They say history repeats itself. Well it does sometimes, and it did today.
The Yankees comeback from a 9-0 deficit raised the echoes from a Yankee-Red Sox game, just over 62 years ago.
It was April 18, 1950, Opening Day at Fenway Park. Yankees vs. Red Sox.
Boston pounded Yankee starter Allie Reynolds and, like today, led 9-0 entering the sixth inning following Billy Goodman’s two-run homer.
New York rallied, but still trailed 10-4 going into the top of the eighth. Then the Yankees struck for nine runs. Billy Martin, right, making his major league debut, doubled and singled in the eighth inning and knocked in three runs.
The Yankees added to the carnage in the ninth on an RBI double by Joe DiMaggio and a run-scoring single by Yogi Berra to win 15-10.
Sounds familiar, huh.
And again: The Yankees also rebounded from a 9-0 deficit to beat the Red Sox on June 26, 1987, at Yankee Stadium. The Yanks knocked out reigning Cy Young and MVP winner Roger Clemens with an 11-run third inning. They then won the game 12.11 on a base hit by Wayne Tolleson in the 10th inning that scored Mike Pagliarulo.
When Randy Johnson won his 300th game two years ago, staggering towards the finish line of a brilliant career, there was strong talk that the Big Unit might be baseball’s last 300-game winner, given the limitations and constraints (read that pitch counts) of the modern game. Not so fast.
CC Sabathia already has 167 wins, and he won’t turn 31 until July 21. This is his 11th major league season, and through the first 10 the Yankee southpaw has averaged just under 16 wins a season.
Sabathia is 167-92 for a .645 winning percentage. He’s led the American League in wins the past two years with 19 and 21 victories respectively.
CC already has 10 wins this year, as many as anyone in the majors. He’s durable, having pitched at least 230 innings in every season since 2007. Never been seriously injured, hardly ever misses a turn, been on the DL just once in his career, that for a strained oblique early in the 2006 season with the Indians. No arm troubles. The very definition of a staff ace, a horse.
Do the math. If Sabathia keeps on his current pace and pitches eight more seasons, he’d reach 300 wins somewhere around the age of 39.
Recent 300-Game Winners
That would be younger than three of the four pitchers who won their 300th game since 2000 — Roger Clemens (40) in 2003 with the Yankees, Tom Glavine (41) with the Mets in 2007, and Johnson (45) with the Giants.
Only Greg Maddux, who won his 300th at the age of 38 with the Cubs, would be younger. Maddux went on to win 355 games, eighth on the all-time list and one more than Clemens.
Before that, Nolan Ryan in 1990 was the last pitcher to reach 300 wins, at age 43, with the Rangers.
Only four active pitchers have more wins than Sabathia — Tim Wakefield (197), Roy Halladay (179), Tim Hudson (171) and Livan Hernandez (171). Halladay is the youngest of this group at age 34, Wakefield the oldest at 44.
Only 24 pitchers have won 300 games, and of that group only six — Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton, Eddie Plank, Glavine, Johnson and Lefty Grove — are left-handers.
CC Sabathia has a long ways to go, but he has a legitimate shot at becoming the 25th pitcher in baseball history to reach 300 wins.
The SportsLifer couldn’t get through the year without one more top 10 list.
So here they are, the top 10 moments in New York sports, 2008.
1. Catch XLII: Sparked by the unbelievable Eli Manning to David Tyree pass play, the Giants rally to defeat the previously unbeaten Patriots in the Super Bowl.
2. Yankee Money: Failing to make the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, Yankees sign free agents C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Texiera.
3. House Cleaning: The Knicks finally manage to get rid of Isiah Thomas, and new coach Mike D’Antoni puts Stephon Marbury out to pasture.
4. Collapse: For the second year in a row, the Mets fall apart in a September swoon and allow the Phillies to steal the NL East championship.
5. Collapse Redux: Brett Favre and the Jets lose four of their final five games and miss the playoffs, forcing the removal of coach Eric Mangini.
6. Final Farewell: Many of the greats return as the Yankees play the final game in the House that Ruth Built and the Mets close Shea Stadium.
7. Giants Among Men: Despite the distraction of the Plaxico Burress shooting, the Giants earn top seed in the NFC heading into the playoffs.
