Dr. K Strikes Out

It took 57 years and then some, but I finally struck out in slo-pitch softball.

Happened in the third inning last night, during a 10-9 extra-inning loss. Took a couple of pitches, one for a strike, then swung and missed twice.

How humbling. Still can’t believe it happened. Been bummed out all day.

Despite the loss, we made the playoffs again, like every year. We’re the New York Yankees of the Poughkeepsie softball league.

And we open against the team that beat us last night. A tough loss, as we came back from an 8-0 deficit only to lose in the eighth inning.

We’re primed for redemption. As they say, payback is a _____.

Dreams Come True for Goose Gossage

It was the signature moment in the career of Hall of Famer Rich “Goose” Gossage.

October 2, 1978, a cool, crisp New England afternoon in Boston. Hint of autumn in the year. Yankees vs. Red Sox at Fenway Park. American League East title and a playoff berth on the line.

A game within a season, and a season within a game. Winner makes the playoffs, and the loser goes home. Does it get any better than this?

“I wanted the ball in those situations,” Gossage said in an interview with Memories and Dreams, the Hall of Fame magazine. “This was the biggest game I ever pitched in — by far. It seemed like the playoffs and World Series were anticlimactic after that.”

Goose to the Rescue

Be careful what you wish for. That afternoon, Gossage came on to relieve Ron Guidry with one out in the seventh inning. The Yankees had just taken the lead on Bucky Dent’s three-run homer.

The Goose wasn’t perfect that day. He gave up a couple of runs in the eighth and stood there on the Fenway hill in the ninth, two outs, runners on the corners, Yankees leading 5-4, Carl Yastrzemski coming to bat.

The night before, Gossage had dreamed up this exact situation. Dreams really can come true.

Gossage kicked around the mound, fussing, muttering to himself. Then it hit him.

“I starting telling myself  ‘Why are you so nervous?’ Goose recalled. “This is supposed to be fun. What’s the worst thing that could happen? If you lose, you’ll be back home in Colorado tomorrow hunting elk.”

Relaxed, Gossage got Yaz to pop out to Graig Nettles at third, and the Yankees were on their way to their 22nd World Series title.

22 Years, 310 Saves

DSCN2300 Through his 22 years in the major leagues, Goose Gossage pitched for nine different clubs, saved 310 games, won 124 and fanned 1,502 batters in 1,810 innings of work. He led the AL in saves three times and was selected to nine All-Star teams–six AL squads and three NL clubs.

It took him a long time to get there, but the Goose was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame on a hot Sunday afternoon in July, 2008. Making the trek through the Catskills to Cooperstown, I was there to cheer Gossage on, to bellow “Goose” a few more times.

Although Gossage made it back to the World Series in 1981 with the Yankees and 1984 with the Padres, 1978 was his only championship. Several of his teammates from that 1978 squad, which made up a 14-game deficit to beat the Red Sox, were there to see Goose go into the Hall. Reggie Jackson, now a fellow Hall of Famer. Jim Beattie, Mickey Rivers, Graig Nettles and Roy White.

“I’m proud to wear a Yankee cap into the Hall of Fame and be part of their tradition,” told the crowd at Cooperstown.

Some dreams do come true, Some memories do last a lifetime.

Giants Giving Loyal Fans the Sack

The New York Giants are Super Bowl winners, world champions.

But they are nothing but world chumps when it comes to treating their loyal fan base.

Several weeks back, the Giants announced that they would impose one-time, personal seat license fees on all ticket-holders to help raise revenue for their new stadium, below, scheduled to open in time for the 2010 season.

All current season ticket-holders are being hit with fees ranging from $1,000 to $20,000, depending upon seat location, for the right to buy tickets for the new Giants Stadium.

That amounts to a write-off for corporations and tip money for the rich and famous. But it’s a steep price for the average fan, the working-class hero, with a mortgage, bills and kids in school.

My friend Rich and his family have been Giants’ season-ticket holders for nearly 50 years, since 1960, before Y.A. Tittle, when the team played in Yankee Stadium. The tickets originally belonged to my buddy’s father, then were passed down to his sons.

