Monday, July 21, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

When the Boston Red Sox broke The Curse Of The Bambino, the last out wore Ruth's number!

Boston went into the 2004 World Series after coming back from three games to zero in the ALCS against the Yankees. But in the Fall Classic, there was still the matter of the St. Louis Cardinals. No one would remember the comeback unless Boston won it all!

Now for the batter in question. It's Edgar Renteria. But Edgar was hardly a pushover for Boston in that tilt. In fact, even when all the other players would fail on the Cardinals, it was Edgar that seemed to come through.

In game one, Renteria made his presence felt. St. Louis fell behind early, but by the fourth they were back in the game. They trailed 7-2 going in to the inning, but right there in Boston, reality seemed to strike the Sox! #3 was still around Boston, even after 1918. Only he was on the other team!

Renteria walked with two down, but three runs in to make it a 7-5 ballgame. Larry Walker followed with a single and the tying run was now on first. Bronson Arroyo got Boston out of that sticky situation with no further damage.

But in the top of the sixth, the Cardinals would not be denied. With two down, a man on, and St. Louis still trailing 7-5, it was Edgar with a double to close the gap to a run. When Larry Walker followed with a double of his own, the game was tied! What a comeback! Right there in Boston. You know, where they are used to coming so close yet coming up short at this point?

But in the bottom of the seventh, Boston struck back with two runs of their own in this slugfest. Surely now it was over, right?

Again, Edgar would have something to say about that. In the top of the eighth with two on and one out, our boy was at the plate. He singled to left. Manny Ramirez, the Boston left fielder made an error that allowed a runner to score. When Manny made another error on Walker's fly, the game was tied again, 9-9!

The Red Sox would ultimately win the game in the bottom of the frame on a two-run home run by Mark Bellhorn. But what a wild opening act!

With the Red Sox up 6-1 in game two, Edgar led off the top of the eighth against Mike Timlin and drew a walk. With one out, Albert Pujols singled Renteria to third. A fly ball cashed him in. It was 6-2 Boston. That was all for St. Louis, however.

In game three, with Boston ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the third, Jeff Suppan, the starter, surprised everyone by hitting a leadoff single. Edgar Renteria hit a double. The go-ahead run was in scoring position against Pedro Martinez, no less! But Walker hit into a double-play, with Suppan erased at home. Pujols grounded out.

But where Renteria was needed was in the top of the ninth. Leading off with St. Louis trailing 4-0, he fanned. However, it was Larry Walker going yard next. Had Renteria been on base, the lead would have been cut in half with nobody out. Instead, it was 4-1, Boston and one out. When the next two men went down, St. Louis had lost again and trailed three games to none in the 2004 Fall Classic.

In game four, Boston shot out of the gate an lead 3-0 early. In the bottom of the fifth, with one out, Edgar hit a double. A wild pitch moved him to third. St. Louis ultimately stranded him there. The chances were slipping away for the Cards to make a Series out of this!

With two out in the bottom of the seventh, Renteria singled with two down. But the next batter, John Mabry fanned to end the inning. Boston still led, 3-0.

In the bottom of the eighth, Reggie Sanders drew a walk for St. Louis with one out. Sanders, the speedster, swiped second for good measure. But Hector Luna fanned and Larry Walker popped to short. Boston was three outs away from their first World Series triumph since 1918.

The Cards had held the Red Sox scoreless since the top of the third. But with no runs themselves in the game through eighth, St. Louis were looking at a three-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth.

But Pujols led off with a single. Scott Rolen flied out to right. Jim Edmonds fanned. Renteria was the batter. On the first pitch to him by Boston reliever Keith Foulke, Pujols took advantage of a free pass and took second without any Red Sox trying to do a thing about it.

But on the next pitch, Edgar Renteria hit a comebacker that Foulke fielder and tossed to first for the final out of the 2004 World Series. Boston had finally done it!

Renteria, #3 on St. Louis represented a lot for Boston. In addition to being the same number of Babe Ruth, he was also on the very team that beat Boston in 1946 and 1967. St. Louis would also face Boston in the 2013 World Series. This was the right team for Boston to end the curse against.

The Boston Red Sox had been oh-so-close so many times before. They lost seven game World Series in 1946, 1967, 1975 and finally, 1986. This was them finally getting it done. And hearing the name Babe Ruth over and over again had to make the stigma that much more painful. But when Renteria was retired at first, Red Sox fans could say, "Oh, Ruth? He wore #3. He once played for Boston. Renteria? Oh, he wore #3, was the last out when we finally got the job done back in '04!"

A fitting end to the Red Sox most memorable triumph to date!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The 2005 Fall Classic was the first to involved the White Sox that didn't have at least two shutouts!

Having been involved in two in their first World Series in 1906, then having two straight against them in 1917, things sure got interesting on this team. No one suspects Chicago of throwing the 1917 World Series, but to be no-hit in back-to-back days in the regular season and then blanked in back-to-back games in the Fall Classic is interesting. Obviously, the 1919 World Series was not on the level, but in addition to another back-to-back blanking, the Sox got a shutout in the game that proceeded that. In 1959, Chicago again lost, but both victories by them were shutouts.

So along came 2005 against the Houston Astros. Chicago hadn't been in a World Series since 1959. Hadn't won one since 1917. Their wait, at this point (88 years) was actually longer than the other Sox's 86 years!

So Chicago took the opener, 5-3 at home. But the shutout was broken early. Chicago scored in the bottom of the first on a Jermaine Dye solo home run, but Houston was back in the top of the second. Mike Lamb went yard on a solo flight of his own. Chicago came back with two more runs in the bottom of the inning against Roger Clemens to take a 3-1 lead. Houston tied it in the top of the third. Chicago tallied once in the bottom of the fourth and again in the bottom of the eighth. Houston was shutout the rest of the way.

Game two was even further away from a shutout. Chicago won this one, and it was even closer, 7-6. But Houston wasted no time in getting going. Morgan Ensberg hit a solo home run for Houston in the top of the second to break the ice. But when the White Sox scored twice on a single and fly ball in the bottom of the frame, the floodgates had only started to open. The game actually ended in dramatic fashion as Scott Podsednik hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. It, too, was a solo blast.

Houston, now at home, scored first in game three, but ultimately lost the game. Lance Berkman singled home the game's first run in the bottom of the first. Houston actually led 4-0 after four, and looked poised to get back into the 2005 Fall Classic right there. But a home run (you guessed it, solo) by Joe Crede put Chicago on the board in the top of the fifth. The White Sox scored four more times to actually take the lead. Houston didn't go away quietly. A clutch double by Jason Lane in the bottom of the eighth inning put tied the game. Then, the Astros had several chances to win it as the game went into the late stages and eventually extras, but could not get it done. Instead, it was Chicago with two touches of home in the top of the 14th inning. Chicago had to hold Houston off in the bottom of the frame, and it wasn't easy as Houston got runners to the corners before the third out.

So Chicago was now up 3-0 in the Fall Classic, but all the games had been close. In game four, it was Freddy Garcia going for Chicago and Brandon Backe for Houston. And for a while, it looked liked they'd both pitch shutouts!

The game was scoreless through seven, but in the top of the eighth, Freddy Garcia was removed for a pinch-hitter. And that batter, Willie Harris, singled. A bunt got him into scoring position with one out. Carl Everette also pinch hit, but could only ground out. Harris was now on third, but there was two outs. Jermaine Dye was the hitter. On a 1-1 pitch, he singled to centre to score Harris. Finally, a "1" on the scoreboard. Could Chicago make it count?

Cliff Politte came on to pitch, but it was a rough ride in the bottom of the eighth. Craig Biggio grounded out, but the Politte hit a batter. Then, to complicate matters, Politte threw a wild pitch. The tying run was at second with less than two outs. Chicago decided to walk Lance Berkman intentionally. Morgan Ensberg flied out and neither runner advanced. That marked the end of the game for Politte. Neal Cotts jogged in from the 'pen. Jose Vizcaino pinch hit. But Cotts got him to ground out. Chicago was three outs away from a long-awaited World Series. They were also three outs away from a shutout.

Chicago tried to get some more offence in the top of the ninth. A leadoff double was sadly stranded. It was up to the courageous Chicago bullpen to nail this thing down!

Bobby Jenks, a rookie pitcher with only six saves in the regular season but four more here in the postseason, was on the hill.

Houston did not quit. Jason Lane hit a leadoff single. Brad Ausmus, the catcher, sacrificed him to second. A single would break the shutout and tie the game. Chris Burke was sent up to pinch hit. On a 2-2 pitch, Jenks got him to pop to third. Two down and a runner on second! One more out to go for Chicago!

