Archive for December, 2009

Best Possible Game 8

December 16, 2009

For 2 short periods the World Series wasn’t a best of seven series, but a best of nine. The World Series in 1903 was a best of nine and it happened again from 1919-1921. None of the Series’ went nine, but three did go eight.

A quick disclaimer. In 1912 game 2 was a tie and had to be replayed. The Series went the full schedule thus making game 7 the eighth game played. If I had wanted to be pedantic about it, I could have added the last game of 1912 to this list. I didn’t. It resides with the other game 7’s.

The best of the game 8’s is 1921. This was the first of three consecutive “Subway Series'” between the New York Giants and the New York Yankees. John McGraw’s Giants featured future Hall of Famers Frankie Frisch, Dave Bancroft, Ross Youngs, and George Kelly. Miller Huggins’ Yankees countered with Babe Ruth, Frank Baker, and Waite Hoyt. Ruth didn’t start game 8, but came in as a pinch hitter. The starting pitchers were lefty Art Nehf and Hoyt.

With one out in the top of the first, Bancroft walked,  Frisch made the 2nd out, Youngs also walked sending Bancroft to second base, where he came home on an error by Yankees shortstop Roger Peckenpaugh. It held up. Neft shut out the Yanks on 4 hits and 3 strikeouts, while walking five. Hoyt gave up only the unearned run while allowing 6 hits, walking 4, and striking out seven.

In the bottom of the 9th the Yankees tried to rally. Ruth pinch hit and grounded out.  Second baseman Aaron Ward walked, then Home Run Baker grounded to Frisch. The easy out was recorded at first, but Ward dashed toward third. A great throw caught him sliding in and the series ended with a double play.

Other game 8:

1903-Bill Dinneen pitched a 3 hit shutout to win the first World Series over Pittsburgh 3-0. The Red Sox got 2 runs in the fourth and tacked on one more in the sixth.

1919-this one was a blowout, the Reds scoring 4 runs in the first, one in the second, and coasting to a 10-5 victory. Of course this is the “Black Sox” series so not everything was on the up and up.

Best Possible Game 7

December 15, 2009

Ah, Game 7, the ultimate baseball postseason game. Game 7 ends the season, game 7 ends the series, game 7 crowns  winner. It’s no wonder that there have been so many very good game 7’s. The best was the 27th of October 1991.

The Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins had battled through six games with 4 being decided by a single run and one being decided by 3 runs. This game was to be as close. The Braves sent John Smoltz to the mound against Jack Morris.

The two pitchers engaged in a fantastic pitching duel. Through 7 innings neither team had scored. The Braves had left 6 men on base, the Twins only 5.  In the 8th inning Braves Designated Hitter Lonnie Smith singled followed by 3rd baseman Terry Pendleton’s double. A great decoy play by the Twins middle infielders (Greg Gagne and Chuck Knoblauch) caused Smith to pause long enough that he was unable to score and was forced to stop at 3rd.  With one out 1st baseman Sid Bream hit into a nifty first base to catcher to first base (Kent Hrbek-Brian Harper-Kent Hrbek) double play to end the threat. Not to be outdone the Twins hit into a crucial double play in the bottom of the eighth. Neither team scored in the ninth, although the Twns did leave two men on base.

In the 10th inning the Braves went in order. The bottom of the 10th saw Dan Gladden drop a hit which he stretched into a double. Knoblauch sacrificed him to third. With one out the Braves walked both Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek intentionally to set up a play at any base. That brought up pinch hitter Gene Larkin who singled over a drawn-in outfield to drive in Gladden with the Series clinching run. Morris pitched 10 shutout innings for the win.

I watched it in something like amazement. I still consider it the greatest game I ever saw entirely through.

Honorable mention game 7:

1912-in extra innings New York Giants outfielder Fred Snodgrass drops a crucial flyball opening the door for the Boston Red Sox to win the Series.

1924-also in extra innings the Washington Senators push across a run against the Giants to give Walter Johnson his first World Series victory and the Senators their only championship.

1926-In what is probably the most famous strikout in baseball history, Grover Cleveland Alexander, with the bases loaded, strikes out Tony Lazzeri to preserve the Cardinals lead. Later Babe Ruth will be caught stealing to end the game and the Series.

