Wednesday, December 31, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

This is my last post of 2014...Oh, yeah, wait! Stick to the Fall Classic! Okay. Game one of the 1907 World Series was the first game to end in a tie. However, Tigers looked like they had this thing in the bag. Alas, a crucial mistake helped the Cubs touch four bags for a tie.

Detroit trailed 1-0 after seven innings in this affair. The game was in Chicago. But sadly, there was no Wrigley field at this point. But I'm sure plenty of gum and chewing tobacco was been chomped on. This was, of course, a close game.

Detroit seemed to take over in the top of the eighth. With one out, Davy Jones singled and then stole second. Seems like a move that Ty Cobb or Sam Crawford would use. But we haven't gotten to them yet, right?

In any even Germany Schaefer reached on an error by Joe Tinker, didn't pull off a Tinker-Evers-Chance double play, sadly. It would have looked nice. And it also might have reversed the final outcome. But it was not to be.

Crawford singled, scoring both Jones and Schaefer, and now it was Chicago with a 2-1 lead. Worse still, there was an error on the play for good measure, meaning Crawford made it all the way to third. Ty Cobb must have liked this. The great speed of the Tigers was making life miserable for the Cubbies!

Cobb hit the ball back to the pitcher. But guess what? Another error, this time by Harry Steinfeldt at third. Cobb, ever so alert, made to second while his pal Crawford was still stationed at third. A flyball by Claude Rossman scored Sammy, and it was 3-1, Detroit with only six outs to go.

And Chicago went down 1-2-3 against Bill Donovan in the bottom of the frame. Detroit failed to score in the top of the ninth, but needed just three more outs to take the opening act of this October classic. But not all classics have a nice and definitive ending, now do they?

Frank Chance got the ball rolling for Chicago with a single. Steinfeldt then took one for the team, reaching first on a hit by pitch. This meant a bunting situation for Chicago. However, it failed when Johnny Kling popped it up. One down. But an error by Bill Coughlin loaded the bases. A run then crossed home, but it was on a groundout, so Chicago was one out away from winning this thing. Two outs, 3-2 Detroit, two runners in scoring position.

And then a strikeout!

But it was on that pitch, that the ball was dropped by Boss Schmidt, the Tigers' catcher. Steinfeldt scored from third to tie it!

The inning ended on a bizzare one. So a play at home tied it. Well, Evers on third, decided to try and win it...By stealing home. That's only for guys like Cobb, eh? Evers was out! 3-3 after nine.

The Cubs continued to try and win this, of course. Their speed got runners (Jimmy Slagle and Frank Chance) to second and third in the bottom of the tenth. That was on a daring double steal. On the play however, interference was called and the runner was out at home.

In the bottom of the 11th, Chicago looked like they'd win this one. Cobb and Crawford watched helplessly as Kling singled. Then, Evers bunted and made it to first. Frank Schulte singled on a bunt of his own. Bases loaded, one out, and Wild Bill Donovan pitching. Can it get any worse?

But Wild Bill was wild no more. He fanned Heinie Zimmerman for one of the biggest K's of his career. Then, he got his mound adversary, Ed Reulbach, to ground out to Charley O'Leary. What clutch pitching!

Reulbach, though, didn't need to pitch in the clutch. Top of the twelfth, Donovan got shown how you should really get your mound adversary out: The way of the K! Then, Jones went out on a fly to left. Schaefer was shown the door on a grounder. As easy as 1-2-3 went the tottering Tigers!

Donovan got Slagle to ground out. But then, he hit Jimmy Sheckard. Frank Chance was the batter. And as it turns out, he was the last batter of the game. And he got one of his favourite weapons used against him: The double play! On a liner to second.

The game was called at this point, probably due to darkness. As it turns out, Detroit's luck ran out. Chicago swept through the next four games, for a sort-of-sweep of the Fall Classic. But, even so, this sweep had one game for the ages. And with it, the first World Series tie!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

All four of New York's wins in the 1958 Fall Classic came from pitchers who at one point pitched in the St. Louis Browns' organization. Somewhere, these guys came to the right team, eh?

The Yankees, though, trailed the World Series two games to none against the Milwaukee Braves. Game three was in New York and Casey Stengel, the Yankee manager, went with Don Larsen.

Larsen was 7-12 with the St. Louis Browns in 1953, then went with the team as they moved to Baltimore in 1954. His record that year? 3-21.

But when he came to New York, he won. 9-2 in 1955, then 11-5 in '56. Oh, yeah! The perfect game in the Fall Classic that year! How could I forget? 11-5 in '57 and 10-4 in '58. But here, Don was needed to stop the bleeding. A perfect game was not required.

But pitch a shutout, he did. Only it was a combined shutout!

Bob Rush didn't exactly pitch too badly, either for the Braves. He left after six with a fine three-hitter. But he gave up two runs and reliever Don McMahon gave up another two. Larsen protected the lead through seven innings. Ryne Duren continued the shutout in the last two. The Yankees won, 4-0.

After losing game four to Warren Spahn, the Yankees were in a hole. Three games to one. But Bob Turley, who'd lost game two, was back in form for this one. Oh, I forgot to tell you that Turley was a teammate of Larsen's back in 1953 with the Browns. He went only 2-6 that season. But after coming to New York, he was a 20 game winner in this very year of '58!

And he was on his way to a shutout of his own in game five. But unlike Larsen's combined one, Turley needed no help. The Yankees scored seven runs for him and Bob stopped the Braves attack on a five-hitter.

So behind three games to two, this thing headed back to Milwaukee. In game six, it was a pitcher's duel after five innings. Ryne Duren came in to pitch the bottom of the sixth with the score tied at two. Ryne kept the Braves off the scoresheet through nine. In the top of the tenth, New York scored twice off Spahn to make it 4-2. But Milwaukee got one back in the bottom of the frame, and then had runners on first and third with two down. Turley came in to get the last out and the save. Duren, who picked up the win (His first ever in the Fall Classic) didn't ever throw a pitch for St. Louis, but made i to the bigs in 1954 when they moved to Baltimore. But he was drafted by the Browns, and pitched for five of their minor league teams. Ryne had just sent this thing to game seven!

Larsen started it for New York, but it was Turley who came in to pitch with one out in the third. Turley did his job, protecting a 2-1 lead for the third, fourth and fifth inning. In the bottom of the sixth, however, Milwaukee tied it on a home run by Del Crandall.

Lew Burdette was pitching a gem for the Braves from the get-go while all this was happening. The Yankees finally broke it open in the top of the eighth. A double, two singles and a home run put New York up by four. Turley set 'em down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame.

Still ahead, 6-2 going after 8 1/2, Bob trotted out to put this thing away. Bottom of the ninth. But Eddie Mathews walked. Crandall flew out to Hank Bauer in left. Mickey Mantle put the squeeze on a Johnny Logan flyball. Joe Adcock batted for Don McMahon, who had relieved Burdette. Adcock singled for the Braves' second hit off Turley. But when Red Schoendienst flied out to Mantle to end it, it was Turley 2-1, Larsen, 1-0, Duren 1-1 for New York in the 1958 Fall Classic!

Monday, December 29, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

In a span of only three pitches, Bill Mazeroski made the final putout and won the 1960 Fall Classic with one swing of bat. The guy with the golden glove was doing it all. The Pirates and Yankees were is classic alright, but this one had a bit of a surprise. The game itself just didn't seem to know where exactly to end. The hometown Pirates' fans went home happy on a home run!

Maz, who'd hit a home run in game one, helped the Pittsburgh widen an earlier lead. The Pirates dashed ahead 2-0 in the bottom of the first on a two-run home run by Rocky Nelson. In the bottom of the next frame, it was Mazeroski who singled to load the bases with nobody out. New York then got a double play. A run did not score as the runner at home and the batter (Vernon Law) was out at first.

So the next batter, Bill Virdon, singled. It shattered his bat, but two runs scored. Mazeroski was one of them. Hey, isn't he going to shatter the Yankee hearts later? But by crossing the plate, Bill had put the Pirates up by four runs, officially.

New York wasn't about to let this thing get away so soon. The scored their first run in the top of the fifth on a Moose Skowron home run. It was only a solo shot, but now the Yankees had waken up, just like the sleeping giant. Look out!

The very next inning, Bobby Richardson singled and Tony Kubek walked. Vernon Law was removed for Elroy Face. Roger Maris was retired, but Mickey Mantle singled to scored Richardson. On an 0-1 pitch to Yogi Berra, the catcher slammed one just fair to right, and suddenly the Bronx Bombers were up, 5-4. And they were not done, either.

With two down in the top of the eighth, Yogi walked. Moose hit a single. Johnny Blanchard singled to score Berra. More breathing room for New York. A double by Clete Boyer made it 7-4, New York. Just six more outs to go and this thing is in the record books.

But Pittsburgh came back with some fireworks out their own in the bottom of the frame. Gino Cimoli singled to right. Bill Virdon sent a double play ball to Tony Kubek at short, and that should have been the end of that. But the ball hit a stone pebble that had been knocked there by a baserunner, bounced up and hit Kubek in the throat. Both runners were safe, and Kubek was out of the game.

Dick Groat singled, and now pitcher Bobby Shantz (pitching ever so well) was also out of the equation. That hit also scored a run, and it was now 7-5, New York. The Pirates though, saw the next two men go down against new pitcher Jim Coates. Coates then got it to 1-2 on Roberto Clemente and was one strike away from getting the Yankees out of this.

Clemente sent a bouncer to first. Skowron fielded it, but Coates didn't go to first, assuming Skowron would make the play himself. A crucial mistake as another run scored. 7-6, New York. Hal Smith then smashed an Coates offering out of the park. 9-7, Pittsburgh! Coastes was now also out of the game and Ralph Terry was in. He also got the final out of the inning.

The Yankees kept right on coming, however. Although three outs away from victory, New York just went about their business and were rewarded. The top of the ninth brought the Yankees back on track! A single by Richardson and another from pinch hitter Dale Long sent new Pirate pitcher Bob Friend to the showers for Harvey Haddix. You know, the guy who threw twelve perfect innings in one game in 1959 and lost it? He wasn't about to lose this one, was he?

Well, Haddix got Roger Maris on a pop out to the catcher in foul territory. Two more outs. But The Mick singled and it was 9-8, Pittsburgh. Yogi Berra grounded out as pinch runner Gil McDougald raced for home. But wait...Mantle is a little off the bag. Rocky Nelson had made the putout, then looked at Mantle and realized that out number three and a World Series ring is a tag away. Mantle dived to his right and twisted back left towards the bag. Wow! He made it! Tie ballgame!

