How replay could change baseball history

In Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63, Jake Epping travels back in time in an effort to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Imagine if you could take instant replay back 100 years or more and influence baseball history.

Think of the possibilities: Steve Bartman is absolved and the Cubs win the World Series. Armando Galarraga gets his perfect game. The Curse of the Bambino never happens.

Here’s 10 ways:

1908 – In a bizarre finish, New York Giants’ baserunner Fred Merkle is initially ruled out on a ninth-inning force at second base when he fails to run out a play where the winning run scored. But since the baseball, which is thrown into the stands, cannot be located, and Merkle returns to the field to touch second base before it can be recovered, replay overrules the call. The Giants, not the Cubs go on to win the National League pennant and the World Series.

RESULT: The history of baseball’s most star-crossed franchise goes from bad to worse, as the Cubs are denied their 1908 championship. Merkle’s Boner never happens.

1926 – Tony Lazzeri’s bid for a grand slam home run in the seventh game of the World Series against Grover Cleveland Alexander is originally ruled foul. However replay shows the drive into the left field stands at Yankee Stadium is fair.

RESULT: “Poosh em Up” Tony becomes a hero, old Pete Alexander’s heroics are forgotten, and the Yankees, not the Cardinals, win the Series.

1969 – When Baltimore relief pitcher Pete Richert’s throw on a bunt attempt hits J.C. Martin in the 10th inning, the ball bounds away and Rod Gaspar scores the winning run for to give the Mets a 2-1 win in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. The umpires go to the replay, which shows Martin was running inside the baseline when he was hit. He’s out, and the runners return to their bases.

RESULT: There’s no Miracle with these Mets, as the Orioles rally and go on to win the World Series.

1975 – The Reds score the winning run in Game 4 of the World Series, as Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, bumped by Reds’ batter Ed Armbrister, left, on a bunt attempt, throws the ball away and Cincinnati goes on to win. Instead the play is reviewed, interference is called, and the Red Sox rally for a big win.

RESULT: Boston wins the World Series, ending a 57-year title drought. Curse of the Bambino – never heard of it. Umpire Larry Barnett is reviled in Cincy instead of Beantown.

1985 – Don Denkinger calls Royals baserunner Jorge Orta safe at first, sparking a ninth inning comeback win by Kansas City in Game 6. Replay is conclusive, Orta is out

RESULT: The Cardinals retire the Royals and hold on to win the World Series. Kansas City is still searching for its first World Championship.

1996: Derek Jeter’s home run to right field in the eighth inning ties the score in Game 1 of the ALCS, and the Yankees go on to beat the Orioles in extra innings. However replay clearly indicates that umpire Richie Garcia has missed fan interference by a 12-year-old kid named Jeffrey Maier who reached over the wall to touch the ball, and Jeter is ruled out.

RESULT: The Orioles hold on to win, then take the ALCS and World Series, denying the Yankees their first World Series win in 18 years.

2001: That man Jeter again. His signature flip play, right, catches Jeremy Giambi at the plate, and the Yankees survive to win Game 3 of the divisional playoffs. But replay shows that catcher Jorge Posada has missed the tag.

RESULT: The A’s win, ending New York’s three-year championship run. Oakland goes on to beat Arizona in the World Series.

2003: The life of Cubs fan Steve Bartman, top right, is about to change. From his seat on the left-field foul line, Bartman reaches out for a foul ball, preventing Chicago left-fielder Moises Alou from making the catch. Alou protests, the umpiring crew goes to replay, fan interference is called, and the batter is ruled out.

RESULT: The Cubs go on to beat the Marlins for their first National League pennant since 1945, then defeat the Yankees for their first World Series win in nearly 100 years. Bartman is absolved.

2010: Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga is one out away from a perfect game and baseball immortality. But umpire Jim Joyce rules Cleveland baserunner Jason Donald safe at first, and Gallarraga loses both the no-hitter and a perfect game. However, replay shows the runner is out.

RESULT: Galarraga gets his perfect game, and Joyce is off the hook.

2012 – Mets pitcher Johan Santana is working on a no-hitter when Cardinals’ outfielder Carlos Beltran hits a hard line drive down the left field line. It is initially ruled foul, but the camera shows the ball kicked up chalk when it hit the line. Fair ball.

RESULT: No no-no. Santana loses his no-hitter, which would have been the first in Met history.

Trey-Rod: 3 HR Games in Yankee History

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

Perfectly Natural: The Odd Couple of Baseball

The cycle and the no-hitter are strange baseball companions, like Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, “The Odd Couple.”

Throughout baseball history, there have been 276 occurrences (30 before the turn of the 20th Century where batters have hit for the cycle — single, double, triple, home run — in the same game.

Over the same period, there have been 255 no-hitters (42 before the turn of the century). Of those no-hitters, only 17 were perfect games, 15 since 1900. Cy Young and Sandy Koufax are in this exclusive club

A natural cycle — single, double, triple and home run in order — is even more unusual than a perfect game. Only 14 batters in major league history have gone for the natural cycle, including Hall of Famers Tony Lazzeri, (right) Charlie Gehringer and Billy Williams

Lazzeri is the only player ever to finish a natural cycle with a grand slam on June 3, 1932. However, this achievement was overshadowed by his popular Yankees teammate Lou Gehrig, who picked that same day to become the first player in the American League to hit four home runs in the same game. But the headlines the next day went to New York Giants manager John McGraw, who decided to announce his retirement after a 31-year career.

Personal Note: I’ve been lucky enough to witness both a natural cycle and a perfect game. Jim Hickman (left) did the honors for the Mets in 1963 in a game against the Cardinals at the Polo Grounds. And Yankees left-hander David Wells threw a perfect game against the Twins in 1998, 27 men up, 27 men down, baseball immortality.