Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Deserve's Got Everything to Do With It: 2014 Edition

Who should win the 2014 World Series? Of the teams still eligible, here they are, in ascending order of how much they deserve it:

10. Los Angeles Dodgers. Pro: Haven't won a World Series, or even a Pennant, in 26 years. Owner Magic Johnson is a great guy, who, unlike a lot of billionaire sports team owners, is actually trying to win 1st and make money 2nd. Manager Don Mattingly is also a great guy and a Yankee Legend. Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp deserve rings.

Con: This is the team of Walter O'Malley, who committed one of the greatest crimes in sports history by stealing the Dodgers from Brooklyn. It may be 57 years since that happened, 35 years since O'Malley died, and 17 years since his family sold the team, but as long as Dodger Stadium stands, it is a reminder that a beloved team was taken away for one reason, and one reason only: To make more money. (And it's not that the Dodgers weren't already making money: In the 1950s, only the Yankees made more.) This is the ultimate dealbreaker, and it automatically makes the Dodgers the least deserving, even if no one on the team has ever had anything to do with the O'Malleys.

Further Con: It's not just Southern California, it's Los Angeles, the most superficial city in the world. (Yes, even more than Miami.) While the Dodgers haven't won recently, the city has (the Kings with the 2012 and '14 Stanley Cups, the Lakers with the 2009 & '10 NBA Championships). Magic already has 5 rings as a player for the Los Angeles Lakers. Mark McGwire, one of the biggest cheaters in the history of baseball, is on their coaching staff, and he does have a ring (1989 Oakland Athletics). And seeing Mattingly win a Pennant, let alone a World Series, would end the Curse of Donnie Baseball, and I'd have to find another reason why the Yankees didn't win a Pennant from 1982 to 1995.

9. Kansas City Royals. Pro: Haven't won a World Series, or even a Pennant, in 29 years. Their city hasn't won a title in all that time. Nor have any of their players ever won one. Raul Ibanez, in particular, deserves one. Decent ballpark. Good city. Manager Ned Yost is a good guy, who's never won one (though he came close as a backup catcher with the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers).

Con: Although their city is majority-black and liberal, their fan base full of suburban and rural Tea Partiers from Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. And team owner David Glass married into the Walton family of Walmart infamy, and spent years spending next to nothing on the team, when he could afford to outspend the Yankees, Mets, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Sorry, folks, but politics trumps sports, and that's a dealbreaker. And that's before I bring up memories of the old Royals' (1976-85) dirty play, from starting fights to Hal McRae kicking Willie Randolph halfway to Connecticut to George Brett's pine tar. (Wonder if he used that as hemorrhoid cream?) For all the good reasons to support the Royals, they are last among American Leaguers on this list.

8. St. Louis Cardinals. Pro: Good city. Good ballpark. Team is run the right way. Manager Mike Matheny is a good guy who never won a ring as a player.

Con: Owned by Bill DeWitt Jr., a major donor to conservative causes and candidates. Team appeals to Tea Partiers about as much as the Royals and the Atlanta Braves do. Won the World Series 3 and 8 years ago, so the city doesn't need another so soon. They've got John Lackey, who not only won a ring with the 2002 Anaheim Angels (as that team was then known), but also with the 2013 Red Sox (cheaters); and, besides, he's a jerk, who doesn't deserve another ring. Some would say the same thing about A.J. Pierzynski, who already has one (2005 Chicago White Sox). And while the city's passion for baseball, especially proportionately, is great, aren't we all sick of hearing about how "St. Louis is the best baseball town in America"? It's not, and even if you don't think New York is, there are other contenders.

7. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Pro: Decent ballpark. Manager Mike Scioscia is a good guy. As far as I can tell, only 2 players have rings: Albert Pujols (2006 and 2011 St. Louis Cardinals) and David Freese (also '11 Cards). Old friend Don Baylor (from the 1980s Yankees) is one of their coaches.

Con: Won a World Series comparatively recently, 12 years ago, already with Scioscia as manager. Their small city also won a title with the Ducks (2007 Stanley Cup). They're in Southern California, in particular in Orange County, infamous for right-wing politics (although that has changed somewhat, with the grown of Hispanic and Asian immigrants). The Rally Monkey.

6. Oakland Athletics. Pro: Haven't won a World Series in 25 years, or a Pennant in 24 years. A good liberal city, which hasn't won a title in all that time. A's fans have had to watch their cross-Bay rivals, the San Francisco Giants, win 2 of the last 4 World Series. And they have to not only sit through games at the outdated Oakland Coliseum, but wonder if their team will even exist in 5 years time, or if it will move. Adam Dunn deserves a ring. Scott Kazmir is on their roster, and seeing him win a ring would really piss Met fans off. Manager Bob Melvin is a good guy, who was briefly a Yankee and never won a ring as a player. Chili Davis and Mike Gallego (from the 1990s Yankees) are on his coaching staff.

Con: The Coliseum, once a great place to watch baseball, has been ruined due to the degradation of age and the construction of the Mount Davis bleachers ruining the intimacy. The players on their roster with a ring include Coco Crisp, Brandon Moss and Jon Lester, all with the 2007 Red Sox; and Lester and Jonny Gomes with the 2013 Sox. Since they benefited from their teammates' cheating (if not, as far as we can prove, their own), they don't deserve another one. Nick Punto also already has won (2011 Cards). And after all these years of hearing that general manager Billy Beane is a "genius," the fact remains that he's been their GM since 1998, as long as Brian Cashman has held the job with the Yankees, and in 17 years he's never won a Pennant. I could handle it if the A's won the Pennant, but not with Beane.

5. San Francisco Giants. Pro: Good ballpark. Good city. Manager Bruce Bochy is a good guy, who managed to piss off Los Angeles by winning Pennants with both San Francisco (the 2012 and '14 Giants) and San Diego (the 1998 Padres). His coaching staff includes some 1980s Yankees: Dave Righetti (a San Jose native who grew up as a Giant fan), Roberto Kelly, Joe Lefebvre and Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens. The team is run the right way. Although most of their players have won at least 1 title, 1 who hasn't is the winningest active pitcher, Tim Hudson (214 wins). Hunter Pence is also a good guy who hasn't yet won one. Winning a 3rd title since the Dodgers last won one, especially since the Dodgers beat them out for the National League Western Division title, would really piss them off. Then again, anytime San Francisco does something good, it pisses L.A. off.

Con: Won the Series just 2 and 4 years ago, so they don't need another. Certainly, Jake Peavy (who won last year with the cheating Red Sox) doesn't need another.

4. Washington Nationals. Pro: The franchise has never won a World Series, or even a Pennant, in 46 seasons of trying in both Montreal and Washington. The District of Columbia hasn't won a Pennant in 81 years, or a World Series in 90 years. The metro area hasn't won a title in 23 years (the 1991 Redskins), or even been to the Finals in any sport in 16 years (the 1998 Capitals). Say what you want about elected officials, lobbyists and federal government workers living in the area, but it needs a winner. Good ballpark. Ryan and Jordan Zimmerman (no relation), Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg deserve rings. And any team that features George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt as mascots is worthy of respect.

Con: The manager is Matt Williams, who cheated his way to a ring with the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. (Yes, he was caught.) Their player who already have a ring are Jayson Werth (2008 Philadelphia Phillies), and he abandoned the Phils at a time when they could have really used him; and Matt Thornton (2013 Red Sox, who won by cheating). Also, do you think Bryce Harper deserves a ring? Based on his current attitude, I'd have to answer that with his favorite expression: "That's a clown question, bro." One of their pitchers is Tyler Clippard, and, while him getting a ring wouldn't be as annoying to Yankee Fans as Kazmir getting one would be to Met fans, it would be another reminder of a bad Yankee transaction. So would Rafael Soriano: While we Yankee Fans don't miss him as a closer (we have David Robertson and Dellin Betances), we could certainly use him in place of, say, Shawn Kelley. Also, their coaching staff includes Tony Tarasco, who is still whining over the Jeffrey Maier Incident 18 years ago.

3. Baltimore Orioles. Pro: Haven't won a World Series, or even a Pennant, in 31 years. Good city. Good ballpark. As far as I can tell, none of their players has ever won a title.

Con: Did just make the Playoffs 2 years ago. City just had a title in the NFL nearly 2 years ago. Manager Buck Showalter, formerly the Yankee manager, turned out to be a jerk.

2. Detroit Tigers. Pro: Haven't won a World Series in 30 years. City needs a winner, very badly. Good ballpark. They have a legend in the making without a ring, Justin Verlander. Their manager, Brad Ausmus, is a decent guy, who made the Playoffs 6 times as a player (5 times with Houston, 1 with Los Angeles), and never won a title. In fact, only 1 player on their roster (that I know of) has won one.

Con: City did have a couple of titles recently (2008 Red Wings, 2005 Pistons). Have made the Playoffs 4 years in a row now, and won a couple of Pennants recently, yet tanked in the Series when given these chances (2012, 2006). Their most significant player, Miguel Cabrera, already has a ring (2003 Florida Marlins).

1. Pittsburgh Pirates. Pro: Haven't won a World Series, or even a Pennant, in 35 years; only the Seattle Mariners, who've played 38 seasons without winning a Pennant, have waited longer. Fans had to suffer through years of penny-pinching management before these last 2 Playoff-bound seasons. Good ballpark. Good city. Manager Clint Hurdle is a good guy, who's had awful luck. Not only did he run into the cheating Red Sox in 1 previous World Series, as manager of the 2007 Colorado Rockies, but he managed to play for the George Brett Royals, the Whitey Herzog Cardinals, and the Davey Johnson Mets, and managed to win only 1 Pennant and no World Series. As far as I can tell, none of their players has ever won a World Series, including some good guys, like catcher Russell Martin, whom the Yankees didn't lift a finger to re-sign. Also, Ike Davis (son of former Yankee pitcher Ron Davis) winning a ring right after the Mets got rid of him would be fun.

Con: Can't think of any, unless you count making the Yankees look bad by having Martin, Mark Melancon and Jose Tabata win.

So... Let's go Bucs!

How Long It's Been: A Washington Pitcher Threw a No-Hitter

On Sunday, in the Washington Nationals' last game of the 2014 regular season, Jordan Zimmerman pitched a no-hitter. The Nats beat the Miami Marlins, 1-0.

It was the 5th no-hitter of the season, following gems by Josh Beckett and Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants, and a collective effort by 4 Philadelphia Phillies: Cole Hamels for the 1st 6 innings, Jake Diekman for the 7th, Ken Giles for the 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon for the 9th.

The last time a pitcher for a Washington team threw a no-hitter, it was Bobby Burke of the Senators, 5-0 over the Boston Red Sox at Griffith Stadium, on August 8, 1931. (It's also the first no-hitter for the franchise formerly known as the Montreal Expos since the perfect game pitched by Dennis Martinez in 1991.)

Burke was a 24-year-old lefthander from Joliet, Illinois, outside Chicago. He debuted with the Senators in 1927, would be with them as they won the 1933 American League Pennant (still the last one won by a Washington baseball team, unless you count the Negro Leagues' Homestead Grays), and last pitched in the majors with the 1937 Philadelphia Athletics. His career record was a rather ordinary 38-46, and he died in 1971, age 64.

He pitched the last Washington no-hitter, until this week, on August 8, 1931. That's 83 years, 1 month and 20 days. How long has that been?

*

In what we would now call Major League Baseball, there were no black players, no Asian players, and any Hispanic players were white. A few Cubans and Puerto Ricans had made it, but they were said to be "pure bars of Castilian soap," meaning their ancestry (or so we were led to believe) was all Spanish, not at all of native Caribbean (Indian) or black (former slave).

No ballparks had artificial turf, or domes (retractable or otherwise), or electric scoreboards (let alone electronic ones), or lights. Most didn't even have electric public-address systems: Announcers would come onto the field, and, through a megaphone, shout out the lineups to the 3rd base side, then walk across the field, and do the same for the 1st base stands.

There were no major league teams west of St. Louis, nor south of St. Louis, Cincinnati and Washington. There were American League teams in Philadelphia and St. Louis, and a National League team in Boston.

The National Hockey League consisted of the New York Rangers and Americans, the Montreal Canadiens and Maroons, the Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. The National Football League was an afterthought. There was an American Basketball League, but, by today's standards, it can hardly be called a "major league." The defending World Champions were the Philadelphia Athletics in baseball, the Green Bay Packers in football, the Canadiens in hockey, and in the ABL, the Brooklyn Visitations.

The A's would win 107 games, a record for a Philadelphia baseball team, and take their 3rd straight American League Pennant. But, having beaten the St. Louis Cardinals in the previous year's World Series, they would lose to the Cardinals this time. The Cards already had some of the players who would form their 1934 World Champions, to be known as the Gashouse Gang, including Pepper Martin -- but, aside from a one-game callup the previous season, Dizzy Dean had not yet arrived.

Original 1869 Cincinnati Red Stocking George Wright was still alive. None of the defining players of my childhood had yet been born. Nor had most of the stars of the 1960s. Willie Mays was almost 5 months old. Joe DiMaggio was in high school, while Ted Williams and Bob Feller were in junior high. Stan Musial was in elementary school.

The Heavyweight Champion of the World was Max Schmeling -- and, at the time, few people had an issue with him holding the title, including Jews and African-Americans. No one, rightly or wrongly, associated him with fascism. Indeed, at this point, few Americans had heard of the Nazi Party or Adolf Hitler. They had, however, heard of fascism and Benito Mussolini, but many favored him, because he had put down labor unions and performed an "economic miracle." These supporters would soon say the same things about Hitler.

The Olympic Games would soon be held in the U.S.: The Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York; and the Summer Games in Los Angeles. Soccer's World Cup had been held for the 1st time only a little over a year earlier, in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. The host nation had defeated neighbor and arch-rival Argentina in the Final. The American team reached the Semifinals, and has not matched this achievement since. (Best since then: The Quarterfinals in 2002.)

The President of the United States was Herbert Hoover, and while he didn't do much to cause the Great Depression, other than to keep in place the policies of his 2 immediate predecessors, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, his efforts to stop it were feeble. However, when Franklin Roosevelt, then Governor of New York, was elected in 1932, he built on Hoover's minimal efforts to form the New Deal, showing that Hoover was, in fact, on to something. But Hoover saw few results, and abandoned his efforts. It's unfair to say he did nothing to stop the Depression. But he did far too little, including too little of what seemed to be working. And his constant suggestions that prosperity would soon return didn't help, although he appears never to have uttered the infamous words, "Prosperity is just around the corner."

