Big Blue blues: Once-proud Giants bottom out

Oct 6, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; A fan of the New York Giants reacts during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Before the 2017 season, the New York Football Giants were being touted as the team to beat in the NFC East. Some of the experts went a step further, writing Big Blue a ticket to the Super Bowl. Yet last than halfway through the year, it’s all come tumbling down.

Forget about contending for a title. These Giants are an embarrassment, bottoming out with new lows in team history. Both head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese will take a fall in all likelihood. Players are already turning mutinous. A once-proud franchise has bottomed out.

The last time the Giants lost their first four home games and started a season 1-7 was 1980. That year the Giants finished 4-12, but help was on the way in the person of linebacker Lawrence Taylor, the second overall pick in the draft.

This Giants team, a two-point underdog to the winless 49ers on Sunday, is threatening to finish with the worst overall record in team history. In 1966, the Giants were 1-12-1 under coach Allie Sherman, a mere three years after losing the NFL championship game to the Bears.

Other bad finishes included 2-12 in 1974, 2-11-1 in 1973, 2-10-2 in 1964, 2-8-2 in 1947, and 3-11 in 1976, the team’s first year in Giants Stadium. The Giants were 3-12-1 in coach Bill Parcells’ first year (1983) and 4-12 in coach Jim Fassel’s final year (2003).

Victimized at home

Wait, it gets worse. Last week’s 51-17 loss to the Rams marked the most points the Giants surrendered in a home game since 1964.

On a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon nearly 53 years ago, the Cleveland Browns destroyed the Giants 52-20 at Yankee Stadium. Quarterback Frank Ryan tossed five touchdown passes for the Browns that day. Cleveland went on to win its last NFL championship a couple of weeks later, blanking the Baltimore Colts 27-0.

Back-up quarterback Gary Woods, replacing Y.A. Tittle, threw a pair of TDs to tight end Aaron Thomas for Big Blue in the fourth quarter to make the final score more respectable.

I remember listening to the game on radio that day while helping my father make lasagna. The NFL blacked out home games in 1964, which was probably a good thing – at least we didn’t have to watch.

The Giants record for most points given up in a home game took place in 1948 in a 63-35 loss to the Chicago Cardinals at the Polo Grounds. The Giants also lost 56-7 to the Bears in 1943, and 52-27 to the Rams in 1948, both at home.

Big Blue Bummers: 20 worst losses in Giants history

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Can Judge hit one out of Yankee Stadium?

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That is the question. It’s never been done, either at the new Yankee Stadium or the old ballpark — The House that Ruth Built — right across the street.

Seems like a super human feat. Mission impossible. Perhaps, but after Yankees’ phenom Aaron Judge cleared the left-center field bleachers with a 495-foot home run, it seems like a legitimate question.

Judge’s latest moonshot blast certainly opened some eyes. Consider that his home run would have landed in the corridor in front the Yankees retired numbers, under the Bank of America sign, if not deflected by a fan. Now look to the left of that spot, perhaps 25-30 feet, near the flagpoles. Notice the alley. Under ideal circumstances, with the wind blowing out, who’s to say Judge couldn’t clear that back wall. Not impossible.

There have been some monster shots in the new Stadium, but none as monstrous as the one Judge hit. Alex Rodriguez hit several bombs deep into the bleachers, and Philly’s Raul Ibanez and Cleveland’s Russell Branyan hit titanic shots.

But judging by the results, Aaron Judge has the best chance to hit a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium

Original Yankee Stadium Blasts

Nearly 16 years ago, July 22, 2001, Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams hit a ball that left the old Stadium, over the old Yankee bullpen in right field and onto the elevated tracks of the 4 line.But that was in batting practice.

I was at the ballpark with my family that day, a hot summer Sunday afternoon. We were sitting on the third base side, box seats. My son Dan, a teen-ager at the time, swears he saw the ball go out

“I saw it,” he said. “It went out in that little gap, over the wall and right onto the railroad tracks. “People noticed it, they were clapping. You didn’t believe me.”

Well, it was hard to believe.

“I didn’t see it,” Williams told the New York Post. “But I noticed that it never came back, so that should have been some indication it was out. Batting practice is a great relief and release of tension for me. I’ve had a lot of tension this year, so it’s kind of like hitting a punching bag. I always try to hit the ball hard, but that’s as hard as I’ve ever hit one. That’s a long way.”