They’re great seats, field level, around the 45-yard-line, 20 rows behind the Giants bench. Now Rich and his brother are facing a PSL of $10,000 for each seat, along with a rise in ticket prices from $90 to $140 per game.

They’re debating whether they to keep their seats, downgrade location, or give up the tickets entirely.

“We are not interested in getting new blood,” said Giants chief executive John Mara when asked if the PSL concept might result in the loss of present season ticket holders. “We have a very loyal fan base who have been there for a long time, and we want to keep them in the building.”

Although Mara said all the right worlds, the truth is some of those loyal fans will no longer be able to see their beloved Giants.

Bernie Goes Boom — Out of Yankee Stadium

According to legend, no player has ever hit a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium

Well, not exactly.

More than seven years ago, July 22, 2001, Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams hit a ball that left the stadium, over the old Yankee bullpen in right field and onto the elevated tracks of the 4 line.

I was at the ballpark with my family that day, a hot summer Sunday afternoon. We were sitting on the third base side, box seats. My son Dan, a teen-ager at the time, swears he saw the ball go out

“I saw it,” he said. “It went out in that little gap, over the wall and right onto the railroad tracks. “People noticed it, they were clapping. You didn’t believe me.”

Well, it was hard to believe.

“I didn’t see it,” Williams told the New York Post. “But I noticed that it never came back, so that should have been some indication it was out. Batting practice is a great relief and release of tension for me. I’ve had a lot of tension this year, so it’s kind of like hitting a punching bag. I always try to hit the ball hard, but that’s as hard as I’ve ever hit one. That’s a long way.”

It’s a feat that no Yankee slugger had ever accomplished before — not Babe Ruth, not Mickey Mantle, not Reggie Jackson.

Twice, Mantle came within several feet of hitting one out of Yankee Stadium, off Pete Ramos of the Washington Senators on Memorial Day, 1956, right, and against Bill Fischer of the Kansas City A’s on May 22, 1963. Both times the ball was still rising when it struck the facade in right field.

Josh Gibson and Frank Howard, among others, were reputed to have gone out of the Stadium, though neither has ever been proven.

But Bernie Williams did it for real. He even hit a home run in the game, a solo shot in the first inning, to help lift the Yankees to a 7-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Bernie finished his career with 287 home runs, 22 more in the playoffs. And one that didn’t count but went out of Yankee Stadium

Bernie goes Boom!

Get a life. Read the Sportslifer.

Giants Bid Adieu to Shockey

Hey Jeremy Shockey, here’s a news flash. The Giants can win without you.

Jeremy Shockey is at it again. You’d think this loudmouth would have taken a slice of humble pie after breaking his leg and watching the Giants march to the Super Bowl without him. But nooooo….

Shockey is a talented football player. The former number one draft pick (14th overall) out of the University of Miami in 2002, is a four-time Pro Bowler. But he’s no team player, never has been, never will be.

He actually came to Giants mini-camp this year (a shock in itself) but did not come on to the practice field on the first day of the mandatory, three-day camp. The Giants had eight other injured players unable to practice in the morning and five others in the afternoon, but all of them were out on the side of field working. All except Shockey.

Throughout his six-year career, Shockey has caught 27 touchdown passes, but he is better known for his hands of stone. He’s had plenty of big drops, perhaps none more critical than the sure TD he dropped in San Francisco in the 2002 playoffs, the turning point in a dramatic 49ers comeback win.

Contrast that with rookie Kevin Boss, who made a key catch and run to help spark the Giants fourth-quarter comeback against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXII.

Don’t get me wrong, the Giants need the enthusiasm Shockey brings to the game. But they could do without the baggage, the arm-waving at Eli Manning, the stupid penalties, the big drops.

It’s tough enough winning a Super Bowl, let alone trying to repeat. The Giants don’t need these kind of distractions. They’ve already proven they can win without Jeremy Shockey.

They should have trade him to New Orleans when they had the opportunity a few months ago.

It’s not too late. Get rid of the bum.

Yankee Numbers Don’t Add Up

Entering the second half of the season, the numbers don’t add up for the New York Yankees. At the All-Star break, the Yankees were mired in third place, trailing both the Red Sox and the Devil Rays in the AL East..

