Astros Soar with History-Making No-hitter in Game Four

Christian Javier

Last night the Houston Astros tied the World Series at two games apiece with a history-making no-hitter. It was the first time in World Series history that a pitching staff pitched a combined no-hitter. Christian Javier, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly shut down the hard-hitting Philadelphia Phillies 5-0 without a hit in a game for the ages. The only other World Series no-hitter occurred 66 years ago when Don Larsen of the New York Yankees threw his remarkable perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

The young flame-thrower Javier pitched the first six innings recording nine strikeouts. Abreu, Montero and Pressly each pitched one inning mowing down the Phils with ease. The four pitchers totaled 14 punchouts. They allowed three walks for the only Phillie baserunners.

Don Larsen

An interesting comparison between Larsen’s masterpiece and last night’s gem was the similarity of pitching deliveries. Larsen was noted for his no-windup delivery which back in the fifties was very uncommon. Today many pitchers throw without a windup and have tremendous success as was evident last night. All four Astro pitchers used a no-windup delivery. Of course, it would be unheard of back in the fifties to remove a pitcher in the sixth inning throwing a no-hitter. Things have changed nowadays, and no one has questioned Dusty Baker’s decision to remove Javier. In fact, the Astros had a similar combined no-hitter against the Yankees in 2003. And since Houston had a comfortable 5-0 lead last night it made sense to remove Javier in case he is needed again if the series goes to seven games. 

We’ll see if Philadelphia can bounce back tonight. 

Holy Cow He Did It! See Ya!

Last night Aaron Judge hit his 61st home run of the 2022 season and tied Roger Maris for the American League single-season home run record. The momentous blast over the leftfield wall in Toronto occurred in the top of the seventh inning against Blue Jay lefty Tim Mayza. The home run propelled the Yankees to an 8-3 victory over the Blue Jays.

Judge’s home run ironically came 61 years after the Maris record which was set in 1961. The ball bounced back onto the playing field where it was retrieved and given to Judge. He in turn gave the historic baseball to his mom in a touching moment.

This historic event has specific meaning for me. As a nine-year-old I was fortunate enough to attend the game in 1961 where Maris hit his 61st. Pictured above is the ticket stub from that game that my brother saved. Back then our dad made it his mission to take us to at least one Yankee game every year. The trek over to Yankee Stadium from New Jersey wasn’t always an easy one especially for my dad who worked in construction and the summer and early fall were extremely busy for him. But we made it to that game. The last game of the 1961 season. And it will forever be etched in our memories.

Congrats to Aaron Judge for his tremendous achievement and to Roger Maris for all the memories. And thanks, dad.

Mickey and Bobby: An Unlikely Pairing

This incredible photo was taken on September 18, 1965, at Mickey Mantle Day in Yankee Stadium. The Mick is with New York Senator Bobby Kennedy who had come to the Stadium to take part in the event honoring the Yankee legend. The photo was signed by Mantle and given to my friend who had worked on the RFK presidential campaign in 1968. My friend had read my book Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run and understood the metaphoric connection between Mickey and Bobby. Kennedy had won the New York Senate seat the previous November.

Mickey and Bobby. Also, with Mrs. Lou Gehrig. September 18, 1965.

On that September day Mickey Mantle and Bobby Kennedy were probably the two most popular people in New York and the entire country. Though Mantle was on the downside of his playing days he was at the pinnacle of his fame and New Yorkers were coming to appreciate what he meant to the city and to baseball. And Mickey Mantle Day was a time to show it.

Bobby Kennedy was carrying the torch of optimism once held by his deceased brother and was happy to have the opportunity to bask in Mickey’s glory.

In just a few short years Mickey Mantle’s remarkable career would fade away in retirement and Bobby Kennedy’s valiant life of public service would end tragically.

Though their paths would never again cross Mickey and Bobby would forever be etched on the soul of America.

The Three Alou Brothers Make History: All Three in The Same Outfield!

By guest blogger Gary Livacari

On this day 59 years ago something unique occurred in baseball history. The three Alou brothers: Felipe, Matty, and Jesus, all played together in the same outfield for the Giants. Three brothers in the same outfield had never happened before. In the game, played on September 15, 1963, at Forbes Field, the Giants defeated the Pirates 13-5 in front on 18,916 fans. The game featured Hall-of-Famers Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, and Willie McCovey for the Giants; and Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazerowski for the Pirates.

