Best game ever? Don’t rank it, just enjoy it

Cubs

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.


Instant replay: The 20 greatest Yankee HRs

Take a look, give a listen to the 20 greatest home runs in Yankee history. Many are on this list of 100 greatest home runs in baseball history.

Any list of greatest home runs would be incomplete without the immortal Babe Ruth.

1. 1927,  Babe Ruth belts #60

Ancient footage played to the music of Queen’s “We are the Champions,” the Bambino makes his mark and challenges all comers to match it. “60. Count em 60,” roared the Babe. “Let’s see some other son of a bitch match that.”

2. 1932, Ruth’s called shot, Game 3, World Series

The legendary called shot at Wrigley Field, with motion picture footage that shows Ruth pointing. But where?

3. 1932, Lou Gehrig,  4 HRs, single game

Close as we could come to video with Larrupin’ Lou is this photo. But you get the point, it was a long time ago. And four in one game — not even the great Ruth ever did that.

4. 1938, Joe DiMaggio, Game 2, World Series

Great radio call, Joe D goes “high and far over the fence in deep left field” at Wrigley Field to bury the Cubs in another Yankee sweep.

5. 1952, Mickey Mantle HR, Game 7, World Series

Mantle, just 20 years old, goes deep on a 3-1 pitch off Joe Black in the sixth inning at Ebbets Field to give the Yankees the lead for good on their way to their fourth straight World Series. Mel Allen with the play-by-play in the sixth – “that ball is going, going…it is gone.” Watch how fast Mantle gets around the bases.

6. 1956, Yogi Berra, 2 HRs, Game 7, World Series 

A signature moment for the Yankee catcher, who belted two early two- run homers against Don Newcombe to help the Yankees avenge their loss to Brooklyn the previous year in a 9-0 whitewash. Elston Howard also homered, and Bill Skowron hit a grand slam.

Yogi1956

7. 1961, Roger Maris 61st HR

Not the Phil Rizzuto call (“Holy cow, he did it, 61 for Maris.”), but what the heck, Red Barber is pretty darn good.  At one point the camera catches Sal Durante, the fan who got $5,000 for coming up with the ball. Lots going on in this brief cut: fans booing Boston’s Tracy Stallard  for going to a 2-0 count against Maris, a young fan running on the field to shake the Rajah’s hand, and Maris being pushed out for a curtain call by his teammates.

8. 1963,  Mickey Mantle, tape measure shot

The Mick talks about the hardest ball he ever hit, which missed by less than a foot of clearing the right field facade of Yankee Stadium. No player has ever hit a fair ball out of the Stadium old or new — Mantle came the closest.

9. 1967, Mickey Mantle, 500th HR

Watch the gimpy-legged Mantle struggle around the bases after lining his milestone round tripper into the right field seats at Yankee Stadium. Jerry Coleman with the call. Again, kids on the field.

10. 1976, Chris Chambliss HR, Game 5, ALCS

Chambliss helps the Yankees win their first AL pennant in 12 years. Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell with the call. Talk about security in the Bronx — fans storm the field as Chambliss barely makes it around the bases.

11. 1977, Reggie Jackson, 3 HRs, Game 6, World Series

Mr. October earns his stripes with an unforgettable performance that matches the heroics of one George Herman Ruth.

12. 1978, Bucky Dent HR, AL East playoff

” Deep to left. Yastrzemski will not get it. It’s a home run. A three-run homer for Bucky Dent.”  Bill White with the call on the blast that brought Yaz to his knees and silenced Fenway Park.

13. 1987, Don Mattingly HRs in 8 straight games

Donnie Baseball ties Dale Long’s record by homering in his eighth consecutive game.

14. 1996, Derek Jeter controversial home run, Game 1, ALCS

Jeter, a rookie, shares the spotlight with 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier, who gives the Yankees a boost on this controversial eighth inning call that tied the score and made Bob Costas ask “And what happens here?”

