Friday, September 30, 2016

The Yankees Did NOT Need to Rebuild. They Do Now.

Last night, the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 5-1 at Yankee Stadium II, clinching a series sweep, highlighted by the previous night's walkoff grand slam by the retiring Mark Teixeira.

It was the big 1st baseman's 206th "Teix Message" as a Yankee, and the 409th and probably last home run of a pretty good career, that includes 3 All-Star Games, 5 Gold Gloves, 6 postseason appearances, and the 2009 season in which he won the American League home run and RBI titles and the World Championship.

But the Baltimore Orioles also won, eliminating the Yankees from postseason competition.

The biggest deal of all last night, in the long run, was that this was the last time the big fat lying cheating bastard, David Ortiz, will ever play for the Yankees. He went 0-for-10 in this series. Would that he had gone 0-for-10 at any point in the 2004 American League Championship Series.

No player, not even his former Boston teammates Curt Schilling or Manny Ramirez, is more identified with beating the Yankees. And the North American sports establishment remains in operation of the Yankee Doodle Double Standard: They treat someone they know is corrupt like Donald Trump, a quirky entertainer who "knows how to win" and, with his Boston teammates, "made baseball great again"; while treating the Yankees the way the national media treats Hillary Clinton, as if every accusation, no matter how ridiculous, is absolutely true.

David Cone (who did pitch in Boston in 2001, but before Ortiz got there in 2003) and former teammate Jacoby Ellsbury gave him a leather-bound "book of farewells." Mariano Rivera gave him a painting of the new Yankee Stadium. (Not his own work. He only painted corners of the strike zone.)

What kind of tribute would I have given Ortiz? I would have had every Yankee Fan in The Stadium wait for him to be introduced, then get up, and turn their backs on him. Then, when he began to speak, get up and go to the bathroom, because his public statements thus far have been full of shit.


With 3 games left in the regular season, home to the Orioles, the Yankees are 9 games behind the Red Sox in the American League Eastern Division, which the Sox clinched on Tuesday despite the walkoff Teix Message. They are 4 out of the 2nd AL Wild Card. They are mathematically eliminated.

That they stayed in the race until September 29 is irrelevant. The purpose of the New York Yankees is not to stay in the race as long as possible. The purpose of the New York Yankees is to win the World Series. That general manager Brian Cashman did not give the team what it needed to do that is inexcusable, and he should be fired for it.

It could have been so much better. The Yankees had a chance. Since Cashman traded Aroldis Chapman on July 26, later trading the other great closer, Andrew Miller, and the team's best hitter through that point in the season, Carlos Beltran, they have gone 32-28.

Of those 28 losses, 9 were by 2 or fewer runs; 3 of those were to the Red Sox. If Chapman and Miller had been available, and would have prevented, say, just under half of those disasters, 4; and if Beltran had been available, and would have provided enough offensive production to prevent, say, 2; thus turning 2/3rds of those 9 1-run or 2-run losses, 6, into wins, including 2 of the 3 against the Sox (thus gaining us 2 games in the standings, not just 1)...

Then the Yankees would trail the Sox by 1 game with 3 to go, and would hold the 1st Wild Card slot (meaning they would host Game 163, as they did last season, for all the good it did them).

So don't tell me the Yankees were never in it. That's a lie.

Don't tell me the Yankees "had to rebuild." That's an even bigger lie. The Yankees' top 5 farm teams -- Scranton, Trenton, Tampa, Charleston and Staten Island -- all made their leagues' Playoffs. Charleston won a 1st-half Division title. Scranton won their Pennant.The Yankees' farm system was fine. It's the major-league team that needed help. They didn't get it.

You don't give away the store for "prospects" when you already have prospects. We did not need to "restock our farm system."

The problem is that Cashman didn't call up the prospects we already had when he should have. The most notorious example of this was letting Rob Refsnyder rot in Triple-A when Stephen Drew was struggling to reach a .200 batting average.

"Be patient"? Be patient for what? The "prospects" that Cashman got are 2 years away from Triple-A, at which point, Cashman will still be letting Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner block them. These "prospects," assuming they pan out enough just to get to Triple-A, will start feeling like Vic Power, wondering what might be the real reason they're not getting called up to the Yankees.

If I were in charge, I'd fire Cashman. I'd also fire Joe Girardi, who was bad enough with the bullpen when he could rely on Miller to pitch the 8th inning and Chapman the 9th, and was worse when it was Dellin Betances set to pitch the 9th, and a big 2-inning hole between the starter and Betances, all too rarely realizing that the starter could go more than 6 innings.

I would put Gene Michael, despite his age (78), back in the GM's office. I would let him make the necessary off-season deals. I would have him select the new field manager. And I would have him stay on as GM until next Opening Day, by which point he will have chosen his own successor as GM.

We cannot be patient and wait for these "prospects" to pan out. I'm still waiting for Steve "Bye-Bye" Balboni, Hensley "Bam-Bam" Meulens, Dan Pasqua, Scott Bradley, Jim Deshaies, Kevin Maas, Clay Parker, Kevin Mmahat and Brien Taylor to pan out.

(Yes, Mmahat, spelled with 2 M's at the beginning, and pronounced, "MOM-a-hot.")

When Cashman goes, and Girardi goes, then we can be optimistic again. Until then, I have to wonder if Cashman's next move won't be to trade Gary Sanchez for "prospects."

Sanchez and a few others could be part of the rebuilding job we didn't need before, but need now.


Anyway, it's October milestones time again -- including the end of September, though baseball doesn't play postseason games in September anymore.

September 28, 1955: Game 1 of the World Series, at the original Yankee Stadium. Yes, a World Series game was played on a September 28. This was also the 1st World Series game broadcast in color, on NBC (as were all World Series from the 1st telecast of one in 1947 until 1975), although hardly anyone has a color TV set at this point, and no TV recording of it, in color or otherwise, is known to survive.

There is film footage, though. That footage shows Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers stealing home plate against the New York Yankees. Home plate umpire Bill Summers rules him safe. Yankee catcher Yogi Berra says Jackie was out, and has a fit.