And it doesn’t get any easier. Consider these numbers:

67: Games remaining for Yankees after All-Star break (considerably less  than half)

43: Of the Yankees remaining 67 games are against teams currently above .500

7: Of the Yankees next 8 series are against teams currently above .500

10: Games remaining against traditional nemesis Angels

7: Yankees on opening day roster currently on the disabled list.

0: Number of wins by Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy (and Carl Pavano too 🙂

.713: Yankees OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) with RISP (runners in scoring position)

26: Yankee rank in the above category out of 30 teams

.238: Alex Rodriguez batting average with runners-in-scoring-position

32: Of the Yankees final 51 games are away from Yankee Stadium

4.59: Runs per game Yankees are averaging in 2008

5.98: Runs per game Yankees averaged in 2007

1993: Last year the Yankees failed to make the playoffs

Say Hey Kid: Willie Mays Is the Greatest

Several years ago, my son, who is as big a baseball fan as I am, asked me who was the greatest ballplayer I ever saw….in person?

Willie Mays I replied without hesitation. It wasn’t even close.

Saw Williams and Musial, Mantle and Aaron, Ripken and Gwynn, and Bonds too.

Willie Mays, the Say Hey Kid, was the best.

As a kid in 1962, I saw Mays hit a grand slam at Candlestick Park against the Cubs. Later on, I saw him against the Mets at Shea Stadium.

And in 1972, I saw Mays, then with the Mets, and Henry Aaron at Shea. They both went hitless and wound up the evening still tied at 648 home runs apiece, trailing another pretty famous ballplayer name of Babe Ruth at that point in time.

Willie Mays would go on to hit 660 home runs, behind only his godson Barry Bonds, Aaron and Ruth. A four-time National League home run champion, Willie once hit four home runs in a single game, against the Braves in 1961. Not even Ruth, Aaron or Bonds ever did that.

He was Rookie of the Year in 1951 with the New York Giants, MVP in 1954 and 1965. He led the NL in stolen bases four times, and in triples three times. He won the batting title in 1954 with a .345 average, and finished .302 lifetime with 3,283 hits.

“I would love,” comedian and Giants fan Rob Schneider told Sports Illustrated recently, “to be the Willie Mays of anything.”

And he was equally as brilliant as a fielder. Mays won 12 straight Gold Gloves, and is perhaps best known for the most famous catch in baseball history, against Vic Wertz and the Cleveland Indians in deepest center field in the Polo Grounds, a catch that turned the 1954 World Series.

‘Where Triples Go to Die’
“Willie Mays and his glove,” Dodgers executive Fresco Thompson once said. “Where triples go to die.”

Two years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Willie Mays on a flight from San Francisco to JFK. We didn’t talk during the flight, but when we got on the ground in New York I caught up with Willie and we walked together to baggage claim.

I told him about the conversation with my son. He smiled, and asked me which team I rooted for. I told him I was a Yankee fan.

“Well, why aren’t you a Mickey Mantle guy?” Willie asked.

“I loved Mickey, but I always thought you were the best,” I replied. “You were a better center fielder, and you hit more home runs. And you were faster than Mickey,”

“Not always,” said Willie. “”When Mickey came up, he was faster than any of us.”

Willie, Mickey and Joltin’ Joe
The discussion then turned to the 1951 World Series between the Giants and Yankees, and Willie asked me if I remembered the play where Mantle got hurt.

“I was still in the cradle when they played that World Series,” I said.

But I do remember reading about the play, how Joe DiMaggio called off Mickey for the ball at Yankee Stadium, and how Mantle stopped short, got his foot caught in a drainage cover and tore up his knee.

“Do you know who hit the ball?” said Willie. He quickly added. “I did.”

Think of the convergence of great center-fielders on that one play — Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle (who was playing right field that day) and Willie Mays.

That one play epitomized three Hall of Fame careers. Mantle, the legendary but oft-injured slugger. DiMaggio, the one-time greatest living ballplayer. Mays, the current greatest living ballplayer.

Say Hey!

IBM Hits a Home Run

IBM hit a home run this week with a stellar second quarter earnings report.

And major league baseball hit a home run of its own with the announcement that it will be using WebSphere Portal software from IBM to improve the authentication process for memorable home runs.

