Monday, November 24, 2014

World Series: Did You Know

Gene Tenace participated in the Fall Classic in 1972, 1982, and 1992. Oh, he was also there in 1973, 1974 and 1993!

Tenace was one of those World Series surprises that year of '72. With the Oakland A's, and up against a great Cincinnati Reds' team, he provided the boast they needed. The teams were pretty evenly matched, but Cincy had made it to the Fall Classic two years earlier and were looking for their first triumph since 1940. They might have got it, if not for Tenace.

Having played in just 82 games in '72 and hitting just 5 round-trippers, what went down in the Fall Classic was a shocker. Especially when Gene hit just .059 in the American League Championship Series vs. Baltimore.

Gene went out to the World Series, played all seven games at catcher, and hit, hit hit. Home run, home run, home run! He connected for two in the first game, another in the third, and still another in the fifth game. The Oakland A's were up three games to one when Tenace got his fourth. The Reds would rally and take this game and game six, but Oakland ultimatly triumphed in game seven. For his efforts, which included a .348 batting average, Gene was named World Series MVP.

He did not, however, have things his way in the 1973 and '74 Fall Classics. Gene hit poorly. The Athletics, nonetheless, won both years. They made it back to the ALCS in 1975, but were swept by the Boston Red Sox. Tenace played to the end of 1976 with Oakland before being dealt to San Diego.

But in 1982, he was back in the Fall Classic with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Athletics made it back to the postseason in 1981 without him, but here, Gene was trying to prove he could get it done with any team.

He didn't do much in the World Series. He only played in five games, got no hits, and only reached base once. But again, it was his team that came through in seven. This would prove to be his last World Series as a player. But ten years later he was back in October's Classic.

He was the bench coach of the Toronto Blue Jays, who were still seeking their first World Series win. He even had gotten some managerial experience at the big league level the previous year, 1991. Cito Gaston had a herniated disc and missed 33 games. Tenace went 19-14 during the span. Cito returned, but the Jays lost the ALCS to Minnesota. But in 1992, Toronto beat Gene's old team, the Oakland A's, in six games to advance to the World Series. But Gene got ejected in game five!

There were no ejections of Tenace or any of the Jays' coaches in the World Series. The Jays got several key moves from Gaston and co. to win it all against Atlanta in six games.

Gene Tenace ended up with six World Series rings to his name. It's about being in the right place at the right time, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale lost their first start in the 1965 Fall Classic. Good thing Claude Osteen was there for the win in game three! The Minnesota Twins, egged on by their home fans, must have felt on top of the world for a while. But at the end of it all, it was Koufax and Drysdale's Dodgers on top!

Koufax, was off for Yom Kippur for game one and Don Drysdale took the hill. But Don didn't have it on this day. The score was tied at 1 in the bottom of the third when the wheels really came off the chariot.

Frank Quilici started things with a double. Mudcat Grant, the opposing pitcher, made it on an error. It was back to the top of the order, and Zoilo Versalles blasted a three-run home run to make it 4-1 for the Twins. That was all they would need. Three more runs scored before Don departed. The final score was 8-2 and a reporter jokingly told manager Walter Alston that he'd wished that Drydale was Jewish, too!

But the Dodgers had Koufax for game two, right? Nothing to worry about, right?

For a while, yes!

Koufax got 'em 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first. Then, a 1-2-3 second was puctuated by a pair of K's. In the third, Koufax did walk a batter. Quilici made it to first. But then was caught stealing second. Neither of the other two batters, including pitcher Jim Kaat (one fine hitter, too) had a chance to reach first, as Koufax got two more K's. Sandy was off to a fine start in this one!

Reality time came in the fourth inning. It started out innocently enough as Koufax fanned Versalles. But then Joe Nossek broke up the no-hit bid (Hey! Sandy always seemed to be on the verge of these everytime he pitched, right?) with a single. Tony Oliva then became Sandy's sixth strikeout victim of the day. Harmon Killebrew then got the Twins second hit of the inning and game. Two on, two out. Koufax had to dig deep! He did just that to get Earl Battey. Whew! But Minny had some life in the bats after all against Koufax! A lot of life!

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Don Mincher got Minnesota's third hit of the day. But Koufax got out of that inning without allowing another baserunner, And Mincher did not get to second. By fanning both Bob Allison and Jim Kaat, Sandy Koufax was up to eight strikeouts in only five innings!

But the Twins took control in the bottom of the sixth. Versalles reached on an error by Jim Lefebvre. Nossek bunted back to Koufax and Versalles was now on third with only one out. Koufax was not about to walk a batter intentionally. It was Oliva, the left-hander. But Sandy gave up a double to him and the Twins had broken the ice. When Killebrew followed with a single to left, it was 2-0, Minny. Battey then singled Killebrew to second. Koufax fanned Bob Allison and got Mincher on a grounder, but the damage had been done!

In the top of the seventh, Los Angeles got a run back to cut it to 2-1. They had runners on second and third with only one out. A base hit here and it's 3-2, Los Angeles. But Sandy Koufax was the next scheduled batter. So the Dodgers sent up, of all people, the very player who had pitched game one, Don Drysdale. Don was a good hitting pitcher, you see. Just like the pitcher he was facing, Kaat.

But Kaat got Drysdale on strikes. And when Maury Wills flied out to short centre, the inning was over.

The Twins salted this one away with three more runs to the Dodgers' zero the rest of the game. Kaat himself drove in two. With that, it was a 5-1 final. Minnesota was up two games to none.

But Claude Osteen won game three for Los Angeles, 5-0. Koufax and Drysdale came back to win their next starts. When Osteen lost game six to Mudcat Grant, it was on to a deciding game. There, Koufax won 2-0 over Kaat, to win the 1965 Fall Classic for Los Angeles.

Even the best of pitchers, like Koufax and Drysdale, lose games. Even in World Series time. The Fall Classic is about overcoming obstacles. The Dodgers sure seemed on the ropes are two games in '65. But with the third starter coming through, and Koufax and Drysdale redeeming themselves, the Dodgers managed to comeback from that!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Fresh off losing in seven to the Dean brothers in 1934, the Tigers had to overcome another fine pitching performance to win the next Fall Classic.

Lon Warneke, although on the Cubs' six game yielding, won both his starts. And his ERA? An outstanding 0.54!

He had been 20-13 in '35 for Chicago, but posted an ERA over 3, 3.06. When the Cubs had last appeared in the World Series in 1932, his ERA was a league-leading 2.37. But Chicago was swept in that one. Lon would win the Cubs' two games in '35.

He started game one, and got Chicago off on the right foot by blanking Detroit, 3-0. It was a splendid game, as Lon allowed just four hits and four walks. The only downside to the shutout is he only fanned one batter.

But Chicago was crushed 8-3 in game two, as reality set in. In game three, Warneke came into the relive Bill Lee, who was in a real jam. Alas, he could not get the Cubs out of it.

The Cubs led the game 3-1 in the top of the eighth, and were just five outs away from winning. But with only one out, Goose Goslin singled home two runs to tie the game. Exit, Bill Lee (Sr.)!Warneke game in.

Pete Fox singled Goslin to second. When Billy Rogell got another hit off Lon, Detroit had the lead. Rogell then tried of second with Fox on third, he was trapped in a rundown. But while all this was going on, Fox trotted on home from third two put Detroit up two runs, 5-3. That run by Fox was the only one Warneke gave up in the 1935 World Series!