The three Alou’s played together in eight games in 1963. Felipe, then 28, was a regular outfielder for the Giants; Matty, 24, was a defensive replacement and pinch hitter who started only six games; and Jesus, 21, was a September call-up. They played in the same outfield for a few innings in three games in September. Despite some lingering baseball mythology, they never all started a game together.

Brothers Felipe, Matty and Jesus Alou

Jesus made his debut on Sept. 10, and it was unique in its own right. Manager Al Dark had the Alou brothers bat consecutively in the eighth inning, Jesus and Matty as pinch hitters before Felipe came up. The Alou’s went 0 for 3 against the Mets’ Carlton Willey.
On Sept. 15, the historic day, Felipe played all three outfield positions, and Matty and Jesus joined him in the outfield as late-inning substitutes. Two days later, Felipe started again and Matty and Jesus moved into the outfield late in the game. On Sept. 22, they played in the outfield together one last time, with Felipe again starting and ultimately playing all three positions before Matty and Jesus flanked him in the late innings. The Alou’s all played in the same game one more time, on Sept. 25, when Felipe started, and his brothers pinch-hit.

The next season Felipe was traded to the Milwaukee Braves. The brothers all played at least 15 seasons in the major leagues, but there were no more all-Alou outfields!

Felipe was the best of the Alou brothers with 2,101 hits from 1958-74. Matty had 1,777 hits from 1960-74 and Jesus had 1,216 from 1963-79. The Alou’s, some of the first ball players to come from the Dominican Republic, played a combined 47 seasons. Matty Alou passed away in 2011.

Information: Excerpt edited from the New York Times article on the Three Alou’s in the same game. http://bats.blogs.nytimes.com/…/the-myth-of-the-alou-brot…/…

Check out Gary’s blog https://www.baseballhistorycomesalive.com/

And Gary’s new book The Best of Baseball History Come Alive https://www.amazon.com/Best-Baseball-History-Comes-Alive/dp/0578395967

The 49ers of Major League Baseball

A lot has been made of Aaron Judge’s remarkable season. He recently blew past the 50-home run mark and all eyes are upon him as he heads towards 60. But what about all those sluggers who made it all the way to 49 home runs and never got to that milestone number 50.

A review of the 49er’s list includes some of baseball’s best hitters.

Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig reached 49 twice in 1934 and 1936, as did Harmon Killebrew in 1964 and 1969.

Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson hit 49 home runs in his 1966 Triple Crown season. Ted Kluszewski blasted 49 in 1954. Larry Walker clubbed 49 round trippers in 1997.

The slugfest year of 2001, when Barry Bonds led the way with his record shattering 73 home runs, also provided 3 members of the 49ers Club; Shawn Green, Todd Helton and Jim Thome.

Eugenio Suarez who is still active hit 49 homers in 2019.

And finally, there is future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols who has belted 40 or more home runs in seven seasons topping out with 49 in 2006.

Albert Pujols

Quite an extraordinary, though overlooked achievement, by a group of some great Major League sluggers.

Baseball and All Its Charms

August is a great month for baseball. The winter sports have totally petered out. Football is grinding through a sweltering preseason just hoping no major stars will get injured. And with baseball heating up and embracing the steamy, sunny days and warm, sultry nights, I was ready.

First there were softball playoffs. I’m in two leagues, an over age 60’s league and an over 70’s league. In the 60’s league our team lost in the best of three semi-finals. Although we lost, we did our best and had just as much fun playing as we did celebrating the end of another season with a couple cool ones and great conversation later at Rocky’s Bar.

Our 70′ team lost both ends of a Thursday morning double-header—game two of which was shortened to five innings due to the increasing mid-day heat.  We were sure we would have won had we gone the full seven though none of us complained as we retired to the shade of a broad oak tree debating what could have been.

Next came a Friday night trip to Yankee Stadium with my daughter, her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s father. It was a belated Father’s Day present and an absolutely wonderful way to spend a warm summer night. As we watched the game, we swapped stories about the many previous games we attended over the years. Although the Yanks were slumping and got shutout, the Big Ballpark in the Bronx never looked better. And along with our stories, the fan cam scenes of our jubilant and uninhibited fellow Yankee aficionados made the evening memorable and entertaining. 