8. He Said, He Said: Disgraced Roger Clemens tries to clear his name of steroid allegations by trainer Brian McNamee.
9. Domination on Ice: The Rangers continue their sudden mastery of the cross-river rival Devils, taking round one of the Stanley Cup playoffs 4 games to 1.
10. Smart Sign: The Mets pull a huge off-season deal, acquiring left-handed pitcher Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins to fortify their pitching staff.
It’s no secret the Yankees need to rebuild. But let’s not complicate matters.
Hey, this isn’t rocket science. It’s baseball. And more than anything, the Yankees need to get pitching and to get younger, faster and more athletic.
For years now, the Yankees have tried to get away with make-shift pitching staffs and band-aid remedies.
Old broken down aces like Randy Johnson, Rocket Redux (Roger Clemens II), and Kevin Brown. Over-rated youngsters like Javier Vazquez, Jeff Weaver and the double zero twins, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. And never has-beens Darrell Rasner, Jaret Wright and Kei Igawa. Need we mention Karl Pavano.
And they’ve been bogged down by DH-type slowpokes, guys like Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui and Wilson Betemit of recent vintage.
Maybe the Bombers need a history lesson.
Yankees On the Move
In 1975, New York’s American League entry missed the playoffs for the 11th straight season. They were a decent team, hung in the pennant race until the dog days, wound up third behind the Red Sox and Orioles.
They Yankees were about to move out of Shea Stadium, their home away from home for two years, into a refurbished Yankee Stadium.
They were desperate for a jump-start, hungry to get back to the playoffs. Enter general manager Gabe Paul, pictured above.
With two brilliant trades, Paul built the foundation for a team that would win an American League pennant in 1976 and the World Series the following two years. Those two deals brought the Yankees starting pitching and youth and speed, and helped fill holes in center field and second base.
In one deal, the Yankees traded a hobbled Bobby Bonds to California for pitcher Ed Figueroa and center-fielder Mickey Rivers, right. The other trade brought Willie Randolph, Dock Ellis and Ken Brett to the Bronx in exchange for Doc Medich, who was shipped to Pittsburgh.
Bobby Bonds, Barry’s father, would play for six more years with six teams and never make the playoffs again. He did manage 32 home runs and 30 stolen bases in his one year in pinstripes after being acquired in exchange for Bobby Murcer. Bonds had his fourth and final 30-30 year in 1977 with the Angels, but was clearly on the downhill side of his career when the Yanks sent him out West..
Rivers turned out to be the catalyst, the center fielder and lead-off hitter on those championship Yankee teams of the late ’70s before being traded to Texas for, among others, Oscar Gamble. Mick the Quick hit .312 with 43 stolen bases and finished third in the AL MVP race, and followed that up with a .326 season in 1977.
55 Wins in Three Years for Figgy
Figueroa was 19-10, 16-11 and 20-9 in his first three seasons in New York, a mainstay with 55 wins on a staff that won three straight pennants, before an arm injury stalled his career in 1979.
Medich, whose best year with the Yanks was 19-15 in 1974, never approached those standards with the Pirates and later Texas. He finished with a 124-105 lifetime record and eventually left baseball to become a medical doctor.
Another doc, Dock Ellis, never did go the med school, but he did win 17 games for the Yankees in 1976 while losing only eight. He was traded to the A’s early in the following season for Mike Torrez, who won two games for the Yankees in the 1977 World Series. Torrez signed as a free agent with the Red Sox in 1978, and is perhaps best known as the pitcher who gave up a three-run homer to Bucky Dent in a 1978 play-in loss to the Yankees.
Ken Brett, George’s brother, was quickly traded to the White Sox one month into the season, along with Rich Coggins, for Carlos May, who helped the Yankees win the AL pennant in 1976.
And Willie Randolph, a Brooklyn native, became a fixture at second base for the Yankees for 13 seasons and one of the most popular Yankees of recent vintage. With the exception of Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri, Randolph, right, arguably the best second baseman in Yankee history.
Those weren’t the only big deals for Paul, who also traded for Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Dick Tidrow, Lou Piniella and Bucky Dent, all who contributed mightily to the Yankees last 70s run.
Gabe Paul was gone following the 1977 season, unable to deal with the daily turmoil of George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin, but the creativity he exhibited in 1976 with these two trades helped turn a proud franchise around.
Brian Cashman needs to show some of that same kind of guts and guile if the Yankees are to return to the playoffs next year.
It will take more than signing overpriced superstars to huge free-agent contracts to bring these Yankees back. It will take innovation and ingenuity and grit, traits the Yankees have been lacking lately.
