Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Few Random Thoughts On Bill Mazeroski Day

Bill Mazeroski, standing in front a preserved part of the Forbes Field wall,
October 13, 2010, the 50th Anniversary of his World Series-winning home run.

October 13, 1960 to October 13, 2015: This morning, 55 years to the day after perhaps the greatest game in baseball history, resulting in the only home run ever to win Game 7 of a World Series in the bottom of the 9th inning, I showed my niece Rachel the official highlight film of that game.

(My other niece, Ashley, wasn't interested in watching. The world's least identical twins are now 8.)

The Pittsburgh Pirates led the Yankees 4-0, then the Yankees led 7-4, then the Pirates led 9-7, the Yankees tied it up, and Bill Mazeroski won it, 10-9, and won the World Championship, their 1st in 35 years.

Rachel wanted to know why the Yankees lost. I explained about the way manager Casey Stengel mishandled the pitching staff in that Series, and how he was fired afterward, saying, "I'll never make the mistake of being 70 again." I explained about the bad-hop grounder that hit Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek in the throat, resulting in the rally that put the Buccos 9-7 up. And I explained that the Pirates were lucky to have survived 16-3, 12-0 and 10-0 blowouts to extend the Series to a Game 7, but also that the Pirates were a very good team, even though it took them 11 years to win another Pennant and World Series.

She wasn't happy that the Yankees lost. Lots of people weren't. The Yankees have won so often that people tend to forget that, as many times as they've been in the postseason, they have a better chance of facing a "Bill Buckner Moment" (Sorry, Bill, but no other name will get people to better grasp what I mean) than any other team. And, until the expanded Playoffs of the 1990s and the shortfalls of the 2000s, 1960 Game 7 was the Yankees' biggest heartbreak moment.

It tends to get brushed aside because they won the next 2 World Series. But ask a Yankee Fan old enough to have watched it, and he'll say it still bothers him, 55 years later.

It doesn't bother me, because I'm not old enough to have watched it as it happened, and because it's hard to begrudge the Pirates' fans this great win, since they've only won the Series 5 times in the 110 times it's been played (every season since 1903 except for 1904 and 1994).

As the nursery rhyme goes, the Pirates are like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead: When they've been good (as they've been the last 3 seasons), they've been very, very good; but when they've been bad, they've been horrid. So why not accept it when they've been good? After all, they're not the Red Sox. Or the Mets.

Mazeroski, a Hall-of-Famer, an 8-time Gold Glove winner and a 7-time All-Star, is still alive. He recently turned 79, and still gets around, living in the Gulf Coast city of Panama City, Florida.

There are 15 Pirates still alive from the 1960 World Champions: Mazeroski, shortstop Dick Groat, center fielder Bill Virdon, left fielder Bob Skinner, catcher Hal Smith, pinch-runner Joe Christopher, and pitchers Vernon Law, Bob Friend and Elroy Face played in the game; Shortstops Dick "Ducky" Scofield and Dick Barone (who turns 83 today), outfielder Ramon Mejias, catcher Bob Oldis and pitchers Joe Gibbon and Bennie Daniels were also on the Pirate roster.

From the 1960 Yankees, 7 players survive who played in the game: 2nd baseman Bobby Richardson, shortstop Tony Kubek, substitute shortstop Joe DeMaestri, pinch-hitter Hector Lopez, and pitchers Bobby Shantz, Jim Coates and Ralph Terry, who gave up the home run (but won Game 7 with a shutout 2 years later). Not entering the game, but on the roster and still alive: Outfielder Bob Cerv; and pitchers Whitey Ford, Art Ditmar, Luis Arroyo, Eli Grba, Bill Short, Fred Kipp, Johnny James and Hal Stowe. Total, 16. Yogi Berra, of course, died last month.


Speaking of Pittsburgh: They say "ambivalence" -- having conflicting feelings -- is watching your mother-in-law drive off a cliff in your new Cadillac.

Well, today, ambivalence is loving both dogs and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and having Michael Vick lead the Steelers to victory last night over the San Diego Chargers, 24-20 at Jack Murphy Stadium. (Qualcomm Stadium.)

The Steelers have been held up as a "model franchise" and a "class organization" for so long, it's uneasy hearing that their top 2 quarterbacks are Ben Roethlisberger, twice investigated for rape (but never charged due to questionable evidence), and Michael Vick, who served nearly 2 years in prison for running a dogfighting ring. (The seasons in which he was 27 and 28 years old, and should have been at his peak.)


Speaking of the Mets: Last night, something happened that neither you nor I have ever seen before: A postseason game was played at Citi Field.

The Mets got "revenge" on the now-suspended Chase Utley in the best way possible: They won, beating the Dodgers 13-7, to move within 1 game of winning the National League Division Series.