Warneke settled down and got 'em 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth to give Chicago a chance to tie it. They did just that, but Warneke was pinch-hit for, of course. They got the winning run as far as first with one out, but only the tying run was to score on the second out, a fly ball.

The Tigers eventually won this in the top of the 11th, and took a 2-1 Series lead. The Cubs were retired in order in the bottom of the frame.

Chicago again gave it quite an effort in game four, which was crucial. But again, they came up short by a run, 2-1. Having lost two straight at home, game five was the last one they'd see at home as Chicago would have to try and win the World Series at home.

And Lon came through in masterful fashion in game five! For a while, he was working on a one-hitter. He got 'em 1-2-3 in the second and third. Detroit got two hits but no runs in the top of the fourth. And by this point, it was 2-0 Chicago on a two-run home run by Chuck Klein. Warneke pitched two more 1-2-3 innings before leaving for Lee in the top of the seventh. Lee faltered a bit, giving up a run in the top of the ninth. But he got the save and Chicago had already plated a third runner in the bottom of the seventh on a double by Babe Herman. For the second time in this Series, the Cubs got nothing but zeros off Lon Warneke in his start.

Detroit went on to win the 1934 Fall Classic in Detroit, back at home. Warneke did not get into the game. And, although with Chicago in 1945, he did not pitch for them in the Fall Classic that year. His game five performance turned out to be the last game he pitched in the World Series.

The Cubs had to deal with losing the World Series for many years after 1908 (To date, the last time they won the Fall Classic) to 1945. Thereafter, they have never managed to return to the October Classic. But a performance like from Warneke, no doubt helped ease the pain somewhat.

Monday, November 17, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The Dean Brothers sealed the deal in the 1934 Fall Classic, winning two games apiece!

The brothers, who seemed to exemplify the Gashouse Gang that was the St. Louis Cardinals of the 1930s, were poised to deliver in the World Series that year. And the poor Detroit Tigers were the victims of each, times two!

It was Dizzy that carried a 30-7 record into this one. And he was also on the hill in game one. Dizzy delivered!

He allowed a run in the bottom of the third in Detroit. But by then, it was 3-0, Tigers. Detroit tacked on another in the bottom of the sixth, but now things really looked hopeless, as it was 8-1 at the time for the Cards. Dean allowed another meaningless run in the bottom of the eighth, but St. Louis won this thing in a laugher, 8-3.

Detroit, however, took game two in the bottom of the twelfth, just to let Dizzy and his brother Paul know it was going to be a long Fall Classic. But, things only ended up working out for the better as a result.

To begin with, Paul took the hill in game three back at home. And he did he ever come through!

Paul carried a 4-0 lead into the top of the ninth, as the Tigers were handcuffed by his brilliant pitching. The only question remaining was whether or not he would really trump his brother and get a shutout.

After allowing a leadoff single, things settled down for Dean and he got the next two batters out. One more out and...


Hank Greenberg cracked a triple to spoil the shutout. However, Dean wasn't in a giving mood this day. When he retired Goose Goslin for the final out, the Cardinals had a 4-1 win and a 2-1 lead in the 1934 World Series.

Game four saw Detroit explode for a 10-4 win, as that forced the enigmatic Dizzy back to the hill in game five in St. Louis with the series tied at two. This time the Cardinals ace lost the game 3-1. The Tigers were heading home just a win away from taking this. But the Deans had other ideas.

Paul stopped them in game six, but it sure wasn't easy. First, a 1-0 lead was erased. As was a 3-1 lead lost with the Tigers tallying two in the bottom of the sixth. Paul Dean himself put the Cardinals up for good with a single in the top of the seventh. Detroit got the tying run to third in the bottom of the frame, and two more runners on the next inning. Some superb clutch pitching ending that. The Cardinals themselves got two runners on in the top of the ninth, but failed to give Paulie some breathing room. No matter: 1-2-3 went Detroit in the bottom of the ninth! Series tied at three! On to a winner-take-all game seven.

Enter Dizzy.

Exit Detroit's chances.

A seven run outburst by St. Louis in the top of the third opened this thing up. Dizzy got in on the act, two different times in the same inning. He doubled and scored the game's first run. Later, Dizzy singled home another run. In doing so, he ended up with more runs scored and RBIs this game then the entire Detroit team! Dean was on his way to a shutout, you see!

Detroit scored twice more in the top of the sixth to make it a 9-0 game. The inning was highlighted by Detroit's Marv Owen getting spiked by the St. Louis' Joe Medwick. The Tigers' fans were not amused at the rout or the sight of one of their own getting it. They threw everything they could find (especially tomatoes) at Joe, and he was removed from the game for his own safety. The Cards were undaunted in their assault, and added two more to make the final, 11-0.

Dizzy had gone 2-1, and Paul even better, 2-0. The 1934 World Series would not have been won by the Cardinals without them. Brother acts in sports are always a fun story. Or in the case of tennis' Williams, sister acts. Hockey had the Espositos. The Dean's, however, were something else for the St. Louis faithful. There have been better brother acts in baseball. On the mound, Phil and Joe Niekro come to mind. But the Dean brothers never had a dull moment, and helped make this 1934 Cardinal team, one for the ages!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Dale Mitchell, who was the last out of Don Larsen's perfect game, was also the last out of the 1954 Fall Classic.

So two famous last outs, all rolled into one pretty good player. Dale batted .312 lifetime.

Mitchell, who was also on the 1948 Cleveland Indians for good measure, ended up playing in thirteen World Series games, so of course he was going to have some back luck along the way.

In 1948, the Indians needed no such luck. Nor did it appear they needed any in 1954. Cleveland came into the Fall Classic against the New York Giants with a record of 111 wins and only 43 losses. Mitchell was not even in the starting lineup that World Series. But he came into the game as a pinch hitter under the most bizzare of circumstances.

So, Willie Mays makes "The Catch" of Vic Wertz, right? You've seen that. Larry Doby, on second, advanced to third for Cleveland, who also had Al Rosen on first, who singled. One out, runners on the corners.

Hank Majeski came in to bat for Dave Philley. But the Giants had seen enough from pitcher Don Liddle, who gave up the long fly from Wertz. Marv Grissom came into to pitch for the Giants. Liddle did not leave quietly. He turned to Grissom and said, "Well, I got my man."

Well, he sure did. The score was tied at two when all this amazing stuff was happening! But now Grissom would have to get his man, Majeski. But Majeski would not hit. Dale Mitchell came into bat. Mitchell coaxed a walk from Grissom. So the bases were loaded despite "The Catch".

The Indians went to the well for another pinch hitter, Dave Pope, but Grissom fanned him. Jim Hegan was then retired and the threat was stuffed. Willie Mays' catch, however, was the only thing we should be talking about in that game, right? The Giants took this thing in extras, 5-2.

Further amazing was the fact that Mitchell batted only twice more in this Fall Classic. In game three hit batted by was retired with the Indians trailing 6-1. Cleveland managed to score that inning but lost the game 6-2. With that, New York was up three games to 0 and looking for the sweep.

They got it in game four, as they stormed out to a 7-0 lead. Majeski, of all people, got Cleveland back in this thing somewhat with a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth. The Indians scored again in the bottom of the seventh and even got had a man on third before the Giants got out of there.

So, in the bottom of the ninth, with the Giants still up 7-4, it was up to Mitchell to keep the ball rolling on a comeback attempt. With Steve Dente on first and two outs, Mitchell stepped into the dish for Dave Pope. He popped out to third and the Giants were World Series champions in a most surprising of sweeps.

