Friday, January 30, 2015

Stupendous Stu, Part 1

I'm about a month late, but with his recent passing, now is a good time to remember Stu Miller. No, not for being blown off the mound in the 1961 All-Star Game in San Francisco. Not, also for giving up Mickey Mantle's 500th home run in 1967. Miller was a lot more than that. He was so, soo good when given the ball out of the pen. He'd protect the lead! His 1965 season, here. First set of stats! Second to follow tomorrow!

But for all you Mantle fans...First...The 500th home run!

Pitcher Year GP GF GF% IP W
Konstanty 1950 74 62 0.838 152.0 16
Wilhelm 1952 71 32 0.451 159.1 15
Face 1959 57 47 0.825 93.1 18
McDaniel 1960 63 47 0.746 104.1 12
Arroyo 1961 65 54 0.831 119.0 15
Radatz 1963 66 58 0.879 131.1 15
Perranoski 1963 69 47 0.681 129.0 16
Miller 1965 67 55 0.821 112.1 14
Regan 1966 65 48 0.738 116.2 14
Hiller 1973 65 60 0.923 125.1 10
Tekulve 1979 94 67 0.713 134.1 10
Hernandez 1984 80 68 0.85 140.1 9
Eichhorn 1986 69 38 0.551 157.0 14
Wetteland 1993 70 58 0.829 85.1 9

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Babe Ruth made just a pinch-hitting appearance in the 1915 Fall Classic. He did not pitch to one batter. The Boston Red Sox won it all, anyways!

Ruth was actually still a rookie, despite five appearances in 1914. He hit .315 in 1915. His first home run, ironically enough, was hit on May 6th vs. the New York Yankees. For the record, it was Jack Warhop who gave it up. But Babe actually lost the game. I don't think that factored into the decision not to use him in October. Ruth hit his second off Warhop later that season and ended up with four home runs.

But how about on the mound? All The Babe did was go 18-8 with a 2.44 ERA. The win total was only good enough for ninth in the American League. But his winning percentage (.692) was fourth and his 6.9 hits allowed per nine inning was second. So he had arrived on the mound and at the plate.

Yet come October, it was Ernie Shore in action in game one against the Philadelphia Phillies. You have to remember, it was Ruth and Shore who "combined" on a no-hitter (And 27 straight outs from Shore, right?) two years later. Shore knew a thing or two about pitching.

On this day, though, it was Grover Cleveland Alexander going for Philly. He was bound to make Shore and the Red Sox look silly, right?

Just that. The Phillies were left to swim towards shore and find it rocky. They also found Shore's offering a little tough to get around on. However, the Great Grover was a little too strong. He won the game 3-1. Shore, though, gave up just five hits. It was Alexander who gave up eight.

Ruth got in their in the top of the ninth. The Red Sox had one out, and one out. The Babe batted for Shore, and probably would have pitched the bottom of the ninth. But Alexander got him to ground out. When Harry Hooper popped out to first, this thing was in the books. However, this proved to be Philly's only win of the 1915 Fall Classic.

Yep, The Babe had teammates. Pitchers!

Rube Foster spun a three-hitter to square things in game two. He evened it up with a 2-1 win. In game three, it was another pitching duel. Actually, it was another 2-1 Red Sox win. Alexander lost this one to Dutch Leonard. Dutch had lead the junior circut in ERA the previous year with an 0.96 mark. Old Pete could not overcome Dutch's three-hitter!

Shore came back to win game four, again 2-1. George Chalmers pitched well for Philadelphia, but it was not enough. The Red Sox, with three straight 2-1 wins, needed only one more victory.

They got it, but it was close again, 5-4. Rube Foster won his second game in this one. So Foster was 2-0, Leonard 1-0, and Shore 1-1. The Babe had some pretty stiff competition on the Red Sox staff that year. And despite his good numbers, there just wasn't room for him to pitch. And when their was, a legend in Pete got into his way.

World Series don't always start off the way you want them too. You can be Mickey Mantle, and only get into two games the first time because you tripped on a drain cover. You can be Rube Waddell and miss the entire Fall Classic because of a nervous break down. And The Babe had to pay his dues!

Monday, January 26, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Roger Maris tied a Fall Classic record in game four of the 1964 Fall Classic. He made three putouts in the same innings. Kind of hard for anyone to break that, eh?

Maris took over at centre field for Mickey Mantle on September 10th of that season. It was Maris' thirtieth birthday. The New York Yankees' legend has to shift to right to protect the knees. Tom Tresh had given it a shot (In all, appearing in 69 games in centre that season), but could not handle it. Maris was fast, and had a great arm. The move paid dividens late in the seasons and in the World Series.

The St. Louis Cardinals' tested Maris and Mantle all World Series long. Ken Boyer's hit a sac fly to Mantle for the first run of game one. In game two, Tim McCarver looked like he'd have extra bases as he hit one between Mantle and Maris. Roger made a great catch. But in game three, Mantle made an error in right that allowed Tim McCarver to take an extra base on a single. Curt Simmons, the pitcher, drove in McCarver. Maris hauled down a long drive by Bob Skinner in the top of the ninth. Mantle almost missed a liner towards him. But The Mick made up for that by hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the frame. The Yankees were up, two games to one. Game four was a crucial one!