To the end of his life, Yogi insisted that he wouldn't have argued that strenuously if he wasn't sure, or if Jackie was definitely safe, as Monte Irvin of the New York Giants was when he stole home on Yogi in the 1951 World Series.

Whitey Ford was pitching, and he insists to this day that Jackie was out. But Phil Rizzuto claimed that Jackie was safe, and he knew because he was playing shortstop and had the best view of the play.

Whitey didn't like that, so he looked it up. The steal was in the top of the 8th inning -- and in the bottom of the 6th, manager Casey Stengel had pinch-hit Eddie Robinson for the Scooter! In the top of the 7th, a new shortstop took the field: Jerry Coleman (normally a 2nd baseman). Coleman was playing short when Jackie stole home.

So who was right? Judge for yourself. Here's the film. It's hard to tell from there. But this photo makes it obvious: He was out!
And if the Yankees had lost the game, and the World Series, because of this, there would have been an uproar -- or, as the Dodgers' legendary broadcaster, ironically now with the Yankees, Red Barber, would have put it, a rhubarb.

But the Yankees did not lose the Series, or even the game, because of the steal. The Yankees won the game, 6-5. Left fielder (and backup catcher) Elston Howard, a "rookie" at age 30, hit a home run off Don Newcombe in the 2nd inning, while 1st baseman Joe Collins hit 2 homers off Big Newk. Carl Furillo and Duke Snider hit home runs off Ford.

Like Carlton Fisk's home run in Game 6, 20 years later, Robinson's steal of home was a spectacular moment, but, ultimately, had no effect on the result of the Series.

Still, stealing home plate has become Jackie Robinson's signature, along with his grace under more pressure than any American athlete has ever faced. He did it 19 times in the regular season, plus this time in the World Series -- still the last steal of home in a World Series game. (One of the many records that Ty Cobb set, and one that he still holds, is the most steals of home in a career: 54.) It even became a point of reference in Buddy Johnson's 1949 song about Jackie, with the Count Basie Orchestra having made the best-known recording:

Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
Did he hit it?
And that ain't all:
He stole home!
Yes, yes, Jackie's real gone.

"Gone" meaning "cool." Not as in "left the vicinity" or "gone in the head." No player ever kept his head -- or had to -- as much as Jack Roosevelt Robinson of Pasadena, California (and Stamford, Connecticut).

Newcombe, Ford, Eddie Robinson, and Yankee left fielder Irv Noren are the only players from this game who are still alive, 61 years later.

This Series was a classic, and it went to 7 games. In the end, as would be said in the Brooklynese accent, the Dodgers finally dooed it. After World Series losses in 1916, 1920, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953 (the last 5 of those 7 against the Yankees), losses in Playoffs for the National League Pennant in 1946 and 1951 (the latter against the hated New York Giants), losing the Pennant on the final day of the regular season in 1942 and 1950, and finishing 2nd to the Giants in 1954 -- 10 close calls in a span of 14 years -- 1955 turned out to be the "Next Year" that Dodger fans from Williamsburg to Coney Island, from Morristown to Montauk, from Poughkeepsie to Point Pleasant, had waited for.


September 28, 1872: Franz Adolf Louis John is born in Pritzwalk, Brandenburg, Germany. A photographer and a soccer player for athletic club MTV 1879 Munich, he was among 11 players upset in 1900 that the club's steering committee wouldn't let the team join the SFV, the group that ran soccer in southern Germany. So he led them to walk out, and form a new club.

They named it Munich Football Club Bayern (meaning "Of Bavaria"), and he served as its 1st president, from 1900 to 1933. Today, known as Fußball-Club Bayern München, it is the most popular (but also the most-hated) sports team in Germany, having won 26 league titles and 5 European Cup/Champions League titles.

Franz John did not see most of this. He left Munich in 1904, moved back to his hometown of Pankow near Berlin, and died in 1952. Bayern won its 1st title in 1932, then didn't win another until 1969, after the 1963 founding of the national league (the Bundesliga). 

September 28, 1932: Game 1 of the World Series. The Chicago Cubs score 2 runs in the 1st inning, but the Yankees outscore them 37-17 over the rest of the Series. Lou Gehrig hits a home run, and the Yankees win, 12-6.

September 28, 1959: Game 1 of the National League Playoff. It was the Braves' move to Milwaukee, with is (then) modern stadium and its huge parking lot, that made Walter O'Malley want a better ballpark for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and ultimately made him move the team to Los Angeles. Now, after the Braves have won the last 2 Pennants, there is a tie for the flag, and these 2 teams, representing cities that didn't even have teams 7 seasons ago face off at Milwaukee County Stadium.

Dodger manager Walter Alston starts Danny McDevitt, who pitched a shutout in the last game at Ebbets Field, 2 years and 4 days earlier. But he doesn't get out of the 2nd inning this time, as he falls behind, 2-1. Alston brings Larry Sherry in to relieve, and he goes the rest of the way. John Roseboro hits a home run off Carlton Willey, and the Dodgers win, 3-2, to take a 1-0 lead back to L.A.

September 28, 1968: Coming to bat against Jim Lonborg of the Boston Red Sox in the top of the 1st inning at Fenway Park, Mickey Mantle receives a nice hand from the Boston fans, who, though nothing has been made official, suspect that this is it. He hits a pop-up into short left field, where it is caught by Red Sox shortstop Rico Petrocelli.

Mickey was announced as the 1st baseman in this game, but he never takes the field for the bottom of the 1st. Andy Kosco goes out to the position. This is the next-to-last game of the season, and Mickey is not put into the lineup the next day. Thus ends Mickey's career, although he doesn't make it official until the following March 1. He finishes with a .298 lifetime batting average, 2,415 hits including 536 home runs, 12 Pennants and 7 World Series. (For perspective, in their entire history, 1901 to 2016, the Red Sox have won 13 Pennants and 8 World Series.)

September 28, 1995: Albert Johanneson dies of meningitis in Leeds, England. He was only 55. One of the 1st black South Africans to make it big in soccer, the left winger took to English pitches at a time when there weren't many black players in the country at all, and faced terrible discrimination, although not as much as did Jackie Robinson, in his sport and in his own country, a generation earlier.

