Monday, October 5, 2015

October 5, 1965: A Pair of Hockey All-Timers

October 5, 1965, 50 years ago: This was a great day in the history of hockey, although we wouldn’t know it for over 20 years, when 2 legends born on this day, both in Quebec, began to make their mark on the NHL.

Mario Lemieux (no middle name) is born in Montreal. The top pick in the 1984 NHL Draft, he starred for the Pittsburgh Penguins on and off from 1984 to 2006, missing time due to Hodgkin's lymphoma, a chronic back injury, and general fatigue. In between, he scored 690 goals, led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992, and saved the franchise twice -- first as a player, and later, since his contract made him the team's biggest creditor, as the owner, coming out of retirement to play again, and to build the team that won the 2009 Cup.

He led Canada to the 1987 Canada Cup, the 2002 Olympic Gold Medal, and the 2004 World Cup (successor to the Canada Cup). The Penguins (before he was the owner) not only retired his Number 66, but relisted the address of the Civic Arena as 66 Mario Lemieux Place. If not for him, the Penguins would be playing elsewhere today, Pittsburgh would be without an NHL team, and the Consol Energy Center would never have been built.

In 1998, shortly after his election to the Hockey Hall of Fame, while he was in his 1st retirement (but had, as it turned out, 77 goals to go), The Hockey News listed him at Number 4 on its list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players, behind only Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe.

On the same day, Patrick Jacques Roy is born in Quebec City. He was Number 22 on that 100 Greatest Hockey Players list, trailing only Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall among goaltenders -- but then, he had another 5 seasons to go. He wore Number 33 to Lemieux's 66, but don't think that means he was only half the player Lemieux was: That 33 has been retired by 2 teams, the Montreal Canadiens and the Colorado Avalanche.

Roy won the Stanley Cup as a Rookie with the Canadiens in 1986, and under more trying circumstances in 1993, as the Habs went through several overtime games in the Playoffs. A falling-out with management led to his trade early in the 1995-96 season to the Avalanche. Ironically, the previous season, they had been the Quebec Nordiques, his hometown team and a bitter rival of the Habs, including a nasty Playoff series in '93.

The Habs have won 24 Stanley Cups, including 2 with Roy in goal, but have not won the Cup since he was traded. Some have called this "The Curse of St. Patrick." Not until after the reconciliation (with new management) and the retirement of his number did they even reach the Eastern Conference Finals, so there may be something to this.

He helped the Avalanche win the Cup in their 1st season in Denver, including beating the Chicago Blackhawks. Jeremy Roenick scored on a breakaway to send Game 3 to overtime, which the Hawks won. In Game 4, Roy stopped Roenick on another breakaway, but he had help from Avs defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh. Roenick said, "It should have been a penalty shot, there's no doubt about it. I like Patrick's quote that he would've stopped me. I'd just want to know where he was in Game 3, probably getting his jock out of the rafters in the United Center maybe." Roy said, "I can't really hear what Jeremy says, because I've got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears." 

Roenick ended a Hall of Fame career with no Stanley Cup rings. Roy ended his with 4, getting his last in 2001, beating my New Jersey Devils, defending Champions, in the Finals despite a gaffe in Game 4 that would be much better remembered if the Devils had won.

He closed his career 2 years later, losing a Game 7 in overtime to the Minnesota Wild. He won 551 games, easily surpassing the record of 447 set by Sawchuk, although was eventually surpassed by the Devils' Martin Brodeur. But his 151 Playoff wins remains a record. He is now the Avalanche's head coach.

Each man has a black mark on his record. Lemieux, as Penguins owner, sided with his fellow owners, betraying his former fellow players, in voting to lock the players out and cancel the entire 2004-05 season. (So did Gretzky, as owner of the team then known as the Phoenix Coyotes.) Roy, as coach of the Quebec Ramparts junior team, got involved in violent incidents, as did his sons, Jonathan and Frederick, in separate instances.

Roy is divorced from ex-wife Michelle. Jonathan has left hockey to pursue music, while Frederick is currently playing in college. He has another son in college, Jana. Lemieux remains married to Nathalie, and has daughters Lauren, Stephanie and Alexa, and son Austin. None of them appears to be involved in hockey.

Roy and Lemieux -- in French, their names mean "King" and "The Best."


October 5, 1857: The City of Anaheim is founded in Orange County, California. In 1966, it became the home of the baseball team then known as the Los Angeles Angels. They became the California Angels upon moving to Anaheim, the Anaheim Angels in 1997, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2004. (Not only is Anaheim not part of the City of Los Angeles, it's not even in the County of Los Angeles.)

Anaheim would also be home to the Anaheim Amigos, who played in the 1st season of the American Basketball Association, 1967-68; the Los Angeles Rams from 1980 to 1994; and the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL since 1993. In 1992, the Los Angeles Clippers moved a home Playoff game from the Los Angeles Sports Arena, very close to the site of the South Central riot, to the Anaheim Convention Center.

October 5, 1888: James “Pud” Galvin of the Pittsburgh Pirates defeats the Washington Nationals (not the current team by that name), 5-1, at the Swampoodle Grounds in Washington. Union Station and the National Postal Museum would later be built on the site, just north of Capitol Hill, as the neighborhood known as Swampoodle is no more. (Philadelphia also had a neighborhood of that name.)

Galvin thus becomes the first pitcher to win 300 games in a career. His career win total eventually reached 364, including 2 no-hitters, although it should be pointed out that he retired after the 1892 season, a year before the pitching distance became standardized as 60 feet, 6 inches.

As for his potentially giggle-inducing nickname, it was said that Jim Galvin “made the hitters look like pudding.”

October 5, 1889: New York wins the pennant on the final day of the season, by beating the Cleveland Spiders 5-3, while Boston loses in Pittsburgh 6-1.

Yet another New York edges out Boston in baseball story. Except this might be the 1st time it happened in sports, the League is the National, the New York team is the Giants, and the Boston team is the Beaneaters, who would later be renamed the Braves.

The manager is Jim Mutrie, who gave the former New York Gothams their name: Pleased about a victory in 1885, "Smilin' Jeems" called his players "my big boys, my giants."

Ironically, the man also known as "Truthful Jim" was a native of Boston (well, Chelsea, Massachusetts, anyway). Born in 1851 and raised playing cricket, he switched to baseball, played in the minors, made some smart business deals, founded the New York Metropolitans of the American Association (the "original New York Mets," if you prefer), and in 1883 bought the Troy Trojans, and moved them out of the Albany area to Manhattan.

Under the rules of the time, he was allowed to own both teams. He even built a complex of 2 baseball fields, facing each other, one for the Giants, the other for the Metropolitans, on a polo field owned by newspaper publisher James Gordon Bennett. It became known as the Polo Grounds, and stood between 110th and 112th Streets, and 5th and 6th Avenues. The Giants had to move because the City decided it had to extend 111th Street through it, leading to the construction of the more familiar Polo Grounds complex at 155th Street and 8th Avenue at the other end of Harlem.

He managed the Mets to the 1884 AA Pennant, then switched to managing the Giants. He won back-to-back Pennants in 1888 and 1889, got fed up with baseball after the 1890 Players League revolt, and opened a hotel in Elmira, New York, living until 1938.

With such a big legacy, why is Mutrie not in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

His "big boys," his Giants, included 6 men who are in the Hall: Pitchers Tim Keefe and Mickey Welch, catcher Buck Ewing, 1st baseman Roger Connor (baseball's all-time home run leader before Babe Ruth), outfielder "Orator Jim" O'Rourke and all-purpose man (but mainly shortstop) John Montgomery "Monte" Ward. Ironically, they also included pitcher Hank O'Day, who would be elected to the Hall as an umpire -- but is best known as the ump who ruled Fred Merkle out at 2nd base to cost the Giants a key 1908 game and, eventually, the Pennant.


