Tuesday, September 30, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Tommy Thevenow hit two regular season home runs in 1926. Then he hit another in that year's Fall Classic. Those three would prove to be the only longballs of his MLB career! So the St. Louis Cardinals of '26 were getting power from the player you'd expect the least to do it!

Tommy wasn't much of a threat at the dish as he hit just .247 lifetime, so this has got to be one of the least likely World Series home runs ever.

It was in game two vs. the New York Yankees. I guess the fact that it came against a team that had Babe Ruth made it seem all the more unlikely. The Babe and his 'mates had taken game one, at home, 2-1. But Ruth did not go deep.

In game two, it was the Yankees' Urban Shocker and the Cardinals' Grover Cleveland Alexander. Thevenow got a single in the top of the second, but was subsequently stranded by the Cards. New York made 'em pay for that when they scored twice in the bottom of the frame. When you miss, the other team doesn't. It just seems like that in the Fall Classic!

But St. Louis came back with a pair of their own in the top of the third, in this most important game. And Alexander settled down. For a while, though, Shocker matched him.

In the top of the eighth, St. Louis pulled ahead. Thevenow singled a runner to third. Then, with two on and two outs, Billy Southworth proved his worth by belting a three-run home run. It must have shocked Shocker and the Yankees! Suddenly, it was 5-2, St. Louis.

However, there was still our boy's moment right? That came in the top of the ninth. You have Ruth and Lou Gehrig on New York, so a comeback isn't out of the question at this stage of the game. St. Louis would need more. And they got it.

New York had a new pitcher on the hill. Sad Sam Jones. Thevenow came up with the bases empty and one out. He hit a fly to right that dropped in despite Babe Ruth's best effort. Tommy raced around the bases and beat The Babe's throw home. It was the last run of the game. Ruth himself was the second last out of the game.

The World Series is like that sometimes. You have great sluggers who fail to go yard. And then you have someone who has no right to hit a home run, even an inside-the-park one. Thevenow went on to play exactly 1000 more games in the regular season, and even seven most games in the Fall Classic without ever hitting another home run! The Babe would hit three home runs alone in game four of this clash!

But that is what makes the Fall Classic so fun to watch! Imagine today, in the social media age. How would you hastag it? Here's how I would:

#TheBabe fails to #goyard and #Thevenow #does!

Monday, September 29, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Bill Mazeroski won the 1960 Fall Classic with a walk off home run in the seventh game. You knew that! But did you also know, that wasn't his only home run in that Series?

Game one of '60 was in Pittsburgh, where the underdog Pirates must have been expecting the worst. Here they were, in from of their fans, and ready to feel the wrath of the New York Yankees. The M and M Boys (Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle) had 79 home runs to their name that year alone. That, to go along with some other guys who knew how to leave the park, must have sent shudders down the Bucks back

But, of course, the Pirates did have guys like Roberto Clemente, Dick Groat, Bob Skinner, and Mazeroski with the sticks, right?

So in game one in Pittsburgh, it was Roger Maris that got things going as expected with a solo home run in the top of the first. Right off the bat, it seemed, it was the Yankees showing the Pirates that they were not in New Yorkès league.

But, if you can believe it, Pittsburgh came back in the bottom of the frame with RBIs from Groat, Skinner and Clemente! It was 3-1 Pirates. Now that was a lift that was needed! But, you had to think Pittsburgh needed more touches of home!

In the top of the fourth, the Bronx Bombers struck back. Maris struck the match again, leading off with a single. Vernon Law, the Pirates' starter, pitched carefully to Mickey Mantle. Too carefully. Vernon walked him. Yogi Berra flied out, but the swift Maris took third. When Moose Skowron singled, it was only a one-run game and only one out. Law managed to get out of there. But more offence was really needed now!

Here's where Mazeroski helped. With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Don Hoak walked. Maz stepped in and smacked a two-run home run to put Pittsburgh up by three, 5-2. Law was then hit by a pitch, but the next two batters were retired.

Pittsburgh did not need anything more from the bats in this game one. They did add another tally in bottom of the sixth to make it 6-2. The Yankees didn't exactly go quietly in the top of the ninth. Elston Howard crashed a surprising two-run home run off Elroy Face to cut it to 6-4. The next batter, Tony Kubek, then got a single to bring the tying run to the dish with only one out. But Hector Lopez grounded into a game-ending double play. The Pittsburgh Pirates had drawn first blood in the 1960 Fall Classic. And they went on to win.

The Pirates already had the lead in this game, unlike game seven, when Bill Mazeroski delivered the long ball. But think about a situation like this, the first game, great opposition, tight game, the list goes on. You need the big hit to make you believe. Maz did just that. His home run put the game out of reach. The Yankees, with their time-honoured tradition of October success, were not about to be an easy push overs. Here, the Pirates had to think sweep (New York had done just that to Pittsburgh in 1927, the Pirates last Fall Classic appearance prior to this) was the likely outcome. They overcame that fear with this win, and it was their slick-fielding second basemen that delivered the unlikely knockout blow!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Sandy Koufax retired the first twelve batters he faced in the Fall Classic. It may have been a pre-prime Sandy, but the lefty was really bringing it.

Well, why shouldn't he not have had it? Did he not strike out 18 Giants on August 31, 1959 to tie a record set by Bob Feller? Had he not fanned 16 batters earlier in the season on June 22nd? Had he not fanned 173 batters in only 153 1/3 innings of work that season? Lot of promise being shown here!

But the World Series is on centre stage. And you have to be ready. Certainly, Koufax's 1959 Dodgers were not ready for the Chicago White Sox in game one. There, in Chicago, it was 11-0 White Sox by the bottom of the fourth.

But it would be Sandy was on the mound as the next inning began.

He stated off by getting Jim Rivera out on a fly to Jimmy position in right field. Then, he fanned Early Wynn, his mound adversary. Sandy closed out the inning by getting Luis Aparicio out on a liner to left.

The next inning was even easier for Koufax. Nellie Fox got it to the outfield. But the next two batters, Jim Landis and Ted Kluszewksi, could not even get the ball out of the infield. Sandy's day was over, as the White Sox were 0-6 against him. But, far more importantly, Chicago won this game in a rout, 11-0.

Sandy didn't see any more action until game five. This time, he was the Dodgers' starter. And he came out smoking. Los Angeles was at home, having won the next three games. They were looking to close this thing out!

Not even missing the strike zone, Aparicio started the game by going down on three pitches. On the last of these, Luis never got the bat off the shoulder! Then, Nellie Fox popped out to Maury Wills at short. When Jim Landis became Sandy's second K of the inning, it was apparent that Koufax had it on this day. He had not missed the plate yet at this point.

In the top of the second inning, it was more of the same. Sherman Lollar grounded out to Jim Gilliam at third. Ted Kluszewski could only get it to short left. When Al Smith was retired, and again it was a fly ball to left, the inning was over. Sandy Koufax had started his World Series portion of his career by retiring twelve straight batters.

Bubba Phillips snapped the streak in the top of the third by stroking a single. Chicago, to their credit, got another hit that inning but were unable to score. They did, however, manage to beat Koufax, 1-0 to send it back to the Windy City for game six. There, it was Los Angeles winning it all, 9-3.

Koufax did not pitch in game six, so his World Series contributions were two innings in game one and seven innings in game five. However, by getting the first twelve batters to face him, notice had certainly been served to look out for this talented but wild lefty. For when he had control, he was a man to fear. And when he found it for good in 1961, we saw six seasons of almost unparralled pitching greatness!

The kind your seeing now from Kershaw!

Monday, September 22, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

There was an Al Smith in the 1959 Fall Classic, and a Hal Smith in the 1960 showdown. Each was involved in a memorable play, for good measure.

The Al was with the Chicago White Sox of 1959. And in game one of that year's World Series against Los Angeles, all Smith did was go 2-4 with a run scored. The Go-Go White Sox, at home, really took it to the Dodgers. They won 11-0. It was in game two were his moment came.

In game two Chicago started out strong again. And again their pitching was good. Bob Shaw held the Dodgers to no runs through four innings. The Sox scored twice in the bottom of the first. Smith, for his part, reached on an error and walked in his first two trips.

But in the top of the fifth, the Dodgers finally touched home. And it was a beauty of a way! With two down and the bases empty, Charlie Neal launched a ball to left, which happened to be Smith's position.

The ball landed in the stands and it was 2-1. But hardly anyone watching the game took notice, except in that area of the park. The ball's descent into the stands causes fans to stop what they are doing. Their eyes dart for the prize. As does their legs. Their arms make a stab and grab. And in doing so, one fan knocked over a cup of beer.

The beer can feel deposited its contents onto the field, right in Smith's territory. And Al, with his back to the wall, didn't see it coming. Well, Smith wasn't on fire, but he sure got doused!

