Shea Goodbye

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.


Take My Wife….Please

Mike Mussina is not the only Yankee pitcher to beat the Red Sox for his 20th win on the final day of the season at Fenway Park.

As a sophomore in college, I went to my first game at Fenway in 1970 and saw left-hander Fritz Peterson beat the Sox, 4-3 for his 20th victory.

In that game, Boston’s Billy Conigliaro and Luis Alvarez hit home runs, but Jerry Kenney’s two-run single capped a three-run fourth that gave the Yankees the win.

Peterson went 8 1/3 innings, then gave way to veteran reliever Lindy McDaniel who recorded his 29th save by getting Mike Andrews to ground out with the bases loaded.

Peterson finished 20-11 that season with a 2.90 ERA , the only time he won 20 games. During his career, Peterson was 133-131 with a 3.30 ERA with the Yankees, Indians and Rangers.

From 1968 to 1972, Peterson led the league in control every year, with as few as 1.23 walks per nine innings in 1968.

Swapping Wives
But although Fritz was noted for his control on the field, off the field was a different story.

Today, Fritz Peterson is best remembered for swapping families with fellow Yankee pitcher Mike Kekich an arrangement the pair announced at spring training in 1973. Friends since 1969, the Yankee pitchers decided that they would one day trade wives, children, and even dogs.

The trade worked out better for Peterson than it did for Kekich, as Peterson is still married to the former Susanne Kekich, with whom he has had four children. Kekich and Marilyn Peterson did not last long.

Yankee general manager Lee MacPhail later remarked, “We may have to call off Family Day.”

Peterson’s pitching suffered after the swap. Eventually,  he was traded to Cleveland in 1974 along with three other pitchers for three pitchers for Chris Chambliss, whose home run won the 1976 pennant for the Yankees.

Kekich, another southpaw, wound up 39-51 in this career with a 4.59 ERA and one less wife. He was sent packing to the Indians for pitcher Lowell Palmer in the middle of the 1973 season.


Meet the Mutts

It’s gotta be tough being a Met fan these days. There’s not much to say – other than bag it — after the Mets’ blew it in September and failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.

The collapse was historic. You have to go back to 1950 and 1951, when the Brooklyn Dodgers lost the National League pennant on the last day of the season to the Whiz Kid Phillies in 1950… and then followed that up by blowing a 13 1/2-game lead to the New York Giants and losing a three-game playoff to their arch-rivals on Bobby Thomson’s home run in 1951…to find more baseball heartbreak in the same place.

Plenty of blame to go around with the Mets, but you can’t point the finger at Johan Santana. He was absolutely brilliant down the stretch, and would most likely have won the National League Cy Young Award if not for the Mets’ bullpen.

Amazingly, the Yankees and the Mets finished with identical 89-73 records this year. You have to go back all the way to 1993 — when the Mets finished last in the NL East and the Yankees second in the AL East — to find the last time New York didn’t have a team in the playoffs. It will be a quiet October in Queens and the Bronx.

As they said so many times in Brooklyn: “Wait Till Next Year.”


Hurricane Kyle Hah! Kamp Quinn Thrives

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Traditions are a good thing. Opening Day, fireworks on the Fourth, that special Super Bowl party.

Records are made to be broken….but traditions are made to be continued.

This past weekend Kamp Quinn, one of life’s greatest traditions was celebrated in Woodford State Park, elevation 2,400 feet, in the backwoods of Vermont.

On a weekend where Hurricane Kyle threatened New England before taking a right turn into Nova Scotia, these hardy Kampers battled heavy rains, high winds and otherwise chaotic weather conditions.

No Problem
A problem? Are you kidding me? What’s a little drizzle?

A lark in the park, on a weekend when the Mets struggled to to stay alive, USC, Florida and Georgia both went down, and the great Paul Newman passed away,  You can almost imagine Newman turning to his sidekick Robert Redford and asking “Who are those guys?” just as he once did in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Well, those guys in Vermont were Dads and mountain men and kids and more kids, some coming from as far away as Colorado to join in the tradition that is Kamp Quinn. Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys got nothin’ on this crew.

Red Meat and Junk Food
The hardy Kampers chomped on steak and ribs, cheeseburgers and chili, Lipitor be damned. They ate Funny Bones and Hostess Cupcakes (who knew they still made this cream-filled delight?) and washed it all down with beer and wine and water. And they treated a barely shredded head of lettuce like a rotten vegetable.

The Kamp Quinn tradition began in 1996, when the pioneers survived a full moon and 16-degree night-time temperatures. That same weekend, the Yankees were wresting a divisional series away from Texas on their way to their first World Championship in 18 years.

The Kamp has evolved over the years as most traditions do, as people come and go and the young Kampers grow older. The Red Sox finally ended the Curse of the Bambino. Lean-tos replaced tents. And the stories get better over the years.

And years from now, a bunch of Kampers will recall the weekend when they defied Hurricane Kyle in the wilds of Woodford..


Best Post-Season Moments at Yankee Stadium


As Yankee Stadium closes its doors, this is the final of a three-part retrospective on the moments that shaped Yankee Stadium, New York and the world of sports.

Top 10 post-season baseball moments at Yankee Stadium (chronological order)

1. Babe Ruth homers and the Yankees score the winning run on a wild pitch in the ninth inning to sweep the Pirates to clinch their first World Series at Yankee Stadium, 1927

Other Yankee home clinchers at the Stadium: 1938, 1947, 1950, 1951, 1953, 1977, 1996 and 1999.