Orlando Palmeiro was sent to bat for relief pitcher Brad Lidge, who had given up the long run of the game. Lidge was out of there with three K's in only two innings. When Palmerio was retired on a ground ball to short, Chicago had the 2005 World Series in a sweep!

Chicago didn't exactly race through Houston. The Astros had battled hard. But it seemed that Chicago got the pitching when they needed it the most. Down the stretch in late innings, into extras. Here, they needed a shutout and got one. It must have seemed like a nice way to end eighty-eight long years of frustration. Shutouts hadn't helped Chicago one was or another in that stretch, but one shutout here did just fine! It put the icing on the cake!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

The Chicago White Sox got a shutout of their own in the 1919 World Series. I guess they were due by game three, right? I mean, didn't anybody care on that team, on that Fall "Classic"?

The White Sox may have given the Fall Classic of that year to the Cincinatti Reds, but not all the players were dishonest. And actually, not all the games were thrown. It helped in game three that Dickie Kerr, not Claude Williams or Eddie Cicotte, was pitching this crucial tilt. Williams and Cicotte were clearly in on the fix, but Kerr was not. The White Sox were down 2-0 after two games. It was going to be best-of-nine, but to fall behind 3-0 would have meant Chicago needed to go 5-1 in the rest of this tainted Series to pull it off. You think the odds are against Cincy or Chicago at this point? I wonder what people who had gambled on Chicago winning were thinking at this point?

So Kerr took the hill in game three. But Ray Fisher was going for Cincinnati and was no slouch. 14-5 with a 2.17 ERA for the Reds in 1919, he was looking to put Chicago down again!

So Kerr had a 1-2-3 top of the first for Chicago, but Fisher had a 1-2-3 of his own in the bottom of the frame. Kerr allowed a single in the top of the second, but got out of there with the shutout intact. Fisher was not so lucky in the bottom of the inning.

Shoeless Joe Jackson, with three hits in game two, led off with a single here. But this time, Chicago did not strand him. Joe, who scored a run in game one, but had been stranded three times in game two (twice at third and once at second) would get around! Happy Felsch hit a comebacker to Fisher, but his throw to second was wild. Jackson made it all the way to third and Felsch pulled up at second. Chick Gandil, one of the main men in the scandal, then stroked a single to left, which scored Jackson. Felsch roared in behind him for good measure. On the throw home to try and nail Felsch, Gandil made it to second. 2-0, Chicago. They then looked like they were ready for more, only the guys trying screwed up badly.

Swede Risberg, the fourth straight suspected or proven fixer of the inning for Chicago, drew a walk. With two on and nobody out, plus two runs already in, things must have been looking up for Chicago. But it was not to be!

Ray Schalk, who had been mad at his teammates efforts, forced Gandil at third as Fisher got the throw on the money this time. Dickie Kerr then hit it to his mound adversary, who again made the play at third. Did Chicago suspect Fisher of throwing the game? He had already made three fielding plays in the inning. Odd for a pitcher. Nemo Leibold grounded out to third and the inning was over.

Kerr returned to his duties with a slim lead in the top of the third. With one out, Ray Fisher showed him how a pitcher hits by reaching first on a single hit right back to Kerr. But Dickie settled down and got the next two batters out.

Chicago went looking for more in the bottom of the third. Eddie Collins started it with a single. Then it was time for Buck Weaver with one of his own. Weaver was one of two suspected (but not proven) fixers, the other being Shoeless Joe. Speaking of which, guess who was now at the dish with two on and nobody out?

Jackson tried to bunt, but all he could do was pop to third. And then Felsch, perhaps resorting back to his throwing the Series ways, hit into an inning-ending double play!

Heinie Groh got Cincinatti out on the right foot by drawing Kerr's first walk of the afternoon in the fourth. Edd Roush grounded out, with Groh making it to second. But then Pat Duncan hit a line drive that Swede Risberg made the catch on. Roush had taken off, and Swede threw to second for the putout and the double-play!

Gandil also went back to his losing ways with a groundout to start the bottom of the frame. But Risberg, seemingly doing it all, hit a triple! When Schalk got a hit on a bunt (Fisher perhaps not getting to it?), Swede scored to make it a 3-0 lead. Schalk though, tried to steal and was gunned out. Kerr ended the inning by grounding out.

In the top of the fifth, it was Larry Koft getting a single for the Reds. But the next three Cincinatti batters failed to get the ball out of the infield, and the inning was over.

But Fisher stayed right in there by getting all three batters in the bottom of the frame to ground out. The last two batters were retired when Ray made the play to first. So much for any strategy that Chicago may have had with that, eh?

Kerr got two of the three batters to ground out in the top of the sixth. Jake Daubert, the second batter, lined out to Jackson.

Joe himself started the bottom of the sixth inning by hitting a single. But with Felsch up to the dish, Jackson's wheels let him down. As with Ray Schalk earlier, Joe tried for a steal of second and was thrown out. Felsch drew a walk. But then Felsch himself was gunned out at second. Chicago was now 0-3 in steal attempts for the game. And it wasn't just the suspected or proven fixers getting nailed. Gandil fanned and a potentially huge inning was over without a batter reaching second base!

Dickie Kerr got Edd Roush to pop out to Chick Gandil at first in the top of the seventh. Pat Duncan fanned for the second out. Larry Koft flied out to Nemo Leibold in right.

Ray Fisher was finding his range however. Risberg grounded out to third, as did Schalk. When Kerr himself grounded out to second, the bottom of the seventh inning was over.

But Kerr still had it! Greasy Neale went down on strike three. It was Dickie's third of the day! Billy Rariden grounded out. Sherry Magee batted for Fisher and was out on a fly to Leibold.

Dolph Luque came in to pitch for Cincinatti in the bottom of the ninth. Leibold fanned. Collins grounded to first and Luque made the putout himself after taking the throw from Jake Daubert. Buck Weaver, hitting with Jackson right behind him, grounded out to end that.

Rath grounded out as Cincinatti came to the plate one last time. Daubert fanned for Kerr's fourth K in 8 2/3 innings. Now, all that separated Chicago from their first win in the 1919 World Series was Heinie Groh. He hit a grounder to Buck Weaver at third and the Reds were done. Chicago had it, 3-0. Dickie Kerr had a shutout!

The White Sox may not have given it all the got in the 1919 World Series, and even here in game three Chicago made some dumb mistakes. But with Kerr pitching so well and Jackson and Gandil providing some clutch hits, they at least avoided the sweep!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tony Cloninger: The Pitcher's Grand Day At The Dish

...But not quite so grand on the hill. You do get a little back on what you dish out, right?

So pitcher Madison Bumgarner slammed his second grand slam on the season, becoming the first pitcher since Tony Cloninger to do that. Cloninger has Madison beaten on that one, however. His came a lot quicker!

Taking the hill for the Atlanta Braves on July 3, 1966, Tony was just a game over .500 (8-7). But his hitting on this day was outstanding! Basically, he did enough to earn his ninth win on the season. Who would have thought his hitting was miles ahead of his pitching on this day? Not that his pitching was that bad!

The San Francisco Giants found out that there was more to Cloninger than his bat. Joe Gibbon started the game for the Giants, but it was apparent from the get-go that the Braves were a little too strong.

Gibbon managed to get two outs with just one man on in the top of the first. The second out was that of the great home run hitter Hank Aaron, who hit into a force play at second. So Gibby had nothing to worry about as far as the long ball went, right? Wrong. Rico Carty then singled. Joe Torre followed that with a three-run home run, which put Atlanta ahead to stay.

Gibbon, shaken, gave up two more singles before departing. Both of these runners would also score via the home run. But it would come from an unlikely source. Bob Briddy walked the next batter and it was bases loaded. There were two outs and Tony Cloninger, the pitcher, was the next hitter.

And Tony surprised everyone by hitting a grand slam. That made the the score 7-0 for the Braves. Felipe Alou, who started the inning with an out, ended it by being retired again. But Atlanta didn't need anything more from him. They would sure get more, though.

Carty blasted a home run in the top of the second, as the game was hopelessly lost by the Giants, now. But Atlanta kept coming at them at full speed!

In the top of the fourth, with another run in, it was Ray Sadecki who was now on the hill for the Giants. The former Cardinal, who started games one and four of the 1964 World Series, soon loaded the bases. Cloninger to the dish again. Cloninger out of the park again! 13-0, Atlanta! No mercy!

