Recalling Fritz Peterson’s 20th win in 1970

Exactly 45 years ago today, September 30, the last day of the 1970 baseball season, I paid the first of many visits to Fenway Park. Yankee history was made that night as Fritz Peterson earned his 20th victory of the season in a 4-3 win over the Red Sox.

Peterson had his finest season in 1970, finishing 20-11 overall with a 2.90 ERA. The left-hander won 17 games in 1969 and 1972, and finished his Yankee career with 109 wins. Overall, Peterson was 133-131 with a 3.30 ERA, including short stints with Cleveland and Texas. He retired in 1976.

In that 1970 game in Boston, Peterson, who doubled earlier in the game and scored the Yankees’ first run, took a 4-1 lead into the eighth inning before surrendering a two-run homer to Luis Alvarado. Peterson started the ninth but departed after surrendering a pair of one-out singles to Billy Conigliaro and Joe Lahoud. After giving up a walk with two outs to load the bases, Yankee closer Lindy McDaniel got Mike Andrew to ground out to preserve Peterson’s 20th win and earn his 29th save of the year.

The win capped off a strong season for the Yankees, who finished second in the AL East, 15 games behind Baltimore with a 93-69 record. The Orioles went on to defeat Cincinnati in five games to win the 1970 World Series.

Peterson, who recently authored a book “When The Yankees Were On The Fritz: Revisiting The Horace Clark Era,” was traded to the Indians in April of 1974, along with pitchers Fred Beene, Tom Buskey and Steve Kline, for first baseman Chris Chambliss and pitchers Dick Tidrow and Cecil Upshaw. Chambliss hit a dramatic ninth-inning, walk-off home run to beat the Royals in the deciding game of the 1976 ALCS, and was a key cog on Yankee World Series winners in 1977 and 1978.

Related Blog: Take My Wife….Please

Remembering Yogi Berra, an American icon

Baseball today mourns the passing of Yogi Berra. Yogi was an American icon, a World War II veteran who was part of the D-Day invasion and a Hall of Fame catcher with the Yankees whose record of 10 World Championships will never be equaled. But above all that, Yogi was a great husband, a loving father, and a wonderful man, whose kindness, humility and sincerity touched all who knew him.

Yogi Berra played in the first baseball game I ever saw, in the summer of 1958 at Yankee Stadium. Yogi batted fifth and played right field and was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a walk. And although the Yankees lost to the White Sox that day, I was hooked on baseball for life.

Yogi was a walking Bartlett’s who said everything from “It ain’t over till it’s over” to “It gets late early out there” to “Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded.”

On a personal note, I played competitive softball until I turned 60. In the later years I became a catcher, and proudly wore #8 in honor of Yogi.

Yogi’s passing hits home for me. My father was born in 1925, the same year as Yogi. My dad passed on his love of baseball to me. No doubt, he’ll be watching the Yankee game tonight.

We used to argue about who was the best catcher in Yankee history, Bill Dickey or Yogi Berra. My father, who saw Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play, would say Dickey. Sorry pops, it was Yogi.

RIP Lawrence Peter Berra.

The ultimate Giant: Memories of Frank Gifford

Five days before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I saw my first NFL game. On a cool Sunday afternoon in 1963, the Giants rolled over the visiting 49ers 48-14 at Yankee Stadium.

Frank Gifford caught a pair of touchdown passes that day, a 10-yarder from Y.A. Tittle and later a 30-yarder from New York’s back-up quarterback Glynn Griffing. Later that year, Gifford scored the Giants’ only touchdown in a 14-10 loss to the Bears in the NFL championship game at Wrigley Field.

A year later, Gifford retired. He lived the life of “the ultimate Giant.” And of course Gifford would go on to make a huge imprint on pro football, broadcasting Monday Night Football games on ABC for nearly 30 years.

Gifford, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 84, still ranks first all-time in Giants touchdowns with 78, second in receiving yards and eighth in rushing yardage.

“Frank Gifford was the ultimate Giant,” said Giants co-owner John Mara. “He was the face of our franchise for so many years. More importantly, he was a treasured member of our family. My father loved him like a son and was proud to act as his presenter for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a favor Frank returned years later by presenting my father in Canton. For my siblings and me, Frank was like a revered older brother whom we looked up to and admired. We loved him and will miss him terribly.”

