Monthly Archives: February 2016

1930 World Series: Mack’s last title

The 1930 World Series was the twenty-seventh World Series played (and twenty-eighth year overall) of the modern World Series that began in 1903. The Philadelphia Athletics would seek to repeat as World Series Champions. They would do so, and in the process give Connie Mack his last title.

1930 World Series 
Philadelphia Athletics (AL) over St. Louis Cardinals (NL), 4-2 

Managers: Connie Mack (Philadelphia); Gabby Street (St. Louis) 

Hall of Famers 
Philadelphia: Connie Mack (manager), Mickey Cochrane, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Al Simmons 
St. Louis: Branch Rickey (executive), Jim Bottomley, Dizzy Dean (did not play), Frankie Frisch, Burleigh Grimes, Chick Hafey, Jesse Haines 

There’s a common maxim in baseball often attributed to Casey Stengel: “Good pitching will beat good hitting, and vice versa.” The former would apply for Philadelphia in this case, as the A’s would go back-to-back. The A’s finished ahead of the Washington Senators by eight games, with the Yankees sixteen games back. It was closer in the NL, with the Cardinals edging out their old rival (and defending NL champion) Chicago Cubs by two games. Philadelphia’s Al Simmons won the batting title, and pitcher Lefty Grove won the pitching Triple Crown – 28 wins, a 2.54 ERA, and 209 strikeouts.

The Series began in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park on October 1. In the second inning, Jimmie “Double X” Foxx tripled, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Bing Miller. The Cardinals scored twice in the third on consecutive sacrifice fly balls. But in the bottom of the fourth, Al Simmons hit a home run to tie the game. It stayed tied into the sixth inning, when Jimmy Dykes doubled in a run. The A’s would score insurance runs in the last two innings and won Game 1, 5-2.

George Earnshaw was dominant for the Athletics in Game 2. Flint Rhem of the Cardinals wasn’t so lucky. Mickey Cochrane homered in the first inning, and consecutive hits scored another run. St. Louis got a run back on a home run by George Watkins, but that would be it for the Cardinals on that day. A costly St. Louis error opened the door for a pair of runs in the bottom of the third. Two more runs on a double by Jimmy Dykes gave the A’s a 6-1 lead and a 2-0 Series lead.

The Cardinals were too good to lay down and die, though. Bill Hallahan scattered seven hits in a 5-0 Cardinals victory in Game 3, despite five walks. He wasn’t called “Wild Bill” for nothing. The Athletics had the bases loaded in the first inning but didn’t score, after Hallahan struck out the side. In the bottom of the fourth, Taylor Douthit homered to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead, and one inning later, three straight singles led to a run, capped off by Charlie Gelbert driving in Ray Blades. It could have been more, but Simmons threw out catcher Jimmie Wilson at third base. Still, the Cardinals went up 2-0. Wilson later redeemed himself with a two-run single, and Chick Hafey drove in a run himself. The Cardinals were back in the Series.

Lefty Grove, who had gotten the win in Game 1, started Game 4 for Philadelphia against Jesse Haines for St. Louis. This time, though, Haines was better. After Al Simmons drove in Max Bishop, Haines didn’t allow another run for the rest of the game. Haines helped his own cause in the second inning with an RBI single. The game would be decided in the fourth inning, after two were already out. A ground-rule double by Chick Hafey brought Ray Blades to the plate. He hit a grounder to third base, but Jimmy Dykes threw wide of the bag, allowing Hafey to score and keeping the inning alive. Two more singles gave the Cardinals a second run, and they would tie the Series at two games apiece with a 3-1 win in Game 4.

Game 5 was the best game of this Series. George Earnshaw and Burleigh Grimes went for seven innings matching zeroes. Earnshaw would be relieved by Grove in the top of the eighth. During the inning, Mule Haas singled and was caught stealing, but the ball was dropped by Frankie Frisch. He was singled to third, and a walk loaded the bases with one out. But consecutive fielder’s choice groundouts, the first at home plate, got Grimes out of the inning. After Mickey Cochrane walked to open the top of the ninth, Grimes got Al Simmons to pop up. But on the next at-bat, Jimmie Foxx smashed a two-run homer to give the Athletics a 2-0 ninth inning lead. The Cardinals brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with one out, but Grove got a ground out and struck out Gelbert to end the game and give the A’s a 3-2 Series lead.

The Series went back to Philadelphia with the A’s hoping to close it out. This time, Wild bill Hallahan lived up to his name. Two first-inning runs and an Al Simmons third inning homer gave the A’s a 3-0 lead in the third inning. It was over quickly, as the A’s took a 7-0 lead in the sixth. George Earnshaw had all the runs he needed. The Cardinals scored one last run in the ninth inning on a Chick Hafey double, scoring Andy High. But Wilson made the final out two batters later with a fly ball to Bing Miller in right field. The A’s had won their second consecutive World Series. It was Connie Mack’s fifth and last World Series title.

Fun Facts
Chick Hafey was the first Hall of Famer to wear glasses.

Mickey Cochrane’s real name was Gordon. Mickey Mantle – named after Cochrane by his father – would often bring up this point humorously in his post-playing days.

On an off-day, Mack sent his team to watch Philadelphia’s other team, the Phillies, host the Cardinals at Shibe Park. The Cardinals won 19-16. That 1930 Phillies team is considered the worst pitching staff ever. They scored 15 runs in two consecutive games in July, and lost both of them. They had a 6.71 ERA and opponents hit .346 against them. For what it’s worth, those 19 runs scored by the Cardinals were seven more than they scored against the A’s in the Series.

