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Baseball Update

The Tampa Bay Rays and Atlanta Braves are now a very likely, but far from certain, World Series pairing.

Tampa Bay has a seemingly commanding (3-0) series lead vs the Houston Astros. The Rays won in their only other ALCS appearance, that in 2008, when they won games (2-4) for a (3-1) series lead vs the defending champion Boston Red Sox. (Boston had garnered (James?) 2 crowns in 4 seasons after being sans such for 86).

However, due to their manager Joe Maddon, he who lucked out to guide the Chicago Cubs to a first crown in 108 years in 2016, not bringing in one of three left handed pitchers available to face the great hitter, David Ortiz, the Rays lost #5 and needed 7 games to win that ALCS.

At that point “Bye bye intangibles” and the Phillies 5’d them in the World Series, the great announcer Harry Kalas, who would die early in the next season, getting to call a Phils’ title clincher.

In the NLCS, with the never silent and so annoying John Smoltz there with the “Emperor,” Joe Buck ( Buck apparently made the Football Hall though I heard him at a tribute , to his father Jack, stating the famed “Ice Bowl”/1967 NFL Title Game was played in 1969—standards there are none!!!) his once team, recall the under achieving Atlanta Braves (8 straight NLCS appearances from ’91-’99, but one crown–though of the 3 so called star pitchers, Smoltz was best and great, not so Maddux and certainly not Glavine) have a (2-0) Freddie Freeman led series lead, vs the top ranked Dodgers, a team sans a title since 1988–despite 2 W.S. appearances and in this their 4th NLCS in 5 seasons and seventh in 13 seasons.

Atlanta, which before this “season,” lost 8 straight division series and 10 series entities, since last winning a “div” series to make the 2001 NLCS, a 5 game loss to eventual champion Arizona (Diamondbacks), has a (2-0) NLCS lead for the fourth time. (’92,’95, and ’99 are the other such occasions).

The Braves won the ’92 NLCS but needed Francisco Cabrera’s incredibly clutch hit, to do so in 7, swept Cincy (Reds) en route to the city of Atlanta’s lone title in ’95 and needed 6, up (3-0) vs the Mets in the ’99NLCS.

Sports Notes, One Can Only Get Here

First of all, the Lakers and Lightning from Los Angeles and Tampa respectively, copped the NBA and NHL crowns.

Meanwhile the league top seeds, Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays, the latter after a Diego Castillo win in the decisive 5th vs the Yankees and a 5 out save in the ALCS opener vs the ‘Stros, are each over 2 to 1 favorites to advance to the World Series.

Really esoteric: The “L”akers and “L”ightning winning respective NBA and NHL crowns marks the 13th time in 73 possibilities (the NBA, then the B.A.A. began in 1947 and there was no NHL season in 2005), that teams with the same first letter in their nickname took the crown.

Nine times it was the Boston “C”eltics (they have just 1 title in the last 34 sesons, after accounting for an incredible 40 percent (16) of the loop’s first 40 titles (’47-’86) and Montreal “C”anadiens (they have but 2 titles in the last 40 completed NHL seasons, none in the last 26, after an also incredible 15 in 24 seasons (5 of every 8= 62 and a half percent) from 1956-1979) winning titles together.

The other 3 are the Miami “H”eat and Carolina “H”urricanes in 2006, the San Antonio “S”purs/ Dallas “S”tars in 1999 and the Houston “R”ockets/New York “R”angers in 1994. Of course the Lakers beat the Heat and Lightning took the Stars to win it all this year.

On Friday October 2nd, first the San Diego Padres won a decisive third game to eliminate the St. Louis Cardinals from this year’s 16 team field ‘offs, followed by news that a great Cards’ pitcher, Bob Gibson had died.

A week later on Friday October 9th, first news came that a great New York Yankees’ pitcher, Edward “Whitey” Ford had died and then the Rays won the aforementioned (2-1) tilt (Mike Brosseau’s decisive B8, home run and all it entails, including the fact the Yankees, still easily major North American professional sports league’s greatest record,— guess what the Lakers are now in the “mix” and I do not mean Steve Mix—, who played well in defeat the night the Lakers won the ’80 crown, now have just one more title (27) than failures to title, despite ‘offs appearances (26), that eliminated the Yankees from post-season play.