Coolidge, his wife, and the widows of Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt were still alive. FDR, as I said, was Governor of New York. Harry Truman was a County Commissioner in Missouri. Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Major in the U.S. Army, and executive officer to an Assistant Secretary of War. John F. Kennedy had just entered the 9th grade at the Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut. Lyndon Johnson had just become legislative secretary (today, we would say "chief of staff") to Texas Congressman Richard Kleberg. Richard Nixon had just entered Whittier College in southern California. Gerald Ford had just entered the University of Michigan. Ronald Reagan was at Eureka College in Illinois. George H.W. Bush was 7, and Jimmy Carter was about to be. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama weren't born yet.

The Mayor of New York was Jimmy Walker, but he was soon to be in legal trouble that would force him to resign. The city in question, Washington, D.C., did not have a Mayor at that time. Instead, it had a Board of Commissioners, appointed by Congress; its President at that time was Luther Halsey Reichelderfer. Something tells me the most interesting thing about him was his name.

The Prime Minister of Canada was Richard "R.B." Bennett, and he wasn't having any more luck fixing the economy in his country than Hoover was in ours. A car hitched up to one or more horses, because the owner couldn't afford gasoline, was called a Hoover Wagon in America, and a Bennett Buggy in Canada. The monarch of Great Britain, and thus the head of state of Canada, was King George V. The Prime Minister of Britain was James Ramsay MacDonald, the first member of the Labour Party to reach the office. Previously, the Liberal Party had been Britain's leading left-of-center party. Ramsay MacDonald was 2 months away from being turned out of office in a Conservative landslide, returning Stanley Baldwin to the post of Prime Minister.

North London club Arsenal was the defending titlist of England's Football League. There was no European competition at the time, so there was no way Herbert Chapman's Arsenal could measure themselves against the other reigning champions of European leagues, including Glasgow-based Rangers in Scotland, Athletic Bilbao in Spain, Hertha Berlin in Germany and Turin-based Juventus in Italy. West Midlands-based West Bromwich Albion were holders of the FA Cup.

Major novels of 1931 included The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett and Roman Holiday by Upton Sinclair. Eugene O'Neill's play Mourning Becomes Electra was about to premiere on Broadway. Frederick Lewis Allen published Only Yesterday, his chronicle of the 1920s that is still, nearly, a definitive work on American life in that "Roaring" decade.

Talking pictures were now the norm, although Charlie Chaplin's City Lights was a hit despite being silent. The classic gangster movie reached its apogee in 1931: James Cagney in The Public Enemy, Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar, and, though its release was delayed until the next year, Paul Muni in Scarface. (The 1983 Al Pacino film of the same title is very loosely based on it.)

It was also the year horror movies burst into the mainstream, with Frankenstein, with Boris Karloff as the monster; Dracula, with Bela Lugosi as the Transylvanian vampire; and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with Frederic March in both roles. Westerns were not yet huge, but that year's Cimarron, about the 1889 Oklahoma land rush, was a landmark in the genre. The first sound version of Alice in Wonderland appeared. There was a film titled Iron Man, starring Gary Cooper and Jean Harlow, but it was not a superhero film. Nor was it about Lou Gehrig, although Cooper would later play him in The Pride of the Yankees.

The Hays Code, supposedly enforcing morals in movies, was established the year before, but who was kidding who? This was the year of Anna Christie and Mata Hari with Greta Garbo, An American Tragedy with Sylvia Sydney, Bachelor Apartment with Irene Dunne, Bad Girl with Sally Eilers, The Bad Sister with a young Bette Davis, Dishonored with Marlene Dietrich, Expensive Women with Dolores Costello, A Free Soul with Norma Shearer, Girls About Town and Guilty Hands with Kay Francis, Honor Among Lovers and Secrets of a Secretary with Claudette Colbert, Indiscreet with Gloria Swanson, Platinum Blonde with Loretta Young, Possessed with a young Joan Crawford, and The Sin of Madelon Claudet with Helen Hayes. Not until 1934 would the Hays Office get serious, and American movies would not get as chancy as these "Pre-Code" classics again until the late 1960s.

Television was still in the experimental stage, and most people's entertainment came from the radio. There weren't yet comic books as we understand them. There were comic strips, and The Shadow debuted earlier in 1931. Dick Tracy debuted a few days after the Bobby Burke no-hitter. Buck Rogers debuted 2 years earlier. But Flash Gordon, the Lone Ranger and some other pulp heroes were still a few years off. Superman, Batman, and most other superheroes, a few years after that.

The music industry was not yet what we would know. RCA Victor would produce the first 33 1/3 RPM long-playing (LP) record in 1931. Roy Rogers began his musical career. Louis Armstrong was already a star, Benny Goodman was already a successful session musician, and Glenn Miller was working as a trombonist and arranger with the Dorsey Brothers Band. Just a few days before the Burke no-hitter, Bing Crosby made his solo radio debut. Frank Sinatra was expelled from A.J. Demarest High School in Hoboken for rowdiness and absenteeism -- in other words, they didn't like him when he didn't show up, and didn't like him when he did. (The school was later replaced by the current Hoboken High, and is now a vo-tech high school.) Elvis Presley wasn't born yet.

Hit songs of the year included "All of Me," "As Time Goes By" (yes, the song that would be featured in Casablanca 11 years later), "Dancing In the Dark" (a very different tune from the Bruce Springsteen song of the same title), "Dream a Little Dream of Me," "Goodnight, Sweetheart" (not to be confused with the 1954 doo-wop hit "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight"), "Heartaches" (which would become the Marcels' follow-up to their 1930s-revival classic "Blue Moon"), "I Apologize" and "Prisoner of Love" (both later brought back by Billy Eckstine, the latter also by James Brown), "I Don't Know Why" (later brought back by Clarence "Frogman" Henry), "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries," "Love Letters In the Sand" (later brought back by Pat Boone), "That's My Desire" (later brought back by both Dean Martin and Dion), and the song that became the unofficial theme song of the Great Depression, Bing's recording of "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"

There were no antibiotics, and organ transplants and a cure for polio was still a long way off. Computers? They were just an idea. Cacluators? Don't make me laugh: They were still adding machines, basically desktop cash registers.

In the late summer and early fall of 1931, Japan invaded the Manchuria region of China, beginning a war that would evolve into the Pacific Theatre of World War II. This was on top of China having suffered floods that may have been the worst disaster in human history, which may have killed up to 4 million people. A hurricane killed about 1,500 people in British Honduras (now the Central American nation of Belize). Strikes were called by about 1,000 sailors in Britain's Royal Navy due to Depression-inspired decreased pay, and became known as the Invergordon Mutiny; it was resolved peacefully. Clyde Edward Pangborn and Hugh Herndon, Jr., complete the first non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean, from Misawa, Japan, to East Wenatchee, Washington, in 41½ hours. The George Washington Bridge opened, connecting upper Manhattan with Fort Lee, New Jersey. And Al Capone was convicted of income tax evasion, and sentenced to 11 years in prison, ending the career of the biggest gangster America has ever known.

Thomas Edison, and jazzman Bix Beiderbecke, and Hall of Fame pitcher Jack Chesbro died. Regis Philbin, and Barbara Eden, and Angie Dickinson were born. So were legendary jockey Willie Shoemaker, and hockey superstar Jean Beliveau. A few weeks later, Mickey Mantle and Eddie Mathews would be born.

August 8, 1931. Bobby Burke of the Washington Nationals pitched a no-hitter. It would be over 83 years before another D.C.-based pitcher would toss one.

Now, Jordan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals has done it. And the Nats had the best record in the National League. They won the NL Eastern Division 2 years ago, but bombed out in the Playoffs. Can they win Washington's 1st Pennant since 1933 (81 years)? Or its first World Series since 1924 (90 years)? They've ended some droughts already, so it is possible. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Baseball's Postseason Appearances, 1876-2014


For this list, I am counting, even if Major League Baseball does not do so officially:

* Pennants in the single-division Leagues prior to 1969.

* The split-season Divisional Champions of 1981.

* The teams that had the best overall record in each Division in 1981, even if they didn't make the Playoffs under the format in place that year.

* The teams that were in first place when the Strike of 1994 hit.

* The teams that lost Playoffs for the Pennant in the single-division era (1901-1968).

* The teams that lost Playoffs for Division titles (1969-2014).

All ties in this ranking are broken by most recent finish. This season's postseason berths in bold.

1. New York Yankees, 52: 1921, '22, '23, '26, '27, '28, '32, '36, '37, '38, '39, '41, '42, '43, '47, '49, '50, '51, '52, '53, '55, '56, '57, '58, '60, '61, '62, '63, '64 '76, '77, '78, '80, '81 (1st-half and overall winners), '94 (led when strike hit), '95, '96, '97, '98, '99, 2000, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '07, '09, '10, '11, '12.

2. St. Louis Cardinals, 31: 1885, '86, '87, '88, 1926, '28, '30, '31, '34, '42, '43, '44, '46, '64, '67, '68, '81 (aggregate winners but didn't lead in either half), '82, '85, '87, '96, 2000, '01, '02, '04, '05, '06, '09, '11, '12, '13, '14.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers, 22: 1959, '62, '63, '65, '66, '74, '77, '78, '80, '81 (1st-half and overall winners), '83, '85, '88, '94 (led when strike hit), '95, '96, 2004, '06, '08, '09, '13, '14. Previously reached as Brooklyn Dodgers in 1889, '90, '99, 1900, '16, '20, '41, '46, '47, '49, '51, '52, '53, '55 and '56.

4. Boston Red Sox, 22: 1903, '04, '12, '15, '16, '18, '46, '48, '67, '75, '78, '86, '88, '90, '95, 2003, '04, '05,  '07, '08, '09, '13.

5. Chicago Cubs, 22: 1876, '80, '81, '82, '85, '86, 1906, '07, '08, '10, '18, '29, '32, '35, '38, '45, '84, '89, '98, 2003, '07, '08.

6. Atlanta Braves, 19: 1969, '82, '91, '92, '93, '95, '96, '97, '98, '99, 2000, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '10, '12, '13. Previously reached as Boston Braves in 1877, '78, '83, '91, '92, '93, '97, '98, 1914 and '48; and as Milwaukee Braves in 1957, '58 and '59.

7. Pittsburgh Pirates, 18: 1901, '02, '03, '09, '25, '27, '60, '70, '71, '72, '74, '75, '79, '90, '91, '92, 2013, '14.

8. Cincinnati Reds, 18: 1882, 1919, '39, '40, '61, 1970, '72, '73, '75, '76, '79, '81 (aggregate winners but didn't lead in either half), '90, '94 (led when strike hit), '95, 2010, '12, '13.

9. Oakland Athletics, 17: 1971, '72, '73, '74, '75, '81 (1st-half and overall winners), '88, '89, '90, '92, 2000, '01, '02, '03, '06, '12, '13. Previously reached as Philadelphia Athletics in 1902, '05, '10, '11, '13, '14, '29, '30 and '31.

10. Detroit Tigers, 17: 1907, '08, '09, '34, '35, '40, '45, '68, '72, '84, '87, 2006, '09, '11, '12, '13, '14.

11. Philadelphia Phillies, 14: 1915, '50, '76, '77, '78, '80, '81 (1st-half), '83, '93, 2007, '08, '09, '10, '11.

12. Baltimore Orioles, 12: 1966, '69, '70, '71, '73, '74, '79, '83, '96, '97, 2012, '14. Previously reached as St. Louis Browns in 1944.

13. San Francisco Giants, 11: 1962, '71, '87, '89, '97, 2000, '02, '03, '10, '12, '14. Previously reached New York Giants in 1888, '89, 1904, '05, '08, '11, '12, '13, '17, '21, '22, '23, '24, '33, '36, '37, '51 and '54.

14. Minnesota Twins, 11: 1965, '69, '70, '87, '91, 2002, '03, '04, '06, '09, '10.

15. Chicago White Sox, 11: 1901, '06, '17, '19, '59, '83, '93, '94 (led when strike hit), 2000, '05, '08.

16. Cleveland Indians, 11: 1920, '48, '54, '94 (led AL Wild Card race when Strike hit), '95, '96, '97, '98, '99, 2001, '07.

17. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 10: 1979, '82, '86, '95, 2002, '04, '05, '07, '08, '09, '14.

18. Houston Astros, 10: 1980, '81 (2nd-half winners), '86, '94 (led NL Wild Card race when Strike hit), '97, '98, '99, 2001, '04, '05.

19. Kansas City Royals, 8: 1976, '77, '78, '80, '81 (2nd-half winners), '84, '85, 2014.

20. New York Mets, 7: 1969, '73, '86, '88, '99, 2000, '06.

21. Texas Rangers, 6: 1994 (led when strike hit), '96, '98, '99, 2010, '11.

22. San Diego Padres, 6: 1984, '96, '98, 2005, '06, '07.

23. Arizona Diamondbacks, 5: 1999, 2001, '02, '07, '11.

24. Toronto Blue Jays, 5: 1985, '89, '91, '92, '93.

25. Tampa Bay Rays, 4: 2008, '10, '11, '13.

26. Milwaukee Brewers, 4: 1981 (2nd-half winners), '82, 2008, '11.

27. Seattle Mariners, 4: 1995, '97, 2000, '01.

28. Colorado Rockies, 3: 1995, 2007, '09.

29. Washington Nationals, 2: 2012, '14. Also won NL East as Montreal Expos in 1981 (2nd-half and overall winners) and '94 (led when strike hit).

30. Miami Marlins, 2: 1997, 2003 (both times, won Pennant as Wild Card).

Leading their respective Divisions are: In the American League, the Yankees, Detroit and Oakland; in the National League, Atlanta, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

Mays' Catch at 60; Top 10 Defensive Plays In Sports

September 29, 1954, 60 years ago today: Willie Mays makes The Catch.

It was Game 1 of the World Series. The New York Giants had won the National League Pennant, beating out their crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Cleveland Indians had won the American League Pennant, winning League record 111 games to beat out the Yankees, who had won the last 5 World Series. Indeed, the last 8 AL Pennants had been won by the Indians (1948 & '54) and the Yankees (1947, '49, '50, '51, '52 & '53).

Game 1 was played at the Polo Grounds in New York. The game was tied 2-2 in the top of the 8th, but the Indians got Larry Doby on 2nd base and Al Rosen on 1st with nobody out.

Giant manager Leo Durocher pulled starting pitcher Sal Maglie, and brought in Don Liddle, a lefthander, to face the lefty slugger Vic Wertz, and only Wertz. Somehow, this got into Joe Torre's head (despite being a native of Brooklyn, Torre says he grew up as a Giants fan) and into Joe Girardi's binder (Girardi wasn't even born for another 10 years).

Liddle pitched, and Wertz swung, and drove the ball out to center field. The Polo Grounds was shaped more like a football stadium, so its foul poles were incredibly close: 279 feet to left field and 257 to right. In addition, the upper deck overhung the field a little, so the distances were actually even closer. But if you didn't pull the ball, it was going to stay in play. Most of the center field fence was 425 feet from home plate. A recess in center field, leading to a blockhouse that served as both teams' clubhouses -- why they were in center field, instead of under the stands, connected to the dugouts, is a mystery a long-dead architect will have to answer -- was 483 feet away.

