Posts Tagged ‘Bob Gibson’

Adios, Bob Gibson

December 1, 2020

This one took a while to write. Bob Gibson was one of those larger-than-life heroes you develop when you’re younger (I was a teen). Now he’s gone.

I was a Dodgers fan, but Gibson was special. I never saw a pitcher more able to impose himself on a game the way Gibson did. It was different that others like Sandy Koufax or Tom Seaver. They were simply better than their opposition and went out and proved it. Gibson was also better, but there was an attitude that struck me as more dominating. Both Koufax and Seaver could win a game and be elegant; Gibson was never elegant. He leaped at batters with his follow thru, he snarled on the mound. His eyes bored into the heads and souls of batters and probably scared them at least a little (I doubt anyone ever scared Frank Robinson much).

He was a joy to watch in a way that contrasted with Juan Marichal or Koufax or Seaver. They showed excellence, Gibson showed power. Don’t get me wrong, he was excellent also but there was an overt power the others didn’t show. And I, and a generation of others, loved him.

Now it’s RIP, Bob Gibson. We who saw you know what others missed. And we thank you for the opportunity to have watched you perfrom.

Good bye to the Chairman

November 24, 2020

Whitey Ford

During all the problems developing in my life I failed to note here the loss of “The Chairman of the Board.” Whitey Ford died recently. He was the last great link to the New York Yankee dynasty of the 1950s and early 1960s.

Of the great pitchers of my youth, Ford was unique. He was the only one in the American League. Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, and Juan Marichal were all National Leaguers. And before them so were Warren Spahn and Don Newcombe. I really don’t remember Bob Lemon and Early Wynn was always, to me, an afterthought. Ford, on the other hand, was impossible to miss. Back in the mid-to late 1950s there were two games on Saturday, one on CBS, the other on NBC. You could almost guarantee the Yankees would be on one game. That meant your chances of seeing Ford work were pretty good.

He thrived under two managers who used him very differently. Casey Stengel, his 1950s manager, tended to hold Ford for big games rather than establish him in something like a modern rotation. Ralph Houk, on the other hand, put him in the rotation and Ford began putting up “ace” numbers (wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, etc.) and eventually picked up an early Cy Young Award (1961-back when there was only one award, not one in each league).

He was also unique in another way. The Dodgers were are great team in the 1960s because they had Drysdale and Koufax. The same was true for the Cardinals and Gibson. Marichal was part of a trio (Mays, McCovey) that made the Giants contenders. Ford, on the other hand, was part of a machine that spewed talent in every direction. That made him, in some ways, less renowned. He was just part of the Yankees. That’s kind of a shame, because he was more than “just part” of the best team of his era.

He made the Hall of Fame in 1974, along with Mickey Mantle (who overshadowed Ford because he Mantle). Yogi Berra was already enshrined there. It was a fitting conclusion to his career.

So adios to Whitey Ford, who, as “Chairman of the Board,” had one of the great nicknames of the era. RIP.

Finally

November 23, 2020

Well, I’ve been out of the loop for a while. In my defense, it’s been a lousy couple of months. So bear with me a moment.

First, my wife ended up in the hospital (non-Covid) which scared the heck out of me. Now she’s back home, well, and the normal pain-in-the-neck she usually is on a given day. My health took a tumble for a while, but I’m back to something like normal; at least what passed for normal for me. Then the Great Central Oklahoma Ice Storm of 2020 hit. We took major damage to the trees, the fence is a disaster, a water main broke, and the power was out for a week (along with the WiFi).

The power went out Monday night about 20 minutes after the Senate confirmed the latest Supreme Court Justice. The Senate Minority Leader warned us that confirming her would lead to disaster. Guess he was right (at least in the short term). Worse was that the power was still out on Tuesday night and I couldn’t find the World Series on a battery operated radio. I had to text my son the next morning to find out the Dodgers finally won one.

I suppose that’s just as well. Had I watched the game I might have jinxed the Bums, or worse, had a heart attack when they actually won the Series. After all, I’ve deteriorated in 32 years. But now at least I can tell my son the Twins fan that my guys have won as many times in his lifetime as his guys (2). I’m still looking to find the game on MLB network and will at some point.

Now Clayton Kershaw has a ring. Good for him. It’s nice to see him get the proverbial monkey off his back. I’ve never looked up the origin of that cliche, and will have to at some point. Now, if he can just win two more he can finally be compared to that other Dodger lefty whose last name begins with a “K.” And it was nice to see, in the age of social consciousness, Dave Roberts win the World Series as a manager.