It’s a feat that no Yankee slugger had ever accomplished before — not Babe Ruth, not Mickey Mantle, not Reggie Jackson.

Twice, Mantle came within several feet of hitting one out of Yankee Stadium, off Pete Ramos of the Washington Senators on Memorial Day, 1956, right, and against Bill Fischer of the Kansas City A’s on May 22, 1963. Both times the ball was still rising when it struck the façade in right field. Mantle later said the 1963 HR was the hardest ball he ever hit.

Josh Gibson and Frank Howard, among others, were reputed to have gone out of the Stadium, though neither has ever been proven.

Gibson, the great Negro League catcher, is said to have hit several moonshots in the his day, including a ball that traveled 580 feet in the 1930s.

Babe Ruth may have hit some balls out of the original Yankee Stadium before the upper deck in right field was built, but none have ever been documented. The upper deck in right was extended in 1937.

But Bernie Williams did it for real….even if it was BP. He even hit a home run in the game, a solo shot in the first inning, to help lift the Yankees to a 7-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Bernie finished his career with 287 home runs, 22 more in the playoffs. And one that didn’t count but went out of Yankee Stadium

Bernie goes Boom!


ND-Army Wake Up Echoes at Yankee Stadium

Notre Dame and Army will attempt to “wake up the echoes” Saturday when they renew their historic college football rivalry at Yankee Stadium.

The Fighting Irish and the Black Knights no longer dominate American sports. And they’ll be playing at the new Yankee Stadium, not the original Stadium that was the site for 22 meetings between 1925 and 1969.

But the 50th meeting between Notre Dame and Army is hardly your garden variety regular season game either. The game and the venue hark back to an era –from the Roaring ’20s to post World War II — when the Notre Dame-Army game captivated the nation.

The Irish and Cadets staged their first Yankee Stadium meeting in 1925, a game  Army dominated, 27-0.

Three years later at the Stadium, the teams were tied 0-0 at the half when Notre Dame’s legendary coach Knute Rockne inspired his charges with the most famous  halftime speech in football history. That day Rockne invoked the words of George Gipp, one of the great players in ND history who died of strep-throat infection in 1920 at the age of 25.

‘Win One for The Gipper’
“Some time when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.”

The Irish did just that, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the second half to beat the Cadets, 12-6

Notre Dame dominated the series at Yankee Stadium from then through the mid ‘40s, winning 12 times and tying twice in 15 games.

Army, which was ranked #1 in the polls and finished unbeaten, turned the tables on Notre Dame in 1944 and 1945, whipping Notre Dame 59-0 and then 48-0 at Yankee Stadium.

That set up one of the most famous college football games in history in 1946, #1 Army vs. #2 ND, aka The Game of the Century. Despite predictions of a high scoring game, the two powers played to a scoreless tie before 74,121 at the Stadium. The win ended Army’s 26-game winning streak and the Irish won the national championship when they beat USC 26-6 on the final weekend of the season, while Army edged Navy 21-18.

The Game of the Century
The 1946 Notre Dame-Army game featured four Heisman Trophy winners in uniform  Doc Blanchard (1945) and Glenn Davis (1946) of Army and Johnny Lujack (1947) and Leon Hart (1949) of Notre Dame) and 12 members of the College Football Hall of Fame.

One newspaper reported that fans were paying scalpers up to $250 for tickets with a $1 face value. “If Yankee Stadium had a million seats,” Army athletic director Biff Jones said before the game, “we would fill it for this game. I have never seen anything like it.”
After meeting every year since 1919, Army decided to end the annual series following the 1947 season because they felt it was becoming too one-sided in favor of the Irish. The game was played in South Bend for the first time and the Irish won, 27-7.

Notre Dame and Army played one last game at Yankee Stadium in 1969, with the Irish winning easily 45-0. Overall Notre Dame won 14 of those 22 games in Yankee Stadium. Army won five. Three finished in a tie

Through the decades the teams have met infrequently, with Army’s last win coming in 1958. Most of the games have been contested at neutral sites, such as Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, the Polo Grounds and Shea Stadium in New York,  Soldier Field in Chicago, Philadelphia’s JFK Memorial Stadium and Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Notre Dame leads the series 37-8-4.