Mays, at this point in his career, was already a big star. Just 23 years old, he had won that season's NL batting title. He had been NL Rookie of the Year in 1951, but had missed most of the 1952 season and all of 1953 serving in the U.S. Army, having been drafted into service in the Korean War. He had become known for playing stickball in the streets of Harlem with local boys in the morning, and then going off to the Polo Grounds to play real baseball in the afternoon. This raised his profile, and made him an accessible figure to City kids. His cap flying off as he ran around the bases, his defensive wizardry, and his yelling of, "Say hey!" endeared him to Giant fans. (Note that, while he made the "basket catch" nationally popular, he didn't invent it. In fact, he wasn't even the first Giant to use it, as Bill Rigney, who would succeed Durocher as manager in 1956, was using it in the 1940s.)

Even so, the days when the Giants were the team in New York sports were long gone, this week's events notwithstanding. At this moment, Mays was, in the public consciousness, where Babe Ruth was in May 1920, where Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams were in May 1941, where Mickey Mantle was in May 1956, where Reggie Jackson was in September 1977, where Roger Clemens was in April 1986, where Derek Jeter was in September 1996, where David Ortiz was in September 2004: A star, well-known and popular, but not yet a legend.

Mays ran back to try to catch the ball. In mid-stride, he thumped his fist into his mitt. His teammates, who had seen this gesture before, knew that this meant that he thought he would catch it. But most fans didn't know this. Watching on television (NBC, Channel 4 in New York), they figured the ball would go over his head, scoring Doby and Rosen, and that Wertz, not exactly fleet of foot, had a chance at a triple, or even an inside-the-park home run.

Willie has said many times that he was already thinking of the throw back to the infield, hoping to hold Doby to only 3rd base.

With his back to the ball all the way, he caught the ball over his head, stopped, pivoted, and threw the ball back to the infield. Doby did get only to 3rd.

The announcers were Jack Brickhouse, who normally did the home games for both of Chicago's teams, the Cubs and the White Sox, but was the lead announcer for NBC in this Series; and Russ Hodges, the usual Giants announcer, made nationally famous 3 years earlier when Bobby Thomson's home run made him yell, "The Giants win the Pennant!" over and over again.

Brickhouse: "There's a long drive, way back in center field, way back, back, it is... Oh, what a catch by Mays! The runner on second, Doby, is able to tag and go to third. Willie Mays just brought this crowd to its feet with a catch which must have been an optical illusion to a lot of people. Boy! See where that 483 foot mark is in center field? The ball itself... Russ, you know this ballpark better than anyone else I know. Had to go about 460, didn't it?"

Hodges: "It certainly did, and I don't know how Willie did it, but he's been doing it all year."


It has been argued by many, including Bob Feller, the pitching legend sitting on the Indians' bench, that the reason so much is made of this catch, to the point where it is known as The Catch, capital T, Capital C, is that it was in New York, it was in the World Series, and it was on television. "It was far from the best catch I've ever seen," Feller said. Mays himself would say he'd made better catches. But none more consequential.

Durocher yanked Liddle, and brought in Marv Grissom. Upon reaching the Giant dugout, Liddle told his teammates, "Well, I got my man."

Yeah, Don. You got him.

Grissom walked Dale Mitchell to load the bases with only 1 out. But he struck out Dave Pope, and got Jim Hegan to fly out, to end the threat.

When the Giants got back to the dugout, they told Willie what a hard catch it was. He said, "You kiddin'? I had that one all the way."

The game went to extra innings. Future Hall-of-Famer Bob Lemon went the distance for the Tribe, but in the bottom of the 10th, he walked Mays, who stole 2nd. Then he intentionally walked Hank Thompson to set up an inning-ending double play. It didn't happen: Durocher sent Dusty Rhodes up to pinch-hit for left fielder Monte Irvin, and Rhodes hit the ball down the right-field line. It just sort of squeaked into the stands.

On the film, it looks a little like a fan reached out, and it bounced off his hand. A proto-Jeffrey Maier? To this day, no one has seriously argued that the call should be overturned.

The game was over: Giants 5, Indians 2. The Indians, heavily favored to win the Series, never recovered, and the Giants swept. The Series ended on October 2, tied with 1932 for the 2nd-earliest end to a World Series. (In 1918, the season was shortened due to World War I, and ended on September 11.)

Still alive from this game, 60 years later, are: From the Giants: Mays, Irvin, and shortstop Alvin Dark; from the Indians, Rosen, and his usual backup, a pinch-runner in this game, Rudy Regalado.

Victor Woodrow Wertz, a native of Reading, Pennsylvania, was a right fielder and 1st baseman. He made his name with the Detroit Tigers, hit 266 home runs in his career, had 5 100-plus RBI seasons, and made 4 All-Star Teams. He went 4-for-5 with 2 RBIs in this game. He should be remembered as more than a man who hit a 460-foot (or so) drive that was caught, while another guy in the same game hit a 260-foot drive that won the game as a home run. He died in 1983, aged only 58.

Willie Howard Mays Jr., a native of Fairfield, Alabama, outside Birmingham, became one of baseball's greatest legends. He hit 660 home runs, collected 3,283 hits, made 24 All-Star Games (there were 2 every season from 1959 to 1962), won a Gold Glove the 1st 12 seasons it was given out (1957 to 1968), won the 1954 and 1965 NL Most Valuable Player awards, and played on 4 Pennant winners -- but 1954 would be his only title.

The Giants, with whom he moved to San Francisco in 1958, retired his Number 24, dedicated a statue to him outside AT&T Park, and made its official address 24 Willie Mays Plaza. He played with the Giants until 1972, when he was traded to the Mets, going back to New York at age 41. He retired in 1973, and the Mets have rarely given out Number 24 since.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his 1st year of eligibility, 1979. In 1999, he was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, and The Sporting News put him at Number 2 on its list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players -- 2nd only to the long-dead Babe Ruth, so Willie was tops among living players. No player has since come along to suggest otherwise -- not later Giant Barry Bonds, not Derek Jeter. Willie is 83 years old. Last week, the Giants held a pregame ceremony honoring the 60th Anniversary of The Catch, even though it happened all the way across the country from where they play now.

*

Top 10 Defensive Plays In Sports

Note that I am not including defensive miscues, however (in)famous. So, no Bill Buckner. And while I could include strikeouts as "defensive plays," I have chosen not to. So, no Grover Cleveland Alexander.

Also, I'm going for consequence here. The teams that benefited from the plays in question had to win. So, if you're a Met fan, looking for Endy Chavez in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, which your team, of course, lost, forget it.

However, Met fans will want to see this:

Honorable Mention: October 14 and 15, 1969: Tommie Agee's 2 catches in Game 3 of the World Series, and Ron Swoboda's catch in Game 4. I couldn't say any of these catches was more consequential than the other 2, so I'm putting them in here collectively, as an Honorable Mention. While I'm at it...

Honorable Mention: October 10 to 15, 1970: Collectively, several plays made by Brooks Robinson at 3rd base for the Baltimore Orioles against the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. What Willie did for the outfield, Brooksie did for the infield: Reminded us of how important, and how fantastic, defense can be. Of course, as with Mays, Robinson's home fans saw what he could do all the time; it was the rest of the country, watching the World Series, who may not have seen him regularly and not known how great he was.

Honorable Mention: October 13, 1978: Collectively, several plays made by Graig Nettles at 3rd base for the Yankees against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the World Series. The Yankees were down 2 games to none, and ace Ron Guidry didn't have his good stuff. Nettles bailed him out with 5 amazing plays, and the Yankees won, 5-1.

Honorable Mention: June 7, 1970: Gordon Banks, the goalkeeper who helped England win the World Cup on home soil 4 years earlier, stops Brazil superstar Pele with a seemingly impossible dive to his right. Both men said they thought it would go in, but Banks stopped it.

Because Brazil won the game anyway, I can't put this in the Top 10, even if it is the most talked-about save in soccer history. The other iconic moment of this game came at the end, when Pele and England Captain Bobby Moore swapped shirts: A bare-chested white man who might have been the greatest defender the game had ever known, and a bare-chested black man who might have been the greatest attacker the game had ever known, showing their mutual respect for one another.

10. May 18, 1971: Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals at Chicago Stadium. Before the '71 Playoffs began, Ken Dryden, a law student from the Toronto suburbs who'd starred on the hockey team at Cornell University, had played a grand total of 6 NHL games, all for the Montreal Canadiens. But Rogie Vachon got hurt, and, rather than use Phil Myre, who'd started 30 gaes, head coach Al MacNeil saw enough in those 6 games to make Dryden his starting goaltender in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Canadiens upset the highly-favored defending Champion Boston Bruins on the way into the Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, a team loaded with talent including Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito -- who, like Rogie Vachon was about to become, was a goalie who won the Stanley Cup as a Montreal backup before having to go because he couldn't break through at the Forum, and became a Hall-of-Famer elsewhere, but never won the Cup again.

The Habs trails the Hawks 3 games to 2. The Habs won Game 6, but had to beat the Hawks in Game 7 in Chicago. In mid-game, Jim Pappin had a seemingly easy shot that would have put the Cup in Chicago's hands. But Dryden made a fantastic kick-save to prevent it.

It wasn't the greatest save in hockey history, but it may have been the most consequential, especially considering the English-French linguistic strife in Montreal over the past year: The city had already won so many Cups, but it needed this one. With Henri Richard scoring the equalizer and the winner, the Canadiens won it. They would win 5 more Cups with Dryden in the net, while Chicago would have to wait until 2010 to win it again.

Dryden was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. The next year, he was awarded the Calder Trophy. He remains the only player in the history of major league sports in North America to be named Most Valuable Player of the postseason and then Rookie of the Year the next season. (Todd Worrell of the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals came close, though.)

9. January 1, 1979: The Sugar Bowl at the Superdome in New Orleans. Usually, the old system did not produce a definitive National Championship Game. This time, it did: Penn State came in ranked Number 1, and Alabama was Number 2.

In the 4th quarter, Alabama led 14-7. Penn State reached 1st & goal on Alabama's 8-yard line. A run made it 2nd & 6. A pass play got to the 1-yard line. Don McNeal, later to star for the Miami Dolphins, seemed to come out of nowhere to stop Scott Fitzkee, who had scored Penn State's touchdown earlier. As great a play as it was, that's not the play that makes this list.

On 3rd down, future Chicago Bears running back Matt Suhey tried to get over the goal line, but couldn't. Penn State's quarterback was Chuck Fusina, who would later lead the Philadelphia (then Baltimore) Stars to 2 USFL titles, but was a bust in the NFL.

Fusina was looking for the ball, and asked out loud where it was, hoping a teammate would answer. Instead, the answer came from Marty Lyons, an Alabama linebacker, who would star at defensive end for the Jets: "About a foot. You better pass." Lyons was so confident in the Crimson Tide's ability to hold the Nittany Lions on that 12 or so inches if they ran the football that he actually gave them a tip. There was about 6 minutes left on the clock, so if Penn State didn't get it done here, chances are, they would get the ball only 1 more time -- as would Alabama, who could have tacked on a score as well.

Fusina and head coach Joe Paterno didn't listen: On 4th & about a foot, Fusina handed off to Mike Guman. Barry Krauss and Murray Legg hit him, and he didn't make it over.

Penn State held Alabama to three-and-out on the next series, but covered the punt with 12 men, and got caught, which gave Alabama a new life, and they nearly ran out the clock. The Lions' last-ditch drive fell short, and the Tide were National Champions, thanks largely to the most famous goal-line stand in football history.

8. June 7, 1994: Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. The New York Rangers led the Vancouver Canucks 2 games to 1. A penalty shot, very rare in the Playoffs, was given to Vancouver after Pavel Bure was improperly stopped on a breakaway. The Russian Rocket fired on Ranger goalie Mike Richter, but was stopped.

This sparked a Ranger comeback from 2-0 down, and the Rangers won 4-2, to take a 3-games-to-1 lead. The Canucks won Games 5 and 6, though, to make Ranger fans squirm just a little longer, before the Rangers won Game 7 at Madison Square Garden to finally end their drought after 54 years.

This Richter save wasn't as late as Dryden's in 1971, but it is better remembered (probably because he played for a New York team), and is shown in highlights a lot more often.

7. January 30, 2000: Super Bowl XXXIV at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The St. Louis Rams were hanging on to a 23-16 lead over the Tennessee Titans, as the clock showed just 6 seconds -- time for just 1 more play.

The Rams, previously in St. Louis, hadn't won an NFL Championship since December 1951 -- 48 years. The Titans, previously the Houston Oilers, had not gone as far as the rules of the time had allowed them to go since winning the 1961 AFL Championship -- 38 years. Something had to give.

Titans quarterback Steve McNair passed to his right, to Kevin Dyson, the beneficiary of the Music City Miracle play that beat the Buffalo Bills 4 weeks earlier. Rams linebacker Mike Jones saw it, and wrapped his arms around Dyson's legs. But as he was going down, Dyson realized he could still reach out, and have the ball cross the plane of the goal line. He tried, but he came less than a foot short. The game was over, and the Rams were champions. The play becomes known as The Tackle and The Longest Yard.

6. May 5, 1973: FA Cup Final at the old Wembley Stadium. Leeds United, the Yorkshire giants, had won the Cup the year before. From the 1967-68 season to 1973-74, they would win 6 major trophies in 7 seasons. They were overwhelming favorites to defeat Sunderland, the North-East club then in England's Football League Division Two.

If Sunderland were to win, they would become the 1st team ever to win the Cup (a tournament that celebrated its Centenary the season before) with no senior internationals. (Meaning none of their players had ever played an international match for his country beyond youth level. Some of them would later.) Think of the University of Miami -- and that's a reflection of the swagger and the dirty style of play of the Hurricanes and Leeds, as well as their ability to win -- facing a Mid-American Conference team for the National Championship.

Someone forgot to tell Sunderland, though. The Mackems went ahead on Ian Porterfield's goal off a corner in the 31st minute, and their defense held the rest of the way. Midway through the 2nd half, Sunderland goalkeeper Jim Montgomery dived (in English soccer, "dived" is correct, not "dove") to knock away a header from Trevor Cherry. But it rebounded right to the deadly Peter Lorimer, 10 yards away, and he shot.

Both David Coleman on BBC Radio and Brian Moore on ITV were sure it had gone in. But Montgomery completed the sensational double save by deflecting the ball so that it hit the crossbar and came down outside the goal.

Sunderland held on to win, and manager Bob Stokoe ran around the field in celebration -- shades of Jim Valvano of North Carolina State 10 years later, with the teams even wearing the same colors, red and white. It remains the last major trophy Sunderland have won, and, aside from West Ham United in 1980, no team outside Division One/The Premier League has won the Cup since.

