Monday, January 30, 2017

Sure Could Have Fooled Me!

Ille Nastase was the only player to get a set off John McEnroe in the 1979 US Open. It was the first Grand Slam the 20-year old won. The match against Nastase is coming up on 40 years elapsed. But no one will ever forget it.

Ille was past his prime. He was 33 years old (And not a Ken Rosewall or Roger Federer at that age). Nastase had last finished a year in the top 10 in 1977. Clearly he wasn't going to beat the home kid in this match with 64 players left in the draw. Johnny Mac had beaten Pavel Slozil in the first round, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. But fireworks lay ahead in round two.

McEnroe didn't cause them.

McEnroe won the first set 6-4. Nastase took the second by the same score. Okay, what's the problem?

Nastase, that is.

Ille was trying to hold off the inevitable!

By stalling.

That was enough for chair umpire Frank Hammond. He defaulted Ille. But soon, Frank found himself overruled (And removed!) by tournament referee Bill Talbert. Mike Blanchard, no stranger to Ille's behaviour tactics, took over. The match resumed. So did McEnore's brilliant tennis. The last two sets were John's 6-3, 6-2.

Not only had it all calmed down, but McEnore's brilliant tennis had nothing in his way from there on in. John Lloyd was walked over in the next round. Tom Gorman fell 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 in the round of 16. The quarters saw Eddie Dibbs default after just three games of play.

Jimmy Connors, the defending champion (And winner in 1974 and 1976) was next. No problem. 6-3, 6-3, 7-5. The set scores were then in the reverse order in the finals against Vitas Gerulatis, who stopped Roscoe Tanner from his second-straight grand slam finals appearance in the semis (Beating Bjorn Borg on the the way). McEnroe won this all-American finals, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.

Buoyed by his first Grand Slam, McEnroe took off from there. He had some heartbreak against Borg in the 1980 Wimbledon Finals, but took out the Swede in five sets in the US Open finals later that year. And he beat him in both the 1981 Wimbledon and US finals. Johnny Mac had arrived!

Yet oddly enough, despite impressive wins over Chris Lewis and Jimmy Connors at the Wimbledon Finals of both 1983 and 1984, John McEnroe's 1979 US Open victory was more remarkable in my opinion. Never before had he been in a US Open final. Never before had been in any grand slam final. By comparison, Ille had finished second at Rolland Garros to Jan Kodes in 1971.

And in a way, he was having some of his own tactics used against him (Not in the form of any tennis strokes, mind you) by Ille. Obviously, McEnore was the better player at that time, as I've mentioned earlier. But winning your first slam is open the toughest. John, no doubt, wanted this as well as a Wimbledon. And while the latter was two years away, John made sure to win his home event an impressive four times. Ille won it himself way back in 1972.

Nastase continued on (And we can only imagine what his behaviour was like) playing after the 1979 charade. He'd been disqualified many times in his career, but at this point, perhaps he had some leverage. He did not appear to ever accomplish anything else the rest of his playing days, which ended in the mid-1980s. He was nearly out of the top 50 by the end of '79, and never got higher than 79 in the decade to come. McEnroe pounded him into oblivion in their next three matches, not matter what Nastase did (Or didn't) do, 6-1, 6-4 in Milan in 1980, 6-0, 6-3 at the WCT Challenge Cup in Canada later that year. Finally, John beat him four years later, in 1984 in the Davis Cup Tie between United States And Romania. Not even close: 6-2, 6-4, 6-2! Their final head-to-head tally, if it matters, was 6-3 for Johhny Mac!

And McEnroe had perhaps been in a giving mood in 1979. Never again.

"Don't try and be like me, Ille!"


References


Collins, Bud, and Zander Hollander. Bud Collins' Tennis Encyclopedia. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1997. Print.

Haylett, John, and Richard Evans. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of World Tennis. New York: Exeter, 1989. Print.

Infosys, FedEx, Peugeot, and LeSports. "Official Site of Men's Professional Tennis | ATP World Tour | Tennis." ATP World Tour. Emirates. Web. 30 Jan 2017.  <http://www.atpworldtour.com/>

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Common Demoninator: Ray Chapman

"Struck out against The Big Train despite still having at least one swing left, killed by a pitch from Carl Mays in 1920."

That would be Cleveland Indian Ray Chapman. His death from a pitched ball was one of baseball's saddest episodes. His team went on to win the World Series that year without him.

Chapman hit an impressive .312 in a 31-game trial with the Cleveland Indians in 1912, and was there to stay until that one tragic day. His batting average would dip to just .258 in his first full season, but the Indians had him as there everyday shortstop. And Ray led the American League in putouts by a shortstop in 1915, 1917 and 1918.

But against Walter Johnson in a contest played in 1915, Ray walked away. With two strikes. The Big Train was simply humming along, and Ray and company weren't hitting him. So Walter had poor Ray and his team in his back pocket. But Johnson was the best pitcher of his time (I rank him ahead of Cy Young, Christy Mathewson and Grover Cleveland Alexander) and maybe any time. When Ray Chapman played 31 games in 1912, Walter Johnson's ERA was a AL-leading 1.39. The next year it was even better, 1.14. 1.27 in 1918, 1.49 in 1919. When his career was over, Walter had one stat that will never be duplicated: 110 shutouts!

In 1918, Ray led the junior circuit in runs scored (84) and walks (84). But it was for the fourth time in the decade, Carl Mays' Boston Red Sox that won the pennant and the World Series. Carl had been there since 1915, and along with Babe Ruth, Rube Foster, Smokey Joe Wood and Dutch Leonard, part of a formidable pitching staff. The days of Bob Feller, Early Wynn and Bob Lemon were years away for Cleveland. Without pitching, no one was touching the Red Sox.

Mays himself, along with Babe Ruth, was out of Boston in 1920. They were teammates on the New York Yankees. Chapman, meanwhile, was just getting better. So he'd hit .302 in 1917. His averaged dipped to .267 in 1918, but was back over .300 in 1919. In fact, Ray hit exactly .300 that season (130-433). After August 15th of 1920, Ray was hitting .304, but in a big slump. On July 15th, Chapman was at .326, but would hit just .252 in the next 31 games. The last 31 games of his career, sadly.

On August 16th, it was Ray Chapman's Cleveland Indians up against Babe Ruth's New York Yankees at the old Polo Grounds. Yankee Stadium would not be build until 1923.

There had been a rain delay, but Cleveland was up 3-0. Chapman himself had been up twice going into the top of the fifth inning, but had only a sacrifice bunt to show for two plate appearances. After taking a pitch (a ball, 1-0), Mays delivered, and a horrible thing happend!

The ball hit Ray Chapman.

He would die early the next morning, too. The Indians couldn't have cared that they won the ballgame 4-3.

Mays wasn't exactly Mr. Popular with teammates, and the opposition had no love lost for him either. Ty Cobb thought he tried to hit him at least once. In any event, despite all this, Mays finished the season 8-2 from then on in. The pitcher was 26-11 for the season. He'd go one to win over 200 games and post an ERA of 2.92. Despite all this, Mays was never voted to the Hall Of Fame.

Cleveland, meanwhile, went back to the chores of winning despite such a huge loss. They won the pennant, then beat the Brooklyn Robins 5-2 in the best-of-nine Fall Classic. Ray Chapman was replaced at short by Joe Sewell, who hit only .174 in the World Series.

Mays' team went on to pennants of their own the following two seasons. And in 1923, Babe Ruth brought the Yankees the World Series crown. Cleveland has only won it once, ever since.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

Heinie Groh faced Joe Jackson and Walter Johnson once, and Babe Ruth three times. Although his teams came out on top the first two times, Heinie was on the wrong team in 1923, 1924 and 1927.

Groh faced Joe Jackson's Chicago White Sox in 1919, and took no prisoners in the first contest. Heinie Groth's team, the Cincinnati Reds, bombed 'em 9-1 at home. Jackson did score the only run for Cincinnati's opposition, Chicago, but got no hits. Groth collected two RBIs in that game. The first on sac fly to Jackson in left. In the seventh, his single to centre scored another run.