Click below to view a recent post about great pitchers on a day in May, 1963, in which there were losses exponentially less significant for Gibson/Cards and Ford/Yankees.

More Baseball Notes May 19, 1963

Lakers Win Their Record Tying 17th Title, 12th as L.A.

So when what I knew and feared would happen, it did so in a devastating Lakers’ rout of the Miami Heat, who until the game 6 debacle, had played so well.

The Lakers, I believe would have titled no matter, but face it the Heat and Denver Nuggets paved the way for an easy L.A. crown, by beating the Bucks and Clippers respectively.

L.A. went (16-5) straight up and I will say (12-8-1) vs the spread. Miami was (14-7) st. up and 15-5-1 ATS.

The Lakers title in 6 for the 6th time (half of their 12 L.A. crowns, they won 5 Minneapolis “such”) as L.A. and clinch on a Sunday for the 5th time as L.A. (the glorious first with Wilt and Jerry West in ’72, ’85 a first ever title round win vs the Celtics, ’87 with Earvin “Magic” Johnson the MVP and ’09 with the late, great player, Kobe Bryant “copping” the honor are the others. The ” ” among much else, including this title, in my opinion, remind of what went wrong).

Surely Mr. James won the Final Round MVP, I think his 4th such honor.

Anthony Davis was tremendous and I cite Ra Rondo, who helped best L.A. in ’08, their last final round loss.

The Lakers have won 3 straight NBA final rounds and 6 of their last 8. They are (12-14) as L.A. in final round play, after starting (0-7).

Remembering Edward “Whitey” Ford

He was 91, lived a good life and was a great pitcher, however, the wave of greats dying is a bit much–Whitey Ford at 91, the latest, he being one of the greatest.

His .690 win percentage (236-106) is the greatest for any pitcher during the twentieth century and he won a record 10 World Series games (so many reports left out the fact he also lost the most. Why?!!).

Certainly, it only slightly diminishes, if that, Ford’s greatness, as he was on 6 Yankees’ title teams and 10 pennant winners.

It is often written that 1961 was a bad year for the “Babe,” (the great Ruth) even though he had been dead for 13 years (13 is an unlucky #), as first Roger Maris, with a famed asterisk ruling, once explained by Dick Van Dyke as “Rob Petrie” on the Carl Reiner (another great we lost in 2020) created, “Dick Van Dyke Show,” broke his single season home run mark and then Whitey broke the Babe’s World Series consecutive scoreless innings mark.

I could “Chairman of the Board” it or cite his friendship with Mickey Mantle, with whom he went into the “Hall,” when that really meant something, back in 1974.

Instead I recall Joe Green, my friend, who praised me for helping my mother when she got (supposedly) very ill, telling me he and Jack Molinas marveled at the Sandy Koufax vs Whitey Game 1, ’63 W.S. matchup. They were in a horrible human creation, called jail, at the time. They had committed no violent acts, yet as with so many they were caged.

’63 #1 was also discussed in the great movie “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” as Jack Nicholson’s McMurphy queried “who do you like in the opener?”

My best praise for Whitey is twofold. One is I had a nice interview with him at a golf event, I guess still promoted by Phil Rizzuto to benefit St. Joseph’s School For The Blind in New Jersey. Whitey was all class, friendly and forthright.

The aforementioned Green and the certainly unsavory, but brilliant Molinas were where they were for bribing players. Even with those bribes in, often the results did not go their way. Not great stuff and Joe warned me of the evils of gambling. Now baseball teams promote it, all the while excluding Pete Rose from the “Hall.”

That is as with jail, “cruel and unusual punishment.” An aside: Whitey gave Pete the nickname “Charlie Hustle,” as the latter played the game right and great.

My final praise and it applies to so many Whitey Ford games (25-4 in ’61, 24-7 in ’63–he did lose twice to Sandy in the World Series, allowing but 2 hits in the second loss) is #6 of the ’60 World Series.

Joe Green was not a big bettor but he put up 1300 to win a “thou” (cue that “animal” H.S. Gross) on Whitey Ford. He always told the story as ON Whitey Ford not the Yankees.

