Saturday, December 4, 2010

What If the Chicago Cubs Hadn't Collapsed in 1969?

I present this post in memory of Ron Santo, who should have been in the Baseball Hall of Fame years ago.

I'm going to look at 3 Cub seasons that, to put it politely, did not work out well: 1969, 1984 and 2003.

I'm going to overlook their other postseasons from 1945 onward that didn't result in Pennants, simply because they weren't really "curse material." But the Black Cat, the Garvey/Durham NLCS, and Steve Bartman? All true "curse material."

Each of these what-ifs is based on actual starting pitchers used. In the case of 1969, the last few starts of the regular season, moving into the National League Championship Series. In the case of 1984 and 2003, the NLCS, moving into the World Series.

Today, 1969. I'll do the other two at a later date.


If the Cubs hadn't collapsed in their "September Swoon," and had gone on to beat out the Mets for the National League Eastern Division Title, and played the Atlanta Braves for the Pennant:

Game 1, Saturday, October 4, at Atlanta Stadium (later renamed Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the series would've opened at the NL Western Division winners' home field no matter what): Ferguson "Fergie" Jenkins vs. Phil Niekro. RL: The Mets started Tom Seaver, and won, 9-5. A 5-run Met 8th was the difference. I'm not sure the Cubs would've done that. Fergie might've pitched better than Tom Terrific, but it might not have been enough. Braves 4, Cubs 3. Braves lead, 1-0.

Game 2, Sunday, October 5, at Atlanta Stadium: Ken Holtzman vs. Ron Reed. The future Phillies reliever was 18-10 for the '69 Braves, but in RL, the Mets knocked him out of the box in the 2nd inning. A 5-run 5th knocked out Jerry Koosman, but Holtzman might've been able to stop that. Cubs 6, Braves 2. Series tied, 1-1.

Game 3, Monday, October 6 at Wrigley Field, Chicago: Bill Hands vs. Pat Jarvis. Not sure why there was no travel day. In RL, Gary Gentry had to leave the game in the 3rd inning, and Nolan Ryan went the rest of the way for the Mets in a 7-4 Pennant-clinching win. Cub fans know Jarvis as the man who, the next season, gave up Ernie Banks' 500th home run. I don't know if the wind was blowing out at Wrigley on October 6, 1969, but the Cub bats might've made it seem like it. Cubs 7, Braves 4. Cubs lead, 2-1.

Game 4, Tuesday, October 7 at Wrigley Field: Dick Selma vs. Milt Pappas. The same Pappas that the Baltimore Orioles, the AL Champions this season, traded to the Cincinnati Reds after the 1965 season for Frank Robinson. And the same Pappas who, in 1972, pitched a no-hitter (it was damn near a perfect game) against the San Diego Padres. The Braves' other choice would have been George Stone, who in RL-1973 would help the Mets win another Pennant. Pappas would have been better, but that doesn't mean the Cubs wouldn't win. Cubs 6, Braves 2. The Cubs win their first Pennant in 24 years.

The World Series would have started on October 11, no matter how far each League's LCS had gone. As it happened, the first-ever ALCS and the first-ever NLCS were both sweeps, by the Mets over the Braves and by the Orioles over the Minnesota Twins. So here's how the World Series would have gone:

Game 1, Saturday, October 11, at Memorial Stadium, Baltimore: Jenkins vs. Mike Cuellar. In RL, Don Buford hit Seaver's 2nd pitch out, and the O's went on to win 4-1. Hmmmm, Cuellar with that lefty screwball, and the Cubs haven't played in 4 days and Fergie hasn't pitched in 7... I don't like this. Let's keep it simple and keep the same score: Orioles 4, Cubs 1. O's lead, 1-0. So far, aside from the Cubs being the NL Champions, no change from the way the RL Series played out.

Game 2, Sunday, October 12, at Memorial Stadium: Holtzman vs. Dave McNally. If you've seen the film Frequency, which is in part about changing history, you know that, if the 1969 World Series is Cubs vs. Orioles instead of Mets vs. Orioles, there's a bigger chance that Frank Sullivan could die in the Buxton Fire. Anyway, in RL, this was a tight one, with Koosman allowing just 2 hits. But the Cubs' righty bats might give the lefty McNally some trouble. Cubs 3, O's 1. Series tied, 1-1. So far, no change from RL.

Game 3, Tuesday, October 14, at Wrigley: Bill Hands vs. Jim Palmer. Big change here, because the difference between Wrigley Field and Shea Stadium was not unlike the difference between Rutgers' College Avenue Campus and its Busch Campus: Very ivy and classic vs. very concrete and tacky. In RL, Gentry had good stuff, while Jim Palmer shook off 3 runs in the first 2 innings and settled down, but it was too late. The Mets won, 5-0. Could the Cubs do the same? Not sure, Hands wasn't as good as Jenkins or Holtzman. And Palmer was not yet the dominating pitcher he would become. Still, the Mets needed 2 great catches from Tommie Agee to hold this one, and the Cubs' center fielder is Don Young, infamous for bobbles against the Mets in the regular season. But that doesn't mean that a different pitcher would give up the same 2 drives up the gaps. Cubs 4, O's 2. Cubs lead, 2-1. So far, at least as far as results go, no change from RL.

Game 4, Wednesday, October 15, at Wrigley: Jenkins vs. Cuellar. In RL, this was a 1-0 game, Seaver ahead of Cuellar, until the bottom of the 9th, when Brooks Robinson hit a sinking liner into right field. Ron Swoboda made a sensational diving catch, limiting it to a sacrifice fly that tied the game and sent it into extra innings, but a mishandled bunt from J.C. Martin gave the Mets a 2-1 win in the 10th. Can we say that Jenkins would have been fresher than Seaver? Hardly. Can we say that Cub right fielder Jim Hickman would have made the same catch that Swoboda made? Not bloody likely. O's 2, Cubs 1. Series tied, 2-2, and now we have a different result. Whatever else happens, the Cubs will not be able to clinch at home at Wrigley -- the O's can still do so at "the Insane Asylum on 33rd Street."

Game 5, Wednesday, October 16, at Wrigley: Holtzman vs. McNally. In RL, this was the clincher, as the Mets rode Cleon Jones' shoe-polish-aided hit-by-pitch, Donn Clendenon's subsequent homer, and an Al Weis homer to win, 5-3. How nuts would the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field have gone if, instead of Clendenon, the Met 1st baseman, the Cub 1st baseman, Ernie Banks, hit one out? Cubs 5, O's 3. Cubs lead series, 3-2.

Game 6, Friday, October 18, at Memorial Stadium: Hands vs. Palmer. Since there was no Game 6 in RL, we can't be sure how well Palmer would have pitched. But he had outdueled Sandy Koufax (in what turned out to be Koufax' last game) in Game 2 in '66, so, while he was not yet the same pitcher he would be from 1970 to 1983, he did already have a big-game reputation. And while Hands was a good pitcher, he was not a Hall-of-Famer like Palmer. Orioles 4, Cubs 1. Series tied, 3-3. Here we go...

Game 7, Saturday, October 19, at Memorial Stadium: Jenkins vs. Cuellar. The Cubs' ace, maybe the best pitcher the franchise has had since Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown, vs., if not Baltimore's best starter, then certainly the Oriole starter with the nastiest pitch, Cuellar's screwgie.

It's worth nothing that, going into 1969, in 4 of the last 5 World Series going to a Game 7, Game 7 was won by the visiting team: The Yankees over the Giants at Candlestick in '62, the Dodgers over the Twins at the Met in '65, the Cardinals over the Red Sox at Fenway in '67, and the Tigers over the Cardinals at Busch in '68. The exception in that span was the Cardinals over the Yankees at Sportsman's Park in '64.

In fact, you could go back further, and make it 8 of the last 10 WS Game 7s won by the road team. The Yankees over the Dodgers at Ebbets Field in '52 and '56, the Dodgers over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in '57, the Yankees over the Braves at Milwaukee County Stadium in '58; the other exception being the Pirates over the Yankees at Forbes Field in '60. And, in RL, this would be followed by the Pirates over the Orioles at Memorial Stadium in '71 and '79, the A's over the Reds at Riverfront in '72, and the Reds over the Red Sox at Fenway in '75. The exception in that stretch was the A's over the Mets at the Oakland Coliseum in '73. That would make it 12 out of 15 Game 7s won by the road team between 1947 (Yanks at home over Dodgers) and 1985 (Royals at home over Cardinals). So the home-field advantage for the Orioles is hardly a guarantee that they would have beaten the Cubs.

Since then, though, in RL, the last 7 World Series Game 7s have all been won by the home team: 1985 (as stated), 1986 (Mets over Red Sox at Shea), 1987 (Twins over Cardinals at Metrodome), 1991 (Twins over Braves at Metrodome), 1997 (Marlins over Indians at whatever they were calling the Dolphins' stadium at the time), 2001 (Diamondbacks over Yankees at Bank One Ballpark, now Chase Field) and 2002 (Angels over Giants in Anaheim).

Of course, do you really think I would have taken you this far and NOT have the Cubs win the whole thing for the first time in 61 years? Ernie Banks homers in the 2nd. Ron Santo homers in the 7th. Cubs 5, Orioles 2.

As Cub broadcaster Jack Brickhouse would have said, "That's it! That's it! Hey hey! Wheeeeeeee!"

Or, as Harry Caray, about to get fired as the voice of the arch-rival Cardinals (leaving their booth to Jack Buck), "Cubs win! Cubs win! Holy cow!"


And 1973 is remembered as the Mets' "miracle year." Even if they fall one game short in the World Series, as Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter, each for the first but not last time, give Yankee Fans a reason to tell them, "Thank you."

Without that 1969 "September Swoon," and the "lovable losers" image it projected, maybe the Cubs don't choke in the 1984 NLCS. And maybe Steve Bartman keeps his hands to himself in the 2003 NLCS. And maybe, without the legacy of 1969, the Mets don't get another "miracle" in Game 6 in 1986, and the Red Sox win. With the result being that they don't seem "cursed," either.

And nobody ever talks about the Curse of the Bambino, and the Curse of the Billy Goat is something now in the distant past, to laugh about, just like that other phrase that originated from William Sianis' Billy Goat Tavern, "No hamburger: Chizburger chizburger chizburger! No fries, cheeps! No Coke, Pepsi!"

I have been to the real Billy Goat Tavern. Yes, Sam Sianis, the original Billy's nephew, was there that day. Yes, he really does talk like the John Belushi character in the Saturday Night Live sketch (named the Olympia Cafe after the place Belushi's father Adam -- a Balkan immigrant but Albania rather than Greek -- owned in nearby Wheaton, Illinois). And, yes, they do make damn good cheeseburgers. But the drink is the opposite: No Pepsi, Coke.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What If There Had Been an ABA-NBA Finals?

Having done this for the AFL and the NFL, I move on to basketball.

1968: With the AFL-NFL World Championship Game (soon to be called the Super Bowl) already having been played twice, the Pittsburgh Pipers, newly-crowned champions of the American Basketball Association, challenge the National Basketball Association Champion Boston Celtics to a best-4-out-of-7 "World Series of Basketball."

Big mistake: Bill Russell and company shut down Connie Hawkins, and the Celtics take the Pipers in 4 straight.

1969: Rick Barry and the Oakland Oaks put up a better fight, but the Celtics still win the series in 5. Bill Russell retires a "World Champion."

