Monthly Archives: June 2016

Alternate reality

Today was a prime example of blending travel and my condition. To be fair, the “travel” part was from my apartment to the courthouse, in practice for the Boston trip coming up in a few weeks. But the usual route was closed off due to construction. So, I was forced to take another route. After getting food, I skipped my usual Third Street route and decided to take Second instead. I had time to kill, so I made a left at the Atwater parking garage, and went to Bryan Park. The leaves are back in bloom, the people are in the pools and on the tennis court, and the sun was shining. This is where the spectrum side gets there – I’ve often said that a caveat to accomplishing something is that I may have to take a different path. Today, I was forced to deviate from the path. And it worked anyway. I’ve traveled up Second Street numerous times in the passenger’s seat of a car. But walking the sidewalk made me realize what the buildings actually were. Several smaller IU buildings have headquarters there. How many people would know that without walking there?

They say the journey is more important than the destination. If this is true, then it was a great journey today. It’s been a weird year, and I’m not sure what to say about it. I don’t really think I should, to be honest. But going to the park is the calm after the storm. It was a beautiful day. I sat under a tree, and was reading a book. It felt really good. Days off heading to the park are so worth it.

Alternate reality does exist. I know, because I live it.

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Another travel list: UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Won’t go into too much detail here, because many are repeats and you’ve heard it all before. But this is the list of every UNESCO World Heritage Site that I’ve visited. Here’s the link to my list: http://www. whc.unesco.org/en/list

In alphabetical order by country:

Belgium
1. La Grand-Place, Brussels
2. Historic Center of Brugge
Maybe: Flemish Beguinages, Victor Horta House, Belfries of Belgium and France

France 
1. Mont-Saint-Michel
2. Ile de Strasbourg
3. Banks of the Seine, Paris
Maybe: Palace and Park of Versailles, Belfries of Belgium and France

Germany 
1. Aachen Cathedral

United Kingdom 
1. Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites
2. Blenheim Palace
3. Tower of London

United States
1. Mammoth Cave
2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
3. Statue of Liberty
Maybe: San Antonio Missions

Totals: 12 in 5 countries

 

1977 World Series: Mr. October

The 1977 World Series was the seventy-five year overall, and seventy-fourth played, of the modern World Series which began in 1903. The New York Yankees would come back after a fifteen year absence to reach the pinnacle of the baseball world. And one man was responsible for it all.


(The 1977 World Series logo. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

1977 World Series 
New York Yankees (AL) over Los Angeles Dodgers (NL), 4-2 

Managers: Billy Martin (New York); Tommy Lasorda (Los Angeles) 

Hall of Famers 
New York: Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson 
Los Angeles: Tommy Lasorda (manager), Don Sutton 

Series MVP: Reggie Jackson, OF (New York) 

Analysis
There was a lot to talk about in 1977. For the only time in the city’s recorded history, Miami received snowfall. Gary Gilmore became the first person to be executed after the re-institution of the death penalty by the Supreme Court. In Paris, the Centre Pompidou opened its doors. Rings were discovered on the planet Uranus.

At the movies, the new term “blockbuster” would come full force, as in a galaxy far, far, away, audiences were treated to a new film by George Lucas called Star Wars, hearing the classic voice of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader. John Travolta would grace the screen in Saturday Night Fever, introducing the Bee Gees to a wider audience. Two deaths would rock the entertainment world. On August 16 – the same date that Babe Ruth died in 1948 – Elvis Presley succumbed to a heart attack at the age of forty-two. The King was dead. Because of the momentum of the event, another famous entertainer’s death three days later was widely ignored – the famous Groucho Marx. Fleetwood Mac released their album Rumours. Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown, and A.J. Foyt became the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times.

On the diamond, Seattle got baseball back when the Mariners opened the Kingdome. Toronto got its team, the Blue Jays, but from the beginning, it was clear that New York was planning to be a major player again. Despite misgivings from manager Billy Martin, owner George Steinbrenner signed outfielder Reggie Jackson to a multi-year contract. Brash, cocky, and good, Jackson was interviewed with Sport magazine and called himself “the straw that stirs the drink.” This didn’t sit well with catcher and captain Thurman Munson, especially after Jackson said about him, “He thinks he’s the straw that stirs the drink, but he only stirs it badly.” For much of the year, the meddling of Steinbrenner would increase Martin’s paranoia and alcohol issues.

Things came to a head on June 18. In a three-game series at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox, slugger Jim Rice came up to bat for the home team. He lifted a lazy fly ball that fell for a hit in front of Jackson, playing right field. Jackson took his time getting to the ball, and the notoriously slow Rice was able to get a cheap double out of it. Martin was furious, and immediately sent Paul Blair in as a defensive replacement. Martin’s rationale was clear: “If he shows up the ball club, I show him up.” Jackson was just as furious about being replaced, and the two confronted each other in the dugout. The Red Sox went on to sweep the series, giving them first place at the time. Much of the tension was racial, but Martin also disliked Jackson’s constant “me-first” attitude and Steinbrenner’s constant meddling.


(Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin exchange words in the dugout. Photo courtesy of http://www.realclearsports.com

Steinbrenner immediately planned to fire Martin, but surprisingly, Jackson talked him out of it (largely trying to save his own skin by not being the cause of Martin’s firing). The Red Sox faded in July and August, and the Yankees took the East over the Sox and Orioles. That same year, New York City was rocked by rolling blackouts and the uproar surrounding the “Son of Sam” murders. Police eventually arrested David Berkowitz in connection with the crimes. As the saying went that year, the Bronx was burning, in more ways than one.

On the other coast – and the other league, for that matter – there was new management in Hollywood. After 23 years managing the Dodgers, Walter Alston retired, and was replaced by third base coach Tommy Lasorda. Lasorda had been a pitcher for the Dodgers, but was ineffective. But the man was born to wear Dodger blue, and at age fifty, had a collection of veterans and youth that would serve them well in the playoffs.

Rod Carew won MVP honors for the Minnesota Twins, winning the batting title with a .388 average. George Foster of the Reds took the award in the NL, leading the league in home runs and RBI (52 and 149, respectively). Lou Brock stole his 893rd career base, passing Ty Cobb on the all-time list. Brooks Robinson played his final season before retiring. And the Mets made an even worse trade than the Nolan Ryan deal, sending Tom Seaver to the Reds. The Mets would be the laughingstock of the NL within two years.

The NLCS matched up the Dodgers with the NL-best Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies took the first game, followed by a gem by Hall of Famer pitcher Don Sutton to even the Series for the Dodgers. In Game 3, the turning point occurred. It’s still known in Philadelphia as “Black Friday.” With his team up 2-0 in the second inning, Dodgers pitcher Burt Hooton got into an argument with home plate umpire Harry Wendelstedt about the strike zone, earning the wrath of Philadelphia’s notorious fans. Hooton lost his concentration, and the Phillies scored three times to take the lead. Hooton was removed for Rick Rhoden, who combined with Doug Rau to keep the Phillies in check. The Dodgers tied the game in the fourth on a Dusty Baker single. It stayed 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth, when Philadelphia took advantage. Former Pirate Richie Hebner doubled, and after a single, two Los Angeles errors gave the Phillies a 5-3 advantage with three outs to go. Then in the top of the ninth, with two outs, Vic Davalillo surprised the Phillies with a bunt single. Pinch hitter Manny Mota hit a fly ball to left fielder Greg Luzinski, who bobbled it for an error. Luzinski then made a bad throw, allowing Davalillo to score and Mota to go to third. On the next play, a hard hit ground ball ricocheted off the leg of third baseman Mike Schmidt. The throw was a bang-bang play, but umpire Bruce Froemming called Davey Lopes safe. Tie game. Pitcher Gene Garber tried to pick off Lopes at first, but made a bad throw, and Lopes went to second. Bill Russell singled in Lopes and the Dodgers stunningly had the lead. Mike Garman kept the Phillies off the board, and the Dodgers had stolen Game 3. The Dodgers wrapped up the pennant the following day with Tommy John beating Steve Carlton 4-1.