Extra Points: The first Notre Dame-Army matchup in 1913 is generally regarded as the game that put the Irish on the college football map. In that game, Notre Dame revolutionized the forward pass in a stunning 35-13 victory on the Plain at West Point.  Irish quarterback Gus Dorias passed for 242 yards that day, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to a young end by the name of Knute Rockne.

The 1924 game at the Polo Grounds provided the setting for the most celebrated lead in the history of sportswriting.

After Notre Dame defeated Army 13-7, Grantland Rice of the New York World Telegram wrote, “Outlined against a blue, gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.”

Notre Dame and Army met most recently in 2006, when the Irish pounded the Black Knights 41-9 at Notre Dame Stadium.

Related Blogs: The 10 Best Football Games at Yankee Stadium


Where They Play: Giants Homes

IMG_0059View from the Fox suite: Giants celebrate win over Carolina in first game at new stadium in the Meadowlands, a field they share with the Jets.

Back in high school, senior year, I was caught by our English teacher, doodling on a notepad. When Mr. Naversen pinched me, I was forced to show him and my classmates my artwork — drawings of each of the fields where our football team played. My masterpiece was headlined “Where They Play.”

Last week, while enjoying the luxury of the Fox suite at the first game in the new stadium in New Jersey yet to be named — watching the Giants rally to beat Carolina 31-18 — my thoughts drifted back to those teenage days. What would a Giants “Where They Play” look like?

So I hit the history books to find out.

Throughout their long and illustrious history, the Giants have called six stadiums home — the Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium, the Yale Bowl, Shea Stadium, Giants Stadium and the new stadium in the Meadowlands.

The team was formed in 1925 and shared the Polo Grounds, left, with the New York baseball Giants from that season until they moved across the Harlem River to the larger Yankee Stadium for the start of the 1956 season.

The Giants finished 8-4 in that inaugural 1925 season in the NFL, but lost their home opener to the Frankford Yellow Jackets 14-0. Some 30 years later, in their final game at the Polo Grounds in November of 1955, the Giants rallied to tie the Cleveland Browns 35-35 on a late touchdown pass from Charlie Conerly to Frank Gifford.

Moving to Yankee Stadium
Following three straight road games, the Giants christened their new Yankee Stadium home in 1956 with a 38-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Giants went on to win their third NFL championship that year when they whipped the Chicago Bears 47-7 at Yankee Stadium.

In 1973, the Giants announced plans to move to a new stadium in New Jersey for the 1976 season. At the same time, the city of New York began a two-year renovation of  Yankee Stadium, below, after the 1973 baseball season. The Giants were allowed to play their first two games of the 1973 season at Yankee Stadium before moving to a new location.

The Giants tied the Eagles 23-23 in their final game at Yankee Stadium that fall, before moving into the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Conn., for the rest of the 1973 season and the full 1974 campaign. The Giants won just one game in the Yale Bowl in two years, finishing 2-11-1 in 1973 and 2-12 the following year.

In 1975 the Giants called Shea Stadium home along with the Jets, Mets and Yankees, marking the only time in history that two baseball and two football teams shared the same stadium. The Giants won two games at home en route to a 5-9 record, including a 28-14 victory against Archie Manning and the Saints in their final game at Shea in December.

After starting the 1976 season with four straight road losses, the Giants opened the new Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, with a 24-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants called the Meadowlands home for 34 seasons and won three Super Bowls in that span. The Carolina Panthers beat the Giants 41-9 in the final game at Giants Stadium on December 27, 2009.


Another Bronx Tale: 4th of July, Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig making his famous “Luckiest Man” address to a packed house in Yankee Stadium, 71 years ago this Fourth of July.

George Steinbrenner, a Yankee Doodle Dandy, was born on The Fourth of July. The Yankee owner turned 80 this year.

Three years before George was born, the famed 1927 Yankees entertained the second place Washington Senators before 74,000 fans in a holiday doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.

Any notions the Nats entertained for staying in the race were quickly shattered that afternoon. The Yankees swept Washington, 12-1 and 21-1, opened up an 11 1/2 game lead in the American League, and never looked back in winning their second World Championship.

In the opener the Yankees collected 18 hits, including four by third baseman Joe Dugan (a Holy Cross man), and home runs by Lou Gehrig and catcher Pat Collins. George Pipgras pitched a complete game for the win.

Fourth of July Fireworks
But the Yankees were just warming up.  In the nightcap, they pounded out 19 hits in  support of Wilcy Moore. Tony Lazzeri had four hits, including a pair of doubles, and drive in five runs. Babe Ruth tripled and was 3-3. And Gehrig hit the third of his record 23 grand slams and finished with five RBIs.