Nevertheless, he helped Yorkshire club Leeds United gain promotion to the Football League Division One in 1964, finish runners-up in both the League and the FA Cup in 1965, and win the League in 1969.

September 28, 1998: The Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants, having finished in a tie for the NL's Wild Card berth, face each other in a Playoff game at a raucous Wrigley Field. Former Minnesota Twins World Series winner Gary Gaetti hits a home run, and Rod Beck holds off his former team to save a fine performance by Steve Traschel, and the Cubs win, 5-3.

Sammy Sosa goes 2-for-4 for the Cubbies, and scores 2 runs. Barry Bonds goes 0-for-4 for the Jints. I guess Sammy's steroids were working that night, and Barry's weren't.

September 28, 2011: One of the most remarkable days in the history of regular season baseball. The Yankees have won the American League East, with help from the Red Sox, who went 7-20 in September, a month they began by leading the Division by 1 game and the Wild Card by 9.

But the Baltimore Orioles come from 3-2 down in the bottom of the 9th at Camden Yards, as Robert Andino singles off Jonathan Papelbon to give the O's a 4-3 win. This gives the Yankees the Division title. The Sox can still win the Wild Card, but the Rays complete a sweep of the Yankees, coming from 7-0 down to win 8-7 in the 12th inning on Evan Longoria's 2nd home run of the game.

Yankee Fans have a good laugh, though: The Sox become the 1st team ever to miss the Playoffs completely after having a 9-game lead for any berth in September. The Sox may have won the World Series twice in the last 8 years, but this night adds to their long list of chokes.

The Atlanta Braves also choke, having led the St. Louis Cardinals by 10 1/2 games for the NL Wild Card on August 25, but going 11-20 since, while the Cards went 23-9. On the final day, the Cards beat the Houston Astros 8-0 as Chris Carpenter pitches a 2-hit shutout, while the Braves lose to the Phillies, 4-3 in 13 innings. The Braves are out.

Also on this day, the Florida Marlins play their last game under that name and at the Miami Dolphins' stadium. They lose 3-1 to the Washington Nationals, ending 19 years of play in the suburb of Miami Gardens. The next season, they will be named the Miami Marlins, and move to the new, garish, retractable-roof Marlins Park, built on the Little Havana site of the Orange Bowl.


September 29, 1932: Game 2 of the World Series. The Chicago Cubs take a 1-0 in the 1st inning, but the Yankees score 2 in the bottom half, and Lefty Gomez handles the Cubs the rest of the way. The Yankees win, 5-2, and take a 2 games to 0 lead as the Series heads out to Chicago.

September 29, 1937: Ray Ewry dies on Long Island at age 63. He was America's 1st great Olympic medalwinner, albeit in standing jumps, events that are no longer contested. He won 8 Gold Medals: The standing long, high and triple jumps at Paris in 1900; all 3 again at St. Louis in 1904; and the long and high jumps at London in 1908.

September 29, 1943: Wolfgang Overath is born in Siegburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. A midfielder for FC Köln, he helped them win the 1st Bundesliga title in 1964, and the DFB-Pokal (Germany's version of the FA Cup) in 1968 and 1977.

He competed for Germany in 3 World Cups, losing to England in the 1966 Final, finishing 3rd in 1970, and winning it on home soil in 1974. He is still alive.

September 29, 1954: Willie Mays makes The Catch. It was Game 1 of the World Series. The New York Giants had won the National League Pennant, beating out their crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Cleveland Indians had won the American League Pennant, winning League record 111 games to beat out the Yankees, who had won the last 5 World Series. Indeed, the last 8 AL Pennants had been won by the Indians (1948 & '54) and the Yankees (1947, '49, '50, '51, '52 & '53).

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

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

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

Mays, at this point in his career, was already a big star. Just 23 years old, he had won that season's NL batting title. He had been NL Rookie of the Year in 1951, but had missed most of the 1952 season and all of 1953 serving in the U.S. Army, having been drafted into service in the Korean War. He had become known for playing stickball in the streets of Harlem with local boys in the morning, and then going off to the Polo Grounds to play real baseball in the afternoon. This raised his profile, and made him an accessible figure to City kids. His cap flying off as he ran around the bases, his defensive wizardry, and his yelling of, "Say hey!" endeared him to Giant fans.

While he made the "basket catch" nationally popular, he didn't invent it. In fact, he wasn't even the 1st Giant to use it, as 3rd baseman Bill Rigney, who would succeed Durocher as manager in 1956, was using it in the 1940s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, Don. You got him. As Jim Bouton, then a 15-year-old Giant fan who'd recently moved from Rochelle Park, Bergen County, New Jersey to the Chicago suburb of Chicago Heights, Illinois, would later say, "Yeah, surrrre!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his 1st year of eligibility, 1979. In 1999, he was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, and The Sporting News put him at Number 2 on its list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players -- 2nd only to the long-dead Babe Ruth, so Willie was tops among living players. No player has since come along to suggest otherwise -- not later Giant Barry Bonds, not Derek Jeter. Willie is 85 years old.

September 29, 1955: Game 2 of the World Series. Tommy Byrne goes the distance and singles in a run, as the Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers, 4-2.

The Yankees have a 2-games-to-0 lead as the Series goes to Brooklyn. Dem Bums is in deep trouble.

September 29, 1957: The Giants play the last game at the Polo Grounds, their owner Horace Stoneham having already announced that they're moving to San Francisco. Unlike the Brooklyn Dodgers, who played their last home game at Ebbets Field 5 days earlier, they have a farewell ceremony, including Blanche McGraw, widow of longtime manager John, who said that the move would have broken his heart.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, unable to even score off the Dodgers on Tuesday night, beat the Giants on Sunday afternoon, 9-1. The crowd is a pathetically small 11,606, and storms the field after the game. At one point, they gather at the center field blockhouse that included both teams' locker room, chanting for Mays, "We want Willie!" And, to the tune of "Good Night, Ladies," they sing, "We want Stoneham! We want Stoneham! We want Stoneham, with a rope around his neck!"