I also missed commenting on the death of both Bob Gibson and Whitey Ford. They were two of the great pitchers of my youth and it reminds me of my aging. Now only Juan Marichal and Sandy Koufax remain of the great pitchers before I left High School. I read on something that the Hall of Fame lost six members already this year. With a month and a half to go, let’s hope that number doesn’t change.

RIP Frank Robinson

February 12, 2019

Frank Robinson

I hate writing these. It means that someone I liked long ago is now gone. It reminds me that not only are they mortal, but so am I.

By now you’ve read all the glowing tributes, the mention of his hitting ability, his MVP, this Triple Crown, his role as the first black manager in the Major Leagues. You’ve probably seen the umpire stare down that became a part of the Robinson legend. I remember Robinson as a player and a proud African-American and somehow it’s appropriate that if he had to die, it should be in Black History Month.

What I remember most about Robinson is not his stats, but his ferocity at the plate. He was no placid hitter who walked to the plate and looked out at the pitcher. He stalked to the plate, glared at the pitcher, dared him to try to throw something by him. Few did. But to me Robinson was summed up in two incidents that I will never forget (both watched on TV).

Bob Gibson

It was somewhere in either 1964 or 1965 and the Reds (Robinson’s team) were playing the Cardinals. Bob Gibson, who had the only glare in baseball greater than Robinson’s was pitching. They stood there staring at each other until Gibson motioned Robinson into the batter’s box. Being Robinson, he continued to stare, rather than move. Gibson motioned again and again nothing from Robinson. Finally the umpire told Robinson to get into the box. Gibson’s first pitch missed Robinson’s head by inches (very few of them). Robinson dusted himself off, got back up, stepped back out, and started the glare again. Eventually, after a couple of knock downs and a couple of strikes, Robinson tapped one to short (Dal Maxvill, I think). The was out by a bunch. Then he and Gibson engaged in a long stare down as Robinson returned to the dugout. It was good baseball, but it was better theater.

Sandy Koufax

The other one occurred about the same time. This time the Reds were playing the Dodgers with Sandy Koufax on the mound (he never glared at a batter). Koufax threw three of the greatest curves anyone ever saw and Robinson looked silly trying to hit them (Koufax could do that to you). He stepped out of the box, looked at Koufax for a moment, then nodded. Only time I ever saw him do that to a pitcher.

So adios, Frank. You were one of the greats and all of us who saw you play are better for it. RIP, Frank Robinson.

Adios, Red

June 8, 2018

Red Schoendienst

I saw that Red Schoendienst died earlier this week. He was 95 and the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame. He played far enough back that you have to be my age to remember him. He was, after Stan Musial, a man who could legitimately claim the title “Mr. Cardinal.”

He joined the Cards in 1945 as an outfielder. The team had a chronic problem at second base and the people in charge saw Schoendienst as just the man to solve it for them. He played one game at second in ’45, then moved in as the primary second sacker in 1946. He was an All Star, helped his team to the 1946 World Series, which they won. He stayed in St. Louis through 1956, making eight more All Star games, before moving on to the New York Giants. He put in less than 150 games with the Giants before a trade that took him to the Milwaukee Braves in 1957.

At Milwaukee he became a mainstay on consecutive pennant winning teams, winning it all in 1957. He generally hit second (behind Billy Bruton) and was credited with stabilizing the infield, providing a clubhouse presence, and giving the team veteran leadership. All of those were probably true but Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, and Warren Spahn were the big guns for the Braves. He made the All Star game one last time in 1957.

In 1959 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. It cost him all but five games of the season, a season the Braves lost a three game playoff to the Dodgers. Fortunately for Schoendienst an operation helped and he could return to the field. He remained active through 1963, serving as a player-coach in his last two active seasons.

In 1964 he became a fulltime coach, moving on to manager after the season. He won pennants in 1967 and again in 1968, winning the World Series in ’67. In 1968 he’s supposed to have told a reporter, in response to a question about Bob Gibson, “I tell him which day he’s pitching. He shows up and I take the day off.”

Schoendienst remained Cards manager through 1976, then did a little coaching at Oakland. He subsequently returned to St. Louis and coached during the 1982 World Series winning season. On two occasions he served at Cardinals interim manager, then settled in as a special assistant to the team. He made the Hall of Fame in 1989.

