Saturday, October 08, 2005

October 8th, 1925

Christy Mathewson Dies

Being that the playoffs are upon us, it only seems appropriate to honor the man who had, almost inarguably, the greatest single series post season pitching performance in history: Christy Mathewson. The New York Giants, Mathewson's team, opened the 1905 World Series at the home field of the Philadelphia A's, Columbia Park. Mathewson was matched with the A's ace Eddie Plank. Plank pitched a decent game, throwing a complete game while giving up just three runs and scattering ten hits. He was on the losing end however, as Mathewson put on an absolute clinic, allowing just four hits—all in different innings—while striking out six and not allowing a single run.

Mathewson then started--on two days' rest--Game Three for the Giants, again at
Columbia Park. And again the A's starter pitched well; this time it was Andy Coakley who allowed just three Giant runs across nine innings. But once again the A's starter was on the losing side as Mathewson was even better than in Game One, once again shutting out the A's and allowing just four hits, but this time striking out eight. Mathewson had thrown then, two shutouts allowing just nine baserunners (he walked a man in Game Three) while striking out fourteen and allowing no runs.

The Giants' won Game Four and manager John McGraw would ask Mathewson to come back and pitch the potential clinching game on one days’ rest. Mathewson was facing a third A's opposing pitcher, Charles "Chief" Bender. Bender had won Game Two for the A's and once again pitched well, allowing just two runs. However, Mathewson was again even better, throwing his third shutout of the series, allowing just five hits as the Giants wrapped up the title.

Mathewson's final line was a mind-blowing three games started, twenty-seven innings pitched, fourteen hits and one walk allowed (that's an average of under five baserunners per nine innings) while striking out eighteen. Mathewson’s strikeout to walk ratio was an astounding eighteen-to-one, and he did so while striking out more men than he allowed to reach base. He won three games of a five game series--seventy-five percent of his team's victories--all in starts. There have been some exceptional post-season pitching performances since then. But if you ask me, Mathewson still reigns supreme.

Friday, October 07, 2005

October 7th, 1932

Bud Daley Born

Most people, I think, know the story of Jim Abbott. Abbott was born with only one-hand but overcame that to go straight from pitching at the University of Michigan to pitching for the Angels and would go on to pitch a no-hitter for the Yankees. Bud Daley, born today, was the Jim Abbott of his generation. Daley contracted polio as a child, and while he retained most of his physical capabilities, Daley's natural throwing arm--the right--ended up growing distinctly shorter than his left.

Undeterred, Daley taught himself to throw left handed. He made his Major League Debut in 1955 for the Indians, and put on a generally unimpressive show, posting ERAs over six his two first years. He was traded to the
Kansas City A's before the 1958 season and had another unimpressive year before becoming the A's de-facto ace in 1959 and 1960. Both years he led the team in victories, with sixteen, and made the All-Star team.

In the midst of the 1961 season, Daley was traded to the New York Yankees and would finally have his moment. Although he was largely forgettable for
New York the rest of the season (8-9, 3.96) Daley and his roundhouse curve put on a show in the World Series. He appeared in just two games, but pitched a total of seven innings, allowing only five hits and no runs. Daley also won the victory in the Yankees' clinching game, coming in for ineffective starter Ralph Terry and going the rest of the way.

Daley was again mediocre for the Yankees in 1962, and appeared in just one World Series game that year, although he did pitch a scoreless inning. Daley pitched again for the Yankees in '63 and '64 but never again found the form that had treated him so well in the World Series.

Despite that, it should take nothing away from Daley, a man who overcame a seemingly crippling--in so far as a baseball career is concerned--injury to succeed on baseball's biggest stage for its most famous team. We should all be so lucky.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

October 6th, 1966

Archi Cianfrocco Born

As you might guess from his name Angelo Dominic "Archi" Cianfrocco was born in Rome. But no, not that Rome. Archi was born in this Rome, in beautiful upstate New York. That isn't to take anything away from Archi. He had a seven year career with the Expos and Padres, and altough Archi never hit much (.241 lifetime) he hung around--and made more than one and a half million dollars over those seven years--by playing quite literally, every position. While Archi never appeared on the hill, given he has at least one game everywhere else, I don't doubt he would've given it a go to the best of his ability. In fact, if I'm not mistaken "Cianfrocco" is Italian for "utility man."

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

October 5th, 1996

Yankees Defeat Rangers in ALDS

This was the final game of a four game series between the Rangers and Yanks. The Rangers took Game One at Yankee Stadium--they crushed David Cone to the tune of eight hits and six runs in six innings--but blew a two-run lead in the final innings of Game Two and quite literally threw the game away in the twelfth when a throwing error allowed the winning run to score. The Rangers' bullpen again blew a lead in Games Three and Four allowing the Yankees to take the series.

