Monday, October 5, 2015

Deserve's Got Everything to Do With It -- 2015 MLB Edition

"I don't deserve this!" -- Gene Hackman
"Deserve's got nothin' to do with it!" -- Clint Eastwood
-- Unforgiven

When I put my Yankee bias aside and make suggestions as to who's worthy of winning the World Series, deserve's got everything to do with it.

The last 10 teams are listed in ascending order of worthiness.

10. St. Louis Cardinals, National League Central Division Champions.

Pro: Along with the San Francisco Giants (who didn't make the Playoffs this season -- after all, it's an odd-numbered year), they currently represent excellence in baseball, "doing things the right way." Their success has been clean. Nice ballpark. And St. Louis is a great baseball city.

Con: Yes, yes, we know: St. Louis is a great baseball city, will you stop telling us, already? Honestly, the Cards have reached the point that people got to with the Red Sox in 2013, the Yankees in 2002, the Atlanta Braves in 1996: People are now sick of them. They last won the Pennant just 2 years ago, the World Series just 4 years ago. They don't need another. Fans are mostly Tea Partiers, on top of their annoying parochialism.

9. Texas Rangers, American League Western Division Champions.

Pro: Showed character by coming back from a horrible season last year to win their Division, despite being pushed by Houston and Anaheim. Have never won a World Series in 44 years of trying.

Con: They did win back-to-back Pennants relatively recently, in 2010 and 2011, and were lousy in the World Series the 1st time, and in the 2nd, they actually found a way to choke worse than the 1986 Red Sox did. They also choked away a big Division lead in 2012. Not worthy. Possibly the lamest and least homey of the retro ballparks. Besides, it's Texas. It's Dallas. Tea Partiers. Plus, guilt by association with the Dallas Cowboys. To Hell with them.

8. Kansas City Royals, American League Central Division Champions.

Pro: Led their Division virtually wire-to-wire. Showed their excellence by winning their Division by the largest margin in the major leagues this season. Came within 1 run of a title last year. Haven't won the World Series in 30 years -- their city's last sports title, unless you count MLS' Sporting Kansas City, which just won its 3rd U.S. Open Cup in 12 years and has won 2 MLS Cups, most recently in 2013. Decent ballpark, which tore up the artificial turf years ago.

Con: I still think of their nasty, dirty-playing teams of the late 1970s, including George Brett and Hal McRae. And they did just play in the World Series last year. Also, most of their fans are Tea Partiers from Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska.

7. New York Yankees, American League Wild Card entry.

Pro: Showed some character in making the Playoffs when hardly anybody thought they would at the start of the season, and when many people gave them up for dead when they blew a big Division lead in July. Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia deserve a last hurrah, and some interesting young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino have already earned this shot. The critics of the new Stadium can shut up: It's great, if ridiculously expensive. Liberal City in a liberal State.

Con: The Yankee game experience is too expensive. Fans have earned some arrogance, but not that much. Last made the Playoffs only 3 years ago, last won a Pennant and a World Series only 6 years ago. No, Yankee Fans, that is not an eternity. Ask Met fans. Ask Blue Jay fans. Ask Royal fans. Ask Pirate fans. Ask Ranger fans. Ask Astro fans. Heck, ask Dodger fans. Better yet, ask Cub fans.

6. Los Angeles Dodgers, National League Western Division Champions.

Pro: They've done very well for themselves lately. They're exciting. Magic Johnson is a classy owner. Dodger Stadium is now the 3rd-oldest stadium in baseball, and feels historic without seeming old. Haven't won a Pennant or a World Series in 27 years. Manager Don Mattingly deserves a Pennant after 33 years of being in Major League Baseball. Liberal city in a liberal State.

Con: How long do I have to hold the O'Malley Treason against them? Until they move back to Brooklyn. Plus, they're still Dodger fans: They show up late, they leave early, and they can't get energized unless they're playing their arch-rivals, the San Francisco Giants.

5. New York Mets, National League Eastern Division Champions.

Yes, if I put my bias aside, I have to admit, they deserve it more than the Yankees do. They do -- their fans don't.

Pro: Got off the deck, made the necessary trading-deadline acquisitions, and surged from mediocrity to 1st place in a span of under a month, and, when challenged for that Division lead, held it. Have really energized a dormant fan base. Haven't made the Playoffs in 9 years, won a Pennant in 15 years, or won the World Series in 29 years. Most of the players are likable. David Wright deserves a title. Good ballpark. Liberal City in a liberal State.

Con: Lots of injuries, although that's not really a question of whether they deserve it. What is, is Matt Harvey's apparent consideration of his professional future over the chance to win now and become a New York Sports Legend. Actually, the worst thing I can say about these Mets is that their fans are obnoxious little twits who have all of the arrogance of New Yorkers, but have earned next to none of it, unlike Yankee Fans.

4. Houston Astros, American League Wild Card entry.

Pro: Have bounced back from 3 horrible season and a mediocre one last year to become one of the best teams in baseball. Have been rather humble with their newfound excellence. Have never won a World Series in 54 years of trying. And they're no longer playing on artificial turf and in hideous uniforms, and they now play in a stadium where the roof can open up and play under God's sky, which has to count for something. Plus, Houstonians hate Dallas, which also has to count for something. By Texas standards, it's a liberal city.

Con: It's still Texas. And they did just win a Pennant 10 years ago, more recently than some other teams on this list.

3. Toronto Blue Jays, American League Eastern Division Champions.

Pro: First time in the postseason in 23 years. Showed a lot of character in overcoming a big deficit to win the Division. Don't act like they're superior to anyone else. Liberal city in a liberal Province in a liberal country.

Con: Have won 2 World Series, in 1992 and 1993, more recently than some of these other teams. Awful stadium. Fans are annoying.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates, National League Wild Card entry.

Pro: Have now reached the Playoffs 3 seasons in a row, after not making it at all for 21 years. Great city, a liberal city. Great ballpark. Haven't won a Pennant or a World Series in 36 years. It's time.

Con: Not much, although their failure to reach a League Championship Series suggests maybe they're not quite good enough. The worst thing I can say about their fans is that some of them support Penn State. Second-worst? They love Sidney Crosby.

1. Chicago Cubs, National League Wild Card entry.

Pro: If I put aside my New York (and, to a lesser extent, Philadelphia) bias, Chicago is America's best city. Cub fans have waited so long: 70 years for a Pennant, 107 years for a World Series win. Wrigley Field. Plus, if they couldn't do it while Ernie Banks was alive, the least they can do is let them get to a World Series that would be dedicated in his memory. Finally, we'll never have to hear about that stupid Curse of the Billy Goat again.

Con: Michael Wilbon of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption would never let us hear the end of it. Too many Back to the Future Part II references if they do it here in 2015. Plus, George Will would be happy, and I don't think the world knows how to handle a happy George Will.

Therefore, if the Yankees can't do it...


How to Be a Devils Fan In Washington -- 2015-16 Edition

This Saturday night, the New Jersey Devils visit the Washington Capitals. Once again, it'll be that classic matchup of the Caps' Alexander Ovechkin vs. the Devils' Martin Bro--

Oh, that's right...

Before You Go. D.C. can get really hot in summer, but this will be early October, so that won't be an issue. For this coming Saturday, The Washington Post is predicting high 60s for the afternoon, and mid-50s for the evening. They do mention a 20 percent chance of rain, so while you don't have to worry about the game being postponed due to weather, you might want to bring an umbrella in case you're staying for more than just the game.

Washington is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to fiddle with your clocks, digital or otherwise.

Tickets. The Capitals averaged 19,099 fans per game last season, over a sellout. As long as Ovechkin is playing for them, they're going to sell well. So getting tickets could be a problem.

This being the Nation's Capital, you can expect ticket prices to be as high as the Washington Monument. Lower bowl (Sections 1-22) seats between the goals will set you back $234. That's right: The 1st digit is a two. Behind the goals, they're $143. In the 2nd level (100 sections), it's $120 between the goals and $64 behind them. In the top deck (200 sections), they're $64.

Getting There. Getting to Washington is fairly easy. If you have a car, I recommend using it, and getting a hotel either downtown or inside the Capital Beltway, because driving in Washington is roughly (good choice of words there) as bad as driving in New York.

It’s 216 miles by road from the Prudential Center in downtown Newark to the Verizon Center in downtown Washington. If you’re not “doing the city,” but just going to the game, take the New Jersey Turnpike all the way down to the Delaware Memorial Bridge (a.k.a. the Twin Span), across the Delaware River into the State of, well, Delaware. This should take about 2 hours, not counting a rest stop.

Speaking of which, the temptation to take an alternate route (such as Exit 7A to I-195 to I-295 to the Ben Franklin Bridge) or a side trip (Exit 4, eventually leading to the Ben Franklin Bridge) to get into Pennsylvania and stop off at Pat’s Steaks in South Philly can be strong. But if you want to get from New York to Washington with making only 1 rest stop, you’re better off using the Delaware House Service Area in Christiana, between Exits 3 and 1 on the Delaware Turnpike. It’s almost exactly the halfway point between New York and Washington.

Once you get over the Twin Span – the New Jersey-bound span opened in 1951, the Delaware-bound one was added in 1968 – follow the signs carefully, as you’ll be faced with multiple ramp signs for Interstates 95, 295 and 495, as well as for US Routes 13 and 40 and State Route 9. You want I-95 South, and its signs will say “Delaware Turnpike” and “Baltimore.” You’ll pay tolls at both its eastern and western ends, and unless there’s a traffic jam, you should only be in Delaware for a maximum of 15 minutes before hitting the Maryland State Line.

At said State Line, I-95 changes from the Delaware Turnpike to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, and you’ll be on it for about an hour (unless you want to make another rest stop, either the Chesapeake House or the Maryland House) and passing through Baltimore, before seeing signs for I-895 and the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, Exit 62.

From here, you’ll pass through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. Take I-895 to Exit 4, and you’ll be on Maryland Route 295 South, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. BWP exits are not numbered, but, in this case, that doesn't matter, because you're going to take it all the way to the end, with the exit indicating U.S. Route 50 West, which will also be New York Avenue NE. When you get to 6th Street NW, which is part of U.S. Route 1, turn left. The Verizon Center is between 6th and 7th Streets, and between F and G Streets. The official address is 601 F Street NW.

If all goes well -- getting out of New York City and into downtown Baltimore okay, reasonable traffic, just the one rest stop, no trouble with your car -- the whole trip should take about 4 hours.

Washington is too close to fly, just as flying from New York (from JFK, LaGuardia or Newark) to Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore, once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, doesn’t really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train.

The train is a very good option, if you can afford it. Washington’s Union Station is at 50 Massachusetts Avenue NE, within sight of the Capitol Building. But Amtrak is expensive. They figure, "You hate to fly, you don't want to deal with airports, and Greyhound sucks, so we can charge whatever we want." Newark to Washington will run you $214 round-trip on a standard Northeast Regional, $320 on an Acela Express, formerly named the Metroliner. That’s before you add anything like Business Class or, God forbid, Amtrak’s overmicrowaved food. Still, it’s less than 3 hours if you take the Acela Express, and 3 hours and 40 minutes if you take a regular Northeast Corridor train.
Word of warning: The Devs-Caps game starts at 7:00, so it will end at around 9:20 or 9:30. The last train of the night back to Newark leaves Union Station at 10:10 PM (arriving at Newark Penn at 1:32 AM), so you'll have a little over half an hour to get from the arena to the station. This is possible by Metro or taxi, but it doesn't leave much margin for error -- especially if the game goes to overtime or, with the Devils' luck, a shootout. If you can afford an overnight stay at a hotel (and D.C. hotels are expensive, a bit cheaper in the nearby suburbs), you should get one, and leave on Sunday instead.

Greyhound has rectified a longtime problem. They now use the parking deck behind Union Station as their Washington terminal, instead of the one they built 6 blocks away (and thus 6 blocks from the nearest Metro station), in the ghetto, back in the late 1960s. So neither safety nor aesthetics will be an issue any longer. Round-trip fare on Greyhound from Port Authority in New York to Union Station in Washington can be as high as $80, but you can get it for as little as $46 on advanced purchase. It takes about 4 1/2 hours, and usually includes a rest stop about halfway, either on the New Jersey Turnpike in South Jersey or on the Delaware Turnpike.

