Monday, October 23, 2017

When the Cubs forced the Giants out of the Pennant Race

TRIVIA QUESTION: In 1962 what pitcher won 20 games for the American League Cleveland Indians who won a total of only 80 games?

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: In Mickey Mantle's last game of his career it was an unusual twist because while Mantle, the great center fielder was playing first base, Joe Pepitone who would go on to be an outstanding Yankee first baseman, was playing center field that day. Pepitone would play nearly 100 games in the outfield that season, most of them in center.

Rarely do you see a team with four players hitting 133 home runs between them, but the 1966 San Francisco Giants were one of those teams. It was a team led by the aging Willie Mays (37) coming off a season when he hit 52 dingers, Willie McCovery (36), a young Jim Ray Hart (33) and catcher Tom Haller (27). Nobody else on the team hit more than nine homers in that season which saw the Giants battle down to the wire with the Dodgers and Pirates. All three teams were within three games of each other when the season ended.

Perhaps the season turned on the Giants right after taking two of three from Los Angeles in early September. The series ended with the Giants at 81 wins. They would finish with 93 wins but had to win 8 of their last 9 games to get there. After beating the Dodgers they lost 8 of their next 11 games. At the same time the Dodgers were winning eight straight.

The real conundrum began when the Giants went into their next series, hosting the lowly Cubs. An aging Ernie Banks was still anchoring an infield of Ron Santo, Don Kessinger and Glenn Beckert. The team overall was in transition welcoming Adolfo Phillips, Randy Hundley and Downtown Ollie Brown to the club. 

It all started when the Giants took on Chicago in San Francisco. Having taken two straight from the Dodgers who could blame the Giants for being over confident. Ace Juan Marichal was taking the mound against a young rookie Ken Holtzman. Marichal was working on his fourth 20 win season of the six he tossed. Both pitchers were sailing along with the Cubs leading 1-0 at the end of 7. Then the roof fell in.

In the top of the 8th with one out Beckert walked. Marichal hit Billy Williams to put runners at first and second. With Ron Santo at the plate, Beckert tried to steal third and Jim Ray Hart made an error. Beckert scored. Santo struck out but Ernie Banks singled home Williams to make it 3-0. Both runs were unearned.

In the 9th, with one out Adolfo Phillips doubled off Lindy McDaniel who had replaced Marichal. Pitcher Bill Hands flied out but Kessinger hit a sharp ground ball to short which Jim Davenport booted for an error. Beckert then drove them both home with a hit. Before the inning ended the Cubs had scored again and the final was Cubs 6 - Giants 0.

The Giants had committed five errors in the game including two by Davenport and all this behind their best pitcher, against a Cubs team which lost 103 games and finished in last place 36 games out of first. Five of the runs were unearned.

The Giants would lose their next two games to the Cubs 12-3 and 4-3 before picking up a 2-0 win over Chicago. The Giants would go on to lose five of their next eight before going on a tear to finish the season, losing out to the Dodgers by 1.5 games. As the Giants went into their tail spin the Dodgers went 14-5 before playing .500 ball down the final stretch. The fact the Giants won 8 of their last 9 was the only thing which kept it close. 

Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at, or on Amazon.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

BEST OF: MIckey Mantle's Last Game
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This column first appeared on October 22, 2017. Next week we are back to our regular schedule with "The Best Hitting Pitcher of the 1960s" and regular trivia questions as well.

It was 75 degrees with a slight breeze at Boston's Fenway Park at 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon on September 28, 1968. The Red Sox were taking the field and the New York Yankees were coming to bat. Not everyone knew this was going to be the last time the great Mickey Mantle would put on a uniform and play for the team which fans knew he belonged. He belonged in history.
(UPDATED: Mantle's final Yankee Stadium home run was in an Old Timers Game as seen in the video above.)

The great center-fielder who succeeded Joe DiMaggio way back in the early 1950's had been relegated to first base in recent years. His legs shot, his speed non-existent and his powerful bat carrying less oomph than ever. Years of drinking, injuries and battling had robbed the Mick of his prowess. Those who were not fans said he was only known for "arguing with the umpires," while those who watched him admired his great talent.

The Sox were sending ace Jim Lonborg to the mound in this next to the last game of the regular season. The Yankees were long out of the race and would finish fifth. The Red Sox would finish fourth, four games ahead of the Yankees.

Lonborg, the 22 Game winner who picked up the Cy Young Award the previous season was struggling too. He was trying for win no. 7 against 9 losses. The Red Sox won the pennant in 1967. This was 1968. This was the year Carl Yastrzemski came off his Triple Crown season when he hit .326 to win the batting title with the lowest average ever, .301. It was The Year of the Pitcher.

