1908: Cubs Can Count to 100

So, what were you doing in 1908? Unless you’re a centenarian you weren’t doing anything, but the Chicago Cubs were on their way to their second straight World Series title in 1908. They haven’t won one since.

You remember 1908. Theodore Roosevelt is President. Mother’s Day is celebrated for the first time. The average cost of a home is $4,500; of a gallon of milk is 38 cents, a stamp is 4 cents. And the average salary for a major league baseball player is $2,500.

In sports, Penn and LSU share the college football championship; there is no BCS. The Montreal Wanderers win the Stanley Cup; James Braid takes the British Open; and Stone Street wins the Kentucky Derby. In the Olympics in London, Italian Dorando Pietri staggers at the end of the Marathon and is assisted across the finish line by officials. Johnny Hayes of the USA is later declared the winner.

In 1908, the Cubs edged out the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates to win a tight, controversial pennant race which hinged on the so-called Fred Merkle boner in late September. The Giants and the Cubs were tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning at New York’s Polo Grounds. With two outs, the rookie Merkle was on first base and Moose McCormick on third when Giants shortstop Al Bridwell singled to center.

Merkle’s Mistake

Thinking the game was won, and with a crowd of happy fans swarming the infield, Merkle bypassed second base and made for the New York clubhouse. But Chicago second baseman Johnny Evers got the attention of the umpire who, after seeing Evers tag second base with a ball declared Merkle forced out at second, nullifying the winning run.

This ignited a storm of protests, counter-protests, and league hearings. Finally, National League president Harry Pulliam ruled that the game would be replayed after the season if it proved to have a bearing on the pennant race.

It did. New York and Chicago finished in a tie, which was broken when Chicago’s Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, left, defeated Christy Mathewson 4-2 in the make-up game. Matty won 37 games that year, but couldn’t win this one. The Cubs finished with a 99-55 record, one game up on the Giants and Pirates, both at 98-56.

In the American League, a four-team race came down to the wire, with Detroit (90-63) finally slipping past Cleveland (90-64) by .004 percentage points, the smallest margin of victory in AL or NL history. Chicago finished 1 1/2 games back and St. Louis faded late to end up 6 1/2 behind.

For the second straight year, the Cubs won the World Series over the Tigers, this time 4 games to 1. Cubs batters hit .293 off Tigers pitching, while Brown’s 0.00 ERA in 11 innings paced the Chicago staff to a 2.60 ERA. Ty Cobb, the AL batting champion, hit .368 with four RBI and a pair of stolen bases in a losing effort. Cobb, perhaps the greatest hitter in baseball history, never won a World Series.

The Cubs won National League pennants in 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945, but lost the World Series each time. They haven’t been back since. And they haven’t won a World Series since 1908.


The Fabulous Firpo: Baseball’s First Fireman

Fred “Firpo” Marberry helped the Washington Senators to their only World Championship in 1924.

He’s one of baseball’s original saviors, a man ahead of his time, long forgotten in the roll call of baseball history.

He’s Frederick Marberry, known to his contemporaries as Firpo. He was a bullpen specialist before relievers became vogue, a fireman on call long before the save was recognized as an official statistic.

Marberry pitched for the Senators, Tigers and Giants from 1923 through 1936, and led the major league in saves five times with Washington. He’s the only pitcher in history to accomplish that feat. As the first prominent reliever, Firpo has been retroactively credited as the first pitcher to record 20 saves in a season, the first to earn 100 career saves, the first to make 50 relief appearances in a season or 300 in a career. Firpo held the career saves record from 1926 to 1946 before it was broken by Johnny Murphy of the Yankees.

Only Dan Quisenberry of the Royals matched Firpo, leading the American League in saves five times in the 1980s. Four-time league leaders include Lee Smith with multiple teams, Bruce Sutter of the Cardinals, Murphy, and Hall of Famers Ed Walsh of the White Sox and Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown of the Cubs. Hall of Famers such as Kid Nichols, Cy Young, Joe McGinnity, Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove, Dizzy Dean and Carl Hubbell also earned single season save honors.

According to baseball statistician Bill James, Marberry was the second best pitcher in the majors from 1924-1934, behind only Grove. He started 187 games in his career, posting a 94-52 record; overall he compiled a 148-88 record, a .648 winning percentage, 101 saves and a 3.63 ERA. Despite starting only 34 percent of his games through his 14-year career, he won 19 games in 1929; he won 16 games twice and 15 games two other times.

