Instant replay: The 20 greatest Yankee HRs

Take a look, give a listen to the 20 greatest home runs in Yankee history. Many are on this list of 100 greatest home runs in baseball history.

Any list of greatest home runs would be incomplete without the immortal Babe Ruth.

1. 1927,  Babe Ruth belts #60

Ancient footage played to the music of Queen’s “We are the Champions,” the Bambino makes his mark and challenges all comers to match it. “60. Count em 60,” roared the Babe. “Let’s see some other son a bitch match that.”

2. 1932, Ruth’s called shot, Game 3, World Series

The legendary called shot at Wrigley Field, with motion picture footage that shows Ruth pointing. But where?

3. 1932, Lou Gehrig,  4 HRs, single game

Close as we could come to video with Larrupin’ Lou is this photo. But you get the point, it was a long time ago. And four in one game — not even the great Ruth ever did that.

4. 1938, Joe DiMaggio, Game 2, World Series

Great radio call, Joe D goes “high and far over the fence in deep left field” at Wrigley Field to bury the Cubs in another Yankee sweep.

5. 1952, Mickey Mantle HR, Game 7, World Series

Mantle, just 20 years old, goes deep on a 3-1 pitch off Joe Black in the sixth inning at Ebbets Field to give the Yankees the lead for good on their way to their fourth straight World Series. Mel Allen with the play-by-play in the sixth – “that ball is going, going…it is gone.” Watch how fast Mantle gets around the bases.

6. 1956, Yogi Berra, 2 HRs, Game 7, World Series 

A signature moment for the Yankee catcher, who belted two early two- run homers against Don Newcombe to help the Yankees avenge their loss to Brooklyn the previous year in a 9-0 whitewash. Here’s the schematic for Yogi’s first home run.

7. 1961, Roger Maris 61st HR

Not the Phil Rizzuto call (“Holy cow, he did it, 61 for Maris.”), but what the heck, Red Barber is pretty darn good.  At one point the camera catches Sal Durante, the fan who got $5,000 for coming up with the ball. Lots going on in this brief cut: fans booing Boston’s Tracy Stallard  for going to a 2-0 count against Maris, a young fan running on the field to shake the Rajah’s hand, and Maris being pushed out for a curtain call by his teammates.

8. 1963,  Mickey Mantle, tape measure shot

The Mick talks about the hardest ball he ever hit, which missed by less than a foot of clearing the right field facade of Yankee Stadium. No player has ever hit a fair ball out of the Stadium old or new — Mantle came the closest.

9. 1967, Mickey Mantle, 500th HR

Watch the gimpy-legged Mantle struggle around the bases after lining his milestone round tripper into the right field seats at Yankee Stadium. Jerry Coleman with the call. Again, kids on the field.

10. 1976, Chris Chambliss HR, Game 5, ALCS

Chambliss helps the Yankees win their first AL pennant in 12 years. Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell with the call. Talk about security in the Bronx — fans storm the field as Chambliss barely makes it around the bases.

11. 1977, Reggie Jackson, 3 HRs, Game 6, World Series

Mr. October earns his stripes with an unforgettable performance that matches the heroics of one George Herman Ruth.

12. 1978, Bucky Dent HR, AL East playoff

” Deep to left. Yastrzemski will not get it. It’s a home run. A three-run homer for Bucky Dent.”  Bill White with the call on the blast that brought Yaz to his knees and silenced Fenway Park.

13. 1987, Don Mattingly HRs in 8 straight games

Donnie Baseball ties Dale Long’s record by homering in his eighth consecutive game.

14. 1996, Derek Jeter controversial home run, Game 1, ALCS

Jeter, a rookie, shares the spotlight with 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier, who gives the Yankees a boost on this controversial eighth inning call that tied the score and made Bob Costas ask “And what happens here?”

15. 1996, Bernie Williams walk-off ,Game 1, ALCS

Same game as Jeter’s home run, the winning blow by Williams came in the bottom of the 11th. You may have to turn up the volume to hear it — but John Sterling gives a landmark Yankees win call as Bernie goes boom.