Again, the game will end around 9:30 PM. If you took Amtrak down, the last train of the night leaves Union Station at 10:10 PM. There's a 10:00 PM Greyhound back to Port Authority, but it doesn't get in until 2:20 AM; and an 11:15 that arrives at 4:15 AM. Have you ever been in Port Authority before sunrise? I have, and it's pretty depressing. Better to stay over, if you can afford it.

Once In the City. Founded in 1800, and usually referred to as "The National City" in its early days, and "Washington City" in the 19th Century, the city was named, of course, for George Washington, although its "Georgetown" neighborhood was named for his predecessor as our commander-in-chief, King George III of England.

The name of its "state," the District of Columbia, comes from Columbia, a historical and poetic name used for America, which was accepted as the nation's female personification until the early 20th Century (as opposed to its male personification, Uncle Sam), when the Statue of Liberty began to take its place in the public consciousness. "Columbia" was derived from the man who "discovered America," Christopher Columbus, and places throughout the Western Hemisphere -- from the capitals of Ohio and South Carolina to the river that separates Washington State from Oregon, from the Ivy League university in Manhattan to the South American nation that produces coffee and cocaine, are named for him, albeit with different spellings.

Like a lot of cities, Washington suffered from "white flight," so that, while the population within the city limits has seriously shrunk, from 800,000 in 1950 to 650,000 today; the metro area went from 2.9 million to double that, 5.7 million. As a result, the roads leading into the District, and the one going around it, the Capital Beltway, Interstate 495, are rammed with cars. Finally, someone wised up and said, "Let's build a subway," and in 1976, the Metro opened.

That metropolitan growth was boosted by the Maryland and Virginia suburbs building housing and shopping areas for federal-government workers. And, perhaps more than any other metro area, the poor blacks who once lived in the city have reached the middle class and built their own communities (especially to the east, in Maryland's Prince Georges County, which includes Landover). The metro area now has nearly 6 million residents -- and that's not including the metro area of nearby Baltimore, which would boost it to nearly 8.5 million and make it the 4th-largest "market" in the country, behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, slightly ahead of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Lots of people from the District and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs went up the Parkway to Baltimore to see the Orioles during the District's 1972-2004 baseball interregnum. However, during the NFL interregnum between Robert Irsay's theft of the Colts in 1984 and the arrival of the Ravens in 1996, Baltimore never accepted the Redskins as their team, despite 2 Super Bowl wins in that period.

Before you get to Union Station, read the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun online -- or, if you want to go old-school, buy paper copies of them at the Station. The Post is a great paper with a very good sports section, and in just 6 seasons (now into a 7th) has covered the Nats very well, despite the 1972-2004 era when D.C. had no MLB team of its own. As a holdover from that era, it still covers the Orioles well. The Sun is only an okay paper, but its sports section is nearly as good as the Post's, and their coverage of their town's hometown baseball team rivals that of any paper in the country -- including the great coverage that The New York Times and Daily News give to the Yankees and Mets.

Do not buy The Washington Times. It was founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in 1982 as a replacement for the bankrupt Washington Star as the area’s conservative equivalent to the “liberal” Post. (That’s a laugh: The Post has George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Gerson and Kathleen Parker as columnists!)

Under editor-in-chief Wesley Pruden, the Times was viciously right-wing, “reporting” every rumor about Democrats as if they were established, proven fact, and giving Republicans a free pass. Moon’s “Unification Church” sold the paper in 2009, and Pruden retired the year before. But it has cut about 40 percent of its employees, and has dropped not only its Sunday edition but also its sports section.

And now, there’s another paper, the Washington Examiner, owned by the same company as the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, and it is so far to the right it makes The Washington Times look like the Daily Kos. It is a truly loony publication, where Michael Barone of the American Enterprise Institute and Byron York of National Review are considered moderates.

So avoid the loonies and the Moonies, and stick with the Post. Even if you don’t agree with my politics, you’re going down to D.C. for hockey, and the Post’s sports section kicks ass.

The sales tax in the District, once as high as 9 percent, is now just 6 percent.

The centerpoint for street addresses is the Capitol Building. North and South Capitol Streets separate east from west, and East Capitol Street and the National Mall separate north from south. The city is divided into quadrants: Northwest, Northeast, Southeast and Southwest (NW, NE, SE and SW). Because of the Capitol's location is not in the exact geographic centerpoint of the city, NW has about as much territory as the other 3 quadrants put together.

Remember: On street signs, 1st Street is written out as "FIRST," and I Street is written out as "EYE," in order to avoid confusion. And for the same reason, since I and J were virtually indistinguishable in written script when D.C. was founded in 1800, there is no J Street. Once the letters get to W, there is no X, Y or Z Street. Instead, they go to to 2- and then 3-syllable words beginning with the sequential letters: Adams, Bryant, Clifton, etc.

Going In. Washington’s subway, the Metro, was not in place until 1976, but, thereafter, it was a relatively easy ride to Redskins games at RFK Stadium. But the move to the Beltway made this a lot harder.

From Union Station (having taken either the train or the bus in) to the arena, it couldn't be any easier: You'll get on the Red Line, and it's 2 stops to Gallery Place-Chinatown, taking all of 5 minutes between the stops. (How long you'll have to wait on the platform to get on the train is another matter. If the outbound trip were during rush hour, it would cost you $2.15. Since it's not (Saturday), each way will be $1.75.
The Verizon Center is at 601 F Street NW, on the edge of Washington's Downtown and its Chinatown, so it's got marquees in both English and Chinese. It's surrounded by a lot of kitsch, with several chain restaurants and faux-Irish pubs. Some people like that sort of thing. Whether you do is up to you, although this will come into play when I get to "After the Game."

Of course, all this means a lot of traffic, so, as I said, you should get a hotel and leave your car in their parking deck. If you're just going down I-95 for the game and coming back up, parking will run you around $20.
The rink is laid out east-to-west. The Capitals attack toward the east end.
Caps losing to the Rangers 5-0.
Sorry, I chose the picture for quality, not score.

Food. Food at D.C. sports venues runs from the very good at Nationals Park to the very bad at RFK Stadium. Having been to the Verizon Center for a Devils-Capitals game, I can tell you it's more good than bad.

Hard Times Café has 2 outlets in the arena, featuring chili dogs, nachos and wings, on the concourse behind Sections 112 and 119. "my Oh!" offers gluten-free food at Section 108. There's Dunkin Donuts (good), Papa John's Pizza (bad), Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille, Budweiser Brew House, and Draft Ops Fantasy Lounge.

Other than that, presume the usual sports stadium/arena fare: Hot dogs, burgers, pizza, fries, fries, more fries, ice cream (sometimes in the form of Dippin' Dots or whatever they call 'em down there), and maybe some more fries.

Team History Displays. The 2014-15 season marked the Caps' 40th Anniversary, so they do have some history now -- not a great history, but some. While the Wizards and Mystics hang their banners on the north and west sides of the arena, the Caps hang their title banners on the south side. These include those for the 1998 Eastern Conference title, the 2010 President's Trophy (best record in the regular season), a title in the old Patrick Division in 1989, and in the Southeast Division in 2000, '01, '08, '09, '10, '11 and '13.

They have 4 retired numbers, whose banners are hung on the east side, in numerical order: 5, Rod Langway, defenseman, 1982-93; 7, Yvon Labre, defenseman, 1974-81; 11, Mike Gartner, right wing, 1979-89; and 32, Dale Hunter, center, 1987-99. Yes, they retired the number of one of the great thugs of modern hockey history. (Even if you don't like the Islanders, what Hunter did to Pierre Turgeon after that series-clinching goal in the 1993 Patrick Division Final was inexcusable.)
There are 8 Caps players who have been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Gartner and Langway are 2 of them. Another should be very familiar to Devils fans: Scott Stevens, defenseman, 1982-90. Oddly, despite his status as one of the best defenders in hockey history, and the Devils having retired the Number 4 for him, the Caps have not retired the Number 3 that Scottso wore in Landover. Nor have they retired the Number 22 of Dino Ciccarelli, right wing, 1989-92 -- although that's understandable, since he was only there for 3 seasons. They haven't retired the Number 8 of Larry Murphy, defenseman, 1983-89; or the Number 77 of Adam Oates, center, 1997-2002. (Oates had worn Number 12 in Detroit, St. Louis and Boston, but Peter Bondra was wearing it in Washington, so he switched to 77 in honor of his Boston teammate Ray Bourque, and kept wearing it in Phildelphia, Anaheim and Edmonton.)

This year, Phil Housley and Sergei Fedorov were also elected to the Hall of Fame, but Housley was with them for only 2 seasons (1996-98), Fedorov for 1 (2008-09), so they aren't really "Capitals Hall-of-Famers."

As part of their 40th Anniversary, the team had a fan balloting for the 40 Greatest Caps Players. They are:

* Goaltenders: Al Jensen, Don Beaupre, Jim Carey (naturally, nicknamed "The Mask") and Olaf Kolzig ("Olie the Goalie"),

* Defensemen: Labre, Langway, Murphy, Stevens, Mark Tinordi, Rick Green, Kevin Hatcher, Al Iafrate, Sylvain Cote, Calle Johansson, Sergei Gonchar, Mike Green and Brendan Witt.

* Left Wings: Ovechkin, Steve Konowalchuk, Kelly Miller and Alexander Semin.

* Centers: Hunter, Oates, Doug Jarvis, Ryan Walter, Denis Maruk, Guy Charron, Mike Ridley, Michal Pavonka, Nicklas Backstrom, Bobby Carpenter (who played on the Devils' 1995 Cup winners), Joe Juneau and Jeff Halpern.

* Right Wings: Gartner, Ciccarelli, Bondra Bengt-Ake Gustafsson, Dave Christian (who played on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team), Craig Laughlin and Jaromir Jagr.

Stuff. The Verizon Center is a good, well-appointed, well-lit, comfortable, properly-located modern arena. But its website is crap. There's no indication there that there is a team store, let alone where it is. However, every sports venue has souvenir stands, where you can get anything with the team's logo on it. Either of them, or both of them.
The 40th Anniversary has not yet produced much in the way of official publications. Ted Starkey wrote Red Rising: The Washington Capitals Story, but that was 3 years ago. And it was 5 years ago that the NHL released Washington Capitals: 10 Greatest Games. It includes the 1987 series-clincher over the Philadelphia Flyers, the 1996 series-clincher over the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the 1998 Conference title-clincher over the Buffalo Sabres. After that, though, the games are all from 2005 onward, in the Ovechkin era. One criticism I see of this package in customer reviews is that the greatest game in Caps history was actually one they lost, the 1987 Playoff Game 7 against the Islanders, the 4-overtime game known as the Easter Epic.

During the Game. You do not need to fear wearing your Devils gear to the Verizon Center. The Caps' rivalries with Philly and Pittsburgh are must nastier than those they have with any of the 3 New York Tri-State Area teams. Despite D.C.'s reputation for crime, downtown is well-lit and well-policed. So if you don't start anything, chances are, you will be safe.

Because D.C. fans had to go up to Baltimore to get their big-league baseball fix from 1972 to 2004, there is one annoying trait from Oriole games that they brought back with them -- even at Nats games: The "O!" shout during the National Anthem, on, "O, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave... ?"

I hate that. What's more, traditionally, Washingtonians hate Baltimore. (Much more so than Baltimoreans hate Washington.) Why would you adopt one of their habits? At least they didn't adopt the Orioles' 7th Inning Stretch song, even though, for people coming into D.C. from Virginia, it would be a bit more appropriate: John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." That would have made much more sense than the "O!" shout. Their goal song is "The Wicker Man" by Iron Maiden.

The Capitals sometimes wear their original 1974-95 uniforms with the stars on the front. Their current uniforms are an update of those. You may also see the special jerseys they sold in connection with the 2015 NHL Winter Classic, in which they beat the Chicago Blackhawks on New Year's Day at Nationals Park. (Ah, but which of them won the Stanley Cup?) It's a darker shade of red than what's usual for them, fronted by a navy blue block W with CAPITALS in white block letters over it, topped by 3 white stars. Since the Caps only go back 40 years, this is not a "throwback," but a "fauxback," imagining what an old-time Caps jersey might have looked like. It's generated some backlash, but I like it. It reminds me of the Montreal Maroons, who, as you might guess, wore maroon sweaters with a white W on them.