1940-Paul Derringer outduels Detroit’s Bobo Newsom 2-1 to bring home Cincinnati’s first untainted World Series triumph.

1946-tied in the bottom of the 8th Cardinals right fielder Enos Slaughter runs through a stop sign to score the winning run all the way from first on a double. Harry Brecheen shuts down the Red Sox in the ninth for his third Series victory as Ted Williams is a loser in his only World Series appearance.

1955-By a score of 2-0, the Brooklyn Dodgers finally win the World Series.

1960-a 10-9 slugfest between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees ends when Bill Mazeroski leads off the bottom of the ninth with a home run. It is his second home run of the Series. In the regular season he hits 11.

1962-Willie McCovey hits the ball with the tying run on base. Bobby Richardson snags it to preserve the Yankees victory.

1965-Sandy Koufax, on 2 day’s rest, shuts out the Twins on 3 hits, two singles and a double.

2001-With the Yankees ahead and Mariano Rivera on the mound in the bottom of the ninth, the Arizona Diamondbacks score two runs to upset the 3-time defending champions.

2002-With the score tied 1-1, the Angels load the bases against the Giants and Garrett Anderson’s double plates all thee runners for the margin of victory in the last game 7 played to date.

Best Possible Game 6

December 14, 2009

If game 5 was the easiest Series game to pick because it was so obvious, game 6 was the hardest. There have been an inordinate number of quality sixth games in World Series history. I saw a number of them, so I chose the one I found the most exciting.

Down 3 games to 2 to the Atlanta Braves, the 1991 Minnesota Twins went into the Metrodome for game 6 needing two wins. What they got was a great game. They also ended up with the Kirby Puckett show.

The Twins broke on top with a Chuck Knoblauch single, a Puckett triple and a Shane Mack single for an early 2 run lead. In the 3rd inning Puckett made one of the most sensational catches against the glass I ever saw. It stopped a Braves rally cold. The Braves did break through in the 5th inning with two runs of their own. Terry Pendleton popped a two-run homer. Not to be outdone, the Twins went back into the lead in the bottom of the inning on Puckett’s sacrifice fly.

It took the Braves until the 7th inning to tie the game on a force out. The game remained tied until Puckett smashed a leadoff home run against Charlie Leibrandt to end the game and tie up the Series. In game 6, the Twins tallied 4 runs, Pucket had 3 RBIs and scored two runs. Heckuva performance.

Honorable mention game 6:

1947-The Dodgers tie up the Series. Famous for Al Gionfriddo’s great catch robbing Joe Dimaggio of a home run.

1975-Carlton Fisk’s “body English” home run in extra innings tied up the Series, which the BoSox lost the next night.

1986-in maybe the most famous error in World Series history, Bill Buckner leaves the wickets open.

1993-Joe Carter’s two-run blast for the Blue Jays wins the Series for Toronto.

2002-The Giants have the World Series wrapped up until the Angels rip off 3 runs in both the bottom of the 7th and the bottom of the 8th to tie up the Series. They win it all in game 7.

2003-Josh Beckett stifles the Yankees to record Florida’s 2nd World Series victory in franchise history.

Best Possible Game 5

December 13, 2009

Some of these are hard. It’s tough to decide the best game 2 or the best game 3. Other people will make other decisions. But some of these are really easy. The best game 5 in World Series history is realy, really, really easy. It’s the best pitched game in Series history.

The 1956 World Series was tied two games each when Don Larsen took the mound in the Bronx for the Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers on the 8th of October.  He faced a loaded line up: Jackie Robinson, PeeWee Reese, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, and the Dodgers pitcher was Sal “The Barber” Maglie, a former Yankee.

Over the course of the game he struck out 7, including each Dodgers Hall of Famer once (Gil Hodges and Sal Maglie were 2 of the others) and barely had any full counts.  The Yankees got runs in the fourth on Mickey Mantle’s home run and in the sixth inning on a single, a sacrifice by Larsen, and Hank Bauer’s single. In between, Mantle made a spectacular catch off Hodges’ bat in the fifth to preserve the no hitter.

In the ninth, Larsen faced Carl Furillo who flied to right field, Campanella who grounded to second base, and pinch hitter Dale Mitchell, who provided the seventh and final strikeout to complete the perfect game. It’s the only no hitter, the only perfect game in World Series history.