The Yankees were at home again for game four. They quickly jumped ahead 3-0 in the bottom of the first inning. Maris himself scored the third run. Mantle had an RBI. It was supposed to be Whitey Ford's game to pitch. But Al Downing started instead. The Yankees might have been a little worried. But the flamethrower looked great. First inning, the Cardinals failed to get it out of the infield. In the second inning, it was more of the same, but Al made sure that there were less fielding plays for the infield, as well. Ken Boyer took a called strike three. Bill White grounded out to Phil Linz. Mike Shannon fanned. Maris, in centre, Mantle in right, Tresh in left. None of them had touched the ball yet through two.

The Yankees themselves went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the second inning, though. Roger Craig had taken over on the hill and was doing a stellar job in relief of Ray Sadecki. Sadecki, like Downing, was left-handed. But he had not adjusted to the situation very well. Roger, Mickey and the rest of the Yankees had hit him well in game one.

However, the Cardinals, down 3-0, started to hit the ball a little better in the top of the third. Tim McCarver, batting for the first time, hit a fly to Maris in centre. Roger caught that for the first out, and the seventh straight batter Downing had retired to start the game. Dal Maxvill became the first St. Louis baserunner when he coaxed a walk from Downing. The other Roger, Craig, came to the dish. Could he do more then just pitch? Well, he got it to centre, but a man with the same first name made the catch for the second out of the inning. When Lou Brock also flied out to our man in centre, the inning was over. Maris had three putouts in the same inning, as record for a centre fielder and any outfielder, for that matter.

New York looked like they'd win this game, as Downing got St. Louis 1-2-3 in the next two innings. But Ken Boyer's grand slam in the top of the sixth inning erased that. Maris got two more putouts that inning and ended the afternoon with six. The Cardinals went on to win the game, 4-3.

St. Louis ended up on top of the 1964 Fall Classic, four to three. Roger and his mates had given it their all. But outside of him, few Yankees had a good series defenively. Mantle made several mistakes in the outfield. Phil Linz, subbing for Tony Kubek, made four mistakes himself, although they didn't all count as errors. Bobby Richardson committed two costly errors, plus made a bad throw in game seven on a double steal. Those kind of mistakes will kill you, not matter who you have on the team.

But the Cardinals must have liked what they saw in Roger. The Cards, you see, also saw him make three pretty good catches in this World Series. With the rest of the Yankees so shakey, they had their chances in games two, three and six. But Roger's glove had put an end to that! And they must have liked his bat, despite hitting only .200, for they acquired him in the offseason of 1967. Roger got to play in two more Fall Classics. Notice was served that the man with a record 61 home runs had the glove, too!


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ernie Banks: A Timely Home Run To Ruin A Dandy By Young Sandy!

Ernie Banks, who just passed away on Friday, was Mr. Cub. He hit more home runs between 1956 and 1960 than anyone in the bigs. His big year for RBIs was 1959. The year before that, he'd hit a career-high 45 round-trippers. But despite never playing in a World Series, he generally always had a flair for the dramatic. In 1959, he had one against a legend, who was not quite one yet!

Banks' Chicago Cubs were rarely in contention, sadly. In 1959, they finished fifth at 74-80. It was the Los Angeles Dodgers that won it all that year. And they crossed paths with the Chicago Cubs in early September in a pitcher's duel!

The Dodgers had a young and still-not-potential-fulfilling lefty, Sandy Koufax. Sandy had been on the Dodgers in Brooklyn in 1955 but never really pitched much. The staff was deep with pitchers like Johnny Podres, Don Newcombe and Don Drysdale. A move to Los Angeles in 1958 saw Sandy join the rotation. Although only 11-11 that season, it was a step forward. La-La land was helping this youngster!

1959 had started out rough for Sandy, at least at the start. It was Banks' Chicago Cubs that touched him up for three runs in three innings in his first start, April 12th. Things didn't get much better for Sandy. By May 2nd, he had pitched only five games and had an ERA of 12.27.

But things suddenly did get better. Koufax pitched well the rest of May and all of June. That ERA? Down to 3.58. Win-loss record? 5-1! Sandy had found it! Case and point, June 22nd vs. Philadelphia. All Sandy did was fan sixteen batters and surrender one run over a complete game win!

On July the 5th, he found himself on the mound in a relief appearance against Chicago. Koufax got into the action in the bottom of the seventh. Ernie Banks greeted him with a single. Although the Cubs eventually got another hit, Ernie watched in amazement as Koufax struck out the side. By the time he left the hill after 3 2/3 innings, Sandy had given up just one earned run and fanned six. Although he didn't get a decision or even a save, Sandy helped preserve a 5-3 win. Better still, his ERA was only 3.33 after this outing.

But a sore arm shelved Koufax not long after. He missed the rest of July, and it took him a bit to find his groove. But once he found it, watch out. The Los Angeles Dodgers really had something special in Koufax, and soon everybody knew that, too!