San Fran actually managed to score a run in the bottom of the frame. In the top of the fifth inning, a guy you'd expect to go deep, did just that for Atlanta. Funny, at this point, Tony Cloninger had more two more home runs in this game by himself, then Hank Aaron and Willie Mays did! And they were both grand slams! What was going on?

Aaron brought back some semblance of order by hitting a home run to make it a 14-1 Atlanta lead. But neither Cloninger nor Atlanta was done in the scoring department. San Francisco also had some long ball magic up their sleeve!

In the bottom of the frame, up stepped the shaken Sadecki, who must have felt worse then he did in game four of the 1964 World Series. There, he got just one batter out and gave up four hits and three runs. His team managed to come back and win that game, but there would be no comeback here.

In any event though, he smacked a home run of his own in the bottom of the fifth. The trouble was, it was leading off the inning, so it was a solo job. 14-2. One run back. But guess who knocked in the Braves' fifteenth run of the game?

Cloninger came up in the top of the eighth inning with shortstop Woody Woodward on second. Believe me, San Francisco wasn't knocking on wood. Cloninger was back up to the dish. So scared was Sadecki that he threw a wild pitch. Cloninger, with one out, singled Woody home to make it 15-2. That's nine RBIs on the day for Cloninger! Oh, and two grand slams, don't forget!

But Tom Haller went yard for the Giants in the bottom of the frame. However, once again it was leading off the inning, so only one run scored. Cloninger had now allowed two home runs and hit two grand slams himself!

Atlanta scored twice more off Ray Sadecki in the top of the ninth to make it a 17-3 final. Cloninger never got back to the plate. Not that he needed to! He ended the day 3-5. But Tony sure had helped his own cause, right?

Two grand slams and nine RBIs by a pitcher in the same game. 48 years later, what Madison did might end up being the closest we ever get to seeing it again!

World Series: Did You Know?

Ken Boyer drove in the first and last run for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1964 World Series. Kenny was the MVP of the National League that season, not to mention the national league leader in RBIs! He had his ups and downs in the World Series, but when the Cards needed him the most, he seemed to deliver. The New York Yankees had Boyer's younger brother Clete. But Clete was more of a fielder than a hitter. So in the Fall Classic of 1964, Ken would have to upstage his brother's amazing glove hands!

In game one, against Whitey Ford, the Cardinals wasted no time. Curt Flood led off the bottom of the first by grounding out. But Lou Brock, who the Cards had acquired earlier that season from the Cubs, singled. When Dick Groat followed with a single, the speedy Brock was now on third. It's the Boy(er)'s time to shine!

Ken sent a fly to right that Mickey Mantle caught. Brock tagged and scored. St. Louis had that all-important first run. The Yankees would erase it quickly and actually took a 4-2 lead at one point. So things didn't exactly go smoothly for the Cards, even in a game they would eventually win by four runs.

Boyer added a single in the bottom of the sixth. A one-out home run by Mike Shannon tied the game. When Tim McCarver followed with a double to right, Ford was gone from the game. The Cardinals won the game 9-5. Boyer and his 'mates had sent a message to the Yankees: Let's see what you got?

But New York more than answered the bell the rest of the Series. Ken seemed mired in a dreadful slump. He failed to get a hit in the next two games, and New York won them both. Game two was 8-3 and game three was 2-1. That meant the Yankees were up in games, 2-1, as well!

In game four, the Bronx Bombers charged out of the gate, taking a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Boyer and his mates struggled mightily against Al Downing on this day, getting just a hit and a walk through five innings.

In the top of the sixth inning, Carl Warwick batted for pitcher Roger Craig and got a single. Flood also singled, but Brock flew out. When Groat sent a roller towards Bobby Richardson at second, it looked like the end of a promising inning. Richardson had trouble getting the ball out of his glove, and threw wide to Phil Linz, the shortstop covering second base. The bases were loaded with one out. On a 1-0 pitch from Downing, Boyer swatted a changeup into the left field stands for a grand slam. But it was fair by only about five or six feet. St. Louis had the lead, 4-3, and they would win the game by that score. The Series was even.

But that would prove to be Ken's only hit of game four. That made Ken's production 2-15 through four games.

In game five, Kenny's problems continued as he failed to get a hit until the game went to extra innings. The score was tied 2-2. Trying to bunt with Bill White aboard and no outs in the top of the tenth, Ken beat it out. But then Dick Groat erased him at second with a force. Fortunately, Tim McCarver hit a three-run home run off Pete Mikkelsen to win the game for St. Louis. It also put the Cards back out in front in the Fall Classic, three games to two.

In game six, the Yankees sent Jim Bouton to the hill. Although he won game three, the Cardinals had him on the ropes this time around, all game long. Alas, St. Louis could not get the man home when they really needed it. Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle went back-to-back to turn a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 Yankee lead. All in a New York minute! Then five more runs in the top of the eighth salted away a 8-3 Yankee win. Ken Boyer was 0-4. New York had tied the 1964 World Series again. It was on to the winner-take-all game seven.

And Ken Boyer came through. Times three!

His single in the bottom of the fourth started a three-run rally. His double the next frame helped St. Louis score three more times. The Yankees' though, had plenty of bite left in them. In the top of the sixth, it was time for New York to put a "3" on the scoreboard! And it was against Bob Gibson, no less.

Bobby Richardson hit a roller to Ken Boyer at third. Kenny's throw was too late. A Maris single and a Mantle home run and it was suddenly only 6-3, St. Louis. Gibson looked like he was starting to tire. Gibby was pitching on only two day's rest! The Yankees kept hitting the ball hard on him the rest of the game, too! Can't count on the Yankees to roll over and die in game seven.

So Boyer was needed again in the bottom of the seventh. He put St. Louis up by four runs with a solo home run off Steve Hamilton. 7-3, St. Louis! The Cardinals needed this one, too!

Ahead by four, and needing just three more outs to win, Hoot started to falter. Gibson got Tom Tresh on strikes to start the top of the ninth, but then Clete showed his brother that he had the big stick, too! Taking Gibson out of the park on a solo job of his own, it was now 7-4. Bob Gibson fanned pinch hitter Johnny Blanchard, but Phil Linz got into the home run trot, for good measure! Phil's solo shot made it 7-5, St. Louis. See how important Ken's home run back a few innings was?

Bob Gibson settled down and got Bobby Richardson to pop out and end a very entertaining 1964 Fall Classic.

Ken would never be this good again. After the 1965 season, he was traded to the New York Mets. From there, Boyer landed in Chicago (AL) and Los Angeles before his career ended in 1969. So his heroics here would be his only World Series exposure. But the Cards' 1964 triumph, now approaching fifty years on this October, would not have been delivered without him.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Urban Shocker, one of baseball's saddest stories, did not get to pitch in the 1927 World Series for the Yankees. It didn't seem to matter, as New York needed just four games to take the Fall Classic from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Shocker had always been good for the Yankees. Amazingly enough, in between his Yankee stints (1916-17, 1925-1928) he pitched for the St. Louis Browns. All he did was win pretty much every time he took the mound. Pitching for the Browns in 1921, he even led the league in wins with 27. That was rare for a Brown hurler. But Urban was one of those rare pitchers that didn't need a good team behind him to win. Too bad, in baseball's greatest time of the year, for it's greatest (to that point) team ever seen, Urban wasn't allowed to pitch. Given his track record, one wonders!

He never had a losing season, going 12-12 in 1925, on a sub .500 season for the Yankees. His World Series moment arrived in 1926 as he took the loss in game two to the St. Louis Cardinals. Urban got into game six and allowed a pair of unearned runs in two-thirds of an inning. New York lost in seven games. But New York has a habit of bouncing back from heartbreaking (see 1960) World Series losses with both barrels the next season!

But in 1927, Urban himself seemed prime to lead the Yankees back to the promised land. Waite Hoyt ended up leading the New York starting pitchers in wins (22), W% (.759) and ERA (2.63). But Shocker was right there with 18 wins, a .750 winning percentage, and 2.84 ERA.

The 1927 World Series looked like a mismatch on paper. The Yankees had the pitching outside Hoyt and Shocker. Plus they had the hitting outside of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Up and down the lineup, there was hitting. Up and down the hurlers, there was pitching. Pittsburgh, winners of the first World Series in 1903, and as recently as 1925, must have realized this was one Fall Classic they were thoroughly over-matched in.