The Royals and Yankees split the first four games, setting up a decisive Game 5 at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. Because Jackson was struggling, 1-15 to that point, and lefty Paul Splittorff started, he was left on the bench at the start. With three outs to go for the pennant, Kansas City led 3-2, after Jackson came in to pinch hit and hit an RBI single in the eighth. Dennis Leonard was brought in by manager Whitey Herzog to get the last three outs. Paul Blair hit a bloop single and Roy White walked. Larry Gura came in to relieve Leonard, who promptly gave up a game-tying single to Mickey Rivers. Another pitching change led to another two runs, giving the Yankees a 5-3 lead. The Royals had blown it. Former Red Sox pitcher Sparky Lyle got Freddie Patek to ground into a series-ending double play. For the first time since 1963, it would be a Dodgers-Yankees series.

Game 1 started at Yankee Stadium. Former Red Don Gullett got the ball for the Yankees. He allowed two runs in the top of the first, but the Yankees got one back in their half. The Dodgers could have had another run in the top of the sixth, but a blown call and a surprisingly good throw from Mickey Rivers got Steve Garvey at the plate. The Yankees rallied to tie the score. Munson gave the Yankees the lead in the eighth with a double. The Dodgers rallied on their own to tie the score in the ninth inning, with Lee Lacy singling in Dusty Baker. It would go to twelve innings, with Willie Randolph leading off with a double. Munson walked, and after two failed sacrifice bunt attempts, Paul Blair drove in Randolph to win the first game for the Yankees.

Burt Hooton evened the Series for the Dodgers in the second game, 6-1. Ron Guidry and Mike Torrez were unavailable, so an ailing Catfish Hunter got the ball. Four home runs staked the Dodgers.

Moving to Los Angeles for the next three games, three early runs gave the Yankees the lead off of Tommy John. Taking advantage of his control, the Yankees went the opposite way than they usually went. Dusty Baker hit a three-run home run to tie the game in the third. Mickey Rivers and Chris Chambliss drove in runs in the fourth and fifth, giving Mike Torrez enough support. The Yankees took the third game, 5-3.

In Game 4, the Yankees put themselves on the verge of the title with a 4-2 victory. Three early runs put Dodgers starter Doug Rau in a hole. Davey Lopes homered for the Dodgers, but Ron Guidry was better on the mound for the Yankees. He also had some great defensive help, with Lou Piniella robbing Ron Cey of a home run. Jackson hit his first home run off Rick Rhoden in the sixth to give New York their margin of victory.

Los Angeles staved off elimination in Game 5, with Don Sutton beating Don Gullett 10-4. Steve Yeager and Reggie Smith homered for the Dodgers, who knocked Gullett out with a four-run third inning. In the eighth, Munson and Jackson went back-to-back. Although nobody knew it at the time, Jackson was on his way to legendary status in Game 6.

You could tell something magnificent was going to happen when Joe DiMaggio threw out the first ball for Game 6. The Dodgers actually scored twice in the top of the first when Garvey tripled off of Mike Torrez. The Yankees tied it on a Chris Chambliss second-inning home run, after a four pitch walk to Reggie Jackson. Reggie Smith gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead with a solo home run, his third.

Then, with a runner on first in the fourth, Burt Hooton tried to sneak the first pitch past Jackson. His first swing ended up in the right field upper deck. Later in the inning, Lou Piniella hit a sacrifice fly. One inning later, with Randolph on first, Jackson faced Elias Sosa. On the first pitch, Jackson’s second swing landed in the right field bleachers. Two swings, two home runs. More was to come.

It was still 7-3 in the bottom of the eighth, when knuckleball pitcher Charlie Hough came in. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Jackson hit a dead fly ball to center field. It landed in the abandoned center field seats, 475 feet away. Three swings, three home runs, on three pitches. For once, Martin and Jackson embraced in the dugout.


(Reggie Jackson looks up as he hits his third home run of the game. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

(Here are all three of Jackson’s home runs. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Jackson took a much-deserved curtain call, and the Yankees had an 8-3 lead. Jackson had tied Babe Ruth with three home runs in a game. He had also set a record with both five in a Series, and four consecutive swings. The Dodgers scored a run in the ninth, but it was too late. The Yankees had brought the title back to New York for the first time since 1962, Steinbrenner’s first and their twenty-first overall. Jackson’s MVP performance had earned him the nickname Mr. October. Many thought this would soothe the egos. It wouldn’t, although the Yankees would repeat in dramatic fashion the following year.

To conclude this post, I can’t find a really good picture of the celebration. Plus, it works better to focus on Reggie for this one, so here’s a better version. It’s only fair.


(A color photo of Jackson’s third home run. Photo courtesy of http://www.bookofthrees.com)

Fun Facts 
Doug Rau was knocked out of the game in Game 4 after allowing three early runs. When Lasorda came to take him out of the game, he was wearing a microphone. Rau was insistent on staying in, but Lasorda went on a profanity-laced tirade that was picked up on the microphone. Their argument became the stuff of legend. I won’t post it on here, but if you can find it, it’s pretty hilarious.

Billy Martin was fond of disparaging both Reggie Jackson and George Steinbrenner, saying, “One’s a born liar, the other’s convicted.” Steinbrenner had in fact been convicted for making an illegal contribution to Richard Nixon’s campaign fund.

Dodger pinch hitter Manny Mota is mentioned as being a pinch hitter for Pedro Borbon in the film Airplane!, even though they never played on the same team.

This was the first time NBC didn’t broadcast any of the World Series since 1947. Rival network ABC did the honors instead.

Final Thoughts 
Reggie Jackson had cemented his legacy as a clutch player. Many thought that the Yankees’ dysfunction would cause them to fall apart. It did, but not before one last thrilling pennant race the next year.

References and Sources
Baseball Almanac
Baseball Reference
Wikipedia
Retrosheet
Getty Images
http://www.worldseries.com
http://www.bookofthrees.com
http://www.realclearsports.com
http://www.thepeoplehistory.com
YouTube
100 Years of the World Series (Eric Enders)
Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns 
Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s (Dan Epstein)
The Underground Baseball Encyclopedia (Robert Schnakenberg)
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City (Jonathan Mahler)
The Bronx is Burning (2007 ESPN mini-series)
Airplane! (1980 film)
Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius (Bill Pennington)
Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball (Bill Madden)
George: The Poor Little Rich Boy Who Built the Yankee Empire (Peter Golenbock)
The Baseball Codes (Jason Turbow, Michael Duca)
Yankees Suck! (Jim Gerard)
Becoming Mr. October (Reggie Jackson, Kevin Baker)
The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown (Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo)
Baseball’s Greatest Insults (Kevin Nelson) 

 

2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers – CAF Third Round updates

On June 24, the third round of CAF (Africa) qualifying groups for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia took place. Here are the groups. Note: because of a special formatting, the highest seed may not be listed first. Only the group winner qualifies.