Connie Mack was one of the few managers not to wear a uniform in the dugout, coming to the park in a bowler derby and suit.

Final Analysis 
The Cardinals hung in for as long as they could, but didn’t have the pitching or hitting to beat the A’s. The two teams would have a re-match a year later, and the outcome would be reversed. The Cardinals had a secret weapon waiting.

References and Sources
Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
100 Years of the World Series (Eric Enders)
Baseball: A Film By Ken Burns


A Leap Day at the park

After several big shifts in a row, I finally had a day off today, Leap Day 2016. So, I decided to go to one of my childhood hangouts – Bryan Park.

I can’t even remember the last time I had gone to Bryan Park. When I was younger, I used to go with my family all the time, for Little League practice, watching movies, and going to the pool. Whenever I would go with groups of kids, we always tried to get wristbands for the water slide. I think I’m sadly too old for that now.

There was a nice bench I was sitting on. While I was there, I was invited to do a survey about the park. One thing that got lost in the experience is that the sight lines can be a little tricky to figure out. This isn’t a park for “glancing,” necessarily, because of several trees that line along a creek. But at the same time, it was nice to go back to the park. It was a nice walk, a straight shot on Woodlawn Avenue for about twelve minutes. It’s a very lovely park – it was larger than I remembered. At the same time, it also hadn’t changed that much, which I think is all for the better. Everything that I remember being there in my childhood is still in its original spot.

Eventually, I decided to walk home. The rain from the previous night had soaked the ground, so I didn’t want to stay too long. Plus, with spring coming up, it might be easier to walk around in. I wanted to get used to the park again before I did anything else. And the nice part is, it’s waiting for me again. Hopefully, I will plan to see it again soon.

Way too early acting predictions – 89th Oscars

So, after tonight’s Oscar ceremony, in which Spotlight won Best Picture (hooray), here are my way-too-early acting predictions for the 89th ceremony next year.

Best Actor 
1. Bryan Cranston – The Infiltrator 
2. Michael Fassbender – The Light Between Oceans
3. Joseph Gordon-Levitt  – Snowden 
4. Michael Keaton – The Founder 
5. Will Smith – Collateral Beauty

Best Actress
1. Emily Blunt – The Girl on the Train
2. Anna Kendrick – The Accountant
3. Helen Mirren – Collateral Beauty 
4. Emma Stone – La La Land 
5. Alicia Vikander – The Light Between Oceans 

Best Supporting Actor 
1. Ethan Hawke – Maggie’s Plan 
2. Jude Law – Genius 
3. Steve Martin – Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk 
4. Edward Norton – Collateral Beauty 
5. J.K. Simmons – La La Land

Best Supporting Actress 
1. Rebecca Ferguson – The Girl on the Train
2. Nicole Kidman – Genius
3. Laura Linney – Sully 
4. Julianne Moore – Maggie’s Plan
5. Shailene Woodley – Snowden

1929 World Series: Mack and Hack

(How about ’29 on Leap Day, huh?)

The 1929 World Series was the twenty-sixth World Series played and twenty-seventh year overall of the modern World Series which began in 1903. A Cubs collapse in Game 4 combined with Connie Mack’s managerial savvy propelled the A’s to a five-game triumph.

1929 World Series 
Philadelphia Athletics (AL) over Chicago Cubs (NL), 4-1 

Managers: Connie Mack (Philadelphia); Joe McCarthy (Chicago) 

Hall of Famers 
Philadelphia: Connie Mack (manager), Mickey Cochrane, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Al Simmons 
Chicago: Joe McCarthy (manager), Kiki Cuyler, Gabby Hartnett, Rogers Hornsby, Hack Wilson 
Umpires: Bill Klem 

Mere weeks before the beginning of The Great Depression, the 1920s would end with one of the most fluky World Series played up to that point. Connie Mack had retooled his Philadelphia A’s teams from a decade earlier, led by Jimmie “Double X” Foxx, and the pitching of Lefty Grove and George Earnshaw. Joe McCarthy led the Cubs to their first pennant since 1918.

The Cubs were dominant with right-handed hitting, so many expected star pitcher Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove to start Game 1 for Philadelphia. But Mack had a plan. Howard Ehmke had been at the end of his career when Mack picked him up. Originally, he was sent home, with many believing he had a sore arm. But Mack secretly sent him to scout the Cubs hitters. Mack gave him the ball in Game 1 at Wrigley Field. Ehmke proved Mack right as he struck out thirteen batters, which at the time was a World Series record. The game was scoreless into the top of the seventh when Jimmie Foxx homered to left field. Philadelphia got two runs in the ninth, and Chicago brought in a run of their own. But Mack’s gamble paid off as the A’s won Game 1, 3-1.

In Game 2, Jimmie Foxx set a record by becoming the first player to homer in his first two World Series games. The A’s jumped all over Pat Malone, scoring three times in the third and inning en route to a 9-3 victory. Al Simmons also had a home run for the A’s.

Game 3 switched to Philadelphia’s Shibe Park. The Cubs got back in the Series with a 3-1 victory, with Guy Bush out-pitching George Earnshaw. After falling behind 1-0 in the fifth inning, the Cubs scored three times in the top of the sixth, including two unearned runs thanks to an error by Jimmy Dykes at third base. The Cubs were back in the Series.

Game 4 is the basis of a legendary comeback. The Cubs scored twice off of 46-year-old Jack Quinn in the fourth, and five more times in the sixth, with Cuyler and Riggs Stephenson driving in runs. Another run came in the seventh, and the Cubs were up 8-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh, only nine outs away from tying the series 2-2. And then the floodgates opened.

