No Play-In, No Makeup, No Vacancies

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball this Monday, Oct. 3.

All the tiebreaker scenarios you may have read over the last few weeks went down the drain when yesterday’s games ended.  The Giants beat the Dodgers 7-1 in Vin Scully’s last broadcast,  so although the Cardinals beat the Pirates they still finished up a game behind.  The Mets will host the Giants Wednesday night at Citi Field, with Noah Syndergaard facing Madison Bumgarner. The Giants won the 2010 and 2012 World Series-both from the wild card position.   The Dodgers will have to put out a much better effort against Washington  when their series begins Friday night.  Kenta Maeda had nothing and neither dod the Dodgers’ offense.  The Giants put up two in the first and 3 more in the second  and the surprising  thing was that Maedaa was allowed to hit for himself in the top of the third. With many relievers up from the minors who won’t be available during the playoffs it would have made sense to get Maeda out of there and hope he could do better in game 2 or 3 against the Nationals.

Since the Tigers lost to the Braves 1-0, they won’t need to play a makeup of a rained-out game against the Indians from last week. The Orioles and the Bluejays meet in the wild card game tomorrow night in Toronto. The winner faces the Rangers, while the Red Sox and Indians meet in the other division series.  Both of those start Thursday while the twin NLDS begin Friday night with the wild card winner facing the Cubs  of Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks.  The O’s had an easy time with the Yankees winning 5-2.  Aaron Sanchez had a no-hitter going into the 7th when Hanley Ramirez homered, but the Jays won 2-1 as Troy Tulowitzki driving home  the go-ahead run on an 8th-inning single.

Before today’s birthdays, let me mention today marks  65 years since “The Shot Heard Round the World.”  Bobby Thomson, known as the Flying Scotsman by the media of the day stepped to the dish with two out in the last of the 9th.  This was game 3 of the NL playoff between the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers, played at the Polo Grounds.          The Dodgers were up 4-2 as Thomson stepped in against Ralph Branca of the Dodgers replacing Don Newcombe.  Russ Hodges, who had kept his cool during the Sugar Ray Robinson-Jake La Motta fight 8 months earlier, a fight called the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, lost it entirely when Thomson’s bat struck Branca’s second pitch.  His semi-coherent call went this way:

“There’s a long drive.  It’s gonna be, I believe.”  Then repeatedly he yelled “The Giants win the pennant.”  That call was not recorded by his employer, WMCA radio in New York.  The only reason we know what Russ said is, a Dodgers fan with a tape recorder hoped to hear Russ cry when the Dodgers won.  Rather than throwing the tape out when the Giants won, he sent it to Hodges who sent the fan 10 dollars-a prize by the standards of the day when, as Archie Bunker sang “Fifty dollars paid the rent.”  65 years later, to quote Longfellow “Hardly a man is now alive who remembers that famous day and year.”  Ralph Branca is one, as is Dodgers’ utility infielder Wayne Terwilliger. One sad story was the fate of broadcaster Gordon McClendon who carried the game by radio to most of the country. Russ Hodges’ call could only be heard on WMCA, a station with a very short reach.  Red Barber’s call was broadcast on WMGM, another New York station with a limited reach.  The game was televised but NBC saw no need to record it.  So McClendon’s broadcast over the Liberty Radio Network was how much of America heard the game of a lifetime.   Thankfully somebody listening to WCFL in Chicago recorded the game and it has survived in its entirety through the 65 years.  McClendon was 29 then. A dozen years later, on KLIF radio in Dallas, an independent rock station with no ties to the national networks  he informed a shocked city that President Kennedy had been murdered in Dallas.   Only 3 years later, McClendon himself was dead at age 44.

Two Hall of Famers have birthdays today.  Dennis Eckersley is 62. The Indians drafted him in round 3 of the 1972 draft out of high school.  He is an Oakland native, and it was with Oakland that he would become the most celebrated closer of his age. All told he had 390 saves, not to mention 197 wins, most of which he garnered as a starter early on. Before Cleveland traded him to Boston he had pitched a no-hitter for the Tribe in 1977.   Boston traded him to the Cubs for Bill Buckner. OOPS!  He spent 8 years with Oakland and 6 in Boston during a career than ran from 1975 to 1998. Half a dozen times he was an All-Star, the last in 1992. That was the year he was league MVP and Cy Young winner. Eckersley  coined the phrase “Walk-off home run” for the shot he gave up to an injured kirk Gibson in game 1 of the 1988 World Series.  In a blink, “walk-off home run” was on every lip. Eckersley has worked with NESN on either Red Sox games or postgame analysis.  He has worked with TBS on its lamentable postseason coverage.

Dave Winfield is today’s other birthday celebrant and Hall of Famer. He is 65, so he was born on the day of the Bobby Thomson game. He hails from St. Paul, and was drafted out of high school by the Padres in round 1 of the 1973 draft from the University of Minnesota. He played under coach Dick Siebert for whom the campus’s quaint little  baseball field is now named.       The Padres  were so woeful that he never played a game in the minors. In a career that ran through 1995 he had over 3100 hits and a .283 batting average. From the instant I met him in spring training, when I asked my broadcast partner for coffee I would ask for a “Dave Winfield coffee,” which my partner knew meant large, black and strong.  At six-six and 220, Winfield was every bit of that. After 8 season in baseball obscurity in San Diego, he spent 10  turbulent years with the Yankees where George Steinbrenner dubbed him “Mr. May,” for poor postseason play. In one of those seasons he didn’t play a game because of a back injury.  The last half dozen years he spent in baseball he was a vagabond, but as such he won his lone World Series with the 1992 Blue Jays. He was an All-Star a dozen times, none after his back injury. He and Dennis Eckersley were both inducted in 2001 on their first try. As of now Winfield is an executive with the players’ union.

Pitcher Johnny Broaca (Pronounced Broke-Ah) was born this day in 1909 and died in May, 1985. The small righty from Lawrence, Massachusetts had a 44-29 mark between 1934 and 1939. He was on the 1936 World Series winning Yankees. The next season he went AWOL, didn’t throw a pitch in 1938 and briefly worked in 1939 with the Indians. While with the Yankees he was their second Ivy Leaguer. Lou Gehrig had played at Columbia while Broaca went to Yale. He won 12, 15 and 12 in his 3 full Yankees seasons. So, why would I reference this man?  He pitched against the Tigers on Sept. 20, 1934 in the first regular season baseball game known to exist on recording.  While the All-Star game played two months earlier was recorded by both NBC and CBS, no regular season game earlier than 9-20-1934 is known to exist.  It’s a crude recording, made by a civilian using a home disc recorder.   It can be heard in various places on the Internet with Ty Tyson describing a Yankee victory over the World Series-bound Tigers.  Broaca went the distance.



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