Group A 
Tunisia
Libya
DR Congo
Guinea

Although Tunisia came in as the highest ranked team in the group, I’m still not entirely sold on them. They failed to make the last two World Cups, and haven’t done particularly well since 2006. As a result, I think this is DR Congo’s group to take – they have several players in the Premier League, including Yannick Bolasie of Crystal Palace. Plus, the ranking differential wasn’t that much between the two. Libya is on the rise, but is suffering from the competition, I think, and it’ll be tough for them to get first. Guinea is overmatched here.

Prediction: DR Congo

Group B 
Zambia
Algeria
Cameroon
Nigeria

Wow. Talk about a group of death. Three of these four teams made the World Cup in Brazil, and both Algeria and Nigeria made the round of sixteen. This means that at least two of those teams that qualified will fail to make it this time. Cameroon has started to slip a little bit, so I think that leaves the door open for the others. And Zambia is no pushover, either – they could really throw off momentum. For the time being, I’m leaning toward Nigeria, because they’ve done better internationally over the years. But it’s really anybody’s group, I think. This one will be fascinating to watch.

Prediction: Nigeria

Group C 
Gabon
Mali
Cote d’Ivoire
Morocco

Gabon has a terrific player in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but after him, the talent isn’t there. Mali has been one of those teams that’s been flirting with the top for years, but has never quite gotten there. They’ll have something like that here, largely because Cote d’Ivoire comes in as the defending Africa Cup of Nations champions. Morocco has had a dry spell since the late 1990s, but look to be on their way back up, but not quite yet.

Prediction: Cote d’Ivoire

Group D 
Senegal
South Africa
Burkina Faso
Cape Verde

This is probably the most wide open group of the five. None of the teams are really all that dominant. Senegal is the highest ranked of the four, but has really fallen off the map since their improbable run at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Burkina Faso has fallen off in recent years, and South Africa is inconsistent, so I think it’s between Senegal and Cape Verde. I think Cape Verde has a lot of talent, and a lot of heart, but there’s a “snakebite” feel to them – they collapse in the limelight. They were forced to forfeit in 2014 qualifying’s final game after using an illegal player, costing them first place to Tunisia, who made the playoff. Still, I think the Blue Sharks should have enough to advance, although Senegal could be on the other side of the coin.

Prediction: Cape Verde

Group E
Ghana
Egypt
Congo
Uganda

This is really a two-team race, Ghana and Egypt. The two have had a sort of “rivalry” in the last few years, with Ghana winning the two leg playoff to qualify for Brazil. Is Ghana too old, perhaps, to make one more run? Or is Egypt like Cape Verde – falling apart with the game on the line? I don’t see Congo or Uganda going anywhere. For the time being, I’m picking Ghana, because they’ve been slightly more “clutch,” although age may catch up with them.

Prediction: Ghana

Qualifying matches begin on October 3 and run through November 6 of next year. Slowly but surely the World Cup field is beginning to set itself. Soon, we’ll see our first official qualifiers.

Pitch stories: June 28, 2016

What a week it’s been in international football.

First story: It’s official. In its own game, England has not won any major tournament in it for fifty years. 1966 seems like so long ago in England. They haven’t gotten past the quarterfinals in any major tournament since 1996, when they hosted the Euros before losing on a penalty shootout to Germany. Many are calling this one of England’s worse losses, and they’d have a good point. I did pick England to win, but knowing Iceland’s talent and the fact that they had a lot to play for, I didn’t feel safe doing it. Five of the eight lower-seeded teams in the bracket have won in the round of 16. What’s more shocking about it is that unlike certain matches where the supposedly superior side has bad luck, Iceland was really good. England looked pedestrian against a team that is making their international football debut, and four years ago was ranked 133rd in the world. What is the explanation for England? Is it lack of heart? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s lack of talent, but I don’t think that tells the whole story. For me, I think it’s a lack of humility. England needs to learn to take its licks better. I remember a story about longtime Liverpool player Jamie Carragher receiving a text message after England’s elimination by Portugal in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. It read: “It’s just England.” Carragher himself told him that losses with his club team hurt more than his national team. Maybe reverse psychology is good. It’s an honor to play for your country, yes, but don’t let that be the entire reason for your existence.

Along those same lines, Argentina fell to Chile 4-2 on penalties. The shocking miss was Lionel Messi, arguably our generation’s greatest player. I’m only eight days older than Messi, actually. Four times Messi has made the final of a major tournament (three times in the Copa America and once in the World Cup), and four times he has lost. Three of them have come in consecutive years. The Argentinian population never embraced him because he spent his teenage years in Spain training for Barcelona’s youth academy. In the past, Gonzalo Higuain played the goat, missing a spot kick against the same Chilean side one year earlier. This time, Messi wore the goat horns. After the tournament, he announced his retirement, with seven other players ready to follow suit, according to reports. At the age of 29, Messi is saying he’s done. Maybe he’ll reconsider, but honestly, would it be worse off if he did? Argentina worshiped Diego Maradona. They don’t have the same adulation for Messi. Argentina’s never had the supporting cast he’s had at Barcelona. I hate to say this, but maybe it’s better that he doesn’t come back. The game needs a tragic hero. And I think Messi has the fortitude to bear it. After four losses, can you blame him?

Lastly, Spain’s reign as European champions is over, losing 2-0 to Italy. It’s strange how two of the last three World Cup champions (Italy, Spain, and Germany) will be going home before the semifinals. With France now facing Iceland, you might like the winner of Italy-Germany to win the final.

Our quarterfinals are now set:

Poland vs. Portugal
Wales vs. Belgium
Italy vs. Germany
France vs. Iceland

I’ll do more updates shortly.

Hungary vs. Belgium – reaction

It’s finally happened. After almost 700 minutes of tournament play, Eden Hazard has scored in a competitive tournament for the Red Devils. Belgium won 4-0 over Hungary in the round of sixteen in the Euros, advancing to the quarterfinals in consecutive tournaments for the first time ever, and for the first time in the Euros since 1980, when they were runner up. Admittedly, the tournament had only eight teams back then, so there was no official “quarterfinal.” If this is indeed Belgium’s “golden generation,” or the redux of the one of the one that existed in the 1980s, they certainly have the talent to get to the final. The question is, do they have the chemistry?

The first goal of the game came in the tenth minute from an unlikely source. Center back Toby Alderweireld, winning his fifty-ninth cap for the Red Devils since 2009, scored only his second goal and first since October 2013. Coming from a free kick by Kevin De Bruyne, Alderweireld and Romelu Lukaku both went for it. Lukaku has had an up-and-down tournament – some cold performances, while also scoring a brace (two goals) against Ireland in their 3-0 win to get them back in the group. After a second goal came from substitute Michy Batshuayi (78′), his third goal in only six caps, captain Eden Hazard validated coach Marc Wilmots giving him the armband, setting up the Batshuayi goal with a brilliant assist, and then beat Gabor Kiraly with a goal within the next two minutes. Another substitute, Yannick Carrasco, ended the scoring in stoppage time.