5. May 26, 1987: Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals at the Boston Garden. The defending World Champion Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons are tied at 2 games apiece, and the Pistons led 107-106 late in Game 5, and had the ball with just a few seconds left. It looked like the rising team, not yet known as the Motor City Bad Boys, were going to go back to the Silverdome to clinch in Game 6 and pull one of the biggest upsets in NBA Playoff history.

But as Isiah Thomas tried to inbound the ball to Bill Laimbeer, Larry Bird stole it, and passed to Dennis Johnson for a game-winning layup. Celtics 108, Pistons 107. Announcer Johnny Most, known for his gravelly voice and his Celtic homerism that made John Sterling and Phil Rizzuto sound objective by comparison, had the call:

"And... now, there's a steal by Bird! Underneath to DJ, who lays it in! Right at one second left! What a play by Bird! Bird stole the inbounding pass, laid it up to DJ, and DJ laid it up and in, and Boston has a one-point lead with one second left! Oh my, this place is going crazy!"

It is the signature play of Bird's storied career, and while the Pistons did win Game 6, the Celtics won Game 7 to reach the NBA Finals for the 4th straight season and the 5th in 7 years. But the Los Angeles Lakers won the title, and the Celtics wouldn't reach the Finals again for 21 years.

4. October 13, 2001: Game 3 of the American League Division Series at the Oakland Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics had beaten the Yankees in Games 1 and 2, and Game 3 and, if necessary, Game 4 would be in Oakland. The Yankees looked finished.

But Mike Mussina held the A's scoreless until the bottom of the 7th inning, and the Yankees gave hi a precarious 1-0 lead. Terrence Long hit a drive down the right-field line. Shane Spencer, filling in for the injured Paul O'Neill, threw the ball in, but his throw was well off the line.

Jeremy Giambi, even slower than his brother Jason, was going to score with ease, and he didn't try to slide. What was the point? No one was going to make the play. It's not like someone was going to dash across the infield to grab the ball and throw it to catcher Jorge Posada.

Derek Jeter disagreed. He rushed in from shortstop, grabbed the ball with his bare hand, and, in a single motion, flipped it to Posada, who made a tag every bit as good as the flip, just in time to tag Giambi before his foot hit home plate. If Giambi had slid...

But he didn't. The Flip preserved the Yankees' 1-0 win, and they went on to come back and win the series, and then beat the Seattle Mariners (who had broken the '54 Indians' AL record with 116 wins) for the Pennant, before losing the World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

As they would say in English soccer, "One Derek Jeter, there's only one Derek Jeter."

3. November 20, 1960: There have been some hard hits in NFL history, but this one is the most legendary. From 1956 to 1963, the New York Giants won the NFL Eastern Conference title 6 times in 8 years. They were hosting their geographic rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, in a key late-season game at the original Yankee Stadium. The winner was likely to win the East, and face the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Championship Game (which, under the rotating system of the time, would be at the East champion's home field).

Don Heinrich, filling in at quarterback for Charlie passed to Frank Gifford, the biggest star the Giants would ever have until Lawrence Taylor, and one of the NFL's biggest glamour boys. Chuck Bednarik, who played both center and linebacker for the Eagles, the last of the 60-minute men, clobbered him.

This being November, the field at Yankee Stadium was cold and hard. Football helmets being what they were, the protection wasn't very good. Gifford's head slammed on the ground, and he was knocked out. He fumbled, and the Eagles recovered.

On the film, the hit doesn't look as bad as its legend would suggest. Bednarik can be seen clapping to celebrate the fumble, which sealed the Eagles' win. He then pumped his fist, and said, loud enough for players on both teams to hear, "This fuckin' game is over!" The photo from the game, showing the fist-pump, made it look like he had just celebrated killing Gifford. Indeed, there was a report that Gifford had died -- but it was confusion, because a security guard had suffered a heart attack during the game, and was wheeled out on a stretcher covered in a white sheet.

Gifford did, however, miss the rest of the season, and retired. The Eagles went on to beat the Packers for the title -- and haven't won an NFL Championship since. Gifford came back in 1962, and played 3 more seasons. Despite the incident, Gifford is still alive today, age 84. So is Bednarik, 89.

2. April 15, 1965: Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals at the Boston Garden. The Celtics led the Philadelphia 76ers 110-109, but a rare mistake by Bill Russell gave the Sixers the ball with just a few seconds left on the clock. If the Sixers could score, they would end the Celtic dynasty, and head to the NBA Finals against the Lakers. Hal Greer was getting ready to inbound the ball, and if the Sixers could get it to Wilt Chamberlain, that would probably be it.

John Havlicek had other ideas. Johnny Most, 23 years before Larry Bird's steal, and 19 years before Gerald Henderson's steal against the Lakers in the 1984 Finals, had the call:

"Greer is putting the ball in play. He gets it out deep, and Havlicek steals it! Over to Sam Jones! Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over! It's all over! Johnny Havlicek is being mobbed by the fans! It's all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball! Oh my, what a play by Havlicek at the end of this ball game!"

The Celtics went on to beat the Lakers in the Finals. All 3 legendary Celtic Playoff steals -- Havlicek in 1965, Gerald Henderson in 1984 and Bird in 1987 -- happened at the Boston Garden. "The Luck of the Leprechaun"?

1. September 29, 1954: Willie Mays, The Catch. Maybe it isn't the greatest defensive play ever, or even Mays' greatest catch. But it is the most talked-about defensive play in the history of sports, and, for reminding us that defense is important, just as Brooks Robinson did in the 1970 World Series, we owe The Say Hey Kid our thanks.

Yankees Beat Red Sox, Jeter Gets RBI Hit In Last At-Bat


 
Yesterday was the last day of Major League Baseball's regular season, and it included a game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.
 
And, competitively speaking, it was meaningless. Think of the odds you could've gotten on that on March 31 of this year.
 
Before the game, the last of Derek Jeter's career, the Red Sox had a ceremony featuring several Boston sports legends. Carl Yastrzemski, the greatest living Red Sock, and (like Jeter) 1 of only 4 living men with at least 3,400 hits, was there. So was Rico Petrocelli, Yaz's teammate from the 1967 "Impossible Dream" American League Pennant and the 1975 Pennant. So were Jim Rice, Fred Lynn and Luis Tiant, also from the 1975 team. All but Petro were on the 1978 team that played the Yanks in that year's AL East Playoff, the Bucky Dent game. So were Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield from the 2004-07 * Sox. And, of course, the still-active David Ortiz -- who, for better or for worse, essentially becomes "The Face of Baseball" now.
 
Bobby Orr of the Bruins, on the short list for the title of "Greatest Hockey Player Who Ever Lived," was there. (I recently read his memoir, Orr: My Story. What it lacks in originality of title, it more than makes up for in respect for the game, great stories, and sometimes painful honesty. I highly recommend it.) Representing the Celtics was Paul Pierce, from their 2008 NBA Championship, now with the Washington Wizards. And representing the Patriots was Troy Brown, a receiver who played in 5 Super Bowls, winning 3. (Tom Brady, still active, was unavailable. I'm surprised the Celtics didn't send Larry Bird, who is a good friend of Orr's.) 
 
"Even though I played baseball, I have an appreciation for athletes in all different sports," Jeter said. To have them come out here, take time out of their schedule to come out here for this ceremony today for me, it meant a lot.

"I hadn't met most of them. I got a brief moment to thank them for taking the time to come out, but hopefully I'll get a chance to talk to each and every one of them a little bit more throughout the years. I know I'll have some time."

Red Sox coach Brian Butterfield, who had been one of Jeter's minor-league managers and helped him straighten out his fielding, presented him with a very New England-style gift: A pair of L.L. Bean "duck boots," with the Number 2 on them. Dustin Pedroia gave Jeter a base with the No. 2 on it, to commemorate the 153 games he played at Fenway. He was given a large metal sign with "RE2PECT" written in Fenway's font, signed by the '14 club. The Red Sox also made a $22,222 donation to Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation.
 

The Red Sox played Jeter's "Ice Bucket Challenge" video that was taken earlier this year in the Yankees' clubhouse, then introduced former Boston College baseball captain Pete Frates, one of the driving forces behind the successful fundraising effort.

As Frates' wheelchair moved onto the diamond, Jeter greeted him on the grass. Frates then took his place alongside Orr, Brown and Pierce as Massachusetts native Michelle Brooks Thompson performed a rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Respect," and then the national anthem.

During the 7th Inning Stretch, the Red Sox brought Bernie Williams on the field to play "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on his guitar, creating the strange scenario where Yankee Legends Jeter and Williams both heard their names chanted at Fenway Park.

Whatever I can say about certain Red Sox players, their organization, and their fans, handled this with class and dignity. Let's hope some of the players learn from this -- on both sides.

*

Oh yes, there was a game. As has usually been the case in his career, Jeter batted 2nd; unlike most of his career, he was the designated hitter. So, while this past Thursday night wasn't his last game, it was his last home game, and it was his last game at shortstop.

In the 1st inning, he hit a line shot that should have gone for a hit. Ironically, it was the Sox shortstop, Jemile Weeks, who made a great play to rob him.

In the 3rd, Ichiro Suzuki hit a 2-run triple, to put the Yankees up, 2-0. (Was this also Ichiro's last game? Or his last game as a Yankee? Hopefully, it was neither. Stay tuned.) Jeter came up, and hit a looper to 3rd that was misplayed. Tough a play as it was, it was rather generous to give him a hit on it. Ichiro scored, giving Jeter 1 more RBI. 3-0.

It was then that Yankee manager Joe Girardi asked, "Do you want to come out?" He did. He was replaced by Brian McCann -- a very slow runner, but probably the right guy to take his place as DH. Besides, aside from Jeter, the game was meaningless. He came off the field for the last time, to a standing ovation from a crowd with a good mix of Red Sox and Yankee Fans.

September 28, 1960: Ted Williams hits a home run in his last at-bat, at Fenway Park.

September 28, 2014: Derek Jeter hits an RBI single in his last at-bat, at Fenway Park.

Brett Gardner doubled McCann over to 3rd. Mark Teixeira, probably the new leader of the Yankee attack (presuming he can stay relatively injury-free in 2015), hit a sacrifice fly to plate McCann. 4-0 Yankees.

Each team scored 5 runs in the 7th inning, although neither hit a home run. Clay Buchholz, the Sox starter, had already been removed before the Yanks made their tallies. Esmil Rogers allowed most of the damage for the Yankees, in relief of Michael Pineda, who pitched very well again.

Final score -- of the season, and of Jeter's career -- Yankees 9, Red Sox 5. Not really a big deal, but always good to beat The Scum. WP: Pineda (5-5). No save. LP: Buchholz (8-11).

*

The final totals on Jeter's career:

Seasons: 20 (a Yankee record).
Regular season games: 2,747 (a Yankee record).
Batting average: .310.
On-base percentage: .377.
Slugging percentage: .440.
OPS+: 115.
Hits: 3,465 (6th all-time and a Yankee record).
Doubles: 544.
Triples: 26.
Home runs: 260.
Runs batted in: 1,311.
Stolen bases: 358 (a Yankee record).
Gold Gloves: 5.
All-Star Game appearances: 14.
Postseason games: 158 (a major league record).
Postseason appearances: 16 (a major league record).
Pennants: 7.
World Championships: 5.

Pete Rose was fond of saying he played in more winning games than any other player. I don't know if Jeter broke that record, but Rose appeared in the postseason only 8 times. (Still more than most players today will.) 6 Pennants, 3 World Championships.

Now, the active player with the most World Championships is David Ortiz, with 3. Albert Pujols, formerly of the St. Louis Cardinals and now with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, has 2, and has a decent shot at a 3rd.

He was named AL Rookie of the Year in 1996, but never won a Most Valuable Player award. He was, essentially, robbed of it in 1998, 1999, 2006, 2009, and arguably 2012.

As Red Smith once wrote of Bobby Thomson's Pennant-winning home run, so now we can say of the baseball career of Derek Sanderson Jeter: "Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again."

*

Days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training: Not yet announced, but if, as usual, it's February 20, then it's 144 days. A little under 5 months.

Days until the Yankees play another regular-season game: 189, on Monday, April 6, 2015, at Yankee Stadium II, against the Toronto Blue Jays. A little over 6 months.

But it will be without Derek Jeter. And Mariano Rivera. And any of the other legends of the 1996-2003 Yankee Dynasty. And with only a few holdovers from the 2009 World Champions: Teixeira, Gardner, CC Sabathia, David Robertson and Francisco Cervelli. And, maybe, Alex Rodriguez, but who still wants to see him? Not me.

It will be a new era.

Some of us, myself included, remember previous eras. The Dark Age of Donnie Regular Season Baseball. The Reggie-Thurman-Catfish Era before that. Some of us, not including myself, are old enough to remember the Dark Age of CBS, or the Mantle-Maris-Ford Era, or the Mantle-Berra-Ford Era, or the DiMaggio-Rizzuto Era. Some of you may even be old enough to remember Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth (although people that age tend not to be computer-savvy, frequently by choice).

But for a Yankee Fan born in 1989 or later, the Jeter-Rivera Era is the only one you know.

It could be painful. But it is time to move on. The game always moves on. The true greats leave, and get replaced by new greats.

As Nick Hornby said of another sport, "The truth is, it comes again and again. There's always another season. It's actually pretty comforting, if you think about it."

Baseball's Division Champions, 1876-2014

For this list, I am counting, even if Major League Baseball does not do so officially:

* Pennants in the single-division Leagues prior to 1969.

* The split-season Divisional Champions of 1981.

* The teams that had the best overall record in each Division in 1981, even if they didn't make the Playoffs under the format in place that year.

* The teams that were in first place when the Strike of 1994 hit.

* The teams that won Pennants as Wild Cards. They may not have finished 1st in the regular season, but they were the last team standing in their League when it was all over.

All ties in this ranking are broken by most recent finish. This season's Division Champions in bold.

1. New York Yankees, 48: 1921, '22, '23, '26, '27, '28, '32, '36, '37, '38, '39, '41, '42, '43, '47, '49, '50, '51, '52, '53, '55, '56, '57, '58, '60, '61, '62, '63, '64 '76, '77, '78, '80, '81 (1st-half and overall winners), '94 (led when strike hit), '96, '98, '99, 2000, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '09, '11, '12. AL 1903-68, AL East since 1969.

2. St. Louis Cardinals, 29: 1885, '86, '87, '88, 1926, '28, '30, '31, '34, '42, '43, '44, '46, '64, '67, '68, '81 (aggregate winners but didn't lead in either half), '82, '85, '87, '96, 2000, '02, '04, '05, '06, '09, '11 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '13, '14. American Association 1882-91, NL 1892-1968, NL East 1969-93, NL Central since 1994.