But in game one on the road, the Yankees seemed to be unable to shake the Pirates. Oh, New York would score a run, or three, but Pittsburgh would come right back. The teams traded single tallies in the first and fifth, plus Pittsburgh scored a run to New York's zero in the eighth. The moment of truth came in the third, as the Yankees touched home three times to the Pirates' one. That helped make the final score, 5-4, Bronx Bombers. But it was Pittsburgh with nine hits to New York's six. Hoyt was the winner. But he must have hardly been impressed. The Big Ace looked like a fourth starter. Urban Shocker would have been a better choice, right?

The Yankees, too, must not have been impressed with Hoyt's performance. They sent George Pipgras to the hill to start game two. He looked more like a fourth starter in the regular season (10-3, but with a 4.11 ERA). Were the Yankees sending a message to Hoyt? "Here, watch as we send a pitcher out that will do better than you!" But it looked like Shocker was coming in. Manager Miller Huggins informed Urban that when George was out, he was in! It should have been in no time, given what New York saw of Hoyt in game one and George from April to September!

And, as in game one, it was the Pirates that notched a single tally in the bottom of the first. Well, well...well! This time, the Yankees failed to score in their half. Alas, as in game one, the Yankees tallied three times in the top of the third. Unlike game one, the Pirates failed to score in the bottom of the frame. It was 3-1, Yankees.

Pipgras gave up a single in the bottom of the second, a single in the bottom of the third. In the fourth, it was Pie Traynor with a double. But George got the Yankees out of these problems without a single tally by Pittsburgh. A 1-2-3 fifth inning gave George a much needed boost of confidence. In the sixth, he allowed Paul Waner to single with one out. But again, no damage done.

The Yankees seemed to struggle against Vic Aldridge all game long, save for two innings. With a 3-1 lead in the top of the eighth, it was time for the third inning all over again. New York scored three times again to put this game out of reach. But this time, Ruth and Gehrig didn't contribute. Actually, in the third Ruth hit a sac fly and Gehrig doubled. So I had better mention that both contributed to the three runs. Here, they were the last two outs of the inning, and nothing more. But with a 6-1 lead, the two legends of the game were not needed any more.

However, Paul Waner drove in his brother Lloyd with a sac fly of his own in the bottom of the inning. Shocker's time to show soon? No, as Pipgras got out of the inning and then retired Pittsburgh 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth. With a 6-2 win, New York was up two games to none in the 1927 World Series. They promply won the next two games at home to complete the sweep. Urban Shocker had his first World Series ring.

But, he had not pitched. And his health was failing. Heart trouble forced him to sleep standing up, although it was one of baseball's best kept secret. He lost weight in the offseason. But he returned to pitch one more game the following season, before his career came to a close. Later, on September 9th, 1928, Urban Shocker passed away at the age of 37.

The Yankees have had their share of tragedies over the years. From Urban Shocker to Lou Gehrig to Thurman Munson. Unlike those two, Shocker is not remembered very well. Even in one of his finest seasons, he was not around on the hill when the Yankees put the finishing touches on one of their finest seasons ever. That's probably got a lot to do with it. You need to be there when you put the icing on the cake.

But Urban was there with them in the regular season. Who knows what it would have meant for him to be on the hill with one of the greatest teams of all time behind him in October? We'll never know.

Friday, July 11, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Dizzy Dean's last Fall Classic start was not with the St. Louis Cardinals. He had one last start with the Chicago Cubs in 1938. For a while, he looked like the Dean of old. And it was against the Yankees, no less. Then reality set in.

Diz, one of baseball's finest pitchers of the 1930s, was hurt in the 1937 All-Star game. From here, he just wasn't the same old Dizzy. His finished that season with a record of only 13-10. Traded to Chicago, he went only 7-1. But that was in only 13 games (10 starts). Plus, Diz posted an ERA of 1.81. The Cubs needed him, as it turns out. They won the pennant in dramatic fashion against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dean was on his way to another Fall Classic, and the Cubs were looking for their first win since 1908. Thirty years!

The Yankees looked too strong. In game one, it was the Bronx Bombers that came out on top, 3-1. But, although a close game, New York had 12 hits. Chicago was going to have to find a way to stop their big bats. So they sent Dizzy to the hill in game two.

Although 28, Dean was something of a veteran at this point. The Cubs were no doubt hoping that would give them some sort of an edge in the second tilt. And through seven innings, Dizzy Dean sure did!

The Cubs, at home, got a run in the bottom of the first. Stan Hack, one of the best leadoff hitters of his time, got it all going with a single off  Yankee starter Lefty Gomez. Following a strikeout and another single, the swift Hack was on third with less than two outs. Joe Marty got 'em home with a sac fly.

The Yankees were quick to come back, however. Joe DiMaggio led off the top of the second with a single. When Lou Gehrig walked, reality was setting in, soon enough. Dizzy had never seen such an offensive arsenal before.

He settled down and got the next two batters out. But when Joe Gordon hit a double, the two Hall Of Famers crossed home. Just like that, New York was ahead, 2-1.

In the bottom of the third, the Cubs went on the attack again. And once again, it was Stan Hack that ignited the offence. Leading off with a single, he was sending a message that Chicago also had some big guns!

Billy Herman followed with a single of his own to send Hack to second. A sac bunt moved both runners over. Joe Marty was back at the dish. As he had in the bottom of the first, Joe got Hack home. But this time, he got a double, meaning that Herman also crossed the plate. It was 3-2, Chicago. The Cubs even got another runner on before Gomez got out of there. But Dizzy was rolling back the clock on this day. Back to the glory days of him with the St. Louis Cardinals.

A Gehrig single in the top of the fourth was erased by a double-play. Dizzy Dean then got New York 1-2-3 in the next inning. Gomez also held on though, and the score did not change.

Dean had another 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth, but Gomez allowed only one Cub to reach via an error. In the top of the seventh, Dizzy got DiMaggio, Gehrig and Bill Dickey out in order. Three Hall Of Famers retired by a Hall Of Famer!

Dean himself then got into the act on offence. He led off the bottom of the frame with a single. Hack swung and missed for strike three this time. Billy Herman looked at strike three. Dean was then picked off first, ending the inning.

In the top of the eighth, George Selkirk, the Canadian, singled. Gordon forced George at second, so Dean and his mates were five outs away from leveling the 1938 Fall Classic. Pinch hitter Myril Hoag was sent to the dish to bat for Gomez. Dizzy Dean got him to force Gordon at second. Dean seemed safe.

But Frank Crosetti, the Crow, launched a home run to left. Just like that, the Bronx Bombers had the lead again for the first time since top of the second, 4-3. New York would not look back, this time.

Johnny Murphy, the Yankees relief ace, retired Chicago in order in the bottom of the inning.

The top of the ninth saw Tommy Henrich lead off with a single. DiMaggio, the Yankee Clipper himself, ended Dean's day with a home run of his own to make it 6-3. Larry French took over for Dean and got Chicago out of there. The Cubs actually put two runners on in the bottom of the ninth. Stan Hack, always dangerous and representing the tying run, lined out to end it.

Dean had his last World Series start go into the record book as having allowed six earned runs in only eight innings pitched. A tough way to lose, nonetheless, as he and the Cubs were so close!

It's always fun to see someone recapture his old glory. Just last week, I saw Roger Federer, the great tennis player, get his greatness back and come so close to another huge win. But it was not to be.

Dean was sort of in the same boat here. Up against his toughest challenge yet in the Fall Classic, and past his prime, he sure had the Yankees going through 7 2/3 innings. Dizzy may have been eccentric, arrogant, and many other things. But one thing Dizzy Dean was, above all else, was a character. Being with the Cubs that year must have made them think they were going to win the pennant, from day one. And having Dizzy there in October must have convinced them that the mighty Yankees could be brought down. Yeah, it may have been all a bluff on the Cubs' and Dizzy's part. But what a bluff it was!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

All three of the of the Chicago White Sox hits in game five of the 1919 World Series were from suspected or proven fixers!

It was a close game, that Chicago lost 2-0. Amazing to think, the last three guys you'd think would have stopped the no-hit bid by Cincinnati, did just that! The guys not trying to lose couldn't do much right this game!

Eddie Cicotte was also trying to lose and was the Chicago White Sox starting pitcher. Jimmy Ring started for the Cincinnati Reds. But Cicotte seemed to also be trying, at least for a while. The first batter Cicotte faced (and the first batter of the game) hit a single, but a double-play ended that. A 1-2-3 second seemed to settle Eddie down. How about his 'mates? The dishonest ones?