When action concluded that Fourth of July, Gehrig was hitting .396, with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs — in just 74 games, less than half a season.

Later that year, Ruth passed him for the home run title and eventually hit 60, while Detroit’s Harry Heilmann led the AL in batting at .398. All Gehrig did in 1927, was hit .373 with 47 homers and a league-leading 175 RBIs.

Twelve years later, on July 4, 1939, the Yankees hosted the Senators in another holiday doubleheader. The teams split, Washington winning the opener 3-2 and the Yankees taking the second game, 11-1. George “Twinkletoes” Selkirk homered in each game, but that’s not what fans and baseball historians remember about that Independence Day.

Gehrig’s Farewell Speech
Because that’s the day when a dying Lou Gehrig delivered his famous farewell speech between games of the doubleheader. Gehrig’s tearful remarks are often referred to as baseball’s “Gettysburg Address.”

After Gehrig spoke, the huge crowd stood and applauded for almost two minutes. Gehrig was visibly shaken as he stepped away from the microphone, and wiped the tears away from his face with his handkerchief.

Babe Ruth came over and hugged him. Later that year, the Baseball Writers Association elected Gehrig to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, waiving the mandatory five-year waiting period.

And less than two years later Lou Gehrig passed away, a victim of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the disease that now bears his name. The Yankee captain, the Iron Horse, was just 37 years old.

Holiday at The Stadium
Years later, my son, brother-in-law and nephew and I went to a Fourth of July game at Yankee Stadium, this one in 2003.. No holiday doubleheader that day, but the Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians 7-1 behind Mike Mussina, with home runs by Raul Mondesi and Jason Giambi.

Before the game, as we were parking in my favorite spot in The Bronx — free and easy access to the Major Deegan northbound — an elderly gentleman climbed out of the his car next to us. He was wearing a blue Lou Gehrig #4 jersey. We remarked on his taste in Yankee ware.

The man then told us that he had gone to his first major league game 64 years ago to the day, July 4, 1939. Lou Gehrig Day at Yankee Stadium. He said he had seen hundreds of games since that one, but Gehrig’s farewell remained his greatest thrill.

Sometimes baseball and history come together nicely….just like that.

Related Story: Nice piece by Ray Robinson of The New York Times on Gehrig’s farewell address.


50: Maris, Mantle and Teddy Ballgame

Boston slugger Ted Williams homers during his final season, 1960.

Yeah, it happened 50 years ago this week, yet somehow I remember June 5, 1960, like it was yesterday. A beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon in the Bronx, glove in hand, ticket in my pocket. Nine years old. Going to Yankee Stadium for a doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox.

This wasn’t my first major league game, but this kid was hungry for a win after seeing the Yankees lose to the White Sox in 1958 and Tigers in 1959.

The Yankees were a .500 club entering play on June 5, 20-20 and fourth in the American League, coming off a subpar 1959 season where they finished a distant third. The Red Sox were mired in the cellar. Young Ralph Terry got the start for the Yanks in the first game that day, while the Red Sox countered with lefty Tom Brewer.

The Yankees jumped off to a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a long home run by Mickey Mantle, The Yanks added three more runs in the fifth when Hector Lopez and Yogi Berra singled and Roger Maris, right, lined a home run into the right field seats. And when Tony Kubek’s single up the middle in the sixth plated Bobby Richardson, the Yankees had a 5-0 lead.

Williams Homers into The Bullpen
With two outs in the seventh and Terry seemingly cruising, the Red Sox suddenly rallied on hits by Bobby Thomson (yes, that Bobby Thomson who hit the shot heard round the world nearly nine years earlier just across the Harlem River at the Polo Grounds), Marty Keough and Pete Runnels to cut the lead to 5-2.

Up to the plate stepped Ted Williams. Now all through the game my father and relatives kept telling me to watch No. 9 in the Boston uniform. And in the seventh Williams hit a long drive into the Yankee bullpen in right to make it a 5-4 ballgame. It was the 495th home run of Williams’ historic career (he would finish with 521).

Yankee manager Casey Stengel then ambled to the mound and replaced Terry with diminutive left-hander Bobby Shantz. After an uneventful eighth, Boston loaded the bases with one-out in the ninth before Shantz got Vic Wertz to bounce into a double play to end the game.

