Posts Tagged ‘Yogi Berra’

Hammerin’ Hank vs the Mick: Back to the Bronx

July 25, 2016

With New York down 3 games to 2, the 1957 World Series returned to Yankee Stadium for games six and seven. The defending champs needed to win both games to defend their title. The Braves needed to win one to claim their first title since 1914 and their first in Milwaukee.

Hank Bauer

Hank Bauer

Game 6

On 9 October 1957 the Braves sent Bob Buhl to the mound to close out the Series. Trying to stay alive, the Yanks responded with Bob Turley. Again, Buhl couldn’t get out of the early innings. In the third he walked Enos Slaughter then watched as Yogi Berra drove a ball into the right field stands to put New York up 2-0. Out went Buhl. In came reliever Ernie Johnson.

Milwaukee got one back in the top of the fifth on a Frank Torre home run and tied it up in the top of the seventh with a Hank Aaron home run. After the seventh inning stretch Johnson got Turley on a foul bunted third strike which brought up New York right fielder Hank Bauer. He parked one in left field to put the Yankees back up 3-2. Turley got out of the eighth after walking one and went into the ninth nursing the one run lead. Eddie Mathews led off the inning with a walk. Aaron struck out for the first out. That brought up Wes Covington who grounded to Turley. A flip to short to get Mathews and a relay to first ended the game.

The Series was tied three games each. For the third year in a row there would be a game seven. New York was in each.

Lew Burdette

Lew Burdette

Game 7

It was 10 October when the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Braves squared off in game seven of the 1957 World Series. The Yanks went back to game 3 winner Don Larsen to close out the Braves. Milwaukee countered with the winner of games two and five, Lew Burdette.

The key inning was the third. In the top of the third with one out Bob Hazle singled. An error by third sacker Tony Kubek on a Johnny Logan grounder put men on first and second and brought up Eddie Mathews. He stroked a double to plate both Hazle and Logan. A follow-up single by Hank Aaron scored Mathews. A Wes Covington single sent Aaron to third where he scored when the Yanks couldn’t complete a double play on a slow roller by Frank Torre. When the inning concluded, the Braves led 3-0.

Burdette sailed through the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh innings allowing only three hits, all singles. In the top of the eighth, Braves catcher Del Crandall added to Milwaukee’s lead by parking a ball in the left field stands. Needing six outs Burdette set New York down in order in the eighth. The Braves went in order in the top of the ninth. Burdette got the first out of the bottom of the ninth on a pop-up, then a single put a man on. A fly got the second out. Consecutive singles loaded the bases for Moose Skowron who’d entered the game earlier as a pinch hitter. He slapped a grounder to Mathews at third. Mathews gloved it, stepped on third and Milwaukee won its first ever World Series. Burdette was named Series MVP.

The 1957 World Series was both an upset and a good Series. The Yankees actually outhit the Braves .248 to .209. Milwaukee put up one more home run (8 to 7) than New York while the Yanks countered by scoring two more runs. Hank Aaron had a great World Series hitting .393 with five runs, seven RBIs, and three homers. Eddie Mathews was second with four RBIs and five runs scored. He had only one home run, but it won game four. Hank Bauer led New York with six RBIs and two homers. Tony Kubek matched the two home runs, but had a critical error.

By a couple of measures even the New York pitching was superior. Their ERA was lower (2.89 to 3.48) and the allowed fewer runs (23 to 25). But the difference was Burdette. He was 3-0 in three complete games, two of them shutouts. His ERA was 0.67. With that record the Braves only needed to find a pitcher who could win one game. They found him in Warren Spahn, who won the 10 inning fourth game (the one involving Nippy Jones’ shoe and Mathews’ home run).

For Milwaukee it was their peak. In 1958 they would get back to the World Series and lose a rematch with New York in seven games. In 1959 there would be a regular season tie and a loss of a three game playoff to Los Angeles. Then they would fall further back, eventually moving to Atlanta. For New York it was a blip, but a harbinger of things to come. They would win in 1958, fail to capture a pennant in 1959, lose the Series in 1960, and see Casey Stengel put out to pasture. They would, however, go on to win four more pennants in the early 1960s.

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Hammerin’ Hank vs. the Mick: The Shoe Shine

July 21, 2016

With the World Series tied one game apiece, the 1957 championship shifted to Milwaukee for three games. A two-one split either way would send the Series back to New York for the deciding game or games. A sweep would crown a champion.

Game 3

Tony Kubek

Tony Kubek

Game 3 on 5 October became the only blowout in the Series. Interestingly enough neither starting pitcher got out of the second inning. The Yankees jumped on Milwaukee starter Bob Buhl in the first inning, racking up three runs on a Tony Kubek home run, consecutive walks to Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, a Gil McDougald sacrifice that scored Mantle and a “Suitcase” Harry Simpson single that plated Berra. The single was Buhl’s last pitch. When the Braves got one back in the bottom of the second on a walk to Bob “Hurricane” Hazle, a single, a wild pitch, and a Red Schoendienst single, Yankees manager Casey Stengel took out starter Bob Turley and brought in 1956 World Series hero Don Larsen who got out of the inning.