Yankee Stadium resplendent under a New York City sunset.

I was back at the Stadium on Sunday with two of my buddies as we celebrated our upcoming seventieth birthdays. This day there was more success on the field though some serious trepidation on line prior to the game. My friend Al, who was in charge of the tickets, had trouble locating them on his smartphone. As my other friend, the none-soon-to-be-septuagenarian Jeff, growled about the ravages of technology, I was of absolutely no help futilely fumbling with my phone looking for the e-tickets I was sure I had somewhere in my troves of undeleted emails. Somehow Al eventually found the tickets, we made it inside and we were treated to an exciting game decided by a late inning rocket of a home run by an unlikely source, the light-hitting Andrew Benintendi. All was right with the world has the Bombers’ losing streak came to an end.

That’s Aaron Judge of course from whom Benintendi stole the spotlight.

Although baseball’s charms can best be experienced in a warm summer breeze, they can also be enjoyed on the couch in front of the TV in some AC. And that’s how I partook of the pleasures of watching women’s softball and the Little League World Series. Both are fast paced and highly entertaining versions of the national pastime featuring plenty of sensational plays and high drama but without the drawn out starts and stops that slow down the major league game. However, the question remains; when watching the Little League World Series, we know we are watching potential major leaguers but why are we not when watching these extremely athletic and talented women softball players?

I continued my August coach potato routine by watching The Captain, the ESPN documentary about Derek Jeter. As a Yankee fan ya gotta love Jeter and the series is highly entertaining. But Jeter’s entire theme is that, in baseball, winning is everything, and he sure did a lot of it leading the Yankees to five World Championships. But as you have been reading in this post and in my blog, baseball is about a lot more than just winning. 

Then on Thursday I attended a minor league game with my three high school buddies. We hadn’t all been together for 20 years. If you haven’t been to a minor league baseball game on a warm summer night, do it! Inexpensive, plenty of tasty food, not too crowded, good quality play. Really, you should try it. I’m serious! And go with family and friends. We spent most of the night reminiscing about the bygone days as we sat at a comfortable concession stand table sipping on beer and soft drinks. And yes, there was a ball game going on in the background. A pretty darn good one as a dramatic ninth inning game-tying double sent us into extra inning. But that was not the point. We had seen thousands of games over the years but this time old friends Tony, Bruce, Neil and I were once again together and that was what mattered.  

That’s Yankees’ star prospect Anthony Volpe with the Somerset Patriots

Finally on the last Friday of the month I enjoyed the last of my August baseball charms. My friend Frank arranged a visit at the home of his friend Cal who has an impressive collection of baseball memorabilia. I know Frank through my father-in-law Herb who passed away at the age of 99 a year ago. Herb and Frank became friends because they were, what else? big baseball fans, and Frank wanted to make sure I got to see Cal’s basement baseball museum. We were not disappointed. Cal had every manner of baseball relics from autographed baseballs and photos, to gloves and bats, to programs, yearbooks and vintage baseball cards. But what was best about Cal’s collection was not so such the individual items but the stories behind them. We listened with rapt attention to Cal’s tales, each more enthralling than the previous one. As our visit came to a close the inevitable question was posed to Cal. “How much is all this worth?” He didn’t hesitate to answer. “I don’t think of my collection in those terms. What is important to me is being able to show these items to baseball fans like you and to tell my stories.”

Although he didn’t actually say it, we knew what he meant. To Cal each item in his collection is priceless.

Vin Scully, A Class Act All the Way

Vin Scully passed away yesterday at the age of 94. He was born in the Bronx in 1927 the same year Babe Ruth hit his record-shattering 60 home runs but later his family moved to Manhattan, and he became a New York Giants fan. With baseball in his blood, Scully played the outfield for Fordham University and eventually landed a job as an announcer for the then Brooklyn Dodgers. A ginger himself, he honed his craft under the tutelage of the “ol’ Redhead” Red Barber, but when Barber moved over to the Yankees in 1954, the Dodger broadcast booth became Scully’s domain. He followed Dem Bums to Los Angeles in 1957 and would be the voice of the Dodgers for 67 years until retiring in 2016.