Things were much closer in game two, and speaking of that number, that's Groh's walk total. He came around to score the Reds' third run of the fourth inning after a walk, a single and a triple to left. In the eighth innings, the home team lead 4-2. But with two outs, Jackson singled (Hit # 3 on the day for Joe) and made it to second on an error. Happy Felsch then lined it to third. Groh, the third basemen, made sure it didn't get by him. His throw then beat Felsch to the bag. In the bottom of the frame, it looked like the Reds would get some more breathing room. They'd led 4-0 after 6 innings. Chicago had scored twice in the top of the seventh. In the bottom of the frame, Groh walked. There was only one out as Edd Roush sent a sinking shot to centre. Felsch, the White Sox centre fielder, made the play, and then Groh was doubled off! Chick Gandil and Ray Schalk got singles for Chicago in the ninth to get the tying run on. Slim Sallee got Fred McMullin to ground out to second to end the game.

The next three games were on the road in Chicago. The Reds lost game three, 3-0. Groh got another walk. That was it. Heinie was actually held hitless in the next two games for good measure by Chicago, but he scored a run in game five. The Cincinnati Reds won game four, 2-0, and game five, 5-0. One more win in this best-of-nine and it's all over.

Cincinnati, back at home for game six, took a 4-0 lead early. Groh got a hit and a walk. Chicago fought back and tied it. Groh ended the ninth inning by getting nailed at second on an attempted steal. The Sox pounced on that lifeline they got in the tenth. Buck Weaver doubled. Joe Jackson beat out a bunt. An infield single by Chick Gandil plated Buck Weaver. The home team went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame. The next game was all Chicago. They won 4-1. Down 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Groh doubled and scored his team's lone run.

Determined to end it on their third try, it'd have to be in Chicago. And in game eight, it was quickly 4-0 for Cincinnati. Groh had singled and scored in the top of the first. An inning later, he singled and later scored. 5-0. A home run by Joe Jackson got the home team on the board. Cincinnati was unfazed. Groh wasn't involved, but they added five more runs. Groh did strand two runners in the seventh with a fly ball to Happy Felsch in centre. Chicago suddenly erupted for four runs thanks to some bad fielding by Cincinnati in the bottom of the eighth. Still, it was 10-5 after all that. Morrie Rath was on second with one out in the ninth when Heinie Groh flied out to centre. Chicago put two on before Joe Jackson ended the 1919 World Series by grounding out to second.

Groh's finest moment in October was three years later. Now on John McGraw's New York Giants, they really gave it to Babe Ruth's Yankees in 1922. Only a 3-3 tie in the second game prevented a four-game sweep. Groh scored the tying run in the eighth inning of game one, which the Giants took, 3-2. Babe Ruth had no hits in a very important third contest, won by the Giants at home by a score of 3-0. Groh had two hits and scored the only run his team would need in the bottom of the third. Heinie was batting .545 to Babe's .182 at this point. The New York Giants were up 3-0 after a 4-3 win in the fourth game. Groh had another hit and run scored. The finishing touches on the 1922 were in game five, as the Giants won 5-3. Groth had two hits, but didn't score a run. He finished the 1922 World Series with a batting average of .474!

Ruth and company won it all the next year, beating Groh's Giants in six games. This time, it was Ruth hitting .368 and Groh only .182. But the Yankees weren't around next October. Groh's team sure was.

Facing Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators, Groh made just one appearance. But it was in the top of the 11th inning of game seven. And it was against Walter Johnson. The game was tied and Heinie batted for Giant's pitcher Hugh McQuillan. And Heinie singled!

The New York Giants seemed poised to win. They'd beaten Johnson twice so far in the 1924 Fall Classic. Why not a third time?

Groh exited the game for a pinch runner. A bunt got the new guy, Bill Southworth to second. A hit puts the visitors ahead! Walter Johnson was clutch. He fanned Frankie Frisch on a 2-2 pitch. After an intentional walk, The Big Train got his team out of the jam via another K!

Johnson held the fort. He got another K in the 12th. Two doubles by Washington, and two errors by New York, won the 1924 World Series for the Senators in the bottom of the frame.

By 1927, Heinie Groh was on the Pittsburgh Pirates, who ironically enough, beat Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators in game seven of the 1925 World Series. Groth spent 1925 and '26 with the Giants, then moved on to the Pirates in 1927, his last season. He played in just 14 games but was added to the postseason roster.

But the New York Yankees were waiting, and they were too tough. They won game one in Pittsburgh, 5-4. Then they headed home up 2-0 after winning the second contest 6-2. Game three was in New York, and the home team made it look easy. They won 8-1. Groh finally got into a series game, but it proved to be his last major league appearance.

Batting for pitcher Mike Cvengros in the top of the ninth, he popped out to the Yankees' hurler, Herb Pennock. Pennock got out of that inning unscathed, and finished with a great 3-hit performance.

The New York Yankees completed the sweep in game four. It was close, but the final score of 4-3 gave the Yankees the 1927 world crown. Heinie Groh's MLB career was over.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

Mickey Mantle and Tony Kubek were the only Yankees to get hits off both Don Drysdale in 1963. The Los Angeles Dodger had the arms. And the Yankees, were in their back pockets.

Kubek had fanned to start game one, and Mantle could do no better than walk by the end of it. Koufax was out there pitching at Yankee Stadium, and clearly getting the better of Whitey Ford. The Yankee batters, too.

Mantle fanned in the second for the fourth K in a row by Koufax. In the bottom of the eighth, it was Los Angeles 5, New York, 0. Phil Linz batted for Stan Williams, who'd pitched three relief innings, and struck out. Kubek got an infield single. Bobby Richardson fanned. Tom Tresh hit a two-run home run. That made it 5-2. Mantle walked. But that was Koufax's third and last one he'd issue. Joe Pepitone got the home team's sixth and final hit in the ninth, the Dodgers winners 5-2.

Johnny Podres won the second contest 4-1, and this thing headed out west. The home team sent Don Drysdale to the hill, and he was on a mission of great pitching skill. Tony Kubek started the game by grounding out. The Dodgers held the Yankees scoreless in that inning, while scoring one against Jim Bouton in the bottom of the frame. That was all Don needed.

Mantle bunted for a hit to start the top of the second. Joe Pepitone was hit. The Yankees later loaded the bases when Clete Boyer, who'd gotten a hit off Koufax in game one, was walked intentionally. Bouton couldn't get the job done. Drysdale fanned him.

Kubek reached on an error the next time up, but was now 0-2. Worse still, Drysdale picked him off. Working on a one-hitter in the top of the sixth, the first batter was Kubek. This time, he singled. Bobby Richardson bunted him to second. Tom Tresh grounded out. As the score was still 1-0, Los Angeles, the tying run was 90 feet away. And Mickey Mantle was the batter. Drysdale fanned him.

Clete Boyer and Yogi Berra were retired to start the eighth inning, but Kubek kept it going with his second hit of the game, a single. He was forced at second by Richardson.

Tresh fanned. Mantle grounded out to first, and Pepitone gave it a ride to right in the top of the ninth. The Dodgers had won, 1-0.

Koufax fanned Kubek to start the fourth game, and the Yankees were in trouble again. Tresh ended the 1-2-3 inning with a K. Mantle, Howard and Hector Lopez got it to the outfield in the second frame, but none of 'em dropped in.

Pepitone and Boyer fanned in the third. Richardson hit a double in the fourth for the visitor's first hit, but he was stranded. Frank Howard hit a solo home run off Whitey Ford for a 1-0 Dodger lead in the fifth. Kubek was having no luck. He grounded back to Koudax in the fourth and sixth.

Mantle tied it in the top of the seventh with a home run, only to watch the Dodger regain the lead in the bottom of the frame. Phil Linz, batting for Ford, singled with one out in the top of the eighth. Kubek was next, and looking to help tie the game. He hit into an inning-ending double play.

Los Angeles was retired 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, but still carried a 2-1 lead into the top of the ninth. Richardson singled. Tresh and Mantle sadly looked at strike three, pushing Koufax's total to eight for the game and 23 for the 1963 Fall Classic.

Elston Howard reached on an error. Two on, two out. The Yankees were battlin' to the end. But on Koufax's first pitch to Hector Lopez, a grounder to Maury Wills ended it. The Los Angeles Dodgers had the sweep.

It wasn't easy to get hits off Koufax or Drysdale in 1963. New York managed just six off Sandy in game one, and six more in game four (Although Ford allowed just two hits in the finale. Bouton himself gave up just four hits himself in his game three loss to Drysdale). Drysdale finished the third contest with a three-hitter, and a shutout. The Dodgers were simply a team you needed to avoid in the World Series with Koufax and Drysdale around!


References

Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.