3. Chicago Cubs, 21: 1876, '80, '81, '82, '85, '86, 1906, '07, '08, '10, '18, '29, '32, '35, '38, '45, '84, '89, 2003, '07, '08. NL 1876-1968, NL East 1969-93, NL Central since 1994. Before Divisional play, not a bad record at all. In Divisional play, not good.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers, 18: 1959, '63, '65, '66, '74, '77, '78, '81 (1st-half and overall winners), '83, '85, '88, '94 (led when strike hit), '95, 2004, '08, '09, '13, '14. NL 1958-68, NL West since 1969. Previously won as Brooklyn Dodgers in 1889, '90, '99, 1900, '16, '20, '41, '47, '49, '52, '53, '55 and '56.

5. Atlanta Braves, 17: 1969, '82, '91, '92, '93, '95, '96, '97, '98, '99, 2000, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '13. NL 1966-68, NL West 1969-93, NL East since 1994. Previously won as Boston Braves in 1877, '78, '83, '91, '92, '93, '97, '98, 1914 and '48; and as Milwaukee Braves in 1957 and '58.

6. Cincinnati Reds, 17: 1882, 1919, '39, '40, '61, 1970, '72, '73, '75, '76, '79, '81 (aggregate winners but didn't lead in either half), '90, '94 (led when strike hit), '95, 2010, '12. AA 1882-91, NL 1892-1968, NL West 1969-93, NL Central since 1994.

7. Boston Red Sox, 16: 1903, '04, '12, '15, '16, '18, '46, '67, '75, '86, '88, '90, '95, 2004 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '07, '13. AL 1901-68, AL East since 1969.

8. Detroit Tigers, 16: 1907, '08, '09, '34, '35, '40, '45, '68, '72, '84, '87, 2006 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '11, '12, '13, '14. AL 1901-68, AL East 1969-97, AL Central since 1998.

9. Pittsburgh Pirates, 16: 1901, '02, '03, '09, '25, '27, '60, 70, '71, '72, '74, '75, '79, '90, '91, '92. NL 1882-1968, NL East 1969-93, NL Central since 1994, but have not won since moving to NL Central.

10. Oakland Athletics, 16: 1971, '72, '73, '74, '75, '81 (1st-half and overall winners), '88, '89, '90, '92, 2000, '02, '03, '06, '12, '13. AL 1968, AL West since 1969. Previously won as Philadelphia Athletics in 1902, '05, '10, '11, '13, '14, '29, '30 and '31.

11. Philadelphia Phillies, 14: 1915, '50, '76, '77, '78, '80, '81 (1st-half), '83, '93, 2007, '08, '09, '10, '11. NL 1883-1968, NL East since 1969.

12. Minnesota Twins, 11: 1965, '69, '70, '87, '91, 2002, '03, '04, '06, '09, '10. AL 1961-68, AL West 1969-93, AL Central since 1994. Previously won as Washington Senators in 1924, '25 and '33.

13. Chicago White Sox, 11: 1901, '06, '17, '19, '59, '83, '93, '94 (led when strike hit), 2000, '05, '08. AL 1901-68, AL West 1969-93, AL Central since 1994.

14. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 10: 1979, '82, '86, 2002 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '04, '05, '07, '08, '09, '14. AL 1961-68, AL West since 1969.

15. Baltimore Orioles, 10: 1966, '69, '70, '71, '73, '74, '79, '83, '97, 2014. AL 1954-68, AL East since 1969. Previously won as St. Louis Browns in 1944.

16. San Francisco Giants, 10: 1962, '71, '87, '89, '97, 2000, '02 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '03, '10, '12. NL 1958-68, NL West. since 1969. Previously won as New York Giants in 1888, '89, 1904, '05, '11, '12, '13, '17, '21, '22, '23, '24, '33, '36, '37, '51 and '54.

17. Cleveland Indians, 10: 1920, '48, '54, '95, '96, '97, '98, '99, 2001, '07. AL 1901-68, AL East 1969-93 (never won it), AL Central since 1994.

18. Houston Astros, 8: 1980, '81 (2nd-half winners), '86, '97, '98, '99, 2001, '05 (won Pennant as Wild Card). NL 1962-68, NL West 1969-93, NL Central 1994-2012, AL West since 2013. That's right, they've been in 4 different Divisions in the last 47 seasons.

18. Kansas City Royals, 7: 1976, '77, '78, '80, '81 (2nd-half winners), '84, '85. AL West 1969-93, AL Central since 1994, but have not won since the move.

20. Texas Rangers, 6: 1994 (led when strike hit), '96, '98, '99, 2010, '11. AL West since 1972.

21. New York Mets, 6: 1969, '73, '86, '88, 2000 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '06. NL 1962-68, NL East since 1969.

22. Arizona Diamondbacks, 5: 1999, 2001, '02, '07, '11. NL West since 1998.

23. San Diego Padres, 5: 1984, '96, '98, 2005, '06. NL West since 1969.

24. Toronto Blue Jays, 5: 1985, '89, '91, '92, '93. AL East since 1977.

25. Milwaukee Brewers, 3: 1981 (2nd-half winners), '82, 2011. AL West 1969-71 (1969 as Seattle Pilots), AL East 1972-93, AL Central 1994-97, NL Central since 1998. That's 4 different Divisions in the last 44 seasons.

26. Seattle Mariners, 3: 1995, '97, 2001. AL West since 1977.

27. Washington Nationals, 2: 2012, '14. NL East since 1969, in Washington since 2005. Also won NL East as Montreal Expos in 1981 (2nd-half and overall winners) and '94 (led when strike hit).

28. Tampa Bay Rays, 2: 2008, '10. AL East since 1998.

29. Colorado Rockies, 2: 2007, '09. NL West since 1993.

30. Miami Marlins, 2: 1997, 2003 (both times, won Pennant as Wild Card). NL East since 1993.

Leading their respective Divisions are: In the American League, the Yankees, Detroit and Oakland; in the National League, Atlanta, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

Baseball's Division Champions, 1969-2014

For this list, I am counting, even if Major League Baseball does not do so officially:

* The split-season Divisional Champions of 1981.

* The teams that had the best overall record in each Division in 1981, even if they didn't make the Playoffs under the format in place that year.

* The teams that were in first place when the Strike of 1994 hit.

* The teams that won Pennants as Wild Cards. They may not have finished 1st in the regular season, but they were the last team standing in their League when it was all over.

All ties in this ranking are broken by most recent finish. This season's Division Champions in bold.

1. New York Yankees, 19: 1976, '77, '78, '80, '81 (1st-half and overall winners), '94 (led when strike hit), '96, '98, '99, 2000, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '09, '11, '12.  All in AL East.

2. Atlanta Braves, 17: 1969, '82, '91, '92, '93 (in NL West, afterward in NL East), '95, '96, '97, '98, '99, 2000, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '13.

3. Oakland Athletics, 16: 1971, '72, '73, '74, '75, '81 (1st-half and overall winners), '88, '89, '90, '92, 2000, '02, '03, '06, '12, '13. All in AL West.

4. St. Louis Cardinals, 14: 1981 (aggregate winners but didn't lead in either half), '82, '85, '87 (in NL East, afterward in NL Central), '96, 2000, '02, '04, '05, '06, '09, '11 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '13, 14.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers, 14: 1974, '77, '78, '81 (1st-half and overall winners), '83, '85, '88, '94 (led when strike hit), '95, 2004, '08, '09, '13, '14. All in NL West.

6. Cincinnati Reds, 12: 1970, '72, '73, '75, '76, '79, '81 (aggregate winners but didn't lead in either half), '90 (in NL West, afterward in NL Central), '94 (led when strike hit), '95, 2010, '12.

7. Philadelphia Phillies, 12: 1976, '77, '78, '80, '81 (1st-half), '83, '93, 2007, '08, '09, '10, '11. All in NL East.

8. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 10: 1979, '82, '86, 2002 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '04, '05, '07, '08, '09, '14. All in AL West.

9. Minnesota Twins, 10: 1969, '70, '87, '91 (in AL West, afterward in AL Central), 2002, '03, '04, '06, '09, '10.

10. Baltimore Orioles, 9: 1969, '70, '71, '73, '74, '79, '83, '97, 2014. All in AL East.

11. San Francisco Giants, 9: 1971, '87, '89, '97, 2000, '02 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '03, '10, '12. All in NL West.

12. Pittsburgh Pirates, 9: 1970, '71, '72, '74, '75, '79, '90, '91, '92. All in NL East, have not won since moving to NL Central.

13. Detroit Tigers, 8: 1972, '84, '87 (in AL East, afterward in AL Central), 2006 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '11, '12, '13, '14.

14. Boston Red Sox, 8: 1975, '86, '88, '90, '95, 2004 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '07, '13. All in AL East.

15. Houston Astros, 8: 1980, '81 (2nd-half winners), '86 (in NL West, afterward in NL Central), '97, '98, '99, 2001, '05 (won Pennant as Wild Card). Have now moved to AL West.

16. Cleveland Indians, 7: 1995, '96, '97, '98, '99, 2001, '07.  All in AL Central, as they never won while in AL East.

17. Kansas City Royals, 7: 1976, '77, '78, '80, '81 (2nd-half winners), '84, '85. All in AL West, have not won since moving to AL Central.

18. Texas Rangers, 6: 1994 (led when strike hit), '96, '98, '99, 2010, '11. All in AL West.

19. Chicago White Sox, 6: 1983, '93 (in AL West, afterward in AL Central), '94 (led when strike hit), 2000, '05, '08.

20. New York Mets, 6: 1969, '73, '86, '88, 2000 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '06. All in NL East.

21. Arizona Diamondbacks, 5: 1999, 2001, '02, '07, '11. All in NL West.

22. Chicago Cubs, 5: 1984, '89 (in NL East, afterward in NL Central), 2003, '07, '08.

23. San Diego Padres, 5: 1984, '96, '98, 2005, '06. All in NL West.

24. Toronto Blue Jays, 5: 1985, '89, '91, '92, '93. All in AL East.

25. Milwaukee Brewers, 3: 1981 (2nd-half winners), '82 (in AL East, thereafter in  NL Central), 2011.

26. Seattle Mariners, 3: 1995, '97, 2001. All in AL West.

27. Washington Nationals, 2: 2012, '14. Both in NL East. Also won NL East as Montreal Expos in 1981 (2nd-half and overall winners) and '94 (led when strike hit).

28. Tampa Bay Rays, 2: 2008, '10. Both in AL East.

29. Colorado Rockies, 2: 2007, '09. Both in NL West.

30. Miami Marlins, 2: 1997, 2003 (both times, won Pennant as Wild Card). Both in NL East.

Leading their respective Divisions are: In the American League, the Yankees, Minnesota and Oakland; in the National League, Atlanta, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

However, if we count only titles won within those Divisions -- both before and after realignment -- then we get a different picture:

The AL leaders remain the same, but Philadelphia surpasses Atlanta for the NL East lead (the Braves were in the NL West until 1993), St. Louis now leads the NL Central (Cincinnati was in the NL West until 1993), and Cincinnati and the Dodgers share the NL West lead.

In any case, the Yankees are Number 1 on this list, as they are on so many others.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

And Now, the End Is Near, and So He'll Face the Final Curtain

In a few minutes, for the last time, Derek Jeter will play for the New York Yankees.

Then, the 2014 regular season will end, and the postseason will begin, without the Yankees.

I hate when that happens.

*

On Friday night, the Yankees began the last series of Jeter's career, against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway. Jeter did not play. Chris Capuano, the former Red Sock, started for the Yankees. Sounds like a setup for a Boston victory, don't you think?

You could think, but you'd be wrong: Capuano pitched his best game in a Yankee uniform, going 6 2/3 innings, allowing 1 run, unearned, on 4 hits and no walks, striking out 5.

The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning, but an RBI single by Francisco Cervelli and a throwing error on a John Ryan Murphy grounder gave the Yanks the lead in the top of the 3rd. Zelous Wheeler hit a sacrifice fly in the 6th to get another run home.

Shawn Kelley relieved Capuano in the 7th, and allowed a home run to rookie Rusnie Castillo, making the game rather precarious, especially in Fenway. But Adam Warren and David Robertson shut the Sox down the rest of the way.

Yankees 3, Red Sox 2. WP: Capuano (3-4). SV: Robertson (39). LP: Steven Wright (0-1) -- not to be confused with the comedian Steven Wright, who's from Cambridge, Massachusetts, across the Charles River from Boston, and a big Red Sox fan: "I bought some batteries, but they weren't included. So I had to buy them again."

*

Yesterday, Jeter did play, as the designated hitter. He said he wouldn't play shortstop in this final series. He went 1-for-2, before leaving for a pinch-hitter.

The game was lost early. Masahiro Tanaka, making his 2nd start since coming off the Disabled List, allowed a run in the 1st, and then fell apart in the 2nd, allowing 4 hits and 2 walks before Joe Girardi took him out. Preston Claiborne was no better. When the bleeding finally stopped, 8 runs had been scored in the inning.

After that, it was just a matter of playing the game out, and seeing what happened. Red Sox 10, Yankees 4. WP: Joe Kelly (4-2). LP: Tanaka (13-5).

*

Today is the regular season finale. Presuming he plays, it will be Derek Jeter's last game. Yesterday, most Red Sox fans cheered him. Some booed. It remains to be seen if there's a ceremony before the game. Most teams have had one, offered gifts and contributions to his Turn 2 Foundation.

Michael Pineda is set to start for the Yankees, Clay Buchholz for the Red Sox.

*

Yesterday's North London Derby was not fun. Arsenal should have beaten Tottenham about 4-0. Instead, it was a 1-1 draw, and I don't want to talk about it.

This will show you the difference between the clubs: The Tottenham fans celebrated it like they'd won the League -- like they'd know -- while the Arsenal fans were furious at not getting a win.

Rutgers got a win yesterday, beating Tulane 31-6 at home. That's nice, how about beating a Big Ten team? They had the chance against Penn State, but blew it. Now, the real schedule begins. They're going to be yelling for their mothers.

Europe won the Ryder Cup. I'm not distressed, since I don't like golf.

Mike Lupica wrote a column in today's Daily News, stating that, because he's quarterbacked 2 World Championship teams, Eli Manning of the Giants is now the face of New York sports. He's right. Who else could it be? No other Yankee. No Met, not even David Wright. No Jet. No Knick. No Net. Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers? Don't make me laugh. After Eli, the closest any Tri-State Area athlete comes is Patrik Elias of the Devils -- especially since Martin Brodeur is, officially, no longer signed with the Devils (or any other team).

It is odd, though: When was the last time you saw a quarterback take a handoff?


*

Minutes until Derek Jeter's last regular-season game: Just a few. Then again, considering it's against the Sox, especially at Fenway, the game could last for hours.

