Big Game Was All It Should Have Been

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When I say the “Big Game,” I certainly don’t mean  the Super Bowl, that was a dull, one-sided affair. The exciting big game of the day was the final of the Caribbean World Series, in which Mexico beat Venezuela on a walkoff home run by Jorge Vazquez in the last of the 9th.  The hero had played last winter for the Aragua Tigers in Venezuela, the team he helped to defeat yesterday as Mexico finished with a 6-0 mark  in the series.

Like most of the afternoon games, the game started late-well over an hour late in this case.  There was no explanation given on the radio broadcast I listened to. There were innumerable mind-numbing commercials, even more than on an MLB game. Then there were the two national anthems. The one for Venezuela was quick and upbeat. It sounded patriotic even though I didn’t understand the words. But like our song “God Bless America,” it uplifted the soul. The Mexican anthem by contrast was slow, and as long as a Beethoven symphony.  With that settled, the rhythmic chanting of “Mexico, Mexico,” from the fans of the team from Mazatlan began as it had during every performance of theirs. It seemed they had the most passionate fans of any nation in the 5-team field.

As I speculated in this forum yesterday, Venezuela turned to their old timer, Freddie Garcia who had let it be known he would pitch no longer after this series. He had spent 15 years in the major leagues.  He lasted into the sixth in his swansong.  The Venezuelan team were ahead 4-2 in the last of the 7th when their relief pitcher fielded a grounder and fired to first to end the inning–or not. His first baseman fumbled the throw, allowing two runners to move into scoring position. Both scored on a single, knotting the game.  As Vazquez came to the plate for Mexico in the last of the 9th, it was 6:28 PM, and I for one wondered if I’d hear the end of this game if the Super Bowl started. Vazquez put an end to any concern of that type with his shot over the fence. Mexico has now won 4 of the last 6 Caribbean Series to be played, only losing in 2012 and 2015.  The next series will be in their country, in Sinaloa where the Mazatlan team hails from. It will be played in the first week of February.  The hope is that Panama may rejoin the field to make it a 6-team series.

Since the Mets inked Yoenis Cespedes a couple of weeks ago, there hasn’t been a move of much importance. Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond and Pedro Alvarez all remain lost sheep without a fold to call their own.  Even birthdays are scarce today. At least one is memorable to me.  Fritz Peterson is 74 today.  It says a lot about our society today that if you say “Fritz Peterson,” to 100 baseball fans, all 100 of them will say “Wife swapper.”  If you want the juicy details of the Peterson-kekich wife swap of 1973, they’re in somebody else’s column.

Fred Ingels “Fritz” Peterson is a Chicago native who made it to the Yankees in 1966-the year they finished last. His high school would later produce Paul Splittorf who would be a nasty thorn in the Yankees’ side.  Peterson played college ball for the Huskies of Northern Illinois before going pro. He was 12-11 for the dismal 1966 Yankees. He won 20 and was an All-Star in 1970 and had an overall 109-106 record with some truly awful Yankee teams before being traded to the Indians after the wife swap. The Yankees got Chris Chamblis and Dick Tidrow in the deal.

Former player and broadcaster Buddy Blattner was born this day in 1920 and passed away in 2009. He played for the Cardinals at second base in 1942 a year in which they won the World Series. After a stint in the Navy he played for the Giants and Phillies. But his broadcasting is his claim to fame. He teamed with Dizzy Dean with the Browns, Liberty Radio and Mutual, as well as on TV when all the baseball the country saw was the Game of the Week.  After he and Dean had a parting of the ways, Pee Wee Reese replaced Blattner at Dean’s side and as his straight man. He broadcast steadily between 1960 and 1975. In 1967, when the Angels hosted the All-Star game for the first time, he teamed with Jim Simpson and Sandy Koufax on a 15-inning All-Star classic won 2-1 by the National League. Besides baseball he called hoops for the St. Louis Hawks until they left for Atlanta.

Until things  pick up in baseball, you may see my writing in my Facebook group “Baseball As I See It.”  It is open to one and all.

When conditions warrant, this column will be written daily again.

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