Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Yankees Dent Angels' Halos

The Yankees really needed a win last night. And with Jameson Taillon as the starting pitcher, I had as much confidence in that as I have in New Jersey Transit to properly manage evening rush hour out of Penn Station.

Indeed, Taillon did not pitch well. He went 5 1/3rd innings, alowing 5 runs on 9 hits, albeit with only 1 walk.

It was the kind of start that would lead you to think, "At least Brian Cashman has assembled a Yankee lineup strong enough to outscore that." Except, usually, it isn't strong enough to do that. 

But a funny thing happened on the way to defeat: The lineup was strong enough this time. Smart enough, too.

Gary Sanchez hit a home run in the 1st inning. Then came the 2nd inning. With 1 out, Gio Urshela drew a walk. Miguel Andujar singled, sending Urshela to 3rd. Brett Gardner hit a drive that hooked foul into the left field seats, where it was caught by Scott Schebler. He should have let it drop into the stands, because Urshela tagged up and scored. Yes, smart baserunning by the Yankees. Ah yes, I remember it well. Then DJ LeMahieu singled home Andujar. Then Aaron Judge hit a home run. 5-2 Yankees.

Shohei Ohtani, the Angels' pitching and slugging star, hit a home run to make it 5-3 in the 3rd. But Andujar led off the 4th with a home run. This was afollowed by a walk by Brett Gardner. After flyouts by LeMahieu and Judge, Sanchez doubled Gardner home. Giancarlo Stanton drew a walk. (Yes, he did.) Luke Voit doubled Sanchez home. Gleyber Torres singled Stanton and Voit home. 10-3 Yankees.

Ohtani hit another homer in the 5th, but an Andujar double capped the scoring in the 6th. Between them, Nestor Cortes and Albert Abreu pitched 2 2/3rds scoreless innings, allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk. Yankees 11, Angels 5. WP: Taillon (3-4). No Save. LP: Andrew Heaney (4-6).

The Yankees had dented the Angels' halos. It was the 1st time the Yankees have scored double digits in a game since April 30. That's too long.

The series continues tonight. Ohtani will be pitching for the Angels this time, while Domingo German toes the rubber for the Pinstripes. Let's show the baseball world what the Yankees can do to Ohtani, this season's golden story so far.

Scores On This Historic Day: June 30, 1906, The Pure Food and Drug Act

June 30, 1906: President Theodore Roosevelt signs the Pure Food and Drug Act into law. This was one of the most important pieces of legislation in American history, and it may have saved your life and mine.

It was necessary because, with the growth of American cities in the 19th Century, the time food took to get from farm to table got longer, and food spoiled and became poisonous before many people could get to it. Methods of preventing this including chemicals that were every bit as poisonous as the natural process would have been, including alcohol, opium and cocaine.

(Coca-Cola was invented in 1886, and, yes, it did contain a small amount of cocaine at the time, about 9 milligrams per glass. A typical "line" of cocaine is between 50 and 75 milligrams. In 1903, they dropped the ingredient for something safer -- but hardly completely safe.)

On February 25, 1906, Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle was published. A Socialist, Sinclair had hoped it would lead to workers rising up to object to the poor working conditions in places designed for the production in food, including the place where he did his research, the stockyards and meat-packing plants of Chicago.

But "The Law of Unintended Consequences" reared its head, and the book's readers were horrified not by the working conditions, but the actual preparation of the food products. Six months later, the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed by Congress and signed by Roosevelt.

Did Sinclair think, "Oh well, some good came out of my book"? No, he thought it offered protection to the food bosses he was trying to bring down. He was furious.

Anyway, the Pure Food and Drug Act created the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA. It banned foreign and interstate traffic in adulterated or mislabeled food and drug products. It resulted in federal inspection of food, especially meat. It required that active ingredients be placed on the label of the packaging of food and drugs.

It also set definitions for certain foods, and if a food did not meet that definition, the company selling it legally could not call it that.

For example, the Taylor Provisions Company of Trenton, New Jersey had created and sold a product it called "Taylor's Ham." But with the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act, their product did not meet the new legal definition of "ham": "Pork from a leg cut that has been preserved by wet or dry curing, with or without smoking."

So they changed the name of the product to "pork roll," and they have sold it under that name ever since. Trenton is in Central Jersey, and in Central Jersey and South Jersey, most people call the product what the inventors and largest producers of it call it: "Pork roll." But most people in North Jersey still call it "Taylor ham."

*

June 30, 1906 was a Saturday. The NFL, the NBA and the NHL hadn't been founded yet. In fact, those sports had only barely approached professionalism. But there were games played in what we would now call Major League Baseball:

* The New York Highlanders were supposed to play the Boston Americans at the Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston, but the game was rained out. It was moved to July 6, as part of a doubleheader. The Highlanders swept it, 4-0 with Jack Chesbro outpitching Bill Dinneen, and 8-0 with Doc Newton outpitching Cy Young. The Americans became the Boston Red Sox in 1907, and the Highlanders became the New York Yankees in 1913.

* The New York Giants lost to the Boston Beaneaters, 4-3 at the Polo Grounds. The Boston team of the National League went through several name changes, before settling on "Braves" in 1912 -- and even then, they tried "Bees" from 1936 to 1940, before going back to "Braves," and then moving to Milwaukee in 1953 and Atlanta in 1966. The Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958.

* The Brooklyn Superbas beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-4 at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia. They became the Dodgers in 1911, then the Robins for manager Wilbert Robinson from 1914 to 1931, and then the Dodgers again. They moved to Los Angeles in 1958.

* The Philadelphia Athletics beat the Washington Senators, 6-5 at Boundary Field in Washington. Both Boundary Field at the current version of the Giants' Polo Grounds burned down in 1911, and were replaced that year, by Griffith Stadium and the modern Polo Grounds, respectively.

* The Chicago White Sox swept a doubleheader from the Cleveland Naps at League Park in Cleveland. The Cleveland team was named for their manager and 2nd baseman, Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie. When he left after the 1914 season, they became the Cleveland Indians. The South Siders won the 1st game 6-4 in 12 innings, and the 2nd game 12-11.

* The Detroit Tigers swept a doubleheader from the St. Louis Browns at Bennett Park in Detroit, It was torn down in 1911, and the ballpark that would eventually be named Tiger Stadium was built on the site. They won the opener 2-1, and the nightcap 3-2.

* The Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds, 2-1 at West Side Park in Chicago.

* The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-3 at Robison Field in St. Louis. That's "Robison," named for the brothers who then owned the Cardinals, not "Robinson."

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Angels and Dirty Faces

Actor James Cagney was a Yankee Fan. Although he made his name as a song-and-dance man, he is best remembered for his roles in gangster movies. One, made in 1938, was titled Angels With Dirty Faces, and introduced the characters that became known at various times as the Dead End Kids, the East Side Kids and the Bowery Boys.

