It began in 1958, my very first baseball game, Yankees vs. White Sox at the original Yankee Stadium. The Yanks had four Hall of Famers in their starting lineup that day, including Mickey Mantle in center, Yogi Berra in right, pitcher Whitey Ford and pinch-hitter Enos Slaughter..
Chicago’s keystone combination of second baseman Nellie Fox and shortstop Luis Aparicio was also Cooperstown bound. And managers Casey Stengel of the Yankees and Al Lopez of the White Sox made it eight Hall of Famers in the house that afternoon.
That day my father even arranged for me to get an autograph from Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean, who was doing the Game of the Week for NBC.
Grand total, I’ve seen 58 Hall of Famers play in my lifetime. The list ranges from Ted Williams to Stan Musial, Willie Mays to Hank Aaron, Juan Marichal to Catfish Hunter, Carl Yastrzemski to Reggie Jackson, and Greg Maddux, Tommy Glavine and John Smoltz. Saw both of the 2016 inductees, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Mike Piazza. Saw Piazza as a Dodger hit a home run against the Rookies in Coors Fields’ inaugural season, 1996.
In 2008, I was in Cooperstown for the induction of reliever Goose Gossage. I’ve seen 14 Hall of Famers hit home runs, and five times saw two future Hall of Famers homer in the same game – Ted Williams and Mantle at Yankee Stadium in 1960, Mays and Billy Williams at Candlestick Park in 1962, Yaz and Reggie in the 1975 ALCS and again in the 1978 AL playoff game at Fenway Park, and Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson in the refurbished Yankee Stadium in 1986.
Was there when Mays hit a grand slam in 1962, and Carlton Fisk hit a bases-loaded HR at Opening Day in Fenway Park, 1973.
Witnessed wins by Jim Palmer, Ferguson Jenkins, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Randy Johnson, Watched Robin Roberts hurl a complete game shutout for the Orioles against the Yankees in 1965 Saw saves by Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage. Saw Nolan Ryan strike out 15 in a 1977 game against the Red Sox.
Saw seven Hall of Famers in a game at Candlestick Park – Willie Mays, Orlando Cepada and Juan Marichal of the Giants and Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and a young Lou Brock for the Cubs. Willie McCovey of the Giants didn’t play that day; sadly never got to see him play.
I’ve also seen 9 Hall of Fame managers, including Leo Durocher, Earl Weaver, Sparky Anderson, and Dick Williams, along with Stengel and Lopez and three recent inductees – Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa.
Once got an autograph from Phil Rizzuto in a luxury suite at Yankee Stadium. Phil offered me a cannoli, and signed my program over to my three kids.
Here’s the my complete Hall of Fame list, in order of induction:
HALL OF FAMERS I HAVE SEEN
Cal Ripken, Jr.
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Tony La Russa
58 players, 9 managers
Dizzy Dean, Phil Rizzuto
Mickey Mantle (1960)
Ted Williams (1960)
Willie Mays (1962), grand slam
Billy Williams (1962)
Harmon Killebrew (1967)
Carl Yastrzemski (1970, 1978)
Reggie Jackson (1971, 1978 (2), 1979)
Carlton Fisk (1973, 2 HRs), 1 grand slam
Jim Rice (1975, 1978)
Dave Winfield (1983, 1986)
Eddie Murray (1978)
Wade Boggs (1994)
Rickey Henderson (1986)
Mike Piazza (1996)
Cardinals mob David Freese after his 11th inning home run against the Rangers forced a Game 7.
Was it the greatest game ever? The best World Series game? The top post-season game in history.
Time will be the judge, but the Cardinals never-say-die 10-9 win that denied the Rangers their first World Championship joins a long list of great World Series Game 6 contests.
St. Louis became the first team in post-season history to overcome two-run deficits in the ninth and 10th inning to win. David Freese, who won the game with a home run in the 11th after his two-out, two-strike, two-run triple tied the game in the ninth, became the first player in post-season history to hit a pair of tying or winning hits in the ninth inning or later.
Meanwhile, twice Texas was within a strike of a championship, and lost. The Rangers appeared to have victory in their grasp when Josh Hamilton hit a two-run homer in the top of the 10th, and lost.
And the headlines quickly changed from “My Gosh, Josh” to “Deep Freese.”
Some are already calling it the best World Series game in history. And it may well be.