Mantle had battled injuries in his final season. This was nothing new. He was oft injured almost to legendary status. This year however, he was going to play in an amazing 144 games for the second year in a row. This after the 1966 campaign when he was limited to barely more than 100 games. It wasn't a bad season for any player. But Mickey Mantle wasn't just any player. He was The Mick. He'd bat 547 times, belt 18 home runs but only hit .237.

On this Saturday he started at first base and batted third behind Horace Clarke and Jake Gibbs. Clarke led off the game with a walk. Gibbs followed with a fly out to left. With Mantle at the plate, Clarke stole second. The Mick, batting left handed against the right handed Lonborg, then hit a weak pop up to shortstop Rico Petrocelli in short left field. Then Roy White struck out looking.

That was it, the last at bat for Mantle, Before he could hit a second time, Andy Kosco came into replace him. In the 8th inning Kosco belted his 15th home run of the year to make it 3-2 Red Sox. Joe Pepitone would also homer and in the end the Yanks bested the Sox 4-3. Longborg went all the way to lose it, Lindy McDaniel picked up the win in relief.
The final out recorded when Petrocelli grounded out to shortstop Tom Tresh who tossed it over to Kosco at first. That home run by Kosco was also his last as a Yankee. Over the winter New York shipped him off to the Dodgers for pitcher Mike Kekich. So Petrocelli not only ended the game but caught the final ball ever hit by Mickey Mantle.

For Mantle it brought an unceremonious end to an illustrious career. His final stat line wold read:
over 18 years, 536 Home Runs, 1509 RBI, 1676 Runs Scored, and a lifetime .298 Batting Average. He hit .300 or better 10 times and made the All Star team in every year but one. The lone season he didn't make the team was 1966 when he played only 108 games. He even made it in his final season. A three time MVP he led the league in homers four times and in 1956 won the Triple Crown, batting .353. Twice he eclipsed 50 homers and in 1961 would likely have beaten Roger Maris and Babe Ruth for the single season HR title, but an illness ended his season early despite his 54 homers.

While The Mick was an extraordinary player, on this day though he was just ordinary and when it came to Mickey Mantle, ordinary was better than most, but not good enough for him. So it came to an end. Only 25,534 people saw that game at Fenway and no doubt most of them didn't realize they were watching the end of an era.

Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at, or on Amazon

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Mr. Hard Luck Pitcher

TRIVIA QUESTION: What key pitcher did the Angels trade to get Don Mincher, Jimmie Hall and Pete Cimino from the Twins?

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN:  John Kennedy has a 12 year career in the big leagues but only played in the post season twice. He was the Dodgers defensive third baseman in 1965 and 1966, facing the Twins and the Orioles in the World Series.
You've heard the expression "you have to be good to lose 20 games?" Well in 1967 the Angels' George Brunet was so good he lost 19. When it comes to hard luck pitchers, Brunet had probably the hardest luck season ever and it was for a team which was fighting for a pennant nearly all year. He was the guy most responsible for keeping them there.

The season started out reasonably. The lefty Brunet started the season opener against the Detroit Tigers, facing Denny McLain. Brunet pitched a three-hitter, going the distance and the Angels won 4-2. He walked two, struck out nine and the only Tigers to get a hit were Jim Northrup, Gates Brown and Dick McAuliffe. A single, a double and Swingin' Brown hit a home run. 

The Angels backed him with 10 hits, three each from Jim Fregosi and Don Mincher who also homered. McLain lasted all of four innings. Mincher was the team slugger finishing with 25 homers on the season.

From there it went downhill fast. Brunet continued to pitch well. By seasons end however, he was 11-19 but heartbreak went with every one of those losses. In 37 starts the Angels scored a total of 84 runs, or 2.27 runs per game. In seven of those games the team backed him with only one run and three times they were shut out. His 3.31 ERA and 1.17 WHIP were amazing, and considering he pitched 250 innings while only giving up 203 hits and 19 home runs, Brunet should have won 20 easily. 

Brunet by this time was 32 years old and had been in the big leagues since 1956 when he came up with Kansas City. It was only the second time he'd won in double figures, achieving the task the previous year, winning 13 of 26 decisions for California. 

The year 1967 was extremely difficult. They were in it until the end finishing 84-77, seven and a half back of the Red Sox in fifth place. Brunet pitched the final game of the season in relief and picked up a save. Both Ricky Clark and Jim McGlothlin (other starters) both won 12 games and finished over .500, Minnie Rojas saved 27 and pitched more than 120 innings in relief. Brunet was the main guy though and despite the devastation of 1967, he came back in 1968 to pitch even better.

1968 was the year of the pitcher and Brunet lowered his WHIP to 1.05, his ERA was at 3.38, gave up less hits per inning walked fewer batters (68 in 245 innings) and at age 33 had perhaps his finest season finishing 13-17, still under .500.

