Friday, February 28, 2014

Letang: Let's Hope He's Not Another J.R. Richard!

Kris Letang was getting better and better the last few years. Last year, despite missing 13 games, he averaged better than a point a game (38 points in 35 regular season games, plus 16 points in 15 playoff games). Kris could be a Norris Trophy candidate for years to come.

This year was not as good. And then, came the stroke. Always sad to read about strokes affecting young athletes.

I hope he comes back. But there is one thought in my mind right now: He just might not ever return!

Remember J.R. Richard? The flame thrower on Houston in the mid to late 70s? Oh, yes, and 1980. 1980, that is, until he came down from a stroke that he never returned to major league baseball from.

Richard's was right there in the middle of his prime in 1980. You need only look at his teammate on the Houston Astros that year to know how good he was. That teammate was Nolan Ryan. And for many years before that, J.R. looked liked he'd be better than Nolan!

In his first four seasons, young Richard struggled with control. He had plenty on his pitches, but very little mastery of it. He averaged better than 12 K's per 9 innings pitched his first two short seasons (1971 and 1972). Granted, this was only in 21 and 6 innings pitched respectively, but the potential was there. Where have we read this all before?

But once he started to pitch more, he started to harness it. Just like Sandy Koufax's early years, it was going to take some time, but his talent was quickly becoming apparent! In '73, J.R. tossed just 72 innings, but went 6-2. Most impressively, he allowed just 54 hits during that span. And, on top of that, he K'd 75 batters for an average of 9.4 per 9 innings!

Alas, J.R. fell back the next year, and all his numbers went down. But the young man, who was 25 in 1975, would not let that season affect his progress. 1975 was the next step. A make or break season.

And he made it!

Although only 12-10 with a 4.39 ERA, it nevertheless marked his first full season on the mound. And a closer look reveals several bright spots:

178 hits allowed in 203 innings pitched. That was good enough for just 7.9 hits allowed per 9 innings. Pretty good! Indeed, it was just outside the top 10 in the National League. 176 K's? That meant Richard averaged 7.8 K's per 9 innings pitched. And that was good enough for 2nd, behind only John Montefusco.

Okay, his wildness was still there. He walked 138 batters and threw 20 wild pitches. And those numbers were high enough to lead the league in each category. But as with a young Koufax, these were problems that you just had to accept. Richard's was heading in the right direction and poised for the breakthrough.

It came soon enough. 1976 was a huge step forward for the 26 year old!

Although 20-15, which isn't good by W% standards, his 2.75 ERA was splendid! It was good enough for 7th place in the senior circuit.

The K's weren't as good. He only fanned 214 batters in 291 innings. But, at 6.6 K's per 9, that was still good enough for 4th place. The walks were up to 151, enough to lead the league. That was also enough for 4.7 walks per nine innings pitched. But up until the 1976, J.R. had averaged a career mark of 5.8 per 9. So it was an improvement. And it was quite a comedown from 1975, where Richard average 6.1 walks per 9 innings. And how about giving up just 221 hits for 6.8 per 9? That lead the NL and was third overall in the bigs! And while he walked more, his wildness did improve in two areas. Richard only hit 2 batters in 1976 compared to 5 in 1975. And he tossed just 13 wild pitches, compared to 20 in 1975.

Richard would never win 20 games again, but he was about to become an elite pitcher in the next 3 1/2 seasons.

In 1977, at the age of 27, Richard came home with 18 wins. The amazing thing? The walks were down to just 104 in 267 innings pitched. That meant only 3.5 for 9 innings. And the K's were again 214, only this time it was good enough for 7.2 per 9. The ERA climbed to 2.97. None of these numbers were good enough to lead the league. But J.R. was right there, and getting better and better.

After losing 12 games in '77, Richard lost 11 in 1978, but again won 18 games. The ERA was and over 3 (3.11). The wildness was back. He lead the NL in wild pitches with 16 and walks with 141. But how about the K's? Over 300! 303 to be exact. And it was in only 275 1/3 innings pitched. That's almost 10 (9.9) strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. Needless to say, he lead the NL in K's and K/9IP. J.R. also led the NL in fewests hits allowed per 9 innings, with just 6.3!

1979, and more of the same. Only this time, Richard added the ERA crown (2.71). Another 18 wins (granted, he lost 13). Look at this:

His allowed per 9: 6.8

K's: 313

K/9IP: 9.6

All of that lead the junior circut.

And the next year looked to be even better. The Astros had a new pitcher that year named Nolan Ryan, but J.R. was making even him look mortal! The ERA was low, real low (1.90). 10 wins and only 4 losses. 119 K's in only 113 2/3 inning. But when he left his start on July 14th of that season (1980) he was appearing the bigs for the last time. J.R. was then 30 years old.

The stroke ended his season and career. Richard tried several times to come back. When he pitched in the minors and spring training, he looked like the same pitcher as before the stroke (aside from some struggles in 6 Triple-A ball games in 1982). He recovered completely. Now, I should be telling you about his return to the majors. But there was none, as the risk ultimately proved to be too great.

So what does this all mean for Letang? Staying with hockey, there was Brian Mullen. Mullen, preparing for the 1993/94 season, suffered a stroke in August of that year and never played again. He was only 31. Mullen was never really much of a star, but he was consistent. In an 8 year span from 1982/83 to 1989/90 Brian scored at least 21 goals. Mullen's high was 32 in only 69 games in 84/85. His brother, Joe actually played for the Penguins (Kris Letang's current team) and made the Hockey Hall Of Fame.

Letang is only 26. Will he come back? The odds seem good with his age, say the doctors. Last season, the league lost Erik Karlsson for most of the season. Erik is the best defenceman in the league in my book. Letang is almost as good. But I looked forward to some epic "Battle for the Norris Trophies" from both. That's why I sure hope Kris does come back, as writing this about J.R. was more painful than I could have imagined.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Carl Warwick tied a World Series record with three pinch hits in the 1964 Fall Classic. Despite this, he batted just .220 lifetime as a pinch hitter. The St. Louis Cardinals needed some timely hitting and Carl provided them with some! When you're up against the New York Yankees, sometimes you need some magic off the bench.

In game 1, with the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 6th and a runner on second, the Yankees Whitey Ford was removed from the mound for the last time in a World Series. Al Downing came in and retired pinch hitter Charlie James for the second out. Warwick was up to hit for Cardinals starter Ray Sadecki.

Warwick sent a bouncer that just got by shortstop Phil Linz to the left for a hit. The runner from second, Tim McCarver, scored. On the throw home, Carl pulled in at second. Julian Javier came in to run for Warwick. And he seemed destined to be stranded. Curt Flood got underneath one and sent a ball to Tom Tresh in leftfield. This one was staying in the park, and Tresh seemed in the right position to make the play.

But Tresh had lost it in the sun! The ball caromed off the wall and Javier scored on what became a triple. These harmless hit balls were doing St. Louis a favour here! The Cardinals hadn't hit the ball that well, but were suddenly up, 6-4. These two sequence of events proved crucial. The Yankees got a run back in the top of the 8th before the Cardinals salted victory away with three more runs off Pete Mikklesen in the bottom of the inning. 9-5, St. Louis, final.

In game 2, it didn't seem like Warwick would be needed. Bob Gibson, the poised St. Louis starter, walked Linz to open the game. Then, he proceeded to fan the next four batters! The Cardinals picked up a run in the bottom of the third.

The Yankees tied on two hits, a walk and a sac fly in the top of the 4th. Yankee starter Mel Stottlemyre and Gibson were locked in a pitching duel from here on in. Both looked a little nervous. And why not? It was, for both of them, their first ever World Series start.

In the top of the 6th, Gibson's wildness started. The Yankees always took advantage of those types of situations. You can't give them this, even if you're Bob Gibson.

Mickey Mantle walked. Elston Howard was out on a scorcher to second. Joe Pepitone was hit by a pitch. Or was he? Gibson and catcher McCarver didn't think so. A real rhubarb insued, but Pepitone was on first and Mantle on second. A bouncing ball off the bat of Tresh made it through the left side of the infield, and the Yankees were now up, 2-1. Stottlemyre got through the bottom of the frame 1-2-3.

The Yankees went right back at Gibby in the top of the 7th. Linz got a single. A wild pitch put him on second. Bob came in with a tough pitch to another Bob. But Richardson got a broken bat single to center to make it 3-1, New York. Gibson now needed to get Roger Maris out. Hoot had handled Roger with relative ease so far, getting him out all three times in this game. But Maris got a single. Mantle hit in on the ground to second, but the Cards could only go to first as Richardson scored. 4-1, Yankees! Stottlemyre had another 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the frame. With that sinker-ball of Mel's working so well, this game and maybe even this Series, was looking like a tough one for St. Louis to win. Stottlemyre, along with Downing and Jim Bouton, looked like they were going to carry the Yankees pitching staff for years to come. And they were all under the age of 25!

The 8th inning saw Gibby have a 1-2-3 inning of his own. Stottlemyre wasn't so lucky this time. The Cardinals would get a run back in the frame. And it was Carl Warwick who led the uprising.

Batting for Dal Maxvill, he lashed a single to left. This one gone by Linz to the right. And now it was time for another pinch hitter. Only this time, for Bob Gibson. Bob Skinner batted for him and hit a ground rule-double to left, putting runners on second and third with nobody out. Curt Flood grounded out to Clete Boyer at third. Both runners held.

But Brock drove in Warwick with a ground ball. The Cardinals looked like they would get more as a passed ball and a walk put runners on the corners. However, Ken Boyer could only ground out. It was still 4-2, Yankees. New York put this game out of reach with four runs in the top of the 9th, while the Cards could only answer with a single tally of their own in the bottom of the frame.

Warwick and the Cards were off to The Big Apple for the next three games. Things did not get much easier. Another young pitcher, another long day! Actually, game three would take just two hours and sixteen minutes to play. But it seemed like an eternity for the batters on both teams!

Jim Bouton and Curt Simmons hooked up in a classic pitcher's duel that saw the score tied at 1-1 after 8. Warwick was needed in the 9th.

Tim McCarver reached on an error by Clete Boyer. Mike Shannon sacrificed him to second. Warwick again batted for Maxvill and walked. Bob Skinner, another pinch hitter, got a hold of one and sent it to center. But Roger Maris, playing center with Mantle in right, tracked it down and made the putout. Curt Flood ended the inning by hitting one to right, where The Mick almost dropped it. That ended the inning.

The Mick then made sure he and his teammates didn't have to field again in game three!. Mickey belted a dramatic walk-off homerun in the bottom of the 9th! 2-1, New York was your final score.

In game 4, St. Louis watched helplessly as New York scored 3 times in the bottom of the 1st to take a 3-0 lead. Ray Sadecki was out of the game with just one out. Roger Craig and Ron Taylor, the tall Canadian, held the Yankees to just 2 hits and 4 walks the rest of the way.

