By the time MVP Daniel Murphy hit his fourth home run of the NLCS, the Cubs were finished once again. No surprise. Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong will go wrong – might as well be the motto for the Chicago Cubs, the most ill-fated team in all of sports. Ever.
Once upon a time the Cubbies were kings of baseball. Chicago won three straight pennants beginning in 1906, and captured the World Series in both 1907 and 1908, becoming the first team to repeat and the first to win two straight championships. That’s when it all went wrong.
Charles Murphy, the Cubs unpopular owner and president, seemingly changed fortunes forever when he felt he was snubbed by his players, who refused to allow him to attend a celebration dinner with songwriter George M. Cohan after the 1908 World Series. Murphy had been under fire by players and fans alike by selling tickets for a profit, making it difficult for loyal fans to purchase Series ducats. And so it begins.
Two years later, in 1910, the Cubs once again won the National League pennant, only to lose the World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics in five games. A’s right fielder Danny Murphy (no relation to the Mets second baseman….at least we don’t think so) led all players with 9 RBIs. The Cubbies went on to win pennants in 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945, but lost the World Series each time.
In 1945, shortly after World War II ended, Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, was asked to leave a World Series game against the Tigers at Wrigley Field because the smell of his pet goat was bothering fans. An outraged Murphy allegedly declared, “The Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” That was 70 years ago, and the Cubs haven’t returned to the World Series since. Oh yeah, the goat’s name was Murphy. Figures.
The Cubs led the NL East race for a good portion of the 1969 season, only to fall prey to the Amazin’ Mets. The architect of that Mets team was general manager Johnny Murphy – the same Johnny Murphy who registered a save against the Cubs in 1938 as part of a four-game Yankee sweep. One of the Mets play-by-play broadcasters in 1969 was Bob Murphy.
In 1984, the Cubs took a 2-0 lead against the Padres in the NLCS, then lost three in a row. Those games were played at what was then called Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. Jack Murphy, a sports editor and columnist with the San Diego Union, was Bob Murphy’s brother.
In 2003, the Cubs were six outs from the World Series when a Chicago fan, Steve Bartman, drew the ire of the Wrigley Field crowd when he prevented Moises Alou from catching a foul fly down the left field line. You didn’t hear it here, but Bartman had a dog named Murphy. Not.
The Best of SportsLifer
First posted on April 13, 2009 by sportslifer
T.S. Eliot knew how to write, but sports wasn’t his strong suit.
“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain. “
– T.S Eliot, The Waste Land, 1922
Thomas Stearns (T.S.) Eliot, the American-British poet, playwright and critic, may have been a member of the Literature Hall of Fame, but he didn’t know sports.
With apologies to old T.S., shown below, April is America’s best month for sports.
April, the rites of passage, the season of rebirth, where Opening Day signals the start of another baseball season.
April has the pageantry of the Masters, from Augusta National, the most beautiful golf course in the world.
Both the NBA and NHL playoffs begin in April, the second season for 32 basketball and hockey teams.
The NCAA Tournament may be heralded as March Madness, but the Final Four is an April event.
And finally there’s the NFL draft, one of the most popular events in the NFL outside of the Super Bowl.
What other months challenge April?
June has the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Belmont Stakes, last leg in horse racing’s Triple Crown.
October has the World Series, and peak activity in college and pro football to go with Fall foliage.
And February has the Super Bowl, the single biggest day in American sports, and the Daytona 500.
Give me April every time.
Like a 1970 Ford Pinto desperately in need of a tune-up, the Sultans of Swat have stalled out on the fantasy baseball highway. They’ve become the Sultans of Not.
Throughout April, the Sultans, co-owned and operated by Dr. G and yours truly, were the class of the Nightcap League.
But now the Sultans are sinking faster than a stone, with a red cross unit that looks like the 4077th M*A*S*H.
Five Sultans have already found the disabled list, the most recent being Troy Percival. He is threatening retirement, which might not be a bad idea considering the way he’s pitched lately
Three others are wearing the dreaded red cross label. And many of those injured Stallers got hurt early in the week, leaving the lineup down a man.
From Ace to Triple A
Adding insult to injury, another Sultan, Ricky Nolasco, who was supposed to be the ace of the Florida staff this year, has been shipped down to New Orleans, carrying his bruised ego and a 9.07 ERA to the Crescent City.
(Travel Note: If you’re going to be exiled, New Orleans is not a bad destination.)
(Mathematics Note: If you’re counting, that makes more than a third of the roster either rehabbing in the whirlpool or sampling the night life on Bourbon Street).
Nolasco isn’t the only bust in this Sultan-of-swing-and miss lineup. Cubs catcher Geovany Soto had a breakout season in 2008; this year he’s looked more like the second coming of Jake Gibbs.
Matt Holliday, who thrived on that thin Colorado air, has taken a holiday in Oakland. And shortstop Alexi Ramirez has been an automatic out for the White Sox.
The Sultans can’t seem to catch a break. On Sunday they had two of their starters, Felix Hernandez and Barry Zito, face off against one another.
Take away Blue Jays ace Ray Halladay and the incomparable Albert Pujols and this team is in the basement.. Problem is they keep walking Pujols, especially with Sultan/Cardinal Ryan Ludwick on the DL, and Halladay can’t pitch every day.
None of the other Stallers have lived up to the numbers on the back of their baseball cards
Such are the ups and downs of fantasy baseball.
“The thing the sixties did was show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.”