The White Sox fell behind 4-2, but then Smith nearly tied it. Two men were on and nobody was out when he lashed a double. A run scored and Sherman Lollar tried to make it a 4-4 game. But he was gunned out at home. Smith made it to third on the play, meaning a single or fly ball would tie it. But Billy Goodman, sent up to pinch hit, fanned. Jim Rivera then fouled out. Chicago lost the game, 4-3.

The Los Angeles Dodgers ultimatly ended up winning the 1959 World Series, four games to two. Al Smith finished up at .250 with one RBI. But he added four walks. And one beer to the face!

The next year, another Smith, but with the first name of Hal, had his longball trumped. That happened to be by Bill Mazeroski. But you can't spell "Mazeroski" without spelling out "zero" right? But for Smith, Maz's home run would have been worth zero!

Smith, who was a catcher and third baseman, didn't look like he'd do much at all in the 1960 Fall Classic. When his turn came to finally get into a game, it was the third tilt. And against New York Yankee ace Whitey Ford, he went 0-3 as the Pittsburgh Pirates lost, 10-0. A 2-4 performance in game six meant little, as Ford won again, 12-0.

So it was on to game seven, and New York roared back from 4-0 to take a 7-4 lead into the bottom of the eighth. Here's where Hal and hit mates needed to do something at home, or it would be another World Series triumph for New York. They needed some luck. And they got it.

With one on and one out, what looked like a double play ball turned out to be a hit. A bouncer off the bat of Bill Virdon hit a pebble that had been knocked around by some baserunner earlier in the game. The ball bounced up and hit Tony Kubek in the throat. This led to a huge opening. While another single by Dick Groat made it 7-5, New York, the next two batters were retired without a single runner going anywhere!

But Roberto Clemente got an infield single to not only keep the inning alive, but also score another run. Here, Hal Smith, was at the dish. He had been inserted in the top of the frame behind the dish. Sadly, for him, New York scored twice. Here, he was trying to do something about that.

And he did! Launching a Jim Coates offering out of the park to left, it was suddenly the underdog Pirates with the lead, 9-7. Three more outs now, and it would be Pittsburgh with the World Championship!

It was not to be, at least in the top of the ninth. Mickey Mantle drove in a run to make it 9-8. Then, a fine baserunning play by The Mick on a Yogi Berra roller to first, and the game was tied, at 9! The Pirates went on to win on a home run by Mazerkoski in the bottom of the frame, which made everyone forget about Hal Smith's blast! But would Pittsburgh have been in any position to do that without Hal? I think not!

Smith, one of the most common names in the world, was not going to be remembered when we think of the 1959 or '60 Fall Classic. But whether it's getting a face-full of beer or swinging the game in your team's favour, both Smith's provided moments that should not be forgotten by the baseball fan who seeks humour or drama in the month of October. The Fall Classic has always been fourtunate in the sense that it never lacks in entertainment value!

Friday, September 19, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Sandy Koufax faced Luis Aparicio in his first and last World Series game!

Sandy was still working his way up the latter of the better pitchers on the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1959, but he was there as they faced the Chicago White Sox in the World Series that year. But game one was all Chicago.

The Sox, at home, raced out to an 11-0 lead by the end of the fourth. Clem Labine got Los Angeles out of there without any more damage, but then had to leave for a pinch hitter. Koufax came in to the game in the bottom of the fifth. With two down, up stepped Aparicio. Aparicio made contact with the ball, but was out on a liner to left. Sandy finished a 1-2-3 inning! Koufax also had a 1-2-3 sixth before departing for a pinch hitter. Chicago did not score again, but Los Angeles ended up being shutout!

Aparicio did better in game five. He went 2-3 off Koufax before Sandy was removed again for a pinch hitter. Sandy allowed just one run, but it proved to be one run too many. Chicago won the game 1-0. In game six, Los Angeles won 9-3 to win the Fall Classic, four games to two.

Sandy, in his last season in 1966, made it back to the World Series to face the Baltimore Orioles. Sandy was on the hill in game two to face an O's team that had Aparicio batting in the leadoff spot.

The game, at home for Los Angeles, turned out to be one-sided for Baltimore. You wouldn't have seen that coming with Koufax on the hill. Aparicio greeted him with a leadoff single. That made him 3-5 lifetime in the Fall Classic vs. Koufax. But he was stranded. Koufax got Luis in the top of the fourth, and the game was scoreless at this point.

But in the top of the fifth, the Dodgers imploded on themselves.

Boog Powell lead it off with a single to left. With one out, Paul Blair reached on Willie Davis' error in centre. When Andy Etchebarren reached on another Davis' error, things looked bad. For good measure, on the same play, Davis made a throwing error. Willie was having a bad day. His mistakes had Baltimore out in front of the immortal Koufax 2-0.

Koufax got his mound oppoent, Jim Palmer, on strikes. But here is where Luis Aparicio put another nail in Koufax's and the Dodgers' coffin. He doubled to left to knoch in Etchebarren. 3-0, Baltimore.

The Orioles scored another run of Koufax in the top of the sixth before Sandy was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the frame. As for Aparicio, he must have been sad to see Sandy go as he was retired in his next two trips to the plate. Baltimore didn't seem too concerned as they went on to win, 6-0. The great Koufax had pitched his last game.

The Orioles won the next two games by one run, and had a surprising sweep. Aparicio never made it back to the World Series, so this was it for him, too, on the big stage.

In so many of these World Series', you have the pitcher that changed the game. Then, in other World Series, you have batters that changed the game. Sandy Koufax took pitching to the next level with all those strikeouts. Luis Aparicio helped bring speed back to the game with all those steals. The 1959 White Sox were known as the Go-Go White Sox because of their speed. Koufax and Don Drysdale went out and won games single-handily for the Dodgers. In a contest between Koufax, the man tremendous speed on the pitches, and Luis Aparicio, the man with some daring speed on the basepaths, it seems fitting that they broke even against each other.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The St. Louis Cardinals stole three bases in the 1964 Fall Classic. But none were by Lou Brock. The fleet-footed outfielder made his presence felt in other ways with his speed. Yet he failed to pilfer a single base. Even his own catcher did the trick!

Brock singled in the bottom of the first inning of game one, at home. Then he went from first to third on a single. A fly ball to Mickey Mantle in right by Ken Boyer scored him. Well, that's gotta be some speed right there, right? That put St. Louis up 1-0, but they would finish game one without a single stolen base.

Worse, still, it was Kenny's younger brother Clete with a one-out single in the top of the second for New York. The Yankees, having taken the lead on a two-run home run by Tommy Tresh earlier that inning, were looking for more. So with one on, one out, and New York up 2-1, Clete made a break towards second and was save. It proved to be a crucial play, as the next batter was Whitey Ford. The Chairman Of The Board could only single, but with Boyer on second rather than first, New York was up, 3-1. The Cardinals rallied to win, 9-5, but where were their stolen bases in this game? There were none!

The bad news in game two was St. Louis lost. The worse news was they again failed to steal a base. The good news was, New York failed to make a swipe! Dick Groat, not very fast, hit a ball past Hector Lopez (inserted for The Mick) in the bottom of the ninth to end up on third. The triple helped St. Louis score a run in that inning. But New York won this won easily, 8-3. It was off to New York for games three, four and five.

In game three, it was Dick Groat with another extra-base hit, a double that was stranded in the top of the sixth. However, he was stranded. In the next inning, it was Dal Maxvill with a leadoff double. A bunt moved him to third, but Dal stayed there. St. Louis scored a run when Tim McCarver hit a single to right, made it second as it got by Mantle. He then scored on a single by Curt Simmons the pitcher, which deflected of Clete Boyer's glove at third. That was the Cardinals speed at work. No stolen bases. New York was held to just five hits and no stolen bases. But Mickey Mantle, who also had a double earlier, blasted a tremendous home run in the bottom of the ninth to win it for his team, 2-1.

In game four, St. Louis and New York both got only six hits. In the bottom of the first, it was Phil Linz with a leadoff double to right that was just fair. But foolishly, Phil tried to steal third. McCarver, behind the dish, had him right where he wanted him and fired 'er to Ken Boyer. Linz started back to second, a dead duck. But Boyer slipped and his throw went into centre. A Bobby Richardson double made it 1-0, New York. Roger Maris hit a single. When Mantle followed with a single to right, it was 2-0. Mike Shannon bobbled it and The Mick turned on the jets. Shannon nailed him at second. New York did not attempt to steal any more bases, but Mantle was caught off guard in the bottom of the second. On second after Roger Craig (who came into relieve starter Ray Sadecki) walked him and Elston Howard, Mickey went too far of a lead off the bag. Craig caught him there. St. Louis didn't do much on the basepaths. No stolen bases, doubles or triples. But a Ken Boyer grand slam in the top of the sixth erased a 3-0 Yankee lead and made the Cards 4-3 winners.