But there have been plenty of great World Series Game 6 contests. Before the Cardinals’ heroics, this would be the SportsLifer Top 10:
1975 — Red Sox 7, Reds 6, 12 innings, Fenway Park, Boston
Following three days of rain in New England, the World Series resumed with Cincinnati holding a 3-2 lead in games. The Reds took a 6-3 lead into the eighth inning before Boston pinch-hitter Bernie Carbo hit a two-out, three-run homer to tie the score. Dwight Evans saved the day for the Red Sox with a great catch on Joe Morgan’s bid for a game-winning hit in the 11th. Then Boston’s Carlton Fisk, right, wishing the ball fair, homered off the left-field foul pole leading off the 12th to send Boston into delirium.
1993 — Blue Jays 8, Phillies 6, Skydome, Toronto
Phillies closer Mitch Williams was brought in to protect a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth, but walked leadoff hitter Rickey Henderson and surrendered a one-out single to Paul Molitor. On a 2-2 count, Toronto’s Joe Carter sent a home run over the left field fence to give the Blue Jays the 8-6 win and their second consecutive World Championship. Carter joined Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski as the only players to end World Series with walk-off home runs.
1986 — Mets 6, Red Sox 5, 11 innings, Shea Stadium, New York
The Red Sox were one out (and later one strike) away from winning their first World Series since 1918 before the Mets rallied. Singles by Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight produced a run, then Bob Stanley unleashed a wild pitch that allowed the tying run to score. Mookie Wilson then tapped a little dribbler down the first base line that went through the legs of Bill Buckner as Knight raced home with the winning run.
1991 — Twins 4, Braves 3, 11 innings, the Metrodome, Minneapolis
The Twins and Braves entered the bottom of the 11th inning tied at 3-3. Minnesota center-fielder Kirby Puckett, left, who earlier in the game made a great catch to rob Atlanta’s Ron Gant, crushed a 2-1 liner over the left-center field wall to send the Series to a seventh game. The image of Puckett rounding the bases, arms raised in triumph, was punctuated by CBS broadcaster Jack Buck saying “And we’ll see you tomorrow night!” The Twins then won Game 7, 1-0, in 10 innings behind Jack Morris.
1953 Yankees 4, Dodgers 3, Yankee Stadium, New York
Yankee second baseman Billy Martin, who had 12 hits and 8 RBIs while batting .500 in the series, knocked in Hank Bauer from second base with the game-winning run in the ninth inning to give the Bombers a record fifth straight World Championship. Brooklyn had rallied to tie the score in the top of the ninth on a two-run home run by Carl Furillo
2002 — Angels 6, Giants 5, Edison Field, Anaheim
Trailing 5-0 in the seventh inning, the Angels drew closer on Scott Spiezio’s three-run homer. Darin Erstad homered to lead off the eighth, then Troy Glaus belted a two-run double to give the Angels the win. Anaheim would go on to win Game 7, 4-1, for their only World Championship, denying the Giants their first title since moving to San Francisco from New York in 1958
1935 Tigers 4, Cubs 3, Navin Field, Detroit
With the score tied 3-3, the Cubs stranded Stan Hack on third base with nobody out in the top of the ninth. Detroit catcher Mickey Cochrane led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, and scored the winning run two outs later on Goose Goslin’s base hit to right field. Detroit won its first World Series, while the Cubs continued their championship drought, which has now reached 104 years.
1977 — Yankees 8, Dodgers 4, Yankee Stadium, New York
The legend of Mr. October was born on a cool night in the Bronx. New York’s Reggie Jackson, below, joined Babe Ruth as the only players to hit three home runs in a World Series game in leading the Yankees to their first title in 15 years. Jackson hit a record five home runs, including four in his final four at bats, to earn World Series MVP honors.
1985 — Royals 2, Cardinals 1, Royals Stadium, Kansas City
Down 1-0 and three outs from elimination, the Royals get a break when umpire Don Denkinger called Jorge Orta safe on a disputed play at first base. After a single by Steve Balboni and a sacrifice, pinch-hitter Dan Iorg knocked in the tying and winning runs to force a Game 7. The Royals win 11-0 to win the Show Me State World Series and their only World Championship.