Their mascot is an eagle named Slapshot. (No word on whether he's related to the Nationals' mascot, an eagle named Screech.) They have cheerleaders known as the Red Rockers, dressed in, you guessed it, black and old gold. (Kidding: They wear red.) And, as we do, they do Mites On Ice, youth hockey between periods.
Slapshot, the Caps' mascot since 1995.

After the Game. As I said, you should be safe walking around the arena and downtown D.C. If you’re looking for a postgame meal (or even just a pint), the nearby choices are many. A particular favorite of mine is Fado, an Irish-themed bar that shows international soccer games. It's a short walk away, at 808 7th Street NW.

The bar 51st State is a known hangout for Mets, Yankees, Giants, Knicks and Rangers fans. (No mention of the Jets, Nets, Islanders or Devils, though.) 2512 L St. NW at Pennsylvania Avenue. Metro: Blue or Orange to Foggy Bottom.

Sidelights. Washington's sports history is long, but not good. The Redskins haven't won a championship in 24 seasons; the Bullets/Wizards, 37 years; all of its baseball teams combined, 91 years; the Capitals, in 41 years, never have they ever. Indeed, no D.C. area team has even been to its sport's finals since the Caps made it, and even that was 17 years ago. But, if you have the time, these sites are worth checking:

* Site of Boundary Park and Griffith Stadium. There were 2 ballparks on this site, one built in 1892 and one in 1911, after the predecessor burned down – almost exactly the same story as New York’s Polo Grounds. The 2nd one, originally called League Park and National Park (no S on the end) before former pitching star Clark Griffith bought the team, was home to the old Senators from 1911 to 1960, and the new Senators only in 1961.

The Redskins played there from 1937 to 1960, and won the NFL Championship there in 1937 and 1942, although only the ’42 title game was played there. There was another NFL title game played there, in 1940, but the Redskins were beaten by the Chicago Bears – 73-0. (Nope, that’s not a typo: Seventy-three to nothing. Most points by one team in one game in NFL history, slightly ahead of the ‘Skins’ 72-49 victory over the Giants at RFK in 1966.)

While the Senators did win 3 Pennants (1924, '25 and '33) and the 1924 World Series while playing at Griffith, it was not a good home for them. The fences were too far back for almost anyone to homer there, and they hardly ever had the pitching, either (except for Walter Johnson). In 1953, Mickey Mantle hit a home run there that was measured at 565 feet – though it probably shouldn’t count as such, because witnesses said it glanced off the football scoreboard at the back of the left-field bleachers, which would still give the shot an impressive distance of about 460 feet.

The Negro Leagues’ Homestead Grays also played a lot of home games at Griffith, although they divided their "home games" between Washington and Pittsburgh. Think of the Grays as the original Harlem Globetrotters, who called themselves "Harlem" to identify themselves as a black team even though their original home base was Chicago (and later moved their offices to Los Angeles, and are now based in Phoenix).

By the time Clark Griffith died in 1955, passing the team to his son Calvin, the area around Griffith Stadium had become nearly all-black. While Clark, despite having grown up in segregated Missouri during the 19th Century, followed Branch Rickey's path and integrated his team sooner than most (in particular going for Cubans, white and black alike), Calvin was a bigot who wanted to move the team to mostly-white Minnesota. When the new stadium was built, it was too late to save the original team, and the “New Senators” were born.

Griffith Stadium was demolished in 1965, and Howard University Hospital is there now. 2041 Georgia Avenue NW at V Street. Green Line to Shaw-Howard University Station, 3 blocks up 7th Street, which becomes Georgia Avenue when you cross Florida Avenue.

* Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. Originally named District of Columbia Stadium (or “D.C. Stadium”), the Redskins played there from 1961 to 1996. The new Senators opened there in 1962, and President John F. Kennedy threw out the first ball at the stadium that would be renamed for his brother and Attorney General in 1969. (There was a JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, formerly Municipal Stadium, where the new arena, the Wells Fargo Center, now stands.)

The new Senators played at RFK Stadium until 1971, and at the last game, against the Yankees, the Senators were up 7-5 with one out to go, when angry fans stormed the field, and the game was forfeited to the Yankees. The ‘Skins moved to their new suburban stadium in 1997, after closing the '96 campaign without the Playoffs, but the final regular-season game was a thrashing of the hated Cowboys in front of over 100 Redskin greats.

The Nats played the 2005, ’06 and ’07 seasons at RFK. D.C. United have played there since Major League Soccer was founded in 1996, winning the league title, the MLS Cup, 4 times, including 3 of the first 4. (Only the Los Angeles Galaxy, with 5, can top that.) Previously, in the North American Soccer League, RFK was home to the Washington Diplomats, featuring Dutch legend Johan Cruyff. And the Beatles played there on their final tour, on August 15, 1966.

DC/RFK Stadium was the 1st U.S. stadium specifically designed to host both baseball and football, and anything else willing to pay the rent. But I forgive it. It was a great football stadium, and it’s not a bad soccer stadium, but for baseball, let’s just say Nationals Park is a huge improvement. And what is with that whacked-out roof?

No stadium has hosted more games of the U.S. national soccer team than RFK: 23, most recently a win over Peru this past September 4. (Next-closest is the Los Angeles Coliseum, with 20.) Their record there is 15 wins, 3 draws and 5 losses. So RFK is thus the closest America comes to having a "national stadium" like Wembley or the Azteca. I was there on June 2, 2013, the 100th Anniversary match for the U.S. Soccer Federation. It was a 4-3 win over a Germany team operating at half-power because their players from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund had so recently played the UEFA Champions League Final.

With the Nats and ‘Skins gone, United are the only team still playing there, and plans for a new stadium for them, near Nationals Park, are moving slowly, so it will still be possible to see a sporting event at RFK Stadium in the 2016 and 2017 MLS seasons, at least. 2400 East Capitol Street SE. Orange Line or Blue Line to Stadium-Armory. (The D.C. Armory, headquarters of the District of Columbia National Guard, is that big brown arena-like thing across the parking lot.)

* Nationals Park and new D.C. United stadium. The Nats' new home opened in 2008, at 1500 South Capitol Street at N Street. It's not flashy, but it looks nice. Ground has finally been broken for the new D.C. United stadium at Buzzard Point, on land bounded by R, 2nd, T & Half Streets SW, 3 blocks from Nationals Park. It is expected to open for the 2018 season.

Prince Georges County had a proposal for a new stadium near FedEx Field, and Baltimore offered to build one, leading New York Red Bulls fans to mock the club as "Baltimore United." But the Buzzard Point stadium is now going to happen.

* FedEx Field. At RFK, the Redskins had the smallest stadium but best home-field advantage in the NFL: Only 56,000 could fit inside, but the upper deck was fairly close, and the north stand, built on aluminum so it could retract for baseball, made for big noise when thousands of fans jumped up and down on it.

At their 1997-present home, originally named Jack Kent Cooke Stadium for the 'Skins' late owner, they have what was once the largest stadium in the NFL (the capacity has been reduced to 82,000 from a peak of 91,000), but maybe the worst home-field advantage. The stadium is too big, and the sound doesn't carry well. The move from a bad neighborhood in the District to out in the Maryland suburbs -- it's right across the Beltway from where the Capital Centre was -- means that no one is intimidated, the way they were at RFK. The Redskins made the Playoffs in 13 of their last 26 seasons at RFK; they've only made it in 4 of their 1st 18 at FedEx.

While several big European soccer teams have played there, and 4 matches of the 1999 Women's World Cup were played there, the U.S. men's team has only played 1 match there so far, a draw with Brazil on May 30, 2012. The Army-Navy Game was held there in 2011.

Already, there is talk that it might be replaced. Hopefully, the new stadium will be either in the District, or at least closer to public transportation. 1600 FedEx Way, Landover, Maryland. Blue Line to Morgan Blvd... and then a 20-minute walk north. Yeah, not the best option for someone without a car.

* Uline Arena/Washington Coliseum. This building, opened in 1941, was home to the District’s 1st NBA team, the Washington Capitols, from 1946 to 1951. (Note the different spelling.) They reached the 1949 NBA Finals, losing to the Minneapolis Lakers of George Mikan, and were the 1st pro team coached by Red Auerbach. Firing him was perhaps the dumbest coaching change in NBA history: By the time Red coached the Boston Celtics to their first NBA title in 1957, the Capitols had been out of business for 6 years.

The Capitols owner who fired Auerbach was the owner Mike Uline, who'd originally named it the Uline Arena. His nickname was Uncle Mike. As far as I know, that and a love of sports is the only thing we have in common.

The Coliseum was last used for sports in 1970 by the Washington Caps (not "Capitols," not "Capitals," just "Caps") of the ABA. It was the site of the first Beatles concert in the U.S. (aside from their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show 2 nights before), on February 11, 1964.

It still stands, and its interior and grounds are used as a parking lot, particularly for people using nearby Union Station. Unfortunately, it’s in a rotten neighborhood, and I wouldn’t recommend visiting at night. In fact, unless you’re a student of NBA history or a Beatlemaniac, I’d say don’t go at all. 1140 3rd Street NE, at M Street. Red Line to Union Station, and then it’s a bit of a walk.

* Capital Centre site. From 1973 to 1997, this was the home of the NBA’s Washington Bullets, who became the Wizards when they moved downtown. From 1974 to 1997, it was home to the Caps. The Bullets played in the 1975, ’78 and ’79 NBA Finals there, although they’ve only won in 1978 and clinched that at the Seattle Kingdome.

The Cap Centre was also the home for Georgetown University basketball, in its glory years of Coach John Thompson (father of the current coach, John Thompson III), Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Allen Iverson. Remember those 1980s battles with the St. John’s teams of Louie Carnesecca, Chris Mullin and Walter Berry?

Elvis Presley sang there on June 27, 1976 and on May 22 and 29, 1977. (He never gave a concert in the District.) It was demolished in 2002, and a shopping mall, The Boulevard at the Capital Centre, was built on the site. 1 Harry S Truman Drive, Landover, Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside the Capital Beltway. Blue Line to Largo Town Center station.

* The Smithsonian Institution. Includes the National Museum of American History, which contains several sports-themed items. 1400 Constitution Avenue NW. Blue or Orange Line to Federal Triangle. (You could, of course, take the same lines to Smithsonian Station, but Fed Triangle is actually a shorter walk.)

If you're into looking up "real" TV locations, the Jeffersonian Institute on Bones is almost certainly based on the Smithsonian. The real NCIS headquarters used to be a short walk from Nationals Park, on Sicard Street between Patterson and Paulding Streets. Whether civilians will be allowed on the Navy Yard grounds, I don't know; I've never tried it. I don't want to get stopped by a guard. I also don't want to get "Gibbs-slapped" -- and neither do you. However, while the Navy Yard is still home to the DC field office, they have since moved the main NCIS HQ to the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia, and that's a bit of a trek.

Of course, TV shows about Presidents, including The West Wing and Scandal, are based at the White House, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The best-known D.C.-based show that didn't directly deal with government officials was Murphy Brown. The FYI studio was said to be across the street from the bar Phil's, whose address was given as 1195 15th St. NW. Neither the bar nor the address actually exists, but if the address did, it would be at 15th & M Streets. This would put it right down the block from 1150 15th, the headquarters of The Washington Post.

The University of Maryland, inside the Beltway at College Park, can be accessed by the Green Line to College Park and then a shuttle bus. (I tried that for the 2009 Rutgers-Maryland game, and it works very well.) Byrd Stadium, built in 1950, is one of the nation’s best college football stadiums, but I wouldn’t recommend sitting in the upper deck if you’re afraid of heights: I think it’s higher than Shea’s was.

Across from the stadium is Cole Field House, where UMd played its basketball games from 1955 to 2002. The 1966 and 1970 NCAA Championship basketball games were played there, the 1966 one being significant because Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) played an all-black starting five against Kentucky’s all-white starters (including future Laker, Knick and Heat coach Pat Riley and Denver Nuggets star Dan Issel). Elvis sang there on September 27 and 28, 1974. The Terrapins won the National Championship in their final season at Cole, and moved to the adjacent Comcast Center thereafter.