2. Tommy Henrich hits a ninth inning, walk-off home run against Don Newcombe as the Yankees beat the Dodgers, 1-0, in Game 1 of the World Series, 1949

Other Yankee World Series walk-offs: Mickey Mantle in 1964, Chad Curtis in 1999, Derek Jeter in 2001.

3. Billy Martin singles home Hank Bauer with the winning run in the ninth inning as the Yankees beat Brooklyn in six games and win their fifth straight World Series, 1953

4. Don Larsen, left, throws the only no-hitter in post-season baseball history, a perfect game, as the Yankees defeat the Dodgers, 2-0, in Game 5 of the World Series, 1956

5. Chris Chambliss hits a walk-off home run in the ninth inning as the Yankees beat Kansas City, 7-6, to win the American League pennant and head to the World Series, 1976

Other Yankee playoff walk-offs: Bernie Williams in 1996 and 1999, Alfonso Soriano in 2001,  Aaron Boone in 2003.

6. Reggie Jackson hits three home runs as the Yankees beat the Dodgers in six games to win the World Series for the first time in 15 years, 1977

7. Jim Leyrtiz hits a two-run homer in the 15th inning as the Yankees beat Seattle, 9-7, in Game 2 of the American League divisional series, 1995

8. Jeffrey Maier, right, a 12-year-old fan, interferes with Derek Jeter’s fly ball home run as the Yankees beat  the Orioles in Game 1 of the ALCS, 1996.

9. Deja vu all over again: Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius hit game-tying, two-out, two-run homers on successive nights against Arizona in the World Series, 2001.

10. Aaron Boone completes a comeback with an 11th-inning home run as the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 6-5, in Game 7 of the ALCS, 2003

Almost….

Don Mattingly hits his only post-season home run against Seattle, 1995

Roger Clemens throws splintered bat at Mets’ Mike Piazza, 2000

Yankee Sours

St. Louis pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander emerges from bullpen and shuts down the Yankees to give the Cardinals their first World Series, 1926.

Other opposing championships won at the Stadium: 1942 Cardinals,  1955 Dodgers, 1957 Braves, 1976 Reds, 1981 Dodgers, and 2003 Marlins

Brooklyn outfielder Al Glonfriddo robs Joe DiMaggio of a possible home run in Game 6 of the World Series. 1947

Southpaw Johnny Podres shuts out the Yankees, 2-0, to give Brooklyn its first and only championship, Game 7, 1955

Los Angeles left-hander Sandy Koufax, left, sets a World Series record by striking out 15 Yankees in Game 1, 1963

George Brett homers against Goose Gossage to give the Royals the 1980 American League pennant, 1980

The Red Sox become the first baseball team to overcome a 3-0 playoff deficit and  beat Yankees to win the ALCS, 2004

The SportLlifer Yankee Stadium retrospective series:

Part I :The Best: Everything but baseball

Part II: The Best: Baseball regular season

Who’s on Third

The Last Time

Bidding Adieu

Empty Seats at Yankee Stadium

My first baseball game


UnderDawgs Thrive on Adversity

The Dutchess UnderDawgs enter Week 4 of Nightcap fantasy football play with an undefeated record and a "bite me" mentality.

The big Dawgs came to play once again last week, running all over the Pittsburgh Stealers in a defensive muscle tussle to raise their record to 3-0, good for undisputed possession of first place in the Somers/Armonk Division.

Next on tap for the Dawgs is a contest with the G-Whizzers, who have been established as early five-point faves despite their 1-2 record.

"If you can’t run with the big Dawgs then stay on the porch," said Dawgs owner/GM/coach Mad Dawg. "We plan on curbing the G-Whizzers straight up against the nearest fire hydrant."

Despite their 3-0 start, Mad Dawg, who is also the Dawgs offensive coordinator, has come under fire for sitting Ronnie Brown, leaving five touchdowns and 45 points on the bench.

"We were told by our Miami connection, who deals directly with Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, that Ricky Williams would get most of the touches against the Patriots," explained a Dawgs spokesperson. "Rest assured, our offensive guru is in chateau bow-wow this week. Fortunately for him, the Dolphins have a bye week."

And so do the Dawgs. No less than five Dawgs — including Brown, three wide receivers, and the Super Bowl champion Giants defense — will be missing in action on Sunday.

However, the Dawgs seems to thrive on adversity, like pit bulls in a China shop.


Who’s on Third?

The cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated is a black and white shot, with Mickey Mantle swinging and Roger Maris kneeling in the on-deck circle. Shot over Maris’ left shoulder, the picture looks down the third-base line to nearly empty stands in left.

The picture, which was shot in 1960, got me to thinking: “Who’s on Third?” It’s a Kansas City Athletic, that’s for sure

Judging Yankee box scores of day games with small crowds against Kansas City that year, there are two possibilities.

Dick Williams, who later managed the Oakland A’s to a pair of World Championships in the 1970s and was inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer, is one. He was on third base on May 6, 1960, when 5,891 were on hand to see the Yankees win, 8-7

The other is Andy Carey, former Yankee infielder, who was traded to the Athletics in May of 1960 for outfielder Bob Cerv. Carey played third on June 29 and 30, a pair of midweek day games in the Bronx, each witnessed by less than 10,000. BTW, Maris hit two home runs to trigger a 10-0 Yankees win on June 29, and Maris and Mantle each homered the next day as the Yankees won, 8-3.

Carey was the third baseman in Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956, and scored one of two Yankee runs that day.

The Yankees third base coach, a Kansas City catcher, and the home plate and third base umpires are also shown in the Sports Illustrated cover shot.

Frank Crosetti was the coach. Harry Chiti was the A’s catcher in the May game, and Danny Kravitz caught both the June contests.