So what did we take from this? Belgium had better talent, and deserved to win, but played a little too selfishly in the first half. After Alderweireld scored, and even a little bit before, the Red Devils went for glory rather than playing the simple passes. Hungary didn’t have the strikers to back them up, despite winning Group F in a shocking result. They deserve any and all accolades, and can walk out with pride. Belgium plays Wales on Friday, July 1, in Lille. With the three great players of Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, and Hal Robson-Kanu, Belgium will have to change tactics. They have an easy half of the bracket, assuming they beat Wales. I’d consider them slight favorites right now to get to the final; Wales and Poland are talented but lack the experience, and Portugal is good but perhaps is too old and too reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo. If they make the final, all bets are off. The bottom half of the bracket will be scary – Germany against either Italy or Spain, and a potential France-England match. Wales could be a trap game – Belgium drew once in Brussels (to be fair, Nicolas Lombaerts did hit the crossbar) and lost on a Bale goal in Cardiff. Losing Thomas Vermaelen to yellow card accumulation may open up holes in the back four, particularly with Vincent Kompany injured. Wilmots will need to address it, as it’s been a little troublesome at times. But with Vermaelen out and Kompany hurt, it may be up to Laurent Ciman to fill the void, or perhaps the youthful Jason Denayer. Ciman played in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and the 2008 fourth-place team at the Beijing Olympics. But he struggled against Italy, and with Alderweireld, Thomas Meunier, and Jan Vertonghen likely already set, the absence of Vermaelen will loom large.

If Belgium is going to win, they’ll have two things working in their advantage, in my opinion – experience and location. The first is a little objective, I admit, and Wales may make the same argument that they’re hungry. And they are. But Belgium has had a very good travel schedule, particularly in this match in Toulouse, which can be reached from their training camp near Bordeaux in just over two hours. And the others are reasonable distance within Bordeaux. This time, they’ll be heading north to Lille. The jet lag will be tougher than usual, but it’s right by the Belgian border, reached in less than ninety minutes. The Belgian contingent needs to come out hard and support their team hard. Additionally, Lille was Eden Hazard’s club team before going to Chelsea. As the captain goes, so go the Red Devils. With Kevin De Bruyne still not quite on form yet, can Hazard carry them on his back?

With that said, it’s still the last eight of a major tournament. Belgium controls its own destiny. If they play the way they played against Ireland, and in the second half of today, they’ll do fine. Plus, the bracket did them a lot of favors without them needing to play at all. If they can play together and not try to be too fancy, I like their odds. One game at a time, and don’t count anybody out.

1976 World Series: A well-oiled machine

The 1976 World Series was the seventy-fourth year overall, and seventy-third played, of the modern World Series which began in 1903. No dynasty lasts forever, but sometimes, they can be rebuilt again. One would end, another would begin for the rest of the decade.


(The 1976 World Series logo. Photo courtesy of http://www.sportslogos.net

1976 World Series 
Cincinnati Reds (NL) over New York Yankees (AL), 4-0 

Managers: Sparky Anderson (Cincinnati); Billy Martin (New York) 

Hall of Famers 
Cincinnati: Sparky Anderson (manager), Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez
New York: Catfish Hunter 

Series MVP: Johnny Bench, C (Cincinnati) 

Analysis 
Red, white, and blue were all about as America celebrated its bicentennial anniversary. An underdog story called Rocky would beat such classic films as Network, Taxi Driver, and All the President’s Men for Best Picture. In the baseball realm, Oscar winners Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal combined with nominee Jackie Earle Haley for the film about foul-mouthed, ragtag Little League players in The Bad News Bears.  In a Cold War matchup, the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team defeated a hockey team made up of soldiers from the Russian military. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple. Many were unwilling to forgive President Gerald Ford for his pardons of many Nixon executives, including the man himself. A peanut farmer from Georgia, Jimmy Carter, would win the election that year. In South Africa, uprisings in the Soweto township of Johannesburg led to the death of 13-year-old student Hector Pieterson. Women would be admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. The Boston Celtics defeated the Phoenix Suns in six games in the Finals, one of the NBA’s most dramatic series at the time. At the Summer Olympics, Nadia Comăneci scored a perfect 10. Mao Zedong died of a heart attack.

Baseball would celebrate the Bicentennial with a glorious coronation of the Big Red Machine. George Brett of the Royals won his first batting title. The Giants almost left San Francisco for Toronto, before mayor George Moscone stepped in and passed legislation. Elsewhere in Canada, the Expos would begin construction on Stade Olympique (“The Big O”), in time for hosting the Summer Olympics. Cost overruns and worker strikes would lead to it being derisively named “The Big Owe.” Toronto and Seattle would be the two new AL expansion teams in 1977. In Atlanta, Ted Turner bought the Atlanta Braves, becoming one of the first owners to have a TV super station (TBS) that catered to one team. That year on July 11, he pulled off a promotion called “Headlock and Wedlock Night,” combining several weddings before the game with professional wrestling after it.

In Chicago, Bill Veeck – or rather, his wife – would introduce one of the most outlandish publicity stunts in history, and a major sartorial blunder. On August 8, the White Sox took the field wearing Bermuda shorts. Despite hoots and hollers from the visiting Kansas City Royals, the White Sox actually won that game, 5-2, and used them two more times during the year. Regardless, the experiment was considered a failure.


(White Sox player Ralph Garr and first base coach Minnie Minoso confer. Photo courtesy of http://www.freewebs.com)

The big hit was a pitcher by the nickname of “The Bird.” Mark Fidrych premiered in Detroit that year, and went 19-9. He didn’t strike out a lot of hitters, but he was fun to watch, shaking the hands of his infielders after making a great play, patting down the dirt on the mound, and even talking to the ball during the game. He took the loss in the All-Star Game in Philadelphia that year, but The Bird was all the rage.


(Mark Fidrych on the mound. Photo courtesy of http://www.sabr.org

Freedom of expression reigned supreme through much of baseball, but not on the Yankees. Outfielder Oscar Gamble had been acquired from Cleveland, sporting an enormous Afro. In a rare show of solidarity between the two, George Steinbrenner and new manager Billy Martin demanded that Gamble cut his hair, as part of a new grooming policy. Reluctantly, Gamble agreed. And in 1976, the Yankees were re-born.

In May, the old rivalry flared up when the Red Sox and Yankees met up. On a hit to right field, Lou Piniella charged into Boston catcher Carlton Fisk, leading to an all-out brawl. The Red Sox “lost” the brawl but wound up rallying to win the game. That same year in Boston, Tom Yawkey passed away, having owned the Red Sox for 44 years, the longest tenure of any owner in North American professional sports without ever winning a title. Boston almost acquired Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers from the A’s, but Commissioner Bowie Kuhn vetoed the trade as being against the “best interests of baseball.” The Red Sox finished third. Oh, what could have been….

Now with the Yankees, Dock Ellis was still seething from his 1971 All-Star Game encounter with Reggie Jackson, who was playing his only season in Baltimore. Late in the season, Ellis hit Jackson in the face, knocking him from the game. Unrepentant, Ellis said he merely “owed him one.” Incredibly, Ellis was not only not punished, but many players bought him beers after the game in response to Jackson’s showboating. Catcher Thurman Munson won the AL MVP Award..

Making their first ever playoff appearance were the Kansas City Royals. They took the Yankees all the way down to the wire, going the full five games. This ALCS is widely remembered for the fifth game. Three outs away from elimination, the Royals forced a 6-6 tie with three runs in the ninth. But in the bottom of the tenth, Chris Chambliss came up against Mark Littell. Chambliss wound up hitting a series-winning home run to right field. The Yankees were back in the Series for the first time in twelve years .


(Chris Chambliss celebrates his home run. Photo courtesy of ESPN.)

In the NL, both races were decided early. For the first time since 1950, the Phillies would make the playoffs, led by Greg “The Bull” Luzinski, 20-game winner Steve Carlton, and third baseman Michael Jack Schmidt. Mike Schmidt helped rally the Phillies from a 12-1 deficit at Wrigley Field earlier in the year, not only winning the game 18-16, but hitting four home runs in the process. Former Met Tug McGraw went to the rival Phillies and had 11 saves. In Cincinnati, the defending champion Reds showed no signs of slowing down. They won 102 games, while the Phillies won 101 (and hosted the All-Star Game). In theory, the NLCS should have been just as competitive as the ALCS. But it didn’t happen, as the Reds were just too good, finishing with a three-game sweep, winning on a walk-off single in Game 3 by Ken Griffey, Sr.