1958 — Yankees 4, Braves 3, 10 innings, County Stadium, Milwaukee
The Yankees, who trailed the Series 3-1 at one point, won Game 5 to send the festivities back to Milwaukee. A home run by Gil McDougald and run scoring single by Bill Skowron gave the Yankees a two-run lead in the top of the 10th, but Hank Aaron pulled the Braves within a run with an RBI single. With the potential tying and winning runs on base, Frank Torre lined out to McDougald at second base.
1992 – Blue Jays 4, Braves 3, 11 innings, Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta
Dave Winfield’s two-run doubles gives Toronto its first World Championship.
1971 — Orioles 3, Pirates 2, 10 innings, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore
Brooks Robinson’s sacrifice fly plates Frank Robinson with the winning run.
1956 — Dodgers 1, Yankees 0, 10 innings, Ebbets Field, Brooklyn
The Dodgers Clem Labine and Yankees Bob Turley traded zeroes into extra innings before Jackie Robinson’s single over the head of New York left-fielder Enos Slaughter drove in Jim Gilliam.
1945 — Cubs 8, Tigers 7, 12 innings, Wrigley Field, Chicago
Stan Hack’s double drives home the winning run in the last World Series game the Cubs have won.
Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson are the only players in baseball history to hit three home runs in a World Series game.
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.
Three is a magic number in baseball. Three strikes and you’re out. Three outs in an inning. Babe Ruth wore #3.
When Alex Rodriguez, above, hit three home runs iagainst Kansas City on August 14, it marked the 30th time a Yankee player hit three homers in a single game.
Lou Gehrig achieved the feat four times, and hit four in one game, the only Yankee to perform that feat. Joe DiMaggio did it three times.
So did the Babe, although only one of his three occurred during the regular season. Ruth hit the final three home runs of his storied career in 1935 for the Boston Braves in a game at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, and retired soon afterwards.
A-Rod joins Tony Lazzeri, and Bobby Murcer as the only other Yankees to hit three in a game two times. Rodriguez had three HRs and 10 RBIs against Bartolo Colon and the Angels in 2005.
In all 20 Yankees have accomplished the feat, including eight Hall of Famers — Ruth, Lazzeri, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Johnny Mize, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson.
Ruth’s World Series Heroics
Ruth was the first Yankee to hit three in a game, against the Cardinals at old Sportsman Park in St. Louis in 1926 in the World Series, right. The Babe must have loved St. Louis, repeating the feat in 1928 to power the Yankees to a four-game sweep.
Ruth had his only regular season “hat trick” with the Yankees on May 22, 1930, in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park in the first game of a doubleheader which the Yankees lost, 15-7. Gehrig repeated the feat the following day in the first game of a another doubleheader in Philadelphia, a 20-13 victory over the A’s. Oh yes, Ruth and Lazerri also homered in that game.
Reggie Jackson is the only other major leaguer ever to hit three home runs in a World Series game. In just three swings in Game Six of the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers, Jax lifted the Yanks to to their first championship. in 15 years.
Gehrig is the only Yankee to hit four home runs in a single game, on June 4, 1932, against the Athletics in Philadelphia. He was the first player in the modern era to hit four in a single game. He belted the circuit clouts in his first four at bats in a 20-13 win against the A’s. Gehrig missed a fifth home runs by inches, when his drive was caught in the furthest reaches of deep centerfield.
In that same game, Lazzeri became the only player in major league baseball to finish a natural cycle with a grand slam.
Other Interesting Yankee Trey Factoids
On May 21 and 22, 1930, Ruth and Gehrig hit three home runs in successive games.
Mantle, Tommy Tresh and Tony Clark hit homers from both sides of the plate in their 3 HR games
Bobby Murcer hit four consecutive home runs — three in the second game — in a 1970 doubleheader against the Indians at Yankee Stadium.
Reggie Jackson, left, hit a home run in his final at bat in Game Five and three in a row during Game Six of the 1977 World Series. (My friend Matty was at the game at Yankee Stadium, and missed all three Reggie homers. But that’s a story for another blog.)
Johnny Blanchard in 1961 and Mickey Mantle in 1962 are the only other Yankees to hit four home runs in a row.
Lazzeri hit two grand slams and a third home run and drove in an American League record 11 runs in 1936 in a 25-2 rout of the Athletics at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. Poosh em up Tony was also the first Yankee to hit three home runs in a single game in the regular season, in 1927.
On three separate occasions, the Yankees have lost a game in which a player hit three home runs — Ruth in 1930, Mize in 1950 and Mike Stanley in 1995.