1970: Flush with their glorious win over the Los Angeles Lakers for their first NBA title, the New York Knickerbockers get surprised by the ABA Champion Indiana Pacers. Captain and center Willis Reed missing the first 2 games doesn't help. But when the series goes out to Indianapolis, the Knicks take over, and win the series in Game 7 at a raucous Madison Square Garden.

1971: This one also goes to 7 games, but the Milwaukee Bucks of Oscar Robertson and Lew Alcindor (it will be another year before he changes his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) beat the Utah Stars, coached by former Celtic star Bill Sharman (who then moves on to the Lakers) and led on the court by Willie Wise and Zelmo Beaty.

1972: The Lakers, having gone on a 33-game winning streak (still the longest ever in North American major league sports) and won an NBA-record 69 games (since broken), sweep the Pacers in 4 straight.

1973: The Knicks make it 6 straight wins by the NBA over the ABA, defeating the Pacers in 6 games.

1974: Finally, the ABA wins, as Julius "Doctor J" Erving, and rookie "Super" John Williamson lead the Long Island-based New York Nets to a stunning victory over John Havlicek, Dave Cowens and the Boston Celtics. Dr. J's 42-point performance in Game 7 at the Boston Garden stuns the sports world, and talks of a merger between the two leagues can finally be taken seriously.

1975: The Louisville-based Kentucky Colonels make it 2 straight, beating the Oakland-based Golden State Warriors in 5 games.

1976: The Nets make it 3 in a row, beating the Celtics again, this time in 6 games.

The merger happens. The Knicks demand a huge sum from the Nets for "territorial indemnification." It's either sell Dr. J off, or not be let into the NBA even though they've won 2 of the last 3 ABA and World Championships. A compromise is struck: The Nets' owners will receive Gulf + Western stock, thus making them part-owners of the Knicks, Rangers, and the Madison Square Garden Corporation; while the Nets' players are dispersed. Erving goes to the Philadelphia 76ers, and the teams that enter the NBA from the ABA are the Colonels, the Pacers, the Denver Nuggets and the San Antonio Spurs.

2002: The Lakers beat the Pacers in the NBA Finals for the 2nd time in 3 years.

2003: The Spurs beat the Colonels in the NBA Finals. The Pistons win it all the next year against the Lakers, but in 2005 will fall to the Spurs again.

Meanwhile, Bruce Ratner is looking to buy an NBA team, but he can't get one. The Seattle SuperSonics go to Clay Bennett, while Ratner's bid to buy the New Orleans Hornets is scuttled because their city is determined to keep them as a rallying point after Hurricane Katrina.

Ratner wants to build a new arena in Brooklyn, but can't get anyone to play there. He comes close in 2008, but the Kentucky Colonels get a deal to build the KFC Yum! Center (seriously, that's the building's RL name, as Louisville-based Yum! Brands is the owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Belland Pizza Hut), and move out of old Freedom Hall.

Ratner appeals to the NBA to grant him an expansion franchise, which he would give the old name of the New York Nets, but so far, no luck.


I will conclude this series with the WHA and the NHL at a later date.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Nightmare Scenarios: If the Yankees Hadn't Re-Signed...

Nightmare Scenario 1: After the 1933 season, the Yankees decided that it was unseemly of Babe Ruth to keep asking for more money in the depth of the Depression. Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey was more than happy to send the Yankees $200,000 to bring the Babe back to his original big-league team. And the Babe was thrilled to be reunited with his fans back in Boston.

Not having the Babe is widely considered to be the reason the Yankees did not win the Pennant in 1934. The Red Sox didn't win it, the Detroit Tigers did. But Yawkey's money had bought several stars, including Philadelphia Athletics slugger Jimmie Foxx and pitcher Lefty Grove, and was about to go after Washington Senators shortstop and manager Joe Cronin, and give him the same jobs at Fenway Park.

The Babe suggested to Yawkey that he offer the Cleveland Indians a lot of money for Mel Harder, and the Chicago White Sox a lot of money for pitcher Ted Lyons. With a rotation of Grove, Harder, Lyons and Wes Ferrell -- and a quick medical checkup to heal an early-season leg injury for the Babe -- the Red Sox won the 1935 Pennant and World Series, their first since 1918. The Babe retired a World Champion.

(Note: The idea that the Babe was not washed-up at age 40 in 1935, but was simply hurt, and the Boston Braves ignored that possibility, was raised by Bill Jenkinson in his book The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs.)

The Yankees, who finished 3 games behind the Red Sox and 2 behind the Tigers, looked like idiots.

Fortunately, they had Joe DiMaggio coming up to join Lou Gehrig and Bill Dickey. Unfortunately, a knee injury that DiMaggio had picked up in the minors prevented him from becoming a big star, and the Yankee dynasty was over.

The Tigers finally won their first World Series in 1945. The Red Sox won it the next year, although they didn't win another for 40 years.

On May 17, 1975, Hank Aaron hit his 738th career home run, breaking Ruth's career record.

On April 15, 1976, Meadowlands Stadium opened in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Yankees and the NFL's New York Giants -- the only team to win a World Championship while playing home games at Yankee Stadium between 1933 and its closing after the 1975 season -- both played there until 1997. So did the NFL's New York Jets from 1984 to 1997.

In 1986, Julia Ruth Stevens, the Babe's daughter, threw out the first ball before Game 3 of the World Series. The Sox won, and completed the sweep of the New York Mets the next day.

In 1991, Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News wrote a book about the Yankees and their inability to win a World Series since 1932. He called it The Curse of the Bambino.

In 1998, Trump Stadium opened over the West Side Rail Yards in Manhattan, west of Madison Square Garden. The Yankees and Jets both moved in. In 2010, Giants Stadium opened, next-door to the former Meadowlands Stadium, which has been demolished.

The Mets lost the 2000 World Series to the Seattle Mariners, and have not won a World Series since their 1969 "miracle."

Although the Yankees have won Pennants in 1943, 1957, 1958, 1963 and 1981, they still haven't won the World Series since the Babe called his shot in 1932.


Nightmare Scenario 2: After the 1946 season, the Yankees decided that Joe DiMaggio hadn't come back from World War II sufficiently strong. So general manager Larry MacPhail, drinking with Yawkey, agreed on a trade: DiMaggio, whose righthanded bat was a good fit for Fenway Park and its close left-field wall (not yet known as the Green Monster because the advertising signs wouldn't come down, revealing the green underneath, until the next season), for Ted Williams, whose lefthanded bat was a good fit for Yankee Stadium and its right-field "short porch."

The next morning, Yawkey sobered up, and decided that Williams was better than DiMaggio, and demanded the Yankees throw in another player. A funny-looking Italian outfielder who could also catch.

(In the history that we know, this was the dealbreaker. Here, it's not.)

MacPhail and co-owners Dan Topping and Del Webb so wanted to get rid of DiMaggio, seemingly washed-up at age 32, and his salary demands that they threw in Larry Berra (not yet widely known as Yogi) and got Williams.

Big mistake. Williams didn't get along with the New York press any more than he did the Boston press. He lost a lot of hits in Yankee Stadium's spacious center field. Meanwhile, DiMaggio recovered his stroke, and won the Triple Crown, the MVP, and the World Series with the Red Sox in 1947 and 1949, and won the Series in 1948, 1950 and 1951 as well, before hanging 'em up.

Williams clashed with Yankee manager Casey Stengel too often, and when the Marine Corps called Ted back for the Korean War, the Yankee organization, from management to players, was a bit relieved. They were all too happy to give Williams' Number 9 to that kid from Oklahoma, who until now had been wearing DiMaggio's Number 5.

That was Mickey Mantle. He helped the Yankees win World Series in 1956, '58, '61 and '62, before injuries and alcohol slowed him down. The Yankees haven't won the Series since the Cuban Missile Crisis -- not at Yankee Stadium (1963-75), not at Meadowlands Stadium (1976-97), not at Trump Stadium (1998-present).


Nightmare Scenario 3: After his Triple Crown season of 1956, Mantle asked for a doubling of his salary from $32,500 to $65,000. "We don't double salaries," said Yankee GM George Weiss. "I want $65,000," said Mantle. "You'll take what we give you, or we'll trade you to the Cleveland Indians," said Weiss. Mantle went over Weiss' head to co-owner Topping.

(In the history that we know, Mantle got his $65,000.)

Topping and Webb stood by Weiss, and the Yankees sent Mantle to the Indians for their amazing young lefthander, Queens native Herb Score.

On May 7, 1957, Indian 3rd baseman Al Smith hit a line drive right back at Score. The accident had devastating consequences. Bones in his face were broken. His vision was affected. He was never the same pitcher again.

(In the history that we know, Score stayed with the Indians, despite Yawkey offering the Indians $1 million, and the franchise, so often in financial trouble over the next 30 years, turned it down. And it was the Yankees' 3rd baseman, Gil McDougald, who hit the liner that curtailed Score's career.)

Mantle didn't like hitting in Cleveland's cavernous Municipal Stadium, but the Indians were willing to pay him the $65,000. They won the Pennant in 1957 and the World Series in 1958 and 1959.

Just before the 1960 season, Indian GM Frank Lane traded Rocky Colavito to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. Mantle complained about this to the press. Shortly thereafter, Mantle was traded too, for Charlie Maxwell and Steve Bilko.

Pennants were won by the Baltimore Orioles in 1960 (lost the World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates), Mantle and the Tigers in 1961 (Mickey broke Ruth's record with 61 home runs while Roger Maris hit 54 for the Yankees, and the Tigers beat the Cincinnati Reds), Mantle and the Tigers again in 1962 (lost to the San Francisco Giants), the Yankees in 1963 (lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers), and the White Sox in 1964 (their first Pennant since the Black Sox scandal of 1919, but lost the Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, and wouldn't win another Series until 2005).

The Yankees still haven't won a Pennant since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy -- not the strangest thing about that assassination, not even connected to it, but interesting nonetheless.


Now, let's reverse the nightmare scenario. What if the Yankees HAD re-signed... Reggie Jackson after 1981?

Although Reggie had his last great season in 1982, it probably wouldn't have helped, as the Yankees were too far back. In 1983, Reggie had his lowest batting average and home run and RBI totals for a full season, and George Steinbrenner would have thought he'd made a mistake to re-sign Reggie. A better season in 1984 probably doesn't derail the Tiger express that year. But in 1985 and 1986, Reggie's still-there power could have made the difference between winning the AL East and not.

In 1985, the Yankees sweep a 3-game series from the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto on the final weekend of the regular season. Then, for the 4th time in 5 tries, they beat the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. And I really wish those Cardinal fans would shut up about Don Denkinger's call: They still needed just 3 more outs, and could have gotten them, and there was still a Game 7. "Best baseball town in America"? Not St. Louis, not as long as they whine about Denkinger costing them the 1985 World Series. Yankees win.

In 1986, well, let's just say that Dave Righetti was not Bob Stanley, and Don Mattingly was not Bill Buckner. First Subway Series since 1956, and Yankees win.

In 1987, Reggie plays one more year, but it's not enough for the Yanks to edge the Tigers for the AL East title.


The Yankees didn't re-sign Tino Martinez after the 2001 season, getting Jason Giambi instead.

We can't be sure that the Bamtino would've hit in the regular season or the postseason better than the Giambino. Especially since Giambi's 2 homers gave the Yanks a chance to come back in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. But all Tino would've needed was one RBI more than Giambi got in Game 4 or Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS, and we'd still be talking about the "real" Curse of the Bambino.

I've already done one of these examining what might have happened if Andy Pettitte had been re-signed after 2003. His injury in 2004 would have caused him to miss the postseason for the Yankees every bit as much as for the Astros in real life, so that's not a help.