For a kid growing up in Westchester County, a kid who went to Iona Prep, the same high school as John Mara, Frank Gifford was the epitome of cool. Giants cool. Lawrence Taylor was the greatest Giant, but for half of century Gifford was the face of the franchise. To be called a “legend: by Joe Namath is quite a tribute.

I’ll always cherish that Frank Gifford autograph and the words of encouragement I received at a Communion breakfast in White Plains when I was 12 years old. #16, gone but not forgotten.

Will Severino ride to the rescue like Stott?

On the morning of Wednesday, August 12, 1964, the Yankees were languishing in third place, trailing the Orioles by 3 1/2 games and the White Sox by 2 1/2. The Yankees were in the last days of a great dynasty, having won 13 American League pennants and nine World Series in the previous 15 years.

That day a tall, slender right-hand pitcher named Mel Stottlemyre was called up to make his major league debut. Aided by a tape measure home run by Mickey Mantle, Stott pitched a complete-game, seven-hitter and beat the ChiSox, 7-3, for his first big league win. He even singled in his first at bat. .

That was 51 years ago, but the Yankees made arguably their most important pitching call-up since then when they brought up highly touted Luis Serevino, pictured below, in early August. Although Severino didn’t fare quite as well as Stottlemyre in his debut, he did pitch well, striking out seven batters, walking none, and allowing only two hits and one unearned run in a 2-1 loss to the Red Sox.

The Yankees have had plenty of starting pitching prospects since then. But outside of a few notable exceptions, like Ron Guidry and Andy Pettitte, few have lived up to expectations. Home-grown talent like Jim Beattie, Scott Kamieniecki, Sam Militello and later Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, have struggled in the Bronx. And then there was the sad tale of Brien Taylor, the top overall pick in the 1991 draft, who injured his shoulder in a bar fight and never pitched in the majors.

Stott down the stretch

Back to 1964. Stottlemyre went 9-3 down the stretch that year and was a major force as the Yankees advanced to the World Series against the Cardinals. He beat the Orioles, 3-1, just three days after his debut.And on August 22, in his third start, he righted the ship and stopped a six-game losing streak with an 8-0 shutout win over the Red Sox. The Yankees won 30 of their last 41 games to take the flag.

Stottlemyre won six more games in 1964, highlighted by a 7-0 shutout of the Washington Senators on September 26  in which he allowed just two hits. But the kicker was at the plate, where Stott went 5-for-5 and drove in a pair of runs.

In the World Series that October, the Yankees became heavily dependent on Stottlemyre after Whitey Ford was injured in the opener. Mel beat Bob Gibson in Game Two, a complete game 8-3 victory. Despite pitching seven strong innings in Game Five, he came away with a no decision. Finally, pitching on just two days rest, he lost to Gibson and the Cardinals 7-5 in Game Seven.

Stottlemyre would pitch 10 more years in the Bronx and never saw the playoffs after 1964. Severino’s fate is still TBD.

Related blog: Mel Stottlemyre’s inside-the-park grand slam.

The other side of baseball’s Mount Rushmore

When Major League Baseball announced its Franchise Four results recently, if left a ton of talent on the other side of Mount Rushmore. Although it’s difficult to argue with many of the selections, leaving Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens off the 8-man lists of the teams they played for is unfathomable.  If you want to argue steroids, then tell me how Barry Bonds made the Franchise Four for the Giants.

MLB also pulled together a Greatest Pioneer list, consisting of Walter Johnson, Nap Lajoie, Christy Mathewson and Cy Young. Perhaps that’s a CYA list, since these immortals weren’t voted in by fans of their respective teams. The Negro League quartet of Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Buck O’Neil and Satchel Paige sounds about right. Only old Satch ever made it to the majors.

There are also issues with the Greatest Living Player foursome. Henry Aaron and Willie Mays are no-brainers, and Sandy Koufax gets a pass, despite a brief but brilliant career. But choosing Johnny Bench over Yogi Berra is wrong. Berra has a higher lifetime batting average (.285 to .267), more rings (10 to 2), more RBIs and nearly as many home runs as Bench. Yogi also managed two teams, the Yankees and the Mets, to the seventh game of the World Series. Berra is an icon, Bench is merely a catcher. Since the results were announced during the All-Star Game festivities in Cincinnati, perhaps MLB wanted to put Bench on the list. Just sayin’.