For his career his triple slash line reads .289/.337/.387/.724 (OPS+ of 94) with 2449 hits, and more walks than strikeouts. All of that gave him 42.3 WAR. As a manager he was 1041-955 (.522 winning percentage). His Hall of Fame selection is sometimes downplayed saying he wasn’t that good, but the combination of playing, coaching, and managing make him someone at least legitimate to consider.

So God’s Speed, Red. The Cardinals, Braves, and all of baseball will miss you.

 

Gunther Decides He Can Pitch

May 24, 2018

Main Square Kassel, Germany

Way back in 1970 the US Army decided I could help save the world if they sent me to a little base not far from Kassel, Germany. It was a nice enough place, the duty wasn’t hard, the beer was good and so was the fellowship.

There was a baseball diamond on post, but the place also had a ball team so the peons weren’t supposed to use the diamond, and thus mess it up, during ball season, so we had to find another place to play. The solution was in downtown Kassel. We’d head over to the place they stored the sports equipment, draw out a set of rubberized bases, a set of catchers equipment, some bats and balls, and pile into a couple of cars the guys had (I didn’t have a car) and drive down to Kassel. The town was a nice enough place with several parks. One of them was divided into two sections. One section had trees and paths and benches and small open areas where people could walk and sit and talk and kids could run and play and just do all the things that families and couples and singles do when they’re out and about (that enough usage of “and” for ya?). The other side was a long open stretch of grass used for sports. There were a couple of soccer goals, one area where a basketball half-court was set up, and then a big open area where there was nothing but grass. It just called out for a makeshift baseball diamond.

We would get there early, usually on a Saturday, and throw out a diamond and start playing. Generally there were six or seven of us, so we’d just switch off guys hitting and pitching with everyone else shagging flies or scooping grounders. You’ve probably done this too. It was fun and of course there was no score (heck, there was no base running).

And of course we began to attract the locals. Guys would wander over to see what the “Crazy Americans” were doing. Commentary would follow in German. Most of us knew at least a little German (certainly enough to order a beer or start a conversation with a girl) and a couple of us knew it quite well, so we could tell the Germans were interested in what was going on, but couldn’t figure out how it all worked. A lot would head back over to the soccer field while the rest would continue checking out what you could do if you used the hands God gave you to play sports. Eventually this led to inviting them to join us and we’d try to teach them the game. It was great for us because we suddenly had 12 or 13 or 14 guys so we could actually play something like a game instead of just bat the ball around. We’d try to divide teams so that there were roughly an equal number of Americans and Germans on a team. It more or less worked. Eventually most of the German guys could catch some (we’d trade around gloves), could throw it in the right direction, could even swing the bat and make some contact. What they couldn’t do, was pitch.

One of the biggest loudmouths among the Germans was Gunther (he made sure we pronounced it Goon-tur, not Gun-thur). He was in his early 20s, a student at the local university, tall, lanky, and absolutely sure he’d figured out the game. He wasn’t bad, but Joe DiMaggio was in no danger of losing his place in the pantheon of American sport.  But Gunther decided he wanted to be Bob Gibson. So one day the Germans essentially announced they weren’t going to play if Gunther didn’t get to pitch (always wondered what he’d bribed them with).

It turned out that I hit second that day, so one of the other guys got first taste of Gunther on the mound (“Gunther on the Mound.” You could make a flick about something with that title, couldn’t you?).  He tried to mimic a windup, he tried to throw it hard, he tried to get it near the plate. Well, he got the first one pretty close, the second one he achieved, the third one became “God knows” baseball (God knows where the ball is going). He was wild, he was awful. We tried to convince him that no matter how hard you threw it, if it didn’t get anywhere near the plate it was still ball one, ball two, ball three, ball four, take your base. We didn’t have an umpire to actually call that, but after a handful of pitches we decided that it was a walk and the guy should go find the appropriate rubberized base.

That brought me up. The first pitch was high, but close to the plate. The second one actually bounced over the plate (we had to explain it still wasn’t a strike). Gunter was getting closer. The third pitch finally found a part of the plate and I hit the thing. It went right up the middle toward Gunther who had no chance of either catching it or ducking. Caught him right in the breadbasket. I ended up on first, the other guy hoofed it all the way to third while everyone just kind of stood there watching to see what would happen. Gunther went down in a heap, the ball rolled away, and we stopped play.