Whitey, I hope you and Joe have a muffin and share some stories up there. If it is heaven, there probably is no need for money, but it will be Joe’s treat, as you earned it, Whitey!

Baseball Update

While the Yankees forced their 9th decisive 5th game, in this their 21st division series (10th in 22 if you count strike marred 1981) with a game 4 win vs the Tampa Bay Rays, the other 3 “div” series concluded.

Both the Dodgers (now 2 to 1, person to person NLCS “faves” vs Atlanta) and the Atlanta Braves completed sweeps while the Astros advanced to their 4th straight LCS, something only the Braves, who yesterday ended a “div” series loss streak at 8, with double that (8) (“Hockey Bob would say “8, get it 8”) and the Oakland A’s, the team Houston just (3-1’d), have topped.

The A’s won 3 titles and five straight one fourth A.L. West crowns (’71-’75) to make those 5 straight ALCS appearances.

The Yankees of (1998-2001) made 4 and won all 4 ALCS and 3 subsequent World Series.

Atlanta swept the Florida Marlins, a first ever post-season series loss for them and only the second time (2012 ALCS vs the Detroit Tigers) that a Marlins “exec” and once Yankees star, Derek Jeter team was swept in a post-season series.

The Dodgers, the top betting choice to title by a fairly significant margin, swept the San Diego Padres to advance to their third NLCS in 4 seasons and 7th in 13 seasons, bidding for a 7th title and first since 1988.

Lakers’ Notes

The Lakers in both Minneapolis and L.A. are an astounding (24-8) in prelims/rounds before the “quarters.” They are (36-12) in quarters, (26-9) in L.A. based best of 7 quarterfinal series.

As cited before they are an incredible (26-5) in semi-final play as the Los Angeles Lakers and (32-9) overall.

Only in the final round is their record not great, (16-15) almost certain to be (17-15) having gone (5-1) as Minneapolis and to this point (11-14) as L.A. However, they were once (0-7) as L.A, losing 6 times to the great Boston Celtics, during their major North American sports league’s greatest 11 titles in 13 seasons.

Boston was once (7-0) vs the Lakers in final round play, they are now (8-3).

The L.A. no cover win in #4 (a Herro shot at the buzzer cut the margin to 6, in a game L.A. was minus 7 plus) marked the 9th time they have gone up (3-1) in the final round with a game 4 win. They won all nine of those series and also six of the final rounds, when they lost game 4, having gone into that contest with a (2-1) series lead.

Frank Vogel’s Lakers are 7 point favorites to make game 5 another very meaningful final round game in Lakers’ annals. If Miami prevails, I am afraid it would only help ABC, as (I usually would never say this) I really see almost no way Miami could win 2 more after that.

Starting with final rounds 50 years ago, the New York Knicks won 2 of 3 Friday night tilts, including the decisive 7th, handing the L.A. team an aforementioned 7th loss in as many final rounds as the Los Angeles Lakers.

I can recall Jerry West still making 2 free throws late in the hopeless (for he and L.A.) contest and how much I wanted him to get a title. He did (more on that still meaningful title in the next paragraph) but I also recall him at the other end of the Forum parking lot and I wondered why I cared so much about him. The Jerry of today, who clamored for “his” Clippers to face the Lakers, a bargain his team failed to live up to and his appearances with one such as Dan Patrick, surely makes me wonder.

Yet Jerry will always be a favorite to me and when on a Friday night in game 4 of the ’72 Final, Jim McMillian led an “O.T.” triumph that put “my” ‘Lakes” up (3-1) with a title 2 nights later (Wilt wore that padding and even Bill Russell, who yes was a good friend but one who mutually did not speak with Wilt for many years after criticizing him for not playing at the end of Bill’s Celtics #7/final triumph at L.A. in Bill and Sam Jones’ last game that gave the Celtics that incredible 11th crown in 13 seasons, praised Wilt to the hilt (it rhymes, but was not such great praise).

In ’80 Earvin “Magic” Johnson had 42 points, unsung Jamaal Wilkes 37 as L.A. barked as an 8 point road dog at Philly with its over rated Julius Erving now owing the Philly fans 4. The Friday night tilt was on delayed tape.