Game five was tied at two after nine inning. St. Louis got a stolen base in the top of the tenth. And it helped win the game. Bill White had walked to start the inning. Then Boyer beat out a ball hit to right that no one tried to field. White started towards third as Dick Groat batted. It was too late a break and he headed back to second. That convinced Elston Howard, the Yankee catcher, what to do. He fired towards second, not realizing it had all been a fake. As soon as Elston threw towards the bag at second, White turned on the jets and made it towards third. It was scored a steal. A three-run home run by Tim McCarver won the game for St. Louis, 5-2. The Cardinals had their first stolen base, and it was a dandly, and at such a crucial time.

But in game six back in St. Louis, it was the Yankees that absolutely unloaded on the Cardinals. The game was actually close for a while. A potential New York uprising was foiled in the top of the first. With one out, Bobby Richardson continued his assault on St. Louis pitching (he would finish this Fall Classic with thirteen hits) singled. But Curt Simmons, back for another fine start, fanned both Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.

Simmons carried a 1-0 lead into the top of the 5th. But there, it was Tommy Tresh with a ground-rule double to left. A single by Jim Bouton tied the game. Simmons then gave up back-to-back home runs to Maris and Mantle in the next inning. When Joe Pepitone hit a grand slam in the top of the eighth, this thing was going to a seventh and deciding game. St. Louis did not get any stolen bases, but Lou Brock hit a double. Lou was stranded.

In game seven, two stolen bases may have been the crucial play.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, with St. Louis up 1-0, it was Tim McCarver on third and Mike Shannon on first. Then came a play I love to watch! Shannon broke towards second. When Elston Howard threw there, McCarver broke for home! Timmy beat the throw! Shannon was also save! A double steal! Shannon then trotted home on a single to right by Dal Maxvill!

Brock didn't steal a base in this game, obviously. But he belted reliever Al Downing's first pitch in the bottom of the fifth inning to deep right-centre for a home run. Two more runs scored on a single, a double, a groundout and a sac fly. Man, were the Cards ever scoring in every was possible here! It was also now 6-0 after five.

But Bob Gibson was tiring. And in the top of the sixth, it was Bobby Richardson beating out a roller to second. When Maris singled and Mantle went yard, the lead was cut in half, 6-3.

St. Louis got a little bit more breathing room in the bottom of the seventh as Ken Boyer hit his second home run of the series. But an attempt for more offence in the top of the ninth failed as McCarver tried to score from third on a infield grounder to Clete Boyer at third. There was only one out. The inning ended without a run touching home for St. Louis. And while it was a four-run lead now, Clete hit a solo home run in the top of the ninth to cut it to 7-4. When Phil Linz hit another solo home run with two outs, the lead was down to two, 7-5. Gibby finally got Richardson to end it.

The St. Louis Cardinals may have only stolen three bases, but all three led to the Cards getting a big inning in two crucial games. Speed was returning to the game, and where better to showcase it then in the Fall Classic?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Lou Brock was not on the Cardinals when the 1964 season started.

St. Louis looked to have little hope of making it to the Fall Classic that year as they were on a five-game losing streak in early June. Something changed for the better on June 15th, the day they lost 9-3 to Houston (Houston Colts, btw!). They traded Ernie Broglio, Doug Clemens and Bobby Shantz to Chicago for Lou Brock.

We have the advantage of hindsight in knowing this ended up being a steal for St. Louis. Brock stole many-a-base, right? But at the time Broglio had been pretty good. He won a league-leading 21 games for St. Louis in 1960 and posted an ERA of 2.74 ERA. After going just 9-12 the next season, Ernie turned it around. He was 12-9 in 19621, but his ERA was 3.00. The next year, he brought the ERA down under 3 at 2.99 and went 18-8.

So the guy is 21-9 for a W% of .700 and then three years later he's 18-8 for a .692 W%. Also, remember, in those years, Bob Gibson was sort of in Sandy Koufax's boat: he was getting there, but not quite there, yet!

Gibson went 3-5 as a rookie in 1959 and then was 3-6 in 1960. '61 saw the right-hander go 13-12 with an ERA of 3.24. The next year, Gibby was 15-13 with a 2.85 ERA. Finally, in 1963, he matched Broglio with 18 wins. His ERA was forty points higher, however. 3.39.

Broglio was struggling in 1964 for St. Louis, though. Despite a fine ERA at 3.50, his W-L record was just 3-5. So St. Louis decided to unload him for the speedster. He and Clemens (not Roger Clemens, remember) did little the rest of way in 1964. And then they both did even less the rest of their careers.

Shantz ended up joining the Phillies, who the Cardinals had to later catch to win the flag. All Bobby did was go 1-1 with Philly, post a 2.25 ERA in 14 games (32 IP), and end up winning his eighth straight gold glove award. He retired after 1964.

So Brock was out to make it a steal. Well, he ended up stealing 43 bases in 1964, which did not lead the league. But his 18 times caught stealing did lead the league.

So how did our boy do in the Fall Classic that year? He ended up hitting .300. But he did have some games where you didn't notice him.

However, in game one, New York sure took notice of the fleet-footed leftfielder. The Yankees watched helplessly as Brock scored the first run of the game, and later collected two RBIs to help power the Cardinals to a 9-5 win. But he also had to watch helplessly as Tom Tresh smacked a two-run home run over his head. That longball erased the 1-0 Cardinal lead Brock had provided by touching home in the bottom of the first.

Brock knocked in another run in game two, but it was too late. The Yankees had scored four times against the great Bob Gibson and by the time Brock did the trick, it was the eighth inning and Gibby had been removed for a pinch hitter. Brock's RBI made it a little closer, 4-2, New York. The top of the ninth saw Phil Linz blast a solo home run over Brock's head to restore the three-run bulge. The Bronx Bombers really went away after that and won, 8-3. It was on the Bronx for games three, four and five.

Brock did nothing in game three, and his 0-4 performance brought his batting average to .154. Worse, still, St. Louis lost the game 2-1, and also trailed 2-1 in the series.

Brock had another frustrating game in the fourth tilt. St. Louis had to rally from 3-0 down to win the game 4-3. But Brock went 0-4 and fanned against Ralph Terry in the top of the eighth. St. Louis had tied the Fall Classic, but they needed Lou to do the trick if they were going to pull this thing out!

In game five, Brock did deliver. His single in the top of the fifth scored Bob Gibson. Then, he singled in the top of the seventh. That's as far as he got, however. St. Louis needed ten innings to win this game, 5-2. It was "Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie" for game six.

There, Brock and his mates looked to settle this thing once and for all. But New York, which had given St. Louis all they could handle from the get-go of this series, erupted for another 8-3 win. Brock did go 3-4, raising his average up to .269. But, get this, none of his hits got him an RBI. And, he failed to touch home!

So in game seven, he smacked a home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. St. Louis was up 6-0 by the end of that frame. Mickey Mantle's three-run home run in the top of the sixth soared over Brock's head in left, and cut the lead in half.

Ken Boyer went yard himself as St. Louis had some breathing room again in the bottom of the seventh, 7-3. St. Louis then got runners to second and third with only one in the next inning, as Bob Gibson held the fort. Any more offence did not seem necessary. A fielder's choice by Gibson and a lineout by Curt Flood meant that Brock did not get to bat that inning. Even so, it was 7-3 St. Louis still!

But Ken Boyer's younger brother Clete went yard over Brock's head in left in the ninth. The Yankees were back to within three runs, but down to their last two outs. When Gibson fanned pinch hitter Johnny Blanchard, the Cards seemed safe. But then Phil Linz hit a ball to left that Brock looked like he'd have a chance on. A leap at the last minute...and the ball went over his glove and into the stands. That home run made it a 7-5 game. Gibson retired Bobby Richardson to end that. It had been seven long, tough, games. But it was in the Cards for St. Louis to win.

Lou Brock had started the 1964 season on a team that had never won the World Series since 1908 (and still haven't). He ended up on the team that had won it more than any other National League team. And while this performance was not quite MVP worthy (Bob Gibson actually got it), St. Louis had look back to June 15th of that season, when they were 28-31. They made the trade for one of the greatest leadoff hitters ever. The deal was a risk, as both Broglio and Shantz had proven to be very good pitchers. But Brock was someone who could take over the game with the wheels (and occasional power). With speed returning to the game, his hitting and daring base running were in need by St. Louis many a time in the Fall Classic. And Brock would get better and better with his World Series performances. But that's for another blog!




Monday, September 15, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Dick Groat and Bob Skinner faced the New York Yankees in the 1960 and 1964 Fall Classic. In '60, they were on the Pittsburgh Pirates. In '64 they were teammates on the St. Louis Cardinals.

Groat went 2-4 with an RBI and a run scored in game 1 of the 1960 World Series. Also in that game, Skinner went 1-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Bob also added a stolen base that led to him touching home. Their efforts were rewarded as the Pirates took game one, 6-4. Neither would be as affective again in this Fall Classic. Skinner himself was replaced in left field with Gino Cimoli in the top of the eighth.