Gunther was alright, sore, but alright. We suggested he ought to maybe take an outfield spot until he felt better and let one of the other guys (an American) pitch. He agreed.

We finished the game, gathered up the equipment, stowed it in one of the cars, then wandered over to a local biergarten (beer garden), drank a few, had a few laughs, many at Gunther’s expense (he took it well), and headed back to our normal lives. The next Saturday we showed up again, laid out the field, had the Germans come over, and started a new game. Gunther was there as usual. He volunteered to play center field.

 

Stability

September 4, 2017

Johnny Bench, Reds

Over at one of my favorite blogs, The Hall of Miller and Eric, they are running a “Mount Rushmore” of each team. As you might expect that means they are picking four players to represent the best of each franchise. But there is a kicker there. The player must have played his entire career with the same team. That means no Warren Spahn at the Braves, no Duke Snider with the Dodgers, no Yogi Berra with the Yanks (he had nine at bats with the Mets).

Now all that, especially the loss of Snider and Dazzy Vance with the Dodgers, got me to looking for players who spent their entire career with one team. Now it had to be significant time with the team, after all Moonlight Graham spent his entire Major League career with one team. I figured it would be loaded with old-time players, players who were faced with the reserve clause. Surprisingly, there were a lot of modern guys on the list. Here’s a list, in no particular order, of just a few of the players who never changed teams.

First base: Lou Gehrig, Jeff Bagwell, Willie Stargell

Second Base: Charlie Gehringer, Jackie Robinson (he was traded but never played for a second team, opting to retire instead), Craig Biggio

Shortstop: Cal Ripken, Luke Appling, PeeWee Reese, Phil Rizzuto

Third Base: Brooks Robinson, Chipper Jones, George Brett, Mike Schmidt

Outfield: Mel Ott, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Al Kaline, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski

Catcher: Johnny Bench, Roy Campanella

Left-Handed Pitchers: Whitey Ford, Carl Hubbell, Sandy Koufax

Right-Handed Pitchers: Walter Johnson, Bob Gibson, Bob Feller, Don Drysdale, Mariano Rivera

Not a bad lot, right?

One quick note. Honus Wagner came up with the Louisville Colonels and ended up with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s not quite the same as being traded or leaving via free agency. Barney Dreyfuss owned both teams and when the National League contracted he moved all his good players to Pittsburgh and let Louisville go. I’m not sure how to deal with that, so I left him off. You might differ.

The Impossible Dream: Back to Boston

January 16, 2017

With the St. Louis Cardinals leading the 1967 World Series 3 games to 2, the Series shifted to Boston for the final two games. The Cards needed to win only one to be champions and had Bob Gibson waiting for an if necessary game seven. For the Red Sox they would have to win both games either without ace Jim Lonborg or with Lonborg going on short rest.

Game 6

Rico Petrocelli

Rico Petrocelli

Game 6 was 11 October with the home team sending Gary Waslewski to the mound. Waslewski had pitched well in his previous relief appearance in the Series. He was opposed by 16 game winner Dick Hughes. Neither man would figure in the decision.

Boston struck first on a second inning Rico Petrocelli home run. The Cardinals would get it back in the third on a Julian Javier double and a Lou Brock single. Brock then stole second and St. Louis took a 2-1 lead with a Curt Flood single plating Brock.

That score lasted until the bottom of the fourth. Carl Yastrzemski led off with a home run followed by two outs. Then back-to-back homers by Reggie Smith and Petrocelli put the Bosox up 4-2 and sent Hughes to the showers.  Things stayed that way to the seventh.

In the top of the seventh, St. Louis tied the game on a two run shot by Brock. In the bottom of the seventh, the Cards brought in Jack Lamabe to pitch. He got an out, then pinch hitter (for pitcher John Wyatt) Dalton Jones singled and Joe Foy doubled. Jones took off from first and scored. The throw home missed Jones and allowed Foy to move to third and come home on a Mike Andrews single. A Yastrzemski single sent Andrews to third and a Jerry Adair sacrifice fly scored him. Consecutive singles by George Scott and Smith brought Yastrzemski home with the fourth run of the inning. Ahead 8-4 the Red Sox brought in starter Gary Bell to finish the game. He gave up three hits and walked one, but no St. Louis player scored and the Sox tied up the Series three games each.