Al Simmons homered to lead off the inning. Four straight singles made it 8-3. George Burns pinch-hit for pitcher Eddie Rommel, and made the first out by popping up to short. But a single made it 8-4, and still only one out. Art Nehf came in to replace Charlie Root. While this was going on, there was a stoppage in play. The sun began shining after a gloomy day. But Hack Wilson didn’t take note of this, and didn’t get his sunglasses. Mule Haas stepped up and hit a fly ball to Wilson. He misplayed the ball, which rolled past him for a three-run inside-the-park home run, the last for 86 years. A Mickey Cochrane walk put the tying run on. It was 8-7. The A’s would rally for ten runs in the inning, culminating with a double by Jimmy Dykes. Just like that, the A’s had gone from trailing 8-0 to ahead 10-8. The Cubs had the wind knocked out of them, and never recovered.

In Game 5, the A’s had Ehmke on the mound again. This time, though, the Cubs got to him, scoring twice in the fourth inning. Having lost the element of surprise – and the white laundry coming from nearby Wrigley Field – Ehmke was ineffective, and pulled after the fourth. Going into the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs still had a 2-0 lead, with Pat Malone on the mound. With one out, Mule Haas came up. Again, he hit a home run, this one a shot that went over the fence to tie it at 2-2. Cochrane grounded out, but a double set up an intentional walk. Bing Miller came up, and rocketed a double. Simmons came around to score the Series-winning run, 3-2. The A’s used two late rallies to stun the Cubs. It was Connie Mack’s fourth championship, and first in sixteen years.

Fun Facts 
Hack Wilson was known for having issues with alcohol. To demonstrate this principle, Joe McCarthy put a worm in a glass of water and a glass of bourbon. The worm died in the bourbon, and when Wilson was asked what it meant, he said, “If I drink, I won’t get worms.”

Lefty Grove didn’t start a single game in the Series, but had two saves.

The A’s 10-run rally in Game 4 is the largest comeback in postseason history to this day.

Until 2015, Mule Haas hit the last inside-the-park World Series home run.

Jack Quinn, Philadelphia’s Game 4 starter, was 46 years old at the time of the Series.

Games 1 and 2 were the first World Series games played at Wrigley Field. The Cubs used Comiskey Park in 1918.

Final Thoughts 
The Cubs hung tough, but late inning collapses doomed them in the end. The A’s would return to the World Series the next year, while the Cubs had to wait a little bit.

References and Sources 
Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
100 Years of the World Series (Eric Enders)
The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown (Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo)

1928 World Series: Repeat sweep

The World Series turns twenty-five! That’s all you need for an introduction. But if you need anything more, it was a rematch of 1926, except this time it would be no contest.

1928 World Series 
New York Yankees (AL) over St. Louis Cardinals (NL), 4-0 

Managers: Miller Huggins (New York); Bill McKechnie (St. Louis) 

Hall of Famers
New York: Jacob Ruppert (owner), Ed Barrow (executive), Miller Huggins (manager), Earle Combs, Stan Coveleski (dnp), Bill Dickey (dnp), Leo Durocher*, Lou Gehrig, Waite Hoyt, Tony Lazzeri, Herb Pennock, Babe Ruth. 
St. Louis: Branch Rickey (executive), Bill McKechnie (manager), Grover Cleveland Alexander, Jim Bottomley, Frankie Frisch, Chick Hafey, Jesse Haines, Rabbit Maranville 
Umpires: Bill McGowan

* – Leo Durocher was elected as a manager, not a player

If you count all of the above members as Hall of Famers (they all are, but some didn’t play), then the Yankees had twelve Hall of Famers in their 1928 lineup. It almost wasn’t fair. Nevertheless, many people had said that two years earlier when these same two teams faced off. Still, with the loss of Rogers Hornsby, and an aging team, the Cardinals had to face a hard-charging Giants team, winning the pennant by two games. The Philadelphia A’s were 2.5 games off the pace, and would win the pennant in each of the next three years. Connie Mack was slowly rebuilding his club.

This would be the year of Lou Gehrig’s breakout in the World Series. In the first inning of the first game, with Babe Ruth on second base, Gehrig doubled him in, his first of ten runs batted in during the Series. Fortunately for the Cardinals, the Yankees would only get one run in the inning. Unfortunately, the Cardinals would only get one run in the game. The Yankees took a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning on a two-run homer by Bob Meusel off of pitcher Bill Sherdel. Waite Hoyt wasn’t terrific, but his offense backed him up, as he pitched a complete game 4-1 victory in Game 1. The Cardinals got their only run on a Jim Bottomley solo home run in the top of the seventh. The Yankees added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, with Gehrig singling in Mark Koenig.

Gehrig continued his tear in Game 2, hitting a first inning home run and driving in three runs. Grover Cleveland Alexander was roughed up early, although the Cardinals rallied to tie the game at 3-3 in the second inning. Jimmie Wilson started a rally, and after Alexander reached on an error, Taylor Douthit tied the game on a double play grounder. But in the bottom of the second, Cedric Durst drove in Benny Bengough to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. In the third, the Yankees knocked Ol’ Pete out of the game, ultimately scoring four times in the inning. The Cardinals wouldn’t score again, and a late sacrifice fly gave the Yankees a 9-3 lead, which proved to be the final score. The Yankees were up in the Series, 2-0.