Sandy fanned thirteen batters and gave up just two earned runs in an 8-2 win over Philly on August 24. That upped his record to 7-4. And when Sandy fanned eighteen batters in his next start on August 31st, it was enough for a 5-2 win over the Giants. Koufax's record was a pretty-good 8-4. His ERA (At 4.06 on August 19th) continued to drop, and was now 3.76. The National League ERA that year would be 3.95, so Sandy was below that.

His next start was a week later on September 6th of that season was at home against Ernie Banks' Chicago Cubs. But what about Ernie? What was he doing well Sandy was putting his enormous talent together? Quite a lot, let me tell you!

Having driven in five runs on May 13th vs. Cincinnati, having hit two home runs on April 14th and again on July 29th, he was having quite the year. Through 133 games, Ernie had 38 home runs and 124 RBIs, plus a .296 batting average and 82 runs scored. That was one great year for anyone, and it wasn't over yet!

So Sandy took the hill in Banks' 134 game of the season. He was looking for another win, low-run, high K, game. And he got it. The only thing separating him from his ninth win was Ernie Banks, as it turns out!

Sandy seemed to have it. It was the first game of a double-header, and the Dodgers looked to Koufax to set the tone in the opener.

It wasn't easy in the top of the first. The Cubs put two men on, but Sandy fanned Ernie for the second out. When he threw wild on the very first pitch to the next batter, Alvin Dark tried to score from third. Alvin was out at home, and Sandy got 'em 1-2-3 the next three innings!

In the top of the fifth, the Cubs got two runners on via a double and an intentional walk, but Sandy K'd the side. That brought his strikeout total to six, already.

The sixth inning was also a struggle for Koufax. He got the first two batters out, including his seventh K, but then the trouble started. A walk brought Banks to the dish. And Sandy screwed up by committing a balk on the first pitch to Ernie. Koufax was forced to walk him intentionally. But Sandy got out of there with no further damage as he got Art Schult out on a fly ball.

The seventh inning saw Sandy dig deep again to get himself out of a jam. It was again, partly his fault. After getting the first batter out, he walked Bobby Thompson. Yes, that's the Bobby Thompson that hit the home run to win the pennant for the Giants in 1951. Back when they were in New York and the Dodgers were in Brookly. Flash forward to 2014 and the Giants won the pennant again with a home run. Some things don't change. But Koufax needed to change some of his bad habits at this point. Namely, throwing too hard. It left him prone to a lot of strikeouts but plenty of wildness.

A single moved Thompson to second as there was still only one out. Koufax again got out of the jam. But it seemed like only a matter of time before the Cubs got the knockout blow. And the win, for good measure.

Art Ceccarelli, who had a very short career and would win all of nine games in his career, was pitching well for Banks' Cubs. He, too, faced a jam in the seventh. But he matched his young counterpart. Amazingly enough, it was still a scoreless tie at this point, despite all those chances by Chicago.

Sandy Koufax, though, got his fourth 1-2-3 inning of the game in the top of the eighth. It was much needed. Ernie Banks himself was the last out of the inning. All he could do was ground out to the shortstop, who was a rookie and playing in just his 62nd career game. This game was going to the bottom of the eighth,

The Dodgers failed to score, although Wally Moon reached on a two-out walk. A flyball by Gil Hodges (A relic from the Brooklyn years) ended the inning. This game was officially going to be decided in the last at-bats of one of the two teams.

The top of the ninth saw Sandy get his eighth strikeout. But then a single by Earl Averill started a rally. Bobby Thompson reached on an error by third basemen Jim Gilliam, still another old Brooklyn Dodger player. But Sandy had no intention of letting the Los Angeles Dodgers lose this one. He fanned Cal Neeman on the minimum required pitches. Then, Sandy disposed of his mound adversary as well. 9 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 10 Ks! The Dodgers, needed a single tally now to wrap it up. Sandy would have his ninth win of the season. His ERA had now dropped to 3.51, which was more than respectable.

Los Angeles nearly won it in the bottom of the ninth. Don Demeter, who'd come into the game as a pinch runner in the bottom of the seventh, fanned himself. But Chuck Essegian walked and Don Zimmer came in to pinch run. Joe Pignatano then walked. A single wins this thing!

But Ceccarelli matched Koufax in K heroics by fanning Rip Repulski, who was batting for Wills. And it was on a 3-2 pitch. When Koufax himself went down on strikes, this thing was headed to extras. And that's where Ernie Banks helped the Chicago Cubs win it!

Sandy Koufax made a big mistake to start the top of the tenth. He walked Tony Taylor on four straight pitches. Then. he went 2-0 on Alvin Dark. Dark hit a sac bunt to move Taylor into scoring position with only one out. Koufax then went 2-0 again. It was on Lee Walls. Lee fouled off the next pitch, but Sandy then missed again. Another foul. 3-2. Alas, Sandy threw ball four and Ernie Banks was back at the dish.

Sandy missed with the first pitch. It was the fourth straight time that had happened. But Banks fouled off the next pitch, then completely missed the next one. It 1-2 and Koufax was back in control. Ernie had to avoid the double play.

