Sunday, May 31, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Dave Stewart was the first pitcher to win two games in the League Championship and the World Series the same year. It was 1989 and Oakland was looking for their first world championship. But something Jose Canseco did made everyone forget about the American League Championship. Then, something far more serious, and not to far away from baseball, overshadowed the World Series.

Oakland faced my guys, the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS. Stewart got the call in game one in Oakland. The Jays countered with Dave Stieb, the best pitcher in the clubs history. But after this game, there was no doubt who was the better pitcher.

The Jays actually got to Stew early, taking a quick 2-0 lead after 1 1/2. After the Athletics scored a run in the bottom of the second, it was Toronto back with one of their own in the top of the fourth. Stieb pitched a scoreless inning in the bottom of the frame, but Oakland cut the lead to one the next inning. Then, they knocked out Stieb the next inning, taking the lead for good, 5-3. Two more runs later in the game made it 7-3 as Stewart settled down. His next start was game five at the SkyDome, and it was far more competitive, although Stewart had the early lead.

Oakland, leading 3-1, were looking to put the finishing touches on Toronto. Stieb was also back, and at his best. He and the Jays bullpen held Ricky and Dave Henderson, Canseco and Mark McGwire and company to just four hits. The A's, however, scored a run in the top of the first and third. Stieb blanked Oakland for the next three innings, but he must have been getting pretty exasperated at this point. Toronto, you see, were being blanked by Stewart.

And in the top of the seventh, it all came undone for Stieb and the Jays. Two singles and a walk dispatched him to the showers. A sac bunt off new pitcher Jim Acker got a fourth run home. Smooth sailing from here for Dave and Oakland? Only in their dreams.

Bottom of the eighth, one out and Oakland needed only five more retired men to get this thing in the record books. But Lloyd Moseby hit a solo home run. In the bottom of the ninth, it was still 4-1 Oakland, when George Bell got to do the home run trot. That made it 4-2. Steward was also out of the game. Dennis Eckersley came in, and Toronto tacked on another run before the final batter was retired. Stewart had his second win. And Oakland had their second straight pennant!

All this was fine and good, but Stewart's two games pitched are forgotten. When people talk about the 1989 ALCS, they talk about game four and Jose Canseco's tape measured home run off Mike Flanagan. A long one for sure. It ended up in the fifth deck of Skydome!

So Oakland was in the World Series, and favoured against the San Francisco Giants. Game one was in Oakland. As was the case in the ALCS, it was Stewart's turn again. Here, he was even better. Oakland gave him five runs by the bottom of the fourth. But Dave only needed one. He went the distance and finished with a five-hit shutout!

Game three was not going to have Dave Stewart pitching. But as game three was about to begin...

It didn't get off the ground! That's because of The Quake. A huge one. Try 7.1! It was felt all over the area. Devastating. Needless to say, the World Series was postponed.

When it resumed, it was October 27th. Oakland was up 2-0 and looking to go up another game. The delay allowed Stewart back to the hill. And Oakland gave him a quick 2-0 in the top of the first. Oh sure, Matt Williams got one back with a solo home run in the bottom of the second, but the A's scored twice more in the top of the fourth. The Giants weren't done there, and scored twice more in the bottom of the inning to cut it to 4-3. The very next inning, the Athletics put a "4" on the scoreboard as Jose Canseco and Dave Henderson hit home runs. It was now 8-3 and Stewart had more then he needed.

Stewart departed for a pinch hitter in the top of the eighth. By the time San Francisco came to bat in the bottom of the ninth, it was 13-3. The Giants scored four more times in that inning before finally making the last out. However, it mattered little. Oakland was up three games to zero and looking for the sweep.

Oakland got it with a 9-6 win in game four. Stewart obviously did not pitch. But with the sweep, Oakland had it's first Fall Classic win since 1974. Stewart also had an MVP for his performance. True, when I think of the 1989 postseason in baseball, it's the image of Canseco's blast and The Quake, but Dave Stewart helped make it a happy ending for the Oakland A's!


Thursday, May 28, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Willie Stargell is the only player to win the MVP of the regular season, Championship Series, and World Series in the same year. 1979.

Stargell's Pittsburgh Pirates had won the Fall Classic in 1971, but the death of Roberto Clemente seemed to suck the life out of the franchise. True, they'd get back to the National League Championship Series, but always come up short. But in '79 Stargell, who they called "Pops", made sure they didn't lose. Across the field was the Cincinnati Reds.

It was quite a series against the Reds. For Stargell and his teammates, that is! All Willie did was hit .455, slug two home runs and drive in six. The team that had swept the Pirates in 1975, found themselves pushed aside in the minimum games required.

So it was on to the Fall Classic, where just like in 1971, it was the Baltimore Orioles. And just like in 1971, this thing was going seven. Again, game seven was in Baltimore. And again Pittsburgh would win.

But it didn't seem like there would even be a game seven. Baltimore won the first game, Pittsburgh the second. In game three in Pittsburgh, a slugfest went to the Orioles, 8-4. Game four also went to the O's, 9-6 despite a Stargell home run. But Willie kept the spirits up.

The Orioles didn't stop there, however. They were ahead 1-0 after five innings of game five. But that's when the Pirates hit the jets. They scored seven times from there, and held Baltimore to no runs the rest of the way for good measure. So the Baltimore lead was now three games to two. It was on to Memorial Stadium for game six.

The Pirates had Jim Palmer at their mercy again and again in this one. But for a while in the sixth contest, it seemed Pittsburgh couldn't get a runner home. And they needed some. Finally in the seventh, with the game scoreless, they pushed across two runs. The second run scored on a Stargell sac fly. In the bottom of the frame, Baltimore got the tying run to the dish, but Ken Tekulve got them out of that inning. In the next two frames, Baltimore was retired 1-2-3 by Teke, while Pittsburgh scored two more in the top of the eight to seal it. Winner-take-all game seven.

The Orioles took an early 1-0 lead, and again Pittsburgh did not seem to be able to capitalize. Stargell was stranded on second in the top of the second after a single and an error. In the top of the third, he doubled and later made it to fourth on an error. But again, Willie was stranded. Scott McGregor, the Baltimore starter, seemed to settle down after this. He got the Pirates 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth, and the dangerous Dave Parker to start the sixth. But Bill Robinson singled, and Stargell was back at the dish. First pitch swining...And it was Willie with a home run! 2-1, Pittsburgh.

Stargell had two more at-bats in the game. He hit a double in the top of the eighth that led nowhere. Baltimore loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning, before Tekulve got them out of that. In the top of the ninth, Pittsburgh pushed across two more. The bases were loaded, and it was 4-1, Pittsburgh. Stargell was the batter. He would have liked to get the Pirates some more breathing room, but grounded into an inning-ending double play.

But as it turns out, Pittsburgh did not need any more. Teke got the first two batters to fan in the bottom of the ninth. Then, pinch hitter Pat Kelly flied out. Pittsburgh had won it all.

Pops had held the team together, and inspired the Pirates not to quit, even when it was 3-1 Baltimore. Willie had gone 4-5 in this oh-so-important game, and his numbers could have been even better if his teammates had come through a little more. But no matter. Pops had three home runs, seven RBIs and a .400 batting average to go along with all that. And he also had his, MV3!