Larsen stayed for the rest of the game giving up two more runs in the fifth inning on a two run home run to Hank Aaron, but the Braves began a long parade of five more hurlers to the mound, none lasting more than two innings. The Yanks got to Milwaukee pitching and scored 12 runs on nine hits and 11 walks. Kubek had a second home run and ended up going three for five with four RBIs and three runs scored. Mantle added one home run. Larsen took the win by going 7.1 innings and giving up the home run to Aaron, five hits, four walks, and striking out four.

Game 4

Nippy Jones

Nippy Jones

Game four was played 6 October and featured both the most famous game of the Series and one of the most bizarre plays in World Series history.

Milwaukee began with game one loser Warren Spahn on the mound. He gave up an early run to New York on two singles, a fielders choice, and a walk that brought Mickey Mantle home with the game’s first run. That held up until the bottom of the fourth when Yankees starter Tom Sturdivant got into trouble. He walked Johnny Logan, gave up an Eddie Mathews double to move Logan to third, then made the mistake of leaving one over the plate for Hank Aaron who smashed a three run homer to give Milwaukee the lead. One out later he gave up another home run to first baseman Joe Adcock to put the Braves up 4-1.

And that held up into the top of the ninth, when New York struck for three runs. With Yogi Berra on second and Gil McDougald on first, Elston Howard answered Aaron’s three run blast with his own three run homer to tie the score at 4-4. When the Braves didn’t score in the bottom of the ninth, the game went into extra innings.

New York got a run in the top of the tenth when, with two outs, Spahn (still pitching into the 10th) gave up a double to Tony Kubek and a triple to Hank Bauer that put New York up 5-4 with three outs to go.

Milwaukee led off the bottom of the tenth with pinch hitter Nippy Jones (he was subbing for Spahn). Jones was the third string first baseman and a pinch hitter. He’d hit .266 for the season with two homers, three walks, and five runs scored. But he believed in looking spiffy on the field, so he shined his shoes. The first pitch was low for ball one and Jones complained saying he’d been hit on the foot by the ball. The umpire, Augie Donatelli, disagreed. Jones grabbed the ball, showed Donatelli a black scuff mark on the ball, and argued it was proof he’d been hit. Donatelli believed him and despite Yankee protests awarded Jones first base.

Jones heads to first (courtesy getty images)

Jones heads to first (courtesy getty images)

Milwaukee sent in Felix Mantilla to run for Jones (there is no truth to the rumor that the team gave Jones a shoe brush as part of his World Series share). A Red Schoendienst sacrifice sent Mantilla to second and a Johnny Logan double tied the game. That brought up Hall of Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews who promptly sent the ball over the fence in deep right to win the game for Milwaukee.

Jones became a big hero, almost bigger than Mathews, whose home run had actually won the game. Aaron’s three run shot and Logan’s clutch hits in two different innings, including the 10th, were forgotten. They shouldn’t be because they were also significant. And for those interested, it was Jones’ last plate appearance in the big leagues.

Over the years the Jones play took on mythic proportions. It was certainly one of the strangest of all World Series moments, not likely to be duplicated ever. Except that in 1969 the same thing happened to Cleon Jones (what is it with guys named Jones and shoe polish?) during the “Miracle Mets” run to the championship. So far there hasn’t been another case of it in the Series but I admit that every time a player named Jones (like Chipper or Andruw for instance) comes to the plate in the World Series I try to get a look at their shoes.

Game 5

Eddie Mathews

Eddie Mathews

If games three and four were dominated by hitters, game five became a pitcher’s duel. The Yanks sent ace Whitey Ford to the mound while the Brave responded with game two winner Lew Burdette. Four five and a half innings they matched zeroes. Ford gave up three hits and a walk, while striking out one. No Milwaukee hitter got beyond second base. Burdette was every bit as good. He gave up five hits an no walks with no runner getting beyond second.

In the bottom of the sixth, Ford got the first two men out then gave up a single to Eddie Mathews, whose homer the day before won the game for the Braves. Hank Aaron followed with another single sending Mathews to third. A final single by Joe Adcock brought Mathews home with the first run of the game. Then a grounder ended the inning leaving the score 1-0.

It was all Burdette needed. He set the Yankees down in order in the seventh. In the eighth he gave up a single, but a caught stealing got him out of the inning. In the ninth it was two quick outs before a single by Gil McDougald brought up Yogi Berra. He popped to third to end the inning and the game. Burdette had a seven hit shutout without giving up a walk. It put Milwaukee on the cusp of a championship going to New York to finish the Series.

Hammerin’ Hank vs. The Mick: Games at the Stadium

July 18, 2016

The 1957 World Series saw the New York Yankees, winners of multiple World Series championships take on, for the first time, the Milwaukee Braves, winners of exactly one World Series championship (1914).

Whitey Ford

Whitey Ford

Game 1

Played 2 October 1957 in Yankee Stadium, game one featured the two team aces, Whitey Ford for New York and Warren Spahn for Milwaukee, square off. Four and a half innings into the game it was still scoreless. The Yanks had two men reach third, but no one scored. That changed in the bottom of the fifth with a Jerry Coleman single and a Hank Bauer double sandwiched around consecutive groundouts producing the Series’ first run. They tacked on two more in the sixth by way of an Elston Howard single, a walk to Yogi Berra, an Andy Carey single that scored Howard and sent Berra to third, and a Coleman squeeze bunt that scored Berra. Milwaukee got on the scoreboard in the seventh with a Wes Covington double and a Red Schoendienst single that brought Covington home. That was it for the Braves as Ford set them down in order to end the game.