Stoneham had already said that the fans had no one to blame but themselves, as they hadn't shown up in sufficient numbers, borne out by the small crowd at the finale: "I feel bad for the kids, but I haven't seen too many of their fathers lately."

September 29, 1959: Game 2 of the National League Playoff, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Like in 1946, but not 1951, the Dodgers make sure the Playoff series doesn't go to a Game 3. They score 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th to send the game to extra innings. With 2 outs in the 12th, Gil Hodges draws a walk, Joe Pignatano singles, and Carl Furillo singles home Hodges with the Pennant-winning run, 6-5.

The Dodgers had won the 1st Pennant by any team west of St. Louis. The City of Milwaukee has had just 1 Pennant winner in the 56 years since, the 1982 Brewers; and the Braves wouldn't win another Pennant for 32 years, and by that point they were in their 26th season in Atlanta.

September 29, 1976, 40 years ago: Andriy Mykolayovych Shevchenko is born in Dvirkivschyna, Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Union. The striker led Dynamo Kyiv to the Ukrainian Premier League title in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999; and to the Ukrainian Cup in 1996, 1998 and 1999 (all 3 of them League and Cup "Doubles").

He moved on to AC Milan, winning the Coppa Italia and the Champions League in 2003, and Serie A (Italy's national league) in 2004, also winning the Ballon d'Or as world player of the year. At West London club Chelsea, he won the FA Cup and the League Cup in 2007, known as the "Cup Double."

This past June, he was appointed manager of the Ukraine national team, and is regarded as the country's greatest player ever. He is married to Polish-American model Kristen Pazik. They met at a party held by the Giorgio Armani company, and speak Italian to each other. They have 4 sons.

September 29, 1977: Billy Joel releases his album The Stranger, including the title track, "Just the Way You Are," "Only the Good Die Young," "She's Always a Woman," and perhaps his best (if not his most-played) song, "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," a.k.a. "The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie." Or "Brender 'n' Eddie." It is one of the greatest albums in history.

This album wouldn't seem to have anything to do with sports, but the cover does show a pair of boxing gloves hanging from a nail on the wall.

On the same day, at Madison Square Garden, a building Billy owns as much as Willis Reed or Mark Messier ever would, Muhammad Ali barely hangs onto the Heavyweight Championship of the World, needing to win the 15th and final round to win by a close decision.

September 29, 1981: Bill Shankly dies of a heart attack in Liverpool at age 68. As a player, the Scotsman was a good defender, helping Lancashire club Preston North End win the 1938 FA Cup. But, like contemporaries Matt Busby and Stan Cullis, also good players at the time, he truly made his mark as a manager.

He became manager of Liverpool Football Club in 1959, and got them promoted to the Football League Division One in 1962, and they have never left. He led them to League titles in 1964, 1966 and 1973; the 1965 and 1974 FA Cups; and the 1973 UEFA Cup. His last match before retiring was the 1974 Charity Shield, England's annual season-opening match between the previous season's winners of the League and the Cup. Liverpool beat Leeds United, but the match was marred by a fight between Liverpool's Kevin Keegan and Leeds' Billy Bremner.

Although his assistant-turned-successor Bob Paisley led Liverpool to more glories, "Shanks" is still the most beloved figure in the club's history. A statue of him now stands outside the stadium, Anfield, which also has an entrance known as the Shankly Gates.

September 29, 1984: Per Mertesacker (no middle name) is born in Hannover, Lower Saxony, Germany. The 6-foot-6 centreback starred for hometown club Hannover 96, then won the 2009 DFB-Pokal at Werder Bremen, before moving to North London's Arsenal in 2011.

Arsenal fans -- fans of "The Gunners" are known as "Gooners" -- immediately embraced the man they called, in a nod to Roald Dahl's novel, the BFG. In the novel, it stands for "Big Friendly Giant"; to Gooners, it stands for "Big Fucking German." He has led the club to the 2014 and 2015 FA Cups, and is now the club's Captain. He also won the World Cup with Germany in 2014.

September 29, 1988: Kevin Wayne Durant is born in Washington, D.C. A 6-time All-Star, he's already played in an NBA Finals for the Oklahoma City Thunder (2012) and won an NBA MVP award (2014).

September 29, 2015: The Los Angeles Dodgers win their 3rd straight National League Western Division title, and away to their arch-rivals, no less. Clayton Kershaw pitches a 1-hit, 13-strikeout, 1-walk shutout, and the Giants beat the San Francisco Giants, 8-0 at AT&T Park. However, the Dodgers still have Don Mattingly as manager. The Curse of Donnie Baseball will strike again.

On this same day, across the Bay, the Oakland Athletics announce the hiring of Dr. Justine Siegal, to pitch batting practice for their off-season Instructional League team, in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, Arizona. This makes her the 1st female coach to be hired by a Major League Baseball team. This is the closest any woman has ever gotten to a major league roster.


September 30, 1926, 90 years ago: Robin Evan Roberts is born in Springfield, Illinois. He was the captain of the basketball team at Michigan State University in 1950, but it would be in baseball where he would make his mark. He was the biggest reason the Philadelphia Phillies' "Whiz Kids" won the 1950 National League Pennant.

He was a 7-time All-Star, and 7 times won 20 or more games, 6 seasons in a row. In 1952, he won 28 games, a feat not achieved by any major league pitcher since, with 1 exception: Denny McLain with 31 in 1968. His career record, despite pitching for some terrible Phillies teams, was 286-246.

He is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the team halls of fame of the Phillies and the Baltimore Orioles. Phillies fans elected him their greatest all-time player in a 1969 poll, and named him to their Centennial Team in 1983. The Phillies made his Number 36 the 1st they ever retired, made him their 1st inductee into the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame (along with longtime Athletics owner and manager Connie Mack), and dedicated a statue of him outside Citizens Bank Park. A minor-league ballpark in Springfield is named Robin Roberts Stadium, and he is also in the Philadelphia Sports, Pennsylvania Sports and Michigan State University Athletics Halls of Fame.

He died in 2010, having lived to see their 1976-83 quasi-dynasty, the replacement of Connie Mack Stadium with Veterans Stadium, the replacement of The Vet with The Bank, the dedication of his statue, and their 2008 World Championship and 2009 Pennant.

