Thursday, October 29, 2015

I'm Not Going to Lie to You: It Doesn't Look Good for the Mets

Mets fans, as they say on medical dramas, "I'm not going to lie to you: It doesn't look good."

Before the 2000 World Series (the only Subway Series since 1956 -- nobody ever called Giants-Dodgers games played in the regular-season by that name), the Flushing Heathen assumed, "We've got Al Leiter starting in Games 1 and 5, and Mike Hampton in Games 2 and 6. And everybody knows the Yankees can't hit lefthanded pitching!"

Well, as that great fictional New Yorker Felix Unger would say, "You should never assume. Because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and ME!"

The Mets were hard-luck losers in both games that Leiter started -- in Game 1 because manager Bobby Valentine trusted his bullpen, and in Game 5 because he didn't -- and Hampton got rocked in Game 2, and the Series never even made it to a Game 6.

The Mets lost that Series to the Yankees for one simple reason: They just weren't good enough. A sub-reason was that their pitching was overrated.

In 2015, Met fans again assumed that their pitching was going to be the key to victory. Well, in Game 1, Matt Harvey, "The Dark Knight," blew a 3-1 lead in the 6th inning against the Jokers from Kansas City, and the bullpen blew a 4-3 lead in the 9th and lost the game in the 14th.

In Game 2, it was Jacob deGrom's turn. The Met with Tim Lincecum's hairstylist had good stuff through 4 innings, allowing just 1 hit and having a 1-0 lead. But he fell apart in the 5th, and the Royals scored 4 runs. Meanwhile, it was the Royals' Johnny Cueto, whose last postseason start was a bust, who pitched a solid game, the 1st complete-game win by an American League pitcher in World Series play since Jack Morris pitched shutout ball for 10 innings in Game 7 in 1991.

The bats haven't gotten it done, either. Daniel Murphy's heroics and the sweeps of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series and the Chicago Cubs in the NL Championship Series hid the facts that the Mets' bats were, aside from Murphy, lousy.

Check out these OPS's, from the entire postseason thus far, 9 games: Wilmer Flores, .669; Yoenis Cespedes, whose August and September propelled the Mets past the Washington Nationals to the NL Eastern Division title, .631; Travis d'Arnaud, .595; David Wright, the team Captain and "the new face of New York baseball" after the retirement of Derek Jeter, doing his usual late-season disappearing act with .540; and Michael Conforto, .325, batting just 1-for-20.

As an analyst for Fox, Alex Rodriguez must be thinking, "And they call me a postseason choker?" (Yes, we do. But you're a more proven postseason 3rd baseman than Wright is.)

Speaking of disappointing Yankees, you know how much Yankee fans hate seeing Stephen Drew come to bat? Well, in 2015, his OPS was .652 -- higher than the postseason OPS's of Cespedes, d'Arnaud, Wright and Conforto.

Even Murphy, whose OPS for the NLDS was 1.143 and for the NLCS 1.850, both truly scorching figures, is now at .586 for the World Series. Keep in mind, he's not that good a player. He was named to the 2014 All-Star Game, but that's only because every team has to have at least 1 player, and he was it for the then-pathetic Mets. His career highs are 14 home runs this season, and 78 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in 2013. An average season for him is .288, 32 doubles, 8 homers, 56 RBIs and 8 steals. A good season at all, but hardly legendary.

The Mets are down 2 games to none for one simple reason: They just aren't good enough. If you doubt this, note that the Mets won 90 games this season, while the Royals won 95.

True, the team that won more doesn't always win the Series. But compare this Met team: They won 108 games when they won the Series in 1986, 100 when they won the Series in 1969, 100 when they won the Division in 1988, 98 when they finished 2nd in 1985, 97 when they finished 2nd in 1999, 97 when they won the Division in 2006, 94 when they won the Pennant in 2000, 92 when they finished 2nd in 1987, 91 when they finished 2nd in 1990, and the same number, 90, when they finished 2nd in 1984.

Or, to put it another way: The Pennant-winning Mets of 2015 won just 1 more regular-season game than the 2008 Mets who choked away a Playoff berth in September, and just 2 more than the 2007 Mets who did the same.

This Met team didn't even win as many games as the 1996 Yankees, who won 92 on the way to winning the whole thing. The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, remembered as one of the great choking teams of all time? They won 92. The 1969 Chicago Cubs, whose "September Swoon" helped spur the Mets on to a title? They also won 92. That's 2 more games than the 2015 Mets.

Indeed, the Mets had the 7th-best record in the major leagues this season. If the old 2-Division setup of 1969 to 1993 were still in place, the Mets would have finished 4th, 10 games out of 1st place:

1. St. Louis 100-62
2. Pittsburgh 98-64
3. Chicago 97-65
4. New York 90-72
5. Washington 83-79
6. Miami 71-91
7. Philadelphia 63-99

Atlanta (67-95) was in the West in the old setup.

True, in a realigned MLB, with the Leagues discarded for a more sense-making geographic conference setup, they would have finished 3 games ahead of the Yankees. But in the old setup, the Yankees would have been closer to 1st, in 2nd, 6 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays.

And, let's not forget, the Yankees beat the Mets 4 out of 6 this season.

No, the Mets aren't good enough. The only reason they won the NL East is that the rest of the Division stunk.

Which was also the case when they ran away with the Division in 2006, and when they ran away with the Division in 1988, and when they ran away with the Division in 1986, and in 1973 when they won it with only 82 wins.