16. 1996, Jim Leyritz, Game 4, World Series

With Atlanta on the verge of taking a 3-1 lead in the World Series, Leyritz launches a game-tying, three-run homer to left to tie the game in the eighth. Watch the reaction on the Yankee bench, especially Don Zimmer.

17A. 2001, Tino Martinez, Game 4, World Series

Less than two months after 9/11, two outs in the ninth, game on the line, Martinez homers to tie the score. Derek Jeter’s walk-off wins it in the 10th. And the next night…..

17B. 2001, Scott Brosius  Game 5, World Series

….it happened again. One night after Tino’s shocker, Brosius goes yard with two down in the ninth to tie the score. This time the Yankees win in 12. Joe Buck with the dual calls.

18. 2003, Aaron Boone, Game 7, ALCS

With the score tied in the last of the 11th, Boone hits the first pitch from knuckleballer Tim Wakefield into the left field seats to send the Yankees to the World Series. Look closely in the background. As Boone is rounding the bases, Mariano Rivera is hugging the mound.

19. 2004, Jason Giambi, walk-off grand slam

This dramatic 14th inning walk-off in the rain gave birth to John Sterling’s Giambino.

20. 2009, A-Rod walk-off, 15th inning

YouTubeism baby. A millenial generation shot of A-Rod’s two-run blast that broke a scoreless tie with the Red Sox.


Albert Joins Babe, Reggie in Select Club

Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson are the only players in baseball history to hit three home runs in a World Series game.

No matter what he does the rest of this World Series and for the remainder of his career, Albert Pujols carved out his own special niche in baseball history with three home runs in the third game of the 2011 World Series.

The 31-year-old Pujols is a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer once he retires, but unless he’s Babe Ruth (more on that in a moment) this World Series tour de force will be his signature moment.

More than a generation ago, on October 18, 1977, Reggie Jackson became Mr. October when homered three times on a cool night at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Jackson, like Pujols, homered off three different pitchers as he led the Yankees to their first World Championship in 15 years with an 8-4 win over the Dodgers.

That year, Jax set a record with five home runs in a single World Series, including four in his final four swings. Mr. October was named 1977 World Series MVP.

Fittingly, Babe Ruth is the only other player to hit three home runs in a World Series game. Ruth accomplished the feat twice, both times against the Cardinals.

Babe Does It Twice
But unlike Pujols or Jackson, Ruth had dozens of signature moments. His record-breaking 60th home run in 1927, his called shot in the 1932 World Series, and his three home run game with the Boston Braves in 1935 days before he retired are three that come to mind.

In Game Four of the 1926 World Series, Ruth hit three home runs at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis to lead the Yankees to a 10-5 victory. The Yanks won the next day and returned to New York with a 3-2 lead, but Hall of Fame right-hander Grover Cleveland “Old Pete” Alexander beat the Yankees 10-2 with a complete Game 6 effort.

In the decisive seventh game, Alexander came on in relief in the seventh inning to fan Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded. He walked Ruth, who had homered earlier in the game, with two outs in the ninth to put the tying run on base. But the Babe inexplicably tried to steal second base and was thrown out to end the Series with Bob Meusel on deck and Lou Gehrig in the hole.

Two years later, Ruth again hit three home runs in a World Series game against the Cardinals at Sportsman’s Park. The Yankees won the game 7-3 to sweep the Series. Ruth hit .625 in the 1928 World Series with those three homers and four RBIs and batted .625.


Plain as Rain, Sain Reigns in Baseball Trivia

“Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain” was the battle cry of the 1948 Boston Braves.

Johnny Sain was born to a trivia answer. Last pitcher to face Babe Ruth, first pitcher to face Jackie Robinson, half of one of baseball’s most famous phrases, last man to coach a 30-game winner.

Here are 10 bits of trivia about Johnny Sain:

1. Sain began his career in 1942, and finished with a 4-7 record with the Boston Braves. He then entered the service, and did not resume pitching in the major leagues until 1946.

2. Sain threw the last pitch to Babe Ruth in an organized game. During World War II, Sain was a Navy aviator and pitched for a military team that included Ted Williams and other big leaguers. On July 28, 1943, his team played an exhibition game at Yankee Stadium against a group of major leaguers managed by Babe Ruth. Sain walked the Babe, who was then 48 years old.