He is not related to Robin René Roberts, the African-American ABC journalist who got her start doing sports on ESPN. She played basketball at Southeastern Louisiana University. Like Robin Evan (17), Robin René got her college basketball uniform number retired (21).

September 30, 1927: Babe Ruth hits a drive down the right field line at Yankee Stadium, off Tom Zachary of the Washington Senators. It is his 60th home run of the season, breaking the record of 59 that he set in 1921. The Yankees win the game 4-2. Herb Pennock is the winning pitcher, in relief of George Pipgras.

When Ruth gets back tot he dugout, he says, "Sixty! Count 'em, sixty! Let's see some other son of a bitch match that!"

Not until 1961 -- 34 years and 1 day later -- would another player match it. Roger Maris, also a right fielder for the Yankees, did, and surpassed it. Much is made of the small crowd when Maris hit Number 61, but when Ruth hit Number 60, only 8,000 showed up on a Saturday afternoon. It should be noted though that, in each case, the Yankees had already wrapped up the American League Pennant.

This game is notable for another reason: It was the last major league playing appearance for Walter Johnson, the Senators pitcher who would, like Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson, be 1 of the 1st 5 players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Oddly, he did not appear as a pitcher, although he could have, had the Senators tied it and sent it to the bottom of the 9th: The Big Train pinch-hit for Zachary. He did not reach base.

September 30, 1936, 80 years ago: Game 1 of the World Series. George Selkirk hits a home run, but that's the only run Carl Hubbell, in the middle of his 24-game regular-season winning streak, allows, as the New York Giants beat the Yankees 6-1 at the Polo Grounds. Dick Bartell homers for the Jints.

September 30, 1942: Game 1 of the World Series. Red Ruffing of the Yankees takes a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the St. Louis Cardinals, before Terry Moore breaks it up with 2 out. In the bottom of the 9th, the Cardinals score 4 runs, and then manage to load the bases, bringing Stan Musial -- then a rookie, a few years away from getting his nickname "Stan the Man," but already one of the game's top hitters -- to the plate as the winning run.

Yankee manager Joe McCarthy brings Spurgeon "Spud" Chandler in to relieve. He gets Musial to ground out. Final score: Yankees 7, Cardinals 4.

As historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, 3 months away from being born, would later say, "There's always these omens in baseball." Going into that bottom of the 9th, the Yankees led 7-0. Over the rest of the Series, including that bottom of the 9th, the Cardinals outscored the Yankees 21-11.

September 30, 1944: James Connolly Johnstone in born in Viewpark (now Uddingston), a suburb of Glasgow, Scotland. An outside right (a right winger in today's formations), Jimmy Johnstone, a.k.a. Jinky, played for hometown soccer team Celtic from 1961 to 1975, winning 9 League titles and 4 Scottish Cups, and was voted the club's greatest player ever by its fans.

In 1967, he was the big star of their team that became the 1st British side to win the European Cup (the tournament now known as the UEFA Champions League), defeating Internazionale Milano at Lisbon, Portugal (earning the team the nickname the Lisbon Lions). Later that year, he played for the Scotland national team that beat World Cup holders England, leading Scottish fans to proclaim their team "World Champions." (It doesn't work that way, as boxing does.)

In 1975, he played for the original San Jose Earthquakes, in the original North American Soccer League. He died in 2006.

September 30, 1945: John Sissons (no middle name) is born in Hayes, Middlesex -- now a part of West London. A forward, he was a member of the West Ham United team that won the 1964 FA Cup and the 1965 European Cup Winners' Cup. He briefly played in America, helping the Tampa Bay Rowdies win the 1975 North American Soccer League title. He is still alive.

September 30, 1946, 70 years ago: Bernardus Adriaan Hulshoff is born in Deventer, Netherlands. We know him as Barry Hulshoff. Playing for Amsterdam soccer team AFC Ajax, the centreback won 7 national league (Eredivisie) titles, 4 national cups (KNVB Beker), and 3 straight European Cups (the tournament now known as the UEFA Champions League), in 1971, '72 and '73.

Despite his playing pedigree, he only played 14 times for the Netherlands national team, and never made their World Cup squad. He later managed Ajax and several teams in the Netherlands and Belgium, but has been out of soccer since 2002.

September 30, 1947: Game 1 of the World Series. The Brooklyn Dodgers have won the Pennant, and, all together, Jackie Robinson and his 24 white teammates, stand on the 3rd-base line at Yankee Stadium, hearing the National Anthem. Jackie would write in his memoir I Never Had It Made that this was the highlight of his career: Not only that he had played in the white major leagues, but that he had been accepted by his teammates, and, together, they had succeeded. They were the National League Champions.

But they still had a World Series to play, in front of 73,365 people -- over twice the capacity of Ebbets Field. Dodger Captain Pee Wee Reese scores all the way from 2nd base on a wild pitch by rookie starter Frank "Spec" Shea in the 7th inning. But that's the only real highlight for the Dodgers, as the Yankees batter 21-year-old 21-game winner Ralph Branca for 5 runs in the 5th, and go on to win 5-3.


September 30, 1951: After being 13 1/2 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers on August 11, the New York Giants think they have the Pennant won, as they beat the Boston Braves 3-2 at Braves Field in Boston. The hero, with a home run, is 3rd baseman Bobby Thomson.

But the Dodgers, having blown that huge lead, aren't done yet. At Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Jackie Robinson makes a sensational catch at 2nd base in the bottom of the 12th inning, then hits a home run in the top of the 14th, and the Dodgers beat the Philadelphia Phillies 9-8. There will be a best-2-out-of-3 Playoff for the National League Pennant, starting the next day.

A coin is tossed to determine home-field advantage. The Dodgers win the toss -- and elect to host Game 1 at Ebbets Field, thus letting the Giants host Games 2 and 3 at the Polo Grounds. This will turn out to be one of the greatest blunders in the history of baseball.