None of that seemed to matter, though. St. Louis did nothing to Al Downing in the first 5 innings. They managed just 1 hit and 1 walk.

In the top of the 6th, Warwick batted for Craig and got the second hit of the day for his team. Flood then got the third, but Brock flied out. So with two on and one out, Dick Groat hit what looked like a nice easy innings-ending double play. For some reason, Bobby Richardson, after fielding it, couldn't make the play. The ball was stuck in his glove, and his throw was wide of second base. All three runners were safe. It was a crucial mistake, as Ken Boyer hit a 1-0 change-up from Downing into the seats in left. A 3-0 deficit was now a 4-3 Cardinal lead! That proved to be the final score.

Warwick didn't play in game 5, but St. Louis won it, 5-2. Now, the Cardinals were just one win away from the World Championship! Meet me in St. Louis, Louis!

But back there, it was Mantle and Maris going back-to-back to turn a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 lead for the Bombers. It was in the bottom of the 7th when Warwick batted for Maxvill for the 3rd time in this Series. There was one out. This time, Warwick failed. Jim Bouton got him to pop up to Boyer at third. St. Louis tried another pinch hitter, Charlie James, but it was out number three! The Yankees explosive offence then scored 5 more times in the top of the 8th. A couple of meaningless runs by St. Louis made the final score, 8-3 in favour of New York.

But a win by the Cardinals in game seven behind Gibson made the St. Louis Cardinals the World Champions for 1964. Warwick, a bit of a forgotten footnote, had gone 3-4 in a pinch-hitting role! Batting .750 in the postseason lifetime off the bench vs. just .220 in the regular season is quite a disparity! 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The Yankees won the first two games of the 1937 World Series by the score of 8-1!

I guess, it meant all the more that they were facing the Giants in the World Series. What better team to do it against, other than Brooklyn! The 1936 Fall Classic had been close, but the Yankees made it clear they were the better team the next year. Much better!

Carl Hubbell started game 1 for the Giants. And for a while, he must've had the Yankees thinking it would be a long day. The Yankees got a walk and a single in the bottom of the 1st, but then they began to have problems with King Carl.

In the bottom of the second, the ALers went down 1-2-3, with all three hitters grounding out. Then, in the 3rd, it was another 1-2-3 inning for Hubbell. In the 4th, Joe DiMaggio and Bill Dickey grounded out around Lou Gehrig going down on strikes.

The Giants, who now had to feel a jolt of confidence, went out in the top of the 5th and got the game's first run off Lefty Gomez. The Yankees had no answer in the bottom of the frame, as Hubbell got 'em on a popup, ground out, and strikeout.

It was in the bottom of the 6th that the Yankees made their move. And it was one big move. Or one big inning.

Lefty led off with a walk. Soon, he was on third with the bases loaded. DiMaggio was up to bat and The Yankee Clipper delivered a 2-run single. Joe took second on the throw and the Giants were forced to walk Lou Gehrig. 2-1 Yankees, bases loaded and still nobody out! After a run-scoring single by Dickey and an out, it was time for The Canadian to do something! George Selkirk got into the action by hitting a single. Two more runs scored. King Carl had been overthrown. It was 5-1 in favour of the junior circuit.

The Yankees scored still another run off new pitcher Harry Gumbert as Tony Lazzeri reached on an error. This was the Giants' second error in the inning. Dick Coffman came in to pitch for the NLers. Gomez then did a second of his own. He walked again. That loaded the bases. One out later it was Red Rolfe's turn to walk. The Yankees' seventh run of the inning scored. The Giants finally got out of the inning. But the Yankees were not through with touching home.

Tony Lazzeri greeted new pitcher Al Smith with a home run in the bottom of the 8th, sealing up an 8-1 win for New York.

Cliff Melton, a 20 game winner for the Giants, had the task of trying to even things up in game 2. For four innings, he kept the Yankees off the scoreboard. Then reality set in.

The Giants, for the second straight game, scored first as Mel Ott drove in a run in the top of the 1st. Melton, meanwhile, looked poised as a rookie. Not exactly an easy assignment against such a great Yankee team! But Cliff went out and got the first ten Yankee batters out. The Yankees put two men on with two out in the bottom of the fourth, but Bill Dickey fanned. End of 4 innings, 1-0 Giants!

But our Canadian boy, George Selkirk, singled home a run in the bottom of the 5th inning. After Lazzeri hit a single, starting pitcher Red Ruffling singled home Selkirk. The Bronx Bombers were ahead to stay. The rookie was also out of the game. It was 2-1 for the junior circuit. Gumbert was needed again. He retired the next three batters. But he would not be so lucky the next inning.

With two on and only one out, Selkirk delivered again in the bottom of the sixth. This time, he lashed a double to scored two more runs. Ruffling delivered again, as well. And again, it was a double. Selkirk scored, as did Lazzeri. 6-1, Yankees. Coffman again came in to pitch, as he had in game one.

The Yankees scored twice more off Coffman in the bottom of the 7th, and it was 8-1 for the Yankees. Once again, that would be the final score.

The Yankees went on to win the Fall Classic of 1937 in only 5 games. It was the second of four straight World Series for the Yankees, who had clearly put the stamp of champions on the AL side of New York. They were carrying on the tradition that had started with the legendary Babe Ruth back in 1923!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Word Series: Did You Know?

Jim Konstanty started game 1 of the 1950 World Series, not having made a single start in the regular season!

The Philadelphia Phillies right-hander, who had one of the greatest seasons of relief pitching that season, came through with a 5-hitter. It was just that the Yankees' Vic Raschi was even better!

But Konstanty looked shaky early on. The New York Yankees had needed just 5 games to beat a very good Brooklyn team the year before, and were poised for a quick kill here. Even the best relief pitcher in baseball would  have his hands full with the Bronx Bombers.

And if the Phillies or Konstanty himself had any different ideas, they were quickly gone in the top of the 1st. Jim did what you don't do in baseball.

Gene Woodling led off the 1st for the Yankees by walking. Then, Phil Rizzuto singled him to second. Yogi Berra was retired on a long fly, but Woodling made it to third. The Yankee Clipper himself was next, and Joe DiMaggio always came through in these situations!

Konstanty managed to retire him on a popup to first. Then, The Big Cat, Johnny Mize flied out to right.

Jim had a 1-2-3 second, but in the Yankees third inning, it was more of the same.

Raschi himself singled. Woodling walked. Rizzuto laid it down perfectly. 2nd and 3rd and only one out. Now what would Jim do? Berra was out on a flyball, but this time, no one advanced a base. DiMaggio was walked intentionally to load 'em up. And now, The Big Cat was back!

But Konstanty retired him on a popup to third. However, given what New York had accomplished, it appeared Konstanty was due for a short outing. I mean, he would have been used to pitching about three or less innings, right?

It was the next inning where the Yankees got what they needed. Bobby Brown led off with a double. A Hank Bauer flyball got him to third. Another flyball by Jerry Coleman scored Brown. Raschi ended the inning by grounding out. 1-0, Yankees after 3 1/2 innings.

In the top of the 5th, Gene Woodling grounded to the first base side of the infield. Eddie Waitkus, who had been shot by an obsessed fan in the season before this, made the play and tossed it to Jim covering first. Rizzuto popped up behind the plate for out number two. The man the Yankees had behind the plate, Yogi Berra, popped it up foul as well, this time to Waitkus. That was the type of inning the Phillies were going to need a lot more of. Not only in this game, but in every game of the 1950 Fall Classic.

But 1-2-3 innings were in order for the Yankees' starter. Vic was just mowing 'em down on this day. 1-2-3 went the Phillies in the first four innings.

In the 5th, the Phillies got two hits. It would prove to be their only two hits of the game.

Willie Jones, the 14th batter to face Raschi, got a single with one out. After another out, Andy Seminick singled to left and Jones was on second. This was not really a great scoring opportunity. But it would prove to be the best chance Philadelphia would have in this game. It quickly died as Mike Goliat was K'd by Victor.

Konstanty then issued his fourth walk of the day to The Yankee Clipper to lead off the top of the 6th. Would Mize be denied again? Yes, as Konstanty got him to pop to third. Brown lined out to right and Bauer forced DiMaggio at second.

After Raschi fanned Konstanty to start the bottom of the frame, it was time for Vic's first walk. Waitkus made it. But Ritchie Ashburn, in only his second season in the majors, flied to DiMaggio in center. Dick Sisler ended the inning when he popped to Johnny Mize at first.

Konstanty retired Coleman to start the 7th and then the wheels seem to come off the chariot. An ill-timed error by Willie Jones (playing third base) on Raschi's grounder put a man on. And it was back to the top of the order for New York. Woodling singled. Crunch time again for Jim.

Rizzuto popped out to third. Konstanty finally made it out of there without a run touching home as Berra grounded out to first. Waitkus made the play unassisted.

The Phillies then seemed to get the right pitches in the bottom of the 7th. All three batters hit the ball well. Ennis was out on a fly to right. Jones flew out to center. Granny Hamner really got a hold of one to right. Alas, Hank Bauer made the catch.

In the top of the 8th, Konstanty had a nice 1-2-3 innings. But it was still 1-0, New York. And it would prove to be Jim's last inning.

In the bottom of the frame, Seminick popped out to the new Johnny at first. Johnny Hopp had just replaced Mize. And he saw some quick action as Andy Seminick hit one towards him in foul territory. Goliat lined out to second. Konstanty was due up next, but with the Phillies trailing, it was time for a pinch hitter. Don Whitman hit a ball with some authority to right, but again Bauer made the putout.

Russ Meyer was in to pitch the top of the 9th for Philadelphia. Although New York got their 5th hit on the day, Meyer got the Phillies out of there unscathed.

But Raschi was not to be denied. Still ahead only 1-0, he retired Waitkus on a grounder in the bottom of the 9th. Ashburn grounded out, Hopp unassisted. Dick Sisler ended the game by fanning.

Jim Konstanty had pitched a combined 5-hitter with Meyer. 4 walks was a bit too much. But just one run had scored. However Raschi, the Yankees flamethrower, had allowed just 2 hits and 1 walk. It was just enough to overcome a fine performance by someone making their first start of the season!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Game 3 of the 1955 World Series was the last Fall Classic played in September. Who better to go at it then the Dodgers and Yankees for this one?

Brooklyn, up against New York again, were looking down and out. Behind 2-0 in the Series, and with Johnny Podres (11-13 on the 1955 season and no Fall Classic win to his name), on the hill. Things looked pretty grim for Da Bums. It was September 30, 1955. How would the Dodgers last very far into the next month?

It looked like another Yankee win. Bob Turley started for New York. What a difference a year makes! 14-15 with the Baltimore Orioles in 1954, to 17-13 with the Yankees the next year. Could Podres match up?