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Despite some bad misplays, it was Willie Davis with the best defensive play of the 1966 Fall Classic. What he and his teammates needed, however, was to generate more offence. The poor guy in centre for Los Angeles no doubt wanted to dig a hole in the ground and crawl into it at one point during the World Series that year.

The Baltimore Orioles went into the World Series of '66 as the underdogs. It was the Los Angeles Dodgers who had Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Claude Osteen. Phil Regan, who had one of the best seasons ever by a relief pitcher, was the Dodger stopped that year. "The Vulture" was an appropriate nickname.

But Baltimore won game one, right there in Los Angeles, 5-2. Drysdale struggled, although so did Orioles starter Dave McNally. Neither of them lasted very long.

In game two, Koufax pitched well, but lost 6-0 to Jim Palmer. Off the four runs scored against Koufax (Who left after six), only one was earned. Here's where Willie Davis had his problems. In the top of the fifth with the game scoreless, Willie dropped a flyball off the bat of the O's Paul Blair. There was one on and one out at the time. The next batter hit another fly towards Davis. And again, he dropped it. For good measure, Willie made a throwing error on a peg towards third, and that allowed two runs to score. As it turns out, Davis made half the Dodger errors in this game two. So he had plenty of company as far as poor fielding is concerned.

In game three, now in Baltimore, it was Wally Bunker of the home team doing the honours. He pitched the second Oriole shutout of the Fall Classic. The second in a row, of course. The Dodgers didn't make any errors this game, and held the O's to just three hits and one run. Baltimore made good on one run and three hits. Could the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers be swept?

The answer was "Yes!" after game four. Don Drysdale came back to pitch, and was he ever solid. Baltimore got just four hits off him. But Dave McNally beat him 1-0, allowing Los Angeles just four hits as well. But, this game was not without some highlights by Los Angeles. It was Davis' time to shine.

In the top of the fourth, Boog Powell (Who had one of the four Oriole hits) came to the dish, and sent a Drysdale pitch way back to centre. But Davis, with his back to the wall, scaled it and made the catch with his glove over the wall. A great catch to keep the score 1-0. But to no avail.

The Orioles got a nice catch of their own in the bottom of the eighth by Paul Blair. Los Angeles, fighting to the end, got a single and a walk in the ninth with only one out. But Willie lined out to right and Lou Johnson flied out to centre. A sweep of the Dodgers? Yes!

The Los Angeles Dodgers had been beaten by their very Achilles Heel. All throughout their times during the Koufax / Drysdale years of pennants (1959-1966), they had a shallow offence. Except for a few years. Koufax, Drysdale and the rest of the Dodgers' staff, would often have to win games 1-0 during that stretch. And the Orioles, with a fine pitching staff of their own, exploited that in the 1966 Fall Classic. The great pitching and defence of Los Angeles meant nothing without some offence!


Monday, May 25, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Game three of the 1957 Fall Classic set a record for most walks in a nine-inning contest. That is, for both teams with 19. The New York Yankees won this in a rout over Milwaukee, but no matter. There were a lot of baserunners.

The World Series of '57 was all square after two games in New York. On to a Brave New World! Pitching game three for Milwaukee was Bob Buhl. Neither he nor New York starter Bob Turley lasted. Turley was gone after 1 2/3 innings. His control problem was obvious, as he walked four.

Buhl had problems of his own. He didn't make it out of the first inning. Tony Kubek hit a home run with one out, and the Yankees were on top to stay. But they didn't stop there. Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra walked. A failed pickoff of Mantle at second moved both runners into scoring position. Then a sac fly by Gil McDougald made it 2-0. Harry Simpson drove in Berra with a single. Buhl was out of the game.

The Braves managed to score a run off Turley in the bottom of the second due to his wildness. And when he walked Eddie Mathews, Bob headed towards the showers. In came Don Larsen, no stranger to wildness, but also a perfect game pitcher his last World Series appearance. Larsen got out of the inning.

Juan Pizzaro came in to pitch after Buhl left. He walked two more batters, plus he was tagged for four runs in his outing. Mantle singled off him. He'd later add a home run off Gene Conley, who only walked one batter in 1 2/3 innings. That's how far Pizzaro got. It was 5-1 by the time Conley was on the hill, and Mantle's blast scored two more runs. McDougald drew the walk of Conley.

Larsen walked a batter, but fortunately, it was after Hank Aaron hit a two-run home run off him in the bottom of the fifth. Ernie Johnson was the Braves' fourth pitcher (coming in to pitch the top of the fifth) and walked The Mick in the top of the sixth. Larsen gave up two hits and a walk in the bottom of the frame, but got out of it without allowing a run.

Bob Trowbridge came in to pitch the top of the seventh and it was a disaster. The Yankees coaxed three walks off him, and much more. Hank Bauer singled home two. Tony Kubek added his second home run of the game, and it was now 12-3, New York. There was nothing left to play for, now.

Don McMahon pitched the top of the eighth, and it was a scoreless inning, but no without drama. He allowed a walk and threw a passed ball. Larsen also permitted a walk, to the first batter of the bottom of the frame, but proceeded to retire the next three hitters. When Larsen batted for himself in the top of the ninth, McMahon walked him. Don walked Don. Don then got Bauer to hit into an inning-ending double play, which erased Don at second.

Eddie Mathews drew his third walk of the game in the bottom of the ninth, as Milwaukee came up for it's last stand. Aaron singled. Andy Pafko was also hit by a pitch later. But Don Larsen got out of this jam to. New York had won this game to go up two games to one.

The 1957 World Series had some of the all-time greats. Aaron, Mantle, Mathews, Berra. Plus, on the pitching side, Warren Spahn and Whitey Ford. And this game has been preserved in kinescope for good measure. Fitting that it was. Milwaukee overcame this setback and ended up winning it all in seven. Even when they lost, they were part of World Series history. 19 freebies to first!


1992 World Series Program

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Right There At Rogers, 5/24/15

Today I took in a Jays game as they looked to stop the slide. Across the field stood their old expansion brothers from 1977: The Seattle Mariners!

Aaron Sanchez (3-4, 4.17) last year's bullpen ace, took the hill in this one for Toronto. Seattle countered with Taijuan Walker (1-4, 7.47). Missing from the Toronto lineup was *groan* Jose Bautista. His absence was felt for a while as Toronto struggled out of the gate. And it wasn't just their hitters.

That guy is the Jays cap there wearing black? Well, I didn't realize who it was. Dad, sitting next to me, thought it was Jay Triano, ex-Raptor coach. Turns out he was right. He left the game early, Dad and I hung around until the eighth.

Sanchez started the game on the wrong foot as he allowed a walk to Brad Miller and a single to Seth Smith. Would this be a really short afternoon for Sanchez? It seemed like that for a while. He managed to get out of this jam via a nice double play, not apparent. Originally, Robinson Cano was ruled safe at first on the grounder that erased Smith at second. The replay was obvious that Justin Smoak's foot hadn't left the bag by the time the ball got to him. It was pulled off after the catch. Nelson Cruz ended the inning by grounding out.

But the Jays couldn't seem to get a good read on Walker. They were retired 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first. To make matters worse, two of the three batters failed to get the ball out of the infield. "If only we had Joey Bats!", I thought. This seemed to set the tone, as Toronto could only manage a walk in the second, another walk in the third, and still another in the fourth. But no runs and no hits through four. Meanwhile, Seattle took a 1-0 lead on a home run by Kyle Seager to start the second.

