Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How Long It's Been: The Yankees Won a Game Going At Least 18 Innings

This past Sunday night, the Yankees beat the Chicago Cubs, 5-4 in 18 innings at Wrigley Field.

As the innings went by, I remembered that the Yankees had lost a lot of games in extra innings the last few years, due to poor hitting and Joe Girardi's bullpen mismanagement. To be fair, last night's game was a masterclass by Girardi.

But I looked it up: When was the last time the Yankees won a game that went at least 13 innings? At least 14? 15? And so on.

The last time the Yankees won a game going at least 18 innings was on September 11, 1988, at the old Yankee Stadium, 5-4 over the Detroit Tigers. Al Leiter, now a Yankee broadcaster and better known as a Met pitcher, started, but didn't get out of the 5th inning. Neil Allen (one of the pitchers the Mets traded to the St. Louis Cardinals to get Keith Hernandez) was also shaky, and the Yankees also went through Hipolito Pena, Dale Mohorcic and Dave Righetti, before turning it over to Steve Shields.

Former Yankee, and long-time Yankee Killer, Doyle Alexander started for the Tigers. Jack Clark, in his lone season with the Yankees, hit a home run off him in the 2nd inning, to make it 2-0 Yankees. Back-to-back 4th inning doubles by Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield resulted in a 3-1 Yankee lead.

The Yankees would not score again for 14 innings. Shields buckled in the top of the 18th, thanks in part to an error by the normally sure-fielding Mattingly. But Rickey Henderson led off the bottom of the 18th by drawing a walk off Willie Hernandez, and Claudell Washington crushed a drive into the right-center field Bleachers to end it.

September 11, 1988. That's almost 29 years ago. How long has that been?


Well, for one thing, John Sterling did not see Washington's walkoff home run and yell, "Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win!" In fact, he didn't even see it, unless and until he watched ESPN that night: He was still in Atlanta, doing a talk show on Atlanta radio station WSB and broadcasting Hawks games. He had already been dropped by the Braves, and wouldn't join the Yankee broadcast team until the following season.

Claudell Washington, famous for his rather long neck, and for being the Atlanta Braves batter shown hitting a foul ball off Lee Smith and into Matthew Broderick's hands in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, won a World Series with his hometown Oakland Athletics in 1974, but also holds the distinction of being the most frequent strikeout victim of the all-time strikeout leader: Nolan Ryan rang him up 39 times.

Claudell is now 62 years old, runs a construction company in Oakland, and has been back to the Oakland Coliseum for team reunions, but I don't think he's ever been back to Yankee Stadium (old or new) for Old-Timers' Day.

Most of the defining baseball players of my childhood were done. Willie Stargell was already in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Carl Yastrzemski, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Rod Carew, Tom Seaver and Reggie Jackson had retired, and were waiting to become eligible. So was Pete Rose, then managing the Cincinnati Reds. He's still waiting to become eligible.

Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Don Sutton, Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage and Jim Rice were still barely hanging on to their status as active players. George Brett, Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount, Carlton Fisk and Bert Blyleven were still coming with it. Kirby Puckett, Ozzie Smith, Gary Carter, Eddie Murray, Dennis Eckersley, Paul Molitor, Wade Boggs, Ryne Sandberg, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, Rickey Henderson, Andre Dawson, Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin and Tim Raines were very much in their prime. Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz, were in the early stages of their major league tenures. Frank Thomas, Pedro Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez had yet to make their major league debuts. All of them are now in the Hall of Fame.

Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, the 2 Los Angeles-area stadiums, the Oakland Coliseum and Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City are the only stadiums used by Major League Baseball teams in the 1988 season that are still being used in 2017. The SkyDome, now named the Rogers Centre, was under construction, as the 1st retractable-roof facility in MLB. The only New York Tri-State Area teams that are still playing in the same building that they used 14 years ago are the teams playing in Madison Square Garden, the Knicks and the Rangers.