Dale Mitchell was with Cleveland in 1956, when Brooklyn purchased his contract July 29th. He only played 19 games for Brooklyn and batted .292.

He was on the roster for the postseason. Brookly took game one and Mitchell sat and waited. In game two, Brooklyn was behind 6-1 in the bottom of the second when he batted for pitcher Ed Roebuck. He failed to deliver, but Brooklyn tied the game that inning. And they went on to win, 13-8.

The Dodgers lost game three and Mitchell warmed the bench some more. In game four, he batted for Roebuck again, but again failed to deliver as Brooklyn lost again, 6-2.

And of course on to game five. Well, Don Larsen was pitching a perfect game, and up to 92 pitches after retiring 26 straight batters. Now, as Dale batted for Sal Maglie, just one more out to go.

Ball one was outside.

Larsen got a called strike.

Mitchell swung and misses the next pitch. 1-2. One more pitch...

Mitchell fouled it off.

But when Larsen's next pitch was called a strike on the outside corner, the only perfect game (or no-hitter for that matter) had been thrown. Mitchell had one more plate appearance left in him. And Brooklyn had one more win left in them.

The Dodgers took game six, 1-0 in 10 innings. But in game seven, it was all New York.

The Yankees took an early 5-0 lead off Don Newcombe. Another Don, Bessent, relieved. He held the Yankees scoreless in his three inning relief stint. But Brooklyn still trailed 5-0 in the bottom of the sixth and Bessent was the first scheduled batter there. Mitchell batted for him and grounded out. The next two men were also retired.

The Yankees went on to win the game, 9-0 and wrap up the World Series. Dale Mitchell had also played his last game.

World Series are sometimes remembered for one play, like a Mays' catch. Or one game with a majestic performance, like Don Larsen's perfect game. Dale Mitchell made the last out to ensure Willie Mays' catch jump started the Giants on a sweep. And he made the last out in Don Larsen's perfect game to make it official. The Fall Classic can be good and bad timing. Sadly for Mitchell, it was a batter in the right place and right time. It was only the result that wasn't what he was hoping for!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

In his three game sevens pitched, Bob Gibson had his "worst" start in terms of runs allowed. He did, however pitch well in each. At least, when he had too!

Staked, by his St. Louis Cardinals to a 6-0 lead after five innings in game seven of the 1964 World Series, Gibby was looking home free. But the opposition was the New York Yankees. The home town fans would not be in for any smooth sailing!

Bobby Richardson, leading off the top of the sixth, singled on a slow roller to third. Roger Maris followed with a single and Mickey Mantle was next. Gibson had help The Mick to no hits in the '64 Fall Classic. But this time, Mickey went deep to left for three runs. It was his 18th and last World Series home run.

The Yankees hit the ball hard off Gibson in the next inning as Richardson got his thirteenth hit with two down. Maris was back at the dish and Mantle was back in the on-deck circle. Gibson had to get him. Maris hit it well, but right to Mike Shannon in right. St. Louis then got a little more breathing room as Ken Boyer hit a solo home run in the bottom of the frame to extend the lead to four runs.

Gibson got through the top of the eight without much trouble. Mantle was the only Yankee to get it out of the infield. The Cardinals looked poised for more runs in the bottom of the frame, but came up empty. Gibson then gave up solo home runs to Clete Boyer and Phil Linz in the top of the ninth. The lead was down to 7-5. Gibby got Richardson to pop out to end it.

Gibson and St. Louis faced the Boston Red Sox in 1967. Gibby won games one and four to put St. Louis up three games to one. But the Red Sox charged back and forced a game seven at home. Gibson took the hill.

The Red Sox got a run in the bottom of the first of a scoreless deadlock, but Gibby got out of the that without a run tallied. And through four innings, settled down on a no-hitter. And also a nice lead he helped provide!

The Cardinals scored twice in the top of the third to take a 2-0 lead. After failing to get a run the next inning, St. Louis needed more breathing room. Here comes Gibson the batter!

He hit a home run and the lead was now three. The Cards kept the rally going and crossed the plate again before the third out was recorded. But in the bottom of the frame, Gibby lost the no-hitter and shutout.

George Scott got a hold of one of Gibson's offerings and smashed a triple to centre. A throwing error by Julian Javier on the play scored him. 4-1, Cardinals. But St. Louis had no intention of losing this thing. Gibson got the next three batters out to keep the lead. And when Javier hit a three-run home run in the top of the fifth, the countdown was on.

Gibson, showing what he had learned from the last time he was up six runs in a game seven, didn't let up. Could the Red Sox do anything to Hoot?

Not in the bottom of the frame as they went 1-2-3. Carl Yastrzemski led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk. But Bob Gibson got Ken (Hawk) Harrelson to force him at second for the first out. Then he retired the next two batters.

St. Louis went down 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh and eighth, but the Red Sox were not done. Rico Petrocelli led off the bottom of the eighth with a double. A wild pitch to Elston Howard moved Rico to third with no outs. Dalton Jones came in to bat for Ellie, during the plate appearance, as the Red Sox needed everything they could muster at this point. Jones walked and things looked promising.

Norm Siebern, like Howard and Gibson's teammate Roger Maris, an ex-Yankee, batted for the pitcher. Gibson got him to force Jones at second. This was crucial. Although Petrocelli scored on the play, Boston's chances of a big inning took a step backwards. Gibson could afford to allow the Sox a run at this point, leading 7-1. But he didn't want them to get to 7-5 or even 7-4 like in '64!

Joe Foy also hit into a force, as did Mike Andrews. Gibson was out of his most difficult ordeal of the afternoon. St. Louis looked more than poised for a big inning with the bases filled and only one out in the top of the ninth, but could not score.

Gibson face Yaz again, and Carl lined a single to right. It was the Red Sox's third hit of the game. It was also their last. Harrelson hit into a double play and Scott fanned. Gibson and the Cardinals were champions again, and again in seven games.

The same scenario presented itself the next year as it was the Detroit Tigers turn. Wins by Gibson in games one and four again put St. Louis up three games to one. But again, the opposition came back.

In game seven, Gibson started strong. He retired the first ten batters to face him. His mound opponent, Mickey Lolich, looked tired and beaten, but kept getting out of trouble. Lolich then began to look like Gibson out there.

Gibson was undaunted, and had a 1-2-3 fifth and sixth. In the top of the seventh, the great Gibson finally faltered.

With two down, Norm Cash and Willie Horton singled. Jim Northrup then hit a ball that centerfielder Curt Flood misjudged and it got behind him for a triple. 2-0, Tigers. When Bill Freehan followed with a double, it was 3-0.

The Cardinals got a man on in the bottom of the frame on an error, but did not score. Gibson had a 1-2-3 top of the eight. But time was running out on St. Louis. They coaxed a walk off Lolich in the bottom of the eighth, but again failed to score. Gibson batted for himself in that inning and fanned, meaning he'd be back for the top of the ninth. It might have been a bad move.

With one out, Horton singled. Northrup followed with one of his own. Bill Freehan was retired. But Don Wert singled to make it 4-0. The Tigers were three outs away from a World Championship.

St. Louis finally managed to pry a run off Lolich via a Mike Shannon home run in the bottom of the ninth, but that was it. The Cardinals and Gibson had lost, 4-1.