3. Sain threw the first pitch in the major leagues to Jackie Robinson on April 15, 1947, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Robinson grounded out to shortstop, but the Dodgers went on to beat Sain and the Braves, 5-3.

4.Johnny Sain was a four-time, 20-game winner, all with the Boston Braves. He won 20 games three straight times from 1946-48, and won 20 again in 1950.

5. “Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain” was the battle cry of the 1948 Braves. Boston Post sports editor Gerald V. Hern wrote a poem about the Braves dependence on two starters, Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain. The poem was inspired by the performance of Spahn and Sain during the Braves’ 1948 pennant drive. Boston swept a Labor Day doubleheader, with Spahn throwing a complete 14-inning win in the opener, and Sain pitching a shutout in the second game. Following two off days, it rained. Spahn won the next day, and Sain won the day after that. Three days later, Spahn won, then Sain won the next day. After one more off day, the two pitchers were brought back, and won another doubleheader, combining to go 8-0 over 12 days.

6. The Braves reached the World Series in 1948 for the first time in 34 years. In the opener at Braves Field, Sain pitched a four-hit, 1-0 shutout over Cleveland’s Bob Feller, who allowed only two hits but lost. Sain pitched another complete game but lost to the Indians 2-1 in Game Four. Cleveland won the Series in six games, the last time the Tribe won a World Series.

7.  Sain was traded to the Yankees during the 1951 season for Lew Burdette and $50,000. Sain was a member of three World Championship squads in New York. Six years later, Burdette beat the Yankees three times in the 1957 World Series to pitch the Milwaukee Braves to victory and win the MVP.

8. Sain was traded from the Yankees to the Kansas City A’s, along with Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter, for pitcher Sonny Dixon and cash in 1955, and retired shortly after. He finished with a 139-116 career record.

9. That’s the pitching side of the Sain ledger. An outstanding contact hitter, Sain always helped himself with the bat. He had a .245 career average and struck out a mere 20 times in 774 lifetime at-bats.

10. Sain later became a pitching coach with the Yankees, Twins, Tigers, White Sox and Atlanta Braves before retiring in 1986. He coached baseball’s last 30-game winner, Denny McLain. The only time Whitey Ford, Jim Bouton, Mudcat Grant, Earl Wilson, Denny McLain, Wilbur Wood, Stan Bahnsen and Jim Kaat won 20 games, Johnny Sain was their pitching coach.


Can’t Top This: Hornsby’s 5-Year Run

Nobody in baseball history — not Cobb, not Ruth, nor Williams or Bonds — ever put together a better five-year run than Rogers Hornsby.

Between 1921 and 1925, the St. Louis Cardinals second baseman won five consecutive batting titles — with averages of .397, .401, .384, .424 and .403. Overall the Rajah won seven batting crowns and hit .358 lifetime, highest for a right-hand batter in the history of the game.

During that five-year stretch, Hornsby also:

  • Led the NL in HRs in 1922 and 1925, winning Triple Crowns both years.
  • Hit .424 in 1924, the highest average ever recorded in a single season
  • Led the NL in OBP, slugging and OPS five straight times
  • Led the NL in hits, doubles, runs and RBIs three times, and triples once

In 1922, Hornsby led the league with 42 home runs, 152 RBIs,  a .401 average and 450 total bases. Only Ruth with 457 in 1921, ever had more. Not too shabby.

After winning his second Triple Crown and the NL MVP in 1925 with 39 homers, 143 RBIs and a .403 average, the Rajah’s numbers slipped to a more pedestrian .317 the following season. However, as player-manager he led the Cardinals to their first World Championship with a seven-game triumph over the Yankees.

Six Straight Batting Titles
Hornsby also won the NL batting title in 1920, when he hit .370 and led the NL in hits, doubles, RBIs, OBP, slugging and OPS. Not even the great Ty Cobb can match Hornsby’s run of six straight batting titles, between 1920 and 1925.

