Tuesday, February 18, 2020

An Old Style Comeback & You Can Win Too!

TRIVIA QUESTION:  From 1961-1965 Hall of Fame Sports Broadcaster Dick Enberg coached a college baseball team. Which school's baseball team did he coach? (Hint: at the time it had a different name than it does now.)

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: The 1966 California Angels had several players hit home runs in double figures but none were better that season than 38 year old Joe Adcock in his final year as a player in the big leagues. The former Braves slugger went deep 18 times in only 231 AB. Translated its one in less than every 13 at bats!

NOTE: I wanted to write an article in the style of the great old sportswriters from a bygone era. With apologies to Grantland Rice, Red Smith and so many others who have laid the groundwork for us, here is my own version...therefore there will "no links" and "no video," but I will insert photos because I know readers enjoy them.
Very few of the faithful were still around when the dust settled in Detroit in the contest between the locals and the Kansas City nine. The game was lackluster most of the way, inning after inning and by the time the final frame was played, most of the 8,947 who paid their way through the turnstiles had left the friendly confines of Tiger Stadium. Some stayed to cheer on local boy, Denny McLain who the previous season posted 31 wins for the pennant winning Tigers.

In the final analysis it was a pair of former Baltimore Orioles cast offs who did most of the damage, along with a journeyman catcher who supplied the fireworks which led to Detroit's final inning downfall.
The two starting pitchers, McLain and his opposite member Bill Butler matched each other pitch for pitch through the first four innings. Butler faltered in the fifth however. The visitors were trailing 2-1 as the Royals could only muster a single run driven across by Chuck Harrison. Detroit had catapulted to the lead on a home run ball struck by back up catcher Jim Price, and led 2-1.

In the fifth it was the old veteran Al Kaline who plated center fielder Mickey Stanley with a hard hit double between the fielders in left center. Kaline would come around to score when Jim Northrup, he of the wide open stance, connected for a single driving Butler from the pitching box. The home club now led 4-1. When Dave Wickersham uncorked two wild pitches the bengals scored again, giving them what seemed like an insurmountable lead, 5-1.
An inning later light hitting Don Wert sent a Dave Morehead pitch deep into the outfield seats and the Tigers now had a commanding 6-1 lead. With McLain pitching it seemed a foregone conclusion, the locals would take this one from the upstart Royals. Many of the fans were now moving to the exits in hopes of beating the automobile traffic home in the land of GM and Chrysler. Too bad for them because the Royals had something more to say.

A Lou Pinniella solo shot brought the visitors to within four runs of the Tigers. In the ninth the Royals made their move. With the former 31 game winner still on the mound Ed Kirkpatrick led off the inning with a two base hit. A base on balls was issued to Piniella and after Joe Foy took three strikes, Big Bob Oliver singled to put runners on all three bags.

Light hitting Jerry Adair hit a ground ball which looked like it was going to be a twin killing but instead wound up being a force play at second base. Kirkpatrick scored to cut the Tigers lead in half. Harrison singled to bring Piniella home and that was it for McLain who had pitched brilliantly until the ninth frame.

Manager Mayo Smith called on ace reliever Dick Radatz, who stands 6'6" (230 lbs.) to put out the fire the Royals had ignited. The first batter he faced was Hawk Taylor. The utility man made quick work of a Radatz fast ball lacing it deep over the left center field wall for a three run home run. The blast put the Royals ahead 7-6 and ruined a fine pitching performance by McLain.
It wasn't quite over yet as the poet would say. Former Oriole youth Wally Bunker continued pitching into the bottom of the frame and with two outs the Tigers had men on all three bases. One of them was Gates Brown. Brown is widely considered by most baseball men to be the best pinch hitter in the game. It was as a pinch hitter he kept the inning alive with a single.

Royals manager Joe Gordon had seen enough and went to his bullpen for another former Oriole's thrower, Moe Drabowsky. Drabowsky flashed the old form he'd shown in the 1966 World Series and quickly got slugger Jim Northrup to ground out to end the game.