Last night, the Yankees began a 4-game home series with the Los Angels. The "Dirty Faces" line has been used in connection with them many times. Lately, though, it's the Yankees who have looked dirty. Here's where they rank in Major League Baseball with runners in scoring position this season:

Batting average: .216, 29th out of 30.
On-base percentage: .627, 29th.
Slugging percentage: .304, 30th.
Hits: 115, 30th.
Runs batted in (RBI): 160, 30th.
Double plays: 28, 1st
Home runs: 11, 27th.

Home runs are the category at which you would expect a Brian Cashman-built team to excel. Not with RISP.

One of the big stories of the 2021 season thus far has been the performance of Shohei Ohtani, the Angels' Japanese pitcher and slugger. I saw his 1st performance at Yankee Stadium, on May 27, 2018. He didn't bat, and got outpitched by Masahiro Tanaka.

Tanaka was not available for the Yankees last night. Michael King was the starting pitcher. Letting him start a game against major league competition is never a good idea. He didn't get out of the 5th inning, allowing 3 runs (2 of them earned) on 6 hits and 2 walks. Lucas Luetge and Chad Green weren't a whole lot better, although Nestor Cortes pitched a scoreless 9th inning.

This time, Ohtani didn't pitch, but he did bat. He only got 1 hit, but it was a home run off King in the 1st inning. And that pretty much ended it. Gio Urshela hit a home run for the Yankees in the 2nd, and Giancarlo Stanton hit one in the 6th. But the Yankees wasted a leadoff walk in the 4th, and a single with 1 out in the 7th, and had their side struck out in the 9th, when they were only down by 2 runs: Stanton, Luke Voit and Gleyber Torres.

Angels 5, Yankees 3. WP: Jose Suarez (3-1). SV: Raisel Iglesias (14). LP: King (0-4). The Yankees are now 40-38, 7 1/2 games out of 1st place, 6 games out of a Wild Card berth.

Dirty faces. Ugly results.

The series continues tonight. Jameson Taillon starts against Andrew Heaney. Oy vey.

Scores On This Historic Day: June 29, 1950, The Miracle On Grass

June 29, 1950: The U.S. national soccer team beats England, 1-0 at Estádio Independência in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in the 1950 World Cup.

The England team had some of the greatest players in the world, including Stanley Matthews, "the Wizard of Dribble." But Matthews was kept out of this game, and that may have made the difference. Among England stars who did play in this game were Matthews' Blackpool teammate Stan Mortenson, Jackie Milburn of Newcastle United, Billy Wright of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Laurie Hughes of Liverpool, Tom Finney of Preston North end, Wilf Mannion of Middlesbrough, and goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn of Tottenham Hotspur.

Counting Bill Nicholson of Tottenham, who was much more honored for his managing of that team than for his playing, 6 of the players -- the others being Wright, Milburn, Matthews, Finney and Mannion -- would have statues dedicated outside their teams' stadiums.

The U.S. team was taken from various clubs in the top league in the country at the time, the American Soccer League. There was nothing like a "first division" as in European or South American countries. And none of them was still in college, although they weren't over the hill: One player was 38, the rest were between the ages of 21 and 31, coming from ASL clubs, including Brookhattan in New York, Philadelphia Nationals, Ponta Delgada outside Boston, and Simpkins-Ford in St. Louis.

The U.S. got off to a good start in their 1st game, against Spain, scoring in the 17th. But the defense collapsed late, allowing 3 goals between the 81st and 89th minutes, and Spain won, 3-1. For the England game, Frank Borghi was in goal. In front of him were the fullbacks, Harry Keough on the right, Joe Maca on the left. In front of them were the halfbacks: Right to left, Ed McIlvenny, Charlie Colombo and Walter Bahr. Then the forwards: Right to left, Frank Wallace, Gino Pariani, Joe Gaetjens, John Souza and Ed Souza. Bahr was usually the Captain of this team, but, since he was British, McIlvenny was chosen as Captain for this game.

As a British citizen familiar with the English game, as well as that of the country he had adopted, U.S. manager William Jeffrey told the press, "We have no chance," and called his team "sheep ready to be slaughtered." One of the English national newspapers, the Daily Express, wrote, "It would be fair to give the U.S. three goals of a start." Indeed, England's 1st half attack was so fierce that, if even half of their attempts had gone in, they would have been up at least 4-0.

Then came the 37th minute. McIlvenny made a throw-in. Bahr took it, and shot from 25 yards out. Williams moved to his right to get it. But before he could, Gaetjens threw himself forward, and headed it in to Williams' left.
Joe Gaetjens

One-nil to the Stars and Stripes. Years, later Bahr said, "The overwhelming majority was Brazilians, but they rooted for us the entire time. We didn't realize why until after. They were hoping we would beat England and that Brazil would not have to play England in the final game." (In hindsight, this may have been counterproductive, as Brazil also suffered a tremendous upset, losing the Final to neighboring Uruguay.)

The Americans' confidence had been seriously boosted, and they came out for the 2nd half like a house afire. They had another scoring chance in the 54th, but couldn't do anything with it. In the 59th, Generoso Dattilo, the Italian referee, awarded England a direct free kick, but Borghi saved Mortensen's shot. England was dominant for a while, and it wasn't until the 74th minute that the U.S. could get another shot.

In the 82nd minute, soccer history hung in the balance. Mortensen drove toward the penalty area, and Charlie Colombo brought him down. The way Keough described it, it sounds like Colombo should have been sent off. (No red and yellow cards in those days, but a player could be sent off for an egregious foul.) But the film cameras didn't get the foul into the highlights, so there's no way to know for sure.

England pleaded for the awarding of a penalty, but Dattilo didn't buy it, saying the foul was outside the area. He awarded a free kick. Ramsey took it, and Mullen headed it toward the goal. Borghi tipped it away. Again, the England players appealed to Dattilo, saying the ball had gone in, but he ruled that it hadn't crossed the line.

In the 85th, Peewee Wallace managed to draw Williams out of position, giving himself an empty net. But Ramsey managed to get in and clear his shot off the line.

Without much stoppage time, Dattilo blew his whistle. Final score: America 1, England 0. Or, as would be said in soccer circles, England 0-1 USA. No "Man of the Match" was given. Clearly, it was Borghi, who kept it from being about 7-1 in England's favor.

No one could believe it. Contrary to what we would expect today, not only was the game not broadcast live to the U.K. on BBC television, it wasn't even broadcast around the world on BBC radio. When the BBC reporter delivered the final score that night (it would have been around 10:00 PM, London time), many people remembered hearing it, and thinking it was an error: That it must have been England that won 1-0.

And in America? It was barely reported at all. Since several players were from St. Louis, Dent McSkimming of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wanted to cover it. He couldn't talk the paper into covering his expenses. So he applied for "vacation" time, paid his own way, and, when he got there, he discovered that he was the only American reporter at the game.

Soccer was so low on the totem pole of American sports at the time, the Post-Dispatch was one of the few papers to report the result at all. Not only had The New York Times refused to send a reporter, but, when they got the result from the Associated Press wire report, they refused to print it, figuring the report of the upset was a hoax.