There was no top-flight soccer league in North America, and the WNBA did not yet exist. There was an NFL team in Houston, but it was the Oilers, not the Texans. The original version of the Charlotte Hornets was about to become the 1st major league sports team in the Carolinas. Most metrpolitan areas did not yet have a 24-hour, sports-only radio station.

The Yankees' manager was Lou Piniella, who is now a special consultant with the Cincinnati Reds. Joe Girardi, now the Yankee manager, was playing in the Chicago Cubs' minor-league system. Terry Collins of the Mets was managing in the Los Angeles Dodgers' minor-league system. The Jets' Todd Bowles was coaching the defensive backs for the Washington Redskins. Alain Vigneault of the Rangers was coaching junior hockey's Hull Olympiques, outside Ottawa. The Knicks' Jeff Hornacek was playing for the Phoenix Suns. The Nets' Kenny Atkinson was playing at the University of Richmond. The Islanders' Doug Weight was in high school. The Devils' John Hynes was in junior high school. And the Giants' Ben McAdoo was 11 years old.

The defending World Champions were the Minnesota Twins in baseball, the Washington Redskins in football, the Los Angeles Lakers in basketball and the Edmonton Oilers in hockey -- and, while the hockey world was shocked with the recent trade of Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings, the Oilers would win the Cup again in 1990, while Gretzky would never win another. The Heavyweight Champion of the World was the undefeated, and seemingly unbeatable, Mike Tyson.

Liverpool Football Club was champion of England's Football League, but had been denied "The Double" by the all-time FA Cup Final upset, losing to Wimbledon FC. In the season that had just gotten underway, the reverse would happen: Following the tragedy at Hillsborough Stadium on April 15, 1989, Liverpool would win the FA Cup over their neighbors Everton, but lose the League title in the last minute of the last game of the season, to North London's Arsenal, when Michael Thomas became Britain's answer to Bobby Thomson.

The World Cup has since been held in Italy, Korea and Germany and South Africa. The Olympics were about to be held in Korea, and have since been held in France, Spain, Norway, Australia, Greece, Italy, China, Canada, Britain and Russia. Both have since been held in America (in the case of the Olympics, twice), France, Japan and Brazil.

The Giants had not won the World Series since moving to San Francisco. The Braves had not won a Pennant or a World Series since moving to Atlanta. The Boston Red Sox had not won the Pennant since 1986 or the World Series since 1918. The Chicago White Sox had not won the Pennant since 1959 or the World Series since 1917. The Cleveland Indians had not won the Pennant since 1954. The Chicago Cubs had not won the Pennant since 1945 or the World Series since 1908.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were known as the California Angels, and had never won the World Series. Nor had the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Miami Marlins or the Toronto Blue Jays. The Angels, the Diamondbacks, the Marlins, the Blue Jays, the Colorado Rockies, the Houston Astros, the Texas Rangers, the Tampa Bay Rays had never won a Pennant. The Diamondbacks, the Marlins, the Rangers, the Rockies, the Rays, the Seattle Mariners had never even been to the Playoffs. The Diamondbacks, the Marlins, the Rockies, the Rays didn't even exist yet. And the Expos were still in Montreal.

Those things were all true on September 11, 1988. None of them is true any longer.

Baseball legends Larry Doby, Warren Spahn, Al Lopez and Buck O'Neil were still alive. Derek Jeter was about to start high school. Alex Rodriguez was 13 years old. David Ortiz was 12, still going by "David Arias," and had probably never heard of steroids yet. Jimmy Rollins was 9. Albert Pujols was 8. David Wright, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera were 5. Zack Greinke, Alex Gordon and Max Scherzer were 4. Daniel Murphy was 3. Yoenis Cespedes and Felix Hernandez were 2. Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey were a year and a half old. Clayton Kershaw was 5 months old. Matt Harvey, Madison Bumgarner, Mike Trout, Kris Bryant, Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper, Gary Sanchez and Carlos Correa weren't born yet.