Bunker picked up his first victory of 1969 to take his record to 1-2, while Drabowsky earned his fourth Save of the young season. Radatz was saddled with the loss, his second in three decisions. First baseman Harrison collected four hits in the game as Tiger pitchers could not keep him off base. It was a tough loss for McLain who would go on to follow up his 31 win season with 24 victories in this year of expansion to close out the decade.

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Need to get out of a baseball hitting slump, or a golf swing slump? Order my new book "Beating the Slump; An athlete's guide to a better career." See it on Amazon for only $5.99. That is for the Paperback, you can also order Kindle on that link. You can also order paperback copies directly from me via the email below for my other books.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

17 Innings, Angels-Indians, Oh What a Relief It Is

TRIVIA QUESTION:  Which aging slugger led the Angels in home runs in 1966?

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: Mickey Mantle's career began in the 1951 season and while he would go onto smack 536 home runs over the course of his playing days, his rookie season saw his lowest HR total. His 13 dingers in 1951 was his all time career low. 

In today's major league world starting pitchers rarely go past six innings. Relievers struggle to go more than one inning. On May 31, 1966 the Angels and the Indians saw something rarely ever seen in baseball before or since. Reliever Steve Hargan worked 10 innings for the Tribe, reliever and usual short man Bob Lee went seven for California. The game was a 17 inning marathon which started as a night game in Anaheim.
The Indians would get used to playing extra inning affairs in 1966. They played in 17 of them with two going 15 innings. None however matched the game on the last day of May. Sonny Siebert started for Cleveland and Marcelino Lopez took the mound for the home club. Lopez barely survived the third inning, giving up four runs on four hits, capped by a three run blast by Chico Salmon. Howie Reed came on the fourth.

The Angels finally got to Siebert in the 7th. Trailing 4-2, a two-out pinch double by Frank Malzone preceded a two run homer by Jose Cardenal. A wild pitch was mixed in between the two events. Manager Birdie Tebbitts had seen enough. He brought in reliable swing man Steve Hargan who gave up a single to Jim Fregosi and a wild pitch with Rick Reichardt standing at the plate, before Reichardt went down on a third strike.

Bob Lee took over for aging Lew Burdette who had come on in relief of Reed. Hargan however was the man of the hour. He stayed in to pitch and for 10 innings held the Angels at bay.  He would give up only six singles over the next nine-plus innings heading into the 17th.
Lee matched him pitch for pitch. He gave up but a pair of singles and at one point put down 18 batters in a row. It was about all Lee, usually a hard throwing short reliever, had in the tank. Manager Bill Rigney called upon his ace starter Dean Chance to help out in the 15th. Chance was up to the task until the roof caved in early the next morning in the 17th.

With one out, Vic Davalillo and Chuck Hinton singled. Leon Wagner came up to pinch hit for Tony Martinez and drew an intentional walk. With the bases jammed, Pedro Gonzales singled to drive in a run. Hargan stepped to the plate. Why after 10 innings of relief pitching would Tebbitts send Wagner to pinch hit for Martinez and not Hargan is a question which remains controversial. Whatever the reasoning it worked.

Chance wild pitched across another run, and ending up walking Hargan to load the bases again. The Indians now led 6-4. When Chance walked Jim Landis to score the 7th run, Rigney had seen enough. Jim McGlothlin was called into the record the final out. 

To start the bottom of the 17th Hargan got both Fregosi and Reichardt but gave up a single to Willie Smith. When Tom Satriano singled and Smith scored all the way from first base to make it 7-5, Tebbitts finally pulled Hargan in favor of starter Luis Tiant who got the final out.
Four hours and 58 minutes after the game started, it was over. The Indians and Steve Hargan (1-2) were victorious. Hargan went 10 innings, gave up nine hits, a walk and struck out nine Angels. Chance took the loss (3-6) despite the performance of Bob Lee who pitched seven shutout innings, giving up just two hits.