The Yankees didn't re-sign either Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui after the 2009 season. Would either of them have been better, in the regular season or the postseason, than Curtis Granderson (with Damon staying in left and Brett Gardner staying in center) or Marcus Thames (Matsui as the usual DH)?

Both had their moments, and Granderson was one of only 2 Yankees to hit well in the 2010 ALCS, along with Robinson Cano. But Thames was horrid in that series, with a .301. That's not a batting, on-base or slugging average, that's his OPS, on-base PLUS slugging. He reached base in just 3 out of 17 plate appearances. Either Damon or Matsui, batting in place of Thames, might have meant a Pennant, or more.


Now, let me bring you Nightmare Scenario 4:

It's the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 7 of the 2011 American League Championship Series. The home crowd is going wild. Their team is down 4-3 with 2 outs. But the tying run is on 2nd, and the winning run is on 1st.

The batter is Derek Jeter.

The opposing team's closer looks in. He fires. Jeter swings.

He drives the ball into the left-center gap. The tying run scores easily. Here comes the winning run. Here's the throw from left field, the shortstop takes it as the cutoff man, he throws to the plate...

A good throw would have gotten the runner. Instead, the shortstop screws it up. Ballgame over. Derek Jeter has led his team to the American League Pennant.

Final score, Angels 5, Yankees 4.

Mariano Rivera sits in the visitors' clubhouse at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, head down, seriously considering retirement. Yankee Fans are already inundating message boards with suggestions that the Yankees shouldn't have given Mo a big new contract a year earlier, and that he can't be trusted to close out the big games anymore.

There's also some mention on said boards of how Alex Rodriguez went 2-for-28 with just 1 RBI, a 450-foot homer in Game 5 after the Yankees were already down 8-2 following another spit-the-bit performance by A.J. Burnett.

In the Angels' clubhouse, team owner Arte Moreno is so glad he decided to show Jeter the money... money he was willing to spend, and the Steinbrenner brothers and Brian Cashman were not.

In the World Series, Jeter spends the first 5 games flailing away at the plate. In the Daily News, Lupica writes in his column that the Steinbrenners were right after all.

Then in Game 6, Jeter hits a single and a double for 3 RBIs, and the Angels finish off the Reds. Over the next 3 days, first Yankee manager Joe Girardi and then Reds manager Dusty Baker are fired.

The Yankees pry Don Mattingly away from the Dodgers to be their 2012 manager. He lasts until 2015, and is fired after 3 seasons with no Playoff berths. Yankee Fans finally realize there is one true curse in baseball: The Curse of Donnie Regular Season Baseball. No team with Don Mattingly in uniform, as player, coach or manager ever wins a Pennant.

Derek Jeter retires after the 2016 season, at age 42, with 3,786 hits, 3rd all-time, and 8 World Championships to his credit: 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

The Mets celebrate the 50th Anniversary of their 1969 Miracle by winning the 2019 National League Pennant. But they lose the World Series to the Utah Buzz, in only their 5th season since moving to Salt Lake City following their inability to get a new ballpark to replace the inadequate dome they'd played in as the Tampa Bay Rays. Don't ask Met fans about the play that caused them to lose Game 7 in 2019: It's still too painful. Terry Collins last 2 more years as manager before he is fired.

Jeter is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020. His plaque shows him wearing a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim cap.

The Yankees still haven't won a World Series since 2009, or made the Playoffs since 2011.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes a book titled The Curse of Derek Jeter: How the Yankees Threw It All Away.

It will be another few years before a dying Reggie Jackson asks Hal Steinbrenner to make peace with Jeter, to bring him back for Old-Timers' Day, to retire his Number 2, and to give him his Monument Park plaque. Too stubborn, Hal refuses to do so.

In 2036, Alex Rodriguez is snubbed by the Baseball Writers' Association of America for the 15th and final time. Neither he, nor Barry Bonds, nor Mark McGwire, nor Sammy Sosa, nor Gary Sheffield, nor Roger Clemens have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this way. Nor has Pete Rose, still on the permanently ineligible list, well after his death.

In 2040, Alex Rodriguez dies of a stroke. He is only 64 years old.

Shortly thereafter, Derek Jeter, about to turn 66, decides it's all silly, and patches things up with Yankee management. On Opening Day, his Number 2 is retired, he is given his Plaque, and he tells the fans, "It's good to be home." Before Game 1 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium II, Jeter and Rivera throw out ceremonial first balls to Natasha and Ella Rodriguez, A-Rod's daughters. The Yankees win the Series in 6 games, over the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Giants.

(Note: There was a TV show a few years back called Space Precinct, which predicted exactly this matchup for the 2040 World Series: Yankees vs. Yomiuri Giants. I figure that Hideki Matsui, formerly of both teams, will throw out the first ball before one of the games at the Tokyo Dome.)

Jeter, like Yogi Berra and Ted Williams did before him, uses his influence with the Commissioner of Baseball and the Hall of Fame's Committee on Veterans. In 2041, shortly before what would have been Pete Rose's 100th birthday had he lived, Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson are removed from the ineligible list, and they are elected to the Hall of Fame. So are A-Rod, Clemens and Bonds, with the reasoning that, in spite of the criminal convictions against the latter two, they would have made it to the Hall even if they hadn't used steroids. McGwire, Sosa and Sheffield remain on the outside looking in.

In 2042, an author writes a book of sports what-ifs, with one of the chapters being, "What if the Yankees had re-signed Derek Jeter in 2010?"


Wouldn't that be a great question to NOT have to ask?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What If There Were Earlier Super Bowls?

January 1, 1961: The Houston Oilers defeat the Los Angeles Chargers, 24-16 at Jeppesen Stadium in Houston (now known as Robertson Stadium), in the first-ever American Football League Championship Game.

January 2, 1961: Oilers owner Bud Adams calls a press conference and proclaims his team "the world champions of professional football."

"Since the Philadelphia Eagles won't play us," Adams says of the team that won the NFL Championship 2 weeks ago, by beating the Green Bay Packers, 17-13 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, "we win the championship of the world by forfeit."

January 3, 1961: NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle calls a meeting of team owners, to debate the challenge by Adams. Aside from Walter Wolfner of the St. Louis Cardinals and George Preston Marshall of the Washington Redskins, the owners all vote to accept the challenge of the AFL. Vince Lombardi, representing the stockholders of the Packers, made a speech attesting to the AFL's challenge to the NFL's pride, suggesting that refusing the challenge would amount to cowardice.

January 4, 1961: The details are hammered out. The Eagles and Oilers will play at a neutral site likely to have good weather, the Orange Bowl in Miami. To give each team more time to prepare, the game will be held not the next Sunday, but the one after. And a team of collegiate referees, beholden to neither league, will officiate.

January 15, 1961: The AFL-NFL World Championship Game is played. The Oilers take to the air, with George Blanda throwing 2 first-half touchdown passes to Charlie Hennigan. But late in the half, Eagle linebacker Chuck Bednarik sacks Blanda, injuring him. Backup quarterback Jacky Lee is not up to the task, and Norm Van Brocklin's pass to Timmy Brown in the 3rd quarter makes the difference. The Eagles win, 21-14, and "prove" the NFL's superiority.

January 7, 1962: The 2nd World Championship Game is no contest. The Packers slaughter the Oilers, 45-7 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.

January 6, 1963: Again, the NFL Champions beat the AFL Champions. The Packers pound the Dallas Texans, 37-14.

January 12, 1964: Make it 4-0. It goes to overtime at the Orange Bowl, but the Chicago Bears beat the San Diego Chargers, 27-21 on a touchdown run by Willie Galimore.

July 27, 1964: Galimore attends a banquet in his honor in Chicago. He is not killed in a car accident. Neither is his teammate, Bo Farrington.

January 2, 1965: Finally, the AFL Champions are World Champions. The Buffalo Bills defeat the Cleveland Browns, 28-10 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

January 9, 1966: "We have restored order to the football universe," says Packer coach Vince Lombardi. Packers 34, Bills 10.

June 8, 1966: The full merger between the two leagues is finally approved. The 1966 season will feature exhibition games between AFL and NFL teams, a common draft will occur for the first time in 1967, and full regular-season games will be played starting in 1970.

It is not until 1969 that the World Championship Game begins to be called the "Super Bowl." Joe Namath says, "We're going to win, I guarantee it," and he backs it up, quarterbacking the New York Jets to a 16-14 win over the Baltimore Colts at the Orange Bowl in Super Bowl IX. An injured Johnny Unitas had come off the bench to relieve the man who had filled in for him all season, Earl Morrall, and Gale Sayers scored a touchdown with 3 minutes remaining. But the Jets recovered the ensuing onside kick, and held on to win. It was one of the greatest games of all time.

(Sayers was drafted by the Colts, because the Bears didn't need him. They already had Willie Galimore, alive and well.)

In 1979, Willie Galimore, who became the 2nd man (after Jim Brown) to rush for 10,000 yards in a career, is elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Gale Sayers, the 3rd man to reach the milestone, is elected in 1982.

Super Bowls won:

Philadelphia Eagles: I (retroactively named, of course).
Green Bay Packers: II, III, VI, VII, VIII, XXXVII.
Chicago Bears: IV, XXVI.
Buffalo Bills: V.
New York Jets: IX.
Kansas City Chiefs: X.
Colts: XI (Baltimore), XLVII (Indianapolis).
Miami Dolphins: XIII, XIV.
Pittsburgh Steelers: XV, XVI, XIX, XX, XLVI, XLIX.
Raiders: XVII, XXI (Oakland), XXIV (Raiders).
San Francisco 49ers: XXII, XXV, XXIX, XXX, XXXV.
Washington Redskins: XXIII, XXVII, XXXII.
New York Giants: XXVII, XXXI, XLVIII.
Denver Broncos: XXXVIII, XXXIX.
St. Louis Rams: XL.
Baltimore Ravens: XLI.
New England Patriots: XLII, XLIV, XLV.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: XLIII.
New Orleans Saints: L.

(I'll do these for the ABA & NBA, and WHA & NHL sometime.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What if the Red Sox Had Won the Bucky Dent Game?

Well, for starters, it wouldn't be remembered as the Bucky Dent Game.

October 2, 1978: Carl Yastrzemski doubles off the Wall, and Rick Burleson and Jerry Remy score. Final score: Boston Red Sox 6, New York Yankees 5.

Do the Red Sox win the Pennant against the Kansas City Royals? Unlikely: If Sox manager Don Zimmer gave his starters 3 days' rest, Dennis Eckersley wouldn't have been available until Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, and Luis Tiant and Mike Torrez not until Game 3 (when Tiant would have had 4 days'). Who starts Game 1? Bob Stanley started a couple of games down the stretch, but relieved in the AL East Playoff, and wouldn't have been available for Game 1.

Would Zim have swallowed his pride and handed the ball to Bill Lee, for whom so many clamored going into the "Boston Massacre" series of September 7-10? As he explained years later, the Spaceman didn't have good stuff most of the year. He wasn't benched because he was insubordinate, he was benched because he was pitching lousy.

But Zim may not have had a choice. So Lee takes the mound at Royals (now Kauffman) Stadium in Game 1, and the Royals smack him around as Dennis Leonard pitches strong. Game 2 would be Eck against Larry Gura, and in RL, that was the only game the Royals won in the series; but the Yankees still scored 4 runs on 12 hits, and it was only because the Royals scored 10 on 16 that they won. Maybe Eck outpitches Gura, and the series is tied going to Fenway. Game 3, George Brett won't have that short right field porch like he had at Yankee Stadium, and Luis Tiant might mix him up; but are the Sox going to hit that nasty lefthander Paul Splittorff? I doubt it. 2-1 Royals. Game 4 is Torrez against Leonard, and the Royals win their first Pennant 2 years early.