Learn from the Gospel of (Gabe) Paul, aka The Trader.
Through the years, I saw some great games at Shea Stadium, including a 1972 game that featured both Hank Aaron and Willie Mays (both went hitless and remained tied with 648 career home runs), a 1986 NLCS encounter when Houston’s Mike Scott stopped the Mets, and some memorable Subway Series clashes with the Yankees, most notably Roger Clemens face-off with Mike Piazza in 2002.
However, my most memorable night at Shea Stadium occurred on Friday night, Sept, 22, 1967, during the second game of a twi-night doubleheader against the Astros.
It was banner night at Shea, and between games my buddy Ed and I paraded on the field with a banner that read: “We Got the Fever over Tom Seaver” or “Murderers Row: Kranepool, Swoboda, Jones” or something like that.
The Mets lost the opener, 8-0, as Houston’s Mike Cuellar pitched a five-hit, complete game shutout.
The Mets were trailing in the second game when midway through the contest Ed started dropping M&Ms out of the upper deck onto the unsuspecting patrons in the box seats below.
It didn’t take long for security to catch on, and we were escorted from the stadium. Ejected from Shea. Banished from the ballpark
Not to be denied, however, we went down a couple of exits and sneaked back into the park. We had prime seats to see Mets shortstop Jerry Buchek hit a three-run homer to tie the game with two outs in the eighth and another three-run homer to win it, 8-5, with two outs in the 10th.
Undoubtedly this was Jerry Buchek’s signature moment, his finest hour, the best of Buchek. He hit just 22 home runs in his career (14 with the Mets that season) and had a .220 career batting average.
Buchek did get a hit in his only at-bat in the 1964 World Series as the Cardinals beat the Yankees in seven games. But for those were there, and even those who shouldn’t have been, he’s most remembered for that clutch performance on a Friday night at Shea in 1967.
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” – William Shakespeare
Was planning to drive up to Albany real early this morning to see the New York Giants in training camp. All packed, camera in the car, ready to go. But I overslept.
I was dreaming that the Giants beat the undefeated Patriots on a miracle play in the Super Bowl. Then I woke up and realized it was true.
So I started thinking about the strange occurrences we’ve seen in sports in the past year. One year ago, you would have been dreaming if you said:
- The Giants would be defending World Champions.
- That Manny Ramirez would be wearing Dodger blue.
- And Joe Torre would be his manager.
- That the Boston Celtics would win the NBA title.
- That the Tampa Bay Rays would be in first place.
- That Greg Norman, 53 years young, would be leading the British Open with nine holes to play.
- And that he would be cheered on by his new bride, Chris Evert.
- That Brett Favre would retire. Or unretire. Or retire….wait a minute, Brett, wake up and make up your mind.
- That Roger Clemens would make a fool of himself in front of the entire nation.
- While his former teammate, Mike Mussina, would be pitching like Cy Young.
- That Appalachian State would beat Michigan. In the Big House. Yeah right.
- That Marion Jones, the queen of the 2000 Olympics, would be in jail.
Did I just dream all that? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
FACT: No major league pitcher at least 100 games over .500 in his career has ever failed to make the Hall of Fame.
All 18 eligible starters who fit this profile are in — including six who pitched the majority of their careers in the 19th Century. There are a dozen 300-game winners on the list.
The 100 Plus Club list is dotted with the usual suspects — Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Pete Alexander, Warren Spahn, Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer and Bob Feller, just to name a few. Young is the only pitcher close to 200 plus in the won-loss category: he finished his career with a record 511 wins and 316 losses.
Whitey Ford has the best overall winning percentage amongst members of the elite club — 236-106 for .690. Lefty Grove is right behind at .680 (300-141), followed by 19th Century hurler John Clarkson at .649 (327-177).
No Koufax, Ryan, Gibson
Then there are those who didn’t make it, immortals like Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson, Dizzy Dean, Carl Hubbell and Rube Waddell.
The 100 Plus Club is due to get some company soon. Recently retired enigma Roger Clemens has a 354-184 record, a .658 winning percentage. He also has a steroid-tarnished resume which may or may not hinder his Hall of Fame chances. Then again, his seven Cy Youngs can only help his cause.
There are five active pitchers with 100 plus stat lines. Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux are 300-game winners, and Randy Johnson is just 11 wins away, at 289. Pedro Martinez is 212-95, a point ahead of Ford’s .690 all-time winning percentage.
