7 UP: Nothing beats a Game 7


There’s nothing like a seventh game in the World Series. It’s a game in a season, and a season in a game. Astros vs. Dodgers. One game. Winner take all.

Throughout baseball history, there have been 38 seventh games since the first World Series in 1903. Tonight marks the first World Series Game 7 ever at Dodger Stadium, and the first for the Dodgers since 1965, when they beat the Minnesota Twins on a three-hit shutout by Sandy Koufax (pictured above), his second complete game shutout in four days.

Houston is hoping to win its first World Series since the franchise began play as the Colt 45s in 1962. The Astros, then a National League entrant, were swept by the White Sox in their only previous World Series appearance in 2005.

Just last year, the Cubs snapped a 108-year drought when they beat the Indians 8-7 in 10 innings in a memorable Game 7. So now baseball fans are blessed with a second straight World Series Game 7 for the first time since 2002, when the Angels beat the Giants for their only World Championship.

Walk-off wins

That was one of just six walk-off wins in Game 7 overall.

The Red Sox beat the Giants in 1912 when some Giant misplays and Larry Gardner’s sacrifice fly against Christy Mathewson enabled Boston to rally for a 3-2, 10-inning win. (Technically that was Game 8, since Game 2 wound up in a 6-6, 11-inning tie.)

Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators won their only World Series in 1924, also against the Giants, on a bad hop single by Earl McNeely in the 12th.

Bill-Mazeroski-s-walk-off-home-run-pittsburgh-pirates-8859387-666-800In 1960, the Pirates edged the Yankees, 10-9, on a home run by Bill Mazeroski, pictured at right. That remains the only Game Seven in World Series history to end on a home run. Incredibly, not a single strikeout was registered in that contest,

In 1991, Jack Morris pitched a shutout and Gene Larkin drove in the only run with a single in the 10th inning as the Twins beat the Braves.

Six years later, Edgar Renteria’s single in the 11th gave the Florida Marlins a 3-2 win over the Indians — and the championship.

In 2001, as the nation recovered from the 9/11 attacks, the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in seven on a bloop, walk-off single by Luis Gonzalez off Marino Rivera  in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Cardinals are Game 7 leaders

The St. Louis Cardinals have won eight seventh games (1926, 1931, 1934, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982 and 2011), a record. Overall the Cards are 8-3 in Game 7. The Yankees have also played in 11 World Series Game 7s, winning five, four against the Brooklyn Dodgers and one against the San Francisco Giants.

The Cards twice beat both the Yankees (1926, 1964) and the Red Sox (1946, 1967) in Game Seven showdowns. St. Louis Hall of Famer Bob Gibson started three seventh games in four seasons, beating the Yankees in 1964 and the Red Sox in 1967 before losing to the Tigers in 1968.

The Pirates have the best record at 5-0 (1909, 1925, 1960, 1971 and 1979) in Game 7s, and the Giants are 0-4 (1912, 1924, 1962 and 2002).

Other Game 7 facts and figures that may interest only me:

  • A total of 16 seventh games were staged between 1952 and 1979, nearly half of the all-time total of 38.
  • Six seventh games occurred in the 60s; five apiece in the 50s and 70s.
  • Between 1955 and 1958, the Yankees played four straight seventh games, exchanging wins with the Brooklyn Dodgers and then the Milwaukee Braves.
  • All four of those World Series were won by the road teams, including the first and only championships for Brooklyn and Milwaukee, in 1955 and 1957.
  • The Yankees avenged those losses in 1956 and 1958; they also beat the Dodgers in seven in 1947 and 1952.
  • The last time the Cubs appeared in the World Series before last year, in 1945, they lost to the Tigers in Game 7.
  • There were no seventh games between 1912 and 1924, the longest gap in baseball history.
  • The Oakland A’s are the only team to win back-to-back Game 7s, in 1972 against the Reds and 1973 vs. the Mets.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Detroit Tigers in the first World Series Game 7 in 1909.
  • The National League has won 23 of 38 World Series Game 7s; the American League 15.
  • Game on.

MORE GAME 7: New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro ranks World Series Game 7s.

Playoff pressure weighs on Indians, Dodgers

As the wild card showdowns are decided and the MLB playoffs get started, the pressure is squarely on two teams – the Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

When the Chicago Cubs knocked off the Indians in a thrilling seven-game World Series last fall, they also passed along the stigma of baseball’s longest championship drought. The Tribe has come indiansagonizingly close several times – most notably last year and in 1997, when they lost to the Florida Marlins in seven games. Cleveland also won the AL pennant but lost the World Series in 1954 and 1995.

You’ve got to go back the Truman administration in 1948 to find the last Indians championship squad. That year Cleveland beat the Boston Braves in six games. Do the math, that’s 69 years ago.