Heading to St. Louis, many believed Jesse Haines could get the Cardinals back in the Series. The Cardinals scored first. Bottomley tripled, scoring Andy High and Frankie Frisch. But Gehrig came back with a home run off of Haines in the second inning. In the top of the fourth, Gehrig hit his second home run of the game, an inside-the-park two-run homer, scoring Babe Ruth from first. The Cardinals tied the game in the bottom half, but the Yankees scored three times in the fifth, highlighted with Bob Meusel stealing home. The Yankees would add one more run, and take a 3-0 Series lead, 7-3.

The Cardinals were on the ropes, needing a miracle. But Bill Sherdel couldn’t be the guy to bring the Cardinals back. Although the Cardinals took an early lead, Babe Ruth hit a home run in the top of the fourth, tying the game 1-1. The Cardinals retook the lead on an error. But in the top of the seventh, things fell apart. Ruth and Gehrig hit back-to-back home runs, and the Yankees scored twice more to take a 5-2 lead. It got worse in the eighth. Cedric Durst homered off of Pete Alexander, and then Ruth hit his third of the game two batters later. The Cardinals got one last tun in the ninth off of Waite Hoyt, but Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch popped out to left field. The Yankees had gone back-to-back, with sweeps in both. Ruth had three home runs in the final game, but Gehrig had four in total. As usual, though, the Babe outshone his teammate.

Fun Facts 
Lou Gehrig had ten RBI, as many runs as the Cardinals scored in the Series.

This was the first time that a team had swept consecutive World Series.

Leo Durocher was supposedly such a lousy hitter that Babe Ruth nicknamed him “The All-American Out.”

Final Thoughts 
There’s not much to say. The Yankees dominated as they had the year before, and the Cardinals never really had a shot. But within six years, they’d win three more pennants.

References and Sources
Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
100 Years of the World Series (Eric Enders)

If the NCAA Tournament started now

If the NCAA Tournament started today, here’s how my bracket would look.

Play-in games:

1. Florida vs. Tulsa (#12, East Region)
2. Texas Southern vs. Bucknell (#16, East Region)
3. Alabama vs. Oregon State (#12, Midwest)
4. Wagner vs. Hampton (#16, Midwest)

East (Philadelphia, PA) 
1. Villanova
2. Iowa
3. West Virginia
4. Baylor
5. Notre Dame
6. Utah
7. Providence
8. USC
9. Pittsburgh
10. Michigan
11. VCU
12. Play-in game #1
13. South Dakota State
14. UAB
15. Weber State
16. Play-in game #2

West Region (Anaheim, CA) 
1. Oklahoma
2. Xavier
3. Maryland
4. Kentucky
5. Duke
6. Arizona
7. South Carolina
8. Saint Joseph’s
9. Texas Tech
10. Wisconsin
11. Saint Mary’s
12. Seton Hall
13. UNC-Wilmington
14. Hawaii
15. Stephen F. Austin
16. New Mexico State

Midwest Region (Chicago, IL) 
1. Kansas
2. North Carolina
3. Oregon
4. Iowa State
5. Dayton
6. Purdue
7. Connecticut
8. Syracuse
9. Texas
10. Colorado
11. Temple
12. Play-in game #3
13. Yale
14. Akron
15. Belmont
16. Play-in game #4

South Region (Louisville, KY) 
1. Virginia
2. Michigan State
3. Miami (FL)
4. Texas A&M
5. Indiana
6. Wichita State
7. California
8. LSU
9. Butler
10. Monmouth
11. Valparaiso
12. Arkansas-Little Rock
13. Chattanooga
14. Stony Brook
15. North Florida
16. UNC-Asheville

1927 World Series: Murderers’ Row

The 1927 World Series was the twenty-fourth World Series played (and twenty-fifth year overall) of the modern World Series which began in 1903. Many believe that this team is one of the best ever – perhaps the best. Whether or not that’s true, it was still a dominating win for the Yankees, and truly the beginning of a dynasty.

1927 World Series 
New York Yankees (AL) over Pittsburgh Pirates (NL), 4-0 

Managers: Miller Huggins (New York); Donie Bush (Pittsburgh) 

Hall of Famers 
New York: Jacob Ruppert (owner), Ed Barrow (executive), Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Earle Combs, Tony Lazzeri, Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyt. 
Pittsburgh: Barney Dreyfuss (owner), Kiki Cuyler*, Pie Traynor, Lloyd Waner, Paul Waner 

* – Kiki Cuyler did not play in the Series 

As previously mentioned, many consider the 1927 New York Yankees to be the best baseball team of all time. Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, but even his teammate Lou Gehrig overshadowed him. Although Gehrig hit “only” 47 home runs, he finished with 175 RBI and a .373 batting average. Earle Combs hit .356 (so did Ruth), Tony Lazzeri was at .309, Bob Meusel was at .337, and the lowest batting average among the regulars was Joe Dugan at .269. The batting average, fittingly enough, was nicknamed “Murderers’ Row.” The pitching was good, too. Waite Hoyt went 22-7 with a .263 ERA, despite only 86 strikeouts. Herb Pennock and Wilcy Moore each won 19 games, and Urban Shocker each won 18. They won 110 games, then an American League record, and finished nineteen games ahead.

It’s a little surprising that the “other” team in this Series, the Pittsburgh Pirates, are forgotten, because they were a great team in their own right. Six of the eight regulars hit .300, led by Paul “Big Poison” Waner’s .380 batting average and 131 RBI. His brother Lloyd – “Little Poison” – hit .355, and Pie Traynor hit .342. Kiki Cuyler, who had been banished to the bench, hit .309 on his own. Led by manager Donie Bush, the Pirates probably could have won the World Series in any other year.