In the meantime, the American League Champions, the Yankees, wait to see whom they will face in the World Series. Rookie right fielder, and center fielder in waiting, Mickey Mantle asks his teammates who he should root for. He's told it should be the Giants, since Ebbets Field seats only 31,000 people, while the Polo Grounds seats 56,000, and the gate receipts, and thus the winners' share, will be much bigger if the Giants win.

September 30, 1953: Game 1 of the World Series. Gil Hodges, George "Shotgun" Shuba and Jim "Junior" Gilliam hit home runs for the Dodgers. It's not enough, as Yogi Berra and Joe Collins do the same for the Yankees, who win 9-5.

Johnny Sain is the winning pitcher. The Yankees gave up Lew Burdette to get Sain from the Boston Braves. Burdette would help the Braves, by then in Milwaukee, drive the Yankees crazy in the 1957 and '58 Series. But Sain helped the Yankees big-time, so it was an even trade.

September 30, 1955: Game 3 of the World Series. The Dodgers get back into the Series, thanks to the pitching of Johnny Podres and a home run by Roy Campanella. They beat the Yankees 8-3, and close to within 2 games to 1.

September 30, 1956, 60 years ago: The Detroit Tigers beat the Cleveland Indians, 8-4 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Wayne Belardi hits a home run, and Billy Hoeft wins his 20th game of the season.

The losing pitcher is Bob Feller, who falls to 0-4 on the season, and 266-162 for his career, with 2,581 strikeouts, despite missing nearly 4 full seasons due to military service. Nearly 38, this is the last major league appearance for perhaps the best pitcher of his generation. It is interesting that it happens on the 29th Anniversary of Walter Johnson's last appearance.

September 30, 1962: Franklin Edmundo Rijkaard is born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The son of immigrants from the Netherlands' South American colony of Surinam (now an independent country), the Jheri-curled midfielder helped hometown club Ajax win 5 Eredivisie (Dutch league) titles and the 1995 Champions League.

This was in 2 separate stints with the club. In between, he played in Italy for AC Milan, along with fellow Dutchman Marco Van Basten and fellow Dutch-Surinamese Ruud Gullit. Together, they combined Dutch totalvoetbaal, South American samba, and Italian catenaccio defense to form perhaps the best club side in soccer history, winning 2 Serie A (Italian league) titles, and the European Cup in 1989 and 1990 -- still the last team to win the tournament now named the Champions League back-to-back.

The 3 Milan players also helped the Netherlands win their only international tournament to date, Euro 1988. Rijkaard also managed Barcelona to the 2005 and 2006 La Liga (Spanish league) titles and the 2006 Champions League. He and Carlo Ancelotti, another of his Milan teammates, are the only men to win the Champions League as both a player and a manager.

September 30, 1966, 50 years ago: The Yankees lose 6-5 to the Chicago White Sox in 11 innings at Comiskey Park. Roger Maris hits a home run, his last as a Yankee. But a single by Johnny Romano drives in ayne Causey, and makes a 20-game loser out of Mel Stottlemyre.

This drops the Yankees' record to 68-89, and assures that they will finish in 10th place in the single-division American League. This is the 1st time in 54 years that the Yankees have finished in last place. They have only done so once more, in 1990.

September 30, 1967: The Boston Red Sox host the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park on the next-to-last day of the season. They and the Detroit Tigers are all still eligible for the AL Pennant.

Oddly, NBC is not televising it as the Game of the Week. Fortunately, Boston's Channel 5, then WHDH, a CBS affiliate (it's now WCVB and part of ABC), is televising it, and keeps a copy. As far as we know, this is the earliest surviving entire color TV broadcast of a Major League Baseball game.

Twins starter Jim Kaat is cruising until the 3rd inning, when he is injured and has to leave the game. Jim Perry comes in, and holds the Sox off until the 5th. Reggie Smith leads off with a double, and Dalton Jones singles. Perry strikes out opposing pitcher Jose Santiago and Mike Andrews, but Jerry Adair and Carl Yastrzemski use back-to-back singles to turn a 1-0 Twins lead into 2-1 Red Sox.

The Twins tie the game in the 6th, but home runs by George Scott in the 6th and Yaz in the 7th make it 6-2 Sox. Harmon Killebrew homers for the Twins in the 9th, by Gary Bell (later to become famous as Jim Bouton's Seattle Pilots roommate in Ball Four) shuts the down, and the Sox win, 6-4.

The Sox and Twins are now tied. Whichever wins tomorrow will have at least a tie for the Pennant. The Tigers are rained out, and will play a doubleheader. If they sweep, a Playoff will be necessary. If they only split, the Sox-Twins winner takes the flag.

Also on this day, Philadelphia's new arena, The Spectrum, opens across from the north end zone at John F. Kennedy Stadium. To the north of The Spectrum, construction is underway on Veterans Stadium, to be the new home of MLB's Phillies and the NFL's Eagles.

The 1st event at The Spectrum is the Quaker Jazz Festival. Over the next few weeks, the NBA's 76ers and the NHL's Flyers will move in. Villanova University will also use it for games whose ticket demand exceed their on-campus arena. The building will be home to 4 championship teams: The back-to-back Stanley Cups of the Flyers in 1974 and 1975, the 76ers' 1983 NBA title, and Villanova's 1985 NCAA Championship.

It will be replaced as home of the Sixers, Flyers and 'Nova, and as the Delaware Valley's leading concert center, in 1996, by the building now known as the Wells Fargo Center, which will be built on the site of JFK Stadium. It will be demolished in 2010.


September 30, 1971: The last Washington Senators game is played, against the Yankees at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. Team owner Bob Short, having already moved the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles in 1960, has announced he's moving the Senators to the Dallas area, to become the Texas Rangers. He complains about the low attendance, despite having the highest ticket prices in the American League, and no subway access to RFK Stadium. (Washington's Metro would not open until 1976.)

Frank Howard, the Senators' most popular player in their 2nd go-around of 1961-71, hits the last home run. Dick Bosman starts, and stands to be the winning pitcher as the Senators lead 7-5 with 1 out left in the 9th. All he has to do is get Bobby Murcer out.

But he can't, through no fault of his own. Angry fans from the "crowd" of 14,461 people storm the field. The umpires cannot restore order, and they forfeit the game to the Yankees.