Game 7

Photo File

Game 7 of the World Series was 12 October. The Bosox were faced with an immediate problem. Jim Lonborg, the season long ace, was available to start only if he started on short rest. Manager Dick Williams, deciding to go with his best, sent Lonborg out to start the game. The bullpen was ready to jump in if Lonborg was ineffective on the short rest. Facing them was a fully rested Bob Gibson.

For two innings both pitchers were on. Lonborg gave up two hits, but neither runner scored. Gibson walked one man and struck out three. In the top of the third light hitting shortstop Dal Maxvill tripled. Lonborg bore down and got the next two men out without allowing Maxvill to score. That brought up Curt Flood who singled Maxvill home. A Roger Maris single sent Flood to third and with Orlando Cepeda at the plate, Lonborg uncorked a wild pitch that plated Flood. With two strikeouts to his credit, Gibson set Boston down in order in the bottom of the third leaving the score 2-0.

In the fourth no one reached base for either team and Gibson struck out two more. That brought the teams to the top of the fifth. With one out, Gibson came to the plate and hit a home run. It opened the flood gates a crack. Lou Brock singled and stole second. Flood walked and Brock stole third. Roger Maris’ sacrifice fly sent Brock home and made the score 4-0. Cepeda flew out to end the inning.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Red Sox got one back on a George Scott drive to center. Scott tore around second trying to stretch it to a triple. Julian Javier fielded the throw from Flood and tried to nail Scott at third. The throw was wild and Scott scampered home with the first Boston run.

If the flood gates opened a crack for St. Louis in the fifth, they broke wide open in the sixth. Tim McCarver led the inning off with a double. An error by the third baseman left Mike Shannon safe at first and brought up Javier, whose error in the fifth had led to Boston’s first run. He made up for it with a three-run homer to left that made the score 7-1. Despite giving up another hit, Lonborg got through the inning without giving up another run. Due to lead off the bottom of the sixth, he was pulled for a pinch hitter. Manager Dick Williams’ gamble of starting Lonborg had worked for four innings, but he’d been gotten to in both the fifth and sixth. He ended up giving up seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits, a walk, and struck out three.

For Gibson it was a lead he could hold easily. In the sixth and seventh innings he gave up no hits and only one walk. In the eighth he gave up a double to Rico Petrocelli, then wild pitched Petrocelli to third. He walked the next batter, then relief pitcher Norm Siebern grounded to second. A force out provided one out, but Petrocelli scored to make it 7-2. Consecutive grounders ended the inning. In the ninth Gibson gave up a leadoff single to Carl Yastrzemski, but he was erased on a double play. Gibson then struck out Scott to end the inning, the game, and the Series. St. Louis had won the 1967 World Series four games to three. Gibson was voted the MVP.

Before the Series began, there were a lot of questions being asked by fans and reporters. One was “can the Cardinals stop Carl Yastrzemski?” The answer turned out to be “no.” Yaz hit .400, slugged .840, and put up an OPS of 1.340 (of the Cards, only Lou Brock was close to those numbers). He scored four runs, drove in five, had three home runs, and made no errors in the field. The question that no one asked was “can the Cardinals stop everyone but Yaz?” The answer there turned out to be mostly “yes.” No other Red Sox player came close to Yastrzemski’s numbers. Andrews and Dalton Jones, neither of which played in all seven games, were the only other players to hit .300 and neither had an extra base hit. Petrocelli and Reggie Smith both had two home runs, but neither hit above .250. Smith and Scott had six doubles but both only scored three times. For the Series the Red Sox hit .216 with 21 runs, 19 RBIs, 17 walks, and 49 strikeouts.

The Sox pitching was somewhat better. Their ERA was 3.39, while giving up 25 runs and 17 walks. They struck out 30. Of pitchers going more than two innings, Gary Waslewski’s 2.16 ERA (over eight innings) was the only ERA under five.

For St. Louis Brock, Javier, and Maris all hit over .350 and Maris’ seven RBIs easily led the team (the next highest number was four). Brock scored eight runs and five different Cards had one home run each. The team hit .223, scored 25 runs.

Another question being asked was “With Gibson only able to pitch three games, could any other Cards pitcher beat the Red Sox?” Again the answer was “yes.” Nelson Briles won his only start and Gibson took the other three wins. Of pitchers throwing more than six innings, they were the only two with ERA’s under five (Carlton gave up no earned runs in six innings, but an unearned run gave him a loss).