A tough was to end it for Bob Gibson. But in game one of '68, he'd fanned 17 Tigers in a shutout. Game four saw the Tigers score just once off him. 1967 saw Gibson win 2-1 in game one in a pitcher's duel. Game four was a majestic 6-0 win for him. 1964 saw him lose 8-3 (but Bob only pitched eight innings and only allowed four runs) in game 2 and win 5-2 in game five. That game saw him fan 13 and allow no earned runs.

Gibson, the competitor, may have had some problems in game seven. But the greats handle adversary the way you and I handle a cold. We fight through it. Gibson faced several tough tests in every World Series starts of his, but handled them like a fighter. And while game seven is a challenge to anyone who participates in them, Gibson met it head on. No quarter asked or given!

The Leafs Goaltending: Maybe Leaf Things Well Enough Alone!

So, Toronto has a goaltending controversy? Really? When?

I thought I saw this all last year. Did you? You nod in agreement. Okay. Randy Carlyle said it was okay. Is is okay if I vent my two cents? This is my blog and Carlyle says it's okay! Alright!

James Reimer. Hey, didn't he start last year pretty well? Yes. How about this year? More of the same, says I. Can he sustain it? Well, that has yet to be determined. Oh yeah, get to, "The Other Guy!" Last year, it was Reimer.

This year, it's Jonathan Bernier. So he starts the season in goal. Carey Price shows him what a real number one goalie should be like in the season opener. In the next game against Pittsburgh, Bernier gets left out to dry and gives it his all. But of the 41 shots against, he can only stop 36. Uh-oh. Everything was settled, set in stone and right for the season. Time for plan "B". Goalie" B". Or is it now goalie "A"? See, this is how and why this thing is so confusing and engaging. Oh, and also because it's Toronto, you see. I sense a cure for 1967 coming here. Really!

Well, maybe not, but Optimus Reimer sure has Leaf Nation believing. And for good reason. The Leafs played like beleafers out there against New York when he started in front of the twine. An injury that forced his removal, oddly, seemed to overshadow the fact that he'd played well, and so had Toronto. A nice six-goal explosion helps, too!

And then a nice OT win, which Reimer almost lost with a delay of game penalty late. Granted, he lost to Detroit. But when Bernier struggled again, against Boston, Carlyle was forced to admit the situation was far from okay. And then, he was forced to admit that Reimer was a little better than okay! Joking aside, somehow, Reimer seems right at home here in Toronto, doesn't he? They throw you under the carpet, then reach over to dust the floor, and notice there's some hidden treasure underneath.

That came in the form of a great win over Chicago. Reimer, what can I say? To say he stole the game, no, that's not enough. It was one of those games. The games that, even if you really believe in Toronto, a loss had to seem the most likely scenario for this team. Toronto hung on well for two. Game tied, Leafs take the lead in the third. Of course, here's where Chicago takes off. Alas, here's where Reimer stole it! Outshot 23-7, Toronto looked like a bunch of minor league rejects in the third. Reimer, though, looked like the reincarnation of Curtis Joseph with his sprawling, last minute grasp. Everyone was looking at the stubborn red light. What, there just had to be a malfunction. That would explain it all!

Out off all that, the Leafs held on to win somehow. Reimer, allowed those two goals on powerplay. Hmmm, I blame not the goalie, but rather the infractions on those two.

So, of course, that just added fuel to the fire. The fire of "Who's In Goal?" That, has gained in recent weeks as the most famous routine since Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First?" The Leafs headed out west to take on Arizona (or Phoneix, if you haven't started watching hockey this year) and Colorado. Bernier looked primed to start against the 'Yotes, but Carlyle decided against it. Reimer played. The Leafs started slow, Reimer gave up some early ones. And he got better as the game went on. Toronto, however, could not pull this thing off, ending up 3-2. Carlyle did the right thing after, placing the blame on the Leafs slow start. Obvious, but it had to be addressed.

And that problem carried over to the next game. A slow start, a rebound, and a 3-2 lead by the opposition, The Leafs pulled Jonathan for the extra attacker late and tied it. Then they survived an OT which featured a lot of three on three action due to some offsetting minors and other extracurricular activity. Toronto survived that, but Bernier went 0-3 in the shootout!

Now, Carlyle gave Bernier another chance at redemption against the Rangers. It was a narrow 5-4 win this time. Leafs played better, but seemed to be in a mode of not holding on to leads and letting New York back in it. They managed to pull it out in overtime, which was good. Bernier played better than the four goals allowed, but what about Ottawa on Sunday?

It was back to Reimer.

Again, the Leafs played a game of too-close-for-comfort. They came out on top 5-3. But the next game would be a real test. It was against Boston.

Toronto stormed out, however, and surged ahead with four second period goals to Boston's one. That turned a 1-0 lead into a 5-1 lead. The Bruins might have had ideas of a comeback (as if they haven't before, right?) but a sixth Toronto goal stopped that. Bernier didn't have too busy a night. He faced only 26 shots and turned away all but one.

The win is one to ponder for Toronto. They controlled the action against one of the league's better teams. Bernier had a rare easy night, by this team's standards. Phil Kessel and his mates had a strong game at both ends as Toronto was three for four on the powerplay and killed off all of Boston's powerplays. This has been Toronto's real problem this season.

Funny, though, look what happens with a better effort up front? And hey, did you see Reimer and Kessel smiling on the bench? Kessel didn't get the hattrick. Reimer didn't get the start. But when things are clicking, it's all smiles, right?

Bernier's numbers are a little off from last year. His save percentage was .917 this year compared to .923 and .922 the two previous years. Most expect him to come around. At least those numbers. Amazingly enough, for all his greatness last year, his goals-against average was 2.68. This year, it's actually also down, to 2.57. But that's what you wanted to see, right?

Reimer, remember, got off to a hot start last year, then lost his confidence. But, being such a high-class individual, he handled it well. His decision to withdrew his trade request looks to have paid dividens for Toronto. Right now, his save percentage of .925 is higher than in any previous season. I actually expect him to get a lot of playing time with those numbers. Reimer has a higher GAA than Bernier, but his W-L-T record is 4-2-0 and Bernier's is 5-3-2. So it's pretty even.

The real controversial issue here is the men in front of these two goalies. Sometimes, it's easy to have confidence when you know you are going to play. Even there, though, do you want to face such an onslaught. The Leafs have some great offence, truth be told. But Toronto has problems on defence, and Carlyle has some difficult decisions to make in regards to his 'tenders. For instance, he started Bernier against Pittsburgh earlier this season, instead of Reimer, who has a far better record. The Leafs next game, coincidently, is against the Pens. The Leafs will need all the offence and defence they can muster. And in goal you have to expect another 30 + shots. Always amazes me that Bernier and Reimer go in net, knowing what they are up against. If the Leafs could fix that problem, then we wouldn't be here talking about goaltending. At least, not as much.

Monday, November 10, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Bobby Richardson made the last putout in 1962. Then he popped out to end it in 1964! He always seemed to do something of note in the Fall Classic. It was Bobby's time to shine! It was a rematch of the 1951 World Series, The Mick and The Say Hey Kid again. But this this was a coast-to-coast affair. New York, in fact, was going to start things in San Fran, and end things there, too!

After two great World Series performances in 1960 and 1961 (.367 and .361), Bobby fell off in '62 with only a .148 batting average. He managed to collect two hits and two runs scored in game five. But in game seven, he made two nice plays to help the New York Yankees win it.

