Monday, October 17, 2016

Common Demoninator: October 10th

"Day that Mantle hit his walk-off home run right into the upper deck against Barney Schultz. Day of Wayne Gretzky's NHL debut."

That would be October 10th of 15 years apart. And at the opposite ends of the spectrum in each other's careers. The Mick and his mighty Yankees were about to slide into fifth place in 1965, whereas Gretzky's Oilers were in their first NHL season. Five years later, they were Stanley Cup winners.

Mickey didn't have to wait as long as Wayne to be a champion. Mantle's New York Yankees won it all in 1951, his rookie campaign. He also won it again the next two seasons. By the end of the 1950s, the Bronx Bombers had won six World Championships, Mantle not there in 1950, obviously. The 60s started out with a frustrating, heartbreaking seven-game loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. But soon, it was back to the Yankee dominance. They won in 1961 and '62. The Los Angeles Dodger stopped them from making it three in a row with a sweep of 'em the next season. But 1964 meant another World Series for Mantle and company.

But they were up against the St. Louis Cardinals, and pitcher Bob Gibson. The Yankees' ace, Whitey Ford, pitched in game one, taking the loss. Due to an injury, it proved to be the lefty's last appearance in the Fall Classic.

But then New York went out and beat Gibson in game two, right there in St. Louis. Mantle scored the run that broke a 1-1 deadlock. The 8-3 final score sent the 1964 World Series to New York for games three, four and five. At Yankee Stadium.

Game three was a classic pitcher's duel. Jim Bouton of the Yankees and Curt Simmons of the Cardinals battled each other to a standstill. Simmons tied the game and Mantle made a big mistake. Trailing 1-0 in the top of the fifth, Tim McCarver of the Cardinals got a rally going. He singled past Joe Pepitone at first. The ball continued into right, rolling right through Mantle's legs (Roger Maris was playing centre, Mantle's normal position). McCarver ended up at second. The next two batters were retired by Bouton, but Simmons was the batter. The lefty-pitching, lefty-hitting hurler knocked it off Clete Boyer's glove at third, and McCarver motored on home to tie the game.

The Cards nearly won in in the top of the tenth as Phil Linz, the shortstop replacing Tony Kubek at short, muffed McCarver's grounder to start the ninth. A bunt by Mike Shannon got him to second. Another pinch hitter, Carl Wawrick, walked. Bob Skinner batted for Simmons and gave it a ride to deep right-centre. Roger Maris made the putout on the warning track, and McCarver made it to third. Curt Flood lined to Mantle in right.

St. Louis brought in Barney Schultz to pitch the bottom of the ninth. And let's let Mantle take it from here:

The Mick really gave it a ride!

St. Louis, however, ended up winning the 1964 World Series in seven games (Despite two more long balls from The Mick). Mantle did not make it back to the Fall Classic again. He retired after the 1968 season.

Flash forward fifteen years from that day Mantle hit his dramatic walk-off, and it's a young 18-year old about to walk on to the ice at Chicago Stadium. Wayne Gretzky had completed his first WHA season in 1978/79, but it was "Welcome to the Big Show, kid!"

The Edmonton Oilers were bunch of kids. They had two other first year boys in Kevin Lowe and Mark Messier, both of whom were a few years away from greatness. Gretzky? He'd arrived. The Hawks had another veteran aside from Esposito. Stan Mikita, who'd been with Chicago since 1959/60, two years before Gretzky was born. Wayne had to be really feeling young!

But first, there was the matter of the Chicago Blackhawks. They trotted out 36-year old Tony Esposito in the net for this game, while the Edmonton Oilers countered with Ken Dryden's older brother Dave. For a while, this October 10th, 1979 game was a mismatch.

Chicago led 2-0 before the game reached it's third minute. Edmonton fought back as Kevin Lowe scored, Gretzky getting his first assist. Dave Hunter then tied it at 14:53, but the first period ended with the home team up 3-2. Bob Murray scored the lone goal of the second period on a powerplay, and that gave the Hawks a two-goal cushion to work with. Esposito kept Wayne and company at bay the rest of the way.

The Oilers may have lost the game 4-2, but they would actually make the playoffs. Wayne himself would been in the postseason every year until 1993/94, and from there make it only twice his last six years, retiring in 1998/99.

"The information used herein was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by The Hockey Summary Project. For more information about the Hockey Summary Project please visit:



Hockey Summary Project. 10 Jan. 2001. Web. 17 Oct. 2016. <>

Sports Reference LLC. - Major League Statistics and Information. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

Sports Reference LLC. - Hockey Statistics and History. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

Youtube. Web. 17 Oct. 2016. <>

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