Monday, December 31, 2012

What If Roberto Clemente Had Lived?

December 31, 1972, 40 years ago today: On a DC-7 plane overloaded with relief supplies from his hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico to earthquake-stricken Managua, Nicaragua, Roberto Clemente and his   pilot perished in a crash into the Caribbean Sea.

Clemente was 38 years old.  He was coming off a season in which he had batted .312, with an OPS+ of 138, and had collected his 3,000th career hit -- which was also his 440th double, and included 166 triples and 240 home runs, which doesn't seem like a lot for a player so often cited as an all-time great, but from 1955 to mid-1970 he played his home games at Forbes Field, whose dimensions were practically identical to the pre-renovation original Yankee Stadium, and thus heavily biased against a righthanded hitter like him.  His lifetime batting average was .317, OPS+130.  He won 4 batting titles, Gold Gloves in each of the last 12 seasons, and was named to 12 All-Star teams -- all but one (1968) between 1960 and 1972.

Hank Aaron was also 38 that year, and was also a legitimate All-Star, and would also be one at ages 39 and 40.  Willie Mays was 3 years older, but had also been an All-Star and deservedly so at ages 38, 39 and 40.

It's also important to note that Clemente played in 14 World Series games -- 7 each in 1960 and 1971 -- and got a hit in every one of them.  He had 2 World Series rings.  And in each of his last 3 seasons, he had helped the Pittsburgh Pirates win the National League Eastern Division.

At the time, the Pirates were a really good team, not yet known as "The Family," but already known for their booming bats as "The Lumber Company." In addition to Clemente, they had Willie Stargell, who would go on to hit 475 home runs; Al Oliver, who finished his career with a .303 average and 2,743 hits including 529 doubles; Manny Sanguillen, who batted at least .319 3 times; Richie Hebner, who batted .300 twice; Dave Cash, a good leadoff hitter who twice got over 200 hits in a season (albeit with the Philadelphia Phillies, after leaving the Red Sox); Gene Clines, who twice batted .300 as a reserve outfielder for the Pirates and nearly did it again for the Chicago Cubs; and Rennie Stennett, would would go on to bat .336 in 1977.

Don Sutton of the Los Angeles Dodgers, already into a Hall of Fame pitching career, said, "Some teams watch a pitcher and say, 'Oh boy, here comes a fastball.' Others say, 'Oh boy, here comes a curveball.' The Pirates say, 'Oh boy, here comes a baseball.'" Translation: They didn't care what you threw, they were going to hit it.

In 1973, in a special election, waiving the mandatory 5-year waiting period (not that it mattered in his case), Clemente was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The Pirates retired his Number 21.  They wore a black patch with his number on their left sleeves.  And they converted Richie Zisk, a power-hitting young left fielder, into their right fielder, before calling up Dave Parker, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound bruiser known as the Cobra, and moving Zisk over to left field and Stargell to 1st base.

How would the history of baseball, and the Pirates in particular, have been different if Clemente had lived?


Apparently, there was a storm when the plane took off.  Both the plane and the pilot had issues.  Roberto decided to try again the next day, New Year's Day, January 1, 1973.

The plane landed in Managua without incident, and the relief supplies, due to Clemente's fame, did not get sidetracked by fascist dictator Anastasio Somoza.

In RL, there was a 5-way Pennant race in the National League East, one which no one seemed to want to win.  The Phillies were the only team in the Division that was out of it, finishing 11 1/2 games back.  The Cubs ended up 5 back -- closer than they were in their (in)famous 1969 season --  but were in 5th place.  The Montreal Expos got into their first Pennant race, and ended up 3 1/2 back.  The Pirates, victimized by a freak play against the Mets at Shea Stadium on September 20, finished 2 1/2 back.  And the St. Louis Cardinals, in their closest call between 1968 and 1982, finished 1 1/2 back.

The Mets clinched the NL East by winning the first game of a doubleheader with the Cubs at Wrigley Field, forced by rainouts to play one day after the regular season was supposed to have ended, and the second game was rained out and never rescheduled.  The Mets won the Division with an 82-79 record, the worst record of any 1st-place finisher in a Major League Baseball season that reached a conclusion.  (The Texas Rangers had a losing record but were leading the American League West when the Strike of '94 hit.)

Can we honestly say that a living Clemente, who would have turned 39 on August 18, 1973, would have made a difference? Bob Robertson, the Pirates' 1st baseman, batted just .239.  Maybe Stargell would have been moved to 1st then, and Zisk put in left, with Clemente still in right.  After all, he still had a great arm, and, in spite of injuries that unfairly got him the label of a hypochondriac, he hadn't slowed down much.  It's not hard to imagine him making juuuust that much more of a contribution to the lineup than Robertson, and the Pirates making up 3 games to win the Division.

Since the Mets beat the NL Western Division Champion Cincinnati Reds to win the Pennant, would the Pirates have done so? Maybe not: The Reds had already beaten them in the 1970 and '72 NLCS.  (When the Pirates went all the way in '71, it was the San Francisco Giants they beat in the NLCS.)

What about 1974? The Pirates won the Division again, beating the Cards by a game and a half.  But they lost the NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3 games to 1.  Would a 40-year-old Clemente have made a differences? Maybe: Mays and Aaron were both still good hitters at 40.  But, overall, the Pirates batted just .194 in that series.

Even if the Pirates had won both Pennants, I don't see them beating the Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers Oakland Athletics in either the 1973 or the 1974 World Series.  And by 1975, when the Pirates got swept in the NLCS by the Reds, Clemente would have been 41.  So I'm thinking they win one more Pennant, that of 1973, and not another World Series.  That gives the Pirates 10 Pennants in their TTL-history, instead of their RL 9.

Statistically, Roberto could well have added 160 hits in '73, 140 in '74, and 80 in a '75 finale.  That would have given him 3,380 hits -- more than anybody to that point except Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker, Cap Anson, Honus Wagner, and his contemporary Hank Aaron, and more than anybody since except Pete Rose.  If he could play in '76, at age 42, and somehow add another 56, that would give him 3,436 to surpass Wagner and Aaron, and leave him 5th (now 6th) all-time.  Not that it made any difference in whether he got into the Hall of Fame or got his number retired, but it might have gotten him over the line in the balloting for the MLB All-Century Team in 1999, even without the shadow of early death.


What would Clemente have done with the rest of his life? I can see him a baseball, or a Latino, equivalent of tennis star Arthur Ashe, who, in the decade of Clemente's death, agitated for civil rights, including in apartheid-ridden South Africa.

Clemente would have seen the dangers of Communism, how it surpress freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and the right to vote.  But he would also have seen the dangers of fascist dictators like Somoza, Chile's Augusto Pinochet, and the Argentine junta, which used religion and nationalism as excuses for the same kind of surpression.

Clemente could have done what Jackie Robinson could never quite do: Rally his people to what should have been their own cause, and other peoples to that cause, the cause of uplifting Hispanic Americans and the people of the Spanish-speaking world.  He could have conducted baseball clinics all over the Caribbean, including Mexico, Central America, South America, even the Philippines, once part of the Spanish Empire.  (Though I doubt that even his personality and charisma could have led British Commonwealth nations of the Caribbean, such as Jamaica and Barbados, away from their loves of soccer and cricket.)

I can also see him doing something that really would shape the future of baseball.  In the mid-1980s, the team that had won the 1979 World Series was gone, the "Pittsburgh Drug Trials" stained the team's image, wins were hard to come by, attendance dropped, and there was a genuine threat that the Pirates might move.  At this time, Washington had Robert F. Kennedy Stadium waiting for a team, Denver had Mile High Stadium, and Miami was building Joe Robbie Stadium.  Despite the fact that the Pirates were approaching their 100th Anniversary in 1987, it was entirely possible that they would begin the 1988 season elsewhere.

Mayor Richard Caliguiri, talked several Western Pennsylvania-based companies into banding together to form Pittsburgh Associates, and this group bought the Pirates in 1985.  These companies included U.S. Steel, PNC Financial, Mellon Financial and Westinghouse.  Had Clemente still been alive (he would have been 51), Caliguiri could well have made the task easier by asking Roberto to get involved.  Suppose that these companies had said they would do it on the condition that Roberto be involved with the Pirate organization again? So they buy the Pirates.  Clemente becomes what some sports teams call a club "ambassador."

He goes to the State legislature in Harrisburg, and convinces them to pony up the money to build a better ballpark.  It takes a while to get the plans approved, but that's okay, since it gives the Pittsburgh people a chance to see what Baltimore did with Camden Yards, and they adjust accordingly What we know as PNC Park opens not in 2001, but in 1996.  Does that make a difference? Maybe not competitively, but it gets them out of Three Rivers Stadium 5 years sooner, which the fans would have liked.  Let's face it: Three Rivers was a football stadium, not a ballpark.

Now, imagine that, all this time, Clemente has been there, to keep people involved with the Pirates.  Let's suppose that a rich man (and Pittsburgh, for all its struggles, has always had plenty of them) buys the team from Pittsburgh Associates after the 1990 NL East title.  The Bucs win 3 straight Division titles, but can't quite get past the Reds in the 1990 NLCS, or the Atlanta Braves in 1991 or '92.

Except this as-yet-hypothetical new owner does what Pittsburgh Associates was not willing to do in the RL-1992-93 off-season: Spend the money necessary to keep Barry Bonds in town.  But Clemente also talks the owner into going after the biggest free-agent pitcher: Greg Maddux.  Instead of dropping from 96-66 to 75-87 as in RL, in 1993 the Pirates make a good run before falling behind the Phillies.  In 1994, the 3-Division setup comes in, and the Pirates move to the NL Central.  That's the strike year.  In 1995, Bonds and Maddux help the Pirates win the Division, beat the Dodgers and the Braves in the Playoffs, and, in the first-ever instance of the Pittsburgh-Cleveland football rivalry ever carrying over into baseball (something that has still never happened in RL), beat the Indians in the World Series.

That inspires the Steelers, and, with the memory of what the Pirates did in their minds, instead of losing Super Bowl XXX to the Dallas Cowboys, they win.  As in 1979-80, Pittsburgh in 1995-96 is "The City of Champions."

The Pirates take the Braves' place for TTL-1996 as well, winning another Pennant, before getting shocked by the Yankees in the World Series, thus revenge for 1960 is finally attained.  Bonds keeps hitting.  The Bucs win another Pennant in 1997, and again they beat the Indians in the World Series.

In 1998, the Houston Astros are too good for the Pirates, and win the NL Central.  Bonds sees the love that is poured on Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as they hit 70 and 66 home runs respectively, and Ken Griffey Jr. as he hits 58.  He suspects they are using performance-enhancing drugs.  With his father, Bobby Bonds, still coaching in San Francisco and thus far away, and a pair of genuine Hall-of-Famers on hand, he asks Clemente, now 64 years old, what he should do.  "Don't worry about what other people say about other people," The Great One tells Barry.  "Just do what you know you can do.  You've won two World Series.  McGwire has only one, and Sosa doesn't have any." Stargell reminds Bonds of something he'd frequently said, "Don't be sharp, don't be flat.  Just be natural." Bonds takes this to mean, "Don't take steroids." He doesn't.