It was a well pitched game with Ford giving up only the one run on five hits, only Covington’s double going for extra bases, and four walks to go with five strikeouts. Spahn was good for five innings, but was lifted during the sixth inning Yankees uprising. The three Braves pitchers gave up a combined nine hits and only two walks. They struck out four, none by Spahn. So far the battle of the aces belonged to Ford.

Johnny Logan

Johnny Logan

Game 2

Game two was 3 October. Aiming to get even for the Series, Milwaukee sent Lew Burdette, who’d begun his career with the Yanks, to the mound. Aiming equally hard to go ahead two games to none, New York responded with Bobby Shantz, a former Rookie of the Year with the Athletics.

Neither pitcher was as effective as the previous starters. Milwaukee got a run in the second on a Hank Aaron triple and a Joe Adcock single. New York countered in the bottom of the second with a walk to Enos Slaughter, a Tony Kubek single that sent Slaughter to third, and a Jerry Coleman single that plated Slaughter. So in the top of the third, the Braves kept the scoring going with a Johnny Logan home run. Not to be outdone, Hank Bauer tied the game at 2-2 with his own home run in the bottom of the third.

It looked like each team was going to score every inning for a while when the Braves struck again in the top of the fourth. Three straight singles by Adcock, Andy Pakfo, and Wes Covington scored both Adcock and Pakfo. The latter scored on an error by Yanks third baseman Kubek.

Getting the second run in an inning seems to have broken the spell, because that ended the scoring for the game. Burdette was masterful from that point on. He allowed two more singles and gave up two more walks, but the Yanks never scored. Shantz left the game in the two run fourth and relievers Art Ditmar and Bob Grim each allowed only one hit (and no walks).

There was an off day for travel before the Series resumed in Milwaukee. It was now a best of five with the Braves having home field advantage.

Hammerin’ Hank vs. The Mick: The Yankees

July 12, 2016
The "Old Perfessor" about 1953

The “Old Perfessor” about 1953

No team was ever as successful as the 1950s New York Yankees. The won the World Series in the first four years of the decade, lost a pennant to Cleveland, lost a World Series to Brooklyn, then won a fifth championship in 1956. But in all the winning they’d done since 1923, their first championship, they’d never played the Braves. They beaten every other National League team at least once. But the Braves, either the Boston team or the Milwaukee version, had never won a pennant in the same year that the Yankees won an American League pennant. That changed finally in 1957.

Manager Casey Stengel’s charges won 98 games and took the AL pennant by eight games over Chicago. They led the league in runs, hits triples, batting average, slugging, and OPS. They were third in home runs, fifth in doubles, and third again in stolen bases with all of 49. The staff led the AL in ERA, in strikeouts, gave up the least hits and runs.

The infield was still in transition. Gone were the stalwarts of the early ’50s, Billy Martin (although Martin played in 43 games) and Phil Rizzuto. The new guys up the middle were 21-year-old Bobby Richardson and long time jack-of-all-trades Gil McDougald. Richardson hit .256 with no power, no speed, and he didn’t walk much. McDougald hit .289 with 13 home runs, good for fifth on the team. He was second on the team with 156 hits and 5.8 WAR. Bill “Moose” Skowron held down first. His .304 average was second among the starters. He had 17 home runs, 88 RBIs, and 3.1 WAR to go with it. Andy Carey had more games at third than anyone else, although McDougald had done some work there also. Carey hit .255 with 0.8 WAR. As mentioned above Martin started the year in New York but was traded to Kansas City (now Oakland). He was joined on the bench by former starters Joe Collins and Jerry Coleman. Coleman’s .268 led the bench infielders.

Five men did most of the outfield work. The key was center fielder Mickey Mantle. He hit a team leading .365 with 34 home runs (also the team lead). He had 94 RBIs, 173 hits, scored 121 runs, had 11.3 WAR, ad 221 OPS+. All led the team. All that got him his second consecutive MVP Award. Hank Bauer flanked him in right. His average wasn’t much, but he had 18 home runs and was a good outfielder. Elston Howard did most of the left field work, but also served as the backup catcher. He was the Yankees’ first black player and still a long way from the MVP Award he’d win in the early 1960s. Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter was the primary backup outfielder. If Howard was a long way from reaching his prime, Slaughter was a long way beyond his. He hit .254 with no power and had lost what speed he had while with St. Louis. Tony Kubek was new. He was used very much in a utility role dong work in left, center, and at all the infield positions except first. He hit .297 and showed 2.5 WAR. They also had “Suitcase” Harry Simpson (one of the great nicknames in baseball). He hit three triples for the Yankees (after coming over from Kansas City), but tied for the league lead with nine. He tied with Bauer and McDougald.

The man behind the mask was Yogi Berra. He was beyond his MVP years, but still formidable. He hit .251 but with 24 home runs (and 24 strikeouts) and 82 RBIs. His WAR was 3.0. Howard, as mentioned above, was his primary backup Darrell Johnson got into 21 games, hitting .217 with a home run.