October 5, 1902: Raymond Albert Kroc is born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. A milkshake machine salesman, he noticed that 8 of his machines had been mail-ordered by the brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald of San Bernardino, California. He visited their restaurant to find out why he was so successful with them, and discovered that their idea for a quick hamburger restaurant was a great idea. The McDonald's empire was born.

A big baseball fan, in 1974 he learned that the San Diego Padres were for sale. They had come very close to being moved to Washington, D.C. He bought the Padres, keeping them in San Diego.

On Opening Day, the Padres were about to lose 9-5 to the Houston Astros, and Kroc took the public address microphone at San Diego Stadium (now Qualcomm Stadium). He apologized to the crowd of 39,083 fans, saying, "I've never seen such stupid ballplaying in my life!" The crowd roared its approval.

October 5, 1905, 110 years ago: The Brooklyn Superbas (later the Dodgers) beat the Boston Beaneaters (later the Braves), 11-5 at Washington Park in Brooklyn. Brooklyn had already lost 103 games, and it's the 100th loss for Boston. This is the 1st time in major league history that teams that have already lost 100 games in a season have been opponents in that season.

He died in 1984, just before the season that would end with the Padres' 1st Pennant. His initials RAK would remain on the Padres' sleeves until 1990, when his widow Joan sold the team.

October 5, 1906: With the season ending, the Giants give Henry Mathewson, Christy's brother, a starting chance against Boston. He promptly puts his name in the record books -- but not in a good way: He establishes a modern NL record by walking 14 Beaneaters. He also hits a batter. He goes the distance, and allows just 5 hits‚ but the Braves-to-be win 7-1.

Henry will pitch another inning next year‚ but this is his only major league decision. For many years, Christy and Henry held the record for most combined pitching wins by brothers: 373 -- Christy 373, Henry 0. The record is now held by the Niekros: Phil won 318, and Joe won 221, for a total of 539.

I was watching a Met game against the San Diego Padres on WOR (now WWOR)-Channel 9 when Gaylord Perry was pitching for them. Along with his by-then-retired brother Jim, he had broken the Mathewsons' record: Gaylord would eventually win 314, Jim 215, total 529. And Bob Murphy asked the trivia question of whose record the Perrys broke, and said, "I'll give you a hint: It was not Dizzy and Daffy Dean." In careers shortened by injury, Diz won 150 and Daff won only 50, for a total of 200. Most fans aren't even aware that Mathewson had a brother, so this was a great trivia question.

October 5, 1908: The Pennant race in the American League is as tight as the one in the National League, although not nearly as crazy. Ed Walsh of the Chicago White Sox tops the Detroit Tigers 6-1, for his 40th victory, and extends the race to the final day.

Walsh leads the league in games (66)‚ innings pitched (464)‚ strikeouts (269)‚ complete games (42)‚ saves (6)‚ shutouts (11)‚ and winning percentage (.727). His ERA is 1.42. Those numbers for games, innings and complete games will be untouchable until some sort of rule change kicks in. The figure of 40 wins trails only Jack Chesbro's 41 as the most in AL history, and the 464 innings is the most ever under the 60-feet-6-inches pitching distance.

The St. Louis Browns end the Pennant hopes of the Cleveland Naps (forerunners of the Indians) with a 3-1 win the opener of a doubleheadero. Cleveland takes the 2nd game‚ 5-3‚ to end the season with a 90-64 record. If the Tigers win tomorrow‚ their 90-63 will top Cleveland‚ whereas if the White Sox win‚ their 89-63 record will be 4 points ahead of the Naps. But this is as close as Cleveland 2nd baseman/manager/namesake Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie will ever get to a Pennant.


October 5, 1910: Philadelphia Athletics manager/co-owner Connie Mack inserts his son Earle Mack behind the plate in a game against the New York Highlanders (forerunners of the Yankees). This is the 1st time a manager has put his son in a game as a player.

Earle‚ who hit .135 in 26 minor league games this year‚ belies that stat with a single and triple while catching Eddie Plank and Jack Coombs. The Highlanders beat the A’s 7-4, but it was hardly Earle’s fault.

Earle will mop up in late-season games next year and again in 1914‚ and serve for 25 years as his father’s coach, before moving into the front office. His brother Connie Jr. would also play for the A’s.

In 1950, Earle, Connie Jr. and their other brother Roy would finally maneuver their 88-year-old father out of the day-to-day operations of the club. No manager would again put his son into a game until 1985, when Yogi Berra played his son Dale with the Yankees. Cal Ripken Sr. would also manage Cal Jr.

October 5, 1911: The National Commission, then the governing body for baseball, sells motion picture rights to the World Series for $3‚500. When the players demand a share of it‚ the Commission cancels the deal. Yes, baseball team owners -- for it was they who controlled the Commission, like they now control the Commissioner -- were that petty.

October 5, 1912: The New York Highlanders play their last game under that name before officially changing their name to the Yankees, which pretty much everybody is calling them by now anyway. It is also their last game at their original home, Hilltop Park, at 165th Street and Broadway in Washington Heights, Manhattan. (The Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center is on the site now.) Their 10-year lease has run out, and they will soon sign a 10-year lease as tenants of the Giants at the Polo Grounds.

The Yankees are playing the same team against whom they played their 1st game and their 1st home game, in 1903: The Washington Senators. The Yankees win, 8-6, breaking a 10-game losing streak. They still finish last: At 50-102, their .329 winning percentage remains the lowest in club history.

Hal Chase and Jack Lelivelt hit home runs. Homer Thompson, in his only major league appearance, is a defensive replacement as catcher (and, like Archie "Moonlight" Graham of the Giants 7 years earlier, doesn't get to bat). His brother Tommy Thompson is the last New York pitcher. This makes them the 1st battery of brothers in AL history.

October 5, 1918: Captain Edward Leslie Grant, U.S. Army, becomes the 1st Major League Baseball player to be killed in military combat. The former Giants 3rd baseman is hit by a shell while leading the 307th Infantry to rescue the Lost Battalion, the name given to a contingent of roughly 554 soldiers of the United States 77th Division isolated by the German forces after an American attack in the Argonne Forest of France in World War I. Eddie was 35, and was buried in a military cemetery nearby in Lorraine. Although 197 men in the Lost Battalion were killed, and another 150 missing and never recovered, 194 were soon rescued.

On Memorial Day, May 29, 1921, representatives from the armed forces, baseball, and Grant's sisters of Grant unveiled a monument to him at the Polo Grounds -- on the field in center field. This was the 1st time something like this had been done in baseball, and preceded the Miller Huggins Monument, the beginning of what became the Yankees' Monument Park, by 11 years.

The monument would later be joined on the wall of the center field clubhouse by plaques in memory of Giants legends John McGraw, Christy Mathewson and Ross Youngs; football Giants Al Blozis and Jack Lummus, both of whom were killed in World War II; and Jimmy Walker, New York's raffish, corrupt 1920s Mayor who was a big sports fan and a Giants supporter.

After the baseball Giants' last game there in 1957, the plaque was pried from the monument; when the Mets debuted at the Polo Grounds in 1962, the marble slab was still in center field, but the plaque was long gone. Despite a recent claim by a former New York cop that he had it in his house in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, the real thing has never been found.

The Giants, who hadn't won a World Series since moving to San Francisco, dedicated a replacement plaque at AT&T Park in 2006. They have since won 2 World Series and are in a decent position to win a 3rd, thus ending what some called "The Curse of Captain Eddie." As for the whereabouts of the other 6 Polo Grounds plaques, your guess is as good as mine.