Noah Syndergaard is the scheduled starter for Game 3. But if the Dark Knight and the deGrominator couldn't beat the Royals, why should anyone have any confidence in Thor?

No, I'm not going to lie to you: It doesn't look good.


October 29, 1860: In the match for the 1860 whip-pennant‚ emblematic of the championship of the U.S.‚ the Atlantics top the Eckfords‚ 20-11. Both clubs are from Brooklyn, until 1898 a separate city from New York. With the game tied at 5-5 after 5 innings‚ the Atlantics score 6 in the 6th‚ 5 in the 7th‚ and 4 in the 8th to win.

As agreed upon‚ in order to maintain neutrality, all umpires are players from a 3rd club. The umpire chosen for this game is Asa Brainard, the star pitcher for another Brooklyn team, the Excelsior club. That he was chosen to umpire such an important game at the age of 19 shows how highly regarded he must already have been.

After the shocking death of teammate Jim Creighton in 1862, Brainard would succeed him as the best pitcher in baseball. Forced out by the arrival of Candy Cummings (not the inventor of the curveball, as some would have you believed, but a very good practitioner of it), he left for the National club of Washington, D.C. (not the forerunners of today's Washington Nationals). In 1869, he became the pitcher – not the only single pitcher, but he tossed more than 70 percent of their innings in those 1869 and '70 seasons – for the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first openly professional team, and his name, Asa, became the source of the pitching term “Ace.”

When the National Association was formed in 1871, Red Stockings founder Harry Wright took 5 of his players to Boston and formed the Boston Red Stockings, the team that would eventually become the Atlanta Braves. Brainard took the other half of the team with him back to the capital, and formed the Washington Olympics.

But he suffered from tuberculosis, and, like many such people in that era, he traveled to Denver for its dry, thin air. It did him no good: He died there in 1887, just a few weeks after the famed gunfighter and dentist John Henry "Doc" Holliday also died from tuberculosis in Colorado.

There is a bias among voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame against the true pioneers of the game. Only 8 men who played so much as 1 game before the NL's 1876 founding are in the Hall: Knickerbockers member and original rules compiler (and no less than co-writer) Alexander Cartwright, Harry and George Wright from the Cincinnati & Boston Red Stockings/Braves, Al Spalding and Cap Anson from the Chicago White Stockings/Cubs, Candy Cummings who didn't last long into the NL, Jim "Orator" O'Rourke who later starred for the Giants, and James "Deacon" White who went on to play for several teams. Until White was elected in 2013, the last one elected was Harry Wright, all the way back in 1953. (George Wright was the last survivor of these, living until 1937.)
There are quite a few players from the pre-NL, or even pre-NA era, who have been overlooked. Coming to mind are Brainard and Creighton from the Excelsiors; Joe Start, Lip Pike, George Zettlein and Dickey Pearce of the Atlantics; and Bobby Matthews of the New York Mutuals, who also had Start and Pike at times. Brainard, for his stardom in both the amateur and the early professional era, is a particular omission that should be corrected at the next available opportunity.


October 29, 1866: The final championship match of the season is between the Irvington club of New Jersey and the host Atlantics‚ with the 2 clubs playing a rubber match to determine the champion of the 1866 season. The Atlantics break a 5-5 tie by scoring 7 in the 10th inning and winning‚ 12-6, to keep the Championship.

This is the closest a team playing its home games in New Jersey will come to being a sport’s “world champion” until the New York Giants win Super Bowl XXI, 120 years later.

October 29, 1889: The National League Champion New York Giants win their 2nd consecutive World Championship by taking this year's best-of-11 matchup in 9 games.

After spotting the American Association Champion Brooklyn Bridegrooms (the once-and-future Dodgers were so named because 3 of their players had gotten married in the 1887-88 off-season) 2 runs in the 1st‚ the Giants rally to win 3-2 behind Hank O'Day's pitching -- the same Hank O'Day who would be the umpire who ruled against them in the Fred Merkle Game 19 years later. Slattery scores the winning run in the 7th inning‚ coming in from second as catcher Doc Bushing misses a two-out 3rd strike.

The next season, the 'Grooms would join the NL, and win the Pennant. They would win 2 more Pennants before the Giants won another, in 1899 and 1900. But over the next 40 years, the Superbas/Robins/Dodgers would win just 2 Pennants, while the Giants would win 13. And the Yankees, not even formed yet, would win 11. Ah, but over the last 17 years of New York's 3-team availability, it would be a different story: The Yankees would win 12 Pennants, the Dodgers 7, the Giants only 2.

The last survivor of the 1889 Giants was 3rd baseman Art Whitney, who lived on until 1943.

October 29, 1898: Because of NL interest in curbing rowdyism on the field‚ information is provided indicating that there were 62 expulsions during the season. Bill Dahlen of the Chicago Colts (soon to become the Cubs) and Patsy Tebeau of the Cleveland Spiders (soon to collapse and go out of business) tied for the lead with 6 thumbings each. Dahlen was also suspended for 3 days.


October 29, 1913: Albert William Suomi is born in Eveleth, Minnesota. At a time when the Chicago Blackhawks were experimenting with American players, he was called up in the 1936-37 season, and played 5 games. He never appeared in the NHL again.

He became a referee, and ran a hardware store outside Chicago. He is believed to be the 1st former NHL player who lived to be 100 years old, dying at that age on September 23, 2014. Currently, the oldest living former player is Boston Bruins Hall-of-Famer Milt Schmidt, 97.

