Oh wow, 1969 was just amazing

The year was 1969, a landmark year, perhaps the most incredible year of the 20th Century. Rob Kirkpatrick wrote all about in in 1969: The Year Everything Changed.

Here’s a Top 10 list of accomplishments, events, trends and happenings of 1969:

1. Man on the Moon

2. Woodstock

3. Amazin’ Mets

4. Nixon and Vietnam turmoil

5. Movies – Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

6. Rock and Roll – Beatles last concert, Led Zeppelin, Altamont and the Rolling Stones

7. Joe Namath and the guarantee

8. Student demonstration time

9. Chappaquiddick

10. Charles Manson and the Zodiac Killer

Tom Brady always wins…except vs. the Giants

Tom Brady always wins – except against the Giants. That adage will be put to the test on Sunday when the unbeaten (8-0) Patriots visit Met Life Stadium to face the 5-4 Giants.

“We’ve always had a hard time beating these guys one way or another,” Brady said. “So hopefully we can get over our struggles and finally go out and play well and beat them”

Super Tom Brady, the quarterback who squeezed the air out of the NFL in Deflategate and won, has lost his last three meetings against the Giants, all decided by four points or less. In 2008, the Patriots came into Super Bowl 42 unbeaten (18-0) and huge favorites, only to bow to the Giants 17-14. That Super Bowl, one of the most famous in history, featured David Tyree’s helmet catch and Plaxico Burress’ game-winning TD catch with 35 seconds left – both on passes by Eli Manning.

Years later, Brady told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, “I remember after the game I was trying to think, ‘Man, am I dreaming?’ Let me wake up and then start the day over. I just didn’t think we could lose.”

Four years later, the Giants again beat the Pats, this time 21-17 in Super Bowl 46. Manning led the Giants to another last-minute, go-ahead touchdown drive that featured an amazing pass and catch by Mario Manningham.

The Giants also beat New England 24-20 in a 2011 regular season game at Foxboro, a game the Giants won on a Manning touchdown pass to Jake Ballard with 15 seconds remaining.

Brady has a pair of wins against the Giants in his career. The Patriots edged the Giants 38-35 in the final game of the 2007 campaign to finish the regular season unbeaten. And in 2003, Brady led the Pats to a 17-6 win over the Giants and QB Kerry Collins when Eli was still at Ole Miss.

Overall, Brady is 2-3 against the Giants, averaging 226 yards, 1.4 touchdowns and 0.6 interceptions per game. Rather pedestrian numbers for one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

They coulda been World Series heroes

In the last inning of the 2014 World Series and his team trailing by a run, Royals left-fielder Alex Gordon singled and raced all the way to third on an error by Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco. In an alternate universe Gordon might have attempted to score and propelled the Kansas City to a win. But he stopped at third, the next batter Salvatore Perez popped out to end the game, and San Francisco won its third World Series in five years.

If Gordon had run and scored, he coulda been a hero. One of many guys who could have been World Series heroes, if only things had played out differently.

Maybe there’s a coulda been hero in this year’s World Series. Here’s the past list of guys who didn’t quite make it, dating back to 1912:

2011 – Josh Hamilton – His two-run homer in the top of the 10th in Game 6 appeared to seal the deal for the first championship for the Texas Rangers. However St. Louis rallied to tie the game, then won it 10-9 in the 11th on a home run by David Reese. The Cardinals then won Game 7 easily to take the crown.

2001 – Alfonso Soriano – His eighth inning home run against Curt Schilling gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead and within grasp of their fourth straight championship. But Arizona scratched out a pair of runs against closer Mariano Rivera to pull out a 3-2 win and their first and only championship.

1997 – Tony Fernandez – They’d have built a statue of this guy in downtown Cleveland if only things hard turned out differently in Game 7. Fernadnez hit a two-run single in the third inning that held up until the last of the ninth. The Marlins rallied against Jose Mesa to tie the game, then won it 3-2 in the 11th on Edgar Renteria’s single. The Indians have not won a World Series since 1948.

1986 – Dave Henderson – Hendu was going to be an all-time rock star in New England. His home run in the top of the 10th put the Red Sox on the brink of their first championship in 68 years, since 1918. However the Mets rallied to win Game 6 6-5 in 10 innings as Mookie Wilson’s grounder eluded first baseman Bill Buckner, and then took Game 7 and the title two nights later.

1976 – Thurman Munson – The Yankee captain hit .529, the highest batting average ever for a player on a losing team. However, the Reds, sparked by Johnny Bench, swept the Yankees in four straight games. Less than three years later, after winning World Series in 1977 and 1978, Munson was killed in a plane crash.

1960 – Whitey Ford – He pitched a shutout in Game 3 and another in Game 6. Too bad, this was the year that Bill Mazeroski hit the most dramatic of home runs and the Pirates beat the Yankees 10-9 in Game 7 to win the World Series. Ford continued his shutout string the next year, breaking Babe Ruth’s record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched in a World Series and won the MVP.