Cimoli played the entire second game, and Groat managed just one hit. The Yankees pounded the Pirates into oblivion in this contest, led by Mickey Mantle's two home runs. The final score was 16-3.



The 1960 World Series, which had started in Pittsburgh, now moved to New York. It was more of the same in game three for the Pirates. Another blowout, 10-0 for New York. Groat, facing Whitey Ford, went hitless in four trips to the plate. Skinner watched this one from the clubhouse, and probably thought it would all be over in two more games.



But Pittsburgh took game four, 3-2. The only problem was that Groat was again 0-4 and Skinner took it all in from the dugout.



In game five, the Pirates plundered the Yankees 5-2, behind a fine pitching effort of Harvey Haddix. Groat got his first hit since game one, but it was just that. In going 1-4, he scored a run. But how about our boy Skinner? Nothing doing, is all I can write.



Groat was back in game six back in the state of Pennsylvania. But Whitey Ford started this one, and threw another shutout. And for the third time in this 1960 Fall Classic, it was a Yankee rout. 12-0. Groat picked up another hit, but it took him another four tries. Skinner took it in for the fifth straight game.



Skinner was finally back in the winner-take-all game seven. He walked and scored on Rocky Nelson's home run in the bottom of the first. Pittsburgh went up 4-0 in this game, then fell behind 7-4 by the end of seven and a half.

Groat, though, singled in the bottom of the eighth off Bobby Shantz. Then Skinner moved him and Bill Virdon up with a bunt. The Pirates used that to eventually take the lead. While the Yankees came back to tie it in the top of the ninth, it was Pittsburgh with the 1960 World Series crown as Bill Mazeroski hit a dramatic walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. Pittsburgh had a 10-9, game seven win.



So in 1964, it was Groat and Skinner looking to help another team beat New York.

Groat started game one, against Whitey Ford, in St. Louis. This time, Groat's team managed to beat Ford, 9-5. Groat had a hit and a walk. Neither figured into the scoring. Skinner sat it out.


In game two, St. Louis lost 8-3. Groat again had a hit and a walk. This time, however, he scored a run. Skinner got into the game as a pinch hitter. He matched Groat's production by getting a single. But he was stranded.

In game three in New York, Skinner was almost the hero.

Dick Groat, meanwhile, got a hit. It was a double against New York's Jim Bouton. The Cardinals seemed destined to break a 1-1 deadlock at this point as the loaded the bases. However, they failed to score. In the top of the ninth, with Tim McCarver on second and Carl Warwick on first, Bob Skinner went up to bat for pitcher Curt Simmons, who had more than done his job in this game. It was still tied at one. Skinner got the pitch he wanted, a fastball up in the strike zone. He hammered it to deep centre. Roger Maris went all the way to the warning track before he finally got to this one. So close. Mickey Mantle won the game in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off home run off Barney Schultz.

Groat got one hit in game four. It did not result in St. Louis scoring. However, he reached on an error in the top of the sixth inning. Then, he scored a run on Ken Boyer grand slam home run. That turned a 3-0 Yankee lead into a 4-3 Cardinal advantage. St. Louis ended up winning the game by that score. Skinner did not get to the plate or the field in this contest.

In game five, Skinner watched as Bob Gibson stuck out thirteen Yankees. But the contest was tied at two at the end of nine. In the top of the tenth, Bill White walked and Ken Boyer beat out a bunt. It was Groat to the plate, and his job was the same as Boyer's: Eliminate the double play!

He tried to bunt, but missed. White, running on the play to third, made a fake back to second. But when Yankee catcher Elston Howard threw to second to nail him, White turned on the jets and made it to third. The play was crucial, as Groat ended up forcing Boyer at second. When Tim McCarver ripped a three-run home run to right, St. Louis had what they needed to win, 5-2.

So, it was New York with their backs to the wall in game six, back in St. Louis. Dick Groat had a tough time against Jim Bouton, failing to get a hit in four trips to the plate.  Curt Simmons kept St. Louis in the game, as he had in game three. The game not only tied, but again tied at one. But when Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle went downtown off Simmons in the top of the sixth inning, St. Louis needed some runs. An Elston Howard single in the top of the eighth made it 4-1, New York. Then it was New York's turn to get a grand slam, this time off the bat of Joe Pepitone. 8-1, Yankees. St. Louis managed to get one run back in the bottom of the eighth as Bill White grounded out. But Dick Groat ended up being the last out of that inning.

In the bottom of the ninth, St. Louis again had a mild uprising. With one out, Mike Shannon hit a single. Then Jerry Buckek, who had entered the game a defensive replacement, singled. Bob Humphreys had held New York scoreless in the ninth, but now his spot was up. So Bob Skinner batted for him. The Cardinals had finally found a way to get rid of Jim Bouton. New York then went to the bullpen and brought in Steve Hamilton to face Skinner. Hamilton, an ex-basketball player, was a lefty at 6'6, two inches taller than Skinner.

And he came through! Singling to centre, Shannon scored to make it 8-3. There were two runners on and only one out. But Curt Flood hit into a game-ending double play. This Fall Classic was going to the seventh game, just like in 1960.

In game seven, there was not going to be any pinch hitting by St. Louis, with Bob Gibson back on the hill. Bobby was sitting 'er out!

Groat came up to the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning with the Cards up 4-0. His ground ball out made it 5-0. St. Louis, as it turned out, needed still another run. Tim McCarver flew out to Mantle in right, but Ken Boyer scored from third after the catch. 6-0.

New York was not done as Mickey Mantle hit a three-run home run in the top of the sixth. That seemed to wake up the Yankees, as they started to make better contact.

A home run by Ken Boyer in the bottom of the seventh put St. Louis up by four runs, 7-3. But Gibson tired and allowed a dinger by Ken's younger brother Clete in the top of the ninth. Another home run by Phil Linz made it 7-5 before Bob finally got the last out.



Both Groat and Skinner were going to be almost afterthoughts on a team that had Roberto Clemente, Bill Virdon, Dick Stuart, Bill Mazeroski, Bob Friend, Vernon Law, Harvey Haddix and Elroy Face.

And there was no chance that anyone would think of them on a team with Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Ken Boyer, Bill White, Tim McCarver, Bob Gibson, Curt Simmons, Ray Sadecki. The Pirates of 1960 and the Cardinals of 1964 might have won it all without Dick Groat and Bob Skinner.

But let's look at their stats in 1960 and 1964. Groat won the batting title in '60 with a .325 average. He also led Pittsburgh with a .371 on-base percentage. Skinner was no slough, either. All he did was knock in 86 runs (second on the team behind Clemente's 94) hit .273 (and post a .340 OBP). He even played in the all-star game.

In '64 it was Dick Groat with 70 RBIs despite only hitting one home run. And he batted .292. Skinner hit about what he did in '60, .271. But even as a reserve, he had to take a backseat to Charlie James and Carl Warwick, who both played in 88 games. Skinner appeared in just 55 games.

So while both Groat and Skinner were perhaps overlooked, they sure made things a little easier for two teams that to beat a great Yankee team in the fall.




More from Dick Groat

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Three of the first four batters Sandy Koufax faced in his first ever game were Hall Of Famers.

The lefty came into game one of the 1959 Fall Classic with his Los Angeles Dodgers down 11-0. The game was already over. The Chicago White Sox and their fans were enjoying this blowout immensely! Sandy did his best to try and give Los Angeles some hope. However, it seemed like a case of, "Good luck there, pal", as the Sox had routed Roger Craig, Chuck Churm before Clem Labine got some assemblence of order by getting the last three Chicago batters out in the fourth. Labine left the game for a pinch hitter in the top of the fifth, however. Los Angeles was running out of pitchers for this game. Of the 35 games that Sandy Koufax had pitched that year, 23 were starts. So this must have felt like an odd assignment. Not helping matters was the fact that Koufax had only pitched only six times in Los Angeles' last twenty-five games.

Sandy took the hill in the bottom of the fifth. And behind by eleven runs, he had to do something to stop the bleeding! Jim Rivera, not in the Hall Of Fame, was the first batter to face him. Sandy got him to fly out to Norm Larker in right. Early Wynn became the first Hall Of Famer for Sandy. Who would have thought that it was one great pitcher, on his way to Cooperstown, batting against someone else who would also be there?

But Sandy fanned him, for the second out of the inning. When Luis Aparicio lined out to left, Sandy was 2-2 in facing immortals in this affair.

Nellie Fox led of the bottom of the sixth for Chicago. And Koufax got him to line out to left, as well. That's three straight Hall Of Famers! Sandy wasn't done yet. He retired Jim Landis on a grounder to shorts. When Ted Kluszewski also grounded out, but to second, the inning was over. Koufax had retired the first six batters to face him.

Koufax left the game in the top of the seventh as Ron Fairly pinch hit for him. Los Angeles held Chicago to just one more hit and no runs the rest of the way, but the Dodgers never touched home at all in this game. So it was no big deal.