Remember that Final Four run by George Mason University? They’re across the Potomac River in Fairfax, Virginia. Once known as the Patriot Center, their 10,000-seat arena was renamed EagleBank Arena when it was bought by Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which also owns and operates the Verizon Center. Orange Line to Virginia Square-GMU.

I also recommend visiting the capital’s museums, including the Smithsonian complex, whose most popular buildings are the National Archives, hosting the originals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; and the National Air and Space Museum, which includes the Wright Brothers’ Flyer, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, Chuck Yeager’s Glamorous Glennis (the 1st plane to break the sound barrier), and several space capsules including Apollo 11. The Smithsonian also has an annex at Dulles International Airport out in Virginia, including a Concorde, the space shuttle Discovery, and the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the 1st atomic bomb.

In spite of what some movies have suggested, you won't see a lot of tall buildings in the District.  The Washington Monument is 555 feet high, but, other than that, no building is allowed to be taller than the Capitol. Exceptions were made for two churches, the Washington National Cathedral and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the Old Post Office Pavilion was built before the "unwritten law" went into effect. In contrast, there are a few office buildings taller than most D.C. buildings across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, and in the neighboring Maryland cities of Silver Spring and New Carrollton.


Have fun in the Nation’s Capital. Here's hoping the Devils engage in some regulated Capital-ism.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

October 4, 1955: This IS Next Year!

October 4, 1955, 60 years ago today: For the 1st time, the Brooklyn Dodgers win a World Series. They had been 0-7 in the competition, 0-5 of that against the Yankees.

This time, Dem Bums dooed it, and against the Yanks, at Yankee Stadium, to boot.

After losing the World Series to Boston in 1916, to Cleveland in 1920, and to the Yankees in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953; blowing Playoffs for the National League Pennant to St. Louis in 1946 and to the New York Giants in 1951; and blowing Pennants on the last weekend of the season to St. Louis in 1942 and Philadelphia in 1950, the Dodgers had finally won their 1st undisputed World Championship in 55 years, since they finished the 1900 season as National League Champions, with no postseason series available.

But in 1955, it all seemed to come together. True, the Dodgers had traded away 2 of the beloved players who would later be known, in the title of the book that Roger Kahn wrote in remembrance of his days covering them for the New York Herald Tribune, as “The Boys of Summer”: Pitcher Elwyn “Preacher” Roe and 3rd baseman Billy Cox.

The team was in transition: Jackie Robinson was still a factor, but his replacements had arrived in Jim “Junior” Gilliam and Don Zimmer. Ralph Branca, the goat of the 1951 Playoff, had retired, but the Dodgers still had Don Newcombe and Carl Erskine, and they were joined by a hotshot lefty named Johnny Podres. The Dodgers won their first 13 games of the ’55 season, and finished 13 games ahead of the preseason favorites, the Milwaukee Braves.

But the Yankees took the first 2 games of the World Series, despite Robinson’s steal of home plate in Game 1. But the Dodgers took the next 3 at Ebbets Field. Then the Yankees tied it up. In fact, the home team won each of the first 6 home games. Bad news for the Dodgers, since Game 7 would be at Yankee Stadium. A team with the kind of luck they'd had didn't need no bad omens.

The Boys of Summer were getting old. The younger Dodgers didn’t quite seem ready. The team was in transition, and it did seem like it had been a seamless one; but for veterans like shortstop Pee Wee Reese, 1st baseman Gil Hodges, center fielder Duke Snider and catcher Roy Campanella — along with Robinson, all but Hodges are in the Hall of Fame, and he damn well should be — it seemed like it was now or never.

Podres was the choice of manager Walter Alston, having won Game 3. Yankee manager Casey Stengel, with ace Whitey Ford having pitched brilliantly in Game 6, had to go with Tommy Byrne, a lefty who was occasionally wild, but had come up big for Stengel in several big games.

The Dodgers scored a run in the 4th and another in the 6th, to take a 2-0 lead. But the Yankees got 2 men on in the bottom of the 6th. And Yogi Berra, as much a “Mr. October” as the Yankees have ever had, was coming up. Yogi had delighted in hitting Series homers off the Dodgers, and would again. To hell with the lefty-on-lefty matchup: Yogi had no fear. And, despite usually being a pull hitter, Yogi hooked the ball down the left-field line, into the corner.

Left field had long been a troublesome position for the Dodgers. Gene Hermanski. Cal Abrams. George “Shotgun” Shuba and Andy Pafko had played it well, but, for whatever reasons, none of them seemed to stick, although Shuba was still on the roster. (In fact, he became the last surviving Dodger from this game.) Now Zimmer was the usual left fielder, though he was a natural infielder.

But Alston had pinch-hit Gilliam for Zimmer, and put Gilliam in at 2nd, replacing the righty-throwing Zimmer in left with lefty-throwing Sandy Amoros, a Cuban whose English was halting but whose play, on this day, changed baseball history.

A righthanded fielder, like Zimmer, never could have caught this ball, no matter how fast he was. But Amoros was fast and lefthanded, and he stuck out his right hand and caught the ball. Then he wheeled it back to the infield. Reese relayed it to Hodges, and Gil McDougald was unable to get back to 1st base in time. Double play end of threat. Just 9 outs to go.

At the time, Doris Kearns was a 12-year-old girl living in Rockville Centre, Long Island, 18 miles east of Ebbets Field. Nearly 40 years later, interviewed for Ken Burns' Baseball miniseries, award-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin would cite Amoros’ robbery of Berra and the ensuing rally-killing double play as a sign that the Dodgers would win. “There’s always these omens in baseball,” she said. Translation: If the Dodgers could get Yogi out in a key situation, then that was it: The Yankees' luck had run out, and they would not threaten again.

Bottom of the 9th. Two out. Podres has pitched a stomach-churning game: Eight hits, but no runs. The last batter is Elston Howard. Six months earlier, Howard had become the 1st black man to play in a regular-season game for the Yankees, and was now the left fielder and Yogi’s backup at catcher. In 1959, they would switch positions, and Ellie would become one of the game’s best catchers. In 1955, he was a 26-year-old “rookie,” having played in the Negro Leagues for a while.

Howard grounded to short. It was so appropriate that it went to Harold Henry Reese, the Dodgers’ Captain and senior player. Pee Wee threw it to Gil Hodges, and Hodges, perhaps the best-fielding 1st baseman of his era, had to trap it on the ground to keep it from being an error and bringing the tying run to the plate. But he got it.

Ballgame over. World Series over. With Red Barber having been chased out of Brooklyn by team owner Walter O’Malley after the 1953 season, it was Vin Scully who got to make the announcement over the airwaves: “Ladies and gentlemen, the Brooklyn Dodgers are the World Champions of baseball.”

Simple, and correct, with no embellishments or histrionics. Not exactly how Mel Allen, Phil Rizzuto or John Sterling would have described it.

It had been 55 years — or 52 years if you count only from the first World Series forward. All the near-misses, all the heartbreak, all the taunts from fans of the Giants and the Yankees? Those things no longer mattered.

“Please don’t interrupt,” Shirley Povich wrote for the next day’s Washington Post, “because you haven’t heard this one before: The Brooklyn Dodgers are World Champions of baseball.” (Povich wrote for the Post from 1924, when Walter Johnson finally pitched them to the World Series, until his death in 1998. His son is the TV journalist Maury Povich.)

And they did it at Yankee Stadium, no less. They never clinched a World Championship at Ebbets Field — although the Yankees had, in ’41, ’49 and ’52, and would again in ’56. Not until ’63 would the Dodger franchise clinch a World Series win on their home field.

The party in Brooklyn was the biggest since V-J Day ended World War II 10 years earlier, and hasn't been matched since. Scully told the story for Ken Burns’ Baseball: “When we were riding through Manhattan, it was fall. Football was in the air. We came out the other end of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, and it was New Orleans chaos!”

No more “Wait ‘Til Next Year,” as the Brooklyn Eagle -- which had, sadly, gone out of business a few months too soon to report on the Dodgers' title -- had first blared in a headline after the 1941 Series. This was Next Year. So said the back page of the next day’s New York Daily News

The front page of the next day’s Daily News was even more demonstrative: “WHO’S A BUM!” Willard Mullin, who had drawn the “Dodger Bum” cartoon character, drew him again, a big nearly-toothless smile, for that front page, consisting only of that headline and that drawing.
It would remain the most famous New York headline ever, for 20 years, until the Daily News did "FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD" on October 30, 1975. The New York Post tried to top that with "HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR" on on April 15, 1983, but who's kidding who?

That was the front page. The back page had "THIS IS NEXT YEAR!"

Two personnel notes should be made. One is that Mickey Mantle was injured and unable to play in Game 7 for the Yankees. Does that mean the one and only World Series won by the Brooklyn Dodgers should have an asterisk? No: There’s no guarantee that Mickey would have made the difference, even though he had hit the Dodgers hard in the ’52 and ’53 Series, and would again in ’56. Although he was one of the true Mr. Octobers, he didn’t always have a good Series, and in fact went only 2-for-10 in the 3 Series games he did get into in ’55, even if one of those hits was a homer off Podres in Game 3.

The other personnel note is that Jackie Robinson was not put into the lineup in Game 7. The noblest character in the history of baseball was deemed unworthy of this moment by his manager. Alston was not a Jackie Robinson fan. Neither was owner O’Malley. But on the highlight film, you can see Number 42 running onto the field. After all he’d been through, at 36 he still had enough energy to be one of the first men into the celebratory pile, if not enough energy to persuade his manager to put him into the lineup. But can we really argue with the decision? After all, it worked.

There are still 5 living members of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers: Carl Erskine, Roger Craig, Ed Roebuck, and 2 lefthanded pitchers worth mentioning.

One was a chunky guy from outside Philadelphia who had starred for the Dodgers’ Triple-A farm team, the Montreal Royals, but his entire big-league career consisted of 4 games for Brooklyn in both the ’54 and ’55 seasons, then 18 more the next season for the Kansas City Athletics. Despite his pitching for that team, he never got on the Kansas City/Bronx shuttle. Maybe it was because, in '56, he got into a fight with Yankee 2nd baseman Billy Martin.

In the middle of the ’55 season, he was told by Dodger general manager Emil “Buzzie” Bavasi that he was being sent back down to Montreal. He objected. Bavasi said, “If not you, who should we send down?” The portly portsider said to send down the other lefty, because he had no control. Bavasi told him that the other lefty couldn’t be sent down, because he was a “bonus baby,” and under the rules of the time, he had to stay on the major league roster for 2 full seasons, no matter what — a rule designed to discourage teams from just throwing big (for the time) sums of money at prospects.

The bonus baby was a local boy, a Brooklyn kid who had made his major league debut that season, appearing in 12 games, nothing remarkable yet. He wanted to be an architect, and had so studied at the University of Cincinnati. He also preferred basketball to baseball.

The fat lefty insisted that he was a better pitcher than the bonus baby — and, 60 years later, he still insists that, at the time, he was better.

Eventually, the bonus baby would get his pitching straightened out, and become one of the very best men ever to mount a pitcher’s mound. His name was Sandy Koufax.

The hefty lefty? His name was Tommy Lasorda. In 1977, he and his former antagonist Billy were shaking hands in World Series pregame ceremonies, as fellow, mutually-admiring, Pennant-winning Italian-American managers.

Ironically, it was Lasorda’s Dodgers who went back to his old stomping grounds of Montreal and ended the one and only postseason run ever made by the Royals’ National League successors, the Expos.

There are 5 living members of the 1955 New York Yankees. Now that Yogi Berra has died, Bob Cerv is the last man alive who played in Game 7, on either side. Also on the roster were Ford, Don Larsen (still a year away from his moment in time), Irv Noren and Tom Carroll (a Queens native who was a defensive replacement in 2 games and only played 64 games in the majors, kept on the roster because he was a bonus baby).

October 4, 1955, 3:43 PM Brooklyn Standard Time. Dem Bums had finally dooed it. Here's how the newsreels covered it.

Two years later, it would all be over. And only one man had imagined such a blasphemy.  Unfortunately, the blasphemer was the caretaker of the faith, Walter Francis O’Malley.

In 1962, the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York — that was the original corporate name of the team we know as the Mets — did something that had previously been done only by hatred of the Yankees: They united the fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the fans of the New York Giants. Until 1996, including even the Yankees’ quasi-dynasty of 1976-81, the Mets were New York’s most popular team.