Sanchez seemed to need the double play to get him out of trouble. Seattle put two more on the third inning via a single and a walk. The Jays did some twin-killing to stop that threat. Sanchez got the first two batters in the top, but then Logan Morrison got the second hit off Aaron, and it was a booming double. Welington Castillo grounded out to end that. Aaron allowed the third Seattle hit of the day in the fifth, but escaped via the third double play turned by the Jays. A nice strikeout-caught stealing play!

Kevin Pillar singled in the bottom of the frame for the first Jays' hit. And then Ryan Goins put Toronto ahead with a two-run home run to right. Now I felt better. After one out, I was about to feel much better!

Russell Martin hit a double, and then came a moment I won't soon forget. Edwin Encarnacion has been making tape-measured home runs as his calling card since coming to Toronto. And here, did he ever deliver that. He blasted one into the second deck above where I was sitting (Left-field stands, looking over the Toronto bullpen where Joe Carter's blast went back in 1993), and the Jays were up 4-1. Chirs Colabello tried to keep the rally going with a single, but Toronto got no more.

Sanchez, started to settle down and got Seattle 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth, and picked up another K. It was his fourth and last of the day. Toronto looked like they might have some more insurance in the bottom of the frame. But Goins singled and Munenori Kawasaki got a single. That ended Walker's night...

...As Danny Farquhar came in to pitch, and got the third out. It was still 4-1, Toronto.

The challenge facing Sanchez in the top of the sixth was not to become unraveled. Seager got a single. Sanchez threw a wild pitch. Would the Jays implode? A grounder moved Seager to third. The Jays did the smart thing an went about trying to get outs here. Castillo was out on a fly to right, and that scored Seager to make it 4-2. Seager barely beat the throw from Ezequiel Carrera. Dennis Ackley followed with a single to keep the inning alive.

Sanchez was nearing 100 pitches, and there was still an out to go to get to the eighth. But the Jays needed to make a pitching change to get out of this. Roberto Osuna hopped in from the bullpen and got Chris Taylor to fly out to Carrera to end that. Seventh inning stretch!

Then, Toronto brought it all out in the bottom of the seventh!

Martin grounded out. But Encarnacion singled. Colabello doujbled and Edwin held at third. A two run singled by Justin Smoak put Toronto in the driver's seat, 5-2. Joe Beimel came in, but the Jays were still on the attack. A single, two more walks and a force at second brought in another two runs. An 8-2 lead at this point was money in the bank.

Aaron Loup came in to pitch the eighth, and with his ERA over 5 (5.87), I made up my mind to watch. He allowed a leadoff single, but then really started popping the mitt. He fanned the next two batters and got Cruz on a fly, showing much poise. Liam Hendricks was warming up in the 'pen and the ball was just cracking from his delivery to the mitt.

But neither Dad nor I saw him pitch. We left (At my insistence. We had to catch a train, you know!) at this point. Toronto went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth, but Seattle did likewise in the top of the ninth against Hendricks. Liam got 'em all on strikeouts, bringing Toronto's total to nine on the day.

Well, it was my first game on the season, and I hope to come back for more as the season continues. The Jays' bats and arms were clicking. They need more of that!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

The Brooklyn Dodgers were one strike away from tying the 1941 Fall Classic at two games. Then, the wheels came of the chariot. The irony was, they got the strike. But Brooklyn couldn't hold on to it.

The 1941 World Series marked the first ever Brooklyn / New York matchup in October, but the Yankees were clearly the better team. Brooklyn had been locked in a tight pennant with St. Louis, who would pretty much own the National League from 1942 to 1946.

So New York won the first two games at home in the October Classic of '41. In Brooklyn for game three at Ebbets Field, it was the Dodgers taking it, 2-1. And game four only seemed better for the Brooklyn faithful.

Brooklyn, down 3-0 at one point, scored four times to go ahead 4-3 after eight. Three more outs by Hugh Casey and this thing was in the books. And Casey got the first two batters out on infield grounders. Tommy Henrich was all that stood between the Dodgers and a tie Fall Classic.

And Henrich did swing and miss at it, but that game did not end. Rather sadly for Brooklyn, the third strike was dropped by catcher Mickey Owen. Henrich motored to first. New York was still alive.

Joe DiMaggio was at the dish, and itchin' to do some damage. He singled to left and now the go-ahead run was on. Charlie Keller scored both baserunners scored to make it a 5-4 ballgame for the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees were not done. They scored twice more on a Bill Dickey walk and a Joe Gordon single. That made it 7-4, Yankees. Johnny Murphy, who'd gotten Brooklyn 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth, did likewise in the bottom of the ninth. Instead of it being a 2-2 Fall Classic, it was now 3-1, New York.

The Yankees took game five, 3-1, with Tiny Bonham retiring the Dodgers on three pitches in the bottom of the seventh, and were on top of the world again in 1941. Brooklyn would have to be content with their surprising pennant that year. However, no one knew at the time, that the great Yankees / Dodgers rivalry would be born. The teams would meet again twice more that decade and four more times in the 1950s. A move to Los Angeles in 1958 meant the rivalry became a little stagnant, but Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale pitched the Dodgers to a win that World Series. After meeting twice more in the 1970s, the last such meeting between these two clubs occurred in 1981. In all, the teams met eleven times in the Fall Classic, with New York holding an 8-3 advantage head-to-head.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

The last game of the 1939 World Series had a very odd ending. The "Lombardi Snooze" The New York Yankees swept the Cincinnati Reds as a result. But the ending was sort of inevitable given the Yankee firepower and pitching.

New York, up 3-0 in the top of the tenth inning of game four, found themselves tied at four. They'd scored twice in the top of the ninth to tie it, and were now looking to put the Reds away. The home team, playing in Crosley Field, was trying to stay alive. But as it turns out, Cincy needed to stay more alert and aware. 

Frank Crosetti drew a walk. A sac bunt moved Cro into scoring position. A grounder by Charlie Keller was muffed by Billy Myers, and that put runners on the corner. For The Yankee Clipper himself. So Joe DiMaggio singled to right, scoring Cro withe go-ahead run. But more problems awaited the Reds.

Ival Goodman could not handle Joe's single, and bobbled it, which made Keller head towards home. Ernie Lombardi got the throw, couldn't quite hold on, and for good measure was bowled over by Keller. DiMaggio seeing all this, made it all the way around the bases. He scored to make it 7-4, New York.

The Reds didn't exactly go away quietly in the bottom of the frame. Two straight singles started the inning, but Lombardi fouled out. The next two batters were also retired, and the 1939 Fall Classic was over.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bishop And Andersen: Making A Big Splash In Uncharted Waters

So, as the Stanley Cup dwindles down to the "Final Four", there are two goalies that were there (or further) from last season, and two more keepers who haven't been there at all. Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop and Anaheim's Fredrik Andersen.

Andersen, from Denmark, is playing in his second NHL season, and his second NHL playoffs. He's gotten much experience from the past two seasons, though. He (And Jonas Hiller) helped Anaheim get to the second round in 2014 before eventually he got hurt and Los Angeles prevailed in seven games. John Gibson took over in net for him after the injury and performed admirably. This season, Gibson played 23 games and went 13-8-0 while Andersen went 35-12-5. Both posted a S% of .914, but the job is clearly Andersen's. And the way he's playing the playoffs so far, it's his to lose.