For all their courage in overcoming September 1978, and October 2, the Red Sox do not win the Pennant.

I suspect the Royals would have beaten the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. If Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda was upset by Reggie Jackson's "sacrifice thigh" in RL-Game 4, how would he have felt about Brett punching Ron Cey at third base, or Hal McRae kicking Davey Lopes out into center field? The Royals win their first World Series 7 years early. Maybe this gives them the boost of confidence they need in 1980 to beat the Phillies. Suddenly, as 3-time World Champions, their history looks a bit better.

That is a crushing blow for the Phillies, not just the last of the "Original 16" to win one (as they were in RL), but perhaps they still haven't won one. Maybe their fans, already turned off by 1964 and 1977, are so fed up that they abandon the team. Citizens Bank Park is not approved. They remain stuck at Veterans Stadium. And maybe, just maybe, the Phillies are moved. Where? Maybe they go down Interstate 95 to D.C., and they, rather than the Montreal Expos, become the Washington Nationals.

What happens to the Expos? Hard to say: There are other metro areas that are looking to lure a team, including Charlotte, Nashville, Salt Lake City, and Portland, Oregon. Most likely Charlotte: They can expand the current Triple-A ballpark in Fort Mill, South Carolina to 30,000 or so seats as a stopgap until they build a new one downtown. (Remember, in TTL, the funding might already be there before the September 2008 stock-market crash.)

The Red Sox, one of the AL's strongest teams from 1972 to 1979, were pretty much broken up after 1980 anyway, so their history doesn't deviate much. Or does it? Maybe without that 1978 choke on their record, they don't have that mentality, and they beat the Mets to win the 1986 World Series. And we're talking about the Mets not winning it all since the Miracle of '69, and the Curse of Joe Foy.

Which means the Sox might also win it all in 2003, as well as in 2004 and 2007. Or... do they? Stay tuned.

And the Yankees? Probably very little changes, at least in the short term. George Steinbrenner has a fit, but knew Bob Lemon from his days in Cleveland, and probably doesn't fire him on the spot. But if TTL-1979 turns out like RL-1979 does, then history reasserts itself, and the Yankees don't win for years, and we're talking about no title since 1977, and just the one since 1962, and either the Curse of Mike Torrez (if you want to emphasize '77) or the Curse of Topping & Webb or the Curse of Mel Allen (if you want to emphasize '62).

Maybe Steinbrenner goes too far, and he does something worse than he did in 1990, and gets banned for life, and is forced to sell the team. To whom? My big fear back then was that the only guy who could have bought the Yankees would be Donald Trump, and that, sometime in the 1990s, the old Yankee Stadium would be gone, and they'd be playing in Trump Stadium, an incredibly tacky ballpark looking nothing like the old Stadium or a Camden Yards-style retropark. And maybe, after not winning for a few years, and needing cash (he did lose a billion or so dollars at one point), Trump sells the Yankees to Charles Dolan, and his son James screws them up the way he's screwed up the Knicks and Rangers.

Imagine it:

* Wade Boggs, Tim Raines, Cecil Fielder, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia really don't want to go to that circus, and each goes to a different team, and each retires without a World Series ring.

* Derek Jeter is drafted not by the Yankees in 1992, but by the team that had the next pick: The San Francisco Giants. They win the World Series in 1997 (over the Cleveland Indians), 2000 (over the Seattle Mariners), 2002 (over the Anaheim Angels), 2003 (over the Red Sox) and 2010 (over the Texas Rangers).

* Mariano Rivera lands with some team that doesn't know how to handle him, and by 2010 is long forgotten.

* The Atlanta Braves really do become the Team of the '90s, winning the World Series in 1995 (over the Indians), 1996 (over the Baltimore Orioles) and 1999 (over the Red Sox).

* The Florida Marlins don't win the World Series in either 1997 or 2003, and they move out of the Miami suburbs. Where? Maybe up the Florida coast to Orlando, allowing them to keep the name.

* The Cleveland Indians win the 1998 World Series, beating the San Diego Padres for their first title in 50 years.

* The Mets lose to the Giants in the 2000 NLCS, but from 1984 onward, they remain the most popular team in New York, even though they haven't won the World Series since 1969.

* The Seattle Mariners win their first Pennant in 2000, but lose the World Series to the Giants.

* The Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Oakland Athletics in the 2001 World Series, remembered throughout history as the Steroid Series after Curt Schilling, Luis Gonzalez and Matt Williams of Arizona; and Jason and Jeremy Giambi of Oakland are all outed by the Mitchell Report.

* The Anaheim Angels lose the 2002 World Series to the Giants, and are still without a World Championship, and the Curse of the Cowboy (Gene Autry) lives.

* The Chicago Cubs lose to the Giants in the 2003 NLCS, as Giant shortstop Derek Jeter's fly ball to left field is prevented from being caught by Moises Alou due to the hands of Steve Bartman.

* Aaron Boone retires without ever hitting a home run that anybody remembers. The Red Sox beat the Yankees to win the 2003 AL Pennant. But they lose the World Series to the Giants.

* The Red Sox beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS... in 5 games. They still beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

* No change for 2005 and 2006: The Chicago White Sox still beat the Houston Astros in '05, and the Cardinals still beat the Detroit Tigers in '06.

* Red Sox reliever Jonathan Papelbon loses Game 2 of the 2007 American League Division Series due to a swarm of midges that hits Jacobs Field, and the Indians go on to win the Pennant, and beat the Colorado Rockies in the World Series.

* The Washington Nationals (RL's Phillies) close their first season at Nationals Park by beating the Tampa Bay Rays win the 2008 World Series, the first World Championship for a Washington baseball team in 84 years. They make it back-to-back titles by beating the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009.

* No change in the 2010 World Series: Giants over Texas Rangers.

* Rich "Goose" Gossage, never having won a World Series ring, is never elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Reggie Jackson is, but has an Oakland A's cap on his plaque. Frank White joins his Royal teammate George Brett in the Hall, their manager Whitey Herzog (who went on to manage the Cardinals) gets in a few years sooner, and Edgar Martinez is elected for the Mariners (as he has not yet been in RL). Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton of the Phillies still make the Hall of Fame, but, not having won a World Series, neither gets his number retired by the team.

* Joe Torre is remembered as a really good player, a fair manager, and an okay broadcaster, but never manages the Yankees, and is not a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame.

* Davey Johnson, however, having managed a World Championship with the Mets in 1986 and a Pennant with the Orioles in 1996, is elected to the Hall of Fame. So is 1960s & '70s Orioles and '80s Mets general manager Frank Cashen. So is Keith Hernandez, and Gary Carter gets in a little sooner, even though the '80s Mets aren't directly helped by any of this, except maybe due to the perception that, since 1984, they have unequivocally been New York's favorite baseball team.

* George Steinbrenner is remembered as a quirky fluke of baseball history, much like his 1970s contemporaries Charlie Finley and Bill Veeck -- but not Ted Turner, who had 3 rings, one less than George, Charlie O and Sportshirt Bill combined.

So if the Red Sox had won the Boston Tie Party on October 2, 1978, it would have been a very different world.

A world in which the Yankees have "only" 21 titles, and just one in the last 48 years.

This is one of the few times when I like the real world better.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What If the Phillies Had Won the 1964 Pennant? Part II

Since the Cardinals actually did beat the Yankees in the 1964 World Series, the Phillies could also have done it. So, if you've already read Part I, change Game 5 to an NL victory, which it was in RL, and have the Phils win Game 7 as Chris Short outduels Mel Stottlemyre...

Saturday, October 17, 1964, was the greatest day in Philadelphia since the liberation from British rule during the Revolution. The Phillies had a parade down Broad Street, from City Hall to Municipal Stadium, soon to be renamed John F. Kennedy Stadium. The place was jammed, 105,000 strong, as the Phils celebrated their first World Championship in their 82 seasons of existence.

Mayor Jim Tate and Governor Bill Scranton spoke, and announced that, at this same complex, where construction would soon begin on the new arena for the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers -- what became The Spectrum -- a new stadium would be built, for the Phillies and the Eagles. Opening Day was expected to be in April 1967.

For 1965, the Phillies obtained first baseman Dick Stuart from the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Dennis Bennett, and Alex Johnson became the new left fielder.

This upset Frank "Big Donkey" Thomas, and he mopes through much of the season. On July 9, before a game, Thomas swung a bat at Richie Allen. Emboldened by his performance in the 1964 season and World Series, Allen defied an order not to talk to the press about it, but managed to defuse the situation: "Frank's not a bad guy," he said, "He's just going through a rough patch. I forgive him." For this reason, Thomas was not released, as many thought he would be.

With Jim Bunning, Chris Short and Ray Culp providing good pitching, and the memory of the '64 title still close, the Phillies made a good run in 1965, but finished 3rd behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, 5 games out of 1st. They got off to a good start in 1966, but got a wakeup call on May 8, as the Giants traded first baseman Orlando Cepeda to the Cardinals for pitcher Ray Sadecki.

Not knowing whether this trade would benefit the Giants or the Cards, or both, Phils executive Robert Ruliph Morgan Carpenter III -- "Ruly" -- told his father Bob that the Phils needed to make a move, too. So Bob found a team that needed Carpenter money, and had someone to part with. On June 15, 1966, the Phillies traded Frank Thomas and $50,000 to the perennially cash-poor Cleveland Indians for sensational lefthanded pitcher Sam McDowell.

That did the trick. The Dodgers had Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, and the Giants had Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry. But with Bunning, Short and McDowell, the Phils had 3 aces, and Larry Jackson developed into a strong 4th starter. The Phillies won the Pennant, their 2nd in 3 years -- only the 4th in team history. However, they lost the World Series in 5 games to the Baltimore Orioles -- formerly the St. Louis Browns, and with the Phils winning it all in '64, the last of the "Original Sixteen" franchises to have not won a World Series. Now they had.

Game 2 of the World Series, on October 6, 1966, a 6-0 Phils loss to the Orioles, was the last baseball game played at Connie Mack Stadium, formerly Shibe Park, home to the Athletics from 1909 to 1954 and the Phillies from 1938 to 1966. The last regular-season game, on October 2, 1966, was a Pennant-clincher, a 7-6 win over the Dodgers, attended by all sorts of Phillies greats from Dave Bancroft (from the 1915 Pennant winners) to Richie Ashburn (from the 1950 Whiz Kids, now a Phils broadcaster, he threw out the first ball).

On April 14, 1967, Veterans Stadium opened. The Phils beat the New York Mets, 5-1, in front of 56,371 fans. No longer having to park in the North Philadelphia ghetto, fans took to the South Philadelphia concrete palace immediately. But the Phils were already in a bit of a decline. After the 1971 season, almost no one from the '64 and '66 Pennants was left. Even Dick Allen -- for a while, he was asking people not to call him "Richie" anymore -- was gone, traded to the Chicago White Sox. Many believe his home runs in his 1972 Most Valuable Player season saved that franchise.

Dick fell out with White Sox management, though, and in 1975 returned to the Phillies. It was a new team, led by Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Dave Cash and Steve Carlton. Now a first baseman, Dick pounded Cincinnati Reds pitching in the Playoffs, and the Phillies won the 1976 Pennant. On October 23, 1976, Tug McGraw struck out Oscar Gamble for the final out of Game 6, and the Phillies won their 2nd World Series. They had now played the Yankees in 3 World Series, winning the last 2.