The next April, Bosman also starts the team's 1st game as the Rangers. Major League Baseball will not return to the Nation's Capital, except for the occasional preseason exhibition game, until the 2005 season. Only 2 AL games have been forfeited since, both promotions that turned into fiascos: The Cleveland Indians' Ten-Cent Beer Night in 1974, and the Chicago White Sox' Disco Demolition Night in 1979.

September 30, 1978: Ed Figueroa becomes the 1st pitcher born in Puerto Rico to win 20 games in a season (and is still the only one), pitching a 5-hit shutout. The Yankees knock Cleveland starter Mike Paxton out of the box before he can get an out, and Rick Wise pitches the rest of the way, with Reggie Jackson homering off him in the 5th inning. (Mr. October was pretty good in September, too.) Given the boost, Figgy cruises to a 7-0 victory at Yankee Stadium.

The next day is the last day of the regular season. All the Yankees need to do is beat the Indians again, or have the Boston Red Sox lose to the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park, and the Yankees will win their 3rd straight American League Eastern Division title.

They didn't get the win, and they didn't get the Boston loss. It would go to a Playoff at Fenway. Well, we know how that story ends, don't we?

September 30, 1986, 30 years ago: Olivier Giroud (no middle name) is born in Chambéry, Rhône-Alpes, France, and grows up in nearby Froges, near the 1968 Winter Olympic city of Grenoble. The forward starred for local club Grenoble 38 Foot and Tours FC, before leading the national league, Ligue 1, in scoring in 2011-12, and leading his club, Montpellier, to an improbable title.

That convinced Arsène Wenger, manager of North London team Arsenal, to sign him. Despite constant complaints from people for whom 2nd place is "failure" and 4th place (out of 20 in the English Premier League) is "midtable mediocrity" that he doesn't score enough, or that he isn't "world-class" or "clinical," the man known as Oli G has scored 57 goals in 137 appearances over the last 4 years. He also helped get the French national team to the Final of Euro 2016.

When he scores, the Arsenal fans sing, to the Beatles' "Hey Jude," "Na, na na, na na na na... Na na na na... Giroud!" They also sing, to "The Roof Is On Fire" by Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three, "Giroud! Giroud! Giroud is on fire!" He makes women swoon with his face and physique, and goalkeepers cry with his feet and, as sportscaster Arlo White put it, "The meaty French forehead of Olivier Giroud!"

September 30, 1996, 20 years ago: His contract with Japanese soccer team Nagoya Grampus Eight having run out, Arsène Wenger is free to manage another team, and he officially takes charge as manager of Arsenal Football Club of North London.

Wenger wasn't much of a player, winning Ligue 1 as a defensive midfielder at his hometown club, Racing Club Strasbourg Alsace (usually just listed as "Strasbourg"), in 1979. But as manager of AS Monaco, which is in the French league even though Monaco is a separate (but tiny) country, he won Ligue 1 in 1988 and the national cup, the Coupe de France, in 1991. He led Nagoya to Japan's national cup, the Emperor's Cup, in 1995.

Just short of his 47th birthday, and already successful as a manager, he seemed like a good choice for The Arsenal, who had won 6 trophies from 1987 to 1994, but had struggled in the Premier League, finishing 10th in 1993, 4th in 1994, 12th in 1995, and 5th in 1996.

But, at the time, it was rare for a manager not from the British Isles to manage in England. One newspaper printed the headline, "ARSENE WHO?" No less a personage than Arsenal's captain, centreback Tony Adams, asked, "What does this Frenchman know about English football?"

He knew enough to know that Adams had recently made a public admission of being a recovering alcoholic. He straightened out the team's diet (including no booze the night before a game) and exercise program. He also brought in several European players, including fellow Frenchmen Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Nicolas Anelka, and Dutchman Marc Overmars. Together with already-present Dutch star Dennis Bergkamp, and the club's English core of Adams, David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn, Martin Keown, David Platt, Ray Parlour and the legendary striker Ian Wright, In 1997, he finished his 1st season in charge in 3rd place. In 1998, he won the Premier League and the FA Cup, a.k.a. "doing The Double."

He finished runner-up in both in 1999, and Anelka, only 19 years old, thought his performances demanded a big raise, or a sale to a bigger club. Wenger sold him to Real Madrid, and used half the profits to build a new training ground, and the other half to buy young French winger Thierry Henry, whom he converted into a striker, who broke Wright's club record for career goals. Wenger would also sign a great pair of wingers in Sweden's Freddie Ljungberg (in 1998) and France's Robert Pires (in 2000), develop great young defenders in Ashley Cole and Kolo Toure, and make the stunning acquisition (in 2001) of English centreback Sol Campbell, who had been captain of Arsenal's North London arch-rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

Wenger finished 2nd and lost the UEFA Cup Final in 2000, finished 2nd and lost the FA Cup Final in 2001, won The Double again in 2002, finished 2nd and won another FA Cup in 2003, and, in the 2003-04 season, did something that had not been done since the League had only a 22-game season: He went unbeaten. As the broadcaster said after it was achieved: "Played 38, won 26, drawn 12, lost exactly none!" He would win another FA Cup in 2005, and reach the Final of the UEFA Champions League in 2006.

But the Arsenal Stadium, a.k.a. Highbury after its neighborhood, only seated 38,000, and its east and west stands had been built in the 1930s. A modern stadium was needed if Arsenal was to compete, but paying for it meant that transactions needed to be made, perhaps sacrificing trophies for expediency. The new Emirates Stadium opened in 2006, and here's what happened: Arsenal lost the League Cup Final in 2007, finished 2nd in the League in 2008, reached the Semifinals of the Champion League and the FA Cup in 2009, lost the League Cup Final in 2011, just barely scraped into Champions League qualification in 2012 and 2013, were struck by several injuries in just about every season, and had to sell several players because of financial concerns: Vieira in 2005, Pires in 2006, Henry in 2007, Manuel Almunia and Gilberto Silva in 2008, Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor in 2009, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in 2011, and Robin van Persie in 2012.