All he's done is help the Ducks get by Winnipeg in four, then beat Calgary, needing just one more game to do that. A win in game one of the Conference finals vs. Chicago and his playoff record is 9-1 (He was 3-2 last season). The Ducks needed three goalies last year to get to game seven of the second round, but Andersen beat Jonas Hiller and the Flames this year, which must have added an exclamation mark to his status as the go-to goalie. He's also taken great strides in his game. His S% of .930 is sixth best right now.

Tampa Bay finished a strong third in the Eastern Conference, behind Montreal and New York. The looked like they were going to be out early against Detroit in the first round. They kept falling behind. However, they also kept coming back. The Red Wings took game one right there in Tampa. After losing game two, Detroit took game three then led by two goals in a pivotal game four. Tampa came back to win, only to drop game five, which was also pivotal. Now down 3-2, they needed to pull it off in Detroit to send it to seven.

Ben Bishop. Tall. Talented. Imposing. But never having won a playoff series...

Game six in enemy territory was a do-or-die affair, not only for the Lightning, but also for Bishop. He needed this game and would need to be great in game seven. Tampa took a 3-0 lead late into the second period. But they nearly lost it. Detroit scored late in that period and very early in the third. While Tampa scored twice more, this thing was in doubt until the very end, trust me. Bishop turned in a 31-save performance in a game seven shutout. With that, he had won his first ever playoff series. But this series was also his very first postseason experience at NHL level. Not a bad way to win it, eh?

Against Montreal, there were doubters. The Canadians had swept Tampa last season (But Bishop had missed all four games due to injury). The Lightning had swept the season series, but Montreal had Carey Price, who's probably going to be MVP.

Bishop matched him save for save in game one in Montreal. The Lighting took it, 2-1 in overtime. A 6-2 win by Tampa in game two gave Bishop even more confidence. Game three in Tampa went the way of the home team on a last-second goal by Zack Johnson. Montreal was not done and took the next two games, before bowing out 4-1 in game six. Anderson had been brillant all series long sans game five.

New York is obviously a big challenge for Bishop. They finished in first place overall. And to prove that, they handed Bishop and Tampa 2-1 in game one of the Conference Finals. But no one is saying this thing is over. Not with Bishop playing so well.

Bishop has been intimidating shooters, staring them down and daring them to try to hit the corner of the net. Any of the four corners. Against Montreal, they hit the post what seems like a hundred times. Big Ben is a tough goalie to score against. And for good reason: At 6'7, he's the tallest goalie in NHL history!

And right now, he's on the cusp of greatness.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Mule Haas is the last player to hit an inside-the-park home run in the Fall Classic. And it was back in 1929. A timely blow, too. Assisted, I have to say, by Hack Wilson. The Chicago Cubs seemed to have Haas' Philadelphia Athletics right were they wanted them. It was game four, and Chicago looked liked they were about to square things!

Wilson had made two fine catches in game three, which the Cubbies won. Now, leading 8-0 after 6 1/2, it was looking grim for the home side. But a miracle happened.

Al Simmons got it all started with a home run off Charlie Root, who gave up Babe Ruth's called shot three years later. Four straight singles followed, making the score 8-3. Root got the next batter out, but there were runners on the corners. Max Bishop, who would start a winning rally for the Athletics in game five with a single, hit one here. The lead was officially cut in half, 8-4. Root was out of the game and Art Neft was in. Mule Haas to the plate.

He hit it to centre, scoring two runners as is. But Haas never stopped running. Second, third, home? Yes! He beat the throw to cut the lead to 8-7. Philly had some life, and still two more outs in them, bottom of the eighth. Inspired, the A's scored three more times for a 10-8 lead. And they showed Chicago how it's done by holding on for the win. Philadelphia was up three games to one.

Haas' heroics did not stop there. Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth the next game, he tied it with a home run. A double by Bing Miller scored Al Simmons, making Philadelphia the last World Series champs of The Roaring Twenties.

On a team with the likes of Lefty Grove, Simmons and Jimmy Foxx, plus manager Connie Mack and moneyball player (The way it's looked at now) in Bishop, there just isn't room to think of Mule on that great Philly team. They won with the long ball, as in over-the-fence stuff. Yet, Philly fans of the time no doubt would have shuddered to think without a four-bagger of the shortest kind, what the outcome might have been in this unforgettable game.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Your Guide To The Outfield

So, now that we're through with all the starting pitchers and relievers in baseball, how about a look at the men playing behind them. There aren't angels in the outfield, but the three out there, have a lot to do when there's a fly ball.

Left fielder

Usually, the left fielder has the weakest arm on the team, but is one of the fastest players on the teams. Do the names Barry Bonds or Ricky Henderson ring a bell? They can be slow. Think Ted Williams. But in most cases, he needs to be quick. Think Carl Yastrzemski. He is sort of like the shortstop of outfielders, as he many-a-time a hard grounder that gets through the left side of the infield ends up rolling towards him. Back to the arm. I should have said, "Not as strong as...." As in, not as strong as the centre fielder or right fielder. His arm, unless it's really weak, does not get challenged as much. There's no such stat, but the boy in left usually leads the team in fewest sacrifice flies against. Actually, his arm will never be challenged by a runner on second on a fly to left. Too much of a risk. He probably will get challenged on a deep fly with a runner on third. There isn't the room needed to advance most of the time. Gap shots are something he'll face a lot of, especially if the team the left fielder is facing has a lot of right-handed hitters. He'll also have to back the center fielder up. One of his biggest challenges will be playing the caroms off the canvas down the left field line.

Centre fielder

He is often the fastest runner on the team. Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle. You get the idea. And he's got an arm that is often the strongest, save for the rightfielder. He'll do a lot of running in a game, and make anywhere from five to ten putouts a game. But the centerfielder has a lot of ground to cover. And it's not just on fly balls to him. He's got to be the backup to the fly balls hit to the gap that the right or left fielder are chasing. Just in case he misses it. Another thing about him: He needs to be a little acrobatic, because the centre fielder will need to scale some walls to take back would-be home runs. Also, a long of sinking shots tend to be hit to centre. Then there's those batted balls that are just beyond the outstretched reach of the shortstop or second basemen. You gotta be there! His arm will be challenged the most. Here's where that situation of, does the runner go fist to third on a grounder that makes it through to centre? Or from second to home? How about that medium-range fly ball (less then two outs) with a runner on second or third? All depends on how good your centre fielder is!

Right fielder

He often has the second or best arm on the team. And it's gotta be accurate. The guy who's arm was amazing for a right fielders was Al Kaline. He might be the slowest of outfielders. That's not to say he's not fleet-footed. Kaline, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson (He played some left field, too) come to mind when I think of right fielders with some wheels. He'll accumulate the fewest putouts of any of the outfielders. Still, it's not easy playing it. Of course, he'll back up the centre fielder when there's a fly that he takes. He'll need to make the plays where's there's a single to right and the runner on first tries for third. Or there's a runner on second and the ball is hit to right. Even if he makes the catch, he's gotta be on the alert for the runner trying for third (Assuming there is less then two outs). A single to right in this situation scores many-a-base runner. Where the right fielder looks bad is when there's a runner on third and a deep fly to right. Again, less than two outs. It seems that four of the five rightfielders in the game are doomed in this situation, especially if the runner is fast. Hence, the need for a strong arm!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

The Babe himself was the first player to hit .600 or better in the Fall Classic. I'm not sure he really cared for that stat in the 1928 World Series. You see, he and some of his pals had one thought on their mind: Revenge!

