Saturday, October 15, 2005

October 15th, 1988

A's Play at Dodgers

This is a tough day to decide what to do, as it features two hugely famous playoff games, but having just done a marathon yesterday, I'll do the game which is famous for one moment, rather than for its length. This game of course, is the Kirk Gibson Game, in which Gibson, who had both a left hamstring and right knee injury, was called upon by Dodgers' managed Tommy Lasorda to face Dennis Eckersley. The situation could not have been bigger for a Game One, the Dodgers were down a run in the ninth inning with two outs and facing "The Eck" who had been excellent (2.35, 45 saves) for the A's that year. Gibson however, came up big driving a home run to right field to win the game for the Dodgers as Vin Scully declared that "in a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!"

Gibson wouldn't appear in the Series again, but his Dodgers triumphed in five games, giving them their last (to this point) World Series victory and one of baseball's all time great moments.

Friday, October 14, 2005

October 14th, 1988

Vic Raschi Dies

Vic Raschi, nicknamed "The Springfield Rifle" for his place of birth and trademark pitch, a blazing eye-high fastball, was a fairly effective pitcher for the Yankees in the late 40s and early 50s. He has the distinction of having appeared in six World Series and coming out of every one with a ring (and bonus share), a pretty neat trick.

Raschi's best World Series was also the best of the decade: the Yankees' 1952 victory in seven games over the Brooklyn Dodgers. As Bill James as observed, it's often overlooked by the middle three, 1954 when Willie Mays made "The Catch," 1955 when the Brooklyn Dodgers finally reached "next year" and 1956 when Don Larsen achieved perfection. However, in terms of exciting, close games the 1952 Series is hard to top. It went the full seven and all but one of the games was decided by two runs or less.

The Series opened at Ebbets Field with Yankees' ace Allie Reynolds (20-8, 2.06) facing Dodgers' #1 Joe Black (15-4, 2.15). Jackie Robinson opened the scoring with a second inning home run but Black quickly gave the lead back with a third inning shot off the bat of Gil McDougald. The game remained tied until the sixth when, with two outs, a Pee Wee Reese single and Duke Snider home run put the Dodgers up by a pair of runs. The Yankees rallied for a run in the eighth however, on the back of pinch-hitter Gene Wooding's triple and Yogi Berra's sac fly. However, new Yankees' pitcher Ray Scarborough gave the run back in the Dodgers' half of the eighth and Black set the Yankees down in order, finishing up his complete game and securing the Dodgers' victory.

Game Two was the Series' only stinker as the Yankees exploded for five runs in the sixth inning and Raschi topped Black's performance throwing a complete game of his own but allowing just one run on three hits. Game Three shifted to Yankee Stadium and shifted back to drama. The Yankees opened the scoring with a mini-rally when pitching Eddie Lopat singled in Hank Bauer, but the Dodgers evened things up in the third when Carl Furillo doubled, a Reese bunt single moved him to third and Robinson drove him in with a sac fly. The Dodgers got another run in the fifth when Reese (who if you've not noticed by now, had a scorching series, hitting .345 with four runs scored, four driven in and a homer) singled home Billy Cox. In the eighth the Dodgers' added to their lead with back-to-back singles by Robinson and Roy Campanella and a sac fly by Andy Pafko. The Yankees cut the gap to one in the bottom of the eighth however on a Yogi Berra home run. Once again the Yankees couldn't keep the gap to one as the Dodgers scored score two in the top of the ninth. The Yankees got a pinch-hit home from Johnny Mize in the bottom of the ninth but it was not enough and they fell two-games-to-one behind the Brooklynites.

The Yankees bounced back in Game Four as aces Black and Reynolds once again faced off. This time Reynolds had the upper hand, throwing a shutout while striking out ten and allowing just four hits. Reynolds was aided when Pafko was caught stealing home after the Yankees called a pitch out on a suicide squeeze attempt. Some reports say Billy Martin had stolen the Dodgers' squeeze sign and relayed it to catcher Berra. Black didn't pitch badly in his own right; he gave up a home run to Mize in the fourth and left in the eighth for a pinch-hitter down a run. Mantle tripled and scored on an error by Reese and Reynolds put the Dodgers away the ninth to tie the series.

Game Five was the best of the series, and probably one of the great World Series games of all time. The Dodgers grabbed an early lead off Ewell Blackwell (great name, by the way) and scored three more in the fifth on a Reese sac fly and a Duke Snider two-run home run. Down four, the Yankees rallied to score five in their half of the fifth, capped by Mize's three-run home run, his third in three games. Mize's three home runs in fifteen series at-bats nearly equaled the four he hit in one hundred thirty-seven regular season trips to the plate. With Johnny Sain in, the Yankees couldn't hold lead as a Snider drove in his third run of the game to tie it at five. The game remained tied all the way into the eleventh when Snider finally broke the tie with a RBI double, his fourth RBI of the game. Incredibly, in the Yankees' half of the eleventh Mize again launched what looked like a sure home run but Furillo made a leaping catch and kept the ball in the park. Berra then struck out swinging and the Dodgers returned to
Brooklyn needing just one win to win take home the title.