Moose Skowron grounded to Dick Groat, who tossed to Mazeroski covering second for the third out. The only problem here was it was a little too late. It was 9-9. But what Mazeroski didn't know is, he had made the final putout of the game.

Ralph Terry went back to the hill and face Mazeroski to start the ninth. A high slider meant ball one. Johnny Blanchard (Yogi Berra was playing left, as you will see shortly) went out to talk to Terry to tell him to get the pitch lower. With his next delivery, Terry held on to the ball for a shorter span on the slider, but the ball was high and at waist level...Maz swung...

...The ball sailed to left as Yogi Berra went back to the wall...But the ball kept going and cleared it! The Pirates had won this see-saw game (and World Series) with a 10-9 win. One swing of the bat!

Bill Mazeroski was a Gold Glove winner at second base eighth times. As a hitter, he wasn't anything outstanding. Just a .260 batting average and 138 home runs over seventeen seasons. Yet, it was this moment that will never be forgotten. But one thing Bill had no way of knowing: As he rolled the ball back to the mound after the third out in the top of the ninth, he was about to hit that thing into baseball history!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers had two players who hit exactly .165 and hit four home runs in the regular season. And both were there in the postseason. For each, there was something more to them then just the hitting. Both were named Don. I guess it dawned upon Los Angeles to keep these guys around. You'll see why!

The hitter was Don Zimmer. Zim, who passed away earlier this year, it was his second World Series with the Dodgers. He was there in 1955 and drove in two runs his first Fall Classic game. But in '59 the Brooklyn Dodgers were now the Los Angeles Dodgers and Zim got into only 97 games. He had a bad year at the dish, to say the least. But that didn't stop the Trolleys from keeping him on the postseason roster. Always good to have someone there who has a ring to share, right?

The other player was actually pitcher Don Drysdale. Don had pitched for Brooklyn in 1956. But unlike the other Don, he came out of his previous Fall Classic undertaking without a ring. He allowed a two-run home run in game four, and the Dodgers lost the game, 6-2. Don only pitched two innings.

But this Fall Classic was different. Now in Los Angeles, the Dodgers took on the Chicago White Sox. And in the first game and Comiskey Park in Chicago, the visitors just about mailed it in. Chicago blew apart the Dodgers, 11-0.

Game two was different, as Los Angeles drew even with a 4-3 squeaker. But the problem was, neither Don had done a thing. As things moved out west, those things changed. Well, at least for Drysdale, it did.

Don took the hill in game three to try and give the Dodgers the Series lead. At home, it seemed the Dodgers didn't have it. By the end of the day, Chicago had a dozen hits to the Dodgers' handful. But the Dodgers made good on the five hits. Drysdale did a good job of stranding the runners.

Los Angeles scored twice in the bottom of the seven inning on a two-run single by Carl Furillo. Drysdale had no luck at the plate as he fanned both times up. That .165 regular season batting average carried over here, didn't it?

Drysdale allowed eleven hits. He left after the first two batters in the top of the eighth inning singled. Larry Sherry came in, and a run did score. Charlie Neal got that back with a double in the bottom of the eighth. That made the score 3-1 for Los Angeles and that was the final score.

The Dodger took game four, and needed just another win to wrap this up. The Dodgers sent Sandy Koufax to the hill in game five. And did he ever pitch a gem. 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 6 K, 1 BB! The one run scored on a double play. Oh, I forgot, Zimmer made it into the game!

In the bottom of the seventh, the Dodgers trailed 1-0 despite Koufax's gem. With one out, Chuck Essegian, pinch hitting for Maury Wills, walked. Don Zimmer came in to pinch run. But a groundout by Duke Snider (batting for Koufax) forced Zim at second. Jim Gilliam followed with a single and a wild pitch moved both runners up. Los Angeles failed to score either, however.

Zimmer stayed in the game at short. Wills was still sort of learning how to replace Pee Wee Reese. He didn't make a single fielding play in the top of the eighth, but when he came to the dish in the bottom of the frame, the game was on the line.

The Dodgers got a single by Wally Moon, then a one-out single from Gil Hodges moved Moon to second. The Dodgers sent Ron Fairly to bat for Don Demeter, but Chicago removed starting pitcher Bob Shaw. In trotted Billy Pierce, a left-hander. But the Dodgers had another move up their sleeve, and sent up Rip Repulski to bat for Fairly. The White sox decided to walk Repulski intentionally. Bases loaded, one out.

Another pinch hitter was sent up by Los Angeles. It was veteran Carl Furillo. A home run here and this thing is all over, Los Angeles wins it in five. But Furillo popped out to third. Our boy, Don Zimmer was next. With a chance at immortality, he could only fly out to left.

Zimmer fielded a grounder from Al Smith and threw to first four the third out of the top of the ninth. The White Sox went on to win the game, 1-0.

The Dodgers, though, went back to Chicago and won it all with a 9-3 win in game six. Neither Drysdale or Zimmer got into the game.

But, nothing beats experience. And Don Drysdale got his first World Series ring. White he'd go on to pitch for Los Angeles again in 1963, '65 and '66 (Winning in 1963 and '65), Don Zimmer never participated again in the Fall Classic as a player. But he did play for the Dodgers in 1963, so he got another ring.

Zimmer's experience with the Dodgers on three championship teams help set the course on a long managerial career, as well. Not  really a great player, he happend to be in the right place at the right time. And hey, Don Drysdale could pitch and Don Zimmer could manage. They just couldn't hit in 1959...But they got a ring, right. At the end of the day, no one really asks you how you got one. It's if you've got one!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Hector Lopez, with just nine at-bats in the 1961 Fall Classic, came through with seven RBIs. Hector was there because Mickey Mantle was out with a hip injury.

It didn't seem to start well. Facing the Cincinnati Reds sans Mantle in game one, New York won. But it was only 2-0 and Hector managed a walk and nothing more. He didn't do a thing to help any of the runs score as they both came on home runs.

Hector didn't play in game two. New York again scored twice, but this time, Cincy came back with six runs of their own to make it a blowout, 6-2. Mantle didn't play either. Help was clearly needed as the two teams headed to Ohio four games three, four and five. The Mick longed for a chance to help.

Hector didn't play game three either, but Mantle did. Mickey failed to get a hit, but I think the Yankees were a bit more confident with #7 in there. They won, but this one was another tight affair, 3-2. Mickey went 0-4. The Yankees didn't score until the top of the seventh inning. This is a great team, the 1961 Yankees?

Well, it was a great team in game four. But the score was close for a while. The score itself was just zeros until the top of the fourth when the Yankees got a single tally and Hector Lopez got into the game. Roger Maris walked. Mantle slammed one to left and Maris made it to third.

Now, normally, Mantle would be right there on second, but the Mick, with that hip not feeling well, was still on first. That hip of his. It had been infected by a needle, given to him by a notorious doctor, Max Jacobson. Max had shot up Mantle with something that might still be a mystery. But it hadn't helped the Mick, as he had a fever for a while after this. He'd walked in his first plate appearance of a game played on September 26th against Baltimore, then shut it down for the season.

But Mantle was stuck on first and sore. And he could do no more. So in trotted Hector. Maris scored the first run of the ballgame. It was all New York would need, but Hector got into the action soon enough.

The Yankees extender their lead to 4-0 by the end of the sixth. In the top of the seventh, Richardson singled and Maris was walked intentionally. A wild pitch from Jim Brosnan opened the door for Lopez. A singled to centre scored both runners. Lopez himself trotted on home with the seventh and final run of the for the Yankees when Moose Skowron singled.

In game five, New York wanted to end it right there and then in Cincy. They wasted no time in getting it done. In the first inning, the Yankees came out swinging, I tell ya!

Ahead 3-0 already and with Skowron on first, Lopez smashed a triple to right to score him. Lopez then scored on a double by Clete Boyer to make it 5-0. It was 6-0 going into the bottom of the third, but Frank Robinson hit a three-run home run to cut that in half. Hector was needed again.

Skowron singled home two more to make it 8-3 in the top of the fourth. And then Lopez really came through. A launched a three-run home run to put New York up 11-3! Lopez was not done, and neither were the Yankees. Cincy had some more in them, two.

Indeed, Wally Post blasted a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth to make it 11-5. But Lopez squeezed home a run in the top of the sixth, then made it all the way to second on an error by pitcher Bob Purkey. And intentional walk and a fly ball by Yankee pitcher Bud Daley scored Elston Howard, who was on third after all that carnage. It was 13-5, New York and that was the final score.

Lopez had hit just .222 with 3 home runs and 22 RBIs in 1961. It had been an offseason, as he'd hit 22 home runs and 93 RBIs in 1959. The Reds team was not chopped liver. They'd gotten 11 hits themselves in game five, to go along with the five runs. Game four had been close until the later inning. Without Mantle, the Yankees would still have won this thing. But without Hector, it might have gone to a sixth game. Not what you want when you've got one of the best single-season teams of all time!

Friday, December 26, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

After getting an RBI in his second plate appearance in the 1962 Fall Classic, The Say Hey Kid did not get another in the remaining six games.

Willie Mays, playing in his first World Series since the San Francisco Giants were in New York back in '54, got off to a hot start '62. He just didn't seem to be able to keep it up. A fine play by Roger Maris stopped him from tying game seven with an RBI.

The New York Yankees, starting things on the road, jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in game 2 behind a double by Maris in the top of the first. Mays started the bottom of the second for the Giants by singling and later scoring to cut it to 2-1.

In the next inning it was Chuck Hiller with a double and Mays driving him in with a single to tie things. That, however, was the last run the Giants would score. Mays added a single later, but it didn't do much.

The Giants lost that game 6-2, but won game two, 2-0. Mays, however, had no luck in this one. No RBIs or hits, for that matter!

The Series shifted to New York for game three, and New York took a 3-0 lead into the top of the ninth. It looked like Bill Stafford was going to get a shutout. But Willie ripped a double to left. Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda were retired, leaving behind only Ed Bailey, the catcher. Stafford was one out away from a shutout.

But Bailey surprised everyone by smacking a home run to right that just made it over Maris' head. That cut the score to 3-2. But Stafford got Jim Davenport to fly out to Tom Tresh in left to end the game. Mays had sure made things close, though!