Not many of the 14,255 fans stuck around for the finale on Wednesday morning but traffic was probably pretty light when they left the Big A. Every non-pitcher who started for both teams had at least one hit except for Reichardt, who drew the collar, going 0-8 on the night. He was batting .296 at the time. He would end up at .288.

The next night the Angels lost to the Orioles 9-7, while the Indians flew back to Kansas City and played that same night, losing 8-3 to the A's in a short game. The plane ride was likely a quiet one with most players unable to keep their eyes open. 

Need to get out of a baseball hitting slump, or a golf swing slump? Order my new book "Beating the Slump; An athlete's guide to a better career." See it on Amazon for only $5.99. That is for the Paperback, you can also order Kindle on that link. You can also order paperback copies directly from me via the email below for my other books.

You can get a signed paper back copy of the above book

"Tales of My Baseball Youth - a child of the sixties"
for $15 Shipping Included 
Use PayPal to or contact us at the same email for other payment. 

Thank you to those of you who purchased my book after reading this column. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Yanks Swept in Four, 1st Time Ever

TRIVIA QUESTION:  In the 1963 season Mickey Mantle hit his second lowest home run total ever in his career with 15. What was his lowest year and total home run count that season?

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: Brothers Joe and Frank Torre did indeed play on the same team but only for part of one season. In 1960 Frank played his last season with the Milwaukee Braves and Joe came up for a cup of coffee that season, playing in two games with two at bats getting a single and striking out in the other AB. Frank played in 21 games batting .205 before being purchased by the Phillies in December 1961. He spent the 1961 season in the minor leagues. They played together on the same minor league AAA team during that 1961 season before Joe came up in 1962 to stay.

The 1963 World Series was one for the record books for many reasons. It was the first time ever the New York Yankees were swept in a four game World Championship Series. The Yanks who many times swept their opponents, did not win a game against the New York Giants in 1922 but that series actually went five games. Game Two ended in a 10-inning, 3-3 tie. In 1963 they would face their old rivals; The Dodgers. It was the Dodgers homecoming of sorts. It was their first time back to Yankee Stadium since leaving Brooklyn for the West Coast in the late 1950's.

New York was favored to win, after leading the American League with 104 victories while the Dodgers corralled 99 to take home the NL Pennant. The Yankees had the sluggers. Even with Mickey Mantle limited to 65 games and 15 dingers, the club still smacked 188 to finish second in the league in round-trippers.
Four players hit at least 20 home runs led by Elston Howard's 28. Roger Maris hit 23 and while not one Yankee had 100 RBI, they did score 714 runs which was again second in the AL. Mantle was the only player to bat .300 with a .314 average while an aging Yogi Berra (38) hit .293 in a very limited role.

And they were solid on the mound with two 20 game winners; Whitey Ford won 24 and Jim Bouton went 21-7. A young (22 year old) Al Downing was 13-5 and Ralph Terry won 17. The team ERA of 3.07 was only bested by one club and despite a tremendous bullpen, Yankee starters led the league in complete games with an amazing 59, led by Terry's 18. 

The bullpen was headed by Save leader Hal Reniff with 18, Steve Hamilton and Tom Metcalf each had ERA's under 3.00. To boot, Downing had four shutouts, Bouton six.  Downing was amazing as well in the K department, striking out 171 batters in 175 innings. 

Los Angeles was not a team of slouches by any means.  Not a power team the Dodgers were really in the middle of a run which featured speed and pitching. Maury Wills batted .302 and stole 40 bases, while Tommy Davis hit .326, clubbed 16 homers and stole 15 bases. Willie Davis stole another 25 and former Brooklyn Dodger Jim Gilliam stole 19. Frank Howard led the team in homers with 28 but amazingly only drove in 64 despite a .273 BA. Tommy D., would lead the team in RBI with 88.

