I play in a 16-team league called FLAKS (Fantasy League All-Stars, Kontenders and Slackards) which this year is celebrating its 24th season. FLAKS is made up primarily of communications professionals. Many of us are former journalists who worked together at IBM at certain points. In the early years, before the Internet, we literally kept our own stats. Now every pitch is recorded.
Many years back FLAKS became an auction league. Each year, shortly before Opening Day, we gather together to draft our teams. Do the math. 16 teams, 25 players per team, that’s 400 players. And we bid on every player, one player at a time, one dollar at a time.
The draft normally takes up the better part of 12 hours. This year, for the first time, a dead man, the former Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, was drafted. And we had an epic bidding war for Kris Bryant of the Cubs, which wound up in a league record $60 price.
Following the draft, CBS Sports evaluates our draft. My team, SportsLifer, received a D this year, but fear not. Those grades are based on a snake draft, not auction. Last year CBS gave me an A, and yet a week into the season SportsLifer was in the basement. Eventually, after a series of trades and pick-ups, we managed to climb into a tie for seventh place and finished in the money.
This is my 2017 squad. Although not a superstar-studded roster, it appears to be a well-balanced squad. And it will evolve over the course of the season, one week a time. We’ll see what happens.
C — Gary Sanchez, NYY
1B –- Eric Hosmer, KC
2B — Jonathan Schoop, Bal
SS – Jonathan Villar, Mil
3B – Nick Castellanos, Det
OF – Dexter Fowler, StL
OF – Adam Jones, Bal
OF – Hunter Pence, SF
DH – Brandon Moss, KC (1B, OF)
1B – Josh Bell, Pitt
OF – Howie Kendrick, Phil
OF – Nick Markakis, Atl
OF — Tyler Naquin, Cle
OF – Josh Reddick, Hous
SP – Gerrit Cole, Pitt
SP – Johnny Cueto, SF
SP – JA Happ, Tor
SP — Rick Porcello, Bos
SP – Blake Snell, TB
RP – Mark Melancon, SF
RP – Jim Johnson, Atl
SP – Brandon Finnegan, Cin
SP – Mike Montgomery, Cubs
DL – Didi Gregorius, SS, NYY; Collin McHugh, SP, Hou
Marty Appel has hit another home run with his latest undertaking “Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character.” Appel, whose credits include “Munson” and “Pinstripe Empire,” the definitive history of the New York Yankees, digs deep into Casey Stengel’s life and uncovers multiple aspects of a life in baseball that spanned more than 50 years.
In 2009, MLB Network ran a series that highlighted many areas of the game. Stengel finished first in a category called “Characters of the Game.” He beat out luminaries such as Yogi Berra, Babe Ruth, Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher and Satchel Paige.
Upon Casey’s death in 1975, Richie Ashburn, who played for Stengel with the original Mets, said: “He was the happiest man I’ve ever seen.”
Casey loved the writers who covered his teams – ‘my writers’ he would call them. He was a showboat and a rabble-rouser who wasn’t afraid to mix it up in a fight. He was a .284 hitter as a player, and managed the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees and Mets, achieving his greatest fame with the Yankees who won five straight World Championships between 1949 and 1953.
Here are 10 amazing factoids and associated Stengelese witticisms found in Casey’s bio:
1. Casey hit the first home run in Ebbets Field when the Brooklyn Superbas (soon to be called Dodgers) christened their new park with an exhibition game against the Yankees before the 1913 Series. Generous scoring ruled Stengel’s inside-the-park blast a home run.
2. A decade later, in 1923 Stengel hit the first World Series home run in the history of Yankee Stadium. This was also an inside-the-parker, and gave the New York Giants a 5-4 win over the Yankees. Stengel also homered in Game 3, and this blast into the right field seats gave the Giants a 1-0 win.
3. In 1933, Casey served as a pall bearer at the funeral of legendary Giants manager John McGraw. Other pall bearers that day included George M. Cohan, DeWolf Hopper (who wrote ‘Casey at the Bat’’), Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert, Dodgers manager Wilbert Robinson, Will Rogers, and football Giants owner Tim Mara.