He walked twice in the game, which was pretty rare for him. But in the ninth inning, with New York clinging to a one-run lead (1-0), Bobby came through with the glove!

Matty Alou stepped in to pinch hit for pitcher Billy O'Dell, who had just tossed two fine scoreless innings of relief. O'Dell also did not allow a hit. But Ralph Terry, you see, was working on a two-hitter!

Alou got the third hit of the game for San Francisco. Terry settled down and put the Giants on edge by fanning the next two batters. But Willie Mays stroked a double to right. Tie game?

Alou rounded third and maybe had thoughts of home. But here's where Richardson comes to the rescue!

Roger Maris, playing right, got to it quickly. Bobby, the second basemen, ran out to short right to take the throw. Maris hit Richardson with a nice peg and Bobby gunned the thing home. Alou held. But now, the tying run was ninety feet away and the winning run was at second. A base hit here, and this thing is all over!

The other Willie, McCovey, stepped in. Terry's first pitch was fouled off to right. Maris gave chase, but this thing ended up in the stands. The next pitch was rocketed towards right-center. Here's where Richardson was positioned. Bobby caught the thing, and this exciting World Series was over.

Two years later, it was another exciting affair. The Yankees though, were ageing and injured. Richardson collected thirteen hits, including eight of St. Louis' star pitcher, Bob Gibson.

And Gibby (who just celebrated his 79th birthday yesterday!) was there on the hill in game seven as the Cards built a 6-0 lead after five innings.

In the top of the sixth, Richardson led off by beating a slow roller towards third. Maris followed with a single. When Mantle took Gibson out of the park on an 0-1 pitch, the lead was sliced in half. Gibson suddenly seemed a little less than invincible. Manager Johhny Keane decided to leave him in the game. But Gibson, who had started game five, was tired.

Richardson connected for another hit with two down in the top of the seventh. Roger Maris connected well on the next pitch, but it was a liner for an inning-ending out. The Cardinals, added a run in the bottom of the frame on a solo blast by Ken Boyer.

The Yankees, however, were fighting this thing to the end. With one out in the top of the ninth, and St. Louis still up 7-3, New York caught fire. Or they caught up to some of Bob Gibson's bad pitches.

Clete Boyer, not to be outdone by his brother, hit a payoff pitch into left for a home run of his own. It was now 7-4, St. Louis. Under today's scheme of things, we'd see the closer in at this point. But this was 1964 and no one came on for Gibson!

But Phil Linz hit the Yankees second home run of the inning and third of the game, as Gibson was just one out away from putting this thing on ice. But now, with the score 7-5, he'd have to face Bobby Richardson.

Gibson missed for ball one, then got a strike. But on the next pitch, Bobby popped out to second, ending a very, very exciting World Series that didn't seem to know where to stop.

For Bobby Richardson, it was his last Fall Classic. It was also his third seventh game, having gone to seven in '60 for good measure(He also was on the Yankees in '57 and '58 when it went seven, but never got off the bench past game five of either clashes!).

On a team that had Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Ellie Howard and Yogi Berra, Richardson was low on the totem pole of dangerous hitters. In fact, I believe he might have been the hitter that garnered the least attention. But at the end of '62 and '64, here's Bobby!

Monday, October 27, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Jeremy Guthrie is the only pitcher to start a Fall Classic game, win it, and fail to get a K or issue a walk.

Taking the hill in San Francisco for the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 World Series, someone had to win this game and take the Series lead. The two teams had split the first two in Kansas.

Guthrie, only 13-11 on the season for Kansas, need to win this one, however. The underdog Royals were already short a man with this game in San Fran. No DH. And Guthrie had to bat.

But Jeremy, who has twice led the league in losses (17 in 2009 and 2011) had no intention of letting his team down in this crucial affair. Having won game three of the ALCS against Baltimore with a three-hitter, two K's and one walk, he was pitching better than his regular season record showed.

Kansas scored a run for him in the top of the first, and Guthrie got 'em 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame. Better still, he got 'em on just nine pitches. But no strikeouts, of course!

In the bottom of the second inning, with the Royals still up 1-0, Pablo Sandoval stepped up to the dish for San Francisco. The count did go to three and two, but Sandoval then flied out. The next batter, Hunter Pence, also went 3-2, but the stroked a single. Pence, though, was caught stealing. Guthrie did permit another single, but issued no more than two balls to the next three batters. And Jeremy got out of there with the lead intact!

The first two batters in the bottom of the third were no sweat. Then things got tough. Gregor Blanco, the leadoff hitter, came to the plate. This is someone you don't want to put on base, even with two outs. Three straight balls seemed to indicate that was going to happen. But Jeremy got a called strike, then got Gregor to fly out to centre and end a 1-2-3 inning.

Tim Hudson, the Giants' starter, was starting to settle down. He had a 1-2-3 inning of his own in the top of the frame. Then, he added another in the top of the fourth. Things just don't come easy in October, eh?

But in the bottom of the fourth, Jeremy did make things look easy. He got ahead of all three batters he faced 1-2, then retired them on the very next pitch. Twelve pitches, and a nice 1-2-3 inning!

Hudson, though, trumpet that. He retired all the side 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth on just six pitches. He threw one pitch, total, that missed the strike zone.

Guthrie was equal to the task in the bottom of the frame. First, he got Hunter Pence out on a liner to second, despite falling behind two balls and one strike. Then, he got Brandon Belt out on another liner. When Travis Ishikawa was retired on a grounder to first, that Guthrie himself made the putout on, the inning was over, 1-2-3. And it was over on eight pitches.

The Royals scored two more runs in the top of the sixth. But in the bottom of the frame, things finally fell apart for Guthrie. First, Brandon Crawford singled on an 0-1 pitch. Mike Morse pinch hit for Hudson. Guthrie got ahead 0-2, and then Morse fouled off two pitches. Then, disaster. Three straight balls. Oh, no!

Guthrie might have been better off walking Mike, but what happened was worse. On the next pitch, Morse hit a double to left to score a run and send Jeremy to the showers. Eventually, Morse scored himself that inning.

The Royals, though, hung on to win. And Jeremy Guthrie got his first World Series win. One for the record books. 5 IP, 2 (E)R, 4 H, 0 K, 0 BB!

World Series: Did You Know?

Ned Yost, prior to managing the 2014 Kansas City Royals, faced the other Missouri baseball team in the Fall Classic.

Ned was not much of a player. In fact, the most games he ever played in a season was 80, less than half the season. In 1982, he was a catcher for 39 games and a DH for one game. His team, the Milwaukee Brewers, made it all the way to the World Series that year. Ned even made the postseason roster.

And he sat on the bench and waited. Even in the ALCS against California, he watched. Watched as the Brewers fell behind two games to zero. It looked like Ned and his mates were not going to make it to October's Classic!

But they rallied to win the next three games. Then, in game one of the World Series against St. Louis, it was all Milwaukee. They crushed 'em, 11-0.

But the Series went back and fourth, which each team alternating wins through five games. But after those five games, all Yost had done was ride the pine. The Brewers, though, could not have cared less. They were one win away from their first World Series championship. And the city's first since 1957. They never got that one more win, however.

Game six was all St. Louis. The Cardinals were not going to lose it at home. It was like game one again, but in reverse. After five, it was 7-0 for the Cardinals. Then six more runs in the bottom of the sixth made it 13-0, St. Louis.