Throughout baseball history, other players have had remarkable five-year runs. Beginning in 1911, Cobb won five straight batting titles — .420, .409, .390, .368 and .369 — but couldn’t match up to Hornsby in some of the other categories. Babe Ruth won four home run titles, three RBI crowns and a batting title in his first five seasons with the Yankees, beginning in 1920.

Ted Williams hit .401 in  1941 and won American League Triple Crowns in 1942 and 1947 (the only player besides Hornsby to win two), but lost three years to World War II service. And more recently Barry Bonds had a remarkable run between 2000 and 2004, capped by a record 73 home runs in 2001.

But none can match the Rajah’s brilliant five-year run.

Just before Christmas in 1926, Hornsby was traded to the New York Giants for Frankie Frisch and Jimmy Ring. Following the 1927 season, the Giants shipped Hornsby to the Boston Braves for Shanty Hogan and Jimmy Welsh.

Hornsby played just one year in Boston. Despite winning his seventh and final batting title in 1928, Hornsby then was traded to the Cubs for Bruce Cunningham, Percy Jones, Lou Legett, Freddie Maguire, Socks Seibold and $200,000.

That deal paid off handsomely for the Cubs, as Hornsby earned his second MVP in leading the Cubs to the 1929 World Series.

Hornsby went on to manage the Cubs, St. Louis Browns and Cincinnati Reds, and was a coach for the original 1962 New York Mets. He passed away in 1963.


Can You Do Better Than Best of The Best?

1. Name me a better football player than Jim Brown?

2. Name me a better baseball player than Babe Ruth?

3. Name me a better basketball player than Michael Jordan?

4. Name me a better hockey player than Wayne Gretzky?


Trey-Rod: 3 HR Games in Yankee History

Three is a magic number in baseball. Three strikes and you’re out. Three outs in an inning.  Babe Ruth wore #3.

When Alex Rodriguez, above, hit three home runs iagainst Kansas City on August 14, it marked the 30th time a Yankee player hit three homers in a single game.

Lou Gehrig achieved the feat four times, and hit four in one game, the only Yankee to perform that feat. Joe DiMaggio did it three times.

So did the Babe, although only one of his three occurred during the regular season.  Ruth hit the final three home runs of his storied career in 1935 for the Boston Braves in a game at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, and retired soon afterwards.

A-Rod joins Tony Lazzeri, and Bobby Murcer as the only other Yankees to hit three in a game two times. Rodriguez had three HRs and 10 RBIs against Bartolo Colon and the Angels in 2005.

In all 20 Yankees have accomplished the feat, including eight Hall of Famers — Ruth, Lazzeri, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Johnny Mize, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson.

Ruth’s World Series Heroics
Ruth was the first Yankee to hit three in a game, against the Cardinals at old Sportsman Park in St. Louis in 1926 in the World Series, right. The Babe must have loved St. Louis, repeating the feat in 1928 to power the Yankees to a four-game sweep.

Ruth had his only regular season “hat trick” with the Yankees on May 22, 1930, in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park in the first game of a doubleheader which the Yankees lost, 15-7. Gehrig repeated the feat the following day in the first game of a another doubleheader in Philadelphia, a 20-13 victory over the A’s. Oh yes, Ruth and Lazerri also homered in that game.

Reggie Jackson is the only other major leaguer ever to hit three home runs in a World Series game. In just three swings in Game Six of the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers, Jax lifted the Yanks to to their first  championship. in 15 years.

Gehrig is the only Yankee to hit four home runs in a single game, on June 4, 1932, against the Athletics in Philadelphia. He was the first player in the modern era to hit four in a single game. He belted the circuit clouts in his first four at bats in a 20-13 win against the A’s. Gehrig missed a fifth home runs by inches, when his drive was caught in the furthest reaches of deep centerfield.

In that same game,  Lazzeri became the only player in major league baseball to finish a natural cycle with a grand slam.

Other Interesting Yankee Trey Factoids

On May 21 and 22, 1930, Ruth and Gehrig hit three home runs in successive games.

Mantle, Tommy Tresh and Tony Clark hit homers from both sides of the plate in their 3 HR games

Bobby Murcer hit four consecutive home runs — three in the second game — in a 1970 doubleheader against the Indians at Yankee Stadium.