Hours until the Red Bulls play again: 7, tonight at 8:30 PM, away to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": Unknown, as the last one for this season has been played. The Red Bulls are now likely to make the Playoffs, as are D.C. United and the New England Revolution, while the Philadelphia Union also have a shot, so another derby this season is possible.

Days until Arsenal play again: 3, this Wednesday, 2:45 in the afternoon our time, home to Istanbul, Turkey club Galatasaray, in the Champions League.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 4, this Thursday night, home to Edison. It is being played on a Thursday night because Friday night is the beginning of Yom Kippur. Yesterday, EB lost to 40-13 to North Brunswick, the one team we beat last year (and that, barely, only 14-12 at home). In 2 games, we've given up 88 points and scored only 13. It's going to be a long season.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 6, this Saturday at 7:00 PM, home to Big Ten titans Michigan. At least Michigan is also struggling at this point, but it's Michigan, so who's kidding who?

Days until the Devils play again: 11. They open on Thursday, October 9, away to the Philadelphia Flyers. Under 2 weeks. They once again get screwed by Commissioner Gary Bettman and his schedulemakers, this time having to play 4 road games before their home opener, on Saturday, October 18, at 7:00 PM, vs. the San Jose Sharks.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: See the previous answer. The first game against The Scum is Tuesday night, October 21, at the Prudential Center. The first game against the Islanders is Saturday night, November 29, at the Nassau Coliseum. The Devils' last trip to Uniondale, before the Isles move to Brooklyn, is Monday night, December 15.

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 12, on Friday, October 10, at 7:00 PM, a friendly, home to Ecuador, at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Connecticut. Under a month. The following Tuesday, they will play another Latin American team, Honduras, in a friendly at Florida Atlantic University's stadium in Boca Raton, Florida. There will be one more match in the calendar year, another friendly, against the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin (built on the site of their former home, Lansdowne Road), on Tuesday afternoon (evening, local time), November 18.

Days until the next East Brunswick vs. Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 60, on Thursday morning, November 27, at 10:00 AM. Only 2 months.

Days until New York City FC make their Major League Soccer debut: Unknown, but a new MLS season usually begins on the 2nd Saturday in March, which would be March 14, 2015. That's 167 days. A little under 6 months. Whether it will be a home game, and thus at the new Yankee Stadium, is yet to be determined.

Days until the next North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham: 132, on Saturday, February 7, 2015, at White Hart Lane -- unless the teams are paired in the FA Cup before then, as they were in the 3rd Round last season. A little over 4 months.

Days until Alex Rodriguez is eligible to play for the Yankees again: 185 -- presuming, that is, that 2015's Opening Day is on April 1, and wouldn't it just work out that way, that A-Rod is again allowed to play a regular-season game for the Yankees on April Fool's Day? Anyway, that's a little over 6 months.

Days until the New York Islanders' last game at the Nassau Coliseum: 195, on April 11, 2015, at 7:00 PM, against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 209, on Friday, April 10, 2015, at 7:00 PM, at the new Yankee Stadium.

Days until the Islanders' first home game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn: Unknown, but an NHL regular season usually begins on the 1st Friday in October, which would be October 2, 2015. That's 370 days. That's just over 1 year. Or, to put it another way, "370 Sleeps Till Brooklyn." Until then, even with their 4 straight long-ago Stanley Cups, they're just a Small Club In Hempstead.

Days until Euro 2016 begins in France: 622, on Friday, June 10. Under 21 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 679, on Friday, August 5, 2016. A little over 22 months.

Days until the next World Cup begins in Russia: 1,352, on Friday June 8, 2018. Under 4 years.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Arsenal vs. Tottenham: The Defining Moments, Part V: 2004-2014

November 23, 2004: Arsenal and Tottenham meet for the first time since Arsenal's clincher the previous April, and it is the highest-scoring game in North London Derby history. Or, to put it another way: Tottenham scored 4 goals, at home, against Arsenal... and lost.  Arsenal won, 5-4. Pires scored again -- and he didn't even start!

May 21, 2005: After a horrible game in which Man United pressed them all day long, but they held on, Arsenal beat United on penalty kicks, 5-4, to win the FA Cup in Cardiff. Jens Lehmann made a stop on Paul Scholes to make the difference. The final kick, which won the Cup for Arsenal, was made by Captain Patrick Vieira. It was his last act on the pitch for Arsenal, as his contract ran out and he left the club.

For 9 years, this was the last time Arsenal had won a trophy -- as nearly everyone else, especially Tottenham fans, liked to remind Gooners.

September 9, 2005: The film Green Street premieres. Elijah Wood stars as Matt Buckner, a student expelled from Harvard after being framed for drug possession. So he flies off to London to spend a semester with his sister Shannon (Claire Forlani) and her British husband Steve Dunham (Marc Warren). His brother-in-law was once "the Major," the top boy (leader) of the Green Street Elite, a hooligan firm associated with East London club West Ham United, based on the real-life Inter-City Firm (whose real-life former top boy, Cass Pennant, is now an actor and film producer, and has a cameo, as, ironically, a police officer).

Steve's younger brother Pete is the current top boy, and is played by Charlie Hunnam -- in real life, a Newcastle native who now stars on Sons of Anarchy, where, as Jax Teller, a leader in a motorcycle, gang, he has much longer hair than a traditionally close-cropped football hooligan. (He'd previously played Nathan Maloney in the original British version of Queer As Folk.)

The film opens with the GSE in a tube station, across the tracks from a united of Tottenham's Y-- Army, which should not be in the East End. Pete yells across, "Mate, Tottenham's due north. Are you lost? Or just fucking stupid?" They're Tottenham fans, so either is possible. They run upstairs, and the Hammers fans live up to their name, and nail the Spuds.

Later, after Pete takes Matt to West Ham's match against Birmingham City (the Hammers win, and Pete is swept up in the atmosphere of the match), a fight breaks out between the GSE and the Brummies' Zulu Army, and the GSE barely saves Matt's life. Pete explains firms to Matt, and delivers the greatest line in the history of movies. No, not this...

Matt: What are you talkin' about, "Baseball is a girl's game"? The Red Sox have a guy that pitches the ball over 90 miles per hour!

Pete: Who cares? All that means is that he can have a wank faster than you.

As good as that is. This is the greatest line in the history of movies, delivered by Pete:

Every football team in Europe's got a firm. Some have two. [Matt gives him a blank look] Christ, I forgot how clueless you Yanks are. All you've seen of us is the stadium riots on TV, innit? Come on.

See, West Ham football is mediocre. But our firm is top-notch, and everyone knows it. The GSE: Green Street Elite. Arsenal? Great football, shit firm. The Gooners. Tottenham? Shit football, AND a shit firm! The Yids, they're called. I actually put their main lad through a phone box window the other day.

Tell it like it is, son.

Then Pete tells Matt about West Ham's arch-rivals, Millwall, with their firm, known in real life as the Bushwhackers. "Where to even fucking begin with Millwall?"

Matt: So, it's like the Yankees and the Red Sox.

Pete: More like the Israelis and the Palestinians.

And he wasn't kidding. Those two firms have killed each other's members in the past. It's not as bad as it was, with all the measures the police and the government have taken to identify and arrest hooligans. But as recently as a League Cup match in 2010, they went at it again.

May 7, 2006: One does not simply discuss the history of the Arsenal-Tottenham rivalry without talking about this day. It is folly.

Arsenal had their best European Cup/Champions League campaign ever, reaching the Final. That Final, still the closest Arsenal have ever come to winning the European Cup (the Champions League format kept the name for the trophy), was the last appearance in Arsenal's colours for Campbell, Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, and, controversially, for left back Ashley Cole, who had grown up as an Arsenal fan and in Arsenal's youth system, but had been "tapped up" by London rivals Chelsea, and went to them due to new owner Roman Abramovich's spending spree, which had gotten Chelsea the 2005 and '06 Premiership titles. Cole has been known as "Cashley" ever since.

But the 2005-06 season was the end of an era for another reason: It was the last season for the Arsenal Stadium, a.k.a. Highbury. The new Emirates Stadium -- some call it The Emirates, some by the area's former name Ashburton Grove, some cheekily call it New Highbury -- was going up, 500 yards away, and would open in the summer. Arsenal wanted very badly to end the last game at Highbury with a win.

But it wasn't just sentiment: Arsenal went into the season's League finale in 5th place, with Tottenham in 4th. All Spurs had to do in their game, away to West Ham, was match Arsenal's performance at home to Wigan Athletic, on that final day of the Premiership season, and it would be Spurs in the 2006-07 Champions League, with Arsenal "relegated" to the UEFA Cup -- unless, of course, Arsenal could win the CL Final.

The night before, Tottenham manager Martin Jol had secluded his players at a hotel, the Marriott Canary Wharf, in London's financial district, a.k.a. The City. This is not unusual: Many managers do things like this, even before home games. American football head coaches, in both the professional and the collegiate ranks, also do this. The players would have a nice dinner the night before the game, and get a good night's sleep, and would have a nice short bus ride to the stadium, all away from the prying of fans and the media.

What did Scottish poet Robert Burns say? Translated into modern common English, "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray." (Somewhat appropriate, since, early in the film version of Fever Pitch, Colin Firth's character is shown teaching John Steinbeck's novel that takes its name from that quote, Of Mice and Men.)

In the middle of the night, 10 Spurs players woke up, vomiting, and/or having diarrhea (or "diarrhoea"): Keane, Edgar Davids, Michael Carrick, Aaron Lennon, Michael Dawson, Lee Barnard, Calum Davenport, Teemu Tainio, Lee Young-Pyo and Radek Cerny. (Lennon is the only one still with Tottenham 8 years later, while Tainio would later play for the New York Red Bulls of MLS, including in a summer 2010 friendly with Spurs as the visiting team.)

Someone decided to blame the lasagne they'd eaten for dinner that night, and after the whole thing was over, some Spurs fans started a conspiracy theory (shades of their delusions about 1919) that the Marriott chef was an Arsenal fan and had purposely poisoned the Spurs players! It became known as Lasagne-gate.

In the morning, several Spurs players were still, uh, indisposed. So club chairman Daniel Levy called the League office, and asked League chairman Richard Scudamore to postpone the game. Nothing doing: With 1 League game to go, all teams were to play their games at the same time, 3:00 PM. (This was a change from past policy, to avoid teams whose League place had already been decided from laying down on the job, thus giving gamblers some easy pickings and paying customers a less than honest performance.)

Levy protested: They had sick players. Can't the game be postponed until tomorrow? Or even until tonight, just to give us a few more hours to recover? Scudamore asked if Spurs had 11 players who could play. Well, yes, but... Then the game would go on. If Spurs wanted to postpone, they could refuse to play, but an inquiry would be held, and Spurs would likely lose that appeal, and the penalty for refusing to play would be a deduction of points, which would make a win in the rescheduled match meaningless.

For the record, West Ham officials said they were willing to accept a postponement, so long as it wasn't too close to the following Saturday, when they were to play Liverpool in the FA Cup Final (which Liverpool went on to win). Unlike Spurs, West Ham were not threatened with a points deduction for going along with the postponement (which makes sense, since it wasn't their idea). But the police were afraid of what extra time to drink that day would do, considering the reputation that both Spurs' and the Hammers' fans had for hooliganism, including against each other. (As I said, a fight between West Ham and Spurs firms opened Green Street.) So they said they would allow the game to start no later than 5:00 -- an extra 2 hours, not much of a help for the last 2 players who still needed rehydration, Carrick and Lennon.

In the end, the game kicked off on time, at 3:00, and only one of the affected players, backup goalkeeper Cerny, did not make it into the game, although Carrick had to be subbed off after 63 minutes, Lee (for fellow affectee Barnard) in the 78th, and Tainio (for fellow affectee Davenport) in the 87th.

That season was Wigan's first-ever season in the Premiership, and they had achieved midtable respectability, finishing 10th. An Arsenal win shouldn't have been assumed, but it was well possible. West Ham were about Wigan's equal, finishing 9th, and were hosting Spurs -- hence the Canary Wharf hotel, not far from the Hammers' Boleyn Ground, a.k.a. Upton Park.

Pires scored the Highbury opener, and, for the last time at that ground, the song "One-nil to The Arsenal" was sung -- by both Arsenal fans at Highbury and West Ham fans, learning by radio and text message, at Upton Park.

But Wigan struck back, and led 2-1.  Spurs fans, getting calls and messages on their mobile phones, found out, and were ecstatic. And when Jermaine Defoe scored in the 35th to match Darren Fletcher's goal for the Hammers in the 10th, meaning Spurs were looking at a draw while Arsenal were losing, it looked like it would be Spurs' day.

It wasn't. Henry scored a hat trick, tallying in the 35th, the 56th, and in the 76th with a penalty that was the last goal ever scored in the ground's 93-year history. Feeling the history, after putting the ball in the net, instead of launching a ghastly celebration, he bent down and kissed the grass. (In a weird coincidence, the first hat trick at Highbury, in 1914, was scored by an Arsenal player named Harry King, and the last by Thierry Henry -- Henry King, and a man called "King Henry.")

And West Ham came from behind, and won 2-1 on a goal in the 80th minute by Yossi Benayoun, a midfielder from Israel. That's right, on this day, the Jews were against Tottenham! (Benayoun, the greatest player his country has yet produced, would later join Arsenal. More about that later.)

Arsenal finished 4th, 2 points ahead of Tottenham, and qualified for the Champions League; Tottenham, finishing 5th, went to the UEFA Cup.

The supposedly offending lasagne was sent to a laboratory, and tested. As it turned out, there was nothing wrong with it, at least not medically. The virus that spread among the Spurs players was real, but it had nothing to do with food. Still, Spurs fans blame that lasagne, and the chef that served it. Just like the Yankees-Red Sox "Curse of the Bambino," the lasagne contagion never really existed, but it has taken on a life of its own, because the afflicted team's fans believed it. And so, to spite them, ever since, Arsenal fans have sung, to "Volare":

Lasagne, whoa!
Lasagne, whoa!
We laughed ourselves to bits

when Tottenham got the shits!

Which matches another Arsenal chant. I don't know how far back it goes, but it was already in place in early 2007:

Q: What do you think of Tottenham?
A: Shit!
Q: What do you think of shit?
A: Tottenham!
Q: Thank you!
A: That's all right! We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham! We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham! We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham! We are the Tottenham haters! (Usually followed by a variation on the Y-word.)

May 17, 2006: At the Stade de France outside Paris, Arsenal lose the Champions League Final to Barcelona, 2-1. Sol Campbell became the first player ever to score in a Champions League Final for a London team, but goalie Jens Lehmann was sent off for a risky challenge. Wenger sent the shaky Manuel Almunia (later to be mocked by Gooners as "The Clown") into goal, and, having to take off an outfield player, removed Pires at a time when goals would seem to be at a premium. Sol's goal gave Arsenal a 2nd-half lead, but it didn't last, with Samuel Eto'o and Juliano Belletti scoring on the backup Almunia to give Barcelona the title.

