Hi all. Here is a special bulletin for the late edition of this blog. Mets’ closer Jeurys Familia, age 27 has been arrested in the upscale suburb of Fort Lee, NJ where he lives with his wife and small son. His wife, Bianca Rivas de Familia had bruises to her cheeck and body leading to the conclusion of domestic violence. Fort Lee, in Bergen County is now and has for many years been home to Mets’ and Yankees’ players in the offseason, and very little news has come out of there similar to the news just reported in this forum. We return you now to your regular column.
As I was feeling poorly yesterday, only part of the column scheduled to be written actually got done. So, before mentioning tonight’s game 6 of the World Series, I will give you yesterday’s birthdays because there were some good ones.
Mike Napoli who is playing in this World Series turned 35 yesterday. He’s been in the show for a decade, starting with the Angels in 2006. After 5 seasons there he joined the Rangers in time for their 2011 World Series loss to the Cardinals. He was a World Series winner with Boston in 2013 and it could go either way whether he will be on a World Series winner this season. He has only been an All-Star once, with the Rangers in 2012. He and the Tigers’ J. D. Martinez both went to Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Broward County, Florida just north of Miami. Napoli has hit postseason home runs for the Angels, Rangers, Red Sox and Indians.
David Dellucci turned 43 yesterday. He lasted a dozen years in the game and is best remembered as a member of the 2001 Diamondbacks’ World Series winning team. He later played for the Yankees who would have won that World Series but for the questionable tactics of Arizona pitcher Randy Johnson. Dellucci played college ball at University of Mississippi, which is John Grisham’s alma mater. He was a 10th-round draft choice in 1995 and made the show two years later with the Orioles. His run with Arizona, from 1998 to 2003 was the longest he would have in an itinerant baseball career, although some of his best work was done during two seasons with the Rangers. He is married to the former Rachel Reynolds who has been seen on “The Price is Right.”
Fred McGriff, sometimes called the “Crime Dog” turned 53 yesterday. His career lasted nearly two decades, from 1986 to 2004. In that time he hit .284 and barely missed 2500 hits. He also came close to 500 home runs. He was an All-Star. His 1995 Braves won the World Series but I remember him best for depositing a Kenny Rogers pitch early in game 4 of the 1996 World Series, a game the Yankees would eventually win though they were behind 6–0 early. He’s now a suit with the Braves. The Yankees unloaded him to Toronto, thinking Don Mattingly was a better bet. McGriff hit the first home run in the history of SkyDome (now Rogers Center) which replaced the amazingly inadequate Exhibition Stadium where the Jays spent their first dozen years. When he went to San Diego the Jays got Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter, two vital cogs in their machine that won the 1992 and 1993 World Series. Meantime McGriff was in baseball obscurity in San Diego until the Padres sent him to the Braves.
Dave McNally was born on Halloween, 1942 and passed at age 60 in 2002.
Ken Keltner, the third baseman on the Indians’ last World Series winner was born on Halloween 1916 and died at 75 in December 2012. He was with the Indians his entire career except for 13 games in Boston and a stint on Uncle Sam’s All-Star team in World War II. Keltner was an All-Star 7 times in an era when a man was still proud to be an All-Star. He was their third baseman as early as 1937 and still manned the hot corner as the Indians beat the Boston Braves in 6 games in 1948 to claim their most recent World Series win. During a one-game playoff against the Red Sox, Keltner singled, doubled and launched a 3-run blast over the Green Monster in left field at Fenway. After his playing days he scouted for both the Indians and Red Sox.
The Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka turns 28 today as we turn from October to November. He began as a Japanese pro in 2007 for a team with the wonderful name of the “Golden Eagles.” In this country he made his debut in April, 2014 with the Yankees. In Japan he was 99–35, here he is 39–16 and would be better yet if not for a troublesome elbow injury he forces himself to play through rather than face the inevitable Tommy John surgery. In Japan he was Rookie of the Year, MVP in 2013 and an All-Star 6 times. Here, he has been an All-Star just once, in 2014. He and fellow rookie Dellin Betances were Yankee rookie all-stars. No rookie Yankee pitcher-not Whitey Ford, not Ron Guidry-had been an All-Star since Spec Shea in 1947. The Tanaka contract states he could opt out after 2017, and who could blame him given the downward spiral the Yankees’ ownership are not only taking but embracing while trying to hoodwink their fan base. Since late 2014 he has never been fully trusted by Yankee fans who wonder when the time bomb in his elbow will go off.
