Sunday, October 28, 2012

Things to Do In October When Your Baseball Team Looks Dead

This my 48th post for the month of October 2012 -- breaking my personal record of 47 for last October.

No significance, really.

What is significant is that the San Francisco Giants played 52 seasons since moving from New York, and didn't win a single World Series; but tonight, they are likely to win their 2nd World Series in 3 years.

I don't know what infected the Yankee bats, but it must be contagious, because the Tigers seem to have caught it.

Things to Do In October When Your Baseball Team Looks Dead

10. Switch to hockey.  Wait a minute...

9. Switch to basketball.

8. Switch to football.

7. Get your Christmas shopping done early.

6. Enjoy the changing leaves. (This time around, do it quick, before Hurricane Sandy strips all the leaves off the trees.)

5. Write yourself a note to turn your clocks back from Daylight Savings Time. I think it's next Sunday -- which would be in November, which is why I'm saying write the note now, in October.

4. Make sure you got your Summer clothes put away, and your Winter clothes ready to go.

3. Order your 2013 season tickets.

2. Get ready for Halloween. Personally, the way the Yankees' season ended was scary enough, thank you very much.

1. Follow political developments, and then, on November 6, VOTE! Not just at the Presidential level, either: No matter which Presidential candidate you want, if you don't vote for the Congress you want, said candidate won't be able to get much done.


October 28, 1882, 120 years ago today: The Philadelphia Athletics reveal that, in the first season of the American Association, they reaped a $22‚000 profit‚ more than any National League team earned. This helps convince the NL that the AA is a viable league. However, within 10 years, both the league and this version of the Philadelphia Athletics will be gone anyway. But within 12 years of that, the AA name and the A’s name will be revived (but not in the same league).

October 28, 1904: After a 4th-place finish‚ the Cleveland Blues release Bill Armour and name Nap Lajoie manager. Armour takes over the Tigers‚ where Ed Barrow and Bobby Lowe split the season‚ as Detroit falls to 7th. But with their star second baseman, one of the game’s best hitters, as manager, the Cleveland team – now nicknamed the Naps for him – becomes a contender. After he leaves in 1914, they will jump on a bandwagon, seeing the team called the Braves as World Champions, and rename themselves the Cleveland Indians.

October 13, 1913: In the only time the two greatest pitchers of their time face each other‚ Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson square off at South Main Park in Tulsa‚ Oklahoma. Johnson‚ backed by the Chicago White Sox‚ wins the battle‚ 6-0‚ pitching the distance‚ while Matty exits after 4 innings. Johnson strikes out 8. Tris Speaker and Buck Weaver do the hitting for the Sox‚ while Oklahoma native, Sac and Fox Indian and fan favorite Jim Thorpe has 2 hits off Johnson. The game is delayed for nearly 2 hours when the stands collapse‚ injuring 52 people and killing a soldier. Governor R.L. Williams of Oklahoma narrowly escapes injury in the tragedy.

October 28, 1922, 90 years ago: Willem Hendrik van Breda Kolff is born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and grows up in neighboring Montclair.  "Butch" was an original member of the New York Knicks, playing from 1946 to 1950. He coached Princeton University to the first Final Four appearance of any New Jersey school, in 1965 with future Knick star and Senator Bill Bradley. But he’s best remembered as the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1969, who saw Wilt Chamberlain come out for an injury with 5 minutes left in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, then ask to go back in with 2 minutes left. VBK refused to let him back in, and the Lakers lost Game 7 and the World Championship to the Boston Celtics by 2 points.

He was fired soon thereafter by Laker owner Jack Kent Cooke (who later owned the Washington Redskins), and spent the rest of his career in the college ranks before dying in 2007. His son Jan van Breda Kolff was Southeastern Conference Player of the Year with Vanderbilt in 1974, played for the Nets in both New York and New Jersey, and was also a college coach, including at his alma mater.

October 28, 1926: Bowie Kent Kuhn is born in Takoma Park, Maryland. He was Commissioner of Baseball from 1969 to 1984 – though he often seemed like a puppet to Dodger owners Walter and later Peter O’Malley. He frequently acted, in his own words, “to preserve the integrity of the game,” but all too often he seemed more like the lawyer he was than the fan he should have been. He was prudish, moralistic, unimaginative, and a tool of the owners. That he, and not the leader of the players’ union, Marvin Miller, is now in the Hall of Fame is deeply disturbing – but not all that surprising. Like Butch van Breda Kolff, he died in 2007.

Although he was a native of the suburbs of Washington, D.C., during his stewardship Major League Baseball left Washington for a third of a century.

October 28, 1933: Manuel Francisco dos Santos is born in Mane, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Known as Garrincha, while not the first great Brazilian soccer player, he was the first to be widely known outside South America.  He starred for Rio club Botafogo from 1953 to 1965, and led Brazil to victory in the 1958 and 1962 World Cups, mentoring a young Pele along the way.  Sadly, his drinking curtailed his health, and he died in 1983.

October 28, 1937, 75 years ago today: Leonard Randolph Wilkens is born. One of New York’s greatest basketball legends, he starred for Brooklyn’s Boys High, where he was a basketball teammate of future baseball star Tommy Davis, before moving up to New England (Seriously, Lenny?) to play for Providence College. He played for the St. Louis Hawks in the now-Atlanta franchise’s last NBA Finals appearance in 1961, and starred for the early Seattle SuperSonics before coaching the franchise to its only NBA Title in 1979. He was a 9-time All-Star, and at his retirement had more assists than any player except Oscar Robertson.

He’s also coached the Hawks, his hometown Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors, first coaching while still a player with the Sonics in 1969 and last (for now?) with the Knicks in 2005. He was the first NBA coach to win 1,000 games – and the first to lose 1,000. He has been surpassed by Don Nelson as the NBA's winningest coach. He coached the U.S. team to the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal.

One of the oddities of his career is that the Hawks traded him immediately before moving to Atlanta, and he resigned his executive’s position with the Sonics as they moved to become the Oklahoma City Thunder. Providence retired his Number 14, and the Sonics retired his Number 19, in each case the first on the team to be so honored. Along with John Wooden and Bill Sharman he is one of just 3 people elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame as player and elected again a coach. But he tops them both, and everyone else, in a manner of speaking by having been named, as part of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, as one of its 50 Greatest Players and one of its 10 Greatest Coaches, the only man to receive both honors.  He is now a basketball analyst for Fox Sports.

October 28, 1944: Dennis Franz is born in Maywood, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Best known as Detective Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue, he previously starred in the original Chicago production of Bleacher Bums, a play about Cub fans, of which he is one. You wanna make somethin’ of it?

October 28, 1946: Wim Jansen is born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The midfielder played most of his soccer career with his hometown club, Feyenoord. In 1970, he helped them to become the first Dutch team to win the European Cup, immediately preceding the 3 straight wins by their arch-rivals, Ajax Amsterdam.

October 28, 1949: William Bruce Jenner is born in Tarrytown, Westchester County, New York. He won the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, becoming an international hero and the man on the Wheaties cereal box. But these days, he’s best known as the weird, desperately trying to hang onto his youth husband of Kris Jenner and the stepfather of Kim, Kourteney and Khloe Kardashian.

October 28, 1953: Fed up with the meddling of Brooklyn Dodger owner Walter O’Malley, Red Barber leaves the Dodgers’ broadcast booth, and signs with the crosstown Yankees. During his time in Brooklyn, O’Malley chased off Branch Rickey in 1950, Red Barber in 1953, and Jackie Robinson in 1956. And he shortchanged his players in contract negotiations. In other words, he was already a dirty bastard, and would have remained one even if he had kept the Dodgers in Brooklyn as God intended it.

October 28, 1954: Despite a last-minute plea by 92-year-old Connie Mack‚ now owner of the Philadelphia Athletics in name only, the MLB owners vote down the sale of the Athletics to a Philadelphia syndicate. The A's‚ plagued by debt - even their 1954 team uniforms have not been paid for - have little choice as the Philadelphia group‚ in Mrs. Mack's words, "dilly-dallied." A week later‚ trucking executive Arnold Johnson buys a controlling interest in the Athletics from the Mack family for $3.5 million, and moves the team to Kansas City.

October 28, 1957: Singer Bing Crosby sells his shares of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even he couldn’t stand all the losing anymore. In the 1951 film Road to Bali, Dorothy Lamour asked him, “Do they still have pirates in America?” He said, “Yes, but they’re in the basement.” Strangely, the Pirates start to get a lot better after Der Bingle sells them. But the Cleveland Indians didn’t get any better after his pal Bob Hope sold his shares in them.

October 28, 1961: Ground is broken for Flushing Meadow Park, the stadium that will later bear the name of the attorney, activist and baseball fan who made it possible, William A. Shea.

October 28, 1962, 50 years ago today: The Cuban Missile Crisis is resolved as Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev announces that he has ordered the removal of Soviet missile bases in Cuba. In a secret deal between Kennedy and Khrushchev, Kennedy agrees to the withdrawal of U.S. missiles from Turkey. The fact that this deal is not made public makes it look like the Soviets have backed down.

Also on this day, Daphne Zuniga is born.

October 28, 1963: James Jarrett Miller is born in Havre de Grace, Maryland, hometown of the Ripkens. He was a parachutist and paraglider pilot from Henderson, Nevada, known for his outrageous appearances at various sporting events. His most famous appearance was the November 6, 1993 boxing match between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip near Las Vegas, Nevada. He used his powered paraglider to fly into the arena, eventually crashing into the ring. The fan on the device got him nicknamed Fan Man. "It was a heavyweight fight," Miller would joke later, "and I was the only guy who got knocked out." Heart disease and mounting medical bills led him to commit suicide in 2002, and the age of 29.

October 28, 1966: Stephen Dennis Atwater is born in Chicago. The safety bridged the eras of Denver Bronco glory, playing for them in Super Bowl XXIV before appearing on the winning side in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII, retiring after the latter. His 1990 tackle of Christian Okoye, the Kansas City Chiefs’ huge fullback known as the Nigerian Nightmare, is regarded as one of the greatest hits in NFL history.   Steve is a member of the Broncos’ Ring of Honor, but he has not yet received his rightful induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Also on this day, Paul Andrew Richter is born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was the sidekick for Conan O’Brien when he took over as host of NBC’s Late Night, and is back with Conan as the announcer for TBS' Conan. In between, he starred in the Fox sitcoms Andy Richter Controls the Universe (in which he, well, didn’t) and Quintuplets (in which he was the father of the eponymous teenagers).

October 28, 1972, 40 years ago today: Terrell Davis is born in San Diego. One in a long line of star running backs at the University of Georgia, in Super Bowl XXXII he fought a literally blinding headache to become the only player (through SB XLIII) to score 3 touchdowns in a Super Bowl, leading the Denver Broncos to victory. He also starred in the Broncos’ victory the next year in Super Bowl XXXIII. A knee injury cut his career short, and, like Atwater, he is in the Broncos’ Ring of Honor but not yet the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

One of my favorite sports oddities is that, in calendar year 1998, the football season ended with the Broncos winning the Super Bowl, and the baseball season ended with the Yankees winning the World Series, and since the Super Bowl is always held at a neutral site, and the Yankees beat the Padres, both contests ended at Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, and each had a San Diego native who was key to the victory: The Broncos had Davis, and the Yankees had David Wells (although Wells’ lone appearance in the Series was in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium; the Yanks swept, and had it gone to a Game 5 Wells was scheduled to start in San Diego). “The Murph” is the only stadium ever to host a Super Bowl and the clinching game of a World Series in the same calendar year. The Los Angeles Coliseum, the Metrodome and the Dolphins’ current stadium have hosted both, but not in the same calendar year.

Also on this day, Brad Douglas Paisley is born in Glen Dale, West Virginia. The country singer, married to actress Kimberly Williams, had one of those songs that you figure has to got to be a parody, but it was all real: “Alcohol.”

October 28, 1974: Braden LaVerne Looper is born in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Now retired, the reliever won World Series with the Florida Marlins in 2003 and the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. In between those titles, he pitched for the Mets. He was considerably less successful with them.

Also on this day, Joaquin Rafael Bottom is born in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Formerly acting under the name Leaf Phoenix and now Joaquin Phoenix, he is a member of the Phoenix acting family.  He is best known for having played Emperor Commodus in Gladiator and Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. Or he was, before growing a beard and becoming a rapper, leading to him becoming an object of ridicule.

Also on this day, also in San Juan, Dayanara Torres is born.   She was Miss Universe in 1993, but is best known for her marriage to singer Marc Anthony, who cheated on her interminably, and, while she was pregnant, left her for Jennifer Lopez. Look, I love J-Lo, too, but I wouldn’t leave a woman who looks like Dayanara for anyone. Not even if Catherine Zeta-Jones came up to me wearing an Obama campaign button on a Yankee cap, and nothing else.

October 28, 1975: I underwent surgery at the Hospital for Joint Diseases, then located at 123rd Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan’s Spanish Harlem, to correct a problem in my legs that made walking difficult. The surgery was successful, to an extent, although I still have pain in my legs that sometimes makes walking a chore.