Podres' battery mate Roy Campanella, hit a 2-run shot in the bottom of the first. That was the kind of start the Dodgers needed. But what they didn't need was what happened to them in the top of the second inning!

Mickey Mantle, a year shy of the Triple Crown, smashed a home run of his own, the only good news was that it came with the bases empty. But a single by Phil Ruzzuto scored another run, and just like that the game was tied at 2.

But with one out in the bottom of the frame, it was Brooklyn's turn for some scoring! With one out, Jackie Robinson singled, and then Turley hit Sandy Amoros. Podres made it to first on a bunt! Jim Gilliam walked. Brooklyn was back on top, 3-2 and Turley was hitting the showers early.

Tom Morgan, the Yankees new pitched, then walked Pee Wee Reese, and the Dodgers suddenly had their 2-run lead back! Podres settled down and got the Yanks 1-2-3 in the 3rd and 4th innings.

In the bottom of the 4th, it was Campanella who singled home another run. Carl Furillo flied out, foul, to left, but than cashed in a run. Now, Brooklyn had some real breathing room! 6-2, Dodgers! Podres allowed no hits for the 3rd straight inning in the 5th.

In the sixth, the first two Yankees singled, but then Mantle did something he rarely did: he hit into a double play! The Yankees nonetheless got a run back the next inning as Andy Carey, batting for the pitcher, tripled home Rizzuto. But it was still 6-3, Dodgers! Then it was time for Jackie Robinson to weave some of that old magic.

With one out in the Dodgers half of the inning, the still fleet-footed Robby doubled to left, then took third on the throw to second. Jackie didn't steal home, as he had in the first game (The debate as to whether or not he made it there will probably never be settled), but he scored on Amoros' single. Podres failed with the bunt and forced Sandy at second, but a walk to Gilliam kept the inning alive. Reese stroked a single to make it 8-3 for Da Bums!

In the top of the 8th, Podres got 'em 1-2-3 on grounders. Moose Skowron started the 9th inning with a single for the Yankees. Podres got the next three batters to pop out. The Dodgers had their first win of the 1955 World Series thanks to Podres. Podres had lost a game to New York in 1953, so this was his first World Series win. They needed it! I guess this was a sign that this last September Fall Classic game was something special! And in the 7th game, it was the Brooklyn Dodgers who came through with a 2-0 win and their first championship!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Joe Morgan had two game-winning RBI hits in the 1975 World Series.

It was a great Fall Classic. Only two of the games, one and five, were routs. And even there, you had some great pitching.

The Cincinnati Reds lost the opener to the Boston Red Sox. They took game two in the top of the 9th. Game 3 was in Cincinnati!

Game three also seemed to be a home run affair. Carlton Fisk (not game six yet here, folks. Settle down!) hit one to give the Sox and early lead. Johnny Bench squared things at 1 with a big blast in the bottom of the 4th. Then, Cincy came to bat in the bottom of the next inning.

Dave Concepcion took Boston starter Rick Wise deep. And then, Cesar Geronimo followed with one of his own. With one out, Pete Rose did the next best thing, a triple. Wise was out of the game.

Jim Burton took over and walked Ken Griffey. Joe Morgan was actually the next hitter. He flied out to Fred Lynn in centrefield, but it was deep enough to score Rose. Now it was 5-1 for the Reds.

The Red Sox got one run back in the top of the 6th as Lynn himself hit a sacrifice fly off starter Pat Darcy (Yes, the same Darcy who gave up the home run to Fisk in game six). In the 7th, following a double play, Bernie Carbo came off the bench (relax, it's still not game six!)  and went yard. 5-3, Cincinnati.

It was Dwight Evans who was then clutch for the Boston Red Sox. With one down in the 9th, and the Sox just 2 outs away from defeat.

But the man they call Dewy, did it for Boston.

Rico Petrocelli, the veteran, singled for Boston. Willie McEnaney was pulled from the game by Reds manager Sparky Anderson. In came in Rawly Eastwick to face Dwight Evans. And Evans hit a dramatic game-tying 2-run home run.

The game was destined for extra innings. And a little controversy.

In the bottom of the Reds' 10th inning, it was Geronimo who led off with a single. Eastwick was set to hit so he was replaced. The batter was Ed Armbrister. He laid down a bunt right in front of home plate. Carlton Fisk collided with Armbrister. Was this interference? The Red Sox thought so, but Larry Barnett behind the plate, did not. Fisk was in no position to make the play, but tried for second for the force. Fisk's toss ended up in center field Now it was 2nd and 3rd and nobody out.

Pete Rose walked to load the bases. Then the Reds' sent up another pinch hitter, Merv Rettenmund. Roger Moret, who had come in for Jim Willoughby (and walked Rose) fanned him. It was up to Joe Morgan. He could be the hero here. Or he could hit into a double play!

Morgan took a ball. Then he missed with two swings to fall behind 1-2. But on the next pitch, Joe stroked a single to center, scoring Geronimo and winning the game for Cincinnati.

But given the none-call and Morgan's game-winning hit in game 7, this vital contribution by the little second basement is sometimes forgotten. But in a Fall Classic where every game seemed to go beyond the limits of everyone's expectations, Morgan came through for the Reds when it mattered most.

Roger Craig: Clutch For The Cards In 1964 World Series

So Roger Craig turned 84 the other day? The guy who twice lost 20 games for the hapless Mets in the early 60s. But this guy could pitch, let me tell you. In 1964, he was on the St. Louis Cardinals. They overcame both the Phillies and Reds to take the pennant. But the New York Yankees would prove to be St. Louis' greatest challenge!

The St. Louis Cardinals trailed 2 games to 1 going into game 4, and then it looked even worse.

Ray Sadecki, who had won the Cardinals' only game, started but the Yankees destroyed him. 4 straight hits and 2 runs and he was out of there. There was only one out and it was only the bottom of the first. Could Roger Craig help?

He came in, and was greeted the hard way as Elston Howard singled home Roger Maris. It was 3-0 Yankees, right off the bat. Craig managed to fan Tommy Tresh for the second out. Joe Pepitone was out on a flyball.

In the second inning, Craig really brought it!

First, he fanned Clete Boyer with a great pitch. Then he fanned his mound adversary, Al Downing (pitching a great game). Finally, he whiffed Phil Linz on a nice one that caught the left edge of the plate.

But things weren't so easy for Roger in the next two innings. This is where he needed to be "money" as we say now in sports.

The Cardinals failed to score in the top of the 3rd despite a walk and a single. Craig made it look easy as he got Bobby Richardson out on a grounder. That was definitely a key person to get out. Leading off, and always dangerous was the Yankees' second basemen. Then he got Maris to hit a comebacker.

And then, Roger Craig lost his control. The strike zone must have shrunk in half.

First, a walk to Mickey Mantle. Then, a walk to Howard. Tresh was the batter, but Craig would not have to worry about him. What he was thinking about was Mantle, who was in a conversation with Dick Groat. Groat, the Cardinals' shortstop, fooled Mantle into taking too big a leadoff by talking about The Mick's walkoff home run in game three. Craig had a great pickoff move to second, unlike most right handed pitchers. The Mick was caught off guard, and the Cards were out of the inning!

But back came some wildness from Craig again in the 5th.

Tresh fanned. But Pepitone walked. That was BB #3 for Roger. Clete Boyer didn't fan this time. He singled to center, but Pepi only made it to second. There was only one out, however. Pepitone, despite his too carefree style of life on and off the field, wasn't going to fall for the same trick as The Mick. Roger was going to have to do this the old fashioned way.

He fanned Downing. Roger then fanned Linz. He was up to 7 K's. The bad part was the 2 hits and 3 walks. But he had still not allowed a run in 3 2/3 innings pitched. Could he keep it up?

In the bottom of the 5th, Bobby Richardson got a hold of one and sent it right to Clete's older brother Ken at third. Maris went the other way on a fly and was retired. Craig humbled Mickey even more by fanning him. Wow! 4 2/3 innings pitched, 0 runs, 2 hits, 8 strikeouts and 3 walks!

But there was one slight problem to all that: It was still 3-0, New York!

Therein lies the problem. Downing had a 1-2-3 1st, a 1-2-3 2nd, a 1-2-3 4th, a 1-2-3 5th. The Cards weren't doing much. Craig himself had managed only a flyball out against Downing in the third. That had been the only inning the Cardinals had managed any baserunners.

Craig was about to be removed for a pinch hitter in the top of the 6th. Carl Warwick, 2-2 in the pinch hitting role, delivered for a 3rd time with a single to left to start the 6th. Curt Flood then singled. Lou Brock was out on a flyball. 2 on and 1 out. Dick Groat then did what you don't do: he hit a bouncing ball to second! A double-play ball!

Richardson, close to the bag at second, stopped it. But for whatever reason, he stumbled in getting it out of his glove. Then, his short toss to Linz at second went wide. Flood dumped Phil for good measure. It should have been the end of the inning. Instead, there was bases loaded and only one out.

Ken Boyer was the next batter. But Downing and the Yankees had handled him so well, it looked like Ken was going to be the goat of the Series. Big reason for the Yankees 2 - 1 lead in the Series? Ken Boyer. Just 1 hit in game 1, none in game 2, none in game 3. None so far in game 4. Downing had already whiffed him twice in the Series, including a K in just 1 2/3 inning of relief in game 1.

Downing missed with a slider. Elston Howard wanted a fastball, Downing's prized pitch, as the next one. It made sense, because the white shirts in the background (The Yankees would removed the black spot in center for the World Series, to make for more fans and difficult eyesight of many a batter!) made it next to impossible for St. Louis to actually see what Al was tossing. The way the game was going, the Cardinals might have to just swing wildly at any fastballs.

But Downing wanted a changeup. Howard decided to give in. But the pitch was at the letters, and it caught too much of the plate. Boyer was way out in front because he'd expected a fastball. Would it hurt?

It had the distance, but it was hooking with all that topspin! It managed to stay fair, but only by about 6 feet. The Cardinals were now up 4-3.

Canadian Ron Taylor took the hill in the bottom of the 6th. And he actually didn't give up a hit in this frame or any other remaining 3 innings. The Yankees managed just one walk off him. St. Louis had won the game, 4-3, which each team getting just 6 hits!

But it was Craig, with the win, whose great performance had turned the tide in the Cardinals favour. Craig did not get to pitch again in this Series. And as it turns out, he never again pitched in the postseason. But still, this performance saved St. Louis from going down 3-1 in the 1964 Fall Classic. The Cardinals went on to win the Series in 7 games. Bob Gibson was the MVP, but Roger Craig swung the pendulum in the St. Louis Cardinals direction!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Whitey Ford almost got a shutout in his first World Series start! A fitting start to the man who would win the most lifetime games in the Fall Classic. The New York Yankees had a legend in the making in game four of the 1950 World Series!