The New York Yankees had lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1926. Babe Ruth, sort of left the field red-faced. He tried to steal a base with two down in the bottom of the ninth, and got gunned out. That's the only time an October Classic has ended that way.

But The Babe had plenty of company. Tony Lazzeri had been the victim of a famous strikeout by Grover Cleveland Alexander, who happened to also be the very first pitcher Babe Ruth faced in the Fall Classic, back in 1915 when he was with the Boston Red Sox.

So, game one of 1928 was a rather tame 4-1 Yankee win at home. Ruth didn't hit a home run, or even collect an RBI. But wait! St. Louis got a grand total of three hits in the game. Babe Ruth? He got three, and scored twice. So he had as many hits as the entire Cardinal team and scored one more run then all of St. Louis. The Babe was making it a point that things were going to be different this time around. And game two really proved that.

New York scored three times in the bottom of the first inning in game two. Lou Gehrig (Who had one amazing World Series in 1928), hit a three-run home run (after Ruth had walked). Who was it off you ask? Why Grover Cleveland Alexander.

The Cards somehow came back in the top of the second to tie it in the top of the second, but it would prove to be their last gasp. New York tallied the go-ahead run in the bottom of the frame, then outscored St. Louis 5-0 the rest of the way. Ruth singled and Gehrig walked to start the rally. Ruth added a double later but was stranded. Now up 2-0, it was "Meet me in St. Louie, Louie," but Ruth and co. had no intention of returning home.

The Bronx Bombers scored seven runs in game three, which was a bit of a come down. But they made sure to hold the Cardinals to just three runs again. St. Louis actually led 2-0 after one, fallen behind 3-2, then squared it at 3 after five. However, three runs by the Yankees in the top of the sixth inning put this thing out of reach. Ruth had hit into a force play that inning, but scored the game-winning run. The next inning, he added a run-scoring single for the Yankees final tally of the game.

So, "How Sweep It Is?" Well, game four actually was close, too, for a little bit. The Yankees just had too many horses going full speed in this game.

None more than Ruth. All he did was hit three home runs. The Cardinals scored their first run on a failed pickoff play at second. Gehrig added a home run in seventh right after Ruth had hit his second. All of this help turn a 2-1 Cardinal lead into a 5-2 Yankee lead.

Leading 7-2 going into the ninth (Ruth hitting his third home run in the top of the eighth), the Yankees needed three more outs. They didn't exactly come easily. The Cards not only scored a run, but the with two down, proceeded to get two more hits to load 'em up. Guess who made a nice catch to end it? Babe Ruth!

The Babe was quite a showman. Without hesitation, everyone knows his 714 lifetime home runs. However, he also batted .342. In the Fall Classic, he was good enough for a .326 lifetime mark, to go along with his (then) record of 15 home runs. Because The Bambino is thought of as a slow runner, many don't know that he also led the league in runs scored eight times (Compared to Ty Cobb, a speedster, leading the junior circuit five times!). In the 1928 Fall Classic, he hit for his highest average ever in the World Series, .625, becoming the first .600 + hitter there. He also scored nine runs despite only getting four RBIs. And, of course, that nice last play. The Babe had showed the way with his usual flair for the dramatic. Of course, I can only imagine that fans of his had come to expect that by that time.


Neft, David S. and Richard M. Cohen, The Sporting News Encyclopedia: Baseball. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Hawk Gowdy was a one-man wrecking machine in the 1914 Fall Classic. His "Miracle Braves" got the pitching from Bill James and Dick Rudolph (2-0, each), but it was a case of "Move over guys, I'll provide the offence, here!"

And supply it, the catcher did. The favourited Philadelphia Athletics were in for a quick surprise that was as fast as it was shocking. The Boston Braves were on their way to a stunning sweep.

Gowdy hat hit .243 with only three home runs and forty-six RBIs in the regular season. But you've all seen it from Billy Martin in 1953, Bobby Richardson in 1960 (And 1964 for good measure). Bucky Dent in 1977, and Ray Knight in 1986. For that matter, Kirk Gibson was not supposed to play at all in 1988, and we all know how that appearance ended.

Gowdy did hit a home run, but it was not as dramatic. But with that, he had more home runs then all other players in the 1914 World Series combined. His assault of Philadelphia pitching came in his very first plate appearance of game one. Philly was at home and about to get embarassed.

Even the great Chief Bender could do nothing to stop Gowdy, who doubled home a run in the top of the second, and came around to score later. It was all Boston needed. But Gowdy was not done, and neither were his teammates. He added two more hits, scored another run, drew a walk, and never was retired. The final score was Boston 7, Philadelphia 1. Game two was closer, but Boston won it, too!

Gowdy could only draw two walks in the second tilt. But Bill James pitched a two-hit shutout. Boston themselves managed only seven hits and one run. Nonetheless, they were heading home up two games, and this thing was not about to head back to The City Of Brotherly Love.

Philly sure gave it their all in a must-win game three. Thew led 1-0, 2-1, and even 4-2 after 9 1/2, but Boston was not about to be denied. Gowdy tied it in the bottom of the second with a double, then went to work in the important bottom of the tenth. Leading off, he went yard to make it, 4-3. The Braves squared this thing at four with a sac fly. The coupe-de-grace was provided by Hank in the bottom of the twelfth. Gowdy got it all started with his second double of the game and third of this Fall Classic. He later scored the winning run on an error. Boston was now up 3-0 and looking for the sweep.

Philly did not go down easily. The teams traded runs in the bottom of the fourth and top of the fifth. But in the bottom of that frame, it was Boston's Johnny Evers with a double of his own, and it scored two, breaking the deadlock. Boston hung on from there, being held to just six hits (none by Gowdy, who could only draw a walk) to Philadelphia's seven. But with a 3-1 win, the Miracle Braves had won it all.

Gowdy did it all.

Highest batting average, .545
Highest on-base percentage, .688
Most runs scored, 3
Most doubles, 3
Most triples, 1
Most home runs, 1
Most RBIs, 3 (Tied with  Rabbit Maranville)
Most walks, 5.

Gowdy must have been the miracle man on the 1914 Boston Braves!


Neft, David S. and Richard M. Cohen, The Sporting News Encyclopedia: Baseball. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Starting Five Guide

So, I explained who the seven men of the 'pen were, earlier. But how about the Fab Five? The starters in baseball. Actually, it sometimes is only two or three great pitchers.