Ted Simmons, the regular catcher on Milwaukee, made the last out of a 1-2-3 top of the seventh for The Brew Crew. Ned Yost was inserted for him in the bottom of the frame. It seemed unlikely that Yost would make it to the dish. All three St. Louis batters flied out to left. There were only nine pitches thrown in that inning. Yost caught only five of them!

A runner reached in the top of the eighth for the Brewers, as they tried to at least break the shutout. But the other three batters were retired without any advancement. The Brewers also committed an error in a thirteen-pitch, bottom of the frame. But again, no advancement.

So the stubborn and defiant Brewers came up for their last hurrah in the top of the ninth. They made it an interesting final frame, to say the least.

Jim Gantner got things going with a double. Paul Molitor singled him to third. A wild pitch to Robin Yount and it was 13-1. But Yount grounded out to third. However with Molitor at second, Yost was now in the on-deck circle. And there was only one out. Cecil Cooper grounded out to centre and Molly did not try for third. Ned Yost came to the dish. Paul better not try for third here, right?

He got ahead in the count, 2-1, then fouled off a pitch. When the next pitch missed, it was full. Another foul ball prolonged the plate appearance. But Yost was one pitch away from being retired. The Brewers, as a team, were on strike away from losing the game. The next pitch, from Cardinal starter John Stuper (on his way to a fine four-hitter) missed. Ball four!

But Ben Ogilvie flied to the centre to end that. When St. Louis took game seven, 6-3, The Milwaukee Brewers had lost. Ned Yost never made it back to the World Series as a player.

But this year, as a manager, many of his players are in the same situation that he was in as a player. Yost himself obviously knows that you can never be sure if it's going to happen to you again, so make the most of it. While his only World Series appearance may have been brief, what he took from that is undoubtedly rubbing off on his team. Down 3-2, Kansas is coming back home for games six and (if necessary) game seven of the 2014 Fall Classic. Ned, I'm sure, wants to win just as much as his players do. Nothing like winning for the first time ever, eh?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The 1964 World Series had two National Basketball Association players in it. Dick Groat of the Cardinals and Steve Hamilton of the Yankees, both played in the NBA.

Steve Hamilton was a pitcher for New York. Yet he played on the Minneapolis Lakers (They moved to Los Angels in 1960/61) for two seasons, 1958/59 and 1959/60. Jerry West did not arrive until 1960/61, so Hamilton did not get to play with the man who eventually became the NBA Logo. But Elgin Baylor was there. They got to the finals in 1959, despite having a sub .500 team. Hamilton was also in a "finals" in baseball, 1963. And then, for good measure, the next year. But he was not the only former NBA player in that Fall Classic.

Dick Groat played one season in the NBA, 1952/53. But it was for just 26 games. Baseball was more to his liking. And in 1960, he won a World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Four years later, he was back in the Fall Classic.

After five games, it was Groat's St. Louis Cardinals with a three to two edge over Hamilton's New York Yankees. Steve was up and ready in the 'pen in game five as Tim McCarver won the game with a three-run home run in the top of the tenth. Not only were the Yankees down, but Hamilton had not pitched yet!

So in game six in St. Louis, New York broke a 1-1 deadlock on home runs by Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, who went back-to-back. When Elston Howard singled home a run in the top of the eighth, it was 4-1. A grand slam by Joe Pepitone then put this one out of reach.

St. Louis clawed back with a run against Jim Bouton in the bottom of the frame. When Bouton could get only one out in the top of the ninth, out came Steve Hamilton to nail this one down. But Bob Skinner greeted him with a single to score a run. 8-3. Hamilton induced Curt Flood to ground into a game-ending double play. The Yankees had forced a game seven. Would the two former NBA stars finally face each other in this World Series?

The Cardinals seemed to have this one in the bag. They raced in front 6-0 after five. But Mickey Mantle's three-run home run in the top of the sixth off a tired Bob Gibson cut the lead in half. Hamilton was on the hill to start the seventh.

He fanned both Curt Flood and Bill White, making it look easy. Ken Boyer, though, put a damper on any comeback thoughts by the Yankees by going over the fence in left. It was 7-3, St. Louis. Dick Groat was the next batter. Hamilton got him to ground out to Kenny's younger brother Clete at third.

New York seemed to fade against Gibson in the top of the eighth, as they went 1-2-3. Mantle hit the ball hard, but right to Flood in centerfield. And St. Louis came at Hamilton hard in the bottom of the frame.

Tim McCarver singled. Mike Shannon reached on an error by Boyer at third. A bunt moved both runners up. Hamilton's day was over. Pete Mikkelsen somehow got New York out of the inning without any runner getting home.

New York them scored twice in the top of the ninth on home runs by Boyer and Phil Linz before Bob Gibson finally got 'em out of there.

Neither Groat or Hamilton ever made it back to the World Series. But baseball players, no matter what team you are on, always seem to share a common dinominator with each other in some ways. Both Hamilton and Groat were obviously gifted athletes, and in 1964, they took to the field as two-sports stars in the World Series.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Darrell Porter twice faced his ex-mates in the World Series. And this covers three different teams.

Porter, the catcher, started his career with the Milwaukee Brewers. But in 1980, he was on the Kansas City Royals. The Royals made it to the Fall Classic for the first time ever that year.

Darrell, who had his first taste of postseason in '77 with George Brett and some others, struggled in 1980. He managed just one hit in the ALCS, but Kansas finally found a way to beat New York, having twice lost to them in the late 70s. In the World Series against Philadelpha, he was hitless until collecting a pair of singles in game six. The Phillies won it, right then and there.

So it was on to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982 for Porter, and this time, he delivered. He collected two hits in game one, and another pair in game two. The Milwaukee Brewers, his old team, won game one without a sweat, 10-0.

In game two, Porter collected his first World Series RBI and the Cards squared things.

Porter did not collect more than one hit in the remaining five games, but he picked the right spots to deliver.

In game three, Darrell failed to get a hit, but the Cardinals had an easy time of their own, 6-2. His teammates only collected six hits total, however. The next game saw Milwaukee square this thing at two games with a 7-5 win. The Brew Crew erupted for six runs in the bottom of the seventh. Porter got a walk in addition to his hit.

Milwaukee took game five as well, 6-4. The Cardinals scored twice in the top of the ninth to try and come back. Porter, 0-4 at this point, singled. That put runners on first and second. Darrell was removed for a pinch runner. But neither of the baserunners would score.

But in the next game, St. Louis stayed alive and Darrell had a huge hit. In the bottom of the fourth, it was his two-run home run that put the Cardinals up 4-0. They added nine more runs, while the Brewers managed a meaningless run in the top of the ninth. The 13-1 win sent this thing to a seventh and decisive game.

St. Louis came back in game seven from 3-1 down to take a 4-3 lead. Then, batting for what turned out to be the last time in 1982, the Cards got the insurance they were looking for. Last of the eighth. And it was our boy that delivered it.

Porter's single scored a fifth run, and when Steve Braun followed with one of his own, the Cardinals had the breathing room they needed. Porter, who finished with a .351 average in the Fall Classic that year, took home MVP honours.

In 1985, Porter faced another former team, the Royals. And after four games, it looked like he'd have another World Series ring.

In game one in Kansas, Porter got only one hit. He did not knock in a run or score one. But the Cardinals won it, 3-1. And despite being held hitless in game two, St. Louis staged a dramatic ninth inning rally and won 4-2.