My two weeks in that hospital are a blur, as I was almost 6, but what I do remember is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Those two weeks included the “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD” headline and the Rangers’ trade of Eddie Giacomin and his well-received return to The Garden, but I don’t remember those things happening at the time. Nor do I remember, the week before, the 1975 World Series including Carlton Fisk's "Fenway Twist."

Also on this day, Georges Carpentier dies at age 81. A hero who helped to save France from the invading Imperial Germans in World War I, he was light heavyweight champion of the world, and challenged Jack Dempsey for the heavyweight title, at a huge, 90,000-seat temporary stadium in Jersey City called “Boyle’s Thirty Acres.” Dempsey knocked him out.

October 28, 1979: George Steinbrenner officially fires Billy Martin for the second time, following his barroom brawl with a man described as a “marshmallow salesman.” (It always sounded ridiculous. Was this a guy walking around yelling, like a ballpark vendor? “Marshmallows! Get yer marshmallows here!” He was probably a businessman who simply negotiated contracts to sell something in bulk, and it just happened to be marshmallows.)

Also on this day, Martin Skoula is born in Litomerice, in what is now the Czech Republic. The defenseman won a Stanley Cup with the 2001 Colorado Avalanche, and is now playing in his homeland's Kontinental Hockey League.

October 28, 1980: Alan Smith is born in Rothwell, West Yorkshire, England.   He is not to be confused with Alan “Smudger” Smith, the former striker for Arsenal and now TV soccer pundit, who was an Arsenal teammate of David O’Leary, who was this Alan Smith’s first manager, at Leeds United. In between Leeds and Newcastle, each of which was relegated while he played for them, this Alan Smith played for Manchester United in their Premier League Championship season of 2007.  He now plays for Milton Keynes Dons.

October 28, 1981: A dark day in my life, as the L.A. Bums finally beat the Yankees in the World Series, after 2 failed attempts in 1977 and ’78. Pedro Guerrero drives in 5 runs, and Burt Hooton and the Dodgers beat the Yankees 9-2 to win the World Series in 6 games. In a remarkable postseason‚ the Dodgers came from behind to win 3 series (down 2-0 to Houston and 2-1 to Montreal in the best-of-5 series).

Guerrero‚ Ron Cey‚ and Steve Yeager (2 home runs) are named co-MVPs‚ while Dave Winfield and relief pitcher George Frazier are the goats for New York. Winfield was just 1-for-21‚ while Frazier tied a Series record by losing 3 games. The record was set by the White Sox Lefty Williams in 1919‚ but Williams‚ one of the 8 "Black Sox‚" was losing on purpose.

The long-term effects on the Yankees were as follows:

* This was the last game that Reggie Jackson ever played for the Yankees, and George Steinbrenner refused to exercise the option for a 6th year on his contract, and Reggie happily accepted an offer from Gene Autry to return to the West Coast and play for the Angels.

* Winfield’s performance contrasted so much with Reggie’s Mr. October persona that George eventually nicknamed him Mr. May, never gave him the respect he deserved, and ended up chasing Dave out of town – coincidentally, also to the Angels, although Reggie was retired by that point – and getting himself in trouble with how he did it.

* George went through various experiments in managers and styles of play (booming bats one year, speed the next, and so on) to get the Yankees back on top, but they wouldn’t reach the World Series again for 15 years, giving the new ownership of the Mets the chance to become from 1984 to 1992 what they have not been since ’92, New York’s first team.

Blowing that lead, to the evil O'Malley Bums and their fat hypocritical slob of a manager, losing the Series at home, and when I was just 11 going on 12...

More than any other Yankee defeat, including this year's, 2001, 1995, the regular-season close call of 1985, even the disaster of 2004, this one sticks in my craw.

And, unlike with the 2004 Red Sox, I can't even rationalize it away by saying the Dodgers cheated! (That I know of.)

Also on this day, Nathan Richard McLouth is born in Muskegon, Michigan. In 2008, the center fielder for the Atlanta Braves was named to the All-Star Team and won a Gold Glove.  In 2012, he drove the Yankees crazy for the Baltimore Orioles.

October 28, 1982, 30 years ago today: Jeremy Allen Bonderman is born in Kennewick, Washington, a suburb of Detroit. His first season in the majors, at age 20, was with the 2003 Detroit Tigers, a horrible team, and he was 6-19 before being benched for the final week of the season, in order to avoid becoming the first pitcher since Brian Kingman of the ’80 A’s – but this same courtesy was not extended to his Tiger teammate, Mike Maroth, who went 9-21. But while Maroth dealt with injury issues that kept him off the 2006 postseason roster, Bonderman bounced back, helping the Tigers win the American League Pennant. But he was injured for nearly all of the 2008 and 2009 seasons, and while he did pitch for the Tigers in 2010, he hasn't pitched since then.

October 28, 1983: Jarrett Matthew Jack is born in Fort Washington, Maryland. The guard helped get Georgia Tech into the 2004 National Championship game, and now plays for the Golden State Warriors.

October 28, 1984: Obafemi Akinwumi Martins is born in Lagos, Nigeria. The striker played for Internazionale Milan in their 2006 “Double” season, and starred for Newcastle United, and now plays for Levante in Spain.

October 28, 1989: The Oakland Athletics take an 8-0 lead, and beat the San Francisco Giants 9-6 at Candlestick Park, to complete a 4-game sweep of the Bay Bridge World Series‚ the first Series sweep since 1976. Oakland native Dave Stewart‚ who won Games 1 and 3‚ is named MVP. However, with the Loma Prieta Earthquake only 11 days prior, it may be the most subdued World Series celebration ever.

October 28, 1995: In a pitcher's duel‚ the Braves win Game 6 of the Series‚ 1-0‚ on a combined 1-hitter by Tom Glavine and Mark Wohlers. David Justice's 6th-inning homer accounts for the game's only run. In winning‚ the Braves become the 1st team to win World Championships representing three different cities: Boston in 1914‚ Milwaukee in 1957‚ and Atlanta in 1995. Catcher Tony Pena's leadoff single in the 6th is Cleveland's only hit. The Indians, who led the majors in homers and runs scored‚ bat just .179‚ the lowest average for a six-games series since 1911.

October 28, 2000: Andujar Cedeno dies in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic. He was 31, and the shortstop had been playing in the Dominican league. Previously, he had played in the majors, including for the Houston Astros, who previously had pitcher Joaquin Andujar and center fielder Cesar Cedeno – both with nasty tempers, unlike Andujar Cedeno, but also considerably more talented.

October 28, 2001: The Arizona Diamondbacks jump out to a 2-0 Series lead on the Yankees, as Randy Johnson hurls a 3-hit shutout. Matt Williams hits a 3-run homer for the Diamondbacks. Andy Pettitte takes the loss for New York.

Also on this day, Commissioner Bud Selig says it is possible that two major league teams could be eliminated by the start of next season. The Montreal Expos‚ Florida Marlins‚ Minnesota Twins‚ and Tampa Bay Devil Rays are the teams mentioned as most likely to be eliminated.

The ensuing furor results in a 2002 collective bargaining agreement that leaves all 30 current teams in place, although the Expos will be moved to Washington after the 2004 season. They've never been any good since, but... the Marlins won the 2003 World Series, the Rays won the 2008 AL Pennant, and the Twins have won 6 AL Central titles. Looks like Bud was looking at the wrong teams.

October 28, 2002, 10 years ago today: The Mets name former Houston Astros second baseman, and former Oakland Athletics manager, Art Howe as their new skipper. Howe had just led the A’s to their 3rd straight Playoff berth. His tenure in Flushing will be significantly less successful.

October 28, 2005: Bob Broeg dies at age 87. The longtime baseball writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was elected to the sportswriters’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and later sat on its board of directors and on its Veterans’ Committee. Hearing Brooklyn Dodger fans, with their 1940s rivalry with the Cardinals, say of Stan Musial, noted for hitting the Dodgers hard, “Uh-oh, dat man is back in town,” he started calling him “Stan the Man” in his columns, and the name stuck. I’d like to know who gave 1970s Baltimore Oriole pitcher Don Stanhouse the oh-so-appropriate nickname “Stan the Man Unusual.”

October 28, 2006: Arnold Jacob Auerbach dies at age 89, and finds out that, in heaven, you can eat all the Chinese food you want, and not have to worry about calories, cholesterol, or monosodium glutamate. As the leading figure in the history of professional basketball, he rarely had to worry about the other MSG, Madison Square Garden.

A native of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, “Red” Auerbach starred in basketball at Eastern District High School, before moving on to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., later coaching in that city at the high school, college and professional levels, taking the Washington Capitols to the NBA Finals in 1949. When they didn’t reach the Finals the next season, owner Mike Uline fired him. Within another year, the Caps folded, and the NBA would not return to the D.C. area until 1973.

Auerbach, of course, would go on to become the head coach, general manager, and eventually president of the Boston Celtics, leading them to 9 NBA Championships as coach and 16 while he was involved with them. While still running the team, in 1985, a statue of him, on a bench, with a basketball by his side and a trademark “victory cigar” in his hand, was dedicated at Boston’s Quincy Market. The accompanying plaque says he won 15 Championships. The 16th came a year later. Rubbing the statue’s bald head is said to be good luck. I have a picture of the statue wearing one of my Yankee caps. I’m a wiseass, but then, so was Red.

When Celtics founder Walter Brown died, leaving Red in charge of the franchise, Red ordered the Number 1 retired for Brown. At the time of the statue’s dedication, the Celtics held an old-timers’ game, with Red coaching a team in green Celtic road jerseys and his star pupil and successor as head coach Bill Russell coaching a team in white Celtic home jerseys – Red’s team won of course – and the Number 2 was retired for Red, even though, like Brown, he never played for the team.

Also on this day, Trevor Berbick is killed. The Jamaican boxer, the last man to fight Muhammad Ali, knocked out Pinklon Thomas to win the WBC version of the heavyweight title in 1986, but lost it later that year when Mike Tyson knocked him out. Brain damage from boxing left him impaired, and though he became a minister, he was murdered in his church in Kingston, Jamaica, by his own nephew and an accomplice. He was just 51.

October 28, 2007: The Boston Red Sox hold off a late comeback by the Colorado Rockies, and win Game 4, 4-3, to sweep the World Series. After 86 years of never winning a Series, the Sox now have 2 in the last 4 years, 7 total. When Boston Globe columnist, now WEEI radio show host, Michael Holley writes a book about this group of Red Sox, and titles it Red Sox Rule, many people fume over the the wording, but, for now, few can put up much of a complaint about its essential truth.

Also on this day, sports agent Scott Boras announces that his client, Alex Rodriguez, has exercised the opt-out clause in his contract with the Yankees, and will become a free agent. Both A-Rod and Bore-Ass are criticized as classless for making the announcement during a World Series game -- the deadline was not for another few days -- and for looking like a couple of greedy bastards who didn't give a damn about the player's team.

My, how perceptions can change in a couple of years: Now we know that A-Rod, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez all cheated with steroids, but it didn't do A-Rod any good; and now that they've all stopped (or so they say), A-Rod is a hero again, while the Red Sox have jettisoned Manny, and Big Papi is but a shadow of his former fat but winning self.

Also on this day, Porter Wagoner dies. The country singer known as “Mr. Grand Ole Opry,” who discovered and did many fine duets with Dolly Parton, was 80. He had the first hit version of “The Green, Green Grass of Home.” Clearly, the inventor of artificial turf wasn’t listening.

October 28, 2011: Game 7 of the World Series.  The Rangers' choke is complete.

Rutgers' Undefeated Season Hopes Defeated By Seven Turnovers

Kent State University is in Kent, Ohio, about 40 miles southeast of Cleveland, and 420 miles west of Rutgers University. It is the alma mater of Yankee Legend Thurman Munson.

It is also the alma mater of 2 famed comedians, Arsenio Hall and Drew Carey, both of whom graudated within a few years of the Ohio National Guard opening fire on an antiwar demonstration on campus, May 4, 1970, killing 4 students and woundin several others. I hope the humor allowed some people to heal.

On September 3, 1994, Kent State's football team, the Golden Flashes -- no, I'm not making that up -- was the guest when the new Rutgers Stadium opened. Rutgers won that game easily, as Kent State was known for having a horrible football team, and would still for years to come.

Yesterday, Kent State came into the same facility, now expanded and renamed High Point Solutions Stadium, and found a high point and a solution of their own. They beat Rutgers, 35-23, for their 6th straight win. The Golden Flashes are not a pushover this season.

Rutgers had started the season 7-0, and there was talk of repeating the undefeated regular seasons of 1961 and 1976.

But 7 turnovers -- including a school-record 6 interceptions by quarterback Gary Nova -- put an end to that possibility.

Rutgers lost. At home. To a Mid-American Conference team. On Homecoming.

To paraphrase Fever Pitch, I we thought we were beyond that stage now.

Apparently, we'll never be beyond that stage.

True, it wasn't a Big East Conference game, and RU's first-ever league title is still possible.

But if they can't beat Kent State at home, how the hell are they gonna beat Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Louisville?

In the words of the immortal Han Solo, "I've got a bad feeling about this."


