1968 will forever be remembered as the “Year of the Pitcher”. Denny McClain of the Tigers won 31 games, the last pitcher to win 30 in a single season. Bob Gibson of the Cardinals pitched to a record low 1.12 ERA; Cleveland’s Luis Tiant led the AL with a 1.60 ERA. San Francisco’s Juan Marichal was 26-9. On and on. Only one batter in the American League, Carl Yastrzemski, batted over ,300….just barely at .301.
And 50 years ago this month, slugger Rocky Colavito, called on in relief, recorded a victory in his final season with the Yankees. Yep, the Rock got the win.
Colavito, a superb outfielder with a strong right arm, hit .374 home runs in a 14-year career, including 42 to lead the AL in 1959.
On August 25, 1968, Colavito pitched 2.2 scoreless innings against Detroit, and wound up with a victory when the Yankees rallied from a 5-0 deficit to win 6-5. Colavito came on in relief in the fourth inning, and retired two batters to strand a couple of runners.
The Yankees got a run back in the fourth, and then struck with two outs in the sixth. Bill Robinson hit a three-run homer followed by a Bobby Cox solo blast that tied the score at 5-5. Colavito then walked and scored what proved to be the winning run on a Jake Gibbs single. Lindy McDaniel finished off the Tigers in the ninth to earn the save.
In the second game, Colavito homered against Mickey Lolich to spark another Yankee comeback and a 5-4 win for a doubleheader sweep.
The Tigers were good enough to win the World Series in 1968, but had a tough August weekend in the Bronx. In a Friday twi-night doubleheader (I was there), the Yankees won the opener 2-1, and then the two teams battled to a 3-3, 19 inning tie ended with curfew, with McDaniel pitching seven perfect innings in relief. On Saturday, the Yankees beat McClain 2-1 behind Mel Stottlemyre.
According to the rules of the time, the Friday game counted as a tie but had to be played again as part of the Sunday doubleheader where Colavito made history.
The Yankees played yet another doubleheader on Monday and shortstop Gene Michael pitched three innings in a 10-2 loss to California. The Stick gave up five runs to the Angels, but none of them were earned. On Tuesday the Yankees again split with the Angels. It was the Yanks fourth doubleheader in five days, including the 19-inning tie.
Rocky Colavito had an outstanding career. He hit four home runs in a game in Baltimore in 1959. Before the 1960 season, Colavito was traded to Detroit for Harvey Kuenn. For the only time in baseball history, a HR champ was traded for a batting champion. There was outcry in Cleveland following the deal.
Rocky Colavito also pitched three scoreless innings in a 1959 mound appearance with Cleveland. His lifetime ERA is 0.00. You can’t do better than that.
Are the San Francisco Giants a dynasty? Well, if you consider three World Series championships in five years a dynasty – especially in today’s multi-tiered playoff format – then the answer is a resounding yes.
The Giants, who have now won the World Series in alternating years (2010-2012-2014) are just the third team to win three titles in a five-season span since MLB began playoff baseball in 1969. The New York Yankees won three in a row between 1998-2000, and four in five years with their 1996 flag. And the Oakland A’s took three straight World Series beginning in 1972.
The Yankees boast the three greatest dynasties in baseball history. They won a record five straight World Series from 1949-53, and seven in 10 years 12 years if you count the 1947 and 1956 champs. And the Bronx Bombers won four straight World Series from 1936-39, and six in eight years including titles in 1941 and 1943.
Since the first World Series in 1903, only nine teams have managed to win three times in five years. The other dynasties are the Philadelphia A’s who won three out of four (1910-1911-1913), the Boston Red Sox, four out of seven (1912-1915-1916-1918), the St. Louis Cardinals, three out of five in alternating years (1942-1944-1946), and the Yankees, three out of five (1958-1961-1962.)