October 29, 1920: The Yankees sign Red Sox manager Ed Barrow as business manager – the job that will, in a few years, begin to be called “general manager” – completing the front office team that will build the game's most successful record. Hugh Duffy, the Boston Braves star who batted a record .438 in 1894, replaces Barrow at Fenway Park.

Barrow had managed the Red Sox to the 1918 World Series, and, regarding the hitting and pitching talents of Babe Ruth, said, “I’d be a fool to turn the best lefthanded pitcher in the game into an outfielder.”

The choice had already been made for him, but he would help the Yankees win 14 Pennants and 10 World Series in his 26 seasons as Yankee GM. Shortly before his death in 1953, he was elected to the Hall of Fame. At the Yankees’ next home opener, a plaque was dedicated in his memory and hung on the outfield wall near the Monuments, and would later be moved to Monument Park.

He is buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York, along with several other baseball-connected personalities: The Yankee owner who hired him, Jacob Ruppert; a Yankee slugger he signed, Lou Gehrig; the Boston owner and Broadway promoter who previously hired him, Harry Frazee; the Governor of New York who sometimes threw out the first ball at big Yankee games, Herbert Lehman; the opera singer who often sang the National Anthem at Yankee games, Robert Merrill; and the Brooklyn-born comedian who remained a Dodger fan after they moved West to his own new home of Hollywood, and was a member of the first ownership group of the Seattle Mariners, Danny Kaye.

October 29, 1921: The Harvard University football team loses to Centre College of Danville, Kentucky, ending a 25-game winning streak. This is considered one of the biggest upsets in college football, as the “Praying Colonels” (no, I’m not making that mascot name up) were the 1st team from outside the old Northeast (Jim Thorpe's Pennsylvania-based Carlisle counts) to beat one of the old “Big Three” of Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

Today, Harvard, like all the Ivy League teams, is in the FCS, the Football Championship Subdivision, what used to be known as Division I-AA. Since the official founding of the Ivy League as a sports conference in 1955, Harvard has won its football championship 15 times, including last year's undefeated season. (They are currently 6-0 going into tomorrow night's game against Dartmouth, riding a 20-game winning streak dating back to mid-2013. Harvard is currently ranked Number 15, Dartmouth Number 22 -- and that includes Football Bowl Subdivision, or FBS or former Division I-A, teams.)

Centre would prove that their 1921 win over Harvard was no fluke: On 4 consecutive Saturdays in 1924, the Colonels defeated Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. Their biggest star of 1921, Bo McMillin, was a rough Texan who was one of the 1st good NFL quarterbacks, and would coach Indiana to its 1st football title in the Big Ten in 1945. Today, however, Centre are in Division III, but have won their league 12 times, including 6 times from 1980 to 1990. Their last title was in 2003.


October 29, 1931: For the 1st time under the current format, as voted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the Most Valuable Player awards are given. In the American League. The choice is an easy one, and is unanimous: Robert "Lefty" Grove of the Philadelphia Athletics, who had maybe the best season any pitcher has ever had, going 31-4 with a 2.08 ERA, and helping the A's win their 3rd straight Pennant.

The 1st official NL MVP will be Frankie Frisch, 2nd baseman for the Pennant-winning Cardinals. The Fordham Flash batted .311 and led the NL in stolen bases, before leading them to victory over the A's in the World Series, avenging the previous season's defeat. He will become player-manager in 1934, and lead "the Gashouse Gang" to another World Championship, his 4th as a player, also including 1921 and 1922 with the Giants. He and Grove, who'd won the Series with the A's in 1929 and 1930, will both become easy choices for the Hall of Fame.

October 29, 1939: The Babe Siebert Memorial Game is played at the Montreal Forum. It raised $15,000 for his family -- about $257,000 in today's money.

Charles Albert Siebert was a left wing who won Stanley Cups with the 1926 Montreal Maroons and the 1933 New York Rangers. With Nels Stewart and Hooley Smith, he formed one of the first named forward lines in hockey, the S-Line. In 1934, playing for the Boston Bruins, he played in the 1st All-Star benefit game for an NHL player, Ace Bailey of the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose career was ended by a vicious check by Bruin defenseman Eddie Shore.

But Siebert and Shore couldn't get along, and, in 1936, the Bruins traded him to the Montreal Canadiens. He was immediately named Captain, and won the 1937 Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. The following fall, he played in another All-Star benefit game, this time for Canadiens superstar Howie Morenz, who had died in March from complications from leg surgery.

In 1939, 35 years old and plagued with injuries, he retired.  He was immediately offered the Canadiens' head coaching position, but he never got the chance to coach a game. On August 25, 1939, while vacationing with his family and swimming with his daughters Judy and Joan, then just 11 and 10 years old, at a family cottage on the shore of Lake Huron, he drowned attempting to retrieve an inflatable tire they were playing with.

The league organized an all-star benefit game to aid Siebert's widow (who was paralyzed and had mounting medical bills) and daughters. The Canadiens faced an all-star team composed of the best players from the remaining teams. The All-Stars won, 5-2. Though only about 6,000 fans showed up, the organizers met their target of $15,000.

Also on this day, Peter Gerard Richert is born in Floral Park, Long Island, New York. A pitcher, Pete Richert was a 2-time All-Star, and won the World Series with the 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers and the 1970 Baltimore Orioles. He went 80-73 for his career. He is still alive.


October 29, 1941: Harvey Hendrick shoots and kills himself at his farm in Covington, Tennessee. He was only 43. A star football player at Vanderbilt University, he was a rookie pitcher on the Yankees' 1st World Championship team in 1923, and, after Lou Gehrig, the 2nd man to have played on that team to die. His baseball career ended in 1934, and I guess his farm wasn't working out well.