It was Gibson’s series. He was 3-0 in three complete games. He allowed three runs, walked five, and allowed 14 hits in 27 innings. He set a World Series record with 31 strikeouts in 1964 (besting Sandy Koufax). In 1967 he came close to topping it with 26.

For the Red Sox it was a fluke. They would not get back to a playoff until 1975, when they would again make the Series and again lose in seven games. For the Cardinals, it was the next-to-last fling. They would make the Series in 1968 and lose to Detroit in seven games, then be out of the playoff mix for a full decade before a revival in the 1980s.

Back years ago I did a post titled “Bob Gibson Gets Me a Car” (25 October 2010–if you want to read it) about the 1967 Series. I was in Viet Nam when the Series was played and almost everyone I knew was rooting for Boston. I put money on the Cards and picked up enough to help me buy a nice used car when I got back to the States; so the Series has always had a special place in my heart. Thanks, Bob.

 

 

The Impossible Dream: the games in St. Louis

January 12, 2017

With the 1967 World Series tied at one game each, the Series moved to St. Louis’ Sportsman’s Park for the next three games. If one team could sweep, the Series would end. A 2-1 split would send the games back to Boston for the finale.

Game 3

Mike Shannon

. BMike Shannon

Game 3 was played 7 October. Knowing that Bob Gibson could only pitch three games in the Series, St. Louis depended on someone else, anyone else, to win one game. In game 3 they went with Nelson Briles. Boston countered with Gary Bell on the mound. Bell was in trouble from the start. The Cardinals jumped on him in the first when leadoff hitter Lou Brock tripled, then scored on a Curt Flood single. In the second, Tim McCarver singled and rode home on Mike Shannon’s home run to make the score 3-0. Bell was due to bat in the third, so he stayed in for the entire second inning then was lifted for a pinch hitter in the third. Gary Waslewski, the reliever, did a fine job keeping the Cards off the scoreboard over three hitless inning.

In the sixth, the Red Sox finally got to Briles. Mike Andrews, pinch-hitting for Waslewski, singled, was bunted to second, and came home on a single. But with Waslewski out of the game the Cards struck back against Lee Stange in the bottom of the sixth. Lou Brock singled, then went to third on a failed pick off (Stange threw it away), and came home on Roger Maris’ single.

A Reggie Smith homer in the seventh made the score 4-2, but a Roger Maris single and an Orlando Cepeda double gave the Cardinals one more run and a 5-2 final margin of victory. The big star was Briles who gave up two runs on seven hits, no walks, and struck out four.

Game 4

Tim McCarver

Tim McCarver

Game 4 in 1967 was, is frequently the case, pivotal. In an era that tended to use three-man rotations in the World Series, the game one starters, Jose Santiago for Boston and Bob Gibson for St. Louis, were back on the mound. Boston was looking to even the Series. What they got was a second dose of Gibson’s pitching.

The game effectively ended in the first inning. Back to back singles by Lou Brock and Curt Flood brought Roger Maris to the plate. His double scored both runs. A fly to right recorded both the first out and sent Maris to third. Tim McCarver’s single brought home Maris for the third run. An out and consecutive singles brought home McCarver and sent Santiago to the showers. Reliever Gary Bell (the game three starter and loser) got the last out, but the score stood 4-0 at the end of a single inning.

It was all Gibson needed. He went the full nine innings walking one (Smith in the seventh with one out), giving up five hits, only one (a leadoff ninth inning double by Carl Yastrzemski) for extra bases, and struck out six. Yastrzemski was the only runner to reach second during the game. When getting to third on a fly out, Yastrzemski was the only Bosox to advance to third in the game.

While Gibson was shutting down the Red Sox, the Cards were adding on two more runs in the third. Orlando Cepeda led off the inning with a double, went to third on a wild pitch, and came home on a McCarver fly. A subsequent walk to Mike Shannon and a double by Julian Javier plated the final Cards run.

Down three games to one, the “Impossible Dream” was in deep trouble. Boston would have to run the table or suffer a second consecutive World Series loss to St. Louis (1946).

Game 5

Jim Lonborg

Jim Lonborg

Down to having to win all three games, the Boston Red Sox, on 9 October 1967, turned to ace Jim Lonborg to keep the World Series alive and send the games back to Boston. The Cardinals countered with future Hall of Fame hurler Steve Carlton. It was Carlton’s first appearance on the mound during the Series. It turned out to be a first rate pitching duel.

