Remembering Moose Skowron, childhood idol

A piece of this kid’s childhood and a link to the glorious Yankee teams of the 50s and early 60s died today with the passing of former first baseman Bill “Moose” Skowron.

More than 50 years ago, my father took me to my first baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Although the White Sox won the game, the Moose homered for the only Yankee run. Instantly, I became a Bill Skowron fan.

Soon I began imitating Skowron’s batting stance. I got a Bill Skowron first baseman’s mitt for my birthday. My uncle, the late Allan Melvin of Sam the Butcher fame, started called me the Moose Skowron of White Plains.

Skowron joined the Yankees in 1954 and hit .300 in each of his first four seasons. Moose won four championships with the Yankees, and hit a huge three-run homer in the seventh game of the 1958 World Series to cinch a win over the Milwaukee Braves.

Following the 1962 season, the Yankees sent Skowron to the Dodgers for pitcher Stan Williams. It was a devastating trade, not only for the Moose but also for an 11-year-old kid living in the New York suburbs.

Skowron’s Dodgers defeated the Yankees in the 1963 World Series, when Moose slugged a home run and batted .385. Always a clutch batter, he hit. .293 in eight World Series with eight home runs, seventh all time. Skowron and Yogi Berra are the only players to hit three Game 7 home runs in the World Series.

Moose played out his 14-year career with the Senators, White Sox and Angels. He had a .282 lifetime batting average with 211 home runs.

Skowron was plagued by injuries throughout his career, which was ironic considering a conversation he once had (and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News recounted) with another Yankee first baseman, Wally Pipp.

“I met Pipp at an Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium,” Skowron recalled, “and he told me: ‘Don’t ever get a headache or catch a cold. I got a headache once and took a day off and never played again. A guy named Lou Gehrig took my place.’ I made sure from that day on to do everything I could to remain healthy.”

“There weren’t many better guys than Moose,” Berra told the Associated Press. “He was a dear friend and a great team man. A darn good ballplayer, too.”

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At age 50, Mets still seeking first no-hitter

When Philip Humber pitched the 21st perfect game in major league history last week, he became the seventh pitcher to throw a no-hitter after wearing a Met uniform. Humber  joins Nolan Ryan, right, Tom Seaver, Mike Scott, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and Hideo Nomo on that list

Of note, Ryan threw a record seven no-hitters. Gooden and Cone each pitched no-hitters for the Yankees; Cone’s was a perfect game. Nomo had no-hitters both before (Dodgers) and after (Red Sox) joining the Mets.

Eight other pitchers recorded no-hitters before joining the Mets. Hall of Famer Warren Spahn, and Don Cardwell, Dean Chance, Dock Ellis, John Candelaria, Bret Saberhagen, Scott Erickson, and Kenny Rogers (perfect game) are members of that club.

(Of note, former Met Alejandro Pena was part of a three-man no-hitter for Atlanta in 1991 after pitching for the Mets. And Billy Wagner (Houston) and Ricardo Rincon (Pittsburgh) were part of multi-pitcher no-hitters before they joined the Mets.)

Related Blog: SportsLifer first blogged about the Mets no-hit history (or lack thereof) in 2008 with a piece headlined “Yes, That’s Correct, No No-Nos for Mets.”


9-0. NP. History repeats for Yankees- Red Sox

 

They say history repeats itself. Well it does sometimes, and it did today.

The Yankees comeback from a 9-0 deficit raised the echoes from a Yankee-Red Sox game, just over 62 years ago.

It was April 18, 1950, Opening Day at Fenway Park. Yankees vs. Red Sox.

Boston pounded Yankee starter Allie Reynolds and, like today, led 9-0 entering the sixth inning following Billy Goodman’s two-run homer.

New York rallied, but still trailed 10-4 going into the top of the eighth. Then the Yankees struck for nine runs. Billy Martin, right, making his major league debut, doubled and singled in the eighth inning and knocked in three runs.