Many predicted a competitive Series. Because he wasn’t ready yet, Catfish Hunter was held back until Game 2 by Billy Martin. Doyle Alexander started in his place. Joe Morgan, the NL MVP that year, rocked Alexander for a solo home run in the first. Allowing one run in the second, Don Gullett settled down and pitched seven innings, before being forced out of the game with an calf injury. He would be done for the Series. Fortunately, the Reds used clutch RBI from Tony Perez and Johnny Bench to ride to a Game 1 victory.

Now healthy, Catfish Hunter got the ball in Game 2. But Cincinnati got three runs in the bottom of the second. After that, Hunter settled down and pitched a complete game as the Yankees rallied to tie. Still, in the bottom of the ninth, the Reds had a rally in them. A two-out error opened the floodgates, and a walk to Joe Morgan put two men on. Tony Perez followed with a single, giving the Reds a 4-3 win and a 2-0 Series lead.

The series shifted to Yankee Stadium. Dock Ellis got the ball for the Yankees in Game 3, but was rocked by a three-run Cincinnati second inning. Dan Driessen made it 4-0 with a home run. The Yankees got it to 4-2, including a solo home run by Jim Mason, but two more runs gave Cincinnati a 3-0 Series lead.

New York took its only lead of the Series with a run in the first inning of Game 4. One of his four hits in the game, Thurman Munson singled and Chambliss doubled. But the Reds were full of rally, including two Johnny Bench home runs, including a big three-run shot in the ninth to give the Reds a 7-2 lead. Will McEnaney made it held up, and the Reds had their second consecutive title. It was the apex of the Big Red Machine.


(The Reds clinch a sweep in Yankee Stadium. Photo courtesy of http://www.mlb.com

Fun Facts 
The 1976 Reds are the only team since the playoff expansion to go undefeated – 7-0.

Jim Mason became the first of two players to hit a home run in his only World Series at-bat. Geoff Blum in 2005 is the other one.

Game 2 was the first weekend night game in the World Series. Due to cold weather in Cincinnati, they asked Kuhn to postpone it, but he didn’t, defiantly wearing light clothing to prove his point.

The designated hitter was introduced for the first time this year. It would alternate years from 1976-85.

Yankees outfielder Lou Piniella would manage the Reds to their fifth title in 1990.

The Reds are the third and last National League club to win two consecutive championships, joining the 1907-08 Cubs and 1921-22 Giants.

Final Thoughts 
As it turns out, the Reds thought that Tony Perez was slipping a little bit. The front office traded him to make room for Dan Driessen at first base, which was a colossal failure. The Reds would have to wait another fourteen years to get back on top. The Yankees, meanwhile, would climb back to the top, in spectacular fashion.

References and Sources 
Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Wikipedia
Retrosheet
http://www.mlb.com
http://www.worldseries.com
http://www.sportslogos.net
http://www.sabr.org
http://www.freewebs.com
ESPN
100 Years of the World Series (Eric Enders)
Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns 
Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius (Bill Pennington)
Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s (Dan Epstein)
Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ‘76 (Dan Epstein)
The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown (Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo)
The Baseball Codes (Jason Turbow, Michael Duca)
Yankees Suck! (Jim Gerard)

Dutch practice #1

Dag allemaal (Hello everybody),

So, I got what I was looking for as a birthday present, which was a way to practice my Dutch/Flemish. I got a three-in-one book, and started using Duo Lingo (Which I think is really good). So, to practice, here are some of the things I’ve learned. Apologies for my mistakes. Excuses voor elk mijn fouten.

Mijn naam is Eric. Ik wil lezen het boek, maar niet de krant. Ik hou niet van vlees te eten. Ik ben negenentwentig jaar oud. Nederlands is een moeilijke taal om te leren, maar ik weet dat het is voor mijn uitkering, en het is belangrijk. Ik heb geen kinderen, noch een vrouw, of zelfs een vriendin. Ik kom uit de Verenidge Staten, maar mijn vader komt uit België. Hij leeft hier terwijl zijn familie daar leven. Misschien zal ik dit prachtige land opnieuw bezoeken. Maar nu, ik ga slapen. Goedenavond allemaal. Ik zal schrijven meer de volgende keer. Het is goed voor mij.

Ah ja,  nog een ding: Ik hou niet van groene eieren en ham. 🙂

UEFA Euro 2016 Round of 16

So, we’ve seen the preliminary stages of the Euros played out.

Eliminated teams (in alphabetical order): 
Albania
Austria
Czech Republic
Romania
Russia
Sweden
Turkey
Ukraine

Round of 16 matches

1. Switzerland vs. Poland
June 25, Saint-Étienne

A very even match between second-place teams will be the first knockout stage game that we see. Poland has a great striker in Robert Lewandowski, and he could carry them through. Lukas Fabianski has yet to allow a goal, but I’m giving it to Switzerland largely based on experience. It wouldn’t be a stretch to talk me out of it, however.

Prediction: Switzerland

2. Croatia vs. Portugal 
June 25, Lens

I know it sounds like a bit of a stretch, but Portugal has been relying too much on Cristiano Ronaldo. Croatia has been somewhat up-and-down, but beating Spain to snap David De Gea’s goalless streak is no small feat. Plus, Portugal has been really over-reliant on Ronaldo, and is primed for an upset. Were it not for two Ronaldo goals, they wouldn’t have advanced. Portugal’s probably the popular choice, but I think Croatia’s hungry and Portugal’s overrated a bit.

Prediction: Croatia

3. Wales vs. Northern Ireland
June 25, Paris

Two United Kingdom members go head-to-head. Neither team has had a lot of long-term success in their history (this is the first tournament for Wales since 1958, and Northern Ireland’s first since 1986). Gareth Bale is co-leader in goals (with three), and Aaron Ramsey and Hal Robson-Kanu have Wales flying high. Both teams have risen higher than many expectations, and should be proud. But I think Northern Ireland doesn’t quite have the names that Wales has.

Prediction: Wales

4. Hungary vs. Belgium 
June 26, Toulouse

One the one hand, Hungary has a lot to play for, being in their first major tournament since the ’86 World Cup and their first Euros since 1972. They also won a wide open Group F. On the other hand, Belgium rebounded from a disastrous opening game to Italy, and I said that if you’re going to lose to somebody, lose to Italy. Although Sweden gave them a scare, it wasn’t as close as they made it. A convincing 3-0 win over Ireland, and a late goal from Radja Nainggolan gave Belgium second place. Belgium shouldn’t overlook Hungary by any means – they’re good, and have a lot on their shoulder. However, I think Belgium has the talent, and also a little bit more experience. Lastly, they have an easier travel schedule (Lyon-Bordeaux-Nice-Toulouse, all further south in France). Should they advance, they’d get the Wales-Northern Ireland winner. Belgium needs to get better, but the draw is not as scary as it could have been. If they play their game, I see them in the semifinals.

Prediction: Belgium

5. Germany vs. Slovakia 
June 26, Lille

Germany are the defending World Cup champions, and could be the best team in Europe. Slovakia made their Euro debut, beating Russia, which is impressive, and played in South Africa 2010, making the round of sixteen. But I think Germany’s just too good in this match.