He called classic games: Don Larsen’s perfect World Series game in 1956, the Mets improbable comeback in game six of the 1986 World Series and Kirk Gibson’s unbelievable game-winning home run against the Oakland A’s in game one of the 1988 World Series. All these games are featured in my book Grandpa Gordy’s Greatest World Series Games. Click the link. https://amzn.to/2T9lYVT

You can see the You Tube video of the Gibson home run here.

All together Scully called three perfect games and 20 no-hitters.

My most personnel memory of Vin Scully was his call of the 1963 World Series. I was eleven years old at the time and as a die-hard Yankee fan I wasn’t expecting my Yankees to lose to the lowly Dodgers. But that they did in four straight agonizing games with Vin Scully at the mike for much of it. His iconic voice, which everyone is praising, would be like fingernails on a chalk board for me for many years. But fortunately, I grew up and got over it. Like everyone in the sports world I grew to have nothing but respect for Vin Scully and his indelible impact on the wonderful world of baseball.

Rest in peace, Mr. Dodger, Vin Scully.  

Teammates Battling for the Batting Title

Bill Mueller

While researching my recent post about the Yankees’ Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield battling for the 1984 batting title, I discovered that teammates battling for the batting title, though rare, has happened several times over the long and rich history of major league baseball.

The most recent occurred in 2003 when Bill Mueller and Manny Ramirez of the Red Sox went head-to-head. The switching-hitting Mueller wound up on top batting .326 to Ramirez’s .325. Mueller would go on to future fame as the only player ever to hit two grand slam homers from both sides of the plate in a single game. Remarkably he hit a third home run in that game.

Ramirez won the AL batting title with a .349 average the prior year 2002.

Manny Ramirez

Hal McRae
George Brett

The most contentious contest occurred in 1976 when Kansas City teammates George Brett and Hal McRae went down to the last game and McRae’s last at bat.  McRae was ahead of Brett .33078 to .33073 on the final day of the season and they both went two for three through eight innings against the Minnesota Twins. In his last at bat in the bottom of the ninth Brett hit a fly ball to leftfield where Twins’ outfielder Steve Brye took a step back on the ball misjudging it. He was unable to recover, and the ball fell in for a hit and bounced past Brye allowing Brett to come all the way around for an inside-the-park home run. McRae then came up knowing he needed a base hit to win the batting title. But he grounded out to third leaving Brett ahead .333 to .332. Unfortunately, McRae was upset by the turn of events. According to SABR, when McRae walked back to the dugout, he tipped his batting helmet to a standing ovation by the Royals fans. Then McRae turned and gave the Twins’ dugout the finger. Twins’ manager Gene Mauch immediately charged the field and both benches emptied. It took several minutes for the umpires to restore order. Later McRae accused Brye of misplaying the ball in order to give Brett the title. “This is America, and not that much has changed. Too bad in 1976 things are still like that,” he said, citing racism as the reason why he came in second. Mauch denied the charge, saying: “This thing hurts me more than anything that has ever happened in my 35 years in baseball.”

Brett went on to win two more batting titles. Although McRae had many solid seasons, 1976 was his best chance at a title.

In 1958 Boston Red Sox mates, Ted Williams and Pete Runnells were tied at .323 after 153 games. In the final two games “The Splendid Splinter” went five for eight and Runnells was three for ten giving Williams the batting title with a .328 average. It would be the last of his six titles. Runnells would go on to win the AL batting title in 1960 and 1962.

Pete Runnells and Ted Williams 1958

In 1954 Willie Mays and Don Mueller (no relation to Bill) of the World Champion New York Giants battled to the final game with Mueller having a slight edge .343 to .342. But “The Say Hey Kid” went three for four with a walk and Mueller slumped to two for six giving Mays the title at .345 to .342. This would be the only batting title for Mays.

Don Mueller indicates how close he was to Willie Mays in the 1954 NL batting race.
Willie Wells
Mule Suttles

The only battle involving .400 hitters occurred in 1930 when Willie Wells of the St. Louis Stars in the NNL edged out his teammate Mule Suttles .410 to .409. This was the only title for Wells, but Suttles earned the NNL batting titles in 1926 and 1928.