Seven other ballclubs have won consecutive World Series,but none of them was able to win a third championship in five years. The other repeat champions are the Chicago Cubs (1907-1908), New York Giants (1921-1922), Yankees (1927-1928), Philadelphia A’s (1929-1930), Cincinnati Reds (1975-1976), Yankees (1977-1978) and the Toronto Blue Jays (1992-1993).
The New York/San Francisco Giants have now won eight World Series, tied with the Red Sox for fourth on the all time rings list. The Yankees lead with 27 championships, followed by the Cardinals with 11 and the Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland A’s with nine. Overall the Yankees have played in the most World Series (27-13 record), followed by the Giants (8-12 record).
The Yankees are on the verge of an epic collapse, the worst regular season meltdown in the storied 110-year history of the franchise.
At the end of play on July 18, the Yankees found themselves 10 games in front of the Orioles and 10 1/2 in front of the Rays in the AL East. They were cranking up the presses to print playoff tickets. Instead, they seem to be cracking under the pressure.
Since that high-water mark, the Bronx Bombers have played more like the Bronx Bumblers, squandering nearly all of that 10-game advantage. Their homer-happy lineup has failed to hit in the clutch, and the pitching staff has coughed up leads on a regular basis. To put in kindly, they’ve been playing a listless brand of ball for two months.
The Yankees have never blown a double digit lead and failed to finish in first place. According to STATS LLC, their biggest cushion in a season in which they failed to finish first was six games in 1933. That year the Yankees led the Washington Senators by six games on June 6, but eventually slipped to second while Washington won the AL flag. Incidentally, that was Washington’s last playoff appearance.
Since divisional play began in 1969, New York has advanced to the postseason each of the last 15 times it has been in first place on September 1. In fact, only five times in their history have the Yankees been in first place anytime in the month of September and failed to make the playoffs.
The Highlanders, as they were known back then, found themselves in first place after beating the Boston Americans (now the Red Sox) 3-2 on October 7. The next day, Boston swept a doubleheader from the Highlanders to capture the lead with two games left in the season. After an off-day Sunday (Sunday baseball was not permitted in New York at that time) Jack Chesbro’s wild pitch gave the American’s a 3-2 win and the American League pennant. Chesbro won 41 games for the Highlanders that year, still a major league record, but will forever be remembered for that fateful wild pitch.
The Yanks were tied with Cleveland with 12 games to play, but lost to the White Sox next day while Cleveland beat Washington. The Indians went on to their first World Championship, beating the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1920 World Series
Tied for first as late in mid-September with eight games remaining, the Yankees lost to Detroit the next day. Washington won its first and only title, beating the New York Giants in seven games in a dramatic World Series.
With seven games left in the season, the Yankees found themselves in a three-way tie with Cleveland and Boston. The Indians eventually beat the Red Sox in the American League’s first playoff, and then knocked off the Boston Braves for their second — and last — World Championship.
Playing their home games at Shea Stadium while Yankee Stadium was being refurbished, the Yankees were in first place with eight games remaining. However the red-hot Baltimore Orioles overtook the Yankees to win the AL East.
In 2010, the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays battled down the stretch for the AL East crown. The two clubs were tied going into the final day of the season. That day the Yanks lost to Boston 8-4 while Tampa beat Kansas City 3-2 in 12 innings. However both teams were already assured playoff spots. So even though they failed to win the division, the Yankees still earned the wild card.
Look on the bright side Yankee fans. Nothing could be worse than 2004, when the arch-rival Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the ALCS — the only time in baseball history that’s ever happened . Yep, Boston snapped the Curse of the Bambino and their 86-year championship drought, while the Yankees were left to ponder their fate.
Between 1964 and 1976 the New York Yankees endured one of the longest dry spells in team history, 12 years without an American League pennant after winning five in a row and 14 flags in 16 years.
Those years, sometimes compared to the decline of the Roman Empire, became known as the “Horace Clarke Era.” But although Horace Clarke will never be favorably compared to other Yankee second baseman, like Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon, Bobby Richardson, Willie Randolph and Robinson Cano, he was a steady leadoff hitter and decent ballplayer on some lousy Yankee clubs.