In 1924, Firpo recorded his first save title with 15. That October, he helped guide the Senators to their only World Series championship with an effective relief stint in Game Seven against the New York Giants, finishing with a 1.12 ERA in four games.

Marberry recorded 15 saves again in 1925 as the Senators won their second straight American League pennant.. He won his third straight saves title with 22 in 1926, a record that stood until the Yankees’ Joe Page had 27 saves in 1949.

In 1929, after two subpar seasons, Firpo came back to again lead the American League and the majors with 11 saves, while also winning a career-high 19 games to finish fourth in the A.L.

Marberry was employed primarily as a starter in 1930 and 1931, and posted an overall record of 31-9 for with the Senators. In 1931, showcasing his talents as both a starter (25 starts), and a reliever (20 appearances), he posted a 16-4 record with a 3.45 ERA. While he picked up 11 complete games and one shutout as a starter, he also had seven saves, and finished 13th in MVP voting (Grove won the award).

In 1932, Firpo led the majors in saves for the fifth and last time with 13, before being traded to the Tigers. He finished his career with the Giants in 1936.


Yankee Help Line

The last three Yankee games I’ve seen in person, last year and this, they:

  • Beat the White Sox 16-3 last July
  • Beat the Orioles 12-0 last September
  • Beat the Mariners 13-2 last week.

In that Chicago game, they tied the team record with eight home runs. Shades of the 1927 Yankees.

When I’m not at the Stadium, they find new ways to lose all the time. (They’re not doing that great on the road either).

Listen to me Hank, help is on the way. Get me in the ballpark. Good luck for you and the Yankees.

Call the Yankee help line

1-888-699-4357 or

1-888-NYY-HELP.

Counselors are waiting to take your calls.


Celtics-Lakers Would Be Historic NBA Final

Bill Russell and Red Auerbach combined to win eight NBA Finals against the Lakers.

They’re the Lennon and McCartney of basketball, the Rogers and Astaire of hoops, the Batman and Robin of the hardwood.

They’re the Celtics and the Lakers. These two trademark NBA fantasies have combined for 30 championships, 16 by the Celtics.

They’ve clashed 10 times in the NBA Finals, beginning in 1959 when the Celtics swept the Minneapolis Lakers in four straight to start Boston’s run of eight straight titles.

The Celtics won the first eight matchups; four went the full seven games. The Lakers took the final two, the last in 1987, each in six games.

In 1962, Frank Selvy of Los Angeles had an open jumper with a chance to beat the Celtics in Game Seven. He missed and Boston won in overtime behind 30 points and 40 rebounds from Bill Russell. In that Series Laker forward Elgin Baylor scored an NBA playoff record 61 points to lift his team to a Game 5 win at the Boston Garden. However, with a chance to win the championship on their home floor, the Lakers lost Game Six, and the combatants returned to the Boston Garden for the finale.

The following year, Boston’s Bob Cousy dribbled out the clock in the final game of his historic career as the Celtics once again triumphed, this time in six games.

In 1966, the Celtics held on for a 95-93 win in Game Seven to complete their run of eight straight titles. Boston coach Red Auerbach retired after the game, with Russell assuming player-coach duties.

The Celtics won another seven-game showdown with the Lakers in 1969, although Jerry West, right, was the MVP of the Series, the only player from a losing team to win the NBA Finals MVP. West, whose 29.1 playoff scoring average ranks third to Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson, had 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in Game Seven, but Boston prevailed 108-106 at the Los Angeles Forum.

Lakers’ owner Jack Kent Cooke was already planning his victory celebration as he ordered thousands of balloons suspended from the Forum rafters.

The Celtics and Lakers resumed their rivalry 15 years later as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, right, squared off for the first time in the playoffs. And the Celtics again won in seven games, Bird averaging 27.4 points and 14 rebounds per game to win MVP honors.

The next year, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the Finals MVP and the Celtics finally beat Boston, 4-2, after eight straight playoff losses. And in 1987, Magic Johnson was the Finals MVP, his “junior sky hook” proving to be the turning point of the series, giving the Lakers a 3-1 lead on the way to a six-game triumph.

And they haven’t played since. The Celtics haven’t won an NBA title since 1986, The Lakers won the title again in 1988, beating the Detroit Pistons. Los Angeles last won in 2002, completing a three-peat with a sweep of the New Jersey Nets.


For Starters, Red Sox Outsmart The Yankees

Theo Epstein and Red Sox Nation are happy with Dice K.

Let’s play a game. Choosing pitchers.