The World Cup went on. On July 2, the Americans were knocked out of the tournament, losing 5-2 to Chile in Recife. And England fell to Spain 1-0 at the Estadio Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro. Spain thus won Group 2, and only the 4 Group winners advanced to a knockout round.

The 1-0 win over England has been nicknamed "The Miracle Match." In a nod to the U.S. hockey upset over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics, known as "The Miracle On Ice," this game has been called "The Miracle On Grass." Given how many shots Borghi had to stop, Belo Horizonte '50 was much closer to being a miracle than Lake Placid '80.

The U.S. and England have played only 1 World Cup match since, a 1-1 draw in Bloemfontain, South Africa in 2010.

The Miracle On Grass was hardly seen then, and it has hardly been seen since. But it might just be the greatest upset in American sports history. Not the most satisfying -- that remains the Miracle On Ice -- but the greatest.

*

June 29, 1950 was a Thursday. It was the off-season for the NFL, the NBA and the NHL. There wasn't quite a full slate of Major League Baseball games played that day:

* The New York Yankees lost to the Washington Senators, 12-7 at the old Yankee Stadium. The Yanks jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the 1st inning, including a home run by Cliff Mapes. But the Senators scored 6 runs in the 4th, including a home run by Irv Noren, whom the Yankees would later acquire. Joe DiMaggio went 0-for-3 with a walk. Joe Ostrowski was the Yanks' starting pitcher, and didn't get out of the 2nd inning, while Tom Ferrick didn't make it out of the 4th.

* In what was then baseball's biggest rivalry, the New York Giants beat the Brooklyn Dodgers, 11-5 at Ebbets Field. Eddie Stanky hit a home run, and Hank Thompson got 3 hits. The Dodgers got 2 home runs from Jackie Robinson and 1 from Billy Cox, neither really a home run hitter. But the Giants scored 4 in the 8th and 3 in the 9th to take it. 

* Boston played Philadelphia in each League. In the National League, the Boston Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 3-2 at Braves Field in Boston.

* In the American League, a football score developed. The Boston Red Sox beat the Philadelphia Athletics 22-14 at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. Here's the damage: It was 6-4 Sox after 1 inning, 14-7 after 2, 15-7 after 4, 16-8 after 5, 18-9 after 6, 20-12 after 7, 20-14 after 8 and 22-14 after 9. As you might guess, Ted Williams hit a home run for the Sox, going 2-for-6 with 6 RBIs. Matt Batts had 4 RBIs, and Bobby Doerr 3.

The A's didn't hit any home runs, but Bob Dillinger, their leadoff hitter and 3rd baseman went 5-for-6 with 3 RBIs. As far as I know, "Duke" was no relation to Depression-era gangster John Dillinger, but he was a thief: In each of the previous 3 seasons, he led the AL in stolen bases, and batted .306 over 6 major league seasons. Elmer Valo and Billy Hitchcock also had 3 RBIs for the A's.

* The Chicago White Sox beat the Detroit Tigers, 7-3 at Briggs Stadium (later renamed Tiger Stadium) in Detroit.

* In another arch-rivalry game, the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

* The Cleveland Indians beat the St. Louis Browns, 4-1 at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis.

* And the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates were not scheduled for the day.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Scores On This Historic Day: June 28, 1969, The Stonewall Uprising

June 28, 1969: New York City policemen raid the Stonewall Inn at 51 Christopher Street, off Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. It starts out as a typical raid of a bar for permitting homosexual activity.

It doesn't end that way. The "paddy wagons" take too long to get there, preventing a mass arrest. This allowed a crowd to gather outside, angry that what would eventually be called "the gay community," which had long had a major presence in "The Village," was being picked on again. Finally, as one newspaper put it, "This time, the fairies fought back."

For years, the pro-police New York media called it "The Stonewall Riot." Eventually, it became better known as "The Stonewall Uprising," and is often considered the birth of the modern gay rights movement. This is a bit unfair to the people who had already been in that movement, so it's better to say that it was the event that moved the movement into the mainstream of American life.

The original Stonewall Inn opened in 1930, at 91 7th Avenue South, as a speakeasy during Prohibition, so it had been regularly raided from the beginning. In 1934, with Prohibition ended, it moved to its more familiar location. A fire ended this establishment in 1964.

In 1966, 3 organized crime figures (The Village had previously been known as an Italian neighborhood, and Mafia activity was rampant there) bought the property, and turned it into a gay bar, thinking they could blackmail closeted wealthy patrons. It probably wouldn't be remembered today if it wasn't raided 3 years later, but it also hosted drug sales, and that was really what got the vice squad sent in.

The owners never reopened the bar after the Uprising. The space was used over the next few years by a deli, a Chinese restaurant, and a shoe store. In 1991, new owners opened a gay bar, and named it "Stonewall." The name had not only survived the original bar, but had surpassed it in importance.

The bar was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, and declared a National Historic Landmark in 2000. It closed again in 2006, due to mismanagement. New owners renovated it and reopened it in 2007, and they embrace its historic significance.

On June 28, 1970, the 1st Gay Pride parade marched from the Stonewall site to Sheep Meadow in Central Park. As a result, the parade is annually held on the last Saturday in June, and gay Americans now celebrate June as Pride Month. This was aided by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, striking down all State bans on same-sex marriage, announced on June 26, 2015, right before the anniversary.

*

June 28, 1969 was a Saturday. This was the off-season for the NFL, the NBA, the ABA and the NHL. But a full slate of Major League Baseball games was played that day:

* The New York Yankees lost to the Cleveland Indians, 7-3 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Despite 2 hits each from Joe Pepitone and Frank Fernandez, the post-Mickey Mantle Yanks couldn't get anything going, and starting pitcher Bill Burbach couldn't get out of the 1st inning.

* The New York Mets lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-4 at Shea Stadium, a blip on their march to their 1st World Championship.

* The Philadelphia Phillies beat the Montreal Expos, 13-8 at Jarry Park in Montreal.

* The Baltimore Orioles beat the Detroit Tigers, 6-4 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. This was a step toward the O's succeeding the Tigers as American League Champions.

* The Washington Senators beat the Boston Red Sox, 4-3 at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington. Ken McMullen hit a walkoff home run in the 10th inning.

* The San Francisco Giants beat the Cincinnati Reds, 12-5 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati.

* The Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals, their arch-rivals and the 2-time defending National League Champions, 3-1 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

* The Kansas City Royals beat the Minnesota Twins, 7-4 at Kansas City Municipal Stadium.

* The Atlanta Braves beat the Houston Astros, 5-1 at the Astrodome in Houston.

* Somebody forgot to tell the expansion San Diego Padres that you gotta come out of the clubhouse to play the ballgame. The Los Angeles Dodgers beat them 19-0 at San Diego Stadium. The Dodgers scored 10 runs in the top of the 3rd inning, and Don Drysdale pitched a 5-hit shutout. But injuries were taking their toll, and he retired before the season ended, only 33 years old.