The 1927 World Series began on an apocryphal note, at least according to Paul Waner. Mark Koenig of the Yankees said that the Pirates were watching the Yankees taking batting practice, and immediately saw that they were overmatched. Waner said that the Pirates stayed in the locker room, going over strategy. Whatever the truth is, it would be no contest in this Series, which is a shame, given the talent that the Pirates had. If the Pirates had one weak spot, it was their pitching staff, which would be shown in the Series.

Game 1 began in Forbes Field in Pittsburgh on October 5, 1927. Ray Kremer started for the Pirates against Waite Hoyt for the Yankees. Each team scored in the first inning, and the Yankees responded loudly. On the first pitch of the game, Earle Combs hit a deep fly ball to left fielder, but outfielder Clyde Barnhart tracked it down. After Kremer got the second out, Babe Ruth singled. Lou Gehrig hit a bloop fly ball to Paul Waner in right. As Waner attempted to make a shoestring catch, it rolled past him for a triple. Ruth scored and the Yankees led 1-0. In the Pirates half of the first, the Waners combined to help Pittsburgh score their first run. Lloyd was hit by a pitch, followed by Paul’s double. Glenn Wright hit a sacrifice fly, and it was 1-1. But the Yankees rallied in the top of the third. Koenig reached on an error, and Ruth singled him to third. Gehrig walked to load the bases. Kremer then walked Bob Meusel to force Koenig home, and Tony Lazzeri grounded into a fielder’s choice. It would prove costly however, because George Grantham couldn’t get the ball out of his glove in time, and they narrowly missed a double play. A double steal led to a throwing error and one more run. The Pirates got back to 4-2 in the bottom of the fourth. They traded runs in the fifth, and the Yankees led 5-3. In the bottom of the eighth, Glenn Wright and Paul Waner singled. Waite Hoyt was relieved by Wilcy Moore. A force play in which Koenig had the wind knocked out of him sent Wright to third. Joe Harris singled and the Pirates got to within 5-4. But Moore settled down, and retired the last four batters. The Yankees held on to win Game 1, 5-4.

In Game 2, the Pirates took a first inning lead on a Paul Waner triple and a George Grantham sacrifice fly. But the Yankees would rally. With Earle Combs on first, Mark Koenig singled to Lloyd Waner. Waner bobbled the ball, and Combs came around to score. This led to two more run in the inning, and New York led 3-1. George Pipgras, who had only won ten games all seasons, went seven innings, with the scoreline the same. New York scored three more times in the eighth, capped by a wild pitch from Pittsburgh pitcher Vic Aldridge. Pittsburgh managed a run in the bottom of the eighth, but a 6-2 victory for the Yankees left them up 2-0 going to New York.

It would get even worse for the Pirates in Game 3, which moved to Yankee Stadium. With two on and one out, Lou Gehrig tripled in two runs in the first inning (it would have been an inside-the-park home run, but he was thrown out going for home), and with Herb Pennock on the mound, Pittsburgh would be in for a long day. Pennock had a no-hitter going through seven innings, and six New York runs in the bottom of the seventh made it 8-0 Yankees. Lazzeri singled, and then Dugan beat out a bunt. With Cedric Durst pinch-hitting, he got the runners over on a grounder. A fielder’s choice was too late to get Lazzeri, Koenig doubled, and finally Babe Ruth capped off the inning with a three-run home run. Pittsburgh finally broke through in the top of the eighth. Pie Traynor got the first hit with one out, and then Clyde Barnhart doubled him home. But Pennock would allow only one more hit in the ninth, and the Yankees won 8-1, and took a commanding 3-0 lead in the Series.

Game 4 would put the coronation on the Yankees crown. It was actually relatively close, with Ruth hitting a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth before Pittsburgh tied it one inning later. It was tied 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth. With Johnny Miljus on the mound, Combs drew a leadoff walk. Koenig singled, and then Miljus threw a wild pitch, sending runners to second and third. This forced the Pirates to walk Ruth intentionally to load the bases with no out. Miljus was able to strikeout Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel. With two out and Tony Lazzeri up, Lazzeri hit a line drive foul down the left field line. On the next pitch, Miljus threw his second wild pitch of the inning. Combs came home to score and the Yankees had won the game, 4-3, and the Series, 4-0. It was the second official sweep in World Series history, and the first since 1914. There was no stopping this Yankees team.

Fun Facts 
This is the only World Series as of 2016 to end on a wild pitch.

Kiki Cuyler was benched by Donie Bush in August after failing to slide into second base on a force play. The irony is, had he slid, he would have been safe, because the infielder dropped the ball.

Cubs shortstop Jimmy Cooney and Tigers first baseman Johnny Neun both pulled off unassisted triple plays on consecutive days (May 30-31). It would be another 41 years before it happened again.

There was a rule at the time that prevented previous MVP winners from repeating. As a result, Babe Ruth was ineligible to be considered, despite his 60 home run season. As a result, Lou Gehrig won the award.

Lloyd Waner is in the Hall of Fame, but according to many people, is one of the most undeserving of that honor. He hit .316, but had no power and played in a hitter’s era. His older brother Paul, by contrast, is seen by most as deserving, hitting .333 and finishing with 3,152 hits. Paul’s number 11 is retired, but Lloyd’s is not.

Final Thoughts 
It’s almost unfair. The Pirates were good, but they had no shot. I have no other words. Even if the ’27 Yankees aren’t the best team ever, they’re certainly up there.