But the Pirates, even with Bonds and Maddux, struggle.  The as-yet-unknown owner sells the team to Pittsburgh native Mark Cuban, who already owns the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, and has not yet shown himself to be too much of, well, a maverick to make MLB Commissioner Bud Selig put the kibosh on the deal.  Cuban does the unthinkable, and signs Alex Rodriguez to a contract with $252 million.

In 2001, with Stargell having died at the start of the season, Bonds hits 55 home runs, A-Rod hits 52, and Maddux goes 20-8.  They go on to beat the Yankees in an epic World Series, including coming from 2-1 down against Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7.  It is their 4th Pennant and 3rd World Championship in 7 seasons.

The Pirates, led by A-Rod and Bonds finishing 1 and 2 in the NL's Most Valuable Player voting, shock the Cubs thanks to Steve Bartman and the Cubs' own shoddy defense to win the 2003 Pennant.  But this time, the Yankees win the Series.  Still, that's 5 Pennants and 3 World Championships in 9 years.  Pretty strong.

In 2006, the Pirates and the Mets are tied 1-1 in the top of the 9th of Game 7 of the NLCS at Shea.  But Ronny Paulino -- a .310 hitter but with only 6 home runs -- hits a stunning home run.  (This is the Yadier Molina homer in RL.) Rookie reliever Matt Capps fans Carlos Beltran, who never takes the bat off his shoulder, for the Pennant-clinching out.  And the Bucs take the World Series, beating the Detroit Tigers, as in 1909.  12 years, 6 Pennants, 4 World Series won.  And, oh yeah, this is the 3rd calendar year in which both the Pirates and the Steelers have won their sports' World Championships.

The Pirates win the NL Central again in 2007, but things are beginning to change.  Bonds retires at the end of the season, having hit 617 home runs.  (The Pirates retire his Number 24, and he is elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2013.) Maddux also retires (and the Pirates pack away his Number 31).  And A-Rod is getting restless, with his 1-for-13 performance in an NL Division Series sweep by the Arizona Diamondbacks having the Pitt fans turn on him, despite the fact that he was closing in on becoming the youngest player ever to join the 500 Home Run Club.  (Remember, in TTL, he has also followed Clemente's advice, and never taken steroids.)

Clemente has also retired from his active position with the Pirates, and has spoken out against steroids, especially against their use by Hispanic players.  Sosa, a Dominican who wears Number 21 in tribute to Clemente, feels betrayed, but is released by the Texas Rangers and never plays in the majors again.  A new testing system is put in place starting with the 2008 season.

Although the Pirates have not reached the Playoffs since 2007, their record is a superb one: 20 Division titles, 16 National League Pennants, 9 World Championships -- only 1 fewer than the Steelers and Penguins combined.  (In RL, the Steelers have won 6, the Pirates 5, the Penguins 3.)

If Roberto Clemente died today, December 31, 2012, at 78 having had 40 additional years of life, he could have taken the immenseness of what he had done in the first half of his life, and made the second half even greater.

It is a pity that we shall never know.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What If Jackie Robinson Had Failed?

Bernadette Pasley, author of the excellent Yankee blog "Lady at the Bat," recommended this piece.  Whether it's taken me this long to do it because I forgot about it, or it's a complex subject and it takes more time to think it through than I thought I have -- or, to put it another way, whether I was a fool or just lazy -- isn't worth discussing.  I'll still end up looking better than some of the people in this piece.

(EDIT: It must have been laziness, as I once again confused her blog with "Lady Loves Pinstripes," which is run by Kate Conroy, and is also a very good Yankee blog.  I have corrected the error.)

There are two ways of looking at it: If Jackie Robinson had failed on merit, or if he'd been sabotaged.

What does "failed on merit" mean? One of two things: Either he wasn't good enough, or he broke his promise to Brooklyn Dodgers president and part-owner Branch Rickey that he wouldn't respond to the vicious assaults on his race, no matter what.

The possibility of him not being good enough was real.  Rickey specifically chose Robinson because he seemed to be the best man for the job -- NOT the best player.

And, indeed, as late as May 8, 1947, his 15th major league game, his batting average was .241, with just 1 home run and 2 RBIs.  Granted, he was usually 1st or 2nd in the batting order at the time, which is not an RBI slot.  But Ebbets Field was a bandbox.  He should have had more than that.

But it's also worth noting that baseball wasn't his best sport -- or even his third-best.  He was a star running back at UCLA, was on the track team as a fantastic long-jumper (as was his brother Mack, who once held the world record), and had also played basketball there.  When he made his debut for the Dodgers on April 15, 1947, he'd previously played professional baseball for 2 seasons: 1945, with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League (previously, they'd been in the Negro National League); and 1946, with the Montreal Royals of the International League.  Essentially, he'd had 2 seasons of pro ball, the 2nd at the Triple-A level, the other in a league whose talents ranged from genuine future Hall-of-Famers to players who wouldn't have made it to the previously all-white majors no matter how many barriers you strip away from history.

Why hadn't he played more? Because he was in college until 1941, played minor-league football that fall, and got drafted into the Army early the next year, and wasn't discharged until November 1944.  As with many other players, it's arguable that World War II took his most productive years -- he reached his 23rd and 24th birthdays in the Army.  He didn't play his first professional baseball game until he was 26, at which point most guys who are good at baseball are in the majors and just entering their prime.  He didn't make his major league debut until he was 28.  He had his best season at 30, his last good one (in terms of individual statistics) at 35, and his last one at 37.

He had only half a career, and because of when he got out of college and which sport he preferred, he probably wouldn't have appeared in Major League Baseball before The War even without the color barrier.  Indeed, had there been no civil rights problem in America in 1941 -- if a black person in America, at that time, could have been anything he or she wanted, with the only barriers being professional qualifications and talent -- today, you might be reading an article titled, "What If Jackie Robinson Had Played Baseball Instead of Football?" He might have gone to the Los Angeles Rams, where his former UCLA teammate Kenny Washington, and another former UCLA player, later a renowned actor, Woody Strode, had reintegrated the NFL.  From 1949 to 1955, the Rams played in 4 NFL Championship Games, though they only won 1, in 1951; maybe Jackie could have made a difference there.

(Willie Mays has also claimed that football was his best sport, and that he would have been one of the top quarterbacks in college football if a white school had been willing to take him.  Imagine that: Willie Mays being better at another sport than he was at baseball! Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson was interested in taking Mickey Mantle -- and his successor, Gomer Jones, wanted another Yankee from the Sooner State, Bobby Murcer.)

Jackie broke out of his season-starting funk in 1947, getting his average up to .299 on May 17, but by June 4 it was back down to .263.  Then he took off, spending most of the season above .300, reaching .316 a couple of times before finishing at .297.

If Rickey had decided that Jackie wasn't quite ready, and sent him back down to Montreal in May, would that have been the end of the experiment? Would Jackie Robinson have been a "failure"? Hardly: He would have done what he did the year before, tear up the International League with the Royals, and would have been called back up.


So Jackie wouldn't have failed competitively.  But what if he lost his cool?

On April 22, 23 and 24, 1947, the Philadelphia Phillies came to Ebbets Field, and their manager, Nashville native Ben Chapman, a former All-Star outfielder with the Yankees, led his Phils in horrific verbal abuse, with references to cotton fields, shoe shines, and Robinson fooling around with his white teammates' wives.  He was addressed as "Boy" over and over, and also with a word that begin with N and ends with R, and it wasn't "Nor'easter."

To make matters worse -- potentially, yes, this would have been much worse, as I'll get to later -- Chapman gave his pitchers an order: If Robinson works the count to 3-0, instead of throwing ball 4, bean him.  The old saying was applied: "If you're going to put him on, you might as well hurt him." If any Philadelphia pitcher did get to 3 balls and no strikes, and then purposely hit Jackie, I've never heard about it.

Robinson admitted, years later, that he was incredibly close to saying, "To hell with Rickey's experiment." But he thought about the effect it would have on race relations.  The reprisals of racist whites against black people who had nothing to do with the incident, innocent in every aspect, would have been crushing -- physically and emotionally.  He couldn't do it.

When the Dodgers made a roadtrip to Philadelphia for games on May 9, 10 and 11, National League President Ford Frick ordered Chapman to have his picture taken shaking hands with Robinson.  He refused.  So a compromise was reached, with the two of them standing together, holding a bat.  As you can see in the photo, Jackie was willing to smile for the camera, even if it was a phony expression of emotion; Chapman was not.  In the 7 aforementioned games with the Phillies -- 3 in Brooklyn, 4 in Philly including a doubleheader -- Jackie got a hit in 6.

But let us suppose...


It's Saturday, May 10, 1947, at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, and the count on Jackie is 3 and 0.  Phillies pitcher Tommy Hughes -- a journeyman who is yet another player whose best years got eaten up by the fights against Hitler and Tojo -- follows his manager's orders, and hits Robinson, right in the back between the 4 and the 2.  Not enough to injure him, but enough to hurt.

(Let me note that I am not attempting to malign Hughes' character.  I don't know anything about him.  For all I know, he might have been reluctant in this situation, "just following orders" -- which was not an allowable excuse the year before in Nuremberg.)

That's it.  Jackie Robinson stops giving a damn.  He runs out to the mound, and Tommy Hughes' nose is broken with one punch.

The dugouts empty.  To the Phillies' shock, Jackie's Dodger teammates are behind him 100 percent, and knock a few Phillies out.

The Southern press of the day prints editorials claiming that this is what happens when you put (to use the term widely accepted at the time) Negroes in the white major leagues.

National League President Ford Frick fines Robinson $1,000 and suspends him for 3 games.  But he also fines Hughes $2,000 and suspends him for 6 games, double what he gave Robinson, for causing it.  And he fines Chapman $5,000 and suspends him for 30 days, for ordering it.

Jackie apologizes to Rickey and says, "I just couldn't take it anymore."

Rickey had publicly worried that, if this experiment had failed, it would be 20 years before anyone would try again.

Rickey realizes now that there is a limit to what a man can take, and he stands by his man.  And soon, statements of support come in from baseball luminaries, ranging from Babe Ruth to Athletics owner-manager Connie Mack, from aging legends like Honus Wagner and Cy Young to current stars Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and the one player who had a clue as to what Jackie was going through, the Jewish star Hank Greenberg.  (Who, in RL, was the one opposing player to go out of his way to welcome Jackie to the majors, and Jackie singled him out for thanks and praise many times.)

That gives Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck the last piece of evidence he needs.  He signs Larry Doby of the Newark Eagles -- just as he did in RL, without this extra controversy.