Reggie Jackson, left, hit a home run in his final at bat in Game Five and three in a row during Game Six of the 1977 World Series. (My friend Matty was at the game at Yankee Stadium, and missed all three Reggie homers. But that’s a story for another blog.)

Johnny Blanchard in 1961 and Mickey Mantle in 1962 are the only other Yankees to hit four home runs in a row.

Lazzeri hit two grand slams and a third home run and drove in an American League record 11 runs in 1936 in a 25-2 rout of the Athletics at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. Poosh em up Tony was also the first Yankee to hit three home runs in a single game in the regular season, in 1927.

On three separate occasions, the Yankees have lost a game in which a player hit three home runs — Ruth in 1930, Mize in 1950 and Mike Stanley in 1995.

DiMaggio’s first three home run game in 1937 resulted in an 11-inning,  8-8 tie with the St. Louis Browns in Sportsman’s Park.

Mize holds the MLB record for most times hitting three home runs in a game — six. Five came with the Cardinals and Giants in the National League. He was the first player to hit three home runs in a game twice in one season in 1938 and did it again in 1940.

Mize had his final three home run game with the Yankees in 1950, just five days after DiMaggio performed the feat for the third time.

The Yankees as a team have hit three home runs in a game twice in different seven seasons — 1927, 1930, 1932, 1950, 1977, 1995, and this year.

Earlier this year, Mark Teixeira became the first Yankee to hit three home runs in a game at Fenway Park since Gehrig in 1927.

Yankees Who Have Hit Three Home Runs in One Game

1926 — Babe Ruth (World Series)

1927 — Tony Lazzeri

1927 — Lou Gehrig

1928 — Babe Ruth (World Series)

1929 — Lou Gehrig

1030 — Babe Ruth

1930 — Lou Gehrig

1932 — Lou Gehrig (4 HRs)

1932 — Ben Chapman

1936 — Tony Lazzeri

1937 — Joe DiMaggio

1939 — Bill Dickey

1940 — Charlie Keller

1948 — Joe DiMaggio

1950 — Joe DiMaggio

1950 — Johnny Mize

1955 — Mickey Mantle

1965 — Tom Tresh

1970 — Bobby Murcer

1973 — Bobby Murcer

1977 — Cliff Johnson

1977 — Reggie Jackson (World Series)

1995 — Mike Stanley

1996 — Darryl Strawberry

1995 — Paul O’Neill

1997 — Tino Martinez

2004 — Tony Clark

2005 — Alex Rodriguez

2010 — Mark Teixeira

2010 — Alex Rodriguez


Another Bronx Tale: 4th of July, Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig making his famous “Luckiest Man” address to a packed house in Yankee Stadium, 71 years ago this Fourth of July.

George Steinbrenner, a Yankee Doodle Dandy, was born on The Fourth of July. The Yankee owner turned 80 this year.

Three years before George was born, the famed 1927 Yankees entertained the second place Washington Senators before 74,000 fans in a holiday doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.

Any notions the Nats entertained for staying in the race were quickly shattered that afternoon. The Yankees swept Washington, 12-1 and 21-1, opened up an 11 1/2 game lead in the American League, and never looked back in winning their second World Championship.

In the opener the Yankees collected 18 hits, including four by third baseman Joe Dugan (a Holy Cross man), and home runs by Lou Gehrig and catcher Pat Collins. George Pipgras pitched a complete game for the win.

Fourth of July Fireworks
But the Yankees were just warming up.  In the nightcap, they pounded out 19 hits in  support of Wilcy Moore. Tony Lazzeri had four hits, including a pair of doubles, and drive in five runs. Babe Ruth tripled and was 3-3. And Gehrig hit the third of his record 23 grand slams and finished with five RBIs.

When action concluded that Fourth of July, Gehrig was hitting .396, with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs — in just 74 games, less than half a season.

Later that year, Ruth passed him for the home run title and eventually hit 60, while Detroit’s Harry Heilmann led the AL in batting at .398. All Gehrig did in 1927, was hit .373 with 47 homers and a league-leading 175 RBIs.