The Phils lost the 1977 and '78 NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and faltered in '79, but in a final burst of power from the 38-year-old Allen, swept the Houston Astros in 3 straight in the 1980 NLCS, and took the Kansas City Royals in 6 games for their 3rd title. Allen retired, and the Phils managed to take one of the split-season spots in the 1981 Playoffs, made a run in 1982, and won the Pennant in 1983 before losing another World Series to the Orioles.

In 1989, Schmidt retired, and also gave the induction speech for Allen at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Between his own 548 and Allen's 464, that was over a thousand home runs. In the next 5 years, the Phils would also see Bunning, McDowell, Schmidt, Carlton and Ashburn elected.

The Phillies renewed their legacy in the 1993 World Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, particularly in a wild, rainy Game 4 at the Vet. They trailed 3-0, led 6-3, trailed 7-6, led 12-7, led 14-9, and finally held off a furious Jays rally to win 14-13. Just as the Phillies had beaten Mel Stottlemyre twice in the 1964 Series, now they had beaten his son, Todd Stottlemyre. Curt Schilling pitched a shutout in Game 5, and in Game 6 in Toronto, Mitch Williams came in for the bottom of the 9th, struck out Rickey Henderson, got Devon White to fly out, and, with the dangerous Joe Carter waiting on deck, got Paul Molitor to ground out to 2nd baseman Mickey Morandini, and the Phils won, 6-5, to take their 4th World Championship.

Of course, the Phils had to wait until 2008 to make it 5. And in 2009, the Yankees finally evened things up against them. And in 2010, the Phils lost the NLCS to the Giants.

Still, 5 World Championships (1964, 1976, 1980, 1993 and 2008), and 10 Pennants (1915, '50, '64, '66, '76, '80, '83, '93, 2008 and '09) is more than most teams have.

Something to think about as you pose for a photograph between the statues of Dick Allen and Mike Schmidt outside Citizens Bank Park, that glorious temple of baseball that opened in 1999.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What if the Phillies Had Won the 1964 Pennant? Part I

The San Francisco Giants beat the Philadelphia Phillies last night, to take the 2010 National League Pennant.

For much of 1964, it seemed like the Pennant -- the League having no Divisional play at the time -- would come down to either the Phils or the Jints. But the Giants tailed off... and then, at the same time, with the Phils up by 6 1/2 games with 12 to go, the Phils lost 10 straight, the Cincinnati Reds won 9 of 10, and the St. Louis Cardinals won 8 of 10.

Final standings: St. Louis, Philly and Cincinnati each 1 back, San Francisco 3 back, and the Milwaukee Braves 5 back. The closest race in NL history. (In 1908, the New York edition of the Giants finished in a tie with the Chicago Cubs, with the Pittsburgh Pirates just 1 back, before a replay gave the Cubs the Pennant. But that was a 3-way race; 1964 had 3 within 1, 4 within 3 and 5 within 5.)

Odd: In 1964, the Phillies won 92 games, yet finished out of the postseason and are viewed as one of the most massive failures in baseball history; in 1980, the Phillies won 91 yet games, yet won the World Series and were viewed, until the Phils began their current run of success in 2007, as the greatest team in franchise history.

I'm not going to compare great Philadelphia baseball teams; that's a post for Uncle Mike's Musings (see link to the right) at a later time. But it's worth pointing out that, despite the Phils' 1980 and 2008 World Championships, an entire generation still looks at 1964 as the defining season of their lifetime, a wound that nothing can ever heal.

In 1950, the Phils won the Pennant, but got swept in the World Series by the Yankees. It was their only real Pennant race between 1915 and 1964. But do the fans old enough to remember 1950, all of them now over age 65, kvetch over that Series loss, the way the fans whose defining year was '64, now roughly between the ages of 50 and 65, think of that one?


If the Phillies had won the 1964 National League Pennant, could they have beaten the Yankees in the World Series? Certainly, they could have. After all, the Cardinals did.

But would the Phillies have beaten the Yankees? That's another story entirely, and I'm going to try to tell it.

Here's how the TTL-1964 World Series likely would have happened, based on the RL-starting pitchers used by manager Gene Mauch down the stretch, the ones Yankee manager Yogi Berra used, and the RL-results:

Game 1 at Connie Mack Stadium, Philadelphia, October 7: Whitey Ford vs. Chris Short. This would have given Short 4 days' rest since his last outing, on October 2. Pitching ace Jim Bunning today would have put him on just 2 days' rest, and that chance was already taken too often. In RL, Ford was hurt, and had to leave the game in the 6th inning, and Al Downing came in, and the Cards hit him hard. The Cards won, 9-5. It's not hard to imagine the Phils still winning, and thus winning their first World Series game in 49 years -- and only their second WS game ever. Phillies 9, Yankees 5. Phils lead 1 game to 0.

Game 2 at Connie Mack Stadium, October 8: Mel Stottlemyre vs. Jim Bunning. This would have given Bunning 3 days' rest since the regular-season finale on October 4. In RL, this was Bob Gibson's 1st WS game, and he lost it. In fact, the Yanks got 8 runs on 12 hits, the majority of it off a rested Gibson. Bunning on 3? I don't think he stops the Yanks. Yankees 8, Phillies 3. Series tied, 1-1.

Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, New York, October 10: Jim Bouton vs. Art Mahaffey. It would have been Dennis Bennett's turn, but Mahaffey had a better record. Would Mahaffey have pitched better than Curt Simmons, the 1950 Whiz Kid who finally, in RL, won a Pennant with the '64 Cards? Probably not, Simmons allowed 1 run on 4 hits through 8. Card manager Johnny Keane brought in knuckleballing reliever Barney Schultz to pitch the 9th. Schultz threw one pitch. Mickey Mantle cranked it into the upper deck. Would Phils closer Jack Baldschun have done any better? Almost certainly not. Yankees 2, Phillies 1. Yanks lead 2 games to 1.

Game 4 at Yankee Stadium, October 11: Al Downing vs. Short. Downing had a shutout going into the 6th, but Ken Boyer -- the Cards' Captain and the brother of Yankee 3rd baseman Clete Boyer -- hit a grand slam on a slider that didn't properly slide. Would the Phillies' Captain have done that? Probably not: Johnny Callison, like Downing, was a lefty. But that doesn't mean that Richie Allen (not yet insisting on being called "Dick" instead) wouldn't have. Phillies 4, Yankees 3. Series tied, 2-2. So, already, this is the best season in Phillies' history: The only season in which they've won at least 2 World Series games, something they wouldn't do in RL until 1980.

Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, October 12: Stottlemyre vs. Bunning. In RL, Stottlemyre and Gibson battled it out, and Tom Tresh homered in the bottom of the 9th to send it to extra innings. But Yogi pulled Mel for Pete Mikkelsen, and in the top of the 10th, Tim McCarver (not yet a Phils hero) hit a 3-run homer. Keane stuck with Gibson, and the Cards won. Would the Phils' catcher have done what McCarver did? Clay Dalrymple? Seriously? A better question might be this: Would Bunning on 3 days' rest have been better on this day than Gibson on the same rest? In RL, Cardinals 5, Yankees 2. In TTL, I think this one is different. Yankees 3, Cardinals 2, in the regulation 9. Yanks lead series, 3 games to 2.

Game 6 at Connie Mack Stadium, October 14: Bouton vs. Mahaffey. In RL, Bouton, at age 25 already something of a flake but still with a great fastball and not yet the knuckleball-relying, 30-year-old marginal pitcher who wrote Ball Four, lived up to his "Bulldog" nickname, while Simmons didn't have his good stuff and only went 6 innings. If the RL-Phils only do even a little bit better than the TTL-Cards did, the Series is over. Yankees 8, Phillies 3. Yanks win Series, 4 games to 2.

In RL, Game 7 at the first Busch Stadium (formerly the last Sportsman's Park), on October 15: was Stottlemyre vs. Gibson, both on 2 days' rest. Despite a 9th-inning Yankee comeback attempt, the Cards won, 7-5, and took the Series. But the Phils come up, er, short (Chris Short would have started for them), and there is no Game 7.


No, there's no choke, no "Phlop." Blowing a 1-game-to-0 lead isn't horrible. The Yanks blew a 2-games-to-1 lead in RL, and haven't gotten criticized down through the years for it. Maybe the Mantle walkoff (not that we called such a home run that at the time) in Game 3 gets remembered as "one of those moments" that just sort of happen to some teams, like the Phillies. But in this case, the Phillies don't blow it. They just get beat.

And for those of you who say, "You're only saying that because you're a Yankee Fan," make your own suggestion of how the Phillies could have won. After all, the Yanks were without their best starter (Whitey Ford) and their starting shortstop (Tony Kubek), and they still came within 2 runs in Game 7.

It's true that the Yankees were aging, and that this was the last Pennant for Mantle, Berra, Whitey Ford, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Bobby Richardson and Kubek.

But the Phils... the reason they didn't win the Pennant in RL is that they weren't really all that good. Aside from right field (Callison), 3rd base (Allen), and left field (an aging but still strong Wes Covington), they didn't have a very strong lineup. Three regulars hit under .240: Catcher Dalrymple, 1st baseman John Hernstein (Frank "Big Donkey" Thomas, not to be confused with the later "Big Hurt," missed much of the season with an injury), and shortstop Bobby Wine (just .212). And aside from Bunning and Short, they didn't have a whole lot of pitching. Really, this was a 4-man team: Callison (who finished 2nd to Boyer for the MVP), Allen (Rookie of the Year), Bunning (who might've won the Cy Young if each League then gave one out, Dean Chance of the Angels won it instead) and Short.

I don't know if the Cardinals, who actually did win the Pennant, were the best team in the NL. The Reds, the Giants, and even the Braves might have been better. Arguably, the Phils were only the 5th-most-talented team in the National League in 1964.

The shock isn't that they blew a sure Pennant, but that they were ever close to one.

Put it another way: If you could manage any Phillies team in a 7-game series, would you take 1964 over 1980? Would you take 1964 over 2008? Would you take 1964 over 1950? Would you take 1964 over 1993?

I wouldn't.

What I would do is tell the story of what might have happened if the Phillies had beaten the Yankees in the 1964 World Series. That's next. And if you're a Phillies fan, I think you're going to like it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What If the 1975 World Series Had Ended Differently?

I thought of this one this weekend, as the Yankees and Red Sox play a 4-game series at the new Yankee Stadium.

There are three ways to look at this, and they all involve Carlton Fisk.

First Scenario. In the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 3 of the 1975 World Series, the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds were tied, 3-3, and tied at 1 game apiece in the World Series. With César Gerónimo on base and nobody out, the Reds sent Ed Amrbrister up to bat, and he collided with Boston Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk while attempting to sacrifice bunt, leading to a wild throw by Fisk and his subsequent failure to get Gerónimo out. Home plate umpire Larry Barnett did not make the expected interference call on Armbrister, a decision which was harshly criticized after the Reds won the game 4-3.

Now, suppose Barnett had made the call that Sox fans have wanted for 35 years. The Red Sox might have gone on to win the game... then again, maybe not. We are talking about the Red Sox, after all. But let's suppose that they did.

Then, instead of trailing 3 games to 2, they lead by that margin going into Game 6, and instead of merely forcing a Game 7, Fisk's home run wins the World Series. Think of how many times we'd have seen the homer and his "Fenway Twist" then!