References and Sources 
Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
100 Years of the World Series (Eric Enders)
Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Blunders (Rob Neyer)
The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown (Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo)
Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns

Rivalry weekend: Indiana-Purdue 2016

In their only matchup of the year against their archrival Purdue, Indiana improved to 12-3 in the Big Ten and 22-6 overall. Let it be said that they have beaten two ranked teams at home – which, of course, is different from doing it on the road. But given how “easy” their schedule was supposed to be, they’ve also won some hard games, too, including a neutral game against Notre Dame. For all the talk of Purdue’s “best team ever,” the Hoosiers held off a late Boilermakers rally to emerge with a 77-73, and Purdue certainly didn’t look the part for most of the game. You hate to almost blow a 19-point lead, but Purdue was too good to go away quietly. Indiana won because of heroic play from Troy Williams, who led all scorers with 19 points and reached the 1,000 point plateau tonight. Indiana won despite an injury to Robert Johnson, who finished with six points. Hopefully, he’ll be better soon; if he goes down, it could be trouble for the Hoosiers. They won because they minimized the turnovers, losing the ball only four times. They won because Purdue was only 10-16 from the free throw line. You take what you can get. Many people thought that it was going to be a rough season, but at 12-3 with three games to go, can IU actually run the table and win the Big Ten title? They came into tonight’s game with four games to go, and the simplest way to get to the Big Ten title was as follows: win out, facing three ranked teams in the process. Does IU have it in them? I’m not entirely sure. All I do know is that IU has probably locked down their NCAA tournament bid now, especially because SMU and Louisville are serving postseason bans, despite both being in the AP Top 25.

It is a little disappointing that this is the only matchup (at least in the regular season) between these two teams. If there’s any way to get a home-and-home into the rota, I’m all for it, as I’m sure fans and alumni of both schools would be. Each team goes back-and-forth on the rivalry: IU has more titles – five to zero – but it’s been over 25 years since that’s happened. (For what it’s worth, it’s been 35 years since Purdue has made the Final Four. I’m just the messenger.) Purdue has more head-to-head wins (115 to 89), but most of those wins came very early in the rivalry (i.e. before 1923). Aside from those two factors, the rivalry is actually pretty close. You know where my loyalties lie. But I have friends from high school that went to Purdue, and after all the ribbing (most of it good-natured), both schools are in the Big Ten, which is an honor in and of itself.

So, Indiana wins this rivalry game, on grittiness, hustle, heart. Not that the Boilermakers didn’t have those things. I don’t know how to quantify heart, hustle, all that stuff. For what it’s worth, I think the goaltending call at the end of the game was legitimate. From what I understand of the rule, if the ball is already on the backboard or on the rim, any defensive player that touches the rim is guilty of goaltending. That’s just how the rule book calls it. With that said, I think that Indiana had the clock on their side, and probably could have gotten potential free throws anyway. All of this is a way of saying Indiana did get lucky, and Purdue didn’t. In the first matchup since 2008  (Kelvin Sampson’s final game for the Cream and Crimson, by the way) where both teams were ranked, Indiana held on at home, and takes the only regular-season matchup of the series. Even if the schedule is easier than usual, you still have to win the games. They’re only easy if you can pull it off. And at 22-6, Indiana pulled it off.

Three regular-season games left. It promises to be an exciting title race in the Big Ten.

The Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame…Memphis for losing the 2008 NCAA title game

We’re counting down the Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame….the Memphis Tigers for losing the 2008 NCAA Tournament finals

The setup 
Going into the 2008 NCAA men’s basketball tournament Final Four, it was the first time that all four #1 seeds advanced that far. Led by head coach John Calipari, Memphis set a record for wins in one season, beating UCLA in the Final Four to advance to 38-1. All they had to do was beat a lesser-known Kansas Jayhawks team led by Bill Self. For a while, Memphis was controlling the game, and was up by nine points with three minutes to go. But Kansas began staging a rally, getting it to within four points. As the game wore down, Kansas began putting Memphis at the free throw line, one of Memphis’ few weaknesses that year. Memphis missed four of six free throws down the stretch, but still had a three-point lead with under a minute to go. Kansas set up a play, and Mario Chalmers fired a three-pointer. It went in, and it tied the game, 63-63. Memphis had choked away a nine-point lead, and they never recovered, losing in overtime, 75-68. The greatest season in NCAA history at that time ended in defeat rather than in triumph. They would be vilified for missing free throws down the stretch, and not defending Chalmers well enough.

Here’s why the Memphis Tigers are not to blame.

Best of the Rest 
A. The NCAA Tournament formatting.
Such is the majesty of the NCAA tournament. In a “one-and-done” format, any team can beat any team. Earlier in the tournament, Drake University had their best season in arguably forty years, but lost as a #5 seed to the #12 seed Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at the buzzer. Many had Drake as a potential Final Four team. Memphis just ran into the wrong team at the wrong time.

B. Davidson. 
In the Elite Eight, Kansas was taken down to the buzzer by little-known Davidson University, led by future NBA star Stephen Curry. Had Davidson made the Final Four, they would have played North Carolina, and you would probably favor the Tar Heels in that game.

C. After further review. 
Derrick Rose had a three-point basket that was reviewed and later ruled a two-pointer. If that stays as it was originally called, Memphis still would have won by one point, theoretically.