DiMaggio’s first three home run game in 1937 resulted in an 11-inning, 8-8 tie with the St. Louis Browns in Sportsman’s Park.
Mize holds the MLB record for most times hitting three home runs in a game — six. Five came with the Cardinals and Giants in the National League. He was the first player to hit three home runs in a game twice in one season in 1938 and did it again in 1940.
Mize had his final three home run game with the Yankees in 1950, just five days after DiMaggio performed the feat for the third time.
The Yankees as a team have hit three home runs in a game twice in different seven seasons — 1927, 1930, 1932, 1950, 1977, 1995, and this year.
Earlier this year, Mark Teixeira became the first Yankee to hit three home runs in a game at Fenway Park since Gehrig in 1927.
Yankees Who Have Hit Three Home Runs in One Game
1926 — Babe Ruth (World Series)
1927 — Tony Lazzeri
1927 — Lou Gehrig
1928 — Babe Ruth (World Series)
1929 — Lou Gehrig
1030 — Babe Ruth
1930 — Lou Gehrig
1932 — Lou Gehrig (4 HRs)
1932 — Ben Chapman
1936 — Tony Lazzeri
1937 — Joe DiMaggio
1939 — Bill Dickey
1940 — Charlie Keller
1948 — Joe DiMaggio
1950 — Joe DiMaggio
1950 — Johnny Mize
1955 — Mickey Mantle
1965 — Tom Tresh
1970 — Bobby Murcer
1973 — Bobby Murcer
1977 — Cliff Johnson
1977 — Reggie Jackson (World Series)
1995 — Mike Stanley
1996 — Darryl Strawberry
1995 — Paul O’Neill
1997 — Tino Martinez
2004 — Tony Clark
2005 — Alex Rodriguez
2010 — Mark Teixeira
2010 — Alex Rodriguez
It was the signature moment in the career of Hall of Famer Rich “Goose” Gossage.
October 2, 1978, a cool, crisp New England afternoon in Boston. Hint of autumn in the year. Yankees vs. Red Sox at Fenway Park. American League East title and a playoff berth on the line.
A game within a season, and a season within a game. Winner makes the playoffs, and the loser goes home. Does it get any better than this?
“I wanted the ball in those situations,” Gossage said in an interview with Memories and Dreams, the Hall of Fame magazine. “This was the biggest game I ever pitched in — by far. It seemed like the playoffs and World Series were anticlimactic after that.”
Goose to the Rescue
Be careful what you wish for. That afternoon, Gossage came on to relieve Ron Guidry with one out in the seventh inning. The Yankees had just taken the lead on Bucky Dent’s three-run homer.
The Goose wasn’t perfect that day. He gave up a couple of runs in the eighth and stood there on the Fenway hill in the ninth, two outs, runners on the corners, Yankees leading 5-4, Carl Yastrzemski coming to bat.
The night before, Gossage had dreamed up this exact situation. Dreams really can come true.
Gossage kicked around the mound, fussing, muttering to himself. Then it hit him.
“I starting telling myself ‘Why are you so nervous?’ Goose recalled. “This is supposed to be fun. What’s the worst thing that could happen? If you lose, you’ll be back home in Colorado tomorrow hunting elk.”
Relaxed, Gossage got Yaz to pop out to Graig Nettles at third, and the Yankees were on their way to their 22nd World Series title.
22 Years, 310 Saves
Through his 22 years in the major leagues, Goose Gossage pitched for nine different clubs, saved 310 games, won 124 and fanned 1,502 batters in 1,810 innings of work. He led the AL in saves three times and was selected to nine All-Star teams–six AL squads and three NL clubs.
It took him a long time to get there, but the Goose was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame on a hot Sunday afternoon in July, 2008. Making the trek through the Catskills to Cooperstown, I was there to cheer Gossage on, to bellow “Goose” a few more times.
Although Gossage made it back to the World Series in 1981 with the Yankees and 1984 with the Padres, 1978 was his only championship. Several of his teammates from that 1978 squad, which made up a 14-game deficit to beat the Red Sox, were there to see Goose go into the Hall. Reggie Jackson, now a fellow Hall of Famer. Jim Beattie, Mickey Rivers, Graig Nettles and Roy White.
“I’m proud to wear a Yankee cap into the Hall of Fame and be part of their tradition,” told the crowd at Cooperstown.
Some dreams do come true, Some memories do last a lifetime.