Murphy’s Law spells doom for Cubs once more

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.


Sorry T.S., April Is The Best Month for Sports

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.


10 Essential Baseball Web Sites

Just like the old Yankee Stadium scoreboard, these essential Web sites help     baseball fans keep on top of the game.

Wanna know who made the last out in Don Larsen’s perfect game? How many doubles Ted Williams hit in 1941? Who’s pitching ‘s pitching for the Cardinals tonight? Where was Hall of Famer Eddie Collins born?

And there’s so much more. Information on old ballparks and new, the latest news from newspapers around the country, box scores galore, statistical analyses.

It’s all just a click away with these 10 essential baseball links.

Top 10 Sites

Baseball reference.com: Stats on every player who ever lived, award winners, leaders through the years, and so much more.

Retrosheet.com: Box scores for every major league game since 1953 and every post-season game ever played. Nuff said.

MLB.com: The official site of major league baseball, links to every team site.

Hall of Fame.com: Information on baseball’s elite, Cooperstown and more.

US sports pages.com: Want local coverage, this is your link. Every major sports section in the country. Search be region, columnist and more.

Baseball almanac.com: The official baseball history site. “Where what happened yesterday is preserved today.” Year-by-year history, NL since 1876.

Ballparks of baseball.com: Old fields, new fields, even future fields. Everything the baseball road warrior needs, complete with travel guides.

Baseball library.com: Cool stuff such as this day in baseball, historical matchups, team year-by-year histories.

Fangraphs.com: Daily reports, stat analysis, graphs. A terrific fantasy baseball tool.

John Skilton’s baseball-links.com: Welcome to the Web’s most comprehensive collection of links to baseball resources. There are currently 12788 unique links indexed in the categories below. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, it probably doesn’t exist.

Best of The Rest

And a few other links to satisfy your baseball appetite.

Owner’s Edge.com: Accurate, up-to-date listing of probable pitchers.

SABR.com: The Society for American Baseball Research.

Ballparks.com: Ballpark reviews, rankings, essays all on current stadiums.

Baseball tips.com: The instructional site, teaching coaches, players and fans about winning baseball.


Sultans of Not Sinking Fast in Fantasy Baseball

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.


Top 10: The Best of the SportsLifer

1. Woodstock: Better Late Than Never

“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.

2. Empty Seats at Yankee Stadium

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.

4. Running Backs Once Ruled at Syracuse

Just like USC is known for producing tailbacks and Penn State linebackers, Syracuse University was once a football factory for running backs.

5. Celtics-Lakers Would Be Historic NBA Final

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.

7. The Lifeline That Is Football

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.

 

8. The Best of Yankee Stadium: Post-Season

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.

9. Top Ten All-Time Quarterback List

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.

10. Bidding Adieu to The House That Ruth Built

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.”


Baseball Dynasties Are Few And Far Between

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.

Championship Runs

Five Straight
Yankees (1949-53)

Four Straight
Yankees (1936-39)

Three Straight
A’s (1972-74)
Yankees (1998-2000)

Two Straight
Cubs (1907-08)
A’s (1910-11)
Red Sox (1915-16)
Giants (1921-22)
Yankees (1927-28)
A’s (1929-30)
Yankees (1961-62)
Reds (1975-76)
Yankees (1977-78)
Blue Jays (1992-93)


The Best of Yankee Stadium: Regular Season Baseball

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

Almost…

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

Part I: The Best of Yankee Stadium: Everything But Baseball


Material Guy a Bust in The Bronx

Material Guy (sung to the tune of Madonna’s Material Girl)

Some guys come through in the big spot
But that’s not my way
I get tight, I strike out
Or worse a double play

Fans can boo and they can plead
But they don’t see the light
Cause guys like me with cold hard cash
Are always mister right

….cause we are

Living in a material world
And I am a material guy
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material guy

Alex Rodriguez hears the boos on the road and at home.

Material Guy makes hundreds of millions of dollars, yet comes up bankrupt in the clutch. He hits tons of home runs, but is a lightweight under pressure. He plays games on and off the diamond, at home and on the road, with the Yankees and his wife and blonde strippers and even Madonna.

Material Guy is living in a material world. And he’s a loser. Alex Rodriguez has won three MVPs, but has never taken his team to the World Series.

Of course, he’s hardly the only reason the Yankees are fast-fading out of the playoff picture. Offensive incompetence, especially with runners in scoring position, anemic pitching and injuries have combined to put the Yanks on serious death watch.

But A-Rod is the lightning rod, the highest-salaried player in the game, and he’s paid to produce in the clutch. In that vein, he’s been a bust ever since coming to the Bronx. E-Rod, A-Wad, Double Play-Rod.

Just this week, in a crucial three-game series against the Red Sox, Material Guy was 2-for-13 with five strikeouts and grounded into a pair of rally-killing double plays as the Yankees lost two of three..

Lord of The Ringless
In fact, since Material Guy arrived in New York in 2004, the Yankees have failed to win the American League pennant. Before he came, they had been to the World Series six times in eight seasons, winning four championships.