October 27, 1275: This is the traditional founding day of the city of Amsterdam, the capital and artistic center of The Netherlands. Home of lax laws regarding prostitution and drug use, Heineken and Amstel Light beers, and the mighty Amsterdamsche Football Club (AFC) Ajax (pronounced “EYE-ax”), founders of “Total Football,” which has given the world Johan Cruijff (sometimes spelled “Cruyff”), Johan Neeskens, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Louis van Gaal, Zlatan Ibrahimovich, and Arsenal stars Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars, Nwankwo Kanu and Thomas Vermaelen.

October 27, 1682: This is the known-for-sure founding day of the city of Philadelphia. Home of American independence, Benjamin Franklin, the former Pennsylvania Railroad, the cheesesteak sandwich, the Number 8 pretzel, real-life heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier, cinematic heavyweight champ Rocky Balboa, 7 World Series Championships (5 by the Athletics from 1910 to 1930, and the Phillies in 1980 and 2008), the NFL’s Eagles (Champions 1948, '49 and '60 but apparently cursed ever since), the NBA’s 76ers (Champions 1967 and '83, as the now-Golden State Warriors were in 1947 and '56), the NHL’s Flyers (Stanley Cup winners in 1974 and '75 but another long drought), and the basketball-playing “Big 5” colleges: The University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, St. Joseph’s University, La Salle University and Villanova University.

October 27, 1858: Theodore Roosevelt is born at 28 East 20th Street in the Gramercy Park section of Manhattan. Over a century and a half later, he remains the only President to have been born in New York City – although others have, at some point or another, lived in the City: Washington, both Adamses, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Grant, Arthur, Cleveland, Hoover, FDR, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Obama. (Eisenhower was, for a time, president of Columbia University, and Obama was a student there. So was Monroe, at a time when it was still called King's College)

TR was a member of the boxing team at Harvard University. (Yes, colleges once had boxing teams, even the Ivies.) He loved tennis, although, knowing it was considered an elitist sport, refused to allow the press to photograph him while he played. (He warned his handpicked successor, William Howard Taft, not to let them take his picture while he played golf, another sport then considered elitist, but Taft didn’t listen to him.)

Seeing a newspaper photo of a bloodied Swarthmore College player, Robert “Tiny” Maxwell, in 1905, TR called in the top football officials of the time, and told them to do something about the violence in the game, or he would act. Not knowing how far he would go, fearing he might pass a law banning the game, they formed what became the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and passed rule changes including the forward pass.

October 27, 1866: In Philadelphia‚ the Unions of Morrisania‚ with future Cincinnati Red Stockings star George Wright playing shortstop‚ upset the Athletics‚ 42-29. In other words, in late October, a baseball team from The Bronx pounds a team from Philadelphia.

October 27, 1904: The first Subway line opens in New York. It runs from City Hall to Grand Central Station (roughly today’s 4, 5 and 6 trains), then turns onto 42nd Street (today’s S, or Times Square-Grand Central Shuttle), then up Broadway to 207th Street (today’s 1 train) before making one final curve into the Bronx to Bailey Street (this part is part of today’s A train).

The Polo Grounds of the time, and its 1911 successor, were served by the 155th Street station that opened on this day; it is supposedly on this line in 1908 that Jack Norworth, a songwriter, saw a sign saying, “Baseball To-Day, Polo Grounds,” inspiring him to write the lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

It would be 1918 before “34th St.-Penn Station” opened to service the 1910-built Pennsylvania Station, and the successor station and the “new” Madison Square Garden built on the site. The 34th Street station on the 8th Avenue side of Penn Station opened in 1932, as did the 42nd Street station that began serving the Port Authority Bus Terminal in 1950, and the 50th Street station that served the old Garden from 1932 until its closing in 1968.

The current 4 train station at 161st Street and River Avenue opened in 1917, and began serving Yankee Stadium at its opening in 1923; the D train station there opened in 1933, probably to coincide with the opening of the nearby Bronx County Courthouse. The Prospect Park station now used by the Q train became part of the City Subway in 1920, and was used to get to games at Ebbets Field. The station now served by the 7 train opened in 1939 for the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, well predating the 1964-65 World’s Fair and the opening of Shea Stadium and the National Tennis Center; it was named “Willets Point Blvd.” from 1939 to 1964 and “Willets Point-Shea Stadium” from 1964 to 2008, it has been renamed “Mets-Willets Point,” as the MTA did not want to use the name “Citi Field” due to CitiGroup’s role in the 2008 financial crisis.

October 27, 1918: Muriel Teresa Wright is born in Manhattan.   Dropping her first name, Teresa Wright played Eleanor Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees. She died in 2005, the last surviving major castmember of the film.

October 27, 1922, 90 years ago: Ralph McPherran Kiner is born in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. He grew up in Alhambra, California, outside Los Angeles. From 1946 to 1952, he led the National League in home runs every year, twice topping 50 homers in a season. He was a one-dimensional player, but he was the best the Pittsburgh Pirates had. But the team wasn’t doing well, on the field or at the gate, and team president Branch Rickey said, “We finished last with you, and we can finish last without you,” meaning, "We can finish last without having to pay your salary," and sold him to the Chicago Cubs.

A back injury ended his career in 1955, after only 10 seasons. But in those 10 seasons, he hit 369 home runs. If it had been 20 years, double that, and it becomes 738 home runs – not as many as Hank Aaron and the cheating Barry Bonds ended up with, but more than the man who held the record then, Babe Ruth. Hall-of-Famer Warren Spahn said, “Ralph Kiner can wipe out your lead with one swing.” Kiner allegedly said, “Home run hitters drive Cadillacs, singles hitters drive Fords.” That line has also been attributed to Luke Appling, but he probably didn’t say it, since he was a singles hitter (albeit one of the best ever).

Kiner went into broadcasting, and joined the staff of the expansion New York Mets in 1962. His postgame show Kiner’s Korner did so much to teach a generation of us about the game. But Ralph’s broadcasting, well, had its moments. Remembering early Met Marv Thronberry and ’73 Met George Theodore, he called Darryl Strawberry “Darryl Throneberry” and “George Strawberry.” He said, “Darryl Strawberry has been voted into the Hall of Fame five times in a row” – he meant the All-Star Team. He called Gary Carter “Gary Cooper.” He called himself “Ralph Korner” many times.

He once called his broadcasting partner “Tim McArthur.” At the end of the game, Tim McCarver said, “Ralph, Douglas MacArthur said, ‘Chance favors the prepared mind, and the Mets obviously weren’t prepared tonight.’” Kiner said, ‘He also said, ‘I shall return,’ and so will we, right after these messages.”

Then there was, “Today is Father’s Day, so for all you dads out there, Happy Birthday.” Like Herb Score in Cleveland and Jerry Coleman in San Diego, he is sometimes cited as having said, “He slides into second with a standup double.” But he definitely said, “Kevin McReynolds stops at third, and he scores.” Like Phil Rizzuto across town with the Yankees, he frequently called home runs that ended up off the wall or caught. My favorite Kinerism is when he cued up an ad for Manufacturer’s Hanover, a bank now owned by CitiGroup, by saying, “We’ll be right back, after this message from Manufacturer’s Hangover.”

He blamed his malaprops on hanging around Casey Stengel and Yogi Berra so much in the Mets’ early days. But when he did call a home run correctly, it was with a variation on the classic theme: “That ball is going, it is going, it is gone, goodbye!” And he paid one of the great tributes to a player, when he cited the fielding of the Phillies’ 1970s center fielder: “Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water. The other third is covered by Garry Maddox.”

A bout with Bell’s palsy a few years back left him with a noticeable speech impediment, and as he reached the age of 80, his workdays were cut back, but he still does Met games on Friday nights. As the Mets’ radio booth is named for Bob Murphy, their TV booth is named for Kiner. The Pirates retired his Number 4, the Mets elected him to their team Hall of Fame, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. At 90, he is one of the game’s elder statesmen and, deservedly so, one of its most revered figures.

October 27, 1924: Ruby Ann Wallace is born in Cleveland.   Known professionally as Ruby Dee, she played Rachel Robinson in The Jackie Robinson Story, while Jackie played himself. It’s a little weird that two actresses (Ruby and Teresa Wright) who played wives of Baseball Hall-of-Famers, in films only 8 years apart, would have the same birthday.

Dee was married to Ossie Davis, who, among his own many acting achievements, did many of the voiceovers, including some concerning Jackie, for Ken Burns’ Baseball miniseries. And, like Rachel Robinson, Ruby Dee is still alive, and they live just 18 miles apart, Ruby in New Rochelle, New York; Rachel in Stamford, Connecticut.

October 27, 1932: Harry Gregg is born in Magherafelt, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

October 27, 1939: John Marwood Cleese is born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, in the West County of England. The Monty Python performer is not an athlete? You try doing “Silly Walks” sometime. He’s also narrated and starred in a documentary explaining soccer in a humourous vein. (You were expecting something completely different?) While Somerset currently has no soccer team in the top flight, he is a fan of the East London club West Ham United.  (I had previously believed he was a fan of West London's Chelsea, but this was an error.)

October 27, 1945: Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva is born. President of Brazil from 2003 to 2010, “Lula” is largely responsible for the South American nation being one of the few countries that has thrived in the 2007-current global slowdown, and spearheaded the movement to get Brazil to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

October 27, 1949: Marcel Cerdan is killed. The French boxer, once the welterweight champion of Europe, won the middleweight championship of the world by knocking out Tony Zale at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, but lost it in his first defense, against Jake LaMotta at Briggs Stadium (later renamed Tiger Stadium) in Detroit, as he had to drop out of the fight due to a dislocated shoulder. He was flying from Paris to New York to prepare for his rematch with “the Raging Bull” when his plane crashed in the Azores. He was only 33. His career record was an amazing 113-4, although it should be noted that nearly all his fights were against Europeans.

In 1983, Marcel Cerdan Jr. played his father in Edith et Marcel, which told of the affair Cerdan Sr. had with the legendary French singer Edith Piaf, played by Evelyn Bouix. In 2007, Jean-Pierre Martins played him opposite Marion Cotillard in her Oscar-winning role as Piaf in La Vie en Rose.

October 27, 1954: The divorce of Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe is certified in San Francisco -- their hometown being one of the few things the Yankee Clipper and the Blonde Bombshell had in common.

Apparently, Joe wanted Marilyn to stay home and be a good little Italian wife -- even though, with a birth name of Norma Jeane Mortensen, Marilyn was of Scandinavian descent. And she wanted to keep acting. Supposedly, the last straw was the skirt-billow over the subway grate scene filmed for The Seven Year Itch. It's been alleged that Joe hit her on occasion.

Even if that despicable possibility is true, in 1961 he got her out of a psychiatric institution to which she'd been committed. And, with rumors abounding that they might remarry, after she died in 1962, he organized her funeral and kept all the Hollywood leeches out. For 20 years, he had roses sent to her grave every day, until he found out they were being stolen by tourists and local kids. He seems never to have gotten over her. Nor have we all: Even in the first verse of "We Didn't Start the Fire" and the spoken-word part of "Vogue," respectively, Billy Joel and Madonna rhymed their names.

October 27, 1955: Clark Griffith dies at the age of 85. “The Old Fox” would probably have been elected to the Hall of Fame strictly on his pitching with the Chicago White Stockings (forerunners of the Cubs), but he also managed the Chicago White Sox to the first American League Pennant in 1901, and nearly managed the New York Highlanders (forerunners of the Yankees) to the Pennant in 1904 – in each case, while still an All-Star quality pitcher -- or he would have been considered such, had there been All-Star Games back then. He managed the Washington Senators, and was still pitching for them at age 45 in 1914.

He bought the Senators in 1919, and their home, National Park, was renamed Griffith Stadium. However, in a play on the phrase describing George Washington, a comedian named Charley Dryden called them, “Washington: First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” With Walter Johnson pitching, and 26-year-old “boy manager” and second baseman Bucky Harris leading the way, the Senators finally won a World Series in 1924 and another Pennant in 1925. With yet another “boy manager,” shortstop Joe Cronin – who married Griffith’s adopted daughter, Mildred Robertson – they won the Pennant again in 1933. But that was it: They finished 1 game out in 1945, and no Washington team has ever come close again.

Griffith’s nephew and adopted son, Calvin Griffith, took over, and in 1959 publicly said he would never move the Senators. Of course, he did, just a year later. A monument to Griffith stood outside Griffith Stadium, and was moved first to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium and then to Nationals Park. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in the Pioneers & Executives category.

October 27, 1957: Glenn Hoddle is born in the Hillingdon section of West London. The midfielder starred for North London soccer team Tottenham Hotspur, leading them to the FA Cup in 1981 and 1982, and the UEFA Cup in 1984. He also helped AS Monaco, which is located outside of France but is a member of France’s Ligue 1, to the 1988 Ligue 1 title and the 1991 Coupe de France. At the time, their manager was Arsene Wenger, who went on to manage Spurs’ North London arch-rivals, Arsenal. Hoddle last played as a player-manager for the West London club Chelsea in 1995.