And although he was often criticized for his defensive play, especially turning the double play, Clarke led American League second baseman in assists for six straight years (1968-71) and putouts four years in a row (1968-71).
For many years, he ran a baseball program for youngsters in the Virgin Islands. Now 72, he is retired and living in St. Croix.
Wanna hear more about Horace Clarke. Keep on reading:
1. Born in Frederiksted, St. Croix, in 1940, Horace was the fifth of 10 men from the U.S. Virgin Islands to make the major leagues.
2. At home he was the youngest of six children, and was called Harry.
3. His father, Dennis, was a cricketeer and also played the violin.
4. Clarke was signed as an amateur free agent by the Yankees in 1958, and made his debut in 1965.
5. He became the Yankees regular second baseman in 1967 when Bobby Richardson retired.
6. Clarke hit only 27 home runs during his career, but his first two (1965 and 1966) were grand slams. He remains the only major leaguer to ever accomplish that feat.
7. Clarke’s best season came in 1969, when he hit a career-high .285 with 33 stolen bases.
8. The following season he broke up three possible no-hitters in the ninth inning — within a month. Hoss victimized Jim Rooker on June 4, Sonny Siebert on June 19 and Joe Niekro on July 2, 1970.
9. Clarke was sold to the San Diego Padres in 1974, for $25,000. He retired at the end of the 1974 season with a .256 lifetime average, 27 home runs, and 151 stolen bases.
10. He led the American League in at bats in both 1969 and 1970, and in singles in 1967 and 1971. And Clarke had the lowest at bat/strikeout ratio in 1970, one K for every 19.6 ABs.
Losing Mariano River may turn out to be the defining moment of the Yankee season.
In 1992, the New York Yankees finished with a 76-86 record, 20 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays and tied for fourth place in the AL East. It was Buck Showalter’s first year at the helm
That year, the Yankees missed the playoffs for the 11th year in a row. Since 1992, they’ve missed the playoffs just twice.
That was 20 years ago. That was then and this is now, But a quarter of the way through the 2012 season, we may be looking at the worst Yankee team since 1992.
Here’s 10 reasons why:
1. No Mo — For 15 years, the Yankees have had the biggest security blanket in the history of baseball. Then Mariano Rivera injured his knee shagging fly balls in Kansas City. No more. No Mo.
2. RISP means RIP — Yankees routinely get into scoring position, then die at second and/or third base. Worst in the majors this month in hitting with runners in scoring position.
3. Warning track power — They’re not playing A-Rod $30 million a year to be a singles hitter. The ball doesn’t explode off his bat they way it did a few years ago. The days of 35 homers, 120 RBIs are history.
4. CC and pray — Reloaded in the off-season, the Yankee rotation was supposed to be a plus. But outside of CC Sabathia there are a lot of inconsistencies, older arms and question marks.
5. HR or bust — Only once all year have the Yankees won a game in which they didn’t hit a home run. Only twice this year have they won a game in which they scored less than five runs. Which leads to….
6. Slow stripes — Without Brett Gardner, the Yankees are plodding along, showing their age. It’s pretty much station to station. There’s very little little ball in the Bronx.
7. Tex mess — Mark Teixeira is a wreck. He’s battling a bronchial illness, his average has gone down each year he’s been a Yankee, and he absolutely refuses to hit against a shift.
8. Home groan pitching — Been an issue for many years. Hughes, Nova, Joba, the Killer Bs…and they let the best one, Ian Kennedy, get away. The Yankees haven’t developed a Cy Young winner since Ron Guidry in 1978.
9. Joe must go — In the Steinbrenner-Martin salad days, George would have already fired and re-hired Billy. If the Yankees don’t make the playoffs with the highest payroll in baseball, Girardi will be on the hot seat in New York.
10. Injuries — Not an excuse, but the Yankees have been hit hard by injuries. Mariano, David Robertson, Michael Pinieda, Gardner, Joba, that’s a fifth of the roster right there.