They went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first. But Shoeless Joe hit a double to lead off the bottom of the second and went to third on Happy Felsch's sac bunt. Chicago did not get Joe home, but did everything except that! Two walks (including one to Swede Risberg, another fixer) loaded the bases. But nothing got home!

Cicotte made sure Chicago lost this one by making two errors in the top of the fifth as Cincy broke open a scoreless game. With two runs, the Reds had more than they would need. Jimmy Ring was working on a one-hitter at this point.

Cicotte had a 1-2-3 sixth, but Ring did not have it so easy. Joe Jackson grounded out, but Felsch gave it a ride to left before he was retired. But then Chick Gandil, in on it, singled. Risberg was out on a fly.

In the top of the seventh, Eddie had another 1-2-3 inning. Ring, for his half, hit the leadoff batter Ray Schalk. Schalk was not in on the fix, watched from first as the next three men went down.

In the eighth, the Reds got a one out single by catcher Ivey Wingo. Wingo had been gunned down earlier by his counterpart behind the dish, Schalk, on an attempted steal earlier in the game. Jimmy Ring, Eddie Cicotte's counterpart on the mound, hit a comebacker. Cicotte grabbed it, tossed to shortstop Risberg at second for the force. Swede then tossed it over to Gandil at first to complete the twin killing. The three fixers sure made an honest effort there! But what hadn't happened was a score or two by Chicago!

Buck Weaver popped out to start the bottom of the eighth and then Jackson fanned. I thought these guys were trying! Felsch singled, though, to keep the inning alive. Gandil fanned to end it.

Cicotte had a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the ninth to finish with a fine five-hitter. Except for his own self-induced stupidity in the top of the fifth inning, he had been flawless. And with a 4-1 win in game seven, he would even win a game in this tainted Fall Classic. Eddie may have been feeling some remorse at this point.

The White Sox got another baserunner on in the bottom of the ninth as Schalk walked again. But they failed to score and did not get a hit in their last at-bats. Cincinnati had won game five of the 1919 World Series, 2-0.

The Chicago White Sox team had come out flat on this day, namely on offence. And yes, the game was thrown. But there is something to be said when your pitcher produces a fine effort (even if it wasn't his best effort, intentionally) and the guys who provide the offence aren't there, you deserve to lose. There will be debate until the end of time as to Shoeless Joe Jackson's involvement (personally, with three hits in game two, a hit in this game, plus two more in game eighth, it's reasonable to think he was trying in the games the Sox lost) and Buck Weaver's as well. With the six other players involved, there is little doubt. But here in this game five, it's something else. The White Sox, as a team, should have pointed to everyone on the field and laid the blame on a total lack of team effort!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

In Bob Gibson's first Fall Classic appearance, he departed from the game trailing 4-1. In his last World Series appearance, he was behind 4-1 at one point. The St. Louis Cardinals lost both games.

In his first ever World Series start, game two of 1964, it was Gibby vs. New York. The Yankees sported some high-octane offence from Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Tom Tresh and Joe Pepitone. This would be a tough test for Bob. But for a while, the big right-hander hung right in there.

After walking Phil Linz to start the game in the top of the first, Gibby mowed down Bobby Richardson, Maris, Mantle and Howard on strikeouts. Gibby was off to a fine start! The Cards had Mel Stottlemyre to deal with and Gibson helped out there, too.

In the bottom of the third, with the game still scoreless, Mike Shannon singled. Dal Maxvill followed suite. Gibson was at the dish and put down a bunt that moved both runners up. When Curt Flood grounded out, St. Louis took a 1-0 lead.

But Bob Gibson had started to falter in the top of the inning. With two outs, he had permitted a Linz single. Richardson followed with a double before Gibby got out of there. In the next inning, Hoot was not so lucky.

Mantle struck out. And The Mick was looking at 0-2 with two K's in the game so far. With that kind of confidence, Hoot may have forgotten about Elston Howard, who hit a double. Joe Pepitone, with his care-free attitude, may have also escaped Gibby's grasp. But Pepi sent a ball to short left that Lou Brock tried to snag. But the ball eluded him and Ellie made it to third and Pepitone took second. When Clete Boyer sent a fly to Curt Flood in centre, the game was tied as Howard scored. 1-1.

In the sixth inning, the Yankees took the lead. And they did not relinquish it. Mantle drew a walk. Howard lined out to Maxvill, who made a nice play to snatch it out of the air. Pepitone was hit by a pitch, although Gibson and manager Johnny Keane argued in futility. Tresh hit a bouncing ball single to score The Mick and make it 2-1, New York.

The next inning was more bad news for Gibson and St. Louis. Linz led off with a single to left. A wild pitch moved him to second. Gibson threw Bob Richardson a tough inside pitch. Bobby swung and shattered his bat, but still got a single to score Linz. 3-1, and New York smelled blood. Roger Maris singled Richardson to third. Mantle grounded out, but Richardson scored to make it a 4-1 ballgame.

Gibson had a 1-2-3 eighth, but was lifted in the bottom of the frame for a pinch hitter. The move seemed to work as the Cardinals eventually scored a run. But four more runs by New York in the top of the ninth salted this one away. When it was over, the Yankees were on top, 8-3.

Bob Gibson didn't exactly have it easy in his next two starts in the 1964 World Series, but he managed to win both of them as the Cards ended up on top of the mountain in baseball that year.

Bob Gibson seemed to benifit the most from this triumph. In 1967, St. Louis won it all again, and this time Gibby won all three of his World Series starts. In 1968, the Cards were looking for their third World Series win of the decade.

Gibson won games one and four, but the stubborn Detroit Tigers clawed back from three games to one down to force a game seven. It was back to Bob Gibson. St. Louis, playing at home, must have been sure that their ace could put Detroit away for good here. But it was not to be. Even the immortals eventually meet their match. Gibson had that happen to him in his first Fall Classic start. And here, again.

Gibson started strong. Mickey Stanley's single in the fourth inning was the only hit the Tigers got off him through 6 2/3 innings. But the Cardinals were also unable to score during that stretch. Then, with two down in the top of the seventh inning, Norm Cash singled. Willie Horton then followed with one of his own.

Jim Northrup launched a drive to centre. Curt Flood, the Cards' centerfielder, started in. Curt suddenly realized the ball was higher and harder then he thought. By the time he reversed his wheels, it was far too late and the ball made it to the wall. Cash and Horton scored on the triple. When Bill Freehan followed with a double between Flood and leftfielder Lou Brock, it was 3-0, Detroit.

Gibson had a 1-2-3 eighth inning, but another run by Detroit in the ninth made it 4-0, Tigers.

Three outs away from defeat, St. Louis came up for one last try in the last of he ninth. Flood lined out. Orlando Cepeda popped out to the catcher, Freehan. Mike Shannon gave the Cardinal fans one last glimmer of hope with a solo home run to left. It was 4-1 Detroit and that blast broke up starter Mickey Lolich's shutout bid. But the big left-hander, who had also won his first two starts in the 1968 Fall Classic, would not be denied another triumph here. Tim McCarver popped up to Freehan, and the Detroit Tigers were the 1968 World Series winners in seven games.

Bob Gibson may have lost those two games, but it happens to the best of us. Gibby was one of the most fearsome competitors the game of baseball had ever seen. And nowhere was it more evident then in the Fall Classic. Even in defeat, Gibby never asked or gave a quarter. He just kept comin' at you!

Monday, June 30, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Billy Bruton, who missed the entire 1957 World Series with knee injury, led all hits in the next Fall Classic with a .412 batting average. Too bad his Milwaukee Braves came up a little short against the New York Yankees this time.

Billy didn't start game one, but did he ever come through later. He sent the home crowd home happy! With the score tied at three in the bottom of the ninth inning, Billy hit for Andy Pafko. Facing the Yankees' Ryne Duren, he went down on strikes. Ryne was on his way to five strikeouts in this game. But the Braves put two on before Duren got out of the inning.

Warren Spahn also had to get out of a bit of a toughie situation in the top of the tenth. Gil McDougald singled with two outs and Mickey Mantle walked. Elston Howard flied out to end that. The stage was set for some Bruton dramatics in the bottom of the frame!

Hank Aaron fanned to start things off for Milwaukee. But Joe Adcock singled. Wes Covington was retired on a fly to left. But Del Crandall singled to keep the inning alive. When Billy Bruton hit a single that landed past both Mickey Mantle and Hank Bauer in right-centre, the Braves had a dramatic 4-3 win.