It was on to St. Louis for Porter and his mates. But home cooking did not change Porter's slump as he was again held hitless. Worse still, St. Louis lost, 6-1. Porter would be a spectator for the next two games.

St. Louis, stuck Tom Nieto in behind the plate. He, too, was held hitless. But he walked, had a sac bunt, and drove in a run as St. Louis won 3-0. One more win by the Cardinals and this thing was over!

But St. Louis never got that win.

Nieto was back behind the plate in game five, but Kansas won by the same score they had won game three here, 6-1. The Cardinals were not hitting. Nieto went 0-4.

In game six in Kansas, Porter was back behind the dish. In the top of the sixth, he hit a single to send a runner to second with no outs. The Cardinals stranded both runners. But in the top of the eighth, they broke the scoreless deadlock with a much-needed run.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Royals got the leadoff man to first as Jorge Orta beat out a ball where pitcher Todd Worrell was a little slow getting to first. Replays showed that Orta was out. Steve Balboni popped to first, but Jack Clark, could not get to it in foul territory. A bunt attempt resulted in an out at third. But then Porter allowed a passed ball. After Hal McRae was walked to load the bases, Dane Iorg won the game with a single to right. Balboni scored as the throw from right was just a split second too late. Balboni was just ahead as Porter got the ball.

Darrell was back behind the dish in game seven, but St. Louis imploded. John Tudor, looking for his third win for St. Louis, got roughed up and was gone after 2 1/3 innings. Kansas City led 3-0. Two more runs scored before the inning was over and this thing was a laugher. Well, except for St. Louis.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, things got worse. Porter caught one of Joaquin Andujar's pitches that Joaquin, Porter and manager Whitey Herzog thought was a strike. However, that's not what home plate umpire Don Denkinger thought. Joaquin, quite the character, wasn't about to forget that Denkinger made the call at first in game six where Orta was clearly safe. Andujar let Don know that game seven would not be happening if not for his bad call. So Andujar did a little showmanship to go along with that and got ejected. So did an irate Herzog. The whole Cardinal team was mad. Joaquin and Whitey did not go into the night quietly. But Kansas tacked on six more runs. This thing was really over.

The Cardinals got a hit in the top of the sixth by Ozzie Smith but he was stranded. Porter then came up in the top of the seventh with two on and two out and was retired on a fly. The Cardinals and Royals went down 1-2-3 in the next two innings. Kansas had won this one in a laugher, 11-0.

Darrell Porter never made it back to the World Series. He played a bit with Texas in the next two seasons, but did not do much. His much publicized drug problems caught up to him in his later years, and he died far too young.

But Porter, who "got around" the big leagues, was also a player who could come up big when it mattered the most in baseball. When I think of Darrell Porter, I'll think back to some memorable moments in three World Series in the 1980s. And hey, don't we always love facing our old team on the big stage in sports? Always seems to add some inventive to win!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The Kansas City Royals have NEVER won the first game of a Fall Classic!

Last night I was kind of rooting for them, but San Francisco proved to be too strong. Madison Bumgarner proved to be too strong.

In their first ever World Series appearance in 1980, Kansas took on the Philadelphia Phillies. The Series was a marque matchup between two of the greatest third basemen of that, or any era: George Brett and Mike Schmidt!

A pair of two-run home runs by Willie Aitkens and Amos Ortis put the Royals up 4-0 early. But the Phillies, who also had Pete Rose, weren't about to let Kansas come to their neck of the woods and steal one.

The Phillies, at home, erased the four-run deficit in the bottom of the third to take the lead. The Phillies got two runs in as Bob Boone hit a double to put Philadelphia on the board. When Lonnie Smith hit a double to cash in Boone, the lead had been sliced in half. Pete Rose was hit by a pitch and Schmidt drew a walk. When Bake McBride went yard, Philadelphia suddenly had a 5-4 lead!

The Phillies did not stop their and scored twice more in the game, with their great third basemen scoring on a sac fly in the bottom of the fifth to make it a 7-4 lead. That was all for Philadelpha, but as it turns out, they needed both those runs! The Royals came back in the top of the eighth.

George Brett got 'er going for Kansas City with a double off Bob Walk. After one out, Aitkens cleared the fence again to cut the lead to just a single tally, 7-6. But Tug McGraw came in and got Darrel Porter out on a fly to left. A single by Ortis put the tying run on first. But John Wathan hit into an inning-ending double play. Tuggy got 'em 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth for the save.

Five year later, it was the Royals at home, facing the St. Louis Cardinals in the I-70 Series. Game one was at home, but there was no designated hitter. In any event, a single by Steve Balboni in the bottom of the second put Kansas City up 1-0. But Cardinal pitched John Tudor settled down after that. Although he gave up seven hits and two walks in only 6 2/3 innings, he allowed not another run. Todd Worrell came on to pitch the last 2 1/3 inning and shut out Kansas.

Willie McGee's groundout in the top of the third scored the tying run. A pair of doubles put St. Louis up for good in the top of the fourth. Another double, this one by Jack Clark, scored the third and final run for the Cardinals in the top of the ninth. Kansas City had played well but come up empty, 3-1.

Kansas had a 29-year wait to play again in the World Series after 1985, but last night they charged on the field looking to end the jinx. But the San Francisco Giants had other ideas. The Royals were at home and with the DH, but it did't seem to matter.

Pablo Sandoval got the Giants going with a double to knock home the game's first run in the top of the first. When Hunter Pence followed with a two-run home run, it was 3-0, San Fran, right off the bat!

In the top of the fourth, Michael Morse hit a single to score another run for the Giants. It was 4-0, no outs and two runners on. James Shields, the Royals starter, was done for the night. San Francisco didn't stop there. Two more walks and it was 5-0, Giants.

Joe Panik's triple scored another run for San Francisco in the top of the seventh. Sandoval's single scored Panik, making it a 7-0 game. Mercifully speaking, that was all for the Giants' scoring on the night. What about Kansas.

They seemed handcuffed by Madison Bumgarner, who was sailing right along. In the bottom of the seventh, Kansas City finally pried lose a run of him when Salvador Perez took him over the fence. But it was a solo job, so it didn't seem to do much.

Winning a World Series is never easy. You have to overcome obstacles. Winning four out of seven isn't easy. Winning four out of six is even harder. The Royals came up empty in 1980 when they lost the opening act. They came through in 1985 despite repeating the same mistake. What will 2014 bring us? We'll have to wait and see!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Johnny Rutherford was the first Canadian to take the hill in the Fall Classic. It was also during his sole major league season.

The 1952 Brooklyn Dodgers looked poised to win it all. Not only did they have the team, they also had the home-field advantage! And after five games, it looked like more than enough! But in order to get to game five, the Dodgers played game four. The New York Yankees were there again, making a win in this Fall Classic, all the more sweeter!

Joe Black, who won the opener, took the hill. This game was in Yankee Stadium with Brooklyn ahead two games to one. A win in this or the next game would help the cause.

And Black helped the cause! He motored through the Yankees at the cost of only one run. The Big Cat, Johnny Mize, took him out of the park in the bottom of the fourth, but that's the Yankees got off him in seven strong innings. But his mound opponent, Allie Reynolds, held Brookly scoreless through that same stretch.

So in the top of the eighth inning, Brooklyn, down a run, needed some offence. Carl Furillo led off with a single and Black was the next scheduled hitter. George Shuba went sent to the dish to hit for him. But all George could do was fly out to Mickey Mantle in centre. The Yankees then sent up another pinch hitter, Rocky Nelson, but Reynolds got him on a K. When Pee Wee Reese was retired, the promising inning was over as easy as 1-2-3!