With their backs against the wall, the Yankees turned to Raschi while the Dodgers countered with Billy Loes. The game was tied until the sixth when Snider homered (his third of the series) putting the Dodgers up a run and just nine outs away from a World Championship. However, as Berra led off the seventh with a home run and with two outs Raschi drove in the go-ahead run. The Yankees added an insurance run in the eighth when Mantle homered which would prove crucial when Snider hit his second home run of the game and fourth of the series. After a George Shuba double, Yankees' manager Casey Stengel pulled Raschi for Reynolds, coming in one day's rest. He quashed the rally in the eighth and put the Dodgers down in order in the ninth, earning the save.

The series came down to Game Seven, Stengel went with Eddie Lopat who had given up five runs in eight and a third innings in Game Three while Dodgers' manager Charlie Dressen countered with Joe Black on two days' rest. The Yankees struck first, scoring a run in the fourth but the Dodgers answered back with a run in their half, prompting Stengel to bring in Reynolds who was now pitching in his third game in four days. Gene Wooding homered in the top of the fifth but the Dodgers' answered back with a Reese RBI single. Mickey Mantle homered in the sixth to reclaim the lead for the Yankees and drove in an insurance run in the seventh. With the Yankees now the same nine outs away from a title that Brooklyn had been the day before, the Dodgers staged a rally as Raschi entered the game but was ineffective, loading the bases with just one out. Stengel then called on Bob Kuzava to come into the game and face Duke Snider and Jackie Robinson. I suppose a modern equivalent would be if Phil Garner called upon Russ Springer to face Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds in Game Seven of this year's NLCS. However, Kuzava got Snider to pop out to McDougald at third. With two outs, Robinson hit a pop-up near the mound which froze the Yankee infield. Billy Martin came charging in from second base and made the catch, video of which can be seen here, at the bottom of the page. The Dodgers got a man on in the eighth on McDougald's fourth error of the series but Kuzava pitched around it and after a scoreless ninth the Yankees were again Champions.

Despite his struggles in Game Seven, Raschi was the Yankees' most effective pitcher behind Reynolds and probably also the second best pitcher in the series. Reynolds and Raschi combined to pitch nearly sixty percent of the Yankees' World Series innings while giving up just seven runs. The Yankees needed every inning the pair threw, it was Raschi's best playoff performance ever, and he couldn't have picked a better year to do it.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

October 13th, 1981

Frank Howard Fired

Truth be told, "Hondo" probably deserved it. The Pads finished 41-69 in the strike-shortened 1981 season, which would've amounted to a hundred losses in a full season. Howard had only been the manager for a year, so maybe he should've gotten another shot but then, Howard was underwhelming as a substitute manager for the Mets in 1983. So who knows? Maybe he'll get another try somewhere in the future.

The real thing about the story which interested me however, is how you could ever fire Frank Howard. Have you ever seen Frank Howard? He's generally listed at 6'7", 255 lb., but seeing the numbers on screen doesn't do it justice. Even photos, don't really give an idea of how big Howard is. He's just a huge man. So how did Jack McKeon--the Pads' GM at the time and not exactly a big guy--ever manage to sit behind a desk and tell Hondo, that his services were no longer needed? Must be a brave guy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

October 12th, 1989

Joe Foy Dies

Every team has a notorious bad trade, that one really awful deal. The Red Sox' was selling Babe Ruth, the Expos' was trading Randy Johnson and for the Mets it was dealing Nolan Ryan. However, while every team has one notorious bad trade, all teams have moves which are perhaps not quite as bad, but still pretty awful. For the Mets, Joe Foy was the player they acquired in what might still be the second worst trade in franchise history, when he was traded for Amos Otis.

Otis had not impressed the Mets in his two seasons with the team, hitting just .177 in around one hundred fifty at-bats over the 1967 and 1969 seasons, and although Otis was just twenty-three, the Mets decided to send him to the Royals for Joe Foy. Foy was an average hitting infielder who had his best years at the beginning of his career with
Boston in the mid-60s but had never slugged .400 outside of Fenway Park.