It was a pitching staff without a true ace. In most years Whitey Ford would hold that position but in 1957 because of a shoulder problem he appeared in only 24 games (17 starts). He managed only 129 innings and an 11-5 record. His 1.8 WAR was fifth on the staff. Tom Sturdivant’s 16 wins topped the team while former Rookie of the Year Bobbie Shantz had the lowest ERA at 2.45. Bob Turley’s 152 strikeouts led the Yanks while Johnny Kucks and Don Larsen had ERAs over three.  Bob Grim and Art Ditmar did most of the bullpen work while former started Tommy Byrne gave the pen it’s lefty.

New York was defending champion. They’d won seven of the last eight AL pennants and six of the last eight World Series. They were favored to repeat.

 

Nine Thoughts on the 2016 Hall of Fame Class

January 7, 2016

As baseball uses nine men in the field and nine men in the batting order, here’s nine random thoughts on the just concluded Hall of Fame voting:
1. First and foremost, congratulations to both Ken Griffey, Jr, the second best player from Donora, Pennsylvania (behind Stan Musial) and Mike Piazza on election to Cooperstown.

2. Three people didn’t vote for Griffey, but his 99% of the vote is the highest percentage ever. I read a lot of stuff saying Griffey could be the first unanimous selection. Come on, team, Babe Ruth wasn’t unanimous and neither Joe DiMaggio nor Yogi Berra made it on the first ballot so who could possibly believe that anyone was going to be unanimous? It renews my faith in the writers. I’ve said for years that they’re a poor group to pick the Hall of Fame and the three guys proved me right again.

3. Piazza is by far the more interesting choice. There are the steroid rumors around him that are just that, rumors. But there is the possibility that they are true. If, in his induction speech Piazza were to say “Yeah, I used the stuff,” then it becomes much more difficult for voters to keep out players who acknowledge they used stuff (McGwire) or are accused (Clemens, Bonds), or who flunked a test (Palmeiro). It will be interesting to see where this goes. None of this is meant to imply that I believe Piazza used anything but coffee while playing.

4. The culling of the deadweight among the voters allowed for some interesting results. Major jumps by Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Mike Mussina, Curt Shilling, and Edgar Martinez are unthinkable without a change in the voters. It may be a signal that all are on the road to Cooperstown (or maybe not).

5. The loss of the “old guard” type voters helped both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but not a lot. Neither went up as much as 10% and now we have six years left to see if they can continue gaining ground and how much of that ground they’ll gain. I was certain, until this vote, that the writers were going to kick them down the road to the Vets Committee and let them (the Vets Committee) make the hard choices. Maybe that’s changed. Next year will tell us much about how that’s going to work.

6. Jim Edmonds is not a Hall of Famer, the voters said so. OK, maybe he isn’t, but he’s better than 2% of the vote, a lot better. It’s a shame he won’t get another chance until the Veteran’s Committee has its say. Alan Trammell is not a Hall of Famer. At least he had 15 years and got 40% of the vote. I think they’re wrong, but now we get to see what the Veteran’s Committee says. And Mark McGwire is not a Hall of Famer although he had only 10 years to make his case. It appears he will be the test case for my kick it down the road to the Vets Committee theory (Geez, I’m writing about the Vets Committee a lot, aren’t I?).

7. Trevor Hoffman didn’t get in but got enough votes to appear a viable candidate for enshrinement on a later ballot. I think he needed that because I’m not sure he could sustain a long, gradual rise before getting over the 75% threshold. The problem is Mariano Rivera. When Rivera becomes eligible he should get in easily and Hoffman can no longer say he has the most saves of anyone eligible (and saves do seem to matter a lot to the voters). I was stunned Billy Wagner didn’t do better. At least he stayed on the ballot.

8. Next year adds Vlad Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, and Manny Ramirez (among others) to the ballot, making it again a large ballot. I do wish they’d dump the 10 vote rule. I wonder how much that hurt players like Edmonds?

9. All in all, with the exception of what happened to Edmonds and Trammell, I’m pleased with the results. Two worthy candidates got in, a handful of other candidates made major strides toward possible election. That’s not bad. Again congrats to Griffey and Piazza. Now I wonder which cap Piazza will wear on his plaque.

The End of A Dynasty: the 1963 Yankees

September 1, 2015
Elston Howard

Elston Howard

By 1963 the New York Yankees were well established as baseball’s greatest dynasty. Stretching back to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, the Yanks won championships with great regularity picking up three titles in the 1920s, five in the 1930s, four in the 1940s, and six in the 1950s. By 1963, they’d won two more in the 1960s (1961 and 1962) and were back in the World Series for the fourth consecutive time.

Manager Ralph Houk was an old backup catcher for the Yanks. In his third (and final) season in the Bronx he led his team to the American League pennant in all three of his seasons skippering them. So far he’d proven a worthy successor to Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel.

His catcher was league MVP Elston Howard (the first black player to be AL MVP). He hit .287 with a team leading 28 home runs and 85 RBIs were second on the team. He had an OPS+ of 141 and a team leading 5.2 WAR (BBREF version). His backup was 38-year-old Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. Berra was in his final season but still managed to hit ..293 with a 139 OPS+ (1.3 WAR) and a .497 slugging percentage.