15. 1996, Bernie Williams walk-off ,Game 1, ALCS

Same game as Jeter’s home run, the winning blow by Williams came in the bottom of the 11th. You may have to turn up the volume to hear it — but John Sterling gives a landmark Yankees win call as Bernie goes boom.

16. 1996, Jim Leyritz, Game 4, World Series

With Atlanta on the verge of taking a 3-1 lead in the World Series, Leyritz launches a game-tying, three-run homer to left to tie the game in the eighth. Watch the reaction on the Yankee bench, especially Don Zimmer.

17A. 2001, Tino Martinez, Game 4, World Series

Less than two months after 9/11, two outs in the ninth, game on the line, Martinez homers to tie the score. Derek Jeter’s walk-off wins it in the 10th. And the next night…..

17B. 2001, Scott Brosius  Game 5, World Series

….it happened again. One night after Tino’s shocker, Brosius goes yard with two down in the ninth to tie the score. This time the Yankees win in 12. Joe Buck with the dual calls.

18. 2003, Aaron Boone, Game 7, ALCS

With the score tied in the last of the 11th, Boone hits the first pitch from knuckleballer Tim Wakefield into the left field seats to send the Yankees to the World Series. Look closely in the background. As Boone is rounding the bases, Mariano Rivera is hugging the mound.

19. 2004, Jason Giambi, walk-off grand slam

This dramatic 14th inning walk-off in the rain gave birth to John Sterling’s Giambino.

20. 2009, A-Rod walk-off, 15th inning

YouTubeism baby. A millenial generation shot of A-Rod’s two-run blast that broke a scoreless tie with the Red Sox.


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.


If Kentucky wins, the Yankees will march

If Kentucky wins the NCAAs, you can count on a Yankee parade down Broadway this fall.

The last six times Kentucky has won the NCAA men’s basketball title, the Yankees have gone on to win the World Series.

The Wildcats have won seven titles overall, second only to UCLA’s 11 and by far the most of any team in this year’s Final Four. Kansas has taken three, Louisville two and Ohio State one.

Kentucky won its first championship in 1948, the year the Cleveland Indians beat the Boston Braves to win their last World Series.

Kentucky repeated in 1949, beating Oklahoma State in the final, under the tutelage of  immortal coach Adolph Rupp, the “Baron of the Bluegrass.”

Rupp, fourth all-time with 876 victories, would go on to win in 1951 (against Kansas State) and 1958 (against Seattle) for a total of four championships.

Meanwhile the Yankees were winning five World Series in a row between 1949 and 1953 under another legendary leader, Casey Stengel. In 1958, the Yankees rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Milwaukee Braves.

It took Kentucky 20 years to return to the mountaintop, when coach Joe B. Hall’s Wildcats defeated Duke for the 1978 national championship. That fall, the Yankees rallied to knock off the Red Sox on Bucky Dent’s home run, then repeated against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Rick Pitino, now the head coach at Louisville (which meets Kentucky in a Final Four intra-state rivalry on Saturday), coached the Wildcats to the NCAA title in 1996. Two years later, coach Tubby Smith guided Kentucky to its last championship, against Utah.

Meanwhile, Joe Torre piloted the Yankees to World Series wins in 1996 (vs. the Braves) and 1998 (vs. the Padres).

Of the other Final Four finalists, Kansas won its first championship in 1952, followed by a Yankee win over the Dodgers. Ohio State’s only title occurred in 1960, the year the Yankees lost the Series to Bill Mazeroski and the Pirates. And although the Yankees didn’t win the World Series following Louisville’s 1986 title run, the Mets did.

Kentucky is heavily favored to cut down the nets Monday night. And if they do, the Yankees can start planning a parade down Broadway


Hey Boston, Here’s Your Worst Nightmare. Meet The Jets!

Move over Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone and David Tyree. You’ve got company. Meet the Jets!


Zimmer Is Punch Line in Baseball Trivia

From the Dodgers to Mets, Red Sox to Yankees, he was known as a baseball lifer.

Can you name this former baseball player, coach, and manager?

