come out of retirement to play with his sons, because the Red Wings weren’t listening to his personnel and strategy suggestions, and, thinking they just wanted his historic name on their letterhead, he said, “I was tired of being vice president in charge of paper clips.”

When the Aeros win the 1974 WHA Championship, Gordie will be awarded the Gary Davidson Trophy as league Most Valuable Player -- and the trophy, named for the league’s founder (Davidson was also a founder of the ABA and the WFL), will be renamed for him.

The Aeros would win the 1975 WHA title and reach the Finals again in 1976, but money woes forced them to sell the 3 Howes to the New England Whalers. When the NHL took on 4 WHA teams in 1979, the renamed Hartford Whalers were one of them, and all 3 Howes were still there, as Gordie embarked on 1 last season, his 32nd in the major leagues and his 26th under the NHL banner. Mark would later become a defenseman, and join Gordie in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Also on this day, Brian Patrick Dawkins is born in Jacksonville, Florida. A devastating safety, he made 9 Pro Bowls, and the Philadelphia Eagles have retired his Number 20. He will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January 2017.

October 13, 1974, 40 years ago: Hall of Fame outfielder Sam Rice dies at Rossmor‚ Maryland‚ at age 84‚ leaving a letter at Cooperstown-confirming his controversial catch in the 1925 World Series. The letter‚ dated July 26‚ 1965‚ details the entire play and ends with Rice's punchline‚ "at no time did I lose possession of the ball."

That same day, Game 2 of the World Series is played in Los Angeles. A 6th-inning home run by Joe Ferguson gives the Dodgers a 3-2 win over the Oakland Athletics. Don Sutton gets the win over Vida Blue.

The big story, though, is Herb Washington. A track star signed by A's owner Charlie Finley to be a "designated runner," he made 92 appearances in the 1974 season, all as a pinch-runner. He made 92 appearances, stealing 29 bases and scoring 29 runs, without ever coming to the plate. In Game 2, Dodger reliever Mike Marshall embarrasses him (and Finley) by picking him off 1st base.

He would make 3 more appearances the next season, before Finley released him. He started buying McDonald's franchises, and is now one of the most successful black fast-food restaurant owners -- as is later A's World Champion Dave Parker (through Popeye's).

Also on this day, the Cardinals trade Joe Torre to the Mets for pitchers Ray Sadecki and Tommy Moore. This trade will be a wash for both teams, and none of these players has much left. But it will lead to the beginning of Torre's managing career in 1977.

October 13, 1978: Game 3 of the World Series. Joe DiMaggio throws out the ceremonial first ball at Yankee Stadium. The Dodgers lead the Yankees 2 games to none. The Yankees are desperate for a win. They send out Ron Guidry, who has already won 26 games (including the Divisional Playoff against Boston and the Pennant-clincher against Kansas City) against only 3 losses, but is exhausted. And he doesn't have his best stuff: He strikes out only 4 and walks 7.

But… Graig Nettles puts on a clinic at 3rd base, much as Brooks Robinson did 8 years to the week (including the day) earlier. He makes 6 sensational plays, including 2 scintillating stops that end innings with forceouts at 2nd base.

Roy White's 1st-inning home run gets the Yankees going, and, somehow, Guidry goes the distance in a 5-1 win, striking out the dangerous Ron Cey for the final out. The Yankees are still alive in the Series.

*

October 13, 1984, 30 years ago: Franklin Michael Simek is born in St. Louis, once considered the capital of American soccer.  He was the 1st American ever to play for Arsenal Football Club, the pride of London. It was just 1 game, at right back, wearing Number 51, in the League Cup against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Highbury on December 2, 2003. Arsenal won, 5-1, although he had neither a goal nor an assist.

He would later play for Queens Park Rangers, Bournemouth, Sheffield Wednesday and Carlisle United, and, oddly for an American, is now playing for a club in Vietnam. He played 5 times for the U.S. national team, all in 2007.

Only 1 other American has ever played for Arsenal, Danny Karbassiyoon, a forward from Roanoke, Virginia who played 3 League Cup matches for the Gunners in the 2004-05 season, scoring a goal on his debut. He is now Arsenal's chief North American scout.

Gedion Zelalem, now 17 years old, born in Germany of Ethiopian parents, lived in the Washington, D.C. area as a teenager and is eligible to play for America at the senior level; if he does, that will make 3 Americans who have played for Arsenal.

October 13, 1985: The Cardinals rout the Dodgers 12-2, to even the NLCS at 2-2‚ but also lose rookie sensation Vince Coleman to one of the most bizarre injuries in sports history. Coleman is stretching before the game when his left leg becomes caught in Busch Memorial Stadium’s automated tarpaulin as it unrolls across the infield‚ trapping him for about 30 seconds. He is removed from the field on a stretcher and will not play again this year.