Not even on the Yankees roster until July of that season, the lefty proceeded to win his first 9 decisions for New York. His only loss would be a relief stint against the Philadelphia Athletics. But the Athletics' National League counterparts would feel Whitey's wrath in the World Series that year.

The Philadelphia Phillies of 1950, who went by the name "Blue Jays" from 1943 to 1949, were known as the Whiz Kids. They put up a brave fight in the first three games, but New York was too strong. With a quick 3-0 Series lead, the Bronx Bombers gave Ford the start in game four. Who better to turn out the lights out on the kids, long before their bedtime?

The Yankees, at home, scored twice in the bottom of the first off Bob Miller. It was an early curtain call for the Phillies pitcher, who managed to retire only one batter. And it looked like an early curtain call for the entire Philly team.

Jim Konstanty, who had started game one for Philadelphia, came in to pitch. What was odd was, he hadn't started a game in the regular season. That was the season Jim had one of the best relief seasons of all-time. Jim took a tough 1-0 loss in game 1. But here, Konstanty was needed for the some much needed relief. More relief than rolaids. More relief than pepto bismol! For a while, Jimmy did just that.

Just getting The Big Cat, Johnny Mize, and Bobby Brown out to end the inning was something, as the Yanks got a runner to third. And from there, it seemed like The Jimmy and Whitey Show!

1-2-3 went Philadelphia in the top of the 2nd. 1-2-3 went New York in the bottom of the frame. Ford gave up a hit and nothing more in the top of the 3rd, while Konstanty had another 1-2-3 inning.

In the top of the fourth, a leadoff single by Del Ennis might have phased many-a-pitcher, but Ford got the next batter out. But when Granny Hamner singled, it was first and second and just one out. Ford bore down and got Andy Seminick, the catcher, to hit into an inning-ending double play.

After Joe DiMaggio himself fanned to open the bottom of the frame, Big Jim would have to deal with The Big Cat again. And this time, Mize singled. But Brown flew out, and Hank Bauer forced Mize at second. Still only 2-0, New York, after four innings.

Konstanty himself would stroke a one-out single in the top of the 5th for the Phillies. But Eddie Waitkus (who was shot by an obsessed fan, which inspired a scene for the movie, The Natural years later) went out on a fly to left. Richie Ashburn popped out to Jerry Coleman (who would win the Babe Ruth award in the 1950 World Series) at second.

The Yankees managed a hit by Gene Woodling in the bottom of the 5th, but that was it. Ford had his best stuff again in the top of the 6th. Whitey survived an error by Brown at third, again getting out via the double play.

Yogi Berra then broke Konstanty's spell (4.2 inning of shutout ball) by depositing one of Big Jim's offerings into the right field bleachers in the bottom of the frame. The Yankees didn't stop there, as a Brown triple drove home DiMaggio. Bauer drove home Brown with a hard drive to left for a sac fly. 5-0, New York.

Ford got 'em 1-2-3 in the 7th and 1-2-3 again in the 8th. Konstanty regained his stuff and got through the bottom of the 7th with no more damage. Robin Roberts came in to pitch the bottom of the 8th for Philly and held the mighty Yankees in check. But now, Whitey Ford was working on a 5-hit shutout. And just 3 outs away from his first World Series win.

Willie Jones led off the top of the 9th with his second hit of the game. Ford then hit the next batter, Ennis. Nervous?

Well, The Chairman Of The Board got Dick Sisler, the son of George Sisler, to force Ennis at second. When Ford fanned Hamner, the Yankees were one out away from a sweep. And Whitey was just one more out away from the shutout!

Seminick send a fly to left that Gene Woodling settled under. Game over! Shutout for Whitey Ford. World Series sweep for the Yankees.

Wait!

Scratch all of the above!

Woodling dropped it! Jones scored. Ken Johnson, who had come in to pinch run for Sisler and was probably completely forgotten about at this time, trotted in behind Willie. The score was now 5-2 for the Yankees. Obviously, both runs were unearned. But the shutout was gone. The Phillies remained ever so stubborn, even in the face of overwhelming adversary!

And Ford himself was shaken up a little. The next batter, Mike Goliat, lashed a single to send another pinch runner (Jackie Mayo) to second. The tying run was at the plate.

Roberts was the scheduled batter, but there was no way the Philadelphia Phillies were going to let the pitcher bat in this situation. Stan Lopata was sent up to hit for him. And Stan would not face Ford. Allie Reynolds, who would go on to tie Red Ruffing for the all-time lead in World Series wins (at the time) with 7, came in to pitch.

Reynolds would K Lopata. The Yankees had the sweep and Superchief had the save. But what Reynolds didn't know was that the very man he relieved here would pass him and Ruffing for all-time World Series wins. Ford would also finish with 3 shutouts, but that is only good enough for second in the Fall Classic. A shutout here could have helped Whitey Ford tie for the all-time lead. No matter, Ford had his first World Series win.

And Whitey would win a lot more!

Monday, February 17, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been involved in three Fall Classics where the team up three games to one came home empty handed!

In the very first World Series, the National Leaguers looked poised in ready to take the best-of-nine affair. Taking three of the first four games, the Bucs needed just two more wins. Their opponents, Boston then went on a tear thanks to some great pitching. And they took over the World Series from there! The 1903 Fall Classic would not go to the senior circut!

The immortal Cy Young stopped Pittsburgh in game five with a 6-hitter to pull Boston to within a win of squaring the World Series. Boston exploded for 11 runs in the game.

In game 6, the Americans (as Boston was called then) tied it at 3, as Bill Dinneen won his second game of the Series. Boston only scored six runs this time, but the Pirates were held to just 3 themselves. Now, the first Fall Classic was down to best two-out of-three!

And it would be Boston that took the Series lead in game 7. Cy Young gave up 10 hits and 3 runs, but Boston got 11 hits and 7 runs of their own. Now, one more win and the Americans would have it all! Boston would have two cracks at it and they would take the first opportunity.

Bill Dinneen won game 8 and the Series for Boston with a 4-hit masterpiece. Boston had come all the way back. Long before Boston Strong, came Boston, Young And Restless And Relentless!

The Pirates would find themselves down 3-1 to the Washington Senators in the 1925 World Series. This was only a best-of-seven affair. They would need 3 straight wins. They got them!

In game 5, the Pirates won 6-3, but the score was closer than that. Each team had a 1-run lead. Then tied at 2 in the top of the 7th, Pittsburgh scored twice. Washington got one run back in the bottom of the frame, but would get no closer. It was back to Pittsburgh for game 6.

And game 6 was even closer. The Senators took an early 2-0 lead before the Pirates came back and squared things with a pair in the bottom of the third. A run in the bottom of the 5th by the Bucs concluded the scoring. There would be a winner-take-all game 7 in the 1925 World Series.

But it was Walter Johnson on the hill for the Senators. Washington quickly got ahead 4-0 in their first at-bats. The Pirates clawed back to 4-3 in the bottom of the 3rd. Two more runs by Washington in the top of the 4th seemed to spell the end for the Pirates. But Pittsburgh got one back in the bottom of the 5th and scored five more times to Washington's one to take it, 9-7.

Most recently, it was 1979, and Baltimore looked dangerous to the Pirates. The Orioles pitching staff and bats of the had kept Pittsburgh off-guard for the first four games. Even when the Bucks scored some, like 4 runs in game 3, plus 6 more in game 4, it was the O's that had the last word.

In game 5, the Pirates won at home 7-1. But they trailed 1-0 through 5 before they scored twice in the 6th, two more times in the 7th and finally 3 more times in the 8th. The Pirates were within a game, 3-2. But game 6 was in Baltimore.

And the Orioles' Jim Palmer, as he so often did in the postseason, tied up the Pirates' bats in knots. Through 6 innings, the Pirates were looking down and out. But Pittsburgh's John Candeleria matched Jimmy's 0's with 6 of his own. In the top of the 7th, as had happened in game five, the Pirates scored twice. Then, two more runs in the 8th, plus some fine relief work by Ken Tekulve, and Pittsburgh had squared the Series at 3 with a 4-0 win.

In game 7, the O's struck first as Rich Dauer hit a solo home run in the bottom of the bottom of the third. Again, the Pirates' offence just wasn't there. But again, it would pick up. I guess the Pirates of 1979 just needed a few innings to get the old motor up and going.

Willie Stargell erased that lead and put Pittsburgh up for good with a 2-run dinger in the top of the 6th. Inspired by that blast, the Pirates plated two more runs in the top of the 9th to salt away a 4-1 win. But once again, you wouldn't know who was going to win until the last out. But no matter! The Pirates had again overcome a 3-1 deficit in the World Series again. Now if only they hadn't botched that lead in the first World Series! I wonder how many fans of the Bucks ever bring up blowing a 3-1 lead in '03 when they talk about the comebacks of '25 and '79?

World Series: Did You Know?

The 1912 Fall Classic was the first to end with a team pulling it off in their last at-bats.

Yeah, this is the famous, "Fred Snodgrass Error" game, between Boston and New York. But actually, it wasn't Fred's fault. Rather, it was a compilation of mistakes by the New York Giants. Much like we saw in a World Series 74 years that was also between New York and Boston.

You know? Mets and Red Sox, 1986? Bill Buckner? It wasn't his fault the Red Sox lost. The Sox blew their own brains out long before that.

And long before that Series, it was the Giants that did the same in 1912. Though it actually seems like the Giants did what the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs did against the Boston Bruins in 2013. Watch! They came back from 3-1 down to force a deciding game, only to lose it with a lead! Real late in the game, too!

So the Red Sox ace, Smoky Joe Wood got the better of Jeff Tesreau in game one. While there are some who don't remember Wood, (who developed a sore arm the next season and was never able to put together a full season on the mound again) Tesreau is completely forgotten. Odd, since he was almost always among the National League leaders in wins and ERA. His career lasted just 7 total seasons, though. Wood's pitching career was only about 7 full seasons. Wood ended his career with 117 wins and Tesreau, 119. Yet, both were great for about 5 years. Neither was too good here, but it was still a pretty good opening act as Boston took it, 4-3.

The New York Giants hoped to square things in game 2, but the Giants could manage only a 6-6 tie. Worse still, Christy Mathewson picked a fine time not to pick up a win. Christy usually did in the World Series. But really, it was some bad fielding that did in New York. Some better glove work and the 1912 World Series would have been tied after 2 games. But now, the Red Sox had a huge advantage. Or did they? No Mathewson for game 3!

But what about Rube Marquard?

He actually was the Giants' big winner that year. Rube led the National League in wins with 26. Wood, by the way, was the junior league leader with 34 in 1912.