1984 had its similarities to Mr. Orwell’s book for L.A. as Machiavellian Arnold “Red” Auerbach and the no air conditioning Boston Garden keyed the Celts #5 home Friday night win which was followed by a game 7 win, led by the great Larry Bird.

However, in 1985, game 5 after another heartbreaking L.A. game 4 final round loss to the Celts (the great Denis Johnson hit at the buzzer, “tied” to win that tilt and what a sham that Denis, who far sadder died far too young, was not named as one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players upon that league’s same # anniversary in 1997), was in L.A. on a Friday night, the first of the four cited here to have been and L.A. won the tilt and subsequently #6 in Boston, despite Mr. Auerbach (face it, most, as in Johnny Most their broadcaster, times Red won) protestations that L.A. could not win another at Boston Garden. (I am pretty sure he said “no way.”)

The only time I have ever or very likely will ever meet the great player, Michael Jordan I recalled to him, one of the biggest of many big shots, he “hit” in his great career.

It occurred in #3 of the ’91 final series on a Friday night in L.A. The clutch shot near, if not the end of regulation time got Mr. Jordan’s Bulls into overtime, in which they prevailed for the second of 4 straight wins and the first of 6 titles.

Finally, in ’01, in circumstances similar to tomorrow’s Friday game 5, the Lakers wrapped a series in which they were heavy favorites with a 4th straight win. It was on a Friday night.

Jim McMillian Bologna.jpg
Jim McMillian, pictured above. He died on a May 16th, a date of one of 4 Lakers’ “0” year crowns, with a 5th and 4th in the last 5 possibilities, so likely.

There is/was a “0” year death link involving U.S. Presidents and in song or not, one wonders if “Jimmy Mac,” or for that matter, anyone dead is coming back?!

(Seattle’s) Perfect Storm

On a night the L.A. Lakers all but wrapped up an NBA record tying 17th crown, the Seattle Storm, in a game started 2 hours earlier, won their 4th WNBA title led by Brianna Stewart’s 26 points.

The Storm were indeed “PERFECT,” in the 2020 weird ‘offs going (6-0) straight up and (5-1) against the spread.

It was Seattle’s 4th crown, tying them with the Minneapolis Lynx and the defunct Houston Comets for the most in the W.N.B.A.

Sue Bird played on her 4th title team with “Sea,” whose NFL Seahawks are (4-0) (4-0), albeit the latter, by just one point in the last 3 tilts.

The Las Vegas Aces, routed (92-59) in the third and final game which manifests in the Las Vegas Teams losing 7 straight final round games after the first year NHL Golden Knights won their final round opener vs the Washington Capitals in 2018.

Breanna Stewart, pictured above.

Baseball ‘offs Notes

Some notes following opening game wins by the New York Yankees and the Dusty Baker, managed Houston Astros, as play commenced yesterday in both American League best of five, Division Series.

The Yankees are somewhat remarkably, in a “div” series for the 21st time in 26 possibilities, under the still irksome format, that began in 1995.

They now have either won the series opener or said series 19 of 21 times. (The only exceptions were vs Cleveland in ’07 and Boston in 2018).

Going into this, the Yankees’ 21st such series, they and the game 1 loser (the Yankees in ’96 and ’00 en route to titles 23 and 26 respectively and also in ’01, ’03,’04 and ’17 and their opponent the Angels and Tigers twice each as well as Seattle and Cleveland–the years being ’02, ’05 (Angels), ’06 and ’11 (Tigers) and ’95 (“Sea”) and ’97 (Cleveland)– were both (12-8) in those “div” series. The Yankees, of course now (13-8) in “div” series openers were also in a strike affected, similar series in ’81, in which they won the first 2 and all 3 at home to “5” the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Houston Astros, bidding for a 4th straight ALCS appearance (the record is 5 by their current opponent, the Oakland A’s, (’71-’75)– I add the Yankees made 4 straight ALCS (’98-’01–both the A’s and Yankees won 3 straight titles at one point during that span) and they are facing A.L. top seed, Tampa Bay (Rays) in a bid to make a third ALCS in four seasons) are managed by Dusty Baker.