Top 5 
5. Rock Chalk Jayhawk. 
Memphis underestimated Kansas going into the Final Four. And admittedly, it was understandable – Kansas had a history of choking early in tournaments, and in fact still does – losing to teams like Northern Iowa, Bucknell, Wichita State, Rhode Island, and VCU. But in 2008, the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels were shocked by the Jayhawks, going into halftime trailing 40-12. Kansas was the lowest-ranked of all the Final Four teams, but they were resilient, and made the shots when they needed to. Speaking of which…

4. Mario Chalmers. 
The Final Four Most Outstanding Player (MOP) pushed the dagger into Memphis hearts. He hit the clutch game-tying three with under ten seconds to go, and dominated the game in overtime. He carried the Jayhawks on his back.

3. Inferior competition. 
It’s very easy to win 38 games when you play the teams that Memphis played that year. They were in a very easy conference that year- Conference USA – and in the conference tournament, the other three of the top four seeds – UAB, Houston, and UCF – were all eliminated early. The #7 seeded Tulsa Golden Hurricane, who had finished 8-8 in conference play, made the conference final against Memphis, and lost by 26 points. The one major team that they played in the regular season, their in-state rival Tennessee, resulted in a loss, 66-62. And Tennessee was ranked #2 at the time, right behind the Tigers. Once they had to face better competition, they were primed for an upset. If they played in a different conference, they probably wouldn’t have that good of a record.

2. Bad strategy. 
John Calipari made a mistake coming down the stretch – he had at least one foul to give, and perhaps two, but he didn’t use them. If he fouls Kansas before they get a shot off, they get put at the free-throw line, in a two-shot situation. At worst, if Kansas makes both shots, Memphis is still up by one point. Joey Dorsey had fouled out with 1:23 to go and Memphis still up by six points. Additionally, Kansas was out of timeouts and couldn’t stop the clock. Why Calipari didn’t use his fouls effectively is beyond me.

1. It never happened. 
The entire regular-season was wiped out after it was revealed that Derrick Rose had improperly taken his SAT test, and therefore was ineligible. It was the worst nightmare that Memphis could possibly have imagined, but there it was. All wins were vacated – imagine if they had a national title taken away. Memphis fans may never have forgiven Rose or Calipari if that had been the case.

1926 World Series: Ol’ Pete

The 1926 World Series was the twenty-third World Series, and twenty-fourth year overall of the modern World Series, which began in 1903. Grover Cleveland Alexander, “Ol’ Pete,” would have his moment in the sun, despite widely being dismissed as over the hill. It was also the first matchup of each league’s most successful teams.

1926 World Series 
St. Louis Cardinals (NL) over New York Yankees (AL), 4-3 

Managers: Rogers Hornsby (St. Louis); Miller Huggins (New York) 

Hall of Famers 
St. Louis: Branch Rickey (executive), Rogers Hornsby (player-manager), Grover Cleveland Alexander, Jim Bottomley, Chick Hafey, Jesse Haines, Billy Southworth* 
New York: Jacob Ruppert (owner), Ed Barrow (executive), Miller Huggins (manager), Earle Combs, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Herb Pennock, Babe Ruth, Waite Hoyt 
Umpires: Bill Klem, Hank O’Day 

* – inducted as a manager, not a player. 

After nearly two decades of futility, the St. Louis Cardinals had finally won their first pennant, led by player-manager Rogers Hornsby. Hornsby batted .424 two years earlier, the highest in the Major Leagues in the twentieth century. They finished at 89-65, two games ahead of the second-place Cincinnati Reds. Flint Rhem led the Cardinals and the National League with 20 wins. But more importantly, they obtained Grover Cleveland “Ol’ Pete” Alexander in a trade with the Chicago Cubs. As is common with the Cubs, they traded the wrong guy. Alexander went only 9-7, but his finest hour was to come.

The Yankees won their fourth pennant of the decade, finishing at 91-63. Ruth was still Ruth, and Lou Gehrig broke out. Rookie Tony Lazzeri was also brilliant. Many believed that the Cardinals would have no shot.

Game 1 opened in Yankee Stadium on October 2. Herb Pennock, who had himself won 20 games for the Yankees, started against workhorse Bill Sherdel. In the top of the first, the Cardinals took the lead. Taylor Douthit doubled, and Billy Southworth followed with a ground ball, advancing Douthit to third. Hornsby hit a ground ball right back to the mound, forcing Douthit to stay at third. Jim Bottomley followed with a single, falling just in between the outfield. It was 1-0 St. Louis. But the Yankees would tie it in the bottom of the inning. Three straight walks opened the door for a fielder’s choice grounder by Lou Gehrig. It was Gehrig’s first World Series RBI.

In the third inning, a humorous incident occurred to Babe Ruth. Sliding into second base on a bunt by Bob Meusel, his pants split open, much to the delight of the crowd. The Yankees would not score, however.

The game would stay tied until the bottom of the sixth inning. Rain began to come down, but Ruth came through with a single. Once again, Bob Meusel sacrificed Ruth over. Gehrig came through with his second RBI of the game, scoring Ruth with a single. It was 2-1 New York, and it would stay that way for the rest of the game. The Cardinals got a single in the ninth from Jim Bottomley, but he was stranded. New York had held on for a 2-1 victory.

Game 2 saw Grover Cleveland Alexander start against Urban Shocker. Rogers Hornsby doubled in the first inning, but was stranded there. The Yankees would score their only runs of the game in the second inning. Meusel and Gehrig singled, and then rookie Tony Lazzeri singled to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Following another single, Alexander struck out Hank Severeid. On the play, Lazzeri brazenly attempted to steal home. Alexander threw wide to catcher Bob O’Farrell. Lazzeri scored to make it 2-0. Dugan took second on the return throw. But the Cardinals would rally. Douthit and Southworth singled, and Hornsby sacrificed them over. Bottomley came through with a single, tying the game at 2-2. St. Louis wouldn’t score any more that inning, but the Yankees were done scoring.