So in to the game hopped our boy, Johnny Rutherford. The native of Belleville, Ontario (where I camped in 1986) had to stop the Yankees to give the Dodgers a chance in the top of the ninth. But the first batter he had to face was Mantle.

The Mick was not about to take anyone lightly at this point. New York needed a win here or they'd be behind three games to one.

Rutherford had gone 7-7 in 22 games. Eleven of them had been starts. He had also finished eight games, picking up a pair of saves. His ERA was high, though, 4.25.

The Mick greeted him with a long triple to left, batting from the left side of the dish against Rutherford. When the relay came back into the infield to Reese at short, he tried to nail Mantle at third. In his haste to get him, Reese made a throwing error and Mantle wound up scoring. Even when he didn't go yard, The Mick could put a run on the board with one swing of the bat. Johnny Mize, The Big Cat, walked.

Rutherford got Yogi Berra to line out. Gene Woodling grounded out, with Mize taking second. But Rutherford fanned Hank Bauer and the inning was over. One run, one hit, one error, and one runner left on base. One walk, as well. New York, 2, Brooklyn 0 after eight.

Reynolds got Duke Snider out on a fly to Mickey in centre. Jackie Robinson looked at strike three. When Roy Campanella grounded out to Gil McDougald at third, the Yankees had squared this World Series at two games. And although Brooklyn won game five, New York went to Ebbet's Field and captured games six and seven.

Johnny Rutherford did not get into any of the remaining three games. The next season, he went an impressive 6-0 with a 1.98 ERA for the Newport News of the Piedmont League. Class B Level baseball. Then, Johnny went 5-3 with a 4.17 ERA for Fort Worth of the Texas League. AA Level.
He then spent the 1954 season with St. Paul and Montreal at AAA, Rutherford called it a career following the 1955 season with St. Paul. The Dodgers now had Roger Craig, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale in their organization. It was extremely unlikely that Rutherford could have made a better impression then those guys!

The World Series is full of individuals who have long careers and many appearances. And there are those who play for many years and only get that one appearance. Some never make it at all. For many major leaguers, you are lucky if you make it your first (and only) season. Rutherford did that. And while he only lasted one season and only one World Series appearance, he has a unique niche in Canadian sports history. Johnny Rutherford did a lot more than pitch in the Fall Classic, he made a pitch for more Canadian hurlers in October!

Monday, October 13, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Elroy Face was the first pitcher to record more than two saves in the Fall Classic.

The stat, which was introduced by writers and historians in the 1950s, took on a meaning in as writer Jerome Holtzman put together a more meaningful way of assessing it. Previously, a save was given by some in baseball to pitchers who did little more than finish the game for the winning team but not pick up the win.

So Larry Sherry had pickup up two in 1959, looking great to go along with two wins. That regular season it was Elroy with an 18-1 record in relief. He added 10 saves, going along with the creteria for them at the time. But four of the wins were from blown saves, as was his lone loss. Also, Face blew four additional saves where he failed to pick up a decision.

So in some ways, Elroy was better in 1960. He won 10 games, still a pretty good total. But none of them were the result of blown saves. He also saved 24 games. He blew three saves in his losses, which totalled eight, but only two additional lost saves were in no decisions. Face ended 1960 with more games pitched (68) and innings pitched (114 2/3) then in 1959 (57 and 93 1/3). His ERA rose from 2.70 to 2.90, and the Pirates went 33-23 (one tie) in games Elroy pitched in 1959. In '60 it was actually a little worse. Pittsburgh went 39-28 (again, one tie) in his appearances.

But that should not detract that Elroy Face was clearly the man out of the 'pen in Pittsburgh. Years before Kenny Tekulve (who record three saves of his own in the 1979 Fall Classic) it was Elroy nailing down the last outs when the Pirates needed it the most.

Face had something huge going for him, though, that Tekulve did not. It was still the old system of saves being used. I'm not quite sure when the "new" criteria came into play. I suspect 1969, as that's when saves became an official stat.

Elroy hopped into the first game of the 1960 World Series, in which Pittsburgh was facing the New York Yankees. It was 6-2, Pirates at home. The first two batters had reached base in the top of the eighth. There were no outs. This actually is a save situation by today's standards as the Yankees had the tying run on-deck. But it was Mickey Mantle at the dish and Yogi Berra next. Mantle was not the type of guy to hit into a double-play.

But Face got The Mick to look at strike three. Then it was Berra's turn, as Moose Skowron looked on as the tying run. But Berra could only fly out. Neither Hector Lopez, at second, or Roger Maris at first, advanced. Skowron then became Face's second K.

In the top of the ninth, after Ryne Duren (who posed a 1.88 ERA himself in 1959 and 32 consecutive shutout innings that year from the pen) held Pittsburgh at bay, the Yankees got to Face.

Elston Howard went yard with a man on, and it was now 6-4 Pirates with only one out. Next, Tony Kubek hit a single. The tying run was at the dish!

It was Hector Lopez. He had two weaknesses. 1) He was poor defensively (which didn't matter here) and 2) He was slow (which did matter here).

Face got him to ground into an inning ending double play. So it went into any and all record books, then and now, as a save. But for a while, it didn't look like Elroy would get another in this World Series. The Yankees had too much firepower, you see.

They showed in game two, as New York won 16-3. Then Whitey Ford started his legendary shutout streak with an all-too-easy 10-0 shutout. Mantle, who Face fanned in game one, hit three home runs in those two games. Games four and five would be at Yankees Stadium, where Ford and his mates seemed unstoppable.

But Pittsburgh won game four, 3-2. Face came into pitch in the last of the seventh with Pittsburgh clinging to that 3-2 lead. Then, the Pirates looked done like dinner.

Johnny Blanchard batted for Bobby Shantz and singled. Then, Bob Cerv, crushed one of Face's offerings to deep right centre. It was up to Bill Virdon to make the catch. Joe DeMaestri, who was running for Blanchard, tagged and made it to third. It were two outs, but the tying run was ninety feet away. Kubek grounded back to Face. The inning was over. As was the Yankees offence.

Face got 'em 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth as Roger Maris went down on a fly, Mantle fanned and Berra grounded out. When Elroy had another 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the ninth, the 1960 World Series was square at two, and Elroy Face's name was alongside Larry Sherry's with most saves in a single World Series. After game five, he had that record, all to himself.

Harvey Haddix, went out and held New York to just two runs. Pittsburgh had only four themselves as New York batted in the bottom of the seventh. But they had two more runners on as Lopez moved Kubek (who had singled) to second with a single. Richardson had been retired by Haddix to start the inning, but it was the last out he recorded. The Pirates needed Face to save face and the game.

A grounder by Gil McDougald forced Kubek. And then Face fanned Maris to get out of there. From there on in, all New York got was a walk to Mantle (The Mick's third of the game.). The Pirates scored on Duren in the top of the ninth on a wild pitch.

With a 5-2 win, Pittsburgh was back ahead in the 1960 Fall Classic for the first time since game one. And although the dropped game six back at home, the Pirates ultimately won game seven.

Elroy Face may have not pitched that well in the 1960 World Series, as New York scored four earned runs off him in game seven for good measure. Bill Virdon's catch in game four was also needed. But regardless, when Pittsburgh needed Face, he came in and did the job more often than not in 1960, from April to October!