* The expansion Seattle Pilots beat the California Angels, 3-0 at Anaheim Stadium. Rich Rollins hit a home run. Fred Talbot went 8 innings, allowing 7 hits, and Diego Segui pitched the 9th inning. I guess Fred Talbot smoked them inside.

* And the Chicago White Sox beat the Oakland Athletics, 6-2 at the Oakland Coliseum.

Scores On This Historic Day: June 28, 1914, The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand

Let me begin this entry by saying that I won't be doing this series for November 11, 1918, the day of the Armistice that ended World War I. I can't: There were no games. The baseball season was over. It was a Monday, before the founding of the NFL, so no pro football. It was long before the founding of the NBA. And the NHL did not begin its 1918-19 season until December 21.

But I can do it for the event that turned the war from probable to inevitable:

June 28, 1914: Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, are assassinated in Sarajevo, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The Empire then stretched from the Alps to the Black Sea, but had so many different ethnicities under its domain that it was hard to keep it together. Franz Ferdinand, 50, was the heir presumptive to the throne, the nephew of the Emperor, Franz Josef, 83. Franz Ferdinand was no friend to the Serbs: At various times, he called them "pigs," "thieves," "murderers" and "scoundrels."

Sophie, 46, was a German princess, but not of dynastic rank, and so the Emperor refused to permit the marriage. A compromise was worked out: Franz Ferdinand could marry Sophie only if he renounced the right of succession to any of their descendants.

In 1913, Franz Ferdinand had been named inspector-general of the imperial military. He was visiting Sarajevo, with Sophie, to inspect Austrian troops there. Six members of the Black Hand, terrorists trying to establish an independent "Greater Serbia," prepared to assassinate him to make their point.

At 10:15 AM local time, Nedeljko Čabrinović threw a bomb that bounced off the Archduke's car, a 1911 Gräf & Stift 28/32 PS Double Phaeton. The car behind it ran over it as it exploded, wounding 20 people but killing none.

The Archduke and Archduchess arrived at the Town Hall for a reception with the Mayor, Fehim Čurčić. In his speech at the reception, the Archduke thanked the people of Sarajevo "as I see in them an expression of their joy at the failure of the attempt at assassination."

Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb a few weeks short of his 20th birthday, learned that the 1st attempt had failed. He was determined to make a 2nd attempt. Knowing the route of the motorcade would be on the Appel Quay, along the Miljacka River, he stood in front of Schiller's delicatessen, adjacent to the Latin Bridge.

The Archduke's driver, Leopold Lojka, made a right turn, and was told that he should have turned left. He stopped, and began to turn the car around -- right in front of Princip. At 11:00 AM -- the time throughout most of Europe, 10 AM in London, 5 AM on the U.S. East Coast -- the would-be assassin had his chance, lunged forward, and fired 2 shots. Franz Ferdinand was hit in the neck, Sophie in the abdomen.

Franz Ferdinand knew he was doomed, and called out to his wife, "Sophie, Sophie! Don't die! Live for our children!" But she was already dead. Asked about his own condition, he said, "It is nothing." It wasn't: He was pronounced dead at 11:30.

Princip was unrepentant. At his trial, he said, "I am a Yugoslav nationalist, aiming for the unification of all Yugoslavs, and I do not care what form of state, but it must be freed from Austria."
Princip's mug shot

On July 23, the imperial government issued the "July Ultimatum": If, within 48 hours, the semi-autonomous Serbian government did not crack down on the Black Hand, Austrian troops would come in and do so. The Serbian government did not crack down on the Black Hand, and on July 28, Austria declared war on Serbia. If that had been the end of it, Austrian would have won what would have remained an internal uprising.

That was not the end of it. The Serbs appealed to their allies, the Russian Empire. On July 31, Czar Nicholas II ordered mobilization. Had that been the end of it, Russia likely would have won the war, the Austro-Hungarian Empire would have been broken up, a united Slavic nation would have been formed in the Balkans, and Russia would have emerged as perhaps the strongest nation on the European continent, on a level with France and Germany.

That was not the end of it. The German Empire came to the aid of their neighbor and linguistic brother Austria. On August 1, Kaiser Wilhelm II -- a cousin of Czar Nicholas -- declared war on Russia. If that had been the end of it, Germany vs. Russia would have been a brutal war, but Russia's superior numbers would not have saved them against Germany's more advanced military, and the German Empire would have taken big parts of the Russian one, including Poland, and emerged as perhaps the strongest nation in the world, at the very least on the same level as the British Empire and the United States of America.

That was not the end of it. Also on August 1, France mobilized in support of its ally, Russia. On August 3, Germany declared war on France. If that had been the end of it, it would have been a two-front war, but Germany would probably have beaten France, as it had in 1870, and as its predecessor nation, the Holy Roman Empire, had in 1815.

That was not the end of it. On August 4, in support of allies France and Russia, the British Empire declared war on Germany. Britain's King George V was a cousin of both the Kaiser and the Czar: All 3 were grandsons of Queen Victoria.

Everyone thought "The Great War" would be over by Christmas. Instead, in September, because the British were there to support the French, a stalemate developed on the Western Front, and Germany couldn't redirect troops to assist those on the Eastern Front.

Emperor Franz Joseph died on November 21, 1916. He was succeeded by a grandnephew, who took the throne as Charles I, Emperor of Austria, and Karl IV, King of Hungary, in the "Dual Monarchy."

America entered the war on April 6, 1917, after Germany began attacking American ships aiding the Allies, and after it attempted to get Mexico into the war on its side. (This failed.) Russia collapsed, and there were 2 revolutions in 1917. The 1st, in March, overthrew the Czar, and attempted to establish a republic. The 2nd, in November, overthrew that, and the new government of Vladimir Lenin was Communist.

He took Russia out of the war on March 3, 1918. With the Eastern Front rendered unnecessary, the Germans, themselves on the verge of collapse, could throw everything onto the Western Front, and were about to win when American troops were finally able to enter combat on June 1.

On November 11, 1918, 4 months after Lenin ordered the execution of the Czar and his entire family, the Germans surrendered. The Great War, the World War, "The War to End All Wars," was over. There were over 10 million military personnel killed, and at least that many civilians. New nations were created, including an independent Poland, and the combined Slavic nation the conspirators of June 1914 wanted, named Yugoslavia.

Most of them were not around to appreciate this. 
Most of the conspirators were under age 20, and considered minors, and not executed, but that didn't necessarily keep them alive long enough to see the war's end. Veljko Čubrilović, Danilo Ilić and Mihajlo "Miško" Jovanović were executed by hanging on February 3, 1915. Čabrinović died in prison of tuberculosis on January 20, 1916, age 20. Just 23 days later, Mayor Čurčić also died of tuberculosis, at 50. 