A couple of asides are appropriate. Maglie pitched well that day, giving up only five hits and two walks. Except for Mantle’s homer, all the hits were singles.  Finally, Dale Mitchell didn’t end up in obscurity. The baseball field at the University of Oklahoma is named for him.

Honorable mention game 5:

1929-down by a run in the bottom of the ninth, the Philadelphia A’s score 2 runs to win the World Series over the Cubs.

1933-in the top of the 10th inning Mel Ott clubs a home run to put the New York Giants ahead of the Washington Senators. When the Senators fail to score in the bottom of the 10th, the Giants win the Series.

1942-with the score tied 2-2 in the top of the ninth, Whitey Kurowski hits a two-run home run to win the Series for the Cardinals over the Yankees.

1964-in the 10th inning, Tim McCarver’s three-run homer propels the Cardinals to another win over the Yankees. The Cards go on to take the Series in 7 games.

2001-in the bottom of the ninth, Scott Brosius’ two-run dinger ties the game. The Yankees defeat the Diamondbacks in 12 innings on two singles and a sacrifice bunt. They lose the Series in 7 games.

Best Possible Game 4

December 12, 2009

In World Series history the Dodgers have played the Yankees more than any other matchup. It’s appropriate they make this list. In 1947 they played a game for the ages. It included the first integrated World Series and proved the Last Hurrah for 3 players.

Game 4 in 1947 featured Hall of Fame players Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, and Phil Rizzuto for the Yankees. But the pivotal player was Bill Bevens, a journeyman pitcher who was 7-13 for the season. Opposing them was a Brooklyn Dodgers team featuring Jackie Robinson, the first black American in a World Series,  and PeeWee Reese. The starting pitcher was 10 game winner Harry Taylor.

Taylor didn’t have it. He gave up a bases loaded walk in the first and was lifted for Hal Gregg. The Yanks got another run in  on a  triple and a double. 

It looked like that was all they would need, because Bevens was wildly effective. For eight innings he gave up no hits, not one. He gave up 8 walks and one run on two walks, a bunt sacrifice and a fielder’s choice, but no hits (see, I told you he was wild, but effective).

The bottom of the ninth in Ebbets Field started with a fly out, then a walk to Carl Furillo. A foul out recorded the second out. Now the Dodgers decided to pinch run for Furillo. Enter Al Gionfriddo, a backup outfielder with speed who promptly stole second. Bevens intentionally walked pinch hitter Pete Reiser to set up a force at all three bases. The Dodgers sent in pinch runner Eddie Miksis for Reiser and called on pinch hitter Cookie Lavagetto to get them home. Lavagetto immediately banged a double off the right field wall scoring Gionfriddo with the tying run, Miksis with the winning run, and ending the no hitter. The Dodgers had tied the Series 2 games apiece. They eventually lost in seven.

For Gionfriddo it was his last series. He played in 2 more games, making a famous catch in game 6 to save the game. He never played another game in the Major Leagues. For Lavagetto it was his last Major League hit. He played in two more of the games in the Series, but got no hits and was gone from the Majors after the Series. For Bevens it was the last game he ever pitched in the big leagues.

Honorable mention game 4:

1929-the A’s score 10 runs in the 7th inning to erase an eight run Cubs lead.

1939-the Series was a blowout, but game 4 was clsoe until Charlie Keller bowled over Reds catcher Ernie Lombardi leading to 3 runs in the 10th inning.

1941-The Dodgers were ahead until catcher Mickey Owen dropped the third strike with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth. The Yankees scored  four runs to win the game leading to a Series victory the next game.

1963-the Dodgers sweep the Yankees behind Sandy Koufax and a 2-1 win.

1993-Do you like offense? This 15-14 special asked if anyone on either team could pitch. Runs were scored in every inning except the ninth. What happened? Did the hitters finally get tired of running the bases?

2001-Down in the ninth, Tino Martinez homers for the Yankees, then in the 10th Derek Jeter becomes “Mr. November.”

Best Possible Game 3

December 11, 2009

Almost exactly 100 years ago the American League produced its first great dynasty, the 1910-14 Philadelphia A’s. In five years they played in 4 World Series, winning 3. The 3rd game of the 1911 Series against the New York Giants was special.