Just imagine if that technology had been in place for some of MLB’s most famous home runs, such as Babe Ruth’s 60th in 1927, Roger Maris’ 61st in 1961 or Bill Mazeroski’s home run that beat the mighty Yankees in the 1960 World Series.

No truth to the rumor that IBM now stands for International Baseball Machines.

Baseball Stars Shine Brightest

The NFL Pro Bowl is an afterthought, the NHL All-Star Game a scoring orgy (is scorgy a word?), the NBA All-Star Game an in-your-face slamfest.

This year’s All-Star game proved once again — with authority — that baseball is still America’s pastime. There’s something about the good pitching vs. good hitting confrontation that works in the all-star format

It’s supposed to be an exhibition game. But try telling that to the players who battled through 15 innings and nearly five hours of dramatic baseball at Yankee Stadium. The American League finally prevailed, 4-3, ensuring yet another year of home field advantage in the World Series.

“It was a great day,” said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, “besides the fact that the game took forever. But it was fun.”

“I just know I looked up and it said 1:40 in the morning, and it was the 15th inning,” said Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who scored the winning run — just barely. “I never ever expected to come here and experience that.”

Consider the baseball ties that bind generations. The game was played in “The House That Ruth Built.” In 1933, Babe Ruth hit the first home run in an All-Star game during the inaugural mid-summer classic.. Like the Babe, Mickey Mantle hit some of the longest home runs ever in Yankee Stadium. And Josh Hamilton wowed fans in the Home Run Derby, reaching places in the venerable old stadium where only Ruth and Mantle dared go before.

And so it goes….

The SportsLifer Top 10

It was a tough call, but in the end Bucky Dent won out. The SportsLifer’s top 50 memorable sports events attended came down to a pair of decisive baseball games between the Red Sox and Yankees 25 years apart.

Bucky Dent’s decisive three-run homer against the Red Sox in the 1978 American League East playoff game at Fenway Park in Boston got the nod. The Dent game edged out Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run in the 11th inning of the 2003 American League Championship Series contest at Yankee Stadium.

The tiebreaker — the Yankees beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1978 to win the World Series. The 2003 Yankees lost to the World Series to the Florida Marlins.

Other top 10 entrants include a Stanley Cup final, World Series clincher, Super Bowl, Triple Crown horse race, NCAA basketball Final Four and Winter Olympics. Counting a major golf tournament, the ‘Lifer has seen all the major championship sporting events, with the exception of the NBA Finals.

Here’s the final countdown.


10. Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Ted Williams homer in the same game, Yankees beat Red Sox 5-4, 1960

9. Figure skating, speed skating, the men’s long ski jump and snowmobiling, Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City, 2002

8. Florida repeats as national champion with win over Ohio State, Final Four, NCAA Tournament, Atlanta, 2007

7. Affirmed edges Alydar down the stretch, wins by a neck and captures horse racing’s last Triple Crown, Belmont Stakes, 1978

6. David Wells pitches the first perfect game at Yankee Stadium since Don Larsen, Yankees beat Twins 4-0, 1998

5. Ravens defense overwhelms Giants, Baltimore defeats News York 34-7 and wins Super Bowl XXXV, 2001

4. Yankees beat Braves 4-1, complete four-game sweep of Atlanta to win World Series, Yankee Stadium,1999

3. Rangers end 54-year hex, Mark Messier scores game-winnng goal to beat Vancouver Canucks 3-2 and win Stanley Cup, 1994

2. Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run in 11th beats Red Sox 6-5, gives Yankees 39th AL pennant, Yankee Stadium, 2003

1. Bucky Dent ‘s three-run homer propels Yankees to 5-4 win over Red Sox and AL East title, Fenway Park, 1978

Special Category

My first major league game features six Hall of Famers, White Sox 7, Yankees 1, Yankee Stadium 1958

First installment: 41-50. includes the St. Louis Hawks, Holy Cross, and a Ranger rout.

Second installment: 31-40. stars Lew Alcindor, The Mick, and the Boston Marathon.

Third installment: (21-30), recalls the play of Willie Mays, Joe Namath and Lawrence Taylor and others.

Fourth installment, (11-20). includes record-setting moments by Barry Bonds, Jim Hickman, Roger Clemens and Eric Young.