4. One year, Stengel managed the Boston Braves to a sixth place finish, coming on the heels of four seventh place finishes. Early in the 1943 season Casey was hit by a taxi cab in Kenmore Square and broke his left leg. Acerbic Boston Record columnist Dave ‘The Colonel’ Egan wrote that “the taxi driver who knocked Stengel down and put him out of commission until July” should be voted the man who did the most for Boston baseball in 1943.
5. Before the first game of the 1952 World Series, Stengel, then manager of the Yankees, took Mickey Mantle out to right field in Ebbets Field to give him a tutorial on the angles of the concrete wall. Mantle looked at Casey as though he was screwy. “Guess he thinks I was born at age 50 and started managing immediately,” said Stengel.
7. After guiding the Yankees to 10 American League pennants in 12 years, Stengel was let go by the team after losing to the Pirates in a thrilling seven-game World Series in 1960. “I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again,” Casey said.
8. In 1962, Casey took over the reigns of the expansionist New York Mets. The Mets were lovable losers (they lost 120 games in the inaugural season), but Stengel quickly made them popular. Take for instance Marvin Eugene Throneberry (whose initials were MET). In the first inning of a June game against the Cubs, Marvelous Marv steamed into third base with a triple. However he was called out when the umpire ruled he missed second base. When Casey came out to argue, the ump, Dusty Boggess, said, “Don’t bother Casey, he missed first base too.”
9. Casey invented his own form of speaking, called Stengelese. One of his favorite sayings was “Most people my age are dead at the present time.”
10. Just days before he passed away in the hospital at the age of 85, Casey decided to rise from his hand, stand barefoot in his hospital gown, and put his hand over his heart as the national anthem was played. Near his gravesite is a plaque that reads: “There comes a time in every man’s life and I’ve had plenty of them.”
Was Cubs-Indians Game 7 the best game ever? Not so fast.
I do feel sometimes we tend to rush to judgement and instant gratification. For example, ESPN is already calling Game 7 the greatest game ever.
For Cub fans maybe.
But we need to bottle it for a bit, savor it, then enjoy it like a fine wine.
There have been plenty of great games throughout the last dozen decades of baseball history.
After all, there have been six walk-off Game 7 wins in baseball history alone, going back to 1912 and the Red Sox beating Christy Mathewson in extra innings all the way to Luis Gonzalez besting the great Mariano Rivera and the Yankees in 2001.
The Bill Mazeroski home run in 1960 that gave the Pirates an improbable World Series win was unforgettable. Amazingly, not a single batter struck out in that contest.
Some other great games that weren’t necessarily Series clinchers include Pudge Fisk and the Red Sox in 1975, the Mets and Bill Buckner in 1986, Kirby Puckett and the Twins in 1991, and David Freese and the Cardinals beating the Rangers in 2011.
And don’t forget Don Larsen’s perfect game vs. Brooklyn in 1956. Only time it’s ever happened in a World Series.
Even though they weren’t true post-season games, Bobby Thomson’s home run against the Dodgers that helped the Giants win the pennant in 1951, and Bucky Dent’s Fenway blast that lifted the Yankees over the Red Sox in 1978 were certainly dramatic.
Maddon’s questionable moves
Congrats to the Cubs and their fans. Maybe it’s me, but Joe Maddon did all he could to hand the Series to the Tribe — from his needless use of Aroldis Chapman in Game 6 to lifting Kyle Hendricks early in Game 7 to the 3-2 safety squeeze in the ninth inning that backfired
The Cubs ultimately prevailed because they were the better team with superior talent, but the better manager, Terry Francona, was in the Cleveland dugout in this World Series.
They call it over-managing. In business terms, micro management. It’s the Whitey Herzog syndrome, in honor of the Kansas City manager, who made some questionable moves against the Yankees in the ALCS back in the 70s.