Game four was close for a while, but San Francisco needed this one. A grand slam by Chuck Hiller broke open a close game and helped the Giants win 7-3. Mays followed Hiller's slam by making the last out of the inning. Earlier, he had singled and then been erased on a double play.

More was needed from Willie and his teammates in game five, as New York took a three to two series lead with a 5-3 win. Mays hit the ball well in the top of the first, as he lined out to Tresh. But Ralph Terry fanned him in the top of the fourth. His pal, Mickey Mantle caught Mays' drive to deep centre in the top of the sixth. Willie then grounded out to Clete Boyer at third in the top of the eighth.

Mays, however helped out in game six. In all went down in the bottom of the fourth. The Giants were back home and needed a win to starve off elimination! With a run already in and Willie on third after drawing a walk, it was time for Orlando Cepeda to smack a double. The hit scored Mays, and put San Francisco up, 2-0. A Jim Davenport single made it 3-0. The Giants had what they needed for a win (Final score, 5-2). Willie added a single and a steal of second in the bottom of the eighth inning, but the Giants stranded him.

Against Ralph Terry again for game seven at home, the Giants seemed overmatched. New York, however, could score but one run. And it came on a double play. But the one run was destined to hold.

Mays really got a hold of one in the bottom of the seventh. He sent one to left that Tom Tresh made a great catch on. It was crucial, as the other Willie, McCovey, hit a booming triple next. That catch had saved a run and kept New York up 1-0.

In the bottom of the ninth, New York still led, 1-0. Matty Alou, pinch hitting, singled for just the third hit off the ballgame by San Francisco. Terry Felipe Alou and Chuck Hiller on strikeouts. He was one out away from a shutout. Willie Mays was the batter. Doing an amazing job of hitting, he sent one to right that seemed destined for the corner and a tie ball game. Roger Maris, however, got to it quickly and fired a great throw to Bobby Richardson, who was way out in the outfield to take the throw. Richardson's throw home was also on the money as both runners ended up on second and third only. When McCovey sent a sizzler to Richardson on Terry's second pitch, and Bobby caught that, New York was on top of the world in 1962.

It happens. Willie Mays, was one, if not the, best players of his generation. And here he was without an RBI in the last six games of this very exciting World Series. You have Fall Classics where that guy you should count on just doesn't seem to come through, while that guy who had no right to be a hero suddenly does. That's baseball for you at October's Showdown!


World Series: Did You Know?

Lonnie Smith's grand slam in game five of the 1992 Fall Classic was the first by a player on the Senior Circtu since Ken Boyer's in 1964? Yep, the National League was a little behind the ball in the four-baggers for four runs! Each of them seemed to be needed. The World Series usually makes heroes out of these kinds of home run hitters!

Boyer hit his in game four. The New York Yankees were up two games two on over the St. Louis Cardinals. Boyer, whose brother Clete was on the Yankees, was looking at his 'mates and probably feeling a little glum. Having had Phil Linz trapped in a rundown but failing to nail him in the first, Ken and his mates soon were behind 3-0.

It stayed that way until the top of the sixth. Car Warwick pinch hit for pitcher Roger Craig. He singled off Al Downing, who was pitching well. Curt Flood singled Warwick to second. But then things seemed to fizzle for St. Louis. Lou Brock was out on a fly ball and then Dick Groat hit a grounder to Bobby Richardson. Bobby had trouble getting the ball out of his glove and threw wide to shortstop Linz covering the bag. So the inning was not over, the bases were loaded and Boyer was up. Ken, 1-13 so far in the Fall Classic, hit a 1-0 changeup from Downing to deep left. It was just fair, and St. Louis had a 4-3 lead. They held on to win the game.



In Lonnie Smith's case, he was stuck in a slump of his own and so was his team. It seemed worse. He wasn't getting his bat on the ball and Atlanta wasn't getting runners home. Smith was a bit of a veteran in the Fall Classic. The 1992 World Series had seen him up his career total of games played to 31 by showing up in game five.

But he hadn't played in game one. Jack Morris pitched for Toronto and was his usual, tough postseason pitcher. He ended up losing 3-1, but fanned 7 batters in only six innings. This guy was tough. So was the rest of the Jays' staff. Smith had just one RBI going into game five. But a player of his experience is going to get a big hit at some point, right?

Morris was struggling early in game five, but so was his mound adversary. The pressure, however, was on the Atlanta Braves. They were behind three games to one and this game was at the SkyDome (Now, The Rogers' Centre).

Morris was nicked for a run in the top of the first. But Smith could only fly out to end it. Toronto came right back at Atlanta in the bottom of the second after Morris got 'em 1-2-3 in the top of the frame. Pat Borders doubled home John Olerud.

Both Morris and Smoltz had an easy third. Dave Justice, though, hit a home run to put Atlanta back on top in the top of the fourth. Smith followed with a fly to right. Morris got out of there with no further damage. His mates tied it again in the bottom of the frame. Smoltz used up 25 pitches to get out of there. By comparison, Morris had used only 11 in the top of the inning. Smoltz needed a rest. Smith gave it to him!

Morris started out the top of the fifth by fanning Damon Berryhill on seven pitches. It was his fifth K of the game. When Mark Lemke then grounded out on the first pitch, it looked like an easy 1-2-3 inning for Morris.

But Otis Nixon singled and stole second. When Deion Sanders singled to centre, it was 3-2, Atlanta. Then, Terry Pendleton doubled to right. A fan touched the ball and Sanders had to go back to second. The Jays decided to walk Dave Justice intentionally. Well, they found a way to keep the ball in the park, right? Not this inning, as it turned out!

Lonnie Smith walked up to the dish. So, a pair of flyballs to right, so far. But he was about to hit a fly to right, just like Dave Justice had the previous inning. And like Dave's blast, there was no catching it!

Lonnie fouled off the first pitch, then took a ball. Another foul and he was one strike away from going down. But he persevered and fouled off two more Morris offerings. Then, Jack made a big mistake. He threw Smith a fastball that was on the outside edge of the plate. That's not a problem. But it was high, at the waist level. That's a problem. Smith swung and sent it to right. It ended up in the Braves bullpen! It was 7-2, Atlanta.



Smoltz was done after six, but Atlanta went on to win the game. Smith was out of his slump, and up to five RBIs in four games. How's that?

Ken Boyer, after his slam, had five RBIs in four games as well. Both Boyer and Smith were veterans at their moment of glory. Smith was 36 and Boyer was 33. It's experienced players like these that can give your team the lift they need when you team is faltering, or needing a boost. And if four runs on one swing doesn't help the cause a lot, what does?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Roger Maris went yard in his first plate appearance in the Fall Classic.

Not quite a fan-favourite during his time in New York, Maris nonetheless made an imediate impact there, long before his 61st home run in 1961. There was the matter of Roger Maris in 1960, you know. And it before the World Series, too!

Coming to the Yankees in a one-sided deal with Kansas, Roger hit 39, home runs and 112 RBIs. He had missed three games in April, and then fifteen more in August in a play at second base. At the time of his August injury, Roger had 35 home runs, 95 RBIs and a .291 batting average in only 108 games.

So Roger hit only four more home runs to close out the '60 campaign. But the Yankees, who still had Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford, caught fire in September. Those three, had much to do with it.

So in game one of the 1960 Fall Classic, it was the Pittsburgh Pirates that opposed the New York Yankees. The Series would open in Pittsburgh, where it was played at Forbes Field. The ballpark itself was a pitcher's favourite. But Roger proved otherwise in game one.

Vernon Law started for Pittsburgh. And what a season he had for the Pirates: 20-9 with 18 complete games and a fine 3.08 ERA! Enough to bring home the Cy Young Award.

Tony Kubek greeted him with a single to start things off in the top of the first for New York. So Hector Lopz stepped in. Roger Maris was now in the on-deck circle. All Hector really had to do was get Kubek to second. Roger had to figure, "They'll pitch to me!" Why? Because some chaps named Mantle and Berra were hitting behind him.

Hector, though, did the wrong thing in this situation. He tried to bunt and failed to get the bat on the ball. Then, Hector hit a grounder towards second, which the Pirates quickly did a twin-killing on. Maris went from a potential RBI situation to a bases-empty, two-out situation. Some situations in baseball dry up faster than rain on a humid day.

Roger, though, was undaunted. He smacked a pitch from Law out of the park in right for quite a home run. It was, of course, a solo shot. Mantle flied out to centre, so that was all the mighty Bronx Bombers got.

Pittsburgh did not waste time either, however. They scored three runs themselves in the bottom of the frame to erase that lead. And they didn't relinquish it, either. They went on to win the game, 6-4.


Maris had two more hits for good measure. It was not enough. Vernon Law, who gave up ten hits in only seven innings, ended up with the win. That was his 21st triumph if you include the postseason.

New York Yankee fans have 21 questions on this Fall Classic. Namely, how did they lose it? Their offence was amazing and they seemed to have the pitching, too! The Pirates, were a little better in the timing department, however.

The Yankees had brought Maris over from Kansas when their franchise was on the downward spiral. Or at least, that's what it seemed in 1959 when they finished third. Lost in Maris' impact, and in this disappointing Fall Classic, was Roger's sense of good timing in his first plate appearance!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The Cooper brothers were battery mates from three straight Fall Classics from 1942 to 1944. The St. Louis Cardinals used the brother act to success in the early to mid 40s in baseball. Pitcher to catcher!

Facing the Yankees in the 1942 World Series, it was Mort pitching to Walker catching. Mort lost the game 7-4 to New York, despite a hit and run scored from Walker.

The Cardinals, however, used a two RBI from Mort and another from Walker, to win game four, 9-6. And then they took the next game, as well. Mort's loss in game one was the only setback St. Louis endured as they handed New York a five game Fall Classic defeat! Walker finished the Fall Classic with a batting average of .286. But he was just getting started.

New York took their revenge the next year, however. Despite two fine performances from Mort, it took New York just five game themselves to wrap this thing up. It was too bad, as Walker also had a fine Fall Classic. Collecting five hits (One less than Yankee Billy Johnson's Series-leading six), and hitting .294, he made it a fine effort overall. Behind the dish, he helped call the right pitches to more than just his brother. St. Louis posted a 2.51 ERA as a team in that Fall Classic. But it was not enough.