The home team Giants sent 26 game winner and Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson to the mound against 28 game winner Jack Coombs.  Although the A’s pitcher lacked Hall of Fame credentials, the team was stacked with others: Eddie Plank, Chief Bender, Eddie Collins, and John Franklin Baker. When game 3 started they were already up 2 games to none in the Series.

Both pitchers did well, the Giants picking up one run in the third on two singles and a force play. Then Coombs shut down the Giants through the 8th inning. Mathewson was even better, posting a shutout through 8. In the top of the ninth he induced Collins to ground out. The next batter was Baker. The day before Baker had crushed a home run to win the game and Mathewson had been openly critical of the Giants pitcher (Rube Marquard) for giving Baker a good pitch to hit. After all Frank Baker led the AL in home runs in 1911. Baker promptly homered off Mathewson (Marquard’s reaction is not recorded) to tie the game. Within a week Frank Baker had become Home Run Baker and the nickname stuck.

Both pitchers got through the 10th without damage.In the top of the 11th  with one out Collins singled bringing up Baker who promptly singled also, going to 2nd on an error. Right Fielder Danny Murphy reached on an error scoring Collins, then 1st baseman Harry Davis drove home Baker.

In the bottom of the 11th, the Giants gave it a go. They picked up one run on a double, a ground out, and an error but lost the game on a caught stealing. Up 3 games to none, the A’s dropped games 4 and 5 before blowing the Giants out in game 6.

Honorable mention game 3:

1919-it’s tough to pick any game from 1919, but this is Dickey Kerr’s magnificent shutout which showed what the ChiSox could do when they tried.

1932-not really much of a game, but it’s one of the most famous World Series games ever. In it Babe Ruth hit his “called shot”. Not going to venture into the discussion of whether he did it or not, but will mention that the next batter, Lou Gehrig, also homered.

1935-a 6-5 eleven inning affair won by Detroit on an error.

1963-Don Drysdale’s 1-0 shutout of the Yankees on 3 hits to put the Dodgers up 3 games to none with Sandy Koufax due to pitch game 4.

1964-a 2-1 game won by a Mickey Mantle home run in the bottom of the ninth.

1991-Atlanta wins 5-4 in 12 innings on a Mark Lemke single to put the Braves back in the Series.

Best Possible Game 2

December 10, 2009

Beginning in 1936 and ending in 1943 the Yankees won 6 World Series’, missed one (1940), and lost one. The one they lost was in 1942. They lost it to the St. Louis Cardinals in 5 games. Game 2 was critical.

The Yankees won game 1 of the 1942 World Series 7-4. Game 2 was played the next day in St. Louis. The Yankees sent  9 game winner Ernie (Tiny) Bonham to the mound against Cardinals 21 game winner Johnny Beazley. The Yanks had Hall of Famers Phil Rizzuto, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, and Bill Dickey in the lineup. The Cardinals countered with Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial.

The Cards scored in the 1st on a walk, a fielder’s choice, and catcher Walker Cooper’s double. Then the game settled into a pitcher’s duel to the 7th when Johnny Hopp singled and Whitey Kurowski tripled him home for the Cardinals’ third run. So far a Cardinals walk in the park.

In the top of the eighth Yankees bats finally got to Beazley.  Right Fielder Roy Cullenbine singled with two outs, promptly stole second, and came home on DiMaggio’s single. Then left fielder Charlie Keller hit a two-run home run to tie the game. It looked like the Yankees were on the verge of another run to put themselves up 2-0 in the Series, but Beaszley struck out Gordon to leave the game tied.

In the bottom of the eighth, the two Cardinals Hall of Famers struck. Again with two outs Slaughter doubled and Musial followed with a run scoring single. In the ninth, Beazley got in trouble with a leadoff single, but a great throw by Slaughter nipped the runner going to third.  Then two quick outs and the Cardinals tied the Series.

Honorable mention game 2:

1912-game ended as a tie because of darkness after 11 innings.  Mathewson gave up 6 runs, all unearned.

1924-Senators wn 4-3 with a double in the bottom of the ninth.

1991-Twins win 3-2 on a Scott Leius home run, one of only 4 hits by the Twins.

2002-an 11-10 slugfest featuring 6 home runs and both a winning and losing pitcher named Rodriguez.