The Dodgers managed to win just one World Series in Brooklyn, beating the Yankees in seven games in 1955, before moving to Los Angeles in 1958. LA won five championships in its first 30 years on the West Coast, but none since. In fact, the Dodgers last made the World Series in 1988, when they knocked off the heavily-favored Oakland A’s in five games.

Many feel the Dodgers are due, having won five straight NL West titles and being crowned the best team ever by Sports Illustrated in August. Following that cover piece, the Dodgers reached a high water mark of 91-36, then proceeded to lose 16 out of 17 games, including 11 straight.

The Indians set an AL record with a 22-game winning streak in September, marking the Tribe as the team to beat in the AL.

The Dodgers wound up with the best record in baseball, 104-58, while the Indians finished second best at 102-60. Pressure’s on.

Casting a Hall of Fame Vote for Gil Hodges

OK. someone’s gotta help his cause. Crunch the numbers, do the math. Gil Hodges should be in the Hall of Fame.

For more than a decade — beginning in 1949 until the late 50s — Gilbert Raymond Hodges was as good as any first baseman in baseball. He was an eight-time All-Star during that span, and his batting statistics and fielding prowess ovdershadowed those of any other first baseman in that era.

Hodges appeared in one game as a third baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943, then entered the United States Marine Corps during World War II. He served as an anti-aircraft gunner in the battles of Tinian and Okinawa, receiving a Bronze Star and a commendation for courage under fire for his actions.

Gil Hodges hit 370 home runs lifetime, batted .273, and drove in 100 runs seven straight years, beginning in 1949. Hodges hit at least 30 homers in a season six times, and at one time late in his career broke Ralph Kiner’s National League record for career home runs by a right-hand batter. He is one of the few batters to hit four home runs in a single game and his 361 homers remain second in Dodger history to Duke Snider’s 389.

He was the cornerstone at first base for a Dodgers team that won five pennants and a World Series in Brooklyn. And later Hodges helped lead the Dodgers to another championship in 1959 in Los Angeles, with 25 homers and 80 RBIs.

World Series Heroics
Beloved by Dodger fans, he drove in both runs of Game Seven of the 1955 World  Series as the Dodgers beat the Yankees, 2-0, to won their first and only championship for Brooklyn. He batted .391 in the 1959 Series and his home run in the eighth inning of Game Four gave Los Angeles a 5-4 win en route to its first championship in Los Angeles.

Hodges was a Gold Glove first baseman in an age before they gave out Gold Gloves. Hodges was one of the best right-hand fielding first basemen in history. He led the league in fielding percentage four times and in putouts and assists three times. and ranks second behind Charlie Grimm in NL career double plays by a first baseman.

But the trump card that separates Hodges from other candidates is his managerial record, albeit brief, topped by a World Championship in 1969. After winding up his career with the original Mets in 1963, Hodges was traded to the Washington Senators for Jimmy Piersall and replaced Mickey Vernon as manager. Hodges managed the Senators through 1967 and they improved each season.

Hodges took over the reins of the Mets in 1968. One year later the Miracle Mets became perhaps the most improbable champion in baseball history, rising from ninth place the previous year to win 100 games before sweeping the Braves in the first NLCS and later topping the heavily-favored Baltimore Orioles in five games in the 1969 World Series.

Hodges managed the Mets to a pair of third-place finishes in 1970 and 1971, but died of a heart attack while playing golf with other members of the Mets coaching staff just days before the 1972 season, two days shy of his 48th birthday.

Hodges came close to being elected to the Hall of Fame several times by the Baseball Writers Association of America. In his final year on the ballot in 1983, he garnered 63.4 percent of the vote, just short of the required 75 percent. Perhaps it’s time Cooperstown took another look at his credentials.

Related Hall of Fame Posts

Guidry vs. Koufax: A Hall of A Compare

Former Yankee Owner Jacob Ruppert Belongs in The Hall

Remembering The Boys of Summer

I see the boys of summer in their ruin
Lay the gold tithings barren,
Setting no store by harvest, freeze the soils.

Dylan Thomas, I See The Boys Of Summer

During the 10-year period from 1947 to 1956, the Brooklyn Dodgers won six National League; two other times they were denied on the final day of the season. They won Brooklyn’s lone World Series against the Yankees in 1955, after seven previous failures in the Fall Classic.

They were a legendary team, those Dodgers, with players like Jackie Robinson, the captain Pee Reese, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider and many others. The first MLB team to integrate, it’s no coincidence they began their run when Robinson joined the team in 1947.

They played in one of the great old ballparks, Ebbets Field, located in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn on the block bound by Bedford Avenue, Sullivan Place, McKeever Place, and Montgomery Street.

And then, suddenly, in the middle of the winter of 1958, the Dodgers fled Brooklyn for Los Angeles.