But Wenger built another great team: Signing Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky in 2006, Bacary Sagna in 2007, Aaron Ramsey in 2008, Laurent Koscielny in 2010, Per Mertesacker and Héctor Bellerín in 2011, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla in 2012, Mesut Özil and Nacho Monreal in 2013, Alexis Sánchez in 2014, Petr Čech in 2015, Mohamed Elneny in this year's January transfer window, and, just this summer, Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Pérez. The result has been continuous Champions League knockout round qualification, and the FA Cup in 2014 and 2015.

Wenger is known for his clichés, which seem a little grammatically odd when they move from his French mind to his English words: A player who is good, "He has the quality"; if he's smart, "He has the mental strength"; if he's unsure of himself, "He lacks the confidence"; and dropping the qualifier "a little bit" into phrases, i.e., "He lacked a little bit the confidence." He doesn't like it when opposing players foul his, but when one of his players is charged, he tells the media, "I did not see it."

His critics like to say, "The game has passed him by," "His tactics are shit," and that it's time for him to go. But he has just about paid off the new stadium, meaning he can put the profits into the team for a change. And, despite the crunched finances, he has kept The Arsenal in contention for trophies. He is a remarkable man, an idealist in a cynical age. Whereas some managers want to win in the worst way, he wants to win in the best way. He's done it before. Turning 67 on October 22, I have no doubt that he will again.

September 30, 1997: Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium. What is expected to be a pitchers' duel between wily veterans David Cone of the Yankees and Orel Hershiser of the Cleveland Indians does not develop.

The Indians torch Coney for 5 runs in the 1st inning. In the bottom of the 6th, it is 6-3 Cleveland. But Tim Raines, Derek Jeter and Paul O'Neill hit 3 straight home runs, to win the game 8-6, with Ramiro Mendoza getting the win in relief.


September 30, 2006, 10 years ago: On Arsène Wenger’s 10th Anniversary in charge, Arsenal visit South London club Charlton Athletic, and win 2-1. Robin van Persie scores a wonder goal.

van Persie could have been an all-time legend at Arsenal if he had stayed, or at his hometown club, Feyenoord in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, had he stayed there. Instead, he got greedy, and demanded to be sold. He has moved on to Manchester United, where he won the League title in 2013, then saw manager Alex Ferguson retire, leaving the club in a bit of a mess. Now, he plays for Fenerbahçe in Istanbul, Turkey.

He could have been a legend. Instead, he has become a footnote in the history of every team for whom he's played. That is what he got along with that 1 League title. Was it worth it?

Also on this date, Julio Franco breaks his own record as the oldest player ever to hit a home run in a major league game. He's 48 years old as he takes Beltran Perz deep in the 2nd inning. David Wright, Shawn Green, Ramon Castro and Endy Chavez also homer for the Mets, who beat the Washington Nationals, 13-0 at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington.

The Mets are the Champions of the National League Eastern Division -- the only time they will finish 1st between 1988 and 2015. They are the favorites for the NL Pennant as the regular season comes to an end.

September 30, 2007: This is the game that got Tom Glavine branded "The Manchurian Brave" by Met fans. Having led the NL East by 7 games with 17 to go, the Mets have collapsed, but they go into the regular-season finale, against the Florida Marlins at Shea Stadium, needing a win or a Philadelphia Phillies loss to clinch their 2nd straight NL East title, and a win or a Colorado Rockies loss to at least win the 1 Wild Card available at the time.

Glavine starts. He walks Hanley Ramirez. He gets Dan Uggla to ground into a force play at 2nd base. So far, not terrible. But the roof caves in. He gives up a single to Jeremy Hermida. He gives up a single to Miguel Cabrera, scoring Ramirez. He gives up a double to Cody Ross, and when the ball comes back to him in the infield, he tries to throw Ross out at 3rd, and makes a bad throw, and he becomes the 3rd run of the at-bat.

He allows a single to Mike Jacobs. He walks Matt Treanor. He gives up a single to future Met Alejandro de Aza, loading the bases. He faces the opposing starting pitcher, Dontrelle Willis, and hits him, forcing Jacobs in. Manager Willie Randolph has seen enough, and removes him with the score 5-0. He'd faced all 9 batters in the Marlin starting lineup, and had gotten exactly 1 of them out.

Jorge Sosa is the new pitcher, and he strikes Ramirez out. But he allows a double to Uggla, who drives in Treanor and de Aza, both of whose runs are charged to Glavine. When he finally gets Hermida to ground to 1st, it is Marlins 7, Mets 0.

By the time one of the most traumatic days in Met history is over, the Mets have used 8 pitchers, and lost 8-1. The Phillies beat the Nationals, 6-1 at Citizens Bank Park, and win a Playoff berth and the Division for the 1st time in 14 years. And the Rockies complet their own amazing surge, beating the Arizona Diamondbacks, 4-3 at Coors Field. It's not enough to win them the NL West, but it's enough to get them a tie with the San Diego Padres for the Wild Card berth, instead of it going to the Mets.

"I'm not devastated," Glavine says after the game. "I'm disappointed, but devastation is for much greater things in life." Feeling pretty devastated themselves, Met fans never forgive him for this, and he never pitches for them again. He is released, and returns to Atlanta for a final season.

September 30, 2014: The current and former Kansas City teams face off in the American League Wild Card game at Kauffman Stadium. The Oakland Athletics score 5 runs in the top of the 6th inning to take a 5-2 lead over the Kansas City Royals, but the Royals score 3 in the bottom of the 8th to stun the A's and send the game to extra innings.

It looked like the A's have it won in the top of the 12th, as Josh Reddick leads off with a walk, gets bunted to 2nd by Jed Lowrie, advances to 3rd on a wild pitch by Jason Frasor, and then scores on a single by Alberto Callaspo.

But in the bottom of the 12th, Eric Hosmer triples with 1 out, and Christian Colon singles him home with the tying run. Colon steals 2nd, and Salvador Perez singles him home with the run that puts the Royals in the Playoffs proper, 9-8.

September 30, 2015: The Toronto Blue Jays clinch their 1st AL East title, and their 1st Playoff berth, since 1993. They beat the Baltimore Orioles 15-2 at Camden Yards. And the St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-1 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, to clinch the NL Central title.

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