Wednesday, October 22, 2014

First World Series walk off homer: 1949 Tommy Henrich off Don Newcombe.

From 1947 through 1964 at least one New York team played in every World Series (WS) except 1948 and 1959.  In 1948 the Cleveland Indians beat the Boston Braves four games to two; the Boston Red Sox finished one game behind Cleveland and the Yankees 2.5 back; The St. Louis Cardinals were 6.5 behind the Braves and the Brooklyn Dodgers 7.5 back.  It was unimaginable that by 1958 both the Dodgers and New York Giants would be playing in California.  In 1959 the Los Angeles Dodgers won the WS over the Chicago White Sox 4-2.

Tommy Henrich Baseball Digest
back cover, August 1949
 via Wikimedia Commons
The Yankees had beaten the Dodgers in the 1947 WS 4-3.  Jackie Robinson was rookie of the year and in game four Yankee pitcher  Bill Bevens had a no hitter with two outs in the 9th only to lose the game 3-2 on a two run pinch hit double by Cookie Lavagetto; Bevens had walked ten.  Robinson and shortstop Pee Wee Reese led the Dodgers with only 12 home runs (HR).  That would soon change with the coming of 40 HR teammates Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges and Duke Snider.

The first Yankee-Dodger WS was in 1941.  The Yankees led in games 2-1 but the Dodgers led game four 4-3 with two out in the ninth and no base runners.  Dodger pitcher Hugh Casey struck out Tommy Henrich, Old Reliable, but the ball got past catcher Mickey Owen for an error, not a passed ball back then, and Henrich streaked to first as the newsreel announcer described it.  Then:
- Joe DiMaggio singled Henrich to second
- Charlie Keller doubled to right driving in both Henrich and DiMaggio; Yanks led 5-4
- Bill Dickey walked
- Joe Gordon doubled to left driving in both Keller and Dickey; Yanks led 7-4
- Phil Rizzuto walked
- pitcher Johnny Murphy grounded out to SS Reese.

In the bottom of the ninth Murphy retired Reese, Dixie Walker and Pete Reiser in order.  Instead of the WS being tied 2-2, the Yankees led 3-1.  Game five:

Monday, October 6, 1941, , Ebbets Field
Attendance: 34,072, Time of Game: 2:13
Yankees 3, Dodgers 1

In the fifth with the Yankees leading 2-1 Henrich drove in the final WS run with a homer to deep right.  Both pitchers went all the way:
WP - Tiny Bonham
LP - Whit Wyatt.

In 1948 Joe DiMaggio led the AL in homers with 39, the second and last time he would be HR champ.  In 1950 he led the AL in slugging average.  Those were his final two big seasons.  He retired after the 1951 season.  In 1949 the 34 year old DiMaggio did not play his first game until June 28.  He climbed out of bed suddenly free of pain in his ankle joined the Yankees in Boston and played in the legendary three game sweep of the Red Sox in which he had four HR and nine RBI.  That dropped the Red Sox  into fifth place (35-31) 8 games behind the first place Yankees.  But the Red Sox were not dead yet and they went 61-27 while the Yankees were 53-33.  In fact Boston had a one game lead over the Yankees with a final two game series in New York.  The Yankees won both and the 1949 pennant.

In 1949 DiMaggio had OPS+ 178 but he played only 76 games and is not even listed as a regular.  Thirty-six year old Tommy Henrich played 115 games, starting almost as many at first base as in right field, and led the regulars with OPS+ 148 and 24 HR.  For the second year in a row he finished sixth in MVP voting.  Henrich helped the Yankees win another championship in 1950, his final season, even making the All Star team as a first baseman with OPS+ 136 despite playing only 73 games.  Henrich played in four WS and hit one HR in each: 1938, 1941, 1947, 1949.

The bold move by Dodger general manager Branch Rickey in making Jackie Robinson the first black player in modern times in 1947 was followed in 1948 with the Dodgers adding 26 year old future Hall of Fame catcher  Roy Campanella and in 1949 23 year old starting pitcher Don Newcombe (17-8, 3.17 ERA, 244 innings, ERA+ 130).  Newcombe would start game one of the 1949 WS against the Yankees.