Judging by the reaction when active Yankee Cory Lidle was killed in a plane crash just after the 2006 regular season, I can imagine that, today, if a former Yankee player committed suicide, the story would soak the news (in blood) for days. But Hendrick has been just about forgotten. The Yankees did not wear black armbands or any kind of memorial patch during the 1942 season -- just the red, white & blue "HEALTH" shield that all teams wore in that 1st full year of World War II for the U.S.

October 29, 1944: Claude Brochu (no middle name) is born in Quebec City. An executive at Seagram's, he was named President of the Montreal Expos in 1986. In 1991, he led a group that bought the team to prevent it from being moved to Phoenix, and on August 12, 1994, the Expos had the best record in baseball, and looked like it had a good shot at the World Series. So far, so good.

Then it all came crashing down. The players went on strike, and, forced to use his own money to keep the team going when his partners refused to do the same, Brochu had to sell off several key players: He traded John Wetteland, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom and Ken Hill, and let Larry Walker get away via free agency, getting nothing in return for him.

He practically begged the Montreal municipal and Quebec provincial governments to build him a new baseball-only stadium that would be more profitable than staying in the Olympic Stadium, but they turned him down. In 1998, having no other alternative and no other buyer, he sold the Expos to Jeffrey Loria, and, despite Loria's public pronouncements about being committed to Montreal, the team's fate was sealed. Brochu is still alive, but the Expos are not: After the 2004 season, they became the Washington Nationals.

October 29, 1949: Paul Perlette Orndorff Jr. is born in the Tampa suburb of Brandon, Florida. A running back at the University of Tampa, he was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 1973, but failed to pass their physical. He also flunked a physical with the Kansas City Chiefs. In 1975, he played for the Jacksonville Sharks of the World Football League, but after the WFL folded, no NFL team would take him.

For the next 20 years, he was a professional wrestler. Rowdy Roddy Piper and gave him the stage name "Mr. Wonderful." The feud between Piper, Orndorff and manager Bob Orton Jr. on one side, and Hulk Hogan, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka and actor Lawrence "Mr. T" Tureaud, essentially led to the creation of the 1st WrestleMania in 1985. Hogan pinned Orndorff, thanks to a mistake in interference by Orton, which led to a rift between Orndorff and Piper and eventually a teamup between Hogan and Orndorff. This didn't last, as Mr. Wonderful and the Hulkster started feuding again.

Orndorff retired due to an arm injury in 1995, and patched things up with both Hogan and Piper (who, prior to Piper's recent death, most definitely did not patch things up with each other). He now lives in the Atlanta suburbs, remains married to his high school girlfriend, has grown sons Paul III and Travis, and has beaten cancer. 

October 29, 1950: King Gustav V of Sweden dies of flu complications at age 92. As the host of the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, he presented decathlon and pentathlon champion Jim Thorpe with a laurel wreath and, according to legend, said, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world,” coining a phrase that has become an unofficial title for the Olympic decathlon champ. Thorpe’s response is said to have been, “Thanks, King.” Gustav V was the great-grandfather of the current monarch, King Carl XVI Gustaf.

October 29, 1953: Denis Charles Potvin is born in Hull, Quebec, across the Ottawa river from the Canadian capital of Ottawa, Ontario. One of the greatest defensemen in hockey history, he was the Captain of the New York Islanders’ 4 straight Stanley Cups of 1980 to 1983.

Arguably the team’s greatest player ever, certainly its most important, his Number 5 has been retired, and he was the first Isles player elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. His brother Jean Potvin also played for the Isles for a time, and his cousin Marc Potvin also played in the NHL.

However, his name is best remembered for an incident in the Ranger-Islander rivalry. On February 25, 1979, the teams played at Madison Square Garden, and Potvin checked Ranger All-Star Ulf Nilsson into the boards, breaking Nilsson’s ankle.

In spite of the fact that no penalty was called, and the fact that Nilsson has always maintained that it was a clean hit, and that fact that then-Ranger coach Fred Shero also said it was a clean hit, the moron Ranger fans have spent 30 years chanting, “Potvin sucks!” – against all opponents, not just the Islanders. This led to some confusion, years later, when Felix Potvin (no relation) would tend goal for various teams, including the Islanders for a time.

In retaliation, Islander fans have done a “Rangers suck!” chant for every home game, regardless of opponent, and New Jersey Devils fans do the same. Ranger fans also had a chant of “Beat your wife, Potvin, beat your wife!” Denis Potvin usually beat the Rangers instead.

Part of Ranger mythology is that Potvin’s hit knocked Nilsson out for the season, and that’s why they lost the Stanley Cup Finals to the Montreal Canadiens. In fact, Nilsson returned in time for those Finals, in which the Rangers won Game 1 at the Montreal Forum, but then dropped the next 4, including all 3 at the Garden.

October 29, 1956: Wilfredo Gómez Rivera is born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wilfredo Gómez was WBC Super Bantamweight Champion from May 21, 1977 to April 23, 1983, WBC Featherweight Champion from March 31 to December 8, 1984, and WBA Junior Lightweight Champion from May 19, 1985 to May 24, 1986. He had 17 straight knockout wins as champion, a record for all weight classes that has been equaled, but never broken.  

