Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Finishing up the Milestones

Thanks to baseball milestones and trip guides, I set a new personal best in October: 74 posts. Now, I am finally wrapping up the baseball and other sports milestones.

November 4, 1955, 60 years ago: Cy Young dies in Newcomerstown, Ohio. Belying his name, he was 88.

The next season, Major League Baseball instituted the Cy Young Award, for the most valuable pitcher in baseball. In 1967, they began handing them out for the most valuable pitcher in each League.

His 511 wins -- and 313 losses -- will never be approached under the current rules and thought processes of baseball. In 1999, 88 years after he pitched his last game, he was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, and The Sporting News named him Number 14 on their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players.

November 4, 1988: The expansion Charlotte Hornets make their NBA debut. It didn't go so well: They got clobbered, 133-93 by the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Charlotte Coliseum. Laker legend Kurt Rambis and Bloomfield, New Jersey native Kelly Tripucka each put up 16 points for the Hornets, but the Cavs got 22 points from Ron Harper and 20 from Brad Daugherty.

November 4, 1989: The expansion Orlando Magic make their NBA debut, at the now-demolished Orlando Arena (a.k.a. the O-Arena). The New Jersey Nets spoil the party, winning 111-106. Dennis Hopson scored 24 points for the visitors, while the Magic's Terry Catledge led all scorers with 25.

November 4, 2001: Game 7 of the World Series, at Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field) in Phoenix. Although the record has been tied, this remains the latest date that a Major League Baseball game that counts has ever been played.

It started as a duel between 2 of the greatest and most controversial pitchers of the time, Roger Clemens for the Yankees, and Curt Schilling for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Both of them would become much more controversial as the years went on.

Both lived up to the occasion and the matchup, and pitched very well: Schilling held the Yankees to 1 run on 4 hits over the first 7 innings; Clemens held the Diamondbacks to 1 run on 7 hits before Yankee manager Joe Torre called on Mike Stanton to get the last 2 outs in the top of the 7th.

Diamondback manager Bob Brenly stuck with Schilling for the top of the 8th, with the game tied 1-1, and Alfonso Soriano hit a home run. 2-1 Yankees, and it looked like Soriano had become one of the biggest World Series heroes ever -- the man who had hit the 2nd-latest home run in World Series history, behind only Bill Mazeroski's bottom-of-the-9th homer to beat the Yankees for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960.

Brenly brings Randy Johnson, who'd already beaten the Yankees in Games 2 and 6, to relieve. One day's rest? It's Game 7: Win or lose, there's no tomorrow, and you've got until late February to rest. Torre relieves Stanton by sending supercloser Mariano Rivera out for a 2-inning save.. He'd gotten away with that 5 times in this postseason. This was the 6th time he'd tried it.

It was still 2-1 Yankees in the bottom of the 9th, and Mariano needed to get just 3 more outs to give the Yankees their 4th straight World Championship, their 5th in the last 6 years, their 27th overall.

It didn't happen. Mark Grace led off with a single to center. Brenly sent in David Dellucci to pinch-run for him. Damian Miller grounded back to Mariano, who threw to 2nd to start a double play -- and threw it away. Tying run on 2nd. World Series-winning run on 1st.

Brenly sent Jay Bell up to pinch-hit for the Big Unit. He bunted, and Mariano threw to 3rd to get Dellucci on a force. The tying run is still on 2nd, the World Series-winning run is on 1st, but now there's 1 out. Just need to get 2 more.

Mariano wouldn't get his next 2 outs until April 3, 2002 -- 5 months later, or 148 days.

Brenly sends Midre Cummings to pinch-run for Miller at 2nd. Tony Womack doubles down the right field line. Cummings scores. Bell reaches 3rd with the run that could win the Series, and could score on a sacrifice fly.

Craig Counsell, who had been the man who drove in the tying run and scored the winning run for the Florida Marlins in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, comes up with the chance to be the hero again. Mariano hits him with a pitch. Not known as a purpose pitcher, Mariano was, for one of the very few times in his career, rattled.

Up steps Luis Gonzalez. A man whose seasonal home run totals had been 13 at age 23, 10 at 24, 15 at 25 (okay, he was playing his home games in the Houston Astrodome), 8 at 26 (1994, strike-shortened season), 13 at 27, 15 at 28 (the last 2 as a Chicago Cub, and remember that the wind blows in at Wrigley Field half the time), 10 at 29 (back in Houston, still in the Astrodome), and then...

