Oct 25

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Could Game #6 give us another classic?

The champagne was on ice. Baseball officials were setting up the congratulatory phone call from the President of the United States. A makeshift stage was set-up in the Boston clubhouse.

And, for a few seconds, the Shea Stadium scoreboard flashed the message, “Congratulations Red Sox On Your World Series Victory.’’

The Red Sox never tasted champagne that night because in the words of Mets catcher Gary Carter, in describing what happened and also the essence of his sport, said, “none of us wanted to make the last out.’’

``It gets through Buckner ... ''

``It gets through Buckner ... ''

Carter might not have meant it as such, but he acutely described the beauty of baseball seen in no other sport. Football and hockey have sudden death, but mostly their games have a foreseeable ending when clock winds down.

Not so in baseball, which only ends with a last out.

Game 7 is the glamour game, but there’s more a sense of urgency, of tension, of finality in Game 6. Tonight marks the 23rd anniversary of the night Mookie Wilson’s ground ball went through the legs of Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

Eleven years earlier, Carlton Fisk’s homer in arguably one of the greatest World Series games ever, prolonged the 1975 Series with Cincinnati. The Mets played that night because they survived a memorable Game 6 less than two weeks earlier at Houston.

Whom will the fates choose tonight’s Game 6 between the Yankees and Angels?

Unfairly, but that’s how sports sometimes can be, today’s game could define a career as that play did the careers of Buckner and Wilson, who’ll forever be linked in time in the manner of Ralph Branca and Bobby Thomson.

However, baseball history is rarely that precise and measurable. The Red Sox lost that night for several reasons, including Roger Clemens leaving the game with a blister and manager John McNamara mis-managing, Bob Stanley’s wild-pitch and Calvin Schiraldi’s bullpen meltdown.

Let us also not forget, that the 5-3 lead Boston kicked away in ten innings was their third blown lead of the game.

``Here comes Knight ... ''

``Here comes Knight ... ''


Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez flew out to open the inning, and as the story goes, the latter, not wanting to see the Red Sox celebrate, retreated to the manager’s office to watch the rest of the game on television.

“When you’re down two runs in the last inning against their ace reliever, it’s not the most comfortable feeling in the world,’’ Wilson said that night. “But you don’t give up. Two runs is not a great deficit to make up. How did we do it? Mirrors, maybe. Whatever, but we did it.’’

But Carter singled to left, and Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight followed with singles for one run. Enter Stanley, who promptly wild-pitched in the tying run.

Defeat for Boston was a formality, with Buckner’s slow roller only to delay the inevitable. Wilson still insists he would have beaten Buckner to the bag, and it was bearing down hard on the injured Red Sox first baseman, of whom it is often forgotten should have been removed for defense.

No, Buckner was not distracted by Wilson.

“I did concentrate on that ball,’’ Buckner said that night. “I saw the ball bounce and bounce, and then it didn’t bounce. It just skipped. It didn’t come up. I can’t remember any time I missed a ball like that, but I’ll remember that one.’’

So too, will history.

NOTE: This was posted early. I’d love for you to tell me what you remember from the Buckner game, the Houston Game 6, or anything on your mind. Then, keep it here for the Yankee game. Talk with you tonight.

Oct 18

No big names coming ….

The names are enticing with Matt Holliday and Roy Halladay, Jason Bay and John Lackey. Any, and all would make the Mets a better team in 2010. Except, I don’t believe any will be playing in Citi Field next summer in the home whites.

Bay appears to be staying in Boston and Holliday will be costly. The Mets don’t have the prospects package, nor the inclination to pay a package similar to the one they gave Johan Santana, to acquire Halladay. And, reportedly Lackey doesn’t want to play in New York.

More and more I believe the Mets are hoping their injured players return and the best they’ll get in a middle-tier free-agent pitcher to plug into their beleaguered rotation.

It is premature to say the Mets don’t have a plan, but there isn’t a lot of reason to be optimistic right now.

Oct 16

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Tale of two pitchers.

Two pitchers, one the Mets didn’t want and one they’d love to have, will be on display today in the second round of the playoffs.

Pedro Martinez, whom the Mets cut ties with in an effort to get younger and move toward the future, will start Game 2 of the NLCS for Philadelphia against the Dodgers. John Lackey, the pitching prize of the free-agent market, starts for the Angels at Yankee Stadium.

MARTINEZ: Get the ball while Mets stay home.