In which case, the Red Sox end their World Series drought at 57 years. Fisk becomes not just a New England icon but one of the gods of baseball. The Red Sox do not simply let him get away after the 1980 season, and he remains a Red Sock for life.

He never goes to the Chicago White Sox. This probably doesn't hurt them much, as their only postseason appearance with Fisk on the active roster was in 1983, and they won the AL West by 20 games, a huge margin, and then lost the ALCS to the Baltimore Orioles.

Fisk is still the Boston catcher during the 1986 World Series -- just 11 years after they won their last World Championship. He calms down Calvin Schiraldi, and the Red Sox win in 1986 as well. And the Mets still haven't won a World Series, ever, except for 1969, which, in TTL, is looking more and more like it really was a "Miracle."

So, by the time they face the Yankees in a postseason series for the first time, in 1999, the Red Sox have won 2 World Series in the last 81 years... but also 2 in the last 24 years, as many as the Yankees have in the same period.

There is no "Curse of the Bambino." If Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe writes a book about the history of the Red Sox (he still might), he won't have the Curse to use as a title. And there will be no idea of a hex the Yankees have over the Red Sox: Sox fans will still hate the Yankees for finishing ahead of them in 1977 and 1978, but it will be a rivalry between, roughly, equal combatants. The idea that "The Red Sox can't beat the Yankees" is treated as a relic of the pre-1967, pre-Impossible Dream era.

That doesn't mean the Sox beat the Yankees in the 1999 or 2003 ALCS. They were a greatly flawed team both times. In 2004, they had corrected most of their flaws, while the Yankees had developed new ones. And then, of course, there is the question of steroids, for both teams. But, to use Shaughnessy's phrase, the rivalry between the teams is NOT "like the rivalry between the hammer and the nail." And, without the "1918" chants and all the Curse references, Sox fans could have been nearly as arrogant before 2004 as they've been since, and this rivalry could have been even uglier.

Second Scenario. Maybe the Sox winning Game 3 in 1975 means they grab the momentum, and they win Games 4 and 5 in Cincinnati, too, and there never IS a Game 6 of the 1975 World Series! And Fisk doesn't hit that home run. No matter: We lose the most familiar highlight in baseball history, but because he was the catcher of the World Champion Red Sox, Fisk still becomes an icon.

But, without that Game 6, and that Game 7 which was also a great game, that World Series isn't as fondly remembered. As a result, the Reds' reputation as a team that can't win the big one -- they would have failed in the Series of 1961, '70, '72 and '75 by this point, and also had close-but-no-cigar Pennant finishes in 1956, '64 and '73 -- perhaps boils over, and maybe they don't win in 1976, either. Maybe the Yankees win that World Series, perhaps over the Reds, or maybe over the Philadelphia Phillies who beat the Reds in the '76 NLCS. Maybe instead of going 7-0 in the '76 postseason, the Reds don't even reach the World Series.

And maybe that leads to the Reds not having that Big Red Machine mystique. Maybe Johnny Bench is not remembered as a candidate for the title of the best catcher ever, or Joe Morgan one for second base. Maybe Tony Perez never makes the Hall of Fame.

Maybe, instead of Marge Schott buying the team in 1984 like she did, the Reds' failure leads to a drop in popularity which, combined with Cincinnati being one of the smallest markets in baseball, leads to the end of the Reds franchise, as it gets moved to, say, Denver. It could have happened: The Reds' GM at the time was Bob Howsam, the man who founded the Denver Broncos and turned the 17,000-seat minor-league ballpark Bears Stadium into the 76,000-seat football horseshoe Mile High Stadium.

Maybe they still win the World Series in 1990 (which would have been their first in 50 years, since the Ernie Lombardi and Bucky Walters Reds of 1940), but as the Denver Reds, or perhaps the Colorado Reds. Barry Larkin in the Rocky Mountains? Sounds weird, like Reggie Jackson in Kansas City, as would have happened if Charlie Finley hadn't moved the A's to Oakland. But such a scenario would not only have been possible, but plausible. Maybe not likely, as an attempt to convince the Reds to move to New York following the Dodgers' and Giants' 1957 skedaddle to California failed badly... but plausible.

One thing's for sure: In such a scenario, Miami and somebody other than Denver will get the NL's 1993 expansion teams, but that somebody won't be small Cincinnati. Maybe Washington, D.C., with Robert F. Kennedy Stadium already in place. And then, maybe the Montreal Expos still get moved, maybe they don't, but if they do, it won't be to Washington.

Maybe Pete Rose not only goes to the Phillies, as he did in RL, but stays there, and is better remembered with them. Maybe he becomes their manager, and, not in his hometown with so many of his enablers, he doesn't bet on baseball. Maybe he doesn't think he has people around him to help him get away with it. Maybe he's still a consultant in the Phils' front office to this day, as his 1980 manager Dallas Green is now. And, of course, Rose is in the Hall of Fame. And maybe Commissioner Bart Giamatti, not having to have Rose investigated, doesn't have a fatal heart attack, and remains in charge of baseball beyond 1994, and prevents a strike, and now we're getting into a much wider speculation.

Third Scenario. Having seen two halves of the same side, we now look at it from the other side of the coin. It's 12:34 AM on October 22, 1975. Game 6. Bottom of the 12th inning. Game tied 6-6. The Red Sox need to win to force a Game 7 and still have a chance at their first World Championship in 57 years, or else the Reds win their first in 35 years.

Fisk hits the ball. It goes down the left-field line. Fisk jumps, and waves, and jumps, and waves, and jumps, and waves...

Foul ball. Strike one. The at-bat continues, and Pat Darcy gets Fisk out. Because his team ultimately won the Series, Darcy has never faced the kind of mockery and anger that have fallen on Ralph Branca, Mitch Williams, and a few others. Now, there's no guarantee the Red Sox still don't win this game, but suppose Darcy gets the Sox out in the bottom of the 12th, and Reds score in the top of the 13th, and the Red Sox can't equalize or surpass. Game over, Reds 7, Red Sox 6, in 13, Reds win the Series in 6.

No Game 7. No Fisk heroics. No aura of how the '75 Sox came soooooooo clooooooose... We might still be waiting for Fisk to get into the Hall of Fame. In RL, even with the homer, he needed two tries to get in. Look how long it took another legendary catcher, Gary Carter, to get into the Hall of Fame, and he started the rally to beat the Sox in that other Game 6, in 1986. Also, Jim Rice, who had a great rookie season but was injured and couldn't play in the Series, might not be in the Hall yet, either. He only got in just last year, in his last year of eligibility before he'd have to wait for eligibility via the Veterans' Committee.

And, without the attention the '75 Series still gets in RL, the Red Sox don't become the baseball version of "America's Team." They're not these lovable nearly-winners-but-always-ultimately-losers. Maybe the failures of '67, '72, '74, '75, '77 and '78 lead a lot of people to give up on them.

Now, after the Impossible Dream season of 1967, there's never been any threat to move the Red Sox out of the Boston metropolitan area. But without the myth of the 1975 World Series, the romance of the Boston Red Sox is gone for people outside New England. The Red Sox don't get that kind of aura around them. Maybe the Chicago Cubs, who sort of have it, get a bigger one, and become that kind of team.

Maybe, as could well have happened by 1971 if the Red Sox hadn't won that 1967 Pennant, they get moved into a multipurpose stadium in Foxboro, to replace the home of the Patriots. Or maybe Gillette Stadium is built next door to the old Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium, as happened in RL, and then it's torn down to make way for a new Sox ballpark, and they move in, and in 2003, Fenway is demolished. Whether a new stadium, more comfortable, with different dimensions, helps or hurts the Sox in the David Ortiz era depends on a number of factors. But without that Fisk homer, I guarantee you that Fenway Park does not host a World Championship celebration on Opening Day 2005. The Sox may host one, but not at Fenway: The little green pinball machine in the Back Bay is gone.

And without all the fuss made over the '75 Red Sox, maybe the 1970s Reds get the credit they deserve. After all, in that span of 10 years, they reached 6 postseasons, just missing 2 others; won 4 Pennants and 2 World Championships (and losing another in Game 7). Much is made of the other teams to win in that decade: The Swingin' A's, the Bronx Zoo Yankees, the Pirate Family with Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell, and, of course, though they didn't win it all, the Yaz, Fisk, Lynn, Rice, Tiant, Lee Red Sox.

The Reds might have been the best of them all, but how often do they get discussed as one of the best teams ever? Aside from Sunday nights on ESPN, when Joe Morgan mentions them? Joe Posnanski's new book The Machine: The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds hasn't gotten nearly the attention of some other books about 1970s baseball that have come out the last few years. Maybe the Big Red Machine just wasn't that interesting. Or maybe people are just tired of hearing about Pete Rose, and, prior to 1989, whoever would have thought that could happen?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What if the White Sox Had Won the 1919 World Series?

September 24, 1919: The Chicago White Sox defeat the St. Louis Browns, 6-5 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, and clinch their second American League Pennant in the last three seasons.

They had won the World Series in 1917, defeating the New York Giants. This time, they will face the Cincinnati Reds, who have already clinched the National League Pennant.

White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey, previously a penny-pincher, remembers that he had once been a player himself, a very good first baseman who led the last Cincinnati Pennant winner, in the American Association in 1882. He has a change of heart and tells his players that, if they win the World Series, he will pay them a sum matching their winning shares.

(Point of Divergence, or POD: This means they don't have to accept the offer from the gamblers to "throw" the Series.)

The 1919 World Series:

Game 1, October 1: The Reds win, defeating the White Sox, 4-1 at Redland Field (later to be renamed Crosley Field). White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte tires in the seventh inning, with the score tied 1-1, and the White Sox can't come back.

Game 2, October 2: The White Sox win, 2-1. Claude "Lefty" Williams gets out of a fourth-inning bases-loaded jam, and the Series goes to Chicago tied.

Game 3, October 3: The White Sox win, 3-0 at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Dickie Kerr, only 5-foot-7, shuts out the potent Reds lineup which features Edd Roush, Jake Daubert and Henry "Heinie" Groh. The Sox now lead, 2 games to 1.

Game 4, October 4: The Reds tie the World Series back up, winning by a 2-0 score at Comiskey Park. White Sox stars Eddie Collins, Shoeless Joe Jackson and George "Buck" Weaver can't get a run across against Jimmy Ring, who shuts the Pale Hose out.

Game 5, October 6: Horace "Hod" Eller outduels Williams, and the Reds scratch out a 1-0 victory over the White Sox at Comiskey Park. The Reds now lead 3 games to 2, but the Sox aren't desperate yet, as the Series is a best 5-out-of-9 this year. But they need to win Game 6 in Cincinnati.

Game 6, October 7: The White Sox win, 4-0, and tie up the World Series at Redland Field. Jackson, Weaver and Oscar "Happy" Felsch get 7 hits between them, and great fielding plays by Felsch and Arnold "Swede" Risberg help out Kerr, who shuts out the Reds for his second win of the Series.

Game 7, October 8: Eddie Cicotte regains his form, and the White Sox beat the Reds, 4-1 in Cincinnati. The Sox now lead 4 games to 3, and need just one more victory to win the Series.

Game 8, October 9: Shoeless Joe Jackson hits the only home run of the Series, Lefty Williams outdules Hod Eller, and the Chicago White Sox beat the Cincinnati Reds, 5-3 at Comiskey Park. They win the World Series, 5 games to 3. For the 2nd time in the last 3 years, the White Sox are World Champions.