If you count the National Association of 1871 to 1875 as having been a "major league," then the 1st major league ballplayer to die in military service was Army Private William E. "Bill" Stearns, a pitcher for that league's team named the Washington Nationals. He died on December 30, 1898, at the age of 45, in his hometown of Washington. However, he died of an illness, not in combat, even though the Spanish-American War had been fought, and the Philippine Campaign was still going on. Why he was still only a Private at 45, I don't know.

The same day that Grant was killed, French pilot Roland Garros is shot down by the Germans over Vouziers, in the Ardennes. He was 29, and had been an avid tennis player. In 1928, Stade Roland Garros opened as the new home of the French Open.


October 5, 1921: The Yankees play their 1st World Series game, in the first one-city Series since 1906 in Chicago. Babe Ruth drives in the 1st run, Mike McNally steals home plate, and Carl Mays pitches a 5-hit shutout (4 of them by Frankie Frisch) as the Yankees beat the Giants 3-0.

It is the 1st World Series game broadcast on radio -- oddly, by a Pittsburgh station, KDKA, the 1st true American radio station. And the announcer is a Southerner, Grantland Rice, beginning a tradition of Southern broadcasters in New York that would include, among others, Mel Allen of the Yankees, Red Barber of the Dodgers, and longtime WABC and WCBS-FM disc jockey Ron Lundy.

Also on this day, William Karnet Willis is born in Columbus, Ohio. A guard on Ohio State's National Championship football team in 1942, in 1946 he became, along with his new teammate Marion Motley, and Kenny Washington and Woody Strode of the Los Angeles Rams, 1 of the 1st 4 black players in the NFL after the drawing of the color line in 1933. He helped the Cleveland Browns win the All-America Football Conference title in all 4 years of that league's existence: 1946, '47, '48 and '49. Then the Browns moved into the NFL, and they won the title there in 1950.

He later became the Chairman of the Ohio Youth Commission, and was named to the NFL's 1940s All-Decade Team (even though the Browns didn't enter the NFL until 1950), the Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor, and the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. He lived until 2007.

October 5, 1922: Game 2 of the World Series. The game between the Yankees and Giants is tied 3-3 after 10 innings, when umpire George Hildebrand calls the game due to darkness. Both teams protest, saying they can see just fine. Sunset was not for another hour. A crowd of 36,514, about equally divided between the teams, is furious, and it takes a police escort to get Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis out of the park and away from the unruly mob.

That night, Judge Landis (not a nickname, he had actually been a federal Judge), in one of the few compromises he will ever make, bends over backwards to negate the public's opinion that the game might have been called to provide an extra day's gate, by donating the $120‚554 receipts to charities. Half will go to New York charities‚ and half to disabled soldiers from the recent World War.

Also on this day, John Stein is born in Burnbank, Scotland. No middle name, and that's pronounced "STEEN," not "STINE." Like many Scots, especially those named John, he was nicknamed "Jock." After years of playing centre half with Coatbridge side Albion Rovers, and an ill-fated season with Llanelli Town in Wales, in 1951 he signed with Celtic of Glasgow, and helped them with the Scottish Football League title in 1954.

He managed Dunfermline Athletic to the 1961 Scottish Cup, and spent some time at Hibernian of Edinburgh, before Celtic hired him as manager in 1965. He managed them to 9 consecutive titles, 1966 to 1974, and a 10th in 1977. He led them to 8 Scottish Cups from 1965 to 1977. He managed them to 6 Scottish League Cups from 1966 to 1975. In 1967, he became the 1st manager of a British team, and the 1st British manager, to win the European Cup, as Celtic beat Internazionale Milano in Lisbon in the Final, earning them the nickname the Lisbon Lions. As Celtic also won all 3 domestic trophies, they became the 1st, and remain the only, side in European history to win such a Quadruple.

Like Brian Clough, he was a successful manager who nonetheless managed very briefly at Leeds United -- each man managing the Yorkshire club for just 44 days. He managed Scotland briefly in 1965, and was hired to manage the national side again in 1978. He got them into the 1982 World Cup. In 1985, managing a Home Nations match against Wales at Ninian Park in Cardiff, which ended in a 1-1 tie, he suffered a heart attack, and died in the dressing room. He was only 62.

A stand at Celtic Park was named in his memory, and a statue of him holding the European Cup stands outside.

October 5, 1926: Game 3 of the World Series. Jesse Haines pitches a 5-hit shutout and hits a home run, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Yankees 4-0. The Cardinals take a 2 games to 1 lead.

October 5, 1927: Game 1 of the World Series. Legend has it that, seeing the Yankees smack the ball all over Forbes Field in batting practice, the host Pittsburgh Pirates were intimidated and never had a chance. All Pirates who were later interviewed about the subject said that this was not the case.

A bases-loaded walk of Bob Meusel by Ray Kremer leads to a 3-run inning, giving the Yankees a 5-4 win. The Yankees end up sweeping the Series, but they didn't dominate that much.

October 5, 1928: Game 2 of the World Series. The Yankees gain a measure of revenge on Grover Cleveland Alexander and the Cardinals for their dramatic Game 7 win 2 years earlier. In the 1st inning, Lou Gehrig hits a 3-run homer, and ends up with 6 RBIs. The Cards tie the game in the 2nd‚ but George Pipgras shuts them out on 2 hits the rest of the way. Alexander is nicked for one in the 2nd and is driven to cover by a 4-run outburst in the 3rd. The Yankees win 9-3.

October 5, 1929: William Wadsworth Wirtz is born in Chicago. He inherited ownership of the Chicago Blackhawks, the Ice Follies and Holiday on Ice from his father Arthur in 1983, but ran the hockey team into the ground. When he died in 2007, the team, one of the NHL's "Original Six" and one of the most popular, didn't even have a TV contract.

His son Rocky has restored the team, winning 3 Stanley Cups in the last 6 seasons. I don't want to say it's a good thing that someone died, but Bill Wirtz's death was the best thing that could have happened to the Blackhawks. In spite of this, he's in the Hockey Hall of Fame.


October 5, 1931: Game 3 of the World Series. Burleigh Grimes of the Cardinals, the last remaining pitcher who was permitted to throw a spitball, has a no-hitter over the Philadelphia Athletics until the 8th inning, and ends up winning 5-2.

October 5, 1932: Dean Sutherland Prentice is born in Schumacher, Ontario. A left wing, he scored 391 goals in an NHL career that lasted from 1952 to 1974, including 1952 to 1963 with the Rangers. His only trip to the Stanley Cup Finals was in 1966, with the Detroit Red Wings. He is still alive.

October 5, 1936: Game 5 of the World Series. The New York Giants stave off elimination by beating the Yankees 5-4 in 10 innings. George Selkirk had homered for the Yankees, but it wasn't enough.

As for the other team in New York, on this day, the Brooklyn Dodgers fire their manager, Casey Stengel. Grimes, who had pitched for the Dodgers and was Casey's pitching coach, is named to replace him. He will be no better, and will be replaced after 2 years by shortstop Leo Durocher. Grimes would never manage again. Stengel would.

October 5, 1937: Barry Layne Switzer is born in Crosett, Arkansas. One of the most controversial coaches in football history, he led the University of Oklahoma to 12 Big Eight Conference titles, and 3 National Championships, in 1974, 1975 and 1985. His battles with Nebraska coach Tom Osborne were legendary. So was the trouble he got the Sooners into, seemingly always under NCAA investigation and frequently on probation.