And Marky came through. Firing a 7-hit gem, he squared the Series 1-1-1 (Gotta remember the tie, right?) with a narrow 2-1 win. But now the Giants had to face Wood again.

Yep, it was Wood back on the hill again in game 4. And again, New York sent up Tesreau. This time, Jeff pitched better, as did Smoky. However, once again, Tesreau came away second best. Yielding just 5 hits and 2 (earned) runs, Jeff trailed 2-1 after 7. Another Red Sox run off Red Ames made the final, 3-1 in favour of Boston. Wood, the winner again! And once again, Boston was ahead in the Series! 2-1 (plus a tie), Red Sox.

Mathewson went out in game 5, and gave up 5 hits in 9 innings. And the Red Sox scored only 2 runs. The Giants scored 1. Now, it was 3-1, Boston.

The Giants scored five times in the bottom of the first inning of game 6. Marquard, again brilliant, was on his way to a 5-2 win (Both of Boston's runs scored in the top of the second). But New York was still behind 3 games to 2. Now, for game 7, it was back to Boston to face...Wood.

The Giants had an even better offensive output in the first inning of game 7. Six runs drove the Red Sox ace out of there. Five more runs the rest of the way, and this thing was a laughter, 11-4 for the Giants. The Series was tied at 3. It was a winner-take-all game 8. 3-3-1!

And it was Christy Mathewson again. Who better to put the finishing touches on the choke by Boston. Just like the NHL Leafs, they had made it look almost too easy against such stiff competition.

The game was tied at 1 after 9. Mathewson was poised for the kill here. Wood had entered the game in the 8th. He shut down the Giants for 2 innings. But in the top of the 10th, an unlikely source seemed to put the final nail in Boston's coffin.

With a runner on second and only one out, Fred Merkle came to bat. Yes, the same Merkle who had failed to touch second on the hit that would have won the 1908 pennant for the Giants. It this situation, the goat of four years ago was as clutch as Kirk Gibson or Michael Jordan! Stroking a single to right, he gave the Sox a 2-1 lead. When Red Sox center fielder Tris Speaker made an error, Merkle was on his way to second. And he touched it and stayed on it! Alas, that's as far as he got as Smoky got the next two Giants out. But three more outs, and and extraordinary comeback would be complete for John McGraw and his Merry Men of Giants!

Wood was slated to lead off the bottom of the 10th, so he was replaced by pinch hitter Clyde Engle. Christy got him to hit a fly to centerfielder Fred Snodgrass. Snodgrass, though, dropped it! Engle made it to second. The next batter, Harry Hooper, saw the Red Sox moved everybody in. So Harry lashed the ball in the air to center. This one was past Fred. This one was deep, real deep. Snodgrass would have had difficulty catching this had he been playing at normal depth. Racing at full speed, Snodgrass atoned for his error by taking away a sure triple. Two more outs to go and New York had it!

Mathewson, though, did what they teach you not to do in the Great Pitchers' Union: He walked the potential winning run (Steve Yerkers) on!

The Red Sox needed a double play. Tris Speaker popped it up foul along the first base side. It looked like New York would be one out away. But none of the three men who should have caught it, Mathewson on the mound, Merkle at first, and catcher Chief Meyers seemed to react in time. The ball bounced harmlessly foul, but Speaker had a new lease on life. When Tris singled to right, the game was now tied. Speaker motored into second on the throw home for good measure. Yerkers, representing the 1912 World Series winning run, was now just 90 feet away. And there was only one out. Just a fly ball or even a grounder would do in New York.

So Mathewson had no choice but to walk Duffy Lewis, Boston's left fielder. That loaded the bases. The batter was now third sacker Larry Gardner. Once again, the Giants had to move their defence in.

And once again, there was a loud crack. Gardner sent a fly to right. Josh Devore made a fine play to make the catch for out number two (not as good as Snodgrass' one though), then made a quick throw home. But Yerkers tagged and scored rather easily. The Red Sox had won the 1912 Fall Classic 4 games to 3 with a 3-2, extra inning win in the deciding game. A walk-off sacrifice fly, as we would say now!

In the end, the Giants had no one but themselves to blame. And really, it was themselves. Although he posted an ERA of just 0.94, Mathewson was 0-2 in this Series. Someone should have caught that pop-up. Yes, Snodgrass should have made the play on Engle. Art Fletcher had batted .179 in 8 games. The New York Giants had committed 5 errors in game 2, 4 errors in game 7 and 2 more in game 8. The Giants' fielding was so bad that they still lost despite batting .270 as a team compared to Boston's .220! You just can't win a Fall Classic with mistakes aplenty in the field! And that one by Snodgrass was just one of many, by the Giants!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Even though Washington eventually came up short in the 1925 Fall Classic, the Senators' 3-1 Series lead against the Pirates was not without some controversy.

It was game 3, with the Series tied at 1 and the Series' lead at stake. Washington had already used Walter Johnson to win game 1. Stan Coveleski took a tough 3-2 loss for the Nats in game 2.

So here was game 3 in Washington. And it was a real gem of a game! But there was one play that would be talked about for years after.

The Senators sent Alex Ferguson to the mound. It must have sort of seemed like a bad move, as Fergie had led the AL in losses with 17 the previous year. But this was 1925, and Alex pitched for three different teams. Finally landing in Washington, he was good! Here's a breakdown of Ferguson's 1925 W-L, ERA breakdown:

Boston Red Sox: 0-2, 10.91 ERA

New York Yankees: 4-2, 7.79 ERA

Washington Senators: 5-1, 3.25 ERA

Not sure if I would want this guy on the hill at any point in any World Series game. But looking at his numbers with Washington, I guess it's not so bad. And he pitched well here and also in game 6.

But what about his mound opponent for Pittsburgh? Ray Kremer! This guy was a pretty good pitcher, says I! Only in his third year was Ray. But look at his numbers.

1924: 18-10, 3.19 ERA

1925: 17-8, 3.69 ERA

So, a great W% and a pretty good ERA. Looks like a TKO for the Bucs in game 3 of the 1925 Fall Classic.

Pie Traynor made it look that way when he hit a leadoff triple to start the top of the 2nd for Pittsburgh. A sacrifice fly scored him. But leave it to the Judge, as in Joe Judge, to drive home Sam Rice in the bottom of the 3rd to tie it. Rice would be heard from later this game, believe you me!

But once again, reality set in for Alex. In the top of the 4th, the Pirates, undaunted, tallied another run and then loaded the bases. Ferguson had to fan his mound opponent, Kremer, to escape further damage. The Pittsburgh Pirates had the lead again, 2-1.

In the top of the 6th, with runners on the corners and two down, Kremer got another chance at Fergie. This time, he came through by stroking a single to center to extend the Pirates' lead to 3-1. But the Nationals came back in the bottom of the frame as Goose Goslin took Ray deep.

Washington then looked like they might get more, as they got two more hits that inning. Kremer bore down and got out of it, still ahead, 3-2.

After Alex had a 1-2-3 7th, it was time for a dramatic comeback by Washington!

Nemo Leibold, who had played on the infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox (obviously, he was clean in that Series), hitting for Ferguson, drew a walk. After two singles loaded the bases, The Judge tied the game with a sacrifice fly! Joe Harris' second hit of that game, then put the Senators up, 4-3!

Firpo Marberry, the great relief pitcher (Yes, they had them back then, too! Well, some of them) came in to pitch the top of the 8th and K'd the first two Pirate batters. But then Earl Smith didn't go down on strikes!

Actually, he launched one to right. This had a chance to go out. Sam Rice, playing rightfield (actually, Sam had switched from centerfield to right in the top of this fateful inning!) raced over to the wall, reached over, and disappeared from sight!

Had he caught the ball?

Had he dropped the ball as we went over the wall?

The umpires held a conference, where it was ruled that Rice, did in fact, make the catch. And held on to the ball. The Senators were out of the inning with a slim one-run lead.

Marberry loaded the bases on two singles and a hit batter in the top of the ninth. There was only one out. But the man who collected many a save (although, of course, Firpo would not have been aware of it at the time), bore down and got Clyde Barnhart to pop up to catcher Muddy Ruel. Pie Traynor then flied out to Earl McNeely in center.

But what about Rice's catch? Did he really hold on to it?

Rice for years would only say that "The umpire said I did." Then he would smile. Many claimed he didn't. But finally, he said he would reveal the truth about the catch (or no catch) after he died. Sam sent a letter to the Hall Of Fame, to be opened after his death. The truth, lay inside. When he passed away in 1974, the letter was opened.

He caught it and held on to it!

Just had to get it off his chest after death, eh?

Friday, February 14, 2014

How The Dodgers Used Nine Pinch Hitters In One Game!

I thought with their World Series buddies the Chicago White Sox getting eleven runs in one inning on one hit, what could the Dodgers of the 1959 season do that could match that?

How about using 9 pinch hitters in one game? Don't worry, it wasn't in one inning. It was on September 22nd, 1959 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The game featured two pretty good pitchers. Sandy Koufax was not quite there yet, but in his last two starts in August and his first start in September, he'd K'd 41 batters in only 28.0 innings. He had started to skid a bit after that, however. Sandy's record was now only 8-6 (and that would be his final record) but his ERA was a respectable 3.85.

His mound opponent for the Cardinals was Larry Jackson. His record was only 13-13 coming into this one, but his ERA was even better than Sandy's: 3.25!

Jackson failed to get a batter out in the top of the first, and by the time the inning ended, Los Angeles had sent every men to the plate except Koufax. None of them were pinch hitters, however. The Dodgers had a quick 3-0 lead and the starter out of the game. Marshall Bridges, who would later pitch for the Yankees, came in for the Cards. But Sandy would also soon be in the showers.

Two walks around two groundouts and the old Koufax wildness was still around in the bottom of the frame. Gene Oliver singled to load them up. And then Hal Smith, the Cardinals' catcher, cleared 'em with a grand slam. Bye-bye Sandy! 4-3, Cardinals. Hmmm, the Yankee fan in me is thinking about game 4 of the 1964 World Series. It was Ken Boyer who drew Koufax's second walk, by the way. It was the bottom of the first, and both teams had unloaded a full salvo of arsenal. It would be kept up all throughout the game.

The Dodgers scored a run in the top of the second to tie it, and then Gil Hodges' 3rd inning home run made it 6-4, Los Angeles. But the lead was short-lived.

Boyer and Stan Musial singled to start the bottom of the 3rd. Hal Smith failed this time. But a home run by Curt Flood scored Ken and Stan, and the Cardinals had erased another Dodger lead. And again, it was the Cards with the lead. Slugfest! St. Louis wasn't about to stop there and added two more runs to make it 9-6 after just 3 innings. The Dodgers had already used Koufax, Chuck Churn and now Clem Labine. At this rate, they'd need to use 9 pitchers to get through this one!