Prediction: Germany

6. Italy vs. Spain 
June 27, Saint-Denis

One of the big teams is going to fail to make the quarterfinals. Italy had already won the group, so they may have taken their foot off the gas. I think that Spain is older, but still dangerous. David De Gea recently had his goalless streak snapped in a 2-1 defeat to Croatia, which cost them first in the group. I think this is a coin flip game, and the winner would likely play Germany, so this is arguably the biggest game of this round. Largely because of Italy’s defense, and their tendency to play catenaccio, I think it could be one of those 1-0 games that doesn’t see a lot of chances. I give them a slight edge based on that.

Prediction: Italy

7. France vs. Ireland 
June 26, Lyon

Ireland upset Italy to steal third place from Albania and Turkey, and has a tendency to do damage to big teams. But with France being host, I think their fans get them through. Also, what I mentioned about Belgium’s travel itinerary applies to Ireland, but in the opposite way. They’ve had an unbelievable travel schedule, starting north, going south, and then doing the same thing again (Saint-Denis-Bordeaux-Lille-Lyon). Jet lag can do that to teams. I’ve seen it happen.

Prediction: France

8. England vs. Iceland
June 27, Nice

Here’s the thing with England: talent-wise, they’re probably better than Iceland. But when the heat gets to them – and Nice is right on the Mediterranean coast – they tend to underwhelm. Tactics have been a problem, which will need to be changed. Plus, their media plays them up to be better than they probably are. Iceland is no pushover, either, carrying the hopes and dreams of 300,000 people on their shoulders, having drawn with Portugal and beating Austria, 2-1. England should get through, but Iceland shouldn’t be counted out.

Prediction: England

1975 World Series: Some kind of game

The 1975 World Series was the seventy-third year overall, and seventy-second played, of the modern World Series which began in 1903. “Classic” could be the word for this World Series; many remember it as the greatest World Series of all time. It’s certainly in most peoples’ top three or at least top five. If you really think about it, baseball won. It didn’t need to rely on gimmicks or crazy owners or anything like that. All it had to do was be itself, and let the Fall Classic do its job. Everything fell into place that year, except for a Red Sox title.

File:1975-World-Series.svg
(The 1975 World Series logo. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

1975 World Series 
Cincinnati Reds (NL) over Boston Red Sox (AL), 4-3 

Managers: Sparky Anderson (Cincinnati); Darrell Johnson (Boston) 

Hall of Famers 
Cincinnati: Sparky Anderson (manager), Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez 
Boston: Tom Yawkey (executive), Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice (dnp)*, Carl Yastrzemski 

* Jim Rice didn’t play in the Series due to an injury. 

Series MVP: Pete Rose, 3B (Cincinnati) 

Analysis 
This is going to be one of my favorite ones to write, even if the outcome wasn’t exactly what I wanted. This series has been revisited by both teams numerous times over the years – Robin Williams’ character Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting had tickets, but uttered his famous line: “Sorry, I gotta go see about a girl.”

The Baby Boomer generation was starting to come into its own in 1975. Around the time the playoffs began, the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live premiered with George Carlin as its first host. It was perhaps the first show that was primarily made by and aimed at people under thirty years old. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band would become household names. In film, the word “blockbuster” was introduced when the Steven Spielberg film Jaws premiered. Other classic films that year included Dog Day Afternoon and Best Picture winner One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The game show Wheel of Fortune premiered with Chuck Woolery hosting. Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft. Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali fought their final of three epic bouts, called the “Thrilla in Manila.” As many said, it was for the championship of not just the world, but of each other. Queen released its biggest single to date, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” David Beckham and Tiger Woods were born.

The fall of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, occurred on April 30. Saigon would be renamed Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam would form one country. It was the first time Americans had tasted major defeat in a war. Thirteen days earlier, in neighboring Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge took the capital city of Phnom Penh under the leadership of Pol Pot. The country would be renamed Democratic Kampuchea, and four years of mass genocide would follow, in a policy dubbed “Year Zero.” Portugal beat its own political dictatorship, but lost both Cape Verde and Angola to independence. In Spain, the Franco regime ended. And numerous Nixon aides were sentenced to jail time for their involvement in Watergate.

Despite three consecutive world championships, attendance lagged in Oakland, due to geography and the numerous antics of outrageous owner Charlie Finley. After the Chicago White Sox threatened to relocate to Seattle, Finley would take Oakland to the Windy City. But a lease agreement forced Finley to stay, and Bill Veeck took ownership of the White Sox for a second time, keeping the White Sox in Chicago. In Cleveland, Frank Robinson would become the first black manager in Major League history, although it probably wasn’t the right city for him. Although he hit a home run on Opening Day against the Yankees, he had difficulties with his temper, and would butt heads with pitcher Gaylord Perry, leading to the latter being traded to Texas. But rookies Dennis Eckersley, Rick Manning, and Duane Kuiper picked up the slack for Cleveland.

Hank Aaron returned to Milwaukee, being traded from the Braves to the Brewers. He would pass another one of Babe Ruth’s records, this time for RBIs (he finished with 2,297). But two teams would soon hog the spotlight in each of their respective leagues.

After several years of earning a reputation as chokers, Sparky Anderson’s Cincinnati Reds would finish 108-54, finishing ahead of the Dodgers by 20 games. Anderson was going through some personal issues (a friend was dying of cancer, and an argument with his son over the latter’s refusal to cut his hair resulted in a year-long estrangement), but on the field, he became known as “Captain Hook” for his brilliant handling of his pitching staff. Second baseman Joe Morgan won the MVP Award, his first of two straight. They had veterans Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Pete Rose, and Dave Concepcion, and other stars like Ken Griffey, Sr., George Foster, and Cesar Geronimo. It was truly the “Big Red Machine.”

In the NL East, it was a battle of Pennsylvania for much of the year, as the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates battled for much of the season. Philadelphia had rising star Mike Schmidt in its lineup, along with dominant lefty Steve Carlton. Still, the Pirates were just a little bit better, led by first baseman Willie Stargell. In a 1-2 finish, Pittsburgh edged Philadelphia by 6.5 games. Philadelphia would have its moment the next year, though.

The NLCS was no contest, with the Reds sweeping the Series and outscoring the Pirates 19-7. The Big Red Machine was living up to its name, and Anderson had his third pennant in six years.

After being in contention for several years, the Boston Red Sox returned to the playoffs for the first time since the “Impossible Dream” season in 1967. Two phenomenal rookies would help the Red Sox to the division title – Fred Lynn and Jim Rice, nicknamed the “Gold Dust Twins.” Lynn would become the first player to win Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in the same season. Rice finished second, but was sidelined late in the season when pitcher Vern Ruhle hit him in the wrist with a fastball. Luis Tiant and Bill Lee anchored the pitching staff, the latter known for his left-leaning views in a job that leaned the other way. Much of Boston had been embroiled in a forced busing controversy as a result of integrating its public schools. The Red Sox winning again helped the city recover.

After the A’s lost Catfish Hunter as the result of an illegal contract, many thought they’d be thrown off their pedestal. And Oakland did have an anemic offense, but still finished with the best record in the AL at 98-64, after acquiring Billy Williams from the Cubs.

But just like in the National League, the ALCS ended in a three-game sweep. Tiant pitched the Sox to a 7-1 win in the first game, and the Red Sox were on their way. The Sox clinched the pennant in Oakland with a 5-3 win by Rick Wise.


(Luis Tiant in his unusual windup. Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report.) 