In 1994, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones fired head coach Jimmy Johnson -- who had tangled with Switzer as head coach at Oklahoma State and the University of Miami -- despite winning back-to-back Super Bowls, and hired Switzer. Switzer led them to win Super Bowl XXX, making him, after Johnson, only the 2nd man to coach a National Champion and a Super Bowl winner. (Pete Carroll has since made it 3, and all 3 got their college teams put on probation.)

He resigned after the 1997 season, having had enough of Jones, and has since been a studio analyst on football broadcasts and run business around the OU campus in Norman.

October 5, 1938: Game 1 of the World Series. Bill Dickey ties a Series record with 4 hits, and the Yankees beat the Cubs 3-1 at Wrigley Field.

October 5, 1939: Game 2 of the World Series. Monte Pearson of the Yankees is 5 outs away from a no-hitter when Ernie Lombardi singles for the Cincinnati Reds. Pearson wins 4-0, thanks to a home run and a double by Babe Dahlgren, the 1st baseman who replaced Lou Gehrig. This turns out to be the last time Gehrig, still officially the Yankee Captain, suited up. It may have been the last time he entered Yankee Stadium.

October 5, 1940, 75 years ago: Game 4 of the World Series. Paul Derringer, who had lost 4 Series games for the Cardinals in 1931 and the Reds in 1939 and in Game 1 this time, finally wins one, 5-2 over the Tigers.


October 5, 1941: Game 4 of the World Series at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. It made the home fans shudder. I read an interview once, with a Dodger fan, whose name I’ve forgotten, citing a far more important, and more traumatic, event that happened just 2 months later: “I was there. I remember that like I remember Pearl Harbor.”

Arnold Malcolm Owen was a 4-time National League All-Star as catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, was elected a County Sheriff, and ran the Mickey Owen Baseball School, and for the last 64 years of his life was decent enough to field questions about the one part of his life that everyone seems to remember.

The Yankees led the Dodgers 2 games to 1, but trailed the Dodgers 4-3 in the top of the 9th. There were 2 out. Reliever Hugh Casey was on the mound for the Dodgers, and Tommy Henrich came to bat for the Yankees. Casey got 2 strikes. Then he threw…

He said it was a curveball. Henrich also thought it was a curveball. But many observers, including the Yankees’ rookie shortstop, Phil Rizzuto, thought it was a spitball.

Henrich swung and missed. Strike 3. Ballgame over. Dodgers win, and the World Series is tied at 2 games apiece.

Except… Owen didn’t catch the 3rd strike! The ball tailed away from him, and he couldn’t hold onto it. It rolled all the way to the screen. Henrich saw this, and ran to 1st, and Owen didn’t even time to throw.

It is the most famous passed ball in baseball history, but if it was a spitball, which was and remains an illegal pitch anyway, then it should be the most famous wild pitch, and Casey rather than Owen should be faulted.

No matter. Casey only needed to get one more out. Even if Henrich represented the tying run and the next batter represented the winning run. Just one more out.

The batter was Joe DiMaggio. Uh-oh, you don’t give the Yankee Clipper a written invitation to keep a game alive. Especially not in 1941, when he had his 56-game hitting streak and had become the most celebrated athlete in America, ahead of Ted Williams and his .406 average, ahead of football stars Sammy Baugh, Sid Luckman and Don Hutson, ahead of even heavyweight champion Joe Louis.

DiMaggio singled to left. Now the tying run was on 2nd, the potential winning run on 1st. But there were still 2 outs. If Casey could get the next batter, the game would still end, however precariously, with a Dodger victory.

The batter was Charlie Keller. At this point in his career, before a back injury curtailed it, he looked like he was headed to the Hall of Fame. And he did nothing to dispel that in this at-bat: He rocketed a Casey delivery off the right-field wall, and Henrich and DiMaggio scored.

Keller would later say, “When I got to 2nd base, you could have heard a pin drop in Ebbets Field.” The noisiest, most raucous ballpark of his time had been stunned into silence.

The Yankees scored 2 more runs in the inning, won 7-4, and won the World Series in the next day’s Game 5.

Keller would also say that, having won their first Pennant in 21 years, and having gotten past the arch-rival New York Giants to do it — the Giants’ last Pennant had been 4 years earlier and their last World Series win 8 — Dodger fans were talking about “taking over New York,” that they were now more popular than the Giants (probably true), and that soon they would beat the Yankees and were already more popular.

Sound familiar? It was just as stupid then as it has been in recent years when coming from Met fans, the children and grandchildren of the Dodger and Giant fans of the Forties and Fifties.

But don’t blame Owen for losing the ’41 Series:

* It was Dodger manager Leo Durocher who messed up the pitching rotation that had won the Pennant — he admitted it, a rare occasion when Leo the Lip didn’t blame someone else, such as an umpire or a dirty player on the other team, and didn’t try to claim credit solely for himself.

* It was Yankee pitcher Marius Russo who, the day before, had not only pitched brilliantly but hit a line drive off the knee of his opposite number, Giant pitcher and Dodger nemesis turned Dodger hero Fred Fitzsimmons, literally knocking him out of the game and the Series.

* It was Henrich who was alert enough to realize he could take 1st, and it was DiMaggio and Keller who followed it up with key hits.

* And, frankly, it was the Yankees. They were just the better team. Certainly, with many of the men on that ’41 team having played on World Championship teams of ’39, ’38, some ’37 and ’36, a few even in ’32, they were much more experienced. The Dodgers had finished 2nd in ’40 and 3rd in ’39, but before that the team hadn’t been in a Pennant race since ’24 or a World Series since ’20. Only Durocher, Joe Medwick (both ’34 Cardinals), Fitzsimmons (’33 and ’36 Giants), Billy Herman (’32, ’35 and ’38 Cubs), Johnny Allen (’32 Yankees) and a washed-up Paul Waner (’27 Pirates) had appeared in a World Series before.

Despite America’s entry into World War II, Owen never went into the service. I wonder if some Dodger fans said, “Mickey Owen is such a bum, even the Army don’t want him!”

I wonder if a lot of the accolades that would later come the way of Roy Campanella were due to “Mickey Owen’s Muff.” That Campy might have been cheered not just for what he was, a fantastic player and a good guy, but for what he wasn’t: Owen.

It’s not fair to Owen. He was widely respected prior to the ’41 Series, and most Dodger fans didn’t go on to hate him. Certainly, he escaped the scorn that was heaped on Ralph Branca after 1951. And neither one of them got the kind of treatment that Bill Buckner got from Boston fans after 1986.
Which is a good thing. Nobody deserves that. Well, maybe not nobody… But certainly not Buckner, nor Branca, nor Owen.

Owen died on July 13, 2005, in his home town of Mount Vernon, Missouri. He was 89. Henrich died on December 1, 2009, as the last survivor of this game. He was also the last surviving person who had been a teammate of Lou Gehrig. Herman Franks, who later helped steal a Pennant from the Dodgers as a 1951 New York Giant, had died earlier in 2009 as the last surviving ’41 Dodger.


October 5, 1942: Game 5 of the World Series. The Cardinals win the Series, as 3rd baseman Whitey Kurowski hits a tiebreaking home run off Red Ruffing in the 9th inning, 4-2. The Cards had taken the last 3 games at Yankee Stadium after splitting the first 2 in St. Louis.

This is the only World Series the Yankees will lose between 1926 and 1955. It beings a 5-season stretch in which the Cards win 4 Pennants and 3 World Championships. The year they will miss the World Series will be 1945 — the first full season since his arrival that Stan Musial was not in Cardinal red. (He was in Navy blue instead.)

Musial would turn out to be the last survivor of the '42 Cards, living until 2013.