Frick had previously told the St. Louis Cardinals, baseball's Southernmost team and a club with a reputation for hardscrabble Southerners like Dizzy Dean and Pepper Martin, and currently Enos Slaughter and Harry Walker (brother of the Dodgers' Dixie Walker), that if they carried out their threat to strike, that they, and anyone else who did, would be suspended, and "I don't care if it wrecks the National League for five years." Frick told them, point-blank: "You will find that the friends you think you have, will not support you."

In other words, it would have been one thing if Jackie had simply not been proficient enough -- he proved that he was.  But if the only thing stopping him was bigotry, the baseball establishment -- Frick and Commissioner A.B. "Happy" Chandler, himself a Southerner -- were going to stand by him.

I can even imagine President Harry Truman being asked about this.  Although he was from Missouri, he tended to think of that State as more Southern than Midwestern, and he used the N-word casually, if not maliciously.  As far as I know, he never made a statement about Robinson in RL -- but in TTL, if asked, I suspect he would have said, "Mr. Robinson has as much right to make it in his profession of choice as any other man in that profession.  As long as baseball handles it, I see no reason to step in." In RL-1948, it was Truman who desegregated the U.S. armed forces.  FDR didn't do it.  Maybe Ike, or JFK, or LBJ would have, if it had still been necessary; but Truman is the one who seized the opportunity and did it.

Edward R. Murrow does one of television news' first documentaries on Jackie and the bigotry he's faced.  Essentially, Murrow damages the opposition as much as he damaged Senator Joe McCarthy in RL-1954, and in the same way: By using their own words and pictures to show just how despicable, and just how ridiculous, they are.

The nation rallies around Jackie Robinson, the way it still does around Joe Louis, the way it once did around Jesse Owens.  Both men stand up for Jackie was well.  (I'm not sure how much they did in RL.)

The Dodgers win the Pennant, and Jackie plays in the World Series, although the Dodgers still lose to the Yankees.  His success, and Doby's, lead to the full integration of the game anyway.

If anything, Jackie Robinson becomes a bigger hero.  Instead of being the nonviolent angel who brings about change, baseball's Gandhi, he has become an avenging angel -- if not a saint.  He's not, as in RL, the man who said, "I'm playing, because I have the right.  My demand is modest enough." In TTL, he's the man who said, "Enough.  You can't treat my people this way anymore."

Strom Thurmond's segregationist candidacy of 1948 becomes a joke.  Instead of finishing 3rd behind Truman and Governor Thomas E. Dewey, he finishes 4th, behind also former Vice President Henry Wallace.

Thurmond's 1957 filibuster, the longest in Senate history at over 24 hours, falls apart quickly, and the Civil Rights Act of 1957 passes.

Jackie Robinson speaks at the 1963 March On Washington -- which he didn't do in RL.  It is mentioned in the press that Robinson is a Republican, and a friend of Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York -- a potential candidate to run against President John F. Kennedy the next year.  JFK invites Jackie to the White House.  Between the two of them, they manage to convince enough Congressmen and Senators in their respective parties to get on the ball.  The Civil Rights Act of 1963 is passed, and JFK signs it into law on November 19, 1963.  Then he flies to Dallas.

Jackie and Rachel Robinson attend his funeral, 6 days later.  Rockefeller does run for President in 1964, and, with Jackie seen by his side, he gets the nomination, instead of Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona.  Rockefeller still loses to Lyndon Johnson, but it's not a wipeout.  Goldwater's hard-right forces fight even harder against Rockefeller in the 1968 primaries, but it's no use, as Richard Nixon's comeback is complete.

History reasserts itself: Even without the Goldwater nomination, the conservative movement finally nominates their man in 1980.  By which point, Jackie has been dead for 8 years.

Well, history almost reasserts itself.  In 1989, in a special election to succeed Senator John Stennis of Mississippi, Congressman Trent Lott is defeated by a man roughly the same age.  Another Congressman, who had been the first black professor at the University of Mississippi.  Emmett Till.

In 1994, presuming that the coming Republican electoral tide will sweep Till out of office, President Bill Clinton appoints him to the Supreme Court, where he still sits today, at the age of 71.


So there's failure, and attempted sabotage.  But what if the sabotage succeeds?

What if, in TTL, Hughes hits Jackie not in the back, but in the head?

The Dodgers were the first team to use batting helmets, experimenting with metal inserts after Joe Medwick (formerly of the Cardinal Gashouse Gang) was hit shortly after they acquired him in 1940.  But by 1947, although all the Dodgers were using them, they weren't nearly as good as they would become.

Jackie is rushed down Lehigh Avenue to Temple University Hospital.  His life is still in the balance the next morning.

Frick and Chandler have taken a train down to North Philadelphia, and meet with Phillies owner Bob Carpenter in Carpenter's office at Shibe Park.  They give Carpenter an ultimatum: Fire Chapman immediately, or all games played by the Phillies will be forfeited until you sell the team.

Worried that a new owner might not keep the team in Philadelphia, Carpenter -- whose wealth, taken from the pioneering Carpenter and du Pont families into which he'd been born, would have seemed to have protected him from ever needing to sell the team -- agrees.  Chapman is called up to the office immediately, and is told he has been fired, for cause.

Frick and Chandler assure Chapman that he will never work in the National League again.  They call American League President Will Harridge, and tell him what has happened.  Harridge assures them that Chapman will never work in the AL again, either.

Jackie recovers, although it appears that he will not be able to play for the rest of the season.  The 1947 All-Star Game is announced as a benefit for his family.  Before Game 1 of the World Series, between the Yankees and the Cardinals, Chandler stands by Jackie in a baseline box as he throws out the ceremonial first ball.

He returns to play for the 1948 season, and, free of the need to hold back, plays as we remember.  His career unfolds as we know it, with all the honors we know: The 1949 MVP; Pennants in '49, '52, '53, '55 and '56; the '55 World Championship; election to the Hall of Fame; and retirement of his Number 42, first by the Dodgers shortly before his death in 1972, and in 1997 for all of baseball.

Back to the Phillies: Eddie Sawyer, a year sooner than in RL, becomes manager, and the team develops into the Whiz Kids as in RL.  The dismissal of Chapman, and the message that Carpenter will not tolerate racism within the ranks of his club, leads to black fans in Philadelphia accepting that the Phillies are interested in their welfare, and attendance soars.  When the Phillies win the Pennant in 1950, they set a city attendance record that lasts until 1964.

In that summer of 1964, when the race riot happens mere blocks from what is now called Connie Mack Stadium, some black Phillies fans head for the ballpark to protect it.  The Phils have a home-field advantage that just wasn't there in RL, and the cheering from fans, black and white alike, spurs them on to hang on to their lead, and the Phillies win the Pennant, and beat the Yankees for their first World Championship.

Carpenter does his best to keep the team together.  Richie Allen and Frank Thomas don't have that carried-over tension, and there's no fight between them in 1965.  The Phils lose the Pennant to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but win it in 1966, although they lose the World Series to the Baltimore Orioles.

Richie Allen is one of baseball's most popular players, and doesn't feel the need to flout authority with late-night carousing.  When he grows sideburns and a mustache -- which he did in RL before the Oakland A's of the 1970s -- and starts asking to be called "Dick" instead of "Richie," which he says is "a little boy's name" -- and Phils legend, now broadcaster, Rich Ashburn agrees -- people seem to be fine with it.  He homers to win the last game at Connie Mack Stadium -- in 1967.  The Phils' Pennant made the desire to build a new stadium come to realization sooner, and Veterans Stadium opens in 1968.

The St. Louis Cardinals still win the World Series in 1967 and the Pennant in 1968, but not in 1964.  When they trade Curt Flood in the 1969-70 offseason, it's not to the Phillies for Dick Allen.  He still doesn't want to move, and his challenge to the reserve clause still happens.  But there's less of a racial aspect to it.  He still loses the case, but the reserve clause's days are numbered.

Allen slumps in 1969, '70 and '71.  The Phillies trade him to the Chicago White Sox, and he spends the rest of his career there, winning the AL Most Valuable Player in 1972, and leading "the South Side Hit Men" to the AL West title in 1977, before losing the ALCS to the Yankees.  From the 1964 Phillies, Allen and Johnny Callison are elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Jim Bunning is elected a bit sooner than he was in RL.  Allen's Number 15 and Callison's 6 join Bunning's 14, Ashburn's 1, Robin Roberts' 36, Mike Schmidt's 20, Steve Carlton's 32, and notations for Grover Cleveland Alexander and Chuck Klein on the wall at the Vet, and later at Citizens Bank Park, where there are statues of Allen, Schmidt, Carlton, Roberts, Mack, Ashburn and Harry Kalas.

Statues of Jackie Robinson appear at Citi Field, Dodger Stadium, the UCLA campus, and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.


Sadly, in RL, the only statue of Jackie Robinson that I've ever seen is the one of him and Pee Wee Reese outside the Brooklyn Cyclones' park.  The Interborough Parkway, in Brooklyn and Queens, including cutting through the cemetery where he's buried, is named for him.  There was a school across the street from the site of Ebbets Field that was named for him, but the name has been changed to Ebbets Field Middle School.  But there is a plaque on a building built on the site of the Dodger offices in downtown Brooklyn where Jackie signed that first contract.  (In those days, most teams did not have their offices at the ballpark.) And the Mets have the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at the home plate entrance to Citi Field -- roughly the baseball equivalent of a Presidential Library.

So... What if Jackie Robinson had failed?

In the words of the immortal Susan B. Anthony, "Failure is impossible."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What If Fred Merkle Had Touched 2nd Base?

The 2012 World Series, between the Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants, is underway.  The Tigers have won 11 American League Pennants.  The Giants, in New York and San Francisco combined, have won 22 National League Pennants.  The Giants have won the World Series in 1905, 1921, 1922, 1933, 1954 and 2010 -- all but the last in New York.  The Tigers have won it in 1935, 1945, 1968 and 1984.  And yet, for all that glory, they have never faced each other in a World Series before.

The closest call was in 1908.  The Tigers won the 2nd of 3 straight Pennants, but the Giants blew it due to losing what became known as the Fred Merkle Game.  Merkle's Boner led to the game of September 23, 1908 being ruled a tie, and the NL season ended in a tie between the Giants and the defending World Champion Chicago Cubs.  A replay, not recognized as an official postseason game by Major League Baseball, was played on October 8, and the Cubs won.  The Cubs, for the 2nd straight year, beat the Tigers in the World Series.  Those remain the only World Series the Cubs have ever won.

The Tigers lost 3 straight World Series, 1907-08-09.  The only other team to do that was the Giants, 1911-12-13, with some of the same players who'd blown the 1908 Pennant.

On the 100th Anniversary, September 23, 2008, I did a piece, in the style of ESPN's series The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame... , on why Merkle should be let off the hook.  Check it out on my other blog, Uncle Mike's Musings.   (See link to the right.)