They caught a staff the consisted of one Hall of Fame lefty and a handful of pretty good pitchers. The Hall of Fame lefty was Whitey Ford. He went 24-7 with a 2.74 ERA, a staff leading 189 strikeouts, a 1.099 WHIP, and ERA+ of 129, and 4.3 WAR (good for second on the staff). It was second to Jim Bouton whose WAR was 4.8. Bouton was 21-7 with an ERA of 2.53, a 1.115 WHIP, 148 strikeouts, an ERA+ of 140, and a team leading six shutouts. The third pitcher was Ralph Terry who went 17-15 with an ERA of 3.22 and 114 strikeouts. Al Downing (before he threw the 715th home run pitch to Hank Aaron) was a 22-year-old rookie (he pitched 10 innings over the previous two seasons) who had 13 wins, 171 strikeouts, and whose 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings led the AL. Stan Williams at 9-8 was the only other pitcher with 20 or more starts. Righty Hal Reniff led the team with 18 saves, while lefty Steve Hamilton was second with five.

Around the horn, the infield consisted of first year starter Joe Pepitone, Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek, and Clete Boyer. Pepitone led the group with 27 home runs (second on the team) and a team leading 89 RBIs. His .271 average was also first for the group. Boyer had 12 home runs for second among the infielders, but had the lowest batting average with .251. He more than made up for that with his glove. The entire infield suffered from a common problem. None of them got on base all that much. Pepitone’s .304 was easily the highest OBP. Both Richardson and Kubek had a .294 OBP (you suppose they compared notes out at second?), while Boyer was a point higher at .295. In order first to third they had 23, 25, 28, and 33 walks. The infield bench was thin with only Phil Linz and Harry Bright getting into more than 15 games. Bright did the backup work at first, hit .236, and had seven homers. Linz backed up the rest of the infield. He hit better (.269) but had no power. At least his OBP hit .349.

The outfield was a shambles. Tommy Tresh held down center field, hit .269 with 25 home runs, 71 RBIs, more walks than strikeouts, an OPS+ of 140, and 4.1 WAR. Injuries to regular center fielder Mickey Mantle kept him to 65 games, but they were Mantle-like games. He hit .314 with 15 home runs, 35 RBIs, and OPS of 1.063, a team leading 196 OPS+, 40 walks (good for second on the team), and 2.9 WAR. Injuries also hampered regular right fielder Roger Maris. He hit ..269 (146 OPS+), had 23 home runs, 169 total bases, and 3.5 WAR. With regular left fielder Tresh in center, Hector Lopez did the bulk of the work in left. He hit .249 with 14 home runs, an OBP of .304, 52 RBIs, and -0.2 WAR. Ex-backup catcher John Blanchard and Jake Reed provided the outfield subs, with Blanchard doing much of the pinch hit work. Blanchard hit .225, had 16 home runs in 218 at bats, had an OPS+ of 113, and -0.2 WAR. Reed’s WAR was better at 0.2, while he hit .205 without a home run and one RBI. No other player was in more than 14 games.

The Yanks won 104 games in 1963 and were favorites to repeat as World Champions. They were second in most major hitting categories and first or second in most major pitching categories. They were, however, last in the league in walks and first in the AL in strikeouts. That could prove a problem in the World Series against a pitching heavy team. As luck would have it, they were up against an old opponent, the Dodgers, now displaced from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. It would be the first confrontation between the teams since the move West. But with Mantle back healthy and a solid staff they expected to win.

A Medal for Yogi

June 9, 2015
Give this man a medal

Give this man a medal

Well, I did something I never do. I got involved in politics. Now I have a standing rule about staying away from politics if I can. There are too many lunkheads who are willing to take a swing at you if you happen to disagree with them on the subject. But I couldn’t help it this time. I added my name to the list to grant Yogi Berra the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the petition, but there’s a drive to have the President present Berra with the Medal of Freedom. A number of ball players (Ernie Banks and Stan Musial among them) have gotten it and now there’s a push for Yogi Berra to get one. He’s a vet, was a gunner on a naval vessel during World War II (including serving at D-Day), a great ballplayer, an oft quoted philosopher (hey, he makes as much sense as a lot of philosophers), and a humanitarian.

What he isn’t, apparently, is one of the four greatest living ball players. Have you seen MLB.com’s poll? They want to unveil at the All Star Game the four (why not five or three?) greatest players from each team, the four most significant pioneers, the four greatest Negro League stars, and the four greatest living players. They gave you a list to choose from and there was the possibility of a  write-in (those never work in things like this). The list of greatest living players showed the following eight: Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez, Willie Mays, and Tom Seaver. According to MLB.com the voting is over and a preliminary list of the four is out: Aaron, Mays, Koufax, and Seaver. Apparently there was voting after this, so the final tally may change.

What I noticed was who wasn’t there, and Yogi Berra is prominent on my “are you kidding me?” list. He made the Yankees team list, but not the final cut for greatest living player. That’s kind of a shame, because it means that Yogi the clown has replaced Yogi the ballplayer in a lot of minds. Shame isn’t it? Anyway, here’s hoping Berra gets his medal.

The Last Segregated World Series: the Games in New York

May 13, 2015

With the Yankees up two games to nothing, the World Series shifted to New York for games three, four, and, if necessary, game five. The Yanks needed two wins to wrap up the Series. Philadelphia needed to win at least two of the three games to send the Series back to Philly and a potential game six.