In game two, with the Yankees up 1-0 going into the bottom of the frame, it was Bruton starting and hitting in the leadoff spot. He blasted a Bob Turley offering to right to tie the game. Before the inning was over, Milwaukee added six more runs. Bruton was the first and last batter of the inning. While Mickey Mantle went yard twice later and Hank Bauer added a long ball of his own, it was the Braves that took game two, 13-5.

Bruton added a single in the fourth, but was stranded. He also singled with two down in the bottom of he sixth, but nothing came of it. But in the eighth inning, Billy walked and came home (along with Red Schoendienst) on an Eddie Mathews' single.

When the 1958 World Series shifted to the Bronx for game three, Milwaukee seemed to lose their offence. They lost game three, 4-0. Bruton was out on an attempted bunt to lead off the game against Don Larsen. In the third inning, Billy walked, advanced to third on a single, but was stranded.

In the fifth inning, Bruton was out on a foul popup to third, but he was not done yet. While he failed to get a hit (and the Braves would finish the game with just six) he walked with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. Milwaukee, losing 2-0 at the time, now had the tying run on first in Bruton. But Larsen retired Schoendienst to end that.

In the top of the ninth inning, it was Johnny Logan that drew a walk off reliever Ryne Duren. Casey Wise fanned and Bruton ended the game by hitting into a double play. New York won 4-0 and now trailed the World Series, two games to one.

Bruton, as in game one, did not start game four, but did see action. In the top of the top of the eighth, with Milwaukee leading 3-0, Johnny Kucks gave up a single to Hank Aaron that moved Eddie Mathews to third. When Wes Covington drew a two-out walk, the bases were loaded. Bruton came in to run. Kucks got out of there when Andy Pafko forced Billy at second.

Bruton stayed in the game at centre, but did not get a plate appearance. The Braves, however, won the game 3-0 and needed just one more win for their second straight Fall Classic triumph. But the one win never came.

In game four it was Lew Burdette vs. Bob Turley in a rematch of game two. Burdette was at this point, 4-0 against New York in the last two World Series.

Bruton led off the game with a walk. Schoendienst moved him to second with a bunt. But Billy got no further as Milwaukee's big guns, Mathews and Aaron, flied out.

Burdette seemed to have no problem with the Yankees as he got 'em 1-2-3 in the first two innings. Bruton came back to the dish in the top of the third, but Turley fanned him. Bullet Bob K'd the side despite allowing a single to Schoendienst.

Gil McDougald broke Burdette's spell with a home run to left in the bottom of the frame. It wasn't quite like Carlton Fisk's in game six of the 1975 Fall Classic, but it did hit the foul pole. This was all that Bob Turley would need as he put down the Braves in order in the next two inning. Burdette kept Milwaukee close.

Bruton singled to lead off the top of the sixth. But then came perhaps the play that was the turning point in the Series. Schoendienst flied out to shallow left, where Elston Howard made a fine catch. Bruton had motored towards second. Mantle, standing right next to Howard, quickly alerted Ellie of Bruton plight towards the second sack. The Yankees doubled up Bruton. Eddie Mathews hit a single, but when Aaron went down on strikes, the promising inning was over. New York was only up 1-0, but now they had just gotten a huge lift!

And in the bottom of the frame, New York drove out Burdette with six runs. Turley sailed through the rest of the game, although Bruton got a single in the eighth and Covington got one of his own in the ninth. New York won, 7-0. It was back to Milwaukee for game six.

Bruton did not start the game, and for a while it looked like they would not need him. Spahn, with a 2-1 lead, looked poised for his third win of this World Series. In the top of the sixth inning, Bruton came in to play centre for Pafko. But the Yankees tied the game on a sac fly by Yogi Berra which scored Mickey Mantle.

Ryne Duren came in again and fanned the side in the bottom of the frame. Bruton was the last out of the inning. Covington had singled with two down.

In the bottom of the ninth, with the score still tied at two, Duren again fanned the side, but this time, no one reached first. Billy Bruton was the second strikeout of the inning and fifth of the game by Ryne. Then, in the top of the tenth inning, New York scored twice to take a 4-2 lead.

Milwaukee almost won the game and series in the bottom of the frame, however. Aaron singled home a run, and when Joe Adcock followed with a single of his own, the fleet Aaron made it to third. A single would tie the game. A double would win the 1958 World Series for the Braves.

Bob Turley, the game five shutout winner, came in. Frank Torre was sent up to pinch hit for Del Crandall and Felix Mantilla came in to pinch run for Adcock. Covington was on deck. Torre got under it and sent a soft liner to McDougald at second. The Yankees had squared this Fall Classic at three game with a 4-3 win.

Bruton batted in the second spot in the deciding game seven. Red Schoendienst started the bottom of the first with a single. Bruton waked. Frank Torre got them to scoring position with a bunt. Aaron walked and Covington grounded out. 1-0, Braves. Bruton was on third. A walk to Mathews loaded the bases, but the Braves could only get that one run.

Burdette, after a 1-2-3 top of the first, gave up two runs the next inning. Mathews made two costly errors at third. The Yankees loaded the bases, got a groundout and a fly ball to take a 2-1 lead.

Bruton singled to start the top of the third inning. When Aaron singled with one out, it knocked Don Larsen out of the game. Turley came in to pitch. It was his third straight appearance. A groundout by Covington moved both runners into scoring position, but Crandall also grounded out to end the inning.

The Yankees themselves put two runners on in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Burdette got out of that. The Braves needed two runs, now. But with Bullet Bob going strong, it looked like an impossible task.

The game's next twelve batters were retired in order, including Bruton in the bottom of the fifth on strikes. But just when it was beginning to look hopeless for Milwaukee, they finally got another run!

With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, it was Crandall, who sort of seemed due for a big hit (having fanned three times in game six and once here so far), hitting a long ball to tie it. Series tied at three, score tied at two, after six inning in game seven!

But Turley got all three batters (including Bruton) to ground out in the bottom of the seventh inning. Then, in the top of the eighth, New York put this game away.

With two outs, Yogi Berra got a double, and then Elston Howard singled him home to make it 3-2, Yankees. But they were not done. Andy Carey's single moved Elston to third. Moose Skowron's three-run home run made it 6-2, effectively ending the 1958 World Series.

Turley had a 1-2-3 bottom of the 8th, then almost got some more runs in the top of the ninth. You can never have too many runs in the World Series, eh?

Don McMahon got the first two Yankee batters on strikes in the bottom of the frame. But then Gil McDougald singled and Mickey Mantle drew a walk. Yogi Berra ended the inning by grounding out to Schoendienst at second.

Mathews led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk, but Turley settled down. Crandall flied out to Howard in left. Johnny Logan also flied out to Howard. But Joe Adcock batted for McMahon and singled to left. Mathews, now on second, looked over at Tony Kubek and they had a chat over their terrible performances in the World Series: Kubek, .048 and Mathews .160!

They both couldn't suppress a grin at that!

Red Schoendienst was at the dish with two on and two outs. Bruton was the next scheduled batter. But when Schoendienst flied out to Mickey Mantle in centre, New York had come all the way back from three games to one down to win the 1958 Fall Classic.

Bruton could take some solace in that he finally got to play in the World Series. Coming so close the year before (and having your team win) must have been hard on him. But with this appearance (and it would prove to be his only World Series) Billy Bruton certainly made the most of it!

Brodeur: Where Will He Fit, Where Should He Go?

So Marty Brodeur is the NHL's all-time leader in games played (1259), wins (688), losses (394), shutouts (124), you-name-it-he's-got it. He's also an free agent July 1st.

Now what about the teams he could go to? It's been narrowed down to about five or six teams by insiders. Can Marty go to any of them? Where will he fit best? Where would it not work?

Boston has recently joined in the fray. Following their loss to Montreal, my guess is the Bruins feel that Brodeur could spell Tuuka Rask for some short or long stretches. Hey, wait a minute! Didn't Tuuk just win the Vezina? Sure bet Rask took 'er home. So why would the Bruins want an aged veteran? Well, they did sign Niklas Svedberg to a one-year deal, but they lost Chad Johnson, who looked like one fine backup! Rask was not the reason the Bruins lost to the Habs last season, but he needs better insurance behind him. Read this one.

Svedberg played just one game for Boston and isn't ready to step-in. Brodeur could sure provide a step-in. Plus, Rask wouldn't have to feel any pressure if first place or game seven is around the corner. Brodeur is still a winner, you know: (19-14-6)

And the system Boston plays could make things a lot like they were in New Jersey for Marty. He could find the situation helpful. And with the Bruins a likely contender next season, Marty could go out in style. It would be a good fit, and Brodeur could see a lot of playing time to let Rask get some well-deserved rest.