1953 – Carl Furillo – He rallied Brooklyn with a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to tie the score 3-3 in Game 6. However, Yankee second baseman Billy Martin, who had 12 hits and 8 RBIs while batting .500 in the series, knocked in Hank Bauer from second base with the game-winning run in the ninth inning to give the Bombers 4-3 win and a record fifth straight World Championship

1946 – Dominic DiMaggio – Joe’s little brother hit a two-run double in the eighth inning that pulled the Red Sox even with the Cardinals in Game 7. However DiMaggio injured his hamstring rounding first, and was replaced in center field by Leon Culberson. It was Culberson’s weak relay to Johnny Pesky in the bottom of the inning that led to Enos Slaughter scoring the decisive run in a 4-3 victory.

1919 – Dickey Kerr – With eight of his teammates, the infamous Black Sox, attempting to throw the Series, left-hander starts and wins two games. Kerr pitches a shutout in Game 3 and wins 5-4 in a 10-innings in Game 6. However Cincinnati takes the Series in eight games.

1912 – Fred Merkle – The goat of the 1908 NL pennant race for the New York Giants was almost a hero. Fred Merkle singled in the go-ahead in the decisive Game 8 (one game ended in a tie). With the great Christy Mathewson on the mound, the Giants appeared to have the title well in hand. But Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass dropped a routine fly ball to start the home half of the 10th, and Larry Gardner later hit a deep sacrifice fly, scoring Steve Yerkes with the winning run.

‘A Pitch from Satchel Paige’ draws rave reviews

“A Pitch from Satchel Paige” is a two-act, one-character theatrical play written by my former IBM colleague, news reporter and friend Jim Keller and his father Loren Keller, a veteran poet, actor and writer.

Recently, I attended a staged reading of the production, directed by Tony DiFabbio with Mark Hamilton playing the part of Satchel Paige. The show provides a unique perspective on the life of Satchel Paige, one of the biggest stars in the Negro Leagues and one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.

Throughout, Satchel talks of the challenges of growing up in a segregated society and playing in a league where only the baseball was white. He speaks of his wide and varied assortment of pitches, and of playing in the Negro Leagues with legendary ballplayers like Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Buck Leonard and Buck O’Neil.

Satchel Paige had hoped to become the first black man to play in the majors, but that honor instead went to Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. A year later, Satch signed on with the Cleveland Indians, and helped lead the team to the 1948 World Series. Paige was 6-1 that year with a 2.48 ERA…at the ripe old age of 42.

Nearly 20 years later, in 1965, Paige came back with the Kansas City A’s to face the Boston Red Sox. He threw three scoreless innings, retiring nine of the 10 batters he faced. At 59, old Satch was still going strong.

Gilbert Hernandez Black, a former pitcher for the Indianapolis Clowns and a Negro League historian, also attended the play, and afterwards regaled the audience with stories from a bygone era.

RELATED BLOG: Satchel Paige: Great Early and Great Late

The 10 biggest wins in Mets history

Here is one man’s opinion of the biggest wins in Mets history, ranked in order. The Mets are looking to make some more history beginning tonight when they face the Royals in the World Series.

1. The Amazins: Perhaps the most improbable champions ever, the Miracle Mets overcome a 3-0 deficit and defeat the Orioles 5-3 to take the 1969 World Series in five games. Series MVP Donn Clendenon and Al Weis homer and Jerry Koosman hurls a complete game as the Mets go from the outhouse to the penthouse.

2. Gets past Buckner: The heavily favored Mets, 108-game winners, are a strike away from elimination in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Then base hits by Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight, a wild pitch that plates the tying run, and a Mookie Wilson grounder that eludes Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner lead the Mets to a 6-5 win over the stunned Red Sox.

3. Seventh heaven: Two nights later, after a rainout, the Mets win their second World Series with an 8-5 win over the Red Sox in Game 7. Series MVP Ray Knight and Darryl Strawberry hit home runs to rally the Mets, who trailed 3-0 in the sixth inning.

4. You gotta believe: In 1973, the Mets languished in last place as late as August 30, then won 21 of their last 29 games and beat the Cubs 6-4 to take the NL East. Buoyed by reliever Tug McGraw, who coined the rallying cry “You gotta believe,” and manager Yogi Berra, who said “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over,” the Mets beat the Reds for the NL pennant, but lost a seven-game World Series to the A’s.

5. 16 innings: The Mets were down 3-0 entering the ninth inning (detect a theme here) before coming back and eventually prevailing 7-6 over the Astros in 16 innings in a dramatic showdown at the Astrodome to win the 1986 NLCS in six games. Celebration above.

6. Daniel Boom: Daniel Murphy turns into Babe Ruth right in front of our very eyes, homering in a playoff game for a record sixth consecutive game. Murphy’s blast earns the Mets an 8-3 win and a  four-game sweep over the Cubs and this year’s NL pennant. Murphy takes NLCS MVP honors.