October 5, 1943: Game 1 of the World Series. The Yankees are eager to avenge the previous season's loss to the Cardinals, and a Joe Gordon homer backs American League Most Valuable Player Spurgeon "Spud" Chandler for a 4-2 victory.

October 5, 1945, 70 years ago: Game 3 of the World Series. Claude Passeau of the Cubs allows a single in the 2nd to Rudy York of the Tigers, but that's the only hit he allows. The Cubs beat the Tigers 3-0.

October 5, 1946: Jean Perron (no middle name -- odd for a French Catholic of that period) is born in Saint-Isidore-d'Auckland, Quebec. He never played in the NHL, but in 1986, as a rookie head coach, led the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup. He later coached their Provincial rivals, the Quebec Nordiques, and now coaches the Israeli national team. Yes, they play hockey in Israel.

October 5, 1947: Game 6 of the World Series. The Yankees trail the Dodgers 8-5 in the bottom of the 6th, but have 2 men on. DiMaggio rips the ball deep to left-center field, but, in Yankee Stadium, that's "Death Valley." Al Gionfriddo makes a leaping catch near the bullpen gate. The Yankees can close to within 8-6, but that was it. Game 7 is tomorrow.

Gionfriddo becomes a hero, but, like Game 4 heroes Bill Bevens and Cookie Lavagetto, he never plays another major league game after the next day's Game 7. He played in the minors until 1953, managed in the minors until 1959, and died in 2003.

October 5, 1949: Game 1 of the World Series. Allie Reynolds of the Yankees and Don Newcombe of the Dodgers pitch a scoreless game, taking it to the bottom of the 9th.

Tommy Henrich leads that inning off for the Yankees, and shows why Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen nicknamed him “Old Reliable.” Or maybe he just liked hitting against the Dodgers. Or maybe he liked October 5 – it was, after all, the 8th anniversary of his benefit of Mickey Owen’s Muff. Henrich hits a home run into the right-field stands, and the Yankees win, 1-0.

That was pretty much the Series: Despite putting together one of the best teams in franchise history, the Dodgers couldn’t beat the Yankees, winning only Game 2 on a shutout by Preacher Roe. Henrich’s shot is the first game-ending home run in the history of postseason baseball, the first October “walkoff.”

Newcombe is the only Dodger still alive who played in this game, 65 years later. Yogi Berra was the last surviving Yankee.

On this same day, George William James is born in Holton, Kansas. He would later be known as the author of the Bill James Baseball Abstract, beginning the serious study of baseball statistics. Later still, he would join the front office of the Boston Red Sox, where he would become a cheater by association.


October 5, 1950: Game 2 of the World Series. An exhausted Robin Roberts somehow manages to hold the Yankees to a 1-1 tie for the Phillies, into the top of the 10th inning. But DiMaggio hits a home run into the left-field stands at Shibe Park, and the Yankees win, 2-1.

The 1st 3 games of this Series are all close, so the Phillies did have their chances. And it should be noted that their 2nd-best pitcher, behind the future Hall-of-Famer Roberts, was Curt Simmons, and he had been drafted to serve in the Korean War. But the Yankees would sweep the Series.

Still alive from this game, 65 years later, are 2 reserves for the Phillies, Ralph “Putsy” Caballero and Jackie Mayo. Yogi Berra was the last surviving Yankee who played in it. Whitey Ford would start and win Game 4, and is still alive, but did not appear in Game 2.

October 5, 1951: Game 2 of the World Series. The Yanks and Eddie Lopat even up the Series against the Giants by winning 3-1 over Larry Jansen. But the big story comes in the top of the 5th.

The Giants' big rookie, Willie Mays, hits a fly ball to right-center. The Yankees' big rookie, Mickey Mantle, already a big story and not yet 20 years old for another 15 days (Mays had turned 20 in May), sees DiMaggio calling for it, and stops short. But Mantle steps in a water sprinkler that had been mistakenly left open, catching his spikes and tearing his right knee.

With today's sports medicine, Mickey would have been operated on the next day, and would have been ready for Opening Day the next April. But they didn't know how to treat a torn-up knee in the Truman years, and the surgery he got is hardly good enough, and it never really heals right. This is why people say, "We never got to see Mickey Mantle on 2 good legs."

October 5, 1952: Game 5 of the World Series. Johnny Mize hits a home run in a 5-run 5th inning for the Yankees, putting them on top after a Duke Snider homer put the Dodgers up 4-0.

In the top of the 11th, Billy Cox gets a hit off Johnny Sain, is moved to 2nd on a Pee Wee Reese single, and then the Duke doubles him home. Carl Erskine pitches all 11 innings for the Brooks, closing it out by retiring future Hall-of-Famers Mickey Mantle, Mize and Yogi Berra. The Dodgers win, 6-5, and lead the Series 3 games to 2.

They only have to win 1 of the last 2 games at home at Ebbets Field. But they will not win another game that counts until April 1953.

October 5, 1953: Game 6 of the World Series. Billy Martin singles up the middle in the bottom of the 9th, his record-tying 12th hit of the Series, driving in Hank Bauer with the winning run.
It is the Yankees’ 16th World Championship, and their 5th in a row.

Since then, 3 in a row has been done, but not 4, and certainly not 5. The Montreal Canadiens would soon start a streak of 5 straight Stanley Cups, but they were unable to make it 6. The Boston Celtics would later win 8 straight NBA Titles, but basketball didn’t exactly get the best athletes then.

This was the last World Series, and the last Pennant in either League, won by an all-white team. The next season, the Yanks would lose the Pennant to the well-integrated Indians, and the argument of, “Why integrate? We’re winning with what we’ve got” would go by the boards. Elston Howard becomes the 1st black man to play for the Yankees the following April, and the team wins 9 Pennants and 4 World Series in the next 10 years.

Still alive from this game, 62 years later: Only Ford from the Yankees, and Dodgers Carl Erskine and Bobby Morgan. (Newcombe was in the Army for the Korean War in 1952 and ’53, as Ford was in ’51 and ’52.) There are 5 members of the '53 Yanks still alive: Ford, Bob Kuzava, Charlie Silvera, Irv Noren and Art Shallock.

October 5, 1956: Game 2 of the World Series. Both starting pitchers got shelled in the 2nd inning. Don Newcombe of the Dodgers allowed 5 runs, but was already a legend. Don Larsen of the Yankees was not, and allowed 6. But getting knocked out of the box in the 2nd inning allowed manager Casey Stengel to start him on 3 days' rest in Game 5.

Yogi and Duke homered, and Don Bessent held the Yankees to 2 runs over the last 7 innings, and the Dodgers won 13-8. The defending World Champions were now up 2 games to 0, and it looked like they finally had the Yankees number after beating them the season before. This would turn out to not be the case.

October 5, 1957: The 1st World Series game in the State of Wisconsin is played. The Yankees beat the Milwaukee Braves 12-3 at Milwaukee County Stadium in Game 3.

Also on this day, Bernard Jeffrey McCullough is born in Chicago. A standup comic, best known for his Fox sitcom The Bernie Mac Show, he starred in Mr. 3000, about a former player for the Milwaukee Brewers who retires with exactly 3,000 career hits, only to have it discovered when he's 47 years old that one of his games was mistakenly counted twice, and so he makes a comeback to get back to 3,000.

He suffered from sarcoidosis, and died in 2008, not quite 51 years old.

October 5, 1958: Game 4 of the World Series. Warren Spahn, 37 years old and on just 3 days' rest, not only beats Whitey Ford, but pitches a 3-hit shutout. The Milwaukee Braves beat the Yankees 3-0, and go up 3 games to 1.

The Braves were now just 1 win away from beating the Yankees, and clinching at Yankee Stadium, in back-to-back World Series. Failing that in Game 5, they could win either Game 6 or Game 7 at home at Milwaukee County Stadium.