Since the 2004 season, which of these pitchers would you rather have on your staff?

Daisuke Matsuzaka or Kei Igawa?

Randy Johnson or Kurt Schilling?

Josh Beckett or Carl Pavano?

Most baseball experts would pick the trio of Dice K, Schilling and Beckett. Notice a pattern here? Brian Cashman does.Theo Epstein too.

In each instance, a Red Sox hurler gets the nod over a Yankee, former Yankee, or long-disabled Yankee. The decisions that were made around these six pitchers is a key factor — perhaps THE key factor — in the Red Sox, and not the Yankees, winning two World Series in the past four years.

Each of the three Boston pitchers won a World Series game last October in leading the Sox to a four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies. Schilling and Pedro Martinez were the top starters on Boston’s 2004 title team. The Yankees, on the other side, haven’t seen the World Series since 2003, and haven’t won it in eight years..

Dice K and Igawa were both free agent pitchers who came over from Japan before the 2007 season. Matsuzaka was 15-12 last year in his first campaign with Boston, and is 8-0 so far this season.

Igawa, left, has been a Yankee bust. He was 2-3 last year and got bombed in his only start this year before being sent to Scranton-Wilkes Barre, which can’t be far enough away from the Bronx as far as Yankee fans are concerned.

Johnson and Schilling were teammates on the Diamondbacks and shared the World Series MVP in 2001 when Arizona beat the Yankees in a dramatic seven-game series. Traded to Boston after the 2003 season, Schilling went 21-6, beat the Yankees in the famous “Bloody Sock” game as the Red Sox overcame a 3-0 deficit, and then won a game to help Boston to its first World Series championship in 86 years.

The Big Useless
Johnson came to the Yankees in a trade before the 2004 season labelled as a savior…and had a confrontation with a TV camerman as soon as he arrived in town. Johnson posted a pair of 17-win seasons in New York, but was the “Big Useless” rather than the “Big Unit” when he failed miserably in two playoff starts. He was traded back to Arizona following the 2006 season.

Beckett and Pavano were starters on the Florida Marlins team that upset the Yankees in the 2003 World Series. Prior to the 2006 season, Beckett, who shut out the Yankees 2-0 in the clinching game of that Series, was traded to the BoSox. Following a 16-11 season, Beckett went 20-7 last year and is off to another good start in 2008. He has proven himself to be a clutch performance and a post-season horse.

Pavano was signed as a free agent a year later by the Yankees, where he’s won a total of five games and has spent more time on the disabled list than Brittney Spears has in rehab. Much more time in fact, Pavano hasn’t thrown a pitch in anger since April of 2007.

Granted, the Red Sox did trade promising shortstop Hanley Ramirez to Florida to get Beckett.ut Boston’s pitching has overshadowed the Yankees over the last four seasons.

No-Nos And Zeroes
There’s more. Boston’s young pitchers Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester have already thrown no-hitters, while New York youngsters Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy are still trying to prove themselves. Hughes and Kennedy have combined for one trip to the DL, one trip to the minors, and zero wins so far in 2008.

In addition to Igawa, Johnson and Pavano, the Yankees have had several other notable pitching duds over the past few years. Put Kevin Brown, Jaret Wright, Javier Vazquez, Sidney Ponson, Estaben Loaiza and Jeff Weaver on that list ,,,,,,, just to name a few.

Makes one wonder about the ability of Cashman and the Yankee brain trust to judge pitching talent.


Let’s Go To The Videotape

According to a recent report on ESPN.com, major league baseball is planning to experiment with instant replay in the Arizona Fall League

In the immortal words of broadcaster Warner Wolf, let’s go to the videotape.

This past week at Yankee Stadium, both the Mets’ Carlos Delgado and the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez were denied home runs by erroneous umpire rulings. Delgado hit a ball off the lower portion of the left-field foul pole. The third-base umpire originally signalled home run, but was over-ruled. Replays clearly showed the ball striking the foul pole.

Two nights later, A-Rod hit a shot off a stairway in right-center field and bounced back on the field. The umpires ruled it was a double, although replay showed the ball had cleared the wall.

And in Houston, a ball hit by the Cubs’ Geovany Soto was ruled in play although replays showed it had cleared the wall. Soto managed to turn his hit into an inside-the-park home run.

A quick look at videotape would have helped umpires to determine all three hits were actually home runs.