Monday, January 23, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

Phil Linz had success against both Sandy Koufax (Albeit in just two plate appearances) and Bob Gibson in his only two Fall Classics. Although with the New York Yankees in 1962 and named to the postseason, he did not play. New York beat San Francisco in seven games.

But in 1963, it was the Yankees vs. the Dodgers. Los Angeles Dodgers, now. They'd moved from Brooklyn after 1957. New York had only once lost to 'em in the World Series. 1955, Sandy Koufax's first year. The Dodgers had Koufax, Don Drysdale and 1955 World Series hero Johnny Podres on their pitching staff.

By the time Linz got a chance to face Koufax, it was too late. Linz batted for pitcher Stan Williams in game one, but it was 5-0 for the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers in the bottom of the eighth. Koufax fanned him, on his way to 15 on the day. The Yankees did manage to score twice that inning, in a two-run home run by Tommy Tresh. But that was it.

Wins by Podres and Drysdale had Los Angeles looking for the broom job in game four. Koufax again. This time, he only fanned 8. Whitey Ford pitched well for the Yankees, but it still wasn't enough.

Mickey Mantle hit a home run to tie the game at one in the top of the seventh, only to have the Dodger go ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the frame on an unearned run. Time was running out on New York. A lead for Koufax. Six more outs.

Linz batted for Ford in the top of the eighth with one down. This time, he singled. It was just the fifth hit by the Yankees. But Tony Kubek hit into an inning-ending double play. Hal Reniff came in to pitch the bottom of the frame, and kept the visitors within a run of Los Angeles. The Yankees got two on in the ninth, but Koufax put a stop to that, and the Dodgers had the sweep.

Linz found himself playing shortstop for all seven games the next World Series. Tony Kubek was hurt and Phil Linz batted leadoff. He was a frustrated customer in that game. New York faced St. Louis in 1964, and the first two games were at Busch Stadium. Facing lefty Ray Sadecki first in the opening contest, Linz didn't get a hit. He should have in the fourth. Ken Boyer, who's younger brother Clete played to Linz's left on the infield on New York, made a fine play on a Linz's hot shot. Phil beat the throw to first, but was called out, anyways. Linz had just one putout and assist. Worse still, the Yankees lost 9-5.

In game two, it was Bob Gibson's turn. Linz did a lot better than Bobby Richardson, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle and Elston Howard did his first time up. He drew a walk in the top of the first. The next four hitters who I've named above? Strikeout! Gibby had it!

With two down in the top of the third, it was the visitors who got some action going. Linz singled with two down, and then Richardson doubled. All for not. It ended up being the Cardinals that scored the game's first run when Curt Flood grounded out to Linz in the bottom of the third. A sacrifice fly by Clete Boyer in the next inning got New York all even.

Linz grounded out to short in the fifth, as the game stayed tied at one. The next inning, Gibby lost it. Mantle walked. Howard lined out. Joe Pepitone was hit by a pitch, although the whole Cardinals team didn't seem to think so. A single to centre by Tresh made it 2-1, New York. The Cards went down 1-2-3 against rookie Mel Stottlemyre (9-3 on the season) in the bottom of the frame, staying right with Bob Gibson.

Gibson had to face Linz again to start the seventh. Linz singled. A wild pitch moved 'em up two bases. Gibson pitched inside to Richardson, whose bat came apart. Bobby still got a single. 3-1. Maris followed suit. Mantle grounded out. 4-1. Gibson was lifted after eight innings. Linz hit a home run off Barney Schultz in the ninth. The Yankees won it going away, 8-3.

But they needed a Mantle walk-off to win game three at home. Linz got them off on the right foot in the fourth contest, also at home. He made a fine play to start the game. The first batter, Cardinal Curt Flood, hit a ball that hit pitcher Al Downing and Linz had to hurry. He got off a great throw and nipped 'em at first. Leading off the bottom of the first, he doubled. Richardson followed suit. 1-0. Maris singles, Mantle singles, Howard singles. 3-0.

But then something amazing happened. Ray Sadecki had been pulled after facing just the first four Yankee batters. Roger Craig gave up a single to Howard, but got out of the inning without further damage. In the second, Craig fanned the side, including Linz. The Yankees got another hit and three walks off him in 4 2/3 innings, but could not score. Ron Taylor, came in to pitch the bottom of the sixth on, after Ken Boyer hit a grand slam in the top of the frame. The home run made it 4-3 St. Louis, and New York didn't get a run or a hit off Taylor.

Gibson was back for game five, and sharp. He started out by fanning Phil Linz. He got twelve more before the game was over. Stottlemyre, back for round two vs. Gibby was matching him again, even getting some K's of his own. He fanned the side in the first, and his mound counterpart a scoreless second. Mel the magnificent. Got 'em 1-2-3 in the third and fourth.

Stottlemyre started the top of the fifth with another K, this time of Dal Maxvill. Gibson hit a looper that neither Linz or Tom Tresh in left could get to. An error by Bobby Richardson on a grounder from Curt Flood to second gave the Cardinals an opening. Lou Brock slashed a single to right, 1-0. Bill White sent Bobby another one, and Linz made the putout at second. Seeing White motoring towards first, Linz made a throw that was too low. Joe Pepitone at first, took care of that problem. He made an excellent play to nab that, and the inning appeared to be over. Not so, said umpire Al Smith. That was a crucial call, for it made it 2-0, St. Louis.

Stottlemyre singled off Gibson, for the Yankees only hit of the fifth inning. Mel left after seven innings, replace by pinch hitter Hector Lopez. He'd fanned six on the day and allowed just one earned run. Hal Reniff got Ken Boyer out to start the eighth, then gave up a pair of singles. Pete Mikkelsen came in, and got into the strikeout act himself. Mike Shannon, the first batter he faced, went down on strikes. Maxvill forced Tim McCarver at second. The inning was over and St. Louis was then retired 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth, Gibson fanning. The Yankees had eighth strikeouts from their pitchers through nine innings.

The Yankees, trailing 2-0, got a man on as Mickey Mantle reached on an error. Pepitone raced to first on a ball that hit Gibson, but was called out on a close play. Again, this was crucial. Tom Tresh blasted a two-run home run to right-centre and the game was tied!

But Mikkelsen and the Yankees collapsed the next inning. Bill White walked. Ken Boyer, trying for the bunt, beat it out. White stole third even though catcher Elston Howard had him. Bluffing a return to second, White turned on the jets! White was safe third, ahead of the the throw from Linz. So now there were runners on the corners. Dick Groat erased Boyer, however, as he hit a grounder to Ken's younger brother. Clete made sure White didn't move an inch. There were still runners on the corners, but now a double play would get the home team out of this.

Tim McCarver was the batter. After getting ahead in the count 3-1, and then just following off the next pitch, Tim blasted a sinkerball over Mantle's head in right. The three-run blast made it 5-2, St. Louis. Gibson fanned pinch hitter Mike Hegan and got Linz to pop up to start the last of the 10th. Richardson singled, but Maris popped out to Boyer in foul territory to end it.

The Yankees were not pleased with this result, no doubt. Off to St. Louis, and down 3-2. In game six, they took apart the Cards' pitching staff. Linz had only one hit, although he scored a run. Mantle, Maris and Pepitone (His being a grand slam) hit home runs, making an 8-3 winner out of pitcher Jim Bouton.

Gibson was back for a third time in the winner-take-all game seven. He got Linz on a grounder to start the game. A 1-2-3 first was followed by a shaky second by Gibby. He got out of a bases-loaded jam via the K. Linz singled to start the next inning, but nothing came of that. Linz, trying to double up Tim McCarver at first in the bottom of the third, made a throwing error and the Cardinals pounced. That error scored a run. St. Louis added two more.

New York got two men on in the top of the fifth for Linz, who then appeared to have another hit. He sent a sinking shot to left. Mike Shannon made a great catch, and got Tresh way off the bag at second. Al Downing came in to pitch for the Yankees, but got rocked in the bottom of the frame. A Brock home run, a White single followed by a Boyer double. By the time the Yankees got out of that, it was 6-0.

New York came right back in the sixth. Gibby didn't escape this time. Richardson and Maris singled. Mantle went the other way for home run #18 of his Fall Classic career. 6-3.

Linz flied out in the top of the seventh, although Richardson followed with a single. Maris lined to Shannon. Ken Boyer took Steve Hamilton out of the park in the bottom of the frame. 7-3.