The Yankees scored four runs in the first inning of the nightcap and cruised to an 8-3 victory, but we were long gone back home by then.

Yankees Win The Pennant
In 1960, the Yankees won the final 15 games of the season to edge out the Orioles and White Sox and win the first of five straight American League pennants, the final leg of a remarkable dynasty.

However, the Pittsburgh Pirates would upset the Yankees in the seventh game of the World Series that October, on a ninth-inning home run by Bill Mazeroski. The pitcher who surrendered that home run — Ralph Terry.

Mickey Mantle, left, would hit 40 home runs that year to win his fourth and final AL home run title. Maris, with 39 homers and a league-leading 112 RBIs. would win the American League MVP in his first year in pinstripes.

The Red Sox would wind up seventh in the American, ahead of the last-place Kansas City Athletics. Ted Williams, in his final year, would hit 29 homers — including one in his last at bat — and hit .316.

But the home run Teddy Ballgame hit on a sunny Sunday in June at Yankee Stadium was the one I will always remember. I saw Maris, Mantle and Williams homer in the same game. And I saw the Yankees win for the first time in my life.


Yankees’ Jacob Ruppert belongs in the Hall

Jacob Ruppert’s plaque hangs in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium, but not in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

There are 31 pioneer/executives in the Baseball Hall of Fame — and Jacob Ruppert Jr. is not one of them.

Walter O’Malley, Tom Yawkey, Barney Dreyfuss, Charlie Comiskey and Larry and Lee McPhail are in. So is Clark Griffith and Bill Veeck (as in Wreck). But no Ruppert, by George, even though he was “The Boss” long before Mr. Steinbrenner.

The man who put the Yankees on the map and helped them grow into America’s most famous franchise and sports brand,  the guy who signed three of the greatest players ever and won seven World Series is on the outside looking in when it comes to Cooperstown.

Two of the managers who worked under Ruppert — Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy — are in the Hall, So is his long-time general manager with the Yankees, Ed Barrow.

Yet  the owner who built “The House that Ruth Built” is not in the Hall of Fame.

Congressman, Colonel and Brewmaster
Jacob Ruppert had already make fame as a United States congressman from New  York, a colonel in the National Guard, and a brewery owner when he and Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston acquired the Yankees in 1915. The Yankees, who were born as the Highlanders in 1903 and played their games in upper Manhattan, had been pretty much the laughingstock of the American League under the team’s first owners, Frank Farrell and William S. Devery.

The Yankees had zero American League pennants, just two second place finishes, and only five seasons over .500 from their founding until Ruppert and Huston took over. The Yankees hit rock bottom in 1912 with a last place finish and a .329 winning percentage, worst in team history. They finished seventh in 1913 and sixth in 1914.

Under the stewardship of Ruppert and Huston, the Yankees made steady progress starting in the 1915 season. Then in 1920 they made the move that is still talked about today, nearly 90 years later, when they purchased the contract of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox for $100,000.

Ruth captivated fans with his batting exploits, and soon New York became the center of the baseball universe. The Yankees won their first AL pennant in 1921 and another in 1922. That year, Ruppert bought out Huston, and became the sole owner of the Yankees.

New Stadium, World Championship
The team was just warming up. In 1923, they moved out of the Polo Grounds (where  they were tenants to the New York Giants) and christened a brand new ballpark across the Harlem River in the Bronx. It didn’t take long for Yankee Stadium to become the equivalent of the Roman Coliseum. And later that year they won their first World Series, defeating the in six games.

Under Ruppert’s watch, the Yankees would win another pennant in 1926 and six more World Series — 1927, 28, 32, 36, 37 and 38 — before Ruppert passed away in the winter of 1939.

The Yankees dominated baseball throughout a good portion of the 1920s and 1930s, including the Murderers’ Row  team of 1927 that many consider the greatest team ever.

In addition to Ruth, Ruppert signed immortal first baseman Lou Gehrig to a Yankee contact in 1923, and the legendary Joe DiMaggio 11 years later.

A total of 13 Hall of Famers spent considerable time in the pinstripes during the Ruppert regime: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggo, Home Run Baker, Earl Combs, Bill Dickey, Leo Durocher, Lefty Gomez, Waite Hoyt, Tony Lazzeri, Herb Pennock, Red Ruffing and Joe Sewell.