Jeffrey Maier Game
A blown call in the 1996 playoffs helped the Yankees win the World Series that year. In game one of the ALCS against the Orioles, rookie Derek Jeter hit a shot to right-field, where a 12-year-old named Jeffrey Maier reached over the fence and deflected the ball into the stands, left. Baltimore right-fielder Tony Tarasco insisted he would have caught the ball if not for fan interference, but umpire Richie Garcia ruled it a home run, and the Yankees went on to win the game,5-4, in 11 innings.

Baseball should adopt the instant replay — for home run calls only. Leave the rest of the calls in the hands of the umpires.

Other sports use replay with varying degrees of effectiveness. The NFL has been using some form of instant replay since 1986, with mixed results.

The problem with the NFL is that too many plays can be reviewed, oftentimes resulting in long stoppages and disrupting the flow of the game. The NFL should keep it to touchdowns and turnovers.

The NBA reviews are limited to shots at the end of a quarter, and are quickly resolved by officials on the floor.

The NHL may have the best system. The league only reviews goals, with a video replay judge on board in Toronto to rule on questionable goal-scoring plays.

Canadian football, college football and tennis also use some form of replay system.


Lords Of The Ringless

Best Players Never to Win a World Series

Why is Ernie Banks smiling? He won’t like this list.

It’s the club nobody wants to belong to, like the best golfer never to win a major club or the guy at the front of the line when the ticket counter closes.

Just not good enough. Close but no cigar. Losers. No player wants to be on this list. They’re The Lords Of The Ringless.

Ever wonder who are the best baseball players never to win a World Series?

Almost all of them are Hall of Famers, who will be someday. They’ve won dozens of batting titles, hit thousands upon thousands of home runs, earned MVPs, Cy Young Awards and Gold Gloves and achieved milestones such as .400 averages, 500 home runs, 3,000 hits, 300 wins, 500 steals and 500 saves, just to name a few

They’ve won it all….except for a championship.

Some came close. Rube Marquard pitched in 5 World Series, came up on the wrong side every time. Don Sutton, right, the winningest pitcher on this list, and Gabby Hartnett who hit a famous home run in the dark in 1938 to get the Cubs into the World Series, each played in 4 World Series and lost every one.

Some never got to the World Series. And some of them were Cubs, like Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and more.

Several players on this list are still active, but have played long enough to make their statistics viable. Included is third baseman Alex Rodriguez and closer Trevor Hoffman on the first team, and starter Mike Mussina on the cut list.

Others, like catcher Mike Piazza and outfielder Barry Bonds, just retired this year.

Here they are, The Lords Of The Ringless. They’re the best baseball players never to win a World Series. Career highlights, teams played for and World Series appearances noted in descriptions.

FIRST TEAM

C — Mike Piazza: 396 HRs (most as catcher), 427 overall, .308 lifetime batting average, retired ’07, Dodgers, Mets, Padres, A’s ; 1 WS.

IB — George Sisler: ’22 AL MVP. two batting titles, .407 in ’20, .420 in ’22, .340 lifetime, Browns, Senators, Braves; 0 WS. left

2B — Rod Carew: .328 career batting average, 7 batting titles, AL MVP in ’77 with .388 average, Twins, Angels, others; 0 WS

SS — Ernie Banks: Mr. Cub, 512 lifetime homers, 277 as shortstop, NL MVP in ’58, ’59 as SS, later moved to IB. Cubs, 0 WS.

3B — Alex Rodriguez:: active, 522 lifetime HRs, .306 batting average, MVP 2003, ’05, ’07, Mariners, Rangers, Yankees, 0 WS.

OF — Ty Cobb; best ever .367 lifetime average, 12 batting titles; AL MVP in ’11, second lifetime in hits 4191, fourth in steals with 892. Tigers, A’s;3 WS. right

OF — Ted Williams: last man to hit .400, .406 in 41, Triple Crown winner in ’42, ’47, two-time MVP, .344 average, 521 homers. Red Sox; 1 WS.