But Banks didn't miss the next pitch. He slammed his 39th home run to give Chicago a 3-0 advantage. The next batter reached on an error, meaning the Cubbies had a chance for more. However, Walt Moryn grounded into an inning-ending double play.

It didn't end up mattering. The Dodgers managed just one hit in the bottom of the frame as Art Ceccarelli finished up a fine, 10-inning, 6-hit shutout. So Sandy would have to settle for an 8-5 record.

Koufax did not win another game that season. And he lost his lone Fall Classic start of that season. Banks finished with 45 home runs that season, just one back of Eddie Mathews league-leading 46. But Ernie led the senior circuit with 143 RBIs, 18 more than runner-up Frank Robinson. But his .304 final batting average was tenth, well back of Hank Aaron's league-leading .355!

On this September day, Banks proved to be clutch again. Koufax was starting to learn about that. He was also just beginning to learn about how to control his wildness. He'd walked seven batters this game. Against most other teams, a low-hit, high-walk total wouldn't have been so bad. But on a team with a batter of Ernie Banks caliber (And there were not many) up at the dish, walks are soon punished by longballs. It was needed and delivered against The Left Arm Of God by Mr. Cub himself! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

The 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers had some tall pitchers on their Fall Classic roster. There were two Don's, a Roger and Sandy!

The two Don's were Don Newcombe and Don Drysdale. They both made it to the hill. The Sandy, Koufax, did not. Sandy had been there in 1955 as a bonus baby. Drysdale himself was a rookie in 1956.

Newcombe, Newk as he was called, had a rough time. The menacing pitcher was 6'4 and looking to put his Dodgers up two games to none at the Fall Classic. Sal Maglie had won the opener, and now, it was game two. It was Newk's turn. The problem was, Brooklyn, opposed by the New York Yankees in this game at Ebbet's Field, got scored on in the top of the first. Then the floodgates opened in the top of the second.

Billy Martin got it all started with a single. Jerry Coleman drew a walk. Don Larsen (Hey, another Don!) the opposing pitcher, singled. That made it 2-0. Another single, a walk and a grand slam by Yogi Berra made it 6-0, New York and Newcombe was done. Brooklyn was not, however. They scored six times in the bottom of the frame, then outscored Brooklyn 7-2 the rest of the way to win 13-8. Well, both Don's didn't have it. But Brooklyn would take that tradeoff. The problem was, Larsen returned to the hill in game five and pitcher the only perfect game in World Series history.

New York went home and took game three, 5-3. Their ace, Whitey Ford, was in in fine form. Game four was all New York. It was 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh when Don Drysdale took the hill. Don was 20 years old, and 5-5 with a 2.64 ERA in 25 games. He was almost as imposing as Newk at this point. And he was actually taller. 6'5!

He quickly got Gil McDougald out on a grounder. But then, Andy Carey singled. Don fanned pitcher Tommy Sturdivant. However, any hope of getting out of the inning unscathed ended when Hank Bauer hit a home run. Shaken, Don walked Joe Collins before finally getting out of there. But it was now 6-1, New York.

Drysdale finished the game. He pitched the bottom of the eighth and got Yogi Berra to ground out. Enos Slaughter also grounded out. When Billy Martin became the third Yankee to do that in the inning, Don had 'em 1-2-3. New York would next hear from him in 1963. But they won this game, 6-2. The 1956 Fall Classic was knotted at two games apiece. The next game, the last at Yankee Stadium in '56, was on for the ages.

Don Larsen went out and pitched a perfect game, and New York won 2-0. Back at Ebbets Field for game six, the Dodgers showed they were not done. They took a ten-inning thriller, 1-0 behind the pitching of Clem Labine.

So it was down to a winner-take-all game seven. And Don Newcombe was back. It wasn't one of his finer efforts.

Hank Bauer got things rolling for New York with a single as the game's first batter. Don tamed Billy Martin on a K, but Hank took advantage of Newk's preoccupied state of mind with the batter. He stole second. Mickey Mantle went down on a strikeout as well. But Yogi Berra hit one out of the park. It was 2-0.

The Dodgers put the tying run on first with just one out in the bottom of the frame, but then Jackie Robinson hit into a inning-ending double play. Newk had a fairly easy second inning, save for a walk. But the Dodgers went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning. It was going to be a long day for Brooklyn hitters.

But for Newk, the afternoon ended soon enough. Bauer led off the top of the third and Don got him. But Billy Martin singled. His buddy, Mantle, fanned again. However, Yogi Berra got New York two more with another two-run blast. It was 4-0. The Dodgers again were retired 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame.

Elston Howard's leadoff home run in the top of the fourth ended Newcombe's day. It ended the game for all intents and purposes. New York went on to win, 9-0. Drysdale did not come in to pitch.

The 1956 World Series had a bit of the old (Newcombe) and a bit of the new (Drysdale). Plus Koufax, who was 6'2. He may not of pitched, but clearly, Brooklyn had some idea they had two special newcomers that year. Newk's drinking got the better of him, and he was never quite as good as he'd been again.