The Yankees added to the carnage in the ninth on an RBI double by Joe DiMaggio and a run-scoring single by Yogi Berra to win 15-10.

Sounds familiar, huh.

And again: The Yankees also rebounded from a 9-0 deficit to beat the Red Sox on June 26, 1987, at Yankee Stadium. The Yanks knocked out reigning Cy Young and MVP winner Roger Clemens with an 11-run third inning. They then won the game 12.11 on a base hit by Wayne Tolleson in the 10th inning that scored Mike Pagliarulo.


Top 10: Memorable games at Fenway Park

A hundred years ago this week, just days after the Titanic settled in a watery grave in the North Atlantic, the Red Sox opened a brand new baseball field, called, Fenway Park, in Boston.

On April 20, the Sox will officially celebrate their Centennial (or Fen-tennial) anniversary at Fenway. Fittingly, the Sox opponent that day will be the New York Yankees — the same team that helped Boston open Fenway Park 100 years ago.

That day in 1912, the Red Sox beat the Yankees (then called the Highlanders)  in 11 innings. Major John F. Fitzgerald, the grandfather of John F. Kennedy, threw out the first pitch.. The Boston Globe reported “Tristram Speaker, the Texas sharpshooter, with two down in the 11th inning and Steve Yerkes, on third, smashed the ball too fast for the shortstop to handle and the winning run came over the plate, making the score 7 to 6, and the immense crowd leaving for home for a cold supper, but wreathed in smiles.”

The Red Sox played at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, the present site of Northeastern University, for their first 11 years in the American League before moving to Fenway. Owner John I. Taylor named the park for its location in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston.

In chronological order, here are the 10 most memorable games in Fenway Park history.

Championship beginning
1912:  Red Sox 3, Giants 2 (10 innings), Game 8, World Series

In the deciding game of the 1912 World Series (Game 2 ended in a 6-6 tie), Boston spotted New York a run in the top of the 10th inning, then took advantage of two Giant misplays to beat the great Christy Mathewson and win the title. First Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass dropped a routine fly ball by leadoff batter Clyde Engle, an error that came to be known as the “$30,000 Muff” (referring to the winner’s share). Given life when the Giants failed to catch his foul pop, Tris Speaker singled to knock in the tying run. The winning run scored on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Bill Gardner that plated Steve Yerkes, giving the Sox a dramatic victory and their second World Championship.

Three titles in four years
1918, Red Sox 2, Cubs 1, Game 6, World Series

The Red Sox clinched both the 1915 and 1916 World Series at Braves Field, as they chose to play on the National League site because of its larger seating capacity. But in 1918 they beat the Cubs in six games to win their third World Series in four years and fifth overall.  It was a Series dominated by pitching and capped by a three-hitter by Boston’s Carly Mays in Game 6. Neither team scored more than three runs in a game and there wasn’t a single home run hit in the Series. The victorious Sox batted .186 and the losing Cubs swung a lowly .210.

Post-War World Series
1946: Red Sox 6, Cardinals 3, Game Five, World Series

In their first appearance in the Fall Classic in 28 years, the Red Sox took a 3-2 lead in the World Series by knocking off St. Louis 6-3. Joe Dobson hurled a four-hitter and struck out eight batters, and Leon Culberson homered to lead the Red Sox attack. When the Series returned to St. Louis, the Cardinals won the final two games. Enos Slaughter scored the winning run in the eighth inning of Game Seven as Boston’s Johnny Pesky made a belated throw to the plate.

All-Boston Series…not quite
1948: Indians 8, Red Sox 3, American League playoff

Player-manager and shortstop Lou Boudreau hit a pair of solo home runs and went 4-for-4 and third baseman Ken Keltner hit a three-run shot as the Tribe beat the Red Sox in a one-game playoff for the American League pennant. Cleveland southpaw Gene Bearden got the win, besting surprise starter Denny Galehouse. Boston manager Joe McCarthy said he had no rested arms, although both Mel Parnell and Ellis Kinder claimed they were ready. The Red Sox loss prevented an all-Boston World Series. Cleveland went on to beat the Braves in six games for its second and last World Championship.