The King Of The Hill on your team! The ace of the staff is usually the starter with the "Best arm". Unless there is a lefty (Think Kershaw) better than him, the ace is usually a right-hander. His pitch selection is the best in terms of control and variation. He's not always the best strikeout pitcher (Think Jim Palmer of the Orioles in the 60s and 70s), but he works the most innings. That's because his endurance is second to one at the most. As mentioned, control is big here. He'll rarely, be the pitcher to lead the team in bases on balls per nine or wild pitches. But with his arm, he'll usually lead the team, and maybe the league, in wins, complete games, and innings pitched. Oh, yeah, and also, ERA. Indeed, with this pitcher, it's often that he'll go nine, even if the team is losing. Often, he only depart for a pinch hitter. So he usually finishes the inning he's in before he's yanked. It should be noted, the term, "Ace" can also be used to describe the best relief pitcher, too. But if you hear, "Ace pitcher..." it is almost always a starter. As mentioned earlier, the ace usually has the best arm strength, often going seven innings. Also, when he's pulled, it usually in between innings. He'll finish the inning, leaving right there or for a pinch hitter if it's a National League game. And if your team is lucky enough to make the postseason, he'll start game one, unless injured. Keep in mind, this position can vary during the season. The "ace" gets hurt or has an off-season, and the second or third pitcher pitches better...Odds are, he gets a promotion to the head of the class! This pitcher might also be the nasty boy of the staff, targeting other hitters for some brush backs and knockdowns.

Second Starter

The second starter is the best right-handed pitcher if the ace is a lefty. Or he's the best left-handed pitcher on the staff if the ace is a righty. Classic example of a righty being the # 2 starter? Don Drysdale, who pitched the day after Sandy Koufax. But thinking back to my days of following the Toronto Blue Jays in the early 90s, here's where Jimmy Key would pitch after Dave Stieb.If the best lefty pitcher is not as good as the second best righty, then he'll be the third starter. 

At no point am I implying that the second starter on the team is that far inferior to the ace. Usually his stuff is not quite as good. In fact, it is possible that he has more strikeouts then the ace. His pitch selection might not be as healthy, and his arm strength might be a little less. Again, the margin is not quite as much. Sometimes, his endurance can be a little more then the starter. This does not necessarly mean he has more innings pitched when all is said and done, however. His control might also be not as good as the ace. If he's having a great year, and the ace is having "only" a good year (Or maybe a bad year), then it is definitely possible for him to end up with the most wins. The manager may even make him the ace of the staff if he's having a great year, come playoffs. He'll get his share of complete games, (possibly) strikeouts (Possibly even leading the team), complete games, and innings pitched. Now if the ace doesn't lead the team in ERA, it's usually this pitcher.

Third Starter

If the first two starters are righties, then almost always, this is where your lefty is. Here is where control is sometimes a real issue. So too, is the pitch selection. This pitcher usually does not finish many games, and probably has far less innings pitched then the starter. He could, on the positive side, be the strikeout artist on the team. But if that's the case, it's because he lacks the control of the ace or second best starter. He's not necessary a bad pitcher, but he's not really someone you can count on for the big win. He could very well be a win one, lose one pitcher, depending on his ability and the team he's on. If he's good, and the ace and second pitcher aren't that season, he could lead the team in ERA.

There are exceptions, to all the above. If you've got a lot of good arms, this guy can be almost as good as the first two starters. Best third starter of all time? John Smoltz got reduced to this role sometimes in Atlanta had Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.

Fourth Starter

There are exceptions, but usually he's not that much of a pitcher in terms of manager's putting faith in him with the season on the line. It's not that he's bad, but he can't quite give you the innings that the ace and second best starting pitcher can. Also, his strikeouts are low. His pitch selection isn't as good or reliable. But, he might have better control then the third starter. He might be a young pitcher, too, just learning the tools of the trade. He might also be someone who has pitched in the bullpen, shown potential, and now ready to give it a go as a starter. The big concerns for everyone is his arm strength and composure. He might go the entire season without a complete game. His win total might be in single digits (Not that his loss total will be!).

Fifth Starter

This pitcher is usually the hurler with the least amount of arm strength. Often, he is right-handed. He often will leave after only six or less innings. The bullpen often gets into the action early for him, especially if he's young. He doesn't have "The good stuff" that the better starters on the team has. In fact, it might even be said jokingly that he doesn't have any stuff. He velocity on the pitches is among the lowest among starters, and perhaps even lower then anyone out of the bullpen. He might end up pitching there before the season is over. He will not be the team leader in wins, complete games, strikeouts, innings pitched or complete games. If his control is bad, look for him to lead the team in walks and wild pitches. Like the fourth starter, he could be a pitcher who is young and trying to break into the starting rotation. But if it's early in the season, then he could be on borrowed times as a starter if he's struggling.


Whiteford, Mike, How To Talk Baseball, 1987, Revised Edition, New York: Dembner Books

Sunday, May 10, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

In the very first Fall Classic, The immortal Cy Young was there in person. To throw out the first pitch of the ball game. Alas, he had to throw a lot in the top of the first. Cy ended up with a long day.
The first World Series featured Cy Young's Boston Americans vs. The Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Americans changed their name to the Red Sox in 1908, but the 1903 World Series would prove to be the only World Series (so far [2014]) to feature a team from Boston and a team from Pittsburgh.

So, Ginger Beaumont stepped in against Young and flied out to centre fielder Chick Stahl. But this was not going to be an omen. And, after the second out, the Pirates woke up.

Tommy Leach hit a triple for the first World Series hit, and Honus Wagner scored him with a single. Wagner then got the first ever World Series steal. Then an error on a grounder put runners on the corners. Cy was in big trouble.

Kitty Bransfield, on first, made a break towards second. And the Americans would be guilty of a throwing error on the play, which allowed Wagner to come home. 2-0, Pittsburgh. Later in the inning, two more runs scored on Jimmy Sebring's single.

Sebring would be a pest all day long for Young. He singled home another run in the top of the third to make it 5-0.  Later, he added a home run to make it 7-0, Pittsburgh. Boston scored three meaningless runs late in the game to make it a bit more respectable.

Boston did recover from this setback, and went on to win this best-of-nine appear, 5-3. But couldn't we have all expected more from Cy? He had to go nine since relief pitchers only came in when the pitcher developed a sore arm or was hurt by other means, back then. Cy Young has the record for most regular season wins. Amazingly enough, he also has the record for most loses, with some chap named Nolan Ryan second. Cy just had to be there when the first Fall Classic was played. But I'm a little stunned he was there to take the loss!


Friday, May 8, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Off all the Fall Classics played, only three times have each's league's batting champion met in the grand finale. 1909, 1954, and 2012. But it did make for some interesting storylines when it happend.

1909 featured Ty Cobb of the Tigers vs. Honus Wagner of the Pirates. The Series was billed as a head-to-head matchup of not only the batting title leaders, but also the two most feared speedsters. Ty ran into George Gibson, the first Canadian-born player ever to play in the World Series. He was held to just two stolen bases the entire World Series. He also hit just .231, but did contribute five RBIs. It was not enough to stop The Flying Dutchman's Pittsburgh Pirates from winning it all. He hit .333 with six stolen bases and six RBIs. Jim Delahanty and Donie were the only two hitting stars on Detroit, as Pittsburgh needed seven game to win it all.

Willie Mays's New York Giants needed just four games to beat Bobby Avila's Cleveland Indians in 1954. Mays only hit .286, and failed to get a home run. But, of course, no one remembers Mays' hitting in that Fall Classic. The only thing anyone remembers is The Catch. Willie robbed Vic Wertz of at least a triple in game one with a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch. Wertz, if you can believe it, had four hits in that game and hit .500 for the series. He out-hit both Mays (Who'd hit .345 for his only batting title) and Avila (AL-leading .341 in 1954, but just .133 in the Fall Classic). Mays also collected three RBIs. But, nothing tops, The Catch!

