Sunday, November 30, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

Ed Sprague Jr. is the only player to win it all at the Collegiate, Olympic and MLB level!

Sprague, whose father, Ed Sprague Jr. was a pitched in the bigs from 1968 to 1976, went to Stanford University in the late 80s and helped them win back-to-back World Series in 1987 and '88. And it was in 1988 that he helped United States win gold at the Olympics with a 5-3 win over Japan. The good year of Sprague continued when the Toronto Blue Jays took him in the amateur draft.

He did not make the club until 1991. And even then, it was for only 61 games. But Ed hit .275, which showed some promise. 1992 was a step back, as got into only 22 games and batted just .234. The Jays, who used him at third. first, catcher and DH, kept him on the postseason roster.

Sprague might have also been given some consideration for stating some games in the postseason. The regular third basemen, Kelly Gruber (who's position Sprague played in college), was in slump that stretched from game 3 of the ALCS to game 3 of the Fall Classic. Also, John Olerud, hit just .222 that year vs. left-handed starters.

Sprague got a hit of Dennis Eckersley in game 1 of the American League Championship Series. Then, The Eck fanned him in his only other plate appearance of the ALCS, in game 5.

The World Series seemed to be more of the same. The Jays were up against an Atlanta Braves team that had the pitching and hitting you need to make you some stiff competition. Sprague did not get into game 1. Nor did John Olerud, as Joe Carter played first. No DH, you see. Dave Winfield, who occupied that position for most of the season, was in rightfield. Atlanta welcomed Toronto to A Brave New World and beat them, 3-1.

Sprague and Olerud did play in game 2. And in the top of the ninth inning, Eddie came to bat as a pinch hitter for pitcher Duane Ward. Pat Borders had lined out to start this fateful inning, which Toronto trailed 4-3. Derek Bell, batting for Manny Lee, coaxed a walk from Jeff Reardon. But Jeff had come in to pitch the eighth inning, with the Blue Jays threatening to tie it. He fanned Gruber to end that. Jeff, though, was one of those one-and-done closers of that (and to this day) time. Coming in early is usually a mistake.

One that Sprague exposed with a home run on the very first pitch of his very first Fall Classic plate appearance. 5-4, Toronto. That was the final score. Sprague had become (one of) the most unlikeliest of World Series heroes.

Sprague would see more action, again pinch-hitting in game 3. The Jays had tied the game in their home half of the eighth inning. It had been a wild, first World Series game ever on Canadian Soil. Devon White and Otis Nixon, the Braves' centerfielder, had both made great catches.

But Kelly Gruber's home run in the bottom of the eighth had squared this thing, and you kinda got the feeling the Jays were the team of destiny here. They were, indeed!

Roberto Alomar, quite so far in the World Series, led off with a single. The Braves removed starter, Steve Avery and brought in Mark Wohlers. Alomar didn't care who was pitching. He stole second. Carter was walked intentionally. Winfield laid down a bunt. Mike Stanton came in to set up a lefty-vs.-lefty matchup with Olerud. But Sprague trotted out to bat and Stanton walked him intentionally. Candy Maldonado's dramatic single scored Alomar with the winning run.

In game five, with Toronto up three games to one, the Braves took a 7-2 lead behind started John Smoltz. But it was one of those games where he had trouble finding the plate. And, up to four walks and up to 114 pitches, he was removed in the top of the seventh, leaving with no outs and a runner on first. Mike Stanton came in to get the Braves out of the inning. He did just that.

But in the eighth, it was Carter with a leadoff single and a stolen base. Winfield, who had singled his previous time up, fanned. Sprague was sent up to bat for Olerud again. This time, all he could do was fly out. Carter made it to third after tagging up. But Maldonado ended the inning by grounding out to third.

Sprague stayed in the game at first. and Atlanta threatened in the top of the ninth.. Todd Stottlemyre pitched the inning. He got just one batter out before Mark Lemke singled to centre. When Otis Nixon and Deion Sanders followed with singles of their own, the Braves had the bases loaded. Terry Pendleton was the batter and Toronto needed a double play. He sent a fly to left that Maldonaldo made the catch on. But when Lemke hesitated before heading home with hopes of an eighth run, The Candy Man nailed him at the dish on a nice throw. Sprague never touched the ball. Toronto went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame as the Braves forced a game six. So Eddie did not do a thing outside of pinch-hit and go to first with a glove. Toronto won game six in extras, 4-3. Eddie did not get into the game.

Sprague stayed with the Jays through 1998, and picked up another ring as a regular in 1993. But by winning a World Series in 1993, he had a nice "Big Three" in terms of winning it all.

Monday, November 24, 2014

World Series: Did You Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

For a while, yes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Enter Dizzy.

Exit Detroit's chances.

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

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

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

Sunday, November 16, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ball one was outside.

Larsen got a called strike.

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

Mitchell fouled it off.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Leafs Goaltending: Maybe Leaf Things Well Enough Alone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was back to Reimer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

World Series: Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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