All four are pretty much considered to be Hall of Fame locks, with 14 Cy Young awards amongst them (Johnson 5, Maddux 4, Martinez 3 and Glavine 2).
And then there’s Mike Mussina, shown above, a man whose career has been full of almosts and near-misses. Mussina has never won a Cy Young award. He has never won 20 games in a single season, never won an ERA or strikeout title, never won a World Series.
Mussina came to the Yankees the year after they won four World Series in five years. He came within one strike of pitching a perfect game against the Red Sox in Fenway Park in 2001. He’s always left at the altar.
The Moose has won 19 games twice and 18 twice. He’s had 17 straight years of 10 or more wins, an American League record. He’s had only two losing seasons in 18 years.
Overall Mussina is 261-150, a .639 winning percentage. But is that good enough?
Hall of Fame candidates are typically voted in for reaching certain milestones, like 300 wins, 3,000 hits, or 500 home runs. Perhaps consistency should count for something as well.
Only time will tell.
After allowing more than 40 runs and dropping the first two games, my softball team got on the winning side with a 17-0 victory over the team that beat us in the playoffs last year.
First off, too bad we couldn’t have saved a few of those runs for the final game last year, when we lost by two runs.
Second off, a shutout in slo-pitch softball is virtually unheard of, like Lindsay Lohan without a cocktail or Roger Clemens telling the truth.
Before we rush out to canonize Josh Beckett just yet, let’s take a look at the numbers. At age 27, he’s won more than 16 games in a season just once (20-7) last year, and overall is 77-52 with a 3.74 ERA.
Yes he’s been dominant in the post-season (he’s been there twice, in 2003 and last year), but he does have two losses. He’s not Bob Gibson or Sandy Koufax, at least not yet.
At age 27, Doc Gooden had 132 wins and a Cy Young….and look what happened to him. At age 27. Bob Feller had 112 wins, despite missing three full seasons and most of a fourth serving his country in World War II. Roger Clemens had 89 wins, two Cy Young awards and an MVP….and look what happened to him
And now Beckett has back spasms and may miss the Red Sox opener. He’s had injury problems before. Time to put a stop to the Cooperstown campaign — at least temporarily.
With the signing of David Carr to back up Eli Manning, the Giants now have two overall #1 selections on their roster — Carr and Eli. Makes you wonder if any other team has two #1s. Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer and Orlando Pace are among the few members of that elite #1 club still active. Michael Vick is not.
Prediction — the toughest ticket in New York sports history will be for Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium in 2009.
Leigh Montville has written two great baseball bios, on Babe Ruth (The Big Bam) and Ted Williams (The Biography of an American Hero). The trilogy piece should be on Willie Mays, the greatest player many of us have ever seen.
Looking forward to selection Sunday, although I doubt my alma mater, Holy Cross, will make the big dance. Bob Cousy and Tommy Heinsohn are nowhere in sight.
My early picks for the Final Four — North Carolina, Texas, Kansas and Louisville. These are “draft” picks only, and subject to change, esp if two appear in the same bracket.
How do you spell Syracuse? N-I-T
Was Brett Favre the best quarterback ever? That ‘s a up for debate (and perhaps the subject of a future blog)…but any QB who leads all-time in wins, touchdown and yardage is certainly in the discussion.Favre played the game with spirit…and he played every game….and he had fun doing it.
Giant fans will always remember his last pass — the Corey Webster interception in overtime on a frigid night in Green Bay that catapulted New York into the Super Bowl.
Does anybody really care whether Stephon Marbury shows up at Madison Square Garden. There’s lots of guys on the Knicks who don’t show up, even when they’re active and playing.
The Knicks are irrelevant. Shame on you, Son of Cablevision Dolan and Isiah for turning one of the charter NBA franchises into the laughingstock of the league.
Here’s hoping your attorney is not giving you the same lame-brained advice that Rusty Hardin has given Roger Clemens. Rusty reminds me of Phineas T. Barnum.
He’s got the clowns and the high-wire act, just missing the elephants and cotton candy.
Better start doing your NCAA homework. March Madness will soon be upon us. Major in bracketology.
Teams play the entire season and virtually everyone — outside of the Ivy League — is still alive and kicking.
Trivia question: Name the only college football team to have three players make the NFL Hall of Fame?