There's no point in rehashing what happened, or what appears to have happened, on that wacky afternoon at the Polo Grounds.  But... What if it didn't happen that way?

Suppose the fans did not rush the field, and Merkle got to 2nd base safely, and the game went into the books as a Giant win, and the Giants won the Pennant?

Well, for starters, the Cubs would, in TTL, not have won a World Series since 1907, instead of 1908.  But that is hardly a difference-maker.


If the Giants had stuck to their starting rotation, then we can safely guess who their starting pitchers would have been.  Having Christy "Big Six" Mathewson and Joe "Iron Man" McGinnity, both usually willing to start on short rest, simplifies things for them.  Remember, this was the Dead Ball Era: Nothing having to bear down on a team full of sluggers meant less wear and tear on an arm, meaning more pitches, more innings, more starts, more wins.

So, here we go, the 1908 World Series, New York Giants vs. Detroit Tigers:

Game 1, October 10, at Bennett Park, Detroit (which would be torn down after the 1911, with Navin Field, later to be known as Briggs Stadium and Tiger Stadium, builton the site): Christy Mathewson vs. Ed Killian.  Killian left in the 3rd inning and did not appear again in the Series, so he may have left due to injury.  Ed Summers came in, but couldn't stop the Cubs.  I suspect the Giants would have hit Killian and Summers equally well.  The Tigers fought back, though, with 3 runs in the 7th and 2 in the 8th, but the Cubs put it away with 5 runs in the 9th, to win it 10-6.  But they're not facing Ed Reulbach in TTL-Game 1: They're facing Matty.  Giants 10, Tigers 2.  Giants lead, 1-0.

Game 2, October 11, at Bennett Park: Joe McGinnity vs. Bill Donovan.  In RL, the Series had shifted to Chicago.  But, with New York being a lot father away, they likely would have gone with a format of 2 in Detroit, 3 in New York, 2 in Detroit -- presuming more than 4 games were necessary.  Which means there will be a day off in the TTL-1908 WS, as there was not in the RL-1908 WS.  The game was scoreless going into the bottom of the 8th, but the Cubs hung 6 on Donovan.  Today, Jim Leyland would have pulled him after the first baserunner.  In aught-eight, Tiger manager Hughie Jennings left Wild Bill in, to live up to his nickname.  (There have been a few other famous men named Bill Donovan, and they all seem to have been nicknamed Wild Bill.) The Tigers pulled a run back in the 9th, but no more.  I think the result would have been the same: Giants 6, Tigers 1.  Giants lead, 2-0.  And they haven't even played in New York yet.

Game 3, October 13, at the Polo Grounds: Red Ames vs. George Mullin.  The Cubs scored 3 in the 4, but the Tigers scored 5 in the 6th.  And that was off Jack Pfeister, a better pitcher than Ames.  Tigers 8, Giants 3.  Giants still lead, 2-1.  So far, the road team has won every game.

Game 4, October 14, at the Polo Grounds: Mathewson vs. Ed Summers.  Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown, Matty's only real challenger for the title of Best Pitcher In Baseball at that time, shut the Tigers out.  No reason why Matty can't do the same.  Giants 3, Tigers 0.  Giants lead 3-1, and are 1 win away from taking it.

Game 5, October 15, at the Polo Grounds: McGinnity vs. Donovan.  Orval Overall shut the Tigers out to clinch it.  But after 3,441 innings pitched in 10 years, at age 37, McGinnity is winding down, and maybe Ty Cobb and company get to him.  Tigers 3, Giants 2.  Giants still lead 3-2, but the Series goes back to the not-yet-Motor City.

Game 6, October 17, at Bennett Park: Ames vs. Mullin.  Since this game was not played in RL, all I can do is make a somewhat-educated guess.  And here I have to throw in a monkey wrench.

We tend to think of Mathewson as one of the greatest pitchers who ever lived -- maybe the greatest.  But in the 2 biggest games of his career -- the 1908 Merkle replay and Game 8 of the 1912 World Series (forced because Game 2 was called due to darkness) -- he blew it.  Christy Mathewson, not a big game pitcher, not a clutch pitcher? Hard to believe.  But let me put it this way: There are other pitchers I would trust in Game 7 before I'd trust Mathewson.

But since the Giants didn't play the Merkle Replay in TTL, and hadn't yet played the 1912 World Series, they didn't know that.  Would they have taken it easy in Game 6, knowing they could rely on Matty in Game 7? Hell no, manager John McGraw wouldn't have allowed that.  He wanted to go for the jugular every... single... game.

But I smell a field day for the Georgia Peach: Cobb gets 3 hits, drives in 4 runs, and steals 6 bases, including home plate once.  Tigers 6, Giants 2.  We're going to a Game 7.

Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson.  The first player and the first pitcher elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Numbers 3 and 7 on The Sporting News' end-of-the-century list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players.  Their careers overlapped between 1905 and 1916.  And yet they never faced each other in a game that mattered.  Not in a World Series.  There was no All-Star Game back then.  They may never have even faced each other in spring training.  Now, they're going at it in Game 7 of the World Series.

Game 7, October 18, at Bennett Park: Mathewson vs. Summers.

The thing is, in RL, Cobb's lifetime postseason batting average was just .262.  That's .104 below his regular-season average.  And that was against guys like Brown, Pfeister, Overall, Reulbach, and 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers Vic Willis, Howie Camnitz and Babe Adams.  Aside from Brownie, none of those guys could touch Matty.  If Cobb was no better than, say, Nick Swisher against those guys, Mathewson would have turned him into postseason A-Rod.

In RL-1956, Don Larsen of the Yankees pitched the first no-hitter in World Series history, a perfect game.

In TTL-1956, Larsen will have to settle for the second no-hitter in World Series history.

Giants 2, Tigers 0.  Christy Mathewson pitches a no-hitter, with the only baserunner being Sam Crawford, who reaches on an error by... Fred Merkle.  But Merkle gets off a lot easier on this than he did for his RL "Boner." Mainly because Merkle doubled home 2 runs in the top of the 5th to provide the margin of victory.

This win doesn't affect the Giants' legacy much.  The difference between 1 ring and 2 isn't nearly as big as the difference between 1 ring and none.  In RL, Matty had 1 ring: 1905; Cobb had none.  In TTL, Matty has 2, Cobb still has none.

This doesn't change much.  All it really does is make the Cubs slightly more pathetic.

Monday, September 3, 2012

What If the Red Sox Had Moved and the Braves Had Stayed In Boston?

In spring training of 1953, the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee, as Milwaukee County Stadium neared completion.

The move was entirely justified.  Today, with the success of the Boston Red Sox having converted New England into "Red Sox Nation," and the Sox not having played to an unsold seat since 2001 and tickets being pretty hard to come by since the 1986 Pennant, it could be argued that the New England region could support a second Major League Baseball team.  Granted, due to the locations of the population bases and the transportation network, it couldn't be in Hartford.  Or Providence.  Or Manchester, New Hampshire.  Or in the small towns that serve as those cities' suburbs.  It would have to also be in Boston.

But in 1953? Forget it: The 1950 Census had the population of the city of Boston at about 800,000 (today it's about 617,000), but the metropolitan area could not approach the 7.6 million that it is today.  In 1952, the last season of two-team Boston, the Braves averaged 3,677 fans per game.  Per game.  The Red Sox averaged 14,490.  Combined, that's 18,167, both teams combined, about half what the Sox alone get now.

And after 1933, a good season for the Braves, and the year Thomas Austin Yawkey bought the Red Sox and started to rebuild both the team and Fenway Park, the Braves never had a higher per-game attendance than the Red Sox.  Not even in 1948, when the Braves won their only Pennant after their 1914 World Championship, and the Red Sox lost a one-game Playoff for the American League Pennant to the Cleveland Indians: The Braves averaged 19,025, a total they never surpassed in Boston, while the Red Sox averaged 20,602.

Once the Braves moved to Milwaukee, they had a better attendance than the Red Sox 10 years in a row.  County Stadium had 44,000 seats at the time, 4,000 more than Braves Field, and about 10,000 more parking spaces.  Plus, their farm system was bearing fruit.

Which should make one wonder: What if they'd held out just one more year? In 1953, already having Warren Spahn, they had the first full season of Eddie Mathews.  And 1954 was the first season of Hank Aaron.

What if...


If you're going to imagine a scenario in which the Braves stay in Boston, you're going to have to admit the truth: Boston could not remain a two-team city.  Therefore, the Red Sox have to go.

Tom Yawkey did talk about moving the team out of Boston... if he did not get a replacement for Fenway Park.  That was in 1967, and then the Red Sox got into their first Pennant race in 16 years, won their first Pennant in 21 years, and suddenly Fenway Park was the place to be.  Yawkey sat back and enjoyed the glory, and essentially forgot about replacing Fenway.  It would be the late 1990s before anyone seriously discussed replacing Fenway again.

Yawkey was rich.  Filthy rich.  And, whatever his flaws, he loved baseball.  He was not going to sell the Red Sox.

Therefore, if you want to change history so that the Braves stay in Boston and the Red Sox don't, you have to use a date prior to March 17, 1953, the date the National League approved the Braves' move to Milwaukee, as your point of divergence.  You have to remove Yawkey from Boston.

The story I heard is that, in 1933, Yawkey turned 30 and inherited the lumber-mill fortune of his uncle and adoptive father, a former co-owner of the Detroit Tigers named William Hoover Yawkey.  With his uncle's connections, he knew several Detroit baseball figures, including the one and only Ty Cobb.  He asked Cobb if the Tigers were for sale.  Cobb said he'd look into it.  When he got back to Yawkey, he said, No, the Tigers were not for sale, but the Red Sox were.  The rest is history.  Not all good history, but history nonetheless.

We now know that Frank Navin, who had put his name on the ballpark that we would later know as Tiger Stadium (and opened on the same day as Fenway, April 20, 1912), was in both poor health and financial difficulty.  He died a few weeks after the Tigers won their first World Series in 1935.  This left Walter O. Briggs Sr. as the sole owner.

So let's imagine that Cobb brokers a deal by which Yawkey buys most of Navin's shares, and most of Briggs' shares.  This would leave Bob Quinn, who had bought the Red Sox from the much-maligned Harry Frazee in 1923, to continue as Sox owner -- preventing him from joining the front offices of the Brooklyn Dodgers and, oddly, the Braves in TTL, as he did in RL.

In 1951, Quinn, by then President of the Baseball Hall of Fame, suffered a stroke, and retired from that role.  In TTL, this could be the impetus for his selling the Red Sox to someone who would move them.

(Quinn died in 1954.  His son John also served as Braves general manager, in Boston and Milwaukee.  One grandson, Bob, was GM of the Yankees, Reds and Giants; another, Jack, was GM of the NHL's St. Louis Blues.  Today, great-grandson Bob Quinn is a front-office man with the current Milwaukee team, the Brewers.)

