Tag Archives: 1969 World Series

Done With Cooperstown and Hall of Fame Shenanigans

12 Dec

By Barry Federovitch

For the Chris Murray Report

 

Gil Hodges let the New York Mets to a World Series title in 1969.

Gil Hodges let the New York Mets to a World Series title in 1969.

The Baseball Hall of Fame lost a friend on Monday. Thanks to its arrogant, shortsighted vision, it won’t miss me or the many thousands who were stunned by another goose egg turned in by this year’s Golden Era Committee vote. But then the Hall never did get it right.

No one gets 100 percent of the Baseball Writers Association of America vote? A joke. But no one on a strong ballot of nine players and one executive (Bob Howsam) gets even 75 percent? Far worse and thus my decision to never again justify the Baseball Hall of Fame’s existence by entering its doors.

In particular, there is no joy in Mudville, where Gil Hodges has been emphatically shut out (receiving three or fewer votes of the 12 required), quite possibly forever, by a committee that seems to be applying 21st Century standards to a 20th Century icon.

You remember Hodges, right? The manager of arguably the most remarkable turnaround in the history of the game, the 1969 New York Mets?

As a Brooklyn Dodger, Hodges was, at one point,  late in his career 10th all-time in homers (370), with seven years of 100 or more and eight All-Star appearances. He was one of the rocks of the Boys of Summer, part of seven pennant winners and three world championships (two as a player and one as manager).

But what makes Hodges’ omission particularly galling is that he represents everything in terms of character that baseball claims to be about, while far transcending the numbers you might find in a media guide or on a website.

Hodges was a World War II hero, who lost two of his formative years to the game. At the time of his service (1944 and 1945), he was 19 years old and had already played in one game for Brooklyn in 1943.

After not stepping on the field for some 30 months because he was in the Pacific serving his country, he had to start all over again in 1946 and by the next year was stuck in a situation where the Dodgers (who had gone on with life while he was away) had to figure out what to do with him. So by the time he became a regular in 1948, he lost arguably 1,000 plate appearances and the kind of counting statistics that Veterans Committee members appear determined to use to keep him out of Cooperstown.

‘Determined’ is the operative word here given the great injustice that befell Hodges in the early 1990s when committee chairman Ted Williams disallowed a 12th vote by Roy Campanella on the basis that Campy was sick and not present at the committee meeting.

With Campanella’s vote, Hodges was a Hall of Famer, earning the required 12 of 16 votes. Without it, Hodges was left with 11 of 15 votes or just shy of inclusion (a similar predicament to Tony Oliva and Dick Allen yesterday, only they didn’t have any votes nullified).

Add that to the highest number of votes ever received by a player not voted into the Hall of Fame (over 1,000) and one has to wonder what Hodges did to antagonize people over the years.

One vote shy. And it appears as if the man who drove in the only two runs in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series will never get that vote.

How could a figure who received 50 percent or more of the BBWAA vote 11 times (of a possible 15 tries), not have his day in the sun, while so many who finished behind him eventually get included?

And it only gets worse if you look at his defensive legacy, which is greatly understated.
Hodges won three Gold Gloves at first base with the Dodgers at a point when baseball only awarded one for all of baseball (1957-59).

This was the beginning of the award and the twilight of Hodges being an elite player, which raises the question: How many Gold Gloves might he have won had the current rules of the award applied?

If we are going to punish the man for being part of the pre-steroid era (he has dropped to 75th all-time in homers in the last half-century), what is the other side of the coin?

Hodges became an elite first baseman defensively in 1949, when he led the National League in putouts, fielding percentage and double plays and was second in assists. He was first in at least one major defensive category six more times before the creation of the Gold Glove meaning he could have won as many as 10 Gold Gloves with at least a half dozen extremely likely.

Undeniably,  any conversation of the 10 greatest defensive first basemen of all-time must include Hodges. But technicality, rather than accomplishment, rules the argument against him.

Then again Hodges never was a master of timing.

He died two days before his 48th birthday, a year before a Mets team he largely made relevant won its second pennant under Yogi Berra. With Hodges as manager would the 1973 Mets have won a second world title? More importantly in this discussion, with Hodges in the public eye, might he have gotten those few extra votes to have made this a moot point?

Sadly, we will never know the answers to any of these questions and as the likelihood that Hodges is ever inducted begins to become extremely remote, we are left to ponder this: What good is a Hall of Fame without celebrating its game?

Every year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducts a minimum number of candidates. The powers that be in that sport lock themselves in a room until they come out with at least four people (and usually more). They build on the legacy of the past, refresh our love for the game, all without cheapening the award. Included on that list are Veterans Committee choices
Baseball, long ago stunned by cronyism and possible over-induction of candidates, has swung far too wide in the other direction, not only applying new statistical analysis to keep older players out, but suspicion of wrongdoing (see steroids) to create a backlog of worthy candidates that cannot be rectified.

Dick Allen? Should have been in long ago. Tony Oliva, one of the great hitters of the 1960s and a three-time batting champion? Same thing. And don’t get me started on Luis Tiant (a four-time 20-game winner, who has the most career shutouts of any non-Hall of Famer) or Jim Kaat (winner of 283 games and a 16-time Gold Glover) or Ken Boyer.

Once the BBWAA fails (which it has often this decade by not resolving the steroid argument) and the Golden Era Committee fails (which it has done twice consecutively by applying more difficult standards than it ever has in the past) then we arrive at this sad epitaph for the Hall of Fame itself.

Any shrine too snobbish or indecisive to celebrate itself is not worthy of our recognition and even more sadly, not worthy of the game we call our National Pasttime.

Today, there is no joy in Mudville because Cooperstown itself has struck out.

October Surprise: KC’s Guthrie Joins List of Unlikely World Series Heroes

26 Oct

By Barry Federovitch

For the Chris Murray Report

Righthanded pitcher Jeremy Guthrie led Kansas City to a win in Game 3 of the 2014 World Series. The series is now tied at 2-2.

Righthanded pitcher Jeremy Guthrie led Kansas City to a win in Game 3 of the 2014 World Series. The series is now tied at 2-2.

The Kansas City Royals moved to within two wins of baseball’s world championship Friday night largely on the efforts of Jeremy Guthrie.

Jeremy who? That’s not Woody or Arlo or even Janet. For those who don’t recognize the name of the 11-year journeyman who owns a career record of 83-100, there are the following dubious distinctions:
1.      Led American League in losses twice (2009, 2011).
2.      Led AL in homers allowed (2009).
3.      Led AL in hits allowed (2013).
4.      Led AL in hit batsmen (2014).
5.      Led AL in errors by a pitcher (2014).

In all, not exactly a glowing resume, but then one of the beauties of the World Series has often been this cardinal rule: hot trumps better. It usually doesn’t apply in the NFL and almost never applies in the NBA (see a pair of lower seeds reach the NBA Finals lately?), but the joy that is October has its own set of rules, where the wave of a magic wand can bring unforeseen gifts.

New York Mets second baseman Al Weis hit a three-run homer against Baltimore 's Dave McNally in Game 5 of the 1969 World Series. Photo by Newsday.com

New York Mets second baseman Al Weis hit a three-run homer against Baltimore ‘s Dave McNally in Game 5 of the 1969 World Series. Photo by Newsday.com

In this world, Al Weis trumps Davey Johnson. Brian Doyle beats Davey Lopes. And Billy Hatcher? If you’re not careful, in a given year he can trump just about anyone.

The cynics can call it random and unjust. When teams with 88 and 89 wins, respectively, match up, images of John Mahoney screaming at John Cusack while incarcerated in ‘’Say Anything’’ – and lecturing about championing mediocrity – comes to mind.

The horror! And if dynasties are your bag, the ugly possibilities are limitless.
Would Tom Brady succumb to Ryan Fitzpatrick in a conference championship? Can you imagine the Bill Russell Celtics losing a playoff game to the Cincinnati Royals with Oscar Robertson’s sub playing the starring role?

Not on your life, but then baseball has so often been the one pastime where you can proverbially have your cake and eat it too, where conservatism can find a middle ground with the dreamer. In this world, we can tout the Yankee dynasties, while still noting that Derek Jeter only won one world title in his final 14 seasons, a democratic statistical correction by the baseball gods that the other sports cannot match.
October and occasionally a few days before and after grants a starring role for Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Mariano Rivera, but also shines its light upon Moe Drabowsky, Al Gionfriddo and John Stuper. And that’s what we have loved about it for over a century.

Hot trumps logic, invites imagination.

How else do you explain Guthrie outpitching perennial stud and four-time All-Star Tim Hudson in San Francisco in the game history tells us was probably the most important in the series? It’s Gary Gentry outpitching Jim Palmer to a lesser degree all over again, just a few years after a still-developing Palmer outpitched Sandy Koufax at the peak of his powers.

The game invites us to look a little bit closer, noting that while Guthrie’s won-loss record wasn’t all that scintillating (13-11) in 2014, the club was 19-13 in games he started, strong if not imposing. And since a July hiccup in which he went 1-3 with a 10.07 ERA over four starts, Guthrie has been 8-2 over 12 starts, following up a good Game 3 in the ALCS against Baltimore with another rock-solid outing against the Giants.

Peaking at the right time? Good scouting? A manager understanding his pitcher’s limits?
Theories will abound with a little bit of truth in many. But as any magician will tell you, the tricks of the trade are best not revealed, if they can be at all.

Who knows why a Cookie Lavagetto or Don Larsen shine, albeit briefly? But every fall their spirits are resurrected at this time, providing the kind of hope that only can be found in love, the hottest player of all.

2014 Royals Taking Their Place in Baseball’s History of Improbable Post Season Runs

17 Oct

By Barry Federovitch

For the Chris Murray Report

Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas makes an incredible catch in the stands in Game 3 of the 2014 American League Championship Series.

Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas makes an incredible catch in the stands in Game 3 of the 2014 American League Championship Series.

The most natural inclination when the Kansas City Royals stunned the Baltimore Orioles in four straight to sweep the 2014 American League Championship Series was to draw comparisons to the 1969 Mets.

Inferior team wins. Said team catches lightning in a bottle, fueled by a bevy of incredible defensive plays. And yet it’s important to remember several pieces of data in the comparison beginning with the realization that the Mets didn’t sweep that series. The Orioles won Game 1 and one of the great what-ifs in baseball history is what might have happened had Baltimore won just one of the four games the Mets juggernaut snagged that week.

New York Mets outfielder makes a diving catch against Baltimore in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. The Kansas City Royals made similar plays against the Orioles in the 2014 American League Championship Series.

New York Mets outfielder Tommy Agee makes a diving catch against Baltimore in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. The Kansas City Royals made similar plays against the Orioles in the 2014 American League Championship Series.

Would the Orioles, with Jim Palmer and Mike Cuellar slated to go in games 6 and 7 at home, won the series in seven? Or would the Mets have won anyway with more magic from players like Tommie Agee, Donn Clendenon or Al Weis?

To that question we will never know the answer. But as remarkable as that week was, it wasn’t the standard for postseason sweeps, which ironically happened exactly 100 years ago. Since then we’ve had a bevy of great lightning-in-the-bottle stories this time of year and the 2014 Royals may not even rank near the top.

You decide.

1914 Boston Braves: Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s were a dynasty, fueled by great pitching and their $100,000 infield (yeah, that was a long time ago). They were heavy favorites against the Boston Braves, whose manager George ‘’Tweedy’’ Stallings is best remembered for wearing out the seat of his suit pants on the bench. The Braves were in last place on the Fourth of July and then proceeded to go 60-16 to not only win their first pennant, but do so in double digits.

That should have been a warning to pundits of a potential upset, but both the A’s and experts were stunned over four days as Hank Gowdy (an underrated catcher whose career lasted until 1930) hit .545.

1966 Orioles: Once upon a time the Orioles were on the other side of an incredible four-game sweep. This is often forgotten in history since Baltimore went on to win three pennants and another world title only a few years later with much of the same cast. But understand the rep of the 1966 Dodgers: led by 27-game winner Sandy Koufax, the Dodgers were defending champs and had won their third pennant in four years. The Orioles were making their first postseason appearance. But paced by Moe Drabowsky’s amazing relief performance in Game 1, the Dodgers’ offense was shut down, never to reawaken in the most stunning display of four-game pitching in World Series history.

1980  Kansas City Royals: The 1980 Yankees won more regular-season games (103) than either the 1977 or 1978 teams that won it all. Both teams defeated the Royals en route to the crown and the Bombers had a run going of three consecutive postseason series victories over KC. So this was the ultimate grudge match. With homefield advantage, the Yanks were leading at home in Game 3 until George Brett’s long homer off Goose Gossage cemented the three-game sweep.

The 1990 Cincinnati Reds: Lest we forget. The 1988-1990 A’s were very close to being recognized as one of the great dynasties of the last 30 years. But they ran into a hot Dodger team in 1988 and even hotter Cincinnati team two years later. Reds pitchers held the Bash Brothers to only eight runs in four games, but the MVP was Billy Hatcher, whose .750 mark represents one of the great short-series hot streaks in postseason history.

2014 Royals: KC trailed 7-3 late in the wild-card playoff before stunning Oakland. Since that point, they have hardly trailed in their first postseason appearance in 29 years. They wiped out a veteran Angels team, but the nature of their four-game sweep over the Orioles was invigorating and incredible: Baltimore hit well in two games (games 1 and 2), but not enough.

Then it pitched well in the next two, but again it wasn’t enough as the Royals won two games by two runs and two others by one each. Lorenzo Cain was the Royals series MVP, but collectively KC played perhaps the best series defense since the 1969 Mets, using several diving or unlikely catches to shut down every potential Baltimore rally. Can the Royals sustain this momentum into the World Series? A national bandwagon of underdog lovers await in what is becoming one of the great October sagas in recent years.