Mikkelsen succeeded in holding the fort in the bottom of the eighth, despite Hamilton leaving with only one out and two one. Gibson got Tresh to fan to start the ninth. The other Boyer, Clete, hit a solo home run. 7-4. Johnny Blanchard batted for Mikkelsen with Linz on deck. Gibby got a big K, since Linz had no one on base for him to knock home. Linz would also not be facing Barney Schultz like he did in game two at this stage. But no matter. Linz kept New York alive by crushing one of Gibson's out of the park to left. 7-5. Richardson popped out to end the 1964 World Series, alas.

Phil Linz didn't have much of a career, and he was always overlooked when it came time for him to play everyday. He competed for Tony Kubek's job in the spring of 1962, but lost it to Tom Tresh. When Kubek hurt himself in June of 1963, Linz had another chance, but trying to swipe third on June 7th, Phil himself was hurt. Although he played a career-high 112 games for Yogi Berra in 1964, and  faced the big guns of the Dodgers and Cards, it just wasn't in the cards for Phil Linz to be an everyday player.

Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson weren't everyday players, either. They weren't positioned players. Yet, they dominated the mound in the 1960s (And Koufax's teammate Don Drysdale was pretty good himself). You stepped in the batter's box to face them, and hoped you somehow got one to your liking. Phil Linz hit 11 home runs and .235 in his 7-year, 519 game career. After batting .262 in his first three seasons and playing on three pennant winning teams, Linz hit just .208 in the remaining four years of his career. It seems so odd that he hit 1/2 against Koufax and 4/13 against Gibson. Yes, a second-stringer hit .333 against two of the best pitchers in the 1960s in crunch time.


References


Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

Friday, January 20, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

Devon White scored the first run, made the last putout in the field, and at the dish is game six of the 1993 Fall Classic. It was the clinching game. But Devo sort of missed out on being part of three men that helped Toronto win it in dramatic fashion that year. The Jays' 8-6 over the Phillies was keyed by Ricky Henderson, Paul Molitor, and of course Joe Carter in the last of the ninth.

With one out in the bottom of the first, White drew a walk off Philadelphia starter Terry Mulholland. Paul Molitor, who'd have plenty of big hits all game long, drove him home with a triple to right. A sac fly scored Molitor. John Olerud doubled and Roberto Alomar singled. 3-0, Toronto after one.

The Phillies tried to make a game of it, but they went down 1-2-3 in the second, managed just a walk in the third, and finally pried a run loose with two out in the top of the fourth. Dave Stewart was clearly on his game. A sac fly by Ed Sprague restored the three run lead.

Without getting a hit, Philadelphia loaded the bases in the fifth on two errors and a walk. They did not score. Devon White started the bottom of the frame by lining out. Paul Molitor hit a home run to left to make it 5-1 for the home team. Philly went down 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth.

The Phillies though, weren't about to throw in the towel. The scored three times of Stewart the next inning via a walk, single and a Lenny Dykstra (White's counterpart in centre) home run. Danny Cox came in to protect the 5-4 lead. The Phillies scored twice more off him and suddenly had the lead.

The Jays went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning. White fanned against relieve Roger Mason. When he batted again in the bottom of the ninth and his team was still down 6-5, Devo was again retired. But before that, Devon White took Dave Hollins fly in the top of the ninth for the first out. After Duane Ward got Darren Daulton to ground out, Jim Eisenreich sent one White's way, and Philly was gone in order. And that led to the Toronto comeback.

Ricky Henderson got it all going with a four-pitch walk off Mitch Williams. Devon White flew out on a 3-2 pitch. But Paul Molitor not only stayed out of the double play, he singled Ricky Henderson to second. Joe Carter batted next. We all know he played "Hero" next. On a 2-2 pitch, Joe hit a dramatic 3-run home run to win the game and World Series for the Jays.

But you always noticed Devon White. His speed was unreal. He could get to anything in centre. He had a good arm. And for a leadoff hitter, he sure had power: He hit 15 home runs that year and 17 in 1991 and 1992!

White may not have played any part in the very last act of the historic 1993 Toronto Blue Jays season, but he'd come through so much that season (He hit a home run in the clincher of the ALCS, plus one off Curt Schilling in game one of the World Series) and was such a joy to watch. Dashin' Devo helped that Toronto team be truly unforgettable. And for all you stat lovers, here's Devon's Fall Classic stats: 8 runs scored, 1 home run, 7 RBIs, .292 batting average!


References


Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 20 Jan. 2017.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Classic Hockey On Youtube! Toronto @ Chicago 3/10/68

The year of 1967/68 was one that saw the NHL expand from six to twelve teams. The "Original Six" teams played in the same division, and two of them in the hunt for the last playoff spot met in March of 1968.

Each team had made a huge trade earlier. In the '67 offseason, Chicago traded Phil Esposito, Fred Stanfield and Ken Hodge to Boston for Pit Martin, Jack Norris and Gilles Marotte. Toronto, meanwhile needed a shakeup, traded Frank Mahovlich, Pete Stemkowski, and Garry Unger to Detroit for Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson and Floyd Smith. All three of these players play in the game.

Each team had lost a goalie recently, as well. In the expansion draft of 1967, Glenn Hall was lost by Chicago to St. Louis. Toronto lost Terry Sawchuk to Los Angles. So the Chicago Blackhawks were forced to make due with Dennis Dejordy, Dave Dryden and Jack Norris in 1967/68. The Toronto Maple Leafs had a pretty good backup in Bruce Gamble for the previous two season, and would split the chores with 43-year old Johnny Bower. Al Smith, another pretty good goalie, didn't get into any games that year for the Leafs, sans the All-Star-Game (During the time when it was the defending Stanley Cup Champions vs. the All-Stars from the rest of the league. This meant Toronto, who won the game 4-3 behind Gamble and Smith, beat the best of eleven other teams). Gary Smith was also gone from Toronto.

Gamble and Bower did the job in the Toronto. Bower was his usual self and Gamble bounced back from a off-season in 1966/67. Dejordy did most of the work in Chicago, getting only a little help from Dave Dryden and Norris. However, in this game, it was the Blackhawks that got the goaltending to stifle the new-look Leafs. Norris, at one point a defenceman, stopped 'em all!



Things to look for:

1) The game is presented in colour, which is rare for most hockey games in the late 60s. All the other games I've seen (So far) from that era are black-and-white.

2) Speaking of white, notice as it is today, the home team wears dark and the visiting team wears white.

3) The first period is not shown.

4) Chicago is leading 1-0 as the footage starts.

5) Norris is playing goal for Chicago. One of only 10 games he played for the Hawks.

6) Bower is in net for Toronto, and his age is still a mystery. For the record, he was born November 8, 1924, making him 43 years old at the time of this contest.

7) Jimmy Pappin isn't with Toronto. He and coach Punch Imlach had a falling out that season, and he was traded in the off-season to Chciago, for Pierre Pilote. Pilote plays in this game, however. Pappin was playing for Rochester, the Leafs top farm team, when this March game was played.

8) Mike Walton (#16) gets a penalty shot for the second straight game for Toronto. He'd scored the previous game on one. Speaking of which...

9) This game was played on a Sunday. On the Saturday night before this, Toronto rallied from 4-0 down to beat Detroit 7-5 in Frank Mahovlich's first game back to TO.

10) Pit Martin scores into the empty net. Shortly thereafter, the broadcast ends. There is, however, another goal by Doug Jarrett. So not only do you not see Kenny Wharram's first period tally, but you only see half the game's total goals.

11) Helmets are worn by: Henderson, Mikita, Pilote, Conacher and Martin. Neither goalie wears one.

12) Ken Dryden is mistakenly named as Chicago's other goalie for this game, as Dennis Dejordy is injured and attending a funeral.

13) Brett Hull, a toddler at the time, is mentioned by Bobby Hull's mother @ 30:13! Turns out The Golden Brett is a big fan of Stan Mikita!

14) Bobby Hull's wife Joanne, is quite the artist! Amazing paintings!

15) The third period starts @ 40:13.

16) And speaking of which, Stan Mikita starts out the third period for a faceoff at centre against Dave Keon. Quite the curve on Mikita's stick, eh? Norris, by the way, was a bit of a pioneer for goalies in that he, too used a curve blade.

17) A rare time for Chicago where neither Phil or Tony Esposito is playing for the team. Tony started his NHL career in Montreal the next season, and picked up a Stanley Cup there before landing in the Windy City in 1969/70. Chicago would miss the playoffs in 1968/69, meanwhile.