That is no longer the case, and a person would have to be at least 65 years old to have any memory of the previous National League teams of New York; more like 70 to remember such events as the ’55 win and Willie Mays’ catch in ’54, nearly 75 to accurately remember Bobby Thomson’s homer in ’51, at least 75 to remember Jackie Robinson’s debut season in ’47, about 80 to remember the ’41 season that began the Dodgers’ renaissance, and at least 85 to remember the Giant teams that won 3 Pennants in the 1930s.

Long time passing.

Oh, if you ever wanted to know what a Brooklyn Dodgers World Series ring looks like, take a look.

October 4, 1822: Rutherford Birchard Hayes is born in Delaware, Ohio, outside Columbus. In 1876, as Governor of Ohio, a former Congressman and a Union General in the American Civil War, he was elected President under dubious circumstances. But his actual time in office was blameless, and many people credit him with restoring the credibility of the Presidency after the scandals of Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant (who was personally honest, but made poor choices in friends appointees).

As far as I know, Hayes had nothing to do with baseball, although his time in office, including the 1877, 1878, 1879 and 1880 seasons, was a time of big growth for the game.

October 4, 1867: At Brooklyn’s Satellite Grounds‚ two black teams play a match called “the championship of colored clubs” by the Daily Union newspaper. The Philadelphia Excelsiors outscore the Brooklyn Uniques‚ 37-24‚ in a game called after 7 innings on account of darkness.

October 4, 1876: The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas opens in College Station. In 1963, they made their nickname their official name: Texas A&M University. The "Aggies" have long had stories programs in baseball and football, producing Heisman Trophy winners John David Crow and Johnny Manziel, and producing such baseball greats as Rip Collins, Wally Moon and Chuck Konblauch.

October 4, 1880: At a special National League meeting in Rochester‚ the League prohibits its members from renting their grounds for use on Sundays and from selling alcoholic beverages on the premises. These rules are aimed at the Cincinnati club‚ which has sold beer and rented out the park to amateur teams for Sundays.

This led directly to the formation, with the Cincinnati Reds as founding member, of the American Association in 1882. They became known as the Beer and Whiskey League.

Also on this day, Alfred Damon Runyon is born in Manhattan, Kansas. But it would be Manhattan Island in New York City where he would make his name -- but first, he dropped his first name. Damon Runyon became an icon, associated with the more raffish side of New York, full of gamblers, con men, cops on the take, men on the make.

His stories would be adapted for the film Little Miss Marker and the musical Guys and Dolls. Even today, 69 years after his death, when you call someone or something "Runyonesque," people know exactly what you're talking about.

October 4, 1892: Amos Rusie of the New York Giants pitches 2 complete-game victories over the Washington Nationals (no connection to the current NL team with the name) at the Polo Grounds‚ winning 6-4 and 9-5.

The next season, the pitching distance will be extended from 50 feet to 60 feet, 6 inches, making achievements in pitching durability a lot harder. Many star pitchers of the time will never be the same, although Rusie will remain successful through the rest of the 1890s. However, it is the speedy pitching of Rusie, the Indiana native known as "the Hoosier Thunderbolt," that lead the NL to believe that a longer pitching distance would be safer for hitters.

October 4, 1895, 120 years ago: The 1st U.S. Open golf tournament is held, at the Newport Country Club in Rhode Island. Horace Rawlins, a 21-year-old Englishman, won it.

Jordan Speith won this year's tournament, at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington. Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus hold the record for the most U.S. Open victories, with 4 each. Hale Irwin was the oldest winner, at 45 in 1990The youngest winner was John McDermott, in 1911: He would still be a teenager for a few more weeks. With the death this year of Billy Casper, Arnold Palmer, in 1960, is the earliest surviving former winner. The 2016 tournament will be held from June 16 to 19, at Oakmont Country Club, outside Pittsburgh.

Also on this day, Joseph Frank Keaton is born in Piqua, Kansas. He didn't grow up in any one place, as his parents were traveling vaudeville performers. A fall at the age of 18 months led a friend of the family to say, "That was a real buster!" The friend was Harry Houdini, and the boy was Buster Keaton for the rest of his life.

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle gave him his start in silent films, and he built a career as perhaps the greatest silent comedian after Charlie Chaplin. Orson Welles called his 1926 Civil War film The General "perhaps the greatest film ever made."

He developed a drinking problem, but recovered from it, and made the transition to talking pictures. Among his last roles were as a time traveler on a 1962 episode of The Twilight Zone, and in the 1963 cast-of-thousands comedy epic It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.


October 4, 1905: Just one point apart in the batting race on the final day of the season, Cincinnati Reds center fielder Cy Seymour and Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner played against each other in a doubleheader. Seymour entered the last day with a league-leading .365 average, and Wagner was in 2nd place, batting .364. A very good day at the plate for Honus combined with a poor one for Cy would have reversed their positions.

Seymour had 4 hits in 7 attempts to end up with the NL batting title (.377), while Wagner collected 2-for-7 to end up in 2nd place (.363). Don’t weep for Honus, though: He won 8 batting titles.
A newspaper account of the day stated “…10,000 were more interested in the batting achievements of Wagner and Seymour than the games…cheer upon cheers greeted the mighty batsmen upon each appearance at the plate…”

October 4, 1906: The Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-0, and notch their 116th win of the season. It remains a major league record, although it was tied in 2001 by the Seattle Mariners. But the Cubs’ winning percentage of .763 remains a record for either of the current major leagues. Both the 1906 Cubs and the 2001 M’s found out that it doesn’t mean a whole lot if you don’t win the World Series.


October 4, 1910: Frank Peter Joseph Crosetti is born in San Francisco. "The Crow" played for the Yankees from 1932 to 1948, and coached for them from 1949 to 1968. No other uniformed man has been a part of as much baseball title-winning as he has: 23 Pennants and 17 World Championships. (That's 8 Pennants and 7 World Championships as a player, 15 Pennants and 10 World Championships as Yankee 3rd base coach.) He was also a 2-time All-Star

The shortstop was a good fielder, but not much of a hitter, batting .245 lifetime. He did hit a home run off Dizzy Dean, who was running out the string with the Cubs, in Game 2 of the 1938 World Series. He was also the last survivor of the Yankees' 1936 World Series win.

In 1969, wanting to be closer to home on the Pacific Coast -- he'd moved to Stockton, California -- he accepted the 3rd base coach's job with the expansion Seattle Pilots, who included former Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton. Frankie didn't think much of Jim, and the feeling was mutual. A segment in Bouton's book Ball Four suggests that Crosetti holds the record for "slaps on the ass" given by 3rd base coaches to home run hitters rounding the bases. It's estimated that he waved 16,000 runners home.

When the Pilots moved to Milwaukee to become the Brewers in 1970, Crosetti didn't go with them, coaching with the Minnesota Twins in 1970 and '71, before finally calling it quits. He and the Yankees had a bit of a strained relationship: He never returned to Old-Timers' Day, usually saying he didn't want to fly across the country; and he was the only member of the 1932 Yankees to publicly say that he thought Babe Ruth did not "call his shot" in that year's World Series. He was not the last survivor of the '32 Yanks, though: He died in 2002, and pitcher Charlie Devens outlived him by a year.

October 4, 1913: Washington Senators manager Clark Griffith uses 8 pitchers — unheard-of in that era — in an end-of-season farce game with the Boston Red Sox‚ including 5 in the 9th inning. At age 43‚ the former Chicago Cubs hurler pitches an inning himself. Coach John Ryan‚ also 43‚ catches. Griffith also plays right field, where he plays one off his head and misplays Hal Janvrin‘s liner into an inside-the-park homer.

On the other end of the scale‚ 17-year-old Merito Acosta, a white Cuban who was one of the 1st Hispanic players in the American major leagues, plays left field alongside Walter Johnson in center field. Johnson then comes in for the 8th inning to lob pitches to 2 hitters. Both batters‚ Clyde Engel and Steve Yerkes, lace hits to send Johnson back to center. Then‚ in relief‚ Nats catcher Eddie Ainsmith‚ in his only major league pitching appearance‚ gives up 2 triples to allow the baserunners to score.

The Sox score in the 9th on Hal Janvrin‘s 2nd inside-the-park homer of the game. Joe Gideon‚ in his only pitching appearance, retires the last 2 batters as Washington wins‚ 10-9‚ beating Fred Anderson who goes the distance.

The 2 runs “allowed” by the Big Train will have historical repercussions: His ERA for the season goes from 1.09 to 1.14‚ and Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA in 1968 will put Johnson’s ERA in 2nd place on the all-time list (in the post-1893 60-feet-6-inches era, anyway). The 8 pitchers sets a ML record that won’t be matched until the Dodgers do it on September 25‚ 1946.

October 4, 1918: At 7:36 PM, the T.A. Gillespie Company Shell Loading Plant, making munitions for the U.S. effort in World War I, explodes on Cheesequake Creek in the Morgan section of Sayreville, Middlesex County, New Jersey. The fires started could be seen for miles, including across the Arthur Kill in Staten Island. Over 300 buildings were destroyed -- including the company's records, so it's not known for sure how many people died, but the number is believed to be over 100.

I've lived my whole life in Middlesex County, and this is the greatest tragedy ever to befall Central Jersey. Today, the Morgan Marina and a housing development are on the site. It's a gated community, so it might be difficult to visit.  

October 4, 1923: John Charles Carter is born in Wilmette, Illinois. We knew him as Charlton Heston -- and as historical figures Moses, Marc Antony (in 3 different films), John the Baptist, El Cid, Michelangelo, King Henry VIII, Cardinal Richelieu, William Clark (of Lewis & Clark), Andrew Jackson (in 2 films), General Henry Hooker, Buffalo Bill Cody and General Charles "Chinese" Gordon; and fictional characters Judah Ben-Hur, Peer Gynt and Robert Neville.

He played Ron Catlan, an aging quarterback, in the 1969 film Number One. In 2010, with the demolition of the original Yankee Stadium complete, I knew -- especially in a city still hurting from the 9/11 attacks -- it would have been wrong, but I wanted to yell his line as Colonel George Taylor, at the end of Planet of the Apes: "Oh my God. I'm back. I'm home. All the time, it was... We really, finally did it. You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"

October 4, 1924: Game 1 of the World Series, the 1st ever to be played in the Nation's Capital. President Calvin Coolidge and First Lady Grace Coolidge attend. She loves baseball, he doesn't.

Walter Johnson, of course, starts for the Washington Senators. But the postseason experience of the New York Giants, who've won their 4th straight Pennant, shows as they tie the game in the 9th and win it in the 12th, 4-3.


October 4, 1934: Robert Lee Huff is born in Edna Gas, West Virginia -- a company town, I'm presuming. I can find no record of why he was called Sam. He starred at linebacker for West Virginia University, and along with basketball star Jerry West still ranks as 1 of their 2 greatest athletes. He was a regular All-American and an Academic All-American.

He was a 5-time All-Pro with the New York Giants, the cornerstone of the 1st great NFL defense of the 2-platoon era. He helped the Giants reach 6 NFL Championship Games, although they only won the 1st, in 1956. In 1960, CBS News' The Twentieth Century did a feature on him, "The Violent World of Sam Huff," a precursor to NFL Films in that, for the 1st time, non-players got to hear what playing football really sounds like. To put it another way: He was Lawrence Taylor (without the sex and drug scandals) before Lawrence Taylor was even born.

In 1964, he was traded to the Washington Redskins, and has been with them ever since, first as a linebacker, then an assistant coach, and then as a broadcaster, teaming with ex-teammate Sonny Jurgensen until Sam retired in 2012. He was named to the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the New York Giants Ring of Honor and the Washington Redskins' Ring of Fame.

October 4, 1935, 80 years ago: Game 3 of the World Series is a wild one. Chicago Cubs manager Charlie Grimm and 2 of his players, 3rd baseman Woody English and outfielder Tuck Stainback, are thrown out of the game for bench-jockeying. Coach Del Baker of the Detroit Tigers is also thrown out, for arguing a pickoff play at 3rd base. That’s 4 uniformed men thrown out of 1 World Series game — and none was actually playing in the game!

The game goes to 11 innings, and is won 6-5 by the Tigers, on Jo-Jo White’s single scoring Marv Owen.