Facing their cross-town rivals the Brown in 1944, Mort took and unreal loss in game one. Giving up just two hits over seven innings, and then watching as reliever Blix Donnelly pitch a perfect eighth inning, the Cardinals should have been home free. Alas, one of those hits was a two-run home run by George McQuinn. The Cardinals had seven hits themselves, but did not score until the bottom of the ninth. It was just a single tally, however, and the St. Louis Browns had pulled off a surprise in game one.

Walker did not get a hit in game one, and got only one in game two. The good news was it was the Cardinals drawing even in the Fall Classic of 1944 with an extra-inning win. A loss in game three put 'em back in a hole. Still, Walker had two hits and an RBI. The Cardinals then took control and never let go.

Another two hits and RBI helped the Cardinals draw even in game four. And then, it was time for some of his brother's magic!

Mort went out in a crucial game five and blanked the Browns, 2-0. And hey, would you forgive Walker from going 0-4? I guess as long as the job gets done in game six. Walker and his 'mates had 'em by the horns right now and were looking for the put away!

The Browns scored the first run of game six on an McQuinn single in the top of the second. The Cardinals came back in the bottom of the fourth. Cooper started it all with a walk with one down. A single moved him to second. An error scored Walker! The Cardinals continued to come at 'em, too! Marty Marion popped up for the second out of the frame, but two more singles scored two more runs! 3-1, Cardinals. Cooper had some more to do!

He added a single in the bottom of the next frame, but ended up stranded at second. In the bottom of the seventh, he singled again. But he did not score. The Cardinals seemed destined to extend their lead the next inning, as they put  two runners on with just one out. However, the runners both died there!

But, the Browns went down 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth, and the Cardinals won the game 3-1, and the Fall Classic, four games to two.

Walker ended up hitting .316 and Mort posted an ERA of 1.13 despite the game one loss. The Browns were not in the Cards' class, but it had been a close World Series. If not for the Coopers, this thing could have gone to seven games, and you never know then, do you?

The Cooper brothers kept the Cardinals in almost every game St. Louis played in the Fall Classic with their hitting, pitching and defence. It's rare to have that "All In The Family". But around the Fall Classic time, it always helps. And if you can get it on your team from one family, more power to you!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The Braves are the only franchise to reach the pinnacle of baseball from three different franchise locations. They've had a long history and each stop in a city has been a Brave New World.

The first appearance of this National League team in the Fall Classic was back, 100 years ago. The Braves were actually in Boston, and were 12 games back on July 25th of that year. But they made a nice charge to make it up and came in home at first, 10 1/2 games up. They didn't stop there. Facing the Philadelphia A's (who themselves moved twice. First to Kansas and later to Oakland. But they never reached the World Series in Kansas), the Braves needed just four games to win it all.

From there, though, the Braves fell on hard times and only reached one more World Series. They faced a tough Cleveland Indians team. It was a close six-game affair. And Boston did amazing to beat Bob Feller twice. But it proved to be the only two games the Braves would win.

A move to Milwaukee in 1953 seemed to bring them back on track. They sold out. Then, in 1957, they made the Fall Classic and took a splendid seven-game affair from the New York Yankees.

New York took their revenge the next year, and Milwaukee was knocked out in a two-of-three playoff series by Los Angeles in 1959. The team won 83 or more games from 1960 to 1965, and had Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews as the sluggers, plus Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette as hurlers. But they did not return to the Fall Classic again in Milwaukee. They moved again to Atlanta in 1966 and were swept by the New York Mets in the inaugural National League Championship Series, three games to none in 1969.

For what it's worth, an American League team came to Milwaukee in 1970 after the Seattle Pilots lasted just one year. But, to date, they have failed to win the Fall Classic.

Atlanta actually had to wait until 1991 to reach the World Series. There, they lost a classic, seven-game World Series in the seventh game on a 1-0, walkoff to the Minnesota Twins.



They made it back to the World Series in 1992, and gave the Toronto Blue Jays all they could handle. Again, it was a classic, but Toronto prevailed in six games.



The Braves were undaunted, and looked set to return for a third straight appearance in 1993, but the Philadelpha Phillies upset them in six games in the NLCS.

After not getting a chance due to the 1994 strike, it was on to 1995, where Atlanta took on the Cleveland Indians, who had won two Fall Classics by staying dead smack in the middle of Cleveland. Atlanta wasn't about to let this one slip away.

It went six games. But Tom Glavine's masterful 1-0, 1-hitter in game six brought it all home for this seemingly jinxed team. And it was Bobby Cox, in his second tour of duty as manager with Atlanta, who finally had his first Fall Classic win.



Few, if any baseball teams stay in their original location. With expansion to the west and later the sunbelt states, franchises were likely to find greener pastures. The Braves have managed to be a winner no matter where they end up. If they should ever relocate again, my money's on them winning it all no matter where they end up!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Steve Hamilton is the only player to lose an NBA Finals and two Fall Classics.

Steve, a tall player, found himself on the 1958/59 Minnesota Lakers. The team Elgin Baylor, but Jerry West was not there until the move to Los Angeles in 60/61. But Minny was up against the Boston Celtics in '59. Boston was appearing in their third straight NBA finals. Minny was appearing in their last.

Hamilton, a rookie that season, averaged just 4.4 points and 3.3 rebounds as a small forward. He was dead last on the team in minutes played. The Celtics made short work of the Lakers, winning 4-0 in the finals. But Hamilton did get into three games after not seeing any action in game one.

In game two, Hamilton poured in 12 points for fourth on the team. Boston won, however, 128-108. Then, in Los Angels for game three, they won easily again, 122-110. Hamilton failed to connect for any field goals and never went to the line.

In game four, Hamilton could only go 2-2 from the line. Elgin Baylor, though, scored 30 points. It was, however, a Boston win, 118-113. Hamilton came back the next year before embarking on a baseball career.

And it was one that saw him play in game one of a sweep, unlike his NBA final appearance. Alas, the game was a little past the point of interest by then.

Hamilton was pitching for the New York Yankees, at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers. But Los Angeles would get a 15-strikeout performance from Koufax, who took a 5-2 lead into the ninth. Hamilton was on to replace Stan Williams, who fanned five batters in three innings for New York.

The very first batter Hamilton faced was Sandy Koufax himself, and Steve fanned him. Maury Wills then flied out to Roger Maris in right, Jim Gilliam grounded out to Tony Kubek in short. Hamilton had done his job and held the Dodgers in check. But Koufax pitched a scoreless ninth to preserve it. The Dodgers won the next three games for good measure and Hamilton did not get into any of those.



But in 1964, Hamilton and the Yankees were back in the World Series. This time, it was against the St. Louis Cardinals. But for a while, it looked like Hamilton was not going to pitch at all.

He warmed up and ready to go in game five in Yankee Stadium, as the Yankees and Cardinals were tied going into the top of the tenth. The Cardinals had two men on, there was only one out, and Tim McCarver was at the dish. But manager Yogi Berra did not go to the 'pen for Hamilton. When McCarver ripped a three-run home run to win the game for St. Louis, it made you wonder why Berra did not make the call. With that win, the Cardinals led the 1964 Fall Classic, three games to two. New York would have to win both the games in St. Louis.

But Hamilton did pitch in game six. And the Yankees blew open a deadlocked game with two runs in the top of the sixth to break a 1-1 tie. Then, in the top of the eighth, they crossed the plate five more times to make it an 8-1 route. Jim Bouton gave up a run in the bottom of the frame. And when the Cardinals got two singles in the bottom of the ninth, Hamilton finally made it to the mound.

Bob Skinner singled to score Mike Shannon and make it 8-3. But then Curt Flood grounded to Phil Linz at short, who turned a double play with Bobby Richardson and Joe Pepitone. Although not a save by today's standards, Hamilton was given one there.

In game seven, New York was behind 6-0 after five. But they clawed back with three runs in the top of the sixth on a three-run home run by Mickey Mantle. Bob Gibson, St. Louis' started, sort of staggered from there. He was tiring. But Hamilton was needed to hold the fort and give the Yankees a chance. He came on to pitch the bottom of the seventh after Gibson gave up Bobby Richardson's thirteenth hit in the top of the frame.

He fanned Lou Brock in a lefty-lefty matchup. Then he did the same to Bill White in another southpaw battle. Ken Boyer, right-handed, stepped in. Hamilton looked poised for another K but Boyer smacked a home run to left to make it 7-3.

The bottom of the eighth inning did not go well for Steve. Tim McCarver singled. And when Mike Shannon reached on an error by Clete Boyer, things looked pretty grim. Dal Maxville bunted, and all Hamilton could do was go to first. That ended up being the last batter Steve faced.

The Yankees got out of the inning via some nice pitching from Pete Mikkelsen and some slick defence. In the top of the ninth, a pair of solo home runs by Boyer and Phil Linz (who hit his with two down) brought the Yankees to within two, but Richardson popped out to end it.


Hamilton never made it back to the World Series. And on the big stage of both the NBA and MLB, he's 0 for 3, lifetime. Nonetheless, it took the likes of men like Bill Russell, Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson to stop his teams from winning. Three very good competitors right there. It was just Steve's misfortune to run into them on the floor and on the diamond!

Friday, December 19, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Of Whitey Ford's eight Fall Classic losses, five came at the hand of left-handers. Some classic lefty-lefty duels. Well, I guess this was all coming from out in left. Or as Sports Illustrated said about the 1963 World Series Preview: A Vote For The Left!

Ford actually didn't lose against a lefthander until game four of the 1958 World Series. It was a crucial affair. Ford's New York Yankees were down two games to one against Warren Spahn's Milwaukee Braves, and they needed this one at home.

But they didn't get it. Ford didn't pitch too badly. Johnny Logan hit a grounder to score Red Schoendienst from third. But the grounder resulted in an error by Tony Kubek. So that was an unearned run in the top of the sixth. In the seventh, it was Spahn himself with a single to score an earned run. One more run off Ford and a fine two-hitter from Spahn made the final score 3-0, Milwaukee.

Whitey didn't lose another Fall Classic game to a southpaw until game six of the 1962 Fall Classic. The Yankees looked poised to end their affair with the San Francisco Giants. But it was the Giants' Billy Pierce that sent the 1962 Fall Classic to the limit.

Pierce went out and shut down the Yankees, allowing just two runs. One of them was on a Roger Maris home run. But Ford came undone in the bottom of the fourth. He picked Felipe Alou off second, but Ford's throw was wild and Alou scored. When Orlando Cepeda followed with a double, Willie Mays scored to make it 2-0, Giants. Jim Davenport singled to score Cepeda. Another run by the Giants off Ford in the next inning finished Whitey.