When the Material Guy left the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers, both times for more money, his former teams immediately improved….dramatically

In 2001, Seattle set the all-time American League record with 116 wins, 25 more than the previous year with A-Rod. Texas immediately improved from 71 wins to 89 without A-Rod.

Amazingly, Material Guy went 15 full playoff games and parts of two others without a single RBI before hitting a meaningless home run late in the Yankees fourth and final game loss to the Indians last year. During that stretch he was 7-for-57 for a .123 batting average. Guys swinging with their eyes closed can manage 7-for-57.

Playoff Failures
His playoff failures have defined his career in pinstripes. A weak tapper and run-in with Boston’s Bronson Arroyo in 2004. A double play grounder in the ninth inning of Game 5 against the Angels in 2005 in a 5-3 loss.

In fact, Material Guy became such a head case under pressure that Joe Torre dropped him to eighth in the batting order two years ago in the final game loss to the Tigers. A-Rod went 0-for-3 and made a costly error as Detroit sent the Yankees packing in 2006.

In the most critical moment in last year’s playoffs, A-Rod struck out in the ninth inning of a 1-1 tie with the go-ahead run in scoring position; Cleveland went on to win, 2-1, in 11 innings en route to a series victory in four games.

Put it this way Yankee fans, game on the line, who would you rather have up there, Material Guy or Scott Brosius?

Pretty much says it all.


My First Baseball Game


Fifty years ago, August 23, 1958, I saw my very first baseball game.

I still remember it like it was yesterday. A seven-year-old kid, walking into Yankee Stadium with my Dad and seeing the immense ballfield, the green facade, the monuments in center field. The pinstriped legends on the field.

That Saturday afternoon, the Chicago White Sox beat the Yankees, 7-1, as Billy Pierce bested Whitey Ford in a battle of southpaws.

Six future Hall of Famers played in that game — Ford, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Enos Slaughter for the Yankees and Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio for the ChiSox.

Ray Boone hit a solo home run and knocked in four runs for Chicago. Moose Skowron homered in the seventh for the only Yankee run.

I’ve been hooked ever since.

PS — Exactly 10 years later, August 23, 1968, I saw 28 innings of baseball at the Stadium. The Yankees won the first game of the twi-night doubleheader, 2-1; the two teams played to a 3-3, 19-inning tie in the nightcap.


The Best of Yankee Stadium, Baseball Excluded

Posted on August 19, 2008 by sportslifer | Edit

Soon we’ll be seeing all sorts of retrospective pieces on Yankee Stadium. Here we take an early look at 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 top 10 for anything but baseball….we’ll follow up soon with top 10s devoted to regular season and post-season play at the Stadium.

Remember you read it first in the SportsLifer.

Top 10 Yankee Stadium events (other than baseball), chronological order:

1. At halftime, Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne urges his squad to “Win one for the Gipper” as Irish, left. rally to defeat Army, 12-6, in honor of former All-America George Gipp, 1928

2. Undefeated Fordham and the Seven Blocks of Granite need one more win to reach the Rose Bowl, but NYU beats Vince Lombardi and company, 7-6,on a muddy field, 1936

3. Joe Louis not only knocks out Max Schmeling, below, in the first round for the heavyweight title, he gave the United States a shot of pride against Hitler’s Nazi Germany, 1938

4. In a game that featured four past or future Heisman Trophy winners, number one ranked Army and second-ranked Notre Dame play to a scoreless tie, 1946

5. Joey Maxim outlasts Sugar Ray Robinson, who lost 16 pounds in the heat, in 13 rounds in a light-heavyweight title bout, 1952

6. The New York Giants again don sneakers on an icy field and overwhelm the Chicago Bears, 47-7, to win their third NFL championship, 1956

7. Pope Paul VI hosts the first of three Papal Masses at Yankee Stadium, followed by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, 1965, 1979 and 2008

8. Pat Summerall kicks a long field goal in a swirling snowstorm to give the Giants a 13-10 win over the Cleveland Browns, forcing a playoff for the NFL East crown, 1958

9. In what is called “The Greatest Game Ever Played” the Baltimore Colts defeat the New York Giants, 23-17, in overtime in the game that raised the profile of the NFL. At left, Alan Amache scores the winning touchdown in the December dusk, 1958

10. Muhammad Ali defeats Ken Norton by unanimous decision in their rubber match and retains his heavyweight championship, 1976

Other Highlights

Tony Zale over Rocky Graziano for middleweight championship, 1946

More than 123,00 crowd first annual Jehovah’s Witness convention, 1950

Unbeaten heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano defeats Ezzard Charles.1954

Carmen Basilio outpoints Sugar Ray Robinson to capture middleweight crown, 1957

Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson knocks out the champ, Floyd Patterson, 1959

Giants Y.A.Tittle ties NFL record with seven touchdown passes against Washington Redskins, 1962

An inter-faith prayer service is held 13 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 2001

Billy Joel, U2 and Pink Floyd are among the few rock groups to play the Stadium