Friday, December 23, 2011

1961 Yankee Of The Day: Bobby Richardson

Unlike Kubek, Richardson had a memorable 1960 World Series where, to put it mildly, he did all he could to help the Yankees win. They still ended up losing, anyway.

Hitless in the season opening 6-0 loss in Minny, he managed to pick up his first hit four days later against the Athletics.

But it was a big hit, as it scored Elston Howard and Clete Boyer to put the game out of reach, 4-0 for the Yankees. They would go on to win 5-3.

His first two hit game in the second game of a April 20th doubleheader against the Angels nabbed him another RBI. In the opener on the day, he got his only April walk.

It was against Baltimore two days later that:

1) Another doubleheader

2) Held hitless in the opener

3) Two hits in the nightcap

4) Another RBI

In a wild 13-11 win over Detroit, Richardson collected 3 hits, plus another RBI and two runs scored on April 26th. The batting average was an April best .222.

But just three hits in the next four games to round out April dropped it back to .220.

May began with an 0-4 performance against Minnesota on the 2nd. But Richardson followed it up with a 3 hit game the next day to power the Yankees to a 7-3 win. Then he picked up two more hits, an RBI, a run scored and a walk on the 4th.

After struggling against the Angels in a 3 game set, Bobby was 2-3 with a walk and an RBI on the 9th.

Then the wheels came off the chariot in the next 13 games, as he batted .118 (6-51) with just 2 walks, 2 runs scored and only 1 RBI.

On the 24th, though, it was time for another 2 hit game. This one again included an RBI.

The next day was still another doubleheader, against the Chi Sox.

In the first game, Richardson was 1 for 4. The nightcap was no better as Bobby was 0 for 4, but he had an RBI.

May ended on a positive, as Richardson was 2-4 with a double and a run scored against the Red Sox. But his average was still only .211.

June saw Bobby Richardson raise his average 13 points by going 3-4 with a double, plus he also got a walk on the 1st. But in the next 8 games he could do no better than one hit each game.

After struggling in the opener (1-4) in the opener of a June 8th doubleheader against the Athletics. But in the nightcap, all Bobby did was collect 3 hits in 4 at bats, walk (intentional), an RBI and a run scored.

He could again only collect one hit the next game, but it was a triple. And he scored a run.

His next multi-hit game was on June 11th in the second game of a doubleheader against the Angels. Actually, overall in doubleheader he went 3-6 with a double. Yet he failed to get either an RBI or a run scored.

Two more "oh for.." games followed, but then came a 3 game against Cleveland on the 14th.

Bobby's sixth inning single scored Moose Skowron. Then in the seventh, he hit his first first homerun on the season, a three run blast off Johnny Antonelli, as the Yanks went on to a 11-5 win. Richardson singled and eventually scored in the ninth. This help Whitey Ford reach double digits in wins.

That seemed to cue another slump as Bobby managed only 3 hits in the next 5 games. But in the last of those 5 games, he managed to hit a double and score.

A double was among his two hits on the very next day, June 20th. And again he scored a run. The Yankees beat the Kansas A's, 6-2.
He hit a triple the next game, but it didn't result in a run scored or an RBI. It was his only hit of the game. And it was the same for the next two games, 1 hit each.

On June 24th, he collected two hits and two runs scored, plus an RBI for good measure, as the Yankees topped the Twins, 10-7. In the next two games he was 2-5 in each game, with a run scored.

Then Bobby was down to just one hit against the Angels, but he again scored a run, on the 27th.

Then, a hitless game.

But then, another two hit to cap off the month against the Senators, resulted in two runs scored an a 5-1 Yankee win.

July started out slow, as Bobby had two hits in the first six games of the month.

Richardson found his stroke again, as he collected 3 hits, 3 RBIs, 2 runs scored and a double against the Boston Red Sox on July 7.

And Bobby stayed hot as two days later the Yanks and Sox played a doubleheader.

In it Richardson collected 5 hits, 2 walks, 4 RBIs and a run scored.

In the second game, the Yankees trailed 9-1 in the bottom of the 6th, but Richardson blasted a 3 runs shot off Don Schwall  and the Yankees clawed back into the game, but eventually lost 9-6.

He stayed hot in his next game (July 13th) as he got two hits against the other Sox team. Among those was a double, as Richardson scored twice. This pushed his average to .250 for the first time since May 5th.

Two more hits followed the next game, but Chicago won easily, 6-1.

The Yankees needed 10 innings to eek out a 9-8 win over the Sox in the finale, Richardson only 1-5, but he also had a walk. Bobby scored the tying run the top of the ninth on a Maris double.

After going just 1-9 in a two game set against the Orioles, Richardson faced the Senators next.

Bobby helped the Yankees to a 5-3 win the opener as he collected two more hits, among those a double. Plus he had an RBI and a run scored.

Washington took the second game and held Richardson hitless.

In the third game, Bobby was back with still another two hit game, a run scored, plus a sacrifice bunt. But the Yankees lost big time 12-2.

Richardson next went 2-6, but no RBIs or runs scored in an 11-8 win over Boston on July 21st. He was even better the next day as he went 3-6.

This time there was RBIs.

Facing the Red Sox's Tracy Stallard (who would give up Roger Maris' 61st homerun on the last day of the season), Richardson's second inning single scored Moose Skowron, his third inning single scored Elston Howard, then his ninth inning single score Arroyo with the winning run. Tony Kubek's double scored Richardson with an important insurance run. The Yankees won 11-9. Richardson also helped turn two double plays.

The Yankees couldn't make it three straight over the Sox as they lost 5-4. But Richardson was 2-5 with a walk and a run scored.

New York then swept a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox on July 25th. Richardson had 2 hits, 3 walks and 3 runs scored, pushing his average up to .260

In the next two games he scored a run in each to extend his streak of scoring a run a game to 6.

The Baltimore Orioles then stopped the Yanks 4-0 and also held Richardson hitless. The next game, though, the Yankees were back in the win column and Bobby was back in the two hit mode. He also knocked in two runs and scored one himself.

The O's though, continued their mastery of the Yanks as they swept a doubleheader, 4-0 and 2-1 and held Bobby hitless. The best he could do is draw a walk, his 10th of the month.

August began with a 2 hit (including a double), 1 run scored game against Kansas in the first game of a doubleheader on the 2nd. The Yankees then smoked the Athletics 12-5 in the nightcap. Richardson had a hit and a walk.

After getting just one more hit in the finale of the three game set, it was back to the 2 hit effort on the 4th. Richardson hit his second double of the month, knocked in a run and also scored. The Yankees topped the Twins 8-5 in 10 innings.

Two days later, it was time for another doubleheader. And for Richardson it was a day to remember.

1st game: 3-8 with 2 runs scored

2nd game: 2-4 with 1 run scored

New York won each game against Minnesota by a single run.

The Yanks then beat the Angels with Richardson going 2-3 with an RBI and a run scored. He also got a walk.

Held hitless the next day, Richardson nontheless scored a win after drawing a walk in the first. Yogi Berra would score Richardson with a sacrifice fly. This was the 5th straight (and 7th time in 9 games) that Bobby had scored a run.

Then after failing to score a run on the 9th, Richardson was 2-4 against the Angels on August 10th.

In that game, Richardson led off the bottom of the first against Jim Donohue. He would slam a pitch deep into the left field bleachers for his third of the year. I bet no one noticed because Skowron hit his 20th and Berra his 16th. The Yankees took the game, 3-1.

Then it was off to Washington for a four game set. The Yankees took the opener 12-5 as Richardson went 2-6 with 2 runs scored and an RBI for good measure.

Just when things were looking up...

...came a two game slump of no hits. But in the second game of the Aug 13th doubleheader, Bobby Richardson was 2-5 with a run scored an an RBI.

Two more sub par games followed before Richardson was 2-5 in the first game of a August 20th doubleheader. Richardson scored twice. In the nightcap, he was just 1-5 but he scored still another run.

August 24: New York vs Los Angeles

Richardson: 5-5, 1R, 2RBI

Suddenly, his average soared to a more than respectable .265

2-5 the next day against KC made it .267.

Richardson was only 1-4 on the 26th, but he also drew a walk, scored and knocked in a run.

2 more hits on the 27th pushed his average up to .268, as he again got an RBI.

He finished off August with a pair of 1-4 days.

In 31 August games, Richardson batted .303 (42 hits) with 22 runs scored, 1 homerun and 10 RBIs, 6 walks, and 5 times reached on error.

September started the way August ended: two 1-4 days.

But then two 2-4 days meant Richardson was now batting .270.

Richardson slipped back to a pair of 1 hit games, but did managed to pick up 2 RBIs in a 6-1 win over Washington on September 5th.

His next two hit game was two days later against Cleveland. He scored a run this game and in the next three games.

In a short, 6 inning game on September 12 in Chicago, Richardson was 3-4 with run scored, as he finished the day batting .273. A season high.

He fell back a bit but remained productive.

And an 0 for 9 doubleheader on the 14th followed, and the Yankees lost twice to the White Sox.

The 15th was another doubleheader, this time against Detroit. Richardson got two hits and a walk, scored once and drove in a run. One of his two hits was a double. But he did all that in the opener. The Yanks won it 11-1, but lost the second game to Detroit, who refused to go away in the pennant quietly. Pitcher Bud Daley took his 17th loss on the year.

The Tigers then closed to within 9 1/2 games (with 13 to play) of the Yankees with a resounding 10-4 win the next day. Maris hit his 57th homerun, Howard his 20th, and Kubek smacked a double. Richardson himself was 2-5 with a run scored.

But, alas, Frank Lary, who always beat the Yankees, went the distance. The last two runs that scored against him were meaningless. This was his 21st win on the year against only 9 defeats. The Yankees, as a team batted .282 against him, but were 2-4 against him in 1961.

The Yankees took the next game against the Tigers in extra innings and Richardson was 2 for 6.

New York then split a doubleheader against the O's, and did likewise in the last two games of the four game set against Baltimore. Richardson managed just 2 hits and 1 walk (in his only plate appearance in the fourth game), yet also reached base 3 times on an error.

That walk was his 4th of the month, 30 of the season, and also last of the regular season.

The Yankees beat Boston 8-3 on September 23rd as Richardson scored a run but didn't get a hit or a walk. Nor did he reach on an error. He was hit by a pitch for just the second time, not only in this season but in his entire career. He had been hit by a pitch back on April 17th, and had gone a stretch of 153 games without that happening again.

Bobby Richardson had also hit his 10th and final sacrifice bunt in the regular season in that game. But his batting average had dropped to .266.

He got into a game as a pinch hitter on September 27th, but failed to produce, and the Yankees lost 3-2 to Baltimore. And it was more of the same two days later, as Richardson was hitless, although the Yankees won 2-1 over Boston.