Jerry Coleman

Jerry Coleman

Game 3

The third game was played 6 October in the Bronx. The visiting Phillies sent 34-year-old Ken Heintzelman to the mound. He’d gone 3-9 with an ERA north of four during the regular season. But with the loss of Curt Simmons to the military and Bubba Church to injury, the Phils pressed him into service. He faced 18 game winner Eddie Lopat. Heintzelman was unsteady (he gave up  six walks) but over the first seven innings he gave up only one run. In the third with two outs he walked Phil Rizzuto who promptly stole second. A Jerry Coleman single plated Rizzuto with the game’s first run.

Philadelphia got it back in the sixth when, again with two outs, Del Ennis doubled. Dick Sisler then singled to tie the score. In the seventh, Granny Hamner singled to lead off the inning, was bunted to second, and scored on a Mike Goliat single. For the first time in the entire Series, the Phils were ahead.

They stayed that way for five outs. With two down in the eighth, Heintzelman walked Coleman, Joe DiMaggio, and Yogi Berra consecutively to load the bases. That sent Heintzelman out of the game and brought in Philly’s relief ace, Jim Konstanty. He got Bobby Brown to roll one to Hamner at short. Hamner booted the ball which scored Coleman with an unearned run. A foul pop to third ended the inning without more damage.

During the eighth, Lopat left the game as the result of a double switch. That brought Tom Ferrick to the mound. He let Hamner on with a double. A bunt sent the Philadelphia shortstop to third with one out. An intentional walk put men on first and third, bringing up the pitcher’s slot. Pinch hitter Dick Whitman banged one to first and Hamner, going on contact, was gunned down at the plate for out two. A fly ball then ended the inning.

In the bottom of the ninth Russ Meyer replaced Konstanty. He got the first two men, then Gene Woodling singled up the middle and Rizzuto put another single in almost the same spot. That brought up Coleman, who’d been involved in both Yankee runs. He singled to left scoring Woodling, resulting in a final score of 3-2, and putting the Yanks up three games to none. Ferrick, in his only postseason appearance ever, got the win with Meyer taking the loss.

The Chairman of the Board

The Chairman of the Board

Game 4

Down three games to none on the 7th of October, the Phillies sent rookie Bob Miller (he’d pitched 2.2 innings in 1949), an 11 game winner to the mound. The Yankees responded by sending their own rookie to the mound. His name was Whitey Ford. He was 21 and had pitched in 20 games that season, starting 12. His record was 9-1 with a 2.81 ERA (153 ERA+) and 59 strikeouts (but also 55 walks). He finished second (to Walt Dropo of Boston) in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

Ford was shaky in the first inning, walking the leadoff man and allowing a ground rule double to put men at second and third. But a fielder’s choice nipped the runner on third trying to score and a strikeout got New York out of the inning. Miller wasn’t nearly so lucky. Leadoff man Gene Woodling reached first on an error by the second baseman, went to second on a grounder, then scored an unearned run on a Yogi Berra single. A wild pitch moved Berra up and a Joe DiMaggio double scored Berra to make the score 2-0. It also sent Miller to the showers. He was replaced by Jim Konstanty who got the last out to end the inning.

Over the next four innings, the Yanks nursed the lead. Through the top of the sixth, Ford allowed only three singles (and an error let another man on). Konstanty was even better allowing only two singles. Used all season as a reliever (except game one of the Series), he tired in the bottom of the sixth. Berra led off the inning with a home run to make it 3-0, then Konstanty plunked DiMaggio. A ground out sent DiMaggio to second, and a Bobby Brown triple sent him home. Hank Bauer followed Brown with a fly that scored the fifth New York run.

Ford breezed through the seventh and eighth innings retiring the Phils in order. With three outs needed to claim a second consecutive championship, Ford started the ninth by allowing a single to Willie Jones. Then he plunked Del Ennis. That brought up Dick Sisler who grounded to second. A flip to the shortstop recorded the first out. Now with runners on first and third Ford struck out Granny Hamner for out two. Andy Seminick lofted a fly to left that Woodling misplayed allowing Jones and Sisler to score two unearned runs, making the score 5-2. That was all for Whitey Ford. In came Allie Reynolds to get the last out. He struck out Stan Lopata to end the threat, the inning, and the World Series.

Although it’s tough to call a sweep a terrific World Series, the 1950 World Series was a very good Series. Three of the four games were one run games. One of the games (2) went to extra innings, another (3) was won in the bottom of the ninth, a third (1) ended up 1-0. Only game four had a final victory margin of more than one run (5-2).

The Phillies pitching did well under the constraints of the loss of both Church and Simmons. Konstanty was terrific, starting his first game after a full season in the bullpen, and relieving in two others. His 15 innings pitched was tops for either team. As a staff they put up a respectable 2.27 ERA and gave up only 11 earned runs in 36 innings. But the hitting wasn’t as good. Philadelphia hit .203 as a team with only seven extra base hits (six doubles, one triple) in 26 hits. Hamner led the team with six hits two of the doubles, and the triple (but made a critical error). No player scored more than one run or drove in more than one run.

For the Yankees, the hitting was better, but not a lot. They hit .222 as a team, but with three doubles, a triple, and two home runs. Coleman led the team with three RBIs, five different players scored two runs, and Woodling led the team with six hits (all singles). The real New York heroes were the pitchers. Vic Raschi threw a complete game two-hit shutout, Ford went 8.2 giving up only unearned runs. Reynolds picked up both a win and a save and Eddie Lopat gave up only two runs in his one start. The team ERA was 0.73, with 24 strikeouts (seven walks), and a 0.892 WHIP. Ford and Reynolds both recorded seven strikeouts (Lopat and Raschi each had five).

