Nov 01

Looking For Game 6 History

Whatever happens tonight, I won’t pull a Keith Hernandez and leave before the last out the way he did thirty years ago in Game 6 of the Mets-Red Sox World Series.

I’ll stay to the very end, hoping all the time the Cleveland Indians – the team I grew up rooting for watching on a black-and-white TV set or going to that drafty old barn of a stadium – will hold on to win their first World Series since 1948.

FISK: Historic moment. (FOX)

FISK: Historic moment. (FOX)

There will be unmistakable tension tonight in Cleveland emanating from both dugouts. If the Indians are losing, well, you can read the script running through their players’ minds: “Are we about to blow this?”

Of course, in the Cubs’ dugout, if they are losing and the stadium gets louder and louder, there will be the obvious thoughts of a 103-win season going down the toilet.

For a World Series to be a true classic, it has to go seven games. However, for there to be a Game 7 there has to be a Game 6 first and many of baseball’s greatest games have been a Game 6.

As much as I savor tight, tension-filled baseball, I’d be happy if the Indians did what Kansas City did in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series, which was to rout San Francisco, 10-0.

That night, the Royals were fighting to stay alive, but ran into the buzzsaw otherwise known as Madison Bumgarner, who came back from a Game 5, complete-game shutout to throw five scoreless innings in relief in Game 7.

There have been many memorable Game Sixes, but I’ve chosen five I’ve witnessed personally.

THE GREATEST GAME EVER: To me, this was the best game I’ve seen. I was going to college in Ohio in 1975 and watched the game in the student union. As the game moved into extra innings they kept the building open so we could watch. I was one of the few watching that pulled for the Red Sox in a room full of Reds’ fans.

This game had numerous electrifying moments and produced one of baseball’s most enduring images Carlton Fisk waiving his game-winning, home run ball fair in the 12th inning. That homer was made possible by Bernie Carbo’s three-run, two-strike, pinch-hit game-tying homer in the eighth inning.

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

THE CARDINALS STAY ALIVE: Pitch for pitch, this one compared to the Fisk game as the Cardinals were twice one strike away from elimination in 2011, but rallied to tie with a two-run ninth and two-run tenth to stun the Texas Rangers, 10-9, and force a Game 7, which they won.

The title iced a remarkable season in which the Cardinals overcame a 10 ½-game deficit to reach the playoffs. All too often when a team makes a dramatic run at the postseason, like the Bobby Thomson Giants in 1951 and the Bucky Dent Yankees of 1978, it is emotionally spent by the World Series.

Local boy, David Freese tied it with a two-run triple in the ninth and won it with a homer in the 11thinning.

The game-turned-heavyweight fight featured five ties and six lead changes, and nobody complained that it lasted 4 hours, 33 minutes. That’s one of the beauties of baseball. When it’s compelling and dramatic like these Game Sixes, the games can last indefinitely and will leave you wanting more.

Game 7 was a dud, with the Cardinals wrapping it up, 6-2, the next night.

HAVE ONE FOR KEITH: It will be part of Mets’ lore forever. The Mets steamrolled through the National League, winning 108 games, but their destiny seemed to be derailed when Dave Henderson homered to lead off the tenth and Marty Barrett added a RBI single later that inning.

The Red Sox took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the inning. The first two Mets, Wally Backman and Hernandez flied out. After getting back to the dugout, Hernandez retreated to manager Davey Johnson’s office where he popped open a beer to watch the Mets’ dreams slip away.

I was watching in my late father-in-law’s den. He was a Mets’ fan and we saw a game at Shea Stadium that summer. Speaking too soon, I told him, “well, it has been a great season for them.’’

But, Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight singled off reliever Calvin Schiraldi to pull the Mets a run closer. Bob Stanley threw a wild-pitch that allowed Mitchell to score.

By this time, we knew the outcome was inevitable. We just didn’t know it would happen in one of the most incredible endings in history when Mookie Wilson’s slow roller squirted through Bill Buckner’s legs for a 6-5 victory.

The Mets went on to win Game 7, 8-5. 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. Hernandez called it a crucial victory as it kept the Mets from facing Mike Scott, who beat them in Games 1 and 4.

MAYBE THE WORST CALL EVER:  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 routed the Cardinals, 11-0, in Game 7.

WE’LL SEE YOU TOMORROW:  That was Jack Buck’s great call after Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett homered in the 11th inning off Atlanta’s Charlie Leibrandt to keep the Series alive for the Twins with a 4-3 victory in the Metrodome.

Puckett’s drive set up Jack Morris’ ten-inning shutout, 1-0, in arguably, outside of Don Larsen’s perfect game, might have been the greatest Series game pitched.

HAIL, THE RALLY MONKEY: I saw this one live, covering the game in Anaheim. I loved the Angels’ rally monkey, which began with a famous movie clip where the monkey was interjected at the critical spot. My favorite was the Animal House screen where John Belushi was on the ladder and instead of the girl undressing you see the monkey.

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.

There as no suspense in Game 7, won 4-1 by the Angels with all the runs scored in the first three innings.

ORIOLES STAY ALIVE:  The Orioles were on the cusp of a championship when they returned home for Game 6 of the 1971 World Series. The Pirates started reliever Bob Moose, who took a 2-0 lead into the sixth. The Orioles chipped away to send the game into extra innings.