The Yankees followed that up with another win on September 30th, 3-1 over the Red Sox.

In the bottom of the 5th against Don Schwall (The AL Rookie Of The Year, and 15 game winner) Richardson got his last regular season hit  and RBI (49) when he tripled (5th of the year) to drive in Bill Gardner, who replaced Bobby at second base in the top of the ninth.

He had helped defuse an early rally when Chuck Schilling led off the game with a double for the Sox. The next batter, Gary Geiger, smacked one to Richardson, who caught it in the air, and fired to Clete Boyer (playing shortstop) for the double play.

In the bottom of the third , Schwall had struck out Bobby, just the Yankees second sacker's 23rd K on the season.

Richardson finished the 1961 regular season by playing in 162 regular season games. But that doesn't mean he didn't miss a game, as the Yankees played one tie.

In any event, he was third in the league in games played. 662 At Bats was enough for 3rd place. And his 706 plate appearances placed him 6th among AL hitters.

Despite finishing with just a .261 average, his 173 hits was good enough for 5th in the AL.

Of his 162 games played, he appeared just once as a pinch hitter (groundout ). All the other games, he played at second base.

Of those hits, 148 were singles, which was tops in the American League. His 10 sacrifice hits placed him 7th. And he was one of toughest to strikeout, as he averaged 28.8 At Bats per strikeout.

On the negative side, Richardson, despite his 80 runs scored, 17 doubles, 5 triples and 3 homeruns and 49 RBIs, 10 sacrifice hits and only 23 strikeouts, Bobby lead the league in outs made, 523, and was 9th in the league in caught stealing, with 7.

As for he defence, 1961 was the first of 5 straight Gold Gloves. He was second in the AL in games at second base, with 161. Only Detroit's Jake Woods played more games at second.

Bobby tied Nellie Fox for putouts as a second basemen (413).  His 376 assists was good enough for 5th among second basemen in the AL. Bobby's 136 double plays turned topped every American League second baseman. He was also 6th in the AL in fielding percentage among AL second basemen with .978. And finally, Bobby was 5th in Range Factor Per Game with 4.90 at second.

Now for the negative: Bobby Richardson committed 18 errors as second base. Only Wood's 25 were more in the AL.

He got 1 MVP vote, good enough for 24th.

How about the World Series. Would 1960's World Series performance be a fluke for Bobby.

In game 1, he led off with a single off the Reds Jim O'Toole. When Kubek walked, it looked like a big inning. Richardson, in fact, made it all the way to third as the Yankees would load the bases with two outs, before Berra popped out.

Later, he singled in the third, only to be gunned down trying to steal second as Roger Maris struck out.

Bobby singled in the bottom of the seventh with one out. Alas, he was stranded.

The Yankees really didn't need anything from this, however, as Whitey Ford blanked Cincy, 2-0, on a methodical 2 hitter.

But they would need it and then some in the second game. They didn't get it, though!

In game 2, Bobby Richardson again singled to improved his batting average to .800 (4/5). And again, it led nowhere, Kubek erasing Richardson with a fielder's choice.

Bobby did nothing else at the plate on this day against the Reds Joey Jay. But he wasn't alone. The Yankees lost convincingly, 6-2.

The World Series scene shifted for games 3, 4 and 5 to Cincinnati.

Bob Purkey started for the Reds, and Richardson this time led off the game with a groundout.

After grounding out in the third and then lining out in the top of the 6th, Richardson singled in the top of the eighth with the game tied at 2. This time he succeeded in stealing second.

But, it was not to be, as again, Richardson was stranded. Maris' dramatic homerun in the ninth helped the Yankees take this one, barely, 3-2.

O'Toole tried to tie the Series by taking the mound in game 4.

Richardson was retired on a grounder to start. But he doubled in the top of the third. O'Toole bared down and got Kubek out to end the inning. Can anyone help Bobby?

The Yankees finally scored a run in the 4th, and in the 5th, Richardson singled Whitey Ford to second. Kubek's single scored Ford, Richardson to third, Kubek to second on the throw home.

But that is where Bobby stayed.

In the 7th, with the Yanks up 4-0, Richardson led off with a single. A fly ball, and an intentional walk to Maris moved Richardson to second. A wild pitch put runners on second and third with one out.

Hector Lopez, subbing for Mickey Mantle, shot a single to center that not only scored Richardson, but Maris as well. New York scored another run that inning for good measure.

Bobby Richardson lined out in the ninth, but the Yankees won the game 7-0, and Bobby was now batting .471!

For the third time in the Series, the Bronx Bombers began the game (batting) with Richardson singling.

It looked like nothing would come of it as the next two men were retired by Jay, back in search of another win over the Yankees. Richardson was picked off first, but he made it to second on Gordy Coleman's error.

When Johnny Blanchard hit a homerun, the Yankees were up 2-0. They never looked back.

After 1 inning it would be 5-0, Yankees.

After 2 innings it was 6-0, Yankees.

Richardson didn't help this time by flying out to right.

In the third inning, with Clete Boyer on first, Richardson grounded out.

In the fifth, he led off with groundout to Bob Purkey, the Reds' sixth pitcher on the day.

Richardson ended the 6th inning with a popup to catcher Johhny Edwards.

In the 8th, he batted for the last time in the Series. He grounded out.

In the bottom of the frame, he made his last fielding play by retiring Jerry Lynch, who was pinch hitting.

The Yankees had ran away with the game while all this was going on. The final score was 13-5.

The Yankees had finished first, while Bobby Richardson was always stuck on second.

No that he minded.
In the 1961 World Series, Richardson had come to bat 23 times (23 at bats, actually, no walks), gotten 9 hits, scored twice, hit a double, steal a base, get caught stealing, bat .391, and have an OBP of .391.

But if only the World Series had ended after his first at bat of game 5.

Bobby was batting .500 at the time!



References


Golenbock, Peter. "1961." Dynasty: The New York Yankees, 1949-1964. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary, 2000. Print, pp. 405-445.

Mantle, Mickey, and Mickey Herskowitz. "The M & M Boys." All My Octobers: My Memories of Twelve World Series When the Yankees Ruled Baseball. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. Print, pp. 129-145.

Smith, Ron. The Sporting News Presents 61*: The Story Of Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle And One Magical Summer. St. Louis: Sporting News, 2001. Print.

Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 23 Dec. 2011.

The World Series Of 1961. Dir. Lew Fonseca. Prod. Dick Borden. Perf. New York Yankees Cincinnati Reds 1961. Major League Baseball Productions Inc, 1961. DVD. DVD Released in 2006.

Friday, December 16, 2011

1961 Yankee Of The Day: Tony Kubek

Although just 25 years, old Kubek had helped anchor the Yankees middle infield since 1957, as season where he was Rookie Of The Year.

Kubek probably wanted to forget about the 1960 World Series more than any Yankee player (sans Mantle or Terry). For it was the image of a ground ball that hit a pebble and struck Kubek in the throat, that had opened the door in a 5 run Pirate uprising in the fatal game 7.

Kubek entered the Yankees 6th game of the year with no hits, five walks, zero RBIs and zero runs scored.

That all changed when Tony collected 2 hits (one double) in 4 AB in a 4-2 win over the O's on April 21st. That performance raised his average to .105!

But that got the ball rolling, and it wasn't going to hit a pebble and hit him in the throat, this time.

Another hit the next day and two more the day after that, brought the batting average to .185.

All of which, leads us to April 26th.

A game the Yankees won 13-11 over the Detroit Tigers, who despite the loss, were still 2 games up on the Yankees, who were only in 3rd place. The Yankees would not have won the game without their shortstop.

Yes, Mantle had a homerun, not to mention 3 runs scored and 4 RBIs.

Yes, Maris had a homerun, not to mention 2 runs scored.

But what about Kubek?

He had a fine day. 3-6 with 3 runs scored.

His big moment came in the top of the second. Having reached first on a bunt single and later scoring, in the first, Kubek put the Yanks up 6-0 with a homeun in the top of the second off Don Mossi.

The Tigers would fight back before the Yankees won this one in the 10th on a Mantle homerun.

Now isn't that something: a great day for Kubek, forgotten after what I just wrote! Get used to it.

Unless your name was Mantle or Maris, you tended not to exist in 1961.

But Kubek did exist in the next game against Clevelend. Another 3 hits, but this time in only 4 ABs, and the Yankees won another close one 4-3. Kubek crossed home twice. And that horrible batting average? Try .273. Getting there!

It got over .300 as Kubek had two hits in each of the next three games to finish April with a .321 batting average. A 2-1 loss to the Senators on the last day of the month snapped the Yankees' 4 game winning streak, however.

Another two hit game on the second of May lifted the batting average to .328, as season high. No way Tony can keep this up. In fact, he got no more than one hit in the next seven games to drop it back to .273. Despite that, Tony collected 3 walks on May 5th vs the expansion Los Angeles Angels. He then hit his second homerun on the season on May 9th against Kansas.

But then came Kubek's third three hit game against the Tigers on May 12th. But the Yankees lost the game, 4-3 to the Tigers.

And they would also lose the next game as Kubek did no better than one hit.

The Yankees would win the final two games to split the series, but Kubek would go only 1-5 in each game.

Following an 0 for day, as they say, Kubek got another 3 hits on May 17th against the Senators. The Yankees lost 8-7.

2 hits against Cleveland on the 20th and 3 more in the first game of a doubleheader against Baltimore upped Tony's average to .302. 4 days later, he hit his 3rd homerun off Boston's Billy Muffett.

His average hovered around .300 the rest of the month, but June started off even better. 3 hits were recorded by Kubek in his first June appearance. Then he went 2-6 twice against the White Sox. .312.

On June 6th against the Twins, it was time, once again, for a 3 hit game. The day before, he'd hit homerun #4.

June 8th, the second game of a doubleheader against the A's, saw Kubek get 3 hits. The next day, same, but he scored three times as well and helped the Yankees to a 8-6 win. Two of his hits were doubles, and Tony was now batting a season high .327.

A slump followed in the next three games and Kubek couldn't even manage one hit. But then he got two against Los Angeles on the 12th, and then three more hits against the Indians on the 14th.

On June 14th against Cleveland, Tony helped power the Yankees to an 11-5 win by going 3-6, one of his hits was a double. This was his 4th 3 hit game of the month.

Kubek was 2-5 two days later against Detroit, but despite that, and despite an RBI, the Yankees lost 12-10.

After sitting out two games, Kubek was back in the lineup, to collect a hit and an RBI against KC. This time, the Yankees prevailed.

Actually, the Yankees were to lose just three more games the rest of the month, but Kubek went into a funk that dropped the average down to .296 on June 28th. But Kubek collected two more hits two days later, as the Yankees beat Washington 5-1.