He hit 23 home runs at age 30. Yes, he was now playing for the Detroit Tigers at Tiger Stadium, but this was also 1998. The year of whatever it was that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were using to hit 70 and 66 home runs, respectively. Gonzalez hit 26 at 31, and 31 at 32. Very good, but no big deal -- until you realize that those last 2 years were with the Diamondbacks, playing their home games at "The BOB," which, like the Astrodome but unlike most other indoor stadiums, is a bad ballpark for hitters. At age 34, Gonzalez hit 28 homers. At 35, 26. At 36, 17. At 37, 24. At 38 and 39, 15 both times. He closed his career with 8 homers at age 40 in 2006. Respectable numbers, if they were achieved honestly.

In 2001, at age 33, the year of Barry Bonds hitting 73 home runs, Luis Gonzalez hit 57 home runs. That's 26 more than he had ever hit before, and 29 more than he would ever hit again. People talk about Brady Anderson hitting 50 in 1996, when he'd only topped 16 once before, had never topped 21, and would never top 24 again nor 19 but once, and they suspected steroids.

What Luis Gonzalez did on the night of November 4, 2001 did not suggest steroids. Just as Bobby Thomson said that, 50 years earlier, he didn't need help to know that Ralph Branca was going to throw a meaty fastball. Doesn't mean Thomson didn't take advantage of the help that the Giants had been offering for the last few weeks. And it doesn't mean that Gonzalez hadn't been using steroids since 1998.

Gonzalez hit a looper into center field for a base hit. Bell scored the run that won the World Series for the Diamondbacks in only their 4th season.

At the time, I was terribly disappointed. But not crushed. There were a lot of really good players on that team who had played for a long time, some with awful teams, and had struggled to get to this point, and really deserved it: Grace with the Cubs. Johnson with the Mariners. Schilling with the Philadelphia Phillies. Gonzalez with the Astros. Bell and Womack with the Pirates. Matt Williams with the San Francisco Giants and Cleveland Indians.

For the Yankees, Paul O'Neill and Scott Brosius retired, and Tino and Chuck Knoblauch were allowed to leave via free agency. So 4 starters needed to be replaced. The game had a true "end of an era" feel, emphasized by Buster Olney when he titled his book about the 1996-2001 Yankees, and especially this game, The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty.

Some Yankee Fans were heartbroken. Not me. I was over it fairly quickly, and by Opening Day I was really optimistic again.

Over the next few years, things would change, and make this defeat something to get really angry about. Williams would be revealed as a caught steroid user. Gonzalez would call a press conference and angrily deny that he had used them, after a newspaper article danced around the question of whether he did. Although never publicly revealed to have been caught, people have often wondered about Johnson and Schilling, chosen the co-Most Valuable Players of this Series.

And, of course, accusations have also been leveled at some of the Yankees from this Series, including Clemens (the proof has still never been publicly revealed), Knoblauch (who admitted taking human-growth hormone, or HGH, but also said that it hurt more than it helped, which doesn't take him completely off the hook, but hardly makes him a cheater on the level of, say, David Ortiz), and Andy Pettitte (the one thing that can be proven was a brief moment the next season,which didn't help the Yankees win a Pennant).

But no one suggests the D-backs' win was "tainted." Indeed, the only team whose World Series wins or Pennants are said to not be fairly won are those of the Yankees.

Take out all suspected steroid cheats, and declare their World Series wins vacant, and, between 1996 and 2013, you've got the '97 Marlins (they didn't have Ivan Rodriguez yet), the '02 Angels, the '05 White Sox, the '06 and '11 Cardinals, the '08 Phillies, and the '10 and '12 Giants. That's it: 8 out of 18.

Unless you're prepared to vacate the titles won by the Diamondbacks in 2001; the Marlins in 2003; and the Red Sox in 2004, 2007 and 2013, then don't tell me the Yankees cheated.

November 4, 2004: With the original Charlotte Hornets having been moved to New Orleans 2 years earlier, the expansion Charlotte Bobcats make their NBA debut, 16 years to the day after the original Hornets did.

This game was also played at the now-demolished Charlotte Coliseum, but it didn't go much better: The Washington Wizards beat the 'Cats, 103-96. Emeka Okafor scored 19 for the hosts, but Antawn Jamison (a North Carolina graduate) dropped 24 on them for the Wiz.

When the Hornets changed their name to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Bobcats were given the Charlotte Hornets name and records (1988-2002), and have added them to the Bobcats' history (not that it was much).

