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

DSCN0755

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.


The Last Time

 

Babe Ruth’s farewell to Yankee Stadium, June, 1948.

Well this could be the last time
This could be the last time
Maybe the last time
I don’t know. Oh no. Oh no.

– The Rolling Stones

The final game in the original Yankee Stadium took place on the final day of September in 1973. The Detroit Tigers used a six-run eighth inning to beat the Yankees that day, 8-5. Some 32,238 saw back-up Yankee catcher Duke Sims hit the final home run the old Stadium, a solo shot in the seventh inning.

The Yankees moved to Shea Stadium the following year for two years, moving back into the current, refurbished Yankee Stadium in 1976.

The Mets had opened Shea in 1964, following two seasons at the Polo Grounds, shown right,  in upper Manhattan. The Mets lost many games at the Polo Grounds in those two years, including the last one, a 5-1 setback to the Phillies. The Mets did have the consolation of having outfielder Jim Hickman his the last home run in the old ballpark, though few remember it. Only 1,752 fans showed up that Wednesday afternoon in September.

Moving to California

The New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers both abandoned New York following the 1957 season to move to the West Coast. The Dodgers shut out the Pirates, 2-0, in the final game at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field , below, that year behind the shutout pitching of Danny McDevitt, before a mere 6,702 fans.

A day earlier, Hall of Fame Dodger outfielder Duke Snider hit the final two home runs in the historic park in Flatbush, a pair of two-run shots to reach 40 on the year.

A week or so later, the Pirates beat the New York Giants, 9-1, to bring down the curtain on the Polo Grounds as far as the Giants were concerned. An obscure Pirates outfielder named John Powers hit the last home run at the Polo Grounds that day. Only 11,606 were there to see it.

Several early 20th Century New York ballpark closings also resulted in losses for the home team. On October 5, 1912, the Brooklyn Superbas dropped the final game in Brooklyn’s Washington Park, 1-0, to the Giants.

One year later, the New York Highlanders (soon to become the Yankees) dropped a doubleheader to the Boston Red Sox, 3-2 and 3-0 to close the doors on New York’s Hilltop Park. The Yankees would share the Polo Grounds with the Giants through 1922, before moving across the Harlem River to Yankee Stadium.

In 1948, a dying Babe Ruth made his final appearance in The House That Ruth Built, on the 25th anniversary of Yankee Stadium. His voice ravaged with cancer, Ruth said, “I’m very proud to have hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium. God knows who’ll hit the last one.”


Bidding Adieu to The House That Ruth Built

Yankee Stadium, at left, with the new Stadium across 161st Street in the Bronx.

It’s been compared to the Colosseum, been called The House That Ruth Built.

Mel Allen, the late Yankee broadcaster, once said, “St. Patrick’s is the Yankee Stadium of cathedrals.”

It has hosted Popes and Cardinals, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi, John Philip Sousa and U2.

I have so many memories of Yankee Stadium, all of them precious.

When I think of The House that Ruth Built, I really remember two Yankee Stadiums, each unique in its own right and each evoking a different set of memories.

My earliest recollections go back to the original Stadium, green facade, monuments on the field, Death Valley in left-center. My Dad took me to my first game there 50 years ago, and the color of the field and the Stadium contrasted with the black and white televised images I had seen. And for years afterward I thought Ruth, Gehrig and Miller Huggins were actually buried underneath the monuments in center field.

I recall Hall of Famers Mantle and Berra and Ford, and seeing Ted Williams, Mantle and Roger Maris hit home runs in the same game. As a fifth grader, I remember getting sick and missing a September game where Maris hit home run #56 on his way to 61 in 1961.

Sunday Doubleheaders
I recall going to many Sunday doubleheaders with my father and brother and friends and cousins, sitting in the upper deck  and seeing some terrible Yankee teams in the late 60s and early 70s. I saw a Friday twi-night doubleheader against the Tigers in 1968, when the second game wound up in a 19-inning tie. We stayed ’till the end.