The number twenty is also applicable in Mr. Baker’s “previous,” as he managed (12) or played in (8) post-season series, in which at one point or sometimes twice, his team played as many as 2 straight road games.

In 15 of those series, 7 of 8 as a player, one team or another won 2 straight in “Baker road games.”

Surely, ” ” apply, but Baker’s Astros are considered the road team in games 1 and 2, being played at Dodger Stadium, the home of the top ranked Dodgers, in this weird baseball ‘offs “season.”

Remembering The Great Bob Gibson

I once approached the beyond great pitcher, Bob Gibson, who joined the veritable conga line of death/2020, at age 84 on October 2nd,and he responded to my comment by lightly screaming “aaaaah.”

That is how I feel now, as great favorites from better days, just keep dying and that list certainly includes Mr. Gibson, who subsequently, in a better mood, posed for a nice picture with me.

I treasure that picture and moment as I do watching “Gibby’s” dominant 17 strikeout performance on a Yom Kippur, October 2nd, which turned out to precede his death by 52 years.

Five years earlier on another October 2nd, Sandy Koufax, who famously did not pitch a World Series opener two years after that, because it was Yom Kippur, struck out 15 in a World Series opener and it was his record that Gibson broke that day in 1968.

Gibson won game 7 of the World Series twice and had 7 straight World Series wins at one point, as an integral, if not top part of Cardinals’ title teams in 1964 and 1967. (While the 2020 Cards can be proud, at least somewhat, as this season is a 60 game sham, of making the 16 team ‘offs-they were eliminated from those ‘offs on the day Bob Gibson died. Another Cards’ great, Lou Brock died just weeks earlier.)

Mr. Gibson played the game with an intensity and ferocity, not matched by many and was a truly incredible great.

After being outdueled by Al Jackson (1-0) (also on an October 2nd) in the last weekend/last games Friday night tilt in 1964 and after a Cards’ (15-5) loss to the Mets that Saturday (the Mets lost (15-5) to defending champion and out of the ‘offs “Wash” last Sunday, on a day the Cards won to be one of the 16, it was to be one of 2 in so much better “baseball/1964,”), Gibson, called on by manager Johnny Keane, pitched multiple innings of relief, as St. Louis, aided by a Phils win at Cincy, avoided a 3 way tie for the pennant, winning their first “such” in 18 years.

After losing game 2 to Mel Stottlemyre and the Yankees, Gibson won #’s 5 and 7 as the Cards won their first title, also in 18 years.

In 1967, he was even better in the World Series, winning 3 games, including #7 vs Jim Lonborg and the “Impossible Dream” 100 to 1, A.L. pennant winning Boston Red Sox.

Memories “flood” the gallant Curt’s misplay on Northrup’s triple, a 1.12 ERA for Bob, Lou Brock not sliding, a homer yielded to Mike Jorgensen that I recalled to him in the Cards dugout during the ’85 W.S. (another Cards “blown,” yes McCarver “blown” W.S. up (3-1), but not before mistaking him for right wing Van Slyke.

As with Mr. Gibson, I have reasons to bark, the difference is he did most of it with great pitching, even hitting as he stroked 2 W.S. home runs, providing cherished memories.

In the games up there, please do not throw at the angels, as they are not the California baseball team.

Ron Perranoski, Lou Johnson And Jay Johnstone Died

Sadly, the deaths keep piling up. The Dodgers have lost 3 players, all of whom contributed to title teams. In addition to Perranoski, who was a great relief pitcher on the ’63 and ’65 title teams, going (16-3) in ’63–Lou Johnson and Jay Johnstone passed away within the last 2 or so weeks.

Lou homered in #7/’65 World Series as the Dodgers “titled” behind Sandy Koufax’ shutout, which was aided by a key Jim Gilliam defensive play.

Jay Johnstone, who was on the 1978 Yankees’ title team that won the last 4 to “6” L.A. was on the ’81 Dodgers team that reversed that.

Johnstone hit a key pinch 2 run home run in #4 of that series, which cut into a 3 run Yankees’ lead in an eventual Dodgers Saturday late afternoon win.

Click below to view more about the man they called “Perry,” Ron Perranoski

Ron Perranoski, relief ace with Dodgers in 1960s, dies at 84 .