18) Norris finishes with a shutout. It was his first of the season, and second (And last) of his NHL career.

19) Toronto will rue this loss as they miss the playoffs this season by just four points.

20) Kenny Wharram, who recently passed away, scores twice, although his first period marker is of course, not shown.

21) This is an afternoon game


“The information used herein was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by The Hockey Summary Project. For more information about the Hockey Summary Project please visit:

http://hsp.flyershistory.com

or

http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/hockey_summary_project/”


References



CBS Sports Presents NHL On CBS. "1968 COLOR LEAFS VS HAWKS chicago TV broadcast Johnny Bower." Youtube, uploaded by Newton Minnow, 15 Jan. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yORbvADnNsg. (Game is originally broadcast on CBS 10 Mar. 1968)

Diamond, Dan. Total NHL. Toronto: Dan Diamond And Associates, 2003. Print.

Oliver, Greg, and Richard Kamchen. The Goaltenders' Union: Hockey's Greatest Puckstoppers, Acrobats, And Flakes. Toronto: ECW Press, 2014. Print, pp. 104-108.

"Hockey Summary Project." Hockey Summary Project. N.p., 10 Jan. 2001. Web. 18 Jan. 2017. <http://flyershistory.com/>


"Official Site of the National Hockey League | NHL.com” | NHL.com. National Hockey League. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.  <https://www.nhl.com>

Sports Reference LLC. Hockey-Reference.com - Hockey Statistics and History. http://www.hockey-reference.com/. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.

Podnieks, Andrew, and Rob Del Mundo. The Best, Worst, And Biggest NHL trades Of All Time! Toronto: Moydart Press, 2013. Print, pp. 67-74, www.andrewpodnieks.com

Podnieks, Andrew. The Essential Blue & White Book: A Toronto Maple Leafs Factbook. Vancouver: Greystone, 2001. Print.

Men's Tennis 2017: My Predictions

So a new year of tennis and the men are making a racket. Djokovic wants his #1 ranking back, and already has a title and a win over Murray under his belt.

Djokovic

Novak looked unstoppable until Wimbledon of last year, but then got trampled by a human tornado in Andy Murray last year. But since they're in Australian as I write this, Djokovic has the edge over Murray. That win earlier this year at Doha not only got him his first title of the year, but as mentioned, he beat Murray. That's the kind of confidence he needs going into the Australian Open. He looked sharp in his first round win over Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco got a set off him in the semis of Doha, but not at the event that Djokovic has won six times. Look for Djokovic to have deep runs in not on the Australian Open and French, but also he'll no doubt have a better showing at Wimbledon. If he stays healthy, I wouldn't bet against him winning at least one grand slam and regaining the #1 ranking.

Murray 

Andy no doubt wishes it was still 2016. What a finish. The new #1 ranked player in the world is still looking for:

A) For his first Australian Open title (0-5 in finals)

B) His first French Open (Lost to Djokovic last year)

Murray won Wimbledon, but hasn't gotten to a US Open finals since he won it back in 2012. As he's shown the last two years, he's a man to fear once the clay court season starts. And if he can get some better results at both Indian Wells and Miami, he might just hold on to that top ranking for a while. Whether or not he ends the year #1 is another matter. I think Andy will finishes ranked second at worst.

Wawrinka

Mr. 3-0 in Grand Slam finals has won exactly one of them in the last three years. But as you can see, he hasn't advanced to any other major finals. I believe his string of that will run out this year. I actually don't think he will win a grand slam this year. However, look for him to make deep runs in at least three of them, and pick up five or six titles. A top 5 finish is a good bet.

Nadal

A few years ago, it looked like Rafa was going to easily pass his old pal Roger Federer in career grand slams and make it at least 10 French Opens titles won. Neither has happened yet, and now Nadal has Novak Djokovic 26-23 against him lifetime (After once being up 14-4), and is stuck at 14 slams. Djokovic has 12 and could actually pass him in that category this year. He had some moments last year, but nearly three years has elapses since Rafa beat Novak or won a slam. Can he make it back? I'm not sure. And if it does happens, it won't be until the clay court season.

Federer

The mighty one had 2016 derailed by injuries despite making another two grand slam semis. He's up to 39 semi-finals reached in The Big Four tournaments. But missed the rest of the year following Wimbledon. And at 35, can he continue to compete? That, is a tough question. He still has that aura, but he's also seeded 17th in the Australian Open. There is, of course, an irony there: That's the number of grand slams he's won!

But none since 2012.

There might be a great result here or there, but I can't see Roger getting back to the top five. He's had a great career. But he (And probably Nadal, too) has seen his time pass. The new generation is here. Murray has obtained his peak. Djokoic is Djokovic. There just isn't any more room for Roger Federer to win any more grand slams.

Raonic

Milos just wants to get his first grand slam in 2017. Finalist at Wimbledon in 2016, where Andy Murray prevailed over him in three tight sets, he's back to the scene of taking him to five in last year's semifinals. Can he go further? My guess for Milos is he can win a slam this year, but most likely it will be Wimbledon or the US. The heat could be a big factor. Plus, Murray and Djokovic are on a collision course, and Raonic will be hard-pressed to beat them, at the level they are at right now.

Cilic

Nearly out in the first round of the years' first Grand Slam. What's up with the 2014 US Open winner? He won in Cincinnati last year, and was looking for his third straight semifinal appearance in the years' final major. It didn't work out. He's sort of in Raonic's boat. I can see him winning a slam this year, but my guess would be Wimbledon, given his big serve.

del Potro

Nowhere to be found in Australia, as he's skipping the Australian Open due to fitness concerns. Too bad, really. Juan had one great finish to the year, and a silver medal in Rio to boot. A big comeback year capped off by a two-set down comeback vs. Cilic at the Davis Cup. A Grand Slam might be a lot to ask for this year from Juan. But how about a return to the top ten? That's doable. Just as Cilic is in Raonic's boat, I'd say the same thing about Del Potro: He's in Wawrinka's boat! But look for Del Potro to make some noise at the remaining three slams, assuming he stays healthy.


Ferrer

Did you know this guy has 41 match wins Down Under? Hasn't won the Australian Open, but won his first round match in 2017. David Ferrer will be 35 in April of this year and has 26 titles to his name. None, however, have been Grand Slams. Yet he finds ways to hang around longer than he should at the big stage. Obviously, he isn't going to win a major this year, but come clay court season, I wouldn't be surprised (If David is healthy) if his game picks up.

Berdych

Tomas Berdych lost to Roger Federer at the Australian Open last year, and could face him in the third round this year. Tomas has 13 titles and two wins over Roger in Grand Slams in his career. Actually, he's beaten Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal on the big stage (Nadal, right here in 2015). However, he's only once been past the semifinals of a Grand Slam, and that was back in 2010. I don't think that trend will change this year, but I think Tomas could definitely beat Roger this year at Australia. From there, his path could take him to Kei Nishikori. That's probably as far as he goes. As for the rest of the year, who knows? I think Tomas is at the point where he can beat both Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, but it's a whole new ballgame when he faces Andy Murray (His potential semifinal opponent) or Novak Djokovic). He doesn't have the game to beat either of them. Not likely he can beat Stan The Man, either.

Nishikori

Beat Murray at the US Open last year, and was a finalist there in 2014. He likes hard court, so he should have a good result in Australia. But of the "New" guys around (Cilic, Raonic and Nishikori) he's sort of the low man on the scale. He game just enough to compete with Cilic, Raonic, Murray or Djokovic. Wawrinka, too. 

Tsonga

Always a battler, he gave Murray all he could handle last year at Wimbledon. Was the only man to take two sets off him. Finalist in Australia way back in 2008. He's beaten Federer at Wimbledon and Canada (Right there in the finals). Joe is amazingly fast around the court, and the type of player to watch out for at the Grand Slams. His best years though, like Ferrer's, are probably behind him.


References


Infosys, FedEx, Peugeot, and LeSports. "Official Site of Men's Professional Tennis | ATP World Tour | Tennis." ATP World Tour. Emirates. Web. .  <http://www.atpworldtour.com/>.


Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 17 Jan. 2017. <https://en.wikipedia.org/>

Saturday, January 14, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

The Babe was also finding other ways than the long ball to help his Yankees beat the Pirates in 1927. He did have that flair for the dramatic in many ways, to tell you the truth.