He never won in double figures again, pitching three more seasons mostly in relief. In 1971 at age 36 he pitched his final seven games with St. Louis. He finished 0-1. His record of 69-93 belies the fact that in 1968 his 13 wins with the Angels were 13 of the teams 67 victories as they finished one notch above bottom dwelling Washington.

If there was ever a more hard luck pitcher than George Brunet, you'd be hard pressed to find one.

Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at, or on Amazon

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Rare Error of Roberto Clemente

NEW TRIVIA QUESTION: In a career which spanned 12 years in the big leagues, how many times did Dodger third baseman, John Kennedy play in the post season?

TRIVIA ANSWER FROM LAST COLUMN:  Johnny Bench twice hit at least 40 home runs in a season for the Cincinnati Reds. He hit 45 in 1970 and 40 two years later.

Post your answer in the COMMENTS Second below and please "Follow." 

It was the rarest of rare events when Roberto Clemente made a major error. It was even more unusual when it cost his team a game. However, that was exactly what happened on August 14th, 1965. It was a memorable night to begin with because it was right in the middle of the Watts Riots and it happened at Dodger Stadium. Attendance was only 29, 237, mainly because people were afraid to leave their homes. The city was on fire and people were dying. Baseball however, witnessed one of it's great pitching match-ups and a game which few will remember except those who were there. I was.

Sandy Koufax squared off against Don Cardwell. The former in his prime, the latter heading toward the end of a decent career. The Bucs were headed for sixth place in a ten team league. The Dodgers would go on to defeat the Twins in the World Series. For Koufax he was looking for win no. 21 in a season where he would dominate again.

The Pirates were a good hitting team as usual back then, but a team in transition. Clemente was still in his prime and batting .342 and was backed by Donn Clendenon's 28 homers, Willie Stargell's long taters and the amazing defensive play of Bill Mazeroski and Gene Alley up the middle. Catching Cardwell that night was journeyman, Jim Pagliaroni.

For Los Angeles it was the switch hitting infield of Parker, Gilliam, Lefebvre and Kennedy and the speed of Willie Davis backed by Lou Johnson and Ron Fairly. Johnny Roseboro as usual was catching Koufax.

The game was scoreless and a real pitchers dual. I remember Mazeroski getting the Bucs' first hit, a single in the second. With two out in the bottom of the second Davis hit a shot to deep right field. Clemente, the ever graceful outfielder, leaned into the ground level box seats and robbed Davis of a home run. Without that the Dodgers would have had a 1-0 lead and the game would have ended in nine. Not to be.

To show you this was the 1960's, with two out in the top of the tenth and the game scoreless, Pirate manager Danny Murtaugh let Cardwell, the pitcher, bat. He struck out. The Dodgers would have their chance in the bottom of the tenth.

The inning began harmlessly. Roseboro flied out to Clemente followed by Kennedy also hitting a line drive out to Clemente. Then came the ultimate mistake. With two out in the bottom of the 10th, Cardwell walked Koufax. The mortal sin in baseball is to walk the opposing pitcher. Koufax was not a great hitter and manager Walt Alston chose to let his ace bat. Wes Parker followed with another walk and Murtaugh did not take Cardwell (who would pitch a no-hitter in his career) out.

Jim Gilliam hit a line drive to Clemente in right. The Great Roberto charged in for what looked like a routine final out. The ball hit off his glove and bounced away for an error. Koufax, running on contact, scored easily despite a good throw to the plate. Dodgers win 1-0.

It was an amazing game, both pitchers throwing 10 innings and a lot of unusual things you will never see again, or even before that. It was a night to remember  and both men are now in the Hall of Fame. 

Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at, or on Amazon.

The Frank Robinson Trade

TRIVIA QUESTION: While Frank Robinson never hit 40 home runs for the Reds, Johnny Bench did. How many times did Bench reach the 40 homer mark? Answer in our next blog.

ANSWER TO THE LAST TRIVIA QUESTION: Juan Marichal completed 20 or more games as a starting pitcher for the SF Giants during five seasons. He finished his career with 244 complete games.
Frank Robinson was a force to be reckoned with from the first day he came up to the Major Leagues in 1956. Robinson concluded his first year with the Cincinnati Reds with an amazing stat line. In 152 games, he came up 572 times, banged out 38 homers, drove in 83 and hit a sweet .290. He also had an on base percentage of .379 and slugged .558. Not bad at all for a 20 year old Rookie. He also had 166 hits in those 152 games. Pretty amazing.

He also made the All-Star team and finished 7th in the MVP voting while being named Rookie of the Year with a unanimous 100 percent.  He continued to play outstanding defense and pound the ball toward near record numbers on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Over the next nine years he averaged well over 30 homers and hit above .300 while driving in 100 runs or more four times and 90+ twice more. So why at the end of the 1965 season did the Reds send Robinson to the Orioles for Jack Baldschun, Milt Pappas and Dick Simpson? Pappas was a good starting pitcher, Baldschun was a jouneyman pitcher who won 9 games the rest of his career, and Simpson was a career .207 hitter over seven seasons. 

