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.


Sports Reference LLC. - Major League Statistics and Information. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

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