Suffice to say, the trade was an almost instant disaster for the Mets. Foy took over the hot corner from Wayne Garrett and while he hit better than Garrett had, the Mets as a whole slumped from the "Miracle Mets" one hundred wins and a World Series victory to just eighty-three and third place. Otis meanwhile had a great year for the Royals in
Kansas City, making the All-Star team, while stealing thirty-three bases (against just two CS) and leading the league in doubles. Otis was even better in 1971, making the All-Star team again, winning a Gold Glove, hitting .301 (sixth in the league) and finishing eighth in the MVP vote. Meanwhile, by 1971 Foy was gone from the Mets, who lost him to the Washington Senators in the Rule V draft 1970-71 off season. And Foy was out of baseball by 1973 when Otis finished third in the MVP vote behind Reggie Jackson and Jim Palmer.

Otis was to continue to have a pretty good career for the Royals; by the time he retired (after one aborted season with the Pirates, the rest of his career was a Royal) Otis had won three Gold Gloves, gone to the All-Star game five times, stolen more than twenty-five bases five times and helped the Royals reach the playoffs five times, including one trip to the World Series. Foy meanwhile, had been out of baseball for more than a decade by the time Otis' career had ended.

It might not have been giving up Nolan Ryan, but as second worse trades in franchise history go, Amos Otis for Joe Foy is a pretty bad one.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

October 11th, "1969"

Orlando Hernandez Born

That's El Duque's story, and he's sticking to it. And he doesn't know anything about that photo of him and Che shaking hands. Today is, officially, Hernandez's thirty-sixth birthday, although some (including would tell you that the next time El Duque takes the hill he'll actually be over the hill, a fact which is probably closer to the truth. But really, who cares? Whatever age he is, as Game Three of the ALDS demonstrated, El Duque can still come through in the clutch, a trick he perfected for the Yankees. A case could be made, actually, that Duque pitched, and pitched brilliantly, the most crucial game of the entire season for the 1998 Yankees, the Greatest Team of All Time: ALCS Game Four.

The Yankees regular season legacy was complete, but without a World Series title, they would be doomed to the 1954 Indians Scrap bin of History (since renamed the "2001 Mariners Scrap bin of History"). The Yankees had swept
Texas in the ALDS and won Game One easily, shelling then-nemesis and now-teammate Jaret Wright for five runs in two-thirds of an inning. However, they would blow Game Two with major help from Chuck Knoblauch's infamous gaffe and Andy Pettitte was ineffective in Game Three. The Yankees were down two games to one and pitching El Duque who hadn't throw an inning in more than two weeks and had never appeared in the post-season.

El Duque was masterful however, pitching seven shutout innings against a
Cleveland team that averaged five and a quarter runs a game. The Yankees' playoff run having been reinvigorated, they wouldn't lose a game the rest of the way, winning the next two from Cleveland and sweeping the Padres in the World Series. El Duque would go on to pitch brilliantly for the Yankees in the playoffs in 1999--he was MVP of the ALCS that year--and with his heroics in Game Three for the White Sox he has now reduced his post-season ERA to a sparkling 2.57.

So Happy Birthday Orlando, however old you are, and thanks for the memories.

Monday, October 10, 2005

October 10th, 1992

Mike Illitch Buys Detroit Tigers

Illitch hasn't exactly won himself a lot of support in Detroit, given the Tigers' best record in the years he's owned them was the 85-77 record they posted in 1993. Since then the team has finished under five hundred every year and thrice lost over one hundred games, including the hugely embarrassing 2003 season when the Tigers lost one-hundred nineteen games. Of course, the Red Wings--also owned by Illitch--have won four Stanley Cups in his tenure so maybe he's hoping to keep the people in Detroit distracted with hockey. Well, that and big tiger statues.

The reason this story caught my eye, however, was the nature of the sale. Illitch, as you may or may not know, made his fortune through the Little Caesar's pizza chain. His pizza money was used to buy the team from Tom Monaghan. Monaghan, who had bought the team in 1983, made his fortune from the Dominos pizza chain. I'll resist some joke here about how for the last two decades the Tigers owners have always had a lot of dough, but I'm guessing the Tigers are the first team to ever have a pizza magnate ownership dynasty.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

October 9th, 1940

Joe Pepitone Born

Given that many of the finest television shows of our era have resorted to the Clip Show format, I suppose I can do it myself. Today we harken back to some of the highlights of this year by celebrating a trio of birthdays. The titular birthday boy is Joe Pepitone, whose various (mis) adventures I wrote about back in August. The second birthday is of someone I have spent a considerable amount of time badmouthing, but finally explained, the Worst Pitcher in the Hall of Fame, Rube Marquard. And finally, someone I wrote away waaay back in January, when I still had the original (rather unpleasant, truth be told) format, one of the hardest men in the Major Leagues ever to strike out, Joe Sewell.

So there's your clip show, but fear not, we'll return to original programming soon.

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