Dad, you are a hero. You were always my hero.
As you may know, in 1998 Tom Brokaw wrote a book called “The Greatest Generation” It was about a generation that transformed America and made it better for all us.
It was a generation that gave new meaning to the words courage, sacrifice and honor.
It was your generation. The Greatest Generation.
You lived through the Great Depression. You fought for our country in World War II, preserving our freedom. Later you married Mom and raised a family, teaching us good Catholic values and setting an example for all of us.
If there was a category in the Guinness Book of World Records for most weddings attended or christenings or first communions or graduations, you would surely hold the record. You were always there for us, looking out for us, always supportive.
You made sure each one of us was pointed in the right direction. You made life better for my family, for your grandchildren and great grands too. You defined the values, set the pace and then let us fly.
It was you that interested me in sports at an early age, and I’ve carried that passion through my entire life. Hey, they don’t call me SportsLifer for nothing.
You saw some of the most historic sports events in history, including a no-hitter, one of the major moments in TV history, and Roger Maris’ 60th home run to tie Babe Ruth’s record.
Monte Pearson’s no-hitter
On a steamy August Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1938, New York right-hander Monte Pearson pitched the first no-hitter in Yankee Stadium history. The Yanks beat the Cleveland Indians, 13-0, that afternoon to complete a doubleheader sweep.
Pearson, who was 16-7 that year and won exactly 100 games lifetime, faced the minimum 27 batters, striking out seven. Tommy Henrich and Joe Gordon each homered twice.
In the opener that day, Joe DiMaggio’s third straight triple of the game plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth to cap a three-run rally and give the Yankees an 8-7 victory. A crowd of 40.959 was on hand as the Yankees increased their American League lead to 12 games en route to their third straight championship.
First college football game ever televised
One year later come September, Fordham University defeated Waynesburg College of Pennsylvania, 34-7, at Randalls Island in New York. But that wasn’t the story. NBC filmed the first college football game ever televised, as Bill Stern brought the play by play to viewers.
Waynesburg’s Bobby Brooks made history with a 63-yard touchdown run, the first televised TD. Reportedly, there was no victory dance in the end zone.
The W2XBS broadcast signal had about a 50-mile radius, and there were about a thousand TV sets in the New York metropolitan area at the time. The signal didn’t even reach Waynesburg, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. So who saw the game? Who knows?
Columbia shocks Army
In October of 1947, Army was a huge favorite as the Cadets brought a 32-game winning streak into New York to face Columbia’s Lions. Army had not lost since 1943; Columbia was coming off losses to Yale and Penn.
Army led, 20-7, at the half, but the Columbia combination of quarterback Gene Rossides and received Bill Swiacki brought the Lions back for a stunning 21-20 victory.
60 for Maris
And in September of 1961, Roger Maris of the Yankees hit a long home run into the upper deck at the old Yankee Stadium against Baltimore’s Jack Fisher. The round-tripper was Roger’s 60th of the season, equaling the mark Babe Ruth set in 1927. Maris hit number 61 on the final day of the season, setting a record that many feel still stands.
These events, interesting in of themselves, have something else in common. You were right there for each and every one. You was just 13-years-old at the Pearson no-hitter, with other family members. The decision was made to leave once the Indians got their first hit. That never happened.
You went to the Waynesburg-Fordham game with your cousin Bobby Pugliese, who was at that time the manager of a powerful Fordham team. By the time Maris tied the Babe in 1961, you were a father of four, two boys and two girls, including me, the oldest.
Our first Yankee game
You took me to my first Yankee game nearly 60 years ago, vs. the White Sox on a brilliant Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Six Hall of Famers were in the lineup that day, including Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, plus both managers, Casey Stengel and Al Lopez.
You also brought me to my first Giants game, also at Yankee Stadium, five days before JFK was assassinated in 1963. And to my first Knicks and Rangers games at the old Madison Square Garden on 8th Avenue and 49th Street. We once saw an NBA doubleheader.
We saw a Miami-Notre Dame game at the Orange Bowl in Miami, a Yankee game against the Rays in St. Pete, and some great Iona Prep football. Remember when you brought home some early VCR prototype in 1967 and taped the Thanksgiving Day game against New Rochelle with Marty Glickman doing the play by play on WPIX. That was mighty impressive..
You’ve always been there for me, whether it be coin, advice or a good meal. Over the years we must have spent 100,000 hours talking sports, and there’s still nothing I’d rather do. I treasure the times I spend with you always.
Merry Christmas, Dad. Love you always.
Big deal you say? Well….yes. As a matter of fact, 12/11/16 marked the first and only time all four of those NY teams won on the same day. And that goes back to 1960, the year the Jets took off….as the New York Titans.
Think about that for a minute. 57 seasons of competition. Five Super Bowl championships, two NBA titles and a Stanley Cup. And yet, not once did the Giants, Jets, Knicks and Rangers ever win on the same day. Until December 11.