But it must have been to Sandy. Los Angeles had sort of given up on him in September of 1959, despite the fact that he fanned 18 batters on August 31st of that year. In the two starts surrounding that, he fanned 23 batters in only 19 innings. His record was 8-5 and his ERA was 3.68 after those three gems. Yet Los Angeles was in a pennant drive and didn't seem to think they needed him. They did in game one of that year's Fall Classic, however. And Los Angeles would need him again before the World Series was over.

Sandy took the hill in game five, as the Dodgers came back and won games two, three and four. Sandy did more than enough to close it out, as he allowed just one earned run over seven innings of work. When the game was over, however, that run proved to be the only time that someone touched home. Sandy had to settle on a fine, five-hit loss. Aparicio and Fox went 3-7 in the game, and Early Wynn did not pitch.

The Dodgers also had some Hall Of Famers on the field. In addition to Koufax, you had Don Drysdale, another pitcher. Then you had Duke Snider, the outfielder. But only Snider had it wrapped up at that point. Drysdale was coming along. Sandy was not getting the outings, but was sure proving he was capable.

With a sixteen strikeout performance earlier in the season, to go along with his eighteen K game in August, Sandy Koufax was beginning to serve notice. He finished the year with only a 8-6 record (and 0-1 in the World Series) and a 4.05 ERA. But with 173 K's that year in only 153 1/3 innings pitched, plus two fine performances in the battle for world supremency in baseball, he was turning into a dandy Sandy!

World Series: Did You Know?

The Yankees and Cardinals had two Hall of Famers apiece in the 1964 World Series. A pitcher, and a positioned hitter.

St. Louis started the year with only one, Bob Gibson. The pitcher was a few years away from cementing his place in Cooperstown. Lou Brock was not acquired until the season was about half way old.

New York had two men who were already in, no matter what would happen the rest of their careers. Mickey Mantle, who owned almost every World Series record you could shake a stick at. That is, as a batter. Whitey Ford, the Yankee hurler, owns many Fall Classic records himself.

But Ford, who started the first game, was not on his game. His arm had been injured late in the season and he was pitching with his heart and little else. The Cardinals scored the first run of the 1964 Fall Classic off him. Game one was at home and St. Louis got the crowd into it early. After Mantle and New York were retired in the top of the first, Brock scored the game's first run on a sac fly to Mantle in right. The Yankees came right back with three runs of their own in the top of the second, with Ford himself driving in the third.

Whitey Ford took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth, but his arm began to fail him. With one out, Mike Shannon belted a towering two-run home run to left to tie the game. When Tim McCarver followed with a double between Mantle and Roger Maris, Whitey was gone from the mound forever in the Fall Classic. St. Louis went on to win the game, 9-5. Mantle did get two hits in a losing efforts, but Brock matched him with two hits himself. Plus, he got two RBIs.

In game two, Bob Gibson took the hill for the first time in his career. He started out fast, but St. Louis' offence seemed to stall as Brock went 0-4. Gibson seemed to have Mantle's number, as he held him to without a hit. Mickey, however, opened the top of the sixth with a walk. Gibby, having fanned him twice, hit Joe Pepitone with one out. Tom Tresh hit a bouncer that made into left to Brock, and New York was ahead 2-1 at this point. The Yankees smothered Gibson the next inning, scoring twice more. Mantle got an RBI on an infield out. He got another on a sharp double in the top of the ninth off Barney Schultz. New York had this game, going away, 8-3. The Mick sure silenced the St. Louis fans with two runs and two RBIs.

And in game three in New York, Mantle hit a dramatic game-winning, walk-off home run. Lou Brock was again held to no hits. The game was tied at one going into the bottom of the ninth. But Mantle hit Schultz's first pitch to deep right for a home run that won the game.

In game four, Mantle drove in Bobby Richardson with a single to right off Ray Sadecki to make it 2-0, New York. Maris, on first, made it to third and Mantle tried for second. This, all because of right fielder Mike Shannon bobbling the ball. Mickey was out at second. Maris trotted home with New York's third run on a single by Howard. Mickey made another mistake as he was picked off second base in the bottom of the third. He walked again in the bottom of the eighth. St. Louis won the game on a grand slam by Ken Boyer in the top of the sixth innig, the only runs the Cards would score as it erased a 3-0 deficit. And with the 4-3, the 1964 Fall Classic was tied. Brock was again held scoreless.

Bob Gibson returned to the hill in game five, with the Series' lead on the line. He was awesome. Gibby fanned thirteen Yankees, gave up just six hits, and only two walks. Mantle was one of them. Lou Brock came through with a single to score Bob Gibson with the first run of the game in the top of the fifth. He finished the game with two hits. Mantle had none, but reached on an error and scored a run in the bottom of the ninth. The Yankees, down two runs, tied the game. But Tim McCarver untied with a three-run home run in the top of the tenth, and Gibson had his first World Series win.

In game six in St. Louis, it was Lou Brock with three hits. But he somehow failed to drive in a run, or even score one. Mantle, meanwhile, came to the dish in the top of the sixth. His pal, Roger Maris, had just gone yard to put New York up 2-1. On cue, The Mick went yard, too. In the top of the eighth, Mantle scored one of the five Yankee runs after walking intentionally. New York won 8-3 to send it to the limit.

Bob Gibson was back for game seven. He was trying to put New York away for good. The Cardinals did all they could top help him. They scored three times in the bottom of the fourth, and then Lou Brock belted Al Downing's first offering to right-centre for a solo home run the next frame, starting another three-run uprising. With a 6-0 lead, Gibby seemed to have this one. But Mantle hit a three-run home run to cut the lead in half. Brock did nothing else the rest of the game and neither did Mantle, but all St. Louis could get after that was one run. Meanwhile, Gibby was nailed for a home run by Clete Boyer on a 3-2 pitch in the top of the ninth, just two outs away from victory. Then, only one out away from it all, Phil Linz hit a solo blast of his own to left, which Brock tried his best to catch! It was only 7-5, now! Gibson got it together and retired Bobby Richardson (who had eight hits off him this Fall Classic) on a pop-up to end it.

For Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford, the 1964 World Series was a last hurrah. They never returned to the Fall Classic. They left behind plenty of records. Mickey has the most home runs in a World Series career with 18. Ford has the record for most wins, lifetime, with 10.

For Bob Gibson and Lou Brock, it was just the beginning of their World Series exploits. Gibson set several pitching records of his own, including the most strikeouts in one game. Brock is tied for most World Series hits in one Series with 13, and in also tied for most career stolen bases with 14. He also twice stole seven bases in one World Series, which is also a record.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Both Roger Craig and Sandy Koufax of the 1959 Dodgers missed out on leading the league in two important categories! They also both pitched in game one, an 11-0 loss! For good measure, they each started a game at home as Los Angeles battled Chicago in a very entertaining Fall Classic that year.

Sam Jones of the San Francisco Giants led the National League with an ERA of 2.83. But it was Craig posting a 2.01. Alas, he had tossed just 153 innings that year. Not enough for the requirements. Actually, since the Dodgers played 156 games, he needed three more innings pitched. The interesting thing is, Craig's ERA was less than Amercian League leader Hoyt Wilhelm's 2.19! So Craig was that close to leading all pitchers that year.

Sandy Koufax fanned 173 batters that season in 153 1/3 innings pitched. The K's alone were good enough for third in the National League in 1959. But he also averaged 10.2 K's per 9 innings. That would have led not only the NL, (teammate Don Drysdale averaged about 8 to top the Senior Circuit), but also the majors, as Herb Score led the AL in that department with 8.2

So Craig started game one of the 1959 World Series against the Chicago White Sox. It was over almost as soon as it had began. The White Sox scored twice of Craig in the bottom of the first, then scored seven more runs in the bottom of the third. Craig gave up five of them.

Koufax took over in the bottom of the fifth. By then, it was 11-0, Chicago. Sandy pitched well, getting the side in order in his two innings of work. And his replacement, Johhny Kippstein, also tossed two shutout innings. So the White Sox did not score a run in their last four innings. But it was, of course, too late. Chicago shutout Los Angeles for all nine innings of this game and won, 11-0.

After Los Angeles took the next two games, they were in a situation where if Craig and Koufax could come through, this Fall Classic would suddenly be over. The World Series had shifted to the west coast for games three, four and five. Some pitching here would insure that it would not return to Chicago!

Roger took the hill in game four, which was huge. He carried a 4-0 lead into the top of the seventh inning, and looked in complete control. But three singles and a home run by Sherman Lollar tied the game. Craig got Billy Goodman on a K, but now the Dodgers needed some offence again.

They got it, in the form of one run. And Los Angeles held on to win, 5-4. But the run scored in the bottom of the eighth, and by then it was Larry Sherry pitching for the Dodgers. Craig was left with the no decision. But with the win, it was Los Angeles up on Chicago, three games to one in the 1959 World Series.