1. He was replaced by Brooklyn’s Sandy Amoros just before Amoros made his famous catch that helped the Dodgers beat the Yankees and win their first World Series in 1955?

2. He was the first third baseman in New York Mets history? (He singled in his first at bat, but hit just .077 and was traded to the Reds in May).

3. He was the last player to wear #14 for the Cincinnati Reds before Pete Rose

4. Among other nicknames, he was called “Popeye” and “The Gerbil.”

5. He rented Bucky Dent’s house in New Jersey when the Yankee shortstop was traded to Texas in 1982?

6. He initiated the discussion with Billy Martin that turned into the Pine Tar incident  in the summer of 1983?

If you guessed Don Zimmer, you are correct. Zimmer began his career with the Dodgers in 1954, later played for the Cubs, Mets, Red, and Senators, and retired in 1965 with 91 home runs and a .235 lifetime batting average.

Zimmer is still remembered in Boston for the Red Sox epic 1978 collapse, most notably for starting Bobby Sprowl instead of Bill “Spaceman” Lee in the finale of a four-game New York sweep called the Fenway Massacre that turned the season around for both teams.

He later managed the Red Sox, Rangers and Cubs, and was Joe Torre’s bench coach during the Yankees run of championships in the late 90s. Nearly 80, Zimmer is still active with the Tampa Bay Rays as a senior advisor.


The SportsLifer Top 10

It was a tough call, but in the end Bucky Dent won out. The SportsLifer’s top 50 memorable sports events attended came down to a pair of decisive baseball games between the Red Sox and Yankees 25 years apart.

Bucky Dent’s decisive three-run homer against the Red Sox in the 1978 American League East playoff game at Fenway Park in Boston got the nod. The Dent game edged out Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run in the 11th inning of the 2003 American League Championship Series contest at Yankee Stadium.

The tiebreaker — the Yankees beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1978 to win the World Series. The 2003 Yankees lost to the World Series to the Florida Marlins.

Other top 10 entrants include a Stanley Cup final, World Series clincher, Super Bowl, Triple Crown horse race, NCAA basketball Final Four and Winter Olympics. Counting a major golf tournament, the ‘Lifer has seen all the major championship sporting events, with the exception of the NBA Finals.

Here’s the final countdown.

TOP 10 SPORTING EVENTS

10. Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Ted Williams homer in the same game, Yankees beat Red Sox 5-4, 1960

9. Figure skating, speed skating, the men’s long ski jump and snowmobiling, Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City, 2002

8. Florida repeats as national champion with win over Ohio State, Final Four, NCAA Tournament, Atlanta, 2007

7. Affirmed edges Alydar down the stretch, wins by a neck and captures horse racing’s last Triple Crown, Belmont Stakes, 1978

6. David Wells pitches the first perfect game at Yankee Stadium since Don Larsen, Yankees beat Twins 4-0, 1998

5. Ravens defense overwhelms Giants, Baltimore defeats News York 34-7 and wins Super Bowl XXXV, 2001

4. Yankees beat Braves 4-1, complete four-game sweep of Atlanta to win World Series, Yankee Stadium,1999

3. Rangers end 54-year hex, Mark Messier scores game-winnng goal to beat Vancouver Canucks 3-2 and win Stanley Cup, 1994

2. Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run in 11th beats Red Sox 6-5, gives Yankees 39th AL pennant, Yankee Stadium, 2003

1. Bucky Dent ‘s three-run homer propels Yankees to 5-4 win over Red Sox and AL East title, Fenway Park, 1978

Special Category

My first major league game features six Hall of Famers, White Sox 7, Yankees 1, Yankee Stadium 1958

First installment: 41-50. includes the St. Louis Hawks, Holy Cross, and a Ranger rout.

Second installment: 31-40. stars Lew Alcindor, The Mick, and the Boston Marathon.

Third installment: (21-30), recalls the play of Willie Mays, Joe Namath and Lawrence Taylor and others.

Fourth installment, (11-20). includes record-setting moments by Barry Bonds, Jim Hickman, Roger Clemens and Eric Young.