November 4, 2009: Game 6 of the World Series. The Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-3 at the new Yankee Stadium, and clinched their 27th World Championship, 8 years to the day after they should have.

Hideki Matsui, in what turned out to be his last game with the Yankees, drove in 6 runs, including hitting a home run, a blast, off a "blast from the past," Pedro Martinez. I don't think any Yankee homer -- not by Chris Chambliss, Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent, Don Mattingly, Jim Leyritz, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Derek Jeter, even Aaron Boone -- has ever made me feel better, because of what Pedro the Punk represents.

Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte and Jorge Posada, the holdovers from 2001, got their rings, Posada his 4th (his 5th title, though I don't think he got a ring for 1996), the others their 5th. For Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia, their 1st.

The slates had been wiped clean. As Hank Steinbrenner requested, the universe had been restored to order.

Let's hope that no future baseball season will ever have to wait until November 4 to be resolved. We need scheduling reform.


November 5, 1605: Guy Fawkes, a Catholic fanatic, is arrested beneath the House of Lords at Britain's Parliament, for plotting to blow it up, taking with it the Protestant King James I, his wife Queen Anne, and his sons Henry and Charles. The idea was to place James' daughter, Elizabeth, who was just 9 years old, and would, under their order, be raised as, and be married to, a Catholic.

In hindsight, the plot was doomed to failure. The gunpowder was too damp: Lighting it would have had little effect, and aside from whoever lit it, nobody would have died. And if it had worked? Instead of the people of England rising up in celebration, the reaction would have been like America's after Pearl Harbor and 9/11, or after Britain's after the Brighton bombing of 1985 failed to kill Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: A moment of fear, followed by righteous rage. The conspirators would not have lived to see Christmas, no matter what they did.

Although all the conspirators were caught and hanged, Fawkes is generally the only one remembered. Today, Britain choose to "Remember, remember, the 5th of November, the gunpowder treason and plot," and it's known as Guy Fawkes Night, commemorated with fireworks.

The 1982 graphic novel and 2006 film V for Vendetta feature an antihero wearing a mask designed to look like Fawkes, and his attempt to take down a tyrannic government in a dystopian future (1997 in the book, 2038 in the film). Except "V" got one big thing very wrong: The government Fawkes was trying to bring down was actually more tolerant toward his faith than the one that came before (under Queen Elizabeth I), while the one he wanted to impose would have been a faith-based dictatorship that would have brooked no dissent -- much like the one "V" was trying to bring down. Not the only inconsistency in the character.

What does Guy Fawkes or his Night have to do with sports? Not much, I just like the story, and the story that uses it.

November 5, 1869: The Cincinnati Red Stockings complete their 1st season as the 1st openly professional baseball team, going 65-0, and playing from coast (Boston) to coast (San Francisco), doing as much to spread the growth of the game than any other team had ever done.

* Pitcher, Asa Brainard, from whose name we supposedly get the word "ace," a native of Albany, New York, 1841-1888.
* Center fielder and manager, Harry Wright, born in Sheffield, England, and grew up in New York, 1835-1895.
* 3rd baseman, Fred Waterman, Manhattan, 1845-1899
* Left fielder, Andy Leonard, born in Ireland and grew up in Newark, 1846-1903
* 2nd baseman, Charlie Sweasy, Newark, 1847-1908
* Catcher, Doug Allison, Philadelphia, 1846-1916.
* Right fielder, Cal McVey, born in Montrose, Iowa and grew up in Indianapolis, 1849-1926
* Substitute, but mainly an outfielder, Dick Hurley, Honesdale, Pennsylvania, born in 1847, and history has lost track of him, the last record of him being in 1916.
* 1st baseman, Charlie Gould, the only one actually from Cincinnati, 1847-1917.
* Shortstop, George Wright, Yonkers, the last survivor, 1847-1937.

So it was a pair of Wright Brothers in southern Ohio who, essentially invented professional baseball, just as another invented the airplane. Harry and George are in the Baseball Hall of Fame, 1 of only 2 pairs of brothers both in. The other is Paul and Lloyd Waner.

November 5, 1988: The expansion Miami Heat make their NBA debut, at the now-demolished Miami Arena. They probably thought that picking the Los Angeles Clippers as their 1st opponent would help.

Just as their arch-rivals, the Orlando Magic, will do a year later when they choose the Nets, the Heat chose wrong: The Clips win, 111-91. Dwayne "the Pearl" Washington comes off the bench to lead the Heat with 16 points, but the Clips get 22 from Ken Norman and 21 from Reggie Williams.