A piece of this kid’s childhood and a link to the glorious Yankee teams of the 50s and early 60s died today with the passing of former first baseman Bill “Moose” Skowron.
More than 50 years ago, my father took me to my first baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Although the White Sox won the game, the Moose homered for the only Yankee run. Instantly, I became a Bill Skowron fan.
Soon I began imitating Skowron’s batting stance. I got a Bill Skowron first baseman’s mitt for my birthday. My uncle, the late Allan Melvin of Sam the Butcher fame, started called me the Moose Skowron of White Plains.
Skowron joined the Yankees in 1954 and hit .300 in each of his first four seasons. Moose won four championships with the Yankees, and hit a huge three-run homer in the seventh game of the 1958 World Series to cinch a win over the Milwaukee Braves.
Following the 1962 season, the Yankees sent Skowron to the Dodgers for pitcher Stan Williams. It was a devastating trade, not only for the Moose but also for an 11-year-old kid living in the New York suburbs.
Skowron’s Dodgers defeated the Yankees in the 1963 World Series, when Moose slugged a home run and batted .385. Always a clutch batter, he hit. .293 in eight World Series with eight home runs, seventh all time. Skowron and Yogi Berra are the only players to hit three Game 7 home runs in the World Series.
Moose played out his 14-year career with the Senators, White Sox and Angels. He had a .282 lifetime batting average with 211 home runs.
Skowron was plagued by injuries throughout his career, which was ironic considering a conversation he once had (and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News recounted) with another Yankee first baseman, Wally Pipp.
“I met Pipp at an Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium,” Skowron recalled, “and he told me: ‘Don’t ever get a headache or catch a cold. I got a headache once and took a day off and never played again. A guy named Lou Gehrig took my place.’ I made sure from that day on to do everything I could to remain healthy.”
“There weren’t many better guys than Moose,” Berra told the Associated Press. “He was a dear friend and a great team man. A darn good ballplayer, too.”
No matter what he does the rest of this World Series and for the remainder of his career, Albert Pujols carved out his own special niche in baseball history with three home runs in the third game of the 2011 World Series.
The 31-year-old Pujols is a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer once he retires, but unless he’s Babe Ruth (more on that in a moment) this World Series tour de force will be his signature moment.
More than a generation ago, on October 18, 1977, Reggie Jackson became Mr. October when homered three times on a cool night at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Jackson, like Pujols, homered off three different pitchers as he led the Yankees to their first World Championship in 15 years with an 8-4 win over the Dodgers.
That year, Jax set a record with five home runs in a single World Series, including four in his final four swings. Mr. October was named 1977 World Series MVP.
Fittingly, Babe Ruth is the only other player to hit three home runs in a World Series game. Ruth accomplished the feat twice, both times against the Cardinals.
Babe Does It Twice
But unlike Pujols or Jackson, Ruth had dozens of signature moments. His record-breaking 60th home run in 1927, his called shot in the 1932 World Series, and his three home run game with the Boston Braves in 1935 days before he retired are three that come to mind.
In Game Four of the 1926 World Series, Ruth hit three home runs at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis to lead the Yankees to a 10-5 victory. The Yanks won the next day and returned to New York with a 3-2 lead, but Hall of Fame right-hander Grover Cleveland “Old Pete” Alexander beat the Yankees 10-2 with a complete Game 6 effort.
In the decisive seventh game, Alexander came on in relief in the seventh inning to fan Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded. He walked Ruth, who had homered earlier in the game, with two outs in the ninth to put the tying run on base. But the Babe inexplicably tried to steal second base and was thrown out to end the Series with Bob Meusel on deck and Lou Gehrig in the hole.
Two years later, Ruth again hit three home runs in a World Series game against the Cardinals at Sportsman’s Park. The Yankees won the game 7-3 to sweep the Series. Ruth hit .625 in the 1928 World Series with those three homers and four RBIs and batted .625.