Runs, runs, runs
1950, Red Sox 29, Browns 4

In June of 1950, Boston pounded out 28 hits and set a MLB record with 29 run (broken when Texas scored 30 runs against the Orioles in 2007)  in a rout of the St. Louis Browns. Dobby Doerr led the attack with three home runs and eight RBIs. Walt Dropo hit two home runs and had seven RBIs and Ted Williams two HRs and five RBIs. Johnny Pesky and Al Zarilla had five hits apiece. The day before, the Red Sox beat St. Louis 20-4. (Three years later, in 1953, the Red Sox set a MLB record with 17 runs in the seventh inning of a 23-3 win against the Tigers. Gene Stephens got three hits and Sammy White scored three runs in a frame that saw 14 hits and six walks.)

Ted Williams final at bat
1960, Red Sox 5, Orioles 4

This list wouldn’t be complete without a Ted Williams moment. And Ted’s final moment was a classic. In this final at bat before retirement, Williams hit a long home run in his final at bat. But let John Updike describe, from his immortal essay Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu. “Williams swung again, and there it was. The ball climbed on a diagonal line into the vast volume of air over center field. From my angle, behind third base, the ball seemed less an object in flight than the tip of a towering, motionless construct, like the Eiffel Tower or the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was in the books while it was still in the sky. (Jackie) Brandt ran back to the deepest corner of the outfield grass; the ball descended beyond his reach and struck in the crotch where the bullpen met the wall, bounced chunkily, and, as far as I could see, vanished.”  Afterwards. Williams refused to tip his cap to the adoring Fenway faithful. As Updike explained, “Gods do not answer letters.”

‘The Impossible Dream’
1967, Red Sox 5, Twins 3

In 1967, the American League had one of the great pennant races in history. Four teams — the Tigers, White Sox, Twins and Red Sox — battled all season, and from September 15 until the last day of the season, all remained within two games of each other. The Red Sox were the surprise team of the bunch after finishing ninth the previous season. Coming into the season’s final day, the Red Sox and Twins were tied for first place with the Tigers one-half game back. The Red Sox beat the Twins as eventual MVP and Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski goes 4-for-4 and eventual Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg got the win. The Tigers could have tied the Red Sox if they swept a doubleheader from the Angels, but after winning the first game the Detroit bullpen failed in the nighcap. For the first time in 21 years, the Red Sox made it to the World Series.

Fisk wills it fair
1975, Red Sox 7, Reds 6, 12 innings, Game 6, World Series

This was the signature moment in one of the greatest World Series ever staged. Cincinnati led the series 3-2, and appeared on the precipice of its their first World Series since 1940. But Bernie Carbo’s dramatic pinch-hit three run home run in the eighth tied the game 6-6. Boston had a chance to win it in the ninth but failed to score after loading the bases with nobody out. In the 11th, Red Sox right-fielder Dwight Evans robbed Joe Morgan with a tremendous catch. Finally, Boston catcher Carlton Fisk sent a long drive into the night, and signalled the ball to stay fair it hit the left field foul pole for a game-winning home run. The Reds would win the World Series the next night when Joe Morgan singled home Ken Griffey  Sr. with two outs in the top of the ninth for a 4-3 win.

Bucky ‘Bleepin’ Dent
1978, Yankees 5, Red Sox 4, AL East playoff

It was a game in a season, and a season in a game. After 162 games, the old rivals were dead even with 99 wins apiece, necessitating a one-game playoff to decide the American League East. Carl Yastrzemski hit an early home run against Ron Guidry. But then Bucky Dent struck with a three-run homer that just cleared Fenway’s 37-foot high left field wall. The game came down to the last at bat, and when Yaz popped to Graig Nettles the Yankees completed their comeback from 14 1/2 game behind in July.