His career record was 44-3-1, with 42 of those 44 wins coming by knockout or technical knockout (TKO). He is still alive, and a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

October 29, 1959: Jesse Lee Barfield is born in Joliet, Illinois, outside Chicago. Possessor of one of the best right field arms ever, he also hit 241 home runs in the major leagues. He was an All-Star in 1986, leading the American League in home runs, and a Gold Glove winner in 1986 and 1987.

But his luck was bad in terms of postseason play. He was a member of the Toronto Blue Jays' 1st AL Eastern Division Champions in 1985, but was traded to the Yankees for Al Leiter in 1989, missing the Jays' 1989 and '91 Division titlists and their 1992 and '93 World Championships. And his arrival with the Yankees coincided with their collapse from a near-miss run from 1985 to 1988. Had Barfield played on the Yankees when he was with the Jays, and vice versa, he could have gone from All-Star to true baseball legend.

Injuries led him to retire at age 34. He broadcast for the Jays for a time, and now lives and works in the Houston suburbs. His sons Josh and Jeremy also played pro baseball, with Josh playing a season for the Baltimore Orioles and 3 for the Cleveland Indians.

Also on this day, Michael Alfred Gartner is born in Ottawa. Mike Gartner was a right wing who starred for several hockey teams, including the Washington Capitals, who retired his Number 11. But he never appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals, being traded by the Rangers at the trading deadline in 1994, in a trade that helped them win the Cup, to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who made it to the Western Conference Finals before losing.

Among players who have never won a Cup, he is 2nd to Phil Housley in games played and 2nd to Marcel Dionne in goals, with 708.


October 29, 1960: Cassius Clay, coming off his Olympic Gold Medal in Rome, has his 1st professional fight, in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. He fights Tunney Hunsaker, the fight goes the maximum 6 rounds, and Clay wins a unanimous decision.

Not an especially interesting beginning for the man who will become Muhammad Ali, one of the most interesting people who has ever lived. Hunsaker, a U.S. Air Force veteran, returned to his native West Virginia, and was named a police chief at age 27, serving for 38 years. He died in 2005.

Also on this day, a C-46 plane crashes during takeoff near Toledo, Ohio, killing 22 people, including 16 players for the football team at California Polytechnic State University of San Luis Obispo. (The school known as "Cal Poly" should not be confused with the California Institute of Technology of Pasadena, a.k.a. "Caltech.")

They had just lost 50-6 to a Bowling Green team that featured future actor Bernie Casey. An investigation revealed that the plane was overloaded, weighing over 2,000 pounds more than it should have. Fog was also a factor: It was so bad that the City of Toledo suspended taxi service for the night.

Amazingly, 26 people on board survived, including future USC head coach Ted Tollner. “I was the cutoff for who lived and died,” Tollner said in a 2006 interview. “Everyone in front of me died. Everyone behind me survived. I can find no record of how many of the survivors are still alive, only a reference that 13 of the 26 attended a 50th Anniversary memorial service in 2010.

Cal Poly, then an NCAA Division II school, was 1-5, and it canceled the rest of its season. They would bounce back in 1961, going 5-3. As recently as 1957 and '58, they had gone 17-2, with a team that included an offensive tackle who would make his mark in pro football, not as a player, but as a coach, broadcaster and video game impresario: John Madden.

The school won the Division II National Championship in 1980, and is now in the FCS, formerly known as Division I-AA, having most recently made the Playoffs in 2012.

October 29, 1961: Joel Stuart Otto is born in Elk River, Minnesota. The center won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989. He scored 195 goals in a career that lasted from 1985 to 1998. He has returned to Calgary, as an assistant coach for the minor-league Calgary Hitmen.

October 29, 1964: Ground is broken for the current Madison Square Garden, on top of Penn Station at 32nd Street & 7th Avenue.

October 29, 1968: Johan Olav Koss is born in Drammen, Norway. The speed skater won a Gold Medal at the Winter Olympics in 1992 in Albertville, France, and 3 more at the 1994 edition in his homeland, in Lillehamer. He and American speed skater Bonnie Blair were named Sportspeople of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 1994.

October 29, 1969: The 1st-ever computer-to-computer link is established on ARPANET, thus making this a possible birthdate for the Internet.


October 29, 1970: A pair of Dutch soccer legends are born. Edwin van der Sar is born in Voorhout, South Holland, the Netherlands. The goalkeeper starred in his native land for Ajax Amsterdam (winning 4 League titles, 3 Dutch Cups, the domestic “Double” in 1998 and the Champions League in 1995), in Italy for Juventus (where he was the first non-Italian to be their starting goalie) and in England for Fulham, before going to Manchester United (where he backstopped them to 4 Premiership titles and the 2008 Champions League).

The most-capped player in the history of the Dutch national team, he is now back at Ajax, as marketing director.

Also on this day, Phillip John-William Cocu is born in Eindhoven, South Brabant, the Netherlands. The midfielder led hometown club PSV Eindhoven to the League title in 1997, 2005, 2006 and 2007, and the Dutch Cup in 1996 and 2005 (the latter making for a League & Cup "Double"). In between his stints at PSV, he helped Barcelona win a League title in 1999.

He played for the Netherlands at the 1998 and 2006 World Cups, and is now PSV's manager, having taken them the 2012 Dutch Cup and last season's League title. 

October 29, 1971: Winona Laura Horowitz is born in Winona, Minnesota. Her hippie parents named her for her birthplace. Sometimes, that works, as with Italian-born Florence Nightingale. Sometimes it doesn't, as with David and Victoria Beckham's son Brooklyn.

She renamed herself Winona Ryder, after 1960s rocker Mitch Ryder. She is bets known for playing Veronica Sawyer in Heathers. You don’t like that? “Lick it up, baby, lick it up!”