Best Possible Game 1

December 9, 2009

The Los Angeles Dodgers were big underdogs to start the 1988 World Series. The Oakland A’s had the “Bash Brothers” in Mark McGwire and soon to be crowned MVP Jose Canseco, stalwart pitching ace Dave Stewart on the mound, and future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley in the bullpen. To answer the Dodgers had Cy Young winner-in-waiting Orel Hershiser, but he was to pitch game two. Future MVP Kirk Gibson was out of the lineup with bad legs. It was supposed to be a walkover.

Somebody forgot to tell the Dodgers. They struck in the bottom of the first when Steve Sax was hit by a pitch, balked to second, then came home on Mickey Hatcher’s two-run homer. Hatcher was in the lineup as Gibson’s replacement and with that home run equalled his regular season total of one.

Not to worry if you’re the A’s. They struck back (literally) in the 2nd with a single, two walks, and Canseco’s grand slam that banged off a television camera (He later autographed the camera). The game remained 4-2 until the 6th when the Dodgers pushed across a run on three singles.

That set up the bottom of the ninth. With Eckersley on the mound, the A’s got 2 quick outs then their relief ace walked Mike Davis. The Dodgers sent up Gibson, gimpy legs and all to pinch hit for the pitcher. With two strikes he slugged a backdoor slider into the right field stands to win the game and send the Dodgers on their way to a 5 game victory. According to the story, a Dodgers scout had watched Eckersley enough to predict a backdoor slider in that situation and Gibson was waiting for it. Lost in the hoopla of Gibson’s home run was the significance of the Davis walk. Eckersley gets him out and Gibson never comes to bat. As an interesting aside, new Hall of Famer Doug Harvey was the home plate umpire for this game.

Honorable mention game 1’s:

1903-not just the first World Series game, but a heck of a game as the Pirates won 7-3.

1905-the first of Christy Mathewson’s 3 consecutive complete game shutouts in the series. He game up 4 hits in a 3-0 victory.

1929-geezer Howard Ehmke strikes out 13 Cubs to lead the A”s to a 3-1 victory.

1954-famous for Willie Mays’ great center field catch. The Giants won in 10 on Dusty Rhodes 3-run homer.

1966-Moe Drabowsky shuts down the Dodgers early to start a four game sweep for the Orioles.

1968-Gibson sets the strikeout record against Detroit.

2004-for those who like offense, the Red Sox and Cardinals beat up on each other in an 11-9 slugfest.

The Best Possible World Series

December 8, 2009

How do you find the best possible World Series? I asked myself that a day of so ago (obvious evidence of too much idle time on my part). I came up with an answer.

I decided I’d like to see the very best of each game that was ever played. I’d like to see the best game 1, the best game 2, the best game 3, etc, without worrying about which World Series they were in. So I set out to research the various World Series gams and find out which is the best game 1, the best game 2, etc. I have a preliminary list and will spend the next 8 posts (yes there have been game 8’s) commenting on the best, in my humble opinion, of each game. Interestingly enough, my initial run through shows 2 games from one Series and only one from any other Series.

If you have a nomination, don’t hesitate to comment. I’ll certainly take it under consideration.

New Hall of Fame Members

December 7, 2009

So the Veteran’s Committee just fnished its job, did it? As usual they bungled badly.

Doug Harvey, umpire–No problems with him in the Hall. I remember when the Game of the Week had a special segment where Harvey explained rules and how umpires did things. He’s the first place I heard that umps listen for the ball hitting the mitt while watching the feet to determine a close play at first. Everyone seemed to think he was a superior umpire, so good for him.

Whitey Herzog, manager–Won once (1982) and took a bunch of teams to the playoffs and World Series. When confronted with a World Series record of 1-2 he commented he’d rather be 1-2 than 0-0. I always liked that.

So no problem with who got in. The problem is who didn’t. Where’s Tom Kelly who won more World Series than Herzog? In point of fact, Kelly’s Twins actually beat Herzog’s Cardinals in 1987 for one of Kelly’s wins and one of Herzog’s losses. As usual no respect for Kelly.

Where’s Danny Murtaugh who also won 2 World Series? His managership coincided with the rise of the Pirates in both 1960 and the early 1970s. In between he was in retirement and the Pirates were awful.

Where’s Ewing Kauffmann who made the Royals relevant, and incidently gave Herzog his big break?

Finally, why not Marvin Miller?

Well, vet’s committee, let’s hear it.