Tommy Davis pinch-hit for Labine and went down on strikes in the top of the 4th. In the top of the 5th, with the Dodgers still trailing 9-6, it was Don Demeter who pinch-hit for Duke Snider, but he was out on a fly ball to left. Carl Furillo batted for Norm Parker and also went out to left. Deep left.

The Cardinals scored twice more the bottom of the frame, but the Dodgers were about to get some much-needed offence. St. Louis had now touched home 11 times!

In the top of the 6th, with one out, it was Joe Pignatano who batted for Johnny Roseboro, the catcher. He walked. At last, as pinch hitter who reached base! Stan Williams (who had come on to pitch following Labine's leaving for a pinch hitter. And Stan was also a future Yankee) was due to hit next and the Dodgers were down 10-6. What would you do?

Los Angeles went with Chuck Essegian off the bench. And did he ever come through! Swatting a Bridges' offering to left for a double, the Dodgers were back a little, 11-7. But there was still some unfinished work to do. Oh yes! And still some more pinch hitters for the Blue and White!

It was Ron Fairly, who would later play for the Toronto Blue Jays years later, who came off the bench to hit for Los Angeles in the top of the 8th. The Dodgers were 1-4 (and a walk) so far, pinch hitting. Fairly was hitting for Pignatano. But on the hill now was was one of the best relief pitchers of this, or any time: Lindy McDaniel!

Ron could only ground out. Right after him came still another pinch hitter, and another Sandy, Amoros. Amoros, of course, made that great catch of Yogi Berra in game 7 of the 1955 World Series. Cuban born, he spoke very little English and never really made a name for himself in the big league. Nonetheless, he was a good hitter with some power. And the Dodgers need some of that right now! But all Sandy could do was ground out. Los Angeles did eventually load the bases, but came away from this inning empty. It was still St. Louis on top, 11-7.

Fred Kipp and Danny McDevitt had managed to shutout the Cards in the last three innings, but it was last call for Los Angeles in the top of the 9th.

Gil Hodges got a single with one out, but McDaniel got Maury Wills to lineout to second. Hodges was not doubled up, but LA was down to their last out.

Pinch hitter? How'd you guess?

Rip Repulski batted for Norm Sherry. The Dodgers were 1 for 6 pinch hitting so far. But Repulski got a single to keep the Dodgers' hopes alive.

Pinch hitter? You're right again!

It was actually Frank Howard who batted for McDevitt. And did big Frank (can't call him The Big Hurt, that's for Frank Thomas) come through! He blasted a majestic 3-run home run to left center. The Dodgers were suddenly within a run of the Cardinals. And back to the top of the order.

The batter was Jim Gilliam.

And no pinch hitter.

McDaniel, however, needed just 2 pitches to get Gilliam to ground out and end the game. The St. Louis Cardinals had won this one 11-10.

The Dodger's pinch hitters had gone 3 for 8 with a walk, 3 runs scored and 4 RBIs in this game. That set an all-time record that has been equalled only twice in the next 54 years. The Dodgers may have lost the game, but they had used up the bench. And it was the depth of this team that was apparent here, and later on, in the World Series.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The Pittsburgh Pirates were the first team to come back from a 3 games to 1 deficit (in a best of seven format) to win the World Series. It was 1925, and the Washington Senators were looking for a repeat! And their side-arming righty was awesome here!

Long before the days of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Sidney Crosby breaking Washington's hearts again and again in the NHL playoffs, the Sens took a 3-1 lead in the 1925 Fall Classic. Walter Johnson looked unhittable. In winning his first two starts (game 4 was a shutout gem) he certainly added to his status as one of the game's all-time greats! But baseball was about to repeat what I saw in hockey from 1992 on between Washington and Pittsburgh: Pitt on the brink, and coming back to win!

In game 5, it was back-and-forth, with each team touching home twice after 6 innings. In the top of the 7th, the Bucs finally broke through with a lead of more than a run when they scored twice. But Sam Rice's single in the bottom of the frame brought Washington back to within a single run, 4-3.

The Pirates were not to be denied, however. Stuffy McInnis singled home a run in the top of the 8th to restore the two-run lead. Another run in the top of the 9th meant this thing was heading back to Steeltown for game 6. And maybe, game 7!

Game 6 was a great pitcher's duel, and Washington looked ready to win it. They scored a run in the top of the 1st and the top of the 2nd. The way unheralded Alex Ferguson was pitching, it looked like curtains for the Pirates. Fergie had beaten Pittsburgh 4-3 in game 3, as the Senators must have had a lot of faith in him. Why not? It was a fine 6-hitter over 7 innings there. Here, the Pirates couldn't touch him in the first 2 innings.

But in the bottom of the 3rd, the Pirates tied it. Pie Traynor drove home the second run with a single. Fergie bore down after than, and Pitt got just one more run on a solo home run by Eddie Moore in the 5th. That made it 3-2 for the Bucs. Alex finished the game going 7 strong innings. He allowed 7 hits, but just 3 runs and 2 walks. He fanned 6. Win Ballou came in for Washington and easily retired the Pirates in the bottom of the 8th. Washington had gotten the pitching they needed to win this game.

But what the Senators didn't have was the hitting. Ray Kremer did not allow another run after the second inning. He finished the game by going all 9 innings. Washington managed just 6 hits, 2 runs and 1 walk. Ray fanned only 3 but also faced just 33 batters in the game. This thing was going the distance.

With Walter Johnson on the hill for the Nats, game 7 should have been a cinch for the Sens. But it was not to be.

The game never should have been played. It was raining hard. There was fog. But the game was played, anyway. Everyone might as well been blind!

The Senators lost 9-7 despite having leads of 4-0, 6-3 and even 7-6 in after 7 1/2. Johnson went the distance, gave up 15 hits, but only 5 of the runs were earned. He walked only 1, but could fan only 3.

Ray Kremer won this game too, but it was in relief. No one really pitched well, but given then conditions, it would be a tall order to do that. No one could see anything, including the umpires.

I guess you could point the finger at the Senators' Roger Peckinpaugh. He made 2 errors on the day and 8 overall in the Series. He did, however, hit a home run to give the Sens a 7-6 lead. That was Washington's last lead of the game. In the first inning, Roger reached first on a rare occurrence: catcher's interference! That, too, led to a run. As you can see, no one could see what was going on out there!

But my favourite Walter Johnson story (ever) is The Big Train, having watched some real tragedy unfold in the bottom of the 8th (with the Senators but 4 outs away from winning the 1925 Fall Classic), show such great character. With two outs, the Pirates tied it. Peckinpaugh's second error (Roger's first was in the 7th, and Pittsburgh scored twice that inning to pull within a run, 6-5) allowed the Bucs to score twice more and conclude the scoring. The Big Train waited for Peckinpaugh, and in one of the game's most touching moments, put his arms around him. Can you imagine doing that for someone who sort of cost you the game and the Fall Classic with his fielding?

The Senators were retired 1-2-3 in the top of the 9th. The Pirates had come back all the way from 3-1 down!

World Series: Did You Know?

Honus Wagner was the last out of the first World Series. I guess that is just another reason why the first World Series was memorable.

Wagner had a bit of a forgettable Fall Classic in 1903. As one of the all-time greats, there had to be a great many eyes on him. Maybe even, all eyes on him! Pittsburgh has had many greats, from Wagner to Stargell to Bonds to Lemieux to Crosby. The list just just goes on and on. The first World Series sure put Steeltown on the map of pro sports to stay!

But having said that, Boston, representing the AL, had Cy Young in 1903. And have they not had Ruth, Williams, Russell, Yaz, Orr, Bird since? So there was another great sports town put on the map by the very first Fall Classic!

It got off to a promising start in game one for Honus. The Flying Dutchman had a hit and two walks. He knocked in a run and touched home once for good measure. The National Leaguers made it look easy against Young, besting him, 7-3.

But game 2 proved to be a struggle for Pittsburgh. Boston's Bill Dinneen went the distance and shutout Pitt on a 3-hitter. Wagner had an oh-for day, 0 for 3. But Honus had plenty of company. Series tied.

In game 3, it was more good pitching. Tom Hughes struggled early for Boston, and the immortal Cy Young came in to pitch the top of the 3rd. The very first batter Young faced was Wagner and Cy hit him. Pittsburgh scored a run (having already scored earlier in the inning), but Honus was the last out of the inning as he tried to score from second on an error. But in the 8th, it was Wagner that hit Young. Wagner hit a double off Young, then scored to put his team up 4-1. Deacon Phillippe, who got the win for Steeltown in game 1, was even better in this game for Pittsburgh! They would win 4-2, to take a 2 games to 1 edge in the first Fall Classic.

Wagner's big game was game 4. Honus connected for 3 hits in 4 at-bats. But despite that, and a stolen base, Wagner managed just 1 RBI and no runs scored! He was also caught stealing. However, it was Pittsburgh that won this game to take a 3 games to 1 lead. It should be noted that this was a best-of-9 affair. Boston was still very much alive.

And Boston crushed 'em 11-2 in game 5 to cut the Series lead to just 3-2. Wagner didn't even reach base. Wagner could manage only a walk in game 6 as Boston tied the Fall Classic with a 6-3 win. Cy Young went out in game 7 and won it, 7-3. Wagner could manage only a sac fly. Again, he failed to reach first. Gotta think it is somewhat appropriate that Cy Young wins game 7, eh? But it wasn't the deciding game 7!

Game 8 was like game 2: a shutout by Bill Dinneen! And again Boston won 3-0. So the first World Series had ended, 5 games to 3 in favour of the Beantowners!

Wagner flied out in the top of the second in game 8. In the 4th, with two down and Tommy Leach on first, Wagner singled him to third. Then the Flying Dutchman took off and made it to second for a steal. Leach, though, also tried for one and was caught in a rundown between third and home. Lou Criger, the Boston catcher, eventually made the putout.

Wagner grounded out in the top of the seventh.

In the top of the 9th, Dinneen got Fred Clarke to fly out to left. Leach also flied out, but this was to right. Honus Wagner was the last batter of the 1903 World Series.

Dinneen fanned him. The Flying Dutchman would have to get better wings next time!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The last out of every World Series from 1958 to 1962 has something in common! The last letter of the pitcher on the mound when the last pitch was thrown, ended with a "Y". Although, not all of the last pitches resulted in outs! There was the 1960 World Series!

Bob Turley came into game 7 of the 1958 World Series vs. the Milwaukee Braves. The Yankees' Don Larsen had a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third, but he was struggling. The Braves scored a run in the first, then loaded the bases before Don escaped.

New York scored twice in the top of the second to take the lead, but Larsen faltered again in the bottom of the third. There were two men on with only one out. Turley came in, got an out, then issued an intentional walk to Eddie Mathews. Del Crandall hit a ball that hit Turley, and went to Gil McDougald. Gil threw out Del at first to end another Milwaukee threat. But the Yankees' pitchers had now issued 4 walks in only 3 innings. And the lead was still only 2-1.