The Dodgers left Brooklyn in 1958, for Los Angeles. And when they made it back to the Fall Classic, it was Drysdale and Koufax with a start each. Newk was gone. Johnny Podres, who'd missed the 1956 World Series, but was the hero in 1955, also was there. Thus, the Dodgers used the old in the new again, and this time it worked. But in their primes, beating Newk, Don and Don was certainly as tall an order as the height of each!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

The Giants may have lost the 1913 Fall Classic. But a record was set by their timeless legend. He won his last World Series game. And it was a classic! Plus, it set a record that stands to this day. Matty mopped the floor!

It was game two, and Christy's New York Giants were visiting the Philadelphia Athletics. Ironically, it was the same team he'd shutout three times in 1905. Matty was in his '05 form in this one. But it sure wasn't easy.

The A's put two men on in the bottom of the first before Mathewson K'd Home Run Baker. Stuff McInnis flied out to left to end the threat for good!

Eddie Plank was the opposing pitcher. And he had it on this day, too! 1-2-3 went the Giants in the top of the first. Same deal in the top of the second. In the third, New York got a pair of singles. One of them was by Mathewson. But nothing touched home.

Matty seemed to settle down after this. A hit and walk, the Athletics got in the bottom of the fourth. But from there, Christy was on fire. He fanned two of the three batters in a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth. After a faily easy seventh, he set down the first two batters in the bottom of the eighth. Here's where things got a little difficult. Eddie Collins singled to centre. Home Run Baker came to the dish. Baker didn't go yard, but did single. Matty got McInnis out to end that.

It was the bottom of the ninth that Mathewson cemented his spot as baseball's best clutch pitcher of his time. Or maybe any time. The first two A's singled, and an error on the play moved runners to second and third. And then, Matty got into god mode! This game was tied, but the winning run was on third. No matter. Here comes Matty!

Ground ball by Jack Lapp to first. Runner out at home, trying to score. Ground ball by Plank to first. Runner out at home trying to score. Ground ball by Eddie Murphy (Not the actor), Matty gets it and throws him out at first. We got to extras!

Matty helped win it. His single scored pinch runner Eddie Grant. Matty then touched home himself as the Giants scored twice more. Matty was doing it all!

Matty then got 'em 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame. The great pitcher had his fourth shutout all-time in the Fall Classic. No one has ever equaled that mark!

The Giants went on to lose this World Series, four games to one. Matty himself would lose the finale. And he never returned to the Fall Classic. But Matty had unquestionably left a World Series standard for pitchers like Koufax, Gibson, and maybe someday Kershaw to match. Can Clayton be the guy to top that?

Monday, January 19, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Mike Hegan got a walk in the 1964 Fall Classic after appearing in just five games for the Yankees in the regular season. Mike had no hits in the regular season. He also failed to get any against the St. Louis Cardinals that October.

But he was there, and not even a rookie until 1967, when New York traveled to St. Louis for game one. Needless to say, he couldn't have expected to play. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn't have.

But October of 1964 was not a healthy time on the New York Yankees. Late in the season, Tony Kubek, the shortstop, had punched a door that he thought was made of wood. It was made of sheet metal. The timing could not have been worse. It was September 29th. Needless to say, he would miss the rest of the campaign. And all of the Fall Classic. The injuries didn't stop their.

Whitey Ford, who would start game one, had a damaged arm. He had battled circulatory problems in the regular season, and his game one start was the only appearance. Another pitcher, Pedro Ramos, had been acquired too late to make the postseason roster.

Hegan, though, was obviously on it. But would he finally get a hit? I guess the World Series is a fine time to get your first. Mike made it into the game and contributed. Without getting a hit. But he used his legs to help.

It was the top of the eighth inning in this game played at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis. The Cardinals have driven Ford from the hill and gotten still another run off Al Downing. Even so, it was only 6-4, St. Louis. The big problem here, was it was the bottom of the order coming up for the Bronx Bombers. And remember, this was in the day and age before the DH!

So Clete Boyer went down on a grounder off Barney Schultz, the relief pitcher for the Cards. But then, Johnny Blanchard batted for Downing and hit a double to deep right. But Blanchard was a catcher and occasional outfielder. And he was slow.

So Mike Hegan came in to pinch run. Phil Linz grounded out to Clete's brother Ken at third. Hegan held. Bobby Richardson, up next, singled to left. Hegan motored on around third towards home, and scored! 6-5, St. Louis! Putting him in had payed dividends!

The Yankees themselves seemed to be coming alive. Roger Maris singled Richardson to third. The tying run was ninety feet away, and The Legend was at the dish. That would be Mickey Mantle. But Schultz managed to get hit out on a grounder to second.

St. Louis went on to win that game, 9-5. But New York was not discouraged. They had to face the great Bob Gibson in game two. But, go figure, the won, 8-3. And Mantle faced Barney Schultz and hit a double this time. Hegan didn't play in this game or game three, which New York also won, 2-1. The Mick took Schultz out of the park in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the ninth!