Wenger has said, “His control was superb and he had perfect body balance. His skill in both feet was uncanny... I couldn't understand why he hadn't been appreciated in England. Perhaps he was a star in the wrong period, years ahead of his time.” Others have appreciated him, calling him the best English player of his generation.  But that may just be because Tottenham are a classically "English" team -- while Arsenal, long having had stars who were Scottish and later Irish, and more recently French, Dutch and African, are a "foreign team" and thus unworthy of standing up to "English" clubs like Tottenham, Chelsea, West Ham and the Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester and North-East clubs.

Hoddle status as a player made the English want to like him as a manager, but in that capacity he was a joke.  He got Chelsea to the FA Cup Final in 1994, and Tottenham to the 2002 League Cup Final, but he was unable to consummate the hype and lead either of his former clubs to glory. In between, he managed the England national team to an ignominious crash out of the 1998 World Cup at the first knockout round, and his evangelism, his reliance on (not an affair with) "faith healer" Eileen Drury, and his remarks that the disabled were "being punished for sins in a former life" -- which would seem to conflict with the tenets of Christianity -- led to his sacking. He also failed as manager of Southampton, Swindon Town and Wolverhampton Wanderers, his last managing job, in 2006.

In 2008 he established a soccer academy, not in his native England but in Spain. He says he has received 26 management offers since then but has had to turn them all down "until the academy is able to run itself." Tony Cascarino, a former Chelsea teammate, has said Hoddle was "completely besotted with himself. If he had been an ice cream, he would have licked himself."

October 27, 1960: Trying to jump ahead of the National League‚ the American League admits Los Angeles and Minneapolis to the League, with plans to have the new clubs begin competition in 1961 in the new 10-team league.

At the same time, Calvin Griffith is given permission to move the existing Washington Senators franchise to Minneapolis/St. Paul‚ the “Twin Cities,” where he will settle the “Minnesota Twins” at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, on the Minneapolis side of the Mississippi River but equidistant from the downtowns of both cities. An expansion team is given the Washington Senators name. (Coincidentally, the new Senators will be moved in 1972, to an existing and greatly-expanded minor-league park at point halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, and take the name of the State instead of that of a city: The Texas Rangers.)

AL President Joe Cronin says the AL will play a 162-game schedule‚ with 18 games against each opponent. The NL will balk‚ saying the two expansions are not analogous and that the AL was not invited to move into L.A.

Also on this day, Thomas Andrew Nieto is born in Downey, California. A backup catcher, Tom Nieto played in the World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985 and lost. He was not listed on the World Series roster for the Minnesota Twins, but he did play for them in 1987 and won a World Series ring for them that way. He served as a coach for both New York teams. He managed the Twins’ Triple-A team, the Rochester Red Wings (a longtime Baltimore Orioles affiliate), and now manages the Yankees' affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, the bottom of minor league baseball.

October 27, 1965: Catcher Bob Uecker‚ 1st baseman Bill White and shortstop Dick Groat are traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Art Mahaffey‚ outfielder Alex Johnson‚ and catcher Pat Corrales.

In his first at-bat for the Phils against the Cards, White has to hit the deck, as a pitch from his former roommate, Bob Gibson, comes perilously close to his head. White would later say that Gibson’s message was clear: “We’re not teammates anymore.” Uecker, as has been his custom, found humor in the trade: “I was pulled over by the police. I was fined $400. It was $100 for drunk driving, and $300 for being with the Phillies.” You don’t think that’s funny? Well, that’s because the Phillies aren’t a joke anymore.

October 27, 1972, 40 years ago: Brad William Radke is born in Eau Claire, in a part of Wisconsin that tilts toward Minneapolis rather than Milwaukee.  Somewhat appropriately, he pitched his entire 12-year career for the Twins, and was a member of their Playoff teams of 2002, ’03, ’04 and ’06. He won 148 games in the majors, and has been elected to the Twins’ Hall of Fame.

October 27, 1973: Jason Michael Johnson is born in Santa Barbara, California. The pitcher has had some terrible luck: He was a member of the original 1998 Tampa Bay Devil Rays; he was traded away by the Detroit Tigers (2005-06) and the Cleveland Indians (2006-07) the seasons before each reached their next Playoff berths; he played for the Boston Red Sox in 2006, the one season between 2002 and 2010 that they did not make the Playoffs; he pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers in their NL Western Division Championship season of 2008 but did not appear in the Playoffs; and was injured throughout 2009, resulting in his release by the Yankees.

All this would be bad enough, but he is also a diabetic, and he was the first MLB player to receive permission to wear an insulin pump on the field during games. He has pitched the last 2 seasons in New Jersey, for the Camden Riversharks of the Atlantic League, one of those "independent leagues" that are usually the last chance for pro ballplayers, but rarely work out for them.

October 27, 1978: Sergei Viktorovich Samsonov is born in Moscow. A longtime left wing for the Boston Bruins, he came very close to winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, when his Edmonton Oilers fell to the Carolina Hurricanes in 7 games.  He did not play in the 2011-12 season, and, with the current NHL lockout, it looks like he may have to retire.

October 27, 1984: Brayden Tyler Quinn is born in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.  Though with a name like Brady Quinn and coming from a town named Dublin, it's not surprising that the quarterback spurned Ohio State for Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish.   An All-American, he now plays for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Also on this day, Kelly Michelle Lee Osbourne is born in the Westminster sectin of London. The singer and actress (who is probably not partially named for actress Michelle Lee) is not actively involved in sports in any way, but her father, a singer of some renown, is a native of Birmingham, England, and a big fan of that city's Aston Villa F.C. But her brother Jack roots for arch-rival Birmingham City F.C.

October 27, 1985: The Kansas City Royals rout the St. Louis Cardinals 11-0 in Game 7, to win their first World Championship and the first All-Missouri World Series since the Cardinals-Browns matchup of 1944. They become only the 6th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit and win the Series (and remain the last to do so). Series MVP Bret Saberhagen pitches the shutout while Cardinals ace John Tudor allows 5 runs in 2 1/3 innings.

The Cards are still upset over the blown call that cost them Game 6 – 26 years later, they and their fans still are – and allowed it to affect their performances and their minds for Game 7. After being lifted from the game‚ Tudor punches an electric fan in the clubhouse and severely cuts his hand. Fellow 20-game winner Joaquin Andujar is ejected for arguing balls and strikes during Kansas City's 6-run 5th inning, screaming at Don Denkinger, who blew the call at first base the night before and is now behind the plate. The Cardinals finish the WS with a .185 team batting average‚ lowest ever for a 7-game Series.

Also on this day, Billy Martin is fired by the Yankees for an unprecedented 4th time (not counting all those firings in 1977 that didn’t take), and is replaced by former Yankee outfielder Lou Piniella‚ who had been the team's hitting instructor since retiring as a player in 1984.

October 27, 1986: The Mets win the World Series.   I was not happy about this.  They have not done so since.  I am very happy about this.

October 27, 1989: After a 10-day delay following the Loma Prieta Earthquake, the World Series resumes at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Rescue workers from both sides of San Francisco Bay, San Francisco and Oakland, throw out ceremonial first balls.

The title song from the 1936 musical film about the 1906 quake ("San Francisco, open your Golden Gate... ") is sung on the field by the cast of a San Francisco-based drag-queen stage show, Beach Blanket Babylon, and in the stands by 60,000 people. After the events of the last 10 days, suddenly no one has the energy to make bigoted or silly remarks about gay people, drag queens and people dealing, directly or otherwise, with AIDS.

Game 3 begins, but it is over nearly as quickly as it was 10 days earlier, as the Oakland Athletics, hit 5 home runs, to beat the San Francisco Giants, 13-7. The A’s can wrap it up tomorrow.

October 27, 1991: The Minnesota Twins become World Champions with a 1-0 victory in 10 innings over the Atlanta Braves, behind Jack Morris's masterful pitching. Gene Larkin's single off Alejandro Pena scores Dan Gladden with the game's only run.

The game is the first Game 7 to go into extra innings since the Senators-Giants Series in 1924. Morris is named the Series MVP for the Twins‚ who win all 4 games in the Metrodome while losing all 3 in Atlanta -- repeating their pattern against St. Louis in 1987. Four of the 7 games are decided on the final pitch‚ while 5 are decided by a single run‚ and 3 in extra innings. All are Series records. Morris's 10-inning masterpiece is the last extra-inning complete game of the century.

Through the 2012 season, the Twins’ record in World Series play is 11-10: 11-1 at home (3-1 at Metropolitan Stadium in ’65, 4-0 at the Metrodome in ’87 and again in ’91, and they have yet to get that far at Target Field) and 0-9 on the road. However, since that day 21 years ago, they have never won another Pennant. The Braves have, although once in the World Series, they've rarely been better off.

October 27, 1999: The Yankees defeat the Braves‚ 4-1‚ to win their 25th World Championship. Roger Clemens gets the win‚ hurling 4-hit ball before leaving the game in the 8th inning, to finally get his first World Series ring, 13 years after his only previous appearance, with the ill-fated '86 Red Sox. Mariano Rivera gets the save‚ his 2nd of the Series. Jim Leyritz hits a solo homer in the 8th, the last home run, and the last run, in baseball in the 20th Century. The last out is Keith Lockhart flying out to left field, where the ball is caught by Game 3’s hero, Chad Curtis. Rivera wins the Series MVP award.

Four years earlier, as the final out was registered of the 1995 World Series, NBC's Bob Costas called the Braves "The Team of the Nineties." That label made sense at the time. Going into this Series, in the decade, the Braves had won 8 Division Titles and 5 Pennants, but just that 1 World Series; the Yankees had won 3 Division Titles (4 counting the strike-shortened 1994), 3 Pennants and 2 World Series. This Series decided it, and in indisputable fashion, as the Yanks were now 2-0 over the Braves in Series play in the decade. This time, after the final out, Costas says it right: “The New York Yankees. World Champions. Team of the Decade. Most successful franchise of the Century.”

October 27, 2001: Game 1 of the World Series, the first ever played in the Mountain Time Zone. The Arizona Diamondbacks pound the Yankees by a score of 9-1 behind Curt Schilling, who hurls 7 innings to win his 4th game of the postseason. Craig Counsell and Luis Gonzalez (cough-steroids-cough) homer for Arizona as Mike Mussina takes the loss for New York.

October 27, 2002, 10 years ago today: The Angels win their first World Series in 42 years of play – under any name -- as they defeat the San Francisco Giants‚ 4-1‚ in Game 7. John Lackey gets the Series-clinching win, making him the first rookie to win Game 7 of a World Series since Babe Adams of the 1909 Pirates. (My, how times have changed.)

Garret Anderson's bases-loaded double in the 3rd inning scores 3 runs for Anaheim. Troy Glaus is named Series MVP. The Giants had a 5-0 lead in Game 6, and were up 5-3 and just 9 outs away from winning the Series, but they blew it. Soon, people begin to wonder if the Giants are a “cursed team.” The Curse of Horace Stoneham? The Curse of Captain Eddie (Grant)? The Curse of Candlestick? The Kurse of Krukow? Who knows. And, now that the Giants finally have won a World Series as a San Francisco team (and are apparently about to win another), who cares?

This is the 21st World Series to be played between two teams of the same State, the 7th from a State other than New York, and the 4th from California. In each case, it remains, through 2012, the last.

October 27, 2003: The Red Sox announce that manager Grady Little's contract will not be renewed for 2004. They also say it has nothing to do with Little's decision to stay with Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the ALCS. Readers of Jim Bouton’s book Ball Four have the right words for this: “Yeah, surrrre!” But Sox fans come up with a rather cruel joke: “What do Grady Little and Don Zimmer have in common? Neither could take out Pedro.”

October 27, 2004: The Curse of the Bambino is finally broken. Well, sort of. The Boston Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years with a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Memorial Stadium. Derek Lowe ends up as the winning pitcher in all 3 postseason series-clinchers for the Sox, the first pitcher of any team to do so. (Andy Pettitte became the second in 2009.) Johnny Damon hits a home run for Boston. Manny Ramirez is voted Series MVP‚ as he leads Boston to the 4-game sweep with a .412 BA and 4 RBI.

Some people had joked that the Red Sox winning the World Series would be a sign of the Apocalypse. Well, according to the Bible, one such sign is the Moon turning blood red -- and, in fact, there was a full lunar eclipse during the game.

A sign held aloft at the victory parade in Boston sums it all up: “Our (late) parents and g’parents thank you.” So many people said, “We wanted them to win it in our lifetime, just once.” Well, as Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe said in the following weeks, “There was no spike in the obits. We checked. All those people who said they couldn’t die until the Red Sox won a World Series decided to live a little longer.”

Of course, they didn’t win it just once in those people’s lifetimes – except for those who died between October ’04 and October ’07. And now that we know that the Red Sox are a bunch of lying, cheating, dirty, low-down, no-good motherfuckers, we can tell the truth: They still haven’t really won a World Series since 1918*. The Curse lives.

So all those Sox fans who weren’t old enough to suffer through Harry Frazee, Johnny Pesky, Harry Agganis, Tony Conigliaro, Larry Barnett, Bobby Sprowl, Bucky Dent, John McNamara and Bill Buckner – though most of them did get through what Nomar, Pedro and Grady put them through – and showed more bastardry in victory than their forebears ever showed in defeat can kiss my 27 rings (well, 7 in my lifetime – for the moment), and then they can kiss my Pinstriped ass.