Lew Burdette had to wiggle out of trouble in the top of the 4th as the Yankees put 2 men on. But from there, he settled down. 1-2-3, went the Yankees in the next 2 innings.

Turley had a 1-2-3 4th and a 1-2-3 5th to keep pace with Burdette and keep the Yankees up by that single run. But in the bottom of the 6th, Crandall tied the game with a home run.

Bill Skowron broke Burdette's spell with a single to lead off the top of the 7th. After one out, Turley bunted him to second. The Yankees could not get Moose home.

Turley retired the side in a 1-2-3 7th. And then the Yankees proceeded to win the game in the top of the 8th. With two outs, Yogi Berra doubled and was driven home by Elston Howard. After a single by Andy Carey, Skowron took Burdette deep! 6-2, New York in a blink of an eye!

Turley gave up a hit and a walk in the top of the 9th before recording the last out.

The next year was the Dodgers' Larry Sherry's time to shine. The Chicago White Sox won game 5 to force the Fall Classic back to The Windy City for game 6. The Dodgers seemed to put it away early as they raced out to and 8-0 lead behind the pitching of Johnny Podres.

But Ted Kluszewski smacked a 3-run home run in the bottom of the 4th to make it 8-3, Los Angeles. When Al Smith walked, Podres was finished. In came Larry Sherry, who had a win and 2 saves so far in the 1959 Fall Classic.

Sherry gave up a single and a walk to load the bases, but made sure Chicago didn't touch home in this, or any other inning.

Sherry gave up a leadoff double to Nellie Fox in the bottom of the 5th, but retired the next three batters. In the 6th, Larry got 'em 1-2-3. Aparicio singled with one out in the 7th, but Sherry got Fox out on a liner to left. Then Jim Landis ended the inning by forcing Aparicio at second.

After Sherman Lollar flied out to Don Demeter in center, Klu again made solid contact, doubling down the left field line. Larry bore down and got the next two batters out on grounders.

Chuck Essegian hit a pinch hit home run to make it 9-3 Dodgers in the top of the 9th. Better still, Sherry was just three more outs away from the Dodgers' first World Series as the Los Angeles Dodgers!

Billy Goodman went out on a comebacker to start the bottom of the 9th. Norm Cash lined out to Demeter in center. And when Aparicio flied out to Wally Moon in left, the 1959 Fall Classic belonged to the Dodgers.

How The West Was Won By Baseball!

Ralph Terry was on the mound in the bottom of the 8th inning of game 7 of the 1960 World Series. The Pirates were all-too eager to face him, as Ralph was in no way shape or form to be pitching. He had warmed up, not pitched, warmed up, not pitched, all game long. The Yankees had watched their 7-4 lead evaporate in this inning and finally Terry was in the game. The Yankees now trailed by 2 runs, 9-7. Don Hoak flied out, and the inning was mercifully over. But now the Yankees needed a miracle to get to the bottom of the next inning. They managed to get one.

With one out and two men on, Mickey Mantle stroked a clutch single to center to cut the lead to 9-8. Yogi Berra grounded out. But Rocky Nelson, after stepping on first, forgot about Mickey diving back into first. Mantle slipped under the tag. While this was all happening, the tying run scored! That's the Yankees for you: Just when it looks like they are down and out, comes an unexpected uprising!

However, that great moment was cut short as Skowron forced Mantle out at second. Dick Groat took the grounder and tossed it to second basemen Bill Mazeroski. No one could have known, but as Bill made the putout on second, he was holding on to the last ball of the game. And Mazeroski was the reason it was the last ball. The score was 9-9, going into the last of the 9th.

The first batter Terry faced was Mazeroski. Ralph's first pitch was a slider that was too high. His next pitch was a slider as well, but it came in at waist level and over too much of the plate. Bill slammed it over Berra's head in left to end a very exciting World Series. It was the first time the Fall Classic had ended with a home run.

Ralph Terry got a shot at redemption the next year. Having lost game two of the 1961 Fall Classic to the Cincinnati Reds, he watched as the Yankees build a 3-1 advantage after 4 games. Who better to put the final nail in the coffin of Cincy? And a nice way to redeem yourself!

With a 6-0 lead after 2 1/2, things looked up for Terry. But then, Frank Robinson cut the lead in half with a 3-run home run. Terry was pulled, and since it was not past the bottom of the 5th inning, Ralph was not eligible for the win. Bud Daley came in. He didn't exactly have a "walk in the park" that inning either, Bud allowed a single and a double before he got out of it without giving up another run.

New York plated five more runners (3 via a 3-run home run by Hector Lopez) to make it 11-3, after 3 1/2 innings. Daley got things settled down with a 1-2-3, 4th

The Yankees were retired 1-2-3, themselves in the top of the 5th. A 2-run home run by Wally Post in the bottom of the frame, and it was the Yankees with a 6-run lead again, just like it was after 2 1/2 innings.

But Lopez drove in another run in the top of the 6th, and Daley himself cashed in the Yankees' 13th (and final) run of the game with a sacrifice fly.

Daley had another 1-2-3, inning in the bottom of the frame. The Yankees actually looked like they might get more in the top of the 7th as they got runners to second and third with two outs. But Skowron flied out against (not the author yet) Jim Brosnan.

Daley allowed a booming double to Robinson in the bottom of the 7th, but nothing more. New York got a runner on in the top of the 8th as Clete Boyer singled, but could not get him home.

In the bottom of the 8th, Bud hit Wally Post, but again settled down. Gene Freese went out on a fly to Roger Maris in center, Johnny Edwards forced Post, and Jerry Lynch (pinch-hitting for Brosnan), grounded out to Bobby Richardson at second.

Maris walked with one out in the top of the 9th, but Johnny Blanchard forced him at second. Elston Howard fanned to end the inning. But now the Yankees were three outs away from ending a magical year for guys like Maris, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.

But it was up to Bud Daley got them that last World Series out of 1961.

Elio Chacon grounded out. Eddie Kasko flied out to Maris (who moved from center to right as Jack Reed came in to play centerfield) in right. It would have been an appropriate that Roger get the last out in a season where he set the single-season home run record.

But it was not to be.

Vada Pinson flied out to Hector Lopez in left. Lopez, playing for the injured Mantle, came to bat 12 times in this World Series and had 7 RBIs.

But stick with me, here. The pitcher who got the last out was Daley!

Terry was back the next year and looking to nail it down in the 1962 World Series. But this time, it was game 7, as in 1960. But unlike 1960, Terry started this game. The San Francisco Giants stood in Ralph's way.

Terry, having lost game 2 of '62 to Jack Sanford, was looking at a lifetime Fall Classic record of 0-4 at that point. But a win in game 5 over Sanford gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the World Series. Terry finally had his first World Series win.

And he was even better in game 7. Down went the Giants in order in the first 5 innings. In the meantime, New York scored Terry a run when Kubek hit into a double play in the top of the 5th.

Then, with 2 outs in the bottom of the 6th, Sanford himself broke up the no-hitter with a single. But Terry got Felipe Alou out on a grounder.

The Yankees had gotten two men on in the third, but failed to score. A walk to Mickey Mantle in the 6th was erased when The Mick was picked off first. With a man on and two away in the 7th, Terry himself got a single. Kubek ended the inning by flying out to leftfielder Willie McCovey.

Terry needed some luck in the bottom of the frame. Tom Tresh, McCovey's counterpart in left, robbed Willie Mays with a fine backhand catch in deep left. That was the second out. But then McCovey (who had him a home run off Terry in game 2 of this Fall Classic) hit a triple that would have scored Mays if not for Tresh's catch. Orlando Cepeda fanned and Ralph Terry was out of the inning.

In the top of the 8th, New York looked like they had the game wrapped up. Bobby Richardson reached on an error, and when Tresh and Mantle followed with singles, a potential big inning presented itself to the Bronx Bombers! Billy O'Dell replaced Sanford.

But Roger Maris forced Richardson out at home and Elston Howard hit into an inning-ending double play. Would the Yankees rue these missed opportunities?

Terry had a 1-2-3 8th, for a fine 1-hitter through that stretch. The Yankees went down 1-2-3 against O'Dell in the top of the 9th.

Three more outs to go and Terry erases 1960 from his upset stomach.

Matty Alou led off with a bunt single for only the second hit off Terry. But Ralph bore down and K'd the next two batters, giving him 4 strikeouts on the afternoon. Willie Mays was next.

The Say Hey Kid avoided Tresh and went the opposite way to Maris in right. Maris made a fine throw to Richardson at second. Bobby then also made a fine throw himself to home, to stop Alou from scoring. But now, the World Series winning run was only a hit away.

And the batter was the other Willie. McCovey. He'd been hitting the ball hard this game. Although not having a great Fall Classic of 1962, he was going to be one tough last out. Big, tall, left-handed. Not the hitter you want to face, even with the bases empty!

Managed Ralph Houk came out to talk to Terry. It was decided not to pitch around McCovey. Willie got under one and sent a fly to right that Maris pursued. The ball ended in the seats, foul and short of the fence.

McCovey hit Terry's 0-1 pitch on a line between second and first. Richardson, playing it perfectly, caught it. It was not too difficult a play, but 3 or 4 feet to the left or right, and the Giants would have won the game, 2-1. But in any event, it was redemption for Terry, who finished with a fine 4-hit shutout.

And for the 5th straight year, why had the World Series ended? Because the pitcher's name who tossed the last ball ended with a "y"!

That's also "Y" I am so interested in baseball history!

Monday, February 10, 2014

How Jim Maloney Almost Had 4 No-No's In 1965, Part 4: Houston, We Have A Problem Getting A Hit!

So it was September 25th, 1965 and Maloney had another gem up his sleeve. Houston, having switched their names to the "Astros", having been previously the Colt .45s, got some good pitching too from an old pro. But it was not enough to beat Maloney, who had "it" again in this game!

And this game was in Houston, so it was inside. The Astros played in a "first" of it's kind, ballpark. The Houston Astrodome, the first doomed stadium to be used by a major league team.

Pete Rose stroked a single off Robin Roberts, who flashed some of that old magic from his glory days here. Roberts was a long way from his time with the Phillies in the 1950s, but you would never know that based on his performance. It was only the top of the 1st, but the Reds would need some runs early.

Rose was stranded and it was up to Maloney to be equal or better to the task. But Lee Maye lashed a double to lead things off in the bottom of the frame. Joe Morgan, who would later play for the Reds, walked. Things looked grim. But a double play and a groundout saved Jim.

Roberts himself allowed the first two batters to reach in the top of the second. On two singles. But then Robin too, got a groundout and a double play!