The Cards came back to win game four, by one run, 4-3. Game five was back to Gibson, who took an early 2-0 lead, but could not hold it. Tommy Tresh tied it was a dramatic home run of his own. And it was with two down in the bottom of the ninth. The Cardinals thought, snapped back and plated three more runners in the top of the tenth to take a 5-2 lead.

Gibby needed just three more outs and his team was up three games to two in this great Fall Classic. Bob didn't want to squandered this golden opportunity. Pete Mikkelsen, the relief pitcher who'd pitched well for 1 2/3 innings before the roof caved in on him in the top of the tenth, was due up. So Hegan batted for him, Gibson fanned him, for his thirteenth K of the day. Phil Linz popped out. Richardson continued his onslaught of Cardinal pitching (Most notably, Gibson) with a single. Roger Maris popped it up foul to third, where Ken Boyer reached in to the stands to make a fine catch. That came right next to the President of the National League, Warren Gilles!

Now up, three games to two, and back to St. Louis, the Cards needed just one more win. But New York had other ideas. Another rout, another 8-3 win, as this thing was not in the cards yet for St. Louis. But Hegan had nothing to do with it. New York, however, was looking like that fine-oiled machine again!

Bob Gibson went out to put an end to that. He started game seven against Mel Stottlemyre. An early 3-0 lead for St. Louis seemed to spell the end. Stottlemyre himself jammed his shoulder covering first on an attempted double play, so he was removed for a pinch hitter. And it was Mike Hegan who batted for him in the top of the fifth.

Gibson was conceding to nothing and no one at this point. But Tom Tresh actually led off the fifth with a walk. Then, after an out, Hegan got his pinch hitting appearance. He worked Gibson over and got a walk himself. The tying run was at the dish. Phil Linz hit a sinking liner to right, and Mike Shannon made the catch. Tresh was doubled off second for the third out. A nice double play.

The Cardinals went on to win the game, 7-5. Hegan would make it back to the bigs, but not until 1967. He also made it back to the World Series, but not until 1971 with Oakland. In 1972, he found himself on a Fall Classic winner.

Hegan was somewhat of an afterthought on the Yankees in 1964. Had New York been healthy, he probably would not have been on the postseason roster. But sometimes in situations like this, a door opens due to an unfortunate event. Hegan got into the World Series as a result!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Gene Tenace hit four home runs in the 1972 Fall Classic. The rest of his teammates had a combined total of one. Tenace had nine RBIs, while no other teammate had more than one. Yep, the Oakland A's got a one-man show in the '72 World Series.

With Reggie Jackson out, it was up to Tenace to help Oakland overcome the strong Cincinnati Reds. Tenace provided the power and timely hitting.

In game one alone, Tenace hit two home runs. The A's, playing on the road at Riverfront Stadium, were held to just four hits. Tenace had three RBIs. Oh, it was enough, by the way. Oakland won, 3-2.

The A's won game two as well, but again it was close. This time, Tenace was held to no home runs, no hits and no RBIs. The A's did him a home run, but it was by Joe Rudi. Catfish Hunter, threw a gem of a game for Oakland and won, 2-1. And he added an RBI for good measure. Hunter was in a tie with a bunch of A's players for second in RBIs.

The wheels seem to come off the chariot for Oakland as they came home. They lost game three 1-0. Tenace had no hits again. Actually, the Athletics got just three hits total. A real shame, too. The Reds managed just four hits themselves this game. A healthy Reggie or some better hitting and Oakland would have won this game and been up, three games to none. The A's would have liked that kind of an advantage at this point.

But Oakland won the next game, anyways. They had to do it in the bottom of the ninth, walkoff style. Earlier in the game, Oakland scored a run when Tenace hit his third home run of the 1972 World Series. Two other players had an RBI each. But both of them came in the bottom of the ninth. So for a while, it was just Gene keeping the A's around. But now up three games to one, Oakland had a chance to wrap it up in game five at home.

Superbowl or World Series, huh? Where were we? Oh, on to game 5! Oakland needs one more win!

It didn't work out that way, though. Gene Tenace, though, accounted for three of the four Oakland runs with still another home run. Four four-baggers in five games? What more could you ask of a player who'd hit five total in the regular season and none in the ALCS. The problem was, Cincinnati scored five times to edge Oakland, 5-4.

Things didn't get much better in game six back in Cincinnati. The Reds won in crushing fashion, 8-1. Tenace got a hit but did not get an RBI. That went to Dick Green. It was on to a game seven.

Oakland won it. Again it was close. Again, Tenace came through. His single in the top of the first scored the game's first run. His double in the top of the top of the sixth broke a 1-1 tie. The A's tacked on another run there to negate a final tally by the Reds. It went into the books as a 3-2 Oakland win. And while Catfish Hunter finished 2-0 on the hill for Oakland, there could be no double the way this Fall Classic was going to be remembered!

Gene Tenace, 1972 Fall Classic. MVP. One Man Show!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

The Giants may have lost the 1911 Fall Classic, but did they ever extend it with some dramatics. And somehow, their diamond rivals decided not to open their mouths when the winning run scored. Or didn't score.