November 5, 1995, 20 years ago: The expansion Vancouver Grizzlies make their NBA debut, at the new General Motors Place (now the Rogers Arena). Unlike the Hornets, Magic and Heat, they win their premiere, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 100-98.

Christian Laettner scores 26 for the T-Wolves to lead all scorers, but the Grizz get 18 off the bench from ex-Laker star and future Net head coach Byron Scott, 17 from ex-Knick Greg Anthony, and 16 from James "Blue" Edwards.

The Grizzlies never make the Playoffs in Vancouver, and they move to Memphis in 2001. The NBA has shown no indication that they will give the city a 2nd team.


November 6, 1865, 150 years ago: The last grand match of the season takes place at the Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn, before 15‚000. The Atlantics lead all the way to defeat fellow Brooklynites the Eckfords, 27-24‚ and claim the 1865 championship with a record of 17-0.

Henry Chadwick, America's first real sportswriter: "Is there another sport attractive enough to draw such attendance under such circumstances? In the summer it is not surprising as the weather is pleasant... but on a cold November day‚ in the busiest time of the year‚ it must be indeed an attractive sport to collect such an assemblage that is present on this occasion." 

Named for a famed hill in Rome, the Capitoline Grounds, a 5,000-seat wooden stadium opened in 1864, was meant to rival and surpass the Union Grounds. The Atlantics made it their home, and, like the Union Grounds, it became a skating rink in the winter.

But it was demolished in 1880. Halsey Street, Marcy Street, Putnam Avenue and Nostrand Avenue, in Bedford-Stuyvesant. A or C train to Nostrand Avenue. While this neighborhood, notorious for crime not that long ago, should be safe during the day, definitely do not visit at night. 


1869 wasn't just a big year for baseball. It was also the year that American football is said to have been invented -- somewhat erroneously.

November 6, 1869: What is generally recognized as the 1st college football game is played. Rutgers College plays the College of New Jersey, on Rutgers' campus in New Brunswick.

The game is essentially a very large soccer game, with a round leather ball, and 25 men on a side. The Rutgers men, finding the color inexpensive to obtain, wrap scarlet red cloth around their heads like turbans, so that they can tell each other apart on the field. Thus did they invent school colors and the football helmet.

The men of Old Queens must have had less trouble telling team from team than the men of Old Nassau did, as Rutgers won, 6-4 -- that's 6 goals to 4, or 42-28 under today's scoring system.

The next week, the CNJ men returned the favor in Princeton, and won, 8-0. There was supposed to be a 3rd game, but the college presidents got together and decided that too much emphasis was being placed on athletics, and forbade it.

The field where "the first football game" was played is now the parking lot for Rutgers' College Avenue Gym.

In 1874, Harvard University would accept a challenge from McGill University in Montreal, and discover on their arrival that by "football," McGill meant "rugby," not "soccer." Adjustments were made, Harvard liked the results, and convinced the other "football"-playing schools to join them in this adaptation of "football." In 1906, the forward pass was legalized and hashmarks prevented dangerous scrimmages close to the sideline. "Football" as America knows it now was on its way.

In 1896, the College of New Jersey changed its name to Princeton University, while a nearby school would later be founded as Trenton State College, and change its name to The College of New Jersey. Rutgers College would become, and remains, the centerpiece of the larger system of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

November 6, 2009: The Yankees get a ticker-tape parade for winning the World Series. Only 1 other New York team has gotten one since: The Giants in February 2012.


November 8, 1918: For the 8th and last time, and just 3 days before the Armistice ending it, a Major League Baseball player dies as a result of serving in World War I.

La Verne Ashford "Larry" Chappell was an outfielder, and played for the Chicago White Sox in 1913, '14 and '15; the Cleveland Indians in 1916; and the Boston Braves in 1916 and '17. He never made it overseas, dying in the Spanish Flu epidemic at a U.S. Army camp in San Francisco. He was 28 years old.

November 8, 1971: The National Hockey League grants a franchise to Long Island, and the New York Islanders are born.

November 8, 1989: The NBA's expansion Minnesota Timberwolves play their 1st home game, at the Target Center in Minneapolis. But they really chose the wrong opponent: The Chicago Bulls, who win, 96-84. Michael Jordan blitzes his way to 45 points, while Tony Campbell nets 31 for the shellshocked hosts. At least the inaugural fans got their money's worth from Jordan.

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