The Series opened in Fenway Park on October 11. Luis Tiant and Don Gullett would wage a pitcher’s duel for the first six innings. In the bottom of the seventh, it was still 0-0. Tiant had escaped a bases loaded jam, which was helped when George Foster was thrown out by Carlton “Pudge” Fisk. Despite not batting once all season, Tiant singled to lead off the seventh.


(Tiant fouls a pitch back before starting the rally. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

A fielder’s choice led to first and second, and a single loaded the bases. Carl Yastrzemski opened the scoring with a single. Fisk walked to score another run. After a strikeout, two more singles and a sacrifice fly led to a 6-0 Boston lead. Tiant set down the Reds in order in the eighth and ninth, getting Concepcion to ground out to third baseman Rico Petrocelli to end the game. Boston had struck first.


(The Cincinnati Reds bench looks on as Luis Tiant shuts them down. Photo courtesy of Boston Globe.)

Game 2 featured Bill Lee against Jack Billingham. Boston struck first when Fisk drove Yaz in. Lee pitched eight strong innings, and Dick Drago came in to try and preserve a 2-1 lead. Boston would be up 2-0 heading to Cincinnati. But in the top of the ninth, Johnny Bench led off with a double down the right field line, despite the good arm of right fielder Dwight Evans. After two outs, Concepcion singled to tie the game, then stole second. Ken Griffey (the father of Ken Griffey, Jr.) doubled to give the Reds a 3-2 lead. Boston couldn’t rally against Rawly Eastwick. The Reds had stolen momentum back, tying the Series.

Game 3 at Riverfront Stadium would end controversially. In the top of the second, Fisk homered to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. But in the fourth and fifth three home runs from Bench, Concepcion, and Geronimo, combined with a Morgan sacrifice fly gave the Reds a 5-1 lead. Boston rallied, getting a sac fly from Lynn, and home runs from Bernie Carbo and Dwight Evans. The game would finish in the bottom of the tenth. Geronimo singled to right to lead off the inning. Pinch hitter Ed Armbrister came to the plate. On a 1-0 count, Armbrister laid down a bunt in front of the plate. Carlton Fisk attempted to catch it, but Armbrister hesitated, unsure of the ball going foul. Fisk bumped into Armbrister, rushed his throw, and threw it over the head of shortstop Rick Burleson. Geronimo went to third and Armbrister went to second. Boston manager Darrell Johnson attempted to argue it was interference, but was overruled by home plate umpire Larry Barnett.


(The controversial Ed Armbrister play. Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report.) 

Roger Moret relieved Jim Willoughby, and issued an intentional walk to load the bases. Merv Rettenmund struck out for the first out. But then, Joe Morgan singled to center, scoring Geronimo. The Reds had won the third game, 6-5, and led in the Series.

The Red Sox evened the Series behind Tiant and his unusual windup, forcing the Series back to Boston.  Ken Griffey doubled in a run in the bottom of the first, but was thrown out trying to extend his hit. Bench later drove in Morgan to make it 2-0. But with runners at second and third in the top of the fourth, and one out, Boston broke it open with five runs. Dwight Evans tripled, Burleson doubled, and after an error by Perez, Yaz came through to give Boston a 5-2 lead. Cincinnati made it 5-4 in the bottom of the frame, but neither team scored again. The Reds put two runners on in the bottom of the ninth, but Tiant pitched around it and got Morgan to pop out to first base. Boston won 5-4.

Don Gullett led Cincinnati to the verge of the title in Game 5, winning 6-2. Gullett pitched 8.2 innings to stake Cincinnati. Two Tony Perez home runs gave the Reds the margin of victory they needed. Despite a double from Fred Lynn in the ninth, Rawly Eastwick struck out Petrocelli with two men on to end the game.


(Don Gullett stares in during Game 5. Photo courtesy of http://www.redreporter.com

Travel days and rain delayed the Series for five days. Finally, on October 21, the sixth game began, arguably the best game in baseball history.

As a result of the delay, Tiant was available to pitch, much to Bill Lee’s consternation. But Johnson’s gamble appeared to pay off as the Red Sox would strike in the bottom of the first. With two out, Yastrzemski and Fisk singled. Fred Lynn rocked a three-run home run to give Boston an early lead. For four innings, Tiant kept the Reds off the board, laboring all the while.


(Fred Lynn’s first inning homer allowed the Sox to strike first. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

But in the top of the fifth, the Big Red Machine woke up. Two men were on when Ken Griffey came to bat. He slammed a deep fly to center field. Lynn dove for it, but crashed against the wall. Both runners scored and Griffey ended up at third with a triple. Johnny Bench tied the game with an RBI single. Lynn would stay in the game, but was badly banged up, still resisting efforts by Johnson to be removed. Lynn was conscious but lost a lot of feeling in his body temporarily.

(Fred Lynn and Johnny Bench describe Lynn running into the fence at Fenway Park. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

Both teams had scoring chances, but until the top of the seventh, neither team converted. Finally, with two on and two out, George Foster rocked a double to center that Lynn played off the wall. Griffey and Morgan came around to score, and the Reds led 5-3. Many felt that Tiant was tiring, but Johnson decided to keep him in the game. But the Red Sox were running out of outs, and went down in order in the bottom of the seventh.

Against conventional wisdom, Tiant stayed in the game. On the first pitch of the eighth, Cesar Geronimo turned on a pitch and hit a solo home run to right. Finally, Johnson pulled Tiant and brought in Roger Moret, who set the Reds down. The Red Sox were down by three runs with six outs to go.

Pedro Borbon was on the mound for Cincinnati. Lynn led off with a single, which deflected off the mound slightly. Rico Petrocelli walked. Suddenly, the Red Sox had hope. But Burleson struck out and Burleson hit a line drive out to left field. Boston had four outs to save themselves. It would be up to Bernie Carbo.

Originally, Carbo anticipated Sparky Anderson bringing in lefty Will McEnaney out of the bullpen. In his own head, Anderson told himself to make the move. But he didn’t, and umpire Satch Davidson summoned Carbo to the plate. Carbo took several bad cuts but managed to work the count to 2-2. New pitcher Eastwick threw a pitch that Carbo barely managed to foul off, which he himself described as the “worst swing in the history of baseball.” But the former Cincinnati player, who was battling issues with drugs and alcohol, wasn’t dead yet.

Bench called for Eastwick to give him a low pitch. Instead, Eastwick missed high enough. Carbo jumped on it.

(Bernie Carbo’s home run ties the game at 6-6. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

In center field, Geronimo looked up futilely. Carbo had tied the game with a shocking home run. Sparky felt sick to his stomach. Many claimed it was the loudest they’d heard Fenway Park in over fifty years. Suddenly, the Red Sox were alive.


(Bernie Carbo hits his game-tying home run. Photo courtesy of Boston Globe.) 

For all of the euphoria, Johnson was still thinking ahead, telling Carbo he would go into the field. Cecil Cooper struck out to end the inning. Carbo went to left and Yastrzemski moved from left to first base to replace Cooper.

Dick Drago came in from the bullpen in the top of the ninth. The Reds went down in order, and now Boston had a chance to win the series. Second baseman Denny Doyle led off with a walk. Yaz followed with a single. Will McEnaney came in. An intentional walk loaded the bases with nobody out. On the first pitch to Fred Lynn, he lifted a fly ball to left field. George Foster made the catch in short left field. But the crowd was so loud that Doyle misheard third base coach Don Zimmer.

Zimmer called out, “No! No!” But Doyle heard it as “Go! Go!” He broke for the plate. Foster made a throw to the plate. Bench got the ball first, and Doyle was a sitting duck. Double play! The wind was knocked out of Boston’s sails again. Petrocelli grounded out to Rose at third base, and Game 6 was headed to extra innings.