New York, back into the World Series that year, and again with John McGraw behind the helm, were down three games to one. Game five was back at home, and the Giants needed this one, or they had a long winter ahead.

The Philadelphia Athletics had lost the 1905 Fall Classic to these Giants, and had struggled to touch home. But in game five, it was Philly that did some scoring to put New York on the brink.

Philly, on the road, scored three times in the top of the third. This did a lot of good for them. First, it knocked starter Rube Marquard out of the game. Second, tt took the home crowd out of the game. Third, it gave starter Jack Coombs enough run support. Well, it sure seemed like it.

He'd won a league-leading 31 games in 1910. With 28 more wins the next year, he was looking to add some more in the postseason. But here, in the 1911 Fall Classic, he was still winless. This was one great opportunity to make a vital contribution to the A's effort.

But the Giants refused to die. For starters, poor Fred Merkle led off the bottom of the eighth. Fred, you see, was trying to erase that stigma of that base-running error that had cost New York the 1908 pennant. So here, he strode to the plate and many a Giant fan must have said, "This guy? Who is he to help us?"

But Fred got a walk. Then, an error put the tying run at the dish. A grounder and a sac fly and the shutout bid of Jack. Another walk and the tying run was at first. But, still ahead by two, Coombs got out of the inning. And he made sure New York did not get a run in the bottom of the eighth.

So as Jack trudged out to the mound to face the Giants again in the bottom of the ninth, he must have thought it would be as easy as 1-2-3. As in 1-2-3 would the Giants go. And then, it would be all over except for the screaming, shouting and partying!

But alas, it did not work out that way. Jack got the first out, to get Philly withing two outs. However, Art Fletcher hit a double. When Chief Meyers grounded out, Fletcher was on third. Philly was one out away from it all!

But Doc Crandall, the relief pitcher, had other ideas. He'd tossed three shutout innings of relief pitching, following four by Red Ames himself. Their splendid efforts on the mound had given New York a chance to come back. But it seems odd now, that in this situation, a team would let the pitcher bat for himself. Doc, though, had hit .239 with 21 RBIs in the regular season. He was someone who did more than hit. Here, he needed just that!

And he did it! A hit a double that brought home Fletcher to make it 3-2. Josh Devore, who batted at the top of the order, tied the game up with a single. 3-3! This thing required extras!

The Doc held Philly in check in the top of the ninth. And his teammates proceeded to make him the winning pitcher in the bottom of the frame. But there was some oddity to the drama. Somethings just don't go the way they should in the Fall Classic.

Eddie Plank was now pitching for New York. It was Larry Doyle, getting things off with a double. Then Fred Snodgrass tried to bunt him to third. Plank tried to nail Doyle at third. He failed. The A's needed a double play, eh?

Red Murray flied out to short right, and both Doyle and Snodgrass held. Merkle, back to the plate, hit a fly to right that was deep. But it was also foul. Here, you let it go foul. But Danny Murphy, the Philadelphia rightfielder, decided to catch it. But he'd need a perfect peg to the plate to keep the Athletics from losing it.

His throw was too late. But here's a plot twist. Doyle didn't really touch home. But Philadelphia was on their way off the field. And now one was protesting. Well, I guess no one was in the mood to spoil something so special and amazing. This thing was heading back to Philadelphia.

The A's won game six in a laugher, 13-2. So game five was lost somewhere in everyone's Fall Classic memory. Too bad, since both Fred Merkle and Fred Snodgrass (who dropped a fly ball in the 1912 World Series, costing this same Giants team the World Series) had been instrumental in the comeback and knockout blow.

That's what the Fall Classic can do to you. You can win a close game, only to be blown out the next. You can be a hero on year, then the goat the next. You can make an amazing fielding play, then screw it all up on the very next ball hit to you. Baseball's enduring legacy, the World Series, can make you both. You need to make those right plays at the right time! Otherwise, fans are left to point that finger at you when it doesn't get done!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

The Yankees had to face Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Frank Robinson in their Fall Classic adventures in the late 1950s and early 1960s. New York was there in 1957, '58, and from 1960-1962. But there was a great rightfielder in the way in all of them.

Aaron really showed the Yankees why he was such a great slugger. It must have been hard for New York to get up for a team from Milwaukee in 1957. They were so used to facing the Dodgers or the Giants, that they might not have known what to expect from the Braves. Hank Aaron might have been a quite superstar, but he left a lasting impression on everyone. The guy in right did a lot of things right in this and many of the remaining games.

In game three, with the Fall Classic tied at one game all, it was all New York. Mickey Mantle's fourth inning home run must have really taken it all out of the hometown Braves' fans. It was 7-1 after that two-run blast. But Aaron gave 'em something positive with a two-run home run of his own in bottom of the fifth. It did not stop the Yankees from going away with this one, but it gave them something to worry about.

The next game, Aaron became a clutch hitter. His dramatic two-run dinger in the bottom of the tenth turned a 5-5 tie into a 7-5 Milwaukee win! That tied this Fall Classic. A 1-0 effort the next day gave Milwaukee a 3-2 Series lead. And Aaron added a home run in game six, but New York won the game. At it's dramatic finale, though, it was the underdog Braves scoring a 5-0 win in game seven to win the 1957 World Series! Aaron didn't hit a home run in that game, but collected an RBI and a run scored. Obviously, no one on the Yankees did either of those things.

