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!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 29, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The kind your seeing now from Kershaw!

Monday, September 22, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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