Pittsburgh lost to the Rangers, and it wasn't their goalie's fault. Actually, I thought Marc-Andre Fleury played quite well. Two shutouts against New York! Why that's more blankings than Crosby had goals! Fleury doesn't have the ready backup yet. Jeff Zatkoff did look strong at times. He gave a credible performance, but I'm not sold yet, are you? The Pens always treat Fleury as the fall guy when the team losses. It's amazing how many times Pittsburgh just forgets about the play in their own end and poor Marc has to takes the heat. Brodeur coming in can sure be a help, as Marty could be a great mentor to Marc and young Jeff, but I'm not sure he'd want to play in a place where the defence is undisciplined.

Not that Marty couldn't help. Much like he could spell Rask for stretches, he could for Fleury. Fleury's confidence sometimes dips, but playing beside Brodeur could give him an inspiration. Who knows, maybe Sid and his mates will see The Higher Power in net and play better defence for him, and then do the same for Fleury? That would help this franchise!

Toronto has a good starter in Jonathan Bernier, but James Reimer is on the trading block and I don't think Drew MacIntyre is quite NHL-ready yet. So there is an opening. If Brodeur comes to TO and gets the Leafs back to the playoffs, why he'd be a hero! Not that it's going to be easy. One thing is for sure, the Leafs are the team he'd see the most action with if he signs. The Leafs have the Pens same problem but are also minus some offence as well. Marty would see a lot of 3-2, 4-3, and 5-4 games in the Leaf net. Can he still win them? Being out-shot, ala Bernier and Reimer all last season? Perhaps.

I'm not sure Toronto would want a goalie for one year, because regardless of how Marty does, where are the Buds a year from now? Back to square one (or maybe square zero) in the backup role. The Leafs need a long term answer there, not a short-term one.

Chicago is certainly an interesting fit for Marty. Just look at the legends that have played there. Gardner, Hall, Esposito, Belfour. Why not add another legend? Sounds good to me. But in reality, Corey Crawford has the number one job down and Antti Raanta is there in the second spot in the pipes. Where would that leave Marty? Really, no place for him to play. The Hawks challenge is going to be staying under the cap and staying younger. Could they sign Marty for little? Or fork out the dough and not play him? Seems like a waste of time to me. I mean, he could go there and help, no doubt.

But the Hawks don't seem like a good fit. And the fan in me doesn't want to see Brodeur spend all the time riding the pine. The Hawks, for those not old enough, played Tony-O a grand total of 18 games his last season (1983/84), which was an insult. You gotta let the Proud Old Man get his way, no matter what happens. Same thing with Brodeur. Gotta play him, use him, and make him part of the team. Looking at the Hawks right now, that's not going to happen.

Montreal would welcome the hometown kid with open arms. Only now, the kid is 42. But the Habs have some serious things to do first. With an unexpected great performance from Dustin Tokarski (one of the best postseason stories last year), this could be it for Peter Budaj, who was good as the backup to Carey Price. But I don't know if the Habs want to get older in nets, give up on two guys (not to mention kill their confidence by being sent down) and let Price know that they need a legend to back him up. Hey, didn't the guy just win a gold medal and play better than Brodeur ever did in the Olympics? Well, actually, Marty posted a .981 S% in 2002 and Price's was .972 in 2014. A pair of gold medallist, but Marty got another in 2010 for good measure.

No, that's not going to create a rift. But Carey needs to ride the way of his confidence into next year. Don't forget, this guy played in 72 games back in 2010/11 and led the NHL with 38 wins that year. And he's been with the Canadians since 2007/08 and won the Calder Cup in the AHL with the Bulldogs. I'm not sure Brodeur would see much playing time. And again, is Montreal just going to shove Tokarski to the minors after all that playoff fun? No, that kid deserves a 20-30 game look-see this upcoming season. Good old shot-in-the-arm. There would be no place for Brodeur for that to happen!

Anywhere else? I've seem Tampa Bay mentioned. But Ben Bishop is proving to be one goalie that the Ottawa Senators should have kept. Anders Lindback is set to be a free agent, however. Marty might see a lot of playing time there, as Bishop is not quite a goalie that logs a lot of time and still has much to prove, at least come playoffs. Vancouver could be a good fit, with Luongo gone. But the Canucks are taking a look at a starter first, then perhaps a backup. Plus they have Eddie Lack there, and he was pretty good last year behind Luongo until Roberto's trade to Florida. Speaking of which, how about a nice time in the sun a little further south for Marty. Hmmm? You thinking?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Jackie Robinson got the first hit for the Dodgers in the 1956 World Series. He was also their last batter in games six and seven. And for good measure, Jackie was the first Brooklyn baserunner in game three. Another Brooklyn / New York World Series. Another seven games. Another classic. And Jackie provided some drama it what was to be his final act as a player!

Brooklyn, looking to repeat on their great triumph of '55, sent one of their arch-enemies, Sal Maglie to the hill in game one. But Sal had gone 13-5 with a 2.89 ERA, so he was the right man to be there. Better still, Sal had finally done something that season that all pitchers dream about, a no-hitter!

The Barber, as he was called, was purchased from the Cleveland Indians on May 15th, and the Dodgers had needed him. Over and over again he came through. But in the opening tilt, it was Mickey Mantle that smacked a two-run home run in the top of the first inning to give the visiting Yankees a 2-0 lead.

Whitey Ford, New York's starter, got the Dodgers in order in the bottom of the frame. But in the bottom of the second, it was Robinson hitting a home run of his own to lead it off. It proved to be the last round-tripper he would ever hit. Inspired by this, Brooklyn tied the game. And then, the next inning, it was Gil Hodges that smashed a three-run home run to put the Dodgers up 5-2.

Maglie allowed a solo blast by Billy Martin in top of the fourth, but the Dodgers the three-run lead back in the bottom of the frame on a single by Sandy Amoros. The score was 6-3, Brooklyn and it remained that way for the rest of the game.

Game two also went the way of the Dodgers, as they took it 13-8. But when the Series moved to Yankees Stadium for games three, four and five, it's as if the momentum shifted, too.

Jackie walked to start things in the top of the second against Whitey Ford in game three. He later crossed the plate with the first run. The Dodgers actually took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. But a three-run home run by Enos Slaughter put New York up for good.

Robinson got a hit and a walk in game four, but this one was all New York. They thumped the Dodgers, 6-2. Jackie did score the last run of the game, and the Dodgers loaded the bases with just one out. But they could not get another man home. In the next game, it became even more difficult.

Sal Maglie was back. Actually, he had just appeared on the show, "What's My Line" the day before. His performance that game would have normally won many a game for Brooklyn. In the World Series, you need these performances. But the Yankees got a perfect game from Don Larsen. And on only five hits and two runs (one on another Mickey Mantle special), New York took game five of the 1956 World Series, 2-0. Now, they led three games to two.

In game six, back at the Taj Mahal of Brooklyn's Ebbet's Field, more good pitching. This time, it would prove to be enough for the Dodgers to prevail and square this series at three.

The problem for Brooklyn in this game was, while Clem Labine tossed a complete-game shutout, Bob Turley stayed right with him. It was a pitcher's duel that was not far off Maglie / Larsen's efforts in game five.

Jackie popped out to leave a man on in the bottom of the first frame. He drew a walk in the bottom of the fourth, but was stranded. The Dodgers looked like they were due for a breakout when Turley walked two men in the bottom of the sixth. There was just one out when Robinson came to bat. But all Jackie could do was pop out. When Gil Hodges did the same, the inning was over.

In the bottom of the eighth, Brooklyn got a leadoff ground-rule double from Clem Labine, who seemed to be doing it all on this day. But Turley fanned Jim Gilliam (before the day was over, Bullet Bob would finish with 11 K's). Pee Wee Reese flied out to Mickey Mantle in centre. Then the other great centerfielder in this Fall Classic, Duke Snider, was given an intentional walk. But Jackie Robinson popped out to third to end the inning.

Labine finished the ninth inning with a shutout, and got New York 1-2-3 in the top of the tenth inning. But he had only five strikeouts. The Yankees had gotten seven hits off him.

In the bottom of the frame, Labine himself popped up to Billy Martin at second. Gilliam drew Turley's seventh walk of the afternoon. Reese, hitless on the day, bunted to Turley, who got it to first for the second out. Gilliam was now on second and Snider was now at the dish. Turley walked him intentionally. And, leave it to Jackie to finish it!