Twelve years later, on July 4, 1939, the Yankees hosted the Senators in another holiday doubleheader. The teams split, Washington winning the opener 3-2 and the Yankees taking the second game, 11-1. George “Twinkletoes” Selkirk homered in each game, but that’s not what fans and baseball historians remember about that Independence Day.

Gehrig’s Farewell Speech
Because that’s the day when a dying Lou Gehrig delivered his famous farewell speech between games of the doubleheader. Gehrig’s tearful remarks are often referred to as baseball’s “Gettysburg Address.”

After Gehrig spoke, the huge crowd stood and applauded for almost two minutes. Gehrig was visibly shaken as he stepped away from the microphone, and wiped the tears away from his face with his handkerchief.

Babe Ruth came over and hugged him. Later that year, the Baseball Writers Association elected Gehrig to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, waiving the mandatory five-year waiting period.

And less than two years later Lou Gehrig passed away, a victim of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the disease that now bears his name. The Yankee captain, the Iron Horse, was just 37 years old.

Holiday at The Stadium
Years later, my son, brother-in-law and nephew and I went to a Fourth of July game at Yankee Stadium, this one in 2003.. No holiday doubleheader that day, but the Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians 7-1 behind Mike Mussina, with home runs by Raul Mondesi and Jason Giambi.

Before the game, as we were parking in my favorite spot in The Bronx — free and easy access to the Major Deegan northbound — an elderly gentleman climbed out of the his car next to us. He was wearing a blue Lou Gehrig #4 jersey. We remarked on his taste in Yankee ware.

The man then told us that he had gone to his first major league game 64 years ago to the day, July 4, 1939. Lou Gehrig Day at Yankee Stadium. He said he had seen hundreds of games since that one, but Gehrig’s farewell remained his greatest thrill.

Sometimes baseball and history come together nicely….just like that.

Related Story: Nice piece by Ray Robinson of The New York Times on Gehrig’s farewell address.


Almost Perfect: A Mustache on the Mona Lisa

This play at first base cost Armando Galarraga a chance at baseball immortality.

When umpire Jim Joyce blew the call on Armando Galarraga’s bid for a perfect game, he not only painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa, he also opened Pandora’s box to all sorts of discussion, debate and historical comparisons.

For one, the inevitable cry for expanded replay rules to decide close calls on the bases ensued. (No, the games run too long as is.)

Secondly, many appealed to commissioner Bud Selig to invoke the “best interests of the game” clause to overturn Joyce’s call and give Galarraga the perfecto. (No, breaking precedent here could lead to all sorts of controversy moving forward.)

Unfortunately, Joyce’s call will go down as one of the worst ever by an umpire, considering the circumstances. He joins the company of Don Denkinger, whose errant ninth inning call in game six of the 1985 World Series gave the Royals life and ultimately cost the Cardinals a championship.

Ironically, if Galarraga had dropped Miguel Cabrera’s toss, it would have been ruled an error, and a no-hitter would still be in effect.

Through it all, Galarraga exhibited remarkable poise and grace — especially when considering he’d been deprived of baseball immortality. In some strange way, he’ll be  remembered more for losing he perfecto than some of the 20 other pitchers who have been perfect since 1880.

And Joyce, one of the better umpires in the game today, showed class by admitting his mistake and apologizing to Galarraga.

12 Perfect Innings
Many still recall the hard-luck lefty Harvey Haddix, above right, of the Pirates, who pitched 12 perfect innings against the Milwaukee Braves only to lose the perfect game, no-hitter, shutout and game in the 13th. When baseball redefined scoring rules in 1991, Haddix lost credit for both a perfect game and a no-hitter.

And then there was the strange case of Ernie Shore of the Red Sox, who in 1917 relieved Babe Ruth in the first inning after Ruth walked the first batter, argued the call and got tossed by home plate umpire Brick Owens, who the Babe slugged on his way to the clubhouse. The runner was thrown out stealing, and Shore then retired the next 26 Washington Senators. For years, Shore was credited with a perfect game, but the ruling was changed and the game is now listed as a shared no-hitter between Shore and Ruth.