This will turn out to be a critical injury – not for Coleman’s life, or even for his career, but for the Cards’ lineup, as they will not have their leadoff man and sparkplug for the World Series, in which they put up one of the most pathetic batting performances in postseason history.

*

October 13, 1993: The combined pitching of Tommy Greene and Mitch Williams gives the Phillies a 6-3 win over the heavily-favored Atlanta Braves and the NL Pennant, only the 5th flag in Fightin’ Phils history. Dave Hollins hits a 2-run homer for the winners‚ while Mickey Morandini and Darren Daulton also drive in 2 runs each. Curt Schilling is named the NLCS MVP despite no victories: He gave up just 3 earned runs and struck out 19 in 16 innings, 2 no-decisions.

And, lest Phils fans forget, they would not have gotten that far if Williams hadn’t been a terrific closer all year long, including getting the final out tonight at Veterans Stadium. I was at a Phillies game in August 2011, when John Kruk was inducted into the Philadelphia Baseball Hall of Fame. Williams was one of the guests, and he got a nice hand. So Philadelphia sports fans do have some class, and some understanding.

With long hair, chewing tobacco, in a few cases being well overweight, and some bad manners, the 1993 Phillies were known as “Macho Row,” and remain, despite the dream ending a little sourly in the World Series, one of the most popular teams in the history of Philadelphia sports. And, while they share Lenny Dykstra with the similarly slobbish 1986 Mets, any resemblance to the 2004 Red Sox “Idiots” is strictly coincidental.

October 13, 1996: The Yankees defeat the Orioles‚ 6-4 at Camden Yards‚ giving them the Pennant, 4 games to 1. The Yanks score all of their runs in the 3rd inning‚ which features homers by Jim Leyritz‚ Cecil Fielder‚ and Darryl Strawberry. Scott Erickson gives up all 3 homers in one inning‚ a first in LCS play. Bobby Bonilla‚ Todd Zeile‚ and Eddie Murray homer for the O's.

The last out of the game is a bit of a torch-passing moment: Cal Ripken, the face of the Oriole franchise for the last few years and possibly for the rest of his life, hits a ground ball to the Yankee shortstop, a rookie named Derek Jeter, who goes on to become the face of the Yankee franchise. Jeter throws to Tino Martinez at 1st, and Ripken, desperate to keep the series alive, slides head-first. He’s too late, and the Yankees have their 1st Pennant in 15 years.

There’s another torch-passing fact: The Orioles’ manager is Davey Johnson, who, 10 years ago, managed the Mets to New York baseball’s most recent Pennant; while the Yankees’ manager is Joe Torre, who, after 4,279 combined games as a player and a manager, more than anyone who’s never participated in a World Series in either role, has finally made it.

I’ll never forget (and this is another torch-passer) Reggie Jackson, in the Yankee dugout, with a big smile, giving Joe a big hug, and Joe trying to maintain his composure as Mr. October gives him his long-worked-for due. However, after the game, Reggie is interviewed in the locker room, and he speaks a truth he knows full well: “They’ve got another leg to go. They’ve got another lap to make. Not done yet.” He is right: There’s still the matter of winning 4 more games against either the Cardinals or the Braves.

The Orioles, who last won a Pennant 13 years earlier, are frustrated, not in the least because of the Jeffrey Maier incident in Game 1. However, they lost all 3 home games in the series, and a team that can’t defend its home field in the Playoffs needs to zip their lips. Especially since that Oriole team had Rafael Palmeiro (proven steroid user), Brady Anderson (almost certainly a steroid user, because the 50 homers he had that year far outpaced his previous high of 21 and his next-best later total of 24), and Bobby Bonilla (never proven a steroid user but the guy had some incidents that suggest “roid rage”).

October 13, 1998: The Yankees win Game 6 of the ALCS over the Indians, 9-5 at Yankee Stadium, to take their 35th Pennant. Chuck Knoblauch, in his 1st game back in The Bronx after his Game 2 “brainlauch,” leads off the bottom of the 1st, and gets a big hand from the fans, who’ve seen the big double plays he started late in both Game 4 and Game 5. “Apparently, all is forgiven,” says Bob Costas on NBC.

October 13, 1999: Bernie Williams, who had previously hit one to win Game 1 of the ’96 ALCS (the Jeffrey Maier Game), becomes the first Yankee to have hit 2 walkoff home runs in postseason play. His drive off Rod Beck goes over the center field fence to lead off the bottom of the 10th, and the Yankees win the 1st official postseason Yankees-Red Sox game, 4-3. (The 1978 “Boston Tie Party” is counted by MLB as a regular season game.)