In 1921, he stole second and third in one game against the New York Giants. 1928 saw him make a fine catch to end the Fall Classic vs. the Cardinals. What then, did he have in store for the Pittsburgh Pirates in that four-game sweep of 1927? Plenty!

The Babe got it all going by singling and scoring in the top of the first in the first contest, held at Forbes Field. He wasted no time and got another single, first pitch swinging in the third. And again, Ruth scored.

Pittsburgh, though played well at times in the first game. Ruth was robbed of another hit in the top of the 5th on a nice stop by George Grantham. The Yankees ended up scoring a run anyways on a sac fly by Lou Gehrig. Ruth added a single later in the game, only to be picked off. Good thing his team won 5-4. Three singles, two runs scored by The Bambino.

Ruth caught a ball that ended up being a sac fly in the bottom of the first in game two (Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead on that play), but later hit one of his own. That put New York up 3-1.

It was still 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, when he made a nice fielding play. George Grantham doubled to right in the top of the seventh. This was a leadoff double. But The Bambino made sure he got no further. The Yankees, inspired by that play, added three runs in the top of eight while the Bucs could get only one of their own in the bottom of the frame. The 6-2 win sent it back to Yankee Stadium for game three.

Ruth hit a 3-run home run in the bottom of the seventh, That scored runs four, five and six of the inning, which had started with the home team up only 2-0. They ended up winning 8-1.

The Pirates didn't want to be swept, so they scored a run before Ruth and company got their first turn to the dish. The Babe singled home the tying run. Then he made a dash for second, and had himself a stolen base!

The Yankees didn't score another run that inning, but their pitching held the Pirates in check for a while. Ruth, meanwhile hit a two-run home run to break the 1-1 deadlock in the bottom of the fifth. Undaunted, the Pittsburgh Pirates scored two runs of their own in the seventh. Not via the long ball. Two errors, a single and a sac fly and we're tied 3-3.

The game went into the ninth still tied at that score. Wilcy Moore got 'em 1-2-3. The Babe came up in the bottom of the inning after the first two men reached. A wild pitched forced Pirate pitcher Johnny Miljus to walk him intentionally. Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel both swung and missed at strike three, however.

Two down, bases full of Yankees. Tony Lazzeri was up. On the second pitch, Miljus uncorked another wild pitch, and Earle Combs came home with the series-winning run!

The Babe had two home runs to his name in 1927. He'd made a fine fielding play. He'd stolen a base. He'd even hit some singles, deviating from his big wallops. The Yankees were simply head and shoulders above the rest of the world of baseball that season. The Babe spearheaded the deadly offensive attack of the Yankees.


References


Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 14 Jan. 2017.

Neft, David S., Richard M. Cohen, and Michael L. Neft. The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball, 1992. 12th ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992. Print.

Neft, David S., and Richard M. Cohen. The World Series: Complete Play-by-play of Every Game, 1903-1989. 4th ed. New York: St. Martin's, 1990. Print.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

The Iron Horse sure had a strong glove in 1927. No doubt Lou Gehrig had a big bat, but his fielding was excellent. The New York Yankees didn't exactly have easy opposition in the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Fall Classic that year.

The World Series opened at Forbes Field that year, and Gehrig got them off on the right foot. Following a single by Babe Ruth in the top of the first, Lou Gehrig hit a triple to score him. Did that deflate Pittsburgh? No. They tied it in the bottom of the frame. The Pirates kept coming back. They could not, however, take the lead.

The Pirates might have in the next inning. The score was still knotted at one, and Pittsburgh had a man on first and only one out. Joe Harris hit a grounder to Tony Lazzeri who got the force by tagging out George Grantham, the runner. His throw to Gehrig at first was low. Right in the dirt. No matter, a nice scoop by The Iron Horse and the inning was over.

The Yankees won the game 5-4. Gehrig finished with 2 RBIs. But he made another good play on a bad toss to first in the bottom of the fourth. The home team was looking to tie it again, down only 3-2.

The Yankees really woke up the next two games. Held to just six hits in game one, they pounded out 11 in game 2 (A decisive 6-2 win) and 9 (Compared to the Pirates' 3) in the third contest. The Yankees, following their 8-1 win at Yankee Stadium in game three, needed just one more win.

Pittsburgh played much better in game four. They even scored in the top of the first, as they had in game two. Sadly for the Bucs, it was 3-1 in not too long a time. The Babe knocked home one in the bottom of the first, then added a two-run home run in the fifth. Gehrig fanned in the bottom of the first, grounded out in the third, and again grounded out in the fifth. But how about his glove the next inning?

Well, Pittsburgh needed some runs. With two down George Grantham sent one Gehrig's way. A fine play by Lou made sure it didn't leave the infield. Grantham beat it out, however. The Pirates did not score as Joe Harris sent one to Earle Combs in centre for the third out.

But Pittsburgh did tie it in the top of the second. Earl Smith hit a grounder to first that Gehrig got to and threw to pitcher Wilcy Moore covering first. Moore couldn't hold on to the ball. Tony Lazzeri then made an error of his own. Two on via errors. Gehrig fielded a bunt for the first out, but both runners scored later that inning on a sacrifice fly and a single. 2 runs, 1 hit, 2 errors. Ouch.

Gehrig was the last out as New York batted in the bottom of the frame. Johnny Miljus got him to fly to left, after Ruth hit into a double play. The Yankees put two on the next inning, but Miljus got out of that jam, too. Moore retired the Bucs in order in the ninth.

In the bottom of the frame, the home team won it. A walk. A bunt beaten, A wild pitch. An intentional walk (By Ruth). Gehrig fanned. So did Bob Meusel. What an inning!

Miljus' 0-1 pitch to Tony Lazzeri ended up being his second wild pitch of the frame. Earle Combs, who walked to start this inning, trotted on home! 4-3, New York. Sweep. How sweep it must have been to be a Yankee fan back then.

Gehrig ended up .308. Babe Ruth blasted two home runs. Mark Koenig led the way with a .500 batting average. The Iron Horse, though, did it all. He fielded well. He ran well, hitting a series-leading two doubles and two triples. He walked a series-leading three times. He got four RBIs in four games. And he ended up with 41 putouts, also tops on both teams (His counterpart on the Pirates, Joe Harris, made 35). 

Eastern Conference Teams That Can Dethrone The Pens In 2017!

The Pittsburgh Penguins are out for a second-straight Stanley Cup later this year, and their third overall in the Sidney Crosby-era. For good measure, the franchise is looking to make it five Stanley Cups overall, which would tie them (With Edmonton) for most Stanley Cups won by a team that joined the NHL from 1967 on.

But not so fast.

Are there teams out there that can beat Pittsburgh that play in their very conference? How about division? "Yes sir!" says I!

Now, a disclaimer: I think the Penguins are a great team! I watched last year's playoffs. They had depth, they had coaching, they had spectacular goaltending. And it continues on this season. But last year was 2015/16. This season is 2016/17, the 100th anniversary of the National Hockey League's inaugural campaign. A year makes a huge difference.

Okay, where to start?

How about Washington? The Pens have a history with them. Of beating them. All the time in the playoffs with the exception of 1994 (Yes, #68 was on that Pittsburgh team). The Caps, though, sure gave the Penguins all they could handle last year. They've got Braden Holtby, brilliant even in defeat in the 2016 playoffs. They've got a great coach in Barry Trotz. Oh, they've also got the latest member of the 1,000 point club, Alex Ovechkin. And he's hungry for a Stanley Cup. He'd love to leave Sidney Crosby behind on his way to one, for sure.

I think this can definitly happen. Of all the scenarios I present, this has to be the most likely. Sure, they may not meet, but if they do, don't you think Washington is due? A win by the Capitals over the Penguins in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs would take the Ovie/Sid rivalry to new heights. Imagine, Crosby, losing to Ovechkin, and then Ovie winning the Stanley Cup later? The Stanley Cup counter would officially start with Alex having one to his name and Sid two himself. "Who will end up with more?" everyone will ask. This needs to be an annual playoff matchup. So much great history here, predating Sidney and Alexander.

How about Columbus?

The surprise team coached by John Tortorella? Well, he won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay (More on them, later) back in 2004, and is doing wonders this year with the Blue Jackets. That 16-game winning streak earlier? Just plain awesome! Did you know Columbus is third in the NHL in goals for with 135 (In 40 games)? They have some serious firepower. And they've got a good goalie named Sergei Bobrovsky. This team took Pittsburgh to six games back in 2014, and have matured much since. Experience is a bit against them as they've missed the playoffs the last two seasons, but they could very well surprise the Pens. This could all be smoke in mirrors as the saying goes. Columbus might be overachieving for all we know. The playoffs will tell.