Maloney fanned Jim Wynn as part of a 1-2-3 2nd inning. Roberts fanned Maloney to lead off the top of the 3rd, and would have a 1-2-3 inning of his own. Anything you can do, I can do better?

Maloney himself walked his mound opponent with one out in the bottom of the 3rd. A groundout to first base (with first sacker Gordy Coleman making the play himself) by Maye moved Roberts into scoring position. But Morgan ended the inning by grounding out to third.

But the problem for the Reds was that the veteran had now settled down. It was all-too apparent in the top of the 4th. Roberts got dangerous Vada Pinson on a fly. Frank Robinson grounded out to third basemen Bob Aspromonte. Coleman hit a grounder to Roberts, who tossed to first and was out of the inning 1-2-3.

Maloney, locked in a scoreless tie here, walked a batter with one out in the bottom of the frame. But Jim got Wynn to lineout to Pinson in center. He ended the inning with a flourish by fanning Aspromonte. It was Jimmy's second K of the game.

Deron Johnson hit a comebacker that Roberts fielded and tossed to first for out number one of the 5th. Johnny Edwards grounded out to second. Leo Cardenas got the ball out of the infield, but it was only a flyball to left. Robin Roberts had now retired 11 batters in a row!

John Bateman led of the bottom of the 5th for the Astros by stroking a single. Sonny Jackson got a hold of one, but it was only a fly to left. Roberts' sacrificed Bateman to third, but Maloney got Maye to fan.

The Reds received a shot of confidence in the top of the 6th. Roberts was out of the game. But his replacement, Dave Giusti, got the first two batters out. That made it 13 straight Reds retired! Pete Rose kept the inning going with a single. And then, he scored on a triple by Pinson. What a difference not having to face Roberts made! 1-0, Cincinnati!

Maloney started the bottom of the 6th by fanning Morgan. Rusty Staub went out on a fly. Chuck Harrison ended the inning by taking a third strike. Jim was now in the grove. Not only did Houston have only 2 hits, but Jim had fanned 5 batters! And Maloney still had the shutout going!

Giusti gave up a hit and a walk in the top of the 7th, as Cincy looked for that all-important insurance run. But they couldn't get it in this inning as Maloney ended things with a fly ball out.

Maloney retired the side in order in the bottom of the frame. He also notched his 6 K of the game as he fanned Bateman. Cincinnati then looked like they were going to have a huge inning in the top of the 8th.

The first two Reds' batters walked, and then Pinson laid down the bunt. Second and third and just 1 out for the Reds. Giusti then intentionally walked Frank Robinson to load the bases. But Tony Perez, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement for Coleman at first in the bottom of the 7th, fanned. Deron Johnson was out on a liner to center.

Maloney started the bottom of the 8th by getting Jackson to ground out to Rose, playing second base. Pinch hitter (for Giusti) Jim Gentile grounded out to Rose's double-play partner, Cardenas. Maye then lined out to Cardenas.

Claude Raymond came on to pitch for Houston in the top of the 9th. Edwards flied out. Both Cardenas and Maloney went out on pop ups in foul territory! It was still only 1-0, Cincinnati. Would Jimmy get the shutout?

Morgan was out on a hard one to right. Staub grounded out to Cardenas. Only Harrison remained. Maloney got him to fly out to left fielder Tommy Harper.

Maloney finished the game with 6 K's. He walked 3 and gave up just 2 hits. He got the shutout. And it happened to be his 20th win (against just 8 losses) on the 1965 campaign. Maloney had recorded hus 5th shutout. He would start one more game that season, but Jim lost it to finish 20-9.

It was a season where in 4 games, Jim Maloney got, or flirted with, the no-no!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The Cincinatti Reds out-hit the Yankees 19-16 in the first three games of the 1961 World Series.

So despite the one-sided final result, it wasn't as if the Reds weren't in this thing for a while. The Yankees seemed to use their hits when it mattered a little more. Cincy even managed to get 16 more hits in the last two games, but they only scored only 5 runs.

In game 1, the Reds were having no such luck against Whitey Ford. Clete Boyer robbed the Reds with some nice plays on the hot corner, but it was Ford who was the reason the Reds were flailing away helplessly. He allowed just 2 hits and pitched his third straight Fall Classic shutout.

Actually, the Yankees also seemed to have problems getting the bat on the ball as well in this game. Jimmy O'Toole, the Reds' starter, allowed just 6 hits in 7 innings himself. His relief pitcher, Jim Brosnan (not quite a writer at this point) pitched a scoreless 8th inning. The Yankees made the hits count, however. Elston Howard hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 4th. Bill Skowron also went yard on a solo job in the 6th. Those were the only 2 runs of the game.

The Reds had to make due with an Eddie Kasko single in the first, and a Wally Post single in the 5th. Those were Cincinnati's only two hits of the game!

In game 2, the Reds got 9 hits. That may not seem like a lot, but compared to game 1, Cincy had brought out their whipping sticks. And they used them well!

Gordy Coleman hit a 2-run home run off the Yankee's Ralph Terry in the 4th, with Frank Robinson scoring ahead of him. That ended 12-innings of scoreless ball thrown by the Yankees' pitchers. New York tied it in the bottom of the 4th on a 2-run home run of their own by Yogi Berra.

The Reds used 2 singles and a passed ball to tack on a third run in the top of the 5th. The Yankees would not recover from that in this game.

Terry looked like the top of the 6th was going to be a breeze as Frank Robinson grounded out. Coleman then fanned. But just when things appeared to be easy, Cincinnati struck again. A Wally Post double forced Terry to walk Gene Freese intentionally. But that strategy backfired when Johnny Edwards hit a single to make it 4-2 , Reds.

Terry had a 1-2-3, 7th, but was through for the day. The man from Big Cabin Oklahoma had allowed Cincinnati just 6 hits and 2 walks. Plus, Terry fanned 7 batters. But he was looking at 4-2 deficit and the possibly of a 3rd straight World Series loss. Terry had yet to win a World Series game at this point.

Luis Arroyo, whose 1961 season was one of the best ever for a relief pitcher, took over. The Reds strafed him as Coleman got another RBI with a single to again score Robinson. Coleman didn't score this time, but Edwards' double knocked in Post for the Reds' 6th run.

Bobby Richardson, with another great World Series performance in 1961, had a single in the 1st for the Yankees. Berra, in addition to his home run in the 4th, picked up a single in the 6th. Tony Kubek hit a single to center in the 8th. Those were the Yankees only hits in this game. The Reds had stolen a game right there in Yankee Stadium.

But really, it was Joey Jay's fine performance. This wasn't a game where the Reds' were lucky to win. Granted, Jay walked 6 batters, but they were spaced out. New York got only 2 in the last 4 innings. The Yankees had to work to win the 1961 World Series, the Reds didn't give it to them.

And certainly, no game better reflected that than game 3. The Fall Classic would shift to Crosley Field for the next 3 games.

Both the Yankees' Bill Stafford and the Reds' Bob Purkey were "on" for this one. It was Stafford who gave up a run to the Reds'. Frank Robinson didn't score this run, but he knocked it in the bottom of the 3rd.

The Yankees offence again seemed to stagger. Purkey had a 1-2-3, 1st. In the second, it was Mickey Mantle up there, making his first appearance in this Fall Classic. Mantle had been out a while with a hip injury, which was later infected. He got a hold of one, but could make an out to center. Yogi Berra did walk, but the next two men went down. 1-2-3, went the Yankees in the 3rd. 1-2-3, went the Yankees in the 4th. In the 5th, with one out, Elston Howard hit a double. Moose Skowron smoked the ball to center. But the buck, and the ball, didn't make it there. Eddie Kasko made the catch, then stepped on second to double up Howard. 1-2-3, went the Yankees in the 6th. Purkey had faced 19 Yankee batters and 2 of them had reached base.

Stafford had some problems early, but settled down and got the Reds in order in the 4th and 5th. Then, he allowed a harmless single in the 6th. It was still 1-0, Cincinnati, however

In the 7th, Kubek led off with a single for New York. But Purkey got Maris to fly out. A passed ball to Mantle moved Kubek into scoring position, but The Mick then K'd. Yogi Berra again proved to be clutch in the postseason by delivering a single to tie this game up at 1.

Stafford had some problems of his own in the bottom of the frame, however. After getting the leadoff batter out, Johnny Edwards smashed a double to right. Purkey fanned and Stafford seemed safe. But not for long.

Eddie Kasko hit a clutch single of his own to score Edwards. The Reds were up 2-1 and Stafford was out of the game. Bud Daley came in for the Yankees and retired Vada Pinson. But the Yankees needed to play "catch up" again!

Purkey retired the first two New York batters in the top of the 8th. But Mickey Mantle had some good advice for Johnny Blanchard, who was sent up to pinch-hit for Daley. Mantle noted that Purkey would throw a slider on the first pitch, then throw knuckleballs for the duration of the plate appearance. Blanchard batted left-handed, and when Daley's first pitch was a slider that broke in on him, he jumped on it for a home run to deep right!

Arroyo retired the Reds in order in the bottom of the 8th as this game had been such a fine pitching duel from the start. But New York would have the last word.

In the top of the 9th, Roger Maris, held hitless to this point in the 1961 World Series, picked a fine time to go yard. New York had their first lead of the game. Purkey retired the next three batters to finish with a complete game 6-hitter.

Arroyo K'd Freese to leadoff the bottom of the 9th, but then Leo Cardenas was sent up to hit for Edwards. And Leo nearly did what Blanchard did! Leo got all of an Arroyo offering and rocketed it to left. The only question was whether it would be to the right or left of the scoreboard in left center. If enough left, this game was tied. It stuck the scoreboard and bounced back into play. So close. In any event, the Reds had the tying run on second. With Purkey due up, another pinch hitter was sent up. Dick Gernert. Arroyo managed to get him out on a grounder to Kubek as Cardenas held at second. One more out to go. But it was still another pinch hitter! Gus Bell batted for Don Blasingame. Luis fielded the comebacker and tossed to Moose Skowron at first. The Yankees, despite being out-hit 8-6 in this game, had pulled it out by the skin of their teeth.

The Yankees out-hit the Reds the rest of the way, besting them 7-0 in game 4, and out-hitting them 11-5, but that game marked the first time either team had reached double digits in hits. The game was actually quite close until the Yankees broke open a 2-run lead in the 6th with 2 more touches of home. Then, 3 more runs in the 7th salted the game away. The Yankees led 3 games to 1.

And New York wrapped it up in game 5, 13-5. But here, both teams reached double figures in hits. 15 by the Yankees and 11 by the Reds. I think that summed up the 1961 Fall Classic. The hits would be close for either team in almost all the games (with the exception of game 4), but it was the Yankees, like a boxer who picks his spots, that got in the telling blows in when it really mattered.