Oh sure, there were hundreds of instances when the four didn’t play on the same day. The Jets on a Sunday, the Giants on a Monday for instance. Strikes by the NFL, NBA and NHL also came into play several times.
In the entire decade of the 70s (from 1971-80), the Giants and the Jets managed to win on the same day just three times. That’s some lousy football.
On four separate occasions – in 2014, 1988, 1968 and 1962 – the Giants, Jets and Rangers all won on the same day. But the Knicks lost. In 2010 both football teams won along with the Knicks, but the Rangers lost.
Four others times, in 1986, 1971, 1968 and 1962, the football teams both won but the Knicks lost to the Lakers. In each case, the Rangers were idle.
Finally, on Dec. 11 it all clicked. That day the Jets rallied to beat the 49ers 23-17 in overtime on a 19-yard touchdown run by Bilal Powell. On Sunday night, the Giants defeated the Cowboys 10-7 as Odell Beckham caught a 61-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning for the game winner. The Rangers, playing at Madison Square Garden that night, routed the Devils 5-0. behind the shutout goaltending of Antti Raanta. And later that night, on the West Coast, the Knicks beat the Lakers 122-118 as Kristaps Porzingis scored 26 points and Derrick Rose added 25.
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.
The all-time playoff batting leader is a 92-year-old retired cardiologist and former president of the American League and the Texas Rangers who played his last game more than 62 years ago. Robert William Brown, aka Bobby and the Doctor, spent his short career with the Yankees, played for five World Series champions and batted .439 in the World Series, the all-time best amongst players who have at least 40 postseason plate appearances.
Brown spent eight seasons with the Yankees before retiring in 1954 at the age of 29. The left-hand hitting Brown played both shortstop and third base for New York and would up a solid .279 career hitter. But it was in the postseason that Bobby Brown shined.
In 1947, Brown hit .300 in 69 games, and played a key role when the Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in a seven-game World Series. Brown, just 22 at the time, pinch-hit four times and he came through with two doubles, a single and a walk. His double in the fourth inning of Game Seven tied the score and sent the eventual winning run to third base.
In the 1949 World Series, Brown batted .500 with six hits in twelve at-bats, including a double and two triples, and he drove in five runs. The Yankees beat the Dodgers in five games.
Then in 1950, when the Yankees swept the Phillies in the Series, the Doctor went 4-for-12, with a double and a triple.
The next season brought a fourth trip to the World Series for Brown. In five games, he had five hits in 14 at-bats for a .357 average. The Yankees defeated the New York Giants in six games. By age 26, Bobby Brown had four World Series rings.
Brown won a fifth ring with the 1952 Yankees, but before the season ended he was off to Tulane medical school.
Second on the all-time post-season batting list is Colby Rasmus, who played with Houston in 2015 and before that St. Louis in 2009. Although Rasmus never played in a World Series, he compiled a .423 playoff mark.
Pepper Martin of the Gashouse Gang Cardinals, aka the Wild Horse of the Osage, hit .500 in the 1931 World Series and .355 in 1934 to lead St. Louis to a pair of seven-game victories.
Hall of Famers Lou Brock (.391) and Ryan Sandberg (.385) rank eighth and ninth respectively on the top 10 list.
The Chicago Cubs aren’t the only MLB team with a long World Series drought. The Cleveland Indians, who captured the American League pennant, haven’t won a World Series since 1948.
Although the Tribe’s streak pales in comparison to the Cubbies, who haven’t won since 1908, it’s still the second longest championship drought in baseball history.
Baseball fans across America are praying for a Cleveland-Chicago World Series, since once of those two franchises will finally get off the schneid.
When the Indians last won in 1948, Harry S. Truman was POTUS, Gentleman’s Agreement starring Gregory Peck won the Oscar for Best Picture, and pacifist leader Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated.
That year Cleveland defeated the Red Sox in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park to determine to AL pennant winner. The Indians then went on to beat the Boston Braves in six games in the first World Series to be televised nationwide. Outfielder Larry Doby hit .318 to pace the Tribe, while Bob Lemon won both of his starts, including the Game 6 clincher.
The Indians won AL pennants in 1954, 1995 and 1997, but lost the World Series both times.
You have to go back 108 years to find the last time the Cubs won a World Series. In 1908, when Chicago beat the Detroit Tigers in five games for its second straight title. The Peerless Leader, Frank Chance, managed the Cubs that season and also led all batters with a .421 average. Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and Orval Overall each won a pair of games.
The Cubs last visit to the World Series came in 1945, 71 years ago, when they lost to the Tigers in seven games. Chicago also advanced to the Fall Classic in 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, and 1938, only to lose each time.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, currently battling the Cubs in the NLCS, also have a long championship drought. LA last appeared in the World Series in 1988, when they beat the Oakland A’s in five games.
In their first three decades in Los Angeles, the transplanted Brooklynites went to the World Series nine times, winning five. But it’s been 28 years since the Dodgers’ last title.
SportsLifer Flashback: The 1908 Cubs
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