Jud Wilson
Rap Dixon

The tightest of all contests was in 1928 when Jud Wilson of the Baltimore Black Sox in the ECL bested his mate Rap Dixon .3987 to .3982. Wilson also won the ECL batting title in 1927.

Way back in 1903 Honus Wagner of the Pittsburg Pirates won the batting title when his teammate Fred Clarke went zero for his last nine at bats. Wagner finished at .355 to Clarke’s .351. Wagner would win 8 NL batting titles in his illustrious career.

Fred Clarke and Honus Wagner. Teammate Tommy Leech is in the middle. 1905

References:

SABR Society for American Baseball Research

Baseball-reference.com

Photos: courtesy of Bing Photos

Rube Waddell: One of Baseball’s All-time Zaniest Characters

Baseball is full of great stories and incredible characters. Here is one from baseball’s early days written by guest blogger Bill Schaefer. The article originally appeared in Gary Livacari’s blog Baseball History Comes Alive.

“He had more stuff than any pitcher I ever saw”-Connie Mack

 “When Waddell had control and some sleep, he was unbeatable.”-Branch Rickey

As a young man, he possessed the chiseled features of a matinee idol and developed a penchant for eating animal crackers in bed.

Biographer Alan Levy said: “He was a decidedly different sort of a child.” At the age of three, he wandered over to a local fire station and stayed there for several days (much to his parent’s consternation). Waddell once left in the middle of a baseball game to go fishing and would delay games to play marbles with kids.

When George Edward Waddell was born October 13, 1876, in Bradford, PA, the cosmos held its breath, with a sense that this was going to be no ordinary human being. He would grow to be powerfully constructed at 6’1”,196 pounds. A jumbo-sized athlete to be sure when you consider the average male height in the late nineteenth century was less than 5 feet 7 inches tall. George Edward toiled on mining and drilling sites as a kid, which helped his conditioning and arm strength. The nickname “Rube” was bestowed upon him as a natural consequence of his simply looking like a big old country boy.

According to SABR writer, Dan O’Brien,

“He entered this world on Friday the 13th and exited on April Fool’s Day.  In the 37 intervening years, Rube Waddell struck out more batters, frustrated more managers, and attracted more fans than any pitcher of his era.”

He combined charisma, alcoholism, heroic qualities, child-like tendencies, and an extraordinary pitching talent. The Columbus Dispatch wrote,

“There was a delicious humor in many of his vagaries…an ingenuousness that he did cartwheels off the mound in victory and once disappeared for months during an off-season, only to be discovered wrestling alligators in a circus. He tried out for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1897 but was seated next to Manager Patsy Donovan during breakfast and was released immediately after the meal. However, it was also his pitching talent that made Rube a fan favorite. He threw a heavy fastball and a curve that swooped and darted and may have been the best breaking pitch in the major leagues. Let’s look at the record:

Over the course of 13 years (1897-1910), Waddell pitched for the Louisville Colonels (NL), Chicago Orphans, Philadelphia Athletics, and St. Louis Browns. The books show a won-lost record of 193-143, with a career ERA of 2.16 (eleventh all-time), 261 complete games, and 50 shutouts. He led the league in ERA twice (1900, 1905), had four consecutive years of 20 or more wins (1902-1905), topped the circuit in strikeouts an amazing six straight years (1902-1907); and in ’03 and ’04 was the only pitcher to compile consecutive 300-strikeout seasons until Sandy Koufax did it in 1965 and 1966. Waddell’s 349 K’s in 1904 represented the modern-era major league season record for more than 60 years (sixth on the all-time list) and is still the American League single-season mark for a left-handed pitcher. 1905 saw Waddell win the Triple Crown for pitching with 27 wins, 287 strikeouts and a minuscule 1.48 earned run average.