Ronald Reagan was President. George H.W. Bush was Vice President, and running for President. Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, their wives, and the widows of Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy were still alive. Of those, only the Bushes and the Carters are still with us.

Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas. George W. Bush was working for his father's Presidential campaign, after failing in the energy business. Barack Obama had just started at Harvard Law School. Donald Trump was busy cheating on his 1st wife with his 2nd. And Mike Pence had stepped aside from private law practice to run his 1st political campaign, for a Congressional seat in Indiana. He lost, but would be elected in 2000.

The Governor of the State of New York was Mario Cuomo, and his son Andrew Cuomo, now Governor himself, was a lawyer running an organization named Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP). The Mayor of the City of New York was Ed Koch. Current Mayor Bill de Blasio was working for a charity in Nicaragua. The Governor of New Jersey was Tom Kean. His son Tom Jr. is now the Minority Leader of the State Senate, and is rumored to be running to succeed Chris Christie as Governor. In 1988, Christie was in private law practice. Anthony Kennedy was the only Justices of the Supreme Court who are still there.

The Berlin Wall and the original World Trade Center still stood. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. The Pope was John Paul II. The Prime Minister of Canada was Brian Mulroney, and of Britain Margaret Thatcher. The British monarch was Queen Elizabeth II -- that hasn't changed. There were still living veterans of World War I, the Spanish-American War, the Boer War and the Boxer Rebellion.

Major novels of 1988 included Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, and The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. J.K. Rowling hadn't yet published a novel. George R.R. Martin had published 8, but not yet the 1st in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. He had, however, written several TV episodes, including one for the 1980s edition of The Twilight Zone, "The Last Defender of Camelot."

The Summer of 1988 was a great time for movies. I know, since I was working at a theater at the time. Films of that season included the baseball films Bull Durham and Eight Men Out, The Dead Pool (so far, the last Dirty Harry movie), the original Die HardRambo III, Poltergeist III, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Coming to America, Big, Big Business (not to be confused with each other), Red Heat, A Fish Called Wanda, Midnight Run, Cocktail, Young Guns, Married to the Mob, Crossing Delancey, Earth Girls Are Easy, Moon Over Parador, Running On Empty, and, most controversially, The Last Temptation of Christ.

Many years later, Willem Dafoe would do a Mercedes commercial, and it made him, as far as I know, the only actor ever to have played both Jesus and the Devil.

Yo! MTV Raps had just debuted. Soon to do so were Murphy Brown, Roseanne, a rebooted Mission: Impossible, Dear John, Empty Nest, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Good Morning, Miss Bliss, the Disney Channel series out of which would grow Saved By the Bell. The Facts of Life, Magnum, P.I., Cagney and Lacey, St. Elsewhere, Punky Brewster, Spenser: For Hire and Hotel ended their network runs.

The Number 1 song in America was "Monkey," George Michael's song warning a girlfriend about the dangers of drug addiction. Like his songs about sex with women, we now know that he was overcompensating.

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. launched their Rat Pack Reunion Tour, selling out sports arenas from coast to coast despite being 72, 71 and 62 years old, respectively. Keith Richards released his solo album Talk Is Cheap, proving that he needed Mick Jagger a whole lot less than Mick needed him, and sparking the Rolling Stones to reunite the next year to record the album Steel Wheels and embark on their 25th Anniversary tour.

Steve Earle released his best-remembered album, Copperhead RoadKenny G released his breakthrough album Silhouette. Roxette released their breakthrough album, Look Sharp! The Bangles released Everything, including "Eternal Flame." Michael Jackson was raking in royalties from his big release the year before, Bad. People were beginning to notice his altered appearance, but he wasn't considered that weird yet. Hillel Slovak of the Red Hot Chili Peppers died of a heroin overdose. U2 released the soundtrack to their film Rattle and Hum

Yoko Ono released her own documentary and soundtrack album: Imagine: John Lennon. Paul McCartney released a live album of his recent Soviet Union concert -- but only in the Soviet Union, leading to the juxtaposition of the West having to get it on bootlegs, instead of the other way around like they used to have to do back in the U.S.S.R. George Harrison was enjoying the praise for his comeback album Cloud Nine and his "supergroup" the Traveling Wilburys, but would soon mourn the death of personal hero and Wilburys bandmate Roy Orbison. Bob Dylan was also a Wilbury, as were Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra. George, fellow Beatle Ringo Starr, and Lynne would soon help Petty record Full Moon Fever.