Lashing a single over Enos Slaughter's head in left, Gilliam trotted home with the winning run. The 1956 World Series would go to a deciding seventh game. But it turned out to be anti-climatic.

The Yankees stormed out of the game, going for the quick kill of Don Newcombe and Brooklyn in game seven. Hank Bauer singled and stole second to start things. But Newk fanned Billy Martin and Mickey Mantle. Against Berra, he got a little to careful and Yogi smashed a home run over the tall wall in right. It was 2-0, New York. Bill Skowron fanned to end it. Newk had fanned the side, but he and the Dodgers needed Jackie and his mates to get him some runs. They failed to do so.

Johnny Kucks, not exactly a good pitcher, started the game for New York. Jim Gilliam grounded out to Skowron at first, but Reese walked and Snider (the first of two hits for the Duke) singled. The tying run was on first just like that. A hit by Jackie here could tie the game. Alas, Robinson hit into an inning-ending double-play. As it turns out, the Dodgers would never get another chance to win this game.

Newk had a easy inning in the top of the second, despite a walk. But Brooklyn went down 1-2-3 as Kucks' confidence must have soared. And, in the top of the third, it all came undone for Don Newcombe and company.

Bauer grounded out, but Martin singled. Newk fanned Mantle again. Now, all that remained was Berra, as had been the case in the first. But Yogi again went yard. As he rounded the bases, Yogi said to Newk, who had been widely criticized for his failure to win a game in the World Series, "It was a good pitch, Newk!" Newcombe nodded in agreement, but New York was now up 4-0. Skowron popped up. But Brooklyn's bats just were failing them. And worse, it was against three pitchers (Larsen, Turley and now Kucks), who weren't exactly in Whitey Ford's class.

Brooklyn went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame, and Elston Howard's home run to lead off the top of the fourth inning finished off Newcombe and the Dodgers. Don Bessent, as he had all series long, came in and shut down the Yankees. No one will ever remember that.

Reese led off the bottom of the fourth with a walk. But Duke Snider forced him at second. Robinson tried to bunt, but it ended up being a harmless pop up. Hodges grounded out.

Bessent held the Yankees scoreless in the top of the fifth and sixth, but Kuck retired Brooklyn in order in the meantime. Then, in the seventh inning (Bessent having bee pinch hit for in the bottom of the 6th), Skowron hit a grand slam off Roger Craig to make it 9-0, Yankees.

Snider popped out in the bottom of the frame, but Robinson drew a walk. Gil Hodges then did what you don't want to do in these situations: he grounded into an inning-ending double play!

Ed Roebuck had got the last three men out in the bottom of the seventh. In the eighth, he had a 1-2-3 inning. Carl Erskine also had a 1-2-3 ninth for the Dodgers. But this was all too late. And with no offence to speak off, it was also pretty useless, even if New York had only scored a single tally.

The Dodgers got their second hit of Johnny Kucks in the bottom of the eighth by Carl Furillo, but it led nowhere. And in the bottom of the ninth, the defiant Dodgers came up one last time in the World Series as the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Gilliam grounded out to Skowron at first. Reese tried to bunt, but ended up popping out to Berra behind the plate. Duke Snider collected his second hit of the game. But it was with two outs and it was also just the third hit of the game for the Dodgers. Jackie Robinson struck out, but the ball got away from Yogi and Robinson dashed to first and Snider to second. But Robinson did not make it in time. Brooklyn had lost, 9-0. It was a sad end for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The Dodgers would never return to the World Series in Brooklyn. Jackie Robinson had played his last game. From his rookie season in 1947 to 1956, Brooklyn had reached the World Series six of those years. Some of the other important Dodgers of 1956 would also not be there when they returned to the fall classic in 1959: Newcombe, Maglie, Campanella and Erskine!

But by 1958 it was the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 1956 World Series marked the end of a glorious era in baseball from the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants. All had been great for long enough that their memory still lingers on nearly sixty years later!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Thoughts On The Big Four And Others At The Big W

So, Wimbledon is underway and their are four players to watch on the men's side. Four, or more? But The Big Four are on the top of everyone's head. Tennis is just like that these days, I guess!

Roger Federer, having lost early last year and going out early in Paris this year, is an interesting player to start on. He won in Halle, on grass, after losing in the fourth round in the French Open. But how about last year's debacle? Well, I think Federer is playing better this year. But last year, it was the same deal. Fed won in Halle. But then he lost in the second round at Wimbledon.

Roger faces Gilles Muller in the second round. Should he win that, he's looking at an interesting draw filled with old friends an foes from his past. In the fourth round, a potential opponent is the very man who win this thing twelve years ago, which was ancient history. Lleyton Hewitt. But Hewitt must get by Jerzy Janowicz first. JJ happens to be the 15th seed. From there, it could be Stan Warwinka or John Isner in the quarter-finals. After that, a potential Roger-Raf semi-finals. Who wouldn't want to see that?

As for Nadal, how's this for a second round opponent? Lukas Rosol (!). The two have a very interesting history at Wimbledon. Should Nadal take that one to the bank, his third round opponent would probably be either Richard Gasquet (semi-finalist here back in 2007) or Gael Monfils. A quarter-final spot would see Nadal face either Canadian Milos Raonic (eigth seed) or Kei Nishikori, who's been having a (surprisingly) fine year so far.

Novak Djokovic, who seems stuck in "Grand Slam Finals Losing" mode for about a year now (Wimbledon finals lost, US Open finals lost, French Open finals lost), has no seeds left on his draw until the fourth round. I expect him to win his next two matches. From there, it's going to be either Mikhail Youzhny or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (twelve seed and semi-finalist to Djokovic after beating Federer in the quarter-finals in 2011). And then, a potential rematch of last years final's with Andy Murray looms! Only this time, a round earlier!

Ahhh, Murray. Stuck without a title this year, but with a new coach. Hey, notice they have the same initials? Well, first and last name! But Slam-wise, it hasn't been too bad. A quarter-finals appearance in Australia, then a surprising semi-finals appearance in France. I thought his run to the semis there back in 2011 was a fluke, but now I don't. I also think that result can give him the confidence of a repeat. Or at the very least, a third straight Wimbledon finals appearance.

First, though, Murray has to get to the third round. I don't see him losing his second round match. From there, it gets a little tough. I think he will face Kevin Anderson in the round of 16. Anderson has to probably beat Febio Fognini, who has had an interesting year, especially with umpires, right? Andy's quarter-finals opponent will probably be either Grigor Dimitrov or David Ferrer. I think Murray can beat both of those guys.

As for the others. The new top ten player, Ernests Gulbis (but only the twelfth seed) faces someone that has something very much in common with him. That opponent has beaten Roger Federer prior to a quarter-finals in a grand slam. I'm referring to Sergiy Stakhovsky, who beat Federer here last year. In the fourth round, it's a potential rematch of Gulbis and Tomas Berdych, who is seeded sixth. Gulbis won their match in the quarters of the French Open, but here, Berdych has reached a finals (back in 2010). He, too, has also beaten Roger Federer at Wimbledon, back in 2010. He also beat Djokovic in the semi-finals before falling to Nadal in the finals. Tomas always seems stuck in the quarter-finals, semi-finals, or finals of a slam!

Wawrinka, the fifth seed (no use in saying who the first four seeds are, right?) could face Denis Istomin in the third round, but he is not seeded. From there, Stan would probably have to face big-serving John Isner (ninth seed) in the round of sixteen. Then, assuming Fed wins his matches (and that might be assuming a lot), it's an all-Swiss affair in the quarter-finals!

Federer: A Look At His 2013 and 2014 Tournament Performances

So prior to entering the prestigious Wimbledon event (where he exited in the second round last year), Roger Federer's performance this year compared to last:

Event 2013 2014
Brisbane DNP F
Australia SF SF
Davis Cup (Jan) DNP 1-0
Rotterdam QF DNP
Dubai SF W
Indian Wells QF F
Miami DNP QF
Davis Cup (April) DNP 2-0
Madrid R16 DNP
Monte Carlo DNP F
Rome F R32
Roland Garros QF 4R
Halle W W
Events Entered 8 9
Davis Cup Ties 0 2
Matches Played 33 41
Overall (W-L) 26-7 34-7
W % 0.788 0.829
Titles Won 1 2
Finals Or Better Reached 2 5
SF " " " 4 6
QF " " " 7 7
Losses Prior To QF 1 2