So here we go...


With Yawkey in charge of the Tigers, he does what Navin would have done, buying catcher Mickey Cochrane from the Philadelphia Athletics, as owner-manager Connie Mack had lost all his non-baseball assets in the stock market crash of 1929 and needed to break up his 1929-31 dynasty.  In RL, Mack sold first baseman Jimmie Foxx  and pitchers Lefty Grove and Rube Walberg, to the Red Sox, and left fielder Al Simmons to the Chicago White Sox.  Yawkey brought the Ferrell brothers to Boston: Pitcher Wes of the Cleveland Indians and catcher Rick of the St. Louis Browns.  His big move came in the 1934-35 off-season, buying Joe Cronin from the Washington Senators -- who was not just the shortstop and manager for Senators owner Clark Griffith, but also his son-in-law.

With Yawkey in charge of the Tigers, Cronin won't be the manager.  But he'd be a better shortstop than Billy Rogell.  Hank Greenberg gets moved to left field to make room for Foxx (as, in RL, he would briefly do for Rudy York), with Goose Goslin then moving from left to right, and Simmons replacing Jo-Jo White in center.  Now imagine a pitching staff of Lefty Grove, Wes Ferrell, Elwyn "Schoolboy" Rowe and Tommy Bridges.  Even good pitchers like Elden Auker and Alvin "General" Crowder would either go to the bullpen or get traded.

The Tigers almost certainly beat the St. Louis Cardinals' "Gashouse Gang" in the 1934 World Series (thus ruining the goofy-and-braggy-but-victorious image of Dizzy Dean, who almost certainly does not make the Hall of Fame), and still win the '35 Series as in RL.  In RL-1936, the Yankees, with an unbelievable rookie season from Joe DiMaggio, finished 19 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers.  I don't think the Tigers overtake them, especially as some of those guys were getting older.  Nor do they win in '37, '38 or '39.  But the 1940 race, a nailbiter between the Tigers, Yankees and Indians, is not one, and the Tigers beat the Cincinnati Reds in the Series -- which they nearly did anyway.  The Tigers just missed winning the Pennant in 1944 and won the whole thing in 1945; in TTL, they win the Series both years, taking another title away from the Cardinals (1944) and keeping one they won in RL (1945).

Tom Yawkey doesn't win the Pennant in 1967 -- but the Tigers do still win the 1968 World Series, as in RL.  Yawkey dies in 1976, and his widow Jean Yawkey inherits the team.  She is the owner of the 1984 World Champion Tigers, and she dies in 1992.  Little Caesar's pizza mogul Mike Ilitch then buys the Tigers from the Yawkey Trust.  (And so, history reasserts itself: In RL, in that same year, he bought them from Domino's Pizza owner Tom Monaghan.) The Tigers win the Pennant in 2006, and nearly do so again in 2011.


That's what happens to the Yawkeys.  Now for the Red Sox: 

Perhaps if Ted Williams hadn't been away in the Korean War in the winter of 1952-53, he could have had some input on where the team went.  Possibly to his native California? Possibly to Florida, where he lived?

Here were the cities that, in RL, would all get major league teams in the next 10 years, 1953 to 1962: Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, San Francisco.  In RL-1952, the Sox' top farm club was the Louisville Colonels.  This would have made it simple: The Sox already owned the market.  But Louisville, which hadn't had a major league team since 1899 (and still hasn't, in RL), was then (and is now) too small a market for a big-league club.

At that point, Milwaukee, whose minor-league Brewers were the Braves' top farm team, was building County Stadium to have 44,000 seats (and was expanded to 53,000 by 1973), Baltimore was converting Municipal Stadium into Memorial Stadium to 49,000 ( later 54,000), Kansas City was double-decking their Municipal Stadium so it would seat 35,000, and none of the others then had, or were about to have, a stadium seating more than 21,000.  Also, moving to the Pacific Coast would make travel really expensive, especially if there wasn't a second team moving out there.  And since one League having 2 West Coast teams and the other having none would have brought lots of recriminations, the TTL-Red Sox are not moving to the West Coast.

So here were the Red Sox' options: Make a deal with the owners of the Triple-A teams in Milwaukee (Braves), Baltimore (Phillies) or K.C. (Yankees), and wait for the cities to finish their stadiums; or stay put and suffer.

Since the Yankees were trying to get a major league team in Kansas City, and also trying to make sure that the Philadelphia Athletics were that team, which would make the Phillies the only game in their town, it makes sense, in TTL as in RL, if the Boston team that moves, moves to Milwaukee.  So the Braves, in order to be the only game in town, swap the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association to the Red Sox for the Louisville Colonels of the International League.

On September 28, 1952, the Boston Red Sox play their last game at Fenway Park, losing 5-4 to the Washington Senators.  In 1955, Fenway, the home of the 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918 World Champions, and the 1946 American League Champions, is demolished to make way for housing for nearby Boston University.

On April 20, 1953, the Milwaukee Red Sox play their first game at Milwaukee County Stadium, also against the Senators.  This time, they win, 4-2.  The return of Williams later in the season makes it even more of a special season, as Wisconsinians go nuts over their first big-league baseball team in 52 years, and Ted gets greater appreciation from the fans -- and especially from the media -- in Milwaukee than he ever got in Boston.

However, the enthusiasm soon dims.  Unlike the RL-Braves, the TTL-Red Sox do not win Pennants in 1957 and '58. When Ted plays his last game on September 28, 1960, and hits a home run in his last at-bat, 43,768 fans -- over 4 times as many that came out at Fenway in RL that day -- cheer him wildly.  But, as with the RL-Braves, the attendance drops precipitously.

When the Minnesota Twins arrived in 1961, that took the States of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota -- admittedly, the Dakotas are not huge population centers, but Minnesota is a big loss -- and northern Iowa and the westernmost part of Wisconsin, away from the Milwaukee market.

So the TTL-Red Sox, with no 1957 World Championship, with no 1958 Pennant, and with no Ted Williams -- and with Carl Yastrzemski not yet developed into a star, are in trouble.

And Yaz wouldn't have gone to the Milwaukee Red Sox, anyway.  He grew up in the Hamptons on Long Island, and his father, Carl Sr., wanted him to play for a Northeastern team.  When the Dodgers came calling, Carl Sr. said, "If only you were still in Brooklyn." When the RL-Red Sox came calling, Boston's comparative proximity was good enough for Carl Sr., and so Carl Jr. became Captain Yaz, the Red Sox legend.

But Milwaukee? Sorry, Yaz doesn't go there.  He could, though, go to the TTL-Boston Braves... But that's to discuss later.

So, for the next round of expansion, nothing changes from RL.  For the 1961 season, Los Angeles got the Angels to go with the Dodgers, the Senators became the Minnesota Twins, and Washington got a new Senators to replacement.  For 1962, New York got the Mets and Houston got the Colt .45's (who became the Astros in 1965).

So where can the Milwaukee Red Sox go? The following cities either got big-league teams or were rumored to be getting them in the following 10 years: Atlanta, Oakland, Kansas City (to replace the A's), Montreal, San Diego, Seattle, Milwaukee (who got the failed-after-one-year Seattle team), Dallas, Denver and Louisville.  Only Louisville ended up not getting one, although Charlie Finley did briefly consider moving the A's there, as well as to Denver and Dallas, before moving them to Oakland (and eventually made a second, nearly-successful, attempt at moving them to Denver).

Obviously, in TTL, Milwaukee isn't getting the Red Sox, because they're losing them.  In RL-1962, of the cities listed above, only Kansas City had a decent-sized ballpark, and at that point, in both RL and TTL, they still had the A's.

But Montreal had Delorimier Stadium, 20,000 seats, sitting vacant after the Dodgers pulled the Montreal Royals out after the 1960 season.  Mayor Jean Drapeau was something of a megalomaniac, and he wasn't able to get a team for his city until 1968 (for the 1969 season).  Instead of Jarry Park, an inadequate baseball park, and the Autostade, an inadequate football stadium, maybe this time Drapeau gets it right.

On September 28, 1963, for the last time after 92 years, a team called the Red Stockings or the Red Sox played in Major League Baseball.  The Milwaukee Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels, 4-3.  Only 12,577 came out to County Stadium.  (That's how many came out for the last Milwaukee Braves game, on September 22, 1965, a 7-6 loss to the Dodgers in 11 innings.)

On April 17, 1964 -- the same day that Shea Stadium opened in New York, which doesn't change in TTL -- for the first time, a Major League Baseball game is played outside the United States.  At Stade Macdonald, named for Canada's first Prime Minister, on the Ile de Soeurs, where the pavilions for the Expo 67 World's Fair were soon to go up in RL, the renamed Montreal Expos beat the Chicago White Sox, 4-1, in front of 45,585 fans.  (I'm keeping the name "Expos" for simplicity's sake, and it does make some sense, as Canada began planning for the fair in 1962.)

The Expos won the American League Pennant in 1967, Canada's Centennial year.  How can they do this, when they are, essentially, the same team as the RL-1967 Boston Red Sox, only without the key figures of Carl Yastrzemski and (as you'll see later) Tony Conigliaro?

Ah, but their owners are not the same.  They were quicker to bring in black players, and not just role players but those of consequence.  They make a trade with the Phillies to bring in Dick Allen -- who is a better 3rd baseman than either Joe Foy or Jerry Adair.  The left fielder they got was former San Francisco Giant Matty Alou, and he wins the American League batting title in 1966 (instead of the National League batting title).  With Montreal being a multicultural city in ways that Allen's Philadelphia definitely was not at the time, and even Alou's San Francisco wasn't yet quite embracing, these players embrace their new environment and vice versa, and they excel.

And the Expos beat the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the World Series -- with Al Downing, obtained from the Yankees, pitching on 3 days' rest instead of Jim Lonborg, who was on 2 and, in RL, just didn't have it that day.  This is the franchise's first World Championship in 49 years.

The Cards also lose the '68 Series to Yawkey's Tigers, meaning that Bob Gibson doesn't have nearly the same mystique, and Orlando Cepeda waits another few years to get into the Hall of Fame -- but he does get in.  Still, Bob Feller ends up taking Gibson's place on the All-Century Team in 1999.

The Expos beat out Yawkey's Tigers for the AL Eastern Division title in 1972, but lose the AL Championship Series to the A's.  (Oakland, right? Hold on... ) They win the 1975 Pennant, and Carlton Fisk -- whose hometown of Charlestown, New Hampshire isn't that much further from Montreal than it is from Boston -- waves his fly ball fair to win Game 6 of the World Series, but the Reds win Game 7.