Trifun Grabež also died in prison of tuberculosis, on October 21, 1916. Princip would also die of tuberculosis, on April 28, 1918. A prison psychiatrist who examined Princip wrote he believed the World War was bound to happen, independent of his actions, and that he "cannot feel himself responsible for the catastrophe."

Lojka died in 1926, at 39, but I can't find a cause of death. To the end of his life, he claimed to still hear the voices telling him he had made a wrong turn.

Vaso Čubrilović, Veljko's brother, at 17 the youngest of the conspirators, lived to see the end of World War I. and was then released. So was Cvjetko PopovićWhen Nazi Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, Vaso was arrested, and sent to a concentration camp. He survived that, too. Popović lived until 1980. Vaso was the last survivor of the events, dying on June 11, 1990 -- not quite living to see the breakup of Yugoslavia and the awful multi-front civil war that followed.

Both the death car and Princip's pistol are now in the Museum of Military History in Vienna, the capital of the Republic of Austria.

In 2014, the BBC began its commemorations of the Centennial of World War I. Among its productions was something unimaginable in 1914: Actors playing the leading figures in the buildup to the war, engaging in a rap battle: Princip, Franz Joseph, Nicholas II, Wilhelm II and George V. A figure playing Field Marshal Joseph Joffre represented France, but, oddly, had no lines in the battle.

Except for the Czar, played by a much larger, scarier-looking man, the actors looked the part and had the right accents. But I'm still not sure if the actor playing Franz Joseph was an actual old man, or a younger guy in makeup. There was also nobody representing the other countries that got in: No Wilson for America, no Robert Borden for Canada, no Andrew Fisher for Australia, no King Victor Emmanuel III for Italy, and no Sultan Mehmed V or General Mustafa Kemal Atatürk for the Ottoman Empire.

*

June 28, 1914 was a Sunday. This was before the founding of the NFL, the NBA or the NHL. There was a National Hockey Association and a Pacific Coast Hockey Association, the former with a roster of teams entirely in Canada, the latter with teams in Seattle and Portland, but this was the off-season for both leagues. There were Major League Baseball games played that day, including in the upstart Federal League:

* The Detroit Tigers beat the Cleveland Naps, 6-4 at Navin Field in Detroit. When Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie, the Cleveland manager and 2nd baseman, requested a trade after the season, the Naps changed their name to the Cleveland Indians. Navin Field would be renamed Briggs Stadium in 1938 and Tiger Stadium in 1961.

* The Chicago White Sox swept a doubleheader from the St. Louis Browns at Comiskey Park in Chicago, winning both games in 10 innings. The Pale Hose won the opener 2-1, and the nightcap 3-2.

* The following American League teams did not play on the day: The New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Philadelphia Athletics and the Washington Senators.

* The Cincinnati Reds swept a doubleheader from the Pittsburgh Pirates at Redland Field in Cincinnati, which was renamed Crosley Field in 1934. The Reds won the 1st game 7-6, and the 2nd game 1-0.

* A doubleheader was split at Robison Field in St. Louis. The St. Louis Cardinals won the 1st game 6-0. The Chicago Cubs won the 2nd game, 8-5.

* The following National League teams did not play on the day: The New York Giants, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Boston Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies.

* In the Federal League, a doubleheader was split at Federal Park in Indianapolis. The Kansas City Packers won the 1st game 2-0. The Indianapolis Hoosiers won the 2nd game 8-7.

* The Chicago Whales beat the St. Louis Terriers, 7-3 at Handlan's Park in St. Louis.

* The following Federal League teams did not play on the day: The Brooklyn Tip-Tops, the Baltimore Terrapins, the Buffalo Blues and the Pittsburgh Rebels.

Yankees Take Walk of Shame Out of Fenway

Unfortunately, I was right: One does not simply walk into Fenway. There is an evil there that does not sleep, and with the men currently wearing Yankee uniforms, we could not do this.

And now, three games later, the New York Yankees are taking a walk of shame out of Fenway Park.

The 1st pitch that alleged ace Gerrit Cole threw yesterday was hit for a home run. Later in the inning, he allowed a 3-run home run. The Yankees were down 4-0, and, given the way they've been hitting, the game was already over. 

The Yankees had men on 1st and 2nd with 1 out in the 3rd, but didn't score. They didn't get another chance until the 6th, by which point it was 6-0 Boston. DJ LeMahieu led off with a single, and Aaron Judge hit a home run.

They loaded the bases with 1 out in the 7th, but the heroes of the 6th flopped: DJLM struck out, and Judge popped up.

Luis Cessa should not be pitching in the major leagues. He pitched a scoreless 6th, but allowed another run in the 7th. Brooks Kriskie should not be pitching in the major leagues. He allowed 2 more runs in the 8th.

With 2 out in the 9th, Clint Frazier drew a walk, and advanced to 2nd on defensive indifference. But Gary Sanchez struck out to end it.

Red Sox 9, Yankees 2. WP: Eduardo Rodriguez (6-4). No save. LP: Cole (8-4).

Over these 3 games, the Yankees were outscored 18-7. Are the Red Sox cheating again? Even if they are, it doesn't matter: The Yankees should be putting up more of a fight than this.

Instead, they are now 40-37, 6 1/2 games (6 in the loss column) behind the 1st place Red Sox in the American League Eastern Division. And 5 games out of the AL's 2nd Wild Card berth in the Playoffs.

They come home to face the Los Angeles Angels -- and then a City Series against the Mets.

As I said earlier in the Boston series: I have seen the Yankees play worse, but I have never seen them play this stupidly. They appear to have the talent. But it isn't working.

The fan base finally seems to be accepting that general manager Brian Cashman bears responsibility for this debacle, as field manager Aaron Boone does. But it looks like operating owner Hal Steinbrenner is committed to both of them, at least through the end of this season.

Oy.

Scores On This Historic Day: June 28, 1911, The Polo Grounds Opens

June 28, 1911: The most familiar version of the Polo Grounds opens.

"Most familiar version"? Let me explain.

In 1880, the New York Metropolitans began playing baseball at a polo field owned by newspaper publisher James Gordon Bennett, between 110th and 112th Street, and 5th and 6th Avenue. Since baseball fields, like English soccer fields, were usually called "grounds" in those days, it became known as the Polo Grounds.

In 1882, the Metropolitans joined the American Association. In 1883, the Troy Haymakers of the National League left the Albany area for Manhattan, moved into the Polo Grounds, and became the New York Gothams. In 1886, following a big win, manager Jim Mutrie was overheard calling them "my big boys, my Giants." And they were the New York Giants thereafter. The Metropolitans won the AA Pennant in 1884, and the Giants won the NL Pennant in 1888. In 1883 and again in 1887, Harvard and Yale played each other in football on Thanksgiving Day at the original Polo Grounds.

In 1886, the Metropolitans -- yes, they were called the Mets for short -- didn't like groundsharing, and moved to the St. George Cricket Grounds on Staten Island, which, in today's terms, was roughly in the parking lot between the St. George Ferry Terminal and Richmond County Bank Ballpark, where the Staten Island Yankees played. But after the 1887 season, financial concerns led to their demise.