In addition to Galarraga, nine other pitchers have retired the first 26 batters only to lose perfect games. Most recently, Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina came within a strike of a perfect game at Fenway Park in 1999 before Carl Everett of the Red Sox lined a single to left.

At Wrigley Field in 1972, Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas, left, was one strike away from a perfect game with a 2-2 count on Padres pinch-hitter Larry Stahl when fate, in the person of home plate umpire Bruce Froemming, intervened. Froemming called the next two pitches — both of which were close — balls. Pappas recovered to complete the no-hitter, but to this day he continues to begrudge Froemming.

Some 25 years later, a Chicago radio personality, during an interview with Pappas, got Froemming on the phone and the two argued on the air. Pappas also said in 2006 that he has seen video tape footage of that game on WGNtelevision and can see Froemming smirking immediately after the walk was issued; Froemming denied the charge.

Here’s the almost perfect list. Each of the following pitchers lost a perfect game with two outs in the ninth.

Almost Perfect

1908: Hooks Wiltse
New York Giants (vs. Philadelphia Phillies)
George McQuillan was hit with a pitch, but Wiltse ended the game with a 10-inning no-hitter.

1932: Tommy Bridges
Detroit (vs. Washington)
Dave Harris hit a single.

1958: Billy Pierce
Chicago (vs. Washington)
Ed FitzGerald hit a double.

1972: Milt Pappas
Chicago (vs. San Diego)
Larry Stahl was walked, but Pappas ended the game with a no-hitter.

1983: Milt Wilcox
Detroit (at Chicago)
Jerry Hairston hit a single.

1988: Ron Robinson
Cincinnati (vs. Montreal)
Wallace Johnson hit a single.

1989: Dave Stieb
Toronto (vs. New York)
Roberto Kelly hit a double.

1990: Brian Holman
Seattle (vs. Oakland)
Ken Phelps hit a home run.

2001: Mike Mussina
New York (at and vs. Boston)
Carl Everett hit a single.

2010: Armando Gallaraga
Detroit (vs. Cleveland)
Jason Donald hit a single.

PS – The SportsLifer was lucky enough to witness one of the 20 perfect games in baseball history. I was in the lower right field seats at Yankee Stadium with my son, nephew and brother-in-law on a May day in 1998 when Yankees left-hander David Wells pitched a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins. As we left the Stadium that afternoon, I told my nephew, seven-years-old at the time, that he could go to a thousand ballgames and never see another perfect game.


Ruth a Perfect 5-0 as Yankee Moundsman

Babe Ruth warms up before a start at the Polo Grounds in New York.

Several weeks back, WFAN’s Mike Francesa claimed that Babe Ruth did not have a pitching history with the Yankees.

Au contraire Sports Doctor, Ruth appeared in five games with the Yankees and won them all, despite a 5.52 ERA.

Babe Ruth was and still is the greatest player in baseball history — only the Bambino excelled as both an everyday player and a pitcher. Fans can recite many of his batting exploits — his 714 home runs, still third on the all-time list, 60 home runs in 1927, his two three home run games in the World Series, his called shot against the Cubs in the 1932 World Series, a .342 lifetime average. Need we go on.

Almost forgotten amongst the distractions of the Babe’s home runs and his gigantic personality is the fact that he was a tremendous left-hand pitcher, the best in the American League between 1915 and 1919, before the Red Sox made him a regular outfielder. Ruth won 23 games for a championship Boston team in 1916 and another 24 in 1917. He threw a record 29 2/3 successive scoreless innings in World Series play, a record finally eclipsed by Yankee southpaw Whitey Ford in 1961.

The Babe was a regular in the Red Sox rotation for four years. In 1919 he fashioned a 9-5 record, but became a full-time outfielder that year and led the American League with 29 home runs and 114 RBIs. The following year he was sold to the Yankees.

Ruth wound up his career with a 94-46 record, 17 shutouts and 2.28 ERA. Ironically enough, the man noted for home runs surrendered a grand total of just 10 in 163 appearances.

Oh, back to those Yankee wins. Ruth won his first game for the Yanks in 1920, his first year with the team. And 13 years later he won his final game to extend his New York record to 5-0.

