Sep 29

Beautiful history … and Reyes.

It was stunning to see the Red Sox and Braves collapse over the past month, then finally crumble last night. We witnessed two of the great finishes in history, and the nature of it reminded us again of baseball’s magical power and hold on us.

It told us again a game and season are never over until the mathematics dictate it to be true. The winters will be long in Boston – which they are used to by now – and in Atlanta. Both teams seemed givens a month ago, only to turn around and give it away.

Maybe, there will be a new curse in Boston.

A pennant race is the best baseball has to offer, and heading into September there seemed no suspense, not much to make us curious. But, as it has for generations, the sport inexplicably grabbed us by the scruff of the neck and shook us awake.

It made us scramble in the morning to find the scores, to force us to take a peak at the television in bars and restaurants, to ask a stranger if he knew what happened. I was in a restaurant last night that was pro-Boston. It was raucous early in the evening, but a deathly Buckner-like quiet at closing time.

As ugly as it was in Boston and Atlanta, it was beautiful to see in St. Petersburg and St. Louis, and magical throughout the rest of the country. It was truly something historic and made us realize nothing should be taken for granted.

As I thought about the grand scale, I recalled  of how earlier in the day Jose Reyes took his place in baseball history for granted. He got his hit, a bunt hit, then decided to pack it in. He figured the odds were in his favor, Ryan Braun wouldn’t catch him and he’d have is own secure spot in history.

He figured right, but didn’t count on how he’d be remembered. For those of us who follow the Mets, he is the franchise’s first batting champion. But, he backed in. One of the great stories in baseball lore is how Ted Williams refused to sit on his average and insisted on playing both games of a doubleheader in 1941, went six-for-eight and finished at .406.

Williams’ .406 is one of baseball’s magical numbers and we’ll forever remember him. But, there’s nothing magical, or special, about Reyes or his .335. He’s somebody history will forget, and fittingly, take for granted.

The Mets finally have a batting champion, but he’s no champ.

Nov 04

Game 6: Where history is made.

Game 6 is more than a count of what has been played, more than a bookmark to the World Series. Game 6 has its own mystique. The most dramatic World Series usually go seven games, but it can’t get there without a Game 6.

Fisk's homer.

Fisk's homer.


One way or another, it ends after Game 7, which takes away part of the suspense. However, there’s a sense of urgency, of desperation, for the team behind entering Game 6.

It is why many of baseball’s most dramatic moments are born to that game. I’ve chosen five, with the criteria being I saw the game and it produced a seventh game.

One of baseball’s most enduring images, and perhaps its greatest game, came in the 1975 World Series on Carlton Fisk’s game-ending homer in the 12th inning as Boston beat Cincinnati, 7-6. Fisk’s homer was made possible by Bernie Carbo’s three-run, two-strike, pinch-hit game-tying homer in the eighth inning.

Fisk’s moment just delayed what Red Sox fans would call the inevitable, as Boston lost Game 7 at Fenway Park.

Buckner a picture of dejection.

Buckner a picture of dejection.


Another moment etched in time is the ball that got by by Bill Buckner in the 1986 World Series. Down to their last out, the Mets rallied for three runs to beat Boston, 6-5, with the game-winner coming on Mookie Wilson’s dribbler through Buckner’s legs.

The Mets went on to win Game 7, and overcame a three-run deficit to do it.

That game was made possible because the Mets prevailed against Houston over 16 innings in Game 6 of the NLCS. Keith Hernandez called it a crucial victory as it kept the Mets from facing Mike Scott, who beat them in Games 1 and 4.

This year’s playoffs have been marred by terrible umpiring, but one of the game’s most infamous calls came in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series that might have kept St. Louis from winning. Facing elimination and down 1-0 going into the ninth inning, umpire Don Denkinger ruled Kansas City’s Jorge Orta safe at first on a play in which he was clearly out.

The Royals went on to win that game, 2-1, then rout the Cardinals, 11-0, in Game 7.

The Call.

The Call.


In Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett’s 11th inning homer off Charlie Leibrandt kept the Twins alive, 4-3. They would win Game 7 on Jack Morris’ ten-inning shutout. single run, four games decided in the final at-bat and three games going into extra innings.

Often forgotten, perhaps because the game wasn’t decided on a game-ending hit, Anaheim rallied from five runs down in the seventh inning to beat San Francisco, 6-5. The Angels scored three in the seventh and three in the eighth to win, then won Game 7.

Another came in the 1971 World Series, when the Orioles, facing elimination, beat Pittsburgh, 3-2, in 10 innings on Brooks Robinson’s sacrifice fly.

I invite you to reflect on these moments and any other you might have about Game 6 in the World Series.

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.

Sep 17

This Day in Baseball History

Looking Back

Looking Back

When things are as bad as they have been with the Mets, one might as well look back at a good time. Last night’s loss was typical of how this season has gone, from poor managing to inept playing.

However, on this date in 1986, the Mets clinched the NL East with a 4-2 win over Chicago at Shea Stadium on a Dwight Gooden 6-hitter. The Mets went on to win 108 games that season, the most in the league since the 1975 Reds.

The Mets survived the NLCS with a dramatic Game Six victory over Houston, and used Game Six in the World Series to stay alive – “and the ball gets by Buckner” – to beat Boston.

Two years earlier on this date, Gooden struck out 16 batters for the second straight start, but balked home the winning run in the 8th inning in a 2-1 loss to the Phillies. It marked the fifth straight start in which Gooden struck out at least 10.

I saw Gooden pitch several times and there was such an electricity at Shea whenever he took the ball. Every start you wondered if this would be the one where he’d throw a no-hitter. He never did for the Mets, but did for the Yankees.

If you have a favorite Gooden moment, or memory of the 1986 team, let’s hear them.

Feb 11

Let it stand ….

SHEA: Honor its legacy.

SHEA: Honor its legacy.

There is one remaining wall of what was Shea Stadium that’s still standing. I know it won’t happen, because such decisions are never made on the fly, but I’d like to see it remain standing. It would make a great gesture to the past.

However, the Mets could still honor their Shea history by outlining a replica of the playing field in the parking lot and denote where some of the most memorable plays occurred with statues. Such of Seaver on the mound when he struck out 19 Padres, or Buckner, or the Swododa and Agee catches, of Cleon catching the final out of the 69 Series.

In Atlanta, the Braves have a replica of an outfield wall and mark where Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record, so it’s not like this hasn’t been done before.