There, now that we have that out of the way, here’s my list by position of top ballplayers on the other side of Mount Rushmore, legends who struck out on the Franchise Four’ Starters are listed first, followed by reserves ranked in order of selection

C – Yogi Berra, Yankees

Bill Dickey, Yankees

Carlton Fisk, Red Sox

Roy Campanella, Dodgers

1B – Albert Pujols, Cardinals

George Sisler, Browns

Bill Terry, Giants

Eddie Murray, Orioles

2B – Eddie Collins, A’s/White Sox

Charlie Gehringer, Tigers

Nap Lajoie, Naps (now Indians)

Tony Lazzeri, Yankees

SS – Derek Jeter, Yankees

Ozzie Smith, Cardinals

Dave Concepcion, Reds

Luis Aparicio, White Sox

3B – Alex Rodriguez, Yankees

Pie Traynor, Pirates

Eddie Matthews, Braves

Wade Boggs, Red Sox/Yankees

OF – Joe Jackson, Indians/White Sox

OF – Al Simmons, A’s

OF – Mel Ott, Giants

Harry Heilmann, Tigers

Jim Rice, Red Sox

Zack Wheat, Dodgers

Larry Doby, Indians

Chuck Klein, Phillies

Paul Waner, Pirates

Ralph Kiner, Pirates

Sam Crawford, Tigers

Goose Goslin, Senators

SP – Cy Young, Red Sox

SP – Walter Johnson, Senators

SP – Christy Mathewson, Giants

SP – Carl Hubbell, Giants  

SP – Roger Clemens, Red Sox

Grover Alexander, Phillies/Cub/Cardinals

Juan Marichal, Giants

Whitey Ford, Yankees

Dizzy Dean, Cardinals

Ferguson Jenkins, Cubs

John Smoltz, Braves

Tommy Glavine, Braves

Ted Lyons, White Sox

Catfish Hunter, A’s/Yankees

Gaylord Perry, Giants/Indians

Red Ruffing, Red Sox/Yankees

John Clarkson, Braves (formerly Beaneaters)

Eddie Plank, A’s

Dazzy Vance, Dodgers

Addie Joss, Naps (formerly Indians)

RP – Mariano Rivera, Yankees

Goose Gossage, Yankees/White Sox

Bruce Sutter, Cardinals/Cubs

Hoyt Wilhelm, Giants/A’s

Warriors also won first NBA title in 1947

And the last shall be the first. Although not much was made of it, the last NBA champion, the Warriors, also won the league’s first title. So the Warriors span the NBA championship bridge from the first in Philadelphia to the last in Golden State.

The year was 1947. Less than two years after the end of World War II, Harry Truman was President, The Best Years of Our Lives won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier,and ENIAC, the world’s first electronic digital computer, was turned back on after being shut down for a nine-month refurbishment.

And the Philadelphia Warriors won the championship in the inaugural 1946-47 Basketball Association of America (BAA) season. Following the 1948–49 season (the BAA’s third season of play), the BAA and the National Basketball League merged to form the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Warriors championship is considered the first NBA title.

Eddie Gottlieb coached the Philadelphia five that year and forward Joe Fulks won the NBA’s first scoring crown, averaging 23.2 points per game. Fulks, who joined the Marines in 1943 and served in the the South Pacific, scored 37 points in Game One of the Finals, including 21 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Warriors to an 84-71 win over the Stags. Jumpin’ Joe is #18 in the team picture above.

Philly won the next two games, and wrapped up the series in five when forward Howie Dallmar snapped a tie by nailing a jump shot with less than a minute remaining to give the Warriors the lead for good in an 83-80 victory. Fulks led all scorers with 34 points in the clincher.

Led by Paul Arizin, Neil Johnston and Tom Gola, the Philadelphia Warriors also captured the 1956 NBA championship, beating the Fort Wayne Pistons in five games. Following the 1961-62 season, Wilt Chamberlain and the Warriors moved to San Francisco.