As I said, this was the last game in Arsenal's colours for Bergkamp, Pires, Campbell and Cole. (Although Campbell did briefly return.) And, with the club moving into the Emirates at the same time, it's also seen by many as the day the great Arsenal team of the last few years went off the rails. In the years since, Arsenal have reached the Semifinals of the CL once, the Quarterfinals twice, the FA Cup Semifinals once, and 2 League Cup Finals, but didn't win any of them until 2014, and have not finished higher than 3rd in the League. The vast sums of money spent by Chelsea and the Manchester teams has not been matched by Wenger, and as the number of "years since Arsenal won a trophy" has mounted, some Gooners have demanded that Wenger "Spend some fucking money!"

They don't get it: As Tottenham have proven, it's not how much you spend, it's how wisely.

December 2, 2006: The teams meet at the Emirates for the first time. Arsenal win, 3-0.

January 24, 2007: The teams meet at White Hart Lane in a League Cup Semifinal 1st leg. Spurs take a 2-0 lead, partly thanks to an own goal by Julio Baptista, a Brazilian forward on loan from Real Madrid. But he redeems himself: "The Beast" scores twice, and Arsenal fans sing, to the tune of "Go West" (the same song used for "One-nil to The Arsenal" and "Stand up, if you hate Tottnum"), "Two-nil, and you fucked it up!" The game ends 2-2, and goes to the Emirates with Arsenal needing only to have a 1-0 net win on the night to advance to the Final.

January 31, 2007: With "The Lasagne Song" and "Two-nil, and you fucked it up" ringing down from the brand-new stands at the Emirates, the 2nd leg ends 1-1, 3-3 on aggregate, and extra time is required. But Arsenal win it 3-1, making it 5-3 on aggregate, and advance to the Final. Had Tottenham merely won their home leg 2-1, they would have advanced to the Final.

But Chelsea beat Arsenal in the Final -- despite Abou Diaby accidentally kicking Chelsea's despicable centreback and captain John Terry in the face and knocking him out -- and, following Arsenal doing it in 1993 and Liverpool in 2001, win the Cup Double. The main reason Chelsea won the Final is that their manager, Jose Mourinho, had started his usual starting XI, while Wenger had started mainly his younger players, to give them experience in a knockout competition, thinking this would "blood" them for stronger competitions like the Premiership and the Champions League.

January 22, 2008: With Wenger again starting "the kids," following a 1-1 draw in the 1st leg at the Emirates, again the League Cup Semifinal comes to White Hart Lane. This one, though, is no contest, as Tottenham, mainly starting their starters against "Arsene Wenger High School," win 5-1.

Spurs would soon release a DVD of this game, titled The Perfect Game. A, It was starters against reserves. Big deal. B, How can it be "perfect" if you let in a goal? Morons.

February 24, 2008: Tottenham beat Chelsea 2-1 to win the League Cup at the new Wembley Stadium. Although Didier Drogba, a.k.a. "Dogbreath," another of the most hated opponents Arsenal have ever had due to his goals against them and his obvious and unrepentant diving, opened the scoring, Tottenham got a penalty that was buried by Dimitar Berbatov, the Vulgarian Bulgarian, and the game went to extra time. Jonathan Woodgate, a defender, scored the winner in the 94th minute.

This is the last trophy that Tottenham have won. Arsenal would lose the League Cup Final in 2011, and Spurs fans haven't let us forget it, bringing up the Arsenal trophy drought again. Of course, if Arsenal had won that game, Spurs fans would remind us that we haven't won a major trophy since 2005 -- but that would mean Spurs haven't won a major trophy since 1991.

Moral of the story: If you care that much about the League Cup, then you don't support a big club -- or, at the least, you are not a fan worthy of a big club. In an age when the top 4 teams in England get to the Champions League, it's fine for that trophy to be celebrated by teams like Leicester City (2000), Blackburn Rovers (2002), Middlesbrough (2004), Birmingham City (2011) and Swansea City (2013) -- and Tottenham (1999 and 2008). But did Manchester City make a big deal out of it when they won it last year? Did Chelsea, when they won it in 2005 and '07? Did Man United, when they won it in 2006, '09 and '10? Did Liverpool, when they won it in 2001, '03 and '12? (Well, the last one, they did, kind of.)

Also, now that Arsenal have won a trophy in 2014 (2, if you count the Community Shield), and Tottenham still haven't won one since the 2008 League Cup, have the English media, who took a pernicious glee in pointing out Arsenal's trophy drought, gone out of their way to say that Tottenham have not won a trophy in 6 years, as they did for Arsenal in 2012? Not a bloody chance.

October 29, 2008: Tottenham take early leads of 1-0 and 2-1 at the Emirates, but Arsenal lead 4-2 in the 88th minute. And blow it. Jermaine Jenas scores in the 88th, and, with more stoppage time given than necessary, Aaron Lennon scores in the 94th. It's a 4-4 draw.

Within 12 hours, before the last chorus of "Four-two, and you fucked it up!" can stop ringing around North London, Tottenham release a DVD of this match. That's right, they released a video of a draw. True, Arsenal celebrated a draw at White Hart Lane in 2004, but that was for winning the League. What did Spurs get out of this draw? Not bragging rights: They still hadn't won a League game against Arsenal in 9 years.

Because they're both young black Englishmen who play on the right wing, Lennon (from Leeds) Arsenal's Theo Walcott (from the Stanmore section of London) often get compared. Tottenham fans call Walcott "a shit Aaron Lennon." No, Lennon is a shit Aaron Lennon.

February 8, 2009: How many Tottenham players does it take to beat 10 Arsenal players at White Hart Lane? Apparently, more than 12.

Emmanuel Eboue got sent off with a 2nd yellow card in the 37th minute -- admittedly, for a bad challenge, but his 1st yellow was bogus -- and referee Mike Dean, not for the 1st time and certainly not for the last, continues the game with the apparent purpose of screwing Arsenal over. But the game ends 0-0, and even with 12 vs. 10 and home-field advantage, Tottenham couldn't win -- or even score.

October 31, 2009: It's Halloween, and this game scared the shit out of Tottenham fans. And that takes a lot of scaring, because Tottenham fans are full of shit.

The game was scoreless until the 43rd minute, when Robin van Persie scored for Arsenal. It took about 40 seconds to restart the game, and almost immediately, Cesc Fabregas took the kickoff, went through Spurs' defense like a hot knife through butter, and scored. 45 seconds of hell!

Spurs had nothing for the rest of the game, and Arsenal won, 3-0. This game is treasured by Gooners, even though both Fabregas (in August 2011) and van Persie (in July 2012) would whine their way off the team. Cesc has largely been forgiven for his treachery by Gooners, but RVP, or "the Dutch skunk" as the author of Arseblog has dubbed him, has not been forgiven. (Like Ashley Cole, he also gets called "Judas.")

April 11, 2010: Tottenham advance to the FA Cup Semifinal, at the new Wembley Stadium, across London, where they lose 2-0 in extra time. This is their best performance in the tournament in 9 years -- when you consider that it went to extra time, it's their best in 19 years, since they won the Final in 1991.

But this becomes less of an accomplishment when you discover that the team they beat was Portsmouth. Big deal, you say? Portsmouth won the Cup just 2 years earlier, in 2008? Yes, they did. Their manager was Harry Redknapp, now managing Tottenham. But "Pompey" had gone into administration, and were docked points for this, due to a financial meltdown. They were assured of relegation, and would be relegated in each of the next 2 seasons, crashing to the 4th division (now called League Two). Twice, in 2010 and 2012, they came within hours of going out of business. Spurs, playing in their "hometown" (if not at their home ground), had gotten beat by a team that would be in the 4th division in a little over 2 years.

Why? Because Redknapp had so badly mismanaged Portsmouth's finances, worse than he'd done while managing Bournemouth, West Ham, and Portsmouth's arch-rivals, Southampton. Since then, he's also managed Queens Park Rangers, which currently has enough bankroll to avoid the same kind of meltdown, but they, too, were relegated. This was mainly due to the man Redknapp succeeded there, Mark Hughes. Still, he has gotten 5 clubs relegated, and caused them to be relegated a grand total of 8 divisions (although also gaining 2 promotions).

And how many trophies has this much-loved English manager Harry Redknapp won? In over 30 years of management, he has won exactly one major trophy, the 2008 FA Cup. And he nearly destroyed the club to do it.

April 14, 2010: All good things must come to an end, and on this day, 2 good things do: Arsenal's chances of winning the Premier League (which will be compounded soon by a game remembered as "The Wigan Capitulation") and Arsenal's 22-game League unbeaten streak against The Scum. Goals by diving Welsh ape Gareth Bale and substitute Danny Rose (not to be confused with the Woody Allen film Broadway Danny Rose -- that film is good) give Spurs a 2-1 win at The Lane.

Harry Redknapp, a former West Ham player whose financial dirty dealings as manager had previously caused financial crises and relegations for Bournemouth, West Ham, Southampton and Portsmouth (twice), had restored Spurs to something resembling glory.

Arsenal would finish 3rd in this season, Tottenham 4th -- meaning Spurs qualified for the Champions League (previously the European Cup) for the 1st time since they last won the League... 49 years earlier.

July 22, 2010: Tottenham make an off-season tour of North America. Included in this was the New York Football Challenge, a series of games played at the brand-new Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, home of the New York Red Bulls, who had recently signed former Arsenal superstar Thierry Henry. Also invited were Manchester City and, due to the strong Portuguese influence in the Newark/Harrison/Kearny area, Sporting Clube de Portugal, a.k.a. Sporting Lisbon.

Naturally, Henry scored for the Red Bulls against Tottenham. He is proud of saying he never played in a losing game against Tottenham. Unfortunately, that's not quite true, though it is for competitive matches. Hans Backe, then the Red Bulls' manager, replaced Henry and some other starters for the second half, and Tottenham won, 2-1.

July 25, 2010: Three days later, the event concluded with a doubleheader, and I was at this one -- meaning I saw Tottenham play live before I ever saw Arsenal play live. And let me tell you, until you have seen Harry Redknapp wearing shorts, you have never truly suffered.

In the first game, Tottenham blew 1-0 and 2-1 leads, and Sporting, who had beaten Man City 2 days earlier, forged a 2-2 draw. In the second game, the Red Bulls beat Man City, 2-1.

I sat in the South Ward, on the lower level. Wearing a red 1970s replica Arsenal shirt amid a sea of Red Bulls home whites and road blues, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Adebayor was with Man City at the time, and, remembering how he'd whined his way out of Arsenal a year earlier, and how he'd treated Arsenal and its fans since, I really gave him what-for. After a missed City shot, we were perhaps 50 feet apart, and he had this look on his face, as if to say, "What the hell? Who knows me here?" Then he saw my shirt, and the look changed to one that said, "Fucking Gooners, I can't get away from them anywhere!"

The Sporting fans, in the upper deck behind me, were fantastic. The City fans, across the stadium in the northeast corner of the upper deck, also behaved themselves. The Spurs fans were another matter. They were in the upper deck of the southeast corner, practically on top of me. And it was on this day that I saw just what a bunch of cunts they truly are.

It's not that, first verrrry slowly, they sang, "Oh... when... the... Spurrrrrrrrs... go marching in... " and then sped it up like they had injected speed. But they used the Y-word for themselves over and over again, apparently oblivious to the fact that American Jews (including, by one-quarter ancestry, yours truly) consider that to be the anti-Semitic equivalent of the N-word.

It got worse. Arsenal fans like to sing, to the tune of "Winter Wonderland," about "walking in a Wenger Wonderland." Because of Wenger's penchant for signing and playing very young players, including teenagers who are not yet ready, Tottenham fans have rewritten that song, and they sang it that day:

There's only one Arsene Wenger
There's only one Arsene Wenger
With a packet of sweets
and a cheeky little smile
Arsene Wenger is a paedophile!

This has been adopted elsewhere: Man United fans, to "La Donna e Mobile" from Rigoletto, have sung at Arsene, "Sit down, you paedophile!" (The English not only spell "pedophile" differently, but pronounce it "PEE-doh," instead of "PEH-doh.")

The charge, of course, has absolutely no evidence. Besides, it was Tottenham who had a manager who was then under indictment for a felony! Redknapp had been charged with tax evasion. (One of the things I yelled at Spurs that day was, "Hey Harry: The Queen wants her money!")

Of course, they sang, to "Go West," "Stand up, if you hate Arsenal!" At another point, they sang, "Who's that wanker over there?" I looked up, pointed to myself -- the closest fan to them wearing Arsenal gear -- and said, "Me?" It was only later, on the bus heading home, that I realized they were singing about Henry. Had they known I was singing the song about "the wanky Tottenham Hotspur" going to Rome to see the Pope, they might have meant me. (Another thing I realized on the bus ride home was that I forgot to sing "The Lasagne Song." But I unleashed pretty much every other anti-Spurs song in my, uh, arsenal.)

Anyway, Sporting Lisbon won the Challenge trophy, edging Tottenham on a tiebreaker. Two years later, Tottenham would come to North America again, and again I would be in the South Ward hoping to see the Red Bulls beat them. And, again, Backe would pull his starters at the half (this time not including Henry, who he didn't even start). And, again, the Red Bulls blew a 1-0 halftime lead to lose to The Scum, 2-1.

I have been in Shea Stadium, surrounded by 50,000 Met fans. I have been in Fenway Park, surrounded by 30,000 Red Sox fans. I have been in Madison Square Garden, surrounded by 15,000 Ranger fans. I have been in the Philadelphia Flyers' new arena (whatever the hell it's named this season), surrounded by 18,000 of them. Never have I been so sickened by opposing fans as I was upon hearing 2,000 Tottenham fans. "Scum," indeed. (To their credit, though, on neither occasion, 2010 or 2012, did I see them start a fight. Forget, "You're goin' home in a Jersey ambulance," I guess they didn't want to go to an American jail.)

September 21, 2010: It's only the 3rd Round, but another League Cup match is a North London Derby, at White Hart Lane. It goes to extra time, in which Spurs' defense collapses, and Arsenal win, 4-1. Remembering the 5-1 match 2 1/2 years earlier, the visiting Gooners sing, to the tune of "Bread of Heaven":

Shall we make
Shall we make
Shall we make a DVD?

Shall we make a DVD?

A lot of Tottenham fans left early, and, to the tune of "La Donne e Mobile," Arsenal fans brought up the old standby, "Is there a fire drill?" (Tottenham fans are so stupid, they think Rigoletto is the manager of Inter Milan.)