After the game, Mickey Mantle looked around at his teammates, and said, "This is it, fellas." Everybody laughed, and was reassured by the Mick's good-natured self-deprecating humor. The Braves needed just 1 win in the next 3 games, but wouldn't win again in a game that counted until April 1959.


October 5, 1960: Game 1 of the World Series at Forbes Field. Roger Maris becomes the 7th player to hit a home run in his 1st World Series at-bat, but the Yankees fall to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-4. So begins perhaps the strangest World Series ever.

October 5, 1961: Game 2 of the World Series: Despite a home run by Yogi Berra, the Cincinnati Reds beat the Yankees 6-2. Gordy Coleman homers for them, and Joey Jay, who'd won a ring with the Braves in 1957, is the winning pitcher.

This turns out to be the only World Series game the Reds win in a 30-year stretch, from 1940 to 1970.

October 5, 1962: Game 2 of the World Series. Willie McCovey hits a long home run, Jack Sanford pitches a 3-hit shutout, and the Giants have their 1st World Series game win since moving to San Francisco, 2-0 over the Yankees.

The 2 biggest British phenomena of the post-World War II era are linked by this day -- and I don't mean the England soccer team. The Beatles release their 1st single, "Love Me Do," backed with "P.S. I Love You"; and the 1st James Bond film, Dr. No, is released. Of course, America would find out about each of them considerably later (although Ian Fleming's Bond novels had already been published here).

James Bond has never been depicted as a professional athlete, even as a spy's "cover." But, in his various incarnations, he has certainly been athletic. George Lazenby skied and drove a snowmobile in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, while Roger Moore skied in both The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only. Moore, Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan have all, technically, raced cars and boats.

October 5, 1963: Game 3 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium. Jim Bouton makes his 1st World Series start, and allows just 1 run on 4 hits. The run scored in the bottom of the 1st, as he walks Jim Gilliam, wild-pitches "Junior" to 2nd, and gives up an RBI single to Tommy Davis.

That's all Don Drysdale needs, as he pitches a 3-hit shutout. Dodgers 1, Yankees 0, and lead the Series 3 games to none. Bouton had won 21 games in the regular season, but was unlucky here -- especially since Joe Pepitone nearly bailed him out in the 9th, with a drive that would have been a home run in Yankee Stadium with its 296-foot right field pole, but was caught by Ron Fairly for the final out.

October 5, 1965, 50 years ago: Raymond Lester Armstrong III is born in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Maryland. We know him as Trace Armstrong. He's not the greatest, or even the 2nd-greatest, athlete born on this day (see Lemieux & Roy, above), but he was a pretty good one.

An All-America defensive end at the University of Florida, he was elected to their Athletic Hall of Fame. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears, made All-Pro with the Miami Dolphins, and reached Super Bowl XXXVII with the Oakland Raiders.

He now works as an agent, including for Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, whom he knew from his Gators days. Ironically, his son Jared is not only a quarterback, but for arch-rival Florida State.

October 5, 1966: In the 1st World Series game in Baltimore Orioles history, Polish-born reliever Moe Drabowsky has to bail out Dave McNally, and sets a Series record with 11 strikeouts in relief. Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson both hit 1st-inning home runs, and the Orioles beat the Dodgers, 5-2. They would go on to sweep, with McNally redeeming himself by winning the clinching game.

Still alive from this game, 49 years later: Orioles Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, John “Boog” Powell, Luis Aparicio (though better-known as a Chicago White Sock), Russ Snyder, Andy Etchebarren, and future Met manager Davey Johnson; and Dodgers Maury Wills, Tommy Davis, Lou Johnson, Jim Lefebvre, Wes Parker, Ron Fairly, Joe Moeller, Jim Barbieri, and Fair Lawn, New Jersey native Ron Perranoski.

Future Hall-of-Fame pitchers Sandy Koufax and Jim Palmer, both still alive, did not appear in Game 1, but would oppose each other in Game 2.

Also on this day, Dennis DeWayne Byrd is born in Oklahoma City. A graduate of the University of Tulsa, he was drafted by the New York Jets in the 2nd round of the 1989 NFL Draft, and on November 29, 1992, he was enjoying a modest, not particularly noteworthy career as a defensive end when he took the field against the Kansas City Chiefs at Giants Stadium.

Byrd and teammate Scott Mersereau attempted to sack Chiefs quarterback Dave Krieg, but Krieg got away, resulting in a collision between the Jet defenders. Byrd's helmet hit Mersereau straight in the Jets, compressing his neck and breaking it. This was 1 year after Detroit Lions guard Mike Utley had broken his neck in a game, and just 3 days after an emotional Thanksgiving game in which Utley guided his wheelchair out to midfield and served as Lions' honorary captain.

Both men were paralyzed from the waist down as a result of their injuries. Utley took years before he could even take a few steps unaided, and, essentially, remains in a wheelchair, although he hasn't let that stop him from getting around and raising money for spinal cord research. Byrd was considerably luckier: With intense physical therapy, he was able to walk to midfield for the Jets' 1993 season opener, and serve as honorary captain.

The Jets announced that his Number 90 would never be reissued, and in 2012 it was formally retired. Byrd has been elected to the Jets Ring of Honor. He has made a living as a motivational speaker, and had he been paid for it, he certainly would have earned it on January 16, 2011. He had sent Jet coach Rex Ryan a letter and the jersey that was cut off from him as a result of his accident, to motivate the players before their Playoff against the arch-rival New England Patriots. Ryan saw Byrd's bet and raised it by asking him to come and give the team's pregame pep talk. He did. The Jets won, beating the Patriots 28-21 in Foxboro. It remains the team's greatest moment since Super Bowl III.

October 5, 1967: Game 2 of the World Series. Pitching on 3 days' rest in Fenway Park, Cy Young Award winner Jim Lonborg pitches a 1-hitter, Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski hits 2 home runs off Dick Hughes, and the Red Sox beat the Cardinals 5-0.


October 5, 1971: Game 3 of the AL Championship Series. Reggie Jackson of the Oakland Athletics makes his 1st big postseason impact, but hardly his last. He hits 2 home runs, but it's not enough, as the Orioles beat the A's 5-3, and complete a sweep. It is Baltimore's 3rd straight Pennant, and their 4th in the last 6 seasons.

October 5, 1972: Grant Henry Hill is born in Dallas, the son of Cowboys running back Calvin Hill and his wife Janet, both of whom attended Yale University. Janet was Hillary Rodham's roommate at Yale Law School, and when Grant was drafted into the NBA, he got a congratulatory phone call from Hillary's husband, then-President Bill Clinton.

Grant played basketball instead of football, and helped Duke win its 1st 2 National Championships in 1991 and '92. He was NBA Rookie of the Year with the Detroit Pistons in 1995, but despite being a 7-time All-Star, and so respected that Alvan Adams granted his request to allow him to wear Adams' retired Number 33 with the Phoenix Suns, he never even reached an NBA Finals.

He last played in 2013, with the Los Angeles Clippers. He worked as a TNT basketball analyst (as has Rex Chapman, the former Kentucky and Phoenix Suns player, born in this day in 1967), and this past June 24, a group of which he is a member bought the Atlanta Hawks, making him a minority owner under majority owner Tony Ressler. Don't expect him to make a comeback at age 43, though. His wife is R&B singer Tamia.

October 5, 1975, 40 years ago: Game 2 of each League's Championship Series. Tony Perez hits a home run, and Fred Norman shuts the Pirates down, as the Reds win 6-1 at Riverfront Stadium, to go up 2 games to none.