October 2, 1920: The Cleveland Indians defeat the Detroit Tigers 10-1, and clinch the American League Pennant. Despite a .382 batting average by Jackson, a .372 average from Collins, 23 wins by Urban "Red" Faber and 22 by Williams, the Chicago White Sox finish two games out. The New York Yankees, with newcomer Babe Ruth hitting a staggering record of 54 home runs, finish third, three back.

September 14, 1921: The Yankees beat the White Sox, 11-8 at the Polo Grounds in New York, and come away with a split in their last series of the year with the Sox. The Yanks will win their first American League Pennant, by two and a half games over the Sox and four and a half over the defending World Champion Indians.

(This was the day after the "Eight Men Out" -- left fielder "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, pitcher Eddie Cicotte, pitcher Claude "Lefty" Williams, first baseman Arnold "Chick" Gandil, right fielder Oscar "Happy" Felsch, shortstop Charles "Swede" Risberg, backup third baseman Fred McMullin who was included in the fix only because he overheard ringleaders Gandil and Felsch discussing it in the men's room, and the man who had nothing to do with the fix but was banned because he knew about it but didn't rat his teammates out, starting third baseman George "Buck" Weaver -- were acquitted of fraud in court, and the day they were permanently banned by baseball's new Commissioner, a former federal Judge from Chicago with Southern, and thus bigoted, origins: Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Shoeless Joe was 33 when he played his last game, and should have had one-third of his career to go. He was, however, the only one of the eight who was anywhere near Hall of Fame consideration -- keeping in mind, though, that, during his career, there was no consideration of there even being a Baseball Hall of Fame.)

September 30, 1922: The Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox, 3-1 at Fenway Park, and clinch their second straight Pennant. But it was a dogfight, as they finish just one game ahead of the St. Louis Browns and two ahead of the White Sox, who are led by Jackson, who bats .391 and hits 52 home runs, missing Yankee Ruth's 2-year-old record by just 2.

September 19, 1925: The White Sox sweep a doubleheader with the defending World Champion Washington Senators, 4-3 and 17-0. Jackson hits three home runs in the twinbill, and the Senators' chances to repeat as Pennant winners are doomed.

October 1, 1925: The White Sox win their season finale, 10-8 over the Indians in front of 60,125 fans at a recently expanded Comiskey Park. They will face the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series.

October 11, 1925: The White Sox beat the Pirates, 4-0, and sweep the World Series. Ted Lyons pitches a shutout, and Jackson collects four hits.

August 20, 1927: The White Sox defeat the Philadelphia Athletics, 5-2 at Comiskey Park. Jackson collects his 3,000th career hit off A's pitcher Howard Ehmke. He joins Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Cap Anson and former teammate Eddie Collins as members of the 3,000 Hit Club.

October 6, 1929: The White Sox defeat the Detroit Tigers, 8-7 at Comiskey Park. Although the Sox finish fifth, 21 games behind the eventual World Champion Athletics, a sellout crowd of 62,786 is on hand to say goodbye to the greatest athlete the City of Chicago has yet known, White Sox left fielder Joseph Jefferson Jackson.

Now 40 years old, Shoeless Joe retires with a lifetime batting average of .360, second all-time behind Ty Cobb; 3,322 career hits, fifth all-time; and 372 career home runs, second all-time behind Babe Ruth.

January 2, 1932: Lou Comiskey, recently inheriting the Chicago White Sox from his father, Charlie Comiskey, hires former superstar Shoeless Joe Jackson, a native of Greenville, South Carolina, as his team's chief scout for the Southeastern United States.

(When I first wrote this, I forgot that Jackson was illiterate. Well, maybe he got somebody to teach him how to read. After all, helping Shoeless Joe Jackson is still an honor in TTL.)

September 3, 1937: For the first time, a player scouted by White Sox legend Shoeless Joe Jackson plays in a major league game. Pitcher Kirby Higbe, like Joe a South Carolinian, is a late-season callup, and outduels Bob Feller and the Indians, 1-0.

June 12, 1939: The Baseball Hall of Fame opens in Cooperstown, New York. Of the 26 people who have been elected, 12 are still alive, and 11 of them take part in an official photo. They are:

1936 inductees Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Walter Johnson,

1937 inductees Connie Mack, Cy Young, Nap Lajoie and Tris Speaker.

1938 inductees Shoeless Joe Jackson and Grover Cleveland Alexander.

1939 inductees Eddie Collins and George Sisler.

Ty Cobb, one of the 1936 charter inductees, was delayed on route from California, and was not in the picture.

(There are conflicting reasons as to why Cobb didn't make it in time for the picture. The one I like the best is that he and his fellow Georgian, Commissioner Landis, hated each other's guts, and the Georgia Peach -- who got the most votes in that first election in '36 and is thus technically the first man elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame -- wanted to show the Judge up. The inductees who were already dead in 1939 were: 1936 inductee Christy Mathewson; 1937 inductees Morgan Bulkeley and Ban Johnson, first Presidents of the National and American Leagues, respectively; 1938 inductees Alexander Cartwright, who comes closer than anybody else to being the inventor of baseball, and Henry Chadwick, whose writing did so much to popularize the game in the mid-19th Century; and 1939 inductees Cap Anson, Charlie Comiskey, Candy Cummings, Buck Ewing, Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourne, Al Spalding and George Wright. All the deceased '39 inductees were star players in the 19th Century, although Comiskey, Spalding and Wright were elected mainly as executives and McGraw as a 20th Century manager. Later in 1939, a dying Lou Gehrig was voted into the Hall in a special election.)

September 29, 1940: The White Sox clinch their first Pennant in 15 years, defeating the Browns, 1-0, to finish a tough four-team race, one game ahead of the Tigers, two ahead of the Indians and three ahead of the Yankees. This will be the only pennant between 1936 and 1943 that the Bronx Bombers do not win.

Outfielder Enos Slaughter collects four hits, and pitcher Kirby Higbe shuts the Tribe out. Both men had been scouted by Hall-of-Famer Shoeless Joe Jackson, Higbe from Joe's South Carolina, Slaughter from neighboring North Carolina.

(Slaughter was already with the St. Louis Cardinals at this point. Perhaps he still goes to the Cards in some sort of waiver-wire deal prior to the Cards' 1942 World Championship. It's not like baseball teams, including the White Sox, haven't let good players go too soon before and since.)

October 8, 1940: The Reds avenge their 1919 World Series loss to the White Sox, beating them 2-1 in Game 7. Paul Derringer outduels Higbe.

December 5, 1951: Shoeless Joe Jackson, Chicago White Sox left fielder, .360 hitter, scouter of no fewer than seven White Sox All-Stars of the 1930s, '40s and '50s, member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, dies at his home in Greenville, South Carolina. He is 62 years old.

April 15, 1952: The White Sox open the season at Comiskey Park. A monument to Shoeless Joe Jackson, who died the preceding December, is unveiled in front of the center field fence. The Sox lose to the Indians, 3-2.

(A 3-2 loss to the Indians at Comiskey was the actual result of the ChiSox' '52 lid-lifter. Monuments on the field were unusual but not unheard of. The New York Giants did it first, putting one to Eddie Grant in center field at the Polo Grounds. Grant was the most notable of the MLB players killed in action in World War I. In 1932, the Yankees began what became Monument Park with a monument to Miller Huggins, who managed them to 6 Pennants and 3 World Championships before dying in 1929. That same year, the Pittsburgh Pirates dedicated the Dreyfuss monument in Forbes Field, to team owner Barney Dreyfuss and his son, team treasurer Samuel Dreyfuss, who had both recently died. Most subsequent memorials, though, would be on the fence, including six at the Polo Grounds and five at the pre-renovation Yankee Stadium, along with the on-field Monuments to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.)

September 22, 1959: The "Go-Go" White Sox clinch their first pennant in 19 years with a 4-2 win over the 2nd-place Indians in front of over 75,000 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Ex-Indian Early Wynn gets the win, with Gerry Staley saving the game in the 9th.

October 2, 1959: Hal Jeffcoat, the last player scouted by the late White Sox legend Shoeless Joe Jackson, makes his fellow South Carolinian proud by shutting down the Los Angeles Dodgers in a seventh-inning relief effort, and the White Sox take a 2-games-to-0 lead in the World Series, 3-1.

October 8, 1959: The White Sox win their first World Series -- the first for either Chicago team -- in 34 years, beating the Dodgers 3-0 at Comiskey Park. There is pandemonium on the South Side, and on the West Side, and in the Loop, and even a few people on the North Side defy the prevalence of Cub fans to celebrate there.

(The Dodgers beat the White Sox in 6. This would be the only Pennant won by the RL-White Sox between the 2nd term of Woodrow Wilson and the 2nd term of George W. Bush.)

October 4, 1964: The White Sox beat the Kansas City Athletics, 6-0 at Comiskey Park, and clinch the Pennant. This turns out to be the end of the long Yankee dynasty, which had won the last 4 Pennants and 28 in the preceding 43 years.

(The Yankees won the Pennant by 1 game over the White Sox and 2 over the Baltimore Orioles. The White Sox would not get this close to the postseason again until 1983, or to a Pennant until 2005.)

October 12, 1964: The White Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 2-1, as Gary Peters outduels Bob Gibson, and they take the World Series in 5 games.

September 20, 1972: The White Sox complete a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum, winning 6-3. Dick Allen and Bill Melton hit home runs to support the pitching of Stan Bahnsen, who wins his 20th game of the year. Rookie Rich Gossage strikes out Joe Rudi, Reggie Jackson and Gene Tenace in the ninth inning to end it. The win vaults the Sox into first place, and they will win the American League Western Division and beat the Tigers for the Pennant.

(The Sox finished 2nd to the A's in the AL West.)

October 22, 1972: The White Sox again play the Reds in a World Series. The Pale Hose win, 3-2 at Comiskey Park, and win Game 7 to take the Series. Knuckleballer Wilbur Wood pitches 8 strong innings, while Terry Forster gets the save in the 9, striking out Pete Rose to end it.

August 7, 1977: The White Sox complete a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals, 3-2 at Royals Stadium (later renamed Kauffman Stadium). The Royals never recover, and the White Sox win the AL West. But they will lose the American League Championship series to the Yankees.

(The reverse happened: The "South Side Hit Men" got swept by the Royals, fell out of first place, and made the Playoffs exactly once, 1959, between 1919 and 1983.)

November 6, 1977: White Sox owner Bill Veeck sells half of the shares of the team to Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn. With their money added, the team is able to resign slugging outfielders Richie Zisk and Oscar Gamble, so they did not leave as free agents. They will also sign free agent pitcher Mike Torrez, weakening the New York Yankees, the team that gave them the most trouble in the regular season and then beat them in the Playoffs before winning the World Series.

(Not yet selling out to "The Reinhorn Twins" prevented Veeck from re-signing Zisk and the Big O, and sent the ChiSox into a tailspin that they didn't get out of until their '83 Division Title.)

March 29, 1978: The White Sox trade pitcher Francisco Barrios and a minor leaguer to the Indians for pitcher Dennis Eckersley. Barrios had drinking and drug problems and would become one in a long line of tragedies to befall the Indians, dying in his native Mexico in 1982. Eckersley also had a drinking problem, but would later overcome it.

(This is all as in RL, except Eck got traded to the other Sox, the Red ones in Boston.)