The amazing stat for June? Walks, by Kubek, two!

Four two-hit games brought Kubek's average to .303 by July 9th. No hit was better than Tony Kubek's July 8th homerun.

The Yankees trailed the Red Sox, 3-0 in the bottom of the third, but a homerun by Johnny Blanchard made it 3-1, and a Kubek single brought the Yankees to within one. Before the inning was over, it was the Yankees on top 5-3.

Kubek and the Yankees weren't finished.

Mickey Mantle's fifth inning of Tracy Stallard (who would give up Roger Maris' 61st homerun on the last day of the season) made it 6-3. But then the Red Sox came back with two of their own in the top of the 7th. They were right back in it.

At least, that was, until Kubek came in the bottom of the frame. Mike Fornieles was the pitcher and he retired Bobby Richardson, the leadoff hitter.

But Kubek homered. The Yankees were up two again. Bill Skowron's homerun an inning later put the game out of reach.

But Kubek could manage only 6 hits in the next seven games. But when the Yankees needed it, he was there.

Take July 13th for example. A game where you would forget everything that Kubek did, offensively and defensively.

Richardson led of that game against the White Sox with a single. Kubek moved him over to second with a well placed bunt.

Early Wynn (7-1 entering the game) now had to face Maris and Mantle.

Maris homered (34th). Mantle homered (30th). The Yankees not only had a 3-0 lead, but they now had two players with 30 + homeruns, and it was not quite the middle of July.

And they also had a shortstop who never made the headlines.

But he was still the Yankees shortstop.

The man to the right of Kubek, Clete Boyer, drove in the Yankees 4th run of the inning. But the White Sox were not about to go away easily.

In the top of the 5th, Sherman Lollar went yard off Bill Stafford to get the Chi Sox on the board. Then Frank Baumann, the pitcher who had relived Wynn, also took Stafford deep. The lead was cut in half. When Luis Aparicio singled, the tying run was at the plate with one out. Nellie Fox was the hitter.

He pounded the ball past Boyer.

But not past Kubek.

From deep in the hole, he speared it, made the loooooooong throw to first for the out. Aparicio made it to second, and with his speed, continued to third. Boyer, after all, was still way behind third, from trying to field it. So Kubek had to beat Aparicio there.

And he did just that. BANG! A double play.

A potential big inning, turned into a slight uprising.

The Yankees would not score again until the ninth, as they were clinging to the 2 run lead. Kubek would double home Richardson. Then Mantle singled Tony home for his second RBI on the day, and 76th on the season.

A typical Yankee win. One that Kubek was overlooked, despite doing the necessary things to win.

And Aparicio knew that. "He's a very good shortstop. The talk about Zorro Versalles and Dick Howser. Forget it. Tony's the best!", he said after the game.

How's that for a compliment? From your very own counterpart.

It seemed that Kubek might only get one hit, but it would score a run, or Kubek would score a run. Or it would move a runner to third. But Kubek kept doing it.

On the 17th, he got two hits, one a double.

Then from the 19th to the 25th, Tony Kubek had 9 hits, six of the them doubles. He touched home 3 times and drove in three.

On the 29th of the month, it was another two hit show, against Baltimore. None of them scored a run, and Kubek could not do much on the base paths. But the hits sure helped.

In the third with the Yankees up 3-0, Kubek singled Richardson first to third. Richardson would score on Yogi Berra's single, but Kubek was then caught stealing.

With two down in the bottom of the 5th, Kubek kept the inning alive with a booming ground rule double to right. Berra walked, but Mantle flied out. The Yankees went on to win 5-4 when Berra homered.

Walks by Kubek in July: 3

He started out August with two hits in both ends of a doubleheader. He scored three times and drove in two. His next doubleheader came four days later as he went 1-2 in two pinch hit appearances.

He went from pinch-hitting to playing all ten innings in a 5-4 win over Los Angeles on August 8th. He collected two more hits, two more runs.

Three days later, it was time for, four hits by Tony Kubek.

Facing the expansion Senators, he stroked a triple in the first to score Bobby Richardson. Mickey Mantle drove Kubek home with a sacrifice fly.

Kubek singled to start the 3rd, then scored, along with Berra, when Elston Howard doubled. The Yankees kept adding runs as Kubek batted again that inning with Richardson on first and the Yankees up, 8-0.

He moved Richardson to third with a single, but Maris flied out to center.

In the top of the ninth, it was hit #4 for Kubek, and he scored again as Hector Lopez (who had replaced Mantle in the bottom of the 7th) singled Tony home.

He managed but 2 hits in the next five games, however, bringing him back to earth with a thud. But he wasn't done torching the White Sox. On August 17th, the Yankees were clinging to a one run lead in the fourth, when they added two, before Kubek put them out of their misery. His double to left made it 4-0.

In the sixth, he singled Richardson to second. Kubek was then forced at short by Maris, and Mantle scored Richardson with a groundout.

The Yankees managed to starve off a last ditched comeback effort in the ninth by the Sox to win 5-3.

A bum elbow was to plague him for a while, limiting him to pinch hitting, with little success.

He was back in the lineup on the 25th, but could not get a hit. The next day he got one, but it was a big one.

Kubek, who drew a walk (his second and final one of August) of the A's starter, Jerry Walker, faced him again in the top of the 6th, with the Yanks up 3-0. Kubek led off the inning.

In style, he connected solidly and sent a pitch deep to right for his 6th homerun on the campaign. When Maris followed with his 51st, everyone had forgotten about Tony. The Yankees won the game, 5-1.

He manages just one hit the next day, but it was good enough for an RBI on the Yankee's eight and final run.  The Yankees did need it, as the A's rallied and came up just short, 8-7. It was the Yankees' third straight win.

Three hits in five at bats on the last day of August brought Kubek's average up to .279. But none of the hits or anything else Kubek did that game resulted in an RBI or a run scored.

The Yankees lost the game 5-4 to the Twins.

But September began with a 12 game winning streak by the Yankees.

And Kubek did play a part in many of the wins.

He drove in two runs, and scored one himself, despite just one hit, on September 2nd in a 7-2 win over the Tigers.

He was 1-3 with an RBI on September 4th in the first game of a doubleheader win over Washington.

Then he went 3-5 with a double, a triple and three runs scored on the 7th in a 7-3 win over the Indians.

The next day was another route by the Yankees over the Indians. Can you believe it, it was even more one sided: 9-1.

And Tony Kubek shined!

After Bobby Richardson walked in the bottom of the first, Kubek pushed him to third with a single off future Red Sox Gary Bell.

It was time for Maris and Mantle to do their thing.

How about a little variation, nickle and diming?

Roger grounded out to score Richardson, Kubek was now on second. Mantle was then intentionally walked.

But it backfired as New York went on to score twice more as Kubek and Mantle each got to cross the plate.

It was still a close game as Vic Power struck out in the top of the third. A run would score as it resulted in a wild pitch.

But then Tony Kubek came up in the bottom of the fifth with starter Bill Stafford on third after hitting a triple.

Kubek deposited a Bell pitch into the right field stands for his 7th homerun. One out later, Mantle hit his 52nd to tie a career high. The game was out of reach. It was the Yankees' 96th win on the season.

After a hit, a walk, and a RBI the next day, it was followed by hit (double), a walk, a run, and an RBI on September 10th, the first game of a doubleheader. The second game went well for Kubek and the Yankees, too. Tony was 2-4 with a run scored. It was the fifth straight game that Kubek had scored a run and gotten a hit.

The Yankees recorded their last win of the 12 game winning streak on September 12th. Kubek did not score a run, or even knock in one. He did get a hit in three at bats and also got a sacrifice bunt.

The Yankees then dropped a doubleheader to the White Sox two days later despite Kubek's 2-4 and 1-4 efforts.

And there was no rest for the weary as the Yanks had to play still another doubleheader the next day in Detroit. Kubek would go only 1-9 and the Yankees could win only one of the two games. But in doing so, Tony Kubek scored his 78th run on the season, for a new career high.

The Tigers would route the Yankees on the 16th, despite Kubek's 2-2 day. It included a triple, an RBI, a run scored, and a walk. It was Tony's 44th RBI and 6th triple.

The Yanks would need 12 inning to beat the Tigers 6-4 as Kubek had another two hits and another walk. This time, he scored twice. This brought his runs scored total to 82. This also put his average up to .280.

In the next three games, Kubek was just 2-13 and on 21st of the month, wasn't even in the starting lineup.

Tom Tresh started his first ever game after two token appearances for the Yankees. The Yankees' opponents were the Baltimore Orioles.

And Tresh would play the whole game. But he and his Yankee teammates struggled with O's starter Jack Fisher, who last season gave up Ted Williams 521st and final homerun on his illustrious career. This year, he was destined to give up Roger Maris' 60th homerun.

On this night, he was destined for a good outing.

 It was 5-1 Orioles in the top of the 8th.

Jack Reed's groundout scored the Yankees second run. Kubek was called on to pinch hit for pitcher Bill Stafford.

Then Kubek went yard for the eight time on the season. That made it 5-3, but that was also all for the scoring.

That also seemed to be the end for Kubek. At least for this season.

He collected an RBI in an 8-3 win over the Red Sox the next day, but failed to get a hit. He was also hitless in the next two games.

Then Kubek rested for three games.

There was one game left, October 1st against Boston.

Hardly anyone noticed when Kubek singled with one out in the bottom of the first to end his slump.

The next batter was Roger Maris, stuck on 60 homeruns. He flied out to left field.

In the bottom of the 4th, Kubek struck out. But that was alright by Yankee fans as Maris hit his record breaking 61st homerun next.

Kubek was not done as he hit a bunt single to third.

In the bottom of the eight, Kubek grounded out relief pitcher Chet Nichols.

Then in the top of the ninth with two outs and Carl Yastrzemski on first, Lou Clinton grounded to Bobby Richardson, who tossed to Kubek on second for the force. The Yankees had won the game 1-0.

The Yankees had also finished the season with 109 wins.

Kubek had finished the year with a .276 batting average, 8 homeruns, 46 RBIs and 84 runs scored. Amazingly enough, he had walked just 27 times, so his on base average was just .306.

He played 145 games at shortstop (4th in the AL) and pinch hit 8 times (2-8, .250, 1HR, 1RBI, 1R, 1K).

Kubek appeared in both all star games.

Offensively, his 617 at bats was good enough for 6th place in the American League and his 170 hits was 9th. He wasn't just a singles hitter as his 38th doubles placed him second behind the Tigers' Al Kaline's 41. Tony was 7th in the league in sacrifice bunts with 10.

On the negative side, he made 470 outs on the season, which placed him seventh in the AL.

But how about his defense?

Kubek ranked 8th in defensive Wins Above Replacement with a 1.2 among AL shortstops.