1949 was the best season for Jackie Robinson: MVP, BA leader.  The Dodgers were poised to beat their tormentors of 1941 and 1947.  The Yankees seemed weak and old.  Game one:

Wednesday, October 5, 1949, Yankee Stadium I
Attendance: 66,224, Time of Game: 2:24
Yankees 1, Dodgers 0
WP Allie Reynolds
LP Don Newcombe
HR: T Henrich (1, off D Newcombe, 9th inn, 0 on, 0 outs to Deep RF)

Both starting pitchers went all the way but Newcombe was credited with only eight innings because Henrich led off the bottom of the ninth with the first World Series walk off homer.  Newcombe struck out eleven.

The Dodgers came back next day and 32 year old southpaw Preacher Roe shut out the Yankees 1-0, beating Vic Raschi who was relived by Joe Page in the ninth.  Roe: December 8, 1947: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates with Billy Cox and Gene Mauch to the Brooklyn Dodgers for Hal Gregg, Vic Lombardi and Dixie Walker.  Roe's Dodger record: 93-37, 1,277 innings; 2-1 WS.   The epilogue of the movie 42 merely states that Dixie Walker was traded to Pittsburgh following Robinson's rookie season.  Billy Cox became the Dodgers starting third baseman.

But the Yankees swept all three games in Ebbets Field: 4-3, 6-4 (Eddie Lopat beat Newcombe), 10-6 and won the 1949 WS 4-1.

Don Newcombe went on to a Hall of Fame quality career except that it was too short, partly because Newcombe did not play in the next two Dodger pennant winning seasons of 1952 and 1953 because of military service.  Newcombe did pitch in the 1955 and 1956 WS.  The Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Yankees only once, in 1955.  Don Newcombe was 0-4 against the Yankees.  In 1956 Newcombe won  NL MVP and the first Cy Young award, which through 1966 was awarded to the best pitch in all of baseball, not one in each league.  Newcombe's final humiliation to the Yankees was in his final WS game, 1956 game seven:

Wednesday, October 10, 1956, Ebbets Field
Attendance: 33,782, Time of Game: 2:19
Yankees 9, Dodgers 0
WP Johnny Kucks complete game shutout
LP Don Newcombe 5 innings, 5 earned runs, 3 HR
HR: Yogi Berra 2 (3, 2 off D Newcombe, 1st inn, 1 on, 2 outs to Deep RF; 3rd inn, 1 on, 2 outs to Deep RF); E Howard (1, off D Newcombe, 4th inn, 0 on, 0 outs to Deep RF); B Skowron (1, off R Craig, 7th inn, 3 on, 0 outs to Deep LF)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New York is a basketball town.

While the Kansas City Royals have had six days for their collective mental state to turn into that of Rocky Balboa the night before his first title fight against Apollo Creed, there were three sporting events on TV Monday night:
- Monday Night Football
- Knicks exhibition basketball at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, Attendance: 19,812, Time of Game: 2:21
- Nets exhibition basketball at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Attendance: 12,271, Time of Game: 2:19

Remember the length of those basketball games when/if you watch game one of the Major Baseball League (MBL) finals tonight.  In the NFL game the Pittsburgh Steelers were dominating one of those newer teams, the Houston Texans, when I went to bed about 11:15.

New York had baseball three teams when I was very young:
- New York Yankees
- New York Giants
- Brooklyn Dodgers.

From 1958 through 1961 New York had only one team, the Yankees.  Then the Mets came into existence in 1962.  The Knicks were small time then, driven from the Garden by the circus to an armory if the Knicks happened to still be playing when Barnum & Bailey arrived as scheduled in the spring.  The New York Football Giants, as they were called to distinguish them from their more senior baseball counterparts, were the talk of the town.  The Giants won the NFL title in 1956 and lost in the title games in 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1963.  That was before the NFL playoff system started to evolve, so the Giants had to finish first in the Eastern Conference to reach all those title games.