The pitching staff is where the Dodgers chose to shine. Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax were at the top of their games, starting 82 games between them and completing 37 and combining for over 500 innings pitched. Koufax was 25-5 with a 1.88 ERA while Big D., was 19-17, 2.64 ERA. Koufax was unbelievable in another category which wasn't a big deal back then, WhIP. His was 0.87.
Johnny Podres won 14 and Bob Miller another 10, but the ace in the hole was closer Ron Perranoski who finished 16-3, 1.67 ERA with 21 Saves. The Dodgers still were no match for the slugging New Yorkers when it came to the plate. On the Mound give a very slight edge to New York, too.

But in a short series pitching usually holds sway and it was no different in 1963. Game One was on a Wednesday, which meant Koufax would open against Ford. If a series started on Saturday, it would be Drysdale because the devoutly Jewish Koufax would not pitch on Saturday. No worries in 1963.

Koufax was magnificent, giving up but six hits while striking out 15 Yankees on his way to a 5-2 win. Tom Tresh did homer but so did Johnny Roseboro who took Ford deep in a four-run second inning. 

In Game Two it was Podres turn to shine and he did. He went eight and a third before giving way to Perranoski to close it out. The Dodgers jumped on Al Downing for two runs in the first and in the fourth inning former Yankee, Bill Skowron clubbed a homer and when the dust settled the Dodgers were 4-1 winners. 

Following the Friday off day, Los Angeles sent Drysdale to the mound against Bouton. It was a classic match-up and the big man was never better. He allowed only three hits. Tony Kubek had a pair and Mantle had the other. He also struck out nine while walking one. Bouton was also outstanding except for one inning. He walked Gilliam, then wild pitched him to second before Tommy Davis drove him home with a single for the only run of the game, and a 1-0 Dodger victory.
Up three games to none, Manager Walt Alston brought back Koufax on three days rest. Again he was matched up against 24 game winner, Ford. It was going to be a tight battle and it was all about the most mistakes. Ford actually out-pitched Koufax. 

The game was scoreless until the fifth when Frank Howard blasted his only homer of the series to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. It stayed that way until Mantle homered in the seventh to tie it up 1-1. It was then the big break came. Jim Gilliam led off the seventh with a ground ball to third baseman Clete Boyer who made a leaping catch of the high bouncer and threw directly onto first base for the apparent out. However, Joe Pepitone (apparently losing the ball in the white shirted background) couldn't handle the throw at first and the ball got by him down the line. By the time he got the ball, Gilliam ran all the way to third base. Willie Davis followed with a deep fly ball to center to drive home Gilliam on a sacrifice fly with the go ahead run. 
Koufax closed out the last two innings without the Yankees really mounting a threat and the Dodgers had their sweep. Koufax, who gave up only six hits, struck out eight and did not walk a batter was named MVP of the series with two wins. 

New York hit an anemic .171 in the series with only two home runs while Los Angeles didn't fare much better at .214 and two homers. Boyer and Tresh each struck out six times and Mantle, five. The key may have been; Yankee pitchers issued 11 walks.  New York was  outscored 12-4. Scoring an average of one run per game isn't going to win you any championships and that's how New York finished. 

The Yankees would be back in the Series in 1964 but despite taking the series to seven games, they still lost to the Cardinals, 4-3. It wouldn't be until 1976 the Yanks were blitzed again. This time by the Reds. However, in 1998 and 1999 they swept both series against the Padres and the Braves and added a 4-1 Series win the following year, winning 12 of 13.

Need to get out of a baseball hitting slump, or a golf swing slump? Order my new book "Beating the Slump; An athlete's guide to a better career." See it on Amazon for only $5.99. That is for the Paperback, you can also order Kindle on that link. You can also order paperback copies directly from me via the email below for my other books.

You can get a signed paper back copy of the above book

"Tales of My Baseball Youth - a child of the sixties"
for $15 Shipping Included 
Use PayPal to or contact us at the same email for other payment. 

Thank you to those of you who purchased my book after reading this column.