His 449 assists was 3rd in the AL among everyone, and second among shortstops. Only Ron Hansen (with 460) and Luis Aparicio (with 487) had more assists. Aparicio was the only shortstop with more assists. Kubek's 261 putouts was good enough for 3rd among AL shortstops. Only Aparicio (264) and Dick Howser (299) had more.

How about Kubek's Range Factor Per Nine Innings? Kubek's was 5.07, second to Aparicio's 5.08. But Kubek's Range Factor Per Game of 4.90 tops Aparicio's 4.81.

Kubek's .959 fielding percentage was third among shortstops in the AL behind Woodie Held's .960 and Aparicio's .962.

In total chances, only Aparicio's 781 and Howser's 764 were more than Kubek's 740.

But Aparicio would turn just 86 double plays, far back of Kubek's 107 and Hansen's league leading 110.

Now on the negative side, there was those 30 errors committed by Kubek, which is third in the AL. But Howser committed 31 and Hansen committed 38. And Kubek was tied with Zoilo Versalles and Aparicio, actually. So he had pretty good company! Just looking at how they all did just at shortstop, it was a 4 way tie for second: Kubek, Aparicio, Hansen and Versalles.

Kubek could do no better than one walk in game 1 of the 1961 World Series. Cincinnati's Jim O'Toole allowed the Yankees just 6 hits and reliever Jim Brosnan allowed no hits in 8 combined innings of work.

Kubek made it to second after drawing a walk in the first inning. Richardson had singled and was on third. But Yogi Berra popped out.

That was the most Kubek could do. But he did not need to do anything as the Yankees got by this one, 2-0.

In game 2, the Yankees trailed 6-2 in the bottom of the eight and Kubek was still hitless.

He singled off Joey Jay, but Tony moved no further as Maris fanned, Berra flied out and  Johnny Blanchard fouled out. The Yankees went on to lose the game.

The third game saw the Yankees down 1-0 in the seventh inning when Kubek led off with a single. But Maris and Mantle made outs. Would Kubek be left stranded again. A passed ball had moved him to second.

Berra's single drove him home with a single.

With the game tied at 2 in the eight, Richardson singled with two outs. But Kubek ended the inning by flying out to centerfielder Vada Pinson.

Roger Maris won the game in the ninth for the Yankees with a homerun.

In the crucial game 4, New York was up by just a single run, 1-0, in the fifth, when Kubek singled in a vital insurance run, although Maris flied out to end the inning.

However, the Yankees would tack on 5 more runs in the game. Kubek would fly out against Brosnan in the 7th and strikeout against Bill Henry in the ninth.

In game 5, the Yankees were up 5-0 in the top of the second when Kubek singled to left. When Maris followed with a double down the left field line, Tony would score.

In the 4th inning, with the Yankees up 6-3, Kubek led off with a single. Maris flew out, but Blanchard doubled Kubek to third. When Elston Howard walked, the Yankees had the bases loaded. Moose Skowron scored both Kubek and Blanchard with a single. Hector Lopez knocked home three more with a homerun.

Kubek would face Bob Purkey in the 5th and flied out. In the seventh, he faced Brosnan leading off the inning. He flied out to second. But by this point they were up 13-5.

Then in the ninth, Kubek faced Ken Hunt, and grounded out. This would be his last plate appearance.

In the ninth, he took Elio Chacon's grounder and tossed him out at first. When the next two Red batters flied out, the Yankees were World Series Champions.

Overall, in the 1961 World Series, Tony Kubek was 5-22. He scored 3 runs and drove in 1. He also walked once. His batting average was .227.

Kubek was never someone to grab headlines or make awe inspiring plays at shortstop, but to a man, Kubek was as important as any of the players on the 1961 team.


References


Golenbock, Peter. "1961." Dynasty: The New York Yankees, 1949-1964. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary, 2000. Print, pp. 405-445.

Mantle, Mickey, and Mickey Herskowitz. "The M & M Boys." All My Octobers: My Memories of Twelve World Series When the Yankees Ruled Baseball. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. Print, pp. 129-145.

Smith, Ron. The Sporting News Presents 61*: The Story Of Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle And One Magical Summer. St. Louis: Sporting News, 2001. Print, pp 129-145.

Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.

The World Series Of 1961. Dir. Lew Fonseca. Prod. Dick Borden. Perf. New York Yankees Cincinnati Reds 1961. Major League Baseball Productions Inc, 1961. DVD. DVD Released in 2006.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

1961 Yankee Of The Day: Clete Boyer

Just 24 years old, Boyer would help the Yankee infield, in 1961, turn 180 double plays. Indeed, this was the season that Clete would be compared (fielding wise) to his older brother Ken. Sticking in the AL, Boyer was getting comparisons to 16 time Gold Glove winner, Brooks Robinson.

How about the bat?

He would spend the majority of the 1961 season batting in the 8th spot, although although from late May through June he would bat first or second.

But for the first month of the season, I would've had Boyer batting 9th behind the pitcher.

First seven games of April: 1 hit and a .050 batting average.

Then just one more hit in his next three games. Could Cletus snap out?

Ralph Houk always had faith in him, so the answer was always, yes!

On April the 29th, he got a hit in 4 trips to the plate (two strikeouts, however) to bring the average up to three digits for the first time since the 17th.

Then he got 3 hits and an RBI in a doubleheader on the last day of April against the Senators.

But I would have batted him 5th, 6th, or 7th in May.

Yup, that month was a complete reversal.

Clete got a hit (or more) in his first nine games of the month. In the last four games of the streak, he got two hits each game. Along the way, he hit a triple on the 4th, his first homerun (off Los Angeles' Tex Clevenger, a soon to be Yankee) the next day, and three doubles. The homerun Boyer hit on the 5th was with Roger Maris on and the Yankees down 4-3 in the top of the ninth, and it paved the way to a 5-4 Yankee win.

So his average was up to .299 on May 12. Granted it would never get higher, but where would Boyer go in the lineup?

Actually, he would go to the second spot on a May 14th doubleheader. Just for the first game. Reality set in as he struggled to a 1-9 on the day.

That sent him into a slump, but by the 22nd, Clete had hit his second homerun on the season off Jack Fisher or the O's, helping the Yankees to a 8-2 win. Poor Fisher! He just loves giving up these homeruns to players who need a homerun in their last at bat (Ted Williams), or for #60 on the season (Roger Maris, later) and so on...

And in that game, Boyer scored a season high 3 runs.

On a May 30th game that saw Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris AND Bill Skowron hit two homeruns each, Yogi Berra only hit one and must have spent the who game saying, "Deja vu, all over again. And again."

Boyer didn't hit any, but he contributed in other ways. One way was his season high 4 hits, and another was his 2 runs scored.

He was only 1-5 the next day against Boston, but did pick up an RBI. He closed out the month with his average at .262 and better still had batted in the first or second spot in 5 of his last 6 games.

So for June, Boyer was in the leadoff spot, except for 2 games where he batted second.

The first two June games produced, nothing. But on June 3rd, Boyer played 13 innings of a 6-5 loss to the Chi Sox, and collected 2 hits, 2 walks and 2 runs scored. Plus, one RBI.

He didn't get two hits in a game against until the 14th, although he did get 4 RBIs in the next 7 games. Then after getting two RBIs on the 8th, he didn't get much of anything until the 14th.

That day, though, he did get two hits. And also an RBI, against the Tribe.

The next two games were identical, 1-4s against Cleveland and Detroit, but the Tigers were the victim of a 2-4 and 2-5 performances by Clete on the 17th and 18th. The Yankees could only split the two games, however. In the 12-10 loss on the 17th, Boyer hit his third homerun, off Paul Foytack in the top of the ninth, as the Yankees scored 5 runs. But they were behind 12-5 before they did this. It wasn't going to be enough.

He didn't hit any homeruns on the 22nd, but Clete Boyer had another two hit day, in his last appearance in the 1st spot in the batting order for about a month.

The performance came at a price, as he was forced to miss the next nine games with a sore shoulder. So as July began for young Clete (July 4th) he was oh-for as the saying goes.

0 for 5 actually in the doubleheader against the Tigers.

But curiously, he scored 3 runs in the next three games, despite only getting 2 hits. And remember, Boyer is batting out of the dungeon now, relegated to the 8th spot, just in front of the pitcher.

And again, despite all this, he contributed. In a stretch from July 9th to July 15th, 4 games, Cletus had 7 hits, 2 runs scored and 2 RBIs. A bit of a slump followed, but his 4th homerun on the season was on July 22nd.

Then a bit of a slump, despite 3 RBIs on the 19th.

And then another run started. On July 25th, just three days later, it was a 2 hit, 2 run scored, 2 homerun, 4 RBI day for Boyer. It was the second game of a doubleheader.

The next day saw Boyer hit his 7th homerun.

July ended with not much more.

And August would start with only a defensive replacement in his first game, followed by two 0-3, 1BB performances.

And then a marathon game.

Actually, it was a doubleheader day against the Twins. The first game went 15 innings and saw Boyer get 2 hits in 8 at bats. In the second game it was only 9 innings, but Boyer got a hit in 3 at bats.

But all that and Clete got just one RBI!

And then three more games without a hit dropped him down to .217.

But after that, a 7 game hitting streak brought his average up 17 points.

In the streak he had a 3 hit game, 2 2 hit games and four games with one hit. He also his a homerun in the second game of a August 12th doubleheader.

But he couldn't keep the ball rolling as he managed just one hit in the next six games. Just when things were looking up...

RBIs were coming slow at this point as Boyer did not get any after August 13.

On August 24th against the Angels, he got 2 hits in 3 at bats. But the Yankees lost 6-4.

The streak of no RBIs continued on to September as it eventually reached 19 games. During which time, Clete could hit only .194.

But on the 4th, not only did get an RBI and 2 runs scored, but he also collected two hits against the Nats. That was the first game of a doubleheader. In the second game Clete Boyer hit his 9th homerun off Pete Burnside. His also hit his 6th sacrifice fly on the season.

Another RBI and run scored went into the record books the next day, but no hits. Although the RBIs dried up for a bit, his hitting had improved to .230 by September 7th.

On September 10th, in the second game of a doubleheader against Cleveland, he went to work with two extra base hits: a double and a triple, 2 RBIs and a run scored.

This began a hot streak, RBI-wise for Clete. He collected 2 homeruns and 7 more RBIs in the next 8 games. Although his average was still down, the number 8 hit was now getting the timely hits.

But on September 20th, he collected his last RBI as part of a 2 hit game against Baltimore. But no one noticed as Roger Maris and Yogi Berra went back to back on longballs in the 3rd. The Yankees clinched the pennant with the win.

He failed to get any more RBIs or runs scored in the next 7 games as the season came to a close.