The 1963 World Series saw Ford face his toughest test: Sandy Koufax! The Los Angeles Dodger was looking for his first Fall Classic win for his part. And he got two against Ford in '63!

The two ace lefties met in game one. Ford K'd two in the top of the first inning in the game played at Yankee Stadium. But Koufax went out and fanned the first five batters to face him! It was ex-teammate Moose Skowron who drove in the game's first run the next inning. Dick Tracewski followed with a single. When catcher Johnny Roseboro hit a double, three runs scored. It was 4-0 and Koufax was home free. Skowron drove home another run later. Koufax finally was scored on twice by New York on a two-run home run by Tommy Tresh in the bottom of the eighth. But that's all the Yankees got an the final score was 5-2, Los Angeles!



In game four, Ford pitched one of his best World Series games ever. And it was the first time he'd ever pitched in Chavez Ravine. He'd lost his last game thrown on the West Coast, but this one was a two-hitter.

Frank Howard had both hits. But one of them was a home run. In the bottom of the second, Howard had singled. He was then erased as the next batter, Skowron (who'd added a home run in game two) grounded into a double play.

Mickey Mantle got Ford out of a 1-0 deficit with a home run off Sandy Koufax in the top of the seventh. The majestic Mantle, was beginning to break down at 32, but one bad pitch to him, and you pay. The round tripper also tied him with Babe Ruth for most home runs in the World Series all time. But it would not matter for long.

Jim Gilliam led off the Dodger's half of the frame by hitting a tough bouncer to Clete Boyer at third. Boyer not only made the play, but he got the throw off to first. Joe Pepitone, New York's first basemen, lost the ball however, in the white shirts behind third. By the time Pepitone got to it, Gilliam was on third. Tommy Davis flew out to Mantle in centre, Gilliam scored and Los Angeles was back on top, 2-1. No one scored against Ford again. Hal Reniff came in and pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth for New York, but Koufax survived a Phil Linz single in the top of the eighth. A Bobby Richardson single, and an error by Dick Tracewski put Sandy in another hole in the top of the ninth, but Sandy got Hector Lopez to ground out and end that. The Dodgers had a sweep and Ford got tagged with a hard-luck loss.

Ford had an injured arm as he took the hill in game one of the 1964 World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals presented themselves as some stiff opposition. The good news was that Whitey wouldn't have to face Bob Gibson or lefty Curt Simmons in game one. That would have been tough. Ray Sadecki took the hill instead. But Sadecki went 20-11 that year. So this guy was no pushover.

Ken Boyer drove home the first Cardinal run on a sac fly to Mantle, who was playing right with Roger Maris in centre. St. Louis was ahead, but not for long.

Tom Tresh smashed a two-run home run off Sadecki in the top of the second to make it 2-1, New York. Ford then scored Ken's younger brother Clete with a single. Ford himself was cut down at home when he tried to score on Bobby Richardson's single.

Sadecki then got into the pitcher's hitting act himself with a single to score Mike Shannon in the bottom of the frame. Ford got out of there with no further damage. Then, he seemed to settle down. His teammates some offence left for good measure!

Mickey Mantle singled with two out in the top of the fifth. Elston Howard singled Mickey to second. Tom Tresh, having a great game so far, doubled home Mantle to make it 4-2. Three straight two-out hits! Ford seemed to have this thing in the bag!

But Ford's arm was beginning to fail him. After getting the Cardinals out 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth, disaster struck him and reliever Al Downing. Ken Boyer singled in the bottom of the sixth. A passed ball moved him to second. Ford fanned Bill White, but it proved to be the last batter he retired. Mike Shannon absouluty crushed a Ford offering to left that hit off the "B" in the Budweiser sign in left. The game was tied, 4-4. When Tim McCarver hit a double between the M and M boys in right centre, Ford was done. Al Downing came in and got Charlie James to pop up. Pinch hitter Carl Warwick singled just passed Phil Linz at short to score McCarver. On the throw home, Warwick went to second. Curt Flood hit a fly to left that Tom Tresh seem to have, then not have. He later explained that he'd lost it in the sum. A last second stab at it was no use as the ball hit the wall. Warwick scored and Flood had a triple. Downing got the next batter out and had a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh, but the Yankees could only score one more run. Rollie Sheldon and Pete Mikkelsen could not hold the fort in the last of the eighth, and a 6-5 game became a 9-5 blowout.



Ford's injured arm shelved him for the rest of the 1964 Fall Classic. The Yankees never made it back during Whitey's last three years.

Whitey Ford, in my book, was probably the greatest pitcher to take the mound in the Fall Classic. Yet, even the greatest can meet their match when they have to go up against guys like Spahn and Koufax, unquestionably two of the finest of all-time. Pierce and Sadecki were also tough opposition for Ford. But many of these were classic battles, which help make the World Series so exciting as two southpaws proved they're both capable of being the right guy to take the hill!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Charlie Keller became the first rookie to hit two home runs in one game. Back in 1939, in game three of the Yankees' four game sweep of Cincinnati.

Even in a sweep, there is often problems for the winning side. A narrow 2-1 win by New York in game featured a triple and a run scored for Charlie. But this thing was too close for comfort. Game two ended four to zero for New York, but oddly enough, three of the four runs scored in the bottom of the third. It Keller with a double to score a run. And when Bill Dickey hit a single later, Charlie was brought home.

But it's game three we are talking about here, eh? And our boy wasn't about to let the hometown Reds make any game of this. With one on and one out in the top of the first, Keller took the crowd out of the equation with a two-run home run. That put New York up 2-0. The Bronx Bombers weren't about to stop there, either! Cincinatti, though, had some moments to put some doubt into this one.

The Reds actually got a run back in the bottom of the frame, then really got the crowd going with two more in the bottom of the second. 3-2, Cincy. Things were looking all red! But Keller and his mates weren't about to go quietly. The top of the second saw a home run, not by Keller but by The Yankee Clipper himself, Joe DiMaggio. But guess who drew a walk earlier? Charlie Keller! Just like that, this see-saw affair had the Yankees ahead to stay. But it was Charlie who applied the finishing touches!

Frank Crosetti grounded out to start the top of the fifth for New York. But then Red Rolfe got a single. In to the batter's box stepped Charlie Keller. And for the third straight plate appearance of this game, he scored a run. Well, of course he did, because he also knocked in a run. With a home run, too! It was 6-3, New York, and this thing was getting ugly.

A home run later that inning by DiMaggio pretty much added an exclamation mark on a dandy of a day. But Charlie had put New York ahead, scored the tying run, and added two deadly insurance runs on this day. All this as a rookie. He had made quite an impression on his teammates and the Cincinatti Reds. A win in game four ended this thing almost in heartbeat.

The New York Yankees of the time were that good. It was past the Ruth and Gehrig days at this point, but the Bombers continued to find a way to win. New guys would come in, like DiMaggio in '36, and Keller in '39, and next thing you know, it was October. It was just like that for New York. The regular season, then the postseason. A rookie meant a lot of growing up in a very short time. The Yankees had to be ready in the Fall Classic. Keller in '39, was just that. Ready for the big blow!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Dave Winfield got the Jays last hit off John Smoltz in games two and five of the 1992 Fall Classic. The visiting Toronto team had put Winfield in the lineup in right, despite no DH. The Atlanta Braves had waited one year to avenge their 1991 World Series loss, and had a bright, young pitching staff that included a right-hander with some good stuff, but who sometimes got a little wild. It was a little different for Dave Winfield.

Winfield, who'd waited a long time (11 seasons) to get back to the Fall Classic after 1981, had seen his Toronto team lose the opener, 3-1 to Tom Glavine. Things didn't get any better in game two, as John Smoltz made Winfield one of the five K's he got in the first two innings. The Atlanta team must have thought it would be another victory with that kind of start from their ace rightly!

Dave grounded out in the top of the fourth, that sent Roberto Alomar to third with two outs. But when Alomar tried to score on a pitch that Smoltz threw into the dirt, Robbie was out. The Jays didn't think it was the right call and replays showed Alomar was save at home.

Toronto, down 1-0 at that top, fell further behind in the bottom of the frame. A walk to Pat Borders, a single by Manny Lee and a single by pitcher David Cone made it a 2-1 ballgame in the top of the fifth. A chopped by Devon White squared things.

Atlanta though, got the lead back in the bottom of the frame. Actually, they tallied twice to chase Cone. Winfield gave it a ride the next time out, but it was an out to centre. But in the top of the eighth, with the Jays down two runs still, it was a single by Winfield to left that scored Alomar this time. It cut the lead to 4-3 and Toronto went on to win the game, 5-4.

Toronto came back home and won games three and four. With another game at home, the Jays looked poised to wrap this thing up. But Smoltz was back on the hill for Atlanta.

It was an odd game for him. At times, he looked like he had it all, and then the next inning it seemed to unravel. He got the Jays 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first. Better still, Atlanta had scored the first run. In the bottom of the second, Smoltz got Winfield to fly out, but then seemed to come undone as John Olerud singled, Cany Maldonado walked. A K of Kelly Gruber for the second out was followed by a booming double to left by Pat Borders. The game was tied.

In the bottom of the third, Alomar drew a one-out walk. But Smoltz, get this, needed just two pitches to get Joe Carter out. Two down. Then, John needed just two more pitches to get Winfield to force Alomar at second.

The Atlanta Braves regained the lead on a Dave Justice solo home run in the top of the fourth, but Toronto came right back at them in the bottom of the frame. Just like in the bottom of the second, it was Olerud with a single, Maldonado with a walk, and Borders with a hit to tie it. 2-2, after four.

Atlanta turned one the jets in the top of the frame. A single by Otis Nixon, started a rally. All of this with two outs. Nixon stole second, and Deion Sanders drove him home to make it 3-2, Atlanta. A double, an intentional walk and a grand slam by Lonnie Smith made it a 7-2 Atlanta lead. Smoltz finally had a nice cushion to work with.

He went back to the hill in the bottom of the frame with renewed energy. He got Alomar and Carter out on fly balls. But Winfield then stroked a single to centre. Olerud then gave Smoltz all he could handle before finally flying out to left. A 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth seemed to permanently restore Smoltz's stuff.

But he was now up to 109 pitches. And when the first batter of the bottom of the seventh, Manny Lee, walked, John Smoltz was through for the night. But Atlanta had forced a game six, as they went on to win, 7-2.