The great comeback
2004, Red Sox 6, Yankees 4, 12 innings; Red Sox 5, Yankees 4, 14 innings, Games 4 and 5, American League Championship Series

It seemed certain the Curse of the Bambino would continue after the Yankees beat the Red Sox 19-8 to take a 3-0 lead in the ALCS. No MLB team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. The Yankees took a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning of Game Four, but the Sox scratched out a run against Mariano Rivera, then won it in the 12th on a two-run homer by David Ortiz. Boston rallied again the next night, tying the game with a pair of runs in the eighth and winning it on a base hit by Ortiz (who else) in the 14th. The Red Sox would go on to win the pennant, destroying the Yankees 10-3 in the seventh game at Yankee Stadium. And then they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in four games to win their first World Series in 86 years.


Perfect Dolphin part of Holy Cross ‘Fraternity’

It’s a story that began more than 40 years ago at a small Jesuit liberal arts college in New England. The tapestry includes the United States Supreme Court, a Pulitzer Prize and the unbeaten 1972 Miami Dolphins.

In Fraternity, Diane Brady, a journalist for BusinessWeek, writes about five African American men who arrived at the College of the Holy Cross during the racially tense time of the late 60s and early 70s, and went on to great success in life. Brady describes the bonds between these men and their peers, and their connection with the Rev. John E. Brooks, later the President of Holy Cross, who convinced them to study at the college atop  Mount St. James in Worcester, Mass.

The Fraternity five adorn the cover of the book. One of them, Eddie Jenkins, was a member of that perfect Dolphin team. The others are Jenkins’ HC roommate and star litigator Ted Wells ’72; Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas ’71; Pulitzer-Prize winning author of the novel The Known World; Ed Jones ’72; and former New York City deputy mayor and investment banker Stan Grayson ’72, who also played three years for the HC basketball team.

Hepatitis Outbreak
Jenkins, a running back, attended high school at St. Francis Prep in Brooklyn. He played in just three freshman games at HC before breaking a rib. All but two games of his sophomore season were wiped out because of the hepatitis outbreak which quarantined the entire team and forced cancellation of the remainder of the 1969 schedule.

The Crusaders were 0-10-1 in 1970, a UConn tie the only saving grace. But in a game at Boston University that year, Jenkins was on the receiving end of the longest pass play in HC history, a 99-yard touchdown completion from Colin Clapton. In that same game, Joe Wilson, who later played for the Bengals and the Patriots, set a school record with a 94-yard touchdown run.

Eddie Jenkins played in just 20 games at Holy Cross, and his teams won seven. He was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 11th round (285th overall) of the 1972 NFL draft. Jenkins sat below names like Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris and Jim Kiick on the Dolphin depth chart, and saw action as a special teams player.

Super Bowl Champions
He was on the field in the Los Angeles Coliseum, wearing #28, Dolphin aqua and orange, when Miami won the Super Bowl against the Washington Redskins and finished 17-0.

“We didn’t know it was going to be a perfect season,” Jenkins told the Worcester Telegram years later. “It just kept building. Honest, it was game by game. No one ever thought about this perfect season.”

After sitting out the 1973 season, Jenkins played for the Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots and New York Giants in 1974. Following his NFL career, Jenkins studied law at Suffolk. He formerly worked in private practice, as a prosecutor, a labor lawyer,and later in several Commonwealth of Massachusetts executive positions. He is currently MassDOT’s chief diversity and civil rights officer.

Jenkins has two children. His son Julian, a former defensive end at Stanford, played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2006.

SportsLifer Note: 1969-70 was my freshman year at the Cross. In December, 65 black students took a stand, threw down their student IDs and quit Holy Cross to protest a racially-tinged college ruling.  Throughout the school year there were anti-Vietnam protest marches, the tragedy of Kent State and second semester closings at universities across the county, and a concert by The Who in the Holy Cross fieldhouse, just weeks after Woodstock. The HC football team was 0-2, losing to Harvard and Dartmouth before hepatitis hit.