October 29, 1972: Also on this day, Gabrielle Monique Union is born in Omaha, Nebraska. She played Alice Kramden to Cedric the Entertainer’s Ralph in the 2005 film version of The Honeymooners.

She was formerly married to Michigan and Jacksonville Jaguars running back Chris Howard, and was one of several actress who had been linked to Derek Jeter. She is now married to basketball star Dwyane Wade.

Also on this day, Tracee Joy Silberstein is born in Los Angeles. The daughter of singer Diana Ross (and sister of actress Rhonda Ross Kendrick), she acts under the name Tracee Ellis Ross. She starred as Joan Clayton on the Fox sitcom Girlfriends. That show has often been compared to a sitcom of the previous decade, Living Single, with Joan compared to Queen Latifah’s character Khadijah James, not least because both characters’ fathers were played by basketball player-turned-actor Michael Warren (Officer Bobby Hill on Hill Street Blues). She now stars on the ABC sitcom Blackish.

October 29, 1973: Robert Emmanuel Pirès is born in Reims, France, the son of a Portuguese father and a Spanish mother. A midfielder, "Super Rob" was a member of France’s World Cup winners in 1998, and the Arsenal champions of 1998 (League and FA Cup “Double”), 2002 (another Double) and 2004 (undefeated League season).

Also on this day, Vonetta Jeffery is born in Birmingham, Alabama. She and Jill Bakken won Gold Medals in the two-woman bobsled at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Also on this day, Éric Messier is born in Drummondville, Quebec. The left wing played for the Colorado Avalanche from 1997 to 2003, winning the Stanley Cup in 2001. He is no relation to ol' Lex Luthor, a.k.a. the man who's not only the Hair Club Team Captain, but he's also a client.

October 29, 1974: Robert Allen Dickey is born in Nashville, Tennessee. It's bad enough that he has the name "Dickey," but instead of "Bob," "Bobby" or "Rob," he prefers to call himself "R.A." In baseball, "R.A." is a longtime slang term, short for "Red Ass," meaning a player who's always angry.

Baseball has never truly trusted knuckleball pitchers, and Dickey didn't make his major league debut until 2001, with the Texas Rangers. As late as the dawn of the 2010 season, when he signed with the Mets, he was a 35-year-old journeyman from whom little was expected. But pitching in the spacious confines of Citi Field helped him, and in 2012 he won 20 games, had the best season by a Met pitcher since David Cone in 1988, and won the Cy Young Award. He became a superstar.

And what did the Mets do with this superstar? Immediately traded him, of course, to the Toronto Blue Jays, along with 2 other players, for 4 players, including Travis d'Arnaud, whom they thought would be their catcher of the future.

As of 2014, this trade hasn't worked out for either team. Now it has: Dickey got the Jays to the 2015 AL East title, and d'Arnaud Noah Syndergaard, a surprise from the trade, helped the Mets win the Pennant.

Dickey's career record is 100-93, including 25-24 the last 3 seasons. Take away his 20-6 season in 2012, and it's 80-87. His career ERA is 3.97, his ERA+ 103, his WHIP 1.286. In only 2 of his 10 full seasons has he been better than 2 games over .500, and in only 3 has he had an ERA+ over 105. In other words, he's really no better than an average pitcher who had 1 incredible season and made the most of it. And when he finally appeared in the postseason this year, he had 1 weak start in the ALDS, and got clobbered in his 1 ALCS start, pitching a combined 6 1/3rd innings.

October 29, 1975, 40 years ago: Gustavo Karim García Aguayo is born in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, Mexico. He debuted in the major leagues with the 1995 Los Angeles Dodgers, although he was called up too late to be included on their postseason roster. He was the starting right fielder in the 1st game played by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998. He reached the postseason with the Cleveland Indians in 2001, and the Yankees in 2002 and 2003.

In Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox, as he so often did to Yankee batters, threw a pitch at his head. García ducked, and was only hit in the back. This started a series of events that led to Martinez threatening to murder Jorge Posada, and actually attempting to murder Don Zimmer. The Yankees won the game and the Pennant anyway, taking Game 7 on the Aaron Boone home run.

His contract having run out, he stayed in New York signing with the Mets for 2004, but they traded him to the Baltimore Orioles in mid-season. That was his last season in the major leagues. And yet, along with David Ortiz of the Red Sox, Karim García is 1 of the last 2 men who played in the Aaron Boone Game who is still playing professional baseball: He went to Japan, and is now back in his native Mexico, with the Diablos Rojos del México (Mexico City Red Devils).

October 29, 1978: Kelly Jayne Smith is born in Watford, Hertfordshire, England. A forward, she came to New Jersey to attend Seton Hall University. She played as a forward for the New Jersey Lady Stallions, a soccer team based in Wayne, Passaic County, and the New Jersey Wildcats, based in West Windsor, Mercer County. She's also played for the Philadelphia Rage and the Boston Breakers -- the National Women's Soccer League team, not the 1983 USFL franchise of the same name.

She has also starred for Arsenal Ladies, winning 5 League titles and 6 FA Women's Cups, and played for England at the 2007 and 2011 Women's World Cups and Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics. She is the all-time leading scorer for the England women's team, with 46 goals.

Also on this day, Travis Deion Henry is born in the Orlando suburb of Frostproof, Florida. He was an All-Pro running back for the Buffalo Bills in 2002, and rushed for over 6,000 yards. But he's had 11 children by 10 different women, and in order to make his child support payments, he sold drugs. He got caught, and served 3 years in prison.