Boyer's .224 average, 11 homeruns might not seem like much. But this is the 8th hitter in the lineup! 55 RBIs and 61 runs scored are pretty good, doncha think?

Boyer never pinch hit in the entire year. Of his 148 games played, 141 were at third base, 12 were at shortstop and 1 was in the outfield.

Clete was obviously not much in the way of the league leaders in offence, although he did rank 6th in sacrifice flies with 8.

Defence though, was another story. His defensive WAR was 3.0 tops among all positioned players. And his 141 games a third was topped only by Brooks Robinson, Frank Malzone and Bubba Phillips among AL third sackers. Malzone led all third basemen in double plays with 45, with Boyer second at 36.

Boyer's .967 fielding percentage was topped only by Robinson's .972. But Boyer tied Robinson for second in putouts with 151 despite playing 22 less games.

And, how about assists? Well, Boyer had 353, tops among any third basemen in the AL. Clete's brother Ken led the National League in assists with 346 in 153 games!

Clete's range factor per nine innings is a staggering 3.78, the next closest to him among third basemen with 100 games played would be Phillips with 3.07. And Boyer's 3.57 ranger factor per game is tops with Phillips still well back at 3.03. If you are wondering where Brooks Robinson is, he's at 2.96.

But Robinson won the Gold Glove.

Robinson didn't play in the World Series, however, and Boyer did.

In game one it was Boyer's defence that helped pave the way for a Yankee win.

It was in the top of the second that Gene Freese who slammed a hard grounder to third. Boyer, who had just made a play to retire Wally Post, dove to his right to get his hands on the ball, which then ended up in between his legs. Boyer planted his right leg, from the knee down, on the ground. Then in the process of getting up, Clete tossed to first for the out. What a play!

Then in the 8th, Boyer added to his heroics by robbing pinch hitter Dick Gernert of a hit with a diving stop to his left. From both knees, he threw out Gernert at first.

Boyer, at bat, went 1-3 but it did not figure into the scoring. The Yankees won 2-0.

In game 2, Boyer's great defence continued.

But before I get to that, I should note that Cletus muffed a Frank Robinson ground ball in the top of the 4th with one out. The next batter, Gordy Coleman, hit a homerun to break a scoreless game.

But in the 6th, Robinson led off with a hot shot down the third base line that looked like a sure hit.

That is, until, Clete Boyer dived to his right, came up with it cleanly and threw Frank out! An out later, Wally Post got the message and whacked a double that was too high for Clete to make a play on. The Reds went on to score when Johnny Edwards hit a single to score Post.

Clete added two walks, including one with two outs in the ninth, but could not collect a hit. The Yankees lost, 6-2.

The Series moved to Cincinnati for games 3, 4 and 5.

And Boyer brough his bat with him for these games!

But game three was forgettable as he failed to get the ball out of the infield in his only three plate appearances against Bob Purkey.

In game 4, it was Jim O'Toole, back from a strong game 1 performance for the Reds, on the hill. He got Boyer to hit into a fielder's choice in the third. Then Clete himself was erased when Whitey Ford, the Yankee starter, also hit into a fielder's choice.  A double by Bobby Richardson put runners on second and third, but Tony Kubek flied out.

In the fifth, the Yankees were up 1-0 and got a runner on with no one out. Alas, Boyer hit into a double play! A Kubek single would later score the Yankees second run.

Then in the sixth, the Yankees loaded the bases for Boyer. Jim Brosnan was now pitching. Could Clete come through?

He sure could! He lashed a double to left to score two runners. It was now 4-0, and the Yankees had a chance for more with Bill Skowron on third, and Boyer on second.

Ford batted and grounded to first, which first baseman Coleman made the play unassisted. Then Skowron got himself trapped between third and home. Coleman made that play, too. And unassisted!

By the eighth, the Yankees had upped their lead to 7-0, despite some good Red defence, and Boyer led off. He flied out.

By game 5, Boyer had his best game offensively.

In the first inning, the Yankees had opened up a 4-0 lead and knocked out Reds' starting pitcher Joey Jay. Jim Maloney came in to pitch.

Boyer promptly hit a double off him to score Hector Lopez, who himself had greeted Maloney with a triple. 5-0, New York.

Boyer drew a walk in the third of Bill Henry, was sacrifice to second, but left there as the Yankees could do no more that inning.

The Bronx Bombers had upped their lead to 6-0 by then. But Cincinatti cut the lead in half in the bottom of the frame as Robinson hit a three run homerun.

However, the Yankees were not done. They got 5 more runs off Henry in the fourth before Sherman Jones averted further damage by getting Boyer to pop up and and Yankee relief pitcher Bud Daley to ground out.

The Reds again made an effort to make a game of it when Post hit a two run homerun in the bottom of the 5th. 11-5 Yankees.

Lopez's sacrifice bunt (and he reached second anyway on Coleman's error) made it 12-5, and Boyer came to bat with runners on second and third and just one out against Bob Purkey. The Reds' walked him.

Daley himself would hit a sacrifice fly for the Yankees final tally.

Boyer added a single in the eighth, and again made it second eventually. But, again, he was stranded there. It ended up being the last play of any kind for him that season.

Although he got just 4 total hits in the World Series that year, Boyer hit a solid .267 with 3 RBI. Amazingly, he never scored a run that Series. But he got 4 walks to give him and On Base Percentage of .421 for the postseason.

Clete Boyer's contributions to the Yankees of 1961 will probably not be remembered. After, all, he had an older brother named Ken who could really hit. But to his teammates and fans, Clete was like a Hoover vacuum (A-la Brooks Robinson) that season, making plays that saved many a run. The Yankees as a team that year would turn 180 double plays, tops in the American League. Despite his weak batting average, Boyer had proven himself to be a valuable man to manager Ralph Houk.


References


Golenbock, Peter. "1961." Dynasty: The New York Yankees, 1949-1964. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary, 2000. Print, pp. 405-445.

Mantle, Mickey, and Mickey Herskowitz. "The M &M Boys." All My Octobers: My Memories of Twelve World Series When the Yankees Ruled Baseball. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. Print, pp. 129-145.

Smith, Ron. The Sporting News Presents 61*: The Story Of Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle And One Magical Summer. St. Louis: Sporting News, 2001. Print.

Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 11 Nov. 2011.

The World Series Of 1961. Dir. Lew Fonseca. Prod. Dick Borden. Perf. New York Yankees Cincinnati Reds 1961. Major League Baseball Productions Inc, 1961. DVD. DVD Released in 2006.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

World Series: Did You Know?

Joe Carter hit four World Series home runs.

And all of them have special meaning to me.

They all came of left-handed pitchers.

His first one, was in the Toronto Blue Jays very first World Series game back in 1992. I remember it well, because it was the only run the Jays got as the Atlanta Braves won a pitcher's duel between Jack Morris (20 game winner) and Tom Glavine (also a 20 game winner). So it was the first homerun by a Toronto Blue Jay in a World Series.

His next one put the Jays ahead, again! This time, right there at home. Game 3.

So in the bottom of the fourth inning, Joe Carter came up, as everyone tried to settle down. And he promptly smacked the first pitch by Steve Avery for a homerun. It was the first homerun ever hit on Canadian turf in a World Series. The Jays eventually won the game 3-2. And the Jays would go on to win the World Series, 4-2.

The Jays were back the next year to take on the Philadelphia Philies. And this time, the Jays took the opener, 8-5. But in the second game, against Terry Mulholland, the Jays got behind 5-0, and Carter came to bat with Paul Molitor on first.

On the fourth pitch, he smacked at 2-1 pitch to left. And it was out of here! 5-2. Joe was letting 'em know this game had a long way to go!

The Jays were back in the game, but they still lost by a final score of 6-4.

Carter's next home run was off Mitch Williams in game 6, but you don't need to know about that, do you?


References


Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 25 Oct. 2011.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

1961 Yankee Of The Day: Elston Howard

The man behind the plate.

Howard, the first black Bronx Bomber, was stationed behind the plate for 111 games in 1961 despite the presence of Yogi Berra and Johnny Blanchard.

His month of April was seemingly uneventful, but he just kept getting hits, but no homeruns or RBIs!

Yet he scored a run in his first three games, and had back to back two hit games. First on April 21st against the Orioles, Ellie was 2-4, then the next day even better, 2-3.

Howard got his first RBI on the 26th against Detroit, helping the Yankees to a wild 13-11 win. But it would be his only RBI of the month.

However, steady Ellie kept hitting and was 2-4 the next day against the Tribe to raise his average to an incredible .435!

An 0-4 performance against the lowly Senators on the 30th, dropped his average on the season to .370. Hal Woodeshick and Dave Sisler shut him down. Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris both failed to hit a homerun, and the Yankees lost 4-3.

May would be a better. RBIs were suddenly not needed as Howard had 4 in his first three games that month. And by the end of that third game for Ellie on this month, his average was an even .400!

On May 17th, he got his second 3 hit game of the month, and New York lost again to the Sens despite another RBI by the catcher.

He got just one more RBI that month, but got 6 hits in his last four games, including a pinch hit on May 24th. He had raised his .370 average at the end of April to .391 by the end of May.

What about the longball? In order to get there we need to get through three, three hit games on June 4th (3 RBI), 5th (second game of a doubleheader) and 8th (again, the second game of a doubleheader. And he collected a double, a triple and scored twice).

His first homerun came June 17th and it was part of another 3 hit game. And it was part of another wild game, lost by the Yankees to Detroit, 12-10.

The Yankees went into the top of the 9th, trailing 12-5.

But Clete Boyer went yard off Paul Foytack, and then Mantle waved his magic wand and belted a three run shot. Howard would face Bill Fischer, no stranger to milestone homeruns.

So it was Howard who hit his first off him, but Terry Fox retired Bill Skowron before the Yankees could get any closer.

Elston then hit a dramatic pinch hit longball on the 24th. It was against Minnesota, and it came in the Yankees last at bat, New York was leading by two 9-7. With one out in the top of the ninth, Howard pinch hit for Johnny Blanchard. The pitcher was Chuck Stobbs, the victim of Mantle's 565 foot homerun back in 1953. Howard's longball to right put the game out of reach.

The next game, Howard didn't have to wait for heroics as he drove in Tony Kubek in the 4th with a single. Then in the top of the 6th with the Bombers trailing 3-2, Maris walked and Mantle singled him to second. That brought up Howard. Howard to a rip and sent the ball into the seats in left. The Yankees were now ahead, and they would never look back.

After going hitless in the last two June games and collecting an RBI on July 1st, he hit homerun #4 against the Senators, to help the Yankees to a 13-4 win the next day.

Then came July 6th against Cleveland.

And Elston led the swinging.

Leading off the 5th inning, Howard's homerun off Dick Stigman, broke a scoreless tie, and the Yankees went on to score two more times that inning.