Reggie Jackson hits a home run for the A's, but Carl Yastrzemski and Rico Petrocelli, veterans of Boston's 1967 "Impossible Dream," go yard, and the Red Sox win 6-3 at Fenway. They also go up 2 games to none.

October 5, 1976: The NHL version of the Colorado Rockies, who had been the Kansas City Scouts in the 1974-75 and 1975-76 season, make their home debut. They beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 at McNichols Sports Arena.

But they would only make the Playoffs once, in 1978, and move in 1982, to become the New Jersey Devils. (See 1982, below.) Ironically, in 2001, their replacements, the Colorado Avalanche, would beat the Devils in the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals. In 1993, Denver's Major League Baseball team began play, also named the Colorado Rockies. They have been a bit more successful, on the field and especially at the box office.

October 5, 1977: Game 2 of the NL Championship Series. Dusty Baker of the Dodgers hits a grand slam. Upon returning to the dugout, he is greeted by fellow outfielder Glenn Burke, who holds his arm above his head, inviting Baker to slap hands. He does. This is believed to be the 1st "high five" in baseball history, and Burke would go to his grave contending that he invented the gesture. The Dodgers beat the Phillies 7-1.


October 5, 1980: The Dodgers beat the Houston Astros for the 3rd day in a row, to force a 1-game playoff for the NL West title -- also at Dodger Stadium. Ron Cey hits a 2-run HR in the 8th to win the game 4-3. Los Angeles trailed Houston by 3 games with 3 games left in the season‚ and won all 3 by a single run.

October 5, 1981: Joel Lindpere is born in Tallinn, Estonia. He may be the greatest soccer player his country has ever produced. He let hometown club Flora Tallinn to the Estonian league title in 2002 and '03, CSKA Sofia to Bulgaria's league title in 2005, and the New York Red Bulls to win the MLS Eastern Conference in 2010. A 2-time MLS All-Star, he is now back in Estonia, playing for Nõmme Kalju.

October 5, 1982: The New Jersey Devils play their 1st game, a 3-3 tie against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The 1st goal is scored by team Captain Don Lever. Three days later, the Devils will get their 1st win, against, appropriately enough, the New York Rangers.

October 3, 1983: Jesse Adam Eisenberg is born in Queens, New York City, and grows up there and in East Brunswick, New Jersey -- my hometown. He and his sister Hallie Eisenberg -- you might remember her as the little girl from the Pepsi commercials with the voices of Joe Pesci and Aretha Franklin -- both attended East Brunswick High School, my alma mater, before transferring to the performing-arts school in New York made famous by the film Fame.

Hallie, now 23, has mostly done Broadway the last few years. Jesse has become a much bigger star, nominated for an Oscar for playing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. He plays Lex Luthor in the upcoming film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and is now filming a movie with Woody Allen.

October 4, 1984: Kenwyne Joel Jones is born in Point Fortin, Trinidad and Tobago. A striker, he has starred in Britain for Southampton, Sunderland, Stoke City, and now Cardiff City, and is the Captain of his national team.


October 5, 1985, 30 years ago: The Yankees went into a season-ending at Exhibition Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays, needing to sweep all 3 games to win the AL East. A win by the Jays in any of the 3, and the Jays would win it. But after Butch Wynegar’s home run in the 9th inning tied the Friday night game and the Yankees went on to win it, it looked like the Yankees might be a team of destiny.

But it was not to be. Billy Martin, who had done one of his best managing jobs, started Joe Cowley in the Saturday afternoon game, and he didn’t make it out of the 3rd inning, giving up home runs to Ernie Whitt, Willie Upshaw and Lloyd Moseby. Getting out of the 3rd required Cowley, Bob Shirley and Rich Bordi, while getting out of the 4th required Bordi and Dennis Rasmussen. Neil Allen pitched 4 1/3 shutout innings, but it was too late.

Doyle Alexander, whom the Yankees had let go twice, pitched a complete game, allowing a double to Ken Griffey Sr., and singles to Dave Winfield (RBI), Don Mattingly, Willie Randolph and Don Baylor. That was it: The Yankees got 1 run on 5 hits and no walks, in their biggest regular-season game since the season-closer against the Red Sox in 1949. (Officially, MLB counts the '78 Playoff game with the Sox as regular-season, but I don't.) Alexander was 35. Winfield's RBI was his 100th of the season, making him the 1st Yankee to both score and drive in 100 runs in the same season since Joe DiMaggio in 1942. But it was the only Yankee run of the game.

The Jays won, 5-1, and clinched their 1st-ever 1st place finish. From 1985 to 1993, a 9-year stretch, they will win the Division 5 times, and nearly make it 8 out of 9: Only in 1986 will they finish more than 2 games out of first place, and even then they were only 5½ back. But since Joe Carter “touched ‘em all” to clinch back-to-back World Championships in 1992-93, they never made the Playoffs again -- until 2015.

The Yankees would win the meaningless finale the next day, for their 97th win of the season, but, with the format then in place, would miss the Playoffs —  aside from 1954, when 103 wasn’t enough to overcome Cleveland’s then-AL record of 111, their most wins in any season without making the Playoffs. The Yankees wouldn’t reach the postseason again for another 10 years.

I was 15 going on 16, and I thought this was the year. It wasn’t. This one hurt. This near-miss still bothers me. One more good starting pitcher, alongside Ron Guidry and 46-year-old knuckleball wizard Phil Niekro, and the history of baseball in New York could have been very different.

My consolation was that this was also a rough day for Met fans. The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the NL East by beating the Chicago Cubs, 7-1 at Busch Memorial Stadium. Not that it made a difference, but the Mets lost to the Montreal Expos, 8-3 at Shea. The Cards are now up by 3 with 1 game to play.

The best Met season in 12 years comes to an end tomorrow. They have failed. And yet, before the 1985 postseason has even gotten underway, their fans are already convinced they will win the 1986 World Series. (They did, of course, but it turned out to be a lot harder than they’d imagined.)


October 5, 1987: Kevin Antonio Joel Gislain Mirallas y Castillo is born in Liège, Belgium to Spanish parents. A winger, he starred for hometown club Standard Liège, French club Saint-Étienne and Greek club Olympiacos, before going to Liverpool to play with his current club, Everton. He helped Olympiacos win the Greek Superleague in 2011 and '12, and helped Belgium knock the U.S. out of the 2014 World Cup.

Also on this day, Timothy Michael Ream is born in St. Louis. I thought the centreback was going to be a big star with the New York Red Bulls, and he did help them win the MLS East in 2010. But he wasn't picked for the U.S. team at the 2010 World Cup, and his career has never been the same.

"Metro" sold him to English club Bolton Wanderers, and he was named their player of the year the last 2 seasons. But that's all he's become: A good player at the level of the Football League Championship, England's 2nd division. He now plays for West London club Fulham, and has made 17 senior appearances for the U.S. team.

October 5, 1988: Game 2 of the NLCS at Dodger Stadium. The New York Daily News has hired Mets pitcher David Cone to write a postseason diary. After the Mets' win last night in Game 1, he unfavorably compared Los Angeles closer Jay Howell with New York closer Randy Myers: "We saw Howell throwing curveball after curveball and we were thinking: This is the Dodgers' idea of a stopper? Our idea is Randy, a guy who can blow you away with his heat. Seeing Howell and his curveball reminded us of a high school pitcher."

That got the Dodgers mad, and they take it out on the Mets' Game 2 starter -- who happened to be Cone. They Dodgers score a run in the 1st and 4 in the 2nd, and win, 6-3. The series is tied.

Big mistake, Coney. It's worth mentioning that he was not yet with the Mets when they won the 1986 World Series. It's also worth mentioning that, from this day forward, the Mets have never won another World Series. Cone would go on to win 5, including 4 with the Yankees.