October 29, 1981: Bill Giles‚ the Philadelphia Phillies' vice president for the past 11 years‚ heads a group of investors which purchases the club for just over $30 million‚ the highest price paid to date for an MLB club.

Giles is the son of longtime National League President Warren Giles. He turned over day-to-day operation of the club to David Montgomery in 1997, and since 2000 has been NL President himself, although this is a powerless, purely ceremonial role, pretty much limited to awarding the trophy named for his father to the NL’s Pennant winner.

Also on this day, Amanda Ray Beard is born in Newport Beach, California. The swimmer won Gold Medals at the 1996 and 2004 Olympics.

October 29, 1983: Maurice Edward Clarett is born in Youngstown, Ohio. As a freshman, the running back helped Ohio State win the 2002 National Championship. Then, figuring freshmen are allowed to come out for the NBA Draft, he tried to make himself eligible early for the NFL Draft, and racked up over $1 million in legal fees.

When he was finally drafted, in 2005 by the Denver Broncos, he was released before ever stepping onto the field, even in an exhibition game, and remained in debt. In 2006, he was arrested for armed robbery, and plea-bargained.

Released from prison in 2010, his only pro playing experience has been in 2010 and '11 for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League. He has become an advocate for mental health, citing his own issues with it, and a motivational speaker. He has also repaired his relationship with Ohio State. Although it is incredibly unlikely that he'll ever again be involved with pro football, unless it's in a coaching or advisory role, he seems to be okay now.

October 29, 1984: Eric Craig Staal is born in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The All-Star center is the Captain of the Carolina Hurricanes, with whom he won the 2006 Stanley Cup. In May 2009, he scored the winning goal with 31 seconds left in regulation in Game 7 to give the 'Canes a 1st-round Playoff series win against the New Jersey Devils. For this, I hate his guts.

He has 3 brothers who play pro hockey: Carolina teammate Jordan (who won the 2009 Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins) and former teammate Jared (now in the minor leagues), and Marc of the New York Rangers (therefore someone who sucks).


October 29, 1996: The Yankees have their 1st ticker-tape parade in 18 years.

On this same day, the NBA announces its 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players:

* 18 Guards, in alphabetical order: Nate "Tiny" Archibald, Dave Bing, Bob Cousy, Clyde "the Glide" Drexler, Walt "Clyde" Frazier, George "Iceman" Gervin, Hal Greer, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Sam Jones, Michael "Air" Jordan, "Pistol" Pete Maravich, Earl "the Pearl" Monroe, Oscar "the Big O" Robertson, Bill Sharman, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Jerry "Mr. Clutch" West and Lenny Wilkens.

* 16 Forwards: "Pitchin'" Paul Arizin, "Sir" Charles Barkley, Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird, Billy Cunningham, Dave DeBusschere, Julius "Dr. J" Erving, John "Hondo" Havlicek, Elvin "Big E" Hayes, Jerry Lucas, Karl "the Mailman" Malone, Kevin McHale, Bob Pettit, Scottie Pippen, Dolph Schayes, and "Big Game" James Worthy.

* 15 Centers: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt "the Stilt" Chamberlain, Dave Cowens, Patrick Ewing, George Mikan, Moses Malone, Hakeem "the Dream" Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal, Robert Parish, Willis Reed, David "the Admiral" Robinson, Bill Russell, Nate Thurmond, Wes Unseld and "the Roaring Redhead" Bill Walton.

Only Maravich was already dead. He has been followed into the Great Gym In the Sky by Sharman, Arizin, DeBusschere, Mikan, Chamberlain and Moses Malone.

October 29, 1998: The Yankees have their 1st ticker-tape parade in 2 years.

October 29, 1999: The Yankees have their 1st ticker-tape parade in 365 days.

October 29, 2003: LeBron James, the most-hyped high school basketball player ever, makes his professional debut, 2 months before his 19th birthday. At the ARCO (now Sleep Train) Arena in Sacramento, he plays 42 minutes, scores 25 points, and doesn't make a difference, as his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers lose to the Sacramento Kings, 106-92.

October 29, 2006: Silas Simmons passes away at the Westminster Suncoast retirement community in St. Petersburg, Florida. The 111-year old native of Middletown, Delaware was a southpaw hurler in the Negro Leagues from 1913 to 1929, playing for the Homestead Grays, New York Lincoln Giants, and Cuban All-Stars.

He is believed to be the oldest professional baseball player who ever lived. The longest-lived major leaguer was Chester "Red" Hoff, who pitched in the 1910s and lived to be 107. (The oldest living former major leaguer now is Mike Sandlock, a catcher for the 1940s Braves, who just turned 100.)

October 29, 2008: After a 2-day delay for rain, Game 5 of the World Series is resumed at Citizens Bank Park. It begins in the bottom of the 6th, with the game tied 2-2. Geoff Jenkins doubles, is bunted to 3rd by Jimmy Rollins, and is driven in by a Jayson Werth single. Rocco Baldelli ties the game with a home run in the 7th. Later in the inning, Utley takes a grounder, fakes a throw to 1st, then throws Jason Bartlett out at home for the 3rd out in a play later described as having saved the Series for the Phillies.

In the bottom of the 7th, Pat Burrell leads off with a double. Eric Bruntlett, pinch-running for Burrell, scores on a single by Pedro Feliz to put the Phillies up by a run again, 4–3.