(George Foster nails Denny Doyle at home. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

With one out in the tenth, Concepcion singled and stole second. But Drago pitched around it, and the Reds didn’t score. The Red Sox went down in order in their half.

Heading to bat in the top of the eleventh, Pete Rose came to bat and said to nobody in particular, “This is some kind of game, huh?”

Fisk heard this and responded, “Yeah. Some kind of game.”

For Rose, this was one of his rare shows of his human side. For a man who said that he would walk through Hell in a gasoline suit in order to play (his own words), it was surprising to hear it from him. He led off the inning by being hit by a pitch.

Griffey tried to bunt the runner over, but Rose was forced at second. Runner at first, one out. Joe Morgan came up, and on a 1-1 pitch, he slammed a deep fly to right field.

Right fielder Dwight Evans went back on the ball, and although most thought the ball was gone, Evans reached into the bullpen and made the catch. Not wanting Griffey any more time than needed to get back, he pushed off the wall, threw the ball in Yastrzemski, who relayed the ball to Doyle, covering first base. Griffey wasn’t even around second yet. Another spectacular double play, this one to end the inning.

Dwight Evans’ incredible catch in the 11th inning. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

Unbelievably, the Red Sox were still in it. Pat Darcy came in to pitch for the Reds and set Boston down in order. In the top of the twelfth against Rick Wise, Perez and Foster singled, but were stranded. Geronimo ended the inning by striking out.

Carlton Fisk was due up first in the bottom of the twelfth. Waiting in the on-deck circle was Fred Lynn. Fisk said he would hit the ball off the wall, and wanted Fisk to drive him in. But it didn’t quite work out that way.

Darcy threw ball one high to Fisk. On the next pitch, Fisk hit a high fly ball down the left field line. It looked like it would curve foul. Fisk jumped up and down, trying to wave the ball fair. And he did. The ball ricocheted off the foul pole. At four hours and one minute, at 12:34 in the morning, Game 6 was in the books. Boston 7, Cincinnati 6. The series was tied at three games apiece.


(Fisk waves the ball fair. Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report.) 

(The full at-bat of Fisk’s that won the game. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

In order to get the fans off the field, and also caught up in the moment, Fenway Park organist John Kiley broke into Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” The series would come down to the wire.

It would be Don Gullett for Cincinnati against Boston’s Bill Lee in the finale. Although not living up to the hype of Game 6, the final game was also tremendously good, but it’s unfortunately forgotten by many people. Neither team scored in the first two innings. Finally, in the bottom of the third, Boston made their move. Carbo had a one-out walk and Doyle singled. Yastrzemski singled to give Boston the lead. Three more walks, one intentional, gave Boston a 3-0 lead. The score stayed that way through five innings. Twelve more outs and the Red Sox would be champions.

In the top of the sixth, Rose singled to lead off the inning. A fly ball and a force out led to two outs, although the Sox had a throwing error by Rick Burleson that could have gotten them out of the inning. Lee threw an “eephus” (i.e. a high-arcing, slow pitch) to Tony Perez for ball one. Perez was anticipating another one. Lee threw it, and Perez hit a two-run home run. Foster flied out to end the inning. But the botched double play would loom large.

(Tony Perez hits a home run to get the Reds in the game. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

In the top of the seventh, Griffey walked with one out. Moret replaced Lee, and later in the inning, Griffey stole second. Ed Armbrister followed with a walk. Rose drove in the tying run with a single, sending Armbrister to third. The game would remain tied. Boston couldn’t get anything going heading into the top of the ninth.

Jim Burton was on the mound for the Red Sox. Ken Griffey led off for the Reds and walked. Geronimo sacrificed him over to second, and pinch hitter Dan Driessen grounded out. Pete Rose walked. With two outs, all Burton needed to do was retire Joe Morgan. On a 1-2 pitch, Morgan hit a looping fly ball. Although Lynn gave chase, it fell in, scoring Griffey and giving the Reds a 4-3 lead. Rose went to third on the throw and Morgan advanced to second. Another walk was followed by a fly ball. The Reds were three outs away from the championship.

Will McEnaney was brought in and got two quick outs. It came down to Yaz. He worked the count to 2-1, then lifted a fly ball to center field. Cesar Geronimo made the catch. Boston had fallen one run short.


(Victorious Reds gather around pitcher Will McEnaney. Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report.)

Still, although the Reds had won, the Red Sox were given tremendous praise. They had one more run (30-29) and hit (60-59) than Cincinnati, but couldn’t quite get it done. But the Series was so classic, I think they can be forgiven. Fisk was remembered as saying, “We won the Series, three games to four.”

Fun Facts 
According to Bill Lee, Sparky Anderson was interviewed before Game 7, and remarked, “No matter who wins this game, my starting pitcher’s going to the Hall of Fame.” (He was wrong.) Lee then responded with, “No matter who win’s this game, I’m going to the Eliot Lounge,” a notorious Boston watering hole.

Luis Tiant’s father, Luis Sr., was allowed to leave Cuba and threw out the first pitch of Game 6.

Bernie Carbo kept a stuffed gorilla he named “Mighty Joe Young” in his locker, which was then replaced by a statue of the Buddha, which were both embraced as good luck charms.

Carbo grew up in a poor neighborhood in Detroit, and because there was no right fielder most of the time, any ball hit that way was an out. As a result, he could go opposite field better than many left-handed hitters. Because he swung so early on his home run, he actually was able to pull it the other way.

Bernie Carbo tied a record set in 1959 with two pinch-hit home runs.

Reds pitcher Will McEnaney had a twin brother Mike, and they once switched uniforms when McEnaney was with the Pirates, and got away with it.

This was the eleventh straight season without the Yankees in it.

Sparky Anderson played in one MLB season with the Phillies. He was said to have been hitting .400 – for the first two games. He finished at .216 with no home runs.

Both World Series participants had a .275 team average during the regular season.

As famous as his home run was, Fisk had an injury early in the season that kept him out until June.

The only reason that Fisk’s famous image was broadcast was because the cameraman in Fenway Park saw a huge rat coming toward him and was too afraid to make any sudden movements.

The Reds were the last NL team to lose Game 6, then win Game 7 on the road, until 2014. The last AL team to do it was the ’72 Oakland A’s, against Cincinnati.

Final Thoughts
Fenway Park was once thought to be a crumbling relic. Now it was praised for its charm, particularly in the age of cookie-cutters. The Reds had finally won their title after five years of getting close. It was their first title since 1940. Boston would have to keep their dreams alive in their minds. More tragedy was to come in the World Series.

References and Sources
Baseball Almanac
Baseball Reference
Wikipedia
Retrosheet
Getty Images
Bleacher Report
YouTube
Boston Globe, October 11-22, 1975.
http://www.worldseries.com
http://www.mlb.com
http://www.redreporter.com
Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns
Good Will Hunting (Gus Van Sant film- 1997)
100 Years of the World Series (Eric Enders)
The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown (Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo)
Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s(Dan Epstein)
Charlie Finley: The Outrageous Story of Baseball’s Super Showman (G. Michael Green, Roger D. Launius)
The Curse of Rocky Colavito (Terry Pluto)
The Seventh Game (Barry Levenson)
Yankees Suck! (Jim Gerard)
Now I Can Die in Peace (Bill Simmons)
The Machine: A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-Stopping World Series: The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds (Joe Posnanski)
Game Six (Mark Frost)
Sports Illustrated. November 3, 1975.