2012 saw Detroit's Miguel Cabrera and San Francisco's Busty Possey face off. It was all San Francisco in this World Series, as they swept through Detroit in the minimum required games. Possey hit .267 (Compared to .316 in the regular season), but did collect a home run and three RBIs. Cabrera and hit teammates were stymied by the Giants' pitching. Cabrera hit just .231 (.330 in the regular season, but matched Possey's output with a home run and three RBIs of his own. Pablo Sandoval hit .500 for the Giants and Delmon Young hit .333 for the losing Tigers.

Seems to me winning the batting title doesn't always carry over to the postseason, now does it?


Thursday, May 7, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Tsyoshi Shinjo became the first Japanese player to participate in the Fall Classic in 2002 with San Francisco. While he team came up short, it was an interesting first.

The Giants took on the Anaheim Angels (Now, the Los Angeles Angels) in the World Series of 2002, and Tsyoshi was batting ninth, in the role of DH. So his time would have to wait. But not long.

A home run by Barry Bonds and another by Reggie Sanders put the Giants up two runs in the top of the second. Troy Glaus got one back for Anaheim with a dinger of his own in the bottom of the frame.

So Shingo's moment came in the top of the third. Leading off the inning, he fanned. But it must have meant so much for him. But when he batted next in the top of the fifth, Singo came through with a leadoff single. Kenny Lofton sacrificed him to second. But the next two batters were retired, leaving him stranded.

Shingo batted again in the top of the seventh, again leading off. This time, he could only ground out. Tom Goodwin batted for him in the top of the ninth and grounded out. The Giants ended up winning the game, 4-3.

Tsyoshi did not play again until game five, where he came on as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth. He fanned. But the next inning, with the Giants up 8-4 and runners on first and second, he hit a sac bunt to get 'em over. Kenny Lofton drove them both home. In the bottom of the eighth, Shingo reached on an error and scored a run.

The Giants ultimately lost this Fall Classic in seven, with Tsyoshi making an appearance in the finale. He never returned to the Fall Classic, and by 2004 he was back playing in the Japanese Pacific League, where it all started for him back in 1991.

Still, it's always great to see baseball be expanded internationally. 1969 brought the Montreal Expos in as Canada's first baseball team. Toronto joined in 1977 and won the Fall Classic twice in the early 90s. Japan has baseball all over the place. In 1992, there was a Tom Selleck movie, Mr. Baseball, about a washed-up big leaguer going to Japan to regain his swing. But long before that, Japan's Masanori Murakami pitched two seasons in the majors in 1964 and 1965, becoming the first to do so. Further back, George Gibson was the first Canadian to play in the Fall Classic in 1909. Joe Quinn, from Australia, played in the bigs from the 1880s into the twentieth century. Graham Lloyd was the first Australian to play in the World Series in 1998. The World Series is slowly involving more and more players from all over the world!


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Game one of the 1995 Fall Classic was more then just a pitcher's duel between Atlanta's Greg Maddux and Cleveland's Orel Herhiser. It was one for the record book. As in, "Fewest hits, both teams combined, one World Series game." And it's in some pretty good company. Try, game two of the 1921 Fall Classic, and game five of the 1956 World Series. Don Larsen got his perfect game in the latter, but Sal Maglie allowed just five hits.

Maddux and Hershiser were no strangers to postseason heroics, so in some ways, this gem of a pitcher's duel isn't shocking. But Orel hadn't pitched in a World Series since 1988, and was now 37 years old in 1995. Maddux hadn't pitched in the postseason in two seasons. In 1989, he'd pitched in the NLCS for Chicago vs. San Francisco.

So could Orel regain what he had in 1988? He was 16-6, but his ERA was high, 3.87. But on this day, Hershiser was back in his 1988 mode!

The Indians, batting first at Fulton County Stadium, scored a run before Orel could get to the hill. Without a hit too. Kenny Lofton reached on an error, and stole second. Then, if you can believe it, he stole third. Carlos Baerga got him how with a groundout, 1-0.

Orel went out in the bottom of the first and gave up a leadoff single to Marquis Grissom. A groundout by Mark Lemke for the first out followed. Then Hershiser got Andrew Jones to hit a liner that was caught at short by Omar Vizquel. Vizquel fired it right to Baerga at second for the inning-ending double play. Okay, Orel's out of that. But does he need the glove men behind him to bail him out?

Maddux made sure Cleveland did not get the ball out of the infield in the top of the second. Hershiser was not so lucky. For the second straight inning, the leadoff hitter got a hit. But this time, there was no double play that could erase it. It was by Fred McGriff, and he took Orel out of the park to tie it.

It looked like Atlanta would erupt for more, but here's where Orel matched 'em. Indeed, neither team got another hit through four. In the top of the fifth, Cleveland finally got their first hit, but it was stranded. Orel walked a batter in the bottom of the frame, but fanned the next two batters and got Rafael Belliard to ground out.

The top of the sixth was another 1-2-3 inning by Maddux, whereas in the bottom of the inning, Mark Lemke stroked another hit for Atlanta, but Hershiser got out of the inning without anything else happening. Still tied at one after six.

After Maddux turned in still another 1-2-3 inning in the top of the inning, Hershiser finally broke. Pitching again to McGriff leading things off, Orel was perhaps too careful. He walked him and Dave Justice. Paul Assembacher came into pitch to pitch to Ryan Klesko, the third straight left-handed hitter of the inning. But the Braves pinch hit for him, sending the righty-hitting Mike Devereaux up to the dish. And then he walked too, bases loaded!

Julian Tavarez hopped in the from the bullpen to face Charlie O'Brien. But again, up trotted another pinch hitter, Luis Polonia. Polonia hit it to short. Vizquel bobbled it, but managed to step on the second base bag before Devereaux got there. Well, that's what the umps said. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox did not like the call, but had to like the fact that his team was now up, 2-1. Rafael Belliard them surprised everyone with a squeeze that scored Justice. Some justice for the Braves, perhaps? That was all the runs Maddux would need!

He had yet another 1-2-3 eighth, while Tavarez walked one batter in the bottom of the frame. But Tav fanned two and did not surrender another run that inning. Cleveland had one last crack at Maddux in the top of the ninth.

They actually scored a run, too. Lofton got Cleveland's second hit of the game. There was out. When Vizquel grounded out, Lofton was running on the pitch, and he made it to second. Here's where things got interesting.

I don't know why, but Lofton continued for third. That's a bad play, but Kenny was already past second when the putout at first was made. I don't know why, but McGriff tried to nail him. I say let him have the base and concentrate on the next batter. McGriff's peg went wide (right side) of third, and Lofton scored. 3-2.

But Maddux got Baerga to pop out to end it. The Indians had scored two runs on two hits. Atlanta had three runs on three hits. A hit meant a run.

Well, there had been some head's up baserunning and a daring squeeze, so that must be accounted for, too. Pitching duel's go back to the days of Christy Mathewson and others. They are fun to watch. Every pitch, every fielding play, every sub by the manager are watched and scrutinized. It's a game of inches. But the mound to the plate in baseball is sixty feet, six inches. And that's where so much excitement is generated from in baseball. Hershiser and Maddux were two of the finest in the postseason. And did they ever put on a show in game one of '95!