November 20, 2010: For the first time since May '93, Spurs win away to Arsenal, 3-2, on goals by Bale, Younes Kaboul, and a dubious penalty taken by their Dutch midfielder, Rafael van der Vaart.

April 13, 2011: Once again, ignoring the fact that they won nothing -- or "won fuck-all," as would be said in England -- in 2001, Spurs fans brought up the "Year ends in one" bullshit, thinking that they might actually win the Premier League and the Champions League under Redknapp.

The year ending in one ended with no glory for the club whose greatest manager, Bill Nicholson, liked to say, "This game is about glory." They finished 5th in the League, and did not qualify for the CL again. And, on this date, in the second leg of the CL Quarterfinal, at home, Tottenham were beaten 1-0 by Real Madrid, which had beaten them 4-0 in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Spurs fans relished the fact that, this season, they had gotten further in the CL than Arsenal had gotten. But whereas Arsenal had won 1-0 at Madrid in the Round of 16 in 2006 (the first English team ever to win there), Tottenham lost 1-0 to Madrid at home. No shame in that, but since Spurs fans measure themselves against Arsenal, their aggregate performance against Madrid (0-5) pales in comparison to Arsenal's 5 years earlier (1-0).

Late in the game, the Tottenham fans, knowing that the jig was up, started singing to the Madrid fans, to the tune of "Guantanamera," "Shit Barcelona, you're just a shit Barcelona!" Did the Madridistas get offended? Probably, but, showing that they'd done their homework, they came right back, singing in better English than the average Tottenham fan is capable of speaking, "Shit club near Arsenal, you're just a shit club near Arsenal!"

August 6, 2011: Riots break out all over England. The first of them, and, in terms of property damage, the worst of them, was in Tottenham. While White Hart Lane itself had been spared any damage, the surrounding area had not. As a result, when the League season began 2 weeks later, the Premier League postponed Spurs' season opener. This would have consequences later, as the fixture list piled up (partly due to a bad winter postponing some games).

Arsenal fans -- and fans of a few others teams, too -- would sing to the Spurs fans, to the tune of "Sloop John B":

You burned your own town.
You burned your own town!
You Tottenham bastards!
You burned your own town!

Tottenham isn't a town, it's a neighborhood (neighbourhood). But, yes, they burned their own town.

October 4, 2011: For the 3rd League game in a row, VDV scores for Spurs against Arsenal. This time, however, he blatantly cheats, deflecting the ball with his left arm, letting it drop to his feet, and scoring. Spurs take a 2-1 win at White Hart Lane, and Rafael becomes known in Arsenal lore as "Hand der Vaart."

February 26, 2012: Tottenham were 10 points ahead of Arsenal in the League, and Spurs fans had spent weeks reminding Gooners, in the words of message on the trains of the London Underground, to "Mind the gap." (In America, it's usually "Please watch the gap.") Arsenal needed to win this Derby. They needed a win. Real bad. They fell behind 2-0, including a goal by Adebayor, who had whined his way out of Arsenal 3 years earlier and had been picked up by Spurs. (This made him only the 2nd player ever to score for both sides of this rivalry, following Jimmy Robertson in 1970.) It looked really bad for Arsenal.

And the rout was on. Bacary Sagna, the braided right back who almost never scored, did so in the 40th. van Persie equalises in the 43rd. In the 2nd half, oft-injured midfielder Tomas Rosicky, a.k.a. "Little Mozart" (Mozart was Austrian, not Czech) gave Arsenal the lead in the 51st. And Walcott, showing he's not "a shit Aaron Lennon," scored in the 65th and the 68th, providing the final score of 5-2. Tottenham were shellshocked, and the Emirates partied like never before in, well, its brief 6-year history.

It was a win that, uh, spurs the Gunners on to make a great run-in, and Tottenham never recover.

May 13, 2012: In a reverse of 2006, Arsenal needed to match Tottenham's performance on the final day of the League season to guarantee 4th place and a CL place for next season, but were away, while Tottenham were home. And, sure enough, Tottenham beat fellow London club Fulham, 1-0.

But, thanks to a goal by 2006 Spurs tormentor Yossi Benayoun, and a great late clearance by left back Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal beat Wigan, 3-2, and clinched 4th. The game is best remembered by Gooners for a moment in the dying minutes where Wenger, knowing the Gunners would not be in the 2012-13 CL with a draw, grimaced and dropped his head into the lap of his assistant manager, former Arsenal Captain Pat Rice, who was in his last game before retirement from an active role with the club. (He was replaced by 1990s Arsenal centreback Steve Bould.) Wenger did, of course, rejoice at the final whistle, and Gooners with him.

Spurs fans, yet again, got their hearts broken. 2012 was the year singer Adele, a Tottenham native, would break out as a major star. She is known for singing songs of heartbreak, and she is a Spurs fan. Gee, do you think there's a connection?

Of course, this latest Spurs disaster wouldn't have happened if their fixture list hadn't been so congested, wearing their players down over the late winter and the spring. And that might not have happened if their first League game hadn't had to be rescheduled. And that wouldn't have happened if the Tottenham bastards hadn't "burned their own town." They screwed themselves, and they screwed their club. This was like the Chicago Cubs losing a Pennant because of Steve Bartman -- except Bartman was just one man doing something he was legally entitled to do. The rioters were hundreds of people committing actual crimes.

As the song went, to the tune of "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" (previously adapted for the England national side as "Ten German Bombers")...

There were 10 Tottenham points in the gap.
There were 10 Tottenham points in the gap.
There were 10 Tottenham points
10 Tottenham points
10 Tottenham points in the gap.
And the boys from The Arsenal took one down.
And the boys from The Arsenal took one down.
And the boys from The Arsenal
boys from The Arsenal
boys from The Arsenal took one down.

Until "There were no Tottenham points in the gap," concluding with...

Tottenham! Mind the gap!
Tottenham, Tottenham, mind the gap!
Tottenham! Mind the gap!
Tottenham, Tottenham, mind the gap!

A couple of minutes after this game ended, Man City came from 2-1 down in stoppage time to beat Queens Park Rangers 3-2, and win the Premier League title, beating Man United on goal difference. Sergio Aguero scored the winner, doing for Man City what Michael Thomas had done for Arsenal in 1989 -- the only 2 times the League title has swung from one team to another in the apparent last minute of the last game of the season. (Ray Kennedy's goal in 1971 was very late, but in regular time.) Even people who don't like Man City were cheering this result, as it meant a trophyless season for Man U. It was also Man City's 1st League title in 43 years -- not as long as Tottenham, but pretty bad, and now done with.

Anyway, shortly thereafter, Redknapp resigned as Tottenham manager, later taking the job at QPR. He had recently been acquitted in his trial for tax evasion, his defense (defence) being that he couldn't read very well and didn't understand the documents with which he was presented. In other words, Tottenham's manager was functionally illiterate.

Which brings up the point that Tottenham fans, criticizing the home game atmosphere at Arsenal, used to call Highbury "the Library" (it does rhyme, sort of), and have given the nickname to the Emirates as well. Well, how the fuck would a Tottenham fan know what the inside of a library sounds like?

October 7, 2012: Tottenham, now managed by Andre Villas-Boas, who had managed FC Porto to the Portuguese league title in 2011, beat Aston Villa 2-0. But the visiting Villa fans sang, to the tune of "Sloop John B"...

Let me go home!
I wanna go home!
Tottenham's a shithole!
I wanna go home!


Aston Villa is located in Birmingham, in England's West Midlands. The old steel city, which gave its name to a steel city in Alabama (as did Sheffield and Leeds), is often regarded as a city beyond help, as England's answer to Detroit. And yet, these people were saying that Tottenham is a shithole. Which it is.

November 17, 2012: As the American baseball legend Yogi Berra said, "It's deja vu all over again." Adebayor opened the scoring at the Emirates, but then got a straight red card for a monumentally stupid tackle on Santi Cazorla. Why was a forward making tackles anyway?

Arsenal pounded away at 10-man Spurs, and Per Mertesacker (a 6-foot-6 centreback known to Arsenal fans as "the Big Fucking German," or the BFG for short), Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Cazorla made it 4-1, before a consolation goal from Bale makes it 4-2. Remembering the 2008 game that went from 4-2 to 4-4 after the 88th minute, some Gooners got nervous, but they held on, and a stoppage time goal from Walcott made it, once again, 5-2. Some fans called it "Groundhog Day," in reference to the Bill Murray film comedy.

March 3, 2013: Thanks to a Bale goal that was obviously offside, and a Lennon goal that occurred 10 seconds after a challenge that should have been a yellow card to Tottenham, Tottenham beat Arsenal at White Hart Lane, 2-1.

After the game, Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas said Arsenal were "in a downward spiral." Actually, no, that's how it's remembered, but here's what he really said about the 2 teams:

We are on an upward spiral in terms of confidence and they are on a negative spiral in terms of results. To get out of that negative spiral is extremely difficult.

Summing up, as a studio guest on American network Fox Soccer Channel (now Fox Sports 1), Piers Morgan, an Englishman who hosted a nighttime show on CNN and claims to be an Arsenal fan, pointed out that Wenger has let many good players go in order to save money, and that Spurs were now 7 points ahead of Arsenal in the League, and says, "If Arsene Wenger has one ounce of honour left in him, he will resign immediately."

Wenger did not resign.

May 19, 2013: Arsenal had not lost since that match at The Lane, and, in another "Groundhog Day," simply had to match Tottenham's performance on the final day to ensure that they finish 4th and Tottenham 5th. Arsenal were away to Newcastle United, while Spurs were home to, oddly enough, Newcastle's arch-rivals, Sunderland.

Defender Laurent Koscielny scored in the 52nd minute, and it's One-nil to The Arsenal. Somehow, fans at The Lane got the message that Newcastle had equalised, and were convinced that all Tottenham had to do now was get one goal, and they would finish 4th. And they got that goal, from Bale -- who had essentially carried them that season, as they'd gotten few goals from their other players. They beat Sunderland, 1-0. But Newcastle had not equalised, and Arsenal won, 1-0.

Again, to the tune of "Sloop John B"...

It's happened again.
It's happened again!
Tottenham Hotspur
It's happened again!

"Have Newcastle equalized yet?" has become a Gooner catchphrase.

In addition, the Sunderland fans, as did the Aston Villa fans earlier in the season, sang, "Tottenham's a shithole, I wanna go home!" Sunderland, in England's North-East, is generally considered to be a very dreary place. And yet, these people were saying that Tottenham is a shithole. Which, as we've discussed, it is.

"Have Newcastle equalized yet?" has become a Gooner catchphrase.

September 1, 2013: An unusually early in the season North London Derby. Going into the game, there was 1 day left in the summer transfer window, and Arsenal had spent nothing, only bringing back former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini and bringing in French prospect Yaya Sanogo on free transfers. Wenger's bargain-basement hunts were going along as usual, while the "Spend some fucking money!" crowd was having strokes.

Meanwhile, after selling Bale for a world record £85 million, Spurs spent, depending on whose figures you believe, anywhere from £100 million to £110 million on 7 new players, all of them supposedly "world-class." Spurs fans, yet again, were talking about a "power shift in North London." After all, every season, they got closer and closer to it, and this time, Arsenal, and Arsenal fans, were scared of them. This was going to be their derby, this was going to be their coming-out party, this was going to be when the power shift finally happened.

The game ended One-nil to The Arsenal. Olivier Giroud scored, Flamini and the defenders shut Spurs down, and, once again, Spurs and their fans looked like bloody fools.

The next day, Arsenal spent £42.5 million to get Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid -- allowing Los Blancos to get back exactly half what they had spent on Bale.

How does it feel to be Tottenham?
How does it feel to be small?
You sold Bale
and we bought Mesut Ozil!

December 17, 2013: Spurs sack Villas-Boas. For all he had spent, Spurs were in 7th place, and had lost several games badly. His last game was a 5-0 loss to Liverpool. Meanwhile, Arsenal had lost just 1 League game since their March 3 meeting. Hard to get out of a negative spiral, you say? Right idea, wrong team.

AVB was replaced with Tim Sherwood -- a former Spurs player who had grown up as an Arsenal fan.

January 4, 2014: The rivals were paired in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup, and it was at Highbury. Arsenal were top of the League, and Tottenham were struggling simply to score goals from open play: Most of their wins had included penalties, countering their complaints that they hadn't gotten one the entire previous season. (Maybe they would have, if Bale wasn't such a diver. Maybe now they were getting them because Bale wasn't around to dive anymore.)

To the tune of "Seven Nation Army," Arsenal fans sang, "Tim Sherwood's a Gooner!"

Arsenal won, 2-0, with Walcott scoring the 2nd goal. But, with Arsenal having made all 3 substitutions, Walcott was hacked down, wrecking his knee. And not even a booking. As of the September 27, 2014 Derby, he still hasn't returned. (He's close, but Wenger will likely wait until after the next international break next month.) Although going down to 10 men didn't hurt Arsenal in this game, losing Walcott for the 2nd half of the season really hurt, and they finished 4th again.

Meanwhile, he was getting stretchered off, right in front of the visiting Tottenham fans. They threw things at him, including coins. That was how Tottenham responded to a problem that season: They threw money at it, and got little in return. What they got in return was Walcott holding up 2 fingers in his right hand, and making an O with his left, to signal the 2-0 score. Spurs fans were furious, and wanted him suspended and fined. He wasn't.

March 16, 2014: The most recent meeting between the clubs, going into today, was at White Hart Lane. Both teams needed a win: Arsenal to stop a downward spiral, and Spurs just to retain hope of qualifying for the Champions League.

Rosicky scored in the 2nd minute, and Arsenal held on for 93 nerve-twisting, gut-wrenching minutes, and it ended One-nil to The Arsenal. For all that Tottenham had spent, they had played 3 games against Arsenal in the season, and not only didn't they win any games, or take any points, they didn't even score any goals. (They also lost to West Ham 3 times, twice in the League and once in the League Cup.)

At the end of the season, Arsenal once again finished 4th, and Tottenham dropped one place to 6th, although still qualified for the Europa League. "Thursday is Spursday." Sherwood was fired, and Southampton boss Mario Pochettino was hired.

May 17, 2014: Arsenal come from 2-0 down early to beat Hull City 3-2 on an extra time goal by Aaron Ramsey, and win the FA Cup at the new Wembley Stadium.

The "years since Arsenal won a trophy" counter reverted to 0. Only 2 English clubs won trophies that season: Arsenal, the FA Cup; and Manchester City, the League and the League Cup. Manchester United collapsed. Like Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool were both top of the League late in the season. But, between them, they, and Tottenam, won nothing.

September 27, 2014: Going into today's Derby, Arsenal have won 77 competitive matches between the teams, Tottenham 54, with 47 draws.

Kickoff is at 5:30 PM London time, 12:30 PM U.S. Eastern Time.

BEAT THE SCUM!