In 1889, New York City -- then consisting of Manhattan Island and part of what is now The Bronx -- decided to extend its 1811 street grid, and chose to extend West 111th Street through the Polo Grounds. The Giants had to get out. They moved to the St. George Cricket Grounds, and won the Pennant again in 1889.

So they moved Uptown, to a new stadium that they called the Polo Grounds, at the terminus of the Ninth Avenue Elevated line, at 155th Street and 8th Avenue, at the foot of Coogan's Bluff.

But this was 1890, and the Players' League challenged the established leagues. They established a team they called the New York Giants, and built a new, better ballpark right next-door, which they named Brotherhood Field. That league folded after just 1 season, and the NL Giants moved in. The 1890 NL ballpark was renamed Manhattan Field, and Brotherhood Field became the Polo Grounds.

At this Polo Grounds, the Giants hired John McGraw as manager, traded for pitching icon Christy Mathewson, won the NL Pennant in 1904, won the Pennant and the World Series in 1905, and blew the 1908 Pennant on Fred Merkle's "Boner" and the subsequent replay against the Chicago Cubs.

This ballpark burned down on April 14, 1911, at the dawn of a new season. As a friendly gesture, the New York Highlanders offered the Giants the use of Hilltop Park while the Polo Grounds was rebuilt in fireproof concrete and steel.

On June 28, 1911, the Polo Grounds as most of the world would know it opened. They faced the Boston Rustlers, and won, 3-0. Naturally, Mathewson pitched, and while he allowed 9 hits, he didn't walk anybody, and kept the shutout. A home run was hit by "Laughing Larry" Doyle, a man who once said, "It's great to be young and a Giant." With a little bit of irony, the home plate umpire was Hank O'Day, the former pitcher whose call overturned the Giants' win in the "Merkle's Boner" game 3 years earlier.

(The Rustlers were named for their owner, William H. Russell, who died right after that season ended. They were bought by James Gaffney, who held the rank of "Brave" in New York's Tammany Hall "political machine," and the team's name was changed to the Boston Braves.)

The Giants won the Pennant in 1911, but lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics. They won the Pennant again in 1912, but lost the World Series to the Boston Red Sox. They won the Pennant again in 1913, but lost another World Series to the A's. That's 3 straight World Series lost. The only other team ever to do that has been the 1907-08-09 Detroit Tigers. The Giants won another Pennant in 1917, but lost the World Series to the Chicago White Sox.

In 1913, noting that the Highlanders, who had just officially changed their name to what people were already calling them, the Yankees, had their 10-year lease at Hilltop Park ended, offered them a 10-year lease at the Polo Grounds, as a way of thanking them for the use of Hilltop in 1911.

But in 1920, the Yankees signed Babe Ruth, and started bringing a lot more fans into the Polo Grounds than the Giants. The Giants said that, when the lease was up after the 1922 season, there would be no new lease. McGraw said, "The Yankees will have to move to Queens, or some other faraway place, to wither and die." Little did he know that, one day, the New York team in the National League would play in Queens, and, usually, not well.

To make matters worse for the Yankees, they won their 1st Pennant in 1921, and again in 1922, but lost the World Series to the Giants both times. The Giants remained the greatest franchise in baseball.

But Jacob Ruppert, the owner of the Yankees, was fine with leaving the Polo Grounds. He wanted a ballpark he could control. And he built it right across the Harlem River from the Polo Grounds, at 161st Street and River Avenue in The Bronx. Yankee Stadium dwarfed the Polo Grounds. Giants owner Charles Stoneham expanded the Polo Grounds, and it was still smaller.

That Autumn, the Polo Grounds hosted the Heavyweight Championship fight in which challenger Luis Firpo knocked Jack Dempsey out of the ring, but Dempsey got back in before the count of 10, and knocked Firpo out. And it hosted another World Series. This time, the Yankees beat the Giants.

In 1924, the Giants won another Pennant, but lost the World Series to the Washington Senators. Later that year, the football team at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York hosted the University of Notre Dame, and Notre Dame won. Nationally-syndicated sportswriter Grantland Rice covered the game, and named Notre Dame's backfield "The Four Horsemen," after the Biblical riders of the Apocalypse.

In 1925, a football team named the New York Giants began playing at the Polo Grounds. They won the NFL Championship in 1927, won the NFL Championship Game there in 1934 and 1938, and lost it there in 1944. They moved to Yankee Stadium in 1956.

The baseball Giants won the 1933 World Series, beating the Senators, but lost to the Yankees in the World Series in 1936 and 1937. This team featured slugging right fielder Mel Ott and the great pitcher "King Carl" Hubbell. In 1951, they came from 13 1/2 games behind their arch-rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, to win the Pennant in a Playoff game, on what we would now call a walkoff home run by Bobby Thomson. But they lost the World Series to the Yankees.

In 1954, they won the Pennant again, led by Willie Mays, who won the NL batting title. Game 1 of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians featured Mays making a catch that has gone down as the most famous defensive play in the history of sports, and a walkoff home run in the 10th inning by Dusty Rhodes. The Giants swept the Series.

But the stadium and its surrounding neighborhood had begun to fall apart. The Giants left for San Francisco after the 1957 season. Their last game was as 9-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 29.

In 1960, the American Football League was founded, and the New York Titans began play at the Polo Grounds. They would become the Jets in 1963. Also in 1960, the stadium hosted one last title fight, with Floyd Patterson regaining the Heavyweight Championship from Ingemar Johansson.

In 1962, a National League expansion team was placed in the Polo Grounds, the New York Mets. They played 2 terrible seasons there before moving into Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadow, Queens. The Jets joined them. The Mets played the last baseball game at the Polo Grounds on September 18, 1963, losing 5-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies. The last event was the Jets' game on December 14, 1963, a 19-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

On April 11, 1964, just 6 days before Shea Stadium opened, the same company that had demolished the Dodgers' home, Ebbets Field, 4 years earlier, used the same wrecking ball, painted to look like a baseball, to demolish the Polo Grounds. In 1968, Polo Grounds Towers opened on the site. It includes a playground known as Willie Mays Field. Across 155th Street is Rucker Park, one of New York's most famous basketball sites.

*

June 28, 1911 was a Wednesday. In professional terms, football, basketball and hockey barely existed. These were the other games played in Major League Baseball that day:

* The Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 2-1 at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia.

* A doubleheader was split at Griffith Stadium in Washington, which had also just reopened after a fire at the previous ballpark on the site. The Washington Senators won the opener, 4-3. The Philadelphia Athletics won the nightcap, 16-9.

* The Cincinnati Reds played the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. They were tied 3-3 after 9 innings, when the game was called due to darkness.

* The Cleveland Indians swept a doubleheader from the Chicago White Sox at League Park in Cleveland, winning the 1st game 6-4, and the 2nd game 6-3.