– John Lennon
Well, I finally made it to Woodstock, 39 years too late.
As the Yankees get set to open their final season in the original (albeit renovated) Yankee Stadium, look ahead to what I predict will be the toughest ticket in New York sports history — Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium in 2009.
Yankee tickets weren’t always tough tickets. Even during the great championship runs and dynasties, an SRO crowd in the Bronx was a novelty, not a daily occurrence.
3. NFC East Is NFL’s Beast
Historically, what’s the best division in the NFL? If you use Super Bowl titles as the ultimate criteria, then it’s the NFC East, hands down.
Just like USC is known for producing tailbacks and Penn State linebackers, Syracuse University was once a football factory for running backs.
They’re the Lennon and McCartney of basketball, the Rogers and Astaire of hoops, the Batman and Robin of the hardwood.
6. All-Star Game: The Price Ain’t Right
The last time the All-Star game was held at Yankee Stadium in 1977, tickets were priced $10-15 for box and reserved seats. That’s a far cry from the $150-725 price range for the July 15 midsummer classic, and roughly two-three times the cost of tickets for last year’s game at San Francisco.
On a November afternoon in 1963, five days before President John F. Kennedy is assassinated, a 12-year old with this mother, father and cousin sees Y.A. Tittle and the Giants pound the 49ers in 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.
1. Johnny Unitas (Colts, Chargers, 1956-73)
A three-time champ with Baltimore, nine times an All-Pro, seventh all-time with 290 touchdown passes. Holds the NFL equivalent of Joe Dimaggio’s streak, 47 straight games with a TD pass.
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.”
When the Red Sox gallant comeback against the Tampa Bay Rays finally fizzled in Game Seven, another potential dynasty bit the dust.
The Sox loss demonstrated once more just how difficult it is to build and maintain dynasty in baseball’s current three-series playoff format.
And it underlines the remarkable accomplishment of the Yankees, who won three World Series in a row and four out of five from 1996-2000.
If you define a dynasty as three championships in five years, only the Yankees qualify since the three-round playoff format was instituted in 1995. In fact, the Yankees are the only team to win back-to-back championships in that time frame.
And the Oakland A’s, who won three straight World Series starting in 1972, are the only team to earn the dynasty label since baseball first began a playoff format in 1969 with the league championship series.
The Yankees have the all-time record with five straight World Series championships between 1949-53. Overall, the Yanks won 14 pennants and nine World Series in a period that began in 1949 and ended in 1964.
The Bombers also won four in a row between 1936 and 1939. Both those runs occurred when the American and National League winners went directly to the World Series.
Other than the Yankees and the A’s, there have been three mini-dynasties in baseball history.
A’s 1910-11 and 1913
Red Sox 1915-16 and 1918
Cardinals 1942, 1944 and 1946
And what of this year’s World Series contestants? The Rays have never won a World Series, never even made the playoffs before this year.
And the Phillies have been around since 1883, and in all that time have just one World Championship to show for their efforts.
In 1980, the Phillies beat the Royals in six games, leading a young copy editor to come up with the headline “Phinally: It’s the Phillies” while working the slot for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
Red Sox (1915-16)
Blue Jays (1992-93)
This is the second of a three-part retrospective on the moments that shaped Yankee Stadium, New York and the world of sports.
Overall, there will be three categories — anything but baseball, baseball regular season, and baseball post-season.
This is the regular season baseball category….we’ll follow up soon with a top 10 devoted to World Series and post-season play at the Stadium.
Remember you read it first in the SportsLifer.
Top 10 regular season baseball moments at Yankee Stadium (chronological order)
Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, April 18, 1923
1. The Stadium opens with pomp and circumstance and Babe Ruth’s home run beats Boston, 4-1. 1923
2. Babe Ruth hits one over the right-field fence and becomes the first player to hit 60 home runs in a season, 1927
3. Dying Yankee captain Lou Gehrig, at left, being hugged by Babe Ruth, tells a crowd of more than 60,000 “Today I consider myself the “luckiest man on the face of the earth,” 1939
4. Joe DiMaggio begins his immortal 56-game hitting streak by going 1-for-4 against the White Sox, 1941
5. The Yankees edge the Red Sox in the final two games of the season to win the pennant by a game, 1949
6. Roger Maris breaks Babe Ruth’s record with his 61st home run on the final day of the season, 1961
7. Mickey Mantle just misses hitting a ball out of the Stadium when he homers off the right field facade, 1963
8. Ron Guidry strikes out 18 batters to silence the Angels in a team record-setting performance, 1978
9. On the day they buried their captain, Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer’s 5 RBIs give the Yankees a dramatic win, 1979
10. Double Perfect: David Wells, right, and David Cone pitch perfect games a year apart, 1998 and 1999
Other Yankee No-Hitters: Monte Pearson (1938), Allie Reynolds (1951), Dave Righetti (1983), Jim Abbott (1993) and Doc Gooden (1996).
Opposing No-Hitters: Bob Feller (1946), Virgil Trucks (1952) and an army Houston Astros pitchers (2003).
Babe Ruth’s final appearance in The House That Ruth Built, 1948
Umps over-rule George Brett’s homer in the “Pine Tar” game, 1983
Tom Seaver gets 300th win as White Sox beat Yankees on Phil Rizzuto Day, 1985
Roger Clemens wins 300th game; reaches 4,000 K’s, 2003
Derek Jeter dives into the stands against the Red Sox, 2004