For New York it was the second in a string of World Series victories that would reach five eventually. For Philadelphia it was a high water mark. They slid back in 1951 and didn’t resurface in the postseason until 1976.

The Last Segregated World Series: Casey’s Crew

May 8, 2015
Hank Bauer

8 Hank Bauer

In the 1950 World Series, the Philadelphia Phillies were tasked with defeating the current World Champion New York Yankees. The Yanks were winners of two of the previous three World Series and were a formidable foe.

They were led by retired player and former dental student (Thanks, Bloggess) Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel. He’d taken the reigns in New York in 1949 and led his team to a championship. In 1950 they were one game better than in 1949.

He had Joe Collins and Hall of Famer Johnny Mize at first. Both played about the same amount of games and both hit left-handed. Collins was a slightly better fielder and Mize the better hitter. For the season Mize hit .277 and was third on the team with both 25 home runs and 72 RBIs. His .946 OPS and 142 OPS+ were both second on the team. Jerry Coleman played second, hit .287 with no power, and was finding himself pushed by 22-year-old rookie Billy Martin. No one was pushing Hall of Fame shortstop Phil Rizzuto. He hit .324, led the team in both hits (200) and runs (125), played a good shortstop, and won the American League MVP for 1950 (his only MVP award). Billy Johnson and Bobby Brown (later AL President) were in a rough platoon system at third. Johnson hit .260, Brown .267.

Four men did most of the outfield work. Hall of Fame center fielder Joe DiMaggio was 35 and a year from retirement, but he hit .301, led the team with 35 home runs and a .979 OPS. His 122 RBIs were second on the team and his 5.3 WAR was third. In typical DiMaggio fashion he posted 80 walks to go along with only 33 strike outs. Hank Bauer was settling in as the new right fielder. He had 13 homers and hit .320. Gene Woodling did more work in left field than anyone else, hit .283 with only six home runs and made two errors all season. Cliff Mapes was the fourth outfielder, but got into 108 games. He had 12 home runs, but hit only .247.

The only other everyday players who appeared in 20 or more games were Jackie Jensen and Tommy Henrich. Jensen was a rookie outfielder who hit all of .171. Henrich was in his final season. He started 30 games at first, but spent most of his time as the main left-handed pinch hitter. He hit .272 with six home runs, a .918 OPS, and only six strikeouts to go with 27 walks. He had 41 total hits for the season, twenty were for extra bases: six doubles, eight triples, and the already mentioned six home runs. A lot of people forget that Henrich, never noted for his base stealing speed led the AL in triples twice (1947 and 1948).

Yogi Berra did almost all the catching. He had a great year hitting .322 (second to Rizzuto), with 28 home runs (second to DiMaggio), and a team leading 124 RBIs. His OPS was .915 and his WAR 5.6 (again second to Rizzuto’s 6.7). He struck out all of 12 times in 656 plate appearances and walked 55. His backups were future Yanks manager Ralph Houk and Charlie Silvera. Between them they got into 28 games (Houk started one game, Silvera seven).

The New York pitching corps was aging, unlike Philadelphia’s. Of the six men who started 10 or more games, only one was under 30. If you kick that up to all the men who pitched in 10 or more games, there were only two (and Bob Porterfield only pitched 20 innings over 10 games). Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat, Tommy Byrne, and Allie Reynolds all started at least 29 games with Byrne, at age 30, being the youngest (Reynolds at 33 was the oldest). Raschi had 21 wins but an ERA of 4.00. Lopat was 18-8 but had given up more hits than he had innings pitched (WHIP of 1.307). Reynolds led the team with 160 strikeouts and Byrne had 160 walks (with 118 strikeouts). Fred Sanford only started 12 games but walked more than he struck out. The other guy (and the other pitcher under 30) was a rookie named Whitey Ford. He went 9-1 over 20 games (12 starts), had a 2.81 ERA, and was on the way to a Hall of Fame career.

The bullpen was still anchored by Joe Page. He’d posted 13 saves, but his ERA was north of five and he had given up 66 hits in 55 innings. Tom Ferrick was 35 and had posted nine saves, for second on the team. And by way of trivia, Lew Burdette, age 23 pitched 1.1 innings over two games in his rookie campaign. In 1957, now playing at Milwaukee, he would handcuff his former team to lead the Braves to a World’s Championship.

They were a formidable team, World Champs, and ready to defend. They were favored over Philadelphia, which was considered an upstart.

The First Integrated World Series: Gionfriddo’s Grab

April 24, 2015

With New York leading Brooklyn 3 games to 2 in the 1947 World Series, the last two games would be played on consecutive days in the Bronx. Brooklyn needed to win game six to force a game seven. The Yankees simply wanted to end it quickly. Game six became one of the more famous of all World Series games because of one substitute’s glove and one superstar’s reaction.

Game 6

Al Gionfriddo 5 October 1947

Al Gionfriddo 5 October 1947

Desperate to win, the Dodgers jumped on Yankees starter Allie Reynolds for two runs in the top of the first. Consecutive singles by the first three Brooklyn batters loaded the bases. A double play traded a run for two outs, but a Sherm Lollar passed ball plated the second run. The Dodgers sent Reynolds to the showers with two more runs in the third on three straight doubles.