Koufax pitched better in his first start than Craig did in either of his, but came away even worse. Sandy went seven strong innings. He gave up just five hits, one walk and fanned six. In the top of the fourth with runners on the corners and no outs, Sandy induced Sherman Lollar to hit into a double play. Nellie Fox, on third, scored on the play. It proved to be the only run despite a performance from Sandy and a two-inning shutout, hitless relief stint from Stan Williams. Bob Shaw, who gave up nine hits for Chicago, got the shutout with some help of his own from Dick Donovan. Chicago was heading home down three games to two.

Los Angeles wrapped it up in the Windy City by taking game six, 9-3.

Sandy Koufax and Roger Craig are unlikely to be remembered as contributors to the Los Angeles triumph of 1959. For Craig, it was his third World Series appearance. But for Koufax it was his first. Both would go on to pitch more in the Fall Classic. Sandy in 1963, 1965 and 1966. Craig helped St. Louis win in 1964. Maybe Los Angeles could have won without them, but they both got valuable experience out of this.

And with Craig's fine ERA and Sandy's unprecedented strikeouts per nine innings mark, the Dodgers had the two best in both those areas, even if they were not the recognized leaders in either! Both also showcased some tremendous pitching in Craig's first six innings of his second start and in Koufax's two outings!




World Series: Did You Know?

Julian Javier, one of the St. Louis Cardinals "other" stars of 1964, missed almost all of the Fall Classic that year with a hip injury.

Having also suffered from a sore back that year, he was only able to make a sole appearance in game one. The Cards did not need him again, I guess.

Having hit 12 home runs and knocked in 65 runs must have been encouraging. But his batting average was just .241, and that may have contributed to him being used so little, as well. The previous year, 1963, Javier had been an all-star and hit .265. His position at second base was taken by Dal Maxvill, who could play both short and second. But Maxill had only played 37 games that season. Dick Groat, one amazing player, was at short.

Javier's moment came in the bottom of the sixth inning of game one. St. Louis opposed the New York Yankees in that classic 1964 World Series. Down 4-2 against Whitey Ford, the Cardinals fought back that inning.

Ken Boyer got it going with a single. Elston Howard then could not get a hold of one of Ford's pitches and the speedy Ken motored into second. Ford did manage to fan Bill White for the first out, but it proved to be the last batter Ford got out. Mike Shannon launched a mammoth home run to left, which hit the "B" of the Budweiser signs. That tied the game, 4-4. St. Louis was not done as Tim McCarver hit a double between Roger Maris in centre and Mickey Mantle in right.

Al Downing took over for Ford and and got Charlie James, the pinch hitter, to pop out to Bobby Richardson at second. The Cardinals sent up another pinch hitter, Carl Warwick (batting for pitcher Ray Sadecki) to try his luck against the hard-throwing Yankee lefty. He managed to get a ball that just squeaked by Phil Linz, the shortstop, for a single that scored McCarver. That made it 5-4, St. Louis. Warwick very alertly took second on the throw home. Enter Julian Javier to pinch run for Warwick at second.

Curt Flood then sent a fly ball to left. Tom Tresh seemed to lose track of the ball. He would later say he lost it in the sun. At the last minute he turned to try and find it, but the ball hit the wall and bounced far enough away from him that Javier was able to score. Flood took third but would ultimately stranded as Lou Brock grounded out. St. Louis, though had a valuable insurance run and now led, 6-4.

Javier took second. The Yankees got a single and a walk to put the tying run at first before the side was retired in the top of the seventh. New York just kept coming at you. They never quit. Julian did not make a fielding play. The way New York was hitting the ball, he might not wanted one!

The Cardinals were retired in order by Downing in the bottom of the frame, and New York looked to tie it in the top of the eighth. With one out, Johnny Blanchard, who made almost a career out of pinch hitting heroics for New York in the regular season and postseason, batted for Downing and hit a double. Mike Hegan then joined Julian Javier in pinch running duties and came in to run for Blanchard. And like Javier again, Hegan soon scored.

Linz grounded out to Boyer at third. But Bobby Richardson, who made it a habit of hitting well in the postseason, singled to score Hegan. The lead was cut to one, 6-5. The Yankees, with some momentum, then got a single by Roger Maris. The hit was to Javier at second. Javier managed to keep it from going to the outfield, but could not stop Richardson from making it to third. Now, the tying run was ninety feet away, the go-ahead run was on first, and The Mick was at the dish!

Barney Schultz, who took over for Sadecki after his removal for a pinch hitter earlier, needed to get 'em out. Mantle send one to Julian, who threw Mickey out at first.

Mike Shannon started the bottom of the eighth for the Cardinals by making it to first on an error by Ken Boyer's younger brother Clete. Rollie Sheldon, one of the fine New York relievers, then threw a passed ball. A walk to McCarver put two on with nobody out. But manager Johnny Keane let Schultz bat for himself and Barney lined the ball back to Sheldon. Rollie not only caught it, he then whirled and fired to Joe Pepitone at first to complete a double play. McCarver had taken off and was in no position to scamper back to first in time. Shannon was still at second.

Javier was scheduled to bat next, but Bob Skinner hit for him. The Yankees decided to walk him intentionally. New York then brought in Pete Mikkelsen to pitch. But St. Louis sent Jerry Buchek to run for Skinner.

Curt Flood, the centerfielder, singled to left to score McCarver. When Lou Brock went the other way on a double to left, Buchek and Flood both scored to make it 9-5, Cardinals. That would be the final score.

St. Louis went on to win the World Series of 1964 in seven games. Julian Javier did not make it into another game. You never know if you are going to get another chance to play in the Fall Classic as a player, but Javier made it back to the Fall Classic in 1967, 1968 and again in 1972. They say there's nothing as sweet as the first time, but you do want to be there on the field when you win it all, right? Sometimes the first time can be bittersweet, too!




Monday, September 1, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The White Sox of 1917 were not only no-hit in back-to-back games, they also got a no-hitter for! And Eddie Cicotte who threw it (and then helped throw the 1919 World Series), was also the losing pitcher in one of the games where Chicago was shutout in back-to-back games!

Cicotte was one of the best pitchers in baseball at the time. In 1917, two years prior to the fixed Fall Classic, he led the American League in wins with 28 and in ERA, 1.53!

But his grand moment on that honest 1917 season was his very first start on April 14. There, facing the St. Louis Browns on the road, Eddie had "it" on the mound! His teammates also were doing the job. Except for Buck Weaver and Chick Gandil (Weaver admitted he attended two such meetings where the fix of the 1919 World Series was planned, but took no money. Gandil was the ringleader in the arrangement) every White Sox got a hit. But Joe Jackson got just one hit!

But Cicotte could not have cared at what Jackson (or anyone else) was doing at this point. Backed by eleven runs on ten hits, Eddie was on cruise control. Better still, Chicago scored a run in the top of the first. It was all Eddie would need, but the Sox added seven more in the top of the second! So very early on the only question that remained was whether Eddie Cicotte would get the shutout and no-hitter.

Got it, he did, although he walked three batters and Chick Gandil made the only error for Chicago. But the Browns made five. Cicotte also hit a batter on the day where he faced just 31 batters.

Cicotte though, took a 1-0 loss to the very same Browns on May 5th. This time, it was St. Louis with the no-hitter. But Eddie, who allowed just five hits and one unearned run, faced just 30 batters in this game. Interesting to note, it was also a road game. Three members of the suspected or proven fixers contributed to the five Chicago walks on this day. Jackson and Cicotte had two and Swede Risberg had the other one. The Browns made two more errors in this game, and it was Swede Risberg (a proven fixer) with Chicago's only miscue. Cicotte's record was 2-2 at this point. But he went 26-10 the rest of the season.

Eddie Cicotte would add a two-hitter against New York on May 13th and then a one-hitter against Washington on July 17th. His no-hitter was no fluke, as you can see.

But how about the Fall Classic in 1917?

He got the start in the opening tilt against the New York Giants. And he got the win, too!

The White Sox got only seven hits, and none were by Shoeless Joe or Buck Weaver. Weaver also made the White Sox only error in the game. It did not figure into the scoring. Nor did the Giants only miscue of the opening act. But Cicotte limited New York to just one run. That, coupled with the Sox's two runs, was enough for Eddie's first postseason win!

In game three, with Chicago looking to go up 3-0 in the best-of-seven affair, it was up to Eddie to deliver. He fired a fine eighth-hitter, and New York only scored twice in the entire game. But Chicago made three errors in the game (one by Cicotte) and collected only five hits themselves. Joe Jackson was again held hitless!

Still another hitless game by Jackson and another shutout by New York in game four and the 1917 World Series was all square at two!

Cicotte was then needed in game five, as White Sox starter Reb Russell was knocked out in the top of the first, failing to retire a single batter. A run was already in by the time Eddie made it to the mound. Another would score before Cicotte got 'em out of there.