* The Detroit Tigers beat the St. Louis Browns, 3-2 at Bennett Park in Detroit. At the end of that season, Bennett Park was torn down, and a new ballpark was built on the site. It was named Navin Field. In 1938, it was expanded, and renamed Briggs Stadium. In 1961, it was renamed Tiger Stadium.

* The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs, 7-1 at Robison Field in St. Louis.

* And the New York Highlanders and the Boston Red Sox did not play.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

A Terrible Time to Be Playing Stupid Baseball

I have seen the Yankees play badly before, but I have never seen them be this stupid on a regular basis.

I knew they were going to lose the middle game of their series with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, because the opposing pitcher was Nathan Eovaldi. Whenever Brian Cashman gets rid of a player, and he plays against the Yankees, he shows why the Yankees initially wanted him. He took a shutout into the 8th inning.

Think about that for a moment. Cashman has built a Yankee lineup loaded with righthanded power hitters, apparently with the intention of aiming for those close left field walls at Fenway and Minute Maid Park in Houston, in the Playoffs.

But you have got to get to the Playoffs first, and while the Yankees do play a total 12 games a year in those 2 ballparks, they have to play 81 games a year at Yankee Stadium II, which favors lefthanded hitters and guys who can hit to the opposite field.

Jordan Montgomery started, and allowed only 3 runs in 6 innings. Albert Abreu pitched the next 2, and allowed only 1 run. Seems to me, if you can hold the Sox to 4 runs at the little green pinball machine off Kenmore Square, you should be able to win the damn ballgame.

The Yankees couldn't. Gary Sánchez singled to right with 2 outs in the 1st inning. He was stranded there when Giancarlo Stanton, of course, struck out they didn't get another base runner until Judge led off the 4th with a single. He was stranded there when the next 3 batters couldn't advance him, including, of course, another Stanton strikeout.

With 1 out in the 6th, DJ LeMahieu and Judge both singled, but Sánchez grounded into a double play to erase them. Stanton led off the 7th with a single, but they couldn't advance him. Finally, with 2 out in the 8th, LeMahieu went to the opposite field and hit a homerun, And Eovaldi was taken out.

From that point onward, the Red Sox bullpen seemed to be doing everything in his power to give the game to the Yankees, and they couldn't take it. With the new 3-batter rule -- I like to call it the Boone Logan Rule -- Hirokazu Sawamura either had to pitch to at least 3 batters or get the 3rd out. And he walked Judge, Sánchez and Stanton to load the bases.

Think about that for a moment. Here are 3 of the least walkable guys in the major leagues today, because the umpires always seem to give the Yankees giant strike zones, and these guys will swing it just about anything. And they were batting against the Red Sox, a team the umpires favor, in Boston. And this guy walked them all.

And he was then replaced by Adam Ottavino, another former Yankee pitcher, who was let go because, as he had veen before he was a Yankee, he is terribly inconsistent.

The tying runs were on base. The moment was made for a Yankee hero the batter was Luke Voit, who, when healthy, is a really good right-handed power hitter, and he was aiming at the green monster pretty crowded too short to end the threat.

Top of the 9th. Gio Urshela flies to center. That's 1 out. But Gleyber Torres, dropped to 7th in the order due to a hellacious slump, singled. Rougned Odor grounded into a force play. Man on 1st, 2 out.

Brett Gardner drew a walk. LeMahieu singled Odor home. Again, the tying runs were on base. The batter was Judge. Against Ottavino. At Fenway.

He struck out. Ballgame over. Red Sox 4, Yankees 2. WP: Eovaldi (8-4). SV: Ottavino (5). LP: Montgomery (3-2).

How do you hold the Red Sox to 4 runs at Fenway Park, and lose? How do you get the tying runs on base in the 8th and the 9th Inning, at Fenway Park, and lose?

How do you let Adam Ottavino beat you 2 nights in a row? In any ballpark, but especially Fenway?

I will tell you how you do those things: By playing stupid baseball. And this is a terrible time to be playing that way.

The series concludes this afternoon. Gerrit Cole starts for the Yankees, but, as we've seen, that guarantees nothing. Eduardo Rodriguez starts for The Scum.

Can we please get more than 4 runs today?

Saturday, June 26, 2021

One Does Not Simply Walk Into Fenway

Last night, the Yankees began their 1st series of the year at Fenway Park, home of their arch-rivals, the Boston Red Sox.

Where to begin? I could quote Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope: "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."

Or, I could paraphrase Prince Boromir (Sean Bean) from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"One does not simply walk into Fenway. Its black gates are guarded by more than just ticket takers. There is evil there that does not sleep. The great eye is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland, riddled with chowder, beer, and dust. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly."

But I could also quote both Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) from the original Star Trek series and Batman (Adam West) from the superhero TV show that aired at the same time: Each man, on his show, had once used the words, "Risk is our business."

Domingo Germán started, and he was off. He allowed 3 runs in the bottom of the 1st inning. 

The Yankees tied the game in the top of the 2nd, but the Red Sox jumped ahead again in the bottom of the 4th. Germán doomed himself with a walk, a wild pitch, and his own error.

Lucas Luetge pitched the 5th and the 6th, and Jonathan Loáisiga the 7th, and they kept it at 4-3 Boston.

Adam Ottavino, awful during his Yankee tenure, pitched the top of the 8th for the Red Sox. If you can't score runs off Adam Ottavino in Fenway Park, you're not going to win the ball game.

Zack Britton, his season's debut long delayed by injury, started the 8th, but didn't finish it. He injured his hamstring and had to leave the game. He'll probably go back on the Injured List, diminishing the Yankees bullpen again. Aaron Boone had to bring Luis Cessa in, and he, as he so often does, allowed another run.

The Yankees did put up a fight in the top of the 9th. Gio Urshela led off with a single, and Miguel Andújar hit another. The tying runs were on. But Clint Frazier struck out, and DJ LeMahieu grounded into a double play to end it.

Red Sox 5, Yankees 3. WP: Garrett Whitlock (3-1). SV: Matt Barnes (16). LP: Germán (4-5).

The Yankees are now 5 games out of 1st place. They are 0-4 vs. the Sox on the season. The last time that was true was 2009, when they started out 0-8, and then won the last 10 and went on to win the World Series.

But that was a very different Yankee team. It had not just talent, but the guts to back it up. When one guy went into a slump, somebody else made up for it by raising his game. We have seen precious little of that from the Yankees the last few years.

The series continues tonight. Jordan Montgomery starts against former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi. Don't get your hopes up.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Scores On This Historic Day: June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson Dies

June 25, 2009: Michael Jackson dies of a drug overdose at a mansion he'd rented in the Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles. "The King of Pop" was 50 years old, and had been preparing for a new tour.

He became a child star with his brothers in The Jackson 5 in 1969, and had been a solo superstar since the release of his album Off the Wall in 1979. Thriller was released in 1982, and in 1983 and 1984, he was the biggest star in the world, as big as Elvis Presley was in 1956 and The Beatles were in 1964.