The Yankees and the Expos faced each other in battles for the AL East title in 1974, '75, '76, '77 and '78, and the rivalry was fun.  But it wasn't especially nasty.  With Baltimore being the closest AL city to New York (yes, a little closer than Boston is), Yankees vs. Orioles becomes THE rivalry in the AL.  But even that is not at the level in TTL as Dodgers vs. Giants or even Cubs vs. Cardinals is in RL, much less at the Yanks-Sox rivalry that we know.

The Expos lose the 1986 World Series to the Mets, but Quebec fans figure it out: It was relievers Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley, and manager John McNamara, who screwed it up.  Unlike RL New Englanders, they forgive Bill Buckner pretty quickly, since the lead was already blown.

True, the 1999, 2003 and '04 ALCS were tightly-fought affairs between the Yankees and the Expos, but there were few Montrealers defending Pedro Martinez when he threw Don Zimmer to the ground by his head.  Montrealers didn't like getting beat by Aaron Boone, but they also appreciated that their Expos didn't look like a bunch of slobs when they won it all in 2004 and 2007.  The steroid revelations hurt, but then, lots of teams had players like that -- including the Yankees.  There is little bitterness between Yankee and Expo fans over that period.

And while the Expos fell apart  in TTL-2011, they don't have the "choke" reputation of the RL-Red Sox.  And nobody ever wrote The Curse of the Bambino -- because what do Montreal fans care that Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth in the 1919-20 off-season? It was the same franchise as the one they're watching now, but it wasn't their team then.


That's the Red Sox.  What about Milwaukee? Same as in RL: They get a team in 1953, then lose it, while the Seattle Pilots flop in their inaugural season, 1969, and become the Brewers in 1970.  Only now, they've never won a World Series, and the city only has the 1982 Pennant.

What about Atlanta, who now won't have the Braves? Well, they don't wait for expansion again in 1969 (to take the RL-Expos' place).  They make a play for Charlie Finley's Kansas City A's, who move there in 1966.  That may not sit well with the black A's, including Reggie Jackson, but with the A's winning 5 straight AL West titles from 1971 to 1975, the city and the players both get over it, and are a boost toward racial reconciliation in the South.  It is the Atlanta A's that beat the Detroit Tigers in the 1972 ALCS, and Atlanta gets an MLB Pennant 19 years sooner than in RL.  The A's have won 4 World Series in Atlanta, which is 3 more than the RL-Atlanta Braves.

When Finley gets frustrated, and breaks up his team in 1976, Atlanta's Ted Turner steps in and makes Finley an offer he can't refuse.  Turner builds the A's team that wins the 1981 AL West title, and then the 1988-92 "Bash Brothers" quasi-dynasty.  Ted raises a lot of money for relief to go toward San Francisco when the Atlanta A's play the Giants in the 1989 World Series.  And with the building of Turner Field in 1997, there is, unlike in RL-Oakland, no danger that the Atlanta A's will move anytime soon.

Okay, so what about Oakland? They have the Coliseum.  But the NL is reluctant to put a 2nd team in the metro area, already having the Giants.  In TTL, Oakland never gets a Major League Baseball team.

So it is, ironically, the city that, in RL-1976, nearly got the Giants after the A's 1970s success made it seem like they would be the only team that could stay in the Bay Area: Toronto.  Exhibition Stadium had opened in 1959 and was the home of the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts.  So in TTL-1977, the Toronto Blue Jays debut -- in the NL East, in the place held by the RL-Expos/Nationals.

The teams that debut in TTL-1977 are the same ones that we know: The Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners... Except that they're in the National League, which expands to 14 teams, while the American League stays at 12.  This results in the Jays winning the 1992 World Series over Atlanta, but it's the Atlanta Athletics.  But the "Macho Row" Phillies beat them and in 1993, and the Phils go on to beat the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS and the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.  As for the M's, they win 116 games in 2001, to win the NL West and the Pennant.  The Yankees beat the 1998 expansion Arizona Diamondbacks to win the 2001 ALDS 3 games to 2, and the A's to win the ALCS, before topping the Mariners in the post-9/11 World Series, winning Games 4 and 5 on walkoff hits: Derek Jeter's home run in the 10th in Game 4, and Alfonso Soriano singling home Chuck Knoblauch in the 12th in Game 5.

What about Washington? If the Expos never move there, what team do they get? They get an expansion team in 1998.  In the American League.  The 3rd incarnation of the Washington Senators -- can't call them the Nationals if they're in the AL -- take the place of the Tampa Bay Rays.  Senators Park opens in 2003, allowing them to get out of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium 5 years earlier.  By the time the "Nats" (remember, the old Senators were called that, short for "Senators," even though the NHL's Ottawa Senators are the "Sens") win the 2008 AL Pennant and lose the World Series to the Phillies, their ballpark is corporate-named Capitol One Park.  "What's in your wallet?" Enough money to have a rotation that includes David Price, James Shields and Stephen Strasburg.

Tampa Bay remains stuck with their "gray elephant" dome, which is used by the cross-State Marlins as bait to get a new ballpark near downtown Miami, which works, as Marlins Park, as in RL, opens in 2012.


Now for the remaining Boston team, the Braves: They win the 1957 World Series and the 1958 NL Pennant, as in RL  But now, that 1957 title is Boston's first in 39 years, rather than Milwaukee's first ever (and still only).  And the increased attendance leads to a reconfiguration of Braves Field, thus different fence distances and wind conditions, and they take advantage of this to beat the Dodgers out for the Pennant in 1959.  But they lose the World Series to the White Sox -- Chicago's first title, for either the White Sox or the Cubs, in 42 years.

Being Boston's team, and with the amateur draft not yet in place, it is the Braves who sign local wonderboy Tony Conigliaro.  Being a Northeastern team, it is the Braves who sign Carl Yastrzemski.  Being in the NL, Tony C comes to bat on August 18, 1967, but not against Jack Hamilton, and he is not beaned.  The Braves aren't really in the Pennant race in 1967, despite a great year from Yaz.  It is they who battle the New York Mets for the NL East title in 1969, but they fall a little short.  In RL, the Atlanta Braves won the NL West; in TTL, the Cubs are in the NL West, and win it, their first 1st-place finish in 24 years.  But the Mets beat them in the NLCS, and win their "Miracle" World Championship over the Orioles.

Tony C, his career uninterrupted, becomes the big folk hero, with Yaz essentially being Lou Gehrig to his Babe Ruth.  Or, considering that Hank Aaron is still there, the analogy should be that Aaron is a still-playing Joe DiMaggio, while Tony C is Boston's Mickey Mantle, Yaz is their Roger Maris, and knuckleballer Phil Niekro is their Whitey Ford.  However, Bill Lee does not become their Yogi Berra: The quotable southpaw whackjob spends his entire career with the TTL-Expos, instead of the team they were, the RL-Red Sox, and the RL-Expos, and he becomes a folk hero in Montreal.

In 1972, Patriot Park opens at Massachusetts and Westland Avenues, across from Symphony Hall to the north and the First Church of Christ, Scientist to the east.  It was chosen (by me for this story, by the City of Boston in TTL) for its proximity to all four of the MBTA's Green Lines, and is no worse to drive to than RL-Fenway Park.  The dimensions make it a hitter's park, which means that Aaron hits his 714th and 715th career home runs on September 30, 1973, the final day of the regular season, in a 6-5 win over the Houston Astros.  Dave Roberts gives up the equalizer, and Don Wilson gives up the record-breaker.

And with Hank, Yaz, Tony C, Darrell Evans and Davey Johnson providing one of the most potent attacks the game has ever known, the Braves win the bunched-up NL East, instead of the Mets, and go on to win the Pennant over the Reds.  But they lose the World Series in 7 games to the Atlanta Athletics.  They win the NL East again in 1974, and beat the Dodgers for the Pennant, but again lose to the A's.  The people of Boston can't understand how they can lose to a city like Atlanta.  Still, since their 1948 Pennant, the TTL-Braves have won 5 Pennants, and that's 1 more than the RL-Red Sox won over the same stretch.

Aaron, who never played in Milwaukee, stays with the Braves for his entire career, and retires in 1976 with 766 home runs -- which means that, at 762, Barry Bonds falls short, and Hank still holds the record.  Like Hank, Tony C joins the 500 Home Run Club, retiring in 1981 with 508.  Like Hank, Yaz joins the 3,000 Hit Club, retiring in 1983 with 3,419.  (In Yaz' case, the total is as in RL.) By the time the Braves win the NL East title in 1982 (losing the NLCS to the Western Champion St. Louis Cardinals, a geographic reverse of RL), new players are there, led by Dale Murphy, with Niekro as the only holdover from the 1974 Pennant, let alone from the 1969 near-miss.

The Braves, led by Ron Gant, Terry Pendleton, David Justice, and the pitching of Tom Glavine, Steve Avery and John Smoltz, win the 1991 Pennant.  They fall short in 1992 (Toronto) and '93 (Philadelphia).  But in 1995, having added Chipper Jones and Greg Maddux, they go all the way.  In 1996, for the first time since 1912 -- and for the first time since the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth -- the World Series is New York vs. Boston.  No change: The Yankees beat the Braves in 6.

While Turner Field opens for the A's in Atlanta the next season, the Boston Braves' Patriot Park still stands as of 2012, its 40th Anniversary season, and while there have been some adjustments to make it more modern (including skyboxes), the great atmosphere -- not to mention the byzantine nature of politics in Massachusetts in general and in Boston in particular -- mean there are no plans to replace it.  It is generally regarded as the best ballpark built between Dodger Stadium in 1962 and Camden Yards in 1992.

The Boston Braves beat the Florida Marlins out in both the 1997 regular season and NLCS, but the Cleveland Indians reverse the result of 1995 -- and 1948, and win their first World Championship since that year.  The Braves lose another World Series to the Yankees in 1999, and the rivalry between New York and Boston, so much bigger in basketball and hockey (and soon to be in football as well), has perked up a bit in baseball.  But in TTL, it's the Mets who build a rivalry with Boston, as the Braves beat them out for the NL East title in 1998, 1999 and 2000, and in a taut 1999 NLCS.

So here's the Braves' titles in TTL:

World Series Champions, 3: 1914, 1957, 1995.

National League Champions, 19 (more than any other NL team): 1877, 1878, 1883, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1897, 1898, 1914, 1948, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1973, 1974, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1999.

N.L. East Champions, 16 (more Division titles than any other NL team): 1973, 1974, 1982, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005.

Or, to put it another way, from 1953 onward, here's the totals, in TTL and RL: World Series wins, Braves 2, Red Sox 2; Pennants, Braves 9, Red Sox 5; Division titles, Braves 16, Red Sox 6.

Granted, in terms of going all the way, it's not an improvement, and it's 17 years since the last title, not 5.  But the Boston Braves, in spite of their 1920s and '30s struggles, have never in the post-World War II, post-integration era, had an image as a losing or a choking team.  Not even as much as the RL-Atlanta Braves.

So if this is how it would have gone had the Red Sox moved out of Boston and the Braves stayed, I think it's an improvement.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What If the Yankees Didn't Have Mariano Rivera?