The Pirates loaded the bases in the tenth inning, but Dave McNally came out of the bullpen to snuff the threat, and Brooks Robinson won it, 3-2, with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning.

However, was Roberto Clemente’s World Series. He homered in Game 7 (he had two overall with four RBI while hitting .414 to be named MVP) as the Pirates won, 2-1.

This Series was noted for playing games at night for the first time and the game has never been the same since.

Apr 15

Don’t Give Credit For Mets’ Power Surge To Collins’ Rant

Let’s not go overboard giving Mets manager Terry Collins’ post-game outburst Wednesday credit for tonight’s power surge. We all expected the Mets would eventually hit. The Mets entered the game with only two homers, but clubbed four in beating the Cleveland Indians, 6-5, Friday night. They also had a season-high 14 hits.

CONFORTO: Homer gets it going for Mets. (AP)

CONFORTO: Homer gets it going for Mets. (AP)

Collins went off after the Mets’ victory over Miami, going after the supposed critics of his team’s effort, but I can’t recall anybody who criticized their effort. What has come under fire was their lack of hitting, but we all figured Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, Travis d’Arnaud and Lucas Duda would eventually hit.

It’s an oversimplification to think Collins’ rant is baseball’s version of “win one for the Gipper,’’ because most everybody liked this lineup entering the season.

Michael Conforto, Cespedes, Neil Walker and Alejandro De Aza all homered.

Collins said Wednesday’s game was something “we had to have,’’ which two days later is still odd considering it was just the eighth of the season.

Collins took liberties with Jim Henderson, who, coming off surgery, threw 34 pitches the night before. He also pushed it with Jeurys Familia, who despite being ill, pitched for a third straight game to get a five-out save. He also played David Wright in a day game after a night game, something he said before the season he didn’t want to do.

All smacked of panic. Regardless of GM Sandy Alderson backing Collins, the outcome of the season’s eighth game is not essential.

However, give Collins kudos for moving Conforto up to No. 3 in the order. All too often Collins makes a move that works, only to reverse the next game. Here’s hoping Collins stays with Conforto hitting third and playing De Aza, who homered and doubled.

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Apr 05

Happy Opening Day

I suppose you could ask for a nicer day, but that would be greedy. It’s bright and sunny, a crispness in the air. The forecast is for more of the same this afternoon at Citi Field.

There should be two rules in baseball: Opening Day has beautiful weather and the home team wins.

Opening Day, it is written, is about renewal, about fresh starts, about optimism. It’s also about going home to your roots.

Wherever you are, and whatever your team, you tend to remember the team of your youth on Opening Day. I live in Connecticut, but the team of my youth was the Cleveland Indians. I follow the Mets now, but when I do glance at the standings, my eyes drift to the AL Central and the Indians. The AL Central, of course, didn’t exist when I was a kid.

Yes, I know. When I was a kid there were only two leagues and fire had just been invented.

The Indians I grew up with were just an average team at best, much like they are today. And, much like the Mets, I suppose. There’s the occasional good year, but most mediocrity. Enough spring promise to keep you interested.

I know many of you will have your favorite Opening Day memories. Maybe it was a Tom Seaver start. Perhaps it was Gary Carter’s first as a Met. It will be emotional today when Carter is remembered, but today is the perfect day to remember him. Afterall, there should be a lot of people in the stands today.

My favorite Opening Day memory was April 7, 1970, with the Indians losing 8-2 to Baltimore. I have thought about it a lot recently because this is the first Opening Day without my dad, who passed away at Christmas.

I remember this one particularly because my dad took my brother and myself out of school so he could take us to the game. He told the school we would remember that day because of the game more than anything we would learn in school that day. He was right.

This is a Mets blog, for baseball fans in general and Mets’ fans specifically. I presume most of you have always been passionate about the Mets, even lately when the prospects have been glum.

Why?

What is it about a baseball team that attracts you to it? Was it a player? Was it a moment with your dad or mom? Was it because you grew up in that town? Most of us can recall when we first started following a team, even your first day seeing them live.

I would be interested to know how and why you started following the Mets, along with your Opening Day memories.

I have kept this blog going because I am passionate about baseball and I appreciate my readers. I hope you’ll stop by again this year, regardless of how the Mets are doing, to share your thoughts and insights.

As always, they, and you, are appreciated. Have a great year.

 

Oct 27

Off-the-field match-ups ….

While half the Internet world is looking for a photo of former Mets GM Steve Phillips, the other half is looking for photos of the wives and girlfriends of the Yankees and Phillies.

Mrs. Cole Hamels.

Mrs. Cole Hamels.


Such scouting reports, if you will, are all over the Internet with the obvious blessings of the players and teams. This one comes from COED Magazine.

One interesting moment in playoff history came when Yankee Fans – always a courteous and classy lot – taunted Cleveland Indians outfielder David Justice with chants of “Hall-ie Ber-ry, Hall-ie Ber-ry,” when after the couple separated.

One of the most humorous magazine pieces I’ve read was several years ago when a men’s magazine broke down Derek Jeter’s run production according to who he was dating at the time. Funny stuff, which no-doubt the future Hall of Fame shortstop wasn’t thrilled to see.