October 4, 1936: London's police and anti-fascist demonstrators clash with members of the British Union of Fascists in the East End. It was known as the Battle of Cable Street, and it was Britain's 1st message that it would not put up with far-right tyranny. Sadly, in 1938, its government did. Thankfully, in 1939, it stopped.

October 4, 1937: The St. Louis Cardinals trade shortstop Leo Durocher to the Brooklyn Dodgers for Johnny Cooney‚ Joe Stripp‚ Jim Bucher‚ and Roy Henshaw. Durocher, first as shortstop, then as manager, will become the face of the Dodgers for the next 10 years. Then, he will jump to the New York Giants, and become the face that Dodger fans love to hate.


October 4, 1940, 75 years ago: Victor Edward Hadfield is born in the Toronto suburb of Oakville, Ontario. Vic was born 1 day after his future New York Ranger linemate, Jean Ratelle. Together with Rod Gilbert, they formed the GAG Line (Goal-a-Game), reaching the 1972 Stanley Cup Finals.

Vic scored 323 goals in an NHL career that lasted from 1961 to 1976. He has not yet joined his linemates Gilbert and Ratelle in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but a 2009 book named him Number 20 on a list of 100 Ranger Greats. He now runs a golf driving range. His Number 11 was retired by the Rangers, but for Mark Messier, not for him.

October 4, 1941: In the 7th inning of a scoreless tie‚ Yankees pitcher Marius Russo bats against Dodger pitcher Fred Fitzsimmons, and launches a line drive off Fat Freddie’s kneecap. The ball caroms to shortstop Pee Wee Reese, who throws him out to end the inning. The Yankees score 2 in the 8th off reliever Hugh Casey to win 2-1.

On the official World Series highlight film, Fitzsimmons is shown limping off the field, but it’s not clear how bad the injury is. It turns out that the kneecap is broken. Once an All-Star for the Giants, who seemed to specialize in beating the Dodgers, he had crossed town to be welcomed by the Flatbush Faithful, and they wouldn’t have won the 1941 Pennant without him. But, at age 41, he will pitch in just 1 game in 1942, before accepting his injury and retiring to the coaching ranks and running a Brooklyn bowling alley that was popular with Dodger fans for many years.

Also on this day, 2 very different American writers are born. Roy Alton Blount Jr. is born in Indianapolis, and grows up in Decatur, Georgia. Essentially a humorist, he is tied to sports as a result of his first book, a look at the 1973 Pittsburgh Steelers, a team on the verge of a dynasty, but not quite there: About Three Bricks Shy of a Load.

On the same day, Howard Allen Frances O'Brien is born in New Orleans. Her mother named her Howard after her husband. After she got married, she began using the name Anne Rice, and her books have been published under that name.

She is known for her Vampire Chronicles, featuring the vampire Lestate de Lioncourt. She is a New Orleans Saints fan, and gave an interview to NFL Films in which she discusses the legend that the Saints are cursed because the Superdome was built over a cemetery.

October 4, 1944: The 1st all-St. Louis World Series (and the only one, as it turned out) opens with the Browns‚ as the official visiting team (both teams play at Sportsman’s Park)‚ beating the Cardinals 2-1 on George McQuinn‘s homer. Denny Galehouse is the winning pitcher, while Mort Cooper loses despite allowing just 2 hits.

It is the 1st Series in which all the games are played west of the Mississippi River. There will not be another until 1965, and not another until 1974. The Series is dubbed the Streetcar Series (as opposed to a Subway Series), and is played with no days off.

On the same day, Alfred E. Smith dies of a heart attack -- some would say a broken heart, as his wife had died a few months earlier. He was 70. Governor of New York from 1919 to 1921, and again from 1923 to 1929, he threw out the ceremonial first ball before the 1st game at the original Yankee Stadium in 1923.

He ran for President in 1924, and was nominated by the Democratic Party in 1928, but his Catholicism, his opposition to Prohibition, and the general prosperity under Republican leadership meant he was doomed to lose big to Herbert Hoover. He ran again in 1932, but lost to the man who succeeded him as Governor, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The 2 men, once allies, became bitter rivals. Al went on to run the company that built the Empire State Building, and the film of the dedication ceremony shows Governor Roosevelt enjoying the festivities, but ex-Governor Smith looks like he'd like to jump off.

Today, FDR is remembered as the man who saved the country in the 1930s, and the world in the 1940s. Al Smith is remembered as... the namesake of the Al Smith Dinner, a charity fundraiser run by the Archdiocese of New York every October. In Presidential election years, the nominees of both major parties are invited, and to miss attending is a major faux pas. 

On the same day, Anthony La Russa Jr. is born in Tampa. Tony was an inconsequential infielder in the major leagues from 1963 to 1973, but became a very consequential manager. From 1979 to 2011, he won 2,728 games, 15 Division titles (1983 with the Chicago White Sox; 1988, '89, '90 and '92 with the Oakland Athletics, all in the AL West; 1996, 2000, '01, '02, '04, '05, '06, '09, '13 and '14 with the St. Louis Cardinals, all in the NL Central), 6 Pennants (3 in each League), and 3 World Series (1989 with the A's, 2006 and 2011 with the Cards, making him only the 2nd manager after Sparky Anderson to win them in both Leagues.

Unfortunately, his legacy may be a negative one. Not only did he pioneer the use of computers to study baseball statistics, thus leading to constant pitching changes, but he also pioneered, through Dennis Eckersley, using your closer for just the 9th inning.

He is now an executive with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He is in the Hall of Fame, and the Cardinals have retired his Number 10 and elected him to their team Hall of Fame. 

October 4, 1945, 70 years ago: Jugoslovensko sportsko društvo Partizan, commonly abbreviated as JSD Partizan, is founded in Belgrade, then the capital of Yugoslavia, now the capital of Serbia. It runs several sports teams, the best-known of which is the soccer team known to most of the world as Partizan Belgrade. Their rivalry with cross-town Red Star is one of the most vicious on the planet.

October 4, 1946: Susan Abigail Tomalin is born in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City, and grows up in nearby Edison, New Jersey. We know her as Susan Sarandon. Her ex-husband Chris Sarandon, ex-partner Louis Malle, ex-partner Franco Amurri, ex-partner Tim Robbins (with whom she hooked up on the set of the baseball-themed film Bull Durham), daughter Eva Amurri and son Jack Henry Robbins are all either actors or directors (or both). Another son, Miles, has yet to enter the family business.

I used to love Susan Sarandon. She was, like me, a baseball fan from Central Jersey. And she was a redhead, which I liked. And she was a bombshell -- at 69, she still looks great. But she's a Mets and Rangers fan. That's a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play right there.

But, like Annie Savoy, her character in Bull Durham, she still believes in the Church of Baseball. Then again... "Makin' love is like hittin' a baseball: You just gotta relax and concentrate." Relax and concentrate? That's contradictory!

She won an Oscar for playing Sister Helen Prejean, the real-life nun and anti-death penalty activist in Dead Man Walking. Susan Sarandon winning an Oscar is not a shock. Susan Sarandon playing a nun? That is a shock! That's like casting Harvey Fierstein to play JFK!

October 4, 1948: In a 1-game playoff for the AL Pennant at Fenway Park‚ the Cleveland Indians beat the Boston Red Sox 8-3, behind 30-year-old rookie knuckleballer Gene Bearden, who wins his 20th game. It was the year of a lifetime for Bearden: He had never been that good before, and he never would be again.

Red Sox manager Joe McCarthy, who had won so much with the Yankees, ignores the well-rested rotation pitchers Ellis Kinder and Mel Parnell to go with journeyman Denny Galehouse, who was 8-7. It wasn’t a totally crazy pick: Galehouse had helped the St. Louis Browns win the 1944 Pennant.

But with the score 1-1 in the 4th‚ Ken Keltner hits a 3-run home run over the left-field fence. Indians shortstop-manager Lou Boudreau gets 4 hits‚ including a pair of homers‚ and finishes the year with just 9 strikeouts.

Who is still alive from this game, 67 years later? For the Indians, no one: Allie Clark, a South Amboy, New Jersey native whom the Yankees had traded with Joe Gordon to get Allie Reynolds, was the last survivor, dying in 2012. For the Red Sox, only Bobby Doerr and Tom Wright.

That same day, in St. Louis‚ Taylor Spink‚ publisher of The Sporting News, writes in a Baltimore newspaper that Baltimore will have an AL team within two years: “You can put a clothespin in this: Baltimore will be in the American League‚ if not next year‚ then surely in 1950.”

In spite of his deep knowledge of the way the game had been working, including no franchises moving to a different city since 1902, he turned out to be off by only 4 years. It was his hometown Browns who became the new major-league version of the Baltimore Orioles, following previous major- and minor-league teams with those names. Spink and the NL’s Cardinals were tight, and he didn’t particularly care whether the Browns moved.


October 4, 1950: With his ace Robin Roberts exhausted, and his Number 2 starter Curt Simmons having been drafted into the Korean War, Philadelphia Phillies manager Eddie Sawyer rolls the dice and starts Jim Konstanty in Game 1 of the World Series against the Yankees at Shibe Park. It’s not quite the gamble that it seems: Konstanty, about to become the first relief pitcher ever to be named his league’s Most Valuable Player, had pitched long relief during the season, including one game where he went 9 innings.

The gamble nearly paid off, as Konstanty pitched 8 innings, allowing only 1 run (on a double by Bobby Brown and 2 sacrifice flies) on 4 hits and 4 walks. But Vic Raschi of the Yankees was even better, tossing a shutout with 2 hits and 1 walk, and the Yankees win, 1-0.

The next day, Sawyer starts Roberts on 3 days’ rest, and he, too, is magnificent in defeat. The Phils lose the first 3 games of the Series, all by 1 run.

October 4, 1951: The Giants have no time to really celebrate their amazing Pennant won the day before, as the World Series gets underway. But momentum is on their side. Monte Irvin steals home in the 1st inning (and, unlike Jackie Robinson 4 years later, the film definitively shows that he was safe) and collects 4 hits. The Giants defeat Allie Reynolds and the Yankees 5-1, with Dave Koslo going all the way at Yankee Stadium.

With Don Mueller missing the World Series due to the ankle he broke in the climactic inning the day before‚ homer hero Bobby Thomson switches to 3rd base, and the Giants field the 1st all-black outfield in a World Series: Irvin in left, Rookie of the Year Willie Mays in center, and Hank Thompson in right.

Thompson and Irvin had been the 1st black players for the Giants, both debuting on July 8, 1949: Thompson as a starter, Irvin as a pinch-hitter.

October 4, 1953: Game 5 of the World Series at Ebbets Field. Mickey Mantle hits a 3rd inning grand slam off Russ Meyer in the 3rd inning‚ and the Yanks hold on to win 11-7 in a game that features 25 hits and 47 total bases.

October 4, 1955, 60 years ago: On the day that Brooklyn wins the World Series, Jorge Alberto Francisco Valdano Castellanos is born in Las Parejas, Argentina. A forward in soccer, he won his homeland's league with Newell's Old Boys of Rosario in 1974, and moved on to Spain in 1979. After 5 seasons with Real Zaragoza, Spain's premiere club, Real Madrid signed him. They won the UEFA Cup (now the Europa League) in 1985 and 1986, and La Liga in 1986 and 1987. In 1986, he scored a goal in Argentina's win in the World Cup Final. Later, he managed Real Madrid to the 1995 La Liga title.

He is one of those people who believes that the main purpose of sport is not to win, but to play well. In May 2007, he was quoted in Marca, Spain's biggest football-themed newspaper, saying that soccer (or "football") was headed for a bad place. In particular, he cited the UEFA Champions League Semifinal between English clubs Chelsea and Liverpool, both known for roughhouse tactics and "diving" in the penalty area to falsely win a penalty kick. He was particularly prophetic in mentioning Didier Drogba, the big forward from the Ivory Coast who became one of the biggest winners, but also one of the biggest cheats, in the game:

Chelsea and Liverpool are the clearest, most exaggerated example of the way football is going: Very intense, very collective, very tactical, very physical, and very direct. But, a short pass? Noooo. A feint? Noooo. A change of pace? Noooo. A one-two? A nutmeg? A backheel? Don't be ridiculous. None of that. The extreme control and seriousness with which both teams played the (UEFA Champions League)  semi-final neutralised any creative licence, any moments of exquisite skill.
If Didier Drogba was the best player in the first match, it was purely because he was the one who ran the fastest, jumped the highest and crashed into people the hardest. Such extreme intensity wipes away talent, even leaving a player of Joe Cole's class disoriented. If football is going the way Chelsea and Liverpool are taking it, we had better be ready to wave goodbye to any expression of the cleverness and talent we have enjoyed for a century.