The Giants eventually stretched their lead to 4-1 before Chicago rallied. However, before the winning run was scored Eddie Cicotte was out of the game. He was relieved by Lefty Williams, who like Cicotte was another proven fixer in the debacle two years later. Williams gave up a run in his only inning of work. The winning run was scored in the bottom of the eighth. Red Faber would be the winning pitcher in this game. Shoeless Joe got three hits this time around. The Chicago White Sox would go on to win this series in six games.

The White Sox did not quite give it their all in the 1919 World Series. Even two years earlier, they seemed to be unable to play to their potential in select times in the regular season and post-season. But Cicotte, with his no-hitter in his first regular season start, and fine effort in his first World Series start, was able to lift Chicago when they needed it the most!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The Miracle Mets of 1969 got exactly six hits in each of the first three games. They had to make do with so little. Entering the Fall Classic that year, they were the decided underdogs against the Baltimore Orioles. And just to make things a little more difficult, it was the O's with the home-field advantage!

Game one in Baltimore matched Tom Seaver of the New York Mets against Oriole starter Mike Cuellar. If Seaver couldn't do it for New York, who could? But, in less than a New York minute, the Mets were down.

Cuellar got the Mets out in the top of the first, giving up just one hit. In the bottom of the frame, the Orioles also got a hit, but it was a home run by Don Buford! In the top of the fourth, it was Donn Clendenon who stroked the Mets' second hit, a double. But New York failed to score and still trailed 1-0. Baltimore then put the game out of reach by scoring three runs in the bottom of the frame. Cuellar himself got an RBI single. Buford followed that by driving in his second run, as well. It was 4-0, Baltimore!

In the top of the seventh, it was New York's turn to bang out some hits. Clendenon got his second hit of the game. Another single and a walk loaded the bases with just one out. But all New York could get out of this was one run on a sac fly by Al Weiss. The shutout was broken, but the Mets would not score again. They collected two more hits, and even got the tying run to the dish in the top of the ninth. But New York ultimately lost this game, 4-1.

In game two, it was Jerry Koosman of the Mets who opposed Dave McNally of the O's on the hill. This time, it was New York that scored first. In the top of the fourth, it was Clendenon again with a hit and this one was a home run to make it 1-0, Mets. New York had two hits at this point.

The Mets had to wait until the top of the seventh for their third hit of the game. It was a double, but it was also stranded. In the bottom of the seventh, it was Baltimore's turn to score. That tied the game at one. The Orioles needed just two hits to score the run. But it proved to be the Orioles only two hits of the game. And also, it was Baltimore's only run of game two.

The Mets, seizing the pitching advantage, then got three straight two-out singles in the top of the ninth. It was Al Weiss that got the third single, and the RBI. 2-1, New York. Koosman made it an interesting bottom of the ninth with two walks, but Canadian Ron Taylor got the last out and the 1969 World Series was tied heading to New York.

In game three, the Mets faced a legend in pitcher Jim Palmer. On the hill for New York? Rookie Gary Gentry, 13-12 in 1969 and eventually 46-49 for his career. Can you say, mismatch?

But Tommie Agee got the Mets off on the right foot as he hit a home run off Palmer in the bottom of the first. Tom would be heard from a lot more before this game was over. But it would be his glove that did a lot of talking.

Gentry himself then drove in both Jerry Grote and Bud Harrelson (who had singled) with a double in the bottom of the second. The Miracle Mets were sure making due with so little hits. It was 3-0, New York after two!

Palmer made sure the Mets felt his wrath in the bottom of the third by getting them 1-2-3. In the top of the fourth, it looked like Baltimore was in for a big inning. With one out, it was Frank Robinson with a single and then Boog Powell with one of his own. Brooks Robinson fanned, but Elrod Hendricks launched one to centre that looked like it would score two. Tommie Agee, in centre, robbed Elrod of two RBIs with a running catch on the warning track.

The Mets, though, continued to fail against Palmer. Although they had put a runner on in the third, fourth and fifth inning against Palmer (via the walk), Jim was stranding them, and giving Baltimore a chance to tie it. The O's, it should be noted, put two on in the top of the sixth inning, but would also strand them.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, New York's Ken Boswell led off with the Mets' fourth hit, a single. With one out, Jerry Grote came through with a double to left to score him. Palmer stopped the bleeding from there by fanning the next two batters. But now, New York had some breathing room, ahead 4-0.

Elrod Hendricks made some solid contact for Baltimore to lead of the top of the seventh. He sent a drive to right-centre, where Agee made the catch again. This one was not so hard, but Gentry was running out of gas, as it turns out. That fly ball was the telling sign. Deron Johnson flied out to Agee as well. But that was the last batter Gentry would retire. He walked not one, not two, but three straight batters! That was enough for manager Gil Hodges. On to the hill trotted another right-hander, who was a legend like Palmer. Nolan Ryan!

Odd spot for him. In relief? Eh?

In any event, Paul Blair sent a well-hit ball to right-centre. But Agee was there for his third putout of the inning. But this one was his best of the inning, and better then the catch he made of Hendricks in the fourth. It was a diving catch that saved three runs. The best play by Tommie in the game, despite also hitting that home run back in the first. Tommie had given the Mets one run on the scoreboard and saved five!

Jim Palmer, meanwhile, was done for the game. He had been removed for pinch hitter Dave May in that inning where Agee had made the three putouts. It seemed like a good move for the Orioles, for May had been the first of three straight batters to walk against Gentry. Plus it took Gentry out of the game. But now, Palmer was out of the game for Baltimore and Nolan Ryan was in for New York. The pitching edge had to go to the Mets here!

But Dave Leonhard held the Mets hitless in the bottom of the seventh. They could only get a runner to second on a walk and a sac bunt. Ryan got Baltimore 1-2-3 in the top of the eight.

New York got another hit in the bottom of the eighth inning when Ed Kranepool hit a solo home run of his own, just like Agee had in the first. It was the Mets' sixth and final hit of the game. Too bad New York could not have had a runner on when they were leaving the park here. That's what happens when you only get six hits! But with a 5-0 lead, no one on the New York Mets was complaining at this point, I'm sure!

However, Baltimore, who had just three hits of their own going into the top of the ninth, was not done putting some fear into New York. They, too, did not need many hits to get 'er going. Ryan got the first two batters out on fly balls hit to right fielder Art Shamsky. Baltimore had evidently learned to stop hitting them anywhere near centerfield. But there was two outs. Unexpectedly, Ryan came undone as the Orioles coaxed two walks of him around a single. Ryan managed to fan Paul Blair to end the game.

The Mets went on to win game four 2-1 and game five 5-3. The 1969 World Series would belong to New York! Only in game four did the Mets manage to reach double figures in hits, and even then they needed ten innings to do that. The 1969 New York Mets, with 100 wins to their name, might not have seemed like a team needing a miracle to win. Or even seem like a longshot pick. But with only six hits in each of the first three games, they were put to the test early by Baltimore. But the Mets managed to use some of their smarts, wits, walks, long balls and pitching to overcome that. I guess, with such little output off the bats, New York did need a few miracles that Fall Classic!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The Yankees were held to six or less hits in games three, four and five of the 1964 World Series. All three games were at home. They wasted two fine pitching efforts in the process! The St. Louis Cardinals pitchers took advantage of Yankees Stadium being a pitcher's ballpark. Their pitching seemed to click in a New York minute in the Bronx! The World Series was tied at one going there. Someone had to be ahead in it by the end of game five.

In game three of the '64 Fall Classic, Curt Simmons of the Cardinals and Jim Bouton really kept the batter's quiet. The Yankees scored first in the bottom of the second on a single by Elston Howard and a two-out double by Clete Boyer. Simmons settled down after that. Bobby Richardson hit a single in the sixth and then Mickey Mantle hit a two-out double, but Curt held the fort there and everywhere!

Bouton, meanwhile, looked like he was about to lose the game on more than a few occasions. He gave up a hit and a walk himself in the top of the second. The Cardinals, behind 1-0, tied it in the fifth inning. Tim McCarver singled past first basemen Joe Pepitone, who was playing way off the bag, and still could not get to it! The ball then got by Mickey Mantle, who was playing rightfield, with Roger Maris in centre. McCarver ended up on second. Curt Simmons, who was doing it all on this day, then came to the dish. Simmons, who batted and threw left, went the other way. The ball deflected off third baseman Clete Boyer's glove and got away from him. McCarver motored home. The game was tied at one.

The Cardinals also threatened in the top of the sixth and again in the top of the ninth, but were unable to get anyone home. Although the Cards themselves were held to just six hits, they also were issued three walks. New York didn't help their own cause as well, and they made two errors in the game.

In the bottom of the ninth, it was time for Mantle to win the game. His walk-off home run off Barney Schultz was just the Yankees' fifth hit of the afternoon, but it gave the Bronx Bombers the win, 2-1. They were also up two games to one in the 1964 World Series.