The Rangers have twice beaten the Pens in the playoffs, and are 2-2 against them in the playoffs from 2007/08 on. They've got Henrik Lundqvist in goal, and it doesn't matter what his numbers are (Well, he's 18-9-1, 2.55, .912 in 29 games) he always on his game in the spring. He can get into the shooters' heads. Even Crosby. Look out for the Rangers, Pens!

Philadelphia is a bit of a long shot, but these teams had a memorable matchup back in 2012. Philly came out on top in six games in the first round, but the team doesn't appear to be dangerous to Pittsburgh, yet. The Flyers might peak when they see the Penguins in the playoffs.

So that's it for the Metropolitan division. How about the Atlantic? Montreal has injuries, but Carey Price isn't one of them. Doesn't he get in the shooters' heads? You bet. The Habs are 26-10-6 after 42 games this year, tops in the Atlantic division. They've been scoring a-plenty lately, but Price, he's sort of fallen off his previous seasons' performance, eh? That could be a concern if these two teams meet in the postseason. I'm not sure the Habs can match the Penguins in a high-scoring series. Price is 7-3-3 in his last 13 games, but his save percentage has been just .901 during that span, well below his .931 S% from 2013/14 through last season. Carey will be the deciding factor, and he needs to regain his form from earlier in the season and World Cup.

Ottawa has been a surprise this season, but not on the Columbus-scale. Their dealing with the loss of Craig Anderson, at least for now. He's a big-game goalie, and his save percentage in the playoffs is just a shade under Braden Holby's .938. Anderson is .933, and he can steal you a series in the postseason. Erik Karlsson is great, nothing more needs to be said. Clark McArthur is dealing with concussion issues. Ottawa is sort of doing things the hard way. Not much offence. They'll need some if they are going to beat Pittsburgh. But the Sens they've played just 39 games, and Mike Condon has done a good job filling in for Craig Anderson. He won't be the guy they turn to come playoff time. If this team can string together some wins, they could challenge Montreal for first in the Atlantic. They currently trail by 12 points, but have 3 games in hand. Boston is actually second but has played 44 games.

The Bruins hopes rest with goalie Tukka Rask. Patrice Bergeron (Who's having an off-year) and Patrice Bergeron are the two big gunners for Boston. They swept Pittsburgh four seasons ago in the playoffs, but that is ancient history in hockey time. They need to find others to pick up the scoring slack, although David Pastrnak has done an admirable job (31 points in 37 games). They aren't even distancing themselves from some of the bottom teams in the Eastern Conference. The team has eight players 30 years or over. Their time may be running out.

I'm not sold on Toronto making the playoffs just yet, so there is no point in speculating how they might fair vs. Pittsburgh in April. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. The two Florida teams are interesting matchups for Pittsburgh. Tampa Bay gave 'em all they could handle last year, bowing out only 2-1 in game seven in the Conference Finals. This year, the injury bug (Most notably, Steven Stamkos) has hit them. But the Lighting are just six points back of the last wild card spot. If they get in and are healthy, they can beat Pittsburgh, and any team for that matter. This team went all the way to game six of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015, don't forget. Their goalie, Ben Bishop has been excellent the last two playoff years (21-13, 2.09, .927). Florida is three games over .500, but also currently out of the playoff picture. They can get in, but I'd like the Lightning's chances better than the Panthers' chances.

Carolina has been hot lately, beating Columbus, but it's too early to tell for them. Their backup goalie, Eddie Lack is out with a concussion, so the team is short a quality backup. The team sits with 45 points, 3 back of Philadelphia for the last wild card spot (The Hurricanes have two games in hand). But they are 12 points back of the New York Rangers for the first wild card spot (And fourth place in the Metropolitan). This team has some work to do.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

Roger Peckinpaugh made an error in the eighth game of 1921. And he made some more costly ones in game seven four years later.

Peckinpaugh, looking to help the New York Yankees win their first ever World Series in '21 against the New York Giants, had Babe Ruth and another slugger, Home Run Baker. But after game five in this best-of-nine affair, the Babe wasn't in the starting lineup. He had some knee problems, and an infected arm on top of that. The Yankees led 3-2, but dropped game six 8-5, and game seven 2-1.

Not that the Yankees were any pushovers. They were the designated home team in this Fall Classic, which took place exclusively at the Polo Grounds. Waite Hoyt, 2-0, was on the hill for the American League team. Ruth would make an appearance, later.

So could they send it to a ninth and deciding contest?

The Giants got two on with two outs in the top of the first, and then disaster struck as High Pockets Kelly sent one to short, Peckinpaugh's spot. The ball got through him for an error, and Dave Bancroft scored.

How about Peckinpaugh at the dish? He walked in the bottom of the frame, and the home team soon had runners on second and third with just one out, Roger 90 feet away from crossing the dish. That didn't happen as Bob Meusel popped out and Wally Pipp.

Peckinpaugh gunned out a runner at home in the second, keeping it 1-0. The Yankees played well the rest of the way, and Roger's error was the only one they'd commit. Hoyt pitched well, but so did Giant Art Neft.

The Yankees loaded the bases against him in the last of the fourth on two singles and a walk. All this happened with two outs. But again, no one scored. Peckinpaugh drew a two-out walk the next inning, but was also stranded.

Hoyt retired the last nine man to face him in the game, but the Yankees came to bat in the bottom of the ninth down 1-0. Babe Ruth made a dramatic appearance, batting for Pipp, but grounded out to first. The next batter, Aaron Ward, coaxed a walk from Art Neft. Home Run Baker could win the game with a home run. He hit it well to second basemen Johnny Rawlings. Rawlings made an excellent play, throwing out Baker at first. Ward kept running, and ended up out at third. The Giants won, 1-0, and were the World Series winners in 1921.

Peckinpaugh's team looked like they were going to win four years later. His Washington Senators had won in 1924, and were up three games to one. Back-to-back for Washington? No. The Pittsburgh Pirates, the National League pennant winners that year, won game five at Griffith Stadium, 6-3. Then, at home in Forbes Field, they eked out a 3-2 win. It all came down to game seven.

Washington, with Walter Johnson on the hill, started out fast. They crossed home four times in the top of the first, Roger Peckinpaugh himself with an RBI when he hit into a force. That out, however, was taken away as catcher Earl Smith interfered Roger as he was on his way to first.

Peckinpaugh then got a hit taken away via a great catch by Kiki Cuyler in the top of the third. The Pirates made their move in the bottom of the frame, scoring three times to cut it to 4-3. But only temporarily was it a one-run game. Joe Harris knocked home two runs in the top of the fourth for the Senators with a double, and it was 6-3. And with The Big Train on the hill, it was looking all over!

The Pirates got a run back in the bottom of the fifth on two doubles. Peckinpaugh made a critical error in the seventh, and the Pirates scored two more to tie it. Pie Traynor was nailed at the dish to keep it that way.

Roger hit a home run in the top of the eighth to give Washington the lead again, and Walter Johnson needed just six more outs. Soon, Pittsburgh was down to four outs. Johnson got the first two batters out in the bottom of the frame, and then the wheels came off the chariot.

Earl Smith doubled, Carson Bigbee then was sent up to hit for Earl Smith. Smith doubled and the game was tied, 7-7. A walk brought Max Carey to the plate. Carey sent a ball to short, where Peckinpaugh tried for the inning-ending force. The throw was bad, and all hands were safe. Cuyler hit a ground-rule double to right, and Pittsburgh got two more runs. Washington went down 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth.

The two errors by Roger Peckinpaugh were too many. He'd made six in the previous six games, and the Pirates were World Series champions. At bat, he'd hit just .250 after hitting .417 in the 1924 World Series (Roger hit poorly in 1921, just .179). He'd have to shoulder at least some of the blame for his teams losing in 1921 and 1925.


References


Neft, David S., Richard M. Cohen, and Michael L. Neft. The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball, 1992. 12th ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992. Print.

Neft, David S., and Richard M. Cohen. The World Series: Complete Play-by-play of Every Game, 1903-1989. 4th ed. New York: St. Martin's, 1990. Print.

Nemec, David et all. 20th Century Baseball Chronicle: A Year-by-year History of Major League Baseball. Collector's Edition. Lincolnwood, Ill: Publications International, 1993. Print.

Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 10 Jan. 2017.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

The top three RBI men on the Chicago White Sox in 1919 were suspected or proven fixers: Joe Jackson, Chick Gandil and Happy Felsch!

The rest of the team wasn't getting it done in the clutch, it appears. The Cincinnati Reds were the opposition and were able to hold a number of the Chicago batters in check when the chips were down, even the honest guys.

In Cincinnati for game one, the home team wasted no time in scoring a run off Eddie Cicotte in the bottom of the first, after Chicago knocked themselves out of the top of the frame. Shano Collins had singled, but was forced at second. Eddie Collins, who'd hit into the force, was then nailed at second on an attempted steal. Buck Weaver was then retired to end that.

The Reds took advantage of this, scoring in the bottom of the frame. In the top of the second however, it was Joe Jackson reaching on an error. No RBI, since he was leading off, but Joe made it all the way to second on the miscue. A bunt by Happy Felsch got him to third, and a sac fly by Chick Gandil scored him, Alas, that proved to be the only run the Sox scored the entire game, won easily by the home team, 9-1.

In game two, again in Cincinnati, the visitors pounded out ten hits: Three by Jackson and two each by Weaver and Ray Schalk, but to no avail!

The Reds won 4-2, as two errors got the White Sox two runs. Cincinnati had just four hits.

The series then shifted to Chicago for game three, and for the third straight contest, the home team won. Obviously, this time it was the White Sox. They shut 'em out, 3-0. Jackson and Felsch, however, didn't get any RBIs. Gandil drove both those men home in the bottom of the second. That was all pitcher Dick Kerr needed. And although Felsch scored a run, he was caught stealing (As was Jackson) and grounded into a double play.

Game four saw the visiting team win for the first time, eking out a 2-0 win. Both the Reds' runs were unearned as Eddie Cicotte made two errors. Jackson, Felsch and Gandil got a hit each. The rest of the team was no-hit. Cincinnati was up, three games to one.

After winning game five in Chicago, Cincinnati was now up 4-1. This was a best-of-nine affair, so the Reds still needed another win. Game six was in Cincinnati.

The Reds wanted it bad, and sailed ahead 4-0 after 4 innings in the sixth contest. Eddie Collins got the White Sox on the board with a sac fly in the top of the fifth, but time was running out.

The sixth inning saved Chicago's bacon. Kerr wasn't nearly as effective in this contest as he had been in game three. When the game finally ended, Dick had allowed 11 hits, which was more than his own team got.

Jackson singled home Buck Weaver in the top of the sixth, following a leadoff double. Felsch doubled himself to the left-centre gap, and Shoeless was across the plate. That made it 4-3. Gandil, though, popped out. Swede Risberg grounded to short. That got Happy Felsch to third, but now there were two outs.

Ray Schalk kept the rally going with a single. For good measure, the catcher stole second. Dickey Kerr grounded out to end the inning, alas. The score was tied at four, but now the visitors had to hold Cincinnati in check from here on in. Oh, and Chicago needed at least one more run.

That didn't occur until extra innings. The Reds got a man on in the bottom of the frame, and two more in the seventh. Kerr held the fort. The White Sox were held to without a hit in the seventh and eighth by Jimmy Ring. Ring was pitching in relief and just the right guy to end this Fall Classic. He'd tossed a fine shutout in game four. Both Shoeless Joe Jackson and Chick Gandil drew walks off him in the top of the eighth (Happy Felsch had been retired on a fly), only to see Swede Risberg hit into an inning-ending double play.

Kerr struggled in the bottom of that inning. First, he got two men on. Then, he came unraveled a bit. Two straight singles. Luckily for Kerr, his mound adversary hit into a force to end that. Ring himself got the first two men to face him in the top of the ninth out, then gave up his third walk of his relief stint. Nemo Leibold, who was the batter who looked at ball four, joined Ray Schalk as White Sox with base swipes in this contest not long after. The stolen base put Nemo in scoring position. But Eddie Collins flied to centre.

The Reds, looking to put the final nail in the White Sox coffin, got a single by Jake Daubert in the last of the ninth. World Series-winning run on. Heinie Groth, the third basemen, forced Daubert at second. Then Heinie tried for a stolen base of his own (Daubert and Morrie Rath had done it earlier, joining Schalk and Leibold as thieves in the day) Ray Schalk nailed him. To extras!

The tenth inning started with a double by Weaver, just like he'd done in the sixth. But Joe Jackson didn't get him home. He beat out a bunt that moved Weaver to third. Felsch, with a grand chance to make it a 5-4 game, fanned. Gandil showed Felsch how it's done with a single to score Weaver. Buck had scored the game-winning run, as it turns out. There were still two more runners on, but Swede Risberg lined into an inning-ending double play, with Shoeless Joe nailed off second on that.

No matter, Kerr (Who'd allowed 11 hits in only 9 innings pitched so far) got 'em 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th. The White Sox won 5-4, and were still alive. But now for the bad news: The Reds still led the World Series four games to two! Worse, still, Chicago now had to win again, in Cincinnati!

Eddie Cicotte started game seven for the Chicago White Sox. He was 0-2. His team had scored one run for him in his two outings. He'd pitched bad in game one. Things sure looked dim. Though he pitched better he in this must-win game, Eddie wasn't great.

The Chicago bats showed signs of being that. Jackson got the White Sox off on the right foot with an RBI single in the top of the first off Slim Sallee. Felsch followed that with a single of his own, but the Sox were held to that one run.

Both the Collins, Shano and Eddie singled to start the third. Buck Weaver hit into a double play, but Jackson then drove home his second run of the contest with another single.

Then in the fifth inning, Eddie Collins singled. Weaver and Jackson reached via errors. Felsch singled like he had in the first, getting himself two RBIs and putting Chicago up 4-0. Sallee was removed following this. Chick Gandil grounded out, putting Felsch in scoring position at second. and Jackson 90 feet from home. Swede Risberg fanned. The White Sox would not score again in game seven.

Dolph Luque, who replaced Ray Fisher after getting Gandil and Risberg out, shut down the Sox on one hit in the last four innings. Cicotte won the game 4-1, giving up seven hits.

Game eighth was in Chicago, but Cincinnati wasn't about to be denied. They scored four runs in the top of the first. Chicago had two men on to start the bottom of the inning, but Weaver, Jackson and Felsch failed to deliver. It was 5-0, Reds when Shoeless Joe hit a solo home run in the bottom of the third. The score was 9-1 in the bottom of the sixth as Jackson sent Edd Roush back in centre on a fly.
The Reds didn't let up, alas.

They made it double digits by the time the White Sox batted in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, and the score 10-0 for Cincinnati, Eddie Collins singled. Buck Weaver doubled him to third. Joe Jackson scored both men with a double of his own. 10-3. Happy Felsch though, didn't help the cause by popping out. Chick Gandil sent one that made it all the way to the fence. Closest to the ball was right fielder Greasy Neale, but he seemed to have problems keeping up with the flight path of the ball. Gandil was on third when it was all over. The triple scored Jackson. The Sox weren't done. Swede Risberg sent one out to Edd Roush's territory in centre. But Edd made an error. Gandil scored. 10-5. Ray Schalk, the eighth batter in the bottom of the eighth, grounded out to end that.

Cincinnati put a man on in the ninth inning via a single, but Roush was retired to end that. Chicago mounted another rally in the ninth. Eddie Murphy, batting for relief pitcher Roy Wilkinson, reached base the hard way. Hod Eller had plunked him. Leibold batted, and got a hold of one, sending it to centre. Here's where Edd Roush atoned for his previous muff as he made a fine catch.

It was crucial, since Eddie Collins followed that with a single. Buck Weaver made good contact and hit it to deep right. This time, Greasy Neale didn't lose sight of it, and made the catch. Murphy took third, but there were now two outs.

With Joe Jackson now at the plate, Collins caught 'em all napping and stole second. But when Jackson grounded out to second basemen Morrie Rath, the Cincinnati Reds had the game 10-5, and the 1919 World Series, 5-3.


References


Neft, David S., Richard M. Cohen, and Michael L. Neft. The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball, 1992. 12th ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992, pp. 91. Print.

Neft, David S., and Richard M. Cohen. The World Series: Complete Play-by-play of Every Game, 1903-1989. 4th ed. New York: St. Martin's, 1990, pp. 76-81. Print.

Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 8 Jan. 2017.