OF — Barry Bonds; 7-time NL MVP, 4 in a row 01-04, 762 HRs are most ever, 73 in ’01 single season record. 514 SBs. Pirates, Giants, 1 WS

P — Juan Marichal; 243-142, 2.89 ERA, six 20-win seasons, 26-9 in ’68, Giants, Red Sox, Dodgers; 1 WS

P — Don Sutton: 324 career wins, most by non-champion, won 20 once in ’76, Dodgers, Astros, Brewers, A’s, Angels;4 WS

P — Ferguson Jenkins:284-226 7 20-win seasons, 3192 Ks, ‘ 71 NL Cy Young; Cubs, Rangers; 0 WS

P — Rube Marquard: left-hander, 201-177, record 19 straight wins to start season, 26-11 in ’12, Giants, Dodgers; Reds, Braves; 5 WS

R — Trevor Hoffman; active, all-time saves leader with 532, led NL with 53 saves in ’98, 46 in ’06 Marlins, Padres. 1 WS

SECOND TEAM

C — Carlton Fisk: 376 HRs, 351 as catcher, 269 career average, hit famous HR in ’75 Series, Red Sox, White Sox; 1 WS

IB — Willie McCovey: 521 HRs, ’69 MVP 45-126-.320, ’77 comeback player, Giants, Padres, A’s;1 WS

2B — Nap Lajoie: .broke in with Phillies in 1896, 339 lifetime average, 4 AL batting titles; Phillies, Naps (Indians), A’s; 0 WS

SS — Arky Vaughan; 318 lifetime, won NL batting title in ’35, .385, Pirates, Dodgers; 1 WS

3B — George Kell: .306 career batting average, won AL batting title in ’49; Phillies, Tigers, Red Sox, White Sox, Orioles; 0 WS

OF — Harry Heilmann: .342 career average, 4 AL batting titles, .403 in ’23, Tigers, Reds; 0 WS

OF — Billy Williams: 426 HRs, .296 career batting average, ’72 NL batting title, Cubs, A’s; 0 WS

OF — Tony Gwynn; 338 average, 3141 hits, 8 NL batting titles, .394 in ’94, Padres, 2 WS right

P — Phil Niekro: knuckleballer, 318 wins, 24 years from ’64 to ’87, Braves, Yankees, Indians; 0 WS

P — Gaylord Perry, 314 wins, AL Cy Young ’72, NL Cy Young ’78, Giants, Indians, Rangers, Padres, Yankees, Braves, Mariners; 0 WS

P — Tommy John: 288-231, left-hander, 26-year career from ’63 to ’89, White Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, Angels, A’s; 3 WS

P — Early Wynn, 300 career wins, Cy Young ’59, Senators, Indians, White Sox, ,2 WS

R — Lee Smith, 478 saves; Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles. Angels, Reds, Expos 0 WS

FINAL CUTS

C — Gabby Hartnett: lifetime BA .297, .236 HRs, ’38 HR helps win pennant for Cubs, Giants, 4 WS

IB — Don Mattingly: .307 lifetime average; AL batting title .343 in ’84; ’85 AL MVP, 9 Gold Gloves,Yankees; 0 WS

2B — Ryne Sandberg; .284 average, 282 HRs, NL MVP ’84, 9 Gold Gloves, Phillies, Cubs; 0 WS

SS — Luke Appling, .310 lifetime hitter, 20 years with White Sox, ’30-’50, hit HR at age 75 in ’82 exhibition: 0 WS

3B — Ron Santo; 342 HRs, .277 lifetime average, 5 straight Gold Gloves ’64-’68, Cubs, White Sox, 0 WS

OF — Carl Yastrzemski; 452 HRs, 3419 hits; MVP and Triple Crown in ’67, Red Sox, 2 WS

OF –Sammy Sosa: 609 Hrs, 5th all-time, 3 years with 60 HRs, NL MVP ’98, Rangers, White Sox, Cubs, Orioles; 0 WS

OF –Lloyd Waner: Big Poison, .333 average, 3152 hits, Pirates, Dodgers, Braves, Yankees; 1 WS

OF — Paul Waner: Little Poison, .316 lifetime, Pirates, Braves, Reds, Phillies, Dodgers, ; 1 WS (’27 with brother Lloyd)

OF — Chuck Klein: .320 lifetime, 300 HRs, ’32 MVP, ’33 Triple Crown, Phillies, Cubs, Pirates; 0 WS

P — Robin Roberts:286 career wins, 6-time 20-game winner in ’50s, Phillies, Orioles, Astros, Cubs, 1 WS

P — Ted Lyons: 260 career wins, won 20 3 times,White Sox ’23-46, 0 WS

P — Rube Waddell, 193 wins, 26-11 in ’05, left-hander,Pirates., Cubs, A’s, Browns; 0 WS

P — Mike Mussina: active, 256-147 career, .635 win percentage; Orioles, Yankees, 1 WS

R — John Franco: 424 saves, 4th all-time; led NL in saves in ’88, ’90, ’94, Reds, Mets, Astros; 1 WS