There was a moment in the 9th when it looked like the Dodgers might come back, but, this time, the Curse of Donnie Baseball was stronger than the Curse of Kevin Mitchell.

One of those curses will strike, either tonight, or in the not-yet-necessary Game 5, and eliminate one of these teams. Right now, it looks like the Mets will move on.

It also looks like the Chicago Cubs will move on, beating their arch-rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. Jake Arrieta, who's been the best pitcher in baseball the last month or so, did not have good stuff last night. But the Cubs hit a postseason record 6 home runs last night: 1 each by Kyle Schwarber, Starlin Castro, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler and Dexter Fowler. Despite a Cardinal rally in the 9th, the Cubs hung on to win, 8-6, and Arrieta was the winning pitcher anyway.

The Toronto Blue Jays extended the Texas Rangers to a 5th game -- and road team has won all 4 games in that series so far -- and the Kansas City Royals did the same to the Houston Astros.


Speaking of Arrieta: I saw his major league debut live, only I'd forgotten that he was in it. I went to see the Yankees play the Orioles in Baltimore on June 10, 2010. What I remember is Alex Rodriguez jacking them out in batting practice, and yelling, "Hey, Alex: Save some of that for the actual game!" Then he got hurt and had to leave the game after just 1 inning!

That left the Yankees with light-hitting Ramiro Pena batting 4th and playing 3rd base. It wasn't a total loss, as he had a sacrifice bunt in the 6th, but the Yankees lost the game 4-3. Arrieta didn't pitch great, but he got the win.

I'd tried to put that bastard of a game out of my mind, until Squawker Lisa reminded me of it a couple of days ago. As Bob Dylan would say, "Now, if you see Saint Lisa, please tell her thanks a lot! I cannot move, my fingers are all in a knot!"


Hours until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 8, tonight, at 6:30 PM Eastern Time, against Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Last Saturday night, they seemed to have forged a 2-2 draw and penalties in the CONCACAF Cup Final against arch-rival Mexico, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, outside Los Angeles. But they let in a late winner, 3-2. Someone called it the darkest day in the history of U.S. soccer. I don't know about that, but in some countries, it would have been reason alone to fire the manager. And yet, for all his screwups, Jurgen Klinsmann is still the manager. The next game isn't until November 13, time enough to find a new manager.

Days until the Red Bulls play again: 1, tomorrow night at 7:00, home to Toronto FC.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 3, this Friday night at 7:00, away to J.P. Stevens. Last Friday night, they fell to 1-3 by getting pounded by Stevens' crosstown rivals, Edison. Our 1 win was a 2-point home win over North Brunswick. So far, this season is shaping up like 2013: We went 1-9, our only win being a 2-point home win over North Brunswick. Begging the question, how bad is North Brunswick? The answer is, "Very."

Days until Arsenal play again: 4, this Saturday, 7:45 AM our time, home to Hertfordshire club Watford, who are in the Premier League for the 1st time since 2007.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 4, this Saturday afternoon at 3:30, away to Indiana. They looked like they would upset Number 4 Michigan State at home on Saturday night, but blew it.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: 5, this Sunday afternoon at 1:00, away to the Rangers. They visit the Flyers on the following Thursday night, and make their 1st regular-season visit to Brooklyn to play the Islanders on the Tuesday night after that.

Days until the Red Bulls play another "derby": 5, this Sunday nigh at 7:30, home to the Philadelphia Union. This will be the regular-season finale. The Red Bulls could play D.C. United or the New England Revolution in the MLS Cup Playoffs, but the won't play New York City FC or the Union again before next March.

Days until the next North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham: 26, on Sunday, November 8, at 11:00 AM New York time, at the Emirates Stadium. They've already gone to White Hart Lane and knocked The Scum out of the League Cup.

Days until the next East Brunswick vs. Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 44on Thursday morning, November 26, at 11:00 AM, at Jay Doyle Field in East Brunswick. A little over 6 weeks.

Days until the Yankees play again: 175, on Monday, April 4, at 1:00 PM, home to the Houston Astros, the team that knocked them out of this season's Playoffs. Under 6 months.

Days until Euro 2016 begins in France: 242, on Friday, June 10. Under 9 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 297, on Friday, August 5, 2016. Under 10 months.

Days until Alex Rodriguez's contract runs out: 750, o
n November 1, 2017 -- the date on which Game 7 of the World Series would be played that year. Just over 2 years. Yes, I'm including this in the countdown again, because, again, he faded down the stretch and choked in our postseason game. "Redemption of A-Rod," my ass.

Days until the next World Cup, in Russia: 975, on Thursday, June 14, 2018. About 32 months, or under 3 years.

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