In the 6th, Howard came up again with one out and Bob Allen on the mound. Elston send one into the stands in right, putting New York up 4-0 and that's how it ended as Bill Stafford tosses a 2-hitter.

The next day was even better as he drove in four including a three run homerun against Boston's Billy Muffett.

Two days later Ellie had 3 hits in 4 at bats in the first game of a doubleheader to boast his average up to .371. But he failed to score a run and collected just one RBI. He failed to get a hit as a pinch hitter in the second game.

In a span of four games from July 14th to 17th, Howard got 2 hits in each game, including a homerun on the 15th against the White Sox. His batting average on the season was a high .377! But it would never get better.

After slumping to .358 by the 23rd (but also hitting a homerun on this day), Howard was back with two hits in each game of a doubleheader on July 25th. He added a homerun in the second game to reach double digits.

He didn't do much the rest of the month, but he did collect two RBIs in his first August game (2nd) and then hit his 11th homerun two days later against the Twins, in a game that he played first base.

Then Ellie went a while before hitting another, although he did collect 2 RBIs on the 8th, 11th and 13th. His next homerun came August 18th in a 5-1 loss against the Tribe.

He didn't hit one the next day, but he did collect two hits, an RBI and a run scored. On the 20th, he got two more hits in the first game of a doubleheader, neither of which scored a run or resulted in Howard eventually scoring. He did not play in the nightcap.

Elston was only 1-9 in the next two games combined, but then he was back in a long ball state of mind on the 27th. Actually, he went out and got 3 hits, 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored.

On August 30th, he got another dinger against the Twins and pitcher Ray Moore, on in relief of Jim Kaat, as the Yankees won again 4-0 behind another shutout by Stafford.

An 0-4 performance on the last day of August resulted in a 5-4 and Elston's average down to .351.

It is a September 3rd homerun that I think was Howard's biggest of 1961.

In the bottom of the 7th, with the Bronx Bombers ahead 4-2 to the Tigers, Howard pinch hit for Stafford and struck out against Terry Fox. But Howard stayed in the game at catcher.

The Tigers rallied and went ahead 5-4, and the Yankees went into the bottom of the ninth, down.

Mickey Mantle tied the game with a dramatic leadoff homerun in the bottom of the ninth off Gerry Staley. Then with two outs and two on, Howard won the game with a three run homerun off Ron Kline.

Then came a four game set against Washington where Howard collected 8 hits, including a homerun.

On September 8th against Cleveland, he had 3 hit, 2 RBIs and a run scored. The next day, he slammed his 17th homerun as the Yankees won 8-7. Number 18 was not far away.

It was the next day in the second game of a doubleheader. A game that saw Elston get two hits, three RBIs and two runs scored.

The Yankees next game was a rain shortened contest between the Yankees and White Sox on September 12th, and Ellie had 3 RBIs on a single and a triple.

On the 14th, Howard hit his 19th homerun in the second game of a doubleheader against Juan Pizzaro of the White Sox.

His average had steadily risen to .367 with a pinch hit in the first game of the doubleheader, but now it began to slide.

But it did not stop him from getting to 20 homeruns, which he did with a blast off Frank Larry in a 10-4 loss on September 16th.

A 1-3 first game, 3-4 second game, doubleheader performance brought his average up to .363 on September 19th. Better still, Norm Cash, his chief competitor for the batting crown, had slipped to .359.

Then came a slump, although Howard would connect for homerun #21 on September 23rd for 21 on the year. But the problem is, Ellie hit just .111 in the last 8 games of the season.

Howard was still up on Cash .356 to .354 on September 26th, but the next day saw Cash at .355 and Howard .353.

Then it was .359 to .351 on the 29th and Cash upped it to .361 on the final day of the season.

Howard would have to be content with .348. Their On Base Average was no comparison: .487 for Cash and just .387 for Howard.

Ultimately, though, all this was for not, anyway. As in, not enough, plate appearances. More on that later.

Even so, how about that season by Howard! The 129 games he got into were a career high. He caught 111 games and played 9 games at first. He pinch hit 14 times.

But how about the real numbers? I'll give you an interesting one: The Yankees team ERA was 3.46 with Howard playing the majority of the time. That was good enough for second in the AL behind the O's.

And the Yankees pitching staff tossed just 33 wild pitches all year, 4 behind Chicago and Detroit. Howard allowed only 22 of them for 9th fewest in the league. As for passed balls, Howard was eighth in the league with eight. But in both cases he was well back of the 1-2-3 leaders.

He also allowed 20 stolen bases, 12 other catchers allowed more. Two other catchers, Hank Foiles and Hal Naragon allowed 20 stolen bases in 38 and 36 games respectively. Howard threw out 20 theft attempts for 5th in the league. That's an even 50 percent Caught Stealing percentage, second in the AL behind Dick Brown.

Howard's 6.11 Ranger Factor Per Game was above league average, which was 5.47 for catchers. Only two catchers, Gus Trinandos and Earl Battey, recorded higher among catchers with 100 or more games played.

Assists saw Howard at 5th with 43, behind Battey's 60. Howard's 635 putouts was 4th behind Battey's 812. It should be noted that Battey caught 20 more games than Howard.

Actually, it was John Ramano who caught the most games that year of any AL catcher with 141. Howard was 4th behind Trinandos' 114.

As for his WAR, that is Wins Above Replacement, Howard was 7th in the league 5.9. Roger Maris was 5th at 7.2 and Mantle took it at 11.9.

On offence, Howard's WAR was 6th at 5.7. Mantle lead this at 11.9. Cash was second at 8.9.

Howard did not accumulate enough plate appearances to qualify for any of the averages.

But it should be noted that his batting average was higher than second place finisher, Al Kaline, who was at .324. His On Base Percentage would have been 8th, just behind Kaline's .393.

How about what he did chart the top 10 in? And was eligible?

Ellie did have the respect of pitchers that season, when the walked him intentionally 6 times to tie Harmon Killebrew for 9th in the AL. Norm Cash again! He lead the league with 19. Amazingly, Mantle, Johnny Blanchard and Moose Skowron all tied for 4th with 9!

As for MVP, Howard was 10th with 30 votes. Maris won it, of course, with 202 votes to Mantle's 198. Whitey Ford had 102 and Luis Arroyo had 95. Cash, by the way, had 151 for fourth place.

Howard played in both All Star games that year. What he needed was 506 plate appearances, to qualify him for the batting title. He had ended up with 482, just 24 short.

But, it was on to the World Series in any case!

His homerun in the bottom of the 4th essentially won the game for the Yankees, as Ford blanked the Reds 2-0, on a 2-hitter.

But in the sixth, Howard appeared to have another hit, and I mean a big hit, as he sent O'Toole's pitch to center, but Vada Pinson made a nice catch to avert further trouble.

In the second game it was the Reds' Elio Chacon, who was subbing for Don Blasingame, who caused Howards some fite

Chacon's first at bat saw him send Berra back for long out.

Howard, meanwhile, grounded out against Cincy's starter, Joey Jay in the bottom of the second. In the 4th, after the Yankees tied the game, Howard walked with one out, only to have Bill Skowron ground into an inning ending double play.

Then with two outs in the fifth, and the game knotted at 2, Chacon singled, then made it to third when Eddie Kasko singled to center and Maris' perfect throw to third was somehow too late. Then came the crucial play that cost the Yankees the game.

Pinson was the batter, and Ralph Terry's pitch came inside and got away from Howard. Once he caught up to it, he looked to see where Kasko was going, instead of looking at Chacon, who was on his way home. Elston ended up on top of Elio, but far to late and the Reds were on top 3-2.

In the sixth, with the Reds having tacked on another run, it was Howard who hit into a double play.

It was his last at bat in the ninth that is odd. Howard swung at one of Jay's pitch, and somehow ended up hitting the ball twice, so Ellie was out on interference. The Yankees would lose the game 6-2.

So it was on to Cincinnati for games 3, 4 and 5.

The best Elston could do was a double in the 5th with one out. And he was quickly erased as Skowron lined into a double play. But the Yankees won the game 3-2, to back in front in the Series.

Facing the Cincy's Jim O'Toole in the top of the second, Howard went down on strikes. In the fourth, with Roger Maris on third and Hector Lopez (pinch running for Mantle) on first, Howard hit into a double play. Maris scored, but Elston had stopped the Yankees from getting a big inning. 1-0 Yankees

But in the sixth, with the game still close, 2-0, and after Lopez had fanned, Howard rifled a double to right center off reliever Jim Brosnan. Yogi Berra was walked intentionally, and Skowron singled to load the bases. When Clete Boyer doubled, Howard and Berra scored.

The Yankees added 3 more in the 7th despite Ellie's strikeout, and Howard was scheduled to bat 4th in the ninth, but Bill Henry retired Tony Kubek, Roger Maris and Hector Lopez in order.

None of that could stop the Yankees from winning 7-0 and going up 3-1 in the Series.

With New York up 2-0 in their first turn at bat, Howard kept the rally going with a double of Jay. He later scored when the next batter, Skowron, hit a single.

After lining out in the second, Howard came up in the 4th with runners on second and third. The Reds walked him. But Skowron again singled, scoring everyone except Howard. And then Lopez's homerun scored Elston. The Bronx Bombers were now up 11-3. All this off Henry. Swift revenge!

Ellie would later single and score the New York's final run in the 6th after reaching on a error, although he singled in the 7th.

Fittingly, Howard was the last batter of the Yankees grand 1961. The highest average (unofficially) struck out against Ken Hunt to leave Maris on second.

Elston Howard would bat just .250 in the Series, but hit 3 doubles, a homerun, 1 RBI, 2 walks and 5 runs scored. Six Yankees topped that average in the Series, but it was Elston whose hitting throughout the season is often forgotten.

Howard had clearly arrived in 1961, taking the catching duty in earnest.


References


Golenbock, Peter. "1961." Dynasty: The New York Yankees, 1949-1964. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary, 2000. Print, pp. 405-445.

Mantle, Mickey, and Mickey Herskowitz. "The M &M Boys." All My Octobers: My Memories of Twelve World Series When the Yankees Ruled Baseball. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. Print, pp. 129-145.

Smith, Ron. The Sporting News Presents 61*: The Story Of Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle And One Magical Summer. St. Louis: Sporting News, 2001. Print.

Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 20 Oct. 2011.

The World Series Of 1961. Dir. Lew Fonseca. Prod. Dick Borden. Perf. New York Yankees Cincinnati Reds 1961. Major League Baseball Productions Inc, 1961. DVD. DVD Released in 2006.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

1961 Yankee Of The Day: Johnny Blanchard

Blanchard comes off the bench, hits a homerun.

Blanchard comes off the bench, hits a homerun.

Again and again? It seemed like it.
 