MARTINEZ: Get the ball while Mets stay home.


If Martinez wins, it will send Philly home with a 2-0 games lead. If Lackey wins, he will give the home field advantage to the Angels.

The Mets are watching at home for the third straight season.

After a series of injuries the past few years, the Mets decided they could live without Martinez, 37, will make his first playoff appearance in five years against the Dodgers, the team in broke in with in 1992. Martinez made nine starts with the Phillies, going 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA.

He told me last year he thought he could still pitch again, and proved it this year in a limited capacity. Weary of the injuries, and confident Mike Pelfrey would progress and they’d finally get something out of Oliver Perez, the Mets said good-bye to Martinez, who did not want to come back in a limited role or with a limited contract.

If he will be content with a No. 5 slot, he’ll get some attention this winter. No, the Mets won’t be one of the teams, but he could stay in Philadelphia.

Martinez likes the team and it will be good again next summer.

Martinez hasn’t pitched since Sept. 30, but manager Charlie Manuel isn’t concerned, saying, “I think he knows how to pitch.’’

Martinez’s last playoff appearance was in 2004 with Boston, and one of the story lines today will be facing former Red Sox teammate Manny Ramirez.

“Well, nobody can say I know how to pitch Manny.” Martinez said. “Manny is such a great hitter, and he’s someone that makes adjustments as he sees the game develop.”

The Angels are a team in a zone, having swept Boston in the Division Series. They’ll face CC Sabathia tonight at the Stadium.

LACKEY: On top of FA pitching list.

LACKEY: On top of FA pitching list.


The Angels know how to beat the Yankees, dispatching them from the playoffs twice since 2002. The teams split 10 games this year.

“I don’t know if you’re ever going to be able to measure yourself against an organization like the Yankees. It might take a century before you would get there,’’ Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “But I think our guys feel good at the way they go about their business, the way that they play the game hard, the way that they push the game.’’

But, it all begins with pitching, and tonight that is Lackey, who beat the Yankees in July when he gave up two runs in seven innings.

“I’m not going to get intimidated by anybody,” Lackey said.

Lackey is a bulldog type, he gives innings when he’s healthy, but he’s missed considerable time in each of the past two seasons. That will give the Mets pause as they were bitten all year by injuries. It would just be the franchise’s luck to sign him and have him go down.

Lackey leads a relatively thin free-agent market that includes Erik Bedard, Jon Garland, Andy Pettitte, Jose Contreras, Rich Harden, Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro and Randy Wolf.

There are some good names, but nobody outside of Lackey who could be called a No. 1.

Oct 12

On the market ….

With Boston and St. Louis making early exits in the playoffs, the focus is on the outfielders Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, and where they might land. Left field in Citi Field is a possibility, although not a seemingly strong one.

Yesterday, Bay acknowledged possibly playing elsewhere, but that seems to be more posturing than anything else. Bay loves Boston and the feeling is mutual and the two already had talks this season. I’m figuring he stays in Boston based on what has been written.

However, as much as the Cardinals would like to bring back Holliday, that might not happen because of the pending free-agency of Albert Pujols in two years. The Cardinals aren’t big spenders, but the Catch-22 is in order to retain Pujols they have to be serious about winning and protecting their big bat in the line-up.

Even so, I can see the Cardinals passing on Holliday because they could figure they could get somebody later. That’s how many of these teams think. In addition, the Cardinals’ first priority will be manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan.

Of the four names mentioned here, personally I like La Russa and Duncan on the Mets best, but I know that won’t happen. The odds are best with Holliday.

Oct 02

This Day in Baseball History …. Bucky Clears the Wall.

Yanks beat Sox in playoff game.

Yanks beat Sox in playoff game.

I knew exactly where I was on this day in 1978. I cut classes that day and was in my college apartment where I watched the Yankees complete their overtaking of the Boston Red Sox when Bucky Dent cleared the Green Monster in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park.

What a lot of people forget, is the Yankees not only erased a 14-game deficit, but actually moved ahead of Boston and it was the Red Sox who needed to come back to force the playoff. That only happened on the last day of the season when Cleveland’s Rick Waits beat New York at Yankee Stadium.

Dent’s homer came off Mike Torrez and Ron Guidry won his 25th game of the season. The game ends when Goose Gossage gets Carl Yastrzemski to pop out to third with two on.

Does anybody remember watching that game and what they were feeling that day?