The failures of the Rangers' pen cost them the series, but the real story concerned a pair of players: Bernie Williams and Juan Gonzalez. Williams had a scorching series, hitting .467/.500/1.067, with seven hits (three homers), five runs scored and a pair of walks. Amazingly however, he was not the best hitting Puerto Rican outfielder in the series. That honor belonged to Gonzalez who put up a .438/.526/1.375, featuring an amazing five homers out of seven hits, nine RBI (more than half the Rangers' total for the series) and three walks.

It was all for naught for Gonzalez, while Bernie Williams would go on to the first of his four (to this point) World Series. But for four games in October a pair of
Caribbean outfielders put on a hitting display.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

October 4th, 1961

Billy Hatcher Turns One

That may seem an obscure choice, the traditional heading after all, is "John Smith Born" rather than a particular birthday, especially a first birthday. However, October Fourth 1961 and Billy Hatcher have something in common, a distant link that ultimately goes back to baseball's greatest player, Babe Ruth.

This date in 1961 marked the beginning of the 1961 World Series. It pitted the New York Yankees (of course) against the Cincinnati Reds. The Yankees opening day starter was Whitey Ford. Reds' starter Jim O'Toole pitched well--allowing just two runs over seven innings to the M&M Boys' Yankees-- but Ford pitched brilliantly, pitching a shutout. This was Ford's third straight postseason start without allowing a run, stretching back to the 1960 World Series. This meant Ford had now reached twenty-seven scoreless innings; his next start would come on
October 8th, 1961. On that day, Ford would leave in the sixth with a shutout, before leaving due to an ankle problem. That nonetheless putting his streak at thirty-two straight scoreless innings. (The streak would extend another inning to thirty-three and stand until another Yankee, Mariano Rivera broke it.) The previous record holder was Babe Ruth, which is how our one-year old birthday boy comes into play.

As time has gone on, Babe Ruth has lost many records, and Billy Hatcher broke another. In the 1990 World Series, Hatcher opened the Series going 7-for-7 (that tied a record) and finished the Reds' four game sweep with a .750 batting average, nine for twelve. That broke another one of the Babe's one-time records: highest batting average in a four-game series.

So, as one of the Babe's records--a pitcher one no less--came closer to falling, a man who would eventually take another was celebrating birthday number one. It's a funny world.

Monday, October 03, 2005

October 3rd, 1993

Arlington Stadium Dies

Arlington Stadium, which saw its last game today, is hardly thought of as one of the great stadiums in history. It was hot--virtually all games had to be played in the evening--and originally constructed as a minor league ballpark named "Turnpike Stadium." However, Arlington can at least claim to have shared a quality with two of the great stadiums in history: Dodger Stadium and the Roman Coliseum. The feature is a quirk of all three stadiums, to wit, their playing surface is actually below the entrance. As this photo--towards the left--demonstrates, fans at Arlington Stadium entered at the second seating bowl, well above the typical entrance.

However redeeming and interesting this feature was, it was not enough to save Arlington Stadium, and it was replaced with the park now known as Ameriquest Field in Arlington, a bizarre mishmash of style, including nook-and-crannies supposed to invoke Ebbets' Field, a mini Green Monster in left field and overhanging tiers in right field in the style of Tiger Stadium.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

October 2nd, 2000

Jack McKeon Fired

I have done, in the past, something about the wisdom of having hired "Trader" Jack McKeon. Seeing as how McKeon appears a sure thing to be fired in this off-season, it seems worthy of observing what happened to the last team that canned McKeon. Jack took over the Cincinnati Reds in the midst of the 1997 season, taking over for Ray Knight. Manning the helm of a team that had posted a .434 winning percentage under Knight in the season's first ninety-nine games, McKeon took over and led them to a .524 record over the last sixty-three.

The next season McKeon was unable to maintain his success as the team dropped down to 77-85, but in 1999, boosted by the acquisition of Greg Vaughn McKeon managed the team to a 96-67 record. The especially mathematical among you might have noticed that adds up to 163 games. No typo, the reason is that the Mets and Reds finished with identical 96-66 records and required a one-game playoff for the Wild Card. Despite being played at
Cincinnati's Cinergy Field, Al Leiter shut out the Reds and they fell one game short of the playoffs.

Vaughn left for the Devil Rays after the '99 season but boosted by the addition of Ken Griffey, Jr. the Reds won eighty-five games and finished second in their division for their second straight season. Despite this, the Reds fired McKeon, replaced him with Bob Boone.

Since then, the Reds have never won more than seventy-eight games, and have gone through four managers: Boone, Ray Knight (again), Dave Miley and current skipper Jerry Narron. In that time, McKeon has let the Marlins to a World Series and three straight seasons of .500 or better. This is not so say the Marlins are making the wrong choice in firing McKeon--he seems to have lost the clubhouse--but the Marlins should do all they can to make sure they don't go down the same path as the last time to rid themselves of Trader Jack.

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