In the top of the 9th, Brad Lidge gives up a single and a stolen base, but faces Eric Hinske with the chance to give the city its 1st World Series win since 1980, and its 1st World Championship in any sport since the 1983 76ers. Harry Kalas, the Hall of Fame voice of the Phils, had the call:

One strike away, nothing-and-two to Hinske. Fans on their feet. Brad Lidge stretches. The 0–2 pitch! Swing and a miss! Struck him out! The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball!

Brad Lidge does it again, and stays perfect for the 2008 season, 48-for-48 in save opportunities! And let the city celebrate! Don't let the 48-hour wait diminish the euphoria of this moment and celebration! Twenty-five years in this city that a team has enjoyed a World Championship, and the fans are ready to celebrate. What a night! Phils winning, 4–3, Brad Lidge gets the job done once again!

Harry would die early the next season. He deserved that title.

Also on this day, the Oklahoma City Thunder, who for the previous 41 years had been the Seattle SuperSonics, make their debut. Kevin Durant is not yet the superstar he would become, and scores only 12 points. Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva and Michael Redd each score 20 points, and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Thunder, 98-87 at the Ford Center (now the Chesapeake Energy Arena).

October 29, 2009: Game 2 of the World Series. The Yankees' finest season in 6 years is in trouble after losing Game 1, the 1st Series game played at the new Yankee Stadium. While the Phillies -- wearing "HK" memorial patches for Kalas -- are the defending champs, that shouldn't matter: The Yankees have to step it up. Especially considering that the starting pitcher for the Phillies is, perhaps, the most despised pitcher in the history of Yankee opponents, Pedro Martinez. 

With a pregame ceremony that includes native New Yorkers Jay-Z and Alicia Keys singing "Empire State of Mind," the Yankees do, indeed, step it up. Mark Teixeira takes Pedro over the wall in the 4th inning, and Hideki Matsui does the same in the 6th, reminding him that the Yankees are his "daddy." A.J. Burnett allowed a run in the 2nd inning, but cruises after that. With tomorrow being a travel day, using Mariano Rivera for 2 innings is no problem, and he shuts the Phils down. Yankees 3, Phils 1. The Series goes to Philadelphia tied.


October 29, 2012: Hurricane Sandy hits the New York Tri-State Area, causing devastation all over the Jersey Shore, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, and causing flooding in Lower Manhattan. In some places, power was out for a week. (It was a Monday, and power wasn't restored to my residence until the following Monday.) In terms of damage, it was the 2nd-worst hurricane in American history, behind Katrina, which nearly destroyed New Orleans in 2005. In terms of lives lost, there are 286 that were blamed either directly or indirectly on the "superstorm."

In sports terms, the main effect around here was that the Nets' 1st game as a Brooklyn team, scheduled for November 1 against the Knicks at the Barclays Center, was postponed, and was instead played on November 3, the regularly-scheduled 2nd game against the Toronto Raptors. The Nets won, 107-100. The New York City Marathon was also canceled, for the 1st time in its history.

October 29, 2014: For the 1st time since Bud Selig -- now overseeing his final game as Commissioner -- declared in 2003 that the League that wins the All-Star Game would have home-field advantage for the World Series, a Series goes to a Game 7. That means that the Kansas City Royals will host it at Kauffman Stadium.

And that means that, despite most of the San Francisco Giants having at least 1 ring (2012) and many of them 2 rings (2010 and 2012), and the Royals are in their 1st World Series in 29 years, the Giants have no chance, right?

Wrong. The teams trade blocks of 2 runs in the 2nd inning, and in the top of the 4th, Pablo Sandoval reaches on an infield single, and advances to 3rd on a single by Hunter Pence. Michael Morse singles him home to give the Giants the lead.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy gambles, sending Madison Bumgarner out to pitch the 5th on 2 days' rest. "MadBum" gave up a hit, but, in a display that wouldn't have seemed so courageous as recently as the 1970s, didn't allow another baserunner until the 9th, retiring 14 batters in a row.

With 1 out to go, Alex Gordon hits a liner that rolls to the wall, and he gets to 3rd. Salvador Perez had already gotten the game-winning hit in the AL Wild Card game. But Bumgarner induces a foul popup that is caught by Sandoval -- his final act in a Giant uniform, and completing the longest save in World Series history: 5 full innings.

The Giants win, 3-2, and take their 3rd World Championship in the last 5 years -- their 8th World Series win, counting their New York period. The Royals would have to wait at least 1 more year. Gordon would have to wait 1 more World Series game to become a baseball legend.

Also on this day, the Charlotte Hornets name is officially revived. The original Hornets, who played from 1988 to 2002, moved to New Orleans, but were enticed to give the name up in 2013, and take the name of a former minor-league baseball team, the New Orleans Pelicans. The Charlotte Bobcats, created as an expansion team in 2004, are officially allowed to take the Charlotte Hornets name.

Like the Oklahoma City Thunder, the new Hornets play their 1st game at home against the Milwaukee Bucks. Unlike the Thunder, the Hornets win, 108-106 at Time Warner Cable Arena. Kemba Walker leads all scorers with 26 points.

Also on this day, Rainer Hasler dies at age 56. The right back was the greatest player his country has ever produced. His country is Liechtenstein, a tiny nation in the Alps, home to 37,000 people -- in other words, he occasionally played in stadiums containing more people than his country. He led Geneva-based Servette to the Swiss Cup in 1984 and the Swiss League the next season.

His son Nicholas Hasler now plays for FC Vaduz (the club in the national capital, for whom his father also once played) and the Liechtenstein national team, which didn't even exist until after the father retired.

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