October 5, 1990, 25 years ago: Game 2 of the NLCS. Right fielder Paul O'Neill drives in both Cincinnati runs and throws out a runner at 3rd base, to spark the Reds to a 2-1 win over the Pirates‚ tying the series at one game apiece. It's Paulie's 1st big postseason moment. It will not be his last.

October 5, 1991: The expansion San Jose Sharks play their 1st home game, at the Cow Palace in Daly City, just outside San Francisco. Unfortunately for them, the result is the same as their 1st game ever, the night before: They lose to the Vancouver Canucks, this time 5-2.

The Sharks will play their 1st 2 seasons at the Cow Palace, before their arena, now named the SAP Center, opens in San Jose.

October 5, 1993: Bob Watson replaces Bill Wood as the general manager of the Astros, making the former Houston 1st baseman the 1st black GM in baseball history. Bill Lucas had performed many similar duties for the Braves in the late 1970s, but he never officially held the title.

Also on this day, the Dallas Stars play their 1st game, after 26 seasons as the Minnesota North Stars. To this day, I don't get why the move to Texas didn't convince them to rename themselves the Lone Stars. Neal Broten scores 2 goals, and the Stars beat the Detroit Red Wings 6-4 at Reunion Arena.

October 5, 1996: Game 4 of the AL Division Series. After dropping Game 1 to the Texas Rangers, the Yankees have taken the last 3 straight. Bernie Williams of the Yankees and Juan Gonzalez of the Rangers each hit 5 home runs in the series, tying a postseason record. "Burn Baby Bern" hit 2 today, and "Juan Gone" 1, but the Yankees won, 6-4.

Also on this day, the Phoenix Coyotes make their debut, after 24 seasons as the original Winnipeg Jets. Oddly, they play their 1st game against another former NHL team, one that will play just one more season in their current location before moving: The Hartford Whalers. The Whalers win 1-0 at the Hartford Civic Center (now named the XL Center), as Alexander Godynyuk scores the only goal.

October 5, 1997: Game 4 of the AL Division Series. The Yankees are 5 outs away from going up 2 games to 1 on the Indians, but Mariano Rivera gives up a home run to Sandy Alomar Jr., and the Indians win, 3-2. A deciding Game 5 will be played tomorrow.

For a lot of Yankee Fans, this one hurt. It didn't both me much, though it might have if we didn't win in 1996. But this was the spark that led to the historic 1998 season.

October 5, 1999: Game 1 of the ALDS. Just another day at the office for Joe Torre's Yankees. Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez pitches a 2-hit shutout. Bernie Williams hits a single, a double and a homer for 6 RBIs. The Yankees beat the Rangers 8-0 at The Stadium.


October 5, 2000: Game 2 of the NLDS: The Mets even their series with the Giants at 1 game apiece by winning a 10-inning thriller‚ 5-4. Jay Payton's single drives home the winning run in the top of the 10th, after J.T. Snow's pinch-hit 3-run HR ties the game in the bottom of the 9th. Edgardo Alfonzo hit a 2-run homer in the top half of the frame. Al Leiter pitches into the 9th, and is relieved by Armando Benitez, who gives up the tying homer‚ but gets the win in relief.

October 5, 2001: At what was then known as Pacific Bell Park (now AT&T Park), Barry Bonds hits his 71st and 72nd home runs of the season, to set a new major league single-season record… which we now know is bogus. The 1st-inning homer, his 71st, is off Dodger pitcher Chan Ho Park.

But the Dodgers win the game, 11-10, and, to make matters worse, both clinch the NL West and eliminate the Giants, still their arch-rivals, from Playoff eligibility.

Bonds will raise his total to 73*. With teammate Rich Aurilia’s 37 (as far as I know, his are legit), they set a (tainted) NL record for homers by teammates, 110. The major league record remains 115, by Mickey Mantle (54) and Roger Maris (still the legit record of 61) in 1961.

Also on this day, the Seattle Mariners beat the Rangers 6-2, for their 115th win of the season, setting a new AL record. At age 38, Jamie Moyer becomes the oldest 1st-time 20-game winner in history. (Mike Mussina will break that record.) As it turned out, at an age at which many players are done, Moyer was far from done.

The Montreal Expos defeat the Mets‚ 8-6‚ but the Mets' Lenny Harris ties Manny Mota's major league record with his 150th career pinch hit.

October 5, 2002: Game 4 of the AL Division Series. The Angels shock the Yankees with 8 runs in the 5th inning, knocking David Wells out of the box, and go on to a 9-5 victory. Shawn Wooten homers for the Halos, while Jorge Posada adds a round-tripper in vain for the Bronx Bombers. Jarrod Washburn gets the victory for the Angels.

The win gives the Anaheim club the 1st postseason series victory of their 42-season history‚ 3 games to 1. They had previously lost the ALCS in 1979, 1982 and 1986, and a Playoff for the AL West in 1995.

October 5, 2003: Atlanta Thrashers center Dan Snyder dies, 6 days after a car crash in Atlanta. He was only 25. The car was driven by his teammate, Dany Heatley, who was sentenced to probation.

Despite having played only 49 NHL games, the Thrashers wore patches with his Number 37 on their jerseys, and never reissued it, although they didn't retire it. Since the Thrashers became the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, they still haven't reissued it.

October 5, 2005, 10 years ago: The NHL returns from its year-long lockout. This allows the long-awaited NHL debut of Sidney Crosby. As fate would have it, his Pittsburgh Penguins play their opener away to my New Jersey Devils, at the Meadowlans arena, then named the Continental Airlines Arena.

The Devils choose to not believe the hype, and, 23 years to the day after their debut, in the same building, against the same team, they win, 5-1.

In a game with nobody for me to root for, the New York Rangers beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3. And in an "Original Six" matchup, the Montreal Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins 2-1.

October 5, 2006: Game 2 of the NLCS, at Petco Park in San Diego. Trevor Hoffman of the San Diego Padres, who had recently broken Lee Smith's career record of 478 saves, catches the ceremonial 1st pitch from Smith, who returns to the city (though not the stadium) where he threw his most-remembered pitch, the home run that Steve Garvey hit to win Game 4 of the 1984 NLCS.

Jeff Bleeping Weaver and 4 relievers (this was a Tony LaRussa game) combine for a shutout, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Padres, 2-0.

October 5, 2007: Game 2 of the ALDS at Fenway Park. The Angels blow a 3-2 lead in the 5th inning, and Manny Ramirez takes a Justin Speier pitch over the Green Monster in the 10th inning, giving the Red Sox a 6-3 win.

October 5, 2011: Game 4 of the NLDS. During the 5th inning at Busch Stadium, a squirrel runs across home plate just as Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt begins to deliver a pitch to Skip Schumaker. Umpire Ángel Hernández calls the pitch a ball, much to the chagrin of the righthander and Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel, who believe that "no pitch" should be called due to the distraction caused by the grey rodent, immortalized by the Redbirds fans as the "rally squirrel."

Despite the rodential "interference" and the Phils' objections, no runs were scored in the inning. The Cardinals win anyway, 5-3.

October 5, 2012: The 1st-ever regularly scheduled Wild Card play-in games are played. The National League game is played 1st, at Turner Field in Atlanta. Kris Medlen starts for the Braves, and in 12 starts that season, he was 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA. But the St. Louis Cardinals beat him 6-3, thanks to pitching from Kyle Lohse and a home run by Matt Holliday.

In the American League, Joe Saunders' pitching and an Adam Jones sacrifice fly make the difference, as the Baltimore Orioles beat the Texas Rangers, 5-1 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.

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