Now, where was I?

Oh yeah. Also on this day, Paulo Sérgio Oliveira da Silva dies. Better known as Serginho, the Brazilian played for São Caetano as a defender, and was playing for his team in a Campeonato Brasileiro match against São Paulo when he suffered a fatal cardiac arrest 60 minutes into the match. A later autopsy showed Serginho's heart to weigh 600 grams, twice the size of an average human heart, causing mystery towards his real cause of death. He had just turned 30, and his team was defending league champions. His 17-year-old son Raymundo has followed in his father's footsteps and is currently on the books of Grêmio.

October 27, 2006: The St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Detroit Tigers, 4-2, to take the 2006 World Series. Jeff Weaver – Jeff Fucking Weaver? Are you kidding me?!? – gets the win for St. Louis, who get a pair of RBIs from Series MVP (and former Trenton Thunder shortstop) David Eckstein. Sean Casey homers for Detroit.

After the 2004 Series, when the Cardinals lost to the Red Sox, Cardinal fans began to speculate about a Curse of Keith Hernandez. Hernandez had helped the Cards win the 1982 Series, but manager-GM Whitey Herzog didn’t like him and traded him to the Mets in 1983. After this, the Cards reached but lost the Series in ’85 (on the Don Denkinger blown call and their Game 7 11-0 meltdown) and ’87, blew a 3-games-to-1 lead in the ’96 NLCS, reached the Playoffs in 2000 and ’02 but failed to win the Pennant, and looked awful in losing the ’04 Series. Someone brought up pitcher Jeff Suppan’s baserunning blunder in ’04, and noted that he wore Number 37, Hernandez’s number in ’82.

But this win, in the Cardinals’ 1st season at the 3rd Busch Stadium, their 10th title, 2nd all-time behind the Yankees and 1st among NL teams, erases any possibility of a curse on them. It should be noted that the Cards' 83 regular-season wins are the fewest of any team to win a World Series in a full 162-game, or even 154-game, season.

Also on this day, Joe Niekro dies. The longtime knuckleballer, and brother of knuckleballing Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro, had pitched in the postseason for the Houston Astros in 1980 and ’81, and finally got his ring with the ’87 Twins. He won 221 games, joining with Phil to become the winningest brothers in baseball history. On May 29, 1976, he hit his only big-league home run, off Phil. He died of a brain aneurysm at age 61. His son Lance Niekro pitched for the San Francisco Giants, and is now the head coach at Florida Southern College in Lakeland.

October 27, 2007: In the first World Series game ever played in the State of Colorado, Daisuke Matsuzaka becomes the first Japanese starting pitcher in World Series history, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits in 5.1 innings, to get the win against the Rockies in the 10-5 Red Sox Game 3 victory.

After paying $51.1 million for the rights to negotiate with the right-hander, Boston obtained "Dice-K" from the Seibu Lions, signing the World Baseball Classic MVP to a 6-year deal worth $52 million. With where the Sox have been since, especially with Dice-K missing so many games due to injury, how does the deal look now? Pretty good, since he did help them win a World Series. (Well, as far as I know, he isn't one of the steroid freaks that helped the Sox cheat their way to said victory -- but with all of those injuries, you could wonder.)

October 27, 2008: Game 5 of the World Series begins at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. But it doesn't end on this night, and I don't mean because it ends after midnight tonight. Unless you mean well after midnight tonight.

The Phillies take a 2-0 lead in the 1st inning when Shane Victorino knocks in Jayson Werth and Chase Utley. Tampa Bay cuts the lead in the top of the 4th, as Carlos Peña doubles and scores on Evan Longoria's single. The Rays then tie the game in the top of the 6th when B. J. Upton scores from second base on a Peña single.

But it had already been raining all game, and as the Phillies get out of the inning, the umpires suspend the game. After the game was suspended, umpiring crew chief Tim Tschida told reporters that he and his crew ordered the players off the field because the wind and rain threatened to make the game "comical." The Phils’ Chase Utley agreed, saying that by the middle of 6th inning, "the infield was basically underwater."

Under normal conditions, games are considered to be official games after five innings, or four and a half if the home team is leading at that point. However, post-season games are operated by the Commissioner's Office, thus are subject to the Commissioner's discretion of how to handle the scheduling of the games. So, with rain for the rest of the night in the forecast for Philadelphia, and remembering the fuss made when, due to entirely different circumstances, he had declared the 2002 All-Star Game a tie after 11 innings, Commissioner Bud Selig informed both teams’ management before the game began that a team would not be allowed to clinch the Series in a rain-shortened game.

This was the first game in World Series history to be suspended. There had been three tied games in the history of the World Series: 1907, 1912, and 1922, all of them called due to darkness, as artificial lighting had not yet been brought to ballparks. (Not until 1949 would lights be used on a dark day for a Series game, and not until 1971 would a Series game start at night.) In general, no ties would be needed under modern rules, which provide for suspension of a tied game and resumption of it at the next possible date. Weather has caused numerous delays and postponements in Series history (notable postponements beforehand coming in 1911, 1962, 1975, 1986, 1996 and 2006), but never any suspended games before 2008.

Rain continues to fall in Philadelphia on Tuesday, further postponing the game to Wednesday, October 29, when the Phils finish it off.

October 27, 2011: Game 6 of the World Series.  In 1986, the Boston Red Sox had a 2-run lead in the 10th inning of Game 6, and were one strike away from winning their first World Series in 68 years... and blew it.  Almost exactly 25 yeas later, the Texas Rangers had a 2-run lead in the 9th inning of Game 6, and were one strike away from winning the first World Series in the 51 years of the franchise, 40 of them in their current location... and blew it... and then had the exact same setup in the 10th inning and blew it again! If the '86 Red Sox were not officially off the hook thanks to the Red Sox of 2004 and '07, they were now.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Orange You Glad

The San Francisco Giants wear black and orange. The Detroit Tigers wear navy blue and orange.

The Giants broke a scoreless duel with a run in the bottom of the 7th and another in the bottom of the 8th, and won Game 2 of the World Series, 2-0 -- and went ahead in the Series by the same margin.

The Tigers, in these 2 games, have looked as punchless and as hopeless as the Yankees looked against them -- and against the Baltimore Orioles, who also wear black and orange.

Knock, knock.

(Who's there?)


(Orange who?)

Orange you glad it's not us?

Getting humiliated in the League Championship Series is one thing. Getting humiliated in the World Series is another.

The Tigers have now lost 6 of their last 7 Series games. That is a record of futility unmatched since the Atlanta Braves dropped the last 4 in 1996 and all 4 in 1999.

The last time before that... the Yankees dropped 2 of the last 3 in 1964 and all 4 in 1976, before winning 4 games to 2 in 1977. Oh well.


October 26, 1863: The Football Association is formed in London.  Although there were football clubs (soccer teams) in England already (and a few of these are still in operation, though most on an amateur level), the rules of the game across the country were not uniform.  So this is considered the “birthday” of English football.

October 26, 1868: A crowd of 10‚000 are at the Union Grounds in Brooklyn to see the Mutual Club of New York capture the national amateur baseball championship of the year by defeating the Atlantics of Brooklyn for the 2nd time‚ 28-17. This is the first time a New York City club has won a postseason series designed to crown the national champions of baseball – or, if you prefer, the “World Champions.”

October 26, 1877: What we would later call "Major League Baseball" suffers its first scandal. Charles Chase, vice president of the club known as the Louisville Eclipse, confronts George Hall‚ the National League home run leader in 1876 with 5‚ and pitcher Jim Devlin with charges that they threw road games in August and September of this past season.

Both admit to throwing non-league games -- an exhibition game in Lowell‚ Massachusetts on August 30 and another in Pittsburgh on September 3 -- and implicate teammates Al Nichols and Bill Craver. Hall implicates Devlin, saying that the 2 helped in losses to the NL’s Cincinnati Reds (no connection to the current team of that name) on September 6, and to the minor league Indianapolis Blues on September 24‚ but he argues that since the Reds were about to be suspended and the games nullified‚ it amounted to an exhibition game. The accused players will end up being permanently banned from baseball.

October 26, 1881: The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

October 26, 1899: William Julius Johnson is born in Snow Hill, on Maryland's Eastern Shore, and grows up in Wilmington, Delaware. Without question, “Judy” Johnson is the greatest player ever to come from the State of Delaware.  So why are some of you saying, “I've never heard of him”? Because he played long ago, and in the Negro Leagues. Even those of you who have heard of him may be asking, “Why was he called Judy?” Because he resembled an earlier Negro League player, Judy Gans of the Chicago American Giants. I don’t know why he was called “Judy.” I thought perhaps his real name was Jude, but it was Robert.

Judy Johnson starred in the 1920s for the closest Negro League team to Wilmington, the Philadelphia Hilldales. He was considered the best-fielding 3rd baseman in Negro League history, and 4 times hit .390 or higher, once hitting .401. Connie Mack, owner and manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, once told Johnson, “If you were a white boy, you could name your own price.”

In 1930, as a player-coach for the Homestead Grays, Johnson discovered the legendary slugger/catcher Josh Gibson. Johnson and Gibson, as well as Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell, played for the powerful Pittsburgh Crawfords of the mid-1930s. Johnson’s play, and his proximity to the Pittsburgh Pirates, led to easy comparisons to their .300-hitting, slick-fielding hot-corner man, then considered the best one in the majors: Just as Gibson was called “the Black Babe Ruth,” Judy Johnson was called “the black Pie Traynor.”

Once the color barrier was broken in the majors by Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, Mack signed Johnson as the first black person in the front office of any major league team, later making him the first black coach in the majors. (I previously thought that Buck O’Neil, with the 1960s Cubs, was the first, and Elston Howard, with the Yankees from 1969 to 1979, was the first in the American League.  Jim Gilliam of the Los Angeles Dodgers has also been credited as the first black coach in the majors.  But Judy Johnson preceded them all.)

He moved to Kansas City with the A’s, but the Phillies allowed him to “come home” as one of their scouts, and for them he discovered the man then known as Richie Allen.  Dick Allen may have been as talented as Johnson’s other great find, Josh Gibson, but he was also a parallel for Gibson in the personal difficulties department, thankfully managing to overcome these as Gibson did not and live, thus far, to the age of 70.

Johnson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and was the first person elected to the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame, whose display is located at the home field of the State’s only professional sports team, the Wilmington Blue Rocks of the Class A Carolina League. The ballpark is named Judy Johnson Field at Daniel S. Frawley Stadium. (Frawley was the Mayor who brought the team in and got the ballpark built.) Johnson did not live to see this honor, dying in 1989 at the age of 89.  His daughter married Billy Bruton, an All-Star outfielder for the Milwaukee Braves, and another player that Johnson discovered.

October 26, 1902, 110 years ago today: Joseph Paul Zukauskas is born in Binghamton, New York, and moved to Boston after serving in the U.S. Navy, having tried to enlist to fight in World War I but being turned down due to his age, finally being let in after the war.  It was in the Navy that he learned how to box.

Although a Lithuanian-American, he tapped into his adopted hometown's Irish fan base by changing his name to the more Hibernian-sounding Jack Sharkey. He was the last fighter beaten by Jack Dempsey, in the first heavyweight fight at Yankee Stadium, in 1927, in between Dempsey’s two title fight defeats to Gene Tunney.

In 1930, Sharkey came back to Yankee Stadium to fight Max Schmeling, the winner to receive the title vacated by Tunney’s retirement. But in the 4th round, Sharkey hit Schmeling with a low blow, and was disqualified; for the first and only time, a major boxing title changed hands as the result of a disqualification. In 1932, Schmeling and Sharkey fought again, this time at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City, Queens, and Sharkey won a controversial split decision to take the title. And he never successfully defended the title, as just one year later, he fought for the first time as sitting champion, and lost (see the 1906 entry).

Like many of boxing’s former champions, he later opened a restaurant in his hometown. He also became a boxing and wrestling referee and an accomplished fly fisherman, and occasionally fished with another Boston sports legend, Ted Williams. When asked if he liked fishing better than boxing, he said, "It doesn't pay as much, but then, the fish don't hit back." He died in 1994, age 91.

October 26, 1906: Primo Carnera is born in Sequals, Udine, Italy. The only citizen of Italy ever to win the heavyweight title, he won it by knocking Sharkey out at MSG Bowl in 1933. He remains the tallest and heaviest man ever to win an undisputed boxing world championship, although there have recently been bigger men, Russians, who have won the divided, quite disputed heavyweight title.

But Carnera, too, defended the title only once, also at MSG Bowl, and was knocked out by Max Baer in 1934, leading someone to say about the Bowl, “The place is jinxed!” Baer, too, would wait almost exactly one year to defend his title, and do it at the Bowl, and lost in one of boxing’s great upsets to Jim Braddock. "Cinderella Man" Braddock was smarter: He waited a whole 2 years, and then defended his title in Chicago's Comiskey Park instead of Long Island City, but it didn't work, as he got clobbered by Joe Louis.