Smotlz wasn't quite in his prime yet, as both game two and five of this series seemed to show his wildness. But he'd gone 15-12 with an ERA of 2.85. And he'd pitched well for the most part in his two Fall Classic starts. At just 25, it was obvious this pitcher had a bright future. Winfield, a spry 41 years young at the time, was a little past it, but had driven in 108 runs that year.

Smoltz would pitch again in the World Series. Winfield, though, would not. He was left off Cleveland's 1995 post-season roster, in a move that seemed so cruel.

The Fall Classic is full of stories of players just getting started, saying "Hi" to the baseball world, like John Smoltz. But it can also have players saying "Goodbye" as part of their "Last Hurrahs" in baseball. The World Series, which seems like the grandest stage in baseball, is an event for young boys and old men, on and off the diamond.

Friday, December 12, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Sandy Koufax actually had the highest ERA of any Dodger pitcher in the 1963 Fall Classic. But wait a minute, wasn't he their best pitcher that World Series? Of course he was. But Johnny Podres and Don Drysdale were good, too, you know. Also pretty good, was Los Angeles' relief ace!

Sandy was just dandy in the opening act. The Dodgers took on the New York Yankees right there in New York in the first game, but Koufax didn't let the bats, aura or anything else about The Bronx Bombers get to him. Ahead 5-0, early, he didn't allow a hit until the bottom of the fifth. Not until there were two down in the bottom of the eight did New York finally get two runs on a two-run home run by Tommy Tresh. But that was all the great Yankees could get. Sandy had his ERA at 2.00, but along with that, he also had a win and 15 strikeouts.

Johnny Podres took the hill in game two and the Dodgers staked him to a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first. The Dodgers were blanked themselves for the next two inning before former Yankee Moose Skowron went yard on a solo job to make it 3-0. Podres did his part to keep New York out of the equation with some crafty stuff. A fourth run in the top of the eighth made it 4-0 and the only question left was could Podres get the shutout. Seems so odd that Koufax was sooooo good in the opening tilt, and Podres was closing in on a shutout in the next game.

Mickey Mantle came to the dish. The Mick had been hitting it hard against Podres all game long, but with nothing to show for it. Here, again, he hit it well. But it was just a long, loud out to left. But Hector Lopez, who had lashed a double off Podres earlier, did it again here. It was time for Podres to hit the shower.

Enter Ron Perranoski. You see, with guys like Koufax, Drysdale and Podres, too, Ron isn't exactly a household name. But the lefty relief ace had gone 16-3 with 21 saves and low era of 1.67.

But Elston Howard greeted him by going the other way on a single to right. Lopez trotted home, and it was a 4-1 ballgame. Joe Pepitone was the next hitter, a left-hander and more to Perranoski's liking. Pepi would not have liked the results, as he hit into a force at second. When Clete Boyer fanned, this thing was in the books. Perranoski was credited with a save (not by today's standards) and Podres got the win and an ERA of 1.08. Hey! That's less than Sandy's!

Don Drysdale was the next pitcher for Los Angels as the teams headed west. The Dodgers looked for the sweep and Drysdale got them one step closer to that with a 1-0 win over young Jim Bouton. It was a well-pitched game, as the two teams combined for just seven hits. But Drysdale gave up just three. Two of them were to Tony Kubek and another to Mickey Mantle on a bunt that popped up and made it to centre. Bouton threw a wild pitch in the first, and the Dodgers took advantage of that and a bad hop on a grounder to Bobby Richardson at second to score the game's only run. In the bottom of the second, Bouton threw another wild pitch, and the Dodgers threatened to score, but didn't. Drysdale had gotten out of a bases loaded jam of his own in the top of the frame.

Bouton seemed to settle down after that. Drysdale did, too. But it was the Yankees who needed some nice defence to stop Los Angeles from there. The Dodgers had runners on second and third in bottom of the second. A grounder to first got the second out, and when Dick Tracewski tried to score on that, the Yankees got him at home. But that was it for Bouton. Removed for a pinch hitter, he was done, but had kept New York in this thing. Hal Reniff gave up a leadoff walk to Jim Gilliam in the bottom of the eighth. Gilliam made it to second on a grounder. But when he foolishly tried to steal third, catcher Elston Howard nailed him. Tommy Davis took a rip at Reniff's pitch with two strikes on him and misses.

New York almost took advantage of all this in the top of the ninth. Mickey Mantle and Tommy Tresh were retired, but Pepitone got a hold of one and sent one that looked like it was out of here. Ron Fairly made the catch on the warning track. Drysdale had the shutout and Los Angels was up three games to none in the 1963 Fall Classic.

Koufax was back to put the Yankees away in game four. But Whitey Ford was on the hill to oppose him. Frank Howard got a single off him in the bottom of the second. Then the Yankees got a double play to end the inning. Howard then hit a home run in his next plate appearance in the bottom of the fifth. Other then that, Ford had a no-hitter. Maury Wills had walked to start this game, but was also erased via the double play.

Koufax, though, seemed even better as he retired the first ten batters. Not quite getting the K's. But getting the men out. Bobby Richardson hit a double in the top of the fourth, but was stranded. So he had to make Howard's home run stand up. He did just that, but Mantle hit a four-bagger of his own to tie it in the top of the seventh.

The Dodgers got it back on an odd play in the bottom of the frame. Jim Gilliam hit a grounder to third that Clete Boyer made a nice stop on. But the white shirts in the background made Joe Pepitone lose vision of the ball in flight. The missed throw resulted in Gilliam ending up on third. Willie Davis hit a sac fly to Mickey in centre to score him. Ford retired Tommy Davis on a grounder. Howard hit one towards first, and Pepi made the play this time as Ford covered first. But it was Los Angeles 2, New York 1.

Phil Linz batted for Ford in the top of the eighth and delivered a single with one out. But Tony Kubek hit into an inning-ending double play. Hal Reniff came in again and got the Dodgers 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame. Sandy needed three more outs, but New York wasn't about to go down without a fight.

Bobby Richardson, who had failed to get one hit in game one off Koufax, got his second hit of the game to leadd things off. Koufax got Tom Tresh and Mantle on K's, but then Elston Howard sent a roller towards Maury Wills at short. Marty for the short peg at second...Tracewski drops the ball! Ow! That's a killer, perhaps. Sandy had to get Hector Lopez to ground out to end that. The Dodgers had the sweep and Koufax had lowered his ERA to 1.50 from 2.00.

But alas, Drysdale's was 0.00, Perranoski's was 0.00 and Podres' was 1.08. See? Sandy was fourth on the team in earned run average in the 1963 Fall Classic. But that didn't exactly stop Sandy from helping Los Angeles sweep the Yankees and picking up the MVP!

Sandy Koufax, fourth on the Dodgers in ERA in the 1963 World Series. You can look it up!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Kirk Gibson, too, all had one home run each in the 1988 Fall Classic. Only problem is, for each, their long ball represented their only hit. Well, some guys need four hits to get four bags in one game, while others need only one swing and whole lotta K's in between! I mentioned in an earlier post about Canseco and McGwire only having one hit. Funny, we talk about Gibson, and his home run is also his hit of the 1988 World Series, too! But each, has something magic about it.

The 1988 World Series between the favoured Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers got underway in game one, and Canseco had to try and get away from a Tim Belcher offering. This was not the way he wanted his fist Fall Classic plate appearance to go. He couldn't get out of the line of fire here in the top of the first and was on first the painful way. The A's had runners on first and second because of this. The hometown Dodgers were being beaten by the small ball early. Oakland actually loaded the bases when McGwire drew a walk, but did not get a man home.

The home team got two in on a Mickey Hatcher two-run blast in the bottom of the frame. But the A's loaded 'em again in the top of the second. This time, were they going to leave a man or three on? No way, Jose! Canseco crushed it to dead centre off the NBC centerfield camera and it was 4-2, Oakland. Who would have thought that this was to be his only hit of the 1988 Fall Classic.

But he and McGwire were shut down the rest of the way. However, it wasn't as if A's starter, Dave Stewart wasn't doing much the same on the Dodgers' hitters. They, too, got little after their home run. But Mike Scioscia did drive home a single tally in the bottom of the frame to make it a one run game, 4-3. Stewart left after eight with a fine six-hitter.

Dennis Eckersley came in to mop up. I mean, the guy had done that in all four games of the ALCS and earned a save each time. This guy, you just went up there with a little bat and a prayer. Dennis, you see, didn't give you much to hit and didn't walk too many batters. In 72 2/3 regular season innings, he permitted just 52 hits (5 home runs) and 11 walks. It just seemed so futile.

Scioscia popped out to short to stop the bottom of the ninth for the Dodgers. The Jeff Hamilton watched helplessly as Eckersley put strike three past him on the outer edge.

Los Angeles was down to their last out, and sent up Mike Davis as a pinch hitter. Actually, this looked like a bad move. Davis was left-handed, but had hit just .196 that season. He just wasn't the guy to help in this situation, But amazingly enough, after taking a strike, The Eck, misses the next four pitches and Davis was on. The Dodgers were still alive. The next batter was another pinch hitter.

And it was Kirk Gibson.

Injured and not exactly expected to play, he'd had this knack for coming through all season, Hey, if it's going to go down to the wire, why not?

He fouled off an Eckersley offering. Then another, and it was 0-2. He fouled off a third pitch to stay alive, but when Eckersley missed with his next pitch, Davis stole second without a throw. It was 1-2 on Gibson, but Dennis needed just one more pitch to put him away, Eckersley then missed with the next two pitches and the count was full.

At this point, Dennis must have decided that Kirk was not going down on a fastball. So he decided to go with a different pitch, a slider. The only problem is, the break was early. The ball caught too much of the plate, and Kirk was there to greet it with his big stick.

Launching the ball over the wall in right, the clutch Dodger had turned a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 Dodger win with one flick of the lumber! An iconic blast, with an equally amazing play-by-play call on television and radio. Around the bases, Kirk must have felt like someone who walked on to a stage all his. But it was a moment he'd share with his Dodger mates and fans forever.

The Los Angeles Dodgers needed no such miracles in game two, as their ace right-hander, Orel Hershiser went into his mode that had seen him throw 67 straight scoreless innings, counting game one of the NLCS. Shutting down the A's on just three hits (and even getting three hits himself!) Bulldog did the trick. Los Angeles won game two, 6-0 and moved to Oakland to get it done!