It will never be the same
Well now that the Cubs have won and broken the 108-year jinx things are bound to be different. There’s already talk of the next baseball dynasty.
However, consider this. After the Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino in 2004, they became just another successful franchise, lost in the shuffle of successful teams.
Just like the Sox, the Cubs have lost their lovable loser mojo.
Should Gary Sanchez, stalwart Yankees catcher, be American League Rookie of the Year?
Why not? In less than two months, Sanchez has already hit 19 home runs (fastest player ever to reach that number), to go along with 38 RBIs and a .337 batting average. He was named AL Player of the Month in August, when he also won consecutive Player of the Week honors.
And equipped with a strong throwing arm and pitch-calling capabilities, his defense is every bit as good as his offense.
If Sanchez plays in the rest of the Yankees games this year, he will wind up with 54….which is exactly one third of a season.
And despite limited duty, Sanchez numbers stack up well against Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer (10-7, 3:30 ERA), who has dropped four of his last five decisions. Others in the rookie mix include Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin (14-42-.3010, Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazaro (20-64-.275) and Twins outfielder Max Kepler (16-60-.232).
There is precedent for winning the Rookie of the Year award while playing less than 100 games. Just last year, Houston’s Carlos Correa appeared in 99 games. Will Myers (88 games in 2013), Ryan Howard (88 games in 2005) and Bob Horner (89 games in 1978) were all named top rookie.
Hall of Famer Willie McCovey played only 52 games for the Giants in 1959, yet was named NL Rookie of the Year. Stretch — who broke in on July 30 that year with a pair of triples in a 4-for-4 day against the Phillies — hit .354 with 13 HRs and 38 RBIs. McCovey earned all 24 votes for Rookie of the Year.
Some might argue that Cincinnati’s Vada Pinson, who had 20 homers, 84 RBIs and a .316 batting average, was the most deserving NL Rookie of the Year candidate in 1959. Pinson led the league in runs (131), doubles (47) and outfield putouts (423), earning him 11 MVP votes. However he failed to qualify for the Rookie of the Year award because his 96 at bats in 1958 were just beyond the 90 cutoff.
Bob Gibson of St. Louis made his MLB debut in 1959, although he won just three of eight games. Other notable NL rookies in 1959 were future Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson, who hit .218 in his only season with the Phillies, and speedster Maury Wills, who would later go on to break the single season stolen base record with the Dodgers.
Now that his Yankee career has ended (some would say mercifully), Alex Rodriguez can fill the third base slot on the all-time Yankee team.
A-Rod won two MVPs with the Yankees (2005, 2007), hit 351 of his 696 career home runs in pinstripes and had more than 1,000 RBIs. And he helped lead the Yankees to their last World Championship, in 2009, with an outstanding post-season effort when he hit .365 with 6 HRs and 18 RBIs. His 54 home runs in 2007 are the most ever for a right-handed Yankee hitter.
Of course, A-Rod’s reputation will be forever stained by his admitted steroid abuse, his playoff collapses, and his insecurity. But this isn’t the Hall of Fame, it’s the Yankee all-time team.
Third base is the only position on the team not manned by a Hall of Famer. (Yeah, Wade Boggs played for the Yankees for several years, but his greatest years were in Boston.)
After A-Rod, here are the next five greatest third basemen in Yankee history.
Graig Nettles, power hitter and Gold Glove fielder who led the AL in home runs in 1976 and was a member of the 1977 and 1978 World Series winners.
Red Rolfe, another outstanding fielder, helped the Yankees win five titles (1936-39 and 1941) and retired in 1942 to become baseball coach at Yale.
Joe Dugan, aka Jumping Joe, was the third baseman on one of the greatest teams ever, the 1927 Yankees. A .280 lifetime hitter, he played on 5 Yankee pennant winners.
Gil McDougald, played multiple infield positions on five World Champions under Casey Stengel. He was AL Rookie of the Year in 1951. McDougald later coached at Fordham.
Clete Boyer, tremendous glove man, played the hot corner for five straight pennant winners (1960-64), and hit 95 homers as a Yankee.