And of course there were some New York football Giants games in the 60s, featuring Y.A. Tittle, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and others.

The original Yankee Stadium closed its doors in 1973, and the Yankees moved to Flushing where they called Shea Stadium home for two years. Those were not good memories.

In 1976, a remodeled Stadium opened, sans facade and center-field monuments and with a smaller Death Valley, but with a great big scoreboard above the bleachers and a new Yankee team under Billy Martin. My first game there in 1976, my father, my younger sister, my cousin and I saw Chris Chambliss hit a home run to right-center, a precursor to his dramatic shot that beat the Kansas City Royals and gave the Yankees the American League pennant that October.

Derek Jeter and the 1996 Yankees
After back-to-back World Championships in 1977 and 1978, the Yankees slipped into another dry period in the 1980s and early 1990s, with Don Mattingly one of the few bright spots. That is until 1996, when a kid named Derek Jeter arrived on the scene and helped the Bombers won their first World Series in 18 years.

And that paternal baseball bond spread into the next generation, as my son and I saw some classic Yankee games during those dynasty years, perhaps none more memorable than David Wells’ perfect game in 1998, when I came oh-so-close to catching a Bernie Williams home run.

My nephew and brother-in-law were there with us that day, my nephew’s second major league game. I told him afterwards he could go to a thousand games, 10,000 games, but he’d never see another perfect game.

Overjoyed, I saw the Yankees win a World Series game against the Padres in 1998, and with my brother saw the Yanks eliminate the Braves in four straight in 1999 (“Ball game over, World Series over, Millennium over!.”).

I recall how the Yankees gave the people of New York a lift when the needed it most, with a dramatic post-season run in 2001 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I sat with my son and two duaghters in the upper deck on a drizzly Friday night in 2003 when Roger Clemens won his 300th game, and was there four months later when Aaron Boone drilled the home run that beat the Red Sox for the American League pennant.

So many loved ones, so many great players, so many memories, but time moves on. And next year, Yankee Stadium moves across the street to a new home.

I’m looking forward to my first game in the new Yankee Stadium, yet with the sad realization that things will never be quite the same. Somehow, they never are.


Dawgs Barking for Respect

The late comedian Rodney Dangerfield once remarked: “I don’t get no respect. I played hide-and-seek, and they wouldn’t even look for me”.

The Dutchess Dawgs are the Rodney Dangerfields of the NFL (Nightcap Fantasy League). They don’t get no respect.

Last year, the Dawgs had the best record in the NFL at 10-2. They went to the NFL championship game, the Super Bowl of fantasy land, only to lose on a day when a New England winter monsoon held down the passing efforts of Tom Brady and company.

Follow me so far. As Rodney D once said: “I tell ya when I was a kid, all I knew was rejection. My yo-yo, it never came back!”

The plight of the Puppies sounds a bit like the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, huge underdogs (no pun intended) last year and picked by most pundits to finish third or worse in their own division this year. No respect.

The Dawg Pound

The Dawgs 2008 draft was panned by the experts. They were even picked to lose last week to an expansion team.

Well, the Dawgs did what they do best, balanced scoring in a strong,115-point effort. They got 30 points from WR Calvin Johnson, 21 points from RB Clinton Portis, and 16 points from the Giants DST, including six sacks and a Justin Tuck touchdown.

The ancient …but well-dressed, as always … Amani Toomer contributed a touchdown and 12 points to the Hounds tally.  Heck, the Dawgs even got 62 points from their reserve squad.

The result, another win and a 2-0 record, tied for first in the Somers/Armonk Division.

“My psychiatrist told me I’m going crazy,” Dangerfield once quipped. “I told him, ‘If you don’t mind, I’d like a second opinion.’ He said, ‘All right. You’re ugly too!'”

Maybe next week the Dawgs will get some notice. Maybe even a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Sing it, Aretha Franklin!!!