Later renamed Golden State, the Warriors swept the Washington Bullets in the 1974-75 NBA Finals. Hall of Famer Rick Barry averaged 30.6 points per game for Golden State that season.

In addition to their four championships, the Warriors lost three NBA Finals, to the Baltimore Bullets in 1948 while representing Philadelphia, and in 1964 to the Boston Celtics and 1967 to the Philadelphia 76ers, both while playing in San Francisco. Al Attles, a lifelong Warriors guard, played in both Finals and later coached Golden State to the 1975 NBA championship.

If you liked this blog, you might like: The 1947 Holy Cross Crusaders were another great basketball team. Read the SportsLifer – Holy Cross was Once King of Hoops.

Top 10 Rangers Stanley Cup playoff OT goals

Stephen Matteau, stick raised, celebrates the greatest OT goal in New York Rangers history.

Derek Stepan’s overtime goal the other night propelled the New York Rangers past the Washington Capitals into the Eastern Conference finals. The Game 7 goal was one of the biggest OT tallies in Ranger history. Here are 10 to remember:

1. Matteau, Matteau, Matteau: Stephen Matteau’s wraparound goal early in the second overtime in Game 7 beat Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur and sent the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup finals, where they would end a fabled 54-year championship drought. The Howie Rose call “Matteau, Matteau, Matteau” lives on in Rangers lore. Matteau also scored a double overtime goal in Game 3.

2. Triple Threat: Bryon Hextall scored an overtime game-winner at the 2:07 mark in Game 6 as the Rangers beat the Maple Leafs, 3-2, to win the 1940 Stanley Cup. Alf Pike in Game 1 and Muzz Patrick in double overtime of Game 5 also scored OT winners as the Blueshirts captured their third Stanley Cup. IMG_1372

3. Cup Winner: Bill Cook became the first player to score a Cup-winning goal in overtime as the Rangers beat Toronto, 1-0, in the 1933 finals. The Rangers would vacate Madison Square Garden for the circus after a first game victory, and took the best-of-five series in four games. Cook was the team’s first captain and was later elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

4. Stepan, Stepan, Stepan: Derek Stepan buried a rebound midway through the first overtime and the Rangers knocked out Washington in a tense, seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal in 2015. Each game was decided by a single goal.

5. The Stemmer: Pete Stemkowski scored in triple overtime to end the fifth longest game in Rangers history and set up a Game 7 showdown with the Blackhawks in the 1971 semifinals. Despite Stemkowski’s heroics, which also featured an OT winner in Game 1, Chicago won the series in seven games.

6. Gravy Train: Adam Graves scored at 14:08 of the first overtime to lead the Rangers past the Devils and into the 1997 Eastern Conference finals. The 2-1 victory enabled the Blueshirts to win the series in five games despite losing the opener.

7. Raleigh Rally: Center Don “Bones” Raleigh scored overtime goals in Games 4 and 5 to beat the Red Wings in the 1950 Stanley Cup finals. However Detroit won Games 6 and 7, the last in double overtime after Raleigh’s shot hit the crossbar, to deny the Rangers.

8. Hot Rod: All-time Rangers leading goal scorer Rod Gilbert (406 goals), pictured at left, scored on a slap shot at 4:20 of the first overtime as the Rangers beat the Flyers, 2-1, in Game 4 of the 1974 semifinals. Philadelphia won the series in seven games, then beat Boston for its first Stanley Cup.

9. Gaborik’s Goal: Marian Gaborik’s tally at 14:41 of the third overtime gave the Rangers a 2-1 win over the Capitals in Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals. It was the third longest game in New York franchise history.

10. Hagelin’s Heroics: Carl Hagelin’s goal in the first overtime of the 2015 first round against Pittsburgh gave the Rangers the series in five games. It marked the team’s series-clinching OT goal since 1997, and the first at Madison Square Garden since Stephan Matteau’s gamer 21 years ago.

Workin’ overtime: Esa Tikkanen scored a pair of OT winners in a first round five-game series win in 1997…Bob Nevin delivered the clincher in Game 6 of a 1971 first-round series victory over Toronto…Fred Cook scored at 19:32 of the third overtime in the second longest game in Rangers history in the 1932 semifinals against Montreal.

Complete list of Stanley Cup overtime goals


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