Valdano was Real Madrid's general manager when the club, over his objections, hired Jose Mourinho, manager of that Chelsea team, as its field manager. In 2011, he said, basically, either he goes or I go. Not long thereafter, they were both out of a job. Valdano hasn't worked in football since.

October 4, 1957: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1, the world's 1st artificial satellite. This terrifies Americans into thinking, not so much that the Communists are ahead of us in any prestigious "space race," but that, soon, they will be able to attack us from space. Well, it's been 58 years, and they've never attacked us from anywhere. (Spy-on-spy crime excepted, of course.)

The Space Age has begun. Particularly related to this is satellite technology that allows us to see sporting events from anywhere in the world. Today, if you so chose, you could have watched Arsenal vs. Manchester United or Liverpool vs. neighboring Everton in English soccer, Paris Saint-Germain vs. Olympique de Marseille in France, Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund in Germany, Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid in Spain, and the Grand National Final in "Australian rules" football.

Also on this day, Leave It to Beaver premieres on ABC. Somebody once pointed out that the show was a lot less naive than it first appeared, and that the worries of Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver, played by Jerry Mathers, mirrored those of the times; that the show premiered on the day Sputnik 1 was launched, and aired its last episode on June 20, 1963, right after President John F. Kennedy stared down George Wallace over integration at the University of Alabama and proposed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, 2 months before Martin Luther King spoke at the March On Washington, and 5 months before Kennedy was assassinated.

Also on this day, William Mark Fagerbakke is born in Fontana, California. After appearing as assistant coach Michael "Dauber" Dybinski on the football-themed ABC sitcom Coach, he appeared on How I Met Your Mother as Marvin Eriksen, Marshall's father. Actually, he's best known by millions of kids (and stoners) who know his voice, but not his face: He plays Patrick Star on SpongeBob SquarePants.

October 4, 1959: Game 3 of the World Series is played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, in front of a record crowd of 92,394. It is the 1st World Series game played in Los Angeles, in the State of California, indeed anywhere west of St. Louis. The Dodgers beat the Chicago White Sox, 3-1.


October 4, 1962: Game 1 of the World Series is played at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, the first World Series game played in Northern California. The Yankees beat the Giants, 6-2. Whitey Ford is the winning pitcher for a record 10th time in Series play, but it will be for the last time, and his record scoreless inning streak of 33 2/3 innings is stopped.

October 4, 1963: A.C. Green Jr. is born in Portland, Oregon. Like his father, his initials are just that, and don't stand for anything. A 1990 NBA All-Star, the forward won NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1987 and 1988, played for the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks, and came back to the Lakers to win another title in 2000. His streak of 1,192 consecutive games played, from November 19, 1986 to April 18, 2001, is easily the longest in NBA history.

October 4, 1964: The Phillies bomb the Reds 10-0. In those pre-Internet, pre-satellite TV days, the 2 teams then join forces, and sit in the visitors’ clubhouse at Crosley Field, listening to a radio (appropriately, since longtime Reds owner Powel Crosley made his fortune selling radios), hoping that the Cardinals lose to the Mets at Sportsman's Park (since renamed Busch Stadium, the 1st of 3 to have now had that name), which would force a 3-way tie for the Pennant.

The Mets take a 3-2 lead into the 5th inning‚ but St. Louis scores 3 runs to regain the lead. The Mets score once more, but the Cardinals complete their scoring with 3 in the 8th, to win 11-5. Bob Gibson wins in relief.

For St. Louis‚ it is their 1st Pennant since 1946. For Cincinnati, it is a crushing defeat, as they wanted to win for their manager, Fred Hutchinson, who was dying of cancer. For Philadelphia, it is even more devastating: The Phils had led by 6 1/2 games with 12 to play, but went on a 10-game losing streak to blow it. The Phillie Phlop would define the franchise for a generation — even fans who lived long enough to see the titles of 1980 and 2008 remain scarred by it.

October 4, 1965, 50 years ago: For the 1st time, a Pope delivers a Mass in the Western Hemisphere. Pope Paul VI does so at Yankee Stadium in New York. A crowd of 90,000 attends. It is the only sellout at Yankee Stadium all year long.

I looked it up: No, the Yankees couldn’t sell The Stadium out that season. Not on Opening Day, not on Old-Timers’ Day, not even in the preceding month on the first Mickey Mantle Day. Nor could the NFL’s Giants sell The Stadium out in 1965.

On the same trip, the Pope addresses the United Nations. The theme of both of his speeches is peace: “No more war, never again war. Peace, it is peace that must guide the destinies of people and of all mankind.”

The New York branch of the Catholic advocacy group the Knights of Columbus dedicates a plaque in honor of the event, which is hung on the center field wall at The Stadium. It is moved to Monument Park in 1976, and to the new Yankee Stadium in 2009, along with plaques for later Masses delivered by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. While Pope Francis came to New York late last month, and delivered Mass at Madison Square Garden (as John Paul II did in 1979, and also at both ballparks), the Yankees still playing home games made a Mass at the new Yankee Stadium logistically impossible.

In 1972, Paul Owens was hired as Phillies general manager. The man who built the Phils' quasi-dynasty of 1976-1983, including their 1980 World Championship and their 1983 Pennant (the latter of which he managed) was nicknamed "The Pope," not just because his name was Paul, but because he looked a bit like Pope Paul VI.

On this same day, George Michael Ward Jr. is born in Lowell, Massachusetts. "Irish Micky Ward" won some minor titles in the light welterweight division, and is known for his 3 fights with Arturo "Thunder" Gatti, the 1st at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, the last 2 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, a frequent venue for both fighters. Ward only won the 1st, which was named Fight of the Year by The Ring magazine for 2002; the 3rd, Ward's last professional fight, was named Fight of the Year for 2003.

He now manages a gym in his native Lowell. Boston native Mark Wahlberg played him in the 2010 film The Fighter.

October 4, 1969: The first League Championship Series games are played in Atlanta and Baltimore. The Mets survive homers by Hank Aaron and Tony Gonzalez off Tom Seaver, and score 5 runs off Phil Niekro in the 8th to coast home 9-5. Paul Blair‘s 12th-inning squeeze bunt gives the Orioles a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Twins.


October 4, 1970: Janis Joplin dies of a heroin overdose in Los Angeles. She was only 27. Just 16 days earlier, Jimi Hendrix had died of a heroin overdose in London. He was 27. Asked about it, she said, "There but for the grace of God go I.

Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors, heard about Hendrix' death, and started asking people, "Do you believe in omens?" (In spite of what Doris Kearns Goodwin said, I can find no evidence that Morrison was interested in baseball, although he did attend UCLA Film School at the time John Wooden began winning basketball's National Championship at UCLA.) After Joplin died, Morrison would tell friends, "Believe it or not, you're drinking with number three."

Actually, he was wrong: He was in line to be number four. Alan Wilson, the lead singer of Canned Heat, wasn't as big a star, but he and his band had played at Woodstock. He had died of a barbiturate overdose on September 3. "Blind Owl" was, you guessed it, 27. On July 3, 1971, Jim Morrison died of a drug-and-booze-fueled heart attack. He was 27.

October 4, 1972: Ted Williams manages a major league game for the last time, as the Texas Rangers lose to the Kansas City Royals 4-0. Although he will be a spring training instructor for the Red Sox until age and infirmity makes this impossible, the Splendid Splinter will never be involved in regular-season baseball again.

It is also the last game as Royals manager for Bob Lemon, and the last game played at K.C.’s Municipal Stadium. Previously known as Muehlebach Field, Ruppert Stadium and Blues Stadium, it opened as a minor league park in 1923, and hosted several minor-league and Negro League Pennants, and the Kansas City Chiefs, who won the 1966 and '69 AFL Championships and Super Bowl IV while playing there. But, seating just 35,000 for baseball and 47,000 for football, it is too small. Arrowhead Stadium had already opened and the Chiefs had moved in; Royals Stadium, now Kauffman Stadium, opened the following spring. Municipal Stadium was demolished in 1976. 

Lemon, who will join Williams in the Baseball Hall of Fame by being elected in 1976 (for his pitching with the Indians), will be replaced by Jack McKeon. Williams will be replaced by Whitey Herzog. In 1975, McKeon will be replaced as Royals manager by Herzog, who will lose 3 straight ALCS to the Yankees, managed by the man who replaced McKeon as Rangers manager, Billy Martin. Herzog would finally win 3 Pennants and a World Series with the Cardinals in the 1980s.

Also on this day, Kurt Vincent Thomas is born in Dallas. The basketball forward was the 1995 NCAA scoring leader and its rebounding leader, with Texas Christian University. He also played on both sides of the nasty New York Knicks/Miami Heat rivalry of the late 1990s, playing in the Game 5 brawl in their 1997 Playoff series, but was with the Dallas Mavericks and thus not involved in the Game 4 brawl in their 1998 Playoff series.

He came to the Knicks, and was a member of their 1999 Eastern Conference Champions. He should not be confused with the German composer or the American gymnast-turned-"actor" of the same name.

October 4, 1975, 40 years ago: Game 1 is played in both Leagues' Championship Series. The Cincinnati Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-3 at Riverfront Stadium, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Oakland Athletics 7-1 at Fenway Park. The winning pitchers are Don Gullett and Luis Tiant.

But it is a sad day in baseball. Indeed, it is a sad week. Just 5 days after the death of Casey Stengel, Joan Whitney Payson, founding owner of the Mets, dies in New York, at the age of 72. This was the worst thing that could happen to the team, as her daughter, Lorinda de Roulet, inherited the team, and let team president M. Donald Grant run it into the ground.

Mrs. Payson, a member of the old-money Whitney family (you may have visited the museum they founded), and a breeder of champion horses, was a member of the New York Giants' board of directors. With Grant acting as her proxy, she was the only boardmember to vote against them moving to San Francisco in 1957. So it made her the ideal person for the group trying to establish a new National League team in New York, led by high-profile lawyer William A. Shea, to approach to be the majority owner -- the first woman in such a role in baseball history who did not inherit the team from someone else.

It was her idea to hire former Yankee manager Casey Stengel as the Mets' 1st manager. It was also her idea to trade for Willie Mays in 1972, bringing the Giants' legend back to New York. These were great moves in terms of public relations. In terms of on-the-field success, not so much. It was also her idea that no Met should ever again wear Mays' Number 24; with a few brief exceptions, this edict has held, although it hasn't been officially retired.

Grant was already doing pretty much as he pleased as Mrs. Payson became old and ill, breaking up the team that won the 1969 World Series and the 1973 Pennant. He had already traded away Bud Harrelson, Cleon Jones and Tug McGraw. After her death, he would trade away Rusty Staub, Jerry Koosman, and, most infamously, Tom Seaver. Shea Stadium's attendance dwindled so much, the Flushing Meadow amphitheatre became known as Grant's Tomb.

Finally, Mrs. de Roulet had enough, and fired Grant. In 1980, she sold the team to Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon, who rebuilt the team in to the one that won the 1986 World Series. In 1981, they established the New York Mets Hall of Fame. Mrs. Payson and original manager Casey Stengel were the first inductees.

In 2003, Bob Murphy, original Met broadcaster, retired. A ceremony was held at the last home game of the season. Mrs. Payson's name was cheered, and huge ovations went up for Seaver and members of the '86 Mets. Only 2 of the guests were booed: Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Mrs. de Roulet (who is still alive today). I was sitting close to see the look on her face. She still didn't understand why Met fans hated her. It was because she cared so little about the team. Her mother, the original "Lady Met," was loved because she cared so much.

October 4, 1976: Alicia Silverstone (no middle name) is born in San Francisco, and grows up in nearby Hillsborough, California. She once played a Batgirl, but that had nothing to do with baseball. Her best-known film is titled Clueless, but it had nothing to do with the managing style of Joe Girardi.