Carnera got to the top by a lot of boxers “taking dives,” encouraged to do so by the Mob, who wanted an Italian heavyweight champ, as Carnera was not very bright and easily manipulated. The first time there was an Italian-American heavyweight champ, Rocky Marciano, he didn’t need no help from the wiseguys. In fact, they idolized him, because he was what they wanted to be: The toughest guy in the world. Carnera moved to Los Angeles, and became yet another boxer to open a restaurant, but ended up dying young, age 60, not because the Mob became unhappy with him, but because of diabetes and drinking.

October 26, 1910: The Washington Post headlines a rumored trade that would have been the biggest in baseball history in terms of the one-for-one names involved, with Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators going to the Detroit Tigers for Ty Cobb. Detroit president Frank Navin scoffs at the story‚ saying he would never trade Cobb‚ but praising Johnson "as the best pitcher in the country." Cobb was about to turn 24 and had just finished his 5th full season of baseball; Johnson was 23 and had just finished his 4th season. This would have been like trading Miguel Cabrera for Stephen Strasburg today.

October 26, 1911: The Philadelphia Athletics win their 2nd straight World Series. Chippewa pitcher Albert “Chief” Bender cruises to his second victory‚ a 4-hit 13-2 breeze. The A's cap the win with a 7-run 7th‚ battering three tired Giant hurlers‚ Red Ames‚ Hooks Wiltse‚ and Rube Marquard. Overall‚ the Giants manage just 13 runs and a .175 BA off Bender‚ Jack Coombs and Eddie Plank, gaining revenge for the Christy Mathewson-dominated Series of 1905 when the Giants embarrassed the A’s.

Because of the NL's extended playing season‚ and a record 6-day rain delay, this is the latest ending ever for a World Series‚ and would remain so until the strike-delayed 1981 Series.

Also on this day, Sid Gillman is born in Minneapolis. With the Los Angeles Rams, he used the passing game of Norm Van Brocklin to Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch and Tom Fears to win an NFL Championship as an assistant coach in 1951 and a Western Division title as head coach in 1955. He became the first head coach of the San Diego Chargers in 1960 (they played their first season in Los Angeles before moving down the Coast), coaching quarterbacks like Jack Kemp, Tobin Rote and John Hadl, and receiver Lance Alworth, and reached 5 of the first 6 AFL Championship Games, in 1960, ’61, ’63, ’64 and ’65, winning in 1963 – still the only time in major league sports that a San Diego team has gone as far as their league allowed them to go. (They did not play the NFL Champion Chicago Bears, and if they had, it might have been the AFL’s best chance to make a statement until Joe Namath and the Jets beat the Colts 5 years later.)

It was Gillman’s wide-open passing game that helped to give the AFL its first positive reviews and its reputation as a League where anything could happen at any time, contrasting with the NFL, then comparatively very conservative despite having such quarterbacks as Johnny Unitas, Sonny Jurgensen and Bart Starr.  Gillman later served as an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles, helping head coach Dick Vermeil develop Ron Jaworski, and with the Los Angeles Express of the USFL, where he helped to develop Steve Young.

Coaches who played or coached under him include Vermeil, George Allen, Al Davis, Chuck Noll and Chuck Knox. Coaches who played or coached under those men include: With Davis’ Oakland Raiders, John Madden, Tom Flores, Art Shell, Bill Walsh and Jon Gruden; with Allen’s Redskins, Jack Pardee, Richie Petitbon and Joe Bugel; with Noll’s Steelers, Bud Carson and Tony Dungy; with Vermeil’s Eagles, Herman Edwards. Walsh’s “coaching children,” and thus Gillman’s “grandchildren,” include Mike Holmgren, Jim Fassel, Sam Wyche, George Seifert and Dennis Green; through them, Gillman’s “great-grandchildren” include Andy Reid, John Fox, Mike Shanahan, Jeff Fisher, Brian Billick, Lovie Smith and Mike Tomlin. Gillman was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one of the first primarily-AFL figures to be so honored.

Also on this day, Mahalia Jackson is born in New Orleans. She is often regarded as the greatest singer of gospel music ever, of any race, of any gender, of any era. She sang at the March On Washington in 1963, and, supposedly, saw Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was wrapping up his speech, and she remembered a previous speech of his, and said to him, “Martin, tell them about the dream.” He did so, and a strong call for social justice became something larger than even all the people on that stage, which also included A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, John Lewis, Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. If the story is true, then Mahalia performed a greater service to the human race than most people ever do to the God who created it.

October 26, 1917: Miller Huggins‚ a former “good-field, no-hit” second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds who managed the St. Louis Cardinals to a 3rd-place finish this season‚ is signed to run the Yankees by owner Jacob Ruppert.

Co-owner Til Huston‚ who favored Brooklyn Dodger boss Wilbert Robinson for the job‚ has a falling out with partner Ruppert, and will sell his half interest to Ruppert in 1923. Huston had tried throughout the three men’s common tenure to get rid of Huggins, to the point that, when Ruppert finally bought Huston out and announced it to the press, the next words out of his mouth were “Miller Huggins is my manager.” And Huggins remained Yankee manager until his death in 1929, along the way leading the club to its first 6 Pennants and its first 3 World Championships.

October 26, 1931: Charles Comiskey dies at age 72. One of the great players of the 1880s with the St. Louis Browns (forerunners of the Cardinals), he practically invented the way first base was played, and he was a major figure in the Players’ League revolt of 1890. But when offered the chance to start, own and run a team in the new American League in 1901, which became the Chicago White Sox, he betrayed the players who followed him by pinching pennies, much as later hockey greats Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux would do.

Known as “the Old Roman” despite being of Irish descent, he built the ballpark that would bear his name, Comiskey Park, and built a franchise that would win 4 Pennants and 2 World Series in his lifetime, but also indirectly caused, and made much worse, the greatest scandal in sports history, the Black Sox Scandal of 1919-21. His reputation as a great player and a smart, canny executive has been wiped out, replaced by one as a cheap, nasty old bastard.

October 26, 1934: Washington Senators shortstop and manager Joe Cronin is sold to the Boston Red Sox for $225‚000 and Lyn Lary. Recently married to Mildred Robertson‚ Clark Griffith's niece and adopted daughter‚ Cronin is signed to a 5-year contract.

This trade not only helps return the Red Sox to contention for the first time since Harry Frazee sold off several stars to the Yankees from 1919 to 1923, but it also helps wreck the Senators franchise, which had won the Pennant just one year earlier: For 77 years, from 1934 to 2011, only once, in 1945, has a Washington baseball team been in a major league Pennant race, only twice had they finished as high as 2nd, only 3 times as high as 3rd, and only 5 times had they had winning seasons. This includes the “old Senators” from 1935 to 1960 (when they moved to become the Minnesota Twins), the “new Senators” from 1961 to 1971 (when they moved to become the Texas Rangers), the Washington Nationals who had been terrible with flashes of fun since arriving in 2005, and the 1972-2004 interregnum when D.C.-area fans either had to go up to Baltimore, go to only the occasional exhibition game at RFK stadium, check out minor-league teams (the Maryland cities of Salisbury, Frederick and Hagerstown, or Virginia teams like nearby Prince William), or stick to TV and go without live major league ball.  And, since the Nats blew it this season by shelving Stephen Strasburg, D.C. still hasn't had a Pennant since 1933.

October 26, 1938: For the first time, an ice hockey match is televised.  Oddly, this does not occur in Canada, or in America.  It is in England, on the BBC, between Harringay Racers of North London and Streatham Redskins of South London.  Neither team exists in their 1938 form any longer.  In 1940, New York station W2XBS (forerunner of WNBC-Channel 4) would become the first station to broadcast an NHL game, a 6-2 New York Rangers win over the Montreal Canadiens at (the old) Madison Square Garden; 3 days after that, they would broadcast the first televised basketball game.  That station had already broadcast the first baseball, college football and NFL games on television, all in New York in 1939.

October 26, 1940: Detroit Tigers outfielder Hank Greenberg is named the Most Valuable Player in the American League. Greenberg won the MVP honors in 1935 as a 1st baseman, but this season has played mostly left field, as another big slugger, Rudy York, is being tried at 1st.

Greenberg will soon become the first big-name player to enlist in the U.S. armed forces in anticipation of World War II, and when he returns in 1945, York is gone to Boston, and he plays the rest of his career at his former position of 1st base. Nevertheless, he is the first player to win MVP awards while playing at 2 different positions. He has since been joined only by Robin Yount (shortstop and center field) and Alex Rodriguez (shortstop and 3rd base).

October 26, 1946: Columnist Westbrook Pegler, writing for the Hearst Corporation’s papers including the New York Journal American, writes a critical piece about the off-field relationship between Dodger manager Leo Durocher‚ actor George Raft and well-known gamblers. This is the first of a number of articles that will lead up to the suspension of Durocher for the 1947 season.

Pegler was an alcoholic and a lunatic, who had already called for the assassination of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and one of his last public acts would be to do the same for Robert Kennedy, which happened. Eventually, he couldn’t be hired by anyone except the John Birch Society, and finally even they fired him for being too extreme.  But, in the case of Durocher, and in a few others, Pegler turned out to be right.

October 26, 1948: Colbert Dale Harrah is born in Sissonville, West Virginia.  An All-Star 3rd baseman for the Texas Rangers and the Cleveland Indians, Toby Harrah was the last active player who had been a member of the Washington Senators, the team that moved to become the Rangers in 1972. Next-to-last was his former Ranger teammate Jeff Burroughs, and together, with players like Mike Hargrove and Ferguson Jenkins, managed by Billy Martin, they finished 2nd in 1974, the best finish the Senators/Rangers franchise had yet had in 14 years of existence. They would finish 2nd again with Harrah in 1977 and 1978, but wouldn’t win the AL West until 1994 – ironically, after Harrah’s brief tenure as Rangers manager had ended.

In 1976, despite playing both games at shortstop, he went through an entire doubleheader without a single fielding chance. Despite this, he was generally regarded as a good defensive player, who also managed to hit 195 home runs despite playing his entire career in pitchers’ parks: Arlington Stadium, Cleveland Municipal Stadium (the Rangers had traded him to the Indians for 3rd baseman Buddy Bell, a trade which worked out well for both teams, though neither is known for making good trades) and, for one season, in the old Yankee Stadium with its “Death Valley” in left and center making it hard on a righthanded hitter.

October 26, 1949: Stephen Douglas Rogers is born in Jefferson City, Missouri. No, not Captain America. This Steve Rogers plied his trade in Canada, as an All-Star pitcher for the Montreal Expos, and remains the all-time leader in several pitching categories for the franchise now known as the Washington Nationals. Unfortunately, the furthest that franchise has ever gotten was a tie game in the 9th inning of the 5th and deciding Game of the 1981 NLCS, when Rogers, who had won Game 3 but was now pitching in relief on just 2 days rest, gave up a Pennant-winning home run to the Dodgers’ Rick Monday.

He deserves to be remembered for more than that, as he, not Randy Johnson or Pedro Martinez (neither of whom stayed in Montreal for very long) was the greatest pitcher in that franchise’s history, and even if Stephen Strasburg does more for them than Rogers did in an Expo uniform, Rogers will still be the greatest pitcher the city of Montreal has ever had. (Former Dodgers manager and Montreal Royals lefty Tommy Lasorda may dispute that, but the Royals were the minors, the Expos – no matter how inept they sometimes were on the field and in the front office – were the majors.) He was a 5-time All-Star, won 158 games in the major leagues, had a 3.17 ERA, and now leaves not far from me, in West Windsor, New Jersey, employed by the players’ union, the Major League Baseball Players Association.

October 26, 1950: Branch Rickey resigns as president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Walter O'Malley succeeds him. Rickey sells his 25 percent interest in the club for a reported $1.05 million. O’Malley had tried to push Rickey out, and got his chance when another partner died and his heirs wanted to sell his shares. O’Malley, in this as in everything else a money-grubbing bastard who didn’t care who he hurt in the process, tried to lowball Rickey, offering him only his original investment in the club, the $350,000 he had paid in 1942.

But Rickey and O'Malley, despite some stark differences, were more alike than either cared to admit.  One way in which they were alike is that both were lawyers who knew all the tricks.  Rickey knew that an agreement in the Dodger partnership said that if any of the partners got an offer for their shares, and another partner wanted to buy, he had to match the offer. Rickey found someone willing to pony up a million, and so O’Malley had to pay through the nose: The $350,000 of ’42 was worth $548,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars, while the $350,000 of ’50 was worth just $223,000, so O’Malley was really offering Rickey a 57 percent loss. Instead, O’Malley had to pay Rickey a 92 percent profit.

Today, Rickey’s original ’42 investment is worth $4.8 million, O’Malley’s ’50 offer $3.1 million, and Rickey’s $1.05 million becomes $9.2 million. In 1969, O’Malley admitted his holdings in the Dodgers were worth $24 million, which is $142 million in 2012 dollars; at his death in 1979, at which point son Peter became owner, they were said to be worth $50 million, or today’s $148 million; when Peter sold the Dodgers in 1997, it was for $311 million, or today’s $420 million.  When Magic Johnson bought the Dodger franchise, including Dodger Stadium, earlier this year, the price was rumored to be about $2 billion.