Game three went down to the wire like game one. This one was a pitching duel that saw both teams scratch out single tallies through eight and a half innings. In the bottom of the ninth, Oakland had Canseco and McGwire due up. Canseco hadn't had a hit since game one, of course, and Mark was stuck on zero hits so far.

The Dodgers sent up Jay Howell. Jay had just come back from a suspension and was taking the hill for the first time and facing a slugger who'd gone yard in his first at-bat of this Fall Classic. But Jay dug down deep and kept Jose off guard, getting him to pop out. But in to the box stepped, Mark McGwire.

Jay missed on his first pitch, but then McGwire could only foul off the next two pitches. Extra innings loomed. But, like with Gibson, McGwire's presence overwhelmed the pitcher. Jay threw ball two, and couldn't seem to put McGwire away as he fouled off the next three pitches. When Howell tried again to put Mark away with the next pitcher, the Big Guy took him out of the park to left. The A's had won, 2-1.

Canseco and McGwire did not get another hit in the 1988 Fall Classic. Gibson did not get another plate appearance. But the three, with their only hits of the Series, provided some memories to make the 1988 Fall Classic, though short, one for the ages!

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Golden Era Ballot: My Favourite Moments Of The Men On It

So the Veteran's Committee is soon going to vote on who will make the Hall Of Fame. This years candidates are many that I have written about before, or peak my interest.

Dick Allen

Dick was somewhat of a malcontent, a player who did not all get along with other players, his manager, or anyone else around. He was also a member of the ill-fated 1964 Philadelphia Phillies. It was next year that his antics aledgedly got Frank Thomas (no relation to The Big Hurt) traded. For that, he was booed by his hometown fans, yet Allen hit a memorable home run to silence them. Well, for the moment.

On July 8th, 1965, the Phillies took on San Francisco at home in a double-header. In the opener, it was Allen and his 'mates on the wrong side of a 10-2 loss. Dick went 0-4 and K'd twice. But in the nightcap, Allen came to the dish in the bottom of the first with John Briggs, Cookie Rojas and Johnny Callison on and nobody out. Dickie hit a tape measure blast that might still be travelling it was hit so high and hard. The ovation was deafening, and the grand slam was needed. For, later in the game, solo home runs by Willie Mays and Willie McCovey made it a close finish. Philly won, 4-2.

Ken Boyer

Kenny also hit a memorable grand slam, but it was in the World Series of '64. Kenny's St. Louis Cardinals came back from 6 1/2 games back to win the pennant. There was only 13 games to play. The Phillies also had a lead of 6 1/2 with 12 to play over Cincinnati, who were also ahead of the Cards.

In the 1964 World Series, Ken was 1-13 and the Phillies were behind 3-0 in game four. Their opponents, the New York Yankees, also led the Fall Classic, two games to none. A win here, and it would be a tremendous uphill climb back. Boyer's grand slam in the top of the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium gave St. Louis a 4-3 lead. They held on for the win, then took two of the next three games for a Fall Classic triumph.

But it was in game seven when Ken did something amazing. Actually, he was part of something amazing. Having singled and scored, doubled and scored earlier, Kenny was having quite a game. So were the Cardinals. Up 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh, Kenny added to that with a home run. But in the top of the ninth, Kenny's younger brother Clete also went yard, and they became the only brothers to hit home runs in the same series game! It was a nice end to a season where Boyer had been MVP of the National League and led in RBIs.

Gil Hodges

Gil had several great World Series performances for Brooklyn in the 1950s, but also failed to get a hit in the 1952 affair. In 1956, he had 8 RBIs in only seven games. His home run in game four of the 1959 World Series won the game for the Dodgers, 5-4. Only, they were now the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But it was as manager of the 1969 New York Mets where he did something very smart. The Mets were ahead of the Baltimore Orioles, three games to one. But they trailed game five, 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth. Cleon Jones of the Mets said he had been in the foot by a pitch, but umpire Lou DiMuro disagreed. Hodges then had an idea. Not, "If the shoe fits," but rather, he showed the umpire some shoe polish on the ball. Ah! That got Jones to first. When Don Clendenon followed with a home run, the Mets were back in business. Al Weiss tied it the next inning with a solo home run. Two more runs in the bottom of the eighth brought New York a World Championship!

Jim Kaat

Jim Kaat actually pitched for the original Washington Senators in 1959, before they moved to Minnesota. He pitched forever, won 16 Gold Gloves, 283 games, and even hit a respectable 16 home runs. Kaat: The pitcher who could do it all, forever!

It would be difficult to single out one moment from a career that lasted a quarter of a century. But how about his pitching in the 1965 World Series. In game two, he won 5-1. Oh, he beat Los Angeles Dodger Sandy Koufax. In the bottom of the eighth, with Sandy out of the game, he knocked in two runs with single. Minnesota won, 5-1. But Kaat lost games five and seven to Koufax. His World Series ring would have to wait until 1982.

Minnie Minosa

You know? This guy never quite left the game. I should tell you something about him. In 2003, he appeared in game for the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League. He drew a walk. Age? 83!

Tony Oliva

Oliva was a teammate of Kaat's on the 1965 Twins. His birth name, by the way, is actually Pedro Oliva. He used his older brother's passport to come from his native Cuba to United States. When he signed on to the Twins, they had no idea how great he'd turn out.

Consider this:

3 Batting Titles

4 times leading the league in doubles

5 times leading the league in hits

1 Gold Glove (1966)

1964 Rookie Of The Year

Oliva, hit a home run in the top of the sixth inning of game four of the 1965 World Series. It was off the other great Dodger pitcher, Don Drysdale. That cut the Los Angeles' lead to 3-2. But a four-run uprising in the bottom of the sixth ended Minny's hopes.

But when I think of Tony-O, I think of a very special home run he hit. It was the first of it's kind.

On opening day of 1973, it was Oliva Twins vs. Catfish Hunter's Oakland A's. In the top of the first with run in, Tony took Hunter out of the park with Rod Carew on to make it 3-0. But the home run itself was something special. It was the first by a Designated Hitter.

Billy Pierce

Pierce is another lefty like Kaat. But what an ERA in 1955, 1.97. Prior to Herb Score's arrival in 1955, Pierce had led the American League in K/9 in 1953 and 1954. He also lead the league in complete games from 1956 to 1958. He played on two pennant winners. One in each league. Chicago, 1959 for the junior circuit and San Francisco for the National League in '62.

For me, it's the '62 Fall Classic. Amazingly enough, Pierce did not get any starts or decisions (despite three appearances) in '59. In 1962 vs. the New York Yankees, he took the hill in game three with the Series tied 1-1. He pitched so well. But a sequence in the bottom of the seventh led to the end.

Battling the Yankees Bill Stafford in a scoreless duel, Pierce came undone. First, it was AL Rookie Of The Year Tom Tresh with a single. Then, AL MVP Mickey Mantle singled to left. Both runners then advanced an extra base on an error on the play. When Roger Maris got a single to right, it was 2-0. Pierce was removed for Don Larsen. Maris then scored himself on a fielder's choice as the Giants failed to turn two. It proved to be crucial, as San Francisco scored twice in the top of the ninth, only to lose, 3-2.

But in game six, back in San Francisco, Billy was matched against Whitey Ford, who had won the opener and gotten a no-decision in game four. Ford had a nice 10-6 lifetime record in the Fall Classic. But Pierce was out to extend this thing to a seventh game.

And he did just that. Ford was battered and knocked out of the game after 4 2/3 innings. He had allowed five earned runs. His bullpen stopped the Giants the rest of the way, but it was too late. A Maris home run in the top of the fifth and a Tony Kubek single in the top of the eighth (with the Giants up 5-1 at the time) was all the mighty Yankees could muster. Pierce not only won the game (But New York won 1-0 in game 7, alas) but Whitey Ford had lost! Whitey, amazingly enough would lose his next three Fall Classic starts for good measure, never again getting another World Series win!

Luis Tiant

Tiant is one of my favourites who I never got to see. But in 1968, he won 21 games and posted a 1.60 ERA to lead the American League. Some (Not me, as proven by a posting I did a few years back) say he was actually better than Denny McLain, who won 31 games that year, but posted a higher ERA (1.96) on a pennant-winning team. His Cleveland team won 86 games that year compared to (McLain's) Detroit Tigers winning 103.

After stumbling back after that, he joined the Boston Red Sox in 1971. Tiant only won 1 game that year (1-7, was his record), but came back the next year to win 15 and lead the league again in ERA. And again it was less than 2 (1.91).

In 1975, Tiant was only 18-14, and his ERA was over 4. But he nonetheless started game one of the American League Championship Series vs. the three-time defending champion Oakland A's. All Tiant did was toss a three-hitter and give up just one run. He got the win, and the Red Sox won the next two games for good measure, and the sweep!

So then, Tiant went out to the mound in game one of that year's World Series vs. the great Cincinnati Reds. Cincy was, The Big Red Machine at this point. All Tiant did was go out and shut them out, 6-0. But the game was close and Luis had to be good, as Don Gullett matched zeros with him until the bottom of the seventh. Their, Tiant himself got things going with a single. He ended the inning by popping out to first. But the Red Sox scored all six of their runs in that frame. Tiant had become the first pitched since game seven of the 1971 Fall Classic to go the distance! Tiant added a win in game four on 163 pitches. He even started game six (That's the game that ends with the Carlton Fisk home run) and held Cincinatti at bay until he tired in the fifth.

Maury Wills

Wills sort of pioneered the stolen base back to the Ty Cobb Era in baseball. But the truth is, it was Luis Aparicio who brought the stolen base back. But Willis ran with it. In 1959, he played in only 83 games in the season and stole only 7 bases. But in the World Series, against Billy Pierce, Luis Aparicio and the Chicago White Sox, he helped the Los Angeles Dodgers win it all. He even matched Aparicio in the stolen base category with one each!

Beginning in 1960, Wills led the league in stolen bases six times. It was in 1962 that he stole 104 basesb (breaking Ty Cobb's record of 96, set in 1915) and was only thrown out 13 times. He stole 94 more in 1965. His thefts earned him the MVP in 1962. He was also tough to catch, as Maury was in the top ten in stolen base percentage from 1960 to 1965, and again in 1967 and 1968. He added defence to his arsenal, as he won gold gloves 1961 and 1962 at shortstop.

His lifetime batting average was .281, although his On-Base Percentage is surprising low, only .330. But Aparicio's is only .327. so he's got some company.