Boggs, who hit .300 or better in four of his five Yankee years, and Scott Brosius, who won three straight World Series in his four seasons, deserve honorable mention.
The rest of the all-time Yankee team consists of Hall of Famers….or sure-fire Hall of Famers in the case of the shortstop and relief pitcher. Here’s the list:
C – Yogi Berra
1B – Lou Gehrig
2B – Tony Lazzeri
SS – Derek Jeter
3B – A-Rod
OF – Babe Ruth
OF – Joe DiMaggio
OF – Mickey Mantle
LHP – Whitey Ford
RHP – Red Ruffing
RP – Mariano Rivera
It began in 1958, my very first baseball game, Yankees vs. White Sox at the original Yankee Stadium. The Yanks had four Hall of Famers in their starting lineup that day, including Mickey Mantle in center, Yogi Berra in right, pitcher Whitey Ford and pinch-hitter Enos Slaughter..
Chicago’s keystone combination of second baseman Nellie Fox and shortstop Luis Aparicio was also Cooperstown bound. And managers Casey Stengel of the Yankees and Al Lopez of the White Sox made it eight Hall of Famers in the house that afternoon.
That day my father even arranged for me to get an autograph from Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean, who was doing the Game of the Week for NBC.
Grand total, I’ve seen 58 Hall of Famers play in my lifetime. The list ranges from Ted Williams to Stan Musial, Willie Mays to Hank Aaron, Juan Marichal to Catfish Hunter, Carl Yastrzemski to Reggie Jackson, and Greg Maddux, Tommy Glavine and John Smoltz. Saw both of the 2016 inductees, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Mike Piazza. Saw Piazza as a Dodger hit a home run against the Rookies in Coors Fields’ inaugural season, 1996.
In 2008, I was in Cooperstown for the induction of reliever Goose Gossage. I’ve seen 14 Hall of Famers hit home runs, and five times saw two future Hall of Famers homer in the same game – Ted Williams and Mantle at Yankee Stadium in 1960, Mays and Billy Williams at Candlestick Park in 1962, Yaz and Reggie in the 1975 ALCS and again in the 1978 AL playoff game at Fenway Park, and Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson in the refurbished Yankee Stadium in 1986.
Was there when Mays hit a grand slam in 1962, and Carlton Fisk hit a bases-loaded HR at Opening Day in Fenway Park, 1973.
Witnessed wins by Jim Palmer, Ferguson Jenkins, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Randy Johnson, Watched Robin Roberts hurl a complete game shutout for the Orioles against the Yankees in 1965 Saw saves by Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage. Saw Nolan Ryan strike out 15 in a 1977 game against the Red Sox.
Saw seven Hall of Famers in a game at Candlestick Park – Willie Mays, Orlando Cepada and Juan Marichal of the Giants and Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and a young Lou Brock for the Cubs. Willie McCovey of the Giants didn’t play that day; sadly never got to see him play.
I’ve also seen 9 Hall of Fame managers, including Leo Durocher, Earl Weaver, Sparky Anderson, and Dick Williams, along with Stengel and Lopez and three recent inductees – Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa.
Once got an autograph from Phil Rizzuto in a luxury suite at Yankee Stadium. Phil offered me a cannoli, and signed my program over to my three kids.
Here’s the my complete Hall of Fame list, in order of induction:
HALL OF FAMERS I HAVE SEEN
Cal Ripken, Jr.
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Tony La Russa
58 players, 9 managers
Dizzy Dean, Phil Rizzuto
Mickey Mantle (1960)
Ted Williams (1960)
Willie Mays (1962), grand slam
Billy Williams (1962)
Harmon Killebrew (1967)
Carl Yastrzemski (1970, 1978)
Reggie Jackson (1971, 1978 (2), 1979)
Carlton Fisk (1973, 2 HRs), 1 grand slam
Jim Rice (1975, 1978)
Dave Winfield (1983, 1986)
Eddie Murray (1978)
Wade Boggs (1994)
Rickey Henderson (1986)
Mike Piazza (1996)
In the last inning of the 2014 World Series and his team trailing by a run, Royals left-fielder Alex Gordon singled and raced all the way to third on an error by Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco. In an alternate universe Gordon might have attempted to score and propelled the Kansas City to a win. But he stopped at third, the next batter Salvatore Perez popped out to end the game, and San Francisco won its third World Series in five years.