The baseball Giants and Dodgers can trace their roots to the 1800s and the Yankees to 1903.  Modern baseball may have started in Brooklyn or New Jersey.  The New York metropolitan area was at least a midwife to baseball's birth.

linsanity (Jeremy Lin) at MSG February 15, 2012
by sukhchander, via Wikimedia Commons
The NBA Knicks didn't start until 1947 and have won only two lonely titles in 1970 and 1973.  For the upcoming season Knicks management brought back one of the fringe players of those championship teams to run the entire basketball operation: Phil Jackson who was head coach of more NBA championship teams than any other coach in history.

When I was a kid we played baseball, football, maybe some basketball.  Now here in Westchester county just north of the Bronx, baseball and softball fields lay barren through most of the summer.  Basketball courts get much more action.  In the five Burroughs there are basketball courts everywhere and they are used constantly.

Street versions of baseball are also largely abandoned.  Basketball is in the city's blood.  New York was once a baseball town.  Now it is a basketball town.  That's good for basketball and sad for baseball.  Kids just don't play it, not seriously.  Baseball is slow.  Street and backyard versions are filled with action but they have been forgotten.  Basketball by its nature has action and if you get into a pickup game you can get into the action.  If not, you can play alone and improve your shooting and dribbling, both of which are fun.  Baseball just isn't fun anymore.  You've got to play a game to get it in your blood.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Baseball records, especially for Home Runs, still dominate, even over TD passes.

Last night Peyton Manning set an NFL record for career touchdown (TD) passes thrown, passing Brett Favre.  If you had asked me while I was watching the New York Giants lose to the Dallas Cowboys earlier in the day who held that record I could not have told you.  I'm guessing that even with that news available this morning if you did a quick survey of Americans and asked about the season and career records for TD passes and home runs, that answers about home runs would be much more accurate.

I'm a pretty good NFL fan but I cannot tell you who holds the season and/or career records for TD scored, points, rushing yards.  I know that Jimmy Brown held the season rushing record until O.J. Simpson ran for 2,000 yards still in a 14 game schedule but that Brown continued to hold the career rushing record.  I think Walter Payton broke it and that Emmitt Smith broke Payton's record but I don't know who else might have passed Brown.  Most TD?  Jerry Rice?

Home Run records dominate even over other baseball records.  RBI: I think that Hank Aaron holds the career record and Hack Wilson the season record: 191 up from 190 due to research.  But I don't know Aaron's number.  Runs scored?  Probably Aaron career.  Season?  Beats me.

But homers?  Still without looking:
Barry Bonds (762, I think)
Hank Aaron 755
Babe Ruth 714
Willie Mays 660
Alex Rodriguez (654, I think)
Ken Griffey ...

Jim Tome and Sammy Sosa are over 600, too.  Then:
Mark McGwire 583
Harmon Killebrew 573?
Frank Robinson nnn?
Rafeal Palmero nnn?
Manny Ramirz nnn?
Mike Schmidt 548
Reggie Jackson nnn?
Mickey Mantle 536
Jimmie Foxx 535

That's enough.  I could do the same for season home runs: be 80-90% accurate.  But I cannot do it for other baseball records much less those for football or basketball. I know that Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a 1962 NBA game in Hershey, PA against the New York Knicks (Reggie Jackson claims to have attended) and that Chamberlain averaged 50 points and 50 minutes per game in that 1961-1962 season.  I'm pretty sure that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has the NBA career record for points scored, which Chamberlain held for many years.  That's about it on NBA records.

I believe this is why fans are so emotional about the use of performance enhancing drugs (PED) by baseball players but don't really care that much about their use by football and basketball players.  And in baseball the concern is almost exclusive to home runs.  By far my most viewed post:

Nolan Ryan: more on possible steroid use.  Tuesday, August 31, 2010

OK, some answers about records mentioned above:

Runs scored in a season after 1901:
Ruth 177 in 1921
Gehrig 167 in 1936
Gehrig 163 in 1931
Ruth 163 in 1928

1.Kareem Abdul-Jabbar*38387
2.Karl Malone*36928
3.Michael Jordan*32292
4.Kobe Bryant31700
5.Wilt Chamberlain*31419
6.Shaquille O'Neal28596
7.Moses Malone*27409
8.Elvin Hayes*27313
9.Hakeem Olajuwon*26946
10.Dirk Nowitzki26786