But, like so many big stars before and after, he couldn't handle it. Prescription drug use and the desire to maintain his youthful appearance through plastic surgery took their toll. Odd details from his personal life reached the public, and the former beloved superstar had been "Wacko Jacko." Investigations of child abuse still put a cloud over him, even after an acquittal in court.

Michael Jackson was one of a few celebrities to reach the absolute heights of fame. But he fell as hard as anyone ever has, and he couldn't get up.

*

June 25, 2009 was a Thursday. This was the off-season for the NFL. The NBA season had wrapped up a few days earlier, with the Los Angeles Lakers beating the Orlando Magic for the title. The NHL season had also recently concluded, as the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup, reversing the result of the previous year's Finals by beating the Detroit Red Wings.

There were 13 Major League Baseball games played: 

* The New York Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves, 11-7 at Turner Field in Atlanta. Alex Rodriguez, in the middle of a big hot streak, hit a home run, to help Alfredo Aceves be the winning pitcher in relief of Andy Pettitte, who did not have good stuff.

* The New York Mets beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-2 at the new Citi Field in Queens.

* The Washington Nationals beat the Boston Red Sox, 9-3 at Nationals Park in Washington.

* The Cincinnati Reds beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-5 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

* The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 10-4 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

* The Florida Marlins beat the Baltimore Orioles, 11-3 at what's now called Hard Rock Stadium in the Miami suburb of Miami Gardens, Florida.

* The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Cleveland Indians, 3-2 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

* The Detroit Tigers beat the Chicago Cubs, 6-5 at Comerica Park in Detroit.

* The Chicago White Sox beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-5 in 13 innings at U.S. Cellular (now Guaranteed Rate) Field in Chicago.

* The Minnesota Twins beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 6-4 at Miller Park (now American Family Field) in Milwaukee.

* The Houston Astros beat the Kansas City Royals, 5-4 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

* The Texas Rangers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 9-8 in 12 innings at Chase Field in Phoenix.

* And the Seattle Mariners beat the San Diego Padres, 9-3 at Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park) in Seattle.

* The Colorado Rockies, the Los Angeles Angels, the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants were not scheduled for that day.

Yankees Survive Wild Ride With Royals, Red Sox Next

If the Yankees are going to drive us all crazy, the least they could do was see to it that we enjoyed the trip.

That would not be the case on Tuesday night, as they opened a 3-game home series against the Kansas City Royals. Gerrit Cole started, and went 7 innings, allowing just 2 runs. Sounds like a building block for success.

But that also requires hitting. Once again, the Yankees got runs from solo home runs, rather than homers with men on base, or "small ball." Luke Voit did it in the 1st inning, and Kyle Higashioka did it in the 2nd.

Later came an exception. In the bottom of the 7th, Voit hit a triple, and scores on a wild pitch. So it was just 3-2 Yankees when Jonathan Loaisiga was brought in to pitch the top of the 8th. 

Here's the result of that: Single, double, strikeout, single, fielder's choice resulting in everybody reaching base safely, strikeout, single, single, before Aaron Boone mercifully pulled him for Lucas Luetge, who got a groundout to end it. Four runs.

The Yankees did put up a fight the rest of the way. With 1 out in the bottom of the 8th, Brett Gardner drew a walk, and DJ LeMahieu hit a home run. And Aaron Judge doubled. But they couldn't get him home.

Gio Urshela singled to lead off the 9th. But Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier both struck out. Gary Sanchez -- catching now that Cole and his personal catcher, Higashioka, were out of the game -- was walked intentionally to set up a force play. It wasn't necessary, as Gardner popped up.

Royals 6, Yankees 5. WP: Jake Brentz (2-0). SV: Greg Holland (5). LP: Loaisiga (7-3).

An awful game. Afterward, Loaisiga faced the media like an adult, and took responsibility for his failure. He said he was ready to do better.

*

The Wednesday night game was started by Michael King, which filled few people with any confidence, unless they were Royals fans. He didn't get out of the 5th inning. In the bottom of the 4th, walks to Miguel Andujar and Giancarlo Stanton were followed by a double by Frazier, and that tied the game at 2-2.

Chad Green bailed King out of a bases-loaded jam in the 5th inning, and pitched a scoreless 6th and 7th. But Zach Britton allowed a home run to lead off the top of the 8th, and even though it was only 3-2, the game felt lost.

Not so fast: In the bottom of the 8th, Frazier drew a walk, and Rougned Odor hit a screaming line drive into the bullpen to make it 4-3 Yankees.

Aroldis Chapman came on to pitch the top of the 9th, and you never know with him. He's had his best season as a Yankee, but that just makes the times when he doesn't get the job done look even more egregious. Loaded the bases, then walk home a run to tie it, then allowed a hit to give the Royals the lead.

After he  got the final out, a YES Network camera caught him throwing his glove in the dugout. Like Paul O'Neill, he took his frustrations out on himself and his equipment, but not anybody else.

Now, it was Chapman's turn to get bailed out. With one out in the bottom of the 9th, Gary Sanchez, suddenly the hottest hitter in baseball, hit a game-tying home run, and the Stadium crowd erupted.

This was followed by Stanton getting a hit, being replaced as a pinch-runner by Tyler Wade, Wade advancing to 2nd on a wild pitch, and Voit nearly hitting one out, missing a home run by about 2 feet, and Wade scoring the winning run.

Yankees 6, Royals 5. WP: Chapman (5-2, though deserving of the win only according to the letter of the rule). No save. LP: Holland (2-3).

This game was a rough ride for Yankee Fans, but at least they arrived at the proper destination.

*

In spite of it being started by the inconsistent Jameson Taillon, the Thursday afternoon game would have considerably less drama. He pitched very well, getting into the 7th inning, allowing only 1 run.

And the Yankee bats backed him up. They got 2 runs in the 1st inning, on a home run by Judge, and an RBI single by Odor. An RBI single by Judge in the 2nd and a home run by Voit in the 3rd pretty much put the game out of reach early.

Another home run by Sanchez, this one for 3 runs in the 6th, dusted K.C. off. Stanton added an RBI single in the 8th. Yankees 8, Royals 1. WP: Taillon (2-4). No save. LP: Brad Keller (6-8).

*

The Yankees are now 40-34, 4 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Eastern Division, 3 games in the All-Important Loss Column. The Boston Red Sox are half a game behind the Rays, even in the loss column. This comes after the race swept the Sox 3 straight in St. Petersburg.

And now, the Yankees head to Fenway Park for a weekend showdown with the Red Sox. Although the Rays will still have a lot to say about how the Division race turns out, the last generation of baseball suggest that it could come down to Yankees vs. Red Sox, so this series could be key to deciding it. Here are the projected pitching matchups:

* Tonight at 7: Domingo German vs. Martin Perez.

* Tomorrow night at 7: Jordan Montgomery vs. former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi.

* Sunday afternoon at 1: Cole vs. Eduardo Rodriguez.