The Yankees and their fans are so used to thinking, "Just get it to the 9th inning and let Mo handle it" that it took until his injury Thursday night for us to realize what it's like to live without him.

It could have been worse.

In spring training 1996, the men the Yankees were counting on to form the middle infield -- shortstop Tony Fernandez and second baseman Pat Kelly -- got hurt. They had Mariano Duncan to play second, but at shortstop... There was this exciting kid named Derek Jeter, but they weren't sure if he was ready.

So they approached the Seattle Mariners, asking about Felix Fermin. The M's wanted either Rivera or Bob Wickman... and general manager Bob Watson wouldn't do it. So they stuck with Jeter at short.

The M's ended up releasing Fermin anyway, and the Yankees got him. They sent him to the minors, and released him without bringing him up. Then the Chicago Cubs signed him, and released him later in the year. At 32, he never appeared in the majors again.

Clearly, Fermin was at the end of the line, so Jeter might have become the starting shortstop that season anyway.

But if they'd traded Rivera...


Let's imagine that the Yankees had ANY other middle reliever in 1996, and ANY other closer from 1997 to 2011. Even a good one like, say, Troy Percival, or Robb Nen.

1996: The Yankees finished 4 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Eastern Division. Without Rivera, they could very easily have not won the Division. So they get the Wild Card, and would have ended up playing the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series. The Indians win the Pennant, and probably lose to the Braves in the World Series as they did the year before.

1997: No change. The Yankees win the AL Wild Card, and lose in the Divison Series to the Indians.

1998: The Yankees don't win the East by 22 games, but they still win it. And they still beat the Texas Rangers in the ALDS. But no way do they beat the Indians in the AL Championship Series. The Indians win their first World Series in half a century by beating the San Diego Padres.

Joe Torre is fired as manager. Desperate to bring in another ex-Met hero, George Steinbrenner signs Davey Johnson. (Who, in RL, was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers at this point.)

1999: The Yankees lose the Division to the Boston Red Sox, win the Wild Card, and lose to the Indians in the ALDS.

2000: The Yankees' end-of-season nosedive means they don't make the Playoffs at all. The Red Sox win the East, and beat the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS. The Seattle Mariners win the Wild Card, beat the Chicago White Sox as they did in RL, and win their first Pennant by beating the Red Sox. In the World Series, the Mariners benefit from the Mets' baserunning blunders and Armando Benitez's choking, and win their first World Series.

Davey Johnson is fired. Hired is Yankee coach Lee Mazzilli -- another ex-Met notable, if not "hero."

Here's where it gets tricky: With the added postseason revenue, the M's re-sign Alex Rodriguez. He never becomes a Texas Ranger.

2001: The Mariners win 117 games, a new major league record. The A's beat the Yankees in the ALDS, as whoever is their closer this season blows Game 3 and Jeter's flip play goes for nought. The M's repeat, beating the A's and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

2002: No change, the Yankees win the Division but lose the ALDS... Not to the Anaheim Angels but to the A-Rod-boosted Mariners. They beat the A's, and then the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.

Now the M's are the dynasty, and the Yankees still haven't won a Pennant since 1981 or a World Series since 1978. People are beginning to talk about the Curse of Canton. No title since Thurman Munson went down in a plane crash.

2003: The story is the same, except there's no way the Yankees get through Game 7 of the ALCS with a sub-Mariano holding the Red Sox scoreless in the 9th, the 10th and the 11th. Aaron Boone never becomes a Yankee hero... and Scott Bleeping Williamson gives up the walkoff homer to Alex Gonzalez in Game 4 of the World Series, not Jeff Bleeping Weaver, and so the Florida Marlins win the World Series, and, while the Yankees haven't won a title in 25 years now, the Curse of the Bambino still lives. As Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe pointed out, the Curse wasn't, "The Red Sox can't beat the Yankees," it was, "The Red Sox can't win the World Series."

Mazzilli is fired. Willie Randolph becomes the first black manager for a New York team -- not the Mets, but the Yankees.

2004: The Sox win the East, the Yankees take the Wild Card, and the Yankees lose to the Angels in the ALDS. But... the Sox lose their ALDS to the Minnesota Twins! The Angels, 2 years later than they do in RL, win their first Pennant by beating the Sox (Dave Roberts becomes a storied Sox goat by getting caught stealing), and their first World Series by beating the St. Louis Cardinals.

2005: The Sox win the East, the Indians win the Wild Card, the Yankees miss the Playoffs completely, and the Chicago White Sox still end up as World Champions.

2006: George gets desperate, trading several prospects to Seattle for A-Rod, including Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera and the not-yet-reached-the-majors Phil Hughes. The results don't change: The Yankees win the East, but fall to the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS.

Willie Randolph is fired. Since he was fired by the Marlins, Joe Girardi is available, and George hires him.

2007: The Mariners get the Wild Card instead of the Yankees, and beat the Red Sox in the ALDS, but lose to the Indians in the ALCS. Why? Because the M's no longer have Mariano Rivera: Pat Gillick boldly sent 5 players to the M's to bring him to Philadelphia, and the World Series ends up with the Phillies beating the Indians for the title.

But having Mo and A-Rod worked out pretty well for the M's: 3 World Championships, which is 3 more Pennants than they have in RL.

2008: The final season at the old Yankee Stadium is approaching, and Hank Steinbrenner, now running the team for his ailing father, has had enough. He goes all out. He spends his father's money like there's no tomorrow, sending prospects to the Cardinals for Albert Pujols (Jason Giambi seems to be reaching the end), to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Freddy Sanchez (remember, Cano is gone), to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera (no A-Rod, so who's already there, Ramiro Pena?!?), and to the Indians for CC Sabathia.

It seems to work: The Yankees win the East, beating out the Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays. They beat the White Sox in the ALDS and the Angels in the ALCS. And they triumph over the Phillies in the World Series, as Xavier Nady gets the winning hit in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7... off Mariano Rivera. The old Yankee Stadium is closed in style. The winning pitcher? The Yankees' young flamethrower from Nebraska, Joba Chamberlain.

First Pennant in 27 years. First World Championship in 30 years. Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada finally get their rings.

2009: The first season of the new Yankee Stadium isn't as good as the last season at the old one. The Yankees lose their hunger, and lose the ALCS to the Angels, who lose the World Series to the Phillies.

2010: No change, the Yankees win the Wild Card, beat the Twins in the ALDS, and lose to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS.

2011: The Yankees lose the East to the Rays, and the Red Sox take the Wild Card.

So there it is: No Mariano, and it's 23 titles, not 27.

It can be argued that Mariano Rivera has made more of a difference for the Yankees than any player since Babe Ruth himself.

Monday, April 9, 2012

What If Pete Rose Had Cut a Deal?

February 21, 1989: Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader, now the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, is confronted by Commissioner A. Bartlett "Bart" Giamatti with evidence that he bet on baseball. Rose comes clean, about his gambling, and also about his tax issues.

February 22, 1989: Giamatti announces that Rose has been indefinitely suspended from baseball, and that he can apply for reinstatement in 3 years -- in February 1992. This would mean that, in the Baseball Hall of Fame election of January 1992, which would have been his first time eligible, he would not be eligible.

August 24, 1989: Rose pleads guilty to two felony counts of filing false income tax returns. He will serve five months in prison and is fined $50,000.

September 1, 1989: Giamatti has a heart attack, but lives. He recovers in time to attend the 1989 World Series.

Is there any such thing as a "mild heart attack"? As basketball legend Bill Walton -- whose career ended around this time, due to yet another foot/ankle surgery -- taught us, "Minor surgery is what they do to somebody else."

October 17, 1989: An earthquake strikes San Francisco during the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the cross-bay Oakland Athletics. Giamatti suspends the Series for 10 days, and is greatly admired for handling the situation, just as he was for giving Rose, and the game, a fair shake.

August 8, 1990: Rose is released from federal prison in Marion, Illinois. He begins the second part of his sentence, consisting of 1,000 hours of community service at Cincinnati inner-city schools.

January 7, 1992: Tom Seaver and Rollie Fingers are elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rose, ineligible because of his ban from baseball, receives 62 write-in votes.

January 5, 1993: Reggie Jackson and the newly-reinstated Pete Rose are elected to the Hall of Fame. The New York Yankees announce that Jackson's Number 44 will be retired in a ceremony that summer. The Cincinnati Reds announce the same for Rose's Number 14. Lou Piniella, who had been hired to replace Rose as Reds' manager, has moved on to the Seattle Mariners. Rose's former teammate, Tony Perez, is named manager, and, with Giamatti's permission, hires Rose as his bench coach.

May 19, 1993: Reds owner Marge Schott is unhappy with Perez's managing, but Rose intervenes, and asks her to let Perez manage at least one full season. She says no. Then Rose puts the squeeze on her: "I've already told the Commissioner everything I know about myself. If Perez goes, I go, too, and not only will you have driven away the most popular athlete in Cincinnati history, but I'll tell Giamatti everything I know about you." Knowing how much she has to lose, Schott refuses to call Rose's bluff, and keeps Perez on.

January 2, 1994: The Major League Baseball owners vote to re-elect Giamatti to a new five-year term as Commissioner.

August 11, 1994: Giamatti and Players' Association Director Donald Fehr negotiate a last-minute deal that avoids a players' strike.

August 17, 1994: Just 6 games out of first place in the National League Eastern Division, the Atlanta Braves are dealt a serious blow. Starting pitcher Greg Maddux injures his wrist while fielding a bunt by Roberto Kelly of the Cincinnati Reds. Maddux is never the same pitcher again, and retired after the 1999 season.

September 5, 1994: Cal Ripken Jr. is hit in the back by a pitch in the first game of a Labor Day doubleheader. He has to miss the second game, ending his consecutive-games-played streak at 2,097. He falls just 33 short of Lou Gehrig's all-time record.

September 11, 1994: The Montreal Expos clinch the NL East, winning it for the first time since 1981 -- for the first time ever in a season not shortened by a strike, finishing 10 games ahead of the Braves. The Expos have become a sensation, the way they had been in 1980 and '81, when they had their previous best team ever. Despite the inadequacies of the Olympic Stadium, sellout crowds of 43,000 seem to come out every night. Fans wave flags, some the red Maple Leaf of Canada, some the blue Fleurdelisé of the Province of Quebec. A larger version of the Maple Leaf flag has been draped over the left-field fence, and a large Fleurdelisé over the right-field fence.

September 12, 1994: The Liberal Party wins the Provincial election. The leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois, Jacques Parizeau, had promises a referendum on Quebec's separation from Canada in the event of a PQ victory. But with Quebecois (or "Quebeckers") energized by the Expos, who are threatening to follow the Toronto Blue Jays to make this the 3rd straight year a Canadian team is in (and wins) the World Series, there seems to be no desire for separation. Parizeau soon resigns as PQ Leader, and Liberal Leader Daniel Johnson Jr. (whose father and brother also held the office) remains as Premier of Quebec (the equivalent of the Governor of an American State, but with more power).

October 2, 1994: The baseball season that nearly ended on August 12 ends as scheduled. In the National League, the Montreal Expos win the Eastern Division by 10 games over the Braves. The Reds, with manager Tony Perez making the most of his second chance, win the newly-created NL Central Division, edging the Houston Astros by 2 games. The Astros win the first-ever NL Wild Card. In the Western Division, the San Francisco Giants, led by Matt Williams' 58 home runs for a new NL record, beat their arch-rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, by 3 games. Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres bats .402, becoming the first player since Ted Williams in 1941 to bat .400 or more -- the first NLer since Bill Terry in 1930.

In the American League, the New York Yankees win the East by 8 games over the Baltimore Orioles. Lou Piniella's Seattle Mariners reach their first postseason by taking the West by 3 games over the Texas Rangers, led by Ken Griffey Jr.'s 56 homers, most in the AL since Roger Maris' record 61 in 1961. The Central Division has the most interesting race. The Chicago White Sox, defending Division champions but without a Pennant since 1959, beat the Cleveland Indians, without a Pennant since 1954 and in their first race since 1959 (when they were edged by the White Sox), by just 1 game; the Kansas City Royals, 1985 World Champs but out of the Playoffs since, finish just 2 back. The Indians do win the first-ever AL Wild Card.

October 10, 1994: The first-ever Division Series -- not counting the strike-forced setup of 1981 -- are done. In this best-3-out-of-5 setup, the Yankees beat the Indians in 4 games, the White Sox sweep the Mariners, the Expos sweep the Astros in what Montreal Gazette columnist Jack Todd jokes is "the first postseason baseball series played entirely outside the United States," and the Giants win a 5-game thriller with the Reds. Again, Pete Rose has to intervene with owner Marge Schott to keep Tony Perez, who, after all, did manage them to the postseason.

October 19, 1994: The Pennants have been won. For the first time in 35 years, a Pennant flies over Chicago, as the White Sox beat the Yankees in 6. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner is determined to get a better reliever than Steve Howe and Bob Wickman. And for the 3rd year in a row, a Canadian team will be in the World Series, as the Expos win their first-ever Pennant, thanks to Mike Lansing's walkoff homer off Dave Burba in the bottom of the 10th inning in Game 6 at the Olympic Stadium.

October 22, 1994: Game 1 is held at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Prime Minister Jean Chretien throws out the first ball. Pedro Martinez goes the distance and Larry Walker provides the difference with a home run off Jack McDowell. Expos 2, White Sox 0. Expos lead, 1 game to 0.

October 23, 1994: Game 2 at the Big O. Gary Carter throws out the first ball. Ken Hill falls apart in the 3rd inning, and Robin Ventura and Frank Thomas hit back-to-back home runs, the Big Hurt's homer challenging Willie Stargell in 1973 and Darryl Strawberry in 1988 for the title of longest ever in the stadium. White Sox 9, Expos 1. Series tied, 1 game to 1.

October 25, 1994: Game 3 at the new Comiskey Park, the first World Series game played in Chicago since October 8, 1959 at the old Comiskey Park. Luis Aparicio, the star of those '59 "Go-Go Sox," throws out the first ball. Wilson Alvarez and Jeff Fassero both throw goose eggs for 7 innings. But Mel Rojas implodes, and the Sox -- known in a previous era as the South Side Hit Men -- whack him. White Sox 6, Expos 0. White Sox lead, 2 games to 1.

October 26, 1994: Game 4 at Comiskey. Billy Pierce, another member of the '59 Pale Hose, throws out the first ball. Pedro comes to the rescue, dazzling everyone with a 2-hit shutout that eases the strain on the Montreal bullpen. Marquis Grissom takes Jason Bere deep twice, becoming the first Chicago player to hit 2 homers in a World Series game since Ted Kluszewski in Game 1 in '59. Expos 5, White Sox 0. Series tied, 2 games to 2.

October 27, 1994: Game 5 at Comiskey. Ron Kittle, Rookie of the Year with the AL West Champion ChiSox of 1983, throws out the first ball. McDowell is very careful with the rest, and while Hill also pitches well, single runs in the 2nd, 5th and 6 doom him. White Sox 3, Expos 1. The White Sox lead, 3 games to 2, and need to take just 1 out of 2 games in Montreal to become the first Chicago team to win a World Series since the White Sox of 1917 -- 77 years ago.

October 29, 1994: Game 6 at the Olympic Stadium. Duke Snider, the Hall-of-Famer who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and for their Montreal Royals farm team before that, and later broadcast for the Expos, throws out the first ball. Fassero finds his form, and homers by Walker and Grissom make the difference. John Wetteland stops a Chicago rally in the top of the 9th. Expos 5, White Sox 4. The Series is tied at 3 games apiece. Tomorrow, it will be pour tous les marbres -- for all the marbles.

October 30, 1994: Game 7 of the World Series at the Olympic Stadium. Claude Raymond, who grew up playing baseball on the sandlots of Montreal, including Jarry Park where the team's first ballpark was built, and later pitched there for the Expos before becoming their preeminent French-station broadcaster, throws out the first ball. The Francophone Montrealers get a huge lift out of this, but it is the Spanish-speakers who dominate this game. Pedro Martinez and Wilson Alvarez both go 8 strong, and home runs are hit by Julio Franco of the White Sox and Wil Cordero of the Expos.

The games goes to the 9th, tied 2-2. Pedro hits Frank Thomas with a pitch. Thomas points at him, saying it was on purpose. Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen, not previously known as a hothead, begins screaming at the dugout, calling Pedro every name in the Spanish book. Pedro points at his head, and then points at Ozzie, as if to say, "You want to be next?" Home plate umpire Darryl Cousins has had enough: In the 9th inning of Game 7 of the World Series, he throws the incumbent pitcher out of the game.

Expo fans roar with rage, and the field is littered with debris. Public-address announcements are made in English and French, demanding that the fans stop, or the game will be forfeited to the visiting White Sox. (As home team, the Expos are responsible for crowd control.) The fusillade, or the barrage (pick your French-inspired word of choice) does not stop.

Finally, a familiar voice comes over the P.A. It is the voice of the most beloved person in the history of the Province of Quebec, Canadiens legend Maurice Richard. The Rocket implores the crowd, in French, to stop, reminding them of the riot, supposedly on his behalf, that shamed the city in 1955, which may have cost the Canadiens the Stanley Cup. The crowd listens, and stops. John Wetteland comes out of the bullpen, and gets the last 3 outs.

In the bottom of the 9th, with the game still tied, Roberto Hernandez comes on in relief of Alvarez. Moises Alou leads off by drawing a walk. Larry Walker singles to center. Cordero pops up. One out, with the run that will win the World Series at 2nd base. The batter is Lenny Webster, and he singles to left field. Tim Raines throws to the plate, Alou slides in... Safe. Expos 3, White Sox 2. For the first time ever, the Montreal Expos are World Champions.

November 1, 1994: Over 2 million people turn out for the Expos' championship parade down Rue Ste-Catherine. Premier Johnson announces that he will ask the Provincial government, the National Assembly, to help the team build a new ballpark in the mold of Baltimore's Camden Yards and Cleveland's Jacobs Field. In spite of the Expos' success, reliever John Wetteland's contract is set to run out in another year, and the Expos accept a trade that sends him to the Yankees.

October 28, 1995: The first-ever all-Ohio World Series ends as the Cleveland Indians win their first Series in 47 years, defeating the Cincinnati Reds 1-0 in Game 6. The Indians had beaten the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners to reach the Series, while the Reds had beaten the Los Angeles Dodgers and the surprising 3rd-year Colorado Rockies (NL Wild Card winners, who had beaten the Atlanta Braves, NL East Champions but weakened as a result of Greg Maddux not finding his control after his injury).

April 20, 1996: In a deal partially brokered by Reds legend Pete Rose and baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti, Marge Schott sells the Reds to local businessman Carl Lindner. Schott makes a substantial profit, and in return for going quietly, things that would embarrass her will be kept quiet. This, after she herself couldn't keep quiet after a shocking interview earlier in the month.

October 26, 1996: With former Expo John Wetteland saving all 4 Yankee wins, the New York Yankees win their 23rd World Championship, defeating the Expos 3-2 at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees, desperate for a relief ace, had traded a few minor league prospects and a significant amount of cash to the Expos. Despite having Mel Rojas as their new closer, the Expos regained the NL East title from the fading Braves, and beat the San Diego Padres in an NLCS billed as "Canada vs. Mexico."

October 26, 1997: The Cleveland Indians, winners of 2 World Series in their first 94 seasons, have now won 2 of the last 3, holding off the NL (and NL East) Champion Florida Marlins, 3-1 in Game 7 to take the Series.

I'll finish this piece at a later date. How would Giamatti have handled the steroid situation?

April 1, 1998: Labatt Park opens in downtown Montreal, a couple of blocks from Windsor Station and the Molson Centre (now the Bell Centre). The Expos lose to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-0, but now they have a real ballpark, not that flying saucer masquerading as one. The recently retired Expo legend Andre Dawson throws out the ceremonial first ball. The Expos will make it 3 NL East titles in 5 years, but will not win the Pennant, as the Yankees sweep the Padres in 4 games.

October 31, 1998: Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti, citing his health, announces he will not seek another term.

January 4, 1999: Leonard Coleman, President of the National League, is elected the first black Commissioner of Baseball.

October 24, 1999: The Major League Baseball All-Century Team, chosen by fans' ballots sponsored by MasterCard, is introduced before Game 2 of the World Series. This is the first Subway Series in 43 years, as the AL East Champion New York Yankees defeated the AL West Champion Texas Rangers and Wild Card winner Boston Red Sox to get there, while the NL East Champion New York Mets defeated the NL West Champion Arizona Diamondbacks and the Wild Card winner Atlanta Braves to do so. The ceremony is at Shea Stadium. Great cheers are given to former Yankee player, and Yankee and Met manager, Yogi Berra, while respectful cheers are given to the memories of deceased Yankee legends Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Late ballots by Met fans allowed Tom Seaver to make the team, edging out current Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens. One player, however, gets booed: Pete Rose, while loved in many cities, is hated at Shea because of his suspension for betting on baseball and his fight with the Mets in the 1973 Playoffs. The Yankees go on to sweep the Mets in the Series.

February 27, 2005: Paul Giamatti is among the nominees for the Academy Award for Best Actor, for his role in Sideways. He does not win: Jamie Foxx does, for playing Ray Charles in Ray. But Giamatti's father, former Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti, lives to see it.

August 7, 2005: A. Bartlett Giamatti, Commissioner of Baseball from 1989 to 1998, dies at his home on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. He was 67.