Both pitchers matched zeroes until the top of the third when, with one out Joe Foy singled. Mike Andrews then laid down a bunt to third which Mike Shannon, a converted outfielder, mishandled allowing Foy to make second and Andrews to be safe at first. A Ken Harrelson single scored Foy for the first run of the game.

And it held up all the way to the ninth. Lonborg was masterful through eight walking none, allowing two singles, and striking out four. Carlton was lifted after six but gave up only the one unearned run while giving up three hits, walking two, and striking out five. Ray Washburn relieved Carlton and in two innings gave up a lone hit and struck out two.

Going into the ninth, the Cards brought Ron Willis into pitch. He walked George Scott, gave up a double to Reggie Smith, then intentionally walked Rico Petrocelli, before being lifted for Jack Lamabe. The new pitcher was greeted by an Elston Howard single that scored both Scott and Smith. A strikeout and a double play ended the inning.

Needing three outs to send the Series back to Boston, Lonborg got consecutive ground outs before Roger Maris drove a ball over the right field fence to score St. Louis’ first run. Another ground out ensured it would be their only run. Boston won 3-1. Although Carlton had pitched well, the day belonged to Lonborg who’d showed everyone just how important he was to the Bosox.

So the World Series would go back to Boston for game six and an if necessary game seven. Not only did the Red Sox have to win both games, they would have to do it without Lonborg or use him on short rest.

 

 

 

 

The Impossible Dream: 2 games in Boston

January 10, 2017

The 1967 World Series began in Boston 4 October. With no additional rounds of playoffs in the era, the Series could start much earlier than it does today. The Red Sox were sentimental favorites.

Game 1

Lou Brock

Lou Brock

The first game saw the Bosox start out in something of a hole. Jim Lonborg, the ace, was unavailable to pitch. Boston won the American League pennant at the last-minute and Lonborg had pitched late enough that he needed the extra rest. That put Jose Santiago on the mound for the Red Sox. St. Louis countered with Bob Gibson.

It was something of a standard mid-1960s game; a low scoring pitchers duel. The Cardinals struck first by putting up a run in the top of the third inning. Lou Brock led off with a single and went to third on a Curt Flood double. Roger Maris then hit a roller to first. First baseman George Scott’s only play was to record the out at first while Brock raced home from third. It was a fairly typical Cardinals run, showcasing speed, timely hitting, and hitting to the right with a man on third.

The Red Sox got the run right back when, with one out, pitcher Santiago slugged a home run to knot the game. And there the score stood for three more innings. Both pitchers did well. A handful of runners got on base, and Julian Javier was thrown out at home to end the fourth, but the game was showcasing the pitchers as frequently happened in the semi-Deadball Era of the mid-1960s.

In the seventh, Brock singled, then stole second. Flood, hitting behind the runner, rolled one to first for the out while Brock went on to third. That brought up Maris again. This time it was a roller to second that brought home Brock. And that was all Gibson needed. He allowed two hits and a walk in the final three frames, but no one got beyond second and the Cardinals took game one by a 2-1 score.

Gibson was great. He struck out 10, walked the one, allowed six hits, only two for extra bases (a double by Scott to go along with Santiago’s homer), and gave up one run. Santiago took the loss, but had pitched well. He went seven innings, gave up the two runs, walked three, but struck out five while giving up 10 hits. St. Louis had won by playing the kind of ball they’d played all year (stolen bases, timely hitting) to win. Game two was the next day and Lonborg was ready to pitch for Boston.

Game 2

Yaz

Yaz

Game 2 occurred 5 October and showed non-Boston fans exactly why Jim Lonborg was so important for the Red Sox. He shut out St. Louis on one hit, an eighth inning two out double by Julian Javier (who died on second when a grounder ended the inning), and a single walk ( to Curt Flood with one out in the seventh). He also struck out four on the way to a complete game shutout.

While Lonborg was shutting out the Cardinals, the St. Louis pitching staff made a major mistake, they decided to pitch to Carl Yastrzemski. After walking Yaz in the first, they threw one over the plate to lead off the fourth. He promptly hit it out for a home run and a 1-0 score. He made another out, then a three run homer in the seventh made the score 5-0 (the Bosox picked up a run in the sixth on a Rico Petrocelli sacrifice fly). In the eighth Yastrzemski managed another single to go three for four with four RBIs, two runs scored, two homers, and a walk.

Game two managed to tie the World Series at one game apiece. The Series moved to St. Louis for games three, four, and five of what was now a best of five series.