October 26, 1951: Desperate for money to pay a mounting tax bill, Joe Louis, who stood as heavyweight champion of the world longer than anyone (12 years, 1937-49) and defended the title more than anyone (25 times), climbs into the ring at the old Madison Square Garden for a purse of $300,000 – about $2.5 million in today’s money. He fights Rocky Marciano, then a rising contender who idolized Louis.  Rocky says, “This is the last guy I want to fight.”

It is a mismatch: Marciano is 28, is in superb shape, and has a sledgehammer for a right hand; Louis is 37, struggles with his weight, and his arms and legs, once the fastest in the fight game despite his being a heavyweight, have terribly slowed. Marciano actually knocks Louis out of the ring in the 8th round. Marciano goes back to his dressing room and cries over what he has done to his greatest hero, and even goes over to see him and says, “I’m sorry, Joe.” Sugar Ray Robinson, then middleweight champion, was in  Louis' dressing room to console him, and was also crying.

Eleven months later, Marciano will knock out Jersey Joe Walcott to become champion.  Louis, still needing money, will humiliate himself as a professional wrestler, and not a very good one. Both men’s lives will end badly: Marciano's in a plane crash in 1969, Louis' in a wheelchair, unable to pay his medical bills, with Frank Sinatra hosting a benefit concert for him in Las Vegas in 1978, which keeps Louis afloat until he finally passes away in 1981. As a Sergeant in the Army in World War II, he is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, on the order of President Ronald Reagan, and with Sinatra delivering the eulogy.

October 26, 1957: Robert Perry Golic is born in Cleveland. A State Champion wrestler at St. Joseph’s High School, Bob Golic played defensive tackle for his hometown Browns, and was a member of the team that lost back-to-back AFC Championship Games to the Denver Broncos. He and his brother Mike Golic, also a former NFL player, are both hosts of sports-talk shows on radio (although not together), and while Mike does NurtiSystem commercials that show him losing 50 pounds, Bob, using a different diet, has lost 140 and is back to his high-school weight of 245 pounds.

October 26, 1963: Natalie Anne Merchant is born in Jamestown, New York.  She was the lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs -- not to be confused with a capoultra, who leads "Ultra" groups in European soccer.

October 26, 1966: Jeanne Zelasko is born in Cincinnati. She was the host of Fox’s baseball pregame shows from 2001 until its cancellation in 2008, twice taking time off to have children. She now works for MLB network. She is also a survivor of thyroid cancer.

A lot of baseball fans don’t like her, but I do. She knows the game and is a very good interviewer. But at the 2005 All-Star Game in Detroit, she wore an orange dress, to match the host Tigers’ colors. She was pregnant at the time, and orange is not a good color for a maternity dress. But she still did her job well that night, and it certainly wasn’t as poor a choice as the night Hannah Storm, working the 1997 NBA Finals for NBC, did an interview with Dennis Rodman, exposing her unborn child to his weirdness. (As far as I know, both of the children in question are okay.)

October 26, 1967: Keith Lionel Urban is born in Whangerei, New Zealand. At age 6, he moved with his family to Australia and is an Australian citizen. Eventually, he moved to America and became a country singer. He is married to fellow Australian-American Nicole Kidman, which makes him not just a member but an officer of the Lucky Bastards Club.

A lot of people were very upset at country singer Garth Brooks for his “side project,” The Legend of Chris Gaines, in which Brooks “played” Gaines, including doing concerts and TV appearances in character. I liked the idea -- but then, I wasn't find of Brooks' regular persona. I am now convinced that the Gaines character is based on Urban: Gaines, too, was born in 1967 (making him 5 years younger than his portrayer), was born in Australia but grew up in Los Angeles, and dealt with substance abuse at the height of his fame.

October 26, 1973: The Boston Red Sox trade pitcher Ken Tatum and outfielder Reggie Smith to the Cardinals for pitcher Rick Wise and outfielder Bernie Carbo. This could have been one of those rare trades that worked out for both teams: Wise was the leading winner on the Sox rotation that won the 1975 AL Pennant, and Carbo hit a key home run in that year’s World Series; while Smith hit 314 career home runs – 2nd all-time among switch-hitters behind Mickey Mantle at the time of his retirement – and helped his team win 3 Pennants and a World Series.

The problem was that, just as the Cards gave up on Steve Carlton too soon, trading him to the Phillies for Wise, and gave up on Jerry Reuss too soon, sending him to the Dodgers, and now give up on Wise too soon, they will later give up on Smith too soon, trading him to the Dodgers where he and Reuss will team up on the team that dominates the NL West from 1977 to 1988.

October 26, 1976: Miikka Sakari Kiprusoff is born in Turku, Finland. He is the goaltender for the Calgary Flames, and with him making some amazing saves in the Playoffs, they nearly won the 2004 Stanley Cup. His brother Marko has also played in the NHL and now plays in their native Finland.

October 26, 1983: Francisco Liriano is born in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic.  The Minnesota Twins’ lefthander reached the All-Star team in 2006 aged just 22, but an elbow injury has hampered his career ever since.  He now pitches for the Chicago White Sox.

October 26, 1984: Alexandra Pauline Cohen is born in Los Angeles. Of Russian-Jewish descent, "Sasha" Cohen won a Silver Medal in figure skating at the 2006 Winter Olympics, and has since become an actress.  She is definitely not to be confused with the also-Jewish British actor Sacha Baron Cohen, a.k.a. Ali G, Borat, Bruno, and Admiral General Hafez Aladeen.  Unlike Sacha Baron Cohen, Sasha Cohen has class.

October 26, 1985: Time travel is first demonstrated at the Twin Pines Mall (or is that the Lone Pine Mall?) in Hill Valley, California -- or, rather, is dramatized in the film Back to the Future.

The demonstration by Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) was actually filmed at the Puente Hills Mall in Industry, California. Most of the trilogy's scenes were filmed in Los Angeles County, although the Courthouse Square area was a movie set that, for whatever reason, has frequently been struck, not by lightning, but by fire.

Just before the terrorist attack that forces Marty to get in the DeLorean and accidentally get sent back to 1955, Doc Brown tells Marty that he's going 25 years into the future: "I'll get to see who wins the next 25 World Series! Wouldn't that be a nice gift to have for my old age!"

But in the 2nd film, partially set 30 years in the future -- 2015, just 3 years from now -- Marty sees that the Chicago Cubs have won the World Series, beating a Miami-based team whose logo is an alligator (impossible, unless MLB realigns to put the Cubs and Marlins in different leagues/conferences, to say nothing of the Cubs still being cursed), and buys a sports almanac that he can take back to 1985, so he can know the results beforehand and bet on them: "I can't lose!"

Doc warns Marty about how dangerous that can be, and the film's antagonist, Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), steals the DeLorean, and demonstrates that the Doc was right: Old Biff creates an alternate reality where Hill Valley is a mini-Las Vegas, and Biff is a cross between Fat Elvis and Tony Soprano, and, apparently having gotten connections to Richard Nixon, has even gotten the 22nd Amendment repealed so that Nixon is running for a 5th term as President and, according to a newspaper, "Vows to end Vietnam War by 1985." This is remedied at the end of the 2nd film.

Perhaps Marty should have warned the St. Louis Cardinals about what was going to happen in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, starting at Royals Stadium (now Kauffman Stadium) in Kansas City, about 19 hours after his trip back into time. The Cards lead the cross-State Royals 1-0, and need just 3 more outs to win the World Series.

Jorge Orta is thrown out at first base. The instant replay confirms this. Except umpire Don Denkinger blows the call, and calls Orta safe. The next batter, Steve Balboni, pops up, and first baseman Jack Clark can’t handle it, and Balboni singles on his next swing. A passed ball by ex-Royal postseason hero Darrell Porter makes it men on 2nd and 3rd, and Hal McRae is intentionally walked. Dane Iorg steps up, and singles home Orta and Balboni, and the Royals have a 2-1 walkoff win to force a Game 7 at home. The Cardinals are furious. So are their fans. They all think Denkinger stole the World Series from them. They still think so, 26 years later.

There’s just one problem with this theory: There was still one game to go. If the Cardinals had won Game 7, Denkinger’s blown call would have been just a footnote. So Cardinal manager Whitey Herzog should have taken his team into the clubhouse and said, “Men, we got screwed tonight, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. So let’s win this thing tomorrow, and what happened tonight won’t matter.” Instead, the White Rat whined about the call to the media, and let it get into his head, and into his team’s heads.

The shock isn’t that the Cards lost Game 7 11-0. The shock is that the Royals won it by only 11 runs. It is the biggest blowout in Game 7 history, previously reached only by, oddly enough, the 1934 Cardinals when they beat the Detroit Tigers. So, “Cardinal Nation”: Instead of blaming Denkinger for costing you the World Series, how about blaming your manager for not getting your team to shake it off? Or how about blaming your lineup for not hitting a lick? The umpire didn’t cost your team a World Championship: Your team did.

Also on this day, Monta Ellis is born in Jackson, Mississippi. A guard for the Golden State Warriors, "the Mississippi Missile" was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2007.  He now plays for the Milwaukee Bucks.

October 26, 1991: Game 6 of the World Series. The Minnesota Twins even the Series at 3 games each with a 4-3 win over the Atlanta Braves, thanks to Kirby Puckett's great catch and his dramatic home run in the bottom half of the 11th inning. What has been shaping up as one of the best World Series ever will go to a Game 7 that will be worthy of it.

October 26, 1993: Shaquille O'Neal releases his first recording, the rap album Shaq Diesel.  The album sells over a million copies, and the single "(I Know I Got) Skillz" reaches Number 35 on the Billboard magazine Hot 100.  However, Shaq was wise to not quit his day job.

October 26, 1996: Has it really been 16 years? Yes. Yankees 3, Braves 2, clinching the 23rd World Championship, first in 18 years, at Yankee Stadium. The Yanks scored all 3 runs in the bottom of the 3rd, including a triple off Greg Maddux by catcher Joe Girardi.

Now that Girardi is the Yankee manager, it's easy to forget what kind of a player he was.  He was a good defensive catcher, but hitting a triple off Maddux in a World Series game was really unexpected.  It wasn’t quite the U.S. college kids beating the “amateur” hockey players in their 30s put up by the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics, nor was it quite Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson in 1990. But it was a shock. A beautiful shock – which may be the first time Joe Girardi has ever been associated with the word “beautiful.” (Let’s face it, from Casey Stengel’s wrinkles to Billy Martin’s nose, from Joe Torre to Girardi, successful Yankee managers have rarely been good-looking men.)

When Mariano Rivera, then the “bridge” reliever, was on the mound in the 8th, Fox announcer Tim McCarver said, "There's not a lot of secret as to what you're gonna get from Mariano Rivera: A lot of high gas." It would be the next year, when Mo succeeded John Wetteland as the closer, that he developed the cut fastball that made him the greatest relief pitcher of all time.  When Mo got a strikeout to end the 8th, McCarver and Joe Buck wisely didn’t say a word, and let the roar of the crowd be what took them to commercial. Those cheers seemed to contain not a word, but they spoke volumes. Some who were there said that the old Yankee Stadium actually shook at that moment.

An inning later, Wetteland, who became the first reliever ever to save all 4 of his team's wins in a World Series (and remains the only one) and was named MVP, got Mark Lemke to pop up to third base, and Charlie Hayes caught it. As John Sterling said on WABC (the Yankees’ radio station at the time), “Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win!” (He didn’t start adding “(name of series) over!” until 1998.)

Never mind how I felt about the Braves, though like many fans I was already sick of them. This was about the Yankees winning the World Series for the first time since 1978 – and since my parents made me go to bed early in 1977 and ’78, this was the first time I had ever seen the Yankees win a World Series as it happened. And when you live in a town full of Met fans, and see Met fans every day on the local news, and hear all the time about 1969 and 1986, then 18 years really does feel as long as 86 years ended up feeling to Red Sox fans.

Add the fact that a lot of Met fans switched sides, either temporarily (like Joan Hodges, Gil’s wife, and son Gil Jr.) or permanently (like Spike Lee), and the fact that the Yankees’ ticker-tape parade attracted 4 million people, more than attended either of the Mets’ parades, and more than attended the Rangers’ parade in 1994 (have I ever mentioned that the Rangers SUCK?), and this was the most satisfying sports championship I had ever experienced. Even more than the Devils’ first Stanley Cup the year before. More than the various sports titles won by East Brunswick High. Even the football State Championship won, at long last, by E.B. in 2004 cannot top this. The ’98 and ’99 Yanks? Great victories, but ’96 would always been the sweetest sports win of my life.

Or so I thought. More on that in a moment.

Sterling was interviewed on WABC-Channel 7’s Eyewitness News the next day. He was not yet known as the hyper-partisan, victory-yammering “Pa Pinstripe” that he later became; we did not yet think of him as "the Voice of the Yankees" like we did Phil Rizzuto, and generations before thought of Mel Allen. And he knew that this team had won just 92 games in the regular season, faced a tough challenge from the Baltimore Orioles to win the AL East, lost Game 1 of the ALDS to the Texas Rangers and were losing in Game 2 before they came back to win that, Game 3 and Game 4; and then had the Jeffrey Maier incident in Game 1 of the ALCS and lost Game 2 before sweeping 3 in Baltimore, and finally coming back from 2 games to 0 to take the next 4 of the World Series against the Braves.

