February 15, 1964, 50 years ago today: Ken Hubbs is killed in a plane crash outside Provo, Utah. He was only 22 years old.
In 1962, the Chicago Cubs promoted the 20-year-old 2nd baseman directly from Class B (which would be Double-A ball today). He won the National League Rookie of the Year award, and was the first rookie to be awarded a Gold Glove, setting records with 78 consecutive games and 418 total chances without an error.
Kenneth Douglass Hubbs was more than just another baseball player. He was the kind of athlete all games need. A devout Mormon, a cheerful leader, a picture-book player, blond-haired, healthy, generous with his time for young boys; he was the kind of youth in short supply in these selfish times.
In 1993, Sports Illustrated asked a few baseball writers to do short "What if?" articles. Steve Rushin speculated that, had Hubbs lived, the Cubs would have done better in 1964, and wouldn't have traded Lou Brock, and, together with Hubbs, Brock, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ferguson Jenkins, the Cubs, starting in 1969, would have become "the Big Blue Machine" (instead of the Cincinnati Reds becoming the Big Red Machine that we know).
October 7, 1968: The Cardinals give up on Curt Flood a year earlier. For TTL, it doesn't matter who they trade him to, as his fight against the reserve clause turns out the same way. But even if he still gets traded, as he did in RL, to the Phillies, it won't be for Dick Allen, who, in the wake of the 1964 title, is much more popular, and much happier, in Philadelphia than he was in RL. He stays with them until 1971, at which point he goes to the White Sox, and, in 1972, helps save them from being moved as in RL.
October 20, 1982: The Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 6-3 in Game 7, and win their first World Championship in 36 years (since 1946).
August 2, 1990: Tom Seaver, Rollie Fingers, Hal Newhouser and Bill McGowan are inducted into the Hall of Fame. Seaver wears a Giant cap on his plaque. Later that season, the Giants retire his Number 41.
August 1, 1999: Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount, George Brett, Orlando Cepeda, Frank Selee, Smokey Joe Williams and Nestor Chylak are inducted into the Hall of Fame. Ryan, unlike in RL ('69 Mets), has never won a World Series. His only appearance in one was with the '86 Astros.
October 16, 2000: The Mets finally win their 1st Pennant, in 39 years of trying, beating the Cardinals 7-0 at Shea Stadium to win Game 5 of the NLCS. Better yet, for their fans, they get to face the Yankees.
October 26, 2000: Met fans never learn, do they?
October 15, 2003: Hubbs throws out the ceremonial first ball before Game 7 of the NLCS, the Wrigley faithful gets pumped up, the previous night's disaster is put in the past, and the Cubs beat the Florida Marlins, 5-3, and win their first Pennant in 30 years -- actually a longer drought than the 24-year drought of 1945-69.
October 22, 2003: Jeff Weaver gives up a walkoff homer in Game 4 of the World Series to that other Alex Gonzalez, this time at Wrigley rather than the Dolphins' stadium that was then the Marlins' home.
October 25, 2003: Mark Prior (rather than Josh Beckett as in RL) pitches a shutout to win Game 6 and clinch the World Series at Yankee Stadium, 3-0. It is the Cubs' 4th title.
March 8, 2004: Having lost Andy Pettitte to free agency, the Yankees need a lefthanded starter, and sign Shawn Estes of the defending World Champion Cubs -- despite his having thrown at Roger Clemens in a 2002 Yankees-Mets game at Shea. (In RL, Estes signed with the Rockies on this day, and 2004 turned out to be his last good season.)
October 20, 2004: Shawn Estes starts Game 7 of the ALCS, and, steroids or no, the Red Sox' lefty-dominated lineup can't touch him. The Yankees win, 3-2, and the Curse of the Bambino is extended for another year.
October 27, 2004: The Yankees sweep the Cardinals for their 27th World Championship. Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Mike Mussina and Ruben Sierra get their 1st rings. Estes gets his 2nd. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada get their 5th.
October 28, 2007: Not having had the experience of winning it in 2007, the Red Sox can't stop the Cleveland Indians from winning the Pennant, and the Indians sweep the Colorado Rockies to win their first World Series in 59 years.
September 28, 2008: The Mets lose to the Marlins in the last game at Shea Stadium, and blow a chance at the Playoffs. A closing ceremony is held, and the players from the 2000 National League Champions -- the only Pennant in the team's 47-year history -- get the loudest applause. Players from the near-misses of 1969, 1973, 1986 and 1988 get only polite applause. Several men who played for the Mets but had Hall of Fame careers elsewhere are invited. Yogi Berra and Willie Mays attend, and are cheered. Rickey Henderson attends, but is booed. Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Tom Glavine and Duke Snider do not attend.
November 4, 2009: The Yankees win their 28th World Championship by beating the Phillies.
October 30, 2013: The Tigers, having beaten the still-cursed Red Sox in the ALCS, beat the Cardinals 6-1 in Game 6, and win their first World Series in 29 years.
April 4, 2014: Ken Hubbs, age 72, throws out the ceremonial first ball on Opening Day at Wrigley Field.