Red Sox fans, buoyed by the success of Pedro Martinez and Nomah Gahciahpawhah – or, at least, that’s how Nomar Garciaparra’s name sounded in their New England accents – were sure that this was The Year that the Red Sox were finally going to “Reverse the Curse” and stick it to the Yankees. But Bernie remembered the script handed to him earlier that day by Yankee legend Yogi Berra: “We’ve been playing these guys for 80 years. They cannot beat us.” Not yet, anyway.

*

October 13, 2000: Extending his streak to 33 1/3 innings, Mariano Rivera breaks the 38-year-old record of Whitey Ford for consecutive scoreless frames in postseason play when the Yankees defeat the Seattle Mariners, 8-2 in Game 3 of the ALCS. The Yankees’ Hall of Fame lefty had established the record from 1960 to 1962 with 33 innings as a World Series starter, and still holds the record as far as the World Series is concerned.

October 13, 2001: The Yankees enter Game 3 at the Oakland Coliseum (or whatever corporate name the “Mausoleum” had at the time) down 2 games to none against the A's, and are desperate for a victory.

Jorge Posada homers in the top of the 5th, to give the Yanks a 1-0 lead. That lead holds in the 7th, but Terrence Long drives one into the corner. Right fielder Shane Spencer heaves the ball home, but it’s off the line. Jeremy Giambi, brother of star Oakland slugger Jason Giambi, will score for sure.

Except… out of nowhere comes Jeter, who sprints in, grabs the ball, and, holding it for less than half a second, flips it to Posada at the plate, and Posada juuuust barely tags Giambi on the back of the knee, before his foot touches the plate, completing one of the most amazing defensive plays in baseball history.

“The Flip” allows Mike Mussina and, in the 9th, Rivera to preserve the 1-0 shutout, and keep the Yankees from being eliminated. The Yankees would win the series in Game 5 at the old Yankee Stadium, with Jeter making another amazing play, tumbling into the stands to catch a foul pop, also off the bat of Terence Long.

Has it really been 13 years? With Jeter's retirement, only 1 man who played in that game is still active -- and I never would have guessed it would be Jason Giambi.

October 13, 2002: The Anaheim Angels – as they are officially known at the time – score 10 runs in the 7th inning on their way to a 13-5 win over the Minnesota Twins, winning the 1st Pennant in the team’s 42-season history. Adam Kennedy is the hero for Anaheim with 3 homers and 7 RBIs. Scott Spiezio also homers for the Angels‚ with Francisco Rodriguez getting the win in relief.

Prior to the Angels’ 1st Pennant, they were considered “cursed”: The Curse of the Cowboy was legendary entertainer Gene Autry, who founded the team and died without them ever winning a Pennant. This one wasn’t funny, as men had died while still active with the Angels, in addition to their 1979, ’82 and ’86 ALCS collapses, and their late-season swoon that cost them the ’95 AL Western Division title.

Between 1959 and 1988, their rivals up Interstate 5, the Los Angeles Dodgers, had won 9 Pennants in a 30-year stretch, including 5 times winning the World Series. Since 2002, however, the Angels have been in the postseason 7 times in the last 13 years, including a World Championship; the Dodgers, 6 times, and still no Pennants in the last 26 years.

It’s premature to say that the Angels have surpassed the Dodgers as Southern California’s most popular baseball team, but they are certainly the more successful one now.

October 13, 2006: Mark Kiger becomes the first player in history to make his big league debut during the postseason. The 2nd baseman for the A's enters Game 3 of the ALCS as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the eighth inning for D'Angelo Jimenez, who has been filling in for the injured starter Mark Ellis.

Kiger appears in tomorrow's Game 4 as well, but that's it. The A's released him. He played in the Mets' system in 2007, the Seattle Mariners' in 2008, the Mets' again in 2009, and retired. He's only 34 now: He could still be playing somewhere, but I can find no reference as to what he's doing now, only that he's living in his hometown of San Diego.

He is the only player in the history of Major League Baseball to play in the postseason, but not in the regular season. As far as I know, there's only 1 other such example in all of sports: There was a career minor-league hockey player who played 1 game for the Boston Bruins, in the 1955 Playoffs. He would, however, make a name for himself in coaching, and again in broadcasting. It's Don Cherry.

October 13, 2012: Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS. Derek Jeter breaks his ankle trying to field a grounder in the top of the 12th inning, and that was the beginning of the end of the Yankee "dynasty" that never quite happened starting in 2009, as well as the beginning of the end of the Jeter-Rivera Era in Yankee history. The Tigers beat the Yankees, 6-4, and the Yankees don’t win another game that counts until April 4, 2013.

No comments: