Monthly Archives: March 2016

1942 World Series: The Cooper brothers

The 1942 World Series was the fortieth year overall (and thirty-ninth played) of the modern World Series, which began in 1903. Although most people forget the war series, and with good reason, actually, they were still played. This would prove to be the only World Series loss in the fantastic career of Joe DiMaggio.

1942 World Series 
St. Louis Cardinals (NL) over New York Yankees (AL), 4-1 

Managers: Billy Southworth (St. Louis); Joe McCarthy (New York) 

Hall of Famers 
St. Louis: Branch Rickey (executive), Billy Southworth (manager), Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter. 
New York: Ed Barrow (executive), Joe McCarthy (manager), Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Phil Rizzuto, Red Ruffing 
Umpires: Cal Hubbard 

Analysis
You could call this an upset by the Cardinals, based on the talent that the Yankees had, and the fact that they had won 103 games. But the Cardinals were even better – 106-48, winning a dramatic pennant race with the Brooklyn Dodgers. They were led by a young Stan Musial – “The Man” – and the Cooper brothers, Mort and Walker, who provided the Cardinals with a great battery (pitcher and catcher combination, for those who don’t know). Despite the fact that America was now in the midst of the Second World War, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt insisted that the game continue. So, the Series would continue. Still, there wasn’t much that was memorable about this Series.

In Game 1, Red Ruffing took the ball for New York. He was brilliant, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning. But with two out in that inning, Terry Moore singled to break it up. As it turned out, the game would be surprisingly close. The Yankees were leading 7-0 in the ninth, knocking out Harry Gumbert one inning earlier, aided by four Cardinals errors. Many thought it was over. But in the bottom of the ninth, the Cardinals had a rally in them. With two out and two on, Marty Marion got the Cardinals on the board with a two-run triple. Ken O’Dea pinch-hit for relief pitcher Max Lanier, and singled to score Marion. Frank “Creepy” Crespi came in to pinch-run for O’Dea, and after three more singles, the Cardinals were at 7-4, with the bases loaded and Stan Musial at the plate representing the winning run. But having knocked out Red Ruffing, relief pitcher Spurgeon “Spud” Chandler got Stan the Man to ground out. The Yankees had drawn first blood, but as it turned out, the Cardinals rally was no fluke.

In Game 2, St. Louis sent Johnny Beazley to the mound, facing Tiny Bonham. The Cardinals got on the board first in the first, when Walker Cooper hit a two-run double. In the bottom of the seventh, Whitey Kurowski tripled in a run. It was 3-0 St.Louis when the Yankees rallied in the eighth. DiMaggio singled and Charlie Keller tied the game with a two-run home run. The Cardinals put it behind them, though, and with fellow Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter on third, Stan Musial drove in the go-ahead run. Slaughter would play the hero in the field in the top of the ninth. After Bill Dickey singled, Buddy Hassett followed  with a single. But as pinch-runner Tuck Stainback went to third, Slaughter made a terrific throw from right field, cutting down Stainback at third. The tying run was still on, and it would prove crucial, as Red Ruffing flied to Slaughter. It would have likely been a game-tying sacrifice fly were it not for Slaughter’s heroics. Phil Rizzuto grounded out and the Cardinals had tied the Series 1-1.

Ernie White was magnificent for the Cardinals in Game 3, pitching a complete game, 2-0 shutout. Chandler went eight innings of his own, allowing only a run on a third inning groundout. The Cardinals scratched out an insurance run in the top of the ninth; after an error put runners on second and third with none out, Slaughter singled in an unearned run. In the bottom of the ninth, Joe DiMaggio singled to put the tying run at the plate with one out. But White was equal to the challenge, retiring Joe Gordon and Charlie Keller to give the Cardinals a 2-1 Series lead.

For all of his success, Mort Cooper wouldn’t win a game in the ’42 Fall Classic. After the Yankees scored in the first, the Cardinals erupted in the fourth, knocking out Hank Borowy. The Cardinals batted around, scoring six times, with Kurowski, Mort Cooper, Moore, and Musial driving in runs. Had Walker Cooper come through, it could have been more, because Slaughter was at third when the inning ended. This time, the Yankees rallied. Trailing 6-1 in the bottom of the sixth, the Yankees managed to tie the game. Cooper was relieved after giving up a home run to Charlie Keller, making it 6-5. The Yankees would tie it later in the inning when Jerry Priddy doubled in Joe Gordon, facing Harry Gumbert. After Howie Pollet took over on the mound, the Cardinals got out of the inning with no further damage, but just like that, it was 6-6 with three innings to play. The Cardinals scored twice in the seventh off of Atley Donald, when Walker Cooper singled and Stan Musial hit a sacrifice fly. The Cardinals got an insurance run in the ninth, and just like that, it was a 9-6 final score and a 3-1 Series lead for the Cardinals. McCarthy, DiMaggio, and company were one loss away from elimination.

Solo home runs had the score tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the fourth (Rizzuto for the Yankees, Slaughter for the Cardinals). DiMaggio drove in a run in the bottom of the fourth, but it would be the Yankees last run in the Series. A Walker Cooper sacrifice fly tied the score in the top of the sixth. Finally, the Cardinals broke through in the top of the ninth. With Walker Cooper on base, Whitey Kurowski hit a two-run, Series-winning homer. For all of the hype surrounding Mort Cooper, Johnny Beazley won 21 games of his own that year. The Yankees put the tying runs on base with nobody out. But Joe Gordon was inexplicably picked off second base, and Jerry Priddy popped up to Jimmy Brown at second base. It was up to George Selkirk. But Selkirk grounded out, again to Jimmy Brown. The Cardinals, shockingly, had beaten the mighty Yankees. It was their first Series loss since 1926, also against the Cardinals.

Fun Facts
This was the only time that Joe DiMaggio lost the World Series, and the only time Joe McCarthy lost the World Series with the Yankees (he lost in 1929 with the Cubs).

In terms of record, the second-place team in the NL (Brooklyn Dodgers) finished a game ahead of the Yankees, at 104-50, one game better than the Yankees. Still, the Dodgers lost the pennant by two games.

Although Johnny Beazley won 21 games in the regular season and two more in the World Series, he would win only nine more the rest of his career, and finished with only ten more wins outside of that magnificent season.

Branch Rickey left soon after to take over the Brooklyn Dodgers, leading them to two pennants in his tenure.

Warren Spahn debuted for the Boston Braves. Then-Braves manager Casey Stengel sent him down to the minor leagues because he refused to hit Brooklyn’s Pee Wee Reese in the back. Spahn would enlist in the war, survive the Battle of the Bulge, and eventually go on to a Hall of Fame career.

Final Thoughts 
The Cardinals had a great team, and I think by record, this is their best season ever, so it wasn’t that shocking that they won. Still, with the war going on, they’re one of the forgotten teams.

References and Sources 
Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Retrosheet
Wikipedia
http://www.worldseries.com
100 Years of the World Series (Eric Enders)
Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Blunders (Rob Neyer)
The Ultimate Book of Sports Lists (Andrew Postman, Larry Stone)

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1941 World Series: One outstanding season

The 1941 World Series was the thirty-ninth year overall (and thirty-eighth played) of the modern World Series which began in 1903. This year was one of the most memorable seasons in baseball history, the last summer of innocence. Records were set which may never be broken. A rivalry began, and a career ended, and the Iron Horse took his final bow. The Series itself is more known for one of baseball’s core rules – if you strike out, hold on to the ball.

1941 World Series
New York Yankees (AL) over Brooklyn Dodgers (NL), 4-1 

Managers: Joe McCarthy (New York); Leo Durocher (Brooklyn) 

Hall of Famers 
New York: Ed Barrow (executive), Joe McCarthy (manager), Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Phil Rizzuto, Red Ruffing 
Brooklyn: Larry MacPhail (executive), Leo Durocher (manager), Billy Herman, Joe Medwick, Pee Wee Reese 
Umpires: Bill McGowan 

Analysis 
1941 was one of the most memorable seasons in Major League history. Stan Musial made his debut for the Cardinals, although he was still a few years away from superstardom. Lefty Grove won his 300th game on July 25, the last of his Hall of Fame career.

Not all stories were happy. Lou Gehrig died on June 2, a few weeks shy of his thirty-eighth birthday. And early in the season, Franklin Delano Roosevelt made a speech that did everything to get America into World War II without actually declaring war. Baseball responded with a glorious summer.

On May 15, Joe DiMaggio went 1-for-4 against the White Sox. Nobody knew it yet, but it was the beginning of arguably baseball’s most cherished record. As the summer wore on, DiMaggio kept hitting, and hitting, and hitting. As he approached George Sisler’s American League record for hit streaks (41 games), DiMaggio and the national conscience took over. Sisler’s record fell, as did Wee Willie Keeler’s record of forty-four game on July 2. DiMaggio homered into the left field bleachers in Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox, establishing a record of 45 straight games. But it didn’t stop there. It would finish at 56 games before being snapped on July 17 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. It would have extended had it not been for several spectacular defensive plays by Cleveland’s infield. Although the streak was over, he would hit in sixteen straight after that, finishing with a hit in 72 of 73 games. He led the Yankees to a seventeen-game lead over the Red Sox at the end of the season.

But the Red Sox had a star of their own. In his third season, Ted Williams was chasing the magical .400 mark. Earlier in the season, he had homered off Claude Passeau in the bottom of the ninth to win the All-Star Game. Heading into the final game of the season, Williams was at .3995. Playing against the A’s in a doubleheader, Connie Mack promised to make Williams earn it by pitching to him. The Splendid Splinter responded with four hits in six at-bats, guaranteeing he’d hit .400. After both games, he finished at .406. Nobody has been able to reach the .400 mark since.

In Brooklyn, the Dodgers won their first pennant since 1920. Led by the hard-drinking, ebullient Larry MacPhail, and the tough Leo Durocher (famous for saying “nice guys finish last”), the Dodgers brought over veterans Joe “Ducky” Medwick and Billy Herman, and were led by starting pitchers Whit Wyatt and Kirby Higbe. The Dodgers and Yankees would eventually become the most frequent World Series matchup (eleven as of this writing). This was the first of them, so nobody knew what to expect.

Opening in Yankee Stadium, Durocher inexplicably started Curt Davis in Game 1 for Brooklyn, rather than Higbe or Wyatt. Davis wasn’t terrible, but it was clearly the wrong choice. Joe Gordon put the Yankees ahead with a solo home run in the second inning, and Bill Dickey made it 2-0 in the fourth with a double, scoring Charlie Keller. Brooklyn got on the board with a triple by catcher Mickey Owen (remember that name – you’ll see him again). Pee Wee Reese came around to score and it was 2-1. The Yankees got another RBI from Joe Gordon, a single this time, knocking Davis out in the sixth. The Dodgers got back to 3-2 in the seventh. An error by Phil Rizzuto allowed Cookie Lavagetto to reach base. Reese singled to move him over, and Lew Riggs drove Lavagetto in. But a double play and a groundout got the Yankees out of the inning. The Dodgers put the go-ahead run on in the ninth inning, but Herman Franks grounded into a game-ending double play to give the Yankees a 3-2, skin-of-your-teeth victory.

The Dodgers evened the Series the next day, by the exact same scoreline. National League MVP Dolph Camilli drove in the winning run for Brooklyn, with the score tied 2-2. This gave Spurgeon “Spud” Chandler the loss, and gave Whit Wyatt all the run support he needed. The Yankees put runners on with two out in the eighth, but Wyatt retired Rizzuto. With George Selkirk on first in the bottom of the ninth, Tommy Henrich hit a fly ball to right which was corralled by Dixie Walker.

The Yankees narrowly won Game 3 at Ebbets Field, 2-1. The game was scoreless going into the eight, when back-to-back RBI singles by Charlie Keller and Joe DiMaggio gave the Yankees the lead. The Dodgers scratched back in the bottom of the inning, but couldn’t get any further.

Game 4 was the most memorable game of the Series. The Yankees made it 3-0 after four innings, but Jimmy Wasdell tied the game in the bottom of the fourth with a two-run double. Pete Reiser made it 4-3 Brooklyn with a two-run home run. It was that way going into the top of the ninth when Hugh Casey came in to nail it down. He got two quick outs. With Tommy Henrich at bat, and two strikes, Casey threw a curveball in the dirt to get Henrich to chase. Henrich swung and missed, but catcher Mickey Owen couldn’t hold on to the ball. Henrich made it to first base. This started a deluge, and the Yankees erupted for four runs in the ninth, all with two out. They had stolen the momentum from the Dodgers, and were up 3-1 in games with a 7-4 victory. Many believed Casey had thrown a spitball instead of a curve – something Casey always denied.

The Dodgers were demoralized, and the Yankees finished them off the next day. A Whit Wyatt wild pitch led to two Yankee runs in the second inning, giving Tiny Bonham all the run support he needed. Although Brooklyn got to within 2-1, Tommy Henrich pushed the dagger in with a solo home run. The final score was 3-1, and the Yankees were back on top after a one-year hiatus. The next year, MacPhail would let his temper get the better of him, and would be replaced by Branch Rickey. Six years later, Rickey would make his greatest impact on the history of the game.

There was one more moment left in 1941. On December 7 of that year, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, bringing the United States into the Second World War. For the next four years, baseball would go on, but without the same names or spirit as in the antebellum days. The year ended on a sad note, but hope would be on the horizon four years later.

Fun Facts 
Ted Williams narrowly lost the Triple Crown, losing the RBI crown to Joe DiMaggio. The latter in fact won the MVP awards in one of the closest votes ever.

Hugh Casey was known as a volatile character. Ten years later, after his career was over, he killed himself.

Tommy Henrich came through so many times in the clutch that they called him “Ol’ Reliable.” In fact, he helped Joe DiMaggio during his hit streak – the Yankee Clipper had one of his bats stolen, and with one at-bat left, Henrich lent him his bat and DiMaggio got a hit and extended the streak.

Had DiMaggio gotten a hit in 57 straight games, the Heinz 57 company would have given him a $5,000 endorsement bonus.

Larry MacPhail would later move on to the Yankees, helping them win several titles in the 1940s.

Hall of Fame umpire Bill McGowan was known for practicing his “out” call voraciously in front of a mirror in hotel rooms. One time, according to legend, the man in the room next to him knocked on the wall and yelled, “Hey, McGowan! Don’t you ever call anybody safe?”

Ted Williams’ .400 batting average would have been even more secure if a rule change had been in effect. Although sacrifice flies are not credited as official times “at bat” nowadays, rules did count them as such in 1941. Had the new rule been in effect, Williams wouldn’t have had to worry about the record going into the final game of the season, and would have finished at .416 instead of .406.

Final Thoughts 
The rivalry was not yet where it was, and the results reflected that. Even if the Dodgers had managed to win Game 4, I still doubt they would have won the World Series. They didn’t have the experience yet. But it would come.

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

1940 World Series: No-go for Bobo

The 1940 World Series was the thirty-eighth year overall (and thirty-seventh played) of the modern World Series, which began in 1903. In this Series, journeyman pitcher Bobo Newsom would have his moment in the sun, albeit in a losing cause, and tempered by personal tragedy.

1940 World Series 
Cincinnati Reds (NL) over Detroit Tigers (AL), 4-3 

Managers: Bill McKechnie (Cincinnati); Del Baker (Detroit) 

Hall of Famers 
Cincinnati: Warren Giles (executive), Bill McKechnie (manager), Ernie Lombardi.
Detroit: Earl Averill, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Hal Newhouser 
Umpires: Bill Klem 

Analysis 
The Cincinnati Reds had a lot to play for in 1940. They were the defending National League champions, and they were trying to keep it, especially from their embittered former general manager, Larry MacPhail, now with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers would finish in second for the first time in what seemed like forever, but it wasn’t enough to catch the Reds, who won the NL pennant by twelve games. But the Reds were also facing a personal tragedy – backup catcher Willard Hershberger had committed suicide after calling a pitch which lost a ballgame in August of that year. Additionally, since their first appearance was as the “other” team in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, many considered that title as tainted. The Reds were trying to avenge old ghosts, figurative, literal, and everything in between, and had two pitchers – Bucky Walters and Paul Derringer – who carried them to the NL flag. First baseman Frank McCormick won the NL Most Valuable Player award.

The Detroit Tigers were led by pitcher Louis “Bobo” Newsom, who won 21 games that year. Hank Greenberg, recently converted to an outfielder, won the AL MVP, and was one of the few mainstays (along with second baseman Charlie Gehringer) from their 1935 World Series championship team. Earl Averill was brought over from the Cleveland Indians, and Goose Goslin and Mickey Cochrane were gone. Del Baker was now manager. Going into the final week of the season, they were neck-and-neck with Cleveland. Heading into a crucial head-to-head series, Baker went against conventional wisdom and pitched thirty-year-old rookie Floyd Giebell over Newsom and upcoming left-hander “Prince” Hal Newhouser. Giebell pitched the Tigers to a 2-0 victory, and in the end, Detroit denied an all-Ohio World Series and won the pennant by one game. The Yankees, who had won four straight championships, finished third, largely due to off-seasons from many players, and the fact that they called up rookie Phil Rizzuto too late in the season. It would prove to be the deciding factor for the Yankees, who finished two games back.

Because the Reds had home-field advantage – and ten more wins than the Tigers – many considered them slight favorites. Heading into Game 1 at Crosley Field, Newsom pitched the opener against Paul Derringer. What many expected to be a pitcher’s duel quickly turned ugly for the Reds very quickly. In the top of the second, Greenberg led off with a single, as did Rudy York. An error by Billy Werber loaded the bases with nobody out. Pinky Higgins drove in two runs with a single, and before the inning was over, Derringer was knocked out of the game and the Tigers were up 5-0. The Reds would try to get back in it, but Derringer was too good on this day, allowing run-scoring singles to Jimmy Ripple in the third and Ival Goodman in the eighth. Bruce Campbell (no relation to the Evil Dead actor, at least as far as I know) kept the Tigers going with a two-run home run. The final score was 7-2 and the Tigers had drawn first blood.

The Reds evened the Series in the second game, 5-3. Bucky Walters, the other half of Cincinnati’s spectacular pitchers, faced off against Schoolboy Rowe. In the first, Detroit scored twice on two walks, an RBI single, and a 5-4-3 double play. This time, the Reds would rally early. MVP Frank McCormick singled, and after a pop up, Jimmy Wilson singled as well. Eddie Joost and Billy Myers came through with run-scoring singles to tie the game. The Reds could and should have had more. Joost was almost picked off second, but Gehringer dropped the throw at second, and both runners moved up. With two out, Werber walked to load the bases, but Mike McCormick (no relation to Frank) couldn’t come through. Still, the Reds got two more on the third on a two-run homer by Jimmy Ripple and another in fourth when Walters and Werber hit back-to-back doubles. Walters would allow only one more run the rest of the way. Campbell popped out to Billy Myers at shortstop for the final out. For the first time since 1936, there was a 1-1 split after the first two games.

Switching to Briggs Stadium for the next three games, Tommy Bridges won Game 3 for Detroit. Cincinnati was up 1-0 in the first, before Greenberg tied the game on a double play groundout. It stayed tied 1-1 into the seventh, when Rudy York and Pinky Higgins each hit two-run homers. It could have been more, but after two more hits in the inning, Gehringer popped up. Still, the Tigers had a 5-1 lead. Mike McCormick got the Reds a run back, but the Tigers weren’t done yet. Greenberg led off the bottom of the eighth with a triple, and after two more singles and a throwing error, it was 7-2 Detroit. But Cincinnati had one more rally in the ninth. Jimmy Ripple singled and after a Detroit error, Eddie Joost singled to score Ripple. Later, with two out in the inning, Billy Werber singled a run in to get it to 7-4, but Mike McCormick struck out to end the game. Detroit had a 2-1 Series lead.

Game 4 featured Derringer against Dizzy – not Dizzy Dean in this case, but Dizzy Trout, originally from the unincorporated community of Sandcut, Indiana (near Terre Haute). Trout would struggle in this game, with Cincinnati jumping on him early for two runs in the first. Jimmy Ripple singled later in the third to make it 3-0. The Tigers got a run back through Hank Greenberg, but it would be too late. Ultimately, the Reds evened the Series at two wins with a 5-2 victory.

Going into the Series, Bobo Newsom’s father was in ailing health. In between Games 4 an 5, the elder Newsom passed away. With his father in his heart, Bobo pitched an 8-0 shutout to put the Tigers one win away from their second title. Junior Thompson struggled again for the Reds,  giving up a three-run homer to Hank Greenberg in the third inning. The Tigers got four more in the fourth, and added an insurance in the eighth. Detroit was on the precipice of the title, leading the Series, 3-2.

Heading back to Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, Walters and Rowe met for the second time. This time, the Reds ace would pitch a shutout, winning 4-0 and forcing a decisive Game 7. Walters helped his own cause with a home run.

Pitching on short rest, Newsom would face Derringer in Game 7. The Reds had an early scoring opportunity in the second inning when Jimmy Wilson singled and stole second. Although Wilson had a great Series, he was pushing forty years old and was only in the lineup due to an injury to regular catcher Ernie Lombardi. Wilson had been a coach for most of the year and was pushed into active duty by Bill McKechnie. The Reds failed to score and Newsom had dodged a bullet.

Detroit  scored in the third inning. Billy Sullivan singled and Newsom sacrificed him to second. Dick Bartell popped up, but then Barney McCosky walked. Charlie Gehringer singled in Sullivan, aided by Werber’s throwing error. Detroit had a 1-0 lead. In the fourth, Newsom singled with two outs, but the Tigers were put out of the inning when Higgins was struck out by a batted ball. Newsom was cruising going into the bottom of the seventh, still holding on to a 1-0 lead. The Reds hadn’t been hitting the ball well all game. But this time, Frank McCormick and Jimmy Ripple hit consecutive doubles, tying the score. When Ripple hit his fly ball, Campbell got the ball and hit cutoff man Dick Bartell at short. But inexplicably, Bartell held onto the ball while McCormick rounded the bag. His delayed throw gave the Reds much-needed momentum. Wilson hit a sacrifice bunt, moving Ripple to third. Ernie Lombardi was walked intentionally to set up a double play; due to his lack of speed, Lonnie Frey was sent in to pinch-run. Billy Myers hit a fly ball to center field, which was deep enough to score Wilson with the go-ahead run. The Reds were up 2-1 with six outs to go.

In the eighth, Gehringer singled to lead off the inning, but Derringer got out of the inning without any damage. The Reds couldn’t score in their half of the eighth, and the Tigers were down to their final three outs. With two outs and the bases empty, Earl Averill pinch-hit for Newsom, hoping to ignite a rally. Averill would eventually make the Hall of Fame, in 1975. This time, though, Averill would make the final out of the Series, grounding out to Eddie Joost at second base. The Reds had won their second title, their first since 1919, and in the eyes of many, it was their first “real” title. They were able to give the family of Willard Hershberger some closure, and a good amount of money to boot.

Fun Facts 
Bobo Newsom is one of two Major League pitchers to win 200 games and still have a losing record. His final record was 211-222.

Cleveland’s Bob Feller pitched an Opening Day no-hitter.

Bing Crosby attended Game 7; according to writer Barry Levenson, he was “nattily attired in a bright yellow shirt with a navy blue collar.”

Billy Myers, who drove in the Series-winning run, hit only .202 in the regular season.

This was the first occasion where both starting pitchers in Game 7 pitched a complete game. It’s been accomplished only once since.

Bucky Walters started as a third baseman but switched to the mound after a knee injury left him incapable of running the bases.

Jimmy Ripple was only given half a share of the World Series money because he was a late season pickup. Fans sent him envelopes with extra money in it.

Tigers catcher Birdie Tebbetts was arrested for assault in the Cleveland series leading up to the AL pennant drive. He had punched a fan in the stands after being pelted in the head with tomatoes.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt won an unprecedented third term in the White House, beating Indiana Republican candidate Wendell Willkie.

Final Thoughts 
The Tigers outscored the Reds, but the Reds managed to win. It was a pretty good Series, but it was a prelude to the following year, when arguably baseball’s most classic rivalry began.

References and Sources 
Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Retrosheet
Wikipedia
http://www.worldseries.com
100 Years of the World Series (Eric Enders)
The Seventh Game (Barry Levenson)
The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown (Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo)
When It Was a Game (HBO Sports documentary)
Time. “Sport: Vegetable Plate.” October 7, 1940.
Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Blunders (Rob Neyer).
St. Petersburg Times. “Rookie Pitcher Beats Feller, Indians, 2-0; A’s Eliminate Yanks.” September 28, 1940.

Picking up the pieces

I’m writing this very carefully, for obvious reasons: being half-Belgian, and connecting very strongly with that side of my family, yesterday’s events in Brussels have left a lot of us shattered.

Over 30 people were killed and over 250 were injured in the attacks at Brussels International Airport (also known as Zaventem) and the Maalbeek metro station. We had a close call ourselves – my brother-in-law flew in from Nice, France the night before. Everybody in my family is safe and unhurt, but this wasn’t how I imagined my niece and nephew growing up, or my grandmother enjoying the company of her family. But my sister told me not to be afraid, and I’ll do my best for her, and for them. I owe it to my family in Belgium – they’ve been so good to me over the years. I owe it to them to go about my usual routine: going to work, to the conversational French table I attend on Tuesday nights (time permitting), or just taking a walk to get the exercise or clear my head.

Various monuments lit up in the black, yellow, and red found on the flag. Examples included the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Trevi Fountain in Rome, and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. The last one is especially striking – not only do Belgium and Germany share the same colors on their flags, albeit in a different design and order (shown below), but the Brandenburg Gate was and still is used as a metaphor for unity and peace when Germany reunified after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now, more than ever, Belgium and its allies need to unite in support, good thoughts, safety, and hope. I know it sounds like a tall order right now, but if the tributes are any indicator, Brussels and Belgium will hopefully be able to pick themselves up. By the way, if anybody in Germany reads this, Vielen Dank für Ihre Ehrungen und gute Gedanken. (I hope I got that right, and if not, apologies in advance.) And to everybody who gave Belgium a tribute, thank you for the kind thoughts.

Flag of Belgium.svg            Flag of Germany.svg
(Both images courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

Because of Brussels’ connection with European politics, and the fact that Maalbeek is very close to the European Community building, many in Europe feel the ramifications of these attacks. These come barely four months after the attacks in Paris. The world is both old and new at the same time. But the world goes on. People gathered around the Rue de la Bourse, Brussels’ financial district, and wrote chalk messages. Others left candles, photos, flowers, and teddy bears. Many who did so said they needed to do something and show their courage – as hard as it is, and will be, Belgium’s citizens and guys like me (i.e. have family and heritage there, and thus a strong connection, even if they’re not there physically) will have to face their lives eventually. Despite the palpable fear that still cast its shadow over the Belgian capital, many gathered the morning after and held hands for the moment of silence that took place all over the city and country. King Philippe has declared three days of mourning; the metro reopened with tighter security checks, but was largely abandoned; Zaventem remains closed; the Rode Duivels cancelled and then rescheduled their friendly match against Portugal. The country came to a standstill. It makes sense, but at the same time, it can’t and shouldn’t be used to paralyze either.

Once the standstill ends, I implore Belgium, Europe, and the rest of the world to stay the course. Use common sense, of course, but at the same time, don’t become so anxious that it prevents you from doing anything. I know the feeling, trust me. If people are offering you shelter, take it. Follow the advisories for the time being. Most importantly, to the Belgians – believe in yourselves. You’re stronger than you think. And to the rest of the world, believe in Belgium as well. Give the Belgians a chance to pick themselves back up. Don’t rush to judgment. You may be surprised.

I don’t know if what I’m about to say will mean anything, coming from a half-Belgian, half-American who hasn’t been to Brussels in six years. But in this time, I need to offer my support, so here goes, and apologies for any vocabulary and grammatical mistakes:

Belgique, mon cœur et mes meilleurs voeux sont avec vous, maintenant et pour toujours./België, mijn hart en de beste wensen met u, nu en voor altijd./Belgien, mein Herz und die besten Wünsche sind mit Ihnen, jetzt und für immer.

I could say more, but it would just be a little redundant and sad, and I don’t want to do that. Instead, I think I’ve said all I should say.  Keep your heads up, Belgium. More than anything, keep your heads up, and you’ll never be beaten.

Nowhere man, don’t worry….

(I needed a catchy title, but this post has nothing to do with The Beatles. Sorry.)

Around 2009 or so, Peter Greenberg (the travel editor for The Today Show) wrote a book called Don’t Go There!: A Guide to the Must-Miss Places in the World. Whether it’s due to high levels of pollution, danger, lousy and crowded airports, or just overcrowding and traffic jams, Greenberg argues that knowing where not to go is just as important as where to go. Here are my top five – or bottom five, if you will – of my travel experiences I liked the least. On a few of them, it wasn’t that I hated it, it just wasn’t what I expected. Perhaps it was just bad timing or we caught the place on a bad day, but still. Travel isn’t always as objective as we want it to be, so here’s my list. Some of you may have already been to these places, and perhaps you liked them, and that’s okay. We all have different experiences. If you have been to these places, or have your own list in mind, let’s talk about them. The dates are approximate.

In reverse order:

5. The Louvre – Paris, France 
The Louvre was very contrasting to me. I loved the outside of it, especially the pyramid designed by I.M. Pei (the same man who did the design for the IU Art Museum, by the way), but the inside was a little disappointing. It’s the largest museum in the world, but of course everybody is going to aim for the Mona Lisa. We got stuck near the back of a queue, and as a result of the attempted theft of the painting, it’s now mounted behind pane glass. As a result, you’re not allowed to take flash photography of it. It’s smaller than you think it is, and the night we went (I think this was a Thursday night) was busier than usual. This was on the high school exchange trip I took, and I don’t remember how many went to the Louvre and/or if we got separated. I preferred the Musee d’Orsay, but that’s just me. And I missed Centre Pompidou on the second day. So, the Louvre isn’t terrible, and has many nice works of art, but it’s easy to get lost (which the group I was with did), the Mona Lisa is a little bit of a letdown, and as a result of its hype, none of the other art gets as much recognition as it should.

4. Stonehenge – Salisbury, England
Another one that I didn’t hate, but didn’t quite meet the hype that many give it. This is the most recent trip I took on this list, in summer 2010. We had woken up at 3 a.m. to leave for the port of Calais in France. We took the boat from Calais to Dover in England, and with me in the front seat, I slept through the proceeding drive. When we finally arrived at Stonehenge, it was around 4 p.m. and I think that lack of sleep had something to do with it. I wasn’t entirely excited about it anyway, and my dad did notice it and talked to me in private for a moment, but I tried my best to enjoy it. But by the time we got there, it was already packed, and you can’t walk up as close as you think. The stones are cordoned off to about 10 feet or so. I looked at it from several different angles, and arrived at the exact same conclusion: while I appreciated the craftsmanship, and the mystery surrounding it, I asked myself, “So now what?” I mean, after a while, it is just a pile of rocks. Maybe if we hadn’t done it on the first day, or if I had had more sleep, I could have enjoyed it more. For what it’s worth, my dad eventually told me that he also felt underwhelmed by it.

3. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
When I was a kid, I took several trips to the Smoky Mountains. For those that have never visited, it covers parts of both Tennessee and North Carolina. I always preferred the North Carolina side of the mountain – a little larger and more to do. There was a Cherokee museum that I enjoyed. But the first trip was when I was around ten years old. Pigeon Forge is actually the location of Dollywood, which I don’t think we went to (and if we did, I have no memory of it). I liked the Cherokee history of it, but the trip hasn’t aged well. We never went to Gatlinburg, but I’m a little glad we didn’t – it does look a little bit like a tourist trap. Pigeon Forge also had a little bit of a strange history – it was a dry town until 2013, and I heard that it was known for only having seasonal jobs as a result of the summer rush. Maybe this soured the experience retroactively. I think I just enjoyed the North Carolina side of the Smokies a little more; while the Tennessee side was beautiful, there wasn’t as much to do or I wasn’t old enough yet. I remember being invited to a Tennessee Volunteers football game, but I think I declined – regretfully, in hindsight. (Tennessee won the first BCS championship game that year). Maybe if I go back, it’ll be a different experience. I put this one down to youth and geographic biases.

2. Virginia
Virginia may be for lovers, but it was the sight of a disastrous vacation story for us. It wasn’t the entire commonwealth (it’s a commonwealth, not a state, technically) that made this list, and I can’t even remember where specifically in Virginia it was. (I think it was closest to Fairfax County). I’d love to try seeing Virginia again in the future. But I still share this story with anybody who’s willing to listen – it’s gotten funnier over the years, but at the time it was pretty messy and is an example of what not to do on a family vacation. This was in summer of 1998, when my uncle, aunt, and cousins came in from Belgium. I was eleven years old at the time. We went to Washington, D.C. for a few days, and this was the return trip. While we had time, we stopped over in what appeared to be an old military base. There was a big tank there, although I don’t know if it was real or just a replica. Because this was June in Virginia, we left the doors and windows to our red minivan open, to minimize the heat. My cousins, my brother Nick, and I played on a tank for about an hour or so. We had a quick stopover to get food and just see a slice of small-town America. But when we got back in the van, disaster struck. By leaving the doors and windows open, we had allowed hundreds of fruit flies into the car, and naturally they were attracted to our coolers of drinks and food. Of particular interest were the juice boxes we had left in the cooler. It took us a while to get the flies out of the van, and we had to close the windows and turn the air conditioning on to prevent it from happening again. So, while the idyllic kid side of me had fun on that tank, it really took a lot out of the adults – there was a lot of frustration as we headed home. In hindsight, I don’t blame them. As mentioned, it’s funny looking back on it, but I never want to go through that again.

1. Cocoa Beach, Florida 
This was only for a day, but I don’t remember anything really all that nice about it, except that we bought my uncle a very cool Mickey Mantle baseball card from an antique shop. Even then, I felt like I was too young to be in there, and it felt shady. I was nervous. But to me, there were two things – it was a tremendously overcast day on what was supposed to be spring break in Florida (it was my mom, brother, aunt and I on a trip to Orlando and Disney World, and this was a brief stopover), and what I remember is how awful the beachfront looked. The waves were crashing violently, and you couldn’t walk anywhere without seeing beer bottles and cigarettes littered all over the ground. I wasn’t quite thirteen yet, but it left a lasting impression on me. As weird as this will sound, I feel like a part of my innocence was lost. We were the only ones on the beach for miles, and it just felt really, really creepy. It was the first and only time I’ve ever taken spring break in Florida, or in the Gulf Coast for that matter. After that, I’m not sure it’s worth going back. That’s one trip I’ll skip for the time being. The rest of the trip was fun, and Orlando’s a nice place, but that one detour is something I’d like to forget, and quickly.

So, if you read this, what do you think of my list? Does anybody have their own list like this, or do you argue – and fairly – that just going somewhere is its own reward? Hopefully, these reasons will suffice. If not, maybe I can give them another chance.

1939 World Series: The Iron Horse and Lombardi’s Snooze

The 1939 World Series was the thirty-seventh year (and thirty-sixth played) of the modern World Series, which began in 1903. The Yankees were facing off-field adversity, losing two linchpins. Still, the ’39 Yankees are considered one of the best ever; many consider them better than the ’27 Yankees.

1939 World Series 
New York Yankees (AL) over Cincinnati Reds (NL), 4-0 

Managers: Joe McCarthy (New York); Bill McKechnie (Cincinnati) 

Hall of Famers 
New York: Ed Barrow (executive), Joe McCarthy (manager), Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Lefty Gomez, Joe Gordon, Red Ruffing 
Cincinnati: Warren Giles (executive), Bill McKechnie (manager), Ernie Lombardi, Al Simmons
Umpires: Bill McGowan 

Analysis
Although the 1939 Yankees are considered by some to be the best team of all time, they were going to be down two key members. Colonel Jacob Ruppert, owner of the team, died in January of that year. His estate would own the team for the next six years. But the bigger blow was in May that year.

Going into spring training, Lou Gehrig was beginning to show signs of aging, and aging fast. The Iron Horse was missing pitches he should have hit, and was beginning to labor over his fielding. In late April, Gehrig flew from a road trip in Chicago to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Harold H. Habian would diagnose Gehrig with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS for short. Despite the positive outlook of Gehrig to his wife Eleanor, Habian told her that the condition would slowly paralyze him and kill him. The prognosis was grim. In Detroit, on May 2, Gehrig told manager Joe McCarthy he was benching himself. When Detroit’s broadcasters heard of this, they announced his fantastic streak. The Tigers fans gave him a standing ovation. His streak of 2,130 consecutive games played was over. He never played again.

Wanting to find a way to honor Gehrig, general manager Ed Barrow declared the Fourth of July as Lou Gehrig Day. Babe Ruth had been in a longstanding feud with Gehrig, and on this day, they reconciled. Various players gave him tokens of appreciation. Gehrig would take them and quickly set them aside, not out of disrespect but because the disease was already taking its toll and he was too weak to hold them. His jersey (#4) was the first to be retired in sports history. Then, Gehrig was invited to speak. In what many consider baseball’s equivalent to the Gettysburg Address, Gehrig said his now famous words: “Fans, for the past two weeks, you’ve been reading about a bad break. Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth…


(Photo courtesy of Baseball Hall of Fame – http://www.baseballhall.org)

Whether or not those two tragedies had anything to do with it, the Yankees rallied to go 106-45 in the season, finishing seventeen games ahead of the second-place Boston Red Sox. That year was also a good year for the Red Sox – it was their best season in years and featured the debut of a young outfielder named Ted Williams. The Red Sox were not quite there yet.

Facing the Yankees in the Series were the Cincinnati Reds, having won their first pennant in twenty years. Trying to remove themselves from the association of the Black Sox scandal, the Reds were managed by Bill McKechnie, having previously led the Pirates to the 1925 title. Pitcher Bucky Walters won the MVP, as did Joe DiMaggio in the American League.

Opening at Yankee Stadium, Game 1 was a pitching duel between Red Ruffing and Paul Derringer. The Reds got on the board first in the fourth inning, when Ival Goodman drew a walk with two outs. He went on to steal second base, and Frank McCormick drove him in with a single. But the Yankees tied the game in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, George Selkirk singled. Babe Dahlgren, who had taken over for Gehrig at first base, doubled him in. The game would stay tied into the bottom of the ninth. With one out, Derringer allowed a triple to rookie Charlie Keller. After DiMaggio was intentionally walked, Bill Dickey hit a walk-off single to give the Yankees a 2-1 win.

Game 2 was over in eighty-seven minutes, with Monte Pearson pitching a two-hitter en route to a 4-0 Yankees victory. Dahlgren homered in the fourth, and Keller ignited a three-run rally. The Yankees were up 2-0 heading to Cincinnati.

Games 3 and 4 shifted to Cincinnati’s Crosley Field. This one was quickly over, with Junior Thompson surrendering four home runs, including two to Charlie Keller. Although the Reds hung close, the Yankees pulled away for a 7-3 victory. For the third straight year, the Yankees had an insurmountable lead.

Game 4 was scoreless going into the seventh. The Yankees scored twice, but the Reds rallied back to take a 3-2 lead. The Reds added an insurance run when HOFer Ernie Lombardi drove in Ival Goodman. The Reds couldn’t hold the lead in the ninth, with Gordon beating out an infield single to tie the game. Four Reds errors would spell doom. In the top of the tenth, the Yankees put two on against Bucky Walters, with one out. Joe DiMaggio came up, and singled to right. Frank Crosetti scored, and Goodman misplayed the ball. On the throw home, Charlie Keller barreled into catcher Ernie Lombardi, knocking the ball loose. DiMaggio rounded third, and while Lombardi scampered for the ball, slid around the tag to score all three runs. Although Keller had hit Lombardi in the groin on the slide, the media labelled it as “Lombardi’s Great Snooze.” It was 7-4 Yankees, and for the second straight year, they’d complete the sweep. Wally Berger made the final out by lining out to Crosetti, representing the tying run. The Yankees had accomplished what many thought impossible – four World Series titles in a row. It would end the following year, as the Tigers would knock the Yankees off their perch. Although the Reds were outscored 20-8, they’d get a chance for revenge the following year.

Fun Facts
Lou Gehrig’s final game was on April 30. He went hitless in four at-bats. His last hit had come the previous day.

Reds catcher Ernie Lombardi was widely considered the slowest man in baseball. Once in a game, he inexplicably tried to steal second. A wild throw by the catcher sailed into center field, and as the outfielders watched wide-eyed, Lombardi kept on running and shockingly scored.

Based on the statistics of Bill James, the 1939 Yankees are ranked as the greatest team ever, ranked by Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein.

Ted Williams debuted for the Boston Red Sox.

Led by Larry MacPhail, the Brooklyn Dodgers finished third, beginning their rise to the top two years later. MacPhail had introduced night baseball to Cincinnati in 1935.

1939 was considered the greatest year in film history, too, as classics like Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington were released.

The Baseball Hall of Fame’s first induction was held, although several others had been voted in during the previous three years. Lou Gehrig would eventually be named into the Hall that same year by a special committee.

Final Analysis
I’m not sure about the “greatest team of all time” argument, but the ’39 Yankees were great, giving New York their fourth straight title. It would take a dynamic run the following year to end their dynasty.

References and Sources 
Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Retrosheet
Wikipedia
http://www.worldseries.com
http://www.baseballhall.org (Baseball Hall of Fame)
100 Years of the World Series (Eric Enders)
The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown (Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo)
Three Men on Third and Other Wacky Events from the World of Sports (Carl Sifakis)
Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns 
When It Was a Game (HBO Sports documentary)
Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time (Rob Neyer, Eddie Epstein)

1938 World Series: Ol’ Diz’s Last Stand

The 1938 World Series was the thirty-sixth year (and thirty-fifth played) of the modern World Series, which began in 1903. It was the last hurrah for former Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean, acquired to help their archrivals in the Series. Alas, it would be all for naught.

1938 World Series 
New York Yankees (AL) over Chicago Cubs (NL), 4-0 

Managers: Joe McCarthy (New York); Gabby Hartnett (Chicago) 

Hall of Famers 
New York: Jacob Ruppert (owner), Ed Barrow (executive), Joe McCarthy (manager), Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Gomez, Joe Gordon, Red Ruffing 
Chicago: Gabby Hartnett (player-manager), Dizzy Dean, Billy Herman, Tony Lazzeri 
Umpires: Cal Hubbard 

Analysis
1938 was a watershed year for the Yankees. Tony Lazzeri was gone to the Cubs (their opponent in this year’s Series), and both Lou Gehrig and owner Jacob Ruppert, or “Colonel” Ruppert, were in ailing health, although in the former case, they didn’t know it yet. But as the years have gone on, the Yankees showed how resilient they were. They had rookie Joe Gordon waiting in the wings to take over for Lazzeri. Although he only hit .255, “Flash” Gordon hit 25 home runs and drove in 97 runs. He would eventually go on to a Hall of Fame career of his own. The Yankees were ten games ahead of the Cubs going in.

The Cubs were in a state of flux as well. They narrowly won the pennant on player-manager Gabby Hartnett’s famous “Homer in the Gloamin’.” As darkness fell on Wrigley Field, Hartnett hit a walk-off home run against the fading Pittsburgh Pirates, giving Chicago a clutch lead over Pittsburgh. They’d sweep the three-game series over the Pirates, and win the pennant three days later. The Pirates would never get that close again for over twenty years. A key addition was sore-armed Dizzy Dean, brought over from the Cardinals, won the first game of that Pirates series to set up Hartnett’s heroics. Dean later said it was the greatest game he ever pitched. Many thought it would be a close Series. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way.

The first two games opened at Wrigley Field. In Game One, 21-game winner Red Ruffing pitched for the Yankees. Facing him for the Cubs was 22-game winner Bill Lee (not that Bill Lee). The Yankees scored twice off Lee in the top of the second. After a walk to Lou Gehrig, Dickey singled him to third and took second on the throw. An error by second baseman Billy Herman scored Gehrig. Joe Gordon singled Dickey in after that. Stan Hack got the Cubs on the board in the third, driving in Ripper Collins. But the Cubs wouldn’t score after that. The Yankees got an insurance run in the sixth inning when Dickey singled in Tommy Henrich.  Ruffing pitched a complete game, getting Carl Reynolds to pop out to Joe Gordon. The Yankees went on to win the game 3-1.

Game 2 featured Dizzy Dean’s “last stand.” The Cubs scored first in the first when Joe Marty hit a sacrifice fly. The Yankees rallied to take the lead in the second on a two-run double by Gordon, scoring Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. The Cubs helped Dean in the third, when Marty drove in Herman and Hack. For seven innings, Dean held the Yankees at bay. But in the top of the eighth, with two out, Frank Crosetti hit a two-run home run to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. Dean would be knocked out in the ninth, giving up another home run, this time to Joe DiMaggio. Heading to Yankee Stadium, the Yankees had a 2-0 lead.

Game 3 matched Clay Bryant against Monte Pearson. By his own words, Bryant had “faced good hitters in the National League” all year, but he found the Yankees had his number. Chicago actually scored first, and went up 1-0 in the fifth on a double, error, and force out. But the Yankees rallied to tie the game. After making the error, Gordon hit a solo home run to tie the game. The Yankees added a run in the inning, scoring two more in the sixth as well to get it to 4-1. Joe Marty hit a solo home run to get it to 4-2, but catcher Bill Dickey answered with a home run of his own to provide the final score of 5-2. The Yankees were up 3-0 for the second consecutive year.

Game 4 was a rematch of Game 1, with Ruffing going against Lee. Three early runs gave the Yankees the lead, with Ruffing helping his own cause. Billy Jurges got the Cubs on the board with a fielder’s choice in the fourth. In the sixth, Henrich hit a solo home run off of Charlie Root, to make it 4-1 Yankees. The Cubs had one last rally in them. Ken O’Dea hit a two-run homer to get the Cubs within a run at 4-3. But in the eighth, four Cubs pitchers would allow four runs, thanks in large part to a Crosetti two-run double, the final World Series runs that Dizzy Dean would allow in his career. Ruffing would pitch a complete game, getting Herman to ground out to him. An easy flip to Lou Gehrig ended the Series. It would be the final play of Gehrig’s World Series career. A shock announcement awaited him the following year.

Fun Facts 
The Cubs had planted the famed ivy in the outfield fences the previous year, at the suggestion of future executive Bill Veeck. As a result of this, they had to reduce the power alleys in the outfield, which hurt the hitters for the Cubs.

Billy Herman got a base hit in his first time at-bat. The next time up, he fouled off a pitch, hitting himself in the head and knocking himself unconscious.

Dizzy Dean’s arm problems began the previous year while with the Cardinals. In the 1937 All-Star Game, Cleveland’s Earl Averill hit a line drive off Dean’s toe, which ended up being fractured. (Dean said, “Fractured, hell! The damn thing’s broke!”) As a result, he changed his pitching motion, tried to come back too soon, and his arm never recovered. He finished his career in 1941, done at the age of 31.

Former White Sox manager Clarence “Pants” Rowland was working as a scout for the Cubs and on Phil Wrigley’s orders, brought Dean to the North Side.

Joe Gordon played in exactly 1,000 games for the Yankees and finished with exactly 1,000 hits for them.

Final Thoughts 
It was a bittersweet Series. Three greats of the game – Gehrig, Ruppert, and Dean – would be facing their final World Series, and the fact it ended in a sweep made it all the more sour. The Yankees became the first team to win three consecutive World Series, a feat accomplished only three times since.

References and Sources 
Baseball Almanac
Baseball Reference
Wikipedia
Retrosheet
http://www.worldseries.com
100 Years of the World Series (Eric Enders)
The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown (Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo)
When It Was a Game (HBO Sports documentary)
Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert (Timothy M. Gay)
Three Men on Third and Other Wacky Events from the World of Sports (Carl Sifakis)
The Complete Book of Sports Lists (Andrew Postman, Larry Stone)

1937 World Series: Breaking away

The 1937 World Series was the thirty-fifth year overall (and the thirty-fourth played) of the modern World Series, which began in 1903. It was a rematch of the previous year, and the Subway Series added another chapter. It was the second consecutive year of the Yankee dynasty.

1937 World Series 
New York Yankees (AL) over New York Giants (NL), 4-1 

Managers: Joe McCarthy (Yankees); Bill Terry (Giants) 

Hall of Famers 
Yankees: Jacob Ruppert (owner), Ed Barrow (executive), Joe McCarthy (manager), Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Gomez, Tony Lazzeri, Red Ruffing 
Giants: Bill Terry (player-manager), Carl Hubbell, Travis Jackson, Mel Ott. 

Analysis
It was clear that the Yankees were becoming the dominant team in the game. They won 102 games and finished thirteen games in front in the American League. They’d face the Giants in a rematch from 1936, although it was clear that the Yankees had the advantage.

In Game 1, the Giants started their “meal ticket,” left hander Carl Hubbell. Opposing him was Lefty Gomez for the Yankees. It was scoreless into the fifth inning, when the Giants got a run on consecutive singles and a ground-ball double play. It was 1-0 Giants but they would not score again. In the bottom of the sixth, Lou Gehrig and George Selkirk knocked out Hubbell, scoring five runs off of him. The Yankees would get two more runs in the inning to go up 7-1, and a Tony Lazzeri home run finished the scoring.

The Yankees won by the same 8-1 scoreline in Game 2. The Giants scored first, after Mel Ott drove in Dick Bartell after the latter had doubled. Cliff Melton held the Yankees in check until the bottom of the fifth. Myril Hoag led off with a double, the first of four straight hits,with Selkirk and Ruffing driving in the lead runs. One inning later, the same two men came through again; this time, they each drove in two. Four runs scored in the sixth to make it 6-1. Two more Yankee runs gave Ruffing all the run support he needed. The Yankees were up 2-0 headed to the Polo Grounds.

Game 3 put the Giants on the verge of elimination, as the Yankees won 5-1. A Bill Dickey triple and a Lou Gehrig sacrifice fly provided the highlights. Monte Pearson beat Hal Schumacher to get the Yankees within one game of a sweep.

Unlike other teams, though, the Giants had one last fight in them. They staved off elimination with a 7-3 win. In his final World Series game, Carl Hubbell defeated Bump Hadley. The Yankees scored in the first inning, but the Giants scored six in the second inning. During that rally, a runner was put out by a batted ball after striking him. (The rule also says that the batter gets a single.) The ninth provided some lasts – Hubbell pitched his final World Series inning, and Lou Gehrig hit his final World Series home run. Nobody knew it yet, but he was in the beginning of the end of his career.

Game 5 at the Polo Grounds was close, with solo home runs from Myril Hoag and Joe DiMaggio. A two-run homer in the third from Mel Ott tied the score at 2-2. But the Yankees got the Series-winning runs in the top of the fifth. Tony Lazzeri tripled, and Gomez and Gehrig drove in key runs. Gomez pitched a series-clinching complete game in a 4-2 Game 5 win. The Yankees won their sixth championship, the most of any team. It would get better for them, and worse for the rest of the league.

Fun Facts 
The ’37 Yankees were the first team to play a Series without committing a single error. By contrast, the Giants committed nine.

The Giants are one of only three teams to win Game 4 after falling behind 0-3 (the 1910 Cubs and 1970 Reds are the others).

Carl Hubbell would pitch for six more years, but his screwball finally took a toll on his arm. Still, he made the Hall of Fame in 1947.

Bill Terry is the last National League player to date to bate .400 in a season.

Final Analysis 
The Yankees were dominant in the 1930s, and broke away from the rest of the pack. Their dominance would continue for the next two years.

References and Sources 
Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Wikipedia
Retrosheet
http://www.worldseries.com
100 Years of the World Series (Eric Enders)
When It Was a Game (HBO documentary)

Indiana basketball odds and ends

A few interesting Indiana basketball trivia tidbits, for those who are interested:

Both the men’s and women’s teams won in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. The men advanced to the Sweet 16 and the women advanced to the second round.

This is the second tournament game the Indiana women’s team has won, and their first since 1983.

This is the men’s team’s third Sweet 16 in five years, their twenty-second overall, and their fourth in the last twenty years (2002, 2012, 2013, 2016).

If point guard Yogi Ferrell scores 19 more points, he’ll pass Alan Henderson for sixth on the all time scoring list (Henderson had 1,979 points; Ferrell has 1,961 going into the North Carolina game). If Ferrell gets 39 more points, he’ll reach 2,000 for his career.

Indiana has actually done pretty well against North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament, winning both head-to-head meetings (the 1981 final, and the 1984 Sweet Sixteen, where Dan Dakich – yes, that Dan Dakich – shut down Michael Jordan). Additionally, Indiana was a lower seed in both games.

Indiana has won two of their five titles – 1976 and 1981 – in Philadelphia. Perhaps it’ll be a good luck charm for them.

Indiana has made the Sweet Sixteen or better in each of their last three appearances as a #5 seed (1994, 2002, 2016).

NCAA Tournament – Indiana Hoosiers are Sweet 16 bound

I’m usually more rational than this, but I’m going to come right and say it: this felt good.

For me at least, it was less about Kentucky as it was about John Calipari. I didn’t like the Wildcats when Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith, and Billy Gillispie were there, but you respected them. But Coach Cal is one who gets under my skin. So, it was less about Kentucky losing as it was their coach and fans going down. Humility will restore the Wildcats in the public eye of many people.

Anyway, consider what the Hoosiers were facing. With their head coach already on the hot seat coming into the season, many considered them dead after a collapse in Maui and a blowout loss to Duke. According to many of the players, they were asked whether they plated at Indiana or for Indiana. Getting that clutch win against Notre Dame set them on the right track – and if it works out that way, these two teams could meet in Philadelphia in the Elite Eight. Indiana stayed the course, surviving some fluke losses and an easy schedule to make the Sweet 16 and win the Big Ten outright. If this is March Madness, I hope it keeps going.

For the first time in 43 years, Indiana has knocked Kentucky out of the tournament. This is the first time since 2002 where both teams played in the NCAA Tournament and the Hoosiers did better than Kentucky. (2013 doesn’t count, because Kentucky only made the NIT. Not complaining, though.) We all know what happened in 2002 – the Hoosiers upset Duke, used a three-point barrage to beat Kent State, and advanced all the way to the title game.

Indiana would match up with North Carolina or Providence in the Sweet 16. The Hoosiers have done surprisingly well against the Tar Heels, defeating them twice in four years (the 1981 final and the 1984 Sweet Sixteen, Michael Jordan’s last game in college). And, like 1981, the Hoosiers will be playing in Philadelphia. If you believe in coincidence like I do, perhaps there’s something in the air…

But as the mantra goes, one game at a time. I don’t want the run to end just yet, so if the Hoosiers can find one more game in them, I’ll take it. If today’s game wasn’t for the Final Four, it definitely had the implications. For the first time since 2008, Kentucky makes the tournament but doesn’t make the Sweet 16. And for the record…Tom Crean was in his final season at Marquette. Just saying.

For right now, let’s enjoy the IU win. It could all end next week, but it could keep going. Indiana proved it could beat a good team today. Let’s just enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts.