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.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Roy Hobbs: The Life Story of a Natural

What if The Natural was a true story?

And by "The Natural," I mean the movie. Not the book. Someday, in my other baseball-themed blog, "Uncle Mike's Musings," I play to do a Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Bernard Malamud for Having Roy Hobbs Strike Out. And a Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame the Filmmakers for Changing the Ending of The Natural.

The following is based on the movie, and is mainly my own speculations of what Roy's life was like from birth to 1939, aside from those few scenes of his boyhood, that fateful couple of days in 1923 leading to the shooting in the Chicago hotel, and those amazing 4 months with the 1939 New York Knights, the movie's stand-in for the Giants, even if they were, more or less, competitively analogous to the 1930s "Daffiness Boys" Brooklyn Dodgers.

Imagine Randy Newman's epic score coming up...

Roy Hobbs: The Life Story of a Natural

Roy Edward Hobbs was born May 11, 1904 in Mitchell, South Dakota. His mother, Louise, died when he was a toddler, and his father Ed, who taught him how to play baseball, died when Roy was 13. Ed suffered a heart attack under a tree on the family farm.

That night, a thunderstorm resulted in a lightning bolt striking that tree and splitting it open. Roy chopped some wood from that tree and used to to produce a baseball bat, which he christened "Wonderboy."

Unexpected Detours
As a teenager, Roy pitched eight no-hitters in high school and American Legion baseball, and was perhaps the greatest hitting prospect the State of South Dakota has ever produced. He also began a relationship with Iris Gaines, who lived at the next farm over.

In 1923, at age 19, Roy received a tryout offer from the Chicago Cubs. He told Iris about it, proposed marriage to her, and they spent the night together.

Taking the train to Chicago, he met Walter Wambold, the Philadelphia Athletics slugger known as "The Whammer"; Max Mercy, nationally-syndicated sports columnist; and Harriet Bird, a woman later discovered to have shot and killed two famous athletes, who had, at this point, set her sights on the Whammer.

A bet between Mercy and Sam Simpson, a former big-league catcher who had scouted Roy for the Cubs, resulted in a faceoff between Roy and Wambold in a field next to a county fair in Nebraska, where the train had made a refueling stop, and Wambold had shown off his hitting stroke, while Roy showed his pitching form by throwing baseballs at milk bottles, knocking them over with pinpoint control. When the at-bat took place, Roy struck the Whammer out on three pitches.

Getting onto the train, a kid ran after Roy and asked him his name. Roy answered, and tossed the boy a ball. Roy would never see that ball again, but he would see that boy. (Cue the creepy foreshadowing music!)

Harriet then turned her attention to Roy, and in Chicago, she invited him up to her hotel suite. She shot him, and then killed herself. Because of this shooting, Roy never made it to his tryout, and spent the next two years in and out of hospitals, recovering from his wound.

Unknown to Roy, Iris gave birth to his son, whom she named Edward after Roy's father. He would, like Britain's King Edward VII and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, be nicknamed "Ted."

Roy went on to play for several amateur and minor league teams in the late 1920s and all through the 1930s, but, for years, his weakened physical condition prevented him from playing at a level that would gain a scout's notice.

Return to Baseball
Finally, in 1939, playing in western New York for the Hebron Oilers, he gained a contract with the New York Knights. This team had been known as the New York Giants until first baseman Hal Chase caused a great scandal by "throwing" the 1917 World Series to the Chicago White Sox, a harbinger of the even bigger scandal two years later when the 1919 Series was thrown by the White Sox, who should have known better, to the Cincinnati Reds. The 1917 scandal forced the resignation of Giants manager John McGraw, who left baseball and died a broken man in 1934.

By the mid-1920s, the team, renamed the Knights, had fallen behind both their fellow National Leaguers, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the American League's New York Yankees, making them the third-most-popular team in New York. This was especially the case after the Yankees, whose slugger George "Babe" Ruth was first said to have borne a physical resemblance to Wambold, then well surpassed Wambold's feats, outdrew the Giants at their home, the Polo Grounds, and affronted Giant management told the Yankees their lease would not be renewed. This was a terrible mistake, as the Yankees built Yankee Stadium, and the loss of Yankee rent nearly forced the Giants/Knights into bankruptcy.

Broadway showman George M. Cohan, long a Giant fan, bought and renamed the team in 1924, and saw Pennants that McGraw's Giants could have won go to other teams: 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1937 and 1938 by the Cubs; 1919, 1922 and 1923 by the Reds; 1920 and 1924 by the Dodgers; 1921, 1925, 1927 and 1933 by the Pittsburgh Pirates; 1926, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1934 and 1936 by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Cohan nearly bankrupted himself building a new home intended to better compete with Yankee Stadium than the bathtub-shaped Polo Grounds. Cohan sold the Knights and Knights Field to the team's manager, Glenn "Pop" Fisher, in 1926, shortly after the ballpark's completion.

Like Roy, Fisher grew up on a farm, and was told by his mother that he should have stayed a farmer. Instead, he grew up to be a baseball player, a first baseman with the 1900s Pittsburgh Pirates, a teammate of Honus Wagner. But after managing the team for a few years, he was unceremoniously fired, and, as manager first of the Philadelphia Phillies and then the Knights, could often be heard, sometimes muttering, sometimes yelling, "I hate losing to the Pie-ritts!"

Fisher didn't want Roy, then 35 years old, telling him, "Mister, you don't start playing ball at your age, you retire." But Philip Banner, a former federal judge to whom Fisher had to sell a stake in the team to keep it afloat during the Great Depression, gave Roy a chance. After an impressive show in batting practice and outhustling starting right fielder Bartolomew "Bump" Bailey, Roy became the team's starting right fielder, a path that became easier after Bailey crashed into the right-field wall to make a catch, hitting his head and suffering a fatal injury.

Bailey's girlfriend was Memo Paris, who also happened to be Fisher's niece. But she was two-timing Bailey with Gus Sands, a well-known gambler with ties to Judge Banner. Sands was one of the reasons Banner left the bench: A crony of President Warren G. Harding, who had appointed him to the federal bench, Banner was found to be crooked during the Administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (which was ongoing at this time), and was told there would be no prosecution if he left the bench and found another avocation. The ill financial fortunes of the Knights allowed this.

The purchase agreement between Banner and Fisher stated that, by the end of the 1939 season, if the Knights won a Pennant, Fisher could buy Banner's shares in the team back; if they hadn't, Banner would buy out Fisher, and Fisher, who would be 64 years old by that point, would be out as part-owner and manager, and likely out of the game, with no major league team willing to hire a manager who had gotten to that age without ever managing a Pennant winner.

When Roy defied his age and the predictions of most baseball watchers to become one of the top hitters in the game so soon after his arrival at Knights Field, Banner was concerned that he might come up on the short end of his agreement with Fisher. He enlisted Sands and Memo to help him stop Roy.

Memo seduced Roy, and as their affair move on, his hitting fell into a slump, and so did the team: Once appearing as if they would challenge for the Pennant, the Knights dropped back into the second division.

All the while, Roy had to deal with another distraction: Max Mercy, whose nationally-syndicated column has become bigger than ever, was trying to figure out where he'd seen Roy before. He offered Roy $5,000 -- equal to Roy's annual salary from the Knights and about $80,000 in 2010 money -- for his story. Roy refused, knowing that if the general public knew about Harriet Bird and the Chicago hotel, he'd be finished as a baseball hero.

The combined slump of Roy and the Knights turned around one game in Chicago, at Wrigley Field, the ballpark Roy once thought he would make his own. Iris had her first chance to see Roy play in the majors, and he saw her in the stands. On the next pitch, he hit a drive that shattered the clock on the Wrigley scoreboard.

The next day, he battered Cub pitching for four home runs, only the fifth time that had happened in the major leagues to that point. After the game, Roy and Iris caught up with each other at a nearby coffee shop, each explaining what had happened to the other. Iris told Roy she had a son. She did not say that Ted was also Roy's son, only that "His father lives in New York."

The 1939 Pennant Push: Shooting Out the Lights
Coming back from Chicago, Roy kept hitting the ball rather than Memo's apartment, and the Knights went on a tear. With three games left in the regular season, they were three games ahead of the Pirates, the very team that had once wronged Fisher. They needed to win just one more game to win the Pennant.

But at a party hosted by Memo, Roy fell ill and had to be rushed to the hospital. He was poisoned, and his stomach was pumped. Only then, despite all his surgeries in 1923, '24 and '25, was the silver bullet fired into him by Harriet Bird found and removed. He was told that the lining of his stomach was so badly damaged that any further attempt to play baseball would cause internal bleeding, and he could die.

The Knights lost the next three games. A Playoff for the Pennant was necessary. Roy was visited in the hospital by Memo, who told him he mustn't play. He was visited by Judge Banner, who offered him $20,000 -- about $320,000 in 2010 money -- to play his usual game in the field, but not to hit the ball at all; in other words, to throw the game and the Pennant. Banner also told Roy that "a key man" had been put on the take as a fail-safe.

Memo and Iris also visited Roy, Memo to tell him that he should take the money, throw the Pennant, and then run away with her somewhere and let the scandal blow over; Iris to tell him that she and Ted would be at the Playoff game.

Roy decided he had to play, and the next day, that memorable October 2, 1939, he went up to Banner's office, where Memo and Sands were waiting, and gave the envelope full of cash back.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, Hobbs," Banner said, "but we had a deal."

"Consider yourself corrected, you fat, corrupt son of a bitch," Roy said. "We were never going to have a deal."

(When the film version of Roy's story was made, the producers wanted to keep a PG rating, so certain scenes, including those of Roy in bed with Iris and Memo, were cut or scaled back, and the profanity significantly reduced, so that the Roy character simply said, "No," not his actual words.)

It was then that Memo, having pulled a gun out of Banner's desk, fired it. Unlike Harriet Bird, however, she couldn't bring herself to try to kill Roy, instead shooting at the floor. Only then did Roy see the similarties between the brunette Harriet, now dead 16 years, and the blonde Memo.

He got another blast from the past, as Sands told him something he'd heard from his father as a boy: "You've got a great gift, but it's not enough." What Ed Hobbs never said, Sands added: "I think you're a loser."

But Roy knew something no one else in the room did, and said, "After tonight, win or lose in the game, everyone in this room will be a loser in some way. But all of you more than me." And he left to suit up for the game.

In the top of the fourth, Paul Waner hit a home run to put the Pirates up 2-0. It was then that Roy realized that pitcher Al Fowler was Banner's "key man." Roy came in from right field to tell Fowler not to do anything else to purposely lose the game. Fowler, noting that Roy was already 0-for-1, said, "I'll start pitchin' when you start hittin'." But, suitably chastened, he settled down, and the scored remained 2-0 Pittsburgh into the bottom of the ninth.

By this point, Roy was 0-for-3. Shortly before that inning, Iris had handed an usher a note to give to Roy, explaining that Ted was his son as well as hers. With this knowledge, and the Knights attempting a last-ditch rally that put men on first and second with two outs, Roy stepped to the plate for the last time in the game -- and, for all he knew, for the last time in his career. He represented the winning run, but if the Pirates were to get him out, they would win the Pennant.

To relieve, the Pirates brought in John Rhodes, a 26-year-old fireballing lefthander from Nebraska, who had won 18 games for them. Rhodes stared in at Roy, knowing full well who he was. Roy recognized Rhodes as well: He was the boy that Roy had tossed the ball to from the train at the county fair in Nebraska in 1923.

The count was run to 2-and-2, when Roy hit a foul ball that split his bat Wonderboy. He received a new bat from the Knight batboy, Bobby Savoy. By this point, Roy's bullet wound was bleeding through his jersey.

Rhodes threw a fastball right down the pipe, and Roy slammed it high into right field, where it crashed into the light standard on the roof of Knights Field, shorting out the electricity and winning the Pennant. For the first time in 22 years, the Knights were National League Champions, and Pop Fisher had his first Pennant as a manager.

The Fireworks After the "Fireworks"
With the win, Judge Banner's share of the Knights reverted to Fisher. With Roy expected to be either unavailable or partially incapacitated, and Fowler in their pockets, Banner and Sands had wagered heavily on the Pirates, thinking them a sure thing, placing the bets with Sands' friends in organized crime, and were financially ruined.

By the morning of the Playoff, columnist Mercy had uncovered the truth about Roy's background, including the shooting in Chicago. He had threatened to reveal it. But, loving the game as he did, he decided to wait until after the World Series.

The Series was a wipeout as, with Roy declared absolutely unavailable by his doctor, the New York Yankees swept the crosstown Knights in four straight. It was the first time the teams had met in games that counted.

It was after the World Series that things happened quickly. The morning of the Playoff, Roy had gone directly from the hospital to the office of the New York District Attorney, Thomas E. Dewey, with what he knew about Judge Banner. Although a fellow Republican, Dewey was willing to prosecute Banner. Rather than reveal what he knew about Roy in 1923, Mercy agreed to assist Dewey with the prosecution, in exchange for Dewey looking the other way on some misdeeds of Mercy's.

Banner was banned from baseball for life, not that it mattered anyway. He was indicted, then jumped bail by getting on a ship to Havana, Cuba. By the time the ship docked in Havana, Banner was dead. His death was ruled a suicide, but questions linger. Gus Sands' death, at the Half Moon Hotel in Brooklyn's Coney Island three years later, was definitely due to "lead poisoning."

Sands never married, and is believed to have had no children. Banner was a widower, and left a son who was then a doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr. Robert Bruce Banner worked on the Manhattan Project in World War II, and continued his nuclear research thereafter until his death in 2002 at age 84. He was able to restore his family's reputation to an extent, but did not like to be reminded of his father's role in the Teapot Dome and 1939 Pennant race scandals, telling a sportswriter who was writing a book on the latter in 1952, "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

Retirement and Return
Shortly after the new year of 1940, Roy and Iris were married back in Mitchell. Figuring his playing days were done, Roy remained with the Knights as a coach and hitting instructor.

When World War II arrived, Ted, then 18, enlisted in the U.S. Navy. In 1943, Ted was wounded in a Japanese attack on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise. He received a medical discharge early in 1944, and felt well enough to play baseball in amateur leagues that summer.

By that point, with more and more men going into the service, major league teams were desperate to find talent wherever they could: Men over age 40, teenagers, players previously given up on as not good enough. The Washington Senators signed Bert Shepard, a pitcher who'd lost part of his leg after being shot down flying a strafing run over Germany, and he pitched one game. The St. Louis Browns signed Pete Gray, an outfielder who'd lost an arm -- not in the War, but in a farming accident as a boy.

The Chicago Cubs felt desperate enough early in 1945 to offer contracts to both Roy and Ted. The team doctors checked Roy out thoroughly, and determined that his stomach had healed enough that it wouldn't be an impediment to playing baseball again. But he was 41. Would he have anything left? And would Ted, now 21, be ready for the major leagues? Roy was put in left field, and finally began to play for the team that offered him a tryout 22 years earlier. Ted became the Cubs' catcher.

After a tough race, the Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals out for the Pennant by three games. Roy, who had batted .350 with 44 home runs and 106 runs batted in with the '39 Knights, had enough left to bat .302, hit 24 homers and drive in 72 runs. Ted batted .282 with 12 homers and 47 RBIs, a good performance for a catcher or a 21-year-old rookie. But the Cubs lost the World Series to the Detroit Tigers.

After Baseball
By that point, the War was over, and Roy retired as a player for good. Pop Fisher brought him back to the Knights as the new manager, and he held that job until 1948, when Pop died, and the team was inherited by, of all people, his only living relative, his niece, Memo Paris.

Now married and a housewife living on Long Island, she never forgave Roy for leaving her. In a discussion with the recently fired manager of the crosstown Brooklyn Dodgers, Leo Durocher, she complained that everyone thought Roy was a nice guy, but that he really wasn't. Durocher told her that Roy may not have been nice to her, but that he was nice to just about everybody else, and that was the problem: The Knights were all nice guys, and that was their problem. "Nice guys finish last," Durocher said.

Memo fired Roy, hired Durocher, and, strangely, changed the team's name back to the New York Giants. She even moved them back into the Polo Grounds, which had been kept in business by staging prizefights and football games since the Knights left after the 1925 season. Competitively speaking, hiring Durocher and moving back to the Polo Grounds, with its short foul lines, was the right move, as the Giants won a thrilling Playoff for the Pennant in 1951, against their crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, with Bobby Thomson playing the role of Roy Hobbs. But, essentially, Memo was getting revenge: Revenge on Roy, revenge on Pop, even revenge on Judge Banner. By changing the team's name, moving out of Knights Field, and firing Roy, she was doing her damnedest to erase every last vestige of the New York Knights.

After losing the 1951 World Series to the Yankees, the Giants won the whole thing in 1954, sweeping the Cleveland Indians as Willie Mays made the most famous defensive play in sports history, known as "The Catch." Mays, appearing on TV nearly every day of the season, made a lot of fans treat Roy and the other earlier Knights stars as relics of a black-and-white, radio-and-newsreel era. This was compounded by the Giants' move to San Francisco after the 1957 season, casting not just the Knights name but the entire history of the New York franchise of the National League into a bygone era that could never be brought back.

Ted Hobbs remained with the Cubs until the 1961 season, when team owner Philip K. Wrigley's managerial rotation, which he called the "College of Coaches," messed the team up tremendously. He asked Wrigley to leave him unprotected in the expansion draft, hoping to be selected by one of the two new teams, the New York Mets, who would play their first two seasons at Knights Field on Manhattan's Upper West Side before the opening of Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadow, Queens.

Instead, Ted was selected by the Houston Colt .45's, and had to play in the south Texas heat for three years before the Astrodome opened in 1965. That year, with the team's name changed to the Houston Astros, was Ted's 18th and last in the major leagues. (He had missed the 1952 and '53 seasons as he was called back into the Navy during the Korean War; having been wounded in World War II, he was made a Master Chief Petty Officer and an instructor, remaining stateside.)

Roy was invited to the Mets' home opener in 1962, the Knights Field farewell in '63, and the Shea opener in '64. It hurt him terribly to see the Knights/Giants moved and the old ballpark demolished. With Ted hired as a Mets scout, and a coach on the "Miracle Mets" team of 1969, Roy was invited to throw out the first ball of a World Series game. He was invited back to Shea for a World Series first ball ceremony in 1973, but by the time the Yankees started winning Pennants again in 1976, he decided he was too old to make the trip east.

A reunion of the '45 Cubs at Wrigley Field in 1975 was his last time in a big-league ballpark. He remained on the South Dakota farm until his death on March 18, 1986. He was 81 years old, and was laid to rest next to his parents at a nearby cemetery. Iris joined him two years later.

Ted Hobbs remained a Mets scout through their glory years of the 1980s, and is one of the few people connected to both their 1969 and 1986 World Championship teams. His son Robert did not join the family business, deciding not to play baseball beyond high school. Instead, he went to law school, entered politics, served in the South Dakota State Legislature, and was elected Governor in the Democratic landslide of 2006 and re-elected in 2010. Governor Rob Hobbs is a "prairie populist" in the mold of George Norris, Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Tom Harkin, Tom Daschle and Paul Wellstone. His son Teddy played hockey at the University of North Dakota, and now plays for the NHL's New Jersey Devils.

In 1977, shortly after graduating from the University of Chicago School of Law, Rob wrote a book about his grandfather: The Natural: The Tragic, Heroic Story of Baseball Legend Roy Hobbs. He joked that it should be made into a movie, with "a Robert Redford type" playing his grandfather. It took years for the film to get out of "development hell," and was released in 2010, as The Natural, with the following playing the leads:

Roy Hobbs: Matt Damon
Iris Gaines: Julia Stiles
Memo Paris: Blake Lively
Pop Fisher: Wayne Knight
Harriet Bird: Winona Ryder
Judge Banner: William Shatner
Max Mercy: Christopher McDonald
Gus Sands: Tommy Lee Jones
Thomas E. Dewey: Ben Affleck
Walter "the Whammer" Wambold: Ryan Hurst
John Rhodes: Haley Joel Osment

On May 11, 2004, a statue of Roy Hobbs was dedicated in downtown Mitchell, on what would have been his 100th birthday. Although having played just two seasons in the major leagues makes him ineligible for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, several items connected to his career are in the Hall's Museum in Cooperstown, New York, including the uniform he wore the night of the 1939 Playoff, the bat Wonderboy (glued together after being broken in the Playoff), and the "Savoy Special" bat he used to hit the Pennant-winning home run.


The Natural was released on May 11, 1984, and since we know Roy was 35 in 1939, I settled on a birthdate of exactly 80 years before the movie. I was thinking Nebraska as a birthplace and hometown, but Roy told Gus, who guessed that State, "That's not where I'm from." Since John Rhodes is said to be from Nebraska, that made a South Dakota origin possible as a result of the train trip. This contradicted my second choice of a home town for Roy, Dyersville, Iowa, where Field of Dreams was filmed. I settled on Mitchell because that's also the hometown of George McGovern, which would get under the skin of conservatives.

Roy is probably younger, maybe 10, when his father dies, but 13 was the age Natural author Bernard Malamud was when his mother attempted suicide. It's been speculated that this colored Malamud's outlook on life, and may be why he had Roy lose in the end -- even though he was trying to win.

The film's script seems to say that Roy's last team before the Knights was the "Hebrew Oilers," but that doesn't make sense: A baseball team made up of Jewish oil-rig workers? There is a town near Buffalo, where the movie was filmed, called Hebron, pronounced "HEE-bron," as opposed to the West Bank city pronounced "HEBB-ron," and I'm presuming for this bio that "Hebron" is correct.

In the film's credits, the Judge is listed as simply that, "The Judge." In the novel, he is "Judge Banner," with no first name mentioned. I don't know why I named him "Philip," but I couldn't resist making his son a physicist named "Bruce Banner," who, in this version, may or may not have actually gone on to become The Incredible Hulk.

Why is the pitcher who gives up the Pennant-winning home run the kid Roy tossed the ball to from the train in 1923? Come on, look at the faces of the combatants: Rhodes clearly remembers Roy as something other than a current celebrity, and Roy sure looks like he recognizes Rhodes.

In RL, the 1939 National League Pennant was won by the Cincinnati Reds, by 4 1/2 games over the St. Louis Cardinals. The New York Giants, the team whose place and uniform colors the Knights took (red, white and blue at the time, not the more familiar black and orange they adopted in 1947 and have kept ever since, from New York to California), finished fifth out of eight teams, 18 1/2 back, having won Pennants in 1921, '22, '23, '24, '33, '36 and '37.

The TTL-Knights' opponents in the '39 Playoff, the Pirates, finished sixth in RL, 28 1/2 back, despite narrowly missing the Pennant the year before against the Chicago Cubs. The Reds went on to be swept in the World Series by the Yankees, but won the Series the next year against the Detroit Tigers. Although the Dodgers would win seven Pennants in their remaining years in New York City, the Giants would only win two more in theirs, 1951 and '54.

Everything in the lives of the characters after October 2, 1939 (the day after the last day of the RL-1939 regular season, when a Playoff for the Pennant, if necessary, would have occurred) is my own invention, although it certainly appears in the final scene as if Roy, Iris and Ted were then united in one family.

It has, however, been suggested that the wheatfield they're shown in at the end isn't what actually happened, but rather that Roy, having collapsed and died after hitting his home run (foreshadowing Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, which came out 23 years later), experienced what would, to him, be Heaven.

If Roy (unknowingly) leaves Iris pregnant in the summer of 1923, that means Ted is born around Opening Day in 1924, which makes him old enough to enlist in the opening months of World War II. Being a Trekkie, I chose the RL-WWII aircraft carrier Enterprise as his ship. (In 1961, the current, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with the name was launched, and is scheduled to be retired in 2013; a new carrier with the name is already scheduled to be built.) It was either that or PT-109, John F. Kennedy's ship which was attacked on August 2, 1943, which would have fit the timeframe allowing Ted Hobbs to come back to baseball in 1945.

March 18, 1986 was the day Malamud died, so it seemed like a fitting day to lay Roy to rest.

As for the actors in TTL's version of The Natural: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are very much baseball fans in RL, Boston Red Sox fans, and wrote this into the film that introduced most of us to them, Good Will Hunting, in which Damon and Robin Williams discussed the legendary Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.

It's easy to forget now, because we still think of Damon and Affleck as young guys, because that's how we first saw them. It's why we think of Drew Barrymore as a kid and Eva Longoria as grown-up, even though they were born the same year: Drew is actually 4 weeks older. Although we think of Dewey, who went on to be elected Governor of New York in 1942 and nominated for President in 1944 and 1948, as "old" because we only saw him in black and white, in 1939 he would have been almost exactly the same age as Affleck was when this movie would have been made in late 2009. And Damon would be a little older than Roy in the bulk of the movie -- 39 as opposed to 35 -- Redford was 45, and Damon comes a whole lot closer than Redford to being taken seriously as a 19-year-old in 1923.

Christopher McDonald had previously played two Yankee legends: Broadcaster Mel Allen in 61*, and Joe DiMaggio in The Bronx Is Burning. As an actor, he's no Robert Duvall, but I can definitely see him playing Max Mercy.

Tommy Lee Jones had previously played Ty Cobb in Cobb, and I have no qualms about giving him Darren McGavin's role as Gus. Ryan Hurst, who could pass for the Babe (and therefore for Joe Don Baker as the Whammer) had appeared in a sports-themed movie, albeit football: Remember the Titans.

Julia Stiles is a Met fan, and seems to have the kind of wholesomeness that would make us take her seriously as a simple farm girl, as opposed to Blake Lively in the Kim Basinger role of Memo. Winona Ryder is a San Francisco Giants fan, and I can see her channeling her "teen angst bullshit" from Heathers to play Barbara Hershey's Harriet.

Wayne Knight was older than Wilford Brimley was when the RL movie came out. The same year, 1984, Brimley was in Cocoon, and a film critic called him "51 but he can pass for old." And Robert Prosky, the original film's Judge, was younger than Shatner, but the chance to put The Captain in, playing a character as pompous as Denny Crane in The Practice, struck me as a great idea.

Why Haley Joel Osment as the pitcher who gives up the big home run? I needed an actor of the right age (he'd have been 21 when it was filmed), and besides, with most of the characters (but, possibly, not his own, he'd have been approaching 100 years old) being long-gone by 2009 if they'd been real, he would once again be seeing dead people!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What If the Yankees Had Traded for Carlton Fisk?

(Notice the cap, paying tribute to the Yanks-Sox rivalry.)

Carlton Fisk, a Red Sox icon... a Yankee? Supposedly, it almost happened.

After the 1985 season, the Chicago White Sox didn’t want to sign him to a new contract, and Don Baylor wasn’t happy with the reduced at-bats he was getting as a Yankee. So a trade was discussed, but since Fisk’s contract had run out, and the MLB owners were then in the early stages of the “collusion” for which they would later be massively penalized, the Yankees wouldn’t simply sign Fisk. The ChiSox would have to sign Fisk first, then trade him to the Yankees for Baylor.

But owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn (a.k.a. the Reinhorn Twins) couldn’t come to an agreement with Fisk, and the trade fell apart before, ultimately, Fisk was re-signed.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a link:

True, it’s hard to imagine the former heart and soul of the Boston Red Sox, a man who had home-plate collisions-turned-brawls with Thurman Munson in 1973 and Lou Piniella in 1976, a man whose rivalry with fellow catcher Munson turned nasty at other times, in Pinstripes. (Since Butch Wynegar already had the Number 27 Fisk wore in Boston, Fisk probably would’ve kept the Number 72 he wore in Chicago.)

But we’ve seen Red Sox legends Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens as Yankees. We’ve seen Met icons Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and, if you can call him a “Met icon,” Joe Torre as Yankees. We’ve seen famed Yankee Killers Clemens, Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco, Jimmy Key and Randy Johnson as Yankees. So is it really that odd to think that Fisk might have been a Yankee?

What would have happened?


First, let’s address the team for whom he really did play, the White Sox. They came close to an AL West title in 1990, won it in 1993, moved to the AL Central and were on track to win it when the Strike of ’94 hit... but ’93 was Fisk’s last season, and he’d already been replaced by Ron Karkovice.

So unless Fisk’s absence is so debilitating to the team, and Baylor’s presence not enough of a lift, as to prevent the approval of the funding for the new Comiskey Park (what is now U.S. Cellular Field) in the Illinois legislature in 1988, which would have sent the Pale Hose to Tampa Bay, chances are nothing changes for the that team.

Would having Fisk have benefited the Yankees? His 1986 to 1991 seasons were okay, but not great. Then he tailed off, just in time for the Yankees to get good again. But he was still better at the plate than Wynegar in ’86, the triad of Rick Cerone-Joel Skinner-Mark Salas in ’87, and the platoon of Salas and Don Slaught in ’88. In those seasons, the Yankees missed winning the AL East by 5½, 9 and 3½ games.

Would Fisk’s hitting and handling of pitchers have made a difference? In ’86, probably not. In ’87, definitely not; it's not often that one player, especially one 40 years old, can make a 9-game difference over the average player.

In ’88, possibly: A 6-game losing streak from August 25 to 30, right in the middle of a roadtrip that began with a makeup game in Milwaukee (a frequent trouble spot for the Yanks when the Brewers were still in the AL), followed by that seemingly-inevitable annual Coast-trip killer of Anaheim, Seattle and Oakland, hurt the Yanks very badly. They lost the Milwaukee game. They got swept by the Angels, losing 7-6 (in 12 innings), 12-0 and 13-2, as bad a series as they’ve ever had since I’ve been old enough to pay attention. They salvaged the finale against the Mariners and only won the first against the A’s. Then they dropped 2 of 3 at home to Cleveland (I was at the Tuesday night game, an awful 1-0 loss with Greg Swindell outdueling Al Leiter), before sweeping a 4-game set with Detroit (I was at the Saturday afternoon game). But dropping the last 3 of a 4-game set at Fenway in mid-September dashed their hopes, and dropping the last 3 of the season in Detroit ended them. Could Fisk have done enough in that stretch, 17-20, to make it 22-15 (thus avoiding a 10th Anniversary Playoff with the Red Sox) to win the AL East? Maybe.

Actually, what really killed the Yankees in 1988 was an injury to John Candelaria, a Brooklyn native who’d starred for Pittsburgh and had pitched for the Mets the year before. He was 13-7 with a 3.38 ERA, but pitched an inning and a third on August 24 and was out for the year. Maybe Fisk would have seen something in the Candy Man before that, and he could’ve been taken out before it got worse, and been available, so the Yankees wouldn’t have had to use relievers like Lee Guetterman and Pat Clements as starters.

Candelaria gets forgotten today, but in his career he was 177-122, with a 114 ERA+ and a 1.184 WHIP. He was really good, and still a solid pitcher at age 36. He was 34 in 1988, and from August 24 onward the Yankees had several games where Guetterman, Clements, Charlie Hudson, Scott Nielsen, Dale Mohorcic and Steve Shields were the losing pitchers.

So in TTL-1988 we have the first-ever season in which both the Yankees and the Mets make the postseason, which didn’t happen in RL until 1999. The Yanks beat out the Red Sox for the Division, and face the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS (remember, no Division Series in those days).

In RL, the A’s won 104 games and swept the Sox, then got embarrassed by the Dodgers in one of the biggest World Series upsets.

If we use the Yankees’ actual rotation of that season, and how it worked out in their final few starts, here’s how the TTL-1988 ALCS would have stacked up, presuming the Candy Man comes back:

Game 1, Wednesday, October 5, at the original Yankee Stadium: Richard Dotson vs. Dave Stewart. Stewart was known as “Smoke,” for good reason. He allowed just 6 hits at Fenway. But with the Yankees’ lefty bats, it then becomes a question of whether Dotson could hold off the Oakland Bash Brothers. Probably not. In RL, A’s 2, Red Sox 1. I’m not sure what the TTL-score would have been, but the A’s still win, and lead 1-0.

Game 2, Thursday, October 6, at Yankee Stadium. Rick Rhoden vs. Storm Davis. Davis was a good pitcher, but Rhoden was a find for the Yanks that season. The A’s needed 3 runs in the 7th off Roger Clemens and 1 in the 9th off Lee Smith to win it. Maybe Dave Righetti slams the door. Yankees 3, A’s 1. Series tied 1-1.

Game 3, Saturday, October 8, at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum: Tommy John vs. Bob Welch. The Yankees don’t have Reggie Jackson to hit against Welch anymore, but then, neither do the A’s have Reggie to hit against Fritz Peterson. In RL, the A’s clobbered 1983 Oriole hero Mike Boddicker. But they’re not going to like batting against TJ’s sinkers. Yankees 6, A’s 2. Yanks lead series, 2-1.

Game 4, Sunday, October 9, at the Coliseum: John Candelaria vs. Stewart. No way Stew has 2 bad outings in a row. Not at that stage of his career. He held the Sox to 4 runs in RL, riding a Canseco dinger to a 4-1 A’s win. Let’s keep it that way, to keep it simple: A’s 4, Yanks 1. Series tied 2-2. Remember, in RL, this was the end of the series. (It was Game 4 in 1990 when Clemens went nuts and the A’s swept the BoSox, not 1988.)

Game 5, Monday, October 10, at the Coliseum: Dotson vs. Davis. Dotson bounces back, Davis doesn’t. Yankees 6, A’s 4. Yanks lead series, 3-2.

Game 6, Wednesday, October 12, at Yankee Stadium: Rhoden vs. Welch. Ten years earlier, they (and also Tommy John) were Dodger teammates, going against the Yankees (including current manager Lou Piniella) in the World Series. If this were 1990, by which point Rhoden was washed up and Welch was winning 27 games, I’d give it to Welch. Not this time: Mike Pagliarulo homers off him in the 8th, and the Yankees win, 4-2, and win their 34th Pennant.

There is no Subway Series, as the Mets have capitulated to the L.A. O’Malleys. The National League half (pardon me while I laugh) of New York had their best chance yet to gain revenge on the family that stole the Dodgers from Brooklyn, and they failed.


The TTL-1988 World Series: It’s Yanks vs. Bums, for the 12th time – the 5th since the Bums caught the last train for the Coast.

Game 1, Saturday, October 15, at Dodger Stadium: John vs. Tim Belcher. In RL, TJ appeared in 3 World Series, all Yanks vs. Dodgers, and lost them all (1977 and ’78 with the Bums, ’81 with the Yanks). Time for redemption. In RL, the Bums scored 2 in the 1st off Stewart, but the A’s came back with 4 in the 2nd to knock Belcher out of the box. In 1995, Belcher would be a Seattle Mariner, and give up Jim Leyritz’s 15th inning homer in the rain – for all the good THAT did the Yanks in the end. You know how this game ended in RL: Kirk Gibson vs. Dennis Eckersley. And the Eck was a much better reliever than Rags. Well, guess what: Righetti was a lefty. You think Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda is gonna send Gibson up against a hard-throwing lefty? Maybe, he was dumb enough to led Tom Niedenfuer pitch to Jack Clark in the ’85 NLCS, and a Pennant-winning homer was the result. (And Clark was the Yanks’ main DH in ’88.) Righetti strikes out Gibson. Yanks 4, Bums 3. Yanks lead 1-0.

Game 2, Sunday, October 16, at Dodger Stadium: Candelaria vs. Orel Hershiser. Scratch this one: Hershiser pitched a 3-hit shutout against the East Bay Bash Brothers, and there's no reason why he can’t do it against the Bronx Bombers. Same score as in RL: Dodgers 6, Yanks 0. Series tied 1-1. But to get out of Chavez Ravine with a tie is pretty good, especially since the RL-A’s couldn’t.

Game 3, Tuesday, October 18, at Yankee Stadium: Dotson vs. John Tudor. The 11th anniversary of Reggie Jackson’s 3 homers, and don’t think that TTL-George Steinbrenner doesn’t want to invite Mr. October back to throw out the ceremonial first ball. In RL, this was a tight pitchers’ duel between Welch and Tudor, who was one of the heroes of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 3 Pennants in the Eighties. Now in Dodger Blue, he’s facing Yankee Pinstripes instead of Oakland Green. Mark McGwire won this with a walkoff homer, making it the only RL-World Series with 2 walkoff homers. (Not to mention Eck coined the phrase “walkoff homer” after giving up Gibson's.) Maybe Fisk is the hero this time. Or Don Mattingly. Or... naw, Tommy Lasagne wouldn’t bring Niedenfuer in to face Clark again, would he? Would he? Nope, Niedenfuer had been traded to Baltimore. So he brings in the man who gave up the not-so-Big Mac’s homer, ex-Yankee Jay Howell. Doesn’t matter: Clark hits it into Monument Park. Yanks 2, Bums 1. Yanks lead Series by same margin.