This Yankee team’s greatness was not in their numbers or in their star power – remember, Derek Jeter was a rookie, so was Jorge Posada (and he wasn’t even the starting catcher yet), and Rivera and Andy Pettitte were both in Year 2 – but in their performance, their courage and their resilience. As George Steinbrenner said afterwards, “They’re battlers, and New York is a city of battlers. You battle for everything in this town: For cabs, for a seat in a restaurant, everything.”

And Sterling summed the ’96 Yankees up: “They’re not a great team, but they’re a team that plays great together.”

Beautiful. Then in 1998, the Yankees became the greatest single-season team of all time.

October 26, 1997: Game 7 of the World Series at whatever the combined Marlins-Dolphins stadium in the Miami suburbs was called at the time. The Cleveland Indians jump out to a 2-0 lead over Florida‚ and are just 2 outs away from winning their first World Series in 49 years. But Jose Mesa, not for the first time nor for the last, blows the save, and the Marlins claw their way back and tie the score in the bottom of the 9th on a sacrifice fly by Craig Counsell. In the last half of the 11th‚ Edgar Renteria gets his 3rd hit of the game‚ driving home Counsell with the winning run‚ as Florida wins Game 7 by a score of 3-2.

This was, after 1962, only the 2nd World Series where neither team won back-to-back games: The Marlins won Games 1, 3, 5 and 7; the Indians won Games 2, 4 and 6. This was also the Series with the greatest extremes of weather: The 4 games in South Florida were the 4 warmest on record for Series games, while the 3 in Cleveland were 3 of the 4 coldest (the previous coldest, in New York in 1976, remains 3rd), and Game 4 is the only Series game to be played in a snowfall except for one in Chicago in 1906.

The Marlins, in just their 4th season of existence (as opposed to the Indians, in their 97th), thus become the fastest team in baseball history to win a World Series title‚ 3 years quicker than the 1969 Mets. Livan Hernandez, the pitcher who fled Cuba (and would soon be followed by his brother Orland “El Duque” Hernandez) is named Most Valuable Player of the Series.

This Series is sweet vindication for manager Jim Leyland, who lost 3 straight NLCS while managing the Pittsburgh Pirates; for Bobby Bonilla, who played for Leyland on those Pirates, bad-attituded his way out of his native New York with the Mets, and flopped the year before with the Baltimore Orioles; for Alex Fernandez, who pitched for the talented Chicago White Sox team that fell just short in 1990, lost the ALCS in ’93 and was screwed over by the strike in ’94, and was injured and unable to pitch in the postseason but his teammates put his Number 32 on their caps; and for Gary Sheffield, who was already gaining a reputation as a bad apple that nobody wanted to keep around for very long despite his obvious talent for power hitting, and this remains his only World Series win.

For the Indians, who hadn’t won a Series since 1948, went from 1954 to 1995 without winning a Pennant, went from 1959 to 1994 without even being in a Pennant race, stood to be the AL’s Wild Card if the standings at the time of the Strike of ’94 had held to the end of the season, lost the ’95 Series despite winning 100 of 144 games in the regular season, lost the ’96 ALDS to an inferior Oriole team, and won just 86 games in this regular season but had defeated the favored Yankees and the Seattle Mariners before this crushing defeat, it is not just a crushing defeat, where they came closer to winning the World Series without doing so than any team ever has except the ’86 Red Sox; but, like the Red Sox, they now have a reputation of being a choking team. They have never shaken it, despite return trips to the postseason in 1998, ’99, 2001 and ’07 – blowing a 2-1 lead in the ’98 ALCS and a 3-1 lead in the ’07 ALCS.

October 26, 1999: Game 3 of the World Series. Andy Pettitte did not have his good stuff, but Tino Martinez, Chad Curtis and Chuck Knoblauch helped the Yankees come from 5-1 down to send the game to extra innings. Curtis led off the bottom of the 10th, and knocked one out for a 6-5 win.

The Yanks wrapped up the sweep, the 25th World Championship, the title of Team of the Decade (it ain’t about Division Titles, Braves fans), and the title, as NBC’s Bob Costas said that next night, of “Most Successful Franchise of the Century.”

October 26, 2000: Game 5 of the World Series at Shea Stadium. Jeter and Bernie Williams homered off Al Leiter. Pettitte and Leiter gave it their all. The game was tied 2-2 in the top of the 9th.

Two outs. Posada on second, Scott Brosius on first. Not great speed on the basepaths. Luis Sojo, playing second base because Knoblauch’s fielding difficulties limited him to DH status, was coming up to bat. Leiter had thrown 141 pitches. A number that would not have caused Catfish Hunter and Tom Seaver to flinch, but by the standards of the 1990s and 2000s, a lot.

Met Manager Bobby Valentine’s choices were not good: A, stick with an exhausted Leiter, who would be pitching on brains, courage and fumes, and pray that he gets the out that sends it to the bottom of the 9th still tied; B, put in Armando Benitez, who led the National League in saves that year and saved Game 3, but also blew Game 1 for Leiter and also blew a Division Series game against the Giants (which the Mets ended up winning anyway), and had previously messed up 2 ALCS games against the Yankees for the Orioles (including the Jeffrey Maier Game); or C, put in John Franco, who was the winning pitcher in Game 3 and also pitched well in Game 4, but would be pitching for the 3rd day in a row, and was 39, and there was a reason Valentine had taken the closer’s job from Franco and given it to Benitez.

Valentine decided a tired Leiter was better than an aging, potentially tired Franco and an inconsistent, unreliable Benitez. Although I frequently accused Valentine of overmanaging, and sometimes outright stupidity, I can’t fault him for this choice; if he had put in the very popular New York native Franco and lost anyway, he might have gotten away with it; but if he had put in the already suspicious Benitez and he blew yet another, Valentine would have been run out of Flushing on the Long Island Railroad.

Leiter threw his 142nd pitch to Sojo. He knocked it up the middle. A Met fan once told me that Rey Ordonez would have stopped this grounder. This Met fan was a fool: Ordonez would not have gotten it. Mike Bordick was the shortstop that night, and he couldn’t quite get it. Base hit for Sojo. Posada came around third. Center fielder Jay Payton’s throw... never made it to Mike Piazza at the plate. It hit Posada in the back. Posada scored the tiebreaking run. The ball bounced off him and toward the backstop. This enabled Brosius to score. It was Yankees 4, Mets 2.

Bottom of the 9th. Two out. The Mets get a man on. Piazza comes up to the plate. If you’re a Met fan, this is the man you want up: The best offensive player the Mets have ever had (cough-steroids-cough), one of the best fastball hitters of his time, power hitter against power pitcher, Mariano Rivera. But if you’re a Yankee Fan, there’s no one you’d rather have on the mound, and there’s no one you’d rather get as the final out. It was similar to the final matchup of the 1978 Boston Tie Party, with Carl Yastrzemski, one of the greatest fastball hitters ever, and the most beloved player in his franchise's history (remember, Sox fans didn't always love Ted Williams), coming up to try to save his club against one of the fastest and most fearsome pitchers ever, Rich "Goose" Gossage.

Yaz popped up to end that game in victory for the Yankees; 22 years later, Piazza got considerably better wood on his pitch, and hit one deep to straightaway center field. For a moment, many of us, myself included, thought, “Uh-oh, no!” Translation: “Tie game, Mets will go on to win it, and take the next 2 in The Bronx, and the Yanks will have choked it away.” Because we had grown up with the Mets as the team that won and the Yanks as the team that fell short. We had the arrogance of Yankee Fans of old, but deep down, in places we don’t like to talk about at parties, we had the fears that came so easily to fans of the Cubs, the Indians, the pre-2004 Red Sox, the pre-2007 Phillies -- and the post-2006 Mets.

But Piazza had juuuust gotten under it. The ball had too much height and not enough distance. Bernie stood on the warning track, it was an easy catch, and it was over.

Jeter became the first player ever to be named Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game and the World Series in the same season. Still, he has never been named MVP of a regular season.

For the first time, the Mets had the chance -- their first, their best, maybe their last -- to beat the Yankees in a Subway Series, and to irrevocably “take over New York.” And while they had their chances and fought hard, in the end, the better team won.

The Yankees have beaten the Mets in a World Series – the other way around has never happened. And it never will. Never, never, never. Or, in the words of Flushing’s own Fran Drescher, “It begins with an N and ends with an A: Nev-a.” As a Yankee Fan said then, “The Yankees have scoreboard over the Mets for all time.”

This was the 26th World Championship. And for those of us who grew up as Yankee Fans during the Mets’ “glory” years of 1984 to 1990, the Dynasty That Never Was, and had to deal with the unearned arrogance of the Flushing Heathen, the filthy bastards, delusional that their 2 titles outweighed our 22 (until 1996; now 27), damn fools to believe that the 1986 Mets could have beaten the Yankees of 1927, 1938, 1941, 1953, 1961 and 1978, and eventually even the 1998 juggernaut... for us, this was the greatest, sweetest moment of them all.

We beat the Mets. And it wasn’t close: All 5 games were close, but winning in 5 games is domination. And we clinched at their place, on their field, at the William A. Shea International Airport, at the Flushing Toilet.

This was the 13th World Series game played at Shea. An unlucky 13th. It was also the last, which no one (not even a wiseass Yankee Fan like me) could have predicted at the time.

There were 25,000 people at Shea chanting “Let’s Go Yankees!” and “We’re Number 1!” Eventually, the owner came out to talk to the press, and he and the announcers couldn’t talk, because the Yankee Fans were so loud, chanting “Thank you, George!” Imagine that, thousands of people saluting George Steinbrenner at Shea Stadium.

I loved it. October 26, 2000 – actually, the final out came just before midnight, so it was really October 27 that we celebrated – remains my favorite moment as a sports fan.

To the Flushing Heathen: I’d tell you to go to hell, but you’re already Met fans. So, instead, you and your 2 long-ago rings can kiss my Pinstriped ass. Or you can kiss my 27 rings, 7 of which came since your ’69 title and 5 of which came after you got lucky in ’86. Yes, you got lucky that the Red Sox had their choke of chokes against you in Game 6.

Sure, the Yankees have had luck. But they have earned all their victories. That’s why every Yankee Fan can, on occasion, say the words of Yankee legend Lou Gehrig: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”

After all, we could have had worse luck, and it would have been all our own fault.

We could have chosen to be Met fans. We chose Yankees. We chose greatness.

October 26, 2002: Game 6 of the World Series, at what was then known as Edison International Field of Anaheim – the former “Big A” briefly nicknamed “the Big Ed.” The San Francisco Giants lead the Series 3 games to 2, and lead 5-0 after 6½ innings, thankst to home runs by Shawon Dunston and Barry Bonds. The Anaheim Angels score 3 runs in the 7th to make it 5-3, but the Giants are still just 9 outs away from their first World Championship since moving to San Francisco 45 years earlier, their first in any city since they were in New York 48 years earlier.

But they choke. The Angels, having already scored the 3 runs in the 7th, score 3 more in the 8th on a home run by Scott Spiezio, and win, 6-5. The Series will go to a Game 7 in Anaheim tomorrow night.

October 26, 2004: The Red Sox win Game 3 of the World Series with a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Memorial Stadium. Finally making his first World Series start, Pedro Martinez hurls 7 shutout innings to put the Sox up 3-games-to-0. Manny Ramirez homers and drives in a pair of runs for the Sox‚ while Larry Walker hits one out for the Cards. The Sox can achieve their 86-year-old dream tomorrow night.

Also on this day, Bobby Avila dies at age 79. A three-time All-Star, the second baseman was not the first major league player born in Mexico – that was Red Sox outfielder Mel Almada in 1933, an outfielder who batted .284 over 7 seasons in the bigs – but he may have been the best, at least until Fernando Valenzuela came along, and the best hitter until Vinny Castilla arrived.

In 1954, despite a broken thumb, he won the AL batting title with a .341 average, and helped the Indians win the Pennant. But it was the NL’s batting champion, Willie Mays, who was the star of the World Series as the Giants swept the heavily-favored Tribe.

October 26, 2005: The Chicago White Sox shut out the Astros‚ 1-0 at Minute Maid Park in Houston‚ to sweep the World Series and win their first World Championship since 1917, the first for either Chicago team in that time. Freddy Garcia gets credit for the win‚ as Jermaine Dye drives home the game's only run. Dye is named the Series MVP.

Ozzie Guillen, a native of Venezuela, becomes the first foreign-born manager to win a World Series. The Astros, in the Series for the first time in their 44-season history, are still, through 2012, winless in World Series games.

October 26, 2008: In a 10-2 rout of the Rays in Game 4 of the World Series, right-hander Joe Blanton hits a home run, the first pitcher to do so in a Series game in 34 years. Ken Holtzman of the A's was the last hurler to accomplish the feat when he went deep off Andy Messersmith of the Dodgers in 1974.