April didn't give any hint of that. He played three straight games, all as a pinch hitter and did nothing, except strikeout in his last at bat of the month.
 
After failing to get a hit in another pinch hit appearance on May 2nd, he started the very next day. Blanchard only went 1-5, but he collected his first RBI.
 
Then he went 0-2 in his next two pinch hit at bats. But on May 7th, he was back behind the plate against Los Angeles, and he smacked his first homerun, and drew an intentional walk. The downside was losing the game 5-3 and doing nothing else other than walk and homerun.
 
5 days later he was walked intentionally again in a game against the Tigers. He also collected a hit, but it only lifted his average to .167!
 
The next day, he hommered against Phil Regan to bring the Yankees within one of the Tigers, 3-2. Yogi Berra, playing in left field tied the game in the 6th with a solo shot. Alas, the Yankees watched helplessly as the Tigers put 5 runs on the board the rest of the way, to their zero.
 
He was back on May 14th, in the second game of a doubleheader. This was John's forth straight game the he made an appearance, three of them starts. In the first game, he came in as a defensive replacement in the 10th inning and failed to collect a hit in his only at bat. In the nightcap, however, he collected a hit, 2 walks and an RBI. Now his average was a season high .240, so far.
 
His next big game came 11 days later. Kind of fitting that it was against the Red Sox, as you will see later. Mickey Mantle was off, so Roger Maris started in centerfield, Yogi Berra in right, and Bob Cerv in left. You had Clete Boyer batting second and Bobby Richardson batting eighth in front of Whitey Ford.
 
In the bottom of the first with Tony Kubek on first and one out, Blanchard faced former Cardinal Billy Muffett. Johnny whacked a homerun to right, and the Yankees would tack on another run that inning. It was 6-0 after 5 innings, and the Yankees held off Boston's 4 runs late in the game to win.
 
Blanchard collected just one more RBI the rest of the month, however, and his average was now down to .204.
 
On June 1st, he collected two hits and two walks. His two hits were doubles, and he got another RBI.
 
Four days later, Blanchard really came up big!
 
With the Yankees trailing 2-0 to the Twins in the bottom of the 7th. Blanchard faced Don Lee with two on.
 
WHAM! Three run homerun!
 
Not only did the Yankees have the lead, but Mantle's two run shot the next inning put the game out of reach.
 
On June 8th, it was Johnny Blanchard who got 2 hits and scored twice. He failed to pick up an RBI, however. The Yankees beat KC, 6-1.
 
He did get RBIs in back to back games on June 14th and 15th, then he upped his heroics with a performance on June 18th against the Tigers. Blanchard helped the Yankees to a 9-0 win.
 
In the bottom of the 2nd, Bill Showron went deep, and then Blanchard, on cue, followed suit for back to back dingers. It was 2-0 against Yankee killer Frank Larry. Boyer and Mantle then each hit sacrafice flies to make it 4-0 before the inning was over.
 
Jerry Casale was the Tigers pitcher in the 7th and the Yankees were now up 6-0. Blanchard, made it clear that he and the Yankees weren't finished by hitting another homerun. He ended the game with a season high 3 runs scored.
 
This performance lifted his average to a more than respectable .278.
 
On the 24th, he helped the Yankees to another win over the City Twin with a homerun, then two days later, smacked one pinch hitting.
 
So June ended with Johnny Blanchard hitting 5 homeruns, upping his total to 8 on the season. His also knocked in 12 and batted .359 for the month.
 
On Independence Day of 1961, Blanchard raised his average to .293 by going 3 for 4. Amazingly, he did not get an RBI or a run scored. The Yankees lost to Detroit, 4-3.
 
4 days later, he once again torched the Red Sox with a homerun. Then he got two RBIs against the other Sox on the 15th. And he was know just one decimal point below .300!
 
He did reach .300 on July 19th in the first game of a doubleheader against the Sens, but he dropped below the mark in the nightcap.
 
But on the 21st, Blanchard came up in the top of the 9th against Boston, of course. The Yankees trailed 8-6, with two outs and the bases loaded. Hey! Don't we all go to bed dreaming of this scenario? As in hitting a grand slam.
 
Which Blanchard did, against Mike Fornieles. Did I mention he was pinch hitting?
 
So the very next day, Blanchard again pinch hit in the 9th inning. And again the Yankees trailed, this time 9-8. The pitcher was Gene Conley, who also played for the NBA's Boston Celtics.
 
And I'll bet he wished basketball season started early that season, as Blanchard smacked another homerun, tying the game. The Yankees went on to win, 11-9.
 
So his next game was four games later. This time, the Yankees got the idea: We gotta start this guy more often.
 
The strategy would pay off.
 
In the bottom of the 1st, Mantle greeted Ray Herbert with a two run shot. Blanchard was up next. Could he duplicate that?
 
Well, he couldn't his a two run homerun, obliviously! But he settled for a solo shot!
 
It was still 3-0 in the bottom of the 4th as Blanchard came up again.
 
And again hit a homerun.
 
Johnny Blanchard now had 4 homeruns in 4 plate appearances.
 
Herbert, now shaken, allowed another blast by Boyer before the inning ended.
 
So Blanchard came up again the bottom of the 6th, with Herbert settling down.
 
Blanchard gave it a ride, deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep to right. Can it be? Blanchard turned on the jets, to give the ball some imaginary weight. Floyd Robinson in right field ran, backed up to the fence.
 
And he hauled it in! So close.
 
Blanchard's next at bat resulted in a double play, but the Yankees starved off the ChiSox's two run uprising in the top of the 7th and won 5-2.
 
Blanchard knew that it was still all about Mantle, and Maris (who didn't hit one) after the game. Johnny made that clear to the reporters who came up to ask him about his slugging rampage.  Everyone knew exactly what he meant.
 
The month ended with Blanchard going 3-3, plus a walk, in a game against the O's . But just like his first appearance this month, there was no RBIs or runs scored. And again it was a loss by one run, 2-1.
 
But this performance put his average at .315 for the season.
 
Kansas was the victim of two hits, a walk and three RBIs on August 2nd. And his batting average was now a season high .321, but it would not get any higher.
 
Blanchard managed just one hit against Minnesota two days later. The Yankees were tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 10th inning. With one out, Mantle walked and Yogi Berra singled him to second. Johnny Blanchard would face Bill Pleis.
 
Hero time!
 
BLAM! Homerun! The Yankees won 8-5.
 
He had just one hit in 7 trips to the plate the next day, but, you guessed it, it was a homerun.
 
His average sagged the next few days, but he was back at it on the 13th, with 2 hits (one a triple), 2 runs scored and an RBI.
 
This would be his last RBI of the month, and Blanchard close out the month with just a run scored in the last 9 games.
 
September started out no better as he was 0 for 2 on September 3rd to drop his batting average to .282. But the next day was a new day, a 3 for 3 day!
 
And it included a homerun.
 
On September 6th, it was a 2 for 4 day, but the "2" represented homeruns, giving him 18 for the season.
 
On the 8th, a 2-3 performance at the plate put his average back over .300, for good on the season.
 
Another homerun came the very next day against Cleveland, and he had two other hits for good measure.
 
The big moment came the next day (September 10th) in the first game of a doubleheader against the Indians. Blanchard was in left field It came in the bottom of the second, after Mickey Mantle tripled. Johnny Blanchard faced Barry Latman and went deep to right to give him 20 homeruns on the year. It had taken him just 78 games, 197 at bats and 225 plate appearances. The Yankees won the game 7-6.
 
In the second game, he actually failed to hit a homerun, but, playing left field again, Blanchard again made his presence felt with 2 hits, 2 RBIs, a run scored and one hit by pitch. Mantle kept everyone interested with homerun #53.
 
It wasn't until September 20th that he got two hits again, as the Yankees beat Baltimore 4-2. Blanchard did fail to get an RBI, although he did score a run. And the run ended up being the Yankees forth and final run. In that game Maris (#59) and Berra (#21) went back to back in the top of the third before Elston Howard's double scored Blanchard, who had singled. I wonder if anyone noticed?
 
After getting a hit in his only at bat of a September 24th game against Boston, Blanchard had 2 more hits and his first RBI in two weeks.
 
Then, in his final highlight of the 1961 regular season, he went 2-4 with his final homerun against, why Boston, of course. In the bottom of the 4th, he hit a dinger off  Bill Monbouquette to put the Yankees up 1-0. After the Red Sox tied it in the 7th, Blanchard won the game in the bottom of the 9th with a walk off single of Monbouquette  to score Roger Maris.
 
Blanchard finished the 1961 season as having participated in 93 games, accumulated 243 at bats, hitting 21 homeruns, knocking in 54 runners, and touching home 38 times. He recorded 27 walks, 9 intentional. Plus he was hit by a pitch four times. His finals batting average was .305 and his on base percentage was a very impressive .382.
 
He caught 48 games, played in left field 8 times and right field 7 times. He pinch hit 33 times.
 
With the Yankees up 2-0 in game 1 of the 1961 World Series against Cincinnati, John came up in the bottom of the 8th against Jim Brosnan. New York had Berra on first and two outs. Brosnan got him on a popup.
 
Game 2 was an 0-4 performance against Joey Jay, as the Yankees lost 6-2.
 
Blanchard had a chance to redeem himself in game 3 as the Yankees trailed 2-1 in the eighth. There were two outs and he faced Bob Purkey, having one hell of a game.
 
Purkey had kept the Yankees off guard all game long with knuckleballs. But Mickey Mantle reminded Blanchard before he batted to look out for a slider on the first pitch. That was the best pitch to go after, because it was all knuckles after that.
 
Mantle's advice paid off as Blanchard slammed Purkey's first pitch (a slider, of course) into right for a homerun. Maris won the game an inning later.
 
Johnny Blanchard did not play in game 4, but in game 5 with Mantle back out, there John was out in right field, with Maris in center and Berra in left.
 
In the top of the first with two on, two outs and Joey Jay back on the mound, Blanchard put the Yankees ahead for good with a homerun.
 
After walking in the second inning off Jim Maloney, he doubled to right in the 4th inning of Bill Henry, which moved Tony Kubek to third. Skowron scored both of them with a single, putting New York up 8-3.
 
In the sixth, it was Purkey back on the mound. Blanchard drew a lead off walk, and would later score again. Now the Bronx Bombers were up 12-5. They would add another tally that inning.
 
Then in the 9th, with the Yankees up 13-5 with Maris on first and one out, Blanchard faced Ken Hunt, the Reds' 8th pitcher on the day. Blanchard grounded out.
 
In four World Series games that year, Blanchard had 2 homeruns, 3 RBIs, 4 runs scored, 2 walk and a .400 average in 10 at bats.
 