Going into the top of the seventh, it was still 2-2. After getting their two leadoff men on, the Cardinals faced second and third with two outs. Right fielder Billy Southworth – a future Cardinals manager – hit a three-run home run. It was 5-2 Cardinals. The Cardinals could have gotten more in the eighth, but Bottomley was caught stealing after Bob Shawkey was brought in to relieve Shocker. In the top of the ninth, the Cardinals got another run off of Sad Sam Jones. Tommy Thevenow hit an inside-the-park home run to make it 6-2. That would complete the scoring, and the Cardinals had their first World Series win in their history.

The Cardinals would keep up the momentum in Game 3 switching to Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Jesse Haines pitched a 4-0 shutout, and helped his own cause with a two-run home run in the fourth inning. The Cardinals scored three runs in the inning, and got a fourth one inning later. With Billy Southworth on third, Jim Bottomley hit a grounder to second base. Lazzeri threw home, but Southworth beat the throw. It was all the runs that Haines would need. The Cardinals led, two games to one.

Game 4 is shrouded in legend, although it’s probably apocryphal. Legend has it that a young boy named Johnny Sylvester was hospitalized after falling off a horse. According to legend, Ruth visited the boy in the hospital and promised to hit a home run for him. What remains more likely is that he merely received two autographed balls, one from each team. Regardless of the myth, Ruth hit three mammoth home runs, the first player in history to do so. The third home run was said to have landed 430 feet away in dead center field. New York had tied the series with a dominant 10-5 win. Waite Hoyt wouldn’t need any more runs, but Ruth had come through .

Game 5 was a rematch of the pitching matchup in Game 1. St. Louis went up 1-0 in the fourth inning, when third baseman Les Bell drove in Bottomley. New York rallied to tie it in the sixth. St. Louis was three outs away from winning Game 5 when pinch-hitter Ben Paschal drove in Lou Gehrig. The Yankees would win the game in the tenth inning. Mark Koenig singled and would eventually come around to score on Lazzeri’s sacrifice fly. New York would hold on in the bottom of the tenth. Thevenow was on base when Pennock snuffed out the rally. The Cardinals would have to win the last two in Yankee Stadium.

In Game 6, St. Louis would force a deciding seventh game with a 10-2 victory. Les Bell hit a home run and Grover Cleveland Alexander had his second win in the series. The Cardinals and Yankees would play in their first seventh game in their history. Alexander, as it turned out, had one more trick up his sleeve.

In the third inning of Game 7, Babe Ruth – appropriately enough – hit the first Yankee seventh game home run. But sloppy fielding would shift momentum back to the Cardinals. After a Jim Bottomley single, Les Bell grounded to Koenig, who bobbled the ball. Chick Hafey loaded the bases on a bloop single. On a fly ball by Bob O’Farrell, Bob Meusel dropped the ball, tying the game and keeping the bases loaded. Thevenow hit a two run single to give the Cardinals a 3-1 lead. All three runs scored off of Waite Hoyt were unearned. The Yankees rallied back in the sixth to cut it back to 3-2.

In the bottom of the seventh, Jesse Haines was clearly tiring. He loaded the bases, with Tony Lazzeri coming up. Hornsby went to the bullpen to call in Alexander in relief. On no rest, and perhaps battling a hangover, Alexander came in and told Hornsby how he would pitch to Lazzeri – fastballs. Hornsby tried to talk him out of it, but Alexander said if Lazzeri would hit it at all, it would go foul. Hornsby merely said, “Who am I to tell you how to pitch?”

Lazzeri came to bat. After a strike and a ball, Alexander busted Lazzeri inside with a fastball. Lazzeri crushed it. If it stayed fair, it would be a grand slam. But by mere inches, it landed foul. On a 1-2 pitch, Alexander struck out Lazzeri, leaving the bases loaded. The Cardinals had escaped the jam.

The score remained 3-2 into the bottom of the ninth. Alexander was still in the game, and with one out to go, Babe Ruth came up. Alexander tried to be a little too careful, and ended up walking Ruth on a pitch that barely missed. Although Alexander was 39 years old, he could still throw heat. Ruth made a fatal decision. With RBI man Bob Meusel at the plate, Ruth inexplicably broke for second base. Ruth was a poor baserunner, so it was a shock to even try it. Meusel swung and missed at the pitch, O’Farrell threw down to second…and just like that, Hornsby tagged Ruth out to end the game and the Series. The Babe had taken the bat out of their big hitter’s hands. Alexander was hailed as a hero, and the upstart Cardinals had given the city of St. Louis its first world championship.

Fun Facts 
This is the only time as of 2015 that the World Series has ended on a caught stealing attempt.

Before he signed Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey was the architect of the Cardinals first title team.

Rogers Hornsby refused to go to the movies for fear that it would damage his eyesight.

Chick Hafey of the Cardinals was the first Hall of Famer who wore glasses.

Miller Huggins had managed the Cardinals in the 1910s, and was going against his old team in this Series.

Final Thoughts
It was a decent Series, but a fluky ending ruined what was a good seventh game. And when you consider the history of the Yankees, it was a banner year. The next year, many people would witness arguably the greatest baseball team of all time.

References and Sources 
Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
100 Years of the World Series (Eric Enders)
Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns
The Seventh Game (Barry Levenson)