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Bret Saberhagen is the last pitcher to bat in the Fall Classic in an American League game. He didn't fare so well at the dish. But he sure fared well on the mound. The designated hitter rules was first used in 1976 in the World Series. It would alternate every year. So 1977 had no DH, 1978, DH...

Saberhagen took the hill for the Kansas City Royals vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. But opposing him was John Tudor, who'd won both his starts, including game four. St. Louis had led three games to one after that, but Kansas refused to yield, and won the next two games. Could they pull it out for their adoring fans in game seven.

The answer was an emphatic, "Yes!". Tudor ran into trouble early, and Kansas just kept strafing 'em. You could certainly said that St. Louis never got going in this game. But as far as cooler heads were concerned, the Cards had none. St. Louis would come completely unraveled in this game. It was funny if you were a Kansas fan, and sad if you were a St. Louis fan.

Tudor got through the bottom of the first allowing just a hit. But Darrly Motley stroked a two-run home run with one out in the bottom of the frame. The floodgates had opened, early. Bret Saberhagen ended it momentary when he fanned to end the inning. But Saberhagen the pitcher, meanwhile, got through the first three innings, allowing just one hit. By the time he came to the dish in the bottom of the third, the game was effectively over.

Kansas came at Tudor with everything that inning. A bases-loaded walk by Frank White brought home a run to make it 3-0, and Tudor was gone. Bill Campbell came in and gave up a single to Steve Balboni to make 5-0. The route was on. Kansas loaded the bases with two out for Saberhagen. Now, in this case, you've gotta wanna come through. But Bret struck out.

The Royals them exploded for offence after Bret pitched a scoreless fifth following a 1-2-3 fourth. Jim Sundberg dispatched Campbell to the showers with a leadoff single, and then the fireworks began. Steve Balboni and Motley singled, making it 6-0. Things were about to get worse before they got better for St. Louis. Jeff Lahti, in relief of Campbell, seemed to settle down. He fanned the next batter, then faced Saberhagen with two on and one out. Saberhagen did the smart thing in this case. He bunted. However, it turned out that the Cards were thinking very much the same thing, and they Motley at second on the force/ There were two outs and runners on the corners, but the inning was far from over.

Lonnie Smith kept the rally going with a double, driving in two more. 8-0. Willie Wilson then singled to score Smith. 9-0. Ricky Horton came in to face George Brett, who singled. Joaquin Andujar came in to get that third out. Frank White was the first batter he faced. White went to 2-2, fouled off five straight pitches, took a ball, and singled to make it 10-0. When Sundberg took a 2-1 pitch inside and it was called a ball, Andujar was mad, and let home plate umpire Don Denkinger know it. The Cardinals felt it was a strike. Denkinger had blown at call at first in the ninth inning of game six, and that had led to Kansas scoring two runs to win. Whitey Herzog, the manager, came out and lit into Denkinger. Whitey got the old heave-ho. More Cardinals came in and tried to get at Denkinger, but order appeared to be restored. For one pitch. When the next pitch was also called a ball (four), Andujar got mad again and was ejected. Several Cardinals had to restrain him from really going at Denkinger. The Royals scored another run for good measure. 11-0.

Saberhagen complete the shutout, and the rest of the game passed without another incident. And it was a splendid five-hitter on his part. The final score was the same one it had been after five, 11-0.Bret fanned to end the sixth inning. The next year, and from ever one, the designated hitter is only used in the National League Parks in the Fall Classic. American League pitchers are in every way right there in the class of their National League counterparts, but have the luxury of the DH batting for him every game. That's always been a tough spot for the pitchers in the World Series, having to make that adjustment. Kind of favours the National League, eh?


Monday, May 4, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

There were no complete games in the 1972, 1973 and 1974 Fall Classics. Blame the Oakland Athletics for winning it all those years? You can't because they didn't have a complete game, either!

In 1972, the World Series went seven games between Oakland and Cincinnati. There was pitching a-plenty in this Fall Classic. And both teams had strong bullpens. Rollie Fingers came in to pitch for Oakland in the opening act, only to part ways for Vida Blue, who closed out a 3-2 Oakland win for some reason. The Reds lost, but Pedro Borbon, their ace relief pitcher, made an appearance himself. Both Fingers and Borbon pitched in game two, which A's also won.

Fingers had an interesting Fall Classic that year. He went 1-1 (taking the loss in game five) and recorded two saves. He actually pitched in every game, except game six. Borbon pitched in game six, and also took the mound in all the contests, except game three. But the best man out of the pen was Tom Hall, who made four appearances, recorded a save, and posted an ERA of 0.00 in 8 1/3 innings pitched.

The 1973 World Series also had Oakland in it, and also went seven. But this time it was the New York Mets that they faced. Fingers was again used often, and was effective. Appearing in six games, he posted an 0-1 record with 2 saves to go along with an ERA of 0.66 13 2/3 innings. Amazingly enough, that was more innings pitched then any starter. So he obviously made more appearances in that Fall Classic then any other pitcher, right? Wrong. Darold Knowles set an all-time World Series with seven appearances. And was he ever effective. 2 saves and an ERA of 0.00 in 6 1/3 innings. The Mets had some bullpen in that Fall Classic, too! Ray Sadecki, the winning pitcher in game one of the 1964 World Series vs. Whitey Ford, appeared in four games in relief and had an ERA of 1.93. Tug McGraw, who had been there with the Mets in '69 and late in 1980 with the Phillies, appeared in five games (1-0-1) and posted an ERA of 2.63. McGraw tied Fingers with 13 2/3 innings pitched.

1974 was a shorter World Series for Oakland, but it was not easy. The A's needed just five games to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers. But that doesn't do the Fall Classic of '74 any justice to how close it was. Four of the five games were decided by a final score of 3-2. The one "rout" was just 5-2. Rollie Fingers was at his finest moment, as he took home the World Series' MVP. All he did was appear in all four Oakland wins, go 1-0 with 2 saves an ERA of 1.93 in 9 1/3 innings. Oddly enough, the only other relief pitcher appearances were by Blue Moon Odom and a surprising one (and a save for good measure) from Catfish Hunter in game one. The Dodgers bullpen saw a lot of action. Mike Marshall, one of the finest relief pitchers of his time, got into all five games for Los Angeles. He was 0-1, but also record a save. It was the save itself that provided one the most memorable moments in World Series history. Marshall picked off designated runner Herb Washington off first. Washington was a "player" used by the A's to only pinch run, as he was a former track star and had very little baseball playing experience. But his speed was no match for Marshall's move!

A very young Charlie Hough and Jim Brewer also combined for two appearances, 2 1/3 innings pitched, and an ERA of 0.00. But they could not stop Oakland from winning their third straight World Series.

Luis Tiant pitched a complete game shutout in game one of the 1975 Fall Classic, but baseball seemed to enter a new era of relief pitching in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Even the designated hitter, used in the American League in 1973 (But not used in the World Series until 1976), did not stop managers from making the long trip to the mound in the Fall Classic. It's a moment when it's all on the line, and many-a-pitcher's arms are tired. Good thing their is some quick relief!