October 1, 1978: Baseball's regular season ends. In the American League Eastern Division, the Yankees finish first for the 3rd straight year, beating the Milwaukee Brewers by 6 1/2 games, the Orioles by 9 and the Red Sox by 12. In the West, the Royals finish atop a five-way tie for second, five games ahead of the White Sox, California Angels Texas Rangers. In the National League East, the Philadelphia Phillies squeeze out a 1 1/2-game win over the Pirates, and the Dodgers beat out the Reds by 2 1/2 games in the NL West. The Yankees will beat the Dodgers in the World Series.

(Mike Torrez gave up the home run to Bucky Dent the next day, but people tend to forget that he won 16 games that year, second on the Red Sox to Eckersley's 20. If they're both on the White Sox, they contend, the Red Sox don't, and Bucky Dent... still becomes a Yankee Legend because he's the MVP of the '78 World Series.)

September 6, 1979: Led by the quartet of Eckersley, Torrez, Steve Trout and Ken Kravec, the White Sox complete a four-game sweep of the Angels in Anaheim, effectively ending the AL West race. But the Sox will lose the Pennant to the Orioles.

October 31, 1979: Dick Allen announces his retirement. The 37-year-old slugger hangs up his spikes having hit 444 home runs, mostly for the Phillies and White Sox.

(Due to injuries and, uh, personal problems that he has since overcome, Allen finished with 351 home runs. But from 1964 to 1972, he was one of the very best hitters you'd ever want to see.)

September 1, 1980: White Sox co-owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn buy the remaining half of the team's shares from Bill Veeck. They also announce that, following the close of the season, Comiskey Park, the team's 70-year-old home, will undergo a two-year renovation, similar to what happened with Yankee Stadium in New York in 1974 and '75. The Sox will play two years at Wrigley Field, home of the crosstown Cubs, and will reopen "the Baseball Palace of the World" in 1983, "better than ever," or so "the Reinhorn Twins" claim.

April 12, 1983: Comiskey Park reopens after a two-year renovation, with wider seats, aisles and concourses, and added bathrooms and concessions. The much larger upper deck puts fans considerably farther away from the action, but the removal of the park's support poles means there are no obstructed-view seats, and an expanded bleacher section means more seats are affordable than ever before. Seating capacity is 44,702, roughly what it had been before the renovation.

Statues of Shoeless Joe Jackson, Luke Appling, Luis Aparicio and Bill Veeck line the 35th Street side of the stadium, while the team's retired numbers line the outfield wall: Nellie Fox's 2, Appling's 4, Minnie Minoso's 9, Aparicio's 11, Gary Peters' 12, Kirby Higbe's 13, Dick Allen's 15, Ted Lyons' 16, Billy Pierce's 19, Early Wynn's 24 and Al Lopez's 43. However, the Orioles spoil the opener, winning 10-8.

(Each of those numbers is correct, although Peters started out wearing 12 and later switched to 43 after Lopez was no longer manager. But only those of Fox, Appling, Minoso, Aparicio, Lyons and Pierce have been retired. The White Sox have since added the 3 of Harold Baines, the 35 of Frank Thomas and the 72 of Carlton Fisk.)

July 6, 1983: The 50th Anniversary All-Star Game is held at Comiskey Park in Chicago, the site of the first Midsummer Classic in 1933. California Angel Fred Lynn, a Chicago native, hits the first grand slam in All-Star history, and the American League beats the National League, 13-3.

October 8, 1983: The White Sox tie up the American League Championship Series with the Orioles, winning a tense Game 4, 1-0. Eckersley strikes out 15 Orioles, breaking the ALCS record set three days earlier by the O's' Mike Boddicker. Rookie of the Year Ron Kittle wins the game in the bottom of the 9th with a home run that rattles the recently-renovated rafters in the left-field roof at Comiskey Park.

October 9, 1983: The White Sox win the Pennant, taking the decisive Game 5, 6-2 over the Orioles. Cy Young Award winner LaMarr Hoyt, who had won Game 1, wins Game 5 and the ALCS MVP, and Julio Cruz goes 4-for-4, steals 3 bases and scores 3 runs.

October 18, 1983: The Chicago White Sox win Game 6 over the Phillies, 4-1, and take the World Series in front of 44,785 maniacs in Comiskey Park.

A 7th-inning home run by Harold Baines off the venerable Steve Carlton gives the Sox the lead, and Carlton Fisk, his Sox now White instead of Red, adds an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th, though waving his arms to keep the ball fair is not necessary, as it seemed to be in the 1975 Series.

The White Sox have now won 7 World Series since the crosstown Cubs last won it in 1908, and have won 4 Pennants and made 6 trips to the postseason since the last Cub Pennant and postseason series in 1945.

November 12, 1983: The Chicago White Sox trade relief pitcher Salome Barojas to the crosstown Cubs for three minor leaguers.

October 6, 1984: Salome Barojas relieves Scott Sanderson in the fifth inning, and pitches shuout ball the rest of the way, and the Chicago Cubs beat the San Diego Padres, 5-3 at Jack Murphy Stadium in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, giving the Cubs their first Pennant since 1945. But they will lose the World Series to the Detroit Tigers. Their 39-year Pennant drought is quenched, but their 76-year World Series thirst continues.

(Now you know why I mentioned the RL-nonexistent Barojas trade: So the Cubs don't overwork Lee Smith, and he doesn't give up that walkoff homer to Steve Garvey in Game 4 and blow the Pennant in Game 5.)

August 3, 1986: It is Induction Day at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The honorees are: Willie McCovey, slugging first baseman for the 1960s-70s San Francisco Giants; Bobby Doerr, slick-fielding second baseman for the 1940s-50s Boston Red Sox; Ernie Lombardi, powerful catcher for the 1930s-40s Cincinnati Reds; and Dick Allen, a third baseman-turned-first baseman who pounded out home runs for the 1960s Philadelphia Phillies and the 1970s Chicago White Sox.

July 31, 1988: The Baseball Hall of Fame inducts Willie Stargell, slugging first baseman for the 1960s-70s Pittsburgh Pirates, and Minnie Minoso, the major leagues' first black Hispanic player, who starred with the Chicago White Sox in the 1950s.

(Neither Allen nor Minoso is in the Hall, but Minoso should be. I actually attended both the '86 and '88 induction ceremonies. I also went to the one in '94, for Phil Rizzuto.)

September 19, 1990: The White Sox complete a 3-game sweep of the A's in Oakland. For all intents and purposes, they have ended the race for the AL West title. They will beat the Red Sox for the Pennant, but lose the World Series to, guess who, the Reds.

September 29, 1996: The Cubs play their last game at Wrigley Field before the start of renovations undertaken by their owners, the Chicago Tribune Company. They want a larger, more comfortable stadium with the old atmosphere retained, to better compete with the crosstown White Sox, whose Comiskey Park they will share for the 1997 season. The Cubs go out with a whimper, losing 8-3 to the Pirates.

June 16, 1997: The Cubs are very rude to their hosts in the first regular-season series between the North Side Cubs, wearing replicas of their 1908 World Championship uniforms, and the South Side White Sox, wearing replicas of their 1919 World Championship uniforms. Having to share Comiskey Park while Wrigley Field is being renovated, the Cubs win the first game that counts between the two since the 1906 World Series, 8-3. The Sox will rebound to properly defend their house, winning the next two games and taking the 3-game series.

October 15, 1997: The Orioles defeat the Indians 1-0 on a home run by catcher Lenny Webster off Jose Mesa in the bottom of the 11th inning, to win Game 6 of the ALCS and their first Pennant in 18 years. O's legend Cal Ripken will finally get to appear in a World Series.

(He doesn't make it to the 1983 Series because of the White Sox. In RL, it was Tony Fernandez of the Indians homering off Armando "Worst Big Game Pitcher Ever" Benitez, and Mesa instead blowing Game 7 of the World Series.)

October 26, 1997: The Orioles win their first World Series in 27 years, defeating the Florida Marlins, 2-0 in Game 7 in Miami. After 16 years in the major leagues, Cal Ripken, the Orioles' Hall-of-Famer in waiting, finally wins a World Championship.

April 3, 1998: Wrigley Field reopens for its 84th season of play with wider seats, fewer support poles, an extended upper deck and bleacher sections, and all the modern amenities, but with the same old brick wall around the field, new ivy covering the outfield portion of the wall, and the same old hand-operated scoreboard on top of the bleachers. Despite the wider seats, capacity has actually increased to 40,667.

A moment of silence is held before the opener for legendary Cub broadcaster Harry Caray, who died in the off-season. Another Cub TV legend, Jack Brickhouse, will also die during the season. But today is mainly a happy occasion, as the Cubs' long-term future in Chicago and in Wrigley Field is secured, and they beat the Montreal Expos, 6-2.

September 2, 1998: The renovation of Wrigley Field has changed the park's wind currents significantly. The wind no longer blows in, only out. Sammy Sosa hits his 62nd home run of the sesaon, breaking Roger Maris' 37-year-old record, and the Cubs beat the Pirates, 8-4.

All season long, Sammy has been battling for the record with Mark McGwire of the Cubs' arch-rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. Mark now has 59, so while the race to break the old record is over, the race to establish a new record is very much alive.

(I first wrote this before Sammy's halo got tarnished, but also before McGwire's did, and also before the more damaging stories about Barry Bonds got out. Bonds does not break the single-season record in TTL.)

September 27, 1998: Sosa hits hits 75th and last home run of the season, helping the Cubs beat the Houston Astros, 5-4, and clinch the wild card in the National League Playoffs. McGwire finishes with 70 homers, also far beyond the old record. Although the Cubs will beat the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series, the Padres will get revenge for the 1984 NLCS by beating the Cubs to win their first Pennant.

October 8, 2000: Despite having the best record in the American League during the regular season, the Central Division Champion White Sox fall to the wild-card Seattle Mariners in a tough five-game series. (They got swept in RL.)

October 14, 2003: The Chicago Cubs win the National League Pennant, their first in 19 years and only their second in the last 58. They defeat the Florida Marlins, 3-0 in Game 6 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field.

There is a heart-stopping moment in the top of the 8th inning when, with the Cubs needing just 5 more outs to win the Pennant, a fly ball is hit down the left field line. Left fielder Moises Alou jumps to make the catch, but it pops out his glove. He manages to grab it with his bare hand. "I'm just glad I didn't try that at the old Wrigley Field," he said, "before the renovation. That extra 2 feet of foul territory might have led to some dumb fan trying to grab a souvenir and stop me from making the catch." It's just a blip on the radar screen of baseball history. The Cubs winning the Pennant is much more than a blip.

October 25, 2003: The Cubs win the World Series for the first time in 95 years, defeating the Yankees, 3-0 at Yankee Stadium in Game 6. Matt Clement becomes the third Cub pitcher to toss a shutout against the Yanks, following Mark Prior in Game 1 and Kerry Wood in Game 5.

July 31, 2005: The Baseball Hall of Fame elects Wade Boggs, sensationally-hitting third baseman for the 1980s Boston Red Sox and 1990s New York Yankees; Ryne Sandberg, slugging second baseman for the 1980s-90s Chicago Cubs; and Rich "Goose" Gossage, the great relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees in the 1970s and '80s.

(Gossage got into the Hall in 2008. Having been a rookie on the 1972 World Champion White Sox, he gets over the top sooner.)

October 26, 2005: The Chicago White Sox defeat the Houston Astros, 1-0, and complete a sweep of the World Series. The Pale Hose have now won 9 World Series: 1906, 1917, 1919, 1925, 1959, 1964, 1972, 1983 and 2005. This proud franchise has won more World Championships than any other baseball team except the New York Yankees, who have won 26.