October 4, 1978: Kyle Matthew Lohse (pronounced "Lowsh," rhymes with "gauche") is born in Chico, California. He, current Yankee Jacoby Ellsbury, and former Yankee Joba Chamberlain are the only 3 non-Hispanic players of Native American ancestry currently active in the major leagues.

This past June 15, pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers, he beat the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, making him the 14th pitcher to have beaten all 30 MLB franchises. He closes the 2015 season with a career record of 147-141, including 16-3 with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012, leading the NL with an .842 winning percentage.

He reached the postseason with the Minnesota Twins in 2002, '03, '04 and '06; the Phillies in 2007; and the Cardinals in 2011 (winning the World Series) and '12. At 37, he shows no signs of being willing to retire; though, having gone 5-13 with a 5.85 ERA this season, perhaps he should consider it.


October 4, 1980: Mike Schmidt‘s 2-run home run in the top of the 11th inning gives the Phillies a 6-4 win over the Montreal Expos‚ clinching the NL East title.

The home run is Schmidt’s 48th of the season‚ breaking Eddie Mathews‘s single-season record for 3rd basemen set in 1953. Alex Rodriguez would break that record, and Ryan Howard would break Schmidt’s franchise record for homers in a season.

On the same day, the Yankees clinch their 4th AL East title in 5 seasons‚ beating Detroit 5-2 in the 1st game of a doubleheader. Reggie Jackson hits his 41st home run of the season, and will share the AL home run crown with Milwaukee’s Ben Oglivie.

In a 17-1 rout of the Twins‚ Kansas City’s Willie Wilson becomes the 1st major league player ever to be credited with 700 at-bats in one season. Wilson will post 705 at bats‚ which remains the highest in the 20th Century. He also sets the AL record for singles in a season with 184‚ eclipsing the mark Sam Rice set in 1925.

Wilson also becomes only the 2nd player in history to collect 100 hits from each side of the plate‚ matching the feat accomplished by Garry Templeton the year before. The loss ends Minnesota’s club-record 12-game winning streak.

The Los Angeles Dodgers break a 1-1 tie on a 4th inning home run from Steve Garvey to beat the Houston Astros 2-1. Jerry Reuss outpitches Nolan Ryan. Houston now leads by 1 game with 1 to play.

LaMarr Hoyt pitches the Chicago White Sox to a win over the California Angels‚ 4-2 at Comiskey Park. But the big attraction is DH Minnie Minoso‚ 57 (or 54‚ as was later found out). Facing Frank Tanana for the 2nd time in 5 years‚ Minnie goes 0-for-2. His appearance‚ thanks to Bill Veeck‚ puts him in with Nick Altrock as a 5-decade man in the major leagues. His next appearance will be for the 1993 St. Paul Saints, run by Bill's son, Mike Veeck.

Also on this day, Tomáš Rosický is born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Known as "Little Mozart" the attacking midfielder starred for hometown club Sparta Prague, helping them win their League title in 1999 and 2000.

He moved on to German club Borussia Dortmund, leading them to the Bundesliga title in 2002. Playing for the Czech Republic, he scored 2 goals in a game against the U.S. at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

He was then sold to North London club Arsenal, upholding the tradition of great "Gunners" Number 7s as Joe Hulme, Freddie Cox, George Armstrong, Liam Brady, David Rocastle, David Platt and Robert Pires. For years, he struggled with injury, including missing big chunks of the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. He scored a goal to give Arsenal a 1-0 win over North London arch-rivals Tottenham in a 2013 game, and helped them win the 2014 and 2015 FA Cups. He did not play in today's 3-0 win over Manchester United.

October 4, 1981: The Mets fire manager Joe Torre and his entire coaching staff. You can’t win without the horses, and, at the time, the Mets did not have the horses.

Also on this day, Freddie Lindstrom dies in Chicago, shortly before his 76th birthday. As a Giants rookie in 1924, a grounder by Earl McNeely hit a pebble and soared over his head, making him an unfair goat in the Washington Senators' 4-3 12th inning victory in Game 7 of the World Series.

Lindstrom made up for it, though, batting .311 in a 13-season career that would see him elected to the Hall of Fame. He won another Pennant with the 1935 Chicago Cubs. Ironically, the Chicago native grew up a White Sox fan. He later managed in the minor leagues, coached the baseball team at Northwestern University in Evanston, and became the postmaster in that town just north of Chicago.

His son Chuck Lindstrom played only 1 major league game, on September 28, 1958, an end-of-season meaningless game for the White Sox. Meaningless for everyone but him, through: He made 2 plate appearances, an RBI triple, and a walk and a run. Now 79 years old, and a former college baseball head coach like his father, he still holds the records (though unofficial, due to inadequate at bats over a career) for the highest slugging percentage (3.000) and OPS (4.000) in major league history over an entire career. Along with John Paciorek, who went 3-for-3 in an end-of-season game for the 1963 Houston Colt .45's (Astros) he has the distinction of having had one of the best one-game careers in the history of baseball.

October 4, 1982: Anthony Keith Gwynn Jr. is born in Long Beach, California, and grows up in the San Diego suburb of Poway. The son of San Diego Padres legend Tony Gwynn, he debuted as an outfielder with the 2006 Milwaukee Brewers. He played for the Padres, Dodgers and Phillies, and is now in the Washington Nationals' minor-league system. His lifetime batting average is .238, well short of his dad's, but he did play in the postseason with the Brewers in 2008.

October 4, 1983: Kurt Kiyoshi Suzuki is born in Wailuki, Hawaii. A catcher with the Minnesota Twins, he reached the postseason with the 2012 Nationals.

October 4, 1985, 30 years ago: The Mets beat the Montreal Expos 9-4, but it's no use, as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs, 4-2, and are now 2 games up in the National League East with 3 to play.

The Yankees begin their biggest regular-season series in 5 years, at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. If they can sweep this 3-game series against the Blue Jays, they will win the American League East; if they lose any, it's over.

Jimmy Key, later a Yankee star that many fans have forgotten, starts for the Jays. Ed Whitson, a pitcher many Yankee Fans would like to forget, starts for the Yanks. Neither figures in the decision, and the Jays lead 3-2 going into the 9th inning.

But Butch Wynegar ties it with a 9th inning home run off Toronto closer Tom Henke, a.k.a. "The Exterminator." It sails over the right field fence and bouncing on the artificial turf of the football field past the pathetic little high school-style scoreboard the Big X had. Watching on WPIX-Channel 11, I let out a scream that can be heard all the way in Toronto.

A Bobby Meacham single, a Rickey Henderson walk, and an error with Don Mattingly up gives the Yankees a 4-3 win. Rod Scurry is the winning pitcher for the Yankees.

"The Butch Wynegar Game" is set up to be one of my favorite games ever -- if, that is, the Yankees can win the next 2.

October 4, 1986: On the next-to-last day of the season‚ Dave Righetti saves both ends of the Yankees‘ doubleheader sweep of the Red Sox, 5-3 and 3-1, to give him a major league record 46 saves. Bruce Sutter and Dan Quisenberry had shared the record with 45.

The record is now 62 by Francisco Rodriguez in 2008. For a lefthander, it’s 53 by Randy Myers in 1993, and for a Yankee it’s 53 by Mariano Rivera in 2004.

October 4, 1987: On the last day of the regular season‚ Detroit beats 2nd-place Toronto 1-0 at Tiger Stadium to win the AL East title. The Tigers were one game behind the Blue Jays entering their 3-game season-ending showdown‚ and won each game by a single run (4-3‚ 3-2‚ and 1-0). Frank Tanana outduels Jimmy Key in the finale‚ and Larry Herndon‘s 2nd-inning home run provides the game’s only run.

The Jays had been up by 4 with 7 to go, and blew it. This collapse, on top of their choke in the 1985 ALCS, gives them the nickname “Blow Jays,” and they will take until 1992 to get rid of it.

Also on this day, Charlie Hough of the Texas Rangers makes his 40th start of the season. No pitcher has been allowed to accomplish this since, not even a knuckleballer like Hough. The Rangers lose to the Seattle Mariners, 7-4 at Arlington Stadium.

October 4, 1988: Derrick Martell Rose is born in Chicago. He's played with his hometown Bulls since 2008, the 1st pick in that year's NBA Draft, and was NBA Most Valuable Player in 2011. That season, he got the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals for the 1st time since 1998 -- the 1st time without Michael Jordan since 1975.

But D-Rose has he's been plagued by injury ever since, and it's questionable whether he will play in the 2015-16 season at all.

October 4, 1989: Secretariat dies of laminitis at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky. The greatest racehorse of all time, winner of the 1973 Triple Crown, was 19.

On the same day, Dakota Mayi Johnson is born in Austin, Texas. Granddaughter of Tippi Hedren, and daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, she recently starred in a film about a woman who accepts a masochistic relationship. I think it was titled Fifty Shades of Ivy: A Cub Fan's Lament.


October 4, 1991: The expansion San Jose Sharks play their 1st regular-season game, the 1st by a NHL team from the San Francisco Bay Area since April 4, 1976 (a 5-2 win by the Oakland-based California Golden Seals over the Los Angeles Kings).

California native Craig Cox scores the franchise's 1st regulation goal, but they lose to the Vancouver Canucks, 4-3 at the Pacific Coliseum.

October 4, 1995, 20 years ago: Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium. It begins at 8:06 PM with Phil Rizzuto throwing out a ceremonial first ball. It includes home runs by Ken Griffey Jr. and Vince Coleman for the Seattle Mariners, and, for the Yankees, Ruben Sierra, Don Mattingly (ABC announcer Gary Thorne: "Aw, hang onto the roof! Goodbye, home run!"), Paul O'Neill and, at 1:22 AM, in the bottom of the 15th inning, through the rain, Jim Leyritz. Yankees 7, Mariners 5.

It is the first postseason walkoff at Yankee Stadium since Chris Chambliss, 19 years earlier. The Yankees lead the M’s 2 games to 0, and need just 1 win in Seattle to take the series. But they won’t get it.

October 4, 1999: The Mets whitewash the Reds‚ 5-0‚ to become the NL’s wild card team. Al Leiter hurls a complete game 2-hitter for the win. Rey Ordonez plays his 100th consecutive errorless game, a record for shortstops.


October 4, 2001: Rickey Henderson hits a home run for the San Diego Padres, allowing him to score his 2,246th career run, passing Ty Cobb as baseball’s all-time leader. The Padres beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-3 at Jack Murphy Stadium.

On the same day, Tim Raines Sr. plays left field for the Baltimore Orioles, while Tim Raines Jr. plays center field for them. It is only the 2nd time, and there has never been a 3rd, that a father and son have played in the same major league game. The first was Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. in 1990. The Orioles lost to the Red Sox, 5-4 at Camden Yards.

October 4, 2002: The Yankees blow a 6-1 lead as the Angels bounce back for a 9-6 victory, and a 2 games to 1 lead in their Division Series. Tim Salmon and Adam Kennedy homer for Anaheim, and Francisco Rodriguez again gets the win in relief.

October 4, 2003: For the 1st time in 95 years, the Chicago Cubs win a postseason series. They beat the Atlanta Braves 5-1 at Turner Field, and win their NL Division Series in 5 games.

On the same day, at Pro Player (now Sun Life) Stadium in the Miami suburbs, Jeff Conine fields Jeffrey Hammonds' single, and throws to Ivan Rodriguez, who survives a collision with J.T. Snow, for the final out of the Florida Marlins' 7-6 win over the San Francisco Giants, winning their Division Series in 4 games.

The Red Sox beat the A’s, 3-1, on Trot Nixon’s walkoff homer in the 11th inning at Fenway Park. This forces a 5th game in their ALCS.

October 4, 2010: The Mets fire field manager Jerry Manuel and general manager Omar Minaya. Firing Minaya was something they should have done at least 2 years earlier.

October 4, 2012: At the conclusion of their worst season in 47 years, the Red Sox fire Bobby Valentine as manager. He had restored his reputation by managing in Japan, but had ruined it again with the Red Sox.  Somehow, I don’t think he’ll ever get hired to manage another team… at least, not on this continent.

October 4, 2014: The longest game in postseason history by time, 6 hours and 23 minutes, is Game 2 of the NLDS between the San Francisco Giants and the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. It also ties the record for longest game by innings, as Brandon Belt hits a home run in the top of the 18th, giving the Giants a 2-1 victory.