In the bottom of the third, New York finally got to Dodgers starter Vic Lombardi. A double and wild pitch sent Lollar to third. Then a ground ball error scored him. The Yankees then tied the score 4-4 on five consecutive singles, knocking Lombardi out of the game. New York went ahead in the fourth on singles by Aaron Robinson, Tommy Henrich, and Yogi Berra (playing right field rather than catching).

The hitters took the fifth inning off before the critical sixth inning. A single and double in the Brooklyn top of the sixth sent Bruce Edwards to third. Cookie Lavagetto, pinch hitting for the third game in a row, lifted a sacrifice fly that scored Edwards. A double by pinch hitter Bobby Bragan plated a second run. With Dan Bankhead running for Bragan, Eddie Stanky singled, then a PeeWee Reese single drove in both runs. Consecutive outs ended the top of the sixth.

To start the bottom of the sixth, the Dodgers made three major changes. Joe Hatten took over on the mound, Lavagetto went to third, and speedy outfielder Al Gionfriddo went to left for defense. With the score 8-5, New York’s Snuffy Stirnweiss worked a one out walk. One out later Berra singled sending Stirnweiss to second. Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio stepped in and drove a ball to deepest left field. Gionfriddo raced back, leaped for the ball and caught it. Initial reports indicated that Gionfriddo had robbed DiMaggio of a homer, but a frame by frame analysis of the film and a look at photographs indicate that Gionfriddo caught the ball a couple of steps from the bullpen gate and his momentum carried him to the gate. His arm was up and it appeared he’d snagged the ball as it was going out of the field of play. Whether it was going out or going to be a double (or triple) two runs, at least, were going to score. The catch ended the inning. Nearing second when the catch was made, DiMaggio kicked the dirt in a show of emotion, something no one could remember seeing him show in 11 years of baseball.

The Yanks loaded the bases in the seventh, but Hatten got out of it. After an easy eighth, he needed three outs to send the Series to game seven. He got none. A single and a walk brought in Brooklyn relief ace Hugh Casey. He got an out, then a single loaded the bases. A ground out force brought in a Yankees run, but a tapper back to the mound ended both the threat and the game.

It was a good game, made famous by Gionfriddo’s great catch, still one of the most famous of all World Series fielding plays, and by DiMaggio’s reaction to the grab. It would be Gionfriddo’s last big league game. It tied the Series 3-3. Game 7 would decide the champion.

Game 7

The Scooter

The Scooter

Game 7 of the 1947 World Series was played 6 October in Yankee Stadium. Spec Shea started his third game for the Yanks, while Hal Gregg took the mound for Brooklyn. The Dodgers struck first, picking up two runs in the top of the second. With one out, Gene Hermanski tripled and a Bruce Edwards single brought him home. A single by Carl Furillo pushed Edwards to second and took Shea out of the game. He was replaced by game four’s hard luck loser Bill Bevens. He gave up a double to Spider Jorgensen that scored Edwards, but then got out of the inning without further damage.

New York got one back in the bottom of the second on twin walks and a Phil Rizzuto single. In the fourth a walk, a single, and a Bobby Brown pinch hit double tied the game, and sent Gregg to the clubhouse. Then a Tommy Henrich single off reliever Hank Behrman, scored Rizzuto with the go ahead run.

Brown’s at bat had taken Bevens out of the game. In his place was relief ace Joe Page to start the fifth. He was magnificent, allowing only one hit and striking out one. Meanwhile the Yanks added a single run in the sixth on a bunt single and steal by Rizzuto followed by an RBI single. They tacked on one more in the seventh on a Billy Johnson triple and an Aaron Robinson single. By the ninth, the Dodgers were down 5-2 with their four, five, and six hitters up. Dixie Walker grounded out, Eddie Miksis singled to keep Brooklyn alive. Then Edwards grounded to Rizzuto at short. A 6-4-3 double play ended the game, the Series, and Dodgers hopes. New York was world champ by a 5-2 score.

It was a terrific World Series, particularly if you liked offense. The Dodgers team ERA was 5.55 and the Yanks were at 4.09. Brooklyn walked 38 while striking out only 37. New York’s numbers were almost as bad at 30 walks and 32 strikeouts. Having said that, Spec Shea had two wins and a 2.35 ERA for the Yankees and reliever Hugh Casey had two wins and a save to go with an ERA of 0.87 for the Dodgers.

For the Yankees Rizzuto scored three runs, including two in the Series clincher. Henrich had 10 hits, five RBIs, and a home run. DiMaggio’s average was only .231 but he scored four runs, drove in five, and had two home runs in six hits. Billy Johnson led both teams with eight runs scored. For the Dodgers the heroes were Jackie Robinson for simply showing up and performing well in a pressure situation (he had three runs scored and three RBIs), Casey on the mound, and Reese who hit .304 with five runs and four RBIs. Then there were the subs, Lavagetto and Gionfriddo. Lavagetto had one hit for the Series, but it won game four. Gionfriddo had a key stolen base, walked in a crucial situation, scored two runs, and made the catch of the Series, one of the most famous in World Series history.

It was the second Yankees-Dodgers World Series (1941 being the first). There would be five more (and even more after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles). The 1955 Series has become the most famous (because it’s the only one Brooklyn won), but none of them were better than 1947 in either drama or intensity.