Five for The Babe
Here’s a look at those five Yankee Ruthian victories:

June 1, 1920: Facing the Washington Senators at the Polo Grounds, Ruth left with a 12-2 lead after failing to retire a batter in the fifth. Ruth was relieved by Hank Thormahlen, but got the win, according to the rules of the day, as the Yankees won 14-7.

June 13, 1921: Ruth started and pitched five innings, giving up four runs in a 13-8 Yankee win. The Bambino also homered twice in three at bats and knocked in three runs to help his own cause.

October 1, 1921: Later that year, again at the Polo Grounds, Ruth came on in relief in the eighth inning with the Yankees leading the Philadelphia Athletics 6-0. Babe immediately allowed the A’s tie the score with six runs, then pitched three scoreless innings and earned the victory when the Yanks scored in the 11th inning to win 7-6. Although he didn’t hit any homers, Ruth did steal his 16th base of the season.

September 28, 1930: Nearly nine years later, Ruth, now 35, started against the Red Sox at Boston’s Braves Field on the final day of the season. And the Bambino pitched a complete game, allowing three runs on 11 hits in the Yankees 9-3 win.

October 1, 1933: Staked to a 6-0 lead in his last major league start, this one at Yankee Stadium in the final game of the year, Ruth went the distance and held on for a 6-5 win against the Red Sox. The Sultan of Swat also battled a solo home run in his final mound appearance.


Sorry Pops, Yogi Gets the Nod over Dickey

Yogi Berra, who has 10 rings and three MVPs, is the greatest Yankee catcher ever.

The other day I got into a discussion of the all-time Yankee team with my father, who  knows more about sports than anyone. Dad has seen ‘em all, from Ruth to A-Rod.

For the most part, compiling a list of the best  Yankees by position is a relative cinch.

Plenty of great outfielders have worn the pinstripes, but you’d have to be crazy not to select Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.

The infield is pretty much a no-brainer too — Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig at first base and Tony Lazzeri at second, and current players Derek Jeter at shortstop and Alex Rodriguez at third.

Whitey Ford would be the choice as left-hand pitcher, and Mariano Rivera as reliever. There are a whole bunch of candidates for right-hand pitcher – Jack Chesbro, Waite Hoyt, Bob Shawkey, Red Ruffing, Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, Mel Stottlemyre, Catfish Hunter, David Cone, Mike Mussina and more are at least in the conversation.

Dickey vs. Berra
When it comes to catcher, my father surprised me when he said Bill Dickey, not Yogi Berra, was the Yankees best ever.

Let’s compare, Both Dickey and Berra are Hall of Famers, and they are the only Yankees to share a retired number, #8.

Dickey, right, played for the Yankees from 1928 through 1943 and closed out his career in 1946, the same year Berra first appeared on the scene. His career batting average was .313 with 202 home runs, 1209 RBIs and 1969 hits.

Dickey hit .362 in 1936, the standard for catchers until it was equalled by Mike Piazza 61 years later and surpassed by Joe Mauer’s .365 in 2009. He was an 11-time All-Star and won seven championships.

Berra’s career for the Yankees ran from 1946 through 1963. (He had nine ABs with the Mets in 1965). Yogi has a .285 career batting average with 358 homers, 1430 RBIs and 2150 hits.

10 Rings for Yogi
Berra was an American League All-Star every year between 1948 and 1962. He has 10 World Series championships, more than any other player in baseball history.

Yogi is still the career leader in World Series games and hits, and his 12 homers rank third all-time between a couple of guys named Mantle and Ruth.

Dickey clearly has the edge in batting average, but doesn’t have the power numbers or post-season pedigree of Berra. Yogi hit at least 20 homers in 11 straight years, including 30 in 1950 and 1952. Dickey hit 20 or more four times but never hit 30.

The tiebreaker that puts Berra over the top comes in MVP consideration. Dickey never won an MVP; his best finish was second in 1938. Berra had a seven-year stretch between 1950 and 1956 where he won three MVP Awards (1951, 1954 and 1955). Berra finished second twice, third and fourth once in that stretch, one of the best MVP runs in baseball history.

Sorry Pops, but Yogi Berra gets the nod as best Yankee catcher ever.


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