Game 4, Wednesday, October 19, at Yankee Stadium: Rhoden vs. Belcher. Belcher was better this time, and maybe the Dodgers tie it up. Dodgers 4, Yanks 3 (the RL score), and the Series is tied, 2-2.

Game 5, Thursday, October 20, at Yankee Stadium: John vs. Hershiser. Two of the smartest pitchers who ever lived. In RL, on 3 days’ rest, Hershiser was very strong, going the distance and allowing just 2 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks. The Dodgers scored 2 in the 1st and 2 in the 4th off Storm Davis; even at age 45, TJ could do better than that through 4. Still, I don’t see the Yankees winning this one. Dodgers 3, Yanks 2. Dodgers lead Series by same margin.

Game 6, Saturday, October 22, at Dodger Stadium: Candelaria vs. Tudor. The Candy Man hasn’t made much of a difference yet, but he does have 4 days’ rest while Tudor has just 3. And, if you’ll remember, Tudor spit the bit for the Cards in the previous year’s Game 7. I see a Mattingly homer. I see a Clark homer. I see a Pags homer. I even see Dave Winfield shaking off George’s “Mr. May” tag and homering. Yanks 9, Bums 5. We’re going to a Game 7!

Game 7, Sunday, October 23, at Dodger Stadium. Does Fat Tommy bring Orel back on 2 days’ rest? It worked for Bob Gibson in ’64, Sandy Koufax in ’65 and both Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich in ‘68, but not Jim Lonborg in ’67. Well, it is Game 7, which means Johnny Wholestaff needs to be ready. That means Hershiser doesn’t start, but he may come out of the bullpen. After all, he’ll have 4 months of rest before pitchers and catchers report. So it’s Tim Belcher for L.A. For New York? Richard Dotson on 4 days’ rest, or Rick Rhoden on 2? Sweet Lou gambles and goes with Rhoden, who attempts to become the 2nd Yankee World Series hero, after Mickey Mantle, to have survived osteomyelitis as a child.

Belcher leaves a fat pitch in Winfield’s wheelhouse, and Big Dave sends it into the San Gabriel Mountains. Mattingly scores ahead of him. It’s 2-0 Yanks before the Dodgers even get to bat. The Yanks squeeze single runs across in the 3rd and 4th, and Tommy has seen enough: Out goes Belch... er, in comes Hershiser. Hershiser cruises through the 8th.

Rhoden starts fine, but wobbles in the 5th, allowing a run. Piniella takes him out and brings in Dotson, who gets out of the jam and is fine until the 8th. It’s 4-1 Yankees, but the Dodgers load the bases with just 1 out. The pitcher’s spot comes up, and Hershiser is a career .201 hitter. Lasorda needs a pinch-hitter. Back goes Hershiser, up comes Pedro Guerrero, a righthanded hitter. Out comes Dotson, in comes...

Candelaria? Lou guesses that Tommy really wanted to send Kirk Gibson up, and doesn’t want to pitch Righetti for more than 1 full inning, so he sends in the Candy Man to make Gibson a lefty against a lefty. Seeing this, Lasorda leaves Guerrero in, and while he drives it to deep center field, it’s not enough: Claudell Washington catches it, sends it home, and only 1 run scores. Candelaria gets Steve Sax to pop up, and the threat is over.

Righetti gets the last 3 outs, and the Yankees win, 4-2, and take their 23rd World Championship.

In 2007, ESPN Classic airs "The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Tommy Lasorda for Pinch-Hitting For Orel Hershiser in the 1988 World Series."

Reason Number 5: Orel Hershiser. He'd only had 2 days' rest. Who knows if he would have had anything left to get 3 outs in the 9th inning? And he wasn't a good-hitting pitcher like Rick Rhoden or Bob Welch, or even...

Reason Number 4: Fernando Valenzuela. He was injured. If El Toro had been able to pitch in the postseason (which didn't matter in RL, as it turned out), Lasorda would not have had to give any postseason starts to...

Reason Number 3: Tim Belcher. If he had started Game 7 well, Hershiser wouldn't have been in the game in the first place.

Reason Number 2: Pedro Guerrero. He was a good hitter, and he did get one run home. Not to mention that Kirk Gibson we was injured, and a lefty besides, who would have batted against a lefty, either Candelaria or Righetti. Sending him up to pinch-hit would've been a bad idea. So Guerrero was the Dodgers' best option.

Reason Number 1: The Yankees were better.


For Dave Winfield, Tommy John, Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly and, yes, Carlton Fisk, it is their first ring.

It is not, however, the start of a new dynasty. Injuries to Winfield, Mattingly and Clark lead to TTL-1989 being just like RL-1989, and the Yanks go downhill fast. The history we know reasserts itself. By 1993, the next Yankee dynasty is underway, but, of the ’88 Yanks, the only one who will make it even to the end of ’93 is Mattingly. And he won’t make it to ’96, just like in RL.

But if Carlton Fisk had become a Yankee, as weird as it would have seemed, it might just have meant a big, big difference.

Especially for the Mets, and their fans, as their momentum from ’86 dies after only 2 years, and the Yankees and their Fans reclaim New York 8 years sooner. Tough luck for the Flushing Heathen. Poor babies.