They were The Boys of Summer as chronicled by Roger Kahn in his book about 13 of those Dodgers and how their lives evolved and changed once they left the game. Kahn covered the Dodgers for the New York Herald Tribune as a young sportswriter in the early 1950s, and caught up with many of those Dodgers two decades later.

As Gay Talese, the American author, wrote: “Kathn’s book is marvelous….a splendid historical work. It is about youthful dreams in small American towns and big cities decades ago, and how some of these dreams were fulfilled, and about what happened to those dreamers after reality and old age arrived. It is also a book about ourselves, those of us who shared and identified with the dreams and glories of our heroes.”

For many of those Dodgers, life after Brooklyn was difficult.

Tough Times

Campanella was injured in a car accident on an icy road on Long Island shortly before the Dodgers moved West. He was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life, never to play baseball again.

Brooklyn pitcher Carl Erskine fathered a son with Down syndrome. Carl Furillo worked construction at the World Trade Center when the Twin Towers were built.

Hodges and Robinson would both die young; Robinson also lost a son to drug addiction and a fatal car crash.

The Dodgers were such a part of Brooklyn that even now, more than 50 years later, some fans haven’t fully recovered from the team’s move to Los Angeles. When owner Walter O’Malley was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame in 2008, there were a smattering of boos from the crowd in Cooperstown.

Five of the “Boys of Summer” actually played for the Dodgers in Los Angeles. PeeWee Reese retired after the 1958 season, but Snider, Hodges, Carl Furillo and Clem Labine were members of the 1959 team that beat the White Sox in the World Series.

Furillo retired shortly after the 1960 season began, and Labine was traded to the Tigers that same year for Ray Semproch and cash. Hodges went back to New York to join the Mets in the 1962 expansion draft; seven years later he would manage the “Miracle Mets” to a World Championship.  Snider, the Duke of Flatbush, was purchased by the Mets a year later.

And so goes the story of The Boys of Summer.

Nobody on the road
Nobody on the beach
I feel it in the air
The summer’s out of reach….
……And I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

Don Henley, Eagles, The Boys of Summer

1958: One Golden Year

Fifty years ago, two events changed the landscape of professional sports in America forever.

In 1958, the Dodgers and the Giants left New York behind, kicking off baseball’s presence on the West Coast and ushering in an era of expansion in baseball and eventually other sports. Shock waves were felt from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, and from New York to San Francisco.

Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, frustrated in his attempts to get a new ballpark to replace Ebbets Field, decided to pick up and head West, taking owner Horace Stoneham and the Giants with him.

Fifty years later, Brooklyn has not forgotten. When O’Malley was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in July, some boos were heard throughout the Cooperstown crowd. Walter O’Malley may just be the most reviled figure in New York sports history.

Brooklyn native and the radio voice of the Dodgers Charley Steiner once observed: “Walter O’Malley was the guy in the black hat who led the wagon train out of town.”

Later that year, the New York Giants and Baltimore Colts staged a dramatic overtime game in Yankee Stadium that symbolized the rise of the NFL and the establishment of professional football as America’s leading pastime.

The Colts prevailed behind Johnny Unitas, 23-17, in what remains to this day the only overtime championship game in NFL history. A nationally televised NBC audience was captivated by the drama, capped by Alan Ameche’s winning touchdown, shown at right.

Some refer to it as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” It may not have been the greatest….but it may have been the most important game NFL history, for it signalled the rise and popularity of the sport in the national psyche.

Year of Dynasties

1958 was also a year of dynasties, past, present and future.

The Colts won the NFL championship that year, and would repeat in 1959, again knocking off the Giants.

But the real dynasty was rising in Green Bay, where Vince Lombardi, who left the Giants as an assistant coach following the 1958 playoff, led the Packers to a 7-5 record in 1959. A year later the Packers were in the NFL championship game; two years later they were NFL champions, starting a run of five NFL crowns in seven seasons, including the first two Super Bowls ever played.

In baseball, the New York Yankees, in the midst of winning 14 American League pennants and nine World Series in 16 years, rebounded from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Milwaukee Braves and win the World Series.

The Braves had beaten the Yankees in seven games in 1957, only to have the Yankees return the favor in 1958, to the delight of Casey Stengel, above, here with Braves manager Fred Haney following the seventh game.

Although the St. Louis Hawks won their only NBA title in 1958. defeating the Celtics in six games, Boston was on the verge of a major roll that started the following year. Beginning in 1959, the Celtics won eight straight NBA titles and 10 of 11 championships overall, a standard unapproached in professional sports history.

Finally, in 1958, the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup for the third straight year, en route to an NHL record five straight titles. Les Habitants have won 23 championships; only the Yankees with 26 have more.