But for me, it's game 2 of the 1963 World Series that shows you Maury Wills. The Dodgers, behind Koufax, had won game one over the New York Yankees, 5-2. Wills led off game 2 with a single. But Al Downing, the Yankee (lefty) starter, made a great pickoff move towards first after Wills took off too soon. Pepitone, perhaps disbeliving the speed of the man at short, fired the ball as fast as he could, but his throw was a little too high and Wills reached. Wills eventually scored the game's first run, and Los Angeles did not relinquish the lead. The Dodgers only stole two bases the whole World Series, but their speed and pitching allowed them to sweep the mighty Yankees!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The Boyer Brothers made a surprise visit to the show, "What's My Line?" After game 4 of the 1964 Fall Classic. The brothers had a World Series where they did everything else, so why not? That St. Louis vs. New York World Series of that season was a classic. Clete at Ken starred at third for each team.

Clete stroked the last hit by the Yankees in that game. It came off Roger Craig, who Ken was nice enough to mention got the win (in relief of starter Ray Sadecki). The Yankees had taken an early 3-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth. Clete singled Joe Pepitone to second, after Pepi had walked. But Craig fanned Al Downing and Phil Linz to end that. The Cardinals needed a grand slam in the top of the sixth to erase that lead. St. Louis went on to win the game 4-3 and knot things at two games apiece.

But it was in game seven where they combined to do some damage. Ken hit a double and scored the Cardinals' sixth run of the game in the bottom of the fifth. But a three-run home run by Mickey Mantle the next inning cut the St. Louis lead to 6-3. The Cardinal starter, Bob Gibson, was tiring. Ken was needed again to stop the Yankees, who had started the three run rally when Boyer could not get to Bobby Richardson's slow roller.

Steve Hamilton, on to pitch for New York, fanned two straight batters and had Kenny in his sites to K the side. But Ken stopped that, and the Yankees momentum with a home run. As Ken approached third, it was Clete that banged his shoulder in approval. But Clete and his mates had a few surprises up their sleeve. Gibson was up 7-3 after eight, but the Yankees did not go down without a fight in the top of the ninth.

Gibson fanned Tom Tresh to get things going. He was one strike away from doing the same to Boyer, but it was actually a full count. Bob, tiring since so early in this contest, did not want to start walking batters. Clete got a pitch to his liking, and blasted it over the wall for a home run of his own. Ken game his younger brother a playful nudge of his own as Clete passed him. It was 7-4, but New York had more.

Gibby got pinch hitter Johnny Blanchard out on another K, but Phil Linz, stepped in. And he had no intentions of letting Gibson off easily. He'd hit the ball well off Gibson in game two, getting two hits. He'd also added a home run off Barney Schultz, later. Gibson slammed the door on Phil, Clete and the rest of New York in game five. But here, in game seven, Linz had singled and been robbed of a hit when Mike Shannon snared his sinking liner in the top of the fifth. Shannon had then doubled up Tresh at second.

But Linz launched the ball to left, like Clete had two batters earlier. Like Ken had in the seventh. Like Mantle had, going the other way, in the sixth. Lou Brock, in left, desperately made a leap, but to no avail. This one was in the seats and New York was down 7-5. Gibson had to get Richardson, who had eight hits off him, to end this. Bob Gibson got him to pop out to end it.

It had been a great World Series. Yet, one thing both teams had was a third basemen who faced his brother at that position. Ken was the better hitter, though Clete certainly got some timely hits. Ken struggled for a while, but with two key home runs, he helped make the difference in game four and seven. Clete was the better fielder, although Ken made some fine plays, too. Each would never make it back to the Fall Classic, but had provided some unforgettable moments. So when they appeared on "What's My Line?", it was another of those moments!


Sunday, November 30, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Ed Sprague Jr. is the only player to win it all at the Collegiate, Olympic and MLB level!

Sprague, whose father, Ed Sprague Jr. was a pitched in the bigs from 1968 to 1976, went to Stanford University in the late 80s and helped them win back-to-back World Series in 1987 and '88. And it was in 1988 that he helped United States win gold at the Olympics with a 5-3 win over Japan. The good year of Sprague continued when the Toronto Blue Jays took him in the amateur draft.

He did not make the club until 1991. And even then, it was for only 61 games. But Ed hit .275, which showed some promise. 1992 was a step back, as got into only 22 games and batted just .234. The Jays, who used him at third. first, catcher and DH, kept him on the postseason roster.

Sprague might have also been given some consideration for stating some games in the postseason. The regular third basemen, Kelly Gruber (who's position Sprague played in college), was in slump that stretched from game 3 of the ALCS to game 3 of the Fall Classic. Also, John Olerud, hit just .222 that year vs. left-handed starters.

Sprague got a hit of Dennis Eckersley in game 1 of the American League Championship Series. Then, The Eck fanned him in his only other plate appearance of the ALCS, in game 5.

The World Series seemed to be more of the same. The Jays were up against an Atlanta Braves team that had the pitching and hitting you need to make you some stiff competition. Sprague did not get into game 1. Nor did John Olerud, as Joe Carter played first. No DH, you see. Dave Winfield, who occupied that position for most of the season, was in rightfield. Atlanta welcomed Toronto to A Brave New World and beat them, 3-1.

Sprague and Olerud did play in game 2. And in the top of the ninth inning, Eddie came to bat as a pinch hitter for pitcher Duane Ward. Pat Borders had lined out to start this fateful inning, which Toronto trailed 4-3. Derek Bell, batting for Manny Lee, coaxed a walk from Jeff Reardon. But Jeff had come in to pitch the eighth inning, with the Blue Jays threatening to tie it. He fanned Gruber to end that. Jeff, though, was one of those one-and-done closers of that (and to this day) time. Coming in early is usually a mistake.

One that Sprague exposed with a home run on the very first pitch of his very first Fall Classic plate appearance. 5-4, Toronto. That was the final score. Sprague had become (one of) the most unlikeliest of World Series heroes.

Sprague would see more action, again pinch-hitting in game 3. The Jays had tied the game in their home half of the eighth inning. It had been a wild, first World Series game ever on Canadian Soil. Devon White and Otis Nixon, the Braves' centerfielder, had both made great catches.

But Kelly Gruber's home run in the bottom of the eighth had squared this thing, and you kinda got the feeling the Jays were the team of destiny here. They were, indeed!

Roberto Alomar, quite so far in the World Series, led off with a single. The Braves removed starter, Steve Avery and brought in Mark Wohlers. Alomar didn't care who was pitching. He stole second. Carter was walked intentionally. Winfield laid down a bunt. Mike Stanton came in to set up a lefty-vs.-lefty matchup with Olerud. But Sprague trotted out to bat and Stanton walked him intentionally. Candy Maldonado's dramatic single scored Alomar with the winning run.

In game five, with Toronto up three games to one, the Braves took a 7-2 lead behind started John Smoltz. But it was one of those games where he had trouble finding the plate. And, up to four walks and up to 114 pitches, he was removed in the top of the seventh, leaving with no outs and a runner on first. Mike Stanton came in to get the Braves out of the inning. He did just that.

But in the eighth, it was Carter with a leadoff single and a stolen base. Winfield, who had singled his previous time up, fanned. Sprague was sent up to bat for Olerud again. This time, all he could do was fly out. Carter made it to third after tagging up. But Maldonado ended the inning by grounding out to third.

Sprague stayed in the game at first. and Atlanta threatened in the top of the ninth.. Todd Stottlemyre pitched the inning. He got just one batter out before Mark Lemke singled to centre. When Otis Nixon and Deion Sanders followed with singles of their own, the Braves had the bases loaded. Terry Pendleton was the batter and Toronto needed a double play. He sent a fly to left that Maldonaldo made the catch on. But when Lemke hesitated before heading home with hopes of an eighth run, The Candy Man nailed him at the dish on a nice throw. Sprague never touched the ball. Toronto went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame as the Braves forced a game six. So Eddie did not do a thing outside of pinch-hit and go to first with a glove. Toronto won game six in extras, 4-3. Eddie did not get into the game.

Sprague stayed with the Jays through 1998, and picked up another ring as a regular in 1993. But by winning a World Series in 1993, he had a nice "Big Three" in terms of winning it all.

Monday, November 24, 2014

World Series: Did You Know

Gene Tenace participated in the Fall Classic in 1972, 1982, and 1992. Oh, he was also there in 1973, 1974 and 1993!

Tenace was one of those World Series surprises that year of '72. With the Oakland A's, and up against a great Cincinnati Reds' team, he provided the boast they needed. The teams were pretty evenly matched, but Cincy had made it to the Fall Classic two years earlier and were looking for their first triumph since 1940. They might have got it, if not for Tenace.

Having played in just 82 games in '72 and hitting just 5 round-trippers, what went down in the Fall Classic was a shocker. Especially when Gene hit just .059 in the American League Championship Series vs. Baltimore.

Gene went out to the World Series, played all seven games at catcher, and hit, hit hit. Home run, home run, home run! He connected for two in the first game, another in the third, and still another in the fifth game. The Oakland A's were up three games to one when Tenace got his fourth. The Reds would rally and take this game and game six, but Oakland ultimatly triumphed in game seven. For his efforts, which included a .348 batting average, Gene was named World Series MVP.

He did not, however, have things his way in the 1973 and '74 Fall Classics. Gene hit poorly. The Athletics, nonetheless, won both years. They made it back to the ALCS in 1975, but were swept by the Boston Red Sox. Tenace played to the end of 1976 with Oakland before being dealt to San Diego.

But in 1982, he was back in the Fall Classic with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Athletics made it back to the postseason in 1981 without him, but here, Gene was trying to prove he could get it done with any team.

He didn't do much in the World Series. He only played in five games, got no hits, and only reached base once. But again, it was his team that came through in seven. This would prove to be his last World Series as a player. But ten years later he was back in October's Classic.

He was the bench coach of the Toronto Blue Jays, who were still seeking their first World Series win. He even had gotten some managerial experience at the big league level the previous year, 1991. Cito Gaston had a herniated disc and missed 33 games. Tenace went 19-14 during the span. Cito returned, but the Jays lost the ALCS to Minnesota. But in 1992, Toronto beat Gene's old team, the Oakland A's, in six games to advance to the World Series. But Gene got ejected in game five!

There were no ejections of Tenace or any of the Jays' coaches in the World Series. The Jays got several key moves from Gaston and co. to win it all against Atlanta in six games.

Gene Tenace ended up with six World Series rings to his name. It's about being in the right place at the right time, isn't it?