In game four, the Yankees lashed out against St. Louis starter Ray Sadecki, who had won game one for the Cards. He made it to the sixth inning in the opening tilt. But here, he was gone after just 1/3 of an inning. Phil Linz hit a double to start the game for New York. Then Phil made it to third on Ken Boyer's throwing error when he was trapped on a pickoff play. Bobby Richardson hit a double to send Linz home. 1-0, New York. Roger Maris hit a soft single to right, Richardson holding at third. Mantle, batting right-handed against Sadecki, also went to right on a single, scoring Richardson. Mickey tried for second when Mike Shannon bobbled the ball. Shannon threw The Mick out at second, but it was 2-0 now and Ray was gone from the game. Maris was on third. When Elston Howard greeted new pitcher Roger Craig with a single to centre, it was 3-0 Yankees. That was five hits, right there!

Craig seemed to settle down, getting the next two men out, then fanning the side in the second. The Cardinals went quietly in the first two innings against Yankee starter Al Downing. In the top of the third, they got a walk from Dal Maxvill and a single from Curt Flood (and failed to score), but went down 1-2-3 in the first, second, fourth and fifth against Downing, who seemed to have the Cardinals number with his lightning-quick fastball and great curveball!

The Yankees didn't seem to be worried about Craig. In the bottom of the third, they coaxed two walks off him, but Roger then picked Mantle off second base to end the inning. In the next frame, New York got another walk, and Clete Boyer added a single. There was only one out. But Craig fanned the next two batters. When he was removed for a pinch-hitter in the top of the sixth, he had fanned eight batters in 4 2/3 inning. Roger Craig had also held the Yankees scoreless!

But it was St. Louis that was scoreless in the game and behind 3-0 in the top of the sixth. Carl Warwick led off with a pinch-hit single. Flood then got his second hit of the game, but Lou Brock went out on a fly ball to Roger Maris in centre. When Dick Groat hit a roller to Bobby Richardson at second, it looked like an inning-ending double play. Richardson seemed to have problems extracting the ball from his glove, and threw wide of second, Phil Linz also being dumped by a Flood slide. The bases were loaded and there was one out.

Ken Boyer took an outside slider for ball one from Downing, then hammered a changeup just fair in left for a grand slam. That turned a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 lead for St. Louis. The Cards were held to just two more hits by Downing, Pete Mikkelsen and Ralph Terry the rest of the way. But New York, with five hits after just one inning, were held to just the Boyer single the rest of the way by Roger Craig and Ron Taylor. Taylor threw four innings of scoreless, no-hit ball. Ron also allowed just one walk. The series was tied at two.

Bob Gibson then took over from there in game five. He needed no relief pitching. The game was scoreless into the top of the fifth. Then, with one out, Gibson himself got a single that landed just in from of shortstop Phil Linz, charging into the outfield, and leftfielder Tommy Tresh. Tresh made a desperate dive for it at the last minute, but came up empty. Curt Flood send a roller to Bobby Richardson at second. This was another double play ball. And with one out, this should have been the end of the inning. But the ball took a bad hop at the end, and jumped up and hit Richardson on the wrists. Both runners were safe!

Lou Brock then singled home Gibson and Flood made it to third. 1-0, St. Louis. Bill White then sent another roller to Richardson. This time, Bobby had no trouble with it. Getting it off in plenty of time to Linz at second, New York looked destined to get out of this mess down only one run. Linz, in a hurry, threw it in the dirt to Joe Pepitone at first. Pepi, a little two carefree at times, nonetheless made an acrobatic scoop of it! New York thought the inning was over. But Al Smith, the first base umpire, called White safe as Flood scored. 2-0, St. Louis.

Gibson, with the lead, had survived a scare in the second as the Yankees loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter. But entering the bottom of the ninth inning, and still ahead 2-0, he took a four-hitter with him. Mickey Mantle started the inning by sending a ground ball to Dick Groat. And Groat made a critical error, just as Richardson had earlier in the afternoon and in game four. Elston Howard fanned. But when Pepitone, who got the Yankees' fourth hit off Gibby back in the seventh, smashed a liner off Gibson's leg, trouble brewed! Bob Gibson, who was such an athlete that he once played basketball for the Harlem Globetrotters, charged after the ball, and made a basketball-like play to nip Pepitione at first. Sort of like a fadeaway jumper, only it was almost an underhanded throw to first. Al Smith called Joe out at first on the play. Pepitone, Yogi Berra (now managing the Yankees) and first-base coach Jim Gleeson all were furious! Watching the play on the World Series highlight film, I have to say it appears that Pepitone made it to the bag at the same time that Gibson's throw did. Pepitone later said he heard Bill White (playing first for St. Louis) make the catch after he touched the bag with his foot. In any event, the call stood. New York, with just four hits now in 8 2/3 innings, were down to their last out!

But Tommy Tresh then hit a dramatic, game-tying home run. Obviously, Bob Gibson's big play had saved St. Louis from losing the game, 3-2. Now it was 2-2, as this amazing game headed to extra innings. The Cardinals then pounced on the situation!

Pete Mikklesen, who had pitched well the day before, had come in to pitch the top of the eighth for New York. After Hal Reniff had come in to pitch after hard-luck starter Mel Stottlemyre (who allowed zero earned runs in seven innings of work) had been removed for a pinch-hitter. Reniff got the first batter out but proceeded to give up two straight hits. Mikklesen, like a superman, came in and got the next five batters out. That was another reason this game was going past the ninth!

Bill White led off with a walk. Ken Boyer tried to bunt them over. He got it off to the right side of the infield. Both Mikkelsen and Joe Pepitone weren't on the same page here. Both of them decided that the other person should field it, while they had a race towards first base. Alas, that is useless if neither of you has the ball! Boyer was credited with a single.  Dick Groat came to bat, and his assignment was much the same as Boyer: 1) Keep the rally going and 2) Prevent the Yankees from turning two!

So on a bunt attempt, Mikkelsen threw one of his patented sinker balls. The Cardinals had been having problems with that all day from Stottlemyre and now Mikkelsen. Sure enough, Dick missed it. Bill White had taken off towards third, too! Elston Howard noticed this, and Bill knew he would not make it to third. White started back to second. Howard took immediate action on this and threw to shortstop Linz, covering ready at second. Bill then reversed things and sprinted towards third. Linz got the ball and fired towards Clete Boyer at third, but the throw was late. White had a stolen base! But Groat, now swinging away, grounded to Clete Boyer at third. Bill White had to hold there. Clete tossed to second, and his older brother was out on the force. Now, New York could get out of this if they could turn a double play. Let's face it, they weren;t about to fail to turn two if they got another chance, right? But Tim McCarver had no intentions of hitting into one. Timmy got ahead in the count 3-1. Tim fouled off a fastball, and that ran the count full. But when Mikkelsen tried to throw him another fastball, McCarver was ready and waiting! It was also right where Tim wanted it. He hammered it over the head of Mantle in right, and the ball dropped in to the seats for a tie-breaking three-run home run! St. Louis led 5-2, and needed just three more outs to go ahead three games to two in the 1964 World Series!

Bob Gibson, now working on a five-hitter, got pinch-hitter Mike Hegan to fan to start the bottom of the tenth. It was his thirteenth strikeout, just two shy of Sandy Koufax's record of fifteen set in game one of the 1963 World Series. Phil Linz popped to Ken Boyer at third. Bobby Richardson (2-4 off Gibson in this game so far) stroked a clean single to centre, as this game continued. Roger Maris was the batter. This was going to be no easy out. Gibby needed to get him out. If Bob Gibson didn't, he would have to face Mickey Mantle. And The Mick, in the on-deck circle, represented the tying run!

Gibson threw Roger a pitch that moved in on his hands. Maris lifted a pop fly to third. But the ball was in foul territory and looked like it was going end up in the stands. That would give Roger another chance at Bob Gibson. The ball was just past the Cards' dugout in left. Ken Boyer, playing third base like his brother, raced over to get it. He reached towards the railing, reaching in as far as he could. And Kenny made a great catch on ball that looked like it was going to hit National League President Warren Giles! St. Louis had the game 5-2, and also were up three games to two in this classic!

St. Louis went on to win the 1964 Fall Classic in seven games. It was not easy from here, either. Their pitching seemed to fall apart. They lost 8-3 in game six and had to hold off a tremendous Yankee onslaught in game seven. The 7-5 finale was not Gibson's finest performance of the World Series that year, but it did give St. Louis the World Series.

But games three, four and five, all at Yankee Stadium, were the crucial ones in this World Series, now approaching it's half-century mark. It was enemy territory for this Cardinal club, and many a pitcher had become rattled. New York, as you can see, also got some good pitching in those three games. And that forced the Cards' pitchers to match that. They did. It would help give St. Louis the confidence they needed, and it also propelled them to victory over tremendous opposition!