Rube Waddell was possibly the most eccentric player in the history of the game. According to baseball historian Lee Allen, he began the 1903 season sleeping in a firehouse in Camden NJ and ended it tending bar in a saloon in Wheeling West Virginia. In between, he won 22 games for the Athletics; toured the country in a vaudeville play called The Stain of Guilt; got married; saved a woman from drowning; accidentally shot a friend through the hand; and was bitten by a lion. The play was well-received by critics, but Waddell’s performance was panned royally. He couldn’t memorize lines, so he was permitted to ad-lib short responses. Nevertheless, his charismatic stage presence drew crowds from far and wide—particularly acclaimed was a scene in which Waddell lifted the actor playing the villain and threw him across the stage with ease. Rube used his sudden stardom to negotiate higher wages for his baseball career (though his highest salary was reported to be a meager $2800).

You’d like to be in the trenches with Rube: In 1904, he carried A’s center fielder, Danny Hoffman, knocked unconscious by a fastball to the temple, over his shoulder, on the run across the field…flagged a carriage to a nearby hospital, and thus saved his life.

He also helped save the city of Hickman, Kentucky twice from floods, in 1912 and 1913. Heroically working in icy water for hours led to pneumonia and then tuberculosis, from which he never fully recovered.

Unfortunately, his flakiness and drunken escapades alienated many managers and players, and Rube was shipped to the minor leagues numerous times because of his disruptive tendencies. He was easily distracted by shiny objects held up in the crowd, seemingly mesmerized by them. This could have been a sign of autism, not widely researched back in the day. Only Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy could tolerate him for any length of time. It paid off for Connie Mack with a Philadelphia A’s World Series birth in 1905, mostly due to Waddell’s brilliance. (According to SABR, gamblers may have bribed Rube, who needed money, to miss the WS against the winning NY Giants). He stayed with “The Tall Tactician” for six years. His battery mate and drinking buddy in Philly was catcher Ossee Schreckengost (Schreck). My dad used to tell me about Rube Waddell, who ate animal crackers in bed. The story was that his roomie Ossee Schreck was not a happy camper. Here’s part of a letter to Connie Mack, purportedly written by Schreck, which appeared in the papers, circa 1906:

“Dear Connie: This is not a touch for any advance or increase in salary, but something much more serious, and as it won’t be long before the Athletics start south for spring practice. I am going to ask you to put Waddell under another charge this year. While I did not mind Rube bringing mockingbirds and a reptile or two into our sleeping apartments down south, I do object to his habit of eating crackers in bed…many of them resembling animals. This Rube does nightly. His crunching of the crackers…the bed was full of crumbs…I would like to suggest that if you can put a clause in his contract that he is not to eat crackers in bed during the 1907 season…we will continue to be real good friends as of yore.”

Reports that the request was actually put in the contract might be apocryphal.

Waddell was elected to the HOF in 1946 by the Veterans Committee, looking to enshrine a number of players from his era who had contributed to the growth of the game. Rube drew fans, like a magnet, to ballparks around the country.

Down to 130 pounds from consumption, Waddell passed away on April 1, 1914, in a sanitarium in Elmendorf, Texas. “Dad always had a gleam in his eye when he told stories about Rube Waddell,” said Connie Mack’s daughter, Ruth Mack Clark. “Dad really loved the Rube.”

SOURCES: Grunge.com The-true-tragic-story- of- Rube- Waddell; SABR article by Dan O’Brien; Wikipedia, Rube Waddell; baseball history daily.com “Rube and Ossee”; Rube Waddell baseball-reference.

Photo Credits: Featured photo used with permission from Chris Whitehouse, visit Mancave Pictures website to see Chris’s entire collection   All others from Google search.

Subscribe to Gary’s website, “Baseball History Comes Alive!” with over 1200 fully categorized baseball essays and photo galleries, now closing in on the one million hits mark with 805K hits and over 600 subscribers: www.baseballhistorycomesalive.com

And if you get a chance check out my book Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run.

Baseball to Brain Injury and Back: A Story of Survival

A few weeks back I reviewed a book by retired baseball star Ruppert Jones whose promising career was cut short by a traumatic brain injury he suffered while playing centerfield for the New York Yankees in August 1980.

Jones was interviewed by Tom Kranz on his excellent podcast Type. Tune. Tint.

I’ve attached the link here.

Photo by Gezer Amorim on Pexels.com

https://type-tune-tint.buzzsprout.com/1208186/10485113-baseball-to-brain-injury-and-back-a-story-of-survival#

I’m sure you will enjoy the interview. If you get a chance check out the interview Tom did with me about my book Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run.