If Gordon had run and scored, he coulda been a hero. One of many guys who could have been World Series heroes, if only things had played out differently.
Maybe there’s a coulda been hero in this year’s World Series. Here’s the past list of guys who didn’t quite make it, dating back to 1912:
2011 – Josh Hamilton – His two-run homer in the top of the 10th in Game 6 appeared to seal the deal for the first championship for the Texas Rangers. However St. Louis rallied to tie the game, then won it 10-9 in the 11th on a home run by David Reese. The Cardinals then won Game 7 easily to take the crown.
2001 – Alfonso Soriano – His eighth inning home run against Curt Schilling gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead and within grasp of their fourth straight championship. But Arizona scratched out a pair of runs against closer Mariano Rivera to pull out a 3-2 win and their first and only championship.
1997 – Tony Fernandez – They’d have built a statue of this guy in downtown Cleveland if only things hard turned out differently in Game 7. Fernadnez hit a two-run single in the third inning that held up until the last of the ninth. The Marlins rallied against Jose Mesa to tie the game, then won it 3-2 in the 11th on Edgar Renteria’s single. The Indians have not won a World Series since 1948.
1986 – Dave Henderson – Hendu was going to be an all-time rock star in New England. His home run in the top of the 10th put the Red Sox on the brink of their first championship in 68 years, since 1918. However the Mets rallied to win Game 6 6-5 in 10 innings as Mookie Wilson’s grounder eluded first baseman Bill Buckner, and then took Game 7 and the title two nights later.
1976 – Thurman Munson – The Yankee captain hit .529, the highest batting average ever for a player on a losing team. However, the Reds, sparked by Johnny Bench, swept the Yankees in four straight games. Less than three years later, after winning World Series in 1977 and 1978, Munson was killed in a plane crash.
1960 – Whitey Ford – He pitched a shutout in Game 3 and another in Game 6. Too bad, this was the year that Bill Mazeroski hit the most dramatic of home runs and the Pirates beat the Yankees 10-9 in Game 7 to win the World Series. Ford continued his shutout string the next year, breaking Babe Ruth’s record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched in a World Series and won the MVP.
1953 – Carl Furillo – He rallied Brooklyn with a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to tie the score 3-3 in Game 6. However, Yankee second baseman Billy Martin, who had 12 hits and 8 RBIs while batting .500 in the series, knocked in Hank Bauer from second base with the game-winning run in the ninth inning to give the Bombers 4-3 win and a record fifth straight World Championship
1946 – Dominic DiMaggio – Joe’s little brother hit a two-run double in the eighth inning that pulled the Red Sox even with the Cardinals in Game 7. However DiMaggio injured his hamstring rounding first, and was replaced in center field by Leon Culberson. It was Culberson’s weak relay to Johnny Pesky in the bottom of the inning that led to Enos Slaughter scoring the decisive run in a 4-3 victory.
1919 – Dickey Kerr – With eight of his teammates, the infamous Black Sox, attempting to throw the Series, left-hander starts and wins two games. Kerr pitches a shutout in Game 3 and wins 5-4 in a 10-innings in Game 6. However Cincinnati takes the Series in eight games.
1912 – Fred Merkle – The goat of the 1908 NL pennant race for the New York Giants was almost a hero. Fred Merkle singled in the go-ahead in the decisive Game 8 (one game ended in a tie). With the great Christy Mathewson on the mound, the Giants appeared to have the title well in hand. But Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass dropped a routine fly ball to start the home half of the 10th, and Larry Gardner later hit a deep sacrifice fly, scoring Steve Yerkes with the winning run.