The truth was the Reds needed pitching and Pappas was supposed to provide it. He sort of did for two seasons ending up 30-29. Up until the trade he had won consistently in double figures with the O's. In the eight previous seasons he won a total of 110 games which was pretty remarkable. After two seasons (he won 30 for the Reds into his third season) before he was sent to Atlanta where he failed before ending up with the Cubs where he found himself and twice won 17 games before calling it a career. After being acquired by Cincinnati he won 99 more games finishing with 209.

What might be hidden in all of this was Pappas had worked about 200 innings per season and it may have taken a toll on him by this time. Also his second season in Cincinnati was not spectacular. His ERA was well over 4.00 and approaching 5.00 which meant he was not pitching well, but his team was batting well behind him. 

Milt Pappas died in 2016.

It wasn't that Pappas was not good, it was that Robinson was GREAT. In his first year in Baltimore he won the Triple Crown, the MVP and led the O's to a World Series sweep of the Dodgers in 1966. With Robinson leading the way the Orioles formed a near dynasty for years to come.

Meanwhile the 1966 Reds finished 7th in the National League with a 79-81 record and next to last in attendance, firing their manager midway through the season. Fans who actually did go to Crosley Field to watch them play moaned every time Pappas took the mound, while watching Robinson's O's tear up the AL on the scoreboard.

Robinson's 1966 numbers were amazing. He hit 49 home runs (a career high), batted .316 and drove in 122 and scored another 122. He would finish his career with 586 homers and two MVP Awards.

The trade may have been due to several circumstances in the turbulent 60's when a player was tied to his team due to the Reserve Claus. Robinson was seen somewhat as a malcontent, had been arrested earlier in his career, was never treated by management as well as before that incident and he talked about quitting baseball in 1963. All those factors led him to ask for a trade and when it finally came it was the worst trade in club history.

And the rest as they say "is history."

You can pick up a copy of "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A child of the 60's" at and on Amazon.

Bob Brill

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A New Baseball Blog

TODAY"S TRIVIA QUESTION: How many times did the Giant's Juan Marichal complete at least 20 games in a season? Answer in the next blog. Please place your answers in the COMMENTS Section below. 

Yup, I've decided it was time to start writing a blog on one of my all-time favorite subjects just before the 2017 World Series. The NFL is in full swing, my Penguins have started their defense of another Stanley Cup and the Bucs are heading into the Winter Meetings to try to redefine their roster for the 2018 MLB season.

Another reason is I'm seriously thinking of writing a screenplay based on the above book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A child of the 60's." Not that I'm stuck in the 1960's (Good Lord forbid), but it was an interesting time in our history and in baseball it was MY era. It may take a while to develop the screenplay based on the fact I've so many other projects going right now.

I'm currently and heavily involved in a film/book project regarding Korean War Veterans, I'm getting ready to screen my latest short film ("The Girl From Sweden") and I am of course working at KNX 1070 News Radio here in Los Angeles. Not to mention other things I am involved with.

Remembering the 1960's when it comes to baseball really starts at the beginning when my hero, Bill Mazeroski, became the ultimate hated object of nearly every Yankee fan in history. His home run in the final inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series to Walk Off (they didn't call it a walk off then) and end the series gave Pittsburgh it's first WS Championship in 35 years.

The Bucs, the Dodgers and the Giants dominated the National League during those years and in the AL, it was the Yankees, Tigers and Orioles who led the way. By midway through the decade the Yanks started to fade and the O's with the Robinson boys and great starting pitching led by Jim Palmer, took over.

In the NL the Dodger run ended with the retirement of Sandy Koufax after the 1966 season. What a final year for the lefty with 27 wins and stats which would make a pitcher choke today. With the arrival of the 1968 season came the loss of hitting. The pitchers so dominated that year (Denny McLain won 31 games and Bob Gibson posted a 1.12 ERA) the following year they lowered the mound so hitters could get back some advantage. McLain still won 24 the following season and Gibson's ERA jumped to 2.18 while still winning 20. Those were the days when pitchers routinely threw at least 250 innings as a starter.

Either way, it was an era of tremendous change in baseball as it was in society and I hope this blog will prove to be fun for you. There will be a trivia question in each blog; no prizes, just take the moment to answer in the "Comments" section and please FOLLOW it as well. It really does help, especially in the marketing.

And if you want to purchase a copy of the book above, you can either go to my site, or you can find it on Amazon (Kindle or soft cover). I guarantee you a fun and most memorable read.

Bob Brill