Overall, the 1961 season was a momentous one for Johnny Blanchard. While Mantle and Maris grabbed the highlights when it came to the long ball, Blanchard did that two in limited duty in both the regular season and post season.


References


Golenbock, Peter. "1961." Dynasty: The New York Yankees, 1949-1964. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary, 2000. Print, pp. 405-445.

Mantle, Mickey, and Mickey Herskowitz. "The M &M Boys." All My Octobers: My Memories of Twelve World Series When the Yankees Ruled Baseball. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. Print, pp. 129-145.

Smith, Ron. The Sporting News Presents 61*: The Story Of Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle And One Magical Summer. St. Louis: Sporting News, 2001. Print.

Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 15 Oct. 2011.

The World Series Of 1961. Dir. Lew Fonseca. Prod. Dick Borden. Perf. New York Yankees Cincinnati Reds 1961. Major League Baseball Productions Inc, 1961. DVD. DVD Released in 2006.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

1961 Yankee Of The Day: Hector Lopez

Lopez was someone who was stuck with a sarcastic nickname after coming to New York: What-A-Pair-Of-Hands-Hector.

This was because Hector had a notorious problem fielding.

But their was nothing wrong with his hitting, except in the 1961 regular season.

Lopez started the season in left field alongside Mickey Mantle And Roger Maris. Too bad he wasn't hitting like them.

After going 0 for 4 in the season opener, Lopez managed a hit and a walk against Kansas City, where he also scored a run, four days later.

But in his next six games, the best he could manage was 1-4, which did not much for his average. An April 23rd 1 for 3 with a walk left his average at .176. An 0-4 performance the next day against the Tigers (and Yankee killer Frank Larry), dropped his average even lower (.158).

Then came a bit of a resurgance. First Lopez was 3-6 with an RBI and a run scored two days later. He followed that up with a 1-2, RBI day against Cleveland on the 27th.

Despite getting a hit in the 3 games that followed that, Hector ended April with his average at .220.

May started out on a, hey-that-doesn't-make-sense note. Lopez managed just one hit in the first four games. Just one RBI, too. But 4 walks resulted in 4 runs scored for Lopez.

May 7th saw Lopez get his first extra base hit in about a month with a double of the Angels Ned Garver in the 8th inning. It was actually a lead off double as the Yankees eventually loaded the bases with two outs. Clete Boyer's grounder forced Johnny Blanchard at third. The Yankees eventually lost, 5-3.

After going a combined 1-10 in the next two games, Lopez smacked hit first homerun with a longball of Lary on the 12th. Moose Skowron scored infront of him on that blast in the 4th, overcame the Tigers 1-0 lead that they had established in the top of the frame. Despite another run in the 5th for a 3-1 lead, the Yankees did no more, and Lary and the Tigers won again, 4-3.

His next two games were just pinch hit appearances, first drawing a walk off Hank Agguire of Detroit on the 14th, then walking once, staying in the game and walking again, two days later.

He drew still another walk on May 17th, but also added two hits, as the Yankees lost 8-7 to the Senators.

On May 19th, Hector Lopez got a pitch he liked in the top of the 7th of the Yankees game against Cleveland. His homerun put the Yankees up 6-4, but 5 runs by the Indians in the bottom of the 8th cost the Yankees the game.

Lopez was relegated to pinch hit duties the following day, and the Yankees were again relegated to mortals as they suffered their forth straight loss, 4-3.

But Lopez's RBI in the first game of a doubleheader (against Baltimore) had the Yankees back in the winners column. He managed a hit in 4 trips to the plate in the nightcap.

But he would be held hitless by Jack Fisher (who had given up Ted Williams' last homerun the year before, and later on this season, Roger Maris' 60th) on the the 22nd.

His last May appearance was on the 24th as he went 0 for 3 with 3 strikeouts and a walk.

In June, Lopez would appear in only 9 games, and four of them would be as a pinch hitter.

But on the very first day on the month, Lopez pinch hit in the top of the 8th in a game against Boston. He hit into a fielder's choice, but got an RBI in the process. Then, four days later, Hector was back in left, and went 1 for 3 with 2 more RBIs. The next day he helped the Yankees to a 7-2 win over Minny by touching home twice.

He got his next RBI on June 12th against Los Angeles, then got a pinch hit the next day. But for the rest of the month he did little to none for the Yankees.

He next hit was on July 4th, and again it was as a pinch hitter. And again, it got him and RBI.  On July 7th against Boston, he got a hit and scored a run against Boston, as the Yankees ran away with a 14-3 win.

Another pinch hit single of July 15th against the White Sox and pitcher Turk Lown, got his average back over .200. Mercifully, it would go only up the rest of the way.

After going hitless the next day, he got an RBI (but not a hit) pinch hitting against Washington on the 18th. It was in the 7th inning, on a sacrifice fly. That tied the game 3-3. Mickey Mantle then put the Yankees ahead for good with his second homerun of the game an inning later.

Lopez would pinch run the next day for Yogi Berra and later collect a single, but the Yankees lost 12-2.

He seemed stuck in, 1 for 4 as the month ended with this happening 3 times, plus a one for three day. His hit on July 27th was triple.

He set a fine example in his first August appearance as he went 3-3 with and RBI and a run scored. Three games would pass before he got another hit, and then after that he picked up a hit on August 11th in his only plate appearance against Washington. Then he got 2 hits, a walk, and RBI and a run scored against Washington on the 13th.

That brough his average up to .228, but struggling the rest of the month brough it down to .218. However, on the last day of August, he came up to the plate in the 8th inning with Mantle on second after a single and a steal. Jack Kralick then became the victim of a Lopez longball deep to left to bring the Yankees from 5-2 down to within a run. All for not as the Yankees lost 5-4.

September was a slow month for a while. But on September 8th, he scored a run while pinch running for Mantle in the bottom of the 8th against Cleveland. The next day he got still another pinch hit, a triple, and scored a run against the Tribe.

After striking out in his next pinch hit appearance, Hector was 1-3 against the White Sox on September 12th.

On the 14th, he drew a walk pinch hitting in the first game of a double header against Chicago. In the nightcap, he went 2 for 4.

Lopez then struggled for a while, altough he walked twice and scored a run on the 26th against Baltimore. Then he went 2-4 with his only September RBI the next day. His last notable game was on the second last game of the season against Boston, where he went 2-4 with 2 runs scored.

Lopez's numbers were a dissappointment. Just a .222 average, 3 homeruns and 22 RBI, plus 27 runs scored. Of the 93 games he played in, 65 games were in left field, nine were in right, 22 had Lopez comming into the game as a pinch hitter and 3 as a pinch runner.

But it was on to the World Series. And that's what I'll remember best about Hector.

It didn't get off to a promising start. It was like his regular season. Playing in right field, since Roger Maris started in center for the injured Mantle, he managed just a walk in 3 trips to the plate against the Reds Jim O'Toole. Manager Ralph Houk would send Johnny Blanchard to pinch hit for him in the 8th.

In game 2, it was Lopez who pinch hit. In the 7th, he batted for Ralph Terry and drew a walk, but was left stranded as the Yankees lost, 6-2.

In game 4, Mantle played for the second time in the series. In the top of the fourth with Roger Maris on first, he lashed a hit to left.

It should have been a double, but Mantle's hip was hurting, and Ralph Houk sent in Hector Lopez to pinch run for Mickey, who had only reached first.

A double play scored Maris, but erased Lopez from the basepaths.

Maris had to go back to center after a two game return to right. Lopez took over from the vacancy.

In the sixth, with the Yankees up now 2-0, Lopez fanned against Jim Brosnan, who had relieved O'Toole's fine 5 IP 5H 2R performance.

But the Yankees would get to Brosnan soon enough. They picked up 2 against him that inning, and when Hector batted in the next inning, the Yankees had a man on first and second, and just one out. A wild pitch moved both Bobby Richardson and Roger Maris, who were the baserunners, into scoring position.

Lopez would knock a single to center to put the game out of reach as both runners scored. Hector reached second on Vada Pinson's throw home.

Brosnan beared down to strikeout Elston Howard, but Yogi Berra drew a walk.

A single by Bill Skowron scored Lopez, although Berra was gunned out at third by Pinson. Still, you can't argue with a 7-0 lead can you? That would be the final score as Jim Coates pitched shutout relief ball after taking over from Whitey Ford, and Brosnan and Bill Henry closed the door on the Yankees after that. Lopez was the only batter in the 9th not to strikeout against Henry as he flew out.

Gordy Coleman ended the game by flying out to Hector with two on in the bottom of the frame.

The next game saw the Yankees up 3-0 in the first against Joey Jay as Lopez came to bat. Only he would not face Jay. Jim Maloney came in. Hector (playing in his familiar left field position) would greet him with a triple to drive in Moose Skowron. Lopez then scored himself as Clete Boyer hit a double. The Yankees, as a team, had hit for the cycle in that inning, and were up 5-0.

It was now 6-0 as Lopez fanned against Henry in the top of the third. But in the top of the fourth, with the Reds a little back in it, 8-3, Lopez put a damper on any comback thought with a three run shot of Henry. 11-3 Yanks!

But the Reds still didn't quit, as Wally Post's 2 run shot in the bottom of the 5th made it 11-5 Yankees. So it was back to work in the top of the 6th.

Lopez would get an RBI on a bunt to first which the Reds tried unsucessfully to nail Johhny Blanchard at home. Lopez made it to second on the error. Bud Daley, who had relieved Ralph Terry, then hit a sacrifce fly to center for the Yankees 13th and final run.

Hector grounded out in top of the 8th against Brosnan, the Reds 7th (of 8) pitcher of the afternoon. But the Yankees had enough of that, keeping the Cincinatti at bay after Post's blast.

The World Series ended with Vada Pinson flying out to Hector Lopez in left. Fitting.

In just 12 plate appearances (2 walks and a sacrifice bunt), Lopez had 3 hits, 1 triple, 1 homerun, 7 RBIs and 3 runs scored. That was good enough for a .333 average.

Hector Lopez may not have helped the Yankees much in the regular season, but when pressed into service at key points in the 5 game World Series, he delivered.


References


Golenbock, Peter. "1961." Dynasty: The New York Yankees, 1949-1964. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary, 2000. Print, pp. 405-445.

Mantle, Mickey, and Mickey Herskowitz. "The M&M Boys." All My Octobers: My Memories of Twelve World Series When the Yankees Ruled Baseball. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. Print, pp. 129-145.

Smith, Ron. The Sporting News Presents 61*: The Story Of Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle And One Magical Summer. St. Louis: Sporting News, 2001. Print.

Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 12 Oct. 2011.

The World Series Of 1961. Dir. Lew Fonseca. Prod. Dick Borden. Perf. New York Yankees Cincinnati Reds 1961. Major League Baseball Productions Inc, 1961. DVD. DVD Released in 2006.