No member of the Kardashian family was yet nationally known, not even Robert Sr. Caitlyn Jenner not only was still Bruce, but hadn't even met Kris yet. Nathan Fillion was in high school, and Stana Katic was 10. Katie Holmes and Heath Ledger were 9. Pink was 8. So was Michelle Williams the singer, and Michelle Williams the actress soon would be. Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Kelly Rowland, Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba, Natalie Portman and Chris Evans were 7, and Beyonce Knowles would turn 7 in 3 days.

Britney Spears, Sienna Miller, Kate Middleton, Natalie Dormer, Hayley Atwell, Kirsten Dunst and Prince William were 6. Matt Smith and Anne Hathaway were 5. Prince Harry was about to turn 4. Lady Gaga and Richard Madden were 2. Drake, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington and Rose Leslie were a year and a half. Kevin Jonas was 10 months. Rihanna was 6 months.

Emma Stone, Daniel Radcliffe, Joe Jonas, Emma Watson, Jack Gleeson, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Sophie Turner, Abigail Breslin, Maisie Williams, Dean-Charles Chapman, all the members of One Direction, and all the Modern Family kids hadn't been born yet.

Hardly anyone had yet heard of Rush Limbaugh, Monica Lewinsky, Jon or Kate, or the Duggar family. Knowledge of Don Imus and Howard Stern were pretty much limited to the New York Tri-State Area. The Hilton family had pretty much been out of the news since Conrad Jr., a.k.a. Nicky, was divorced by Elizabeth Taylor in 1951.

Personal computers were now in a majority of phones, but the Internet as we know it had not yet been developed. There was no World Wide Web, no Netscape, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no Pinterest, no Skype. But on November 2, 2 months after the Yankees won this 18-inning game, the Morris Worm, the world's 1st computer virus, was launched from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A U.S. postage stamp was 25 cents. A subway ride in New York was $1.00. The average prices of a gallon of gas was 90 cents, a cup of coffee $1.35, a McDonald's meal $4.59, a movie ticket $4.13, a new car $10,400, and a new house $141,500. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed that day at 2,002.31.

In the Summer of 1988, the U.S. Navy mistakenly shot down an Iranian airliner, killing almost 300 people, and we got away with it, because Ronald Reagan was the luckiest President of all time. An oil rig blew up in the North Sea, killing 167 people. The Burmese army killed an indeterminate number, possibly as many as 10,000, of protestors, an incident that may actually dwarf the Tienanmen Square Massacre of 10 months later. When did I learn about this? Just now, as I was writing this, 29 years later. President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, and America's Ambassador to that country, Arnold Lewis Raphel, were killed in a plane crash that was highly suspicious. A truce ended the Iran-Iraq War after 8 years. A collision at an air show in Germany killed 75 people. And Osama bin Laden formed Al-Qaeda.

In America, Medical waste, including hypodermic needles, began washing up on beaches in New York and New Jersey, inspiring AIDS terror and a line in a Billy Joel song. Police beat and arrested homeless people in New York's Tompkins Square Park. And Public Enemy got their Johnny Cash on by staging a concert at New York's Rikers Island prison.

Enzo Ferrari, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Frank Zamboni, inventor of the eponymous ice-maintenance vehicle, died. Sergio Aguero, and Kevin Durant, and Stephen Strasburg were born.

September 11, 1988. The Yankees beat the Detroit Tigers 5-4 in 18 innings. They did not win another game of at least 16 innings in length until this past Sunday night.

Let's hope they don't have to do it again for a while, huh?

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