7. Wild night: This 1985 classic started as a July 4 game and finally ended at nearly 4 am the next morning. The Mets beat the hometown Braves 16-13 in 19 innings, after Atlanta pitcher Rick Camp tied it with an unlikely 18th-inning home run.

8. Yes, Yes: The date was June 1, 2012. After more than half a century and 8,020 games, left-hander Johan Santana pitches the first no-hitter in franchise history in a victory over the Cardinals at Citi Field. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 8-0.

9. 9/11/2001: As New York and all America grieves over the the 9/11 attacks, Mike Piazza, left, gives us something to smile about. Piazza belts a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the Mets to a 3-2 win over the Braves. “A small miracle,” is how Mets’ manager Bobby Valentine described the blast.

10. First win: After nine straight losses to open their inaugural 1962 season, the Mets finally won their first game on April 23. They beat the Pirates 9-1 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh behind the five-hit pitching of left-hander Jay Hook. Felix Mantilla and Elio Chacon each had three hits, and Chacon, Bobby Smith and Hook each knocked in a pair of runs to pace the attack The Mets won just 40 games the whole year.

10 honorable mentions in chronological order

Jim Hickman becomes the first Met to hit for the cycle (a natural cycle at that) as the Mets beat the Cardinals 7-3 in this 1963 game at the Polo Grounds…Tom Seaver retires the first 25 Cubs before Jimmy Qualls singles with one out in the ninth. Seaver finishes with a one-hitter in the Mets 4-0 win which set the tone for the 1969 season…Center fielder Tommy Agee makes a pair of stunning catches and Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan combine to blank the Orioles 5-0 in Game 3 of the 1969 World Series… Lenny Dykstra’s two-run, walk-off homer leads the Mets to a 5-4 win in Game 3 of the 1986 ALCS…Dave Milicki hurls a nine-hit shutout as the Mets beat in the Yankees 6-0 in their first inter-league meeting in 1997… Al Leiter pitches a brilliant two-hitter as the Mets beat the Reds 5-0 in a 1999 playoff tiebreaker game in Cincinnati…Todd Pratt homers in the 10th inning as the Mets beat the Diamondbacks 4-3 and wrap up the NLDS in four games…Robin Ventura hits a grand slam single as the Mets beat the Braves 4-3 in Gave 5 of the 1999 NLCS…Trailing 8-1 going into the bottom of the eighth, the Mets score 10 runs, capped by a Mike Piazza three-run homer, and beat the Braves in this 2000 contest at Shea Stadium…Mike Hampton pitches a three-hitter and the Mets advance to the first Subway Series in 44 years with a 7-0 win over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the 2000 NLCS.

Murphy’s Law spells doom for Cubs once more

By the time MVP Daniel Murphy hit his fourth home run of the NLCS, the Cubs were finished once again. No surprise. Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong will go wrong – might as well be the motto for the Chicago Cubs, the most ill-fated team in all of sports. Ever.

Once upon a time the Cubbies were kings of baseball. Chicago won three straight pennants beginning in 1906, and captured the World Series in both 1907 and 1908, becoming the first team to repeat and the first to win two straight championships. That’s when it all went wrong.

Charles Murphy, the Cubs unpopular owner and president, seemingly changed fortunes forever when he felt he was snubbed by his players, who refused to allow him to attend a celebration dinner with songwriter George M. Cohan after the 1908 World Series. Murphy had been under fire by players and fans alike by selling tickets for a profit, making it difficult for loyal fans to purchase Series ducats. And so it begins.

Two years later, in 1910, the Cubs once again won the National League pennant, only to lose the World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics in five games. A’s right fielder Danny Murphy (no relation to the Mets second baseman….at least we don’t think so) led all players with 9 RBIs. The Cubbies went on to win pennants in 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945, but lost the World Series each time.

In 1945, shortly after World War II ended, Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, was asked to leave a World Series game against the Tigers at Wrigley Field because the smell of his pet goat was bothering fans. An outraged Murphy allegedly declared, “The Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” That was 70 years ago, and the Cubs haven’t returned to the World Series since. Oh yeah, the goat’s name was Murphy. Figures.

The Cubs led the NL East race for a good portion of the 1969 season, only to fall prey to the Amazin’ Mets. The architect of that Mets team was general manager Johnny Murphy – the same Johnny Murphy who registered a save against the Cubs in 1938 as part of a four-game Yankee sweep. One of the Mets play-by-play broadcasters in 1969 was Bob Murphy.

In 1984, the Cubs took a 2-0 lead against the Padres in the NLCS, then lost three in a row. Those games were played at what was then called Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. Jack Murphy, a sports editor and columnist with the San Diego Union, was Bob Murphy’s brother.

In 2003, the Cubs were six outs from the World Series when a Chicago fan, Steve Bartman, drew the ire of the Wrigley Field crowd when he prevented Moises Alou from catching a foul fly down the left field line. You didn’t hear it here, but Bartman had a dog named Murphy. Not.

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


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