Aaron's team was back against the same team the next year. Although Hank hit .333, he got only two RBIs and three runs scored. And he failed to hit one out of the park. The Yankees, down three games to one at one point, stormed back to win the last three games.

In 1960 it was again the Yankees as the favourites. But Roberto Clemente, helped his Pittsburgh Pirates pull of an upset.

In game one, he drove in a run, as the Pirates won 7-4 at home. New York, though, annihilated the Pirates 16-3 and 10-0 in the next two games. The Pirates won game four, 3-2. But Clemente didn't do much.

In game five, Roberto got an RBI, and the crucial game was won by Pittsburgh, 5-2. One more win and it's all over. But New York crushed 'em 12-0 in game six.

In game seven, Roberto was a bit of a rally-killer. He hit into an inning-ending double play in the bottom of the third. But Pittsburgh was up 4-0 at that point. New York charged back and took a 7-4 lead into the last of the eight.

But Roberto Clemente singled home the Pirates' second run of the inning as Pittsburgh closed to within one. When Hal Smith hit a three-run home run, it was suddenly Pirates 9, Yankees, 7. New York came back to tie it in the top of the ninth, before Pittsburgh won it all on a home run by Bill Mazeroski in the bottom of the frame.

The next year, New York was back in the Fall Classic and looking for revenge. They faced the underdog Cincinnati Reds. Looking in right, they saw Frank Robinson.

In game on, Frank and his 'mates seemed a little intimidated by the Big, Bad, Bronx. They lost 2-0 and could only collect two hits. Frank got none, but did manage to draw a walk. Alas, Cincy was going to need more than that to beat New York.

Frank failed to get a hit again in game two, but walked again and somehow managed to score twice. The most important thing to come out of all that was the Reds' 6-2 win, which knotted this thing at a game apiece. Cincinnati had found a way. Now heading home with three in Crosley Field, they had to have a nice shot of confidence.

And they looked like they were going to take game three as well. Frank Robinson got a double in the bottom of the third to make it 1-0. New York tied it. In the bottom of the seventh, it was Eddie Kasko with a single to put the Reds ahead again.

Bob Purkey, pitching for the Reds, retired the first two men in the top of the eighth. But then Frank watched helplessly as Johnny Blanchard hit the first pitch to him over Frank's head in right for a game-tying home run. When Roger Maris did the same in the top of  the ninth, the Yankees were ahead for good. So close.

Facing Whitey Ford, who'd shutout Cincinnati in game one, Frank could only ground out in his first at-bat of game four. Eddie Kasko singled in the bottom of the fourth. Ford hit Frank when he batted that inning, but Cincinnati stranded 'em both! The game stayed close until the top of the sixth, when the Yankees doubled their lead from 2-0 to 4-0. Ford had hurt himself batting, however, and when Elio Chacon greeted him with a single to start the bottom of the frame, Whitey was done. Jim Coates came in and got two outs. But Frank stepped in. Coates could be mean and was here and now. Frank took another one for the team. But Wally Post ended the inning by flying out to centre.

Coates sailed along from their, and New York extended their lead to 7-0 going into the bottom of the ninth. Oh, Jimmy Coates was still pitching. Frank Robinson drew a one-out walk. Post delivered this time. He singled Robinson to second. Coates had to get it all together to fan Gene Freese and Gordy Coleman to preserve the shutout.

While it had all seemed easy, Frank had reached base three times and Cincy had gotten some chances to score a run or two. They didn't capitalize. They sure did in game five, but it was the situations they didn't that cost 'em!

The Yankees charged out in front, 6-0 after two innings. But here, big Frank hit a big home run. It was a three-run home run in the bottom of the third that knocked New York's starting pitcher, Ralph Terry, out of the game. The Reds, awakened, got two more hits but stranded them both.

New York, you see, didn't mess around. The scored five more runs in the top of the fourth, just as they had in the top of the first. Now ahead 11-3, Cincy would need some more fireworks. They got some.

Vada Pinson led off the bottom of the fifth with a single, but decided to test Roger Maris' arm in centre. Roger gunned him out at second. Frank Robinson grounded out. And error and a two-run home run by Wally Post made sure the inning was not all wasted. Still, it could have been 11-6 at this point, not 11-5. New York again came back the very next inning. They scored twice in the top of the sixth to make it 13-5.

Frank had another big hit in the bottom of the seventh. With two down, he hit a double to left. But there he stayed as Coleman grounded out. Wally Post got nailed with a pitch to start the bottom of the eighth. But again, Cincy couldn't get it done.

The final hit total was 15-11 for New York. But the game was all New York, as they were World Series Champions, four games to one. Frank and his mates had given it their all, though.

The old song, "Willie, Mickey and The Duke" was sung to honour the three greats in centre. Robinson got mentioned. But it's amazing how many great rightfielders there were back in the day. New York got to see three of the finest!