The Indians’ Coco Crisp is 37 today. The Los Angeles native made his MLB debut with the Indians in 2002 but it’s been a long strange trip getting back to his first team and standing on the brink of a world championship. He has spent time with Boston, Kansas City and Oakland before returning to the Indians at this year’s trade deadline. He owns one World Series ring from his time in Boston. The Sox won the 2007 World Series with him on their side. His given name is Covelli Loyce, so he needed a good nickname. His dad Loyce was an amateur boxer and now owns a fast food restaurant. His mom was a champion sprinter, which is a good credential to have if you’re being pursued by an amateur boxer.
Fernando Valanzuela is 56 today. While he wasn’t the first Mexican to play major league ball, he caused the most sensation of any player to come here from our southern neighbor. Even today the Dodgers have pitcher Julio Urias who hails from Sonora, Mexico as Valanzuela did. Fernando put up a 173-153 record between his 1980 debut and his 1997 swansong. He was with the Dodgers through 1990, long enough to be with them as they won the 1981 and 1988 World Series. After that he was a migrant pitcher, going to the Angels, off the grid for a year, then to the Orioles, Phillies, Padres and Cardinals. He was an All-Star his first 6 full seasons but 1986 would be his last time at the Midsummer Classic. He won both the NL Rookie of the Year and Cy Young award in 1981. He and Oakland’s Dave “Smoke” Stewart both pitched no-hitters on the night of June 29, 1990. Supposedly, after stewart no-hit the Blue Jays, Fernando said something Dizzy Dean would have: “You just saw a no-hitter on TV, now you will see one in person.” An unknown teammate named Bobby Castillo taught Fernando the screwball. Fernando never looked back. Hopefully he bought Castillo a home somewhere so the teammate wouldn’t think he got screwed by the screwballer. Fernando pitched 5 shutouts in his first 8 wins in a 1981 season ruined by a players’ strike. He won 21 games as late as 1986 and only lost the Cy Young because Houston’s Mike Scott scuffed his way to dominance. An ailing shoulder plagued Fernando from 1987 on. He became the Dodgers’ Spanish-language radio color commentator from 2003-2014, then moved over to TV. He also coached on Team Mexico during 3 World Baseball Classic tournaments-in 2006, 2009 and 2013. While his number 34 is not officially retired, clubhouse manager Mitch Poole has discreetly kept the number 34 jersey out of circulation as new players join the team in anticipation of a future official retirement ceremony.
So now it’s on to tonight’s game 6 in Cleveland. In a few hours, Josh Tomlin who is going on short rest faces Jake Arrieta of the Cubs. The Indians won the 1948 World Series in the home park, taking game 6 4-3 over the Boston Braves. Bob Lemon, future Yankees manager was the winning pitcher that afternoon–yes, you may think I’m fooling but until 1971 all_ World Series games were afternoon delights. The last major sports title of any kind won in the city of Cleveland was by the 1964 Browns, led by Jim Brown. The Cavaliers won the NBA title but did it in distant Oakland. If the Cubs win, they will do so on the road by winning both tonight and tomorrow night. If Arrieta does what we know he can,and what we saw him do in game 2 then Kyle Hendricks goes tomorrow. Either way Kyle Schwarber is added to the lineup because there is a DH in Cleveland. Besides being absurdly untalented on defense Schwarber’s knee still won’t let him even pretend to patrol the vastnesses of a baseball outfield.
Historically, game 6 of a World Series has provided as many memorable mmoments as game 7. Two jump out without me breathing hard. 1986: the Mets rallied from down 5-3 in the 10th to beat the Red Sox 6-5 on Buckner’s Blunder. also, in game 6 of 1975 Carlton Fisk hit a 12th-inning home run to beat the Reds 7-6 in a game which Bernie Carbo had tied in the 8th with a 3-run pinch-hit home run. With a little help I am reminded of Kirby Puckett’s 11th-inning home run in 1991 and Jack Buck on TV saying “We’ll see you tomorrow night.” 6 years earlier the Royals got help from umpire Don Denkinger making an awful 9th-inning call and beat the Cardinals 2-1, then took game 7 the next night. The Cubs’ last game 6 was a memorable one. in 1945 they needed to win game 6 to force a game 7 against Detroit. The Cubs were up 7-3 until the Tigers put up a 4-spot in the 8th. After matching zeros into the 12th Stan Hack doubled home the winning run. The next day they lost 9-3. If they win tonight they’ll do their utmost to keep the Indians from taking game 7.